COLUMBIA — A belief that astrological signs changed recently has caused some confusion. The tropical zodiac has remained the same; however, the sidereal zodiac is speculated to have changed.
Twitter bursts began Thursday speculating about the addition of a 13th zodiac sign, Ophiuchus, which is only relevant to the sidereal zodiac because it's based on the position of the stars. While there is a 13th constellation, it remains unclear if this addition to the zodiac is official.
The uncertainty comes from an important distinction, Carmen Turner Schott, an astrological counselor and licensed clinical social worker, said.
“There are two types of astrology, tropical and sidereal,” she said.
Schott, who lives and works in St. Louis, said that Western civilization uses the tropical zodiac, which is defined by the seasons and is not subject to change. This is the zodiac that most people have always known and identified with, she said.
Four cardinal signs make up the tropical zodiac, Schott said. Aries corresponds with spring, Cancer with summer, Libra with fall and Capricorn with winter, she said.
The Eastern sidereal zodiac, determined by constellations and other astronomical arrangements, is constantly shifting, however. This is where the misleading information that signs had been altered came from, Schott said.
“Our signs have not changed based on the tropical zodiac,” she said.
However, Angela Speck, director of astronomy at MU, said the idea that signs based on the tropical zodiac have not changed does not make sense.
Speck said the term tropical zodiac is an oxymoron because the Western tropical calendar, which determines our seasons and months, is based on the spring equinox and has nothing to do with stars or the position of constellations. She said the Western tradition of looking at the stars is sidereal.
“I wonder why this is news now,” Speck said.
There is nothing different this year from previous years as far as this change is concerned, she said.
Speck said this constant change in position is explained in every introductory textbook of astronomy.
With the difference between the calendar year and the actual time it takes for the earth to go around the sun, a constellation is not in the same position on a person's birthday every year. If signs were based on constellation positions, signs would change every year, Speck said.
Signs based on the tropical zodiac do not change because there has to be some consistency in order for people to have a sign to identify with, she said.
There is no real connection between when a constellation is directly behind the sun in a particular month and a person's astrological sign, which is based on the person's day and month of birth, she said.
Speck said she doesn’t understand why so many people believe in astrology and use it to explain personalities or predict the future.
“I also don’t understand why people watch 'American Idol' and the Kardashians, but that’s human nature, we latch onto things" she said. "It’s not actually reality."