Every six months or so, the internet promptly panics when yet another story about "Ophiuchus, the 13th zodiac sign" goes viral. We're here to tell you to calm down—you're still a Cancer, or a Pisces, or an Aries, or whatever. We have a January 2016 NASA blog post to blame for this cyclical story—and yes, four years later, it just keeps resurfacing. So let’s talk about it.
That first part is undeniable astronomy, not astrology—the Ophiuchus constellation has always been a part of the Sun’s path in the sky (called the ecliptic), but it’s largely been left out of astrology. The origins of the zodiac go back approximately 2,500 years when the Babylonians separated the sky into 12 different sections that happened to coincide with the 12 months on the calendar. They studied an apparent relationship between the constellations’ placements in the sky and the movement of the Sun and, thus, the 12 signs were born. They saw the constellation of Ophiuchus, too, but since it didn’t fit neatly into one of these 12 slices, they decided to leave it out of the zodiac. So no, scientists didn't "just discover it."
However, the Earth’s wobbly axis means none of the constellations are in the same place they were all those years ago. That, along with the sheer existence of this (not) new constellation, means some people argue that the astrological signs we’ve all come to know and love have altered. (These people are not astrologers.)
Even though Ophiuchus is undoubtedly an observed constellation (located northwest of the center of the Milky Way, in case you were curious), could it have the chance to be an actual member of the zodiac? Well, astronomers won’t comment on that part, considering astrology is not science, and astrologers aren’t buying that our signs have shifted. Below is all the info you need to know about the Ophiuchus constellation.
IT’S ASSOCIATED WITH ASCLEPIUS, THE FAMOUS HEALER IN GREEK MYTHOLOGY.
As one of the first constellations discovered by Ptolemy in the second century, Ophiuchus was named as a mixture of two Greek words—serpent and bearing. So it’s no surprise that the face of the constellation is commonly Asclepius, the god of medicine in ancient Greek mythology, who holds a staff with a serpent wrapped around it (which is also the well-known symbol of the World Health Organization).
Ophiuchus is depicted as an image of exactly what you might expect: a large, powerful man holding a large snake represented by Serpens, a neighboring constellation, which is usually coiled around his waist. Because of this, Ophiuchus is sometimes also called Serpentarius.
PROMINENT FIGURES IN ASTROLOGY DON’T BELIEVE OPHIUCHUS CHANGES ANYTHING.
“There are a lot of constellations—88 if you want to get right down to it—so I’m not sure why everyone’s up in arms about this one,” Susan Miller told Elle in 2011 (yeah, those viral stories about Ophiuchus have been around that long). “The ancients discussed whether or not to include a 13th sign—they debated, they did empirical studies, and in the end, they felt it was not significant. Remember, they invented astrology and we have to go with what they gave us.”
The AstroTwins pointed out the same thing NASA did in the original report: Astronomy and astrology are not the same. While everyone can agree that the constellations have shifted in relation to the Earth over time, the zodiac sign you’ve always identified with is based on a Western astrological system, not the actual constellation.
Astrologist Rick Levine clarified to DailyHoroscope.com, “Ophiuchus has nothing to do with astrology. It’s not an astrology issue. It has to do with the stars—it’s not a sign, it’s a constellation.”
In other words, Western astrology is based on zodiac signs, not the actual constellations. However, according to Astrologically magazine, practitioners of Sidereal/Vedic astrology don’t include this 13th constellation either: “It should be noted that even in Sidereal/Vedic astrology, Ophiuchus is still regarded with skepticism and may be left out of horoscopes and natal chart readings.”
"Constellational astrologers," who focus entirely on constellations, not signs, might include the constellation of Ophiuchus. However, this is a very small subset of astrologers. Astrologically explains, "Constellational astrology is not widely recognized or practiced by esteemed astrologers."
IF YOU'RE WONDERING WHAT YOUR SIGN WOULD BE IF ASTROLOGERS DID INCLUDE OPHIUCHUS, MARIE CLAIRE UK HAS THE ANSWERS.
Ophiuchus lasts 18 days and is sandwiched between Scorpio and Sagittarius, and every other sign’s dates have shifted to accompany it:
- Capricorn: January 20th to February 16th
- Aquarius: February 16th to March 11th
- Pisces: March 11th to April 18th
- Aries: April 18th to May 13th
- Taurus: May 13th to June 21st
- Gemini: June 21st to July 20th
- Cancer: July 20th to August 10th
- Leo: August 10th to September 16th
- Virgo: September 16th to October 30th
- Libra: October 30th to November 23rd
- Scorpio: November 23rd to November 29th
- Ophiuchus: November 29th to December 17th
- Sagittarius: December 17th to January 20th
IF YOU BELIEVE YOU ARE NOW AN OPHIUCHUS, WHICH, BTW, IS PRONOUNCED OAF-IH-YOU-KUS, YOU’RE A SERPENT BEARER.
According to Zodiac Books, qualities of an Ophiuchus are:
“House Ophiuchus represented unity. Its people were spirited, magnetic, impulsive, clever, flamboyant, and at times jealous, power-hungry, and temperamental. At their hearts, they were healers who hoped to one day rid the zodiac of every ill—disease, violence, etc.—and bring everyone closer together.
“Ophiuchans had a natural affinity for snakes, and there was a special species of serpent, the Zawinder, with whom their House’s Zodai developed a psychic connection. Each Zodai would capture and adopt his own Zawinder, which they would then use to spread messages to others in the swamp.”
Also, upon entering their teenage years, Ophiuchans also develop scaly skin to protect them from other creatures that may bite. Cool, huh?
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.