A few years ago there was a lot of buzz about a new, thirteenth sign of the Zodiac. Not only this, but that the date ranges for the twelve well known signs have also changed, we were told. Really serious Astrology enthusiasts started to panic that for their entire lives they have believed themselves to be a specific sign, read their daily predictions, checked their compatibility with potential romantic partners, etc… only to find that they are a completely different sign!
Astrologers rushed to alleviate the fears of their clients, column readers and twitter followers that nothing has changed. Keep calm and carry on with the original, traditional system. News articles cropped up debunking the 13th Sign, many stating that all of this has been known for centuries and that everything has been accounted for by the Astrology community by consensus.
What is the real Truth? Did someone drag up old and irrelevant information to try and stir the pot? An astrological troll looking for negative attention? Or is there really a 13th Sign that mainstream Astrologers don’t want us to know about? The truth is that there are indeed 13 constellations of the Zodiac. However, it is important to distinguish between a Sign and a Constellation.
First of all, what is the Zodiac? It is the belt of stars that the sun moves across, as viewed from Earth, in the course of the year. Put another way, if you look at the rising sun every morning and draw an imaginary line between yourself and the sun, but then continue the line out further, this line will be pointing at one of the constellations of the Zodiac. There are many other constellations, but only 13 of them are part of the Zodiac belt.
The “Constellations” are the actual stars that you can observe in the sky. A “Sign” of the Zodiac is a more subtle concept but it is related to the constellations. The twelve signs that we are all familiar with were devised by ancient Babylonian priests around 3000 years ago. The Babylonians had spent generations observing the movement and configuration of the stars and planets (considered “wandering stars”) along with the sun and moon. They built observatories and kept records of this and correlated different significant events with the changes that they observed. They learned to predict how the stars were going to move and developed increasingly accurate progressions.
They eventually codified these findings into the system that has come down to us as Astrology. One of the decisions they made was to align their findings more closely with the prevalent religious theology at the time. Having 12 equal “Signs” fit better than 13 irregular constellations, so they fudged the numbers.
So are there actually a 13th Zodiac Sign or not? Yes, there is! But it is new. The Constellation of the Zodiac has been known for Aeons, but only recently have pioneering Astrologers started recognizing a 13th Sign, called Ophiuchus. These same Astrologers are using an uneven division between these thirteen signs, to match exactly with the observed constellations. So in this new Astrology, what is your New Sign, or the actual constellation on the horizon that the sun rose in on the day you were born? For me, I used to be a Capricorn but my New Sign is Sagittarius! To be honest, I feel that both work for me. Your results may vary and I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter! The new dates are shown below, give or take a day or two. If you are very close to the transition date, you are said to be born “on the cusp” and partake of qualities of both signs:
Aquarius: Feb. 16 – March 11
Pisces: March 11- April 18
Aries: April 18- May 13
Taurus: May 13- June 21
Gemini: June 21- July 20
Cancer: July 20- Aug. 10
Leo: Aug. 10- Sept. 16
Virgo: Sept. 16- Oct. 30
Libra: Oct. 30- Nov. 23
Scorpio: Nov. 23- Nov. 29
Ophiuchus: Nov. 29- Dec. 17
Sagittarius: Dec. 17- Jan. 20
Capricorn: Jan. 20 – Feb. 16
P.S. How does this relate to Tarot? 12 of the Major Arcana cards are representations of the 12 traditional signs of the Zodiac. Should we add another card for Ophiuchus?
The previous post [The Magician and The Priestess: A Case for Ladies First in Tarot] introduced the idea of aligning the Major Arcana sequence with the occult order of the Planets. To supplement this, I would like to share a video I recorded a few years ago. I go into the basic building blocks that make up the symbols for the seven classical planets. This comes from the old Hermetic Alchemy system. I also discuss other interesting bits of arcane knowledge on the planets. Please leave a comment so we can discuss this further!
After having taken a look at The Fool (0 or Not Numbered) and the Journey of The Fool, I figured it would be logical to do a blog post on the next card in that journey. The card numbered one in most modern decks is The Magician. Over the years I have developed my own preferred sequence. Why not explain my ideas on this along the way? Also, please let’s discuss this! Leave me a message in the comment section and we can go from there.
As you may have guessed from the title of this post, my personal choice for card number 1 is The Priestess. In a standard deck the sequence is typically Fool (0), Magician (1) and Priestess (2). My internalized deck swaps Magician and Priestess. My initial reason for considering this switch is based on the understanding of the underlying structure of the 22 Major Arcana cards in a Tarot deck.
Very briefly: 3 of the cards are Elements, 7 are Planets and the remaining 12 cards are the signs of the Zodiac.The current sequence of these 22 cards matches the pattern found in the sequence of the Hebrew alphabet (“Aleph-Bet”), which is similarly grouped into categories of 3 Mother letters, 7 Double letters and 12 Simple letters. The modern standard attribution between which Hebrew letter was associated with which Element, Planet or Zodiac comes from one version of the Sepher Yetzirah, a very early book on Kabalah. Note that there are multiple versions with different attributions, so changing it won’t necessarily break with tradition.
Keeping the basic pattern of the Hebrew aleph-bet, (i.e. Element, Planet, Planet, Planet, Zodiac, Zodiac, etc…) but looking at just the cards associated with Planets, you get the following standard sequence: Magician, Priestess, Empress, Wheel of Fortune, Tower, Sun, World. In terms of planets, this works out to Mercury, Moon, Venus, Jupiter, Mars, Sun and Saturn. If we swap the Magician and the Priestess as well as swapping the Sun and the Wheel of Fortune we end up with the traditional terra-centric sequence of the celestial spheres, dante’s heavens, the spheres on the Kabalistic Tree of Life and the Chaldaean Ladder of Lights. This sequence is representative of the original view of Earth as the centre of the universe with the order of the “wandering stars” (the visible planets plus the sun and moon) starting closest to the Earth and moving further away. The sequence is as follows: Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.
The result is that you have The Priestess come before The Magician/Magus. From a Left Hand Path perspective this seems most appropriate. Take for example that one explanation for the term Left Hand Path in Eastern Tantra is the fact that the divine feminine is venerated and women traditionally sit on the left during group practice. It is only fitting that the Priestess (Luna/Moon) comes before the Magus (Mercury/Hermes). Also consider the bible story of Eden where the first initiate into forbidden knowledge was the woman Eve, who then initiated her husband. Furthermore, The Moon has been considered the gateway to the Astral plane and the first step in occult initiation. For those who are interested in the Simon Necronomicon you will note that this is also the same sequence of walking the gates. This terracentric sequence is the quintessential occult order of the seven classical planets. Why not align our Tarot sequence to match?
Just for a bit of perspective, I think it’s relevant to note that the popular Waite-Smith deck (published by Rider) decided to swap the positions of the Justice and Strength cards. The reason for this swap was very similar. If you look at all the Zodiac cards, the traditional order laid out on the Tarot in the pattern of the Hebrew alephbet seemed to fit the sequence of the Zodiac starting from Aries and going through. [We can get into why they would start at Aries in a future post.] The only exception was that Justice was in the place of Leo and Strength was in the place of Libra. Some say that this was an intentional “blind,” a mistake put in there to fool the uninitiated. Regardless, it seems to have been noticed by members of the influential esoteric organization The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn that the symbols and meaning of Justice with it’s scales seemed to fit Libra much more closely than Leo. Similarly, the Strength card featuring a lion, seemed a better fit for Leo than Libra. Swapping the two in the sequence fixes everything. This is likely where Arthur Edward Waite got the idea, exposing the corrected sequence to non-initiates for the first time by publishing the “Rider-Waite-Smith” deck.