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What’s Your Sign? Probably Not What You Think...

by Ariel Dreyer
Contributor
Thursday Nov 3, 2005
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Imagine that you’re soaking in the scene at a hip joint in Boston when you notice, out of the corner of your eye, a hottie downing martinis at the bar. You run a hand through your hair, saddle up to him, and decide to use an old standard. “So, uh… what’s your sign?” He flashes you a million-dollar grin and says, “Ophiuchus.” Ophiuchus? You thought you knew your astrology pretty well; maybe this one flew over your head?

Nope. Ophiucus, though a constellation in the zodiac, isn’t used in conventional astrology. If this dude says he’s an Ophiucus, it means he was born between Nov 30 and Dec 17. Surprise to some of you “Saggitarians.” In fact, here’s a surprise for 89% of you: you probably aren’t the sign you thought you were. Check out your real sign:

Pisces: March 12 – April 18
Aries: April 19 – May 13
Taurus: May 14 – June 19
Gemini: June 20 – July 20
Cancer: July 21 – August 9
Leo: August 10 – September 15
Virgo: September 16 – October 30
Libra: October 31 – November 22
Scorpio: November 23 – November 29
Ophiuchus: November 30 – December 17
Sagittarius: December 18 – January 18
Capricorn: January 19 – February 15
Aquarius: February 16 – March 11

What the…?

Here’s the thing. 2,000 years ago, when the ancient Greek astrologers were mapping out the zodiac along the ecliptic (the ecliptic is the path of the sun as seen from earth), they encountered a problem: the constellations were all different in size. As you can see from the chart above, it barely takes a week for the sun to pass through Scorpio, whereas it takes 44 days to pass through Virgo. So, they divided the ecliptic into twelve 30 degree wide sections—or signs—which only tentatively matched up with their corresponding constellations. For convenience, they left out one constellation, and that constellation was Ophiucus, the serpent bearer. And while 2,000 years ago, the zodiac was somewhat correct, the lineup of the sun and the stars has since shifted about a month.

But I’m DEFINITELY a Scorpio, not a Libra!

Astrology is entertaining, which is why it’s in the “Fun” section of EDGE. Unfortunately, it’s also inaccurate. Yes, there are times when it seems that your horoscope is just, well, too right to be wrong. There are three things to be taken into account here: probability, generalization, and assimilation.

Probability

According to probability, there will be some people who are the dictionary definition of their (inaccurate) sun sign, and some who aren’t. I know one or two “Leos” who would be suited for the title of Lion King better than Simba himself. That being said, I also know a handful of “Cancers” who couldn’t stay in their shell if they tried. However, according to the chart above, I’m actually a Gemini, and I don’t see myself in many of those characteristics, though I’m sure I could find them.

Generalization

Okay, now that I’m actually looking at the characteristics of a Gemini, the more I realize I am Gemini material. Friendly? Check. Curious? Check. Expressive? Check. Adaptable? Check. Nevertheless, I also see that I am like an Aries, a Pisces, a Taurus, and an Aquarius. Astrologers, whether they meant to or not, gave each sign an array of qualities that most people have somewhere inside them.

It’s kind of like that cold reading thing that faux-psychics do. You know, usually they’ll tell you you’re intelligent and expressive, but sometimes feel insecure, and you recently experienced some kind of loss. Predictions that apply to most of the human population.

Assimilation

When someone hears themself described by someone else, they will often times subconsciously enhance the characteristics ascribed to them. Yes, the “bad” ones as well as the good. It’s called a ’Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.’ This can also be applied to our horoscopes. Perhaps you were interested in astrology in the seventh grade, read up on your sign, recognized the traits bestowed upon you by the stars, and (unintentionally) let them cultivate.

I don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble. Astrology is a fun, harmless aspect of our culture, and there’s something about reading yesterday’s horoscope and realizing that it was spot-on. However, I doubt you would want to live your life based around a system that was only slightly accurate 2,000 years ago. The search for truth can be even more entertaining than disillusion—it is full of unfamiliar territory and new norms to explore.

The guy with the martini asks what your sign is. You smile and say, “Doesn’t matter. I can tell we’re compatible.” He motions to the bartender and orders you a drink. Can’t wait to explore this new territory, can you?

Ariel is a 19-year-old college student attending Bennington. She also writes for the Boston Herald and can be reached via e-mail at view.from.the.singularity@gmail.com

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