Is There Really A 13th Sign Of The Zodiac?

Is there really a 13th sign of the Zodiac? The short answer is “no” and the long answer is “sort of.”

Isn’t this old news? Yes! Ever since its first apparition in January 2011, the story has reappeared regularly, saturating news and social media every time.

The gist of it is that NASA says astrologers/Babylonians/Sagittarians censored or were too dumb to notice the 13th sign of the Zodiac – Ophiuchus. Worse, re-adding the “missing” Zodiac sign changes the dates of every Zodiac sign so you’re (sharp intake of breath) probably not really an X.

It’s insane that during a decade which has seen spectacular discoveries in astrophysics and archeo-astronomy, this is the (recycled) story.  The repetition is because it’s easy – nobody is seeking a nuanced perspective from astrological scholars like Deborah Houlding, for example. It guarantees engagement in the comments section of newspaper sites. Miffed Capricorns alone generate millions of page impressions.

Additionally, Ophiuchus is represented as the Serpent Bearer and connected with Asclepius, a God Healing. Of course, that’s a more appealing vibe than most of the news in the Daily Dystopian.

But it’s also a way for self-styled ‘skeptics’ to denounce astrology. They do it with plant medicine too – an adverse reaction featuring echinacea gets way more press than proven herbal efficacy or side effects from prescription drugs.

Anyway, here is my all-you-need-know take on Ophiuchus and the interesting scenarios it evokes.

Thirteen Zodiac Signs? We Could Have Seventeen!

The Zodiac circle is a ring of constellations on nine degrees either side of the Ecliptic, the plane of Earth’s orbit around the Sun.  More poetically, the ancients called it Via Solis – the Path of the Sun.

From Earth, the Sun appears against this band of stars over the solar year. Our Moon and all the other planets in the Solar System are on this same orbital plane: Astrologically, it’s where all the action is. Some planets occasionally veer near the edge of it but they don’t suddenly go scooting off to explore – say – the Draco constellation near the North Pole. Their orbital path is known and can be calculated back or forth centuries in advance.

The Southern part of the constellation of Ophiuchus is between Scorpio and Sagittarius, nudging the Zodiac circle. But it’s like a toehold, seriously. And, if we’re going to include Ophiuchus in the Zodiac, it’s arguable we should also include Cetus, Orion, Sextans, and Auriga.  The Pleiades? Or, as the Maoris call this cluster, Matariki?

Venus skirted the borders of Orion just recently – and Cetus – the Sea Monster/Mesopotamian Whale – is a constellation bordering Pisces. Could some Leos be Sextans? It could fit. In old Chinese starlore, it was Tiang Xiang, the Celestial Minister. And with a little bit of boundary-blurring, Gemini could incorporate some of Auriga, the Charioteer AKA the Agitator. Thrillingly, it’s the home of the Flaming Nebula and the Galactic Anti-Center.

Geminis Could Be Auriga, the Charioteer

I could talk about constellations for hours but here is an important point. The Sun stays on track – it doesn’t wander off the Ecliptic. Mercury, Venus, Mars, and Uranus are more likely to meander to the edge. So a more likely scenario would be ‘you’re still a Sagittarius but when you were born, you could argue that your Mars was in Cetus, not Pisces. Or any variation of this. The Ancient Babylonians did not deliberately skip Ophiuchus; here are the 18 Constellations they did use.

But it’s not super relevant because the constellations don’t have neat borders! This is not like when the local council determines whether your neighbor’s new fenceline impinges the border of your property. The current lines were set in 1928, by the International Astronomical Union, below. They didn’t cruise around the constellations on plasmatic uni-jets, delineating the boundary lines.

The I.A.U. are doing amazing work trying to protect the night sky from satellite constellations and light pollution.

But in a move that seems celestially perverse, they’ve approved the name of an asteroid’s Moon that is designated to be the experimental target of a new asteroid deflection mission. They’re calling it Dimorphos – which means ‘two forms’, as it will be split in two if their trial works.

In September 2022, the European Space Agency + NASA will crash into it on purpose, with the goal being to alter its orbit. It’s so they can bump future potentially hazardous asteroids off course.  I don’t like it. Messing with even teensy little asteroid orbits seems a bit butterfly effect. And of course, they’re doing it during a Mercury Retrograde.

Anyway, in summary, there is no naturally obvious border between constellations, like a river or a range of mountains.  And to complicate it further, there is more than one Zodiac system. The constellation the Sun, Moon, or a planet was or is moving through is not necessarily super important. The Sidereal Zodiac is fixed against the star’s positions and the Tropical (aka classic Western Astrology and what I use) is fixed against the Vernal Equinox and relates to the cycles and rhythms of the Sun et al.

Forget Ophiuchus – Could Southern Capricorn Be More Enki Than Saturn?

The Equinox, like the Poles, has shifted over the millennia so what was once an Equinox in Aries – and before that, Taurus – is now in Pisces. This is what creates the idea of there being an Age of Taurus, Age of Aquarius, and so on. It’s too complex for this particular post but you can learn more here. I love tropical astro and it works.  However, this latest reappearance of Ophiuchius inspires me to mention one of my ongoing research projects.

Tropical Astrology is big on the seasons but it, like the Pagan festivals and mythology around what the Cardinal Directions mean is soaked with seasonal symbolism. I don’t think that the Zodiac signs flip when a person is born below the Equator but Southern Aries is less Spring Lamb and more Autumn Ram. And a lot of the concepts around Capricorn pertain to the Northern Winter but in the Southern Hemisphere, Capricorn is Summer, more like Nature God Pan.

There Is Even A Cultural Bias Against The South Pole Stars

The Ancient Babylonians – yes, them again – saw the Southern Hemisphere as being the domain of Enki, a deity with many similarities to Thoth or Mercury but who was often depicted as the Sea-Goat. Expect more from me on the Southern Sun Signs at a later date!

There is even a cultural bias against the South Pole. The word Arctic is from Arcturus – the Bear. The pole stars – Ursa Major in the North – were viewed as magical by multiple cultures. They never rise or set and they give rise to many a beautiful myth. But Antarctic just means ‘opposite the Bear.’

The Southern Pole stars are often dismissed as being of less magnitude. They were discovered relatively late in astronomical history and given names that reflect the quirky tastes of various explorers from the North, rather than history, starlore, and rich stories from the region. But this is changing. An example? The first Maori Cosmology school in the modern era is about to open; Te Whare Tātai Arorangi will be headed by Pouroto Ngaropō and Piripi Lambert.

The magnificent Magellanic Clouds, visible only from the Southern Hemisphere, were named after a Portuguese explorer but known by indigenous Australians and other ancient cultures for centuries. They were also talking in terms of the galactic center – which the Southern Hemisphere faces btw – and our home galaxy as being spiral-shaped centuries before high-tech confirmed it.

So apologies to anyone who has started identifying as Ophiuchus Rising but I don’t see it as a true trend. I’m more excited about astrophysics, the galactic vibe, and re-discovering/re-mapping the ancient star lines of the South.


30 thoughts on “Is There Really A 13th Sign Of The Zodiac?”

  1. Well the old Ophiuchus thingy has been around for many years – a friend of mine asked me about it in the 90s. Probably like many occult issues, it periodically emerges when there is nothing better to talk about. I am intrigued by the 18 constellations of the Babylonians though. What about South American ideas too? I believe they use a different method of configuring constellations….

  2. Saturn in Pisces

    I’ve also encountered that resource on Ophiuchus, years ago, and it did open my mind! And I’m a Dark Moon baby so it’s not hard to convince me that my sidereal Sun sign represents my “true self,” though I’ve had such a hard time reading for others with sidereal, I stick to tropical for the most part.

    One observation I’ve had (that you confirm!) is that folks who tend to identify with their sidereal placements, have something in those placements tropically (such as your Saturn and Venus), so it’s difficult to say “where” the identification is coming from, if you’re comparing the systems.

    1. Yes! It’s fun to learn about it all and kinda marry it together…maybe we are born sidereal and progress into our tropical? Then you thrown draconic into the mix to make things even more interesting. Whole sign houses vs placidus and on and on and on. My draconic isn’t much since my north node is 26 deg pisces but it makes me a Cancer moon to couple with my Cancer rising. Essentially we’re all a little bit of everything and that’s the beauty of it.

      1. Saturn in Pisces

        Oh, yes, draconic! I’ve put off delving deeply into draconic, my Scorpio North Node is exactly opposite my Sun so my entire chart ends up in a radically different part of the zodiac and it’s disorienting!

        How do you feel about your whole signs chart? I was born fairly high up in the northern hemisphere where Placidus is probably a better system, so in whole signs my Placidus second house stellium gets split between the 4th and 5th and I’ve got *nada* in the second house… which threw me for a loop, but I later discovered that the 11th house is much more associated with fortune/$$ in Vedic astro, and I’ve got the North Node there, so rather than the charts being in conflict, the same themes emerge in both charts.

        And I agree, we’re all a bit of everything, which is indeed so beautiful!

        1. Whole sign…my 6th house stellium gets broken up and my sun conj neptune hecate and Mercury move to the 7th house leaving Saturn and Uranus back in the 6th. Venus moves to the 8th. My pluto moves from 4th to 5th and my vertex to the 6th w Saturn and Uranus conj.

          I do think I resonate more with the 6th house but again, Saturn my sun’s ruler is there so can interpret this different ways. I’m a health and wellness junkie and I love work & routines.

          However I will say that I have a habit of losing myself in relationships in that my boundaries can be very week and I take on others feelings and expectations (cancer rising shout out) and finding self thru other has been a big theme as relationships tend to be mirrors. So if I really think about it, 7th house can work too. There really is no black and white here!

          1. Saturn in Pisces

            Cool to hear about your chart in whole signs! The 7th house can be associated in Jyotish with Saturnine themes, as Saturn is exalted in Libra and the 7th house (and exaltations/debilitations are taken much more seriously in that system). But it’s super-overlapping, no black and white as you said! Is your moon still in the 12th (which I gather from your username, haha)?

            1. You just blew my mind with the Saturn/Libra connection. Totally forgot about that! You’re good haha.

              &yes, moon is still just barely in the 12th opposing my Saturn Uranus jam.

  3. Saturn in Pisces

    OPHIUCHUS RISING, laughed so hard!

    Such a cool perspective on this topic, Mystic. I have been interested in both tropical and sidereal for a long time – my “compromise” (as I see value in both, and have studied both for years) is that I tend to combine the tropical zodiac with the Vedic lunar mansions (27 constellations that the Moon travels through quite close to the zodiac belt) when I read for others. I love using the lunar mansions (or nakshatras) because, almost every time, the planetary lords of the nakshatras match the planetary lords of the person’s tropical chart, so rather than these systems appearing to be in conflict, they simply confirm the prominence of the same planets in many folks’ charts, across systems and cultures.

    So cool to see you thinking along similar lines with the “seventeen constellations,” and loved hearing your perspective on the zodiac and seasonal associations. I’m in the Northern hemisphere myself and have always enjoyed your posts on the winter solstice as Litha, for example. Today, up north, it’s the hottest day we’ve had this year – which makes me wonder, what’s “winter Leo” like?

    1. You’ve piqued my interest in Vedic astrology once again! Your style seems very cool – I love anything that takes the moon into account 🙂

  4. LOVE all the info Mystic! So looking forwards to your Southern Hemisphere astro rants.

    Personally, I think once you start to really focus on a system you attract its magic. I found this with the Tropical system as well as Draconic astro. In the Draconic chart my signs flip over to their opposite signs of the Tropical system – yet viscerally i totally get that, & it fits.

    It’s like learning different languages. They all convey information. Sometimes there is no direct translation from one to another, yet it doesn’t matter as in the end each is complete unto itself.

  5. The way I look at astrology or astronomy is that they are just 2 ways of technically describing where we were in time and space when we were born. As this point is quite unique for each individual neither astrology or astronomy can truly ever describe our nature.
    The astral is but one dimension amongst many. Its nature is illusory and easily misunderstood to have more importance to our development than it seems. In many ways it’s illusory nature could be said to be more of a block than an assistant in our search for the true nature of our reality. This illusory dimension has become the repository of our thoughts, our dreams our fears that can and will be transcended.
    To me time is a type of prison with the astral realm being the walls of this prison. Astrology and astronomy is the human attempt to describe this prison and it’s perimeter. It is not within eithers remit or scope to describe what’s on the other side. Why ? Because that journey is unique to each of us and has little to do with the physical universe or the time prison we currently reside in.
    The publicity surrounding this 12/13 thing is quite silly when you think about it but underlying this is I feel a whiff of attempted mind control, a power play by 1 group of bosses against another. With us all waiting to see what one side or the other is going to be more right about who we are.
    As a triple Aries I really hate that 😘

  6. I love this idea of preserving and making available the astrological traditions of indigenous cultures. Clearly their knowledge is based on the observations of countless generations. I can only imagine the amazing things we’d learn about the universe if only we had a database that held and could cross reference the observation of astrological cycles of all the cultures past and present.

  7. Lux Interior Is My Co-Pilot

    Yeah, I really don’t like that plan to smash an asteroid in half. How much of a problem are asteroids really?

  8. What a great read Mystic, I really enjoyed this articulate, well thought out article full of wisdom and imagery. I totally want to know more.✨✨✨

  9. In the first pic, I thought there were only three women in the room. I checked again and found five – all identifiable by their hats. I wonder if I can find an updated IAU photo…

    1. Ah yes, this picture is making me giggle, though largely because i saw “Not a witch or woman among them” so quickly decided to see them all as witches in disguise…some of them have the most outrageously slapstick look of Serious Men! Haha my deranged humour aside i am happy you found some women. And the final image does radiate exuberant beautiful happiness. Have always been quite taken with Maori men bearing exquisite facial tattooing. Beats a few tears, aggro words and symbols by a long white cloud! A fav Dazed NZ print mag cover from decades ago was a young man challenging the viewer’s eye with his, in a handsewn white shirt of gorgeous fabric with tie and blazer. Adore the masculine Venusian vibes of beautifully presented men…swoon…My man is Virgo Rising with Libra Moon, whom i can never match sartorially but is a great shopping companion (if i do the Piscean browsing beforehand as he is Aries Sun Merc) Sorry what was the topic?!

      1. Millie i was introduced to Maori culture via a half Maori half Tahitian ‘husband’ of 3 years when in my early 20’s. Used to dig out ‘Hungi’s’,the earth pits for baking meats and fish and taught me how delicious fish heads were. Called him my brown prince and from then after was known as Charlie’s girl as he was a well respected musician every band wanted him. .Designed a set of timbales for a drum clinic, the first they ever made. His first Oz band was called ‘Healing Force’ circa ’71 and they were the first Oz band to reach a place in top 20 in an era of only O/S music being on radio. The words are evocation of his island home. That relationship did me well when arriving in Tahiti when i dived into eating fish heads and was named a ‘sauvage blanc’. The first moon eclipse i witnessed there, my local friend said ‘the moon is being eaten’. Of course the stars are on display in full force due to no pollution and very few street lights.It was Bobby Holcomb who lived on Huahine (French Polynesia) a brilliant artist who wrote the ‘Australian’ anthem ‘My Island Home’ when he was visiting Alice Springs and yearned for the Islands. As you do :-)…forever 🙂 Regaling you with my memories..again oops. x

        1. I adore being regaled by your Tahitian memories 😁 Glad to know another who gets the delicious fish head flavours that nourish. Especially appreciate that you didn’t grow up with that taste, and dove right in to adventure and love xxx Oh and of course had a live soundtrack to your world of the time 🤗

    2. I think I found six. There’s an odd one centre of the photo sitting at a jaunty angle with a very stern face. Am I right. ?

      1. Me six too ….. you mean small stern face in front of woman by the right hand plinth/bust?

        Finding women in history is a bit like finding Wally – you know they gotta be there.

      1. On UK time and rather busy, so only just seen your comment.
        Are you seriously trying to matronise me?!

        If so, I can only refer you to the Wally notion, as expressed above.

        1. Ummm i feel like the nesting of replies has been in the wrong spot..? I thought PP was explaining her use of language as not meaning something patronising for her. I know PP is culturally different from me so i like hearing how she means it. PP you have bold language, and i like that you tried to clarify. Have never known you to bitch at others personally here xx

  10. So much of interest here. Very cool about the Maori Cosmology school. Thanks, Mystic, and would love to hear more about the star lines of the South.

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