If you were born in the Southern Hemisphere, your birth chart is not completely accurate. And no, not because of any 13th sign or peripheral factor. The problem is an inbuilt bias that applies Northern Hemisphere settings to every chart.
There are practical, political, and magical dimensions to this situation. Astrology as we know it is seen through Northern Hemisphere optics because “that’s where it started.” When I was learning astrology, any North-South anomaly questions were treated like irritants at best – minor heresies on occasion: “It’s just how it is – why are you questioning this?”
The classic birth chart – a flat map or ’round diagram’ of the Sun, Moon, planets, constellations and stars when you were born – is done for everyone as if they were Northern hemisphere births. That is, the Sun rises in the East and crosses the Southern sky from left to right, AKA ‘clockwise’.
Or, to use an old folk term, Sun-wise. Anti-clockwise is akin to being left-handed, sinister, and evil or – at least – inferior. In old traditions, anti-clockwise is the direction you walk in – three times around a church – if you want to raise hell.
In the Southern Hemisphere, the Sun also rises in the East but we see it as crossing the Northern sky from right to left. Widdershins! I feel flustered by any mention of this as I’m left-handed and even now, in the digital era, the occasional person will note it as ‘aberrant.’
So in the Southern Hemisphere birth chart, the houses run counter-clockwise. See below for an example of what I mean, using the example of an Aquarius Rising chart. It looks crazy at first but it reflects the direction of the Sun’s movement in the Southern Hemisphere.
Additionally, the Tropical Zodiac signs run along with the Northern Hemisphere seasons. Aries = Spring, Libra is Autumn, Capricorn – starting at the Northern Winter Solstice – is credited with a suitably austere temperament, and so on. That is why you sometimes read something about a sign from a Southern Hemisphere perspective and it doesn’t resonate.
Does this mean that your Sun sign should be different? Eg: Libra becomes Aries, Taurus is now Scorpio, and so on? No. If the Sun was in Taurus when you were born, that is where it was. Is there a case for Southern Taurus as being a temperamentally different creature to Northern Taurus? Possibly. But the seasons have blurred into weather. We don’t live so much in harmony with nature that you airily ascribe Zodiac sign characteristics to the person’s harvest birth or Summer nature.
Additionally, there are so many other dimensions. A Taurus with Pluto in tight aspect or a big 8th house presence will seem Scorpionic even if they were birthed in a daisy paddock on Beltane in the Northern Summer.
Practically, the main Southern Hemisphere difference is that the Southern hemisphere Moon’s Nodes could be seen as reversed: the Ascending – or North – Node that shows in astrological charts* is the South Node if you were born below the equator. Nobody talks about this because it is just assumed that to be “how it is.” Why does it matter?
It may seem semantic but representation is important. Every time you have to adjust something in your mind for it to be relevant, it affirms that something irrevocably not you is “the top” or “correct.” When I first really looked into this, I was melancholy because I did not want my Gemini Node to be the “bad” one. It’s not, of course, and nor would the opposite Node – Sagittarius – be debilitating or negative if it were the South one.
But that was my first thought because North-South bias is everywhere, even though it is totally illogical. It’s up there with some of the gloomier takes on “Yin” as the abysmal, passive counterpart to the brightness of “Yang.” They were even combined on occasion, as in this upbeat little rant below.
“Gone South” is a metaphor for situations in decline or disarray. The perspective of the observer is assumed to be the Northern hemisphere, which is apparently “up.” Multiple cultural assumptions are made along the lines of North equating to logic or work ethic, while the South represents unruly passion and lack of ambition.
It’s too large a topic for a blog post but conquerors raze temples to the ground so they can erect a structure to their religion. Missionaries follow in their wake, helpfully ‘translating’ old texts and making edits where they deem appropriate. The people ‘gradually convert’ and ancient star-lines, mountains, and stories are forgotten or renamed after the so-called saviors.
“…Orion and Hercules striding across the sky, limbs reaching for lightyears, only to be dwarfed by the likes of Draco, Pegasus, or Ursa Major. Then bigger still – Cetus, Eridanus, Ophiuchus, and Hydra, spanning nearly the whole of a hemisphere, sunk below the equator in that weird underworld of obscure southern formations.”
Mark X – Citations
Ah yes, the weird obscure Southern underworld. In actual fact, there was a vast and rich starlore tradition in (for example) South America, much of it helpfully destroyed by the invading Spanish.
There are some fabulous Northern astral sagas but Southern Hemisphere people end up reading more about constellations they never – or barely – see than their stars. In many cases, Southern star systems were renamed and the old associations lost.
An example: ‘Arctic’ means bear and comes from the constellations that revolve around the North Pole, Ursa Major, and Ursa Minor. “Antarctic” just means “opposite to the Arctic.” No story, no glory.
It is not only a Western astrology thing. Feng Shui is based on the central and most commonly visible constellations of old China. The stars and planetary cycles that the ancient pyramids and temples of many cultures were aligned to were the ones they knew, not those they’d only heard of.
Is the concept of following your “true North” or “North Star” as resonant when Polaris – the current North Pole star -is invisible from your latitude? Imaginatively, the South Star is called Polaris Australis. It is not as bright nor close to the South Pole as Polaris is to the North – nobody really rates it. But it’s near the Galactic Center, as is the Southern Hemisphere in general.
This point was seen as the origin of ‘the worlds’ well before astrophysics and hyper-powered telescopes could confirm it. In the olden days, circumpolar stars and constellations were worshipped because they never set. People saw them as enchanted embodiments of deathless strength.
Canopus – a star the Egyptians called Kahi-Nub (or Golden Earth) was, at one point the Raven Star, which was a title given to South pole stars.*
These days spacecraft use it for celestial navigation. Some of the oldest Babylonian stories correlate with the most ancient of the indigenous Australian tales. There are links between the stars and deities of Maori and Ancient Egyptian culture.
The most significant Southern constellation, magically at least, was Eridanus, a stream of stars flowing South from Rigel and named after Eridu, the earliest city in the world.
It stops with Achernar, meaning ‘the end of the river’, in Pisces and that faces the mysterious Magellanic Clouds. Their phantom galaxies and weirdness makes even the staidest astronomical paper read like Philip K Dick on hyperdrive.
The story of the Southern skies and star lines is less known than the constellation myths of the North but it’s re-emerging via archeoastronomy and the study of indigenous starlore. One of my areas of interest – for study when time permits – is the Southern Cross: the Incans saw it as some kind of portal. Like the indigenous people of Australia, they were talking about the nebulae that swathe this iconic asterism long before they were ‘officially’ discovered.
But most of all, the emerging Southern Hemisphere astro-consciousness is a collective subconscious pull, like an astral tide.