The 13th Zodiac: A debate over Ophiuchus

By Alex Theriot
For Unwind magazine

Flipping through the pages of many magazines or newspapers, often toward the back, one finds 12 small paragraphs filled with astrological predictions highlighting an individual’s path through the stars. But a recent stir in the zodiac community caused rumors of a potential 13th sign.

Ophiuchus, (pronounced Oh-fee-YOU-cuss), is a constellation that has lain in the path of the sun for millions of years, predating the creation of the zodiac chart. Originally, the sign was left out of astrology, so that the 12 remaining constellations would synchronize with the calendar’s 12 months. However, the sun’s path still crosses through Ophiuchus, causing some astrologists to suggest the sign’s addition to newspapers and magazines everywhere.

The constellation received its name from the Greek mythological character Ophiuchus, a man often depicted as grappling serpents. It is also believed that Ophiuchus possessed advanced healing powers, thus inspiring the symbol of serpents coiling a medical staff.

Adding this new sign could potentially impede the astrological order for those born between Nov. 30 and Dec. 17, the Sagittarius sign. This would generate a completely different astrological forecast.

“I’m a Sagittarius and supposedly they’re kind of crazy, outgoing and feisty, and I guess sometimes that’s me, but I think a lot of times I’m a little more introverted,” junior aerospace engineering major Evelyn Flint said. “I don’t really believe in [astrology].”

The astrological calendar divides the year into 12 different signs loosely following the lunar calendar. Each changes as the earth rotates around the sun entering a new “house” of the zodiac. Someone’s zodiac sign is determined by the sun’s position within the boundaries of that constellation on the day they are born — or, more accurately, where the sun would have been 2,000 years ago, when the zodiacs were created.

“The sun lies within the boundaries of the constellation Ophiuchus the Serpent Bearer for about two weeks of every year, and thus Ophiuchus is an informal member of the zodiac,” said EarthSky Tonight’s chief writer Bruce McClure on EarthSky.org

However, some astrologists believe it’s important to note that zodiacs follow the order of seasons — not constellations — and dismiss the rumor altogether.

“Ophiuchus has nothing to do with astrology,” said astrologer Rick Levine on dailyhoroscope.com. “It’s not an astrology issue. It has to do with the stars—it’s not a sign, it’s a constellation.”

The rumor started when a professor from Minnesota introduced a new theory about the procession of stars over time, causing a series of articles to misrepresent the meanings and origins of astrology.

“To be honest, I don’t think it affects me too much except for the fact that now every time I go online to view horoscopes no one ever mentions me,” joked independent studies major Josh Hall. “I feel a little left out in that regard.”

Ultimately, you can decide for yourself. While it may never show up in a newspaper or magazine, no one’s stopping you from telling everyone you’re an Ophiuchus.

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