the study of how events on earth correspond to the positions
and movements of astronomical bodies, particularly the sun, moon, planets, and stars.
Astrologers believe that the position of astronomical bodies at the exact moment of a
person's birth and the subsequent movements of the bodies reflect that person's character
and, therefore, destiny. For many years, scientists have rejected the principles of astrology.
However, millions of people continue to believe in or practice it.
Astrologers create charts called horoscopes, which map the position of astronomical
bodies at certain times, such as when a person is born. A horoscope is illustrated by a
circle, called the ecliptic. The ecliptic is the plane on which the earth orbits around the sun
in a year. It is divided into twelve sections, called the signs of the Zodiac, which include
Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn,
Aquarius, and Pisces. Astrologers assign every planet (which in astrology includes the sun
and moon) with a particular sign, depending on where that planet appears on the ecliptic at
the time for which the horoscope is cast. Each planet represents basic human drives, and
each sign represents a set of human characteristics. When astrologers designate a person
as a certain sign—a Leo or a Pisces, for example—they are referring to the person's sun
sign— that is, the sign that the sun occupied at the time of the person's birth.
The horoscope also is divided into twelve houses, which make up the 24-hour period
during which the earth rotates once on its axis. Each house deals with certain areas of a
person's life, such as marriage, health, work, travel, and death. Astrologers make
predictions by interpreting the position of astronomical bodies within the signs and houses
of the horoscope.
Astrology is an ancient practice that different civilizations seemed to develop
independently. The Chaldeans, who lived in Babylonia (now Iraq), developed one of the
original forms of astrology as early as 3000 BC. The Chinese were practicing astrology by
2000 BC. Other varieties formed in ancient India and among the Maya of Central
America. These people may have observed that certain astronomical bodies, particularly
the sun, affected the change of seasons and the success of crops. Based on such
observations, they may have developed a broader system by which the movements of other
bodies such as the planets affected or represented additional aspects of life.
By the 500s BC, astrology had spread to Greece, where such philosophers as Pythagoras
and Plato incorporated it into their study of religion and astronomy. Astrology was widely
practiced in Europe through the Middle Ages, despite the condemnation of such Christian
leaders as Augustine, who became archbishop of Canterbury about AD 600. Many
scholars viewed astrology and astronomy as complementary sciences until about the
1500s. At that time, the discoveries made by such astronomers as Nicolaus Copernicus
and Galileo Galilei undermined some of the foundations of astrology. Since then, few
scientists have accepted astrology as a science.
1994 Funk & Wagnall's Corporation.
Astrological Signs, and Links!