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Astrological sign

Astrological signs represent twelve equal segments or divisions of the zodiac. According to astrological theory, celestial phenomena reflect or govern human activity on the principle of "as above, so below", so that the twelve signs are held to represent twelve basic personality types or characteristic modes of expression.

In Western and Indian astrology, the twelve signs are associated with constellations, while in Chinese astrology there is no connection with constellations, as it is simply the line of the equator that is divided into twelve equal segments.

In Western and Indian astrology, the emphasis is on space, and the movement of the sun, moon and planets in the sky through each of the zodiac signs. In Chinese astrology, by contrast, the emphasis is on time, with the zodiac operating on cycles of years, months, and hours of the day. A common feature of all three traditions however, is the significance of the ascendant or rising sign, namely the zodiac sign that is rising (due to the rotation of the earth) on the eastern horizon at the moment of a person's birth.

The three traditions

The three main traditions of astrology, the Western, Indian and Chinese, share the same fundamental idea of a twelve sign zodiac with the signs divided into four basic types. It is possible to match up the twelve signs across the traditions, and despite differences, a basic similarity can be seen in their characteristics. The following table shows the twelve signs and their sub-division into four categories as they correspond across the three traditions:

Western Sign Element Dates Indian Sign Sanskrit Element Chinese Sign Trine
Aries Fire March 21 - April 19 Goatram March 25-May 30; Mesha Tejas (fire) Dragon (5) 1st
Taurus Earth April 20 - May 20 Vrishabha Prithivi (earth) Snake (6) 2nd
Gemini Air May 21 - June 21 Mithuna Vayu (air) Horse (7) 3rd
Cancer Water June 21 - July 21 Karka Goatram Jala (water) Sheep (8) 4th
Leo Fire July 22 - August 22 Simha Tejas (fire) Monkey (9) 1st
Virgo Earth August 23 - September 22 Kanya Prithivi (earth) Rooster (10) 2nd
Libra Air September 23 - October 22 Tula Vayu (air) Dog (11) 3rd
Scorpio Water October 23 - November 21 Vrishchika Jala (water) Pig (12) 4th
Sagittarius Fire November 22 - December 21 Dhanus Tejas (fire) Rat (1) 1st
Capricorn Earth December 22 - January 20 Makara Prithivi (earth) Ox (2) 2nd
Aquarius Air January 21 - February 19 Kumbha Vayu (air) Tiger (3) 3rd
Pisces Water February 20 - March 20 Meenam Jala (water) Rabbit (4) 4th

Note: The Chinese zodiac traditionally begins with the Rat despite the appearance of the Dragon in the first place in the table, and the numbers in parentheses indicate this.

The Western and Indian traditions agree on the sub-division of signs using the four elements of Fire, Earth, Air and Water; although the Indian elements are usually known by their Sanskrit names: Tejas (fire), Prithivi (earth), Vayu (air) and Jala (water). The Chinese tradition simply uses numbers to describe the four categories of 'trine' (meaning that there are three signs in each category). The Chinese tradition also uses elements in combination with the twelve signs, but uses a different system of five elements: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. This system does not directly correspond with the Western and Indian use of elements, so it is important not to confuse them.

It is possible to match up the signs of the three traditions because each one links the twelve signs to a different month of the solar year, and these roughly coincide across all three. The Western and Indian signs differ by about a month, due to different ways of measuring the zodiac, which has meant their divergence over time from a common origin. The Chinese lunar or month signs are based on the Chinese agricultural calendar of Solar terms and straddle the two other traditions, overlapping each one by about two weeks. This Chinese calendar is separate from the better known sixty year cycle of years, in which each year is linked to a different zodiac sign and element.

The zodiac

In Western, and (via Indo-Greek transmission in the 2nd and 1st centuries BCE (some believe it otherwise)) Indian, astrology, the zodiac divides the ecliptic (the apparent path of the Sun through the heavens) into twelve astrological signs of equal length.

The Western tropical astrology starts with the first point of Aries, which is defined as the point at which the ecliptic crosses the celestial equator at the spring equinox. It is important to note that the tropical zodiac signs at this stage no longer bear any relationship to the astronomical constellations after which they were originally named, due to a phenomenon known as the precession of the equinoxes which produces a slow change of the time of year when constellations are visible in the night sky over a 25,000 year cycle.

Western sidereal astrology and Indian astrology use signs which more or less coincide with the stellar constellations of the same name, although this involves adjustments to allow for the precession of the equinoxes.

Western zodiac signs

The signs affect the energies of each planet in a characteristic way when it enters each sign (though due consideration will also be given to other conditions within the astrological chart such as the effect of aspects to other planets, and the house in which each planet falls). Each sign is associated with one of the classical elements (fire, earth, air, or water) and one of the three qualities or modalities (cardinal, fixed, or mutable). It is also associated with an area of concern: personal, social, or universal.

Zodiac symbolism

This table shows the zodiac names in Latin with their English translation. It also shows the element and quality associated with each sign.

Sign English name Element Quality
Aries The Ram Fire Cardinal
Taurus The Bull Earth Fixed
Gemini The Twins Air Mutable
Cancer The Crab Water Cardinal
Leo The Lion Fire Fixed
Virgo The Virgin Earth Mutable
Libra The Scales Air Cardinal
Scorpio The Scorpion Water Fixed
Sagittarius The Archer Fire Mutable
Capricorn The Sea-goat Earth Cardinal
Aquarius The Water Carrier Air Fixed
Pisces The Two Fish Water Mutable

The twelve signs

The following are the characteristics of the Western Zodiac signs as understood by astrologers: Astrologers consider each of the signs to represent an ideal type. In other words, no individual shows all of the characteristics of any one sign. Rather each person is a combination of many signs, which must be assessed as a whole in that person's horoscope or natal chart.

  • - Aries (The Ram) (cardinal, fire, personal): Keyword: "I am". The Aries person is assertive, brave, energetic, kind, action-oriented, intelligent, individualistic, independent, impulsive, full of strength, competitive, eager, straightforward, forceful, headstrong, pioneering, a leader, focused on the present and freedom-loving. They can also sometimes be intemperate, violent, impatient, fiery, rash, extreme, and arrogant. Suitable occupations are where initiative and enterprise are needed, and preferably physical activity; such as entrepreneurs, businessmen, soldiers, sportspeople and explorers. In medical astrology Aries governs the head and skull. In astrology Aries is ruled by the planet Mars. The sun sign dates for Aries are March 21April 20. The fire form of Aries is a wildfire, an uncontrolled fire. Therefore, commonly known as the most dangerous of the twelve signs.
  • - Taurus (The Bull) (fixed, earth, personal): Keyword: "I have". The Taurus person is resourceful, thorough, dependable, responsible, loyal, patient, placid, stable, sensual, affectionate, comfortable, solid, earthy, strong, money-oriented, practical, productive, cautious, musical, and artistic. They can also sometimes be stubborn, indulgent, insecure, acquisitive, possessive, rigid, stodgy and slow. Suitable occupations are where perseverance, practicality and responsibility are awarded,and security is available; such as builders, farmers, bankers, civil servants, accountants and artistic pursuits, especially singing and sculpture. In medical astrology Taurus governs the throat and neck. In astrology Taurus is ruled by the planet Venus and for a few modern astrologers, the dwarf planet Ceres. The sun sign dates for Taurus are April 21May 21. The earth form of Taurus is fertile soil that has green growing plants.
  • - Gemini (The Twins) (mutable, air, personal): Keyword: "I think". The Gemini person is versatile, inquisitive, whimsical, nimble, articulate, lively, active, curious, independent, talkative, sociable, mercurial, and feminine. They can also sometimes be restless, scattered, dual or two-faced, inconstant, rash, gullible, gossipy and superficial. Suitable occupations are where constant variety and/or travel are guaranteed; such as commercial traveller, writer, journalist, clerk, teacher, printing and publishing. In medical astrology Gemini governs the hands and lungs. In astrology Gemini is ruled by the planet Mercury. The sun sign dates for Gemini are May 22June 23. The air form of Gemini is strong winds.
  • - Cancer (The Crab) (cardinal, water, personal): Keyword: "I feel". The Cancer person is protective, sensitive, compassionate, tenacious, retentive, resourceful, empathetic, a great leader, charming, independent, mysterious, powerful, self-contained, intelligent, family and home oriented, maternal, security oriented, philosopher, honest, nurturing, motherly, warm, sympathetic, artistic, passionate, self-sacrificing, patriotic, sentimental, musical, emotional, and loving. They can also be touchy, clingy, over-protective, moody and crabby. Suitable occupations are where shrewd but sensitive nature can be constructively employed, or in looking after others; such as nurses,flight attendants,gardeners, archaeologists, fashion and hairdressing, hoteliers, publicans, estate agents. In medical astrology Cancer governs the stomach and breasts. In astrology Cancer is ruled by the Moon. The sun sign dates for Cancer are June 23July 22. The water form of Cancer is a torrent, such as rain, a river, or the flow of the ocean.
  • - Leo (The Lion) (fixed, fire, social): Keyword: "I will". The Leo person is creative, generous, proud, fun-loving, dramatic, dignified, theatrical, passionate, affectionate, ardent, ambitious, loves attention, independent, noble, a leader, sunny, naive, magnetic, kingly, and powerful. They can also sometimes be bossy, jealous, patronizing, promiscuous, snobbish, egotistical, boastful, over self-conscious, and arrogant. Leos like to think that they are special and important. They love attention, and will do anything to get it. Suitable occupations are where leadership, bossiness, and powerful self-assurance can be displayed; such as manager, director, social organizer, chairperson, acting, person of the year. In medical astrology Leo governs the heart and spine. In astrology Leo is ruled by the Sun. The sun sign dates for Leo are July 23August 22. The fire form of Leo is a controlled bonfire.
  • - Virgo (The Virgin) (mutable, earth, social): Keyword: "I analyze". The Virgo person is practical, industrious, efficient, thorough, methodical, exacting, precise, detail-oriented, observant, intelligent, critical, work and service oriented, painstaking, pragmatic, modest, discreet, health and cleanliness conscious, mentally active, and flexible. They can also be fussy, nervous, pedantic, petty, and over-critical. Virgos often have a long beautiful neck and can be careless with fingernails. Suitable occupations are where analytical and practical, methodical qualities are needed; such as teacher, psychologist, nursing and health and hygiene sectors, scientist, accountant, secretary, inspector. In medical astrology Virgo governs the intestines and digestion. There is some debate in regards to a modern ruler of this sign with Ceres often considered candidate by some modern astrologers, but the planet Mercury was typically used as the default by tradition. The sun sign dates for Virgo are August 23September 22. The earth form of Virgo is a full grown harvest. Totem animal is the Bushbaby.
  • - Libra (The Scales) (cardinal, air, social): Keyword: "I balance". The Libra person is co-operative, diplomatic, sees both sides, open-minded, just, urbane, fair, partnership oriented, avoids conflict, refined, balanced, graceful, charming, debative, idealistic, egalitarian and sociable. They can sometimes also rationalize, be easily deterred, indecisive and lazy. Suitable occupations are where human relationships and a harmonious environment are important; such as artist, poet, diplomat, social worker, cosmetic industry. In medical astrology Libra governs the kidneys and lumbar region. In astrology Libra is ruled by the planet Venus. The sun sign dates for Libra are September 23October 22. The air form of Libra is the calm fall winds.
  • - Scorpio (The Scorpion) (fixed, water, social): Keyword: "I desire". The Scorpio person is passionate, secretive, powerful, penetrating, perspicacious, intense, determined, purposeful, imaginative, insightful, perceptive, deep, complex, analytical, inquisitive, resourceful, ambitious, shrewd, magnetic, hypnotic, creative and mysterious. They can also sometimes be cunning, suspicious, compulsive, aggressive, jealous, and controlling. Suitable occupations are where the penetrating mind and determined attitude can prevail; such as research work, detective, physicist, doctor, surgeon, engineer, butcher, lawyer, the occult. In medical astrology Scorpio governs the pelvis and reproductive organs. In astrology Scorpio is ruled by the planets Mars and Pluto. The sun sign dates for Scorpio are October 23November 21. The water form of Scorpio is calm, murky waters that holds unknown things.
  • - Sagittarius (The Archer) (mutable, fire, universal): Keyword: "I see". The Sagittarius person is freedom-loving, extrovert, straightforward, benevolent, philosophic, idealistic, sincere, intellectual, knowledgeable, philosophical, broad-minded, truth-seeking and telling, just, fun-loving, athletic, adventurous, expansive, and optimistic. They can also sometimes be blundering, careless, exaggerative, know-it-all, over-indulgent, tactless and scattered. Suitable occupations are where free-ranging and versatile qualities are needed and where philosophical traits are important; such as churchman, lawyer, philosopher, interpreter, teacher, politician, explorer, also working with animals. In medical astrology Sagittarius governs the hips and thighs. In astrology Sagittarius is ruled by the planet Jupiter. The sun sign dates for Sagittarius are November 22December 21. The fire form of Sagittarius is a campfire or a room with multiple candles in it.
  • - Capricorn (The Sea-goat) (cardinal, earth, universal): Keyword: "I use". The Capricorn person is prudent, responsible, realistic, formal, patient, methodical, disciplined, traditional, cautious, conventional, hard-working, persevering, self-reliant, ambitious, businesslike, career-oriented, authoritative, conscientious, and competent. They can also sometimes be rigid, suspicious, status-seeking, demanding, insensitive, inhibited and saturnine. Suitable occupations are where responsible, patient and economising qualities can be exercised; such as scientist, engineer, manager, civil servant, mathematician, farmer, builder, politician, director. In medical astrology Capricorn governs the knees and skeleton. In astrology Capricorn is ruled by the planet Saturn. The sun sign dates for Capricorn are December 22January 20. The earth form of Capricorn is hard cold winter grounds or mountains.
  • - Aquarius (The Water Carrier) (fixed, air, universal): Keyword: "I know". The Aquarius person is unconventional, detached, intellectual, objective, individualistic, inventive, tolerant, unique, rebellious, sophisticated, future-oriented, friendship-oriented, humanitarian, cause-oriented, believes in groups and society, attractive and progressive. They can also sometimes be unpredictable, dogmatic, over-permissive, aloof, eccentric and elitist. Suitable occupations are where the progressive mental qualities can be developed, preferable in a group; such as, photographer, writer, broadcastor, publisher, social worker, scientist, and the electronics, aviation, and computer industries. In medical astrology Aquarius governs the circulatory and nervous systems and ankles. In astrology Aquarius is ruled by the planets Saturn and Uranus. The sun sign dates for Aquarius are January 21February 19. The air form of Aquarius is a cold winter night.
  • - Pisces (The Fish) (mutable, water, universal): Keyword: "I believe". The Pisces person is compassionate, empathetic, imaginative, sensitive, mystical, spiritual, dreamy, passive, easy-going, idealistic, visionary, inspirational, accepting, undiscriminating, charitable, believes in soul growth, self-sacrificing and artistic. They can also sometimes be distracted, detached, illusory, impractical, gullible, neglectful, escapist and lazy. Suitable occupations are where compassionate and intuitive qualities are needed; such as caring for the sick, needy and animals, religious, social workers, hospitals and institutions, poets, writers, actors, psychics, and models. In medical astrology Pisces governs the feet and immune system. In astrology Pisces is ruled by the planets Jupiter and Neptune. The sun sign dates for Pisces are February 20March 20. The water form of Pisces is the ocean.

The four elements

Each sign is associated with one of the classical elements (water, fire, earth and air.) Fire and Air signs are positive or extrovert, masculine signs; while Water and Earth signs are negative, introvert, feminine signs.

  • Fire Signs--Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius-- Fire represents one's desires and creative energies. The Fire signs are associated with action, passion, energy, and heat, and people with a lot of fire in their make up are confident, bright, warm, exciting, and easily take the initiative. In combination with the other elements, fire feels that earth will smother it, water will douse it, but air will fan and enliven it. It is the element of focus and prosperity.
  • Earth Signs--Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn-- Earth represents one's material resources, environment and possessions. The Earth signs are associated with sensation, stability and practicality, and people with a lot of earth in their make up are solid, dependable, thorough, responsible, cautious, overexertive, overprotective, and quiet. In combination with the other elements, earth feels that air will suffocate it, fire will burn it, but water will refresh and nourish it. It is the element of strength and growth.
  • Air Signs--Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius-- Air represents the intellect and one's ability to reason and communicate. The Air signs are associated with thought, perspective, hastiness, and communication. People with air in their astrological compositions are intellectual, objective, lively, idealistic and articulate. In combination with the other elements, air feels that water will obscure it, earth will suffocate it, but fire will inspire and uplift it. It is the element of agility and beauty.
  • Water Signs--Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces-- Water represents imagination, human feelings and one's ability to love and sustain. The Water signs are associated with growth processes, imagination, identification and emotion, and people with a lot of water in their make up are sensitive, seductive, intuitive, imaginative, insightful, secretive, loving, learned, and moody. In combination with the other elements, water feels that fire will make it boil, air will evaporate it, but earth will shape and channel it. It is the element of healing and spirit.

In various belief systems, four is considered an earthly number, there being four elements. Water, Air, Fire, and Earth. Three is considered a divine number, and there are three qualities: Cardinal, Fixed, and Mutable. Three plus four equals seven, a number often signifying the union of heaven and earth and the deliverance of our people.

The Three Qualities

The Qualities assign the Signs into Quadruplicities, three groups of four. They are occasionally referred to as crosses because each quality forms a cross when drawn across the zodiac. Christian astrology relates the three qualities to the three aspects of God in the trinity.

  • Cardinal signs (Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn) are associated with initiation and creativity. A person with a lot of Cardinal qualities in their make up will be spontaneous, restless, good at organizing and a natural leader .
  • Fixed signs (Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius) are associated with focus, powerful concentration, individuality and determination. A person with a lot of Fixed qualities in their make up will be stable, penetrating, conservative, solid, purposeful, persevering, loyal and a little inflexible in their outlook
  • Mutable signs (Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius and Pisces) are associated with resourcefulness, holism and adaptability. A person with a lot of Mutable qualities in their make up will be flexible, forward looking, have multiple talents and be good at being of service to others.

Additional classifications

While knowing the element and quality of a sign is sufficient to define it, several other groupings can be used for those interested in better understanding their symbolism. The most common is a sequential cycle detailed below. Although most commonly used to define planets, it is valid for signs as well. This cycle has been used as a metaphorical descriptor of the process of birth, development, and death, of humans, societies, or even humanity.

  • Personal Signs - Aries, Taurus, Gemini, and Cancer - are principally aware of and concerned with the self. They tend to be honest, as fabricating a lie would be like lying to themselves. Attributes associated with each of them include: energy, competition; earthly pleasures, simplicity; communication, wit; being moody, or shy/attention craving.
  • Interpersonal Signs - Leo, Virgo, Libra, and Scorpio - are principally aware of and concerned with others, and sociality. Here we see signs that represent various aspects of society and how humans relate, for these signs are respectively associated with: rulership, creativity; ideals, justice, organized war; order, cleanliness, logic; deeper meaning, religion, and the occult.
  • Transpersonal Signs - Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces - are principally aware of and concerned with humanity; they are respectively associated with: transcendence, questioning existence, executiveship, philosophy, travel, culture; equality, technology, democracy; art, sometimes psychic abilities, and universal love.

Planetary rulerships

In traditional Western astrology, each sign is ruled by one and only one of the seven visible planets (note that in astrology, the Sun and Moon are termed The Lights by astrologers, while the other bodies are called planets, which literally means wanderers, i.e. wandering stars as opposed to the fixed stars). The traditional rulerships are as follows: Aries (Mars), Taurus (Venus), Gemini (Mercury), Cancer (Moon), Leo (Sun), Virgo (Mercury), Libra (Venus), Scorpio (Mars), Sagittarius (Jupiter), Capricorn (Saturn), Aquarius (Saturn), Pisces (Jupiter).

Many modern, psychologically-oriented astrologers believe that Uranus is the ruler or co-ruler of Aquarius instead of Saturn, Neptune is the ruler or co-ruler of Pisces instead of Jupiter, and that Pluto is the ruler or co-ruler of Scorpio instead of Mars (with other modern astrologers claiming that Pluto rules Aries and not Mars). Some other astrologers believe that the dwarf planet Ceres may be the ruler of Virgo, while other group of modern astrologers acclaim that xxxxx is the ruler of Taurus instead. Traditional astrology adheres to the rulerships system listed in the paragraph above, and the debate continues between those who consider the newly discovered planets as rulers or co-rulers of certain signs and those that do not.

Alternatively, some astrologers use the former planets Pallas, Vesta, Juno and Hygiea in their delineations and rulerships, for example Vesta to Taurus and Pallas to Virgo.

Some astrologers do not even use the astrological signs at all (mostly Cosmobiologists and Uranian Astrologers/Hamburg School); therefore they do not take into account planetary rulerships and the essential dignities when interpreting an astrological chart.

Dignity and detriment, exaltation and fall

A traditional belief of astrology is the idea that the sun, moon and planets are more powerful and effective in some signs than others, because the basic nature of both is held to be in harmony. By contrast, the sun, moon and planets are held to find some signs to be weak or difficult to operate in because their natures are thought to be in conflict . The most important of these categories are Dignity, Detriment, Exaltation and Fall.

  • Dignity and Detriment : A planet is strengthened or dignified if it falls within the sign that it rules. In other words it is said to exercise Rulership of the sign. For example, the Moon in Cancer is considered "strong" (well-dignified). Seventeenth century astrologer William Lilly compared rulership to a king on his throne, with considerable dignity. If a planet is in the sign opposite that which it rules (or is dignified), it is said to be weakened or in Detriment, for example the moon in Capricorn.

In traditional astrology, other levels of Dignity are recognised in addition to Rulership. These are known as Exaltation (see below), Triplicity , Terms or bounds, and Face or Decan , which together are known as describing a planet's Essential dignity, the quality or ability to give of one's true nature. Contemporary traditional astrologers like John Frawley or J Lee Lehman explain further on the concept of Essential Dignity.

  • Exaltation and Fall : In addition, a planet is also strengthened when it is in its sign of Exaltation. In traditional horary astrology, Exaltation denotes a level of dignity somewhat exaggerated compared to rulership. Exaltation was considered to give the planet (or what it signified in a horary chart) dignity, with the metaphor of an honoured guest - who is the centre of attention but the extent of their ability to act is limited. Examples of planets in their Exaltation are: Saturn (Libra), Sun (Aries), Venus (Pisces), Moon (Taurus), Mercury (Virgo, although some disagree to this classification), Mars (Capricorn), Jupiter (Cancer). A planet in the opposite sign of its Exaltation is said to be in its Fall (e.g. Moon in Scorpio), and thus weakened, perhaps seemingly more so than Detriment. The Planet in fall is passively rejected or ignored by the sign that it's in. It can be likened to a mayor of a rival city trying to make suggestions to the hosting mayor for how he should run his city: The host mayor finds it difficult to trust him and can't see how his input could have relevancy to his city. The people of the city feel the same as their ruler. The result is impasse and failure on behalf of both mayors and the city.

In addition to Essential dignity, the traditional astrologer considers Accidental dignity of planets. This is placement by house in the chart under examination. Accidental dignity describes the planet's "ability to act". So we might have, for example, Moon in Cancer, dignified by rulership, is placed in the 12th house it would have little scope to express its good nature. The 12th is a cadent house as are the 3rd, 6th and 9th and planets in these houses are considered weak or afflicted. On the other hand, Moon in the 1st, 4th, 7th or 10th would be more able to act as these are Angular houses. Planets in Succedent houses of the chart (2nd, 5th, 8th, 11th) are generally considered to be of medium ability to act. Besides Accidental Dignity, there are a range of Accidental Debilities, such as retrogradation, Under the Sun's Beams, Combust, and so forth.

Jyotish or Indian zodiac signs

Jyotish astrology recognises twelve zodiac signs, or Rashis:

Nakshatras

The twelve signs of the zodiac are not given the same prominence in Indian astrology that they are in the Western tradition. Instead the emphasis is on the system of 27 (or 28) nakshatras or lunar mansions, which have been used in Indian astrology since Vedic times. The nakshatras consist of equal divisions of the moon's path along the ecliptic and function in a similar way to the signs of the zodiac in that they represent different personality types. It is considered that the position of the moon in a particular nakshatra at the time of person's birth will give a strong indication of that individual's character and of the kind of path they will follow throughout life.

Chinese zodiac signs

Unlike the Western or Indian zodiacs, the Chinese zodiac signs are not derived from constellations, and are not assigned to sections of the ecliptic. Instead, Chinese astrological signs operate on cycles of years, lunar months, and two-hour periods of the day (also known as shichen). A particular feature of the Chinese zodiac is its operation in a sixty year cycle in combination with the five elements of Chinese astrology (Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water).

Zodiac symbolism

The following table shows the twelve signs and their attributes.

Sign Yin/Yang Direction Season Fixed Element Trine
Rat Yang North Winter Water 1st
Ox Yin North north east Winter Water 2nd
Tiger Yang East north east Spring Wood 3rd
Rabbit Yin East Spring Wood 4th
Dragon Yang East south east Spring Wood 1st
Snake Yin South south east Summer Fire 2nd
Horse Yang South Summer Fire 3rd
Sheep Yin South south west Summer Fire 4th
Monkey Yang West south west Autumn Metal 1st
Rooster Yin West Autumn Metal 2nd
Dog Yang West north west Autumn Metal 3rd
Pig Yin North North West Winter Water 4th

The twelve signs

In Chinese astrology the zodiac of twelve animal sign represents twelve different types of personality. The zodiac traditionally begins with the sign of the Rat, and there are many stories about the Origins of the Chinese Zodiac which explain why this is so. When the twelve zodiac signs are part of the sixty year calendar in combination with the five elements, they are traditionally called the twelve earthly branches. The following are the twelve zodiac signs in order and their characteristics.

  1. Rat (Yang, 1st Trine, Fixed Element Water): The Rat person is forthright, meticulous, charming, industrious, charismatic, generous to close family and friends, eloquent, sociable, shrewd, tenacious. They can also sometimes be vindictive, venal, critical, over-ambitious, manipulative, and ruthless. The Rat's good entrepreneurial and leadership skills, quickness to exploit opportunities and good eye for detail means they can achieve power and wealth. Good politicians, lawyers, detectives, engineers, and pathologists. Rat years include 1900, 1912, 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008. The month of the Rat is Dec 7 - Jan 5, and the hours of the Rat are 11pm - 1am.
  2. Ox (Yin, 2nd Trine, Fixed Element Water): The Ox person is dependable, calm, methodical, patient, hardworking, ambitious, conventional, disciplined, steady, modest, fair-minded, logical, resolute, tenacious. They can also sometimes be stubborn, narrowminded, materialistic, rigid, demanding and nurture grievances. The Ox can attain prosperity and success through fortitude, hard work and natural leadership qualities. Good dentists, surgeons, engineers, and archaeologists. Ox years include 1901, 1913, 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997. The month of the Ox is Jan 6 - Feb 3, and the hours of the Ox are 1am - 3am.
  3. Tiger (Yang, 3rd Trine, Fixed Element Wood): The Tiger person is unpredictable, rebellious, colorful, powerful, passionate, daring, impulsive, vigorous, stimulating, sincere, affectionate, humanitarian, generous. They can also sometimes be restless, reckless, impatient, quick-tempered, obstinate, selfish. The Tiger person will trust to luck and their own charisma and daring to achieve success, and their idealism and humanitarian instincts will inform their goals. Good actors, writers, pilots, and police officers. Tiger years include 1902, 1914, 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998. The month of the Tiger is Feb 4 - Mar 5, and the hours of the Tiger are 3am - 5am.
  4. Rabbit (Yin, 4th Trine, Fixed Element Wood): The Rabbit person is gracious, kind, sensitive, soft-spoken, amiable, elegant, reserved, cautious, artistic, thorough, tender, self-assured, astute, compassionate, flexible. They can also sometimes be moody, detached, superficial, self-indulgent, opportunistic, lazy. The Rabbit person will pursue objectives methodically but unobtrusively, using friendliness and amiability to persuade others, and inscrutability and astuteness to outwit their opponents. Rabbit Years include 1903, 1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999. The month of the Rabbit is Mar 6 - Apr 4, and the hours of the Rabbit are 5am - 7am.
  5. Dragon (Yang, 1st Trine, Fixed Element Wood): The Dragon person is magnanimous, vigorous, strong, self-assured, proud, direct, eager, zealous, fiery, passionate, decisive, pioneering, ambitious, generous, loyal, idealistic. They can also sometimes be arrogant, demanding, eccentric, dogmatic, over-bearing, impetuous, brash. The Dragon person needs a mission or goal in life, and they will rely on their strength and confidence to achieve it. Good educators, instructors and sportspeople. Dragon years include 1904, 1916, 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000. The month of the Dragon is Apr 5 - May 4, and the hours of the Dragon are 7am - 9am.
  6. Snake (Yin, 2nd Trine, Fixed Element Fire): The Snake person is a deep thinker, wise, mystic, graceful, soft-spoken, sensual, creative, prudent, shrewd, ambitious, elegant, cautious, responsible, calm, strong, constant, purposeful. They can also sometimes be a loner, bad communicator, possessive, hedonistic, controlling, ruthless, distrustful, vengeful. Like the Rat, though perhaps to a lesser degree, the Snake person too can pursue goals ruthlessly and with calculation, and strives for control through power. Good politician, business person, teacher, theologian, and philosopher. Snake years include 1905, 1917, 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001. The month of the Snake is May 5 - Jun 5, and the hours of the Snake are 9am - 11am.
  7. Horse (Yang, 3rd Trine, Fixed Element Fire): The Horse person is cheerful, popular, quick-witted, changeable, earthy, perceptive, talkative, agile mentally and physically, magnetic, intelligent, astute, flexible, open-minded. They can also sometimes be impetuous, hot-tempered, rude, stubborn, lack stability and perseverance. The Horse person is success and performance oriented and relies on their astuteness and keen minds and persuasive abilities to achieve it. Horse years include 1906, 1918, 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002. The month of the Horse is Jun 6 - Jul 6, and the hours of the Horse are 11am - 1pm.
  8. Sheep (Yin, 4th Trine, Fixed Element Fire): The Sheep person is righteous, sincere, sympathetic, mild-mannered, shy, artistic, creative, gentle, compassionate, understanding, mothering, determined, peaceful, generous, seeks security. They can also sometimes be moody, indecisive, over-passive, worrier, pessimistic, over-sensitive, complainer. The Sheep person relies on their good nature and sensitivity to persuade others to meet their needs and use subtle, indirect methods and persistence to achieve them. Good at artistic and creative pursuits. Sheep years include 1907, 1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003. The month of the Sheep is Jul 7 - Aug 7, and the hours of the Sheep are 1pm - 3pm.
  9. Monkey (Yang, 1st Trine, Fixed Element Metal): The Monkey person is an inventor, motivator, improviser, quick-witted, inquisitive, flexible, innovative, problem solver, self-assured, sociable, polite, dignified, competitive, objective, factual, intellectual. They can also sometimes be egotistical, vain, selfish, cunning, jealous, suspicious. The Monkey person is competitive and success oriented and uses their guile, charm and self confidence to achieve their goals. Good actors, writers, lawyers, diplomats, sportspeople, teachers. Monkey years include 1908, 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004. The month of the Monkey is Aug 8 - Sep 7, and the hours of the Monkey are 3pm - 5pm.
  10. Rooster (Yin, 2nd Trine, Fixed Element Metal): The Rooster person is acute, neat, meticulous, organized, self-assured, decisive, conservative, critical, perfectionist, alert, zealous, practical, scientific, responsible. They can also sometimes be over zealous and critical, puritanical, egotistical, abrasive, opinionated. The Rooster person uses their good administrative skills, and efficient, precise and methodical nature to achieve their goals. Good accountants, scientists, administrators, teachers, nurses. Rooster years include 1909, 1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005. The month of the Rooster is Sep 8 - Oct 7 and the hours of the Rooster are 5pm - 7pm.
  11. Dog (Yang, 3rd Trine, Fixed Element Metal): The Dog person is honest, intelligent, straightforward,popular, loyal, sense of justice and fair play, attractive, amiable, unpretentious, sociable, open-minded, idealistic, moralistic, practical, intelligent, affectionate, dogged. They can also sometimes be cynical, lazy, cold, judgmental, pessimistic, worrier, stubborn, quarrelsome. The Dog person uses their sense of fair play, determination and practicality to achieve their goals. Good soldiers, teachers, lawyers, judges, doctors, religious workers. Dog years include 1910, 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006. The month of the Dog is Oct 8 - Nov 7, and the hours of the Dog are 7pm - 9pm.
  12. Pig (Yin, 4th Trine, Fixed Element Water): The Pig person is honest, simple, gallant, sturdy, courageous, persevering, resolute,sociable, peace-loving, patient, loyal, hard-working, trusting, sincere, diligent, calm, understanding, thoughtful, scrupulous, passionate, intelligent. They can also sometimes be naive, over-reliant, self-indulgent, condescending, fatalistic, materialistic. The Pig person uses their patience, hard work, strength, sociability and loyalty to achieve their goals. Good teachers, fundraisers, club and society organisers. Pig years include 1911, 1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007. The month of the Pig is Nov 8 - Dec 6, and the hours of the Pig are 9pm - 11pm.

The four trines

The twelve animal signs are also broken into four categories of three signs each, known as trines

  • The First Trine

The first trine consists of the Rat, Dragon, and Monkey. These three signs are intense and powerful individuals, capable of great good or great evil. They make great leaders, but the three may have different approaches. Frustrated when hampered, these signs are ruled by highly potent energy and unpredictability. At their worst, Rats are ruthlessly power-hungry, vindictive, and Machiavellian, Dragons are inflexible megalomaniacs and dogmatists, and Monkeys are destructive manipulators and hedonists. They are intelligent, magnanimous, charismatic, charming, authoritative, confident, eloquent and artistic. They can also be tyrannical, bombastic, prejudiced, deceitful, imperious, ruthless, power-hungry, and megalomaniacal.

  • The Second Trine

The second trine consists of the Ox, Snake, and Rooster. These three soul mates conquer life through endurance, application, and slow accumulation of energy. Although each sign is fixed and rigid in opinions and views, they are genius in the art of meticulous planning. They are hardworking, discreet, modest, industrious, charitable, loyal, punctual, philosophical, patient, and good-hearted individuals with high moral standards. They can also be self-righteous, vain, critical, judgemental, narrow-minded, petty, and pessimistic.

  • The Third Trine

The third trine consists of the Tiger, Horse, and Dog. These three signs seek one another, and are like-minded in their pursuit of humanitarian causes. Each is a gifted orator and excels at verbal communication. Relationships and personal contact are of highest priority and each one seek their intimate soul mate. Idealistic and impulsive, the Tiger, Horse and Dog follow the beat of their own drummer. Defiant against injustice, these three signs wilt without large amounts of physical affection and loyal support for causes. They are productive, enthusiastic, independent, engaging, dynamic, and honourable. They can also be rash, rebellious, quarrelsome, hot-headed, reckless, anxious, moody, disagreeable, stubborn, and selfish.

  • The Fourth Trine

The fourth trine consists of the Rabbit, Sheep and Pig. The quest for these three signs is the aesthetic and beautiful in life. Their calm nature gives them great leadership abilities. They are artistic, refined, intuitive, and well-mannered. These souls love the preliminaries in love, and are fine artists in their lovemaking. The Rabbit, Sheep and Pig have been bestowed with calmer natures than the other 9 signs. These three are compassionately aware, yet detached and resigned to their condition. They seek beauty and a sensitive lover. They are caring, unique, self-sacrificing, obliging, sensible, creative, empathetic, tactful, and prudent. They can also be naive, pedantic, insecure, cunning, indecisive, and pessimistic.

The five elements

The elements differ in Chinese astrology from their Western counterparts: Air is not one of the elements as defined by the Chinese. Instead, Wood and Metal are elements alongside Earth, Fire and Water. In addition, the elements also govern various aspects of one's personality, and are assigned to various other things such as directions (North, South, East and West), colours, seasons and planets. The characteristics of the five elements are as follows:

  • Metal: The metal person is rigid and resolute in expression and intense, with strong feelings. They are capable of prolonged effort, and are success oriented and determined, with strong monetary and accumulative impulses. They are independent, preferring to handle problems alone and form their own paths without interference. Their strong impulses and generative powers can bring about great changes and transformations. However, they can also be stubborn, opinionated,fixated and unbending. The direction associated with Metal is West, and the season is autumn, which makes it the fixed element for the animal signs Monkey, Rooster and Dog.

  • Water: The water person is a good communicator and persuader, intuitive and sympathetic to others and good at conveying feelings and emotions. They are observant and know how to prod and influence others to their own goals by unobtrusive persistence and diplomacy. They would rather be conciliatory and infiltrate than dominate. They have good awareness and are able to see future potentials and be flexible, fluid and open to change. However, they can also be too ready to take the easy option, be inconstant, over-passive and too eager to please. The direction associated with Water is North, and the season is winter, which makes it the fixed element for the animal signs Pig, Rat and Ox.
  • Wood: The wood person has high morals, is self confident, expansive and co-operative, with wide and varied interests. They like to do things on a grand scale, and have executive abilities, being good at leading and delegating and also team work. They are progressive, generous and persuasive, with lots of goodwill and understanding. They are good at diversifying, branching out and finding finances and opportunities. However, they can also over-extend themselves and spread their resources too thinly. The direction associated with Wood is East, and the season is spring, which makes it the fixed element for the animal signs Tiger, Rabbit and Dragon.
  • Fire: The fire person has leadership qualities, and is decisive, self confident, positive and assertive. They are motivators, doers, and pioneers, open to new ideas and are creative and original. They are capable of being dynamic and inspiring others. However they can also be aggressive, impatient, domineering, forceful, impulsive and too-outspoken. The direction associated with Fire is South, and the season is summer, which makes it the fixed element for the animal signs Snake, Horse and Sheep.
  • Earth: The earth person is functional, practical, solid, reliable, organized and methodical. They have good deductive powers and are able to show foresight and planning. They make effective administrators and are wise and prudent in finance. They are intelligent, objective, persistent, disciplined and responsible. However, they can also be unimaginative, over-protective, and pessimistic. The direction associated with Earth is the Centre. Some Chinese astrologers associate Earth with late summer.

The five elements operate together with the twelve animal signs in a sixty year calendar. The five elements appear in the calendar in both their yin and yang forms and are known as the ten heavenly stems. When trying to calculate the relevant year of the cycle in relation to the Western calendar, an easy rule to follow is that years that end in an even number are yang, those that end with an odd number are yin. The cycle proceeds as follows:

  • If the year ends in 0 it is Yang Metal.
  • If the year ends in 1 it is Yin Metal.
  • If the year ends in 2 it is Yang Water.
  • If the year ends in 3 it is Yin Water.
  • If the year ends in 4 it is Yang Wood.
  • If the year ends in 5 it is Yin Wood.
  • If the year ends in 6 it is Yang Fire.
  • If the year ends in 7 it is Yin Fire.
  • If the year ends in 8 it is Yang Earth.
  • If the year ends in 9 it is Yin Earth.

References

See also

External links

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