The elusive 13th Zodiac sign

Some years ago NASA published an article on their site aimed at discrediting astrology due to the fact that the constellations have shifted and the dates for the Zodiac signs today no longer correspond to the position of the Sun in a certain constellation. This caused many confused horoscope followers to google something like: “What is my real star sign?” or “What Zodiac sign am I now?”  And it required many professional astrologers to write furious articles explaining how the real astrology works and refuting the 13th sign that NASA has decided to insert back, since the poor thing was carelessly tossed out by the unscrupulous scientists of the past.  As we know, bad publicity is still publicity, and I know at least one person who began studying serious astrology in order to understand what’s the deal with this controversy. I’m sure there were others who came into the world of natal charts, aspects and transits following the same lead so – thank you, NASA, and I mean it (well, ok, a little sarcasm is present, but that’s just due to some of my natal chart placements).

If you start looking for the information on it on astrology sites, you’ll most likely find something like this: the division of the ecliptic (apparent path of the Sun through the skies as seen from the Earth) into 12 sections has nothing to do with actual constellations behind them. Well… it did, many years ago, when babylonians first devised the system. But they just named each sector after the constellation behind it so that it would be easy to refer to them. Later, the tilt of the Earth’s rotational axis shifted and “the backdrop” behind the sectors moved, while the sectors, defined by the equinoxes and solstices, remained the same.

To make it easier to understand, let’s take the analogy of using clock positions as directions. 3 o’clock is your right and 9 o’clock is your left. Look both ways right now – what do you have there? A window and a bookcase? Or maybe an old couple and a cute barista, if you’re reading this in a coffee shop? Ok, now turn your body, say, 45 or 90 degrees in any direction, and see what objects there will be at 3 and 9 o’clock this time. Maybe a door and a chair? Maybe an empty table and the menu board? In any case while things you SEE have changed, the directions in relation to your body have not. 3 o’clock is still to the right and 9 – to the left. Same principle is used in modern Western astrology. In Indian astrology they actually follow the precession, so the lucky bastards were twiddling their thumbs while their Western colleagues had to wear their fingers out on the keyboards, arguing with NASA and all the astrology ill-wishers who jumped in.


When reading the article, one gets the feeling that NASA, the serious scientific body representing astronomy, is breaking the news to everyone who’s outside this sphere of knowledge about the shift! In fact, precession was discussed in ancient text dating back to 280 BC. and Ptolemy, the founder of classical astrology, observed and measured the speed of the shift. It did not stop him from drawing up charts, making predictions and writing Tetrabiblos.

The other argument caused a lot more controversy, but was eventually handled by the leading authorities in the field. I am talking about the 13th sign. In astrological circles it was almost officially decided that it is bogus, NASA’s provocation and just because it crosses the ecliptic, it doesn’t give it a place it the Zodiac’s twelve. Mentioning it on astrology forums or social media discussion groups is dangerous, it causes a wave of lectures and ridiculing for not knowing the difference between sectors of the ecliptic and constellations.


In all the time I have been researching the topic I have only come across two reasonable (to my very subjective mind) people. One told me to study fixed stars as they explain it a lot better. I did. And got more questions, like this one – fixed stars are not on the ecliptic, many of them are projected to a place on it and a planet or a point in our natal chart conjuncts this degree of the projection, not the star itself. Ok, so if you look at the star atlas you’ll see that Scorpio also is not on the ecliptic and is only projected on it. In fact, the contact of Scorpio with ecliptic is absolutely equal to the contact of Ophiuchus – the constellation in question. By the way, I don’t like that name. It sounds funny and is a pain in the ass to spell so I’ll be using the Latin version – Serpentarius. In any case, as you can see in the picture (I highlighted the area of interest) they both barely cross the ecliptic (red dash line)… So this whole section might as well be the sign of Serpentarius for the entire 30 days and we could leave the Scorpio lurking in the background (as they often like to do).

But wait! Remember that NASA article? Here is a quote: “But even according to the Babylonians’ own ancient stories, there were 13 constellations in the zodiac. (Other cultures and traditions have recognized as many as 24 constellations in the zodiac.) So the Babylonians picked one, Ophiuchus, to leave out.” Seriously? They just “picked one to leave out”? Maybe they tossed a coin? Or played rock-paper-scissors? I mean, they could not have been serious scientist with logical reasoning, since they lived way back (and hence were a little backward), right? After all, as one article titled Stop Calling the Babylonians Scientists states, their reasons were wrong (they believed in messages from gods) and their attire was not scientists-like (the phrase about sandals and loincloths is far from a complement in the context) and who cares that they devised time measuring system used to this day (hours, minutes and seconds) and did a lot of other things for the development of mathematics, geometry and other disciplines that are part of the “true science” today. They traced their formulas on the sand with a stick and that disqualifies them, according to the author. I mean, this reminds me of teenagers who think their parents are not cool, because… well, they’re old and don’t use snapchat!

Before I get sidetracked by discussing the fallacy of this kind of attitude, let’s come back to the other interesting view on that sector of the Zodiac. One blog I stumbled upon mentioned using the last 7 degrees of Scorpio and first 7 degrees of Sag as a special zone. It’s like a special extra layer of meaning is added to that area, since the constellation does touch the ecliptic and is activated by the Sun and other planets passing through that zone. So the sign stays the same, but a special meaning is added. That seemed a very acceptable approach to me at the time. After all, they talk about critical degrees, anaretic degrees and specific degrees of exaltation of the planets. There is via combusta, so why can’t there be a Serpentarius sector?

This sign is described by many as “forgotten”, but it was particularly interesting for me to see it come back into light, considering I have known about it since the late 90s from a series of articles published in the early 90s in a youth magazine of all places! In the pre-internet era, finding that sort of information not by extensive searching but by casually leafing through my older brother’s magazines doesn’t scream “forgotten” to me. Not mainstream, for sure, but by no means forgotten.

What is even more interesting, the knowledge is hidden in the plain sight. If you have studied astrological archetypes with any seriousness, you should have come across the idea that there are three levels of evolution for the sign of Scorpio: the lowest – scorpion (expressing the qualities that give this sign its bad reputation), the evolved version – snake (a symbol of wisdom in many cultures, but it still carries poison) and the highest expression – eagle (completely transformed, a noble bird soaring to great heights). Sometimes it goes scorpion-eagle-Phoenix, but the gap between the arachnid and the bird is just too large to be overcome in one step, in my opinion. Phoenix in this chain is presented as the symbol of healing powers and transformation. However, the snake is also an ancient symbol of medicine, and the symbolism of transformation is shown by ALL THREE. The malicious scorpion first transforms into a snake, that is already a 50/50 ratio of good and bad. Then snake turns into an eagle (probably by growing wings and sporting a cool dragon look before the feathers spoil it all). The symbol of an eagle and serpent fight is also quite old and can be found in many traditions from Roman empire to Mesoamerica.


Let’s check where these three really come from. When we look at the map of constellations in that area, we can see the scorpion below the ecliptic, then the snake in the arms of the bearer and above it is constellation Aquila – the eagle. Hmmm… so if there is no argument about three phases of Scorpio, doesn’t it look like our Serpentarius just doesn’t want to be left out? I feel like whoever started the scorpion-eagle-Phoenix triplicity had a secret agenda of going around the uncomfortable presence of the snake right between the other two animals and thus avoiding the danger of making this constellation even more of a force to be reckoned with.

Now, have you thought why there is three levels of Scorpio, but nothing about any other sign? Sure, each one has more than one symbol and images related to it, but none have this curious layering of levels of consciousness and soul development. What makes it so special? Scorpio in Zodiac is a sign of transformation and it is explained by the fact it rules death, among other things. Yes, death is a transformation of the body, in which it stops being a separate entity and becomes a part of the surrounding world by – depending on the mode of death – becoming food for wild animals, worms or, in case of cremation, food for the earth (as a natural fertilizer). Unless  human culture interferes with this by conducting a special burial procedure separating the body from the nature, such as putting it in a coffin or a tomb, mummifying it, etc.

The body is transformed but the soul goes on, chooses another body and gets another go at this game called life. It learns some other lessons, gets more experience… but does it really transform on the soul level? The cycle of living and dying for the soul is similar to the sleep and wake cycle for humans, but we don’t say we’re transformed every time we go to sleep. The soul transformation described in the 3 stages above needs some extraordinary conditions. The transformation for the soul would be to break the cycle, stop going in a circle and turn the loop into a spiral, which will allow to go up to a new level (or to go down a level – depends on the soul, I guess). This loop is represented by the Zodiac circle and the place where you can disconnect the ends of the loop is – you guessed it – Serpentarius. The man holds the snake with both hands, as if he has just put an effort into pulling apart the head that was eating the tail in the ouroboros, the symbol of infinity, that can also represent the path of the soul through samsara, the wheel of death and rebirth. The scorpion, the lower stage, is under his feet and he is looking up at the eagle – the final stage, or maybe just the next stage, in any case, eagle here symbolizing the freedom, the liberation, nirvana.

Coming back to the Babylonians, who “just tossed out one sign” for the ease of the division of the circle into 12 and not 13 sectors, I must say NASA also has some pieces to the puzzle in plain view. Remember the sentence about some ancient traditions having “as many as 24 constellations in the Zodiac”? Funny thing, numbers, aren’t they? It was the Babylonians who started the 24 hour system we use to this day. It is also them, not “some other culture” who had 24 Zodiac signs. Avestan school of astrology follows the tradition to this day, and Avestan culture is none other than an heir to the Babylonian traditions. The 24 hours were divided into 12 daytime and 12 nighttime hours (AM and PM) and 24 constellations were divided into Lower and Higher Zodiac.

Lower 12 are the ones we all know and use today. The Higher Zodiac is that next level of consciousness and is only active under certain conditions. The 12 Higher Zodiac signs are located at the borders of each Lower sign, spanning the last 7 and first 7 degrees of the neighboring signs. Depending on what you have going on in that sector, you may have access to the energy of the Higher Zodiac with a different intensity of the flow. Compare it to a window that can be fully shut, cracked open or open all the way. The Higher Zodiac brings the energies of a new and different level. However, the native has a choice (as with everything in Astrology) to follow the path or to stay on the Lower level, going about the mundane tasks. I don’t blame them, if they do. Being the chosen one is never easy, just you ask Neo about it 😉


For those of you who’re still interested, I’m giving the list of the 12 Higher Zodiac signs with the contemporary names of constellations they’re associated with. In Babylonian times they didn’t call them Hercules or Cassiopeia, so I don’t want you to get confused. It is confusing enough that the order goes in the opposite direction of the Lower Zodiac, so we start with the one between Aries and Pisces and end with the one between Taurus and Aries.

  1. Hourglass – constellation  Cepheus
  2. Winged Horse – constellation Pegasus
  3. Sphinx – constellation Swan or Northern Cross
  4. Tree – constellation Cassiopeia
  5. Snake Bearer – constellation Ophiuchus
  6. Crow – constellation Corvus
  7. Herdsman – constellation Boötes
  8. Warrior – constellation Hercules
  9. Chariot – constellation Ursa Major
  10. Ship – former one large constellation Argo Navis (Argo ship), in the 18th century it was broken up into 3 smaller separate constellations – Carina (Keel), Puppis (stern deck) and Vela (sails)
  11. Hunter (Wanderer) – constellation Orion
  12. Sea Monster – constellation Cetus (whale)

Each one carries its own program with it and depending on how strongly it is activated in one’s chart, the influence would be from minimal, on the internal level, to a rather strong one with social consequences. Just like any lower Zodiac, each sign here has its highs and lows and the potential to do a lot of good as well as a great deal of bad. But a more detailed discussion of these signs is a topic for another article.

For now, let’s just finish up with our oddball 13th sign. It wasn’t excluded because “it didn’t fit”. It was never included in the first place. Not in the Lower Zodiac. It is, however, the only one out of 12 Higher zodiac signs that is connected with the Lower circle, creating a pathway. That’s why it is associated with the opportunity to transform, a chance to break the cycle and make a qualitative change by going up the spiral of soul evolution.

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