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What is a Birth Sign?

By KD Morgan
Updated May 17, 2024
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A birth sign represents the celestial conditions, or sky map, at the time of a person’s birth. These conditions are then analyzed to predict the dominant characteristics, purpose and destiny of the person’s life. Throughout most civilizations and cultures, this art of reading the stars has been used as a guidepost to avert dangers and live in harmony with others and the environment. A birth sign is also used as a tool in making right choices in order to maximize potential while minimizing suffering.

Ancient Greek, Chinese, Egyptian, Mayan and Vedic astrology charts are the most familiar systems, which use constellations that correspond to a person’s specific time of birth. They have the commonality of using some form of the zodiac. The zodiac is an area of the sky in which the Sun travels its path within a year. This path consists of twelve constellations, or zodiacal signs, that make up a birth chart, or horoscope.

Most systems of astrology assign a person’s birth date with the local planets of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn, Jupiter, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. The Sun and Moon are also recognized as influencing the Earth and mankind. Various attributes associated with the zodiac also give meaning to the birth sign. Negative and positive energies from gods, goddesses, animals, mythological hybrids, gemstones, flowers, trees, colors, air, earth, fire, water and metal may also be thought to play a role in that person’s destiny.

Cultures pre-dating astrology also used earthly and heavenly cycles of eternal time. From this, early civilizations came to recognize and expect certain qualities and attributes a person would exhibit. Benevolence, creativity, divinity, sound judgment, power, security and wisdom were most dominant as they coordinated with the seasons and their corresponding energies.

In Western astrology, a person born under the sign of Aquarius, the water bearer, would be considered to be very friendly, honest, loyal, independent and intelligent. A person born under the sign of Libra, the golden scales, would be considered diplomatic, polite, peace loving and balanced. The zodiac signs cross during the month around the 21st. People born on or near those dates are said to be born on the “cusp.” These people are thought to exhibit qualities of both signs.

Chinese astrology originated from the Tao Te Ching. This is a combination of astrology, astronomy, geomancy and horoscopes. It gives the people more responsibility in that their moral conduct is believed to have an influence on the celestial bodies. A complete cycle consists of 60 years, broken down to twelve years of five cycles each. In addition, wood, fire, earth, metal and water are associated with different local planets and combined with each animal, depending on where it is in the 60-year cycle. Positive and negative magnetic poles apply to each of the elements, depending on your exact time of birth.

The ancient Mayan birth chart used twenty signs, or glyphs. Like Western astrology, each sign indicated certain personality traits the person would possess. Their signs were crocodile, death or transformer, deer, dog, eagle, earth, flint, jaguar, monkey, night, offering, reed, road, seed, serpent, star, storm, sun, wind and wisdom. A person, for example, born under the birth sign of wind would be considered a good communicator and messenger of harmony, love and peace.

Vedic astrology can be traced back the farthest in history. The planets in our local solar system and their influence upon Earth and mankind were their primary focus for establishing birth signs. The Sun and Moon are usually of exceptional importance. The north and south nodes of the Moon are also comparable to a planetary influence. In Vedic astrology, the ascendant, or rising sign is extremely important to the birth sign as it is recognized as the contact moment of the soul in its new life on Earth. Vedic astrology also includes a 10th planet in its system.

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Discussion Comments

By pastanaga — On Oct 12, 2014

@Mor - Honestly, I don't think there is any mystical significance to astrological signs, but I do think there is psychological significance and it can be deep and meaningful, whether the source is based on ancient lore or not.

I used to read Tarot cards for my friends as a game and I noticed that often if I drew out a card and mentioned its broad symbolism, it didn't take much for the participant to begin associating it with things in their life.

Basically, when you show someone a lot of symbolic nonsense, they will shape it into whatever it is that they need to see. So if someone sees that their horoscope mentions a long journey and immediately thinks about the trip they've been putting off for years, that's not a bad thing, even if it's not exactly the stars talking.

By Mor — On Oct 11, 2014

@Fa5t3r - I tend to think this kind of thing is nonsense, but even if it has some basis in fact, I don't think modern astrological signs mean very much. Any ancient knowledge has surely been corrupted over the years and I do know that most newspapers that claim to be giving fortunes based on the stars are basically just making stuff up that has nothing to do with astrology.

So even if you believe in this kind of thing in general there's no point in looking at most of the astrology stuff that gets mentioned because it's almost all made up on the fly.

By Fa5t3r — On Oct 11, 2014

I have always been somewhat skeptical about birth signs, but I do happen to fit mine very well in both the Greek and Chinese systems. In both I'm a water sign and supposed to be very emotional and creative and kind of flaky and that really does describe me very well.

I know that one person's anecdotal evidence doesn't make for a very compelling argument though, so I don't but too much stock in it, but it can be fun to check compatibility charts and things like that.

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