People born around the time of the month when one sign changes to another are often faced with the dilemma "Which star sign am I?" The date of the changeover differs from month to month and, to compound the problem, you find that astrological publications — whether newspapers, magazines or books — do not always agree on the changeover date. For instance, in front of me now I have a daily newspaper 'Star-sign' column and a magazine 'Horoscope' column. For the sign of Aries one gives the dates as being March 21 - April 20, whilst the second one gives March 20 - April 19. Who is right?
First of all, let's look at what the Zodiac represents. From our earthly perspective, the Zodiac represents that band of the heavens through which the Sun, Moon and planets of our Solar System travel in their yearly orbit around us. It is a seasonal cycle and has it's point of origin at the Vernal point or 0° Aries. This point represents the intersection of the ecliptic (the apparent path of the Sun around the Earth) and the celestial equator (the Earth's equator projected into space) at the northern Spring / southern Autumn equinox.
The exact time this occurs varies from year to year, but is always around 20-21 March. The exact changeover does not occur conveniently at midnight! For instance, in the year 2015, the Sun moves into Aries at 10.46 am on 21 March (NZ standard time). The previous year, the sun entered Aries at 4.58 am on 21 March 2014. In 2016 the Sun enters Aries at 4.31 pm on 20 March.
In other words, those babies born in 2015 before 10.46 am on 21 March will be Pisces sun-signs. Those born after 10.46 am will be Aries.
The zodiac band is divided equally into twelve sections, each section a sign of the zodiac, with the signs tied closely to our seasonal cycle. As already mentioned, when the Sun moves into Aries (20-21 March) it marks the beginning of Autumn in the southern hemisphere; when it moves into Cancer it is mid-Winter (21-22 June); it is Spring with the Sun moving into Libra (23-24 September) and the height of Summer when the Sun moves into Capricorn (22-23 December). Reverse the seasons for northern hemisphere births (Autumn/Spring; Winter/Summer).
And so it follows that the Sun travelling through the remaining zodiac signs enter those signs at slightly different times, but around the same date, each year. To find out the exact time of the sign change the astrologer consults an ephemeris, an almanac giving the daily position of the Sun, Moon and planets.
What effect does it have, being born at the time the Sun changes signs — commonly referred to as 'being on the cusp'? (The cusp is simply an imaginary dividing line between any two sections, in this case between two Zodiac signs.) There are many schools of thought on this question.
Some astrologers consider the influence of both signs, a bit like having a foot in both camps. To give you an example with the Sun moving from Pisces to Aries on 21 March, then into Taurus on 20 April: the Pisces/Aries combination would see the sensitive, intuitive and compassionate side of Pisces competing with the more fiery and assertive side of the Aries soul — this in turn gives way to the down-to-earthy and determined nature of the Taurus Sun-sign.
Other astrologers look at being on the cusp from a karmic perspective: being at the end of the sign represents previous lifetimes 'getting it right', the journey through a particular set of lessons to be learned is coming to an end. With Pisces this can be seen as many lifetimes spent sacrificing for others. With the Sun at the very beginning of a sign, the start of a new journey for the soul, of a whole new set of lessons to learn over many future lifetimes.
Yet another astrologer will view the cusp as a definite dividing line, either you are one sign showing certain traits or the next sign with their individualistic traits.
So who is right? I share the latter view: the entry of the Sun into a sign each month is a calculated point in time and space, that point either being in one sign or the next. One does not partake of both signs out of/into which the Sun is transiting. The influence of other signs comes through the rising sign, and the sign the Moon and planets are also transiting at the time of birth.
There's a whole lot more to the natal chart than just your Star-sign! The sign the Sun is in is just one feature of the whole birth chart.
While the Sun might be in Aries, showing an assertive individual drawn to starting new projects with great gusto, the planet Mercury (representing the mind and how you communicate) could be in Pisces, which depends very much on intuition; the idea has to feel right before the action can be started. So this then combines both the Pisces and Aries traits but specifically relates them to the nature of the planets involved. Considering the other planets in the birth chart and the signs they are in at the time of birth either emphasises or modifies the essence of the chart.
© Carol Squires, PMAFA, DTASNZ
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