Lesson 7) Astrological Signs
As the students come in this week, they notice not only are there star charts, but this week, the ceiling has been enchanted to showcase a series of constellations in the night sky. The constellations take turns illuminating brighter than all the rest of the stars around them, highlighting them. Professor Cattercorn, who has been standing unnoticed in the corner, smiles to herself and approaches her desk as the clock strikes eleven.
I see some of you like my enchanted ceiling. Thank you -- pretty impressive work, no? It’s nothing even quite as hard as the spell used for the Great Hall downstairs, but it still creates a stunning, though sadly temporary, effect. As promised, this week will deal with the more traditional “human” points of astrology. This means we will be covering the zodiac, its history and signs, and well as what a Sun and Moon sign is. As these practices have a wealth of literature and other resources that can flesh out your knowledge, we will be leaving it at that. Afterwards, we will move onto the complex world of planets, the moon, and the vague category of “celestial events.”
Zodiacs and Zoology
So, as I mentioned last week, we can thank the Babylonians for the zodiac -- the system of organisation by which we can assign an astrological sign to each and every individual. As we all know, a calendar year is divided into twelve, relatively equal increments of time which, of course, we call months. Typically, we believe a year starts on the first of January, but alchemists and many astrologers believe differently. However, it must be noted that each of the twelve zodiac periods is not representative of an exact, calendar month. Instead, a period of time which corresponds with the location of star signs is assigned to a person. This period of time is further assigned its own zodiac symbol, typically a creature, item, or humanoid figure. I am sure may of you have had some exposure to the symbols of the zodiac, but for those of you who are just learning of such matters, please refer to the following table for more information:
As you can see from the table, seven -- or eight if you include the centaur of Sagittarius -- are represented by creatures. Why? Well, I draw your attention again to the lovely astronomical chart behind me with each sign’s original constellation. I hope each of you can identify the various constellations pictured on the chart, if not, I must insist you pay more attention during your Astronomy observations.
Situated in the centre of the chart, you will notice the Sun, with the Earth located to its left on a route which travels around the Sun over the course of a year. Next, look at the larger ecliptic route. It is along this route that the constellations from which the zodiac signs are named are located. This diagram gives us not only a visual representation of each zodiac constellation, but also the organisation or map of how the year progresses. For example, if we start with Aries, the next zodiac sign in the ecliptic rotation is Taurus, followed by Gemini, and so on. The more observant of you will have noticed a sign in this chart which does not appear on the table of zodiac symbols, and will likely be unfamiliar to you: Ophiuchus. Falling between Scorpio and Sagittarius, Ophiuchus was the thirteenth symbol of the zodiac, as described by Greek and Roman astrologers, and also within Ptolemy’s Almagest. However, when the Babylonians divided the lunar calendar, and in turn the zodiac, into twelve relatively equal periods of time, Ophiuchus was forgotten and removed.
But I digress... The reason the zodiac signs take such a strange array of forms is because they were based on images the ancient Greek and Romans saw in the heavens. Rather than rely on the celestial arrangement of the constellation for memory and representation (which would be quite difficult to draw quickly), each zodiac sign was designated an animal, humanoid, or item sign for ease of identification.
Along with the sign, a symbol which was reminiscent of the basic shape of the constellation was designated. These signs went on to be used for even more short-hand purposes, such as in star charts or alchemical texts. Using Taurus as an example, you can see a similarity between the symbol and the constellation above, a horned creature is easily fashioned from the three armed constellation of Taurus with just a slight stretch of imaginative visualisation!
What’s Your Sign?
Now that we have some background in what these zodiac signs are and where they came from, it’s time to look at the descriptions of each sign. Some of you may already be familiar with these, but bear with us as we make sure we all have at least the minimum background knowledge. You may even learn something you didn’t know before!
Aries (March 21st to April 19th)
Strengths: Thorough, determined, enthusiastic, optimistic, honest, impassioned
Weaknesses: Moody, short-tempered, can be selfish, intense, needs to feel appreciated
Magical Talents: Showy charms, impressive curses, and drastic transformations are the bread and butter of this sign. While they may have other strengths or passions, their magical potency and flashy spellworks is what sets them apart.
Taurus (April 20th to May 20th)
Strengths: Reliable, down-to-earth, devoted, responsible, stable
Weaknesses: Stubborn, possessive, self-indulgent, occasionally overconfident
Magical Talents: Witches and wizards of this sign often feel themselves drawn to the outdoors, or more physical, practical pursuits. Rather that succeeding in complex, abstract spells, Tauruses prefer more hand-on pursuits and find some of their greatest strengths lie in potion-making, herbology, or care of magical creatures.
Gemini (May 21st to June 20th)
Strengths: Kind, affectionate, curious, flexible, great at communication
Weaknesses: Nervous, indecisive, bored easily, needs social interaction
Magical Talents: The curious nature of the Gemini lends itself to adventurous magical pursuits. More often than not, Gemini apply this side of themselves to discovering more about magic -- a secret they can’t resist exploring -- which can manifest in an eventual position as magizoologists, spell creators, or Unspeakables. However, these are not boxes Geminis should try to force themselves into; anything where a Gemini gets to discover things is a good fit.
Cancer (June 21st to July 22nd)
Strengths: Have active imaginations, loyal, emotional, charming, quirky, free-spirits
Weaknesses: Can be pessimistic, overly private, insecure, distrustful
Magical Talents: Whether this sign is on the Quidditch Pitch, or making their own version of the Wolfsbane Potion, these witches and wizards thrive when they are given the freedom to express themselves.
Leo (July 23rd to August 22nd)
Strengths: Creative, passionate, generous, luxurious, caring
Weaknesses: Arrogant, controlling, lazy, needy
Magical Talents: Leos’ creative streak and appreciation of fine things often make the perfect combination for magical inventors or wandmakers. Anything they create is high quality, though it sometimes means their creations (and fulfilling their potential) takes time.
Virgo (August 23rd to September 22nd)
Strengths: Devoted, analytical, thoughtful, hardworking, polite
Weaknesses: Can be shy, overly critical, overburdens self
Magical Talents: These witches and wizards have a categorical knowledge of spells. Coupled with their determination and work ethic, they are a force to be reckoned with. However, their lack of confidence in themselves can be self-sabotaging.
Libra (September 23rd to October 22nd)
Strengths: Cooperative, diplomatic, non-conformist, social
Weaknesses: Indecisive, will carry a grudge, absent-minded, can be argumentative
Magical Talents: The ability to see from multiple perspectives and refusal to do things just for the sake of tradition can lead a Libra to great discoveries that no one has considered before. However, because of their openness, Libras are occasionally known to dabble in the Dark Arts.
Scorpio (October 23rd to November 21st)
Strengths: Resourceful, disciplined, truthful, good problem-solver
Weaknesses: Paranoid, suspicious, secretive, can be pessimistic
Magical Talents: Because of their self-discipline, often Scorpios have incredibly strong spells in relation to their peers. Their willpower translates over to their spellcasting prowess. This can also manifest in longer-lasting spells.
Sagittarius (November 22nd to December 21st)
Strengths: Generous, idealistic, great sense of humor, nature lover
Weaknesses: Bites off more than they can chew, impatient, blunt, can get side-tracked easily
Magical Talents: These magical users show their best side during duels. They often have excellent aim, and are great in high-stake situations, making them a formidable opponent.
Capricorn (December 22nd to January 19th)
Strengths: Responsible, high achievers, self-control, usually family oriented (barring extreme situations)
Weaknesses: Know-it-all, unforgiving, condescending, sarcastic
Magical Talents: Interestingly, there is some potentially significant overlap between Capricorns and Legilimens or Occlumens. This is hypothesized to be due to their drive, responsibility, and high level of self-control.
Aquarius (January 20th to February 18th)
Strengths: Friendly, original, independent, humanitarian, strong sense of self
Weaknesses: Bottles up emotions, uncompromising, often aloof or lonely
Magical Talents: There is a significant overlap between Aquarians and those with transfigurative ability, some who even go onto be Animagi. This is potentially due to their self-awareness and independence.
Pisces (February 19th to March 20th)
Strengths: Empathetic, artistic, intuitive, gentle, creative
Weaknesses: Doesn’t take criticism well, overly trusting, sad, anxious
Magical Talents: When a Pisces becomes a seer, they experience vast success, as long as they trust their intuition. Sadly, they often second-guess themselves and ruin their gift.
Night and Day
As those of you with parents in the Ministry may know, as well as those that pay close attention to the world around you, all forms of official identification for magical persons in the United Kingdom include your Sun and Moon sign, rather than simply listing your date of birth. This is far more accurate than stopping only at the day of birth. First, keeping track of the exact time of your birth is important for some older magical rituals, such as playing into when your Hogwarts letter is received. Additionally, readings that include all of these signs are much more nuanced. These nuances are part of the reason why twins born on the same day may have different fates, though choice plays an enormous part as well.
We have already covered a lot of ground today, but I will go over the general process of discovering how your Sun and Moon sign affect you and your reading. Your Sun sign nearly always is the same as your zodiac (or “star”) sign. The difference is that Sun signs are calculated to a greater degree of precision, and those who were on the border of one sign or the other may notice a difference. The basic definition of a Sun sign is just the position the Sun was in at the time of your birth. This requires knowing not only the date of your birth, but also the time, as well as the position of the Sun on that particular day. Fortunately, the Muggle interweb has many tools that do these calculations and look up these positions for you, though some still prefer to plot it out all by hand. I must confess I am not one of them, though astrology is not my strong suit!
Your Moon sign is uncovered in a similar fashion, though it is much less well known. This sign is not the same as your zodiac sign at all and can uncover hidden depths about you. Again, quite a few calculations and reference books are required unless you use pre-existing programs. Your Moon sign is said to represent the more personal, hidden side of yourself, such as your emotions, motivations and the self that you do not often show to others, in contrast to your Sun sign which is your more obvious personality.
To give you an example for context, we will use my birthday. The chart can be found here. I was born on the 31st of October in 1991. Yes, I know. Before you try to comment on it, I have heard all the jokes. This means my Sun sign is in Scorpio and my Moon sign is in Leo. You can see this reflected in my complete birth chart to the left. The Sun sign is represented by the symbol ☉ (also the alchemical symbol for the Sun) and corresponds to the slice of the wheel that represents Scorpio (as per the symbols or emblems mentioned much earlier in the lesson). My Moon sign is represented by the crescent symbol ☾ and corresponds to the chunk of the wheel that represents Leo. Therefore, on my Ministry identity card, my identification reads “☉ in Scorpio, ☾ in Libra” rather than my birth date.
As you can see, birth charts, also called natal charts, are rather terrifyingly complex for the beginner, though they possess a wealth of information. Even just being able to see how your Sun and Moon signs relate to each other is important. If this sort of thing sparks your curiosity, you are welcome to try your hand at plotting these coordinates on a birth chart as extra credit to further examine them, though I will not ask you to plot your Sun and Moon signs (unlike the example given)! You are only in your Third Year, after all!
I hope you enjoyed that brief overview of the zodiac and their tendencies. These basic starting points can be used in conjunction with all sorts of heavenly bodies to predict (or discover from the past) a number of things. Of course, as we mentioned, there is one limitation of divining with celestial magic: it is vast and all-encompassing. Therefore, interpreting something as specific and personal as one witch’s likelihood to succeed at Quidditch tryouts or one wizard’s chances of finding love is fickle at best. It takes a great deal of study and you must be incredibly in tune with your intuition. Generally, witches and wizards who possess any accuracy with astrology have time for little else due to how involved it is.
Starting next week, we will be devoting the rest of our time to looking at celestial bodies and how they influence the world we live in. Our class will be meeting later at night in the hopes of using our resources to better understand the content. Instead of eleven in the morning, we will be meeting at eleven at night. Additionally, we will be stepping away from our focus this week (personal astrology) and focusing on larger strokes. It is a very humbling experience to get even a glimpse into such powerful forces at work. I hope you’re ready! For now, I leave you with three assignments: a quiz on this information as well as two options: to map out your own rudimentary birth chart and/or to compare and contrast your Sun and Moon signs.
Zodiac sign: The sign of the zodiac you were born under on the day of your birth. Also called a star sign, usually the same as your Sun sign.