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The Controversy Over the Long Lost 13th Zodiac Sign

13th Sign of Zodiac
The Ophiuchus constellation. Credit: Till Credner/Wikimedia Commons Till Credner – Own work
CC BY-SA 3.0

The word Ophiuchus might mean nothing to most people, but to astrology aficionados, it is well known as what may have been the 13th sign of the zodiac.

The ancient Greek astronomer Ptolemy included Ophiuchus in his list of 48 constellations, documenting it in the second century, and it still is one of the 88 modern-day constellations.

There are a few astrologers today who consider it to be the 13th zodiac sign. In fact, astrologist Stephen Schmidt proposed its inclusion in the zodiac cycle in 1970 and it was proposed again in 1995.

Yet NASA refuted the possibility of adding Ophiuchus to the 12 constellations that comprise the zodiac cycle, shutting down the theories.

What is the Ophiuchus constellation?

The name of this large constellation means “serpent bearer” in ancient Greek. It used to be referred to as Serpentarius in Latin, which means exactly the same thing.

In Greek mythology, Ophiuchus was said to depict the god Apollo wrestling the snake guarding the temple of of goddess Gaia at Delphi.

When Apollo killed the snake, it became his temple, and that’s when he bestowed the Pythia Oracle as a medium to convey his prophesies.

The myth had variations over the years, but it was always associated with a man wrestling a serpent.

Centuries before Ptolemy, the Babylonians, who were noted astronomers, knew about the 13th constellation of Ophiuchus, which appeared from about November 30 to December 18, and is situated between Scorpio and Sagittarius.

Babylonians were the first to create the concept of the zodiac based on 12 astrological constellations. As Earth orbits the sun, the sun would appear to pass through each of the 12 sections of the zodiac.

So to align with the yearly 12-month calendar that they created, which was based on the moon, they established the 12-constellation zodiac.

Therefore, the Babylonians left Ophiuchus out of the zodiac. And the West has continued to use the same 12-month based zodiac ever since.

Likewise, the ancient Greeks also used this zodiac, with each sign representing one of the twelve gods of Mt. Olympus.

Each god is the protector of his own sign, and every sign denotes a different personality type, with its own strengths and weaknesses.

Johann Elert Bode’s “Ophiuchus and Serpent.” Public Domain

NASA refuses to change the zodiac sign

In recent decades, certain astrologists have argued for the change of the zodiac cycle to 13 constellations.

In the years since the internet was created, many stories have circulated claiming that NASA itself is changing the zodiac to include 13 signs.

In 2016, there was a misunderstanding which led many people to believe that NASA had indeed already changed the zodiac and added Ophiuchus.

That was based on an article for children about how astronomy, constellations, and astrology have changed over time.

Naturally, NASA has shut down such wild theories which confuse astronomy with astrology.

“Astronomy is the scientific study of everything in outer space. Astronomers and other scientists know that stars many light-years away have no effect on the ordinary activities of humans on Earth,” NASA wrote in its official NASA Tumblr account.

“Astrology, meanwhile, is something else. It’s the belief that the positions of stars and planets can influence human events. It’s not considered a science,” NASA’s post added.

Regardless of any misunderstandings and hearsay, the notion of a 13th zodiac sign did not  take off in the West. Nevertheless it was somewhat popular in Japan, and is a lovely reminder of the timeless legends of ancient Greece.

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