What Do “Virgo” and “Zodiac” Mean?


If you read your horoscope, you probably know that late August is special according to the zodiac. But honestly, do you know what all the terms of astrology refer to?  As an exercise in clarity, let’s explore the precise sense of the mystical-sounding phrase “the sun is in Virgo.”

What is the zodiac?

The zodiac is, officially, “an imaginary belt of the heavens, extending about 8 degrees on each side of the ecliptic, within which are theapparent paths of the sun, moon, and principal planets.” The ecliptic is “the apparent annual path of the sun in the heavens.” During the course of the year, as the sun moves through the twelve constellations that make up the zodiac cycle, the sun is said to “enter” the astrological name for that constellation, or its sign. The designated constellation then becomes the Sun Sign for that interval, which is approximately a month.

If you learn only one fact from reading this, this should be the one: the sun does not literally enter the physical constellation known as Virgo during this time period. Because of an astronomical phenomenon called the precession of the Equinoxes, the stars and their zodiac equivalents haven’t matched up for a long time.

Anyhow, in astrology, the position of the sun, the moon, and various planets in relation to the signs of the zodiac at the time of your birth define an intricate set of qualities that allegedly influence not just your personality but the course of future events. This of course constitutes your horoscope.

What is Virgo?

Which brings us to Virgo. A person born between today and roughly September 23 are “Virgos.” The qualities mystically associated with Virgo may include precision, a desire to be of service, and a sense of duty. The constellation Virgo (a Latin form of the word for virgin), contains the star Spica and a cluster of several thousand galaxies.

Have we left out any astrology words or ideas that confuse you? Let us know.

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