What Do “Virgo” and “Zodiac” Mean?


If you read your horoscope, you might know that the Leo–Virgo cusp occurs August 19 to August 25.  A cusp “marks the beginning of a house or a sign,” so this is the point that the astrological signs Leo and Virgo meet.

But honestly, do you know what all the terms of astrology refer to? 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 the apparent 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 12 constellations that make up the zodiac cycle, the sun is said to “enter” the astrological name for that constellation, or its sign. (That’s why we say, “the sun is in Virgo.”) 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 August 23 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.

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