The Origins of Zodiac Signs

The Origins of Zodiac Signs

We all know that the 12 zodiac signs are Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces, Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpius, and Sagittarius. But what are they and where in ancient history do they derive from? There are many myths and legends attached to zodiac readings, but we researched the real answers…

Well, star signs come from zodiacal constellations, which are the equidistant points in the sky which pass the Sun. There are actually 13 zodiac constellations according to modern astrologists, as the Sun also passes through Ophiuchus, from the Greek for “serpent-bearer”. The zodiac is thought to be a belt of the heavens within about 8° either side of the celestial sphere, including all apparent positions of the sun, moon, and most familiar planets. It is divided into twelve equal divisions. The celestial sphere is a static abstract sphere with a larger radius than Earth.

The classical map of the sky has 48 Greek constellations derived from at least two different pre-Greek traditions. One religious tradition is the zodiac, comprised of the 12 signs we know today. Its animal constellations were all developed over 3,200-500 BC in Mesopotamia. These rituals were taken over by the Greeks around 500 BC.

The history of the zodiac is steeped in mystery, though one thing is certain: the zodiac hailed from the Greek word meaning “circle of animals”. It is theorized to have developed in ancient Egypt, yet the Greeks inherited their knowledge of the heavens primarily from the Mesopotamians, who in turn inherited their knowledge from the Sumerians.

Babylonian astrologers recognised that it took 12 months (or changes of the moon) for the sun to return to its original position. They then identified 12 constellations that they observed were linked to the changing days and passage of time; and assigned them names of certain animals and persons. There are four groups of signs in the zodiac calendar for the 4 seasons. This is why each star sign is divided into 4 subsets of signs:

  • Fire Signs: Aries, Sagittarius, Leo
  • Water Signs: Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces
  • Air Signs: Libra, Aquarius, Gemini
  • Earth Signs: Capricorn, Taurus, Virgo

The zodiac is one of the earliest practices of astrology. From the beginning of human history, the zodiac has been universally used to predict or even reflect characteristics of personality. One of the myths of zodiac readings is that they are purely a western concept. In fact, zodiac signs have been used by various cultures around the world – such as the Chinese, Isreali and Egyptian cultures. Each animal has hundreds of translations. Here are the linguistic developments from Sumerian (the earliest translation found) to Modern English:

Sumerian Translation Modern Name
GU.AN.NA

MASH.TAB.BA

DUB 

UR.GULA

AB.SIN

ZI.BA.AN.NA

GIR.TAB

PA.BIL (Archer)

SUHUR.MASH

GU

SIM.MAH

KU.MAL

Heavenly Bull

Twins

Pincers, Tongs

Lion

Her father was Sin

Heavenly Fate

Which claws and cuts

Defender

Goat-Fish

Lord of the waters

Fishes

Field dweller

Taurus

Gemini

Cancer

Leo

Virgo

Libra

Scorpio

Sagittarius

Capricorn

Aquarius

Pisces

Aries