13th Sign of the Zodiac

Ophiuchus - 13th Sign of the Zodiac - by Elizabeth Brodie

Ophiuchus, the serpent bearer, is often mistakenly called the 13th sign of the zodiac. In fact despite not appearing on most modern zodiacs it's actually the 10th sign of the Real Solar Zodiac. Aquarius, the water carrier, is the 13th and last sign of the Real Solar Zodiac whereas Pisces is the final sign of the more commonly used zodiac.

Ophiuchus is a sun-sign i.e. the sun can be seen against the stars of Ophiuchus between the 30th November and 17th December each year, although the dates that it can be seen there will vary a little from year to year, so it is sometimes quoted as being from 1st December to 18th December.

Ophiuchus is an Ancient Greek constellation and one of the original Ptolemy constellations which appear in the Al Magest Star Catalogue c. 130-170 AD. Ophiuchus also appears on the Farnese Globe, which is a roman copy of a depiction of Atlas holding the celestial sphere aloft.

The Western Zodiac does not feature Ophiuchus because he does not appear in the commonly used Tropical Zodiac - considered by many to be a huge over-simplification of the heavens. The Tropical Zodiac is considered over-simplified by many as it defines the sun as spending an equal amount of time in the normal twelve astrological signs. The reality is actually quite different.

So where did Ophiuchus come from? The name itself is derived from the Greek word for 'serpent handler', hence the depiction of a man supporting a snake. There are various possible sources for this although the most widely accepted in modern times is that Ophiuchus represents Asclepius, a legendary Greek healer who is said to have learned the secrets of life and death. Asclepius was killed by Zeus to prevent him from bringing immortality to the human race. However, in recognition of his great works Zeus placed his form in the stars after killing him. Other possibilities are that he represents the Trojan priest Laocoon or is a representation of Apollo wrestling with the serpent at Delphi.

About the Author
Elizabeth Brodie, the author of this article, is the owner of Dark Passions Gothic a UK basic gothic jewellery, clothing and gift store.

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