A horoscope is an astrological chart or diagram representing the positions of the Sun, Moon, planets, astrological aspects and sensitive angles at the time of an event, such as the moment of a person’s birth.
Other commonly used names for the horoscope in English include natal chart, astrological chart, astro-chart, celestial map, sky-map, star-chart, cosmogram, vitasphere, radical chart, radix, chart wheel or simply chart.
Originally the Greek word horoskopos denoted the point of the ecliptic rising at any given moment, that is, the intersection of the zodiac with the eastern horizon. Because of the great importance of this point in astrological forecasts, the term came to mean an entire prediction. Hence the ordinary sense of the word horoscope.
The word “horoscope” is derived from the Greek words ōra and scopos meaning “time” and “observer”.
The horoscope serves as a stylized map of the heavens over a specific location at a particular moment in time.
Many peoples have believed that the heavenly bodies exert a preponderant influence over the world and its inhabitants and that man’s fate, at least in part, is fixed in advance and can be predicted by carefully observing at the moment of birth or conception the positions of the sun and moon and the planets in relation to each other, to the signs of the zodiac, and to the eastern and western horizons and midheaven, the highest point of the ecliptic.
The zodiac is a belt-shaped region of the sky that extends approximately 8° north or south (as measured in celestial latitude) of the ecliptic, the apparent path of the Sun across the celestial sphere over the course of the year. The paths of the Moon and visible planets are within the belt of the zodiac.
In Western astrology, the zodiac is divided into 12 signs, each occupying 30° of celestial longitude and roughly corresponding to the star constellations: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio,
Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces.
Aries – Latin for ram – is the first astrological sign in the zodiac, spanning the first 30 degrees of celestial longitude, and originates from the constellation of the same name. Under the tropical zodiac, the Sun transits this sign from approximately March 20 to April 21 each year.
Taurus – Latin for bull – is the second astrological sign in the modern zodiac. It spans from 30° to 60° of the zodiac. This sign belongs to the Earth element or triplicity, and has a feminine or negative polarity, as well as a fixed modality, quality, or quadruplicity. It is a Venus-ruled sign along with Libra. The Moon is in its exaltation here at exactly 3°. The Sun transits this sign from approximately April 21 until May 20 in western astrology.
Gemini – Latin for twins – is the third astrological sign in the zodiac, originating from the constellation of Gemini. Under the tropical zodiac, the sun transits this sign between about May 21 to June 21. Under the sidereal zodiac, the sun transits this sign from about June 16 to July 16. Gemini is represented by the twins, Castor and Pollux, known as the Dioscuri in Greek mythology. It is a positive, mutable sign. Gemini is associated with the Yang polarity (masculine) in the Yin Yang ancient Chinese concept.
Cancer – Latin for crab – is the fourth astrological sign in the zodiac, originating from the constellation of Cancer. It spans from 90° to 120° celestial longitude. Under the tropical zodiac, the Sun transits this area between approximately June 22 and July 22, and under the sidereal zodiac, the Sun transits this area between approximately July 16 and August 17.
Leo – Latin for lion – is the fifth sign of the zodiac. It corresponds to the constellation Leo and comes after Cancer and before Virgo. The traditional Western zodiac associates Leo with the period between July 23 and August 22, and the sign spans the 120th to 150th degree of celestial longitude.
Virgo – Latin for virgin – is the sixth astrological sign in the Zodiac. It spans the 150–180th degree of the zodiac. Under the tropical zodiac, the Sun transits this area on average between August 23 and September 22, and the Sun transits the constellation Virgo from approximately September 16 to October 30. The symbol of the maiden is based on Astraea. In Greek mythology, she was the last immortal to abandon Earth at the end of the Silver Age, when the gods fled to Olympus – hence the sign’s association with Earth.
Libra – Latin for weighing scales – is the seventh astrological sign in the zodiac. It spans 180°–210° celestial longitude. The Sun transits this sign on average between September 23 and October 23. Under the sidereal zodiac, the Sun currently transits the constellation of Libra from approximately October 31 to November 22. The symbol of the scales is based on the Scales of Justice held by Themis, the Greek personification of divine law and custom. She became the inspiration for modern depictions of Lady Justice.
Scorpio – Latin for scorpion – is the eighth astrological sign in the zodiac, originating from the constellation of Scorpius. It spans 210°–240° ecliptic longitude. Under the tropical zodiac, the Sun transits this sign on average from October 23 to November 22. Under the sidereal zodiac (most commonly used in Hindu astrology), the Sun is in Scorpio from approximately November 16 to December 15. Depending on which zodiac system one uses, someone born under the influence of Scorpio may be called a Scorpio or a Scorpion.
Sagittarius – Latin for archer – is the ninth astrological sign, which is associated with the constellation Sagittarius and spans 240–270th degrees of the zodiac. Under the tropical zodiac, the sun transits this sign between approximately November 23 and December 21 and under the sidereal zodiac from December 18 – January 15. Greek mythology associates Sagittarius with the centaur Chiron, who mentored Achilles, a Greek hero of the Trojan War, in archery.
Capricorn – Latin for horned goat – is the tenth astrological sign in the zodiac out of twelve total zodiac signs, originating from the constellation of Capricornus, the horned goat. It spans the 270–300th degree of the zodiac, corresponding to celestial longitude. Under the tropical zodiac, the sun transits this area from about December 21 to January 21 the following year, and under the sidereal zodiac, the sun transits the constellation of Capricorn from approximately January 16 to February 16. In astrology, Capricorn is considered an earth sign, negative sign, and one of the four cardinal signs. Capricorn is said to be ruled by the planet Saturn.
Aquarius – Latin for water-carrier – is the eleventh astrological sign in the zodiac, originating from the constellation Aquarius. Under the tropical zodiac, the Sun is in the Aquarius sign between about January 21 and about February 20, while under the sidereal Zodiac, the sun is in Aquarius from approximately February 15 to March 14, depending on the leap year.
Pisces – Latin for fish – is the twelfth and final astrological sign in the zodiac. It is a negative, mutable sign. It spans 330° to 360° of celestial longitude. Under the tropical zodiac, the sun transits this area between February 19 and March 20. In sidereal astrology, the Sun currently transits the constellation of Pisces from approximately March 12 to April 18. In classical interpretations, the symbol of the fish is derived from the ichthyocentaurs, who aided Aphrodite when she was born from the sea.
In common usage, horoscope often refers to an astrologer’s interpretation, usually based on a system of solar Sun sign astrology – based strictly on the position of the Sun at the time of birth, or on the calendar significance of an event, as in Chinese astrology. In particular, many newspapers and magazines carry predictive columns, written in prose that may be written more for increasing readership than tied directly to the Sun or other aspects of the solar system, allegedly based on celestial influences in relation to the zodiacal placement of the Sun on the month of birth, cusp, or decant of the person’s month of birth, identifying the individual’s Sun sign or “star sign” based on the tropical zodiac.
The first real newspaper horoscope column is widely credited to R.H. Naylor, a prominent British astrologer of the first half of the 20th century. Naylor was an assistant to high-society neo-shaman, Cheiro (born William Warner, a decidedly less shamanistic name), who’d read the palms of Mark Twain, Grover Cleveland, and Winston Churchill, and who was routinely tapped to do celebrity star charts. Cheiro, however, wasn’t available in August 1930 to do the horoscope for the recently born Princess Margaret, so Britain’s Sunday Express newspaper asked Naylor.