Astrology is the ancient study of how celestial bodies influence human affairs and their personalities. At the heart of this lies the Zodiac - a symbolic cycle of 12 signs, each represented by a particular constellation. But the zodiac is more than just the 12 sun signs – it encompasses the four primordial elements, the mythological stories behind the star constellations, and astrological systems like the Chinese zodiac’s unique cycle of 12 animals. We’ll explore all of them in this article! 

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The 12 Zodiac Signs

To begin our journey, let’s explore the characteristics of the 12 zodiac signs.

Aries (March 21st - April 20th)

The Aries zodiac is represented by the Ram, which signifies boldness and ambition. 

Personality traits: Energetic, courageous, impulsive

Aries Birthstones: Diamond & Bloodstone 

Element: Fire 

Famous Aries: Lady Gaga, Robert Downey Jr., Emma Watson, Jackie Chan

Taurus (April 21st - May 20th)

The Taurus zodiac is represented by the Bull, which signifies strength and determination. 

Personality traits: Reliable, patient, practical, and sensual

Element: Earth

Famous Taurus: Adele, Sam Smith, Dwayne Johnson, Channing Tatum

Gemini (May 21st - June 21st)

Gemini is represented by the Twins, which symbolises duality and versatility. 

Personality traits: Adaptable, curious, communicative, and intellectual.

Gemini Birthstones: Emerald & Pearl

Element: Air

Famous Geminis: Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp, Kanye West, Natalie Portman

Cancer (June 22nd - July 22nd)

The Cancer zodiac is the fourth in the astrological calendar and is represented by the symbol of a crab.

Personality traits: Intuitive, sensitive and loyal 

Element: Water

Famous Cancers: Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep, Margot Robbie and Solange Knowles 

Leo (July 23rd - August 22nd)

The Leo zodiac has the symbol of the lion and its ruling celestial body is the Sun.

Personality traits: Protective, charming and passionate

Leo Birthstones: Ruby & Peridot

Element: Fire

Famous Leos: Jennifer Lopez, Daniel Radcliffe, Sandra Bullock and Madonna

Virgo (August 23rd - September 22nd)

Virgo translates to “maiden” in Latin and is associated with Astraea, the last immortal on Earth in Greek mythology

Personality traits: Hardworking, intelligent and kind

Virgo Birthstone: Blue Sapphire

Element: Earth

Famous Virgos: Beyonce, Keanu Reeves, Zendaya and Michael Jackson 

Libra (September 22nd - October 23rd)

Represented by the Scales, Libras seek balance and harmony. Its ruling planet is Venus.

Personality traits: Extroverted, charming, and peace-loving.

Element: Air

Famous Libras: Will Smith, Eminem, Matt Damon and Kate Winslet

Scorpio (October 24th- November 21st)

Scorpio’s symbol is a scorpion and it’s ruled by the planets Mars and Pluto.

Personality traits: Enigmatic, independent and charismatic

Scorpio Birthstones: Topaz and Citrine

Element: Water

Famous Scorpios: Drake, Leonardo DiCaprio, Julia Roberts and Ryan Reynolds

Sagittarius (November 22nd - December 21st)

Sagittarius is a fire sign and is ruled by Jupiter. It is associated with flexibility and versatility.

Personality traits: Smart, outgoing and sympathetic

Sagittarius Birthstones: Turquoise and Blue Topaz

Element: Fire

Famous Sagittarius: Bruce Lee, Ben Stiller, Jay Z and Brad Pitt

Capricorn (December 22nd - January 19th)

Capricorn is one of the three earth signs and is ruled by the planet Saturn. It is represented by a seat goat: half goat and half fish.

Personality traits: Honest, ambitious and loyal

Capricorn Birthstones: Garnet and Blue Sapphire

Element: Earth

Famous Capricorns: Denzel Washington, Lebron James, Elvis Presley and Dolly Parton

Aquarius (January 20th - February 18th)

Aquarius translates to “water bearer” in Latin. It is the eleventh astrological sign and is ruled by the planet Uranus.  

Personality traits: Analytical, assertive and intelligent

Aquarius Birthstones: Amethyst and Garnet 

Element: Air

Famous Aquarius: Jennifer Aniston, Christiano Ronaldo and Justin Timberlake

Pisces (February 19th – March 20th)

Pisces is the final zodiac sign that is ruled by the planet Neptune. Its symbol is two fish. 

Personality traits: Creative, indecisive and compassionate

Pisces Birthstones: Purple Amethyst and Aquamarine

Element: Water

Famous Pisceans: Rihanna, Justin Bieber, Elizabeth Taylor and Daniel Craig

There are also things called “modes” in astrology, which describe the type of energy that a zodiac sign expresses and how it initiates or experiences things. The three modes in astrology are Cardinal, Fixed and Mutable. 

Cardinal Modes (Aries, Cancer, Libra, Capricorn)

The four Cardinal signs kick off each new season - Aries begins spring, Cancer starts summer, Libra opens autumn, and Capricorn welcomes winter. They aren’t afraid of new beginnings and they excel at initiating projects and manifesting their visions into reality. However, they can struggle to follow through and maintain momentum.

Fixed Modes (Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, Aquarius)

The Fixed signs occur in the middle of each season when things are at their peak. Deeply rooted in their ways, Fixed signs can be loyal, dependable, and committed to their goals. However, this stability can also manifest as stubbornness and resistance to change in extreme cases.

Mutable Modes (Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, Pisces)

The four Mutable signs mark the transitional period between seasons. These are the adapters, shape-shifters, and changemakers of the zodiac. They’re able to go with the flow, but their energy means that they can potentially lack focus or direction if left ungrounded. 

Chinese Zodiac Signs

The Chinese zodiac is a repeating 12-year cycle, with each year represented by one of 12 different animals. Unlike the Western zodiac (see above), which is based on constellations and months of birth, the Chinese zodiac assigns an animal sign to the year a person is born.

In the Chinese zodiac tradition, the belief is that the animal ruling the year in which you were born significantly influences your personality traits, fortune, and compatibility in relationships. The Chinese zodiac is also linked to the Chinese New Year, which is sometimes called the Lunar New Year or Spring Festival. The Chinese New Year begins on the new moon that falls between January 21 and February 20, and celebrations welcome the coming year's zodiac animal sign!

What Chinese Zodiac Am I?

Find the year in which you were born and the corresponding Chinese Zodiac animal. 

  • Year of the Rat (1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020)
  • Year of the Ox (1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021)
  • Year of the Tiger (1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022)
  • Year of the Rabbit (1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023)
  • Year of the Dragon (1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024)
  • Year of the Snake (1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, 2025)
  • Year of the Horse (1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, 2026)
  • Year of the Goat (1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015, 2027)
  • Year of the Monkey (1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, 2028)
  • Year of the Rooster (1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, 2029)
  • Year of the Dog (1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018, 2030) 
  • Year of the Pig (1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019, 2031)

The Story of the 12 Animals in the Chinese Zodiac

According to one of the most popular legends, the Jade Emperor (the ruler of the heavens in Chinese mythology) wanted to devise a calendar system to track the years. He called all the animals to visit his palace, stating that the first twelve animals to arrive would have a year named after them. 

The “quick-witted” Rat was said to have hitched a ride on the back of the diligent Ox, jumping down first when they arrived to claim the first year. Each version of the story tells the arrival of the animals differently, but the most popular versions state how the tiger’s confidence helped him become the third to arrive, followed by the “diplomatic” Rabbit, the “powerful” Dragon and so on. The “lowly” Pig is said to have overslept and was the last to arrive, missing out on a higher position in the zodiac order as a result of its laziness! 

The Four Elements - Fire, Earth, Air, Water 

In Astrology, there are four elements: Fire, Earth, Air and Water. They are believed to be the ultimate building blocks of nature and human personalities. Each of the 12 zodiac signs is associated with one of these four elements. 

Which Zodiac Element Am I?

Fire (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius)

The fire element symbolises passion, energy, and vigour. Those born under the Fire signs are said to be spontaneous, courageous, and always seeking new experiences and challenges. They have an enthusiasm for adventure and tend to be natural leaders who aren’t afraid to take risks. However, this enthusiasm can easily turn to impulsive behaviour and fire signs are more likely to be aggressive and quick-tempered. 

Earth (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn)

Earth represents stability and practicality and the Earth element is associated with having a down-to-earth approach to life. Earth signs are reliable, patient and value things like tradition. Though they can be determined and committed individuals, they do sometimes struggle with stubbornness and obsessing over their focus time and work. 

Air (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius)

The air element is associated with intellect and communication. People born under Air signs are believed to be curious, adaptable, and skilled communicators. They love to exchange ideas with others and thrive on intellectual conversations. Air signs are also rational problem solvers, but they can sometimes be indecisive or so focused on rationality that they fail to consider emotions. 

Water (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces)

The water element is associated with sensitivity, empathy, and a strong sense of intuition. Water signs are known for being emotionally deep and creative and can connect with others quite easily. However, they can be moody and clingy at times and are prone to overanalysing their feelings. They are believed to be highly attuned to the spiritual world. 

The concept of the four elements dates back to ancient Greek philosophy, particularly the teachings of Empedocles around 450 BC. He proposed that all matter was composed of four elemental roots; fire, earth, air and water. The elemental theory formed the basis for understanding the nature of the cosmos and the fundamental qualities of all things. 

These four elements were later adopted by the Greek philosopher Aristotle, who associated them with different properties: fire was hot and dry, air was hot and wet, earth was cold and dry, and water was cold and wet. He believed that everything in the world is made up of these four elements, which combine in different ways and in different amounts. 

If we travel further back to ancient Babylonian astrology and mythology, the elements were also seen as key components of the universe and were associated with different celestial bodies. Fire was linked to Jupiter; earth to Saturn; air to Venus, Mercury and Mars; and water to the Moon. 

When astrology began developing in ancient Greece, the elemental associations were incorporated into the newly emerging zodiac system. Each of the 12 zodiac signs was assigned one of the four elements. 

In ancient Rome, writers like Pliny the Elder explored this concept even further and examined the elements’ connections to physiology and medicine. This idea formed the basis for the widespread adoption of elemental theory in astrology during the medieval and Renaissance periods across Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

You can read more about the 4 elements in detail in the articles below:

Zodiac Constellations

As you may already know, the 12 zodiac signs that we know today are directly linked to constellations. Each zodiac sign is associated with and derives its name and symbolism from a specific constellation along the ecliptic - the path that the Sun appears to trace across the celestial sphere over the course of a year.

The link between the two goes back to ancient Babylonian astrology. As they tracked the motions of the Sun, Moon, and planets, early astronomers noticed that the Sun would pass through different constellations at different times of the year. These constellations became associated with the seasons and were a way to mark the progression of the solar year. 

For example, the zodiac sign Aries is linked to the constellation of the same name - a ram formed by a distinctive V-shaped arrangement of stars. When the Sun passes in front of the Aries constellation around the spring equinox in late March, this marked the beginning of the astrological year and the Aries zodiac sign.

Many of the constellations' actual names and symbolic representations originate from ancient Greek mythology. Hercules, Orion, Gemini (the twins), and Scorpio (the scorpion) were all figures from legend immortalised as star patterns.

  1. Aries (The Ram)

In Greek mythology, Aries represents the ram with the Golden Fleece that saved Phrixus and Helle. It was sent by Hermes to rescue them from their evil stepmother, who wanted to sacrifice them. They rode the ram across the sea, but Helle fell off and drowned in the Hellespont, giving the sea its name. Aries is also known as Amalthea, the celestial goat.

  1. Taurus (The Bull)

Taurus is associated with the story of Zeus, who transformed himself into a bull to abduct Europa, a Phoenician princess. The constellation also has links to the Cretan Bull, a creature captured by Hercules as one of his labours. 

  1. Gemini (The Twins)

Gemini represents Castor and Pollux, twin brothers in Greek mythology who were the sons of Zeus (as a swan) and Leda. They were known for their loyalty and bravery and were eventually transformed into the constellation to stay together forever. 

  1. Cancer (The Crab)

The constellation of Cancer is associated with the story of Hercules and the Twelve Labors. While Hercules fought the Hydra, Hera sent a crab to distract him. Hercules crushed the crab under his foot, and Hera placed it in the sky as a reward for its service.

  1. Leo (The Lion)

Leo is often associated with the Nemean Lion, a creature slain by Hercules as part of his Twelve Labors. The lion's hide was impervious to weapons, so Hercules strangled it with his bare hands and later wore its skin as armour. In ancient Egypt, this constellation was associated with the goddess Sekhmet, who had the head of a lioness.

  1. Virgo (The Virgin)

Virgo represents various goddesses of fertility and agriculture throughout different mythologies, including Demeter and Persephone in Greek mythology and Isis in Egyptian mythology. The constellation is often depicted as a woman holding grain, symbolising harvest and fertility.

  1. Libra (The Scales)

Libra is associated with Themis, the goddess of justice in Greek mythology. Themis held the scales of justice, symbolising balance and fairness. Later, the scales became associated with Astraea, the goddess of justice who was the last immortal to live among humans during the Golden Age.

  1. Scorpio/Scorpius (The Scorpion)

Scorpio is linked to the story of Orion in Greek mythology. Orion was a great hunter who boasted that he could kill any creature on Earth. Gaia, the Earth goddess, sent a scorpion to sting and kill Orion. Both were placed in the sky as constellations, with Scorpio chasing Orion across the heavens. In Babylonian astronomy, Scorpio was associated with the scorpion goddess Ishara.

  1. Sagittarius (The Archer)

Sagittarius represents the centaur Chiron in Greek mythology. Chiron was known as a wise and skilled healer and archer. He mentored many Greek heroes, including Achilles and Hercules. The constellation depicts a centaur drawing a bow, ready to shoot an arrow.

  1. Capricorn/ Capricornus (The Sea Goat)

Capricorn is associated with the god Pan in Greek mythology. Pan, the god of the wild, had the lower body of a goat and the upper body of a human and was often depicted as playing a flute and frolicking in the woods. The constellation combines the features of a goat and a fish.

  1. Aquarius (The Water Bearer)

Aquarius represents Ganymede, a beautiful youth in Greek mythology. Zeus transformed Ganymede into an eagle to serve as his cupbearer on Mount Olympus. In the sky, Aquarius is depicted as a figure pouring water from a vessel.

  1. Pisces (The Fish)

Pisces is associated with the story of Aphrodite and her son Eros in Greek mythology. To escape the monster Typhon, they transformed into fish and jumped into the Euphrates River. In ancient Mesopotamian mythology, the constellation represents the goddess Anunitum, who was often depicted as a pair of fish.

What you may not know is that there is also a “secret” 13th constellation - Ophiuchus, the Serpent Bearer.  It’s a relatively large constellation that can be seen between Scorpius and Sagittarius on the celestial sphere. According to some modern astronomers, the Sun actually transits through Ophiuchus for about 18-20 days each year between November 30th and December 17th. However, Ophiuchus was left out of the original zodiac by the ancient Babylonians who established the 12-sign system over 3,000 years ago. Their reason for this isn’t entirely clear, but we do know that the Babylonians placed a great deal of importance on the number 12, as they associated it with completeness and harmony. It’s likely that this belief could have influenced their decision. 

Compatibility and Relationships

Compatibility and relationships are among the most popular topics people search for when looking up zodiac signs, most likely because they are one of the aspects of astrology that gives us insight into ourselves and the people in our lives. 

Generally, zodiac signs of the same element (fire, earth, water and air) are considered to be more naturally compatible, as they share similar traits and perspectives. For example, two Fire signs like Aries and Leo can bond over their passionate and energetic natures. However, signs of contrasting elements like Fire and Water can have more challenges in seeing eye-to-eye initially. Have you noticed this in your relationships and friend groups?

The specific mode (Cardinal, Fixed, Mutable) of each sign also plays a role. Cardinal signs like Aries and Capricorn, embodying strength and initiation, can balance well with the stability of Fixed signs like Taurus and Scorpio. Meanwhile, the adaptability of Mutable signs such as Gemini and Virgo can harmonise with the flowing natures of fellow Mutable signs. 

That said, signs that are four symbols apart (i.e. four positions away from each other in the Zodiac wheel), like Aries and Cancer or Libra and Aquarius, have more challenges to overcome when it comes to compatibility. This is because they have contrasting elemental energies. Signs that are in opposition (i.e. sit opposite each other in the Zodiac wheel), like Aries and Libra or Cancer and Capricorn, can also initially experience more tension as they have very different perspectives. 

However, sun sign compatibility is just one factor. An individual's full natal chart, incorporating the placements of other planets, can reveal even deeper insights! 

Zodiac Birthstones & Crystals 

Many ancient traditions also assigned particular gemstones and crystals to each of the 12 zodiacs. These zodiac birthstones were believed to hold special energetic properties and meanings that resonated with the traits and planetary influences of their corresponding signs. 

There’s so much to learn about birthstones and the crystals that align with each zodiac sign, so we’ve written dedicated articles for each so you can gain a better understanding of the crystals and gemstones that resonate with you and your zodiac. 

Moon Signs

Most people are familiar with their Sun Sign, which is determined by the zodiac constellation that the sun was marking at their birth. However, the moon’s positioning also plays a role. 

Moon Signs represent someone's innermost self, their emotional side and instinctual habits. A person’s moon sign is calculated based on the particular zodiac sign that the moon occupied during their moment of birth. This particular lunar placement shapes a person's basic needs, emotional tendencies, and hidden behaviours differently from their visible sun sign personality. 

For example, someone with an Aries sun sign who is driven by fiery confidence may actually have a deeply nurturing, sensitive nature if their moon lies in the sign of Cancer.

What is my Moon Sign?

You can use this Moon Sign calculator to discover your Moon Sign. All you need to know is your exact birth date, time and location. 

You can also discover more about the personality traits, characteristics and compatibility for each Moon sign below:

While we have only scratched the surface of the fascinating world of zodiac signs and astronomy, there is even more wisdom to uncover. If you’d like to learn more about these topics, we offer an accredited Astrology Diploma Course for only £29 (save £98!). It has 16 modules exploring planetary placements, moon phases, chart readings, and so much more. 

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