What To Know About The So-Called 13th Zodiac Sign, Ophiuchus

Longtime astrology buffs and beginners alike seem to find themselves baffled every few years when talk of an unknown "thirteenth zodiac sign" erupts across the internet (via The Guardian). This supposed last-minute zodiac disruptor would fall between Scorpio and Sagittarius on the wheel of the zodiac and push each sign back on the calendar, resulting in astrology subscribers second-guessing their sun signs and the practice as a whole. The mysterious sign and its namesake constellation are called Ophiuchus and would span the birthdates between November 29 and December 18.

Ophiuchus, the constellation, was defined by the International Astronomical Union in 1930 and is represented by a serpent bearer or snake charmer, according to Dictionary. An individual theoretically born under this sign might exhibit a combination of traits normally associated with a Scorpio along with those typically considered Sagittarian in nature. Such traits could include Scorpio's classic secrecy and fierce loyalty, Sagittarius's fiery independence, and supercharged traits that are exhibited by both, like honesty, bravery, and stubbornness. But is Ophiuchus even a real zodiac sign? What do astrologists have to say? Here is a guide to this common astrological sticking point.

Tropical vs. sidereal astrology

In order to understand the Ophiuchus conundrum, you have to first understand the difference between tropical astrology and sidereal astrology. Most western astrologists practice tropical astrology, which is based upon a fixed, permanent map of the constellations as they appeared in the year 0 A.D. and when the sun passes them on its way around the Earth (via Seven Stars Astrology). Western astrology also ties the zodiac to the four seasons, aligning the first sign of the zodiac (Aries) with the spring equinox, which marks the first day of a new sun cycle.

Sidereal astrology is an ancient practice with deep dies to Indian and Hindu culture, as detailed by WellBeing. It bases the zodiac signs on the constellations themselves and tracks those constellations in real time rather than referring to a fixed position from a point in the past. It is fringe sidereal astrologists who have shaken up the world of astrology by including Ophiuchus as a zodiac sign. The vast majority of sidereal and virtually all tropical astrologers agree that it is not a legitimate sign and does not belong in either system (via Keen).

Ophiuchus mythology

In Greek mythology, Ophiuchus is tied to the God Apollo. The constellation, which was once known as Serpentarius, is said to depict Apollo wrestling the snake, Python, which was tasked with guarding the Oracle of Delphi. The oracle was represented by Python's human mother, Pythia, who served many kings and politicians by consulting with them about the future of their reigns and kingdoms. Apollo violently murdering Python and taking over the oracle is thought to represent the changing of the dominant religious beliefs of the time (via History and Archeology Online).

If you were born between November 29 and December 18 and are inspired by the traits or the mythology associated with Ophiuchus, you can honor the constellation without the need for an extra zodiac sign. Embrace your cunning side and take hold of what you want, just like Apollo did. Don't be afraid to explore traits that are more traditionally associated with Scorpio if you're a Sagittarius or vice versa. Keep your secrets and embrace your fierce independence. You may also wish to explore astrology beyond your sun sign by studying your full birth chart, which you can learn more about and access for free at Café Astrology. You might just find the Scorpio or Sagittarius you're feeling called to in other placements, like your moon or rising sign.