Ever wonder why sun sign astrology became so popular, when it’s so silly?  It’s because sun signs are easy to use.  Everybody knows their birth date, so everybody knows their sun sign.  It gives people something to schmooze about in bars and at parties—“I’m a Pisces!”  “I shouldn’t date Sagittarians—they’re my downfall!” and so on.  This makes for fun conversation, but it also has the unfortunate side effect of categorizing us and giving us preconceived notions about people—notions not true enough to be useful and true enough to do damage.  Sigh.  It’s a shame, really, that astrology got diluted this way, but it did get astrology into popular culture, which in my mind is a good thing, being a far cry from olden days when only kings had access to astrology.

As I mentioned in my article You Are Not Just Your Sign, the Sun is just one part of your astrology chart.  But it is an important part.  And here we come to the reason why sun signs are useful at all as conversation starters:  they do work.  Your sun sign is an important and central part of your personality.  The Sun in your chart is the gravitational center of your personality and the sign it’s in shows how you go about the process of individuation, ego formation and discovering your own identity.  The Sun is the center of you in the same way it is the center of our solar system:  it gives light, heat and life force energy to everything it touches.  Your sun sign is the source of your creativity—it’s where you want to shine.

Let’s take a whirlwind trip through the sun signs to answer the questions “How does your process of individuation go?” and “where do you need to express creativity and shine?”  Since we’re in August right now, I’m starting with Leo, the Sun’s very own sign.

Sun in Leo: Ego formation happens via the process of performance and using the response from the audience to revise one’s own behaviors.  Creativity is natural to Leos and expressing themselves is something they must do if they are to be happy.

Sun in Virgo: Individuation is not difficult for Virgos—their natural discriminatory abilities easily detect where their boundaries are.  Virgo’s challenge lies in creativity, because Virgo must learn to be comfortable taking credit and being seen.

Sun in Libra: Libra’s desire for fairness and symmetry will too often have Librans waiting for others to notice them before really allowing themselves to shine and individuate.  This is a shame, because Librans have style and artistry.

Sun in Scorpio: Scorpio, like all water signs, would rather operate under the radar than have attention drawn to itself, posing a challenge for this sign’s individuation.  Scorpio’s creativity is likely to be expressed internally, rather than displayed.

Sun in Sagittarius: Like the other fire signs, Sagittarius is comfortable with visibility and display but can scatter its creative energies.  Sag casts a large aura and tends toward leadership as a form of creativity—when Sag gets focused & chooses a direction.

Sun in Capricorn: Ah, how Capricorn does hold itself back!  Cap types tend to crave the public recognition they need to help them individuate, but they are late bloomers and have trouble accepting praise until after 30, when their finest years begin.

Sun in Aquarius: The challenge to Aquarian ego formation is the deep-seated Aquarian belief that the group is more important than the individual.  Aquarian creativity does best in the form of intellectual genius and sharing of ideas with those of like mind.

Sun in Pisces: How do you individuate when you feel you are not an individual, but a crowd?  So many voices, and Pisces is listening to them all.  But the Piscean imagination is strong, leading to abundant creation & potential mastery in all the arts.

Sun in Aries: Individuation is easy for assertive Aries, the sign voted most likely to fall flat on its face multiple times on the way to success.  The message is clear:  get used to failing fast and draw on Arian hope.  Then watch your creativity soar.

Sun in Taurus: Like Virgo, Taurus doesn’t care about flash and glamour.  Taurus does care about beauty and quality though, and in its deliberate way, will produce fine creative product given time.  Taureans sometimes self-identify with their income.

Sun in Gemini: Geminis can be scattered, losing themselves in an overabundance of ideas, but formidable when focused.  Geminis tend to identify with their intellect, to see themselves as a head with a body attached.  Communication is central to Gemini.

Sun in Cancer: The tendency to identify with one’s feelings or intuitions is strong in Cancer.  The Cancerian form of creativity is in nourishing things, helping things grow from small and weak to strong and formidable.  Cancer, nourish yourself too!

I hope you enjoyed this brief and extremely superficial look at the sun signs.  It’s just a teeny taste of what you’d get in a full, sit-down astrology reading. If you are not sure of your Sun sign (perhaps because you were born on a day the Sun changed signs), you can make your own astrology chart on Astro.com to find out which sign you actually are.

Find out more about getting a reading
Or see what kinds of readings are available. 

Be Afraid—Be Very Afraid!
In astrology’s infancy, about four to five thousand years ago, eclipses were a terrifying phenomenon. The experience of day suddenly becoming night, of the moon covering and temporarily hiding the sun and the sun inexplicably disappearing brought terror to human beings. Early astrologers sought to understand and ultimately predict this phenomenon. They did become able to predict it, and ultimately became able to manipulate kings and peoples with this knowledge. Their ability to predict an upcoming eclipse and to predict also the rise and fall of crops and nations gave them unprecedented power, power which was rooted in their understanding of the natural world, but which ultimately became political. If there is a reason why astrology is hated and feared today, eclipses may well be wrapped up in it.

Interpretations of ancient astrologers were highly fatalistic, focusing on physical events to come and predicting human behavior, even death, with surprisingly consistent accuracy. But that’s not how astrology is used today. Modern western-world astrology is much less fatalistic and much more psychological. Today it is about human motivation and a person’s inner experience. We have all but lost some of the most ancient predictive techniques because of their extreme fatalism. Modern people do not want to know the date of their death, even if an astrologer today could predict it, which is not likely. It’s possible that a Vedic (Indian) or a Chinese astrologer could, but not a Western one.

The interpretation and use of eclipses has changed with the times. Although astrologers who focus on politics do continue to use them to predict the fates of rulers and nations, eclipses are more commonly used to interpret personal, individual experiences in psychological ways. And eclipses today generate more fascination and less fear.

What Is An Eclipse?
The Sun and Moon are by far the brightest objects in our sky; thus they are called the luminaries or “lights.” An eclipse is an occasion when the Sun, Moon and Earth line up so precisely that one of the luminaries becomes shadowed, and therefore goes dark.

A solar eclipse is only possible during a new moon. During a new moon, the Moon and Sun are on the same side of the Earth, so close to each other that the Moon fades from sight. This is a familiar phenomenon—it happens every month, and gradually. A solar eclipse is a special type of new Moon, one where the Moon and Sun are not only in the same general area of the sky, but also in exactly the same plane. From our view on Earth, the Moon covers the Sun and hides it from us, darkening the sky. Compared to the new Moon, this is a sudden and rare phenomenon.

It is not, however, as rare as you think. A set of eclipses, usually including a solar and a lunar, happens every six months. Not every eclipse is visible in every area of the world. This is one reason why the ancients found eclipses so fearsome—they seemed to occur at such irregular intervals. Astrologers today interpret an eclipse as having more effect in the areas where the eclipse can be seen.

A lunar eclipse is only possible during a full moon. During a Full Moon, the Moon and Sun are on opposite sides of the Earth, and the Moon is at its brightest. A lunar eclipse is a special full moon where the Earth is in the same plane with both luminaries and the Moon is therefore shadowed by the Earth. This too, is a relatively sudden and rare phenomenon and not visible to everyone on Earth.

What Is The Shadow Agent?
Sometimes during an eclipse, another planet will be close by (within 5 degrees of arc), close enough to be drawn into the themes of that eclipse. I call that planet accompanying the eclipse the “Shadow Agent.” It assists the eclipse by pointing out your shadow in its area of life. For example, Mercury points out your shadow by means of communication while Neptune points out your shadow by means of dreams and spirituality.

According to Wikipedia, the shadow side in Jungian psychology is a part of the unconscious mind consisting of repressed weaknesses, shortcomings, and instincts. Jung developed the idea of the shadow to represent that side of a human being which is held back and not consciously expressed. Some aspects of a shadow can be positive as well as negative, as some human beings repress positive traits. Jung said that the shadow, if ignored, is often projected onto other people. He also said that it can be brought up into consciousness and integrated with the rest of one’s personality.

One way to describe an eclipse is “a luminary is occluded such that we see a shadow.” Psychologically, eclipses represent the appearance of the shadow and the occasion of an eclipse contacting something in your natal chart is the perfect opportunity to get a good look at your own shadow. The shadow is, by definition hard for you to see, because it is behind you. An eclipse can bring it out and make it easier to see, thus giving you a chance to stop projecting it, own it, accept it as part of yourself and integrate it with the rest of your personality. This is uncomfortable, but it is also a gift. Much human energy is wrapped up in avoiding, projecting and hiding our shadows. When you integrate your shadow, you reclaim that energy.

The Shadow Agent is a planet (or planets) which is an agent of the eclipse and is therefore asking you to look at your shadow. It will do so according to its planetary nature. Sometimes a person in your life may take the role of the Shadow Agent for you, acting out the agenda of this planet and forcing you to look at things or areas you don’t ordinarily look at.

How Do You Know If An Eclipse Will Affect You?
You’ll feel an eclipse if it falls within 5 degrees of one of your natal planets. A good astrologer can tell you that. An eclipse’s effects are also likely to be stronger if you live in the part of the world where it can be seen directly. And an eclipse will be stronger if it is total, rather than partial. These things taken together and with a few other factors added in, will tell you the generic nature of the eclipse, the area of your life where it’s likely to affect you, and the strength of the effect. A strong eclipse is likely to be felt, at least in a background way, for six months until it is replaced by the next same-type of eclipse (solar or lunar). According to Georgia Stathis, a San Francisco Bay Area expert on eclipses, there is also likely to be a resurgence of the eclipse’s themes during the same-type lunation (New or Full Moon) three lunar cycles after the eclipse and a foreshadowing of the themes of the eclipse will happen during the same-type lunation three lunar cycles before. More on that another time.

Does the Shadow Agent make life uncomfortable? Yes. Will human beings ever enjoy looking at their shadows? Probably not. But the gift of energy returned to us when we embrace our shadow and the gift of conscious self-knowledge and acceptance are great, when we are courageous enough to accept them.

Find out about this year’s eclipses.

In my previous article You’re Not Just Your Sun Sign I pointed out that human beings are too complex to be reduced to a single sign of the zodiac.  I hope also that I made it clear that it’s possible for a person to be a pretty strong type by virtue of having several planets in a given sign.  One way this can happen is if Mercury and Venus are in the same sign as the sun.  Because of the way the solar system is arranged, this is not at all unlikely.  Here’s why:

In our solar system, Mercury is closest to the sun.  Venus is next in line, followed by Earth, then Mars, then Jupiter and so on.  This means that from Earth’s point of view (which is what matters in astrology, because Earth is where we live) the sun, Mercury and Venus will always be in the same quadrant of sky.  You will never see Mercury opposite the sun in a birth chart and if someone tells you that you have that, they’re pulling your leg because it’s physically impossible.  Mercury will always be found in the sun’s sign or one sign ahead or behind the sun.  Venus ranges a little further, but it will never be further from the sun than two signs ahead or behind.

So in any chart, relative to the sun, Mercury has three signs it could be in, while Venus has five.  This significantly increases the statistical chances of Mercury, Venus, or both doubling up in the sun’s sign, which will intensify the sun sign traits.  This is why some people are purer types than others and it’s also why some people may identify with their sun sign very little.  If you are a solid Capricorn sun, but you have a flirtatious Aquarian Venus and a loquacious Sagittarian Mercury, you won’t feel much like a Capricorn unless you have some other planet there (or at least in another Earth sign) to back it up.  However, your Capricorn nature will out eventually, probably around the time of your Saturn return, when you are approaching 30 and find yourself suddenly taking life more seriously.

It’s fairly easy to find out where your Mercury and Venus are in a natal chart reading with an astrologer who can show you around your “map of life.”  While you have your chart in front of you, look to see if a single sign appears three or more times.  If it does, that is probably your strongest sign, whether it is your sun sign or not.  If you enjoy reading the silly newspaper “horoscopes,” then this is the sign you should look at, not necessarily your sun sign.

This is one of three related articles on the subject of why your Sun sign is not all that you are.  For more insight, see the other two.
What Is A “Sign Type?” posted 4/9/09
You Are Not Just Your “Sign” posted 4/4/07
What Makes a Strong Sign Type? posted 8/28/07

Ever read a description of your “sign” and just felt like it had little or nothing to do with you? Ever felt categorized by astrology, forced into a grouping that had no relevance for your life? Ever felt frustrated by others who discover your sign and then nod sagely and say “of course” as if now they suddenly have the key to you? It’s all very annoying. Believe it or not, it’s annoying to astrologers too. Believe it or not, the problem is not with astrology, it’s with how people use astrology. Your sun sign is only one small part of who you are, and while astrologers view the sun as important and central, it’s not everything. Not in the least.

What Does My “Sign” Mean Anyway?
When someone asks you your “sign,” they are asking about your sun sign, or the sign of the zodiac the sun was in when you were born. The sun moves through all 12 signs every year in a regular pattern we experience as the seasons. The sun is always just entering Aries on the first day of spring—in fact, that’s an integral part of the very definition of the first day of spring. On the first day of spring, the sun is directly overhead at the equator, making the days and nights of equal length (equator, equinox, equal—coincidence? I think not!). The sign of Aries is the season of early spring, where the sun is when it’s just beginning to warm up the northern hemisphere for the summer. All the other signs are similarly linked to seasonal zones.

Why Sun Sign Astrology?
In the 1960’s an astrologer named Linda Goodman popularized astrology greatly by focusing on sun signs. She’s the reason why asking someone’s sun sign at a party (and drawing compatibility conclusions from it) is such a 60’s cliché. The sun is a very easy part of one’s chart to be aware of—all you need to know is your birthday and you’re off and running. Also it’s accurate enough of the time to intrigue many people.

Linda Goodman did astrology a great service by making it accessible to everyone. This has probably led to a lot more people getting useful guidance from astrology than would ever have thought of it on their own. However, she also did astrology a great disservice by reducing it to such a simple factor. The sun simply is not all there is to any individual, and to categorize individuals by sun sign is to miss out on all the other rich details in human personality.

What Else is There?
A look around an actual birth chart quickly reveals that there’s much more to it than the sun. A chart is full of detail—overwhelmingly so (thus the need for sun sign simplicity). Not only is the sun in a sign, but everything else in our solar system is too. You have a Mercury sign, a moon sign, a Venus sign, even a Neptune sign. And to add layers of complexity, planets-in-signs may be important, but they are still only part of the picture. Check out this sample chart and you’ll see what I mean:
Billie Holiday Natal Chart
It’s hard to even know where to start, isn’t it? If you look at the bottom of the chart and a little to the left, you’ll find a small circle with a dot inside it. That’s the sun. As you can see, it’s just one factor among many.

Actually this single diagram is loaded with information, all coded in symbols. Astrology is a language, like Spanish or algebra or C++ or musical notation. Every symbol shown here means something and every combination of symbols adds layers of complex and individual meaning. And because the patterns of planetary placement in the sky change at least a little every 3 minutes, this makes a birth-moment, and thus the chart that locked in during it, and by extension the person who was born that moment, highly individual. No categorization at all.

This chart has a complexity of a factor of 11 x 12 x 12 at a minimum. Why? Because in the chart there are 11 “planets” (two of which are the sun and moon, not strictly planets at all), each of which has the possibility of appearing in any of 12 signs and any of 12 houses. And this is just the beginning of the complexity here. I won’t belabor the point because by now no doubt you are getting the picture. You are not your sun sign! Not remotely.

Sun signs were really only ever intended as a gateway. If you find your sun sign interesting, seek out more information (one great way is to get a natal chart reading).  You will find that your astrology chart, if accurate, is surprisingly well-suited to describe you in great detail. And the chart does more than describe—the chart also advises. Read properly, your chart will show you your own best life, describing avenues of success and happiness and giving your existence meaning. All in much more detail than your sun sign alone could.

This is one of three related articles on the subject of why your Sun sign is not all that you are.  For more insight, see the other two.
What Is A “Sign Type?” posted 4/9/09
You Are Not Just Your “Sign” posted 4/4/07
What Makes a Strong Sign Type? posted 8/28/07

Astrology blogger since 2007

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