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What Exactly is Ophiuchus?
You may have heard Ophiuchus called the ’13th sign’ when referring to tropical (Western) astrology. I am going to clear up any confusion on what Ophiuchus is, and what his place is in astrology. Ophiuchus is a large constellation who covers the celestial equator and holds the constellation of Serpens in his hands. He is the 11th largest constellation in the sky.
To speak about Ophiuchus, we first must discuss the basics of astrology. There are many types of astrology; Two of the major ones being Western (or tropical), and Sidereal (non-Western).
As a Constellation
Western astrology calculates planetary alignments and aspects using one’s birthday location and time. This tropical method of astrology incorporates 12 signs in 12 different houses, and does not include Ophiuchus. There are different ancient myths and tales about why he is left out of Western astrology.
Ophiuchus is the topic of debate amongst astrologers, because some don’t believe in him and/or are simply confused. Let me break this down for you.
Sidereal (non-Western) astrology has 13 signs which make up the basis at its core. As the sun moves through the 88 fixed constellations in the sky, any constellation the sun touches on its path becomes a zodiac sign.
Ophiuchus is depicted throughout history as a large man holding a snake, the snake bearer. The sun moves through Ophiuchus’ foot, and therefore is included as a zodiac sign in sidereal astrology.
As an archetype, he is a strong and conscious man. As a myth, the snake that Ophiuchus holds represents the consciousness he brings to humanity. This is why you may hear uninformed people call him the “13th” sign, or say “everyones zodiac signs changed and we have different ones now”.
I assure you, Ophiuchus has been there all along. It was just people becoming aware of him and misunderstanding that led to those claims. He was one of the 48 constellations listed by the astronomer Ptolemy in the 2nd century.
Ophiuchus in sidereal astrology rules the time between November 29th to Dec 17th. You can read more about the constellation here.
Myths & Legends
The next part I am going to add was shared with me through word of mouth. I don’t have an exact source for it, so take what resonates and leave the rest.
The constellation of Hercules sitting above Ophichus is depicted as having mastered holding snakes and does so with ease. Ophiuchus was mentored by Hercules, and that’s why he is represented as having more trouble holding Serpens, the large snake. He is the student, learning. Hercules’ snakes, as depicted in ancient drawings of the constellation, are being turned into plants. Hercules was the medicine man, a healer. He was teaching his ideas to Ophiuchus as his disciple.
Ophiuchus is an ancient constellation and the key to the astrology confusion about the “13th sign”. He holds the serpent in his arms and wrestles with bringing consciousness to humanity. He is large and bright, you can see him in the night sky.
I hope this clears things up, and as always let me know if you have any questions in the comments!
All my love,