Background Information

The Ecliptic

If we could see the stars in the daytime, we would see the Sun slowly wander from one constellation to the next making one complete circle around the sky in one year.

This path the Sun apparently makes is called the Ecliptic. The Ecliptic runs exactly along the middle of the Zodiac constellations. The name Zodiac is derived from the Greek meaning “animal circle” and it comes from the fact that most of these constellations are named for animals. The 13 constellations of the Ecliptic are:

Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpius, Ophiuchus, Sagittarius, Capricornus, Aquarius, and Pisces,

13th Constellation

Most people believe there are only 12 constellations but actually the Ecliptic is formed by 13 constellations. The 13th constellation is called Ophiuchus. The ancient astronomers were superstitious of the number “13” and simply ignored one constellation, Ophiuchus, the Serpent Bearer.

Astronomical dates associated with the constellations were calculated over 2600 years ago. Since that time, the constellations have moved westward approximately 30 degrees or the equivalent of one calendar month. The Sun passes in front of the stars of Ophiuchus every year in early December.

Ophiuchus Mythology

Superstition aside, about one person in twenty is born under Ophiuchus. Are you an Ophiuchus? If you were born between November 29 and December 18, you are! The word Ophiuchus is derived from two Greek words meaning “serpent” and “holding”. The name of the constellation was identified with the god Asclepius, expert in the arts of medicine and the son of Apollo and Coronis.

Asclepius was educated in medicine by the centaur Ciron, now the constellation Sagittarius. As the God of Medicine, Asclepius is always shown with a staff with a serpent around it. Our words hygiene (meaning “the science of health”) and panacea (meaning a “cure-all medicine”) come from the names of two of Asclepius’ daughters, Hygeia and Panancea.

The Romans called Ophiuchus the Serpent-Charmer and the Arabs the Serpent-Collector.


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