I have always been a goat. Stubborn, relentless and liable to butt horns with those who don’t hold themselves to my exacting standards.
We’re a type. More than once, during interviews with ambitious, professional women, they’ve suddenly paused and ventured: “You’re a Capricorn, too, aren’t you?”
Not any more, should Nasa get its way. The space agency has discovered a 13th sign of the zodiac – Ophiuchus, the snake bearer – and is reportedly trying to reshuffle the dozen existing star signs to cram it in. It means that, for many people, the stars simply no longer align – myself included. Born in early January, I would now be classified as a Sagittarius, which just won’t do at all.
Arguably, it’s a more desirable option: the archer, a free spirit, full of enthusiastic energy. A passionate ‘fire’ sign, compared with the goat’s boringly practical ‘earth’ credentials. But, let’s be honest, that’s just not me. Capricorn may be one of the less dazzling signs of the zodiac (our tarot card is apparently that of the devil), but the cap fits. It’s taken three decades to concede that my personality does, largely, align with the attributes assigned to the strong-willed, though loyal and resilient, goat (not to mention that, in sporting circles, 'Goat' is widely understood to stand for 'Greatest of all Time'). Now you want to pull the rug from under my hooves?
I should say here that I’ve never immersed myself in astrology, nor do I follow my horoscope religiously. I have never, like one editor I was told about, taken a day off “sick” because my chart told me to expect a “mysterious delivery” (shocker, nothing came).
I’m a reasonably sensible grown-up. I’m married, I’ve got a degree and a mortgage. Logic tells me that there’s no such thing as fate. That the position of the Sun, Moon and planets when I was born has no bearing on my future and it really doesn’t matter whether I’m a billy goat or a bow-woman.
But like many people, I do recognise myself in the strengths and weaknesses attributed to my star sign. And I keep an eye on my horoscope, here and there. It’s become more of a self-absorbed habit than anything (very Capricorn). As a child, in the era of Mystic Meg, I used to read the newspaper horoscopes aloud to my younger sisters in – for reasons lost to the mists of time – the voice of Janet Street-Porter. It started as a childish joke, but they became a must-read in my teenage magazines – a way, pre-Google, to check my non-existent love life for signs of a pulse. Now my horoscope is something I occasionally scan, usually in times of uncertainty. It’s not that I believe it, more that it can offer a momentary flicker of optimism.
I’m not alone. The last couple of years have seen a surge in the number of people dating according to the stars, largely attributed to a decline in hopefulness among my millennial generation. Apps such as Match.com ask for your star sign, while Bumble lets you search for your next match according to theirs. Instagram astrologers offer personalised readings to their thousands of followers, while astrology apps are catching-up with meditation and wellness ones. One, The Pattern, was downloaded half a million times in July 2019 alone, after actor Channing Tatum posted about it on social media.
Little wonder so many people – mostly women, who a 2014 Gallup poll showed are more prone to believing horoscopes than men, thanks to a historic lack of control over their own lives – are up in arms over Nasa’s proposal. As if 2020 hasn’t been turbulent enough, the idea of starting the year as a Capricorn and ending it as a Sagittarius is just another unwelcome shake-up. The last few months have already been the opposite of what we all expected, now you want to tell me my zodiac sign is suddenly the opposite, too?
Sorry, Nasa, but you can shove Sagittarius where the zodiac don’t shine.
'You are safe. Your star sign hasn't changed'
By astrologer Francesca Oddie
The events of 2020 have been a talking point among astrologers for as long as I have been a professional. Since 2016, I have been attending talks explaining the magnitude of the planetary clashes this year – so watching 2020 unravel as predicted has been astounding – and the tale continues.
At the beginning of lockdown, I was receiving hundreds of messages a week and lots of people wanted consultations. Perhaps more importantly, people were asking me to teach because they wanted to learn how astrology worked.
This increased interest can largely be attributed to a rise in people seeking answers in these difficult times. Millennials, raised on the internet, have learnt astrology via memes and jokes online and feel very connected to their astrological definitions. I think this is the reason that stories about “the 13th star sign” Ophiucus are blowing their minds, as this astrologically fluent generation is confronted with the news that their celestial identity could be under threat.
The reality is that our character is only decipherable in full via our complete birth chart. This “natal chart” is a map of the sky taken from the moment and precise location that we were born. It illustrates the position of all the planets in our solar system and astrologers use this to write horoscopes and articulate events.
The zodiac constellations are simply markers in the sky - think of them as road names. The zodiac gives a name to segments of the sky that can be used to pinpoint the location of planets as they move through it.
What’s more, in Western astrology the zodiac does not exactly match the constellations in the sky, so Ophiuchus elbowing his way into the story will not impact you or your star sign. You are safe. Your star sign hasn’t changed.
That said, if you are curious and feel that your “new star sign” describes you more accurately than your “old” one, then assessing the position of the moon when you were born might be more illuminating.