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The Zodiac

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

Zodiac, The, is the name given by the ancients to an imaginary band extending around the celestial sphere, having as its mesial line the ecliptic or apparent path of the sun. The signs of the zodiac embrace the twelve important constellations which, owing to the motions of the earth, appear to revolve through the heavens within a belt extending nine degrees on each side of the sun's apparent annual path, and within or near which all the planets revolve. Since the sun appears successively in each of these constellations during the year, the zodiac was divided into twelve equal parts, corresponding to the months. These signs and their subdivisions were used in measuring time, and as a basis of astronomical and astrological calculations and predictions. Astronomers now, for convenience, use these signs, giving to each constellation an ex-tent of thirty degrees, although the constellations vary in size. These signs are Aries, representing the ram; Taurus, the bull; Gemini, the twins; Cancer, the crab; Leo, the lion; Virgo, the virgin; Libra, the balance; Scorpio, the scorpion; Sagittarius, the archer; Capricornus, the goat; Aquarius, the water-bearer, and Pisces, the fishes. On the 20th of March the sun enters Aries, and at midnight Virgo, the opposite constellation, will be over-head. During the month of April the sun will pass into Taurus, and at midnight Libra will be overhead. The early astronomers were astrologers, and claimed to be able to predict the future careers of individuals and nations by observing the positions and movements of the planets and the condition of the weather at the most important periods of men's lives. A man born when the sun was in the constellation Scorpio was believed to be naturally bent toward excessive indulgence of the animal passions; one born when the sun was in Aries was destined to be a great scholar or ruler; one born when the sun was in Pisces was pre-destined to grovel or be a servant, and so on. The porticoes of the temples of Denderah and Esne, in Egypt, have representations of the zodiacal constellations which are of great antiquity and have formed a fruitful theme of discussion; but the truth seems to be that nothing is as yet known respecting these ancient representations, for the manner in which the investigations have been mixed up with the Biblical question of the antiquity of man has prevented any truly scientific research. The Greeks would seem to have borrowed their constellations from the Egyptians and Babylonians, and this is corroborated to some ex-tent by occasional remarks of Greek writers as to the positions of various constellations at certain times, which positions are inconsistent with the supposition of the observer being in Greece. The zodiacal figures of the Hindus, ancient Persians. Chinese, and Japanese have such a remarkable resemblance to those of the Egyptians that there can be little doubt as to their common origin.

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