Do you know your zodiac sign and what it means? If you do, perhaps you have the qualities that are typically predicted for people under that sign.
According to astrologers, your zodiac sign, which refers to the position of the stars on the date you were born, can strongly influence your personality and life.
But how can something so far away, like the stars or any other celestial object, control one’s behavior or predict occurrences? Well, there’s no scientific evidence that it can. Modern astronomy, psychology, and biology have discredited astrology over the years.
So then, why do people still trust in it and feel their zodiac sign correctly portrays them? Some say that the general characterizations ascribed to each symbol are often perceived as true because they could apply to almost anyone. Believers contest that nothing happens coincidently and that astrology helps explain our connection to the natural world.
Anecdotally, the zodiac seems to describe a lot of people accurately. Could it be just a coincidence, or is there any logic here? Just for fun, let’s take a look at this topic from a different angle. To explain some of the claims made by astrology, let’s consider epigenetics.
Epigenetics is a fairly new area of science, and it refers to the regulation of genes at the DNA level that determines phenotype without changing the underlying sequence. Before birth, during the earliest stages of development, epigenetic processes help differentiate cell types to produce specific tissues, organs, and other biological systems. Modifications that occur at this stage can alter epigenetic profile, affecting activation or repression of certain genes.
Numerous studies to date have shown that nutrition and environmental exposure in utero can influence cellular epigenetics. Not only does the mother’s diet impact the developing fetus, things such as maternal stress, infections, and toxins can also disrupt biological processes.
Interestingly too is that the environment experienced by both our parents and grandparents even before conception can shape our genes. Sperm acquires environmentally-induced epigenetic changes during the father’s adulthood when it’s produced. On the other hand, egg development, which occurs in utero during the mother’s own development stage, is influenced by the grandmother’s environment
Therefore, it’s reasonable to assume that where or when you were born, and the surrounding circumstances (such as food availability, climate, social issues, etc.) could affect your overall genetic makeup.
The idea of the zodiac is believed to have been originated during the Babylonian period and later adopted by the ancient Greek, Roman, and Egyptian cultures. The term, which means “circle of animals” depicts the loop of twelve 30° divisions of celestial longitude that is positioned upon the ecliptic or the sun’s apparent course during the year. Each division is represented by a constellation (or symbol) that corresponds to the different months of the year. (It should be noted that now, because of the precession of the equinoxes, the actual constellations are west of their original division which was charted thousands of years ago)
The twelve zodiac signs commence in mid-March and include Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces. Astrologers believe that your date of birth strongly influences your behavior and fate, and accordingly, your zodiac symbol is assigned.
Although we now know that astrology isn’t a credible practice, our ancestors had faith in it. To them, the Earth was the center of the universe and the stars, moon, and planets which formed patterns in the sky were messages or indications of things happening on Earth. By studying the heavens, they hoped to find answers to explain the mysterious occurrences around them — and back then, it did solve a lot. To our ancestor’s credit, mapping the sky and tracking the stars helped to determine the seasons and guide travelers.
Season of Birth
It’s been suggested that in ancient times, as astrology was developing, certain civilizations who studied the stars may have noted that people born in a particular month or season shared observable characteristics. These behaviors were recorded and then used to determine the assigned personality traits for each zodiac sign.
While it’s difficult to validate much of the rationale behind these given personalities, there may be some connection between season of birth and disposition. Research has found that people born at certain times of the year are more prone to have specific temperaments. For instance, summer babies tend to be moody or excessively positive, whereas winter babies are less irritable. Other studies have found that birth month associates with suicide risk, learning disabilities, ADHD, and even sleep patterns.
The mechanisms involved in these findings are not fully known. However, it’s speculated that environmental factors, which vary from month to month, affect early development, and likely contribute to conditions seen later on in life. Epigenetic studies, like the Dutch winter famine, have demonstrated that maternal nutrition and stress brought on by harsh environmental conditions can impact the gene activity in unborn children. These changes made during a critical developmental time can then lead to future health consequences.
Other studies have shown that epigenetic markers linked to a person’s season of birth associate with their risk of developing allergies and asthma. Moreover, both of these conditions have been linked to anxiety and mood disorders.
Because epigenetic factors have been found to play a role in several mental health disorders that affect behavior, like PTSD and schizophrenia, they may also contribute to specific personality types. As seasonal effects can cause these types of modifications in early development, it hints that your birth month might contribute to personality traits.
Position of the Planets and Gravity
Astrologers have long believed that we are connected in some way to the planets in our solar system, as well as to the moon, sun, and stars. They are convinced that the configurations and positions of these celestial entities influence our characteristics and determine our fate.
Throughout the year, the moon, sun, and planets pass through the zodiac constellations at various positions. If they have any effect on things happening on Earth, it would most likely be exerted through their gravitational pull. All objects in the universe are attracted to each other through this reciprocal force. The attraction is dependent upon the size of the objects and their distance from each other.
Many experts agree that other planets, even those close to us, have little to no effect on the Earth’s gravity. Yet, the sun’s size and moon’s proximity grant them a stronger pull. Their tugging power is clearly evident as they are responsible for the rising and falling of the ocean tides.
In recent years, the effects of gravity have been examined in epigenetic studies to advance our understanding of how the body reacts in space. Research has shown that gravity, or rather the loss of Earth’s gravity, can cause changes in DNA methylation that affect muscle tissue and metabolism. As well, plant studies have found that variations in gravity can alter certain epigenetic mechanisms that affect cellular growth.
Gravity is a natural force and it is measurable, even the slightest amount. It’s fair to say that we might not fully understand right now how it ultimately affects us. Maybe like the seasons, gravitational forces that vary throughout the year could associate with environmental changes, which are more likely to influence molecular transformation within our bodies.
Belief in Horoscope
Most people are curious about their future and what it holds. Mentally preparing for what could happen is a primary survival response. Every day, the neural networks of our brains generate numerous predictions based on past events and stimuli to anticipate the future. The better we are at making these types of forecasts, the more secure we feel about our surroundings.
In astrology, horoscopes are used to predict a person’s future based on their particular zodiac sign. While most “newspaper worthy” ones generalize these predictions, astrologers say that more precise forecasting should be based on a person’s date and time of birth. Whatever the case, horoscopes have remained popular for centuries, not only because we are curious about them, but because they signify a pattern of consistency. We look to them for insight into what to expect from ourselves and other people.
Studies have shown that predictability can modify perception and even alter brain activity in the direction of what is expected. We know from epigenetic studies that stressors such as fear, the anticipation of danger, can alter mechanisms in our brain and make us more prone to exhibit certain behaviors. We also know that nurturing and pro-social behavior, as seen in domestication studies, can modulate brain activity and thus also affect behavior.
Zodiac personality portrayals and their corresponding horoscopes predictions, in a way, act as self-fulfilling prophecies. People are perceived to behave a certain way because that is what is anticipated, at least in theory. Also, many people enjoy identifying with a particular zodiac personality and therefore may unconsciously act according to what is expected of them.
There could be a logical reason why astrology and the zodiac constellations still matter to us — whether it’s just fascination or perhaps some unforeseen elements that have yet to be explained.
The studies mentioned above are unable to directly link a person’s date of birth (or zodiac sign) to their personality. But, they do indicate that the environment, especially early-life exposure, can cause adaptations at the DNA level. These epigenetic changes can ultimately impact body and brain functionality, including behavior and mood.
For now, our understanding of epigenetics and its role in human diseases and development is limited. Future studies in this field may find a connection between the environment and personality traits, and that connection could very well mirror what astrology has already laid out for us.