The Sun Sign Dilemma

In astrology, timing is everything!As astrology goes mainstream, how are we going to deal with the thorny problem of Sun-sign horoscopes? It seems you can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em.

For novice readers, your Sun sign is what you know simply as your “sign,” determined by what month you were born. In fact, all the planets in your birth chart are in a sign, but the Sun sign is considered your main identification. The horoscopes you read in newspapers, magazines, and on the Internet are written for your Sun sign. While astrologers lament that this isn’t the most accurate means of providing horoscopes, we haven’t found a better solution yet.

I’ve done way more than my share of Sun-sign astrology over the years. Like many of my esteemed colleagues, I’ve written volumes of weekly, monthly, and yearly forecasts by Sun sign. (Unlike my esteemed colleagues, however, mine were written under an assumed name, so the millions of people who read them didn’t know they were mine.) Despite being conscientious to a fault, I always had the nagging feeling that all my effort was going to waste.

For a Sun-sign horoscope, we erect a solar chart by putting 0 degrees of a sign on the Ascendant and creating twelve equal houses with 0 degrees of each successive sign on the house cusps. For example, for Gemini, the first house would start with 0 degrees Gemini, the second house would start with 0 degrees Cancer, the third house with 0 degrees Leo, and so on. Mars currently is in Cancer, so we would tell Gemini to expect some money issues, since the second house is associated with earned income. As an alternative, some astrologers make predictions based on house rulers. In the case of our Gemini, the first-house ruler would be Mercury, the second-house ruler the Moon, the third-house ruler the Sun, etc.

The problem with this method is that the real position of the transiting planets in your chart rarely has anything to do with your Sun but depends on your Rising Sign, which is determined by the hour you were born.

You can test this out with your daily horoscope. I highly recommend Susan Miller’s monthly horoscopes, which I’ve been reading for more than 10 years. First read by Sun sign, and then read for the sign that is more in line with your natal chart. This might be your Rising Sign, or it might be the sign immediately after, if your Ascendant is in a late degree. If you’re not sure, post your chart data, and one of us will tell you which sign would be best. Try this for a few months, and see which ends up being consistently more accurate.

Readers would get much more accurate forecasts if they read the “right” horoscope. But try explaining this to a general audience. People just want their horoscopes. They don’t want to have to learn astrology or to go through an extra step of figuring out their Rising Sign. Many people don’t even know what time they were born.

Market research shows that, given a choice between Sun sign or Rising sign on a website, people invariably choose the former. I think this is only partly due to lack of knowledge. People identify with their astrological sign as though it were their tribe. Being an Aries or a Virgo is straightforward and comprehensible. And it’s a valid association for the most part, since most people exhibit the traits of their Sun sign (and some astrologers believe your Sun sign is indeed your soul’s tribe). Telling someone to read for a different sign is deeply confusing.

Astrology clearly is poised to go mainstream. There are many signs that this is happening, not the least of which is the proliferation of astrology blogs. Momentum has picked up further in the past year with the publication of Cosmos and Psyche, a major academic work by acclaimed author Richard Tarnas, and Michael Lutin’s article on Pluto in Capricorn in Vanity Fair magazine, which also won him an appearance on the Today Show in late December.

There’s a nice bit of irony here. As the author of Vanity Fair’s monthly horoscopes, Michael might rightly be called the king of Sun-sign astrology. If anyone could convince me that Sun-sign astrology is valid, it’s Michael Lutin. His readers swear by his accuracy. Rick Levine and his writing partner, Jeff Jawer, also get high marks. How is this possible?

Well, at least one-twelfth of their readers (in theory) have the same Sun and Rising signs, so any well-written Sun-sign horoscope will be amazingly right on for these folks. Even if your Rising sign is opposite or square your Sun sign, you’ll probably still get a pretty good read, depending on what aspects the astrologer uses in the forecast.

To get business, astrologers and astrology websites need to give people what they want, and right now they want Sun-sign astrology. Hopefully, as astrology becomes more accepted, a higher level of sophistication will prevail. Kind of like graduating from Boone’s Farm and Cella Lambrusco to Gallo jug wine and then, finally, to a full-bodied St. Emilion with notes of red fruits and chocolate.

Meanwhile, I’ve got a few ideas for helping people make that leap of consciousness. Stay tuned …

P.S. Although there will never be a substitute for a full consultation with a professional astrologer, I offer a couple of terrific natal reports, complete with a one-page analysis that I write just for you. Check them out here:
Evolving Self Natal Report
Soul Journey Karma Report

This is an edited version of an article that originally was published on The Pisces Chronicles on Oct. 11, 2007.

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