First let us discuss the physical zodiac which is comprised of 12 main constellations also known as signs or rashis ( Aries - Taurus - Gemini - Cancer - Leo - Virgo - Libra - Scorpio - Sagittarius - Capricorn - Aquarius - Pisces ).
The zodiac is a band of stars that surrounds the earth like a ring. There are 12 main constellations that form this great ring around us. The stars that we see in the night sky are mostly very, very far away. Amongst the millions of stars in the night sky, the 7 planets and two invisible planets in Vedic Astrology exist also, although they are much closer and they move. Besides these few, very few, moving planets all the other stars are fixed out in space.
The zodiac is comprised of a band of these fixed stars, very far beyond the planets that form our immediate solar system. So you could say that the fixed stars of the night sky which includes the band called the zodiac altogether form the "back drop" of the sky or the back drop against which our solar system is moving.
For example, in astrology, we always speak of which sign a planet is in. The planets are not actually mixing in the stars at the sign, it is just that because the planet is circling with us around the sun, looking from earth towards the planet in question, we always see some sign of the zodiac as the back drop of that planet.
For example, picture yourself standing in the middle of a circular room. There are seven other people with you in the room. You, yourself and the 7 other people are all walking in circles around in the room. Some of you are closer to the wall, some of you are closer to the middle. You are all walking at different speeds, but you are all walking around the central point of the room. Some of you complete your circles around the center of the room on your own path very quickly and begin again, circling again and again. While others, walking closer to the outer edge, and perhaps walking slower due to their own natures, take longer to complete their circle around the room.
The wall of the room surrounding all of you is painted with 12 different distinct colored sections. One section is orange, the next section is green, the next section is red and so on. You are walking on the 3rd or 4th ring out from the middle of the room. When you look to your right or left you see the other walkers within the room. Whenever you look at any one of them, you see a colored back drop behind them from your relative view point. For example, you may look at the person on the 5th ring from the center, and when you look at them you see that behind them is the green section of the wall which is 1/12 of the circular wall surrounding all of you. If you were to refer to that person, you might say the 5th walker is in the green section. Looking yet at another person, you may see an old man on the very most outer ring, walking very slowly against the gray 1/12 of the back drop wall. You could then say, the old man who is on the outer most ring is currently in the gray section as he walks around the room.
In this way the various heavenly bodies known as grahas or planets are always, in relation to our vision, situated in front of one of the signs of the zodiac which is behind them. Thus we say that the planet is in a certain sign. It does not mean that the planet is actually in those stars at this time, but simply that that constellation (sign) is the back drop far away behind the planet as we gaze upon it. Apparently it is the will of the Lord that these relationships of the planets to signs and the houses in relation to us, is how the effects of the Gods can be read.
Our universe is so dependent upon the higher controlling demigods that what we see as our planet, the 12 divisions of space surrounding it (the houses) and the other floating planets in our solar system, are all actually a reflection of the dance of various demigods during the minute fraction of their day that passes while we have an entire lifetime. Their thoughts at a moment reflected in the planets, control our entire lives.
A real astrologer looks at the planets in a chart and having already become familiar with the nature of the demigods that each planet represents, can immediately tell the mood and effect upon the person whose chart it is. Vedic Astrology is actually a system of reading the effects of the demigods based on their positioning within a chart.
These three elements, the planets, signs and houses are the most important fundamental building blocks of Jyotish. One must become intimately familiar with the nature of these 33 items. Namely, 9 planets, 12 signs and 12 houses. After this there are 27 special stars or Nakshatras. The 27 Nakshatras are the most important stars in the zodiac. They are spaced roughly evenly around the zodiac and they control 13 degrees and 20 minutes of the zodiac each. Studying the Nakshatras or special stars will come later. First one must become familiar with the 33 main elements.
DESCRIPTION OF THE ZODIAC SIGNS
Aries is the positive sign of Mars, cardinal fire, the beginning of the zodiac and the head of the Cosmic Man (time personified), and a ram. As sign no. 1, Aries gives independence, force, self-expression and a strong personal orientation in life. Aries types are dynamic, aggressive, and competitive and possess much initiative. They often live in their heads and can have a penetrating power of perception.
They have scientific and logical abilities and may be good at research and invention, the development of new ideas. They are independent, adventurous and skillful in what they do. They possess strong emotions and passions but usually remain in control of them. They are often willful, impulsive or headstrong and can be critical or opinionated. Yet they can make good psychologists once they learn to examine themselves.
Less evolved Aries types may be angry, impulsive and manipulative, pushing their way in life and imposing their ideas and energies on others. Their impulses and instincts may drive them. Though martial, their martial energy is expressed more through the mind than the body. They are prone to argument but do not often resort to violence.
They may be a vain, self-indulgent or just overly preoccupied with themselves. While very good at developing strategies, they may become victims of their own cunning.
They can think about things too much and can give themselves ulcers. Aries types can be self-centered and are not always sensitive to others. They benefit from relationship to balance them out. They are usually initiating a new phase of manifestation. Their key to spiritual growth is to use their sharp minds to discover truth, not to promote themselves
Taurus is the negative sign of Venus, fixed earth, the face and neck of the Cosmic Man, a bull. As sign no. 2, it gives a strong sense of relationship, partnership and communication of feeling. Taurus types seek balance and harmony in individual relationships and in their organization of their immediate environment.
Taurus people are very stable, enduring and fixed in their ways. They have a strong sense of form and beauty and may become artists and poets. They are often attractive, particularly when young, and like to adorn themselves. They can be very possessive and may become businessmen, bankers or accumulate property. They are apt to be materialistic and sensual and like comfort, beauty, luxury or adornment around them. Yet they easily develop taste, refinement and grace.
They communicate with others well and associate readily with foreigners. They tend to become obstinate and do not like to more from a position once they have accepted it as their own. They are slow to anger but also slow to forgive and can even be cruel or insensitive to those outside of their circle of association. They possess good memories but may become sentimental or cling to the past. They like to live in their body and senses.
Taureans usually value stable and happy home and married lives. They can be very romantic and devotional and are often votaries of the idea that all is love. They are attached to the earth, often work with their hands and leave their mark of form on their practical environment. Their mode is to acquire, preserve and refine. Spiritually they are also more devotional and like tradition and ritual.
Gemini is the positive sign of Mercury, mutable air, the lower neck and shoulders of the Cosmic Man, twins or a couple (a man and a woman). As sign no. 3, it gives an energetic nature with a seeking of change and interchange, motion and invention.
Those in whom the influence of Gemini predominates are often nervous, restless and agitated. They possess quickness and adaptability of body and mind but can exhaust themselves through excessive activity. They have good intellects, along with excellent powers of speech and communication and a good command of language.
They may be writers, journalists or poets, or secretaries or computer programmers. They are good with information and statistics and may be scientists. There is a speculative side of their minds, however, and they can pursue ideas for their own sake or get caught up in their own unrealistic fantasies or worries. They usually love knowledge.
Gemini's are as mobile in human relationships as they are in mind and tend to marry more than once or have several partners. They may be strongly sexually oriented but must be careful, as their vital energy is not always as high as their imaginations.
They love stimulation and novelty and can get easily addicted to media or computer influences. They like anything that excites their nervous system or increases their velocity in life but thereby they can become hypersensitive or become neurotic.
Their agility of mind may cause them to become deceptive or unreliable and they can be tricky and hard to pin down. They may be indecisive and never bring anything to fruition. They are the most changeable of all types and always on the go, until their energy fails them. Once they come to seek inner knowledge rather than outer knowledge and sensation, they can become quite spiritual, as their energy is the most subtle and volatile of all the signs.
Cancer is the sign of the Moon (an even or negative sign), cardinal water, and the chest of the Cosmic Man, a crab. As sign no. 4, it shows a need for mental and emotional stability and happiness. Cancer people are usually open, friendly, sympathetic, caring and nurturing, as they are under the sign of the mother.
They value human relationship and the exchange of feelings, particularly on an intimate and personal level. They usually have many people in their homes or friends coming and going, including cooking or caring for them.
They seek popularity and are sensitive to the moods of the masses, through which they can gain social or political influence and recognition. Yet they may be over emotionally sensitive, shy, attached and dependent. They love their home and family but sometimes to the point of narrow mindedness. In the same way they can love their community, country or religion in an enclosure of feeling. Cancerians are devoted, loving and intuitive, often sensing immediately the feelings of others. They can have powerful imaginations, yet may be bound by subconscious fixations and attachments.
They are gentle, non-harmful but may become defensive or cowardly. They are just and frugal but sometimes lack in wills, initiative and courage. They are receptive and can become contemplative when they open up to the spiritual life and are usually of a devotional bent of mind. Yet what they follow they will represent and project to the world at large.
Once they feel connected they gain confidence, initiative and power and can shine over others like the Moon. Once they learn how to be receptive to truth, they can do great service in life and act with great power.
Leo is the sign of the Sun (positive), fixed fire the solar plexus of the Cosmic Man, a lion. As sign no. 5, it shows a need for order and harmony around a central will and character influence. Leo individuals possess a strong sense of self, character and will in life. They know who they are and want others to recognize it.
They are often proud, bold, ambitious and aristocratic. They respond strongly and personally to things and are dramatic, sometimes vain, in their self-expression. They like to attract attention and may talk a lot about themselves. They like to shine in social situations and may dominate others. They prefer to be the center of attention and value honor, respect and prestige. They are often strong souls and possessed of fine principles and good intelligence.
They can be refined in their manners or philosophical in their outlook on life. Leos have strong and noble hearts but can suffer from too powerful emotions or too much need for attention. They do not always do well in partnership and tend to form alliances with inferiors or to subordinate their partners to them. They may suffer from their children, as they do not always give them enough independence.
They like to turn others into satellites, which may in turn rebel against them. If they can control their pride they can develop much power of character that can take them through all the highs and lows of life and grant them a spiritual perception. Inwardly they can development the greatness of soul and character. As they have a high standard for themselves they can become very dejected if they fail or do not succeed as much as they wish. Fallen Leo types can be among the most miserable of people.
Virgo is the negative sign of Mercury, mutable earth, the intestines of the Cosmic Man, a virgin.
Like their Gemini counterparts, under the influence of Mercury, Virgo types possess good intellects, command of the language and nervous sensitivity. They make good teachers and have a strong sense of the facts. They also can project the healing ray of Mercury and make good doctors healers and can be good at yoga (particularly Hatha yoga).
They are more physical than Gemini's, like physical exercise and may excel as athletes. Their knowledge has a more practical or informational side to it and they are often good at trivia. Their knowledge is seldom theoretical. It is usually tied to some form or practical manifestation. They make for good craftsmen, draftsmen or artists, as they have a strong sense of form, line and detail. They may become actors, as they can easily learn how to discipline their expression and project their emotions. Virgos are more method actors than charismatic types, however.
Owing to their sensitive and changeable minds and nervous systems, they may become neurotic. They often suffer from a nervous or variable digestion and elimination. They are usually the weakest physically of the signs and can more likely come down with difficult to treat disorders or chronic diseases, particularly problems involving the nervous system.
Their body-mind coordination may fail them. Sexually they tend to be shy when young but are prone to excessive sexual activity when older, though it is seldom open or freely expressed. Virgos are often fussy, discriminating and exacting about details and like cleanliness and order.
Their discrimination sometimes has a spiritual orientation and they can be good at philosophies like Vedanta that are built on purity and discrimination. They are possessed of good and factual memories they are helpful and service oriented. They are good workers but can suffer from overwork or lack of recognition in what they does.
Libra is the positive sign of Venus, cardinal air, the lower abdomen of the Cosmic Man, the scales or balance. As sign no. 7, it gives leadership, power and command of ideas. Libra has a somewhat different meaning in the Vedic than in the western system. In its stronger manifestation it is the sign of reformers, revolutionaries, prophets, idealists and fanatics. Libra individuals have a strong sense of harmony, justice and balance, particularly in the realm of ideas.
They want to see heaven on earth. They are sensitive, humanitarian, and excitable and have the power to arouse and influence the masses. Their orientation is often political; in which sphere they often become leaders, even great generals.
They love the truth and are devoted to their ideals but may go too far in their zeal and become propagandists. They have a strong sense of the world or history as a whole as moving towards some ideal.
Their idealism may also express itself through art and drama, which for them becomes a vehicle of social change. They like fame and recognition and like to have an audience for their ideas and have a strong social sense. Librans are usually attractive and have a charisma that may become sexual.
They are not much concerned with home and family. But under the rule of Venus do like beauty around them, sometimes much like Taurus types. They like to have circles of beautiful or famous friends. They often like to live in the clouds and have strong connections with the higher astral plane.
They can attune themselves to the love truth and thereby quickly learn to transcend the world. By their sociable nature they are often successful and want to make a mark upon the world. They like business situations that give them administrative power or ability to influence others. Yet they can lose themselves in their goals and projects.
Scorpio is the negative sign of Mars, fixed water the sexual organs of the Cosmic Man, a scorpion. As sign no. 8 (2 x 4), it shows a need for balance and stability on a deeper or psychic level.
Scorpio is a very profound and mysterious sign. As the negative or physical side of Mars, Scorpio people are often soldiers, policemen or athletes. They like to use their martial force on a physical level and can be prone to the use of force. They usually have good muscles and like to exercise.
When mentally developed they have a good capacity for research and inquiry and may become chemists or surgeons. More evolved Scorpio types like to explore the depths of the mind and may have an interest in the occult and yoga (tantra). Their kundalini can often be easily aroused for good or ill.
They may like trying to work with or overcome negative forces and see life as a battle between light and darkness, with which they may become obsessed. They are often fascinated with techniques or technologies for directing energy, either outwardly or inwardly.
Scorpions can be very intelligent and perceptive but prefer to remain behind the scenes or do not express themselves quickly (not because they are slow but because they are cautious).
Scorpio types are intense, secretive, introverted and sometimes troubled. They have an active subconscious and must keep their emotions clear and pure, free of envy and attachment, or they can get stuck on an emotional level.
Yet by this sensitivity they may develop a philosophical disposition and profound insight that the other types attain to rarely. They can be caught in their solar plexus and the accumulation of personal power. They need to surrender to the heart. The eagle, the profundity of vision and transcendence needed to subdue the serpent, symbolizes the higher side of Scorpio.
Sagittarius is the positive sign of Jupiter, mutable fire, the hips of the cosmic man, a horse, centaur or archer. As sign no. 9, it shows grace, beneficence, completion and full harmony (3 x 3), the manifestation of the will in action. Sagittarius individuals project the positive side of Jupiter. They have a positive attitude in life, an expansive spirit, and a moral, religious or philosophical disposition. They have a strong sense of principle, law and justice. They are usually warm and friendly, dramatic and seek to develop their principles in life.
They make themselves noticed and can easily become active or involved with the expansion of the social forces they open up to. On the other hand, they can be too conventional, too law-abiding and overly moralistic, caught in some dogmatic idea. They may become lawyers, religious leaders or successful businessmen. They like to be generous but like to stay within the convention of the society, or the group or organization with which they are involved.
They possess critical minds and strong opinions but are prone to become self-righteous. Their minds may be too discriminating and fault finding and they may be unable to see their own limitations. Sagittarius are often athletic, though not always competitive, like the outdoors, enjoy the wilderness, and become are lovers of nature
They have a sense of play or even partying, which may become self-indulgence or group indulgence. They find it hard to settle down. They are lucky in life and things often come easy for them.
The world often responds quickly and favorably to them. They can inherit much from father or family. They are a helpful presence in any enterprise, as they bring much enthusiasm and make good and devoted friends. Yet, however, successful they may be in the material world, they usually retain some sense of higher aspiration and are attracted to religion or the spiritual life.
Capricorn is the negative sign of Saturn, cardinal earth, the knees of the Cosmic Man, a crocodile. As sign no. 10, it shows the state of power, order and complete organization. Capricorn is often the lowest and the highest of the signs in terms of achievement in life. It is the sign of practical realization. On the material level, this can create much worldliness and obstinacy and make people selfish. Less evolved Capricorn types may be sons of the earth, farmers who know little beyond their farm.
Somewhat more evolved is the hardheaded Capricorn businessman who saves everything for some eventual great gain. On the spiritual level, Capricorn can give the capacity to manifest spiritual principles in daily life and practical work. Capricorn types are hardworking, persevering, tenacious and have the power for eventual great accomplishments.
They usually have to work for themselves and learn to value everything that comes through their own effort. They start slowly in life, often encounter many obstacles along the way, but thereby create the energy for long term success. They are ambitious but often narrow in their goals and rigid or cutting in their opinions. They can be shrewd at business and are often good in science and technology, with a strong mathematical sense.
They tend to be traditional and may have much past life karma in traditional and oriental cultures. They often need to learn more self-surrender; to take themselves less seriously and to be less concerned about the outer form of things. They are often detached from their emotions, either by lower sensate or higher intellectual or spiritual values, or by conventionality or just being caught in the senses.
Aquarius is the positive sign of Saturn, fixed air, the lower legs of the Cosmic Man, the pot or the Water Bearer. As sign no. 11, it indicates the group and the need to understand what individuality really is. Aquarius individuals are the most self-negative of all types. On a higher level, they have more faith and the capacity to surrender the ego to the Divine. On a lower level, they have more belief in others and tend to denigrate themselves towards the ego demands of others or peer group influences. For this reason, they tend more towards sexual deviations than the other signs.
They are prone to do what they are told not to do and to befriend those they are told to avoid. In this way their energy can be blocked, dissipated, confused or darkened. On a higher level, they are willing to sacrifice themselves for the good of all and may be strongly humanitarian.
On a lower level, they may accept a subservient, servile or even degrading role in life, and not protest against the injustice inflicted upon them. They like to take the side of the oppressed, rejected the outcaste or disapproved elements of society. They often have much guilt and like to blame themselves.
They act selflessly relative to what they repose their faith in. If that is the Divine they may become saintly. If it is some criminal group, they can even become underworld leaders. Aquarians may be eccentric and scattered in what they do, unclear as to who they are. They lack charisma and often fail as political leaders to attract the masses. Yet by their faith and devotion, they are often successful as religious leaders and teachers. The water they bring is that of truth from their intuitive perception.
Pisces is the negative sign of Jupiter, mutable water, the feet of the cosmic man, the fishes. As sign no. 12, it shows the complete display of all possibilities but not necessarily their proper integration. Pisces individuals are emotional, expansive, intuitive and imaginative. They are enthusiastic but not always wisely so. They like to influence others but are easily influenced themselves and may be vulnerable or impressionable.
They are friendly and communicative and like people and can relate to a variety of people. They can easily become dependent or make others dependent upon them. They are often sentimental and easily moved by feelings, including those that are not genuine.
They are friendly and compassionate but can be moved by sympathy and pity. When frustrated in life, they often develop self-pity. They are usually attached to the past for good or ill and may accept the values of the culture and religion they are born into. However, they are susceptible to missionary type influences and like demonstrations of faith. They like ceremony and ritual enjoy music and can be good musicians.
Pisceans often lack in boundaries and may not have enough clarity and practicality. They can be amorphous, hard to pin down and will appear so as to please others or reflect the influence of the moment.
As a mutable and emotional sign, they tend towards emotional disorders and may have sensitive digestive and nervous systems. They are not often good leaders but make good followers or promoters.
They can lack in self-confidence or they can have too many impractical ideas about themselves but wish to achieve a lot in life. They can become dependent on or addicted to sugar or alcohol and often need special acknowledgement or approval. They need to control their imaginations and develop more discrimination. Once they do this they can reflect the creative joy of the soul.