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Asclepius (also cited as Aesculapius, Asklepius, and Asklepios), the Greek God of Healing through Dreams, was the subject of an in-depth article that I penned on Dream Interpretation Using Astrology and Myth in the current (Feb/Mar 2011) issue of The Mountain Astrologer.

Greek myth tells us that because Asclepius was able to literally bring people back from the dead, he was killed by Zeus with a thunderbolt. Later, remorseful Zeus placed Asclepius in the sky as the image Ophiuchus, the Serpent Bearer. Sandwiched in between Scorpio and Sagittarius, barely touching the ecliptic, stands a giant serpent holder…a giant man in the sky, the image of Ophiuchus.

The serpent represents the Kundalini and the double helix of the DNA. Images of serpents and bulls appear all over the ancient world (in Babylonia, Egypt, Greece, etc.) beginning around the time that Gemini and Taurus were rising and Ophiuchus was setting in the precessional scheme in the sky, a vivid demonstration of As Above So Below.  During the era when the signs of Gemini and Taurus rose at the Vernal Equinox (approximately 6,000 to 4,000 years ago), the stars of Scorpio and Sagittarius were on the western horizon, including the sign in the middle of those two: Ophiuchus. Testaments to these signs as guiding beacons are the numerous emblems carved in stones, painted on fresco walls, and left as bas-reliefs by our predecessors. Especially noteworthy is the emblem of the snake wrapped around the healing rod caduceus as the identifying cult symbol for the followers of Asclepius (Ophiuchus) at this time. And that emblem has endured through time. Hippocrates, considered the father of modern medicine, is a descendant of Asclepius. The caduceus symbol of serpentine healing power can be seen all over the world in hospitals, healing clinics, ambulances and everywhere people go in attempts to obtain healing cures for all types of disorders and illness.


The 13th sign is somewhat obscured from view and is not typically included in the zodiac of twelve signs that astrologers generally use. This may be due to the fact that only the feet of Ophiuchus are visible from the ecliptic (see star diagram above), with the rest of his body towering above the constellations and not contained within the rest of the zodiac. In fact, one foot of Ophiuchus is smashing the Scorpion’s claws, while the other foot is where the Archer’s arrow is aimed. Nevertheless, astrologers definitely know it is there, and I for one, have been an advocate for including the interpretation of Ophiuchus in people’s charts ever since I first learned of his existence from the lectures and articles of astrologer Robert Hand, some thirty years ago. In other words, if a person’s horoscope contains many points in late Scorpio and early to mid Sagittarius, then they are indeed “born” under the influence of Ophiuchus, and the healing wisdom of Asclepius and Chiron is inherent in that person’s repertoire of opportunities, abilities, and influences in life.

Chiron the centaur, a recent addition to our solar system, orbits between Saturn and Uranus, while the rest of the centaurs’ orbits lie beyond Pluto. Due to Chiron’s unique orbit, distinct from the rest of the body of centaurs located beyond the orbit of Pluto, and because he was the god-father and mentor to Asclepius (Ophiuchus), I have come to proclaim Chiron as the ruler of the 13th sign. This Ophiuchus constellation takes up almost a half of each of the signs mentioned earlier (Scorpio and Sagittarius). A great deal of Scorpio symbolism for healing, depth, penetrating beneath the surface (including journeys to the unconscious realm), and transformation are all related to Ophiuchus. As for the symbolism of Sagittarius? The sage, the interest in philosophy, and the burning desire to know the meaning of life are also contained in the mysteries of Ophiuchus and its serpent-kundalini energy source.


Arielle Guttman and  Kenneth Johnson, Mythic Astrology: Internalizing the Planetary Powers, Llewellyn Publications, 1993-2004.

Arielle Guttman and  Kenneth Johnson, Mythic Astrology Applied: Personal Healing through the Planets, Llewellyn Publications, 2004.

Both volumes are available through Arielle’s website:

© Arielle Guttman 2011.

Thank you, Arielle, for bringing the story of Ophiuchus so clearly into our awareness.

Here are some other commentators on the current re-appearance of the 13th sign. Enjoy!

Rob Hand’s classic article, On the Invariance of the Tropical Zodiac, is an “inquiry into a fundamental problem that has to do with the tropical versus sidereal zodiac controversy”

Theodore White writes The 13th Zodiac Sign? Astrologers Ask: “Where’s the Beef?” complete with (funny) TV and YouTube clips about the “big discovery,” moving graphics showing precession, astronomers throughout history,  and the mythology of Ophiuchus.

Your Astrological Sign Isn’t Changing But It Was Fun While It Lasted includes a video clip of Rachel Maddow’s commentary about the molten core of the earth.

The Daily Beast has a report  on the story, with comments by “astrologists” Susan Miller and Rob Brezsny.

Lynn Hayes is a very clear writer and she easily explains the difference in the tropical and sidereal zodiacs in her article Your “zodiac sign” has not changed!

Here’s a video from Fox with good  graphics and a very nice presentation from astrologer Chris Taylor.

Gary Caton, in his letter to astronomers, writes: “Hey Astronomers, WAKE UP! Constellations are not Signs. Please learn some basic astrology or else leave the Signs to us.”

And, I did see a news clip of the astronomer who started the latest version of the “discovery” of the 13th sign (since removed) where he talks about his take on the media event. He’s just happy people are thinking about the sky. We couldn’t agree more.

Have a good week everyone.


  1. I found this fascinating, because I am a foot reflexologist and I have the Scorpio-Sagittarius cusp (Ophiuchus)in my 6th House of healing and another major point in my chart at the end of Scorpio holding tight to the foot of Ophiuchus. I have been a proponent of this healing modality for 40+ years. Thank you Arielle and Ophiuchus!

  2. I read Hand’s article. Wonderful! Perhaps to add more confusion, I have this to offer. My spiritual teacher, now out of the body, was an astrologer. In fact, she constantly adjoured me to cast horaries, which I am finally learning about. In any case, she would have said that both zodiacs have their purposes. The tropical rules the first three chakras; thus, in consulting w Judith Hill, I am comfortable w her use of the tropical zodiac for physical health. And w classical medical astrology’s use of it. However, the sidereal chart rules the heart chakra, and it rules the energy-body. I am still learning how to use this. To complicate things further, we know that the constellations are not nearly regular. This makes Jyotish a bit of a problem for me. I am so grateful for the diaglogue here.

  3. Hello Arielle, thanks for sharing your perspective. I went to your website to read about your new book, and can’t wait to read it. My Venus Star is in Gemini, an evening star, and the current Venus cycle we are in (2004-2012) has been highly influential for me in terms of connecting to what I most love.

  4. I also am curious to apply Chiron to Ophiuchus in the charts of clients with late Scorpio, early Sag and see what comes to the surface.

    Thank you.

  5. Thank you Arielle. I shared your article with friends.

    I loved all the links too! Especially Theodore White’s Global Astrology. His take on all the craziness about Ophiuchus is so funny! I could not stop laughing!

    Then he gets down to explaining precession and what Ophiuchus means in mundane astrology. Enlightening and very fascinating. This is why I love the Mountain Astrologer. Give me more!

  6. Thanks for the mention Mary and thanks Arielle for telling the story of Asclepius. I think its great that people bring the rich mythology of the constellations into their work!

    But I guess my Virgo side thinks that calling a constellation a sign and/or acknowledging the possibility of a 13th sign is problematic because it blurs the distinctions between constellations, signs and zodiacs. This is why Shamanic astrologers call the constellations something different than the signs -ie “Goat-Fish” for the constellation Capricornus and Capricorn for the tropical sign.

    Also, because the 12 tropical signs are based on the division of 4 seasons into beginning, middle and end, technically the tropical zodiac cannot have a 13th sign unless it also has a 14th, 15th and 16th.

  7. The idea of Ophiuchus as a thirteenth sign is an interesting one. However, the fact should not be overlooked that the inscribed circle of a 4 x 4 square matrix divides naturally into 12 equal arc-lengths, each of 30 degrees, by the cell boundaries. This, I think, is the true origin of the Zodiac, the constellations having been contrived later to fit this pattern.

  8. There is some confusion with this sign: The Caduceus is Hermes symbol. The Rod of Asclepius is similar, but with only one snake, not 2, nor is it winged.

    Interesting the Jupiter Uranus in Pisces confusion with this so called 13th sign. It represents mystery, yet does not really fit in with the 12 signs of the Zodiac. The number 12 is a Magic number and has incredible significance & more power than the number 13, which has been associated with the occult and magic used for not so good purposes.

    I believe there is a reason there are 12 signs of the Zodiac, a secret reason & a very powerful reason. The Universe has many mysteries & the Zodiac holds the keys to the doorways of time and the Divine.

    • I certainly don’t believe nor subscribe to the theory that a 13th sign is “not so good”. There are thirteen lunar cycles in a year. The number thirteen has been considered evil and condemned by church authorities for many centuries now, no doubt having to do with the connection to feminine mysteries.

      I am grateful to one of the participants of a Dream Healing Workshop I facilitated a few years ago for gaining an insight that the figure of Ophiuchus is mysteriously shrouded between Scorpio and Sagittarius and to become an initiate of Asclepius/Ophiuchus one has to really stop and take notice, entering his realm through the feet and journeying upward. Many people do not take notice of the mysteries and many people do not take notice of their dreams. Asclepius, being the Dream Healing god was placed as Ophiuchus. My experience has shown through the observation of many charts, that planets or significant points in Ophiuchus do correlate to the meaning of healing, resurrection and dreaming that is so much a part of the legacy.

      The original serpent symbol of healing was Asclepius’ rod which contained one snake. At a much later time, the caduceus (of Hermes) contains two. In the modern world, two snakes exist on the caduceus where medicine is practiced “for profit” while the single serpent is associated with organizations that offer healing as a service to all, regardless of their ability to pay. This is in keeping with the standards practiced in the ancient Asclepian Dream Temples as well.

      • I pointed out your use of the Caduceus as Asceplius’ Rod as erroneous. The 2 are not the same, as pointed out in the article.

        I said that the “number” 13 has been used for not so good purposes. Again, there seems to be much confusion as seen by the Jupiter Uranus conjunction in Pisces, not to mention the Neptune Chiron conjunction in Aquarius casting a light on this ancient knowledge.

        Seems like the prophecies for 2012 & Ophiucus are coming true. Ophiucus has been a part of astrological knowledge for any with in depth astrology study. The fact that it hasn’t been used by Western Astrology is not oversight.

        We are a Sun ruled people, feminine mysteries have their place in the subconscious of the archetypal mind, enlightenment comes with the Solar ruled Zodiac archetypes. We all start out in the dark, but our path is toward the Light.

        I’ve studied the Feminine mysteries & the Goddess archetypes that have surrendered to the Solar God of the modern day world. There is a time and place for everything under the “Sun.” Note also that we are headed into the “Golden” Age of Man, the Age of Aquarius is now, the Piscesean age is ending as foretold by Christ.

        This new interest and stir with Ophiucus is a sign of the times, it ties in with 2012 predictions. It is one thing to see it as something positive, but one must also take in the facts of why it was not used and what it symbolizes during these End Times.

        On another note, the Sagittarian influence is part of the Galactic Circle, and in the Silby chart of the USA, 12 degrees Sagittarius is on the rise. Mysteries unfold.

        • *Piscean Age

        • *Ophiuchus

  9. One other thing to not forget is the center of the galactic circle & the sign Sagittarius, these are truly significant times we live in. I Thank God that the Sign Sagittarius leads the way. Sagittarius contains the mysteries & shows us the way out of the darkness.

  10. Much thanks to Arielle for her work on Ophiuchus and the possible 13th house.

    I was born during the space/time between Sagittarius and Scorpio and I always thought of myself as a Sagittarian, but now I see that I am more Orphiuchan, having the foot of the Serpent Healer kicking me in the butt to get on with my healing work of uncovering the past-life mysteries of my astrological and hypnotherapy clients.

    My Sun is conjunct out-of-bounds Mercury in my 6th Healer House, a little widely opposed to Chiron in my 12th house of Hidden Mysteries. So I am a dedicated healer. And if that weren’t enough, I have Antares as my heliacal rising star, which Bernadette Brady describes as a driving a person with “passion and obsession.” I note that Antares is the Heart of the Scorpion. WOW!!

  11. I like the idea of Chiron as the ruler of Ophiuchus. Good old Chiron, with his both/and approach to truth. Maybe we as astrologers are being challenged to use less rigid thinking; yes, the philosophical and mystical history of the twelve sign zodiac is meaningful and “correct” and yet there is also a 13th sign…I believe our minds are capable of containing such a paradox. Chiron is an archetypal teacher, and I do feel like a student in a college seminar again with this latest astrological lesson…and just when I was feeling comfortable with Pluto not being a “planet” anymore!

  12. I have some intuition that ancient Lemuria in the Pacific had a 13-house zodiac and that the Anunnaki
    who settled in the Middle East when they came to Earth decided that they didn’t want to hear about healing and snake constellations and made the 12 house zodiac. I am told that the Anunnaki giants had 6 fingers, so 6 + 6 = 12, which is a nice number for doing division and making zodiacal houses. So we have the number 12 all over our culture. And 6 x 60 = 360° of arc in our zodiac. Maybe once upon a time, Earth orbited our sun in 360 days. I don’t claim to be a great mathematician, but I can count this much. Probably some sort of catastrophe gave us 5 more days in our year.

  13. My local online newspaper asked for my comments, and here’s what I wrote to put it in the simplest terms I could:
    “In an amazing display of how misinformation spreads like a bad virus, the “breaking news” that everyone’s Astrology sign has changed somehow is showing up all over the media.
    This is indeed ridiculous, but it comes up every few years and people say a lot of silly things.
    The Astrological signs originally coincided (roughly) with the Astronomical constellations. (I say roughly because some constellations take up way more than 1/12 of the ecliptic, which is the path of the sun). The ancients were aware of astronomical subtleties like the solstices and equinoxes, and they observed that the Sun rose in the constellation Aries at the Spring equinox. In designating this alignment as the beginning of their year, they also made it the beginning of their sign system.
    What the ancients didn’t know was that the alignment they observed was not a constant. Over a longer period of observation, people realized that the Sun rose in front of different stars at equinox, and the gap was growing gradually larger. Therein arises the dilemma. Where do you begin your zodiac? (I.e., what is 0 Aries?) Is it a particular point in the star configuration, or is it the equal day-night point in the year (aka equinox)? The former was chosen by some systems (ours for example), the latter by others.
    Modern Western Astrology, the kind most of us are familiar with, determines 0 Aries as the point rising at the date of Spring Equinox. Vedic Astrology and Oriental systems are constellation-based, and Astronomy doesn’t use a zodiac. So if you’re using mainstream Astrology, the equinox (March 21, give or take) is 0 Aries and the dates of sign beginnings are constant within a day or two each year. Your sign doesn’t change.
    If you’re consulting a Vedic or sidereal Astrologer, you may indeed be a different sign. But this is certainly nothing new, and nothing to freak out about unless you enjoy looking like a ninny.
    The phenomenon we’re talking about is called the precession of the equinoxes, and it accounts for the much-discussed Turning of the Ages. During the recent Age, the equinox has occurred against the backdrop of the constellation Pisces. At some (disputed) time, that shifts to Aquarius. The change arises from the top-like wobbling of the Earth’s axis; the positions of the south and north celestial poles appear to move in circles against the space-fixed backdrop of stars, completing one circuit in 25,771.5 years (2000 rate) (from Wikipedia
    The interjection of Ophicius is a separate and spurious issue. Someone arbitrarily decided there weren’t enough signs and stuck this one in. No basis in anything.
    This kind of misinformation “meme” (viral idea) is frustrating to Astrologers on one level, but I hope this explanation helps people to understand their physical reality better.”

    Those who are intrigued with Ophiucus might want to look up the many articles in TMA’s past that discuss fixed star Astrology. It should not be confused with the zodiac system.

    Still and all, this reveals what a big job we have to do to educate the public in the most basic aspects of what we do. Is this an assignment we want to take on?

  14. Jenny,
    What a wonderful response to the media and the people from the astronomical community, who, every few years try to slam astrology as completely incoherent. Being an astrologer for 36 years, I have seen this ripple occur numerous times already. I believe it is time for the astrological community to come together with a coherent statement of unity about certain fundamental principles of astrology, such as the different zodiacs, the 13th constellation and the basic tenets concerning the systems we employ in our interpretations. Is there someone out there that would be willing to put together an online guide to some of the most frequently asked questions (and challenges posed by outsiders) of astrology? Perhaps a well-educated committee could charter a set of FAQ’s that we could turn to. We are all asked by local media to comment on these things when they come up (such as rare eclipses and other astronomical phenomenon) and though we all have our own spin on the interpretation of the events, it would be great to reference certain facts. With 2012 just around the corner, you know for absolutely certain that we are all going to get media blitz with “what do the astrologers think?”

  15. Mary, thanks so much for the mention here. What a great way to expose the public to “real” astrology.

  16. Hello Arielle, Hello Mary, Hello All,

    Dear Arielle, Dear Mary, I’d like to publicly go on record to say that I sincerely appreciate your astrological writings on this TMA blog, and elsewhere. That said, I completely disagree with the idea of Chiron “RULING” any sign. To be a truly mythic astrologers, we should only apply the character and personality of the mythological being in question in a manner keeping with that unique character and personality. Kings, Queens, gods and goddesses RULE. Mythic Chiron was none of these. In fact, he was described as the “humblest” of beings. Mythically, he ruled nothing.

    I know that there is a no-context-that-I-know reference to Chiron as being in charge of the other centaurs. The later makes no sense, for two reasons. First, Chiron was of different parentage, and second, the wild centaurs were not lead by a wild Chiron, nor kept from becoming “unruly” by Chiron’s powerful rule. At best, he could fight them and run them off, if need be. Chiron ruled no seas, no sky, held no throne. He co-existed with Nature in a cave on Mt. Pelion.

    Long ago in THE MOUNTAIN ASTROLOGER I wrote a piece about the fictional character Mr. Spock from Star Trek. Leonard Nimoy, who portrayed Spock in the program series. He told of the exact moment of the creation of that character. The corresponding astrological put Chiron on the Ascendant. I laid out the mythic parallels between Chiron and Spock. I only mention this in order to pose a question whose answer is self-evident. Did Spock lust for power, to “rule”? Of course not, and neither did/does Chiron, in my opinion.

    Before writing about Chiron, I looked not into Chiron’s myth in depth and breadth much deeper and broader than the (wince) “wounded healer” cliche. Similarly, before any significant writing, I also studied Chiron in over 1,000 accurate natal charts. I saw no strong lust to rule in Chiron-prominent charts.

    If we are evolving or ever will evolve as a species, as astrologers, may we realize that we do not need to expand and perpetuate hierarchical dominance models of social and conceptual organization.

    “Doc Chiron” (Dale O’Brien)

  17. This was an interesting story, but it missed a few additional interesting facts. Nostradamus wrote considerably about the “secret sign” which many now interpret as Ophiuchus and which will play a major role in his predictions about the approaching 2012 events (The History story produced an interesting story on this). Also, the Galactic Center is found within Ophiuchus – meaning that on December 21 2012 the Earth, Sun, and center will form a line right through this sign.

  18. Correction: I meant to indicate the History Channel.

  19. […] The Mountain Astrologer not only has a great hard copy magazine, its weekly blog keeps you up to the minute on newsworthy events, both in the heavens and in the headlines. I particularly liked their recent blog post on the controversy about the constellation Ophiuchus. […]

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