What’s the Difference Between a Zodiac and a Horoscope?

Astrology and horoscopes have been taking up Twitter by storm. Several viral accounts provide weekly predictions and sign-specific characteristics as tied with, say, Beyoncé songs or passive aggressive email sign-offs. As a self-professed millennial manghuhula, I regularly interject conversations with, “Wow, you’re really such a Libra,” or “Your horoscope today doesn’t seem great,” or “I think I just reached peak Virgo.”

We interchange the words “astrology,” “horoscope,” and “zodiac” on the regular. But what do they really mean?

A zodiac refers to the cosmic positions at the time of your birth.

The earth’s 360-degree orbit around the sun is divided every 30 degrees resulting in 12 equal parts, called zodiac signs. In astrology, the angles of the stars, the planets, and the sun at the time of your birth may reveal something about your personality, your physical traits, your relationships—this interpretation falls under horary astrology. Generally, when we say zodiac sign, we refer to our sun sign. You may find people saying “I’m a Sagittarius sun and Capricorn moon and Aries rising,” and think, what the hell are you on? This means they’ve got an understanding of their complete birth chart.

In short, the zodiac refers to the twelve signs from Aries to Pisces. You have a zodiac sign for every planet.

A horoscope is a prediction, a planetary diagram of a particular time.

Horary astrology is about making a chart of the planets and stars at a particular moment in question. A horoscope, then, details this chart, often with subjective elements like personal characteristics, motivations, future prediction. What’s tricky about the horoscope is that it’s often subject to human error. That’s why you see posts like “The signs as iconic as Mariah Carey’s shade” which rely heavily on zodiac stereotypes. And while some people marvel at the accuracy, others of the same sign may disagree. Interpretation becomes difficult because it often relies on creative function. It begs the question: Where do we draw the line between self-expression and accuracy?

Astrology is the umbrella term for the study of celestial bodies.

Whether you’re a skeptic or a believer, you fall into an astrological sign. But astrology gets a lot more complicated than just the position of the sun on the day of your birth. There’s the position of the solar system’s planets at a particular time of day, or month, or season. The same goes for the moon.

It’s highly regarded as a pseudo-science. I can hardly disagree, since astrology is a mix of maths and intuition. There aren’t any substantial claims that prove celestial alignment affects our personality. But hey, it’s fun and comforting to look to the stars as the world seems to fall apart.


Art by Lara Intong

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