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Origin of astrology, Chinese astrology and gemstones

Updated on February 14, 2013

Ask most people what their sign is and you have a very, very good chance that they will be able to tell you without having to think about it. A lot of people (mostly women) can name the birthstone of their month and/or the one associated with their birth sign. There are equally a lot of individuals, maybe not as many as with regular astrology, that can tell you their Chinese astrological sign. Where did they each originate?

Origin of Astrology

Astrology, which means “knowledge of the stars” is an ancient science, older then even astronomy and psychology. It has roots in calendrical systems that were used to predicts seasonal shifts and interpret celestial cycles. It was, before the 17th century, considered a scholarly tradition and helped develop astrology.

The earliest known astrological records date back to Babylon, around 1700 BC while the earliest horoscope dates back to 410 BC. Other locations show a long standing use of astrology like Egypt, Greece, and Rome where the most learned men (and two emperors) were astrologers who wrote laws and counseled their citizens based on the stars. During the Renaissance era, almanacs started publishing astrologic information for the general public. Astrology began to lose credibility when predictions about the great conjunction of 1524 didn’t come true and by the end of the 17th century, with concepts in astronomy emerging that undermined the theoretical basis of astrology, it lost its academic standing.

The more that science and astronomy gained respect, astrology fell to the wayside although there were still individuals that practiced the art. Astrology only found new found popularity in 1930 with the birth of Princess Margaret. The London Sunday Express had run an astrological profile of the princess to celebrate her birth, which began the modern newspaper horoscope column.


History of birthstones

A birthstone is simply a gemstone that is used, generally in personal jewelry. Every month has an assigned gemstone that traditionally has qualities that symbolize the month (and therefore the person) that was born in that month.

The origin of the birthstone is thought to date back to the twelve stones that were in Aaron's breastplate which contained twelve stones representing the twelve tribes of Israel. Through time, the practice became to keep twelve stones and wear a different one every month.

Traditional birthstones are society-based birthstones and since a lot of cultures had their own list of monthly birthstones, the jewelers’ lists are quite often inconsistent with the traditional birthstones. In 1912 the National Association of Jewelers met in Kansas to adopt an official list. This list was later updated in 1952 making a few changes to the original list. One further change was done in 2002 which saw tanzanite added as a December birthstone. Britain created their own standardized list of birthstones in 1937.

There are legends and myths surrounding birthstones and their healing powers. According to legend, wearing a gemstone during the assigned month heightens its healing powers. Each gem has a unique light that vibrates from it and it transmits these properties to you. Depending on their properties, their effects can be uplifting, warm, soothing depending on the metaphysical properties of the gem.

The same stones represent the months of the year and the signs of the zodiac. Unfortunately, the zodiac signs don't align with the months themselves which makes things a little confusing. The same birthstones representing a month also represent a zodiac sign, even though the sign begins in one month and ends in another. For example, the birthstone for January is the garnet and the stone for Capricorn (Dec. 22nd to Jan. 21st) is also the garnet. If your birthday is near the end of the month and your sign is the second sign of that month (you may prefer December's stone, the turquoise over the garnet), that birthstone is known as your twelfth house gem. The "twelfth house" represents psychic energy and while it won't give off the energy of who you are (because it's not your zodiac sign gem), you will pick up the energy of those around you.


Chinese Zodiac

Chinese astrology relates 12 different animals, and that animals’ attributes, to a year and works on a 12-year cycle. Unlike what most people believe, there a more animal signs “assigned” to you than just the one for your birth year. The animal assigned by year represents what others perceive you as being or how you present yourself to others. There are also animal assigned by month (known as inner animals), by day (true animals) and hours (secret animals).

Unfortunately, there is no definitive story explaining the origin of the Chinese Zodiac, just folk stories attempting to explain it. In one story, Since the Han Dynasty, the 12 Earthly Branches have been used to record the time of day. But, for the sake of entertainment and forconvenience they were changed and replaced by 12 animals.

Another folk story says that the 12 animals were called to a meeting (or a race, or banquet depending on which version you hear) by the Jade Emperor. The Emperor had decreed that the order that they arrived to this meeting determined their place in the zodiac. The rat arrived 1st, the ox 2nd, the tiger 3rd, etc… the stories all have the basic idea it’s how the animals all actually got there that is the main difference.

Astrology is a subject that seems to be never-ending. Besides the gemstones that are associated with your zodiac sign, there are assigned flowers, colors, planets, animals, metals, elements, parts of the anatomy and seasons. Each sign of the zodiac has one of each that it “rules” which will be seen later on with a hub for each sign.


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