People have always watched the night sky. As evidenced by cave paintings and other artifacts, humans were aware of lunar cycles as long as 25,000 years ago, and the ancient Egyptians based their calendar on the rising and setting of stars and constellations.
Astrology, a divination practice based on the positions of celestial bodies (as opposed to astronomy, a scientific discipline concerned with their physical properties), proposes that the placement of constellations at the time of our birth can lend insights into our characters and even predict our futures. For those who believe in it, it can be a guide to understanding where we’re going and where we’ve been.
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In Western astrology, the beginnings of which historians trace to Mesopotamia from about 1900 BCE to 1700 BCE, personalities are said to be set by the positions of the 12 constellations in the region of the sky known as the Western Zodiac. But other cultures developed their own astrological systems.
In China, for instance, astrology—which gained popularity during the Zhan Guo period (fifth century BCE)—is based on a lunar calendar and a 12-year cycle with a different animal (rat, rooster, dragon, and so on) holding sway each year; it does not rely on observations of the stars. And in India, Vedic astrology draws on the same 12 zodiac signs as in the West but includes karmic interpretations and determines the timing of the star signs on the basis of the actual, physical positions of the sky’s constellations (as opposed to a fixed date, as in Western astrology).
Artworks incorporating astrological images have been around for as long as astrology itself. Here are 13 of them.