Ophiuchus (pronounced off-ee-YOO-cuss) represents a man with a snake coiled around his waist. He holds the head of the snake in his left hand and its tail in his right hand. The snake is represented by the constellation Serpens.
Ophiuchus holds a huge snake, Serpens, in both hands as shown in the Atlas Coelestis of John Flamsteed (1729). Serpens is unique in being divided into two halves.
The Greeks identified him as Asclepius, the god of medicine. Asclepius was the son of Apollo and Coronis (although some say that his mother was Arsinoë). The story goes that Coronis two-timed Apollo by sleeping with a mortal, Ischys, while she was pregnant by Apollo. A crow brought Apollo the unwelcome news, but instead of the expected reward the crow, which until then had been snow-white, was cursed by Apollo and turned black.
In a rage of jealousy, Apollo shot Coronis with an arrow. Rather than see his child perish with her, Apollo snatched the unborn baby from its mother’s womb as the flames of the funeral pyre engulfed her, and took the infant to Chiron, the wise centaur (represented in the sky by the constellation Centaurus).
Chiron raised Asclepius as his own son, teaching him the arts of healing and hunting. Asclepius became so skilled in medicine that not only could he save lives, he could also raise the dead.
Asclepius and the snake
On one occasion in Crete, Glaucus, the young son of King Minos, fell into jar of honey while playing and drowned. As Asclepius contemplated the body of Glaucus, a snake slithered towards it. He killed the snake with his staff; then another snake came along with a herb in its mouth and placed it on the body of the dead snake, which magically returned to life. Asclepius took the same herb and laid it on the body of Glaucus, who too was magically resurrected. (Robert Graves suggests that the herb was mistletoe, which the ancients thought had great regenerative properties, but perhaps it was actually willow bark, the source of salicylic acid, the active ingredient in aspirin.) Because of this incident, says Hyginus, Ophiuchus is shown in the sky holding a snake, which became the symbol of healing from the fact that snakes shed their skin every year and are thus seemingly reborn.
Others, though, say that Asclepius received from the goddess Athene the blood of Medusa the Gorgon. The blood that flowed from the veins on her left side was a poison, but the blood from the right side could raise the dead.
Someone else supposedly resurrected by Asclepius was Hippolytus, son of Theseus, who died when he was thrown from his chariot (some identify him with the constellation Auriga, the Charioteer). Reaching for his healing herbs, Asclepius touched the youth’s chest three times, uttering healing words, and Hippolytus raised his head.
Hades, god of the Underworld, began to realize that the flow of dead souls into his domain would soon dry up if this technique became widely known. He complained to his brother god Zeus who struck down Asclepius with a thunderbolt. Apollo was outraged at this harsh treatment of his son and retaliated by killing the three Cyclopes who forged Zeus’ thunderbolts. To mollify Apollo, Zeus made Asclepius immortal (in the circumstances he could hardly bring him back to life again) and set him among the stars as the constellation Ophiuchus.
Stars of Ophiuchus
The head of Ophiuchus is marked by its brightest star, second-magnitude Alpha Ophiuchi, called Rasalhague from the Arabic meaning ‘the head of the serpent collector’. Beta Ophiuchi is called Cebalrai from the Arabic for ‘the shepherd’s dog’; the Arabs visualized a shepherd (the star Alpha Ophiuchi) along with his dog and some sheep in this area. Ptolemy in the Almagest located Beta Ophiuchi in the serpent holder’s right shoulder, along with Gamma; the left shoulder is marked by Iota and Kappa Ophiuchi. A scattering of stars between the right shoulder of Ophiuchus and the tail of the serpent once formed the short-lived constellation Taurus Poniatovii.
Delta and Epsilon Ophiuchi are called Yed Prior and Yed Posterior. These are compound names, formed from the Arabic al-yad, meaning ‘hand’, with the Latin words Prior and Posterior added to give names meaning the ‘leading’ and ‘following’ parts of the hand, where Ptolemy had located them. The hand in question is the left one; the right hand, according to Ptolemy, was marked by the stars we now know as Nu and Tau Ophiuchi, but these have no proper names. Zeta and Eta Ophiuchi are his left and right knees, Rho and Theta Ophiuchi are in his feet.
Ophiuchus, along with the southern part of Hercules and much of Serpens, was in an area of sky that the ancient Chinese visualized as a celestial market, Tianshi, bracketed on the east and west by walls. The left (east) wall of Tianshi started in Hercules and headed south via Serpens Cauda, ending in Ophiuchus at Eta Ophiuchi. The right (west) wall ran southwards from Hercules via Serpens Caput and ended with Delta, Epsilon and Zeta Ophiuchi.
Alpha Ophiuchi (Rasalhague) was known to ancient Chinese astronomers as Hou, a senior assistant to the Emperor. The throne of the Emperor himself lay immediately to the north in Hercules, and was marked by Alpha Herculis, called Dizuo. The exact nature of Hou and his role is somewhat enigmatic; he is variously described as an overseer, an usher for receiving guests or even an astrologer.
Just to the south of Hou were three constellations with similar-sounding names: Zongzheng, Zongren and Zong. Zongzheng, consisting of Beta and Gamma Ophiuchi, and Zongren (66, 67, 68 and 70 Ophiuchi) represented a governor and his aides for supervising the younger members of the royal family, while Zong (71 and 72 Oph) represented a revered ancestor of the royal family.
Mu, 47, 30 and a fainter star formed part of Shilou, a six-star loop representing a hall or tower housing the trading standards office; completing the shape were Omicron and Nu in Serpens Cauda. Closer to the right wall of the market, 20 Ophiuchi and another star were Chesi, interpreted variously as market stalls, a sales and service centre for wagons or simply customers, horses and carts near the market entrance. Lambda Ophiuchi and Sigma Serpentis made Liesi, an arcade of jewellers’ shops. Iota and Kappa Ophiuchi were part of Hu, a measuring container for liquids that overlapped into Hercules.
In southern Ophiuchus, outside the walls of the market, Phi, Chi, Psi and Omega Ophiuchi formed Dongxian, the western door to a stewards’ room for investigating trading infringements; the eastern door was Xixian, in Scorpius and Libra. Theta Ophiuchi and three other stars formed Tianjiang, ‘celestial river’, located in the Milky Way and said to govern waterways. Next to it was Tianyue, consisting of eight faint stars in Ophiuchus and Sagittarius and lying exactly on the ecliptic. Tianyue represented a lock or keyhole through which the Sun had to thread itself every year. It lay directly opposite in the sky from Tianguan, a gate on the ecliptic in Taurus.
Astrological Attributes of Ophiuchus: 13th Sign of the Zodiac as of 2012
The constellation, Ophiuchus, has been known since ancient times, and is better known as Serpentarius, the Serpent Holder. It is included in the list of 48 constellations described by Ptolemy. Ophiuchus is depicted as a man handling a serpent; his body dividing the large snake into two parts, giving way to the symbol used today as an Asclepius - the medical staff. Astrologers have not included Ophiuchus in the wheel of Astrological signs because the Sun spends only about nineteen days in this 13th sign of the Mazzaroth. Not that there wasn't a 13th sign in the Heavens, but as far as Astrologers were concerned, the Sun traveled from the constellation 'Scorpius' and then proceeded directly into the sign of Sagittarius. In reality, this was not the case. The Sun, for 19 days of the year, travels through the star constellation 'Ophiuchus' before entering Sagittarius from Scorpius - see chart below. thus The sign of Ophiuchus is patterned after the original 'Serpent Holder', Enki, a Sumerian god.
The signs of the Zodiac are for the most part, the highway, or path on which the Sun takes it's yearly journey across the heavens - as it would appear to Earthlings. These signs are actually star constellations occupying space in which the Sun appears to travels in an earth year. The original twelve signs/constellations: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces are quite familiar to everyone, however, the thirteenth sign and constellation, [Ophiuchus], is in fact, not well known. To acknowledge a 13th sign now would seem awkward for astrologers, who like the tidiness of 12 signs that rule over the 12 houses of the Zodiac. The heavens are alive and they do change after a few thousand years and the astrologer who wants to maintain accuracy must change along with the signs in the heavens.
The constellation of Ophiuchus is the only sign of the Zodiac which is linked to a real man. This man lived in ancient Egypt around the 27th century BCE, and his name was Imhotep [again patterned after Enki]. Many of the same attributes of Imhotep can also be found in the Biblical Hebrew man Joseph, son of Jacob - [see comparison chart for these two men in separate article]. Imhotep is credited with many accomplishments including the knowledge and use of medicine. It is said of Imhotep that he brought the art of healing to mankind. The symbol of a serpent [or snake], which is still widely used today to represent the medical profession, was used to represent Imhotep. Imhotep was also known as 'Aesclepius' to the ancient Greeks, but by any name the attributes are still all the same. The attributes listed below describe the Serpent Holder, Imhotep, i.e. the Hebrew Joseph, and Aesclepius.
The keyword descriptions seen below originated with Betty Rhodes and are the attributes for the 13th sign of the Zodiac - Ophiuchus:
LIST OF KEY WORDS DESCRIBING THE SIGN OF OPHIUCHUS
Interpreter of dreams, vivid premonitions,
Attracts good luck and fruitful blessings,
Serpent holder, lofty ideals,
A seeker of peace and harmony,
Doctor of medicine or science, natural-pathic,
Adds, increases, joins, or gathers together
Poetical, inventive nature, expanding qualities,
Seeks higher education and wisdom,
Overseer, supervisor of work,
Fame - either grand, or completely misunderstood,
Longevity, aspirations of healing the ills of man,
Architect, builder, reaches for the stars, figuratively and literally,
Tax assessor, or levys taxes,
Astrological talents, intuitive,
Large family indicated, but apt to be separated from them when young,
The number twelve holds great significance,
Foresight and good fortune to benefit from hard times,
Has secret enemies in family or close associations,
Many jealous of this subject,
Notable father, apple of father's eye when young,
High position in life expected [depending on aspects] highest fame and legend comes after death
Feelings of grandeur, wise, a genius mentality,
Likes to wear clothing of vibrant colors, tartans and plaids in particular,
Receives the favor of those in authority.
ACTUAL TRUE ZODIAC
AS OF 2000 AD
1 ARIES = APRIL 19 - MAY 13
2 TAURUS = MAY 14 - JUNE 19
3 GEMINI = JUNE 20 - JULY 20
4 CANCER = JULY 21 - AUG 9
5 LEO = AUGUST 10 - SEPTEMBER 15
6 VIRGO = SEPTEMBER 16 - OCTOBER 30
7 LIBRA = OCTOBER 31 - NOVEMBER 22
8 SCORPIO = NOVEMBER 23 - NOVEMBER 29
9 OPHIUCHUS = NOVEMBER 30 - DECEMBER 17
10 SAGITTARIUS = DECEMBER 18 - JANUARY 18
11 CAPRICORN = JANUARY 19 - FEBRUARY 15
12 AQUARIUS = FEBRUARY 16 - MARCH 11
13 PISCES = MARCH 12 - APRIL 18
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