Imagine, for a moment, that your last name is Brown. You come from a large family of Browns, with many brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins and distant cousins and various other obscure relatives spread out across the country and even the whole world. While you’ve met a bunch of Browns, you certainly haven’t met all of them, yet you’re often told that you’re very identifiable as a Brown. Of course, from time to time, you hear about someone who is a Brown, but doesn’t act like a one

Now, change the word “Brown” to the word “Aries” (or anything other sign of the zodiac you wish) and you’ll see both the usefulness and limitation of using your Sun sign as a sole descriptor. They have their value, but not for every single person in every circumstance. For some people, Brown, or Aries, points to a certain essence. For others, it’s a difficult or partial fit.

What’s interesting is that in my practice I frequently meet people who say, ‘I don’t feel like an Aries” and their charts will show strong planetary placements in another sign. Or perhaps the Aries Sun is not well placed in their chart, perhaps it’s locked away in the 12th house and unable to connect with other planets that will help bring it to prominence or strength. In addition, by only focusing on your Sun sign, you’re missing the nuances of the chart. Sun in Aries says one thing. Sun in Aries, with Moon, Mercury and Venus in Pisces says something much different and more complex.

Now, as a number, 12 (as in the 12 signs) is interesting in that it appears to have a symbolic use across a variety of cultures. Consider the following:

12 tribes of Israel

12 labors of Hercules

12 apostles of Christ

12 Olympians, the original Greek gods

12 Imams, original successors of Mohammed in Islam

12 names of the Hindu Sun god Surya

Shifting our focus slightly, when we look at the number 12, we find that it’s the smallest number with 4 divisors (not counting division by itself or one)

2 – (masculine/feminine)

3 – (modes: cardinal, fixed, mutable)

4 – (elements: fire, earth, air & water)

6 – (houses of self, houses of others)

Now, it can be said – and often has been said – that you can do anything with numbers and that’s certainly true. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t have significance. To an astrologer, the signs – and the progression of the signs – have meaning because they encapsulate certain principles or qualities that are necessary in the world. The relative strength (or weakness) of your Sun sign is inevitable because we live in a world that is far away from “pure” types, pure signs. But that doesn’t change the fact that your Sun sign is meaningful, if for no other reason than that you are part of a larger, complex system of beauty and purpose.