Those Mysterious Astrological Symbols, Explained

Illustrated by Paola Delucca.
Learning about your Zodiac sign should come with a decoding key. Sure, your sign's planetary ruler and your animal symbols are easy to commit to memory right away, but what about those odd pictographs that frequently appear alongside (or in place of) your sign's name?
Known as astrological glyphs, these symbols have been around for centuries and are essential to the system of astrology. Not only are there glyphs for every sign of Zodiac, but there are ones for planets, asteroids, and astrological angles, too.
Astrological glyphs are a system of shorthand to denote the signs without having to write them out. So, you're most likely to see them when brevity is a priority, whether you're looking at your emoji keyboard or natal-chart software.
They've changed and evolved over time, but keeping things succinct has always been the point. (For the record, whether they should be standardized is an ongoing discussion among astrologers.) The earliest astrological glyphs date back to Europe in the middle ages. Prior to that, the signs' names were usually written out in full.
Of course, each signs' symbol and glyph varies depending on the astrological system that you follow. For our purposes here, we're going to stick to the set of glyphs you encounter as a reader of Western, or tropical, astrology.
Even if you only use your sign's glyph as a sort of astrological flash card, to remind yourself where it appears on the Wheel of the Zodiac, trust that it serves an important purpose. Much like your sign's ruling planet, ruling element, or representative symbol, your glyph can illuminate an aspect of your sign you previously overlooked.
Ahead, we take a closer look at the glyphs associated with each sign of the Zodiac.

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