You’ve probably heard people describe themselves as "cusps" or maybe even identified as one yourself. When non-astrologers use this term, they typically mean that someone is born on a date that could be considered either of two zodiac signs. (For example, the sun moves from Scorpio to Sagittarius this Thursday, November 22, so some people born near this day might think they’re a "cusp sign.") Those who identify as "cusps" might feel that they relate more to the qualities of their neighboring horoscope sign than their own, or that they’re equal parts of both signs. In truth, "cusp signs" are not real: Anyone who could actually call themselves a "cusp" must be born within 12 hours of the sun’s shift into a new sign, and even so—they only have one sun sign!
Whether you believe in it or not, astrology is a system of rules, and this system does not allow for a planet to be in two zodiac signs at once.
Are cusp signs real?
Like the rest of your birth chart, your sun sign is determined by your exact birth time. And there’s no ambiguity to time or the sun’s location at any given minute—the sun is either in one sign or another, just like how it’s either 7:59 or 8:00. If it’s 7:59 and 30 seconds….hell, even if it’s 7:59 and 59 seconds, it’s still 7:59! It’s not 8:00 until those 60 seconds are up! As long as you know your birth time, you will know which sign the sun is in, and it can only be in one!
Linda Goodman, the pop astrology queen of the 20th century (I’m the one of the 21st century, thank you very much!), explained that cusps are bullshit in Sun Signs , the first astrology book to make The New York Times Best Seller list in 1968:
"No matter what you’ve heard, if the sun was in Gemini when you were born, it was in Gemini, however near it may be to the cusp, and that’s that. The influences which may be impressed on your personality from the sign preceding or following Gemini will never blot out your Gemini characteristics enough to turn you into a Taurus or a Cancerian. Nothing can dim the brilliance of the sun, while it’s actually in a sign, and the variations you get from being born on a cusp are never strong enough to substantially alter your basic Sun sign personality."
Linda Goodman’s writing is whimsical—she wasn’t a stuffy astrologer, so if she says "that’s that" on cusp signs, you really need to accept it! If you are born within 12 hours of the sun changing signs, then yes, the sun is technically straddling the cusp, but it can still only be in one sign at any given time.
Where did cusp signs come from?
Astrology is a complex system that takes time to learn, but it’s become so popular and commodified that it’s often over-simplified. Because zodiac signs begin and end on a different day each year—which is only complicated by taking time zones into consideration—many people (including popular astrology writers and memelords) do a bit of guessing as to when signs begin. This is completely un-astrological, as the basis of astrology is tracking the movements of the planets, not guessing!
"Cusps" have also probably been popularized because people who don’t know their exact birth times don’t have the information to find out their true sun sign or their natal chart—crucial information that colors one’s reading of all horoscopes! If you don’t know your exact birth time, consider visiting an astrologer who’ll sit down with you to map the timeline of your major life events and work backwards to find their estimate of your time of birth (this process is called chart rectification). If you don’t identify with your sun sign, you can use this method to find out your rising sign, which in many instances, will produce more "accurate" horoscopes.
Why do I feel like a cusp sign?
The most obvious reason someone might feel like a “cusp” is that their natal chart has a planet in that zodiac sign. You have an entire birth chart that maps every planet and not just the sun! For example, you might be a Pisces, but if your Mercury—the planet of the mind and communication—is in Aries, you’ll certainly communicate like a ram, which is to say, more quickly, aggressively, or impulsively than a typical Pisces.
And—try to stick with me here, since this is complicated astrology that cannot be expressed with a meme!—most people don’t know that the sun progresses in your birth chart. Astrologers use a forecasting technique called progression, where each day after your birth correlates roughly to that year of your life. For example, if there was a full moon 10 days after you were born, then when you are around 10 years old, you'll experience a major release around whatever the theme of that original full moon was. And if you were born 10 days before the sun changed signs, then by the time you are 10 years old, your progressed sun is entering the next sign. If you were born at the tail end of a sign, like on the last day of Cancer, for example, then your sun will progress into Leo when you are about one years old, which will certainly leave an impact. Again, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re a blend of both signs’ energies, but that you are in a certain phase of your chart that is more influenced by one sign.
But progression doesn’t work in reverse—Leo doesn’t regress into Cancer; birth charts only move forward!
Be wary of astrologers who believe in cusp signs!
There are an infinite number of astrology accounts across social media platforms, and it can be really difficult to tell whether someone actually knows what they’re talking about or they’re just good at memes. Certified astrologers like myself have had to research this topic extensively, and there’s no way that process would leave you believing in cusps. Belief or use of cusps—in the sense that being born within a few days of the changeover makes you a bit of each sign—has long been a signal to practicing astrologers that the person using the term is a total novice or phony. Absolutely no practicing astrologer that I have met or read in the last 15 years of immersing myself in the astrology community uses cusps in this way, because to do so would expose a fundamental misunderstanding of the degrees of the zodiac.
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This page was originally published on November 20, 2018. It’s been updated for improved clarity on the topic.