The Zodiac

The signs of the Zodiac - the imaginary belt in the sky containing the twelve constellations within which lie the paths of the principal planets and the sun - have assumed outstanding importance in astrology. The view that the names and myths of the constellations were of Greek origin was disproved after it was discovered that the Greek constellation system was in fact of early Semitic origin. In the "Creation Legend," a cuneiform compiled from records during the reign of Assurbanipal (ca. 650 BC), a passage points to the acceptance of 36 constellations: 12 north, 12 south and 12 Zodiac.

Talmudic literature - besides reproducing much of the current astronomical and astrological lore - also adds a specific symbolism of its own, e.g. the correlation of the twelve constellations with the Twelve Tribes. The signs of the Zodiac constituted a popular subject of Jewish art, figuring on the mosaic floors of ancient synagogues in the Holy Land (e.g. the mosaic floor of the ancient Byzantine-era synagogue in Bet Alfa, depicting the lunar Hebrew months as they correspond to the signs of the zodiac) as well an in books, marriage contracts, and other documents.

The Hebrew word for the Zodiac is Galgal Ha'Mazalot, meaning "the wheel of furtune". It reflects the common superstition that one's fortune is determined by the position of the sun in the Zodiac on his/her date of birth.

The stamp was issued in 1961, together with 12 other stamps, each dedicated to one of the twelve Mazalot. On the stamp's tab is a part of a sentence from The Gemara (the part of the Talmud that contains rabbinical commentaries and analysis of the Mishnah), in Berachot 32b, explaining that God created 12 constellations in the Heavens.

The stamp was designed by I. Blaushild.