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The Tropical, Sidereal and Constellational Zodiacs

Posted by on January 28, 2011 at 12:13 am28 Comments

Ophiuchus 01Over the past few weeks there has been a lot of discussion about the zodiac in the mainstream media. Unfortunately most of it has been misinformation and false reports, deliberately designed to make people question the validity of astrology.

In order to set the record straight, I’m writing a two part series of articles on the zodiac and the recent zodiac controversy.

In this article I will focus on what the zodiac is as a reference system, and what the difference is between the zodiacs in the east and west.

This will be followed up by a separate article which documents the recent zodiac controversy and answers some questions about it from an astrologer’s perspective.

The Constellational Zodiac

Ancient astronomers noticed that the Sun, Moon and five visible planets regularly wander through a very specific path in the sky. Because the planets never deviate from this path, which we call the ecliptic, there are certain constellations on that path that the planets repeatedly walk through.

This is how the constellational zodiac was first developed. It included every constellation that the planets actually moved through, and it excluded constellations that they didn’t move through.

This is what that looks like if you were to observe the planets moving through the zodiacal constellations over the course of a year:

Notice that the constellations are of unequal size.  Some are kind of small, such as Cancer, while others are really large, such as Virgo. Some of them even overlap a little bit.

The Sidereal Zodiac

Eventually by the 5th century BCE astrologers/astronomers in Mesopotamia standardized the zodiac so that it contained 12 signs of exactly 30 degrees each. This is what is referred to as the sidereal zodiac.

Its reference point is the constellations, although the constellations themselves vary in size, some of them being relatively small and some being relatively large. So, the sidereal zodiac is sort of an idealized or symbolic division of the constellations into 12 equal segments or “signs.”

The Tropical Zodiac

The system of astrology that most western astrologers use came together a few centuries later, around the 1st century BCE. Most of the things that we associate with astrology, including many of the characteristics of the signs of the zodiac, originated during this time.

Around this time the seasons were roughly aligned with the sidereal zodiac, so that the beginning of the seasons coincided with the beginning of the cardinal signs — Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn. The middle of the seasons coincided with the fixed signs — Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius. The end of the seasons coincided with the mutable signs — Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, and Pisces.

This alignment of the seasons with the signs of the zodiac is important because astrologers made symbolic associations between the nature of the seasons and the nature or meaning underlying certain signs of the zodiac. So, it wasn’t just about the appearance of the constellations or the myths associated with them, but information was also derived from the specific part of the season associated with certain signs.

For example, the cardinal signs Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn are thought to reflect the initiation of new activities and changes because they coincide with the beginnings of the seasons, just after the equinoxes and solstices, where there is a distinct change in the weather and the things that depend on it. On the other hand, the fixed signs Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius are said to reflect the stabilization of existing activities and circumstances since they coincide with the middle of the seasons, when there is a sense of stability in the heat and temperature. The mutable signs Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius and Pisces are thought to reflect circumstances in which things are in transition because they lie at the end of the seasons, when there is a transition from one season to the next.

So, there are symbolic associations being made between the nature of different parts of the seasons and certain types of actions, circumstances or qualities that share a formal similarity. This is the basis of what is referred to as the tropical zodiac, which is measured relative to the seasons, with its starting point at the vernal equinox.

This is what that looks like if you were to observe the planets moving through the tropical zodiac over the course of a year, starting from the vernal point and then moving through each of the twelve 30 degree signs:

The Three Zodiacs

This means that there are essentially three zodiacs, or three reference systems that are all referred to as “zodiacs” (which is somewhat unfortunate since this convention is the source of quite a bit of confusion):

  • Constellational Zodiac: based on the uneven constellations that lie in the path of the Sun, Moon and planets (a.k.a. the ecliptic)
  • Sidereal Zodiac: the idealized zodiac with 12 signs of 30 degrees each that is roughly aligned with the constellations
  • Tropical Zodiac: the idealized zodiac with 12 signs of 30 degrees each that is aligned with the seasons

Precession and the Adoption of the Tropical Zodiac in the West

Around the time that the basic principles of western astrology were systematized, in the 1st century, the sidereal zodiac associated with the constellations and the tropical zodiac associated with the seasons were roughly aligned, and astrologers drew information from both the constellations and the seasons associated with certain signs in order to determine the characteristics of those signs.

However, by this time astrologers and astronomers had already become aware of the phenomenon known as “precession,” in which the signs of the sidereal and tropical zodiac slowly drift apart from one another, at a rate of about 1 degree every 72 years or so.

Because of this gradual drift between the tropical and sidereal zodiacs, there came a point when western astrologers had to make a decision about which reference system was the basis of what they were doing with the signs of the zodiac. What they ended up doing was choosing the tropical zodiac associated with the seasons as their primary reference point, and continuing to call the tropical “signs” by their old names, which were originally derived from the constellations.

This happened definitively in the 2nd century CE when the famous astrologer/astronomer Claudius Ptolemy defined the first degree of Aries as the vernal equinox, which coincides with the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere. Western astrologers have been deliberately following this reference system, the tropical zodiac, for the past 1,800 years or so.

As a result of this decision to use the tropical zodiac of the seasons rather than the sidereal zodiac of the constellations, the zodiac used by most western astrologers is no longer associated with the constellations or the fixed stars. As a result, the two zodiacs differ by roughly 24 degrees at this point, which is almost one full sign, although not quite. So, a planet at 24 Aries in the tropical zodiac would be somewhere around zero degrees Aries in the sidereal zodiac.

The following diagram roughly depicts the difference at this point:

  • The inner wheel shows the tropical zodiac, which is aligned with the equinoxes and the solstices.
  • The middle wheel shows the sidereal zodiac, which is roughly aligned with the constellations, being about 24 degrees off of the tropical zodiac at this point.
  • The outer ring is a really rough sketch of the constellations that fall on the ecliptic, just to give you an idea of how they vary in size. (Astrodienst has an option in its extended chart selection to include the zodiacal constellations, and a more accurate depiction of the constellations as they are aligned with the sidereal zodiac would look something like this.)

three zodiacs 03

Use of the Tropical Zodiac Within the Context of Arguments About Precession

Virtually all western astrologers use the tropical zodiac, including those writing Sun-sign columns ever since they first started being published in newspapers in the 1930s. Because it is aligned with the seasons, it always stays fixed, and doesn’t change. It is a stable reference system.

Since the tropical zodiac is based on the seasons rather than the constellations, changes in the sidereal zodiac and the fixed stars as a result of precession are irrelevant. Not only is precession not relevant within the context of the tropical zodiac, but the fact that portions of other constellations fall on the ecliptic, such as Ophiuchus’s foot, is also irrelevant as well.

If the reference system that western astrologers use is not based on the constellations and is unaffected by precession, then skeptical arguments which focus on those points are both baseless and deliberately misleading.

The Use of the Sidereal Zodiac by Indian Astrologers

Now, to be fair, there are astrologers who use the sidereal zodiac, which is roughly aligned with the constellations, and they do adjust their calculations for precession. There was a strong connection between early western astrology and Indian astrology around the 1st and 2nd centuries, but the Indians decided to use the sidereal zodiac of the constellations rather than the tropical zodiac of the seasons.

The reason for this is probably that they had an earlier indigenous form of astrology that was based around a 27 “sign” lunar zodiac called the nakshatras, and this was firmly anchored in the sidereal framework since each sign of this lunar zodiac was tied to a specific fixed star.

This prior focus on the fixed stars via their lunar zodiac made the sidereal zodiac more appealing because it lined up better than the seasons, and as a result the vast majority of astrologers in India today use a sidereal zodiac.

The Baselessness of Skeptical Attacks on Tropical Astrology

Sidereal Indian astrology is not usually the subject of skeptical attacks such as the ones in the past few weeks.  Rather, what is usually attacked is tropical western astrology, especially Sun signs. The statements that were widely circulated recently were that:

  1. There was a recent shift which has caused everyone’s Sun sign to be one sign off.
  2. There is a new constellation which means that there should now be 13 signs.

As I’ve tried to show above, both of these assertions are false within the context of the tropical zodiac used in western astrology. Within that context, nothing has changed in the past 2,000 years: there are still 12 signs of the zodiac, and everyone still has the same Sun sign. Precession does not change the composition of the tropical zodiac, nor does the fact that a small part of the constellation Ophiuchus falls on the ecliptic.

Assertions to the contrary basically amount to a propaganda campaign on the part of skeptics with the goal of undermining the standing of astrology in society. Their general position is that astrology is false to begin with, and thus anything that serves to undermine the public acceptance of it is essentially fair game, regardless of how inaccurate or misleading the statements might be. The end justifies the means.

These sorts of propaganda campaigns are waged all the time, though, so why did this one become such a media sensation? In the next article I will review the sequence of events and propose one possible theory.

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About Chris Brennan

Chris is a practicing astrologer from Denver, Colorado, USA. He is the former President of the Association for Young Astrologers, as well as the former Research Director of the National Council for Geocosmic Research. He offers personal consultations and teaches online classes through his website at www.ChrisBrennanAstrologer.com.




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28 Comments »

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jason, Chris Brennan. Chris Brennan said: New article up on the difference between the tropical, sidereal and constellational zodiacs: http://bit.ly/gpFP6o […]

  • Rachelle says:

    Wonderful article, Chris! Although I have been trying to explain to my clients, friends and family the truth of Tropical Astrology, it seems to be falling on a lot of deaf ears as the skeptics latch on to any method to attack the validity of astrology. You did a great job explaining it and I’m going to forward your article to them. Thanks so much for your great work!

  • Carlos Duarte says:

    Excellent article! This is it! People must know there are interests in the manipulation of information, in astrology as in politics and other fields. What is amazing is how these people, that supposedly bear the “scientific truth”, manipulate the ignorance of the general public on certain fields as their tool. How long can that meanness endure, in our days of fast-information excesses?

  • Christina says:

    This is the best and easiest to understand explanation of this I’ve seen. Even before this whole Ophiuchus thing busted out, I was having doubts about the tropical system, but it makes more sense to me that we’d be in tune with the seasons of the earth, rather than whatever arbitrary constellation drawing the sun happened to be traversing at a certain time

  • Excellent! I will refer my students to your site for this precise and clear explanation. All systems work, it just depends on the expertise of each Astrologer and of the needs of the client. Although I practice Tropical Western Astrology, I highly esteem our Vedic colleagues and the work they do. To each potential client, I’d say, follow your Intuition and go to the practitioner that most resonates with you. And once again, thank you Chris for your article!

  • One possible theory – sudden polar tilt of the earth causes shift in zodiac, birds falling from the sky, fish dying in lakes, revolts sweeping the mid-east, obviously its the end of the world (must be the hype over 2012).

  • […] trois Zodiaques Publié le 28/12/2010 by astralune| 5 commentaires . . http://horoscopicastrologyblog.com/2011/01/28/the-tropical-sidereal-and-constellational-zodiacs/ . Différences entre zodiaque tropical et zodiaque sidéral par Sabine : […]

  • Zoe Martin says:

    Chris, I am so happy to have stumbled upon your article and blog/website! I have been interested in Astrology for a long time, and hoping to start practicing as an Astrologist in the near future… I will be lapping up the info you have to share. :) Keep up the fantastic work.

  • Alice says:

    Brilliant article on Tropical Sidereal and Constellations Zodiacs. I have read several Astrological articles by far but never came across a single article on Tropical Sidereal and Constellations Zodiacs, this is something really interesting to read and new to me. Got to know many unknown facts about Tropical Sidereal and Constellations Zodiacs, especially Sidereal Zodiacs. Thanks for the share..!!

  • Xul says:

    The article does not mention that there is only one recognised moving (‘tropical’) zodiac whilst there are many fixed (inaccurately called ‘sidereal’) zodiacs, several of which however are within about 3 degrees from the Babylonian practice of a fixed fiducial Star axis from Aldebaran (15º Taurus) to Antares (15º Scorpio) as mentioned by the 20th century Irish astrologer and author Cyril Fagan, with some of his colleagues originator of the ‘Western sidereal school’. Of course the Ancients could not yet take factors like proper motion of fixed Stars, nutation and the sleight variability of the rate of precession into their calculations.

    One might also mention that apparently some Hellenistic and even Mediaeval astrologers (e. g. Valens and Ibn Ezra) based their topical delineations on fixed zodiacs that have since been getting further apart from the moving zodiac. From an Aristotelian perspective, the wobble of the Earth’s geographic poles around the centre of the ecliptic in about 26,000 civil years would be considered ‘accidental’ motion compared to the rotation of our solar system around the galactic centre (‘essential’ motion) roughly 1,000 times less often. The frequency of the wobble is about 9 million times less than that of the daily rotation of the Earth on its polar axis.

    Best wishes,

    Xul

  • Vasilis Kanatas says:

    Very interesting article Chris but you are not saying the whole truth about Astrology.
    Tropical Astrology has stayed in the place where it was 1800 years ago. The Zodiac Signs have changed place in the sky no matter what Tropical Astrology claims. So when somebody is born on the 27 of August he is Leo and not Virgo. This is because the Sun is in the area of Leo on the 27 of August.
    You can not tell someone who’s born in Leo that he’s Virgo!
    Astrology needs a new theory to adapt to the reality. In my new book “Astrology of the 13 Signs of the Zodiac” I recommend a new Astrological Theory for the 13 Zodiac Signs.
    The Ascendant in represented by the Moon and sunspots are given a new Astrological factor.
    It is a new way for Astrology to evolve and answer to the critisism of the Astronomers and the media.

  • James says:

    I agree with Vasilis Kanatas.
    Even though this article is educational in a historical sense and is well written, it is contributing to the whole problem with its inaccuracy and biases.
    The problem has to do with the reference points and sign descriptions and characteristics, not the names of the signs.
    Here is a reasonable justification (as if I need one) for what I am saying USING THIS VERY ARTICLE AS A SOURCE.
    1. Both zodiacs are based on the constellations (constellational zodiac)
    2 At one point both Tropical and Sidereal zodiacs were in fact lined up with each other. And during this point is when people began observing and forming characteristics for those born on a particular day (Ex. Aries; the ram, masculine, fire, mutable, headstrong, impulsive, childlike etc.) VERY IMPORTANT!!!
    3.Tropicalists undermine the basic principles of astrology by ignoring and not accounting for precession. Sidereal does use precession and continues to use the constellational zodiac as a reference which contains the original sign descriptions and characteristics.
    4. So Sidereal is the most accurate astrological system and Tropical is artificial
    If you are going to choose any system it should be sidereal.
    It’s a simple concept to understand and one that Tropical astrologers and believers should try to understand and not ignore.
    It is very important that we all get on the same page here so we can productively and effectively communicate with each other.

  • Chris Brennan says:

    I’m not sure what you mean by point 1. At face value it seems to be an incorrect statement, unless you mean that the zodiac was originally based on the constellations in the Mesopotamian tradition.

    While point 2 is correct, I’m not sure that the conclusions that you drew from it in the next point necessarily follow. The important point about the fact that both zodiacs were aligned when most of the basic characteristics of the signs were first formulated is that you can’t necessarily say that all of the qualities that the astrologers originally ascribed to the signs came from one zodiac or another. In fact there are good reasons to believe that some of the qualities of the signs like the quadruplicities or modalities were derived from the seasons rather than from the fixed stars that the constellations are composed of.

    With respect to point 3, tropical astrologers are deliberately choosing to use a specific reference system, and just because you don’t agree with that reference system doesn’t necessarily mean that they are wrong. In point of fact, you may be mistaken in your assumption that the original sign descriptions and characteristics were derived from the sidereal zodiac. We don’t know much about what descriptions and characteristics the earlier Mesopotamian astrologers associated with the sidereal signs, and it may be that it wasn’t until the tropical zodiac was roughly aligned that the now common characteristics came about. As far as the available historical evidence is concerned, this is the only scenario that we can really even reliably discuss at this point.

  • Xul says:

    Greetings,

    There ARE some schools of astrology, e. g. the anthroposophic, that actually use the unequal astronomic constellations directly for symbolic delineations, dividing the ecliptic into equal units (‘sidereal’ and / or tropical) for measurement and timing purposes only. Entrances (‘ingresses’) into the constellations are considered significant. Since the IAU in 1923 drew several of the borders of the constellations differently from tradition, it is not always easy to determine their ecliptic borders. To solve such matters, distance of the stars in question from the centre of the ecliptic and their magnitude as well as their relative magnitude within the constellation are considered. In cases of overlap, priority is given to the brighter stars nearer the ecliptic with a higher letter in their respective constellations.

    The famous question about the beginning of the so-called ‘Age of Aquarius’ is referred to the beginning of the constellation of Pisces, probably in the near future, much nearer than most of the sidereal sign borders used in the various precession factors in the sidereal schools, several of which do not even explicitly refer to any fixed star.

    As far a i know there is no way to divide the ecliptic into twelve equal portions placing the Alpha star of each constellation into ‘its sign’. Similar issues are encountered with lunar mansions.

    Probably old stone age people, accounting for 99 % of human history, saw wandering stars moving through constellations, not signs. This is what those astrologers who actually look at the sky at night might still see.

    Best regards,

    Xul

  • Chris Brennan says:

    “Probably old stone age people, accounting for 99 % of human history, saw wandering stars moving through constellations, not signs. This is what those astrologers who actually look at the sky at night might still see.”

    This is true, however, don’t overlook the fact that many ancient stone monuments, like Stonehenge and the Nabta Playa circle, tended to be oriented towards the equinoxes and the solstices. If we are arguing for which reference system has the greater claim to antiquity, then the fact that those points were being observed as far back as the 5th and 3rd millennium BCE certainly gives some credence to the reference points that eventually became the entire basis of the tropical zodiac.

  • Xul says:

    Greetings,

    All astrologers, use they a seasonal, sidereal (with equal signs) or a constellational (with unequal constellations) zodiac, base their calculations on astronomic data according to the seasonal zodiac of the northern hemisphere. For accurate timing purposes including agriculture such a zodiac is indeed required. Astrologers would have grave difficulties if they attempted to calculate cycles using variable units of measure.

    Here we have important differences amongst old, middle and late stone ages. The former, by far the longest period as far as we know, was a hunting-gathering culture knowing neither domestication of animals nor agriculture. The at first gradual shift towards the latter has meanwhile (mis-?)led humanity into becoming the 7+ billion global pandemic of today. The Stonehenge and the Nabta Playa monuments mentioned above date from the late stone age (upper paleolithic) at the earliest.

    When reading ancient astrological texts including Hellenistic ones, even Claudius Ptolemy, many delineations appear clearly based on constellations rather than on signs. Sidereal zodiacs with equal signs are generally much nearer the constellations than tropical zodiacs that have moved, depending on the assumed precession factors, about 23 to more than 29 degrees out of sync. Problematic would seem the assumption that the symbolic meanings originally based on unequal constellations remain attached to the equal tropical signs. This problem exists also with equal sidereal signs but is somewhat mitigated.

    Two other problems with tropical zodiacs have to due with their underlying seasonal symbolism that is most archetypically valid around 45 degrees north and south equatorial latitudes but, if at all, much less so in tropical and polar regions. To be coherent within their own symbolic framework, tropical astrologers would seem obligated to shift the tropical signs by 180 degrees (six signs) for the southern hemisphere.

    As mentioned above, even astrologers working with unequal constellations are faced with uncertainties about their exact ecliptical borders. The IAU’s 1923 definitions of the constellations scarcely had astrologers’ interests at heart. Here is a link to one of the last comprehensive books on fixed stars and constellations first published in 1899 before the IAU’s ‘reform':

    “Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning” by Richard H. Allen (563 pages)

    http://www.amazon.com/Star-Names-Their-Meaning-Astronomy/dp/0486210790/ref=pd_rhf_gw_p_t_3

    These questions and issues provide astrologers ample food for study, thought and testing.

    Best regards,

    Xul

  • James says:

    C. B., what I wrote is not to be contradicted because…well it is not possible to. What I said is knowledge and knowledge can be tested. What you are talking about is belief and belief cannot be demonstrated. Big difference.
    I really am sorry you don’t understand my point and that you need to be spoon-fed. If you haven’t learned and understood by now why sidereal astrology makes more sense then tropical then you may never learn. I am probably not the source you might potentially learn from anyway.
    I take full responsibility in not being the best teacher and you should take full responsibility in believing in complete B.S. You and all other people who believe in tropical astrology should let go of what you think you “know” and listen to reason. Not emotion, reason. The real stuff, not subjective interpretations.
    Your response reminds that “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.” Tropical astrologers are deliberately choosing to be ignorant. It makes me sad.

  • Xul says:

    Greetings,

    May I disagree, James? Anyone can contradict anyone else on anything. Strong affirmation of any opinion does not necessarily validate it. There is no reason for impoliteness to Mr Brennan or to others who do not share one’s own views. Astrologers who work symbolically with the unequal physical constellations instead of equal ‘sidereal’ signs pegged to some reference position on the ecliptic might be equally harsh with you. Seasons, equinoxes and solstices are also generally agreed objective facts. Even those who use different zodiacs rely on the astronomic measurements involving the Gamma point. Which of the numerous ‘sidereal’ zodiacs with signs of equal length is the correct one in your considered opinion, please?

    Who has compiled an adequate statistical data base to validate his or her opinion on the best zodiac for astrological purposes?

    Best regards,

    Xul

  • Greetings,

    I’ m not sure if we are talking about the same subject. Astrology is an ancient branch of knowledge dealing with predictions about peoples lives. Astrology was practised is Mesopotamia, in China, in Egypt and other places. On the other hand “Horoscopic Astrology” is a part of Astrology that was founded in the Hellenistic epoch by Claudius Ptolemy, Vettius Valens, Dorotheus of Sidon and other Greek Astronomers. It is described in detail in Claudius Ptolemy’s “Tetravivlos”: The Four elements, the 12 Zodiac Signs, the Ascendant (Horoscopos), the good or bad nature of the planets, the aspects of the planets as well as some basic characteristics of the Zodiac Signs. They are all described in Claudius Ptolemy’s book along with many other details.
    “Horoscopic Astrology” was disseminated to India where it evolved independently from the Western Culture and was named “Vedic or Sidereal Astrology”.
    “Horoscopic Astrology” was also disseminated from Greece to the rest of Europe where it could not evolve because of the stance of the Church. This is how “Tropical Astrology” stayed frozen in the years of Claudius Ptolemy.
    In the introduction of my book “Astrology of the 13 Signs of the Zodiac” I am explaining much more about the differences and common points of the two “Hosroscopic Astrologies”.
    Today they have both failed to follow scientific data. That’ s why it is time for a New Astrology based on sciences.
    Astrology = Astro + logos (star + word) words of the stars in Ancient and modern Greek language.

  • Xul says:

    Greetings,

    Indeed, it is not always simple to determine the borders of constellations. One should, however, bear in mind that for astrological purposes the ecliptic is not a line but rather a band of about 17 degrees width of ecliptical latitude in which the wandering stars (planets including Selene and Helios) are seen with unaided eyes to move around the earth. Since Scorpio is within this band, resorting to Ophiuchus is not required.

    The ancients apparently were not so concerned about weak stars at the borders of constellations but about the bright stars in each, sometimes, however, naming not the brightest but the most significant star in the form of the constellation its Alpha star, e. g. Alpha Piscium or Alrisha, the ‘knot’, the third brightest star of Pisces.

    May one call to mind that the pronunciation of certain letters has changed not only during the ancient period but also from ancient to modern Greek, e. g. ‘beta’, once pronounced ‘b’, now ‘v’?

    If one wishes to include even the two brightest stars of each constellation in an equal sign of 30 degrees bearing the same name, one can discover that this is not possible, e. g. once again Pisces. Unequal constellations or equal signs: one cannot have the cake and eat it too.

    Best regards,

    Xul

  • […] signs ARE those constellations.  For more details about this please visit Chris Brennan’s excellent article on the subject here.  So while your planetwatching app may be brilliant at astronomy, it doesn’t know much about […]

  • Mike says:

    Hello again Chris,

    Another very student-friendly article.

    I’ve grown to appreciate both tropical and sidereal after contemplating over a Q’uo channeled session regarding astrology and discerning how their unique interpretation seems to have validity for me.

    I’m a bit biased having had an avid interest in this ‘channeled material’ (both Ra and Q’uo) for quite a while.

    An excerpt from this page.

    http://www.llresearch.org/transcripts/issues/2006/2006_0207.aspx

    With regard to the query asked by the one known as E concerning the use of the sidereal astrology as opposed to the tropical astrology, we cannot confirm the choice of one type of reading over another, and we would make a few comments about our inability to confirm this preference.

    It is our understanding—and we offer it humbly since we feel that it is only a rough approximation of the truth rather than the precise truth—that the use of both sidereal and tropical astrological charts is appropriate when studying the influences which make up the geography of an entity’s interior landscape.

    There are two aspects to a density. One aspect is relatively fixed; one aspect is relatively unfixed. The masculine side of the study of astrology is that of the tropical astrological chart. It represents that which is fixed into the Earth by the occasion of your birth into third-density existence.

    There is another aspect which influences the use of astrology and this is the feminine aspect of the density. In this focus of astrology, the information is considerably helpful, but it does differ from the tropical chart in that it embraces more of the unfixed or soul-driven, if you will, aspects of personality.

    Therefore, if an entity is actively investigating his own soul aspects, it is quite likely that he will find sidereal astrology more helpful in describing the environment in which he finds himself in his inner work than if he uses the tropical astrological chart.

  • Xul says:

    Greetings! Reliance on so-called ‘channelled knowledge’, mostly via mediums in hypnotic states of trance, even if not substantiated by careful observation and logic, became en vogue during the latter part of the 18th and especially in the theosophist movement during the 19th century CE. Neptune was discovered in 1846.

    Alan Kardec, a US-American medium, introduced the meanwhile widespread notion of ‘reincarnation’ meaning a circulation of individual ‘souls’ within our solar system, mainly to and from the Earth. This theory was deemed necessary to explain the ‘social question’, e. g. why there are plutocrats and beggars, outstanding athletes and those born blind, deaf and / or dumb. Based essentially of an extended application of Abrahamic theologies, those in favourable circumstances are thought rewarded for ‘good’ deeds in ‘past lives’, those in unfavourable circumstances punished for ‘evil’ ones. The series of lives is viewed as successive classes of schools of behaviour, evolving gradually upwards to e. g. ‘Great Teachers and Initiates’. In his books translated as “The Spiritist Fallacy” and “Theosophy – a Pseudoreligion” René Guénon patiently explained the absurdities involved.

    If one restricts astrology to human psychology, a common tendency of many 20th century authors, one can opine nearly anything and indulge in a multitude of speculations, as everything is interrelated. If one thinks that astrology should be based on astronomic phenomena, it should be rather obvious that tropical astrology with its symbolism based on seasons can at best be a regional system applicable from the Tropic of Cancer to the Arctic Circle, where, nevertheless, the majority of the worldwide human pandemic resides. The human demographic centre of the Earth is currently in or near Kashmir, a useful fact for mundane astrology.

    May one mention that equating male gender with ‘active’, female gender with ‘passive’, only holds in patriarchal societies, the poles reversing in matriarchies? Might careful reflection on the basic symbolic meanings of the three co-ordinate systems horizon, equator and ecliptic be more fruitful than ‘channelled information’? One might also benefit by recalling that mirror images (‘above, below’) are usually reversed.

    In Mediaeval astrology, astrological apprentices were expected to first sharpen their skills by the intensive, meticulous practice of horary, then elective astrology. Only after a reasonable mastery of these branches were they deemed qualified for natal astrology.

    Best regards,

    xul

  • Phil says:

    Chris, great article. Well articulated, and two years later still important for those interested but not deeply familiar with Western astrology. Regarding “sidereal astrology” using western signs and symbolism, it is true what you said about the symbolism defining the signs (not constellations, as these are unequal in the sky) being seasonal. The “mode” of the signs (cardinal, fixed, mutable) is directly related to the seasons, as you stated. The planets that rule each sign were chosen based on season. In fact, in a recent book by one Gavin White (Babylonian Star Lore), the animals and objects depicted by each constellation (as in why the heck are the few faint stars of Cancer described as a “crab”?) are shown to relate to the seasons of the ancient near east. In fact, in the ancient world, the constellations themselves have evolved with precession, to keep relevant to the seasons! The pictures we see in the sky are not immutable. For instance, certain stars in Libra have Arabic names calling them the northern and southern “claws”. Scorpions have claws, scales don’t – these stars had been part of Scorpio until precession put the fall equinox into its claws, and Libra (scales of equality for the equinox) was born. Until we reform the above symbolic meanings of the 12 constellations to reflect the seasons (e.g. the fall equinox now falls when the sun is in Virgo), the current system you described makes the most sense.

  • Joseph S. says:

    Does anyone else think that the 12 Houses may hold the key to the collaboration between Tropical and Sidereal Zodiacs?

    I’m just an amateur, but the more I read about this, the more I’m filled with the image that there’s a dialogue between the influence of the stars and planets upon earth, and the fruit of their influence—kind of like the influence of sunlight upon the soil and the ensuing seasons that cause plants to grow and flourish.

    Taking this image, what if one used primarily the Sidereal Zodiac to determine the influence that is currently being projected onto the Earth from the stars—which is what *astro*-logy appears to have started as—and the 12 Houses to depict the “response” to that projection? If tropical 0° Aries is re-interpreted as the start of the 1st House (which tropical Aries is already said to rule), then that would maintain the connection to Earth’s seasons, which undoubtedly shed influence on us. Thereafter one would be able to remain faithful to the zodiacal signs as they actually appear from our perspective. And the Houses could still be divided using whole sign, equal house, or quadrant systems.

    You’ll forgive me if this has already been proposed. :-)

  • Dean says:

    Great article! Some illustrations, special chart wheels to this:
    https://sites.google.com/site/thesignszodiac