This is because earth’s axis also rotates and completes one rotation in about 26000 years. Vedic Astrology also takes into account this slight shift in earth’s position, which has shifted the vernal equinox point of sidereal zodiac to about 25 degrees west from the 0 degrees vernal equinox of western system. 1 day ago Vedic astrology instead uses the sidereal zodiac, which corresponds to what is observable and measurable in the sky (“sidereal” etymologically is based on the root sider-, or “star”). The sidereal zodiac is star-based, and measures the actual astronomical position of planets against the backdrop of the fixed-star constellations. Vedic or sidereal astrology calculated the the Sun at 6 degrees 03 minutes of Pisces at the Spring equinox in 2003. Therefore, the current mathematical difference between the. Astronomical Differences between Western and Vedic Astrology. The basic difference between the two systems is that the Vedic zodiac is Sidereal and the Western is Tropical. In Sidereal astrology, the zodiac is aligned with 27 constellations, or fixed star groups. Aries, the first sign of the zodiac, aligns with the first constellation, called. Avoid the astrology trap of using the Sidereal zodiac exclusively (or practitioners who do) or risk vast inaccuracies. You’ve always thought that you had a Sagittarius Sun sign, but then you’re confused when a friend shows you a “cooler” form of astrology, one which totally changes what you thought you knew about your basic natal chart.You think, “How can I have a Scorpio Sun?”.
The Sidereal Zodiac model is one of the two fundamental astrological systems that divide the celestial sphere into twelve segments, or astrological signs. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Sidereal Zodiac and when does it make sense to use the sidereal model instead of the tropical one?
The Sidereal Zodiac model is one of the two fundamental astrological systems that divide the celestial sphere into twelve segments, or astrological signs. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Sidereal Zodiac and when does it make sense to use the sidereal model instead of the Tropical Zodiac?
There are two Zodiac systems that correspond to the two schools of astrology — tropical and sidereal.
In both cases the Zodiac wheel is comprised from the same sequence of the twelve signs. The major difference between tropical and sidereal Zodiac is in where those signs are located in the sky.
That should certainly raise one’s brow: how can we meaningfully talk about having same zodiacal signs in different locations, it doesn’t make any sense!
Arguments both in favour and against the sidereal Zodiac has been going on pretty much since the two systems separated from each other about the year of 285 AD — that’s according to the “Lahiri ayanamsa” model which will be described further down.
In this story we are going to explore the origins of the Zodiac and will attempt to answer the question of why sidereal Zodiac is still relevant and when it is a good idea to use it.
A short disclaimer: The goal of this exploration is to outline a broad approach that led to establishing the Zodiac as we know it today. This story will not attempt to be precisely historically correct, the focus will be purely on storytelling and the imaginary faculty of the reader. So let’s begin imagining…
What is the Zodiac?
Simply put the Zodiac is the area of the sky surrounding the path that the Sun travels along throughout the year. To be more precise, the Sun doesn’t move at all, it’s the Earth that travels around the Sun in the plane called “the ecliptic plane”. But for an observer located on the planet Earth the Sun appears to be moving through the field of fixed stars.
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The illustration below shows the Earth (green) moving counterclockwise in its orbit around the Sun. From the Earth’s standpoint the Sun is moving clockwise in relationships to the stars.
The ecliptic plane is actually the plane where all of the major planets travel, thus making the Solar System more akin to a disc than to a sphere.
Having all major planets concentrated in it, the ecliptic plane is the area of sky imbued with immense astral potential, it’s the “main street” of the Solar city. The power and the influence of the Sun is projected along the path of the ecliptic.
The ancient observers noticed that different areas of the starry sky have different qualities and modify the influence of planets travelling through them. The ancients had an inspiration to divide the ecliptic into twelve parts, and if you’re interested why the twelve-fold division actually makes sense, read the story about the planetary hours.
The parts were chosen in such a way that they coincided with certain asterisms, or simply put groups of stars, that visually and experientially formed a constellation with a certain degree of uniformity.
As nothing really exists in the human consciousness until it’s been given a name, the twelve parts were assigned the names of Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces.
As you can see the constellations are mostly of animal nature with some exceptions: Gemini are the twin brothers, Virgo being a maiden, Libra is a weighing scales, Aquarius is a water bearer. It makes for an interesting observation that each of group of three signs has one element of a non-animal nature.
The totality of the twelve constellations was called the Zodiac. The word “zodiac” originates from the Ancient Greek zōidiakòs kýklos (ζῳδιακός κύκλος) meaning “cycle or circle of little animals”.
The zero point of the Zodiac
The Zodiacal circle of the ecliptic had one problem common to all circles: it had no beginning and no end. Circle is a beautiful symbol of the infinity, and if you’re interested to learn more about the symbolism of the snake eating its tail and how to locate the Zodiac in your own body, read “The signs of the Zodiac in the human body”.
Finding a zero point on the circle is another great invention of the ancient observers and we can only admire them for being able to come up with a such sophisticated model having none of modern tools we currently have available.
The zero point of the Zodiac represent the moment of equilibrium between day and night, that brief moment when the duration of the day equals the duration of the night. This moment has been called an “equinox” meaning that the day is “equal to night”.
Geometrically speaking, the equinox is the point of intersection between the ecliptic and the celestial equator. The celestial equator in simply the Earth’s equator projected outwards into the sky. And since the Earth axial spin is tilted at about 23.4° in relationship to the ecliptic, the inhabitants of the Earth get some nice benefits:
- we have seasons that make sure our life is never boring
- duration of day and night is continually changing
The illustration below superimposes the geometrical and zodiacal view of the celestial sphere.
Is Vedic And Sidereal Astrology The Same Time
As one can notice there are two intersections between the ecliptic and the celestial equator marking the two equinoxes when day and night have equal length. And the two points of maximum separation marking the two solstices when either day or night reach their maximum duration.
The vernal Equinox as the origin of the Tropical Zodiac
The moment of the equinox has a powerful metaphysical meaning: it is the moment of the ultimate balance between day and night, light and darkness.
Balance brings unity, unity brings infinity and the infinity is the origin of everything. Hence the Equinox became the origin of an annual cycle, an astronomical and astrological year.
If you’re curious about the day and night dialectic read “Day and Night in the Western astrological chart”.
There are two equinoxes in each year, the March (or vernal) Equinox and the September Equinox. The vernal Equinox — that happens about the 20th of March each year — marks the zero point when the Sun moves from the sign of Pisces into the sign of Aries. The September Equinox is the “smaller brother” and happens every 22nd or 23rd of September.
For some deeper insights into the astrological meaning of Equinoxes and Solstices read our next story “Equinox, Solstice and universal consciousness”.
The star Spica and the origin of the Sidereal Zodiac
Visually that meant that the Sun was at the boundary between the constellations of Pisces and Aries.
But… there was a problem as it’s not possible to see the Sun and the stars at the same time. The solution was to have a star that is opposite and thus visible at night. That very important star is known as Spica, a brilliant cool blue star that lies close to the boundary between the signs of Virgo and Libra.
Spica is one of the 15 Behenian “root” stars especially suitable for magical applications. It is of nature of Venus & Mercury. Gemstone: emerald, Plant: sage.
One of few possible ways to specify the zero point of the sidereal Zodiac is to use the point 180º opposite to the star Spica location at the year of 285 AD. This method was suggested by a few Indian researchers and became what is now called the “Lahiri ayanamsa” — perhaps the most widely used approach to define the zero point of the sidereal Zodiac.
Simply put, ayanamsa is the current angular difference between the tropical and sidereal Zodiac systems. Sanskrit word ayanāṃśa is made of words ayana “movement” and aṃśa “component”.
Why the Sidereal Zodiac is called so?
The word sidereal originates from the Latin word “sidus” that means “star”. So the sidereal Zodiac is the twelve-fold division of the sky that is based on the location of the stars.
An interesting observation: the sidereal Zodiac is actually perfectly visible as it is formed by the constellations along the ecliptic. On the other hand, the tropical Zodiac is invisible, all we can tell is that there’s a mathematically defined point on the ecliptic that marks the zero point, that’s all.
It could be said that the sidereal branch of astrology “navigates” by the stars while the tropical school uses the seasons of the planet Earth.
When both Sidereal and Tropical Zodiacs were the same
There was a time when both sidereal and tropical Zodiacs were more or less aligned — the constellations and the corresponding seasonal sectors pretty much overlapped.
According to the mathematics of Lahiri ayanamsa both sidereal and tropical Zodiacs perfectly matched each other around 285 AD.
But the stars are never still, they constantly move albeit very slowly. To make things even more complex, the north pole of the Earth actually wobbles over time altering the its location on the celestial sphere.
The effect of the polar wobble of the Earth is called “the precession of equinoxes”. Each equinox moves by a small amount resulting in a constant drift of the zero point of the tropical Zodiac relative to the stars.
The rate of precession is about 1º per each 72 years. Given that the average span of human life is about the same, one may observe that the stars will change their position by approximately 1º over one’s lifetime period.
The precession of equinoxes effectively separated the tropical Zodiac from its initial sidereal alignment. Again, this difference is called ayanamsa and its current value using the Lahiri ayanamsa is 24º07’ as of March 2019.
The illustration above shows the two Zodiacs, tropical and sidereal, side by side. The tropical Zodiac begins its 0º Aries countdown when the Sun is at the moment of the vernal Equinox. The sidereal Zodiac is built upon 0º Aries being opposite to the position of the star Spica at the year of 285 AD (Lahiri ayanamsa method) and is currently nearly one sign away from its initial tropical alignment.
Is the Sidereal Zodiac is still relevant?
The stars are still there and they are mighty astral powerhouses that project forces and bring some significant changes to our lives.
When combined into a constellation, the influence of the stars gains an additional dimension. One can easily notice just by looking at the night sky that each constellation has its own flavour, that’s a very unmistakable feeling experiences by all ancient astrologers.
We will be using the term “fixed stars” as the historical astrological term meaning the stars that don’t move as opposed to the “wandering stars” or simply planets, as described by the ancient astronomers and astrologers.
Every planet receives an additional modifying influence to its core qualities as it moves through the sequence of constellations.
By the way, the same logic applies to the planet moving through the seasonal sectors of the tropical Zodiac. In essence, this makes a rather complex fluid cocktail of energies — listed in the order of decreasing strength:
- the planet’s own qualities (the strongest)
- the force of aspects that the planet makes with other planets
- the force of the tropical sign of Zodiac influence (earth bound)
- the force of the sidereal sign of Zodiac influence (star bound)
An expert astrologer is usually able to embrace this complexity and knows how to extract the meaning from a seemingly overwhelming layers of information. This skill, or rather a serious degree of vision, comes with the years of hands-on practice interpreting charts and world events that enables the astrologer to discern more nuanced undertones otherwise not noticed by beginners.
Strengths and weaknesses of the Sidereal Zodiac
The separation of the tropical and sidereal Zodiacs could be interpreted as a metaphor of the humanity becoming more grounded on the planet Earth. A simple observation is that we don’t live by the stars as much as we live by the seasons.
The sidereal Zodiac has a peculiar duality that it is both of the distant past and of the distant future.
The Hindu (vedic) astrology is often perceived to be more precise in part due to their usage of the fixed stars. That is not necessarily the case as the vedic astrology is heavily tilted towards prediction and direction modalities in the context of “do this, don’t do that” that inevitably introduces the need to produce a certain volume of predictions that aren’t necessarily more precise. That could be more of a cultural and historical phenomenon as the roots of the Indian society go deep into the past where “being told what to do” was the only unquestionable norm of behaviour.
The Western culture and the Western astrology has moved away from the strict canon of “the gods will decide what’s best for you”. The focus of the astrological readings shifted towards the transformational interpretation and the attitude of “working on oneself”, meaning gradually and steadily improving our individual position in the world through the use of personal judgement and free will as the main “navigational tools” for making choices in life. At the end of the day, many of us have been brought up with the idea that the active choices we make today will change our individual destinies in much more reliable ways than any other external force could do.
Surely, one must not discard the sidereal Zodiac model. It is still a valid division of the ecliptic. What required is the sense of discernment. Carefully analyse the planetary alignments with the fixed stars to find what stellar energies may have a strong influence. Remember that the fixed stars influence is very punctual. In your daily astrological observations seek to verify the connections between the fixed star influence and other astrological factors like aspects and transits.
To sum it up, the strengths of the sidereal Zodiac:
- based on the geometry of point-like sources of astral energies
- each fixed star has its own unique energy
- the constellations are visible and have unmistakable astral flavour and influence
The weaknesses of the sidereal Zodiac:
- much more remote compared to the tropical Zodiac
- the fixed stars aren’t that fixed and slowly move with time
- the influence of fixed stars is extremely punctual and doesn’t always validate
- numerous versions of the sidereal Zodiac model compared to one firmly defined tropical Zodiac model
The future of the Sidereal Zodiac
Our prediction is that the influence of the fixed stars will be rediscovered once the humanity sets their foot into space and begins to colonise the Solar System. That will be the moment when the tropical Zodiac will become the principle of the past, and completely new forms of astrology will emerge — they will be based on the mathematics of the stars and the planets.
There is always more about the fixed stars of the Zodiac
To summarise it all, the sidereal Zodiac and the fixed stars is where we started and where will possibly return in the future. At the current stage, the sidereal Zodiac makes perfect sense when there are some strong alignments between the planets and the fixed stars. The tropical Zodiac is “closer to the Earth” and thus produces a more immediate influence compared to the sidereal Zodiac.
The fixed stars is a fascinating topic and the story about the influence and astrological interpretation of the fixed stars is certainly coming soon, stay tuned!
The fixed stars is a fascinating topic and more stories about the influence and astrological interpretation of the fixed stars are certainly coming soon, stay tuned!
Introducing Time Nomad add-on: Fixed stars
The Fixed Stars add-on for Time Nomad astrology app allows for further exploration of fixed stars, including their aspects to planets, parallels and rise, transit and culmination for any chart.
I’ve studied astrology for around 30 years. Only in the past year have I become familiar with True Sidereal Astrology. And I can say without a doubt that it holds the missing keys.
Life is a journey, and astrology provides a useful roadmap. On a grand scale, it shows where you are, where you’ve been, and where you’re going. In astrology, you can substitute “who” in place of “where” – astrology shows who you are, who you’ve been, and who you’re evolving into.
However, astrology is unlike a regular roadmap, in that it also shows us what parts of that road are smooth and which are filled with potholes and tricky hairpin curves. It shows us the oncoming traffic that might drift into our lane and cause a collision. It can help us navigate the terrain, steering clear of some of these hazards and riding out/surviving others intact.
The trick is, you’ve got to be looking at the right map. What if you’re trying to navigate a metro area and the map you’re looking at isn’t accurate? What if the streets are skewed, the street names being “off” by one or two blocks?
Believe it or not, you may have experienced this. If you’re familiar with astrology basics, even the characteristics of a few different Sun Signs, you might’ve gotten to know someone and when he or she told you their birthday, you might’ve been surprised to find out that he or she is the Sun Sign that they are, because they don’t seem to fit the characteristics.
This has very often happened to me. My mother was not a “typical Virgo”; my friend is not the “typical Gemini”; my husband was born under a Sagittarius Sun Sign, but I’ve always described him as “not your typical Sag”. Indeed, I’ve written my own story here, about my own astrological identity, soul-searching, and self-awareness.
You may have received a professional astrological reading (or computerized interpretation) and found that some of the parts of the analysis didn’t make sense. (Or, you may have calculated your chart using a free online calculator and then read up on different parts of your chart and realized that they didn’t seem to fit.) The same goes for horoscopes, projected Year Ahead reports, and other astrological services: some parts may have resonated while others did not.
I have a simple explanation…
These astrologers and services are using the Wrong System.
Yes, you heard correctly: over 99% of the astrologers and astrology services out there are using the wrong zodiac altogether!
I’ll let that sink in… 😉
Is Vedic And Sidereal Astrology The Same Planet
Most of the astrology we’re familiar with in the West uses what is actually an obsolete system. I’ll explain…
During the early origins of astrology, observers noticed that various personality characteristics paralleled specific planetary positions in the sky, and also relationships between different planets in terms of their position (or angle) to each other.
And since astrology and astronomy were intertwined in those days (about 1800 years ago, give or take), early astrologers/astronomers were intimately familiar with the star constellations, which is where the zodiac (“wheel of animals”) actually comes from.
But because there was also a yearly cyclic theme (especially involving the Sun), many of the astrologers found it easier to use the Equinoxes and Solstices to mark the Sun’s transition into Aries and Libra, and Cancer and Capricorn respectively.
They forgot/ignored–or didn’t realize–one thing…
While during astrology’s initial birth and development, the Equinoxes and Solstices actually matched up with the earth’s yearly seasonal rotation. However, that synchronization didn’t last, and eventually, because the North Pole slowly wobbles (much like a spinning top losing momentum and becoming unstable) and the Sun’s yearly journey through the 12 “signs” no longer matches up with the constellational zodiac. In fact, it slows down by about one degree every 72 years; while that doesn’t seem like much in the short-term, it definitely adds up over a longer period. Then, you end up with what we have now: a divergence between the two astrological systems. Siderealist has a pretty good explanation of that here.
Enter True Sidereal Astrology…
While True Sidereal Astrology has only recently begun to catch on, it’s actually an old system, as it’s based on the constellations themselves, which are fixed, as opposed to the earth’s axis-wobbling.
But wait, there’s more…
Not only does this shift one’s “true” sign(s) back in the zodiacal wheel, it also considers that the constellations differ widely in size, and allots the proper size to each constellation.
That’s right, not every sign is a uniform 30 degrees wide; rather, they range in size from 13 degrees (True Sidereal Scorpio) to 51 degrees (True Sidereal Virgo). Everything else (all the other signs) fall somewhere in between.
Initially skeptical, I put this to the test to gather some empirical data. Reframing everything I thought I knew about astrology after around 30 years of intense self-study, I began recalculating the astrological horoscope charts of myself and people I knew well. I’ve shared my story with all those captivating details HERE.
Suffice it to say that what resonated before as being accurate still resonated now, and what hadn‘t resonated before now resonates. It feels much like a key that hadn’t quite fit the lock before, now clicking neatly into place and opening up a whole new world.
Comparing True Sidereal Astrology, Sidereal Astrology, Tropical Astrology, and Vedic Astrology
Tropical or Western Astrology
Let’s start with Tropical Astrology, since that’s the system most Westerners are familiar with. As you may know, Tropical Astrology has 12 signs, each of which span 30 degrees. Each year, the Sun moves into Tropical Aries on the Spring Equinox, Tropical Cancer on the Summer Solstice, Tropical Libra on the Fall Equinox, and Tropical Capricorn on the Winter Solstice. Tropical Astrology charts are cast on a circular wheel that plots the Ascendant (or Rising Sign) on the Eastern horizon on the left side of the chart (a 9 o’clock position on a circular clock), and all planets (including the Sun, Moon, and Outer Planets Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto) are plotted in relation to the Sun according to the Tropical Zodiac around the chart-wheel containing 12 Houses, often of differing size. Often, other bodies are included, such as the calculated abstract North Node of the Moon, the Part of Fortune, and/or the asteroids Chiron and/or Lilith.
Vedic Astrology is the dominant astrological system used in the East, and it’s as old as Tropical Astrology. Primarily evolving in Indian culture and intertwined with the Hindu Dharma (or way of life), it developed before the discovery of the three Outer Planets (Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto) or asteroids (such as Chiron and others), and those more recently-discovered bodies have not been incorporated. Also utilizing 12 signs spanning 30 degrees each, these signs are adjusted backward for their approximate constellation location, although this is not quite exact. A Rising Sign is used here, too, which is plotted along a square- or diamond-shaped chart containing 12 Houses, often of equal size. In addition, Vedic Astrology incorporates many other pieces virtually unknown to Western astrology, including Moon-based Nakshatras, dashas, and other concepts.
Note: Vedic Astrology sometimes uses the terms “Vedic” and “Sidereal” interchangeably, which is true–for the 12-sign version of astrology.
13-Sign Sidereal Astrology
Sidereal Astrology is somewhat newer and uses 13 signs, incorporating the (re)discovery of the 13th sign Ophiuchus. Each sign spans a little less than 30 degrees (the zodiac wheel is a circle, and a circle can only be 360 degrees), but are otherwise given equal width. The Sun moves through each of the 13 signs uniformly each year, and the chart and planet-plotting is carried out in the same way, giving consideration to some or all of the above-mentioned abstract points and asteroids. The other characteristics resemble other Western astrology systems, in that the chart layout is circular and all of the planets (the Sun through Pluto) and other major bodies (Chiron, etc) are usually considered.
True Sidereal Astrology
True Sidereal Astrology appears to be newer, but it’s actually truer to the ancient origins of astrology itself, in that it bases its planetary positions and their characteristics off of the constellational zodiac. Open to new evolution, it has happily (re)incorporated Ophiuchus and planets/bodies discovered in more recent times, as well as old long-forgotten bodies such as other Fixed Stars. Plotted along a circular, equal-House-width chart, the constellations have proper accurate and realistic representation within the 360 degrees according to their physical size in the sky.
True Sidereal Astrology Compared To Each System
True Sidereal Astrology is similar to Tropical or Western Astrology in two ways. First, it includes all more-recently-discovered planets (Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, Chiron, etc), as well as Lilith and the Part of Fortune (among others). Second, these planets are plotted along a circular wheel, using the Ascendant/Rising Sign on the Eastern horizon and 12 Houses.
However, it is different from “typical” Tropical/Western Astrology in several ways as well. First, it incorporates 13 signs, not 12. Second, it readjusts each planet “back” into its constellation, not Tropical “Sun Sign”. Third, it resizes the signs from their conventional 30-degree span to reflect the actual sizes of the constellations themselves. Third, the Houses in the chart are typically given an equal 30-degree width, not a variable width.
True Sidereal Astrology is similar to Vedic Astrology in that it’s not tethered to the Tropical Sun Sign phenomena and its chart Houses are of equal size. However, its chart shape is different, and includes the outer planets and more recently-discovered bodies, which Vedic astrology does not.
True Sidereal Astrology is similar to 13-Sign astrology in that it does include the newly-rediscovered 13th sign Ophiuchus, its chart shape is circular, and it considers the outer planets and other recent discoveries. However, 13-Sign astrology isn’t matched to the constellations; it merely siphons width from other signs so that Ophiuchus can squeeze in between Scorpio and Sagittarius, without regard to the actual size of the constellations.