Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The 2 Zodiacs

Now and again I experience a "crisis of faith" with regard to the tropical zodiac. Writing about Aquarius recently spun me into one such mini-crisis. I see so much Capricorn in Aquarius.

Very briefly, the tropical zodiac is around 23 degrees adrift (ahead) of the ancient sidereal zodiac which is calculated in relation to the constellations. The tropical zodiac is calculated mathematically, in relation to the seasons, with vernal equinox point always at 0 Aries. Precession of the equinoxes has meant that the tropical zodiac no longer aligns with sidereal (calculated by the stars), as it would have done long ago, in the third century AD.

My interest is primarily natal charts, but I can't ignore the fact that if we used the sidereal zodiac, Pluto has not just moved into Capricorn, it moved into sidereal Sagittarius towards the end of 2006, after years of traversing sidereal Scorpio. Hmmmm - I wonder! And sidereally Saturn is in Leo, not Virgo. Uranus in sidereal Aquarius, and Neptune getting towards the end of sidereal Capricorn. We become so used to tropical values that it's hard to get the head around another perspective. But what if sidereal is the correct perspective? Are we squinting, tropically, our vision slightly blurred?

The sidereal zodiac is that used by most Indian and other Eastern astrologers, but the complete system they use, Vedic or Jyotish, is quite different from the commonly used western system. However, there are a few western astrologers who use the sidereal zodiac while keeping largely to the western system. I don't see anything wrong with this, though some folk comment that "you can't mix the two".

A transcription of an interview with western sidereal astrologer Kenneth Bowser, reported by Colleen Mauro in The Mountain Astrologer around 3 years ago provides much food for thought, especially this paragraph:

"Q: Some people say sidereal astrology is best for the timing of events but that tropical astrology better describes trait characteristics. Do you agree?

No, I strongly disagree. My view, and I’m sure I speak for the western sidereal community on this, is that you can’t have it both ways. The matter is basic: if you have competing propositions, it’s possible for one to be right and the other wrong, or they can both be wrong but they can’t both be right. There is no question but that sidereal astrology is very effective for events because it disposes of the timing problems associated with precession. The problem is how to make somebody like Dick Cheney, our current vice president, into both a sidereal Capricorn, and a tropical Aquarian. Can he be seen as liberal, bohemian, egalitarian, humanitarian, counter-culture oriented or a rebel? I don’t see it. It’s like saying that someone could simultaneously be primarily liberal and primarily conservative or simultaneously primarily emotional and primarily intellectual. My experience is that you don’t get two diametrically opposite persons, in terms of character, in the same body.
A tropicalist and a siderealist with similar experience in the art, who both understand the intrinsic natures of the planets, will tend to say much the same thing about planet combinations. The parting of the ways comes when someone who has the sun in tropical Aquarius but sidereal Capricorn is evaluated according to what those positions mean to a tropicalist and a siderealist. The contrasts are pretty sharp.
Another glaring issue that bowls over former tropicalists who make the leap to the sidereal zodiac is how the dignities and debilities come alive in a sidereal context. Astrology is mostly a matter of reading character and I submit that to do that, the tropical and sidereal twain cannot meet. "

I have pondered on Dick Cheney's natal chart too, (HERE), comparing it with my own. Of course, using the sidereal zodiac we'd both have Sun in Capricorn. But, with sidereal as with tropical it's no use looking simply at the Sun's natal position. We have to consider the whole chart. In doing so, and comparing charts for the same person using the two zodiacs, it often turns out that a kind of planetary musical chairs takes place, the same signs being emphasised, but by different planets. This makes it very difficult to decide which zodiac works better.

I have often been puzzled by the charts of some people I've known well, and felt sure the Sun sign was "wrong". There can be a variety of reasons for this, the sidereal/tropical zodiac question is but one of many. There's the controversial matter of sign cusps - whether planets in the very early or last degrees of a sign take on some of the qualities of the previous or following sign. Or perhaps the reason could be connected with the strength of the rising sign, Moon sign, or a stellium in a different sign from the Sun.

In future I'll look at any chart I study with the sidereal zodiac in mind, as well as the topical, and shall note how often one fits better, equally well, or how many times sidereal just doesn't seem to fit at all.

Because sidereal positons are around 23 degrees behind tropical, any planet or point which lies beyond 23 degrees of a sign will remain in the same sign as tropical, but any planet earlier than 23 degrees will move into the previous sign. To avoid fiddly calculations, a natal chart calculated sidereally can be obtained, free, HERE.

In my own case, and that of my husband, sidereal versions of our charts are an equally good fit, perhaps even better, than the tropical versions, but we both have "splash" pattern charts, so most of the same signs remain emphasised. I've experimented with some of the charts I've saved, and have not yet found one where I'd say that sidereal feels totally wrong. The reason may be because of the still relatively small difference of 23 degrees between the two. Venus and/or Mercury are often found in the sidereal (tropically previous) sign, retaining some focus there. In centuries to come, when sidereal and tropical move much further apart (if man survives) it may be a different story.

Case still open, jury still out!


Michelle said...

The challenge of faith vs science? It gets to me too - the fact that most astronomers look at us and roll their eyes in horror and despair.

And yet... it works. Not perfect, but so close at times it takes your breath away. I still feel there's so much more to astrology that we're dealing with something akin to the top of the iceberg.

But yes, it bothers me a lot that using a different zodiac, or even a different House system, can alter things.

Michelle said...

PS... last week hubby says casually "Oh, I got my sister wrong. She's a year younger" AFTER I'd done her birth chart!

I'm lying there thinking OMG, I sent the woman an entirely wrong chart! :-O I get it out, redo... and the new chart is just so not her..

I contact her and find out hubby was wrong, but wrong the second time. She was the age he thought at first. The first birthchart that felt right WAS right!


Twilight said...

Hi Michelle

I know what you mean about "tip of an iceberg".

I think astrology is both more and less than we now believe it to be. We're fumbling around in the dark, knowing there's something there, but unable to quite identify it. That's how I sense it anyway.

Yes, and when something "feels" right in astrology, it so often is. There must be a 6th, 7th 8th, (or whatever), sense that comes into play.

MrsLilypond said...

well.... my sidereal chart, doesn't fit me at all.... sun capricorn, taurus rising...no no no no.

oh and mybirthchart.com seems to be not working at the moment.

Twilight said...

Hi Mrs. L.

A few years ago I'd have said the same about myself - I too thought sidereal was all wrong for me. But recently I've started to look at things differently, especially taking the whole chart into consideration. What seems to happen, in my case and my husband's, is a subtle change of emphasis, rather than a fundamental change.

I'm not fully convinced about sidereal being "the right one", but I'm going to keep an eye on it from now on, and an open mind.

Oh - sorry about mybirthchart.com -I used it some time ago, perhaps they've disabled it now.
You can get a sidereal version of your chart via astro.com from their extended chart selection.

MrsLilypond said...

It worked the day you first post it in the blog. But not since. Odd.