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. 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.
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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. Simply put the Zodiac is the area of the sky surrounding the path that the Sun travels along throughout the year. But for an observer located on the planet Earth the Sun appears to be moving through the field of fixed stars.
The illustration below shows the Earth green moving counterclockwise in its orbit around the Sun.
Sidereal Sun Sign Dates
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. 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 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 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 Zodiacal circle of the ecliptic had one problem common to all circles: it had no beginning and no end. 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. Geometrically speaking, the equinox is the point of intersection between the ecliptic and the celestial equator. And since the Earth axial spin is tilted at about 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 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.
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. Visually that meant that the Sun was at the boundary between the constellations of Pisces and Aries.
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. Simply put, ayanamsa is the current angular difference between the tropical and sidereal Zodiac systems. 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. 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 AD.
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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 precession of equinoxes effectively separated the tropical Zodiac from its initial sidereal alignment. The illustration above shows the two Zodiacs, tropical and sidereal, side by side. 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. Every planet receives an additional modifying influence to its core qualities as it moves through the sequence of constellations. Calculating your Sidereal birth chart is quite simple. Many of the Western astrological sites provide a Sidereal interpretation to your chart. But for now,a quick reference is simple: Take a planet in your birth chart. Note the degree of it 15 Degrees, 29 Degrees,whatever and minus 23 from the Degree it is currently at.
The sign that the planet or asteroid or ascendant is now placed in is your Sidereal Sign of that planet. In my experience sidereal astrology is much less concerned with your own psychological perception of the world and instead is outcome oriented.
Because of this, sidereal is uniquely equipped to examine mundane astrological events like world trends and politics, the larger trajectory of your life, and is superior in some ways at forecasting. The lunar traditions in Vedic astrology are the ones that fascinate me most of all, since lunar astrology predates solar astrology by thousands of years.
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