The Tropical Solar Zodiac
Definition: [Zodiacs] A band of the heavens approximately 14º wide, centered on the Ecliptic, against which the Sun and planets are seen to move, as seen from the Earth. This band is divided into equal 30º segments, each one of which corresponds to a fixed set of dates in the calendar year. In this system, each Sun sign is of equal length and the first Sun sign is Aries which starts on 21st March at the Vernal Equinox. The Tropical Zodiac is the Solar Zodiac with which most of we Western astrologers are familiar. It is not the Zodiac used in the East, where a Sidereal Zodiac is used..
The word Tropic relates to the apparent reversal [or "turning"] of the direction of the Sun at the Solstices [the Sun reaches its highest or lowest point in the sky for the year]. It means that the dates of the signs of this particular Zodiac Wheel are kept constant with respect to the seasons - which are based on the sunlight we get, and therefore also how high or low the Sun gets in the sky. However, because of the Movement of the Ages, the seasons don't keep in step with the stars, so over the past two millennia the Tropical Zodiac has become disconnected from the stars it was originally based on.
'The Greatest Blunder That
Has Ever Been Made in the History of Astrology*': [* A
quotation from Cyril Fagan's, Zodiacs Old and New, Llewellyn, 1950 AD, p
53.] Unfortunately, because the Tropical Zodiac has lost its original
connection with the heavens, almost everything about it is now inaccurate when
related to the stars. This has crucial implications for standard Western
astrology. If we look at the real stars its easy to see the
Examples: Follow these links to see examples of what this means for the horoscope star charts of Prince William: inner solar system; outer solar system. For the real Sun sign dates see the Real Solar Zodiac.
In Defense of the Tropical Zodiac? Even though the Tropical Zodiac is now disconnected from the stars, we Western astrologers mostly continue to use it as the basis of our astrology. Hence a number of astrologers, who are aware of the problems noted above, have spent considerable amounts of time trying to justify our current position. Their argument is essentially as follows:
1. Western astrology has no
connection whatsoever with the stars.*
* Have you ever wondered why your standard Western horoscope never says a word about the stars, only the signs? This is the reason.
To this I have to respond: why? why? why? why? why? why? why? why? why?and why? None of those ten statements is how our Ancient Babylonian and Ancient Greek ancestors, who founded astrology, thought about astrology. Their astrology was of the stars. As is at least a part of Vedic Astrology today. As is at least one branch of Chinese Astrology today. Really, in my opinion, all we conventional Western astrologers are trying to do is to defend the indefensible.
The Classical View of Stellar
Astrology: Here is a small part of what Claudius
Ptolemy the 'Father of Classical Astrology' [c 130 - 170 AD] has to say on the
subject of the stars and astrology, taken from his master work - and the
seminal text of astrology -
[the Quadpartite Thesis] :
Clearly, Classical astrology was based on the stars, not Tropical Zodiac signs strangely out of step with the stars. Why isn't ours?
So What Exactly is the Tropical Zodiac? Western astrology is no longer star-based. So what is it based on? Those of us who feel the need to defend the Tropical Zodiac normally say that it's Earth based, i.e. it's relative to us on Earth. But what exactly does this mean?
Everything in Tropical Zodiac Western astrology is based on one key point: the Vernal Equinox, and not on the stars. This point is also known as the "First Point in Aries" because it defines where so-called "Aries" begins in the Tropical Zodiac. Essentially this point starts the circle in standard Western Astrology and starts the cycle in Western astrology. So this point is rock solid, right? Never moves? Same for all time? Er, sorry, no.
The Vernal Equinox moves because of the Movement of the Ages. And this means that over the centuries the place where the Earth actually is in its yearly path around the Sun at Vernal Equinox changes too. Below are two charts, one showing the position of the Earth at Vernal Equinox now, the other where our planet was at Vernal Equinox two and a half millennia ago, at just about the time when the Vernal Equinox was being used for the first time in conjunction with the Zodiac Wheel in astrology. Because of the Movement of the Ages, the Earth is at a different place in its cycle around the Sun at Vernal Equinox compared to two and a half millennia years ago, and this place keeps changing year by year in the cycle of the Great Year. So even if we did ditch the stars and choose "the yearly cycle around the Sun" to base our astrology on, the Tropical Zodiac is still incorrect, because it does not keep pace with our yearly cycle around the Sun. TheTropical Zodiac is not relative to the Earth as some of us assume to to be.
The Seasons and the Tropical Zodiac? The only thing that the Tropical Zodiac does keep pace with are the Seasons. [This may have once seemed significant, when centuries ago it was thought that the stars caused the seasons. But now we know that the seasons are simply caused by the tilt of the Earth's axis.]
So What About Southern Hemisphere? However, the idea that for some curious reason we should give up the stars and base our astrology on the Seasons has one, huge, logical flaw. What about Australia? New Zealand? South Africa? South America? The Seasons are opposite in the southern hemisphere to those in the northern. Should astrology work backwards in Australia? I doubt it! And then there is the Earth's equatorial belt where there aren't proper seasons at all. Are we saying astrology doesn't work at all at the equator? Well, we are saying exactly that if astrology is based on the seasons and nothing else. Really, it's just nonsense!
The Future of Astrology? My opinion is that for the future of astrology we have no choice but to stop using the Tropical Zodiac. How long would you tolerate a map which said you were in London when you were really in Paris? And then had the temerity to say: no, look, this is London in our system.
We have to admit we've got it wrong and move on. I think there are two ways forward: stay with the Sun, but use the Real Solar Zodiac, [ i.e. the Solar Zodiac of stars that is actually up there, already accurately charted and dated]; or think about astrology on the larger scale and use the Galactic Zodiac.
Post-Script: Its odd to think about, but this whole page is about something that doesn't actually exist...
The Zodiac and Astrology:
© Dr Shepherd Simpson, Astrological Historian
See the new Astrological Index for the meaning of other astrological words and phrases