Sidereal Zodiac vs. Tropical Zodiac

Image by kalhh from Pixabay

What is the sidereal zodiac and how does it differ from the tropical zodiac? This is a brief article detailing what exactly these two zodiacal systems are.

The zodiac itself is a band of stars in the sky, through which the Sun makes its apparent journey each year. The ancients noticed this and grouped certain stars together into constellations, giving them specific qualities and characteristics based on their nature.

So if the sun makes the same trip through these stars every year, why are there two different zodiacs?

Difference Between Tropical and Sidereal Zodiac

Western astrology makes use of the tropical zodiac, an evenly-split 360° circle around the heavens, with the 0° Aries point beginning at the spring equinox. Each zodiac sign is given 30° of space in the tropical zodiac (12 x 30° = 360°), so that the signs always match the seasons: Aries to spring, Cancer to summer; Libra to fall; and Capricorn to winter.

However, due to the precession of the equinoxes, the actual, physical location of the constellations differs from the seasonal signs in the tropical zodiac. The precession of the equinoxes is a phenomenon where the earth’s rotation around its polar axis shifts the equinox further west through the zodiac (i.e. backwards from Aries, to Pisces, to Aquarius, etc.). This occurs at a rate of about 1° every 72 years.

Image taken from SlideShare

Ultimately, this leads to the spring equinox, or the 0° Aries point in tropical terms, occurring sooner by about 1° every 72 years. Presently, even though the tropical zodiac uses 0° Aries as the spring equinox, in the sidereal zodiac the spring equinox actually occurs in Pisces.

The physical constellations constitute the sidereal zodiac. “Sidereal” simply refers to the stars. For example, when you look up in the sky and see the constellations of the Ram, the Twins, or the Lion, that is the sidereal zodiac.

However, due to the precession like we previously mentioned, most of the Ram in the sidereal zodiac is actually present in the tropical sign of Taurus; the constellation of the Twins is mostly in tropical Cancer; and the Lion lies mostly in Virgo.

On top of this incongruency, the sidereal zodiac’s boundaries are not as clear cut as the tropical. Many of the constellations overlap one another, and some are much larger than others, like Scorpio and Pisces. Therefore, it is ironically more difficult to define the limits of each sign in the sidereal zodiac than in the tropical zodiac.

This overlap of tropical vs sidereal is one of many arguments used by people who disagree with astrology. Seemingly it would be a fantastic argument; however, Western astrology and Vedic/Hindu astrology, which makes use of the sidereal zodiac, have both proven themselves worthy of practice in modern divination.

Stay tuned for more articles on this topic. We’ll be reading charts in both the tropical and sidereal zodiacs for an up-close comparison between the two.

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