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January 15, 2022

Many of those new to astrology are unfamiliar with the differences between the two primary systems of astrology in use today, Sidereal and Tropical. These come down to a difference not so much in their content but in their timing. Both of these systems contain all 12 signs of the zodiac, and most of us probably have a strong idea of which sun sign we were born under.

However, the chances are that if you have learned your sun sign anywhere in the western hemisphere, the sun was nowhere near the sign you know. The reason for this is due to the Tropical Zodiac system. This system is one of the two major Zodiac systems in use around the world, so let’s take a moment to learn about both of these systems and the differences between them.

The Difference Between Sidereal and Tropical Zodiacs

The zodiac system dominant in the western world, and which you are most likely familiar with, is the Tropical Zodiac. The Tropical System is based on the positions the stars were in the sky on a given day over two thousand years ago, rather than their positions today. In contrast, the Sidereal System attempts to adjust the signs with each passing equinox by systems of corrective measures described in ancient Vedic texts called ayanamsas. As astrology passed from Hindus in India through Persia and into Roman Egypt, where it was popularized by Ptolemy, the connection to the actual stars was lost, and the Tropical System, which actually tracks the procession of the sun as seen from Earth against a fixed map was born.

The stars, however, are not fixed in the sky. Over two thousand years, stars have been born, disappeared, and most importantly, the Earth’s axis itself has ever so slightly shifted. This cosmically slow drift in alignment is called the precession of the equinoxes, and it means that where the sun sits relative to the stars now is very different from the original positions frozen in the Tropical System. This difference, approximately 24 degrees, but up to 39 depending on the dates being measured, is enough to mean most people will have a completely different sign in the different systems. A Tropical Zodiac Aries could now be a Sidereal Pisces, for example. 

You may wonder how Sidereal Astronomy tracks the changes in the stars. This is done through the “ayanamsas” mentioned earlier. There are actually several different systems of ayanamsas, some of the most prominent is the Raman Ayanamsa, Krishnamurthy Ayanamsa, but by far the most dominantly used is the Lahiri Ayanamsa. All ayanamsas are mathematical systems for adjusting the positions of the stars ever so slightly over time to account for the precession of the equinoxes, and all of them are remarkably sophisticated mathematical models for the time they were invented by Vedic scholars thousands of years ago.

Despite this sophisticated tracking, though, there is no right or wrong system. Sidereal and Tropical astrology are now different systems with different traditions born over thousands of years of history.

The Importance of Both Zodiacs

The fact is that your sun sign is only one of many factors that can lead to the same conclusion when interpreting your traits. Let’s say your sun sign from the Tropical Zodiac moves to Pisces when you switch to a Sidereal chart. If you shave several planets within Aries, you will still see many Aries traits regardless of where the sun is.

When you look at either chart as a whole, they will both produce accurate results for everyone. They also don’t contradict each other so long as the entire chart is considered and interpreted accurately.

This isn’t to say, though, that they may not provide some unique advantages. Many believe that the Western Tropical Zodiac provides a more grounded and “earthy” result that focuses more on the practical concerns here on Earth. In contrast, the Sidereal Zodiac is more associated with spiritual concerns and focuses on the soul.

On the other hand, some argue the opposite due to the fact that the Sidereal Zodiac represents the actual location of the fixed stars, whereas the Tropical Zodiac simply represents a symbolic idea of their location. In this case, it is argued that the Sidereal Zodiac is better suited at predicting events, but the Tropical is more suited to describing the way these events will impact your psyche.

No matter which you do choose to use, both have their strengths and have been depended upon by astrologers for millennia. So, you can be confident in their ability to provide a useful and accurate look at your birth chart. So, now that you know the difference, don’t fear using either of these systems.

Final Thoughts

Now that you understand the primary systems of astrology in use, you can make an educated decision on which of them to use. Whether you decide to stick with the same system you always have or make the change to a new one, know that it can still provide you with many valuable insights. Also, if you would like to see your natal birth chart in either of these systems, you can now customize an Ephemeris birth chart talisman or necklace to either of these systems, as well as three of the most popular house systems. This can make a great tool to learn about your birth chart while enjoying a beautiful work of art customized to you and your unique destiny.


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