What is my Sun Sign, Really?

Monday Jan. 31st, 2011

Many have read or heard a report from the Astronomers of the Minnesota Planetarium Society who claim to have made a new discovery about the astrology signs. They say that the moon’s gravitational pull or wobble on the Earth changed our planet’s position in relation to its axis, making the original alignment of the stars, the basis for the zodiac signs, “off” by about a month. This is true but there is much more to the story than that. Don’t worry, astrologers know this and nothing has changed.

What they are talking about is the true sidereal position of the planets, the position of the planets with respect to the fixed stars and constellations. Sidereal means “relating to the stars or constellations”. As we know, the earth is tilted on its axis. That is what causes the shift they are referring to. Because of the tilt, as the earth rotates on its axis, it wobbles like a top and creates an elliptical circle as it spins on top (see image below). Imagine spinning a top and as it slows down, it creates that pattern on top. It takes 25,800 years for the earth to make a total cycle around the twelve signs of the zodiac, around that elliptical orbit. (Below the diagram shows 26,000 years rounded off.) This is where the great astrological ages come from like Pisces, Aquarius, etc. We have just entered a new phase of that orbit to Aquarius as many know.

Because of the wobble or pole shift, about every 72 years the earth precesses backwards about 1 degree thus altering the true position of the zodiac signs. The article is true in that the positions we use in the west, called tropical astrology, are not the positions of the planets with respect to the constellations or fixed stars. At this point, the tropical position of the planets is about 23.5 degrees behind the sidereal positions. In India they use the true position of the planets and call their astrology Vedic astrology. They have adjusted for the 23.5 degrees. The closer to 0 degrees a planet is in, the more it will resemble the sign before it. It’s usually a mix. Though if a planet is 24 to 29 degrees, it would be the same sign in each system.

In the west, when we reach spring equinox, we say the Sun is at 0 Aries. That is the true position of the planets with respect to our Sun, our solar system. This is how we base our astrology in the west and we call it tropical astrology as it is based on the equinoxes. But in reality at spring equinox, the Sun is really about 23.5 degrees behind Aries in Pisces.  It is true that the original zodiac was developed by the Babylonians and they used their current sidereal positions to establish the signs of the zodiac. Here we are thousands of years later and after accounting for precession, we are about 23.5 degrees behind those original positions.
As with all sciences, astrology is not a perfect science. When I received my Bachelor of Science in Chemistry, I remember being shocked when I got into the upper courses only to realize that they really didn’t have all the answers. They had theories and approximations but not all the answers. I soon realized that every branch of science and medicine was the same, no one had all the answers. Astrology is no different.

Though the Babylonians aligned the constellations in perfect 30 degree orbs, in the heavens that is not true—the constellations are not perfectly 30 degrees. Some zodiac signs or constellations are smaller than 30 degrees, some are larger. As far as the new constellation of Ophiucus, located between Scorpio and Sagittarius, I will have to research it to know more. My guess is that it may be true that the Babylonians picked 12 constellations to make it fit the rotation of the Sun and the Moon and therefore left out this constellation.

The MPS article said Ophiucus is “associated with higher education, healing and medicine”. Scorpio is associated with healing and medicine. Sagittarius is associated with higher education. You can see where Ophiucus already encompasses these two signs which may be why it hasn’t been missed. In other words, when you get close to the cusp of Scorpio/Sagittarius, you get a mix of the two signs anyway. Add in the correction for precession and sizes of the constellations and you can see again why things aren’t black and white. But in actual practice, when talking to someone, you can easily find where things fit.

In my practice I use both systems of astrology, both Vedic or sidereal and tropical or Western astrology. The scary thing is, both systems work. Some say that as you get older, the Vedic chart takes over more.

Most modern western astrologers mostly look at aspects. Many have lost the art of interpreting the inherent strength of the planet, which Vedic and Hellenistic astrology never lost. When a planet shifts from one system to the other, the inherent strength of the planets change.

For example, one client I have has an average tropical chart. They seem to have a difficult time in this life. I always had this deep sense that they were a really awesome soul with a lot more attainment than they exhibit in this life. When I looked at their Vedic chart, which one could say is a deeper look at the soul, it was beyond awesome. It helped me to understand that this soul has great attainment but is struggling in this life with certain things. And as they have gotten older, they are starting to exhibit more of the Vedic chart.

Like Einstein said, everything is relative to your position, to your perspective. Astrology is no different. Tropical astrology is relative to our Sun and solar system. Vedic astrology is relative to the constellations and fixed stars. Like everything else, you will find a different opinion for each astrologer you talk to. It is in actual practice where the truth becomes more apparent. Without using both systems, it may be hard to see both sides.

Karen Drye has been studying astrology for over 30 years and has been a full time practicing astrologer for almost 15 years. She has been trained by the top astrologers in the world at Kepler College of Astrological Arts and Sciences where she obtained an Associate of Arts in Astrology. She continues to practice astrology here in Bozeman, you can visit her website at www.spiritualastrology.com.