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Western Astrology Articles by Julene Packer-Louis

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Astrology For Astronomers: Why the Tropical Zodiac Sun Sign Will Never Change Over Time
by Julene Packer-Louis

Astrologers have known about precession caused by the earth's wobble since it was first noticed by Hipparchus around 135 BC. Your western astrology sun sign is not the same thing as the constellation. There is a difference between the sign of Aries and the constellation Aries, the sign of Taurus and the constellation Taurus, etc around the zodiac. Over 2,000 years ago the spring equinox did occur in the constellation Aries, but now it occurs in the constellation Pisces. The constellations of the zodiac slip backwards from the vernal equinox at a rate of one degree approximately every seventy-two years; this is called precession of the equinox. It takes earth nearly 26,000 years to complete one wobble as it rotates on its axis like a top.

Currently the vernal equinox does occur in the constellation of Pisces. However, it is the vernal equinox that marks the beginning of the sign of Aries, not the constellation boundary of Aries. Below is an illustration of 0 degrees of Aries in the Tropical Zodiac set for March 21, 2011.

The sun sign columns you read in the newspaper are based on the tropical zodiac and are therefore correct to what you have always known your sign to be. Since the seasons on Earth are consistent, the dates of zodiac signs measured along the tropical zodiac do not change over time. However dates of signs measured along the sidereal zodiac will. This is another reason for keeping with the tropical zodiac. Professor Parke Kunkle of Minnesota will soon have outdated dates for his new zodiac and they are already incorrect for someone who is over 72 years old! Plus I am curious to know how he calculated these new dates.

There are over two dozen calculations for ayanamsha floating around in the world. Ayanamsha is a Sanskrit word meaning "part of the path" that is different between the tropical zodiac and sidereal zodiacs. To calculate the sidereal zodiac you need a prime fiduciary, or a star to fix the calculation upon, and a date of coincidence when it aligned with the tropical zodiac. It seems that not all sidereal astrologers or astronomers can agree on the date of coincidence or the star to use to establish the beginning of the constellation boundary of Aries: Spica, Aldabaren, or something else. Hence there are many different sidereal zodiacs because there are many different calculations of ayanamsha. Vedic astrology uses the Lahiri ayanamsha sanctioned by the Indian Government. Astronomers tend to use the Fagan-Bradley ayanamsha. So it is quite possible that Kunkle chose Fagan-Bradley. Still, there is much discrepancy about the many sidereal zodiac and there is nearly a degree of difference between the two most popular ayanamshas. Professor Kunkles's new dates would not even be accurate for all of the sidereal zodiacs.

With the tropical zodiac there is no discrepancy about the beginning of Aries. There is only one tropical zodiac. When we have equal day and night in March, spring begins and we start 0 degrees of Aries. When we have the longest day at summer solstice in the northern hemisphere, summer begins and we start 0 degrees of Cancer. This observable seasonal pattern that representations Earth's cyclical relationship with its parent star the sun continues on with the autumnal equinox beginning Libra and winter solstice beginning Capricorn. The tropical zodiac is that simple and there is one way to calculate it.

I also find it odd that scientists have a term called occam's razor and the Latin lex parsimoniae known as law of parsimony which indicates that the simplest or least complex explanation is usually more accurate. Surely the consistent tropical zodiac with a mere one way to calculate it is less complex than a constantly moving sidereal zodiac where calculation can't be agreed upon.

To clear up another misnomer, astrologers don't believe that the planets cause something to happen or influence our identity. Rather they are an archetypal correlation to what we experience on earth both otwardly and inwardly.As above, as below. The tropical zodiac is used for an astrological understanding of the archetypal correlations of our earthy experience with the cycles of nature and life on earth. We don't live in the heavens. We live on earth and experience that vantage point.

About Ophicuchus and adding a 13th sign to the zodiac... The tropical zodiac signs are not based on the constellations. They are based on the seasons and we have twelve signs just like our calendar has twelve months to represent a solar year experienced on Earth. So the foot of Ophiuchus is irrelevant. The tropical zodiac is based on the seasons not the constellations.

© Julene Packer-Louis, 2011