Sidereal and Tropical Astrology~ what’s the difference anyway? by Sally Nurney
What does "Sidereal" (Sigh-DEER-ee-all) and why does StarWisdom.org place the Sun and Moon in different signs than my astrological calendar?
Let’s start with Tropical ~ the word ‘Tropical’ is sourced from the Latin tropicus meaning "pertaining to a turn". The Tropical zodiac is about the relationship between the Earth and the Sun, the turning of the wheel of the year. The Tropical year begins with Aries on the Spring Equinox regardless of what is the astronomical reality. This beginning of Aries is not based upon any other stars besides our Sun. Thus it could be said, the Tropcial perspective is focused upon our life on earth, upon the seasons of the year.
The word ‘Sidereal’ is sourced from the Latin sidereus meaning "starry, or astral" and perhaps earlier to the Indo-European, sweid- "to shine." The Sidereal zodiac is about the relationship between the Earth, the Sun and the STARS too. Sidereal astrology agrees with astronomy seeking what stars are actually present behind the Sun, Moon and other planets. The Sidereal perspective takes into account actual placements because it is Star Beings that are sending the energies and vibrations that we receive. The Sun is certainly important and may be our portal into this life, but from whence have we come? Sidereal astrology retains this connection to our starry source.
Sidereal astrology looks to the CONSTELLATIONS – groupings of stars. Tropical astrology uses SIGNS which are labels or markers not unlike street signs to tell us where Aries "should" be. Why? Because Tropical astrology ignores the "Precession of the Equinoxes." This ‘going backwards’ of the Equinoxes is created by our Earth wobbling very slowly on its axis, scribing a circle in the northern sky and changing to where the axis points. This movement changes which stars are seen rising with the Sun at the Spring Equinox. This is a very s-l-o-w process, moving the Equinox point back only 1 degree every 72 years! But the years add up and since the rise of the Tropical system (around 100 AD) the stars of Aries are no longer on the horizon as the Sun rises on the Spring Equinox. Rather, the constellation Pisces is rising with the Sun.
Tropical astrology works around this by using SIGNS and not constellations; Tropical astrology created the signs (labels) and moves them on top of the fixed stars to accommodate this slow shifting of the Earth’s pole. In this way we currently have the sign (label) of Aries covering most of the constellation (stars) of Pisces. This creates the perception that the Tropical and Sidereal Zodiacs are now in two different places. Actually they are looking at the same point, but referencing two different things; at the Spring Equinox, the Tropical astrologer sees the SIGN of Aries behind the Sun, while the Sidereal astrologer looks past the label and sees the CONSTELLATION of Pisces.
While I personally have found the Sidereal path to bring me the most satisfaction, you must explore what works for you. Both Tropical and Sidereal paths share a common root. To concern ourselves with who is ‘right’ is completely missing the point! Instead, may you realize that the heavens are alive and holding gifts for you! May you experience the clear dark sky in communion with your cosmic family!