Traditional Astrology
Christopher Warnock, Esq.
Tropical, Sidereal & Constellational Zodiacs:
The Power of World View

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Introduction to the Zodiac
Comparisons of the Tropical, Sidereal & Constellational Zodiacs
The Importance of World View

Introduction to the Zodiac


The word Zodiac comes from the Greek zodiakos kuklos or "circle of animals" referring to the various animals and other symbols that make up the Zodiac. If we watch the path of the Sun against the sky, known as the ecliptic, it crosses 12 constellations. These are the origins of the Zodiac, a 360 degree circle through which the planets orbit.
The Tropical Zodiac, used by Western astrologers since at least 100 BC, consists of 12 equal signs of 30 degrees each. Each degree is divided into 60 minutes and each minute into 60 seconds. This allows for a very precise calculation of the position of any planet. The signs of the Tropical Zodiac never corresponded to the material constellations because the constellations are highly irregular, none of which is 30 degrees in length and because of the precession of the equinoxes. The precession of the equinoxes is a slow movement of the fixed stars and the constellations due to spinning of the Earth on its axis. This causes a change in Tropical Zodiacal longitude of approximately one degree every 72 years.
The Tropical Zodiac is oriented to the Seasons. The Sun enters the 1st degree of the sign Aries on the Spring Equinox, when days and nights are equal. The Sun enters Cancer on Midsummer's Day, the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. The Sun enters Libra on the Autumnal Equinox, when again days and nights are equal. The Sun enters Capricorn on the Winter Solstice, when the days are shortest. Much of the meaning attributed to the signs comes from this seasonal orientation.
The Sidereal Zodiac is used by the traditional Vedic astrologers of India. It also had its origin in the constellations of the ecliptic. The Sidereal Zodiac is composed also of 12 signs of 30 degrees each. However, rather than being oriented to the Seasons, Aries, the start point of the Sidereal Zodiac, is oriented to the fixed stars. The ayanamsa, the difference between the Tropical and Sidereal Zodiac is controversial in Vedic astrology and there is not a consensus on the proper start point for the Sidereal Zodiac.
The Constellational Zodiac is a modern invention and is a Zodiac that corresponds to the physical constellations. Many adherents insist that there are 13 rather than 12 signs/constellations in the Constellational Zodiac, adding Ophiuchus. The signs of the Constellational Zodiac are highly irregular in size and there is controversy over the exact boundaries of each sign.

Comparisons of the Tropical, Sidereal & Constellational Zodiacs


The Tropical Zodiac has come under considerable criticism primarily because it does not correspond to the material/physical stars and constellations. While this criticism is sometimes made by adherents of the Sidereal Zodiac, they are also subject to criticism based on this criterion because the Sidereal Zodiac is composed of 12 signs of 30 equal degrees and also does not correspond to the material/physical stars and constellations, except as regards its start point and even then there is considerable controversy over the proper Sidereal ayanamsa.
So if one feels that the physical/material stars are the only possible basis for the signs then one must use a Constellational Zodiac, that is a Zodiac where the boundaries of the signs are the same as the boundaries of the physical/material stars and constellations.
Let's develop some of the differences between the Zodiacs in more detail. First, of all we should be clear that contrary to many modern assertions with regard to the foolishness and lack of knowledge of ancient astrologers, that traditional and Hellenistic astrologers were very well aware of the fact that the Tropical Zodiac did not correspond to the physical/material stars and constellations. We can see this in the various lists of fixed stars and their Zodiacal longitude which astrologers knew changed over time due to precession. The choice of the Tropical Zodiac was made in full awareness and despite the fact that it did not correspond to the material/physical stars and constellations.
The key to the attraction of the Tropical Zodiac to ancient astrologers is two fold. First, its orderliness and regularity and secondly, its orientation to the Seasons. The first orderly characteristic of the Tropical Zodiac is that it is composed of 12 equal signs. The medieval Italian astrologer Guido Bonatti says, "But perhaps it might be asked, why the signs are only twelve?...One {reason} that twelve [or the duodenary] is more perfect than practically all other [numbers] not exceeding it...For it arises by the multiplication of the ternary {3} by the quaternary {4}, and the quaternary {4} by the ternary {3}, and the binary {2} by the senary {6}..." Book of Astronomy, Tr II, part 1, ch. 1, Dykes trans, at 27-8.
The importance of the divisibility of the 12 signs of the Zodiac can be seen quite clearly in the Ptolemaic aspects. The sextile being 2 signs, the division of the 12 signs by 6, the square being 3 signs, the division of the 12 signs by 4, the trine being 4 signs, the division of the 12 signs by 3 and the opposition, a division of the 12 signs by 2.
An additional example of the orderliness of the 12 signs is that each sign is classified as being of the element of fire, air, water and earth, known as the triplicities and as being that which begins (traditional moveable, modern cardinal signs), that which is in middle (traditional and modern, fixed signs) and that which ends traditional common and modern mutable signs), known as the quadruplicities. Thus each sign has a different combination of triplicity and quadriplicity:
  • Aries - moveable fire
  • Taurus - fixed earth
  • Gemini - common air
  • Cancer - moveable water
  • Leo - fixed fire
  • Virgo - common earth
  • Libra - moveable air
  • Scorpio - fixed water
  • Sagittarius - common fire
  • Capricorn - moveable earth
  • Aquarius - fixed air
  • Pisces - common water

The seasonal orientation of the signs in the Tropical Zodiac is also very important. One reason is because the nature of the signs themselves corresponds to their seasonal attribution. The English astrology William Lilly says,

"Aries, Cancer, Libra, Capricorn are called moveable and Cardinal: moveable, because when the Sun enters into Aries and Libra, the Weather and Season of the Year quickly varies and changes; they are called Cardinal, because when the Sun enters into any of those Signs from that time we denominate the Quarters of the yeer. For from the Sun entering into Aries and Libra the Equinoctial or the Spring and Autumne arise; from the Sun his entrance into Cancer and Capricorn ariseth the Solstice of Summer and Winter.

The Fixed Signs doe in order follow the Equinoctial and Tropicks; and they are called fixed, for that when Sun enters into them, the season of the yeer is fixed, and we doe more evidently perceive either Heat or Cold, Moysture or Drinesse. The fixed Signes are these, Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, Aquarius.

Common Signes are constitutes between moveable and fixed, and retain a property or nature, pertaking both with the preceding and consequent Sign:"

Christian Astrology,, page 88.
We can see many examples of the importance of the seasonal attributions of the signs of the Tropical Zodiac, for example, the exaltations of the planets. The English astrologer William Ramesey says,

Enter we shall here (as in the preceding Chapter) with the Luminaries, and first with the Sun, as being the chief light, and Fons vita, the Fountain of life; the Sun then is said to be in the point of his Exaltation when he is in the 19. degree of Aries, he being then in the highest Northern point of the Ecliptick, by which all things are made to spring and flourish, the heat of weather and the length of days being increased; therefore for the same reason contrary is he said to be in his Fall in Libra, it being the opposite sign in the heavens to Aries, in the which he declineth Southward, by the which the shortness of the days and cold is increased, to the hinderance of the fertility of the earth."

Astrologia Restaurata, page 69.
The Tropical Zodiac, therefore has the advantage of being regular and orderly, part of a complex and interrelated system that is itself regular and orderly. Take away the regularity of the 12 signs and substitute 13 irregular signs and the system of aspect is thrown into confusion, the triplicities and quadriplicities are lost and the very meaning of the individual signs is thrown into question. We should also consider the fact that the Tropical Zodiac is highly effective and has been used to make precise and accurate predictions for 2,000 years. It is so highly integrated into Western astrology, even modern psychological astrology, that if one eliminates it, then one must invent from scratch, a new astrology!

The Importance of World View


The sole advantage of the Constellational Zodiac, since it is irregular, disordered, outside the traditional elemental, quadriplicity and essential dignity systems as well as untried as an astrological system, is that it corresponds to the material/physical stars. However, this one advantage is so compelling to moderns that they almost instantly are ready to discard the Tropical Zodiac. Why is this? The answer lies in the difference between the traditional and modern world views.
A world view is basically given to one by one's society and is one's conscious philosophy and unconscious views about the nature of reality. In essence it is your reality! World view is so ingrained and automatic that it is difficult for many to accept that anyone could have a different one. After all reality is reality, isn't it? Here is a detailed exposition of the modern world view. For our purposes, the key tenet of the modern world view is that nothing truly exists except matter and energy. For moderns even when dealing with spiritual issues, their unconscious assumptions are always pushing towards atheistic materialism. When it comes to astrology, the automatic assumption is that the influence of the stars and planets must, of necessity, be exerted by matter or energy, i.e., some sort of field or rays, emanating from the stars and planets themselves. Given this the complete focus on the actual physical position of the material stars and constellations is entirely understandable. If one is an atheistic/materialist then the Constellational Zodiac is inescapable as the only logical and rational choice. Alternatively, if one automatically accepts the Constellational Zodiac, if it seems instinctively correct, then one is, at least unconsciously, an atheistic/materialist because whatever one's conscious beliefs may be, one is applying in practice, an atheistic/materialist view of the nature of reality.
However, ancient and traditional astrologers did not have the modern world view. While there was of course, much individual variation and change over time, the traditional world view saw reality as containing both the material and the spiritual. Matter was, in fact, less perfect than the spiritual and imperfectly accepted the form of the Divine/Platonic Ideas which were what was truly real. Material things were created, changed their form and then passed away, while the spiritual was eternal. The irregularity of the Constellational Zodiac shows its essential imperfection while the regularity of the Tropical Zodiac was a much better reflection of the spiritual realities that underlay material existence. The ancient astrologers used their astrology to look through matter to see the hidden true spiritual patterns of reality. The incredible accuracy of traditional astrological prediction is evidence that their view was correct. Seen from the traditional world view that saw the Cosmos as one great unified being bound together by chains of spiritual correspondence and sympathy, the use of the regular Tropical Zodiac, and the ordered astrological system of which it is an integral part, is entirely logical and rational.
To accept the Constellational Zodiac simply on the basis of its correspondence to the material/physical stars is to accept the primacy of the physical. Yet astrology itself is based on spiritual causality. There is not the slightest bit of evidence that gravity, light waves, magnetism, string theory or any other form of material or energetic causality supports astrology. If astrology works, it can only work through spiritual causality. Using a material/energetic methodology to discredit the Tropical Zodiac, makes no sense, because a materialistic/energetic methodology discredits all of astrology.



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