Sidereal & Tropical ~ what’s the deal anyway?!

What does “Sidereal” (Sigh-deer-ee-all) mean?  Why are the Lunar Lowdown videos & Sally Nurney talking about the Sun & Moon in different locations than my Tropical / astrological calendar & what I read in the newspaper? Why are they different? Which is “right?”


Contrast this with Sidereal: The Sidereal Zodiac agrees with astronomy, taking into account the Sun & planets’ location in front of the Stars. The Sidereal Zodiac places 5° of Pisces at the Spring Equinox because astronomically the Sun actually IS in front of 5° of the stars of Pisces at that time.

While it is abundantly clear that our ancestors fully understood the Precession of the Equinoxes, there are only theories about why the Tropical system “ignores” them. I like to think the Tropical Zodiac is lining up the beginning of spring with the beginning of the Zodiac to keep things conceptually tidy ~ and in the rational West, we do like our concepts tidy!

To ignore the Precession (and the astronomical reality), the Tropical astrology uses SIGNS – labels like street signs – to tell us where Aries “should” be if we orient the chart to the seasons, rather than to the stars surrounding us!  This results in the SIGN of Aries covering the CONSTELLATION (the actual stars) of Pisces… and the SIGN of Taurus covering the STARS of Gemini, etc. on through the entire Zodiac.

Keep in mind, both the Tropical and Sidereal paths share a common root; your Tropical understanding of the planets and the Zodiacal Beings is still applicable, though may be conceptual thus far! The Sidereal Zodiac, as best applied, invites direct conversation with the living Stars themselves, to go beyond ideas we have about these great beings to develop actual relationships, receive direct teachings & work together for mutual benefit.

Let’s start with Tropical ~ The Tropical Zodiac matches the beginning of the Zodiac  ~ 0° Aries ~ with the beginning of the seasonal year (the Spring Equinox) without reference to  the Sun’s actual location in front of the Stars ~ (the astronomical reality)


How did this happen? That is a long story but simply put, the Tropical Zodiac ignores the “Precession of the Equinoxes.”  Wikipedia can give you some great info on this, but basically this ‘going backwards’ of the Equinoxes is created by our Earth wobbling very slowly on its planetary axis, scribing a circle in the sky that changes where the axis is pointing and thus which stars are present behind the Sun on any particular day through the year.   This is a very s-l-o-w process, moving this starry reference point back just 1° every 72 years!  But the years add up and since the rise of the Tropical Zodiac (~150 CE) these two systems have moved apart by 25°; almost a whole constellation!

Bottom line: the Tropical and Sidereal Zodiacs are both looking at the same sky, but talking about that sky differently.  The Tropical Zodiac looks at the Sun, Moon and planets and names their location using labels, while the Sidereal Zodiac looks upon the same Sun, Moon and planets and names their location by the living Stars!

It can be helpful to think of these two systems as concentric circles, with the expanded, living Sidereal perspective surrounding the smaller ‘seasonal’ viewpoint of the Tropical Zodiac. We can use our Tropical chart as a description of our ‘denser’ personality or the ‘mask’ of this lifetime, and understand our expanded Sidereal chart as a description of our soul intentions – the expression of our Individuality, the irreducible kernel of our being.

Still have questions?  Let’s talk about it!