A Tale of Two Skies

by Hank Friedman

[I would have never progressed in Jyotish without the phenomenal tutelage of my Vedic guru Hart de Fouw, to whom I am eternally grateful.]

The fact that there are two different Zodiacs that astrologers use has caused rifts, confusion, baises, and factionalism among astrologers.

Vedic and Tibetan astrologers use the Sidereal Zodiac while Modern Western astrologers use the Tropical Zodiac. (The two Zodiacs were aligned during the Hellenistic period and so it is impossible to know which Zodiac was used by Traditional Western astrologers.)

Basically, the two Zodiacs represent two different frames of reference:

The Tropical Zodiac, also called the Seasonal Zodiac, is defined by the orbit of the Sun -- geocentrically -- around the Earth. Aries begins when, and is defined as the place in the sky where, the Sun crosses the Equator going North (which is the first day of Spring), while Cancer begins when the Sun reaches its maximum Northern motion (i.e. the first day of Summer), etc.

As such, the Tropical Zodiac captures the themes of changing times, fluctuating light and dark, the ephemeral moments in life, and the impact of the seasons on human thought and behavior.

The Sidereal Zodiac, on the other hand, is defined by the positions of the constellations in the sky. It has nothing to do with the seasons or Sun's annual motion, but instead maps the planets positions relative to the backdrop of the stars.

Accordingly, the Sidereal Zodiac represents our place in the Universe, the eternal and unchanging stellar background, and therefore fixity, fate, and influences beyond the personal or easily felt.

Because the Tropical Zodiac reflects ones sensory experience and, in fact, life on Earth, it describes human nature, psychology and temperament, with great precision.

Alternately, the Sidereal Zodiac indicates that which cannot be changed, each person's lot in life on all levels: physiological, social, financial, vocational, karmic, etc.

Both have methods of prediction that work, they simply operate on different levels.

For example, a Western astrologer can ascertain a person's predisposition to be attracted to someone, and their general compatibility, as well as when that attraction is to be likely to awaken.

The Jyotishi, on the other hand, can see the relationship patterns and karma, and details about the partner's character, as well as whether the timing of the connection will lead to a thriving or challenging, and enduring or short-lived, partnership.

Both answer questions about who a person is, just in their own, differing, ways.

The two frames of reference, two vantage points, simply offer alternate views.

If a biologist and a geologist visit a mountain, each will notice, understand, and experience things that the other misses.

That's why an understanding of both Zodiacs is so fruitful.

They fill in each others gaps, and create a much more complete picture.

Let us rejoice at the opportunities offered by both celestial languages, and become more fluent in each.

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