This week’s question comes from Leah in Hilo, Hawaii, who asks about the differences between tropical and sidereal astrology.
“I was born a Capricorn, tropically. Now I am informed I am a Sagittarius, since I am now 53 (I think the Sag started when I was 45). Should I be reading only the Sag sign info or both the Sag and Cap? I definitely feel the difference from Cap to Sag. So I am thinking there is something to this type of astrology. Any thoughts?”
This is a great question, but unfortunately not easy to answer, since it is very complicated.
Astrology as most of us in the West know it was developed by the ancient Babylonians. At the time, Aries was on the eastern horizon at sunrise on the spring equinox. However, due to the way the Earth spins on its axis, this has changed over the millennia, so that we now have about 5 degrees Pisces on the eastern horizon on the equinox. This phenomenon is called precession.
The Greeks dealt with precession by dividing the sky into 12 equal parts and assigning one sign of the Zodiac to each sector, starting with 0 degrees Aries on the spring equinox. The exact dates change from one year to the next, but the equinox generally is around March 20. This is the Western tropical system of astrology that you’re referring to. When you say you’re a Capricorn, what you mean is that the Sun was moving through the tenth sector from 0 degrees Aries on the day you were born.
Vedic astrology, which is the system developed in India and other Eastern countries, doesn’t correct for precession. This is the basis for sidereal astrology, which is used by a small number of astrologers in the West. So while your Sun is at 19 degrees Capricorn in Western astrology, it’s at 25 degrees Sagittarius according to the sidereal system. Proponents of sidereal astrology argue that this system more accurately reflects the positions of the planets against the backdrop of the constellations.
According to the sidereal system, you were born a Sagittarius, and that has not changed. In other words, you didn’t go from a Cap to a Sag around age 45. It appears that you may be confusing sidereal astrology with the Western technique of chart progression. I will turn you over to Neith to explain more about this, since she works with chart progressions more than I do.
There is another explanation, however, for why you feel more “like a Sagittarius.” In your birth chart (Western tropical), you have 17 degrees Scorpio on the Ascendant, with the first half of Sagittarius in your first house. Pluto, the planet of transformation, was in Sagittarius throughout your 40s, so you no doubt went through a change!
I always advise my clients to read for Rising sign first, then Sun sign. In your case, either Scorpio or Sag might work. Eventually, Neith and I will do Rising sign horoscopes, which I believe most of you will find to be a much more accurate reflection of what’s happening in your daily lives.
Leah, after spending some time looking at your progressed chart using the year for a day method (count one day for each year of your life), I may be able to shed some light on why you relate to Sagittarius more. Your Scorpio Ascendant progressed into Sagittarius many years ago but there were a couple of serious transits to it enhancing the Sagittarius energy.
At about 30, you experienced a conjunction of Uranus and Venus on your progressed Ascendant in Sagittarius. A couple of years earlier, Uranus transited your natal Venus in Sagittarius, just as you were having your Saturn return. It’s very possible that with Saturn conjunct your Ascendant natally (and ruling your Capricorn Sun), you may not have acted on the more extreme notions Uranus inspired at that time.
In January 2000, Pluto and Venus met at the same degree of Sagittarius that Uranus and Venus occupied when you were 30. Both of these events occurred in your first house and resonated with your natal Venus – more Sagittarius.
Lastly, in January of 2007, Pluto and Mars conjoined on your progressed Ascendant at 28 degrees Sagittarius. This conjunction was also trine to your natal Pluto in Leo, adding up to a lot of powerful fire energy affecting you. No wonder you felt far more like a Sagittarius than a Capricorn and far horizons were calling you!
Ironically, Leah, your Ascendant is now progressed into Capricorn and is within a couple of degrees of the progressed North Node, so you may find your Capricorn side beginning to reassert itself once more.
Hopefully we have helped clarify matters for you! My advice would be to choose one system of astrology and stay with it because they each are a whole system unto themselves, and you only get confused if you try to go back and forth between the two.
Got a question for Neith and Pat? Click here to contact Ask Real Astrologers.