In the last article, I talked about Original Form. This concept is necessary in understanding the Zodiac. In the West, we are taught that the zodiac is a collection of constellations that form the ecliptic, the apparent Path of the Sun from the position of the Earth. In Traditional Wisdom, however, the physical constellations are not the True Zodiac, but only its physical reflection. As can be seen in the Traditional Model of the Cosmos, the Zodiac is above the level of the fixed stars.
The True Zodiac in the Western Tradition consists of the 12 Pure Types of the Axial Being. The constellations in the ecliptic are reflections of these Pure Types in the night sky.
Western Astrology does not use the actual physical constellations for the zodiac. Instead it uses a zodiac based on the seasons, which is called the Tropical Zodiac. Vedic Astrology does use the actual physical constellations, and this is known as the Sidereal Zodiac.* While astrology has always been practiced in one form or another, the first records of the casting of individual horoscopes are about 2,500 years old in the Middle East, and horoscopic astrology as we know it today has its origins in the Classical period in the Mediterranean. At that time, the Sidereal Zodiac and the Tropical Zodiac were closely aligned. Now, they are misaligned by about a sign. In the Tropical Zodiac at the Vernal Equinox, the Sun rises at 0 Aries. Now, depending on the calculations one uses, the constellation of Pisces is on the horizon at Sunrise at the Vernal Equinox. Hence, this is the “Age of Pisces.”
There is a physical reason for the misalignment and a metaphysical reason. The physical reason is due to a slight wobble in the Earth’s orbit, the fixed stars and constellations appear to move very, very slight amount every year. This is known as the Precession of the Equinoxes. The metaphysical reason is that physical manifestation is in constant flux and change, and the movement of time is a movement away from the Center and Perfection.
Modern Western scholarship would have us believe that the Ancients did not know and understand about the Precession of the Equinoxes, and this often used as a criticism of the practice of astrology. From a Traditionalist perspective, this is highly unlikely. Our forebears kept very close watch on the night sky, and were able to record and predict complicated phenomena such as Eclipses. Furthermore, the religious symbolism from each Age (the Sign at that rises at the Vernal Equinox) is consistent with the Age. An example of this is the symbol of the Fish used in Christianity during the Age of Pisces. Even in the unlikely case that the Ancients were unaware of the physical movement, they were most certainly aware of the metaphysical principles involved.
Western Astrology made a conscious decision to use the Tropical Zodiac, and within its own economy, this was the correct, and likely the only choice. The economy of Western astrology, particularly as passed down from Hellenistic Astrology, is quite dependent on the humors, which are tied to the seasons. Spring is hot and wet, Summer is hot and dry, Autumn is cold and dry, and Winter is cold and wet. The signs have qualities of both their element and their Season. For this system to work properly, the signs must be measured by the Seasons. The proper place for Aries is the first sign of Spring. Pisces, the least material and the coldest and wettest of the signs (cold and wet by both element and season), can not represent the start of Spring, even if the constellation is the rising Sign at the Spring Equinox.** It is interesting, but not surprising, that horoscopic astrology as we know it today seems to have begun when the Tropical Zodiac and the Sidereal Zodiac were more closely aligned.
On a slightly different topic, but also interesting, I think, is that in Japanese, the names for the signs and the physical constellations are clearly differentiated. The word for constellation is 星座 seiza. The first kanji 星 is the kanji for star and the second is 座, the kanji for sit/seat. So, in Japanese a constellation is a star seat. The names of the physical constellations all end in 座. The names of the Zodiac signs all end with the kanji 宮, which is the kanji for temple, shrine, or palace. One of the words for a horoscope is 天宮図 tenkyuuzu, or heaven palace map.
Below are the names for the constellations and corresponding Zodiac Signs in Japanese:
Constellation – 牡羊座 Ohitsujisa, Ram Seat
Zodiac Sign – 白羊宮 Hakuyoukyuu, White Sheep Palace
Constellation – 牡牛座 Oushiza, Bull Seat
Zodiac Sign – 金牛宮 Kingyuukyuu, Gold Cow Palace
Constellation – 双子座 Futagoza, Twins Seat
Zodiac Sign – 双児宮 Soujikyuu, Twins Palace
Constellation – 蟹座 Kaniza, Crab Seat
Zodiac Sign – 巨蟹宮 Kyokaikyuu, Huge Crab Palace
Constellation – 獅子座 Shishiza, Lion Seat
Zodiac Sign – 獅子宮 Shishikyuu, Lion Palace
Constellation – 乙女座 Otomeza Maiden Seat
Zodiac Sign – 処女宮 Shojokyuu Virgin Palace
Constellation – 天秤座 Tenbinza (Heaven) Scales Seat
Zodiac Sign – 天秤宮 Tenbinkyuu (Heaven) Scales Palace
Constellation – 蠍座 Sasoriza Scorpion Seat
Zodiac Sign – 天蠍宮 Tenkatsukyuu Heaven Scorpion Palace
Constellation – 射手座 Iteza Archer Seat
Zodiac Sign – 人馬宮 Jinbakyuu Person Horse Palace
Constellation – 山羊座 Yagiza Goat Seat
Zodiac Sign – 磨羯宮 Makatsukyuu (I am not really sure how to translate this. The first kanji is the kanji for demon/evil spirit, and the second is for an Ancient Chinese ethnic group, and is also found in the name of type of Japanese drum)
Constellation – 水瓶座 Mizugameza Water Vessel Seat
Zodiac Sign – 宝瓶宮 Houheikyuu Vase/Handleless Japanese teapot Palace
Constellation – 魚座 Uoza Fish Seat
Zodiac Sign – 双魚宮 Sougyokyuu Pair of Fish Palace
*There are some Western astrologers who also use a Sidereal Zodiac, but the vast majority use the Tropical Zodiac, which was also used in Medieval and Renaissance Astrology.
**This raises the question as to the Southern Hemisphere, where the seasons are reversed. It is interesting though, that the position of the waxing and waning Moon Phases are also reversed in the Southern Hemisphere.