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Tropical vs. Sidereal

The earliest records of Astrology date back to Babylon, in the year 1645 BCE.  Unlike today, the art and science of Astrology was based upon observation.  We know that cultures around the world placed significance on celestial events, and noted the positions of the stars and planets when any significant event happened in their world.

It was observation of the heavens that allowed these cultures to connect events that happened around them, to events that happened in the sky.  At this time, Astrology and Astronomy were one in the same.  Priests looked up in the sky each night with the unaided eye, and made the first observations of the universe.

Through observation, the Priests were able to discern repeating patterns and cycles.  Certain stars acted strangely, wandering across the sky from week to week and month to month.  The Greeks called these wanderers Planetae.  The word planeta means “passively drifting, wandering, or roaming”. 

In the age before telescopes, there were observed five of these planetae, or planets.  Each planeta followed a pattern.  It was noted how planetae would wander near other planetae, and back again.  They also noted how the planetae  also moved through the constellations.

It wasn’t until Copernicus, that this back and forth, or retrograde/direct movement was correctly explained. 

Still, why the planets moved the way they did was less important to ancient Astrologers, than the fact that they did move, and when certain movements were observed, certain events were bound to happen. 

It was through observations that Astrologers first realized that certain celestial events could be calculated.  The moon went through its monthly cycle every 28 days.  The cycle was always the same, and completely predictable.  The sun also moved in a pattern, moving from the south to the north, and back again. The cycle of the sun was twelve times longer than that of the moon, but again, it was completely predictable, and regular.

That’s not to say that unexpected events didn’t take place.  Every once in a while a shadow would cross the face of the moon, dimming it for a few hours, and then leaving.  It was even more horrific when the same thing happened to the sun.  Again, observation and record keeping allowed Astrologers to realize that an eclipse of the moon only happened during a Full Moon, and a solar eclipse only happened during a New Moon.

Eventually Astrologers were able to calculate the motions of the sun and the moon, and predict when an eclipse (solar or lunar) would happen.  Astrologers were beginning to understand the mechanics of the universe.  They could now make predictions about the movements of the stars and planets, and be assured that they were correct.

This is where Astrology and Astronomy started to break away from each other.  Originally, Astrology had been based on observation.  A certain event that happened during a particular conjunction of stars caused Astrologers to believe that similar events would happen any time that conjunction took place.  Now with the ability to calculate where the planets and stars would be in the future, observation became secondary. 

Those who still relied on observation of the stars became Astronomers.  Those who relied on calculations of stellar movements became Astrologers.  The theory of calculation was sound, the planets move in and around the constellations at a stable rate.  Unfortunately, because the much greater and slower movements of the cosmos take hundreds or even thousands of years to change the sky perceptibly, none of the Astrologers who were now relying solely on the calculations that had been used for centuries knew to compensate for it.

The constellations of the sky were thought to be a static backdrop against which the sun and planets moved.  For all intent and purposes, this is correct.  While Edwin Hubble showed that the universe is expanding, that expansion hasn’t changed how or where the stars and constellations appear in relation to each other, even over the millennia since people first started recording their observations.  What has happened is that where and when those constellations appear in the sky, has changed

Those first Astrologers, who created the calculations, did so to the best of their ability, and the calculations are fairly accurate, but not exact.  Over time, these inaccuracies have built one on top of the other.  If I have a watch that loses a second every ten years, in 100 years the watch will be off by ten seconds.  That’s not a lot, but in 3000 years that same watch, if I don’t correct it, will be off by 300 seconds, or five minutes. 

Five minutes doesn’t seem like much, especially over 3000 years, but if you’re waiting for a bus, especially one that just left, five minutes can seem like forever.  No single person in their entire lifetime will ever notice the lost seconds.  To them, the watch is perfectly accurate, and to be passed from generation to generation.  It’s only after the accumulation of time, that the problem of the lost second becomes apparent. 

That lost second is what has happened to Astrology.  The calculations that have become dogmatic for Astrologers are flawed.  Those who first created the calculations did so to the best of their ability, but they lacked the instruments necessary to make truly accurate measurements.  With modern equipment and a much better understanding of why the planets act the way they do, thanks to Astronomers, we have a much more accurate way of calculating movement in the universe.

So what does this mean to Astrology?  It means that because those calculations that Astrologers have been using for millennia are not completely accurate, and because the Astrologers haven’t bothered to verify their calculations by going outside to look at the stars (correct the watch), their perception of the constellations is off by about 24.5 degrees.

So when Astrologers say that the sun is going into the constellation of Taurus on April 20th, in actuality the sun still has 24.5 days before it will leave the constellation of Aries, and move into Taurus.  Because of this, most people who think they are one astrological sign are actually the sign prior.  If your birthday is less than 24 days into the sun sign you think you were born under, you are actually the prior sign.  Those who think they were born near the end of a given sign may actually be on the cusp of that sign and the one prior.

Have you ever looked at the attributes for your Sun Sign, and thought that they just don’t describe you?  Or perhaps they do to some extent, but the sign prior also seems to have attributes that fit just as well.  Try it.  Look at the attributes of the sign you’ve always associated as yours, then look at the attributes for the sign prior.  You may be surprised at what you find.

The error doesn’t affect relationships between planets, but it does affect relationships between planets and constellations.  If the sun is in a conjunction with Mercury and the Moon, that conjunction remains, what may change is which House or constellation that conjunction appears in.  This could mean the difference between harmony and an abundance of money, or never seeming to be able to get enough of what you need to get by.

Most Astrologers still use this flawed math.  Or more accurately, they reference an ephemeris listing tables that were built using the flawed math.  Even so, if the Astrologers simply looked outside and reset to where the constellations actually are, the math would work well enough.  Unfortunately, this is the way it’s always been done, so this is the way everyone does it, even if it’s observationally wrong.  This is known as Tropical Astrology.  When you look in the paper, or online for your daily Horoscope, you are looking at Tropical Astrology. 

Even with imperfect calculations, Astrology still held a huge amount of respect from the establishment, for a very long time.  Astrologer was a respected profession up into the Renaissance.  It wasn’t until the Great Conjunction of 1524 failed to come true, that Astrology began it’s down turn.  That coupled with the ascendance of the sciences, where empirical evidence and observation were a priority.  When an Astrologer stated that a planet was in a certain constellation, an Astronomer would look into the sky and see that it wasn’t.  This caused an even bigger rift between the two schools of thought, and a loss of respect by the masses.

The fix is easy; just start using astronomical data for the relative positions of the planets and constellations.  This is called Sidereal Astrology.  All Astronomers use Sidereal charts to determine where to look for a celestial body.  Sidereal Astrology does the same.  Yet most Astrologers still maintain the use of outdated and incorrect calculations. 

If your divination method depends on the relation of planets and stars to each other, how can you expect to be accurate if the conjunction your math tells you is happening in Pisces, is actually happening in Aquarius?  That would be like trying to study the life cycle of caterpillars, using maggots, and wondering why you never get any butterflies.  This is the problem with Tropical Astrology, and one of the main reasons science now scoffs at it. 

The observed relationships from ancient times may be absolutely valid, but in order to predict accurately what the outcome may be, you need to be sure the data you are using is accurate and correct.  Tropical ephemeris’s are off by about 24.5 degrees.  Try navigating with a compass that is off by even a single degree, a journey from San Francisco to Tokyo could find you sailing to Australia instead.  If a single degree can change a trip that much, how much does 24.5 degrees change an Astrological prediction?  Imagine if NASA had used Tropical data to send Astronauts to the moon.

What happens if a Tropical Astrologer sees that the Moon is Trine to Mars, and Sextile to Jupiter and this is all happening in Gemini?  That Astrologer is going to make predictions based on the fact that everything is happening in Gemini.  The problem is that a Sidereal Astrologer would look at the same thing, the Moon is Trine to Mars, and Sextile to Jupiter, but it’s actually happening in Taurus.  Wouldn’t that tend to change the prediction?  Yes it does, a lot as it turns out.

Still, Astrologers cling to their ways because it’s the way it’s always been done. The Japanese still hunt whales, because that’s the way it’s always been done.  The fact that something has always been done a certain way, doesn’t mean that it is the right way to do it. 

There are those who will say that a chart is relative to its inception.  If Tropical Astrology was used for a natal chart, and you use Tropical Astrology to predict an outcome based on that natal chart, that your prediction will be accurate.  This may be true to an extent, but if you know the data you are using is incorrect, why would you use it?  Because that’s the way it’s always been done.

Witches pride themselves on the fact that they think for themselves, yet they also tend to use Tropical Astrology.  It’s what they were taught.  Some try Sidereal Astrology, but for some reason it feels weird to them, and they go back to Tropical.  Others understand that divination is only as good as the method you use.  These Witches switch to Sidereal Astrology, and never look back.

The original Astrologers looked up into the Heavens and saw patterns that foretold the future.  Today, most Astrologers use tables and charts that reflect how the sky was when those original Astrologers made their observations.  The sky has changed since then, the timing is off. What used to happen in late April in Taurus now happens in late April in Aries.  Magickal Timing is critical for getting desired results.

If you take the time to consult the phase of the Moon, and checking to be sure it’s not Void of Course, before doing a ritual or spell, why wouldn’t you also check to be sure that the conjunctions of planets are happening in the House/Sign/Constellation you think they are?  Is the Moon really Void of Course, or is that calculation 24.5 degrees off, and was that Void of Course Moon actually two days ago? 


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