Western Astrological Systems and Ophiuchus
With the recent explosion of concern around the internet about their astrological signs and the “new” information about Ophiuchus, I figured it would be a good idea to do some explaining about the different types of astrology, and how this figures in to each kind. In Western Astrology we have three different types of Astrology: Sun Sign Astrology, Sidereal Astrology, and Tropical Astrology.
Tropical astrology is a system of astrology that is largely exclusive to American and Western European astrologers. It’s based on a zodiac whose points of reference are the tropics, or the point at which the sun seems to turn and move slightly to the north or south after the winter or summer solstice. It relies on traditional seasonal associations for the star signs defined by early astrologers, and continues to map horoscopes against a first-millennium sky. Tropical astrologers find the scientific drifting of the earth and constellations irrelevant, because they rely strictly on traditional representations.
The concepts remain unchanged despite precession, because it relies on our relationship to the Sun itself instead of the stars. The zodiac names used represent the characteristics of the sun during a specific segment of the year. So, Aries represents the return of the sun to the Northern Hemisphere at the vernal Equinox and symbolizes unruly beginnings. Leo is the height of midsummer and represents the energy the sun provides. Sagittarius, when the sun is moving out of the Northern Hemisphere, represents a restless curiosity or a search for a new understanding.
Tropical astrology emphasizes the metaphorical meaning of the signs in relation to the time of year, as opposed to the exact location of constellation in the sky.
Sidereal Astrology is a system of astrology used by some Western and all Jyotish (Hindu) astrologers. Its primary feature is that the signs of the sidereal zodiac approximately align to the sky constellations of the same name. The signs therefore run between dates which are different from the tropical zodiac used by most Western astrologers. For example, Aries runs from about March 21 to April 19in the tropical zodiac but extends from April 14 to May 14 in the sidereal zodiac. Sidereal astrology developed as an individual system during the 20th century.
Most sidereal astrologers simply divide the ecliptic into 12 equal signs of 30 degrees but approximately aligned to the 12 zodiac constellations. Assuming an origin of the system in 786 BCE, this results in an identical system as that of the classical tropical zodiac, shifted by 25.5 days, i.e., if in tropical astrology, Aries is taken to begin at March 21, sidereal Aries will begin on April 15. But a small number of sidereal astrologers do not take the astrological signs as an equal division of the ecliptic, but define their signs based on the actual width of the individual constellations.
Sun Sign astrology is the super simplified system that appears in newspapers and magazines. It relies only on the position of the sun in relation the twelve zodiac signs. Despite the name, Sun Sign astrologers then rely on the movement of the moon to predict daily trends for people. Sun Sign Astrology is widely considered by more traditional astrologers to be invalid.
Now, what exactly is Ophiuchus?
Ophiuchus, the serpent bearer, is a constellation that is located around the celestial equator. It lies approximately halfway between Scorpius and Sagittarius.
So, how does Ophiuchus factor into these systems?
Simply put, in Tropical astrology and Sun Sign astrology, it doesn’t. It has sometimes been used in Sidereal astrology as a thirteenth zodiac sign since the 1970s. Most Sidereal astrologers and all Tropical astrologers DO NOT consider Ophiuchus a sign, despite recent media attention. The application of Ophiuchus, if applied at all, would not be from 2009 on, or even 2000 on. If it is to be considered a sign it would simply be integrated as though that’s how it was always read. It has always been in the sky, so technically, it has always been in effect.