If you look at your birth chart in align27 and notice some of your planets are in different zodiac signs from what you are used to – don’t be alarmed!  It’s possible you are used to seeing your chart in the Western astrological system, whereas here we use the Vedic, or Indian system of astrology.

So what is the difference between these two astrological systems?

Western Astrology uses the tropical zodiac, whereas Vedic astrology uses the sidereal zodiac. Whilst this isn’t a debate of whether one is “better” or “more accurate” than the other, there are some significant differences between the two that should be taken into account.

Viewed from the Earth, the Sun appears to move through the belt of stars known as the zodiac which lie along the Ecliptic – the plane of the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. The tropical and sidereal systems of astrology each have their own way of dividing the 360 degree ecliptic into the twelve zodiac signs of 30 degrees each.

What is the Tropical zodiac?

The tropical zodiac is based on the unfixed sky, and is measured from the spring (vernal) equinox. In the tropical zodiac, it is at the spring equinox each year that the Sun is said to enter Aries, the beginning of the zodiac. However, this system is not based on the fixed stars themselves and doesn’t take into account the ongoing change in the tilt of the earth called ‘The Precession of the Equinoxes’. So in the sky at that time, the Sun is not actually in the physical constellation of Aries – it would be in the previous sign of Pisces. Instead of being based on the astronomical position of the constellations, the tropical zodiac is based on the orientation of the Earth to the Sun.

What is the Sidereal zodiac?

The sidereal zodiac is based on the planet’s actual relationship to the constellations of zodiac stars, as per astronomical observation. Due to a shift or ‘wobble’ of the earth, the fixed stars move backwards. Every 72 years they move about 1 degree. Throughout a period of around 25 thousand years the orientation of the Earth relative to the fixed stars makes a full circuit of the zodiac. This is what is meant by the Precession of the Equinoxes, which isn’t taken into account in the tropical system.

Do the two systems align?

Whilst the tropical and sidereal zodiacs did at one time line up – around 2000 years ago – this is no longer the case. They have drifted apart and there is now a difference between them of around 23 to 24 degrees. This difference can create a significant difference when analyzing birth charts, and is the reason that someone can find some of their planets associated with a completely different zodiac sign when they look at the different systems of astrology.

Over the past few hundred years the starting point of the astrological year has changed. In order to take into account the ongoing shift, the sidereal system of astrology uses a measurement of difference called the ayanamsa (‘ayana’  means ‘movement’ and ‘amsa’ meas ‘component’ in Sanskrit) as a corrective system to allow for the Precession of the Equinoxes so that the alignment between signs and the physical constellations is maintained.

Are there other differences between Western and Vedic astrology?

Connection with the Seers

Aside from the difference in zodiac systems, perhaps one of the biggest differences between eastern and western astrology is that the eastern or Indian system is deeply connected with the ancient Rishis, or Seers. Vedic astrology is also known as Jyotish, meaning the ‘science of light,’ and is thought to have been revealed by the great Rishis more than 5000 years ago. It dates back to the time of the great saint, Parashara Shakti, who was the grandson of the renowned sage Vasishta, and whose teachings are compiled in the ‘Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra’ which remains a fundamental text of Vedic Astrology.

Astronomy and Nakshatras

Based on the astronomical references in the Vedas, it is likely that Indian (sidereal) astrology is the original form of astrology from which the other forms emerged. This is seconded by the fact that sidereal astrology uses the observable zodiac, based on ties with astronomy, whereas the tropical zodiac is an abstract zodiac system. In addition to the twelve signs of the zodiac, the Vedic system also divides the sky into 27 Nakshatras, or lunar mansions, which each have their own characteristics, symbols and ruling deity. Analyzing a birth chart using the nakshatras gives a deeper and even more detailed understanding of an individual.

Psychology versus Soul

In western astrology it is the position of the Sun in a birth chart that is emphasized. Vedic astrology is more of a Moon based system, with importance also placed on the Lagna, or Ascendent which can only be calculated using the exact time of birth. Whilst the western Sun based system is recognised for its ability to understand the psychological characteristics and personality of a person, the Moon based Vedic system guides us to our own inner knowing, helping us understand the journey of our soul and guiding us on our evolution towards our Self.

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