Astrology through the Ages

The earliest written records documenting the movement of the planets and their influence on life on Earth date back to about 4,000 years ago. At that time on the first day of spring, when day and night were equal in length, the Sun was passing through the constellation of the Bull (Taurus). It was the Age of Taurus. [1]

The modern western astrological system dates back to about 170 CE when Ptolemy, a Roman-Greek living in Egypt, fixed the position of the Sun in 1º Aries to the vernal (spring) equinox. This was the actual real position of the Sun at that time. Ptolemy lived in the Age of Aries.

Since then due to something called Precession the Sun has moved on from the constellation of the Ram and is no longer in 1º Aries on the first day of spring. In the year 2012 on March 20 the Sun will be in the constellation of the Fish (Pisces). We’re therefore currently living in the Age of Pisces.

For that reason traditional western astrology, also called tropical astrology, that is based on the Sun’s fixed position of 1º Aries on the spring equinox is now no longer presenting the real actual (sidereal) positions of the planets. The difference is about 24º.

Most astrologers in the west continue to practice tropical astrology. A minority have adopted a sidereal astrological system that refers to the actual positions of the planets against the fixed star background. Vedic astrology is  also a sidereal system.

After some research and some contemplation I’ve decided to stick with tropical astrology. These are my reasons:

I don’t believe that the Ancients viewed the Sun, the Moon and the stars as being quite the same.

The Sun is incredibly bright, essentially eclipsing the rest of the Universe (with exception of Luna, our Moon, who’s quite magical in that She can appear both in the day and at night). For all the initial star-gazers knew, there were no stars in existence in the daytime. Although most modern Pagans accept that the Sun is male I most definitely doubt that’s what the Ancients saw Her as! The Sun is our all-powerful, healing life-giving source of heat and light. Without the Sun there would be no life on Earth. She is the ultimate Mother – the most powerful, the most incredible, the most precious Life-giver to us all. The Ancients knew that it was the Sun that causes the seasons. It was the Wheel of the Year that was most associated with the Sun. It was also the seasons that most affected people’s lives.

The Moon and the stars on the other hand were seen as something magical and mystical. Nothing compares to the awe-inspiring experience of looking up at the night sky. Its vastness makes you feel wonder and a deep sense of reverence. Especially Luna und Venus are amazing and special with their silvery sparkly beauty.

Apart from the fact that I don’t believe that very early astrology included the Sun at all, once it did I think the signs and their characteristics were actually based on the seasons and the wheel of the year as well as their elemental properties. I think the naming of the constellations came either later or at least at the same time. [2] Anyone who’s ever looked at, for instance, the constellation of the Ram, will see that it doesn’t look anything like a ram, but is just a straight line. Some of the constellations do look a bit like their namesakes, such as the Scorpius constellation. Perhaps that’s the reason that it was chosen rather than its close neighbour Orphiuchus. The ecliptic passes though both only very slightly.

With that in mind I don’t think it really matters if the Sun is actually in the constellation of the Ram at the start of spring, as the effects of the Earth’s seasons, of the length of day and night, of the Sun’s warmth and the phases of the Moon are probably the primary influences on a person’s character. Unfortunately western astrology doesn’t pay any attention to the actual phase Luna is in. Based on the vast myths and lore about the Moon and Her three (or four) phases, I feel that our matristic foremothers would have considered that very important.

With regard to the constellations the Moon and the planets are in, I keep thinking that they should be the actual sidereal positions in the sky at any given time. As I tried to explain above, while the Sun influences us primarily through the seasons, I don’t feel that’s the case for the Moon and the planets. Especially with regard to fast-moving Luna I keep thinking that merely plotting Her journey through the zodiac relative to the Sun doesn’t do justice to Her sublte yet powerful influence on our lives.

Perhaps rather than being “merely” the planets in relation to the Sun, the Moon and the planets represent archetypes within our collective unconscious and that’s how their influence works. Perhaps it’s all about the relationships and aspects rather than the actual signs the planets are in, in which case their relative positions to the Sun need to be kept true. [3]

Vedic astrology seems to address many of my concerns.


[1] According to Geraldine Thorsten in God Herself during the Torean Age the first sign of the zodiac was Taurus, the Bull. Unlike today’s description of Taurus, the Goddess-worshipping astrologers from 4,000+ years ago saw the Bull as an active and virile sign. Aries, the Ram, on the other hand was the last sign of the zodiac. Rams with their spiralled horns were symbolic of the Goddess as Regeneratrix, they were a symbol of the rebirthing process. To the invading patriarchal nomadic shepherds the Ram was a symbol of power and represented father-right. That’s why today the first sign of the zodiac is Aries.

[2] Unfortunately we’ll never know exactly how the characteristics of the zodiacal signs came about. The earliest written records were apparently found in Sumer about 4,000 BCE, at which point their society had already started to transition to patriarchy. At that time Marduk was already considered the king of the gods and Tiamat had already been destroyed by him. However, the real Goddess lore from the before-time was kept within the imagery and remains with us even in modern astrology. We may not know exactly what the original matristic zodiac was like, but we can try to re-discover the Goddess within the symbols and make it our own.

>[3] In The Contemporary Astrologer’s Handbook Sue Tompkins explains that the planets and the relationships and angles between them are more important than the actual signs their in. That explains how tropical astrology works even without sidereal data.


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