Most of us understand the key ideas behind modern western astrology. We know about the signs of the zodiac and what each of these signs represents. But there’s a lot more than meets the eye when it comes to this subject.
Westerners often don’t realize that there’s more to astrology than the constellational zodiac.
Most of us know about the twelve signs. We’re well-versed on the differences between air signs, star signs, and earth signs.
But if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find that there are several types of zodiac that can reveal more about your fate. Each offers a different way of interpreting the stars and astrology dates.
In this article, we’re going to look at some of the different zodiacs and examine how they work.
The Tropical Zodiac
Records show us that western astrologers have used the tropical zodiac since 100 BC. Much like the constellational zodiac, this zodiac makes use of twelve signs.
However, it’s much more precise than its constellational equivalent. Each of these 12 signs gets split into sections of 30 degrees each. Each degree gets divided into 60-minute portions, with each minute getting split into 60-second portions.
If you think of the 12 numbers on a clock face, you get a fairly accurate representation. Each number would be the equivalent of a sign in this comparison.
The key thing to remember is that the tropical zodiac does not correspond to the arrangement of the constellations. In fact, none of the constellations is 30 degrees in length.
Instead, it’s oriented to the seasons. This means that the path of the sun plays a huge role in any readings made using this zodiac.
This makes the equinoxes some of the most important astrology dates for this zodiac. Here’s a basic step-by-step of how it works.
- On the Spring Equinox, the Sun enters Aries’ first degree. This occurs when the length of day and night are equal. Again, this varies depending on the positions of the sun relative to Earth.
- The Sun will proceed to Cancer during the Summer Solstice. This is the longest day of the year and usually takes place in June if you’re in the northern hemisphere.
- During the Autumnal Equinox, the length of days and nights become equal again. At this point, the Sun enters Libra.
- Finally, the Sun will enter Capricorn during the Winter Solstice. This is when the nights are at their longest.
So in this case, seasonal orientation is a much more important factor than the fixed position of the stars.
This also means that those who subscribe to these schools of astrology have to consider the Earth in their calculations. As the Earth spins, its position relative to the stars changes. This means that practitioners have to recalculate celestial longitude. This changes by about one degree every 72 years.
Criticisms of the Tropical Zodiac
The big issue that many have with this zodiac is that it doesn’t correspond to the physical position of the stars.
This is a particular issue when you consider the differences in the Earth’s hemispheres. For example, we mentioned earlier than the northern hemisphere experiences the Summer Solstice in June. However, it occurs in December in the southern hemisphere.
This means that seasonal readings will vary depending on where you are in the world.
However, those who work with the tropical zodiac argue that they’re well-aware that their techniques are non-physical. They also argue that the physical position of stars has little bearing on their work.
Instead, it’s the orientation to the seasons relative to where you are in the world that is the strength of this school of astrology.
They will also argue that there are greater regularity and order within the tropical zodiac. They will point to how it’s been in use for over two millennia. And they will note that it forms the backbone of western astrology, even though many reject it due to it not focusing on fixed star positions.
The Sidereal Zodiac
Unlike the tropical zodiac, the sidereal zodiac focuses on the position of the stars in the modern day.
That means it uses a fixed system. Your star sign will not vary depending on the spinning of the Earth on its axis.
For example, the sidereal zodiac says that an Aries is born between 15th April and 15th May. By contrast, the tropical zodiac says that these dates currently fall between 21st March and 20th April. There’s almost a month’s difference between the two.
This is where the issue of star positions comes into play. For example, proponents of Vedic astrology, which uses the sidereal zodiac, argue that the tropical signs are incorrect. They’re not based on the physical and fixed positions of the stars.
This becomes important when looking at your sun sign. This is the sign that you’re most likely to see in your horoscope. Vedic astrologers say that most of us are actually one sign back from what we think, based on their system.
Let’s take the Aries example from above.
Let’s assume you’re born on 2nd April. According to the tropical zodiac, that makes you an Aries. However, the sidereal zodiac says that you’re a Pisces.
As you can imagine, this causes a great deal of conflict between the two schools of thought. Each argues that the other provides readings based on inaccurate sun sign information. In fact, the signs only tend to align if you’re born towards the end of the tropical zodiac period.
For example, someone born on 19th April is an Aries in both zodiacs.
Beyond these differences, the two zodiacs have a lot in common. For example, they prescribe similar traits to people based on their sun sign. An Aries is still a fire sign who has a tenacious energy to them. A Scorpio still has the passion and possible stubbornness that most of us associate with that sign.
The problem comes from the astrology dates. And this can cause confusion depending on which school of thought your astrology belongs to.
However, there is one major difference between the zodiacs that has nothing to do with dates…
The Thirteenth Sign
The sidereal zodiac has a thirteenth sign that isn’t present in the tropical zodiac.
Those born between 7th December and 18th December fall under the sign of Ophiuchus. Often depicted as a man grasping a snake, this is a sign that many aren’t aware of in western astrology.
Those born under the sign have magnetic personalities and tend to be very smart. They also have curious natures that manifest as a desire to learn as much as possible. However, this intelligence gets tempered by an impulsiveness that can leave them open to rash decisions.
Those born under this sign may also be very secretive, which makes it difficult to get close to them. The impulsiveness can also lead to them having nasty tempers. Those born under Ophiuchus do not take slights lightly and will cut people out if they don’t trust them.
Of course, that’s according to proponents of the sidereal zodiac. A tropical zodiac user will say somebody born under those dates is a Sagittarius based on the current calendar.
A Word on Cetus
Prominent physicist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson proposed a 14th zodiac sign in his book, Universe Down to Earth.
“The fourteenth constellation in the set is Cetus. It is a large constellation that dips into Pisces. The Sun passes through Cetus briefly as it ambles through Pisces, but you are not normally informed of this in the horoscope pages.”
You may hear reference to this sign from some modern astrologists. However, most contend that deGrasse Tyson has miscalculated and that Cetus does not appear in the zodiac at all. This is one of the few areas where sidereal and tropical astrologers agree.
Of course, deGrasse Tyson is a prominent skeptic of astrology. As such, you should take his opinions with a grain of salt as they’re designed to debunk centuries of work.
The Chinese Zodiac
For all of their differences, the tropical and sidereal zodiacs are both familiar with western astrologists. They each make use of the same twelve signs, with a 13th thrown into the sidereal zodiac.
But in Chinese astrology, we see completely different interpretations of the astrology signs.
There are two big differences here.
The first is in the signs themselves. Though the Chinese zodiac uses twelve signs, they’re not the signs that you’re familiar with. We’ll explain those in just a moment.
The other major difference is that your sign changes year to year instead of month to month.
For example, let’s say you’re born on 24th August 1986.
The tropical zodiac says that you’re a Virgo. According to the sidereal, you’re a Leo. And if you’d been born a month earlier, those signs would change.
But according to the Chinese zodiac, you’re born under the sign of the Tiger as long as you’re born in 1986. The month doesn’t matter.
The Signs of the Chinese Zodiac
Perhaps you’re wondering what the Chinese zodiac has to say about your sign.
Let’s take a look at each, including the personality traits and years attributed to it. We’ll only go back as far as the 1950s for each sign.
Sign #1 – The Rat
Years – 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008
The Rat may not seem like an attractive animal. However, those born under this sign are insightful and often wise beyond their years.
This makes them excellent entrepreneurs as they’re able to see what’s coming and adapt to it. The trade-off is that some may see those born under this sign as highly opportunistic.
Sign #2 – The Ox
Years – 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009
Those born under the Ox have a kind-hearted nature that results in people desiring their company. They’re very social and willing to listen to problems. This kind-heartedness also makes them excellent leaders.
However, the term “bull-headed” aptly applies to this sign. If an Ox feels like they’re in the right, there’s little that you can do to change their mind. This stubbornness can lead to them falling out with people.
Sign #3 – The Tiger
Years – 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010
Tigers are very organized people who also have a great deal of courage hidden beneath the depths. They’re very sensitive to the plights of others, though some would say a little too sensitive.
This sensitivity leads to them latching onto causes that they believe in with great passion. The counterpoint to this is that they may struggle to maintain relationships with people who don’t agree with their cause.
Sign #4 – The Rabbit
Years – 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011
The most sentimental of the Chinese signs, a Rabbit attaches a great deal of value to the people they love. They’re usually the first to come in with a cuddle and a kind word if you’re having a bad day.
They’re generally friendly people, which makes it easy to spend time around them. This also makes them great peacemakers in times of conflict.
Sign #5 – The Dragon
Years – 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012
Flamboyance and flashiness are the hallmarks of this sign. A Dragon is a born entertainer who loves being the center of attention. They’re the larger than life characters who will always stand out in a crowd.
There’s usually a fire and charm associated with a Dragon. However, some may find them a little overbearing in their search for attention.
Sign #6 – The Snake
Years – 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013
Contrary to western opinion, the Snake is a graceful animal in the Chinese zodiac. Those born under this sign are most in tune with their senses, which makes them almost empathic.
They love with all of their hearts and hope for the same in return. Some may also have psychic abilities.
Sign #7 – The Horse
Years – 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014
Strength and vigor are the hallmarks of the Horse. They’re also free spirits who do not like getting tied down.
Of course, this can cause issues with relationships. However, it also makes them great leaders because they carve their own paths.
Sign #8 – The Goat
Years – 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015
Those born under this sign tend to have hidden talents that they only reveal when needed. This can lead to people underestimating them.
They’re typically gentle people who are quick to help those in need.
Sign #9 – The Monkey
Years – 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016
Many see the Monkey as a resilient character. This comes from having a secure sense of self.
Monkeys always seem to carry themselves with a quiet air of confidence. This can bleed over into arrogance if not kept in check. However, it also often leads to great success in their lives.
Sign #10 – The Rooster
Years – 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017
Roosters are usually the creators of the Chinese zodiac. They have no fear of others seeing them as different, which means they’re able to unlock their creative potential.
Much like Dragons, they also love being the center of attention.
Sign #11 – The Dog
Years – 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018
Adaptable and loyal, it’s fair to say that those born under this sign have many of the traits of man’s best friend.
They always focus on the needs of others and very protective of family and friends.
Sign #12 – The Pig
Years – 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019
People born under this sign tend towards altruism in all aspects of their life. Much like dogs, they place the needs of others above their own.
However, they’re more likely to show this trait through humanitarian work.
Which Zodiac do You Prefer?
It’s amazing to see how much can change in your readings depending on the type of zodiac.
The differences between sidereal and tropical are especially important to western astrologers. However, you may find yourself curious to see if your personality matches the traits in the Chinese zodiac too.
Which zodiac do you find relates to you most? Let us know in the comments because we’d love to hear your thoughts.