Origins of Astrology, the Babylonians
The Babylonians are generally acknowledged to have originated the practice and science of astrology. Their astrological charts enabled them to predict the recurrence of seasons and certain celestial events. So, in the beginning and for more than 2,000 years, astrology and astronomy were the same science.
Babylonian astrology was introduced to the Greeks early in the 4th century BCE and, through the studies of Plato, Aristotle, and others, astrology came to be highly regarded as a science. It was soon embraced by the Romans (the Roman names for the zodiacal signs are still used today) and the Arabs and later spread throughout the entire world.
While earliest astrology was used to bring a sense of order out of apparent chaos, it was soon employed to predict weather patterns, primarily for agricultural purposes. It was eventually widened to include forecasts of natural disasters, war and other events in the affecting the human condition. Once success in these fields was established, it was a natural evolution for astrology to be used as a means for advising for kings and emperors and, in time, the population at large.
The zodiac (which is derived from the Greek word meaning circle of animals) is believed to have developed in ancient Egypt and later adopted by the Babylonians. Early astrologers knew it took twelve lunar cycles (i.e., months) for the sun to return to its original position. They then identified twelve constellations that they observed were linked to the progression of the seasons and assigned them names of certain animals and persons (in Babylonia, for example, the rainy season was found to occur when the sun was in a particular constellation which was then named Aquarius, or water bearer).
Around the year 2000 BCE, Babylonian astrologers believed that the sun, moon, and the five planets known at that time (Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, Saturn, and Venus) possessed distinct powers. Mars, for example, appeared to be red and was associated with aggression and war.
Tropical Astrology is the old astrological division of the sky. When the Zodiac was invented, the position of the constellations were written down. But since then, the whole Zodiac has shifted almost a whole sign due to the Precession, so whoever was once born a Virgo, is now probably born a Leo – with the personality changes that come with it. Tropical Astrology ignores this, and keeps using the old tables – which have nothing to do with where the planets actually are in the sky.
Sidereal Astrology acknowledges the problem with the shifting signs, but digs itself deeper into the ludicrous: The more sidereal astrologers try to follow the real division of the sky, the more they are distancing themselves from the old wisdom. Sidereal astrologers cannot claim to build on ancient knowledge, but have to change the signs and characteristics over time. They are in turn making the whole concept of Astrology invalid. The real astronomical signs are a few days off from the Sidereal system by now – so not even Sidereal Astrology is using the correct star signs.
Sidereal astrology uses the actual constellation in which the sun is located at the moment of birth as its basis; tropical astrology uses a 30-degree sector of the zodiac as its basis. Tropical astrology is the most popular form and it assigns its readings based on the time of the year, while generally ignoring the positions of the sun and constellations relative to each other. Sidereal astrology is used by a minority of astrologers and bases its readings on the constellations near the sun at the time of birth.
According to some astrologers, the data support the hypothesis that there is a connection between heavenly bodies and human events. There are correlations too synchronous to be mere chance between astrological signs and such things as personality, emotions and human destiny.
The Sidereal or Eastern system of astrology is based on the position of the belt of fixed stars and constellations in the heavens, whereas the Tropical zodiac or the Western astrological system is based upon the position of the Sun in relation to the Earth. Sidereal astrology is the system of astrology used by some western astrologers which bases their interpretation around the use of the sidereal zodiac. It was introduced to the West by the Irish astrologer Cyril Fagan in 1944 and is practiced by a minority of Western astrologers. Sidereal astrology ties its signs of the zodiac to the actual constellations and is more complex, yet more mathematically oriented than Western astrology.
Originally, the first degree of the zodiac was common to both systems. Due to the peculiarities in the Earth’s orbit, however, the belt of stars and constellations appears to shift in relation to the Tropical zodiac. As a result, the two zodiacs are drifting apart. This is called the procession of the equinoxes, and today the difference between the two systems is calculated at about 23 degrees. Thus, if a person is born on January 1, he will have the Sun in Capricorn according to the Western system, but according to the Sidereal system the Sun will be at approximately 16 degrees Sagittarius.
By practical experience the use of the Sidereal method is preferable. It is mathematically more correct, and it also penetrates into the subtle elements of nature, such as mind, intellect, and spirit to present a more complete picture of our soul’s sojourn in the realm of time and space.
The Sidereal astrological system notes the strengths and weaknesses that a person will experience in life, and also recommends remedial measures for improving our future. The karma or destiny which we are born with has been destined by activities in previous births. The spiritual astrology of India suggests that karma is not eternal and can be changed.
Indian Vedic Astrology
Indian astrology is based on the theory of fate. The good and the bad actions of the past life determine your fate or Karma of your present life, and the actions of your present life determine your future Karma. According to Indian astrology a person is born at that place, on that day and on that moment when his individual fate is in perfect mathematical harmony with the progress of the stars in heaven.
However it does not preach total dependence on fate. Astrology lets you know what you were born with, what your possibilities are, the limitations, your strong points and your drawbacks. What type of life partners and professions suit you and to expect is also indicated. It also prescribes various remedial measures to ward off the bad effects and to enhance the good results. Astrology is your roadmap of destiny. However your fate is in your hands. The scriptures guide us by telling us what is good and what is bad; what to do and what not to do; how to do and how not to do. You are given a piece of land and the seeds to sow. How much effort to put in to it, what amount of manure and water to add and when how to reap the produce is your job.
After that it is you who have to act using your knowledge intelligence, discrimination and experience. Fate is like a game of cards where you cannot help the cards that have been dealt to you but how to play them is in your hands. You may get good cards but if you play badly you will lose and you may get bad cards and still may win if you play carefully. Don’t blame the roadmap if you get drunk, drive badly and have an accident!
Elements in astrology
Groups of signs in astrology share certain characteristics that are classified according to four earthly elements – fire, air, water and earth. It helps explain why some signs are more compatible than others.
The Fire signs are Aries (March 21 to April 19), Leo (July 23 to August 22) and Sagittarius (November 22 – December 21). Fire people are leaders, dynamic. They light up everything around them. Because Fire needs Air to exist, Fire signs are most compatible with the Air signs. Water is anathema to Fire and a Water person could try to dampen the dynamism and enthusiasm that defines Fire.
The Air signs are Aquarius (January 20 to February 18), Gemini (May 21 to June 21) and Libra (September 23 – October 22). These are the idea signs, the air that breathes a spark into a flame. They can’t be tied down. They require freedom of movement and thought.
The water signs of Cancer (June 22 to July22), Scorpio (October 23 to November 21) and Pisces (February 19 to March 20) are characterized by the phrase still waters run deep. They’re emotional and sensitive, given to deep thoughts and conversations. Just as water can blur an image or hide secrets within its depths, so do Water signs have secretive emotions and abilities. The Water signs are most compatible with Earth signs.
The Earth signs are Taurus (April 20 – May 20), Virgo (August 23 to September 22) and Capricorn (December 22 to January 19). They are stable and consistent. While not as compassionate as the water signs, they are nonetheless nurturing. They can be rigid (stick in the mud) and easily stuck in routines. They are most compatible with Water signs, as Water is necessary for the Earth to properly nurture growing things. Earth helps Water contain itself, which is often necessary for survival on the planet.
According to Chinese legend, the twelve animals quarreled one day as to who was to head the cycle of years. The gods were asked to decide and they held a contest: whoever was to reach the opposite bank of the river would be first, and the rest of the animals would receive their years according to their finish.
All the twelve animals gathered at the river bank and jumped in. Unknown to the ox, the rat had jumped upon his back. As the ox was about to jump ashore, the rat jumped off the ox’s back, and won the race. The pig, who was very lazy, ended up last. That is why the rat is the first year of the animal cycle, the ox second, and the pig last.
The Chinese animal signs are a 12-year cycle used for dating the years. They represent a cyclical concept of time, rather than the Western linear concept of time. In the Chinese calendar, the beginning of the year falls somewhere between late January and early February. The Chinese have adopted the Western calendar since 1911, but the lunar calendar is still used for festive occasions such as the Chinese New Year. Many Chinese calendars will print both the solar dates and the Chinese lunar dates.
A cultural sidelight of the animal signs in Chinese folklore is that horoscopes have developed around the animal signs, much like monthly horoscopes in the West have been developed for the different moon signs, Pisces, Aries, etc. For example, a Chinese horoscope may predict that a person born in the Year of the Horse would be, cheerful, popular, and loves to compliment others. These horoscopes are amusing, but not regarded seriously by the Chinese people.
Technically speaking, your rising sign, or ascendant, reflects the zodiac sign that was ascending on the Eastern horizon at the moment you took your first breath in this world. This is why an exact birth time is so vital to finding your accurate rising sign. Located on the cusp of the first house of your astrological chart — or at the nine o’clock position — the rising sign can exert an influence almost as powerful as your Sun and Moon signs.
If you were to think of your Sun sign as your soul — your inner personality and potential — and your Moon sign as your heart — your emotional core — then you could say that your rising sign is your physical self or the face you present to the world. For example, though your Sun sign might be Taurus, your rising sign could very well be Gemini. While you’re feeling laid-back, others will tend to see you as a ball of nervous energy and cerebral wit.
At times, your rising sign may act as a mask, hiding some aspect of your inner self you don’t feel like revealing. Your Ascendant sign describes your temperament, your outward mannerisms and behavior, the personality you put on public display. It is the part of yourself you are most willing for other people to see in casual, impersonal situations. Changes here will explain why even people born on the same day as you will have very different personalities, different strengths and interests, and different life experiences.
The Ascendant is also called the Rising Sign of a person’s chart. Astrologers use the two terms interchangeably. It is literally the sign that was rising on the Eastern horizon of the sky at the time you were born in the place where you were born. This is why it is essential to have both a birthplace and a birth time in order to cast a completely valid Natal Chart.