Understanding the Differences between Western (Tropical) and Jyotish (Sidereal) Systems
There are a few key differences between Western and Vedic Astrology. They may seem similar on the surface, but these differences create big variables in their accuracy and application.
Astronomical Basics and the Precession of the Equinox
In ancient times, people spent a great deal of time looking up at the night sky. The stars were a source of light, a tool for navigation, and inspiration for legend and lore. They watched, year after year, as the star cycles overhead corresponded with subtle changes down on earth. The ancients became so skilled at observing these cycles that its study became tool to predict the future. This is the origin of astrology.
The part of the night sky used in astrology is called the Zodiac, a band of stars where the Sun, Moon, and the planets in our solar system appear to move. This band of sky also includes 12 constellations, or clusters of stars known as the “Zodiac Signs.”
In all systems of astrology, the first sign of the Zodiac is Aries. In the cycles of Western Astrology, Aries always starts on Vernal Equinox, some time in the spring. However, there’s a problem with this – the Earth doesn’t rotate on a perfect axis, so the Vernal Equinox doesn’t always start at the exact same time every year. It’s a very small shift, but over the course of 2,000 years, it’s made a big difference in astronomical calculations. The signs are, very slowly, scooting backwards, and this phenomenon is known as the precession of the equinox.
What does this mean for astrology? Here in the 21st century, the Sun is now literally overhead in Pisces during the Vernal Equinox – the 12th sign of the Zodiac – not in Aries. But Western Astrology still stubbornly says that the Sun is in Aries on that day.
Vedic Astrology uses a much more accurate system of calculation, dynamic in nature, so the daily horoscope always matches what’s happening overhead in the sky. If Vedic Astrology says that the Moon is in Capricorn next Tuesday, you can go outside and look up at the night sky, and the Moon will be overlayed against the constellation of Capricorn on Tuesday. Western Astrology, which doesn’t take the precession of the equinox into account, will tell you that Moon is in Aquarius on Tuesday, even though that’s not accurate according to what’s happening overhead. It has effectively become a hypothetical system that has no bearing on the actual transits of the planets, where Vedic Astrology will remain technically accurate forever.
Main Differences in Western vs. Vedic Astrology
Western and Vedic astrology both use Zodiac signs of 30 degrees each to create the wheel of the horoscope, with mostly identical names and planetary references used throughout the systems. However:
- Two different systems:
- Western Astrology uses the tropical zodiac, starting from the Sun’s position at the vernal equinox, which changes over time due to the precession of the equinoxes.
- Vedic Astrology uses the sidereal zodiac, where 1 degree of Aries will remain 1 degree of Aries forever, regardless of the earth’s imperfect axis or the Sun’s position at the equinox.
- Two different systems:
- Different focus on Signs:
- In Western horoscopes, the emphasis is on Sun signs. Your “sign” is determined by the constellation the Sun occupied at your birth, which changes once every month.
- In Vedic astrology, the focus is more comprehensive. It predominantly looks at the rising sign, which is the constellation on the Eastern horizon at the time of your birth. This rising sign represents the individual more specifically and is the fastest-changing factor in a horoscope, changing signs once every two hours – so it’s much more specific to your individuality than the Sun sign.
- Additionally, Vedic astrology takes into account transits and significations from the vantage point of the Moon, regarding the Moon’s positions and influences in a person’s chart much more than Western Astrology does.
- Different focus on Signs:
Both systems use gemstones, but they do so differently.
- In Western astrology, there are birthstones for each Sun sign, but their meanings are not deeply connected to the signs. Not much study has been done on the effectiveness of commercial quality birthstones for the wearer’s Western Astrological chart.
- In Vedic astrology, gemstones are associated with the planets rather than the Zodiac signs, because the gemstone’s color frequencies correspond directly to the frequencies of the planets in our solar system. Gem prescriptions are highly personalized, considering an individual’s entire birth chart as well as their intentions for wearing gems to make sure the gemstones are worn for the right reasons. Beneficial gemstones can bring positive effects, while the wrong ones can bring negative consequences. It’s essential to consult a qualified Vedic Gemologist for accurate gemstone prescriptions.
Western Astrology and Vedic Astrology both employ predictive utilizations, but Western Astrology is often used predominantly for character assessment and Vedic Astrology is more remedial in nature. It takes the weaknesses of the birth chart into account so that actions can be taken to remedy challenging karma, such as wearing Vedic gemstones or chanting planetary mantras.
In summary, Western and Vedic astrology share some surface similarities, but their methods of calculation, usage, and gemstones differ significantly. Vedic astrology’s focus on the Rising Sign and the Moon’s influence, along with its specific and personalized gemstone prescriptions, make it a unique and valuable system, gaining increasing popularity in the modern world.
The precession of the equinox adds an extra layer of importance, as Vedic Astrology will always depict the actual planetary positions in the night sky, not a hypothetical system that changes subtly every year – and we suspect that the ancient cultures who honored the night sky would appreciate our adherence to respecting the stars overhead with such accuracy.