Sidereal, Tropical, Age of Aquarius, what does it all mean?

Quasar pic from NASA

Sidereal, Tropical, Age of Aquarius, what does it all mean?

Fun fact: An astrological age is 2160 years, the moon’s diameter is 2160 miles and ages result from the wobble created by the gravitational forces between the sun and moon.

The ages mark the difference between the tropical and sidereal zodiacs. We were in the age of Aries thousands of years ago when astrology emerged into our consciousness and use. It was the most recent time the tropical and sidereal were aligned.

Here’s a run down of what tropical, sidereal, and age mean in astrology.

Tropical Zodiac

In the northern hemisphere the spring equinox marks the first day of spring and the sun’s entrance into Aries. Having this equinox define when the sun enters Aries is the basis for the tropical zodiac.

The tropical zodiac is independent of small changes to the orientation of the earth’s axis caused by gravitational forces between the sun and moon, because each year the vernal equinox equates to zero degrees of Aries.

Sidereal Zodiac

The sidereal zodiac is determined by the current orientation of the earth’s axis. So it shifts over time due to the gravitational forces between the sun and moon. This orientation change makes a complete cycle through the zodiac every 26,000 years. This shift is the difference between tropical and sidereal.

Those of us using a tropical zodiac continue to use the sky map that created the foundation of astrology. The vernal equinox was in Aries when astrology emerged and we continue to assign Aries to the vernal equinox each year.

Those using sidereal are using the current orientation of the earth’s axis so the whole zodiac shifts over time. We call this shift the precession of the equinoxes, as the vernal equinox makes it’s way through the zodiac.

It takes 26,000 years for the equinoxes to move through the zodiac. Divide by 12 and you get 2160 years per sign. A sign equals an age. Each age lasts 2160 years.

Every 26,000 years the tropical and sidereal are aligned (they match).

Astrology Age

We were in the age of Aries when astrology emerged, because the vernal equinox was in Aries. The precession of the equinoxes goes in reverse order of the zodiac, so we went from Aries to Pisces. Next is Aquarius.

There is some debate among astrologers regarding the reference points to use to determine our current age. There is consensus though that we are either in the end of the age of Pieces or just entering the age of Aquarius.

The name tropical zodiac comes from Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn.

The tilt of the earth’s axis give us two latitudes, a most northern and most southern, where the earth is directly above the equator. They are called Tropic of Cancer (most northern) and Tropic of Capricorn (most southern).

The seasons on Earth change because the planet is tilted on its axis as it travels around the Sun. This means different points on Earth receive more or less sunlight at different times of year. If the Earth were not tilted, the Sun would always appear to be directly above the Equator, so the amount of daylight at any given place on earth would stay the same and we would not have seasons.

Because we have this tilt, we have seasons and they are marked by equinoxes and solstices.

The equinoxes happen in March and September. These are the days when the Sun is exactly above the Equator, so day and night are the same length. With the solstices, the daylight varies, so they give us the longest and shortest days of the year.

Those two solstices happen in June and December. These are the days when the Sun’s path in the sky is the farthest north or south from the Equator. In the Northern Hemisphere the June solstice is the start of summer, because the North Pole is tilted closest to the Sun and the December solstice is the start of winter because the South Pole is the one tilted towards the sun. That’s why winter and summer are reversed between the US and Australia.


The Twelve Signs

In previous blogs I have discussed the four elements and three qualities. I explained that each of the cardinal signs seek to assert themselves. In some way they are all driven and ambitious. The fixed signs are all focused and tenacious and have a definitive quality about them. The mutable signs are versatile, restless and seek change. Let’s take a look at the moon in the elements and see how these elements combine with the three qualities to give us the twelve signs.


Fire Moons

Fire is active and initiating energy. It seeks to create experience and take action. All of the fire moons feel nurtured through experience and action. Aries (Fire & Cardinal) seeks to experience life first hand and learn by doing. Aries energy needs to feel directly involved with the experience. Leo (Fire & Fixed) is more focused and wants the experience to have meaning. These moons need to be feel valued and feel admired and to serve the greater good. Sagittarius (Fire & Mutable) is restless and desires change. These moons feel nurtured through change that leads to growth and expansion. Sagittarian moons are progressive and seek spiritual fulfillment.


Earth Moons

Earth is stabilizing concrete energy, and naturally tends to create form and solidify human experience. Taurus (Earth & Fixed) is focused and tenacious so these moons need physical pleasure and do best when they are comfortable. Virgo (Earth & Mutable) combines the versatility of the mutable signs with the earth element, resulting in a moon that needs to feel a sense of service. There’s a need to keep changing the physical, so just when everything is settled, these moons want to move again and disrupt the order in life somehow. Capricorn (Earth & Cardinal) really needs structure and flourishes when their home base is solid. They are driven to create something that has lasting value.


Air Moons

Air is changeable kinetic energy, and expands to create discovery and innovation. Gemini (Air & Mutable) moons need variety and so they are in perpetual motion. They are emotional chameleons seeking changing circumstances. Libra (Air & Cardinal) combines the intellectual quality of air and the assertiveness of cardinal to create a thoughtful desire for life to be fair. Libra seeks balance. Aquarius (Air & Fixed) is intensified innovative energy resulting in a need for the unexpected, and an ability to relate to those in all walks of life.


Water Moons

Water is steadily flowing energy that moves to shape and deepen any experience. Cancer (Water & Cardinal) is strong, assertive emotion. Cancer needs emotional security and likes to be in control. Scorpio (Water & Fixed) is intense emotion and almost thrives on crisis. Scorpio moons have much to learn and teach regarding choice. Pisces (Water & Mutable) is fluid emotion. They are are gentle dreamers with great capacity for empathy and compassion. They tend to blur the lines between illusion and reality and kind find themselves often in the role of rescuer or feeling that they are in need of rescue.

I hope this gives you a better understanding of how the elements and qualities create the twelve astrological signs.

Copyright © 2009, Lisa Wagner