Amber Wolfe Rounds


Since beginning my studies of Anthroposophy, I have wrestled with the question of which zodiac to follow: the tropical zodiac used by most Western astrologers, or the sidereal zodiac followed by Rudolf Steiner and Jyotisha astrologers. The tropical zodiac is linked to the unchanging dates of the solstices and equinoxes, thus beautifully connecting spiritual insights to the wheel of the seasons in the northern hemisphere. Meanwhile, the sidereal zodiac is more closely aligned with what astronomers actually observe, which encourages a greater fusion between art, science, and spiritual practice.

I have been referring to the tropical zodiac in these newsletters and in most of my consultations. Since this is the zodiac that most of my readers are familiar with, that has seemed the most practical course of action. Meanwhile, in my music composition work with Zizia, I follow the sidereal zodiac. After several years of observing both zodiacs simultaneously, I have decided to switch to the sidereal zodiac. My decision has come amidst the year long struggle between the forces of change and stability as represented by the Saturn-Uranus squares of 2021.

Robert Powell points out that the tropical zodiac came about almost accidentally. At the time that Claudius Ptolemy wrote his foundational astrological text, Tetrabiblos, the vernal equinox occurred at the first degree of Aries. However, due to a phenomenon known as the precession of the equinoxes, or the axial precession, the vernal equinox now occurs at five degrees of Pisces. Ptolemy was aware of this phenomenon, however subsequent translations of his work made it seem as though he was suggesting that the vernal equinox always occurs in conjunction with the beginning of the Sun's apparent passage through Aries.

Therefore, the tropical zodiac has remained unchanged: the four cardinal signs of Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn always begin each of the four seasons, the fixed signs fall in the midpoint of the seasons, and the mutable signs mark a transition to the next season. This is beautifully poetic, and is relevant because it speaks to our fundamental relationship relative to the Sun, our closest star. Yet, it does not reflect our position relative to the rest of the starry heavens.

Anyone with a smartphone can download a skywatching app that will clearly show that Jupiter and Saturn are in Capricorn this year. Meanwhile, tropical astrologers will refer to Jupiter and Saturn in Aquarius. This is problematic for a variety of reasons. Firstly, it means that the tropical zodiac is actually such an abstraction of reality that it necessitates astrologers to use computer programs or complete complex calculations in order to form their interpretations. Second, it makes astrology seem disreputable not only to astronomers, but also to anyone who forms their own relationship to stargazing.

The decision to change to sidereal has been a challenging since I admire and respect so many astrologers who use the tropical zodiac. To paraphrase Powell, these astrologers are so intuitive that they come to the correct conclusions in spite of the inaccurate data. Insofar as astrology is fundamentally an art form that facilitates a connection between two people, then there is no problem in using the harmonious tropical zodiac to do so. I do not mean to be critical of anyone who feels intuitively connected to that zodiac. To the contrary: I will still perform chart readings for individuals with the tropical zodiac if desired, for I have found that the dominant themes emerge clearly through both zodiacs.

I intend to enrich my astrology by spending more time watching the night sky and forming a closer connection to the constellations themselves. I also hope that by following the sidereal zodiac in my newsletters, my clients will be inspired to form a more intimate relationship to the stars.

For more information on the Axial Precession, you can listen to this interview where Robert Powell discusses the history of the zodiacs.