On “True Sidereal Astrology”
If you read Part I of this “Formerly Aries” series, you might get the impression that I’ve already made up my mind to ditch traditional western astrology for this newfangled (yet old fashioned) system called “True Sidereal” astrology. But the fact is, I’m not ready to throw out the bathwater, baby, tub and rubber duckie just yet.
So far, I’ve really been enjoying the daily True Sidereal horoscopes of Athen Chimenti of Mastering the Zodiac and find them to be quite accurate for general energies. I’m also in debt to him for helping me to find TS, a system which so immediately resonated with my spirit that I felt instantly drawn to it. (If you haven’t watched his explanation video on True Sidereal yet, go check it out now). But its never been my style to follow just one person’s advice on anything without getting a few different opinions, especially when its something I’m still learning to do on my own.
The idea of starting fresh with a new system of astrology is both exciting and completely overwhelming. When it comes to astrology, I’m still a bit of a novice anyways, riding the coat-tails of excellent astrologers in the occult world, such as Austin Coppock, Timothy Halloran of Risa Lila Healing, Gregory Scott, and others that have a remarkable gift to dig in a little deeper than your typical horoscope writer and pull out the meat of present energies. If I started to follow the True Sidereal system exclusively, it would mean no longer relying on their guidance, instead venturing forward into a more isolated terrain. The number of astrologers that follow TS at this point is still very limited. It means ditching the apps that I use everyday to check the transits of my chart. It means no more weekly and daily horoscopes for my sign from Greg and Austin. It means no more New/Full Moon pep talks from Timothy. It really throws off my whole groove if I decide to go all in with True Sidereal. It feels scary and intimidating to leave so much good astrology behind without knowing if its worth it.
But do I really have to leave it all behind? If one system is more accurate, then that means the other one isn’t, right? Why do they both seem to give pretty good predictions?
Why hasn’t True Sidereal caught on?
When trying to figure out which system is more correct, I found myself asking why more western astrologers haven’t gotten on board with this system. Does its lack of popularity mean its a dud? I can only speculate on why traditional tropical astrology remains all pervasive, but I think it has a lot to do with the same apprehensions that I had about making 180 degree turnaround to a new system. What an intimidating ordeal it is to go against the grain! But you have to wonder if part of the reason it hasn’t taken off is that the demand for True Sidereal astrologers isn’t there, and therefore, it’s just not a marketable option for people that make a living in astrology. People like me are willing to jump in to the new system because we have a lot less at stake, but for a professional astrologer, switching to TS exclusively could mean alienating most of your clients.
Note: I’m just focusing on popular western astrology here because its what I hear about the most in my cultural context. Vedic astrologers already use a form of the sidereal zodiac. Vedic astrology is based on a zodiac with 12 equally-sized signs which follow precession to better reflect the position of celestial bodies to the stars. Chimenti’s True Sidereal system, on the other hand, implements a zodiac of 13 signs, with the length of those signs dependent on the varying sizes of the actual constellations in the sky.
In the rest of the world and among the informed astrology community, the zodiac debate is NOT a new thing, and there are actually several different zodiac systems. Johannes Kepler dropped his use of the zodiac completely to focus only on planetary aspects as early as the 17th century, deciding that the houses and zodiac signs were arbitrary. In the late 1940’s, Cyril Fagan sparked a modern siderealist movement among western astrologers, and Donald Bradley continued his work after Fagan’s death, resulting in the Fagan-Bradley zodiac that you might find in your settings on any popular astrology software. My point is that western astrology has had plenty of time to evolve into a sidereal tradition, and yet, the tropical zodiac remains so popular in the U.S. and Europe that most casual followers of astrology don’t even realize that their astrological system doesn’t correspond to the actual placement of the constellations above. Those that do know may not even realize that there are alternatives to this western tradition.
So my next question: is the seasonal, Tropical Zodiac popular because so many people are uninformed about its alternatives, or are they uninformed because western astrology is so popular?
Hey, what’s your sign?
Everybody’s favorite early punk rock composer Ludwig Van Beethoven (Sun in tropical Sag., Scorpio Rising) is quoted saying, “It is said ‘Vox populi, vox dei’ but I never believed it.” When it comes Donald Trump, modern pop music, and western astrology, I tend to side with Ludwig here: The voice of the people is probably not the voice of God. But then the Jungian in me pipes up…doesn’t the evolution of the collective consciousness hold some intrinsic value in our souls’ evolution? Are we left with traditional western astrology because that’s where we are as a society? Or are nefarious powers at work to keep the masses uninformed? Or is there just something about tropical astrology that makes it more accurate in general, and therefore more popular? These are the questions I’ve been wrestling.
The 1960’s garnered a huge surge in the popularity of astrology alongside hippy culture. It happened again in the 80’s and arguably it’s happening in our present generation as the “witchcraft aesthetic” and occult practices are once again trés chic. Each of these movements infused the astrological community with new life and fresh interest. But with all things, popularity can sometimes water things down to a palatable shadow of its original richness, appealing and digestible to the short attention spans of the masses. Out of this dilution of Astro-culture came the U.S.’s obsession with sun signs which in my uneducated opinion has a lot to do with why Sidereal astrology has never taken off here. Let me walk you through my thought process on this:
Everyone knows their sun sign, even if they don’t know that’s its their “sun sign”. Growing up with an evangelical background, even the most staunchly conservative Sunday school teachers knew their sign. If you asked, they would tell you astrology was a blasphemy against God, but they still knew they were they were a Capricorn. Why does everyone know their sign? Well, why does anything get rapidly popular? Because sex, of course.
Asking a prospective date what their sign is has been the go-to pick-up line for 50+ years. It makes you seem exotic and mystical, and it appeals to your date’s narcissistic desire to talk about their favorite personality traits. And while astrological synastry is a complicated process to determine compatibility, sun sign compatibility is the watered down and easily digestible alternative to pulling out one’s natal chart at the local bar.
So horny singles might have been one of the driving forces behind why sun signs got so popular while the rest of the chart got ignored, but it has really taken on a life of its own. Profiling ourselves and others from our sun sign is one of those things that people love to do…partially because of our innate narcissism, and partially because of our inherent drive to understand the parts of ourselves that are difficult to observe from within our daily existent. This is exactly why natal astrology is such a useful tool for anyone interested in evolving by diving in deep to their psyche through the archetypes of astrology and mythology. The modern skeptic’s equivalent would be the Myers-Briggs personality test or “Strengths Finder” profiles that are so popular these days. There is a very human drive to understand yourself better, and for many of us, this drive is what prompts us to find a spiritual path in the first place. But in the same way one of those 5 question “personality tests” on an ad-heavy clickbait questionnaire waters down the concept of a Myers-Briggs test, focusing too much on the sun sign alone can steer you off course in a big way, especially when you don’t take into consideration that there are multiple layers of zodiac chart (doubled by the aspects of the Sidereal chart).
In my short time dabbling in true Sidereal astrology, the most striking thing I’ve realized is that your tropical sun sign can really only tell you about your most obvious, surface-level personality traits. Maybe that’s why so many people instantly identify with their sun traits. It’s the part of your personality that hits you in the face. It’s the very tip of the iceberg… not just judging the book by its cover, but by the little part of the spine that shows when it’s on the shelf.
There’s nothing wrong with taking your tropical sun sign into consideration…it’s a pretty important part of your chart. The problem is that in western culture, that tends to be the only thing that people identify with, tying up their entire sense of Self up in the one sign. Any astrologer,tropical, sidereal or otherwise, will tell you that’s just bad astrology. Unfortunately, bad astrology is rampant.
Don’t believe me? After about thirty minutes of searching on instagram, I came up with these 12 graphics:
These images had hundreds of likes and shares, because who wouldn’t relate to this statement? Does anyone like to have someone “play games” with them when their heart is on the line? But it’s a great example of how prevalent bad astrology is in modern internet culture. If astrologers are forced to limit their craft to what’s popular (because….well, capitalism. Gotta pay the bills!) and this is what is popular, well, that doesn’t bode well for the future of astrology. But thats exactly why watered-down sun sign astrology is dangerous, not just for the masses that buy into it, but for the whole of the Astrology community if the mass market consumers are the ones steering the direction of the ship. Astrologers should be challenging people to grow and learn beyond what they instantly identify as true, equipping clients to dig deep under the surface and find the evolutionary path of soul alchemy. Don’t get me wrong, there are many that do and I hope they continue to do their divine work! But with many astrologers continuing to cater to this easily digestible astrology of horoscopes and sun signs, the populace remains uninformed, clinging to the sun sign as their truest self-identity. Here’s why I think that has hurt the movement towards True Sidereal astrology.
When you suggest to someone that “their sign” is not actually their sign, if that person has their entire identity all wrapped up in their concept of that one zodiac sign, most of them will have a visercal, angry reaction. Not only do they reject the new sign on a personal level, but they will reject the entire system… and they will reject you as an astrologer. Unless you happen to appeal to their curiosity before you confront their predetermined beliefs, you’ve already lost them. Coming into this culture with any innovative or new ideas is like hitting a brick wall. There’s no discussion, no time to contemplate, no compromises, growth or learning. (This definitely mirrors the political climate, don’t you agree?) The odds are already stacked up against the Sidereal astrologer, and in a profession where your income is 100% based on the clients’ confidence in you, if you lose them from the moment you tell them what sign they are, what chance do you have to get their business? Why would any western astrologer do that to themselves? Only someone who has a reason to believe in the True Sidereal zodiac as the true path would choose to become a TS astrologer, and Athen Chimenti clearly holds that belief.
“What do you mean I’m not an Aries?!”
Lest you think I’m condescendingly judging anyone who follows traditional western astrology to be some sort of ignorant fool, let me assure you that I have no intention of ditching tropical charts anytime soon. But I do think that the True Sidereal zodiac should be a part of every astrologers’ toolkit, and it’s precisely because of the adverse reactions that people have when they are confronted with the possibility that they are not the sign that they’ve identified with their whole life. I had that exact reaction myself.
In fact, nearly every person that I know who has been introduced to the true sidereal zodiac has had a similar visceral reaction. There seems to be four initial stages stages…curiousity, then shock, anger, and rejection, followed by stages of acceptance and then zealous and obsessive adherence to the new system. For me, it looked like this:
- Upon hearing about TS: “What’s this? A zodiac system that is based on the actual position of stars and planets? Thats what I’ve always hoped for!”
- Upon finding out that it changes your sign: “Wait so….this means I’m not an Aries? But…I…”
- “PISCES!!!!???? I AM NOT A PISCES! ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME??” Angry huffing ensues.
- “So much for “True Sidereal”… more like “Truely Dumb, f’real” Rapid fire eye-rolling.
- Ignores TS for a week or two, but can’t get it off her mind despite distracting herself by binge-watching Golden Girls for days.
- Begrudgingly looks up the qualities of a Pisces sun, and is surprised to see that it fits her much much better than an Aries sun.
- Checks out the rest of her chart, sees that having Mars in Aries accounts for most of her Aries qualities and becomes increasingly wowed (and challenged) by the new results.
- Focuses on TS for a few weeks to test out how it feels…
- Writes multiple blog posts about the wonders of True Sidereal and tries to convert all her friends and family to the new system.
Don’t we all need to have our accepted paradigms challenged periodically? Isn’t that an essential part of magick, alchemy and even astrology itself? As a tarot reader, I know the importance of the Tower, Death and the Hanged Man in the major arcana. Maybe its important to bring that element into our accepted astrological system once every…uh, two thousand years or so?
More than anything, as an alchemist, I know that when something comes up in my life that triggers a visceral response in my gut like that, its something that needs to be addressed, one way or another. These challenges are the ones that spark the alchemical processes, driving the cycles of transformation. You don’t achieve calcination without applying fire. A substance won’t go through dissolution without being subjected to waters of abrasive acids. Again and again the soul substance is subjected to stages of purification, before the opposites become unified in the process of conjunction, only to subjugated to further processes of refinement. While I am just a student in the realms of astrology, my alchemist’s intuition tells me that because the wheels of the tropical and sidereal zodiac seem to be at odds with each other, bringing together these two opposites like gears of a giant clock can bring a greater refinement to my understanding of both.
The entire time that I was fighting with myself over the accuracy of the TS zodiac, I was asking the question, “Which one is correct?” I had forgotten that astrology is always about the relationships between planets, stars and seasons. Why wouldn’t that same concept be true about the zodiacs themselves? Maybe the question to ask isn’t “Which one is correct?” but “How do they interact and relate to each other?” Maybe your life goes through periods where you are more aligned with one than the other…I know that I certainly reflected more of my tropical chart’s traits when I was younger, before hitting my Saturn return. As I’ve grown older, the sidereal chart’s attributes seem to be a better fit. Some astrologers even teach that the constellations themselves should be considered to be moving through the seasonal zodiac signs. This too adds another dimension to the relationships of the zodiac. I think that we tend to stumble upon these facets precisely when we need them, either through our own studies or through the guidance of a gifted astrologer. Like tarot cards popping up out of the deck, these lessons pop up when our souls are ready for their challenges, individually and collectively.
The Zodiac Conspiracy
There may be no truth to the theory that the tropical zodiac was popularized by elite occultists as a way to water down the potent “true” astrology for the masses, in order to keep the real thing for themselves for elective astrology in dark magick rituals. I can’t speak to the validity of that accusation, but its not outside the realm of possibilities in this crazy world, is it? The thing is, I just don’t find it as helpful to focus on what others might have done to suppress the truth, as it is to actively pursue the truth through soul-work, introspection and meditation, alongside my hermetic studies. The alchemy texts of old were all about figuring things out on your own. They were coded by necessity, but those codes became intrinsically tied in with the heart of the alchemical process. Alchemy is effective precisely because it must be decoded, and in the process of demystifying it, the Self is reshaped and formed into a new material. To me, its not as important to ask why true sidereal astrology has been hidden from me, but its discovery and integration holds the greatest value to me in itself. In confronting my accepted beliefs and embracing the “heretical,” I am remapping my mind in preparation for the next step in my alchemical process.
I still have so much to learn about true sidereal and about astrology in general, and I know I’m only scratching the surface with my observations so far. I realize that I have no room to tell anyone how to implement the different zodiacal systems into their life. But I think its wise to keep an open mind and check things out for yourself. If you consider yourself an occultist, do you really have time or space in your life to call heresy and judgement on people that accept a different system than you? If you find yourself instantly rejecting something before having a chance to hear it out, maybe that is saying more about the state of your own mind than the thing which you are outright rejecting. And maybe, as I’ve suggested before, you’ll find the true sidereal zodiac is a tool worth adding to your bag of tricks.
To be continued…
For my next installment of “Formerly Aries,” I’m going to dig into my chart and others and point out some of the ways the two zodiacal systems work together to form a clearer picture. I’ll be looking more at why tropical/western astrology isn’t wrong, but is a crucial part of the Whole. Tune in next time, Mugwort & MeadeHeads!