Which is the Correct Twelvefold Division of the Zodiac?
The evidence so far convinces me that about 2,000 years ago we made the mistake of projecting one zodiac system onto another. The question remains: which zodiac was original and which was the erroneous projection?
Now I will set out to answer this question.
Some feel that the stellar division of the zodiac is primary. They feel that ancient peoples looked up at the stars in the sky, drew pictures up there by stringing together the patterns, and assigned mythology and meaning to the divisions created by those connections. They say that this mythologically informed “connect-the-dots” is the origin of astrology and of all the meaning of the twelve zodiac signs.
I have come to the conclusion that this is totally wrong. Why?
- Because the dots of those twelve constellations honestly look nothing at all like what they are supposed to be.
- Because if the dots of light themselves were meaningful, then the dots themselves would define the borders of the areas of meaning and we would have thirteen (or some other number of) divisions of unequal signs.
- Most importantly: Because the qualities and nature of the twelve signs is logically and rationally based on the Sun’s relationship to the Earth.
Point 1: The Stars Don’t Even Look Like Their Symbols
If the patterns of stars are themselves the cause of meaning in the twelve signs, then the meanings could be anything. I mean, just go ahead and look at Aries. That is supposed to be a Ram? It’s just a straight line! Cancer is a crab??? It could just as easily be a TV with rabbit ears, it’s just 6 dots! Virgo is a fair maiden? Are you sure it’s not just a complete jumble?
To say that the images in the stars came first and the meanings came later is irrational, because there are no compelling images up there (only dots).
What is logical and reasonable to me is that the zodiac divisions and their rich meanings are created by the clockwork interplay between the motions of Sun, Moon and the Earth. Symbols like rams and crabs and scorpions come later, as a mnemonic aid encapsulating the rich meaning inherent in the zodiac divisions. Pictures of those symbols traced onto lights in the sky come third – an event which probably happened around 2,000 years ago.
On its own, this does not establish that the mathematical and logical nature of the twelvefold zodiac is calculated in reference to a tropical point, but it does significantly weaken one of the arguments in the other direction, that the stellar constellations and therefore the sidereal signs, came first
Point 2: If the Stars Came First, We Should Have Unequal Zodiac Signs
If the stars came first, then the stars should define the borders of the zodiac. They don’t. Even sidereal zodiacs use mathematical divisions, not stellar ones. Again, this does not conclude that the mathematics was originally referenced to a tropical starting point. But it does discredit the opposite opinion.
Point 3: The Twelve Signs Get Their Meanings Based on the Sun’s Relationship to the Earth.
Each zodiac sign derives its meaning from four constituents: the planet who creates and tends it, the elemental material it is created from, the attitude (“mode”) it expresses itself with, and its natural order in the zodiac. How was it declared that a certain sign has a certain ruler, element or mode? By logic and math based on the Sun and its relationship to the Earth, not based on any individual star or stars in the sky.
I will now explain the logic.
Sun-based Planetary Rulers
First, each sign has a planet that “rules” it. This planet is the active principle which transforms the inactive latent energy of the primordial sign into something organized and meaningful – in just the same way as people go into wilderness and transform its resources into civilization.
What logic determines which planet rules which sign? It is all based on the relationship of the planets to the Sun.
The Sun and the Moon are the kings of the sky – they own the whole thing: i.e. their polyrhythmic interplay of 12:1 is what defines the zodiac as having twelve equal divisions in the first place. These two kings retain ownership of their favorite locations, what we now call Cancer and Leo, and lease the remaining ten divisions to the remaining five planets.
Mercury is the closest to the Sun, and so gets the two divisions closest to the Sun and Moon: Gemini, which directly borders Cancer, and Virgo, which directly borders Leo. Venus is the next closest to the Sun, so gets the next closest zodiac divisions: Taurus (bordering Gemini) and Libra (bordering Virgo). The Earth is not an astrological planet, it is the foundation and stage of astrology, so the next closest planet to the Sun is Mars. Mars thus gets the next closest divisions: Aires (bordering Taurus) and Scorpio (bordering Libra). Then Jupiter gets the next: Pisces (bordering Aries) and Sagittarius (bordering Scorpio). Finally Saturn, the furthest planet, gets the signs furthest from the Sun’s: Aquarius (bordering Pisces) and Capricorn (bordering Sagittarius).
The main source of meaning in the signs – the planetary ruler – is thus a Sun-based logic. This suggests that the Sun based starting point for the zodiac is the original twelvefold zodiac. The sun-based starting point is the vernal-equinox, which defines the tropical zodiac.
If the ruling planet is the “person” who creates a culture and civilization out of wild raw materials, the elemental nature of the sign is the raw material itself. What logic decides which sign is made of what element? Logic based on the relation of the Sun to the Earth.
To understand this logic we must first consider the ancient meanings of the Earth’s four cardinal directions. The East is the source of the sunrise and light. Thus it is the direction of dharma – morality which shows the correct path and punishes those who willfully stray. It is therefore the direction of fire, which both illuminates and punishes. The West is the direction of kāma – enjoyment, pleasure and sensation. It is therefore the direction of the carefree, fickle and ever-changing wind or “air.” The South is the direction of artha – accumulation of prosperity and status. It is therefore the direction of the productive, practical and stabilizing earth element. The North is the direction of mokṣa – self-realization. It is therefore the direction of the reflective, inward, deep and contemplative water element.
In ancient zodiac-based astrology there was an intimate correlation between signs and houses. Signs fused with regions of the sky, “houses,” to connect their meanings to a specific time and place on the earth. This is why we have twelve houses, and not some other number. The first division of the zodiac therefore bears an inherent similarity to the first division of the sky, the “first house,” – and so on. The first house is the eastern zone of the sky. The west is centered in the seventh house. In the northern hemisphere (the home of most human beings) to look upwards at the Sun in the tenth house one must face south. Thus the tenth house represents the south and the fourth house is the opposite, the north. Correlate this to the twelve divisions of the zodiac and we find that Aries is the east, Libra the west, Capricorn the south and Cancer the north (thus the “tropic of Cancer” is north of the equator, and the “tropic of Capricorn” is south of it).
Now we have the background knowledge to understand the logic of the zodiac elements. Aries is the east, which is fire. Libra is the west, which is air. Capricorn is the south, which is earth. Cancer is the north, water.
What about the rest of the signs? Start from the east and proceed in the same manner as the Sun would through the earth’s sky. Stand in the northern hemisphere and watch the Sun through the course of a day. At sunrise you must face east; at noon you must face south; at sunset, west; and, if you could see the Sun below the earth at midnight you would be turned northward. Thus the Sun’s motion around the Earth has the pattern: east, south, west, north.
The first division of the zodiac, Aries, is the east and is therefore a fire sign. The next division, Taurus, represents the Sun’s next direction, south. Thus Taurus is an earth sign – the element of the southern direction. The third division, Gemini, represents the Sun’s third direction, west. Gemini is therefore an airsign – the western element. Fourth we come to Cancer, representing the Sun’s fourth direction, north, and its element: water.
Continue this pattern through the rest of the twelve zodiac divisions. Leo begins the pattern again, representing the east and therefore being a fire sign. Virgo is south, earth. Libra is west, air. Scorpio is north, water. Sagittarius restarts the pattern, being the firey east. Capricorn is south, earth. Aquarius is west, air. Pisces is north, water.
This logically explains how the twelvefold zodiac divisions derive their elemental meaning relative to the Sun’s interaction with the earth. This is another strong point in favoring the conclusion that a twelvefold zodiac anchored to a point defined by the Sun’s relationship to the Earth (the tropical zodiac anchored to the vernal equinox, for example) is the original zodiac, the origin of all the meaning therein.
Sun / Earth Based Modes
There are three modes: Cardinal, Fixed, and Dual. The cardinal mode commits itself to new direction. The fixed mode commits itself to staying on course. The dual mode is non-committal because it needs to prepare for transition from the current direction to a new one.
What determines which signs are endowed with which modes? Logic, based upon the Sun’s relation to the Earth.
There are four major milestones in the progress of the Sun’s relationship to the Earth.
- It crosses the equator heading north – the vernal equinox.
- It hits its most northerly point - the summer solstice.
- It crosses the equator heading south – the autumnal equinox.
- It hits its most southerly point – the winter solstice.
At each milestone the Sun begins a new course, a new direction. It becomes “cardinal.” The vernal equinox is the most “easterly” position of the Sun. Once past that point, the Sun commits to a new course northward. The vernal equinox defines the first tropical zodiac division, Aries. Aries is therefore logically a cardinal sign.
Next the Sun must remain committed to and fixed upon its northerly course. Thus the next zodiac division, Taurus, is a fixed sign. Then, it approaches the next milestone and must prepare to complete one course and change to another. Thus the following zodiac division, Gemini, is dual.
This pattern continues. The summer solstice defines the beginning of tropical Cancer. At this milestone the Sun commits to a new direction, westward. Cancer is therefore cardinal – the mode of commitment to new directions. The next division, Leo, is a fixed sign because in it the Sun must remain fixed on the established western course. Then comes Virgo, a dual sign because now the Sun must both complete the western course and make preparations to begin a southern journey.
The pattern continues. The autumnal equinox defines the beginning of tropical Libra. It is a cardinal sign because here the Sun must commit to its new southern direction. Next the Sun is in Scorpio, where is stays fixed on the southern course. In Sagittarius dual energy is required, for the Sun must prepare to transition to a new direction.
The fourth and final repetition of the pattern: The winter solstice defines Capricorn as a cardinal sign wherein the Sun commits to a new eastward direction. It maintains this course while it is in Aquarius, which is therefore fixed. When it arrives in Pisces it needs to begin bridging into a new direction, so Pisces is dual.
The three attitudes of the Sun in its apparent journey around the Earth are the three modes. Much of the meaning in any sign comes from its mode. The sign acquires a mode as a result of the Sun’s relationship to the Earth while in that division of the zodiac. Thus the zodiac which explains the meanings of the twelve signs is the tropical zodiac – based on the relationship of the Sun to the Earth. This again makes it seem that the tropical zodiac is the original and correct one.
If we consider a fourth source of the meaning in the signs it would be their nature house. Houses are phenomena derived from how the Sun travels through the sky over the course of one day. Thus meaning imparted to the twelve signs by reference to their natural house order is also a Sun/Earth based consideration. It therefore is another factor in favor of the Sun/Earth zodiac, the tropical zodiac, as the original one.
Conclusion so Far
Initially I believed that the twelve signs were originally sidereal. But I have quickly eliminated my logic in that regard because that the constellations themselves are not identical to the sidereal zodiac; and there is no logic in believing that vaguely connected dots of light in the sky are the original source of the rich meaning in the twelve divisions of the zodiac. On the contrary the Sun’s interplay with the Earth is a precise and logical origin for all the meaning in the signs.
Therefore it is becoming fairly doubtless to me that the original twelvefold zodiac pertains to the relationship of the Sun and Earth. That is to say, the original twelvefold zodiac is tropical; and the constellations bearing the same names were stellar projections of this original zodiac. The people who made and adopted this projection about 2,000 years ago seem to have been unaware of the 20 minute difference between the length of tropical and stellar years, a difference which causes “precession of the equinox” and puts the stellar projections wildly in and out of sync with the original divisions as centuries pass.
Next I will want to examine the history of my own Indian school of astrology to search for authoritative historical statements regarding how to calculate the twelvefold zodiac.
END OF PART III. CONTINUE TO PART IV.