This is a continuation from Part I.
What is the Sidereal Zodiac?
Since it is not truly an exact representation of the stars themselves, what really is the sidereal zodiac? It is almost the same as the tropical zodiac. Both of them are defined in the same manner:
The zodiac is the relatively narrow band of space through which the Sun and the rest of the planets roam. One complete lap of the Sun through the whole thing is the essential definition of a “year.” During each year, the Moon makes twelve complete laps through the zodiac, each being the essential definition of a “month.” This 12:1 relationship between the motion of the Sun and Moon is the exact reason why we have twelve signs in the zodiac, and is why each sign is the same length.
The zodiac, sidereal too, has twelve equal divisions in spite of there being thirteen unequally sized zodiac constellations, because each division represents the amount of space traversed by the Sun in the amount of time it takes the Moon to make a complete revolution. In the same way, a clock face has twelve numbers on it, marking the distance traveled by the hour hand during each complete revolution of the minute hand. The beautiful clockwork of Mother Nature creates the twelve signs of the zodiac, not some fanciful connect-the-dots game played in the sky.
In both systems, tropical and sidereal, the twelve divisions of the zodiac are mathematical measurements, not the stars themselves. Our language reflects this fact. We call them “signs,” and not “constellations.” OK, sure, English is a sloppy language, but even in Sanskrit – which is anything but a sloppy language – we call them rāśi, and not nakṣatra. The word nakṣatra directly refers to heavenly bodies: stars and planets. The word rāśi on the other hand is an abstract word that has nothing specifically to do with stars, and instead is a mathematical term referring to degrees collected in an angle of arc. Other things in astrology (planets and stars) are called nakṣatra but not the twelve divisions of the zodiac! Instead they are called rāśi. Is this not a very significant tip-off that the original Indian conception of the twelve signs was not stellar or sidereal, but tropical?
What we do know so far is that the sidereal zodiac is not exactly the stars themselves. Therefore we know that the difference between sidereal and tropical zodiacs is not what is commonly held: that one is stellar and the other is not. What then is the difference?
What is the difference between the Sidereal and Tropical Zodiacs?
The only real difference between sidereal and tropical zodiacs is where they choose to start from. Both of them are equal divisions of space based on the twelve months of the year (a.k.a. the twelve lunar cycles in a solar cycle). The only difference is what point in space they pick to start their measurements from.
The tropical zodiac starts wherever the Sun is when it crosses the equator heading northward (the “vernal equinox”).
The sidereal zodiac starts… well… somewhere else. Theoretically it is supposed to start at the beginning of the Aries constellation. But, where is that? Remember, the sidereal zodiac is not exactly the stars themselves. It is twelve equal divisions of space which roughly correspond to twelve constellations we decided to paint in the sky. “Roughly corresponding” is the key here, which makes it difficult and confusing to say where exactly the sidereal zodiac is supposed to start.
There are many opinions, and thus there are about a dozen different popular zodiacs all in the category of sidereal. Each is distinct by specifying a different exact starting point roughly 40° west of the star named Aldebaran in modern terms.
In contrast, there is only one tropical zodiac. But the length of a seasonal year is 20 minutes different than the length of a stellar year. So what happens is that, over centuries, the point the Sun occupies in space at the vernal equinox drifts in relations to the stars of the galaxy. About 2,000 years ago it was aligned with what we now consider the beginning of the constellation we call Aries.
I believe this must be an enormous clue regarding how we came to be confused regarding how to define the zodiac. Siderealists examine this clue one way, tropicalists another. Both agree that when the sidereal and tropical zodiacs were identical 2,000 years ago, it was the beginning of an extremely low point in human sciences and knowledge, and thus a time ripe for producing confusion. They differ in what they define as the confusion.
Siderealists argue that humanity wrongly took the names and qualities of the twelve constellations and ascribed them to the twelve mathematical divisions of the year. Tropicalists, on the other hand, argue that we wrongly took the names and characteristics of the twelve mathematical divisions of the zodiac and ascribed them to stellar constellations.
Which version is correct? Which is the system of twelvefold zodiac that existed before the confusion began roughly 2,000 years ago?
End of Part II. Continue to PART III