The Circle of Animals:For many people astrology is simply the zodiac. The term zodiac is derived from Greek and means circle of animals or circle of living beings. The yearly cycle of the Earth around the Sun is divided into four seasons. The seasons are divided into three phases-the beginning, the middle, and the end. Thus, we have twelve phases of the Earth’s yearly cycle which are referred to as signs. A zodiac sign is a division of the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. It is 1/12th of the Earth’s orbit.The Earth covers 584,058,562 miles of space in 365.24 days as it orbits the Sun. Like all planets, the Earth’s orbit is oval or ecliptic and not a true circle. However, we often measure its orbit as if it were a circle of 360 degrees. Since each sign is 1/12th of the Earth’s orbit, each sign equals 30 degrees of the Earth’s orbit--48,671,546.83 miles in 30.44 days. Thus, a zodiac sign is both a spatial in miles or meters and a temporal in days/hours/minutes measure of the Earth’s changing phases.

Astrologers have two distinct zodiacs at their disposal :

  • The tropical zodiac of the signs and
  • The sidereal zodiac of the constellations.

The Tropical Zodiac

The tropical zodiac is the most popular zodiac and the one with which most people are familiar. The tropical zodiac refers to the Earth’s orbit around the Sun--the predictable, yearly changes experienced on the Earth. This zodiac is easily measurable by both ancient and modern techniques. It is used to predict events. It is also used to determine psychosocial phenomena such as character, personality, and compatibility.

The Sidereal Zodiac

The sidereal zodiac is the circle of constellations—stars, star clusters, and nebulae—that appear close to the Earth’s orbit. The stars in these constellations are millions of light years from the Earth and from each other. They lie close to the plane of the Earth’s orbit and appear to be near one another from the perspective of the Earth. The boundaries between the constellations are difficult to determine and are not universally agreed on. The sidereal zodiac is used to make predictions but is not normally used for determining psychosocial, characterological phenomena. That is, the schools of astrology that use the sidereal zodiac do not interpret the signs. Some of these schools do not use astrological houses or are vague regarding the end of one house and the beginning of the next.No matter which zodiac is used, the location of the Sun, Moon, and planets are the same. The only difference is in the name used to label the particular points of space that they occupy.

The Precession of the Equinoxes

While the Earth orbits the Sun and rotates on its axis, it also wobbles. In physics and astronomy when an object wobbles in a gyrating fashion so that its axis of rotation sweeps out a cone in space—like the spinning of a toy top—the object is said to process. The poles of a processing object move and point in new directions as the object processes. In regards to the Earth, this means that star pointed to by the Earth’s north pole—the North Star—changes over time. After 26,000 years the Earth’s north pole completes one cycle of its movement. Today the Earth’s north pole points to the star Polaris in the constellation Ursa Minor. Even now the Earth’s north pole is starting to point to another star. In 26,000 years the north pole will be pointing at Polaris again.

The precession also means that the locations of constellations along the Earth’s orbit—that is, the sidereal zodiac--change gradually over time. Because of the direction of the Earth’s rotation, the precession of the constellations moves in the opposite direction of the signs. Each constellation takes about 2,167 years to cross through or transit a sign. During most of what is called the Great Year—the 26,000 years—the constellations are not in line with the signs that they were named for. After 26,000 years the sidereal zodiac is realigned with the tropical zodiac.

One twelfth of a Great Year—a period of 2,167 years--is called an Age. As the constellations move in relation to the signs, the sign occupied by the Sun at the time of the spring equinox changes. Each age is named for the constellation that is rising on the spring equinox. During the past 2,000 years, the constellation Pisces has been rising at the time of the spring equinox. The Earth is currently moving from the Age of Pisces to the Age of Aquarius. A single Great Year of Western or classical astrology is approximately equal to five Great Cycles of the Mayan calendar. According to the Mayans, a Great Cycle equals 13 bactuns or a period of 5,125 years. The current Great Cycle ends on December 21, 2012. 

The Zodiac Signs as Archetypal Principles

Each sign represents or symbolizes the general conditions of life on Earth during a particular time period. This is especially true in regards to agriculture in the temperate zone of the northern hemisphere. Each sign represents a step in the seasonal growth cycle of plant life and in the breeding, hunting, and similar cycles that are dependent on the plants’ growth cycles. Thus, each sign represents the challenges during a specific phase of the year. Each also symbolizes the characteristics, talents, and abilities needed to meet the particular needs and demands for that particular time of the year.

Every astrological sign represents an archetypal principle relevant to the yearly changes in the temperate zones of Earth. Each, also, symbolizes a step in the process of creation. The twelve glyphs with their corresponding human and animal forms are letters in the alphabet of the celestial spheres. The person who reads this sign language correctly can deepen his understanding of his place and purpose within the cosmic scheme. The behaviors of each sign are expressed day-by-day, one action or behavior at a time, as the individual uses his talents and abilities to meet his needs and cope with changing circumstances. The signs symbolize an individual’s particular ways of meeting opportunities and challenges throughout his lifetime, i.e., the person’s destiny.

The Zodiac Signs as Physical and Psychological Processes

The signs symbolize the monthly changes in the weather, particularly in the temperate zone of the northern hemisphere. In addition to the weather changes, the signs depict the human activities that are most adaptive to such changes in a largely agricultural society. That is, each sign represents the activity or process that is the most productive or successful during that particular time of the year. Each sign represents the qualities and traits needed to adapt to the changes that the Earth is undergoing. Every one of these activities was essential to humanity’s survival as an agrarian culture. Performing one sign’s activities during the time period of a different sign could be detrimental to continued survival. From the viewpoint of the Earth, when the Sun appears to cross through a sign, the particular earthly conditions and the related adaptive behavior symbolized by that sign are energized by the Sun.

Each sign also represents the mindset or psychological process that accompanies or promotes the sign’s activities. All twelve mindsets were essential to survival at the prescribed time. While one person may be best suited for a particular activity or mindset, the most successful person, in terms of adaptation to nature, is the one who is capable of displaying all twelve mindsets at the proper time.

The first 30 degrees of the zodiac and the first 30 days following the spring equinox (also known as the Aries point), symbolize the Aries phase of the Earth’s yearly cycle. During this phase, the hours of daylight grow longer in the northern hemisphere.

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The Taurus phase of life occurs during the second thirty degrees of the Earth’s yearly cycle, starting in April and ending in May. This phase starts approximately 30 to 31 days after the spring equinox or Aries point.

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During the Gemini phase, which occurs during late spring, the beings and identities which were born in Aries and then strengthened and solidified in Taurus, become more aware of their immediate surroundings, aware of the other beings and identities around them. Having established some degree of self-sufficiency, security, and individual identity during the Taurus phase.

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The sign of Cancer begins with the summer solstice (the first day of summer). The Sun appears to have reached the northern latitude referred to as the tropic of Cancer. The Sun stands still for a moment, reverses its direction, and heads south towards the equator. The hours of daylight have reached their maximum length for the northern hemisphere. The hours of daylight begin to decrease. The hours of darkness increase.

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The sign of Leo begins approximately 30 to 31 days after the summer solstice. In the northern hemisphere, the days are still longer than the nights even though the hours of daylight continue to decrease. The dominance of sunlight is felt in the summer’s heat. The base or foundation in the forms of the home, the body, and the personality which were built during the Cancer phase now becomes the base or foundation for creative self-expression.

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The Virgo phase is the last phase of summer. In the Virgo phase the daylight hours continue to dwindle and the hours of night increase until the beginning of Libra, when they are equal. The flowers that bloomed and were fertilized in Leo have gone to seed. The petals have died and may have dropped off. The seed is growing and around it grows the fleshy covering we call the fruit.

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The sign of Libra begins at the fall equinox when the hours of daylight and night are equal. Throughout Libra the hours of night or darkness increase. In astrology, some equate light with the personal or individual force and darkness with the social or collective force. Libra is the sign of awareness of the other, of the Not-self. It represents awareness of what one is not or of what one has projected onto others.

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The Scorpio phase of life occurs during the second 30 degrees of the Earth’s yearly cycle following the fall equinox. This phase of life concerns the sharing of substance in whatever form, with others or with one specific person. Traditionally, this sharing begins with one’s marriage partner or partner-in-life. Scorpio represents everything shared or jointly owned by marriage partners, business partners, and any kind of partnership in general.

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In regards to the Earth’s orbit, Sagittarius is the last sign of autumn in the northern hemisphere. It begins approximately 60 to 62 days following the autumnal equinox and approximately 30 to 31 days before the winter solstice. The hours of daylight continue to decrease. They reach their shortest length at the end of Sagittarius. Sagittarius is the time of preparation for winter.

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The signs of Capricorn begins with the winter solstice, the first day of winter in the northern hemisphere, and ends approximately 30 to 31 days later. The Sun appears to have reached the southern latitude referred to as the tropic of Capricorn. Now the Sun appears to reverse its direction and head north towards the equator.

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During this phase of the Earth’s cycle, the hours of daylight are increasing, but darkness remains dominant. Most agricultural activities in the northern hemisphere have ceased, but the needs of both livestock and family must still be met. This phase tests the success or failure of the fall harvests. Hunting may help with the physical needs of the family in rural and aboriginal societies.

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Pisces is the last sign of winter in the northern hemisphere. Pisces adds an emotional and, perhaps, a spiritual dimension to the plans and associations that formed during Aquarius. Pisces binds the human family and society together emotionally and spiritually. The Pisces phase is said to symbolize social analysis, social judgment, and social discrimination.

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The Zodiac Signs as Measures of Spiritual Growth

In Vedic astrology as practiced in India, Aries through Virgo--the six months of the northern path of the Sun--are referred to as the path of light, the path of fire, the path of the day, and the path of the bright fortnight. This path is said to lead knowers of Brahman to the supreme goal of liberation.The six months of the southern path of the Sun--Libra through Pisces--are referred to as the path of smoke, the path of night, and the path of the dark fortnight. It is said to lead other souls to the light of the Moon and, eventually, to rebirth (Bhagavad Gita 8:24-25).

Generally, spiritual growth is defined as the level of spiritual development and education that one’s soul has reached through multiple lifetimes. Many astrologers have attempted to use astrology in order to tell where the individual is in reference to his spiritual growth. Using an astrological chart to judge someone’s soul growth, no matter what the method, should be treated with skepticism. No one particular method has been endorsed by more than a small minority of astrologers. It suggests that one sign is better than another. Each sign is a necessary phase of life on Earth. Every natal chart contains all twelve signs. Within each chart, some signs are accentuated while others lack emphasis.

Zodiac sign with Planet Degrees

Zodiac-Name Vedic-Name Short-Name Start-Degree End-Degree
Aries Mesha Ar 0°0'0'' 29°59'59''
Taurus Vrishabha/Vrisha Ta 30°0'0'' 59°59'59''
Gemini Mithuna Ge 60°0'0'' 89°59'59''
Cancer Karkataka/Karka Cn 90°0'0'' 119°59'59''
Leo Simha Le 120°0'0'' 149°59'59''
Virgo Kanya Vi 150°0'0'' 179°59'59''
Libra Thula Li 180°0'0'' 209°59'59''
Scorpio Vrischika Sc 210°0'0'' 239°59'59''
Sagittarius Dhanus Sg 240°0'0'' 269°59'59''
Capricorn Makara Cp 270°0'0'' 299°59'59''
Aquarius Kumbha Aq 300°0'0'' 329°59'59''
Pisces Meena Pi 330°0'0'' 359°59'59''