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Jyotisha – Astrology
Whatever the two letters in the word Kala [time] signify that is My Body… day succeeds night because of the movements by rotation of the sun, the moon and the other heavenly bodies. Therefore it is not right to speak of Time (Kala) as identical with night and day. – Tantrarajatantra XXXVI, Avalon
Sidereal astrology, known in India as jyotish, is an integral part of the yogic traditions, and is used not only to judge times for initiation and a host of other rites, but has a deeper philosophical and practical application, aimed at helping towards the realisation of the self. It differs from the astrology widely used in the West and known as tropical astrology.
What is tropical astrology? In vogue in the West for many hundreds of years, the start of the zodiac is taken to commence with the Spring Equinox. Owing to the astronomical phenomenon called precession, this starting point tracks backwards approximately 51" of arc per year against the background of the stars. At one point, both sidereal and tropical zodiacs coincided – this was in the 3rd or 4th century AD. Since this date, the two zodiacs have inexorably separated from one another.
The separation is not yet absolute as the signs share a common arc of approximately six degrees. When a tropical astrologer states that the Moon is in Aries 10 degrees, what she or he probably does not realise is that the Moon occupies a point in the constellation of Pisces of about 16 degrees. Siderealists and tropicalists talk and write as if they are referring to the same constellations, but a gap of 24 degrees separates the one from the other.
A rough and ready method of converting between the zodiacs is by adding six degrees to tropical longitudes and substracting a sign. Astrological textbooks seldom draw attention to these disparities, yet when this matter is referred to, the defence seems to hold the position that as astrology is connected with symbolism, the zodiac has no real affinity with the position of the stars whatsoever. Such assertions bring ridicule on astrology from astronomers.
Sidereal astrology is not some new-fangled variation but, as Cyril Fagan, considered to be the father of western sidereal astrology, described it, ‘the grand-daddy’ of all zodiacs.
Many of the billion people in the Indian sub-continent use a form of sidereal astrology to this day. Although there are differences of opionion between western siderealists and Hindu pandits as to the starting point (fiducial) of this zodiac, they are small. The bigger differences come in interpretation, and here we all owe Cyril Fagan, Garth Allen, Brigadier Roy Firebrace and a band of devoted souls a large debt.
It is entirely possible to synthesise the ancient and modern and use the best of both.
Sidereal astrology figured in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn: ‘Throughout the true Tarot, the teaching assigns the commencing point of the zodiac to the bright star “Regulus”, which is in Leo. And it measures Right Ascension and Longitude from that point, and not from a suppositious point divided by the Equinox and called the zero degree of Aries (though in reality now far removed from the constellation of that name), which has been adopted by modern or western astronomy and astrology.” (Grade papers of the Golden Dawn: The Tree of Life as projected in a Solid Sphere, Regardie’s edition.)
Robert Fludd, an Elizabethan alchemist and rosicrucian, is also credited with using a sidereal zodiac, according to Adam McLean of The Hermetic Journal.
In passing, it may be noted that W.B. Yeats, a leading light of the GD, knew Cyril Fagan, widely credited with the restoration of the sidereal zodiac in the Western world.
Artwork is © Jan Bailey, 1975-2021. Translations are © Mike Magee 1975-2021.Questions or comments to email@example.com