Ok, so considering all that we’ve talked about so far, riddle me this:
How do you measure a year? Is it in daylights? In sunsets? In midnights? In cups of coffee
Well, one way is we can observe a solar event such as the Vernal Equinox. From one Vernal equinox to the next Vernal equinox could be called a year, yes? I think so.
Another possible way we could do it would be to observe our position relative to the back drop of the stars. We pick a star and note our position. When we cycle back around to that position once again, that should be a year too.
If the only instruments of observation that we have at our disposal are our eyes… our nakedeyes, (ooh la la) and possibly a notepad or something to jot down our observations then these two methods seem comparable… at first.
But lets say we’ve been at it for a while. We’ve invested in some graph paper and a gazing chair. We are meticulously keeping track of both of these “years” in our little black Moleskines. We will eventually notice something.
The “year” that is based on the stars is longer than the “year” that is based on the Sun. It’s about 20 minutes longer.
20 minutes may not seem like much in the grand scheme of things but let’s say everyday while the teacher isn’t looking you set the clock back one minute. You may get away with leaving early for a little while, but eventually your prank will become quite obvious. The clock in the room says 3pm but the one in the hall says 2. Somethings up.
What’s up is the Earth’s axis isn’t just tilted but the axis itself has a slight rotation. This causes the equinox to happen slightly earlier every year. In other words, an equinox does not indicate a full rotation around the sun. If we look at the pattern of the equinoxes from year to year in relation to the Zodiac, it appears to be scootching backward very slowly. The process is called the Precession of the Equinoxes.
So, we have a mismatched clock situation. The Tropical Zodiac in the class room says we’re in Aries but the Sidereal Zodiac in the hall says we’re in Pisces. Only the Tropical Zodiac wasn’t being naughty, it’s just measuring something different. The Sidereal Zodiac measures our place in space and the Tropical Zodiac measures the seasons.
So, does that mean that a year isn’t really a year?
What this means is that we have two different kinds of years. Tropical years and Sidereal years. The thing that is confusing for people is that the units of measurement have the same names (i.e. the signs of the zodiac) but are aligned differently. Hence you are a Libra when looking at the Tropical Clock, but a Virgo when looking at the Sidereal Clock.
Think of it this way: What if instead of inches and centimeters, your ruler had Inches and inches. Things could get confusing. Someone schooled in the use of capitol “I” Inches but totally unfamiliar with the uses of lower case “i” inches might see fit to broadcast a treatise on the stupidity of anyone who uses the lower case “i” inches because they are “incorrect” in his limited world view. This is understandable. Some people are elitist asses.
Another kind of confusion sets in when we try to take the contextual meanings of one system and transfer them to another. We say things like “But I don’t feel like a Virgo.” Of course you don’t. That’s because along with the shift in the system of measurement, the meaning of what it is to “be a Virgo” has changed as well.
I’ll be back tomorrow to talk about some of the nuance of practicing astrology from a Tropical perspective versus Sidereal with some light pontificating about the future thrown in for funzies. I may also mention Ophiuchus.
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