The Sidereal Zodiac and the Astrological Ages, April 1969
Many astrologers believe that the Age of Aquarius has begun or will begin in the near future. All of the assertions about a more or less contemporary starting date ignore that the Sun has been rising in the Western Fish of Pisces for many centuries. The reason that the Age of Pisces still prevails absolutely, incontrovertibly, is that the Sun rises in the constellation Pisces at the Northern Hemisphere Vernal Equinox actually, not symbolically.* In this article, Fagan explains that the astrological ages are sidereal phenomena, and why it is important for all astrologers to understand astronomical history and positional astronomy.
Leading writers on tropical astrology never tire of pointing out in their articles that we are now in the twentieth century, the age of vast strides in scientific knowledge, of space ships, of electronic computers and all the rest of it. So, they go on to ask, if we are to revert to the ignorant ancient Egyptians of some five thousand years ago to be taught our astrology and learn how to interpret a natal chart? As the late C.E.O. Carter put it, “I am not one of those strange astrologers who seem to think that their notions can be justified by reference to ancient Egypt and Babylon. I am optimistic enough to hope that we have made progress since then.” (Astrology: The Astrologer’s Quarterly, summer 1968.) Sure, tropical astrology has made great progress since then—progress in stultification!
Another well-known writer on tropical astrology, noted for his esoteric approach, writing in a contemporary astrological magazine of recent date on the Regulus and Betelgeuse era, referred to Vivian Robson’s book on fixed stars and constellations writes, “Such a book…represents almost entirely a rehashing of medieval opinions which are mostly obsolete. They are obsolete because our global civilization-in-the-making already transcends and sooner or later will entirely leave behind a type of ideas and imagery which was essentially a product of, let is say, the “Mediterranean world…” But we ask this astrologer if the modern tropical zodiac with its nomenclature is not also a product of this “Mediterranean world,” seeing that it was conceived by the classical Greeks. All the appeals to modernity are not going to transform a glaring error of the past into a self-evident truth of the present. The tragedy of the vast majority of tropical astrologers, and this is stated without fear of contradiction, is in not knowing their astronomical history nor rudimentary positional astronomy. They are completely oblivious that there is any error in tropical astrology at all. But then there are none so blind as those who do not wish to see. So, in a nutshell, let us recapitulate once again the fundamental difference between the two versions of the zodiac. For the more enlightened student this may be somewhat tedious but it seems nevertheless essential.
The Tropical Zodiac
The Greeks were the sole inventors of this version; and they devised many tropical versions of the zodiac. They were firmly convinced that because the vernal point or equinoctial point always rose due east and set due west, the equinoctial points were alone the only fixed points in the firmament. Subsequent to the time of Hipparchus, c. 139 B.C., they made the vernal point the first point of the zodiac calling it Aries 0°. This is the standard zodiac of astrologers today. In respect of the vernal point, all the fixed stars precessed or progressed at the rate of 1° in about 71 ½ years. The twelve signs of the zodiac are reckoned from the vernal point.
The Sidereal Zodiac
The sidereal zodiac comprises twelve equal constellations (which have nothing to do with the unequal Greco-Roman constellations of the same name) of 30 degrees each. Astronomers and astro-chronologists well versed in Babylonian astronomy sometimes refer to them as the “Fixed Signs of the Zodiac” but this title is apt to be confusing, as in astrology the “fixed signs” usually refer to one of the quadruplicities embracing Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius. The sidereal zodiac from remote antiquity began with Taurus 0° which was precisely 15° to the west of the Bull’s Eye (Aldebaran) in the mathematical center of that constellation. Disregarding proper motion, which in the mean equals 1° in 120,000 years, the fixed stars are fixed. In this the most ancient version of the zodiac, the vernal equinox perpetually retrogrades along the ecliptic at the rate of 1° in about 71½ years.
In short, in the tropical zodiac the vernal point is fixed, while the fixed stars move. Whereas in the sidereal zodiac the vernal point moves while the fixed stars remain fixed. Surely this is not difficult to comprehend. In the medieval period Copernicus and Galileo confirmed that it was the Earth that went around the Sun and not vice versa, thus shattering the Ptolomaic conception of the universe. But an inevitable corollary of their discovery, and one of immense significance, is not so well known to the modern astrological world, namely that it is the fixed stars that are truly fixed and it is the equinoctial points that move (retrograde) and not vice versa. This corollary immediately put astrology into disrepute, destroying completely the raison d’être for the tropical zodiac. At that time the sidereal zodiac was unknown except to students of Hindu astrology, which one can surmise, were few and far between in medieval Europe.
The writer of the article under discussion here states, “We know that fixed stars are not fixed (his italics) …what is fixed in terms of man’s experience of seasonal life processes are the equinoxes and the solstices.” (The average proper motion of stars is one degree per 120,000 years. That is one degree of movement in 1,200 centuries, which as a practical matter is fixed, ed.) By this statement he ranges himself on the side of Christian orthodoxy and against Mssrs. Copernicus and Galileo. But on the next page of his article he contradicts himself by stating “We are dealing with a retrograde motion of the equinoxes,” and then he goes on to discuss the Astrological Ages. Do those who discuss these Astrological Ages really understand what they are talking about? This is meant to be a very serious question, because it appears to be very questionable if they do know what they are talking about. Otherwise they could not pen such utter nonsense. Furthermore, if they are tropical astrologers, they would never discuss these ages, for they have no place whatsoever in tropical astrology. The Astrological Ages are part and parcel of sidereal astrology only! What for example, is meant by the Pisces Age? What takes place? Simply and truly stated, the Pisces Age begins and ends when the vernal point in its retrogression enters the 30th degree of that constellation, and leaves it at the 1st degree. This is a simple sidereal statement. Now let us translate this statement into terms of the tropical zodiac.
First and foremost, tropicalists do not acknowledge the viability of the zodiacal constellations. They consider that the tropical signs are alone viable. But if the constellation Pisces is devoid of viability, that is of symbolic content, how then can there be a Pisces Age, except in name only? Secondly the retrogression of the vernal equinox, which is Aries 0° of the tropical zodiac, into the constellation Pisces implies, in tropical parlance, that Aries is entering a dead Pisces by its back door, which is merely verbal balderdash! Those who profess to be tropical astrologers and in the same breath speak approvingly of the Astrological Ages, no matter what name they call them, obviously do not know rudimentary positional astronomy and hence how can they be in a position to instruct others on astrological matters? With regard to the sidereal zodiac there is no quixotry. What can be more straightforward than saying, for instance, that the Piscean Age commenced in 220 A.D. when the first day of spring (March 21st) occurred when the Sun was in Pisces 30° and it will end in A.D. 2375 when the 1st day of spring will occur with the Sun in Pisces 0° (March 21st)? To acknowledge the Astrological Ages is de facto to recognize the reality of the sidereal structure of the zodiac. It is utterly absurd to disavow sidereal concepts in one breath and then speak of the Piscean or Aquarian Age in the next—because the Pisces or the Aquarius being referred to is the constellation, not the tropical sign! Incredibly, some who disdain the validity of the sidereal zodiac completely contradict themselves every time they speak of an Astrological Age.
Isn’t it high time that those who rush into print on astrological matters should be expected to have at least seriously studied the subject over a reasonable period of time and also to have some knowledge of positional astronomy? And by the word studied, this writer does not merely mean the opinions of others in astrological magazines and books, but getting down to the very fundamentals at first hand, ignoring the biases of all and sundry. This is a very difficult task and one that is utterly unrewarding financially. Then when and if one stumbles on a grain of truth that is self-evident beyond doubt, one has to have the moral courage to face the fact no matter how much one is committed to the false. This requires strength of purpose and great determination. It also requires that one develop a thicker hide so that the barbs and arrows of those not prepared to investigate will not wound too deeply. No other subject has so much knowledge written about it and this is because there are no set standards to judge by, and even if there were such standards, how very few would be capable of judging the merit or otherwise of the matter!
Ed. From the August 1969 edition of Solunars that appeared in American Astrology Magazine, Fagan gave the final corrected dates for the entry into the equal length sidereal signs that place Spica, the alpha star in Virgo at 29° 06' 05" These were actually calculated by the brilliant Irish mathematician, James Hynes, well-known to technically inclined sidereal astrologers and author of The Synetic Vernal Point Tables. Fagan wrote:
"It is now possible to give with greater precision the theoretical mean dates for the beginning of the astrological ages thanks to the generosity of my good friend, James Hynes of Dublin, Ireland. He recently furnished me with an extended centennial calendar of precessional values from B.C. 5000 to A.D. 4000 computed by him from the full expression of Simon Newcomb’s formulas. (Newcomb was the longtime director of the United States Nautical Almanac Office at the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington D.C., ed.) They are computed from the determination of Garth Allen (a.k.a. Donald Bradley, ed.) that the mean sidereal longitude of the Synetic Vernal Point for the epoch 1950.0 was 335° 57' 28.64" They are as follows. The Taurean Age began when the S.V.P. was in Taurus 30°, namely – 4150.625; the Arien Age began when the S.V.P. was in Aries 30°, namely – 1953.963; the Piscean Age began when the S.V.P. was in Pisces 30°, namely + 221.645; and the Aquarian Age will begin when the S.V.P. is in Aquarius 30°, namely in + 2376.269. In civil reckoning these ages are:
Taurean Age commenced in B.C. 4152 about April 15th, Julian. Arien Age commenced in B.C. 1955 about February 3rd, Julian Piscean Age commenced in A.D. 221 about August 24th, Julian Aquarian Age will begin in A.D. 2376 about April 9th, Gregorian Thus, in spite of the very popular song (“This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius,” ed.) to the contrary, the long heralded Aquarian Age is as yet a long way off and we will have to wait another 407 years for it. (359 years to go from A.D. 2017, ed.). Sorry and all that!"
The Synetic Vernal Point from the Greek synektikos and synechia which is “continuous [or] holding together” relates to the continuously changing longitude of the vernal point due to precession which operates at the rate of approximately 50.25 seconds of arc per year. That is, the vernal point moves more than fifty seconds to the west per year or about one minute of arc in sixty weeks, one degree in approximately 71.6 years or an entire span of thirty degrees in about 2150 years.
* On March 20, 2017, the day of the Northern Hemisphere vernal equinox, the transiting Sun was passing through 25° Pisces with respect to the equal length sidereal signs. The equal length sidereal signs constitute the original zodiac—based entirely on observations—developed by the Babylonians over many centuries that span the last part of the second millennium B.C. and the first half of the first millennum B.C. The Babylonians alone are responsible for the zodiac. The Egyptians, like the Chinese, were primarily oriented to the equator, not the ecliptic; moreover the Egyptians did not recognize all of the twelve constellations that straddle the zodiac, but rather many other extra-zodiacal constellations. Ecliptic orientation is Babylonian. The Sun was closest to the kappa star in Pisces at the equinox this year. These facts are why we are still well within the Age of Pisces with five degrees to go before the tail end of Aquarius rises with the Sun at the equinox.