Equinox and the “Seasonal” Zodiac

Beginner’s Corner with Sheridan

December solstice sunset over southern “Mount Solstice”

We’ve got the March equinox in our sights now. For those of us in the northern hemisphere, this marks the kickoff to spring. Considering it was -8 degrees at my house this morning, spring isn’t coming fast enough! For southern hemisphere dwellers, you’re moving into autumn. As one cycle begins, another ends. We continue along the wheel of life.

Most astrologers refer to the tropical zodiac as “seasonal”. That’s not accurate. In the north our spring equinox occurs when the Sun enters Aries. In the south, the autumnal equinox happens when the Sun enters Aries too. The Sun is entering Aries for ALL of us earth beings. North of the equator that means spring, and south of the equator that means fall.

How can we call the zodiac seasonal if each hemisphere is experiencing a different season? Does Aries mean spring or fall? Neither. If you’re used to explaining Aries as a sign of spring, then how does Aries work in Australia? How does spring growth, bulbs pressing up from the earth, and the Sun growing in strength compare to leaves changing colors, falling to the ground, and becoming winter’s compost? Both are indicative of the Sun entering Aries.

Zodiac is directional, not seasonal

Let’s start with the March equinox. The Sun will rise due east and set due west… for everyone. That’s one of the magics about the two equinoxes. The Sun goes due east to west in March and September. That’s the only time it does that. See the image below courtesy of Stellarium.org (an amazing free astronomy software). The Sun is rising due east. I’ve included the degree marks to better understand in the following pictures. See how the ecliptic (the yellow line) that shows the path of the Sun will set due west?

If you’re in the southern hemisphere, the Sun will rise due east and set due west as well, but you need to reverse the image… sort of. East will be on the right and west will be on the left, but you’ll be looking north, instead of south like in this image. The important part is we’re still viewing the same rise and set of the Sun directionally – east to west.

I encourage you as part of your Shamanic Astrology studies to go outside on the equinox and notice where the Sun rises or sets (whichever is preferred from your view). Take a photo and save it because the Sun is going to move from this location on its journey to the June Solstice. This is an excellent practice to deepen your orientation to the natural world around you.

The directional solstices

As we move toward the June solstice, our next marker in the year, the Sun is going to move to the north. See in the image below how far the Sun has moved to the northern side of east. From the March equinox to the June solstice northern hemisphere days get longer and the Sun moves higher in the sky. In the southern hemisphere the Sun gets lower as the days get shorter. But, both of us will experience the Sun moving north of east and west.

Again, let’s explore our erroneous “seasonal” bias with the signs. The June solstice occurs when the Sun moves into Cancer. Is Cancer a summer sign? Are we northern hemisphere chauvinists? Mostly we are. Cancer works in Brazil well as in Canada. It’s still a sign of mothering, nurturing and encouraging growth. If we’re used to explaining that by saying, “Cancer has nourished its seeds and now they’ve grown into summer flowers” how will a southern hemisphere resident relate to that imagery, when she’s scraping ice off her windshield? The signs work in both hemispheres, so it’s much more than a seasonal zodiac.

September equinox returns to east and west

After the June solstice the Sun begins moving south again, for all humans. It’s a returning of the light for the southern hemisphere and a lessening for the northerners.

Notice how the Sun will set due west, following the yellow arc of the ecliptic, the Sun’s daily path. We’re entering Libra season now. Is Libra about autumn, falling leaves, snuggling up for the coming winter? In the southern hemisphere, Libra marks spring. What is the essence of Libra without the seasonal bias?

December solstice – south of east and west

Lastly, we come to the December solstice, where the Sun rises and sets more southernly. See in the image below how far the Sun has traveled south of east on its rise? We’ve arrived at Capricorn season. Is Capricorn a summer sign? For people living in the southern hemisphere, it marks the summer solstice. How does Capricorn express itself in the summer vs the winter? Is it a different archetypal energy? No, right?

We need to examine our biases towards labeling the tropical zodiac as seasonal. It just doesn’t work, and it leaves the whole southern hemisphere out of the equation. What do the signs mean without layering the seasonal flavors over them? What does a Capricorn Sun that is south of east and west mean? How do the directional changes teach us about the signs?

To dive further, check out this video Daniel Giamario and Gemini Brett made in their series titled, “Further Adventures in Shamanic Astrology”. If you haven’t watched any, I highly recommend them. I learned this information from the two of them.

Happy March Equinox to you!

Sheridan Semple


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