The Difference Between Signs and Constellations

And Why Both are Important
by Cayelin K Castell

And we now have a New YouTube mini-teaching (15 minutes) on this issue with great visuals that explains this even more!

Signs and constellations are not the same thing. The confusion occurs because a time long ago when people forgot they were different they named the constellations and the signs the same names. However, they are not the same as the signs describe the seasons or months of the year and are measured from the Solstice and Equinox points. The zodiacal constellations are the back drop the signs or seasons move through and are found along the ecliptic or the path the planets track through the sky. The signs, or seasons of the year are slowly moving through all the constellations, precessing one degree every 72 years. Approximately every 26,000 years every sign will move through every constellation along the ecliptic. It is this movement of the signs, or seasons, through the constellations that is the mechanism of how myth and symbol change over time.

The star patterns of the constellations have different meanings to different cultures at different times. This corresponds to the opening line of the Emerald Tablets of Hermes that in its simplest form says “As Above, So Below”. For example, the constellation astronomers currently call Aries, (a.k.a. the Ram), was known as the hireling or Indentured Servant prior to the shift of the Spring Equinox (or the zero Aries point) into that constellation about 4,000 years ago. The shift of the Spring Equinox moving into the constellation of the Ram coincided with the shift in how that constellation was viewed. Several mythic stories reflect this shift. One such story is of the Cretan Bull Dancers and the slaying of the Minotaur by Theseus. This story symbolized the death of the Age of the Bull (when the zero Aries point or Spring Equinox was rising in that constellation) and the coming of the age of the Ram (a.k.a Aries) when the Spring Equinox (or zero Aries point) moved into the constellation of the Ram about 4,000 years ago. Similarly the story of Jesus, also known as the lamb of God, was sacrificed on the cross symbolically giving birth to the current age of the fish, coinciding with the movement of the Spring Equinox into the constellation of the Fish, (also known as the age of Pisces), about 2000 years ago.

It is easy to see why there is such confusion about the difference between the signs and constellations because they were named the same names at a time when the people forgot they were different. This has given rise to the misunderstanding that occurs between tropical and sidereal astrologers and who has the “correct” system or the system that really works. From the Shamanic Astrology perspective it is not Either Or but rather both systems are part of our evolutionary process. The polarization between tropical and sidereal creates further separation where as understanding that both the tropical or seasonal signs and the sidereal or constellations interact and when we understand that interaction greater wholeness is possible.

One way to remember the difference between signs and constellations is to think of the constellations as constant, they are the back drop the signs (or seasons) are moving through. The signs are seasonal. They represent a seasonal energy that is determined by our experience of the Sun at different times of the year. This experience also depends on where we are located on the planet. Near the equator the seasonal shifts are hardly noticeable. The further north or south you go the more extreme the seasonal shifts are. The four cardinal points zero Capricorn, zero Aries, zero Cancer and zero Libra mark the Solstice and Equinox points when we experience the seasonal shifts depending on where we are on the planet. For example, zero Capricorn, marks the Winter Solstice point north of the Equator and the Summer Solstice point south of the Equator. Zero Aries marks the Spring Equinox north of the equator, and the Autumnal Equinox south of the equator.

The Solstice and Equinox points are defined by the relationship of the Celestial Equator (the equator of the Earth expanded into space) and the Ecliptic (the path the planets travel). The equinoxes are formed by the intersection points of these two circles and the Solstices are where the two circles are farthest apart. These are the four cardinal points in space that define our yearly cycle. Our current system uses the Spring Equinox or Zero Aries to begin the division of the circle into 12 segments or 12 signs of 30 degrees each covering the 360 degrees of the circle.

It is helpful to remember that the seasonal points are moving through the constellations. Again the confusion occurs because there was a time when the precessional cycle was forgotten and the signs and constellations were named the same names. The reality is they never have been the same. That is why in Shamanic Astrology we do not call the constellations by the sign names but rather what they depict. In otherwords, we call the constellation known as Capricorn, the Goat Fish. Aquarius is the Waterbearer, Pisces is the Fish, Aries is the Ram, Taurus is the Bull, Gemini is the Twins, Cancer is the Crab, Leo is the Lion, Virgo is the Virgin Priestess, Libra is the Scales, Scorpio is the Scorpion, and Sagittarius is the Archer. This is designed to help us remember that the constellations are different from the seasonal signs.

The Shamanic Astrology Logo Depicts the current Turning of the Ages showing where the seasonal signs (Winter Solstice etc) are currently located in relationship to the constellations. For example, the zero Capricorn point marks the Winter Solstice where the Sun currently rises and sets between the constellation of the Archer and the Scorpion. 6500 years ago the Winter Solstice Sun was rising between the Fish and the Waterbearer and has been slowly moving one degree every 72 years to its current position between the Archer and the Scorpion. In 6500 years from now the Winter Solstice Sun will be rising and setting between the Virgin Priestess and the Lion.

Over a 26,000 year period all the signs will move through all the zodiacal constellations. As each sign moves through each constellation, the sign and the constellation create a natural synthesis of their individual mysteries that automatically expresses in the Great Below or in our Earth based reality. We have seen evidence of this because different ages have different myths and symbols that define them, i.e. the bull, the ram, the fish, and so on. These ages are marked by the movement of the Spring Equinox of zero Aries into those constellations.

Another type of example that does not use the cardinal points might be helpful. Currently the sign or season of Sagittarius (or 30 days before the Winter Solstice) is overlaying the constellation of the Scorpion. The heart of the Scorpion is marked by a bright red star known as Antares. This star is currently located at about 10 degrees of the sign Sagittarius, and the Sun passes by here around the 2nd of December every year. 13,000 years ago the Sun would have been passing by the fixed star Aldebaran in the exact opposite part of the sky on December 2nd.  Aldebaran is currently located at about 10 degrees Gemini where the early June Sun is now rising. 13,000 years ago the early December Sun rose near Aldebaran and the early June Sun rose near Antares exactly opposite of what is happening now. This means the seasons are in the opposite constellations of what they were 13,000 years ago.

So really saying this again helps us to remember that the signs are seasonally based and the zodiacal constellations are the star patterns found along the ecliptic. These are entirely two separate mechanisms that are different but that do interact with each other. Part of our collective remembering now is around the significance and meaning of the movement of the signs through the zodiacal constellations.

The challenge is to let go of our deeply programmed way of thinking that Taurus is the Bull, when in fact much of the Bull is now occupied by the sign or season of Gemini. And the constellation of the Twins is occupied by the sign or season of Cancer and even a couple of degrees of Leo. At the season of Summer Solstice, the Sun (at zero Cancer) is rising on the boundary between the constellation of the Bull and the Twins.

This is further illustrated by the fact that currently the Winter Solstice or the Zero Capricorn point is on the boundary between the Archer and the Scorpion near Galactic Center. This means the sign of Capricorn has almost entirely left the constellation of the Goatfish. The constellation of the Scales (a.k.a. Libra) is now mostly occupied by the sign of Scorpio. In fact, one of the brightest fixed stars in this constellation, the fixed star Zuben Algenubi, is currently marking 15 Scorpio. This is the zodiacal degree of the mid-way point or cross-quarter point between the Autumnal Equinox and Winter Solstice, meaning that the Sun is currently rising near Zuben Algenubi at the Samhain astrological cross-quarter on Nov 7 each year. Remember the precession occurs at the rate of one degree every 72 years so the Sun rises within one degree either side of this star at the November cross-quarter for 144 years. We are well into that 144 window now.

Understanding the difference between signs and constellations helps to give us a greater understanding of what time it is in the big cosmic picture so we can participate with greater conscious awareness. This is especially important now at this great turning of the wheel of time Shamanic Astrology refers to as the Turning Of The Ages. Therefore, as we remember more of these mysteries we are actively engaging a more current and conscious relationship with the Sky as it relates to the Earth. Again this approach recognizes the importance of both the constellations and the signs and how working with both is helping to restore balance between the Great Above and the Great Below as each magnificently reflects the other.


  1. Tom

    I was full of doubts about signs and constellations before reading this article. You’ve given an excellent explanation, thank you very much!

  2. Alina

    would like some help had a dream about circular signs and the constellations but i only dreamt of 7 constellations??
    thanks heaps just email when you can

    • cayelin

      Humm…the first sense I get is there are 7 visible planets so maybe it has something to do with that???

  3. Matthew

    Correct me if I am misunderstood, but I feel as though you are making this more difficult than necessary. As I see it, when 0˚ Aries occured on the Spring Equinox, the signs and zodiac were equal. now that 6˚Pisces marks the Spring Equinox, the signs and zodiac are obviously off. Why even bring the signs into the discussion at all? Why not just throw them out and use the zodiac which was and has always been reality? It seems overly confusing to say the sign of Taurus is in the constellation of Aries. The sign is an imaginary place in your mind…it doesn’t exist.

  4. cayelin

    Yes this is the exact misunderstanding so many have about the Signs. The Signs do exist. The Equinoxes and Solstices are formed by the relationship of the Celestial Equator and the Ecliptic. Where the two intersect form the Equinoxes and where they are furthest apart form the two Solstices. These are the reference points astronomers have named zero Aries and zero Libra for the Equinoxes and the Solstices are zero Capricorn and zero Cancer.

    When the Sun reaches the intersection points of the Celestial Equator and the Ecliptic we have equal day and night. When the Sun reaches the points where they are furthest apart we have either the longest day or the shortest day of the year. This is a very real experience on our planet and varies based on where you live on the planet.

    The constellations are completely separate. They do not move, they are the constant backdrop that the seasonal points or signs move through. And as you mentioned the Spring Equinox or the zero Aries point is rising in the constellation of the fish also known as Pisces. The confusion is because they were named the same thing when the reality of precession was forgotten….they have never been the same. The movement of the seasons or signs has always been and will always be as long as Earth remains in its current orbit with its current tilt and wobble.

    Again the signs or seasons have nothing to do with the constellations. They have never been the same and never will be the same even when zero Aries returns to the constellation we now also call Aries in 24000 some years. Plus, the constellation we now call Aries hasn’t been always been called Aries…for more about this see next entry…

    The signs or seasons do exist they are not imaginary and in fact it is the interaction of the seasons or signs through the constellations that cause myths and symbols to change, grow and evolve. This is what causes the Turning of the Ages powerfully evident now that the Solstices are aligned along the Galactic Plane and the Equinoxes are aligned along the Galactic Poles. These alignments take place approximately every 6500 years and return to the alignment we have now approximately every 26,000 years.

    These alignments were so important to ancient cultures they built pyramids and other sacred sites to track these alignments. Plus there are numerous ancient texts including the “Bible” that reference the alignment of the Solstices and Equinoxes in the constellations they are now moving into, the Scorpion or Eagle, the Bull, the Lion and the Man as represented in the Sphinx.

  5. cayelin

    Richard Allen Hinkley’s book Star Names and Their Lore and Meaning tells us some of the other names the constellation of Aries has had over time…and this is a reminder that different cultures and times have a different view of the constellations and their meaning also changes over time. as the seasons that overlay the constellations change…

    The Babylonians called this constellation ‘The Hired Laborer’.

    Aries the Ram, is Ariete in Italy, Belier in France, and Widder in Germany — Bayer’s Wider; in the Anglo-Saxon tongue it is Ramm, and in the Anglo-Norman of the 12th century, Multuns. The constellation is marked by the noticeable triangle to the west of the Pleiades, 6° north of the ecliptic, 20° north of the celestial equator, and 20° due south from gamma Andromedae (Mirach).

    The many names of the constellation now known as Aries…also known as the Ram…

    Brown writes as to the origin of the title Aries, without any supposition of resemblance of the group to the animal:

    The stars were regarded by a pastoral population as flocks; each asterism had its special leader, and the star, and subsequently the constellation, that led the heavens through the year was the Ram.

    Elsewhere he tells us that when Aries became chief of the zodiac signs it took the Akkadian titles Ku, I-ku, and I-ku-u, from its lucida Hamal, all equivalents of the Assyrian Rubu, Prince, and very appropriate to the leading stellar group of that date, although not one of the first formations.

    He also finds, from an inscription on the Tablet of the Thirty Stars, that the Euphratean astronomers had a constellation Gam, the Scimetar, stretching from Okda (another name for Alrisha) of the Fishes (Pisces) to Hamal of Aries, the curved blade being formed by the latter’s three brightest components. This was the weapon protecting the kingdom against the Seven Evil Spirits, or Tempest Powers.

    Jensen thinks that Aries may have been first adopted into the zodiac by the Babylonians when its stars began to mark the vernal equinox; and that the insertion of it between Taurus and Pegasus compelled the cutting off a {Page 77} part of each of those figures, — a novel suggestion that would save much theorizing as to their sectional character.

    The Jewish Nisan, our March-April, was associated with Aries, for Josephus said that it was when the sun was here in this month that his people were released from the bondage of Egypt; and so was the same month Nisanu of Assyria, where Aries represented the Altar and the Sacrifice, a ram usually being the victim.

    Hence the prominence given to this sign in antiquity even before its stars became the leaders of the rest; although Berossos and Macrobius attributed this to the ancient belief that the earth was created when the sun was within its boundaries; and Albumasar, of the 9th century [This author, known also as ‘Abu Ma’shar and Ja’phar, was from Balh’ in Turkestan, celebrated as an astrologer and quoted by Al Biruni, but with the caution that he was a very incorrect astronomer.

    The Lenox Library of New York has a copy of his Opus introductorii in astronomia Albumazaris abalachi, Idus Februarii, 1489, published at Venice with illustrations. Its similarity to the Hyginus of the preceding year would indicate that they issued from the same press.], in his devolution of Years wrote of the Creation as having taken place when “the seven planets” — the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn — were in conjunction here, and foretold the destruction of the world when they should be in the same position in the last degree of Pisces.

    Chaucer and other English writers of the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries Anglicized the title as Ariete, which also appeared in the Low Latin of the 17th century. It was about this time, when it was sought to reconstruct the constellations on Bible lines, that Aries was said to represent Abraham’s Ram caught in the thicket; as also Saint Peter, the bishop of the early church, with Triangulum as his Mitre. Caesius considered it the Lamb sacrificed on Calvary for all sinful humanity.

    The eastern portion is inconspicuous, and astronomers have mapped others of its stars somewhat irregularly, carrying a horn into Pisces and a leg into Cetus.

    The Sun now passes through it from the 16th of April to the 13th of May.

    This book I excerpted this from was written in 1889 so its kind of choppy and challenging to follow but the essence is talking about many of the different ways the constellation we know as Aries has been seen overtime by different cultures. The same goes for all the constellations…

    Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning, Richard H. Allen, 1889

  6. Matthew

    Thanks for your responses. They have been helpful. If this is so, then why divide the seasons into 12? It seems to be more of a 4-season experience to me.

  7. cayelin

    Several reasons come into play. The Moon cycle or Month is 29.5 days from Full Moon to Full Moon or New Moon to New Moon. Twelve 30 degree segments is the closest way to divide up the 360 degree circle evenly giving us our Months (or Moonths). Each month or 30 degree section of the sky has its own unique energy.

    The months also go through shifts in our seasonal experience. For example, Spring is when things are growing very fast, (Aries energy), and when we get to end of April May (Taurus energy) the plants are slowing in growth and the sun literally slows its progress from due east to its northern most rise at Summer Solstice. (In the Northern Hemisphere). The sign or season of Taurus is considered a much slower energy than Aries.

    The seasonal experience is reflected in our understanding of the signs. The Celts had 8 major seasonal experiences working with the Cross-Quarter or half point way between the Equinoxes and Solstices. Different locations will have different variations on their seasonal experience but for the most in the Northern Hemisphere it is possible to detect the differences from month to month.

    Hope this helps!!!

  8. Matthew

    I’m interested in what the Celts did. Also, the 13 moons corroborates 13 signs, which it is clear that the sun does move through. What effect do the signs have as you interpret as planet in a constellation and sign?

  9. Cayelin

    Yeah about that 13 Moon thing…its not entirely accurate. There are only 13 Full Moons in a year approximately every 3 years. See the Article on Understanding the Blue Moon.

    And again the signs are not the constellations but rather twelve 30 degree divisions of the 360 degree circle usually starting with the Zero Aries point or the Spring Equinox the seasonal point where we have equal day and night.

    And there are some good arguments for including other constellations along the ecliptic. Ophiuchus is one of them as well as Auriga. If both were used then there would 14 constellations (not signs). In fact those constellations are along the ecliptic, for example the Sun moves through Ophiuchus for 16 days out of the year as we move into December.

    I think it was the Greeks who asked the question to what degree does the constellation influence the sign? The signs have there specific energy as do the constellations and it is the interaction of the two that influence growth and change. My feeling is the answer is based on our experience and the evolution of our understanding of the archetypal nature of the signs. So really there is a third factor and that is the observer and what is being observed and how we are interacting with these mysteries because we inform the mysteries as much as they inform us.

    Remember it is the movement of the signs (or seasons) through the constellations that are why we experience different ages with different symbols and myths that define those ages.

    Also as mentioned in the article on the Blue Moon the number 12 is just as important to the cycle of the Moon as the number 13. Both are sacred in the overall Great Above and our relationship to it from the Great Below…

  10. varuna

    Are you sure that it shouldn’t be the other way around. What I mean is, Jyotish is an accurate system of astrology but it takes into account the precession of the equinox by using the (Lahiri) ayanamsha. If I go outside and look at Mars right now, it is located at 6:33 in the Cancer constellation but western astrology calculations say that it is at 00:34 Leo. And yet the interpretations of Jyotish are accurate. Clearly there is something wrong here.

    • cayelin

      I know this is confusing and largely because the constellations and the signs are named the same thing. You are correct in saying Mars is currently (March of 2010) in the constellation of the Crab also known by the name of Cancer. However, the Sign or Season of Cancer as calculated by the tropical system begins at the Summer Solstice or the Zero Cancer point in the tropical system…this is also system used by astronomers and it marks the seasonal calendar. Currently the Sun is rising on the Galactic Cross between the Bull (a.k.a Taurus the constellation not the sign) and the Twins (a.k.a Gemini the constellation not the sign) at Summer Solstice. This means the sign of Cancer or season of Summer Solstice is overlaying this area of the sky. The Summer Solstice (zero Cancer) is where the Sun is located on the longest day and the shortest night and currently that is on the Galactic Cross near the Galactic Edge as just described.

      I hope that helps to clarify how in the tropical system the signs are seasonaln and are a separate mechanism that is moving through the constellations over time. The confusion come from a time when the constellations and signs were named the same thing. So again, if we separate the constellations from the signs it is correct to say Mars is located in the constellation of the Crab. However, Mars is also located in the area of the sky that occurs 30 days after the Summer Solstice and this is called the sign or season of Leo and has nothing to do with the constellation by the same name. The sign of Leo is where the Sun rises 30 days after the Summer Solstice and this is currently located in the constellation of the Crab. In fact, Regulus the heart of the Lion is at 29 Leo 58 and will move into Virgo in 2012 as the signs move one degree every 72 years through the constellations taking nearly 26,000 years to make one circuit.

      Jyotish focuses on the meaning of the constellations for their interpretations that are still accurate from the perspective of the contellational archetypal energies. Shamanic Astrology is not predictive but rather looks at the evolving mysteries and how we can best consciously participate with them. I don’t know a lot about Joytish but I have had some excellent sessions with that system though I am not sure how it takes into account the evolutionary nature of the signs moving through the constellations over time or if that is even an appropriate question because the focus seems to be more on the constellations themselves.

      In Shamanic Astrology we recognize that the constellations carry their own specific energy and they contribute to our evolving understanding of the signs as the seasons move through the constellations. Shamanic Astrology also recognizes that this is one of the great reasons why myth and symbol change over time because they are two separate mechanisms that interact together. As I mentioned before, over 26,000 years every season (or sign) will be with every constellation…indicating the changing ages, growth and evolution that happen when the signs interact with the constellations resulting in new understanding, insights and awareness.

      As I stated in the article it helps to reduce the confusion when we use a different name for the constellations like Crab, or Lion, or Virgin Priestess, to distinguish the difference between the seasonal signs and constellations. So when you go out and look at Mars over the next month you could imagine that is where the Sun is rising 30 days after the Summer Solstice marking that season and the season happens to be named Leo and the constellation is the Crab.

  11. varuna

    I understand what you are saying. I was just lately suggesting to a few so-called “western” astrologers, or people who use the solar cycle zodiac that they change the names of the signs they use for this very reason (to avoid confusion) and then I saw this site and was just playing with you for a bit. I don’t think that one system is right or wrong or better or worse, and this debate is meaningless to me.

    However, it would greatly enhance the credibility of astrology as a science if those of you who use the solar cycle astrology would communicate or get together and agree to change the names of your solar mansions.

    • cayelin

      I understand what you are saying however, since the constellations already have another name it would be much easier to simply adopt the alternate name for the constellations rather than come up with whole new names for the signs. Actually the signs are more descriptive of the seasons than the are of the constellations so using the alternative for the constellations as I mentioned in the previous post such as The Virgin Priestess for the constellation that is currently called Virgo or the Scales for the constellation that is currently called Libra is a much easier shift. In fact, their is a precedence for this through Rudolph Steiner’s work in Anthroposophy as they already use the constellation names of The Scales and Virgin Priestess etc. to describe the difference.

      I agree and so does Shamanic Astrology agree that no one system is right or wrong, better or worse…it is all part of the Great Mystery of the As Above, So Below and how we choose to engage it that brings meaning to our experience of these mysteries.

  12. Rob

    I think we are dealing with three separate though related cosmic schema here. The Tropical Zodiac, also known as the Natural or Movable Zodiac, is based on the Equinoxes and the Solstices, marking the seasonal changes, and divides the ecliptic into 360 equal degrees, divided into 12 equal signs of 30 degrees each. This is a geometric system of measurement and location, albeit clothed in mythological narrative. The tropical system marks the symbolism of the solar year and the process of the Sun correlating to the natural world and its patterns.

    Then we have the Sidereal or Fixed Zodiac, again dividing the ecliptic into 12 equal sectors of 30 degrees each, but focusing on the Moon and its mansions (nakshatras) and more or less ignoring the seasonal role of the Sun, which is seen as a malefic. For example, the solstices and equinoxes in the sidereal system now do not coincide with actual physical lengths of daylight, due to precession. This zodiac is purportedly based on the 12 zodiacal constellations, but like the tropical system is a geometrical abstraction based on symbolism, even though it holds that the first degree of Aries does not precess (hence Fixed Zodiac). Celestial positions are calculated from the Vernal Point in the tropical ephemeris using an ayanamsa of around 23 degrees, usually Lahiri’s version, though there are a number of others in use (and at least 3 Lahiris that I know of).

    Lastly, we have the zodiacal constellations themselves, none of which actually occupy exactly 30 degrees of the zodiac. For example, on on October 24, 1997, the Sun would have been found in the Constellation of Virgo, the Tropical Sign of Scorpio, and the Sidereal Sign of Libra. In fact, in the jyotish system based on the sidereal zodiac (where the 1st degree of Aries is marked by the Sun rising conjunct a certain star in the Ram), the astrologers generally prefer to use the lunar mansions rather than the zodiacal signs.

    None of this is intended to argue against the Shamanic Astrology idea of giving the constellations symbolic and interpretational independence from the tropical signs, but just to clarify matters. It is interesting that astronomers tend to use latin names for the constellations (e.g., Scorpius for Scorpio, which by the way occupies only about 7 degrees of the ecliptic), so that might be another possibility for distinguishing them. I say this because in many languages, the names for the constellations and for the signs are often identical.

    • cayelin

      Thank you Rob! This is a great clarification bringing to mind that even the zodiacal constellations we have now haven’t always been divided up in the same way they are in the current time. Different cultures have had different ways of perceiving the constellations. For example, the Scorpion, or Scorpius as the astronomers call it, is seen as Maui’s fish hook in the Hawaiian traditions and in the Chinese traditions it is seen as the Azure Dragon. Most of the current mythology connected to the zodiacal constellations comes from the Greeks but every culture on the planet has had their own perception of the constellations (like the Jyotish system from India) so what you are bringing us is a great reminder that these mysteries are also dependent on how we are perceiving them at any given time from a cultural, locational, mythological, astronomical perspective as well as our own personal experience.

      For example, when I was in Hawaii and saw the Scorpion rising, it truly looked like a fish hook to me and where I live in the southwest United States, that constellation really looks like a Scorpion.

      The challenge remains as you stated that the signs (or seasons) and constellations currently have the same name and they aren’t the same thing hence the confusion – suggesting it would be helpful to use different names to help distinguish them.

      Thank you again for this brilliant clarification of the difference between the three most used current systems.

  13. Rob

    My pleasure. Good luck with your crusade… 🙂

  14. Lyn

    This is the best explanation on the subject of signs and constellations I have ever encountered. Thank you so much for taking the time and being so patient with everyone in answering their questions, I feel like I am really starting to get it…

  15. slaneslau

    would all this matter to a blind person?

    • Cayelin

      Regardless of whether you can “see” the sky or not the set up is the same for everyone on planet Earth. Therefore, understanding it helps us to understand the bigger picture!

  16. Owlchemy

    Hi Cayelin, from another perspective and with the Hermetic law of As above So Below, I was shown in a dream that the Tropical Zodiac is particularly relevant to humans because of the ‘personal’ relationship between the earth, sun and moon. That is why in tropical astrology systems the focus is on the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of terrestial life. Also that the siderial zodiac or fixed stars have a very specific relationship to the planets themselves and affect their consciousness and mythology/archetypes. It is the circle within the circle, the continual movement that as you say alters the perception of the constellations. Thank you so much for your insight and wisdom.

  17. Cosmo

    Hello, what role does it play Ptolemy`s Tetrabiblos in the Western/Tropical Astrology? What is the symbolism of the Aries sign? Does it has anything to do with the energy of a new start, a new beginning? Doesn`t this contradict the symbolism viewed from the Southern Hemisphere point of view? At 21 of march in the S.H. is the Autumnal Equinox and it marks day diminishing and prepares to close the life cycle. Also, at the equator there are no more seasons since the sun is always perpendicular on Earth surfaces and both day and night are 12 hours long all year long (it`s like having the same astrological day all year). Also, beyond a certain longitude, sun rays never hits the earth in a perpendicular angle and is always oblique, and Earth doesn’t get the full power of the sun`s energy. Having all those facts, seems that Western Astrology is applicable only on certain parts in the Northern H.

    • Cayelin

      This is a great question and one we have contemplated in Shamanic Astrology for many years. Shamanic Astrology is grounded in our direct experience as Northern Hemisphere dwellers and we recognize it would take living in the Southern Hemisphere for an extended period of time to gain the direct experience of the archetypal energies at work there.

      We do know some cultures celebrate the Solstices and/or Equinoxes as the most important seasonal points. For the Celts it was the Cross-Quarter points and for those closer to the equator it was/is the Zenith Points when the Sun is directly overhead at least 2 times a year. Cultures differ in part due to how they experience the seasons.

      For example, the Hawaiian Moon calendar recognizes 29 and sometimes 30 distinct Moon Phases and each have a meaning that has developed according to their experience of where they live. Each Moon phase relates to times that are good for fishing and planting, or when the tides and currents are dangerous etc…of course that experience would not translate to the Southwest desert where I live as the climate is so completely different and tides are not an issue.

    • Cayelin

      Thinking about this a bit more I remembered another piece that might be helpful in answering this question. It is correct that the seasons in the Northern Hemisphere are opposite the ones in the Southern Hemisphere and this is something we have pondered in the Shamanic Astrology paradigm. It is also interesting to note that the Sun as it approaches the seasonal gates regardless of what season is going through a similar process. For example, at the Solstices the Sun is slowing down to reverse direction according to where it is rising and setting along the horizon. At both the Equinoxes the Sun is moving very fast. Interestingly the archetypal signs for the Solstices are water and earth and are elements that move much slower than fire and air. The Equinox signs are fire and air and these elements are known for their speed. It is interesting how the elements match the seasonal experience regardless of what season is being emphasized.

      The other thought I had was in Shamanic Astrology we do not view the signs as strictly opposite but rather they operate on a resonate polarity. In that sense there are qualities of each within the other that resonate with that polarity. For example, Aries and Libra are on the relationship axis. Aries focuses on the relationship to self and Libra on the relationship to other but for both to be functional they do include qualities of the other. Capricorn and Cancer are on the the Family and Community axis. Capricorn focuses on the community and Cancer focuses on the Family but neither can exist without reference to the other.

      So I offer these as additional insights that may help to further this inquiry…

  18. Mark

    Hi Cayelin,

    Coming from a longish background in Buddhism and Yoga I started taking an interest in Western esotericism, magic etc. Not so much in an effort to start practicing in these areas in any deep way but because of the striking amount of shared info and presuppositions. I was surprised at how much understanding Vajrayana can help in understanding certain Western magical practices and vice versa. As I kept going I found myself wandering down a bit of a rabbit hole. It seems that in dominant Western systems Kabbalah, Tarot and Astrology are so interdependent that you really cant keep going, even with just reading about it without having a working understanding of each.

    Anyway, I bought a couple of Astrology books and find that each author has a unique way of fumbling the balance between the technical and the conceptual and I sense that books are not a great way to learn about astrology. Surprisingly there is very little out there on DVD or youtube that uses animation, or mobiles and movable models which I think is indispensible in speaking clearly about this stuff. But thats another story I guess.

    Like countless others I happened upon this precession issue early enough into my exploration to find it kind of takes the wind out of my sails. Most astrology authors I have read brush over the subject as if they are trying pretend it doesnt matter which adds fuel to the skeptic fire. And there is surprisingly little about this on the net.

    You may be happy to know that your article constantly surfaces during my searches. Your explanation about the difference between signs and costellations comes the closest Ive seen to adding clarity but still has more jargon than my newbie brain can process.

    But I want to admit something. The issue still nags at me. Your statements that we “forgot” about precession long ago seem a bit story-tellerish, or made up. Which of course doesn’t match your tone and rigourousness elsewhere. Also, I can’t escape the feeling that the reason why the signs and constellations were named the same is because the astrologers at the time simply didnt know about precession. The whole “as above so below” power of astrology seems to lose a bit of its veracity when the constellations become a somewhat arbitrary background that only matters every 26000 years.

    As such Astrology kind of takes on the flavour of old computer code with generation after generation of fixes and patches applied, making it clunky and overburdened.

    So there, I admit it. Thats what I think.

    Can you think of something that would clear this notion up? I doubt I am alone in this.

    Thanks so much for your great work.

    • Cayelin

      Hi Mark…thank you for your comment. To answer your statement that “astrologers at the time simply didn’t know about precession” is accurate because it had been forgotten. That is to say the Greeks knew about precession and that is why they came up with the sign based zodiac. Then the whole concept of precession was forgotten and that was when the constellations and the signs wound up being linked with the same names. For example, Aquarius actually translates to Waterbearer though now the season of Spring (Aries) is beginning to overlay that constellation depending on how the constellation is being defined.

      I do love the imagery of “old computer code” though I don’t think there have been any fixes to the old system with perhaps the exception of Rudolph Steiner’s work and his decision to call the constellations by their alternate names rather than their sign names to help reduce the confusion about the difference between the two. Perhaps that is still too confusing and we need a whole naming system for both the signs and the constellations but that might put everyone on tilt!

  19. Buckey Parker

    It is very well known that the Western Astrological signs are NOT all there is to Astrology. In fact, it’s rather limiting when we think of our sun sign as all there is to it. The Chinese horoscopes, druidic horoscopes, celtic, mayan etc are some others with different representations. My question is, does anyone know them all? I am doing some research and am having trouble defining all of the ones that are significant. Some that I listed may not even be considered separate studies. I desperately need to know the ones that ARE. Thank you in advance for any help anyone can provide. Blessings. 🙂

  20. alligator

    Cayelin, i salute your enthusiastic, energetic, exhaustive responses to all comers. i met you and Daniel at your UAC booth. the education continues on your website. thank you for your generous sharing of understanding.

    • Cayelin

      Thank you so much for the supportive note and for having stopped by our UAC booth. I hope our paths cross again sometime!

  21. Arman

    Hi Cayelin! I really enjoyed your research. Thank you so much! I saw in the website that the length of constellations are NOT equal. For example, the length of Aries is 24.38^ not 30^. Are they correct? The are not 30 degree each? And I would appreciate if you introduce a website which shows the position of moon and sun in each constellation fir now or a specified date. Thank you so much!

    • cayelin

      Thank you Arman. You are correct the length of the constellations are not the same size but the seasonal signs represent 30 degrees of the sky. The SAMS logo represents the current overlay of the seasonal signs over the constellations though there is some overlap so its not totally accurate and because the seasons move one degree every 72 years it wouldn’t remain accurate for long anyway. The Ram constellation you mentioned (a.k.a. Aries) is one of the smaller constellations and the Virgin Priestess (a.k.a Virgo) is one of the largest. is probably the best resource for sky maps of where the Mooon is, not sure about the Sun because you can’t see the constellation when the Sun is there. However if you find a sky map you can see where the Sun is in certain seasons. 🙂

  22. Susie

    This is brilliant and so helpful. Thank you for making this understandable!

  23. Maira Black Moon

    Thank you SO much for this brilliant and understandable explanation. I feel I am finally understanding something that has been so illusive and confusing. 🙂

  24. Jerry

    What a great explanation of the Stars and Constellations. WOW! Thank you for sharing your knowledge and insights!

  25. June Monet

    I love your website and this article is awesome! I have saved it as a fovorite❤



  1. January 2011 Celestial Timings :: Cayelin Castell - [...] Also worth noting is this Solar eclipse is within about a degree of the fixed star Nunki (12 Capricorn…

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