The Difference Between Jyotish and Western AstrologyJyotish is distinctly different from what we think of as astrology here in the West. The difference is that in Jyotish we use the sidereal zodiac, which is based on the fixed, observable positions of the constellations, as we see them in the sky. Western astrology, in contrast, uses what is called the tropical zodiac. The tropical zodiac is based, not on the fixed, observable positions of the constellations but rather on the relative and changeable position of the sun.
Because of a phenomenon called “precession of equinoxes” and a wobble in the axial spin of the Earth, the tropical positions have gradually moved away from the fixed, sidereal constellations at the rate of about one degree every 72 years. By the time most of us were born, the tropical positions, and therefore the Western astrology chart, have moved away from the fixed, observable positions by about 24 degrees. In short, there is a difference between these two astrological systems by that many degrees.
In Jyotish, we don’t think of people in terms of their sun sign, as we do in tropical astrology. Instead, we enter the chart through what is called the “ascendant,” the constellation that is rising on the Eastern horizon at the time of a person’s birth. This sets up the relationship between the planets at the time of birth to the event of the birth and gives clues about an individual’s personality, physical body, and the way the person presents themselves to the world. We think of a person first in terms of the ascendant.
The Ascendant Sign of AriesIn the subsequent series of articles, I’ll discuss some of the traits and qualities that are associated with each of the twelve ascendants. Today we’ll focus on the sign of Aries. Remember that here we’re speaking of the sidereal ascendant of Aries, not the sun sign. If you know your Western, tropical chart, just subtract 24 degrees from all the planetary positions and ascendant to get your Vedic chart.
We’ll begin with Aries Ascendant...Aries is a “fiery” sign, as opposed to the earth, air, and water signs. The fire signs are often associated with transformation of energy and may in some way express the traits of the Pitta dosha, the fiery metabolic profile we learn about in Ayurveda.
Aries is a Cardinal or “movable” sign, as opposed to the “dual signs” or the “fixed signs.” The movable signs like to initiate activities. Aries is ruled by or represented by the planet Mars which, in its positive expression, can give courage, passion, and energy to the Arian. It can make the Aries person adventurous with a pioneering spirit. They can be excellent athletes and self-starters, and they benefit from engaging vigorous physical exercise.
Reflecting the first constellation of the natural zodiac, people can sometimes exhibit a youthfulness and even a naïve self-centeredness or “me first” attitude. They often know what they want and may sometimes become impatient, impulsive, and impetuous about getting it. Like the Ram, which is the symbol of Aries, Aries people can become combative, competitive, angry, and aggressive if they are challenged or frustrated in getting what they want. They sometimes enjoy “butting heads.”
The real work for Aries ascendant people is to learn to cultivate patience and cooperation, especially in partnerships.