Astrology 101: Comparing and contrasting sidereal and tropical astrology

Sidereal and tropical astrology are two of the widely used astrological systems in the world. You may even be subscribing to one or both without you being aware of it!

Sidereal and Tropical Astrology

But it won’t do you good if you go on believing something that you aren’t fully aware of the ins and outs! It may even lead you astray from the truths of astrology.

So, what are these two systems all about, astrologically speaking? And why are they so important?

What is sidereal astrology?

Sidereal astrology, often called Vedic astrology, has its roots in ancient Hindu mysticism. It is called such because of its emphasis on cosmic bodies’ “real” positions, instead of on how they “move” relative to our perspective.

Everyone knows that a day has 24 hours, yet in reality, Earth only spins for 23 hours, 56 minutes, 4 seconds, and .09 milliseconds. This discrepancy may not seem much, but it affects how astrologers and astronomers calculate cosmic activity in the course of millennia.

Sidereal, then, consider the remaining 3 minutes and 56 seconds so that the discrepancy between the actual rotation and the time used by everyone will be amended. This adjustment assures that the Zodiac signs will remain accurate and consistent.

However, changes are bound to happen, one way or another. To maintain consistency and accuracy, modern sidereal astrologers had to create a brand new Zodiac to account for the seven days in December when none of the original twelve signs would be dominant in the sky.

This new Zodiac called Ophiuchus or snake-bearer embodies those born from December 7 to 18. Described as the “closing” sign (despite Pisces just vibing four Zodiacs away), it channels the best and worst of every other Zodiac sign.

Speaking of which, each sign’s dates have a slight deviation from the one most people use. We included their annual schedule in our other, more in-depth article on sidereal astrology; go check it out!

If your sidereal sign is different from the one you are more used to, check if it’s within three days of the Zodiac’s start. If it does, you are a hybrid of both your sidereal and tropical signs.

What is tropical astrology?

Tropical Astrology

This astrological system is the West’s counterpart to the advanced calculations of Vedic astrology. Its influence has a broad scope, owing to humanity’s chaotic story, also known as history.


Unlike the sidereal, tropical astrology is relatively rigid and depends on calculations made thousands of years ago.

This fact is no surprise, considering that Western astrology is mainly dependent on the Babylonian, Greek, and Egyptian astrological traditions that have given rise to “modern” civilization.

The main difference that tropical has from the sidereal is a 24-degree discrepancy that affects the former’s calculation of the celestial bodies. Additionally, it bases on how we see the stars from here on earth, rather than on their fixed positions in the heavens.

And thus, we come to the origin of the name tropical: the tropics. There are horizontal lines on maps and globes labeled “Tropic of Cancer” and “Tropic of Capricorn.”

As said, this astrological system is based on the appearance of cosmic bodies. When a Zodiac appears in the area between these two tropics (aka the equator), they become the dominant sign of that period.

Incredibly, this system works almost flawlessly. The tropical system follows along the seasons of the solar year, and for the most part, it falls at the right time.

Which one between sidereal and tropical astrology should I choose to follow?

Unlike many beliefs, astrology does not impose, nor does it have rigid structures. The choice between sidereal and tropical is best left to which one you feel drawn to (heck, some even use both)!

However, some astrologers who go both ways have a rule of thumb when deciding which one to use. Because of its focus on the actual cosmic positionings, sidereal is the system used in astrological readings that are more inclined to spiritual things.

The opposite is true for the tropical. As the tradition focused on more “earthly” aspects, its usage is mainly for readings that concern the personal and material.

So, if your local astrologer decides to go renegade and be a math nerd, there’s nothing wrong with it. The same goes if they’re all about one tradition and couldn’t care less about the other.

At the end of the day, though, choosing which of these two astrological systems is not an issue on which is more “accurate.” On the contrary, it is a matter of preference and personal philosophy.

No matter which one you are more partial to, astrology will always speak its truths through the stars. After all, things such as calculations and degree discrepancies are nothing compared to the divine plans that the heavens have for everyone- including non-believers.

So go ahead, choose either one or both- the heavens will always be there to guide you to make the most out of your life!

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