What is the difference between Vedic Astrology and Western Astrology?
So, the primary difference is the way in which the charts are calculated. Vedic Astrology is a “sidereal” system which takes into account the motion of the constellations, known as the precession, thereby calculating a chart from the actual observable fixed stars. The Vedic chart is a captured image or map of the sky at the moment of one’s birth.
Western Astrology is a “tropical” system which uses the seasons – the Vernal Equinox specifically- as its point of reference, rather than the observable motion of the stars. (More on the difference in systems can be found on the Wikipedia page “Sidereal and Tropical Astrology”.)
Today, the two astrological systems are off by roughly one zodiac sign. It sounds confusing but it’s really not. All that means is that people with Virgo Suns, for example, in their Western charts will likely (but not necessarily) end up with Leo Suns in their Vedic charts- and so on for the Rising Sign, the planets, and the Nodes. Due to the mathematics, it is not uncommon that most of the planets and the Rising Sign will shift. However, this isn’t always the case. When any planet or the Rising Sign in the Western chart is located in over 24 degrees of a sign, those will remain in the same signs in the Vedic chart. Any planet or Rising Sign with less than 24 degrees (approximately) will shift back one sign in the Vedic chart.
I would like to remind people that there are many common bonds between the systems, such as the meanings of the signs, planets, and houses. What you might have learned about Scorpio, Mars, and the 8th house in Western astrology, for example, is relevant for Scorpio, Mars, and the 8th house of the Vedic chart.
Here’s the thing. If the fact that there are different systems bothers you, do some exploring! If you don’t plan to study and practice either or both of these astrology systems yourself, then the best way to see the differences for yourself is to have your chart read twice– with a Western astrologer and also with a Vedic astrologer. But a word of advice before doing so… Let loose and be prepared to digest a new perspective. If you cannot even remotely consider the possibility that your Sun Sign might change, don’t bother wasting your time or the astrologer’s time. Those of you who are open-minded and are excited to delve into a new chart reading, be prepared to gain more insight. And remember, depending on the degrees in which the Sun and the other planets were in at the moment of your birth, it’s possible that one or more of them will stay in the same signs that you have in your Western chart.
A friend of mine grew up with the understanding that she was a Virgo. The only astrology she ever knew about was her Virgo Sun sign. Over the years, she heard or read about Virgo tendencies and characteristics and grew accustomed to those ideas as her own nature. In one way or another, they fit her and she accepted them. After presenting my friend with her Vedic chart, she was slow to warm up to her ‘new’ Sun in Leo. Virgo and Leo are quite different! But she hung in and was willing to listen and explore. In her Vedic chart, Mercury is exalted in Virgo and Mercury rules Virgo in both systems. So she could still accept all those Mercury qualities but the Vedic chart gave her a new perspective as to where they operated in her life and personality.
A client, a Western Sun in Leo, was given her Vedic chart which put her Sun in Cancer. She appreciated the reading, even commented with great excitement about the accurate predictions and timing of events, but refused to adapt to a new Sun sign.
Both examples are fine! Remember, I have been brought up with Western Astrology and shifted to Vedic Astrology professionally. I value both systems and reference both of my birth charts, but I have spent and continue to spend much more time with my Vedic chart, which for me shows my karma more clearly and offers a strong and effective prediction method using the Dasha time-line.
Traditional Vedic Astrology (Jyotish) can be fatalistic when the astrologer presents the information in a very black-or-white manner. However, my use of Vedic Astrology brings a richer psychological tone and is not so black-and-white. I like reminding people that nothing is written in rock. The energy and dynamics set forth from the moment of our births reveal individual paths, tendencies, unique experiences, and amazing journeys. With our free will and birth charts we are drivers consulting specific road maps to destinations of our own choosing.
Another obvious difference between the two systems is the appearance of the charts. The Western chart is circular; the Vedic chart is square. When teaching, I will be using the North Indian style chart.
And so my final word on sidereal and tropical astrology is that both systems work and both have benefited people and continue to be valuable resources for countless individuals. Use what feels right to you.
I am a certified Vedic Astrologer and I teach the ‘sidereal’ Vedic system.