The Zodiac and Precession

Excerpts from the first chapter of Maggie Hyde’s book Jung and Astrology1992.

The Earth’s equatorial bulge, coupled with the obliquity of the ecliptic, allow the Sun and the Moon to exert forces on the Earth which produce a torque about its center of mass. This torque causes the Earth’s axis to precess with respect to the celestial sphere. The radius of this circle subtends an arc equal to 23.45 degrees (the obliquity of the ecliptic), and the precessional period is approximately 26,000 years. The corresponding oscillation of the celestial equator causes the Vernal Point (0 Aries) to move slowly westward at roughly 50 arcseconds per year. When this is combined with much smaller (less than one arcsecond per year) contributions from the planets and general relativity, the total motion is known as “general precession”. Its magnitude for the year 2000 is approximately 50.3 arcseconds per year.

The signs were originally identified with the imagery of the constellations that lay behind them on the Celestial sphere. However it is important to distinguish the 12 equal signs (functions of the Earth-Sun orbital cycle) from the irregularly-sized fixed star constellations from which these names and symbolisms are derived. The signs have the same names as the constellations, but they are not the same. The signs get their meaning from their place on the yearly cycle of the Earth, not from the shape of the stars in the sky.
The zodiac is a band of sky of 18 degrees on either side of the ecliptic; it is divided into twelve equal 30 degree signs, beginning at zero Aries, corresponding to the Sun’s passage through it during the March Equinox, the day when daylight and darkness are of equal length. This happens around March 21st and is the beginning of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere. The fourth sign, Cancer, begins at 90 degrees from there, and when the Sun reaches this point around June 21st is the Summer Solstice. Similarly, the Sun’s ingress into Libra around September 23 is the Autumn equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, and its entrance into Capricornus around December 21st marks the Winter Solstice.

The Vernal Point is where the Sun would be at the March Equinox, and represents the intersection of the ecliptic and the Celestial Equator. This intersection of the two planes (actually great circles around the sky) is used as the primary reference position for locating astronomical objects in space as seen from Earth. It is the [0, 0] position of our celestial coordinate systems.

In the closing centuries BCE, the March equinox point fell at the border of the constellations Aries and Pisces; the starting points of the sign Aries matched up with the constellation Aries, even though the rest of the zodiac of the constellations does not match up due to the unequal boundaries of the various constellations.
The 30 degrees of the sign Aries therefore fell roughly over the fixed stars of the constellation Aries; though not exactly – as the geometrical size of the constellation Aries was roughly only 24 degrees.

The discovery of precession is credited to Hipparchus about 150 BCE, and since that time this motion has produced an accumulated discrepancy of roughly 24 degrees at present. But Hipparchus only re-discovered precession. The people of Mesopotamia knew very well about it, according to modern historical research.
Our modern sign Aries now falls over the stars of Pisces. This leads to the symbolism of the Great Ages. As we are now in the closing era of the Age of  Pisces, and in the year 2150 we will follow the March equinox point backward into the age of Aquarius. We are now on the near the cusp of the age of Aquarius.

Originally the Sun was in front of the stars of Gemini during the first two weeks of May, for example. Now in 1999, the Sun is in front of the stars of Taurus during the same two weeks. The constellations have stayed in the same direction, but the signs have drifted to the west (relative to the fixed stars), and they no longer coincide. If you were born during the first two weeks of May 2600 years ago, you were born when the sun was in both the sign and constellation of Taurus. Today, during those weeks the sun passes through the constellation of Aries. Astrologically speaking, you are still a Taurus; astronomically speaking you are an Aries. Likewise, most Libras are astronomically Virgos, and so on. (And to add insult to injury, most Sagittarians are astronomically Ophiuchus.)

But a constellation, and a sign of the Zodiac are two different things. A constellation is a specific grouping of stars. The signs of the Zodiac are a 12 fold division of the ecliptic. The zodiac may have been named for the constellations, but the Zodiac is not a direct result of the presence of a constellation on the Ecliptic.
Siderealists may say that we are using the wrong zodiac (the tropical zodiac rotates with respect to the sidereal), or that it is absurd to measure stars’ positions along the zodiac. Maybe, more traditionally, the precessional shift in the zodiac is a measure of historical and cultural shifts, or of some sort of evolution. One could say: “everything is relative to the observer”, or everything changes or moves”.

Of the 366 possible birthdates, the sign astrologers use corresponds to the astronomical constellation 14 percent of the time. The astrological sign is off by one constellation for 84 percent and by two constellations for the other 2 percent.
The following data is based on the official definition of constellation borders by the IAU and provided by Juan Antonio Revilla ( ).

Astronomical Constellations of the Zodiac

Zodiacal Longitude of start in 1979

ConstellationConstellation borderLengthDate of Sun’s entry (1979)Duration of Sun’s stay in daysTotal area in square degrees
Capricornus29:21:46 Capricornus27:49′:57″Jan 2027.44414
Aquarius27:11:43 Aquarius24:27′:42″Feb 1624.06980
Pisces21:39:25 Pisces36:44′:25″Mar 1237.51889
Aries28:23:50 Aries24:43′:51″Apl 1925.48441
Taurus23:07:41 Taurus36:43′:26″May 1438.31797
Gemini29:51:07 Gemini27:50′:56″Jun 2129.20514
Cancer27:42:03 Cancer20:03′:04″Jul 2120.96506
Leo17:45:07 Leo35:48′:50″Aug 1137.05947
Virgo23:33:57 Virgo43:57′:40″Sept 1744.511294
Libra07:31:37 Scorpius22:54′:24″Oct 3123.10538
Scorpius00:26:01 Sagittarius06:55′:19″Nov 236.52497
Ophiuchus07:21:20 Sagittarius18:36′:01″Nov 3018.31948
Sagittarius25:57:21 Sagittarius33:24′:25′Dec 1832.55867

The Sun passes 8’57” inside the North-East border of the Constellation Cetus (The Whale) the 28th of March, at zodiacal longitude 6:50:13 of Aries (in 1979)

Sources: Calculations by Juan Anthony Revilla with data in an article by Pierre Bachus in “L’Astronomie” June 1979, pp.297-99

The age of the Fishes


In the figure above, the figures of the two fishes of Pisces are positioned north of the ecliptic, the figure of Aquarius is positioned below the ecliptic and – the stream of water from the jar – overlaps part of the second fish that swims along the ecliptic. Various dates have been given for Vernal Equinox’s entry into the constellation of Aquarius from 2012-2150.

The first fish faces east and swims upward while the other swims west along the plane of the ecliptic, said to signify a duality of nature; the eastern fish suggesting an upward ascent or a heavenly/spiritual disposition and associated with Christ; the western fish, a mundane/earthly alignment and associated with the Antichrist.

Below are some excerpts from the first chapter of Maggie Hyde’s book Jung and Astrology (The Aquarian Press 1992) which is based on the theory of astrological symbolisms given by Jung in his book Aion -Researches Into the Phenomenology of the Self CW9 Part 11 (London English translation by R.F.C. Hull 1974 edition p95).

Around the time of Christ, the Spring Equinox Point lay between the constellations of Aries and Pisces, moving backwards out of Aries the Ram and into Pisces the Fish at the knot in the cord – Alrisha (Al Rischa). Hence Christ is associated with the closing of the Arian Age and the dawn of the Piscean Age. Carl Jung was astounded by the correlation with the fish symbolism surrounding Christ. The precession of the equinox point into Pisces inaugurates … “an age in which the ‘fish’ was used as a name for the God who became a man, who was born as a fish and was sacrificed as a ram, who had fishermen for disciples and wanted to make them fishers of men, who fed the multitude with miraculously multiplying fishes, who was himself eaten as a fish, the ‘holier food’, and whose followers are little fishes, the ‘pisciculi'”. He notes other astrological symbolism such as the bathing of the disciples’ feet (Pisces) at the Last Supper, and Christ’s appearance to the disciples after the resurrection. They were fishing on the shore and took another great draught of fishes. Even the virgin birth echoes the Piscean polarity through its opposite sign of Virgo. However, Jung takes this symbolism to apply beyond the life of Christ by showing how it represents the development of Christianity.

Looking at the constellation of Pisces (in the above figure), we see that the two fish are bound by a cord at the star alpha, known to the Arabs as Al Rischa, the Knot. They swim in different directions, the eastern fish moving vertically north from the ecliptic, the western fish swimming horizontally along the ecliptic. This is understood to represent a dual nature in the sign, a vertical and a horizontal, two opposite qualities, which cross but are forever bound up with each other. They are the fish of spirit and the fish of matter, and the crucifixion of the Messiah of the Piscean Age is indicated by the symbolism of this crossing. Christ, the first fish of spirit, is crucified on the cross of matter. The great themes of Christianity – sacrifice, renunciation and redemption – are also the defining qualities of the sign of Pisces. For Jung, the duality inherent in the fish of Pisces reflects Christianity’s irreconcilable opposites. Theistic religious systems have to reconcile the ‘dual’ nature of God; God in manifestation as both positive and negative, male and female, spirit and matter. God is often seen as that principle which unites opposites but Christianity has a difficulty in reconciling this dualism. This manifests in the European intellect as the ‘Good versus Evil’ problem and in the challenging question of how an all-good God can create evil… To Jung, the coming of the Antichrist ‘is not just a prophetic prediction – it is an inexorable psychological law’…Nostradamus, writing in 1558, predicted the rise of the ‘infernal power’ around 1792. Cardinal Pierre d’Ailly (1356 – 1420) calculated the event for 1789 ‘or thereabouts’.

At the time of Christ, the Spring Point lay at the beginning of the first fish. Christ is that fish, the fish of spirit, the Good and the Light. As the Equinox Point moved through the constellation, passing through the first fish, the Church was founded and Christianity developed. It flourished as the Spring Point moved along the cord uniting the fishes but then, as the Spring Point arrived mid-way between the fish, the challenge to the Church and the predictions of Antichrist began. Jung describes the heretical doctrines, which arose to question and weaken the authority of the Church and the schism, which it suffered during the Reformation in the sixteenth century. From this time on, during the scientific revolution of 1500-1700, an ‘enantiodromian’ or mirror image process set in as the Spring Point began to creep along the cord towards the second fish. In contrast to the first fish swimming upward in a ‘Gothic’ striving towards the heights, this second fish swims horizontally outwards. Jung likens this to the voyages of discovery and the conquest of nature which have taken place since the Reformation, and suggests that: “The vertical was cut across by the horizontal, and man’s spiritual and moral development moved in a direction that grew more and more obviously anti-Christian”. The Spring Point reached the first star in the second fish’s tail, Omega Piscium, around 1817. Although this is the fish of Antichrist, its manifestations are not embodied in any one person or messiah. Rather, they are revealed in philosophies, ‘damnable sects’, and an ‘evil and magical law’ which is ‘utterly contrary and inimical to the law of Christ’. Jung cites as an epitome of this the enthronement of the Goddess of Reason in Notre Dame after the 1789 French Revolution. Human Reason is now exalted in the place of the Divine Law. Antichrist is expressed in scientific materialism, in the nineteenth-century rise of Darwinism, and in the growth of such anti-Christian thought as Marxism (Marx was born in 1818!). Thus for Jung, the precession of the equinoxes through the constellation of Pisces carries the story of the religious history of the west.

For example, Blake’s voice, the ‘voice of the bard who present, past and future sees’, was heard in England with its cry of the Lamb and the Tiger, innocence and experience, Urizen and Los, as Uranus was discovered and the Spring Equinox Point moved towards the second fish. The first complete copy of ‘Jerusalem’ was engraved between 1818 and 1820. Blake, a visionary poet, is concerned not only with Christianity but with the struggle of the spirit in a materialistic age.

Robert Hand, inspired by Jung, follows his method and has enhanced the technical discussion by a detailed dating of the contacts of the Spring Equinox Point with the stars of Pisces. He has also elaborated the symbolism by pointing out that the first star in the constellation has been designated ‘Alpha’, even though it is not the brightest star of Pisces. Since the first star of the second fish is ‘Omega’, Christ’s statement, ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega’, takes on a curious stellar correlation.

Geoffrey Cornelius, another astrologer inspired by Aion, has shown the same precessional symbolism at work beyond this apparent limit. For a start, the historical correspondence of the Age of Aries is hardly less extraordinary than that of the Age of Pisces. If we look at the constellation of Aries, its three brightest stars, Hamal (EL NATH), Sharaton and Mesarthim are close together in the head of the Ram. This image suggests a bunching of the sign’s significance and power in one focus. This well fits the symbolism of Aries, just as the sprawling and indistinct constellation of Pisces suits the Piscean astrological character. We might expect, therefore, major significant developments of the Age of Aries when the Spring Equinox Point was passing through this cluster of the three bright Aries stars. The Point moved from Sharatan in 713 BC to Hamal in 446 BC. This period of 276 years was indeed seminal for world history. Gautama Buddha was born some time during the seventh century BC, initiating one of the great world religions, which spread rapidly throughout the eastern world. Then in 551 or 552 BC, the birth of Confucius marked the supremely formative period for the civilization of China, creating forms in which it was to flourish for two and a half millennia. Furthermore, in the very same few decades, we find the rise of the Greek City States and what has been described as ‘the self realization of Greece’. The origins of western civilization are, therefore, also rooted symbolically at this pinnacle point of the Age of Aries. Hence major formulative periods in three great world cultures can be shown to correlate, independently and yet synchronistically, with the precession of the Equinox Point through the head of the Ram. (Excerpts from the first chapter of Maggie Hyde’s book Jung and Astrology, The Aquarian Press 1992   ).