Astrology-related terminology can be quite confusing, especially for those who are new to it. When you dive into the matter of astrology and you see words such as chart, house, Quadraplucities, and so many more, you take a step back, slightly disconcerted. However, in time, through patiently studying all these notions, you can easily become a pro. In this article we’ll take a look at one of those concepts used in astrology, that of ecliptic.
The ecliptic is an imaginary line along which that celestial bodies orbit against the fixed stars. By tracing these imaginary lines form one planet to another and taking into consideration the position of the stars, we obtain what is also known to us as the constellations of the Zodiac. The Sun’s movement through the constellations looks like path around the Earth that the Sun follows along, having the constellations of the Zodiac in the background. Yet, this is only our perception, because the Earth is, in fact, the one which orbits around the Sun, always occupying a position on the ecliptic directly across.
The ecliptic acts as a fixed reference point for astrologers’ studies. The Sun was tracked against the Zodiac by the earliest astrologers who set a starting point where the ecliptic meets the celestial equator. Nowadays, the constellations don’t match up any longer with this zero point. The explanation lies in the Earth’s tilt, the slight changes in its axis’s position that determine the intersection of the equator and the ecliptic to slightly decrease in degrees every year, and thus the real point of intersection moves backwards through the Zodiac.
If you’ve been studying astrology for a while, you have probably come across the notion of sidereal astrology. Derived from the Latin “sidus” the meaning of which is “star,” sidereal astrology is a system that uses the position of the fixed stars in order to set the ecliptic, instead of using the Vernal Equinox. This leads to the whole Zodiac beginning earlier in the year, which means Aries comes in April. This system generates a lot of confusion and leads to many debates, yet the western astrologers are growing more and more interested in this ancient system.
When it comes to the position of the real constellations, they extend eight degrees above and below the ecliptic, forming a sixteen degree Zodiac strip. To early astrologers and other stargazers, it seemed that the Sun moved against the moving backdrop of the constellations. Except for Pluto, which veers up to 17 degrees away from the ecliptic, all the other planets orbit near it, thereby the constellations overlap in some places.
The Greeks brought a significant contribution to astrology by dividing the ecliptic into 12 sections based on the position of the constellations, each of these sections being of 30 degrees and corresponding to the signs and houses in the 360-degree-wheel. This forms a grid on the ecliptic that is used together with a time or place on Earth as reference point in order to study the position of the planets and create natal charts.
Given that tropical astrology isn’t aligned anymore with the real positions of the star, it is seen more as a symbolic system rather than an indicator of actual, specific astronomical effects.
As it can be observed in this short presentation, the ecliptic plays an important role in astrology, being essential to making correct readings and birth charts. It is a concept that dates back to ancient times and which has gone through slight changes over the years due the changes in the Earth’s tilt.