The Differences Between Vedic & Western Astrology, Explained
If you're into astrology, you've undoubtedly mapped your birth chart, downloaded various apps, and maybe even looked up your astrological compatibility with a love interest. But did you know Western astrology isn't the only astrological system out there?
Here's your introduction to Vedic astrology (warning: it might shake up the way you read your horoscope).
The history of Vedic astrology.
The Sanskrit word for Vedic astrology, or Hindu astrology, is jyotiṣa, loosely translating to "light/heavenly body," and the modality seems to have first appeared in the Rigveda, an ancient Indian text (though some assert it's been around since 10,000 B.C.).
"Vedic astrology contains within it the rich spiritual traditions and myths of ancient Indian culture," explains founder of Moondance Vedic Astrology and author of Vedic Astrology for Beginners, Pamela McDonough. "Even today, throughout much of India, Jyotish is an accepted science and, for many, is part of their lifestyle."
In its earliest days, Vedic astrology was used to determine important dates for sacrifices and rituals. Over time it became increasingly personalized; people started studying its planetary movements in an effort to understand their own destiny.
It's related to other ancient Indian practices including yoga and Ayurveda, and similar to Western astrology, it "offers us a guide or road map to a better understanding of our physical, emotional, spiritual, and even monetary experiences," McDonough says.
The 12 Vedic signs.
Just like in Western astrology, there are 12 signs in the Vedic zodiac. And interestingly, the characteristics of the signs are pretty much the same, too. The difference lies in the dates.
So, if you swear by the identity prescribed by your Western sun sign, prepare to have your boat rocked a little. The Vedic sign dates are as follows and you can calculate your complete Vedic chart here:
- Aries: Mesha (April 13–May 14)
- Taurus: Vrishaba (May 15–June 14)
- Gemini: Mithuna (June 15–July 14)
- Cancer: Karkata (July 15–August 14)
- Leo: Simha (August 15–September 15)
- Virgo: Kanya (September 16–October 15)
- Libra: Tula (October 16–November 14)
- Scorpio: Vrishchika (November 15–December 14)
- Sagittarius: Dhanus (December 15–January 13)
- Capricorn: Makara (January 14–February 11)
- Aquarius: Kumbha (February 12–March 12)
- Pisces: Meena (March 13–April 12)
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The differences between Vedic and Western astrology.
Vedic astrology uses a different calendar.
As McDonough explains, Western astrology bases charts on the "tropical calendar" (which most of the world uses) and the four seasons, while Vedic astrology charts are calculated using something called the sidereal system, which looks at the changing, observable constellations. (Western astrology does not change in the same way and works with the planets' fixed positions.)
Vedic astrology speaks more to your karma and dharma.
Another interesting distinction is that modern Western astrology has become more psychologically oriented, where Vedic astrology is based upon one's individual karma, according to McDonough.
Vedic astrology also tends to provide insight into personal dharma, or life path, and reveal our innate gifts and challenges. "It can help us better understand our relationships with our family, friends, and life partners. Having this fundamental understanding really helps to ease and relieve stress and our emotional ups and downs," she says.
Vedic astrology has a different approach to retrogrades, sun signs, and rising signs.
The two modalities also have a different take on what a retrograde planet actually means and what some of the planetary aspects represent.
"All planets in Western astrology share the same type of aspect, such as a square, trine, sextile, or opposition," McDonough notes. "Vedic astrology utilizes special aspects—each planet has a specific aspect or set of aspects, along with different strengths that are applied to that specific aspect."
Vedic astrology also considers your rising sign to be more important than your sun sign.
The bottom line:
If you're already up to speed on Western astrology (and if you're not, might we suggest the AstroTwins' Astrology Fundamentals class on mbg?), Vedic astrology might be another modality to add to your repertoire.
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, a registered yoga instructor, and an avid astrologer and tarot reader. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from State University of New York at Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.