Therese Hamilton

When Margaret Gammon’s Astrology and the Edgar Cayce Readings was first published in 1967, many interested in Cayce’s readings learned for the first time that he recommended an astrology referred to as “Persian.” There was very little available at that time on ancient astrological practices, and the references to Persian astrology remained something of a mystery. Gammon’s book was republished in 1998 along with chapters by W.H. Church in Edgar Cayce’s Astrology for the Soul.

Other books later mentioned Cayce’s references to a Persian system with the general conclusion that Persian astrology referred to a sidereal zodiac. Ry Redd (Toward a New Astrology, Inner Vision Publishing Company, 1985) suggested that the Indian system derived from the Persian since India has always used a sidereal zodiac measured from the stars. However, Cayce stated that the Persian system was a combination of the Egyptian, Persian and Indian. (826-8) Kirk Nelson in Secrets of Astrology (A.R.E. Press, 2000) asks, “Are the Signs Thirty Degrees Off?” (p. 48), and concludes that the sidereal zodiac is the one astrologers should be using. However, he continues to use the tropical zodiac in discussing horoscopes in his book.

There are actually at least two different concepts reflected in the Persian astrological statements in the readings: (1) the mathematics of the zodiac which clearly hint at a sidereal zodiac rather than the popular tropical zodiac used in western countries and (2) an astrology with a specific philosophical emphasis. Only recently due to the work of scholars in the field of historical astronomy as well as new translations of Persian astrological texts are we now equipped to fully understand what Cayce meant by “Persian” astrology in both the philosophical and mathematical sense.


Astrology as we know it, based on 12 signs of the zodiac was born in Mesopotamia after the area (now known as Iraq) fell under Persian rule in 539 B.C. For those familiar with Cayce’s readings, we would say that at this early date astrology was rediscovered. According to the readings astrological knowledge extends far back into the mists of time, at least back to the time of RaTa whose attunement with the Creative Forces allowed him to become conscious of astrological principles as expressed in the stars, planets and constellations. (294-150)

At any rate the rudimentary omen astrology that existed at the time of the Persian invasion of Mesopotamia (Babylonia) shortly thereafter underwent major changes. Mathematical discipline was introduced which included the invention (or rediscovery) of 12 zodiacal signs of 30 degrees each. Prior to that time only the constellations of varying lengths were considered.

But a more important change in philosophical emphasis clearly reflects Edgar Cayce’s emphasis on the importance of choice and free will. Under the Persians astrology shifted from political, mass oriented astrology to an astrology in which the individual was important. An expert on the early history of astrology, Professor Van der Waerden, (Science Awakening II, Leyden, 1974) noted a correspondence between the first natal horoscopes for individuals and the monotheistic Persian religion, Zoroastrianism. This religion included the concept of an individual immortal soul which has a free choice between good and evil. It’s interesting that in Reading 311-10 for a man who had been told that in an earlier incarnation he had studied the teachings of Zoroaster, the following exchange took place:

(Q) Who is giving this information?

(A) Zorain. Student with Zoroaster, yes.

Thus, in this ancient historical period we have the first explanation of Cayce’s insistence on the superiority of Persian astrology. The zodiac at this time was strictly sidereal with various stars marking the beginning of each sign of the zodiac.

Cayce’s “Egyptian Zodiac

From this ancient period in Mesopotamia we move to astrology in its next important historical context--the period following the conquest of Persia by Alexander the Great in 331 B.C. Today this time period is termed “Hellenistic.” Astrology moved into Egypt at this time with Alexandria being the primary center of culture and learning. Under Alexander and his successors Greek became the standard language of scholarship. Thus, though most authors were Egyptian and Semites rather than Greeks, astrological treatises were written in Greek.

In this Hellenistic period the astronomer, Ptolemy of Alexandria, introduced the zodiac that Cayce referred to as “Egyptian.” This is the tropical zodiac we know today in the west with the zero point of Aries always located at the spring equinox. Ptolemy lived in the 2nd century, CE, but this new zodiac, though probably used by astronomers, was not quickly adopted by astrologers. Astrologers continued to used a fixed sidereal zodiac tied to the stars, a carryover from the Persian period in Mesopotamia. Only once to my knowledge did Cayce recommend using the “Egyptian” tropical zodiac rather than the sidereal. This was in relation to the movement of individual stocks in the Market:

(Q) “What books on astrology are best to determine such moves?

(A) “Those as we find that are of the Egyptian origin; while for individuals' activities use those of the Persian origin. Those of the Persian are as to the activities of individuals...while the Egyptian are as to those that would have to do with activities as related to individuals in speculative activities...” (826-10)


From Egypt and Greece, Hellenistic or “Egyptian” astrology continued in Europe under Roman era rule. In a parallel development in the same time frame, an Iranian people, the Parthians, took advantage of the lack of unity after Alexander’s death, and conquered Mesopotamia. This ended Greek domination in the area. In 226 A.D. another Persian people, the Sassanids, overthrew the Parthians and established the Sassanid Empire. This introduced another key period in the development of Persian astrology. Under this empire astrology flourished and Zoroastrianism was restored.

In this Persian period we see a renewed emphasis on free will that had not been prominent in the preceding historical period under Greek influence. Today’s foremost authority and translator on Persian- Arabic astrology, Dr. Benjamin Dykes, writes of this period: “The fourth [philosophical point] was a new religious attitude: that is, the introduction of the notion of an indeterminate free will that is liberated from the forces of necessity on earth, and which can radically self-create and change one’s direction in life.” (“Medieval Astrology,” NCGR Research Journal, 2010, p. 37)

With the Sassanian empire we reach the historical period when the first or zero point of Aries of the fixed sidereal zodiac was firmly “set” by astronomers. Under the Sassanian ruler Khusrau Anushirdwan, in the year 556, the astronomers of Persia met to correct their astronomical tables, the Zij al-Shah. Though later discovered to be working with faulty astronomical theory, this conclave of astronomers set the zero point of the sidereal zodiac. This became the canonical date and position for the initial point of the Arabic and Hindu sidereal zodiacs; the zero point was 10 minutes east of the star, Zeta Piscium, and the zero year was set at 560 A.D.

For years this key information for astrologers was hidden away in scholarly journals until Dr. Raymond Mercier published the date and origin of the Persian zodiac in his Studies on the Transmission of Medieval Mathematical Astronomy (Ashgate Variorum, 2004), IIa p. 208) This zodiac was preserved and used by Indian astrologers and other Eastern peoples who never departed from a fixed zodia measured from the stars.

However, in 1957, twelve years after Edgar Cayce’s death, using modern observation and calculation, this zero date was updated and re-set to greater accuracy by the Indian Calendar Reform Committee. Zero Aries is now aligned (“fixed” in relation to the stars) exactly opposite the bright star Spica with 285 A.D. as the zero date (the date when the seasonal and sidereal zodiacs were exactly aligned). This zodiac is now used almost universally by sidereal astrologers in both east and west, and is referred to as the Lahiri zodiac. If Cayce were alive today, he would perhaps suggest that the Lahiri zodiac be used rather than the older and less correct Persian (Zeta Piscium) zodiac. These two sidereal zodiacs are four degrees or four days apart as the earth moves through the zodiac.

Since 285 A.D. the seasonal “Egyptian” and fixed sidereal zodiacs have become increasingly separated from each other due to the precession of the equinoxes. The vernal equinox which marks the initial point of Aries in the seasonal zodiac never returns to the same place in relation to the stars. Thus, the two zodiacs separate from each other approximately one degree each 72 years. At this time (2011) the two zodiacs are 24 degrees apart. This means that for approximately a six day period (30 degrees minus 24 degrees), individuals born during that span of time will have their sun in the same sign in both zodiacs. In all other cases the sidereal sign is one sign behind the tropical.

However, during Cayce’s lifetime the old Zeta Piscium zodiac was still popular in India and elsewhere as nothing better had been devised. At the time Cayce lived, the value of this zodiac was in the vicinity of 10 degrees displaced from the tropical zodiac. However, the primary users of this zodiac, astrologers in India, had already adjusted the difference to between 8 and 9 degrees. This may explain the apparent differences in statements of the Readings below. These statements certainly cannot be said to be precise!

“For instance, the astrological influences are not in the form or manner as has been so oft and is so oft judged by the purely astrological aspects from records. For the shifting, the changes that have been wrought in the zodiac as well as the signs and positions of this material sphere in relationship to the whole have been misjudged.” (1770-2)

“....the variations in time have been corrected by the Persians and not by the Egyptians. The Egyptian calculations are thirty degrees off. “(2011-3)

“For most astrologers are nearly thirty degrees off in their reckoning in the present.” (3376-2)

These statements all seem to be general references to the fact that a planet in our popular tropical zodiac most of the time is placed in the preceding sign in the sidereal or “Persian” zodiac--much as we might be telling a friend the price of an item for which we paid $96.50: “The cost was about a hundred dollars.” If Cayce’s sources were aware of the varying changes made in zodiac values (from the early Persian 10 degrees to the Indian 9 or 8 degrees in Cayce’s lifetime), perhaps this casual approach was for the purpose of avoiding confusion. Or perhaps it’s only that those who asked the questions didn’t ask for more precise information. At any rate we now have a precise date and historical astronomical occurrence for the birth of Cayce’s Persian zodiac.

There is one more important historical step for anyone interested in studying Parsian astrology. In the 7th century all of west Asia including the Sassanian Persian empire was overrun by Arabian armies. Although many astrological books were destroyed, the Arabs continued to keep Persian astrology alive while adding their own refinements. Scholarship was encouraged, and Greeks, Egyptians, and Persian astrologers intermingled. Astronomical works from India also made their way to Arab centers of learning. As the readings state:

“For as we have indicated, there are two, yea three phases or schools through which such information, such charts, such characters have been carried - the Egyptian, the Persian, the Indian. The Persian is a combination...of all of these...” (826-8)

These Persian-Arab texts are the works that have recently been translated by Dr. Benjamin Dykes: a series of three large books titled Persian Nativities. (Cazimi Press, 2009-2010) Similar and additional works have recently been translated by James H. Holden and others as well. So today we have a fine selection of texts for anyone who wishes to delve into Persian astrology. These texts are not for the faint of heart or non-astrologers, however. Techniques are technically complex and require a great deal of study. We do know for a fact, however, that the zodiac used by these astrologers was sidereal with the calculation tables set in 556 C.E. in the Zij al Shah. One of the best known astrologers of this period, Masha-allah, made a disparaging remark about Ptolemy’s Egyptian (tropical) zodiac

“Also, the Egyptians wholly dissented on the course of the stars...For instance, Ptolemy, concerning the length and breadth of the stars [measurements of longitude and latitude] puts it that there is an addition of one degree [due to precession of the equinoxes] for every succeeding 100 years, all of which is plainly omitted in the Zij al-Shah." (Persian Nativities, Vol. 1, p. 16)

We also know from these Persian-Arabic texts that the planets were given far more importance than zodiac signs. However, signs and their sub-divisions were helpful, even necessary, in giving hints as to how planets would manifest. For example, a planet in a sign compatible with itself would manifest its more positive traits while a planet in an inharmonious sign would do the opposite. This is why a correct zodiac would give more accurate readings for individuals today. We would have stronger clues as to how planets would function in relation to the spiritual, mental and material lives of a person.


A few final comments on signs of the zodiac can be helpful. There is one reading where Cayce specifically linked characteristics to zodiac signs:

11. “For, as has been indicated, the characteristics, or that attained by an individual, are indicated by the sign under which the entity enters an appearance. (This as a side note: Remember, those indicated in the charts that are accepted by most astrologers are some ten days behind. Thus we find some variations in the information indicated for individuals through these channels.)” (5746-1)

This statement could quite plainly refer to the 10 degree difference between the tropical and Persian sidereal zodiacs in Cayce’s time period. Since the earth moves one degree a day, the degrees in any birth chart at that time would be ten degrees (days) off sign-wise using western calculations. Although the Readings almost always emphasized planets over zodiac signs, the statement above suggests that some characteristics or that “attained” can relate to the birth sign. Unfortunately the Readings don’t identify the sign under which an entity makes an appearance. It could be the Sun sign, Moon sign, the sign of a particularly strong planet or perhaps the ascendant, point of the zodiac on the eastern horizon at birth.

How much of a difference do signs make when reading today’s astrological charts? Quite a bit unless one ignores signs of the zodiac completely. Since ancient times each sign has come to be associated with a ruling planet. This planet gains importance in the birth chart. So for example, if one’s Sun is in the tropical sign of Aries, but in the sidereal sign of Pisces, we are looking at either Mars (Aries) or Jupiter (Pisces).

I would like to give an example of a friend (Anna) who has both the Sun and ascendant in sidereal Pisces, but tropical Aries. While still in high school Anna decided that she wanted to spend her life as a Catholic nun. She entered spiritual training shortly after high school graduation, and at the age of 65 is still a nun. Anna is almost a pure Jupiter type of person according to the readings. Her work in education has touched many lives. She chose as her life work teaching among the Black and Native American communities since her universal sympathies were there. Briefly comparing quotes from the Readings on Jupiter and Mars:


"In Jupiter we find one having a great influence upon the lives, the experiences of others--by choices made by the entity.." (2834-1)

"We find Jupiter also with its universal appeal for the weakling, the unfortunate, for those not as well blessed with material things. These are natural tendencies in the emotional nature of he entity." (2829-1)

"As for the urges latent and manifested, we find astrologically the influence from Jupiter. Thus, the interest the entity has in giving of itself in service to others, disregarding its own personal pleasures.."(5018-1)


In contrast to Jupiter, we note a few of Cayce’s statements on the planet Mars, the “ruler” of Aries: In the tropical zodiac, we would look more to Mars as a key planet in Anna’s life:

“The influence of Mars is rather that of wrath, war, might, main, domineering, dominating...” (417-1)

“For the Martian influences, through the changes in the activities among men in war, in wrath, in blood even..”.884-1

“For we will find from Mars not only those inclinations for anger, madness, ire to arise...” (2157-1)

We can see that if we were reading Anna’s horoscope "blind" (knowing nothing about the owner of the chart), the tropical zodiac would give a less than accurate reading. We would tend to look at the planet Mars rather than Jupiter.

In summary because each sign of the zodiac is associated with one or more planets, and these planets are a major reference in the birth chart, it can be important to use a correct zodiac. According to Cayce, this zodiac is the “Persian” or sidereal zodiac used throughout India and increasing in greater numbers by western astrologers who have studied India’s astrology. However, it should be noted that the interpretation and meanings of sidereal signs are quite different than the standard tropical sign definitions. So attempting to research sidereal signs before understanding them will lead to false results. Readers are welcome to contact me at eastwest9@snowcrest.net with specific questions.

© Therese Hamilton 2012

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