Therese Hamilton

Part 1

First Principles: Symbolism of the Sun and Moon

In the last 10 years most Western astrologers have come face to face with some form of India’s astrology, referred to as Vedic or Jyotish. Students have also learned that India uses the sidereal zodiac rather than the standard tropical zodiac used in the west.

Tropical astrologers measure the signs from the spring equinox, which marks the point each year where the ecliptic intersects the equator. The Sidereal zodiac used in India is measured from the fixed stars. Within a span of a few degrees, all users of the Sidereal zodiac in both East and West agree on its starting point. At present a Tropical sign overlaps the preceding Sidereal sign by 23-25 degrees, depending on the year of birth. This means that any traits we observe in a Tropical sign must also belong to the underlying Sidereal sign. Although this seems obvious to me, I don’t think many astrologers have thought about the Sidereal signs in this way.

Anyone who has studied Jyotish knows that it’s easier to make factual predictions in the Eastern zodiac. At the same time, the Sidereal signs are universally misunderstood. They work for prediction, but astrologers don’t know how to use them for psychology. For example, what do we do about polarity and the elements in the Sidereal zodiac? To add insult to injury, Jyotish books have begun listing Western sign traits for their Eastern counterparts. This isn’t logical. How can Sidereal Aries mean the same thing as Tropical Aries when they are in different areas of the zodiacal belt?

Polarity: The Sun and Moon

I’ve decided that a discussion of signs of the zodiac should begin with a thorough understanding of the Sun and Moon, because solar/lunar symbolism relates directly to male and female zodiacal signs. Modern astrologers have applied so much abstract symbolism to the Sun and Moon that we’ve forgotten to simply observe these two lights in horoscopes. We’ve forgotten to look at how the Sun and Moon behave in our skies.

India is very succinct in regard to the two lights. Sanskrit names for the Sun can be translated as fixidity, steadiness, firmness, and strength of purpose. In terms of astronomy, the Sun simply is. The Sun rises day after day regardless of weather conditions, the behavior of humanity or the placement of planets in the sky. It traverses its set path, always giving light and heat and asking nothing for itself in return.

And what of the Moon? In India the Moon is said to rule the senses and emotions. This is not so very different from the western view of the Moon. In India the Moon is said to be fickle and changeable. Emotions change and fluctuate as our thoughts and attitudes change. Emotions vary with the circumstances of our lives, and with the positive or negative ways we perceive other people as treating us.

Astronomically, the Moon we observe each night is cyclic. It waxes and wanes and finally disappears each month before it is reborn again. If it were not for the light of the Sun, we would not be able to see the Moon at all. This is why the principle of reflection belongs to the astrological Moon.

The Lights and Behavior

In the West we’ve confused solar/lunar meanings with discussions of archetypes and psychological traits which we believe are associated with the lights. This has led to the belief that the Moon is internal while the Sun is external. In reality the Moon is related to traditional feminine behavior, i.e. socializing, helpfulness, interest in relationships, liking the exchange of conversation and companionship. In short, the Moon looks outward from itself and finds inspiration and comfort with others.

The Sun is the ancient symbol for the soul. The soul lies deeply hidden beneath our daily restless thoughts and changing emotions. The Sun, therefore, represents a point of stillness, the center of the wheel so to speak. As such, the Sun relates more to the prototype of masculine behavior: satisfaction and a sense of self found in its own work, the enjoyment of personal creative endeavor, inner drive and concentration directed toward a concrete goal. Solar emphasis is on contacting the center within rather than on bringing in what is external to ourselves. In the negative sense, the Sun looks too much to itself without considering the needs and interests of others.

Cancer and Leo

With hints from India and the actual observation of the Sun and Moon, I’ve defined solar and lunar energy. Now it’s time to explore the signs of the Sun and Moon—Sidereal Cancer and Leo—to see if the symbolism holds true.

Robert Hand’s Horoscope Symbols has always been one of my favorite Tropical texts because of its keen insights into both astrology and astrology’s most important questions. More than any other text, this book astutely points out the difficulties in relating some of the planetary lords to their Tropical signs. I’ll use quotes from this book to illustrate the differences between Tropical Leo and Virgo, which I believe are in reality Sidereal Cancer and Leo.

In Horoscope Symbols Robert Hand notes that there are few adjacent signs that are as different from each other as Leo and Virgo. (p.221) This statement makes perfect sense in the Sidereal zodiac, because we’re talking about the prototype signs belonging to the Sun and Moon, Cancer and Leo. Hand also says of Virgo, “In my opinion, Virgo and Mercury make one of the worst sign-ruler fits of all.” (p. 223) Again, this is a perfectly logical statement if the sign we’re talking about is in reality Sidereal Leo.

To begin with the sign of Cancer: Ariel Guttman and Kenneth Johnson note in Mythic Astrology that the Egyptians began their year during what is now Cancer’s month (July), and that Cancer symbolized the soul’s point of entry into the body. In esoteric astrology Cancer is also seen as the soul’s doorway into incarnation. (p. 263)

We might expect then that Cancer as a sign should be related to childhood. Indeed, Sidereal Cancer can be seen as the “youngest” of the twelve signs. Like the child, Cancer is concerned with personal issues related to itself. Under certain conditions, it can be narcissic. Like a young child, Cancer craves attention and admiration from others. The sign, like the Moon, needs interaction and response for a sense of personal identity. This shouldn’t be taken as a negative, because without mutual interaction and expectation between people, society would cease to exist. In the Tropical zodiac, Cancer’s traits belong to Leo:

(Leo) is like the child who has just accomplished something new, and who is not happy until every adult within reach knows about it...there is a genuine fascination with the self, and a desire that others be similarly fascinated...In most adult Leos it comes out as a need for personal recognition, a desire to be impressive...the Leo personality desires to be a center of light in which others may bask and shine back. (Hand, p. 220)

This last statement is a wonderful description of reflection, a lunar trait recognized from antiquity. The “look at me and react!” psychology belongs to the child of the Moon. The Moon is very comfortable soliciting attention from others. This is one reason that Jupiter, the planet that appeals to the masses, is exalted in the Moon’s sign. In Cancer, Jupiter reaches out and charms entire nations or the world.

Now, let’s look at the traits of Tropical Virgo which is the sign that overlays most of stellar Leo.

Virgo justifies its existence by how effective it is in getting along in the world and making the best of it. The emphasis on total individuality is gone. ...The Virgo type needs little social recognition for the quality of its workmanship; its sense of achievement is based on knowing it has done the job well...(Hand, p. 222)

Tropical VirgoSidereal Leo—is sometimes seen as quiet and shy, but in reality, it finds its satisfaction and reward within itself and in its work. Like the Sun, this sign simply does the work it feels drawn to do. As Robert Hand says, “its sense of achievement is based on knowing it has done the job well. And we’ll find in general that the sense of worth attained through work alone with minimal input from others is more a masculine trait than a feminine one. Typically, women want to share their interests and attainments with family, friends or co-workers.

Of course this is a general rule, a pattern only. The predominant Sun/Moon and male/female sign balance in the horoscope will show how each person, man or woman, functions in the world. There are many men who seek validation from others, especially in the world of entertainment, and many women who find satisfaction mainly in their work. These types of charts should show respectively, strong lunar and female sign influence or strong solar and male sign influence. Often solar and lunar traits will be balanced, but just as often one light will outshine the other.

Solar and Lunar Personalities

The differences between solar and lunar personalities are critical to a correct understanding of the Sidereal signs. In writing this article I asked myself how I could illustrate the differences between people who are solar or lunar types. The horoscope is a complex combination of many factors, and most people are mixtures that reflect the interaction of planets, signs and aspects. How can we isolate solar and lunar traits? I finally decided to leaf through The Gauquelin Book of American Charts looking for charts with either the Sun or Moon within a few degrees of the Ascendant or squaring the Ascendant from the 10th sign; at the same time the other light had to be in a cadent or succeedent sign. I tried as much as possible to choose Suns and Moons that were singletons—without close conjunctions or opposition to other planets.

There is much controversy about house systems, so I am staying with planets that are either conjunct he ascendant or elevated and square the ascendant. The times for all the charts in the book were taken from birth certificates. I did not use the MC as a reference point since it is often in the 9th or 11th sign from the Ascendant. I have used Tropical longitudes so that Tropical readers can easily grasp the energies of the signs which hold the Sun and Moon. The italicized quotes are taken directly from The Gauquelin Book of American Charts, which in turn were taken from biographies. All longitudes have been rounded to the next highest degree. (Apologies that some of these once popular names are now somewhat dated in the 21st century!)

Lunar Personalities

Erma Bombeck, writer: Asc 26° Capricorn; Moon 24° Libra (2° square); Sun 2° Pisces (cadent)

Most popular woman...comic writer...humor arises from such mundane matters as everyday life dealing with housework...somehow expectant

Eleanor Clark, writer: Asc 28° Leo; Moon 18° Leo (10° conj); Sun 14° Cancer (cadent) (Venus in Taurus—Trop and Sid—is square the Asc from 10.)

delightfulness in style; wit; charm...a, entertaining, friends....

Doris Day, actress: Asc 26° Virgo; Moon 28° Gemini (2° square); Sun: 14° Aries (succeedent)

Popularity; versatile;...sunny; exuberance; any girl in the world could be Doris Day and she could be any girl...

Billy Graham, evangelist: Asc 5° Aries; Moon (with Mars) 29° Sag (6° square by Sidereal sign—Sag/Pisces); Sun 12° Scorpio (cadent)

...charisma...enthusiastic...extravagant gestures...the preaching windmill; genuine warmth...relaxed humor...engaging conversationalist

Dorothy Hamill, skater: Asc 24° Pisces; Moon (with Mars) 21° Pisces (3° conj); Sun 5° Leo (cadent)

...skates with finesse; graciousness; genuine; refreshing; enjoying her fame; excited to be on the cover of Time; she tries never to refuse an autograph seeker...

Gloria Steinem, feminist leader: Asc 13° Scorpio; Moon 8° Leo (5° square); Sun 5° Aries (cadent)

Persuasive, articulate; attractive...the glamour girl of the women’s lib; stylish mod manner...capable of pleasantries at her own expense

Solar Personalities

Maureen Connolly, tennis player: Asc 17° Sagittarius; Sun 25° Virgo (8· square); Moon 12° Capricorn (succeedent)

Ability to concentrate; deliberately unspectacular...complete lack of expression no matter how the game goes; calm...fierce desire to be best...self discipline

Miles Davis, trumpet player, composer: Asc 8° Gemini; Sun 4° Gemini (4° conj); Moon 9° Scorpio (cadent)

Detachment; refusal to acknowledge applause...seldom grants interviews; almost never appears on radio or TV; concessions to his audiences; plays more for his own pleasure

Arthur Robert Jensen, educational psychologist: Asc 1° Virgo; Sun 1° Virgo (exact conj); Moon 8° Aquarius (cadent)

...almost somber figure; dark attire; aloof dignity; mild manner... cloistered life style; dedication to work...unworldly; lonely...

Kirk Kerkorian, corporation executive: Asc 18° Virgo: Sun 16 Gemini (2° square); Moon 3° Capricorn (succeedent)

...overcomes incredibly difficult odds; overcomes the many obstacles; calm throughout behavior...soft spoken

Makio Murayama, biochemist: Asc 21° Leo; Sun 18°· Leo (3 degree conj); Moon 16° Cancer (cadent)

A lonely boy; worked alone; a loner

In scanning the above biographical notes, there is complete consistency in behavior, depending on whether the Sun or Moon is the most prominent in the natal horoscope.

In summary, the Moon is popular...expectant...has wit and a character...loves sunny...exuberant...has charisma...enthusiasm...relaxed humor...enjoys fame...tries never to a glamour girl (i.e. welcomes attention)...has style

The Sun is concentrated...unspectacular...self-disciplined ...detached...seldom grants reserved... aloof...dignified...mild mannered...dedicated to work...overcomes alone

In short, the Moon fulfills our expectations as one who wants to please others, is outgoing, often humorous and blatantly sociable. The Sun is removed from ostentatious behavior and seems far more dedicated to work and discipline than to cementing human relationships. Indeed, solar traits sound a lot like the values of sidereal Leo in the guise of Tropical Virgo.

This discussion of solar and lunar traits sets the stage for looking at the other Sidereal signs. Starting with the solar/lunar foundation, the entire structure of the sidereal zodiac is different from the Tropical.

To read more, click here: Sign Polarity: Masculine and Feminine Signs

Return to Lost Zodiac Main Page

© 2004 East-West Publishing, Therese Hamilton; all rights reserved


Gauquelin, Michel and Francoise (1982). The Gauquelin Book of American Charts. San Diego, CA: Astro Computing Services

Guttman, Ariel and Johnson, Kenneth (1993). Mythic Astrology. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications

Hand, Robert (1981). Horoscope Symbols. Rockport, MA: Para Research