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Want to learn more about how to do astrology? You've come to the right place!

Tropical Astrology: The Seasonal Signs of the West

Ashley Thiessen

Western Astrologers (as in, the majority of the ones writing in newspaper columns and magazines) base their astrology off a Tropical, seasonal calendar. Learn more about what that means for the Signs here!

The sun sinks to rise again; the day is swallowed up in the gloom of the night, to be born out of it, as fresh as if it had never been quenched. Spring passes into summer, and through summer and autumn into winter, only the more surely, by its own ultimate return, to triumph over that grave, towards which it resolutely hastened from its first hour. We mourn over the blossoms of May, because they are to wither; but we know, withal, that May is one day to have its revenge upon November, by the revolution of that solemn circle which never stops, — which teaches us in our height of hope, ever to be sober, and in our depth of desolation, never to despair.
— Cardinal John Henry Newman, The Second Spring

John Henry Newman wrote that sermon in 1852 to celebrate the restoration of English Catholicism in the middle of the 19th Century, comparing the resurgence of faith in the Catholic church in England it to a "second spring" following a winter of Protestantism. His sermon draws from the endless cycles of the seasonal year, and how one should never lose faith because even though times get hard and they seem like they will never end, everything is temporary, and it all cycles back to good again eventually. Western astrology, in many ways, teaches us the same.

There is a saying amongst astrologers. "It's only a transit - it will pass", meaning that whatever you are going through, no matter how strong or serious it feels right now, it is only a brief phase of life, and it will soon pass. Since I first heard it, I've always found comfort in that. I've had issues with anxiety my whole life because of how fixed and sensitive I am. In learning how to better cope with it, I have begun to watch the earth as it evolves and changes, with every season being just as beautiful and important as the last, and I have begun to see my own life that way.

If any of this sounds similar to the popular New Age chants of today, it isn't on purpose. I am not a very spiritual or religious person. I don't believe in past lives or in a higher power, I don't clear out the "negative energy", and I don't smudge my house. My crystals are decorative and go uncleansed. I've never seen ghosts, felt psychic vibrations, or connected with anything other than astrology. But in my own way I've started to combine astrology with a sort of seasonal, earthy philosophy of my own, where I am observing the cycles of the seasons, the moon, of life and death and sleep, and finding comfort in the constant reliable change, reflecting on how my life goes through similar phases, and how to recognize the purpose of it all. 

In the next twelve articles, we will go through each of the Signs used in Western astrology, and I will teach you all about every one of them in detail. 

every sign is a section of the seasonal year

To recap from my previous article, this system of astrology takes the two Equinoxes and two Solstices and divides the circle into four. Each of those four sections is divided further into three; those sections are the Signs, twelve in total. The year begins on the day of the Spring Equinox when the sun crosses into Aries. Summer begins on the Summer Solstice with Cancer, Fall on the Fall Equinox with Libra, and Winter on the Winter Solstice with Capricorn, until the year (and Spring) begins again with the Spring Equinox. It looks something like this:

I remember this idea of how the Signs were tied to seasonal cycles was first shown to me in a tiny astrology book my mother had. It laid out how different seasons required different kinds of work in order for a person to survive. It explained how people acted differently at different times of year as their lifestyle changed, and how each of the Signs itself is a symbol of the seasonal time of years it falls under. Everything I had been learning kind of came together after I finished that little book. It changed the way I practiced astrology.

You see, especially for those in northern temperate regions living off the land, whose livelihood was tied to the forest or the plains or the valleys they lived in, seasonal changes affected every aspect of their lives. What they ate and how much; the temperature outside, weather, and how easily could they could travel from one place to another. All these things came to affect the health of a person's body, the amount of physical activity, boredom, stress levels, emotions, relationships with other people, income, and so on. For a pregnant woman, not only would she be affected by all of this, but her unborn baby would be as well, especially in the third trimester. The final three months of her pregnancy, and where on the seasonal calendar they fell, would have had a big impact on the early development of the baby. This might just be the overreaching idea tying seasonal astrology to the personality a child is born with. (But we can't yet say for sure.)

As such, the Signs because symbols for the time of year they fell under. For example: Leo is bright and warm and sunny because it falls in the middle of summer, when food is plentiful and the days are very hot, and not much work has to be done. People are free to travel, to be lazy, to enjoy leisure activities and creative projects; to spend their afternoons sleeping in the shade and their evenings swimming in the river. But then Virgo follows, at the end of summer, when food is ripening fast and harvest needs to be done. Then there is no time for Leo-lazing about. It is very important, if one is to survive the winter, to shore up on food and supplies while you still can. So the entire community comes together and works very hard to make the most of the very short amount of time before everything goes to seed and is gone for another year. 


This series will cover each of the twelve Signs used in Western astrology, with one detailed article for each. They will include:

  • SEASON The section of the seasonal year and how both the season and people's lifestyles both reflect qualities of this Sign.
  • SYMBOL This history of the symbolism behind every Sign and what it all means.
  • PERSONALITY Just a basic rundown of the personality traits of this Sign, fitting for both men and women (and everyone in between). 
  • CHILD How this Sign behaves as a child and how they grow from childhood through puberty and into young adulthood.
  • RELATIONSHIPS Romance, sex, friendship, how socially outgoing and cooperative they are, and what they are like to be with. Valid for all sexual orientations and relationship styles. We won't cover compatibility between all the Signs (that will come in a later series) but if that is what you are interested in, I do have Linda Goodman compatibility quotes queued for 2016/17 on my Tumblr Blog.
  • CAREER In both subordinate and leadership roles, how this Sign behaves at work and what their ideal careers should be.
  • QUOTES A Slideshow of quotes about every Sign. If you are impatient and you want to see them all now, you can look through my Pinterest Boards!
  • PERSONAL STORIES I have stories and descriptions for people I know of every Sign - some good, some bad, and some that might be written by other people (we will see!)
  • TRANSFORMATION A theme I keep repeating throughout my blog is how one thing transforms into the next as it grows and matures. (Thanks Pluto in the 3rd House!) Each Sign eventually turns into the next one, by changing different aspects of itself that need changing. And that is how each article ends, leading up to the next one.

What I want you to keep in mind while you read is that these are articles about the Signs themselves, not just about having your Sun in that Sign. So keep an open mind and learn about all the characteristics of each Sign, and then when we move onto Planets later on, you will see how you may just have a little bit of every Sign within you.