Anthroposophy and Astrology — PART 2

Reading Time : 9 minutes

In PART 1 of this series of posts about Anthroposophy and Astrology, we have discussed about the Horoscope from an anthroposophical perspective. We have also talked about Steiner’s point of view on Astrology. We have pointed out the differences between spiritual science and symbolic interpretation, and explained why their approach is fundamentally different.

In this article we are going to tackle one of the main issues for astrologers interested in Anthroposophy. What is the “right zodiac” to use in astrological charts? This is an old debate in the astrological community. But what has Anthroposophy to say about it? Let’s jump right into it.

Tropical, Sidereal or Astronomical Zodiac?

Signs and constellations are not the same thing. Explaining the differences between Tropical and Sidereal Zodiac is not the purpose of this post, so if you are new to the topic you can deepen it further here. Long story short, we can say that zodiacal signs are not strictly speaking a group of stars (constellation) but a uniform division of the ecliptic into twelve segments. They depend on seasons, not on the actual position of the stars.

This is a very well known topic for astrologers. Tropical Zodiac is the zodiac that refers to signs, whereas Sidereal Zodiac—sidus meaning star—to constellations. Every year the two zodiacs slowly separate, to the point that right now they are one sign distant from each other (see the picture below).

Both zodiacs are used by ancient and respectable traditions. It would be inconclusive trying to demonstrate which is the “right zodiac”, simply because they are the result of different types of investigations. But what does Anthroposophy say about it? What’s the zodiac used by Rudolf Steiner?

The short answer is both. Rudolf Steiner not only used tropical and sidereal zodiac in his arguments, but he also gave specific indications about the usage of the actual Astronomical Zodiac. The Astronomical Zodiac is another way of looking at the Sidereal Zodiac, so this makes three zodiacs in total.

The Astonomical Zodiac

Let’s briefly explain what the Astronomical Zodiac is about.

The Sidereal Zodiac refers to the twelve classical constellations crossing the ecliptic. But even though the constellations have different sizes, the division of the ecliptic is still uniform: twelve slices of the same size. The Astronomical Zodiac instead divides it according to the actual extent of the constellations.

For example, try to compare in the blue ring below Aries—which is very small—to Virgo or Pisces—which are very large. As you can see the Astronomical Zodiac (in blue) is an uneven division of the ecliptic, whereas the Sidereal Zodiac (in purple) and Tropical Zodiac (in orange) divides the ecliptic evenly:

Three Zodiacs

Keeping in mind that something such as “the right zodiac” doesn’t make much sense, here’s some examples of when and how Steiner used different types of zodiac. If you know about other examples that are not in the list please write them on the comment section below. Any contribution is highly appreciated.

  • Tropical Zodiac:
    • The moment chosen for the laying of the foundation stone of the first Goetheanum in 1913 (the statement on the document doesn’t leave any doubt, see below);
    • The Twelve Moods presented in Dornach in 1915. Steiner’s description of the mood of Cancer, refers to the summer solstice (which would fall in Gemini on the Sidereal Zodiac): “If you take the mood in Cancer, for example, in which after the ascent there again follows the descent, where one has the feeling that the sun comes to rest for a moment […] there you will be able to feel something from the way in which the words within the Cancer verse are placed.“;
    • The Horoscope analysis of two albino children during two lectures on Curative Education in 1924 (see below);
  • Sidereal Zodiac:
    • Steiner’s division of The Platonic Year (12 times 2,160 or 25,920 years). Meaning that the division of the Sidereal Zodiac is uniform: “ … the time interval needed for the sun to progress from one constellation in the zodiac to the next is approximately 2,160 years, and this is important.” —The Destinies of Individuals and of Nations, 19 Jan. 1915;
  • Astronomical Zodiac:
    • The first edition of the Calendar of the Soul (Kalender 1912/1913) contains notes about the zodiac placement of the Sun and Moon. The position of the Sun is reported against the constellations. On the contrary, the position of the Moon refers to the tropical zodiac.
    • The Agriculture Course in Koberwitz, 1924. Clear indications where given about using actual astronomical constellations.

More than One Zodiac

In my opinion different zodiacs hold different meanings.

The Tropical Zodiac for example attunes us to the seasons. It allows us to clearly recognize in Nature the specific quality—or “mood”— of each sign. Take for example November, when the Sun is in Scorpio: we can feel outside the atmosphere of the twilight of the year and connect to it. We can easily understand why this sign is about death, mysteries and the occult. The same applies pretty much to all other zodiac signs.

I believe the Tropical Zodiac to mainly reflect dynamics occurring in the etheric body and in the astral body. Personally, I use it in my astrological analysis because I find it very accurate in describing what’s going on at that level. Again, this is just the way I use it so this doesn’t mean the tropical is “the right and only” way to go.

On the other hand, the Sidereal Zodiac connects us to the actual spiritual life of the stars. They are literally the bodies of the gods, and we can use them to deepen our understanding of the spiritual hierarchies. The equal division of the sky doesn’t alter the harmony of the cosmos that we would expect from spiritual realities. It also sheds light on the laws of reincarnation, and in this regard the work of Robert Powell—inspired by Rudolf Steiner’s research on spiritual individualities—is very interesting.

Lastly, the Astronomical Zodiac has been used for almost a century by biodynamic farmers. In particular, I’d like to remember Maria Thun’s work. Many efforts and experiments have been done to determine the exact boundaries of the constellations, looking at how the plant kingdom responds to them.

So if the Sidereal Zodiac is able to give us some clues about reincarnation—the relationship between the I and the physical body—the Astronomical Zodiac seems to be more fit in describing the relationship between the physical body and the etheric body.

The albino children natal chart

In 1924, during a couple of lectures on Curative Education Steiner discussed about albinism. With the aid of Dr. Elisabeth Vreede, he introduced the horoscopes of two sisters affected by this condition. Going through the charts he explained how the etheric body of the children was affected by the natal position of the Moon and Mars.

As far as I know, this is the only documented case in which Steiner explicitly uses astrological charts. The gallery of images reported below clearly shows that Steiner refers to the Tropical Zodiac in his analysis.

Tomorrow we will speak about the other cases that you have at Lauenstein, and I shall be particularly glad to be able to consider with you the interesting phenomenon of albinism, which we have opportunity to study in two of your children. One of them is fifteen years old and the other a much younger sister of hers.

(Dr. Steiner asked Dr. Vreede [the original leader of the Mathematical-Astronomical Section at the Goetheanum] if she had drawn their horoscopes, and she handed them to him. The dates were 6th December, 1909, approximately 4 a.m., and 18th May, 1921, approximately 3 a.m., both at Jena.) How does Uranus stand? Did you not find any special constellations? (Dr. Vreede replied that she had — namely with Uranus and Neptune. In the case of the elder girl, Neptune was in opposition to Uranus.)

5th July, 1924 – Curative Education Lecture 10

As you can see we have birth day, time and location of the children. This allows us to verify Steiner’s statements about their horoscopes.

The First Horoscope

Let’s take the first horoscope. Talking about the Moon Steiner said:

Take first this horoscope (of the elder sister). […]

Mars stands in complete opposition to the Moon.

Mars, which has Venus and Uranus in its vicinity, stands — itself — in strong opposition to the Moon. Here is the Moon and here is Mars. And Mars pulls along with it Uranus and Venus. And now I would ask you to pay careful attention also to the fact that the Moon is at the same time standing before Libra.

6th July, 1924 – Curative Education Lecture 11

Let’s take a look to the charts. We expect to find Mars in opposition to the Moon in Libra. Is it the tropical Libra or the sidereal one? In the pictures below we can compare the tropical and the sidereal horoscopes; in addition we also have a simulation of the sky at the same date and location rendered with the software Stellarium . This gives us the astronomical position of the Moon.

As you can see none of those cases show the Moon exactly in Libra. This could be due to the approximate time of birth, or to calculation errors made by Elisabeth Vreede. However, the case that comes closest is the tropical one, where the Moon is about entering Libra. On the contrary, in both the sidereal and astronomical scenarios we are getting farther from it. In the astronomical scenario you can clearly see that the Moon is standing before the constellation of Virgo. No doubt about that.

The Second Horoscope

Let’s take now the second horoscope. Luckily, in this case we get a clearer picture about the position of the Moon. Steiner said:

On this second horoscope, Mars, Venus and Uranus are in close proximity, exactly as before; but when we examine more nearly the position of Mars, we find it is not, as before, in complete opposition to the Moon. It is however very nearly so. Although the younger child does not come in for a complete opposition, there is an approximation to opposition.

But what strikes us as still more remarkable is that when we come to make our observation of the Moon, we discover she is again in Libra — while being at the same time, as we have seen, almost in opposition to Mars, which latter drags Uranus and Venus along with it.

6th July, 1924 – Curative Education Lecture 11

So again we are looking for a Moon in Libra. Let’s take a look:

Now, the situation here refers without any doubt to the Tropical Zodiac. As you can see both the sidereal and astronomical positions of the Moon are in Virgo. Meaning that in the analysis of the etheric body of these children Rudolf Steiner used a classic Tropical Zodiac based horoscope.

The Laying of the foundation stone of the first Goetheanum

The laying of the foundation stone of a building is not a mere symbolic moment: it is the very birth of the building itself. This moment was reported on the parchment paper in the picture below, which is the document signed by the attendees during the event. I would like to link this important article that I found online that definitely helped me with this research.

Parchment document of the laying stone of the first Goetheanum

Quoting the article, the statement on the lower part of the document translated from German says:

This Stone we lower into the kingdom of the condensed elements as symbol of the force for which we endeavour to strive through 3, 5, 7, 12, laid by the Johannes-Bau Verein, Dornach, on the 20th day of September 1880 after the Mystery of Golgotha, that is 1913 after the birth of Christ, when Mercury as the evening star stood in Libra.


Again, verifying which zodiac has been used is very simple. Let’s take a look at the position of Mercury on the evening of the 20th of September 1913—when the parchment document was signed.

As you can see only in the tropical zodiac scenario (first picture) Mercury had just entered Libra. In the other two it is in Virgo and between Leo and Virgo, respectively.

Now, the position of Mercury clearly has a very important meaning. From an astrological perspective, it is what we call an election: choosing the best moment for an operation to take place, looking at the position of the stars and their influence on earth. Technically speaking this is a magical operation, and yes—I do believe Steiner knew exactly what he was doing,.

Some people refer to that statement as a symbolic moment—a vow to the spiritual world—as Elisabeth Vreede called it. I disagree. My take on this is that focusing on spiritual science, Steiner referred to something real and not merely symbolic. It wasn’t a vow, or a message to the spiritual world, or just an abstract symbol. It was an occult process, a real operation in the subtle realities, reported in the parchment paper on a specific date and time.

In conclusion

As astrologers and anthroposophers we feel the need for a unified system. Being able to bridge the hermetic current—of which Astrology is part—with Anthroposophy is no easy task. This series is a small contribute that goes in that direction.

This article turned out to be very long. For the sake of this series I am going to talk about the inversion of Mercury and Venus on PART 3. Thank you very much for reading, and if you are interested in the upcoming articles please subscribe to the mailing list through the toolbar on the top of this website.

Read Part 3


  1. Hi Rob

    Thanks for this article. It is a clear explanation of the three different Zodiacs. Nevertheless, it is disconcerting to me that the Tropical, Sidereal and Astronomical Zodiacs are usually explained from a temperate northern hemisphere perspective. Astrologers and others on the whole make no reference to other latitudes where there is no real seasonal difference, as at the equator, or where the seasons are reversed, as in the southern hemisphere.

    In the Tropical system, there is little if no reference to the star patterns. It is as you say a seasonally derived system. It’s also a Platonic/ Ptolemaic system given its’ elemental and modal basis. Aries is given spring like attributes because it marks the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere, and in your article Cancer is given summer solstice attributes and Scorpio, autumnal attributes. I understand Astrology was conceived in the northern hemisphere at certain latitudes when the southern hemisphere was not known by these cultures. However, surely for a system to work it must be globally relevant? Spiritual Science purports to aim at objective research but there is little research or acknowledgement of the differing global conditions. At least Astronomers acknowledge these differences.

    With regard to the Sidereal and Astronomical Zodiac, the constellations indicate a convenient reference system. being predicated mostly on Mesopotamian, Egyptian or Greek seasonal and cultural factors, e.g. the bull for that time of year when the soil was ploughed and the Waterman for when the rains fell. Moreover, In general, with the possible exception of the Scorpion, it is hard to see the creatures they are named after in the constellation patterns. Furthermore, the constellations were conceived as different by different cultures, e.g. Polynesian cultures saw the Scorpion constellation as a fish hook. Moreover, the constellations are seen on their side or upside down at the equator or in the southern hemisphere.

    The constellations were often dramatically changed over time, e.g. the Virgin lost a hand carrying barley in Arab Astrology because barley crops were not relevant to them. At one stage the 12 constellations were among 18 Babylonian and Sumerian ecliptic constellations. Today some argue for 13 constellations, with Ophiuchus being between the Scorpion and the Centaur. Sometimes the constellations were merged then separated into two distinct ones, e.g. the Scorpion claws became the Libran Scales.

    If the constellations have been subjected to so much change due to different pattern making, temporal, seasonal and cultural perspectives, how can they be connected with inherently existing spiritual beings?
    Regards, James

  2. Hey James,
    thank you very much for this complete and elaborate comment.

    I can definitely feel your tension towards a unified understanding of the cosmos as a system. I know that it might be frustrating not having a unique path traced in front of us, especially if none of them are free from limitations. In other words, Astrology is and it will always be a form of reductionism. This because spiritual realities are so much more than that.

    Astrology is an indirect tool. It allows us to step into the field of spiritual laws, keeping nevertheless a rational mindset. It is a crutch that we will have to abandon sooner or later, in favor of a direct spiritual experience that will eventually bring us to a new Spiritual Science.

    This being said, some contributions to the conversation:

    1. The northern hemisphere is the one most occupied by land, while the southern one by water. So the northern hemisphere is more connected to the forces of the Sun, whereas the southern to those of the Moon. Thinking the two hemispheres as completely interchangeable is in my opinion an abstraction. In some way they are; in some others they’re not. Just my two cents.

    2. Spiritual beings where there BEFORE the constellation. It doesn’t matter the abstract division that we make through our intellect. “Behind” a constellation we are going to meet spiritual beings that weave reality. Through clairvoyant forces we can get back the sense of wholeness belonging to a bunch of stars that we abstractly group in a so called constellation. Pioneers in this field could also contribute to astrological issues such as constellation division.

    Thank you very much for your time and knowledge

  3. Thank you, it gave me some puzzle pieces on Steiner’s use of the tropical zodiac.
    I was very surprised when I saw many anthroposophist’s uses the sidereal zodiac as Steiner spoke for the European esoteric tradition.

    Steiner said that the zodiac through the Cherubim lay in the periphery of the solar system and not out in outer space. The Cherubim returns the rays it receives from within the solar system as the force of the zodiac. So the Sun defines the zodiac just as it defines the seasons.

    The seasons on the earth are connected to four Archangels and they are connected to the cherubim as our body to our soul.
    The calendar of the soul shows the archangel’s work in the seasons and Aries represent spring equinox.
    I have more on it here:
    Kim Munch Michelsen

Leave a Comment

–––––––––––– OR ––––––––––––