A banner with some Western astrology signs and some of the Chinese zodiac.

The Different Cultures of Astrology

By Andronica Owens
Web Content Contributor

Feb. 5 marked the beginning of a new Chinese New Year. This event holds a vast amount of significance in the Chinese culture and many people still follow the predictions based around the signs.

On the other side of the spectrum, many people in America follow astrology and incorporate the science into their daily lives in many ways. Whether it is through horoscopes, natal charts or following astrology accounts on Twitter, many people are engrossed in finding their sun and moon signs. Astrology has become an integral part of culture in both parts of the world, so here is a little breakdown of how each practice is similar and how they differ from one another.

Astrology is defined as “the study of the movements and relative positions of celestial objects as a means of divining information about human affairs and terrestrial events.” Simply put, based on when you were born you will be assigned a sign. This sign will then help you generate a broad understanding of personality traits, habits and even hobbies.

We practice astrology by focusing on the placement of the moon and planets when we are born. Knowing your birthday and the place is a crucial element in astrology because your natal chart is dependent on your birthday and birthplace. Once we have figured out those details, we are able to dive right into the practice.

There are many aspects of your personality and being that are affected on Western astrology. Many people start off with basic knowledge of their sun sign. It’s one of the easiest placements to determine because it is based on your actual birthday. There are 12 different signs you can fall under and dates that correspond with each.

The Chinese zodiac has a shifting origin story, but one of the more widely accepted ones is the one of the Buddha that called upon animals to participate in a race. Of all the animals in the race, only 12 could be winners. The winners of said race would then have the zodiac centered around them with each representing a different year. This is how the signs came to be.

A Venn diagram listing the similar and different characteristics of the zodiac.
Comparing and contrasting the cultural astrology.

The differences between Chinese zodiac and Western Astrology lie in the placements of the signs and the time period representing each sign. In Western Astrology, each sign has a season during the year. You may hear people say, “It’s officially Cancer szn!” or, “I can’t wait for Scorpio season to end.” There are 12 signs and each season lasts for a month, so every year there will be the dreaded Scorpio season.

Chinese zodiac works a little differently. It is a 12-year cycle and the signs operate according to years under the lunar calendar. This means finding your Chinese zodiac is a little more complicated than just knowing what season your birthday falls into. Knowing your birth year is crucial for this because that will give you the year you need to move forward. Once you input your information, you will be assigned an animal that represents the year you were born. So, you will often see posts saying, “It’s the Year of the Dragon,” or hear someone say, “Dude, I can’t believe I was born in the Year of the Rat,” and this is what they are referring to.

Now that you have your Western and Chinese zodiac, you will start to see some similarities in the two. Each sign has distinct characteristics associated with it that help people understand themselves and others. While they may not be exactly the same across the board, it will help you to understand many underlying principles of the world around you and inside your mind.

Astrology plays a huge role in our culture today because it has become an integral part of many peoples’ lives. According to the New York Times, astrology has become a main trend in Chinese culture in recent years, meaning we have many things in common with people around the world.

As you can see, the Chinese zodiac may not be the same as our Western one, but it has much of the same foundation. There is a history, background knowledge, the twelve signs and horoscopes for each. With the celebration of the New Lunar Year upon us, maybe we can take a second to appreciate other cultures’ way of immersing themselves in the same practices we do.

Featured image by Andronica Owens.

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