How the Human Design community freaked out about sidereal & why it's a symptom of white fragility

Assuming that because something is new to your own scope of knowledge, it must also be brand-new to the world (read: “discovered”) is some colonizer shit.

How the Human Design community freaked out about sidereal & why it's a symptom of white fragility
Photo by Matt Artz / Unsplash

A couple months ago, the Human Design world seemed to lose its collective mind over…sidereal.

From what I could gather—as someone who doesn’t follow HD influencer spaces too closely—here is what happened: A commonly-used site for generating HD charts (Genetic Matrix) added an option to one of its dropdown menus. This new option gave people the opportunity to run their charts using the Sidereal zodiac (from Vedic or “Eastern” astrology) instead of just the Tropical zodiac (from “Western” astrology). Curious souls viewed their charts in Sidereal for the first time, saw that their placements looked different, and then identity crises, internet outrage, denial, and proclamations of "extreme trauma responses" ensued.

What’s the deal with sidereal?

Sidereal is not new. It’s not worthless, it’s not an attack on your identity, and it’s not inaccurate.

In fact, Sidereal is ancient, and you could easily argue that it’s more accurate than Tropical, “Western” astrology.

In a nutshell: the Tropical zodiac is based upon a frozen snapshot of the sky from over 2000 years ago. The Earth does not rotate on its axis perfectly, and the sky around us is not truly frozen. The placements of the “fixed” stars of the zodiac have in fact shifted over thousands of years, but the Tropical zodiac still interprets the sky as if these stars have not shifted, even to the point that what we think of as, for example, “Aries season” in the Tropical zodiac does not even line up anymore with the passage of the sun through the constellation of Aries.

Sidereal, on the other hand, accounts for the “wobble” of the Earth on its axis (an extremely impressive feat, considering these calculations were devised thousands of years ago), and it aligns with the shifting of the stars in the sky.

Astrologer and human design practitioner Amy Lea has a video in which she explains that the main difference between these two systems is that Sidereal more closely aligns with the energy of the stars while Tropical is more centered on the Earth and its cycles, and the energies that we’ve come to associate with each season. Both are valid, even if you resonate with one more than the other.

So people freaked the fuck out over a zodiac system. Why is that a problem?

Denying the validity of something outright because it’s “different,” “foreign,” and makes you feel insecure, is a harmful knee-jerk reaction (that can instead be assuaged with research, curiosity, and a little bit of openness).

Assuming that because something is new to your own scope of knowledge, it must also be brand-new to the world (read: “discovered”) is some colonizer shit.

More than that, white women all across the human design internet-scape labeling a dropdown menu as, essentially, violent, and as something that even invokes “extreme trauma responses” is the same kind of thinking that justifies Karens dialing 911 and police killing Black people with impunity because the focus is placed on how the "scary, foreign entity" made the white person feel, and that triggered response is then deemed legitimate grounds for state violence.

In general: all feelings and reactions are valid. It is healthy to acknowledge your feelings in all their fullness, no matter how extreme they may be. (By that I mean: you have every right to feel the way you feel. The pain and fear you experience are always in direct proportion to your inner reality, which is, of course, colored by past trauma as well as societal privilege and/or oppression. Your feelings give you information and insight into all of these subjective lenses within yourself.) But immediate reactions are different than actual responses. Just because your knee-jerk reaction says you are being "attacked" by something, that doesn't mean that you have to respond accordingly. There can be a pause in between the reaction and the response. A pause in which you can ask yourself: Why did I react this way? Why am I feeling this way? Why am I feeling like I'm being attacked?

In the conversation around sidereal, I witnessed people conflating these two things: (1) new information that triggered insecurity and pain, because it activated personal shadows and emotional wounds, and (2) actual abuse, real-time trauma, and violence.

Of course, white people do not have a monopoly on this kind of conflation. All of us have traumas or hurts from our past that can cause us to feel like we're being attacked, seemingly out of proportion with the stimulus at hand. And many of us live under an overculture of white fragility that discourages everyone from expanding their window of tolerance, i.e. the their bandwidth for tolerating triggers without shooting off into defensive or scared states (fight/flight, or collapse/dissociation). But when white people, and especially white cis women, allow themselves to be ruled by their fragility, and when they deem things to be threats—things that are really just "different" and therefore scary to them—this can set off a dangerous chain of consequences. White women and their innocence and their need for "protection" have long been used as excuses to justify white violence against marginalized bodies. (See: Emmett Till, and many many many other historical and present-day examples.)

Declaring a mode of astrology to be a threat is, of course, not the same as declaring a human being to be a threat. But it is a similar form of thinking, and when this form of thinking is allowed to proliferate in lower-stakes situations, it has a greater chance of proliferating in higher-stakes situations, bleeding into the larger culture of white fragility that upholds white violence.

Why did sidereal feel like an attack to some people?

Let me begin with explaining white culture.

White culture is not really culture at all, because whiteness is a construct that denotes power. It is concerned with the accumulation and the maintenance of power, and therefore it is profoundly empty at its core. This deep, frightening, inner void that whiteness fiercely guards and loathes within itself is its main source of fragility. This void can be felt not just by white people but also by those people of color who have been largely reared on white culture due to forced assimilation.

In its long, historical quest for dominance, whiteness has gained power, but at a cost. Whiteness as a construct encourages a kind of capitalist self-sufficiency that divorces people from a healthy interconnectedness with all living beings, replacing it with zero-sum, hierarchical dominance, and this gives way to the inner void—the gnawing, existential angst that can fuel either a pursuit of capitalist markers of success or a ravenous search for identity and meaning. Cue: astrology, human design, Meyers-Briggs, the enneagram, Harry Potter houses, Buzzfeed quizzes.

Of course, white people are not the only people who seek self-understanding over the course of their lives. All humans do. But those reared on white (void) culture may guard that self-understanding more defensively once they think they've arrived at it.

Human design can feel like such a rush to anyone who's been searching for a solid sense of identity. It can feel like a secret key that unlocks the door to that long-lost treasure: an authentic concept of self. And anything that feels like a threat to this concept of self can make one feel intensely frightened, anguished, lost, hurt, defensive, and angry.

This is why sidereal can feel like an attack, and why it is more likely to feel like an attack to a white person.

Beware of giving up your power to any one system.

Reacting strongly to sidereal, rejecting it without any thought or consideration, and doubling down on the Tropical zodiac may seem like a way to preserve the integrity of your identity as defined by Western human design...but it's actually a move that gives away your power to a system outside of yourself.

The totality and complexity and truth of your soul cannot be summed up by any one system.

Astrology and human design are tools. Living, breathing tools. Not immovable doctrines carved in stone.

I often see human design talked about in a very insular way, as if it exists in a vacuum-sealed box, with no context around it. People are usually content to stretch their arms out and touch the walls and be like, "Welp, this is it! This is all there is! Let’s debate and nitpick over the contents of this box." But like, there's a whole world outside of that box. You exist outside of it.

This is very serious, and also very not serious.

The ways in which we talk about trauma, identity, accountability, and truth matter a whole lot.

And also, astrology and human design are most useful and liberating when treated with play, humor, and irreverence.

I think that being able to hold both of these things at once—the very serious and the very not serious—is just about the most human thing you can do.