A Glossary of (Traditional) Astrological Terms
Much of the astrology on this web site is written with a focus on Traditional Astrology i.e. using techniques which were existed prior to the eighteenth century. This was long before the discovery of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto and although the influence of those planets is included in some of the articles there is a strong emphasis on the work of William Lilly (1602-1681).
Lilly’s 1647 publication, Christian Astrology, consolidated many of the methods which had been used until that time and there has been a resurgence in interest in his work since 1980 which was pioneered by Olivia Barclay.
Algol: One of the most well known fixed stars of evil influence. The full name, Caput Algol, means “to lose one's head,” the symbolism being that a person affected by this star in the chart can meet their downfall as a result. Algol was at 21 03’ Taurus in 1634 and 26 27’ Taurus in 2021.
Air Signs: Gemini, Libra and Aquarius
Antiscion Degree: A degree which is equidistant from any other degree across an axis drawn between the zero degrees Cancer and zero degrees Capricorn For example, ten degrees of Taurus is one complete sign and twenty degrees on one side of the axis and the shortest point the same distance on the other side is found by adding one complete sign and twenty degrees to zero degrees of Cancer i.e. twenty degrees of Leo. Ten degrees of Taurus and twenty degrees of Leo are therefore antiscion degrees.
Planets in antiscion degrees show a connection depending on the character of the planets, their dignities and what they signify in the chart.
Ten degrees of Taurus and twenty degrees of Leo are both 50o away from the Cancer-Capricorn axis and are therefore antiscion degrees.
planet once it is within joint moiety. For example, an aspect between Mars and the Moon will extend for 9 30' so that once the Moon is less than 9 30' from, say, a conjunction with Mars it is said to be “applying to a conjunction with Mars.”
Arabic Parts: Calculated points in a chart usually obtained by a sum involving the addition and subtraction of the zodiacal longitude of various planets and house cusps. The method was much favoured by the Arabs from whom the method takes its name but is not in wide use these days except for the Part of Fortune and, where relevant, the Part of Death.
Ascendant: The degree of the zodiac on the ecliptic which intersects the equator on the eastern horizon at the time and place for which a chart is cast. It also marks the beginning of the first house in a chart.
Aspect: An angle of significance between two planets or between a planet and a point in a chart such as the cusp of a house or the Part of Fortune. In Lilly's method for horary the only aspects which were used were the sextile (60 degrees) square (90 degrees), trine (120 degrees) and opposition (180 degrees). Although the conjunction (0 degrees) is also used this is not, strictly speaking, an aspect, but a ‘bodily joining.’ These same five aspects were almost exclusive used also for Lilly’s work on natal charts.
In Traditional Astrology the extent to which an aspect is effective depends on the planets involved rather than the strength (or importance) of the actual aspect as can be seen in the table on the right. The moiety (half the orb) is shown next to each of the planets and the extent of an aspect is obtained by adding together the moieties of the planets involved e.g. an aspect between Mars and Jupiter will extend for 8 (3 30’ + 4 30’) whether it is a square, sextile etc.
Barren signs: Gemini, Leo and Virgo. They traditionally signify a lack of fertility and are mostly used in connection with questions concerning childbirth.
Benefic: used to describe the planets which naturally bring good fortune, Venus and Jupiter. See also Fortune.
Besiegement: A planet is besieged when it is between Saturn and Mars in the same sign of the zodiac with no planets in between itself and either of those planets. The besieged planet is in a very difficult place.
Bestial Signs: Aries, Taurus, Leo, Sagittarius and Capricorn. So called because the symbol for these signs is that of an animal, this being taken from the shape of the constellation in the zodiac.
Cardinal Sign: Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn. The cardinal signs generally indicate change or action in a chart as they begin when the season changes.
Cazimi: A planet which is within 17' of one degree of the Sun. Instead of being weakened by being combust it gains a position of strength when it is cazimi.
Combustion: A planet is said to be combust when it is between 0 17' and 8 30' from the Sun and in the same sign of the zodiac. The planet is weakened in this state and it can also indicate that a matter is unclear or hidden in some way in a horary chart. In a natal chart it can show the person may have difficulties with the affairs ruled by that planet
Commanding Signs: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo
Common Sign: Another name for a mutable sign so called because it is partly fixed by nature - in common with the fixed sign which precedes it - and partly an agent of change - in common with the cardinal sign which follows it. Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius and Pisces.
Considerations before Judgement: A set of conditions, the presence or absence of which, need to be taken into account before attempting to judge a horary. These may warn that it is inappropriate to judge the chart or that the outcome is likely to flow in a particular direction.
A full table of con-Significators is set out on the right with the houses numbered across the top row.
Contra-antiscion degree: The degree opposite to the antiscion degree. In the example given above, the contra-antiscion degree of ten degrees of Taurus would be twenty degrees of Aquarius since this is opposite the antiscion degree of twenty degrees of Leo. One planet in the contra-antiscion degree of another is likely to indicate discord or a problem of some sort.
Decanate: a group of ten adjacent degrees in a zodiac sign, each sign has thirty degrees and therefore three decanates.
Descendant: The degree of the zodiac on the ecliptic which intersects the equator on the western horizon (eastern horizon in the southern hemisphere) at the time and place for which a chart is cast. It also marks the beginning of the seventh house in a chart.
Detriment: A planet in the sign opposite to one of which it is the ruler. It is weakened in this state by being as far from ‘home’ as possible.
Dexter Aspect: An aspect cast by one planet to another in the order which the signs proceed across the sky in the Northern Hemisphere, for example, since Aries precedes Cancer, Mars in Cancer would cast a dexter square to Venus in Aries.
Dignity: The strength or weakness of a planet. Dignity is may be either Essential or Accidental – see next two entries.
Dignity - Accidental: a position of strength enjoyed by a planet by reference to its speed, direction, house placement or relationship with another planet.
Dignity - Essential: A position of strength enjoyed by a planet with regard to the degree of the zodiac which it occupies, each degree having five levels of essential dignity within it. The five levels are Rulership, Exaltation, Triplicity, Term and Face.
Direct Motion: A planet which appears to be moving forward from one degree of the zodiac to the next.
Directed Solar Arc: Click here for explanation.
Dispositor: The planet which rules the sign in which another planet is placed. For example, if Mercury is in Scorpio then Mars is the dispositor of Mercury since Mars rules Scorpio.
Domicile: The sign which a planet rules
Earth Signs: Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn
Ecliptic: The portion of the sky along which the planets travel. Only the Sun travels exactly along this path, the other planets moving above and below it where they are said to have either northern or southern latitude to the ecliptic.
Equinoctal Signs: Aries and Libra – so called since they begin at the Spring (or Vernal) and Autumn Equinox respectively.
Essential Dignity: see Dignity - Essential
Exaltation: The second highest level of essential dignity. Note that not every sign has a planet which is exalted in it.
Face: The lowest level of essential dignity
Feminine Planets: Venus, the Moon and Mercury when it is occidental of the Sun.
Feminine Signs: Taurus, Cancer, Virgo, Scorpio, Capricorn and Pisces.
Fire Signs: Aries, Leo, Sagittarius
Fixed Sign: Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius are the fixed
signs. They usually indicate stability or lack of movement.
Fixed Star: These are not actually ‘fixed’ but precede through the zodiac at a much slower rate (about one degree every 72 years) than the planets. The brighter the star and the nearer it lies to the ecliptic the more astrological significance it has.
Fortuna: Another name for the Part of Fortune.
Fortune: Name given to Jupiter and Venus as naturally benefic planets. The term is also applied to the Sun if it is well fortified.
Fruitful signs: Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces. These are all water signs and water is naturally associated with fertility.
Hayz: a minor state of accidental dignity when a masculine planet is in a masculine sign and above the horizon in a daytime chart or when a feminine planet is in a feminine sign and below the horizon in a night-time chart.
Horary: From the Latin meaning “of the hour” it refers to a chart drawn for the time a question is asked (in practice it is the time the question is understood by the astrologer), the answer being obtained from interpretation of that chart without reference to a natal chart.
Houses: The division of the chart into twelve, each house ruling various worldly matters - hence they are known as mundane houses. There are numerous different methods of dividing the chart which causes much debate among astrologers. I have used Regiomontanus almost exclusively since 1995.
Human Signs: Gemini, Virgo, Libra and Aquarius. All except Libra contain the image of a human being in the symbol for the sign while the symbol for Libra, the scales, are operated by a human being.
Imum Coeli (IC): The beginning of the fourth house and therefore the lowest point in a chart. It lies exactly opposite the Midheaven (MC).
Inferior planet: Mercury and Venus, so called as they lie between the earth and the Sun.
Infortune: Saturn and Mars, which are naturally associated with evil and misfortune.
Ingress: The entry of a planet into the next sign of the zodiac.
Long Ascension: The signs from Cancer to Sagittarius inclusive in the northern hemisphere. See signs of short ascension for a full explanation of their significance.
Luminaries: The Sun and Moon although they are often referred to as planets.
Lunar Eclipse: Each month, at the time of the Full Moon, the Sun and the Moon are in the opposite degree of longitude of the zodiac. Although the Sun always travels exactly on the ecliptic the Moon is usually either north or south of the ecliptic. Twice a year the Moon crosses the ecliptic and at the nearest Full Moon to this crossing the Sun and Moon will have the opposite degree of longitude and the same degree of latitude to the ecliptic (zero). The Moon moves into the shadow of the earth causing a Lunar Eclipse.
Malefic: Used to refer to the infortunes, Saturn and Mars.
Masculine Planets: Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun and Mercury when it is oriental of the Sun
Masculine Signs: Aries, Gemini, Leo, Libra, Sagittarius, Aquarius,
Midheaven (MC, Medium Coeli): The beginning of the tenth house and therefore the highest point of the chart, the furthest south (north in the southern hemisphere) which a planet moves in its passage across the ecliptic.
Mixed Reception: This occurs where two planets are in signs in which they “swap” different levels of essential dignity. For example, Venus in Capricorn is in mixed reception with Saturn in Pisces since Saturn is in the sign in which Venus is exalted but Venus is in the sign of which Saturn is the ruler.
Moiety: Half the orb of a planet
Moveable Sign: See Cardinal Sign.
Mutable Sign: See Common Sign
Mute Signs: Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces. Thus a significator placed in one of these signs may indicate a lack of communication, especially if that significator is Mercury and it is squared or opposed by Saturn.
Mutual Application: When two planets apply to a conjunction or aspect with each other rather than one applying to the other. Mutual application occurs when one planet is in direct motion and the other is in retrograde motion.
For example, Saturn in Aries is in mutual reception by sign rulership with Mars in Capricorn since Mars rules Aries and Saturn rules Capricorn.
Nativity (Natal Chart): An astrological chart erected for the moment a person was born.
Natures of the Planets: Planets are either hot or cold and either moist or dry.
These natures derive from the four natural humours (choleric, sanguine, melancholy and phlegmatic) and can be used to gain a better description of the person signified by a particular planet or zodiac sign as shown in the table on the right.
Nodes of the Moon: The degree of the zodiac where the Moon crosses the ecliptic. The North Node (The Dragon’s Head) signifies good fortune and the South Node (The Dragon’s Tail) bad fortune in traditional astrology.
Obeying Signs: The zodiac signs Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces.
Occidental: A planet which is still below the horizon after the Sun has risen and which sets after the Sun.
Orb: The distance in degrees which a planet is said to cast its light. The orb extends in a sphere around the planet, rather like an aura. The moiety is half the number of degrees of the orb and can be thought of as extending to one side of the planet.
Oriental: A planet which rises while the Sun is still below the horizon and which sets while the Sun is still above the horizon.
Part of Fortune: A calculated point in the chart obtained by taking the absolute zodiac degrees in longitude of the ascendant, adding the absolute zodiac longitude of the Moon and subtracting that of the Sun. This method is used by Lilly whether the chart is for the day or night. Other astrologers reverse the calculation at night, adding the position of the Sun to the Ascendant and subtracting that of the Moon, a practice which Lilly explicitly condemns.
Partile (Partill) Aspect: An aspect which occurs when both planets are in the same numerical degree of the zodiac. For example, Saturn at 12 13’ Sagittarius is in partile trine with Jupiter at 12 45’ Leo since both planets are in the thirteenth degree of their respective zodiac signs. Two planets in a partill aspect in a horary often indicate that perfection will be achieved even though, as in this case, the exact aspect has passed and Jupiter is separating from its trine with Saturn.
Peregrine: A planet with no essential dignity in the degree of the zodiac which it occupies.
Perfection: Obtaining of a positive answer to a horary question by one of a variety of means.
Planet: From the Greek word meaning “wanderer.” In contrast to the fixed stars of the zodiac which hardly change their position from year to year the planets shift their position with varying degrees of speed when viewed against the background of the zodiac. The seven planets in traditional astrology are Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury and the Moon.
The Sun and Moon are more correctly called luminaries since they are much brighter than the other five planets.
The fastest body is the Moon which completes its passage through the twelve zodiac signs in approximately 27 days while the slowest, Saturn, takes over 29 years to cover the same distance.
For keywords describing the astrological meanings of each of the planets click here
Planetary Hours: A system whereby each day is divided into twenty four ‘hours,’ the daytime hours being one twelfth of the time from sunrise to sunset and the night-time hours being one twelfth of the time between sunset and sunrise. Each ‘hour’ has a planet to rule over it, this planet being found in a rotational order.
Planetary Strength: A system whereby points are awarded or deducted according to the dignities and debilities of each of the planets. These points are then totalled to find the strength of each planet.
The scores fall within a range from about -25 to +30 and a score of above +10 is considered to show a planet which is strong.
The Sun and Moon have a smaller range of scores since they do not participate in a number of conditions for which points are awarded or deducted.
Platick Aspect: an aspect made by two planets according to the signs in which they are positioned, regardless of the distance between them in degrees. For example, Sun in three degrees of Taurus makes a platick trine with Venus in 25 degrees of Virgo as Virgo and Taurus are four signs (120 degrees) distant.
Progression: Click here for explanation.
Ptolemaic Aspect: The sextile (60 degrees), square (90 degrees), trine (120 degrees) and opposition (180 degrees) together with the conjunction were the only aspects used by Ptolemy from whom much of Lilly’s work is descended.
Querent: The person who asks a horary question of the astrologer
Quesited: The subject matter in a horary question. For example, in a question about an overseas journey the ninth house is the house of the quesited since it rules the subject of the question. Every question involves a querent, who asks the question, and a house of the quesited which indicates the subject concerning him.
Radical: Before a horary chart is judged the chart must be examined to see if it is radical and fit for judgement. This status is determined by applying the Considerations Before Judgement. If there are no Considerations present or if their presence can be satisfactorily explained as descriptive, for example, then the chart may be considered radical.
Refrenation: One of the ways in which perfection is denied in a horary question; it occurs when one significator applies to another but turns retrograde before completing the aspect thus “refraining” from the aspect.
Regulus: One of the most powerful of the fixed stars, associated with royalty and having a generally beneficial influence although it can also be associated with violent or unfortunate endings. It was at 24 43’ Leo in 1634 and 0 07’ Virgo in 2021.
Retrograde motion: The apparent backward movement of a planet through the sky. In the case of a superior planet it occurs when the earth is overtaking the planet in its orbit around the Sun; the earth is therefore in a direct line between the planet and the Sun which will show as an opposition in the chart between the planet and the Sun.
In the case of an inferior planet retrogradation occurs as the planet overtakes the earth in its orbit around the Sun from the point where it is West of the Sun (occidental) to the point where it is East of the Sun (oriental). Retrogradation occurs for different periods of time according to the different planets.
Ruler: Each sign is ruled by a planet. This is considered the highest level of essential dignity. These rulerships became part of astrology at an early stage so the recently discovered planets – Uranus, Neptune and Pluto – are not featured in the scheme. Although modern astrologers have assigned rulerships to them this breaks the symmetry of the original scheme (see diagram at right) and the grounds for some of the assignments are open to debate.
The sign at the beginning of each house and its planetary ruler will rule that house in the chart. Much may be learned about the affairs of the house from the placement and strength of that planet.
Each planet will also be a “natural ruler” of certain matter e.g. Mercury is the natural ruler of communications and Saturn is the natural ruler of bones. Con-significators are the planet and sign which are the natural rulers of a particular house in a chart.
Separation: This is the reverse of application and describes the situation where one planet is moving away from another after perfecting a conjunction or aspect. Separation continues until both planets are out of each other’s orbs.
Short Ascension: The signs from Capricorn to Gemini for charts in the Northern hemisphere (Cancer to Sagittarius in the Southern hemisphere). Due to the inclination of the earth’s axis these signs appear for a shorter time on the ascendant than the signs of long ascension.
When an aspect occurs between two planets, both of which are in signs of short ascension, they can also be thought of as the next smallest aspect. (a square becomes a sextile and a trine becomes a square).
Significator: A planet or zodiac sign in the chart symbolising a particular person or subject.
Sinister Aspect: an aspect cast by one planet to another against the order which the signs proceed across the sky in the Northern Hemisphere, for example, since Aries precedes Cancer, Venus in Aries would cast a sinister square to Mars in Cancer.
Solar Eclipse: Each month, at the time of the New Moon, the Sun and the Moon are in the same degree of longitude of the zodiac. Although the Sun always travels exactly on the ecliptic the Moon is usually either north or south of the ecliptic. Twice a year the Moon crosses the ecliptic and at the nearest New Moon to this crossing the Sun and Moon will therefore have the same degree of longitude and the same degree of latitude to the ecliptic (zero). The Moon obscures the light of the Sun causing a Solar Eclipse which can result in darkness in the middle of the day.
Solstice Points: Zero degrees of Cancer and zero degrees Capricorn. The Sun is in these degrees at the time of the Summer and Winter Solstice respectively.
Station: The point at which a planet changes the direction of its motion. The first station occurs when a planet changes from direct to retrograde motion and the second station occurs when a planet changes from retrograde motion to direct motion.
Superior Planet: In traditional astrology this refers to Mars, Jupiter and Saturn since their orbits were seen to lie outside that of the Sun as they took longer to move across the sky.
It was thus perceived - in a geocentric model - that they took longer to orbit the earth.
In a heliocentric model as we now understand the solar system these planets lie further away from the Sun than the earth. Uranus, Neptune and Pluto would therefore also be considered to be superior planets.
Term: The fourth highest level of essential dignity.
Table of Dignities: A table which adds the total of the essential and accidental dignities for each planet. Planets are awarded or deducted a varying number of points according to the strength or weakness of each attribute e.g. +5 for a planet being in the sign it rules and – 5 for being in the twelfth house. There are more than twenty different qualities to be considered.
Transit: Click here for explanation
Tropical Signs: Cancer and Capricorn. Also known as solstitial signs since they begin at the moment of the summer and winter solstice respectively.
Turned Houses: A technique whereby the chart is rotated to the house of another person signified in a chart so that that house becomes their ascendant and other houses relating to that person are found by reference to that house.
For example, a person’s father is shown by the fourth house of their natal chart so the finances of the father will be shown by the fifth house since the second house rules finances and the fifth house is the second house from the fourth (the father).
Under the Sunbeams: This occurs when a planet is between 8 30' and 17 00' distant from the Sun and in the same sign of the zodiac. It is therefore weakened by being too close to the Sun's heat but not as much as if it were combust.
Via Combusta: (The Burned Way) Thirty degrees of the zodiac from fifteen degrees of Libra to fifteen degrees of Scorpio.
This was traditionally viewed as an area of ill fortune and when the Moon is placed in this area in a chart it is a Consideration Before Judgement.
This sometimes means that the chart is unsafe to judge but can also be very descriptive of the distress of the querent or the danger of the situation.
Void of Course: This is most frequently referred to in respect of the Moon although it can refer to any planet. It describes the state of the Moon when it has separated from one planetary aspect and is not yet making another application to another planet. It is of much more importance in horary questions and is not much used in natal astrology.
When the Moon is void of course in a horary question it frequently means that nothing will come of the matter under enquiry.
The term is frequently misunderstood and defined as the state of the Moon after it has made its last aspect in a sign. If the Moon is applying to an aspect with another planet it is not void of course even if the aspect is not exact until after the Moon has changed sign.
Water Signs: Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces
Zodiac: The constellations which are placed along the ecliptic and which are used to define the location of the various planets in their journey across the sky.
For keywords describing the astrological meanings of each of the signs of the zodiac click here
© Jonathon Clark 2021