Dexter and Sinister
- these terms are applied to aspects. Dexter aspects are formed against the order of the astrological signs, for example, a planet in Pisces making a sextile to a planet in Capricorn is making a dexter aspect. Sinister aspects are formed in the order of the astrological signs, for example, a planet in Aries making a square to a planet in Cancer is making a sinister square.
Dexter aspects are considered more direct and effective than sinister aspects; Lilly writes of them "Observe the dexter aspect is more forcible than the Sinister" (CA.,p.109).
This may seem strange at first but rests upon an important tenet of astrological philosophy that recognises a planet's daily movement through the sky, from east to west, as a more fundamental movement than its progress through the zodiac.
The term dexter literally means 'of the right' and refers to something on the right hand side; sinister means 'of the left' and refers to something on the left hand side. According to Pythagorean principles, movement towards the right is more natural and direct than movement towards the left (hence the term 'righteous' or the negative undertones given to the word 'sinister' generally). This partly recognises the influence of diurnal motion (by which planets move from left to right), and the fact that in any cycle between two planets, the faster moving planet will cast its aspect to the other on the right hand side whilst the cycle is waxing (suggesting growth and vigour), and to the left hand side when the cycle is waning (suggesting retirement and weakness). A 'dexter aspect' is therefore said to be more forceful and effective than a sinister one. Dexter aspects are formed in keeping with diurnal revolution (for example, a planet in Pisces applying to a sextile of a planet in Capricorn); sinister aspects are formed against diurnal revolution (for example, a planet in Pisces making a sextile to a planet in Taurus).
For a fuller explanation and diagram refer to the section 'Dexter & Sinister'
in the article The Classical Origin and Traditional Use of Aspects.
© Deborah Houlding