Skyscript home page

Classical Origins
Application & the Development of Orbs
Moiety of the Orb
Dexter & Sinister
The Dominating Planet
Notes & References
About the Author

Modern use of orbs attributes them to the aspects but traditionally they belonged to the planets - larger orbs were given to the most important planets.

Planetary orbs gave way to simpler-to-calculate aspectual orbs around the middle of the 1900s, after the discovery of Pluto.

Early 20th century astrologers used the traditional planetary orbs for the visible planets and a standard 5° orb for the new planets and all other non-luminous points.

Fixed stars are given orbs of between 1° and 7°, depending upon brilliance and their position in the chart.

The Classical Origin & Traditional Use of Aspects, by Deborah Houlding

"They also think that a planet is good when it looks at such and such another planet, but if it looks at a different one, he deteriorates, and that it makes a difference whether he looks at him in such an aspect or another."
Plotinus, Enneads, 2.3.1

Classical Origins

The classical philosophies of numerology and geometry - which draw meaning from physical appearance, shape and form - have directly influenced the astrological interpretation of aspects. In classical astrology, where two or more planets are visible in an aspectual relationship, the nature of that relationship is determined by the pattern formed against the backdrop of the heavenly sphere. Planets separated by an angle of 120° for example, form one side of a triangle when marked out across the zodiac; so it is through the meaning associated with the shape of the triangle and its identification with number three that we understand the core principle expressed by their connection.

Marcus Manilius (c. 10 AD) explained in his Astronomica how triangles inscribed within the circle of the zodiac group the signs into four sets of Triplicities ('threes') and three sets of Quadruplicities ('fours'). Similarly, alternate signs are related by the figure of the hexagon, and opposing signs are divided by the line. Manilius's text is steeped in the symbolism of classical neo-Pythagoreanism and perfectly illustrates how our contemporary approach to 'angular relationships' is based primarily upon the way that they express a partition or connection within a universal whole.

The shapes created by Triplicities & Quadruplicities

The word 'aspect' comes from the Latin aspicio, 'to regard'. It is first encountered during the Middle Ages but before this similar words were used to say that the planets 'regarded', 'beheld', 'viewed', 'looked at', 'witnessed' or 'saw' each other. Many traditional texts tell us that it is not correct to call the conjunction an aspect, the reason being that conjoining planets do not meet by sight, but join together in physical reality. The term is usually prefixed by the word corporeal ('bodily'), emphasising that the union is an actual one rather than a blending of rays. Some astrologers argued that the term was only appropriate when the event occurred upon similar parallels of celestial latitude, [1] but generally it was liberally applied to planets joined only by celestial longitude, as it is today, its effect being to combine the influence of the planets involved.

Most of today's minor aspects were not recognised in ancient astrology. The fact that they are unable to inscribe a shape which is enclosed and complete within the zodiac wheel invalidates them according to their philosophical foundation. Only two of the minor aspects have a classical history: the semi-sextile  (glyph for semi-sextile), which fulfils this requirement; and the inconjunct (Glyph for inconjunct) - also known as the quincunx - which acquired an inverted significance due to the fact that it represents an area where no aspectual relationship is possible (see below).

For the most part the semi-sextile was dismissed as too weak to be of noticeable influence, the reason being that the angle between the signs is too obtuse to allow a clear line of vision between the planets that reside within them: 'Their attentions are bestowed on distant signs which they can see', explained Manilius.[2] Where it was used, the aspect was taken to imply a condition of vague familiarity; a relationship which was unlikely to bring about a dynamic event unless supported by other testimonies.

Aspect shapes
The shaded areas represent poor visible contact

Inconjunct (literally unconnected) was the name applied to planets placed 150° apart. Unable to inscribe a polygon (enclosed shape) within the wheel of the zodiac, the term itself suggests a state of natural aversion. Such a relationship was considered unfortunate or 'alien' and the planets placed at this geometrical relationship were said to turn away from each other, indicating an almost malevolent lack of sympathy. In classical literature the term ablepton meaning 'not seen' or 'blind' is frequently encountered, as is asyndeton meaning 'unconnected', aversum 'turned away from', and alienum 'unfamiliar'. [3]

Naturally, the trine is the most favourable aspect because harmony and balance are inherent in its shape.[4] It has the ability to facilitate agreement between the planets, and enables them to respond sympathetically to each other. Whether the result is beneficial or not depends entirely upon the planets involved and what they represent - the destructive qualities of a malefic Saturn harmonising with the violent energies of a debilitated Mars may, of course, produce an influence that brings forth calamitous events.

The square, known as the quartile or quadrate, was not an altogether undesirable aspect. While unable to offer the easy agreement of the trine, the fact that the signs have a strong 'sight' of each other means there is recognition and a flow of power between them. Manilius explains that the trigon's power is greater than the quadrate's, but speaks favourably of them both when he says:

And whatever points joined in a series of four the angle favours, and whatever point the straight line marks in its threefold track . . . upon these has nature bestowed federation and common law, mutual goodwill and rights of friendship with each of her. [5]

The square was only taken as unquestionably damaging when a malefic or unfortunate planet was involved, though many texts speak of the need for reception or some other form of familiarity for there to be a positive influence.

Illustrations of the so-called 'bad' aspects being interpreted positively are found throughout the ancient text of Dorotheus of Sidon. Here we are told that it is better to have the Lord of the triplicity of the Moon in a good place with the Moon or in opposition to it or quartile or trine than it is to have the Lord of the triplicity not aspecting the ascendant or the Moon. The latter is a bad indication for that native. [6]

Dorotheus reminds us that the nature of the aspectual relationship depends upon a number of factors, principally the strength, nature, and overall condition of the planets involved. A trine from Jupiter to Venus might indicate fame, he warns, but if Venus is afflicted it will be a notorious infamy caused through disgraceful relationships. Similarly, a square aspect will not harm if both planets are well placed, dignified and receive each other amicably.

Dorotheus refers to the trine as an aspect of much love and to the quartile as one of a medium amount of love. No such friendship is indicated by the opposition; this aspect, based upon the divisive symbolism of number two, is the epitome of separation and enmity. Only occasionally is it taken to represent agreement - usually between conflicting parties who strike up an unstable alliance.

Manilius acknowledged a fundamental similarity between opposing signs because of their common gender, but added that more obvious differences predominate:

... sign facing sign they shine opposed, yet because of their nature they are oft borne in alliance and a mutual sympathy springs up between them, linked as they are by the tie of sex:.... but over this tie the seasons prevail: Cancer resists Capricorn, though females both, since summer conflicts with winter.., wonder not at the signs so situate doing battle.[7]

Not only is it unfriendly, the opposition is a very strong and forceful aspect because the planets have a clear and direct view of each other.

The sextile, which has an obtuse angle, has a relatively weak line of vision and its importance was frequently understated by classical authors.[8] Where it was used, its derivation from number three determined its interpretation. Dorotheus mentions that it is like the trine but weaker. [9]

'Application' & the Development of Orbs

Assuming planets are in direct motion, aspects are cast by swifter planets and received by slower ones. The 'casting' planet is responsible for bringing the influence of the aspect into manifestation, but the strength, dignity and general condition of the receiving planet will dictate its expression. It is also necessary to distinguish between aspects that are applying to perfection and those that are separating from the point of exactness. Since classical times separating aspects have been taken to represent the early life, older people and past events; applying aspects have been used to indicate younger persons (those born after the native), the conditions of later life and future events.

The classical attitude towards aspects and orbs was evidently more relaxed than that of contemporary astrology. The simple rule was that where two signs are in aspect, any planets within those signs are in aspect too, regardless of the specific degrees. Sometimes, sign-cusps were used as limits to the aspect's influence, as we are told in the 12th century text of Ibn Ezra, who claimed that the ancients would not consider a conjunction between two planets, even though they were in orb, unless both were also in the same sign. However, although Ezra wrote about the rule he disagreed with it himself, saying:

If the two planets should be in two signs and each one of them should be in the force of the other's body, they must not be said to be in conjunction, because they are in different signs. That is the opinion of the ancient scientists, but I, Abraham, the compiler of this book, disagree with them. [10]

In practice most traditional astrologers did allow an aspect which crossed the boundaries of the signs where it was close to exactness by degree. Also, even in the classical period, many texts remind the student that reckoning aspects by sign alone will not necessarily maintain the philosophy of the shapes, and that it is more correct to consider the actual degrees. [11]

A planet at 28 degrees Leo, for example, trines a planet at 2 degrees Sagittarius according to the relationship of the signs, but is close to an exact square when the planetary positions are measured from degree to degree. In classical astrology the latter is known as a partile aspect, because it considers the 'parts' (or degrees) rather than the signs. Aspects judged according to the relationship of the signs are called platick, from a term which meant 'plate' or 'broad area'. In later astrology the term partile generally referred to aspects which were exact or near perfection, whereas platick referred to those which were 'loose', or within the limits of their recognised orbs. [12]

Platick and partile aspects

In most of the classical chart judgements that have been preserved in the files of Vettius Valens, standard procedure for calculating aspects appears to have been according to the signs, for he rarely bothered to list planetary positions by degree. Yet certain passages suggest that this simplified approach was only suitable for generalities, and in one example where he refers to a damaging aspect occurring between Taurus and Virgo "because it is in its square, reckoned by degrees" [13] we see that the need for considering planetary aspects independently of the sign-relationship was not entirely ignored.

Orbs originated from a need to determine a limit at which the strength of an aspect calculated by degree overcame the relevance of an aspect calculated according to the signs. It was essentially an attempt to define 'perfection' - the period of the aspect's strongest force. Usually this was interpreted as the degree of exactness, but opinion varied and the 2nd century text of Antiochus mentions 'contact' or "application in the proper sense" as occurring within 3 degrees.[14] The 11th century text of Arabic astrologer Al-Biruni also contains a list of planetary orbs which are reported to be copied from the 3rd century work of Porphyrius.[15] Unfortunately we presently have no clear and unambiguous examples of the use of orbs in classical astrology and can only make a reasoned guess at their development, based on information given in later texts.

The Latin orbis literally means 'circle' or 'sphere', defining a planetary orb as that area of heaven which immediately surrounds it - "vast and full orbed, and then all of a sudden not there at all" - was how Pliny spoke of the Moon.[16] Some authors referred to a planet's orb as the force of its body, perceiving it as a kind of highly charged aura, invisible to the eye, but steeped in the influence of the planet.

We can be fairly confident that the orbs of the Sun and Moon derive from the distance at which obscuration occurs during heliacal phenomena. The Sun's traditional orb of l5-17 degrees is just about the distance at which planets disappear from view when they enter into conjunction with the Sun. The Moon's orb of around 12 degrees is also that which separates the luminaries when the new crescent Moon reappears after conjunction. It becomes visible at a lesser distance than the planets because it is a more luminous body.[17] Such figures can only be approximate because they are affected by the brilliancy of the planet and prevailing weather conditions.

It is possible that all the planetary orbs originate from an early attempt to record heliacal obscurity. The table following shows the figures that the 4th century Roman astrologer Firmicus used to determine by how many degrees planets must be separated from the Sun before they emerge as morning stars, which rise before the Sun, or evening stars which rise after the Sun has set. With the exception of the figure given for Mercury, (which is particularly difficult to view with the naked eye), they bear a close resemblance to the limits given in the compared list of traditional orbs. Abraham ibn Ezra also gives a detailed and illuminating commentary on how application and separation is connected to the individual relationship between a planet and the Sun.[18]

Limit of obscurity by the Sun as defined by Firmicus: II.ix Al-Biruni's orbs (v.436) Elsewhere
[see note]
Sun not listed 15° 17°
Moon not listed 12° 12½°
Mercury 18°
Mars 7½°
Jupiter 12° 12°
Saturn 15° 10°
Note: - One of the most popular lists of orbs, used by the likes of William Lilly and Ibn Ezra. Lilly was never authoritative on the matter of orbs and admitted of the two lists: 'I sometimes use the one and sometimes the other as my memory serves me best'. In practice, he tended to favour the list of Al-Biruni.

Another argument, however, is that the outer limits were not based upon any kind of visual arc at all, but merely upon the strength and superiority of the planets. Hence the outer planets Mars, Jupiter and Saturn have a more prominent influence, and were accordingly given larger orbs than the inferiors Mercury and Venus. The likelihood is that orbs developed out of an attempt to recognize both factors, being based fundamentally upon heliacal emergence but refined to incorporate superiority of effect.

By the time that Al-Biruni wrote his Elements in the Art of Astrology, in the 11th century, opinion was clearly divided on the correct 'limits of completion'. We can see from his commentary the variety of definitions available and the logic behind the systems in use. Some astrologers used a 12 degree allowance either side of all aspects (based on the fact that this is the orb of the Moon); others used a 15 degree allowance (the orb of the Sun); and some used the mean planetary orb of whichever two planets were in aspect. Yet others took their lead from Ptolemy, who in the Tetrabiblos had specified a 5 degree orb for the ascendant, making a case that this should be applied to perfecting aspects as well. Others still preferred an allowance of 6 degrees based upon the fact that, as a fifth of a sign, this is the average length of the planetary terms. [19]

In view of the confusion, it's hardly surprising that the question of orbs was often avoided altogether. One of the earliest texts to address the matter with any kind of detail is that of the French astrologer Claude Dariot (1533-1594). His work offered a clear explanation of how orbs should be determined, and his method became the standard for European Renaissance astrologers. [20]

Moiety of the Orb

As an introduction to the matter of orbs, Dariot first mentions briefly that 'application' may be said to begin 6° from perfection. But he then outlines his preferred system, in which the aspect is decided by the mean orb of the two planets in question. He refers to the orbs as the circles, radiations or beams of the planets "through which they may be joined by either corporal conjunction or aspect". He adheres to the planetary limits specified by Al-Biruni, explaining that the figures refer to the radius of the orb for each planet. Mercury, for example, has a total orb of 14°, extending 7 degrees either side of its body, while the Moon has a 24° orb extending 12° either side. Although there may be some expectation of effect as the planets move towards each other, it is only as Mercury and the Moon 'touch' the middle half of their orbs that completion (what we term application) begins; and at this point the energy of the aspect begins to produce recogniseable effects. This middle region is called the 'moiety' of the orb, moitiĆ© being a 15th century French word derived from the Latin medietas, meaning the medium (i.e., mean-value) or "half". Using Dariot's figures, the moiety for each orb is shown in the table below:

Moiety of the Orb
According to Dariot, Mercury and the Moon enter completion (application) of any aspect at a distance of 9½° degrees - the total of their respective moieties
(Mercury = 3½° + Moon = 6°). From this point on the influence of the aspect can be expected to increase until the stage of 'perfection' where the aspect is exact. Thereafter the aspect begins to separate but the effects are not fully diminished until the planets have passed beyond the moieties of their orb.


Orb radius Moiety Limit
Sun 15° 7½°
Moon 12°
Mercury 3½°
Venus 3½°
Jupiter 4½°
Saturn 4½°

Hence an aspect involving Mercury and Venus begins its completion (or is 'within orb') when the two planets are 7° apart, the total of their respective moieties: 3½° + 3½°. A much larger allowance of 13½° is accepted for the Sun and Moon (7½° + 6°), recognising the greater importance of the luminary bodies. Separation begins to occur as soon as the planets have passed exactness,[21] but the influence of the aspect retains significance until they have separated beyond the moiety of their orbs. Using Dariot's figures, if the Moon and Mercury are separated by 10 degrees, they can no longer be expected to produce a recogniseable effect.

Only within the last century have orbs come to be determined by the nature of the aspect rather than the planets involved, a simplifying process which fails to accept that some planets have a stronger influence than others. Yet if we consider that aspects only characterise the manner in which planetary energies combine, we might appreciate that limits to the effects are more logically deduced from the strength and veracity of the participating planets, rather than the character of the union itself. Even in the mid-1940s, when Sepharial wrote his New Dictionary of Astrology, popular understanding of orbs was still very much in line with the principles of moiety employed by the likes of Dariot and Lilly.

Using Dariot's figures & a standard 5° orb for outer planets **
Sun Moon Mercury Venus Mars Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune Pluto
Sun 13½° 11° 11° 11½° 12° 12° 10° 10° 10°
Moon 13½° 9½° 9½° 10° 10½° 10½° 8½° 8½° 8½°
Mercury 11° 9½° 7½°
Venus 11° 9½° 7½°
Mars 11½° 10° 7½° 7½° 8½° 8½° 6½° 6½° 6½°
Jupiter 12° 10½° 8½°
Saturn 12° 10½° 8½°
Uranus 10° 8½° 6½°
Neptune 10° 8½° 6½°
Pluto 10° 8½° 6½°
** 5° orb may also be applied to angles and all other non-luminous points.

Dexter & Sinister

Trines, squares and sextiles are sometimes called 'two-sided aspects' in traditional works because they can be cast to the left or right of any planet.[22] If a planet is placed in Aries, its square to a planet in Capricorn is called a dexter aspect ('dexter' meaning of the right) and its square to a planet in Cancer is called sinister (of the left). The interpretation of these terms is again linked to Pythagorean philosophy and rests upon the way that the signs view each other. Their sight is said to follow the daily movement of heaven so that dexter describes a natural, forward view, while sinister describes a stained, backward view.

The diagram below demonstrates how dexter and sinister relate to planetary motion. Every day the planets revolve around the Earth from east to west. They appear at the eastern horizon, culminate at the midheaven and disappear from view at the western horizon. The diurnal motion which carries the planets clockwise across the heavens was paramount in traditional astrology, though in modem texts it is virtually ignored. [23] As we have lost much of the geocentric understanding which lies at the basis of our symbolism, emphasis has been thrown instead upon the anti-clockwise movement of the planets through the signs. This describes the astronomical movement of the planets through the zodiac, but loses the perspective of the heavens as they appear from the Earth, and ignores the essential symbolism attached to the polarity of day and night.

Classical astrologers, however, considered diurnal movement central to their art and called it the natural motion of heaven. Manilius explained that as a sign rises, its gaze is directed towards the signs that rose before it, not at those which rise after it. Aries looks forward towards Aquarius by sextile, Capricorn by square and Sagittarius by trine:

Capricorn views Libra, whilst the Ram sees Capricorn ahead and is in turn beheld at an equal distance by the Crab, and the Crab is perceived by Libra's leftward stars as it follows up: for preceding signs are reckoned as right signs. [24]

A dexter aspect is therefore more direct. Because the line of sight is carried by diurnal motion it has a stronger influence than a sinister one and is more likely to produce an uncomplicated, expressive effect. A sinister aspect, because it is issued against the natural movement of heaven and has to 'look backwards', is weaker, distorted, inverted or somewhat debilitated. The terms generally convey something of the ancient and widespread belief that the direction 'right' is manifest, strong and linked to diurnal qualities, while 'left' is hidden, passive and nocturnal. Hence the word sinister, originally used to depict something belonging to the left, has come to mean something that is dark, hidden or in an unnatural state. [25]

Illustration of dexter and sinister and the dominating planet

And they will be even more fortunate if the attendant planets are in dexter aspect
- Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, IV.3

The Dominating Planet

Classical works also tell us that the planet on the right of an aspect (i.e., that which is more forward in diurnal movement) dominates, overcomes or overpowers the one to the left. (In the diagram above the Moon in Aries dominates Mercury in Cancer, while Saturn in Capricorn dominates the Moon.) It is much better to have a benefic dominating a malefic - thereby reducing its power to destroy - than it is to have a malefic overpowering a benefic. For example, Dorotheus tells us that if Jupiter dominates Mars by square, the native will be noble, steadfast, compassionate. But if Mars dominates Jupiter they will be feeble-minded, tiresome, fatigued, slanderous. [26]

Classical astrologers such as Vettius Valens made much use of the dominating planet. In the chart reproduced below he describes how Saturn in Aquarius brought the native a perilous year in which he became ill, had a narrow escape at sea, and a very expensive lawsuit (which, eventually, he won). Valens explains that although Saturn is angular in the 7th, it is dominated by Venus in Libra (by trine) and Jupiter in Scorpio (by square). So, because the benefics overpower Saturn and are in the commanding position, Saturn is restrained from causing serious damage and the man's misfortune was alleviated. [27]

Chart from Vettius Valens 108 AD

In line with this, the 9th, 10th and 11th house from any planet was thought to have the strongest influence over it - especially the 10th house, which dominated the planet in the same way that the Midheaven dominates the Ascendant. Ptolemy refers to this where he says that in the matter of death the only houses that have any power of dominion (besides the ascendant and descendant) are the 9th, 10th and 11th house from the ascendant, which is the point of life. [28]

Notes & References:

  1 ] Ptolemy, in his Tetrabiblos, says on this:

"... a relation is taken to exist whether it happens by bodily conjunction or through one of the traditional aspects, except that with respect to the bodily applications and separations of the heavenly bodies it is of use also to observe their latitudes, in order that only those passages may be accepted which are found to be on the same side of the ecliptic. In the case of applications and separations by aspect, however, such a practice is superfluous, because all rays fall and similarly converge from every direction upon the same point that is, the centre of the Earth."

1.24; Loeb (Robbins translation), p.115.
Back to text

  2 ] Manilius, Astronomica, 2.385-395. See also Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 1.16, (Loeb p.79 & footnote pp.72/73).
Back to text

  3 ] See Firmicus, Matheseos Libri VIII, II.XXII and the translator's 38th note, (Ascella Reprints, London) p.303. Also Greek Horoscopes by Neugebauer & Van-Hoesen, (American Philosophical Soc., Philadelphia, 1959), p.13.
Back to text

  4 ] See 'Classical Use of Triplicities'.
Back to text

  5 ] Astronomica 2.340; (Loeb p.109).
Back to text

  6 ] Dorotheus, Carmen Astrologicum, Bk I. ch.25; (Ascella Reprints p.189).
Back to text

  7 ] Astronomica, 2.4 10; (Loeb p.115).
Back to text

  8 ] See Firmicus, Translator's 39th note (Ascella Reprints p.303).
Back to text

  9 ] Dorotheus, 11.17; (p.22 I).
Back to text

  10 ] lbn Ezra, The Beginning of Wisdom Ch.7; Ascella Reprints, p.209.

Ezra also indicates his opinion, (in Aphorism 36 of Chapter 8), that the conjunction would bring an effect, provided there is no prohibition, after some 'despair'.

If a star is about to enter into conjunction with a second star but, before the conjunction is consummated, the second star leaves for a different sign, and the first star pursues it and overtakes it, and if, before overtaking it, no other star unites with it, then the thing requested will be accomplished after the despair.

See 120 Aphorisms for Astrologers by Ibn Ezra.
Back to text

  11 ] For example, Manilius, (2.305-340):

"And though a man compute a fourth sign from a fourth, the degrees in themselves will cause the wreck of a whole sign. It is therefore not enough to count trigons by signs or to expect a true square from signs at intervals at four".

Aspects made by planets which contradict the relationship of their signs are termed dissociate.
Back to text

  12 ] Thus, William Lilly writes:

There is also a Partill or Platick aspect: Partill aspect is when two Planets are exactly so many degrees from each other as make a perfect aspect: as if Venus be in nine degrees of Aries, and Jupiter in nine degrees of Leo, this is a Partill Trine aspect: So Sun in one degree of Taurus, and Moon in one degree of Cancer, make a Partil Sextile, and this is a strong signe or argument for performance of anything, or that the matter is neer hand concluded when the aspect is so partill, and signifies good; and it's as much a signe of present evill when mischief is threatned.

A Platick Aspect is that which admits of the Orbs or Rayes of two Planets that signifie any matter: As if Venus be in the tenth degree of Taurus, and Saturn in eighteen degrees of Virgo, here Venus hath a Platick Trine, or is in a Platick Trine to Saturn, because she is within the moiyty of both their Orbs; for the moity of Saturn his Rayes or Orbs is five, and of Venus 4, and the distance betwixt them and their perfect aspect is eight degrees. (CA., p.107)

However, see footnote 14, where Lilly defines Partile as within 3 degrees.
Back to text

  13 ] Neugebauer & Van-Hoesen, Greek Horoscopes, p.82.
Back to text

  14 ] The Thesaurus, translated by Robert Schmidt; edited by Robert Hand; published by the Golden Hind Press (1993).
The 17th century astrologer William Lilly also refers to the significance of this 3 degree orb in Merlini Anglici, 1677, saying: "A Partile Aspect comes to pass within the difference of three degrees" - although in Christian Astrology he defines a partile aspect as occuring within the same degree (see footnote 12). It may be significant that he wrote this definition 30 years after the first, suggesting that he may have revised his original understanding of the term.
Back to text

  15 ] Al-Biruni, The Book of Instruction in the Elements of the Art of Astrology, 11th cent., translated by R. Ramsay Wright, (Luzac, 1934). Available as a reprint from Ascella in London or Ballantrae Reprints in Canada.
Back to text

  16 ] Natural History 11.42; (Loeb p.195).
Back to text

  17 ] Traditional sources claim that planets go 'Under the Beams of the Sun' at either 15 or 17 degrees. Lilly mentioned both limits, claiming on p.113 of Christian Astrology that a planet goes under the Sun's Beams at 17 degrees from the Sun, but later contradicting himself in an editorial note to Henry Coley's translation of Guido Bonatus's Anima Astrologiae. He claims there that a planet is more correctly termed 'Under the Sun's Beams' when it is less than 12 degrees from the Sun; and said to be 'going Under the Sun's Beams' when the distance is between 12-15 degrees. (Consideration 53, p.25.)
Back to text

  18 ] The Beginning of Wisdom, Chapter 7.
Back to text

  19 ] For al-Biruni on orbs see ch.s 436-437. 446 & 490.
Back to text

  20 ] Dariot, Ad Astrorum Facilis Introductio. Written in Latin 1557, references here apply to the Fabian Wither English translation 'A Brief and most Easy Introduction to the Astrological Judgement of the Stars', published around 1583.
Back to text

  21 ] William Lilly claims that planets must be removed from each other by at least 6 minutes of arc before they can be said to be in the state of separation (CA., p110). Other authors have claimed that the aspect remains 'perfect' until the planets are separated by 16 minutes or one full degree.
Back to text

  22 ] Al-Biruni adds that when a planet is near the Midheaven and has two sextile or quartile aspects which both fall above the earth, it is said to have two right hands. If they fall below the earth it has two left hands. The indications of the former are success and victory, (Ch. 503).
Back to text

  23 ] Ptolemy, in speaking of the two systems of motion, referred to the daily progress of a star from east to west as the Primum Mobile 'first primary motion' (Almagest 1.8). The 14th century poet Chaucer refers to its importance in The Man of Law's Tale (lines 295-298):

O first motion, cruel firmament,
Driving the stars with thy diurnal sway
And hurling all from east to west,
That naturally would take another way.
Back to text

  24 ] Astronomica, 2.290-295; (Loeb p.105).
Back to text

  25 ] The association of the direction right with light and the solar principle, and the direction left with darkness and the lunar principle explains AlBiruni's additional use of the terms quoted in footnote 22. A planet with 'two arms' falling above the earth is more direct and expressive; beneath the earth it is more subversive and hidden. The direction right (dexter) always implies a manifest and clearly expressed force, whereas left (sinister) implies an internalised force or one which struggles to express itself clearly.
Back to text

  26 ] Carmen Astrologicum, Bk. II.15.14 (p.215).
Back to text

  27 ] O. Neugebauer and H.B. Van-Hoesen, Greek Horoscopes p.104. No. L108,X1.
Back to text

  28 ] Tetrabiblos, III.10.
Back to text


Deborah HouldingDeborah Houlding is the web mistress of the Skyscript site. The past editor of The Traditional Astrologer magazine, and author of The Houses: Temples of the Sky, her articles feature regularly in astrological journals. She has a particular interest in researching the origin and development of astrological technique and as a consulting astrologer specialises in horary. She is the principal of the STA school of traditional horary astrology, which offers courses by correspondence and intensive residential seminars.
© Deborah Houlding.
This article is adapted from work first published in The Traditional Astrologer Magazine, Issue 8, Spring 1995, pp.32-36.
Reproduced online July 2004.

More on Aspects ...