Glossary of Astrological Terms
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- Almuten- A Latin transliteration from the Arabic word "al-mubtazz" meaning "victor". The almuten is a planet that has the most authority in a specific degree of the zodiac based on the full scheme of classical dignities. Planets receive points based on the level of dignity they hold in that degree with the domicile ruler getting 5, the exaltation ruler getting 4, the triplicity ruler receiving 3, the term ruler getting 2, and the face ruler being awarded 1 point. Whoever has the highest total is declared the almuten.
As an example, in the sign Libra, Venus is typically seen as the planet with the most authority as she is the domicile ruler (5 pts). However, in diurnal charts, Saturn would be the almuten of every degree in Libra (Saturn would tie with Venus for almuten of 20-27 Libra as these are her terms and she would also have 7 points here) as he is the exaltation ruler (4 pts) of Libra and the triplicity lord (3 pts) of air signs during the day.
The technique is, of course, not without its controversy. Primarily over whether or not to use a weighted or flat system of scoring. The example given above is an example of a weighted scoring system where the different levels of dignity receive different point totals depending on where the dignity falls in the hierarchy; domicile the most, face the least. A flat scoring system, by contrast, counts every planet once and the almuten is the planet that has the most repetition. Historically, Hellenistic astrologers utilized a flat scoring system and the Arabs introduced the weighted system around the transition into the medieval period.
Another controversy is specifically in regards to the triplicity lords of the degrees and whether or not the out of sect and participatory ruler should also be counted. Contemporary classical astrologers tend to be split on the issue with many current teachers teaching its inclusion. However, Bonatti and al-Qabisi give an example of calculating the almuten of a degree in Aries in their work (technically al-Qabisi gives it and Bonatti later just copies the same example) and neither reference Jupiter as anything other than the term lord of the degree, counting only the Sun as triplicity ruler.
- Almuten of the Figure- The planet that has the most dignity in the degrees of the Sun, Moon, Ascendant, Lot of Fortune, and prenatal lunation. This planet is said to be related to the soul of the native and is used to help identify the Guardian Daimon. There are, of course, alternative calculations to determine the Almuten of the Figure proposed throughout the tradition, please see The Ruler of the Chart for more information.
- Anareta- From the Greek "αναιρετης" literally "murderer, destroyer". The killing planet. Used within the context of length of life techniques to indicate the planet that will likely signify the end of an individual's life, usually identified as the planet initiating a critical direction during a vulnerable time period.
Not to be confused with the modern utilization of the term "anaretic" which is used to designate the final degree of a sign. This concept is also referred to as a "critical degree". It may be related to the fact that the last term of every sign is ruled by a malefic planet, but there is nothing to specifically implicate the final degree as any more difficult or harmful than any other malefic ruled term degree. This definition of the term is a modern interpolation.
- Aries- The first sign of the zodiac, represented by the figure of the ram. A masculine/diurnal, cardinal, fire sign ruled by Mars and the exaltation of the Sun.
- Aspect- A geometric relationship between two planets expressed in the number of degrees the planets are distant from one another and the shape they inscribe on the celestial sphere behind them. Classically, aspects are associated very heavily with both optical science and geometry and the aspectual relationship between two planets is described with words synonymous with sight such as planets "seeing" or "regarding" one another. Each of the aspects are also associated with a particular planetary nature and shape; the sextile is associated with Venus and the hexagon, squares are associated with Mars and the square, trines are associated with Jupiter and the triangle, and the opposition is associated with Saturn and the line. The conjunction is not technically an aspect in the strictest sense of the term, but is often treated like one. Please see the entries for the individual aspects for further information.
- Aquarius- The eleventh sign of the zodiac, represented by the figure of the water bearer. A masculine/diurnal, fixed, air sign ruled by Saturn.
- Beastial- A type of sign expression characterized by quick and socially unacceptable mannerisms and emotive reactions. The beastial signs are those with the image of more aggressive animals; Aries and the first half of Sagittarius.
- Benefic- From the Greek "agathapois" literally meaning "good doer". Most often used as a title to refer to the planets Jupiter and Venus. These planets are conducive towards growth and are stabilizing influences. They are generally helpful to the areas of a chart they are associated with and can even alleviate the difficult placements of other planets if they are configured to them properly.
- Bicorporal- A sign whose image is of two figures (like Gemini) or whose single image is a split figure (Sagittarius). These signs are adaptable and can often assume many forms or indicate a multiplicity. Gemini is the image of two men, Virgo the image of a woman with wings (thus half-woman, half-bird) or a woman with a bird, Sagittarius is half-man, half-horse, and Pisces is two fish.
- Cancer- The fourth sign of the zodiac, represented by the figure of the crab. A feminine/nocturnal, cardinal, water sign ruled by the Moon and the exaltation of Jupiter.
- Capricorn- The tenth sign of the zodiac, represented by the figure of the goatfish. A feminine/nocturnal, cardinal, earth sign ruled by Saturn and the exaltation of Mars.
- Cardinal- A modality of the signs that is indicative of activity, energy, and forward motion but with a tendency to run out of steam. Within certain contexts cardinal signs can indicate events that move forward quickly, but do not last a long time. This makes an emphasis on cardinal signs unattractive in marriages and construction. The cardinal signs are Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn. Cardinal signs are those that initiate a new season when the Sun enters them. The first day of Spring occurs when the Sun moves into Aries, the Sun enters Cancer on the first day of Summer, Libra on the first day of Autumn, and Capricorn on the first day of Winter. Also called Moveable.
- Celestial Spheres- A set of ten (sometimes nine, sometimes eight) concentric spheres, each housing a particular celestial influence. The first seven house one of the planets, the eighth houses the fixed stars, the ninth the signs of the zodiac, and the final celestial sphere is called the Prime Mover which is responsible for the daily rotation that constitutes the night/day cycle. Medieval philosophy postulated the spheres were crystalline in substance or else made of a fifth element. The term "celestial sphere" may also be used to refer to the whole of the sky as it envelopes the Earth.
- Chaldean Order- A system of ordering the planets based on the average speed that each planet moves. The system starts with the slowest planet (Saturn) and moves to the quickest (Moon). The Chaldean Order is Saturn -> Jupiter -> Mars -> Sun -> Venus -> Mercury -> Moon. This organizational system is used to set the planets into their spheres in the Ptolemaic or Geocentric model of the universe. Please see The Medieval Universe for more information.
- Constellation- An image projected onto groupings of stars by humans. Twelve star groups that cross the ecliptic are called "zodiac constellations". These constellations should not be confused with the zodiac signs that share their name as a sign and a constellation are not the same thing.
- Critical Days- A medical astrological technique that is used to indicate and predict the outcome of the crisis or turning points in the course of an illness. The technique is utilized in conjunction with either a horary chart whose question is about an illness or a decumbiture chart.
The technique looks to future charts for the time when the Moon moves to the exact square or opposition to her position in the horary or decumbiture chart. When these configurations occur, that period of time is a critical day and can indicate rapid and significant developments in the course of the illness such as the infirm person's condition improving or deteriorating. Of particular concern are the Moon's aspects in the critical days chart; aspects with benefics can indicate stabilization and recovery while aspects with malefics can indicate a worsening condition.
The critical days technique was employed by non-astrologer physicians and appears to have been developed in response to paroxysms that characterized several malaria type illnesses. These paroxysms occurred regularly on the third or fourth day (which is why they were designated names like tertian and quatrain fevers) and it would not have taken astrologers long to see a connection between these recurrent intervals and the phases of the Moon. Please see Critical Days Theory or Crisis Alert: The Moon, Illness, and Critical Days for more information.
- Decumbiture- From the Latin "decumbo" which means "to lie down or fall". The decumbiture is a specialized chart of medical astrological technique which is drawn up for the first moment the patient feels so overtaken by their illness they must lie down. This chart can be used to diagnose the disease, develop a prognosis, and create and administer treatments.
The time of an individual first taking to bed is often not available, in such cases there are other times which may also be used for the decumbiture chart. The inital contact of a medical professional is a popular alternative since, historically, patients would take samples of their urine to the doctor for assistance in diagnosis. Astrological physicians would often take this moment as constituting a decumbiture chart.
- Domesticated- A type of sign expression typified by slow and calm reactions to emotional situations, but tend to struggle with coming up with the right words to accurately express their thoughts and feelings. The domesticated signs are those with the image of a tamed or docile beast; Taurus and Capricorn.
- Domicile- The most powerful form of essential dignity a planet can have. These placements manifest as strong and lasting planetary effects. Usually referred to as "rulership" in contemporary astrological practice. The Sun is in domicile in Leo, for example. For more information about domiciles and the classical dignity scheme in general, please see Essential Dignities and Debilities of the Planets
Essential Dignity/Debility- A qualitative measurement of planetary power to effect signification in a chart based solely on a planet's relationship to the degree of the zodiac that it occupies. Planets in higher degrees of essential dignity are more capable of bringing about what they signify in a good way or completely. For example, having a dignified ruler of the first house means that planet will be more successful in providing health.
- Exaltation- A form of essential dignity, considered second best behind domicile; Jupiter in Cancer or the Moon in Taurus is an example of a planet in exaltation. For more information about exaltation and the classical dignity scheme in general, please see Essential Dignities and Debilities of the Planets. Planets in their exaltation are often characterized as the honored guests in someone else's home. Practically, these positions often manifest as reaching great heights, but are inconsistent in their ability to provide what they promise, making them something like planetary rollercoasters. This lack of stability is the reason why astrologers regard exaltation as generally less desirable than domicile.
- Face- The weakest form of planetary dignity, often characterized as someone who is about to be "thrown out of doors". Not a very effective form of dignity by itself. The Faces are themselves derived from the Decans (which is a name they are often referred to as), an Egyptian Calendric system of 10 day periods of time. These often served religious or ritual significance.
- Feral- A type of sign expression typified by visceral, emotive reactions. Often seen as bullying or snobbish in their relationships with others. The feral signs are those with the image of a wild animal; Leo and the last half of Sagittarius.
- Fertile- A sign that indicates growth or multiplicity, typically in regards to children and pregnancy. The fertile signs are Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces; signs whose animal images give birth to a great multitude of offspring at once.
- Fixed- A modality of the signs that indicates inertia, permanence, stability, and - in certain contexts - honesty and uprightness. The fixed signs are Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius. These signs are called fixed because the Sun is in these signs when the seasons are at their height and the weather patterns are most uniform to those seasons; Sun in Taurus in the middle of spring, in Leo in the middle of Summer, in Scorpio in the middle of Autumn, and in Aquarius in the middle of winter.
- Fixed Stars- Stars in the night sky that are not planets, like Sirius, Canopus, Polaris, etc. These stars are called fixed, not because they lack motion, but because they all move as a unit as opposed to the individual paths or orbits that the seven planets possess. Fixed stars move one degree of celestial longitude every 72 years.
- Gemini- The third sign of the zodaic, represented by the figure of the twins. A masculine/diurnal, mutable, barren, humane, air sign ruled by Mercury.
- Geocentric- A method of ordering the universe that places the Earth in the center with the planets located as if they were orbiting around it. This method relies heavily on human sense perception as humans physically see the planets and stars rise, culminate, and set around them. This is, of course, an illusion caused by the slow and uniform rotation of the Earth on its axis. The philosophy of the system is very relevant to a functional astrology which seeks to understand the celestial influences on terrestrial events and so prioritizes how the Earth sees or experiences the location of the planets and their relationships to one another. Please see The Ancient Universe for more information regarding the classical geocentric system.
- Heliocentric- A method of ordering the universe that places the Sun in the middle with the planets - Earth included - orbiting it. The heliocentric model more correctly orders the solar system based on a more objective view of the cosmos. Astrology, though, is built around a specific, Earth-based experience of the cosmos around it and humanity's place within it which leads to the general dismissal of the heliocentric system as non-functional for the utilization of astrological technique.
- Horary- One of the branches of classical astrology, this branch focuses specifically on an astrological chart cast for the moment an astrologer understands a question. The chart and planetary positions within it are then used to assign planets signification of actors within the situation and provide insight and guidance to the individual who asked the question. Please see the Horary Astrology page for more detailed information.
- Humane- A type of sign expression characterized by rational, unemotional responses. Also characterized as civilized, refined, and well-mannered. Humane signs are able to clearly and concisely put things into words and are considered to be the best types of communicators. The humane signs are Gemini, Virgo, Libra, and Aquarius.
- Jupiter- The sixth planet, second in Chaldean Order. The greater benefic whose nature is to stabilize and allow. His nature is hot and moist and he's a temperate planet which is conducive towards growth and development.
Leo- The fifth sign of the zodiac represented by the image of the lion. A masculine/diurnal, fixed, fire, barren, feral sign ruled by the Sun.
Libra- The seventh sign of the zodiac represented by the image of the scales. A masculine/diurnal, cardinal, air, humane, violent sign ruled by Venus and the exaltation of Saturn.
Libra- The seventh sign of the zodiac represented by the image of the scales. A masculine/diurnal, cardinal, air, humane, violent sign ruled by Venus and the exaltation of Saturn.
- Malefic- From the Greek "kakopoios" literally meaning "bad doer". Most often used as a title to refer to the planets Saturn and Mars. These planets are conducive towards decay and are disrupting influences. They generally hinder the areas of a chart they are associated with and can even afflict other planets if they are configured to them properly.
- Mars- The fifth planet, third in the Chaldean Order. The lesser malefic whose nature is to sever and separate. Mars is a masculine, nocturnal planet whose excessively hot and dry nature makes him hostile towards growth.
- Mercury- The second planet, sixth in the Chaldean Order. A neutral planet who takes on the properties of the planet to whom it has the closest aspectual relationship (a masculine planet when with another masculine planet, a feminine planet when in aspect to another feminine planet; malefic with malefics, benefic with benefics) and also changes sect depending on which side of the Sun it is on (if Mercury rises before the Sun it is diurnal, if Mercury sets after the Sun it is nocturnal). Mercury's nature is to contest and destabilize and is often regarded as a slightly malefic influence due to its inconsistency.
- Moon- The first planet, seventh in the Chaldean Order. The Moon is more of a neutral planet akin to Mercury, she is benefic when she is waxing and more malefic when she is waning. Her nature is to collect.
The Moon's position in the cosmos is a very special one and her relationship between the Earth and sky is very pivotal for the classical philosophical mechanism behind astrology and other related arts and techniques. For more information on the Moon and her role in astrology, magic, and her special status among the planets please see Aristotelian Cosmology.
- Mutable- A modaltiy of the signs indicative of inconsistnency, blending, and repetitive motion. These characteristics mimic the back-and-forth weather patterns associated with the Sun in these signs when one season begins to turn into another. The mutable signs are Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, and Pisces. The Sun is in Gemini when Spring is becoming Summer, in Virgo when Summer is becoming Autumn, in Sagittarius when Autumn is becoming Winter, and Pisces when Winter is becoming Spring. These signs are also sometimes called "common".
- Mute- A type of sign expression which struggles to properly convey its meaning and intention or give words to feelings and thoughts. The mute signs are those whose image does not make a sound; Cancer the crab, Scorpio the scorpion, and Pisces the fish.
- Neptune- An outer planet, discovered in 1846. Modern astrology utilizes Neptune as the ruler of the sign Pisces.
- Opposition - An aspectual relationship between two planets positioned roughly 180° or six signs apart. This relationship is considered to be the most difficult and adversarial of the aspects due to the shape carved between two planets in this type of configuration; the line which divides the celestial sphere in half. The opposition is also considered to be of the nature of the planet Saturn as both of Saturn's domiciles (Aquarius and Capricorn) experience this relationship with the domiciles of the Sun and Moon.
- Pisces - The twelfth sign of he zodiac, represented by the image of two fish. A feminine/nocturnal, mutable, water sign ruled by Jupiter and the exaltation of Venus.
- Pluto- Once the outermost planet in the solar system, discovered in 1930. Demoted to dwarf planet in 2006. Modern astrologies utilize Pluto as the ruler of the sign Scorpio.
- Precession- A phenomenon caused by the axial rotation of the Earth where the fixed stars appear to move backwards relative to the fixed perspective of the Earth. This causes the tropical signs of the zodiac to be misaligned from the constellations which share their name.
Precession of the Equinoxes often appears in news articles attempting to denounce astrology by casting astrologers as ignorant of precession and suggesting that the times commonly associated with the Sun's placement in a sign are off. This is because astronomers force a conflation between the signs of the zodiac and those constellations which share their names. Historically, the signs of the tropical zodiac and the constellations have never been seen as one unit. The sidereal zodiac follows the adjustment of precession to keep itself more aligned with the constellations, but even this periodic adjustment is not enough to perfectly match the even zodiac signs with their irregular constellational counterparts.
- Prime Mover - The outermost celestial sphere which rotates once a day and carries the other spheres with it. The motion of this sphere is responsible for diurnal motion which carries the stars and planets as they rise and set across the sky.
- Qualities- The four basic, sub-elemental building blocks of the world; heat, coldness, moisture, and dryness. Initially, the Greek philosopher Empedocles postulated that the four elements were the basic building blocks of the universe, but this idea fell out of favor and was eventually replaced by the Aristotelian and Hippocratic qualities.
Each quality has its own unique characteristics, such as heat's tendency to rise or dryness's proclivity to separate and the four qualities combine with one another to create the four elements (heat and moisture make air, heat and dryness make fire, coldness and dryness create earth, and coldness and moisture give birth to water) which then function as combinations of the characteristics of its constituent qualities.
While used heavily within the context of medicine, the qualities are also heavily relied upon in astrology where the signs and planets are all characterized as being some element or combination of qualities; Moon and Venus are cold and wet; Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius are hot and dry. For more information about the qualities and their use in astrology, please see Medieval Temperament Theory.
- Reception- A technique that alters the aspectual relationship between two planets in a positive or assisting manner. Reception occurs when-ever planet A aspects planet B from one of its (planet B's) places of dignity, such as the Moon in Libra aspecting Venus. In this example, Venus is said to receive the Moon into her domicile and Venus works in a helpful or agreeable manner towards the Moon. Typically, reception is more helpful when the planet that is being applied to receives the planet that is applying to it, but relationships where the applying planet receives the planet it is applying to is also helpful in strengthening the committment of one planet towards the other. For a more indepth exploration of reception and related topics, please see the digital lecture Reception: How to be the Host with the Most
- Sagittarius- The ninth sign of the zodiac represented by the image of the centaur archer. A masculine/diurnal, mutable, fire sign ruled by Jupiter.
- Saturn- The seventh planet, first in the Chaldean Order. The Greater Malefic whose nature is to reject and exclude. Saturn's nature is excessively cold and dry making him inconducive towards growth.
- Scorpio- The eighth sign of the zodiac represented by the image of the scorpion. A feminine/nocturnal, fixed, water sign ruled by Mars.
- Sextile- An aspectual relationship between two planets positioned roughly 60° or two signs apart. The sextile is considered a helpful and friendly aspect. This aspect is also referred to as "hexagonal" or "the hexagon" in reference to the geometrical shape that a series of sextiles make on the celestial sphere. Sextiles are of the nature of the planet Venus as both of Venus's domiciles (Taurus and Libra) share this 60° relationship with the domiciles of the Sun and Moon.
- Sidereal Zodiac- A method of zodiacal calculation which measures the beginning of the zodiac from opposite the fixed star Spica (the lahiri ayanamsa). This method more closely maintains the relationship between the starting point of the zodiac and the beginning of the constellation Aries. Sidereal zodiacal calculations are most often a defining characteristic of Vedic or Jyotish astrology.
- Sign- A standardized 30 degree division of the ecliptic named after a constellation such as Aries, Taurus, Gemini, etc.
Constellations and signs are often confused for one another due to the naming convention, but they are not and have never been understood to be the same thing. Constellations are the visible groupings of the stars. These are uneven and cover unequal portions of the ecliptic which vary wildly. Some constellations are very small and cover only about 8 degrees, while others are quite large and span over 45 degrees. The signs, by comparison, are a segments of a celestial measuring system which seeks to track and predict the motions of the planets. There are 12 signs covering the 360 degree sky, resulting in each sign covering 30 degrees. The constellations are physical images, while the signs are mathematical objects.
- Square- An aspectual relationship between two planets positioned roughly 90° or three signs apart. The square is a difficult aspect, often characterized to be filled with tension. It is also referred to as the "quartile" as 90° spans 1/4th of the zodiac. The square is of the nature of the planet Mars as both of Mars's domiciles (Aries and Scorpio) have a 90° relationship with the domiciles of the Sun and Moon.
- Sublunar Sphere- The lowest level in the geocentric universe model. This sphere contains everything that lies below the sphere of the Moon, including the living beings that inhabit it. The sublunar sphere also houses the four elements and their constituent qualities, which are the agents for the growth, diminiuation, and change that characterizes life itself. For more information about the importance and uniqueness of the sublunar sphere, please see The Medieval Universe and Aristotelian Cosmology.
- Sun- The fourth planet, also fourth in the Chaldean Order as it is the middle planet, placed in the center like a king around his subjects. The Sun's nature is to select and his nature is a temperate heat and dryness as his heat is self-generative.
- Taurus- The second sign of the zodiac, represented by the image of a bull. A feminine/nocturnal, fixed, earth sign ruled by Venus and the exaltation of the Moon.
- Thema Mundi- A manufactured chart utilized as a teaching tool to showcase and explain various core philosophical ideas about classical astrological practice. This chart was often referred to as a legendarychart for the birth of the world. The Thema Mundi is characterized by the 15° Cancer Ascendant and the placement of the seven visible planets placed in the Egyptian Order in 15° of the signs of their domicile (Moon at 15° Cancer, Sun at 15° Leo, Mercury at 15° Virgo, Venus at 15° Libra, Mars at 15°Scorpio, Jupiter at 15° Sagittarius, and Saturn at 15° Capricorn).
The Thema Mundi is used to instruct students on the nature and philosophy of the planetary domiciles, planetary exaltations, planetary nature, and the nature of the aspects.
- Trine- An aspectual relationship between two planets roughly 120° or 4 signs apart. This relationship creates a triangle shape upon the celestial sphere from which the aspect gets its name. The trine is considered the most helpful and uplifting aspect and is of the nature of Jupiter as both of Jupiter's domiciles (Sagittarius and Pisces) have this 120° relationship with the domiciles of the Sun and Moon.
- Tropical Zodiac- A method of zodiacal calculation which sets the beginning of Aries to coincide with the first day of Spring in the northern hemisphere. This system ties the signs of the zodiac to the seasonal relationship between the Earth and Sun and sets the beginning of Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn with the solstices and equinoxes. Tropical zodiacal calculations are most often a defining characteristic of Western astrology.
- Uranus- An outer planet discovered in 1781. Modern astrology utilizes Uranus as the ruler of Aquarius.
- Venus- The third planet, fifth in the Chaldean Order. The Lesser Benefic whose nature is to reconcile and unify. She is temperately cool and moist, which makes her conducive towards growth, harmony, and stability.
- Virgo- The sixth sign of the zodiac represented by the image of a woman either with a bird or with wings herself. A feminine/nocturnal, mutable, earth sign which is ruled by and the exaltation of Mercury.