Saturday, September 06, 2014

Matters of Degree


Knowledge is invariably a matter of degree: you cannot put your finger upon even the simplest datum and say this we know.
(T. S. Eliot)


In trying to get my head around the concept of degrees - in relation to astrology and the zodiac circle, I decided to begin at the beginning - a very good place to start:

The word 'degree' came originally from Middle English via Old French (12/13 century) - degré (a stair step, rank, position etc.) And via Vulgar Latin degradus (a step); Late Latin degradare; from Latin de- down + gradus (step). See here.

The division of a circle into 360 degrees was known in ancient Babylon and Egypt, perhaps from the daily motion of the sun through the zodiac in the course of a year.
See Wikipedia
A 360th part of the circumference of a circle, which part is taken as the principal unit of measure for arcs and angles. The degree is divided into 60 minutes and the minute into 60 seconds.

The original motivation for choosing the degree as a unit of rotations and angles is unknown. One theory states that it is related to the fact that 360 is approximately the number of days in a year. Ancient astronomers noticed that the sun, which follows through the ecliptic path over the course of the year, seems to advance in its path by approximately one degree each day. Some ancient calendars, such as the Persian calendar, used 360 days for a year. The use of a calendar with 360 days may be related to the use of sexagesimal numbers................
More theories at the Wikipedia link above.

So - however we arrived at this, we have 360 degrees to the zodiac circle. Not content that all degrees, as all men (and women) should be "treated as equal", ancient astrologers and some modern astrologers, use what are known as "critical degrees" in their delineations. There are "critical degrees", "anaretic" or crisis degrees, and "pits and peaks".

Classic critical degrees (rounded off version - sufficient for this purpose):
0, 13, and 26 degrees of the cardinal signs: Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn
8-9 and 21-22 degrees of fixed signs: Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius
4 and 17 degrees of mutable signs: Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, and Pisces.

These are considered sensitive, and sometimes strengthening, points. If a natal planet is found in a critical degree, that planet is thought to be emphasized and assumes more power in the life of the native due to its placement.


The anaretic and 'crisis' degrees are 0 and 29 degrees of any sign. These are considered critical degrees as well. The 0 and 29 degrees are more crisis-oriented points, especially in predictive work.

There is not a universal agreement about the meaning of the critical degrees; some astrologers don't use them at all.

From an old thread at Astronuts tribe forum: By member known as "Captain" -

The Anaretic Degrees are related to something called the Hyleg, or The Giver of Life. At one time, this was said to be a planet so located as to influence one's longevity. The whole subject is very complex, and also very controversial, because it was used to predict the time of death....and nowadays that is quite frowned upon. Basically, the strongest planet that occupied one of the Aphetic places (places related to ruler or giver of life in a nativity) became Hyleg, and was deemed to be the Apheta. The Aphetic places were from the 25th degree of the 8th house to the 25th degree of the 11th house; from the 25th degree of the 12th house to the 25th degree of the 1st house; and from the 25th degree of the 6th house to the 25th degree of the 7th house. It gets very complex, but the Anaretic places were those occupied by Mars or Saturn, or by the Sun, Moon or Mercury if they aspected Mars or Saturn. And the Anaretic planets were, unlike the Hyleg, considered the destroyer of life. Some people have taken the term Anaretic and grafted it onto the Critical Degree concepts, but these are really two entirely different things. Some people consider any planet at 0 or 29 degrees to be at an Anaretic degree, and thus a crisis degree, but that is not how the word was originally defined.

How about those pits and peaks then?
From Dr. Farr on a board at astrology weekly.com


I shall post the list of "pitted degrees" (extracted from Ibn Ezra) and also the "elevation degrees" (which enhance benefic influences even in the face of weak dignity and adverse aspects!)
SEE LINK for the list.
Elevated Degrees, are (or rather, were) also known as "elevations", "peaks", "heights" and "degrees of increasing fortune"; planets in them are saved from detriment, changed from debility to dignity, rescued from affliction; if already strong, dignified, benefic, then their benefic influence is greatly amplified; if malefic, their negative influence is transformed into at least a mild benefic influence

Pitted Degrees, also known as "pits", "depressions", "holes", "deep degrees" and "degrees of diminishing fortune"; regardless of strength or weakness, dignity or detriment or debility, affliction, benefic or malefic, planets in them are neutralized (at least partially) or "blocked" (usually relative degree of influence or to time of manifestation of influence).

These elevated or pitted degrees have no orbs (unlike the critical degrees)-the planet must be in the exact degree -the influence of these degrees extend equally throughout the entire degree: a planet posited at the 59th minute of the degree is influenced by it as much as a planet posited at the 1st minute of the degree.

I have followed Ibn Ezra in the listing of these degrees; this because the Ankara tradition followed these, as well as early Renaissance authors (Agrippa); this list is at variance in several of the degrees with that of Al-Biruni: however, the 2 lists match in the great majority of degrees listed.

Where did these degree allocations come from? They might have developed from the "partes damnande" (involving 102 degrees of the ecliptic) listed by Manilius in the "Astronomica" (14AD)-but the source of these is nowhere to be found in the (known) historical literature. We don't find any similar kind of degree-system in Vedic astrology, so there is no help from that quarter. There is suggestive material connecting degree-qualities to the long-lost "Great Celestial Handbook" of Petosiris and Nechepso (c. 150 BC, Alexandria), and also that in some way they represent indications used in ancient Egyptian calendrical astrology. But nothing concrete has yet been brought to light. The Ebertin Cosmobiologie school, and the extensive researches of Charles Carter, has brought much information to light regarding degree-areas, but this is not the same as the ancient degree-quality material, such as here in the case of pits and peaks.....

I'm well and truly confused and feeling downright uncomfortable about all of this. I tend to lean more towards treating all degrees as equal, and even that can bring in many variables and imponderables. Let's not forget the decans and duads within each zodiac sign too.

I've also never felt keen on the Sabian symbols, another method of describing the 360 degrees. Sabians seem to me to be purely personal to the writer, plucked from that writer's individual perception. For someone else the perception and perspective would almost certainly be quite different.

If ancient astrological lore relating to the degree issue has been lost, I wonder from whence that lore came in the first place, and was it reliable? Even astrological lore from much nearer our time can seem distinctly iffy, especially that related to Fixed Stars, for example.

The concept of critical degrees, in general, doesn't appeal to me much. Perhaps degrees 00 and 29 do have a wee bit of extra significance, though what that is would have to be established from personal experiences. I have Mars at 28.55 Scorpio (if that counts as near enough 29 degrees); and Pluto at 00 Leo. Neither placement seems of any special significance to me. Maybe I'm looking at it in the wrong kind of light.

9 comments:

mike said...

The ancient astronomer-astrologer had the circle, but the division of that circle into the constellations of fixed stars was personal and error-prone. Not to mention that the sidereal and tropical zodiac were only aligned around 0 AD and diverged greatly the further before or after that time (currently 23* difference).

Astrology is riddled with variations, most of them introduced by individuals that were making their own "improvements" and name in the field. As we've discussed prior, house systems by themselves is a fascinating topic...and there are many. In many respects, it's easier to be ignorant of the extras in astrology, as it can bog one down with doubt and considerations that didn't exist in the primary phase of learning astrology.

I do believe that the 0* of the cardinal signs, called the world axis, is important. Another is the 29* of Pisces, as it's the "END"...it's said to never start anything when planets at this point. The USA began the Iraq war March 20, 2003, with the Sun at 29* Pisces and it's been very difficult to "end" this conflict.

I've always been considerate of cusp points between signs. Is 28* or 29* degrees of any sign more like the previous degrees of that sign...or more like the early degrees of the next sign? This becomes more important (to me) when considering ascendants. The very late degrees of a sign on the ascendant places a large amount of the next sign in the first house, therefore giving the native more qualities of the next sign. Most astrologers use the actual sign on the ascendant and not the cusp-notion or the following sign.

I used to think that it was important to consider every detail of astrology, but the more I learn, the more I like to keep it all simple. Excess is not necessarily better and can distract from the task...in my opinion...LOL.

Twilight said...

mike ~ Yes, the deeper one goes, the more potential there is for murkiness, muddle, and mistake.

It's interesting to know of these theories, put forward by ancient experts - and truly that's all they are - theories. The centuries have bestowed upon them the status of fact, but what they propose is not fact. Nothing in astrology is fact either, but some of its basic precepts can be seen to be happening - so there's circumstantial evidence, and plenty of it for the basics, for anyone with open eyes and mind.

I agree with you that, of all the degrees, if there is any difference at all, it'll be in the first and last degrees of each 30 degree segment. The cusp issue tends to annoy some astrologers, but I've always gone along with whoever it was who said "there are no walls in space", and prefer to think that there is some "bleed-over", but only on an exact cusp position.

Good point you make, mike, about the ascendant and first house in regard to the cusp issue!

I'm always happy with something simple, clean, classic, uncluttered - as in fashion, so in astrology.
;-)

Sonny Gianetti said...


so if I understand what you said--if someone is only 2 degrees into a sign, then the should you also look the sign before it for an explanation?
umm did I ask that correctly:)

LB said...

Twilight ~ Interesting astrological topic! I've often found the various degrees you've written about to be very significant (and also very revealing) - in natal, progressed and draconic charts.

The more I learn and deeper I go, the more *some* of life's mysteries begin to make sense - not as abstract, useless concepts but as practical guides in facing challenges and living a more meaningful, mindful life.

We humans tend to either overcomplicate simple subjects or oversimplify complex (deep) ones. I think its our unwillingness to see that most limits our ability to perceive at deeper levels.

"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." Matthew 7:7

LB said...

Adding how it was only when I went deeper into astrology and began learning about degrees, midpoints, fixed stars, asteroids, minor planets and what some call "imaginary points", that my own chart (and life) *finally* began to make sense! Before that I had astrological readings that didn't touch on my greatest struggles or my gifts.

The internet has been an amazing resource, in that so many astrologers (including you, Twilight) have generously shared their knowledge. It's why I always appreciate posts like this one.

Twilight said...

Sonny ~ I'd say 2 degrees would be at least a degree too many. I'm no expert on this so only speaking for myself, but I think we should look to the adjacent sign only if a personal planet is right on the cusp within minutes, a full degree at most, less is better. And only then if the sign within which the planet actually is placed seems wildly off the mark in respect of yourself or the person involved; then treat the planet as being in a blended territory of both signs.
(I'd get into trouble with some astrologers for saying this!)

Mike will probably have an opinion on this too, so do watch on. :-)

Twilight said...

LB ~ We have two quite opposite views on this, both are equally valid, I'd say. It must depend on each person's individual mental and emotional makeup as to which method(s) feel most comfortable.

Personally, I'd rather see a sketch that is accurate than a fully detailed oil painting with flaws and errors, or images drawn from the painter's imagination or emotional state. That's just me - an amateur dabbler whose lifelong interest in astrology has led her around many corners, into many nooks and crannies, but she found nothing better or more useful and helpful than basic "meat and potatoes" astrology.

To each her/his own! :-)

It's kind of you to imply that I've been of help in this blog, LB. I hope mostly that I haven't led anyone astray with my ramblings, and that something read here might have inspired someone to look more closely at a subject they had formerly ignored or despised. That'd be my greatest wish.

mike (again) said...

I agree with your response to Sonny's question, Twilight!

LB - I think that there can be two ways to interpret natal charts. One is the rote learning and application of astrological techniques, from minimal to advanced...whatever works for you and your clients (or friends and relatives...LOL). The second method uses the same learning of astrological techniques of choice, but involves a sixth sense or some-such divination. An astrologer can use method one, method two, or more likely, a combination. Some astrologers may not be aware they are using a process of divination. I've been surprised by my own expanded interpretation of a chart and conveying that information to the recipient, only to find that the added definition was exemplary to the recipient. I've also withheld information, because I had no logical reason to provide it, but I had a strong impression...it felt too risky and goes against the astrological creed.

I believe that a logical astrologer can yield an excellent natal chart interpretation. I also think that there are intuitive-extrasensory astrologers that obtain more information from a natal chart than logical.

I've had a couple of amazing psychic readings, some fantastic quinkydinks, and a number of unbelievable occurrences in my lifetime. There is more to reality than we acknowledge.

LB said...

mike ~ Intuition can be a huge asset in understanding anything or anyone in greater depth, also a willingness to explore unfamiliar and/or uncomfortable territory.

A basic chart interpretation done by a competent, experienced astrologer with a fair bit of insight/intuition can reveal a great deal. All that extra stuff isn't for everyone.:)

I also agree, "There is more to reality than we acknowledge." Amen to that! I was once looking at the chart of someone's young son and asked if his father (my client's husband) was a Virgo - which he was. While it wasn't a big deal to me, it freaked her out.:)