Copyright © 2005 All Rights Reserved

by David Cochrane


There is an explosion of new information in astrology! In the 1960's and 1970's there was lots of excitement about new techniques like cosmobiology and harmonics. In the 1990's we have a rising interest in ancient methods. Some of our best and brightest astrologers, like Rob Hand and Lee Lehman, for example, got bitten by the "history bug" and are busily translating, studying, and applying astrological methods that previously have been ignored by modern astrologers.

Few of us have the time and resources to study this material and there are relatively few people who can teach it. Amidst this explosion of new information, the motto of many astrologers is Keep It Simple Sweetheart (KISS) and few people know what to do with all of this information. This evening, and this weekend, I will share with you some of the new information that I have become aware of, and most importantly, I will share with you ideas on how seemingly different and unrelated ideas may actually be different views of the same thing!!!


What is your immediate association with the term "Degree Meanings"?

When is the first mention of degree meanings?

Here is a chronology:

  • 500 BCE: The zodiac of 12 signs is "invented" (or "discovered" if you prefer), developing gradually over centuries in Babylonia. Preceded by 18 constellations in the ecliptic plane.
  • 400 BCE - 100 BCE: Explosion of astrological thought by astrologers whose names we do not know. The rules of horoscopic astrology become more specific and complex.
  • 100 CE: First extant works. Manilius followed by Ptolemy and Vettius Valens around 200 CE, Firmicus Maternus in the 300's, and astrology slows down around 400 CE as Europe enters into the early Middle Ages.

Degree Meanings are described, with meanings for each degree, in a book called The Mathesis by Firmicus Maternus in the 300's (4th century). Perhaps even more incredible, he refers to a book called Myriogenesis by Aesculapius who gives meanings for each minute of each degree! This would 360 times 60 interpretations, or 21,600 interpretations.

Holden in his History of Horoscopic Astrology reasonably speculates that perhaps only some of these interpretations were given. We don't know whether Firmicus actually saw the book and much information was never written down; the oral tradition was preferred over the written tradition in ancient Hellenic culture and other ancient cultures.

There was a set of degree meanings in a book by Italian physician and astrologer Pietro d'Abano (ca. 1250-1316). Astrologer Charubel created a set of degree meanings in the late 1800's. The Sabian Symbols came from a psychic reading from psychic Elsie Wheeler in readings conducted by Marc Edmund Jones in the early 1900's. There are over a dozen sets of degree meanings in print. Unfortunately, there is little agreement in degree meanings according to different sources.

Why view degree meanings as separate from other divisons of zodiac signs?
In the 400 - 100 BCE time period astrologers used 3-sign and 9-sign divisions of the zodiac signs similar to our decanates and navamsa signs as well. Sign divisions have a history going back to the earliest days of horoscopic astrology!

Decanate: Divide sign into 12 pieces
Navamsa: Divide sign to 9 pieces
Dwadasamsa: Divide sign into 12 pieces
Degree Meaning: Divide sign into 30 pieces

I wonder if the sub-signs and the degree meanings have anything in common? Which subsigns to use? My theory is that sub-signs create the degree meaning. This theory is a radical step in astrological thought because it relates seemingly different ideas. In astrology, we often look at our subject as a language with countless different unrelated techniques: take your pick of aspects, signs, houses, asteroids, midpoints, harmonics, arabic parts, Vedic techniques, progressions, solar and lunar returns, heliocentric, tropical or sidereal, etc. and all of us feel overwhelmed. In physics, on the other hand, everything is seen as being inter-related, and even matter is really energy, etc. I have an intricate and detailed theory of how the sub-signs create the degree meaning. This theory was developed over 30 years and has become more specific and refined over time.

Note that the navamsa sign not only divides a sign into 9 pieces, it is also 9 consecutive zodiacs. You can think of it either way. Navamsa signs continue around the zodiac making a pattern with the usual signs, with the cardinal sign of the element beginning each sign. If you want to impress your friends, you can use the word harmonic and call the navamsa sign the 9th harmonic sign and to confuse your friends, sometimes call it the navamsa sign and sometimes call it the 9th harmonic sign. "Harmonic" in this context means how many times you divide the zodiac.

Which sub-signs are most important? Which ones should we use?
Here is something interesting: The 1st (normal or rasi sign), 12th, and 30th harmonics are numerically related! The length of the 30th harmonic sign is 1 degree! Bingo! This may be the zodiac sign that creates the degree meaning! Uh-oh, a radical idea that may not sit well with many astrologers!

In the "normal" zodiac there is 1 zodiac and there are 12 signs and each sign has 30 degrees. In the 12th harmonic there ae 12 zodiacs and each zodiac has 30 degrees. In the 30th harmonic there are 30 zodiacs and each zodiac has 12 degrees and each sign is 1 degree. The numbers 12 and 30 repeat.

An example, my Sun is at 10 deg 38 min of Taurus. The 30th harmonic sign is Leo and the 12th harmonic sign is Leo. Therefore, this should be a very strong Leo degree! At an internal level, I have strong Leo qualities. Another example: former President Ronald Reagan had Sun in a degree of Aquarius that has strong Leo "internal signs". Reagan was the first President to pick out individual people in his addresses, a habit that Bill Clinton (who has Leo rising) and other later Presidents continued. Leo emphasizes the individual rather than the collective.

It gets just a bit more complicated: Also, the meaning is toned by the "relative house position" and the "relative sign position".

The relative house position is the cusp of the harmonic sign if the external sign is rising. Leo is on the 4th cusp if Taurus is rising so it is Leo-4 (Leo and 4th house).

The relative sign position is calculated by converting the zodiac sign to its natural house position (Aries=1, Taurus=2, Gemini=3, etc.) and determining the zodiac sign relative to the external sign, counting 1 as equal to the external sign. The 5th sign from Taurus (counting Taurus=1) is Virgo, so there is a Virgo tone.

Therefore, we have for 10-11 deg Taurus: Leo-4-Virgo, Leo-4-Virgo.

Note that the relative 12th harmonic relative sign position is the dwadasamsa sign!

The meaning is also toned slightly by the 5th, 7th, and 9th harmonic signs, which for 10-11 deg Taurus are: 5th=Libra, 7th=Capricorn, 9th=Aries.

The influences work as follows:

  • 30th harmonic (tradamsa) is who you are at your core, the inner you. The relative sign and house are like adjectives modifying the harmonic sign. 10 - 11 deg Taurus at the core is Leo with a 4th house and Virgo quality. It's like a prince or princess in his castle.
  • The 12th harmonic is a filter that the essence of the 30th harmonic is filtered through to express externally as the actual (external) zodiac sign. For 10 - 11 deg Taurus the filter is the same as the essence.
  • The 5th harmonic sign gives the quality of play, creativity, and culture,
  • The 9th of maturity, discipline, and depth, and the 9th of sense of interconnectedness and participation with the larger community and sense of feeling connected with others and at peace. An exact degree can be calculated and if it is 1 to 3 degrees of a sign, the sign is particularly strong, and if the position is 1 to 3 degrees Aries the influence is especially strong. The "critical degrees", incidentally are around 0 deg of cardinal signs in the 7th harmonic.

For 10-11 deg Aries we have strong, direct 9th harmonic (Aries), liberal culturally (Libra 5th), and strong discipline and maturity (Capricorn 7th).

The Sabian Symbol for 10 -11 deg Taurus is: A Woman Watering Flowers In Her Garden.@

Charubel's symbol is: A scrawl or flourish of the pen.

La Volasfera's symbol is: A man seated on a throne, holding a scepter, crowned, and with signs of wealth around him.

Other degree interpretations:
Matthews: A carefree ?Bohemian? artistic, passionate and generous.

Kozminsky: Symbol: A monk on a rocky road giving drink and food to a poor traveler who has fallen by the way. A rayed anchor above his head.

Muir: One who is ever ready to help a neighbor. Possessing a high understanding of human needs but very subject to flattery.


Degree meanings and sub-signs have an ancient history going back to the early days of horoscopic astrology. The theory that there is a relationship of degree meanings to harmonic signs synthesizes a wide variety of seemingly disparate information into a coherent system, and reveals the fundamental basis for the images. This is a radical theory in that it puts ideas into a different perspective and it could "threaten" the autonomy of some ideas (such as any particular set of degree meanings) while at the same time utilize these degree meanings to help elucidate their meanings; for example, the flourish of the pen is an apt image for the Leo-Virgo 4th and 5th house combination.

Hopefully, you have found this fresh and different view of degree meanings interesting. There are so many new and exciting ideas in astrology and this weekend we will continue exploring these ideas and see how they work in birth charts, so this won't be a weekend of just theory; we will see it at work.

A good source that has the above materials is David's book, Astrology for the 21st Century. The Above information is also available in Kepler's Avalon Lessons

David Cochrane AUTHOR: David Cochrane