Glossary of Astrological Terms

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Above the Earth

A planet is said to be 'above the earth' when located above the horizon, i.e., placed in the 12th, 11th, 10th, 9th, 8th or 7th house.

In many kinds of charts, it is considered beneficial to have the Sun, Moon or majority of the planets above the earth. This may be the case, for example, in a horary theft chart, where it could show that hidden factors are more likely to 'come to light'; or in a chart concerning a ship in danger, where it would increase the likelihood of the ship remaining afloat; or in a decumbiture chart, where it would show that the cause of the illness is more apparent and the essential will is strong and free-flowing.

In nativities, a chart with most of the planets above the earth describes a more socially engaged or outwardly expressed personality.


An aspectual term which literally means ‘to cut off’ the influence of an applying aspect (from the Latin abscissio from which the word ‘scissors’ is derived).

This occurs by intervention or frustration.

Absolute Longitude

The use of absolute longitude converts zodiac degrees into the 360° of celestial longitude that measure the zodiac circle.

The principle is simple: 0° Aries is taken as the start of the zodiac circle and so becomes the zero degree in absolute longitude. 18° Taurus therefore becomes 48° in absolute longitude (measuring the 30° covered by the sign of Aries, plus 18° of Taurus).

When calculations result in a figure higher than 360° one whole circle has been surpassed, so this amount is subtracted to find the equivalent zodiac degree. For example, 29° Aries is equivalent to 29° or 389° in absolute longitude, since 389° - 360° = 29°

See the glossary item Part of Fortune for an example of how absolute longitude is used in calculation.

The following table lists each zodiac degree with its equivalent degree in absolute longitude.
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Abu-Ma’shar - Astrologer (a.k.a. Albumasar: 787-886)

Born in Khorasan (like Masha’allah and Sahl) Abu-Ma’shar moved to Baghdad where his reputation grew: towards the end of his life he was considered the greatest astrologer of his time. He studied under Alkindi, and it was a philosophical argument with Alkindi that fuelled his desire to gain knowledge. His most important astrological work, The Great Introduction to the Science of Astrology, was written around 850 CE and was widely circulated for many generations as an authoritative text, receiving many translations, both in its full and in an abbreviated form. (The abbreviated text was translated into English in 1997, by Charles Burnett).

For more information see the webpage: Abu-Ma’shar

Accidental Strength

The strength that a planet gains for any reason other than its zodiacal placement is termed ‘accidental’, meaning that this is ‘circumstantial strength’. This can be conveyed by any attribute that increases the prominence of effect; such as being angular, direct/swift in motion, free from combustion, in a beneficial aspect to a fortunate planet or joined to a fixed star of a fortunate nature.

Partnered with Essential dignity.


Afflicting conditions are said to cause damage to a house or planet. If one of the malefics is in bad aspect to another planet, the latter is afflicted by it. Mars, Saturn, (or the South Node) can afflict houses by their presence, particularly if they are poorly dignified and involved in difficult aspects. Planets that are usually considered benefics can also afflict if they are in a damaged state or act as rulers of the houses that are traditionally considered unfortunate, ie: - 4th, 6th, 8th and 12th houses.

Air Signs

Gemini, Libra and Aquarius are the three air signs of the zodiac – these are known as the members of the ‘airy triplicity’ because these signs are linked by the shape of a triangle within the circle of the zodiac, (which means that planets within any of these three signs generally relate harmoniously with each other).
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Al Biruni - Astrologer (973-1048)


Regarded as one of the greatest scholars of the medieval Islamic era. He spent much of his life in Ghazni (modern day Afghanistan) where he worked as the court astrologer, but he also travelled widely, acquiring knowledge of a wide range of philosophical subjects and acquiring fluency in many languages. His Book of Instruction in the Elements of the Art of Astrology was translated into English by R. Ramsay Wright in 1934.

For more information see the webpage: Al Biruni & Arabic Astrology

Albertus Magnus - Defender of Astrology (1193-1280)


A Catholic Dominican friar and bishop, considered the greatest German philosopher and theologian of the Middle Ages. He gained fame for advocating scientific and religious harmony and was made a saint by the Catholic Church in 1931. Albertus approved of judicial astrology and supported the practice of horary at a time when other medieval authorities were condemning it on the grounds that it contradicted the Catholic Church’s teaching on freedom of will. Albertus argued that horary does not inhibit free will, but rather enhances it by giving the querent better informed choices. His arguments on this matter are presented in his Speculum Astronomiae where he maintained that well known books on horary and judicial astrology should not be burned or considered unnatural.

For more information see the webpage: Albertus Magnus and Prognostication by the Stars


Also known to Perso-Arabic authors as kadhkhudāh or al-kadhudāh, alchocoden is the term applied to the planet that holds rulership over the degree of the planet or place taken as hyleg ('giver or life'), whilst bearing an aspect to the hyleg. It is used as the 'giver of years' since its general nature and condition is used to define the natural years of the life.
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Alkindi - Astrologer (c. 801-873)

Educated in Baghdad, Alkindi became a prominent figure in the House of Wisdom and served under several Caliphs to oversee the translation of scientific texts into Arabic. He translated over 200 important works and went on to write hundreds of original treatises of his own, gaining him a reputation for being the greatest philosopher of his era.

For more information, see the webpage: An Introduction to Al Kindi


The strongest planet when all essential dignities are considered. The term is Arabic and derives from al-mateen, meaning 'the firm one' or 'strong in power', but the concept exists in the works of Ptolemy and other early classical astrologers.

The method of identifying the almuten involves considering the full range of essential dignities, so that rulership by sign, exaltation, triplicity, term and face is considered - not just rulership by sign. Hence Venus is said to rule the sign of Libra but Saturn is the almuten, being capable of assuming rulership by exaltation, triplicity, term and face.
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The angular distance of a planet above or below the horizon.
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Anareta (or Interfector) - termed the Killing, Interficient or Destroying Planet. A planet that is capable of signifying destruction and therefore offers a threat to the hyleg, ('giver or life'), at birth and by direction.

The anareta may be a malefic planet, the lord of the 8th, the almuten of the lord of the 8th, or a planet placed in the 8th house. The terms of the infortunes are called anaretic degrees as is the final degree of any sign of the zodiac.

Angles / Angular

The angles are the ascendant, descendant, midheaven (MC) and Imum Coeli (or ‘lower midheaven’: IC). These mark the cusps of the 1st, 7th, 10th and 4th houses, and are also referred to as ‘cardinal points’. Planets in these houses are generally defined as ‘angular’ and powerful in influence.


Animodar method of Rectification - the Animodar method of rectification can be traced back to the work of Ptolemy and is explained in detail in several traditional works, such as Antonius de Montulmo's work on nativities, Al Qabisi's Introduction to Astrology, and the nativities section of William Lilly's Christian Astrology. It aims to correct the degree of the ascendant once the astrologer knows which sign should be on the ascendant.

The method is based upon consideration of the degree of the previous syzygy (lunation). If the chart was preceded by a new Moon, it considers which planet has the most essential dignity at the degree of the New Moon; if it was a full Moon it considers which planet has the most essential dignity in the degree of the luminary above the earth.
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Antiscia is from the Greek for, literally, 'opposite shadows'. The antiscion of a planet is its zodiac degree mirrored across the solstice points of the Cancer-Capricorn axis (so a planet at 5 degrees Capricorn has its antiscion at 25 degrees Sagittarius). This mirroring ties the planets into a relationship based on the fact that at both points the length of day and night will be equal. Generally, the antiscion of a planet is considered to be a favourable point.
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Apheta or Alpheta; literally, 'the giver of life'; an Arabic alternative name for the Hyleg.


The apogee – from the Greek apo ‘far from’ + gaia ‘earth’ – is the point in a planet’s orbit when it is furthest from the Earth.

Since the Earth is traditionally perceived as the lowest sphere in the geocentric cosmos, distance from the Earth is symbolically associated with height, superiority, divinity and spiritual strength. When at apogee the apparent planetary movement (as measured against the zodiac) is direct and swift in motion.
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Although in a general sense the term 'applying' is used for any planet moving towards the conjunction or aspect of another, in strict terminology a planet is said to be 'in application' or 'applying' to another when the planets are within orb of aspect and moving towards perfection (exactness). Planetary motion must be considered, for if a planet is retrograde an aspect that appears to be applying towards exactness may in fact be separating, and if a planet is about to turn retrograde an aspect that is currently in a state of application may fail to perfect.
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Aquarius is the Latin word for 'water-bearer' and is the name given to:

  • The Constellation Aquarius - a major group of (irregularly spaced) stars which crosses the ecliptic and lies within the belt of the zodiac.
  • The Zodiac Sign Aquarius - the eleventh of the 12 equally spaced divisions of the zodiac,
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Aries is the Latin word for 'ram' and is the name given to:


The ascendant is the degree of the ecliptic (zodiac) that is ascending into view over the eastern horizon. This degree denotes the cusp of the 1st house in an astrology chart, and in a more general sense, the whole of the first house might be referred to as the ascendant because planets here are about to ascend above the horizon and become visible to the naked eye.
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Ascension: Long and Short / Direct and Crooked

In the northern hemisphere:

  • signs of long or straight or direct ascension are: Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius
  • signs of short or crooked ascension are: Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces, Aries, Taurus, Gemini
The Reverse for the southern hemisphere.

Due to the obliquity of the ecliptic, not all signs of the zodiac rise over the ascendant in an even span of time – signs of "long" or "straight" ascension rise at a greater angle to the horizon, which results in longer ascensional times; signs of "short" or "crooked" ascension rise at a more acute angle, so they ascend over the horizon more quickly. The difference becomes more dramatic the further from the equator the observer is, and the effect is not observed at the equator, where the signs rise at approximately equal times (2hrs per sign).
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The word ‘aspect’ comes from the Latin aspicio, ‘to regard’. The term is first encountered during the Middle Ages but before this, similar words were used to say that the planets ‘looked at’, ‘witnessed’ or ‘saw’ each other.

Aspects are measured in celestial longitude and aspect meanings are affected by the geometrical and numerical relationships made between the planets as viewed by the observer on Earth: hence, what is usually called the square aspect today was traditionally called the quadrate or quadrangular aspect (referring to the plane figure that the square aspect creates) or the tetragonal aspect, referring to the number of sides that its associated geometrical figure possesses (from the Greek tetra, ‘four’).
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A mechanical instrument (a forerunner to the sextant), used to determine the altitude of the sun or other celestial bodies.
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A planet which is at the highest point of its own cycle, and so furthest from the Earth, is at its auge (also known by the Arabic term awj). In the Ptolemaic worldview the term applies to the epicycle of motion along the deferent, its purpose being to define the planet's furthest point of elevation above the Earth. There is a philosophical association between a planet positioned in its most superior position above the Earth and the characteristics of being exalted and superior in influence which is discussed in Ibn Ezra's Book of Reasons (Epstein translation, pp.18-19)
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Azimuth measures the horizontal angular distance of a celestial object - in astronomy, it is usually measured from where the horizon cuts the cardinal direction north to where it cuts the vertical circle of the observer (or some other assigned point).
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© Skyscript. This glossary was originated by Deborah Houlding (2003)
and is currently being maintained by Deborah Houlding & Jane Gristi