Since the reign of Hammurabi, astrology has been employed to predict deaths, plan conquests, and awaken destinies. The possibilities of the craft are limitless on account of its exactitude. Beyond the planets, asteroids, and houses, there are degrees, which can take your chart study to a whole new level.
Every sign in the zodiac is broken into thirty degrees, with 360 covering the chart. If a chart represents one complete day, the degrees within mark it to the minute. Naturally, every single ticker has its own meaning, and can provide endless wisdom concerning you, your power, and the nature of your assignment in this lifetime.
We could explain the precise calculations of chart degrees, down to the fraction of a minute, but it would give you — and us — a headache. Here’s what matters: within every sign are thirty micro-markers, which provide information about the progression of the planets. If your Jupiter shows up at two degrees Aries, we can understand that the planet of wisdom and synthesis was just getting started in the sign of combustion and initiation. If you were born with your rising sign in the final degrees of a sign, we can understand that you’ve arrived here to complete the lessons of that sign.
Every sign operates in the structure of a perfect trilogy, with the thirty degrees broken into three sections, called decans. The first decan launches the themes of the sign; the second brings them to total fruition, the third transitions us for what’s to come. The alchemy involves not only noting the degree location, but the nature of the planet involved. Is your Mars, at an early degree of Libra, here to blast open the sign’s themes, or at a later degree, is it ready to teach the world what it’s integrated? Give yourself time to play around with location and context.
Degrees versus cusps
It behooves us to inform you: cusps aren’t a thing. Planets and essential markers like the ascendant or midheaven may land anywhere between zero and 29 degrees in a sign. There is no nether-realm between signs. This is why birth times are critical for mapping a chart. It’s possible that you were born on January 20, 1991, in the final moments of Capricorn. That doesn’t mean that you’re part Capricorn, part Aquarius. Rather, your sun, at 29 degrees Capricorn, is armed to complete and transcend the goat’s assignment, so that you may fully embrace what’s to come with Aquarius. But you are a Capricorn.
You should pay special attention to the degree of your ascendant, or rising sign. If the ascendant sets the direction and themes of your chart, and therefore your life, you’ll want to know how far along it is in any given sign. At 28 degrees rising in Scorpio, you’re coming to the end of multiple lifetimes of sacrifice and reinvention. Let’s integrate now so that we can get to the goods of Sagittarius. But if you were born with your rising at just two degrees Leo, you may still be discovering how the pride and power of the lion is yours to claim. In terms of using astrology to access past lives, the placement of the rising sign has a lot to tell you.
This will always be notable, especially with the cardinal signs (Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn). Consider this a direct download into a brand new life. Whatever lands at zero is ready to initiate, lead and begin, with the fervor of uncorrupted youth. Say you were born in April of 1995, when Uranus had freshly entered Aquarius. It’s likely that you’ll serve at the vanguard of your generation, leading the digital natives to rise and rebel against their tired-ass elders. If a planet turns up at zero, it didn’t come here to compromise.
Any planets or markers arriving at the 15–16 range are at a midway point, representing and fully embodying the sign’s themes. If you’ve never really understood your sign, you’re called to discover, and to reclaim, its power. Think of yourself as its definitive representative. Those born with planets at 15 degrees of the fixed signs (Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius) are in possession of the endlessly-chic “Avatar Degree,” which can only occur exactly midway between the cardinal equinox and solstice, as noted by astrologer Paul Sanders. As with Avatars Aang, Korra, and that fierce queen Kyoshi, you are called to claim a higher vantage point, at the crossroads of the seasons, and put your gifts to universal service.
Ellen Ricks notes that this degree is called the anaretic, and represents a final synthesis of a sign’s themes. This is your last go-round here, before your next life hits you with a totally new assignment. Known as “the degree of faith,” an anaretic placement is about personal culmination and the dissemination of learned wisdom.
Other critical degrees
This can get a little in the weeds, with endless cosmic conspiracies ready to seduce you on the internet (don’t bother with the specious 22 degrees “kill or be killed” theory). But, generally speaking, the triplicities, or sign groupings, all have a few numbers with significant charge. For the cardinals (Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn), look out for 0, 13 and 26 as potent, propulsive and a little volatile; these placements want to act now, and have no interest in waiting around. The fixed crew (Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius) should look out for the aforementioned 15, along with 8–9 and 21–22. These placements will bring out the core strength and challenge of this type of sign: they’ll be fully realized, but armored against change. You’ll have to work to scrape off the layers of protection and get to what’s underneath. As for the Mutables (Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, and Pisces), 4 and 17 bring to life the magical, morphable nature of your sign, which can help you ride the collective current, or fall into the stream.
Degrees and Tarot
Naturally, the cards of the Tarot have long standing associations with the decans of the zodiac. Books like T. Susan Chang’s 36 Secretsteach you how to view the cards of your daily pull through their corresponding cosmic degrees. If you haven’t picked up the idea already, everything in astrology has meaning, down to the second. Play the numbers game, and you may discover a deeper reality than you ever had access to.