One of the greatest misconceptions in astrology is that a sign is a uniform place all the way through. It is akin to thinking that America is the same in the north, south, midwest, etc. The people in the American midwest are very different from the people in the northwest, who are different from the people in the South, etc. etc. In the same way, a sign is not the same place all the way through! 1º of Aries is quite different from 15º Aries, which is quite different from 6º Aries, etc. etc.
Now, by explaining the 3rd Chapter of the medieval classic She Who Illuminates the Fruit, I’ll explain what the different sections within a sign are, how they differ, and how to utilize this in interpreting an astrological chart.
Main 12 Sections of the Zodiac
Above is a chart diagraming the primary division of the sky into the 12 familiar zodiac signs, Aries through Pisces. Why do 12 and not some other number? It is because our planet will make a complete spin on it’s axis (a day) approximately 360 times during the course of going around the Sun once (a year). Thus we measure a circle as having 360 degrees. Why not a more exact 365? Because it’s not a round number and is very unwieldy! But this lets you know that the borders between the signs are slightly fuzzy. When you have elements close to borders you should use fuzzy, inclusive thinking. But that’s too advanced for right now. Let’s get back to the topic at hand. Why do we have 12 signs and not some other number?
Firstly it is because we have roughly 360 days. And during the course of those 360 days in which the Earth goes around the Sun, the Moon will go around the Earth roughly 12 times. This is why we have 12 months in a year, and it is why we have 12 main divisions of the zodiac and not 13 or some other number. Each division or “sign” marks the amount of space that the Sun moves (which is how it appears from Earth, when in fact Earth moves around the stationary Sun) during the amount of time it takes the Moon to go around the Earth once, and thus complete a cycle from full moon to full moon (or new moon to new moon).
Each sign therefore holds 30º of space, since 30 x 12 = 360.
I’ve already described the characteristics of these 12 “signs” in other posts, articles, chapters, etc. So let’s not divert to that discussion right now. Instead let’s move forward to investigate the next most important division of the sky.
27 Lunar Mansions, Nakshatras
The next most important division of the zodiac after the 12 solar “signs” are the 27 lunar mansions, depicted in the illustration above. While the 12 solar divisions mark the sections of space covered by the Sun in one complete lunar cycle (month), the 27 lunar mansions mark the sections of space covered by the Moon in one complete solar cycle (day).
You’ll notice that there are exactly 9 lunar mansions corresponding to 4 solar signs. This causes the zodiac to develop three distinct super-sections. Aries through Cancer mark the first section in which new things begin. Leo through Scorpio mark the middle section of 9 lunar mansions, in which we work hard to turn blueprints into realities. Sagittarius through Pisces mark the final section, in which we reap the finished product of our desires and efforts. The borders between these three sections are called “chasms” (gandanta) and represent significant challenges in the evolutionary process.
In the rest of the cases besides these chasms, the lunar mansions build bridges across the borders of the solar signs. For example, the 3rd mansion, Krittika (“The Incisive”) bridges from Aries into Taurus. The 6th, Mrigashira (“The Searcher”) bridges from Taurus to Gemini, etc. These are important definitions of “fuzzy zones” and “cuspal areas” where the traits of neighboring signs make exchanges and blend together somewhat (slightly).
The lunar mansions have tremendous effect on the nature of the place a planet inhabits within a sign. The Moon in the mansion of Krittika, for example, finds her environment a very sharp and lusty place, while when in Rohini she finds herself among tremendous creative talents and urges for self-knowing. In both cases we would say “the Moon is in Taurus” but both situations are quite different! At the end of Taurus the Moon would find herself in Mrigashira, where the environment is decidedly more quiet and contemplative.
Naturally, an astrologer needs to become as throughly acquainted with the qualities of the 27 lunar mansions, as with the qualities of the 12 solar signs.
9 Subsections of a Sign
Now we come to dividing the solar signs into smaller subparts (amshas). The most important and influential of all these divisions occurs when we divide the sign into 9 subparts. The reason these are the most influential and important subsections of a sign is because the 9 slices form a bridge which unifies the 12 solar signs and the 27 lunar mansions. It is the only division system that correlates exactly with both the solar signs and lunar mansions, there being exactly 9 slices in each solar sign and exactly 4 in each lunar mansion. The 4 slices within each lunar mansion are known as it’s four quarters or legs (padas).
Another reason for the importance of this system of subdivisions is that it results in the sky obtaining 108 slices, which is the occult number of supreme importance.
Each slice within a sign brings the quality of the sign that it represents into the larger sign in which it exists. For example, at 1º of Taurus we find ourself in a slice of Capricorn. In the area of this first slice, Taurus is extreme stable and practical with some additional critical intellectual skills. However in the next slice, Aquarius, we find Taurus becoming more eclectic and more socially inclined and interested in pleasures and enjoyments.
Each sign will have one slice which is identical to the sign itself. And it’s always either the beginning, middle or end slice in which this happens. For example, the 1st slice of Aries is also Aries, the middle slice of Taurus is also Taurus, the final slice of Gemini is also Gemini, etc. This slice of the sign is the sweet spot in the sign, where the trademark characteristics of that sign are most predominent. When a planet get’s into this sweetspot, the effects of being in that sign get amplified.
So with this information we know that there are 9 distinct areas within every sign, just like a country like America has several regions with their own distinct traits and characteristics.
To Be Continued…
– Vic DiCara