Does “sect” make sense in modern astrology?


One of the basic tenets of Hellenistic astrology is the idea of sect.  Ancient astrologers believed that the astrological behavior of a visible planet varies with whether the native is born during the daytime or at night, that is, when the sun is either above or below the horizon.

The idea is that the sun rules the daylight hours and that the larger visible planets Saturn and Jupiter perform better in a day (diurnal) chart than in a night chart. In a similar way, the Moon rules the night and the smaller visible planets Mars and Venus do better when the native is born at night with the sun below the horizon. In this scheme little Mercury is neutral and his sect depends on when he rises before the sun (and is thus diurnal) or after the sun (and is thus nocturnal).  In other words, Mercury’s sect depends of who gets up first in the morning, Mercury or the sun?

In his blog Chris Brennan cites a 4th century example from Firmicus Maternus:

Saturn in the eighth house, if by day, allots an increase in income over a period of time. If he is in the house or terms of Mars, he indicates for some an inheritance from the death of strangers. But if he is in this house by night the inheritance will be lost.”

By the same reasoning, Saturn in a day chart, if posited in the 2nd house of income, should indicate an increase in wealth due to diligent work over the long term. Conversely, in a night chart, Saturn in the 2nd would indicate a loss of income and perhaps some financial impoverishment, since Saturn is more malefic in a night chart when he is out of sect.

Let’s look at a chart of a man born at night with Saturn Rx in detriment in the 2nd house of income.  According to Hellenistic theory, Saturn should be a real troublemaker in this chart:

Man with Saturn in 2nd, born at night with Saturn out of sect.

Man with Saturn in 2nd, born at night with Saturn out of sect. Antiscia superimposed outside. This chart was calculated in Elías D. Molins astrospica program

Here Saturn lies in the 2nd Whole Sign house and Placidus house, and Saturn also rules the 8th house which has a lot to do with income. Saturn is Leo is in detriment since he lies opposite Aquarius, the sign of his domicile. According to the theory of sect and astrological dignities, Saturn is in pretty bad shape and should deny wealth to this native.  In Saturn’s favor are the fact that it lies on the same side of the horizon as the sun and it occupies a “masculine” sign (Leo) — these were considered mildly favorable factors in Hellenistic astrology.

The problem is that this chart belongs to an extremely wealthy film maker, Stephen Spielberg. According to the Hellenistic notion of sect, he should be a rather impoverished individual.  It seems that the idea of sect has led us astray in analyzing this chart. The Spanish astrologer Luis Javier Roman Sanchez noted that Spielberg has the fixed star Sirius conjunct his ASC within 2.5 degrees, so perhaps this benefic star could account for his wealth.

I must admit that I am not at all expert in Hellenistic technics, so perhaps someone well versed in Hellenistic astrology can explain why the concept of sect is so misleading in interpreting this chart.

About Anthony Louis

Author of books about astrology and tarot, including TAROT PLAIN AND SIMPLE, HORARY ASTROLOGY, and THE ART OF FORECASTING WITH SOLAR RETURNS.
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13 Responses to Does “sect” make sense in modern astrology?

  1. ragtime27 says:

    Hi, Anthony. At first glance, this chart doesn’t look like the chart of a millionaire. Even trying to disect the chart by looking at fixed stars, dispositors and how that relates to the significators of the native, the result is a little bit dissapointing, though i could find some elements in the chart that look promising for wealth, honour and fame. But first I´m going to answer your question on Sect. Hellenists were the first to use Sect in Astrology, but the use of the technique changed with the Medieval Arabs. So for Hellenists Saturn in this chart is contrary to the sect, but for medieval Arabs Saturn would be in sect, or what they called being in “Hayz”, wich is the same as hellenistic sect in concept, but the use of technique is different, because for medieval arabs a planet is in sect when for example a diurnal planet is above the Horizon in a diurnal chart and below the horizon in a nocturnal chart. Conversely, a nocturnal planet would be in Hayz when it is above the Horizon in a nocturnal chart and below the horizon in a diurnal chart. Thus, Saturn is in Hayz(sect).

    I wouldn’t recommend anyone reading Firmicus Maternus as all his books are aphoristic, and astrology can’t be learned with aphorisms.

    The problem of astrology, and you know more than me about this, is that a sole factor can’t make anything in a chart. We need a lot of testimonies for the bad or for the good to assume the outcome of things. In the chart of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis we have the same as Spielberg. Saturn is in the second house, and she was the richest woman of the moment because other factors in the chart were helping her to obtain it (Regulus in the MC for example). Masha´allah, in his treatise on Nativities (“The book of Aristotle” translated by Ben Dykes for Persian Nativities I) tells us that a fixed star positioned in the Midheaven or Asc overules the other negative factors of the chart, so Saturn in the second house becomes more of simbolic element than a real fact.

    Apart from Sirius in the Asc, I would take note of Júpiter, which is Oriental(fortunate position) and Halb (wich is like being in Hayz-SEct, but a little bit less fortuante because Júpiter is diurnal and must be in a diurnal sign, not noturnal like in this case). Júpiter is in the benefic 5th house, making a trine to the Midheaven (the house of honors) and also rules the Midheaven. Júpiter is well conected to the significators of the native (trines the cusp of the Asc and is joined the Moon, ruler of the Asc). Júpiter brings even more honours because he is dispositor of the Sun, wich means honours by nature.

    • Thanks for your detailed reply. Certainly there are factors in this chart which point to success, as you noted. I’ve been reading more about Hellenistic astrology and it seems quite different from what later (and medieval) Arab astrologers made of it. My question has to do with whether the original Hellenistic concept of sect (of 2000 years ago) is valid or whether it needs to be modified as it was hundreds of years later to give valid results. In Spielberg’s chart, the out of sect Saturn in detriment ruling the 8th and occupying the 2nd seems to be a strong testimony of financial difficulties which don’t seem to be accurate for this chart. Of course, everyone has money problems at some point in their lives (Spielberg lost some when in the Madoff ponzi scandal) but he remained a very wealthy man. It seems that a man of his wealth should have a much more beneficial 2nd house.

      • ragtime27 says:

        Yes, in practice some things in hellenistic astrology seem not to work. Sect maybe is one of them as you demostrate with this example. In my opinión hellenistic astrology is brilliant in concept, but there are some problems: 1)We are not the same people as those who lived 2000 years ago, so the way they analized a natal chart should have been different from the way we analize charts today, in the technical part and also because the spiritual conception. Behind hellenistic astrology lies a profound philosohical basis that even today we can study it, it s not the same because we live in another times, wich are more materialistic, so that s why i said conceptually hellenistic astrology is richer in theory and concepts than modern 2)We are accustomed to work in astrology with an advanced mathematical instruments so we can cast with complete exactness solar return,lunar returns,etc. I think until Renaissance astrologers couldn calculate solar returns and lunar returns accurately, though astrologers of the past(specially arabs) knew the solar returns were functional,even better than simbolic progressions. The problem is that the mathematics were not enough advanced to erect the exact solar return as we can today, so i think that this point is good to consider. The hellenists have the concept. The moderns have the instruments . Uniting both maybe will be good to make astrology progress. Hellenistic Astrology in the way Robert Schmidt presented it rescues some concepts and techniques of the past that were forgotten, but those new concepts and techniques seem that have flaws in practice(though in general i was happy when i study hellenistic astrology and a lot of things seem to work).

  2. Jeffrey Geist says:

    Thanks. Helpful. Not sect expert either.

  3. Morgana says:

    Hello
    in Vedic astrology, Saturn has night directional force (shad bala) Dig Bala (Directional Strength)
    for Vedics, Saturn is of the nocturnal sect
    http://www.dirah.org/shadbala.htm
    Many vedics, use tropical system, like ptolemy
    http://vicdicara.com/12-signs-of-the-zodiac-1.php <—— very good video
    May be that's why.🙂
    Greetings from México.

    • Thanks, Morgana. I know little about Vedic astrology and had no idea that Saturn in the Vedic system is such a powerful planet in a night chart. If I understand the implication correctly, a Vedic astrologer would see much wealth for this native because he has Saturn in the 2nd house in a noctural chart. Is that correct?

  4. Grandtrines says:

    Reblogged this on Grandtrines.

  5. I came across Spielberg’s chart about a year ago when I was working on a lecture and I found it troubling from a Hellenistic perspective from a different reason, because Saturn is contrary to the sect and overcoming the three Scorpio planets, including the ruler of the Ascendant. I’m somewhat less troubled by the placement of Saturn in the 2nd though because if you look more closely you realize that Saturn is the ruler of the 7th and 8th house and it is placed in the 2nd.

    So, on the most simplistic level we could produce a delineation of problems or hardships connected to the native’s finances that is somehow related to marriage or shared finances. So has Spielberg ever had any significant financial issues that were tied in with his relationships? As it turns out, yes. Spielberg is ranked as having the 3rd most costly divorce in celebrity history, with his wife getting around $100 million when they split in 1989. At the time this was half of Spielberg’s total net worth. More interestingly, they evidently had a prenuptial agreement, but a judge nullified or invalidated it because it was written on a napkin.

    So, there is still a problem in terms of him obviously not being a pauper despite having Saturn in the 2nd by night, but at the same time we also have to acknowledge that the placement does conform to what we would expect in some ways from a Hellenistic perspective since he did experience what I expect would have been viewed as a pretty negative financial loss at one point in his life.

    The broader point that your example raises may be that the 2nd house itself may not be sufficient on its own for determining a person’s overall wealth or earning potential universally throughout the course of their life.

    • Chris,
      Thanks. This chart was very puzzling from a Hellenistic perspective. Since Saturn rules the 8th in this chart, the comment by Maternus suggests that he could suffer a loss of income over a period of time and the loss of an inheritance.
      Tony

      • Yes, it does suggest that, although like most things in astrology the 8th house has a variety of different meanings, and Firmicus does not rehearse each one of them in every delineation he gives. According to Valens the 8th house also represents financial matters connected with the marriage partner, since it is the 2nd from the 8th. So it is still in keeping with the Hellenistic tradition to view it within the context of the financial issue he had with his ex-wife, especially given that the same planet is the ruler of the 7th.

  6. Your point about his financial loss is well-taken. I guess poverty is somewhat relative, and for him being left with only $100,000,000 to live on after the divorce was experienced as impoverishment though by most standards he would still be considered quite wealthy after the divorce. In other words, would Saturn in this chart simply indicate a significant financial loss in a marital situation (the involvement of houses 2, 7 and 8) or would it indicate palpable impoverishment, which he apparently did not suffer since he was left with $100 million in assets?

    Were to able to resolve the issue of Saturn being contrary to the sect and overcoming the three Scorpio planets, including the ruler of the Ascendant?

    • Evidently in this case it indicated the financial loss and not impoverishment. Presumably there are other factors that are relevant in describing why he is so wealthy though. This isn’t really something that I’ve spent much time studying at this point, although I know that some of the ancient astrologers like Valens would look to think like the Lot of Fortune and derived houses from that for this topic.

      No, I wasn’t able to resolve the issue of Saturn overcoming the three Scorpio planets, although your using this example did prompt me to buy a biography on Spielberg so that I can develop a better understanding of his life and then attempt to answer that question. The only thing that comes to mind right now is that he seems to have a number of tropes that come up commonly in his films, and one of the tropes that is described like this on one website: “In Spielberg’s work a lot of troubled father-son relations can be found or adults who don’t like children. These two tropes keep reappearing in almost every film he makes.” The idea of adults who don’t like children is kind of an interesting manifestation of a night chart Saturn squaring a bunch of 5th house planets. I guess the question at this point then is why is that a trope in his films, and is it just something that is only expressed in his art, or did he have some experience early on in life that imprinted that idea on him. I don’t really know, but it seems like the starting point for future research.

  7. ragtime27 says:

    More or less Michael Jordan has the same elements in his birth chart: Jordan natal chart. He has Sirius in the Ascendant, which brings fame,honours and money. In addition Jupiter in domicile is in the Midheaven. Mars retrograde and contrary to the sect is in the 2nd, be it Placidus or whole sign houses. Mars exalts the 7th, and opposes Lord of the 7th. The money he had to pay to his ex for the divorce was the highest sum of money ever paid by a celebrity, though in 2014 he was the first sportsman to become “billionaire”.

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