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I have had an interest in astrology since high school. So much so that at one point I bought a very thick and very dry natal chart book and cast a small handful of charts the long way. 

I found the natal chart math cumbersome, however, and I had doubts about my accuracy which were probably well founded.  I did not in the end, stick with it, but my interest in astrology has continued.

Since the beginning of this blog I have included articles on astrology in which I tried to explain basic concepts to myself and to others and I have worked with online chart calculators to examine my own chart and the charts of family members. A few months ago I included a monthly lunar update on The New Age Review Radio Show with astrologer Anna Swora.  

And a few weeks ago I decided that I would begin to study astrology for real.

I picked up an excellent book "The Complete Book of Astrology" by American Federation of Astrology President Kris Brandt Riske, MA.  I will review properly at some point. But what I want to talk about here is polarities, decanates and cusps which Riske explains in a very understandable way.

To understand these concepts, we need to imagine the zodiac as a wheel  divided into 12 increments of 30 degrees each (360 degrees total) which give us the 12 signs of the zodiac.  This wheel and its degrees is shown on the chart displayed below.


But the zodiac, while represented as a wheel, is actually a band in space.  As the earth moves around the sun we view the sun against the backdrop of the zodiacal signs and this is the basis of, what we may consider our birth sign but is really more correctly, our sun sign.

While often drawn as a band around the earth the illustration below (and the one at the top of the article) shows the zodiac in reference to the sun.  In this example, (assuming the darker planet is earth) we see that the sun is positioned against (or in) the sign of Virgo. 

What this drawing above does not clearly show is the sun's degree within Virgo but we might guess that the sun is within the first 10 of the sign of Virgo's full 30 degrees.  This would be considered the first decanate of Virgo, as each sign is divided into three decanates of 10 degrees each. 

A person born on this particular day might be said to be 9 degrees Virgo.  And according to Riske that person would be a true Virgo displaying many of the characteristics of the sign.  By this system, individuals born in the second and third decantes,  are not "true" or absolute representatives of their sign.  Instead they are thought to have characteristics of other signs of the same element.  In this case the other two earth signs, Capricorn and Taurus.

Using the decanates of Virgo as an illustration, those born in the second decante (11 to 20 degrees Virgo) might display certain attributes of Capricorn, while those born in the third (21 to 30) would display some characteristics of Taurus. 

As I understand it, not all astrologers use decantes or at least not quite in this way and Riske mentions their use mostly in passing.  So I'm not sure quite what I think about the influences of other signs of the same element as described above.  I do agree, however, that decanates illustrate the idea of relative influence in terms of the Sun (or other) sign quite well. 

While the multiple influences in a natal chart paint a far more complex picture than the effect of one planet (the sun), it does seem that while the sun sign is usually observable in most people, individuals often own up to its influence in varying degrees.  Birth dates on the cusp are a very clear case in point.

A cusp birth date is one which falls with three days (or three degrees) of an adjoining sign.  As a result many people with birth dates on the cusp demonstrate characteristics of that sign.

This, I think, explains why I was never able to fully identify with my sun sign of Leo.  Some of the characteristics fit, in my opinion, while others do not.  As I learn more about astrology, however, I find that I am very much a Leo at 29 degrees hovering on the edge of analytical, low key, list making Virgo.  

This might also explain why I have had three romantic relationships and two very close friendships with Pisces individuals because while Pisces is not a good fit with Leo it is the polarity of Virgo (lying opposite Virgo on the wheel of the zodiac) as show in the image at right.

This article has addressed the placement of the sun in our charts (leaving out the moon and the planets entirely) which I think gives some idea of the complexity inherent in the practice of astrology.

And complexity is a good thing in my opinion, as it is the complex relationships between the planets, signs and houses which makes the study of astrology so fascinating and insightful!

For more on astrology, please check out this weeks Lunar Update at 9PM ET / 6 PM PT on The New Age Review Radio Show!

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