In the many years that humans have been observing the skies, they
have generated many ideas about the relationship between the skies
and themselves. Some of these ideas have failed the test of time.
Others have passed into folklore. But there is a body of ideas which
have passed the test of time and have become the basis of our astrological
Some of those ideas are immediately applicable and must be known
by anyone who calls himself an astrologer. Other ideas are like
a second helping of dessert. Most of the time, you do not need them.
Every once in a while, however, they are just what you need to complete
the story. Decanates are an example of something that you must know,
even if you use them only occasionally.
Each sign of the zodiac is thirty degrees in length. Are the characteristics
of the first portion of a sign the same as the characteristics of
the middle or the last portion of that sign? Over the years, there
have been astrologers who have seen that there is a difference.
Thus was born a division, where each of the twelve signs was divided
into three parts of ten degrees each. From this division arose the
name decan (10) or decanate. Since each sign has a "ruler,"
each decanate's ruler becomes a sub-ruler of the sign. Knowing the
decanate and its "ruler" automatically adds deeper dimension
to your interpretation of a planet in a sign.
There are two ways to determine the rulers of the decanates. One
of them is ancient and uses the planets in the order in which their
speed was determined in ancient times, when the outermost (and slowest)
planet was Saturn. They are in exactly the same order as the planets
are in Planetary Hours, which I have thoroughly described elsewhere
in the Advanced Astrology Section. In this method, Mars is still
the ruler of the first decanate of Aries, but the second decanate
would be ruled by the Sun, and the third by Venus. The late Barbara
Watters used this method to determine the rulerships of the decanates.
The other method for determining the rulers of the decanates is
by the triplicities. This is a much easier way to "read"
the decanates and their "rulers." Once one is comfortable
with the triplicities, one can name the sub-rulers immediately,
without having to resort to a list or table of rulerships. It also
gives us the opportunity to use Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto as sub-rulers.
This is the method that I use and teach. This article is based on
the triplicity method.
Each decanate of a sign will be in the same triplicity (fire, earth,
air, water) as the sign itself. They are arranged in the same order
as they appear in the zodiac. Thus, the first decanate of Aries
is Aries, ruled by Mars, the second decanate is Leo, because it
is the next fire sign in the zodiac. Leo is ruled by the Sun, so
the second decanate of Aries is ruled by the Sun. The third decanate
of Aries would be the next fire sign after Leo, which is Sagittarius,
ruled by Jupiter.
In the same manner, the first decanate of Taurus is Taurus; the
second decanate of Taurus is the next Earth sign in the zodiac,
Virgo; and the third decanate of Taurus is Capricorn.
Let us look further into the decanates of Aries. We can describe
the first ten degrees of Aries as Aries/Aries or Mars/Mars giving
an impulsive and pioneering nature to the planet that is there.
The second ten degrees of Aries can be described as Aries/Leo or
Mars/Sun giving a less aggressive and more sunny nature to the planet
there. The third ten degrees of Aries can be described as Aries/Sagittarius
or Mars/Jupiter giving a mutable, outgoing nature to the planet
We know that people with the Sun in Aries are not all alike. We
know that it takes the whole chart to understand a person. With
decanates, we have three different kinds of Sun in Aries. Socially,
we astrologers are always told other people's birthdays, and asked
to say a few words. With decanates in our heads, we can say more
than just a few words, and they will be words that hit the target.
For example, if you were to be at a cocktail party and meet Sandra
Day O'Connor of the Supreme Court, and she were to tell you that
her birthday is March 26, you would clearly understand why she became
the very first woman on the Supreme Court of the United States.
Without benefit of an ephemeris for precision, you would know that
her Sun is at about 4 or 5 degrees of Aries. This is obviously in
the first decanate of Aries. So, her Sun is not only Mars ruled,
but is also in the Aries decanate of Aries, where the sub-ruler
is also Mars. This is a lady who has pioneered and will continue
to do so.
If another lady at the cocktail party is Betty Ford, once our First
Lady, and she confides to you that her birthday is April 8, you
will immediately know that her Sun is at about 18 degrees of Aries,
in the second decanate. The second decanate of Aries is Leo, ruled
by the Sun, and associated with show business. Perhaps this is why,
at an early age, she struck out on her own (Aries is a pioneer who
goes forward) to become a dancer on the stage at the Radio City
Music Hall in New York City. So once again, the decanate of the
sign is illuminating.
I find it most amusing that Wilbur Wright, the pioneering inventor
of the airplane, was born on April 16, with his Sun in the third
decanate of Aries ... the Sagittarian decanate that speaks about
In the next article, I shall discuss the other zodiacal signs and