Astrological Sign Classifications | 2. Sect and Sex of the Signs


Variations on Sign Sect

In this installment of the series on sign qualities, I’ll explore sign sect and sign sex. There was a diversity of opinion regarding the classifications of signs into diurnal (day) signs and nocturnal (night) signs (i.e. sign sect) expressed in the 1st century CE, particularly in the work of Manilius. However, the typical arrangement where masculine signs are diurnal and feminine signs are nocturnal was dominant. In that arrangement, fire and air signs are both masculine and diurnal while water and earth signs are feminine and nocturnal. After exploring some of the early diversity in characterizing sign sect and sex, we will look at some uses of both sect and sex in the early tradition.

Three Types of Sign Sect in Manilius

Manilius composed his Astronomica, the oldest surviving complete book of Hellenistic astrology, in the 1st century CE. In it he noted (Book II, lines 203-222) a diversity of opinion regarding the sect of the signs. He himself actually favored a sect classification that is no longer used by traditional astrologers.

Fail not to perceive and from true rule deduce what signs are nocturnal, and what diurnal: they are not those that perform their function in darkness or daylight (the name would apply to all alike, since at regular intervals they shine at every house, and now the nocturnal ones accompany the day, and now the nocturnal ones accompany the night), but those on which nature, mighty parent of the universe, bestowed sacred portions of time in a permanent location.  The signs of the Archer and the fierce Lion, he who looks round on the golden fleece of his back [Aries], then the Fishes and the Crab and the Scorpion of stinging lash, signs either adjacent or spaced at equal intervals, are all under like estate termed diurnal.  The others, identical in number and in the pattern of their spacing, for they are inserted into as many places, are called nocturnal [i.e. there is six of them opposite the six diurnal signs and with the same pattern].  Some have also asserted that the diurnal stations [signs] belong to the six consecutive stars [signs] which begin with the Ram and that the six from the Balance [Libra] count as nocturnal.  There are those that fancy that the masculine signs are diurnal and that the feminine class rejoices in the safe cover of darkness.  (Goold trans., 1977, p. 99-101; bracketed notes added by me)

Fire and Water Signs as Diurnal

We find that by the first century CE, there were already at least three different means of classifying the signs as diurnal or nocturnal. Manilius appeared to favor the one that didn’t survive at all.  His favored classification is by triplicity, with two triplicities as diurnal, and two as nocturnal. The diurnal ones are those we associate with fire and water. The other two triplicities are nocturnal (those we associate earth and air). However, note that Manilius did not actually associate the triplicities with the four elements as we do today.

This scheme consists of two adjacent diurnal signs, followed by two adjacent nocturnal signs, and so forth; an alternation in pairs, starting with a Pisces-Aries diurnal pair. Note that these associations have a natural relation to the triplicities themselves (the subject of the last article). The cardinal members of the diurnal triplicites mark spring and summer, while those of the nocturnal ones mark fall and winter. One of the stranger consequences of this arrangement is the fact that both Cancer and Leo are diurnal by this method. Cancer is the home of the Moon, lord of the nocturnal sect. It seems strange to have her home as a diurnal sign. This arrangement did not catch on, and as far as I know is present only in Manilius.

Northern Celestial Hemisphere by Durer
Northern Celestial Hemisphere by Durer


The sect classification of the signs that came to dominate in Hellenistic astrology and through later strands of the tradition, is that which Manilius mentioned last. This arrangement matches sign sex with sign sect. Masculine signs are diurnal and the feminine signs are nocturnal in this scheme.

All ancient astrologers appear to agree that the masculine and feminine signs alternate through the zodiac; Aries masculine, Taurus feminine, Gemini masculine, and so forth. The association of odd numbers with the masculine and even numbers with the feminine is a Pythagorean one. The sex of the signs causes each of the five non-luminaries to have one masculine home and one feminine home. When this is extended to a sect distinction, each of the five non-luminaries has a day home and a night home.

This scheme also results in two day triplicities and two night ones. In this case fire and air are diurnal and masculine, while earth and water are nocturnal and feminine. A convenient way to remember which signs are masculine and which are feminine, is to know that fire and air have a propensity to stir and rise, while water and earth have a propensity to fall and settle. Similarly, fire and air are light like the day (diurnal) while water and earth are obscuring like the night (nocturnal).

Astrologers Using This Method

Manilius (1st century CE) noted this method among others. Most other Hellenistic astrologers simply only used this method. Those astrologers include Dorotheus (1st century CE) and Paulus Alexandrinus (4th century CE). Additionally, Ptolemy and Valens (both 2nd century CE) appeared to use this method, as did Porphyry (3rd century CE). Rhetorius (6th or 7th century CE) also used this method in the material on the signs attributed to Teucer of Babylon (~1st century CE), though some of that material was added by Rhetorius himself. There are other instances of astrologers associating benefit with diurnal planets in masculine signs and nocturnal planets in feminine signs as well (c.f. Serapio and Manetho discussed below).

Note on the Incongruity of Mars

The conflation of sect and sex is common, both today and in ancient astrology.  However, this does create some odd conflicts. For instance, it was considered beneficial for a planet to be in a sign of the same sex and/or sect as itself, but Mars is a masculine nocturnal planet. It does not have a domicile that is both its same sex and sect, as each other planet does.

Unfortunately, none of the sect arrangements discussed by Manilius resolve this incongruity. In the sect arrangement favored by Manilius, the same situation holds for Mars, as both Aries and Scorpio become diurnal signs, while Mars is a nocturnal planet. In the second classification (discussed below), Aries is masculine but still diurnal, while Scorpio is nocturnal but still feminine.

I favor the third sect arrangement given by Manilius, in which sect and sex are conflated.  My own approach to astrology is not strongly influenced by Manilius as he was not a very influential astrologer overall. It is my understanding that congruity with sect is more important than congruity with sex. It is often suggested (from Ptolemy, Book I, Ch. 7) that the sect of the malefics represent the fact that their extreme qualities are tempered and thus they are made more productive. Therefore, it may be that Mars runs so hot that his position in a nocturnal chart and/or in a nocturnal sign serves to cool him off and make him more productive.

Incongruity of Saturn?

Note that Saturn has been described as feminine and feminizing at times in ancient astrology. Dorotheus appeared to have described Saturn as feminine in Book I, Ch. 10 of Carmen. However, Dorotheus also associated Saturn with male family member rather than female ones. Additionally, Carmen has had some textual issues and errors due to transmission through a number of languages. It is unclear whether Dorotheus actually did consider Saturn to be a feminine planet. It doesn’t appear that other Hellenistic astrologers did so.

Nevertheless, whether masculine or feminine, Saturn is a cold and dark planet, yet a diurnal one. As with Mars, the contrasting quality of Saturn’s sect (diurnal in this case) helps to balance it and make it more productive. I would add that Jupiter, characterized as a moist and warm planet by Ptolemy, and as a fertile planet promising children by many Hellenistic astrologers, would seem to be a better contender for a feminine planet traditionally characterized as masculine.

Northern and Southern Signs

Manilius provided one additional classification. This one has the signs from Aries through Virgo as diurnal and those from Libra through Pisces as nocturnal.  This is logical from the perspective of the tropical zodiac in the northern hemisphere. Aries begins with the Spring Equinox, a moment where the quantity of day increases over the quantity of night. Libra begins with the Autumnal Equinox, a moment where the quantity of night increases over the quantity of day.  In other words, in this classification, the Sun is in diurnal signs when the length of the day exceeds that of the night, while the opposite is true when the Sun is in nocturnal signs. The converse situation holds in the southern hemisphere.

Equinoxes and Solstices from Space
Equinoxes and Solstices from Space (courtesy of NASA)

In Persian medieval astrology, this is the classification of the signs as Northern or Southern (c.f. al-Qabisi, Dykes trans., 2010, p. 59).  The passing of the Sun into Aries is also the point when the Sun passes north of the celestial equator (i.e. the north pole is inclined toward the Sun). Similarly, when the Sun passes into Libra, the Sun goes south of the equator (i.e. the north pole is incline away from the Sun).  Some may not realize that this apparent passing of the Sun north and south of the equator, due to the tilt of the poles relative to the Sun, is what creates the seasons. The Earth is actually closest to the Sun (i.e. at perihelion) around January of each year, during winter in the northern hemisphere.

Friendship and Commanding Signs

The northern or diurnal signs in this arrangement were called the “commanding” signs in a fragment attributed to Dorotheus, while the southern or nocturnal ones were called “obeying” (Dorotheus, XVIII, #4, Dykes trans., 2017, p. 340). The same fragments attribute the Moon in these commanding signs with suitability for friendship. It is unclear whether this suitability pertains to a friendly person or to a good electional time to make friends, or possibly both. For more on the concept of commanding and obeying, see the article on sign symmetry relationships.

Sign Sect by Ruler? Not Exactly

Some early Hellenistic astrologers did not explicitly mention an inherent sect of the signs. For instance, I know of no such use of sign sect in Maternus, though he does mention sign sex. Additionally, Vettius Valens (2nd century CE) didn’t clearly delineate the sect of the signs but did associate being ruled by a sect mate as beneficial. This is worth a closer examination as some have taken it to imply that sign sect is determined by the sect of the sign ruler. Furthermore, some comments in Porphyry (3rd century CE; but text has additions) suggesting that sign sex can be determined by the sect of the sign’s ruler have been taken to support this view.

In such a scheme, both Aries and Scorpio are nocturnal as both are ruled by Mars, a planet of the nocturnal sect. Similarly, in this scheme both Capricorn and Aquarius are diurnal due to rulership by Saturn, a diurnal planet. However, I am not aware of any Hellenistic astrologers explicitly associating sign sect with the sect of the ruler, akin to the many references to sign sect from sign sex. A closer examination reveals that the confusion may arise due to the close relationship between sect and triplicity. Additionally, there are passages in both Valens and Pophyry which imply that they assigned sect to signs in the usual manner (masculine/feminine and pertaining to triplicity).

Inherent Relationship Between Sect and Triplicity

Water and earth signs always have nocturnal planets as triplicity rulers. Similarly, aside from Mercury as a triplicity ruler of air, fire and air signs always have diurnal planets as triplicity rulers. In fact, this is one of the reasons why the arrangement of masculine (fire and air) signs as diurnal and feminine (water and earth) signs as nocturnal makes so much sense. It is not just an association between sect and sex but it reflects the already existing association between sect and triplicity which was built into the system.

Valens on Sect Mate Rulership

Valens did not explicitly associate signs with sects in his exposition of the signs. However, he did sometimes speak of the sect of a sign as significant (Book I, Ch. 20P; Book VII, Ch. 41). Valens often mentioned triplicity and sect together, noting that planets of the same triplicity or sect can help each other out. In Hellenistic astrology, triplicity rulers are typically seen as supportive in a way that is suggestive of relatives. The planets of the same sect are similarly viewed as helping to support each other. By contrast, planets of the other triplicity or sect can exacerbate harm.

At one point Valens explicitly advised that astrologers should take note of the sect of the sign.

Is it the ruler of a lot, of the Ascendant, or of a triangle? Likewise with the sign in which the star appears: is it of its own or of another sect, and which other signs does it have in aspect? (Valens, Book I, Ch. 20P, Riley trans., 2010, p. 22)

Ruler: Domicile or Triplicity?

My impression is that Valens often refers to rulers of the same sect and rulers of the same triplicity interchangeably. This can lead to some ambiguity in the couple instances where Valens noted rulership by a sect mate as a positive thing. Traditional astrologers today, who stress domicile and ignore triplicity, are all too ready to interpret the ruler of the same sect as being the domicile ruler. However. Valens used the same terms, typically translated “ruler” or “houseruler” for both domicile and triplicity rulers. He also placed much greater stress on triplicity than most tradiitional astrologers today, discussing triplicity much more often than domicile (often specified as ruler of the sign). Furthermore, sign sect is intimately linked with triplicity for Valens, as we’ll see.

Triplicity Pertains to the Subdivision of the Zodiac into Sects

Valens made explicit the close connection between sect and triplicity in his chapter on triplicity which opens as follows:

1. The Triangles
When the zodiacal circle is subdivided according to similarities and differences, we find two sects, solar and lunar, day and night. The sun, being fiery, is most related to Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius, and this triangle of the sun is called “of the day-sect” because it too is fiery by nature. The sun has attached Jupiter and Saturn to this sect as his co-workers and guardians of the things which he accomplishes[…] (Valens, Book II, Ch. 1, Riley trans., 2010, p. 25)

Additionally, he closed the chapter on triplicities by noting that Mercury is common and works with both sects.

This chapter on triplicity shows how closely linked triplicity and sect are to Valens.  Furthermore, the first sentence implies that Valens subdivided the zodiac by sect. The directly following discussion of triplicity implies that triplicity is the basis of this subdivision. Therefore, it is fairly safe to conclude that Valens did not have an alternate method of dividing the signs by sect but instead used the typical method, linking it strongly to triplicity.

Porphyry: Planetary Sect Determines Sign Sex?

The text of Pophyry has undergone some additions and possibly some corruptions on its way to us. For instance, it is well known that some later material was added by Byzantine compilers including chapter 53-55 which are from the Perso-Arabic astrologer Sahl. Sign sex is typically a non-controversial issue. Nearly every Hellenistic astrologer noted the sex of the signs and without variation. Porphyry notes the sex of the signs in a way consistent with those other astrologers but then has a particularly convoluted passage in the same section in which it is done another way. The passage is likely the result of corruption as it suggests that the sect of the ruler of the sign determines the sign’s sex. Note that while sometimes taken to support the view that the sect of the ruler determines the sect of a sign, the passage actually noted sign sex, not sign sect.

The [signs that are] masculine by sect are those of the Sun, Jupiter, and Saturn. And let [every other one of] the signs be masculine [starting] from Aries. The [signs that are] feminine [by sect] [are those] of the Moon, Mars, and Venus. Let every other one of the [signs] be feminine [starting] from Taurus.  (Porphyry, Ch. 40, Holden trans., 2009, p. 30)

Interestingly, while giving two different definitions for sign sex concurrently, the passage continues by apparently walking back the assertion that sign sex is determined by sect of the ruler.

But choose individually [from] the feminine [signs] Capricorn for Saturn, Pisces for Jupiter; and of the masculine [signs] Aries for Mars, [and] Libra for Venus; but [in the case] of Mercury, choose [both] Gemini and Virgo, for it has those in common. (Porphyry, Ch. 40, Holden trans., 2009, p. 30)

Deconstructing Porphyry’s Treatment

There are two things of note here. The first is the fact that the Sun’s triplicity is associated with masculine signs while the Moon’s triplicity is associated with feminine signs. This can be explained by the fact that the passage confuses triplicity rulers with domicile rulers. Triplicity is linked with the sect and sex of the signs. However, the assertion that domicile rulers determine sex is incorrect and confuses the two types of rulers. Either Porphyry or one of his compilers got some wires crossed here.

The second thing to note is that Porphyry does provide the typical masculine/feminine distinction as well. He even goes out of his way to note that Saturn and Jupiter each have feminine signs that they rule, despite the fact that they’re diurnal planets. He does the same with the nocturnal planets and their masculine homes.

In conclusion, Porphyry’s text, like that of Valens, illustrates a close connection between triplicity and sect, but does not imply an alternate methodology of assigning sect to the signs.

The Hephaistion Alternative

Hephaistos (5th century CE) had an alternate method of assigning sect to the stars. It is unclear if he actually used it though. In the first chapter of the first book of his Apotolelsmatiks, he classified some signs as diurnal and some as nocturnal. His method of assignment appears to be unique among the Hellenistic astrologers. The assignments of Hephaistos imply that the signs from Leo through Capricorn are diurnal, while those from Aquarius to Cancer are nocturnal. This cleaves the zodiac into diurnal and nocturnal halves at the cusp between the homes of the Sun and Moon.

As Hephaistos didn’t seem to actually use this distinction in practice and actually did not even note the sect of 5 of the signs, I bring this distinction up for the sake of completeness only.

What is Sect Anyway?

Sect is the division of the planets into a day and a night group. The Sun leads the day sect and the Moon leads the night sect. Each group also has a benefic and a malefic in addition to its leader or luminary. The Sun, Jupiter, and Saturn are diurnal. The Moon, Venus, and Mars are nocturnal. Mercury is considered neutral. Some considered it diurnal when rising before the Sun and nocturnal when rising after the Sun (see orientality below) but there were other schemes as well. For instance, the anonymous author of the Michigan Papyrus (~2nd century CE) instructed that Mercury is simply always of the sect of the chart (Anonymous, Col. VIII, Robbins trans., 1936). Also, see below on the sect of the chart halves for the Valens variant.

Sect of the Chart

The most important consideration is the sect of the chart itself. If the Sun is above the horizon (i.e. by day) then diurnal planets become more benefic and less malefic, while the converse is true of nocturnal planets. When it is night (Sun below the horizon) then the opposite situation holds and it is the nocturnal planets which are in sect. In other words, your sect matters. If you are born during the day then you are diurnal, and he diurnal planets are like family. If you are born at night, then the nocturnal planets are like family.

Sect of the Signs; Sect of the Halves

The advice to consider the sect of the sign also may have merit and should be considered, perhaps in the way recommended by Ptolemy (see below). An additional consideration often noted is that diurnal planets want to be on the same side of the horizon as the Sun while nocturnal ones want to be on the opposite side. This was termed “halb” meaning half and is another consideration worth exploring. Is a diurnal planet that is in sect (i.e. by day) made less benefic if it is in a nocturnal sign and under the horizon? More work is needed in this area.

It is necessary to examine the sects of the stars: for day births the sun, Jupiter, and Saturn rejoice above the earth; for night births, below the earth. For night births the moon, Mars, and Venus rejoice above the earth; for day births below the earth. Mercury rejoices according to the sect of the houseruler in whose terms the star is located. Consequently for day births, if a nativity is found to have Jupiter, the sun, or Saturn favorably configured above the earth, this will be better than having them below the earth.
Likewise <for night births> it is advantageous if the nocturnal stars are found above the earth. (Valens, Book III, Ch. 5, Riley trans., 2010, p. 62)

Note that while this quote seems to imply that Valens chiefly considered halb, in practice he chiefly considered the sect of the chart. There are many examples in his text, but see for instance Book IV, Ch. 8, when he notes death being associated with Saturn in Sagittarius because Saturn is not in its own sect. The chart has Ascendant in Pisces and Sun in Cancer (V), so Saturn (in X) was above the horizon in a night chart, but still out of sect and difficult due to the fact that it was a night chart.

Aspects from Sect Mates

Aspects from sect mates were typically considered helpful in early Hellenistic astrology. By contrast, aspects from non-sect mates could be less helpful or more harmful. For instance, Valens noted in multiple places that difficult aspects were more difficult when planets were of opposite sect.

One must observe whether the stars of the night or of the day sect are configured with their sect mates. If they are, they will be more effective for good than the other stars and will be a cause of great good fortune at the times of their own transmissions and transits. If they are not so configured, they will prevent any advancement in rank and will hinder any benefits.  (Valens, Book IV, Ch. 13, Riley trans., 2010, p. 81-82)

Similarly, in the length of life technique he allowed sect mates to add to the length of life indicated by the main significator.

The fellow-members of their sects, when in conjunction, in aspect, or in their own signs, add to the allotment, unless both sects in fact join in the allotment. (Valens, Book III, Ch. 11P, Riley trans., 2010, p. 69)

Use of Sign Sect

Note that all the uses of sign sect that I cite here seem to use the scheme where the sign sect is determined in the same way as its sex. This was the dominant scheme in Hellenistic astrology. Manilius (1st century CE) noted it as one scheme used by astrologers in his time. Dorotheus (1st century CE) also explicitly defined sign sect this way (Book I, Ch. 30), and not in any other. He also used it for a type of rejoicing condition (Book I, Ch. 1). It is typically inferred that Ptolemy intended this arrangement as well as he noted that the day is masculine and night is feminine (Book I, Ch. 7) and that planets are weakened when lacking any rulership of their position and in a sign of the opposite sect (Book I, Ch. 23). However, it is possible that Ptolemy was referring to rulership of the position by a planet of the same sect as the subject planet.

Rejoicing Conditions

As noted above, one use of sect was that a planet was said to rejoice in a sign of the same sect. For instance, Dorotheus noted that the planets rejoice in the domicile of the same sect: Saturn in Aquarius; Jupiter in Sagittarius; Mars in Scorpio; Venus in Taurus (Book I, Ch. 1). He also noted Mercury in Virgo, though that appears to relate more to Mercury being exalted there, as Mercury is said to be ambiguous as to sect. Other astrologers noted similarly regarding sign sect.

[..] diurnal stars rejoice in masculine signs and when oriental to the Sun; and those of the nocturnal sect rejoice in feminine signs and when occidental to the Moon. (Serapio, Holden trans., 2009, p. 68)

Note that in this passage the planets are identified by sect, not sex, but the signs are identified by sex. The implication appears to be that sect is the real consideration here, but by making reference to the sex of the signs it is certainly clearer which sense of sign sect is being used.

Sign-Based Strengthening

Ptolemy(2nd century CE) used sign sect in a way that is reflective of the rejoicing conditions. He noted that a planet is strengthened (maximally effective by sign) if it has at least two forms of rulership at its own position (see Tetrabilos, Book I, Ch. 23). This could be rulership by domicile, exaltation, triplicity, or bound. Ptolemy also noted two sign-based weakening conditions, which included fall, but not detriment. Detriment does not appear to have been part of the sign-based rejoicing conditions for any of the Hellenistic astrologers prior to the 6th or 7th century.

No, the other condition noted by Ptolemy is when a planet has no rulership in its position at all and also is in a sign of the opposite sect. Being in a sign of the same sect was considered by Ptolemy to provide a sort of indirect strength. This indirect strength could mitigate against the possible weakening and corruption of being in an alien position (a sign and bound where the planet had no rulership). In this scheme, Saturn in Leo would be strengthened by being in a sign of its triplicity and sect, but Saturn in Scorpio may be particularly weakened or corrupted if not in its own bound, as Saturn has no rulership and the sign is of the opposite sect.

They say they “rejoice”when, even though the containing signs have no familiarity with the [stars] themselves, nevertheless they have it with the stars of the same sect; in this case the sympathy arises less directly. They share, however, in the similarity in the same way; just as, on the contrary, when they are found in alien regions belonging to the opposite sect, a great part of their proper power is paralysed, because the temperament which arises from the dissimilarity of the signs produces a different and adulterated nature. (Ptolemy, Book I, Ch. 23, Robbins trans., 1940, p. 113, bracketed text is my correction of where the translation again says “signs”)

Use of Sign Sex

The sex of the signs were used in many practical applications in ancient astrology, typically pertaining to matters of gender and sexuality. I will only touch on a couple uses here. For more details see treatments of sexuality in the literature. Treatments of sexuality from sign sex tended to focus on indications from the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, and Mars. Other factors pertaining to sexuality, including some of the factors discussed further in this article were also considered.

Ease of Birth

Dorotheus (Ch. I.3) used the sex of the signs of the Sun, Moon, and Ascendant to assess the ease of birth. For a male, birth is easier if they are in male signs. For a female, birth is easier if they are in female signs. Additionally, he noted that Saturn in a stake can cause problems, especially if in a female sign (diurnal planet in a nocturnal sign). Also, that Mars can hasten birth along to be quick if in a stake, especially if in a female sign (nocturnal planet in a nocturnal sign). The sense is that male positions make things come easier for men, while female ones work best for women. Incongruity creates struggle.

Positive Character

Manetho also referred to sign sex, rather than sect, similar to the way it was used by Serapio.  However, one of Manetho’s uses for sign sex is consistent with sect and pertains to benefit, a major association of sect congruity. Manetho attributed the lights in the signs of their same sex/sect with those that “easily accomplish deeds and tasks” (p. 235). To the contrary if both were in masculine signs then someone would be savage while if both were in feminine signs one would be subservient. Those with the Sun and Moon both in the signs of their opposite sex/sect would be socially awkward and unable to progress. Similarly, the sex of the person was important, as lights in masculine signs worked better for males than females, and vice-versa with feminine signs.

Predicting Sex

Twelfth-part sign sex, especially of the Moon, often figures heavily into prediction of the sex of someone who was born (yes, it’s easier and more accurate to just look). I addressed this in the article on the twelfth-parts. Both Dorotheus and Valens put a lot of stress on the sex of the twelfth-part of the Moon. Valens advised to also look at the sex of the sign of the ruler of the Moon’s twelfth-part. Dorotheus had a number of exceptions that pertain mainly to whether the Sun, Moon, and Ascendant are in male signs or a male planet is in the Ascendant.

Sex Beyond Signs

The early Hellenistic astrologers classified 4 planets as masculine (the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn), 2 as feminine (the Moon and Venus), and 1 as neutral (Mercury). This gender imbalance is notable. Ptolemy associated the feminine with moisture and the masculine with dryness which makes the gender imbalance all the odder as Jupiter is characterized by him as hot and moist. However, Ptolemy noted that planets can become masculine or feminine by way of their relationship with the Sun and their position by quadrant.

They say too that the stars become masculine or feminine according to their aspects to the sun, for when they are morning stars and precede the sun they become masculine, and feminine when they are evening stars and follow the sun. Furthermore this happens also according to their positions with respect to the horizon; for when they are in positions from the orient to mid-heaven, or again from the occident to lower mid-heaven, they become masculine because they are eastern, but in the other two quadrants, as western stars, they become feminine. (Ptolemy, Book I, Ch. 6, Robbins trans., p. 41)


In a quote earlier in this article, the Serapio text contrasted stars oriental to the Sun (i.e. rising and setting before the Sun) as masculine, and those occidental the Moon as feminine. However, the contrast is typically between planets oriental or occidental to the Sun. The Serapio text is actually a late Byzantine compilation known to contain many errors and additions. This appears to be a distortion of the oft-cited instruction that oriental stars are given to the Sun while occidental (are given) to the Moon (c.f. Porphyry, Ch. 4). Planets rising before the Sun (i.e. visible in the morning before dawn) are oriental and masculine. By contrast, those rising after the Sun (i.e. visible at night after sunset) are occidental and feminine. Interestingly, Serapio associated this rejoicing condition with the sect rather than the sex of the planets (as did Paulus Alexandrinus in Ch. 4 of his Introductory Matters).


In addition to sign sex and orientality, there is an additional sex consideration. This is the consideration of masculine and feminine quadrants. Planets approaching a meridian (i.e in the quadrants from Asc to MC or Dsc to IC – clockwise) were considered to be masculine. By contrast, those approaching the horizon (i.e. from IC to Asc or MC to Dsc) were considered feminine. To remember this think that going vertical (toward the point at the top or bottom of the chart; MC or IC) is masculine while going horizontal (toward the horizon; Asc or Dsc) is feminine.


In conclusion, there were 3 methods of classifying the sect of a sign in Manilius. The method favored by Manilius has all but disappeared. The common method of conflating sign and sex was present in some of the earliest astrologers of the tradition. An additional method survives in the concept of northern and southern signs. For more on the relationship between northern and southern signs, see the article on sign symmetry and antiscia.

Sign sect is strongly related to triplicity and the notion of a support network. I recommend the use of sign sect in the ways noted by Ptolemy and Valens. Through sign sect, a planet can have a form of minor strength, especially if also aspected by a triplicity ruler.


Anonymous. (1936). “P.Mich.inv. 1.” (F.E. Robbins Trans.) University of Michigan Library Digital Collections. Accessed: January 09, 2019.

Dorotheus of Sidon, & al-Tabari, U. (2017). Carmen Astrologicum: The ’Umar al-Tabari Translation. (B. N. Dykes, Trans.). Minneapolis, Minn.,: The Cazimi Press. 

Ma’shar, A., & Al-Qabisi. (2010). Introductions to Traditional Astrology. (B. N. Dykes, Trans.). Minneapolis, MN: The Cazimi Press.

Manilius, M. (1977). Astronomica. (G. P. Goold, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: Loeb Classical Library.

Porphyry, & Serapio. (2009). Porphyry the Philosopher. (J. H. Holden, Trans.). Tempe, AZ: American Federation of Astrologers.

Ptolemy, C. (1940). Ptolemy: Tetrabiblos. (F. E. Robbins, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: Loeb Classical Library. Retrieved from

Valens, V. (2010). Anthologies. (M. Riley, Trans.) (Online PDF.). World Wide Web: Mark Riley. Retrieved from


The featured image of Day and Night by Simeon Solomon (cropped) is in the public domain.

Image of northern celestial sphere by Albrecht Durer (1515) is in the public domain. 

Image of equinoxes and solistices from space is courtesy of NASA and in the public domain.


Note that this article was significantly revised and updated on 01/15/2019 with the addition of much additional material.



Blogger interested in all things astrological, especially Hellenistic, medieval, Uranian, and asteroid astrology.

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