Beyond horoscopes and sun signs, astrology is a nuanced treasure trove, full of secrets that help explain who you are and what your life path holds for you. One of the crucial keys to unlocking this box is understanding the concept of degrees in astrology and how they can impact your interpretation of the chart. Even just a slight shift in degrees can alter the entire reading of your birth chart.
If you look at the birth chart, you will see it takes the form of a wheel. This is a 360-degree circle divided into 12 astrological signs at 30 degrees each. Astrologers will use these degrees to mark exactly where a planet or celestial body sat at the moment of your birth. Exact placements on the birth chart - right down to the degree add a whole new layer of meaning to your birth chart and help you to understand certain tendencies and traits in a much deeper way.
The Basics of Degrees in Astrology
What are Degrees in Astrology?
Degrees in astrology are precise measurements within the 360-degree wheel of the zodiac. As mentioned, each sign spans its own space of 30 degrees, and as there are 12 zodiac signs, this adds up to 360 degrees. Planets within these degrees express their energy differently, and therefore, they can be seen as the building blocks of your natal chart and are connected to certain characteristics that add to the makeup of your personality.
All of the planets move through these degrees, and when you look at your birth chart, you will notice numbers next to your planets. These numbers let you know what degree a certain sign is at. For example, you may see Aries with the number 15 beside it. This means that Aries sits at 15 degrees - halfway through the sign of Aries, which spans from 0-30 degrees. This position comes with its own set of traits and subtle variations that provide insight into your personality, relationships, and even what life events may be waiting for you.
To further unpick the power of degrees in astrology, each degree is also divided into 60 minutes. Using a minute-based system means that astrologers can nail down the exact degree with precision - if your Aries is at 15 degrees and 30 minutes, then it is easier to see that it is more precisely located than if it was at 15 degrees and 15 minutes. This knowledge further helps lock down those subtle variations found within the degrees.
The Significance of Specific Degrees
Critical degrees are specific points within each sign that are known to have intensified astrological significance. These degrees are 0, 29, and sometimes 15 degrees. Each of these has a special energy and deals with beginnings, endings, and heightened traits or intensity.
0 Degrees - the first degree is known as a critical degree. It can represent the beginning of something, or it can kickstart a new cycle. Planets at 0 degrees are thought to carry a purer energy and symbolize innovation, fresh starts, and a new direction associated with the traits of that sign. For example, a planet at 0 degrees Aries can illustrate a time of assertiveness, innovation, and leadership as this binds the key characteristics of Aries with the new chapter cycle of 0 degrees.
29 Degrees - the final degree, at 29 degrees, marks the last strike in the ticking of a clock. At 29 degrees, it can represent the close of a chapter and bring a sense of completion or an ending in some form. Rather than a simple soft ending, there can be an urgency associated with planets at this degree. For example, if a planet sits at 29 degrees in Pisces (the last sign of the zodiac), it can mean that you have reached the pinnacle of a spiritual pursuit or an emotional challenge and that you are ready to let go and leap forward into the energy of something new in Aries (the first sign of the zodiac). This degree can also be seen as a placement that brings the more challenging aspects of a sign to light.
15 Degrees - the jury is still out on whether 15 degrees is considered a critical degree, but some astrologers do think it's in a critical position and play an important role. The midpoint of a section, 15 degrees, can serve as a halfway mark, and due to this position, it can mean that it has heightened energy or intensity or can also serve as a mark of balance. For example, if a planet is 15 degrees in Leo, it can mean that a project or person could be at the peak of something and that all eyes and attention will be turned to that moment. Some astrologers also believe that planets at this degree will have to reconcile with the sign's key issues.
Degree Theory in Depth
In degree theory, there is also the belief that each degree of the zodiac is connected with a certain Sabian symbol. Sabian symbols are a set of 360 phases that correspond with each degree on the 360-degree wheel of the zodiac. Each unique symbol shares a story or a visual that represents the energy of that specific degree.
Sabian symbols were created by Marc Edmund Jones and Elsie Wheeler in 1925. Jones was an astrologer, and Wheeler was a clairvoyant, and they combined their unique set of skills to map out the Sabian symbols. Wheeler was chosen because it was believed she had access to the ancient matrix of the Sabian alchemists. Later, another alchemist, Dane Rudhyar, would also use this work to fuel his own research into Sabian symbols, alongside studying Jung, Hindu philosophy, and Vedic astrology - this is what most astrologers refer to today. Sabian symbols are often used in accordance with astrology but can also be used in a stand-alone fashion.
Finding your Sabian symbol means checking your birth chart, seeing the degrees of the planet, and then finding the symbol that corresponds with that. For example, if your sun sign is at 29 degrees in Gemini, you can research the symbol that is linked to 29 Gemini and see what ancient story is connected to that mark - the symbol for this is a mockingbird in spring. Some examples of symbols include the following;
- Cancer 4 Degrees shows a cat and a mouse in a disagreement
- Leo 23 Degrees shows a bareback horserider
- Virgo 12 degrees shows a bride with her veil pulled away from her
- Libra 10 degrees shows a boat emerging from stormy waters
These images come with with themes and lessons and can provide insight into what life lessons may be waiting for. For example, the Sabian symbol of Libra can hold themes of a risky time ahead but highlights the need to accept the risk to make it through to the other side.
Degrees and Aspects
Calculating Aspects Using Degrees
Aspects are the angular relationships between planets, and in the birth chart setting, they can highlight dynamic energies between other planets as different degrees of separation can have an effect on their interactions.
Trine aspects (120 degrees) are considered to be harmonious, and these planets will have support, calm, and cooperation between their energies. There will be a flow, and trines can also indicate strengths, opportunities, and effortless areas of life that come together. For example, Venus at 10 degrees Aries and Jupiter at 10 degrees Leo will create a trine aspect that allows love (from Venus) and expansion (from Jupiter) to thrive, creating ease and good energy in relationships.
Square aspects (90 degrees) are considered to be challenging, and these planets will have tension and perhaps conflict with each other's energies. They can bring a sense of struggle, but they can also provide the circumstance for great growth and overcoming challenges, which is also important for leading us further on our spiritual paths. For example, if Mars is at 15 degrees Taurus and Saturn is at 15 degrees Aquarius, this can create a square aspect between the assertive and disciplined energies that Mars and Saturn share.
Sextile aspects (60 degrees) are considered to be mostly positive if you can tap into their energy. They don't have the same intense energy as trines or squares, but their soft level of harmony is always helpful in channeling opportunities for growth and a cooperative mindset. For example, if Mercury is at 5 degrees Gemini and Mars is at 5 degrees Leo, then they form a sextile, which has the power to harmonize the energy of both Mercury and Mars, creating a vibe where communication and action can meet.
Opposition aspects (180 degrees) are considered to create a polarized energy between the planets. This aspect is about highlighting the potential for tension and helps bring us to an awareness of where more balance is needed. For example, if the sun is at 20 degrees in Cancer and the Moon is at 20 degrees in Capricorn, they will create an opposition where the push and pull energies of the moon's emotions and the sun's expression will work against each other. To nurture harmony, we will need to find a balance between these two elements.
Practical Application of Degrees
Interpreting Degrees in a Natal Chart
Interpreting degrees in natal charts can be tricky business, as each degree within a sign has its own nuance. It can always help to use detailed astrological software or to seek professional readings from astrologers to help you get to grips with what your own degrees and aspects mean.
Often, early degrees (those from 0-10) can signify impulsive or raw energy within that sign. Mid degrees (those from 11-20) can highlight more stable and thoughtful periods where things are solid rather than in flux within that sign. Later degrees (those from 21-29) can signify periods of overcoming or mastering something within that sign energy.
Retrograde planets and their degree stations are also worth looking closely at, as these planets can also be significant at their direct or retrograde position. It may mean that you need to revisit themes or energies that are associated with the planet. On the other side of the coin, transits and progressions are also important when interpreting degrees. In the cosmos, nothing is stable, and everything is consistently moving. The gradual movement of planets can also bring insight into your life story and what could unfold on your path.
Personal degrees that deal with your natal planet, ascending sign, descending sign, Midheaven, and Imum Coeli are also important when reading your degrees. These degrees help define your personality, behaviors, relationships, and your life path.
Degrees in Different Branches of Astrology
Degrees in Mundane and Electional Astrology
Mundane astrology looks at the planets and cosmic configurations to unravel world events and global shifts. There's a belief that the planets have an impact on the world at large and that transits mark trends. Degrees will also play their role here.
For example, if a planet passes into a new sign or forms a conjunction with a different planet this can create a big energy of shift. January 2020 can be seen as an illustration of this as at this time the Saturn-Pluto conjunction was at 22 degrees in Capricorn. January 2020 was a time of huge global change with the pandemic and geopolitical events.
We also know that eclipses, retrogrades, and ingresses can also affect global themes, which is why it makes sense to track these patterns and assess the degrees on an ongoing basis so we can prep for big upheavals rather than being blindsided by them.
Electional astrology is more personal and can be used to determine the best times for marriage, business launches, planning events, and other things. Personal planet positions play a big role in this. They can be checked to see when important planets are also aligned on the natal chart to create harmonious energy and favorable conditions. For example, if you are planning a wedding, you can use your natal chart and degrees to check the most harmonious time when Venus is in a strong position for both members of the wedding party.
You may also want to avoid malefic degrees when planets are in a challenging place. For example, Mars is a planet of action but also war, so when this planet is in a challenging degree, you may want to avoid planning events or negotiating a business deal as it could present obstacles.
You can also look at aspects for planning and find times when aspects are in the sextle or trine position, as this will also create more favorable conditions. Avoiding squares or even just being aware of them can help you deal well with obstacles that are put in your path.
Degrees in astrology play an intricate role in understanding our astrological charts. The more information we have about the conditions in the cosmos during our time of birth, the richer insights we can enjoy in unraveling the mysteries of the self. Beyond the basics of knowing ourselves better and growing in our self awareness, it can also help us to map out life plans and to pick dates and timelines for important life choices that are aided by the right alignments in the sky. Checking your own natal chart and your degrees is easy - all you need is the exact time of birth, and your birth location entered into a good online natal chart calculator. This will give you a glimpse into what conditions were happening when you came into the world. With this knowledge of degrees you can also keep an eye on aspects and find ways to bring more balance into your world.
You can explore our crystal chart and find gemstone bracelets, gemstones by month, gemstones for each astrological sign, birthstones, and zodiac bracelets, which will all help you harness the ideal energy for your unique natal chart.
What Is Degree Theory?
Degree theory looks at the zodiac as a 360-degree wheel and allocates 30 degrees to each sign. This can then be used as a marker to see what planets were stationed at what degree in each sign. As each degree has its own depth of characteristics and certain traits, this adds another layer of understanding to your birth chart.
Do Degrees Matter in Astrology?
Degrees play a crucial role in unraveling the mysteries of your birth chart. Degrees provide deeper and finer details in regard to your personality, your life paths, and your relationships. The more detail you have in your birth chart knowledge, the less vague it will be and the more you can understand the nuances of the information being presented. Degrees can tell you the intensity of a planet and how its aspect is also working in accordance with a planet and signs energy.
What It Means If You Have "Critical Degrees" In Your Birth Chart
If you have critical degrees in your birth chart, it can simply be a sign that some planets will have a more influential effect on your personality and life path than others. The 0 degrees can indicate fresh starts and beginnings, the 29 degrees can mark endings or culminations within a planet's energy, and the 15 degrees can mark a heightened energy or a balance in a certain area.