Planetary significations through declination

Declination is the measurement of a celestial body from the celestial equator. Astrologers are usually measuring along the ecliptic, but the declination of the Sun, based off Earth’s axial tilt, gives us the very foundation for the tropical zodiac that we’re familiar with. The vernal equinox marks the point where the Sun’s path across the sky through the day (ecliptic), crosses the celestial equator (Earth’s equator extended out to space) moving from 0° declination heading north. At the summer solstice the Sun’s declination reaches it’s maximum distance from the celestial equator, 23°26’*N. On the autumnal equinox the Sun’s declination returns to 0° like the vernal equinox, except now is heading south of the celestial equator.

This is the path the sun takes every single year, without deviation, without fail. The combination of earth’s axial tilt, proximity to the sun, and the moon’s stabilizing affect on our obliquity give us the seasons and is the foundation for the tropical zodiac and wheel of the year. This informs the significance behind the “Big Three” in astrology: Sun sign, Moon sign, and rising sign which we get from the Earth’s rotation on it’s axis.

The Sun’s significations of vitality, constant light, and the organizing principle of the solar system is represented through it’s regular rhythms in relation to the celestial equator. Every single year the Sun’s declination will appear like the graph below:

Solar declination for the year 2020. Sun’s maximum declination at the solstices is 23°26′ N/S of the celestial equator and at the equinoxes is 0° N/S. This chart looks the same every year.

The Moon however, has it’s own rhythm. The main difference between the behavior of these two luminaries is that the Moon moves beyond the maximum ecliptic limit as defined by the sun. Sometimes quite often! And not every year will appear the same graphically. Below are two charts showing the Moon’s declination in the year 2015 and 2025. Totally different!

Lunar declination for the year 2015. Each zigzag represents one lunar cycle through the tropical zodiac by declination. The Sun moves through the zodiac once per year so that’s why there is only one extended zigzag in the previous graph. In 2015 the Moon’s declination reached a max of about 18° north and south of the celestial equator.
Lunar declination for the year 2025. This year the Moon’s declination is regularly reaching as far as 28° north and south of the celestial equator, well beyond maximum ecliptic limit.

While the Sun’s rhythm in relation to the celestial equator remains constant, the Moon’s varies significantly. This flux can be seen in the astrological significations of the Moon relating to liminality, transience, impermanence, fluctuation, growth and decay. The Moon’s out of bounds cycle relates to periods of instability, whereas periods when it remains in-bounds are related to more structured control (See work of Astrid Fallon and Jelena Lemot in resource page). The Sun however, does no such thing as it defines this limit that remains fixed – like the modality of it’s sign of domicile. Just considering the declination cycles of the Sun and Moon gives us a concise and overarching view of their significations.

This same logic can be applied to the rest of the solar system. Of the seven traditional planets besides the Sun, the ones that go out of bounds (beyond the maximum ecliptic limit) include: Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, and Jupiter. The planets of fluctuation, variation, relation, separation, and profusion all reach beyond the limits of the boss of the solar system from time to time. Except Saturn, planet of structure and finality. Naturally.

When looking at the outer planets Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto we find that Neptune, like Saturn, does not go out of bounds at all. I see Neptune as being at the opposite end of the spectrum as Saturn in terms of their significations so I find it amusing that neither of them (thankfully) ever adventure off “beyond the realm of reason” (Kt Boehrer) while Uranus and Pluto, planets of upheaval and power, do.

Looking at the declination rhythms of the asteroids offers similar insight into their significations, especially when compared to the traditional planets. The graph below shows the declination for Venus and Juno over a three year period of 2020-2023. We can see that Venus is wandering off beyond the reach of the Sun by declination several times while Juno’s declination remains much closer to the ecliptic the entire time. Juno in fact, never goes out of bounds. The asteroid of right relations remains firmly within bounds, within the normal everyday reach of the organizing principle of the solar system. Venus however, planet of desire and values, has a significantly greater range by declination, even going significantly out of bounds.

Declination graph showing Venus (green) and Juno (black) through 2020-2022.

Chiron is another asteroid that never goes out of bounds, and this too is reflected in his fated mythology. By declination Chiron’s rhythm is similar to Juno’s. Pallas, however, goes even further out of bounds than Venus! The goddess of creative intelligence’s ability to travel so far “beyond normal” makes perfect sense to me considering how often the greatest expressions of creativity come from thinking “outside the box”.

To learn more about declination and out of bounds planets in astrology, check out this resource page with 30+ links for further learning. I update this pretty often.

What observations have you made about declination and significations of celestial bodies? There is a huge, open world waiting to be researched especially with out of bounds asteroids so I hope you dive in and share your findings!

*This figure changes slightly, between 22°-24°, over a period of 40,000 years. Earth’s current obliquity (axial tilt/max ecliptic limit) is 23°26′.

Maighdlin M Kelly 2022

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