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What is a Decan?

Posted by Victoria Reinertsdatter on

One thing that any astrologer who writes horoscopes has heard ad nauseum is how generalized the sun sign horoscopes are. Now, there are two camps that will get just utterly belligerent about this: skeptics, which, most people expect. But, also, hardline old school astrologers also get pretty nasty when it comes to their opinions of horoscopes of this nature. Some even believe that they’ve somehow contributed to the denigration of astrology itself. Obviously, I disagree with both. Ever since the first column, What the Stars Foretell appeared in the early 30’s, this has been the case, and I go into that a bit more in A Brief History of Astrology. For this month’s Astrology Lesson, however, I’d like to focus a bit more on the Decans and how they can make the very general Sun Sign horoscopes a bit less general.

If you’ve never heard of the decans, that’s understandable. They fell out of use owing to the cultural differences and other interpretations across the globe of astrology shifted things a bit. And when I say that it’s been a while, we’re talking Hellenistic Astrology. If they had newspaper horoscopes back then, up until about the first century A.D., you would have been reading about your decan, and not just the overall general sun sign. (I won’t go too deeply into how horoscopic astrology did not even exist at this time, but it didn’t. Not as we know it, now. The Greeks are mostly credited with this particular evolution in the use of astrology, incidentally.)

You have to understand how things worked back then. The decans were simply another way that the ancients drilled down the data: parts of the calendar, based on the movement of what they saw in the sky, each day. These were then associated with gods or goddesses because, back then (and even now, actually), many believed that the stars and plans were actually alive, intelligent and working at the behest or against humanity. Once this fell out of practice due to that rise in horoscopic astrology, however, you’d really only find the decans mentioned in certain branches of astrology.

Now, if you were to go back even further, let’s say you’re looking at Egypt or Babylonian astrology, you might find things are a bit different. The Egyptians really only worked with about 36 constellations, and though their focus was leaning a bit more towards the use of the decans, they really didn’t break it up into ten degrees each at that point. They instead used the days to measure the year, and in doing so, used that to measure the decans. This doesn’t add up to the degrees in a circle. So, the Greeks are looking at this, going, “Wait wait, if we part this out by the zodiac, we can use these decans, too.” and, the math worked out to each decan being 10 degrees, and then assigned to a sign. They would also adopt a lot of the Babylonian use of the star deities in this.

So, here’s where we get into how these things were used and why, historically. Now, a lot of this gets pretty fatalistic. For instance, “born under a bad sign”- they had adopted this particular tradition from the Egyptians. If you were born under a certain decan, they’d say it was the portent of a very fortunate life, and well, under another could spell your doom. This was also, incidentally, the basis for our more modern use of the Ascendant. Going on, these would also be used in weather prediction and mundane astrology, as well as medical astrology. It’s also theorized that they would conduct certain rites and rituals as there were better times to get in touch with certain deities and spirits based on their positions in the sky at the time. If you want a really fun chuckle, start trying to explain to someone who is dominantly a more modern astrologer about what all of this did for the systems of planetary rulership. You can almost watch the confusion surface as their eyebrows knit together and the “But-but-but…” begins to slide from their mouths.

...oh, I suppose that’s a little mean.

Anyway, so, getting into the nuts and bolts here, as I mentioned, each sun sign in the zodiac is broken down into thirds. Each one of these has its own planetary ruler and this, then, becomes the co-ruler of your sign. These are actually lumped into elements, and each decan will be in the same element as the sign. So, look at the first sign of the zodiac, Aries. You look at this and whatever that first planet in Aries is, this is going to apply for that third of the 30 degrees of the sign. This is just gonna be your straight up Aries person: Total Mars. So, whatever sign you happen to be, if you’re born within that first decan, you’re going to be that stereotypical “Whatever.” If you’ve ever said or heard someone say “SUCH a stereotypical Gemini!” or otherwise, it’s probable that they were born within that first ten degrees. (Word of warning: It may just also be the rest of their chart emphasizes this, too.)

But what happens when your planet is between 10-20 degrees? Well, you’ve still got the Aries influence, for sure, but you’ve also got a bit of Leo thrown in there for good measure, and instead of Mars being the co-ruler for an Aries-Aries punch, you’ll have the Sun as the co-ruler. So on and so forth, this will change the way that solar energy is expressed.

It’s not just your sun sign you can do this with- but each and every planet you’ve got. Your Mercury might be in Virgo, but if it’s in the 3rd decan, your communication style may be a lot sweeter than if it was in the second because the 3rd is ruled by Venus whereas that second is ruled by Saturn.

Let’s have a look at those now:

Aries, Element: Fire, Ruler: Mars

  • Aries Decan 1: March 20 to 29, 0-10 degrees, Mars
  • Aries Decan 2: March 30 to April 8, 10-20 degrees, Sun
  • Aries Decan 3: April 9 to 19, 10-30 degrees, Jupiter

Taurus: Element: Earth, Ruler: Venus

  • Taurus Decan 1: April 20 to 30, 0-10 degrees, Venus
  • Taurus Decan 2: May 1 to 10, 10-20 degrees, Mercury
  • Taurus Decan 3: May 10 to 19, 20-30 degrees, Saturn

Gemini: Element: Air, Ruler: Mercury

  • Gemini Decan 1: May 20 to 31, 0-10 degrees, Mercury
  • Gemini Decan 2: June 1 to 11, 10-20 degrees, Venus
  • Gemini Decan 3: June 12 to 20, 20-30 degrees, Uranus

Cancer: Element: Water, Ruler: Moon

  • Cancer Decan 1: June 21 to 30, 0-10 degrees, Moon
  • Cancer Decan 2: July 1 to 12, 10-20 degrees, Pluto
  • Cancer Decan 3: July 13 to 22, 20-30 degrees, Neptune

Leo: Element: Fire, Ruler: Sun

  • Leo Decan 1: July 23 to August 2, 0-10 degrees, Sun
  • Leo Decan 2: August 3 to 12, 10-20 degrees, Jupiter
  • Leo Decan 3: August 13 to 22, 20-30 degrees, Mars

Virgo: Element: Earth, Ruler: Mercury

  • Virgo Decan 1: August 23 to September 2, 0-10 degrees, Mercury
  • Virgo Decan 2: September 3 to 12, 10-20 degrees, Saturn
  • Virgo Decan 3: September 13 to 22, 20-30 degrees, Venus

Libra: Element: Air, Ruler: Venus

  • Libra Decan 1: September 23 to October 3, 0-10 degrees, Venus
  • Libra Decan 2: October 4 to 13, 10-20 degrees, Uranus
  • Libra Decan 3: October 14 to 22, 20-30 degrees, Mercury

Scorpio: Element: Water, Ruler: Pluto

  • Scorpio Decan 1: October 23 to November 1, 0-10 degrees, Pluto
  • Scorpio Decan 2: November 2 to 11, 10-20 degrees, Neptune
  • Scorpio Decan 3: November 12 to 22, 20-30 degrees, Moon

Sagittarius: Element: Fire, Ruler: Jupiter

  • Sagittarius Decan 1: November 23 to December 2, 0-10 degrees, Jupiter
  • Sagittarius Decan 2: December 3 to 12, 10-20 degrees, Mars
  • Sagittarius Decan 3: December 13 to 22, 20-30 degrees, Sun

Capricorn: Element: Earth, Ruler: Saturn

  • Capricorn Decan 1: December 23 to 31, 0-10 degrees, Saturn
  • Capricorn Decan 2: January 1 to 10, 10-20 degrees, Venus
  • Capricorn Decan 3: January 11 to 19, 20-30 degrees, Mercury

Aquarius: Element: Air, Ruler: Uranus

  • Aquarius Decan 1:January 20 to 29, 0-10 degrees, Uranus
  • Aquarius Decan 2: January 30 to February 9, 10-20 degrees, Mercury
  • Aquarius Decan 3: February 9 to 18, 20-30 degrees, Venus

Pisces: Element: Water, Ruler: Neptune

  • Pisces Decan 1: February 19 to 29, 0-10 degrees, Neptune
  • Pisces Decan 2: March 1 to 9, 10-20 degrees, Moon
  • Pisces Decan 3: March 9 to 20, 20-30 degrees, Pluto

Now, to figure out what all of those mean exactly, you’re going to want to do a little homework as to what those co-rulers’ influences mean or, you know, you could just ask me. As always, I don’t mind answering any questions you may have! 

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