Sect in Astrology

Determining Sect in Astrology

Determining sect is both a simple yet potent Hellenistic technique for the purposes of chart delineation. By definition, the word ‘sect’ implies a separation, or bisection, that forms a grouping of astrological similitudes. Sect introduces the concept of astrological alliances (not unlike a ‘religious sect’) that establish unification within a specified division. Essentially, sect divides planets, signs, and hemispheres into two main polarities: diurnal and nocturnal. By doing so, a clearer understanding of planetary affiliation arises, an insight applicable to any given chart. Primarily, sect is a qualitative factor that modifies the benefic or malefic implications of planets in any given chart.

A simple approach to sect identification divides a chart between diurnal (or the quality of day), and nocturnal (or quality of night) polarities. This is easily done by locating the Sun’s relative position to the chart’s horizon. A chart is of diurnal sect as soon as the Sun rises above the exact degree of the Ascendant, since the Ascendant is indicative of the eastern horizon where the Sun rises each morning. [1] Once the Sun’s location is established relative to the horizon, a chart can be pronounced as either diurnal or nocturnal.

Sect Example I.

In ‘Sect Example I’, we clearly witness the Sun, at 19°25′ Libra, in the diurnal hemisphere, above the horizon, and therefore, affirm the diurnal quality, or sect, of this example chart. Locating the Sun’s placement is the first step in sect identification. In other words, we are not yet analyzing other planets or signs in the chart. Once we have established the sect of a chart, we can then identify the attributes of the remaining components.

Planets, Signs, and Hemispheres Relative to Sect

By default, the traditional planets are deemed diurnal if they are masculine, while the nocturnal planets are considered feminine, respectively. Therefore, the Sun, Jupiter and Saturn are of the diurnal (or day-time) sect, while the Moon, Venus, and Mars belong to the nocturnal (or night-time) sect.

Malleable Mercury

What about Mercury? Well, the flexible, fleet-footed Messenger takes a semi-neutral stance on the topic of sect, since the Messenger relies on the position of the Sun. In other words, if poised before the Sun in a diurnal chart, he naturally remains part of the day-time sect, while adhering to the nocturnal sect if placed in a night-time chart. Back to the ‘Sect Example I’ chart above, Mercury (at 4°18′ Scorpio) is of diurnal sect, strictly relative to the Sun’s location. Were the Sun poised before Mercury in the diurnal chart example above, Mercury would belong to the nocturnal sect, even if the chart is diurnal. Mercury’s position relative to the Sun determines its sect. If Mercury rises ahead of the Sun, even in a night chart, it is diurnal. If it rises after the Sun, even in a day chart, it is nocturnal.

Sect in Astrology

As for signs, those of masculine origin are considered diurnal, namely, Aries, Gemini, Leo, Libra, Sagittarius, and Aquarius. In contrast, the feminine signs are nocturnal: Taurus, Cancer, Virgo, Scorpio, Capricorn, and Pisces.

Regarding the hemispheres, the diurnal sect embraces the 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th houses, where planets are visible above the horizon. In contrast, the nocturnal sect overshadows the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th houses, where the planets are ‘invisibly’ placed below the horizon.

Benefic of the Sect in Favor

Perhaps one of the most useful functions of sect is the clarity it bestows upon the behavior of both the benefics and malefics in any given chart. Astrology commonly describes Jupiter as the ‘Greater Benefic’, Venus as the ‘Lesser Benefic’, Saturn as the ‘Greater Malefic’, and Mars as the ‘Lesser Malefic’. However, via sect, while Jupiter functions as the ‘Greater Benefic’ in a diurnal chart, Venus assumes that same role in a nocturnal chart. While Jupiter retains the throne as the Greater Benefic in a diurnal chart, his affirming qualities are lessened within the context of a nocturnal chart. Instead, in a night-time chart, Venus becomes the benefic of the sect in favor, where her reconciliatory nature is heightened as ‘queen’ of the nocturnal sect. Of course, there are mitigating factors that potentially alter the significance of said planets, but overall, this principle remains solidified.

Malefic Contrary to the Sect in Favor

Contrasting benefic planets, the malefic contrary to the sect in favor will behave more potentially challenging, while the more constructive qualities of a malefic will surface as a result of its association with the sect in favor (ie., Saturn in the day and Mars in the night). In other words, in a diurnal chart, the malefic contrary to the sect in favor is Mars, while Saturn retains dominance as malefic contrary to the nocturnal sect. To reiterate, we generally witness the more constructive characteristics of Saturn in a day-time chart, while Mars is considerably more cooperative in a night-time chart.

Sect in Astrology

Astrological references on album’s cover art deserve a separate post.

Saturn’s Sect (Clarified by Blue Öyster Cult)

Having some difficulty understanding why Saturn behaves more constructively during the day as opposed to night? Well, Blue Öyster Cult‘s 1976 single, “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper”, reverberates a solid understanding of Saturn’s natural disposition when paired with the Sun.* [2] Note its succinct insight:

Seasons don’t fear the reaper
Nor do the wind, the sun or the rain

See that? The Sun needn’t fear the Reaper: the solar rays are well aware of Saturn’s potentially constructive behavior in a diurnal chart. Firmicus Maternus affirms this in his interpretation of Saturn in the eighth house, nothing that “… if by day, [Saturn] allots an increase in income over a period of time.” [1] However, Saturn’s malefic nature is intensified as the Sun drops below the horizon. In a nocturnal chart, Saturn is said to be “contrary to the sect” in favor (para ten hairesin). In general, malefics become more challenging (as is their natural disposition, in contrast to benefics) when they are contrary to a sect, be it Saturn in a night chart or Mars in a day chart. Here, the subjectively negative significations of the malefics become aggravated, behaving in a more (comparatively) deleterious manner.

Sect in Astrology

Diurnal and Nocturnal Planets from ‘Positive’ to ‘Negative’

Identifying Planets in a Diurnal Chart

Sect in Astrology

Diurnal Chart I

Beginning with the Sun, we witness its placement in the diurnal hemisphere, above the eastern horizon of the Ascendant degree. Therefore, with this day-time chart, the Sun is of diurnal sect, and becomes the luminary in favor. As a result, Jupiter is the benefic of the sect in favor, and his affirming, subjectively positive qualities are naturally amplified in this chart. Additionally, Mercury becomes part of the day-time sect, as a direct result of the Sun’s placement. In this chart, the more constructive qualities of Saturn can surface, as the malefic contrary to the sect in favor is Mars. With this diurnal chart, since Mars is the benefic contrary to the sect in favor, he will be the more subjectively challenging component of the sect and chart, respectively. Note that, for the purposes of this article, we are merely isolating planetsand hemispheres relative to sect. Therefore, all other forms of chart delineation are excluded.

Identifying Planets in a Nocturnal Chart

Sect in Astrology

Nocturnal Chart I

As the Sun is poised below the horizon in the nocturnal hemisphere, the luminary of the sect in favor is the Moon. In this night-time chart, Venus is the benefic of the sect in favor, and her reconcilatory qualities are amplified in a more subjectively positive manner. Additionally, Mercury becomes part of the nocturnal sect, again, as a direct result of the Sun’s position (in the nocturnal hemisphere). In this chart, the more constructive characteristics of Mars can be activated, as it is Saturn that becomes the malefic contrary to the sect in favor. In other words, Saturn manifests as the more subjectively challenging planet in this nocturnal chart. Again, for the purposes of this article, we are merely isolating sect as a form of identifying the roles of planetary energies.

‘Rejoicing’ Conditions in Sect

Planets prefer to be in charts that complement their own sect. When this occurs, a planet is considered to be ‘of the sect’ and is referred to (in Hellenistic astrology) as ‘rejoicing’. There are two sect-related conditions that allow for the ‘rejoicing’ of planets. These conditions underline a planet’s position relative to the horizon and zodiacal sign placement. The latter has three different variations, as a result of disparate ideas regarding the signs in the Hellenistic tradition.

1. Rejoicing Via Planetary Position

For the first principle, diurnal planets ‘rejoice’ when placed above the horizon in a day chart or below the horizon in a night chart. Essentially, in day charts, the Sun, Jupiter, and Saturn (being diurnal planets) prefer to appear above the Ascendant-Descendant. In contrast, their preference is below the horizon axis when located in nocturnal charts. In parallel, the nocturnal sect (the Moon, Venus, and Mars) prefers placement above the Ascendant-Descendant axis at night, or below it during the day. Additionally, recall that Mercury, remaining neutral to both sect and gender (most authors treat Mercury as neutral aside from Rhetorius), transforms in preference relative to the Sun. For the purposes of clarity, note that this condition (rejoicing via planetary position) remains the most important when identifying sect.

2. Rejoicing Via Zodiacal Sign

As stated above, the second sect-related ‘rejoicing’ condition includes three variants as a result of Hellenistic disagreements regarding zodiacal signs. They are as follows:

  • Masculine signs and feminine signs are attributed to the diurnal and nocturnal sect, respectively. As a result, diurnal and nocturnal planets rejoice in masculine and feminine signs, respectively. Essentially, planets rejoice when paired with signs of their same gender.
  • The Leo-Cancer axis is used to divide the zodiac into two hemispheres. As a result, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, and Capricorn are said to be diurnal signs. Additionally, Cancer, Gemini, Taurus, Aries, Pisces, and Aquarius are considered nocturnal.
  • Sign-sect is determined according to the sign’s domicile lord. For example, Aries becomes a nocturnal sign because it is ruled by Mars, as the latter belongs to the night-sect. Taurus would also be considered nocturnal since it is Venus-ruled, also of the night-time sect. According to this condition, Gemini would have to be considered neutral, as it is ruled by Mercury (the one planet that is neutral in sect). Furthermore, zodiacal sect division would resume with Cancer, being nocturnal as the result of Luna, followed by diurnal Leo, in relation to the (diurnal) Sun. Because Jupiter is a diurnal, masculine planet, and the traditional, domicile lord of Pisces, we would conclude sign-sect by assigning diurnal/ masculine properties to Pisces.

Rejoicing Conditions in Medieval Doctrines

In the Medieval tradition, the rejoicing conditions via sign were deemed as important as the primary consideration: planetary position relative to the horizon. In other words, all three considerations held equal importance. The term ‘hayz’ is applied when the nature of a planet agrees with its hemisphere placement or the chart quadrant and its sign. For example, hayz occurs when a masculine and diurnal planet is placed in the Sun’s hemisphere while in a masculine sign. Similarly, hayz applies to feminine, nocturnal planets placed in the hemisphere opposite to the Sun while placed in feminine signs, respectively. [2]

It is noted that the loss of clarity regarding the above disclosed variants resulted in the decline and ultimate dissolution of sect-related, ‘rejoicing’ conditions by the 20th century. Lastly, the astrological perspectives of the Hellenistic tradition still place importance on the first condition of rejoicing. From this viewpoint, importance is placed on the planetary position in relation to the horizon.

Sect in Astrology: Summary

Distinguishing between diurnal and nocturnal charts is a fundamental component of Hellenistic astrology. Dividing planets into diurnal and nocturnal polarities facilitates a lucid understanding of planetary function in any given chart. The qualitative distinction of sect, as it applies to planetary function, specifically clarifies the behavior of the malefics and benefics in chart delineation. Although the application of sect dissolved prior to the surge of modern astrology (partly as the result of discrepancies in the employment of ‘rejoicing’ conditions), its use has grown during the past two decades. [1]


1. Brennan, Chris, Hellenistic Astrology

2. Houlding, Deborah. Hayz, Skyscript, 2012.

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