Classifying Signs in Traditional Astrology

In astrology, sign classification systems promote the qualitative understanding of any given (sign-based) relationship. The purpose of this article is to demonstrate sign-based relationships relative to the obeying /commanding signs, their harmonious configurations, and oppositions. By exploring the significations of the ascensional signs, divided into sections below, further intricacies can be generated for educational purposes, equally applicable to chart delineations.

The Indirect and Direct Ascensional Signs

Dividing the zodiac along its ascension line, the twelve signs are classified into two groups of six. Simplistically, of the twelve signs, six are of indirect or crooked ascent while the other six are direct. This vertical division accentuates the lesser and greater ascensional times of the indirect and direct signs, respectively. Comparatively, signs ascending directly, from the start of Cancer to the end of Sagittarius, coincide with greater ascensional times, while signs of crooked or indirect ascension, from the start of Capricorn to the end of Gemini, have lesser ascensional times.

The configuration of (vertical) signs crossing the (horizontal) ascension divide are deemed to interact in concordance. Of course, depending on the author, this form of agreement differs in description. Ptolemy, for example, notes these signs as ‘seeing and hearing’, but omits specification (between signs that ‘see’ and ‘hear’). Medieval authors such as Abu Ma’shar reference the crooked and direct signs as relating ‘for prosperous actions’ alluding to the signification of a probable alliance. Despite the varying explanations, the underlying message is one of favorable consent.

Obeying and Commanding Signs

As signs straddling the solstices, obeying and commanding signs, horizontal from left to right, correspond with the arrangement of antiscia. When signs coordinate by sharing the same hour, they are said to compliment each other in a form of obedience. When signs are paired by individual degrees, or antiscia (antiskion), they are deemed to formulate a co-operative alliance. In essence, this counter-penumbra (skia= ‘shadow’, anti= ‘counter’) is said to form a potent, virtuous coalition. While the discussion of antiscia (and contra-antiscia) will be limited here, in order to fully explore the degrees of each sign pairing, it merits a separate (future) post.

A few terms: In Greek, prostassonta (or keleuonta) refers to commanding, while akounta is the term for hearing.

Via sign modality, the horizontal scheme begins and ends with the cardinal and mutable modalities. Therefore, from left to right, cardinal Capricorn obeys mutable Sagittarius, fixed Aquarius obeys fixed Scorpio, mutable Pisces obeys cardinal Libra, cardinal Aries obeys mutable Virgo, fixed Taurus obeys fixed Leo, and mutable Gemini obeys cardinal Cancer.

Therefore, to facilitate memorization, the indirect/ direct arrangement follows this pattern, via modality, from left to right:

1. Cardinal obeys mutable.

2. Fixed obeys fixed.

3. Mutable obeys cardinal.

4. Cardinal obeys mutable.

5. Fixed obeys fixed.

6. Mutable obeys cardinal.

This sequence encompasses all twelve signs, since the ascension line equally divides the zodiacal signs into two groups of six. For short: 1. CM, 2. FF 3. MC, 4. CM, 5. FF, 6. MC.

Crossing the Ascension: Harmonious Aspects Between the Obeying and Commanding Signs

Obeying and Commanding Signs to the Left and Right, respectively.

When obeying signs relate to commanding signs via trine or sextile, the dialogue is considered to be more agreable. In the diagram above, following the basic obeying/ commanding relationship, I begin to add the harmonious sextiles and trines to the top and bottom, respectively. Note that for the purposes of simplicity, clarification, and to prevent confusion, this first diagram is intentionally left incomplete. In other words, only the obeying and commanding signs via horizontal configuration are rendered, while introducing only four additional aspects, via sextile and trine (at the start with Capricorn to Scorpio and Virgo, and ending with Taurus and Gemini to Cancer and Leo, respectively).

The final diagram (displayed below) discloses all possible configurations between signs crossing the ascension line. In other words, given the example above, Capricorn, obeying Sagittarius via ascension, simultaneously obeys Scorpio via sextile, and Virgo via trine. The scheme continues the basic horizontal configurations, until it ends with indirect Taurus obeying Leo, and in sextile to Cancer (the trine to Virgo is added in the following diagram). Gemini, the last of the crooked signs, traditionally obeys Cancer while in sextile to Leo (its trine to Libra is, again, included in the last diagram below). To reiterate, note that these configurations are only formed betweeen signs crossing the ascension line, and that the harmonious configurations share the same electric/ magnetic expression. (*)

Obeying and Commanding Oppositions

Deemed contrary in esteem, oppositions still follow the obey/command principle. In the diagram below, all oppositions are illustrated, considering their locations naturally cross the ascensional divide. Indirect Capricorn opposes direct Cancer, indirect Aquarius opposes direct Leo, indirect Pisces opposes direct Virgo, indirect Aries opposes direct Libra, indirect Taurus opposes direct Scorpio, and indirect Gemini opposes direct Sagittarius. From the top of this diagram, first crooked or indirect sign, Capricorn diagonally opposes Cancer, as the rest of the signs follow a diagonal pattern, from left to right. Similarly, the obeying/ commanding sextiles and trines also align in diagonal symmetry.

Putting it All Together: The Symmetry of Concord

Obeying/ Commanding, Including, Sextile, Trine, and Opposition

Obeying/ Commanding, Including, Sextile, Trine, and Opposition

After observing the fundamental relationship between crooked and direct signs, strictly crossing the ascensional line, I added the sextile, trine, and opposition configurations, and arrived at the diagram above. In other words, this pattern is a result of studying the basic interaction between obeying and commanding signs, including those in harmonious aspects. Again, the core rule is that signs must cross the ascensional line in order to participate in a configuration that adheres to the commanding/ obeying principle. A sextile between Capricorn and Pisces, for example, is unable to extend beyond the left side of the diagram, and would contradict the relationship between obeying and commanding signs.

If the interaction between crooked and direct signs is indeed one of agreement or amant, then the symmetrical arrangement of its possible configurations is a visual affirmation of this acquiescence. Equally, signs promoting dynamic camaraderie as a result of equidistant ascensions (or in the words of the ancients, ‘giving themselves for prosperous actions’) are visual declarations of concordant symmetry.

Copyright © 2019 Saturn and the Sun Astrology. All rights reserved.

Notes: (*) ‘Electric’ and ‘magnetic’ are the terms I am currently using as substitutes for gender.

Etching by K. Kalynovych.

Hand-drawn diagrams are my own. Please do not reproduce without permission. As noted above, I have arrived at these diagrams by studying the source texts referenced below.


Paul of Alexandria, Introduction

Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos

Dykes, Benjamin (trans.), Introductions to Traditional Astrology: Abu-Ma’shar and al-Qabisi

Brennan, Chris, Hellenistic Astrology