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Glossary of terms

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In many ways, the polarities of masculinity and femininity are similar to those of sect (diurnal/nocturnal); masculinity representing the active, solar principle, and femininity representing the passive (or receptive) lunar principle. But diurnal/nocturnal definitions seem to be more dependent upon the generation of heat (diurnal) or lack of it (nocturnal), whilst the masculine/feminine definitions are more dependent upon dryness (masculinity) or moisture (femininity). It may be that both divisions arose as alternate ways to describe the same essential polarisation that modern astrologers prefer to label ‘positive or negative’. The masculine/feminine definitions are also heavily dependent upon Pythagorean numerological principles, where all the masculine signs, (which are also the diurnal ones), are the odd numbered ones; and all the feminine signs (which are also the nocturnal ones) are even numbered. The masculine planets are the Sun and the superiors:Saturn, Jupiter, Mars; the feminine planets are the inferiors: Moon, Venus; with Mercury being common to both genders. The distinction may be partly based upon the way that the planets emerge from conjunction with the Sun – the superiors always emerge on the right hand side, the Moon always on the left, with Venus and Mercury able to emerge on either side. See ‘diurnal’, ‘occidental’, ‘dexter’ and ‘sect’.

Masha’allah - astrologer (c.740–820)

Both Masha’allah, and his younger contemporary Sahl (Zael) descended from a Jewish settlement at Marw, the capital of Khorasan, in Persia (a.k.a. Merv: equates to modern Afghanistan). They moved to Arabia to act as court astrologers and help establish centres of learning at the new capital city of Baghdad, following the conquest of Al Mansur in the 8th century. Their early background gave them distinct advantages in the translation of Greek Hellenistic texts since Marw was a predominantly Greek colony which lay on a trade route from Alexandria and acted as an important outpost for Hellenism. Therefore, Masha’allah and Sahl (who refers to Masha’allah frequently), became perfect transmitters of the Hellenised Arabian astrological texts which were later conveyed to medieval Europe.

As a young man Masha’allah helped elect the time of Baghdad’s formal foundation in 762, and he lived long enough to serve four succeeding caliphs, each of whom continued to develop the ‘House of Wisdom’ as a centre of translation and transmission of knowledge and science. Of all the philosophers of the era, he is described as being “the leading person for the science of judgements of the stars” (Al Nadim, Fihrist, p.650). He wrote numerous works on astrology in Arabic which were later translated into Latin to help establish the principles of Medieval astrology.


One of the four humours, related to the season of winter and the element of earth. It denotes a cold and dry temperament and the word ‘melancholic’ is often used to describe someone who is slow to respond to passions, profound in thought, with a serious (often pessimistic) outlook which inclines towards depression and introversion. In physiology the melancholic humour is traditionally reputed to be seated in black bile (faeces), which supports the principle of retention by the function of compression.


The imaginary line passing through the celestial poles and the observer’s zenith and nadir, dividing the sky into east and west; a celestial equivalent of terrestrial longitude (from the Latin meri, ‘middle’, and diem, ‘day’, because the Sun crosses the meridian at noon).

Midheaven (MC)

The degree of the ecliptic (zodiac) that culminates above the earth (this occurs due south in the northern hemisphere; due north in the southern hemisphere). In quadrant systems of house division it denotes the 10th house cusp. The Latin term was medium caelum, ‘middle heaven’; hence the abbreviation: MC. Not to be confused with the zenith.


Moitié is a French word derived from the Latin medietas, meaning "medium measure", "mean value" or "half". Its general use in traditional astrological texts is either to define a half-measure of any planet's orb (thereby identifying the distance that the orb extends on either side of the planet), or to denote the mean value obtained when two planetary orbs are added together and then halved to find the distance at which their rays unite.

To understand how the meaning of the word can alter according to context, it helps to realise that older authors usually expected a planet's influence to become noticeable on another planet whenever its conjunction or aspect with the other planet fell within the range of its own planetary orb. A standard set of planetary orbs had become widely reported by the 8th century (see table below), with most authors reporting that the Sun's orb extends over 30° of the zodiac, 15° either side of the centre of its body. This 15° limit was therefore often described as the moiety of the Sun's orb, being only half of its full radius; and any planet within 15° of a conjunction with the Sun is said to enter its beams (or go under its rays) regardless of the length of its own planetary orb. The same approach applied to the other planets.

Moiety diagram


In general terms: ‘earthly’, ‘elemental’, ‘relating to the earth’.

Mundane astrology

The branch of astrology dealing with influences affecting nations, collective experiences, weather, political leaders, historical trends and world events. Also known as political astrology.

Mutable / Common Signs

Also known as double-bodied / bi-corporeal: Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius and Pisces.



The point directly beneath an observer (opposite to the zenith) which is always perpendicular to the celestial horizon.

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