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Glossary of terms

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The Sun’s apparent path around the Earth, viewed from the seemingly stationary perspective of the Earth. So named because it is when the Moon joins the Sun on this path that eclipses occur. The ecliptic is the basis of zodiacal measurement, commencing at 0° Aries from where the ecliptic cuts the equator as the Sun moves to the northern hemisphere (the vernal equinox).

Electional astrology

The branch of astrology that seeks to identify the time of optimum planetary support for any particular activity that needs to be undertaken, in order to increase the chances of successful accomplishment. The astrologer ‘elects’ or chooses the time to act. For example, one might elect to commence a battle at a time that Mars offers favourable support.


Where the significator of the questited is located in the house of the querent. This gives a promise of perfection but usually needs supporting factors to reinforce the promise.


From the Latin aequus  'equal' + nox 'night', the term refers to the two points on the zodiac (0° Aries; 0° Libra) or the two times of the year when daytime and nighttime are equal in length. 

The vernal equinox is when the Sun reaches 0° Aries, which in the northern hemisphere  marks the first day of spring as the sun moves north across the equator to instigate the period where daytime become longer than night-time (vernal comes from the Latin word ver, meaning 'spring'.) 

The September equinox (0° Libra)  occurs when the sun crosses the equator going south (so this marks the first day of autumn in the northern hemisphere and the first day of spring for people living in the southern hemisphere). 

Contrast with solstice: either of the two moments in the year when the sun's apparent path is farthest north or south from the equator.

Essential dignity

This is the strength that a planet gains due to it being in an area of zodiacal rulership– so named because it shows the parts of the zodiac where the traditional planets are always dignified. These regions are considered to have a fundamental (or essential) relationship with the planet itself, inasmuch as Mars will always have a special association with Aries, regardless of its angularity or house position. The main essential dignities are rulership by sign or exaltation; the lesser dignities are rulership by triplicity, term or face. A planet is essentially debilitated when placed in its sign of detriment or fall.


A swift planet is about to perfect an aspect with a slower one but before it perfects the slower planet moves out of the sign and one or either of the significators meets with another planet.


One of the most important of the five essential dignities of a planet. Each of the seven traditional planets has its exaltation in one zodiac sign. Historically, some specific degrees have been recorded for each planet in its sign of exaltation, but exaltation is generally held to extend throughout the sign.

Exaltation diagram

Ezra, Abraham ibn - astrologer (a.k.a. Avenezra: c.1092-1167)

Born in Spain, Ezra spent much of his life travelling, including visits to Egypt, Baghdad, Rome, and London. A Jew, he wrote a series of astrological texts In Hebrew which together offer a comprehensive treatment of its various branches. Principum Sapientiae (L: ‘Beginning of Wisdom’) is his ‘Introduction’ and the best known of his works. It was translated into English in 1939, and more recently by Meira B. Epstein (1998). Epstein has an ongoing project to translate further works. Several texts, including Ezra’s Book of Interrogations, which specifically details the principles of horary astrology, have also been made available in English translation by the respected Jewish scholar Shlomo Sela.