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Glossary of terms

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Above the earth

Descriptive of planets above the horizon, i.e., placed in the 12th, 11th, 10th, 9th, 8th or 7th house. In many kinds of charts it is considered beneficial to have the Sun, Moon or majority of the planets ‘above the earth’. This may be the case, for example, in a theft chart, where it could show that hidden factors are more likely to ‘come to light’; or in a medical-related chart in showing that the problem is fully manifest and easy to diagnose;  or in a chart concerning a ship in danger, where it would increase the likelihood of the ship remaining afloat.

Contrast with 'Below/under the earth'

Abu-Ma’shar - astrologer (a.k.a. Albumasar: 787-886)

Born in Khorasan, like Masha’allah and Sahl he moved to Baghdad where his reputation grew: towards the end of his life he was considered the greatest astrologer of his time. He studied under Alkindi, and it was a philosophical argument with Alkindi that fuelled his desire to gain knowledge. His most important astrological work, The Great Introduction to the Science of Astrology, was written around 850 CE and was widely circulated for many generations as an authoritative text, receiving many translations, both in its full and in an abbreviated form. (The abbreviated text was translated into English in 1997, by Charles Burnett).

Accidental dignity

Strength that a planet gains for some reason other than its zodiacal placement. It can be conveyed by any attribute that helps to increase the prominence of its effects – such as being angular, direct/swift in motion, free from combustion, in a beneficial aspect to a fortunate planet or conjunct a fixed star of a fortunate nature.


Causing damage to a house or planet. If one of the malefics is in bad aspect to another planet, the latter is afflicted by it. Mars, Saturn, (or the South Node) can afflict houses by their presence, particularly if they are poorly dignified and involved in difficult aspects. Planets that are usually considered benefics can also afflict, if they are in a damaged state or act as rulers of the houses that are traditionally considered unfortunate, i.e.: - 4th, 6th, 8th and 12th houses.

Al Biruni - astrologer (973-1048)

Regarded as one of the greatest scholars of the medieval Islamic era. He spent much of his life in Ghazni (modern day Afghanistan) where he worked as the court astrologer, but he also travelled widely, acquiring knowledge of a wide range of philosophical subjects and acquiring fluency in many languages. His Book of Instruction in the Elements of the Art of Astrology was translated into English by R. Ramsay Wright in 1934.

Albertus Magnus (‘Albert the Great’: 1193-1280)

A Catholic Dominican friar and bishop, considered the greatest German philosopher and theologian of the Middle Ages. He gained fame for advocating scientific and religious harmony and was made a saint by the Catholic Church in 1931. Albertus approved of judicial astrology and supported the practice of horary at a time when other medieval authorities were condemning it on the grounds that it contradicted the Catholic Church’s teaching on freedom of will. Albertus argued that horary does not inhibit free will, but rather enhances it by giving the querent better informed choices. His arguments on this matter are presented in his Speculum Astronomiae where he maintained that well known books on horary and judicial astrology should not be burned or considered unnatural. 

Alkindi - astrologer (c. 801-873)

Educated in Baghdad, Alkindi became a prominent figure in the House of Wisdom and served under several Caliphs to oversee the translation of scientific texts into Arabic. He translated over 200 important works and went on to write hundreds of original treatises of his own, gaining him a reputation for being the greatest philosopher of his era. 


The angular distance of a planet above or below the horizon.


The angles are the ascendant, descendant, midheaven (MC) and Imum Coeli (or ‘lower midheaven’: IC). These mark the cusps of the 1st, 7th, 10th and 4th houses, and are also referred to as ‘cardinal points’. Planets in these houses are generally defined as ‘angular’ and powerful in influence.


A method of rectification which can be traced back to the work of Ptolemy and is explained in detail in several traditional works. It aims to correct the degree of the ascendant (once the astrologer knows which sign should be on the ascendant) by using the degree position of the planet that had most influence over the preceding New or Full Moon.

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