Astrology Terms: Cusps And Decanates

Decanates and Cusps are often-used words in astrology, but rarely defined. Learn what they mean and how they effect your horoscope.

Most people that follow their horoscopes have, at one time or another, come across the terms "Cusp" and "Decanate". In fact, many magazines, newspapers, and websites refer to these terms with regularity without ever defining them. Simply put, these are terms used by astrologers to make subdivisions of every sun sign. Knowing if you were born on a cusp, or which decanate you were born in, can give you a clearer picture of how your sun sign relates to you.

The Sun Signs

Just in case you are very new to the world of astrology, allow me to give you a quick review of the sun signs and their associated birthdays. (If you are already familiar with your sun sign, you may want to go ahead and skip to the next section where you can find out which decanate you were born in!) Your "sun sign" is the sign they refer to in most horoscopes in magazines and newspapers. The first sign of the zodiac is Aries (born March 21 - April 19). The element of Aries is fire and they are known for their bravery. Taurus (born April 20 - May 20) is the second sign of the zodiac. Taurus is an earth sign known for reliability. The third sign of the zodiac is Gemini (born May 21 - June 20). This is an air sign known for their quick responsiveness. Cancer (born June 21 - July 22) is the fourth sign. Cancer is a water sign known for being loyal. The fifth zodiac sign is Leo (born July 23 - August 22). The elemental sign of Leo is fire, and Leo's are known for their enthusiasm. Virgo (born August 23 - September 22) is the sixth sign of the zodiac. Virgo's are earth signs and they are known for their strong conscience. Libra (born September 23 - October 22) is the seventh sign of the zodiac. This air sign is known for their charming personality. The eighth sign of the zodiac is Scorpio (born October 23 - November 21). They are water signs that are known for being idealistic. The ninth sign of the zodiac is Sagittarius (born November 22- December 21). Sagittarius has the element of fire and is known for their optimism. The tenth sign of the zodiac is Capricorn (born December 22 - January 19). This earth sign is known for being very steady and stable. Aquarius (born January 20 - February 18) is the eleventh sign of the zodiac. They have the element of air and are known for their friendly nature. The final sign of the zodiac is Pisces (born February 19 -March 20). This water sign is known for their very compassionate outlook.

What are decanates?

Everybody has a decanate. A decanate (sometimes called a decan) is a subdivision of a sun sign. Every sun sign in divided into three parts: First Decanate, Second Decanate, and Third Decanate. The root of the word "decanate" is Greek for "ten days apart." This concept was borrowed from the Egyptians who had a 360-day calendar (although the Egyptians later added 5 days to their calendar due to the inaccuracy). The 360-day calendar year was broken into 10 day segments. It becomes easier to understand why the decanate is important when you recall that the zodiac is actually a circle. A circle has 360 degrees (a degree for each day of the 360-day calendar), each sign consists of 30 degrees of the zodiac. Each decanate, therefore 10 degrees of the zodiac circle. Each decanate, then, is 10 days long. (Keep in mind, the 10 days are an approximation, as we do not have 360-day calendars).

If you were born within the first 10 days of your sun sign, you were born in the First Decanate. If you were born in the 11th-20th day, you were born in the Second Decanate. You were born in the Third Decanate if you were born in the 21st - 30th day of your sun sign. Each decanate has its own constellation and its own qualities. Just as each sun sign has a planetary ruler, each decanate has one as well. These are actually called planetary subrulers because they do not override the entire sun sign's planetary ruler.

Your decanate does not change the basic characteristics of your sun sign, it just individualizes the characteristics a bit more. This is why many daily and weekly horoscopes actually give forecasts for individual decanates.

What is a Cusp?

There are actually two types of cusps in astrology: house cusps and sign cusps. Both mark the beginning of a particular sign, but house cusps refer to the twelve divisions on birth charts that are related to career, marriage, wealth, etc. You will not have a need to know about house cusps unless you are doing a birth chart analysis. The sign cusps are more commonly referred to.

The cusps of the sun signs mark where each sign begins. Astrologers do not agree entirely about what constitutes a true cusp. A safe rule of thumb, though, is the five-day rule. If you were born within the last five days or first five days of a sign, you were born on a cusp. Because of the inaccuracy of the Zodiac calendar, some people born on a cusp were actually born into a different sign than their birthday would dictate. The Sun does not move into each sign at exactly the same time every year. For this reason, if you were born on the same day as a sign change, you may want to consult an astrological ephemeris to confirm your true sun sign. (An astrological ephemeris is an almanac listing of exact planetary positions for each day of a year.)

If you were born on a cusp, you will find that you have qualities of the two signs that you straddle. The sign that you were actually born under, however, will always have the stronger influence.

Knowing which decanate you were born in and whether or not your were born on a cusp will enable you to receive and forecast more accurate horoscopes!

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