top of page


Astrology, like Astronomy, is three-dimensional. It has both horizontal and vertical measurements. The horizontal measurement is best known and very often exclusively used. This measurement is longitude but everyone knows it as the 12 signs of the zodiac.

The vertical measurement, declination, has been much less used, largely because few have really understood what to do with it, so beginners are rarely introduced to it beyond knowing it exists.

It’s All About the Sun

The essential feature of declination is that it is measured against the backdrop of the Sun’s apparent path in the sky. Over the course of the year, the Sun moves from 23˚26’ north latitude to 23˚26’ south latitude and back again. In between, it crosses the equator twice.

Sun’s Declination

Geographic Reference

Seasonal Reference North

Seasonal Reference South

Solstice or Equinox

23˚26’ North 0˚ Cancer

Tropic of Cancer

First day of Summer in the north

First day of Winter in the south

north: Summer solstice south: Winter solstice

0˚ Libra

The Equator

Sun transitions to the south

First day of Fall in the north

First day of Spring in the south

north: Fall equinox

south: Spring equinox

23˚26’ South

0˚ Capricorn

Tropic of Capricorn

First day of Winter in the north

First day of Summer in the south

north: Winter solstice

south: Summer solstice

0˚ Aries

The Equator Sun transitions to the north

First day of Spring in the north

First day of Fall in the south

north: Spring equinox

south: Fall equinox

The Ecliptic (which is really the tilt of the Earth) is why we have seasons. An identifiable aspect of seasons is the length of the day. The length of the day determines how much solar light energy a given location is exposed to. So, declination is really a measure of available energy. In the case of the Sun that energy is direct. In the case of other bodies, the energy is indirect - reflected from the Sun.

Although declination is an independent measurement, we use the declination cycle of the Sun as the framework to interpret its meaning. This framework provides boundaries at 23˚26’ north and south. A body whose declination is within those endpoints is within the bounds and can be said to be operating within specification – that is, functioning normally.

A body whose declination is beyond a boundary is said to be out-of-bounds (OOB) and, in a sense, exceeding specification. This is not unlike a vehicle rated to safely operate at 80 miles per hour (128 kph), operating at 110 miles per hour (177 kph). It can go that fast but its behavior may be erratic, unpredictable, or difficult to control.


Declinations, like electricity, also have polarity – either positive or negative. The polarity of a body depends on its relationship to the Sun’s declination. If the body is in the same hemisphere as the Sun, the polarity is positive. If it is in the opposite hemisphere, the polarity is negative. Polarity changes as that relationship changes. Polarity is most obvious with the contra-parallel but also suggests whether the energy of a planet is directed outward (positive polarity) or inward (negative polarity).


Declination has two aspects – the parallel and the contra-parallel. The parallel has been largely treated as some sort of conjunction and the contra-parallel as some sort of opposition. Yet the bodies involved in either one can be in any type of horizontal aspect from the conjunction to the opposition, so the conjunction/opposition idea doesn’t hold up.

The difference between traditional horizontal aspects (conjunction, sextile, etc.) and the declination aspects is this: horizontal aspects describe relationships between bodies. Declination aspects are about the energy that can go into those relationships.

The parallel is a form of resonance. As the declination of one body comes within a degree of another, those bodies resonate – magnifying the energy available to both planets which makes their effect more pronounced.

The contra-parallel is a type of electro-magnetic field. Electro-magnetic fields move energy back and forth in a circuit. This aspect does not magnify the participating bodies - rather, they make things happen.

A parallel is more of an environment. The Woodstock concert in 1969 had a Jupiter/Uranus conjunction in Libra. Organizers expected as many as 150,000 people – pretty big but consistent with a Jupiter/Uranus conjunction. However, Jupiter and Uranus were also parallel and that parallel magnified the situation. Instead of 150,000 there were nearly 500,000. Instead of a memorable three-day concert, Woodstock became the landmark event of a generation.

A contra-parallel is more a trigger, a switch that makes things happen. Woodstock had no contra-parallels, nothing significant intervened that altered the overall quality of the event.

In contrast, Altamont – held 3 ½ months later – was marred by random violence within the crowd and even against the performers. This culminated with the killing of Hunter Merdith – the event Altamont has been best known for.

There was one parallel at Altamont. It was a Moon/Neptune parallel that created a feedback loop of Neptune chaos feeding the Moon in Scorpio, informing the Neptune chaos, magnifying the effect of both. The Moon was opposite Saturn in Taurus (retrograde), which lent a dark turn to the heightened energy of that parallel.

That dark mood could have stayed that way – unpleasant but uneventful – were it not for the two contra-parallels of that day: Mars contra-parallel Pluto, and Jupiter contra-parallel Saturn. Both contra-parallels were between planets that had nothing in common (quincunx by sign), yet the contra-parallels forced them to work together. This forced interaction can be positive given the right planets in the right signs and conditions, but the Mars/Pluto and Jupiter/Saturn contra-parallels were not the right combinations. So, rather than triggering positive events to enhance the quality of the festivities, they triggered confrontation, violence, and ultimately a violent death.


Both Woodstock and Altamont took place with a planet well out-of-bounds. Woodstock had Mars out-of-bounds, Altamont had Mercury out-of-bounds. A gut reaction would suggest that the Mars could have created violence and Mercury could have inspired crazy Burning Man type creativity. But that’s not what happened.

One notion of out-of-bounds is that the planet in question is unmoored from the Sun and is essentially acting on its own. That’s an iffy proposition. A planet out-of-bounds in aspect to another planet is still in aspect and is bound both by the nature of that aspect as well as the qualities of its sign and house. It is also affected by the planet within whose bounds it finds itself.

The bounds (or terms) are an essential dignity. In practice the binding planet effectively sets ground rules that qualify the behavior of a planet in some way.

In the case of Woodstock’s OOB Mars in Sagittarius, it was bound by Jupiter. Because it was OOB, it was an all things are possible Mars – unpredictable and wild. But because it operated under the auspices of the powerful Jupiter in Libra’s world of peace and harmony, it was wild and crazy in a positive sense.

In the case of Altmont’s OOB Mercury, it was in the bounds of Saturn and Saturn was not in a good place being opposite the chaos-enhanced Scorpio Moon – an opposition blown out of proportion by Jupiter feeding its expansive energy into Saturn (by contra-parallel). So instead of Mercury in Sagittarius OOB being one of soaring ideas and wild experiences, it devolved into arguments and brawlwith people acting up or acting out - fueled by drugs and the already dark mood.

20˚ Plus and Transition ( 0˚)

Once a declination exceeds 20˚ there seems to be a significant increase in the visibility and impact of the planet and any declination aspect it makes by transit.

Conversely, as a planet closes to within a degree of 0˚, it goes into a transition from one polarity to another. These transitions largely go unnoticed. That does not mean that it’s not a busy or significant time, it does mean that the change wrought by the polarity change goes largely unrecognized for what it is.

The United States has gone through two such transitions with the declination of Pluto – one turning the country’s energies outward, the second turning them back inward.

The first transition was in the middle of the Civil War between May 1862 and February 1864. It was in the middle of that short time frame that the purpose of the war officially shifted. Going in, the reason for the war was to preserve the Union. Going out, reason for the war had changed to freeing the slaves – a seemingly simple political move but one that signified the shift of the country’s energies outward.

The second transition took place in 1987 and 1988. These were the last years of the Reagan administration. The key event of this period was the beginning of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Iron Curtain - the end of the Cold War. Lost in this significant event was the transition of Pluto from positive to negative polarity. This marks a shift of the country’s energy back inward. Without an effective external enemy to direct its energies toward, the country started looking for adversaries within – even as new external enemies emerged.


The period of a planet and its declination cycle are largely identical. The Moon moves through an entire declination cycle in approximately every 28 days. The impact of the Moon’s transiting parallels and contra-parallels are brief and are likely more related to day-to-day mood shifts, whereas Pluto’s declination is more closely tied to the rise and fall of empires (using the word a bit loosely). Obviously, the slower the planet, the more impactful its declination.

Chiron, Major Asteroids, and Points

I have not determined the value of the declinations of Chiron, the four major asteroids, or any other minor body. More research needs to be done but the value is almost certainly there.

Similarly, I am uncertain of the value of the declinations of points like the Ascendant, Midheaven, Black Moon, and the lunar nodes. The Ascendant and Midheaven complete declination cycles every day and may simply be indicative of the events of any given day. The Black Moon has roughly a four-year declination cycle that may (or may not) mean something. The declination of the lunar nodes have a cycle that is very close to the Metonic cycle, so clearly there is meaning – I just haven’t tried to go there yet.

Notes on the charts:

Woodstock Chart time is based on the time given on the tickets for the venue. The more common chart is 5:07 pm when the first act began performing. I’ve dodged integrating house information for that reason.

Altamont Chart time is based on the probable time the first act was supposed to begin. The first act was Santana and they appeared to have begun at 11:10 am – based on the time stamp on available footage:

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page