Above and Below the Horizon

The simplest possible ‘house division’, is dual. One house above the horizon and one below. This requires little or no mathematics. If we were to judge such a chart we would consider the time of birth against the background of the basic duality of night and day, male and female. For a day birth the “1st” house or lower semicircle would be ruled by the Moon, would be female and nocturnal planets would benefit when placed there. The “2nd” house would be ruled by the Sun, would be male and diurnal planets placed there would also benefit.

One might be tempted to make a distinction between visible and invisible, but this is problematical for the simple reason that planets above the horizon by day are obscured by the light of the Sun. There are only two exceptions. The first is when a planet rises before the Sun at dawn. This can be considered a mild form of accidental dignity as its light is strong at that time. The Moon under certain circumstances may also be visible during the day. But this would actually be a mild form of accidental debility as her light is paled.

Now the planets can be divided into two categories, diurnal and nocturnal:

The diurnal planets are

  • The Sun
  • Saturn
  • Jupiter
  • Mercury when oriental, that is rising before the Sun, as Morning Star

The nocturnal planets are

  • The Moon
  • Mars
  • Venus
  • Mercury when occidental, that is rising after the Sun or setting after the Sun as Evening Star

Al Biruni describes the effectiveness of a planet based on its position above or below the horizon quite nicely:

“The Sun is lord of the day and the Moon of the night, because their influence is exerted during these periods. Every planet which is under the horizon during its own period is without influence.” (Section 386 in The Book of Instruction in the Elements of Astrology)

Diurnal planets are said to be in sect when they are above the horizon by day, just as nocturnal planets are in sect when they are above the horizon by night. One might ask if the reverse is true. Is a diurnal planet below the horizon at night also in sect? Or a nocturnal planet below the horizon by day? If we consider the diagram below we can say yes. This is called ‘halb’. Al Biruni describes it thus:

“…when a diurnal planet is above the ground by day and beneath it at night, and when a nocturnal planet is above the ground at night and beneath it by day, it is said to be in its ‘halb’…” (Section 496)

We of course have ignored the signs up to now. But they too are divided into a masculine and a feminine category.

  • feminine: Taurus, Cancer, Virgo, Scorpio, Capricorn and Pisces
  • masculine: Aries, Gemini, Leo, Libra, Sagittarius and Aquarius

One thing may be surprising and that is why Mars, a masculine planet, is in the Moon’s sect. Shouldn’t he be with all the other masculine planets? The division seems to have another root and that has to do with the four elements, which also are divided into masculine and feminine. You will note that the diurnal planets are also triplicity rulers of the fire and air signs just as the nocturnal planets are rulers of the earth and water signs. There is a certain symmetry.

There is yet a third condition that is used to describe a planets condition. When a planet is in its own sect or in its halb and is in a sign of its own gender this is known as hayz or hayyiz which means more or less “natural place”. Here however the natural gender of the planets are taken (Mars as a masculine planet). So Mars in a nocturnal chart would be in hayz if he is above the horizon and in a masculine sign.


7 thoughts on “Above and Below the Horizon

  1. Hi
    Thanks for this informative post which is a great review of sect. I read or heard somewhere (can’t remember where) about why both the malefics are not in the sect you’d expect, which would be cold & dry Saturn more at home nocturnally, while hot & dry Mars would be more at home in the day. However, they are in the opposite sect, and for a reason. The Sun warms up cold Saturn, and the night cools down hot Mars. In this way the harsh nature of both malefics is moderated by sect.

  2. Hello Linea,

    That is a thought! Thank you for sharing it here. It is indeed interesting that the great malefic is paired with the greater benefic and in the sect of the greater light and the lesser malefic with the lesser benefic and in the sect of the lesser light.

    best wishes,

  3. Dear Thomas & Linea

    Nice article Thomas! 😉

    I have the source for the apparent ‘reversal’ by sect of the malefics Linea.

    Tetrabiblos by Ptolemy
    Translated by F.E.Robbins
    Book 1. Chapter 7 “ Of Diurnal and Nocturnal Planets”

    “Similarly, since of the two most obvious intervals of those which make up time, the day is more masculine because of its heat and active force, and night more feminine because of its moisture and its gift of rest, the tradition has consequently been handed down that the Moon and Venus are nocturnal, the Sun and Jupiter diurnal, and Mercury common as before, diurnal when it is a morning star and nocturnal when as an evening star. They also assigned to each of the sects the two destructive stars, not however in this instance on the principle of similar natures, but of just the opposite; for when stars of the same kind are joined with those of the good temperament their beneficial influence is increased, but if dissimilar stars are associated with the destructive ones the greatest part of their injurious power is broken. Thus they are assigned Saturn, which is cold, to the warmth of day and Mars, which is dry, to the moisture of night, for in this way each of them attains good proportion through admixture and becomes a proper member of its sect, which provides moderation”.
    Ends quote:

    Best Fishes

  4. Hello Raymond,
    it depends whether you were born during the day or during the night. Some of the planets will be in sect and others not. So some will be stronger than others and in the context of your chart may have more ‘weight’ but of course there are other factors that also have to be considered. Considered alone having all planets above or below the horizon is just one configuration of many and has by itself only limited use. A general interpretation can be misleading.
    best regards,

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