Declinations are the movements of the planets north and south of the celestial equator as pictured in this image. It looks eastward towards the coming sunrise, so notice that the Moon is a few degrees further north than Mars and Jupiter:

Planetary Conjunction over Paranal, Chile pre-sunrise 1 May 2011; photo by Ambassador Gerhard Hüdepohl via wiki commons.

The Sky Is Not Flat Like An Astrological Chart

All planets move not only along the east-west longitude axis (zodiac position), but also north and south of the celestial equator over time. Look at how much the Moon’s path can vary further north and south from the Sun’s (ecliptic). The Moon moves rapidly through its declination cycle, going from its extreme south to extreme north phases 13 times a year.

Apparent paths of the Sun and Moon on the celestial sphere (angles exaggerated for clarity)

Astrology practice has unfortunately been stuck in a charting system that acts as if the solar system and universe are flat. The flat wheel chart depicts the planets’ longitude positions only, leaving off their north and south positions, the declinations. That’s half the aspect picture. For me this is unacceptable. The added information of declinations changes the picture, changes the perception and interpretation of nearly every birth chart.

A Better moving picture of the planets

Declinations Create Major Aspects: Parallels and Contra-parallels

Parallels and contra-parallels are major aspects. They just as important as conjunctions and oppositions, and function very similarly. In fact, some charts make little sense when viewed against the backdrop of the person’s life — until you look at the declinations. Some charts are absolutely loaded with P and CP aspects (example: USA – Pluto CP Sun, Venus, Mars, Jupiter).

Parallels happen when two planets are at about the same degree on the same side of the celestial equator. Contra-parallels happen when two planets are about the same degree, but on opposite sides of this celestial equator.

Parallels are very much like conjunctions, and Contra-parallels like oppositions. They are the conjunctions and oppositions of declination. So they are interpreted similarly. Sun Parallel Mars will have a dynamic very much like a conjunction (example: Madonna).

The Sun’s declination and the seasons

This more direct angle of the Sun upon areas north and south of the equator is what creates the seasons — not its east-west movement along the ecliptic (zodiac). In June and July the Sun’s position peaks in northern declination, creating summer in that hemisphere, and winter in the southern hemisphere. The reverse is true come December and January. When the Sun crosses 0° declination we have the equinoxes, which mark spring and autumn depending on what hemisphere you are in.

Notice the path of the Sun peaks northward in July just over the Tropic of Cancer at 23°27′ North at the summer solstice (summer in the northern hemisphere), and the path of the Sun dips lowest southward in December just over the Tropic of Capricorn at 23°27′ South at the winter solstice.


This is declination. Sun and planets’ paths move in a wave form north and south of the equatorial midline. When they near this area of 23° north or south they are considered in extreme declination (where their movement north/south slows down).

Pluto’s Declination off the ecliptic

by Todd K. Timberlake

Orbit of Pluto by Todd K. Timberlake, courtesy Wikipedia

Irregularities come in when Pluto is involved. Its orbit is out of phase with the other planets’ general course in relation to the celestial equator (north and south). This means that often it will make Parallel or Contra-parallel aspects that are unexpected from its zodiac position (longitude).

This is an example of why the astrologer should check every planet’s declination rather than make the assumption of false zodiacal equivalencies as is done in traditional astrology with the concept of antiscia, a concept that while technically correct for the Sun’s position, has no usefulness for Moon, and especially outer planets.

When Pluto arrives at 0° Aries it is at about 15.5° South declination. It doesn’t hit the celestial equator +/- 0° until it is in early-mid-Taurus (about 10-13° Taurus). When Pluto passed into Libra in October 1971 it was at 15.5° North declination. It didn’t hit the celestial equator again until it was in early-mid-Scorpio (10-13° Scorpio). So you can see how Pluto lags about 1-1/2 signs behind other planets it in declination position.

Parallel Planets in Supposedly “Incompatible” Signs

Have you ever wondered why people of supposedly incompatible signs married and stayed together? The answer is partly found in the Parallel and Contra-parallel aspects of declination.

When planets are in signs of Northern declination (Aries through Virgo), there are possible parallel aspects created between planets in different signs, unlike conjunctions in longitude. The reverse is the same for Southern declination.

Here is an illustration using the 2015 September equinox at dawn to help you match up declination movement north and south through the zodiac. Notice that while moving through Gemini and Cancer planets/points are at their highest northern declination. Notice opposite this, Sagittarius and Capricorn are where planets/points his their lowest southern declination.

declination illustration

Planets in Aries can be parallel those in Virgo. If you’ve ever wondered why a Virgo and an Aries seem to get along together, get married and have children and stay together so compatibly, understand that their synastry may include parallel aspects between their charts that form bonds just as strongly as conjunctions do in longitude (flat wheel chart).

Taurus and Leo share about 12° to 20° North declination. Same story here. Yes, people whose charts show synastry squares can have points of great compatibility too.

This means declinations Often Create A Better Synastry Picture.
One person’s Sun-Venus conjunction in Taurus can be Parallel the others’ Sun/personal planets in Leo. This can allow for compatibility that conventional astrology says isn’t there. Parallels create fusion, unity in this fashion.

Very often when the flat wheel chart shows a lack of close aspects between mother and child’s charts (or lovers), there is often at least one significant Parallel or Contra-parallel in the declinations of their charts.

Declinations are so important for the whole astrological picture that I often look to them first.

Celebrity Examples of Important Declinations (parallels and contra-parallels)

Jim Carrey’s birth chart not only has Mercury and Jupiter square the Ascendant, but because all three are right in the middle of fixed signs, they are in aspect in declination. Mercury & Jupiter are also parallel his Asc. This is a double shot of mental energy, jovial thinking, and antics.

Click image to see full size.
Jim Carrey declinations

These ilustrate very well the comedian’s verbal acuity, jovial nature, and his actor’s recall and big personality. These, added to the obvious Neptune conjunction to his Asc, show his birth potential for being a great actor. Carrey, not surprisingly, is also a big thinker, and has powered his career through optimism and a metaphysical creator’s approach to creating his life.

Another similar example, but with Pluto in the mix, is Robin Williams. Fellow comedians like Louie Anderson considered him the world’s greatest stand-up comedian. Here is Robin Williams’ data sheet showing declinations of Mercury parallel Asc and MC. Both Mercury and Pluto are conjunct the MC. In addition, note the parallels of Mars, Uranus, Pluto. Powerful bursts of energy.

Mercury is verbal agility, Mars-Uranus-Pluto is the potential of creative intensity that takes on a life of its own once it gets going.

Robin Wms declinations

Look at the transits for the date Mitt Romney pulled himself out of the 2016 U.S. presidential race (30 Jan 2015). Saturn [18S53] was parallel natal Moon [18S57] and Jupiter [18S31]. (This chart is unverified, and has an incorrect Asc figure).

Romney declinations 2015 drop-out transits

New York real estate developer and socialite, Donald Trump has some pretty extreme declinations. Just take a look at this summary I slapped on top of the common chart for him.

Trump declinations

USA declinations Here is the USA chart (using the Asc 21SAG04 as validated by John Willner). Look at Sun Parallel Venus, Mars, Jupiter (re dots) in high north declination. Sun is also Parallel Uranus (purple points). Sun, Venus, Mars, Jupiter also are contra-parallel Pluto. That’s a lot of power, charm, energy, and appeal in the declinations of the USA.

Out of Bounds Planets

Out of bounds (OOB) is when a planet passes outside the ecliptic, either northward or southward. I agree with Alice Portman’s assessment that out of bounds planets relate to the ability to function outside the box of conventional or expected behavior. This means a person who can go it alone is certain ways or take that planets’ energies a bit further than others. However, this concept of OOB has already been over-emphasized by students and astrologers new to declinations. That is because it is easy to identify and lends itself to simplistic (or over-dramatized) interpretation.

I don’t make too much of a planet being merely out of bounds. I look for aspects to the planet, and for how it may create a necessary emphasis in the chart overall. Being urged to function outside patterns of societal familiarity is very important for social progress, creative endeavors, and original thought of all kinds. These out of bounds placements can be gifts to be positively employed for your benefit and others’.

Zero Degrees Declination: a Hidden Zero Point of Precession

Because precession is a backward movement of the earth’s axial alignment (wobble), it is implied in this declination cycle that as the earth moves from alignment with 0° Libra / 30° Virgo — or 0° declination moving slowly northward — that this could be a “zero point” for earth cycles of development.

Virgo implies impregnation and birth and the material supremacy of the iconic feminine (goddess) in this cycle with Libra implying a just, final balance between all opposites — integration.

The mistake of omitting declinations was — and still is — very widespread.

Declinations researchers & popularizers

K.T. Boehrer actually led the way in revitalizing the use of declinations in modern astrology. She authored Declinations, the hidden dimension. John Willner, author of The Powerful Declinations, did as well, but was less known. Some traditional Arabian astrologers used declination, but this was mostly lost when their ideas were borrowed by the Greeks (often incompletely learned) and transmitted westward.

In recent times the Magi Society has begun charting declinations superimposed upon the zodiacal chart along an S-curve (sine wave).


Declinations in Software

Some programs like SolarFire give a special sidebar aspectarian for declinations. Astrodienst will create a pdf document of planetary and house positions including declinations. (You have to find the declination aspects – parallels and contra-parallels – yourself). Even freeware Astrolog allows you to view declinations separately from zodiac position by going to the ‘Edit’ menu > ‘Enter command line’, and entering /sr. (Note the zodiac positions will be temporarily altered from correct until you again enter the command to reverse it.)

#astrology #declinations #aspects #parallelaspect #contraparallelaspect


17 Responses to Declinations

  1. Naomi C Bennett says:

    very nicely done post.
    I wrote you an email.

  2. Kevin Austin Keegan says:

    Thank you for this great article. It is difficult to find information on declination.

  3. ramesh says:

    but why many great astrologers in past did not see declinations? surely,can’t be lack of knowledge,or calculating abilities. astonomical calculations are all known long back. so,why such important thing is missed? pl explain.

    • I don’t have any explanation, at least not a good one, for what other astrologers did. Maybe it has to do with charting systems and the human tendency for linear thinking (illustrations) about non-linear events.

  4. mana pristine says:

    near 23deg declination,a very low orb of 0deg-10 minutes is recommended(on sliding scale by some authors).in such case,1degree orb wont work being too wide for given declination? then what about 1deg-30min orb used by some at all declinations? what is the real standard? mainly,what is the logical,theoretical basis to decide orb@given declination? pl explain fully.

    • Functional orbs are defined by the planets involved, their energetic weight or size (luminaries, jupiter), or closeness to earth, and by the particular geometry of the aspect, not by their speed. We don’t reduce orb for planets in retrograde motion. Those aspects simply play out longer. The concept of orbs is from moeity of orbs, which recognizes the relation of the two bodies in aspect and what their individual orbs of influence are.

      I have observed that the luminaries have functional orbs of influence in the natal chart at 1.5° or more (especially in relation to each other), that Moon and Jupiter have up to about 1.5°. Other planets, around 1°. Of course, this tightens very much in progressions to a maximum of 0°05′ (five minutes arc), the Moon being the only possible exception to that.

  5. AMY Maddalozzo says:

    I am glad that you posted on Noel Tyl’s web site about the financial situation and gave a link to your website. I personally have uranus/pluto parallel which many people of my age but uranus/pluto is also contra-parallel my ascendent

  6. Stacy Giffin says:

    Hi Kannon: Stacy here from NTF. Started a thread about declinations in case you care to comment (you are “the Guy”, after all). Am sure your knowledge could help us all! –thanx!

  7. Pingback: About Rectification | Kannon McAfee - the declinations guy

  8. jomotion says:

    Thanks for this subject. I’ve made the mistake of practically ignoring declinations. More honestly, it feels like the heavens are just piling on since my Mars is already in detriment and retrograde and opposite my Sun and square my Jupiter. My Mars contraparallel 00°00′ is more than just a cherry on top. I’ve been wondering how such a “weak” Mars could lead to a remarkably chiseled physique and fleet feet, as 51 years of age approaches.

    • Thank for stopping by and commenting, jomotion. I also look at declinations as adding to our windows of opportunity in transits and progressions. More challenges, maybe, but also more opportunities.

  9. jomotion says:

    Thanks for this subject. I’ve made the mistake of practically ignoring declinations. More honestly, it feels like the heavens are just piling on since my Mars is already in detriment and retrograde and opposite my Sun and square my Jupiter. My Mars contraparallel Ascendant 00°00′ is more than just a cherry on top. I’ve been wondering how such a “weak” Mars could lead to a remarkably chiseled physique and fleet feet, as 51 years of age approaches.

  10. Jackie says:

    Many thanks for this. To be honest, I got confused with my natal chart interpretations on conventional astrology especially my sun, ascendant and dominant element because it’s a far cry from who I am and my life. My sun conjunct asc in aries and dominant element is fire with some earth and while its true that I’m a bit brave, down to earth, frugal, practical, stubborn, stingy, introverted and struggling with empathy (water and air are both very weak in my chart) but I’m anything but energetic, impulsive, confident, outgoing, loud which I’m “supposed to be” according to conventional astrology. I feel more like I’m earth dominant than fire. But upon seeing my planetary delineations in my chart, everything makes sense to me now. My chart is fire heavy but all my fiery planets are heavily aspected by my earth planets and MC. I do have sun conjunct asc in aries but those two are parallel with my earth saturn which explains my serious outlook in life plus my fiery leo mars have an out of sign conjunction with my virgo jupiter and at the same time parallels my taurus chiron.

    • Thanks for stopping by. Check out my Rising Signs page. Read the descriptions for Taurus rising and Pisces rising. It is unlikely that if you are an introvert you actually have Sun conjunct Asc in Aries. The Asc degree suggested by the recorded time of birth is correct far less often than you would assume.

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