Sabian Astrology™ Q&A Corner


Dr. Marc Edmund Jones
(Oct. 1, 1888 - March 5, 1980)

The purpose of this column is to provide answers to questions we receive regarding the Sabian system of astrology that was developed by Dr. Marc Edmund Jones and set forth in his many books. Our first Guest Astrologer was the late Delle Fowler Frech, a long-standing member of the Sabian Assembly and practicing Sabian astrologer. New questions will be selected from those we receive and will be answered by other Sabian astrologers. Please feel free to contact us with your questions — general questions, please. We cannot answer personal questions about your own or others' charts.


Can you tell me what makes Sabian astrology different from all the other systems of astrology?


This is an important question from my point of view. After many years of studying astrology I found myself completely frustrated. I had been told that I must synthesize the chart but no one could tell me how to do that. I found myself reading about the various planetary placements in a horoscope and finding them to be contradictory rather than supportive. I had a fragmented rather than integrated and helpful sense of what the chart revealed about the person. I knew the chart had much of value to reveal but I couldn't find the means to capture it — until I found the Sabian system of astrology.

The biggest difference is in the structure of our system. In the Sabian approach to a chart, you are given step-by-step procedures to help you build a solid foundation. This is essential to the interpretation. Then there is the process involved. In the Sabian system of astrology you are enabled to discern the most important aspects of the chart. Now this is critical: Not every planet is equal in importance to the others! Keeping this in mind helps eliminate contradictions in the delineation. You learn to find the key elements and work with them first. By using the Sabian techniques to find the focal determinators, the mode of self-integration, the mental chemistry, the specific vocational planet and the individual marriage significators, for example, you are able to truly reach the essence of a person. Only then can you describe and counsel your client in a fully-informed and constructive manner.

It is this structured and scientific approach that makes Sabian astrology so distinctive, effective and different from all other systems of astrology.


I have a question about determining the planetary pattern of a chart. What do you do if the planets can form two or more patterns — for example, a locomotive and a seesaw? Or what do you do if you can't fit a chart into at least one of the planetary patterns, according to the rules set forth by Dr. Jones?


I do recognize the dilemma you describe. I have certainly been there.

Dr. Jones gave us seven patterns, or temperament types, into which a chart can fall. He has described definitive rules for applying this technique in his books, but even so there are times when it becomes very difficult to make a decision. The patterns (shown below) and the rules are described in detail in his books The Essentials of Astrological Analysis, The Guide to Horoscope Interpretation and his last book, The Counseling Manual.

When you understand the seven patterns, then the trick is to find the perfect fit. Some charts fall quickly and easily into one of these as with a Bundle, Bowl or even Bucket. A Splash is pretty straight forward, as long as you remember that you don't want more than two empty houses between planets. A Locomotive is clear, and in just about every instance where you can pattern the chart as a Locomotive, where you have the empty trine, it is best to consider that as the temperament type. In rare instances you might turn to a Splay, but this is most unusual indeed. I tend to work from a base that says if I can pattern it Locomotive, if the defining empty trine is there, then it is a locomotive.

This leaves the Seesaw and the Splay. These are the two most difficult to define. Frequently the dilemma is between these two patterns. You may feel a certain chart could be patterned in either of these types, so how do you determine which to use?

Dr. Jones has described the derivative of the Splay and Locomotive patterns as being based on the threefold principle and, in a sense, the others on the two-four pattern. In this context, the temperament types based on the threefold principle (the Bundle, Locomotive and Splay) give a greater degree of emphasis to the inner drive within the person taking control and emerging into manifestation. Those patterns based on the two-four pattern (the Seesaw, Bowl and Bucket) are more challenged by their conditioning and their situation to manifest their potential. Because of this, when you come to the impasse of having to choose between one or another of the patterns and one choice is either the Splay or the Locomotive, then you are advised to lean to one of these patterns when possible.

This in no way denigrates the two-four patterns. It merely is a suggestion to allow the fullness of the inner being to be given the preference where it is possible to do so. A Splay is essentially a tripod pattern. It must have three separate segments with at least one empty sign between them. There is a reins planet if one segment consists of a single planet, and this is helpful when this is the case. However, Dr. Jones advised against patterning a chart as a Splay where two of the three legs of the Splay are single planets. A grand trine is also very characteristic of the Splay and it strengthens the typing when it is there. So — if you can find within the Seesaw pattern this tripod arrangement, then you might well think of patterning the chart as a Splay rather than a Seesaw.

If you are dealing with a chart that just won't fit any of the molds, then look for a slightly-over-the-orb, empty trine and advise the client from the standpoint of it being a Locomotive but tell them that they must put extra effort into achieving the potential that exists via the cutting planet. (The cutting planet is the planet that faces clockwise into the empty trine segment of the chart and leads all the other planets.) The extra effort is required because the trine is over orb but the client can be helped to achieve his potential with the awareness that you are able to bring to him.

Most usually you are going to have to find a way to fit this dilemma into the Seesaw pattern but you must have oppositions (or at least the potential for one or more) as with planets in opposite signs. In addition, you really hope to have the minimum of one empty square on one side of your Seesaw and an empty sextile on the other.

Remember always to keep an eye out for how that Seesaw might become a Splay with extra effort!

If you still can't fit your chart to any of the types then take the one closest to it — but be sure to keep in mind that the distinctiveness of the typing may well be lacking in the person.


Can you tell me which aspects are used in the Sabian system of astrology and how many degrees of orb are used for the planets?


The Sabian system of astrology uses the Conjunction, Sextile, Square, Trine, Opposition, Septile and Quintile aspects. The allowable degrees of orb for all aspects (except the Septile and Quintile)* in the Sabian system are:

Sun: 17
Moon: 12-1/2
Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto: 10

*The allowable orb for the Septile and Quintile aspects (between all planets) is 2 degrees.

If a planet with a larger degree of orb is paired with a planet that has a smaller degree of orb, then you take the larger degree of orb. For instance, if the Sun is trine Mercury you would allow 17 degrees of orb between the two. Remember, though, that the allowable degree of orb between the Sun and Mercury for a septile or quintile aspect is still only 2 degrees. All planets are held to the two degree orb for a septile or quintile.

The orbs given above are never stretched except when there is a "translation of light" or when there is a "good reason" to stretch it — such as when you see a potential that is superior to the drift an individual has tended to take in his life. An example might be when the defining trine of a locomotive pattern in a chart is slightly over orb and the temperament pattern would otherwise have to be classified as a seesaw. If you see the glimmer of locomotive potential working in the individual, then you might tell your client that he has this potential and, if he is willing to put forth the effort and stretch himself, he could manifest and use it to his greater benefit.

The keyword for the locomotive pattern is "Reformer." Used positively, the locomotive pattern gives a very ambitious drive that can be used to accomplish great things. Used negatively, you find the rebel — the resister who refuses to play anyone's game but his own. The word "locomotive" is an apt description for this temperament type. It is a strong pattern. You should also pay close attention to the cutting planet (the single planet facing clockwise into the empty trine space) in a locomotive pattern. That planet will give you another and vital key to the individual's personality. We will address the meaning of the planetary patterns and planets in high focus in the near future.


I have a Horary question. In the Sabian method of astrology, do you draw the chart for the latitude and longitude of the questioner or do you use the locale of the astrologer?


When working with horary questions, the astrologer's frame of reference is all important when it comes to the actual charting. It is the astrologer who places the question by house, and this will determine the actual answer. In addition, it is the astrologer who will actually decide the time to be used to draw the chart. Because of this, it is the astrologer's locale that is used to chart the actual question.

Naturally, the querant's inquiry is the focus of all this, and the astrologer must fully understand the querant's frame of reference as it initiates the entire procedure. The querant's question is the issue that the astrologer must deal with. The time used to erect the horary chart is the precise time that the astrologer thoroughly understands the problem and exactly what the querant is asking. Only then is the astrologer able to determine which house will be the focus of the chart. At that point, and not before, the time is taken to be used for the actual charting.

Horary questions are best phrased along the lines of "What will be the result of ....?" (any proposed action). This keeps the initiative in the hands of the querant and allows for a decisive conclusion to be drawn from the chart. Remember too that the more critical the question, the more strength the chart will display. Horary cannot be used successfully for idle curiosity. There must be a dynamic or a critical issue involved for the chart to be truly effective.

Problem Solving by Horary Astrology by Dr. Marc Edmund Jones details these factors and covers everything necessary to achieve a truly professional approach to horary astrology.


Which is more powerful, a T-Square, a Fanhandle or a Stellium?


These are all what Dr. Jones referred to as Focal Determinators and there are many others as well as these. In every instance, when any one of these exists in a chart, there is a uniqueness described but one is not necessarily a more powerful emphasis than another. It is more a differentiation than a matter of one being more powerful than the other. They are all powerful. When a chart holds many of these focal determinators, which I suspect is the case in this questioner's case, then there are various factors of uniqueness in the chart and each is significant in its own way.

The T-square is an opposition where both opposing planets are squared by another planet. That other planet is called the leg of the T. It is a powerful focus of energy that is insistent in the life. It requires and facilitates the development of the function that the leg of the T emphasizes by the sign, the activity that the planet involved describes, and the situation and circumstances that the house position indicates. The demands that this configuration makes are constant, and thus it creates an opportunity for the individual to develop great strengths and abilities in this area. (Life will demand it anyway, so it is advisable to cooperate and make the most of it.)

The T-square is a constructive configuration as the awareness that the opposition allows can be immediately utilized in the focus of the leg of the T and its effort. Let me explain how this works. The opposition is always an aspect of awareness but it isn't necessarily an awareness that can be immediately applied to actual living. With the T-square and its practical squares forcing a constructive building effort to become manifest, the awareness gained through the opposition is immediately channeled into practical application. The point where the leg of the T is focused becomes a literal outworking for the new awareness and its manifestation. This is the focal determinator that most actively keeps the individual applying his or her efforts to some one project or another. The individual with this configuration is never without a project and frequently is planning the next before the current one is totally finished.

The stellium is another focal determinator. It is defined as having four or more planets in one house or sign, with at least two of them being other than the Sun, Mercury or Venus. This configuration gives added emphasis and weight to a particular sign and house, and this too provides vital information. The sign involved will be dynamic in the outworking of this individual's efforts while the house will demand attention in those areas of experience that are vital to the fulfillment of the individual's potential. The sign involved is weighted and thus very much a part of the person. It is also a strength to be used. Each planet situated in that sign, as part of the stellium, describes an activity that will utilize the same function. When you have four or more planets all using this same function, then that function is a powerful factor that needs to be developed and utilized. The stellium points to a powerful concentration of energy in one spot and, as such, is something that must be recognized, accepted and made a positive in the life. If the stellium is by house but not by sign, then it is the particular circumstances of the house that are emphasized in the life rather than the singular function of the sign.

A fanhandle exists when the four planets that would ordinarily be a stellium are situated with three in one sign and one located in the opposite sign. The fanhandle is equally important but very different. The planet located in the opposite sign becomes very dynamic. Here, there is an emphasis of element, and a demand that the element involved (where the single planet resides by sign) be utilized and not ignored. If it is air, for example, then it is the mental nature and the use of the fluid insight that is the special gift of an emphasis of air. (It is important to note that if the opposition involved is over the line of the sign, the emphasis of the fanhandle is not focal and cannot be used.) In this example it is important to guide the client to use this, as life will demand it anyway. Thus if the T-square emphasizes creative effort (for example) then the fanhandle will expand that to be creative effort of a mental nature.

In a sense you can think of any focal determinator as a strength — almost a talent, a gift to be used by the individual. For a complete list of the focal determinators, please see The Essentials of Astrological Analysis. There is also a wonderfully concise chapter on the focal determinators in Dr. Jones' last book, The Counseling Manual in Astrology.

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