We all know there are 12 zodiac signs and chances are you also know where your Sun is located. I’m a Sagittarius you say? Well, what type of Sagittarius are you? If you didn’t know that there are subdivisions within each of the zodiac signs, then welcome to the 36 decans.
Each of the 12 zodiac signs is divided into 3 distinct parts of 10 degrees each. So if your Sun is at 8 Sagittarius it’s in the 1st decan of Sagittarius but if it’s at 26 Sagittarius it’s in the last. We can consider the decans as 3 distinct acts in a 3-act play, the overarching theme of which is the zodiac sign involved.
For example, Sagittarius is oft thought of as the crazy Pollyanna, the ultimate optimist who, once you get to know him/her, has seen more than his/her fair share of bad things. Keywords for Sagittarius include truth, meaning, purpose and adventurous. The inherent theme of the Sagittarian drama about deciding what’s worth having and how to mobilise forces strong and determined enough to get it.
And if you would know God, be not therefore a solver or riddles.
Rather look about you and you shall see Him playing with your children.
And look into the space: you shall see Him walking in the cloud, outstretching His arms in the lightening and descending in rain.
You shall see him smiling in flowers. The rising and waving His hands in trees.Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet (on Religion)
But quite how that all unfolds in any given native of Sagittarius depends on the decan involved.
1st decan – In the first decan of Sagittarius ruled by both Mercury and Jupiter, the native is challenged to figure out what’s worth his having and how he/she intends to get it. Unlike in Scorpio, where such decision come from deep-seated, and quite possibly unconscious passions, in Sagittarius, the decision is a mind game. Intellectual choice is the by-word now and making such a choice requires pertinent information.
Once the choice has been made, however, time and speed are of the essence in achieving it. Hence the tarot card associated with this decan is the 8 of Wands, known as the Lord of Swiftness, symbolising raw speed and purposeful direction. An older image for this decan shows a strong man in a coat of mail with a drawn sword; clearly man intends to go the direction of his own choosing and he’s willing to fight for his ability to do so.
Natives with key planets in this decan are often faced with situations wherein they must realise that if they don’t take control of the direction of their lives, someone else will do it for them. Hellenistic texts assign the spirit of the plague to this decan; with Jupiter involved, ideas are likely to spread as easily as the plague, in in this manner people (and their lives) are infected with ideas of others often without even realising it.
Magically, talismans relating to this decan can be used to literally get from point A to point B as quickly as possible as well as not only to decide what you personally want but to become bold and decisive about getting it.
2nd decan – With the Moon and Mars as the joint rulers of this decan, the energy here is quite different. Whilst in the 1st decan, the mission was to choose one’s direction and get started, here it’s about learning about what takes to keep on course in the face of perhaps some difficult opposition.
Hence the tarot card associated with this decan is the 9 of Wands, The Lord of Great Strength and in the Rider Waite deck, the picture is one of a wounded man, his head bandaged, warily defending his position. If he’s going to be successful, he can’t afford to be naïve either about the nature of his personal vulnerability (the Moon) and the strength of his enemies (Mars).
An older image is one of a lamenting woman, who has been attacked or elsewise injured and as the result uncertain how next to move forward. Magically, a talisman for this decan can be used to bring shame and disgrace to others, highlighting that opposition to one’s planned direction can come in many different forms.
An image from the Liber hermetic – a man with the face of a weasel on a slippery slope – suggests that if natives with key planets in the decan (or undergoing transits from this decan) are to win the day, like the weasel they must learn from their experiences/mistakes whilst at the same time remaining incredibly determined.
3rd decan – With both the Sun and Saturn as rulers of this decan, the energy again quite different. Interestingly, we’ve met these rulers before in the 3rd decan of Gemini, which symbolises both the need to make tough calls and the end of the line. The same themes play out here in the 3rd decan of Sagittarius, albeit somewhat differently.
This decan has been associated with Ananke, the primal Greek goddess of inevitability, compulsion, and necessity. Little wonder this is known as the ‘crunch-time’ decan; either undertake that final effort to ‘close the deal’ or admit defeat. After all, it’s the end of the line – or rather the finish line is just ahead and you’re struggling to reach it just like the man depicted in the 10 of Wands (The Lord of Oppression), the tarot card associated with this decan.
In the 1st decan, you chose your path and rustled up the resources necessary to go out and get it. In the 2nd decan, you mustered the strength to carry on in the face of strong opposition. But now, you’re asked to go the extra mile, to make a significant sacrifice of some sort to accomplish your goal and if you’re unable – or unwilling – to do so, well then truly, it is the end of the line.