Sect is an important foundational consideration in Hellenistic astrology when analysing a planet’s condition in a birth chart. ‘Sect’ comes from the Greek word ‘hairesis’ which means alliances, factions, sets of principles, to identify oneself with a way of thinking or living, or to choose or select.
Sect was commonly used for centuries in the Hellenistic tradition for interpreting natal charts, but through subsequent transmission of astrology the concept was lost, right up until the past few decades when some of the ancient techniques were rediscovered.
The Diurnal and Nocturnal teams
Sect classifies the chart as either diurnal or nocturnal depending on whether you were born during the day or night, and divides the planets into two ‘teams’. Generally the diurnal team will be more constructive in a day chart, and the nocturnal team in a night chart.
The diurnal team for day charts is led by the Sun and includes Jupiter and Saturn. The Moon leads the nocturnal team for night charts which includes Venus and Mars. So each team has one luminary, one benefic and one malefic planet.
What about Mercury? Mercury’s nature is changeable and adaptable and so it isn’t assigned to a sect by default, but can belong to either. There have been different approaches to determine which team it belongs to. A common one is assessing if Mercury is a morning or evening star. If it’s rising before the Sun at the time of birth it’s a morning star and joins the diurnal sect. If it sets after the Sun it’s an evening star and belongs to the nocturnal sect.
So what effect does sect have on planets? As a baseline assessment, when a planet in a chart matches the chart sect it can indicate more stable and productive outcomes in terms of what that planet indicates (other factors can modify this). Diurnal planets are happier and therefore more functional in a day chart, nocturnal planets are happier in a night chart. Additionally, how planets of the same team are configured by whole-sign can point to the quality of support they can give each other in the chart.
A key factor is that sect affects how Venus and Jupiter (the ‘benefic’ planets), Mars and Saturn (the ‘malefic’ planets) operate, increasing or moderating their qualities. In this way sect indicates the most supportive and the most challenging planet in chart. Generally speaking, the most supportive planet will be the benefic in sect, and the most challenging the malefic out of sect. For example in a night chart Venus is more likely to be the most helpful planet but Jupiter will hold that role in a day chart.
This can be an important qualifier to assess which areas of life have the potential for more ease, opportunity, support or productive outcomes, and by contrast which have the potential for more challenges or obstacles to overcome. This can be mitigated by other factors, and the full context of the chart needs to be taken into account. But on the whole sect is generally a consistent indicator of benefic and malefic planetary expression.
Sect also influences other astrological techniques which use the sect light in their calculations. For example Lots (Arabic Parts), Zodiacal Releasing (which uses Lots), or profecting from the sect light in advanced Annual Profections. So sect it’s an important preliminary consideration in chart analysis.
Benefics – Venus and Jupiter
Venus and Jupiter are associated with good fortune, and when in sect their positive significations are emphasised. They represent the things in life and qualities that allow us to connect to the world and expand our experiences in a way that’s productive and supportive of our life path and goals. So they generally point to areas of more consistency, stability, joy or satisfaction.
When out of sect their positive significations are moderated. For example Jupiter in a night chart can still indicate supportive or productive outcomes, but not to the extent that it does in a day chart (other factors aside). Instead the helpful qualities may be limited, delayed or inconsistent.
Malefics – Mars and Saturn
Mars and Saturn are called malefics because they signify those qualities and situations in life that we generally find uncomfortable, troublesome or unsupportive. For example loss, obstacles, hardship, setbacks, or delays, reflecting the reality of life that things don’t always go smoothly or the way we want them to.
Being in sect stabilises Mars and Saturn, mitigating their most challenging expressions, especially when they are well placed by dignity or have supportive aspects with benefics. So for example Saturn in a day chart can indicate moderate or more manageable challenges, and even productive outcomes in some cases.
When Mars and Saturn are out of sect, they tend to indicate their more extreme disruptive qualitives, pointing to dissatisfaction, instability or frustration in the areas of life they are associated with. This can be mitigated by other factors in the chart, but on the whole do indicate those more troublesome experiences in life.
Finding the sect of your birth chart
So how do you find the sect of your birth chart? It’s quite simple. Find the ascendant-descendant axis. Using whole-sign houses the ascendant and descendant will be floating points in the 1st house and 7th house respectively.
If the Sun in your chart is above this axis, then your chart is the diurnal sect. Jupiter will be your most positive planet in the chart, and because Mars is out of sect, it may indicate the areas of most instability or frustration.
If the Sun is below the Ascendant-Descendant axis, you have a nocturnal sect chart. Venus will be your most positive planet, and Saturn being out of sect will indicate where the most challenging events might be experienced.
The Twilight Zone
If the Sun in your chart isn’t too close to ascendant or descedent, the chart will normally be clearly defined as being of diurnal or nocturnal sect. However, if the Sun is close to these points it may be less clear cut. This makes sense from a visual astronomical perspective: depending on where you were born and the time of year it could still be light outside even if the Sun has dropped below the descendant, or still dark even if the Sun has risen above the ascendant.
The range at which this grey area occurs isn’t precisely defined, and needs to be assessed on a case by case basis. But the Sun being within 6° of the ascendant and 2-3° of the descendant is a common range used by astrologers.
In these cases the contrary sect to what’s normally expected may be expressed. For example if the Sun is 3° above the ascendant, the chart might function as a diurnal rather than nocturnal chart, with Venus rather Jupiter as the major benefic.
Analysing which benefic seems to be the most helpful, and whether Saturn or Mars is the most challenging can help point to how the chart is behaving in terms of sect if the Sun is close to the ascendant or descendant.