The Moon as Sect-Light
Updated: Dec 18, 2021
The concept of Sect is one of the central tenets of traditional astrology. It is the polarity of day and night, light and darkness, solar and lunar. The Greek word is hairesis with modern translators choosing “sect” in the sense of a faction or group of people with shared beliefs. It describes a system of celestial alliances, contentions, and the balance of power between them within a chart. Sect is the alignment of the planets toward the Sun and diurnal indications or the Moon and lunar ones.
Each sect has a leading planet, known as the luminary of sect or the sect light. Two planets follow this leader as “sect mates.” In Paulus’ Introduction to Astrology, the sect mates are called “spear-bearing guards”, evoking images of an honor guard or protection detail. Think of the sets of planets as teams or parties who share interests and intentions. Jupiter and Saturn join the Sun in the day while Venus and Mars join the Moon in the night. Mercury is considered neutral and fluid, going back and forth between the two teams depending on its position relative to the Sun.
Rob Hand teaches that the concept of Sect fits into the table of Pythagorean opposites referenced in Aristotelian philosophy. Aristotle presented these opposites as the work of Pythagoras but their origin and use are not completely clear except as general principles. What they offer to astrology is a vision of how sect fits into Hellenistic models of philosophy and cosmology. Light was on the same side of the spectrum with what is limited, odd in number, unified, straight, etc. These are all defined and singular in nature. Dark is joined with the unlimited, even, plural, moving, and curved which are undefined and multiple in nature.
This dichotomy of concepts emphasizes the difference between known and unknown, defined and undefinable, limited and unlimited. Associated with light, the solar sect is oriented on what becomes visible and can be comprehended. Thus, it is associated with the rational, intellectual, individual spirit. The lunar sect is oppositely oriented toward the dark and all that cannot be seen or understood. This joins it with the emotional, intuitive, collective soul.
The technique of sect is entirely based on the dynamics between Sun and Moon. It is the binary division in astrology, splitting signs, planets, and charts into day and night. This dichotomy between solar and lunar light symbolizes action and response. The planets and signs of the solar sect follow the Sun’s impactful and transformative influence while planets and signs of the lunar sect mirror the reflective and responsive nature of the moon. Sect can then be used as an interpretive tool to examine the overall nature and specific expressions of a chart.
When identifying the sect of a chart, there is a secondary identification of the “sect light” or “luminary of sect.” A day chart is defined by having the Sun above the horizon. In this kind of chart, the luminary of sect would be the Sun. The chart is drawn during the time of most significant solar influence. Conversely, night charts, which have the Sun below the horizon, occur during the time when solar influence fades making the Moon sect light.
Vettius Valens is very clear about this: “for day nativities, it will be necessary to inspect the Sun” and “for night nativities it will be necessary to inspect the Moon in a similar fashion.” He is identifying the sect light as the leading influence within the chart. Remember that luminaries are sources of light (nous - intellect). They are the sources of perception and understanding. This makes the luminary of sect the primary vehicle of awareness in the chart.
For Hellenistic astrologers like Valens and Dorotheus, the sect light was used for techniques concerning the overall livelihood in a chart. Their interest was on whether this planet had support or not, if it would be aided by its community and environment. This shows the strong identification of the sect light with the idea of “self”. It is a question of whether your awareness, perspective, and personal light are challenged or aided.
It is worth noting that the qualities typically associated with the overall sect of a chart emerge directly from the nature of the sect light. Day charts are considered more inherently active and tend seek opportunity in the world around them. Robert Zoller says they speak in terms of what they are doing to their surroundings. Alternatively, he claims that night charts refer to “what has happened to them”. This shift in perception can be attributed to the differing natures of the Sun and Moon. However, there is still the matter of judging the actual sect light itself to determine qualities. What Zoller offers here is a predilection or tendency within charts.
For our purposes, identifying your sect light is a great way to discover an influential planet in your chart. If it happens to be the Sun (because you have a day chart, with the Sun above the horizon), you will likely feel more influence from solar motion and interactions. Follow the changing of the seasons, the aspects of the Sun throughout the year to its position in your chart, and its interactions with other planets. Regarding lunar cycles, it might be helpful to watch the phases of the Moon with your natal Sun, or simply when the Moon is in the sign of your Sun and the one opposite it (the places where a New and Full Moon would occur).
If your luminary of sect is the Moon (because you have a night chart, with the Sun below the Horizon), the cycle of the Moon will likely be more immediately influence in your life. Watch its movement through the signs, phases with the Sun, and in relationship with your birth chart (especially the sign of your natal Moon). While night charts are generally more responsive to the Moon, there are plenty of factors that can further emphasize the Moon in a chart. Explore the list below and compare it to your chart. The more of these conditions you find, the more powerful the lunar influence in your life will be.
An incomplete list of powerful lunar conditions:
- in its own sign (Cancer) or the sign of its exaltation (Taurus),
- in the angular houses (1H, 4H, 7H, 10H) or the house of its joy (3H),
- in its triplicity (Earth and Water signs, especially the Earth signs in night charts),
- received (aspecting the lord of its sign, ideally still applying to it).
- aspected by the benefics (Jupiter and Venus) especially when applying (still moving towards the aspect),
- in the opposite hemisphere of the chart as the Sun (meaning below the Horizon in a day chart or above the Horizon in a night chart).
- waxing into light (less than 180º ahead of the Sun) and/or heading north in latitude
- moving fast (above its average speed/day).
- in its own face/decan (10º-20º Taurus, 20º-30º Cancer, 0º-10º Libra, 10º-20º Sagittarius, 20º-30º Aquarius).
- aspected by Venus and Mars (its sect-mates, especially by trine and sextile)