…In my humble opinion, they don’t exist. Let me explain.
I was born on a cusp, apparently the one tenderly referred to as the cusp of ‘rebirth’, which is cosily tucked in between the visionary sign of Pisces and the energetic sign of Aries. For reference, here is a list with all the other special names attributed to each cusp’s energy:
I came in this world in the 80s’ on Friday the 20th of March (some hours before midnight and right the spring quinox, under a Gibbous Moon in Sagittarius). For a long time I felt frustrated with this placement. Not only because I felt confused by the Water and Fire combo (Don’t they extinguish each other?) but also because I thought that I am somehow cursed to be a ‘cusper’ or an ‘in-betweener’. I felt compelled to spend time reading both horoscopes for Aries and Pisces and never understood how to blend the often contradictory advice I received (in my past, I was highly uncomfortable with contradictions and complexity in life). Needless to say, the frustration made me take matters into my own hands and I did my own research (Pluto in Scorpio here, holler!). Also, keep in mind I am describing here Western astrology and Western charts (Vedic charts have a logic of their own; see here:https://www.vaultoftheheavens.com/).
So I learned that technically, the Sun’s energy is measured in the astrological chart with the help of astrological degrees. These degrees clearly divide each astrological house, much like a month is divided by days so as to better organise our earthly time. According to this analogy, a calendar day is roughly the equivalent of an astrological degree. Returning to the example I know best (my own), I was born with my Sun at 29′ degrees Pisces. It is a bit paradoxical to say ‘my Sun’ since I was born close to 9 o’clock at night, although we all know that even if it’s night here on Earth the cosmos still filters the energy through. I do feel closer to my lunar energy. It is also underlined by many famous astrologers such as Liz Greene and Stephen Aroyo, that women in general tend to identify more with their Moon and Venus sign, and men generally feel more like their Sun and Mars signs, due to socialization and gender-norm priming, received early on in childhood.
Astrological degrees are the tiny black bars you see on charts. They neatly delineate each house, and are helpeful because they are the hidden keys to grasping your energy:
I also discovered that there is also something called ‘dodecatemoria’, where you subdivide each astrological house into the 12 astrological sings, but I don’t want to shock your mind with too much at once (for those who need a mind-blow, here it is: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dodecatemoria).
Degrees are important, not only because they are mathematically precise and help us clarify the exact position of the planets as they were energetically beaming through one of the 12 constelations at our birth, but also because each degree – in a given astrological sign – carries its own mystical energy and symbolism. Especially the first (0′), the middle (15′) and the final degree (29′, also called the anaretic degree), are especially significant. Here is a resource that better explains why this is so: https://www.astro.com/astrology/aa_article190801_e.htm
To understand how degrees influence a chart, let’s use an example. So, I am not a cusper but a Sun sign in Pisces, placed at the anaretic degree of 29′ Pisces. This degree signifies completion, and it means that I am meant to wrap up a karmic cycle with the goals I pursue in this life. In order to transmute my karma into dharma, these goals need to vibe high according to the ideal traits of Pisces: imagination, faith, fertility, unconditional love and forgiveness. In addition, I don’t just have a Venus in Aquarius, but my Venus is placed at 20′ Aquarius, which is described as:
“Active, observant, and optimistic character endowed with the capacity to turn obstacles into assets. Childhood is clouded by financial setbacks underwent by the parents. For professional purposes, one travels abroad and amasses valuable knowledge which one puts into practice in one’s country. Success and decent wealth can be achieved in all careers requiring movement.”
And indeed, I travelled for study and am now living in my home country applying in my work what I learned abroad. You can see how exploring the symbolism of the significant degrees of your chart, gives you extra-insight into your personality and life-patterns. Keep in mind that some degrees have negative interpretations, but this only reinforces the necessity of understanding your chart as the whole and lovely pie of you! Degrees colour a personal chart in unique ways, and in my case they end up explaining ‘why no too Pisces are alike’ (even Piscean twins could have different Ascendants, due to their different birth-times which shifts their houses and degree placements).
How do I know the meaning of each degree in my chart? I used this free degree calculator from Astrotheme: https://www.astrotheme.com/the_360_symbolic_degrees.php
Let use another example, applied to a transit rather than a natal chart. I had a crew member order a chart + a transit report back in April (for those of you who do not know, I call my Youtube subscribers ‘my crew’; and for my services please check the under the ‘Healing Services’ tab of this website). She was wondering why if Saturn reached the sign of Aquarius in 2020, her Saturn return would take place in 2022! I was intrigued but felt that this might be degree-related (and I also had a hunch about a potential interception – more on this in another post). So I created her chart and indeed, she had her natal Saturn in Aquarius placed at the 28th degree. This explained why her return would happen in the final part of Saturn’s transit in Aquarius, as it will ‘return’ to the exact degree where it was when she was born.
Saturn also retrogrades each year, so the time delay was justified by the retro movements as well. In order for a planetary return to be complete, the planet needs to station exactly on the degree of the sign you were initially born under. That’s when something pivotal happens in your life. However energy is fickle, as we know it from personal experiences. This means that in general people feel the energy of the planet for a while before something materializes into their environment, when the planet hits that exact degree. In this sense, inner change can indeed manifest itself on the outside in some concrete action or conversation. Astrology is a wonderful to help you come to terms with why things happen in your life the way that they do!
Let’s return to the degrees. There are usually 30/31 days in a month, but some months, such as February have 28 to 29 days (if it’s a leap year). So astrologers established a consensus that each astrological house has 30 degrees (to make up for months that have less days and to balance the charts out). This means that we have 365 days in a year and 360 symbolic degrees in a chart. There are an additional 5 days that seem to be left in limbo, because the best I can explain it, the Earth’s rotation around the Sun is slightly curbed, since in certain periods it is closer to the Sun and in other periods it’s eliptic spans a bit wider.
In terms of cusps, I also learned that because of these precise degrees, the Sun cannot exist at two degrees at the same time. So a person can be born either at 29 degrees Libra or at 0 degrees Scorpio. Initially when someone creates their own chart and looks at it, it might seem like your Sun is covering both houses, or is dangerously close to the border between two signs (say it looks like you could be a Gemini Sun or a Cancer Sun), but if you zoom into your chart (and if your chart is professionally endowed with degrees) then you get to the bottom of this mystery.
However, there is a catch to this. It’s not as easy as simply knowing the exact degree. Cosmic energy is tricky to parcel and contain in our earthly 24 hours. So solar energy can sometimes spillover or affect us long after something literally took place. It moves us and shakes us in its own rhythms and as it interacts with us, we also leave an energetic imprint on it. So even if you are born say as a 29th degree Sagittarius Sun, you might behave at times under the energy of a Capricorn Sun. You might flinch between the extreme optimism and wild, expansive energy of a Sagittarius and the restraint and serious approach of a Capricorn.
Take for example, one of my favourite actresses, the fantastic Jane Fonda. She was born under a 29th degree Sagittarius Sun on Winter Solstice. She is lively and energetic but also self-composed and capable of great (physical) efforts, because not only could she flinch at times in the more grounded energy of Capricorn, but her Ascendant is placed there as well – so she does vibe more earthly than fiery.
Ultimately, it’s up to you whether you choose to be Cusp-proud or are more like me and prefer the precise degree identity. I can say that understanding that I am a ’29th degreer’ coloured my whole perspective on life. I am born in the final sign of the final degree (heavy Omega energy) and I do feel this is my last incarnation (apparently, I’m an old soul with 9 previous lives). So my chart is showing what a fortune teller saw as well, that my current incarnation (my 10th) is about that final ‘glorious’ goodbye before I jump into another dimension.
I love astrology and life (no matter how difficult it has been to navigate it), and I seem to grow into loving it day by day even more. There is so much of everything in our tiny yet beautifully rich planet. I hope that wherever you find yourself in the world at the moment, that you love life too and that you found this post helpful in some way.
With universal love,