Betsy Asks:

“What is the significance of the degree of the zodiac and the Sabian Symbol that represents the degree of your ascendant? Is it basically symbolic? How is it useful in the chart?”

Kevin Answers:


The “Sabian Symbols” were created in 1925 in Balboa Park in San Diego, California, by Marc Edmund Jones (a noted astrologer) and Elsie Wheeler (a psychic). For the record, I have only a passing knowledge of the Sabian Symbols, and just about all of the information in this article I learned from visiting the Sabian Assembly web page at Diana E. Roche wrote the background information that I will be summarizing here in her article “The Origin and History of the Sabian Symbols.”

Evidently, the idea that there is a symbolic energy related to each of the 360 individual zodiacal degrees was first explored by a Welsh seer named John Thomas and known as “Charubel.” He used his psychic abilities to identify the energy of each zodiacal degree to help him in rectifying charts. Alan Leo first published these degrees and images in 1898 in his Astrological Manual No. VIII, and again in 1943 by Aries Press as The Degrees of the Zodiac Symbolized. Marc Edmond Jones came across these symbols, and while he was certainly intrigued by them (even to the point of wanting to obtain permission to revise them for more general use), he ultimately felt that they were too narrow in focus and decided that he would create his own set of symbols.

Jones had worked with psychics before to come up with symbolic connections to playing cards (with Zoë Wells) but ultimately chose to work with Elsie Wheeler for his Astrology experiment, largely because Elsie (one of Jones’ students) was seriously crippled by arthritis, and had a much more limited experience of the outside world, which Jones felt would limit Elsie’s preconceptions when channeling her information.

The article goes on to describe in detail how the Symbols were obtained, set aside, revised and ultimately published and taught by Jones. Again, if anyone is interested in learning more about working with the Sabian Symbols, the Sabian Assembly Web Page is the place to go.

I personally don’t work with Sabian Symbols for many reasons, not the least of which is that I don’t see that they have any demonstrated relevance in astrology. Some astrologers absolutely swear by them, and wouldn’t even consider interpreting a chart without at least looking at the Sabian degree for the Ascendant. With all objectivity, I think I can safely state that the Sabian symbols are very much an esoteric offshoot of astrology, and as such, they don’t have any fundamental connection with astrological interpretation (beyond the obvious, of course).

To illustrate, here are a few of the “Sabian Symbols” for key degrees in Teddy Roosevelt’s chart. The list below is of the revised, current definitions.

18 Degrees Capricorn: “The Union Jack”

18 Degrees Virgo: “An Ouija Board”

4 Degrees Scorpio: “A Youth Holding a Lighted Candle”

6 Degrees Pisces: “Officers on a Dress Parade”

3 Degrees Scorpio: “A House-Raising”

13 Degrees Cancer: “One Hand Slightly Flexed With a Very Prominent Thumb.”

22 Degrees Gemini: “A Barn Dance”

Again, some astrologers find these images invaluable and are able to use them as jumping-off points for spiritual (and psychic) evaluations. Myself, I don’t resonate with them at all.

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