Have you ever looked at your horoscope and wondered what all those funny degrees and minutes are all about? Well, you're not alone!

One of the most confusing things about studying Astrology initially is getting a grasp on the mechanics behind a birth chart. In fact, before you read the rest of this article, look at your own birth chart so you can see what we're talking about as we break it down into degrees and minutes.

Math phobics out there tend to see the degree circle and minute sign and break out into a sweat. No worries -- you can relax: This is NOT advanced Calculus. In fact, after reading this short primer you'll know exactly what you're looking at in terms of degrees and minutes, no matter whose birth chart you've got in your hands.

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### Let's start with decans

Let's begin with an explanation of how many degrees fill the horoscope wheel. We all know that there are 12 signs in the zodiac, but what you may not have known is that each sign is comprised of 30 degrees. Each zodiac sign will have three sets of decans contained within it -- and these decans all equal up to 30 degrees.

The first decan of any sign goes from 0 degrees to 9 degrees, 59 minutes and 59 seconds. The second decan goes from 10 degrees to 19 degrees, 59 minutes and 59 seconds. The third decan goes from 20 degrees to 29 degrees, 59 minutes and 59 seconds. This is true no matter which sign you're looking at. Also note, there are 60 minutes in every degree, but we don't use 60 minutes as a marker. Rather we go from 0 (and this is the 1st minute) to 59 minutes (which is really the 60th minute).

When you multiply 12 by 30 you get the magical number of 360. No matter whose horoscope you have in your hand, you can rest assured there are 360 degrees contained in it. No exceptions!

A fascinating parallel to these 360 degrees is that they represent one 24-hour day. Therefore, a birth chart in its entirety will represent the motion of one 24-hour day here on Earth.

When you look further into the 30 degrees contained in each sign, there's even more interesting significance. Certain degrees are believed to hold greater meaning in a birth chart than others. These degrees are commonly referred to as Critical degrees.

For the Cardinal signs (Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn), the critical degrees are 0, 13 and 26. For the Fixed signs (Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, Aquarius), they are 8-9 degrees and 21-22 degrees. For the Mutable signs (Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, Pisces), they are 4 and 17 degrees. Do you have a planet or sensitive angle in your chart at any of these degrees? If so, you can expect more of a focus in that area of your life.

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### Working with anaretic degrees

Furthermore, 0 degrees of any sign is considered a critical degree due to the karmic nature of being at the beginning of the sign. It is said that whatever planet or point is at 0 degrees will be in the early stages of learning lessons related to that point. Conversely, if a planet or point is at 29 degrees of any sign it is called an Anaretic Degree, and it symbolizes karmic completion related to that planet or points energy.

It is possible that if a person has a birth chart with many planets or angles at the Anaretic Degree he or she is a very old soul. There may be a sense of urgency or need to finish up something related to that planet or points energies as well.

So, what happens if a planet is at 29 degrees and 59 minutes? We saw this example recently with the much anticipated birth of the royal baby. He was born when the Sun was at the tail end of Cancer -- 29 degrees and 59 minutes. If he was born just a short time later, the Sun would have ingressed into 0 degrees Leo.

Cancer and Leo are very different energies! This is why knowing the degrees and minutes together of a planet or point is so vital. It helps us determine where a planet or point truly is astrologically. A planet at 29 degrees 59 minutes of any sign is still in that particular sign. Not to mention at a critical degree.

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