By Mary Plumb | July 13, 2015
In the early 90s, Kt Boehrer became an influential player in a renewal of interest in declination when she published her book, Declinations, The Other Dimension, which presented 20 years of research on the subject. Leigh Westin’s very precisely elucidated book, Beyond the Solstice by Declination, followed in 1999. Currently, declination and out-of-bounds planets are quite commonly used by practicing astrologers.
To those who may be unfamiliar with the terms, I’ll recap a bit. Essentially, as the Sun travels around the zodiac on the ecliptic, it reaches a maximum northern declination (23N27) at the tropic of Cancer on the summer solstice. The Sun reaches maximum southern declination (23S27) at the tropic of Capricorn on the winter solstice. Declination is measured as the earth’s tilt along its axis as it orbits the Sun. The planets normally travel within that band of degrees. A planet is considered out-of-bounds when it travels beyond the ecliptic, or beyond 23°27′ to the north or south.
A basic notion of interpretation is that the out-of-bounds planet is no longer under the guidance, or rule, of the Sun, i.e., the organizing principle. The OOB planet deviates from normal expression; it becomes exaggerated, somehow unusual, or unconventional. This can manifest in many ways, sometimes as a remarkable talent or gift, sometimes as inappropriate or extreme behavior.
We’re just winding down from a period of Mars being out-of-bounds. On June 9 Mars reached 23N35, just moving out of the range of the Sun’s declination. The last week in June, Mars reached its maximum OOB declination in this cycle (24N08), and on July 16, Mars moves back into the natural border of the guidance of the Sun at 23N27.
Mars can be obvious in world events, especially when it is OOB. Here are a few recent events that echoed an exaggerated Mars: One of the world’s top drug lords, Joaquin Guzman “El Chapo,” escaped from maximum-security prison; the murders in a South Carolina church (and the news that a background check error at the FBI allowed the shooter to purchase a gun); media reports that psychologists secretly aided a CIA torture program; same-sex marriage was guaranteed by the Constitution; two inmates escaped from a New York prison (overtaking the news cycle for weeks).
(On September 11, 2001, Mars, at 1°26′ Capricorn in longitude, was at an extreme out-of-bounds declination (26S48). Mars will not reach this extreme south declination again until 2033.)
Mars is in the news (as usual), but I’ve been thinking a lot about the natal Moon OOB.
In a list of familiar descriptors for an OOB planet (i.e., unrestrained, extreme, independent, wild, awkward, privileged, magnified), I found a keyword I had not thought of before that seemed very true: vulnerable. (1) If a planet is out there on its own, beyond the conventional boundaries, the experience of vulnerability can be present as well.
The Moon has its own rhythm — for about nine or ten years it will stay inside the Sun’s boundary, never going out-of-bounds. Then, in nine- or ten-year cycles, it will go OOB several times a month. (The Moon will stay in bounds from 2011-2020.)
There is a further interesting distinction within the OOB cycle, that is, peak years when the Moon will travel to its extreme OOB declination. This is when the nodes are near 0° Aries and Libra. So, people born with the nodes in Aries and Libra may possibly have the natal Moon at this extreme OOB. This can be a very helpful thing to note for your friends and clients, not to mention being enormously useful to recognize if you are in that category yourself. The years when the extreme OOB Moon (almost 29° N or S declination) is possible are around 1913, 1931-32, 1950, 1968-9, 1987-88, and 2005-6. The OOB Moon does not happen every month during those years; you’ll need to check the ephemeris.
Those with an OOB natal Moon can be very intuitive; have transparent emotional boundaries; be connected to the subconscious; live a highly emotional life; and have an empathetic nature. Other lunar themes with a natal OOB Moon are exceptional circumstances in giving birth; unusual relationships with the mother or a marked impact from early childhood; food and security issues; and an acutely emotional response to life. All of these themes may be more pronounced when the Moon reaches its maximum declination, as in the years noted above.
Oprah, Joan Rivers, Tracy Morgan, Gwyneth Paltrow, Christopher Reeve, Clint Eastwood, Kurt Cobain, Louis CK, and Jennifer Anniston are some celebrities with natal Moon OOB.
I know a young girl born with the Moon in Capricorn near maximum southern declination (born in 2005). She is a very happy and outgoing child, but enormously sensitive, something that is not especially obvious. She occasionally has moods of tremendous loneliness and vulnerability. When she was very young, her mother, with a natal Moon nicely organized within the borders of the Sun, thought she was a “drama queen.” I talked to her about the extreme sensitivity of the OOB Moon and gave her a different way to understand her daughter’s nature.
This week I talked with someone who has natal Mercury OOB. She said that sometimes, when she’s speaking about something that makes complete sense to her, she suddenly realizes that the other person has no idea what she’s talking about. She related this to that notion of vulnerability.
I spoke with someone else who has natal Mars OOB (28S05). She is beginning to understand that her directness and outspokenness can sometimes be experienced as aggression, leaving others feeling alienated, and she, vulnerable. (2)
Many people will never have a personal experience of the Moon OOB, either in the natal, or by progression. This may suggest a more emotionally stable life or the ability to navigate emotions more easily.
Those people born with the Moon close to maximum declination can give new meaning to “over-the-top” emotions. It can be a big help in self-understanding (hopefully leading to increased peace of mind) if they can understand the imagery of the OOB Moon.
Here’s a monthly calendar with a graph of the planets’ declinations; a graphic ephemeris is particularly useful in seeing declination.
Not all printed ephemerides include declination tables (software does, of course), but if you prefer a paper copy, here’s a Declination Ephemeris spanning 1930 to 2025, courtesy of Café Astrology. The tables include the Sun through Chiron, but not the Moon.
(1) Declination: The Steps of the Sun, Paul Newman, Wessex, 2006.
(2) Here’s a blog I wrote about an athlete with an extreme OOB Mars in the natal chart: Usain Bolt, known as “the lightning bolt.” “Mars is also way out-of-bounds, at 28°S10’. (The nodes are in Aries/Libra and planets go to the most extreme out-of-bounds when the nodal axis is in these signs.)”