Category Archives: Death

Traditional Astrology of Death | Kirk Kerkorian with a Multitude of Special Techniques

The recent death of Kirk Kerkorian has generated a lot of buzz in my stomping grounds of Southeast Michigan, as he was a major player in business in this area from his involvement with the auto industry.  He died on 6/15/15, just 9 days after his 98th birthday. I won’t be analyzing his life in this post, and instead will use his death at a very advanced age to compare and contrast a number of length of life techniques that were presented in the first 5 centuries of the common era by Hellenistic astrologers.

Kerkorian was reportedly born at Noon, which is somewhat suspicious (he likely was born within minutes before or after) on 6/6/1917 in Fresno, CA. His birth data is AA rated for accuracy. Most length of life techniques involve primary directions which are very strongly dependent on the exact time of birth, so a roughly accurate indication, such as within a year, is sufficient for our purposes, given that the birth time may be rounded from within a few minutes which could put the indication by primary directions off by even more than year in some cases.

Part I: Special Techniques

I am not going to fully explain and evaluate each length of life technique as that is an extremely labor intensive manner that I am currently taking on for a possible book. I’m going to look briefly at the indications according to a number of length of life techniques, and then discuss some general timing techniques that relate to the timing of death. Those interested in an overview of the length of life techniques of the Hellenistic era, can find such in a previous post on the topic.

The Hellenistic techniques for length of life are not foolproof.  They have their issues, so a thorough reading of this post and my other posts on the traditional astrology of death will not give you the power to predict the length of life for other people using these techniques (not that you’d necessarily want to after reading my results). Therefore, upon learning about these techniques, do everyone a favor and don’t predict death for people, because it will make you a liar and unethical. I analyze charts using the Hellenistic length of life techniques in service of their evaluation and the furthering of historical astrological knowledge only.

Kirk Kerkorian's Natal Chart
Kirk Kerkorian’s Natal Chart

The Manilius Technique (early 1st century CE)

The Roman astrologer Marcus Manilius, provided a very brief set of rules for assigning years to each zodiacal sign and each house for length of life, but never fully explained how to use them. He did say that the Moon’s placement in the houses indicated the years, but didn’t explain what to do with the years of the signs at all. This exposition starts at line 560 in Book III of Astronomica. Unfortunately, Manilius tells us that his section is just for conveying the years allotted to the signs and houses, and that the full exposition will follow later in the work, but he never does explain the technique. He begins his exposition about the years of the houses by noting that if the Moon is in the 1st house she grants 78 years. Therefore, my best guess is that house of the Moon indicates the years, and perhaps the years of the signs (which are all small amounts) are added to those indicated by the houses.

The Moon in Kerkorian’s chart was in Capricorn, which is the 5th house. Manilius asserted that Capricorn grants 14 2/3 years and the 5th house grants 63 years, so we may suppose that the indication by the technique is 77 2/3 years, which is an incorrect indication as he lived to age 98. Typically in Hellenistic techniques, the sect light or one of its rulers (particularly the bound lord) is the most important planet for longevity indications. The sect light (the Sun) is in Gemini (14 2/3 years), the 10th house (77 years), so indicates 91 2/3 years. Venus is the bound lord and only aspecting lord of the sect light, but she is in the same sign and house so she indicates the same. 91 2/3 years is closer but still incorrect. In conclusion, Manilius does not provide enough information for use of his technique, and the most logical guesses regarding its use don’t yield accurate indications.

The Dorothean Technique (1st century CE)

According to the technique explained by Dorotheus (1st century CE), the Sun in Kerkorian’s chart would be the important significator to use for length of life, as it is the sect light at the time of birth (Sun by day; Moon by night), it is in one of the 3 most advantageous places (it is in the 10th place/sign from the Ascendant or rising sign), and it is with its bound lord, Venus, in the same sign.

Kirk Kerkorian's Natal Chart
Kirk Kerkorian’s Natal Chart

Death is said to be indicated by the bound in front of the Sun that is ruled by or aspected by a malefic (exactly to a degree within the bound) without any aspect of a benefic (exactly to a degree within the same bound). Jupiter and Mars are in the same degree in Kerkorian’s chart, so Jupiter will take away the power of a lethal aspect from Mars in all cases. Saturn is at 27 Cancer while Jupiter is at 24 Taurus and Venus is at 26 Gemini, so the possibilities for Saturn to aspect a bound that is not accessible to aspect from Jupiter or Venus is also limited.

Very soon after birth, the Sun enters the bound of Mars in Gemini, which is malefic and has no benefic casting a ray into it. He obviously did not die shortly after birth. One may suggest that the already applying bodily conjunction between the Sun and Venus was responsible, or that the indication by bound ruler itself is a much weaker indication than an aspectual one from a malefic.

The next malefic bound was that of Saturn and that was occupied by Venus, so is protected, according to the Dorothean method. From there the Sun entered the Mars bound of Cancer, which is also not aspected by a benefic, though one may argue that the aspect of the Moon intervenes. The Jupiter bound of Cancer is aspected by Mars, but also Jupiter, so is protected.  However, note that the Saturn bound of Cancer is occupied by Saturn and has no benefic aspecting the degree. Therefore, by the Dorothean technique we should expect the death to occur when the Saturn bound of Cancer or exact position of Saturn directs over the Sun.

Dorotheus used the distance between the two in ascensional times. Using a table of ascensions for Gemini and Cancer at about 36-37 degrees north of latitude, we find that each zodiacal degree of Gemini will equate to about 0.974 degrees of ascensions (0.974 years of life) and each degree of Cancer will equate to about 1.171 degrees of ascensions (1.171 years of life). There are about 14 1/2 degrees of Gemini (14.5*0.974=14.123 years) and 28 degrees of Cancer (28*1.171=32.788 years) between the Sun and Saturn, which equates to almost 47 years by ascensions. By actual accurate traditional primary directions, the indication is almost 46 years. In any case, Kerkorian lived to age 98, so the indications by the Dorothean technique are wrong.

But, what bound does the Sun fall into after 98 years, by both ascensions and by directions through the bounds? By ascensions, we already noted that the remainder of Gemini gives us about 14.123 years, then all of Cancer gives us 35.136 years (46.259 cumulative), then all of Leo gives us 37.025 years (83.284 cumulative). So, 98 years is only another 14.716 years, or degrees of ascension, into Virgo. There is about 1.218 degrees of ascension for each zodiacal degree in Virgo, so there are (14.716/1.218=) just over 12 degrees in Virgo before the time of death. 12 Virgo is the bound of Venus. it is a bound ruled by a benefic. There is not malefic aspect of the bound but it is the bound where the square of the Sun (15 Virgo) directs to the Sun. Dorotheus does not name the square of the Sun as being a dangerous direction, but we will find that the square of the significator is significant as the indication for length of maximum life by Valens. Also, the square of Sun is considered as malefic by some later astrologers.

Perhaps more significant in relation to the Dorothean technique, is that by actual primary directions (rather than the pseudo directions which symbolically use ascensional times even for points for which ascensional times are not remotely accurate, such as the Sun on  the MC in this case), it is the bound of Mars of Virgo, that the Sun is in by directions through bounds, at the time of death.

Kerkorian the Sun directed to Bound of Mars
Kerkorian the Sun directed to Bound of Mars in October 2014

The bound is a malefic one and is aspected by both malefics, but is also aspected by both benefics, so is still problematic by the Dorothean technique, since the benefic aspects to the bound should remove the harm. Therefore, while the Dorothean technique points to directions to the significator by malefic bounds and malefic aspects to the bounds as particularly important, and they are (as illustrated also in some prior posts in this series), the assertion that such an indication MUST indicate death when lacking the intervening aspect of a benefic both over-predicts death (e.g. the direction of Saturn to the Sun) and under-predicts by failing to account for death (e.g. the directions at death, in which death is either indicated by the square of the Sun or by multiple malefic directions in a malefic bound but with benefics aspecting the same bound).

The Ptolemaic Technique (2nd century CE)

Ptolemy also would take the Sun as the significator (as it is sect light  and in the 10th place). Ptolemy advises use to look at actual primary directions involving the Sun, and not to use ascensional times. As the Sun is just past the MC (provided the birth time is not off by a couple minutes), he advises us to look at both direction of the Sun itself to the Descendant (i.e. converting the setting of the Sun into year), and the directions to the Sun of malefics (especially by body, square, or opposition according to Ptolemty). Ptolemy also appears to say that the direction from the square of the significator can indicate death.

Kirk Kerkorian's Natal Chart
Kirk Kerkorian’s Natal Chart

There is some confusion regarding his technique of directing the significator to the Descendant, as he made a comment about aspects of benefics adding to the years indicated by this and likewise of malefics subtracting years, and noted that this is by proportion of hourly times.  So, for instance, Hephaistio interpreted that the distance from significator to Descendant was to be measured in ascensions, which is a mis-interpretation as Ptolemy advised to use accurate primary directions and the use of ascensional times for points that are descending gives extremely inaccurate times.   Basically, for Kerkorian, we must first find the time when the Sun sets by directions, which indicates almost 108 years. From here, we must find the rise and set times of the benefics, malefics, and/or Mercury, when any such planets have an aspect that intervenes from the Sun’s journey to the Descendant, and then find the time it takes to go from rising to setting, divide that by 12 to convert it into an “hourly” time, and divide that by 4 to convert it into an hourly right ascensions figure, which is considered the “hourly time” of that planet. The amount added or subtracted then depends on the proportion of arc that the planet has traveled for its journey from rising to setting or vice-versa, multiple by its hourly time (i.e. if it is a benefic with an hourly time of 15 and it has 1/3 of its journey left to set1, then it adds 5 years). It is unclear whether each aspect from the planet adds or subtracts, of if we are just to add each relevant planet once.

Kerkorian rising and setting times

We would judge Mercury to malefic in the chart because it is most closely conjunct Mars.  In this case, the Sun will meet the aspects of Jupiter, Venus, Mars, and Mercury twice, and the aspect of Saturn three times before it sets.  Given the time left until they set, each of these planets individually adds and subtracts the following on their own in this chart:

Jupiter +5.3 years

Venus +10 years

Mars -6.4 years

Mercury -6.2 years

Saturn -12.9 years

If we do the additions and subtractions only once per intervening planet, then the net added is negative 10.2 years, with a life expectancy of about 98.2 years.  This figure accords with this actual length of life of 98 years. If we must add and subtract for each separate aspect then the net added is negative 33.3 years, for a life expectancy of 74.7 years. While one approach to the technique of directing to the Descendant with additions and subtractions based on hourly times appears to give a correct indication, it is also somewhat counter-intuitive. Why should we being adding or subtracting each hourly time only once, rather than adding or subtracting for each relevant aspect?

The other part of Ptolemy’s technique, and in fact the more important strategy, is to look in front of the significator to see what will direct to it. The direction of a malefic (or the Sun if the significator is the Moon) to the significator will indicate death unless the potential killing degree (aspect of the malefic) is located in a benefic bound or is aspected by a Jupiter within 12 degrees or by Venus within 8 degrees. A planet cannot save or destroy if it is under the beams of the Sun (i.e. within 15 degrees of the Sun). Mars is conjunct Jupiter, so no aspect of Mars will ever meet the killing criteria. Venus is under the beams, so cannot save. Therefore, there are some aspects of Saturn that fall without the intervention of Jupiter, but not until 27 Libra, and that is within the Venus bound of Libra, so also does not qualify. Therefore, such a malefic aspect is not possible by directions. Ptolemy notes that the square to the place of the releaser (significator) also can indicate death. However, Ptolemy insisted on use of actual primary directions rather than directing with symbolic ascensional times, and the degree of the actual direction of the square of the Sun to the Sun is in late 2009, a full 6 years before death. The actual closest direction to the Sun at the time of death was the trine of Mercury, which applying at the time and doesn’t seem particularly nasty according to Ptolemy’s guidance as it is Mercury and a trine, while Jupiter aspects within 2 degrees.

In conclusion, the technique of using aspectual primary directions as given by Ptolemy is not a reliable indicator of length of life. His much more complex technique of directing to the Descendant and then adding/subtracting by a proportion of hourly times may hold some promise, as a certain interpretation of it provided a correct indication here, but the correct results also could be due to chance, so more research is needed.

The Main Valens Technique (2nd century CE)

Vettius Valens provided numerous techniques for length of life in Book III of his Anthology, and even more techniques scattered across most of the books of the Anthology, but here I will focus on what appears to be his preferred technique and the one that relates most strongly to that of other astrologers like Dorotheus and Ptolemy.  The technique is related to the Dorothean and Ptolemaic techniques but also assesses a maximum length of life based on ascesional times from the significator to a point zodiacally 90 degrees from it, or from an angle of the chart to the next angle, and a maximum based on planetary years of the bound lord of the significator. There is a free translation of the Anthology available at this link, though I recommend the Project Hindsight translation of Book III (available for $30 as a PDF if you email Ellen Black of Project Hindsight), as its footnotes are invaluable for serious study of the technique.

Valens would also take the Sun as the significator as it is the sect light, in the 10th, and with its bound lord. Therefore, according to Valens, the Sun predominates in the chart (it is the significator) and Venus is the relevant “ruler”.

Kirk Kerkorian's Natal Chart
Kirk Kerkorian’s Natal Chart

The first determination is according to the ascensional times from the Sun’s position to the square of its position in front of it (i.e. from 15 Gemini to 15 Virgo). As noted in the section on the Dorothean technique above, there are 98 ascensional times between the Sun’s position and about 12 (to about the middle of the degree), so adding another 3 zodiacal degrees given a conversion of about 1.2 ascensional times per degree, brings us to about 101.6 ascensional times, or 101.6 years as an indication of maximum length of life.

According to Valens, we then look at the greater years of the ruler, Venus. She assigns her total greater years (82 years; or 84 years as indicated in some places in Valens and Maternus) because she is well placed. Valens advises to prefer her indication as the maximum length of life, so we conclude that the maximum length of life is 82 or 84 years.

Now, we must check to see if a malefic aspect intervenes between the Sun and its square, without a benefic aspect within 7 degrees of the same. Saturn’s direction is protected by Jupiter, as is the  square of Mars in Leo, and there are no other significant malefic directions in that span. Therefore, we conclude that the length of life is 82 or 84 years according to the indication by the planetary years of Venus. This technique leads to bad results.

It is worth noting though that the indication by ascensional times from the Sun to its square is relatively good as a maximum length of life at 101.6 years. Valens notes that the degree of the significator and the 3 degrees on either side of that degree (a 7 degree span) are sensitized, and each degree in Virgo has an ascensional time of nearly 1.3, so the death did occur within the critical span of the square of the Sun.  Therefore, the technique of using ascensional times of the square may have some value. For instance, perhaps the indication of Venus should not be used because she is under the beams (though this is not specified by Valens), in which case we prefer the square of the significator and find it to be relatively accurate.

Valens also suggests the possibility of judging from the angle prior to the hyleg, to that following it. The ascensional times of the signs from the Descendant to the MC are very small, and would provide an indication under 61 years, which is way off the mark. If we use the MC to the Ascendant, then the span is slightly longer than that of the Sun to its square, so it would add a couple  more years to the sum, giving a length of life around 104 years, which is less accurate than the square of the Sun.  Another possible apheta (starting point) is the hylegical lot calculated from the nearest New Moon (before or after birth) to the Moon position, which puts the lot at 22 Pisces. This is near the Descendant, so we would again end up with a much shorter indication of death in his sixties. I won’t be exploring further the more obscure techniques that Valens also discusses in different chapters of Book III.

We may wonder about use of the Valens technique with actual primary directions rather than ascensional times. This would not effect the indications by years of Venus, and the fact that malefic directions are protected, but it would affect the indication by the square of the Sun. The square of the Sun directs to the Sun in later 2009, when the native is 92 years old, so this indication too is not accurate.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, Valens presents so many disparate techniques for length of life in the Anthology, scattered across most of the books of the work, that we cannot hope to evaluate (or even clearly understand) them all. I won’t be exploring his other longevity techniques here.

The Maternus Technique (4th century CE)

Maternus (Book II, Ch. 26 and Book IV, Ch. 6 of Mathesis) advises to take the ruler of the sign following that of the Moon as the chart ruler. Therefore, the chart ruler is Saturn.  Saturn is in the 11th house and in its own bound so would likely be considered to provide its greater years, which are 57 years. This technique provides an indication that is very far off the mark.

Kirk Kerkorian's Natal Chart
Kirk Kerkorian’s Natal Chart

Maternus does note that there was a diversity of opinion on finding the ruler of the nativity, and that some took a planet that is in one of the principal houses of the chart and in its own sign or bound, others took the bound lord of the sect light, and others took the ruler (or exaltation ruler?) of the Moon. Only Saturn is both in an advantageous place (the 11th) and in its own bound  or sign (in this case, it’s bound), and Saturn is also the sign ruler of the Moon, but as noted, Saturn indicates only 57 years. The bound lord of the Sun  is Venus, and she indicates at most 82 or 84 years. Mars is the exaltation ruler of the Moon’s signs and can only indicate at most 66 years (but is cadent and out of sect, so may indicate less here). Basically, no matter how you slice it, the Maternus-style technique involving planetary years does not yield the correct results.

The Technique of Paulus Alexandrinus (4th century CE)

The technique of Paulus Alexandrinus combines some features of the Dorothean technique with features of the Maternus technique, to give us a hybrid planetary years technique. This technique was combined with that of Ptolemy to form the basis of the typical Medieval technique to length of life.  While in Chapter 34 of Introductory Matters, Paulus advises us to look at primary directions (by ascensions) to Ascendant, Sun, and Moon involving certain malefic planets and points, in order to assess times of crisis, he does not explicitly use directions in the context of his length of life technique. His length of life technique, which he explains in Ch. 36, has more in common with the technique of Maternus than with those of Dorotheus, Ptolemy, and Valens.

Kirk Kerkorian's Natal Chart
Kirk Kerkorian’s Natal Chart

As with Maternus, he finds a “ruler” that indicates the length of life by planetary years. His instructions for finding the ruler are similar to the instructions given by Dorotheus to find the ruler of the hyleg (i.e. he takes a ruler, not necessarily the bound ruler, typically of the sect light, and prefers it if its aspects the sect light and it is itself strongly placed).  Paulus would select Venus as such a ruler, as she is the only ruler of the Sun that sees the Sun.

Venus indicates 82 or 84 years, but planets in whole sign aspect to Venus may add or subtract years from this indication. However, there are no such planets, so 82 or 84 years are indicated (or less as Venus is under the beams), and an incorrect indication is given.

Summary Findings on Special Techniques

None of the major Hellenistic special techniques for length of life provide the correct indication when employed exactly as the authors advise.  However, there are elements of the techniques of Dorotheus  Ptolemy, and Valens that appear to have some promise.  Dorotheus clues us into the relevance of the directed bound lords and to primary directions that are within bounds. Ptolemy clues us into the importance of malefic directions and the possibility that directions to the Descendant (possibly modified by hourly times) could be significant. Valens clues us into the importance of the ascensional time length from the hyleg to its square as a possible maximum life span. The indications that are most off the mark seem to relate to use of planetary years, whether by Valens, Maternus, or Paulus Alexandrinus. Interestingly, planetary years came to provide the main indication of general length of life in the Medieval period.

Part II: Other Factors

I typically examine the astrology of death in terms of other factors that coincide with the death rather than in the context of a particular predictive technique, as no traditional predictive technique reliably and accurately predicts death most of the time, and as death is arguably one of the most important events in life, there are many indications of danger or hardship shown by predictive techniques.  Mars is arguably the most relevant planet for death in the chart as it is the out of sect malefic and rules the 8th house, as well as afflicts the lord of the Ascendant somewhat due to its conjunction with it.

Kirk Kerkorian's Natal Chart
Kirk Kerkorian’s Natal Chart

Profections

Kerkorian turned 98 shortly before his death. On his 98th birthday, June 6th, 2015, the annual profection shifted to Scorpio, ruled by Mars, so Mars is the lord of the year for the year of death. Mars is in Taurus in his natal chart, so the profection was also in opposition to Mars.

As death occurred in the first month after the birth day, the monthly profection was also still in Scorpio, with Mars as the lord of the month.

Solar Return

Kerkorian's Final Solar Return
Kerkorian’s Final Solar Return

Kerkorian’s final solar return is striking. Mars is conjunct the Sun within 3 degrees, and they are both with Mercury (lord of the natal 1st). The Sun is the main significator of life in the chart (it is the sect light and prominently placed) and here it is afflicted by the main indicator of death in the chart.  Additionally, Saturn is in Sagittarius, opposing the Mercury-Sun-Mars configuration. Both benefics are also in Leo, which is the 12th house of the natal chart, and said to be an ineffective place.

Distributor: Directing through the Bounds

As noted above in the context of the Dorothean technique, the sect light, the Sun, had directed into the bound of Mars in Virgo in late 2014.  Therefore, the bound lord of the directed sect light was Mars, and additionally Mars aspects that bound.

Transits

The transits at the time of death are also striking, as the transiting Sun is in partile conjunction with transiting Mars (i.e. they are conjunct in the same degree), and the transiting Moon is joining them in the same sign, Gemini, which is the natal sign of the Sun. Additionally, by this time Saturn had retrograded back into Scorpio, the sign of the annual profection.  Therefore, even with the transits, we see multiple repeat indications of the them of Mars afflicting the Sun to indicate the time of death.

Transits at Time of Kerkorian's Death (exact time of day unknown) - Inner Wheel is Natal - Outer Wheel is Transits
Transits at Time of Kerkorian’s Death (exact time of day unknown) – Inner Wheel is Natal – Outer Wheel is Transits

Conclusion

People sometimes ask me why most of my traditional analyses of death lack the use of special techniques for predicting longevity. Here I’ve presented an answer. None of the existing longevity techniques are perfect, and the more prominent Medieval techniques for longevity are particularly inaccurate.  Though there still are plenty of additional techniques provided by Valens that require evaluation. I do advocate the use of special techniques rather than individual factors for most in depth analysis, but when it comes to death I prefer a combination of predictive techniques, as they show interesting indications, even if it would be almost impossible to know with certainty that those indications were for death rather than some other difficult event. There are elements of early length of life techniques that I make use of and that I keep in mind to regularly test, but I know of no special technique of Hellenistic or Medieval astrology that reliably indicates the length of one’s life.

 

 

Image attribution for featured image of this article (bas relief of Lachesis):

By Jim Kuhn [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Traditional Astrology of Death | A History of Length of Life Special Techniques

Now I will explain to you the length of life and the number of years as I attempt [to compute it], because sometimes you will want to consider it in a horoscopic diagram as I will show you. […] I wanted to know the places of the haylaj among which he was born because they are five places, and none of the planets was in them except in the ascendent in which the Sun was; and it is the best of the places.

But I calculated for this nativity from the degrees of the ascendent[…]

(Dorotheus, Book III, Ch. 1, Pingree trans., 2005, p. 237-238)

Note on Updates 6/28/15: Dear Reader, the history of this blog post would itself be an interesting matter for astrological analysis. This article was first published on the morning of 5/19/15, within 24 hours of Mercury stationing retrograde. Over a period of about 40 days, the post underwent 38 revisions (inclusive of this one). Many of the revisions were minor, but around 6/9/15, 6/21/15, and at this time, there were some major revisions. First, by obtaining the 2nd book of Hephaistio’s Apotelesmatics, at the recommendation of Chris Brennan, I realized that the entire first chapter of Book III of the Carmen of Dorotheus was almost certainly an addition, so I edited my treatment of that section to reflect that. Secondly, I felt that the omission of the planetary years approaches of Firmicus Maternus and Paulus Alexandrinus made it seem like there was more of a chasm between the medieval approaches and any Hellenistic approaches than there were, as the Medieval approaches are actually strongly based in the late Hellenistic approach of Paulus, so material was added to reflect this.

Today’s edit, which is hopefully the last one, is much more major and is a result of my own hubris for which I offer sincere apology. My readings of the first few chapters of the Reilly translation of Book III of Valens had led me to believe that Valens used the “ruler” (alcocoden) much like the apheta (hyleg), by judging ascensional times of its square. There are  references in the book of Mercury giving a portion of its complete years of 76, and of Venus giving her complete years of 84. I supposed (incorrectly) that these referred to ascensional time indications as: 1. Valens did not explicate the years of the planets at any point prior to these passages; 2. the complete years of Venus are (typically given as) 82 years, not 84 years; 3. Valens subtracts a portion of the 76 years of Mercury based on separation distance of Mercury from an angle, which seemed like subtraction of a portion of arc of ascensions based on portion already traveled. With a thorough reading of the Robert Schmidt translation of the same passages, with their extensive footnotes by Schmidt and Hand, I do now believe that the technique involved the complete (i.e. greater) years of the “ruler” (alcocoden). The technique still differs from the approaches of Maternus and Paulus which formed the backdrop of the Medieval technique, in that Valens only allows the bound lord to be “ruler”, does allow for no “ruler” where you just don’t use planetary years at all, only uses the complete years (at least in the context of this technique; he does do some more ad hoc stuff with minor years added to single sign ascensional times in the last chapter of the book), and does subtractions from complete years based on amount of zodiacal separation from an angle rather than by aspecting planets.

Given these revelations and the drastic evolution of the article, I thought it necessary to rename the article to reflect its nature as a historical overview. I do believe that the criticism of the Medieval approach is still relevant, as the Medieval approach tends to be a modification of a late Hellenistic approach and with it we lose both the great diversity in approach that existed in the Medieval era, and some of the greater insights of those approaches.

Introduction

As I’ve been restoring some articles dealing with death and timing techniques, I think I should say a little about the old hyleg/alcocoden technique for longevity.  This is a technique that was controversially popularized by Rob Zoller a couple decades ago.  Zoller sold a couple publications on it that included heavily obfuscated translations of Bonatti’s writings on it. Notably, even promoters of this technique have a hard time finding a few good celebrity examples in which it predicts death, or even simply a very major health crisis. I remember that in Zoller’s own writings, he quickly came to the conclusion that it didn’t predict death but may predict critical periods, as it predicted a very short life for him and he did indeed have a health crisis as a child. Though when it came to examples, he was forced to make spurious alterations to the technique in order to force it to work, such as suggesting that one person may have died at the time he did because of it being midpoint or half the indicated time span.

There are intimations of the technique in early Hellenistic astrology in  Dorotheus (Book III, Ch. 2; note that Ch. 1 is likely a later addition; also see Hephaistio’s Apotelesmatics, Book II, Ch. 26 for a summary of Dorotheus which is free of the medieval corruptions), Valens (Book III), and Ptolemy (Book III, Ch. 10; Note: there’s a hyleg but nothing truly analogous to an alcocoden in Ptolemy’s technique).  It changed its flavor quite sharply in the Middle Ages with the introduction of numerical weighted dignity and particular reliance on a modified version of the approach of Paulus Alexandrinus.  My problem with this technique is threefold:

1. The medieval form of the technique (often as given by Bonatti; though the exposition in Masha’allah’s “On Nativities” is clearer) is typically presented as the authoritative version, despite it being a modification of a version probably created over 400 years after the origination of the technique and quite at odds with the original sources. It is additionally reinterpreted for modern audiences in ways inconsistent with its original use both in the Hellenistic period and the Middle Ages.

2. The alcocoden’s indications by planetary years do not consistently indicate the minimum life span of a given individual, so the Medieval technique is a misleading distraction. Valens is apparently the first astrologer to have used the planetary years of the alcocoden as a possible indication, but he himself used it as one possible indicator of maximum lifespan (provided a malefic direction to the hyleg did not cut the life much shorter), with rules as to when it should be used (and when the alcocoden simply doesn’t exist in the chart). He also took only the bound lord of the hyleg as possible alcocoden, only used the greater years of the planet (or some portion thereof; at least in the context of this particular technique), and instructed as to when the life can be judged to be much shorter than that indicated by the planetary years. The Medieval technique lacks all of these features of the early technique.

3. Traditional primary directions to the hyleg do not consistently indicate the time of death, so the Medieval form of the technique with a stress on aspectual primary direction is also a misleading distraction in this sense, or at least perpetuates a myth about the necessity of an aspectual primary direction to the hyleg. Valens himself explicitly noted that many die without such an aspectual direction and that such can happen when the alcocoden is very well-placed or there is no alcocoden and there are no planets that aspect by directions without the intervention of a benefic.

1. A History of Alteration

a. Hellenistic

The technique differs significantly from author to author in the Hellenistic period. Valens alone presents more than 3 different distinct approaches to the subject, and comments on the diversity of opinion.  One of the earliest surviving accounts is in Dorotheus (1st century CE), but that particular book of Carmen Astrologicum is the most corrupt book of the five, with one of the two chapters likely to be an addition. Our best indications of the original Dorothean text come to us from Hephaistio’s summary in Book II, Ch. 26 of Apotelesmatics, and indicate that Ch. 2 of Book III of Carmen is most likely the original Dorothean technique.  Another, possibly earlier instance of the use of length of life technique from the early 1st century CE is found in fragments attributed to the Roman court astrologer Balbilus, but the account is incomplete so I won’t consider it further here (for more on the fragment of Balbilus concerning length of life, see the article by Martin Gansten by clicking this link).  Both Ptolemy and Valens also gave their versions of the technique in the 2nd century CE. All three Hellenistic authors vary in significant ways from each other, but all stress some type of timing through primary directions, a key planet as indicator (apheta, hyleg, or haylaj), and little or no use of another planet that rules the apheta (kadhkhudah or alcocoden). The two major early approaches of Dorotheus and Ptolemy, lack any use of planetary years, while the approach of Valens appears to use planetary years as one component, but in a very different manner than their later use by Firmicus Maternus, Paulus Alexandrinus, and the Medieval astrologers.

Manilius wrote the oldest complete surviving astrological text, the Astronomica (early 1st century CE). In Book III, he discusses some means of assessing length of life by assigning years to signs (his values relate roughly to the ascensional times of the signs with Virgo and Libra assigned values roughly twice that of Pisces and Aries), though he didn’t provide directions on how to use them. He also assigned length of life based on the whole sign house that the Moon is in at birth, from the most advantageous places assigning very long lives and the so-called bad or dark places assigning very short ones (e.g. 78 years in 1st house and 77 years in the 10th house; 12 years in the 6th house, 23 years in the 12th house, and 33 years in the 8th house). Perhaps the value of the sign the Moon is placed in is to be added to the value of the house, as the years assigned to the individual signs are much less (about 10-20 years), but Manilius didn’t explain the use of the signs values. Manilius does not use the primary directions approach, so his approach is at a variance from the typical Hellenistic approach.

Maternus (early 4th century CE) also does not use a a hyleg with directions and instead bases his indications on the planetary years of the planet that rules the sign following that of the Moon, which he takes to be the ruler of the life in general, and a primary indicator for character. The technique of Maternus has much more in common with the technique of Manilius than those of Dorotheus, Ptolemy, and Valens. I discuss him further below, as his technique appears to have been synthesized with the primary directions technique by Paulus Alexandrinus (and possibly his contemporaries) to form the  basis of the Medieval approach.

Dorotheus

Dorotheus appears to differ a bit in terms of manner of discovery of the hyleg and alcocoden between the two different chapters of Book III, which is certainly due to later insertions. This particular book of Dorotheus has significant evidence of corruption. Our translation is an English one, of a medieval Arabic translation, of an early medieval Pahlavi translation, of a 1st century Hellenistic text. Both example charts in Book III were dated to later centuries (4th century for the chart in Ch. 1; 3rd century for that in Ch. 2).

Chapter 1 of Book III of Dorotheus appears to be almost wholly a medieval insertion. In that chapter, the hyleg is referred to as the governor and the alcocoden is referred to as the indicator of length of life, with an example chart given (chart dated to 4th century CE by Pingree) in which the Sun is hyleg but the directions are taken from the Ascendant (see opening quote of this article). Chapter 2 is subject to minor corruptions, but most of the passage on finding the hyleg and alcocoden is original, as it also appears in the summary by the Hellenistic astrologer Hephaistio who was working from the Greek.  Interestingly, in this chapter, the hyleg is the indicator of length of life, and the alcocoden is the governor. The alcocoden does not appear to serve any purpose other than helping to indicate the hyleg, as a potential hyleg must have a governor/alcocoden to be selected.

Dorotheus looks to the hyleg as being the most significant planet in terms of signifying health and life in general. In his timing technique, the planets that become time lords show significant events and developments in the general course of life.

Dorotheus does not use the alcocoden at all to indicate the length of life.  In fact, the length is indicated from primary directions to the Ascendant (which is hyleg), but this time he puts particular stress on the lord of the directions through the bounds (i.e. jarbakhtar) in delineating ups and downs in health, and indicates the time of death when Saturn’s aspect directs to the Ascendant (see block quote below).  Mars is the alcocoden, but Mars does not indicate the length of life, and the interest in Mars has more to do with it as a threat, simply due to the fact that it’s a malefic planet. Dorotheus suggests that death happens when the either the bound lord of the directed Ascendant is malefic, or a malefic makes an exact aspect to a degree inside the bound of the directed Ascendant, while no benefic makes an exact aspect to a degree inside that bound (note: he directs by ascensional times rather than true primary directions- click here for an article on directing by ascensions and the use of the bounds).

There was nothing obvious from which the haylaj might be found except the ascendent. The lord of the term of the ascendent, Mars, was above the earth and near the East and the four parts which have been mentioned and [in] the place of good fortune aspecting the ascendent and casting [its] rays to that term in which the ascendent is, from above is[…]

[…] Because Saturn is in the twelfth degree, it indicates the last day of his life, and he will live after the twelfth degree forty-eight nights because Saturn is in the beginning of the degree (at 12;8º].

(Dorotheus, Book III, Ch. 2, Pingree trans., 2005, p. 243-244)

While in the example from Chapter II of Book III, the death is shown by an aspectual direction, Dorotheus makes it clear that it can also come about by the ruler of the bound being malefic if no benefic casts a ray into that same bound. For example, in my analysis of Whitney Houston’s death with primary directions, the Ascendant is hyleg according to the rules given by Dorotheus for its selection. She died while the directed Ascendant was in the Saturn bound of Taurus, which spans from 22 Taurus to 27 Taurus. There are no planets at all in her chart from 22-27 of any sign that aspects Taurus, so no planet casts its ray into the bound. This means that Saturn took over the prorogation (i.e. was the time lord), without the influence of the ray of any benefic, an indication of serious threat to health. Interestingly, these threats related to Saturn are shown also in the natal chart and reflected in a number of other timing techniques around the time of her death. Her death was by accidental drug overdose rather than natural causes.

So, to clarify, Dorotheus did not take the alcocoden to signify the length of life, and he looked at directions to the hyleg, both in terms of bounds and aspectually, as indicating the time of death. Therefore, in the Dorothean technique the hyleg describes the health and life, the alcocoden (which is the bound lord or some other ruler of the hyleg which regards it) helps indicate the hyleg, and timing is done by directions to the hyleg, both by bounds and aspectually.

Valens

Valens presents his own methods for finding the hyleg (“the control” or “apheta”) and the alcocoden (“the houseruler” or simply “ruler”) which are largely consistent with the methods of Dorotheus, though Valens puts particular stress on the bound lord as being the only lord eligible under this method, and that there simply is no alcocoden if the bound lord doesn’t qualify. The Valens material on length of life is the most complex out of all of the Hellenistic treatments, and he actually presents multiple techniques in Book III of his Anthology (as well as many more techniques in various books of the Anthology, many involving various combinations of ascensional times with minor years of plaents). I will be touching on a couple of the techniques only briefly here, as they relate to the hyleg/alcocoden type of approach. I advise careful study of Book III of The Anthology (as well as the other books) for more information. The best translation of Book III is available for purchase from Project Hindsight in ebook form for $30 (email ellen@projecthindsight.com and tell her Anthony from Seven Stars sent you). There is also a complete English translation of the entire Anthology which is available free online at this link.

As with Dorotheus, Valens appears to take the hyleg as the main indicator for length of life, with ascensional times to its square (or from one angle to the next) indicating maximum lifespan, and malefic directions to it that lack influence from a benefic, indicating a life cut short before its time.

He does uniquely use the greater years of the alcocoden as a possible stand-in for the hyleg, which is to be preferred as the indication of maximum length of life to the indication by the asensional times of the square of the hyleg, provided that there is an alcocoden and that its greater years indicate a shorter life than that indicated by the hyleg technique. However, Valens only uses the greater years of the alcocoden in this context, and only subtracts from them if the alcocoden is badly placed (such as in the 12th), then subtracting a portion of years from the greater based on the amount of separation of the planet from an angle.

Valens advocated taking the distance in terms of ascensional times from the hyleg to the point square to it (i.e. add 90 degrees to its zodiacal position and then convert that to ascensional times). However, if the hyleg is an angle, then he advises instead taking the distance from the angle to the next angle, and converting that to years by using ascensional times.  That number of years is considered the maximum length of life according to Valens and the native will live that long, provided that there is no alcocoden indicating fewer years, and that no malefic direction cuts things shorter.

Valens noted that certain aspects (those from Saturn, Mars, the Sun, and the Moon coming to a phase) to a point in the vital sector or to the hyleg (within 3 degrees on either side of the degree containing the hyleg itself such that a 7 degree areas is looked at, as explicitly specified by Valens) can cut the life short compared with the lesser of the indications by hyleg’s square and by the alcocoden’s complete years (or the portion of such).  He also notes the importance of the terms of malefics, which may imply use of distributors/jarbakhtars as in Dorotheus, but he never puts such into practice in his examples.  The technique is very complex, so see Book III of the Anthology for more details.

Medieval astrologers, like Umar al-Tabari, used quadrant house position (angular, succedent, or cadent by quadrant houses) to determine if an alcocoden gave its greater, middle, or lesser planetary years, in their planetary years-based  approaches to the alcocoden. This is often thought to originate with Valens’ Book III, Ch. 3, in which he advises to set up porphyry-style houses (i.e. tri-sect each angle zodiacally) and consider the first 1/3 after the angle to be the operative degrees, the next 1/3 to be middling, and the last to be inoperative. This chapter is in the context of his hyleg/alcocoden discussion, but does not reference planetary years at all. Instead, he introduces this manner of division just after referring to operative degrees in the previous paragraph, as way of clarifying what he was referring to. The passage is below and is not in relation to planetary years at all but is in relation to finding a suitably strong planet that can be hyleg (“control” or “controller”) and alcocoden (“houseruler”).

It is necessary to consider the control to be certain if the sun or the moon is in aspect with the ruler of the terms, and if it is at an angle or in operative degrees. If it is found to be turned away, the nativity judged to lack a houseruler.

(Valens, Book III, Ch. 1, Riley trans., 2010, p. 58-59)

Again, Valens, who is the single astrologer who used planetary years more than any other in predictive techniques, did not appear to use planetary years of the alcocoden to indicate minimum life span, but rather to indicate one possible “maximum lifespan” which only comes into play under specific circumstances and always involves the greater years of the bound lord of the hyleg.

 Valens provides some explicit examples of this. In the below passages “aphetic place” refers to the hyleg, and the technique involves allotting the entire ascensional time, unless a malefic intervenes without some sort of amelioration by a benefic, in which case you deduct the portion of the arc following the malefic’s aspect degree (i.e. the length of life is the arc in right ascension from hyleg to malefic aspect). In the example below, he suggests deducting a portion of the greater years of the alcocoden based on its separation from an angle if it is badly placed (see the Project Hindsight translation of this book for more details on how that is done).

If the sun or moon are in the aphetic place, then it will be necessary to figure the total rising times (in the klima of the nativity) from the position of the apheta to the point square with it. Having found the total time, you can forecast that the native will live as many years. This forecast will be accurate if the houseruler is in its own terms or is configured appropriately, has contact or is in aspect with the apheta, and if no anaereta applies its rays and deducts from the number of years. If the houseruler is not in aspect with the controller, but is otherwise found to be favorably configured (i.e. in the Ascendant, at MC while rising), it will allot the full span of years. If it is <not at> one of the other angles, it will deduct a portion of the arc proportional to its relationship <with the rest of the horoscope>, but will allot the remainder <as the length of life>.

(Valens, Book III, Ch. 1, Riley trans., 2010, p. 59)

The technique of using the square of the hyleg, or going from one angle to the next, becomes clearer in the many examples that Valens provides.  As noted, he goes from one angle to the next if the hyleg is an angle.

An example: let a nativity in the second klima have Gemini 8º as the Ascendant, Aquarius 22º as MC. Even though the vital sector starts at the Ascendant, its ending point is by no means at the point square with it, Virgo 8º, but at IC, Leo 22º. I can forecast this total of years, unless some anaereta casts its rays. If an anaereta is in Gemini 20º, or in any degree of Cancer, or projects its rays to such a point, the native will live as many years as the number of degrees <=rising times> from the aphetic point to the anaeretic point.

(Valens, Book III, Ch. 1, Riley trans., 2010, p. 60)

Additionally, Valens presents many more methods for finding critical threats to life, including a method in which a “vital sector” is found based on a type of lot involving the distance from the New Moon closest to birth (either before or after) to the Moon’s position at birth, projected from the Ascendant (see Book III, Ch. 7).  The Medeival “pars hyleg” (prenatal syzygy to natal Moon, projected from Ascendant) appears to be a corruption of this lot, as for this lot Valens instructs that the lot is constructed from the nearest New Moon rather than from the prenatal syzygy (i.e. postnatal New Moon if the birth is after the Full Moon).  Confusingly, Valens advises to take it from birth Moon to postnatal New Moon if birth is preventional, but then to project it in the opposite direction from the Ascendant toward the MC, which is exactly the same as a lot taken from the postnatal New Moon to the Moon, projected in the usual manner. This lot is used as an exact stand-in for the hyleg, in which we look to the square from it as a maximum life span (by ascensional times), compare that with the indication from its bound lord if its properly situated, and then compare that with possible malefic directions (by ascensional times) in which the malefic is strong enough to kill and there is not intervention from a benefic aspect. Again, we take the shorter indication of length of life among the three. What is common among most of the longevity techniques of Valens is that there is some sort of “vital sector” of the chart which indicates lifespan by ascensional times, either by the length of the vital sector itself or by the length from its beginning to a particularly difficult malefic aspect.

Valens also provides a technique involving the lunar nodes, and a much later technique at the end of Book III, in which ascensional times of individual signs are added to minor years of individual planets to create sums that indicate lifespan (without clear directions as to how this technique is to be used; though it is also explored in Book II and possibly in some later books). The great diversity of techniques in Valens is in stark contrast to the homogenization of the length of life approach in the Medieval period and provides many interesting avenues for further research. While Valens does appear to make use of the greater planetary years of the bound lord of the hyleg, at least in some circumstances, he does so in a way that is not consistent with the later Medieval approach, in terms of selection of the alcocoden, the number of years to assign, and what these years indicate.

Ptolemy

Finally, Ptolemy also writes on the length of life in Chapter 10 of Book III of the Tetrabiblos (click here for a link to a translation online). However, he really has only 2 parts, a hyleg and killing point, with no alcocoden in his technique. His instructions for finding the hyleg were considered by almost all astrologers commenting on the technique in the Middle Ages, as it notably differed in some ways with the instructions given by Dorotheus. Aside from a lack of alcocoden, some components of Ptolemy’s approach to the hyleg that differ strongly from others is that he appears to have used an idiosyncratic equal house division to identify operative places and he appears to only want to accept the Sun or Moon as hyleg if they are in the 1st, 11th, 10th, 9th, or 7th place of that division. This differs from Dorotheus, as Dorotheus seems to have only taken the hyleg if in the 1st, 10th, or 11th whole sign house (he only names those in Ch. 2 and in the summary by Hephaistio, and he definitely did not permit possible hylegs if they were in the 9th whole sign house).  If they are not in those places then he advises to take the planet with the most forms of testimony (domicile, exaltation, triplicity, bound, or whole sign aspect) over 3 key spots in the chart, as long as that planet has at least 3 total testimonies among the places and is in a position of greater authority than the lights. Only if this also fails does he consider using the Ascendant if the birth was by day. If the birth was by night, he takes the Ascendant if the birth was after a New Moon, but the Lot of Fortune if birth was after a Full Moon.

From there, Ptolemy determines length of life by means of primary directions involving the hyleg. He appears to direct planets and points to the hyleg as is usual in primary directions, but also suggests directing the hyleg itself if the planet or point of the hyleg already passed the MC in the daily rotation, because then you want to see when it directs to the Descendant. The Descendant is symbolic of death, being the point where planets disappear (i.e. western horizon).  In any case, Ptolemy recommends the usual technique of looking for a malefic direction to the hyleg, and insists upon more accurate calculation of the direction, rather than reliance on ascensional times. Most of Ptolemy’s discussion of length of life actually involves his attempts to explain how to accurately use primary directions and why ascensional times don’t work well for points other than the Ascendant. What is conspicuously absent from Ptolemy’s technique for determining  the length of life is an alcocoden and any use of planetary years. In Book IV of the Tetrabiblos, Ptolemy advises to look at directions to the Ascendant for matters concerning the body.

Conclusion Regarding the 3 Main Approaches

What is common among the three early Hellenistic authors using hyleg and alcocoden significators is that there is very little use of indication of length of life by planetary years of the alcocoden, and that the indication of time of death is not necessarily by an aspectual primary direction to the hyleg (though many Hellenistic authors do indicate as such if benefics don’t intervene). These are important points, as these become the cornerstones of the later Medieval technique (i.e. that the alcocoden indicates length of life by planetary years and that the timing of death is by aspectual primary direction to the hyleg).  In the early Hellenistic era, when it comes to timing it is by primary directions, but may be those to the square of the hyleg (or a hylegical lot), from one angle to another,  or to the Ascendant, and may also be shown by the bound lord of the directed hyleg (i.e. the distributor or jarbakhtar). Also, ascensional times are typically preferred to actual primary directions. When it comes to use of planetary years, it is only the bound lord of the hyleg, in certain circumstances, that can indicate a maximum lifespan related to its greater years, and the actual lifespan may be much shorter than that indicated by the bound lord (due to a malefic direction to hyleg).

Late Hellenistic: from Maternus and the Years of the Chart Ruler to the Synthesis of Paulus Alexandrinus

As far as I’m aware, the earliest appearance of an exceptional Hellenistic technique for length of life relying heavily on different levels of planetary years (greater, middle, and lesser) is found in Book II, Ch. 26 of the Mathesis of Firmicus Maternus. This technique is only found in this 4th century Roman text and does not involve the typical hyleg/alcocoden type of features in its approach, nor does it involve primary directions. However, the technique was awkwardly combined with the techniques of Dorotheus and Ptolemy by Paulus Alexandrinus to form the foundation of the Medieval approach to the length of life technique.

The technique of Maternus is more closely aligned to that of Manilius in which some planet indicates some number of years based on its placement, but in the approach of Manilus the number of years are given by the sign and/or house of the planet (apparently the Moon for the house signification; see Manilius, Book III, #560-617), while in the Maternus technique the ruler of the nativity signifies the length of life based on its own planetary years and the strength of its position. The ruler of the nativity is the giver of life and signifies the number of years. Maternus provides instructions for finding the ruler of the nativity in Book IV, Ch. 6, and in his instructions he does appear to relate some methods that are discussed in Dorotheus and Valens in relation to the alcocoden (the likely reason why this method came to be used with the alcocoden in the Middle Ages), such as noting that some use the bound lord of the sect light as the ruler of the nativity.

Maternus advises that the best technique for finding the ruler of the nativity (and thus the giver of years) is to use the ruler of the sign following the Moon’s sign.  However, the Sun and Moon cannot be the ruler of the nativity, so you must take Virgo (Mercury) if the Moon is in Gemini or Cancer at birth (i.e. you skip the signs of the Sun and Moon because they can’t be the ruler of the nativity).  For example, if the Moon were in Scorpio at birth, then the ruler of the nativity would be Jupiter, as it rules Sagittarius, which is the next sign the Moon will occupy after birth. Another example is that if the Moon were in Cancer at birth, then the ruler of the nativity would be Mercury, as it rules Virgo, which is the next eligible sign that the Moon transits after birth (a sign ruled by the Sun or Moon is not eligible). The ruler of the nativity is both the single most important planet for describing the person and also is indicative of the years someone will live. For instance, a well-placed Jupiter as ruler of life will signify a lifespan of 79 years, and will make for a magnanimous character; a well-placed Mercury as ruler of life will signify a lifespan of 108 years and a learned character.

The approaches of most other Hellenistic astrologers relied upon various methods of timing through primary directions rather than upon significations by planetary years. When the approach of Maternus was taken up and combined with the other approaches to the hyleg by Paulus Alexandrinus, the preferred approach to finding the giver of life that is suggested by Maternus was dropped and instead the special ruler of the hyleg (typically the bound lord) was used instead. As with the seemingly simplistic technique of Manilius, one may question the value of the simple technique used by Maternus of putting such important significations as the length of life and main character traits into one planet that rules the sign after the sign in which the Moon is placed.

Roman astrologer Paulus Alexandrinus, in Book II, Ch. 36, of his Introductory Matters (late 4th century CE), presents his approach which combines features of the hyleg/alcocoden technique with the planetary years technique of Maternus. It is not as much of a synthesis as found in the Medieval Persian texts because while Paulus does deal with primary directions, it is in another chapter on times of crises (Ch. 34) and he advises there to look at directions to the Sun, Moon, and Ascendant, rather than specifically to a hylegical significator. In Chapter 36, he is instead interested in the chart ruler, as was Maternus, but his method of finding the chart ruler is something of a variation on the Dorothean approach to finding the governor or alcocoden rather than the preferred approach of Maternus.

When Paulus finds the planet with the “rulership”, he assesses the length of life by planetary years in a similar manner as Maternus. There are some key differences in the approach of Paulus to that of  Maternus in how years are assigned (I refer to the “rulership” planet as the governor here):

1. Paulus allows the Sun and Moon to be governor (i.e. to assign years as length of life).

2. Paulus insists that any of the 5 planets (i.e. excluding the light) that regard the governor add their minor years, including malefics as long as they are well placed and in a place they rule, though the malefics (Saturn or Mars) subtract their years instead if they are not in such place. Benefics cannot subtract years, but fail to add any years if they are in hard aspect to the governor (i.e. whole sign square or opposition) and are retrograde, under the beams of the Sun, or cadent (in the whole sign 12th, 6th, 9th, or 3rd).

Therefore, in Paulus we find the synthesis of the method for finding a governor or alcocoden that is based in the approach of Dorotheus, with an assigning of planetary years to the governor that appears to be a variation on the approach of Firmicus Maternus, with the Lights now also permitted to be governor and with the 5 planets possibly adding or subtracting years from the significations of the governor. Paulus doesn’t seem to put as much stock into judging the length of life by primary directions, but does advise looking at primary directions to the Sun, Moon, and Ascendant by malefics (and the lights) for assessing points of crisis, though calculated using ascensional times (as was done by Dorotheus and Valens).  The Medieval techniques can be seen as extensions of the technique of Paulus which seek to further synthesize the two approaches (such as by looking at the planetary years of the alcocoden, then also trying to direct the alcocoden) and fine-tune the rules for when planets assign their greater, middle, or lesser years and how other planets add or subtract years.

b. Medieval

Masha’allah (8th century CE) in his work, The Book of Aristotle, makes some minor changes to the technique, but there does not appear to be a stress on planetary years in his treatment in The Book of Aristotle. Masha’allah is relatively consistent with approaches in the Hellenistic tradition when it comes to choosing the hyleg and alcocoden, stressing that the alcocoden should be the bound lord of the hyleg.  However, he does stress that a planet be preferred that has more than one type of dignity (notably he states that 2 minor forms of dignity would trump having domicile only) at the position of the hyleg. There are also some differences when it comes to indicating length of life. He names four methods for calculating length of life and 3 of them involve aspectual primary directions, while the fourth is a more obscure technique involving the lot of fortune.  The stress on primary directions is consistent with the Hellenistic tradition, but the stress on them being aspectual and to the hyleg or alcocoden, presages a leaning toward Ptolemy in the technique in which an exact primary direction to the hyleg came to be believed necessary as an indication of death, rather than the Dorothean approach of a malefic ruling the bound or exactly aspecting the bound with no benefic casting a ray into the same bound. To be fair, Masha’allah does acknowledge later in the section that the threat can be shown by the jarbakhtar (directions through the bounds).

A minor remark in Masha’allah’s Book of Aristotle regarding those with an afflicted hyleg and how the Sun would only grant 19 years, months, or days to such people, and similar with the rest of the planets, suggests the introduction of planetary years into the Medieval technique. Though Masha’allah in the other passages continues to stress the primary directions and does not explicitly advise the use of planetary years of the alcocoden or any planet as signifying a minimum or maximum length of life.

The Medieval technique that we know today, in which the alcocoden is used to determine the length of life based on planetary years becomes prominent in Persian astrology with Masha’allah’s On Nativities (in Works of Sahl & Masha’allah, translated by Ben Dykes), as well as in Umar al-Tabari’s work on nativities (see his treatment in Ben Dykes’ compilation, Persian Nativities II). In On Nativities, Masha’allah specifically advises that the alcocoden (or “kadukhudhah”) signifies the length of life and that it is taken by planetary years, and you judge whether to give the greater, middle, or lesser years of the planet according to  the condition of the alcocoden.  It appears to be around this point in time that the planetary years approach of Firmicus Maternus and Paulus Alexandrinus gets shuttled into the Medieval technique and comes to be one of its key features. Additionally, in this text Masha’allah advises that benefics and malefics in aspect to the alcocoden add or subtract years or months from its significations in accordance with the lesser planetary years of the aspecting planet and the condition of the aspecting planet. Therefore, we see the use of the addition/subtraction technique of Paulus, but already with variation from the way that he used it. When it comes to timing, Masha’allah takes the direction to the alcocoden of a malefic that impedes the alcocoden to be the indicator of timing of death.  The use of the alcocoden instead of the hyleg as the directed point indicating death is at a variance from the typical Hellenistic approach.

As this is only a blog article, I won’t go more in depth into the Medieval permutations of the technique, as it is clear that it was around the 8th century CE, with Masha’allah and Umar al-Tabari, that the key features of the technique were established involving planetary years of an alcocoden added to and subtracted from  by aspecting planets (variations on the method of Paulus) combined with an emphasis on an aspectual primary direction to the hyleg or alcocoden as the indication of death (variations on the method of Ptolemy). Later authors writing in Arabic echoed the stress on planetary years of the alcocoden, and this remained the mainstay of the technique in the later Middle Ages, such as in Bonatti’s Book of Astronomy.

c. Modern

As this technique has been taken up by modern astrologers, the later permutation involving a length of life shown by planetary years and a death shown by an aspectual primary direction to the hyleg has become the popular presentation.  There is precedent in Hellenistic astrology for the latter stress on primary direction to the hyleg (or at least some significant point), but the strong reliance on planetary years of the alcocoden is much more suspect.  This permutation has its roots in the late Hellenistic period but does not appear to be consistent with the approaches in the early Hellenistic period.

Additionally, certain key changes have been made in terms of the philosophical underpinning.  In ancient astrology, the type of death indicated could be of a multitude of types, as internal and external factors were both indicated in the natal chart, such that the cause of death could be as varied as death by disease, death in a fire, death by execution, death by accident, etc. In modern forms, this technique is often taken to be one concerned with internal “health”. In modern times, it is often presented as one in which the alcocoden by planetary years signifies the allotted length of life before the onset of serious health crises.  The original technique was couched in terms of danger and critical periods, with the possibility that afflictions may not lead to death if a benefic intervenes.  They did not refer specifically and exclusively to internal health concerns, so such a reading may be inaccurate, failing to take into account other types of dangers. While modern medical advances may help to avert or remediate some internal natural health difficulties, there are also numerous additional ways that one can die by accident in the modern world; types of accidents that didn’t exist in the ancient world. In his chapter on crises, Paulus Alexandrinus even goes out of his way to specify that the crises indicated by malefic primary directions to the lights or Ascendant might not always involve disease but could be as varied as a lawsuit, a shipwreck, or being stuck in a foreign country. There is no reason to think that indications from a length of life technique need involve disease and not one of the many other possible causes of death.
This technique is not traditionally one concerned only with physical internal health, but with threats to life and limb of all varieties, with separate techniques existing for trying to ascertain the nature of such threats.

Additionally, at least for Valens, the indications of longevity pertained to “maximum lifespan” rather than to minimum.  For him, all sorts of threats could end the life before this time, rather than the timing technique guaranteeing a certain number of years. It is inconsistent with the original approach to interpret the length of life indication as providing a guaranteed time frame in which one is free of serious health crises. I am reminded of Orson Welles whose life was plagued by serious health crises, particularly related to spinal problems, from a young age, yet lived to age 70 (about the time for the Moon to direct to the Descendant).  Similarly, if such an early death were indicated for Robert Zoller, and this was a minimum after which he would be plagued with significant health difficulties pushing toward death, then it seems doubtful that he would have gone on to have as long a life as he has.

2. Alcocoden’s Planetary Years Don’t Reliably Indicate Lifespan

When I first learned the technique as given by Bonatti, I applied it to dozens of charts, only to find out that his Medieval form of the technique didn’t work. The truth is that the planetary years of the alcocoden with the additions and subtractions by aspecting planets, does not indicate either a minimum or maximum lifespan in a reliable fashion. There are those that live much shorter lives than indicated by the alcocoden in planetary years, and those that live much longer lives.  Nor do the planetary years of the alcocoden necessarily indicate a period of threat to health. There is simply no reliable correlation there. Given the complexity of computing the alcocoden and its planetary modifications, and the poor results that it yields, it is simply a poor technique to use when assessing threats to a person’s well being, and it distracts from more important techniques, such as the use of the directions to the Ascendant and/or the hyleg and/or the lights (by your preferred approach), both by bounds and aspectually, and both to their squares (or the next angle) as well as to malefics.

There are many different permutations of the technique of using the alcocoden with planetary years. For instance, the technique of Valens witll give a totally different indication from that of Firmicus Maternus, and both from that of Paulus Alexandrinus, and all three from that of Guido Bonatti.  The Medieval versions of the technique are particularly confusing and convoluted as the rules for assigning which set of years to the alcocoden and for adding or subtracting years of the planets are both somewhat vague and differ from author to author (they are actually clearer and more concise in the version given by Paulus).  Due to the numerous variables, many astrologers simply manipulate the technique to assign years slightly differently depending on what chart they are using to match the facts in hindsight. I’ll have to advise that the reader provide me with their preferred source for the Medieval technique and I will provide them with some notable examples of its inefficacy when used consistently over a few example charts. For more on this, one may see the comments section of the post on the death of Whitney Houston, where there was a discussion of the technique relative to her chart.

Perhaps if we are to consider the planetary years technique then we should use it in one of the ways suggested by Valens, Maternus, or Paulus, rather than those of later Medieval astrologers providing variations on the Paulus technique 300-400 years after it.

3. Exact Primary Directions to the Hyleg Don’t Reliably Occur at Death

As the Middle Ages progressed into the Renaissance, the belief that some exact primary direction to the hyleg would always signify death became more entrenched. In Hellenistic astrology, we find a great stress placed on directions involving the Ascendant, and on the Ascendant’s direction through the bounds. In Ptolemy (Book IV, Ch. 10) and Dorotheus it is often the primary directions pertaining to the Ascendant (including directions through the bounds) that are most significant for timing bodily injury. It is my experience that primary directions are significant for the timing of death, but that they can be indicated even by the activation of a significant malefic in the chart as distributor of the Ascendant, or other hyleg, by primary directions. There is simply not always an important aspectual primary direction from one of the designated anaeretic planets within a degree at the time of death, and the belief that there must be can distract from accurately reading threat in timing techniques. I believe I’ve already provided some examples of this in some of the prior posts in this series, which you are welcome to review. If the hyleg is typically the sect light, and directions of the Ascendant are often significant to health, then we may even question the value of finding the hyleg, since we may cover more ground simply by paying attention to the directions, and directions through the bounds, of the Ascendant and sect light (as I did in my previous posts on the traditional astrology of death).

Overall, more research on the Hellenistic hyleg techniques are needed. There may be use of the hyleg yet, such as in the Dorothean approach, in which the voyage of the hyleg through bounds provides us with one of the most significant time lords of the period (the bound lord) and the planets that aspect the same bound participate with that time lord in sequence, or in one of the approaches of Valens in which the ascensional times of the square of the hyleg and the planetary years of the bound lord of the hyleg may provide a maximum life span when no malefic directions are particularly threatening. In this sense, a properly applied technique may help us to highlight the most significant factors and separate the wheat from the chaff.

Conclusion

The hyleg/alcocoden technique re-emerged in our contemporary world as a controversial selling point for the study of medieval astrology. Occasionally, it rears its head again in that guise, despite the availability of clearer translations of source texts and abundant natal data with which to test such techniques. I advise the reader to experiment with and compare the various longevity techniques proposed by Dorotheus, Valens, Ptolemy, Masha’allah, Bonatti, and others, but beware of the puffery of Medieval astrologers.  There may be some great utility to the hyleg and alcocoden as significators that are being overlooked, but I suspect that some permutation of the style of their usage by Dorotheus and Valens has more potential than any later synthesis found in authors of the Middle Ages which relies heavily on planetary years. It is also worth mentioning that there are a variety of disparate approaches in the Anthology of Vettius Valens that have yet to be tested, most of which approach the length of life calculation in ways quite different from these techniques.

References

al-Tabari, U., & al-Hasib, A. B. (2010). Persian Nativities II:  ’Umar al-Tabari and Abu Bakr. (B. N. Dykes, Trans.). Minneapolis, MN: The Cazimi Press.

Bishr, S. ibn, & Masha’allah. (2008). Works of Sahl & Masha’allah. (B. N. Dykes, Trans.). Minneapolis, MN: The Cazimi Press.

Dorotheus of Sidon. (2005). Carmen Astrologicum. (D. Pingree, Trans.). Abingdon, MD: Astrology Center of America.

Manilius, M. (1977). Astronomica. (G. P. Goold, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: Loeb Classical Library.

Masha’allah, & al-Khayyat, A. ’Ali. (2009). Persian Nativities I: Masha’allah and Abu ’Ali. (B. N. Dykes, Trans.). Minneapolis, MN: The Cazimi Press

Maternus, J. F. (2011). Mathesis. (J. H. Holden, Trans.). American Federation of Astrologers.

Paulus Alexandrinus & Olympiodorus. (2001). Late Classical Astrology: Paulus Alexandrinus and Olypiodorus. (D. G. Greenbaum, Trans.). Reston, VA: Arhat.

Ptolemy, C. (1940). Ptolemy: Tetrabiblos. (F. E. Robbins, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: Loeb Classical Library. Retrieved from http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Ptolemy/Tetrabiblos/home.html

Valens, V. (2010). Anthologies. (M. Riley, Trans.) (Online PDF.). World Wide Web: Mark Riley. Retrieved from http://www.csus.edu/indiv/r/rileymt/Vettius%20Valens%20entire.pdf

Traditional Astrology of Death | Elizabeth Taylor

Death is certainly one of the most significant events that will occur in someone’s life.  As someone naturally inclined to great skepticism, I’ve been particularly interested in whether astrological indications are provided at the time of death.  Even before I became interested in traditional astrology, I would spend a lot of time looking at charts of the times of celebrity deaths, looking at transits for some cogent sign of mortal end.  I was primarily focused on techniques from Uranian astrology and Cosmobilogy at that time. Getting into traditional astrology, I deeply researched the techniques given by Robert Zoller in his DMA course, which largely revolved around the techniques of Bonatti (13th century CE), elaborating upon those of Ptolemy (2nd century CE), for predicting length of life.  In my research I went from doubt, to enthusiasm, to renewed doubt about such techniques.

As I researched backward from Bonatti to his sources, the Perso-Arabic astrology that peaked in activity near the end of the first millennium of the common era, I started to get a sense of a greater diversity of opinion existing in the ancient world, as opposed to the increasing homogenization of such techniques in the late Middle Ages.  Finally, reaching back into the earliest surviving strata of horoscopic astrology, Hellenistic astrology, it became clear that there is still a diverse wealth of material on death in need of exploration, testing, syncretization, and refinement through the art.

In this series, I have, so far, worked in broad and general strokes, by and large ignoring some of the more particular special techniques for predicting longevity.  I will continue such a trend with this post on Elizabeth Taylor (a treatment requested by a reader), which will largely follow the same methods of analysis as the posts on Whitney Houston and Donna Summer, though with a couple new angles.

Elizabeth Taylor

Elizabeth Taylor was born on February 27th, 1932 at 2:30am in London, England (birth data rated AA for accuracy).  Her chart is pictured below with twelfth-part positions and then again with a few choice lots.

Liz Taylor's Natal Chart with Twelfth-Parts
Liz Taylor’s Natal Chart with Twelfth-Parts
Liz Taylor's Natal Chart with Important Lots
Liz Taylor’s Natal Chart with Important Lots

For those who have followed my series on the professional significator, you will notice that Venus (in the sign Aries and the bound of Mercury, in her Joy, the 5th place of performance and entertainment) is the clear choice for significator as Venus is strongly advancing conjunct an angle (adhering to the IC), is in a succedent house, rules the bound of the Ascendant and closely aspects the Ascendant, rules the sign of the MC, and has triplicity in the 10th (as well as being the ruler of the twelfth-parts of the Ascendant, Sun, Moon, Fortune, Mercury, and Venus).  That Venus is scrutinized by Jupiter adds an additional sense of opportunity and fame to her significations. Venus, goddess of love and beauty, pertains to a profession relating to aesthetics, the arts, and/or entertainment.  You can find some summary biographical info on this noteworthy actress via the Wikipedia entry on her.

As we look at her death, it will be important to first identify some of the more difficult areas of the chart, particularly as they relate to health and the body.  The Ascendant and the Lights, particularly the sect light, are important in terms of health.  Also, Valens noted some important points in Book II, Ch. 41 of his anthology that become relevant for the matter of type of death, including the prenatal syzygy (i.e. the position of the new or full moon preceding the birth), the 7th place and the houses on either side of it, particularly the 8th place, the 8th place from Fortune, and Fortune itself.  The 4th place is also noted as significant with regards to death by Valens and many other authors.

Some of the more difficult configurations include the sect light, the Moon, being in the 12th place, Scorpio, in her fall, squared by Saturn in Aquarius, and ruled by Mars, with a square to Mars as her next application.  This is especially so as the 12th is also the Place of Affliction (or Injury) in the chart, and is the 8th from Fortune, while the Moon additionally rules the 8th House, Cancer, and the Moon’s twelfth-part is in the 6th house of illnesses.  Also, the Sun is with Mars in Pisces, the 4th house.  The prenatal syzygy of the chart is at 2 Virgo, opposed by Mars within a degree.  Additionally, Jupiter rules the Ascendant and in Leo is in opposition to Saturn in Aquarius in the chart. These are the most prominent configurations pertaining to death and bodily harm in the chart.

Planetary Years

Liz Taylor died at age 79, in her 80th year, so we are particularly interested in activations of planets by planetary years which pertain to 79 or 80.

Looking at 79, some activated planetary combinations include Saturn-Sun (30+30+19), Mars-Sun (15+15+15+15+19), Saturn-Mars-Sun (30+15+15+19), Mercury-Sun (20+20+20+19), and Jupiter-Sun (12+12+12+12+12+19).  The Sun and Saturn don’t aspect each other, nor rule each other, so that activation is less signification.  The Mars-Sun activation is particularly significant for our purposes because these two planets are together in the chart and both have particularly relevance for health and death.

Looking at 80, some activated planetary combinations include Mercury (20+20+20+20), Mars-Moon (15+15+25+25), Saturn-Moon (30+25+25),Saturn-Mercury, Mars-Mercury, and so forth.  The lunar activations due bring out the relationships that seem most important.

However, overall we get the sense that planetary years are not as telling in this case due to the fact that there are so many possible combinations activated in these years.  We find the most important configurations related to death activated, but with such a large set of possibilities it becomes difficult to separate out what’s important.

Zodiacal Releasing

Releasing from Fortune was noted by Valens as significant for matters of health.

The four levels of zodiacal releasing from Fortune at the time of death (1:30am on March 23, 2011 in Los Angeles, CA) are:

1. Leo

2. Aries

3. Cancer

4. Cancer

As mentioned in the post on Donna Summer, the emphasis in this regard is on the first two levels, with the lord of the sign of level 1 transmitting to the lord of the sign of level 2.  In this case, what we have is the Sun transmitting to Mars.  This is interesting from the standpoint of a luminary, showing power and vitality, passing off to a malefic, showing harm, but also from the standpoint of activating the Sun-Mars conjunction in the chart.  We then see Mars transmit to the Moon (Aries to Cancer) and the Moon transmit to itself (Cancer to Cancer).  That Cancer is highlighted in the shorter periods around the death is significant, as Cancer is the Place of Death (8th house) in the chart, and Cancer’s ruler is the Moon, which is in the 8th from Fortune.

The Moon-Mars relationship also shows up strongly at the time of death, with the transiting Moon in Scorpio (lunar return) and in partile aspect with transiting Mars.

In conclusion, the zodiacal releasing of the second level, which was from about December 2010 to February 2012 had highlighted a sense of vitality and heart (the Sun rules the heart) undergoing turmoil or violence (Mars), and activating the natal Sun-Mars conjunction.  Moving to the third level, Cancer, which started on March 21st, 2011 (the fourth level thus kicked off with Cancer as well from then until March 25th), we also find an activation of the Moon-Mars relationship, as Mars transmits to the Moon and activates two houses with particular relevance for death (the 8th, Cancer, and the 8th from Fortune, Scorpio).

Distributors

Distributors are important time lords that one finds by directing certain important points through the bounds.  The dis­trib­u­tor is typ­i­cally the bound lord of the directed Ascen­dant (using zodi­a­cal semi-arc non-latitudinal ptolemaic-key pri­mary direc­tions). However,  some Per­sian astrologers used the sect light rather than the Ascen­dant. This parallels the use of the sect light as an alter­na­tive to the Ascen­dant in many Hel­lenis­tic tech­niques, such as for profectional lord of the year. The dis­trib­u­tor is a time lord, but it can give up its rulership or at least share it with, planets actu­ally apply­ing an aspect to the directed point (Ascendant or sect light). Presumably this aspect would have to be within 3 degrees, as that was the defin­i­tive range for appli­ca­tions and sep­a­ra­tions, as dis­tinct from regards, in Hel­lenis­tic astrol­ogy.  In later traditional astrology there was something of an obses­sion with direct hits by pri­mary direc­tion, rather than use of it for time lords, but these time lords or distributors were a key element of traditional primary directions. I touch on some of these issues in my intro­duc­tory post on pri­mary direc­tions (and there’s another post on software cal­cu­la­tion).

Distributors of the Ascendant and Sect Light
Distributors of the Ascendant and Sect Light

At the time of death we find that the bound lord of the directed Ascendant was Jupiter (though the Ascendant had just switched signs into Aries, ruled by Mars) and that of the directed Moon (sect light) was Mars.  You may recall that for Donna Summer also, at the time of death the distributor of the sect light, the Moon, was Mars.  Now let’s look to see if there are any aspectual co-rulers of the distribution.  At the time of death 5 Aries directed over the Ascendant, so there was no aspectual co-distributor for the directed Ascendant.  However, 28 Capricorn passed over the Moon, so Saturn at 1 Aquarius, was applying within 3 degrees and was a co-distributor of the Moon.

In conclusion, the sect light had Mars as distributor and Saturn as co-distributor.  The Ascendant did direct into a new sign, one ruled by Mars, but it had Jupiter as the distributor.  In addition to the obvious importance of activations of the relationship of the Moon to Mars and Saturn, it is the case that Jupiter, lord of the Ascendant, actually does enter prominently into significations at the time of death also, as we’ll see.

Profections and Planetary Months and Days

The annual profection is very interesting for Liz Taylor’s last return.  She turned 79 less than a month prior to her death.  At age 72 the annual profection would have gone back to the 1st house, so at age 79 it would’ve been the 8th house (i.e. 72=1st, 73=2nd, 74=3rd, 75=4th, 76=5th, 77=6th, 78=7th, 79=8th).  The 8th house, which is also known as the Place of Death, is the sign Cancer in her chart, which is the house of the Moon.  You’ll recall that the Moon, herself, is located in Scorpio, in the 12th House, which is that of the Bad Spirit, and in her case is also the Place of Affliction and Injury and the 8th Place from Fortune (another place of death). Therefore, the Moon is the lord of the year, making her a particularly important planet to look at in regards to the most significant events of the year.

The two most common methods of assigning days also highlight the Moon.  In monthly profections, the first month after the solar return (i.e. “birthday”) goes to the sign of the annual profection, which is in this case Cancer, so the Moon would be the lord of the month also.  Also, in planetary days, one starts with the lord of the year, giving each of the 7 planets, in the order in which they appear in the chart (via zodiacal order).  The Moon gets 70 5/6 planetary days, so the Moon would be the ruler of days still at the time of Taylor’s death.  You will also recall above from the discussion of zodiacal releasing that the Moon became the most important time lord pertaining to physical health matters for the month and group of days in which Taylor died.  Clearly, in terms of profections, day lords, and releasing for health, the spotlight is on the Moon at the time of Taylor’s death.  

Valens-Style Profections

I dis­cussed Valens-Style pro­fec­tions in a past post you can read here.  As men­tioned there, in addi­tion to pro­fec­tion of the Ascen­dant, the pro­fec­tion of the Moon was par­tic­u­larly impor­tant for mat­ters of the body.

In Taylor’s case, the Moon pro­fects to Gemini, the 7th House, which is empty, so it is a case of the Moon trans­mit­ting to Mercury.  The 7th itself carries some significance for matters of death (place of setting), while Mercury is in the 4th, which also carries such significations (place of anti-culmination, endings, and the earth).  Mercury is cazimi the Sun and is with Mars.

While overall, the emphasis has been on the Moon, we see that Mercury may also have some special significance in terms of matters of the body.

It should be noted that because the Moon is in the 8th from Fortune, Fortune itself transmits to the Moon in her last year.

Solar Return

Liz Taylor’s final solar return is shown below (non-precessed, 2011 solar return).

Liz Taylor's 2011 Solar Return (non-precessed)
Liz Taylor’s 2011 Solar Return (non-precessed)

We had determined that the main planet to watch is the Moon, and that Mercury may be of some lesser importance.  Also, by distribution, we may want to take a look at the malefics and Jupiter.

The Moon in the return is in Sagittarius, which is the 1st house of the natal chart, pertaining to the body and self.  The Moon in the 1st is particularly significant of the body, as the Moon herself tends to signify the body, so such signification is reinforced.  For instance, in the electional astrology of Dorotheus he recommends that the Moon be strong, such as in the 1st or in the 10th, but advises not to put her in the 1st if she is afflicted by malefic as she could signify bodily harm.  The Moon is in the house of Jupiter, but is in the bound of Saturn.  The Moon most closely aspects Saturn and her connections are from a separation with Saturn to an application with Mars, so she moves from malefic to malefic which is a particularly difficult transmission.

Mercury and Mars are also strongly in their planetary returns for the 2011 solar return.  Each one is only about a degree from its natal position, while simply being in the same sign as its natal sign would be considered a planetary return.  Jupiter which is the lord of the natal Ascendant and the lord of the solar return Moon, is opposing Saturn, echoing the natal Jupiter-Saturn opposition.

Liz Taylor's 2011 Solar Return (non-precessed) as transit along outer wheel of natal chart
Liz Taylor’s 2011 Solar Return (non-precessed) as transit along outer wheel of natal chart

Looking at the solar return as a set of transits, there are the 2 planetary returns in Pisces (the 4th house) that stand out, but also the conjunction of solar return Saturn to the natal midheaven and its opposition to natal Venus.  We’ll see all of these factors really pop out at the time of death.

Transits at Time of Death

The time of death is given in a news report as 1:28am on March 23, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  The chart of the time of death is below.

Transits at Time of Death - Liz Taylor
Transits at Time of Death – Liz Taylor

We are fortunate to have the exact time of death, as there are many striking features about this specific time.  For one, it is 22 Sagittarius rising.  This is not only Taylor’s rising sign rising but 22 Sagittarius is also the very degree held by the Moon at the solar return.  Meanwhile, the Moon was in Scorpio, the sign it holds natally, so this is a lunar return, and the Moon is aspecting her ruler Mars to the degree.  Therefore, the natal Moon-Mars relationship is popping at the time of death also.  In fact, the death even occurs on a Mars day and at a Moon hour.  In astrology the new day starts at sunrise, so it is still astrologically Tuesday, rather than Wednesday, and Tuesday is the day of Mars, as well as being the very same day of her exact lunar return. Transiting Mars is at 22 Pisces, square to the solar return Moon and the death Ascendant to the degree.  On a side note it is also interesting that the Lot of Boldness (noted as “COLD” on the chart), which pertains to actions without feeling or empathy, had its daily transit over her natal Moon (15 Scorpio) at the time of death.

There is a transiting Jupiter-Saturn opposition that is applying very strongly (within 2 degrees) which is also in focus at the time of death.  Saturn is culminating at 14 Libra (the natal MC degree) opposed to Jupiter anti-culminating at 13 Aries.  While transiting Jupiter is very strongly opposed by transiting Saturn, it is also the case that the transiting Sun and Mercury are in opposition to this Saturn which is the most prominent planet at the time of death and is itself the planet that signifies death.

As a set of transits, the lunar return and the alignment of the transiting Jupiter-Saturn opposition with the natal IC-MC are the most striking features of the time of death.

Traditional Astrology of Death | Donna Summer

Like so many people around the world, I felt sad to hear that Donna Summer passed away on Thursday, May 17th after a battle with a lung cancer.  Donna Summer was a musical icon and will be dearly missed.

I missed out on the heyday of disco in the mid-’70’s but I remember as a child in the early ’80’s dancing to songs by Donna Summer, Michael Jackson, and other fun pop, funk, and disco artists of the era.  There was something magical about all the new electronic instrumentation that would come to characterize the weirdness of the eighties.  While I tried to distance myself from pop music as a young adult, there has always been something childishly innocent about eighties pop stylings that as an adult I can now appreciate – making me feel like a kid again!

I’m probably in the minority of traditional astrologers in that I don’t believe there is a single method out there, such as a hyleg/alcochoden technique, that on its own allows one to make accurate predictions about the length of someone’s life.  Rather, I ‘m someone who thinks that if you throw a lot of techniques together, then you may be able to see it coming, but it’s quite difficult.  Looking at it in hindsight is always easier, and that’s largely what this series is about.

I’d like to look at some of the “signs” around the time of Donna Summers death and how they relate to death.  By exploring the connection between deaths and natal predictive techniques, we sharpen our ability to recognize when the astrological language of death and appreciate the intricate beauty of even such a dark and sorrowful event as death.

Donna Summer

Donna Summer was born on New Years Eve, 1948 (12/31/48) at 9pm in Boston, MA (source: AstroDatabank).  For the reader unfamiliar with her life and work, a good source for a quick brief is the Wikipedia article on her.  Her chart with twelfth-parts is shown below.

Donna Summer's Natal Chart with Twelfth-Parts
Donna Summer’s Natal Chart with Twelfth-Parts

It is hard to imagine a chart more oriented toward artistic performance. First, Venus is the significator of profession, as she is in a stake of the chart (the 4th) and strongly advancing, while having triplicity at the Ascendant and possibly bound, depending on how precisely accurate the birth time is, and Venus receives the next application of the Moon and is with the twelfth-part of the sect light (the Moon is the sect light as she was born at night).  My approach to the technique for professional significator can be found here.  Secondly, there is a whopping 5 planets, including the Sun and Moon, as well as the ruler of the 1st (in the bound of Venus), in Capricorn, the 5th House, which is the Joy of Venus and is performance-oriented. Finally, the ruler of the 5th is on the Ascendant, and thus is extremely prominent.

Mercury also crops up as important for the profession as Mercury rules the 1st and 10th signs and the bounds of the Asc and MC, and has its twelfth-part in the Ascendant.  Venus and Mercury as co-significators of profession, with Venus more dominant, combines artistry/beauty (Venus) with vocalization (Mercury), being quite common for singers.

In death analysis, we are most interested in the more potentially difficult elements of the chart.  In my opinion, one of such difficult configurations is the conjunction of the Ascendant (significant for the body and self) with the out of sect malefic, Saturn (significant for death, loss, struggle, isolation).  Another is the close (but separating) conjunction of the Moon and Mars (lord of the 8th of death, Aries) in the bound of Mars within 3 degrees of each other, and under the domicile rulership of Saturn.

Planetary Years

For an introduction to planetary years, please see the introductory post on them.  Donna Summer was in her 64th year at the time of death and was 63 years old.  Therefore we are particularly interested in combinations of planetary years that add to 63 or 64, which may involve multiples, as there are not two distinct planetary minor years that sum to more than 55.

There are only two combinations of three planets’ minor years that work without any multiples.  They are Saturn-Mars-Sun (30+15+19=64) and Saturn-Venus-Moon (30+8+25=63).

Possibilities involving multiples with one and two planets are below:

One Planet: Venus (64)

Two Planets: Venus-Mercury (24+40=64), Mars-Sun (45+19=64), Jupiter-Mercury (24+40=64), Sun-Moon (38+25=63).

Of these, I regard some as less important because the planets in the relationship are not all configured together with each other by either rulership or aspects.  For instance, Saturn-Venus-Moon is less significant to me because while Saturn aspects Venus and the Moon, Venus and the Moon are in aversion, and Venus is not ruled by Saturn.  Similarly, Venus and Mercury are in aversion.

In conclusion, the four most important activations are Saturn-Mars-Sun (Mars and the Sun co-present and ruled by Saturn which overcomes them by trine), Mars-Sun (Mars and the Sun together), Sun-Moon (the Sun and Moon co-present), and Venus.  Of these, I take Saturn-Mars-Sun to be the most important, as it involves no planetary multiples and it is reinforced by an activation of Mars-Sun involving multiples of Mars.

This Saturn-Mars-Sun activation is also the most significant one for the matter of death, as it includes both malefics (which each directly afflict significators of the body in the chart) and the Sun, which can be symbolic of vital power.

The importance of the Saturn-Mars-Sun activation is confirmed by transits on the morning of the death, in which we see the transiting Sun applying to natal Mars within a degree, and transiting Mars with natal Saturn and applying to natal Sun within a degree (transiting Sun also scrutinized, by opposition, natal twelfth-part Mars at 25 Scorpio).

Transits to Natal - Morning of 5/17/12 in Naples, FL
Transits to Natal – Morning of 5/17/12 in Naples, FL

Zodiacal Releasing

One important time lord technique in the Hellenistic period for matters of bodily health involves the use of the Lot of the Moon, also known as Fortune (glyph looks like an X in a circle).  It was discussed by Valens in Book IV of his Anthology (only complete English translation the entire work is available here), and involves allotting the ruler Fortune the first time period which is of the length of its minor years, then transitioning to the next sign in succession activating that sign and its ruler for the number of planetary years of the ruler, and so forth.  There are also minor periods that are 1/12 the length, and some additional nuances.  I will feature a post on the technique at some future point, but for now, the interested reader can get a thorough education on the technique through Chris Brennan’s Hellenistic course, or simply his module on Zodiacal Releasing, and software to calculate these time lords down to the fourth level, designed by Curtis Manwaring, is available for free.

The two highest level periods are particularly important in zodiacal releasing.  I give four levels below:

  1. Sagittarius (Jupiter) – occupied by Venus and the twelfth-part of the Moon, ruler is cazimi the Sun in 5th, Capricorn.  This is about a 12 year period beginning in 2010.
  2. Capricorn (Saturn) – occupied by 5 planets, including Sun and Mars, with ruler in 1st, Virgo.  This is about a 2 year period beginning in February of 2011.
  3. Scorpio (Mars) – occupied by the twelfth-parts of the Ascendant, Saturn, and Mars, with ruler in 5th, Capricorn.  This is about a 5 week period beginning on May 9th, 2012.
  4. Capricorn (Saturn) – see #2.  This is about a 5 day period beginning on May 15th, 2012.

As mentioned, in interpreting the releasing of Fortune, Valens paid special attention particularly to the first two levels.  One interpretive principle commonly used is that the Lot or its ruler in an angle of the chart (1st, 10th, 7th, or 4th place) shows strength, while if cadent from an angle (12th, 9th, 6th, or 3rd place) it will show weakness.  This rule can get difficult to use in practice, as Valens also suggests at one point that we can use the angles of the Lot of Fortune.  If using both the angles and the angles of Fortune, with the released Lot and its ruler, then there are simply too many points and too many strong places in the chart to derive much meaning from it.

Some people sidestep this dilemma by considering only the angles and cadents from Fortune, and not from the Ascendant.  Using that approach, the Capricorn periods would be somewhat vulnerable as the Lot would be in the 6th from Fortune (a cadent place), as would be those periods ruled by a planet that is in Capricorn.  The place of the Lot was thought to show the start of things and the ruler the development.  So Level 1 in Sagittarius would start out not particularly strong or weak (as it is not an angle nor a cadent) but in the development of the period weaknesses could result (as the ruler is in the 6th from Fortune).  Level 2 in Capricorn would start out weak, and would not develop strong towards strength or weakness (as ruler is not in an angle or cadent of fortune).  Level 3 would start strong but end weak (Lot in angle, ruler in cadent).  Level 4, like Level 2, would be weak and not strongly improve.  Therefore, the overall stress of all 4 periods being placed on Capricorn, which is a cadent from Fortune, would seem to show some vulnerability when looking at this element of interpreting releasing.

Valens discusses other principles of interpreting releasing from Fortune which I feel are a bit easier to delineate.  One thing is that he does is view the 1st two levels as if the ruler of Level 1 is transmitting or passing off to the ruler of Level 2, almost like the ruler of Level 1 is running into some type of thing signified by the 2nd level ruler.  For instance, a benefic transmitting to a malefic, as in the case here with Jupiter transmitting to Saturn, shows overturn.  Additionally, the transmission of the Sun or Moon to Saturn is particularly dangerous for health (Saturn to the Sun or Moon indicating the opposite, vigor).  According to Robert Schmidt of Project Hindsight, the original meaning of a cazimi planet is that it takes over signification for the Sun.  If this is correct, then we might treat the transmission of Jupiter to Saturn, as more akin to a transmission of the Sun to Saturn because of the cazimi status of Jupiter.

… the sun and moon when transmitting to Saturn are indicative of setbacks and anxieties, and they bring hostility […] as well as bodily disorders and dangers, shipwrecks, sudden collapses, and very many crises …         (Valens, Anthologies, Book IV, Ch. 5, Riley trans., 2010, p. 73)

If we were to consider the other levels in this type of consideration then we have Saturn transmitting to Mars (Level 2 to 3) and Mars transmitting to Saturn (Level 3 to 4).  Valens regarded transmission from a malefic to a malefic (Saturn to Mars and vice-versa) as particularly dangerous, much like a situation that goes from bad to worse.

Interestingly, in the zodiacal releasing method for health we find that the emphasis is placed again on Saturn, Mars, and the Sun (as Jupiter is cazimi the Sun) both in terms of the planets themselves and the repeat activations of the 5th house.

Distributors

Next, I would like to look at distributors, as they are time lords which tend to rule over more than a one year period and can be very significant for health matters.  The distributor is typically the bound lord of the directed (with zodiacal semi-arc non-latitudinal ptolemaic-key primary directions) Ascendant, though some later Persian astrologers used the sect light rather than the Ascendant (and in fact optional use of the sect light as an alternative to the Ascendant is common in many Hellenistic techniques as well).  The distributor is a time lord, but typically a planet actually applying an aspect to the directed angle or sect light (within 3 degrees presumably, as that was the definitive range for applications and separations, as distinct from regards, in Hellenistic astrology) would take over the lordship or at the very least share it.  The obsession with direct hits by primary direction, rather than use of it for time lords, was a later post-Hellenistic development.  I touch on some of these issues in my introductory post on primary directions (and there’s another post on calculation).

Distributors of Ascendant and Sect Light for Donna Summer
Distributors of Ascendant and Sect Light for Donna Summer

From the table of distributors we can see that the distributor of the Ascendant was Venus and that of the Moon (sect light) was Mars at the time of death.  And what of any aspectual co-rulers of the distributions?

One of the very useful features of the primary directions module in Morinus is that of pulling up the actual primary directed chart for a given day.  For the day of Summer’s death that chart is below.

Chart of Summer's PD Positions on 5/17/12
Chart of Summer’s PD Positions on 5/17/12

Reading a PD chart is a little counter-intuitive for those used to looking at secondary directions and transit charts, and I won’t be clarifying it much here, but it is helpful to take the PD chart as the base and the natal as the aspects to it – as the PD chart is telling you the degrees of the zodiac that are passing over the natal positions and the natal chart is telling you the degrees of the zodiac that the directed planets are sort of “glued to” as they travel by primary motion. In other words, it is as if the PD chart gives you the zodiacal positions of the significators and the natal gives you the zodiacal positions of the promissors.

The PD Ascendant (significator) is at 25 Libra, and it is applying a square to natal Mars (promissor) within 3°, and actually within 2° (or it could be conceived in the opposite way, that Mars has revolved under the Earth and is applying a square to the static natal Ascendant – the scenario is the same in both cases with the Ascendant as significator and Mars as promissor).  The PD Moon is at 23 Pisces (or the 23 Pisces has directed over the natal Moon) with no applying aspect within 3°.

In conclusion, Mars is the distributor of the sect light.  Mars also became the distributor, or at the very least the co-distributor, of the Ascendant starting about a year prior to death, becoming more significant than the bound lord distributor, Venus, due to applying aspect. 

These time lords by primary direction are extremely important for matters of health and general circumstance, and here we see an emphasis placed upon Mars in the natal chart, which is the ruler of the 8th house of death, and is in the 5th afflicting the Moon, Sun, and Ascendant lord.

There is one very close aspectual primary direction within about a month of the death that is very symbolic of death.  It is the direction of Saturn (promissor) to oppose the prenatal syzygy (significator).

Saturn-Syzygy

Profections and Solar Return

If unfamiliar with profections, please see the introductory post on profections.

At age 63 the Ascendant profects to the 4th house, which in Summer’s case is Sagittarius, ruled by Jupiter, which is cazimi the Sun, in the 5th with Mars, and ruled by Saturn.  Being the lord of the year, Jupiter is a particularly important planet to examine in the solar return.

As it turns out, Jupiter is in separating opposition to Saturn in the return (within 3°, i.e. scrutinizing, note: application/separation is a separate concept from regard in Hellenistic astrology – regard pertains to sign relationships, whereas application/separation pertain to degree relationships particularly within 3 degrees, termed “scrutinizing”, regardless of sign boundaries).  Saturn is the out of sect malefic, and Jupiter can take over signification from the Sun, so this can be a dangerous configuration.

Donna Summer's Pre-Death Solar Return
Donna Summer’s Pre-Death Solar Return

Additionally, return Saturn is at 28 Libra, in dominating scrutinizing square to the natal Mars-Moon conjunction at 27 and 29 Capricorn.  Furthermore, return Mars is transiting through the natal 1st, pertaining to the self and health, and is applying to natal Mercury, its ruler, and this is affliction of the Ascendant lord by Mars is even more apparent in the return chart itself (above) in which return Mars is in dominating square to return Mercury in the same degree! This is particularly significant because return Mars and Mercury transit through angles of the natal chart and because return Mercury transits through the sign of the annual profection.

Donna Summer's Pre-Death Solar Return
Donna Summer’s Pre-Death Solar Return on Outside of Natal Chart

Natal Venus is in the sign of the profection.  Natal Venus in the natal chart is dominated by Saturn.  Return Mars also dominates natal Venus.  Return Venus is placed in Aquarius, the 6th house, which is a weak house in aversion to the Ascendant which can be significant for sickness and is here ruled by Saturn.

The return Moon transits through the 8th of death, under rulership of Mars, echoing the Mars-Moon conjunction and its potential significance for bodily harm. The monthly profection of the Ascendant at the time of death was to Aries, the 8th house, ruled by Mars, and occupied by the Moon in the return.

Valens-Style Profections

I discussed Valens-Style profections in a past post you can read here.  As mentioned there, in addition to profection of the Ascendant, the profection of the Moon was particularly important for matters of the body.

In Summer’s case, the Moon profects to Aries (the 8th), which is empty, so it is a case of the Moon transmitting to Mars.  Again, this places emphasis on themes of death (the 8th, malefic ruler) and affliction of the body (Mars-Moon conjunction, Moon ruled by Mars).  The solar return transit of the Moon through the 8th is also a repetition of this theme.

Ruler of Days

Some Hellenistic astrologers used daily profections, which I don’t make much use of.  I’ve also discussed the small periods of zodiacal releasing above.  Additionally, I like the ruler of days technique discussed by Julius Firmicus Maternus.  In this technique we start with the lord of the year, and assign days to the planets according to their planetary days in zodiacal order, thus dividing up rulership of the year to each of the 7 planets.  The lord of the year is Jupiter for Donna Summer, so the planetary days are as follows:

  • Jupiter – 34
  • Mercury – 56 2/3
  • Mars – 42 1/2
  • Moon – 70 5/6
  • Saturn – 85
  • Venus – 22 2/3
  • Sun – 53 5/6

Using a date calculator, we find that Donna Summer died in about the 138th day following her solar return.  The Moon took over days about 133 days after the return, so the Moon was ruler of days at the time of death.

Day of Death

Finally, let’s return to the transits at the day of death.  We’ve already established that there is substantial importance placed on the malefics and the lights in the time lord techniques. Additionally, we established that Mars is of particular importance and that the Moon-Mars themes with the 8th crop up repeatedly when we narrow in on the year.  Finally, we determined that the monthly profection is to the 8th, Aries, which was occupied by the Moon in the return, that the Moon became ruler of days less than a week before the death, and that zodiacal releasing minor periods place considerable emphasis on Mars and the 5th. Now let’s separate some of these out in the transits:

  • The Moon: Shockingly, the Moon was transiting through Aries, the 8th, that of death, at the time of death, echoing both the solar return and the Valens-style profection of the Moon, in the house of the monthly profection.  The transiting Moon was likely making her next application to transiting Saturn, in opposition, at the time of death.  The transiting Moon applied a scrutinizing square to natal Mercury, the Ascendant lord, at the time of death.  Transiting Venus and Saturn were possibly in exact to the minute aspect, while receiving the application of the transiting Moon, at the time of death.
  • Mars: Mars was transiting at 9 Virgo through the 1st house.  Mars had stationed direct at 3 Virgo, in adherence to Donna Summer’s Ascendant (4 Virgo), about a month prior.  Transiting Mars was applying to the natal Sun-Jupiter conjunction within a degree at the time of death.  The transiting Sun and Jupiter was applying to natal Mars within 3 degrees at the time of death, while both conjunct the natal twelfth-part of Venus and opposed to the natal twelfth-part of Mars within 3 degrees. The transiting Sun-Jupiter conjunction by degree itself echoing the natal Sun-Jupiter conjunction.
Transits to Natal – Morning of 5/17/12 in Naples, FL

There are additional connections, but I think this suffices to show how the transits at the time of death were reflective of superficial activation of much more important repeat themes through time lord techniques of death and harm to health which pertain to the relationship between the malefics and the Sun, malefics and Ascendant, as well as the Moon-Mars conjunction and the 8th house.

Traditional Astrology of Death | Marvin Gaye

I was about halfway through a post on the death of Donna Summer when astrologer Ile Spasev brought Marvin Gaye’s 1984 death at the hand of his father to my attention.  Once I started getting into Marvin Gaye’s chart and death, I found it too fascinating in terms of the importance of the planetary years, solar return, profection, and transits to not share it first, before finishing my Summer article.  This day preceding both an ingress and an eclipse has been a strange one altogether for me.  What’s going on!?

One of the most interesting things about Gaye’s death is that it occurred on the exact day of his solar return, as well as a day of the New Moon (conjunction of the Sun and Moon).  While it occurred the day before his calendar birthday, in astrological terms, it didn’t occur on the eve of his 45th birthday, but rather on the day of his exact real natural “birthday” (solar return), and just a few hours after the exact point of return in his annual cycle.

Marvin Gaye’s Natal Chart

According to AstroDatabank, which has given the Gaye birth data an A rating for accuracy, Marvin was born on 4/2/1939 at 11:58am in Washington D.C.  According to news releases he was pronounced dead on the afternoon of 4/1/1984 at 1:01pm in L.A., California.  His death followed his intervention in arguments between his mother and father both the day before and again directly preceding the circumstances of his death in which his father shot him in the heat of anger.

His birth chart is shown below with the twelfth-part positions depicted along the outer wheel.

Marvin Gaye Natal Chart w/twelfth-parts
Marvin Gaye Natal Chart w/twelfth-parts

In ancient astrology, Saturn, the Sun, and the 4th place (Valens adds the 9th place) are particularly relevant for the father.  In Gaye’s chart, the Sun in the bound of Venus in the 10th is more pertinent to his fame and honors than his father, as the Sun also naturally signifies honors as does the 10th place, and the Sun adhering (applying conjunction within 3 degrees) to Mercury (vocal) and in the bound of Venus (arts) has particular relevance to his singing fame.  The Sun additionally has no “dignity” in the 4th, in that it has little say over the 4th of father, family, origins, and property.  Saturn on the other hand, is also in the 10th (a “stake” of the 4th) and also naturally signifies fathers, but additionally is the exaltation and first triplicity lord of the 4th place of fathers, therefore Saturn is considered to give the strongest testimony regarding matters concerning the father.

Saturn does a good job of describing the father and death as well.  Saturn is in a cardinal or changeable/moveable sign, which are known for initiating major changes through abrupt action.  Saturn is also in a sign and the bound of Mars, which is the planet with dominion over acts of violence.  Saturn is additionally dominated by Mars (in a right hand whole sign square), which gives Mars substantial influence over Saturn, giving symbolism of the father becoming dominated by rage and violence.  Saturn afflicts Mercury, the Sun, and the twelfth-part Ascendant, bringing in a sense of argumentation, publicity, and harm to Gaye’s self.

Importantly, Saturn is the planet with the greatest testimony over the place of death in the chart, the 8th place or house, Aquarius.  This is because Saturn rules Aquarius, is the first triplicity lord there, regards the place, and is a natural significator of death – therefore, Saturn’s testimony with regards to death is very strong in his chart.  The Sun also has some testimony over both the father (natural significator of the father in a stake of the 4th) and death (rules the 8th from fortune, Leo, and the twelfth-part of the Sun is in the 8th from fortune), and shows a repeat connection between the father and death.

Both Venus and the Moon give testimony regarding the mother, even though neither of them regard the 4th of origins.  Venus does so because she rules the 4th and is a feminine natural significator of mothers, while the Moon does so because she is a natural significator of mothers and is in the 3rd, her joy, which Valens also asserted as the place of the mother.

The Moon and Jupiter provide some of the strongest testimony in terms of Gaye himself and his temperament, as they both regard the 1st and have a lot of lordship over the actual Ascendant.

Planetary Years

I discussed the use of planetary years for prediction in a past post, which you can read here for reference.

Marvin’s death occurred exactly at the point of his 45th year.  Very rarely do planetary years culminate at such an exact point.  Fascinatingly, 45 is indeed the activation of Saturn-Mars relationships in the natal chart, as Saturn has 30 and Mars 15, yielding 45.  This signifies a very major event as it activates three major Saturn-Mars configurations in his chart: the Mars-Saturn square with Mars dominating, Saturn in Aries (domicile of Mars), and Mars in Capricorn (domicile of Saturn).

Thus planetary years show strong activations linking the father with violence and death.

Furthermore, according to the technique of planetary days discussed by Julius Firmicus Maternus (4th Century CE), the ruler of the year gets the first set of days in the year.  Therefore, Mars was the planet in charge of signifying both the plan for the year and the days at the time of death.

Profections

Those unfamiliar with profections, which involve the movement of positions in the chart into a new house at set intervals, typically annually, can learn about profections in my series of posts on the topic.

As the death happened just after the turning of the 45th year, the annual profection of the Ascendant moved to the 10th place, Aries, on that day for the year.  Therefore, the profection was highlighting those planets in the 10th place, Saturn, Mercury, and the Sun, with Mars, the ruler of Aries, as the lord of the year.  In other words, the profections show yet another activation of Saturn and Mars, specifically Saturn in Aries, ruled by and dominated by Mars.

Solar Return and Transits

I have been meaning to expand on my series on solar returns, which I started here.  For now, it suffices to look at the non-precessed solar return here as a set of transits to the natal chart, depicted along the outside of the natal below. In addition, I have posted the natal chart with twelfth-parts again, as there are fascinating connections between the return, which is also the transit chart for the day of death, and natal twelfth-parts.

Gaye's Final Solar Return which is on the day he died
Outer positions are from Gaye’s Final Solar Return which is on the day he died
Marvin Gaye Natal Chart w/twelfth-parts
Marvin Gaye Natal Chart w/twelfth-parts

First, it is noteworthy that the return, and death, occurred on the day of a New Moon in Aries.  This is a further activation of the sign Aries and its occupants, including Saturn, and its ruler Mars.

Second, as Mars is lord of the year and of days, the position of Mars in the return is of pivotal importance.  In the return Mars is in Scorpio, one of his own domiciles, and is with Saturn and in Saturn’s bound again echoing the Mars-Saturn significations.  Additionally, Mars is at 28 Scorpio, conjunct the twelfth-part of natal Saturn in the very same degree! The twelfth-part of transiting Mars was itself at 9 Libra, opposing Gaye’s Sun.

In addition to Mars transiting right over the natal twelfth-part Saturn at the time of death, the twelfth-part of transiting Venus was at 27-28 Scorpio, right with that transiting Mars and natal twelfth-part Saturn.  I take this Venus transit to represent the connection with the mother, who Gaye was arguing on behalf of at the time of the incident.  Transiting Venus at 22 Pisces with Gaye’s Jupiter, symbolic of himself, and opposed to his Moon, symbolic of both himself and his mother.  Fascinatingly, this Venus transit was also right over the natal twelfth-part of Gaye’s Mars, which is at about 21-22 Pisces, showing them both coming into contact with the father’s rage and violence.

At the time Gaye was pronounced dead, the Moon was at 16 Aries adhering to Gaye’s Saturn.

Primary Directions – Distributors

It is also worth noting important primary directions around the time of death, as I did for the death of Whitney Houston.

Marvin Gaye's Distributors of the Ascendant and Sect Light
Marvin Gaye’s Distributors of the Ascendant and Sect Light

First, we look at the distributors.  Amazingly, both the Ascendant and the Sect Light (the Sun) were directing through the bounds of Mars, the out of sect malefic during the period in which the death took place.

However, the aspectual directions are not as striking to me for the most part, which may be indicative of slight inaccuracy in the birth time (directions involving the Ascendant and MC can be altered by many months for each one minute inaccuracy in birth time).  One of the more interesting directions occurring within 6 months of his death is that of the star Algol (associated with death and violence) directing to Gaye’s MC.

Algol Directed to Gaye's Natal MC
Algol Directed to Gaye’s Natal MC

Conclusion

While death is not a pleasant topic to analyze, it is one of the most definitive events in every individual’s existence, and therefore one of the most important events to look at from an astrological standpoint.  In seeing that there is or are some higher intelligences at work in this universe such that they can express symbolism reflecting events such as an individual’s death is both beautiful and hard to get one’s head around, especially in relation to such an almost universally loathed facet of the way things work in story we take part in as human beings.  Perhaps our analysis will bring us closer to accurately spot death or even averting death for a time.  Perhaps Urania will simply whisper indications more quietly when we forsake her secrets.  In any case, even in hindsight, looking back on the pertinence of the symbolism when using the ancient techniques is always thought-provoking and stirs up our religious and spiritual functions of seeking the truth with humility.

Traditional Astrology of Death | Whitney Houston Revisited with Directions

This will be a rather focused revisit of the astrology of Whitney Houston’s death, simply to showcase a couple of the important facets of the primary directions at the time of death.

I discussed the important basic major astrological factors relating to her death previously – please click here and refer to that post for a more detailed discussion than provided here.  To simplify and summarize, a number of predictive techniques highlighted the importance of Saturn generally, her natal Saturn-Sun opposition,  and Saturn’s transit through the 8th House of her chart (the one that pertains most strongly to death).  At the time of death we find the transiting Sun conjunct her natal Saturn and the transiting Moon in her 8th with natal 8th House Mars and applying to that transiting 8th House Saturn.  Altogether, 8th House and Sun-Saturn themes abound in the predictive indications.

Some commentary on that article prompted me to explore primary directions next within my series on ancient predictive techniques, so as to establish what counts as pre-Renaissance traditional type of primary direction, basic manner of use in ancient astrology, and how one can calculate such with free software.  The first post on primary directions concerned the primacy of the Ascendant in early directions and the time lord technique of directing the Ascendant through the bounds, which later came to be known as the distribution with the bound lord being called the distributor, or jarbakhtar from Persian terminology.  In the second post, I explained how to calculate directions through the bounds and traditional pre-15th century style directions with the excellent free and open-source software program, Morinus.  Since that time an update of the Traditional Morinus version of the software has been released which improves the display when directing through bounds.  You can download the software here.  In the post on software calculation of primary directions I also provided some links to past blog posts in which I’ve briefly touched upon the basic installation and use of Morinus.

In this post, I won’t be discussing all the ancient theories and techniques regarding death prognostication.  I will hit on them a bit in future posts, particularly those in this series and the primary directions series, but here the main thing to note is that many of the techniques involved direction of a malefic planet, star, lot, or point (for instance, the Descendant is symbolic of death so a direction of the Sun to the Descendant could signify death) to a planet, lot, or point that signifies health and the body, particularly one of the Lights or the Ascendant.  Even though conjunctions, squares, and oppositions are more important, for the most part the type of aspect is not as important, since primary directions take so long to occur, and often a planet will only aspect another planet or point a few different times and ways throughout the whole life.

Whitney’s Chart

Whitney Houston Natal Chart (AA-Rodden-Rating)

Directing Through the Bounds

I advise that one should always look at the direction of the Ascendant through the bounds, taking the bound lord as an important time lord, known as the distributor or jarbakhtar.  This is done in Morinus as discussed in the past post on primary directions, producing the following table.

Jarbakhater - Ascendant
Whitney Houston – Distributors of the Ascendant for 100 Years After Birth

As we can see from the table above, Saturn is the main time lord of the period (day of death was Feb. 11, 2012), and we find that this technique, as with many of the others, also highlights the influence of Saturn.

While the distributor of the Ascendant is typically most important, and is the one used by Abu Ma’shar, some authors, including Masha’allah, use the technique for other life-signifying points, particularly one of the Lights or Lot of Fortune.  While I consider the distributors of the Ascendant to be much more important, I’ve included below a table of the distributors of the Lights and Lot of Fortune for Whitney from Age 25 to 50. It is interesting that the Sun and Lot of Fortune, like the Ascendant, have malefic distributors, in this case Mars.

Houston Distributors of Lights and Fortune Age 25-50
Houston Distributors of Lights and Fortune Age 25-50

Algol to Ascendant

One of the most striking primary directions at the time of death is that of the fixed star Algol, which is largely considered to be one of the most malefic fixed stars, if not the most malefic.  Algol is in the constellation of Perseus, which images the hero Perseus grasping the head of the Gorgon, Medusa.  Algol is the eye of Medusa in the constellation.  The star has separately been associated with demons, evil, death, decapitation, horror, tragedy, and such in many different cultures.  For those unfamiliar, you can get a quick briefing on Algol on Wikipedia and a better one on Constellation of Words.

A table showing all the directions of fixed stars to the Ascendant from Age 25 to 50 is below.  The table says the direction was exact on February 15th, which in primary directions is still “exact” even on February 10th, because even seconds of inaccuracy in recording the birth time equates to days of difference in timing by primary directions.

Directions of Fixed Stars to Whitney Houston's Ascendant
Directions of Fixed Stars to Whitney Houston’s Ascendant (direction of Algol to Ascendant in February 2012)

Saturn transiting over Directed Sun

One of the more interesting directions at the time of death concerns the direction of the Sun through the zodiac (or direction of the zodiac over the Sun).  As seen above, the Sun was in the Mars bound of Libra by direction.  This bound is 2 degrees in length starting at 28 Libra and ending by 0 Scorpio.  Interestingly, that is in Whitney Houston’s 8th House, and is the very bound that Saturn has been transiting in.  In fact, if we pull up a chart of zodiacally directed positions at the time of death, we find the directed Sun at about 29°14′ Libra.

PDs in Chart for Death of Houston
PDs in Chart for Death of Houston

Comparing this with Saturn’s transit position at death, we find Saturn transiting at 29°29′ Libra at the time of death, moving retrograde toward that earlier position, only a quarter of a degree from it, within the same degree and bound, in the 8th and bound of Mars, with the natal Mars.

Whitney Houston - Transits at Time of Death
Whitney Houston – Transits at Time of Death

In my opinion, this was one of the more striking repeat Sun-Saturn significations, in addition to Saturn as distributor, the over-arching Sun-Saturn planetary years manifestation, and the transit of the Sun over natal Saturn.

Conclusion

If you’re new to primary directions, I hope this has whet your appetite for the technique and given you a glimpse into its great value.  Please check out the other posts on directions to start working with them yourself, as they are really not hard to work with when there is great free software available for the calculations.  Until next time, give someone you love a big hug , let them know how much you care, and continue having fun exploring traditional predictive astrology.

Traditional Astrology of Death | Whitney Houston

The singer Whitney Houston recently passed.  Glancing briefly at some of the predictive factors leading up to her death I’ve found that there was a strong emphasis on Saturn, both natal and transiting, as Saturn transited through her 8th, occupied natally by Mars.  There was also a highlighting of transiting Mars in her 7th by monthly profection.  I give a very brief look at her natal chart, last solar return, last lunar return, and transits of the day of death below.

Planetary Years: Sun & Saturn

Whitney Houston's Natal Chart
Whitney Houston’s Natal Chart

A popular technique among Hellenistic and Persian astrologers for timing involved the use of the planetary years and their combinations (and sometimes also divisions) for signifying times when natal planets and combinations particularly become expressed.

Whitney was 48 1/2 at the time of death, and one of the more interesting combinations due at about that age is the combination of the Sun (19) and Saturn (30), at age 49.  It is interesting given Whitney’s Sun-Saturn opposition across the health and loss oriented 6th and 12th houses. Sun-Saturn is particularly significant of death, as Saturn, the natural significator of death and general lack and coldness is opposing the Sun, natural significator of vital powers and the heart.

Whitney Houston’s natal chart is pictured, and is Rodden-rated AA for accuracy.  Information about her death tends to be updated regularly in her Wikipedia entry.

Monthly Profection and Transiting Mars

As she had turned 48 at her last solar return, and 48 is a multiple of 12, Whitney was in a 1st Place, Pisces, annual profection, and all points in the chart profect back to their natal positions.  Jupiter is the lord of the year and is a planet with a particularly broad range of signification in the natal chart from benefic to malefic, as Jupiter is naturally of a very benefic nature, particularly in connection with money, and is here in the house of money, as well as self and career (Jupiter rules 1st and 10th), but Jupiter is also in a dark place (2nd), out of sect (it’s a night birth), overcome by Saturn which is in the 12th and out of sect, and opposed by Mars in the 8th (which also opposes the Moon, significator of the body).

The monthly profection of the Ascendant for the month of death (Feb. 9th to March 9th) is her 7th Place, Virgo, ruled by and occupied by natal Mercury (side note:  her natal Mercury is also conjunct her natal modern planetoid Pluto within a degree).  The reader interested in a primer on annual and monthly profections of the Ascendant can find one in a previous blog post.  The 7th place, the place of the setting Sun, was one of a few places associated with death in ancient astrology (though less so than the 8th).  Of the 7th, Manilius (1st Century CE) said, “…wonder not if it is called the portal of sombre Pluto and keeps control over the end of life and death’s firm-bolted door. Here dies even the very light of day, which the ground beneath steals away from the world and locks up captive in the dungeon of night” (Manilius, Astronomica, Book 2, 951-954, Goold trans., p. 157-159).

Interestingly, she (symbolized by the profecting Ascendant) was entering the House (7th) occupied by transiting Mars (20 Virgo – see death transits below) at the time, and Mars is her natal occupant of her 8th House of death.  The monthly profection is congruent with the significations that the month beginning Feb. 9th may bring her into contact with danger that associates readily with death.

Last Solar Return: 8th House Saturn Rising

 

Whitney Houston 2011 Solar Return (non-precessed)
Whitney Houston 2011 Solar Return (non-precessed)

While I find considerable significance in both precessed and non-precessed solar returns in my own practice, and lean more heavily on the significations of precessed returns for in depth reading, it is Whitney’s final non-precessed solar return that is most striking, with Saturn, natural significator of death, conjunct the Ascendant, significator of self, within less than 3 degrees in her natal 8th House (house of death), Libra (and dominated by Mars in Cancer). Note: I do not relocate solar returns – I find that non-relocated return charts give the strongest significations.

Also note that Jupiter, lord of the year, is placed in the solar return 8th house.

Last Lunar Return: 8th House Saturn Rising

Whitney’s final lunar return took place on January 28th, 2012, and is pictured.

Houston's Final Lunar Return
Houston’s Final Lunar Return (non-precessed)

Her final lunar return echoed the solar return with Saturn in Libra rising once again, strongly advancing toward the return Ascendant within 6 degrees.

In this case, Saturn was additionally in the bound of Mars, natal occupant of the 8th of death.  Saturn also opposes the Moon, significator of the body, and opposes Jupiter (lord of the year) out of sign but within 3 degrees and thus considered “scrutinizing” within the Hellenistic aspect doctrine, with Jupiter again in the 8th of the return.

Death Transits: The Moon Arrives, Saturn in Focus

On the day of her death in Beverly Hills in the early afternoon of Feb. 11, 2012, the Moon was transiting through Libra, Whitney Houston’s 8th House pertaining to death, occupied by natal malefic Mars, and transiting malefic Saturn.

Transits to Houston's Natal at Time of Death
Transits to Houston’s Natal at Time of Death

In addition to the transiting Moon’s co-presence with natal Mars and transiting Saturn, natal Saturn is also in focus by the Sun’s transit through Aquarius and recent conjunction with natal Saturn, still fresh within 3 degrees of orb at the time of Whitney’s death.

 

References

Manilius, M. (1977). Astronomica. (G. P. Goold, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: Loeb Classical Library.