Twelve Easy Lessons for Absolute Beginners | 3. General Prominence

And the changing of the planets must be understood, which has five parts: the first, if [a planet] were in the second or first station.  The second, while it is being hidden from the Sun or goes out from being hidden […]    (Abu Ma’shar, The Abbreviation of the Introduction to Astrology, Book IV, 34-36, Dykes trans., 2010, p. 233)

In the last two posts I introduced a little bit about the history of astrology, the basic significations of the planets, how to pull up charts for free on the internet, and how to judge planetary prominence by “advancement”. Please read the first two posts in this series and familiarize yourself with a few charts and the techniques before proceeding.  The first post can be accessed by clicking here, and the second by clicking here.

In this post, the main objective is to gain an understanding of some planetary prominence considerations that are powerful, immediate, and don’t depend on theoretical concepts of sign, house, or aspect.  Along the way, there will be a little bit of review.

Introduction

Astrologers of the Perso-Arabic period, such as Abu Ma’shar and al-Qabisi, explicitly distinguished matters that would make a planet signify more or less prominently (i.e. strength) from matters that would make a planet signify pleasant or unpleasant things (i.e. beneficence), and these from the nature and quality of that being signified (i.e. types).  These are very important distinctions and it is too often the case that one or more of these distinctions is missing in an astrological system or that they are mixed together such that the sign a planet is in plays too much of a role determining all three.

In modern astrology there tends to be a strong focus on the type or quality of the signification, and the factor that tends to be stressed is the zodiacal sign in which a planet is located.  For instance, one might assert that Venus, signifying the love nature, when in Scorpio makes for an intense, passionate, reactive/jealous, and/or secretive sexuality.  On the other hand, in many, if not most, traditional astrological circles today there is a strong emphasis on use of the zodiacal sign for strength considerations, and often beneficence too.  For instance, Venus, signifying young women, the arts, sexuality, and marriage, when in Scorpio might be considered in her detriment, and thus her ability to bring about successful relationships might be hampered (poor strength), or her ability to bring about the matters signified by the houses she rules or topics she is given responsibility for in the chart (poor strength), and some astrologers would even say that because of the so-called detriment she tends to signify bad quality women or relationships, such as malicious women, sexual problems, or misfortune through the arts (negative beneficence). All in all, most people with exposure to either modern psychological astrology or late traditional astrology tend to get in the habit of thinking in terms of planets in signs.

The signs are rather abstract divisions of the sky and I believe that too much emphasis has been placed on the signs especially when it comes to strength and beneficence considerations.  I will introduce the signs of the zodiac in the next lesson, while in this lesson I would like to focus on some additional significations of planetary prominence in a chart.  As with advancement, discussed in the previous lesson, these factors don’t depend on a zodiac, a house system, or a system of planetary aspects.  They have a greater sense of immediacy than such concepts, and are in my opinion the three most important factors for what I call “general prominence”.

General Prominence

Ancient authors tend to lump together many factors for prominence and follow-thru, simply noting that they pertain to strength.  In my own experience I’ve had to separate out some of these strength factors as pertaining at least to general prominence (loud or noteworthy in signification in the life), personal prominence (influential over key areas of the life such as the character), and follow-thru (stability or instability of what is signified).  In this way, it becomes possible for a planet to be strong in one sense but not in another, such as having a person who is constantly surrounded by artists and artistic events (Venus generally prominent), who is an intellectual (Mercury personally prominent), whose relationships tend to start out strong and significant but to lack staying power (Venus or relationship significators with weak follow-thru).  Additionally, for predictive purposes I’ve found it to be very important that the range or variance of a planet’s indications are looked at, in addition to the central tendency.  For instance, a planet might be generally strong in one sense, such as strongly advancing, and generally weak in another, such as stationing retrograde.  In such a case I would likely judge the planet to be centrally prominent due to having a major prominence indication but for the fall from prominence to be triggered by times when a retrograde station of the planet was highlighted. There will be more on this in future lessons, but the main idea is that a life is lengthy and complex, so reading a natal chart is about taking inventory of central tendency and the degree of variance, not making absolutist proclamations.

The three most basic indications of general prominence that I look at are:

  1. Advancement – Covered in the last lesson.  These are the approaching alignments of a planet with a location as they happen 4 times each day.
  2. Stations – This is when a planet appears to stop and reverse its direction of travel relative to the stars as observed from Earth.  They mark out days when a planet is particularly prominent with the frequency varying according to which planet is being looked at.
  3. Phasis or Appearance, also Combust and Cazimi – This is when a planet appears for the last time in the sky before traveling too close to the Sun (“under the beams”) to observe or appears for the first time after emerging from the beams.  This also marks out days of planetary prominence which vary in frequency depending on the planet.

Stations

Spend a little time reading astrological chit-chat on the internet and you will surely encounter the term “retrograde” and a whole lot of commotion whenever Mercury is retrograde.  In the last lesson we looked at planets moving clockwise around the chart, where they rise on the left side of the chart, culminate at top, set on the right side, and anti-culminate at the bottom.  This is the “primary motion” of the planets and stars caused by the Earth’s daily 24-hour rotation cycle.  However, the planets move in the opposite direction through the sky against the backdrop of the stars (through the signs of the zodiac) very near to the same path followed by the Sun (at least as we see it from Earth).  The path is called the ecliptic (think “eclipse”), and the motion of each planet going slowly counter-clockwise around the chart, from west to east, each at its own pace, is called the “secondary motion” of the planets.

The secondary motion of the planets the same motion that you would study in high school astronomy class when you observed the Earth and other planets traveling around the Sun, but we study it in astrology from the position of the observer, on Earth, as astrology is oriented to the observer and the Earth as the center of the frame (a Geo System), rather than taking as its focus maximum theoretical elegance as is the case in astronomy where an external abstract point is the center of reference with regard to the system, the barycenter or center of mass of the solar system, which tends to reside within the Sun but up to about a solar radii outside of its surface at times (due to the massive gravitational pull of Jupiter), yielding a Solar System.  Using the Sun as a frame of reference the planets run their circuits around it, never reversing direction.  However, from the vantage point of the Earth, planets farther out from the Sun appear to stop and move backwards while being overtaken by the Earth as seen in the video below.

Similarly, planets closer to the Sun (i.e. Mercury and Venus) appear to move backwards when on the opposite side of the Sun from Earth, as seen in the video below.  The retrogradation is the backwards loop that appears to be traced in the sky when Venus is opposite the Sun from Earth.

Here is one more video in which you can see a real time-lapsed video of Saturn moving retrograde against the stars and then a good look at the way that the 2nd century astrologer Ptolemy modeled these motions using the Earth as a static frame of reference and adding a second cycle called the epicycle that would account for the retrogradation and allow astrologers to better predict its occurrence and planetary position.

You can read more about the mechanics of apparent retrograde motion and the frequency with which the planets are retrograde in the Wikipedia article on “Apparent retrograde motion“.

Ancient astrologers attached a lot of importance to the points where a planet appears to stop and change directions, which were called the “stations” of the planets.  The “first station”, or “retrograde” station, was when the planet appeared to move backwards, and in Hellenistic and Perso-Arabic astrology was considered to signify a weakening of that planet’s own significations.  The “second station”, or “direct” station, was when the planet appeared to move forward again after a period of retrogradation, and was considered to signify a strengthening of the planet’s own significations.

In the introductory works by Abu Ma’shar and al-Qabisi they discuss strengthening and weakening conditions.  Both astrologers first point to the retrograde station as a major weakening condition.  Some authors, such as Sahl quoted below, have also given helpful metaphors for understanding the stations.

If a planet were to stand toward retrogradation (that is, if it were in its first station), it signifies the dissolution of a purpose, and disobedience; and if it were to stand toward direction (that is, if it were in its second station), it signifies forward direction after the slowness or duress of the matter.  And every planet which is a significator and wished to go direct (that is, if it were in its second station) signifies the renewal of the actions of matters, and their action and strength or forward movement.  And if it were in the first station, wishing to go retrograde, it signifies their destruction and slowness and dissolution.   (Sahl Bin Bishr, The Fifty Judgments, #48, Dykes trans., 2010, p. 107)

While retrogradation is given a lot of hype in modern astrology and in late traditional astrology, its importance is typically overblown.  In my experience a retrograde planet is not much weakened, and retrogradation is extremely common.  For instance, Saturn is retrograde about a third of the time and Mercury goes retrograde three-to-four times per year for about three-to-four weeks at a go.  While retrogradation itself is only a little bit weakening (a tendency toward contradiction and antagonism were often associated with the action of retrograde planets in ancient literature), but the actual stations are very significant in terms of strengthening and weakening.  Typically within about a week within the station the planet may be considered to be made more or less prominent depending on the nature of the station, and to an extent that depends on how close to the station in time.  For instance, someone born within a day of Mercury stationing direct would be considered to have a very prominent Mercury in their chart.  Someone born within a day of Mercury stationing retrograde would have a very weakened Mercury.  One born 6 days from a Mercury station would also have Mercury strengthened or weakened but to a lesser extent.

Finding Planetary Stations

Let’s pull up some charts looking for stations, and also looking again at advancement.

Install Morinus

We are going to pull up charts in the free, open source, traditional astrology program called Traditional Morinus.  I’ve previously discussed installation and pulling up charts in Morinus on this blog, so I highly recommend that the reader stop at this point to read those article and install the software.  My article discussing installation of Morinus is here.  Since that article the program has undergone many updates.  The newer versions are easier to use because they now have a location lookup, which I discussed here.  Not only is Morinus a free program, but it is also one of the programs with the best traditional capabilities, including accurate primary directions, and is very frequently updated and improved upon.  It is open source, meaning that programmers are free to examine the code and improve upon it, making it truly THE astrological program of the astrological community.  I recommend it above all other astrological programs for the beginning to the advanced student.  Nearly all charts and charting examples on this site come from the program.  Please take the time to download the program and familiarize yourself with it by pulling up a few charts and saving them before proceeding.

Once you have the program installed and have a chart up, you should modify the following settings. Hold “Shift” and press “u”, or go to “Options” and make sure there is a check next to “Automatic save”, so that changes that you make to settings will be saved for the next time you open the program.  Hold “Shift” and press “F6”, or go to “Options” then “Housesystems” and select “Whole Sign”.  For charts that look like mine, you will want your appearance options (Shift+a or Options>Appearance I) to be as in the picture below, where Terms is selected and the chart is black and white.

Here and Now

Week Before, Week After

The surest way to determine if a planet stationed within a week of someone’s birth is to compare the birth chart with the chart 1 week before the birth and that 1 week after the birth.  Retrogradation is symbolized by a little symbol of an “R” with a line through part of it, which is next to the planetary glyph in the chart.  Also, if one presses the F11 key, then a table of the planetary speeds appears in which negative speeds by longitude indicate retrograde motion. The Sun and Moon never have apparent retrograde motion, so they are not examined in this respect.

Let’s look at Steve Jobs’ chart (click here for chart data).  First, you’ll notice that the Moon, followed by Jupiter and Venus, are the most advancing planets in the chart.  You’ll also notice that the Sun and Saturn are retreating and that Mercury isn’t advancing much.  In the chart below I’ve highlighted that Mercury and Jupiter are retrograde.  It is important with any chart that you make an initial mental note of which of the planets are retrograde.

Steve Jobs' Natal Chart
Steve Jobs’ Natal Chart

In order to check if any planets stationed within a week of Steve Jobs’ birth, we change the day of birth to one week earlier, pulling up the chart to see which planets are retrograde, then we do the same for one week after the birth.  If there are no stations then Mercury and Jupiter would be the only retrograde planets one week prior and one week after birth.  If this is not the case then there has been some type of station and we’ll have to do some deeper digging.

To start hold CTRL and press “d” or go to “Horoscope” and then “Data”.  Jobs was born on the 24th so we’ll switch it to the 17th, which will show the chart below.

Steve Jobs - One Week Before Birth

One week before birth, Mercury and Jupiter were retrograde while Venus, Mars, and Saturn were not.  This is just as in the natal chart, so there were no stations in the week prior to birth.

Seven days after his Feb. 24th birth would be March 3rd.  So we put that date into the Data area and pull up another chart, again checking for some difference in retrogrades. This time we do find some differences.  Jupiter was still retrograde a week after birth, but Mercury was no longer retrograde.  Therefore, Mercury stationed direct at some point within the week following his birth.  Additionally, Saturn is now retrograde, while it was not in the birth chart, so it stationed retrograde at some point in the week following his birth.

Steve Jobs - One Week After Birth

Now, we know that Mercury is stationing direct in Steve’s birth chart and that Saturn is stationing retrograde, but we don’t know to what extent. How close were the stations to Steve’s birth?  I like to start with one day increments from the birthday, so I look first at February 25th, then the 26th, and so on.  Doing this I find that already by February 25th, within 24 hours of the birth of Steve Jobs, Mercury had stationed direct.  Therefore, this is a very prominent Mercury direct station.  We initially noted that Mercury wasn’t really advancing much, so by advancement, Mercury didn’t seem prominent at all.  However, we now know that Mercury is very prominent in the chart because it was stationing direct very strongly when Jobs was born.  This means that the natural significations of Mercury have a prominent influence over his life.  This is quite significant as Mercury is the planet of intellect, business, technology, and computing.

On the other hand, when we progress day by day, we don’t find Saturn retrograde until we get to March 1st, which is five days out, so Saturn stationed retrograde between four and five days after his birth.  Saturn was weak by retreating, and here we see Saturn a little bit more weakened by the fact that it was gradually stationing retrograde at the time of birth. Therefore, we expect the significations of Saturn to be in the background in his life rather than prominent.

Applying to Charts

What about in your chart?  Were any planets stationing at your birth?  If so, how do the indications of the stations compare with the indications from advancement?

One of the interesting things about this technique is that a planet that seems like it may be retrograde and thus could be said to be slightly weakened often is revealed to be extremely prominent, as in the case of Mercury in the chart of Steve Jobs.  Unfortunately, little attention is paid to planetary stations near one’s birth in astrology today, even in most traditional circles.  Additionally, too much stress is placed on retrogradation, so it comes to pass that weak planets (direct ones stationing retrograde just after birth) are thought to be prominent and prominent planets (retrograde ones stationing direct just after birth) are thought to be weak.  Get in the habit of checking the week before and the week after a chart, with every chart, and you won’t make this mistake.

In terms of meaning, the retrograde station has the feeling of significations drifting out of reach, being involved in delays and so forth.  The direct station has the feeling of significations starting out in a prominent and pioneering way, such as with forceful resolve.  It’s like with the retrograde station the planet gets to the party and says, “oh wait, I’m sorry, I forgot something, and I need to go home and get it”, while the direct station planet has been tied up for some time and now has some free time to move forward with some established plans its excited about.

Appearances or Phasis

Just as famous celebrities and politicians make important appearances, so do the planets.  The most important appearances pertain to the relationship of the planets to the Sun.  The Sun is like the king in astrology, signifying powerful authority and leadership.  When a planets is close to the Sun by zodiacal longitude, then it starts to become obscured by the light of the Sun.  In ancient astrology, the standard distance is typically 15 degrees from the Sun.  When a planets is within 15 degrees from the Sun it is “under the beams” or “combust”.  Planets under the beams are weakened in the sense of being more hidden or covert.  You could think of this as akin to a person who is employed in some special government operation.  The agenda (Sun) outshines their own personal expression (their overt expression of their nature), forcing them to come under a more restricted code of conduct and more limited communication.

An exception to this rule of planets under the beams being “hidden” is when planets are within about 1 degree from the Sun, which is called “cazimi” or “in the heart of the Sun”.  This is like being able to rule in the king’s stead or taking on the authority of the throne.  A planet in such a position becomes much more prominent, but planets which are cazimi are rather rare. A particularly forceful cazimi would be an occultation of the Sun, such as the recent “Transit of Venus“.

Many astrologers are aware of combustion and cazimi, but another very important solar-related doctrine, that of “appearance”, has been forgotten.  A planet makes its appearance (or is “in phasis”) just before it goes into the beams of the Sun or right after it comes out from them.  This phenomena is also known as the heliacal risings and settings of the planets.  Therefore, appearance is when a planet is exactly 15 degrees from the Sun, moving closer or further away from it.  Think of it like the planet having an important visit with the media either right before its going to have to encounter the authorities or immediately after it has.  In both cases the planet is more prominent, but in one case of the importance ending up going covert and in the other case of exposure.

A planet making an appearance is called “in phasis”.  A consideration of phasis tends to be included in ancient techniques for finding professional significators.  It seems that its link with the Sun ties it to a sense of what someone becomes known for, much like the reporting to the media metaphor that I’ve used.

We, then, looking out for the topic of injury, entered into the type of action in this way: the givers, then, of actions are Mercury, Venus, and Mars; the effective houses are the ascendant, the midheaven, the IC, and the [houses] succedent to these, but also indeed the sixth houses, and the Lot of Fortune, and the application of the Moon, and the [star] making its morning appearance or its evening rising seven days before or seven days after.   (Rhetorius, Astrological Compendium, #82, Holden trans., 2009, p. 134)

Paulus Alexandrinus (4th century CE) discussed the phases of the stars and the terminology associated with phasis, and this was elaborated upon by his commentator Olympiodorus of the 6th century.  A planet in phasis which is coming out from the beams is also called rising or arising, as it is in its heliacal rising (think of rising out from the beams).  A planet in phasis which is going into the beam is also called setting (occasionally called disappearance), as it is in its heliacal setting (think of setting into the beams).  Be cognizant of these other uses of the terms “rising” and “setting” because there are times when rising and setting planets are discussed in the literature where an unknowing reader might assume it is relative to the horizon but it is actually relative to the beams of the Sun.

The heliacal setting is sometimes viewed as weakening while the heliacal rising is viewed as strengthening and more important for professional matters.  In practice I’ve found consistently that both are strengthening and both can be relevant for professional significator.  For instance, in the example of Hitler given in this post, the planets in phasis are Venus then Mars, both setting into the beams, but both very significant for his professional development and aspirations in his life, first to be an artist, then to be a warring conqueror.  However, planets setting into the beams do seem to take on many of the significations associated with being under the beams, so it is something of a mixed bag.  Valens associated a planet going under the beams with troubles, interruptions, and possible secret difficulties.

I personally associate being under the beams with the sense of something or someone powerful putting causing things to go underground so-to-speak, whether in hiding, covert, deceptive, repressed, and so forth, but not necessarily good or bad in a blanket sense.  For instance, do you feel that you can fully and entirely be yourself around your parents or grandparents or boss?  I think that this helps to explain why planets in a place where they held some authority or power (a house or bound they had some rulership over) were not thought to be weakened at all by being under the beams – they were under the influence of a power but also had a sort of powerful independence, like a person visited by a king but without a need to subjugate oneself to that king.

Morning and Evening Stars

Another common distinction is between morning stars and evening stars.  Those rising (above the horizon) before the Sun are said to be “right” of the Sun, oriental the Sun, or morning stars (because they can be seen in the morning before the Sun rises).  Those rising (above the horizon) after the Sun are said to be “left” of the Sun, occidental the Sun, or evening stars (because they can be seen in the evening after the Sun has set).  Morning stars were thought to have quicker and more outgoing significations, such as bringing about their significations quickly when activated by time period and pertaining to events earlier in life.  Evening stars were thought to have slower and more progressive significations, such as something developing as time goes by or coming about later in life.

Checking for Appearances

We are interested in this occurring within about a week from birth.  Therefore, our habit of checking one week before and one week after birth has a dual purpose, of looking at stations and appearances both.

When looking for appearances, we are concerned with the degree position of the Sun and that of the planets near the Sun.  Mercury and Venus always stay pretty close to the Sun, so they are most often in phasis.  The degrees of the Sun and planets are shown right in the chart (as well as the minutes in smaller type).  Each sign has 30 degrees, so if the Sun is at exactly 25 degrees of one sign, and Mercury is at 10 degrees of the next sign, then Mercury is 15 degrees from the Sun and is in phasis. As with stations, we are not concerned with the Moon when it comes to phasis.  The combustion of the Moon is significant though, lending a sense of covertness to the Moon’s significations.

Look again at Steve Jobs chart above.  Scroll up if you need to.  Better yet, hold CTRL and click on the chart so that it opens up in a new browser tab.  Do the same for the charts of one week prior to his birth and one week after.

You’ll notice that Steve’s Sun is at 5 degrees of some sign, the one that is number 7, (in this case Pisces, but you don’t need to know that yet).  Besides the Moon, the planets tend to move about a degree per day or less so, sometimes, in the case of Mercury up to about 2 degrees per day.  Therefore, if a planet is more than about 30 degrees from the Sun we don’t concern ourselves with it at all when checking for phasis.  The only planet within about 30 degrees from the Sun is Mercury which is at 14 degrees of the sign before, the number 6 sign, which in this case is Aquarius.  The Sun and Mercury are a little bit over 21 degrees from each other.  Mercury is moving backwards and is in a sign before, so they are moving away from each other, so we know they won’t become within 15 degrees of each other at any point after birth.  The question is whether Mercury and the Sun were ever within 15 degrees of each other at some point within a week before birth.  To answer this question, we’ll look at the chart from a week before birth.

Looking at the chart from a week before birth we find the Sun at 28 Aquarius and Mercury at 17 Aquarius.  This is a distance of about 11 degrees, which is less than 15 degrees, so Mercury was under the beams less than a week prior and made an appearance coming out from the beams at some point.  Now we need to find out when.  So starting with the 23rd, we move back one day in the birth data, pulling up charts until we get to the point that Mercury ends up being less than 15 degrees from the Sun.  Doing this you’ll find that it is on February 19th, 5 days before Steve’s birth, that Mercury is under the beams (i.e. within 15 degrees from the Sun).  Therefore, Mercury made its appearance four-to-five days prior to Steve’s birth.

With that our look at the three basic general prominence factors in Steve Jobs’ chart is finished.  We found that the Moon was strongly advancing but that Mercury, while not advancing much, was very strongly stationing direct and was in phasis coming out from the beams.  Therefore, Mercury is a very prominent planet in the life of Steve Jobs.

Examples

I’m going to run through a number of examples very quickly, noting the important information obtained from the three basic general prominence factors. The data for all examples is from Astro-Databank.com.  If you have any questions as to anything I discuss here or are obtaining different results, please comment and I will do what I can to assist.

Adolf Hitler's Natal Chart
Adolf Hitler’s Natal Chart

Hitler has a very complicated chart.  Mercury, the Sun, and Saturn are most prominent by advancement while Jupiter and the Moon are weakened due to retreating.  Looking at stations, we find that Saturn is made even more prominent by a direct station about 6 days before birth and that Jupiter is even more weakened by a retrograde station about 4 days after birth.  Mercury is somewhat weakened (or at least hidden/covert) due to being deeply under the beams and not in phasis, about 5 degrees from the Sun.  Mars and Venus are both between 15 and 16 degrees from the Sun, so I would consider them both quite strongly in phasis, going into the beams, with Venus going into the beams within 24 hours and Mars within 3 days.

We conclude that Hitler’s chart has many prominent planets, but with Saturn, the planet of lack, hardship, loss, darkness, discipline, and control as particularly prominent.  The Sun, planet of leadership, authority, and influence is also very prominent.  Saturn and the Sun pertain very strongly to Hitler’s ability to rise to power and the dictatorial style of his rule.  Venus and Mars are prominent in their own ways as both are advancing and very strongly in phasis, with Venus going very quickly and deeply under the beams while Mars slowly descends into them.  These appear to pertain most to his career aspirations, from trying to be an artist (Venus) to trying to be a conqueror (Mars).  Mercury is very important in the life, but covert, which may indicate a lot of secretive activity of an intellectual nature.  Jupiter, the planet of opportunity, abundance, generosity, goodwill, friendship, kindness, spirituality, and expanded or elevated mindset is very weak as it is retreating and stationing retrograde.

Kurt Cobain's Natal Chart
Kurt Cobain’s Natal Chart

In Kurt Cobain’s chart Mercury is conjunct the Descendant, and with it Venus and Saturn are also strongly advancing, while the Sun is retreating.  Therefore we expect Mercury (voice, writing, intellect, cleverness, business), Venus (the arts, love, women, sensuality), and Saturn (hardship, darkness, loss, obligation) to all be quite prominent in the life, while we expect the Sun (leadership, authority, honors, power, confidence) to be backgrounded in the life, at least in a general sense.  Mercury is in phasis, though setting into the beams, within 2 days after birth, so very strongly.  However, Mercury also stations retrograde within 3 days after birth, which is strongly weakening.  Therefore, Mercury’s significations in the life are fairly complex with both a great significance as well as a potential for dramatic reversal or antagonism against a former path, and the capacity to signify covert complicated or intellectual activity as it is setting under the beams.

Alfred Witte's Natal Chart
Alfred Witte’s Natal Chart

Alfred Witte was an early 20th century astrologer, and possibly psychic, who pioneered a new system of astrology, very different from both traditional and typical modern forms of astrology, which was called Uranian astrology.  His astrology was based strongly in symmetrical relationships of planets to each other. Witte ended up committing suicide after being targeted by the Nazis.

Notice that Jupiter, the planet of wisdom, spirituality, abundance, generosity, and elevation is strongly advancing, conjunct the IC.  Mars, Mercury, and Venus are also advancing with moderate strength, while Saturn is both retreating and under the beams pretty deeply.  There are no stations in his chart.  Saturn is barely in phasis, setting under the beams about 7 days before birth.  Mercury and Venus are very close to each other, in the same degree actually, and are both almost exactly 15 degrees from the Sun, so both are extremely strongly in phasis.  Venus is morning rising, rising out from the beams, while Mercury is morning setting, falling under the beams.  Therefore, it is Venus, Mercury, and Jupiter which are the most prominent planets in Witte’s life by these basic methods.  It is interesting that Mercury and Venus are so strongly joined to one another, as Witte’s astrology, dependent upon symmetry, has a sense of mathematical harmony to it and visual elegance which shows a nice fusion of the intellectualism and symbol manipulation of Mercury combined with the aesthetics of Venus.

Frida Kahlo's Natal Chart
Frida Kahlo’s Natal Chart

Frida Kahlo was born with the Moon very strongly advancing toward the midheaven.  Venus is the next most advancing planet, while Mercury was retreating.  Jupiter was under the beams.  Mars was retrograde but not stationing.  Saturn was stationing retrograde within about 4 days of birth and Mercury was stationing retrograde within about 5 days of birth.  Overall we would judge Mercury to be weakened and placed in the background, both from retreating and the retrograde station.  We’d also judge Saturn to be somewhat weakened.  The Moon, the power of irrationality, subjectivity, nurture, ubiquity, mothers, instincts, the wild, and vivid depth, is extremely prominent. Venus is also quite prominent due to her advancement toward the midheaven (as well as her rulership of the mideheaven, though rulership will be addressed in a future post).

Conclusion

It’s my hope that you’ve found in this post some new and valuable techniques for evaluating planetary prominence.  If you are a beginner and are having any trouble with this material please comment below.  In future lessons we will start to explore the signs, houses, and aspects or configurations which are the core theoretical elements of the Hellenistic system of astrology.  However, it is good to get in the habit of first looking at each chart in terms of these basic indications of general prominence.  This will tell you which planets are loudest and which have something very important to say about the life as a whole.

Unfortunately, it is very easy to identify which sign each planet is in while it’s a bit more difficult to check and see which planets were advancing, which retreating, and particularly to check out whether there were any stations or appearances.  There is also a sense in which we are looking at something much more concrete when examining advancement, stations, and appearances in this way though.  Most considerations in ancient astrology are based in abstract mathematical divisions of the ecliptic, into signs, those signs ordered into houses, and the sign relationships and angular relationships of the planets producing configurations.  Here we are for the most part dealing with the more raw and basic observations of wandering stars rising, culminating, setting, changing direction against the stars, appearing from the rays of the Sun and disappearing into them.

Practice with these three basic techniques on your own chart, those of people you know, and those of celebrities (from Astro-Databank).  Feel free to expand upon them with what you know of combustion, cazimi, arisings vs. settings, and morning vs. evening stars as well.  If you’d like to discuss your findings please do so in the comments.  Critical objections are also very important.  For instance, if phasis is important for professional indications, then why was it the case that Kahlo’s Venus was under the beams rather than in phasis?  It is vital that you start thinking critical in these ways because ancient astrology is very vast and we are still just dealing with general prominence.  Prominence relative to the self and specific topics such as profession brings in additional considerations and concepts.  This complexity and vastness of ancient astrology is a good thing because human life is even more complex and vast.

Of course no astrological system could ever predict the full complexity of any human experience, for the very same reason that no communication of human experience could ever full convey such experience – the map is not the territory.  Nevertheless, by continually learning and honing our skills in ancient astrology we may start to say intelligent and true things about past, present, and future circumstances that are thought to be impossible.  Also, in receiving this information through a language derived from the heavens themselves arranged by intelligences so far beyond our own, we come to appreciate the humble place of our little minds within a brilliantly cognizant existence.

 

References

Ma’shar, A., & Al-Qabisi. (2010). Introductions to Traditional Astrology. (B. N. Dykes, Trans.). Minneapolis, MN: The Cazimi Press.
Rhetorius of Egypt, & Teucer of Babylon. (2009). Rhetorius the Egyptian. (J. H. Holden, Trans.). Tempe, AZ: American Federation of Astrologers.

Twelve Easy Lessons for Absolute Beginners | 2. Charting, Angles, Advancement

This is a series of posts for those wishing to learn the basics of applied Hellenistic astrology.  In the last post, we looked at the basic significations of the planets, as well as some history and preliminaries.  If you haven’t already done so, please read that post, and spend a little time thinking in terms of the planets, before proceeding.

Those looking for an easy way to explore the significations of the planets in more depth should download the PDF of the full English translation of the Anthology of Vettius Valens (click here to open the PDF or right click and choose “save as” to download).  Not only is it an indispensable and enormous text of Hellenistic astrology, but it begins immediately with Valens on the significations of the planets.

Charting

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars to obtain really good software for traditional astrology.  As we proceed to learn about how to read a chart in this lesson, I’m going to walk you through pulling up charts using the free online Astrodienst (astro.com) charting service.  In a future lesson I’ll show how to pull up charts and work predictively in the advanced open-source traditional astrology program, Morinus.

Astrodienst

I recommend first pulling up and downloading a copy of your chart using Astrodienst, which is at Astro.com.  It is free to register with the site and the process is rather self-explanatory (click Login in the upper right corner, then “Create a free registered user profile” and follow the instructions) .  After registered, you will find that you are faced with many free and paid computer-generated reading options.  I personally don’t recommend any of the computer-generated readings on the site.  There is also a chart-drawing service though, and it is quite good for pulling up birth charts.  The section of the site called “My Astro” allows you to store many people’s birth information for easy access to your charts from anywhere with internet access.

It is easy to chart in Astrodienst, but first you will want to have your birth information handy.  The information that you’ll need is the date, location (city), and time of birth.  Typically a birth certificate is the more accurate source for this information.  Obtain this information before proceeding, either of your own birth or that of someone of interest.

With birth info in hand, log in to Astrodienst and (if necessary) click the “Add new Astro data” link.  Fill out the Birth Data Entry and click “Continue”.  Make sure the correct town is selected and click “Continue” again.  If this is your first time using the program you might be taken directly to the Free Horoscopes page, but if not then click the “Free Horoscopes” link from the top bar.  Scroll down and choose “Chart Drawing Ascendant”.  This is the option that will do for now, even though it uses a modern house system and includes outer modern astronomical planets, as well as Chiron and a lot of information beside the chart, some of which is insignificant.  Once the chart is up, you can use the drop down menu above the chart to choose to pull up the chart for other people whose birth information you’ve entered.  Click on the chart to pull it up in a window of it’s own, where you can right-click and choose “Save Image As” to save the chart to your computer, or press CTRL+p to print the chart.  The chart should look something like what is below, which is the chart of Angelina Jolie (press CTRL+Click on the chart to expand in a new tab).

Angelina Jolie

Astro-Databank

In your astrological studies, a time will come when you’ll want to check out the charts of celebrities.  There is a database of celebrity charts that is now maintained by Astrodienst and integrates with its My Astro chart collection.  This database is called Astro-Databank (click to go there).

Let’s say that you wanted to add Angelina Jolie’s chart to your own chart collection.  You would type “Angelina Jolie” in the Search box and then click her name from the list of results.  This will pull up her biography and chart information, with a small chart that you can click to see larger (click here to go there).  Make special note of the “Rodden Rating” which is an evaluation of how accurate the birth time information is likely to be (AA is best, while anything C or below shouldn’t be trusted).  To add birth information to your collection click the link “add Angelina Jolie to ‘my astro'” which appears below the grey box.

The Angles

There is much on this chart drawing that you should ignore for now, including all the red and blue lines jutting around the chart.  For now imagine that the small center circle inside the chart, around which the numbers appear, is like the sphere of the Earth.  Look at the four bold lines that jut out from that sphere.  These 4 lines are much like the “cross-hairs” of the location.  It is as if planets on them have arrived at the location, those moving toward them are arriving, and after passing a planet is leaving the location. These 4 points are called the “Angles” or “Pivots” of the chart.  Planets on them are extremely prominent or important in their significations over the life.

Horizon

The horizontal lines are the horizon at the place you were born. Notice on the left that it is marked with an AC, for Ascendant.  On the opposite side there is a DC, for Descendant.  The Ascendant is where planets rise or “ascend”, while the Descendant is where they set or “descend”.  The Ascendant is in a general eastern direction and the Descendant in a western one, as “the Sun rises in the east, and sets in the west”.  A planet above the line was above the horizon, i.e. in the sky, at the person’s birth, while one below the line was below the horizon, i.e. under the earth.

You will notice that there is a planetary symbol at Angelina Jolie’s Ascendant.  The symbol is that of Venus. Venus is therefore very prominent over Jolie’s life, and her significations of beauty, love, creativity, the arts, and general physical benefit are very “loud” in her life.

Sect of the Chart

For astrological purposes, a chart is a day chart or diurnal if the Sun is above the horizon, while a night chart or nocturnal if the Sun is below the horizon.  This is known as the sect of the chart.  The symbol for the Sun is above the horizon in Jolie’s chart, so she was a day birth, and in a sense we may think of her, herself, as of the diurnal sect.

Meridian

The vertical, nearly perpendicular lines, are the meridians, like the vertical lines you see on a globe.  The top one is where the Sun reaches its highest point or “culminates” up in the sky, which is the natural “Noon” position.  The bottom one is the meridian on the other side of the earth, where the Sun anti-culminates under one’s feet at the natural “Midnight”.  The top angle is that of the sky and is called the medium coeli (“middle of the sky”) or midheaven, abbreviated MC.  The bottom angle is the angle of the earth, called the imum coeli (“bottom of the sky”), abbreviated IC.

If one is in the northern hemisphere, the top angle is exactly due south, because we are looking toward the equator to the south when we see a culminating planet.  The other angle is due north.  Thus the astrological chart is like an upside-down map as far as directions go.  The top is south, the left is easterly, the bottom is north, and the right is westerly.

Looking at these additional two “Angles” we see that Angelina Jolie has one planet on the MC.  That planet is Jupiter, planet of fortune, opportunity, gifts, generosity, and general social and mental benefit.

Angelina Jolie

The numbers next to Jupiter’s symbol are the degrees and minutes of the sign where Jupiter is located.  These are coordinates of its location.  Notice Jupiter is at degree 17, as is the MC.  They are in the same degree out of the 360 degree circle.  Similarly, Venus was in the same degree as the Ascendant.  Because the degrees on the angles shift about every 4 minutes (of regular clock time), it is rare to find a planet in the same degree as an angle.  Typically, we will consider a planet on an angle when within about 3 degrees, or a little more than that when dealing with the Sun and Moon.  Notice that Mars is at degree 10, which is about 7 degrees from the MC, so we wouldn’t consider it on the angle.  The Moon is at 13, which is about 4 to 5 degrees from the MC, so we would judge the Moon to be of increased prominence as well in this chart by this method.

Advancement

This idea of a planet becoming more prominent when it reaches the horizon or meridian of the location (i.e. one of the Angles) vastly predates the advent of horoscopic astrology and is a feature of geographically disparate astrological traditions.  This is why I feel it necessary to present it first.

A quick survey of archaeoastronomy reveals attention to the moments when important planetary phenomena reach the angles in the construction of temples, monuments, and sacred sites the world over.  For example, El Castillo, a step-pyramid at the center of the Mayan Chichen Itza, has a western face that points to sunset on the traditional date of the start of the rainy season.  Similarly, Stonehenge has important alignments to risings and settings marking the annual transitions of midsummer and midwinter.  Karnak (in Egypt) and many other such sites reveal similar attention to risings, settings, and culminations on key days of the year.  Again, the basic idea is to draw attention at the time of the planet’s “arrival” to one of the distinguishing coordinates of the location.

Advancing and Retreating as Metaphors

You’ll notice that very few people have planets actually conjunct (i.e. on or at) an Angle.  However, while this is the most powerful position, Hellenistic astrologers did attach increased importance to a planet approaching an angle, and decreased importance to one receding from an angle.  The exact definition of when a planet is considered approaching or “advancing” and when it is considered receding or “retreating” varies slightly with different authors but the idea is the same.  The idea is that a planet’s significations become increasingly strong as it moves closer and closer to the angle, becoming strongest when it is conjoined to the angle, and then quickly dropping off until it has traveled sufficiently toward the next angle.

You may recall that a planet rises at the Ascendant, culminates at the MC, sets at the Descendant, anti-culminates at the IC, and then rises again at the Ascendant.  This clockwise motion is called the Primary Motion and is shown below.

Primary Motion

Convenient for our purposes, the concept of advancement and retreat was confused for a method of assigning topics to the signs, called the division of the houses.  Thus in modern charts, including this one provided by Astrodienst, the space between any two angles is divided up into three segments, which are numbered for houses, but actually are to be used for evaluating strength by way of this concept of advancement and retreat.  Planets in one of the segments that is right after an angle by primary motion (marked 3, 6, 9, and 12 on the chart) are “retreating” from the Angle or “inoperative”.  Those that in other segments are advancing.  Those that are in the segment just before and up to the Angle are even more advancing or “operative”.

Therefore, looking at Angelina Jolie’s chart, we judge Venus, Jupiter, and the Moon to be especially prominent or “loud” because they are conjunct Angles.  By contrast, we judge that the significations of Saturn and Mars are overall much quieter in the life because they are retreating.  The Sun and Mercury are advancing but not very strongly, so they are middling in terms of the volume or “loudness” of their significations in the life.

Meaning

Rather than viewing advancement and retreat in a discrete way, where we chop things up into strong, middle, and weak, I tend to view it as a continuous matter of a planet being of very low volume after separating from an Angle and then volume gradually being turned up on it as it nears it.  Planets approaching an angle within about 15 degrees or actually conjunct an Angle I take to be especially loud, and tend to call “strongly advancing”.

It may take a beginner some time to get used to the significance of this technique because it doesn’t necessarily apply to the person’s specific personality or what they’re known for.  It is very possible for a retreating planet to have great significance over a person’s character or profession and likewise possible for a strongly advancing planet to have little relevance for these things.  The basic idea is simply one of general strength, where I think the metaphor of “volume” as on a stereo, comes in handy.  Because the volume of Venus and Jupiter are at full crank in Angelina Jolie’s chart, we imagine that the things those planets stand for are pervasive through the life, including the people, events, and things encountered in it.  It’s as if the life is being pumped full of Venus and Jupiter energy or those gods have taken a keen interest in it and are very actively at play there.

In Angelina’s case, Venus and the Moon are also very significant for the character and personality, but this is not because of the advancement, but due to other factors we’ll cover later.  The only thing that advancement tells us is that the significations are loud and likely to be quite broad.  The person is nearly constantly encountering things signified by that planet for better or worse.

Hellenistic Astrologers on Advancement

Advancement is a concept that tends to be ill-understood today but was discussed by many Hellenistic astrologers and explicitly addressed by many Persian ones.  Most of the Hellenistic astrologers bring up advancement in connection with the robustness of a significator of the native’s health in instructions for examining longevity and health threats.

Dorotheus

Dorotheus does not discuss advancement much, but does have a few instances where he brings up a 15 degree rule, in which he attributes a planet approaching the Ascendant within 15 degrees as having equal power as a planet in the rising sign, even if the planet is not in the rising sign.  This rule is found Book I, Chapter 7, #7, as well as book III, Chapter 1, #23, of Carmen Astrologicum.  The rule also appeared in Porphyry in a section attributed to Antiochus.

Valens

Valens gives a good thorough exposition of advancement in Book III, Chapter 2 of the Anthology.  The chapter is dedicated to explaining the concept which for Valens defines the “operative”, “average”, and “inoperative” degrees (as opposed to operative and inoperative places which is another matter).  Valens finds the operative and inoperative degrees by dividing the distance into thirds by zodiacal degrees.  For instance, if there were 120 degrees between two angles, then each third would be 40 degrees in length.

Then it is necessary to take the distance in degrees from the Ascendant to the IC (moving in the order of the signs), to consider one-third of that total distance to be the “operative” degrees in the configuration of the angles, and to consider the stars in these degrees, whether benefics or malefics, to be powerful.  (Valens, Anthologies, Book III, Ch. 2, Riley trans., 2010, p. 59)

He instructs to make the same type of division between each of the angles. He describes the power of the thirds as follows.

So then, the first third from the Ascendant will be operative and powerful, the second third will be average, the third third will be crisis-producing and bad. The stars <in these regions> will act in the same way.  (Valens, Anthologies, Book III, Ch. 2, Riley trans., 2010, p. 59)

In the above quote he seems to imply that a planet becomes more malefic (i.e. “bad”) when retreating.  However, I think Valens is referring to it being bad when a major health significator is in such a position because it is weakened.  My experience is that retreating planets do not signify as prominently, but do not signify more malefic things, i.e. that it is a general strength consideration but not a goodness one.

Ptolemy

Ptolemy also defined certain regions of power where a planet relevant to longevity matters was to be found.  In his discussion (Book III, Ch. 10) one of his regions is from 5 degrees above the Ascendant to the 25 degrees below it.  Thus the region of strength here appears to be the 25 degrees up to the angle, and the conjunction seems to extend 5 degrees.

Examples

Now let’s look at some example charts using a fluid sense of Advancement in which we are most interested in the one or two planets that are most prominent and least prominent in the life by the method.  The chart drawings I post will be from the Morinus program, but all the charts I will use are also available on Astro-Databank and I’ve provided the link. The charts from the Morinus program properly number the houses, so rather than using the numbered divisions as your guide, think visually in terms of proximity to the angle the planet is approaching.

Remember that here we are looking at one factor of general prominence in the life, which may be compared with “volume”.  Later we will look at other factors of general prominence and factors that signify personal prominence and even self-identification.

Hitler

In Hitler’s chart Saturn (darkness, death, challenge), Mercury (rationality, writing, voice), and the Sun (leadership, power, confidence) are all very strongly advancing, while the Moon (deep significance, nurture, the irrational) and Jupiter (generosity, spirituality, loftiness) are retreating.

Adolf Hitler's Natal Chart
Adolf Hitler’s Natal Chart (Ctrl click to enlarge)

Kurt Cobain

In Kurt Cobain’s chart Mercury (rationality, writing, voice), Venus (beauty, creativity, love), and Saturn (darkness, death, challenge) are strongly advancing.  The Sun (leadership, power, confidence) is retreating.

Kurt Cobain's Natal Chart (Ctrl click to enlarge)
Kurt Cobain’s Natal Chart (Ctrl click to enlarge)

Billy Graham

In Billy Graham’s chart Jupiter (generosity, spirituality, loftiness) and possibly the Moon are advancing.  Mars (violence, physical work, aggression) is retreating.

Billy Graham's Natal Chart (Ctrl click to enlarge)
Billy Graham’s Natal Chart (Ctrl click to enlarge)

Conclusion

You’re probably wondering why I haven’t used the examples of Einstein, Bjork, James Randi, and Barack Obama after having focused on them in the last post.  There are two reasons.  First, I want you to look up their charts on Astro-Databank and evaluate advancing and retreating in their charts for yourself as an exercise.  Secondly, you will find that some planets that you thought would be strongly advancing are not so, and the same with ones that you thought might be retreating.  Advancement is just one piece of the puzzle.  Even just general strength involves additional factors which we’ll get to in subsequent lessons.  Additionally, a planet can be particularly prominent for a certain topic, such as the self or the professional development, without being prominent in a general sense.

Think of advancing planets as loud and tending to manifest their significations in broad ways that touch upon many areas of life.  Think of retreating ones as quieter, and more directed toward topics that they are particularly connected with in the chart.

Look at your own chart, and those of your friends, family, and favorite celebrities.  Perhaps make note of the planets you would expect to be advancing or retreating and then compare those notes with what you find.  As we proceed you’ll come to better understand the exceptions, where you met the unexpected.

Twelve Easy Lessons for Absolute Beginners | 1. Introduction, Historical Background and The Planets

There is still a need for a quick and dirty introduction to pre-Medieval ancient astrology.  In this series of posts, I hope to present things in such a way that even someone with no prior experience with astrology will be able to very quickly start reading charts from a Hellenistic perspective, understand future articles on this site, and start exploring primary source material. For those itching to go further, I highly recommend buying Ben Dykes’ Introductions to Traditional Astrology to keep as a reference work, and Chris Brennan’s affordable Introduction to Hellenistic Astrology Course for gaining a solid foundation.

A Little History

You can skip this section and come back to it later, but it is important to have some understanding of the historical context of ancient astrology, and here I present only the barest-bones look at the history of astrology.

By ancient astrology I mean that type of astrology which arose around the last couple centuries BCE, in the Mediterranean region, particularly around Egypt.  Prior to the advent of this new system, astrologers had read omens in the sky for thousands of years, with particular intensity in Mesopotamia (i.e. Babylonian astrology). However, this new system, reflecting a meeting of Babylonian, Egyptian, and Greek knowledge, used a chart of the planets in signs which was interpreted for all manner of inquiries.

One of the key innovations to come out of this revolutionary system was that it fixed the sky to a specific place and time according to the sign of the zodiac that was rising in the east, called the horoskopos or horoscope.  Maps of the positions of the signs and planets relative to this sign were drawn, allotting certain life topics to each sign, and applying a handful of new principles of interpretation.  This astrology became very popular and widespread through Egypt, Europe, Persia, and even India, transforming each culture’s omen lore tradition into a “horoscopic” tradition; an Astrology 2.0 if you will.

We refer to the original strata of horoscopic astrology as Hellenistic astrology because it originated with peoples who wrote in Ancient Greek (the scholarly language of the time around Alexandria, Egypt and the Mediterranean).  Texts quickly also appearing in Latin, Pahlavi, and Sanskrit, but even in these other languages the “system” as it was practiced prior to the Early Middle Ages may be called Hellenistic astrology.  The systems spread to India (see Yavanajataka) transformed the astrology of the region, giving birth to the Indian horoscopic tradition of Jyotish, though sophisticated non-horoscopic astrology existed in India for thousands of years prior.

There is a great deal of material in Hellenistic astrology, and it is very diverse. There is a common foundation, but different authors stressed different techniques and provided varying insights from even the earliest surviving sources.  Most of the material has seen its first translations into modern languages like English in just the past couple decades.  One of the most important works, the nine volume Anthology of Egyptian astrologer Vettius Valens, just saw release of the first complete English translation of the text in 2010 (by Mark Riley).  The oldest surviving complete works date back to the 1st century CE, but are already quite large, refined, and referring back to earlier source material.  In fact, both large surviving complete works from the 1st century, those of Manilius and Dorotheus, were written in verse, an indication of thorough prior familiarity with the material.

Crucial Texts

While there are over a dozen notable surviving texts from the Hellenistic period, there are five texts that are particularly pivotal:

        1. Dorotheus wrote the large and influential Carmen Astrologicum in the 1st century, which had 4 books on interpreting charts for birth time (i.e. natal astrology) and 1 book on choosing auspicious times to undertake activities (i.e. electional astrology).
        2. Ptolemy, a notable “scientist” (natural philosopher) of the day, wrote the large Tetrabiblos (2nd century), notable mainly for its birth chart material, but also containing material on interpreting charts for weather and political events (i.e. mundane astrology).
        3. Valens wrote what is probably the most information-packed text of the era, a voluminous text citing numerous ancient authors and techniques (especially predictive ones) which would otherwise be unknown, in his Anthology (2nd century), which deals in depth with natal astrology (birth chart interpretation), especially with methods on predicting timing of important life events.
        4. Maternus wrote a text equally as voluminous as that of Valens but more focused on reading the natal chart than on the time of the things it indicates, called Mathesis (4th century).
        5. A great reference text of definitions by an author named Antiochus (2nd century or earlier) is now lost but its important definitions were copied into the Introduction to the Tetrabiblos of Porphyry (3rd century) and the Compendium of Rhetorius (7th century), making these two definitive texts for accessing the early “rules” of the game.

From Hellenistic to Persian Medieval

After the decline of the western empire, intellectual work in the region strongly shifted from the Greeks to their neighbors, the Persians.  After the Persians were conquered by Muslim Arabs in the 7th century CE, they translated Greek and Pahlavi material on astrology, natural science, and philosophy into Arabic.  Very concentrated work in astrology was taken up by some of the greatest Persian and Arabic minds of the age.  They worked on developing Hellenistic astrology but there were sufficient changes and additions to transform the way a chart is interpreted, thus I typically refer to astrology for that region from the Middle Ages as Persian astrology or Perso-Arabic astrology, to distinguish it from the Hellenistic astrology that came before it and the European Medieval astrology that followed.  The Carmen Astrologicum of Dorotheus was a major influence upon the astrology of the Persian period, particularly in the development of a sophisticated body of work on choosing auspicious times (election astrology) and answering an importat question based on indications from the chart of the time the question was asked (horary astrology).

From Persian/Arabic to European/Latin Medieval and Renaissance

During the High Middle Ages, Arabic material became translated into Latin, particularly around Spain.  This translation wave saw the reemergence of Hellenistic scientific and philosophical thought into Europe, leading eventually to the Renaissance.  While some of the greatest minds of the European Middle Ages and Renaissance worked on this astrology, it came to resemble a somewhat watered down version of late Perso-Arabic astrology, rather than a return to Hellenistic astrology. This was due to a combination of factors, including selection, quality, and availability of translated texts, as well as varying degrees of social pressure against astrology from the church and some in the intellectual community.

Some of the distinct features of the late European tradition include assigning topics/houses by numbering spacial divisions (i.e. quadrant houses) rather than by assigning such topics to the signs themselves based on their order around the chart starting with the sign on the eastern horizon. There was also very little use of the “lots” (special derived points in the chart based on distances between certain planets being projected from the point of the eastern horizon).  Other features included strong reliance upon the angular quadrant houses for assessing a planet’s strength or prominence (the angular quadrant houses are the spaces a planet is in relative to the earth at the times of day when it is approaching the local horizon or meridian), emphasis upon aspects between planets by degrees rather than by sign relationship (with use of “orbs” of influence to assess when planets were in aspect), the use of signs of “detriment” (detriment being when a planet is the in the sign opposite to one of its home signs) to indicate a weakened planet which was not a basic distinction in Hellenistic astrology, and strong reliance upon a pointing system that had been invented in the Perso-Arabic period, both for analyzing quality and for assessing planetary relevance over a topic or special signification.  There was a gradual eroding of the astrology throughout this period, as some key concepts like sect (sect is the idea that planets experience some changes in signification based on whether it is day or night) became less important while some marginal distinctions like whether a planet is in “detriment” became very important.  In any case, there were a handful of very notable astrologers in the latter part of this period, such as in the 17th century, when reformers such as Johannes Kepler, sought to reformulate astrology according to their own ideological preconceptions. Today’s traditional astrology groups, and most traditional astrology popular texts, tend to revolve around the late European tradition, though this is changing as more people discover the earlier Hellenistic and Persian works.  Hellenistic and Persian material has been largely neglected until recently, as most of it was not available in modern languages until the last two decades, and still tends to be under-read and ill-understood.

From Renaissance to New Age Babble

In the late 19th century and throughout the 20th century, astrology basically became reformulated under the influence of theosophy, modern psychology (especially Jungianism), and a number of self-styled gurus.  The mainstream of modern astrology, comprising almost all of the astrology books in popular bookstores, may be termed “psychological astrology”.  Unfortunately, very little pre-modern astrology is available from popular outlets, with nearly all popular astrology being modern reformulations that I’ve come to see as distortions and oversimplifications of a select few traditional interpretive principles.

Ancient Astrology vs. Modern Astrology

You are probably familiar with newspaper horoscopes, Sun sign books, and maybe even more detailed modern astrological works (those looking at Moon sign, Rising sign, planets in signs, planets in houses, planets in aspect, etc.), all of which claim to provide information about personal traits like character and compatibility.   Clearly the stress in modern astrology is on exploring the character, preferences, and “psyche”.  The process for doing this in modern astrology tends to involve what may be termed as modularity of psychic function, i.e. different planets or other factors represent distinct functions or modules operating within some type of psycho-spiritual realm (note: this is a rather prevailing view but there is a variety of particular perspectives).  The cosmos is viewed as the movements of the individual and collective psyches, with such movements sometimes externalized in actual events, sometimes not, but always at least “real” in some psycho-spiritual realm.

As all factors are parts of the psyche in such a system, the most powerful factors, i.e. the Sun and Moon, come to represent the central components of the person’s psychological makeup and character.  Thus the Sun in modern astrology is the popular go-to factor for analyzing character based on the sign it occupied at birth (the Sun sign). Horoscope columnists even attempt large scale prediction for all those born with the same Sun signs.  Books providing very elaborate personality delineations based just on the Sun sign (such as Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs) and/or compatibility between Sun signs (“love signs”) continue to be very popular with the public. However, both the over-emphasis on the sign that Sun occupied at birth and the interpretation that this sign signifies primarily about the person and their personality core or ego are inconsistent with ancient astrological principles of chart interpretation.

This preoccupation with personal and even unconscious realities in modern astrology should be contrasted with the focus in ancient astrology on reading in the chart indications about any and all facets of life, not just about the person themselves and their personality.  The chart in ancient astrology speaks to life, in total, internal and external, personal and impersonal, subjective and objective.  In short, in one person’s chart the Sun may connect very strongly and specifically with indications regarding the personality but in another person’s chart it may pertain more to the person’s career, spouse, boss, father, or leader. Not everything in the chart provides indications about the internal functioning of the person’s personality. For this reason, there is the misconception that ancient astrology is about “external” reality and says little about personality, belief, spirituality, and fulfillment.  Actually, many ancient astrological authors address the topics of personality, spirituality, morality, and so forth, both at great length and with the type of subtlety and complexity that better captures the diversity of human experience than the 12 Sun Sign personalities approach and other over-simplistic modern astrological character delineations. In ancient astrological interpretation, there may be 3 planets with strong ties to the mind and personality, each with very different significations, and they may even be in tense conflict with each other, with indications provided for when one becomes more prominent than the others and when conflicting or harmonious relationships between them will tend to manifest. The wider vocabulary of ancient astrology is a welcome move away from the type of astrology that insists that Walt Disney, Josef Stalin, Jimi Hendrix, Brad Pitt, Ted Bundy, and Miley Cyrus all have the same core personality (or main ego drives, etc.) because all were born with the Sun in Sagittarius.

While the signs of the Sun and the Moon are the primary factors for character in modern astrology, planets rather than signs are the key focus for character in ancient astrology.  The Sun and Moon are powerful in ancient astrology as well, but in a general way, signifying power and prominence and being influential over the life as a whole.  If the Sun and/or Moon had a strong influence over character then they’d symbolize bolder and more vibrant character, but the Sun and Moon are not typically the central factors for determining the nature of character.  Rather it is the eastern horizon, called the horoskopos, Ascendant, or Rising point, that is most symbolic of self in ancient astrology.  This is the point where the vast sky, symbolic of the infinite universal soul, rises up out of the ground of the earth, symbolic of the finite personal body, like a soul peering through a body.  Planets ruling or otherwise influencing this point (i.e. planets ruling or in the rising sign) take on particular relevance for interpretation pertaining to the specific individual.

The degree of the Ascendant is based on the earth’s rotation, so the degree of the Ascendant changes about every 4 minutes, compared with the Sun sign which changes once a month.  In this way, ancient astrology links the self with the most individual part of the chart which is dependent upon the particular moment and location of birth, rather than a factor which is the same for everyone born in the same 1/12th of any year anywhere.  The rest of the chart may be seen as symbolic of the circumstances around that individual throughout life.  Predictive techniques animate the symbols to symbolize the individual put into contact with various circumstances, including even the possibility for some development and change in the personality itself.

The Planets – Terminology

The terminology of ancient astrology is sometimes confusing because ancient astrologers were also the first astronomers, thus with the advent of modern astronomy over the last few centuries the terminology of ancient astrology has been appropriated often with a change in technical meaning and application, but one that is slight enough to evoke confusion. It helps to think of the ancient astrological terms as being based more on visual considerations while their modern astronomical equivalents are based on physical considerations.  For instance, in ancient astrology a ‘star’ is basically a glowing heavenly body, and thus included not only the stars in the modern astronomical sense which are defined by their composition, but also the planets and the Moon. Therefore, ancient astrology distinguishes the “fixed” stars from the “wandering” stars.

The term “planet” causes more confusion than any other because not only does it have a different meaning but also modern astrologers have tended to use the term in the astronomical rather than the astrological sense.  For instance, in ancient astrology the “planets” are the seven wandering stars, seen to wander in a regular path along the ecliptic moving from west to east.  They include the Sun and the Moon, though the Sun and Moon were given special status among them as the Lights or Luminaries.  However, they don’t include the modern astronomical outer planets Uranus and Neptune and the dwarf planets like Pluto and Eris.  These so-called planets are not even stars in the ancient sense, let alone wandering stars (i.e. planets), because they are not visibly apparent glowing heavenly bodies.  For this reason, some modern-day traditionalist astrologers who like to use the so-called outer planets have taken to calling them “the invisibles”, or simply “the moderns”, to distinguish them from astrological planets.

The Planets – Order and Symbols

The 7 planets of ancient astrology are typically ordered in terms of apparent speed.  This order was conceived of as spheres around the Earth which were the domains of each planet.  At birth the soul would descend from the fixed stars to Earth through each planetary sphere, from Saturn, thru to the Moon, and then Earth, taking on different physical and spiritual qualities along the way in parallel to fetal development.  At death the soul would ascend from the Earth upwards through the spheres of the Moon, Mercury, and so forth, tested at each sphere and shedding some worldly attribute (possibly influencing the Christian conception of the seven deadly sins according to some scholars). This order is sometimes called the Chaldean order of the planets.  Typically the order starts with the slowest planet, Saturn, marking the farthest sphere.  Here I list the planetary spheres from fastest/closest to slowest/furthest:

        1. The Moon
        2. Mercury
        3. Venus
        4. The Sun
        5. Mars
        6. Jupiter
        7. Saturn

There are a couple things to notice about this order that will help you to remember it.  First, The Sun is in the center of the list, dividing the rest of the planets into “inferiors” (Venus, Mercury, The Moon) and “superiors” (Mars, Jupiter, Saturn).  The extreme closest to the Earth is the Moon, while that furthest is Saturn, which can be remembered by thinking of the crescent of the Moon and rings of Saturn, as both being wispy circles on either end of the list.  You may have heard the expression that men are from Mars and women from Venus, Mars pertaining to masculinity and Venus to femininity, and here they flank the Sun on either side, Venus being the organ in the direction of Earth while Mars the organ pushing out to the stars.  The giant Jupiter is out toward Saturn and the tiny Mercury in toward the Moon.

The glyphs for the planets can be seen here.  The glyphs for the Sun and Moon are pretty easy to grasp.  Many are also familiar with the glyphs for Venus (like stick person, think “female”) and Mars (a circle with an arrow, think “erection”).  The glyph for Mercury is pretty easy to grasp, as it looks like a stick person with a winged hat – Mercury is the messenger.  The symbols for Jupiter and Saturn are most confusing for beginners, and they are derived from the Greek Z for Zeus and K for Kronos respectively.  Jupiter looks like a 4: think 4 corners and peace of mind; Saturn looks like a cross with a tail: think cross to bear and a little devilish.

The Planets – Core Significance

The seven planets are the most important symbols in the astrological language.  Your ability to read a chart will depend upon being able to get a sense for their core significations and associations, as well as their quality on an energetic level.  It is very easy to be mislead when reading a chart if you do not have a clear idea of the meaning and distinctness of each planet.  These are your 7 notes to play in astrology.

As I explain the significance of each planet our first practical application of astrology will be in trying to describe people, their personalities, and general things in life using the planets as adjectives.

Saturn – Ancient, dead, land, raw resources, dark, fear-inducing, lack, obligation, duty, macabre, cold, doubting, restrictive.

Jupiter -Lofty, opportune, joyous, generous, open, fertile, popular, teaching, warm, trusting, expansive.

Mars – Fiery, intense, aggressive, dangerous, bold, pack-animals/swarm/march, very hot, disagreeable, explosive.

The Sun – Vibrant, powerful, prominent, rational, leading, pioneering, hot, influential, attention-getting.

Venus – Beautiful, pleasurable, friendly, sensual, sexual, mysterious, intoxicating, wet, agreeable, soothing.

Mercury – Clever, skilled, complex, cunning, numbers, language, business, transporting, dry, knowledgeable, informative.

The Moon – Primal, powerful, idiosyncratic, irrational, natural, familial, nurturing, journeying, wet and changeable, personal, intimate.

Thinking in Planets

Let’s think of a few well-known figures and what planets we’d associate with their lives and personalities. There are no right or wrong answers in this exercise, as long as one is able to keep the planets distinct and think of why they feel some signification applies to a certain aspect of the life or personality.

Einstein – He doesn’t strike us as very dark and foreboding (Saturn).  His personality seemed a bit Jupiterian, i.e. lofty, joyful and expansive.  He doesn’t strike us as hot-tempered at all (Mars), but he did deal with themes in his professional life of intense energy.  The genius, pioneering, and attention-getting significations of the Sun seem to pertain very strongly to his life’s work as a whole.  He doesn’t strike one as particularly sensual or artistic (Venus) but he has more of a mysterious friendliness than a gregarious Jupiterian friendliness.  Mercury seems to have had a major impact on his life’s work as a whole as it very much was concerned with numbers, knowledge, complexity, and information, though his personality doesn’t strike us as a dry informative Mercurial type.  As far as scientists go he seems more lunar than typical in his personality, in that he seems more natural, idiosyncratic, intimate, and embracing of the irrational.  Overall, it would seem that his legacy is particularly well-described by Mercury and the Sun, while his personality seems more lunar, Jupiterian, and possibly Venusian.

Bjork – Bjork strikes me as very lunar in many ways as her art seems to stress a certain natural, primal, intimate, and irrational side of things.  She is an artist which automatically brings to mind Venus but in her style and approach she seems to stress attention-getting vibrant creative genius (Sun) and intimate personal expression (Moon).

James Randi – It’s hard to imagine the guy as anything but a dark, duty-bound, doubtful figure aiming to strike fear into con artist New Age gurus, which is Saturn all the way.  As a magician, he’s clever, an entertainer, and an attention-getting rationalist, so Mercury and the Sun also come to mind.

Barack Obama – As a leader, the Sun definitely comes to mind as having a prominent role to play in the life.  Personality-wise he seems somewhere between Jupiter and Saturn, between open and gregarious Jupiter and the cool formal sternness of Saturn. His general tendency to be attended by luck and popularity is consistent with Jupiter.

A Couple Useful Planetary Groupings

There are some ways of grouping or organizing the planets that are particularly useful and meaningful.

Benefics/Malefics/Lights

One of the most important groupings is by tendency to signify pleasant or unpleasant things.  Two of the planets (Jupiter and Venus) tend toward signifying the most enjoyable types of things while another two of the planets (Saturn and Mars) tend toward signifying the most unpleasant and challenging things.

The Benefics tend toward fortuitous balance.

        • Jupiter – Temperate, fertile, joyous, high, opportune, sweet.
        • Venus -Temperate, fertile, pleasurable, beautiful, satiated, fatty.

The Malefics tend toward unpleasant extremes.

        • Saturn -Cold, depressed, slow, extremes of lack of life and activity.
        • Mars – Hot, angered, overloaded, extremes of violent energy.

The Lights tend toward prominence and influence, which is neutral but often desired.

        • The Sun – Attainment, honors, leadership.
        • The Moon – Depth, naturalness, subjective significance.

Mercury is amoral, complex, combining. It is the most neutral but also tends toward argument, contention, and dryness, so was considered by some to tend toward slight displeasure.

Sect

Another very useful and important division is called “sect”.  Three planets are more associated with the day and the sky (i.e. above the horizon), and three with the night and the ground/underworld (i.e. below the horizon), while Mercury is neutral, affiliating with sects based on specific circumstances. Each sect is led by a Light and has one benefic and one malefic.

The Day or Diurnal sect is led by The Sun, with the benefic Jupiter and the malefic Saturn.  These planets are also more associated with the realm above the horizon, which is more sky-like, soul-oriented, or abstract, so they tend to signify along more social, mental, and spiritual lines.

The Night or Nocturnal sect is led by The Moon, with the benefic Venus and the malefic Mars.  These planets are also more associated with the realm below the horizon, which is more earth-like, body-oriented, or tangible, so they tend to signify along more familial, physical, and resourceful lines.

All of the planets can signify along either abstract or tangible lines, but generally Saturn would be more likely to signify something like imprisonment and Mars something like assault.  Similarly, Jupiter tends toward things like getting a job or receiving wisdom, while Venus would tend to signify a delicious dinner or great sexual experience.

Sect will be dealt with at much greater length in future lessons, as it is an extremely important factor in astrological interpretation.

Conclusion

Think about the significations of the planets that I’ve provided.  Which planet or planets play the greatest role in your life?  Which ones best describe your personality?  Ask yourself these questions about loved ones as well.

The planets can span nearly any topic in life, so also think about people, place, things, and events in general in terms of the planets.  If someone goes on vacation think “Moon”, as she journeys.  If someone is frequently commuting, think “Mercury”.  Seeing a major CEO, think “Sun”.  A homeless person should make you think “Saturn”, and a lottery winner should make you think “Jupiter”.  An attractive musician should have you thinking “Venus”, while muscles and tattoos should have you thinking “Mars”.  A computer database is “Mercury”, an explosion is “Mars”.  Practice thinking like this and in the next lesson I’ll address one way to find the general prominence or “volume” (as in loudness) of a planet’s significations in someone’s life.

Entering Ages of Air | Out of the Ground, Into the Sky

We are not in the Age of Aquarius

Are we really in the Age of Aquarius?  People in the new age community often say we are.  The particular system of ages behind these claims defines them according to either the zodiacal constellation or the sidereal zodiac sign through which the point of the vernal equinox passes (more on this below). In this sense the ages proceed backwards through the zodiac by way of precession,  at the approximate rate of a degree every 72 years, or a sign about every 2,160 years. However, by any calculation we’re only about 80-85% of the way through the Age of Pisces, with hundreds of years to go before we reach the Age of Aquarius. Still, there are many traditional astrological time lord techniques which show us moving into ages of air in other ways. These often overlooked methods of dividing time provide some fascinating insight into broad changes in society to the present day and beyond.

Zodiacs

To figure out if we are in the Age of Aquarius, we must understand that there are three different zodiacs.  First, there are the twelve zodiacal constellations of stars which lie on the ecliptic (apparent path of the Sun). These vary in size (and age of origin) and lack clearly demarcated boundaries.  Secondly, there is the sidereal zodiac, which is a division of the ecliptic (apparent path of the Sun) into twelve equal 30 degree segments, called signs.  Each sign in the sidereal zodiac roughly overlays its corresponding constellation, and the zodiac is fixed in position to some star (such as Spica marking the start of Libra; disagreement regarding which star is the best reference has led to a variety of minor variations in terms of where to start the sidereal zodiac).  Thirdly, there is the tropical zodiac, which is another regular division of the ecliptic into twelve equal 30 degree signs, but is fixed to the Sun-Earth cycle, rather than the stars.  The tropical zodiac  has its origins with the  sidereal zodiac, as the two were quite closely aligned two thousand years ago during the rise of horoscopic astrology, but the tropical zodiac is fixed to the Sun-Earth or “seasonal”/”light” relationship, such that 0 Aries (the beginning of the zodiac) is the Northern Hemisphere’s vernal equinox. The vernal equinox is the point where the Sun (from the perspective of the Earth) crosses the Earth’s horizon northward (i.e. the northern hemispher of the Earth starts to become tilted more toward the Sun than the Southern; transitioning the north into spring).  The “equi” in equinox stands for equal measures of daylight and darkness (day and night are the same length of time on these days). The spring equinox is the point at which the daylight will start to overtake the darkness.

Precession and Current Location of the Vernal Equinox

Due to the Earth’s “wobble”, a phenomena called precession of the equinoxes, the vernal equinox (and thus the tropical zodiac) slowly shifts backwards relative to the constellations (and thus backwards relative to the sidereal zodiac as well).

The measurement of how far the tropical zodiac has moved backwards relative to the sidereal zodiac is called ayanamsa. It is used in India to quickly calculate a start point for the sidereal zodiac in Indian astrological work. According to the wikipedia article on ayanamsa and current tables of ayanamsas, it is typically assumed to be close to 24 degrees (usually just under 24 degrees). This would mean we are almost 24 degrees through the 30 degree Age of Pisces, with 6 degrees more to go before the vernal equinox enters Aquarius. That implies we are only about 80% of the way there! Currently, the vernal equinox is at about 6 degrees Pisces of the sidereal zodiac, giving over 400 years before the start of the Aquarius period.

Similarly, there is at least a few hundred years before the vernal equinox could be said to be within a reasonable boundary of the actual constellation Aquarius.  This site (click link) provides more information on its current position relative to the constellations.

Still, some modern astrologers believe that we must be transitioning into a new age because of the vast changes brought about technology and globalization in the current era. To them, these changes reflect Aquarius as an air sign, as air signs are more associated with mental phenomena and information. Also, the modern astrological rulership assigned to Aquarius is that of Uranus, which is a planet modern astrologers associate with electricity, originality/invention, and perturbation.

However, it was not the customary ancient astrological practice to define the major eras by way of the sign in which the vernal equinox fell.  Additionally, it seems a little far-fetched to attribute dramatics shifts in global circumstance to precession into Aquarius when that precession is actually yet to occur for many hundred years.  Finally, Aquarius was not ruled by Uranus in ancient astrology, but by the dark and malefic planet Saturn.  The sign Aquarius, and that of Capricorn, are ruled by Saturn, planet of darkness, and are opposite the signs of the Lights (the Sun and Moon).  Each of the 5 classical planets aside from the Lights, including Saturn, rules two signs, one day home and one night home.  Therefore, the system lost its logic and symmetry with the introduction of new rulerships of the signs as new planets were discovered. Uranus is not one of the 7 wandering stars, defined as “planets” within astrological science, as it does not appear like a star in the sky (it’s not visible as such to the naked eye).  Uranus as the Greek god of the sky, also known as Father Sky, also seemed to have little to do with electricity, revolution, and some of the other associations given to it by modern astrologers. Father Sky, Uranus, should probably be associated instead with astronomy, astrology, the sky, and the like.

Some Thoughts on the Origins of the New Age

I believe the Age of Aquarius concept should be rejected in so far as being an astrological explanation of current societal changes.  The concern with the Age of Aquarius and a “New Age” in general (an influx of “2012” BS being the latest incarnation), has its roots in 19th century, industrial-age, spiritualist movements, like Theosophy.  As the world was being radically transformed by industrialism many believed that some similar type of radical transformation of the human spirit was at hand. This transformation was like a hokey non-“religious” counterpart to the rapture, where either everyone, or just a spiritually select few, would be swept up into a natural spiritual evolution.

The naivete of this spiritual triumphalism mirrored the similarly naive scientific and industrial triumphalism of that age.  An overly simplistic, misleading, whiggish history was expounded, in which the past was seen as a linear progressive evolution to the enlightened present/future (for more on whig history see this link). This general worldview hangs on in many spiritual, scientific, and technological circles to this day, but is, hopefully, losing credence.  Overcoming such distortions is something of a prerequisite to communion with one’s ancestors, as it establishes a respectful openness to the humanity, individuality, and intelligence of those who presided over prior times. History is not one linear progression to greater evolved states, but involves a great deal of forward and backward movement, not to mention give and take where certain forms of knowledge progress and others atrophy. For instance, the first analog computer, the antikythera mechanism, believed to serve astrological purposes, dates to the 2nd or 3rd centuries BCE, but mechanisms of equal complexity were previously unknown to exist in Europe prior to the 14th century. There is an opportunity cost to all broad societal movements toward some set of shared goals.

A Couple Techniques for the Ages

There are a couple ancient mundane astrological techniques, discussed by Persian astrologers like Abu Ma’shar, which I highly regard for major global cultural shifts. The first of these is the dawr, which changes every 360 years. The second is the shift in triplicity of the Great Conjunctions, which varies in length but is about every 240 years.

The Dawr

The dawr has both fixed and relative variants.  The dawr consists of 360 year periods ruled by a planet and a sign.  The planetary rulers proceed in the so-called Chaldean order (Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury, Moon, then Saturn again, Jupiter, etc.).  The sign rulers proceed in the zodiacal order (Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces, Aries, Taurus, etc.). The fixed dawr was believed to be rooted in the calculation of the date of a great flood, typically associated with the flood in the biblical Noah tale.

Here are some of the more contemporary periods of the fixed dawr:

  • Saturn-Aquarius: -860 to -500
  • Jupiter-Pisces: -500 to -140
  • Mars-Aries: -140 to 220
  • Sun-Taurus: 220 to 580
  • Venus-Gemini: 580 to 940
  • Mercury-Cancer: 940 to 1300
  • Moon-Leo: 1300 to 1660
  • Saturn-Virgo: 1660 to 2020
  • Jupiter-Libra: 2020 to 2380

Notice, for instance, that the period from 940 to 1300 coincided with the High Middle Ages in Europe.  The High Middle Ages were a period of particularly strong increase in trade, as well as important translation movements. These translation movements re-exposed Europe to Greek thought (and its Perso-Arabic developments), igniting immense scholarly and scientific activity.  This fits well with Mercury, lord of commerce, language, and analysis, as period ruler.  It was also a time of population booms and rising ethnocentric nationalism, which fit well with the fertile, familial, sign Cancer.

1300 to 1660 coincided with the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery/Exploration.   The Moon rules bodies of water and all voyages, making her a very appropriate ruler for this period of immense transfer of human culture by water.  There were also major humanist movements at this time, shifting focus somewhat away from the recovery and development of natural science, towards the  recovery and development of literature and the arts. This is consistent with the personal and subjective significations of the Moon. The renaissance was also marked by clarity, coupled with a haughty royalty, self-awareness, and self-importance, all consistent with the significations of Leo.

1660 to 2020, the age we are currently presiding in, saw the birth of industrialism. It has involved a literal ravishing and transforming of the natural world.  It has also involved limitation-based but very materially productive transformations of science and philosophy through the ascendancy of physicalism, materialism, and a more restrictive scientific method. This is the age of Saturn, planet of land, earthly resources, raw materials, tangibility, restriction/rejection, doubt, solitariness, and administration.  It is also the age of Virgo, Mercury’s earth-sign home, pertaining very strongly to material science and commerce.

Within the next decade we will begin a new 360 year age which will run from 2020 to 2380.  This age will be ruled over by Jupiter, a planet which signifies friendship, tolerance, fellowship, charity, generosity, openness, spiritual expansiveness, and opportunity.  The sign of the age is Libra, an air sign, pertaining to ideas, information, and culture.  Libra is ruled by Venus, planet of the arts/aesthetics, love, marriage,  and beauty.  Libra, the sign of the balance or scales, focuses on themes of social relationships, aesthetic science, and fairness/justice.  While Virgo is a mutable sign, signifying complexion and mixture, Libra is a cardinal sign, signifying a bolder and more direct change of direction. It will be interesting to see how this shift pans out, going from a physicalist bottom-line materialist intellect to a more information-based or mentalist view of the fundamental strata of reality coupled with a stress on generosity, spirituality, and expansion.

For more on the Dawr, see commentary regarding it in Burnett’s translation of Abu Ma’shar’s seminal text on mundane astrology.  It is rare and overpriced at the moment, but may be available at some college libraries in your area.

Triplicity of the Great Conjunctions

As mentioned in my post on Abu Ma’shar’s “Six Elements for Deducing Advanced Knowledge”, the Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, which occurs every 20 years was the cornerstone of predictive techniques in ancient Persian astrology.

This conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn occurs in the signs of the zodiac in a triangular pattern moving backwards.  For instance, a conjunction in Aquarius will normally be followed by a conjunction in Libra, and then a conjunction in Gemini, then one in Aquarius, etc.  However, the conjunctions are not spaced exactly 120 degrees apart, so they shift triplicity (element) over time.  This shift would occur every 240 years if regular, but varies in reality.  After the shift occurs there is often one or two conjunctions at the start of the series that revert back to the previous triplicity/element (see Richard Nolle’s 3000-year table of Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions).

Here are a few elemental periods from shifts of the triplicity:

  • 1603/04 to 1802: Fire
  • 1802 to 1980/81: Earth
  • 1980/81 to 2159: Air
  • 2159 to 2338: Water

The Fire period occurred during the Age of Enlightenment, a period of heated philosophical activity, elite socially-dominant intellectual circles, and of great political importance. This is consistent with the energetic, truth-seeking, and leading/elite qualities of fire.

The Earth period, which recently ended, provided strong reinforcement for the significations of the dawr of that time (Saturn and Virgo) concerning natural resources and skepticism (Saturn) as well as physicalism (Virgo being an Earth sign, physicalism being the belief that physicality is the most fundamental nature of reality, with everything that exists doing so by virtue of physicality).

Since 1981, and the start of the Air triplicity, we’ve seen quite a cultural shift, one with a strong emphasis on abstract information.  The personal computer came to ascendancy in the 1980’s, as well as new increasingly information-based (digital) rather than physical-based media.  Some of the most profound changes have occurred in terms of communications technology and the proliferation of information and social culture.  Pieces of technology continue to lose mass, go wireless, and depend upon transmission of waves through the air. All of these things are very consistent with a shift to Air, with its significations of abstraction, communication, and social relationships.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are definitely some broad global transitions taking place which are taking us out of the ground and into the sky.  The shift of the triplicity from Earth to Air in 1981 has already set off a number of cultural and philosophical changes away from a material standard and toward an information standard.  We are likely to see these changes intensify following the shift of the dawr in 2020 and possibly to see a focus on global welfare, as well as a shift in the meaning of “meaning”, toward societal goals of spiritual fulfillment and generosity, but somewhat away from societal goals of material acquisition and rational certainty.

Lots | A Lot for Evil: The Hellenistic Lot of Affliction, Injury, and Crisis

With this having been established, it is necessary to prove by experience <the effectiveness of> still another place which I will demonstrate most abundantly: this is the Crisis-Producing Place, the place causative of terrors, dangers, and chains. Consequently this place is strong; (Vettius Valens, Anthologies, Book V, Ch. 1, Riley trans., 2010, p. 95)

The Lot of Affliction

In my last post I provided a very thorough introduction to the lots, using the four principal lots to which Vettius Valens attributed particularly special importance.  I recommend reading, or at least skimming, that article before proceeding.

In that last article I focused on the most important four lots in the chart, which pertain to two polarities.  There is the more static polarity of physical (Fortune) condition vs. “spiritual”/abstract (Spirit) condition, and the more dynamic polarity of attractive interpersonal matters (Love) vs. adversarial interpersonal matters (Necessity). I also touched on the rationale of the lots, namely that there is a metaphorical sense of moving from the significations of the starting planet to those of the ending planet.

While those 4 lots are the most important, there is a fifth lot that I also consider to be exceptionally important.  Together with the four lots previously discussed, these five lots represent what I feel are the five most indispensable lots in ancient astrological literature.  In other words, if you use only 5 lots, use these!

The fifth lot is the most sinister lot you can construct out of two classical planets, and it is mentioned by many ancient sources and given various names.  It is referred to as the Lot of Injury or Chronic Illness by Dorotheus of the 1st century CE (Carmen Astrologicum, Book IV, Ch. 1, #75), the place producing crises and accusations by Valens of the 2nd century CE (Anthology, Book V, Ch. 1), and the house of affliction and illness by Maternus of the 4th century CE (Mathesis, Book VI, Ch. 32, #40).

Think back to the rationale discussed earlier for the lots.  When constructing this lot, we use the same rationale.  In this case we have a metaphor for things going from bad to worse, from the sect malefic to the out-of-sect malefic (projected from the Ascendant).  Therefore, for one born during the day the lot is the distance from Saturn (the more benign malefic by day as it is of the diurnal sect) to Mars  (the more aggravating malefic by day because it is nocturnal), then projected from the Ascendant. It is reversed for night charts (those with the Sun below the horizon), such that you take the distance from Saturn to Mars and then project that from the Ascendant.

Valens describes the interpretation of the lot at great length in the beginning of Book V of the Anthology.  He connects it chiefly with imprisonment and servitude, whether social, such as incarceration, or physical, such as a debilitating illness.  Even mental afflictions, such as anxieties and a bad conscience, and social afflictions, like betrayal, are possible under this lot.  When eased by the influence of benefics it may still show burdensome obligations, such as heavy debts, military service, required attendance with something one loathes (e.g. mandatory community service), and so forth.  In any sense this lot signifies the most undesirable states of affairs.  I will refer to this lot as the Lot of Affliction.

Usage in Predicting Crises

There is first a general natal analysis concerning this place of Affliction (these analytical guidelines are from Valens).  If it is ruled by, occupied by, or strongly aspected by a malefic, then that shows vulnerability to afflictions signified by the influential planet and/or sign, while benefic influences serve as alleviation or escape.

Additionally, Valens combines this with another type analysis that signals general vulnerability to crises.  When the Sun and/or Moon are in a whole sign sextile to Mars and/or Saturn it signifies vulnerability to crises in the life.  This is intensified if the sextile is within 70 degrees and/or between the hearing signs. Presumably a greater number of sextile configurations there are between the Lights and the malefics shows more potential for crises.

Prediction of when the crisis will occur is made by using various chronocrator techniques which are discussed in Book IV of Valens.  Danger is shown when a Light (i.e. the Sun or Moon) transmits to a malefic (i.e. Mars or Saturn) or a malefic to a Light.  When it comes to the yearly chronocratorship (i.e. Valens-style profections), then the way I understand Valens is that the period of crisis is indicated when a malefic transmits to a light or a light to a malefic.  For instance, in terms of annual profections this occurs when the Sign occupied by the Sun in the chart profects to a sign ruled by Mars or Saturn (transmission typically occurs either when one planet profects to the place occupied by the other planet, or when it profects to an empty place ruled by the other planet; but in this analysis Valens emphasizes the ruler).  Again, when doing these chronocratorships, the influence of the benefics in the place or in strong aspect provides alleviation or escape.  The worst, most full-blown crises occur when a greater chronocratorship and an annual one of this sort (i.e. Light-to-malefic or malefic-to-Light) occur at the same time.

While in profections the transmission is from the natal to the ruler of the profection destination, in chronocrator (time lord) techniques of Valens the transmitter is the time lord of the larger period and the transmission is to the time lord of the smaller period. For instance, if a planet ruling the year is the Sun, while the one ruling the month is Mars, then it is a transmission of the Sun to Mars.

Effect of Basis

Nativities with a very strong “basis” (great personal strength and leadership) and those sets of such difficult chronocratorships that have benefics influencing matters tend toward more social or figurative crises, or to tending to prisoners and so forth (in a similar vein I’ve noticed this type of thing when people have activations of benefics in bad places, where one deals with those who are afflicted and is not necessarily afflicted oneself).  If there is not significant basis signified, then the crisis is likely to be more difficult.

Natal Lot of Affliction Examples

Dahmer’s tight conjunction of the lots of Affliction and Love is interesting, particularly as it is ruled by Saturn, and with both Saturn and Jupiter, two planets which Dahmer identified with (both have dignity at the Ascendant).  Both lots are very closely square to Dahmer’s Mars also (especially the Lot of Affliction which Mars aspects within 2 degrees).  Dahmer started relationships with his victims before he would torture, kill, mutilate, and eat them.  His first killing was impulsive and due to a desire to sleep with a hitchhiker he had picked up.  That killing occurred during an annual profection of his Ascendant to his Moon-Mars conjunction in the 7th, ruled by Mars.  He did not kill again until 9 years later, at age 27, kicking off sporadic serial killings that year, with the annual profection of his Ascendant to the 4th, the place of Affliction (and the Lot of Love), ruled by (and occupied by) Saturn, and squared by Mars and the Moon. The fact that the serial killing started in the year of the annual profection to the place of both the lot of affliction, and the lot of love, with both lots strongly linked with each other, is very illustrative, as he has admitted in interviews that renewed intense desires that were awoken in him at this time inspired the killings.

Dahmer's Natal Chart with Lots
Dahmer’s Natal Chart with Lots

David Carradine’s Lot of Affliction was in the 8th house, in Libra, ruled by Venus, adhering to Carradine’s Mars and with his Moon also (Mars-Moon conjunctions can carry significance related to bodily harm).

Carradine's Natal Chart with Lots
Carradine’s Natal Chart with Lots

Prediction Example

In this prediction example I’m going employ a few predictive techniques discussed by Valens that I have not previously introduced on the blog.  Here I will keep my explanation of the techniques rather short so I can focus on the relevance of Affliction.  These techniques will be explained in some future posts.

General Vulnerability in the Natal Chart

The chart of an Anonymous friend is provided below for examination (CTRL+Click to enlarge in a new tab).

Anonymous

Notice that the chart has the Sun above the horizon, so Saturn is in sect and Mars is out of sect.  The distance from Saturn to Mars is about 91.5 degrees in the zodiacal order.  Adding that to the Ascendant of just under 4 degrees Aquarius brings us to 5 degrees Taurus.

Affliction is not in very bad condition in this natal chart.  It is ruled by Venus and in the bound of Venus.  There are no malefics located in the place, opposing it, or squaring it.  Saturn doesn’t even regard the place, and Mars does not scrutinize the lot, though Mars almost does, as Mars is in a superior trine to the lot which is just over 4 degrees from perfect (within 3 would be scrutinizing).  So for the most part we don’t read a major affliction into the lot, but if we were going to describe a particularly vulnerable area it would probably pertain to Taurus, Venus, and the 4th house, so we might expect that matters pertaining to the home, family, and particularly significant women could take on special significance.

However, the other sign of vulnerability is very apparent.  The Moon is in a scrutinizing sextile with Mars, while the Sun is also in a pretty close sextile to Saturn.  Hearing signs are not involved but these are pretty close sextiles and each Light is in such a configuration.  However, this situation is at least alleviated by the fact that the Moon is in close conjunction with the benefic Venus and Saturn is in close conjunction with the benefic Jupiter, therefore the benefics have a very strong alleviating impact on these promises of affliction.

At age 27, a string of unfortunate events happened to the native.  His spouse intentionally blew the family savings and maxed out the credit cards as a personal attack, he got divorced ending a 10 year relationship, he slowly went out of business due to lack of work caused by a major global financial crisis, he lost both a mortgaged home as well as a rental, and moved back to his parents home with his 2 children after having been independent for the prior 8 years.  You will notice that many of these themes (aggression from women, marital problems, family, real estate) relate very directly to the place of Affliction and its primary associations with Venus and the 4th place.

Timing: Major Period by the Quarters Technique

Now, let’s look at the predictive techniques. One predictive technique that Valens discussed right at the beginning of Book IV, and then returned to at the end of Book IV, utilizes the 1/4 values of the minor years of the planets, so I have personally called it Valens Quarters or just the Quarters.

There is a major and a minor period.  The major period begins with the first planet after (in zodiacal order) the point of the prenatal syzygy (New or Full Moon most nearly preceding the birth) in the chart in zodiacal order.  For instance, in our example chart the Moon is waning so it was a Full Moon that preceded the birth.  That Full Moon, or prenatal syzygy, was located at 0 Gemini.  The first planet that one encounters moving from 0 Gemini up through the zodiac in order is Jupiter at 6 Libra, and if we continue then it would be Saturn, and then the Moon, and so forth.  Therefore, Jupiter gets the first major period, ruling for a quarter of its minor years (12), which is 3 years, then Saturn for 7.5 years (i.e. until age 10.5), then the Moon for 6.25 years (i.e. until age 16.75), then Venus for 2 years (i.e. until age 18.75), then Mercury for 5 years (i.e. until age 23.75), then the Sun for 4.75 years (i.e. until age 28.5).

The events under consideration occurred while the native was 27 years old, in the middle of the native’s 28th year, so the Sun ruled the major period.

Timing: Minor Period by the Quarters Technique

To find the minor period in the Quarters technique we start with the ruler of the major period and we take the days of the planets (I’ve addressed them previously here), multiplying them by the length of the period in years to determine the number of days for each planet, with the rulership again passing in zodiacal order around the chart.  At the end of Book IV Valens provides convenient tables with the amount of days each planet gets under each period.  The Sun minor period started when the native was age 23.75 and ended when the native was 28.5, with the event occurring when the native was 27.5.  It will be easier to work backwards, one year from the end of the major period, knowing that Mercury would be the last planet in sequence by zodiacal order.  During a solar major period Mercury gets just over 269 days, this is less than a year and the major event took place over the last couple days in May thru June 1st, so we need to go a whole year back.  Prior to Mercury is Venus for almost 108 days.  That period will be inclusive of the days in question.  Therefore, the minor period at the time of the event was that of Venus.

In this case the period of crisis does not fall under a major time lord period in which the a Light transmitted to a malefic (nor vice-versa) as Valens instructed.  Here we have the Sun transmitting to Venus.

Zodiacal Releasing

Zodiacal Releasing also involves a transmitter and a receiver, the ruler of the sign of the Level 1 releasing transmits to the ruler of the sign of the Level 2 releasing (you can also do this for Level 2 lord transmitting to Level 3 lord, and Level 3 lord transmitting to Level 4 lord).  Interestingly, in his discussion of these transmissions Valens identifies those of Lights transmitting to malefics as particularly bad, but those of malefics transmitting to Lights as good (contradictory to some interpretive guidelines he provides in Book V).

Looking at releasing from Fortune, for Level 1 we start with Fortune’s natal sign, Capricorn, which gets 27 years (typically the minor years of the planetary ruler, but Capricorn is an exception at 27 – note: these are Egyptian 360 day years).  We would expect that Level 1 moved into Aquarius shortly before this happened, which is the case.  The first Level 2 period in Aquarius would last for 30 months (note: these are 1/12 the Egyptian 360 day year, so they are exactly 30 day months).  Therefore, both Level 1 and Level 2 were Aquarius for the releasing of Fortune, signifying a transmission from Saturn to Saturn. Taking things down to Level 3 and Level 4 for the actual set of a few days in which the financial attacks by the spouse were discovered, the spouse requested a divorce, and the native moved back with family, gives us Leo for L3 and Aquarius for L4.  Therefore, a more complete picture of those days is Saturn transmitting to Saturn (L1 to L2), which transmitted to the Sun (L3), which transmitted to Saturn (L4).

Looking at releasing from Spirit, for Level 1 we start with Spirit’s natal sign, Pisces, ruled by Jupiter which gets 12 years, then the next sign, Aries, and its ruler, Mars, which gets 15 years.  Therefore, at about age 27 Level 1 Spirit moves to Taurus, ruled by Venus, where it would be for the next 8 years.  This is interesting given that Taurus is the place of Affliction and Spirit refers to professional and social changes, which in this case were beset with crises.  Still, Level 1 is neither a Light nor a malefic.  Level 2 also changed to Gemini, ruled by Mercury, just before things went downhill fast.  Therefore the transmission is from Venus to Mercury. For the tumultuous days, L3 for Spirit was Cancer, ruled by the Moon, and L4 was Aquarius, ruled by Saturn.  So the transmission was Venus (L1) to Mercury (L2), to the Moon (L3), to Saturn (L4).  This intensifies the sense of a Light to a malefic, not for the greater periods but for that short set of about 3 days.

Profections

Finally, we want to examine the annual profections, paying special attention to those of the Lights and the malefics.  First, it is best to look at the profection of the Ascendant, which is typically used to establish the Lord of the Year and the activated sign.  At age 27 everything profects to the 4th house from itself, so the annual profection of the Ascendant was interestingly to Taurus, the 4th place, the place of Affliction, ruled by Venus.

As we noted earlier, when looking at profections of the Lights and malefics in this technique we are particularly interested in transmission by rulership.  The Sun profects to Pisces, so it transmits to Jupiter.  Mars profects to Aries, so it transmits to itself.  Saturn transmits to Capricorn, so it also transmits to itself.  The Moon, however, profects to Aquarius, so it transmits to Saturn.  Therefore, the crisis did occur during a time when a Light made an annual transmission to a malefic by rulership.

Predictive Summary

Let’s recap the predictive technique findings:

  1. Quarters: Sun transmits to Venus
  2. Annual profections: Ascendant transmits to Affliction (and Venus).
  3. Annual profections: Moon and Venus transmit to Saturn.
  4. Months Fortune releasing: Saturn transmits to the Sun.
  5. Days Fortune releasing: The Sun transmits to Saturn.
  6. Days Spirit releasing: The Moon transmits to Saturn.
  7. Additionally the Moon was transiting in Taurus, the place of Affliction, during the most pivotal two and a half days of the crisis period.

While this is just a single example, we can see that Affliction merits further exploration, as does the special technique which Valens provided for evaluating and timing periods of substantial crisis and hardship.

Conclusion

Affliction or Injury is an interesting lot because it brings the topic of misfortune to a place in the natal chart where you might not have expected it.  It’s a very important addition to an astrologer’s arsenal of lots which should not be overlooked.  Valens has provided interesting and unique insights into how one may use the lot of affliction with predictive factors to forecast periods of great hardship or general malevolence.  I hope you’ll take up the ongoing work of researching these lots and techniques by putting them on your charts.

 

References

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

Lots | Introducing the Four Principal Lots

The operative and effective signs are the Ascendant, MC, <the XI Place of the> Good Daimon, <the V Place of> Good Fortune, the Lot of Fortune, Daimon, Love, Necessity. Signs of moderate activity are <the IX Place of> the God, <the III Place of> the Goddess, and the other two angles. The rest of the signs are mediocre or bad. (Vettius Valens, Anthologies, Book IV, Ch. 11, Riley trans., 2010, p. 79)

It is also necessary to count from the Lot of Fortune, from Daimon, from Love, and from Necessity, for it is from these points that the critical illnesses, benefactions, and dangers are apprehended. (Vettius Valens, Anthologies, Book IV, Ch. 11, Riley trans., 2010, p. 78)

Topics from Lots

The Hellenistic Lots are, much like the houses, an ancient technique of attributing special topical significance to signs, places, of the astrological chart. Today they are often called Arabic Parts because there were misunderstandings in late traditional astrology in which it was assumed that all of the lots, aside from Fortune, did not exist in the Hellenistic period but were invented by the Arabs.

Houses are based upon the “accident” of the Ascendant, numbering the signs beginning with the Ascending sign and attributing special topics to each ordinal place.  The lots also tend to rely upon the Ascendant as an anchor (i.e. birth time is critical), with a locus of topical significance, called the “lot”, being the distance from one important planet or point to another as projected from the point of the Ascendant. The lots are not used instead of the houses but rather in addition to them, tying a place to additional topical significations.

To illustrate, the most famous lot, the Lot of the Moon, also called Fortune, has special significance for chance circumstances that relate to the body and things of a physical or substantial nature in general.  To find the place with this significance in someone’s chart you take the distance from the sect light to the non-sect light and project it from the Ascendant, noting the degree and place where it lands.

I show this below with Fortune in the 14th Dalai Lama’s chart.  Fortune is typically pictured as a circle with an X inside it, a treasure map reference, though Fortune’s connection with wealth is somewhat over-stated in astrology today, due to the central meaning evoked by its name (I’ll address Fortune’s meaning at more length below).  We find the distance from the sect light to the non-sect light, and then project the same distance, in the same direction, from the Ascendant, placing our marker of the lot at that point.  In this case, Fortune falls in Taurus, the 11th place, at 10 Taurus, ruled by Venus and in the bound of Mercury.

Dalai Lama's Lot of the Moon (CTRL+Click to Enlarge)
Dalai Lama’s Lot of the Moon (CTRL+Click to Enlarge)

Four Principal Lots?

There are four lots that are particularly important beyond all others for signifying general and very important topics in the life.  They mark out 4 places in the chart that Vettius Valens, a critically important prolific second century astrologer, considered “active” and important simply by virtue of having one of these lots in them.

In Chapter 16 of Book II of The Anthology, Valens gives 9 special topical names to certain places of the chart.  These places are largely identified by houses, but 4 lots are used as well, showing that Valens assigned a particularly special significance to these 4 lots in the chart.  Of many lots used by Valens, only these 4 lots seem to be used by Valens to identify places on a par with the primary 12 houses in terms of importance.

In Book IV of The Anthology, Valens discussed profections.  In that discussion there are only 4 lots which he profects around the chart (see introductory quote).  In fact, Valens sets aside an entire chapter of Book IV, Chapter 25, “The Distributions of the Four Lots”, to provide more details about the significance of the annual profections of these four lots.

These lots present the poles of two significant topical polarities in life.  First, there is a polarity between that which befalls us on a physical level, from body to accidents to children, and that which befalls us on a more abstract level, from mind to social relations to spirituality.  Secondly, there is that inimitable polarity so dear to Heraclitus, of Love and Strife; harmonious constructive alliance pushing things together versus dissonant destructive divisiveness pulling things apart.

These four lots are derived from the locations of the Lights, the most powerful planets (the Sun and Moon) of the chart.  The most important lots, Fortune and Spirit, are projections of the distance between the Lights, while the other two, Love and Necessity, are projections of the distance between Fortune and Spirit.  This is something of a testimony to the power and general importance attributed to the Lights in Hellenistic astrology.

Formulas and Rationale

Chris Brennan (2010), in his paper, “The Theoretical Rationale Underlying the Seven Hermetic Lots“, has, with great clarity, discussed the evidence of a rationale underlying the way the lots are constructed.  Fourth century astrologer Paulus Alexandrinus named seven lots which corresponded to planets, known as the “Seven Hermetic Lots of the Planets”, which included Fortune and Spirit for the Lights (Note: The Lot of Venus is called “Love” by Paulus and that of Mercury is called “Necessity” but Paulus refers to different lots with different formulae than the Lots of Love and Necessity discussed by Valens which are explored here.) Brennan (2010), focused on these planetary lots but the patterns he explored are relevant to understanding the rationale behind many lots used in Hellenistic astrology, not just the planetary lots.

Let’s briefly discuss the construction of the Seven Hermetic Lots, referencing Brennan’s paper (please take a look at that paper before proceeding).  All seven of the Lots of the Planets include the planet of the correspondence in the calculation.  However, the planet’s placement in the formula depends upon sect and benefic/malefic status.  For instance, the Lot of the Sun is the lot commonly called Spirit or Daimon.  It is calculated from the non-sect Light to the sect Light, i.e. from the less active and influential Light to the more active and influential Light (with this distance then projected from the Ascendant).  This is the opposite of the Lot of the Moon, commonly known as Fortune, which is calculated from the sect Light to the non-sect Light, i.e. from the more active to the less active Light.

The lots of the other 5 planets also display an interesting rationale.  Brennan (2010) explained that the lots of the benefic planets involve the distance between the corresponding planet and the Lot of the Sun, while those of the malefic planets (and Mercury) involve the distance between the corresponding planet and the Lot of the Moon.  If the birth sect is the same as that of the lot of the Light involved in the formula, then the formula goes from the lot to the planet, but if of the opposite sect then it is from the planet to the lot.  For instance, the Lot of Venus by day would be the distance from the Lot of the Sun (Spirit) to Venus, projected from the Ascendant, while the Lot of Saturn, which involves the nocturnal Lot of the Moon (Fortune) because Saturn is a malefic, would by day be the distance from Saturn to the Lot of the Moon (projected from the Ascendant), and by night be the distance from Fortune to Saturn (projected from the Ascendant).

If I am interpreting his conclusions rightly, Brennan (2010) came to think of this in terms of the “from” planet emitting that which the “to” planet receives, and thus for the sect of the chart to make the lot of the sect Light more active and that of the other Light more passive in interpretation, i.e. by night, Spirit might show more passive intellectual and social chance circumstances, but Fortune more active chance physical circumstances.  In contrast, by day, Spirit would show more active intellectual and social chance circumstances and Fortune more passive physical circumstances.

For me, there are three important takeaway lessons from Brennan’s paper and the lot formulae.  First, the Sun is more associated with the benefics and the ideal, or the “light of clarity”, while Moon is more associated with the malefics and passive circumstance.  This is shown by the Lot of the Sun being that which reaches toward the dominant Light (sect) while that of the Moon toward the more inactive Light (non-sect), and the use of the Lot of the Sun with benefic lot formulae and that of the Moon with malefic lot formulae.  Secondly, from the interpretations given for the lots, that of the Sun refers to more abstract mental and social phenomena while that of the Moon to more physical phenomena.  Thirdly, there is a sense in which the lots themselves are sort of like transmissions, from the significations of the starting point toward the significations of the ending point (prior to the projection from the Ascendant), such that the planet one moves toward has a greater sense of finality or importance.

Significance of Fortune and Spirit

This principle of abstraction vs. tangibility is reflected in the common names for the lots of the Lights, Fortune and Spirit.  The Ancient Greek term for Fortune, “tuche”, referred to more passive chance happenstance, while that for Spirit, “daemon”, referred to things brought about by spiritual machination.

These same terms pertain to the four houses of the natal chart which are the joys of the 2 benefic and 2 malefic planets.  The diurnal planets have their joys above the horizon, those of the nocturnal planets below the horizon (and Mercury at the horizon, i.e. the 1st house).  The Joy of the diurnal benefic, Jupiter, is the 11th House, also called “Good Spirit”, while the Joy of the diurnal malefic, Saturn, is the 12th House, also called “Bad Spirit”.  Good Spirit (the 11th or Joy of Jupiter), pertains to friendship and other generally beneficial social and mental phenomena.  Bad Spirit (the 12th or Joy of Saturn), pertains to betrayal, enmity, and other generally challenging social and mental phenomena.  Opposite those two houses are those of their nocturnal counterparts, the 5th which is the Joy of Venus, also called Good Fortune, and the 6th which is the Joy of Mars, also called Bad Fortune.  These “nocturnal” Joys are more associated with passive physical phenomena, pleasant and productive in the case of the 5th (Good Fortune) signifying children and pleasure, while challenging in the case of the 6th (Bad Fortune) signifying illness, accidents, and slavery.

Now let’s look at what Valens says about the significance of the Lots of Spirit and Fortune, considering how they compare with the Spirit and Fortune house meanings.

For the reason mentioned above, the Lot of Fortune and Daimon have great influence on undertakings and their outcomes. The former gives information about matters concerning the body and concerning the work of hands. Daimon and its ruler give information about spiritual and intellectual matters and about the activities of giving and receiving. It will be necessary to examine the places and the signs in which their houserulers are located and to correlate their natures, in order to learn the type of activity and fortune and the quality of activity <to be expected>.  (Valens, Anthologies, Book II, Ch. 20, Riley trans., 2010, p. 35)

Interestingly, the 11th from Fortune, being the Good Spirit relative to physical happenstance, is called by Valens, “… the Place of Accomplishment, the bestower of property and goods, especially if benefics are in this place or in aspect” (Valens, Anthologies, Book II, Ch. 21, Riley trans., 2010, p. 35).  Thus it becomes possible to derive an interpretation in which good social activity relative to physical happenstance means circumstances in life in which tangible gifts are conferred to the native, allowing us to analyze themes that may coincide with some prominent occasions of such circumstances in the life.

There is a specific predictive technique employed by Valens which today is commonly referred to as Zodiacal Releasing, in which the Lots of Spirit and Fortune are the primary points which are moved around the chart in what is called a circumambulation to establish time lords related specifically to physical circumstances or accomplishments (releasing from Fortune) and mental or social circumstances or accomplishments (releasing from Spirit).  Let’s look at what Valens had to say about the significance of releasing from Fortune versus that from Spirit.

So, if we are investigating the chronocratorships with respect to bodily existence, such as critical points of illnesses, hemorrhages, falls, injuries, diseases, and whatever effects the body with respect to strength, enjoyment, pleasure, beauty, or love affairs, then we must begin the vital sector with the Lot of Fortune. (Valens, Book IV, Ch. 4, Riley trans., 2010, p. 71-72)

If on the other hand we are investigating employment or rank, then we will begin the chronocratorships with Daimon as the apheta. (Valens, Book IV, Ch. 4, Riley trans., 2010, p. 72)

Similarly, Valens in his delineations of various Spirit configurations of Zodiacal Releasing associates the times when Spirit comes under malefic influence with mental instability and professional overturn, even identifying the significance of the element of the sign occupied by the released Spirit’s ruler in the natal chart; fire showing nervous breakdown and acting against one’s will, air showing distraction and worry, etc.

When looking at profections of Spirit and Fortune in Book IV, Valens considers that one’s work may become more physically involved if more planets become associated with Fortune than Spirit, while more mentally involved when more planets incline toward Spirit.

Thus we have grasped the key polarity of the first pair of principal lots, that of the active, ideal, social rank, and mind associated with Spirit, the Sun, the diurnal sect, and the houses above the horizon versus that of the passive, mundane, tangibility, and body associated with Fortune, the Moon, the nocturnal sect, and the houses below the horizon.

Let’s look at Spirit and Fortune in the chart of the current Dalai Lama to work with our understanding of their significations in delineation.  We want to pay particular attention to the ruler, planets in the place, and planets in the stakes of the place (the 10th, 7th, and 4th places from the place – those that oppose or square the place).

Dalai Lama's Lot of the Moon (CTRL+Click to Enlarge)
Dalai Lama’s Lot of the Moon (CTRL+Click to Enlarge)

For the Dalai Lama we find Fortune in the 11th, the place of the Good Spirit, in Taurus, ruled by the sect benefic Venus.  The place is empty though it has Jupiter and Venus in its stakes (Jupiter actually scrutinizing the lot), so there is overall indications of general good health and enjoyable physical circumstances.  Additionally, Fortune is closely aspected (i.e. within 3 degrees) by both Lights, Jupiter, and Saturn, connecting it particularly with loftiness, power, and administration. Where Fortune has difficult potential is in the close overcoming sextile from Saturn, the out of sect malefic, in the 9th of travel and religion.

Spirit is in the 3rd House, Goddess, the Joy of the Moon, in Virgo ruled by Mercury, and in the bound of Mercury, while with the Moon in the place and dominated by Mercury (Mercury is in the stake that is in a superior square) and opposed by Saturn.  The overall indications for intellectual, professional, and social circumstances are that there is a great deal of communication (Mercury, 3rd), analysis (Mercury), congregation (Moon), and frequent travel (Moon, Mercury, 3rd).  The fact that the sect Light is with Spirit and in its Joy suggests particular importance and power associated with the professional and intellectual affairs.  Saturn again showing a potential challenge in this area through its opposition.

Remember in the Valens quote above that in Zodiacal Releasing Fortune is used primarily for physical pleasures and ailments while Spirit is used primarily for social/professional peaks and valleys.  For the Dalai Lama we are particularly interested in profections to and from Spirit and releasing from Spirit, as we know less about health crises and pleasures in his life.  For instance, the Dalai Lama was recognized at Age 2, which is significant as the year in which the Ascendant (self) profected to the 3rd place, occupied by both Spirit and the sect light (the Moon), showing a very pivotal time for personal prominence.  Additionally, at that time, Spirit and the Moon (i.e. 3rd house) profected to Jupiter in the house of Good Fortune (the 5th), while Fortune profected to the Sun in the 1st House of the self and identity.  Therefore, many profections signalling prominence and loftiness of station occur at age 2 when the 14th Dalai Lama was recognized as the incarnation of the previous Dalai Lama.

Love and Necessity Formulae

Now let’s look at the other two principal lots, Love and Necessity.  There has actually been some confusion as to how to calculate these two lots.  Some translations of Valens leave out a marginal note in the original Greek in which Valens (2nd century CE) provided instruction in calculating the lots.  Furthermore, the 4th century Roman astrologer Julius Firmicus Maternus gave the opposite formulae for the lots as Valens.  However, I have been assured by Chris Brennan that the Valens calculations are in the original Greek, and thus are the older source.  Additionally, the Valens calculations are consistent with the rationale discussed above, while the Maternus ones are not.

Valens gave the formula for Love as from Fortune to Spirit by day (reversed by night), projected from the Ascendant, while Necessity was from Spirit to Fortune by day (reversed by night), projected from the Ascendant (one can find the Valens instructions at the bottom of p. 90 of the 2010 Riley translation which was made available for free on Mark Riley’s faculty web site).  Movement from the non-sect lot to the sect lot is found in the Valens formula just given for Love, and is consistent with the rationale discussed above for a lot which shows more ideal circumstances to involve movement from passive to active, from dark to light.  Maternus gives the opposite formula (see Mathesis, Book VI, Ch. 45, “House of Desires”), that from the Spirit to Fortune by day for Love, which is inconsistent with the rationale discussed above.  It is similar with Necessity, where in Valens (the earlier source) a rationale is evident, as we move from the sect lot to the non-sect lot, from the more active to the less active, from the light to the dark. Again, Maternus gives the opposite formula and one without sound rationale (see Mathesis, Book VI, Ch. 46, “House of Necessity”).

Therefore, to find the Lot of Love in a chart it helps to think of Spirit as the Lot of the Sun and Fortune as the Lot of the Moon.  Find the distance from the non-sect lot (Fortune by day, Spirit by night) to the sect lot (Spirit by day, Fortune by night), and project this from the Ascendant in the same direction you measured the distance.  To find the Lot of Necessity in the chart, merely take the same distance and project it in the opposite direction from the Ascendant, which is the same as taking the distance from the sect lot to the non-sect lot and projecting it from the Ascendant.

Love = from non-sect lot to sect lot (projected from Asc)

Necessity = from sect lot to non-sect lot (projected from Asc)

What did Valens say about the meaning of these lots?

Most succinctly Valens, in Book II, Ch. 16, attributed “desire” to the place of Love, and “enemies” to the place of Necessity.  Looking at his delineations of their use in time lord techniques we can expand upon these central notions a bit.

Love describes the nature and circumstances which accompany desire and getting together, such that malefics will connect it with scandal or unsavory things and benefics with powerful alliances.

Necessity describes the nature and circumstances which accompany dispute and competition, such that malefics will bring failures and attacks while benefics will bring victory and put power on one’s side.

There is such a nice symmetry or polarity to these concepts, in which one pertains to the attempt to conjoin and the other to the attempt to oppose.

Lots in Morinus Software

Software programs tend to use algebraic formulae for lots, which can be a bit confusing.  The key to reading such formulae is to work backwards.  For instance the formula “Asc + Sun – Moon” means take the distance from the Moon to the Sun and project it from the Ascendant (i.e. the day formula for Spirit).

Below is a cheat sheet for entering the formula of the principal lots into the free open-source program, Morinus.  As long as you put Fortune as Lot 1 and Spirit as Lot 2, the formulae for Love and Necessity (shown as 16 and 17 in the screenshot) should work no matter where they fall on the list.

Lots

Four Principal Lots in Action

We briefly looked at Fortune and Spirit in the Dalai Lama’s chart.  One thing that is interesting is that the 9th House of God (religion, spirituality, wisdom, higher education) is the place of Love in the Dalai Lama’s chart, and is ruled by Jupiter.

While some information can be gleaned about general baseline trends and themes from delineation of the lots in the natal chart, their true strength is in predictive work, such as profections, releasing, and even transits to the places of the lots.

One particularly striking example came to me from a friend of mine who had a very eventful day in which he both started a relationship and was arrested at a protest, on the day of the last solar eclipse this year!  Born in December 1984, he was 27 when the events transpired, so the annual profection of the Ascendant was to his 4th place, Gemini, making Mercury the Lord of the Year, and Gemini the activated sign.  Gemini happens to be the location of both the twelfth-part of his Venus (at about 14GEM) and his Lot of Love (at 25GEM).  The Lot of Love itself had profected to the 7th of partnership, Virgo, also ruled by Mercury.

Anon A

On the afternoon of May 20th, 2012, there was a solar eclipse at 0 Gemini, the sign of the annual profection, Love, and the twelfth-part of Venus.  Our friend started a relationship with someone at one point in the day, and later in the day was arrested at a protest.  Besides the solar eclipse itself bringing forth the significations of Gemini in his chart, there were also some interesting transits.  For instance, transiting Venus was in Gemini at the time and conjunct, within 3 degrees, his Lot of Love, right on his IC.  Additionally, Mercury the Lord of the Year, while adhering to transiting Jupiter was also opposing the native’s 9th house Saturn and squaring the native’s 12th house out-of-sect Mars, all within 3 degrees, significant for the arrest.

May Transits to Anonymous Chart
May Transits to Anonymous Chart

Clinton

When trying to think of a life in which there were both major noteworthy events of a relationship and an ensuing noteworthy battle with enemies, the Clinton-Lewinsky scandals came to my mind.  Let’s see if Love and Necessity in the natal chart and in predictive techniques reflect those events.

Bill Clinton was born with the Lot of Love in the 7th of partnership, which we might say could intensify the themes.  Unfortunately, Love is ruled by the out-of-sect malefic, Mars, and is opposed by the amorous Mars-Venus conjunction in Clinton’s 1st house.  Necessity is in Clinton’s 6th house, Pisces, and is ruled by the sect benefic, Jupiter, which is prominent in Clinton’s first house, signifying generally fortunate outcomes and assistance in competitions or disputes.

Clinton - 4 principal lots

In late 1995, when Clinton was 49 years old, he started having sexual relations with an intern, Monica Lewinsky.  The Lot of Love had profected into the 8th house, Taurus, ruled by Venus and occupied by the Moon, both out of sect – Venus showing the sexuality, and the Moon and the 8th showing the personal and private nature of the activity.

The relationship continued into early 1997.  After Clinton’s birthday in 1997, things started taking a turn for the worse as Linda Tripp began secretly recording phone calls and then the whole thing broke to the media in January of 1998, when Clinton was 52 years old.  The profection of the Ascendant was to the 5th House, Aquarius, ruled by Saturn.  The profection of Love was to the 11th House, Leo, ruled by and occupied by the Sun, as well as occupied by Saturn and Mercury.  Therefore, there was a particular emphasis on Saturn, which as a baseline is not a bad indications in Clinton’s chart because it is in sect and in the place of Good Spirit, but it does indicate that Saturn is the focal planet for the year (i.e. lord of the year).  At the solar return we find Saturn, Lord of the Year, in the place of Love and closely conjunct the Lot of Love, while opposing Clinton’s 1st house Jupiter. In January 1998 when the story broke and Clinton made his infamous public denial of sexual relations, transiting Saturn was in adherence (applying conjunction within 3 degrees) to Clinton’s natal Lot of Love.

Clinton - non-precessed solar return at age 52
Clinton – non-precessed solar return at age 52

It was in Winter of 1998, when Clinton was 53, that a major battle began, as the House voted to issue articles of impeachment over his perjury and obstruction of justice.  At Age 53 the Ascendant profected to the 6th house, Pisces, with Jupiter as Lord of the Year.  The 6th place is also the place of Necessity in Clinton’s chart, so the Ascendant had profected to Necessity, signifying some prominent engagement with enemies/adversaries.  Necessity profected to the 11th, Leo, ruled by and occupied by the Sun, but also occupied by Saturn and Mercury.  The solar return was rather promising as far as vying with enemies would go, because Jupiter in the return was in the place of Necessity, Pisces, its domicile, and, at 26 Pisces moving retrograde, actually adhering to the Lot of Necessity at 24 Pisces.  Additionally, Necessity’s profection to the 11th was bolstered by the benefic Venus transiting through the place.  So while the profection of the Ascendant to Necessity brought a divisive struggle to the forefront, the indications were of victory over enemies.  That is exactly what happened when the Senate voted to acquit Clinton of of the impeachment charges issued by the House.

Clinton Age 53 Non-Precessed Solar Return
Clinton Age 53 Non-Precessed Solar Return

In this example we see how the lots of Love and Necessity can provide deeper indications of how matters particular to the two most important types of human relationships, attractive and adversarial, develop and gain prominence over time.  Much further work is needed to explore the usage of these very important lots in things like evaluating political contests, and in other areas of astrology like mundane, electional, and especially horary, as a great deal of horary questions concern attractive or adversarial human relationships.

Lot of Basis

There is one final matter concerning the lots of Love and Necessity which it is appropriate to address here.  The Lot of Basis is discussed by Valens in connection with personal power and leadership skills, generally referred to as the “basis” of the nativity.   Basis is examined with Fortune and Spirit, and another lot, the Lot of Exaltation, such that these lots and their rulers occupying each other’s places would be particularly beneficial indications for personal effectiveness, social mobility, and leadership.

The Lot of Basis is always either the Lot of Love or the Lot of Necessity.  Whichever one of these is under the horizon is Basis.  Strong relationships between Basis, Spirit, Fortune, the Lot of Exaltation (which I won’t explore here), the Place of Accomplishment (11th from Fortune as mentioned above), the rulers of these lots/places, the Lights (especially the sect light), and/or the angles (especially the 1st and its ruler) of the chart provide positive indications for “basis”.  It is similar when the ruler(s) of these are benefic and well-placed.  Fewer relationships between these and more involvement of malefics supposedly indicates a self with an unsteady “basis” for asserting its identity and influence in the world. These are a lot of place and points to work with at once, but it does seem possible to pick apart the particular influence provided by each, while Basis supports in a general fashion.  Given that Love and Necessity pertain to human relationships and the houses under the horizon pertain more to physical substance, it may be that the one of these lots under the horizon is showing the relationship activity, whether attractive or adversarial, which has the greater impact on personal substance and soundness, such as laying down firm roots.

Conclusion

If the lots are brand new to you or you had only previously heard of Fortune and had not explored it very deeply, I hope you’ve become inspired to start using at least the four principal lots in your astrological explorations and prognostications with a utility for establishing topics that is comparable to the use of houses.  Many readers who are already familiar with Fortune and Spirit may not be familiar with Love and Necessity or the great importance placed on these lots by Valens.

 

References

Brennan, C. (2010, June 29). The Theoretical Rationale Underlying the Seven Hermetic Lots. Chris Brennan Astrologer. Retrieved July 14, 2012, from http://www.chrisbrennanastrologer.com/Brennan-Theoretical-Rationale.pdf
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