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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.

Twelfth-Parts | 1. Introducing the Dodecatemory of the Signs

Pray examine now a matter trivial in appearance, yet one of great moment, which does not permit description of itself save by a Greek word.  I speak of the dodecatemories, of which the name proclaims the principle.  The signs each consist of thirty degrees, and every total is further divided by twice six; the calculation therefore shows that in each division there are two and a half degrees.    (Manilius, Book 2, 693-700, Goold trans., 1977, p. 137)

What are the Twelfth-Parts?

The twelfth-parts, also known as dodecatemory/dodekatemoria or duodena/duodecimae (or dwad, short for dwadashama, in Indian astrology), appear in the earliest strains of Hellenistic astrology.  As the 1st Century CE astrologer, Manilius, explained in the quote above, the twelfth-parts are divisions of each astrological sign into 12 equal parts, each one assigned a zodiacal sign beginning with the greater sign itself.  Some authors, including Manilius, give two ways to calculate these (both leading to the same result).  One way is to think of the first 2.5° as belonging to the sign itself, the second to the next sign, and so on until you get to the last 2.5° which belongs to the sign that precedes the sign it’s in.  For instance, if Mercury were found at 28° Scorpio, then it would be in the last 2.5° of the sign, and thus its twelfth-part would be Libra.  For greater accuracy, the second method is used, in which we take the degrees and minutes of the position within the sign and multiply by 12, then add that many degrees to the beginning of the sign the planet is in.  For instance, with Mercury at exactly 28°00′ Scorpio, we would take 28 and multiply it by 12, yielding 336, then we would add this to the beginning of the sign Scorpio, so 30 would bring us to Sagittarius, 60 to Capricorn, 90 to Aquarius, and so on until we get to Libra with 6 degrees left over; the twelfth-part of Mercury would therefore be 6°00′ Libra in this case.

The FREE, open-source, traditional astrology program, Morinus, is soon to have twelfth-part calculation built-in.  Some of the developers of the program have been very kind to me and have given me the chance to check out this functionality.  It is great to have a program that can lay out the twelfth-part positions quickly and visually, because as we’ll see, these positions are informative and early astrologers placed importance on them.

There are two other quick notes about calculation.  First, Manilius asserted that the twelfth-parts are further divided into 5 segments of half a degree each, assigned to the five non-luminary planets, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, and Mercury (see Manilius, Astronomica, Book 2, 738-748).  However, Manilius didn’t specify the order that the planets are assigned to these subdivisions.  Typically, the Chaldean order, either from slowest to swiftest (Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, Mercury) or the reverse (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn) is suggested.  While the first one of these orders is certainly the most logical, supported by the use of such order in many other types of zodiacal division from decan to monomoiria, we can’t be sure, and I don’t use these subdivisions myself in practice.

Secondly, Paulus Alexandrinus (4th Century CE) gives an idiosyncratic variety of twelfth-parts, which seems most likely to be in error, as he multiplies the position by 13, rather than by 12.  He gives a paragraph explaining his justification for multiplying by 13 rather than 12, but there isn’t much logical sense in the explanation, in my opinion, and it seems to suggest that he feels a need to justify why he is doing things against the norm in his work, giving recognition to the fact that multiplication by 12 is the typical (and logical) approach to the twelfth-parts.  Paulus seemed to imply that multiplication by 13 was necessary to allow the 12th parts to come back to the sign that the planet is in, but this is hardly a noteworthy argument, as the first 2.5° of the sign already fall to that same sign in the standard system. In the commentary on Paulus by Olympiodorus the Younger (6th Century CE), he found it necessary to explain the more typical form of twelfth-part first to preface the discussion, then explain the idiosyncratic Paulean form. As far as I know, this idiosyncratic form of twelfth-part is both an innovation of Paulus (which he appeared rather proud of) and used by Paulus only, so I will not pursue it further here.

And we say: the ancient Egyptians used to call it the 12th part, since the number is found in the position of each star multiplied by 12.  However Paulus, having come later and examined the matter closely, [said] that the multiplication by 12 is never returned to the same zoidion where the star is, where we seek the dodekatemorion — but often the dodekatemorion of the star happens to fall in the same zoidion where the star is.   (Olympiodorus, Commentary on Paulus Alexandrinus, Ch. 21, Greenbaum trans., 2001, p. 102)

Who Used the Twelfth-Parts?

In addition to Manilius, the twelfth-parts discussed (i.e. the one in the method of Manilius, not of Paulus) were also used by almost every Hellenistic astrologer, including Dorotheus of Sidon (1st Century CE) in Book I, Ch. 8 and other sections of Carmen, Ptolemy (2nd Century CE) in Book I, Ch. 22 of the Tetrabiblos, Vettius Valens (2nd Century CE) in multiple sections of his Anthology, Julius Firmicus Maternus (4th Century CE) in Book II, Ch. 17, and many other sections of his Mathesis, Porphyry of Tyre (3rd Century CE) in Ch. 39 of his Introduction to the Tetrabiblos, Hephaistio of Thebes (5th Century CE) in Book I, Ch. 18 (definitely not explained like the method of Paulus but erroneously identified as such by Rob Hand in the footnotes of the Project Hindsight edition) and in Book III of his Apotelesmatics,  and Rhetorius in Ch. 18 of his Compendium.  The twelfth-parts were also a basic component of astrological technique as practiced by later Persian-Arabic astrologers of the early medieval period (and beyond), including Sahl, Masha’allah, Abu Ma’shar, al-Qabisi, and Abraham Ibn Ezra.

However, the use of the twelfth-parts predates Hellenistic astrology.  The twelfth-parts. like the twelve-sign zodiac itself, have their origins with the Babylonians, who used them in omen lore at least as far back as the 5th century BCE.

How were Twelfth-Parts Used?

The twelfth-parts produce a secondary zodiacal position for each planet and point in the chart, as if each point is projected into an additional hidden zodiacal position.  There are four main senses in which the twelfth-parts are used: 1. Twelfth-part of the Moon gives indications regarding the physical sex of the person, 2. Twelfth-part of the Sun gives indications about Ascendant when it is unknown, 3. Twelfth-part of the Ascendant reveals thoughts/intentions, and 3. Twelfth-part positions give additional information about planetary significations that are on par with the natal positions of the planet. I will briefly explore three of these four uses; for sex, finding the Ascendant, and interpretation of cognition.  However, I want to make it clear to the reader, that I find the last use to be the most fruitful.

Sex of a Person from the Natal Chart

Both Dorotheus (Book I, Ch. 8 of Carmen) and Valens (Book IX, Ch. 8 of Anthology) use the sex of the sign of the twelfth-part of the Moon as having bearing on the sex of the native.  For Dorotheus, the basic idea is that if the Moon’s twelfth-part is in a male sign (i.e. a Fire or Air sign) then the native is male, but if in a female sign (i.e. an Earth or Water sign) then the native is female.  However, there are some exceptions that can override this indication of the sex of the sign of the twelfth-part of the Moon, including: 1. Sun, Moon, and Ascendant are in signs of the opposite sex, 2. the Light of the opposite sex (i.e. Sun is masculine and Moon is feminine) is in the Ascendant in a sign of its same sex, 3. planets of the opposite sex occupy the 1st and the 7th, 4. both Lights are in signs of the opposite sex and a planet of the opposite sex rules the Ascendant (example given is of both Lights in masculine signs and Jupiter ruling the Ascendant, this overriding a feminine twelfth-part of the Moon to indicate a male child).  For Valens, the sex of the sign of the twelfth-part of the Moon and the sex of the sign occupied by that sign’s ruler give strong indications for sex of the child.

Putting this method to the test we find that it works poorly for predicting sex.  For instance, Kurt Cobain has Sun, Moon, and Ascendant all in feminine signs, which would override the fact that the twelfth-part of the Moon in his chart is in Sagittarius, a masculine sign.  Additionally, the ruler of the twelfth-part of the Moon is Jupiter, which is also in a feminine sign.

Cobain's Natal Chart
Cobain’s Natal Chart

However, one might argue that perhaps Dorotheus was wrong, and the twelfth-part of the Moon should be given the primary consideration in this endeavor, without it being easily over-ridden by other factors.  So, let’s turn to the chart of Traci Lords.  Her Ascendant is in a masculine sign but Sun and Moon in feminine signs, while the twelfth-part of the Moon is in a masculine sign, and its ruler, Saturn, is also in a masculine sign.

Traci Lords' Natal Chart
Traci Lords’ Natal Chart

In conclusion, we cannot rely upon the twelfth-part of the Moon methods as set forth by Dorotheus or Valens to guess the sex of a person by the birth chart.  Perhaps Dorotheus and Valens have given us leads for the eventual development of a technique for guessing the sex of an individual from the chart that involves use of twelfth-parts (particularly those of body relevant points such as the Moon, Fortune, and the Ascendant), but so far we don’t have such a technique.

Twelfth-Parts for Finding the Ascendant

Another one of the more spurious uses of the twelfth-parts is to rectify the sign of an individual’s Ascendant when it is unknown.  It is Valens that discussed this use of twelfth-part of the Sun in Book I, Ch. 4 and Book IX, Ch. 7 of his Anthology.  It is but one method of rectification among many explored and elucidated by Valens.  The method, and I may be getting parts of it wrong, appears to involve first knowing if the person was born by day or night and knowing the Sun’s position accurately enough to be able to find the sign of its twelfth-part. After finding the twelfth-part of the Sun’s position, the Ascendant for a day birth will either be the sign opposite that sign, or one trine to that sign, with preference given to the “left” trine (i.e. the one that is 120° after the sign of the twelfth-part of the Sun) – but if it is a night birth, then it will be one of the signs opposite to these, again with the same preference.  For example, if someone was born with the twelfth-part of the Sun in Taurus, then for a day birth the most likely Ascendant would be Virgo, but could also be Scorpio or Capricorn, but if a night birth then the most likely Ascendant would be Pisces, but could also be Taurus or Cancer.  I’m a day birth with the twelfth-part of the Sun in Taurus, and my Ascendant is none of the three relevant signs, nor any of the three signs for night births.  A technique that narrows the Ascending sign to one-fourth of the signs of the chart, and still doesn’t give you an accurate indication is not a very valuable technique, so I won’t explore it further.

Interpretation of Cognition

One of the more fascinating niche uses of twelfth-parts is in the interpretation of cognition, particularly in consultation and horary charts.  This use appears to originate with unknown Indian astrologers and Hephastio of Thebes, and really starts to take off with Masha’allah.  The basic idea is that the twelfth-part of the Ascendant gives indications about the thoughts and intentions of a native or a querent, pertaining to the house of the chart, and the qualities and conditions of that place such as the quality of the sign, its domicile lord, and occupants of the sign.

Dr. Benjamin Dykes explored this use of twelfth-parts in considerable depth in his translation of, and commentary on, Hermann of Carinthia’s “The Search of the Heart“.  I highly recommend this work of Dr. Dykes for those interested in delving into this use of twelfth-parts in greater depth, as he not only explores it in his introduction, translates a work which uses the technique, and provides commentary, but he also includes appendices with further discussion and translations, including the entire 144 significations of each twelfth-part of the Ascendant given by Hephastio in tabular form.

The primary use of this technique in Persian astrology was in anticipating a client’s area of concern from the consultation chart, as well as in horary charts.  This usage appears to have started in Indian and/or Hellenistic use of consultation charts, which preceded, and likely lead to, the development of horary astrology.

Masha’allah in On Hidden Things (see Works of Sahl and Masha’allah translated by Dykes in 2008) suggested that among a number of methods he names, the best method for finding the significator of a querent’s intention in an horary reading is to look at the twelfth-part of the Ascendant.  If a planet is in that place then you look to that place as signifying the person’s intention, whereas if the place is empty then you look to the place of its ruler.  In an example that Masha’allah gave (the exact same example was also given by Hermann of Carinthia centuries later but attributed to the Indians), the Ascendant was the 12th degree of Aries, which has its twelfth-part in Leo, the 5th place from the Ascendant.  Leo was empty in the horary chart and the Sun was in Libra, the 7th, so Masha’allah surmised that the question involved the 5th in the condition of or seeking the 7th, i.e. a child seeking a woman (or seeking the querent’s wife).  Masha’allah said that if the Sun had been in the 6th then it would’ve suggested a question about a sick child, and so forth.  As you can see the stress in this technique is primarily on the significations of the place/house, and that one can combine the significations of the place with its ruler, in the sense of the place being fulfilled by or meeting the condition of the ruler’s place. This is one of a few different techniques given by Masha’allah and later authors for interpreting the intentions of a querent.

Use in Natal Charts

Used with natal charts the technique puts an interesting twist on the idea of personal focus and fulfillment, or even “primary motivation”.  The ruler of the Ascendant shows a particular pull towards a certain place in the natal chart and its accompanying themes and significations.  Similarly, the twelfth-part of the Ascendant and its ruler may reveal a personal emphasis for the individual.

In the next post on twelfth-parts, I’ll explore their use in natal delineation in more depth, drawing heavily on Maternus, who found in twelfth-parts the secret to more accurate delineation.  However, even just looking at the twelfth-part of the Ascendant in natal astrology, we can find some interesting things.

Hitler had the twelfth-part of the Ascendant with the greater malefic Saturn, in the bound of Mercury, in the networking and popularity-oriented 11th House (house of friends), in the sign of leadership, Leo, while its ruler, the Sun, was in the 8th, pertaining to death and harm.  The twelfth-part of Hitler’s Sun is also in the 8th, and its ruler too is in the 8th.  This gives interesting additional valuable information that we can add to our knowledge that his Ascendant lord (Venus) and the sect light of his chart (the Sun) are in the 8th of his natal chart. Using the Masha’allah-style of place combination, we might suggest that he has some intention to achieve a Saturnine standing in groups through death, fear, and destruction, though I think that Leo and the solar element both contribute meaning here, as does the bound of Mercury.

Hitler's Natal Chart
Hitler’s Natal Chart

Looking at Jeffrey Dahmer’s chart we find the twelfth-part of the Ascendant in the 8th of death in the bound of Saturn, conjunct the lord of the Ascendant, which is also the ruler of the twelfth-part, in the exact same bound of Saturn in the 8th.  Therefore, the personal intentions and focus on Saturnine-Venusian, death, fear, and destruction themes are very pronounced.

Dahmer's Natal Chart
Dahmer’s Natal Chart

Start playing around with twelfth-parts in natal, horary, and electional charts (putting the twelfth-part of the Moon in strong and good places is best for elections and recommended by Sahl and others).  Experiment, and if you have any revelations, feel free to share them in the comments.

 

References

Dorotheus of Sidon. (2005). Carmen Astrologicum. (D. Pingree, Trans.). Abingdon, MD: Astrology Center of America.
Manilius, M. (1977). Astronomica. (G. P. Goold, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: Loeb Classical Library.
Paulus Alexandrinus & Olympiodorus. (2001). Late Classical Astrology: Paulus Alexandrinus and Olypiodorus. (D. G. Greenbaum, Trans.). Reston, VA: Arhat.

Astrological Predictive Techniques | Planetary Years | 1. Minor Years and the Division of Days

Many modern astrologers may not realize that each of the planets has certain numbers of years assigned to it.  Even in today’s traditional astrological circles the years of the planets are underutilized in predictive techniques, as most of the ways of using them disappeared in the middle ages.  However, in Hellenistic astrology, especially in the techniques of Vettius Valens (2nd Century CE) and Julius Firmicus Maternus (4th Century CE), planetary years are the basis of a large number of predictive techniques.  In this post I introduce the most commonly used figures for the planetary years, which are also known as the Minor Years of the planets.  I discuss how they can be used as indicators of when a certain configurations in the chart will “ripen”, and I also discuss their mathematical relationship to the length of the year and how they can be used to divide the year into rulership by different planets in the natal chart.

The Minor Years of the Planets

Let’s start by simply noting what the minor years of the planets are.  They are given in many different texts, with consistent values, and one such source is at the end of Book III of Valens’ Anthology.  Here I give the planet, the number of years.  The rationale for these numbers concerns times when the planets return to the same positions in the sky with the Sun, based on synodic cycles, except that the Sun’s number, 19, is based on the metonic cycle which is when the Sun and Moon meet at the same position every 19 years, and the Moon’s number, 25, is based on a relationship between the lunation cycle and the Egyptian calendar that repeats every 25 years.

  • Saturn – 30
  • Jupiter – 12
  • Mars – 15
  • Sun – 19
  • Venus – 8
  • Mercury – 20
  • Moon – 25

Minor Years as Ripening Planets

In various areas of The Anthology by Valens, especially in Book VII, Valens uses the years of the planets as signalling ripe times for their effects to manifest.  He actually combines minor years of planets in configurations with each other, combines minor years of planets with the minor years of their sign ruler, combines rising times of signs with planetary years, he mixes and sums planetary years, planetary months (i.e. 1/12 of the planetary years), and rising times of signs for various configurations, and gives instructions relating to using fractions of planetary years and rising times.

For our purposes let’s focus first on just using planetary years and their combinations.  The basic idea is that a planet’s effects are likely to manifest or ripen near to the number of years of the planet, as well as multiples of that, and combinations of the planet and its ruler.  Additionally, to time out the ripening of configurations we combine the years of the planets involved.

Example number 1 is the death of Whitney Houston.  In a prior post on the death of Whitney Houston, I noted that she died in her 49th year, and discussed how Sun-Saturn configurations ripen near age 49.   Whitney had a Sun-Saturn opposition across the 6th and 12th houses of her natal chart, which are considered the most difficult houses of the chart, and have relevance for health crises and other difficult events.  Given Saturn as natural signficator of death and the Sun as natural significator of life, the activation of this configuration at approximately 49 years, the sum of the years of the Sun (19) and Saturn (30) is very significant.

Example number 2 is Hitler’s rise to power.  In summer of 1934, Hitler became leader of Germany after the passing of President von Hindenburg.  This saw the realization of his scrutinizing (i.e. within 3 degrees) Mars-Saturn square from Taurus to Leo, from the 8th pertaining to death to the 11th pertaining to organizations, where Saturn in Leo advancing toward the MC promised leadership and Mars in the 8th pertained to death.  Hitler was 45 years old, the sum of the years of Saturn (30) and Mars (15).  Hitler was able to eliminate all that stood in his way and seize supreme unimpeded power over Germany’s direction by early 1938.  At the time, Hitler was in his 49th year, nearing his 49th birthday.  This is the realization of his role as a culminating Saturn in Leo, at the combination of the years of Saturn (30) and its ruler the Sun (19) the Sun also dominates Saturn from the 8th, so it also is the activation of the Sun-Saturn square.

Hitler's Natal Chart
Hitler’s Natal Chart

Example Three is the 1st edition of Alfred Witte’s Rules of Planetary-Pictures, the definitive pronouncement of the basic planetary combinations and rules of Uranian astrology. Alfred Witte turned 50 in 1928, the year of the first publication, which would have coincided with the ripening of Mercury-Saturn configurations (20+30) and those of the Moon itself (25+25).  Witte was born with Mercury in Aquarius (ruled by Saturn), and that Mercury was also conjunct the Moon, so both Mercury in Aquarius and Witte’s Moon ripen at the time of the publication.  Mercury in Aquarius is in the 5th house of Witte’s chart, that of creative output, children, and entertainment – Mercury there being significant of teachings and publications, and Saturn of structure and foundations.  An interesting tidbit about Witte’s Mercury at 27 Aquarius (and Moon at 28 Aquarius for that matter as they are conjunct within a degree and a half) is that it closely opposes the modern planet Uranus (father sky) at 26 Leo and the asteroid Urania (muse of astrology) at 25 Leo.

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

I’d like to leave it to the reader to find some additional interesting examples, either from their own charts or those of celebrities.  Feel free to share interesting cases that you find in the comments section.

Planetary Days and Their Eerie Sum

One of the most fascinating things about the minor years is that if you take the sum of each’s double, half, and third, they all add up 365.5, almost exactly the number of days in a year.  These sums of double, half, and third may be referred to as the days of each planet.  They are given in Book II, Chapter 29 of the Mathesis by Firmicus Maternus (“The Division of the Year”) with a couple minor errors, and a more precise list is given by Vettius Valens at the beginning of Book IV of his Anthology.  The list of the planetary days is given below:

  • Saturn – 85 = 60+15+10
  • Jupiter – 34 = 24+6+4
  • Mars – 42 1/2 = 30+7 1/2+5
  • Sun – 53 5/6 = 38+9 1/2+6 1/3
  • Venus – 22 2/3 = 16+4+2 2/3
  • Mercury – 56 2/3 = 40+10+6 2/3
  • Moon – 70 5/6 = 50+12 1/2+8 1/3

Sum of all the planetary years = (85 + 34 + 42 1/2) + (53 5/6 + 70 5/6) + (22 2/3 + 56 2/3) = 161 1/2 + (124 2/3 + 79 1/3) = 161 1/2 + 204 = 365 1/2 days. Spooky, isn’t it?

Dividing the Year

These planetary days are used in a few different time lord techniques in Hellenistic astrology.  Probably the simplest and most intuitive use is given by Firmicus Maternus in Chapter 29 of Book II of the Mathesis, and divides the native’s year following one’s birthday.  As Firmicus explained it, it seems that we start with the ruler of the annual profection (explanation of profections can be found here), also called the lord of the year, and proceed from one planet to the next based on their order in the natal chart from that planet.

I will only use one example of this technique, as it can be time consuming to lay out.  However, once you’ve laid out the days the planetary rulership switches over the course of year it is done and can be referred to throughout the year, giving a nice understanding of the timing for the manifestation of different planets and their indications for that year.

My one example is that of Bernie Madoff.  He was arrested at age 70, on December 11, 2008.  Mars, the out of sect malefic in his chart is in Gemini, ruled by Mercury, planet of commerce, in the 11th which pertains to groups and networking.  This Mars is particularly relevant to his capture, as he was arrested in an 11th house, Gemini, annual profection, which came to that Mars, and was ruled by his Mercury.  Interestingly, the year 70 is also a year of the ripening of Mercury-Mars relationships (20+20+15+15), activating his Mars in Gemini, as well as his Mercury in Aries, and their sextile relationship.  Additionally, on the morning of his arrest, December 11, 2008, the transiting Moon was in early Gemini, conjoining his natal Mars.

Bernie Madoff's Natal Chart
Bernie Madoff’s Natal Chart

The breakdown of the days of the year is also interesting.  It starts on or around his birthday April 29th.  His arrest is December 11th.  To calculate the number of days between them we can use a duration calculator (click to go to calculation site).  Using the calculator we find about 226 days between Madoff’s birthday and his arrest.  We begin the year with Mercury, and then proceed in the order of the planets in the natal chart as follows:

Mercury 56.666+ Moon 70.666+ Sun 53.8333+ Venus 22.666 = 203.83, so approximately 204 days after his birthday, the rulership went from Venus to Mars.  The period of Mars is 42.5 days, so it went from about 204 to about 246 days after his birthday.  Therefore, at the time of Madoff’s arrest it was Mars that was the active planet pertaining to those days.

I leave you with a quote from Firmicus Maternus on the interpretation of the day activations from Mathesis, Book II, Ch. 29, #2 (Holden trans., 2011):

“when illnesses, when debilities, when gains, when losses happen, when joys, when sorrows. For when the benefic stars receive the days, we are freed from all evil; when malefics, the sudden blows of misfortune strike us.”

Have fun experimenting with the basic use of the minor years of the planets and the planetary days!  Feel free to share experiences in the comments.

 

References

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