Some readers may be interested in a brief passage by historian Francesca Rochberg on the pre-Hellenistic use of twelfth-parts by Babylonian astrologers which dated back to at least the 5th century BCE.
In the last couple posts I’ve discussed the use of the twelfth-parts, also known as the dodecatemoria or to some, simply the duads/dwads. Please quickly read over the first post and the second post on twelfth parts before continuing. In this and a series of future posts, I’ll be revisiting analyses from prior posts and adding to them with information from the dodecatemoria positions.
The Curious Case of Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Turner
In many of the posts on dignity, I pointed out the folly in relying on sign-based dignity in evaluating the benefic or malefic associations of a planet. The first of such posts compared the chart of Jeffrey Dahmer (click here to read it), who had a whopping 4 planets in domicile, with only 2 peregrine and only 1 in fall, with that of Ted Turner, who has no planets in domicile or exaltation, 1 planet in fall, 3 planets in “detriment” (detriment was not an actual concept in itself in Hellenistic astrology, the way that fall, domicile, exaltation, and such were, so I don’t agree with its use), 2 planets peregrine, and only 1 planet with what an astrologer using the weighted dignity system (which was invented by a Perso-Arabic astrologer nearly a millenium into the tradition) would call “a positive dignity score”.
I found Dahmer and Turner to be the perfect minimal pair for explaining the trouble with dignity, not just in terms of beneficence and maleficence, but also for strength. I do use some sign-based significations like domicile, exaltation, fall, triplicity, and bound, for strength myself, but I tend to put less stress on those dignity-oriented significations than I place on advancing/retreating, being in a stake, stations, phasis, and relationship to the lights (including being in a domicile of a light). Obviously, Dahmer’s life was not filled with more joy, goodness, and positive productivity than that of Turner, as might be expected if dignity pertained to beneficence and maleficence. Similarly, while Manetho, Maternus, and other Hellenistic astrologers suggested that one’s stature and power depend to a great deal on the number of planets in domicile in one’s chart, it is clear that this also cannot be the case, as we would expect the lack of dignity in Turner’s chart to suggest he is very much held back, while we would suggest that Dahmer has immense social mobility. Therefore, while I believe that being in domicile, exaltation, triplicity, or bound is strengthening and reinforcing of a planet, it is obvious folly to depend too heavily on dignity for planetary strength and particularly for evaluating social status and mobility.
With the above said, it is interesting that the twelfth-parts tend to reveal much more strength and beneficence in Turner’s chart, including strength attributable to sign based dignity, while the twelfth-parts reveal additional weakness and maleficence in Dahmer’s chart.
The 3 planets in “detriment” in Turner’s natal chart shift to being in their own domiciles in the twelfth-parts, and Saturn in fall shifts to being in “detriment” (actually into being in triplicity and the sign of the sect light, as detriment is a spurious label in my opinion – being in triplicity and in a sign of a light, especially the sect light is quite strengthening). Additionally, the Sun, which was peregrine and retreating in the 12th, in a sign of Mars and the bound of Saturn, ends up in the 10th with the Moon, in a sign of Mercury and the bound of Jupiter. Both lights being in the 10th provides a very strong indication of attaining power and influence, and generally being socially mobile. Additionally, the twelfth-part of the sect benefic, Jupiter, falls into the 12th of the natal chart which is the place of the Sun and Fortune (as well as Venus), indicating fortunate circumstances very strongly. The other benefic, Venus, lands in the 11th, her domicile, the place of the Moon (and Mars). Thus both benefic twelfth-parts occupy the places of the lights; very fortunate!
We find the opposite type of thing happening with Dahmer’s chart when we look at the twelfth-parts. We go from 4 planets in domicile and 1 in fall to 3 twelfth-part planets in fall (and 1 in “detriment”), while no twelfth-parts are in domicile or exaltation. Additionally, the twelfth-part of Mars, in fall, occupies the powerful 10th place, square to its natal position, thus increasing its malice (see quote in last post referring to twelfth-parts that square or oppose their natal positions). Mars-Moon combinations, such as the one in the natal chart, have significations that relate to bodily violence, and the twelfth-part of Mars in the sign of the Moon, and square to the natal Moon and Mars further accentuates this signification, as does the occurrence of the twelfth-part of the Moon in Scorpio, a domicile of Mars, in the bound of Saturn (significator of death), and in the 2nd place (one of the dark places). The Moon is relevant for character, especially in terms of irrational impulses and instincts, as Ptolemy identified it with the irrational part of the soul (see Tetrabiblos, Book III, Ch. 13). While the Ascendant and Mercury, two of a handful of factors relevant for character delineation, are in the bounds of Jupiter in the natal chart, their twelfth-parts are in bounds of Saturn, and the twelfth-part of Mercury is additionally with the twelfth-part of Saturn in the 11th, pertaining to friends and networking. Additionally, the ruler of the Ascendant, the twelfth-part of the Ascendant, and the ruler of the twelfth-part of the Ascendant are also very important for character. We find the ruler of the Ascendant, Venus, to be in the 8th pertaining to death, fear, and harm, in the bound of Saturn, and we find the twelfth-part of the Ascendant in that same place and bound, ruled by Venus, thus piling three important character significators into the bound of Saturn, planet of death, in the 8th place, the place of death, ruled by and occupied by Venus, planet of sexuality.
Twelfth-parts give very important additional information about planets and points in the natal chart. While dignity is not the most important factor in planetary strength, we see that it can play a role in strength so long as we are diligent enough to examine both natal and twelfth-part positions. The ancients stressed how the twelfth-parts are responsible for major modulations in planetary signification within a sign that would be missed from looking at the natal chart alone. In this sense, perhaps dignity relating to twelfth-part positions is even more important than that related to natal positions, but more work would have to be done researching in this area to be sure. In any case, the twelfth-parts positions reinforce or contradict significations in the natal chart, helping us to sort the wheat from the chaff.
For, if you want to explain the entire substance of the astrological significations from the efficacy of the dodecatemories and from the terms in which they are found, you will not be mistaken; for the Babylonians attribute the supreme power of [astrological] decrees to the dodecatemories, but Ptolemy to the antiscions, [and] we to both. (Maternus, Book III, Ch. 9, #14, Holden trans., 2011, p. 170)
So, you thought you just had one astrological chart, but in Hellenistic astrology you have two. Then again, maybe three.
The second chart I allude to is the chart of the twelfth-part positions, which are typically marked along the natal chart, so as to keep the reference to natal chart houses. Twelfth-part positions were noted as a fundamental basic of astrological technique by nearly every Hellenistic astrologer, and their use was urged most strongly by Julius Firmicus Maternus. I explored what the twelfth-parts are and how they are calculated in my last post. The third chart that I alluded to is something that appears to be more idiosyncratic to Maternus, and is the use of antiscia positions as yet another chart body-double. I explored this use of antiscia by Maternus very briefly near the end of my post on sign symmetry.
In the quote above, Maternus attributes this use of antiscia chart positions as secret positions to Ptolemy, though this is a false attribution, and Maternus is the only Hellenistic source I know of that uses this third set of positions. On the other hand, the dodecatemoria or twelfth-parts are indeed Babylonian in origin, and their use was widespread among Hellenistic astrologers.
While in my last post I expressed that Paulus presented an idiosyncratic variety in which the position is degrees and minutes are multiplied by 13 rather 12, I was recently confronted by a footnote by James Holden (footnote #2, p. 18, 2009) in his translation of Rhetorius in which he noted that there is evidence in surviving cuneiform tablets that the two different methods of projecting twelfth-parts existed in Babylonian astrology, i.e. multiplying by either the more common 12 or the 13 as used by Paulus, then projecting from the beginning of the sign (Holden cites “Mesopotamian Astrology” by Koch-Westenholz). If it is in fact the case that the 13-fold variety does also have Babylonian origins, then still it seems that among the Hellenistic astrologers it was only Paulus that preferred them, as at least Manilius, Dorotheus, Ptolemy, Valens, Maternus, Hephaistio, Porphyry, and Rhetorius (as well as later astrologers) employed or expressed preference for the 12-fold variety.
The Importance of the Twelfth-Part Positions
I was originally very skeptical about the use of the twelfth-part positions as representing a very important and informative additional chart that complements and integrates with the natal chart. I’m sure many readers will feel the same way. Therefore, I want to stress that the twelfth-parts were mentioned as a basic of astrological technique by nearly every Hellenistic astrologer, and many of them, including Manilius, Maternus, and Rhetorius, felt it necessary to stress how important they are despite how easy it is to overlook them.
… the genitures differ in a single constellation, because the individual signs vary on account of the distribution of their divisions and modulate their respective powers in the dodecatemories. (Manilius, Book II, #710-712, Goold trans., 1977, p. 139)
And the method of dodecatemories is a necessity in nativities; and I also put down the astrological significations of these so that some might use them not just as in a secondary work. (Rhetorius, Ch. 18, Holden trans., 2009, p. 18)
Now I shall show briefly how you may inquire about the dodecatemories, for some think that they can find the entire substance of the nativity from them, and they intimate that whatever is concealed in the delineation can be discovered from the dodecatemories. (Maternus, Book II, Ch. 17, #1, Holden trans., 2011, p. 59)
Basics of Use
The twelfth-part positions are really used just like natal positions, giving additional information and revealing combinations and significations that might be missed from looking at the natal chart alone. The interpretation of cognition usage that I discussed in the last post is along these lines too, even though it is for horary or consultation charts. Masha’allah (in On Hidden Things) discussed multiple signficators for the querent’s thoughts or intentions, and one of them was the ruler of the Ascendant. Masha’allah expressed that the best significator is the twelfth-part of the Ascendant and its ruler. In other words, just as the Ascendant and its ruler give information about the character of the person or matter itself, the twelfth-part Ascendant and its ruler do too.
We get a sense of this all-purpose use in Paulus (even though he used the 13-fold ones) in Ch. 22 of his Introduction when he noted that the twelfth-parts of benefics occurring in important places (Sun, Moon, Mercury, 1st, 10th, 7th, 4th, Fortune, Spirit, Necessity, prenatal syzygy) signify very good things for the person, while the twelfth-parts of malefics occuring in such places indicates quite bad things. Benefics produce fortunate circumstances where they occur, and malefics produce difficulty, and it is such with the twelfth-parts of each as well.
Maternus laid out some instruction in use of twelfth-parts in Book II of the Mathesis. There he instructed us to look at numerous things with particular stress on the place, the ruler, and the bound ruler of the twelfth-part, as well as interactions between planets of different sects that he discussed elsewhere, such as the greater harmony that the waxing and full moon has with diurnal planets as opposed to nocturnal. All in all, it seems that Maternus wants us to look at twelfth-part positions as on an almost equal footing as natal positions, examining things like place, sign ruler, bound ruler, regards/aspects, and special configurational indications. This is further stressed in Book III, when each chapter on a planet ends with Maternus admonishing the reader to be sure to look at the twelfth-part of the planet too, apparently to look at the same factors discussed with reference to the natal planet, so as not to miss some important indication that is in the twelfth-parts but not the regular natal chart, as everything should be in one or the other. Maternus gave the same type of admonishment about checking the twelfth-part of the Lot of Fortune in Book IV, Ch. 4, after discussing how to delineate Fortune. Again, the clear lesson is to delineate the twelfth-part as you’d delineate the planet.
But what of the relationship of a twelfth-part to its same natal point, such as the twelfth-part of the Sun to the natal Sun? Rhetorius treated of this in Ch. 60 of his Compendium. A twelfth-part trine its natal position increases the beneficence or fortune signified by the planet, but one opposed to its natal position increases the maleficence or difficulty signified by the planet. Rhetorius also discussed how the twelfth-parts of malefics falling in places can make things more difficult and the twelfth-parts of benefics easier, similar to what Paulus mentioned above. He put particular stress on the twelfth-part of the Moon in relation to the nature and social standing of the person. In his delineations of twelfth-parts he particular stressed the influence of the ruler of the twelfth-part, but some delineations involve regards/aspects from natal planets and even the qualities of the signs, such as human and quadrapedal. That the twelfth-part delineations of Rhetorius encompassed all these things lends support to the idea that delineation of the twelfth-part is very much like delineation of a natal planet or point.
In the next several posts on twelfth-parts, I’ll be digging back to analyses from older posts on the blog and showing how twelfth-parts add valuable information. I will kick this off by taking a brief second look at the chart of Steve Jobs for the rest of this post. In one my first posts, in October 2011, I discussed the natal chart of Steve Jobs and some of the most important general planetary strength considerations, showing that his Mercury is much stronger than one might think from a cursory glance. Before reading on, I urge the reader to give that post a quick review by visiting it here. While stations and phasis may not be appropriate to twelfth-parts, the twelfth-parts can tell us additional information about the strength of Mercury.
In the original analysis I noted that Mercury is probably the strongest planet in the chart in terms of having a generally pervasive influence over the life in a broad way, as it is strongly stationing direct, making an appearance (in phasis), advancing, and ruling the 1st.
Looking at the twelfth-parts we find further indication of the significance of Mercury by the twelfth-part of the MC being conjunct Mercury. This and the fact that Mercury’s twelfth-part is advancing, in the 11th which is a strong and fortunate place, and in a sign of a light (Cancer, home of the Moon, which is the sect light of the chart), while actually with the twelfth-part of the sect light, are all additional indications of the strength of Mercury. The twelfth-part of Mercury is in the bound of Jupiter (as is the natal Mercury), and is very tightly conjoined to Jupiter, in the place of Jupiter’s Joy, and in the sign of Jupiter’s exaltation – these things all connect Mercury with fortunate and lofty Jupiterian themes, that are not as strongly expressed in the natal chart itself.
Mercury posited in the 11th house from the ASC will make talented persons, indispensable for all activities, and those to whom the conduct of great business affairs is entrusted; but then it denotes greater duties if it was conjoined to Jupiter by a favorable aspect. (Maternus, Book III,Ch. 3f, #23, Holden trans., 2011, p. 147)
The twelfth-part of Venus, the sect benefic, occupying Virgo, a house of Mercury, further emphasizes this fortunate quality of Mercury that could be easily missed from the natal chart alone. Also note that the twelfth-part of Jupiter falls right onto the Sun in the chart, the twelfth-part of the Sun is in the place of the Sun’s Joy with the twelfth-part Ascendant, and the twelfth-part Moon is strongly advancing toward the MC while with the lord of the Ascendant and Jupiter (as well as Saturn). Additionally, the twelfth-part of Fortune is conjunct the Moon, the sect light. As one can see, the twelfth-parts not only help us to get more information out of the chart about the prominence of Mercury, but also showcase fortunate circumstances connected to Mercury that would be easy to miss from the natal chart alone, and give many additional indications that the chart is of someone with a high stature and great social mobility.
I will be returning to more past analyses with twelfth-parts in future posts.
Manilius, M. (1977). Astronomica. (G. P. Goold, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: Loeb Classical Library.
Maternus, J. F. (2011). Mathesis. (J. H. Holden, Trans.). American Federation of Astrologers.
Rhetorius of Egypt, & Teucer of Babylon. (2009). Rhetorius the Egyptian. (J. H. Holden, Trans.). Tempe, AZ: American Federation of Astrologers.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ancient Hellenistic and Persian Astrology in Practice