The Roman astrologers poet, Marcus Manilius wrote a poem in five books called the Astronomica, in Latin in the 1st century CE. It is one of the oldest major astrological texts that has survived. It contains many techniques that are not found in other authors.
In the work, the signs of the zodiac are ruled by the classical planets in the typical fashion, but there is also an aside in which Manilius assigns additional Roman gods to signs, possibly for the purpose of religious practice or to teach them by analogy. Interestingly, in the passage we find what is likely to be the first association of Neptune to the sign Pisces. Modern astrologers assert that Neptune is a ruler of Pisces, in addition to, or instead of, its traditional ruler, Jupiter.
Neptunian rulership of Pisces would break with the established scheme and rationale of planetary sign rulership, so I don’t advocate it in this sense. However, many modern astrologers struggle with understanding the relationship between signs and newly discovered modern planets (of which there are plenty these days if we include the “planets” of the Kuiper Belt recently downgraded to dwarf planets by some astronomers) and asteroids. I remember passages in a work by the 17th astrologer Morinus, in which he discussed another type of planetary strength called “analogical strength” which involves a planet being in a sign with similar significations. For instance, Saturn which signifies earthly resources being strong for such in the 4th house as it also signifies earthly resources.
The Neptune-Pisces association, and some of the other god-sign associations named by Manilius have a similar “analogical strength” to them, with Pallas associated with Aries, and Ceres associated with Virgo. It would seem natural for asteroid Pallas, named for the goddess known for her military strategy (Pallas Athena), to be analogically strengthened in the sign Aries, a fire sign of Mars. Similarly, for the planet Ceres, named for the goddess of agriculture, to be analogically strengthened in the sign Virgo, an earth sign whose constellation is a virgin holding a plant (palm front or sheaves of wheat). Associations of Vesta to Capricorn, Diana to Sagittarius, Apollo (Phoebus) to Gemini, Vulcan to Libra (as Vulcan made the scales), and Juno to Aquarius, may also have some use. Less interesting are associations of Venus (Cytherean) to Taurus and Mars to Scorpio, which are the same as the natural rulerships. He also associates the god Mercury with Cancer and Jupiter with Leo, which are more puzzling associations, especially in the Mercury-Cancer instance.
The complete passage is recounted below (Manilius, Astronomica, 2.433-452, Goold trans., 1977, p. 117-119):
What step must one take next, when so much has been learnt? It is to mark well the tutelary deities appointed to the signs and the signs which Nature assigned to each god, when she gave to the great virtues the persons of the gods and under sacred names established various powers, in order that a living presence might lend majesty to abstract qualities. Pallas is protectress of the Ram, the Cytherean of the Bull, and Phoebus of the comely Twins; you, Mercury, rule the Crab and you, Jupiter, as well as the Mother of the Gods, the Lion; the Virgin with her sheaf belongs to Ceres, and the Balance to Vulcan who wrought it; bellicose Scorpion clings to mars; Diana cherishes the hunter, a man to be sure, but a horse in his other half, and Vesta the cramped stars of Capricorn; opposite Jupiter Juno has the sign of Aquarius, and Neptune acknowledges the Fishes as his own for all that they are in heaven. This scheme too will provide you with important means of determining the future when, seeking from every quarter proofs and methods of our art, your mind speeds among the planets and stars to that a divine power may arise in your spirit and mortal hearts no less than heaven may win belief.
Manilius, M. (1977). Astronomica. (G. P. Goold, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: Loeb Classical Library.
Featured image attributed to 3268zauber, titled “Neptunbrunnen (1885) in Baden-Baden”
The recent death of Kirk Kerkorian has generated a lot of buzz in my stomping grounds of Southeast Michigan, as he was a major player in business in this area from his involvement with the auto industry. He died on 6/15/15, just 9 days after his 98th birthday. I won’t be analyzing his life in this post, and instead will use his death at a very advanced age to compare and contrast a number of length of life techniques that were presented in the first 5 centuries of the common era by Hellenistic astrologers.
Kerkorian was reportedly born at Noon, which is somewhat suspicious (he likely was born within minutes before or after) on 6/6/1917 in Fresno, CA. His birth data is AA rated for accuracy. Most length of life techniques involve primary directions which are very strongly dependent on the exact time of birth, so a roughly accurate indication, such as within a year, is sufficient for our purposes, given that the birth time may be rounded from within a few minutes which could put the indication by primary directions off by even more than year in some cases.
Part I: Special Techniques
I am not going to fully explain and evaluate each length of life technique as that is an extremely labor intensive manner that I am currently taking on for a possible book. I’m going to look briefly at the indications according to a number of length of life techniques, and then discuss some general timing techniques that relate to the timing of death. Those interested in an overview of the length of life techniques of the Hellenistic era, can find such in a previous post on the topic.
The Hellenistic techniques for length of life are not foolproof. They have their issues, so a thorough reading of this post and my other posts on the traditional astrology of death will not give you the power to predict the length of life for other people using these techniques (not that you’d necessarily want to after reading my results). Therefore, upon learning about these techniques, do everyone a favor and don’t predict death for people, because it will make you a liar and unethical. I analyze charts using the Hellenistic length of life techniques in service of their evaluation and the furthering of historical astrological knowledge only.
The Manilius Technique (early 1st century CE)
The Roman astrologer Marcus Manilius, provided a very brief set of rules for assigning years to each zodiacal sign and each house for length of life, but never fully explained how to use them. He did say that the Moon’s placement in the houses indicated the years, but didn’t explain what to do with the years of the signs at all. This exposition starts at line 560 in Book III of Astronomica. Unfortunately, Manilius tells us that his section is just for conveying the years allotted to the signs and houses, and that the full exposition will follow later in the work, but he never does explain the technique. He begins his exposition about the years of the houses by noting that if the Moon is in the 1st house she grants 78 years. Therefore, my best guess is that house of the Moon indicates the years, and perhaps the years of the signs (which are all small amounts) are added to those indicated by the houses.
The Moon in Kerkorian’s chart was in Capricorn, which is the 5th house. Manilius asserted that Capricorn grants 14 2/3 years and the 5th house grants 63 years, so we may suppose that the indication by the technique is 77 2/3 years, which is an incorrect indication as he lived to age 98. Typically in Hellenistic techniques, the sect light or one of its rulers (particularly the bound lord) is the most important planet for longevity indications. The sect light (the Sun) is in Gemini (14 2/3 years), the 10th house (77 years), so indicates 91 2/3 years. Venus is the bound lord and only aspecting lord of the sect light, but she is in the same sign and house so she indicates the same. 91 2/3 years is closer but still incorrect. In conclusion, Manilius does not provide enough information for use of his technique, and the most logical guesses regarding its use don’t yield accurate indications.
The Dorothean Technique (1st century CE)
According to the technique explained by Dorotheus (1st century CE), the Sun in Kerkorian’s chart would be the important significator to use for length of life, as it is the sect light at the time of birth (Sun by day; Moon by night), it is in one of the 3 most advantageous places (it is in the 10th place/sign from the Ascendant or rising sign), and it is with its bound lord, Venus, in the same sign.
Death is said to be indicated by the bound in front of the Sun that is ruled by or aspected by a malefic (exactly to a degree within the bound) without any aspect of a benefic (exactly to a degree within the same bound). Jupiter and Mars are in the same degree in Kerkorian’s chart, so Jupiter will take away the power of a lethal aspect from Mars in all cases. Saturn is at 27 Cancer while Jupiter is at 24 Taurus and Venus is at 26 Gemini, so the possibilities for Saturn to aspect a bound that is not accessible to aspect from Jupiter or Venus is also limited.
Very soon after birth, the Sun enters the bound of Mars in Gemini, which is malefic and has no benefic casting a ray into it. He obviously did not die shortly after birth. One may suggest that the already applying bodily conjunction between the Sun and Venus was responsible, or that the indication by bound ruler itself is a much weaker indication than an aspectual one from a malefic.
The next malefic bound was that of Saturn and that was occupied by Venus, so is protected, according to the Dorothean method. From there the Sun entered the Mars bound of Cancer, which is also not aspected by a benefic, though one may argue that the aspect of the Moon intervenes. The Jupiter bound of Cancer is aspected by Mars, but also Jupiter, so is protected. However, note that the Saturn bound of Cancer is occupied by Saturn and has no benefic aspecting the degree. Therefore, by the Dorothean technique we should expect the death to occur when the Saturn bound of Cancer or exact position of Saturn directs over the Sun.
Dorotheus used the distance between the two in ascensional times. Using a table of ascensions for Gemini and Cancer at about 36-37 degrees north of latitude, we find that each zodiacal degree of Gemini will equate to about 0.974 degrees of ascensions (0.974 years of life) and each degree of Cancer will equate to about 1.171 degrees of ascensions (1.171 years of life). There are about 14 1/2 degrees of Gemini (14.5*0.974=14.123 years) and 28 degrees of Cancer (28*1.171=32.788 years) between the Sun and Saturn, which equates to almost 47 years by ascensions. By actual accurate traditional primary directions, the indication is almost 46 years. In any case, Kerkorian lived to age 98, so the indications by the Dorothean technique are wrong.
But, what bound does the Sun fall into after 98 years, by both ascensions and by directions through the bounds? By ascensions, we already noted that the remainder of Gemini gives us about 14.123 years, then all of Cancer gives us 35.136 years (46.259 cumulative), then all of Leo gives us 37.025 years (83.284 cumulative). So, 98 years is only another 14.716 years, or degrees of ascension, into Virgo. There is about 1.218 degrees of ascension for each zodiacal degree in Virgo, so there are (14.716/1.218=) just over 12 degrees in Virgo before the time of death. 12 Virgo is the bound of Venus. it is a bound ruled by a benefic. There is not malefic aspect of the bound but it is the bound where the square of the Sun (15 Virgo) directs to the Sun. Dorotheus does not name the square of the Sun as being a dangerous direction, but we will find that the square of the significator is significant as the indication for length of maximum life by Valens. Also, the square of Sun is considered as malefic by some later astrologers.
Perhaps more significant in relation to the Dorothean technique, is that by actual primary directions (rather than the pseudo directions which symbolically use ascensional times even for points for which ascensional times are not remotely accurate, such as the Sun on the MC in this case), it is the bound of Mars of Virgo, that the Sun is in by directions through bounds, at the time of death.
The bound is a malefic one and is aspected by both malefics, but is also aspected by both benefics, so is still problematic by the Dorothean technique, since the benefic aspects to the bound should remove the harm. Therefore, while the Dorothean technique points to directions to the significator by malefic bounds and malefic aspects to the bounds as particularly important, and they are (as illustrated also in some prior posts in this series), the assertion that such an indication MUST indicate death when lacking the intervening aspect of a benefic both over-predicts death (e.g. the direction of Saturn to the Sun) and under-predicts by failing to account for death (e.g. the directions at death, in which death is either indicated by the square of the Sun or by multiple malefic directions in a malefic bound but with benefics aspecting the same bound).
The Ptolemaic Technique (2nd century CE)
Ptolemy also would take the Sun as the significator (as it is sect light and in the 10th place). Ptolemy advises use to look at actual primary directions involving the Sun, and not to use ascensional times. As the Sun is just past the MC (provided the birth time is not off by a couple minutes), he advises us to look at both direction of the Sun itself to the Descendant (i.e. converting the setting of the Sun into year), and the directions to the Sun of malefics (especially by body, square, or opposition according to Ptolemty). Ptolemy also appears to say that the direction from the square of the significator can indicate death.
There is some confusion regarding his technique of directing the significator to the Descendant, as he made a comment about aspects of benefics adding to the years indicated by this and likewise of malefics subtracting years, and noted that this is by proportion of hourly times. So, for instance, Hephaistio interpreted that the distance from significator to Descendant was to be measured in ascensions, which is a mis-interpretation as Ptolemy advised to use accurate primary directions and the use of ascensional times for points that are descending gives extremely inaccurate times. Basically, for Kerkorian, we must first find the time when the Sun sets by directions, which indicates almost 108 years. From here, we must find the rise and set times of the benefics, malefics, and/or Mercury, when any such planets have an aspect that intervenes from the Sun’s journey to the Descendant, and then find the time it takes to go from rising to setting, divide that by 12 to convert it into an “hourly” time, and divide that by 4 to convert it into an hourly right ascensions figure, which is considered the “hourly time” of that planet. The amount added or subtracted then depends on the proportion of arc that the planet has traveled for its journey from rising to setting or vice-versa, multiple by its hourly time (i.e. if it is a benefic with an hourly time of 15 and it has 1/3 of its journey left to set1, then it adds 5 years). It is unclear whether each aspect from the planet adds or subtracts, of if we are just to add each relevant planet once.
We would judge Mercury to malefic in the chart because it is most closely conjunct Mars. In this case, the Sun will meet the aspects of Jupiter, Venus, Mars, and Mercury twice, and the aspect of Saturn three times before it sets. Given the time left until they set, each of these planets individually adds and subtracts the following on their own in this chart:
Jupiter +5.3 years
Venus +10 years
Mars -6.4 years
Mercury -6.2 years
Saturn -12.9 years
If we do the additions and subtractions only once per intervening planet, then the net added is negative 10.2 years, with a life expectancy of about 98.2 years. This figure accords with this actual length of life of 98 years. If we must add and subtract for each separate aspect then the net added is negative 33.3 years, for a life expectancy of 74.7 years. While one approach to the technique of directing to the Descendant with additions and subtractions based on hourly times appears to give a correct indication, it is also somewhat counter-intuitive. Why should we being adding or subtracting each hourly time only once, rather than adding or subtracting for each relevant aspect?
The other part of Ptolemy’s technique, and in fact the more important strategy, is to look in front of the significator to see what will direct to it. The direction of a malefic (or the Sun if the significator is the Moon) to the significator will indicate death unless the potential killing degree (aspect of the malefic) is located in a benefic bound or is aspected by a Jupiter within 12 degrees or by Venus within 8 degrees. A planet cannot save or destroy if it is under the beams of the Sun (i.e. within 15 degrees of the Sun). Mars is conjunct Jupiter, so no aspect of Mars will ever meet the killing criteria. Venus is under the beams, so cannot save. Therefore, there are some aspects of Saturn that fall without the intervention of Jupiter, but not until 27 Libra, and that is within the Venus bound of Libra, so also does not qualify. Therefore, such a malefic aspect is not possible by directions. Ptolemy notes that the square to the place of the releaser (significator) also can indicate death. However, Ptolemy insisted on use of actual primary directions rather than directing with symbolic ascensional times, and the degree of the actual direction of the square of the Sun to the Sun is in late 2009, a full 6 years before death. The actual closest direction to the Sun at the time of death was the trine of Mercury, which applying at the time and doesn’t seem particularly nasty according to Ptolemy’s guidance as it is Mercury and a trine, while Jupiter aspects within 2 degrees.
In conclusion, the technique of using aspectual primary directions as given by Ptolemy is not a reliable indicator of length of life. His much more complex technique of directing to the Descendant and then adding/subtracting by a proportion of hourly times may hold some promise, as a certain interpretation of it provided a correct indication here, but the correct results also could be due to chance, so more research is needed.
The Main Valens Technique (2nd century CE)
Vettius Valens provided numerous techniques for length of life in Book III of his Anthology, and even more techniques scattered across most of the books of the Anthology, but here I will focus on what appears to be his preferred technique and the one that relates most strongly to that of other astrologers like Dorotheus and Ptolemy. The technique is related to the Dorothean and Ptolemaic techniques but also assesses a maximum length of life based on ascesional times from the significator to a point zodiacally 90 degrees from it, or from an angle of the chart to the next angle, and a maximum based on planetary years of the bound lord of the significator. There is a free translation of the Anthology available at this link, though I recommend the Project Hindsight translation of Book III (available for $30 as a PDF if you email Ellen Black of Project Hindsight), as its footnotes are invaluable for serious study of the technique.
Valens would also take the Sun as the significator as it is the sect light, in the 10th, and with its bound lord. Therefore, according to Valens, the Sun predominates in the chart (it is the significator) and Venus is the relevant “ruler”.
The first determination is according to the ascensional times from the Sun’s position to the square of its position in front of it (i.e. from 15 Gemini to 15 Virgo). As noted in the section on the Dorothean technique above, there are 98 ascensional times between the Sun’s position and about 12 (to about the middle of the degree), so adding another 3 zodiacal degrees given a conversion of about 1.2 ascensional times per degree, brings us to about 101.6 ascensional times, or 101.6 years as an indication of maximum length of life.
According to Valens, we then look at the greater years of the ruler, Venus. She assigns her total greater years (82 years; or 84 years as indicated in some places in Valens and Maternus) because she is well placed. Valens advises to prefer her indication as the maximum length of life, so we conclude that the maximum length of life is 82 or 84 years.
Now, we must check to see if a malefic aspect intervenes between the Sun and its square, without a benefic aspect within 7 degrees of the same. Saturn’s direction is protected by Jupiter, as is the square of Mars in Leo, and there are no other significant malefic directions in that span. Therefore, we conclude that the length of life is 82 or 84 years according to the indication by the planetary years of Venus. This technique leads to bad results.
It is worth noting though that the indication by ascensional times from the Sun to its square is relatively good as a maximum length of life at 101.6 years. Valens notes that the degree of the significator and the 3 degrees on either side of that degree (a 7 degree span) are sensitized, and each degree in Virgo has an ascensional time of nearly 1.3, so the death did occur within the critical span of the square of the Sun. Therefore, the technique of using ascensional times of the square may have some value. For instance, perhaps the indication of Venus should not be used because she is under the beams (though this is not specified by Valens), in which case we prefer the square of the significator and find it to be relatively accurate.
Valens also suggests the possibility of judging from the angle prior to the hyleg, to that following it. The ascensional times of the signs from the Descendant to the MC are very small, and would provide an indication under 61 years, which is way off the mark. If we use the MC to the Ascendant, then the span is slightly longer than that of the Sun to its square, so it would add a couple more years to the sum, giving a length of life around 104 years, which is less accurate than the square of the Sun. Another possible apheta (starting point) is the hylegical lot calculated from the nearest New Moon (before or after birth) to the Moon position, which puts the lot at 22 Pisces. This is near the Descendant, so we would again end up with a much shorter indication of death in his sixties. I won’t be exploring further the more obscure techniques that Valens also discusses in different chapters of Book III.
We may wonder about use of the Valens technique with actual primary directions rather than ascensional times. This would not effect the indications by years of Venus, and the fact that malefic directions are protected, but it would affect the indication by the square of the Sun. The square of the Sun directs to the Sun in later 2009, when the native is 92 years old, so this indication too is not accurate.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, Valens presents so many disparate techniques for length of life in the Anthology, scattered across most of the books of the work, that we cannot hope to evaluate (or even clearly understand) them all. I won’t be exploring his other longevity techniques here.
The Maternus Technique (4th century CE)
Maternus (Book II, Ch. 26 and Book IV, Ch. 6 of Mathesis) advises to take the ruler of the sign following that of the Moon as the chart ruler. Therefore, the chart ruler is Saturn. Saturn is in the 11th house and in its own bound so would likely be considered to provide its greater years, which are 57 years. This technique provides an indication that is very far off the mark.
Maternus does note that there was a diversity of opinion on finding the ruler of the nativity, and that some took a planet that is in one of the principal houses of the chart and in its own sign or bound, others took the bound lord of the sect light, and others took the ruler (or exaltation ruler?) of the Moon. Only Saturn is both in an advantageous place (the 11th) and in its own bound or sign (in this case, it’s bound), and Saturn is also the sign ruler of the Moon, but as noted, Saturn indicates only 57 years. The bound lord of the Sun is Venus, and she indicates at most 82 or 84 years. Mars is the exaltation ruler of the Moon’s signs and can only indicate at most 66 years (but is cadent and out of sect, so may indicate less here). Basically, no matter how you slice it, the Maternus-style technique involving planetary years does not yield the correct results.
The Technique of Paulus Alexandrinus (4th century CE)
The technique of Paulus Alexandrinus combines some features of the Dorothean technique with features of the Maternus technique, to give us a hybrid planetary years technique. This technique was combined with that of Ptolemy to form the basis of the typical Medieval technique to length of life. While in Chapter 34 of Introductory Matters, Paulus advises us to look at primary directions (by ascensions) to Ascendant, Sun, and Moon involving certain malefic planets and points, in order to assess times of crisis, he does not explicitly use directions in the context of his length of life technique. His length of life technique, which he explains in Ch. 36, has more in common with the technique of Maternus than with those of Dorotheus, Ptolemy, and Valens.
As with Maternus, he finds a “ruler” that indicates the length of life by planetary years. His instructions for finding the ruler are similar to the instructions given by Dorotheus to find the ruler of the hyleg (i.e. he takes a ruler, not necessarily the bound ruler, typically of the sect light, and prefers it if its aspects the sect light and it is itself strongly placed). Paulus would select Venus as such a ruler, as she is the only ruler of the Sun that sees the Sun.
Venus indicates 82 or 84 years, but planets in whole sign aspect to Venus may add or subtract years from this indication. However, there are no such planets, so 82 or 84 years are indicated (or less as Venus is under the beams), and an incorrect indication is given.
Summary Findings on Special Techniques
None of the major Hellenistic special techniques for length of life provide the correct indication when employed exactly as the authors advise. However, there are elements of the techniques of Dorotheus Ptolemy, and Valens that appear to have some promise. Dorotheus clues us into the relevance of the directed bound lords and to primary directions that are within bounds. Ptolemy clues us into the importance of malefic directions and the possibility that directions to the Descendant (possibly modified by hourly times) could be significant. Valens clues us into the importance of the ascensional time length from the hyleg to its square as a possible maximum life span. The indications that are most off the mark seem to relate to use of planetary years, whether by Valens, Maternus, or Paulus Alexandrinus. Interestingly, planetary years came to provide the main indication of general length of life in the Medieval period.
Part II: Other Factors
I typically examine the astrology of death in terms of other factors that coincide with the death rather than in the context of a particular predictive technique, as no traditional predictive technique reliably and accurately predicts death most of the time, and as death is arguably one of the most important events in life, there are many indications of danger or hardship shown by predictive techniques. Mars is arguably the most relevant planet for death in the chart as it is the out of sect malefic and rules the 8th house, as well as afflicts the lord of the Ascendant somewhat due to its conjunction with it.
Kerkorian turned 98 shortly before his death. On his 98th birthday, June 6th, 2015, the annual profection shifted to Scorpio, ruled by Mars, so Mars is the lord of the year for the year of death. Mars is in Taurus in his natal chart, so the profection was also in opposition to Mars.
As death occurred in the first month after the birth day, the monthly profection was also still in Scorpio, with Mars as the lord of the month.
Kerkorian’s final solar return is striking. Mars is conjunct the Sun within 3 degrees, and they are both with Mercury (lord of the natal 1st). The Sun is the main significator of life in the chart (it is the sect light and prominently placed) and here it is afflicted by the main indicator of death in the chart. Additionally, Saturn is in Sagittarius, opposing the Mercury-Sun-Mars configuration. Both benefics are also in Leo, which is the 12th house of the natal chart, and said to be an ineffective place.
Distributor: Directing through the Bounds
As noted above in the context of the Dorothean technique, the sect light, the Sun, had directed into the bound of Mars in Virgo in late 2014. Therefore, the bound lord of the directed sect light was Mars, and additionally Mars aspects that bound.
The transits at the time of death are also striking, as the transiting Sun is in partile conjunction with transiting Mars (i.e. they are conjunct in the same degree), and the transiting Moon is joining them in the same sign, Gemini, which is the natal sign of the Sun. Additionally, by this time Saturn had retrograded back into Scorpio, the sign of the annual profection. Therefore, even with the transits, we see multiple repeat indications of the them of Mars afflicting the Sun to indicate the time of death.
People sometimes ask me why most of my traditional analyses of death lack the use of special techniques for predicting longevity. Here I’ve presented an answer. None of the existing longevity techniques are perfect, and the more prominent Medieval techniques for longevity are particularly inaccurate. Though there still are plenty of additional techniques provided by Valens that require evaluation. I do advocate the use of special techniques rather than individual factors for most in depth analysis, but when it comes to death I prefer a combination of predictive techniques, as they show interesting indications, even if it would be almost impossible to know with certainty that those indications were for death rather than some other difficult event. There are elements of early length of life techniques that I make use of and that I keep in mind to regularly test, but I know of no special technique of Hellenistic or Medieval astrology that reliably indicates the length of one’s life.
Image attribution for featured image of this article (bas relief of Lachesis):
By Jim Kuhn [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
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.
This is the last planned post exploring the use of profections. Like the previous one, which dealt with degree-based Persian-style profections, this one is presented more for the sake of completeness in discussing the appearance of profectional techniques in Hellenistic and Persian astrology, than intended as endorsement in practice. I have an additional motivation for discussing the great variety of methods and opinions pertaining to profections in ancient astrology as well. I long to convey to the reader the greater degree of diversity and richness that is found in astrology of the ancient period, in order to quell false notions that earlier astrology is more cut-and-dry, conforming in technique and attitude, narrow in scope, and fatalistic in philosophy. The first one thousand years of the horoscopic tradition represent the richest body of astrological technique and opinion we have, which can provide a lifetime of new insights and challenges, deepening our tool-set, and enriching our practice. I discuss this a little further in the series of posts, “Ancient Astrologers Didn’t All Agree“.
In Book 3 of his Astronomica, Manilius (1st Century CE) described two different methods of profection. First (about lines 510-529), he presented a method of profection I have not seen elsewhere, which is the topic of this post. Next (about lines 537-559), he presented a different method attributed to “some who approve of an alternative scheme” (p. 207), which is the familiar use of profecting the Ascendant one whole sign for various discrete periods of time, particularly one year (Goold, 1977). It is interesting that the method first discussed by Manilius which he seemed to favor is the more idiosyncratic one that we don’t see in other sources.
Profect the Sun Annually, Moon Monthly, and Ascendant for Days and Hours
In the method of Manilius for the annual profection we move the Sun (one sign per year), while for the monthly profection we move the Moon (one sign per month). The Ascendant is profected for groups of days and hours, with some confusion as to the time period used. In fact, there are many ambiguities in the discussion and questions that naturally arise with it. Let’s let Manilius explain the basic method and then we’ll discuss some of the difficulties with employing it.
Now I shall assign their special periods of life in classes to the signs; for the signs are also allotted to their own particular years and months and days and hours of days; and during these periods they each exercise special influence. The first year of life will belong to that sign in which at birth the Sun has shone, since the Sun takes a year’s duration to traverse the firmament; the next and subsequent years are consecutively bestowed upon the signs in their order. The Moon shall denote the months, since in a month it completes its course. The Horoscope [Ascendant] brings under its regency the first days and the first hours, and hands the others to the following signs. Thus did nature wish year and months and days and even hours to be duly counted out through the signs, that every period of time might be distributed over every sign of the zodiac and vary its movements through the sequence of signs, according as it made a change to each one as it came round in the circle. (Manilius, Astronomica, 3.510-521, Goold trans., 1977, p. 205)
In this scheme the sign of the year is that into which the Sun profects at a rate of one sign per year from its birth position. For instance, a 31 year old who was born with a Sagittarius Sun, would find oneself in a Cancer year. This is because he would come back to a Sagittarius year at age 36 (and any other multiple of 12), so the 31st birthday, 5 signs before the Sagittarius 36th, would put us at Cancer – (let’s see, Scorpio at 35, Libra at 34, Virgo at 33, Leo at 32, Cancer at 31). So apparently, under this method the annual profection of the Sun marks the sign of the year, and is the main profection at that level. This varies from the predominant view that the annual profection of the Ascendant is most important, as well as that of Valens where the annual profection of the Sect Light and Ascendant are important (often times that of the Sect Light even more so to Valens).
Here’s where things start to really get sticky. Manilius appears to be advising us to take monthly profections from the Moon. This seems to imply that monthly profections are disjointed from annual profections, rather than dividing them up into twelve months, because a profection from the natal Moon has a different starting point, and it is unclear what sort of months are intended. For instance, if one were born December 1, 1980 with a Libra Moon (hypothetical), then we might be tempted to count calendar months to the present day, which is not a difficult task, since the Moon would profect back to the natal sign every December of every year. This being January, the Moon would profect to Scorpio (one sign after Libra, as January is one month after December). However, it is unclear whether calendar months are intended or some other more astronomical lunar month, such as the synodic month of about 29.5 days or the sidereal month of about 27.5 days. If one of these other months are used, over time you will get other indications for the sign of the month.
Daily and Hourly Profections
The daily and hourly profections are the most difficult to understand. It appears that Manilius is separating out two different rates, a daily rate and an hourly rate. The problem is that the system seems to depend on using different points for different rates in a symbolic fashion, but here the Ascendant is used for two very different rates.
The way that Manilius presented the more common profectional technique later in his book suggested that he used planetary hours for hourly rates, in which there are 12 planetary hours in a day based on division of the length of day (sunrise and sunset) and that of night (sunset to sunrise). That discussion also seemed to imply that the daily rate was one sign per day.
My best hypothesis as to how to find the daily profectional sign is to count the number of days since your birth to the present time (it may help to use a date duration calculator online), then divide the number of days by 12 and take the remainder (find the remainder by taking the portion after the decimal and multiplying it by 12) as the number of signs past your Ascendant. For instance, if your Ascendant is Aquarius and the remainder is 3, then the sign of the day is Taurus (i.e. count Pisces, Aries, Taurus).
My best hypothesis for the hour is that every day at your birth time is the start of the hour that pertains to your Ascendant. For instance, if one were born at 3pm with an Aquarius Ascendant, then every day at 3pm would start the Aquarius hour. To do a rough estimate, the sign of the hour would change about every 2 clock hours. So around 5pm would star the Pisces hour of the day. Since it would cycle through 12 in a day, these hours would be in the same order starting from the birth time each day.
Annual and monthly profections of the Ascendant have won me over as to their value time and time again. Many of the other types of profections, including this one by Manilius seem like they could be fun to play around with, and I hope with time they might prove themselves useful. They haven’t yet impressed me, but I definitely advocate experimenting with them and urge you to keep me informed about what you find. Happy journeys.
Manilius, M. (1977). Astronomica. (G. P. Goold, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: Loeb Classical Library.
In this installment of this series, I want to just briefly touch on an indication that there was diversity in opinion regarding the classifications of signs into diurnal or day signs and nocturnal or night signs, also known as the classification of the signs by sect. Interestingly, Marcus Manilius, one of the earliest astrologers of the tradition who composed his Astronomica in the 1st Century CE, noted (in Book II, lines 203-222) a diversity of opinion regarding the sect of the signs and he himself favored a sect classification that is no longer used by traditional astrologers.
Fail not to perceive and from true rule deduce what signs are nocturnal, and what diurnal: they are not those that perform their function in darkness or daylight (the name would apply to all alike, since at regular intervals they shine at every house, and now the nocturnal ones accompany the day, and now the nocturnal ones accompany the night), but those one which nature, mighty parent of the universe, bestowed sacred portions of time in a permanent location. The signs of the Archer and the fierce Lion, he who looks round on the golden fleece of his back [Aries], then the Fishes and the Crab and the Scorpion of stinging lash, signs either adjacent or spaced at equal intervals, are all under like estate termed diurnal. The others, identical in number and in the pattern of their spacing, for they are inserted into as many places, are called nocturnal [i.e. there is six of them opposite the six diurnal signs and with the same pattern]. Some have also asserted that the diurnal stations [signs] belong to the six consecutive stars [signs] which begin with the Ram and that the six from the Balance [Libra] count as nocturnal. There are those that fancy that the masculine signs are diurnal and that the feminine class rejoices in the safe cover of darkness. (Goold trans., 1977, p. 99-101; bracketed notes added by me)
We find that by the first century CE, already there were three different means of classifying the signs as diurnal or nocturnal, and Manilius appeared to favor the one that didn’t survive at all. His favored classification is by triplicity, with two triplicities as diurnal (those we associate with Fire and Water, though Manilius does not associate elements with triplicities), and the other two as nocturnal (those we associate Earth and Air). The pattern for this scheme which Manilius favors is two adjacent diurnal signs, then two adjacent nocturnal signs, and so forth; an alternation in pairs, from a Pisces-Aries diurnal pair, to a Taurus-Gemini nocturnal pair, and so on.
Sex of the Signs
The sect classification of the signs that came to dominate in Hellenistic astrology and through later strands of the tradition, is that which Manilius mentioned last, in which the masculine signs are diurnal and the feminine signs are nocturnal. All ancient astrologers appear to agree that the masculine and feminine signs alternate through the zodiac; Aries masculine, Taurus feminine, Gemini masculine, and so forth. A convenient way to remember which signs are masculine and which are feminine, is to know that the Fire and Air triplicities are masculine, as fire and air have a propensity to stir and rise, while the Water and Earth triplicities are feminine, as water and earth have a propensity to fall and settle.
It is most common for ancient astrologers to simply conflate sect and sex. However, this does create some odd conflicts. For instance, it was considered beneficial for a planet to be in a sign of the same sex or sect as itself, but Mars being a masculine planet of the nocturnal sect would not have one of its domicile of both its same sex and sect as the other planets do. However, in the sect arrangement favored by Manilius, the same situation holds for Mars, as both Aries and Scorpio become diurnal signs, but Mars is a nocturnal planet (Corrected 11/21/2011: previously the sentence said that Mars was in sect and sex in Aries, which is not the case, as Aries is diurnal in this arrangement).
Still, I favor the third sect arrangement given by Manilius, in which sect and sex are conflated. Perhaps Mars is so agitated all the time because he simply cannot achieve full comfort in either of his houses. My own approach to astrology is not strongly influenced by Manilius, being more influenced by other Hellenistic astrologers and the Persians. Manilius put a particular emphasis on the signs and actual fixed stars and constellations in his methods, making extensive use of extra-zodiacal constellations, parans, and so forth. Stargazing traditionalists may want to explore his methods in more depth, as there is much material not found elsewhere.
Northern and Southern Signs
The second classification which Manilius gives has the signs from Aries through Virgo as diurnal and those from Libra through Pisces as nocturnal. This is logical from the perspective of the tropical zodiac in the northern hemisphere as Aries begins with the Spring Equinox, a moment where the quantity of day increases over the quantity of night, while Libra begins with the Autumnal Equinox, a moment where the quantity of night increases over the quantity of day. In other words, in this classification, the Sun is in diurnal signs when the length of the day exceeds that of the night, while the opposite is true when the Sun is in nocturnal signs (at least in the northern hemisphere, with the opposite holding in the southern hemisphere).
In Persian medieval astrology this classification is noted, but is referred to as the classification of the signs as Northern or Southern (c.f. al-Qabisi, Dykes trans., 2010, p. 59). This is because the passing of the Sun into Aries, is also the point when the Sun passes north of the equator of the Earth (i.e. the north pole is inclined toward the Sun), while when the Sun passes into Libra, the Sun goes south of the equator (i.e. the north pole is incline away from the Sun). Some may not realize that this apparent passing of the Sun north and south of the equator, due to the tilt of the poles relative to the Sun, is what creates the seasons, not an orbital closeness to the Sun. The Earth is actually closest to the Sun (i.e. at perihelion) around January of each year, during winter in the northern hemisphere.
In conclusion, there were 3 methods of classifying the sect of a sign, and while the method favored by Manilius has all but disappeared, the common method of conflating sign and sex was at least present in some of the earliest strains of the tradition.
Ma’shar, A., & Al-Qabisi. (2010). Introductions to Traditional Astrology. (B. N. Dykes, Trans.). Minneapolis, MN: The Cazimi Press.
Manilius, M. (1977). Astronomica. (G. P. Goold, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: Loeb Classical Library.
Ancient Hellenistic and Persian Astrology in Practice