Tag Archives: triplicity

Biopic Shorts | Karl Marx

I recently read a couple books on Karl Marx and found that his chart very vividly reflected his life.  In my own personal opinion Marx was a great economist who is too often overlooked and helped to inspire many important positive changes in labor conditions and the regulation of business.  Drawing on Hegelian dialectics, while critiquing its spiritual aspects, his “dialectical materialism” helped to expose inherent contradictions in competitive enterprise that could lead to its necessary dissolution or transcendence, such as competition itself fostering economies of scale and mechanisms of cohersion that result in anti-competitive monopolies.

While the importance of his analyses is often overlooked, being buried under propagandistic hype and his being scape-goated for the abuse of his ideas by those in power (with a focus on Stalin without a similar critique of the mass genocide in the U.S. and other such atrocities committed to help pave the way for liberal enterprise), he also seemed to be a bit unsure of his own theoretical and pragmatic stances, very frequently reversing positions, often pardoxically, but then perhaps in a way that may be expected of someone whose philosophy was so strongly based in dialectics.  He was adamant about philosophy being used to transform the world rather than just to think about, but in that there is something propagandistic, as if the need to transform to what one feels is just or right is a priori and then the philosophy can work to justify that.  For all his urgings for transformation, he was known to advocate revolution and then do an about-face and oppose revolutionary action, and was an ardent critic of revolutionaries and “Marxists” in his own day.  He exhibited a rebellious zeal against capitalist powers but was from a wealthy bourgeois background, recklessly spent his ample allowance given to him from his friend Engels (from Engel’s family industry) even speculating in stocks for a time with his wife retaining her baroness title and them both keeping on a housekeeper, and while advocating ardently for the working class he refused to stoop down to labor work himself and seems to have been a somewhat irresponsible, with 4 of his 7 children dying in childhood in part from very poor living conditions despite his receiving more than a typical clerk’s salary in regular money from Engels, and with him possibly fathering a child with his housekeeper, and constantly avoiding paying his bills/rent. All in all, I found him to be a good-humored somewhat selfish, impulsive, and irresponsible person, though one with a strong sense of social justice and a keen mind for abstract economic analysis.  His most mature work, taken up late in life, is the three volume Capital, which is also known to be terse and somewhat prone to ambiguity.

I’d like to take a look at his chart, with an eye toward teaching the basics of chart interpretation in the ancient, original (as in first horoscopic astrology), manner of Hellenistic astrology, which differs greatly from that of modern astrology.

A Little Background in Chart Reading

The horoscope, or astrological chart, is named for the horoskopos, the point where the Sun rises on the horizon (i.e. intersection of local horizon and ecliptic plane), which is the most important point of the chart as it localizes the arrangement of the heavens to a specific time and place (with a change of about 1 degree of the 360 degrees of ecliptic space about every 4 minutes of regular clock time, i.e. 360 degrees in 24 hours).  This rising point is sometimes conceptualized as like the helm of a ship.  I often conceptualize it as being the point where sky, which is distant, evocative, abstract ratio-oriented (rational), seemingly infinite, and full of lights, being akin to the soul or mind-stuff of our reality, is seen to reveal itself, to stream out or peer out from the Earth, which is close, finite, solid, and manifest, being akin to the body of our reality.  While in modern astrology the Sun particularly, and to a lesser extent the Moon and other planets, are seen to be representative of the self, it is this point that represents the self in ancient astrology, and with much clearer analogical reasoning.  Likewise, in ancient astrology the Sun represents power, vibrancy, rule, egoism, and stuff of that sort, rather than “the ego” of an individual, allowing for the possibility that someone is more or less solar in temprement and life situation, and for the Sun to take on greater or lesser significance in relation to the individual depending on its relationship with those things that signify the self in the chart.  This allows for a much greater ability to capture life’s complexities in the chart and move further away from the over-generalization and stereotyping so commonplace in the popular astrology of today.

The chart as a whole is oriented to the horoskopos or Ascendant, representative of the self, with the rest of the circle signifying its circumstances.  The Ascendant lies in a specific degree of a specific sign of the tropical zodiac, and each sign is the “house” of a planet in the sense that some planet is in a sense evoked in connection with matters of the house and has some responsibility for them.  In addition, the signs are divided into “room-like” divisions called bounds which are also under the dominion of specific planets, and there are additional rulerships related to specific signs and houses, and the planets themselves have certain affinities for specific matters directly, called their natural rulerships.  Finally, there are certain derivative points which are used to gather further indications of various matters.  In this way, there is in any natal chart a number of planets and other factors that are relevant to any specific matter, and each has its own relations to other topics and tendencies toward pleasant/unpleasant and prominent/backgrounded effects.  Reading a natal chart helps to clarify the most prominent indications and gives you a very rich and complex jumble of possibilities, while timing techniques help to focus things by showing which planets are more active at a given time in relation to different things and to modify their indications in important ways.

To learn more about the basics of Hellenistic astrology, check out my (unfinished) series on basics and consider taking the Hellenistic astrology course offered by Chris Brennan which is affordable and is a great springboard into direct readings of translated texts from the first thousand years of horoscopic astrology (roughly the first millennium CE).  The rest of this post will illustrate some chart reading with Marx’s chart.

The Natal Chart of Karl Marx

The Ascendant is the point most symbolic of the individual in the chart and it shifts by an entire zodiacal degree about every 4 minutes of regular clock time, so horoscopic astrology is missing the most important symbolic ingredient when the birth time is unknown or inaccurate.  Thankfully, the birth time of Karl Marx is from his official birth record, so we have good reason to believe that it is very accurate (given a Rodden Rating of AA for accuracy on AstroDatabank).  He was born at night with 23 Aquarius rising.  Aquarius is the day house of Saturn, and is a fixed air sign, fixed signs being known for tenacity/focus/steadfastness, and air signs associated with the humanities and movement, and having Mercury, planet of movement, rationality, and commerce, as its primary triplicity ruler by night.  The Ascendant is in the bound of Mars, planet of aggression and inflammation.  The twelfth-part of the Ascendant (not shown) is at 6 Scorpio, the night house of Mars, a fixed water sign, with water signs being ruled by Mars at night (principle triplicity ruler), and in the bound of Mars, while in the 10th house of the chart, which is that of heights, achievement, authority, and rule.

Natal Chart of Karl Marx (CTRL+Click to enlarge)

The rulers of the Ascendant and 1st House inform us of the particular importance of Saturn, Mercury, and Mars in relation to studying Marx, but rulers of the 1st House are not the only factors of relevance to the self in ancient astrology.  Planets in the 1st, and those aspecting or “regarding” the 1st, particularly in more influential ways are very relevant, as is Mercury because of its special significations of rationality, and prominent planets for being influential, including the Sun and Moon which are naturally prominent.  There are also certain lots (derived points) which many astrologers (e.g. Vettius Valens) considered very important for particular matters of personality and character, but here I will try to stick just to the seven planets.  One important distinction often made is that the 1st house has more relevance to the body/temperament, as does the Moon, while the ruler of the 1st house has more relevance to the mind/direction, as does Mercury (and the Sun).

With an air sign rising, Saturn and Mercury will be important by default, but they are made even more important here by the fact that Saturn rules the house itself and Mercury is the primary triplicity ruler while also in his own house and bound (Mercury is in Gemini in its Mercury bound, in an air sign by night, so there is a sense of great reinforcement to Mercury which makes it more prominent).  There are no planets in the 1st house, and while the Sun, Moon, Venus, and Mercury all regard the 1st house, they do so from an inferior position so I don’t consider their influence to be particularly pronounced.  The Sun and Moon, while prominent, are in the house of family and origins (the 4th), being particularly relevant in relation to the parents, and are in the bound of Mercury further signifying Mercury’s importance in the life.  Mercury is also in phasis (crossing under the beams of the Sun within 7 days of birth, another mark of planetary prominence).  Mars provides noteworthy indications for the self but these are more covert.  Therefore, an astrological analysis of Karl Marx’s life and character should focus upon Saturn and Mercury in the chart, rather than on his Sun and Moon in Taurus as might be done in a modern analysis.  This makes good sense as Saturn is the planet of doubt, loss, fear, constriction, critique, poverty, and imprisonment, while Mercury is the planet of commerce, movement, theory, writing, and all forms of rational analysis.  Also, as was noted in my series on the charts of atheists, an identification with air, Saturn, and Mercury is rather characteristic of a rational worldview tending towards physicalism and materialism with a particular doubtful disdain for spiritual and mystical elements (Marx was irreligious and critical by sympathetic to religion, seeing it as serving a function for the oppressed but also as deluded).  We see many of the typical marks of an atheist chart, with Jupiter even being in the 12th house, in fall, stationing retrograde, and opposed by the malefic Mars (with Mars in “domination” over the 9th).

Saturn, besides being a key point of identification for Marx, is also one of the “loudest” planets in the chart, as it is the planet most advancing, being about 20 degrees from rising.  In this sense, Saturn has a sort of general prominence and persistence in the life, shedding something like a dark cloud over it with Saturn’s natural significations of doubt, negativity, death, loss, poverty, and stern cold authoritativeness.  Saturn is a complex planet in the chart.  Most noteworthy, Saturn is in the 2nd house of the chart which is that of money matters, directing Marx persistently into this sphere of life.  The 2nd house is directly impacted by its occupant Saturn, some indications of which can be poverty, loss of capital, obstructed capital, money worries, and criticism or challenges to wealth and possessions.  Here it is Marx who identifies in some ways with being the Saturn in the house of money, and coincidentally feeling a need to consistently challenge and critique those with the means of production was one of the most persistent and certain things he identified with in his life, even before his philosophical thought and analysis was well-developed.  The 2nd house itself is buried deep in paradox, akin to his own monetary paradoxes in his life, being from a wealthy background, choosing to live in poverty, while at the same time constantly begging for money from his friend, receiving money in generous amounts, and eschewing his responsibilities with money.

The 2nd house is Pisces, a water sign, which can connect it with emotional and familial ties, while a mutable sign which tends to signify fluctuations between two poles and possibly multiple sources of income (for much of Marx’s life he was receiving income from writing articles and from Engels, the bulk from Engels).  That both Saturn and Mercury are in mutable, or double-bodied, signs, would also signify a certain back-and-forth quality to his manner of thinking which would make him prone to reversals/flip-flops, and would likely be related to the great appeal that dialectical theories held for him.  The 2nd house, while mainly and most directly impacted by Saturn, is then ruled by Jupiter (and Saturn is in the bound of Jupiter), with Jupiter overcoming and actually connected with Saturn (aspecting within 3 degrees), while Jupiter is in a bad place (that of the “bad spirit” pertaining to negative social and mental afflictions, such as poverty and imprisonment) and is itself ruled by Saturn, creating a bit of a bounce back between Saturn and Jupiter, the planet of constriction, poverty, and doubt (Saturn), with that of expansion, wealth, and belief (Jupiter), with Saturn holding this upper-hand in this strong association and being the planet Marx identifies with more strongly.  In any case, Jupiter’s role there does add some indication of aid and luck connected with money matters (and Jupiter rules the 11th of friends, in addition to the 2nd of money, connecting the two), but overall there is the sense of such wealth going sour. Saturn is additionally out of sect, which tends to increase Saturn’s tendency toward malice, such that we are to expect Saturn to have much more vitriol in the darkness of its many significations, including those in relation to money, such that the doubt is deeper, the negative associations more intense, the difficult events connected with Saturn more painful (though again, Saturn is very mixed, so we see a difference depending on the timing of activations, with Jupiter’s activations providing more beneficent connections with Saturn abating the general difficulty signified). Finally, the twelfth-part of Saturn (not pictured), is in the 8th house of death, together with the twelfth-part of the Moon, a significator of physicality and mothering, emphasizing Saturn’s association with actual deaths, which no doubt had a big impact on Marx.

Mercury in Marx’s chart is in the 5th house which is that associated with pleasures, performance, and children.  I have personally found that a strong association of Mercury with the 5th connects with someone and the person in the chart shows someone who is involved with writing/oration/analysis as a pleasurable pursuit or “art”/”sport”.  Mercury in the sign, bound, and triplicity of Mercury, in an air sign, with Marx having an identification with Mercury, also shows an identification cleverness, intellectuality, and a bit of the trickster or even con man (enjoyment in deceiving people by mental means), as Mercury’s quick and elusive nature is very much ramped up, such that you would expect a Mercury that will do anything to avoid being to narrowly defined or pinpointed (though Mercury in Gemini was not considered good for the intellect in ancient astrology, as it is a wandering mind and prone to unpredictability and anger – while he was a middling student, unpredictable, provocative, frequently in trouble, flip-flopping, and prone to misinterpretation, there were also some additional significations in the chart for depth of thought).  The identification with Mercury shows an overall preoccupation with the world of thought, ideas, and communications.  In addition to the connections with wordy or commerce-oriented art, the 5th house is showing something of the close connection with his children too, and that such is likely to be playful and to inspire intellectualism in them.  Mercury is a duplicitous planet, and is here in a duplicitous sign, which can signify many children, and may also pertain to the possible fathering of a child with his housekeeper (two women).  Although the relationship indications in his chart show steadfast focus on one partner, with Venus, the 7th, the Moon, and all their rulers in fixed signs.  While Mercury is rather neutral (here, in sect and in a good place so tending to associate with more pleasant occurrences in the life), the 5th house is also dominated by the out of sect Saturn, which is one of the important connections between children and death that is in the chart.

Mars is very important too, and when identified with shows a certain domineering competitiveness and desire to get rowdy and stir up trouble.  Marx was an avid drinker and smoker from his teenage years and was very frequently in trouble with the law, to a notorious degree.  Additionally, the twelfth-part of his Mars is in the 2nd house, possibly showing a desire to irk those with money and to damage others’ property, all things he was known to do.  Mars is in sect in the chart, so some of its inflammatory tendencies are tempered and can be channeled productively, but its location in the 6th house of illness and maintenance (and labor?), ruled by the Moon (who pertains to physicality among other things) can indicate bothersome difficulties with accidents and disease, particularly of an inflammatory nature.  Its position in the 6th and his identification with it may also have had something to do with his identification with workers, as the 6th is traditionally a house of servants, and workers are the servants of the industrial infrastructure.  Its location in the bound of Jupiter and dominating the 9th house connect it in an incendiary way with spiritual belief, one of many indications of his ardent atheism.

I hope you enjoyed this brief look at the natal chart of Karl Marx and I hope it leads you into further fruitful explorations of ancient astrology.  – ant

Twelve Easy Lessons for Absolute Beginners | 4. Signs and Stakes

So far in this series I’ve discussed a bit about the origins of astrology and the significations of the planets in the first installment, and then elaborated upon the material on planets by introducing some of the most important methods for evaluating planetary prominence in the second and third installments.  A discussion of the signs of the zodiac, which figure so prominently in modern astrology, has been put off until this point in order to stress the more focused significations of the planets.  In this post I introduce the signs, in part by discussing their features and how they relate to the stars (sidereal) and the seasons (tropical).  I boldly assert that the most commonly used features of the signs in ancient astrology stem directly from the tropical cycle, while the sidereal features play a much more minor part.  After the discussion of the signs, I point out that there are 4 signs in a given chart that refer to the most important personal matters. Notable astrology scholar and translator, Benjamin Dykes, Ph.D., has translated these as the “stakes”.

Signs in Modern Astrology

It is often claimed by scientists and skeptics that astrology has been discredited or even disproven.  However, nearly every test of astrology by the scientific community has been a test of Sun sign astrology and the related newspaper horoscopes (not to be confused with the original sense of “horoscope”, from “horoskopos” meaning “hour marker”, to refer to the Ascendant, and later to refer to chart drawings).

It is perhaps ironic that the newspaper Sun sign blurbs are called “horoscopes”, as the term “horoscope” initially referred to the Ascendant, or hour-marker, which changed about every two hours and was regarded in ancient astrology as symbolic of the individual person.  In other words, in ancient astrology the most significant sign in the chart for the person was the Ascendant which is a factor of location, time of day, and time of year, rather than the sign of the Sun which changes monthly.  You can have a completely different Ascendant sign from someone born in the same hospital, sometimes just 5 minutes later (if you were born near the end of the sign), or totally different from someone born at the same time as you in a different part of the country, or totally different from someone born at the same time of day at a different point in the year.  Additionally, ancient astrologers also utilized the twelfth-parts, which are twelfths of the sign that project into other signs, with the twelfth-part Ascendant changing about every 10 minutes of clock time.  It is amazing that ancient astrologers used the sign of the Ascendant, which changes very rapidly, to symbolize the person in the chart, while modern Sun sign astrologers attribute so much of the personality to a sign that one shares with anyone else born in the same twelfth of the year.

The Sun was not symbolic of the personal ego or personality center in ancient astrology.  In fact, in many ancient astrologers’ techniques for personality delineation, the Sun plays a minor role or is absent altogether.  The faster moving Ascendant, Moon, and Mercury played a greater role (for instance click here to see what Ptolemy advised looking at for examining “the quality of the soul”).  Even then signs were used a bit differently and the signs were not always as significant as other facets of the planetary condition.  In the chart, we can examine the Ascendant, symbolic of the person in the chart, interacting with the Sun, symbolic of power, exposure, leadership, and brilliance, without forcing the Sun to symbolize the person or their ego in some mechanical and generic fashion.

Signs are Not Constellations

You may recall a sensational news story all over the internet in the last year about a 13th sign of the zodiac, suggesting that you may have a “new Sun sign”.  This was the work of an astronomer who was trying to draw some criticism of astrology for its supposed lack of logic.  The idea was that the today there are 13 constellations that fall on the ecliptic (path of the Earth around the Sun, or from the vantage point of the Earth it is the path of the Sun around the Earth).  By this astronomer’s logic, since the Sun passes through 13 constellations, not 12 as in ancient times, there are 13 signs.  However, he made the mistake of confusing constellations for signs.  His mistake has fostered such widespread ignorance regarding the difference between sign and constellation that even the Wikipedia entry for the constellation that was the so-called 13th sign has had to address this difference.

Constellations are special groupings of stars.  They have been used in astrology for many thousands of years.  For instance, the twelve zodiacal constellations have varying dates of origin, with Taurus likely having the earliest origins in Mesopotamia.  The twelve constellations on the ecliptic were then regularized into “signs” sometime before 600 BCE by the Babylonians.  Signs, unlike constellations, were all equal in size, at exactly 30 degrees each, while constellations dramatically varied in size.  The signs were mathematical divisions of the sky into a coordinate system to precisely measure the travel of the planets along the path of the ecliptic.  Not long after the signs were introduced, the concept of divisions of each sign into twelve micro-signs was also introduced, making the twelfth-parts of the signs nearly as old as the signs themselves.  Both signs and twelfth-parts are mathematical in nature and not to be confused with the constellations with which they share names.  Stars and constellations were also used in ancient astrology, and some astrologers, such as Manilius and Ptolemy,  used the constellations and the stars within them, even extra-zodiacal constellations (such as the so-called thirteenth “sign”, Ophiucus) to provide additional significations.

Signs as Feature Bundles

In my discussion of Advancement, I noted the nearly universal importance of planetary alignments with the local horizon (Ascendant/Descendant) and local meridian / culmination point (MC) among ancient cultures, as well as how the most important of such alignments were those on the days of the equinoxes and solstices.  The equinoxes and solstices are important points in the Sun-Earth cycle that cause important seasonal transitions in the year.  The equinoxes are the days when the day and the night are of equal length, while the solstices are the days of the longest day or longest night, and these days take on these features by virtue of the extent to which the northern hemisphere of the Earth is inclined toward or away from the Sun (i.e. the points where the Sun appears to travel farthest north in the tropic of Cancer as summer solstice, farthest south in the tropic of Capricorn as winter solstice, crossing the equator toward the north at spring equinox, and crossing the equator toward the south at autumnal equinox).   At the advent of Hellenistic astrology in the last couple centuries before the start of the first millennium, the signs of the zodiac overlaid the constellations but the zodiac also started with the sign Aries, as the beginning of that sign was marked by the spring equinox.

The zodiac is essentially a circle with no beginning or end, but the sign of Aries was considered to sort of kick things off as it signaled the transition to spring in the northern hemisphere.  Horoscopic astrology has a bias for understanding the signs in terms of the northern hemisphere due to originating in that hemisphere.  While some find this bias disquieting, it is indeed the case that the northern hemisphere is the dominant hemisphere when it comes to human affairs, accounting as it does for more than two-thirds of the habitable land on earth, and upon which about 90% of the human population lives.

The signs of the zodiac take on astrological significance by way of a conglomeration of various features.  Some of these features, in fact the most important ones used in Hellenistic and Persian astrology, are based upon the seasonal cycles.  Others were based upon associations with the images of the constellations and the significations of the stars.  In the centuries that followed the advent of Hellenistic astrology it also migrated to India, where it completely transformed the astral lore of the subcontinent (see Yavanajataka).  As centuries go by, something interesting happens to the relationship between the seasons and the stars.  Due to what’s called the precession of the equinoxes, the equinoxes slowly shift backwards across the backdrop of the constellations at the rate of about 1 degree every 72 years.  Therefore, in astrology it becomes necessary to choose whether the features of the constellations or the features of the seasons as marked by the equinoxes/solstices are more essential to the astrological nature of the signs.  The famous natural philosopher and Hellenistic astrologer, Claudius Ptolemy, of the second century CE, asserted that the signs of the zodiac should be defined by the equinoxes and solstices, so that they always overlaid the same seasonal and light/dark relationships, and this is now known as the Tropical Zodiac.  In India, the trend of defining the zodiac by way of a reference star prevailed (today it is usually Spica marking the beginning of Libra), which ensured that the signs always overlaid the same constellations, known as the Sidereal Zodiac.

Today the choice of two zodiacs has caused quite a stir, with astrologers in the west often choosing the Tropical Zodiac simply because they are western and those in Indian choosing the Sidereal Zodiac simply because they are Indian.  Arguments made for the Tropical Zodiac typically include the readily apparent affect that the Sun’s passage through that zodiac has on life on earth as exemplified in the seasons.  Arguments made for the Sidereal Zodiac typically include the fact that its signs still overlay the constellations for which the signs are named, so locations in it more accurately correspond to actual positions relative to stars in the sky than those of the tropical zodiac.

My opinion is that the debate is wrongly framed.  In ancient astrology the signs are defined by bundles of various features.  One of the most important features is that of the planetary rulers assigned to the signs.  This feature is almost certainly tropical in origin, as the Lights (Sun and Moon) are assigned the signs of summer in the northern hemisphere (Cancer for the Moon and Leo for the Sun, corresponding to the period of time from about June 21st to August 21st) while Saturn, the lord of darkness and cold, is assigned to the signs opposite, which are those of coldest winter in the northern hemisphere (Capricorn and Aquarius, corresponding to the period of time from about December 21st to February 20th).  These rulerships originated with the signs, not the constellations, and are clearly related to the seasons, therefore tied intimately to the tropical zodiac.  Hellenistic authors like Porphyry explicitly note that the rulerships of the Lights were related to the northern-ness of those signs.  These rulerships don’t make as much sense by a sidereal understanding, as the sidereal zodiac is not tied to the seasons.

It is possible that the sidereal zodiac is more appropriate for some purposes in astrology than the tropical zodiac.  Since the signs signify in terms of their features in ancient astrology it will be very instructive for us to divide the most important of such features into two types, those which are derived from the tropical cycle and those which are derived from the constellational and sidereal cycle.  As you’ll see, the tropical zodiac is the appropriate zodiac for the most commonly used types of significations in ancient Hellenistic and Persian astrology, but there are many significations which appear to be sidereal in origin begging the question as to whether we perhaps should use two zodiacs, one for signifying the tropical features and another for signifying the sidereal ones.

Tropical Sign Features

Domicile and Exaltation Rulerships

By far, the most important sign feature that appears to be tropical in origin is that of sign rulership. These are rather systematic, with the signs of the Sun and Moon adjacent to each other and marking the peak of summer, while each of the other 5 planets get two signs each straddling those of the Sun and Moon based on planetary speed, such that those of Saturn are opposite those of the Lights. Note: if you are unfamiliar with the glyphs of the signs and the planets, you should take a couple days to familiarize yourself with them before continuing (you can find flashcards for planetary glyphs, helpful mnemonics for signs, and there’s more help here with a video).  In the image below (image attribution: Meredith Garstin commons), you can see that the Moon rules Cancer, the Sun rules Leo, then Mercury which is the fastest of the 5 other planets, rules Gemini and Virgo, which are the signs on either side of those of the Sun and Moon, while Venus, the next fastest, rules Taurus and Libra, the signs on either side of those of Mercury, Mars rules Aries and Scorpio which are on either side of those of Venus, Jupiter rules Pisces and Sagittarius which are on either side of those of Mars, and Saturn rules Aquarius and Capricorn which are on either side of those of Jupiter as well as opposite the signs of the Lights.

Domicile Rulers

These signs are known as the houses or domiciles of their rulers.  For instance, if the sign rising when someone was born was Cancer, then Cancer would be considered the 1st House, and the Moon, ruler of Cancer, would be the ruler of this 1st House. The ruler is viewed as a sort of owner and major player in affairs pertaining to the 1st House.  Similarly, the next sign to rise, Leo, would be the 2nd House, with its ruler, the Sun, as the ruler or lord of the 2nd House, and so on in the order of the rising of the signs in a chart.

Each of the planets also has a sign that is said to be its exaltation or kingdom. The motivation for that form of rulership is not as clear, but also appears to be based on tropical considerations.  The Sun and Moon come to be associated with the signs of spring in the northern hemisphere in that assignment, and the exaltations seem to center upon the signs of the equinoxes and solstices (the Sun is exalted in the sign of the spring equinox while the exaltations of the Moon and Venus straddle that sign; Saturn is exalted in the sign of the autumnal equinox while Mercury is exalted in a sign that straddles that sign; Jupiter is exalted in the sign of the summer solstice; Mars is exalted in the sign of the winter solstice).  I will enumerate the exaltations here: Aries is the exaltation of the Sun, Taurus is the exaltation of the Moon, Virgo is the exaltation of Mercury, Pisces is the exaltation of Venus, Capricorn is the exaltation of Mars, Cancer is the exaltation of Jupiter, and Libra is the exaltation of Saturn.  The exaltation would be a house where the planet is given more power and freedom to act.  The sign opposite a planet’s exaltation was called its fall or descension and was considered a place where a planet is more encumbered or downtrodden in its significations.  Some astrologers use a similar concept for the signs opposite a planet’s domicile, calling them the “detriment” of the planet, but this concept of detriment does not figure into Hellenistic astrology and its methods as a distinct concept.  Some astrologers also assign point values to the different forms of rulership, a practice started by a medieval Persian astrologer, but I find this to be more misleading than useful and strongly advise against the practice.

Quadruplicity and Stakes

Quadruplicity is a fancy word for a grouping of four signs.  These are signs related in a cross pattern in the chart and such signs are said to be each other’s “stakes” as well (more on “stakes” below).  This very important concept creates three types of features, each one assigned to signs that form a cross pattern.  These features are tropical in nature, as they divide each season into 3 parts, a beginning, middle, and end, with distinct features.

The cardinal signs, which are also called the changeable, moveable, or tropical/equinoctial signs, are those which start with an equinox or solstice.  They mark a turning in the direction of the season, and thus a bold step in a new direction.  As such cardinal signs are associated with frequent change (and repetition), bold and fast initiation, but not necessarily depth nor staying power.  For instance, Mercury in a cardinal sign was considered good for oratory ability, as cardinal signs signify quickness and bold projection.  The cardinal signs are Aries (0 Aries is the point of the spring or vernal equinox), Cancer (0 Cancer is the point of the summer solstice), Libra (0 Libra is the point of the autumnal equinox), and Capricorn (0 Capricorn is the point of the winter solstice).

Each cardinal sign is followed by a fixed sign, which are also called the solid signs.  These are the signs in which the heart or depth of the season occurs and things are most stabilized.  The fixed signs are associated with steadiness, staying power, slowness, thoroughness, and depth.  They are the signs which Dorotheus (1st century CE) recommended emphasizing in choosing times for general important endeavors because they signified carrying things to completion and making them last.  Mercury in these signs was thought to signify depth in thought and possible writing ability. The fixed signs are Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius.

Each fixed sign is then followed by a mutable sign, which are also called the common or twin signs.  These signs are said to participate in two seasons, mixing some of the season that is drawing to a close with intimations of the coming season.  For this reason they are dualistic and signify complication, confusion, exchange, and mediation.  In electional astrology they were believed to signify a need for additional conditions to be met (i.e. things getting more complected).  Mercury in these signs was thought to be a bad indication for intellect as they are unstable, providing little confidence and direction, while making one prone to confusion and frustration.  The mutable signs are Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, and Pisces.

The signs of the same quadruplicity as the rising sign are known as the stakes, angles, or pivots of the chart.  These are the most important houses of the chart, and their topics are the cornerstones to the life.  Ben Dykes, Ph.D. explained his preference for “stakes” as a translation of “kentra”, the Greek term of these places, as they operate to fix the sky (signs) to a location, in the same manner that stakes are used to fasten a tent.  The stakes of a birth chart include the rising sign, which is the 1st House, pertaining to the self, body, and skill, as well as the 10th House, pertaining to mastery, bosses, and recognition, the 7th House, pertaining to partners and marriage, and the 4th House, pertaining to family, land, and origins.  Planets in the stakes of a birth chart have a type of prominence, in that they have a strong influence upon the person, as they are in the house of an important area of life and strongly regard the Ascendant, either by co-presence, square, or opposition.  Similarly, a planet can be in the stake of another planet, point, or place simply by being in a sign of the same quadruplicity as that planet, point, or place.

Let’s examine the stakes of a birth chart, and the stakes of important planets in the chart:


Barack Obama has the sign of Aquarius rising, which is a fixed sign.  The fixed signs are Aquarius, Scorpio, Leo, and Taurus.  Barack has Jupiter in Aquarius, the 1st House.  He also has the Sun and Mercury in Leo.  Therefore, Jupiter, the Sun, and Mercury are in the stakes of the chart and are directly operative in particularly important areas of life.  He has Aquarius rising, which is ruled by Saturn.  Saturn is in Capricorn which is a cardinal sign.  Other cardinal signs include Cancer, Libra, and Aries.  Only Venus is also in a cardinal sign, Cancer, so she is in one of the stakes of Saturn’s position.

Triplicity and Elemental Lords

Triplicity (the triangles), is similar to quadruplicity, but signifies groupings of three signs.  There are 4 groups of signs that are in triangular relationships to each other (i.e. that are trine each other).  Today these 4 groups are identified by the elements: Fire, Earth, Air, and Water.  However, originally the triplicities were not associated with the elements in early Hellenistic astrology, but with the winds and directions.  However, here I will label them by element as is commonly done. As there are three signs in each triplicity, it so happens that each one has one cardinal sign, one fixed sign, and one mutable sign in the group.

The triangles are also associated with another system of rulership, called the triplicity rulers. Each triangular set of signs is associated with one planetary ruler by day, another by night, and a third which is a lesser participant.

The Fire triplicity has Aries as its cardinal sign, Leo as its fixed sign, and Sagittarius as its mutable sign, and it is a Masculine and Diurnal (day) triplicity, ruled by the Sun by day, and by Jupiter by night, with Saturn participating. The Fire triplicity is particularly associated with power and leadership.  The Persians associated these signs with the east because their cardinal sign is Aries which is to the right of the northernmost sign, Cancer.

The Earth triplicity has Capricorn as its cardinal sign, Taurus as its fixed sign, and Virgo as its mutable sign, and it is a Feminine and Nocturnal (night) triplicity, ruled by the Moon by night, and by Venus by day, with Mars participating.  The Earth triplicity is particularly associated with the working of the land.  The Persians associated these signs with the south because Capricorn marked the winter solstice which was the point when the Sun reached its farthest southern point (i.e. the Sun was overhead at Noon at the farthest point of the tropic of Capricorn).

The Air triplicity has Libra as its cardinal sign, Aquarius as its fixed sign, and Gemini as its mutable sign, and it is a Masculine and Diurnal (day) triplicity, ruled by Saturn by day, by Mercury by night, with Jupiter participating. The Air triplicity is particularly associated with culture and movement. The Persians associated these signs with the west because their cardinal sign, Libra, is right of the southernmost sign, Capricorn.

The Water triplicity has Cancer as its cardinal sign, Scorpio as its fixed sign, and Pisces as its mutable sign, and it is a Feminine and Nocturnal (night) triplicity, ruled by Mars by night, by Venus by day, with the Moon participating.  The Water triplicity is particularly associated with all things water.  The Persians associated these signs with the south because Cancer marks the summer solstice which is the point when the Sun is at its southernmost declination.

Let’s look at an example of rulership, quadruplicity, stakes, and triplicity in a chart:


Bill Clinton has the sign of Libra rising, so Libra is the 1st House, which is that of the self.  The stakes of the chart are cardinal, and they are Libra (1st House), Cancer (10th House), Aries (7th House), and Capricorn (4th House), but only Libra is occupied. You’ll notice that he has Mars, Venus, and Jupiter all advancing in the 1st House, with Mars particularly prominent right on the Ascendant.  Therefore, we expect him to have a very Mars-y life, one that is in a sense quite combative, competitive, and requiring a lot of toughness.  Also, we generally expect Mars, Venus, and Jupiter to directly signify in relation to more important matters in the life, as they are in one of the stakes of the chart.  The Ascendant, Mars, Venus, and Jupiter are all in a sign ruled by Venus, so we expect the self to be strongly influenced by aesthetics and sexuality, especially with Venus in the actual 1st House.  Venus and Mars are out of sect and Mars, as a malefic, could potential create some trouble in relation to Venusian matters in a combative sense.  His initial aspirations to be a professional musician are also very clearly shown by the prominence of Venus and her rulership of the 1st.  Libra is a cardinal sign, so we expect a bolder and more expressive character and for the actions of the planets in the 1st House to make their more important expressions in terms of bold, quick, dramatically sweeping changes in circumstances.  The 1st House is an air sign, so we might expect the self and the planets in the1st to have a strong connection with thought and movement.  Finally, Clinton was born during the day and Libra is both the exaltation of Saturn and the triplicity of Saturn by day, so we expect Saturn to have some influence over 1st House matters as well.  Saturn is in Leo, a fixed, fire sign, signifying steadfastness (fixed) and leadership (fire), and Saturn is with the Sun, which rules the sign Leo and rules the fire triplicity by day, so the solar influence (which is of power, exposure, prominence) is very strong.  Saturn is also with Mercury, planet of intellect.

As you can see, some of the most important significations of signs come down to domicile, exaltation, triplicity, and quadruplicity, all of which are concepts related particularly to the tropical cycle.

Other Tropical Features

There are a great many additional features of signs that are tropical in origin but of less importance.  For instance, signs of short and long ascension which was an important consideration in choosing times for actions according to Dorotheus.  Also, there were many sign relationships which pertained to mirror relationships between signs and degrees across the points of the equinoxes and solstices, which I’ve addressed in a past post.  Additionally, the Persians spoke of the southern signs (Libra thru Pisces) as being cold while the northern signs (Aries thru Virgo) were hot, with both the directions and the temperatures being a reference to the tropical cycle. Further the signs were divided up into season quarters, the spring signs (Aries, Taurus, Gemini) being hot, moist, infant-like, and sanguine; the summer signs (Cancer, Leo, Virgo) were hot, dry, young, and choleric; the fall signs (Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius) were cold, dry, middle-aged, and melancholic; the winter signs (Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces) were cold, moist, elderly, and phlegmatic.  These features of the signs are more minor and are not used as commonly as those cited in the previous section.

Main Sidereal Features

Image Associations

The Greek word for sign, zoidion, meant image or species, and some of the features of the signs are in fact direct associations with the species of thing that is imaged by the corresponding constellation.  For instance, Dorotheus noted that an eclipse in Aries would likely affect sheep, one in Sagittarius would affect horses, and so forth. Additionally, there are some sign classifications that pertain to these imaged species of things, such as calling some signs four-footed, others lacking a voice (because they image animals lacking a voice), and some rational (because they include an image of a person).  While these sign associations are used less often than rulership, quadruplicity, and triplicity, they are important to some techniques and can provide a very fruitful source for gathering further significations.  I believe it is an open question as to whether the sidereal zodiac (or even the constellations themselves) would be a more appropriate zodiac to use for ascertaining such associations.

Star Cluster Delineations

There is much material in Hellenistic astrology where certain segments and degrees of signs are given distinct significations.  Often in these delineations, stars, and segments of constellations are explicitly named.  Such delineations are prominent in many Hellenistic authors, including Valens, Ptolemy, and Maternus.  However, very little has been done to revive the use of such material.  It would seem that this material is truly sidereal in origin and that the sidereal zodiac is probably the more appropriate zodiac to use for these delineations of special groups of degrees.  An important division of each zodiacal sign into 5 unequal divisions ruled by each of the non-Light planets, called bounds, has its origins with the Babylonians (the so-called Egyptian bounds) and no clear link with star clusters has been proposed, so while the origins and motivation for the bounds is not entirely clear, they don’t appear to be a sidereal concept. However, the decans, which are divisions of the signs into thirds, actually originated with the Egyptians and was based on the rising of 36 star clusters, so they also appear to be predominantly sidereal in origin.  Similarly, the mansions of the Moon, which are commonly used in India but have been largely neglected in the west in practice, are clearly associated with star clusters and are probably not appropriate for use with the tropical zodiac.


In conclusion, both the tropical and the sidereal zodiacs have their own motivations.  While we are primarily concerned with significations that are tropical in nature, the western astrologer may be missing out on the correct source of a big chunk of significations in Hellenistic astrology by refusal to also use the sidereal zodiac where it is best suited, for image associations and delineations of degrees and clusters based on the stars and constellations.  Perhaps one day we will come to find some happy synthesis in the use of both zodiacs but in those domains where they are most appropriate.

This has been a long lesson, and may need to be re-read a couple times before fully grasped.  In this lesson we gained a few new tools which can be applied right away to charts.  You now know how to find the ruler of a sign.  The Ascendant, or rising sign, is particularly symbolic of the person, so you may want to take a look at the sign of the Ascendant, and that of the Moon, in various charts, and to pick apart the possible significations based on the features of the signs, as well as to look at which planets are in the Ascendant and those that are with the Moon.  Also, take a look at the ruler of the Ascendant.  The ruler was typically considered to pertain more to the spirit and direction of the person while the Ascendant itself pertained more to the body and its temperament.  Examine the nature of the ruler and how that is affected by the significations of the sign.  Now you have an additional planetary prominence consideration, that of a planet being in the stakes.  Think about how a planet in a stake may impact a person. Even a planet that is not prominent in a general way may have a very strong influence over important matters in the person’s life by virtue of being in a stake.  In such cases you’ll find the influence of the planet more focused in those areas of life, and less pervasive and broad in its significations.

Have fun!

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

We are not in the Age of Aquarius

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


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

Precession and Current Location of the Vernal Equinox

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

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

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

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

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

Some Thoughts on the Origins of the New Age

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

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

A Couple Techniques for the Ages

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

The Dawr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Triplicity of the Great Conjunctions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Astrological Sign Classifications | 2. Sect and Sex of the Signs

Manilius and the Three Opinions on Sign Sect

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.

Marcus Manilius
The Sphere

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).

Equinox Solstice
Equinoxes and Solstices

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.