I try to rely on free and open source software options as much as possible in my work. Good free software has a very beneficial and democratizing effect on the practice of astrology. I try to use free software for everything I do on the blog because it allows my readers, of just about any income level, to replicate the charts and information that I use for themselves. Furthermore, there is a wealth of free birth data online, particularly on Astrodatabank, so access to free software which allows for easy calculation of relevant charts and tables also gives readers the ability to test out techniques for themselves, against a wider range of data than I can possibly present in any article.
What is Morinus?
As readers of the blog will know, my favorite free software program is Morinus. I have used the Traditional Morinus for the examples in almost all blog posts, and I’ve discussed using it in previous posts in this series. Morinus is not just a free traditional astrology program, but it is a great program, as it will allow you to do many things that even some of the most costly programs won’t do (for instance have a wheel in which the terms of the signs, the 7 Hellenistic lots of Paulus Alexandrinus, and the twelfth-parts of the planet are all immediately visible; with quick access to primary directions and zodiacal releasing information). Additionally, Morinus is open source, so it is truly “the community’s software”, in that members of the community with coding experience are free to check out the source code and adapt it to meet their needs, developing their own “versions” of the program which expand upon it. In this sense, the developers (thanks Robert!) have given the astrological community a truly valuable gift and we’d be fools to pass it up for commercial products with less community potential. Check out this post for more information on Morinus and free software in general, and this post on how to calculate primary directions with Morinus.
Over a year ago, in early 2014, a new version of Morinus emerged without much fanfare, which is specifically tailored to Hellenistic astrology. It is called “Valens“, after the 2nd century Hellenistic astrologer Vettius Valens, as it was inspired by Chris Brennan’s course on Hellenistic astrology, in which some of Valens’ timing techniques, especially Zodiacal Releasing, figure prominently. In addition to the inclusion of Zodiacal Releasing, this version of Morinus also features the ability to easily insert the prenatal syzygy and the 7 hermetic lots (one lot for each planet as discussed by Paulus Alexandrinus and sourced from an early text attributed to Hermes).
I’m a little late to the game, but after trying out the software, I firmly believe it is the best yet for Hellenistic techniques, and will serve readers well as they read the posts on this blog.
You can download the software here (for Windows scroll to the bottom of the page and download the Valensexe.zip). Follow the installation instructions that you find on that page, as there is one additional step after you unzip the zip file (you will need to install the “Valens” font, located in the “Res” folder, by double-clicking it, or the chart will have letters in place of symbols).
A Few Optimizations
If you want your charts to look like the ones on this blog, here are a few tips. First, right click on the chart and choose “B&W” to make your chart black and white. I prefer the clean look of a black and white chart, though this is a personal preference that does not impact practice. Secondly, you’ll want to set the Moon’s node to the “true node”, which you can do by holding the SHIFT key and pressing ‘W’. Thirdly, get rid of any quadrant divisions if there are any by holding SHIFT and pressing F1. Finally, let’s go into the appearance options (Appearance from the Options menu or hold SHIFT and press ‘A’). For typical use, I would set my appearance options as shown in the table below, as I do like to see the two main Hellenistic lots (Fortune/Moon and Spirit/Sun – click for more information on the Hellenistic lots) as well as the prenatal syzygy, and the twelfth-parts (click for more information about the twelfth-parts), but I don’t use the hermetic lots of the planets all that much and I find a round chart easier to read, and generally more intuitive, than a square one. Oh yeah, also hold SHIFT and press U, so that your options will be saved automatically (I think the chart may still revert back to color when you reopen though).
You should end up with a chart that resembles the one below:
For more information on how to use Valens, please see the documentation on the site for the software and check out other articles on this site which explore specific techniques, such as lots and primary directions, as linked to above.
I hope you’ll start turning to the Valens program as the first one that you use to pull up charts. Please spread the word!
Secondary progressions are a popular predictive technique in modern astrology in which the transits of each day following the birth are symbolic of important events in each year of life (i.e. a day symbolizes a year). They are called “secondary” to distinguish them from “primary” directions, in which every degree of earthly rotation or as its called, primary motion (i.e. degree of right ascension), after birth was associated with one year of life. Primary directions can be traced back to a very early strata of Hellenistic astrology. On the other hand, secondary directions are typically believed to have been invented by Placidus, a 17th century astrologer, monk, and mathematician.
Therefore, it has been surprising to find that secondary progressions were also discussed by Vettius Valens, over 1500 years prior to their independent invention by Placidus. Unlike primary directions, secondary progressions were not widespread in Hellenistic astrology. Like many other predictive techniques, evidence of their use in that era survives only in the work of Valens.
Valens discussed two methods of secondary progressions in the final book, Book IX, of his Anthology. The first is the standard method in which one determines the age of the native, and then adds that many years in days to the birth date and looks at the transits to the natal chart on that day.
It is necessary to calculate as follows: add a number of days to the birth date equivalent to the age (in years) of the native. Then, having first determined the date, whether in the following month or in the birth month itself, cast a horoscope for that day. <See> which star, if any, is in the Ascendant or is coming into conjunction with another star, and whether it is moving from an angle to a point following or preceding an angle, or from a point <following or> preceding an angle to an angle, or whether it was rising at the date of the delivery but is now setting or coming to some unrelated phase, or to something better. You may consider these to be the periodic forecasts. (Valens, Anthologies, Book IX, Ch. 3, Riley trans., 2010, p. 154)
It is pretty cool to see Valens using this symbolic rationale of equating smaller units of astrological time with larger units of time in one’s life, and it certainly opens the door for validating the type of thinking that goes into other similar symbolic progressions, such as tertiary progressions (each day after birth represents a lunar month of life) and solar arc directions (each planet and point progresses at the same rate in one year as the Sun does in a day following the birth).
The basic secondary progression as described by Valens can be accomplished in the free open-source astrological program, Morinus, by selecting “Secondary Directions” from the “Chart” menu or pressing CTRL+SHIFT+F4 while a chart is open. This type of progression is a useful predictive device.
For instance, note that in Kurt Cobain’s natal chart the Sun, which moves about a degree a day, is about 27 degrees before Saturn in the chart. Kurt died at Age 27, and as we can see from the chart of the secondary progression it was when his Sun progressed to his Saturn (i.e. the Sun conjoined Saturn 27 days after he was born which is symbolic of Age 27). In the chart for 27 days after birth, the Sun is at 28°49′ of Pisces, which is in the same degree as his natal Saturn with the disc of the Sun actually spanning over that exact Saturn position. This fits with some of the other things noted for Cobain’s death (also see Kurt’s synastry with Courtney Love), especially the Sun-Saturn conjunction at his solar return for the year.
While the simple method of looking at the transits so many days after birth as years in age is a good method for most purposes, it should be noted that the Moon moves about 13 degrees in a day, so its position could differ somewhat after just half a day. For this reason, we might want a more precise measure of secondary progressions sometimes to measure exactly where the progressed Moon would be after so many months, as twelfths of a day, has passed in addition to years as days. One way to do this is simply to add about a degree to the position of the SP position of the Moon for each month after the birthday, since the Moon travels a little over a degree each twelfth of a day. Also, some software programs will calculate the SP Moon position for a particular day after birth. This can be useful as the SP Moon can be very significant in predictive timing.
For instance, David Carradine died when Age 72, but about halfway through the year, in June, following his birthday in December. Looking at the exact SP positions for the day of death, we see two things. First, we note that the SP Sun finally moved into Pisces, his first house of self and body, a few months after his birthday. This is very significant because it is an important planet moving from a cadent house to an angular one, and the most important angular one at that, which happens to be occupied by Saturn in Carradine’s chart (note in the Valens quote above that he attached particular important to planets entering the rising sign by secondary progression). Secondly, we notice that the SP Moon enters into his natal Sun-Saturn square configuration, as the SP Moon applies a square to his Saturn (while separating from Mars) and an opposition to his Sun, all in an extremely tight configuration that also includes SP Venus (planet of sexuality).
Valens was concerned about the fact that Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn move very little by secondary progression. To remedy this he proposed that we also look at the date of the secondary progression but for the current year, taking special note of the aspects they make and such. What this does is to give us another particularly important symbolic day of the year besides our solar return, in that we look at the day which is about the same number of days after our solar return as we are old. For instance, if you were born December 4th and turned 15 years old in 2011, then you would be interested in December 19th, 2011 and the transits on that day to your natal chart, especially as they concern Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.
I have not experimented with this latter technique as much, and my experimenting with it so far has not been very inspiring, but there have been intimations that it may be useful. For instance, when we return to Carradine’s age 72 SP positions (February 18th) and look at them for the year of his death (2009), we do find the ruler of his 1st house (Jupiter) in the 12th house of the bad spirit and conjoined to the out of sect malefic Mars in the bound of Venus and the domicile of Saturn. While Saturn also opposes his natal Saturn, the indications from that were more revealing at the solar return than at this secondary chart.
While secondary progressions are almost wholly absent from ancient astrology, appearing as almost an afterthought in the last book of Valens’s Anthology, they can be an informative addition to our arsenal of annual techniques for prediction. Take some time to explore them for yourself.
Valens, V. (2010). Anthologies. (M. Riley, Trans.) (Online PDF.). World Wide Web: Mark Riley. Retrieved from http://www.csus.edu/indiv/r/rileymt/Vettius%20Valens%20entire.pdf
With this having been established, it is necessary to prove by experience <the effectiveness of> still another place which I will demonstrate most abundantly: this is the Crisis-Producing Place, the place causative of terrors, dangers, and chains. Consequently this place is strong; (Vettius Valens, Anthologies, Book V, Ch. 1, Riley trans., 2010, p. 95)
The Lot of Affliction
In my last post I provided a very thorough introduction to the lots, using the four principal lots to which Vettius Valens attributed particularly special importance. I recommend reading, or at least skimming, that article before proceeding.
In that last article I focused on the most important four lots in the chart, which pertain to two polarities. There is the more static polarity of physical (Fortune) condition vs. “spiritual”/abstract (Spirit) condition, and the more dynamic polarity of attractive interpersonal matters (Love) vs. adversarial interpersonal matters (Necessity). I also touched on the rationale of the lots, namely that there is a metaphorical sense of moving from the significations of the starting planet to those of the ending planet.
While those 4 lots are the most important, there is a fifth lot that I also consider to be exceptionally important. Together with the four lots previously discussed, these five lots represent what I feel are the five most indispensable lots in ancient astrological literature. In other words, if you use only 5 lots, use these!
The fifth lot is the most sinister lot you can construct out of two classical planets, and it is mentioned by many ancient sources and given various names. It is referred to as the Lot of Injury or Chronic Illness by Dorotheus of the 1st century CE (Carmen Astrologicum, Book IV, Ch. 1, #75), the place producing crises and accusations by Valens of the 2nd century CE (Anthology, Book V, Ch. 1), and the house of affliction and illness by Maternus of the 4th century CE (Mathesis, Book VI, Ch. 32, #40).
Think back to the rationale discussed earlier for the lots. When constructing this lot, we use the same rationale. In this case we have a metaphor for things going from bad to worse, from the sect malefic to the out-of-sect malefic (projected from the Ascendant). Therefore, for one born during the day the lot is the distance from Saturn (the more benign malefic by day as it is of the diurnal sect) to Mars (the more aggravating malefic by day because it is nocturnal), then projected from the Ascendant. It is reversed for night charts (those with the Sun below the horizon), such that you take the distance from Saturn to Mars and then project that from the Ascendant.
Valens describes the interpretation of the lot at great length in the beginning of Book V of the Anthology. He connects it chiefly with imprisonment and servitude, whether social, such as incarceration, or physical, such as a debilitating illness. Even mental afflictions, such as anxieties and a bad conscience, and social afflictions, like betrayal, are possible under this lot. When eased by the influence of benefics it may still show burdensome obligations, such as heavy debts, military service, required attendance with something one loathes (e.g. mandatory community service), and so forth. In any sense this lot signifies the most undesirable states of affairs. I will refer to this lot as the Lot of Affliction.
Usage in Predicting Crises
There is first a general natal analysis concerning this place of Affliction (these analytical guidelines are from Valens). If it is ruled by, occupied by, or strongly aspected by a malefic, then that shows vulnerability to afflictions signified by the influential planet and/or sign, while benefic influences serve as alleviation or escape.
Additionally, Valens combines this with another type analysis that signals general vulnerability to crises. When the Sun and/or Moon are in a whole sign sextile to Mars and/or Saturn it signifies vulnerability to crises in the life. This is intensified if the sextile is within 70 degrees and/or between the hearing signs. Presumably a greater number of sextile configurations there are between the Lights and the malefics shows more potential for crises.
Prediction of when the crisis will occur is made by using various chronocrator techniques which are discussed in Book IV of Valens. Danger is shown when a Light (i.e. the Sun or Moon) transmits to a malefic (i.e. Mars or Saturn) or a malefic to a Light. When it comes to the yearly chronocratorship (i.e. Valens-style profections), then the way I understand Valens is that the period of crisis is indicated when a malefic transmits to a light or a light to a malefic. For instance, in terms of annual profections this occurs when the Sign occupied by the Sun in the chart profects to a sign ruled by Mars or Saturn (transmission typically occurs either when one planet profects to the place occupied by the other planet, or when it profects to an empty place ruled by the other planet; but in this analysis Valens emphasizes the ruler). Again, when doing these chronocratorships, the influence of the benefics in the place or in strong aspect provides alleviation or escape. The worst, most full-blown crises occur when a greater chronocratorship and an annual one of this sort (i.e. Light-to-malefic or malefic-to-Light) occur at the same time.
While in profections the transmission is from the natal to the ruler of the profection destination, in chronocrator (time lord) techniques of Valens the transmitter is the time lord of the larger period and the transmission is to the time lord of the smaller period. For instance, if a planet ruling the year is the Sun, while the one ruling the month is Mars, then it is a transmission of the Sun to Mars.
Effect of Basis
Nativities with a very strong “basis” (great personal strength and leadership) and those sets of such difficult chronocratorships that have benefics influencing matters tend toward more social or figurative crises, or to tending to prisoners and so forth (in a similar vein I’ve noticed this type of thing when people have activations of benefics in bad places, where one deals with those who are afflicted and is not necessarily afflicted oneself). If there is not significant basis signified, then the crisis is likely to be more difficult.
Natal Lot of Affliction Examples
Dahmer’s tight conjunction of the lots of Affliction and Love is interesting, particularly as it is ruled by Saturn, and with both Saturn and Jupiter, two planets which Dahmer identified with (both have dignity at the Ascendant). Both lots are very closely square to Dahmer’s Mars also (especially the Lot of Affliction which Mars aspects within 2 degrees). Dahmer started relationships with his victims before he would torture, kill, mutilate, and eat them. His first killing was impulsive and due to a desire to sleep with a hitchhiker he had picked up. That killing occurred during an annual profection of his Ascendant to his Moon-Mars conjunction in the 7th, ruled by Mars. He did not kill again until 9 years later, at age 27, kicking off sporadic serial killings that year, with the annual profection of his Ascendant to the 4th, the place of Affliction (and the Lot of Love), ruled by (and occupied by) Saturn, and squared by Mars and the Moon. The fact that the serial killing started in the year of the annual profection to the place of both the lot of affliction, and the lot of love, with both lots strongly linked with each other, is very illustrative, as he has admitted in interviews that renewed intense desires that were awoken in him at this time inspired the killings.
David Carradine’s Lot of Affliction was in the 8th house, in Libra, ruled by Venus, adhering to Carradine’s Mars and with his Moon also (Mars-Moon conjunctions can carry significance related to bodily harm).
In this prediction example I’m going employ a few predictive techniques discussed by Valens that I have not previously introduced on the blog. Here I will keep my explanation of the techniques rather short so I can focus on the relevance of Affliction. These techniques will be explained in some future posts.
General Vulnerability in the Natal Chart
The chart of an Anonymous friend is provided below for examination (CTRL+Click to enlarge in a new tab).
Notice that the chart has the Sun above the horizon, so Saturn is in sect and Mars is out of sect. The distance from Saturn to Mars is about 91.5 degrees in the zodiacal order. Adding that to the Ascendant of just under 4 degrees Aquarius brings us to 5 degrees Taurus.
Affliction is not in very bad condition in this natal chart. It is ruled by Venus and in the bound of Venus. There are no malefics located in the place, opposing it, or squaring it. Saturn doesn’t even regard the place, and Mars does not scrutinize the lot, though Mars almost does, as Mars is in a superior trine to the lot which is just over 4 degrees from perfect (within 3 would be scrutinizing). So for the most part we don’t read a major affliction into the lot, but if we were going to describe a particularly vulnerable area it would probably pertain to Taurus, Venus, and the 4th house, so we might expect that matters pertaining to the home, family, and particularly significant women could take on special significance.
However, the other sign of vulnerability is very apparent. The Moon is in a scrutinizing sextile with Mars, while the Sun is also in a pretty close sextile to Saturn. Hearing signs are not involved but these are pretty close sextiles and each Light is in such a configuration. However, this situation is at least alleviated by the fact that the Moon is in close conjunction with the benefic Venus and Saturn is in close conjunction with the benefic Jupiter, therefore the benefics have a very strong alleviating impact on these promises of affliction.
At age 27, a string of unfortunate events happened to the native. His spouse intentionally blew the family savings and maxed out the credit cards as a personal attack, he got divorced ending a 10 year relationship, he slowly went out of business due to lack of work caused by a major global financial crisis, he lost both a mortgaged home as well as a rental, and moved back to his parents home with his 2 children after having been independent for the prior 8 years. You will notice that many of these themes (aggression from women, marital problems, family, real estate) relate very directly to the place of Affliction and its primary associations with Venus and the 4th place.
Timing: Major Period by the Quarters Technique
Now, let’s look at the predictive techniques. One predictive technique that Valens discussed right at the beginning of Book IV, and then returned to at the end of Book IV, utilizes the 1/4 values of the minor years of the planets, so I have personally called it Valens Quarters or just the Quarters.
There is a major and a minor period. The major period begins with the first planet after (in zodiacal order) the point of the prenatal syzygy (New or Full Moon most nearly preceding the birth) in the chart in zodiacal order. For instance, in our example chart the Moon is waning so it was a Full Moon that preceded the birth. That Full Moon, or prenatal syzygy, was located at 0 Gemini. The first planet that one encounters moving from 0 Gemini up through the zodiac in order is Jupiter at 6 Libra, and if we continue then it would be Saturn, and then the Moon, and so forth. Therefore, Jupiter gets the first major period, ruling for a quarter of its minor years (12), which is 3 years, then Saturn for 7.5 years (i.e. until age 10.5), then the Moon for 6.25 years (i.e. until age 16.75), then Venus for 2 years (i.e. until age 18.75), then Mercury for 5 years (i.e. until age 23.75), then the Sun for 4.75 years (i.e. until age 28.5).
The events under consideration occurred while the native was 27 years old, in the middle of the native’s 28th year, so the Sun ruled the major period.
Timing: Minor Period by the Quarters Technique
To find the minor period in the Quarters technique we start with the ruler of the major period and we take the days of the planets (I’ve addressed them previously here), multiplying them by the length of the period in years to determine the number of days for each planet, with the rulership again passing in zodiacal order around the chart. At the end of Book IV Valens provides convenient tables with the amount of days each planet gets under each period. The Sun minor period started when the native was age 23.75 and ended when the native was 28.5, with the event occurring when the native was 27.5. It will be easier to work backwards, one year from the end of the major period, knowing that Mercury would be the last planet in sequence by zodiacal order. During a solar major period Mercury gets just over 269 days, this is less than a year and the major event took place over the last couple days in May thru June 1st, so we need to go a whole year back. Prior to Mercury is Venus for almost 108 days. That period will be inclusive of the days in question. Therefore, the minor period at the time of the event was that of Venus.
In this case the period of crisis does not fall under a major time lord period in which the a Light transmitted to a malefic (nor vice-versa) as Valens instructed. Here we have the Sun transmitting to Venus.
Zodiacal Releasing also involves a transmitter and a receiver, the ruler of the sign of the Level 1 releasing transmits to the ruler of the sign of the Level 2 releasing (you can also do this for Level 2 lord transmitting to Level 3 lord, and Level 3 lord transmitting to Level 4 lord). Interestingly, in his discussion of these transmissions Valens identifies those of Lights transmitting to malefics as particularly bad, but those of malefics transmitting to Lights as good (contradictory to some interpretive guidelines he provides in Book V).
Looking at releasing from Fortune, for Level 1 we start with Fortune’s natal sign, Capricorn, which gets 27 years (typically the minor years of the planetary ruler, but Capricorn is an exception at 27 – note: these are Egyptian 360 day years). We would expect that Level 1 moved into Aquarius shortly before this happened, which is the case. The first Level 2 period in Aquarius would last for 30 months (note: these are 1/12 the Egyptian 360 day year, so they are exactly 30 day months). Therefore, both Level 1 and Level 2 were Aquarius for the releasing of Fortune, signifying a transmission from Saturn to Saturn. Taking things down to Level 3 and Level 4 for the actual set of a few days in which the financial attacks by the spouse were discovered, the spouse requested a divorce, and the native moved back with family, gives us Leo for L3 and Aquarius for L4. Therefore, a more complete picture of those days is Saturn transmitting to Saturn (L1 to L2), which transmitted to the Sun (L3), which transmitted to Saturn (L4).
Looking at releasing from Spirit, for Level 1 we start with Spirit’s natal sign, Pisces, ruled by Jupiter which gets 12 years, then the next sign, Aries, and its ruler, Mars, which gets 15 years. Therefore, at about age 27 Level 1 Spirit moves to Taurus, ruled by Venus, where it would be for the next 8 years. This is interesting given that Taurus is the place of Affliction and Spirit refers to professional and social changes, which in this case were beset with crises. Still, Level 1 is neither a Light nor a malefic. Level 2 also changed to Gemini, ruled by Mercury, just before things went downhill fast. Therefore the transmission is from Venus to Mercury. For the tumultuous days, L3 for Spirit was Cancer, ruled by the Moon, and L4 was Aquarius, ruled by Saturn. So the transmission was Venus (L1) to Mercury (L2), to the Moon (L3), to Saturn (L4). This intensifies the sense of a Light to a malefic, not for the greater periods but for that short set of about 3 days.
Finally, we want to examine the annual profections, paying special attention to those of the Lights and the malefics. First, it is best to look at the profection of the Ascendant, which is typically used to establish the Lord of the Year and the activated sign. At age 27 everything profects to the 4th house from itself, so the annual profection of the Ascendant was interestingly to Taurus, the 4th place, the place of Affliction, ruled by Venus.
As we noted earlier, when looking at profections of the Lights and malefics in this technique we are particularly interested in transmission by rulership. The Sun profects to Pisces, so it transmits to Jupiter. Mars profects to Aries, so it transmits to itself. Saturn transmits to Capricorn, so it also transmits to itself. The Moon, however, profects to Aquarius, so it transmits to Saturn. Therefore, the crisis did occur during a time when a Light made an annual transmission to a malefic by rulership.
Let’s recap the predictive technique findings:
Quarters: Sun transmits to Venus
Annual profections: Ascendant transmits to Affliction (and Venus).
Annual profections: Moon and Venus transmit to Saturn.
Months Fortune releasing: Saturn transmits to the Sun.
Days Fortune releasing: The Sun transmits to Saturn.
Days Spirit releasing: The Moon transmits to Saturn.
Additionally the Moon was transiting in Taurus, the place of Affliction, during the most pivotal two and a half days of the crisis period.
While this is just a single example, we can see that Affliction merits further exploration, as does the special technique which Valens provided for evaluating and timing periods of substantial crisis and hardship.
Affliction or Injury is an interesting lot because it brings the topic of misfortune to a place in the natal chart where you might not have expected it. It’s a very important addition to an astrologer’s arsenal of lots which should not be overlooked. Valens has provided interesting and unique insights into how one may use the lot of affliction with predictive factors to forecast periods of great hardship or general malevolence. I hope you’ll take up the ongoing work of researching these lots and techniques by putting them on your charts.
Valens, V. (2010). Anthologies. (M. Riley, Trans.) (Online PDF.). World Wide Web: Mark Riley. Retrieved from http://www.csus.edu/indiv/r/rileymt/Vettius%20Valens%20entire.pdf
Like so many people around the world, I felt sad to hear that Donna Summer passed away on Thursday, May 17th after a battle with a lung cancer. Donna Summer was a musical icon and will be dearly missed.
I missed out on the heyday of disco in the mid-’70’s but I remember as a child in the early ’80’s dancing to songs by Donna Summer, Michael Jackson, and other fun pop, funk, and disco artists of the era. There was something magical about all the new electronic instrumentation that would come to characterize the weirdness of the eighties. While I tried to distance myself from pop music as a young adult, there has always been something childishly innocent about eighties pop stylings that as an adult I can now appreciate – making me feel like a kid again!
I’m probably in the minority of traditional astrologers in that I don’t believe there is a single method out there, such as a hyleg/alcochoden technique, that on its own allows one to make accurate predictions about the length of someone’s life. Rather, I ‘m someone who thinks that if you throw a lot of techniques together, then you may be able to see it coming, but it’s quite difficult. Looking at it in hindsight is always easier, and that’s largely what this series is about.
I’d like to look at some of the “signs” around the time of Donna Summers death and how they relate to death. By exploring the connection between deaths and natal predictive techniques, we sharpen our ability to recognize when the astrological language of death and appreciate the intricate beauty of even such a dark and sorrowful event as death.
It is hard to imagine a chart more oriented toward artistic performance. First, Venus is the significator of profession, as she is in a stake of the chart (the 4th) and strongly advancing, while having triplicity at the Ascendant and possibly bound, depending on how precisely accurate the birth time is, and Venus receives the next application of the Moon and is with the twelfth-part of the sect light (the Moon is the sect light as she was born at night). My approach to the technique for professional significator can be found here. Secondly, there is a whopping 5 planets, including the Sun and Moon, as well as the ruler of the 1st (in the bound of Venus), in Capricorn, the 5th House, which is the Joy of Venus and is performance-oriented. Finally, the ruler of the 5th is on the Ascendant, and thus is extremely prominent.
Mercury also crops up as important for the profession as Mercury rules the 1st and 10th signs and the bounds of the Asc and MC, and has its twelfth-part in the Ascendant. Venus and Mercury as co-significators of profession, with Venus more dominant, combines artistry/beauty (Venus) with vocalization (Mercury), being quite common for singers.
In death analysis, we are most interested in the more potentially difficult elements of the chart. In my opinion, one of such difficult configurations is the conjunction of the Ascendant (significant for the body and self) with the out of sect malefic, Saturn (significant for death, loss, struggle, isolation). Another is the close (but separating) conjunction of the Moon and Mars (lord of the 8th of death, Aries) in the bound of Mars within 3 degrees of each other, and under the domicile rulership of Saturn.
For an introduction to planetary years, please see the introductory post on them. Donna Summer was in her 64th year at the time of death and was 63 years old. Therefore we are particularly interested in combinations of planetary years that add to 63 or 64, which may involve multiples, as there are not two distinct planetary minor years that sum to more than 55.
There are only two combinations of three planets’ minor years that work without any multiples. They are Saturn-Mars-Sun (30+15+19=64) and Saturn-Venus-Moon (30+8+25=63).
Possibilities involving multiples with one and two planets are below:
One Planet: Venus (64)
Two Planets: Venus-Mercury (24+40=64), Mars-Sun (45+19=64), Jupiter-Mercury (24+40=64), Sun-Moon (38+25=63).
Of these, I regard some as less important because the planets in the relationship are not all configured together with each other by either rulership or aspects. For instance, Saturn-Venus-Moon is less significant to me because while Saturn aspects Venus and the Moon, Venus and the Moon are in aversion, and Venus is not ruled by Saturn. Similarly, Venus and Mercury are in aversion.
In conclusion, the four most important activations are Saturn-Mars-Sun (Mars and the Sun co-present and ruled by Saturn which overcomes them by trine), Mars-Sun (Mars and the Sun together), Sun-Moon (the Sun and Moon co-present), and Venus. Of these, I take Saturn-Mars-Sun to be the most important, as it involves no planetary multiples and it is reinforced by an activation of Mars-Sun involving multiples of Mars.
This Saturn-Mars-Sun activation is also the most significant one for the matter of death, as it includes both malefics (which each directly afflict significators of the body in the chart) and the Sun, which can be symbolic of vital power.
The importance of the Saturn-Mars-Sun activation is confirmed by transits on the morning of the death, in which we see the transiting Sun applying to natal Mars within a degree, and transiting Mars with natal Saturn and applying to natal Sun within a degree (transiting Sun also scrutinized, by opposition, natal twelfth-part Mars at 25 Scorpio).
The two highest level periods are particularly important in zodiacal releasing. I give four levels below:
Sagittarius (Jupiter) – occupied by Venus and the twelfth-part of the Moon, ruler is cazimi the Sun in 5th, Capricorn. This is about a 12 year period beginning in 2010.
Capricorn (Saturn) – occupied by 5 planets, including Sun and Mars, with ruler in 1st, Virgo. This is about a 2 year period beginning in February of 2011.
Scorpio (Mars) – occupied by the twelfth-parts of the Ascendant, Saturn, and Mars, with ruler in 5th, Capricorn. This is about a 5 week period beginning on May 9th, 2012.
Capricorn (Saturn) – see #2. This is about a 5 day period beginning on May 15th, 2012.
As mentioned, in interpreting the releasing of Fortune, Valens paid special attention particularly to the first two levels. One interpretive principle commonly used is that the Lot or its ruler in an angle of the chart (1st, 10th, 7th, or 4th place) shows strength, while if cadent from an angle (12th, 9th, 6th, or 3rd place) it will show weakness. This rule can get difficult to use in practice, as Valens also suggests at one point that we can use the angles of the Lot of Fortune. If using both the angles and the angles of Fortune, with the released Lot and its ruler, then there are simply too many points and too many strong places in the chart to derive much meaning from it.
Some people sidestep this dilemma by considering only the angles and cadents from Fortune, and not from the Ascendant. Using that approach, the Capricorn periods would be somewhat vulnerable as the Lot would be in the 6th from Fortune (a cadent place), as would be those periods ruled by a planet that is in Capricorn. The place of the Lot was thought to show the start of things and the ruler the development. So Level 1 in Sagittarius would start out not particularly strong or weak (as it is not an angle nor a cadent) but in the development of the period weaknesses could result (as the ruler is in the 6th from Fortune). Level 2 in Capricorn would start out weak, and would not develop strong towards strength or weakness (as ruler is not in an angle or cadent of fortune). Level 3 would start strong but end weak (Lot in angle, ruler in cadent). Level 4, like Level 2, would be weak and not strongly improve. Therefore, the overall stress of all 4 periods being placed on Capricorn, which is a cadent from Fortune, would seem to show some vulnerability when looking at this element of interpreting releasing.
Valens discusses other principles of interpreting releasing from Fortune which I feel are a bit easier to delineate. One thing is that he does is view the 1st two levels as if the ruler of Level 1 is transmitting or passing off to the ruler of Level 2, almost like the ruler of Level 1 is running into some type of thing signified by the 2nd level ruler. For instance, a benefic transmitting to a malefic, as in the case here with Jupiter transmitting to Saturn, shows overturn. Additionally, the transmission of the Sun or Moon to Saturn is particularly dangerous for health (Saturn to the Sun or Moon indicating the opposite, vigor). According to Robert Schmidt of Project Hindsight, the original meaning of a cazimi planet is that it takes over signification for the Sun. If this is correct, then we might treat the transmission of Jupiter to Saturn, as more akin to a transmission of the Sun to Saturn because of the cazimi status of Jupiter.
… the sun and moon when transmitting to Saturn are indicative of setbacks and anxieties, and they bring hostility […] as well as bodily disorders and dangers, shipwrecks, sudden collapses, and very many crises … (Valens, Anthologies, Book IV, Ch. 5, Riley trans., 2010, p. 73)
If we were to consider the other levels in this type of consideration then we have Saturn transmitting to Mars (Level 2 to 3) and Mars transmitting to Saturn (Level 3 to 4). Valens regarded transmission from a malefic to a malefic (Saturn to Mars and vice-versa) as particularly dangerous, much like a situation that goes from bad to worse.
Interestingly, in the zodiacal releasing method for health we find that the emphasis is placed again on Saturn, Mars, and the Sun (as Jupiter is cazimi the Sun) both in terms of the planets themselves and the repeat activations of the 5th house.
Next, I would like to look at distributors, as they are time lords which tend to rule over more than a one year period and can be very significant for health matters. The distributor is typically the bound lord of the directed (with zodiacal semi-arc non-latitudinal ptolemaic-key primary directions) Ascendant, though some later Persian astrologers used the sect light rather than the Ascendant (and in fact optional use of the sect light as an alternative to the Ascendant is common in many Hellenistic techniques as well). The distributor is a time lord, but typically a planet actually applying an aspect to the directed angle or sect light (within 3 degrees presumably, as that was the definitive range for applications and separations, as distinct from regards, in Hellenistic astrology) would take over the lordship or at the very least share it. The obsession with direct hits by primary direction, rather than use of it for time lords, was a later post-Hellenistic development. I touch on some of these issues in my introductory post on primary directions (and there’s another post on calculation).
From the table of distributors we can see that the distributor of the Ascendant was Venus and that of the Moon (sect light) was Mars at the time of death. And what of any aspectual co-rulers of the distributions?
One of the very useful features of the primary directions module in Morinus is that of pulling up the actual primary directed chart for a given day. For the day of Summer’s death that chart is below.
Reading a PD chart is a little counter-intuitive for those used to looking at secondary directions and transit charts, and I won’t be clarifying it much here, but it is helpful to take the PD chart as the base and the natal as the aspects to it – as the PD chart is telling you the degrees of the zodiac that are passing over the natal positions and the natal chart is telling you the degrees of the zodiac that the directed planets are sort of “glued to” as they travel by primary motion. In other words, it is as if the PD chart gives you the zodiacal positions of the significators and the natal gives you the zodiacal positions of the promissors.
The PD Ascendant (significator) is at 25 Libra, and it is applying a square to natal Mars (promissor) within 3°, and actually within 2° (or it could be conceived in the opposite way, that Mars has revolved under the Earth and is applying a square to the static natal Ascendant – the scenario is the same in both cases with the Ascendant as significator and Mars as promissor). The PD Moon is at 23 Pisces (or the 23 Pisces has directed over the natal Moon) with no applying aspect within 3°.
In conclusion, Mars is the distributor of the sect light. Mars also became the distributor, or at the very least the co-distributor, of the Ascendant starting about a year prior to death, becoming more significant than the bound lord distributor, Venus, due to applying aspect.
These time lords by primary direction are extremely important for matters of health and general circumstance, and here we see an emphasis placed upon Mars in the natal chart, which is the ruler of the 8th house of death, and is in the 5th afflicting the Moon, Sun, and Ascendant lord.
There is one very close aspectual primary direction within about a month of the death that is very symbolic of death. It is the direction of Saturn (promissor) to oppose the prenatal syzygy (significator).
At age 63 the Ascendant profects to the 4th house, which in Summer’s case is Sagittarius, ruled by Jupiter, which is cazimi the Sun, in the 5th with Mars, and ruled by Saturn. Being the lord of the year, Jupiter is a particularly important planet to examine in the solar return.
As it turns out, Jupiter is in separating opposition to Saturn in the return (within 3°, i.e. scrutinizing, note: application/separation is a separate concept from regard in Hellenistic astrology – regard pertains to sign relationships, whereas application/separation pertain to degree relationships particularly within 3 degrees, termed “scrutinizing”, regardless of sign boundaries). Saturn is the out of sect malefic, and Jupiter can take over signification from the Sun, so this can be a dangerous configuration.
Additionally, return Saturn is at 28 Libra, in dominating scrutinizing square to the natal Mars-Moon conjunction at 27 and 29 Capricorn. Furthermore, return Mars is transiting through the natal 1st, pertaining to the self and health, and is applying to natal Mercury, its ruler, and this is affliction of the Ascendant lord by Mars is even more apparent in the return chart itself (above) in which return Mars is in dominating square to return Mercury in the same degree! This is particularly significant because return Mars and Mercury transit through angles of the natal chart and because return Mercury transits through the sign of the annual profection.
Natal Venus is in the sign of the profection. Natal Venus in the natal chart is dominated by Saturn. Return Mars also dominates natal Venus. Return Venus is placed in Aquarius, the 6th house, which is a weak house in aversion to the Ascendant which can be significant for sickness and is here ruled by Saturn.
The return Moon transits through the 8th of death, under rulership of Mars, echoing the Mars-Moon conjunction and its potential significance for bodily harm. The monthly profection of the Ascendant at the time of death was to Aries, the 8th house, ruled by Mars, and occupied by the Moon in the return.
In Summer’s case, the Moon profects to Aries (the 8th), which is empty, so it is a case of the Moon transmitting to Mars. Again, this places emphasis on themes of death (the 8th, malefic ruler) and affliction of the body (Mars-Moon conjunction, Moon ruled by Mars). The solar return transit of the Moon through the 8th is also a repetition of this theme.
Ruler of Days
Some Hellenistic astrologers used daily profections, which I don’t make much use of. I’ve also discussed the small periods of zodiacal releasing above. Additionally, I like the ruler of days technique discussed by Julius Firmicus Maternus. In this technique we start with the lord of the year, and assign days to the planets according to their planetary days in zodiacal order, thus dividing up rulership of the year to each of the 7 planets. The lord of the year is Jupiter for Donna Summer, so the planetary days are as follows:
Jupiter – 34
Mercury – 56 2/3
Mars – 42 1/2
Moon – 70 5/6
Saturn – 85
Venus – 22 2/3
Sun – 53 5/6
Using a date calculator, we find that Donna Summer died in about the 138th day following her solar return. The Moon took over days about 133 days after the return, so the Moon was ruler of days at the time of death.
Day of Death
Finally, let’s return to the transits at the day of death. We’ve already established that there is substantial importance placed on the malefics and the lights in the time lord techniques. Additionally, we established that Mars is of particular importance and that the Moon-Mars themes with the 8th crop up repeatedly when we narrow in on the year. Finally, we determined that the monthly profection is to the 8th, Aries, which was occupied by the Moon in the return, that the Moon became ruler of days less than a week before the death, and that zodiacal releasing minor periods place considerable emphasis on Mars and the 5th. Now let’s separate some of these out in the transits:
The Moon: Shockingly, the Moon was transiting through Aries, the 8th, that of death, at the time of death, echoing both the solar return and the Valens-style profection of the Moon, in the house of the monthly profection. The transiting Moon was likely making her next application to transiting Saturn, in opposition, at the time of death. The transiting Moon applied a scrutinizing square to natal Mercury, the Ascendant lord, at the time of death. Transiting Venus and Saturn were possibly in exact to the minute aspect, while receiving the application of the transiting Moon, at the time of death.
Mars: Mars was transiting at 9 Virgo through the 1st house. Mars had stationed direct at 3 Virgo, in adherence to Donna Summer’s Ascendant (4 Virgo), about a month prior. Transiting Mars was applying to the natal Sun-Jupiter conjunction within a degree at the time of death. The transiting Sun and Jupiter was applying to natal Mars within 3 degrees at the time of death, while both conjunct the natal twelfth-part of Venus and opposed to the natal twelfth-part of Mars within 3 degrees. The transiting Sun-Jupiter conjunction by degree itself echoing the natal Sun-Jupiter conjunction.
There are additional connections, but I think this suffices to show how the transits at the time of death were reflective of superficial activation of much more important repeat themes through time lord techniques of death and harm to health which pertain to the relationship between the malefics and the Sun, malefics and Ascendant, as well as the Moon-Mars conjunction and the 8th house.
Many modern astrologers may not realize that each of the planets has certain numbers of years assigned to it. Even in today’s traditional astrological circles the years of the planets are underutilized in predictive techniques, as most of the ways of using them disappeared in the middle ages. However, in Hellenistic astrology, especially in the techniques of Vettius Valens (2nd Century CE) and Julius Firmicus Maternus (4th Century CE), planetary years are the basis of a large number of predictive techniques. In this post I introduce the most commonly used figures for the planetary years, which are also known as the Minor Years of the planets. I discuss how they can be used as indicators of when a certain configurations in the chart will “ripen”, and I also discuss their mathematical relationship to the length of the year and how they can be used to divide the year into rulership by different planets in the natal chart.
The Minor Years of the Planets
Let’s start by simply noting what the minor years of the planets are. They are given in many different texts, with consistent values, and one such source is at the end of Book III of Valens’ Anthology. Here I give the planet, the number of years. The rationale for these numbers concerns times when the planets return to the same positions in the sky with the Sun, based on synodic cycles, except that the Sun’s number, 19, is based on the metonic cycle which is when the Sun and Moon meet at the same position every 19 years, and the Moon’s number, 25, is based on a relationship between the lunation cycle and the Egyptian calendar that repeats every 25 years.
Saturn – 30
Jupiter – 12
Mars – 15
Sun – 19
Venus – 8
Mercury – 20
Moon – 25
Minor Years as Ripening Planets
In various areas of The Anthology by Valens, especially in Book VII, Valens uses the years of the planets as signalling ripe times for their effects to manifest. He actually combines minor years of planets in configurations with each other, combines minor years of planets with the minor years of their sign ruler, combines rising times of signs with planetary years, he mixes and sums planetary years, planetary months (i.e. 1/12 of the planetary years), and rising times of signs for various configurations, and gives instructions relating to using fractions of planetary years and rising times.
For our purposes let’s focus first on just using planetary years and their combinations. The basic idea is that a planet’s effects are likely to manifest or ripen near to the number of years of the planet, as well as multiples of that, and combinations of the planet and its ruler. Additionally, to time out the ripening of configurations we combine the years of the planets involved.
Example number 1 is the death of Whitney Houston. In a prior post on the death of Whitney Houston, I noted that she died in her 49th year, and discussed how Sun-Saturn configurations ripen near age 49. Whitney had a Sun-Saturn opposition across the 6th and 12th houses of her natal chart, which are considered the most difficult houses of the chart, and have relevance for health crises and other difficult events. Given Saturn as natural signficator of death and the Sun as natural significator of life, the activation of this configuration at approximately 49 years, the sum of the years of the Sun (19) and Saturn (30) is very significant.
Example number 2 is Hitler’s rise to power. In summer of 1934, Hitler became leader of Germany after the passing of President von Hindenburg. This saw the realization of his scrutinizing (i.e. within 3 degrees) Mars-Saturn square from Taurus to Leo, from the 8th pertaining to death to the 11th pertaining to organizations, where Saturn in Leo advancing toward the MC promised leadership and Mars in the 8th pertained to death. Hitler was 45 years old, the sum of the years of Saturn (30) and Mars (15). Hitler was able to eliminate all that stood in his way and seize supreme unimpeded power over Germany’s direction by early 1938. At the time, Hitler was in his 49th year, nearing his 49th birthday. This is the realization of his role as a culminating Saturn in Leo, at the combination of the years of Saturn (30) and its ruler the Sun (19) the Sun also dominates Saturn from the 8th, so it also is the activation of the Sun-Saturn square.
Example Three is the 1st edition of Alfred Witte’s Rules of Planetary-Pictures, the definitive pronouncement of the basic planetary combinations and rules of Uranian astrology. Alfred Witte turned 50 in 1928, the year of the first publication, which would have coincided with the ripening of Mercury-Saturn configurations (20+30) and those of the Moon itself (25+25). Witte was born with Mercury in Aquarius (ruled by Saturn), and that Mercury was also conjunct the Moon, so both Mercury in Aquarius and Witte’s Moon ripen at the time of the publication. Mercury in Aquarius is in the 5th house of Witte’s chart, that of creative output, children, and entertainment – Mercury there being significant of teachings and publications, and Saturn of structure and foundations. An interesting tidbit about Witte’s Mercury at 27 Aquarius (and Moon at 28 Aquarius for that matter as they are conjunct within a degree and a half) is that it closely opposes the modern planet Uranus (father sky) at 26 Leo and the asteroid Urania (muse of astrology) at 25 Leo.
I’d like to leave it to the reader to find some additional interesting examples, either from their own charts or those of celebrities. Feel free to share interesting cases that you find in the comments section.
Planetary Days and Their Eerie Sum
One of the most fascinating things about the minor years is that if you take the sum of each’s double, half, and third, they all add up 365.5, almost exactly the number of days in a year. These sums of double, half, and third may be referred to as the days of each planet. They are given in Book II, Chapter 29 of the Mathesis by Firmicus Maternus (“The Division of the Year”) with a couple minor errors, and a more precise list is given by Vettius Valens at the beginning of Book IV of his Anthology. The list of the planetary days is given below:
Saturn – 85 = 60+15+10
Jupiter – 34 = 24+6+4
Mars – 42 1/2 = 30+7 1/2+5
Sun – 53 5/6 = 38+9 1/2+6 1/3
Venus – 22 2/3 = 16+4+2 2/3
Mercury – 56 2/3 = 40+10+6 2/3
Moon – 70 5/6 = 50+12 1/2+8 1/3
Sum of all the planetary years = (85 + 34 + 42 1/2) + (53 5/6 + 70 5/6) + (22 2/3 + 56 2/3) = 161 1/2 + (124 2/3 + 79 1/3) = 161 1/2 + 204 = 365 1/2 days. Spooky, isn’t it?
Dividing the Year
These planetary days are used in a few different time lord techniques in Hellenistic astrology. Probably the simplest and most intuitive use is given by Firmicus Maternus in Chapter 29 of Book II of the Mathesis, and divides the native’s year following one’s birthday. As Firmicus explained it, it seems that we start with the ruler of the annual profection (explanation of profections can be found here), also called the lord of the year, and proceed from one planet to the next based on their order in the natal chart from that planet.
I will only use one example of this technique, as it can be time consuming to lay out. However, once you’ve laid out the days the planetary rulership switches over the course of year it is done and can be referred to throughout the year, giving a nice understanding of the timing for the manifestation of different planets and their indications for that year.
My one example is that of Bernie Madoff. He was arrested at age 70, on December 11, 2008. Mars, the out of sect malefic in his chart is in Gemini, ruled by Mercury, planet of commerce, in the 11th which pertains to groups and networking. This Mars is particularly relevant to his capture, as he was arrested in an 11th house, Gemini, annual profection, which came to that Mars, and was ruled by his Mercury. Interestingly, the year 70 is also a year of the ripening of Mercury-Mars relationships (20+20+15+15), activating his Mars in Gemini, as well as his Mercury in Aries, and their sextile relationship. Additionally, on the morning of his arrest, December 11, 2008, the transiting Moon was in early Gemini, conjoining his natal Mars.
The breakdown of the days of the year is also interesting. It starts on or around his birthday April 29th. His arrest is December 11th. To calculate the number of days between them we can use a duration calculator (click to go to calculation site). Using the calculator we find about 226 days between Madoff’s birthday and his arrest. We begin the year with Mercury, and then proceed in the order of the planets in the natal chart as follows:
Mercury 56.666+ Moon 70.666+ Sun 53.8333+ Venus 22.666 = 203.83, so approximately 204 days after his birthday, the rulership went from Venus to Mars. The period of Mars is 42.5 days, so it went from about 204 to about 246 days after his birthday. Therefore, at the time of Madoff’s arrest it was Mars that was the active planet pertaining to those days.
I leave you with a quote from Firmicus Maternus on the interpretation of the day activations from Mathesis, Book II, Ch. 29, #2 (Holden trans., 2011):
“when illnesses, when debilities, when gains, when losses happen, when joys, when sorrows. For when the benefic stars receive the days, we are freed from all evil; when malefics, the sudden blows of misfortune strike us.”
Have fun experimenting with the basic use of the minor years of the planets and the planetary days! Feel free to share experiences in the comments.
Maternus, J. F. (2011). Mathesis. (J. H. Holden, Trans.). American Federation of Astrologers.
Ancient Hellenistic and Persian Astrology in Practice