This is why such extremes of experience are found in the passage of time, and good is linked to bad, sorrow attends success, and in its inconstancy fortune maintains no steady course: to such an extent is it varied and changing, nowhere remaining the same; and by its commutation of everything in the lives of us all it has forfeited our trust. (Manilius, Astronomica, 3.524-530, Goold trans., 1977, p. 206-207)
In the first post of this series, we looked at one of the simplest, most ubiquitous, and effective of ancient predictive techniques, profections. In this post we’ll look at how astrologers applied this concept of profections to smaller time periods as well, namely months, but also days, and even groups of hours. Therefore, if you are unfamiliar with profections, please read the first post of the series to get acquainted before reading on.
Brief Annual Profections Recap
When a native is born, the lord of the year is the lord of the house [ascendant] in which the native was born. Thus count from the ascendant a year for each sign until you reach the year which you desire; the lord of that house is the lord of the year. Look at the lord of this sign, whether it is a benefic or a malefic, and in the base-nativity how its position was and in which foundation it was. From the base-nativity is known what is concerning him [the native] at the beginning of the year, and the beginning of the year is always when the Sun enters the beginning of the minute in which it was on the day of the native’s nativity. (Dorotheus, Carmen Astrologicum, Book IV-1.1-5, Pingree trans., p. 90)
Dorotheus goes on to discuss not only that the ruling planet (i.e. lord of the year) is important, but also important are the planets in the sign the Ascendant profects to, and the regards (i.e. aspects) of the planets to that sign (especially regard by opposition).
The annual profections will be dealt with in greater depth in many future posts on predictive techniques, but Dorotheus has captured the main idea of the basic method pretty well above.
As we enter into a discussion of monthly profections it should be noted that there is greater diversity of opinion among astrologers when it comes to these, as well as with finer divisions into day periods. Uncontroversially, the monthly profection involves moving (i.e. profecting) the Ascendant one sign per month, starting from the sign of the annual profection, which takes the first month. For instance, if one were 23 years old, born with Aries rising, then the annual profection would be to Pisces (24 would be first place, so 23 would be one back in the 12th place, Pisces), and the first month after the solar return would be a Pisces month, with Jupiter as Lord of the Month, while the next month would be an Aries month, with Mars as Lord of the Month, and so forth. This is the basic idea of monthly profections, and to keep it simple you can even just use the day of the month of your birthday as a marker if you’d like. For instance, if born on the 2nd of August, then you could have the 2nd of August to 2nd of September as the first month, 2nd of September to 2nd of October as second month, and so forth. This is the method I tend to use, as it gives a fairly accurate and easy mental figure of the month ruler and terminal sign (i.e. the sign of the profection), and it was the method that was recommended to me by Robert Zoller in his Diploma Course in Medieval Astrology (2003, Lesson 18, p. 17-18), early on in my studies of profections. But what do various astrologers of the Hellenistic and Persian periods have to say about monthly profections?
Opinions of Astrologers on Monthly Profections
To every sign there comes an hour just once a day, a day twice in the month, a month once in the year, and a year once in twelve annual courses of the Sun. (Manilius, Astronomica, 3.548-551, Goold trans., 1977, p. 207)
This passage is found in Manilius’s (1st Century CE) discussion of an alternative method for profecting through the signs, other than his preferred method which he presents first. In another post dealing with additional profectional variants, I will address the system preferred by Manilius, but for our current purposes, we are focused on the more typical profection of the Ascendant. Aside from the references to smaller units of profections, including two days of a month to a planet (possibly the 2.5 day periods from dividing a month by 12, which are used by some later astrologers for daily profections) and a system of planetary hours, Manilius does make clear that the Ascendant profects to each sign once per year when it comes to monthly profections. This is significant, because there is at least one notable exception in the literature to this rule, occurring about 1,000 years later, of the noted Persian polymath Al Biruni (11th Century CE):
When the signs and degrees of the yearly terms have been learnt, each year is divided into (thirteen) months of 28 days 1 hour 51 minutes and a sign to each given, so that the last month ends at the same degree as the radical ascendant has the same sign as the first, while the first month of the next year has the same sign as the year; similarly a sign is given to each of thirteen periods of 2 days 3 hours 50 minutes, the end of the last of these periods coinciding with the end of the monthly term. (Al Biruni, The Book of Instruction in the Elements of the Art of Astrology, 522, Wright, 1934, p. 95).
This 13-fold division of Al Biruni is atypical for profections, and I don’t personally recommend it. However, it may have been an attempt to rationalize and refine some remarks by Ptolemy (2nd Century CE) referring to 28 day monthly profectional periods and 2 1/3 day daily profectional periods:
We shall discover the general chronocrators, then, in the manner described, and the annual chronocrators by setting out from each of the prorogatory places, in the order of the signs, the number of years from birth, one year to each sign,and taking the ruler of the last sign. We shall do the same thing for the months, setting out, again, the number of months from the month of birth, starting from the places that govern the year, twenty-eight days to a sign; and similarly for the days, we shall set out the number of the days from the day of birth, starting with the places which govern the months, two and a third days to a sign. (Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, Book 4, Ch. 10, Robbins trans., 1940, p. 453).
It’s not clear whether this was simply an error on Ptolemy’s part, using an approximation of the orbital period of the Moon (almost 28 days, time it takes to travel 360* in the zodiac) as a month, rather than either the approximate synodic period of the Moon (almost 30 days, time between New Moons) or 1/12 of a year (just over 30 days), which seem to be more commonly chosen.
We will look at other Hellenistic astrologers to explore how they divided the time. However, we will ignore Dorotheus (1st Century CE) in this matter, as he presented totally different methods for finding month and day lords, that don’t seem to be profectional. Valens (2nd Century CE) added much to the use of profections in his exposition in which he advocated profecting all the different planets and points (with particularly stress on the profection of the Ascendant and Lights as being of more importance) to each other, in a system of transmitting and receiving, which I will specifically address in another post as a variant on the basic idea of profections. However, despite the large and complicated exposition of annual profections that Valens provided (c.f. Book 4, Ch. 11-13), he seemed to have used different methods, including those used by Dorotheus (among numerous others), in finding month and day lords. As far as I can tell, Valens did not discuss monthly profections in his Anthology, as odd as that would seem in a huge text simply chock full of dozens of different time lord and other predictive methods, most of which not found elsewhere (though it is possible that I’ve overlooked some mention of monthly profections in this massive text). Julius Firmicus Maternus (4th Century CE) is among those astrologers, including Dorotheus and Valens, that advocated annual profections, but used a different technique for periods less than a year (c.f. Mathesis, Book II, Ch. 27 vs. Ch. 28).
Paulus Alexandrinus (4th Century CE) did discuss monthly profections (c.f. Introductory Matters, II.31), but was not specific about how long the month should be, though he did specify that each daily profection should last one day, rather than 1/12 of a month. This would yield about 2.5 cycles of 1 day profectional periods in a month, rather than the oft-found one cycle of 2.5 day periods. I am not myself an advocate of using daily profectional lords at all, but I can see the logic in using either the 2.5 day or the 1 day periods, so if one is so inclined to use daily profections at all, then one should tinker to find one’s preferred choice.
My conclusions about monthly profections in the Hellenistic period is that they existed, but many, if not most, of the Hellenistic astrologers didn’t use them or at least didn’t write about them, as opposed to the very prominent literature on annual profections. When monthly, and even daily, profections are employed, it is difficult to tell whether they are based on a prototypical conception of the time period (such as 28 or 30 days for a monthly, and 1 day for a daily) or if they should be treated as 1/12 of the greater period (such as just over 30 days for a monthly, and 2.5 days for a daily), with somewhat conflicting indications given in the early texts that do discuss them.
In Persian predictive methods there is a great stress upon the annual profection of the Ascendant and its indicated Lord of the Year, but little concern with monthly profections. For instance, Masha’allah discussed the Lord of the Year from the annual profection first in his discussion of annual methods in Book IV of the Book of Aristotle, and even delineated each planet as Lord of the Year (c.f. Book IV.1-7), but still did not employ profections for figuring month and day rulers. ‘Umar al-Tabari similarly placed a great deal of stress on annual profections (which, he employs in 30* per year, rather than by sign, as will be addressed in a future post) but gave no discussion of monthly profections in Book II of his Three Books on Nativities. The annual profection of the Ascendant (which, like al-Tabari, he employed by 30 degrees rather than by whole sign) is particularly important within Abu Ma’shar’s annual predictive method outlined in his On the Revolutions of the Years of Nativities, receiving a lot of attention and delineation material, particularly in Book II. However, monthly profections get only a very small mention, they are mentioned in Book IV in which he discussed rulers of shorter periods, and though by degrees, he specifically uses a 30 day monthly profectional period, a 2.5 day daily profectional period, and even a 5 hour hourly profectional period, and thus it is clear that he sees division by 12 as the key to deriving smaller profectional periods. However, it should be noted that these profections of periods under a year are one of the last things discussed in his discussion of rulers of periods less than a year, and he doesn’t refer to any corresponding Lord of the Month, Day, or Hour (instead, apparently using them aspectually), so it’s unclear whether he actually used profections of smaller periods in natal prediction, or was simply conveying the idea behind them and the possibility for their use.
In a given annual profection, profect the four chief indicators through the months at a rate of 30° per month. […] For all of these, direct them through the next 30° (representing one month) at a rate of one day per degree, noting the planetary bodies and rays encountered. (Abu Ma’shar, On the Revolutions of the Years of Nativities, Book IX, Ch. 8, Dykes trans., 2010, p. 205-206).
Putting aside the legitimate concern of whether monthly profections should be leaned on heavily in predictive work at all, which truly should hinge on their effectiveness, in the next post I hope to present a couple examples pertaining to use of basic annual and monthly whole sign profections of the Ascendant with transits. Personally, I do feel that adding monthly profections to one’s predictive toolbox is worthwhile, and that their frequent neglect in ancient predictive material is in part owing to a general emphasis on larger time frames and bigger events. Transits are also often neglected in ancient astrology for the same reason, though I feel that they too should not be neglected in the practice of the art in this fast-paced modern era of easy computation.