Astrology, predestination and free will.

With regard to predestination and its conflict with free will, the debate has been quite extensive and heated. It is an exciting subject, with profound philosophical consequences, and for which I am asked with some frequency. As I am not a philosopher but an astrologer, I have to try to answer from the discipline that concerns me. My intention is to show that the relationship between fate and human freedom is much more fluid and permeable than it seems. Although the issue is not without controversy, a reasonable perspective is possible to reconcile both extremes. Let’s assume first that astrology poses a predictable universe model and therefore organized around a deterministic notion, although not necessarily causal. I refer to a determinism in the broad sense, not circumscribed to the strict logic of cause – effect that we inherit from the thought of Aristotle or from the mechanistic paradigm of Isaac Newton.

Astrological determinism is far from resembling that universe of watchmaking gears that emanates from classical physics. On the contrary, it is an organic determinism, more similar to the simultaneous interrelation of the organs and tissues of a living being. With exceptions such as that of Al-Kindi (801-873 AD), who was one of the most aristotelian among Arab astrologers, many celestial augurs rejected the theory of astrological causation or direct stellar influence, leaning rather on the idea of a synchronic confluence in which the events of heaven and earth occurred in a coordinated manner. The conception of a causal line was tempting for some, because it tended to resolve in reasonable terms the awkward situation of having to account for this strange oracle of magical-Babylonian origin. From Greek philosophy, which at that time was an expression of the most exquisite rationality, a causal link could be established between the stars and terrestrial life. However, astrologers less well versed in the Aristotelian and Stoic lucubrations continued to maintain a vision of concurrency and simultaneity of the celestial symbols. In this way, sustaining a deterministic cosmos does not necessarily imply a view of causality, as evidenced by Cicero’s famous definition of destiny in De Divinatione.

That vision of cosmic synchrony had some compatibility with a third position, much more archaic and magical-religious, where the celestial bodies are the visible face of the gods, whose will is manifested to men through the movement and position of the planets. However, the three versions have in common the idea of a pre-existing fate, which can be known in advance. In them the notion of an intelligible universe is also evident, whose action expresses a meaning and perhaps also a purpose. This intelligibility of the firmament opens up the possibility of prediction within a deterministic framework, or what is the same, within a knowable future of finite possibilities. This, obviously, comes into conflict with the ideological foundations of modernity, where the future is open, unknown, of infinite possibilities, and whose crystallization depends on the exercise of freedom. Therefore, the ancestral vision of a time with predetermined possibilities tends to be annoying for the mentality in vogue. But we will return to this topic a little later.

When I say that the astrological cosmos is predictable and deterministic, I mean that the ability of the astrologer to predict the events that lie ahead depends on a conception where the celestial signs indicate the quality of time and its propensity to manifest itself in concrete events. The mantic arts in general conceive a closed or pre-established future, since if it were not determined in advance it could not be the object of divination. Then a tremendous philosophical problem arises, because if life is predestined, what place has free will? And worse, if human actions are predetermined, what moral responsibility can be attributed to people for their actions? Well, these complex questions arise precisely by the same way of posing the question of destiny. Maybe there is another way to approach the problem.

The destiny or fatum is that supernatural power that imposes itself on the life of men with the force of the inevitable, guiding the events to an end not chosen, although not necessarily negative, since the destiny also can sometimes overcome the personal aspirations and expectations. In Orphic mythology this force appears in the form of Ananke, personification of the inevitable and the inescapable necessity to which both gods and mortals are subject. She was represented as a serpentine being, intertwined with her eternal companion Cronos, the lord of time. Thus, destiny and time extended throughout the universe, giving rise to the network of existence. Ananke was mother of the three Moiras, those primal goddesses who distributed fate to each being and determined the duration of the thread of life.

And what about free will? Few people are aware that, just as the notion of destiny has an undeniable pagan root, the idea of free will arose from the discussions of the Judeo-Christian theologians. The rabbis and bishops of the first centuries of the common era were very interested in debating with the pagans about this idea that the gods and / or the stars determined the course of human destiny, because this basic belief of paganism came into contradiction with the moral doctrine that makes man responsible for his sins. If destiny exists and it is inexorable, it was predestined that Adam and Eve should disobey! If so, the fault would be God’s and not man’s. Starting from this point, the theologians strove to throw down the idea of predestination, postulating that God had granted man the gift of freedom to act according to good or evil. By doing God’s will, expressed in the sacred scriptures, good was done and the salvation of the soul was achieved in the hereafter. But in the opposite corner, the Stoic philosophers, all of them heathens, defended a very different position; the universe is predetermined to the last centimeter by destiny, and man can only liberate himself interiorly from his mundane attachments to attain peace and happiness, since matter, time and space are subject to an inevitable causal determinism.

The debate between pagan philosophers and Christian theologians ended, argumentum ad baculum, with the triumph of the freedom of action proposed by the latter. Consequence of that is that in the western mentality, free will is a dogma of unquestionable faith, to the point of being defended by those who are opposed to the church, the synagogue, the mosque and everything that smells similar. It is a theological triumph unparalleled in universal history. But since astrology is an ancient science, in which elements coming from any culture made use of it, it could not but survive in its core that pagan and deterministic element. However, also the free will of theologians found a place in it. How is it possible? The intermediate position that reconciles both perspectives is known as “compatibilism” and is based on a mild determinism. It argues that destiny and free will are compatible to the extent that we assume a deterministic universe in which a subject capable of making choices between the options that are presented as a result of predestination operates. Finding that bulky wallet on the bus seat was clearly predestined, but it is my free choice to keep the money or look for an ID to return it to its owner. And although there are situations in which we have almost no choice, this does not deny that we have that freedom to choose most of the time.

From traditional astrology it is better to think in terms of choices than in absolute free will. The fact that we do not control time or the flows of becoming, and that much of the ups and downs of life were not desired or anticipated by us, shows that we live in a deterministic world, in which the vicissitudes of fate define fundamental issues such as the country and city in which we were born, the parents that we got, the woman we fall in love on that party, the illness that took us to the hospital, the collapse of our business in the middle of the economic crisis, or simply the day of our inevitable death. If we are honest with ourselves, we will realize that the most important and determining events of our lives were not the result of our desires; they simply happened in spite of us, starting with the birth itself. All these apparent accidents that condition the events, coordinated with the symbolic text of the firmament, constitute what astrology means by destiny.

In the Middle Ages the renowned Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274), theologian and Christian philosopher, tried to address the issue. After much caviling he proposed a maxim that is repeated again and again by astrologers: the stars tilt, but do not force. It was not strange that he was interested in it, since his teacher had been the famous Albertus Magnus, bishop and theologian, but also naturalist, alchemist, geographer, herbalist, astrologer and for that time, magician. The question of astrological determinism occupied the most brilliant minds of humanity for many centuries, enough proof that astrology is not a simple superstition of lots of ignorant people.

What Thomas Aquinas says is that the stars can not force you to proceed in one direction, but they do incline the events and forces of becoming to a particular side. The possibility of choosing, and not an absolute free will, will present us with alternatives. Or we let ourselves be dragged by the current of the astral river or swim against it. The will acquires a central role here, since only a man of tenacious persistence can persevere swimming upriver. Since a will of iron is not usual, in most cases the current actually drags people to where they have not chosen. Have you noticed that when carrying out our careful plans, the situation usually presents so many unforeseen events that the process and the result are never exactly what one had planned? A Turkish dervish once told me that effort belongs to man, but the result depends on God. It is a pious way of seeing it, in which the same truth that we raise is hidden. There is an interaction between what is predestined and what man chooses to do. Not always our choices lead to a satisfactory result, because they have entered into contradiction with destiny. Other times our actions flow with the river of existence, and in coordination with the sky, what is expected is obtained. Hence the advantage that gives the knowledge of the future, because if you know the quality of time is possible to choose the right moment to do anything successfully. This is known as elective astrology, a branch of the ancient astrological tradition that seeks to anticipate the facts and take advantage of that knowledge to obtain favorable outcomes.

Regarding the moral responsibility of people in a deterministic framework, by assuming the freedom that every human being has to choose the course of their actions against predestined events, we must also assume as an inevitable consequence that every conscious subject is fully responsible for their acts. Maybe in life we come across someone who drives us crazy, and our bad temper makes us prone to outbursts of anger, but that does not rid us of moral responsibility if we cause injuries in a fit. Then, in a deterministic framework, moral responsibility is much greater, because as alternatives are closing and limiting, our uncertainty decreases and we have much greater clarity to decide and assume the consequences.

There are people who, due to low social status at bith, have a much more limited degree of freedom. It is the case of poverty and slavery, which unfortunately continues to exist on our planet in a veiled way. Others are fortunate and are born under very advantageous conditions of life, where there is no lack of money or opportunities. The powerful fate, which the Greeks knew as Εἱμαρμένη (Heimarmene), decrees for some the easy and for others the difficult. While among the Hindus there is an individual karmic explanation to account for the apparent injustices of life, among the Stoics a causal determinism of a general or cosmic order is invoked; but both the fortunate and the unfortunate, in their different levels of freedom, have a certain degree, larger or smaller, to choose the nature of their actions. I have met dispossessed people with the most kind and compassionate nature, as I have met with the most cruel and malicious wealthy people. Of course, the opposite is also true, since there are poor people who take pains to harm the rest and wealthy people who try to help sincerely. Statistical frequency is not my issue. I try to suggest that in spite of the pre-established conditions, and often outside of one’s own will, there is also the possibility of choosing and being morally responsible for said elections.

At the beginning we noticed the evident conflict between the traditional view of destiny and the consciousness of individual freedom that characterizes the modern subject. Predestination upsets the contemporary mentality and poses a threat to our psychological need to feel completely free to satisfy our desires. I believe that in this there is a sign of a certain collective immaturity, a form of denial of experiences of frustration, but it is also the result of the efforts of the theologians and apologists of the first centuries of Christianity. Anyway, it is clear that the astrological predestination does not empower the astrologer to know everything beforehand, since there is the human potential to choose, and even, by force of willful tenacity, turn the course of events. Astrology determines categories or types of objects, people and situations, but can not predict anything down to the smallest detail. In this sense, it poses a categorical determinism that leaves enough space for the emergence of the human will. In particular, astrology is not going to tell us which is the favorite rock band of the subject that stole my bicycle, but with a Horary Chart it can help us by indicating the type of place it is in, if it is whole or was already sold in parts, and even what general appearance the thief has.

To explain the relationship between astrology, predestination and free will I usually use an analogy. Suppose we sail at sea. Our ship is exposed to the impulse of the marine currents and the winds, which drag it in a certain direction. They are the forces of destiny signed in the stars. However, as captains of the ship we can take the situation and be responsible for the ship, take the helm of the will and direct the sails of the intellect, using the winds and currents in our favor, in order to reach the desired port. Because navigating safely involves a good deal of knowledge, it is a good idea to have the navigation maps provided by astrology.

In this way, our attitude towards the inevitable depends completely on us, and that action is conditioning the possibilities of expression of our own destiny, so that we are not passive puppets moved by the threads of doom. On the contrary, we are participatory agents in the configuration of destiny, determining a part of it by the exercise of our degree of freedom in choosing our actions against the manifestation of the predestined. Then, that the universe is subject to determinism simply means that it is intelligible, by presenting an identifiable and understandable order for the intellect. Finally, it is important not to forget a fundamental principle. Fate, from the metaphysical point of view, must be transcended. Hence the search for platonic anabasis, that ascent of the soul through the seven planetary spheres to reach the empyrean, beyond the Saturn region, where time does not exist and therefore, the Ananke no longer rules. That is the final goal – or destiny – to which every man and woman should direct their ship.

Mars, bloodthirsty and brave




Nocturnal, irregular, a wanderer of the heavens, masculine, maleficent, hot, has an affinity with that which is public, be it prostitution, carnage; impulsiveness hanging on to war and infections. In the body, it rules especially the head.

In the natal chart, if it occupies an angle, or looks to the ascendant or has to do to key points like the Lot of Fortune, or if it is in its exaltation or domicile, it can add a positive point to counteract its evil: it confers the ability to react and fight, not surrender or conform, if the native is in an adverse situation.

As the Brazilian song goes: evil can be good and good can be cruelty.

Even in fall, if his mundane situation is angular, in spite of immense fears, the native is led to react and not to conform. This I have seen in my experience.

There is hardly a good thing to be heard about Mars, a true malefic that comes to break and destroy abruptly whatever it may be, whether it is exalted or in regency, in fall or detriment, whether in mundane or personal affairs.

But sometimes it is the only one responsible for making crucial and fast decisions.

It occurred to me these days, when Mars sailed for Scorpio, to watch a series of rather painful films, where people were locked up and abused for years, to an unbearable point. Even freed from gags and handcuffs, the will was broken and they do not escape. Other characters, in equally scary movies, in an act of courage, even accepting the loss of a member, were freed from the bonds.

I should probably watch lighter movies, which would require me less courage to go to the end. I agree, but Mars transits Scorpio, his nocturnal sign, and no doubt there was a synastry.

Even the fact that I am writing now on the subject is not a random fact and is related to this passage.

I went to the Astrodatabank © list of charts that I own and had used the filter of abducted people who suffered violence.

But I soon realized that in order to find Mars in an important position, I should look for examples of courage rather than victimization.

I found thousands of charts, of which I selected two, for no particularly important reason. The native’s stories were one of courage and I thought they would serve the purpose.

We will see these charts and I expect that the delineation will give us greater clarification on the role of Mars.

This is the first chart:

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François Achille Bazaine (February 13, 1811 – September 23, 1888) was an officer of the French army.

Rising from a position for decades of service (including 35 years in campaigns, under Louis-Philippe and then Napoleon III, held all positions in the army.

He became known for his determination of leadership, for his impassive bearing under fire and for his personal bravery, getting to be bruised, which resulted in injuries on several occasions and had his horse shot from under him twice.

From 1863 he became a Marshal of France, and it was in this role that he delivered the last French army organized to Prussia during the Franco-Prussian War, during the siege of Metz.

They gave him an impossible task: to defeat a powerful enemy force, without support or supplies. He was able to engage them for 54 days, resulting in thier surrender.

He was sentenced to death by the government of the Third Republic, which declared that he yielded hastily and without due honor. He was tried by the Martial Court and sentenced to death.

But the president commuted his sentence to 20 years in prison in exile, from which he escaped.

He finally settled in Spain, where he died at 77 years old, alone and impoverished.

For the Foreign Legion he remained a hero and to this day is honored as one of its bravest soldiers.

Notice now that the astrological chart shows no angular planet.

If we did not use the Lot of Fortune as a second ascendant, the chart would be totally puzzling, a real enigma.

But, from the Lot of Fortune in House 9, using it now as House 1, Mars occupies the 10th House in relation to Fortune.

We can see that the domiciled Mars generated the profession of the native and his destiny. The ruler of Fortune is Jupiter in house 12, and it rules Saturn in the 7th house, the declared enemies, that is, the heavy sentence to which the native was submitted by his peers, the Martial Court.


Interestingly, exile, being away from home, in another country, from where he escaped, has a connection to house 9, where Fortuna is located.


But returning to Mars, domiciliated and below the sky in a daytime nativity, in haym, is squaring the Sun, the source of life in a daytime birth. That is why even Mars in good condition fails to do evil, soon or later.


The Sun ruler of sect lies in its joy, in the 9th house, but it is in its detriment, so in bad celestial condition, besides being afflicted by Mars.

By analyzing the chart we may see beforehand that something would go wrong. This hero was not only a hero, he killed many people even in the name of the motherland.

And when Mars is so prominent its sword is double-edged.



The second hero I will introduce is Jacques Lusseyran.



He was a fighter of the French resistance.
He was an active and happy child that became blind at the age of eight, on May 3, 1932, after accidentally hitting his head on a table.

He made school and college in Braille in Paris, maintaining his love for life and inner joy. He decided to study German when he sensed Hitler’s threat.

In 1943, as a teenager, he joined a group of young people, leading them to the Resistance Movement. Soon he joined a larger network and had his own newspaper, the Defense of France.

The edition of July 14, 1943, was printed in 250,000 copies (he also wrote the editorial). The transmission passed from the door-to-door distribution system to the open transmission, the exit of the churches or even to the subway.

Despite his disability, he quickly played an important role in the movement. During the first few months, he was responsible for controlling the recruitment of new members, using an inner sense, developed since he became blind, which allowed him to detect false pretensions in unknown interlocutors.

Betrayed, he was delivered to the Nazis, being arrested on July 19, 1943, being moved to a concentration camp. Among 2000 French in the same condition he was one of 30 who survived.

His survival is due, on the one hand, to the fact that he was involved as an interpreter by the Nazi camp administration, not having to suffer the terribly hard work of the “kommandos” of the work, but he was also helped daily by other prisoners because of his blindness.

Finally, according to what he reports in his books “The World Begins Today” and “The Light in the Dark” he felt supported by his spiritual strength which he claims to be present at all times.

His knowledge of German allowed him to understand and decrypt the information transmitted by the SS on the field loudspeakers. On August 26, 1944, he was certain that Paris had been released, although this was obviously not explicit.

On April 9, 1945, the US Army of General Patton arrived in the Weimar area. On the 10th, when the SS gave him the choice between staying at the camp or going out with them, he decided to stay. After a day of uncertainty, the field was released.
On April 18, 1945, he emigrated to the US and worked as a university professor in America, married and had four children.

He died in a car accident along with his third wife Marie, in France on July 27, 1971.

Analyzing the chart from the point of view of the contribution of Mars, we see that it is set to the South Node, which represents a great bad fortune in everything that concerns Mars. In addition, Mars squares the Ascendant and is angular if we use whole signs.

This man was wounded in the head and suffered a severe injury that in his childhood made him blind.

Now see: Mars has dignity in the ascendant, who receives Mars in his house as regent. It is worth quoting Masha’allah in his book On Reception: “When the ruler of life receives the ruler of Death there is death” Mars is not the ruler of the house of death but is a malefic. What happened is that the native did not revolt with his blindness: he accepted the designs of Mars and moved on.

Mercury provided a fruitful intellectuality and ability to express himself well, to learn and to write. A prodigious mind is revealed by Mercury occupying the house of the Good Spirit, far from the Sun and joined to the true MC: he was a writer and not a warrior.

What I found interesting in this chart is that we do not find bloody heroism, but the native’s acceptance of fate. In the end, the damage from Mars saved him effort and perhaps his life, because if he could see, he could have been killed in the concentration camp. A lord received in his own home is well treated, or the best possible. But we have to consider that receiving Mars in his own home is to receive a troublemaker and a thug.

In fact, our native died in an automobile disaster, a typically martial event.

What we see is that the maleficent Mars can be of assistance to tasks that require courage and they go beyond the war. But, Mars will always leave its mark of blood, like a fierce and hungry carnivore.

May we know how to use the beast that the cosmos has placed in our chart, may us try to understand it, and finally may us know that in the end we are not able to domesticate it once and for all.

Clélia Romano,DMA                 February 2018

Songs from the Gathas – Removing Spells & Illness

A Persian Zoroastrian King and his young son, Salmân al-Fârisî, enter a fire temple administered by three priests,

This is another of those topics which deserve a lengthy article, but for now, a blog entry will have to suffice as an introduction to a highly complex topic. The video, shown below, was made available on YouTube by a Zoroastrian gentleman who has an extraordinary channel at Fereydoun Rasti Zoroastrianism & Iran If this material interests you, I heartily recommend looking through the extensive archives of videos. 

I posted this rather lengthy video because it uses the Zoroastrian scriptures known as the Gathas. The similarity to the Vedic word Gita (song) is no accident: Maneckji Nusservanji Dhalla states that “It is an uncontested fact that there is a marked closeness between the grammar, meter, and style of the Rig Veda and the Gathas.” (History of Zoroastrianism p11).. The power of words is emphasized in both and the verses are meant to be sung, as the title suggests.

Zoroastrianism posits, quite sensibly in my estimation, that this world is in a battle between good and evil. There are no specific scriptural comments on astrology per se in the Gatha period at least, but astrology certainly became an important element of Persian beliefs. It was already ubiquitous. Zoroastrianism is not known as a superstitious religion. It is widely believed that Zoroaster was a priest and a prophet, associated with the Magi. He is considered a magician in the true sense.

The creator, Ahura Mazda, has always affected human reasoning and therefore actions. The aim is to reveal to humanity their innate connection to the source of light and consciousness. It should come as no surprise that Zoroastrianism was the impetus and source of Mahayana Buddhism.

There is also an angelology – the idea of celestial forces that could be called upon.  Ahura Mazda is ineffable.  The point for our immediate concerns are that the Gathas were sung for devotional reasons and also used to mitigate or cast out what were considered evil forces, including common illnesses. This cosmology lends itself very well to an astrological framework, but not one in which the planets or angels had a will of their own, as it were. We come back to the to the question as to whether the stars impel or compel us. The creed of Zoroastrianism comes down to “good thoughts, good speech, and good action..” With this thing in mind the practise of singing the Gathas, we find that this is more a practical application of divine principles than superstition.

The counterpart to Ahura Mazda is Angra Mainyu also known as the “evil spirit.” This dark manifestation is ultimately set to be destroyed according to Zoroastrian eschatology  In the meantime, the kinds of practises described in the video presentation are regarded as wise and efficacious, much in the way a Hindu or Buddhist might consider a mantra. We don’t consider the practise of such things as being indicative of superstitious minds and certainly neither do those employing these remedies. This is the source of confusion for many when being introduced to the Good Religion, as it is frequently called. A Monotheistic faith that recognizes dual forces of light and darkness within that wholeness is actually a fair and apt description of life.


The study of ancient and classical astrology inevitably including spending a great deal of time on the history, culture and particularly the religion of ancient Persia. There are several reasons for this, but the primary one can be realized immediately by the strategic location of a land that once included most of what is now Afghanistan and beyond. She borders India and the Sik Road to China, promoting trade and the exchange of ideas. Moreover, she also bordered and later ruled Babylon, Assyria, and Sumeria.

The capturing of Babylon also include the liberation of the Jews by Darius, who went further and paid to gave the temple re-built. darius forbid the use of slaves.  Later on, Persia was conquered by Alexander the Great, whose teacher was no less than Aristotle, Alexander’s conquest of Asia was a bloody affair and many scholars and written material were lost forever when he set the torch to Persepolis, burning the city to the ground amongst an orgy of violence, in spite of the fact that the inhabitants have surrendered. That was one of the best cases that have ever been made against the excessive abuse of alcohol in decision making in all of history.

Even the most unjustly founded empires do in fact has some advantages and this is very much the case in the transmission of knowledge. The Hellenistic world united Greece with Egypt and  Persia with both. The School of Alexandria was among the greatest venues for shared knowledge, from Hindu astronomers and astrologers, Buddhists, Pythagorean, numerous Solar religions, Neo-Platonists, devotees of Isis, Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians. This place of extraordinary learning was to meet its own demise under the Muslim invasions.

It’s a Persian, Indian and Greek alchemy that produced what we now call Hellenistic astrology. But that is only the beginning.

Astrology of the Bubonic Plague

(Detail() Triumph of Death fresco, circa 1448; Palazzo Abatellis, Palermo, Italy. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Not long after the Vernal Equinox of 1348 King Philip VI ordered a report on the causes of the Bubonic Plague from the University of Paris Faculty of Medicine. The response came by way of an astrological explanation. If the cause was understood, a cure might be found. The Faculty pointed to a chart for 1.00 pm 20 March 1345 there was a conjunction of Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars in the House of Aquarius. Moreover, there had been a significant Lunar Eclipse on March 18 at 9:38 pm.

There is another chart of great importance in this matter. It’s the Solar Revolution for the year that the first known strains of the Black Death made landfall in Byzantium and spread rapidly throughout the eastern Empire, killing 100,000 people a year. At this time the Empire contained the lands on the Mediterranean coast and stretched far into the heartland of Europe. The plague went as far as Denmark and Ireland, ultimately killing about half the population of Europe. The Emperor Justinian contracted the disease in Constantinople but miraculously survived.

Byzantium frequently imported large amounts of grain from Egypt. The shipments became infested with vermin, who in term carried fleas infected with the plague. It has been suggested that the Plague was a Pandemic originating in China at a time unknown. It is not certain however that it was the same strain, In light of this, our focus is on the European experience.

The Byzantine historian Procopius first reported the epidemic in AD 541 from the port of Pelusium, near Suez in Egypt (Wade, 2010). We are not given a date. The chart is set for 0°Aries at Suez, constituting a Solar Revolution.

First of all, a quick word about the symptoms of the Plague.

Plagues have been the result of various forms of Human y pestis infection, taking three main forms pneumonic, septicemic, and the notorious bubonic plagues. See Ryan KJ, Ray CG (2004). Sherris Medical Microbiology (4th ed.). pp. 484–488.

At first glance, we can see the Byzantium Chart is not good, but perhaps not bad enough to signify what we are looking at. However, we have Saturn in Martian Scorpio in Partile conjunction to the Ascendant. His dispositor is in the Eighth House of Death.

Mars is also conjunct the South Node and Almuten of the chart as well as the Ascendant, adding considerable strength to the malefics. Mars is the Killing Planet. The angles are in Fixed Signs lending more power and longevity to the influences.

Less obvious is Venus in her domicile in Taurus.  In most cases, this is a good placement for her. However, she is exactly conjunct the highly malefic Fixed Star, Algol named by the Chinese as ‘piled up corpses’ and by others as losing one’s head. as in decapitation or madness. The deaths were so numerous that the corpses were literally piled up.

You could say that Venus is a devil in disguise. She is in Hayz and Lady of the Year.  She is also Lord of the two most unfortunate houses, the Twelfth and the Sixth. Mercury is in his Fall and disposits Mars and Moon in the Eighth without benefit. However, he is in the fruitful sign of Pisces. It seems that everything is conspiring to ensure this Plague has all it needs to spread without hindrance.

The Ascendant is the only candidate for Hyleg. Being in a malefic sign and conjunct another, this is dire indeed. The humour of the chart is an airy sanguine, warm and wet. So what is promised by other elements of the chart has the advantage of the best conditions for the Plague to thrive. If it was too hot or cold and dry, it would have been arrested. The Piscean Mercury is Lord of the Eighth House, brings more wetness that only serves to spread the contagion


Let’s now consider the  Eclipse chart referred to by the astrologers from the Faculty of Medicine. The chart is for Paris, France. 18 March 1345 at 9:38 pm. There are some similarities between this and the previous chart.

The Part of Fortune is Hyleg and Conjunct Algol, as Venus had been.  She is again in Taurus and in the 7th House. She is Almuten of the chart. Saturn is the Almuten of health according to the rules set down by Omar.

The eclipse is the 6 / 12 axis denoting health and hidden enemies respectively. We know that by this time the plague had become airborne being passed from one to another on the breath. The Killing Planet is Saturn in his own domicile and dispositing Jupiter and Mars. The malefic element of Mars and Saturn are made larger by Jupiter in this case.

The eclipse would have been read as an omen

Finally, we look at the chart delivered to King Philip showing the conjunctions of Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars in the Fixed Air sign of Aquarius. This is on 20 March 1345, Paris France at 1:00 pm.

As physicians reading the chart there are many things that would have been clear. It’s Sunday in the Hour of Mars. The Moon is in Via Combusta. Saturn is in the 7th House

Offsetting the emphasis on Air is the Leo Ascending and the Sun and Mercury in Aries.  The Hyleg is the Sun. We end up with a Choleric chart, being hot and dry, hosting the two malefics in Aquarius with Jupiter Parallel Sirius (searing heat). Again, Saturn is the Killing Planet. This happens not two days after the Lunar Eclipse. More often than not, Eclipses auger bad fortune for those under its influence.

We now have the same air considerations, but the humour is now more a raging fever being driven by the forces of air. The close proximity of the Descending Node to the Sun merely aggravates and exacerbates the situation. The force is unstoppable and all the physicians can do is try to lessen the fatalities.  The Moon represents the people. She is about to slip into the sign of her fall in Scorpio and in the Fourth House. This has among other significations, that of ancestry and the end of the matter.

The Plague in Byzantium was bubonic, but the one referred to King Philip’s physicians appears to have been pneumonic. The first is primarily spread by blood, as in flea bites and the second is carried in the air. This is at the heart of the issue with the charts comprising Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars in the Fixed Air sign Aquarius.

The symptoms, in either case, include boils and ultimately, several organs can be affected, including the spleen and brain. The infection, accompanied by violent fever causes immunologic breakdown, leading to disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), resulting in bleeding and necrotic skin and tissue, particularly of the hands. This resembles gangrene. Historically, the disease was almost always fatal.

We can see then that the disease displays symptoms attributed to Saturn, Mars and Jupiter. Richard Saunders lists these in his Astrological Judgment & Practice of Physic (esp. pp. 52 -53). When we think of fever, Mars is what comes to mind. Indeed, Saunders duly lists, adds red Cholera, Smallpox, breaking of the veins and  great deal more that applies quite specifically to the Bubonic Plague.  Less well known are the attributes of Jupiter in the study of disease. Saunders includes all “diseases of the veins and proceeding from corruption of the blood, windiness and all putrefaction in the blood or fevers proceeding from too much abundance thereof.” (p. 50).

In the airy and Saturnine sign of Aquarius, these would be emphasized.  It would also make Mars and Jupiter * sympathetic* to Saturn in the Ficinian sense. Finally, we look at Saturn himself. The first quality is to make the disease persistent. Although victims didn’t last long and the disease wreaked havoc more or less continuously for more than a thousand years that we know of . Saunders also tells us the Saturn, if, in ill aspect with Venus, he corrupts the blood, with Jaundiesy and Melencholy (Black Bile) . We have noted Venus in all three charts and in the last two she is applying to a square with Saturn. The latter also “brings Black Jaundice and a super abundance of Flegm and crude humours”  Of course this is but a sampling of the attributes. but what can be seen most clearly is how the planets work together

Astrology can still be used for prediction and diagnosis with the same accuracy as in the time of King Philip. But what was an unmitigated tragedy on an epic scale would today be read as a warning, perhaps. The Plague is still with us and surfaces every now and again. Today we have effective treatments that make it no much more serious than a bad case of the flu. This doesn’t negate the fact of the accuracy of astrology and the validity of using it to warn of epidemics. seismic activity or extreme weather.

The Horoscope of the World in the Greater Bundahishn – Part I

Combat between Isfandiyar and Simurgh, from Firdawsi’s Book of Kings, circa 1330.

This is but a cursory introduction to the Greater Bundahishn which will be followed by articles with a sharper focus.  The work contains a concise narrative of the Zoroastrian creation myth, including the first conflicts between Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu for the hegemony of the world. In the process, the Bundahishn recites an exhaustive compendium on the nature of things, including the properties of the elements and significant astrological material. For those interested, there is a pdf version of the work here.

The Bundahishn exists in two forms, the Greater, and the Lesser. The first is the longer Persian version and the shorter or lesser is an Indian version. Here we will be discussing the former only. The title of the work translates as ‘primal creation”  The work concerns itself with every imaginable question that might be raised about the Creation, including the origin and nature of the dark force and it’s antagonism to the light force, ultimately for a greater good. Compared to comparable works, such as Genesis, it is concise, to the point and quintessentially Persian in its optimistic point of view, even in the face of cosmic adversity.  Although the work is late, almost certainly the ninth century, it harks back to the ancient religion of Zarathustra.

As stated by the author at Encyclopedia Iranica, “it’s a major Pahlavi work of compilation, mainly a detailed cosmogony and cosmography based on the Zoroastrian scriptures but also containing a short history of the legendary Kayanids and Ērānšahr in their days. There is also a Ṣad dar-e Bondaheš, a considerably later (ca. 8th-9th/14th-15th century) work in Persian of a hundred miscellaneous chapters on the Zoroastrian religion, morals, legends, and liturgy.” (Encyclopedia Iranica)

As David Pingree has observed,  “the Sassanian horoscope is quite different from the normal Greek Thema Mundi. with which it has been compared.” (Masha’allah: some Sasanian and Syriac sources. pp. 5) The most immediately noticeable feature of the Sassanian horoscope is that it is diurnal, with Aries, the exaltation of the Sun occupying the tenth house, rather than the Sun with Leo in the second house in the diurnal Thema Mundi. Instead of the planets and luminaries being placed in their respective domiciles, they take the place of their exhalations.  However, there are some interesting anomalies. The Ninth House is occupied by the sign Pisces with Venus and Mercury, the first is exalted in Pisces, but Mercury falls in the sign of the Fishes.

The degrees assigned to the signs and planets is crucial to the overall meaning. We know that Persians translated Greek astrological material. Less often mentioned is the influence of Indian astrology.

Thema Mundi

The Ascendant is in Cancer at the same degree as Sirius, “know as Tishtar in the Khurta (Lunar constellation) Azrarag, which corresponds to the Indian naksatra, Aslesa [9th of the 27 nakshatras in Hindu astrology.] (Cancer 16;40° – 30°)” Pingree p. 5-6.

The other most striking difference is in relation to the nodes, in the exaltation but occupying the unfortunate houses. The house of the Evil Spirit is given to the North Node (Rahu) and Gemini. The S. Node (Ketu) is given to Sagittarius.

However, the exaltation of the Sun in Aries is shown at 19° which concords with the Greek assignment. The Indian degree of exaltation is 9°. The Persian sources appear to be troubled by the Sun being in a nocturnal chart of creation. This makes perfect sense considering the importance and symbolism of the Sun in indigenous Persian religion. The Lunar Mansions and Fixed Stars clearly play a role in the placement of the planets and luminaries but beyond that, we need to refer to the Persian accounts of Creation.

The Hermetic Thema Mundi is an astrological teaching tool and it is also decidedly Platonic in its expression of a perfect world of the Forms to be referred to for those who practise astrological divination. It may very well be more than that, but the Sassanian version is something quite different. It appears, after all, in a text describing every element of creation, according to ancient Persian and specifically Zoroastrianism cosmology:

“According to the spherical model assumed in Sasanian Iran under the impact of Greek and Indian astral sciences, the inferior sphere was called the spihr ī gumēzišnīg “sphere of mixture;” it comprised the twelve constellations (Pahl. 12-axtarān) which were subjected to the “mixture” with the demoniac and evil forces (planets, falling stars, comets, etc.); this sphere, of course, included the Zodiacal belt (see Ir. Bd., II, 8-9; cf. Henning, 1942, pp. 232-33, 240; Belardi, 1977, pp. 125-26) with its 12 constellations (Gignoux, 1988); here a most important battle between astral demons and divine star beings takes place, according to the Pahlavi sources. In the framework of the fight between stars and planetary demons, the Zodiacal constellations were considered as bayān, in its early meaning of “givers” of a good lot in opposition to the planets, who are “bandits” (gēg) and robbers of the human fortune.” (Encyclopedia Iranica)

The Greater Bundahishn is a compendium of ideas that are believed to pre-date Zoroastrianism, but the core is true to the cosmology of that religion. There are also some elements that would indicate knowledge relatively contemporary to its ninth century appearance. It appears to be putting preserved knowledge in one place after the horrific destruction in the wake of the Islamic invasion.

‘Buddha offers fruit to the devil’ from 14th-century Persian manuscript ‘The Jāmi

Reading Māshā’allāh: Sassanian Ayanamsa

The Sassanid Palace at Sarvestan Shiraz Iran – Persian: kakh-eh Sassani-ye Sarvestan – Photo- Javad Jowkar

Before we begin, I would like to make it abundantly clear that it is not my intention to replace the chart we have for the foundation of Baghdad This is in most respects as well sourced as can be expected. What I would like to, however, is to explore what happens when we decide not to take the best of intentions as the only possible motivation and that, further, the shifting of one element in the charts’ construction can change the meaning dramatically and with often unexpected results. Scientists and other researchers understand the necessity of ridding ourselves, as much as is humanly possible, of preconceptions. I think it only fair to read Māshā’allāh using the Sassanian Ayansama to see what might be found. I will add that this study makes me uncomfortable for all the right reasons and I most certainly mean no disrespect to Māshā’allāh.

Māshā’allāh (from mā shā’ Allāh, i.e. “that which God intends”) was a Jewish astrologer from Basra. Ibn al-Nadīm says in his Fihrist that his name was Mīshā, meaning Yithro (Jethro).  Māshā’allāh was one of the leading astrologers in the eighth- and early ninth-century Baghdad under the caliphates from the time of al-Manṣūr to Ma’mūn, and together with al-Nawbakht worked on the horoscope for the foundation of Baghdad in 762. (See Māshā’allāh ibn Atharī (or Sāriya) [Messahala]

13-th century manuscript, drawn by Al-Wasiti of the celebrated book “The Assemblies”. Written by Hariri, shows a library in Baghdad

The chart that he was commissioned for the construction of Baghdad comes down to us from Al Biruni, a fellow Persian from modern-day Uzbekistan / Turkmenistan, in his monumental work The Chronology of Nations.  He is less commonly known by his full name of Abū Rayḥān Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad Al-Bīrūnī (4/5 September 973 – 13 December 1048).  Biruni gives us the time, place and date, but makes no mention of the House System or Ayanamsa used for the chart. It’s normally considered that Māshā’allāh used Whole Signs and we know his most famous student did also. This still leaves the thorny question of which Ayanamsa he used.

If he used the Sassanian Ayanamsa along with material available to him in the Greater Bundahishn. This would change a great many things and would certainly challenge some of our more cherished notions, such as the Chart for Baghdad being done in good faith in the hope of the greatest possible benevolence. Before proceeding any further, it needs to be said that this chart has been subjected to all kinds of tortuous logic by several astrologers, including my initial article on this chart a decade ago. It has always seems to have been discussed with a touch of reticence.

This is no more than a ‘what if’ because we cannot absolutely prove it either way.  As a Persian Jew, Māshā’allāh had good reasons to dislike and resent the Islamic invasion of Persia and the slaughter of Jewish tribes in the Arabian peninsula and elsewhere. Jews had enjoyed a good life in Persia for millennia, as they do to this day. It would be extraordinary if he had no reservations whatsoever.

Here we have the chart with all the information passed on to us by Al Biruni, using Whole Sign houses, calculated using the Sassanian Ayanamsa.  This strikes me as a struggling chart with little to commend it.  But the chart has never been unequivocally beneficent in any of its forms, using other house systems and the sidereal zodiac, for example. This has been part of the confusion. Baghdad was indeed a great centre of learning with widespread influence, both through space and time. However, it has also suffered excessive calamities and violence over the centuries and still suffers to this day.

A brief history of the city shows us that Baghdad’s early meteoric growth was stifled due to problems within the Caliphate itself, including a relocation of the capital to Samarra (during 808–819 and 836–892), the loss of the western and easternmost provinces, and periods of political domination by the Iranian Buwayhids (945–1055) and Seljuk Turks (1055–1135).

Nevertheless, Baghdad held her place and continued as a major cultural and commercial centre in the Islamic world. Then tragedy struck on a massive scale. On February 10, 1258,  the city was sacked by the Mongols under the command of Hulagu Khan. The Mongols killed most of the inhabitants, including the Abbasid Caliph Al-Musta’sim. They also destroyed large sections of the city. Even the canals and dikes forming the city’s irrigation system were destroyed. The attack ended Abbasid Caliphate. It has often been noted that Islamic civilization never completely recovered.

In 1401, Baghdad was again vanquished by Timur. So it continued, until the incursion of the Ottoman Turks. It’s difficult to make the case that Bagdad has not had far more than its share of sorrows and reversals of fortune.  It is equally difficult not to recognize the measure of success and abundance.

We are used to thinking of the Royal Stars of Persia – the Watchers of the Directions –  as Regulus, Aldebaran, Fomalhaut, and Antares, representing the four Fixed Signs and hear we see them on the angles. However, the Sassanian model put the emphasis on Sirius. canopus is used in Islam for the orientation of places of worship. For those reasons, I have included them. It is crucial to consider the Horoscope of the World which we examined in a previous article. In that schema, the House of Life (the Ascendant) was at the nineteenth degree of Cancer, the asterism Azara too was disposed in the star Sirius, which in the chart we have falls in the House of death at 24°18.  I cannot see how he could have missed this. He was certainly aware of the Horoscope and the extraordinary power of Sirius.

In the Great Bundahishn

in Chapter 2, sections 3 & 4, in the translation by Behramgore Tehmuras Anklesariawe, we find:

“3. Over these constellations, He appointed four chieftains, in four directions; He appointed a chieftain over these chieftains; He appointed many innumerable stars that are recognized by name, in various directions and various places, as givers of vigour, by cooperation, to these Constellations.

4. As one says: “Sirius [Tishtar] is the chieftain of the East, Sataves the chieftain of the South, Antares [Vanand] the chieftain of the West, the Seven Bears [Haptoring] the chieftain of the North; the Lord of the throne, Capricornus, whom they call the Lord of Mid- Heaven, [is the chieftain of chieftains; Parand, Mazd-tat, and others of this list are also chiefs of the directions.”

Ibn al-Nadīm lists some twenty-one titles of works attributed to Māshā’allāh; these are mostly astrological, but some deal with astronomical topics and provide us information (directly or
indirectly) about sources used which included Persian, Syriac, and Greek)  He was a learned, brilliant and extremely talented man. We wouldn’t expect him to simply make a mistake.

Most strikingly, we have both Sun and Moon in Leo in the tenth house. This is a great place for the Sun, but the Moon is weak as a Lord of the Ninth House – a very important placing when higher education, the meeting of foreign cultures and of course, religion. We find Mercury Retrograde and conjunct the South Node.

The Eighth House of Death is lord of the Twelfth House of hidden enemies and Venus also takes the place of open enemies. Jupiter that rises in the charts using the tropical zodiac is here relegated to the Second House (the purse) in his dignity, but retrograde. Saturn is in his Fall in an unfortunate, but an unproductive house.

I see no useful reason to further elaborate on this. It is after all entirely speculative, even if plausible. I realize this turns the old enigma in its head, but sometimes an entirely new way of looking at something can be useful.  At the very least, it ought to raise awareness of just how different a chart can appear when the astrologer is using an Ayanamsa that may not have occurred. It also asks the astrologer to consider the cultural differences between practitioners that may very well, on the source be in agreement on virtually everything. This demands that we read far beyond the astrology itself, to the very ground of being which informs us all.


Beginning in 1211, Genghis Khan and his nomadic armies burst from Mongolia and swiftly conquered most of Eurasia. The Great Khan died in 1227, but his sons and grandsons continued the expansion of the Mongol Empire across Central Asia, China, the Middle East, and into Europe.


Note: shortly after publishing this brief article, I became aware of another, written in 2003: The Horoscope of Baghdad: historical, astronomical, and astrological notes by Juan Antonio Revilla. The topic is not identical, but Revilla does well in describing context, methodologies and sensibilities involved in deriving the chart.  He has a familiarity with Sassanian astrology and discusses many things, such as the Tables of al-Kwarizm, which go beyond the limitations of a single blog post.

Spirit and Fortune: What’s the Difference? – Part 3

Most sources tell how these Lots are calculated. Some explain further, how, for example, the Lot of Fortune was a potential candidate to be the hyleg in length of life calculations. There are a few sources where we can actually learn about how these two important Lots were delineated.[1]

Vettius Valens[2] is one of the few that takes great pains to describe these Lots. He quotes from an earlier text when discussing the Lot of Fortune,

For him who wishes to ascertain the matter of happiness more exactly, I will return to the Lot of Fortune, which is the most necessary and sovereign place, as the king[3] mysteriously explained beginning in the 12th book saying,

“. . . for those who are born in the day, it will next be necessary to count distinctly from the Sun to the Moon and back from the Hōroskopos to prescribe an equality, and for the resulting place to see whatever star it meets with [conjoins], and what or which are in relation to it [i.e. aspects it] – – the squares or triangles, all in all, as it was placed among the stars. For from this consciousness of places you can make a clear judgement beforehand of the circumstances of those who are brought forth.”

Petosiris also explained the matter similarly in the Boundaries’, though others have treated it differently, which we will also set out in the appropriate place along with other guidance for clarifying the argument concerning happiness. But for now we must discuss the method in question.[4]

For in the 13th book, after the prooemium and the disposition of the zōidia, the king attacks the Lot of Fortune from the Sun, the Moon, and the Hōroskopos, which he mostly works with and makes mention of throughout the whole book, and which he judges to be a supreme place. Concerning the Lot of Fortune, he has indeed presented the inversion and reversal as a riddle.[5]

It would appear from Valens comment, “which he mostly works with”, that this earlier sage worked primarily from the Lot of Fortune indicating something of its former importance. Very inaccurately, many today call these the Arabic Parts. They are not Arabic and in fact, pretty much all of the lots the Arabic Era astrologers used were from a much earlier period.[6] But especially the Lot of Fortune is very old in origin.

There are other sources such as Paulus Alexandrinus who wrote:

And fortune signifies everything that concerns the body, and what one does through the course of life. It becomes indicative of possessions, reputation and privilege.

Spirit happens to be lord of soul, temper, sense and every capability, and there are times when it cooperates in the reckoning about what one does.[7]

When we come to the Arabic Era, Abu Ma’shār writes extensively on the Lots in the 8th treatise of his “Greater Introduction”,

This lot [Fortune] is called the lot of well-being [happiness], and it signifies those same things that are signified by the luminaries. But the peculiar qualities that it signifies are those things that concerns the soul (nafs): its fortune and its vigour and what concerns the life and the body and wealth and the poverty, gold and silver, those things which are easy and those difficult, praise and reputation, on recognition and the authority which one is born to, the support, the reign, the power, the elevation and all things which are desirable. It signifies moreover that which is present and that which is absent; that which is manifest and that which is hidden . . . This lot is first above the other lots in the same way that the Sun prevails in splendour on all stars and it is the highest and noblest of the lots.

Bonatti, later in the 14th century, paraphrases Abu Ma’shār’s earlier work and writes in his “Liber Astronomiae”,

The extraction of the pars fortunae is extracted from the luminaries, which, as the ancients said, are of equal strength for good . . . And this part is preferred above all the other parts in the same way as the luminaries are preferred above all the other stars. Similarly, the Sun is more splendid than all the other stars and called the diurnal luminary because day occurs by his rising and is removed and made night by his setting. The Sun signifies the natural life and the other things, which have been discussed in the chapter on his signification, and the Moon is the luminary of the night and the benefic significatrix of bodies and of all things, just as was said elsewhere in her chapter . . .. This part signifies the life, the body, and also its souls, its strength, fortune, substance and profit, that is: wealth and poverty, gold and silver, heaviness or lightness of things bought in the marketplace, praise and good reputation, and honours and recognition, good and evil, present and future, hidden and manifest, and it has signification over everything.[8]

In order to clearly distinguish the differences and similarities between Fortune and Spirit, I would like to start by examining two quotes from Vettius Valens’ “Anthology”.

Whence the Lot of Fortune and the Spirit will have much power over the imposing and turning back of actions. For, the one [Fortune] shows matters concerning the body and handicrafts, the Spirit and its ruler, matters concerning the soul and the intellect, and actions through discourse and through giving and receiving. It will be necessary, then, to consider in what kind of zōidia [sign] the places [topical houses] and their rulers are, and to combine the natures of these zōidia for the determination of action and fortune, and for the kind of action.[9]

Actions,[10] then, are always taken especially from [the lot of] Spirit and its ruler. For there are some who have bodily actions such as working with their hands and bodily afflictions as a result of bearing burdens or exercise, and others [who have actions] from speech and knowledge and actualisations of the soul. Wherever more stars should incline,[11] whether to the lot [of Fortune] or to [the lot of] Spirit, [from] thence will be indicated the matter of action. It is necessary, then, to compare the actions and the general support, whether the nativity is notable or mediocre, or else happy or poor, or in dispute or irregular, so that the effects in the distributions should also become clear ahead of time.[12]

In the first citation, Valens tells us that both Fortune and Spirit are essential to, or have much power over, a person’s actions or “what they do” [the greater praxis]. He tells us that there are two essential distinctions:

1.) Fortune and its ruler signify matters concerning the body, bodily actions and “handicrafts” and the “qualities of the soul”. He further elucidates what he means in the second citation by emphasizing, “…such as working with their hands and bodily afflictions as a result of bearing burdens or exercise”. There is the direct connection between a person’s physical well-being and skills producing actions that are either fortunate or unfortunate.

2.) Spirit and its ruler signify matters concerning intellect and ‘actualisations’ of the soul (will). In the second citation, he further explains that Spirit produces actions originating in the intellect, speech, knowledge, and what he calls “actualisations of the soul”, what we call ‘the will’.

In order to clearly understand what is meant, since both the significance of Fortune and Spirit directly imposes or hinders actions, then, we perhaps need to examine a little closer what ideas the Greek word for action, praxis, is conveying. Praxis is an awkward word. Grabbing hold of it is difficult because it sounds so much like ‘practice’ and ‘practical’. All these words are of course related. In its most general sense, it did mean the actual experience of doing particular activities, which is the sense of the word used in the English translation.

It would appear that Valens, like the Stoics, Aristotle and Epicurus, accepted the principle laid down by Plato that all action is goal-directed, having a purpose or serving a purpose, and is undertaken in order to get something worth having for the agent or to avoid something it would be better not to have.

In its greater sense, praxis meant the process of doing things or of putting into effect and it included almost any activity which stood open to a free man of that time and it excluded from this wide frame only the manual labour connected with the work of the slave and to a certain degree, of course, also the theoretical activities of thinking, reflecting, and “gazing” or theoria.

Seen more precisely though, a further distinction between actions[13] was made by Aristotle in his Nicomacean Ethics, which has enormous bearing on our topic. In it, he makes a distinction which he calls praxis and poiesis. Poiesis represented a productive making, which means the artistic production and manufacture of goods and/or works, and the efficient management of concrete tasks. It was characterized by a type of technical (techno) knowledge, skill or ability (a.k.a. qualities of the soul). Praxis, on the other hand, referred to responsible, self-determined, ideal-guided action (doing), as is manifested for example in political or religious life. In this kind of action, praxis has qualities not necessarily found in poiesis.

Poietic actions always aim at a result, a product—the manufactured object—and its meaning and value are determined only to the doer by the outcome.

 Praxis actions, on the other hand, always carry their meaning and value in the act. They fulfill their purpose only when “something good and just” is done, something that is greater than the merit to the individual acting. The greater purpose is independent of whether or not the action actually also succeeds in reaching what was wanted through the doing.

For example, building a bridge represents poietic action whose value is determined only by its result: the built bridge over which one can cross a ravine. On the other hand, a gift donated to the needy out of compassionate, brotherly love is good, even if for some reason it never reaches those for whom it was intended.

Let’s try and put these distinctions in terms that are more current. The recording studio technicians’ actions are to make a recording that is in itself both worthy to sell and is a reflection of his personal aptitude and technical skills. This is poietic action. On the other hand is the musician who is creating the music, the actualisations of the qualities of his soul, intellect and communicative processes. The music carries its worth in its making and it is directed for the “good” and “pleasure” of others! This is praxis action.

In these distinctions, we also find the essential differences between the significations of the Lot of Fortune (poiesis) and the Lot of Spirit (praxis) and the actions (the greater praxis) imposed or hindered by them.

Valens appears to simply reiterate Aristotle’s distinctions in the second citation when he says, “Actions, then, are always taken especially from [the lot of] Spirit and its ruler”. This is as Aristotle distinguishes in Nicomacean Ethics;

Choice is the starting point of action: it is the source of motion but not the end for the sake of which we act [praxis] . . . The starting point of choice, however, is desire and reasoning directed toward some end. That is why there cannot be choice either without intelligence and thought or without some moral characteristic [hexis]; for good and bad action in human conduct is not possible without thought and character. Now thought alone moves nothing; only thought which is directed to some end and concerned with action can do so.[14]

In both types of action, choice is the starting point. But the inherent difference is that praxis includes such motivational distinctions as character, human conduct, social awareness and that the end of the action is for some good greater than the individual. With poiesis, choice and the motivation for choice do not require any particular conviction, moral or otherwise – only necessity and desire. Praxis on the other hand requires these other convictions to set it in motion. Following Aristotle, Valens saw this type action as the most important action!

The Greek philosophy proposed an interaction/transformation of “matter” to “form”.[15] The Sun was attributed to “sameness” [nous] and the Moon was “otherness”.  The Sun was archetypically seen as the perfect thought of Divine Intelligence while the moon was seen as the form that thought took which was something “other” than pure thought.  Quite simply, the Sun represented “spirit” and the Moon “physical manifestation”.  The cyclic change of seasons was considered one of the best examples of this.

The extraction of these Lots is from these individual parts, i.e. the Sun, the Moon and the Ascendant. The Sun was the author of life, the natural vitality or natural life, actualisations of the soul, eminence, reputation and honours. The Moon was more than just physical life, it was the soul incarnated in a physical body; the author of generation and corruption of all bodies (material form), and the Ascendant is the native’s physical body and qualities of the soul. When we consider then either the Lot of Fortune or Spirit, we are considering the native’s life and its well-being, his actions and how the qualities of the soul ultimately translated into such things as a native’s wealth and reputation and what one is endowed with in order to obtain those things.

The Part of Fortune is the Lot of the Moon and closely associated with the Moon and the physical manifestations. It was regarded as just what made a person not only happy but successful or unsuccessful, eminent or unknown, and was an indication of physical illnesses.

The Part of Spirit was associated to the Sun and therefore more interested in the “why” we do things, the action of doing, the moral convictions (or lack of them), will, character and the intellectual state as well as the related illnesses.

The Lot of Fortune then, originating in the Divine Will and executed through relational proportions of the planets, is a passive process setting parameters wherein the “source of motion” [choice] is influenced in regards to the physical and material actions of the native and what they can and cannot produce. It either “imposes or turns back” the realm of purely material actions. It will give significations for health, wealth, profession, eminence, reputation and all material things that profit the native physically and materially.

In like manner, the Lot of Spirit sets parameters influencing actions. These actions are vitally different carrying their significations and values in the act and fulfil their purpose only when something is done that is greater than the merit to the individual acting. Like the Lot of Fortune, Spirit will also give significations relevant to health, wealth, profession etc. –But with this difference; it will be useful in determining motivation distinctions such as character, human conduct, and social awareness telling us something of the actualisations[16] of the qualities of the natives’ soul, intellect and discourse!

Which is more Important – Fortune or Spirit?

It is clear that Valens considered the Lot of Spirit important for indicating actions that were “worthy of merit” by virtue of the action itself. These noble and ideal actions could bring reputation, honor and wealth to the native.

In practice, however, both the Lot of Fortune and Spirit were important, each giving a particular signification.

And I will set down this [division], which is a potent one … from the Lot of Fortune and Spirit, which signify the Sun and the Moon. For the Moon, being cosmically fate and body and breath (since it is near the earth and sends its effluence to us) produces something of like kind as it is the lady of our body. The Sun, being cosmically mind and spirit through its own activity and pleasant nature, since it arouses the souls of men in undertakings, is established as a cause of action and motion.[17]

The Lot of Fortune, which is the lot of the Moon and derived from the Moon, signifies material well-being because of actions (poiesis) influencing material fortune. It signified in what ways a man’s material destiny was apportioned. That is to say, it is to a great extent about what happens to someone because of their “passions”, in the original sense of the word. But the Lot of Spirit, being relative to the Sun, signifies ones actions (praxis) and what one does based on some motivation originating in ones will and ‘moral’ character, which is the polar counterpart to passions. Valens then explains in which way these two should be differentiated,

When, then, we seek times for bodily matters, such as crises or weaknesses or bloodshed, falls, injuries, sufferings and whatever appertains to the body, for strength, enjoyment, pleasure, beauty, and loveliness, then it is necessary to project zodiacally from the Lot of Fortune… If we are inquiring about action or reputation, then we will make the beginning of the releasing zodiacally from the Lot of Spirit…[18]

This consideration of the Lot of Fortune as pertaining to the ‘physical’ or material manifestations surrounding an individual is why it was used as a potential ‘hyleg’ in length of life calculations. It is also, why it was considered to have the same “power” as the Ascendant! We further see the distinctions between the Lots of Fortune and Spirit in Valens general delineations of the Profections of these Lots.

The Lot of Fortune giving or taking over in prospering places, with benefics present or testifying, indicates good fortune and advancement, actions and reputation and setting matters aright and the fulfillment of expectations, and benefits arising from deaths. But when it is declining [being profected to a cadent sign] or witnessed by malefics, it makes actions and reputation less and transitory, or it makes whatever the natives might accomplish be with impediments and dangers and judgments and insults.[19]

In this delineation, we can see the clear emphasis on the purely material actions that benefit the native in the form of wealth, reputation, health and general good fortune. There is nothing idealistic or noble in these actions since their benefice or malfeasance is to the native in doing them.

Spirit giving or taking over in prospering places, with benefics present, produces resolutions [decisions and will] pertaining to what is on one’s mind, discerning and easily effected reckonings, helpful counsels of friends, alliances with superiors, gifts and reputation; and it produces those who are successful in regard to attacks, and those who are puffed up in intellect, having very many beliefs. But, when it falls amiss or is witnessed by malefics, it introduces suspense and mental tortures, insensibilities and contrary purposes; it produces those who consider their own errors to be successes and those who bring charges against others, and those who miss the mark in most things. Whence such persons loose heart at times and contrive something dangerous for themselves by themselves and they are regarded as mad and come into a state of mental distraction.[20]

We see different actions at work in this delineation, that is those actions that have worth because the actions are worthy in themselves e.g. taking decisions and counselling a friend. There are vital differences between Fortune and Spirit, and while both produce actions in the greater sense of the word action, i.e. the actual experience of doing particular activities, each signifies its own particular and specific type of action.

In the post Hellenic and Arabic Era, we can also read this differentiation. Abu Ma’shār called the Lot of Fortune the most important Lot and in his opinion,

This lot is first above the other lots in the same way that the Sun prevails in splendor on all stars and it is the highest and noblest of the lots.[21]

His opinion, reflecting the ancients’ opinion also, was obviously that the material well-being, reputation and honours of a native were the most important. Material good, reputation, and honours are no doubt the criteria for how the world in general judges “well-being” and “happiness”.  As it applies to any particular human, it is the most relevant and as I pointed out in the previous chapter, it is essential to understanding the essence of how Divine Will apportions and binds together the circumstances of a man’s life making it unique.

Bonatti in paraphrasing Abu Ma’shār’s treatise on the Lots writes,

After the Part of Fortune, which exceeds the other parts in strength and fortune, the part of things to come or pars futurorum, which is called the pars solis,[22] ought to be spoken of.

This, immediately after the Part of Fortune exceeds and is more worthy than all the other parts, although some astrologers seem to care little about it, but it does not seem consistent to me since it is reputed by the wise to be extremely useful for this work…

The pars futurorum signifies the soul and the body after the pars fortunae and the quality [esse] of these, and faith, prophecy, religion and the culture of God and secrets, cogitation, intentions, hidden things and everything which is absent, and courtesy and liberality, praise, good reputation, heat and cold… and so these two parts [Fortune and Spirit] work above all others both for good and for evil. And their significations are similar to the significations of the luminaries.[23]

It is very important that we take time to consider carefully what Bonatti (and ultimately Abu Ma’shār) is saying in this quotation. First off, he recognizes the importance of this Lot saying that “This, [the Lot of Spirit] immediately after the Part of Fortune exceeds and is more worthy than all the other parts”. It is so important he considered it inconsistent of some astrologers to not consider its signification and worth. The difference in opinion as to which of these two lots is most important is not really an issue in my opinion. Both Valens and the later medieval astrologers recognized that both were extremely important. Their differences in preference as to which was most significant lies predominantly in the delineation of their operations and Aristotle’s philosophy in his Nicomacean Ethics that says that true actions are those that are praxis and not just poiesis. Outside of Valens’ single statement saying that, “Actions, then, are always taken especially from [the lot of] Spirit and its ruler”, there is nothing to indicate that he recognized any preferential differences other than both lots’ inherent essential differences.

Secondly, and this is very important, Bonatti states, “The pars futurorum signifies the soul and the body after the pars fortunae and the quality [esse] of these.” This is something that most modern astrologers do not realize, that the Lot of Spirit signified, like the Lot of Fortune, the well-being of the soul and body. To demonstrate just how consistent this was with the practice of Vettius Valens, consider this quote from Valens,

Often, then, when the Lot of Fortune or its lord falls amiss, the Lot of Spirit divides both bodily matters and those that pertain to action. Similarly also, Fortune will divide both [bodily matters and actions] when the Lot of Spirit or its lord falls amiss.[24]

If the Lot of Fortune or its lord “fell amiss” in the nativity, then the Lot of Spirit would give signification for the same things that Fortune would have if it had not fallen amiss. What Valens is giving us in this quote is a qualifier that justifies the Lot of Spirits importance! To understand this qualifier, we must understand what he meant by “falls amiss”.

To fall amiss was a general term used to describe certain accidental conditions of the planetary ruler(s) of a sign, house or Lot. A planet that fell in a “foreign” sign where it had no essential dignity, i.e. peregrine, was said to have fallen amiss. A planet falling in an evil house, e.g. the 6th, 12th or 8th was said to have fallen amiss. In this particular case, as we’ll see a little later, when Valens says the ruler falls amiss, he is also referring to a planetary ruler that falls inconjunct (what he also calls aversion) or cadent the sign the Lot falls in, or its own domicile. This was a standard Hellenistic concept that if a planet that could not see[25] its domicile then it could not properly administrate the affairs of the house signified by the sign.

Thirdly, it is also important to see that Bonatti, in his quote, recognizes the primary difference between the Lot of Spirit and the Lot of Fortune, i.e. “faith, prophecy, religion and the culture of God and secrets, cogitation,[26] intentions, hidden things and everything which is absent, and courtesy and liberality, praise, good reputation, heat and cold”. This list contains the actions and source (motivation) of Aristotle’s praxis actions, namely, “there cannot be choice … without some moral characteristic [hexis]; for good and bad action in human conduct is not possible without thought and character. Now thought alone moves nothing; only thought which is directed to some end and concerned with action can do so.” This thought and moral character (or lack of it) is found in religion and secular religion, faith, and moral philosophy, ones intentions, courtesy and liberality and character! These are all qualities that describe moral intent and motivation, things indicated by the Lot of Spirit rather than fortune!

The reason the Lot of Fortune was sought first and foremost is because its signification was above all concerned with the physical and material well-being and happiness of the native! If the Part of Fortune was in good condition, the relationship between the native and their physical world was supportive and enabled them to live well. If the Part of Fortune was in poor condition, the native had a harder time living in relationship with the world that supports them. The same can also be said about the relationships of the Part of Fortune and health. The ancients, being pragmatic realists, knew happiness was not just a “state of mind”. The reason both are important is because if one or the other should be inoperative for some reason, e.g. the Lot or its lord(s) falling amiss, then the other would be sought for both indications.

[1] See Appendix 1 – “Quotes and Commentary from the Historical Record”

[2] Born 125 C.E. died ca 175 C.E. A contemporary of Ptolemy he wrote a massive compendium consisting of 12 treatises on Greek Astrology. It is probably the largest Greek astrological text still extant from this period. He offers over 135 astrological charts and delineations that he says he himself made.

[3] This “king” is believed to be Nechepso, the Egyptian pharaoh who presumably wrote an important astrological textbook along with Petosiris between 200 – 400 B.C.E

[4] Section 3 of Book 2 – – “The Anthology” – – by Vettius Valens, translated by Robert Schmidt and published by The Golden Hind Press 1994 (Project Hindsight)

[5] Section 11 of Book 3 – – “The Anthology” – – by Vettius Valens, translated by Robert Schmidt and published by The Golden Hind Press 1994 (Project Hindsight)

[6] There are some lots that are very special exceptions. Those were primarily dealing with mundane astrology, the rise and fall of religions and dynasties and their prophets and kings. Those appear to be of either a Persian or a Babylonian origin and extracted specifically for mundane considerations. Al Bīrūnī considered that some astrologers took extracting Lots too extreme.

[7] Chapter 23 – “Late Classical Astrology: Paulus Alexandrinus and Olympiodorus” – translated by Dorian Gieseler Greenbaum, M.A. – published by ARHAT

[8] Mathematici de Astronomia Tractus X universum quod judiciariam rationem nativitatum or simply Bonatti on the Arabic Parts as translated by Robert Zoller © 2000 New Library Limited.

[9] Book II, section 20 – The Anthology – by Vettius Valens, translated by Robert Schmidt – Golden Hind Press © 1994

[10] Praxis – ‘what one does’

[11] Prosneuō – This is a criterion for determining whether the Lot of Fortune or the Lot of Spirit should be used for ‘activities’. The astronomical term ‘incline’ means to approach, in other words to apply to [aspectually or by conjunction].

[12] Book IV, section 7 – The Anthology – by Vettius Valens, translated by Robert Schmidt – Golden Hind Press © 1996

[13] What I will refer to as the greater praxis

[14] EN 1139a31-36

[15] What we call individuation today! Excerpt from Robert Hand in his article, “On Matter and Form in Astrology” – 2006

[16] ac•tu•al•ize -ized¿, -izingvt.

1          to make actual or real; realize in action

2          to make realistic


Webster’s New World Dictionary ©1995 Zane Publishing, Inc.   ©1994, 1991, 1988 Simon & Schuster, Inc.

[17] Book IV, section 4 – The Anthology – by Vettius Valens, translated by Robert Schmidt – Golden Hind Press © 1996

[18] Ibid

[19] Ibid – section 25

[20] Ibid

[21] Book VIII – “The Great Introduction” – by Abu Ma’shār

[22] These are two of the Latinised words used to call the Lot of Spirit.

[23] This is from the 2nd part of Bonatti’s treatment of the Revolutions of the Year of the World in his astrological compendium Liber Astronomiae. The Latin title is Mathematici de Astronomia Tractus X universum quod judiciariam rationem nativitatum or simply Bonatti on the Arabic Parts as translated by Robert Zoller © 2000 New Library Limited. This particular treatise is a paraphrase by Bonatti of Abu Ma’shār’s Book VIII in his “The Great Introduction”.

[24] Book IV, section 4 – The Anthology – by Vettius Valens, translated by Robert Schmidt – Golden Hind Press © 1996

[25] This is within the Greek conception of aspects where the planets did not have aspects but had them because the signs had them!

[26] I.e. serious or deep thoughts and meditations