The Lots of the Luminaries – Part 2

Some Thoughts on Spirit and Fortune: What’s the Difference?

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.

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 splendor 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.

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 fulfill 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!


[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] 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!

[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.

2 comments on “The Lots of the Luminaries – Part 2

  1. cleliaromano says:

    Really good article, Steven! Congratulations!

  2. Herman Van Roey says:

    Another jewel to keep and meditate, ponder upon. Thanks!

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