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.

The Lots of the Luminaries – Part 1

The Astrological Signification of the Lots

Now you are probably wondering, “What does astrological influence have to do with this study of the Hermetic Lots?” The answer is simply, everything!

Understanding the signification, application and delineation of these Lots begins with understanding them in the context in which they were conceived. Otherwise, they become totally useless and irrelevant and why reformist astrologers virtually abandoned their use altogether with the exception of one, the Part of Fortune, and that one with doubts!

The problems we’re faced with are difficult. As with the planets, the ancients never directly address the issues of just what the purely essential natures of the Lots are. With the planets, we have practical lists of their significations (as in Al Bīrūnī, Ibn Ezra, and William Lilly) or just a purely materialist physical description of their elemental natures such as in Ptolemy.

We are faced with much the same problem with the Lots. We are told of their existence, how to extract them, when and where to extract them, and for what purpose they are extracted. Only superficially, in practical demonstration, are we given any indication of where they get their essential natures, what those natures are and how and why they have a signification for a native through the natal constellation. This is why it is important to understand the nature of astrological influences and the philosophy attached to their conception.

We must look to the context of the philosophy in which the Hermetic Lots were conceived. This was the philosophy of the Platonists, and Hermeticists. As I briefly explained, this philosophy asserts that influence is NOT exclusively natural physical laws but rather that the natural physical laws are evidence of the power and influence originating on the level of the Divine Intelligence and Will, in the supercelestials (the Empyrean), and is given its form in the material world conforming to the active Will of the Creator.

The conceptual influence of the Lots is not the result of natural materialistic laws. The power of the Lots originates on the level of Divine Intelligence and Will. In this case, however, their substance receives its form as mathematical proportions of the differing active essential natures of the planets involved in their extraction.

To get to the heart of this matter I would like to look to the fourth century Byzantine astrologer, Firmicus Maternus.

 [12] Now that we have carefully explained the course of the Moon, let us turn to the discussion we promised in this work, namely, the explanation of Fortune. We cannot explain the essence of Fate unless that place is investigated carefully. We must consider the Part of Fortune with as much care as all the other points in the chart; I shall point out easily how it is discovered. When you find it, observe the combinations and aspects of all the planets and then you will be able to understand the uses of the Part of Fortune.[1]

With these words, Firmicus introduces the reader to the importance of the Lot of Fortune. There are a couple of essentials in his opening words. First, he tells the reader that you cannot explain the essence of Fate unless the Lot of Fortune is examined carefully. What is the essence of Fate? At the beginning of Project Hindsight’s’ efforts at recovering the astrological record of the Hellenistic Era, Robert Schmidt wrote an article that dealt with this concept of the essence of fate in Greek philosophy. It is worth quoting here.

 Fate, what the Greeks called Moira, is perhaps best understood in this context as a cosmic principle of binding apportionment, at work both in the heavens and on Earth. It does not make a man a man, or a planet a planet, or in any way constitute the essences of things; thus, it is not a metaphysical principle in the sense that it concerns being as being. Instead, it takes as its province what is generally regarded as contingent or accidental — matters that were excluded from serious philosophical consideration by the Athenian philosophers themselves as being ultimately unintelligible. It is Moira that makes a man such and such: dark-haired rather than light-haired, wealthy rather than poor, healthy rather than ill, and so on. Moira is a principle of apportionment in that it counts out, divides, or distributes. From all the possible events that can befall human beings, Moira selects and distributes to each individual his or her “due portion.” It is also Moira that measures out the span of the individual human life and arranges that the appropriate events happen in “due time.” At the same time, Moira is a principle of recombination and synthesis. It binds together the various allotments in the different areas of the individual’s life into a whole. From this point of view, a human life is a “package deal.” Ultimately, the triumphs in one’s life only make sense when we consider the tragedies, the peaks when we consider the valleys. The various events in a given human life can be truly bound into a whole only if they are binding on a given individual — that is, if Moira attaches to him or her, a destiny. Thus, from this point of view, the ultimate meaning of an individual human life is inextricably bound up with the fate concept.

 Relative to human beings, the planets are the instruments of Moira… However, the stars and planets are themselves no less subject to Moira than human beings. For instance, it is Moira that divides the ecliptic circle into twelve signs and apportions to each its own unique astrological role in the cosmic soul, which constitutes its own destiny. Without the operation of Moira, the zodiac is simply a continuous band of space without any obvious beginning or end, lacking any astrological meaning. But it is also Moira that recombines the signs of the zodiac into a system, so that they may be related to each other according to the triplicities, quadruplicities, etc.[2]

The Greek word for ‘lot’ is klēros (plural klēroi). This word means ‘lot’ in the sense of an allotment or apportionment. It is essentially synonymous with moira which also means ‘lot’ and ‘fate’. If we want to understand the essence of fate, or “binding apportionment”, the essence of Divine Will that apportions the accidents and circumstances that make an individual’s life unique, then we must understand the significance of the Lots in the nativity. As Robert Schmidt explains, “It binds together the various allotments in the different areas of the individual’s life into a whole.”

With this thought in mind, let us consider one of the oldest extant Astrological texts we have,

 Thy mind well purg’d from vainer cares compose, for now my Muse is eager to disclose, the nicest secrets; which observ’d, impart Fates laws, and prove the surest guides to Art…

 …Our studies, poverty, wealth, joy and grief, with all the other accidents of life she parcels out; to proper stars confines the Lots [apportionments], in equal number to the signs. These graced with proper names and place contain the various fortunes incident to man…

 … when the birth’s first minute hath decreed the first Lot’s station, then the rest succeed in following signs; each fortune takes its seat in proper order, till the round’s complete…

 … These Lots which thus decreed to signs contain the various fortunes incident to man; As planets join with a malignant ray, or <like> kind; or as the rolling skies convey to different Hinges,[3] so the Fortune spreads, and well or ill the whole design succeeds…

 … Fortune’s the first: This name our art bestows and what it signifies the title shows. Where house is found for all that may conduce to house, either for ornament or use. What train of servants, what extent of field shall aid the birth or give him room to build: When large foundations may to houses, roof’d if friendly planets aid…[4]

With verse, Marcus Manilius introduces the reader to the Lot of Fortune, the chart it produces and the fortunes that are bound together as the result of its significance, “the Fortune spreads, and well or ill the whole design succeeds.”  The Lot of Fortune, the sign it was allotted, and the planet that ruled it was what bound all of the subsequent fortunes (Fortuna houses) to the native and the nativity.

 And since my venturous Muse hath bound in rhyme, the various labors of the round of time,…Which to the twelve Lots conveniently assign’d determine all the Fortune of mankind… But lest you should imperfect schemes complete, now justly suit each labor to its seat; first find the place by Fortune’s Lot possessed, (Fortune the first, and leader of the rest) that done, to following signs in order join the Lots, and give each labor to its sign:[5]

It appears to me that these lots, Fortune and Spirit, work in ways that guide and direct the apportionment of circumstances concerning actions; sometimes seemingly appointing what the nativity seems incapable of producing.

The binding of an individual’s destiny[6] is through the Lots and they signify the actions imposed or hindered of each person and the execution is performed through the planets in the signs and houses! In other words, without the essential signification of these lots, an individual life has no cohesive meaning; it is just a random and inconsequential series of events. And the two Lots most strongly signifying this “binding apportionment” are the Lots of Fortune and Spirit! This is why, secondly, Firmicus tells the reader, “We must consider the Part of Fortune with as much care as all the other points in the chart.” The words that are important are, “with as much care”!

[1] Book IV, chapter XVI – “Matheseos Libri VIII”  – By Firmicus Maternus – translated by Jean Rhys Bram and published by Astrology Classics

[2] “The Facets of Fate: The Rationale Underlying the Hellenistic System of Houses”by Robert Schmidt

[3] I.e., to different angles or pivots

[4] Book III, Chapters 1-3 – Astronomica – by Marcus Manilius (c. 10 – 20 AD)  and translated by Thomas Creech 1697 AD

[5] Ibid

[6] Destiny in this sense is the total of the circumstances and events that are unique to each individual. The topics of “Destiny” are common to all men, that of the 12 houses, but they are unique in experience to each individual; what the medieval authors called “accidents”.

Did Abū Ma’shār use whole sign houses or houses using a division?

20196756_321493324964826_121579938_nI was recently reading Chris Brennan’s “12 reasons why whole sign houses is the best system of house division.” It is a very interesting and helpful analysis and in typical Chris Brennan style well documented and thought out. I have been using whole sign houses since the 90’s and would not go back to any other. Like Chris explains, I also note where the Midheaven and Ascendant fall as the Midheaven is valuable but interpretations can be very different when using the whole sign or quadrant division. As an example I would like to refer to Abū Ma’shār.

In “Argument 3” Chris states, “By the time of Abū Ma’shār (c. 850 CE) and after there was a sudden shift to quadrant houses.” I am not sure here if Chris is stating that Abū Ma’shār was using a quadrant house division, but I would like argue, that at least where Abū Ma’shār was concerned, he used whole sign houses.   In Abū Ma’shār’s Book of Religions and Dynasties there are four charts presented.[1] In two of the charts, all the house cusp degrees are mentioned whereas the other 2 only mark the ascendant and Midheaven and are clearly whole sign house charts much as Māshā’āllāh  and his colleagues used. So just from the charts listed in the manuscript it is 50/50 and any of the charts could be the elaboration of later transcribers. The charts, as evidence by themselves, do not necessarily indicate or prove the use whole sign houses. However the written proof is probably the most reliable and for that we can look at one section from his text in chapter 8 of Part 2, the same chapter that we find one of his charts using cusp degrees of a quadrant based system of houses.

“[31] We say that, if Saturn and Mars are in conjunction in the ascendant, this indicates general harm common to the subjects as a whole. If this happens in the second or eighth place, it indicates the corruption of properties, the obscurity of the reputation of the rich, and the appearance of need, poverty, and weakness among the common people. If it happens in the third or ninth place, it indicates the appearance of blight in mosques and houses of worship, and hated occurrences, together with calamities concerning building and worship. If this happens in the fourth and tenth place, it indicates that ruin occurs to building in the cities. If this happens in the fifth or eleventh place, it indicates the death of babies, and a great number of soldiers and arms. If this happens in the sixth or twelfth place, it indicates a great number of gazelles and riding animals and the taking of them, and that sometimes harm occurs to these two kinds of animal. If this happens in the seventh place, it indicates the insurgence of enemies and of harmful people against most of the regions. If this happens in the Midheaven, it indicates the death of the greatest of the kings in the climes, especially the kings of the countries indicated by the sign in which they conjoin.”

The text is Charles Burnett’s translation direct from Arabic manuscripts. I have emphasized certain words because they illustrate an interesting distinction that needs a comment. He says a little earlier in this paragraph; «If this happens in the fourth and tenth place, it indicates that ruin occurs to building in the cities». At the end of the paragraph he says, «… if this happens in the Midheaven it indicates the death of the greatest of the kings…» In all of the preceding delineations he assiduously uses the term “place” which tells me he is using whole signs as houses (by counting) but when talking about the degree of the Midheaven it is clear he is referring to its division. In my humble opinion he is pointing out the fact that the 10th place and the Midheaven are not necessarily the one and same sign! You will find these same distinctions as well in Māshā’āllāh.

We can look at a couple of charts in Māshā’āllāh which are presented much the same way and in his delineations he makes a clear distinction between a “place” which he calls “by counting”[2] to the Midheaven which he calls “by division”[3].

Mashaallah chart 1a

Mashaallah chart 1

Modern rendition by Ben Dykes

The first chart is the Ingress at the Great Conjunction indicating the Great Flood. In the delineation he says,

“No planet except Jupiter can be found for the guardianship of this year because it is the Lord of the ascendant, and the lord of its triplicity is the sun alone and it confers its power upon it, and (it receives power) from Venus because she (Venus) is the lord of the domicile of the moon, and she is in her exaltation, and it (the Moon) is in the sixth place displaced from its position, and Saturn is in the twelfth, retrograde, and Jupiter and Mars in the eleventh, they will be by division  in the tenth,…”

You will notice that Jupiter and Mars are in the 11th whole sign, Libra. And Māshā’āllāh says clearly, “Jupiter and Mars in the eleventh…”  Yet he says as well that “…they will be by division in the tenth.” This was the practice of the time.

In another chart, the chart indicating the rise of Islam and the birth of the Prophet.

Mashaallah chart 2b

Mashaallah chart 2

Modern rendition of the chart by Ben Dykes

“Māshā’āllāh said that when he looked at this picture and the position of its planets, he found the strongest of them and the strongest in witnesses to be Saturn, because it entered the ascendant and it is the lord of its exaltation; and the Moon is lord of the light of the night, conferring its counsel upon it (Saturn) from the tenth by counting and (this is) the ninth by division, the place of prophecy, and Jupiter confers counsel upon it (the moon). Mars is found in Gemini, it being the ninth by counting in the highest (part) of the orb (mințaqa) ascending to its extreme. It accepts the counsel of the sun, Venus, and Mercury, (which is) retrograding. All that: plus the place of the first lot, it being Saturn in Scorpio, and its lord in the place of religion, indicate that there would be born in the second year of this conjunction a prophet in Tihama, the land of the Arabs, and that is because the place of the first lot is in Scorpio, and because of the connection of the moon with Venus. If the ascendant was a sign having two bodies and Saturn was in a sign having two bodies, I would have said that his birth would be in the second conjunction because of the reception of Venus and Mars in their places. The place of the moon in upper midheaven indicates that he will be secure from being killed, and because Venus escaped combustion (he means [its] emergence from the ray), this indicates that he will meet hardships and go into hiding for a while; then he will establish connections and be strengthened, and become well known, and the people of his doctrine will rule. Because the place of the moon is in upper midheaven and Mars is in the house of religion (these) indicate that he will seek religion and its being established by struggle. And because of the connection of the moon with Venus the people of his doctrine will have the nature and manners of Venus.”

Again the astrologer distinguishes between places arrived at by counting the signs, “by counting”, and the place arrived by division! “Moon is lord of the light of the night, conferring its counsel upon it (Saturn) from the tenth by counting and (this is) the ninth by division…” And more than once he re-iterates that the Moon in the ninth by division yet in the tenth by counting “…is in the upper midheaven…”

It is obvious in the charts drawn and explicated that Māshā’āllāh is using whole signs (by counting) with his floating Midheaven (by division)…. just as Abū Ma’shār does. There is no difference. It is not inference of whole sign houses when they use identical language! It is a common tradition! Looking at the tradition and the charts given and explained it is easy to understand there was no problem of house division because the signs determined the houses. It was such a tradition that no one even bothered to take the time to explain in their texts.

In a comment to this original post in my Notes on Facebook, Chris Brennan says, “Benjamin Dykes actually found a passage recently in the Arabic version of Abū Ma’shār’s book on solar returns where he talks about the difference between whole sign houses and quadrant houses quite explicitly. What is interesting is that it looks like this passage was not translated into the Greek and Latin versions of the work, and so it would not have been transmitted to the later Medieval and Renaissance astrologers. Ben and I were talking a bit about how this could have contributed to the loss of whole sign houses in the later tradition.”

It is clear that from the 9th & 10th centuries, the changes were happening with regards to house systems. Ibn Hibintā was a contemporary astrologer with Abū Ma’shār and reproduced Māshā’āllāh’s book on the Great Conjunctions and world history. Within that volume we find Ibn Hibintā’s chart of the true conjunction indicating the rise of the Buwayhids.  That chart as well is without house cusps only listing the ascendant and Midheaven.

As Chris mentions it is very hard to pinpoint where and when house cusps began being an issue. It would appear that especially the Persian line was clearly persuaded of the Hellenistic tradition of whole sign houses. However as astrology spread among the Arabs, it seems house division became more and more an issue.

I would tend to argue that from the 9th century and the change of caliphate in Islam, astrology came under very hard attack from Islam. In my own opinion the astrologers tried more and more to align astrology and its practice with “science”. Its existence as a conceptual language came under hard attack on its spiritual principles and therefore compromise and accommodation began. This accommodation has been continuing since and especially during the 15th century Europe to reconcile it with another religious law maker, Catholicism. I would say starting in the 10th century a war was made to make astrology as scientific as possible. The result, like today, is something that is no longer astrology but falls under psychology and archetypal psychology. It has been placed under the pseudo-science of psychology to maintain its credibility to sell to the masses. Of course that is my own opinion.

[1] 1 chart is found in Part 2, chapter 8 and the other 3 in Part 8 chapter 2

[2] In Arabic ´adad or ‘by number’

[3] In Arabic, qisma

My notes on the 2nd round of the French election

France 2nd round election

(the chart: Opening of the Polls 2nd round France, 7 May 2017 8:00:00 CED -02:00:00, Paris, France 02e20’00 – 48n52’00)

I took the ascendant for Macron as he won the first round and is the favorite to win the election. Therefore the 7th is Le Pen. The degree of the Midheaven is the office or the prize if you want.

Mercury, the lord of the Ascendant (Macron), applies to Saturn, the Lord of the 10th (by division – 9th whole sign) (the office). However, that being said there is something that makes me question whether or not Macron in fact will win. Saturn is retrograde in the angle of the 7th and Mercury is applying from the 11th and the domicile of Saturn’s fall, Aries. Now the medieval astrologers called this “returning” (radd in Arabic). When the pushing planet (Mercury) applies to Saturn, which is retrograde then it returns the matter to Mercury.

“But “returning” comes to be in two ways. One; that a planet would be joined to a planet under the rays, and it would not be able to retain what it received from it, and thus it will return it. Secondly, that a planet would be joined to a retrograde planet, and it returns to it what it received from it on account of its retrogradation.

The second case is what we have in this event chart, Mercury joining to the retrograde Saturn. We are told that a returning either destroys the matter or that there can be situations in which the matter will come to pass none the less. “…perhaps the returning will be with fitness, or perhaps it will be with detriment.”

Abū Ma’shār goes on to say; “returning with fitness comes to be in three ways.”

1. “…that the planet to which it is pushed is receiving the pusher.” In our chart it would be fit in spite the retrogradation if Saturn received Mercury. Does Saturn receive Mercury? As I first said, it is in the sign which is Saturn’s fall. Abū Ma’shār in another place describes this as one coming to another from its enemies house. Mercury is only in the triplicity of Saturn which was a very, very, weak reception at best. Pretty much the consensus among astrologers was there needed to be at least 2 of these lesser dignities to indicate a semi-strong reception. Had Mercury been at 25 Aries he would have been in both the terms and triplicity so we could have said that it is received. But that is not the case and therefore cannot say he is received and finds grounds for fitness from this consideration.

2. “…that the pusher is direct in course and the one to whom it is pushed is burned up or retrograde, and both are in an angle or in the follower to an angle.” Well we do have this with Mercury and Saturn. Mercury is direct and in a succeedent house (the 11th) while Saturn is retrograde and in the angle of the 7th. So I honestly have to answer yes to this consideration. Both are either in an angle or what follows an angle (succeedent).

3. “…that the planet [receiving the pushing] would be burned up or retrograde, [or] cadent from the angles, and the pushing planet in an angle or in a follower to an angle. But if they were so, and the cadent or burned or retrograde one received the arrangement, it destroys the matter. If however the receiver returned to the pusher and the pushing one was in an optimal place, it will make the matter fit after destruction.” This is not the case here, since Saturn is in an angle while retrograde.

I therefore find the 2nd exemption to be a compelling one that supports the matter will be accomplished.

Abū Ma’shār further says, “Also, its returning with destruction comes to be in two ways.”

1. “…that the pushing one would be cadent, and the retrograde or burned one to which it is being pushed is in an angle or in one following an angle.” As already established, Mercury (the pushing one), is not cadent it is succeedent. So this consideration is not applicable.

2. “….that the pushing one and the receiver are cadent or burned, and it will return to it what it received from it with its arrangement destroyed, on account of its condition of retrogradation or being under the rays: and the pushing one could not be able to advance with that matter. Then it signifies that there is neither a beginning nor end to that matter.” This condition requires that both the planet applying and the planet being applied to, are either cadent or combust. Again this is not the situation. Mercury is succeedent, direct and free of the Sun, and Saturn while retrograde, is angular and free of the sun, so neither is this consideration applicable.

The lord of the 7th (Le Pen) is retrograde and not joined to the significator of the Midheaven. Therefore I have to give this contest to Macron. But what is interesting is that he is from the “house of the enemy” of the government. Poor France!


This prediction was first published to the private astrology group, Company of Astrologers, on Saturday the 6th of May, 2017. Following is a copy of my “activity log” from Facebook to document when I published it.

activity log

Quotes from Abū Ma’shār are from his “Greater Introduction”.


The Constitutional referendum in Turkey 2017

The 16th of April 2017, the people of Turkey will vote on sweeping changes to their constitution giving their president unprecedented power. Proponents of the “yes” campaign, say the proposed “Turkish style” presidential system will ensure the country no longer risks having weak governments, and insist the stability will lead to a long period of prosperity. The Yes campaign of course is proposed and is backed by the ruling Justice and Development (AK Party) Party of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (surprise surprise?)

Voting is taking place between 07:00 (7 a.m. – 0400GMT) and 16:00 (4 p.m. – 1300GMT) in Turkey’s eastern provinces of Adıyaman, Ağrı Artvin, Bingöl, Bitlis, Diyarbakır, Elazığ, Erzincan, Erzurum, Gaziantep, Giresun, Gümüşhane, Hakkari, Kars, Malatya, Kahramanmaraş, Mardin, Muş, Ordu, Rize, Siirt, Sivas, Trabzon, Tunceli, Şanlıurfa, Van, Bayburt, Batman, Şırnak, Ardahan, Iğdır, and Kilis. These provinces consist of 38% of the countries area but represents only 23% of the population.

For the rest of the country, ballot boxes opened at 8 a.m. (0500GMT) and people would be allowed to vote until 5 p.m. (1400GMT).

The reason for the time difference is that the sun rises and sets earlier in the east of the country than in the west.

I therefore have cast the chart for the opening of the polls at 07:00 but will use the capital as the location.

The Ascendant is 13° c 35’ (Taurus). Lady of the Ascendant is Venus (representing the people of the nation) in her exaltation Pisces in the 11th house; a very strong position being oriental and direct.

An interesting note is that the Midheaven falls in the 9th (the Law) and the moveable sign of Capricorn. The proposition being voted on of course is a change in the law! The 10th whole sign is Aquarius. Both the 10th by counting (Aquarius) and the 10th by division (Capricorn) are the signs ruled by Saturn. However Saturn in Sagittarius falls in aversion to its domicile in Capricorn. It is therefore a poor significator for the law. I would look rather to Mars in the Ascendant which is the exalted ruler of Capricorn and also sends his aspect co-present with the degree of the Midheaven in Capricorn.

Very simply in this chart, the lady of the Ascendant, Venus holds a partile aspect with Mars in her domicile, receiving him and pushing her dignity on to it. There is nothing that could have been a stronger “yes” in the chart. But there is a second testimony equally powerful. We see that the Moon (universal significator of the common people) joined to Saturn.

For better or for worse, it would be difficult for me to see how this chart could not be indicating anything other than a resounding yes vote for the Constitutional amendments.





Addendum 14:11 by Steven Birchfield

One comment from  Behiye Kayran in Turkey was very significant, and that is that Venus has always been the significator of Islam. And we see it strongly receiving the constitutional amendments. On the other hand I just noticed in my chart that the Moon (common people) actually joins the Sun first (the opposition). However because the Sun falls in the the weakest part of the heavens in the 12th …. and the strength of Venus is more powerful and strong than that of the Moon I would have to say it is going to pass although it is clear there is a split between two divisions of the people…. those that are secular (the Moon) and the Islamist’s (Venus).

The American Presidential Election and why we wouldn’t make a Prediction on the outcome using birth times of the Candidates.

It seems a day hasn’t passed since the start of 2016 when there hasn’t been some news coverage regarding either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, other than the time taken up with the Brexit outcome here in the UK.

Things on the Internet are now starting to heat up especially since the first head to head between Trump and Clinton on the 26th September.

Friendships have been lost either personally, or on Facebook over outcomes. Words are hurled over the Internet about others astrological takes on the outcome and, at times, it seems as though the small astrological community is at war with itself. (As we can see in the Libra Ingress chart a microcosm/reflection of the state of the nation)

Much of the animosity and finger wagging centres primarily on that most vexatious issue of unknown, or verified birth times for Hillary Clinton where times range from 8:02 am to 8:02 pm; as well as 10:48 am and yet another birth time of 02.18.

I copy the following from ISAR which is available on FB and other sites:

BREAKING NEWS!!! Hillary Clinton’s birth time has been found


According to astrologer Marc Penfield, both the Cook County and State of Illinois record divisions last week verified a time of birth as recorded for Hillary Rodham that took place on October 26, 1947. If correct, it is not the commonly used birth times of approximately 8:00 am or 8:00 pm.

Marc will be on the closing Presidential Election panel 2016 ISAR Forecasting Symposium on Sunday, October 16, 5 pm (PST). He will reveal the Democratic contender’s time of birth then, and the process he went through to find this KEY missing astrological link for forecasting the 2016 USA Presidential Election.

So now, we have even more suspense building up to the most exciting astrological event of 2016!

Hope to see you onsite in two and half weeks! #isar2016 #astrology

This led to the following comments on the Politics & Astrology FB page:

Marc Penfield’s time he claims to have sourced is 02.18am. This certainly has a ring of déja vu about it. Zayin Cohen was originally reported as giving a time of 02.18am back in 2005 and ADB recorded this. He claimed to have accessed Hillary Clinton’s time of birth through a contact in the Chicago Records Office who sourced her birth certificate for him. It was then reported on astrology groups like the Noel Tyl site. However, I corresponded with Zayin Cohen a few weeks ago. Zayin Cohen then claimed the time he had actually found was 02.08am not 02.18am. He said it was incorrectly reported on ADB and elsewhere. However, with the death of Louis Rodden it never got resolved. Like Marc Penfield, Zayin Cohen claimed to have an anonymous source in the Chicago Public Records office. He has long said he cannot give out the certificate or details of the official as this is illegal. But I have been in contact with Patrick Watson today and he showed me evidence of a FB conversation with Zayin Cohen back in August when he was informed by Zayin Cohen that the right time was actually 01.18am not 02.18am. I am trying not to throw out accusations here but Zayin Cohen is clearly giving out conflicting times. So was the time on the birth certificate always really 02.18am which has been corroborated by Marc Penfield? In which case why is Zayin Cohen now altering his time? Did Marc Penfield really source this directly or is he just using the time that was widely attributed to Zayin Cohen earlier which he now himself disputes? Or maybe Zayin Cohen is playing games with us and the time was always 02.18am. Presumably, like Zayin Cohen, Marc Penfield will not be able to produce a scan of the birth certificate for legal reasons.

Leaving aside birth times for Hillary Clinton, there is also a modicum of doubt to be raised regarding Donald Trump’s Rising Sign.  23 seconds into the AA rated birth time of 10:54, the Ascendant moves from Leo into Virgo. So there is more Virgo in that minute than Leo.  When I mentioned this fact during Hakan Kirkuglus’s talk at the AA Conference, Michael Lutin shouted and said how I could I be so stupid – of course Trump is a Leo, you just have to look at him. Well that is the common perception, but from a Traditional perspective, if Trump did have Virgo rising it would explain the multiple marriages and strong family ties and good relationships with his ex-wives even more than the fixed Leo Ascendant/Aquarius 7th house. So to my mind there is doubt about both candidates and their Ascendants and therefore their personal house relationships.

There is no definitive “birth time” for the Republican and Democratic parties.  So what could be used to call this election?

A traditional mundane method was always to look at the Aries Ingress and if needed, the other Ingresses of the quarters dependent on the Rising sign of the Aries Ingress. If a fixed sign rose, that chart was good for the year. (This is indeed the case with the UK Aries Ingress 2016).  If a mutable sign, the chart was cast for both Aries and Libra Ingress’ and if a Cardinal sign rose, then each quarter you cast a new chart.

Taking Washington DC as the Capital for America, the Aries Ingress for 2016 had the mutable sign of Sagittarius on the Ascendant. The lord of the Ascendant, Jupiter, is also in a mutable sign together with the mutable ascendant emphasising the need to look at the Libra Ingress. The Libra Ingress chart has Scorpio rising and is valid for the period covering the election to the actual Inauguration of the Presidential Candidate on the 20th January 2017.

In the UK with the Brexit vote, Mark Cullen the Moderator on Skyscript, put together a fairly comprehensive list of methods used by various astrologers to make their predictions. Of those 16 in his sample who correctly voted leave, 4 used opening of the Polls along with other techniques.

Maybe this method would shed some light on the potential outcome of this most bitter of elections?

Due to the time changes across America, the first State to open its polls is the New Hampshire state of Dixville Notch at 00.00 on the 8th November 2016.

There are two ways we could look at this chart for Incumbent and Challenger; one way is to take the 1st for the current Ruler and the 7th for the challenger, or the 10th for current King and 4th for challenger or opposition.

We will look at both ways, although the actual significators using whole house signs doesn’t change.

We will start with the 10th/4th axis.    The 11th is for the supporters of the current King and the 5th for the supporters of the challenger.

The 10th is ruled by Mercury, who is under suns beams, his supporters are the Moon (also the common people). The challenger is Jupiter and his supporters are Saturn.

Taking Mercury to represent the incumbent party; Mercury has no rulership in 23° Scorpio and cannot see the 10th sign of Gemini from the 3rd sign, which simply means it is blind and cannot effectively manage the affairs of the house Gemini represents.  We find Mercury just on the edge of Sunbeams moving out of the harmful rays. As Mercury leaves the rays of the Sun he applies to his ruler Mars, wanting to give his authority and management of 10th house affairs to Mars which is in its exaltation. However before Mercury can exit from the rays of the Sun, the application is frustrated as Mars leaves Capricorn into Aquarius. This does not bode well for the incumbent party.

Jupiter representing the Challenger or opposition party has authority as participating triplicity ruler in Libra. Jupiter is applying to Saturn giving his power and authority to Saturn to manage Jupiter’s affairs [this is called the committing of his disposition], which Saturn accepts because Jupiter is in the sign of Saturn’s exaltation [reception]. Also, Saturn has authority in Sagittarius as participating triplicity ruler of Fire. Saturn in the 4th is angular and has the strength to carry out the business of Jupiter.

Jupiter is operating out of the turned 11th house from the 4th. This is the house of Good Daemon and Jupiter is said to rejoice in the 11th.  Saturn is also indicator of Jupiter’s Seconds or helpers. Saturn is bang in the middle of Jupiter’s sign, giving his aid and assistance to Jupiter.

The Moon as indicator of the Incumbents Seconds is tucked away in the 6th of sickness and labour. She can’t see her house and is in the sign of Saturn.  Her next application is to Mercury, indicator of the current ruler.  She perfects this aspect with a square, showing some difficulty.  If we take the Moon to represent the people, it shows they are in slavery, sick and not very effective. The Moon takes the light of Mercury to Venus by Sextile. Venus in this chart disposes of Jupiter as he disposes of her. So there is some reception between these two planets.

Venus cannot see Mercury to give him her aid.  The women are turned away from helping the Incumbent.

Taking the Rising sign of Virgo for the Incumbent and the 7th for the challenger, we have the same planets as significators.  All that has changed is their house positions.

Mercury is now in a cadent sign but can see the Ascendant sign.  However, his power to act is weak as he is still blinkered by the Sun who rules the 12th of enemies.  The Sun is blinding him to what is going on?  Jupiter on the other hand is in his participating triplicity rulership, oriental and strong.   Jupiter can see neither Ascendant nor Descendant, but, through his application to Saturn in an angle, Saturn reflects Jupiter’s light to his house, Pisces (called rendering of light).  In this changed situation in assigning different houses, Saturn is the means whereby he Jupiter can manage the affairs of the 7th.  Jupiter can also see his other house, the 10th sign from the Descendant (Sagittarius). The same comments apply to Jupiter’s relationship to Saturn as mentioned in our first scenario (10th/4th axis).

If you look at this chart using house divisions, so the 10th cusp is Taurus and the 4th Scorpio, Venus is still in aversion to her sign (can’t manage).  Mars can see his sign of Scorpio by sextile.   The Sun (reputation, honours) is in the 4th by division.  Mars, the ruler of Scorpio, is exalted in Capricorn at the time of this event!


No matter how you view this chart for the opening of polls, it appears to give the victory to the Opponent.

Turning now to the Libra ingress chart:


Traditionally the first thing to locate was the Lord of the Year of the Ingress chart.

The first consideration is to determine what planet will represent the people of the nation.

“You will also look, for the rustics and their condition, from the Lord of the Year and its place,”

(From the “Revolution of the Years of the World” by Māshāʿallāh translated by Benjamin Dykes PhD)

The ascendant of the chart always represented the people of the nation as did the Moon.  The Lord of the Year was found from one of the lords of the ascendant (ruler, exalted ruler, triplicity ruler, or term ruler) or even the sect luminary.  In this chart we have chosen Mars as Lord of Year since he is the lord of the Ascendant Scorpio. We do this in spite of the fact he is cadent from the ascendant in the 2nd house. The reason for this choice is that in fact all the rulers including the sect luminary, the Sun, fall cadent of the ascendant.

This very accurately describes the state of the people in America going into this half of the year.

Chapter 12: When the Lord of the Year is cadent

If the Lord of the Year were cadent from the Ascendant, not aspecting the Ascendant (in the eighth, sixth, second, or twelfth sign), then he will be in need, and therefore weakness will befall him, because he fell in a place removed from the Ascendant:

(From the “Revolution of the Years of the World” by Māshāʿallāh translated by Benjamin Dykes PhD.

Both Mars and the Moon representing the people are in aversion to the Ascendant.  The people feel out of touch and powerless to act. The Martian types are in conflict and also out of touch with their national identity. For both significators there is a sense of helplessness, weakness, division, contention and fear. Note that the Moon’s application to the opposition of Mars further indicates the very obvious division of the nation.

The incumbent Ruling Party is shown by the Sun as ruler of the 10th sign/house. (Note: the Sun would not necessarily always be the significator of the ruling party if another sign were on the MC). Their opponents are indicated by Saturn as ruler of the 4th sign/house.

To discover the successor belonging to the current ruling party, we look to the second triplicity ruler of the Sign on the 10th. This gives us Jupiter as the Nocturnal Sect Ruler of Fire.

Jupiter is under Sunbeams, out of sight in the 12th sign. This suggests a weak successor who cannot be seen. This relates perhaps to Hillary not being so visible on the campaign trail. Obama has been actively campaigning on her behalf. Naturally the Sun being in Libra is in detriment and in the cadent 12th; the King is no longer strong.   Hillary’s recent health problems and public collapse could also be indicative of this weak Jupiter.

To assess the condition of the opposition, we will take both the actual sign ruler (Saturn) and the diurnal triplicity ruler of Air – again Saturn. So Saturn indicates the opposing candidate.    There is no other planet to consider as they (the opposition party) have put up their challenger.

Neither significator of the people (Moon & Mars) applies to join either candidate, again indicating the disconnectedness and “hatred” by the people for the two candidates. It appears in the history of the American Elections that no two contenders for this crown have been so reviled by their countrymen.

So how to discover the outcome?

We look at the individual strength of both significators and the actions between them.

As noted, Jupiter is combust, in the 12th and applies to Saturn from Saturn’s house of exaltation (Libra) and his house of joy.

As we saw in the other charts we looked at, this handing over of power is a very distinct action between the two because it indicates Jupiter handing the management of everything she is and represents, to Saturn who receives her gift!

Saturn standing alone is stronger than Jupiter, being free of sunbeams, and able to manage the affairs of his house of Aquarius.

The conclusion is that Saturn is the winner.

By Sharon Knight and Steven Birchfield 29.09.2016

Musings of an Astrologer

Musings of an astrologer

The methods used in mundane delineation are old and with their entrance into Europe in the 12th and 13th century via Spain some have been significantly revised. One of the last and perhaps most popular of the medieval Persian astrologers to use these techniques with real results was Abu Ma’shār.

When his works were translated into Latin, the translators and religious censors working with the translators were faced with some very real problems. The first was the lack of practical knowledge of the application of these techniques. They were first of all scholars, translating texts whose subject matter was totally outside their experience. As far as I have been able to see, not a single one was in fact a practicing astrologer. The second and probably the most critical, was the philosophies on which these techniques were based. In order to translate these texts and to receive acceptance by the religious authorities, compromises had to be made. Most often it was the text that was compromised. This particular problem was discussed by both Richard Lemay and Charles Burnett; both have written and given lectures on the corruption of certain Arabic texts when they were translated and transmitted into Europe. I’m not going to go into the details of these translation practices here, but it is quite well documented now that the original Arabic texts are being translated and compared to the same Latin translations. I can refer you to these articles though and particularly one by Dr. Charles Burnett:

“The Strategy of Revision in the Arabic-Latin Translations from Toledo: The case of Abu Ma’shār’s On the Great Conjunctions” by Dr. Charles Burnett in the publication, “Les Traducteurs au travail: leurs manuscrits et leurs methods”, ed. J. Hamesse, Turnabout, 2002, pp.51-113 and 529-540.


“A Group of Arabic-Latin Translators working in northern Spain in the mid-12th century” published in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1977, pp.62-108

Most of the current consensus is documented in articles in obscure journals, publications and University lectures. But I can assure you the evidence is quite authoritative!

Now the reason I’m beginning with this point is because it had a great influence in what later astrologers would have to rely on – which in many cases was not the original practice. But thanks to certain scholars today, such as Charles Burnett and Michio Yano (among others), we are gaining manuscripts and translated texts which reveal what was corrupted and where and when! I’ve personally devoted the last couple of years to these texts and practices and with the support and cooperation of scholars; (in particular I can thank Dr. Michio Yano and the Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa in Tokyo, who more than graciously obliged my studies by supplying me with texts) I’ve been trying to restore these techniques and the full picture of what these things entailed.

Now, having said this, I can lay no claim to having a complete or full understanding of these things. I do have certain convictions about these things and having struggled with these texts, am convinced that there is more than simply meets the eye. Mundane astrology was one of the matters of which Abu Ma’shār claimed “was a secret of science”. This is a theme running throughout Abu Ma’shār’s works. Abu Ma’shār was fond of secrets. He was quite fond of speaking in riddles and metaphors. For instance, in discussing the relationship of Jupiter and Saturn to war, he refers to the square of these two superiors as “The Fortitude of the Sword.” Secrecy was a necessary part of Abu Ma’shār’s astrological practice. He worked for the secular and religious authorities from Egypt to Persia and India. It is to be assumed that he was exposed to or came in contact with secrets, both personal and political in the course of his work. We are not surprised when we read the following anecdote in Lynn Thorndike’s article, Albumasar in Sadan, which is the only biographical treatise ever written about Abu Ma’shār by his student Abu Ṣāʳid Schadsan, which was corrupted into Sadan in Latin.

«Abu Ma’shār said that when a native’s 2nd house is impeded at birth and its ruler also unfortunate, the native never prospers. When asked why he never mentioned this in his writings, he said: “The sage who writes down all he knows is like an empty vessel. Nobody needs him and his reputation declines. He should keep some secrets to himself and communicate them only to his closest friends.»

When you look at the written evidence alone, it is very clear that few, if any Medieval Western or Arabic authors give exhaustive expositions. As Robert Zoller wrote in a yet unpublished article,

“Certain parameters are given (in these texts) and the reader is left to figure out the rest himself. The reader is likely to conclude that none of these authors really knew how to predict. However, two facts mitigate this conclusion: 1) there are numerous reports of astrologers successfully predicting the death of this or that native. 2) The common experience of contemporary practitioners of this Medieval Astrology is that such predictions can, in fact, be made. 3) Errors in prediction can come from numerous causes, but incomplete or faulty knowledge of the proper technique is certainly a cause of error.”

Now these things are true, and for anyone spending any amount of time in these original texts, it becomes very obvious! I appreciate that there are people out there who are not rejecting some of these original concepts but instead are making sincere efforts to use them. However, as has been the case of the last thousand years, the foundations are still not recovered so that often those efforts are much the same as a “craps game” and the odds are very small that we can restore a functioning method by chance alone!

Thus I have to start at the beginning! In order to make heads or tails of these ancients methods, then we have to understand something of the foundation philosophy. In Abu Ma’shār’s case, his methods reflect the basic philosophy that the first thing to appear in universal political and social matters is the prophet and “the law” of the Prophet. Because of changes in ‘religion (philosophy)’ there arise new dynasties and kings.

«Since we have already provided in the first Part the means to know the matters that needed explanation concerning prophets, their Shariahs (Laws), and the like, let us mention, in this second Part, how to know the matters of dynasties and kings, and let us begin in this chapter with how to know the change of dynasty from one nation to another, and to which nation it comes, since the rank of kings follows that of prophets.»

Now the ancients’ use of conjunctions is very much built on this foundation! It was not just any conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter, but it was especially those conjunctions which occurred at the beginning of a shift of the conjunction into a new triplicity. This is where it becomes very difficult. I struggled for a long time with this conception because 1) all of these astrologers used a theoretical conjunction based on the mean motions of these two planets and 2) these ‘mean’ conjunctions do not occur in reality! The whole of these considerations is based entirely on a ‘theoretical’ conjunction! Were they aware of this fact? Absolutely! In the introduction to this chapter On Conjunctions in his text book, Kūšyār Ibn Labbān writes;

«[1] Many people of this art have another method in general judgment. It is by means of the conjunctions of Jupiter and Saturn. The Persians are the wisest of them in their conviction, and the most devoted to bringing together happiness and misfortune through it, according to their claim, from the conjunctions of these two planets. They set in motion each one of Jupiter and Saturn with their mean motion and they lay down the following scheme – the two ‹planets› make twelve conjunctions in each triplicity and sometimes thirteen conjunctions; what is between two conjunctions is roughly twenty years. They fix chronology by it from the conjunction occurring at the beginning of a triplicity to the conjunction occurring at the beginning of another triplicity.

[2] If this method were correct for us, we could spare much trouble in worrying about the equations of the planets and their correction. When there is dependence on the corrected positions of the two ‹planets›, the number of the conjunctions of the two ‹planets› in the triplicities could not be grasped, neither could the days and years which are between the conjunctions nor the ascendant of the time of the conjunction of the two planets be obtained, because of the slowness of their motion and because of the difficulty of inquiring into their conditions which are dependent on precise observation.

[3] Thus they made the ascendant of the year in which the conjunction occurs the ascendant of the conjunction, and they judged what things are caused by the conjunction from this ascendant, just as judgments are made concerning the other things that happen from the ascendants of beginnings of these ‹happenings›. When we are true to ourselves we know that this ascendant is artificial, but we follow the people in their opinion, and we are polite to them in associating ‹with them› and we support them concerning their belief, and we do not think it utterly impossible that a conjunction of the two spheres of the orbs of the epicycles of two has influence in the world. Thus we choose from their sayings what is closer to ‹our› thought and what is more inclined to analogy. »

In this text we’re made to understand a couple of things; first that these astrologers were quite aware of the fact that the physical positions of Jupiter and Saturn had nothing to do with their conceptual positions through their ‘mean’ motions. Second, that the actual degree of the conjunction had nothing to do with the casting of the chart of the conjunction and that they used the ingress chart of the year of the conjunction. In other words, these astrologers willingly and knowingly used an ‘ideal’ conception to make delineations. As I said I had a very hard time coming to terms with this thought. By profession I am a Civil and Structural Engineer. I deal with physical laws and mathematics on a daily basis. For me to accept this conception was certainly a trial for my ‘scientific’ sensitivities. However, come to terms with it I did! The main reason in coming to terms with it was the fact that this is not the only place in astrology where an ‘ideal’ conception lies at the roots of delineation! The zodiac in its beginning and end is an ‘idealised’ conception! The signs are not nicely distributed in handy 30° increments! Aspects between planets are an idealised concept based on the totally natural human attribute of vision. The dwads or dōdekatémoria are 2½° conceptions that idealise the physical relationship of the Suns ‘mean’ motion and the moon’s ‘mean’ motion! The various lots are mathematical constructs based on longitudinal positions and their relationships. So there are many such ‘ideal’ conceptions. All of these things made me realise that perhaps there was a lot more to astrologers like Abu Ma’shār; especially with regards to ‘influence’ of the astrologicals.

A lot of people are going to say that these methods are too complicated and there are too many factors to consider. This has always been the complaint over Abu Ma’shār’s techniques in natal astrology. I’ve heard individuals say if we practiced what he taught it would take months to delineate a chart. First of all that is not true although it cannot be done overnight either. Secondly I marvel that people spend years in educating themselves in secondary schools and universities and if we hear of a doctor, lawyer, engineer or any other professional getting ‘certified’ without that kind of education then we are sceptical about their ability, and for good reason. Yet when it comes to the complexity of delineation, well we so easily accept ‘hobby’ astrology. As an engineer and I am working on a complex building project it takes me weeks to months to calculate the static forces that affect that construction and arrive at a structure that will handle the various forces that affect all buildings. I didn’t learn this as a ‘hobby’. Why people would expect delineation of a natal or mundane chart to be a simple 1-2-3 process when it contains so many relational and proportional elements is beyond me! An individual is a complex being! A society and culture is complex and more importantly the variables that contribute to the rise of cultures, societies and nations and religions are complex. I should expect that the methods of determining outcomes would also reflect to some extent the complexity of the system it describes. I have often marvelled at how similar my profession is to that of an astrologer where we have to demonstrate with the conceptual language of mathematics the relationships existing between so many variable physical factors!

To explain a little of the levels of this complexity with regards to the ancient’s methods of delineation let me try and put it into a schematic but I am going to work backwards from the simplest element. We have the individual and we are told by several of the ancient texts that that individual must be seen in the context of his mundane situation! How can you predict long life and riches to a man whose home is invaded and bombed by a rival nation or ethnic hate or political machinations? The natal delineation must be seen in the context of other greater ‘universals’. This native is a member of a cultural nation. What happens to that nation is predisposed also to ‘greater’ universals.

Steven Birchfield A.M.A.