The exquisite sign of Aquarius

                                                                          Marsilio Ficino:

Marsilio Ficino

Due to the precession of the equinoxes we are entering the age of Aquarius.

Many astrologers believe it is a time of openness and humanism. Partly we can foresee some development regarding ideas, since Aquarius is an air sign. But such ideas will not always, especially in Aquarius, dealing with fair ideals.

We can´t forget that Aquarius is ruled by the great malefic, Saturn, which, being a day planet, is happier in Aquarius than in Capricorn, which it  also rules.

Thus, keeping with the traditional view, not only Aquarius opposes Leo, but their respective rulers, Saturn and Sun, also do so.


The Sun is the daytime luminary, so we can expect a darker time linked to this opposition, as soon as Aquarius will rule the time.

One thing to keep in mind is that many astrologers identify signs with houses, which is a mistake and confuses things.

The signs refer to the position of the constellations in the sky. But houses are the most terrestrial phenomenon that exists as it is experienced as the change between day and night and the several hours over a period of a day.

Meanwhile, the constellations remain unchanged. It is the earth that changes, offering every two hours a different position in the east.

The fact that we observe, let´s say, the sign of Aries at dawn during the fall in the southern hemisphere, does not mean that dawn or the 1st house has to do with Aries, since in another latitude and longitude Libra, or any other constellation / sign, can be seen.

Much of what is thought about Aquarius relates to the fact that in the standard zodiac, which has Aries as its beginning, Aquarius appears in the 11th house, which in fact is a positive house, connected with fraternity and hope, and where Jupiter has its joy.

However, Jupiter rejoices in the 11th house, whatever sign appears there and not necessarily in Aquarius. Therefore, there is a huge difference between signs and houses.

Another thing to take into account is that the signs or constellations have their own proper characteristics:

As for the mode they can be fixed, common and mutable. The fixed signs keep things as they are. The common signs start things up and the mutable signs act sometimes in one way, sometimes in another.

As for the gender, the signs can be feminine and masculine. Feminine signs are centripetal, they hope, masculine signs are centrifugal, they seek.

As for its elemental nature the signs are divided in earth, water, fire and air. Earth signs wait for material security, water signs wait for being loved, air signs seek freedom of ideas and fire signs seek freedom of action.

In relation to Aquarius, object of our study, it is a masculine sign of air and is a fixed sign.

Male signs tend to be active and go after things. Air signs, which are masculine, tend to seek freedom of ideas and fixed signs tend to immutability.

We note here a kind of internal conflict in Aquarius because its immutability restricts the action to which Aquarius is prone. We can say that it is a sign that has a conflict in itself.

Leo is also fixed, but it is a sign of fire, but the Sun, its ruler, changes its sign much faster than Saturn, and Leo, having the Sun as its ruler can see the action needed being executed by others when its majesty, Leo, keep resting.

Aquarius is trapped in its freedom of ideas, and even if Saturn is in a masculine sign of action, Saturn is a slow planet, the slowest of all, which always suggests delays and melancholy.

Aquarius strives for freedom of ideas but cannot act in that direction because it is subject to its mode, which reflects immutability.

However, despite these more general characteristics, signs manifest themselves through their rulers, and it is then that we individualize a chart, be it mundane, personal, elective or horary.

In this case, there are specific rules and techniques for each of these kinds of astrology.

In a certain internet discussion of world astrology, someone told that the Aquarian age would bring “hopes” to mankind. I can´t agree, because Aquarius is ruled by the malefic Saturn and in the Thema Mundi it occupies the 8th house, a malefic house. Thinking about these matters we came across Marsilio Ficino´s chart. This man was a Renaissance´s astrologer, philosopher, translator, poet and physician.

At that time I was not aware of the chart, but got interested in the fact that this native, who wrote “Three books on Life”, “Soul Meditations,” and about the nature of love, had Aquarius on the Ascendant with Saturn!

I began to read his biography and to analyze his chart, in order to understand the meaning of Aquarius and his ruler being in the ascendant creating a prodigal author and a transmitter of ideas.

Much is said about Marsilio Ficino’s life, but very few is know of him in truly personal terms, for example if he was happy or unhappy person, if he had any love, how well he got along with people, etc.

About these matters we have nothing. His life, according to Wikipedia and other sites, quoted in the end ot this article , boils down only to his intellectual output, his intelligence, and the protection of the Medici´s. There are no books in any language, not even in Italian, narrating his personal biography. We have a lot about his writings, though.

First I will show his chart, obtained by Astrodatabank and considered as AA, that is, the time was reliable. Next I will write his biography as it is found on numerous websites, and then I will outline the chart, emphasizing the rising Aquarius sign.marsiliocarta.pdf

 Marsilio Ficino was born in Figline Valdarno, in October, 19, 1433 and died in Careggi, Florence, in 1st of October 1499

He was an Italian scholar and Catholic priest who was one of the most influential humanist philosophers of the early Italian Renaissance. He was an astrologer, a reviver of Neoplatonism in touch with the major academics of his day and the first translator of Plato‘s complete extant works into Latin. His Florentine Academy, an attempt to revive Plato’s Academy, influenced the direction and tenor of the Italian Renaissance and the development of European philosophy.

His father Diotifeci d’Agnolo was a physician under the patronage of Cosimo de’ Medici, who took the young man into his household and became the lifelong patron of Marsilio, who was made tutor to his grandson, Lorenzo de’ MediciGiovanni Pico della Mirandola, the Italian humanist philosopher and scholar was another of his students.

When Cosimo decided to refound Plato’s Academy at Florence he chose Ficino as its head. In 1462, Cosimo supplied Ficino with Greek manuscripts of Plato’s work, whereupon Ficino started translating the entire corpus to Latin.  Ficino also produced a translation of a collection of Hellenistic Greek documents found by Leonardo da Pistoia later called Hermetica, and the writings of many of the Neoplatonists, including PorphyryIamblichus and Plotinus.

A physician and a vegetarian, Ficino became a priest in 1473.

In 1474 Ficino completed his treatise on the immortality of the soul, Theologia Platonica de immortalitate animae (Platonic Theology). In the rush of enthusiasm for every rediscovery from Antiquity, he exhibited a great interest in the arts of astrology, which landed him in trouble with the Roman Catholic Church. In 1489 he was accused of magic before Pope Innocent VIII and needed strong defense to preserve him from the condemnation of heresy.

Probably due to early influences from his father Diotifeci, who was a doctor to Cosimo de’ Medici, Ficino published Latin and Italian treatises on medical subjects as De vita libri tres (Three books on life). His medical works exerted considerable influence on Renaissance physicians such as Paracelsus, with whom he shared the perception on the unity of the micro- and macrocosmos, and their interactions. Those works, which were very popular at the time, dealt with astrological and alchemical concepts. Thus Ficino came under the suspicion of heresy again; especially after the publication of the third book in 1489, which contained specific instructions on healthful living.

Ficino introduced the term and concept of “platonic love” in the West developed all along his work, mainly his famous De amore. He also practiced this love metaphysic with Giovanni Cavalcanti, whom he made the principal character in his commentary on the Convivio, and to whom he wrote ardent love letters in Latin that were published in his Epistulae in 1492; there are also numerous other indications to suggest that Ficino’s erotic impulses were directed exclusively towards men. His Latin translations of Plato’s texts put into practice the theories of anti-homosexuality in his Convivium.

With the death of Lorenzo of Medici, in 1492, the political balance between Florence and the other Italian states was broken. This was followed by a bloody period of war and invasion.

  The decline of the Medici will have a negative influence on Ficino’s life. The Academy’s activities have been extinguished and its thinking is harshly criticized by the powerful cleric Girolamo Savonarola, against whom Ficino will write an Apology in 1498.

Disgusted, the philosopher retires, dying in his house of Careggi in 1499.


As we see, it is a chart whose ascendant is Aquarius. The native’s primary motivation is to pursue intellectual freedom. As Aquarius is a fixed sign, it persists in this goal, but has little malleability in the way it is pursued. Saturn, ruler of the sign, is a masculine planet and is dignified by domicile and placed in an angle.

Possessing the ascendant´s ruler in the ascendant we see that Marsilio was primarily interested in his own goals. But they are opposed by Jupiter in Leo, which we will analyze later.

Saturn is the dispositor of the Moon and Mars. The position of the Moon is quite negative, in the sign where it has its detriment and in bad house, the 12th.

This tells us of a reclusive type of life, which is confirmed by the fact that Mars, the dispositor of Mercury, ruler of the profession and ruler of the 10th house, is also falling in 12th house.

Mercury, on the cusp of the true MC, makes a sextile with Mars in the 12th house and Mercury, as we said, is the native’s profession dispositor: he is received by Mars, which is in its exaltation in Capricorn, so he wrote about deep and serious things and we suppose that in complete solitude. This sextile between Mars, ruler of the 10th and Mercury, ruler of the native´s profession, and Mars receiving Mercury by rulership, is the reason why Ficino´s writings and deep study were very important for the native’s reputation.

The chart is diurnal and the Sun is in the 10th house: the brilliance will be obtained without the native acting, since the Sun is in a feminine and passive sign, but because of Jupiter in the 7th House in Leo. So we understand most of Ficino´s life and support: Jupiter receives the Sun by rulership.

We can clearly see the partnership with solar and wealthy persons admiring  Marsilio’s studies.

Venus is the ruler of the 8th house, and is in its fall. Venus rules the 4th house, and Marsilio receives from Cosme a village to live and study. We see that a benefic dignified planet as an angular Jupiter, can turn bad things, as Venus in its fall, into not so bad, perhaps because Jupiter rules Pisces, the 2nd house of the chart. Also, the good effect is received because Venus in the 8th house is in Mercury’s sign, which is acting as a benefic. Venus in Virgo  is ruler of the 9th, which explains his priesthood.

His solar partners welcome him to court and value his knowledge, but his life was lived, most of the part, behind the scenes and alone, and love was represented only through letters, because he was shy, priest and rigid, not accepting sodomy.

I do not see Marsilio as an outgoing person at all, and he seems taciturn, melancholic, and sad.

Certainly he was not a threat to the Medici, as long as he developed the translations and the intelectual labor much appreciated by Lawrence the Magnific, who admired Plato.

I imagine that Marsilio submitted to the power of Jupiter, who acted not only for him to carry out his studies, which was his primary motivation, but Jupiter opposing to Saturn required a mundane life, parties and celebrations, which were important to the Medici, but not to Marsilio, who preferred a life of closure, quietness and study.

We do not know what really happened but it is very plausible that Marsilio have had to bow his head to the powerful Church, restricting his interest in magic and alchemy, since he was once accused of necromancy.

With these thoughts I hope to have shown a life which only obtained his primary motivation doing compromises and never having the total control over his own needs and freedom, including love.

 Had him a fiery ascendant, for example, he would hardly avoided quarreling in an environment filled with conflict over the power as used to happen in Florence at those days.

But the sign of Aquarius in the ascendant leads to great immutability, although Saturn, domiciled there, is masculine and leads to action, albeit very slowly.

Clélia Romano,DMA

August 2019

PS: Fort hose who want to know more of Ficino´s work I recomend the following encyclopedia

The Triplicity Method of Andarzhagar related by Al-Qbisi

Copyright Clélia Romano, DMA
April 2013


Dorotheus was the first Hellenistic author to use the planets´ triplicities to give signs of events. Other authors before him, without exception, used only the triplicity of the luminary of the sect as part of a specific technique: assessing the eminence of the chart.

In addition to that, Hellenistic astrology pre-Dorotheus did not divide life into three phases, but two, whose border was unclear: the first lord of the triplicity, depending on whether the nativity was during the day or night, ruled the first half of life, while the second lord ruled the second half. The third lord of triplicity acted throughout life as a participant along with the other two.

Based certainly on Dorotheus, subsequent authors extensively used the lords of triplicity of each house and used them as giving signs of the three parts of life. Generally, each ruler of the triplicity relates to a time period of approximately 1/3 of life, namely between 25 and 30 years.

All we know about Al-Andarzaghar and his triplicities rulers is based in Al-Qabisi´s work translated into English from Arabic and Latin by Charles Burnett, Keiji Yamamoto and Michio Yano.

According to Prof. Pingree, al-Andarzaghar lived during the Sassanid period (224-637 AD):
A Persian astrologer from the Sassanid period beyond Buzurjmihr, who Arab authors often refer to, of course, although Zaradusht and Jamasp were older, was al-Andarzaghar, that is, the advisor (of Pahlavi handarzgar), a scholar named Zadanfarrukh.”
Apparently Al-Andarzhagar lived between Buzurjmihr (6th century) and Masha’allah (8th century),

He provided a different meaning for each triplicity ruler of any house and therein lies its uniqueness. But Bonatti and certainly Robert Zoller understood the use of the technique in a more complex way.
This article has the purpose to investigate what exactly is known of Andarzhagar by citing Al-Qbisi, which ideas about triplicity he spread and why an eminent author such as Bonatti deduced that each meaning of a triplicity ruler had to be circumscribed only to a third of life.

First, one may wonder what was the reason why Al-Andarzhagar found that a new system should be developed, that is, giving each triplicity ruler significance.
It is true that there are many meanings associated with each house and, therefore, the information on different themes should be often drawn from the same planetary significators. This may cause some problems, but nevertheless it is possible to avoid inconveniences if the astrologer employs a second range of significators. These could be planets with natural association with the theme or any lot.

Both solutions have been widely used in the Hellenistic period. However, Al-Andarzaghar seems to have found it necessary to link a meaning to each of the triplicity rulers.

From then on, that is, from what Alchabitius reports, it represented a new step to extend the significance of each triplicity lord to certain time, that time being a third of life. Thus there was a mix between the concepts of Dorotheus, linking the triplicity rulers to a time of life and those of Andarzhagar, linking each ruler to a meaning. This hybrid form appears in the text of Bonatti and very clearly in the interpretation of the contemporary Latin scholar Robert Zoller.

Bonatti, based on Alchabitius, cites Al-Andarzaghar, and on page 103, Treatise II, Book of Astronomy,translated by Benjamin Dykes PHD, the author says “And consider in what part of life this will happen to him: because the first lord of this triplicity signifies that this would happen to the native in the first one-third of this life, and the second in the second, and the third, as we said in the other houses
Thus in the case of House 4, for example, Andarzhagar says that the first triplicity ruler represents the parents, the second represents lands and the third, the end of things. Both Bonatti, which was based on a citation by Alcabitius, and Robert Zoller, based on Bonatti, understand that the first triplicity ruler of the 4th House represents the father in the first part of life. As Andarzhagar assigns the second triplicity ruler to the subject lands and cities, such planet would give testimony of this issue in the second part of life. As to Andarzhagar, the third triplicity ruler of the 4th House represents the end of things and prisons they seek testimonies of such things in the third part of life.
Robert Zoller, pioneer in translating Bonatti from Latin into English, says in his Lesson Eight of the Diploma Course in Medieval Astrology, page 25:

Alezdegoz’s instruction with regard to the triplicity rulers and the 3 thirds of life is valuable. His way of dividing up the houses into three conceptual levels of delineation: e.g., the first ruler of the triplicity of the 7th house signifying women, the second contentions and so on, and the third associations, is useful. The student ought, after assimilating the information in this lesson to investigate these instructions of Alezdegoz both as pertains to the temporal and as to the 3-fold signification of the houses.”
(End Quote)

Now, in the case of the 8th House, since for Alezdegoz or Andarzhagar it represents death in the first part of life, old things in the second part of life, and what is inherited from the dead on the third part of life, how do we understand death in the third part of life?
On the other hand, as we will see ahead, in Alchabitius’s text there is nothing that leads us to admit that Andarzhagar has delimited the meaning of each triplicity to only a third part life. The idea is, in my view, derived from a corruption of Alchabitius’ text.

In order to exemplify the technique suggested by Bonatti and Zoller, I shall give a practical example through which we can perceive how the delineation will be limited if each stage of life is referred to one triplicity ruler.

To make use of the technique, it is necessary to observe if the nativity is diurnal or nocturnal. In the case of a diurnal nativity, the first third of life would be ruled by the first lord of triplicity, the second third by the second lord and the last third by the third lord. The opposite happens if the nativity is nocturnal, when we would begin by the second triplicity ruler, and then would use the first ruler and, lastly, the participant ruler related to the third part of life. So far, nothing differs from Dorotheus.

Now we shall enter directly into Andarzagar’s method as suggested by Bonatti. Let’s see a practical example:Chico_vectorized

The astrological chart above belongs to one of the most highly regarded Brazilian mediums, a person who had many health problems, was practically blind, especially in the latter part of life, psychographed numerous letters and books dictated by entities and is considered by many a true saint.

Let’s outline the 4th House, whose ruler is Mars:

Andarzaghar tells us:

the first lord of the triplicity of the place of fathers indicates fathers, the second countries and lands, the third outcomes of the matter and prison.”

As it is a nocturnal nativity, in the first part of life Jupiter will be the ruler because it is the lord of the nocturnal fire triplicity (Aries in the 4th House). Jupiter is a benefic in the 9th House by division and in the 10th House by whole signs, but it is retrograde and tending to cadence. Therefore, we say that parents (we are delineating the 4th House) did not represent a positive experience in the first part of life. The second planet that gives testimony to the 4th House in the second part of life is the Sun, the second ruler of the nocturnal triplicity. The Sun is cadent by division and by whole signs is in the 4th House, an angular house. Being essentially dignified, it can moderately supply issues that concern land (“the second, countries and lands“). In the third part of life (the third<refer to>outcomes of the matter and prison), Saturn is the ruler: Saturn is strong by house, it is angular, but is in its fall, therefore the third part of life regarding the end of things and prisons means that there will be many problems, because Saturn has dignities in 1-the 12th House, where the Moon is, 2-in the Ascendant and 3-in the 2nd House.

 We shall research now the 9th House, (following Al-Andarzhagar “the first lord of the triplicity of the place of the journey Indicates the journey and its suitability, the second religion and religious observance, the eminence <one obtains> in this, and the form <the eminence> it takes, the third is the indicator of science, vision, stars (astrology), and omens and truth and falsehood in this”.)

Being the cusp in Virgo, in the first part of life, the Moon is the ruler. It indicates limitations since it is in detriment and by division in the 12th House: travel is not a part of the native’s life in the first part of life. In the second part of life, Venus is the ruler, and since it is in the second house, a productive house, we see that religion and religious observance, as well as eminence, is achieved, but because Venus is under Saturn’s domain which is in the 4th House, this eminence occurs within the family and does not last long, because Saturn promises more than it can deliver; in the third part of life Mars is the ruler and <science, omens and visions, the truth or falsehood of this> will be discovered by the situation of Mars. Mars is in the 5th House, a productive house, in trine with Jupiter in the 9th House, but the reception of both is negative. By whole signs, Jupiter is in the 10th House and Mars in the 6th House, which would provide us with a link between disease, communication[1] and the profession.

Some questions remain to be answered: what is done of travel in the second and third part of life? And of the question of the father? On the other hand, the native was sickly and psychic all his life not only during the last part of it. Jupiter is in the house of Venus, so we can see the correlation between views, religion and omens, with the 2th House in the second part of life. However, certainly mediumship and gifts helped the native to survive throughout his whole adult life.

Let’s refer to Alchabitius and verify what is contained in his book about the triplicities in Al-Andarzhagar.

We found in Chapter 1, 320 onwards, the following descriptions:

1st House-Al-Andarzagar said in his Nativities, that the first lord of the triplicity of the ascendant indicates the life and the nature of the native and of the querist, his pleasures I and desire, what he likes and dislikes, and what he obtains of good and  bad at  the  beginning of his life.  The second lord of the triplicity indicates life, body, strength  and  the middle of life. The third lord of the triplicity indicates what the <first> two lords of the <place> indicate and the matter at death.

2nd House- Al-Andarzagar said :see which of the lords of the triplicity of the place of property-the first, the second or the third is stronger  and better  in its disposition and its place;  then   make it  most deserving of the  place of property  and  the  indicator  of adquiring property. If it is in the midheaven then it will come to him from authority; if it is in the place of religion, it will be more abundant.  Similarly, the first lord of the triplicity gives property at the beginning of life, the second in the middle of it the third at its end.

3rd- Al­ Andarzagar said: the first lord of the triplicity of the place of brothers indicates older brothers,  the second middle brothers  the third  younger brothers, and their conditions are according to the places of the <lords>. Here Bonatti made a mistake saying that the first lord refers to the younger brothers and the last one to the older brothers.[2]

4th Al-Andarzagar said:  the first lord of the triplicity of the place of fathers indicates fathers, the second countries and   lands, the third outcomes of the matter  and prison.

5th- AI-Andarzagar said:  the first lord of the triplicity of the place of children indicates children and life, the second pleasure, the third messengers

6th- Al-Andarzagar said:  the first lord of the triplicity of the place of illness indicates illness and recovery afflictions, the second white and  black slaves, and  the  third  what  he receives from them, their importance and their actions; it indicates riding and animals, and every four-footed animal, their sturdiness, whether they are many or few, and whether he keeps them or they run away; and prisons and confinements.

7th- Al-Andarzagar said: the first lord of the triplicity of the place of couples indicates women, the second controversies, and the third entering into covenants.

8th AI-Andarzagar said:   the first lord of the triplicity of the place of death indicates death , the second indicates old matters, and the third, inheritances.

9th- Al-Andarzagar said that the  first lord of the  triplicity of the  place of the  journey Indicates  the journey and its suitability, the second I religion and religious observance, the eminence <one obtains>  in this, and the form <the  eminence> takes, the third is the indicator of science, vision, stars (astrology), and omens and truth and falsehood in this.

10th-   Al-Andarzagar said:  the first lord of the  triplicity  of the place of authority I indicates  governorship,  honor  and  high rank,  the second   fame and  bravery in that, the third  its fixedness and continuity.

11th- Al-Andarzagar said:  the first lord of the triplicity  of the place of hope Indicates  hope,  the second friends  and the  third  their usefulness.

12- Al-Andarzagar said:  the first lord of the triplicity of the place of enemies indicates enemies, the second, fortune, and the third riding and domestic animals. “

 Well, here there is no sign of the division which gives to each third of life three fixed meanings relating to them. Finally, there is no relationship between the meaning of every lord of triplicity with a period of time.

It is true that Andarzhagar provided to some houses three different meanings, but nothing indicates that they were restricted to a period of time. His thinking, at least as described by Alchabitius, seems very akin to medieval delineation. For example, with regard to the house of substance, he says: “see which of the lords of the triplicity of the place of property-the first, the second or the third is stronger and better in its disposition and its place; then make it most deserving of the place of property”, which shows that he was in tune with precepts that guide the whole medieval astrology, that is, the search for the planet that had the best conditions, the almuten of a particular subject.


[1] Mars is in the house of Mercury, which in turn is in the 3th House and between them there is a sextile with mutual reception.

[2] Bonatti here is assigned the younger brother to the first ruler of the triplicity.

A Teacher’s Thoughts


The Lessons in natal delineation that we teach in classical or medieval astrology are many times, by today’s standards, controversial. When we teach lessons like whether a subject will survive birth and childhood or on finding the Hyleg, we are looking at the ‘bread and butter’ considerations of the ancients when delineating a nativity; i.e. the considerations concerning longevity and length of life.

There are some things about this teaching that we need to keep in mind. The prediction of death is not to be taken lightly or used irresponsibly. There are several ethical and moral ramifications of this subject. But the self-appointed, sanctimonious, self-righteous opportunist who admonishes that we should not teach these subjects or predict death should please take heed that I am not urging students to burden their subject clients with predictions of death or their loved ones death. I would merely intend to bring forward the study of the methods by which death was predicted by professional astrologers when astrology was considered the highest science. This is an ongoing work where it is yet dangerous to cast anything into stone and you are hereby being advised to study it as such!

I give my students the full counsel of everything I know or believe regarding this subject. With knowledge comes responsibility and accountability. I do not tell my clients, you are going to live so or so many years. The information I derive from the chart only helps me to place other issues in the chart into perspective. In fact, it is quite impossible to accurately predict a subject’s deeds and fortune without the careful and wise consideration of Longevity! I believe that the subject matter is absolutely necessary to the study of ‘traditional’ astrology.

But this is not something that should be attempted in practice until the student has mastered the full battery of delineation techniques taught and advocated by the ancients. This subject matter is not entertainment! The astrologer delineating a client’s or native’s ‘longevity’ has entered the ‘guts’ of the native’s soul, so to speak, and must be discreet, compassionate and careful. We need to “walk circumspect as wise”. The word “circumspect” means to be cautious, carefully considering all the related circumstances and possible results of one’s actions, decisions and judgments. I have some very strong feelings about this teaching myself. This is not a teaching that one should make ‘general’ and there is a reason the ancients did not teach everything they knew on the subject. In the hands of the foolish, this kind of teaching is potentially very harmful.

We should never be afraid to know the truth. King David wrote in the Psalms,

LORD, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is: that I may know how frail I am…teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.[1]

By numbering our days, we are made aware of the fact that our lives are truly like the grass of the field that is here today and gone tomorrow. For some people, this kind of information motivates humility and spurs loving actions to live one’s life fully in the service of others and God. For other people, it is a further excuse to ‘live like hell’ selfishly – eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die! While I believe this knowledge is a gift of God, like everything in the world, it can be used for good or evil. Therefore, we do have to be very discriminate with this teaching.  I still have to spend time in prayer seeking wisdom in how to share these kinds of things. It is a responsibility that I personally do not take lightly. I honestly try not to lean to my own understanding of these things and my own wisdom and it is not something I freely volunteer! We have to make every effort to be right, but realise we can err.

While I encourage each of my students to practice delineation of longevity from the beginning, I exhort them also to do this privately for their own edification, not for showing off, terrorising some subject, or attracting attention to themselves. The student will look the fool if they make a prediction before they understand what they are doing. They will be a cruel fool if they are right in their prediction and unwise in their behaviour. Wisdom requires long and attentive study of the matter of death before predicting it. It is one thing to predict longevity, another thing to communicate what you think you know to the subject.

The question we as astrologers have to ask ourselves is, “Why do I want to know this? Why do I want this knowledge?” For King David, his motivation was humility and love of God, “…that I may know how frail I am and apply my heart unto Wisdom”! What is ours? Only an honest answer to that question will give one the answer of whether or not they should study this further, privately and under close tutelage of someone who has mastered these techniques.

In the words of my teacher,

We are at the greatest risk of being wrong when we act from the position of thinking we know! In the end, it is wise(est) to study much and say little.[2]

The textual transmission of the Classical and Medieval methods of predicting the natives’ length of life, or longevity, presents us with several problems. The first problem is the form of the textual transmission. What we often have as text is the final product of several translations and copyists thus making room for clerical or copyist errors. Then there is the possibility that the authors and/or translators themselves may have had their own agenda’s and purposely wrote in errors, or deliberately misinformed, or withheld pertinent information, or paraphrased using their own, often astrologically unqualified, understanding of the text. Often the subject matter, such as longevity, was the target of religious bias and was a part of the motivation of the Inquisition.

Today we like to pride ourselves in the ‘freedom of information’. However, it is clear from the historical records that the ancients most certainly did not share these modern values for various reasons: not least, that if they shared everything then their usefulness and livelihood soon came to an end.

Another problem we face is the often all too obvious differences of technique and opinion that is found from one astrologer to another. I do not think this is as great a problem as we enjoy making it out to be today! I wonder if this is truly such a problem. Bonatti, who compiled much of the medieval astrological teachings of former astrologers at its entrance into Europe, was obviously faced with these same differences. He did not find it a problem at all. In fact, in reading what Bonatti says about discovering the Hyleg (and he seems to favour Omar in his method) a quote really struck me. It has nothing to do with the Hyleg per se, but it has to do with the assertion that the ancients ‘quibbled’ over everything.

Bonatti writes,

There was a diversity of opinion among the wise regarding the Hyleg although not contrariety.

This statement does not compute with most western cultures today! So you may ask, “You mean it is possible to have a diversity of opinion without disagreeing (contrariety)?” My answer is, absolutely! What Bonatti noticed is that these varying opinions often filled in where another’s opinion left off! Now the realisation of this truth regarding the ancients and their differences brings me to the problem and alternatives I face in teaching the subject of longevity!

I have several alternatives that I can resort to in order to teach this subject. First, I could simply reproduce the extant texts on the matter for the student to read and study. This is of course fraught with its own problems. A new student to classical and medieval astrology is often unprepared to wade through the strange and sometimes ambiguous terminologies of the ancients, not to mention understand philosophical concepts often totally foreign to modern thought.

Second, I could simply present the student with my own interpretation of medieval and classical techniques, a sort of professional commentary upon the work of my predecessors. This is, after all, what the Hellenistic tradition was; commentaries and opinions based upon the authors appraisal of his own experience and the opinions of his contemporaries and predecessors.

Third, I could use the method as taught by Robert Zoller for example, and present a translation and paraphrase which I then interpret for the student and explain how it ought to be understood and applied.

I have opted for a fourth method that contains elements of all of the above. As Bonatti emphasises and I concur with him, the existence of diverse opinions that do not disagree requires that we change our perceptions of these teachings.

Robert Zoller wrote,

The complete study of astrology, therefore, consists of not merely digging up the writings of the ancients and assiduously studying them, but penetrating their inner meaning and re-discovering their perceptual mode. We must ultimately see the world as the ancients did if we are to understand their metaphysics.[3]

In a similar manner, Rob Hand also wrote,

For astrology to develop a proper philosophical foundation, we have to go back to philosophy as it was prior to the taking of that fork. We have to use pre-medieval Aristotle, Plato, Pythagoras, Plotinus, the Stoics, and other philosophies of that kind in order to find what might be a foundation for a philosophy of astrology. And when we do, we find that these philosophers did in fact provide the philosophical foundation of late classical astrology although it is not always clear that astrologer-practitioners were aware of as it’s having one. These astrologers, whose writings we have, were a practical lot and did not always have their own theoretical underpinnings in mind when practicing astrology, although it is also clear that they sometimes did…[4]

Quite simply what we are reading in these ancients’ texts is not necessarily rules that they were imposing, but rather, they were really their judgments based upon common perceptions and philosophical foundations! This is why the compilations of aphorisms we have today are often traps of misunderstanding into which we can easily fall. So, while considering carefully the judgments of our predecessors, I want to also focus on their perceptions that led to those judgments, for those are the true postulates and axioms underpinning astrology. This is no more greatly evident than in the teachings concerning Longevity!

In the study of Longevity, you will find it touches many aspects of classical and medieval astrology; i.e. longevity techniques and method are a kind of summation of all classical and medieval astrology! There are many features of longevity methods that you will find useful in almost every particular of delineation and prediction; from generally analysing the entire natal constellation and viewing the chart through multiple layers of rulership to particulars of identifying specific significators such as the Hyleg (giver of life), the Alchocoden (the giver of years of life) and the Anaraeta (the giver of death). You will also learn the relationship between the area of influence of the planets (the ecliptic) and its corresponding relative motion through time (the equator) that longevity techniques equate an arc of life (measured on the ecliptic) to a span of life in time (measured by the diurnal motion of the equator).

My hope, through these studies, is that we ultimately can come to an understanding of the course of our lives. Our lives have a beginning, middle and an end. The goal is wisdom to understand our purpose and significance which requires that we look our own mortality in the face. What we might gain through this is an understanding of fate and a measure of our own life, a sense of the fleeting character that is our life! Life is precious, and it is important to live in the present cultivating the spiritual well-being and doing ‘good’!

Modern western ‘humanism’ would like to insulate us from death and limit our contact with death to as little as possible. Just look at how western journalism never shows western audiences the true face of death in their reporting of conflicts and natural disaster. They attempt to engender this delusion that we will live forever and all is well, so go back to sleep and do not be concerned over such unnecessary subjects. But there is nothing in this world as certain as death! Whatever is born will most certainly die. The ancient astrologers were above all else, realists and dealt with death directly. In the west today, we need specially trained teams of psychologists to help people face the frequent forms of adversity that were common to not only the ancients, but very much common today for the other two thirds of our contemporary world; e.g. war, famine, disease and natural disaster.

Steven Birchfield A.M.A.

March 2013

[1] Psalms 39:4 & Psalms 90:12 from the King James Version of the Bible

[2] Robert Zoller’s Introductory words to his lesson on Longevity in his Diploma Course in Medieval Astrology.

[3] Preface of his textbook on Longevity, Tools and Techniques for the Medieval Astrologer Part I, 3rd edition, by Robert Zoller and published by New Library Limited ©2003

[4] On Matter and Form in Astrology by Rob Hand ©2005, the article was published in an abbreviated form in Geocosmic Journal for autumn 2006. Quotes are taken from the complete, unabridged article which covers considerably more ground than the version in the journal.