The Classical Astrologer and Family Planning

Today, huge amounts of time and money are spent on genetic research, pre-natal medical counselling, and direct medical intervention such as fertility treatment to help couples who, for one reason or another, have difficulty in conception. While we may like to think of this as an enlightened modern pre-occupation, it is not by any stretch of the imagination. The desire to unlock the mysteries of procreation has occupied man for a long, long time!

In the past, the astrologer employed in the courts of the ruling class and nobility was the first and most important figure upon whom a ruler or noble would depend for counsel to ensure a primogeniture to whom the reins of power or authority would pass.

The traditional or classical astrologer had to be proficient in not only natal delineation, but he had to be skilled in the Arts of Questions[1] and Elections.[2] It was not enough that the astrologer could delineate the possibility of children from the subjects’ nativity, but the question of a successor was so paramount that his aid and direct participation was sought to find the best moment for the act of intercourse to result in the successful generation of a child; and in most cases the desire for a male child. The ancient classical and medieval astrologer, by all accounts, was expected to not only arrange things so that a child of the requisite sex was conceived but also, it was expected that the child would be born at the proper time. This was tantamount to nothing less than a type of astrological genetic counselling!

In his role as ‘family planner’, the astrologer would first delineate the natal charts of the couple, see if child birth was possible, and perhaps see anything that might hinder conception. A couple might also come to him with specific questions which were presented in the form of «interrogations» or horary questions. We can see several of the typical questions that were anticipated in the text of the 9th century Arabic astrologer, Sahl Ibn Bishr.[3]

«… if a man or a woman has asked whether or not he or she will have a child, look at the Ascendant; if there were benefics in it, or if the ruler of the Ascendant was in the Ascendant or in the tenth or in the eleventh or in the 5th, and Jupiter was in the best house from the Ascendant, a child will be born to him; and if the ruler of the Ascendant was in the Ascendant or in the 4th or in the 7th and Jupiter was in a good place from the Ascendant, a child will be born to him with some delay after [the time of] his own question. But if you have found a malefic in the Ascendant or if it aspects it by opposition or by square aspect, and the ruler of the Ascendant was in a bad place, and Jupiter was cadent or in the house of death or under the Sun beams, it signifies few children, and who will live only a short time if there are any…»

« …if the question was about some woman, whether or not she is pregnant and whether or not she will bear a child or whether it would be fortunate for her or not, look at the ruler of the Ascendant and the Moon, which are the significators of children. If you have found the ruler of the Ascendant and the Moon in the house of children, and if the ruler of the house of children is in the Ascendant free from the malefics, say that she is pregnant; and if the ruler of the Ascendant and the Moon have given, i.e. if they have committed, their own disposition to any planet in an angle, there will be a pregnancy, and all the more so if it was received; and if they were joined to a planet cadent from the Ascendant, it signifies loss, and the pregnancy is in vain; and even more so if the Ascendant was a mobile sign or if there was a malefic in an angle, or if the Moon was joined to a malefic, because all of these signify loss…»

« …if you have been asked whether she will bear a male or a female, look at the ruler of the Ascendant and the ruler of the house of children; if they were in masculine signs, there will be a male in her belly; and if they were in feminine signs, there will be a female in her belly; and if one of them was in a masculine sign and the other one was in a feminine sign, look at the Moon’s sign and at the planet to which the Moon is joined; if the Moon was in a masculine sign and was joined to a masculine planet, she will bear a male, but if the Moon was in a feminine sign or was joined to a feminine planet, she will bear a female. And know that Mercury, when it is oriental, i.e. when it is behind the Sun, will be feminine, if God wills!»[4]

He would then «elect» the most auspicious time for conception to occur.

«When you want to elect an hour for intercourse, i.e. when you want to have intercourse with your wife, so that you can beget a male child, let the Ascendant and its ruler and the Moon and the ruler of the house of children be in masculine signs or in a masculine quadrant of the circle in the hour of intercourse, and in that hour you should not put any planet but a masculine one in the Ascendant and in the sign [house] of children. And if you want it to be a female, let these significators be in feminine signs and in a feminine quadrant of the circle…»[5]

 

Next, the astrologer/physician would cast a chart at the time of conception to determine the length of the pregnancy and find out how long the woman would carry the developing child! The ancient astrologers/physicians believed that fertilization  occurred at the time of insemination. They did not know that conception was a process that involved the fertilization of an egg by the male sperm. They simply assumed that the woman’s womb was a protected environment where the man’s «seed» would develop into an infant! Their idea of conception was formed largely from watching plants. It was not until the microscope in the 18th century that physicians learned what true conception was and it was not until the 20th century that physicians learned that true conception might not occur until days after coitus, therefore, it is difficult to credit astrological dicta.

One of the older extant texts containing the astrological instructions for determining the term of a pregnancy and the time of conception can be found in the writings of the Greek astrologer Vettius Valens![6]

It is difficult in such a short synopsis to go into all the details of the method for calculating the term of the pregnancy. In general it is based on the conception that the degree of the sign in which the Moon is at the time of the infusion of sperm will be the degree of the ascendant in the nativity and that the degree that was ascending at the time of conception will be the same degree as the Moon in the sign it will be posited in the nativity!

Vettius Valens writes,

«The Moon at birth will indicate the hour of conception in respect to the zoion[7] in which it took place,[8] while the hōroskopos of conception will have as many degrees as the Moon has at birth.»

It is later quoted as the 51st aphorism in the Centiloquium.[9]

«Make the sign occupied by the Moon at the time of birth the ascending sign at the conception; and consider that in which she may be posited at the conception, or the opposite one, as the sign ascending at birth.»

The method postulates that there are three terms of the pregnancy;[10] a least, a middle, and a greatest. The difference between each term is fifteen days. Which term was chosen depended on the position of the Moon in the chart of the conception. The least term is 258 days which was when the Moon was in the degrees of the descending sign above the horizon. The middle term was 15 days more than that, or 273 days and was attributed when Moon was in the ascendant. The greatest term was 15 days more or 289 days, when the Moon was in the degrees of the descendant below the horizon.

Let us say for example, 10º Cancer is rising, then, 10º Capricorn is setting. The conception is that between the setting degree (the least term) moving in the order of the signs to the eastern horizon[11] (the middle term) there are 180º, which are the equivalent of 15 days. Therefore, 30º equalled 2½ days, which can be further divided. 2½ days is 60 hours so 1º was equal to 2 hours. Likewise, from the Ascending sign continuing to move below the horizon in the order of the signs towards the west, those 180 º also equalled 15 days.

So depending on where the Moon was posited, above or below the horizon, then a certain number of days and hours was added to either the least or middle term and that was the length of the pregnancy.

In our example then, if the Moon (for simplicities sake) was at 25º Taurus, then we could find the length of the pregnancy by counting the number of degrees between the descending degree of 10º Capricorn (280º longitude) and subtract that from the degrees of the Moon at 25º Taurus (55º of longitude). Since 55º is smaller than 280º, I add 360º to 55º, which is 415º. Now I can subtract; 415 – 280 = 135º. I can then divide that by 30º, which gives me 4 which a remainder of 15º. Each of those 30º divisions is equal to 2½ days, which gives me 10 days plus 15º, or 10 days and 30 hours,[12] or simply 11 days and 6 hours. This then would be added to the least term of 258 days giving 269 days and 6 hours as the term of the pregnancy.

Just as simply one could of course calculate the degrees between the Ascendant degree and the Moon and subtract the equivalent days from the middle term of 273 days.

I hope the reader realises this is a very simplistic overview of the technique. One finds much more complete instructions in Guido Bonatti’s text book, Liber Astronomiae Tractatus Decimus called, Trutine of Hermes on the Causation of the Length of Pregnancy. This of course, is not the only medieval text discussing the Length of Pregnancy. Dominicus Maria de Novarra[13] wrote an entire manuscript on the subject and found in the Biblioteca Paletina. There are several others from this period also.

What can I say as an astrologer? Does it work? I don’t know as I do not have enough experience in this particular ‘field’ to be able to judge one way or the other. That is the purpose of this short article, to expose this teaching in order to encourage further inquiry!

I do think it is fair enough to speculate in this regard and we should not just dismiss off hand such speculation. For while we may with no certainty say the method does or does not work, it was most certainly a major part of the medieval and classical astrologers ‘bread and butter’.

If such a method was effective and in fact widely practiced, then our predecessors were a long way ahead of us today in their medical ‘technology’ because such a method would be entirely without any deleterious side effects that are always present to some degree with our modern drug, hormone and surgery treatments! It would be an entirely natural solution!

[1] Horary astrology – casting a chart for the moment of an important question and determining the outcome from identification and particular circumstances of the significators of the querent and question

[2] Electional astrology – the art of determining the most auspicious moment to do something through examining the astrologicals at certain times

[3] The Arabian astrologer later known in the West as Zahel (or Zael), a Jew, who served as court astrologer to the governor of Khurasan in the period 820-822 A.D. and later to al-Hasan ibn Sahl (d. 850/851), the vizier of Baghdad during the reign of the caliph al-Mamūn (reigned 813-833). Among the 18 books that are attributed to him to have written, five were translated into Latin by 12th century translators in Spain.

[4] The Introduction to the Science of the Judgments of the Stars, translated from the 12th century Latin text by James H. Holden

[5] Ibid

[6] Vettius Valens was a young contemporary of Ptolemy. Valens tells us himself that he was conceived on the 13th of May 119 C.E. and born 9 months later on February 8, 120 C.E. His death is a little more uncertain but he is presumed to have died in the time period 173 – 175 C.E. in his 50’s. His major literary contribution, called the Anthology (Anthologiae) is probably the most massive and comprehensive picture of Hellenistic astrology that exists and not only includes detailed natal methodology but also 125 charts of apparently, Valens own «clients». The Anthology was a major reference work for Byzantine and Medieval Arabic astrologers.

[7] That is, sign

[8] That is to say, that the Moon in the nativity is the same as the hour, or ascendant degree, of the conception.

[9] This work, as the name implies, is a compilation of 100 astrological aphorisms. It was also known by the name Liber Fructus or Book of Fruit and often attributed to Ptolemy. However, this attribution has become very doubtful since a majority of the aphorisms deal with horary, which is a subject Ptolemy appears to disdain and ignore totally in Tetrabiblos. Modern scientific historians also cast much doubt on this attribution and suspect it was rather an ambitious Medieval Arabic writer’s work in the 9th century and assuming Ptolemy’s authorship in order to lend greater authority to his own writings!

[10] I.e. from conception to birth

[11] I.e. the ascending degree

[12] 1º = 2 hours

[13] Dominicus was the student of Marsilio Ficino, the great Florentine Platonist and advisor to the Medicis. He was also reputed to have been friend and associate to Copernicus.

Mundane Astrology and the Croatian Presidential Elections 2014/15 – Part I

It has been a while since I have written anything. There are many reasons for this but the main reason being I have had to concentrate on health issues. It is remarkable that when our physical being is “in tune” then often our “mental” or “soul” finds the appropriate partner to be more successful and complete. The opposite is also very observable and true, that when the body suffers then often qualities of the soul are diminished. There is a strong symbiotic relationship between the two, i.e. the qualities of the soul[1] and the body. Quite understandably every person is a unique composition where the balances or imbalances are going to have an outcome that may be fallaciously recognised as a general characterisation when it is rather quite specific and personal.

This article is about mundane prediction and delineation; before the fact rather than hindsight astrology we find so prevalent today. I have been told by certain popular and respected astrologers that the mundane techniques of our astrological forefathers, like Abu Ma’shār and Māshā´āllāh, are not relevant today because they delineated events concerning dynasties and kings and the political world is not the same today so those techniques cannot be used today.

This objection is wrong on many points. There are still families, dynasties and religions “ruling” this world. And regardless the political systems, the concepts laid down by these forefathers are still valid, even if their applications may have to vary. For example, when discussing the meanings of the Jupiter/Saturn conjunctions when they shift triplicities, we are told by Abu Ma’shār that they can indicate the rise of a new religion and prophet(s).

[21] In the presence of one of these times that we have defined, one looks at the horoscopes of those times, and the location of the celestial bodies’ in them, and all their natural and accidental conditions <which result> from their essence and from <their relation to> the Sun and the sphere, and one discovers (1) the nature of their indication from the planets which have predominance over the principal positions, and (2) the time of it according to what the indicators point out. Then one looks at the indications of these six principles.

[22] This is divided into three divisions. The first is proper to universal states, like the property of the indicators of great Beginnings indicating universal matters like floods, dynasties, religions, and the like at the time of the conjunction of the two superior <planets> in Aries and their conjunction when they shift from one triplicity to another.[2]

While Professor Dykes was working on his second book of World Astrology, I was in contact with him and we were discussing the “mean conjunctions” and how they were calculated.[3] In comparing our notes and calculations I was made acutely aware of one particular triplicity shift in history. In 1603 there was a shift of the mean conjunctions into the fire signs, starting at 00° Sagittarius 33’ 51”.

That is actually a pretty relevant shift when you consider the theory behind the importance of the shifts of triplicity indicating universal beginnings of important “religions”. This particular era found many brilliant minds building the arguments and philosophical underpinnings of Democracy and what has become, in the words of several historical writers, a word which has acquired “a universally sacred character” and given “the notion of democracy a moral and almost religious content”. In this era were the minds of Francis Bacon (1561-1626), Montesquieu (1689-1755), Voltaire (1694-1766), Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-88), David Hume (1711-76), and Adam Smith (1723-1790). And one, foremost among these “prophets”, was John Locke (1632-1704).

Abu Ma’shār gives in his instructions some interesting information:

“We say that if the conjunction occurs in the fiery triplicity, it indicates power for the eastern people, and that the strongest of their signs is Sagittarius…”

Of course that is very relevant at the shift, which was to Sagittarius, since the political power was in Britain and “eastern people”[4] were to be the colonists.

2.) “As for the time of the appearance of the indications, the fiery triplicity indicates three conjunctions after the return of the conjunction to the sign of the triplicity to which the conjunction shifts;”

But he also adds this qualifier,

“It is possible that the times of the indications are different: according to this scheme, the indications of the shift to the fiery triplicity occur after 9 conjunctions from the time of the shift…”

This is very interesting as the appearance of the indications of this “new religion” would appear in the 9th conjunction after the shift which was to 1782! Quite remarkably, only 7 years later the newly formed American Congress began its duties and the first president took up his position.[5]

These are things with no relevance for today? I hardly think so. Over the past several years I have been using these techniques with regards to particular world events; From the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 to the general elections in Britain in 2011. I have not published everything. Certain predictions in the course of discussions on astrology forums have been documented. I have to make perfectly clear here that at no time have I done this to “make a name” for myself. Our art is supposed to help others, not glorify oneself. This is why I have not published much of my work. This particular post is therefore probably only the second time I have, through a public media, made known this work.

The following prediction and delineation concerning the outcome of the Presidential elections in Croatia was published on the East European Traditional Astrology forum “Astrološki dijalozi”, December 29th 2014 and January 2nd 2015 respectively.

On 29.12.2014 I stated the following:

“Been looking at some charts and contemplating the election in Croatia…. I really know nothing of the politics involved so my opinion is a purely astrological one…. I will be glad to explain how I came to it when I get things written up. My first impressions are that Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović will win this vote. The charts I have been considering are the Aries Ingress, Libra Ingress, Mars/Saturn conjunction and lunation prior to the election as well as the sunrise chart of the Election Day.”

I guess you can call this Part 1 of my judgment concerning the elections in Croatia. I am not trying to be longwinded but I thought it important to explain my judgment[6] and what it is based on. As I understand there have been some who make predictions that are not explained and from what I understand of the conversations their judgments and predictions are quite speculative and perhaps not based in much astrology. I am not here to judge anyone else but to just render my judgment as best I can using the Astrology that I practice. If it’s wrong, it’s wrong and won’t be the first time I have not totally understood what I was seeing.

I will start my judgment with two charts; 1) the chart of the revolution of the year in which the ruler accedes, and 2) the chart of the ascension of the ruler. You will no doubt notice that for the first chart I have chosen to cast the chart of the Ingress for 2010. I have my reasons but the main one is simply because his acceding to power occurs only 1 month before the Ingress and falls just after the pre-ingress lunation (new Moon). Therefore I have deemed the 2010 Ingress more relevant to the length of the rulers rule rather than the Ingress for 2009. This is my judgment call. I could name other astrologers from the past, like Mashā´āllāh, who understood the need to do likewise, so I am in good company on this call.

Figure 1 Croatia_Aries Ingress 2010

Figure 1
Croatia_Aries Ingress 2010

Now Abū Ma’shār would have us use this chart in this way:[7]

“…one looks at the revolution of the world-year in which the ruler accedes, and then one looks at Saturn.”

One might well ask, why Saturn? Why not the Sun? The answer is a very important philosophical cornerstone that is based in something very old and probably coming from the Persians.

“…. Related to the superior planet furthest from the world of generation and corruption, i.e. to Saturn, is the indication for matters of Beginnings…”

Saturn indicated all “lofty” beginnings; a rulership, a kingdom or dynasty, a new religion, etc. You will find this doctrine also in Māshā´āllāh, Saul, Umar and others. In these sources you will find that Saturn signified the current and lawful king.[8]

So what does Abu want us to do with Saturn? In the chart of the Revolution of the Year we find Saturn in the Ascendant. We are to see what domicile it is and who the lord of his domicile is. In this case Saturn is in Libra and Venus is the Lady of the domicile. Both are in cardines so he would have us see how many ascensional degrees there are between Venus and Saturn. In effect directing Venus to Saturn and we are to count 1 year for every 30°. I have already done the calculations and there are 160 ascensional degrees between them and dividing this by 30 we find that it is 5 years.

Now the other chart in this process of discovering the length of a rulers rule is to look at the actual chart of the rulers acceding to power. In this case the ruler assumed his rulership on the 18th of February 2010 and I have included this chart as well.

Figure 2 Croatia_Josipovic accedes 2010

Figure 2
Croatia_Josipovic accedes 2010

Now Abu would have us do something a little different in this chart, but no less very profound and significant.

“As for <discovering> the measurement of their periods from their accession, it is found from the distance between Mars and its lord…”

Why Mars? Again this is based in a philosophical cornerstone of these ancients which is stated as follows,

“Related to the third of these planets in order, i.e. to Mars, is the indication for wars, strifes, and the like, being, as it were, the decline to the final ends of things, because the ends of things indicate destruction of their orderly arrangements after their perfection, and corruption of their regularity.”

Mars signified the end of things. So we were to do with Mars just as we did with Saturn, i.e. look at the domicile it is in and who its lord is. In the ascensional chart we find Mars in Leo and the Sun conjunct the cardine of the MC in Aquarius. And in the same way we judged from Saturn and its beginning so judge we here of its end with Mars and count the ascensional degrees between Mars and the Sun and give 30° to every year. There are 153 ascensional degrees between the Sun and Mars which once again is 5 years.

The last testimony he suggests is to direct the Midheaven, as we would do in a nativity, to a malefic that would cut off the years of his rule. We are to judge one month for every degree. The Midheaven will come to the square of Mars in 59°. Once again we end up with 5 years because 59 divided by 12 is just shy of the 5 years (5×12=60).

When reading up on Croatia’s government and election process I was surprised to find that the term of President is 5 years! So I was rather convinced that he[9] will only serve one term.

This second part in my notes is about the Croatian election based on the Revolution of the World-year 2014.

Figure 3 Croatia_Aries ingress 2014

Figure 3
Croatia_Aries ingress 2014

I notice in the revolution of the year (see Figure 3) that the Ascendant and Midheaven are close to changing signs and the signs are common (mutable). We have 28° Virgo 51’ marking the ascendant and 28° Gemini 37’ marking the Midheaven. The Sun is also setting, handing over his dominion to the Moon. I also note that the Midheaven[10] moves into the Moons domicile[11]. Themes are important to note. In this case I am noting the theme of endings and change. The Lord of the year is Mercury because of his testimony in the ascendant and his testimony as the other luminary’s[12] term lord and he is in a strong place being the 7th by counting.[13]

Since Mercury is also the significator of the king[14] then the state of the king is because of the state of the people.[15] This is something important to understand for the year and further readings of charts, i.e. how the fate of the king is bound to the fate of the people.

We should note the zodiacal state of Mercury. Mercury is the only planet that has one sign as both its detriment and fall. The sign of Pisces as Mercury’s detriment represents a threat to the people’s (and therefore the king’s) being and operative ability. It signifies very clearly the peoples (especially the common people) inability to gain through livelihood, their poorness and their being brought low. Its descension (fall) indicates their sorrow, prison, and distress; it is the place of their worthlessness relative to their own interests; they hate their situation, and are restricted. This state of being is particularly intense in this year because Mercury is oriental, direct and free of the Sun. By division Mercury is cadent and being carried away from the angle, however it is very interesting that Mercury has a strong helper from among the cabinet of the ruler (11th house/sign). Mercury is applying[16] to Jupiter in its exaltation and by division in the strength of the Midheaven and the 11th by counting. Because Jupiter will receive Mercury from a strong place, it will lift Mercury from its detriment and depression.

Jupiter I would deem is a very powerful “noble” in some position of the current government. Jupiter being occidental in a feminine sign leads me to believe this is a powerful woman.

The state of the “commoners” is also underlined by the Moons conjunction with a retrograde Saturn in the sign of her descension, Scorpio!

Another indication of the people’s bad situation can be seen by Mars in its detriment in the 2nd and destroying the fruits of the people’s livelihoods while the coffers of government are overflowing.[17] This is all setting the stage for the events of the rest of the year.

[1] Ptolemy attributed the rational mind to Mercury and irrational mind to the Moon.

[2] Part I, Chapter 1 of The Book of Religions and Dynasties (On the Great Conjunctions), Ed. and Trans. Keiji Yamamoto, Charles Burnett, Volume 1: The Arabic Original (Leiden: Brill, 2000)

[3] This is an entirely other subject which I cannot go into here. But Professor Dykes goes into very good detail in his World Astrology II. To understand these principles I highly recommend this book. It is well worth the investment if you are interested in mundane astrology.

[4] On the eastern seaboard of what would become the United States, the four distinct British regions were: New England, the Middle Colonies, the Chesapeake Bay Colonies (Upper South) and the Lower South.

[5] The First United States Congress, consisting of the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives, first officially convened on March 4, 1789.

[6] My “judgement” was that I predicted, contrary to popular opinion, that Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović would be elected the country’s first woman president.

[7] Chapter 5 in Part II of Kitāb al-milal wa-d-duwal – The Book of Religions and Dynasties

[8] Also I strongly recommend reading Ben Dykes introduction in his newest translation contribution, Astrology of the World II.

[9] I mean Josipovic, the current Croatian President.

[10] The Midheaven is the place of the sun’s strength and power which is also a masculine sign, Gemini.

[11] Cancer is a feminine sign and house of the “feminine” luminary.

[12] I.e. the Moon

[13] Please note I am using whole sign houses. The term, “by counting” was used by the Medieval astrologers to indicate they were using whole signs and “by division”, indicating mundane divisions of the quadrants.

[14] I chose the ruler of the 10th over the Sun because Mercury is in a better “place”, the 7th and 10th from the 10th, rather than the Sun falling in the 8th place.

[15]And if you knew this in a revolution of years (that the Lord of the Year was the same as the significator of the King), know even the significator of the king from the Lord of the Year, and know his condition from the condition of the rustics.” Cf. Mashā’āllāh’s, “Revolutions of the years of the World” Chapter 19

[16] It is applying to but not yet joined to Jupiter, so technically Mercury is not yet pushing his authority to Jupiter. However I note that it will.

[17] This judgement is based on the 11th being the treasury of the government with Jupiter there and testified to by the Sun which is in its exaltation Aries and in the 8th of taxation and debt which opposes the peoples resources, the 2nd.

Aversion or the “Inconjunct”: Dignities, Strengths, and Weaknesses – a closer look

One has to practice the classical concepts to understand their significance in real terms. Aversion is not a “corruption” of the planet. It is rather a weakness. We must examine the distinctions; what is the difference between “weakness” and “misfortune and corruption”? One thing I have noticed in my studies and practice is that the ancients made clear distinctions between the quantity of the signification produced and its quality. These terms would seem somewhat self-evident; however, it is common to find these terms erroneously mixed. In the simplest terms, quality tells us what kind and quantity tells us how much. Abu Ma’shār for example in his Introduction to Astrology makes this distinction between quality and quantity.

The fourth chapter, on the good fortune of the planets, their power, their weakness and their misfortune . . .

Here the astrologer is outlining two distinct categories of evaluation. One is the fortunes and misfortunes. This is his qualitative judgement of what kind. The other is of the power and weakness of the planets, which is a quantitative judgment of how much.

Let me try to explain this in another way. Electricity has a remarkably accurate analogy to astrology. The principles of electricity involve different factors that produce an effect. Voltage (V) is like the essential dignity of a planet. It describes the quality. There are several type quality batteries. You have 24V, 12V, 9V, etc. where the voltage describes the quality. Then you have current or amperes (A) that directly influence the output or effect. This is analogous of a planets phase to the Sun, or if it is in the chart sect or not etc. The effect of that battery [or planet] is its ability to use its full potential, i.e. seen as the light from a light bulb that is attached [effect or Watts]. A 12V battery with a current of 65 amperes (a typical car battery) will produce 780 Watts (voltage x amperes = watts). That is its effect. Likewise a planet in its domicile (the 12V battery), oriental of the Sun (if a superior planet), and in sect (the optimal 65A current) produces an optimal effect (Watts) that we determine from the essential nature and determination of the planet.

The normal car is the “domain” of that battery, designed specifically for that environment and its demands. If I take that same 12V, 65A battery and place it into a different environment like a diesel truck, it may produce enough to perform once but the strain placed by the higher demands of the environment will immediately corrupt and ruin the battery. A diesel truck may require a 24V 85A (2040 W) battery for example. This is similar to a planet posited in a sign where it is peregrine, or in a sign that happens to be its detriment or fall.

If we place on that 12V battery resistance in the form of lights or a heater, that resistance (or impediment) is measured in ohms (Ώ). The introduction of a new factor changes the total effect. If the light produces a resistance of 3 ohms then the total effect is now calculated Voltage/Ohms x Amperes = Watts (effect). In our example then the voltage, 12V, is divided by the resistance, 3 ohms, and multiplied by the amperes = 12V/3Ώ x 65A = 4 x 65 = 260 W. You can see the significant reduction compared to the original potential of 780 watts. This is how various factors impede a planet, i.e. joined to a malefic. This is resistance.

None of these extra factors changes the essential dignity of the battery. It is always a 12V battery. Changing either the current or resistance, however, will change the effect. If the current [amperes] is reduced or increased, the effect will be either stronger or weaker not its dignity. If we increase the resistance [ohms], it also reduces the effect because its quality is directly affected. Neither current nor resistance is the same as voltage! These are three individual and distinct variables!

Now as long as that battery is full (like a car battery is charged by the regulator and generator of a car), then its effect is constant, meaning that it can produce 100% of its effect at all times (like an angular planet). If that battery should have an under specified alternator or generator with perhaps dirty brushes it does not keep the batter properly charged, its effect is less constant and somewhat weaker (like a succedent planet). If the alternator/generator is defective and producing far below the specific requirement then the battery eventually will empty itself of charge and it may not even start the car consistently or barely cause the motor to turn over (like falling cadent). This measurement has nothing to do with essential dignity because the battery is still a 12V battery, but rather it is a measure of how much of the quality (12V) is available to be transmitted and how constant. Just as a battery that is flat can be “jumped”, so can the planets. If I series connect another fully charged 12V battery to the flat battery then that flat battery will produce consistently enough to be useful. This is much like what happens if you have a cadent planet that is aspected by its ruler or a benefic from a trine aspect in an angle!

What I am trying to illustrate is that many things that are often called essential dignities, are not in themselves essential dignity. Current (amperes) and resistance (ohms) is not the same thing as the quality of the source (voltage or its essential dignity). It is all three of them together that determine an outcome or effect (Watts) and the effect is not the same as dignity! The judgement of the planets is a science and cannot effectively be boiled down to a simple table because these factors are each the function of a variable. While Voltage (quality) and Amperes (quantity) both affect the outcome (Watts), the relationship of quantity has a very special role.

If you consider the equation for the outcome, we find that the misfortunes and corruptions directly affect the quality and not simply by ‘subtraction’ – it divides. It does not affect the means or quantity! These are some very real variables that have a specific result.

Now all of this is a very simplified analogy since there are many variables that determine both quality and quantity. In the case of aversion, it affects the rulers’ ability to produce an effect for the particular domicile it falls in aversion to! It is not a ‘joy’ in the sense the ancients used but it is a condition that has a direct effect on the domicile and the resultant house it rules!

Now a practical demonstration of this consideration is found in the

chart of ex-tennis star Jimmy Connors.

Jimmy Connors September 2, 1952 10:30 AM CDT East Saint Louis, Illinois, USA 38° N 37' 28" – 90° W 09' 03" 27° Libra 28’ rises

Jimmy Connors
September 2, 1952
10:30 AM CDT
East Saint Louis, Illinois, USA
38° N 37′ 28″ – 90° W 09′ 03″
27° Libra 28’ rises

The Sun in the 11th is a strong position for the Sun in this diurnal chart! It does indicate reputation and success. However, that reputation and success is marred by separation, controversy and exile (this is what Paulus tells us a planet in aversion to its domicile signifies). Moreover, Lilly following the ancients tells us that a planet falling cadent of its domicile, so that it does not behold it, is indicative that the planet is “ill-disposed” to signify those matters.

Based on that signification, I would have to say that while this native receives reputation and success in his profession, there is some aspect of that which brings him into controversy and even exile by his peers and professional associates. The Sun, ruler of the 10th, is in the 11th in aversion to Mercury ruler of the 11th in the 10th! At some point in this natives’ profession he is perhaps in exile to his professional peers because of controversy.

What I found when I read a couple online biographies was this:

Connors was denied a shot at the Grand Slam because he was banned from the French Open that year after signing to play in World Team Tennis. Because the Association of Tennis Pros (which Connors refused to join) and the French officials opposed WTT, the entries of WTT players were refused.

These significations are not some intangible potential, but actually signify real people, things and events! It is also interesting to see that this ban and exile came during his Mercury Firdar when Saturn (exalted ruler of the 12th and 1st) was the participating distributer!

So to say that just because a planet falls in aversion to one domicile but not the other is not an impediment is quite untrue! As I said before the consequences concern the house to which it is in aversion and if that house is normally a profitable house to the native, it can often have some dire consequences to the outcome!

Steven Birchfield A.M.A.

A Teacher’s Thoughts

freewill

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.