More on the Terms or Bounds

As mentioned in “Terms, Bounds and Appearance” the terms have some unusual features. First of all they are the only set of dignities that exclude the Sun and Moon. Although some say that the ‘bounds’ for the lights are extended to the nocturnal and diurnal signs – the Sun having its ‘bounds’ from 0 Leo to 30 Capricorn and the Moon from 0 Aquarius to 30 Cancer. But this is not practicable.

Ptolemy mentions three variations in his Tetrabiblos but only gives the tabulated values for the Egyptian terms and his mysterious, now called ptolemaic terms. He mentions the Chaldean terms but only describes how they are calculated. Some confuse the Chaldean terms with the ptolemaic terms but I think this is understandable considering how briefly he discusses them.

Like so many things astrological there are different preferences. Most astrologers in Hellenistic times seemed to have used the Egyptian terms, maybe because they didn’t buy Ptolemy’s story of finding them in an ancient manuscript? We will never know for sure whether Ptolemy did indeed find a system as ancient as the Egyptian or whether the manuscript was merely a device for giving his system some authority. The argument for the first is that Ptolemy was an encyclopaedist who collected all the material available to him (and before the burning of the library in Alexandria that would have been plenty) and not an astrologer. I haven’t come across any reference to his system being used during or after his time, but that doesn’t mean that this wasn’t the case, it just means I haven’t come across documentation. Ptolemy’s terms seemed to have been more popular in the middle ages to the time of William Lilly. Both he and Bonatus provide tables for the Ptolemaic terms. Interestingly enough Johannes Schöner in his book on the Judgement of Nativities used Egyptian terms.

I am not about to recommend one or the other leaving it to your judgement, dear reader. Both camps will tell you that their system works. And indeed both systems share some common features. There are differences in some of the signs and there are also often differences in how large the bounds are in each sign. But compared to the Chaldean system they are more similar than different. The Chaldean system seems accounts for a diurnal or nocturnal birth, with the term positions of Saturn and Mercury dependant on this. The Egyptian and ptolemaic systems ignore this. Also the Chaldean system has a regular division of degrees in each sign. The first term always has 8 degrees and each succeeding term one degree less (8-7-6-5-4).

I am including all three tables here for your perusal and comparison. I have marked those positions in the ptolemaic terms that are different from the Egyptian to make this easier. I hope that I haven’t made any typographic errors in spite of proofreading twice. (but should an error have slipped in please let me know!)

Egyptian Terms

Egyptian Terms

Ptolomeic Terms (differences to Egyptian in gray)

Ptolomeic Terms (differences to Egyptian in grey)

Chaldean Terms (for Saturn/Mercury the diurnal planet is indicated first)

Chaldean Terms (for Saturn/Mercury the diurnal planet is indicated first)

Now that we have all three tables it will be interesting to compare the images of our Nobel Laureates. Some, such as Samuel Beckett have the same term ruler no matter which term system you use. With others there are differences and that we want to look at, but please no arguments about whether the Egyptian system is better than the ptolemaic or vice-versa. Should you comment you may however state which term system you think comes closer to the pictures. We have one disadvantage and that is that the pictures are static and deliver no gesture which makes quite a difference. I was, for example able to guess the terms (I won’t tell you which 🙂 ) for all of my family, and my wife, who has little astrology could also do the same…

With that said now take yourself to the quiz, of sorts, and give it a try.


14 thoughts on “More on the Terms or Bounds

  1. One curiosity: Valens suggested in his Anthology one set of Terms including the lights.

    In that passage, he provides the rationale behind the distribution.

    I am not certain about the page, it must be in book 3 or 4.

  2. The most complicated thing concerning bounds is not choose what set is right, but how to use them.

    The ancients use only the “maniqueist” approach, considering bounds of benefics better then malefics. So simple.

  3. correcting: some of them used the signfications of the bound lord mixed with the planet occupying the bound; it seems that they didnt use the chart’s determination of the bound ruler, but a general signification of the lord, e.g., mercury rules speech, and so on.

  4. Hello Rod,
    Thank you for you series of comments! I’ll answer them in one go. 🙂

    Now that is an interesting reference to Valens. Should you find it could you share it with us?

    If aspects are between signs then the detail given by the bounds would be important detail. So if Mars is in Saturn’s bounds and also trine Saturn then the trine is emphasized.

    I am also inclined to ask ‘how’ and not ‘which’.

    best regards,

  5. Blessings.

    What’s baffles me is how an astrologer could manage without using the bounds !

    The bound is an oversight principle, according to Schmidt. A planet in its own bound is extremely effective in realizing its signification. A planet so placed is — quite simply — in a Chariot. That is the quick answer, but here are some interesting tidbits about the bounds which will serve to tickle your fancy, and curb your enthusiasm towards learning to use the bounds for yourself.

    Planets can form reception, and even mutual reception by being in the other’s bound, as long as they are of the same sect. Mars in Leo trine the Sun in Aries does not form an insanely powerful reception as modern astrologers might imagine; that is because the Sun and Mars are not on the same team, or sect.

    A planet in the bound of the other sect will have a hard time getting by, since it is subject to the jurisdiction of a planet not freely or naturally cooperating.

    When Mercury is between 17 and 20 degrees Pisces, it is in its own bound and if it is in its own sect, will function remarkably if Jupiter is in Cancer.

    A planet in its own bound is in a Chariot, as stated. That means that Mercury in the above example could be conjunct the Sun and would still result in clarity of thought and superior intelligence, since The Chariot Has A Cover, which blocks out the rays. Smooth sailing!

    Since Mercury is both depressed and in exile in Pisces, those 3 degrees allotted for its bound is amongst the very shortest out of all 60 of them. Only Mars in the final 2 degrees of Libra is shorter. Mars also is in Chariot in the final 3 degrees of Taurus.

    It is good for the Sun, Moon and Ascendant to all be in the same bound (different signs, whatever) and to witness the ruler of that bound, especially when that ruler is in a Chariot, in sect, and on an angle. This would be a lucky chart.

    The worst thing in a chart is when a planet is placed in a bound ruled by a planet of the opposite sect, while those planets are in opposition to the other. This is according to Rhetorus, I believe. And thinking about it, it makes perfect sense and I wonder why I didn’t think of it myself.

    For example, this will occur when Mars is 8 degrees in Gemini, opposite to Jupiter in Sagittarius 9 degrees. Mars will Testify against Jupiter (not just witness or observe him) since the aspect is within 3 degrees. In a nocturnal chart, where Jupiter is out of sect, the prediction is that this person will lose ALL their possessions in a riot or raid and will be subject to violence and condemnation by superiors, suffering the greatest losses, being reduced to nothing. They will rash and prone to fits of fury where they lose the whole of their fortune. If it is a woman, she will be raped. Eventually they will through their own efforts recover, since Jupiter in Sagittarius isn’t without beneficence, but the pitfall will not be avoided by fate.

    Without knowing the bounds, that Mars opposite Jupiter would have looked bad, in general, but knowing the bounds and the principle of oversight (along with Sect) we are able to see Who Is Controlling Whom, and essentially the final outcome, which in this case, is quite bad.

    After that, the sophisticated astrologer uses — along with the bounds — the deodectamorin to gain further insight to the outcome; seeing what kind of fate is being handed to the native.

    All these things being said, it is my belief that we have free will even before incarnation and elected the various experiences we deem to be unjust to happen “to us” full on knowing the implications — in order to exercise Rational Choice. Choice is the great purpose for which we live. Choose wisely, no matter what happens. Especially, choose not to suffer, for “in forgiveness lies the stoppage of the wheel of karma.” (- Ra, Law of One)

    Like I said, I don’t know how an astrologer can get by without using bounds. It is my hope that this information serves you well and leads you unto clarity of purpose.

    Much praise be to Robert Schmidt.


    • Hello Seneca,
      Thank you for this. I am sure readers of Altair Astrology will find it both edifying and useful!
      The question of free will is ancient and there are good arguments for and against. Probably the best answer is yes and no. I think however, if I catch your drift, that yes the chart shows potential and its owner is always faced with a choice how that potential is realized.
      best regards,

  6. Thomas, you wrote: “The Chaldean system seems accounts for a diurnal or nocturnal birth, with the term positions of Saturn and Mercury dependant on this.”

    Let me see if I get this right. Let us suppose a diurnal birth and a planet between 15 and 21 of Aries, that planet would have Saturn as bound? And the same planet between 15 and 21 of Aries in a nocturnal birth would have Mercury as bound?


  7. Happy to see someone writing about this on a village site, I’m only nit-pickingly irritated by the misspelling of ptolemaic. The man’s name was Ptolemy, not Ptolomy

  8. The only thing that worries me about Mr Schmidt concluding the bound lord somehow restricts the actions of its tenant is, based on Greek syntax. If the terms, bounds or confines most commonly accepted and used were those of the Egyptians, would they have been devised using Greek grammar and syntax? The Greek word Mr Schmidt translated was ‘Horia’ which he concluded means ‘confines’.
    Egyptian astrology/astronomy was primarily concerned with heliacal and/or acronical rising and setting of certain fixed stars or star clusters. Another translation of the word Horia could be vista as in horizon, and it seems much more likely that as Egyptian astronomy/astrology dealt with risings and settings of planets/stars, they were defining a horizon.
    I am, as time permits, trying to get to the bottom of this at some time in the not too distant future.

    • This is an interesting suggestion. I’m in no place to comment critically on Greek syntax or Egyptian astrology, but I have found that reception according to the Horia often point to a more contractual sense of influence by the ruler on the tenanting planet, which seems to match Robert Schmidt’s understanding of Horia.

  9. Thank you for this post. I just noticed a small discrepancy between the Egyptian terms for Cancer listed in your table above and those listed by Project Hindsight in their translation of Valens. Mercury gets 5 portions in the table above while PH shows it with 6; Jupiter gets 8 above while PH gives it 7. Using the table above, the total number of portions allotted to Mercury and Jupiter do not tally with the greater years of the these planets, 76 and 79 respectively. Giving Mercury in Cancer 6 portions and Jupiter 7 as per PH’s translation of Valens remedies this.
    The Ptolemaic terms don’t tally up with the greater periods of Mars and Jupiter. Mars appears to have one portion too few and Jupiter one too many. But the Ptolemaic table above is consistent with Lilly’s. I have no idea in which sign a ‚correction‘ would be made were such a correction deemed legitimate. Personally, I’m inclined to believe there was a scribal error along the way and that the terms should all tally up with the greater periods of the planets; most of them do, and all of Valens‘ did.

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