Tradition, Convention and Dogma

Tradition is difficult to define. It can be described as a body of knowledge that is considered so valuable that it must be bequeathed from one generation to the next. Quite often it has a divine source or is based on supra-sensible perception or lacking that is based on superior knowledge and experience. Traditions generally have a set of seminal ideas that are their essence. Out of this they enfold. Around these seminal ideas a whole body of knowledge and practice grows from generation to generation. But traditions, if access to their core is lost, can become encrusted with what can be called convention and dogma. Both convention and dogma can become the greatest enemies of a tradition and in the end undermine it. Convention endangers tradition because it accepts without question subtle changes in interpretation or practice that may occur over time due to changes in consciousness or understanding and at worst may be fueled by those who would use such subtle changes to their own advantage. Convention is acceptance without understanding. Convention encourages sluggish thinking. It is the comfortable approach as it accepts without question and answers uncomfortable questions with, ‘it has always been done so’ or ‘my teacher has said it is so’ or ‘it is written thus.’

Dogma is more insidious. It takes a conventional interpretation of a traditions core ideas and turns them into canon, declaring ‘it can only be so.’ Sluggishness is replaced with militancy and questioning outside of the canon is declared heresy which is usually punished in one fashion or other. Other traditions are rejected on principal.

A tradition is not a monolith that stands in a field unchanged and unchanging, to  be protected from the elements and erosion. It is the field itself in which the seed of the tradition, its essence, is sown, nurtured and cultivated; grows, flowers, is pollinated, comes to fruit and then regenerates. The monolith, which embodies the verbal and written aspects of tradition, merely marks where the tradition can be found. It is the minds and hearts of those who cultivate the tradition that plant the seeds of their understanding in the soil of the field. That understanding which is in accord with the tradition thrives and prospers and keeps the field fertile. Convention leaches the fertility out of the field around the marking monolith. There is still growth but it is meagre by comparison. Dogma roots out all that grows in the field so that only the monolith remains and the field is barren.

The next articles are devoted to a simple question: is use of a square or circular chart based on convention or tradition and what does it show? Some of my conclusions may not be acceptable to everyone. That does not mean that anyone who does not agree with me is conventional or dogmatic. What it does mean is that I and you, dear reader, will try to tap into the core of the tradition or traditions presented and to the best of our abilities try to plant a few viable seeds and bring them to growth.


A Readers’ Question: Foodpoisoning?

Recently a reader of Altair Astrology approached me with a question that had puzzled him. As it is a health question, I must add a disclaimer that the presentation of this chart is for entertainment purposes only, and that I make no pretence of understanding medicine as it is practised today. With that said, let as look at the question and at the charts. There are two charts, as this person uses the whole sign house system for horary questions, should there be any discussion in that line. Both charts more or less show the same situation and I will concentrate on the 1st chart. I would like to remark that it puzzles me why anyone should exclusively use whole signs. Why limit oneself to only one tool when there are also others available?

He had been asked by someone who had been feeling sick in the last two or three days whether she could have had food-poisoning. At the time of the question she felt better. His question was whether there is an astrological connection between eating and any house or planet.

Let us look at the charts first:

Foodpoisoning, Regiomontanus houses

Chart 1: Foodpoisoning?, Regiomontanus houses

Foodpoisoning, whole sign

Chart 2: Foodpoisoning, whole sign

Now one of the first things to look at in any health question is whether or not the person is healthy. This is shown by the condition of the Lord of the Ascendant. In this chart L1 is Saturn. Saturn a cold and dry sign is quite cosy in Virgo a cold and dry sign. So although peregrine in the 8th house of chart 1 (cadent in the 9th in chart 2). The querant is healthy and this is supported moreover by the North Node in the first house (both charts) and close to the ascendant. So the answer is no, it wasn’t food-poisoning, just a minor disturbance in the digestion. If we look at the Moon’s motion, we see that there was a recent contact with Mercury, Lord 6 (both charts). Now this was a sextile, and so one might think, “hey, isn’t a sextile a good aspect?” Well, yes it is, which means that all is not as bad as it seemed. The Moon however provides us not only the timing (recent focus on health) but also reveals something of the querant’s perception of the situation. The Moon is peregrine and in Saturn’s detriment, her antiscion is very close to Algol and she receives Saturn from the 8th house (in chart 2 she is in the 8th house and receives Saturn from the 9th), so the perception of the discomfort has a more grim quality. After all the querant could have asked, “what is wrong with me?” Instead she immediately asked about food-poisoning. If we look at the reception between L1 and L6 we see that there is very strong reception. Saturn is in Mercury’s domicile, exaltation and face. Mercury is in Saturn’s, exaltation, triplicity and term. So we see that querant has an unusual interest in her health and is likely to notice the slightest change to her well-being.

The answer for the querant is: No, it wasn’t food-poisoning, it was a passing condition and you are healthy. The rest may be told at the astrologer’s discretion.

Now what about the astrological connection between eating and any house or planet. Yes. The second house. What we eat is property that we ingest. (by the way kitchens also belong to the second house). But the question was about the feeling of unwellness and stomach or belly problems. So looking at what was ingested might just lead off into a tangent and complicate the answer. If we wish for more detail we might look up Wm. Lilly’s  planetary significations for parts of the body in each of the signs of the zodiac on p. 119 of CA. We discover that Moon, Mercury and Venus (dispositor of L6) are all in signs that point to the stomach or belly.

Getting Started with Rectification: the First Steps with Primary Directions

Not too far back a reader asked for a demonstration of calculating primary directions by hand. It would be far to wearisome, and very boring reading to demonstrate all of the calculations, all at once. Instead I will only give them piecemeal, enough for anyone to gain confidence in trying the calculations themselves and with a bit more explanation as to what is being done. If you do have problems there is always the comments section to express what the problem is.

We will be concentrating our attention first on the MC and in the next article on the Moon. As both of these belong to the ‘big five’ Significators of directions, the other three being Sun, Ascendant and Part of Fortune.

Now the MC is probably the simplest Significator as only right ascension is considered when directing to it. And it is very easy to discover the RA (right ascension) of the MC or any other position with respect to the MC. If you look into your Tables of Houses, here those published by the Otto Wilhelm Barth Verlag, publishers of the Deutsche Ephemeride:

Tables of Houses caption

Tables of Houses caption

You will find at the top of each page the sidereal time, the longitude of the MC and its right ascension or RAMC. It is simply a matter of interpolation to calculate the exact degree of the RAMC. Our sample chart has 25 Sagittarius 07 on the MC. So we take the difference between 25 Sag 07 and 24 Sag 30 (0 deg 38) multiply by 60 (the difference in minutes between RAMC 265 and RAMC 264) and divide by the difference between 25 Sag 25 and 24 Sag 30 (0 deg 55). This gives us 0 deg 41 which we add to the earlier RAMC. So the RAMC of 25 Sag 07 is 264 deg 41.

If you refer to Wm. Lilly’s Christian Astrology you will see that he made a speculum (table) of the position of all major planetary aspects, antiscia and term positions. It is a very good idea. So for our example chart we have the antiscion of Jupiter at 28 Capricorn 31 and the sextile of Mercury at 2 Aquarius 12, to take two examples. Using the above method the RA position with respect to the MC would be 300 deg 38 and 304 deg 28 respectively. If we were to direct them to the MC the difference in arc would be:

antiscion Jupiter at 28 Cap 31, RA = 300 deg 38 – RAMC 264 deg 41 = 35 deg 57
sextile Mercury at 2 Sag 12, RA = 304 deg 28– RAMC 264 deg 41 = 39 deg 47

If we use the Ptolomaic Key of 1 deg = 1 year then the first direction would occur at the age of 36 (in 1995) and the second at roughly 40 years (1999)

According to Wm. Lilly the direction of Jupiter (either in body or by antiscion) gives “everyone preferment according to capacity” and the sextile of Mercury advances the native “in the study of Learning…” As you note the emphasis is always on 10th house affairs. So Jupiter will be beneficial and help expand one’s professional affairs, according to capacity. So a crown prince might find himself king and someone in higher management might find themselves head of the board of directors. Someone unemployed might finally be given employment. The same with Mercury. The sextile encourages learning in respect to profession. So the crown prince might find himself motivated to study the laws of the land more closely. The head of the board to learn the language of his major foreign customer and the newly employed person the chance to qualify themselves by going to evening school. Then of course the condition of the chart must be accounted for. What are Jupiter and Mercury Lords of? What is their celestial state in the radix? Are they dignified and well placed or the opposite? All of these factors modify the general statement. So Jupiter in bad celestial state might offer the opportunity but it might not be strong enough to give the crown prince the crown, he might just add another order to his collection of honours or the manager becomes vice chairman instead of chairman of the board or the newly employed person gets the secondbest job on his list.

A Question about Animodar: Christopher’s Sample Chart

There is nothing better than hands on astrology. The clearer the question the better it can be answered – and that doesn’t only apply to a horary question! Here was the question kindly asked by Christopher:

Here’s a chart that might present an exception: Natus, Nov. 8, 1965; 14:48 CST +6:00; Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi; 88W27 33N39. Ascendant 2 Aries 09. Moon 12 Taurus 22. The SAN is conjunctional in 00 Scorpio. The Trutine date and time are Feb. 5, 1965, 10:48:29 AM CST +6:00. This confirms the recorded birth time to the minute, with an adjustment to 14:48:02. But then we’d expect precision from a military hospital! However, if I’ve understood the procedure, the Animodar would have us adjust the MC to the degree of Mars (25 Sagittarius 55), giving him an Ascendant in 22 Pisces. This would require a birth time correction of almost a half hour. Not implausible, but it seems a stretch. I’d be interested to see how you would tackle this.

Let us look at both the base chart and the SAN, or the chart for the previous New Moon:

base chart

base chart

SAN chart

SAN chart

My software (Janus) calculates an Asc of 2 Aries 06 for the given time and places the Moon at 2 Aries 09 in the Trutine chart, the time being 10:48:21 AM. Now the rule for Animodar is to look for the planet that has the most dignities at the SAN degree. At 0 degrees Scorpio, Mars has the most, if not all, dignities. Mars in the base chart is at 25 Sagittarius 54. This is not very close to either MC or Asc. What next? I would recommend looking at the SAN chart as a whole. In the SAN chart Mars Lord of the New Moon is at 14 Sagittarius 35. What should catch our attention is the position of Jupiter, his dispositor. Jupiter is at 1 Cancer 16 in the SAN chart close both to the MC and Ascendant of the base chart. The MC of the base chart at 1 Capricorn 15 is closest. If we nudge the MC one minute so that it is at 1 Capricorn 16 we would have a birth time of 14:48:02. Astonishing. This is also the corrected time that Christopher arrived at through adjustment of the Trutine of Hermes. Whatever the discrepancy, both the Trutine and the Animodar seem to reinforce the birth certificate time.

Getting Started With Rectification: Trutine of Hermes and Animodar

Chart rectification can be a very involved process. Quite often a birth certificate has a time that is either on the hour or half hour. It is sure to be rounded, as the chances of being born exactly at these times is possible but highly unlikely. How does one begin? Where can one find a basic orientation? One possibility is to use the Trutine of Hermes as a first step. I would like to demonstrate this technique with a chart from my files (it is not my own).

The Trutine of Hermes has as a working premise that the placement of the Moon at the time of birth is that of the Ascendant at conception, and that the degree of the Ascendant at birth is that of the Moon at conception. But how does one find the date of conception? Lilly discusses the method on pp.502-505 of his Christian Astrology.

  1. First we need to locate the Moon in the unrectified chart, let us call it the ‘base chart’. Is it above or below the horizon?
  2. Next we need to calculate the distance from Moon to Ascendant (if the Moon is under the horizon) and from Moon to Descendant (if the Moon is above the horizon)
  3. After that we refer to the table provided by Lilly (If the Moon is above the horizon every twelve degrees between Moon and Descendant  is incremented by a day, beginning with 258 days gestation. If the Moon is below the horizon each 12 degrees between Moon and Ascendant is incremented by one day, beginning with a gestation period of 273 days – you can refer to the article The Moon and Gestation here at Altair Astrology for more detail)
  4. Once we have the number of days of gestation we need to find the day. Convert the birth date into the Julian day and then subtract the gestation period, then convert this Julian Day back to the Georgian date. The Calendar Converter at fourmilab can do this, but most astrology software should have this function.
  5. Once we have the date we can refer to an ephemeris and see if the Moon is indeed near the Ascendant degree of the base chart.
  6. If it is, then we can use the rectify function of our astrology programme to enter the Moon’s position as the Ascendant for the day found.
  7. What is the Moon’s position for the conception chart? We note this, then we recalculate our base chart with this degree as the Ascendant and note what the birth time would be for this new position. In fact this chart is now our new ‘base chart’ and we can use it for checking primary directions.

Now for the example. This is for a base chart with a birthdate of April 6, 1959. The time is 4:00 GMT 10e59 49n28. The Ascendant is at 18 Pisces 19, the Moon at 23 Pisces 37. This is all we need to know.

  1. The Moon is below the horizon
  2. The distance from Moon to Ascendant is 5 deg 18 minutes
  3. This distance is closest to 0 signs 0 degrees from the Ascendant. The gestation period is 273 days
  4. Convert April 6, 1959 into the Julian date = 2436664. Subtract 273. 2436664 – 273 = 2436391. Convert back to the Georgian date. This is July 6, 1958
  5. Refer to ephemeris. On July 6, 1958 at midnight the Moon was at 10 Pisces 17 . This is close to the degree of the Ascendant and worth pursuing further.
  6. Using the rectification function of my software I place 23 Pisces 37 on the Ascendant for July 6, 1958. The Moon is at 21 Pisces 26
  7. Still using my rectification function I adjust the Ascendant of my base chart to 21 Pisces 26 (I make sure I have the base chart! 🙂 ).
  8. This gives a birth time of 4:05 GMT, which is about 5 minutes from the birth time of the base chart. This is a reasonable time to use as a new birth time. Now I can begin looking at the primary directions for selected events

Once we have an adjusted time using the Trutine of Hermes it is a good idea to check it using the Animodar. This is a very quick check as all we have to do is see what degree the Moon was at the syzygy (i.e. New or Full Moon) before birth. In the chart used above the previous Full Moon was on March 24, 1959. It was at 3 Libra 26. This information can also be found in an ephemeris. Which planet has the most dignities at 3 Libra? Both Venus and Saturn are candidates. (Venus in domicile, Saturn by exaltation and term) Now in the base chart both Venus and Saturn are strong. If we check their positions we find Venus at 19 Taurus and Saturn at 6 Capricorn. Now 19 degrees is close to (and between) both the base Ascendant (18 degrees Pisces) and the adjusted Ascendant at 21 Pisces. So our adjusted Ascendant is a good base. I have ignored Saturn as his degree is neither close to Ascendant or Midheaven of the base chart.

In the next article I will do some of the initial calculations for primary directions for the adjusted birthtime of our example.