In my article on the Terms and Bounds I went into detail about all of the three ‘systems’ available to the western astrologer. Ptolemy’s mystery manuscript somehow has captured my curiosity. Where did it come from? What did it contain other than the table of terms he listed? Where is the origin of the uneven number of degrees for the terms that all of the systems share? Of the three the Chaldean system has the most regular divisions (8 – 7 – 6 – 5 – 4 for all signs) while the Egyptian and the Ptolemaic are completely irregular, each sign having different divisions.
We know that in the ancient world there was some transfer of astrological knowledge. So I would like to postulate, and this is highly speculative, I have absolutely no proof, that the manuscript that Ptolemy saw might have been from a somewhat garbled treatise dealing with divisional charts, most particularly what is called the Trimishamsha Chakra, the 30th division of a chart. We find in Parasara’s treatise (I don’t think Ptolemy saw this) a passage on the 30th division:
Trimshamsa: In odd signs the lords of Trimshamsha are Mars, Saturn, Jupiter, Mercury and Venus each of them in order rules 5, 5, 8, 7 and 5 degrees. The same should be considered … in even signed, though in reverse order’ (BPHS, Sharma ed. p. 115)
Now of course the D-30 table would not be interpreted in the same way as the terms. It is not the planet that is looked at, it is the sign owned by the Lord of the Division that is important. Jupiter at 10 Pisces would in a western chart be in his own terms and so have additional dignity. With a position of 10 Pisces Jupiter would be placed in Virgo (Mercury’s even sign rulership) in the trimshamsha chart. There Jupiter would not be so well placed as he would be in the house of a planet that he considers an enemy. A significant difference. Now if Mercury were at 18 deg 12 Sagittarius he would be in his own terms and his detriment would be mollified to some extent. In the trimshamsha he would be placed in his own odd sign, Gemini and thus be strong and not cause much damage.
Now, you might think there is a catch, as in the first case we are dealing with the tropical position and in the second the sidereal. This would be no problem, you would say, if we were living in the 3rd century AD as then both the tropical and the sidereal positions would be coincident but in a modern chart we would have to compensate for the 23+ difference in degrees (ayanamsa). Saturn at a sidereal position of 20deg20 Capricorn would have a tropical position of about 13deg20+ Aquarius. He would remain in Capricorn in the trimshamsha and in the tropical chart be in the terms of Venus. But then that is something I wouldn’t recommend. Don’t try converting the western terms to a modern ayanyamsa just because Ptolemy lived a good 1900 years ago!
By the way the trimshamsha is used to focus on the potential for illness. In the western tradition terms are quite often used to describe the physical body. It might be worthwhile to look into the medical aspects, without getting crossed-eyed by trying to recalculate from the trimshamsha. Keep them separate! I am not at all suggesting mixing jyotish techniques with western techniques. What I am suggesting is that both make use of the 5 planets without the lights and both use systems of irregular division. It is the idea of dividing or using a 5-fold division to describe the physical body and the ills that can befall it that I want to draw your attention to. And then of course there is still the historical question if some sort of cross-over occurred when Ptolemy adopted his terms from the mysterious manuscript. Who knows, maybe some renegade Chaldean astrologer used a divisional system that he reinterpreted from a neighbor to his far east… 🙂