The Terms or Bounds and the D-30 Divisional Chart

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)

Let’s compare:

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… 🙂

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.