“Persian Nativities” and Sect

I recently received my copy of “Persian Nativities” translated and edited by Ben Dykes. Now this article isn’t quite a review as I have just finished reading the introduction and am partway into the Book of Aristotle. I can only speak of a first impression.

It is always refreshing to read a translation where the translator actually thinks in detail about the content and presentation of his translation and where the Introduction ( of course you read the introduction, don’t you?) already provides a few seminal ideas. This is the case here. In section 6 of the Introduction Ben Dykes speaks of the concept of  ‘sect and being “at rest.” ‘ I would like to discuss this a little as I think it is an exciting idea.

A planet in its own sect is referred to by Hugo of Santalla, who translated the Arabic text into Latin, as having quies and quietus, in other words as being at rest or restful, as Ben Dykes points out. How may we visualize this and how may it help to understand sect qualitatively? This is the image that came before my minds eye, actually there were two, but first things first. If you light a candle in a room that has little or no draught, the flame will burn steadily and quietly, and although constantly in motion appears to rest on top of the column of the candle. The flame consumes not only the wax of the candle but also the air (oxygen) around it, so in effect there are barely visible swirls and eddies of warmer and colder air around it. But the general appearance is that of rest. Now carry the candle outside into a light breeze. There the flame is likely to dance around and almost gutter. Sometimes larger, sometimes smaller until either the wind quietens or it is extinguished. Now a planet, traditionally is not just a block of matter, it is a potency, and that is anything but passive. So a planet in sect is like the ever active flame that is allowed to unfold its potency, quietly and effectively. A planet out of sect is not allowed this, its potency must contend with an inimical environment. So the Sun by day effectively shows his potency. His light and warmth are present, felt and seen by all. At night he still sheds light and warmth but it is not experienced.

A second analogy could be found in the animal world. Just think how uncomfortable a nocturnal animal such as the owl or bat would be during the day. Restless would be lightly spoken. The same could be said for a diurnal animal such as a Robin.

I look forward to the passages in the text where sect is discussed. You should too.

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The Best Astrology Books

Sometimes the best astrology books are not about astrology at all, but of far deeper things that apply to all arts, crafts and sciences. One such is a book on Typography, The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst. Here is a passage from the forward of the book which struck me. I am sure you will agree that its wisdom applies also to Astrology though superficially Typography and Astrology might seem to have nothing more in common that the  “y” at the end of their names.

One question, nevertheless, has been often in my mind. When all right thinking human beings are struggling to remember that other men and women are free to be different, and free to become more different still, how can one honestly write a rulebook? What reason and authority exist for these commandments, suggestions and instructions? Surely typographers, like others, ought to be at liberty to follow or to blaze the trails they choose.

Typography thrives as a shared concern – and there are no paths at all where there are no shared desires and directions. A typographer determined to forge new routes must move, like other solitary travelers, through uninhabited country and against the grain of the land, crossing common thoroughfares in the silence before dawn. The subject of this book is not typographic solitude, but the old, well-travelled roads at the core of the tradition: paths that each of us is free to follow or not, and to enter and leave when we choose – if only we know the paths are there and have a sense of where they lead. That freedom is denied us if the tradition is concealed or left for dead. Originallity is everywhere, but much originality is blocked if the way back to earlier discoveries is cut or overgrown.

The Elements of Typographic Style, pp 9-10, Robert Bringhurst

This is a beautifully crafted book, not only in its language but also in its presentation. Looked at from the standpoint of the rules and approach that any craftsman who loves his craft must have, is as apt to typography at it is to astrology. His discussion of tradition touches the core of why we as ‘moderns’ must look to the past if our craft is to have a future. It also cuts through the thicket of arguments that declare the superiority of one method over another (for example the  ‘best’ house system &co.) I can even envision the many roads that cross the landscape that is astrology, sometimes running parallel, sometimes crossing and sometimes parting into completely different directions.

The chapter headings are very suggestive; The Grand Design, Rhythm and Proportion, Harmony and Counterpoint… It requires little imagination to fill in the astrological counterparts.

If you are looking for a book to brighten a winter day, one that offers a view into deeper things and a book that is certain to give you a perspective for looking at astrology you never thought possible then this is for you. There is even a bonus –  you will immediately be able to spot a serious astrology book just by glancing at its typography! 😉

And the Winner is…

If you recall, 2009 is the year of astronomy. Some may wonder why astrologers should take any interest, considering how modern astronomers seem to avoid the topic of astrology and when pressed must ridicule it so as not to lose face with their colleagues. On the other hand many modern astrologers do not seem to have a very high opinion of astronomers. Both sciences however share a common history and for centuries were not to be separated from one another. With that said I would like to present the ultimate modern book on astronomy for the astrologer and for the astronomer interested in the history of his or her science: “The History and Practice of Ancient Astronomy” by James Evans. Note that ‘practice’ is italicized, and that for a purpose. The book makes good its promise and presents also the tools used by ancient astronomers (or astrologers!) and how to use them. I have seldom been so excited by an astronomy book. This is it. I only regret that it has recently come to my attention and not in 1998 when it was first published. In terms of presentation, content and clear precise and riveting language this book has top scores and is my personal winner of Astronomy Book for the Year of Astronomy.

The author in his preface already shows the character of the book:

In the sciences, it is common to encounter monographs in which the author interrupts the development from time to time by posing problems and exercises for the reader. This is the author’s way of saying, ‘You can’t be sure you understand this material unless you can use it.’ But the exercises and suggestions for observations that are interspersed throughout this book are unusual features for a historical work. These are meant to give the reader a chance to practice the art of the ancient astronomer. Any attempt at a grand historical synthesis or a philosophical analysis of the Greek view of nature that is not underpinned with a sound understanding of how Greek astronomy actually worked is headed for trouble. (p. ix)

I think that this should also be taken to heart when trying to understand ‘traditional’ astrology, whatever the source.

In the very first chapter, ‘The birth of Astronomy’, the gnomon is introduced. This is the most ancient instrument of all – a stick set into the ground in a sunny place. The shadow is measured. And you will be surprised what wealth of insight such a simple device can deliver.

So dear reader, heigh you to your nearest bookseller…

“Rhythmic Astrology”: A Book Review

the horoscope of Albrecht von Waldstein (Wallenstein) calculated by Joh. Kepler
(source: wikipedia.de, click on the image for the link)

There are astrology books and astrology books. Some are well researched, others give the impression of having been made up as they were written. This book belongs to the first category. Sadly it is only available in German. It deserves translation, particularly for that part of the English speaking astrological community that is interested in primary directions and their use. This is not a recent book, it was first published in 1998 but if you read German, this book is a must, it is still available. Significant is the in depth analysis of Johnannes Kepler’s prognostic method, based on his judgement of the horoscope of Albrecht von Waldstein (better known as Wallenstein) and its directions. Joh. Kepler’s chart for Wallenstein is shown above. The full title of the book is: “Rhythmische Astrologie: Johannes Keplers Prognose-Methode aus neuer Sicht” by Ulrike Voltmer

The author speaks of the various prognostic methods and describes how in sifting through the various methods that have been proposed for primary directions she found Joh. Kepler’s method very helpful. A major part of the book is devoted to just that, how Joh. Kepler judged the chart of Wallenstein. Included is a detailed year for year biography of Wallenstein with a separate year-by-year astrological analysis. There is also a modern list of directions (which yes, also includes the trans-Saturnian planets).

I would later like to look independently at this chart, but will quote here Ulrike Voltmer’s very carefully compiled list of Joh. Kepler’s criteria for judgement of the nativity:

  • Aquarius Ascendant
  • Placidius houses
  • Grand Conjunction in the 1st house in Pisces
  • South Node of the Moon in Gemini in the 4th house
  • Mercury in Virgo in opposition to Jupiter/Saturn
  • Sun in Libra in 7th house, wide opposition to Jupiter/Saturn, Mercury is also in the 7th
  • Mars in apogee, near the Sun in the 8th house
  • Venus in Scorpio, trine Saturn/Jupiter in 9th house
  • MC Sagittarius
  • North Node in 10th house
  • Moon on the cusp of the 12th house, in detriment in Capricorn (which Kepler didn’t want to judge) square the Sun, wide sextile to Venus
  • Sun on the autumn ingress point
  • Mercury, Saturn and Jupiter are connected by aspect
  • MC at 8 Sagittarius is also the Grand Conjunction position of 1603 and 1623

Book Review: “The Art of Forecasting using Solar Returns”

I recently acquired a copy of Anthony Louis’, “The Art of Forecasting using Solar Returns” *. The blurb on the book said, “…the reader…[is provided]… with a solid historical background on the technique and lays out clearly how Morin, one of the greatest astrologers of all time, used it in the 17th century. He then proceeds to test this methodology rigorously…” My curiosity was aroused, and so I bought the book.

Let me warn you. Anthony Louis is a modern astrologer, so one has to make some amends. On the whole the book has a systematic approach, which is to be commended. There are highlights, but I was disappointed with the judgement of the charts. The author makes extensive use of modern rulerships (Uranus co-ruler of Aquarius. etc.) and signification. For a rigorous application of Morin’s method I would have expected the use of the traditional rulerships first and then if at all necessary then the use of the outer planets, and if one really must then modern signification. For how can one test the method when one doesn’t apply the means used by Morin? Morin was a great proponent for astrological purity, and he wasn’t squeamish in denouncing anything that he thought absurd. The outer planets have a strange fascination. I don’t want to condemn their use, but it seems that they are overrated and that the fascination with them quite often sets up a barrier to “seeing” the more traditional testimonies, testimonies that sometimes are much more significant and have greater weight.

An example: The author looks at the primary directions and the solar return chart for the year that the initial draft of the book was made. A very good idea and methodically correct, as the determinations of the solar return are underlined further when there are also primary directions also involved. The following primary directions are listed:

  1. Jupiter directed sextile to radix Jupiter, L3 radix
  2. Saturn L10 directed trine to radix Jupiter
  3. Pluto directed sextile to radix Mercury, L9 radix

Then the solar return activations are given:

  1. Venus (s.r.) L1 conjunct Jupiter (s.r.) L9 (s.r.)
  2. Mars radix is in 9, Mars (s.r.) is in 1
  3. Mars radix L2 and L7 conjunct cusp 3 (s.r.)
  4. Mars (s.r.) in 8 radix
  5. Sun (s.r.) conjuncts Moon (s.r.) in 5

The first two primary directions listed can have some relevance, but I find that it is stretching it to consider, “Pluto, a general significator of in-depth research” ( p. 168 ) especially when Saturn L10 of the solar return conjuncts the Moon L10 of the radix! Of the listed solar return activations I think the first is the most relevant, the other four are secondary. What is overlooked is the conjunction of the antiscion of Mercury L3 (s.r.) with the Ascendant (s.r.) particularly since Mercury is L9 of the radix. Mercury (s.r.) is also close to conjunction with its radix position. Now that has to do with writing!!

Another example: On pp. 105-107 the charts of Rachel Corrie are discussed. Here the author brings the lunar return before the death of Rachel Corrie into the discussion. Again methodically a very good idea.
Here the determinations given by the author:

  1. Libra Asc (s.r.) on radix 8
  2. Venus L8 radix in 8 (s.r.) conjunct radix Emerson’s Part of Death
  3. Mars (s.r.) L8 square Uranus (s.r.) radix Ascendant is Aquarius
  4. Moon (s.r.) in 6 square Saturn L 4/5(s.r.) L1 radix and Pluto which is in radix 8 ,the author notes that a similar t-square between Moon, Saturn and Pluto is also in the lunar return

The given lunar return determinations are:

  1. Jupiter L1 (l.r.) is in 9 of (l.r.) square radix Emerson’s part of Death
  2. Jupiter L1 (l.r.) in opposition to Neptune (l.r.) Pisces is on the IC of lunar return
  3. Jupiter (l.r.) semisquare Moon L8 (l.r.)
  4. above mentioned T-square, Saturn (l.r.) conjuncts Mars (l.r.)
  5. Sun (l.r.) conjuncts Uranus (l.r.) in house 3 (l.r.)

For the solar return only two connections with the radix are given. The square of Mars to Uranus and the connections with the Emerson Part of Death are used as the main determinations. What the author ignores is that there is a very important radix return determination (Morin would immediately have seen this) and that is Saturn L1 radix almost exactly conjunct the 12th house cusp of the return chart. The antiscion of radix Saturn is conjunct Mercury L12 of the solar return chart and this within 5 degrees of the 8th house cusp of the return chart. Saturn in the lunar return chart conjuncts the South Node in the solar return chart. The conjunction of the antiscion of Mars to the Moon in the radix chart isn’t mentioned, but it is this that is activated by the square of Mars L12 (l.r.) to the Moon L8 (l.r.) That Saturn also is part of the T-square makes it even more critical. Again, in comparison, the outers are not that significant.

Facit: if you are a traditional astrologer the book gives a good and concise summary of Morin’s method and the many thematically well chosen example charts alone make the book of value. The only deficit is that you will have to examine each chart independently, as the author’s interpretations are interesting if you want to see what a modern astrologer does with a traditional method, but they often do not get to the core of the charts. Perhaps the time will come when the author will also engage traditional methods with traditional means, and the result should truly be a book well worth reading.

* Anthony Louis, “The Art of Forecasting using Solar Returns”
published 2008 by The Wessex Astrologer Ltd.
ISBN 9781902405292