The Decumbiture of Rudolph Valentino

The recent illness of Boris Johnson got me thinking about decumbiture charts, especially the famous example of the chart of heartthrob Rudolph Valentino, which bears many resemblances to Boris Johnson’s chart.

The Italian-American actor Rudolph Valentino was a popular romantic superstar of film in the 1920s. When he fell ill and was hospitalized on 15 August 1926, the news made national headlines. According to wikipedia: “On August 15, 1926, Valentino collapsed at the Hotel Ambassador on Park Avenue in Manhattan. He was hospitalized at the New York Polyclinic Hospital. ”

Reporters noted the exact time that Valentino collapsed at the hotel in NYC: 11:50 AM EDT. Based on this data, astrologers were able to calculate a “decumbiture” chart for the moment the person first experiences symptoms sufficient to require taking to his sickbed. Here is the chart with Placidus houses, which were in vogue at the time.

This is a decumbiture chart for the moment Valentino fell ill, according to news reports in August of 1926.

Decumbiture charts are read in a manner similar to horary charts. Many special “rules” apply, however. For example, the 1st house signifies the sick person, the 7th is his physician, and the 10th is the treatment given for the disease. The Moon is often used to time “critical” periods for the illness, which correspond to the hard aspects of the transiting Moon to its radical position in the chart.

Valentino’s decumbiture chart is not especially favorable and suggests that he may not recover from this illness. It is cast for a Sun day during a Saturn hour. The malefic Saturn is without essential dignity and rises in the 1st house. Saturn is also almuten of the 1st (the body, vitality), 4th (endings) and 12th (confinement, undoing).

In addition, Saturn is opposes by Mars, which rules the 6th (illness) and the 7th (the treating physician). Mars in Taurus is in the sign of his detriment. The Moon (a general symbol of the body) lies in Scorpio, the sign of its fall, separates from an opposition to Mars and applies to conjoins Saturn, in the 1st house of the body and life-force.

Venus, which rules the 8th of health crises and death, applies to square the Ascendant, which lies in the term/bound of Mars at the end of Libra.

The Sun (a general signifier of the life force and ruler of the 10th of the medical treatment received) applies to conjoin Neptune, a planet of dissolution. The Sun also has the role of “hyleg” or “giver of life” in this chart. Sol closely conjoins Emerson’s Point of Death, which lies at 22 Leo 44. In her book on horary astrology (p. 173), Barbara Watters popularized Charles Emerson’s “death point” which is calculated by the formula: Mars + Saturn – MC.  Watters noted that in her experience Emerson’s Point of Death was more reliable than the traditional Lot of Death.

The Moon will square its radical position and also oppose the Sun and Emerson’s Death Point on August 22, 1926, which will be a critical day in the progress of the illness.

Rudolph Valentino died on August 23, 1926 at 12:10 PM EDT. The cause of death was perforated ulcers which mimicked appendicitis and resulted in peritonitis, a bacterial inflammation of the tissues that line the inner wall of the abdomen. Apparently several of his distraught fans committed suicide after receiving news of his death. Perhaps Sun conjunct Neptune and the Point of Death in the 10th house of this chart reflects the mass hysteria attending his demise.

The most famous astrologer practicing in NYC in 1926 was Evangeline Adams. There is an astrological urban legend that Adams foretold Valentino’s death, but the evidence for this is scanty. According to Karen Christino, who wrote an excellent authoritative book on Adams:

“In their book The Day the Bubble Burst, Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan-Witts say that Evangeline Adams, ‘foretold Rudolph Valentino’s death to within a few hours’. This claim sounds outrageous, and I have seen it corroborated in no other sources. Yet the Bubble Burst team had scanned an incredible array of material in order to put together their book.”

Unfortunately, even if Adams did predict “Valentino’s death to within a few hours,” there is no record of how she did so. Karen Christino suggests that Adams may have used traditional methods of horary astrology regarding decumbitures to analyze the chart for the moment Valentino collapsed at the hotel and was then taken to the hospital. This information appeared in the newspapers on 16 August 1926, a day after the event. It is possible, or even likely, that Adams had erected and studied the decumbiture chart in anticipation of being contacted by the press about her astrological opinion of the possible outcome of the famous movie star’s surgery.

What we know of Evangeline Adams’ horary technique is that she did not follow traditional guidelines. Her “new horary” method, which she documents in her writings, was to calculate the horary cusps for the moment of the question and to insert the natal planets into the horary figure, ignoring the planetary positions at the time of the question.

Although Valentino was apparently not a client of Adams, she would have known the basic birth data (perhaps not the exact hour) of this superstar and may even have studied his chart as she did for many famous personalities of her time. Here is Valentino’s natal chart based on his birth certificate:

Natal chart of Rudolph Valentino, based on Birth Certificate.

If Adams used her usual horary technique, she would have calculated the decumbiture cusps for 15 August 1926 at 11:50 AM EDT in NYC and placed Valentino’s natal planets in the decumbiture wheel, without the current transiting planets of August 15, 1926. The resulting “Adams-style decumbiture” would look like the following:

Adams-style decumbiture chart for Valentino’s illness, based on her method of doing horary astrology. The cusps are generated for NYC on 15 August 1926 at 11:50 AM EDT when he fell ill. Valentino died on 23 August 1926 at 12:10 PM EDT, which was 8 days and 20 minutes later.

Given Adams’ reports of how she did horary astrology, my hunch is that she would have taken the moment of Valentino’s decumbiture as a horary chart and inserted his natal planets into it, resulting in the above figure. It is striking that in the birth chart based on the official Birth Certificate the first degree of Libra is rising, and in this decumbiture chart the Ascenant lies in the last degree of Libra, symbolically implying that the native has traversed his entire life span.

Also apparent in Adams’ version of the decumbiture chart is that the Retrograde Saturn in Scorpio rising to conjoin the very late Ascendant in Libra is an ominous sign that portends the death of the actor. As William Lilly (CA 122) warns,

if Saturn be in the Ascendant, especially Retrograde, the matter of that Question seldom or never comes to good.”

Adams regularly used Uranus in her work, and she would also have been alarmed by Retrograde Uranus in Scorpio in the 1st house so closely opposing Mercury and the Sun in Taurus in the 7th of the physician.

The Sun rules the 10th of the treatment received by the patient, and its opposition to Uranus suggests an unexpected turn for the worse. Both the Sun and Mercury are disposed by Venus, which rules the 8th of death. Mercury itself rules Gemini, which lies mostly in the 8th Placidus house. Adams used Placidus houses in her work.

The Moon, which is always important in horary charts, occupies the 12th of hospitalization where it is separating from a square to Mars (ruler of the 7th of illness and a symbol of surgery). The Moon’s next major aspect to a visible planet is a trine to Venus, ruler and occupant of the 8th of death. Thus, the Moon is transferring the light of Mars (the illness) to Venus (death). The Moon will perfect the trine to Venus in almost exactly 8 degrees, which symbolically could represent exactly 8 days, corresponding to around Noon on August 23rd, his actual date of death. (The use of this method of timing depends on an accurate birth time.)

Adams would probably have noted that the Ascendant ruler Venus also rules and occupies the 8th house of death, suggesting that the “querent” or sick person is confronting his own mortality.

As for timing, it is unclear how Adams would have predicted the death to within several hours. (Using the Moon, as noted above, she would have predicted that he would die around Noon on August 23rd.) One possibility is that she considered when 8th ruler Venus would change signs from Gemini into Cancer. Venus lies about 7.67 degrees from the end of Gemini. If she used a degree for a day, the adding 7.67 days to August 15th at 11:50 AM EDT would give an estimate of August 15th at midday plus 7.67 days (7 days and 16 hours), which calculates to August 23rd at about 4 in the morning. Valentino died on August 23rd at 12:20 PM EDT, roughly 8 hours later.

If Adams had access to Valentino’s birth data from his birth certificate, she might have calculated the moment when his natal Venus, ruler of the 8th of the decumbiture by transit would reach the natal MC at 01 Cancer 01 and oppose the natal 4th cusp of endings and the grave. By transit his natal Venus reached his natal MC on 14 May 1895 at about 1:30 AM CET. He was born on 6 May 1895 at 3 PM CET, so the difference is 7 days 13.5 hours, which is very similar to the result obtained in the above paragraph. Either way she would have concluded that Valentino was likely to die in the hospital in the early morning of August 23, 1926.

Rudolph Valentino

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Boris Johnson enters the ICU

Yesterday (April 6th) British Prime Minister Boris Johnson entered the Intensive Care Unit for breathing difficulties related to COVID-19 which he contracted last month. As receiving a question from a colleague about this event, I wondered what astrological measures might currently be active in this chart. Johnson was born in NYC on 19 June 1964 at 2 pm EDT. Here is his birth chart with Topocentric houses.

Boris Johnson’s birth chart. Topocentric houses. Tropical Zodiac.

Boris Johnson was born on a Venus day during a Sun hour. The Sun is also hyleg in his chart. The Prime Minister is now 55 years old and will turn 56 in June. At age 55 his profected Ascendant falls in the natal 8th sign from 1st house, that is, in Taurus. An 8th house profection year often puts an emphasis on life and death issues as well as one’s personal mortality. The fact that Jupiter rules the 6th of illness and occupies the 8th raises the possibility of personal illness during the year. Venus, which rules the Taurus 8th house, lies in aversion to the 8th and is combust the sun, so the year is likely to be a rather difficult one. Next let’s look at his current solar return at his birth place.

Boris Johnson Solar Return at birthplace.

The Solar Return occurred on a Mercury day during a Sun hour. Johnson’s “lord of the orb” this year is the Sun, so the the Sun is especially emphasized and its placement in the 6th house of his chart becomes a prominent symbol for the year. Natally the sun is also “lord of the orb” and afflicts Venus, ruler of the natal 8th house. Mercury is significant in the Solar Return as ruler of the 6th of illness.

In the current solar return Capricorn rises and Saturn rules the SR Ascendant. SR Saturn is Retrograde in the 1st where it conjoins SR Pluto and opposes the SR Mercury/Mars conjunction in Cancer in the 7th. In horary charts Lilly regarded Retrograde Saturn in the 1st house as particularly troublesome. With SR Mercury ruling the SR 6th of illness, conjoining SR Mars (inflammation, infection), and opposing SR Asc-ruler Saturn in the 1st, the symbolism of significant illness during the year is evident. The illness symbolism is reinforced by the Sun in the SR chart occupying the 6th house of illness. In addition, as I have previously reported, the presence of the Stationary Lunar Nodes in the Solar Return chart almost always heralds a year of dramatic, unanticipated life-altering events which often take the form of a personal, professional or serious health crisis.

Regarding distributions through the bounds, at age 55 Boris Johnson’s directed Ascendant lies in the Saturn term of Scorpio and its participant is the opposition of Jupiter from the 8th house. Natally Jupiter in the 8th is tightly opposite Neptune in Scorpio in the 2nd, so this troublesome natal Jupiter/Neptune opposition is active by primary direction during this phase of his life.

If we look at his primary directions for this period, we see the following. I used Placidus semi-arc, hard aspects only, with and without latitude, and a key of the midpoint of Ptolemy/Naibod, which is my preferred rate for primary directions.

Judging from his hard aspects for the current year, Johnson’s primary directions indicate April as a difficult month as the directed Ascendant and natal Mars in the 8th perfect an opposition, and the directed Moon conjoins natal Pluto. Directed Pluto will perfect a quincunx to natal Mars in June, which also looks troubling. Not shown in the above list is the fact that primary directed Venus is closely applying to conjoin the natal 8th Topocentric cusp, which it rules, again marking this period as having 8th house significance.

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The Illnesses and Death of King Edward VI (1537–1553)

Edward VI was the son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour, wife #3 of the king. In his autobiography astrologer Jerome Cardan notes that during his travels in England in October of 1552 he was consulted about Edward’s horoscope, especially regarding the recent illnesses of the young king and the prospects for his early death. Edward was only 15 years old when Cardan met him, and Cardan was acutely aware of the delicate nature of the consultation. Upon returning to Italy, Cardan wrote more frankly about Edward’s birth chart.

Edward VI was generally a healthy child except for a bout of quartan fever in 1541, but in April of 1552 he contracted the measles and perhaps also smallpox from which he apparently recovered by mid-year of 1552. According to medical science, measles is known to suppress the human immune response and leaves its victims open to infection with tuberculosis. The authors of an article in the New England Journal of Medicine write: “We believe that his death was due to rapidly progressive tuberculosis that developed after he had measles.”

In December of 1552 or January of 1553 young Edward developed a cough which became progressively worse. A summary from the Tudor Society notes that “when his half-sister, Mary, visited him on the 10th February [1553], she found him bedridden. Although he had rallied at various points, by the 20th May, the Imperial Ambassador, Jehan Scheyfve, described Edward’s condition as ‘desperate’, and on the 30th May he wrote: ‘The King of England is wasting away daily, and there is no sign or likelihood of any improvement. Some are of opinion that he may last two months more, but he cannot possibly live beyond that time.’

Born on 12 October 1537 at Hampton Court Palace (51n22, 0w20), 15-year-old King Edward VI died on the evening of 6 July 1553 at Greenwich Palace, England. Hampton Court Palace is in East Molesey in the borough of Richmond upon Thames, 12 miles south west and upstream of central London on the River Thames. 

The British astrologer Ebenezer Sibly pubished the following horoscope of the young king.

Sibly’s chart for the birth of Edward VI

Below is the same chart as from Sibly’s book but calculated by modern computer. (Sibly’s chart differs slightly from the one at AstroDataBank, which gives an Asc of 6 Virgo 01. Cardan apparently used a birth time of 1:16 AM instead of 1:36 AM LMT as in the Sibly chart.)

Now let’s consider the primary directions during 1552 – 1553, the period when he became ill with measles and smallpox, recovered, and then developed tuberculosis or some other serious lung ailment which eventually killed him. Using Janus 5.3, I calculated the Placidus semi-arc primaries, with and without latitude, using only the hard aspects to keep the list manageable. (Cardan in the 16th century would have used Regiomontanus primary directions rather than Placidus semi-arc as shown below.)

Hard aspect Placidus semi-arc primary direction, with and without latitude, for 1551-1552

We see in April of 1552, when the young king came down with measles and smallpox, that primary directed Saturn (ruler of the 6th of illness) with latitude came to the natal Ascendant, and the primary directed square of Mars (ruler of the whole sign 8th house) came to the natal sun (a symbol of the life force and ruler of the 12th of confinement). The astrological symbolism fits a serious bout of potentially life-threatening illness that this time.

In January of 1553, when his cough began, by primary direction the opposition of the ecliptic position of Mars (without latitude) came to the natal Moon (a symbol of the body) and the square of the ecliptic position of Mars (without latitude) came to the MC. Mars is a universal symbol of infection and inflammation.

In July of 1553, the month of his demise, by primary direction the square of the body of Mars came to the MC, opposite the IC (endings and the grave).

In September of 1553, by primary direction the ecliptic position of Saturn (without latitude) came to the Ascendant, and this direction would have been within orb of its perfection at the time of his death in July.

Interestingly, once Cardan was safely back in Italy, he speculated that the primary direction involving Mars and the Sun suggested that one of the British government ministers was plotting against the life of the king and perhaps considering killing him with poison. To this day there are conspiracy theories about whether Edward VI was poisoned in a power grab or whether he died of natural causes.

For the sake of completeness, the list below shows the hard aspect Regiomontanus primary directions for the period of the king’s illnesses and death, calculated with and without latitude at the Naibod rate.

REGIOMONTANUS primary directions, with and without latitude, at Naibod rate. When primary directed Saturn comes to the ASC in April of 1552, Edward VI falls ill of measles and smallpox, from which he recovers by mid-year. In late December 1552 or early January 1553 he develops a chronic and worsening cough when the square of Mars is directed to the Sun and to the MC, and the square of Jupiter is directed to Pluto. Finally, he dies in July 1553 when the directed ASC comes to the ecliptic position of natal Saturn. Both the Placidus and the Regiomontanus primary directions tell a similar story in this birth chart.
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Lilly’s Definition of Collection of Light

William Lilly writes that matters can sometimes be perfected by collection of light which is in effect “when as the two principal significators do not behold one another, but both cast their several aspects to a more weighty planet than themselves, and they both receive him in some of their essential dignities, then shall that planet that collects both their lights bring the thing demanded to perfection” (CA 126).

Lilly’s definition is a bit complicated and not well understood, so let me break it down into its essential components, namely, that collection of light occurs when all three of the following conditions are met:

1) “the two principal signficators do not behold one another” — that is, they are not within orb of a bodily conjunction or aspect.

2) “both cast their several aspects to a more weighty planet than themselves” — that is, both significators apply to conjoin or aspect a planet which is slower (heavier) than either of them.

3) “both receive him [receive the heavier “collecting” planet] in some of their essential dignities” — that is, the heavier/slower planet, which collects the light of the two faster significators, must occupy one or more of the dignities of each of the faster significators. In other words, the heavy planet can only collect the light of a faster planet if it resides in a segment of the zodiac which the faster planet “owns” or in which it has some sort of dignity. If the heavy planet lies in a part of the zodiac which the faster planet does not own (has no dignity), it cannot collect the faster planet’s light.

To illustrate Lilly’s definition, let’s look at a horary chart. I couldn’t readily find an illustrative chart in my files, so I invented a hypothetical example (one that never occurred) as a teaching device. Suppose the querent through carelessness lost a sizable a mount a cash, maybe a few hundred dollar bills got carried away in a gust of wind as he opened his wallet outdoors in the midst of a hurricane. He goes to his astrologer in New York City and at 8:32 PM EDT asks whether he will be able to retrieve the lost $100 bills. The date is August 29, 2019. Here is the chart with classic Alcabitius houses.

In this hypothetical horary, does Saturn “collect the light” of Venus and Mars which apply to trine Saturn? Lilly would say “no.”

The astrologer looks at the chart and shakes his head. “Sorry,” says the stargazer, “it looks like your $100 bills are gone for good. Do you have a credit card to pay me for my services?”

The astrologer goes on to explain that the querent who lost the money is signified by Mars, ruler of the Aries Ascendant. The lost money is signified by Venus, ruler of the Taurus 2nd house. Uranus on the cusp of the 2nd house correlates with the unexpected loss of money. Venus (the $$$) is rapidly separating from its recent conjunction with Mars (the querent) in the unfortunate 6th house. On top of that, both Venus and Mars are combust or “burnt” the Sun. Since this querent doesn’t have money to burn, one say say that his $100 bills went up in smoke.

“Wait a minute,” says the querent, who knows a little about astrology. “Aren’t Venus and Mars in Virgo both applying to trine Saturn in Capricorn via mutual application? Isn’t that a collection of light which gives me hope of getting my money back?”

The astrologer shakes his head in negation and digs out his copy of Christian Astrology. He points out that the two significators, Venus and Mars, are currently in orb of conjunction and thus do behold each other, so the first condition of “collection of light” is not met.

He also notes that even if Venus and Mars were not beholding one another (condition #1 of collection of light), Saturn occupies the exaltation of Mars and is able to collect the light of Mars; BUT Saturn does not occupy a part of the zodiac where Venus has any dignity, so Saturn cannot collect the light of Venus. If Saturn can’t collection the light of Venus, then Saturn can’t unite the light of Venus and Mars.

In addition, it is questionable whether Saturn is in a condition that enables it to collect the light effectively. In its favor, Saturn is dignified in Capricorn and strong in the angular 10th house. Against its working to benefit the querent, Saturn is moving Retrograde and is an out-of-sect malefic, being a diurnal planet in a night chart. Thus, Saturn, though strong, is not inclined to act favorably toward the querent in this chart.

Finally, even if Saturn occupied a space where both Venus and Mars had dignity, both Mercury and the Sun would perfect a trine to Saturn before Mars could do so, and these prior perfections might interfere with the ultimate collection of light between Mars and Venus. On the other hand, Saturn does not reside in a dignity of the Sun or of Mercury. Thus, Saturn who does not occupy a region “owned” by Saturn or by Mercury is not able to collect their lights, and so there may not be a lot of interference with the unification of the lights of Mars and Venus if the conditions of this final possibility were met, which they are not in this chart.

Addendum: Upon reading this blog post, astrologer Lyuben Meshikov sent me the following quote by Abu Ma’Shar regarding collection of light from The Great Introduction (Keiji Yamamoto, Charles Burnett version):

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The Beheading of Jerome Cardan’s Son

The Italian astrologer Jerome Cardan (1501 – 1576), aka Gerolamo Cardano, was one of the greatest mathematicians of the Renaissance. Because he was often short on cash, he developed probability theory to help him win at gambling. Cardan was born on September 24, 1501 in Pavia, Italy.

The natal chart of Jerome Cardan used by Morinus in Astrologia Gallica (1661)

In his autobiography he writes: “I was born normally September 24, 1501 when the first hour of the night was more than half run but less than two-thirds.” The first hour of the night belonged to Mars and ran from 5:31 pm to 6:34 pm LMT in Pavia, but I’m not sure how time was measured in Pavia (probably LAT) when Cardan was born. Based on his reading of the works of Cardan, Morinus cast Cardan’s natal chart with a birth time of about 6:29 pm LMT. This is consistent with Cardan’s description of his own horoscope in his autobiography in which he writes that Venus rules his Ascendant (Taurus rising), Sun lies in the 6th and Moon in the 12th Campanus houses, and Jupiter is in the Ascendant (rising sign). There is a typo in the autobiography which states the year was 1500 but the description of the chart only makes sense if he was born in 1501.

Jerome Cardan had a difficult life. He was born illegitimate and in ill health. Despite his obvious brilliance, his bastard status impeded advancement in his career. He had hoped to work in Milan but due to social opprobrium he ended up practicing in Gallarate, Italy (45N40, 8E48) not too far from Milan. His son Gian Battista was born here.

On 20 December 1557 Cardan had a premonition. He spent the night sleepless and felt that his bedroom was shaking as if in an earthquake. The next day he asked people in the market if they had the same experience but was met with denial. When he returned home, his servant informed him that his 23-year-old physician son Giovanni Battista had married an apparently disreputable girl, Brandonia Seroni, who had no dowry. Cardan writes: “that was the beginning of all misfortune.” The son eventually realized that Brandonia had been cheating on him and had given birth to her lover’s children instead of his own, so he allegedly poisoned her with arsenic and was convicted of murder. Giovanni Battista Cardan was imprisoned on 17 February 1560 and beheaded on 14 April 1560 NS (but some sources give 17 April 1560 NS as the date of the execution).

The story of Cardan’s beheaded son became well known and was discussed by many famous astrologers in later centuries. Placidus reviewed the chart in one of his books in the 17th century. Reproduced below is the natal chart of Cardan’s son from the writings of Placidus translated into English by John Cooper.

Natal chart of Giovanni Battista Cardan, the son of Jerome Cardan, according to Placidus. The native was born in Gallarate (45N40, 8E48), so the latitude of 44 degrees is either a typo or represents the nearest available entry from available tables of the time. The birth time of 8:30 pm is in LAT and corresponds to about 8:28 pm LMT. Below is a modern calculation of this chart.
Giovanni Battista Cardan’s natal chart. He was beheaded for killing his wife with arsenic because she was cheating on him. He died of beheading by the sword on 14 April 1560 NS in the dungeon where he was imprisoned.

Is there symbolism in the birth chart which suggests a violent death? Yes, there is. Jupiter, the Ascendant ruler, closely opposes a peregrine Mars in the 8th house of death. Jupiter also conjoins Pluto which opposes Mars in the 8th, suggesting a violent demise. Mars also rules the 12th of self-undoing and the 4th of endings and the grave A debilitated Saturn in Cancer rules the wife’s 8th and occupies the native’s 8th of death. Uranus, a planet of sudden disruptive events, applies to conjoin the 8th cusp. The Moon, which rules the 8th, is peregrine in Gemini (the detriment of Asc-ruler Jupiter) and is also in aversion to the 8th. The antiscion of the Moon lies at 9 Cancer 25, conjunct the true lunar north node and opposite the true lunar south node. Such nodal contacts are often considered “fateful” degrees.

The young physician died at age 25 about a month before his 26th birthday. In his solar return he was in a 2nd house (Capricorn) profection year. The 2nd house contains the Jupiter/Pluto conjunction which opposes Mars in the 8th, and Saturn (ruler of Capricorn) occupies the 8th, so that these natal configurations, which signify a violent death, become activated during his 25th year.

Giovanni Batistta’s primary directions by Placidus semi-arc at the Naibod rate without latitude for this period, as calculated in Janus 5 software, are the following:

The closest primary direction to the date of his beheading at the Naibod rate is the square of the Sun conjoining Mars in the 8th house on May 26, 1560. Mars (a symbol of violence and severing) occupies the 8th of death and the Sun (a symbol of the life force) rules Leo intercepted in the 8th house. Not listed above is that the primary directed Moon (ruler of the 8th of death) opposes the natal 12th house cusp (confinement, self-undoing) on the date of his beheading.

My preferred rate for primary directions is the midpoint of the Ptolemy and Naibod rates. Below are the primary directions at this midpoint rate. Custom point 1 refers to Caput Algol, the fixed star associated with beheading.

This list was generated with the same parameters as the previous one but at a rate midway between that of Ptolemy and Naibod. It is noteworthy that by primary direction the square of the Sun conjoined natal Mars in the 8th house on 19 March 1560 and then the sextile of Caput Algol arrived at Mercury in the 7th house on 5 April 1560, both aspects perfecting very close to the date of his beheading on 14 April 1560.
(In 1560 Caput Algol had an ecliptic longitude of 19 Taurus 40.)

Addendum, 2 April 2020:

Pp asked below about the significance of the young Cardan’s Mars lying in the 8th quadrant house but in the 9th whole sign house. Initially, I had no idea why that symbolism should appear in his natal chart, but it occurred to me that the 9th house often signifies one’s in-laws (the siblings and kin of the spouse), so I looked up whether his wife’s siblings played a role in the death. Morinus combined the significance of the quadrant house placement of a planet with its whole sign house position to delineate a chart. Fortunately I came across a biography of Jerome Cardan by William George Watters (1898), which clarifies the situation. Below I have copied and pasted the relevant paragraphs which indicate the major role the in-laws played in this drama. Jerome Cardan learned from his son’s servant that Gian Battista had suddenly decided to marry:

Gian Battista then asked his servant to help him to carry out

NOTE: After reading the above biography, I have recalculated the birth chart of Cardan’s son. The modern chart above is calculated with the same Ascendant as given by Placidus. Originally I had set the chart for Pavia but upon reading the biography of Cardan I learned that his son was born in Gallarate (not Pavia as I originally thought), so I recast the chart for that city using the same Ascendant as the chart given by Placidus. Because the Placidus version of the chart that appears in Cooper’s 1816 translation is set for a latitude of 44N rather than 45N40, the Placidus house cusps of the modern chart are slightly different from the ones in Cooper’s early 19th century text.

Based on this recalculated chart, I looked at the primary directions for the time of his execution. Using Placidus semi-arc at the Naibod rate with latitude of the planets, I found that for a rectified birth time of 8:27:21 PM LMT at Gallarate, the primary direction of the SQUARE of the SUN conjoins natal MARS in the 8th house on 14 April 1560 NS, the date of his beheading.

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The Problem with Birth Time Rectification

Any astrologer who has tried to rectify a birth chart knows what an arduous task it is. I know astrologers who have spent years trying to rectify their own charts, and nearly every time a new major event occurs in their life they are forced to adjust their rectified birth time. A glance through AstroDataBank at charts of celebrities with unknown birth times will reveal that many astrologers have attempted a rectification and come up with different birth times, often hours apart. Even the historical literature has examples of charts that were “rectified” to times many hours removed from the recorded birth time. The case of King Henri II of France is a good example, which I have discussed elsewhere. Another case in which the rectified birth chart falls far from the accurately recorded birth time is that of King Sebastian of Portugal. My own view is that rectified charts are highly suspect when the rectified time differs substantially from the recorded birth time.

Recently I was talking with an astrological colleague from Argentina who swore by the exact predictions available via topocentric primary directions which would enable a very precise rectification of a birth chart. Skeptical of such a claim, I decided to read more about this method and I began reading works by Alexander Marr and Juan Estadella. My own experience with primary directions is that they identify a general period of several months, somewhat like time lords or dasa lords, but are only exact in timing events on occasion. The proponents of the topocentric system claim that if the birth time is correct, then the primary directions will identify the time of events within a week or two. I find this hard to believe.

Reading a book on prediction by Alexander Marr and another on rectification by his disciple Isaac Starkman, I attempted to work with the Marr method of rectification of the chart of Elizabeth Taylor, who has a well-documented birth time. The Marr approach comes up with a birth time that is quite different from the birth certificate, and I am more inclined to believe the official record. Judging from the primary directions for 23 March 1958 when her husband Mike Todd died in a plane crash, the topocentric primaries suggest a birth time of around 2:13:54 AM (when the directed MC without latitude reaches the position of natal Neptune at the Naibod rate) but the birth certificate gives a time of 2:30 am, some 16 minutes later. If we take the same event (the death of Mike Todd) and try to rectify the chart with Placidan semi-arc primaries with latitude, we come up with a birth time of 2:29:06 AM, less than a minute different from the birth time recorded by the nurses in the delivery room. At 2:29:06 AM the directed square of Mercury (ruler of the natal 7th of her husband and natal 9th of plane travel) reached her natal Moon, in fall in Scorpio and in her whole sign 12th house of grieving and dissolution.

The above chart is a possible rectification based on the death of her husband Mike Todd on 23 March 1958 and using Placidus semi-arc primary directions with latitude and the Naibod key. The Ascendant of this chart differs by only 11 seconds of arc from the time on her birth certificate. In contrast, the Marr method produces an Ascendant of 10 Sag 09, which is about 3 degrees different from the official birth record.

The Marr approach appears to use Placidian directions “under the pole” rather than the proportional semi-arc method which Placidus felt was superior in accuracy and was an accurate rendition of the method of Claudius Ptolemy. Because the mathematics of Placidus semi-arc directions was so complicated, he also published tables to help mathematically challenged astrologers to approximate true Placidian prmary directions using circles of position and poles of significators. This method of Placidian directions “under the pole of the significator” produced results that were accurate to within a few months of the true semi-arc directions (Gansten, 2009, p.93). In addition, Marr uses the key of Naibod and, as far as I can tell, does not take planetary latitude into account in calculating primary directions.

I next turned to a book by Juan Estadella who describes the method of Alexander Marr. One of Estadella’s chief examples is the chart of Jackie Kennedy, which has a suspect birth time because it was given by Frances McEvoy who had a reputation for rectifying birth charts and then claiming that the source of the birth time was a mutual acquaintance of the famous person whose chart she had rectified. Mr. Estadella, using McAvoy’s data which was probably already rectified by McEvoy, notes that the primary direction of the MC to the 9th house Sun perfected on June 18, 1953, just 6 days before she announced her engagement to Jack Kennedy on June 24, 1953. He cites this as evidence of the immense accuracy of primary directions, an accuracy that is not obtainable with any other astrological predictive technique.

Transits, Estadella claims, are only able to be accurate within a period of many weeks or even several months and do not have the pinpoint accuracy of topocentric primary directions. However, if we look at the transits to Jackie Kennedy’s chart for June of 1953 we find that Jupiter in the 7th house of marriage returns by transit to its natal position (Jupiter conjunct Jupiter) on June 19, 1953, just 5 days before her engagement (even more accurate than the primary direction). Then, on 24 June 1953, the date of the announcement, transiting Jupiter perfects a semi-square to her natal Moon which rules her 9th house of the dissemination of information. Rectifying what is most likely an already rectified chart is hardly convincing.

My guess is that Frances McEvoy used the transits of Jupiter to rectify the chart initially and then passed the rectified time off as the recorded birth time of Jackie Kennedy. In fact, the hospital record does not contain the birth time, although there is mention in the nursing notes that at 5 pm that the baby was being monitored, so we know she was born some time before 5 pm.

So far the evidence in favor of the alleged extreme accuracy of the topocentric system of primary directions is not convincing. I’d like to see a rectification which is then verified by hard historical evidence, for example, one that was not previously rectified and was otherwise unknown to the astrologer. Nonetheless, I will keep an open mind and continue to study the topic.

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On the Origin of the USA Gemini-rising charts

In a recent post I speculated about how Evangeline Adams might have studied the current pandemic in her version of the USA Gemini rising chart, cast for 3:03 AM on July 4th 1776. Some readers questioned whether the Adams’ chart of the USA could be considered a valid event chart. Having studied Adams work for many years, I believe that she was using a symbolic chart based on her understanding of the importance of eclipses in mundane astrology. I have written about this theme previously but thought it might be useful to recap the argument.

According to the site, “In fact, independence was formally declared on July 2, 1776, a date that John Adams believed would be ‘the most memorable epoch in the history of America.’ On July 4, 1776, Congress approved the final text of the Declaration. It wasn’t signed until August 2, 1776.” Apparently the last signature on the Declaration of Independence was placed there some five years after its July 4th drafting.

Thus, any chart for July 4th 1776, regardless of the time, simply reflects the final draft and formal declaration of independence. It did not achieve full legitimacy until August 2nd 1776 when most of the state signed on and agreed to unite to fight for independence from Great Britain. My hypothesis is that Adams, in her understanding of mundane astrology, looked for the solar eclipse nearest to August 2nd to determine the cusps of her symbolic chart for the USA Independence and then, following her own horary method, she placed the planets of July 4th into the wheel generated by the August 14th solar eclipse. Here is was the solar eclipse chart looked like in Philadelphia (using maximum eclipse time as the measure):

To generate a symbolic chart for the July 4th final draft of the Declaration of Independence (officially signed on August 2nd, just 12 days before the solar eclipse), Adams appears to have cast a July 4th chart with the same Ascendant (20 Gemini 34) as the August eclipse chart. Thus, Adams’ USA chart, which she rounded to a 3:03 AM chart, looks like this:

Adams’ chart is not the only USA chart in the literature. Another commonly used USA chart, which was popularized by Elbert Benjamine of the Brotherhood of Light, has around 7 Gemini 35 rising and is based on presumptive USA “birth data” of July 4th, 1776 at 2.14 AM LMT, Philadelphia (74W08, 39N57). The site gives the following reference to a Dr. Keifer:

As per Dr. James D. Keifer from a letter written by Elbert Benjamine to American Astrology magazine in January 1940 where he wrote: `Dr. James D. Keifer and I, as far back as 1900, belonged to the same occult fraternity. In 1908 I was in Iowa, and in the summer of that year I dropped all other interests to devote the balance of my life to astrology and occult work. I was in correspondence with Dr. Keifer who was about that time organizing and incorporating the First Temple of Astrology in Los Angeles (1907). He gave me the chart of the U.S. merely writing that the data had been supplied by an acquaintance of his who was a descendant of a signer of the Declaration of Independence.’”

As far as I know, the reasoning behind this popular USA chart has never been explained. If I were to venture a guess, I would speculate that Dr. James Keifer, like Evangeline Adams, was also working with a symbolic chart. William Lilly had written “that Gemini is the Ascendant of the City of London all authors agree.” The Declaration of Independence of July 4th 1776 was a clear statement of the intent of the colonies to break free of the British rule centered in London, governed by Gemini. What better symbol of the intent to revolt against the British King in London than a chart with Uranus about to conjoin the Ascendant in the sign Gemini?

Why choose a 2:14 AM time which gives an Ascendant of 7 Gemini 31, with Uranus at 8 Gemini 53? Here Uranus lies 1 degree 22 minutes from the Ascendant. Again, I would speculated that this Ascendant was chosen on the basis of the August 14th 1776 partial solar eclipse, which fell close to the August 2nd signing. August 14th is 41 days after July 4th. If we use the symbolic measure of one degree equals one month (30 days), the 41 days converts to 1 degree 22 minutes of arc, the exact distance between Dr. Keifer’s USA Ascendant and the planet Uranus in his USA Gemini rising chart, as can be seen below:

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