Prohibition in Horary Astrology

William Lilly defines “prohibition” as follows (CA 110):

Prohibition is when two Planets that signify the effecting or bringing to conclusion any thing demanded, are applying to an Aspect; and before they can come to a true Aspect, another Planet interposes either his body or aspect, so that thereby the matter propounded is hindered and retarded; this is called Prohibition.

“For example, Mars is in 7th degree of Aries, and Saturn is in the 12th.
Mars signifies the effecting my business when he comes to the body of Saturn, who promises the conclusion, the Sun is at the same time in 6th degree of Aries. Now in regard that the Sun is swifter in motion then Mars, he will overtake Mars, and come to Conjunction with Saturn before Mars, whereby whatever Mars or Saturn did formerly signify, is now prohibited by the Sun his first impediting Mars and then Saturn, before they can come to a true Conjunction. This manner of prohibition is called a Conjunctional or Bodily prohibition; and you must know that the combustion of any Planet is the greatest misfortune that can be.”

“The second manner of Prohibition is by Aspect, either Sextile, Square, Trine, Opposition, viz. when two Planets are going to Conjunction; as Mars in 7th degree of Aries, Saturn in 15th of Aries; let us admit the Sun in 5th degree of Gemini; he then being more swift then Mars in his diurnal motion, doth quickly over-take and pass by the Sextile dexter of Mars (and comes before Mars can come to Conjunction) to a Sextile dexter of Saturn: This is called Prohibition by Aspect, in the same nature judge if the Aspect be Square, Trine, Opposition.”

In Lilly’s first example (conjunctional or bodily prohibition), all three planets occupy the same sign:

Sun (6 Aries) –> Mars (7 Aries) –> Saturn (12 Aries)

The two main significators are Mars and Saturn, and the matter will be effected when Mars perfects its conjunction with Saturn. The problem is that the Sun travels faster than both Mars and Saturn, and the Sun will overtake Mars and then conjoin Saturn before Mars can perfect its conjunction with Saturn. Thus, the matter of the question will be prohibited because the Sun first “impedites” Mars and then advances to impedite Saturn before the Mars/Saturn conjunction is able to perfect. This is called “conjunctional or bodily prohibition.”

In Lilly’s second example (prohibition by aspect), the two significators are applying to a conjunction, but the major aspectual ray of a third planet overtakes the body of the first significator before it can conjoin with the body of the second significator:

Sun (5 Gemini) –> Mars (7 Aries) –> Saturn (15 Aries)

In this case the sextile dexter ray of the Sun will perfect an aspect first with Mars and then with Saturn before the body of Mars can conjoin with the body of Saturn.

Other examples can be found in the literature, but these two of Lilly illustrate the concept. It is important to note Lilly’s delineation of “prohibition,” namely that “the matter propounded is hindered and retarded.” Note that Lilly does not say that the matter is completely negated or rendered impossible, although that is one of the possible outcomes. The dictionary definition of “hinder” is “to create difficulties, resulting in delay or obstruction,” and the definition of “retard” is “to delay or hold back in terms of progress, development, or accomplishment.” Finally, the word “impedite” is an obsolete form of “impede,” which means “to hinder, obstruct, delay or prevent.”

Case 1: Will I get the job?

Here is a horary from my files, which I was consulted about several years ago because the astrologer came to the wrong conclusion and wanted my opinion of the chart. The querent, an actress, had auditioned for a part in a theatrical production and wanted to know if she would get the job.

Mercury day, Mercury hour.

The question was asked on a Mercury day during a Mercury hour, and Mercury rules the Ascendant and thus the querent. The chart appears radical. Mercury occupies Libra in the 5th house of theatrical performances.

The desired job is ruled by the 10th house with Aquarius on its cusp. Thus, Saturn rules the job, and Saturn in Libra in the 5th also fits the symbolism of the question about being hired to perform a role in a theatrical presentation.

The astrologer reasoned that she would get the job because the Part of Fortune in the 1st house, was disposed by the querent’s significator Mercury, which was rapidly approaching a bodily conjunction to Saturn, ruler of the 10th, in the 5th house of Good Fortune.

Unfortunately, the querent did not get the job. What went wrong? Two factors stand out that may explain her being turned down in her quest for employment:

  1. The Moon is just about to conjoin the first significator Mercury and then will quickly conjoin the second significator Saturn well before the Mercury/Saturn conjunction will perfect. This movement of the Moon follows the same pattern as Lilly’s first example of conjunctional or bodily prohibition. Will this “prohibition” by the Moon merely delay her getting the job or will it obstruct her chances entirely. The second factor may answer this question.
  2. The Moon, Mercury and Saturn in Libra are all combust the Sun. As Lilly wrote in his discussion of prohibition, you must know that the combustion of any Planet is the greatest misfortune that can be.

Case 2: Will I sell my apartment to this buyer?

This question was asked on 15 February 2021, a Moon day during a Mars hour. For reasons of confidentiality I have not provided the chart data. The houses are Regiomontanus.

Sell my apartment? Mars hour.
Dignity Table for the above chart.

With Taurus rising, the querent is represented by Venus. The potential buyer is signified by Mars, ruler of the Scorpio 7th cusp. Mars occupying the 1st house shows the buyer’s interest in the property. Both Venus and Mars are peregrine (without essential dignity).

The house is represented by the Moon, which rules the 4th cusp. The Moon is peregrine (without dignity) and occupies the unfortunate 12th house.

The price is shown by Saturn, ruler of the Capricorn 10th cusp. Saturn has dignity of domicile and triplicity, and is the most dignified and angular planet in the chart. As an aside, seeing Saturn in the 10th, the astrologer should be cognizant of Lilly’s aphorism (CA 298): “The position of Saturn or Mars in the 10th, and they peregrine or unfortunate, or the South Node in that house, the Artist hardly get credit by that Question.” In this case Saturn is dignified in the 10th, so this aphorism does not apply. On the other hand, Mars rules the 7th (the consulting astrology) and is peregrine and in detriment in Taurus in the 1st, so the astrologer may have some difficulty judging this chart.

The primary significators, Venus the seller and Mars the potential buyer, are approaching a square that will perfect in about 4 days. Venus in Aquarius casts its sinister square ray toward Mars in Taurus. A square can effect matters with striving and difficulty, and with less difficulty if there is reception. In this case Venus receives Mars in her domicile, but Mars (the buyer) does not receive Venus (the seller) in any of his dignities. A square from Venus to Mars, with no reception of Venus by Mars, suggests that the deal is unlikely to go through.

In addition, the Moon (which travels faster than Venus or Mars) will sextile Venus and then conjoin Mars before the Venus/Mars square can perfect. This is an example of what Lilly calls prohibition by aspect.

The combination of prohibition by aspect and the square of Venus to Mars without reception of Venus by Mars indicated that the buyer would not purchase the apartment, and it did not sell. Part of the reason was that the buyer discovered some problems with the property (Moon in the 12th), which would have been costly to repair.

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Dexter and Sinister Aspects

In the previous post I mentioned dexter and sinister aspects. A reader left a message asking me to explain the concept, so here goes.

Lilly (CA 108) gives the following handy table to determine whether aspects are dexter (toward the right) or sinister (toward the left) from the perspective of the viewer on Earth, which is considered the center of the universe (we humans are such humble creatures):

To read this table, in the columns that lists “dexter” and “sinister” you find the sign of the body of the planet which is casting the aspect. For example, a planet in Aries will cast its dexter Ptolemaic aspects (to the right from the point of view of the observer on Earth) into the the signs Aquarius, Capricorn, Sagittarius and Libra. That same planet in Aries will cast its sinister aspectual rays into Gemini, Cancer, Leo and Libra. “Sinister” here refers to the left with reference to an observer on Earth.

In other words, dexter aspectual rays are cast in the same direction as the primary motion of the heavens. Sinister aspectual rays are cast against the direction of the primary motion of the heavens, which is the same as saying that they are cast in the same direction as the habitual secondary motion of the planets.

Lilly (CA 109) advises: “Observe the dexter aspect is more forcible than the Sinister.” Presumably this is so because dexter aspects occur in the same direction as the diurnal primary motion of the sky around the Earth.

In Hellenistic astrology, however, the sinister square of a planet in considered dominant. I believe this is so because a planet in sinister square to another has a 10th house relationship to the other planet and is considered much more elevated in status.

The concept of dexter and sinister is quite old and can be traced back at least to Hellenistic times. For example, Manilius in his poem about astrology from the time of Christ writes:

Libram Capricornus et illum conspicit ante Aries atque ipsum a partibus aequis Cancer et hunc leava subeuntis sidera Librae.” (Astronomica, 2: 290-293)

My translation of this line from Manilius would be: “Capricorn beholds [aspects] Libra, while Aries looks at Capricorn ahead of him, and Cancer from an equal distance away casts its gaze at Aries, and the stars of Libra view which approach Cancer from its left behold the sign of the Crab.”

In the standard “Aries rising” chart, Manilius would be saying that Capricorn at the top looks at Libra on the Descendant, and Libra looks at Cancer at the bottom of the chart, while Cancer looks at Aries on the eastern horizon. All the viewing is done in the dexter direction of the primary diurnal motion of the sky.

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Ben Dykes has blown my mind

Yesterday Ben Dykes’ new version of Abu Ma’shar’s Great Introduction translated from the Greek original arrived in the mail. I had ordered it a few weeks ago, but it must have sold out in the first printing and there was a delay in receiving it.

In the previous post I had been examining the concept of Void of Course and wanted to see what Abu Ma’shar had to say about it. Here is Dykes’ translation of Abu Ma’shar’s definition of a planet being void on its course:

Emptiness of Course is that a planet separates from the connection of a planet (by assembly or looking), and will not connect with a planet so long as it is in its [current] sign.” (p. 458). This definition has three components: 1) current sign boundaries are respected, 2) the VOC planet must have separated from another visible planetary body or ray within its current sign and 3) the VOC planet will not connect with another visible planetary body or ray before it leaves its current sign.

Assembly” means that the two planets occupy the same sign. Ma’shar’s term “assemby” appears to be a synonym for “co-presence,” which explains as follows: “planets in the same sign (i.e. the same house) are said to be co-present in that house, as if cohabitating in the same abode. The planets are co-present even if they are in opposite ends of the sign. Planets that are co-present strongly influence each other’s significations. “

Looking” means that the two planets are able to see each other because the occupy signs that are in whole sign Ptolemaic aspect (that is, opposition, trine, square or sextile).

Connect” means that one of the planets applies to the other by body in the same sign, or by ray in configured signs, within a particular number of degrees from exactness.

Johannes Schöner: Orbs of the Sun and Saturn (1551 text). The Sun lies in the 9th degree of Leo and Saturn in the 28th degree. Schöner gives the Sun 12 degrees of orb and Saturn 8 degrees, so their orbs have begun to overlap.

In this diagram by Schöner (1551 CE), the Sun and Saturn are both in the sign Leo. The Sun in the 9th degree of Leo extends its orb of influence forward to the beginning of 21st degree. Saturn in the 28th degree of Leo extends its orb of influence back to the end of the 20th degree. The orbs of influence of the Sun and Saturn are just beginning to touch and will soon overlap.

In his introduction to the translation (p.30) Dr. Dykes explains that Abu Ma’shar is following the ancient tradition that “aspects are fundamentally between signs” and adds the Hellenistic dictum that “looking” (aspecting) occurs by signs as distinguished from planets “connecting” which occurs by specific degrees.

The implication of the Hellenistic approach adopted by Abu Ma’shar, according to Dykes (p.34), is that out-of-sign aspects (or conjunctions) are not possible, because it is the relationship between signs, or the co-presence of planets within the same sign, which determines whether an aspect even exists. As Dr. Dykes points out, the Arabic word for “orb” refers to a body, that is, to something that has mass or volume. In other words, only the planetary bodies have orbs of influence about them.

If I understand the text correctly, planetary bodies send out rays (following the false ancient optical theory that, like the human eye, planets emit rays of light), and these planetary rays are simply points of light distributed around the zodiac wheel in the pattern of the Ptolemaic aspects. Such points of planetary light will fall in particular signs of the zodiac but will have no orb of influence about them. Planetary bodies may approach these points of light to form connections with them, but the nature of the aspect between the planets so connected will depend on the aspectual relationship between the whole signs which the planets occupy. [I’m not sure whether, in this ancient optical theory, these points of planetary light are regarded as one-dimensional geometrical points or whether they have the same angular diameter as the planet which emits them, which seems to me the more likely possibility in such a hypothesis.]

In the above diagram by Johannes Schöner, if there were a planet at the end of Cancer it would be within the Leo Sun’s orb but would not be considered conjunct the Sun because the two planets are not co-present in the same sign. If there were a planet at the end of Capricorn, sending its single-pointed opposition ray to the end of Cancer, the Sun and that planet would not be considered to be in opposition because Leo is opposite Aquarius rather than Capricorn. The whole signs determine the nature of the aspect, not the planets.

Ben Dykes goes on to define a feral planet or a planet possessing “wildness” as a planet that occupies a sign in which no other planet looks at it (p. 459). He gives the example of Mars being in a sign in which it is in aversion to all other visible planets around the wheel, so that no other planet looks at Mars. Feral planets must be a rare phenomenon because the “wild” planet must occupy a sign which is in aversion to the signs occupied by all other visible planets in the horoscope. I looked though my files and have been unable to find an example a notable person who has a feral planet in their birth chart, as defined by Abu Ma’shar. If any reader knows of such a chart, please post a comment below.

Abu Ma’shar’s concept of feral is similar to the ancient Hellenistic idea of the Moon being “void of course,” which meant that the Moon would not apply to a Ptolemaic aspect with any other visible planet for the next 30 degrees on its course through the zodiac, regardless of sign boundaries. The definition of “feral” apparently requires sign boundaries.

Another interesting point of clarification was Abu Ma’shar’s definition of “handing over nature” as a planet in the dignity of another handing of its lord’s own nature to its lord. Ma’Shar gives the same example as found in the writings of Sahl that when the Moon in Aries applies to aspect Mars, the Moon hands the nature of Mars back to Mars, the lord of Aries. (p.466). I have read discussions of this topic in which current astrologers have argued that handing over nature in this case would mean that the lunar nature gets handed to Mars, which is not what Abu Ma’shar is saying. The concept seems to be that the Moon, by traveling through Aries, takes on some qualities of Mars and hands these back to Mars when Luna comes into aspect with its dispositor Mars.

Example of a VOC planet according to the definition of Abu Ma’shar:

Emptiness of Course is that a planet separates from the connection of a planet (by assembly or looking), and will not connect with a planet so long as it is in its [current] sign.”

The famous writer Agatha Christie has Mars “empty of course” in the 1st house of her birth chart (Rodden Rating AA):

Mars toward the end of Sagittarius, the ascendant sign, does not apply to any planet’s body or ray before leaving its sign and is therefore considered void of course.

Mars is VOC because it meets all three requirements of Abu Ma’shar’s definition:

1) The sign boundaries of Sagittarius are being considered.

2) Mars has separated from the rays of Jupiter and Saturn, and the sextile of Jupiter and square of Saturn fell in early Sagittarius when Mars was also early in that sign. In other words, before Agatha was born Mars was transiting through Sagittarius and, at the same time, Jupiter was sending its dexter sextile ray into the early degrees of Sagittarius and Saturn was sending its sinister square ray into the same region of Sagittarius. As a result, Mars connected with the rays of Saturn and Jupiter and then separated from them to become void or empty of further connections with other planets during its course through the sign.

3) Mars will not connect with the body or ray of any other visible planet before leaving Sagittarius.

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Lilly’s definition of the Void of Course Moon

Recently Chris Brennan did a podcast on the various definitions of the void of course Moon. I thought it would be useful to clarify how Lilly used the concept because it is not widely understood in the astrological community. As a basis for discussion in The Astrology Podcast, Chris referenced his article about this topic in the Astrology Dictionary in which he notes three different definitions of “VOC” to be found in the literature:

  1. The most ancient definition from around the 1st century Hellenistic literature which uses the term kenodromia (κενοδρομία), meaning “running in the void” or “running in the emptiness”. In this case the Moon is “not applying to an exact Ptolemaic aspect with any other planets within the next 30 degrees, regardless of sign boundaries.” 
  2. A Medieval definition in which the Moon is considered VOC if it is traveling through a sign and will not perfect any Ptolemaic aspect with another planet before leaving its that sign. In his article Chris Brennan is stressing the idea that the aspect must perfect while the planet is in the sign. Some original sources simply say that the planets must connect by aspect, meaning that they are within orb of perfecting while not actually perfecting. Here are Chris’ words verbatim: “In the Medieval tradition the definition appears to have changed, so that void of course was said to occur when the Moon did not complete or perfect an exact aspect with any other planets until it moved into the following zodiacal sign.” (bold mine)
  3. William Lilly’s Renaissance definition of VOC as clarified by the research of astrologer Sue Ward, an expert in the writings of William Lilly, who noted that Lilly defined the Moon as void of course if it was not applying to a Ptolemaic aspect with another planet within orb while in a particular sign.

When Sue Ward first published her findings in the early 1990s, I was at first skeptical because I had learned the definition that was popular at the time and was being promulgated by N.Y. astrologer Al H. Morrison. Following Sue’s lead, I re-read all of Lilly’s example horaries in Christian Astrology and realized that she was right. Those of us who had been studying Lilly since the Regulus edition of his work became available in the mid-1980s had misunderstood what he meant by VOC. Let me quote directly from Sue Ward’s article:

“Lilly says: A planet is void of course, when he is separated from a planet, nor doth forthwith, during his being in that sign, apply to any other:“.  Contrary to what most of us understood, this does not mean that the aspect has to perfect while the Moon is in its current sign. What it does mean is that the application has to be in effect while the Moon is in its current sign. Application operates only when the Moon (or planet) is ‘within orbs’ of the planet it next meets by major aspect. It doesn’t matter, from this point of view, that it has to leave the sign before perfecting the aspect. So, to be void of course the Moon (or planet) has to be out of orb of the next planet it might meet by major aspect – even if it will eventually perfect this aspect within the current sign. This matter largely depends on the definition of application in Lilly’s terms, and those of the authors he drew upon, and it meant to be within orb. The application happeneth when as the circles or beames of the planettes come to joyne togeather by a corporall conjunction or by aspecte of the one half of their deamiters.11 This definition is clear: a planet cannot be said to be applying until it is within orb, or joint moieties, of another. The meaning of application has altered in modern times to that of ‘moving forward in the sign’, but Lilly deals with this separately. ‘Applying to’ means to be within the joint moieties of the two planets concerned. For example, the Moon has a moiety of about 6° and Mercury one of 3½°, so if the Moon were at 26° Aries and Mercury at 3° Taurus (about 7° difference and so within the joint moieties) an application is operating, the Moon applies to the conjunction of Mercury. It doesn’t matter that there is a sign change before perfection. The important point is that the application should occur before the sign change. In interpretation, application shows that the event promised by the perfection is already a possibility. If the Moon were at 3° Taurus and its next contact was Mercury at 15° Taurus, there is no application since they are separated by more than their joint moieties (about 9.5°), so the Moon is void of course. According to ARHAT, in the Greek tradition application meant ‘coming into contact with’. This was still the case in the 17th century, but has changed in more recent times. The evidence in Christian Astrology supports this almost exclusively and I conclude that the Moon is not void of course if it is contacting another planet through the joint moieties, whether it perfects in or out of its current sign. Therefore, the Moon (or planet) can be void of course even when it is in early degrees, if the next planet it meets in major aspect is out of orb.12 This does not mean that even more horaries will be invalid, as you will see further on.”

As Sue Ward points out, Lilly explicitly states: “A planet is void of course, when he is separated from a planet, nor doth forthwith, during his being in that sign, apply to any other.” “Apply to” does not mean to “perfect” an aspect; it simply means to be within orb of perfecting an aspect in the future.

In her 2003 essay on the VOC Moon, Lee Lehman notes that William Lilly “didn’t treat the Moon as void if it was within orb of an aspect in the next sign.” She further clarifies that “Bonatti’s definition in Liber Astronomiae III suggests that the Moon is void until it comes into aspect with another planet, not merely when it goes into a new sign.”

In Chris Brennan’s recent Astrology Podcast his guest speculated that Lilly may have misunderstood his sources or perhaps invented a new definition of VOC on the basis of his own experience with horary charts. This speculation seems highly unlikely since Lilly was a careful scholar who studied the ancient texts (in Latin translation) with diligence and a critical eye.

One of Lilly’s favorite sources was Sahl ibn Bisher (aka, Zael or Zahel), a Persian Jew who was active in astrology in the 9th century CE. Most likely Lilly took his definition from the writings of Zael. Let’s see what Sahl has to say about void of course. Here I quote from Ben Dykes 2008 translation of the Works of Sahl:

From p. 15 on when planets are connected by conjunction or aspect:
“And were there degrees between the Sun and one of the planets, from one up to fifteen [degrees], then he projects his own light over [the planet] and is conjoined to it.” In modern terminology, the Sun joins with a planet when it gets within 15 degrees of aspecting that planet.”

From p.35, defining “void of movement” or “void of course”:
“So that is when the Moon is not connecting to any of the planets, and none are joining to it. This is called void of movement of the Moon and its body; there is futility in it, and it is the planet of exile. It is the planet that is not connecting to any of the other planets.”

In a footnote on p.35, Dykes quotes Stegemann’s explanation of this translation of the concept: “when the Moon is not connecting itself with one of the planets, and is not accommodating itself to it, then this is called emptiness of the course of the Moon and its disc, which weakens it; and of the planet that is pushed back, while it is not approaching one of the other planets.” (bold mine)

Reading Sahl’s comments makes it clear that Lilly was simply paraphrasing Sahl’s definition of the VOC Moon, or a VOC planet, passing through emptiness on its course through a sign. A VOC Moon is “not connecting” with and “not approaching” other planets because they are outside the orb of influence of the Moon as it moves through the sign.

I don’t know and haven’t had time to research whether other medieval authors, perhaps Masha’allah or Abu Ma’shar, used a definition of VOC, that required perfection of an aspect before the Moon left its current sign, but Sahl certainly did not require perfection, and Lilly, as Sue Ward revealed, followed Sahl in his own practice of horary astrology.


Addendum (27 Feb 2021): Astrologer Lyuben Meshikov left the following comment:
In “The Abbreviation of the Introduction to astrology Abu Mashar” published 1994, p.43, it is said “It is ‘void of course’ if a planet separates from application with a planet in conjunction or aspect, and does not apply to a planet as long as it is in its sign.”

So it appears that Abu Ma’shar’s definition is very similar to that of Sahl. The Moon is not VOC if it is applying to another planet while in its sign. The aspect apparently need not perfect in the sign.

Perhaps the discrepancies in definitions have to do with the orb of influence allowed the planets. There is no consensus in the literature about how to apply orbs. Dariot, for instance, proposed a system of moieties. Some astrologers opted for orbs of only 5 or 6 degrees. Others regarded aspects as effective only if the bodies of each planet in aspect fell within the orbs of each other.

In addition, Mark Cullen noted that German astrologer Johannes Schöner (15th century) stated: ””When a planet is separated from any other planet by conjunction or aspect, and is not joined to another by body or aspect, for as long as that planet is in the same sign, it is called void of course. However, this ought to be understood according the orbs and rays of the planets.”

Addendum (28 Feb 2021):

I am grateful to astrologer Margherita Fiorello for providing the following quote from Bonatti, one of Lilly’s favorite authors, regarding the definition of VOC and ‘feral’:

Bonatti’s definitions of VOC and feral.

Bonatti is drawing a distinction between VOC and feral. Let’s start with the meaning of a ‘feral’ planets. Bonatti gives the following requirements, citing al-Qad isi as his source:

1) The planet is alone in a sign. There are no other planets in the same sign as the feral planet. In this definition the issue of sign boundaries becomes important. A planet is regarded as feral within the confines of a single sign of the zodiac.

2) No other planet sends an aspect into that sign. Because planets do not send single points of light but rather a central point of light surrounded by an orb of influence, he must mean that the entire circle of influence of an aspect from another planet is absent from the sign which contains the feral planet. Thus the feral planet is neither leaving nor approached the orb of influence of another planet’s aspects. The feral planet is totally alone and untouched in any way by another planet, which Bonatti regards as “a very horrible thing.” [To quote from an article about classical aspects by Clelia Romano: “The term orb refers to light and supposes a circle of light surrounding the body of a planet. The moment when a planet is touching or overlapping the orb of another one we can consider that we have an aspect.”]

When defining VOC, Bonatti does not mention sign boundaries. Instead he focuses on separating and applying aspects. His requirements for “void in course” are:

1) The VOC planet has recently perfected an aspect from which it is now separating.

2) The VOC planet as it advances in its course through the zodiac is not within orb of applying to another planet by major aspect. Because the VOC planet is separating, or has separated, from another planet’s orb and is not within orb of applying to another, it is “running alone” and “this being void in course will last until it is joined to another” [that is, until it gets within orb of a major aspect or bodily conjunction to another planet].

3) Bonatti’s definition implies the the VOC state will last until the planet reaches the orb of influence of another planet. Thus, a planet can become VOC for a while in the middle of a sign and then get within orb of another planet before the end of a sign, or it can remain VOC till the end of a sign and even after it enters the next sign. This is Lilly’s understanding of VOC, but Lilly adds the requirement of a sign boundary. It may be that Lilly understood Bonatti to be referring to sign boundaries in both concepts, VOC and feral, although Bonatti mentions sign boundaries only in the paragraph where he contrasts VOC and feral.

It appears that Bonatti was saying the a planet in a ‘feral’ state was in the worst condition possible. A feral planet passes through an entire sign of the zodiac without any contact with another planet. It would be like a newborn baby thrown into a dumpster to die, without the possibility of being seen or heard by another human being. “A very horrible thing” as Bonatti puts it.

Less horrible, but still somewhat difficult (“there is a certain impediment to it”), is the state of being VOC, having had contact in the recent past but not without any contact with another planet for a period of time. My guess is that Bonatti, as Lilly made explicit, did regard the VOC state as referring to a planet within a particular sign because he was contrasting it with being feral. A VOC planet could enter the next sign and remain VOC for a while and the contact another planet and no longer be VOC. BUT if such a VOC planet did enter the next sign and remained void of contact with another planet for the duration of that sign, it would then become a ‘feral’ planet and be in a truly horrible state, much worst that being VOC for a while.

If my understanding of Bonatti is correct, then the following hold true:

  1. Bonatti is considering the state of planets as they pass through each sign of the zodiac.
  2. If a planet traverses a zodiac sign without coming into contact with the body or orb of a major aspect of any other planet, then it is totally devoid of contact with other planets and is considered feral. The popular definition of “feral” from Collins dictionary is: “Feral animals are wild animals that are not owned or controlled by anyone, especially ones that belong to species which are normally owned and kept by people.” Thus a feral planet, untouched by any other planet, is in a wild state and not controlled by anyone.
  3. A similar but lesser impediment occurs when a planet is void in its course through a sign. In this instance the planet in question has recently had contact with another planet from which it has separated but it has entered a region of the zodiac in which there are no planetary bodies or orbs of influence of any other planet. It is traveling through an “aspect vacuum” which may occur anywhere in a sign. VOC means that some other planet has cast an aspect somewhere inside the sign of the zodiac where the planet in question resides, thus it is not totally devoid of contact, whether it be in the past or the future, while traveling through that sign. If it were totally devoid of contact with other planets while traversing its sign, it would be considered feral rather than VOC.

Addendum (1 March 2021):

Chris Brennan has provided the following references in an online forum about traditional astrology:

Al-Qabisi’s definition from the Warburg translation
Al-Biruni’s definition of feral and void of course
Emptiness of Course and Wildness (VOC and Feral) from Ben Dykes’ new translation of the Great Introduction of Abu Ma’shar

Also, Margherita Fiorello posted this image of the moieties of the Moon and Venus overlapping on 4 May 2000, with Moon at 27 Aries and Venus at 2 Taurus in the tropical zodiac.

Moieties of the Moon and Venus overlapping as the planets join in bodily conjunction.

Addendum (1 March 2020, 3 pm):

Today I received a copy of Ben Dykes’ translation of Abu Ma’Shar’s Introduction to the Science of the Judgements of the Stars. In Ben’s introduction on page 34 he states that the Arabic word for “orb” refers only to the body of a planet and not to its aspects. If I am understanding Ben correctly, the aspects are pinpoints of light cast around the chart in Ptolemaic fashion without orbs about them. This conception would mean that out-of-sign aspects cannot exist since aspects do not have orbs that can overlap. Abu Ma’shar was apparently thinking of whole sign aspects as the determinative factor, as in Hellenistic astrology. Sign boundaries become important because they determine whether an aspect between two planets can even exist. At some point astrologers began assigning orbs to aspects of planets, but in Ma’Shar’s approach the aspects of planets are simply points of light without orbs of influence. It boggles the mind.

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Saturn square Uranus and the Death of Rush Limbaugh

The year 2021 will be marked astrologically by three squares between the slow-moving planets Saturn and Uranus, which are part of a roughly 45-year Saturn/Uranus synodic cycle, the most recent iteration of which began in 1988. These are waning squares that demarcate the final quarter of this cycle, and the first of these waning squares occurred yesterday on 17 February 2021.

Notable news events that correlated with this waning square included a severe winter storm and power outage that devastated the state of Texas whose electrical power grid was not designed to manage extreme cold conditions, FaceBook going to “war” with the government of Australia which wants FB to pay for news services which it now uses for free. the governor of New York getting caught in a lie about nursing home deaths due to Covid-19, the governor of Texas going on Fox News to lie about green energy causing the failure of the entire power grid of his state which is only 10% based on wind and solar power, problems with the rollout and availability of Covid-19 vaccines and the rise of mutant strains, etc. The symbolism of Saturn square Uranus (government control versus individual freedom) comes through in Rick Perry‘s comment that Texans should endure the pain and death caused by days of freezing weather and blackouts rather than let the feds oversee their power grid (i.e., let the feds require that the power grid be modified to withstand freezing temperatures).

The symbolism of Saturn in Aquarius (icy conditions, etc.) square Uranus in Taurus (novel vaccines, unusual natural events, green energy sources, etc.) can be seen in all these news events, but I would like to focus in this post on the death of Rush Limbaugh who was born with Saturn in Libra in the 8th Placidus House square Uranus in Cancer in the 6th Placidus House. The combination of the 6th and 8th houses suggests that these planets will play a role in his eventual demise.

Rush Limbaugh Natal Chart

In Rush Limbaugh’s solar return (SR) this year, the transiting Saturn square Uranus is prominent with SR Saturn in the 1st house conjunct the Ascendant of both the return and the natal charts. SR Saturn conjoins SR Mercury, the ruler of his 8th house. SR Saturn, Mercury and Jupiter all conjoin natal Venus, which rules the natal 4th of the final resting place.

Natal chart with 2021 birthplace SR superimposed

The next chart of the Saturn square Uranus on 17 Feb 2021 is set for Palm Beach, Florida, where Limbaugh resided. Note how the Ascendant (at 6 Cancer 43) of the moment of perfect of this transiting aspect in Palm Beach is almost exactly conjunct Limbaugh’s natal Uranus (at 6 Cancer 51) at the cusp of the Placidus 6th, triggering the natal Saturn square Uranus, which links the 6th of illness to the 8th of death.

Saturn square Uranus on 17 February 2021 set for Palm Beach, FL

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The Moon and the Two of Swords in Tarot

The Moon appears on several cards in the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck, which is based on astrological associations with the tarot in the teachings of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. One such card is the Two of Swords.

RWS Two of Swords
Moon in the first decan of Libra

A.E. Waite instructed Pamela Coleman Smith to use her knowledge of astrology to generate images for the cards. In the Golden Dawn system, Swords represented the Air signs (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius) and the numbers 2, 3 and 4 specifically referred to the three decans of the cardinal signs. Thus, the Two of Swords signified the first decan of Libra, a cardinal Air sign. The image on the Two of Swords in the RWS deck has a strong resemblance to the Justice trump, which is paired with the sign Libra.

The Justice trump from the RWS deck is paired with the sign Libra.

The Moon appears on the Two of Swords because this card is associated with the first decan of Libra, which in Chaldean order beginning with Saturn ruling the first decan of Leo (the sign with which the Golden Dawn started the zodiac), the Moon rules the first decan of Libra. Here is the sequence:

Leo’s decans: Saturn – Jupiter – Mars (the 5, 6 and 7 of Wands or Rods)
Virgo’s decans: Sun – Venus – Mercury (the 8, 9 and 10 of Coins or Pentacles)
Libra’s decans: Moon – Saturn – Jupiter (the 2, 3 and 4 of Swords)

Thus, the Two of Swords depicts a woman (the goddess of Justice) blindfolded and impartially holding two swords perfectly balanced despite the pressure of the inconstant Moon, which is affecting the fluctuating emotional tides of the ocean behind her. The character on the card appears to be seeking a balance between opposing opinions or competing ideas as she tries to sort out her feelings about a matter.

Pamela Coleman Smith decided to portray the Moon in its waxing crescent phase, just as it is emerging from an invisible New Moon in which the Moon conjoins the Sun in the element Air (which would be depicted by the Ace of Swords in the tarot). The waxing crescent phase is a time of making new plans and planting new seeds that will grow and then mature at the Full Moon roughly two weeks hence.

The elemental suit of Air stands for our thoughts, ideas, plans, beliefs, opinions, communications both spoken and written, and our efforts to speak the truth. Because Swords are used to represent such matters, there is often an element of battle or conflict. The Aces represent the pure potential of the suit, so that the Ace of Swords stands for new ideas, mental clarity, insight, illumination and the search for truth. The Two of Swords is the earliest concrete manifestation of this potential, which Pamela Coleman Smith depicted as the waxing crescent Moon (emotional currents) in the sign Libra, which represents carefully weighing and balancing ideas and plans before proceeding with a project.

Traditionally this card meant “friendship” perhaps because the Moon symbolizes our emotional attachments, and Libra is tied with social connectedness in a one-to-one manner with those whom we respect and treat as equals. Moon transiting Libra often puts a focus on interpersonal relationships, partnership, teamwork and cooperation with others.

The site delineates Moon passing through Libra as follows:

“Creating order … through pleasing interactions with others and aesthetics in our environment. We tend to solve problems through diplomacy, and we are more able to put aside our own emotions in order to achieve the peace we crave. The tendency now is to avoid direct confrontations. Decisions do not come easily. Seeing both sides to any given situation is the main reason for hesitation. Fear of losing others’ approval is another.”

The sign Libra generally runs from about September 23 to October 22 annually in the tropical zodiac. Thus, this card can sometimes indicate the timing of an event during the first 10 days (the first decan of Libra) of this period.

Below is a diagram of the Moon’s phases from the NASA site.

Moon’s Phases from NASA
The waxing crescent Moon on the Two of Swords card symbolizes the beginning phase of a new cycle.

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Interview with Aswin Balaji about my new book

Recently I had the pleasure of participating in an interview with Aswin Balaji of Celestial Vibes Astrology about my new book on lost objects and horary astrology. Here is the link to the video.

This book focuses specifically on lost objects and missing people. It covers general horary principles but the main focus is on finding what is missing. You can see the Table of Contents and read the beginning section of the book on

Go to and click on “Look Inside” above the photo of the book. Here is the link:

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A ‘thank you’ to the readers of my books

Every once in a while I check how my books are doing on This morning I was searching for a book and happened to take a look at my most recent tarot book (2016) published by Llewellyn in the “Complete Book of …” series. To my surprise and delight it had received 147 ratings, most of them positive. It’s gratifying to feel that the work I put into writing a book is appreciated, and I’m grateful to everyone who has read the book and chosen to leave a review, regardless of how positive or negative their comments may be. Constructively critical comments help me to do a better job next time.

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Hypsicles and ascensional times in astrology

According to wikepedia, Hypsicles (Greek: Ὑψικλῆς; c. 190 – c. 120 BCE) was an ancient Greek mathematician and astronomer in Alexandria, known for authoring On Ascensions (Ἀναφορικός) and the Book XIV of Euclid’s Elements. In his book On Ascensions (On Rising Times) he divides the circle into 360 equal parts, which we now call degrees, and he “proves a number of propositions on arithmetical progressions and uses the results to calculate approximate values for the times required for the signs of the zodiac to rise above the horizon.”

Knowing the rising times of star groups was useful for telling time at night. Hypsicles in the 2nd century BCE applied a Babylonian method of arithmetic progression to estimate the actual rising times. Later, with the development of trigonometry, an exact measurement of rising times became possible. By the 2nd century CE Ptolemy had published tables of rising times in his texts. Here is an image of a table of ascenional times from a 9th century CE edition of Ptolemy’s Almagest:

Ascensional times from Ptolemy’s Almagest.

Using spherical trigonomety, mathematicians of Ptolemy’s era were able to calculated actual acensional times of zodiac signs.

To calculate ascensional times, mathematicians used the theorum from spherical trigonometry that in the above diagram
sin a = tan b cot B

In a recent post on FaceBook astrologer Margherita Fiorello presented a diagram outlining the ascencional times of the zodiacal signs proposed by Hypsicles on the basis of an arithmetic progression rather than direct observation of the rising of the signs. Ideally it would take each sign 2 hours to rise but due to the obliquity the ecliptic and the location of the observer, some signs take more than 2 hours to rise and other signs take less than 2 hours. Here is a copy of Margherita Fiorello’s redrawing of a diagram of Hypsicles model which ancient astrologers used to estimate when certain primary directions would manifest in the lives of their clients:

Hypsicles’ model of the arithmetic progression used to estimate ascenional times of zodiac signs.

For comparison, here is a Hellenisitic chart, from Delphic Oracle software, with ascensional times in the center for Cancer rising on the day of the summer solstice of 2021 in Alexandria.

Summer Solstice 2021 Alexandria Egypt, Cancer rising. Ascensional times in the center of the diagram.

An astrologer looking at the above chart might wonder when in the life of an individual born at this time Venus in the 1st house would rise to the horizon by primary direction. An easy estimate can be calculated by consider that Venus is about 22.5 degrees from the 0 Cancer 9 Ascendant, which is 22.5/30 = 0.75 of the way through Cancer. Since Cancer has an ascensional time of 34.56, we multiple that figure by the 0.75 and estimate that Venus will cross the Asc by primary direction when the person is about 25.9 years old. Rounding the 25.9 to 26 years and adding 26 to the current year 2021, we might expect the year 2047 to be a particularly Venusian one, possibly a good year for a wedding.

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Live or die? An example of “prohibition” from Masha’allah

In the past couple of posts I’ve been looking at ‘prohibition’ in horary. Going through some old charts, I came across this horary from Masha’allah. The querent who is apparently quite ill wants to know whether he will live or die. I reproduced a close approximation of Masha’allah’s chart from the description in Ben Dykes’ translation in the Works of Sahl & Masha’allah (2008).

Moon day, Jupiter hour.

I usually begin with the 12th part of the Ascendant. Here the Asc in 14 degrees Virgo has its 12th part in Aquarius, the 6th whole sign from the Ascendant, which is consistent with illness being on the querent’s mind. The ruler of Aquarius, Saturn, lies in the 8th whole sign from the ascendant, as is fitting because the question is about whether he will die.

Masah’allah tells us to determine which planet signifies the querent. The ruler of the Ascendant is Mercury, but he is in the 8th house and cannot behold the Ascendant sign, that is, Mercury is in aversion to the Ascendant. Masha’allah also mentions that both Mercury and the Moon are void of course (not perfecting any major aspect before moving into the next sign). Had Mercury not been void of course but rather applying to another planet at the moment of the question, he would have considered that other planet as a possible significator of the querent, especially if it beheld the Ascendant.

Because of the status of Mercury in aversion to the Ascendant, without essential dignity and void of course, Masha’allah next looks at the Moon to see whether she is a more suitable signifier of the querent. In this chart the Moon aspects the Ascendant sign from the 9th house and is in better condition than Mercury, so the Moon becomes the querent’s signifier. (In addition, the Moon in Taurus is exalted.)

Next Masha’allah follows the chain of dispositors, starting from the Moon. Luna in Taurus is disposed by Venus in Pisces, which in turn is disposed by Jupiter in Taurus. Because Jupiter is the heaviest planet in this sequence and is not disposed by Saturn, who is even heavier, the chain of disposition ends with Jupiter. This is favorable and likely indicates that the querent will not die.

We must, however, examine the future aspects of Venus. We can see that Venus will apply to square Mars and to sextile Jupiter. The square to Mars would be bad news because Mars rules the 8th house of death. If Venus perfects the square to Mars before she can perfect the sextile to Jupiter, the querent will surely die. Fortunately Venus will sextile Jupiter (in the ephemeris) before she can square Mars, so Jupiter functions to “prohibit” the death that Mars would bring.

Another interesting feature of this chart is the nature of the “pushing” that takes place. “Pushing” simply means that the faster applying planet conveys or hands over its agenda, significations or disposition (“management”) to the slower planet to which it applies by major aspect. It is then the task of the slower planet, the one being aspected, to attempt to carry out the agenda of the faster planet. There are special categories of “pushing” which involve a planet occupying one of its own dignities or a dignity of the planet it is apsecting.

If the applying planet aspects any of its five dispositors (by domicile, exaltation, triplicity, term or face), then it also “pushes,” conveys, hands over or delivers its own nature to its dispositor. For example, in this chart Venus applies to sextile Jupiter; and Venus being in Pisces, the domicile of Jupiter, means that Jupiter is a dispositor of Venus. Thus, Jupiter, who is in charge of Pisces, will act as if he himself had Venusian qualities because he is responsible for what Venus is doing in his home sign Pisces. It is as if Jupiter absorbs some of the nature or virtue of Venus when she transits through a region of the zodiac to which Jupiter lays claim.

If the faster applying planet itself is dignified, it can deliver some of its own power (dignity, ability to express its own nature in its purest form) to the dispositor to which it applies. In the same example of Venus applying to sextile Jupiter, Venus is exalted in Pisces, so when she aspects Jupiter, she is pushes or delivers to him her dignity of exaltation, which she experiences in Pisces, to her dispositor Jupiter who absorbs the exalted status of Venus into his own condition. Again, because Jupiter is in charge of what happens in Pisces, he is responsible for what Venus is doing there, however weak or powerful (dignified) she may be, and Jupiter utilizes the dignity of Venus in his own behavior in the chart. If the Queen of England were to visit your home, you would likely feel special (exalted) for having hosted royalty in your humble abode.

Because the Moon signifies the 1st House querent and his vitality, the agenda of the Moon is to go on living. The Moon conveys its agenda to Venus via the square aspect and thereby asks Venus to pick up the gauntlet and work at keeping the querent alive. Venus, in turn, appeals via a sextile to Jupiter for assistance in maintaining the viability of the querent. Jupiter happily obliges because Venus is making the request from his domicile Pisces and, additionally, Jupiter occupies Taurus, the domicile of Venus, so that Venus and Jupiter are mutually receptive and more than happy to be scratching each other’s back.

The Moon’s next aspect, after it enters Gemini, is a square to Venus in Pisces. The Moon’s most recent aspect prior to the question was the conjunction with Jupiter in Taurus, where the Moon is exalted. The Moon continues to carry the light of this conjunction with Jupiter as she moves into Gemini and then transfers this Jupiterian light to Venus when the Moon squares Venus on April 12.

The Moon will leave Taurus, where she is exalted, and enter Gemini to perfect a square to Venus who is exalted in Pisces, which is ruled by Jupiter. The Moon is carrying with her the light of Jupiter in Taurus, so Venus gets kind of supercharged by the benefic light of Jupiter whom Venus receives in her domicile Taurus. The square from Moon to Venus perfects while the Moon is in the first decan of Gemini, ruled by Jupiter.

Venus will sextile Jupiter before she can square Mars, thus preventing death. In addition, Asc-ruler Mercury will enter Taurus and be able to see the Ascendant. In Taurus Mercury (the querent) will sextile Venus and conjoin Jupiter, again indicating that death will not occur because these aspects perfect before Mercury can connect by aspect with Mars, ruler of the 8th of death.

Next Venus applies to Jupiter and, by doing so, conveys or “pushes” the Moon’s desire to live onto Jupiter who receives Venus from his domicile Pisces. This super-benefic Venus, a natural benefic which receives the light of Jupiter in Taurus, conveys her nature, and the power of her exaltation, to Jupiter who becomes a kind of super-benefic in the process of receiving this doubly exalted Venus and prevents the death from taking place.

Dignities for Masha’allah’s horary question.

As an aside, I should mention the concept of “not-reception” which Benjamin Dykes discusses in his presentation of the works of Sahl. To paraphrase a passage from Sahl:

There are places in the zodiac where neither reception nor recognition of the applying planet occurs. Suppose, for example, that the Moon is applying to aspect a planet which has no dignity in the place where the Moon is located. In other words, the planet being applied to is not a dispositor of the Moon in any of the five dignities (domicile, exaltation, triplicity, term, face). In such a case the slower planet does not recognize the Moon and does not receive it because it is aspecting the slower planet from unfamiliar or foreign territory.

A corollary of this idea has to do with the Moon, or another planet, applying to an even slower planet from the sign of the slower planet’s fall. For example, suppose the Moon is applying to aspect Jupiter while the Moon is transiting Capricorn, the sign of Jupiter’s fall. Because the Moon occupies a sign which Jupiter despises or regards as foreign, Jupiter is likely to reject any advances made by the Moon — a situation which Sahl refers to as “not-reception” to distinguish it from reception proper, namely that reception occurs whenever a planet aspects one of its lords (dispositors).

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