Can Modern Planets be used with Traditional Astrology?

My own view of astrology is that it is a form of divination and an amalgamation of diverse techniques and traditions that sometimes contradict one another.  It is laughable that some astrologers claim they have the “true” astrology or the “real” astrology, implying that all other astrologers are mistaken and only they know better.  Even the ancients often disagreed with one another.  Just read Ptolemy who tried to make sense of varying traditions and methods two thousand years ago.  Ptolemy became the leading authority for many centuries but a lot of what he wrote is patent nonsense when tested against empirical evidence.

Prior to Galileo, truth rested upon the authority of the church or the authority of ancient sources.  Galileo caused a paradigm shift in our world view by emphasizing that something is true only if we can prove it so by empirical evidence.  It seems to me that many so-called traditional astrologers today are pre-Galilean in their approach and rest their laurels on ancient theories of discredited “science” rather than what the evidence reveals.

A good example is the ludicrous claim that modern planets have no role in astrology because they are not visible to the naked eye and the theory of planetary action is based on planetary bodies sending light that transmit their influence across the solar system.  The cause of visibility to traditional astrologers is the human eye which emits visibility rays thanks to the power of a goddess of Mount Olympus.  Because the theory of traditional astrology only allowed seven visible planets (or its theoretical structure would fall apart), traditional astrologers never saw Uranus, even though it was visible to the naked eye.  Let me be clear: Uranus, albeit weakly, is able to reflect the visibility rays beamed at it by the human eye in this ridiculous ancient theory of optics which traditional astrologers hold as gospel truth.  By the very criteria of traditional astrology, Uranus needs to be accepted as an effective planet but current traditional astrologers ignore their own  criteria and still reject it.

I love to read about astrology and I don’t limit myself to any particular school or approach.  I test what I read against a number of charts to see if it holds any water in reality.  If a method works, I explore it further.  If a method is unreliable, I lose interest.  Time and again I have seen the modern planets produce effective results and give information that the traditional methods don’t offer.  As a result, I have become eclectic in my approach and don’t favor or discard a particular school or concept.

On the other hand, there are certain astrologers whose work I especially admire.  Among the more traditional group are Dorotheus of Sidon, Placidus, Morinus, and William Lilly.  Morinus is my all-time favorite astrologer.

I would like to look at a well-known chart using both modern and traditional methods to show the usefulness of combining the two approaches.  In my book on solar returns, I discussed the chart of Cardinal Ratzinger who was elected Pope on April 19, 2005.  Ratzinger’s birth data is given as April 16, 1927, 4:15 AM CET (-1), in Marktl, Germany, rating AA.

When I looked at Ratzinger’s secondary progressions for the date he was elected Pope, I noticed that his progressed Sun moved to 10 Cancer 13 and his progressed ASC moved to 10 Cancer 16 (by solar arc in right ascension).  If he were born just 14 seconds earlier, his progressed Sun would be exactly conjunct his progressed ASC on the date of the papal election.  Based on this fact, I tentatively “rectified” his birth time to 4:14:46 AM CET (14 seconds earlier than the usually accepted time).   Because I was interested in studying traditional techniques, I opted for whole sign houses.   Here is the chart:

Cardinal Ratzinger natal chart 14 seconds prior to AA rated time, whole sign houses.

Several things stand out about this chart.  Ratzinger has natal Saturn and the MC in his Sagittarius 10th house of career.  Could there be a better symbolic description of a conservative Pope?  Jupiter rules his 10th house and closely conjoins the ASC in the 1st house.  Ratzinger personally identifies with his pope-ly ambition.

The Scorpio 9th house of religious preferment is unoccupied.  The traditional ruler of Scorpio is Mars and the modern ruler is Pluto.  Mars and Pluto should be active astrologically at the time of his election to pope-hood.   The Moon rules Pluto in Cancer, and Mercury rules Mars in Gemini, so the Moon and Mercury are also likely to be active around April of 2005 when he becomes the new Pope.

Following some of Morin’s ideas on primary directions, his starting point for prediction, I calculated the primary directions in effect around April of 2005.  Primary directions are “effective” for many months to sometimes a year or longer around a given date.  Morin preferred primary directions in mundo with latitude, and he found the timing given by the Naibod measure of time (rather than Ptolemy’s one degree of RA = one year) to be the most reliable.  Morin liked Regiomontanus directions but I prefer those of Placidus who understood what Ptolemy meant whereas Regiomontanus misunderstood Ptolemy.  Hence Placidus, being more faithful to Ptolemy, is more traditional in his approach to primary directions.

Morin also preferred Regiomontanus houses.  Here I used whole sign houses which are more classical and come from at least Hellenistic times.  I can only find one instance in Morin’s Astrologia Gallica in which he reverts to whole sign houses to explain a planetary placement in a chart.  The planet lies in the 8th Regiomontanus house but Morin wants it in the 9th, so he says it is “accidentally” in the 9th since it is in the ninth sign from the ASC.   Morin refers to whole sign houses as “accidental” because he does not regard them as true houses but rather as simply an analogy to the order of the signs of the zodiac.  James Holden agrees with me on this point but Martin Gansten, despite this case example, believes that Morin never used whole sign houses because he was so disdainful of them.

Using the Morinus astrology freeware (a superb program for classical astrology), I found the following primary directions (direct and converse, zodiacal and in mundo) in effect within 8 to 10 months of the papal election:

Ratzinger’s Primary Directions surrounding his election as Pope on April 19, 2005

Primary directions are rarely precise in their timing.  Rather they show the climate an individual is traversing.  In this case it is rather striking, albeit unusual, that the Part of Fortune has come to the square of Jupiter exactly on April 19, 2005, when he won the election.  Jupiter rules his 10th of career and the Part of Fortune means what it’s name implies, worldly fortune.  The Part of Fortune happens to occupy the Pope’s natal 8th house of other people’s money.   Ratzinger won the lottery, so to speak when this direction became exact.  As head of the Vatican, he is one of the richest men in the world.

The Pope surrounded by the Vatican’s wealth

A couple weeks later, on May 5, 2005, the opposition of Pluto by direction came to the Part of Fortune.  Pluto is the modern ruler of his 9th house.  Ecclesiastical fortune is indicated.  The opposition may refer to the stress of assuming the papacy for a man his age.

Shortly prior to the election to the papacy we see the directions Uranus square Jupiter and Pluto square Pluto.  Jupiter rules the 10th and Uranus brings sudden change -> unexpected change in worldly power and status.  Pluto rules the 9th and is a planet of drastic change and transformation -> profound change in ecclesiastical preferment.  Pluto is also a planet of immense power.  The papacy is a position of tremendous ecclesiastical power.

The sequence ends with the trine of Jupiter directed to the natal Sun, an indicator is fame and success.

The sequence begins in August of 2004 with Mercury directed to the square of the Moon, Saturn directed to the sextile of Mars, and the sextile of Jupiter directed to the Moon.  As described above all these planets have to do with ecclesiastic preferment and worldly status, so the symbolism fits perfectly.

For reasons of cutting and pasting there are two directions at the start of August 2004 that did not appear in the above list.  They are at the bottom left of the following:

Primary directions at the very beginning of August 2004 for Ratzinger

Pluto trine Mars is a very favorable aspect between the two rulers of the 9th house of church and religion.  Mars (ruler of 9th) square Saturn (posited in 10th) suggests a significant event related to career and church matters.

Hence the combination of modern and traditional techniques very well describes Ratzinger’s election to the papacy.  The closest primary directions to the actual date, however, include those of the modern planets.  Something to think about!

About Anthony Louis

Author of books about astrology and tarot, including TAROT PLAIN AND SIMPLE, HORARY ASTROLOGY, and THE ART OF FORECASTING WITH SOLAR RETURNS.
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3 Responses to Can Modern Planets be used with Traditional Astrology?

  1. james says:

    hi tony,

    nice post to get people thinking about the relativity of astrology, or what their philosophical position might be toward astrology.. astrology seems like a religion in that many have strong views, some express hostility to different interpretations, or the criteria that go into these interpretations based on the many ways that one can go about doing astrology. maybe a parallel to the many musical styles that can exist peacefully in the universe is better. instead of adopting the attitude that their is only one ‘right way’ to approach astrology, we can think of it as a stylistic choice an astrologer makes based on their personality. in this sense astrology will be like the people who practice it and reflect more on them then it does on astrology. at least that is what i like to think!

    i find the whole divide between traditional and modern astrology which has been precipitated thru the literature that has come on-stream since the 90’s a real interesting phenomenon. there is so much to benefit from in all of this and yet, there will always be those who opt to close doors, put up walls and ignore the unique experiences of other who has spent time observing astrology regardless of the ‘brand’ they associate with purely on a closed ideological position they want to hold to.

    as for morin and houses and etc. in my reading of morin – books 21,22 and 23 he seems like a lot of other astrologers who will put a planet in a house if it suits the reading, or bring 2 planets together in an aspect that many others would consider too wide depending on what it is that he wants to connect the info to. i am actually okay with this for the same reason i am okay with people using different house systems. if you think of astrology as an interpretive process where we are using it to help guide our intuition or something that goes beyond the realm of logic then doing things in your own way will actually help facilitate this more. i really like the books i have read by morin and think he is a valuable voice from the past, but i also know some folks don’t.

    going back to ratzingers chart and his change of fate april 19 2005 – the 3 features of his chart that i think are interesting when i utilize the numerous tools available to consider this date are – in this order, the grand trine involving his sun/neptune/midheaven, the moon/pluto square and the mars opposite midheaven. just to focus on 2 of the many charts i was looking at in relation to this ‘event’ would be the solar return which i did for his birth location for 2005.. one notes the sr ascendant squared by jupiter (-9th or 10th house position – take yer pick, lol) which ties into his moon/pluto square directly and of course jupiter rules the natal midheaven. i think the data from this one chart is indicative of the type of changes he experienced in 2005.. the other chart i found interesting is the transit chart with the position of t pluto and nodal axis in relation to the grand trine, with pluto within a degree of the natal midheaven. i suppose the eclipse charts would be interesting to look at given the position of the nodal axis to his sun here. also the location of t uranus 45 his natal sun is indicative of the changes he is in the midst of seeing given how these 2 outer planets touch onto this grand trine in different ways.

    on a different note i am curious what you make of the transits, dynamics and etc the pope is undergoing at present given the scandal involving the butler and etc. etc.?

  2. James,

    Thanks for your detailed reply. I haven’t yet looked at what’s currently happening in light of the Pope’s butler scandal. According to the NY Times: “The arrest last Wednesday of Mr. Gabriele in connection with the illegal possession of confidential documents was the latest act in a scandal called Vatileaks, which has been punctuated by the periodic release of correspondence laying bare conflicts and clashes within the Holy See, including internal accusations of cronyism and corruption.” ( The Vatican is a political system like any other and is not immune to the wheelings and dealings of power-hungry Cardinals. They are the “Princes of the Church” after all.

    My intent in the above post was to see how modern planets fared using very traditional methods. They did very well, I thought. Like you, I also look at transits, Solar Returns, etc. Your points are well taken and illustrate that there are many ways to skin the astrological cat.


    • james says:

      hi tony,

      i see i got off on a bit of a tangent when reading your thread title for a 2nd time! thanks for your response and once again for this post which i continue to find rewarding to contemplate. i think modern planets can be included with traditional techniques, but it skews some of the same trad techniques which might explain why some are loath to include them. i am reading a book right now by ziauddin sardar who without going into the details too much, works at emphasizing how something written a long time ago (take any older text – trad astro or otherwise) needs to be considered in the present time in order to bring new meaning for the person living in this moment.. locking something in the past and relying on the past entirely to define an approach in the present is learning by rote, as opposed to having to question and think out how it might be applied today. these books were written in a certain cultural context that is very different from today. if one is going to apply a certain wisdom from the past, he argues it must be done in the context of the present in order for it to have meaning in the present.. something like that anyway!

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