Someone recently asked me a question: “In a horary chart, is a significator void of course if it is applying towards a square with the North Node?” This got me thinking about the history of the idea of ‘void of course’ and my own history is sorting it all out.
Modern astrologers define the ‘void of course Moon’ as:
- “the condition of the Moon between the moment it performed the last major aspect with another planet in its current sign and the moment of stepping into the next sign” (astrologyweekly.com)
- “a period of time between the last aspect of the Moon while transiting in one sign and the point that the Moon enters the next sign” (lunarliving.org)
This definition was popularized by astrologer Al H. Morrison around 1970 and is the one I learned and worked with until I studied William Lilly. On her site Anne Massey gives the standard modern advice associated with the VOC Moon:
“We all know that the transient void-of-course Moon is not the time to start new things, force issues or carry out important negotiations. Neither should we go on a shopping spree, unless we like having “useless” unused or unusable items just taking up space. It is a time to kick back, relax, meditate, and to tend to unfinished tasks. Excellent time to polish off creative projects and the like requiring imagination.”
Al Morrison, who originally popularized the modern idea of VOC Moon, had this to say:
“The void of course Moon “begins when the Moon in transit makes the last major aspect it will make before it changes from one sign of the zodiac to the next. It ends when the Moon enters the next sign. … You may call it a silly season, or vacation from normal living. Decision making in such periods turns out later to be unrealistic. Creativity diverges into unpleasant directions, improvisations, false starts, error. Business moves fail to generate profits, or meet unexpected difficulties. If you buy any object it usually fails of its intended use. Human judgment is more fallible than usual …”
When I first read Lilly back in the 1980s I approached him with the modern idea of VOC in my head and did not really understand that he meant something different until after further study of Christian Astrology (1647). Here are some relevant quotes from Lilly:
- “All manner of matters go hardly on (expect the principal significators be very strong) when the Moon is void of course; yet somewhat she performs if void of course and be either in Taurus, Cancer, Sagittarius or Pisces” (CA, p.122). These are the signs of rulership or exaltation of the benefics Venus and Jupiter. A VOC Moon is one of Lilly’s considerations before judgment and suggests that the question asked by the querent will come to nothing (go hardly on).
- A Planet is void of course, when he is separated from a Planet, nor does forthwith, during his being in that Sign, apply to any other: This is most usually in the Moon … You shall seldom see a business go handsomely forward when this is so” (CA, p. 112)
- “Separation, is in the first place, when the two Planets are departed but six minutes distance from each other…” (CA, p. 110)
- “Venus has a platic trine, or is in a platic trine to Saturn, because she is within the moiety of both their Orbs; for the moiety of Saturn, his rays or orbs, is 5, and of Venus 4, and the distance betwixt them and their perfect aspect is eight degrees.” (CA, p. 107)
- “I will againe insert the Table of the quantity of their Obs, … they stand thus as I have found by the best Authors and my owne Experience.” (CA, p. 107):
Lilly writes: “finding the Moon separated from void of course and applying to an opposition of the Sun, lord of the ascendant, did argue there was small hopes of effecting her desire, because she herself, by her own perverseness, had done herself so grand a mischief.” (CA, p. 386)
Lilly’s table (above) gives 17 degrees to the Sun and 12.5 degrees to the Moon. The sum of the two moieties is 1/2 of (17 + 12.5) or 14.75 degrees. Thus, when the Moon is within 14.75 degrees of the position opposite the Sun, it is applying to oppose the Sun. The Sun is at 5 Cancer 30, so subtracting 14.75 degrees, we find that the Moon enters into opposition with the Sun when it reaches 20 Gemini 45.
The Moon’s last Ptolemaic aspect was an opposition to Mercury at 16 Gemini 23. The Moon began its separation from that aspect (adding 6′ of arc) at 16 Sag 29 and was then Void of Course until the Moon reached 20 Sag 45 when it began to apply to an opposition with the Sun. Hence, the Moon was VOC in the middle of Sagittarius from 16 Sag 29 until 20 Sag 45. This is very different from the modern concept of void of course, which is based on a misunderstanding of Lilly promulgated by A.H. Morrison.
To get back to the question that started this line of inquiry, is the Moon VOC if she is applying to aspect the North Node? Lilly writes: “A Planet is void of course, when he is separated from a Planet, nor does forthwith, during his being in that Sign, apply to any other.” The Moon’s North Node is a point and not a planet, so it does not meet Lilly’s definition. Planets reflect the light of the Sun; chart points don’t.
Modern astrologers will ask when aspects to the “modern” planets should be taken into account. Strictly speaking, the modern planets (Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto) were not known in ancient times so the literature is silent about them. Neptune and Pluto cannot be seen with the naked eye, but Uranus can be. The ancients did not discover Uranus because it was so faint and they did not believe another planet could exist. Their minds were blind to what their eyes could see if they only looked for it.
Because Uranus can be seen with the naked eye, it clearly has an orb (based on the intrinsic light of a star or the reflected light of a planet). Thus, by extension of classical principles, at least Uranus should count in determining whether a planet is void of course. One could argue that Neptune and Pluto have tiny orbs that are too hard to see without a telescope. Nonetheless, they do reflect the light of the sun, and so they also have orbs.
Each horary astrologer will have to decide on experience which path to follow. Traditional astrologers will pretend the modern planets don’t exist and that human history stopped in the 17th century. Modern astrologer must live with greater ambiguity and uncertainty about what works in the modern world.
Addendum: Chris Brennan has an interesting discussion of the various definitions of void of course as they relate to Obama’s nomination at his political astrology blog. Chris notes the following:
“Recent translations of some ancient Greek texts from the first few centuries of the Common Era have shown that the original definition of the void of course Moon is that the Moon does not complete any exact Ptolemaic aspect with any other planet within the next 30 degrees, regardless of sign boundaries.”
For many years I misunderstood Lilly’s table (above), believing that he was listing the orbs of the planets. In reality, he was listing the radius of the orbs and he regarded the “moiety” as half of that radius. By adding the moieties of two planets Lilly calculated the maximum distance those planets could be apart and still considered within aspect of each other.Let’s look at an example of Lilly’s use of Void of Course. On page 385 of CA Lilly discusses a horary chart about a question “A lady, if marry the gentleman desired?” Here is the chart: