I have a few pet peeves about astrology that center mostly on the sloppy use of language rooted in a lack of awareness of the history of the art. Pick up almost any modern text and you will likely read distortions and misunderstandings of the historical traditions of astrology, as if our past was irrelevant in the present. One glaring example is the inaccurate use of the term ‘peregrine’ by the Tyl school of modern astrology, as if two thousand years of history and tradition do not matter.
Even more egregious than the misuse of ‘peregrine’ is such incessantly repeated nonsense as “Mars is the ‘natural’ ruler of the 1st house, Venus of the 2nd, Mercury of the 3rd, Moon of the 4th,” and so on around the wheel — the so-called ’12 letter alphabet’ of astrology popularized by the late Zip Dobbins. This oversimplified approach equates houses, signs and planets as if they all signified the same thing.
Despite the eloquent writings of such modern astrological giants as Dane Rudhyar, many modern astrologers can’t tell the difference between a zodiac sign and an astrological house. They mistakenly assume, for example, that the Sun is the ‘natural ruler’ of the 5th house because Leo is the 5th sign of the zodiac. Signs are not houses, planets are not signs, and the natural planetary rulers of the signs are not the natural rulers of the analogously numbered houses. Here is what Rudhyar had to say:
‘The zodiac symbolizes in astrology the entire cycle of the yearly modifications of the “Life-force”, which surrounds, pervades and animates the earth and all organisms living on its surface. A zodiacal sign or degree is a mode of life-energy; it is always “energy” — or rather “energy-substance,” as today we know that the two elements, energy and substance, are one and interchangeable.’
‘An astrological house, on the other hand, is a section of space — and, in reference to the birth-chart of an individual person, a particular field of experience. It is always and in any case, and wherever the person is born, a twelfth part (or 30-degree section) of the entire space surrounding the place of birth. It is space, not substance; space which “contains” zodiacal energy-substance, planets, stars and any conceivable celestial object. It represents also symbolically a twelfth part of a man’s total outlook on life.’
It is not clear to me who started the confusion (e.g., ‘the Sun is the natural ruler of the 5th house’, etc.). It probably goes back to Alan Leo and was perpetuated by Charles Carter, two of the early giants in modern astrology who did much to popularize the art of astrology in the English-speaking world. These early modern astrologers cannot be blamed for misunderstanding the traditional literature which is vast and often hard to understand. If it weren’t for them, astrology might have remained illegal or completely gone out of existence. But now that much of the tradition has been safely excavated, it is time for modern astrologers to stop perverting what years of historical research has helped us to understand.
What did William Lilly, the great 17th century horary master, have to say? Here are Lilly’s comments about the 1st house:
The Consignificators for this house are Aries and Saturn; for as this house is the first house, so is Aries the first sign, and Saturn the first of the planets… Mercury doth also joy in this house, because it represents the Head and he the Tongue, Fancy and Memory. (CA. p.151) Lilly, who had read all the extant historical astrological literature available in England at the time never mentions Mars in relation to the 1st house.
Here is my explanation of “consignificators” which I published in an online glossary a couple decades ago:
“CON-SIGNIFICATORS (from A Horary Glossary by Anthony Louis):
A sign or planet believed to have an affinity with a mundane house because it falls in the same numerical order as the house. Not to be confused with co-significators. The sign of the zodiac naturally paired with a house is its CON-significator (based on the congruence between the numerical ordering of the signs, houses, and planets). For example, Aries is the consignificator of the 1st house, Taurus of the 2nd, etc. The planets taken in Chaldean order (Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, sun, Venus, Mercury, Moon) are consignificators of the houses falling in the same sequence. Thus, Saturn is consignificator of houses 1 and 8, Jupiter of houses 2 and 9, Mars of houses 3 and 10, sun of houses 4 and 11, Venus of houses 5 and 12, Mercury of house 6, and the Moon of house 7.”
Thus, in Lilly’s mind, the 1st house is associated with Aries as the 1st sign of the tropical zodiac, with Saturn as the 1st planet in the Chaldean ordering of the seven traditional visible planets, and with Mercury because Mercury has ‘joy’ in the house associated with the head where the tongue (Mercury) naturally resides. (Saturn is also associated with the 8th house because the Chaldean list repeats around the wheel; and Mercury is associated with the 6th house because it is the 6th planet.) Mars is nowhere to be found in a discussion of signs and planets associated with the 1st house.
Even the choice as Aries as the 1st sign is rather arbitrary. The zodiac is a circle without being and without end. For convenience sake, we like to say that the zodiac has a starting point. One tradition begins the zodiac at the vernal equinox, the 1st day of spring which starts a new cycle of growth and decay in the natural world. In this scheme Aries is the 1st sign.
Another scheme from the Hellenistic period claims that at the start of creation Cancer was rising in the east and Aries occupies the 10th house. This is the so-called thema mundi in which the 1st sign is Cancer rather than Aries.
The Thema Mundi shows:
- Cancer rising with the Moon in Cancer, the 1st sign
- The Sun in Leo, the 2nd sign
- Mercury in Virgo, the 3rd sign
- Venus in Libra, the 4th sign
- Mars in Scorpio, the 5th sign
- Jupiter in Sagittarius, the 6th sign
- Saturn in Capricorn, the 7th sign
Getting back to the modern idea that Mars is a “natural ruler” of the 1st house, we can see that in Lilly’s day Mars was associated with (or numerically congruent with) the 3rd house, and in the Hellenistic thema munda Mars was associated (or numerically congruent) with the 5th house. But I doubt that Lilly or the Hellenistic astrologers regarded Mars as a “natural ruler” of any house. Mars is the natrual ruler of the 1st sign Aries, however. Maybe a modern Hellenistic astrologer can weigh in on this question.
Addendum (17 Oct 2012): Here is a copy of a comment I posted on the Facebook Traditional Astrologer’s page in response to a discussion of con-significators:
” Lilly uses the word “co-signficiator” differently. On p. 124 of CA, for example, he says “In every question we do give the Moon as a Co-significator with the querent or Lord of the Ascendant…” He has in mind: Moon = querent = planetary ASC-ruler. “Con-signficators” are different and simply refer to a planet or sign that happens to fall in the same numerical order as a house. By using the prefix “con-” Lilly has in mind: 1st house ~ first sign (Aries) ~ first planet (Saturn). He means there is an analogy or congruence among the 1st house, Aries and Saturn simply because they all fall first in their particular sequence. When Lilly says “co-significator,” he means two planets that signify the same matter. When he says “con-significator,” he means corresponding signs, planets, or houses that share the same ordinal number in their sequence. He does not specify what con-significators actually signify or how to use them.”