Hellenistic Theology and a Theory about the Origin of the Joys of the Planets

Chris Brennan’s lecture, which I discussed in the previous post, got me to thinking about the origin of the “joys of the planets.”  I am repeating below the section of the previous post that deals with a hypothesis I developed about a possible theoretical origin of the joys in response to Chris’ lecture.   I thought it would be useful to highlight this section of the rather lengthy previous post with a few additional comments to the earlier version of that post.

A key diagram of Hellenistic astrology had to do with the “joys” of the planets, which were positions in their daily rotation where the planets appeared to “rejoice.”  Brennan points out that the joys of the planets were probably invented after the Thema Mundi became known.  Here is a diagram of the joys:

Hellenistic Joys:  Mercury in 1st house, which straddles the horizon.  Saturn in 12th, Jupiter in 11th, Sun in 9th, Mars in 6th, Venus in 5th, Moon in 3rd.
Hellenistic Joys: Mercury in 1st house, which straddles the horizon. Saturn in 12th, Jupiter in 11th, Sun in 9th, Mars in 6th, Venus in 5th, Moon in 3rd.  A planet is happiest when it occupies the part of the sky (or astrological house) which corresponds to its joy during its daily cycle around the earth.  The Sun likes to be worshiped as a god in the 9th.  Jupiter likes the friendship and sociability of the 11th.  Saturn likes the misery of the 12th.  Mercury can swing both ways, above and below the horizon, in the 1st.  The Moon likes the variability of the 3rd.  Venus likes the sensual pleasures of the 5th, and Mars like to inflict bodily injury in the 6th.   Each planet has its own way of getting its jollies and gratifying itself, and these are reflected in the planetary joys.  Whatever turns you on!

How and why the followers of Hermes Trismegistus came to choose these locations as the joys of the planets is not entirely evident.  Perhaps they reflect the knowledge of the stars which they inherited from Babylon.  We might speculate that it makes sense to put the Sun at the top of the chart where it would be in the bright afternoon.  If the 9th house were traditionally associated with the gods, then the Egyptian Greeks would certain place the sun in the house of god, or name the house of god after the joy of the sun.

The Egyptians revered the sun, and the Greeks revered Zeus/Jupiter, so both the sun and Jupiter are placed equidistant from the Midheaven to pay equal respect to each of them.  Neither god should feel offended because they are equally high in the sky.  The 10th house had to be left empty because any planet there would outrank Jupiter and the sun in stature and might bring the god’s wrath down upon the astrologer-philosophers.  Better not to take the risk and split the position of highest honor between the two gods most revered in Alexandrian Egypt.  I think my hypothesis has some merit because it takes into account the theology of the period and the belief that the Thema Mundi was revealed to astrologers by a combined Greek-Egyptian god.  If my speculation is correct, traditional astrologers are continuing to honor the chief gods of ancient Greece and Egypt in their theory about the triplicity rulers.

Another argument in favor of my hypothesis is, as Chris Brennan notes, that the 2nd house was called the “Gate of Hades.”  Since Hades was the darkest and lowest point under the earth, it is likely that Hades in represented in the chart of joys of the planets by houses 3, 4 and 5.   Opposite Hades would be heaven in houses 9, 10 and 11 — the home of the gods, particularly the sun and Jupiter who were chief among the gods.  The 9th was called the “house of the good spirit” (Jupiter) and the 9th as the “house of god” (perhaps the sun-god Ra of Egypt).  The 10th house was the very “middle of heaven.”

The Moon is the consort of the Sun, so she would lie opposite him in the 3rd house, which came to be known as the “house of the goddess” — the complement to the 9th house of the god across the wheel, suggesting that they regarding the Moon as goddess of the night.  Mercury is constantly moving back and forth in the heavens and as psychopomp was able to visit the underworld and return to daylight, so his placement near the horizon fits his mythology and natural pattern of movement.  Jupiter was king of the gods, so he deserved a place near the middle of the sky like the sun and was placed in the “house of the good spirit” (Jupiter is the greater benefic).  Venus, the other benefic planet, lies opposite Jupiter in the 5th house, which came to be called the “house of good fortune” (Venus is the lesser benefic).  There is a pattern here of pairing planets across the wheel: sun with moon, Jupiter with Venus, Mars with Saturn, and Mercury as his own complement since he swings both ways.

The pattern of risings of the planets is also analogous.  Above the horizon, the sun (king of the day) is first to rise across the ASC, followed by benefic Jupiter and malefic Saturn.  Below the horizon, the moon (queen of the night) is first to rise across the ASC, followed by benefic Venus and finally by malefic Mars.  The sun and Jupiter keep the maleficity of Saturn in check.  The Moon and Venus keep the maleficity of Mars in check.  Mercury is neutral or swings both ways and occupies the houses that straddle day and night.

Why Saturn and Mars have joy in the 12th and 6th houses respectively is a little harder to come up with a reasonable theory about.  Houses 9, 10, 11, 1, 3, 4, 5 and 7 were already accounted for by the other planets and their partners.  This left only houses 12, 2, 6 and 8 for Saturn and Mars.  Placing Saturn in 8 ahead of the sun might offend the sun-god. In addition, Saturn was closest in orbit to Jupiter and followed Jupiter in the heavens as one moves away from earth.  Thus logically it makes some sense to put Saturn next to Jupiter and Mars next to Venus because of the respective distances of their orbits from the earth.  In addition, in nature Saturn as the outermost planet is the closest malefic planet to heaven where the gods reside and thus must have its joy above the horizon.  Mars is the malefic planet closest to earth and must have its joy below the horizon.

Perhaps the choice of 12 for Saturn was based on centuries of observations of bad things happening when Saturn had recently risen or Mars had recently descended below the horizon.  Possibly it was based on the observation that Saturn is the outermost planet and lies outside the orbit of Jupiter, thus Saturn must come after Jupiter in the order of houses and where better to put Saturn but in the final 12th house of the horoscope.  If Saturn were considered the most evil planet, one would want to place him on the same side of the horizon as the two most power gods, the sun and Jupiter, so they could keep a close eye on him.  The only place available, without placing Saturn ahead of the sun or Jupiter, would be the 12th house, known in Hellenistic times as the “house of the bad spirit.”  I also recall reading years ago in one of the Hellenistic texts that Saturn was regarded as “the sun of the night,” which might be a reason to place it above the horizon closer to the MC than the other planets except the two gods, Jupiter and the sun.   Who knows?

The above explanation was a bit rambling and long-winded, so let me summarize my theory:

  1. Fire is the lightest element and represents divinity, so the three houses at the top of the chart (9, 10, 11) belong to the gods.  The Greek-Egyptians regarded the Sun and Jupiter as chief among the gods.  The day belongs to the sun, so the Sun comes first (rising before Jupiter) and gets the 9th house.  Equally elevated with respect to the middle of heaven is Jupiter who rejoices in the 11th house, equidistant from the MC as the divine Sun.
  2. There are two malefic planets: Mars and Saturn.  The one closest to heaven where the gods reside is Saturn, so he gets the 12th house and is assigned to the day hemisphere of the chart.  Saturn cannot get the 8th house because that would give him the honor of rising before the Sun.  Goodness comes before evil.  To keep balance in the universe it was necessary to assign one malefic to the day and the other one to the night.  Saturn had to be placed on the same side of the horizon as Jupiter because Saturn is as evil as Jupiter is good.  The same holds true for Mars and Venus.
  3. Mercury is neutral and can travel between heaven and the underworld, so Mercury gets the 1st house which straddles day and night at the horizon.
  4. An analogous pattern exists below the horizon.  The 4th “subterranean” house corresponds to Hades opposite the heaven of the 10th.  The Moon rules the night and cannot be placed in the 4th because she does not rule Hades.  The logical place for the Moon goddess is opposite the Sun god because they form a complementary pair.  Hence the Moon rejoices in the 3rd because she has a status there analogous to the sun.  She is also the first nightly planet to rise.  Venus gets the 5th house in analogy to Jupiter getting the 11th as his joy.  Finally, Mars gets the 6th house in analogy to the joy of Saturn in the 12th.  Thus, Mars is the last nightly planet to rise after the good Moon and benefic Venus.
  5. As mentioned in point #2 above,there is an inherent balance and symmetry in the diagram.  The daytime above the horizon has a Light, a major Benefic and a major Malefic in one hemisphere.  The nighttime below the horizon has a Light, a minor Benefic and a minor Malefic in the its hemisphere.  Mercury is neutral and hugs the horizon where he can quickly go back an forth between either camp.
  6. The above pattern is quite logical and consistent with the theology of the time.

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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One Response to Hellenistic Theology and a Theory about the Origin of the Joys of the Planets

  1. Pingback: Saturn Loves Misery | Astrologia Larxeno

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