Recently, I’ve been going through Chris Brennan’s course on Hellenistic electional astrology in which he discusses, among many topics, the void of course Moon. Chris points out that there are at least three definitions of void of course in the astrological literature. In reverse chronological order, they are:
- The modern definition, popularized by Al Morrison, which defines the VOC Moon as perfecting no aspects before leaving its current sign. This is the definition I first learned many decades ago and the one I believee was valid when I first seriously studied horary astrology back in the 1980s. (Astrologer Al H. Morrison was born on July 8, 1916 at 0:15 AM in North Little Rock, Arkensas, and died of cancer on May 29, 1995.) I tested Morrison’s idea in many charts ant it seemed to work much of the time. There were, however, instances in which the Moon was VOC in Morrison’s sense but about to change signs and quickly conjoin or trine a benefic and, in these cases, the outcome was usually quite favorable.
- William Lilly’s definition (1647). Lilly wrote: “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” (CA, p.112). I used to think that Lilly and Morrison were saying the same thing, but then (in the early 1990s) I read an essay by the erudite horary astrologer Sue Ward who pointed out that Lilly did not use the modern definition in the examples from his famous text Christian Astrology. Not quite believing Sue Ward at first, I went through all of Lilly’s case examples and discovered that she was correct. Lilly has several examples in which the Moon perfects no aspects before leaving its sign and yet is not considered void. He even has an example in which the Moon is void for a little while in the middle of its sign and then leaves the void state when it comes within orb of applying to another planet before leaving its sign. Clearly, Lilly meant that the Moon is void of course when it is not within orb of applying to another planet by major aspect, regardless of where the Moon lies in its current sign. (Lilly used an orb of 12.5 degrees for the Moon.) This is the definition I used in the 1996 revision of my text on horary. A variation of Lilly’s definition occurs in Ramesay’s 1653 book on elections: “the Moon is impedited when she if void of course, which is when she is in any sign, and beholds not any Planet till she enter another sign, &c.” (An Introduction to Elections, 1653). Notice that Ramesay says “beholds not” rather than “perfects” — he means that the Moon is not within orb of aspecting another planet and thus can’t see or behold the light (orb) surrounding the other planet.
- The original Hellenistic definition. According the Chris Brennan, the original Hellenistic definition is that the VOC Moon does not perfect a major aspect within the next 30 degrees regardless of sign boundaries (as opposed to within a 30-degree sign). It takes the Moon about 2 1/3 days to travel 30 degrees. This definition apparently comes from Porphyry and Antiochus of Athens. Even this definition seems to have variations. For example, James Holden (2009) in his translation of Rhetorius the Egyptian notes on page 159: “Void of course is said whenever the Moon applies to nothing, neither zodiacally nor by degree, nor by aspect, nor by bonding, nor within 30 degrees of the nearest application or conjunction that it makes; and such nativities are undistinguished and without advancement.” (Bonding refers to the Moon appearing with the Sun and not departing from the Sun by more than the number of degrees of the Moon’s daily passage, which averages about 13.2 degrees per day.)
Which, if any, of these definitions is correct?
My own view is that Al Morrison got it wrong and his “modern” definition is a misunderstanding of Lilly and Ramesay. I ceased using Morrison’s definition many years ago after I kept coming across horary and electional charts in which Morrision’s VOC Moon did not function the way he said it would. Unfortunately, modern astrological calendars and almanacs continue to supply Morrison’s mistaken notion of VOC periods as if they had some significance for electing a good time to act. In reality, if the Moon is applying to a favorable major aspect with a planet across sign boundaries, matters will proceed just fine during a Morrison VOC period.
When doing horary with quadrant house systems, I use Lilly’s definition (as Sue Ward clarified it). Lilly’s definition agrees with the Hellenistic view in which the VOC Moon ignores sign boundaries and depends only on whether the Moon is traveling in a aspect vacuum devoid of any application to any major aspect with another planet. Lilly’s idea of VOC is similar to the notion of “bonding” discussed in #3 above in which the Moon is allowed an “orb” of its daily motion which averages about 13.2 degrees daily. Lilly’s orb for the Moon was 12.5 degrees. Thus, if the Moon is within about 13 degrees of perfecting an aspect, regardless of where it lies in its current sign, it cannot be considered void of course.
I do not have sufficient experience with the Hellenistic definition to have an opinion about its validity in practice. The Hellenistic VOC definition suggests that the Moon is very infrequently VOC, which makes sense given the negative connotations of a VOC Moon. With Whole Sign Houses, however, the Hellenistic definition makes the most theoretical sense. Hellenistic astrology allows aspects by sign, whereas Lilly use the Regiomontanus house system and depended on orbs of planets. These are quite different approaches to interpreting a chart. It is possible that some later translator of early Hellenistic texts paraphrased the original idea of the Moon not making an aspect within the next 30 degrees as the Moon not making an aspect within the number of degrees contained in one sign, thus introducing confusion into the system. You can’t validly mix the concepts of Hellenistic and 17th century astrology; they are two different systems with unique ways of viewing and interpreting the chart.