On Timing in Horary Astrology

Recently, I’ve been going through Chris Brennan’s course on the Helenistic approach to horary astrology.  Unlike Lilly (1647), the Hellenistic authors used Whole Sign houses.  Lilly preferred Regiomontanus houses, so that the same horary chart can produce different significators for the quesited, depending on which house system is chosen.  The ASC, representing the querent, will be the same in either house system.

I wondered whether Lilly’s method and the Hellenistic Whole Sign method would give the same answer to a specific horary question, so I’ve been going through horaries with known outcomes in the two systems to see what difference arise.  I haven’t yet had the time to go through enough charts to reach a conclusion but frequently I am able to get the same answer, but from different perspectives.

Chris also brings up the matter of judging timing from horary charts.  Lilly used two methods to time events: one symbolic, based on the number of degrees to perfection of an aspect, and the other in real time, based on the transits to the horary chart and its transit-to-transit future aspects.

In his course Chris mentions that in 2008 he and his friend Patrick Watson noticed the effect of transits of the horary chart as indicators of the timing of the outcome. He traces this technique to Sahl ibn Bishr (Zael) On Times, Ch.3, p. 226 of the Dykes translation in which Sahl uses the conjunction of significators by transit to time the outcome of a horary.   Sahl ibn Bishr (aka Zahel or Zael), c. 786–c.845, was a Jewish mathematician  and astrologer from Tabaristan.

I don’t know whether Lilly read this specific text by Sahl or merely had access to Sahl’s ideas through other Arabic writings which referred to Zahel and which Lilly studied to learn horary.  In any case, after studying Lilly’s case examples (in CA, 1647) in the 1980’s I summarized his timing techniques in my 1991 text The History and Practice of Astro-Divination (Llewellyn), p. 353, as follows:

“There are two ways to time events in horary.  The first is to see how long an aspect [in the horary chart] will take to perfect in the ephemeris.  This method is the same as using transits to time events from a natal chart.  The day the aspect perfects in the ephemeris is the day the event described by the aspect will manifest.”

“The second method is a symbolic system which equates the number of degrees before the aspect becomes exact to the number of hours, days, weeks, months, years, or other unit of time.  Both methods can be used in conjunction, and neither is accurate all of the time.”  (This also appears on page 195 of my updated 1998 text on horary.)

Lilly uses this technique in many of his charts.  For example, in his famous question about “If I should purchase Master B., his houses?” (CA, p.219), Lilly writes about transits of the horary chart:

“When Venus and the Sun came to conjunction in Taurus, that day I bargained, viz.die Venus 25 April (OS) [May 5 NS] following; the 17th of May (OS) [May 27 NS] Venus and the Moon in conjunction; I paid in 530 pounds and my Conveyance was sealed.  So that as Venus wanted 6 degrees of the body of the Sun, so it was 6 weeks and some days from the time of the Question ere I perfected what the Figure promised…”
Mr B Houses
Lilly used Regiomontanus Houses and the seven visible planets of antiquity.   The modern planets had not yet been discovered when Lilly wrote Christian Astrology in 1647.

HORARY: “Should I buy Mr. B’s houses?” Wm Lilly, 31 March 1634 OS, (10 April 1634 NS) CA p.219

Lilly is both the querent and the astrologer for this horary.  He reasons that as the querent he is signified by Venus, ruler of the ASC (whose almuten is Saturn).  The Sun which occupies the 7th (and is exalted and almuten there) represents the seller (even though Mars rules the cusp of the 7th).  The exalted angular Sun “prenoted the seller to be high in his Demands [and so he was].”  Venus near the cusp of the 7th and applying to the Sun meant that Lilly was the only buyer, and so he was.

Venus applies to the Sun and will conjoin the Sun in a little over 6 degrees.  Because Venus is angular and in a cardinal sign, this probably represents 6+ days or 6+ weeks.  The Moon is slow in motion and Venus is in detriment in Aries, so the timing is likely to be slower: a little more than 6 weeks rather than 6 days.

Saturn rules the 4th cusp (real estate) and Venus applies to trine Saturn in about 7 degrees, again suggesting that Lilly (Venus) comes together with the houses (Saturn) in about 7 weeks.

The Moon is separating from Mars (in the 11th of Lilly’s hopes and ruling the 7th of the contract to buy the house) and applying to Saturn (the houses) by square.  The square indicates some difficulties in finalizing the contract, but because it is a square in signs of long ascension (and thus somewhat like a trine), matters should work out well in the end.

Here are the transits involving Lilly’s horary (modern calculations may differ slightly from Lilly’s ephemeris):

  • Transit Venus conjunct horary Sun April 15 1634 NS.
  • Transit Moon conjunct horary Venus April 25, 1634 NS.
  • Tr-Tr: Moon conjunct Venus April 27, 1634 NS.
  • Tr-Tr: Venus conjunct Sun on May 4, 1634 NS — the day before Lilly bargained.  (Lilly says that he bargained on a Venus day, Friday April 25 OS, which would be May 5 NS.  His ephemeris had Venus conjoining the Sun on May 5th, but modern calculations place the Venus/Sun conjunction a day earlier, on Thursday May 4th, a Jupiter day, at 11:37 PM.  Lilly may have regarded this conjunction so close to midnight on May 4th as really affecting events on May 5th.
  • Tr-Tr: Moon conjunct Venus May 27, 1634 NS. — the day Lilly paid 530 pounds for the houses.

In conclusion, Lilly’s method of timing is consistent with the Hellenistic writings of Sahl ibn Bishr and the 2008 observations by Chris Brennan and Patrick Watson in their study of judging timing from horary charts using Hellenistic methods.  The outcome promised by the horary chart manifested in reality on those days when the significant planets conjoined by transit in the sky.

For the sake of completeness, here is Lilly’s horary cast with Whole Sign Houses in the Hellenistic tradition.

“Should I buy the houses of Mr. B?” Whole Sign Houses & Modern Planets

Mr B Houses

The major difference here is that Mars and the Moon move from the Regiomontanus 11th house (Lilly’s hopes and wishes in the matter) to the unfortunate Whole Sign 12th house.  My guess is that Chris would not accept this as a valid horary question because it asks “should I buy?”  In addition, he feels that for a horary to be valid it must be asked of another astrologer.  In this case, Lilly was acting as his own astrologer.  In any case, Venus signifying Lilly comes together by trine with Saturn representing the houses, so the answer is the same.

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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4 Responses to On Timing in Horary Astrology


    Just out of curiosity, I converted 530 lbs in 1634 to modern American dollars and it came to about $118.000. Lilly did pretty good for himself.

  2. Sims says:

    The way that Lilly found the time was weird. I would’ve assumed using Venus as the chart ruler trine Saturn (the 4th house ruler of home/real estate) would’ve been enough. Venus at 14 Aries trine Saturn at 21 Sag is 21-14=7 days/weeks/months/years. With Venus angular and cardinal that is days since cardinal signs in angular houses represent days, with Saturn in Sag in the 4th that’s a mutable sign in an angular house which represents weeks. So in this case it’d be either about 7 days or weeks. My problem would then be trying to figure out if it was either 7 DAYS or 7 WEEKS for the results to come to fruition. I guess in horary it is hard to predict days or weeks when it isn’t a question that will have an outcome where the timing is largely unlikely to be either short term or long term. I.e. Lilly would have not been able to definitively say 7 DAYS or 7 WEEKS because it could have been either.

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