William Lilly’s Con-significators of the houses

In Christian Astrology William Lilly identifies the signs and planets which are consignficators of the 12 houses of the zodiac. I must confess that I have never fully understood this idea of con-significators.  In the early 1990s I wrote the following in an article entitled A Horary Glossary  that a “consignificator” is:

“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.”

In list form by Chaldean order:

  1. Saturn – Houses 1 & 8.  House 1 is the joy of Mercury.
  2. Jupiter – Houses 2 & 9.
  3. Mars – Houses 3 & 10. House 3 is the joy of the Moon.
  4. Sun – Houses 4 & 11. House 11 is the joy of Jupiter.
  5. Venus – Houses 5 & 12. House 5 is the joy of Venus, and house 12 is the joy of Saturn.
  6. Mercury – House 6. House 6 is the joy of Mars.
  7. Moon – House 7.

(If we were to extend the logic to have each planet con-signify two houses, then Mercury would consignify houses 6 and 1, and the Moon would consignify house 7 and 2.)

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.)

Deborah Houlding has noted that there is a close relationship between the houses and the signs of the “natural” Aries-rising zodiac with regard to their signification of body parts. For example, Aries and the 1st house suggest the head whereas Pisces and the 12th house indicate the feet.  Nicholas Culpeper (1616-1654), a contemporary of Lilly, warned against equating the signs beginning with Aries with the order of the Houses:

“Some authors hold an opinion that the signs carry the same signification in order that the houses of heaven do, and Aries should signify life, Taurus estate, Gemini brethren and short journeys, you know the rest. Truly, my own opinion is that many authors invented whimsies, and when they had done, set them down to posterity for Truth; who taking them up without trial, clothed tradition in plush and left poor reason to go in rags. An author said so; ergo ’tis true, right or wrong.” (Nicholas Culpeper, Astrological Judgement of Disease, x.iv)

A careful reading of Lilly suggests that he does not entirely agree with Culpeper.  Here is what Lilly wrote about each house and its con-significators:

  1. “The consignificators of 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; and therefore when Saturn is but moderately well fortified in this house, and in any benevolent aspect of Jupiter, Venus, Sun or Moon, it promises a good sober constitution of body, and usually long life.”  Lilly seems to be implying that because Saturn has a 1st house significance, its presence (if unafflicted and in good aspect with a benefic) in the 1st indicates a strong constitution (like an Aries warrior) and a long life.  The location of con-significator Saturn in the 1st is good for the native because Saturn, as the first Chaldean planet, by analogy also signifies first house matters such as life and the body.
  2. “It has consignificators Jupiter and Taurus; for if Jupiter be placed in this house, or be lord hereof, it’s an argument of an estate or fortune.”  Lilly is suggesting that because Jupiter consignifies the 2nd house, its presence here means the person will do well financially.  The location of consignificator Jupiter in the 2nd is good for the native.
  3. It has consignificators, of the signs Gemini, of the planets Mars; which is one reason why Mars in this house, unless joined with Saturn, is not very unfortunate.” In other words, you might think a malefic like Mars in the 3rd of local travel and siblings might indicate problematic journeys and trouble with sibling, but because Mars also signifies 3rd house matters by con-signification (numerical order in its respective category), then Mars in the 3rd, unless afflicted by Saturn, is not much of a problem.  The location of con-significator Mars in the 3rd is generally good for the native.
  4. Its consignificator is Cancer and of planets, the Sun. We call it the Angle of the Earth, or Imum Coeli; it is feminine and the north angle. In nativities or questions this fourth house represents fathers, so does the Sun by day and Saturn by night; yet if the Sun be herein placed, he is not ill, but rather shows the father to be of a noble disposition, &c.”  Here Lilly is saying that the Sun is a natural ruler of fathers by day.  Since the Sun is of the day sect, it would be in the 4th house during the night at the lowest point in its diurnal cycle.  This might suggest illness of the father, but because the Sun con-signifies the 4th house, it shows that the father is of noble disposition (like someone with the Sun culminating in the 10th).  The location of consignificator Sun in the 4th is good for the native’s father.  Presumably Saturn in the 4th in a night chart would also favor the father. Interestingly, Lilly associates death by drowning with the 4th house, apparently using the symbolism of the con-signifying sign Cancer as representing the Sea and the 4th house as a place of endings and locations deep beneath the surface of the Earth.
  5. Its consignificators are Leo and Venus, who doth joy in this house in regard it’s the house of pleasure, delight and merriment; it’s wholly unfortunate by Mars or Saturn, and they therein show disobedient children and untoward.”  Lilly seems to be arguing that because Leo, con-significator of the 5th, is the detriment of Saturn (which rules Aquarius), the the presence of Saturn in the 5th is like having an unfortunate Saturn in its sign of detriment.
  6. Mars rejoices in this house, but his consignificator is of the signs Virgo, of planets Mercury. We usually find that Mars and Venus in conjunction in this house are arguments of a good Physician.”  Mercury/Hermes has long been associated with the healing arts.
  7. It has consignificators Libra and Moon. Saturn or Mars unfortunate herein show ill [fortune] in marriage.”  
  8. Of signs it has Scorpio for consignificator, and Saturn. The haemorrhoids, the (gall)stone, strangury (difficulty urinating), poisons, and bladder are ruled by this house; and [this] is a succedent house, and feminine.”  Scorpio, a consignificator of the 8th, is associated with poisons and venomous stings.  Saturn is a planet of obstructions and hard things like stones. Here Lilly appears to be borrowing traditional significations of Scorpio and Saturn to elaborate the meanings of the 8th house.
  9. Sagittarius and Jupiter are consignificators of this house; for if Jupiter be herein placed, it naturally signifies a devout man in his religion, or one modestly given.”  Jupiter has traditionally been associated with religion and the priesthood. Traditionally the 9th is the place of the sun-god and thus a religous house.
  10. Its consignificators are Capricorn and Mars. Either Jupiter or the Sun do much
    fortunate this house when they are posited therein, Saturn or
    the South Node usually deny honour, as to persons of quality, or but little esteem in the world to a vulgar person. Not much joy in his profession, trade or mystery, if a mechanic.” Even though Saturn rules the con-significator sign Capricorn, the presence of Saturn in the 10th is a problem. Traditionally, this is the house of “praxis” or what one does in the world. Mars in Capricorn is in its exaltation and capable of putting its abundant energy to effective use, as would befit the 10th house.
  11. “It has of the signs Aquarius, and Sun of the planets for consignificators; Jupiter does especially rejoice in this house; it’s a succedent house, and masculine, and in virtue is equivalent either to the seventh or fourth houses.”  (The 11th is the extremely fortunate house of the Good Daemon.  Jupiter rejoices here and the Sun is the planetary con-significator of the 11th.  Interestingly, Jupiter is the chief god of the ancient Greeks, and the Sun is the main god of the ancient Egyptians; these two gods come together in the House of the Good Spirit. Modern astrology originated in the Hellenistic period in which there was a merging of the Greek and Egyptian cultures.  Furthermore, the Sun rejoices in the 9th house which Jupiter con-signifies, so the two gods join forces in both the 9th and 11th houses.)
  12. It has consignificators Pisces and Venus; Saturn does joy in that house, for naturally Saturn is author of mischief; and it ruleth in man’s body the feet.”  It’s not entirely clear to me how Pisces, Venus and Saturn connect with the meanings which Lilly gives to the 12th house:  “private enemies, witches, great cattle — as horses, oxen, elephants, &c.; sorrow, tribulation, imprisonments, all manner of affliction, self-undoing, &c., and of such men as maliciously undermine their neighbours, or inform secretly against them.” 

Lilly’s comments about the meaning of the consignificators suggests that he takes them into account in a general way, and not simply with reference to human anatomy, when interpreting the signification of the houses. In general, the planetary con-significator of a house being placed in that house is fortunate, but apparently the planetary ruler of the con-signifying sign is not necessarily so.  For example, Mars and Capricorn signify the 10th house.  Mars in the 10th is likely to be beneficial because it is the planetary consignifier of the 10th, but Saturn (a malefic) in the 10th denies honor even though Saturn rules Capricorn, the con-signifying sign.

It is not clear from Lilly’s comments about the twelve houses how he uses the signs as con-significators, but apparently the planetary rulers of the consignifying signs do not also act as con-signifiers.  Thus, modern astrology is wrong is assigning the rulers of the consignifying signs as also rulers of the houses.  In other words each house is associated with a corresponding sign (in zodiacal order) and a corresponding planet (in Chaldean order), but the rulers of the con-significator signs are not associated with the houses.

Here is a table which summarizes Lilly’s view of the houses and their con-significators.


Notice that in this table, Mars is not associated with the 1st house, Venus is not associated with the 2nd house, Mercury is not associated with the 3rd house, and so on.  The only overlap with the erroneous modern system is that Mercury is a consignificator of the 6th house and Jupiter is a consignificator of the 9th house.  That’s it, just those two.


(All original material in the posts on this blog are copyright Anthony Louis.)

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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2 Responses to William Lilly’s Con-significators of the houses

  1. ayves says:

    Really, it is incongruous, and unfortunately it keeps many astrology- lovers like me from earnest astrological study.

  2. 2converse says:

    This is the most thorough explanation I have read. You post made me realize that I no longer use sign and house as equivalents . Howevee I used to and it did work. Again an instance if something working astrologically that shouldn’t.
    Thank you.

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