A note on planetary hours in horary and electional astrology

Horary astrologers are familiar with the advice of William Lilly (1647):

“All the ancients that have wrote of questions do give warning to the
astrologer, that before he deliver judgement he should consider whether the
figure is radical and capable of judgement. The question then shall be taken
for radical, or fit to be judged, when the lord of the hour at the time of
proposing the question, and erecting the figure, and the lord of the ascendant
or first house, are of one triplicity, or be one, or of the same nature.”

Other than this “consideration before judgment” astrologers of the Lilly school rarely take into account the planetary hour or the day ruler as part of their delineation. In Hellenistic times such was not the case.

For example, in the 5th century CE the general Leontius of the Eastern Roman Empire led a rebellion in an attempt to usurp the throne of Emperor Zeno.  To assure success Leontius planned his coronation with the aid of astrologers who calculated a favorable electional (katarchic) chart in July of 484 CE.  Emperor Zeno was not happy and sent his army to confront the usurper.  After four years of conflict, the forces of Zeno triumphed over Leontius who was captured and beheaded in 488 CE.

According to Neugebaur and Van Hoesen in Greek Horoscopes (p. 147), the electional chart for Leontius’ coronation was set for the first hour after sunrise on a Wednesday (a Mercury day during a Mercury hour) with the following planetary positions according to the tables of the epoch:

  • Horoscopos (Ascendant) at 23 Cancer
  • Sun at 23 Cancer
  • Moon at 7 Scorpio
  • Mercury at 19 Leo
  • Venus at 26 Gemini
  • Mars at 20 Cancer
  • Jupiter at 5 Cancer (possibly a copy error, modern calculation is 15 Cancer)
  • Saturn at 15 Scorpio
  • Fortuna at 17 Scorpio (possibly a copy error, modern calculation is 7 Scorpio)
  • Daimon in Aries (at 10 Ar 18 by modern computer)
  • Lot of Exaltation in Aries (at 19 Ar 12 by modern computer)

The following chart is a close approximation to the data provided.  I cast it in the sidereal zodiac (Lahiri) with the Sun just above the Ascendant.  Although it is technically an electional chart, we could also view it as a horary in which Leontius asks something like, “Will my effort to lead a rebellion and become the new Emperor meet with success?”

Neugebaur and Van Hoesen go on to translate the original comments about the chart:

Most likely the astrologers who cast the chart thought they had elected a time that guaranteed success. The Sun is strong on the Ascendant and applies to benefit Jupiter. The  Moon, ruler of the Ascendant, is in mutual reception and in trine with Mars, god of war.  Moon also applies immediately to conjoin the Part of Fortune in the 5th Place of Good Fortune.  The Lot of Spirit/Daimon is conjunct the MC, and the Lot of Exaltation occupies the 10th house at 19 Aries, the degree of exaltation of the Sun, and exactly trines Mercury in Leo in the 2nd which is the 10th house from the Lot of Fortune.

Unfortunately, the hour ruler Mercury (ruler of the 12th of sorrow and undoing) squares malefic Saturn in Scorpio.  Saturn rules the 8th house of death of the radical chart, and Mercury rules the 8th house of death in the turned chart with Pars Fortunae on the Ascendant.  The two rulers of death in square aspect is not a good omen.  Saturn ruling the 8th of death and occupying Scorpio, the domicile of violent Mars, could symbolize a violent death.  The Moon’s next planetary aspect is to conjoin Saturn (stationary, turning direct), ruler of the 8th of death.  In addition, benefic Jupiter is combust the Sun, and Mars (god of war) will soon be under the sunbeams and eventually combust the sun, suggesting an inability to fight effectively as leader of the rebellion.

The failure of the chart to indicate success was also attributed to overlooking the importance of the planetary ruler of the day and of the hour, which is Mercury on both counts.  Mercury always lies within 28 degree of the sun, and in this chart is almost at its maximum elongation from the sun, which the ancient author says is a position of “passivity.”  Once Mercury reaches its greatest elongation, it will begin to approach the sun and will turn stationary Retrograde on 8 August 484.

Dorian Greenbaum translates Olympiodorus’ comment about this chart as:  “but they [the astrologers] did not pay attention, first, that the presiding and managing [planet], Mercury, had fallen into misfortune (εἰς πάθος). For it was at its greatest [distance] from the Sun, which brings about violent death, and it was aspected only by Saturn.”  [The ‘presiding‘ planet rules the day and the ‘managing‘ planet rules the particular hour of the day.]  Reading between the lines, it seems as if the planetary rulers of the day and hour can act as general signifiers of the matter at hand (much as the Moon does) and therefore their condition in the chart has a bearing on the outcome of the question.

Interestingly, on the date that Mercury turned stationary retrograde (8 Augsut 484) Emperor Zeno’s army defeated the rebel army of Leontius who, according to wikipedia, was “forced to take take refuge inside the fortress of Papurius, where the insurgents held out for four years. In 488 the fortress fell through treachery; Leontius was put to death, beheaded at Seleucia on the Calycadnus, and his head was sent to Zeno.”

Had the astrologers paid attention to the lord of the hour in this chart, Leontius might have been spared beheading.

In another instance, I recently consulted with a colleague at a horary chart she did regarding what had happened to brother of the querent’s boyfriend.  The question was asked on a Mars day during a Mars hour, so there was a strong emphasis on Mars.  It turned out that the young man had cut himself in a suicide gesture which led to his being hospitalized.  Again the ruler of the day and of the hour gave an important clue as to the outcome, implying that horary astrologers need to pay more attention to the presiding and managing planets at the time of the question.

Finally, I noticed in a Horary Astrology group on Facebook that a question was asked on 6 October 2017 shortly after sunset: “Will my partner get his surgery done today?”.  The horary chart is cast for the first hour of the night, which is a Mars hour of a Venus day, but the “presiding” ruler of the night hours on Friday is Mars (a general signifier of surgery) and thus Mars is  both the presiding and the managing ruler at the time of the question.  The following list of planetary hours for the location of the chart on 6 October makes this clear:



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 A note on planetary hours in horary and electional astrology

  1. Catherine says:

    Hi Anthony,

    Thanks for food for thought. Regarding the accuracy of the coronation chart: is Mars at 20˚ or 4˚ Cancer? The same goes for Saturn – is it at 12˚ or 15˚? The chart you provided was the closest approximation?


  2. Emma says:

    Hi. Really happy to say that your article is very useful to me.
    I am new to Electional Astrology (and not only in it), I often read my horoscope at https://horo.io/, but your article gave me all the information I need to start compiling my own charts, and gave me food for reflection on the importance of moons and planetary sects. Keep up the good work.

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