“Should I … ?” questions in horary astrology

William Lilly often used horary charts to advise his clients about a best course of action. A good example of such a “Should I?” question appears in England’s Prophetical Merline. On 24 June 1644 (NS) at 10:30 AM, a woman asked Lilly “if she should marry the elderly man.” Here is a close approximation to Lilly’s chart cast by a modern computer:

It is a Venus day during a Jupiter hour. This seems fitting because she is asking about love and marriage (Venus) during an hour ruled by the lord of the 7th (marriage contracts).

Mercury, lord of the Ascendant, and Jupiter, lord of the hour, are both rulers of the airy triplicity. On page 298 of Christian Astrology, Lilly writes that the Question is radical or fit to be judged “when the Lord of the ascendant and hour be of one nature or Triplicity.”  In addition, although Lilly doesn’t use dodecatemoria, the 12th part of the Ascendant lies at 16 Pisces where it conjoins the 7th cusp in a chart about a marriage question.

Mercury rules the Ascendant and thus signifies the querent. The Moon co-rules the querent.

Jupiter rules the 7th and thus signifies the elderly man who is proposing marriage; Jupiter also rules the marriage contract.

Lilly notes that the querent’s rulers (Mercury and Moon) are each recently separating from the quesited’s ruler (Jupiter) and asks the woman whether she has recently been negotiating with the old man about a marriage contract. He also points out that Mercury (the querent) occupies Cancer, the sign of exaltation of Jupiter, who in turn trines the Ascendant (the woman), which Lilly interprets to mean that the elderly gentleman has been in hot pursuit of the querent whose ruler (Mercury) is passing through a place which Jupiter loves to visit because he can bask there in exaltation. She confirms that such is the case.

Lilly next notices a transfer of light in that the Moon, which has just left a square with Jupiter, is applying to sextile malefic Mars, which both rules and occupies the unfortunate 8th house. In short, the Moon is carrying the light from Jupiter, ruler of the 7th of potential marriage partners, and passing the nuptial light on to Mars, a general signifier of virile young men, thus imbuing Mars with her desire for a mate.

In addition, Mercury (the querent) next applies to square Mars from the 11th house of the woman’s hopes and wishes. Lilly takes this to mean the the woman has the hots for some Mars-like captain or hunky soldier who will end up disappointing her because neither of her rulers (Mercury and the Moon) has “any dignities in either the sign or degree of Mars,” that is, her rulers are not passing through a place toward which Mars feels any special affinity and vice versa. In addition, Mars in the 8th and the Moon in the 6th are both in unfortunate houses. The woman bursts into tears and acknowledges that Lilly is correct in his suspicions.

Below is the table of dignities for this chart. As you can see, neither the Moon nor Mercury has any dignity in Aries, the sign occupied by Mars. In addition, the degree occupied by Mars is not within the dignities of either the Moon or Mercury. There is nothing by way of essential dignity that brings Mars together with the querent’s rulers. (I am using the Dorothean terms and triplicities; Lilly preferred the Ptolemaic system.)

Though Lilly does not call our attention to it, Mercury in Cancer also lies in the fall of Mars. In addition, Mars is the malefic of the contrary sect and, as ruler of the 8th house, he is likely to do harm to the querent rather than act to her benefit. Lilly refers to Mars in this chart as the “impediting” planet, which I assume means that he expects Mars to impede her marriage prospects.

Mars both rules and lies in the 8th, which happens to be the 2nd of the 7th, signifying the elderly man’s financial assets.  From this Lilly concludes the that old man’s money, or lack of it (malefic Saturn in the 8th), will impede the marriage. With this in mind, Lilly advises his client to require that her elderly suitor put up or shut up. She should ask him to give her a “jointure” (a property deed or other valuable tangible asset) if he wants to go forward with the marriage contract. Her suitor reveals that he can’t produce a jointure because there this a legal claim on his land (which he had conveniently forgotten to tell her about). Lilly continues, “after this they broke off all negotiations of marriage, exactly as I told her.”

So the answer to her horary question was: no, you should not marry the elderly man.

Here is Lilly’s original interpretation of this chart:
Lilly shoud marry

This is from Lilly CA 298:


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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10 Responses to “Should I … ?” questions in horary astrology

  1. Catherine says:

    Mercury, lord of the Ascendant, and Jupiter, lord of the hour, are both rulers of the airy triplicity? What does it have to do with Virgo ASC? Also, the 12th part lies at 16˚ pisces, not Virgo…

  2. Catherine, thanks for pointing out the typo about Virgo. I have corrected it and also addressed your question about triplicity rulers in the updated text.

    • Catherine says:

      Virgo is on the ASC, so it’s ruled by Venus by day and Moon by night. Mercury is the ruler of air triplicity by night, and Jupiter is the ruler of the fire triplicity by night. I know it may be minor detail, as the chart seems radical, but how did you come up with this agreement?

  3. Catherine,
    On page 298 of Christian Astrology, Lilly writes that the Question is radical or fit to be judged “when the Lord of the ascendant and hour be of one nature or Triplicity.” He is talking about planetary “lords” and not about the cusps of houses.
    Lord of the Virgo Ascendant is Mercury which is a member of the air triplicity.

    • Catherine says:

      It’s probably because of Mercury stationing Rx, but I don’t get your reasoning behind ASC and hour agreement.
      Why is Jupiter a ruler of the air triplicity then? Mercury agrees in humour with Virgo ASC (cold and dry), but apart from that, there is no agreement.
      If ASC were Gemini with Mercury as an hour-ruler, then “the Lord of the ASC and hour are of the same Triplicity”.
      Check out Deborah’s excerpt from Lilly and Bonatti regarding the hour and ASC ruler agreement: http://skyscript.co.uk/hour_agreement.pdf

  4. Catherine says:

    Did you take Mercury as the Lord of the ASC instead of the sign (Virgo) and Jupiter as the hour ruler and considered them the ruler and participating ruler of the Air triplicity? (although it’s a day chart and Saturn is the ruler of the Air by day). If so, then it’s not what was intended by Lilly (cv. the .pdf above for a detailed explanation).

    With Mercury turning Rx, you have to explain in more detail please 🙂

  5. Catherine,
    Thanks for your comments. I read Deb Houlding’s article on hour ruler agreement. She did not include Lilly’s comment from CA 298 that the Question is radical or fit to be judged “when the Lord of the ascendant and hour be of one nature or Triplicity.” (I posted the original 1647 comment from Lilly at the end of the above text.)
    Lilly’s comment may be open to interpretation, but my understanding of what Lilly wrote on page 298 is that if the planet ruling the Ascendant and the planet ruling the hour belong to the same triplicity, then the chart in radical. Jupiter participates with both Saturn and Mercury in ruling Air, which indicates that Jupiter and Mercury, by their very natures, have an important function in common.
    Because Deborah does not mention this section of Lilly, I don’t know from her article how she would view this way of looking at hour ruler agreement and radicality. To me it makes perfect sense. In this chart about marriage, Jupiter and Mercury having rulership of the air triplicity in common fits well with the nature of the question. Air is warm and moist and is symbolically connected with human relationships.
    Lilly probably got his ideas about this from Bonatti, who in turn probably got his ideas from Masha’allah’s writings on intention. I think it is an error to focus on rules at the expense of the logic behind the rules. As I understand it, the point of looking for an agreement between the hour-ruler and Ascendant is that the question asked should somehow symbolically match the nature of the hour. If there is a clear symbolism linking the lord of the hour and the Ascendant or its ruler, then the chart is radical. If there is no symbolic link, then the question is off base and does not belong to that hour.

  6. Catherine says:


    Thanks for explaining your reasoning behind the hour and ASC agreement. Basically, Lilly talks about considerations before judgement on p.121 (Deborah’s example) as well as on p.298, but more concisely. Your perspective on the agreement is different from what is described in Lilly’s example, but it makes sense!

    Thanks again for taking the time to explain!

  7. Catherine,
    In thinking more about your question, I realized that Lilly took rules from Bonatti and other earlier authors who used the three triplicity rulers from Dorotheus whereas Lilly simplified the triplicity rulers to only two. If the ruler of the hour and the ruler of the Ascendant are to be of the same triplicity, they can be any of the three triplicity rulers of Dorotheus, which Lilly’s simplification often makes impossible, thus eliminating charts that would otherwise be radical by this principle.

    I wrote up my thought in a blog at https://tonylouis.wordpress.com/2017/12/03/lillys-misleading-oversimplification-of-triplicity-rulers/

  8. Pingback: Lilly’s misleading oversimplification of triplicity rulers | Anthony Louis – Astrology & Tarot Blog

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