The 5-degree rule in horary, part II

In a recent post I raised the question about the theoretical reasons for Lilly’s use of the 5-degree rule in horary. What prompted my question was my being told by a colleague that horary astrologers in France and Spain had abandoned that rule on the basis of  the belief that it was not justified by the basic principles upon which Western astrology is founded. My first impression was that the 5-degree rule made sense for the cusps of the angular quadrant houses because the Angles are powerful points in the chart. I couldn’t think of a good reason for extending the rule to the cusps of the succedent and and cadent houses.

Please note that in this post I am simply exploring ideas and not coming to definitive conclusions. This is a matter that puzzles me, and I am seeking to gain a better understanding of what the early founders of modern horary were thinking and how they did they work.

I posted the question in an online horary group to which I belong and it led to a fascinating and enlightening discussion about the original house systems and how they were used. The origin of the 5-degree rule may have been Ptolemy’s discussion of how to calculate the length of life of the native. To do so Ptolemy postulated an Equal House system in which the boundary of the first house is 5 degrees before (above) the Ascendant degree, and the other houses are each 30-degree segments that follow the 1st house in order around the wheel.

It is not clear whether Ptolemy intended this system only to calculate the length of life, or whether he used it for other types of delineations of a natal chart. Sahl apparently rendered Ptolemy’s idea as follows in his Judgment 44 (Dykes translation): “…a planet does not fall from the angles except after 5 degrees. For example, if the angle were in the 10th degree of Aries, every planet which is less than 5 degrees [of Aries] is cadent and not thought to be in the angle.”

Wade Caves showed that Masha’allah used the 5-degree rule for the MC and not just for the Ascendant degree by citing a chart from The Astrological History of Masha’allah by Kennedy and Pingree (1971, Harvard University Press) in which the position of Mercury is described as follows: “Mercury is in its descent in the ninth, [but] by equalization in the tenth.

By “in its descent” I assume Masha’allah means either that the planet is cadent from the 10th sign from the Ascendant or that it is falling away from the degree of the MC, which could place it in the 9th or 8th house.  By “equalization” I assume he means that by the use of the 5-degree rule Mercury which is within a couple degrees of the MC degree but falling away from the MC would be considered a 10th house planet. Here is the chart which may look strange because the 1st house is at the very top.


Presumably this chart is set for Baghdad, which would give is a MC degree of 21 Pisces, which is the 9th sign from the Ascendant. In this example, Masha’allah appears to regard the 10th house to be defined by the MC degree rather than by Whole Sign houses, and Mercury lies in the 10th quadrant house because it is within 5 degrees of the MC degree. This seems to be clear evidence that Masha’all did use the 5-degree rule for houses other than the Ascendant.

There are inconsistencies in Masha’allah’s example. In the previous post I reviewed one of Masha’allah’s horary charts from On Reception in which Venus lies at 2 Sag 30 (the 3rd degree of Sagittarius) with the 9th degree of Sagittarius rising. Thus, Venus is more than 5 degrees from the Ascendant and should be considered to be falling away or cadent from the Ascendant, but Masha’allah never mentions this. Nor does he say that Venus is a 12th house planet, though he states that Jupiter in Scorpio is in the 12th house. In this example, Masha’allah appears to be using Whole Sign houses rather than quadrant ones.

In Dykes translation of Masha’allah On Reception (page 480), Masha’allah says explicitly of the Angles: “… the second [quickest and most effective] is the angle of the Midheaven or tenth sign,” which Dykes regards as an unambiguous equating of the 10th sign with the angular Midheaven house. In this quote Masha’allah appears to be referring to Whole Sign houses rather than a quadrant system.

From my reading of Masha’allah, one of the founders of modern horary, it appears that he did use the 5-degree rule, at least for the angles, and that he used by Whole Sign and quadrant houses (probably Alcabitius).  In the charts of his that I’ve looked at in detail the Whole Sign positions are the same as the Alcabitius positions, so I haven’t yet been able to find a good example in which he uses the topical meanings of the Whole Sign sign in preference to those of the quadrant house.  Such an example would help clarify how he used each of the two systems of houses in his work.  I’m also looking for examples in which Masha’allah may have used the 5-degree rule for succedent and cadent houses but haven’t found any yet, which does not mean they are not out there.

Here is another interesting example from Masha’allah (Kennedy & Pingree, 1971).

sun 7 center

The Angles are shown for Baghdad when the Sun is in the first degree of Aries (the vernal equinox).  Masha’allah says that “…the cardines of the ascendant are perpendicular, and the planets are cadent, except the Sun. It is in the seventh, between it [Sun] and the center of the seventh there being two degrees, conferring counsel upon Saturn.”  Let’s pick apart Masha’allah’s comments:

  • The cardines of the ascendant are perpendicular.” The “cardines” are the Angles (Asc, MC, Dsc, IC).  They are perpendicular at the Equinoxes (here Sun lies at 0 Aries, the vernal equinox. Otherwise, the cardines are not at right angles in the chart and in the Equal House system, sometimes the MC falls in the 9th or the 11th rather than in the 10th.  Having a chart with perpendicular cardines is unusual and so Masha’allah makes special mention of it.
  • The planets are cadent, except the Sun.”  Here “cadent” may mean falling away from an angle by the primary motion of the heavens. He is speaking of planets and not houses when he says that all the planets are cadent (falling away from angles by primary motion) except for the Sun. In this chart, for example, in the Whole Sign system, Saturn would be an angular whole sign 4th house planet but would be cadent from the Cardine of the 4th because it is falling away by primary motion of the heavens.  In a quadrant house system, Saturn would be considered a cadent 3rd house planet in this chart, so this example could indicate Masha’allah using either type of house system.. Calling the Moon is Capricorn “cadent” is puzzling, however, because Capricorn is the 5th whole sign and the 4th Alcabitius house, neither of which is cadent from an angle or from the Ascendant (in aversion).
  • The Sun is not cadent but is rather in the angular 7th. The Descendent cardine (angle) lies at 29 Pisces 39 in Masha’allah’s diagram. The Sun lies at 0 Aries 01. There is only  22 minutes of arc between the DSC and the center of the Sun.  Because the body of the Sun measures about 34 minutes of arc in the sky, the degree of the 7th cardine touches the body of the Sun. There is a corporal conjunction of the Sun with the Descendant degree. One could say that this example supports the 5-degree rule because the center of the Sun is separated from the Descendant by 5 minutes of arc, but the body of the Sun is still in corporal contact with the Descendant degree.  Masha’allah may have been emphasizing that although the Sun looks like it is in the 8th Whole Sign house, it is still in the 7th because the body of the Sun is still in direct contact with the Descendant or Cardine of the West.
  • “There are two degrees between the Sun and the center of the 7th.” This statement makes no sense if we think he means the center of the 7th house.  The Dsc in the last degree of Pisces and the Sun in the first degree of Aries, suggesting a region whose width is two degrees. Perhaps instead of center of the 7th the text should read cardine (from the Latin cardo) of the 7th, which would make perfect sense. Or if the translator had access to Greek, it could have read the kentron of the 7th (kentron meaning cardine, angular point, pivot, stake, axis of rotation). If he were using quadrant houses, the cusp of the 7th would have been 29 Pisces 39 and the center would be at roughly 14 Aries.  (See addendum following this point.)
  • [Addendum: (26 Dec 2017).  Paul Kiernan suggested that  by “center” in this quote Masha’allah means an Angle, cardine, kentron or point of axial rotation:
    “…the cardines of the ascendant are perpendicular, and the planets are cadent, except the Sun. It is in the seventh, between it [Sun] and the center of the seventh there being two degrees…” Paul’s insight makes sense. Masha’allah is not talking about a geometric center of a house. The main theme in this quote is the “cardines of the ascendant” which are the Angles of the south (MC), of the west (Dsc) and of the north (IC). Each cardine is the center of an entire hemi-sphere as defined by the horizon and meridian axes. So when Masha’allah says “center of the seventh” he must mean the western horizon or Descendant (the center of the heavens west of the meridian), just as the center of the first is the Ascendant degree which is used to define the 1st house. Then the statement that the Sun is 2 degrees from the center makes perfect sense.]

This chart is enlightening because it shows the difficulty we have when translating ancient texts. It is important not to import our 20th century understanding of words and concepts into the original text because the words used by the translators of Masha’allah into Latin and then into English may not mean what we assume they mean with out 20th century eyes.

In the charts reviewed so far it does appear that Masha’allah did use the 5-degree rule for the Angular points and that he took into account both the Whole Sign and the quadrant houses but how he integrated the two house systems is not yet clear.

To be continued …


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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