Recently I’ve been interested in the origin and use of the 5-degree rule in horary astrology. This has led to a consideration of the use of the houses in the history of astrology. A couple decades ago Deborah Houlding published a popular and influential book about the astrological houses entitled The Houses, Temples of the Sky, which appears to be a reference to the Goold translation of Manilius (Loeb, 1977).
Upon re-reading Manilius recently, I failed to find justification for Goold using the term “temples” to describe the houses. After describing and delineating the cardines (MC, Asc, IC, Dsc) and the division of the sphere into quadrants by the horizon and meridian axes (which depend on the location or locus for which the chart is calculated), Manilius begins his discussion of what we call “houses” as follows:
“Omne quidem signum sub qualicumque figura partibus inficitur mundi;
locus imperat astris et dotes noxamque facit; vertuntur in orbem singula et accipiunt vires caeloque remittunt, vincit enim natura loci legesque ministrat finibus in propriis et praetereuntia cogit esse sui moris, …” (Astronomica 2: 856-861)
- Omne quidem signum sub qualicumque figura partibus inficitur mundi;
My translation: Every sign [of the zodiac] in whatever figure [astrological chart] is colored by (dyed with, infected by) the mundane partitions [the divisions of the sphere into quadrants by the ASC and MC];
Goold: “In any geniture any sign is affected by the sky’s division into temples.”
Manilius never mentions “temples” in this passage, instead he speaks of “partibus mundi” or mundane divisions.
- locus imperat astris et dotes noxamque facit
My translation: locus (location on earth) has dominion over the stars and renders them beneficial or harmful.
Goold: “position governs the stars, and endows them with power to benefit or harm”
[Here Manilius is referring back to his discussion of the quadrants and mundane divisions determined by the horizon and meridian of the location for which the chart is cast.]
- vertuntur in orbem singula et accipiunt vires caeloque remittunt
My translation: one at a time the signs turn in the sphere and absorb (receive, grasp, accept) the force (powers, might, influence) [of the mundane partitions], and send it back (remit, throw back) to the heavens.
Goold: “each of the signs, as it revolves, receives the influences of heaven and to heaven imparts its own.”
Goold seems to have misunderstood Manilius here. The Latin text implies that the signs receive the influence of the mundane divisions and transmit that influence back to the heavens.
- vincit enim natura loci legesque ministrat finibus in propriis et praetereuntia cogit esse sui moris
My translation: Indeed, the nature of the location on earth prevails; [the mundane partition] determines (supplies, provides) the laws (principles, conditions) within its own boundaries and impresses (forces, compels) its own character on the signs that pass over it.
Goold: “The nature of the position prevails, exercises jurisdiction within its province, and subjects to its own character the signs as they pass by.”
Goold seems to have gotten this one right, but I’m not sure he understands that the “position” referred to is the location on earth for which the chart is cast.
It is fascinating that Manilius chose the verb “to infect” to describe how the mundane divisions by horizon and meridian affect the zodiacal signs. It’s as if the mundane “houses” are like contagious organisms that infect the zodiac and alter the nature of the zodiac signs. In Latin the verb “to infect” is also used to describe how the color in a dye changes the appearance of a piece of white cloth. In other words, the zodiac signs are like the nondescript pods in the movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The mundane divisions are like the individual aliens who impart their own nature onto these unformed pods.
Goold gives the flowery and misleading translation: “In any geniture any sign is affected by the sky’s division into temples.” Manilius does not mention temples in this introductory sentence. Several lines later Goold correctly translates Manilius’s writing when he uses the phrase “portion of heaven above the occident” to describe what we now call the twelfth house.
I suspect that Goold chose the word “temple” to sound poetic and also because later in the text Manilius associates planets with some of the mundane partitions; but if we follow Goold’s logic, then only 7 “houses” are temples because only the 7 visible planets are honored, leaving 5 mundane divisions without a god to honor.
To be fair, there are occasions in the poem when Manilius does use the word “templa” as a synonym for “partibus” (parts, segments, divisions, portions, components). “Templa” can mean temples, but in the context of the poem, Manilius means a space, interval, area, portion or segment, which are all meanings of templum in Latin.
It’s interesting that “templum” in Latin was also used to mean an axis or a cardine (kardo), so that Manilius probably chose “templa” to stress the link between the “houses” and the mundane axes.
Thus, it seems clear from reading Manilius in the Latin that he did not mean to refer to the what we call “houses” as temples but rather as “templates” which determine the functional use of that portion of space. Instead, he is talking about partitions of the zodiac based on the horizon and meridian of the location (locus) for which the chart is cast. This is clearly a quadrant house system in which the mundane divisions are topical houses, and I can find no reference to Whole Sign houses in this section of Manilius’ poem, which is interesting because Manilius composed this text at the time of Christ, early in the 1st century (around 15 or 20 CE), when Jesus would have been a teenage boy. Nor have I found a reference to use of the 5-degree rule with Manilius’ system of quadrant houses, so I guess I’ll just have to keep looking to understand how the 5-degree rule came to be used in horary astrology.
An interesting corollary to Manilius’ description of the “houses” is that if the astrologer knows only two facts besides the date of birth, namely, the degree of the Ascendant and the location on earth for which the chart is cast, then the entire 12-house quadrant system can be calculated. This may explain why in the early Hellenistic literature so many of horoscopes list only the Horoskopos (ascending degree) and omit mention of the MC degree.
Manilius states that the mundane segments of the sky, resulting from the division into quadrants by the meridian and horizon, impress their influence onto the signs of the zodiac which cross over them. It is possible that Manilius views the zodiac with its twelve 30-degree signs as a kind of generic or universal house system, which then gets particularized by its connection with the mundane divisions of the sky around the place of birth. From Manilius’ text it is not possible to determine whether or not he used whole signs as houses.
It is possible that I have misunderstood Manilius. His Latin I find rather difficult, and my own Latin is rusty. In addition, he is writing as a poet and using words in quite a terse and evocative manner, as poets do. Also, I do not mean to disparage Goold. He did an overall masterful job with a difficult text.