Lilly gives the following list of directions of zodiacal signs in horary astrology (CA, p.204):
FIRE SIGNS WATER SIGNS AIR SIGNS EARTH SIGNS
Aries: East Cancer: North Libra: West Capricorn: South
Leo: E by N Scorpio: N by E Aquarius: W by N Taurus: S by E
Sagittarius: E by S Pisces: N by W Gemini: W by S Virgo: S by W
Note that the first row consists of the cardinal signs of each element; the second row, of the fixed signs of each element; and the third row of the mutable signs of each element. It is not immediately obvious why this assignment of directions is made, nor, as far as I know, does Lilly explain the logic of this table. In this post I’d like to take a stab at trying to provide the rationale.
If we consider the horoscope of the “natural zodiac” for sunrise on the first full day of spring we would find the cardinal sign Aries in the East on the Ascendant, the cardinal sign Libra in the West on the Descendant, the cardinal sign Capricorn in the South on the MC, and the cardinal sign Cancer in the North of the chart on the IC.
The sun rises in the East; and Aries, as the sign of the start of new life in springtime in the northern hemisphere, has a symbolic affinity with sunrise. The sun sets in the West; and Libra, as the sign of the start of autumn and the decline of life in the northern hemisphere above the tropic of Cancer, has a symbolic affinity with sunset. Aries and Libra are the cardinal signs whose starting points in the tropic zodiac are the Equinoxes, the days on which there are an equal number of hours of night and daylight. At the Equinox the sun rises directly in the East and sets directly in the West; hence, the association of Aries and Libra with East and West.
Cancer and Capricorn are the cardinal signs whose starting points are the Soltices of the sun which indicate the start of summer and winter, respectively, in the northern hemisphere.
Modern Western astrology has its origins in Mesopotamia, a historical region in West Asia situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system with a latitude of about 35 degrees north of the Equator. The Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn both lie to the south of Mesopotamia, with the Tropic of Cancer situated north of the Equator and the Tropic of Capricorn located south of the Equator.
The Tropic of Cancer lies at about 23.4 degrees north of the Equator but lies about 12 degrees to the south of Mesopotamia. The sun appears to stand still (sol-stice) at 0 degrees Cancer at the start of summer in the northern hemisphere (or at the start of winter in the southern hemisphere). Because the tropic of Cancer lies north of the Equator, the sign Cancer is associated with the direction North.
The Tropic of Capricorn lies at about 23.4 degrees south of the Equator and is far south of Mesopotamia. The sun appears to stand still (sol-stice) at 0 degrees Capricorn at the start of winter in the northern hemisphere (or at the start of summer in the southern hemisphere). Because the tropic of Capricorn lies south of the Equator, the sign Capricorn is associated with the direction South.
In addition, the MC lies above the horizon in the southern part of the horoscope because our astrology originated in Mesopotamia where the astrologers looked south toward the Equator when they studied the sky. The sun rose to its peak in the sky at noon due south of the stargazer’s observatories. If our astrology has originated south of the Equator, astrologers would have been looking to the north and the MC would have been north of the horizon rather than south of the horizon as is the convention in our charts.
In summary, in the northern hemisphere:
- fire signs (symbolic of spring) like Aries represent an easterly direction
- earth signs (symbolic of winter) like Capricorn represent a southerly direction
- air signs (symbolic of autumn) like Libra represent a westerly direction
- and water signs (symbolic of summer) like Cancer represent a northerly direction.
Thus far the first row of Lilly’s table (the cardinal signs of each element) makes sense. But how do we explain the two subsequent rows: row 2 of the fixed signs of each element, and row 3 of the mutable signs of each element? The following diagram illustrates the underlying logic, which is based on the primary motion of the sky caused by the daily rotation of the Earth. By primary motion the entire chart is rotating clockwise as time progresses.
Whenever a cardinal sign of any element is rising in the East, the mutable sign of that element lies above the horizon in the 9th Whole Sign house in the southern part of the sky and is moving toward the West by primary motion. Recall that by primary motion the sun rises in the East and moves toward the southern part of the chart where it culminates at the Midheaven and then continues westward until it sets in the West at the Descendant.
In addition, whenever a cardinal sign of any element is rising in the East, the fixed sign of that element lies below the horizon in the 5th Whole Sign house in the northern part of the sky and is moving toward the East by primary motion.
The cardinal sign of the element determines the primary direction indicated by the sign. When a sign is mutable the primary direction of the cardinal sign of the triplicity is modified by being either to the south or to the west of the primary direction, whichever makes sense. When a sign is fixed the primary direction of the cardinal sign of the triplicity is modified by being either to the north or to the east of the primary direction, whichever makes sense.
Let’s take an example. Suppose you wanted to know which direction is indicated by Aquarius. Because Aquarius is an air sign, the primary direction is west. Because Aquarius if fixed, when Libra rises, Aquarius lies below the horizon (in the north) and is headed east by primary motion. Thus, the direction of Aquarius must be West (air triplicity) by North or by East. West by East makes no sense because you can’t be both east and west of the meridian at the same time, so the only possibility is West by North.
You can derive the rest of the table by following the same logic (at least in the northern hemisphere).
Once while visiting a friend in Mexico I noticed the position of the sun at midday. My friend, a Mexican astrologer, pointed out that in the USA we would assume that the midday sun was due south, but in Mexico City at midday during the summer the noontime sun (and thus the MC of a horoscopic chart) was due north. This situation occurred because Mexico City lies between the Equator and the Tropic of Cancer, but the USA lies above the Tropic of Cancer.
Trying to figure out Lilly’s table from the point of view of the southern hemisphere (or from locations below the Tropic of Cancer) boggles my mind, and so I leave it to more knowledgeable readers to provide a solution. For those who, like me, are geographically challenged, this video may be of help: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iUCxGWkbS1g