The Hour Lord (& Pitted Degrees) in Horary Astrology

Horary astrology seeks to answer a question based on the moment that a “querent” or inquirer asks a question of the astrologer. In the history of horary astrology there has been a longstanding issue of whether the querent in being sincere in asking the question. For example in Sri Neelakanta’s 16th century Prasna Tantra, he writes (B.V. Raman translation):

“1. Whether the person is sincere or not in putting the question should first be ascertained on the strength of the ascendant. The astrologer should then study the good and bad aspects of the query and his prediction will be duly inspired.

2-4. The querist’s intention will not be honest if (a) the Moon is in the ascendant, Saturn is in a quadrant and Mercury is combust; (b) Mars and Mercury aspect the Moon in the ascendant; (c) a malefic joins the ascendant; (d) Jupiter or Mercury cast an inimical glance on the lord of the 7th. His intention will be sincere if (a) a benefic planet joins the ascendant; (b) if Mars or the full Moon and Jupiter aspect the ascendant; and (c) Jupiter or Mercury throws a friendly aspect on the lord of the seventh.”

In Western texts we read how Bonatti warns astrologers to beware of cases in which “the Querent comes only to try him, or put a trick upon him.” To identify such cases Bonatti looked at whether the Ascendant degree was at the end of one sign or at the beginning of another, which indicated to Bonatti that the Querent did not ask seriously or had come to try him.

Yet another method Bonatti used to identify whether the chart was “radical” was to study the planetary lord of the hour in which he received the question: “when the Lord of the Ascendant and the Lord of the Hour are not the same [planet], nor of the same Triplicity [Fire, Air, Earth, Water], or be not of the same Complexion with the Ascendant … then the question is not Radical, as I have frequently found by experience.”

The 17th century astrologer William Lilly adopted Bonatti’s advice as we can see in the following quotes from Christian Astrology:

“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.”

“As for example: let the lord of the hour be Mars, let the sign of Scorpio, Cancer
or Pisces ascend, this question is then radical, because Mars is lord of the hour,
and of the watery triplicity, or of those signs Cancer, Scorpio or Pisces.”

“See the Question be radicall, or fit to be judged; which is, when the Lord of the Ascendant and hour be of one nature or Triplicity.”

According to Ernst Wilhelm in a lecture on Indian horary (prasna), the Lord of the Hour reveals much about why the querent is asking the question at that specific time as well as the outcome the querent is hoping for in the matter asked about, that is, the condition of the Hour Lord can also indicate the potential for (or the limit to) the success regarding the matter. The better the condition of the lord of the hour, the more likely the querent will achieve what he or she wishes for in the matter of the question. An hour lord in bad condition suggests that the outcome will fall short of what the querent hopes to achieve. The location of the hour lord in the chart and the houses that it rules will be related to the focus of the question.

Apparently, in the classic Indian technique, the hour lord is not calculated for the location of the astrologer or querent but instead is calculated with reference to a fixed meridian so that the same hour lord applies worldwide at a given moment regardless of location. In traditional Indian texts the hour lord was calculated with reference to the ancient Indian prime meridian (obviously not the Greenwich meridian), which passed through Ujjain, the largest city in the Ujjain district of the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. The city of Ujjain has coordinates 23° N 10′ 56.60″75° E 46′ 35.15″. For further information about Ujjain, there is a good explanation at which states the following:

“In 1884, Greenwich became universally accepted as the prime meridian, the international standard for 0° longitude from where all world time is calculated. Before that, Ujjain was considered the central meridian for time in India. Even today, wherever you may be born, when a panchang or horoscope as per the Hindu almanac is drawn up, it is always based on Ujjain time (roughly 29 minutes behind IST).”

To me the ancient Indian practice of determining a fixed or universal lord of the hour based on an old prime meridian regardless of location makes little sense because the hour lord of the location reflects the time of day at that location. Using one hour lord for any given moment throughout the world does not reflect the individuality or specificity of each horary question.

In other words, what crosses our mind at various hours of the day reflects the nature of the planet that rules that hour, and the planetary hour lord varies with our location on Earth. If the hour lord were the same throughout the globe at any given moment, then the entire human population would be experiencing the same planet as an hour lord at the same moment. Instead what appears more likely is that the hour lord at a given location is reflected in the thinking of the humans who reside at that location.

The great value in the Indian approach is that, unlike Bonatti and Lilly who focus narrowly on the hour lord to determine whether the chart is radical, the Indian astrologer uses the hour lord in horary as part of the overall interpretation of the horary chart and as an indicator of its likely outcome. An example might help to clarify this point.

Consider the following horary question. Over the summer I was invited to participate in an online discussion with some other astrologers but it was unclear whether an important member of the group would be able to make it for reasons outside his control (a hurricane was threatening to make landfall in his area). In order to plan my schedule and set aside the time, I wanted to know whether the online discussion would take place at the suggested time, so I asked the horary question of whether the online meeting would take place as planned. Here is the chart in the tropical zodiac with Alcabitius houses. It is a Mercury day during a Moon hour (the 9th hour of the day). I will study the Moon’s condition as lord of the hour as an indicator of the success of the outcome.


With Sagittarius rising, I am signified by Jupiter in Sagittarius in the 12th house, which signaled that the meeting might not take place. This interpretation was further reinforced by Retrograde Saturn in the 1st house conjunct Ketu and Retrograde Pluto. Lilly noted that matters hardly ever proceed as the querent desires when Retrograde Saturn is rising in the 1st house.

It is a Mercury day, which seems fitting because Mercury rules the 7th (the people I am negotiating with about the meeting) and conjoins the cusp of the 9th (people at a distance, dissemination of information). The hour lord Moon is not especially favorable because she both rules the 8th house cusp and occupies the unfortunate quadrant 8th house. The Moon happens to fall in the 9th place from the Ascendant, which has to do with communication at a distance, so that the symbolism of 8th house death and 9th house long-distance contacts comes together in this combination of lunar placements. Here is a table of dignities for this chart.


We see in the table that the hour lord Moon lacks any essential dignity (it’s peregrine) that might have offset its rulership and occupation of the unfortunate 8th house. In addition, the Moon is fairly close to the Sun, so it is “dark” and hardly visible and will reach New Moon stage very shortly. Thus, the Moon is a functional malefic in this chart, and its role as hour ruler indicates that the querent will be disappointed in the outcome. I wanted the online discussion to take place as planned, but the unfavorable condition of the hour lord Moon suggests that I will be disappointed in the matter I am asking about.

Mercury, the other person (lord of 7th), is also peregrine and is essential cadent in this chart, so that Mercury has no dignity and little power to act to bring about a favorable result.

A quick glance might suggest that the meeting will take place because the Moon is about to trine Jupiter without interference. The downside is that the Moon is peregrine and in the unfortunate 8th, and Jupiter is in the unfortunate 12th. In addition, the only reception between Jupiter and the Moon is by Face, the weakest essential dignity which Lilly likens to “a man ready to be turned out of doors, having much ado to maintain himself in credit and reputation: and in Genealogies it represents a Family at the last gasp, even as good as quite decayed, barely able to support it self.”

Being “at the last gasp” hardly gave me confidence that the meeting would take place, so I concluded that it would be cancelled and would need to be rescheduled for a later date, which was the actual outcome.

Addendum (8 Oct 2019): Jupiter in a pit, well or ditch.

Maria’s comment below reminded me that I had not mentioned considering Jupiter’s degree placement within Sagittarius in my delineation. The “pitted” degrees or “wells” in Sagittarius are the 7th, 12th, 15, 24th, 27th and 30th. The 15th degree spans 14 – 15 degrees of Sagittarius where Jupiter lies. In this chart Jupiter is not only in the unfortunate 12th house but he has also fallen down a well and can’t get out without assistance. Here is my response to Maria:

“One factor that I did not mention in the post is that Jupiter at 14 Sag 57 is in a “pitted” degree (CA 116) so that it’s ability to act as a benefic is limited. I was thinking about pitted degrees because I was recently reviewing some charts by Masha’Allah and Abu Ma’Shar (who calls them “wells” in the Dykes translation). Because Jupiter was my significator, its placement in the 12th (sorrow, disappointment) and having fallen into a “pit” or “well” suggested a negative outcome.”

In CA 118 Lilly says that the Moon, the Asc degree or the ruler of the Asc in a pitted degree is like “as a man cast into a Ditch [who] does not easily get out without help, so no more can this querent in the case he is without assistance.” In other words, even though Jupiter is benefic, there is little or nothing he can do to bring about a favorable outcome in this instance. It all depends on the other person (Mercury) who is peregrine, combust the Sun and in the 8th house, so the outcome seems doubtful.

Looking at the chart now, I realize that the Ascendant degree at 6 Sag 20 is also in a pit or a well.  The 7th degree of Sagittarius from 6 – 7 degrees of that sign is a pit. Thus, both the Ascendant degree and the ruler of the Ascendant have fallen down a well and can’t do much to affect the outcome without outside assistance.




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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4 Responses to The Hour Lord (& Pitted Degrees) in Horary Astrology

  1. Hi Tony, I was really confused by this chart example. Isn’t the fact that the significators perfect by trine enough argument that the event will take place? Perhaps with delays and difficulties since the planets are accidentally weak, but Jupiter has essential dignity. And doesn’t Lilly say that no reception is needed in a trine?

    Can the lord hour be of more importance than the significators themselves? My answer to this chart would have been positive, which worries me! In the chart I’m attaching and that we saw together last year, my answer had been yes, and it was a no, now I’m thinking that maybe the fact that the Lord of the Hour is approaching the SN could mean that the answer was negative


  2. Maria,
    My first impression was that the answer would be positive because of Moon trine Jupiter. But then I noticed that Moon was in the 8th without dignity and was approaching a New Moon (ending before a new beginning) and that Jupiter was in the 12th. The aspect from 8 to 12 made me think there would be a problem. Also a peregrine Mercury (the other person wandering aimlessly) in the 8th was approaching a conjunction with Sun and Mars. Finally, the Saturn Rx rising in the 1st convinced me that the meeting would not take place as planned because Saturn Rx in the 1st almost always indicates a major delay or an undesired outcome. The fact that the hour lord had no dignity and ruled the 8th simply confirmed that I would be disappointed with the outcome. One factor that I did not mention in the post is that Jupiter at 14 Sag 57 is in a “pitted” degree (CA 116) so it’s ability to act as a benefic is limited. I was thinking about pitted degrees because I was recently reviewing some charts by Masha’Allah and Abu Ma’Shar (who calls them “wells” in Dykes translation). Because Jupiter was my significator, its placement in the 12th (sorrow, disappointment) having fallen into a “pit” or “well” suggested a negative outcome.

  3. Hi Tony, thanks for you reply. This is the first time I encounter pitted degrees, to tell you the truth.

  4. daritarose says:

    This seems to be a really important thing to understand, led me to looking it up in general, so thanks!

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