Return of Virtue in Horary


The multiple distinctions in the medieval and Renaissance literature about various types of reception in horary astrology continue to perplex me. For example, sometimes a faster planet tries to pass its “virtue” on to a slower planet, but the slow planet does not accept the emission from the faster planet and sends it back to where it came from. Such a return of virtue, according to Bonatti, can either be beneficial or harmful to the matter inquired about. To be honest, I rarely see horary astrologers utilizing this concept in their work.

Al-Biruni notes that when a Superior slower planet is either Retrograde or Combust the Sun, it is unable to accept or grasp the virtue being offered by an Inferior faster planet and thus returns it to its source. The outcome of such a return may be favorable if reception exists between the two planets or if the faster offering planet is angular or cadent, and matters may turn out okay. But if the faster planet, which is offering its virtue, is weak, and the slower planet, which is returning the virtue, is angular or succedent, matters are not likely to go very well. If both planets are weak, the situation is rather hopeless.

Ryhan Butler gives the follow explanation: “This action of returning puts pressure on the applying planet. Suddenly realizing it has more responsibility than it initially thought, this faster planet must now manifest the thing as best as it can in its own condition. If this planet is itself well placed this should be fine, but it can be troublesome if the planet is in a difficult position.”

Bonatti gives a couple of examples with distinct outcomes to illustrate a slower heavier planet returning the virtue of a faster lighter one. Unfortunately, I was unable to reconstruct his examples in the ephemeris, so the following charts are close approximations.

Return of Virtue with a Positive Outcome

In the above chart the querent asks a horary question when his ruler Mars is angular and exalted in Capricorn in the 10th house. The ruler of the quesited, Jupiter, in angular in Aries (the domicile of Mars) in the 1st house.

The problem is that Jupiter is Combust the Sun and thus unable to hang on to the virtue being offered via the applying square from Mars. Jupiter has no choice but to send the virtue back to Mars. Because Mars in exalted and angular, he is able to make good use of the virtue which Jupiter returned to him and, with all this juicy virtue, Mars can bring the matter to perfection, even without the aid of Jupiter.

Return of Virtue with a Negative Outcome

In this second chart, the querent asked the same horary question but at a time when the Asc-ruler was cadent in the 9th house and the quesited ruler Jupiter was cadent and weak in the 12th house.

In this case Mars tries to send his virtue to Jupiter who, being Combust the Sun and cadent in the 12th house, has no choice but to send it back to Mars. “Sorry Mars, your virtue looks just fine but I don’t have the strength to hold on to it now so I’m returning it to you.”

Mars sees his virtue coming back to him from Jupiter, but Mars, being weak in the cadent 9th, just doesn’t have the strength to grab hold of that virtue, so it goes to waste in a kind of cosmic coitus interruptus, and the outcome of the horary question is unsatisfactory.

To make matters a bit more complex, Avelar and Ribeiro in their book On the Heavenly Spheres give an example of a heavier planet sending its virtue to a lighter one. On page 148 they give the example: “Venus retrograde at 8 Aries in the 6th house trines Mars at 10 Leo in the 10th house. Mars receives Venus and sends [to] her his virtue or nature. But because Venus is retrograde and cadent, she returns what he sends.” Unlike al-Biruni and Bonatti, who have the heavier planet returning virtue to the lighter one, in this case the lighter planet Venus is returning virtue to the heavier one (Mars). In addition, Venus and Mars are separating from a trine rather than applying whereas al-Biruni and Bonatti have the faster planet applying to aspect the slower one.

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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