Recently during a discussion with a group of astrologers someone asked how to interpret the interaction of the divisor and the participating planet in an annual forecast. The study of divisors and participants is an ancient predictive technique which Dorotheus extensively reviews in his 1st century text Carmen Astrologicum.
The basic idea is straightforward. After the moment of birth, the sky continues in its apparent 24-hour rotation around the Earth — the so-called primary motion of the heavens around the Earth in the geocentric model. This clockwise motion carries the signs of the zodiac that are below the horizon up to the eastern horizon where they cross the Ascendant and then continue to rise toward the Midheaven, where they will culminate in their daily journey around the Earth.
Each zodiac sign is divided into 5 unequal “terms” or “bounds” or “divisions”. As each term rises to the eastern horizon by primary motion, the planet ruling that term (division of a sign into 5 parts) becomes a time lord (chronocrator) which governs the period of the native’s life during which that planet’s term (division) is passing over the eastern horizon. The planet ruling the term crossing the Ascendant by primary motion at a given moment is called the “divisor” because it is the planet that rules the “division” (term) which is on the eastern horizon at the time. Because the measure of time is about 1 degree crossing the MC in Right Ascension (along the Equator) equivalent to one year of life, a particular planet can remain the divisor (time lord of the term of the primary directed Ascendant) for several years.
In addition to the planet which rules the term (bound, division) of the primary directed Ascendant, other planets in the chart may be projecting their rays into that term. Planets beholding the term of the Ascendant by major aspect are considered partners of the divisor and are often called participants or participating planets. Abu Ma’shar (9th century CE) defined the participant as the planet that most recently connected with the Ascendant by major aspect or bodily conjunction.
Dorotheus discusses an example of a chart of a man born in October of 44 CE. He tells us the the chart has 6 of Scorpio rising and describes the positions of the planets. Based on Dortheus text, I have reconstructed a close approximation to the chart, using a sidereal zodiac for the 1st century CE. The birth data I used are 02 October 0044 CE, 8:31 AM LMT, Sidon, Lebanon, Djwhal Khul ayanamsa. Here is the chart.
Let’s focus on Dorotheus’ delineation of this chart when by primary direction the term of Saturn at the end of the rising sign Scorpio begins to cross the Ascendant. This occurs when the native is 22 years old. Here is the birth chart directed to age 22 at Ptolemy’s rate of 1 degree of R.A. across the MC = one year of life:
As the native turns 22 years old, the term of Saturn at the end of Scorpio crosses the Ascendant where it will remain for the next 7 years. (It will take 7 degrees of Right Ascension passing over the MC for the directed Ascendant to compete its passage through the term of Saturn, which is 6 degrees in length along the ecliptic; Scorpio is a sign of long ascension.) Here is Dorotheus’ delineation of what the native can expect during this 7-year period (quoted from Pingree’s translation, 1976, p.244; comments in brackets are mine):
“Then the prorogation [primary directed Ascendant] comes to [term of] Saturn while Venus casts rays to [aspects] the 27th degree of Scorpio from quartile [square], so that Saturn and Venus govern this prorogation together.
Saturn indicates his slowness in work and disease and distance from his land and grief and obstruction and difficulty, and this is worse because Mars is elevated over Saturn.
If it were not that Jupiter aspects Saturn it would be worse.
Because of the place of Saturn his mother will die in this period, but he will acquire goods because Saturn indicates these, and he will marry a wife with a dowry, and [a child] will be born to him who will live a short while and die in the third year; his enjoyment of women and children will be from Venus, but his lament and the death of his child will be from Saturn.”
Let’s go through this comment by Dorotheus step-by-step:
Because the terms of Saturn at the end of Scorpio have risen by primary motion to the eastern horizon, Saturn is the “divisor” for the next 7 years.
Because Venus casts its square aspect from 27 Leo into 27 Scorpio, which is in the terms of Saturn, Venus becomes the participating planet and will act together with Saturn to govern this period. It is noteworthy that the term of Saturn begins at 24 Scorpio, yet Dorotheus regards Venus as the participant even though the primary directed Asc has not yet reached the degree of the square of Venus. Apparently, for Dortheus, the fact that Venus is casting an aspect into the term of Saturn at the moment when the directed Asc enters the term of Saturn is sufficient for Venus to begin to participate with Saturn in governing this period of the native’s life.
[Haly Aben Ragel makes a similar comment in Book 6 of his Libro Conplido (translated into Castillian in 1254): “Advierte que todo planeta que se presente en su partición y proyecta sus aspectos hacia el térmno en que está en el origen, significa en ese año los presagios propios del planeta.”]
As divisor (ruler of this term), Saturn, through its general significations, portends slowness in his work, possible illness, loneliness or isolation from being far from home, grief, delays and other difficulties during this 7-year period. These troublesome significations of Saturn are magnified by the fact that Mars casts a superior square to Saturn. On the other hand, Jupiter lends a somewhat protective influence by beholding Saturn via a whole-sign opposition aspect. Saturn without Jupiter’s benefic gaze would be even more malefic.
Because Saturn rules the 4th Whole Sign from the Ascendant in the natal chart (the 4th ‘place’ or topos, signifying the parents), his mother may die during this period.
Because Saturn occupies the natal 2nd Whole Sign house, he will acquire goods.
Because Venus rules the natal 7th Whole Sign (the wife) and Venus casts her aspect into 27 Scorpio, the directed Asc at 24 Scorpio will arrive at 27 Scorpio in about 3 years, at which time the native is likely to marry and have a child (signified by the benefic nature of Venus). The wife will bring with her a dowry (Jupiter in Gemini, the 2nd sign from Taurus, the wife). That she will have a child may be indicated by Jupiter, ruled of the 5th Whole Sign from the Asc, being in the wife’s 2nd house (radical 8th).
Unfortunately about 3 years after the directed Asc conjoins the ray of Venus at 27 Leo, it moves into the sign of Sagittarius, specifically into the first term of Sagittarius, ruled by Jupiter (5th Whole Sign = children; Jupiter is also a general signifier of progeny), which the directed Asc encounters by the superior square ray from of (a killing planet) and the body of Saturn (a symbol of loss and death).
In summary, the directed Ascendant is the significator. As it passes through the term of Saturn (the divisor), the tone of the period and the types of experiences are symbolized by the general nature of Saturn and by its specific significations by house placement and rulership in the chart. As the significator makes contact with the participating planet (Venus in this case), events of the general nature of Venus tend to occur, as well as events specifically related to the house placement and rulership of Venus (ruler of the 7th natally).
Martin Gansten in his book Annual Predictive Techniques (2020, pp.27-29) notes that the medieval Arabic authors “give priority to the terms currently occupied by the significator” (the directed Asc in this example), attaching major importance to planets connected to the term (division) by bodily conjunction or major aspect. He agrees with Dorotheus that “the influence of a planet may begin before its [primary] direction perfects, provided that it (or its aspect point) in in the terms being activated.” After reviewing several examples from the literature, Gansten also notes that the combination of two planets as divisor and participant is interpreted in a similar manner, regardless of which is divisor and which is participant.
Benjamin Dykes in his translation of Abu Ma’shar On the Revolutions of the Years of Nativities (2019) comments that the divisor “sets the tone and parameters, it says what the period is fundamentally like; it has more to do with the native himself; it shows how things are fundamentally resolved, even if the partner [participating planet] alters it somewhat or grants some other kind of actions” (p.66). In Dykes’ view, the participant modifies the general significations of the divisor, helps to explain why things happen as they do during the period of this division, and indicates specific people and types of events which may occur related to the themes associated with the divisor.
Upon further reflection, one might argue that the divisor and participant form a type of dasha system in which the divisor acts much like a mahadasha lord and the participant, like the ruler of a bhukti.
Addendum (4 Nov 2021):
Георгий Мирской left the following valuable and informative comments about the history and use of the divisor and participant, so I have included them here as an addendum.
Thanks, very interesting. It seems that “the divisor and participant” approach is based on Dorotheus and later may be popularized by Abu Mashar.
There is also another approach which was described by anonymous Byzantian astrologer in 10th century (The Horoscope of Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus). He calls “the participant” (aspecting planet) as “general time-ruler and “the divisor” (bound-ruler) as “joint domicile-master of the time-rulership”. I think it is based on Ptolemy IV.10 because the astrologer uses the directions of Asc, Sun, Moon, the Lot of Fortune and MC for topics described by Ptolemy in IV.10.
Also Rhetorius (Ch.15) or someone else uses the primary directions on charts where “the participants” (aspecting planet to “hyleg”) are used as a general time-rulers of the life until the death (“death direction”). It is in CCAG 8.1 p.230-237. Partly translated on English in Greek Horoscopes by Neugebauer and Van Hoesen (L488, L401 and L516). This text is full of technical details so only for deeply motivated astrologers )