On the distribution of propitious and impropitious times

As mentioned in the two previous posts, recently I came across the word “hebdómada” in a Spanish-language blog about predictive astrology. Not knowing what it meant, I googled the word and found the following definition:

Definition of hebdomad
1 : a group of seven.
2 : a period of seven days : week.

And regarding its etymology:
1540s, “the number seven;” c. 1600, “a week;” from Latin hebdomad-, stem of hebdomas “seven, the seventh day; a week,” from Greek hebdomas “the number seven; a period of seven (days),” from hepta “seven” (from PIE *septm; see seven) + -mos, suffix used to form ordinal numbers, cognate with Latin -mus.

Over the centuries, astrologers have proposed various ways to distribute the days of the year among the seven traditional planets.

Google also led me to a reference by astrologer Fernando Ruiz Guarin, who explained that the technique of hebdomads (hebdómadas) was a method of distributing the solar return year among the traditional seven visible planets to identify periods when each planet would be active as a time-lord for a set of days during the year. It was also possible to divide the larger hebdomads into seven sub-hebdomads to further pinpoint likely dates of manifestation of the significations of each planet, for good or evil. Each planet was assigned a certain number of days during the year, and the sequence apparently began with the ruler of the solar return ascendant and presumably proceeded in the well-known Chaldean order from the slowest planet (Saturn) to the fastest (the Moon).

Curious about the origin of this technique, I contacted Fernando who told me that the method comes from a 16th century book about solar revolutions by Italian astrologer Junctinus of Florence. Never having read that book, I searched for it online and was able to download a digital copy of the original text, written in Latin. Unfortunately, there does not appear to be a translation of this text into English, so I browsed the Latin text until I found the chapter entitled “De nativitatum. Annorum per dies distributio” and did my best to translate it into English. (I studied Latin some 60 years ago as a high school student and have only occasionally used it since.) Not having read other parts of Junctinus’ book, I did not have a feel for the context of the material or a sense of the author’s style of writing and use of vocabulary in Latin. Nonetheless, I persisted and came up with the following understanding, based on my rusty Latin:

Junctinus begins the chapter by stating that the days of a year can be divided among the seven individual planets, from which will arise all the good and bad things that will happen during the year, depending on the condition and nature of the planet in charge of that certain period of days. Next, Junctinus wrote a sentence whose meaning initially puzzled me: “Hospitator ergo siue dominus signi ad quod devoluta fuerit progressio ab horoscopo primos sibi vendicat dies.” I understood this to mean that the host planet (hospitator, the planet that hosts the period of days in question), that is, the lord of the sign (dominus signi), to which (ad quod) the progression from the Ascendant (progressio ab horoscopo) had rolled down (devoluta fuerit, or handed over), claimed for itself the first days. I wasn’t sure if Junctinus was referring to the Asc of the solar return or to the Asc of the annually profected chart, as being the host of the first of the seven periods of days of the year.

Junctinus’ s use of the word “devoluta” from a verb meaning “to roll down,” like a ball that rolls down a hill, or to “hand over,” as in handing over the baton in a relay race, suggested that he had profections in mind, as the way in which a star (stella) hosts a period of days of the year as the governance of the year “rolls down” or “is handed over” from the Ascendant of one year to the next. The English word “devolution” dervies from the Latin “devolutus” and means the legal or official transfer of property from one owner to another, so it does seem that Junctinus is describing profection and attributing his understanding to the text by Maternus.

Junctinus continues, “poft ipsum caeteri prout sunt singuli in natalis themate constitute, inquit Firmicus cap.19.1ib.2..”, that is, “and after him [after the host, or hopitator], the other planets, as they are individually placed in the natal chart (in natalis themate), states Firmicus in ch.19. lib.2.” 

In other words, Junctinus is attributing this 16th century method to the 4th century author Firmicus Maternus, so the answer to whether “hospitator” was referring the the solar return ascendant or the profected ascendant could be found in Maternus. What was clear was that, according to Junctinus, the distribution of the days of the year among the seven planets was done in the order in which they appeared in the birth chart (which is the same order they would follow in the profected chart), and not in classic Chaldean order.

My next step was to read the relevant 4th century chapter in Firmicus Maternus, which Junctinus was referencing in his 16th century text. Fortunately, this time I had a copy of Maternus in Latin and looked up the chapter which Junctinus was quoting from. It is reproduced here, under the titles “De distributione temporum” (on the distribution of time) and “De anni divisione” (on the division of the year):

I then proceeded to translate Maternus’ text into English, paying particular attention to whether he was discussing the profected chart or the solar return chart. Here is my translation, probably not very polished because it was my first time through the Latin text. This passage occurs in the part of Book II in which Maternus is discussing how to determine the potential lifespan of the native and he is referencing the birth chart for this technique. My own comments about Maternus’ text appear in brackets [ ]:

XXVII ON THE DISTRIBUTION OF TIME [during the lifespan of the native]

We shall briefly demonstrate the distribution of time. The Sun gets 19 months; the Moon, 25 months; Saturn, 30 months; Jupiter, 12 months; Mars, 15 months; Venus, 8 months; and Mercury, 20 months. [These are the standard “minor years” of the planets, as found in Vettius Valens and other classic texts.]

We will show what this distribution of time means in the books about forecasting by the stars, also what a star [planet] ordains when it takes over the time from another; for everything that befalls us, good or evil, we obtain by reason of the times. Even the end of life will be found in this way and also the nature of the entire nativity, and everything that the order of the planets decrees. [Here Maternus clearly appears to be discussing time lords and profections, in which one planet takes over a period of time from another planet.]

Moreover, we find the year with the easiest of reasoning; for it [the year] always takes its beginning from the horoscope [rising sign], and the first year will be the one in which the ascendant is located, the second [year] in the second sign, the third [year] in the third [sign], and so on for the others in order. Some do the same in a diurnal chart, [starting ]from the Sun, and at night [starting] from the Moon; and this makes sense. [Again, Maternus is clearly discussing profections, not solar returns. This text appears in the section about determining the length of life, and Maternus is explaining how do determine which planet rules the particular year of life in question. Thus, he says that the ‘horoscope’, meaning the ascending sign, is paired with the first year of life, the sign that follows the ascendant begins the 2nd year of life, the 3rd sign begins the 3rd year of life, and so on for the life of the native. After explaining how to find the Lord of the Year by the method of annual profections, he immediately moves on to discuss how to divide the year among the seven planets. He clearly has in mind the annually profected chart when he starts to discuss the “division of the year.”]


 The days of the entire year are also divided among the individual planets; and the extent by which they are divided, and from whence they begin, I shall take care to show … when illness, debility, profit or loss,  joy, or sorrow may occur. For when benefic planets host the days, we are freed from all evil; when malefic [planets host the days], then we are struck by sudden misfortune.

Therefore, in whichever sign the beginning of the year is located, the ruler of that sign receives the first days [of the year], and after him come the others, as they are individually situated. [Two paragraphs previously, Maternus had told us that the beginning of the year is related to the annual profection; now he is saying that the lord or the profected ascendant is the time-lord for the first division of the year into seven parts.]

And so, I shall also indicate the number of days allotted to each planet: the Sun, 53 days; the Moon, 71; Saturn, 85; Jupiter, 30; Mars, 42; Venus, 23; Mercury, 57. [There is clearly an error in these figures given because their total adds up to only 361 days, but there are 365 days in a civil year. Checking Valens, we find that the error lies in the number of days assigned to Jupiter, which should be 34 and not 30. This mistake in Maternus is probably the result of a copyist error between the 2nd (Valens) and 4th (Maternus) centuries. By the time these figures got to Junctinus in the 16th century (some twelve centuries later), two more copyist errors had occurred (at a rate of about one copyist error every 500 years, like mutations to the DNA of traditional astrology). The correct figures for the number of days of a 365-day year allotted to each planet are given by Valens in detail with their theoretical justification and are as follows (rounded to whole numbers in various ancient texts): the Sun, 53 days; the Moon, 71; Saturn, 85; Jupiter, 34; Mars, 42; Venus, 23; Mercury, 57. The total of these seven periods adds up to the 365 days of the civil year. Astrologers, who have been using the values given by Junctinus, have been working in error with the method. Junctinus erroneously gives 30 days to Jupiter, which he copied from Maternus, 33 days to Venus (instead of 23), and 36 days to Mars (instead of 42). At the end of this blog I have posted a list of the most accurate values, based on the theoretical reasoning of Valens.] Back to my translation of Maternus:

In this span of days, we can find everything that happens to us, after carefully having examined the nature of the sign and the place [house, topos]; for [if a planet is] well situated, the allotted time, months or days, is favorable, and it denotes all good things. But if a malefic planet hosts the time, months or days, and [that planet] is badly situated, it denotes misfortune, according to the quality of its location [in the chart].

Thus, by studying everything with prudent inquiry, one can explain most accurately the entire substance of the geniture.

END of my translation of Maternus.

Returning to Junctinus, he states that he disagrees with Maternus about the manner of dividing the year among the seven planets. Instead, Junctinus says that he would start the sequence with the Lord of the Year (domino anni, the ruler of the profected ascendant) but he would distribute the remaining six periods of days among the remaining six planets in the order in which the planets appear in the chart of the annual revolution (in annuae conversionis schemate, literally “in the figure of the annual rotation”). His disagreement with Maternus appears to be about how to order the planets that follow the Lord of the Year in distributing the days of the year among the seven planets.

In other words, Junctinus would divide the year into seven parts, each part hosted by a planet which has an allotted number of days based on its minor years. The first of the seven parts of the would be hosted by the Lord of the Year. The next planet to host a period of days would be the planet that comes after the Lord of the year in zodiacal order in the Solar Return, and not in the profected chart, as Maternus suggested (and not in Chaldean order, as Abu Ma’shar did). And so on with the remaining planets, which would host periods of days according to their sequence in zodiacal order in the solar return, after the Lord of the Year.

The following slide shows what appear to be copyist errors in the number of days assigned to each planet as Valens’ original text traveled from the 2nd to the 4th to the 16th century. Valens’ method was to project the minor years of the planets proportionately onto the 365 days of the civil year. This would involve multiplying the minor years of each planet by 2.83, or alternatively by doing the addition in Valens’ formula, that is, adding twice the value of the minor years, plus half the value of the minor years, plus one-third the value of the minor years, to obtain a total number of days allotted to the planet in a one-year period:

It turns out that Abu Ma’shar had his own method of distributing the days of the solar year among the seven planets. He simply divided the year into seven equal parts of 52.18 days, and he assigned the first set of 52.18 days to the ruler of the solar return ascendant. The remaining planets were then assigned their sets of 52.18 days in Chaldean order from Saturn to the Moon, slowest to fastest (i.e., to the planet “below it in the circle”.) Abu Ma’shar further subdivided the seven divisions of the year, also in Chaldean order starting with the planet that ruled the sub-period, and each sub-period was one-seventh of 52.18 days in duration. This system is most properly called the hebdomad system because it treats the entire years as if it were a great week consisting of seven great weekdays, each 52.18 days long. (In addition, the duration of each of the 7 periods of the year is 52.18 days, which is close to 49 days, the product of 7 x 7.)

In summary, the astrological literature contains several variations of a method of distributing the year among the seven visible planets, which then act as time-lords of those seven periods. The variables include:

1) the length of the year: solar year, civil year, sidereal year, etc.
2) whether to use the minor years of the planets to proportionately assign a number of days to each planet, as Valens proposed, or to use a uniform division independent of the minor years.
3) whether to divide the year into equal segments of 52.18 days each, as Abu Ma’shar proposed.
4) whether to begin the sequence of planets form the Lord of the Year (profected ascendant) as Maternus does, or from the ruler of the solar return ascendant as Abu Ma’shar and Junctinus do.
5) whether to continue to use values for the number of days distributed to each planet based on the copyist errors found in Maternus and Junctincus, or to use the original correct values, as explained by Vettius Valens.

The following table summaries my current understand of the several of the ways the year has been distributed among the seven planets in the astrological literature. Valens apparently applied this technique to the birth chart.

Author Ruler of first set of days of the yearSequence of PlanetsManner of Division of the Year
Valens (original values with theoretical justification in minor years) Profected Asc Lord of the YearOrder of planets in the birth chart?Proportionate to minor years of the planets
Maternus (copyist error in value for Jupiter) Profected Asc Lord of the YearAs in birth chartProportionate to minor years of the planets
Abu Ma’shar Solar Return Asc LordChaldean orderSeven equal segments of 52.18 days
Junctinus (copyist errors in values for Jupiter, Mars, Venus) Profected Asc Lord of the YearAs in the Solar ReturnProportionate to minor years of the planets
Volguine (he repeated the errors in Junctinus) Solar Return Asc LordChaldean orderProportionate to minor years of the planets
Suggested Alternative (Valens’ original values) Profected Asc Lord of the YearAs in the Solar ReturnProportionate to minor years of the planets

My own bias is the following: to distribute the year according to the number of days calculated according to the theoretical ideas of Valens, based on the minor years of the planets, because these minor years have played such an important role in predictive astrology for more than two millennia; to calculate the number of days by multiplying the minor years of each planet by 365.2422 and dividing by 129 (the total number of minor years of the 7 planets); in other words, the number of minor years times 2.8312 will give the number of days assigned to that planet in a solar year, from one solar return to the next; to begin the sequence from the Lord of the Year, which has traditionally been the starting point for assessing the revolutions of the years of nativities; but to then follow the sequence of planets after the Lord of the Year, according to how they appear in the solar revolution, because the solar return is specific and individualized to the year in question. I would then sub-divide these seven-day periods in a similar manner, with the first planet being the ruler of the larger period, and the order of planets being the same as the order in the solar return.

I know of no computer program which follows the procedure just described, so I have been using an Excel spreadsheet to calculate the seven divisions of the year and their seven sub-divisions, beginning with the Lord of the Year, and following the sequence of planets after the Lord of the Year as they appear in the solar return. (See my previous post for a case example.)

The following table shows the proportionate values of the number of days allotted to each planet, based on the planet’s minor years. Valens used an arithmetic formula to derives the values in his text. For a given planet, he added twice its minor years to half its minor years and to a third of its minor years to approximate the proportion 365.24 / 129 = 2.8312. The year being divided is the solar year which extends from one solar return to the next.

Now that we have computers and Excel spreadsheets, if I were programming this technique of distributing days of the solar return year over the seven visible planets, according to their minor years, I would use the central column of figures, which totals to 365.242 days in the year. The values in Valens’ Anthology add up to 365.5 days in a year, so he is about 6 hours off, which in practice hardly matters with this technique.

An open question: Even though Vettitus Valens appears to have originated this method of distributing the year among the seven planets, I’m not sure how he used it in practice. Did he apply it annually only to profected chart, or also to the solar return? Looking at how Curtis Manwaring programmed Valens’ annual divisions, it appears that he began with the Lord of the Year, then listed the sequence of non-luminary planets after the Lord of the Year as they appear in the birth chart, and then ended the sequence with the Moon and finally the Sun.


Let me end with a nerdy and irrelevant aside:  The Celestial Hebdomad, the archons who make up the ruling council of Mount Celestia, appears in Dungeons & Dragons. Abu Ma’shar was talking about a “celestial hebdomad” of a different kind.

Addendum: a Case Example

A colleague who was trying to understand this technique asked me to provide a case example. I somewhat arbitrarily chose Frida Kahlo, with the idea that her accident at age 18 should should up if this technique has any validity. Frida was born in July of 1907 and had a severe bus accident on 17 September 1925. Let’s start with her natal chart.


Frida was born with Leo rising, making the Sun ruler of her natal Ascendant. The order of planets around the zodiac wheel, starting the the Asc-ruler Sun in her natal chart, is Sun, Jupiter, Mercury, Mars, Saturn, Moon, and finally Venus. The same order of planets would be present in any of her profected charts. At age 18, she was in an Aquarius annual profection year, so Saturn was her Lord of the Year at the time of her accident was Saturn, and the order of planets, starting from the Profected Asc ruler, would have been Saturn, Moon, Venus, Sun, Jupiter, Mercury, Mars.

Frida’s solar return in 1925 took place on July 5. With Saturn as the Lord of the Year, her first seven-part division of the year would have belonged to Saturn, who is allotted 85 days, which means that the Saturn seven-part division of the year ran for 85 days from July 5 until September 28, 1925. Her accident took place on September 17, some 11 days prior to the end of the Saturn period.

To find which planet ruled the sub-period in which September 17 falls, we need to apportion the 85 days of Saturn into seven segments, proportional to the Minor Years of the planets involved. The total number of minor years adds up to 129, so we calculate what percent of 129 each planet is due, and take that percentage of 85 days, the period of Saturn, to determine the length of the subperiod belonging to each planet AS THEY APPEAR IN HER SOLAR RETURN AT AGE 18:

Saturn – minor years 30: 30/129 = 23.259% of the total => Saturn rules the first 19.8 days

Moon – minor years 25: 25/129 = 19.379% of the total => Moon rules the next  16.4 days

Jupiter – minor years 12: 12/129 =  9.302% of the total => Jupiter rules the next  7.9 days

Sun – minor years 19: 19/129 = 14.778% of the total => Sun rules the next 12.6 days

Mercury – minor years 20: 20/129 = 15.503% of the total => Mercury rules the next 13.2 days

Venus – minor years 8:  129 =  6.202% of the total => Venus rules the next 5.3 days

Mars – minor years 15:  15/129 = 11.628% of the total  => Mars rules the final 9.9 Days

If I did the math correctly, the end of the Saturn period on 28 September minus the 9.9 days assigned to the sub-period of the Saturn period back to 18 September 1925, the day after the accident, so the ruler of the sub-period on the day she was injured must have been Venus. Thus, Frida’s accident which affected the rest of her life occurred during a time when Saturn was Time-lord of the Year, Saturn was lord of the first 85 days of her solar return year, and Venus was the sub-lord of the Saturn portion of days.

In her natal chart, Venus is afflicted by a conjunction with Pluto and a square from her 6th-ruler Saturn in the 8th house, so that, according to this method of the “distribution of propitious and impropitious times,” this stressful configuration was activated by the time-lords on 17 September 1925. Here is her solar return:

Solar return at age 18

We began the division of the year at the Lord of the Year, which was Saturn, but then followed the sequence of planets in the solar return to apportion the remaining seven parts of the year, and followed the same sequence in sub-dividing the seven parts of the year.

The solar return repeats the natal Saturn square Venus aspect. Return Saturn rules the 3rd house of travel. Return Venus occupies the 8th and rules the 6th. Venus in the return 8th is also afflicted by a conjunction with Mars. In the return, the Moon rules the 8th and applies to oppose the Sun, which rules her natal Ascendant and is tightly conjoined with return Pluto. The return Moon is also conjunct return Jupiter, ruler of the return chart.

Valens method, as calculated in the program Delphic Oracle by Curtis Manwaring, gives Frida’s 1925 annual division, based on her birth chart and profections, as:

Frida Kahlo: annual division of the year 1925, according to the method of Vettius Valens, as calculated in the program Delphic Oracle. Note that he starts with the Lord of the Year (Saturn, Aquarius as profected Ascendant at age 18) and then follows the sequence of the non-luminary planets in the birth chart (or profected chart) and ends with sequence with the Moon and finally the Sun. In this scheme her accident occurred during a Saturn major period (Saturn as Lord of the Year) and a Venus sub-period. Valens apparently did not use the further sub-divisions of the Venus sub-period. I don’t understand the number of days allotted to each planet in this division of the year, which appears to be divided into six portions, with no days allotted to the Sun: Saturn, 57 days; Venus, 82 days; Jupiter, 79 days; Mercury, 76 days; Mars, 66 days; Moon, 5 days; Sun, 0 days.

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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