Jean-Baptiste Morin de Villefranche was a brilliant 17th century French astrologer who sought to ground the celestial art in scientific principles consistent with his Roman Catholic faith and the version of Aristotle’s philosophy propounded by Saint Thomas Aquinas. He is most noted for his theory of determinations, which is the basis for his approach to delineation of a birth chart.
Morin regarded the Regiomontanus method of house division as the most rational and correct system of domification. He called such divisions “primary houses” and noted that they are segments of empty space surrounding the Earth. Because the primary houses consist of empty space, they “are neither the cause nor strictly speaking the significators of the accidental features attributed to them … but are instead the factors which modify or delimit the quality of the signs, planets or fixed stars so as to produce some kind of accidental quality or event in the life of the native, according to the essential attributes of those houses.” (italics mine, Baldwin translation, Book 21, p.38) In other words, the “primary houses” (empty spaces around the Earth, defined in a particular fashion) provide specific determinations regarding various facets of the native’s life.
The parts of the sky that fall within the borders (cusps) of the “primary houses” (twelve segments of empty space) are termed by Morin the “secondary houses.” In other words, the primary houses act as frames outlining parts of sky (signs or parts of signs, fixed stars and planets) which become the contents of the secondary houses. The parts of the sky contained within the 12 empty spaces (“primary houses”) are then determined toward an “accidental” quality or future event related to the essential meanings of the twelve houses. In this model, Morin regards the planets, stars and parts of signs within the boundaries of a primary house, and the rulers of such signs, as being determined toward the meanings of that house.
To quote Morin verbatim from his original text in Latin: “Sed neque domus secundariae, hoc est, Coeli partes, sive signa, domos primarias occupantia, proprie sunt significatrices accidentium primariis domibus attributorum, velut, nec Planetae in illia constituiti, vel dominantes signis ipsis. … Quamobrem universaliter loquendo corpora coelestia in primo spatio constituta, duntaxat proprie dicendi sunt significare circa vitam, mores, ingenium; in decimo spatio, circa actiones professionem, dignitates; atque sic de reliquis.”
My translation: “But neither the secondary houses, that is, the parts of the heavens, or the signs, occupying the primary houses, are properly significative of the accidents attributed to the primary houses, as it were, nor the planets situated in them, or ruling the signs themselves. … Wherefore, speaking universally, the heavenly bodies constituted in the first space (primo spatio) are only properly said to signify regarding life, manners, and character; in the tenth space (decimo spatio), with regard to actions, professions, dignities; and so on with the rest” (italics mine, note how Morin refers to the primary houses as “spaces,” which is similar to the ancient twelve “places” or topoi in the Hellenistic Greek literature).
Morin uses these principles in his delineation of the chart of Jerome Cardan in Book 23. Here is Morin’s version of Cardan’s chart from Astrologia Gallica.
Here is the same chart, using Morin’s data for Cardan, cast with Solar Fire.
In Morin’s delineation of Cardan’s birth chart, he comments that Mars is a ruler of the 12th house. This is true because Aries is intercepted in the Regiomontanus12th. Jupiter is also determined toward 12th house matters because Jupiter rules the 12th cusp and is contained in the 12th.
Morin also notes that both Mars and Jupiter are rulers of the 7th house, signifying Cardan’s wife. Mars rules the cusp of the Regiomontanus 7th house, and Jupiter rules Sagittarius, the first 12 degrees of which lie in the 7th house.
At age 33 the Solar Return at the birthplace often repeats the natal Angles and house cusps. Morin tells us that at age 33, in the solar return of September 1534, Morin’s wife is indicated as having a difficult year. In fact, Cardan’s wife became pregnant with a daughter who contracted an infirmity in the womb.
Morin gives several explanations for Cardan’s wife’s difficulties:
- In the birth chart, Venus rules the Ascendant and occupies the 6th (illness) where she conjoins the Sun, ruler of the 5th of children.
- In the solar return, Venus occupies the 5th of children and trines both the Ascendant and the Moon — an indicator of pregnancy.
- However, the Asc-ruler Venus in the return chart is disposed by Mercury, which lies in the 6th of illness and is mutually applying to Mars in exile (detriment), Mars occupying the 6th of illness and ruling the 7th of his spouse and also ruling Aries in the unfortunate 12th.
In this case, Morin would call Mercury, which is the dispositor of the solar return’s Asc-ruler, the “secondary ruler of the Ascendant” in the solar return chart. According to Morin, the secondary ruler of the Ascendant “frequently represents the principal force in shaping the affairs of the Ascendant and is therefore a most significant point to consider in making judgments…” (Baldwin translation, Book 21, p.56) In this solar return chart, Venus rules the Ascendant and lies in Virgo in the 5th (children, pregnancy). Venus is disposed by Mercury (ruler of Virgo), and Mercury lies in the 6th (illness) and is afflicted by a conjunction with Mars and a square with Jupiter (ruler of the 8th).
- Futhermore, the rulers of the 7th (his spouse) are Mars and Jupiter, which are in square in the solar return, Mars being in exile in the 6th (illness), and Jupiter being in Capricorn in the 10th disposed by Saturn in its detriment in Leo at the cusp of the 5th in the return chart.
- In the solar return, the Moon conjoins the Ascendant and closely squares Saturn in the 5th. Morin regards the Moon in the return chart as being determined toward the wife because of its opposition to the 7th house. He reasoned that each house participates in the significations of the house opposite through the opposition. In Book 17 on the Astrological Houses, Morin writes: “any house signifies the same thing but weaker as that to which it is opposed, on account of that opposition, and because both of them are included in the same circles divided crosswise” (Holden translation, p.19). In other words, the boundaries of the houses were the planes of two great circles, passing through the center of the Earth and the north and south points of the horizon. All of the space between these two planes constituted a primary house but, in fact, encompassed two houses which opposed each other. For example, the same planes of the great “circles of position” that bound the 5th primary space also bound the 11th primary space.
Morin’s innovative approach to houses differs from that of many other astrologers. To summarize, he regarded as the Regiomontanus system of quadrant houses to be the correct method of dividing the empty space around the Earth into meaningful segments, which he called “primary houses.” The boundaries of these primary houses demarcated areas of the heavens whose contents (stars, zodiac signs, portions of signs, planets) he referred to as “secondary houses” and were thus “accidentally” determined toward the meanings of a particular primary house. In this system, the rulers of parts of signs contained within a house also serve as rulers of that house.
Finally, in Book 18 of Astrologia Gallica, Morin gives examples in which the zodiac signs contained within a primary Regiomontanus house could also be “accidentally” determined toward a different house according to their ordinal numerical relationship with the sign ascending, in a manner similar to the ancient use of whole signs as houses. Morin would never have regarded the formal use of whole signs as houses as a valid system of domification because he viewed the zodiac signs as universal and independent of the Earth, whereas the primary houses were specific divisions of the space around the Earth based on the diurnal rotation of the Earth on its axis. (Actually, Morin held to the geocentric theory and believed that the heavens rotated around the Earth.) Morin did, however, sometimes use the zodiac signs as “accidental” houses; a compelling example is that of King Gustav Adolph of Sweden who has Sagittarius rising and Leo fully intercepted in the 8th Regiomontanus house. Morin writes that in this case the Sun acts as a ruler of both the 8th and the 9th houses — the 8th because Leo is intercepted in the primary 8th, and the 9th because Leo is the 9th sign from the Ascendant. In Book 17, Chapter 7, Morin explains his theory that the numerical ordering of the twelve houses is derived “mystically or analogically” from the diurnal rotation of the signs of the zodiac and the secondary motion of the planets. (“At mysticé, seu Analogicé ordo numericu fuit institutus ab ortu per Imum Coeli ad occasum …”).