Angular Diameter, Sect, the 5-degree rule and the Aries Ingress

Modern practitioners of Hellenistic astrology have noticed that when the Sun is very close to the Ascendant, it can sometimes be difficult to judge the sect (diurnal or nocturnal) of a chart when delineating it using Hellenistic methods. Technically speaking, a day chart is defined as one with the Sun above the horizon, and a night chart as one with the Sun below the horizon. The problem is that the Sun does not suddenly jump from below to above the horizon. It takes some time for the body of the Sun to cross over Ascendant. To complicate matters, there is also an issue of refraction of the sun’s rays by the Earth’s atmosphere, which causes the sun to appear to be in a place other than it is in reality.

Let’s start with the angular diameter of the Sun. The following diagram from wikipedia makes this clear:

sun diameter

Modern measurements of the angular diameter of the Sun give a figure of about 32 minute of arc, or about half a degree. Because the Ascendant takes about 4 minutes to change by 1 degree, we can estimate that the body of the Sun will take about 2 minutes to cross over the horizon.

But now the interesting part. To an observer on Earth, the sun appears to rise before the body of the sun even reaches the horizon due to the refraction of the sun’s light by the Earth’s atmosphere. The following diagram from wikipedia makes this clear:

sun refact

Due to refraction the sun appears to have an angular diameter of 34 minutes of arc, a figure often found in older astrological texts which were based on observation. This is why cazimi is defined as being within 17′ of arc of the center of the Sun.

In addition, the Sun appears to rise while its body is still beneath the horizon. As can be seen in the diagram, the center of the Sun lies about 50 arc-minutes below the horizon when the upper tip of the sun first appears on the horizon, and the lower tip of the body of the sun lies about 50′ + 17′ or 67′ below the horizon. It takes the Ascendant a little over 4 minutes to traverse 67 minutes of arc, so that during this roughly 4-minute period we are in a gray zone about whether to consider the chart to be of the diurnal or nocturnal sect.

I wondered if Ptolemy, who was an astronomer and natural scientist, allowed these observations about sunrise and the refraction of the sun’s light by the Earth’s atmosphere to influence his thinking about the 5-degree rule in astrology. With this in mind I calculated the time it would take for the Ascendant to traverse 67′ of arc in Alexandria, Egypt, around sunrise for the cardinal solstices and some dates in between. Here are the results.

Time to traverse 67′ of arc in Alexandria around sunrise:

Alexandria sunrise

As you can see, the average duration was about four and a half minutes with a range from a low of just over 3 minutes to a high of just over 5 minutes. My hypothesis is that Ptolemy, knowing that the symbolism of the Ascendant in astrology is based on the rising of the sun, applied his astronomical observations of the duration of the sun’s rising as one consideration in the development of his 5-degree rule for the Ascendant in astrology. In other words, could Ptolemy have had in mind, as astrologers sometimes do, an equivalence of 1 minute of clock time to 1 degree on the ecliptic? At the very least during these 3 to 5 minutes of duration of the rising of the sun, the chart remains somewhat ambiguous about its sect, that is, whether it should be interpreted as a day or night chart.


A related issue comes up with regard to the timing of the Aries ingress (or any other ingress of the Sun). The Sun travels about one degree every day and half a degree in 12 hours.

Do we time the ingress from the moment the tip of the body of the Sun touches 0 Aries, or when the center of the Sun conjoins 0 Aries, or when the final edge of the Sun crosses over 0 Aries so that the entire body of the Sun lies in the sign Aries. The crossing of the body of the Sun from Pisces fully into Aries lasts a span of about 12 hours.

This issue poses a potential conundrum for astrologers who use Whole Sign houses. If the body of the Sun is partly in Pisces and partly in Aries, it must be simultaneously in two whole sign houses, somewhat like a person standing at the Equator with one foot in the northern hemisphere and one foot in the southern hemisphere. How does one interpret a planet that is partially in two houses at once?

I think the convention in modern astrology programs is to cast the ingress for the moment that the center of the Sun conjoins 0 Aries, but at that moment part of the Sun has been in Aries for about 6 hours  and part of the Sun will remain in Pisces for the next 6 hours.

It would be interesting to cast a chart for the Aries ingress for the moment that the forward edge of the body of the sun first touches 0 Aries to see if this convention produces a more meaningful astrological chart. To use a human analogy, am I at your house when my foot first enters the threshold, when the center of my body is exactly centered in the threshold, or when my entire body is just inside the front door?




Posted in Astrology, horary | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Houses, Templates of the Sky

Recently I’ve been interested in the origin and use of the 5-degree rule in horary astrology. This has led to a consideration of the use of the houses in the history of astrology. A couple decades ago Deborah Houlding published a popular and influential book about the astrological houses entitled The Houses, Temples of the Sky, which appears to be a reference to the Goold translation of Manilius (Loeb, 1977).


Upon re-reading Manilius recently, I failed to find justification for Goold using the term “temples” to describe the houses. After describing and delineating the cardines (MC, Asc, IC, Dsc) and the division of the sphere into quadrants by the horizon and meridian axes (which depend on the location or locus for which the chart is calculated), Manilius begins his discussion of what we call “houses” as follows:

Omne quidem signum sub qualicumque figura partibus inficitur mundi;
locus imperat astris et dotes noxamque facit; vertuntur in orbem singula et accipiunt vires caeloque remittunt, vincit enim natura loci legesque ministrat finibus in propriis et praetereuntia cogit esse sui moris, …” (Astronomica 2: 856-861)


  • Omne quidem signum sub qualicumque figura partibus inficitur mundi;

My translation: Every sign [of the zodiac] in whatever figure [astrological chart] is colored  by (dyed with, infected by) the mundane partitions [the divisions of the sphere into quadrants by the ASC and MC];

Goold: “In any geniture any sign is affected by the sky’s division into temples.”

Manilius never mentions “temples” in this passage, instead he speaks of “partibus mundi” or mundane divisions.

  • locus imperat astris et dotes noxamque facit

My translation: locus (location on earth) has dominion over the stars and renders them beneficial or harmful.

Goold: “position governs the stars, and endows them with power to benefit or harm”

[Here Manilius is referring back to his discussion of the quadrants and mundane divisions determined by the horizon and meridian of the location for which the chart is cast.]

  • vertuntur in orbem singula et accipiunt vires caeloque remittunt

My translation: one at a time the signs turn in the sphere and absorb (receive, grasp, accept) the force (powers, might, influence) [of the mundane partitions], and send it back (remit, throw back) to the heavens.

Goold: “each of the signs, as it revolves, receives the influences of heaven and to heaven imparts its own.”

Goold seems to have misunderstood Manilius here.  The Latin text implies that the signs receive the influence of the mundane divisions and transmit that influence back to the heavens.

  • vincit enim natura loci legesque ministrat finibus in propriis et praetereuntia cogit esse sui moris

My translation: Indeed, the nature of the location on earth prevails; [the mundane partition] determines (supplies, provides) the laws (principles, conditions) within its own boundaries and impresses (forces, compels) its own character on the signs that pass over it.

Goold: “The nature of the position prevails, exercises jurisdiction within its province, and subjects to its own character the signs as they pass by.”

Goold seems to have gotten this one right, but I’m not sure he understands that the “position” referred to is the location on earth for which the chart is cast.

It is fascinating that Manilius chose the verb “to infect” to describe how the mundane divisions by horizon and meridian affect the zodiacal signs. It’s as if the mundane “houses” are like contagious organisms that infect the zodiac and alter the nature of the zodiac signs. In Latin the verb “to infect” is also used to describe how the color in a dye changes the appearance of a piece of white cloth. In other words, the zodiac signs are like the nondescript pods in the movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The mundane divisions are like the individual aliens who impart their own nature onto these unformed pods.

Goold gives the flowery and misleading translation: “In any geniture any sign is affected by the sky’s division into temples.” Manilius does not mention temples in this introductory sentence. Several lines later Goold correctly translates Manilius’s writing when he uses the phrase “portion of heaven above the occident” to describe what we now call the twelfth house.

I suspect that Goold chose the word “temple” to sound poetic and also because later in the text Manilius associates planets with some of the mundane partitions; but if we follow Goold’s logic, then only 7 “houses” are temples because only the 7 visible planets are honored, leaving 5 mundane divisions without a god to honor.

To be fair, there are occasions in the poem when Manilius does use the word “templa” as a synonym for “partibus” (parts, segments, divisions, portions, components). “Templa” can mean temples, but in the context of the poem, Manilius means a space, interval, area, portion or segment, which are all meanings of templum in Latin.

It’s interesting that “templum” in Latin was also used to mean an axis or a cardine (kardo), so that Manilius probably chose “templa” to stress the link between the “houses” and the mundane axes.

Thus, it seems clear from reading Manilius in the Latin that he did not mean to refer to the what we call “houses” as temples but rather as “templates” which determine the functional use of that portion of space. Instead, he is talking about partitions of the zodiac based on the horizon and meridian of the location (locus) for which the chart is cast. This is clearly a quadrant house system in which the mundane divisions are topical houses, and I can find no reference to Whole Sign houses in this section of Manilius’ poem, which is interesting because Manilius composed this text at the time of Christ, early in the 1st century (around 15 or 20 CE), when Jesus would have been a teenage boy. Nor have I found a reference to use of the 5-degree rule with Manilius’ system of quadrant houses, so I guess I’ll just have to keep looking to understand how the 5-degree rule came to be used in horary astrology.

An interesting corollary to Manilius’ description of the “houses” is that if the astrologer knows only two facts besides the date of birth, namely, the degree of the Ascendant and the location on earth for which the chart is cast, then the entire 12-house quadrant system can be calculated. This may explain why in the early Hellenistic literature so many of horoscopes list only the Horoskopos (ascending degree) and omit mention of the  MC degree.

Manilius states that the mundane segments of the sky, resulting from the division into quadrants by the meridian and horizon, impress their influence onto the signs of the zodiac which cross over them. It is possible that Manilius views the zodiac with its twelve 30-degree signs as a kind of generic or universal house system, which then gets particularized by its connection with the mundane divisions of the sky around the place of birth. From Manilius’ text it is not possible to determine whether or not he used whole signs as houses.

It is possible that I have misunderstood Manilius. His Latin I find rather difficult, and my own Latin is rusty. In addition, he is writing as a poet and using words in quite a terse and evocative manner, as poets do. Also, I do not mean to disparage Goold. He did an overall masterful job with a difficult text.





Posted in Astrology, horary | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The 5-degree Rule in Horary and the Twilight of the Gods (part III)

This is the third post about the 5-degree rule in horary astrology, which Lilly adopted and used extensively in his practice. My hypothesis is that Lilly adopted this rule from Ptolemy’s discussion of how to calculate the length of life of the native. My question has to do with whether a technique developed to calculate the length of life in natal charts should also be applied to horary charts. If so, what is the theoretical rationale for doing so?

My investigation of this question has led to a discussion of Ptolemy’s method and the charts of early horary astrologers like Masha’allah and Sahl. In reviewing Ben Dykes translation of these authors, it appears that the use of both Whole Sign and quadrant houses was in effect in their time and that the 5-degree rule was variously applied. In his introduction (7c), Dykes notes:

“…Sahl recommends this 5-degree rule in a general way (not just in the context of longevity procedures, as Masha’allah does)…”

So it appears that there was a difference of opinion among these early horary astrologers about applying the 5-degree rule to other than length-of-life calculations.

In fact, in Chart 12 (a horary question about a rebellion in Africa) of On Reception Masha’allah ignores the 5-degree rule.  Masha’allah’s text gives the position of Venus as 2 Sag 31, which is more than 5 degrees from the Ascendant, given as 8 Sagittarius (“the 9th degree of Sagittarius”), yet he specifically states the Venus is in the Ascendant and nowhere does Masha’allah mention the idea of Venus being cadent or lying in the 12th house, which suggests that he was using Whole Sign houses to analyze this chart. If Masha’allah were using quadrant houses, by the 5-degree rule Venus would have been considered a 12th house planet.

On the other hand, Wade Caves found a chart from Masha’allah in which he does use the 5-degree rule to include Mercury in the 10th house. This does not appear to be a horary chart, and I do not know if the issue being discussed was the length of life of the native (which would justify the use of the 5-degree rule) or some other topic. Here is the chart (I set the MC for Basra, Iraq, because the chart data are not available).


Here Mercury in the 9th sign Pisces lies about 2 degrees from the MC at 21 Pisces 30. Masha’allah writes, “Mercury is in its descent in the ninth, by equalization in the tenth.” When he says “in its descent in the 9th” it is not clear whether Masha’allah is using whole sign or quadrant houses because Mercury would be in the 9th in either system. When he writes “by equalization in the 10th” he must be referring to the 10th house because Mercury and Pisces are both in the 9th sign from the Ascendant, so here is is referring to quadrant houses with the cusp of the 10th being 21 Pisces 30. He apparently calls the use of the 5-degree rule here “equalization,” but what is being equalized?

My guess is that Masha’allah is referring to the Hellenistic concept found in Ptolemy of equalizing aspectual relationship in the ecliptic system with their counterparts in the mundane system. Ptolemy notes that aspects such as squares on the ecliptic can act like trines in signs of long ascension. Lilly himself adopted Ptolemy’s practice in this regard.

Masha’allah must have been aware of the Hellenistic use of Whole Sign houses in which the angular houses where those zodiacal signs in square (perpendicular) or in opposition to the Ascendant by whole sign. In a chart mentioned in a previous post, Masha’allah notes that “the cardines of the ascendant are perpendicular,” which implies that this is something special and not the norm. My hunch is that Masha’allah has in mind the difference between the angular whole sign houses which are always exactly perpendicular and the quadrant cardines (Angles) which are only perpendicular on a few specific occasions during the year.

In the mundane system the meridian and the horizon are perpendicular and their corresponding points on the ecliptic (Asc – Dsc axis, MC – IC axis) constitute the cusps of the angular houses.  The angular houses (the power points in the chart) could differ in each system and needed to be “equalized” when interpreting a chart. If my analysis is correct, then the formula for the equalization becomes: zero degrees of of the Ascendant sign in the whole sign system equals the degree of the Ascendant minus 5 degrees in the quadrant house system and so for the other angles as well.

The following table may make this idea clearer. The Whole Sign house system is the idealized form of house division provided to us by the universe. The quadrant house system is particular to our location on Earth. How do we “equalize” the two systems (universal and particular) so that we can interpret their meaning in a birth chart?


Where does the 5 degree adjustment for quadrant houses come from?  I believe it has to do with the Ascendant (eastern horizon of the chart) being a symbol of the life force of the native, which is derived from the Sun. The Ascendant of a chart derives its symbolism from the rising of the Sun.

The early astrologers based much of their interpretive theory on observation. We all know that the sun does not suddenly rise bringing about daylight, nor does it suddenly set, initiating the night. Sailors especially are aware of this phenomenon. For example, nautical lore distinguishes three types of twilight (and by implication three types of dawn). The following images from Wikipedia make this clear.


Notice in the above diagram that the sun sets at the horizon but there is an extended period after the moment of sunset during which the sun’s light gradually fades and the darkness of night completely dominates the scene. The astronomical measures of this gradual decline in available sunlight are shown in the next diagram.


  • Civil Twilight: The center of the body of the Sun lies between the horizon and 6o below the horizon. At this time you can still see things clearly without the need for extra illumination.
  • Nautical Twilight: The center of the body of the Sun lies between 6o and 12o below the horizon. Objects become harder to see and appear in silhouette. The brightest stars begin to be visible in the night sky.
  • Astronomical Twilight: The center of the body of the Sun lies between 12o and 18o below the horizon. It is completely dark and the stars are clearly visible in the night sky.

As an aside, recall that the Sun has a diameter of about 34′ of arc in the sky. In a previous post we say a chart of Masha’allah in which he notes the the Sun at 0 Aries 11 was considered a 7th house planet where the point opposite the Ascendant lay at 29 Pisces 39.  In this case, the center of the Sun which has a diameter of 34′ of arc in the sky. If so, the body of the Sun lies partly in Pisces and partly in Aries. In fact, the body of the Sun extends from 29 Pisces 54′ to 0 Aries 28′. Thus, the Sun lies in the 7th sign from the Ascendant and also in the whole degree of the Descendant, and on this basis could be considered a 7th house planet.

Let’s return to Sahl for a moment and his Fifty Judgments. Sahl rendered Ptolemy’s idea about the 5-degree rule as follows in his Judgment 44 (Dykes translation, bold and italics mine):

“If a planet were in the beginning of a sign, it will be weak until it is made firm in it and walks through it by 6o [the period of civil twilight before sunrise]. And a planet does not fall from the angles except after 5o. For example, if the angle were in the 10th degree of Aries, every planet which is less than 5o [of Aries] is cadent and not thought to be in the angle.”

It seems to me that these ancient astrologers were deriving their notions of strength and influence with respect to the Ascendant from the analogy with sunrise and the gradual increase in light in the twilight period before sunrise. In astronomy civil twilight in which there is enough light to get things done even before the sun reaches the horizon is a period of 6o from the horizon. If we allow that each degree of the Ascendant corresponds to about 4 minutes on the clock, this corresponds to a period of 6 x 4 or 24 minutes of functional light before the sun actually conjoins the horizon.

An interesting fact is that the amount of usable light just prior to dawn varies with one’s proximity to the Equator. The further south you are, the more light that is available to you to get things done. For example, at the March Equinox, in:

  • Quito, Ecuador (latitude 0), nautical twilight starts 20 minutes after sunset,
  • Key West, Florida (latitude 24N), nautical twilight starts 23 minutes after sunset
  • Kansas City (Latitude 39N), nautical twilight starts 26 minutes after sunset
  • Anchorage, Alaska (latitude 62N), nautical twilight starts about 44 minutes after sunset.

What we see from this is that nautical twilight at the Equator lasts about 20 minutes, which corresponds to 5o at the Equator.  Ptolemy made use of the arc traveled both on the equator on on the ecliptic and also made extensive use of ascensional times. It may be that for this reason he chose 5o as the period of influence to the eastern horizon (where the sun rises).

I have already mentioned an argument for applying the 5-degree rule to the other angular cusps. Is the a theoretical justification for applying it to intermediate houses? The answer may lie in the Hellenistic concept of Lots, which are usually projected from the Ascendant. In other words, the distance measured in arc along the ecliptic between two points or planets is projected from the degree of the Ascendant to produce the Lot.

With this in mind, I conjecture that Ptolemy reasoned more or less as follows in analyzing the length of life:

  • The Ascendant (eastern horizon) is analogous to sunrise and represents the life force of the native.
  • The sign containing the Horoskopos (Ascendant) is the 1st house of the Whole Sign House (topoi) system.
  • But the power of the Ascendant has its maximum effect within 5 degrees of the Horoskopos, which can lie anywhere from 0 to 30 degrees within the ascending sign.
  • Therefore, to evaluate where the maximum life-giving force has effects in the chart we must use a different type of house system with the Ascendant as the cusp of the 1st house and the point lying 5 degrees before the Ascendant as the initial boundary of the 1st house.
  • Because traditional houses (topoi) are based on 30-degree Whole Signs, this new “longevital” house system must also have houses of exactly 30 degrees each, and they will be patterned after the 1st longevital house with its cusp as the horoskopos and its initial boundary as 5 degrees before the horoskopos.
  • Based on Whole Sign Aspects, the most effective houses will be those in major whole sign aspect to the sign of the 1st house.
  • Because the Ascendant is so powerful with regard to longevity, the cusps of the other houses will be in exact degree-based aspect to the Ascendant degree.
  • For example, because the 8th Whole Sign house from the Ascendant represents the death of the native, the cusp of the 8th longevital house will be the point that is exactly 210 degrees from the Horoskopokos.  In other words, the cusp of the 8th will be like a Lot in which the distance from boundary of the 1st whole sign house to boundary of the 8th whole sign house is projected from the Ascendant, and the boundary of the 8th longevital house will be 5 degrees before that cusp because of its analogy with the powerful Ascendant.

The ideas in this post are, of course, preliminary and subject to change. However, I think it offers a potential theoretical justification for the use of the 5-degree rule at least in judging the length of life. It may be that the use of the 5-degree rule in horary charts by Sahl was his attempt to generalize Ptolemy’s more restricted use to other branches of astrology.

Addendum (27 Dec 2017): Antiochus of Athens and Equalization

Antiochus of Athens was a Hellenistic astrologer who published sometime between the late 1st and mid 2nd century AD. In Robert Schmidt’s translation (pp.32-33) Antiochus writes:

Each of these 12 places obtains as its lot the 5 pre-ascended degrees and the 25 post-ascending degrees, if the squares should occur through ninety degrees.

If the Asc and MC degrees are not exactly 90 degrees apart, then Antiochus advises us to  divide the degree of angles into three to determine the number of degrees for each place, and then adding “the 5 degrees that have pre-ascended it”.  This appears to be his description of the house system now attributed to Porphyry.
My understanding of this passage (which may or may not be correct) is that when the Asc and MC cardines are exactly 90 degrees apart, the first house begins 5 degrees before the Ascendant and all the houses are 30-degrees in length. Because the MC is 90 degrees from the Asc, the beginning of the 10th place will be 5 degrees before the MC.

It does not seem logical to me, however, that the places are calculated proportionate to the size of the quadrant but the 5 pre-ascending degrees are not also proportionately calculated.

To give an example:
Suppose the Asc lies at 0 Gemini and the MC lies 60 degrees away at 0 Aries, then each place should be 60 divided by 3 = 20 degrees of arc in length. Following his logic, the 5 pre-ascended degrees should be proportionately reduced to 2/3 of 5 = 3.33 degrees.

In this same example the IC lies at 0 Libra, and the 2nd place would be the size of that quadrant divided by 3, or 120 divided 3 = 40 degrees and the 5 pre-ascending degrees would be proportionately increased by 4/3 = 6.66 degrees.

In other words, it doesn’t seem logical that the size of each place would vary according to the quadrant it is in but the 5 ascending degrees would remain constant regarding of the varying sizes of the quadrants.

In Masha’allah’s chart above, the MC lies at 21 Pisces 30 and the Descendant at 8 Capricorn.  The size of this quadrant containing the 10th place extends from 8 Cancer (the Ascendant) to 21 Pisces 30 (the MC). This quadrant is 106.5 degrees. Dividing this figure by 3 we get 35.5 degrees.  Proportionately, the 5 pre-ascended degrees is then equivalent to 35.5/30 times 5 or 5 deg 55 min of arc.  Thus the 1st house would begin 5 deg 55 min above the Asc and the 10th house would begin 5 deg 55 min before the degree of the MC.







Posted in Astrology, horary | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The 5-degree rule in horary, part II

In a recent post I raised the question about the theoretical reasons for Lilly’s use of the 5-degree rule in horary. What prompted my question was my being told by a colleague that horary astrologers in France and Spain had abandoned that rule on the basis of  the belief that it was not justified by the basic principles upon which Western astrology is founded. My first impression was that the 5-degree rule made sense for the cusps of the angular quadrant houses because the Angles are powerful points in the chart. I couldn’t think of a good reason for extending the rule to the cusps of the succedent and and cadent houses.

Please note that in this post I am simply exploring ideas and not coming to definitive conclusions. This is a matter that puzzles me, and I am seeking to gain a better understanding of what the early founders of modern horary were thinking and how they did they work.

I posted the question in an online horary group to which I belong and it led to a fascinating and enlightening discussion about the original house systems and how they were used. The origin of the 5-degree rule may have been Ptolemy’s discussion of how to calculate the length of life of the native. To do so Ptolemy postulated an Equal House system in which the boundary of the first house is 5 degrees before (above) the Ascendant degree, and the other houses are each 30-degree segments that follow the 1st house in order around the wheel.

It is not clear whether Ptolemy intended this system only to calculate the length of life, or whether he used it for other types of delineations of a natal chart. Sahl apparently rendered Ptolemy’s idea as follows in his Judgment 44 (Dykes translation): “…a planet does not fall from the angles except after 5 degrees. For example, if the angle were in the 10th degree of Aries, every planet which is less than 5 degrees [of Aries] is cadent and not thought to be in the angle.”

Wade Caves showed that Masha’allah used the 5-degree rule for the MC and not just for the Ascendant degree by citing a chart from The Astrological History of Masha’allah by Kennedy and Pingree (1971, Harvard University Press) in which the position of Mercury is described as follows: “Mercury is in its descent in the ninth, [but] by equalization in the tenth.

By “in its descent” I assume Masha’allah means either that the planet is cadent from the 10th sign from the Ascendant or that it is falling away from the degree of the MC, which could place it in the 9th or 8th house.  By “equalization” I assume he means that by the use of the 5-degree rule Mercury which is within a couple degrees of the MC degree but falling away from the MC would be considered a 10th house planet. Here is the chart which may look strange because the 1st house is at the very top.


Presumably this chart is set for Baghdad, which would give is a MC degree of 21 Pisces, which is the 9th sign from the Ascendant. In this example, Masha’allah appears to regard the 10th house to be defined by the MC degree rather than by Whole Sign houses, and Mercury lies in the 10th quadrant house because it is within 5 degrees of the MC degree. This seems to be clear evidence that Masha’all did use the 5-degree rule for houses other than the Ascendant.

There are inconsistencies in Masha’allah’s example. In the previous post I reviewed one of Masha’allah’s horary charts from On Reception in which Venus lies at 2 Sag 30 (the 3rd degree of Sagittarius) with the 9th degree of Sagittarius rising. Thus, Venus is more than 5 degrees from the Ascendant and should be considered to be falling away or cadent from the Ascendant, but Masha’allah never mentions this. Nor does he say that Venus is a 12th house planet, though he states that Jupiter in Scorpio is in the 12th house. In this example, Masha’allah appears to be using Whole Sign houses rather than quadrant ones.

In Dykes translation of Masha’allah On Reception (page 480), Masha’allah says explicitly of the Angles: “… the second [quickest and most effective] is the angle of the Midheaven or tenth sign,” which Dykes regards as an unambiguous equating of the 10th sign with the angular Midheaven house. In this quote Masha’allah appears to be referring to Whole Sign houses rather than a quadrant system.

From my reading of Masha’allah, one of the founders of modern horary, it appears that he did use the 5-degree rule, at least for the angles, and that he used by Whole Sign and quadrant houses (probably Alcabitius).  In the charts of his that I’ve looked at in detail the Whole Sign positions are the same as the Alcabitius positions, so I haven’t yet been able to find a good example in which he uses the topical meanings of the Whole Sign sign in preference to those of the quadrant house.  Such an example would help clarify how he used each of the two systems of houses in his work.  I’m also looking for examples in which Masha’allah may have used the 5-degree rule for succedent and cadent houses but haven’t found any yet, which does not mean they are not out there.

Here is another interesting example from Masha’allah (Kennedy & Pingree, 1971).

sun 7 center

The Angles are shown for Baghdad when the Sun is in the first degree of Aries (the vernal equinox).  Masha’allah says that “…the cardines of the ascendant are perpendicular, and the planets are cadent, except the Sun. It is in the seventh, between it [Sun] and the center of the seventh there being two degrees, conferring counsel upon Saturn.”  Let’s pick apart Masha’allah’s comments:

  • The cardines of the ascendant are perpendicular.” The “cardines” are the Angles (Asc, MC, Dsc, IC).  They are perpendicular at the Equinoxes (here Sun lies at 0 Aries, the vernal equinox. Otherwise, the cardines are not at right angles in the chart and in the Equal House system, sometimes the MC falls in the 9th or the 11th rather than in the 10th.  Having a chart with perpendicular cardines is unusual and so Masha’allah makes special mention of it.
  • The planets are cadent, except the Sun.”  Here “cadent” may mean falling away from an angle by the primary motion of the heavens. He is speaking of planets and not houses when he says that all the planets are cadent (falling away from angles by primary motion) except for the Sun. In this chart, for example, in the Whole Sign system, Saturn would be an angular whole sign 4th house planet but would be cadent from the Cardine of the 4th because it is falling away by primary motion of the heavens.  In a quadrant house system, Saturn would be considered a cadent 3rd house planet in this chart, so this example could indicate Masha’allah using either type of house system.. Calling the Moon is Capricorn “cadent” is puzzling, however, because Capricorn is the 5th whole sign and the 4th Alcabitius house, neither of which is cadent from an angle or from the Ascendant (in aversion).
  • The Sun is not cadent but is rather in the angular 7th. The Descendent cardine (angle) lies at 29 Pisces 39 in Masha’allah’s diagram. The Sun lies at 0 Aries 01. There is only  22 minutes of arc between the DSC and the center of the Sun.  Because the body of the Sun measures about 34 minutes of arc in the sky, the degree of the 7th cardine touches the body of the Sun. There is a corporal conjunction of the Sun with the Descendant degree. One could say that this example supports the 5-degree rule because the center of the Sun is separated from the Descendant by 5 minutes of arc, but the body of the Sun is still in corporal contact with the Descendant degree.  Masha’allah may have been emphasizing that although the Sun looks like it is in the 8th Whole Sign house, it is still in the 7th because the body of the Sun is still in direct contact with the Descendant or Cardine of the West.
  • “There are two degrees between the Sun and the center of the 7th.” This statement makes no sense if we think he means the center of the 7th house.  The Dsc in the last degree of Pisces and the Sun in the first degree of Aries, suggesting a region whose width is two degrees. Perhaps instead of center of the 7th the text should read cardine (from the Latin cardo) of the 7th, which would make perfect sense. Or if the translator had access to Greek, it could have read the kentron of the 7th (kentron meaning cardine, angular point, pivot, stake, axis of rotation). If he were using quadrant houses, the cusp of the 7th would have been 29 Pisces 39 and the center would be at roughly 14 Aries.  (See addendum following this point.)
  • [Addendum: (26 Dec 2017).  Paul Kiernan suggested that  by “center” in this quote Masha’allah means an Angle, cardine, kentron or point of axial rotation:
    “…the cardines of the ascendant are perpendicular, and the planets are cadent, except the Sun. It is in the seventh, between it [Sun] and the center of the seventh there being two degrees…” Paul’s insight makes sense. Masha’allah is not talking about a geometric center of a house. The main theme in this quote is the “cardines of the ascendant” which are the Angles of the south (MC), of the west (Dsc) and of the north (IC). Each cardine is the center of an entire hemi-sphere as defined by the horizon and meridian axes. So when Masha’allah says “center of the seventh” he must mean the western horizon or Descendant (the center of the heavens west of the meridian), just as the center of the first is the Ascendant degree which is used to define the 1st house. Then the statement that the Sun is 2 degrees from the center makes perfect sense.]

This chart is enlightening because it shows the difficulty we have when translating ancient texts. It is important not to import our 20th century understanding of words and concepts into the original text because the words used by the translators of Masha’allah into Latin and then into English may not mean what we assume they mean with out 20th century eyes.

In the charts reviewed so far it does appear that Masha’allah did use the 5-degree rule for the Angular points and that he took into account both the Whole Sign and the quadrant houses but how he integrated the two house systems is not yet clear.

To be continued …


Posted in Astrology, horary | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Masha’allah: a horary about a conflict

In his book On Reception Masha’allah discusses a horary chart about a potential armed conflict. The querent is apparently a general who was appointed by the sovereign to confront a rebellious in a province in Africa. From the data given by Masha’allah, I estimate the the question was asked about 6:54 AM LMT on 01 December 0794.  Not knowing the location of the question, I set the chart for Basra, Iraq, where the astrologer was born. To approximate the planetary positions listed in the text I used the sidereal zodiac according to Raman.

Because no house system is mentioned in the text and no MC is given, I used Whole Sign houses. In addition, Masha’allah’s text gives the position of Venus as 2 Sag 31, which is more than 5 degrees from the Ascendant, given as 8 Sag, yet nowhere does Masha’allah mention the idea of Venus being cadent or lying in the 12th house, which suggests that he was using Whole Sign houses to analyze this chart.

Defeat REBEL

It is a Moon day during a Moon hour.

The querent is signified by Jupiter (ruling the Ascendant) and his co-ruler, the Moon.

The enemy general (the rebel) is shown by the opposite 7th house, ruled by Mercury.

The querent had asked two questions: would the sovereign give him the post, and what would be the outcome of his confrontation with the the rebel general.

The sovereign, and also the desired promotion, are shown by the 10th house, ruled by Mercury.  The querent’s ruler Jupiter in the 10th is an argument that he will be granted the position.  Mercury (the sovereign and the position) applies to sextile Jupiter (the querent), indicating that he will get the position, especially since Mercury (the sovereign) receives Jupiter (the querent) in his domicile and exaltation (Virgo).  The preceding analysis is based on the modern chart.  Masha’allah had Mercury at 29 Scropio directly opposite (the Latin reads, per directionem suam) to Saturn at 29 Taurus. Masha’allah goes on to say that he looked at:

  • the Ascendant (the sign Sagittarius) and planets therein, Venus and the Sun, which form Whole Sign aspects to their dispositor Jupiter, a favorable condition. The Sun is separating from the lesser benefic Venus and applying to the greater benefic Jupiter, and Masha’allah comments that “the testimonies were joined to him over good fortune” (Holden translation).
  • the Lord of the Ascendant, Jupiter in the 10th conjunct the MC, a very favorable and strong position.
  • the planet from whom the Moon last separated, which was Jupiter in the 10th.

Things are looking good for the querent.

What about the rebel in Africa? With Gemini on the 7th cusp, the enemy general is signified by Mercury, who is Retrograde and occupies the cadent 12th Whole Sign from the Ascendant. In addition, Mercury is in direct opposition to Saturn, the greater malefic. Things aren’t looking too good for the rebel.

For further information about the rebellious general Masha’allah turns to the planet which the Moon will next aspect, in this case, Mars.  Masha’allah has Mars as being Retrograde, in the unfortunate 8th house and in Cancer, the sign of his fall. He goes on to discuss the armies of the two generals and gives a detailed account of what he thinks will happen.

His conclusion is that the sextile between Mercury (the rebel general) and Jupiter (the querent) was an aspect of peace and concord, so that in the end they would settle their differences and come to an amicable resolution.




Posted in Astrology, horary | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Does the 5-degree rule in horary make sense?

In speaking of the Ascendant, Lilly writes on page 33 of Christian Astrology: “…what Planet you shall find to be in that space, you shall say that he is in the first house; yet if he be within 5 degrees of the Cusp of any house, his virtue shall be assigned to the house whose Cusp he is nearest…”

Lilly does not explain his theoretical justification for this 5-degree rule. Given his reverence for Ptolemy (including his use of Ptolemy’s formula for the Part of Fortune), it seems reasonable to assume that Lilly took his 5-degree rule from Ptolemy’s discussion of prorogatory places in the Tetrabiblos. Ptolemy’s 5-degree rule is based on the theoretical idea of the great strength of the Ascendant (horizon axis) and also Ptolemy’s use of Equal Houses where the cusp of the First House is the degree of the Ascendant and the entry or boundary of the 1st House is exactly 5 degrees before the Ascendant.


This is what Ptolemy had to say, according to two different translators:

  • “FIRSTLY, those places, only, are to be deemed prorogatory, to which the future assumption of the dominion of prorogation exclusively belongs. These several places are the sign on the angle of the ascendant, from the fifth degree above the horizon, to the twenty-fifth degree below it; the thirty degrees in dexter sextile thereto, constituting the eleventh house, called the Good Damon; also the thirty degrees in dexter quartile, forming the mid-heaven above the earth; those in dexter trine making the ninth house, called God; and lastly, those in opposition, belonging to the angle of the west.” (Ashmand version)
  • “In the first place we must consider those places prorogative in which by all means the planet must be that is to receive the lordship of the prorogation; namely, the twelfth part of the zodiac surrounding the horoscope, from 5° above the actual horizon up to the 25° that remains, which is rising in succession to the horizon; the part sextile dexter to these thirty degrees, called the House of the Good Daemon; the part in quartile, the mid‑heaven; the part in trine, called the House of the God; and the part opposite, the Occident.”  (Loeb, Robbins translation)

Ptolemy is discussing natal charts, not horary ones, and he is making the point that before delineating the future life of the native, the astrologer should determine whether the native will even survive beyond infancy. To do this he considers the Ascendant which symbolizes the life force and vitality available to the native. This life force is concentrated at the degree of the Ascendant but is so powerful that it extends 5 degrees above and below the ascending degree or eastern horizon. It’s as if there is an spherical orb of life force whose center is at the Ascendant degree and whose diameter is 10 degrees, which is one-third of a zodiac sign.

The choice of 10 degrees for the diameter of this orb around the Ascendant is not arbitrary. The benefic planets were so labeled because they promoted life. The greater benefic Jupiter is the most life-affirming planet and is associated with the trine aspect in the Thema Mundi of Hellenistic astrology. The trine, of course, is one-third of the entire zodiac. Proportionately then, 10 degrees within a zodiac sign is equivalent to the the size of a trine within the entire zodiac. I believe that this was Ptolemy’s rationale for choosing the 5-degree orb that surrounds the Ascendant degree as the most life-affirming space in the chart.

Notice especially in Robbins’ translation that Ptolemy is taking about spaces whose size is exactly 30 degrees or one-twelfth of the entire zodiac. He begins to number these spaces, starting at 5 degrees above the Ascendant. Thus, Ptolemy seems to be creating an Equal House system (modeled after the Hellenistic Whole Sign house system) that begins 5 degrees above the horizon with the cusp of the 1st House on the eastern horizon. Because of the importance of the Ascendant for the survival of the native, the first house of this system becomes a prototype which is repeated twelve times around the horoscope wheel. Each house is modeled after the 1st and derives its power from the 1st, which is theoretically based on the overriding importance of the Ascendant (horizon axis) for the life of the native.

In Hellenistic astrology, which used Whole Sign houses, there is no mention of the significations of a Whole Sign beginning 5 degrees before the cusp of the zodiacal sign. In fact, such an idea would have been considered senseless by Hellenistic astrologers. In other words, the Hellenistic 1st house was the entire sign ascending. A planet was either in that zodiacal sign or it was not.  Proximity to the horizon in the East (where the life-giving Sun rises) had to do with prorogation or length of life, and not with the significations of the 1st house (as a topical place).

Somehow when astrologers began using the Ascendant degree as the cusp of the 1st house and the MC as the cusp of the 10th, they took Ptolemy’s ideas about Equal Houses and applied them to quadrant houses of variable length. This approach is not logical because the significance of 5 degrees for a 30-degree Equal House cannot be the same as for a Quadrant House of much greater or lesser dimensions.

Ptolemy’s logic certainly applies to the Ascendant which is recognized as an extremely powerful point in the chart. A similar argument could be made for the MC and perhaps the cusps of the other angular houses in a quadrant system, but this argument has its problems because the MC in Ptolemy’s system may or may not lie in the 10th Equal Sign house from the Ascendant which is the main determiner of all the houses in the chart. The idea of a 5-degree rule for the cusp of a cadent house makes little sense because cadent house are regarded as extremely weak.

In fact, traditional horary ranks the houses by their relative strength with the 1st and 10th being the strongest (perhaps deserving a 5-degree rule because the Asc and MC are such strong points) and the 6th and 12th the weakest (perhaps deserving only a 1-degree ruler, or no degrees at all). How could the cusp of a weak cadent house have the same power as the Ascendant and be deserving of the eastern horizon’s 5-degree orb?

Here is what Lilly himself thought of the relative values of strength for each of the houses in his point system:

Lilly points houses

It seems to me that Lilly’s application of Ptolemy’s ideas about length of life to the quadrant house system of horary lacks sound theoretical justification and may even be misleading in the interpretation of horary chart, due to the assignment of significators to the wrong houses. Then again, there is the problem of different quadrant house systems producing different cusps, so that the horary astrologer is never quite sure which house a significator near the boundary between houses “really” belongs.

Interestingly, both Regiomontanus and Placidus believed that they were applying Ptolemy’s ideas about primary motion and primary directions when they published their methods for dividing the quadrants formed by the Angles into a set of 12 houses. Regiomontanus was mistaken, but Placidus seems to have understood what Ptolemy was proposing. Lilly chose to use Regiomontanus houses, which were in vogue at the time. If Lilly had appreciated the importance of Placidus’ restoration of Ptolemy’s ideas, he may well have chosen to use Placidus houses for his horary practice.

Given that the “5-degree rule” was originally developed only for Equal Houses, a simple way to avoid this problem would be to eliminate this rule and cast horary charts with Whole Sign houses whose boundaries are unambiguous because a planet is either in a zodiacal sign or it is not. An alternative would be to use Ptolemy’s Equal House system from the Ascendant as cusp in which each house, patterned after the 1st, is 30 degrees in length and begins exactly 5 degrees before its cusp (which is always an exact multiple of 30 degrees from the Ascendant degree).

Another issue to be considered is the orbs of the planets themselves. Hellenistic astrologers regarding planets within 3 degrees of each other to be corporally united regardless of sign boundaries. From this point of view, there is a theoretical reason to consider any planet within 3 degrees of a house cusp to be joined to that house.

These are just preliminary ideas as I try to make theoretical sense of the 5-degree rule in horary astrology.  A colleague told me that a French horary astrologer, Denis Labouré, has abandoned Lilly’s 5-degree rule entirely and gets good results. I am unfamiliar with his work and would like to know more about it.

My goal here is to try to understand what we are doing in horary rather than just taking certain “rules” on faith. Please leave any comments about this topic below.

Addendum (21 Dec 2017):

Feedback from several readers has helped me to clarify my ideas which may appear a bit muddled in the above text. Here are the main points which I think are valid:

  • Lilly most likely took his “rule” that Houses begin 5 degrees before their cusp from Ptolemy’s discussion of the length of life and his development of an Equal House system in which the cusp of the 1st house is the Ascendant degree and the boundary of the 1st house begins 5 degrees before the Ascendant.
  • The importance of 5 degrees is that it represents the orb of influence surrounding the eastern horizon which symbolizes the life force of the individual.
  • Ptolemy postulated that in this system all house were exactly 30 degrees in size, the cusps of all the houses were multiples of 30 degrees from the Ascendant, the boundaries of the houses began 5 degrees before their cusps, and the importance of the various houses for the life and survival of the native depended on the aspectual relationship of the cusps of the other houses to the Ascendant degree.
  • It is illogical to apply the 5-degree rule without modification to quadrant houses because the 5-degree rules specifically has to do with Equal 30-degree Houses from the Ascendant as cusp of the 1st, whereas quadrant houses are rarely exactly 30 degrees in length.
  • It makes theoretical sense to apply the 5-degree rule in quadrant houses where the cusp of the 1st house is the Ascendant, but it does not make sense to apply this rule to intermediate houses of variable length.
  • To summarize: the Ascendant is the cusp of the 1st house in most systems. The Ascendant is the most powerful point in the chart and in Ptolemy’s system has an orb of influence of 5 degrees in all directions, which is used to define the initial boundary of the 1st house as being 5 degrees before the Ascendant. Given the method used to calculate intermediate houses in quadrant house systems, the equivalent of 5 degrees of the 1st house may be significantly more or less than 5 degrees for the intermediate houses.
  • My plan is to write about this last point in another post.

Here is an example, somewhat dramatic, of the kind of difficulty that can occur with the 5-degree rule. Suppose someone in Finland asked a horary question about marriage. In the following chart Mercury rules the 7th house of marriage. What would the horary astrologer (who uses Placidus houses in this case) consider the house location of Mercury to be in this chart? the 11th house because it is only a couple degrees from the 11th cusp? or the 12th house because Mercury is well withing 5 degrees of the 12th house cusp?  The 11th and 12th houses have very different implications for the state of the marriage.

5 deg rule

Interestingly, if we recast the above chart with Regiomontanus houses, the 12th cusp would be at 11 Sag 56 and Mercury would clearly be a 12th house planet.


Posted in Astrology, horary | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Hour rulers in horary astrology

It seems like the main use practitioners of the Lilly school of horary astrology have for hour rulers in to test them against the Ascendant to determine the radicality of the chart. Nonetheless, there are many passages in Lilly’s text where he discusses the use of hour rulers as significators in answering a question.

Recently I’ve been reading Choices & Inceptions about electional astrology, translated by Ben Dykes who makes the point that many of the classic texts on horary astrologer are simply rewrites of the rules for elections. It appears that electional astrology and its methods preceded and inspired the development of the astrology of interrogations. This fact is important because traditionally the lord of the hour often plays an important role in the outcome of an election.

astroclock prague

In the chapter on 12th house elections, he goes over horse races according to the Al-Rijal (Dykes, p. 375).

Al-Rijal’s method goes as follows:

  • Find the lord of the hour when the horse leaves its home to go to the race track.
  • If the lord of the hour when the horse sets out lies in the 1st house, the horse is likely to win or be among the very first horses to place in the race.
  • If the lord of the hour lies in the 10th house, the horse will run in the middle of the pack.
  • If the lord of the hour lies in the 7th house, the horse will run toward the end of the pack.
  • If the lord of the hour lies in the 4th hour, the horse will come in last.
  • If the lord of the hour is in the sign of its fall, the horse itself will fall during the race.


Bonatti appears to have patterned his somewhat more elaborate rules on this older Arabic text.  The principle seems to be that the lord of the hour is the horse, the 1st house is first place, and the further away from the Ascendant in the order of direct motion of the heavens, the further away is the horse from the winning position. If the hour ruler lies in the sign of it fall, the horse may fall. He doesn’t mention other debilities of the hour ruler, but by extension of this principle one could argue that if the hour ruler is in bad shape, it is an argument that the outcome is unlikely to favor the querent.

This example raises the question of whether we should be paying more attention to the lord of the hour in horary charts. Should we be considering the lord of the hour an important significator in horary questions and not simply a factor in whether or not the chart is radical?



Posted in Astrology, horary | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments