In March of 2021 several astrological sites posted articles about the supposed upcoming phenomenon of Venus being ‘cazimi’ on March 26th at 5 Aries 50 in the tropical zodiac. The word ‘cazimi’ apparently comes from an Arabic term meaning ‘in the heart of the Sun’. According the the definition of cazimi by Guido Bonatti, the conjunction of Venus with the Sun on 26 March 2021 was NOT an example of Venus being cazimi because Venus was 1 degree 21 minutes of latitude below the ecliptic and did not overlap the body of the Sun. I first became aware of the importance of paying attention to planetary latitude in classical astrology when I read Pingree’s translation of Dorotheus back in the late 1970s.
William Lilly defined ‘cazimi‘ as the center of a planet being less than 17 minutes of arc from the center of the Sun:
“A Planet is in the heart of the Sun, or in Cazimi, when he is not removed from him 17 minutes, or is within 17 minutes forward or backward …” (CA 113).
Later in his text Lilly gives a value of 16 minutes of arc: “when a planet is within 16 minutes of the Sun, he is said to be in cazimi…” (CA 300). This definition is a little less accurate.
This definition is based on Sun having an angular diameter of about half a degree, or more precisely, between 31′27″ and 32′32″. Thus, half the diameter of the Sun as seen from Earth ranges from 15’44” to 16’16”, so that the center of a planet lying within this range of distance from the Sun will generally overlap with the body of the Sun when there is up to 16’16” of arc between them, which is less than 17′ of arc.
The precise measurement of cazimi will depend on the day of the year and the angular diameter of the planet involved. From an observational viewpoint on Earth, cazimi and extend up to 16’16” from the center of the Sun, which accounts for Lilly sometimes writing “within 17 minutes” and at other time writing “within 16 minutes” of arc. If we take into account atmospheric refraction, the body of the Sun can appear to have an angular diameter of 34′ of arc, so that cazimi would extend up to 17′ from the center of the Sun, which is consistent with Lilly’s definition on page 113 of Christian Astrology.
Unfortunately, Lilly did not clarify that being cazimi applies to distance from the Sun in both ecliptic longitude and latitude, making the ‘cazimi’ status of a planet an extremely rare occurrence. Most commonly a planet which conjoins the Sun in longitude does not overlap the body of the Sun in latitude, and thus is not cazimi (in the heart of the Sun).
According to William Lilly, a cazimi planet, which lies in the heart of the Sun, thereby becomes strongly fortified and beneficial as a result of its increase in fortune (CA 300). Followers of Lilly who are not aware that Bonatti’s definition applies to both ecliptic longitude and latitude are often surprised that supposedly ‘cazimi’ planets in horary charts do not confer much benefit to the querent and instead can act more like planets combust the Sun. Over the years in several horary chart in which significators appeared cazimi I was disappointed that the beneficial implications of a cazimi planet did not manifest in the outcome of the chart, until I realized that I had been ignoring the latitude of the significator and only considering its close conjunction with the Sun in ecliptic longitude.
As already mentioned, the 13th century astrologer Guido Bonatti, whom Lilly loves to cite, makes the definition quite clear: “And when the planet is with the Sun in one degree, so that there are 16’ or less between them, both by latitude and longitude (which rarely happens), it is said to be united, and then it is made strong, because it is said to be in the Sun’s forge, that is, in his heart.” (Ben Dykes translation of Liber Astronomiae, 2007, p.211)
Bonatti’s definition basically means that to be cazimi, the center of the planet must lie within the body of the Sun. We moderns tend to underestimate the remarkable observational skills of our astrological forebears. If the ancients had our modern telescopes, they might well have illustrated their definitions of cazimi with a diagram like the following from NASA:
The accompanying text from the NASA site goes as follows:
“A transit of Venus across the Sun takes place when the planet Venus passes directly between the Sun and Earth, becoming visible against (and hence obscuring a small portion of) the solar disk. During a transit, Venus can be seen from Earth as a small black disk moving across the face of the Sun.
Transits of Venus are among the rarest of predictable astronomical phenomena. They occur in a pattern that repeats every 243 years, with pairs of transits eight years apart separated by long gaps of 121.5 years and 105.5 years. This month’s transit is the bookend of the 2004-2012 pair. The first occurred on June 8, 2004. This second one will occur on June 5, 2012.
After 2012, the next transits of Venus will be in December 2117 and December 2125.”
Putting Bonatti’s text into modern language, we can say that a ‘cazimi’ Venus is a transit of Venus across the Sun. As the NASA site clarifies, such transits of Venus across the body of the Sun (inferiror conjunctions as seen from Earth) are extremely rare. “They occur in a pattern that repeats every 243 years, with pair of transits eight years apart separated by long gaps of 121.5 years and 105.5 years.” There was a cazimi Venus in 2004, paired with one in 2012, with another pair which will occur in December of 2117 and 2125. There was not a transit of Venus across the Sun in March of 2021 despite what some astrological sites may have claimed. You can’t believe everything you read in print. Thus, if you’ve been reading very tight conjunctions of planets with the Sun as the planets being cazimi, without taking into account latitude, you’ve been misinterpreting horary charts and giving misleading information to your clients.
Venus transiting the Sun, in NASA’s sense, refers to the inferior conjunction of Venus with the Sun, during which the body of Venus becomes visible to observers on Earth in an awe-inspiring way. (As an aside, Bruce Scofield in his book How to Practice Mayan Astrology, notes that newsworthy events, which correlate with the inferior conjunction of Venus, are “often characterized by impulsive human errors that lead to a levelling or crash of some sort.” This sounds a lot more like Venus being combust than her being cazimi, which is a rare occurrence, according to Bonatti’s definition.) Does the idea of ‘cazimi’ also apply to Venus at its superior conjunction with the Sun if the body of Venus is completely hidden by the body of the Sun and, in a sense, is super-combust and most impossible to see from Earth? It would make sense to consider both the inferior and superior conjunctions of the body of Venus with the body of the Sun to meet the definition of ‘cazimi’, even if we can’t see the superior conjunction with our telescopes.
If we take Bonatti’s definition seriously, then we may also need to rethink the definition of combustion. As you can see in the NASA image, once Venus lies outside the disk of the Sun is it completely obscured by the Sun’s rays and is combust, even if it exactly conjoins the Sun in ecliptic longitude. Thus, planets very near the Sun are combust unless they happen to overlap the body of the Sun in both longitude and latitude. If such is the case, the Venus/Sun conjunction of 26 March 2021 occurred with Venus combust the Sun because the center of Venus was 1 degree 21 minutes distant from the center of the Sun in latitude at the time of the exact conjunction in longitude.
The implication of Bonatti’s definition is the planets are considered ‘combust’ if their bodies do not overlap that of the Sun and they are also sufficiently close to Sun to be rendered invisible to an observer on Earth. The number of degrees of distance from the Sun to become visible will vary with the intrinsic brightness of the planet involved, ranging from about 8 degrees for Venus and Mars to about 19 degrees for Mercury, which can only be at most about 28 degrees from the Sun and is therefore visible to the naked eye only at certain limited times during the year.
The following diagram comes from an article posted at the harvard.edu site. It lists the inferior conjunctions of Venus from 1961 to 2023, together with the latitude of Venus during each inferior conjunction. It is readily apparent that the only two such conjunctions in which the body of Venus transits the body of the Sun occur in 2004 and 2012. On all the other dates Venus is combust the Sun in latitude during its inferior conjunction with the Sun. Note that on several of the dates, Venus is a full 8 degrees or more away from the center of the Sun in latitude and may not even meet the definition of being combust the Sun.
Addendum (6 July 2021): Lyuben Meshikov brought to my attention an article by Patrizia Nava about cazimi in which she reaches similar conclusions:
IN THE HEART OF THE SUN
The role of latitude in the definition of cazimi
Presented at KIA Conference, Kolkata, January 1st, 2018
A google search also revealed a copy of this article online at https://www.astro.com/astrology/ivccn_article180927_e.htm#_ftn6
It looks like Patrizia Nava has had the same experience with horary charts. Significators that appear cazimi are often disappointing in their outcomes for the querent. The issue is probably that we are not taking latitude into account and thus labeling planets as cazimi when they are really combust.
Addendum (7 July 2021): Further notes from the literature, Bonatti’s understanding of Abu Ma’shar.
Rhetorius and Sahl define ‘cazimi’ or ‘in the heart of the Sun’ as a planet being in the same degree, presumably along the ecliptic, as the Sun. Essentially this is a ‘partile’ conjunction (partile meaning in the same individual degree of the 30 distinct degrees within a sign) of the planet with the Sun. This definition may have to do with the Hellenistic view of each individual degree (the monomoiria) of the zodiac being the smallest region of dignity of one of the seven visible planets.
Abu Ma’shar, in discussing the synodic cycles of the planets relative to the Sun, appears to refer to the distance of planets along the ecliptic, so that ‘cazimi’ means no more that 16′ of arc from the Sun along the ecliptic, except for the planet Venus which has extreme latitudes. Once planets move more than 16′ from the Sun along the ecliptic, they are considered ‘burned’ or combust. For the inferior planets, combustion lasts until they are 7 degrees away from the Sun on the ecliptic. HOWEVER, Abu Ma’shar notes that for VENUS, even when she is cazimi and within 1 minute of arc from the Sun on the ecliptic, the following holds true:
“sometimes she will be seen in the east or west while she is still with the sun in 1′, and indeed it is like that when she is at the utmost of her latitude … so when Venus is in this condition of great latitude and visibility she is NOT CALLED ‘burned’ but rather she is called ‘appearing’ until her latitude is below 7 degrees and and she nears the Sun a little bit by latitude; then perhaps she will not be seen, and is called ‘burned’ at that time.” (Dykes, Great Introduction of Abu Ma’Shar, 2020, p.418, emphasis mine)
Is there is a logical inconsistency in Abu Ma’shar’s thinking in the above quote? When Venus is more than 7 degrees of ecliptic longitude or latitude from the Sun, she is not called ‘burned’, but when she is visible at 8 degrees or more of latitude from the body of the Sun and is obviously not in contact with the body of the Sun, she is still called ‘cazimi’. How can a planet be in the heart of the Sun when that planet resides 8 degrees away from the Sun’s body?
On the other hand, we could understand Abu Ma’shar to be indicating that ‘cazimi’ must take into account latitude, as Bonatti understood him to mean. Ma’shar starts by stating that when Venus lies within 1′ of arc from the Sun on the ecliptic but is more than 7 degrees away in latitude, Venus may be visible and thus not combust. When Venus, which is within 1 minute of arc of the Sun on the ecliptic, comes within 7 degrees of the Sun in latitude, then Venus is combust (implying that Venus in not in the heart of the Sun). Only when Venus is within 16′ of arc of the Sun in both ecliptic longitude and ecliptic latitude, can Venus then be considered to be in the heart of the Sun. The later view is how Bonatti understood Ma’shar’s text.
In summary, when Venus is near the Sun and conjoins the Sun within 1 minute of arc on the ecliptic, she can be in one of three conditions, according to Abu Ma’shar:
1) more than 8 degrees of latitude from the Sun (while exactly conjunct the Sun on the ecliptic), Venus is visible and not combust, but is ‘appearing’.
2) less than 7 degrees of latitude from the Sun but more than 16′ of latitude from the Sun (while exactly conjunct the Sun on the ecliptic), Venus is not visible and therefore combust.
3) less than 16′ of latitude from the Sun (while exactly conjunct the Sun on the ecliptic), Venus again becomes visible and can be seen in this ‘cazimi’ state as a dark round dot crossing the brilliant body of the Sun, as in the NASA image above.
ADDENDUM (15 July 2021): Al-Biruni on Cazimi
If I understand al-Biruni correctly, he regards a planet as cazimi (samim) when the projection of the planet’s body onto the ecliptic lies within 16′ of arc from the center of the Sun, regardless of the planet’s latitude (except for Venus).
Like Abu Ma’shar, al-Biruni makes an exception in the case of Venus because of her possible extreme latitude with respect to the ecliptic. To quote from the 1934 translation of al-Biruni by R. Ramsay Wright in discussing the inferior planets in their synodic cycles with the Sun:
“It is necessary to distinguish between Venus and Mercury as regards orientality and occidentality, as has been done between Mars on the one hand and Saturn and Jupiter on the other (astronomers are agreed that no such distinction is necessary between these two planets) for Venus has a very high latitude, and sometimes conjunction [with the Sun] occurs when it has attained its highest north latitude, it then remains visible, so that the expression combust and under the rays cease to be applicable, although the planet is in those positions; similarly at tasmim when the north latitude exceed 7 degrees, it must not be described as samim [cazimi] nor muhtariqah [combust] but simply as accompanying the sun, muqurinah.“
Al-Biruni focuses on the northern latitude of Venus because he is an astrologer in the northern hemisphere. South of the equator, Venus with extreme southern latitude would become visible before sunrise when exactly conjunct the Sun on the ecliptic and ” must not be described as samim [cazimi] nor muhtariqah [combust] but simply as accompanying the sun, muqurinah.”