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An Introduction to Hellenistic Astrology

By Steven Birchfield
When I began studying Astrology many years ago, I started from our most popular
form for it today, "Sun Sign Astrology". The first book I purchased was Linda
Goodman's "Sun Signs". As I read about Scorpio, I saw of course that I had many
things in common. Yet, there was a bit of a rebel side to my nature that could not just
accept that I was exactly the same as another 8% of the world's population! That is
the equivalent of three hundred and twenty MILLION people! Were we all exactly as
Linda Goodman described? My experience with others of my sign said, NO! What
was it that then made us "kindred" but different?
These questions were the beginning of my "investigative" growth stage. (You will
notice of course, that I avoid the use of the word "evolution" here. In the strictest
sense of the word and theory it is the acceptance that one species changes into
another. An Astrologer is not another species, although there are many who might
argue that point with me). Not knowing where to begin my investigations, I turned to a
novelty bookshop and purchased my first "Astrology" book. It was a reprint of "The
New Waite's Compendium of Natal Astrology" by Colin Evans. In its pages, I
discovered, much to my satisfaction, that there was more to Astrology than just being
born on a certain day of the year. In order to cast a "true" Horoscope it was needful to
also have the time of day. To my astonishment there was needed a certain level of
mathematical and astronomical understanding! Terms like ecliptic, celestial equator,
right ascension, sidereal time, mean time, true solar time, latitude and declination;
now these were things into which I could sink my figurative teeth. So began to unfold
the world of Houses and aspects, planetary rulers and dispositors. There were
elements and qualities, planets moving direct and those, which moved, retrograde.
How exciting my newfound world was!
Well as with every "silver lining" there was lurking, in the background, a "dark cloud",
I just as quickly found that there was a certain amount of serious disagreement
between Astrologers. This is no new phenomenon either. Vettius Valens, a 2nd
century C.E. Greek astrologer recounts to us,
"And since in the quarrel over the general teachings of the divisions, some made use of them in
relation to the concomitants of the bounds, others in relation to the minor periods, others in relation to
the twelfth-parts which are assembled from 10 years and 9 months, others in relation to the
exaltations, while the subdivisions of these signified events, which were false.And so then, we spent
much time wretchedly, and while distressfully making changes of place, mixing with those who are
zealous about such matters." [1]

As you can see, our astrological forebears suffered as much from the same human
intrigues as we today. In fact, we find a fairly substantial rift exists today between the
various approaches and practices. There seems to have been a distinct polarisation
into two camps. In the modern camp are the Uranians, Humanistic, Esoteric,
Archetypal and Psychological approaches. In the Traditional camp are those that
practice Electional, Horary, Medieval, Mundane, Hellenistic and Vedic. Since the midnineties, more and more ancient texts have been translated and revealed.

Unfortunately the division seems to be growing wider and wider. No truer words have
proven themselves so accurately throughout history, "A house divided cannot stand!"
The question that has plagued me most is, where does one find then, the necessary
continuity that yields a solid foundation in the practice.
This has been the motivation for my quest back through the ages. To study and learn
from the experience of those that have formed astrology, who shaped it to what we
have today. To follow the winds and twists and rediscover those threads of continuity
that is missing today.
What is so special about Hellenistic Astrology?
This is the question most are probably asking and is more to the point of this
introduction. In order to answer properly however requires a closer examination of
our astrological history. When starting my investigations I have to honestly admit that
I was in no wise prepared for the enormous amount of historical and philosophical
evidence I was to have to examine. It is a record that would and does in fact fill
several volumes of books. My recapitulation here of the historical record is therefore
going to be much abbreviated.[2]
I am not going to dwell in depth on the astrology before the Hellenistic period. The
reason being that Astrology as we know it today, where we fix an Ascendant [3] point
and divide the Zodiacal circle for the purposes of analysing (natal horoscope
astrology), answering of questions, picking favourable times for doing things, etc, was
not in existence prior to this period.
This fact alone makes the Hellenistic period unique and worthy of closer examination.
Before this period, Astrology was oracular in nature. That is to say that the fixed
stars, constellations and planets, as well as the natural phenomena associated to
them (eclipses for example), were examined and interpreted as giving signs and
omens concerning physical events. Those plying the Astrologers trade were
interested in the state of the King and kingdom and there was nothing "personal"
about it.
However, the most noteworthy consideration about the Hellenistic period is the
transformation that occurred through the synthesis of the Persian and Chaldean
astrology, with Egyptian religion and astronomy, and the Greek Natural philosophy.
This single event would appear to be the catalyst, which changed the oracular to the
very personal. While I use the term event, I use it rather loosely here. In the "timeline" of history, it fills a rather large period from about 800 - 100 B.C.E. As you can
see it did not "happen over night".
The Pre-Hellenistic Advent: 800 - 400 B.C.E.
The Political and cultural events leading into the Hellenistic period were very
instrumental in setting the stage for the transformation that was to unfold.
Assyria had established a "world" dominion by 730 B.C.E. They controlled all of
Mesopotamia and most of Persia, Syria, Palestine, and Egypt. While it is politically
2

correct to say that Assyria governed, it was however Babylonian culture that
pervaded the entire kingdom and for the first time, there was a free "cultural" flow
between the subject territories. Up to this point, there were distinct differences in
astrological, astronomical and philosophical culture, one line moving from the
Babylonians, One from the Persians and one from the Egyptians. As it was the first
time that Egypt, Babylonia and Persia were under the same political system, one has
to recognise the importance of these great cultures meeting. In 612 B.C.E, the
Babylonians once again regained regional domination only to be shortly thereafter
subjugated by Persia. This was an important time in the mixing of these three main
astrology lines, Persian, Babylonian and Egyptian.
Another important ingredient to the cultural "stew" that was brewing was the Semitic
influence and the monotheistic religious teachings. When the New Babylonian Empire
took the reigns of control, one of their first conquests was the overthrow of Jerusalem
and the captivity of Israel.
"In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto
Jerusalem, and besieged it.
And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God:
which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the
treasure house of his god."
"And the king communed with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah,
Mishael, and Azariah: therefore stood they before the king.
And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king enquired of them, he found them ten
times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm.
And Daniel continued even unto the first year of king Cyrus."
"Then the king made Daniel a great man, and gave him many great gifts, and made him ruler over the
whole province of Babylon, and chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon.
Then Daniel requested of the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, over the affairs of
the province of Babylon: but Daniel sat in the gate of the king." [4]

One wonders just what kind of influence Daniel and his friends had as "governors
over all the wise men". It is interesting to note that it is in this time period that the first
Zodiac appears in Babylon as we know it today, divided into twelve 30 segments. It
is clear from the Bible that Daniels influence extended into the reign of Cyrus the
Persian [5].
Equally interesting is the fact that several birth charts were found written in cuneiform,
the oldest being dated to the late Persian period April 29, 410 B.C.E.[6], which had no
degrees given, only sign positions, and no Ascending degree. Rob Hand further tells
us that,
"Various ancient sources mention "Chaldeans" who cast birth charts for various persons, including
Diogenes Laertius who said that according to Aristotle, a Chaldean forecast Socrates' death from his
birth chart, and that Euripides' father also had his son's chart read getting a forecast of his brilliant
career. The reference to Chaldeans of course refers to astrologers and makes it clear that the art in
this period was completely associated with late Babylonians, i.e., Chaldeans."[7]

This, among the many subtle changes developing in astrology, was particularly
significant. Why is that? Simply, this event brings to our attention the beginnings of
the emphasis of the "individual". Since all the oriental cultures were "collective"
3

oriented, where should we look to find the source of this change of emphasis? For
that answer, I think we have to investigate what was happening outside of the
dominant world power.
In this same period of 800 - 400 B.C.E. was developing the philosophical and
"scientific" groundwork in Greece. Ancient Greeks such as Homer[8] and Hesiod[9]
had already built a "national" mythology, but it was the Milesians Thales[10],
Anaximander[11], and Anaximenes[12] as well as Heracleitus[13], who sought to give a
quasi-scientific explanation of the world. While not "scientists" or mathematicians,
they laid a foundation for all future philosophical and scientific investigation by
describing in natural philosophical terms the creation and the stars influence. Those
that followed, followed the precedence that they had set. To list, in this introduction,
all the major actors and their contributions would be an immense work and perhaps
detract from its intention. The most significant to name here are Socrates[14],
Plato[15], Pythagoras[16], Hippocrates[17]and Aristotle[18].
The Greeks at this point had become the philosophical and "scientific" centre of the
known world and their cosmology of causality and emphasis on the "individual"
became the subjects of prime interest. The schools and academies established in
Greece attracted the "wise men" and scholars from far and wide within the now
Persian empire. Simultaneously many of these same Greek philosophers travelled
widely carrying these new schools of thought to both Egypt and Babylon.

The Hellenistic Period


We have seen above that at least by Aristotle's time, ca. 350 B.C.E., there were the
beginnings of natal astrology. However, it is also interesting to note that up to this
time we find no Greek astrology or astrologers! Any references to astrologers were
simply the "Chaldeans". So where does the astrology of the Hellenistic period, (or
what is commonly called Hellenistic Astrology), come from? What then are the
origins of "horoscope" astrology?
In 331 B.C.E the political picture changed as Alexander the Great gathered the
Persian Empire under Greek domination. Egypt, Palestine, Persia, Mesopotamia and
parts of northwest India all fell as conquests and for the first time in history the
different cultures were united under a common language. Greek was not only the
official language, but was used for any purpose involving communications between
the diverse ethnic cultures. A scholar or traveller could go anywhere, from Greece in
the west, to India in the east, and Egypt in the south and be understood. Interestingly
enough, it was not Athens which became the centre of culture for this new empire as
one would think. It was Alexandria in Egypt that became one of the most famous of
the Hellenistic capitals. While the residents of Alexandria retained some of their
Egyptian culture, it became mixed with that of the Greeks, Romans, Macedonians,
Persians, Syrians, Jewish, and Chaldeans. It was somewhere here, amongst the
intellectual mlange of third century BCE Alexandria, that very simple natal or judicial
astrology made a quantum leap to a highly sophisticated and complex system of

astrological methodology
Quite honestly, the period from 300 - 100 B.C.E. is a mystery. There exist no known
texts or manuscripts from this period, but here do exist several varying opinions as to
just where this system of horoscope interpretation came from. Some theorise it was
the result of a continuous tradition from Mesopotamia transmitted by Babylonian
diviners such as Berossus[19]to the Greeks. Robert Schmidt presents us with the
opinion that it was a unique Greek invention as a theoretical construct by one man or
a small school. The Hermetic traditionalists insist it came out of the secret oral
Egyptian temple system. Others propose it was the creative synthesis by scholars of
all three cultures: Egyptian, Mesopotamian and Greek. Unless some long forgotten
text is uncovered, we may never know.
We do know that they did exist, although indirectly, through the writings of the "third"
generation astrologers in Greece, the "novi". The second century CE astrologer
Vettius Valens reports to us,
"The most amazing Abraham in his books on this subject has given us the explanation of others as
well as his own. . . " [20]
"For in the 13th book, after the prooemium and the disposition of the zoidia, the King attacks the Lot of
Fortune from the Sun. . ." [21](referring to the text of Nechepso[22])
"For him who wishes to ascertain the matter of happiness more exactly, I will return to the Lot of
Fortune which is the most necessary and sovereign place, as the king mysteriously explained,
beginning in the 13th book. . ." (referring to the text of Nechepso) "Petosiris [23]also explained the
matter similarly in the 'Boundaries', . . " [24]

Therefore, it is clear from Valens texts that he derived his teachings from an even
earlier textbook. Just how much earlier, we do not know. It is "guestimated" that
Nechepso and Petosiris were writing somewhere between 300 - 200 B.C.E. and
Abraham we have no other reference to. Another "mystical" figure from this same
period is one called Hermes Trismegistus[25]. His writings are widely repeated
among a large percent of the earliest Greek astrologers. It is a shame that we have
not been able to retrieve any texts from this very important period. Nevertheless,
some things are quite evident, the most important being that in the 5th century B.C.E.
we have the most rudimentary of natal astrology. Then, by the time of the earliest
recorded astrological authors ca. 100 B.C.E., we have a very complete natal
astrology. Robert Schmidt best sums up these events for us,
"There is a statement by a Neo-Platonist philosopher named Iamblichus in a strange book called On
The Mysteries. In this book, another neo-Platonist Porphyry (of Porphyry house fame, for the
astrologers here) is directing a number of questions about the Egyptian religion to an Egyptian priest.
In the course of the answering of these questions, the priest says that the men who translated the
Egyptian sacred writings into Greek -- and these sacred writings included their magical, alchemical,
and astrological writings, all generally attributed to one of their sages names Hermes -- the men who
translated these sacred writings into Greek were men who were trained in Greek philosophy,
presumably the philosophies of the Athenian Greeks Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics.
Now, this is a very astonishing statement and it made a great impression on me. If we take it seriously
(it is several hundred years after the fact), it means that in Hellenistic astrology we may have an
absolutely unique event, something that had probably never happened before and has not happened

since. We may have a deliberate and unprecedented fusion of what we might call the straight Athenian
philosophical tradition and the esoteric traditions of the Middle East."[26]

The Hellenistic period is unique in the history of astrology. In less than 200 years, an
astrology developed that changed the whole nature of its earlier Oracular history.
Conclusion
It is not a forgone conclusion that Hellenistic astrology's uniqueness makes it better
or the most reliable method. Its "rediscovery" however has introduced us once again
to techniques discarded or lost due to perhaps errors in its transmission or
misunderstanding of underlying principles. As I speak seven languages, I understand
completely the problems in translation. The difficulties are compounded when one
language "ideology" is foreign to another. Astrological history is replete with
translations of translations of translations. Egyptian texts were translated to Greek,
which were later translated to Arabic, which were again later translated to Latin with
several hundred years between translations. You played the game as children I am
sure, where you sat in a circle and one person whispered something in his
neighbours ear and it went around the circle each whispering in his neighbours ear
what he "understood" he heard. Often times the results were quite comical. It
illustrates quite effectively that the further away from the source one gets, the more
chance there is for the distortion of that source. Add to that the element of translation,
and you have a reasonable chance for distortion of information.
Therefore, it is the intention of this astrologer to introduce, in the upcoming pages of
this site, the techniques and philosophy discarded, misunderstood or lost to us over
the 2000+ years since their inception. I hope that you will come back and join me in
re-discovering the threads of continuity that have made astrology one of the most
lasting concepts in mankind's history.

[1] Vettius Valens, "The Anthology Book IV" Chapter XI, Translation by Robert Schmidt and published
by The Golden Hind Press 1996
[2] I personally feel any serious student of astrology should take the time to examine closely the
historical record. One can study individually but my experience has taught me that it is advantageous
to receive instruction. Kepler College now has expanded their curriculum to include a course in the
History of Astrology, which I highly recommend. - - Steven Birchfield
[3] The Ascendant is the sign that was coming up over the eastern horizon at the instant of your birth.
The Greek word for ascendant is horoskopos: meaning "hour marker". The Greek term is more flexible
and can mean any house that can serve as a 1st house for counting purposes.

[4] Daniel 1:1- 2, 19 - 20 ∓mp 2: 48 - 49 - KJV the Bible


[5] The Persians conquered Babylonia in ca. 539 B.C.E. see also Daniel chapter 10 in the Bible
[6] "The History of Astrology - Another View" - by Robert Hand
[7] "The History of Astrology - Another View" - by Robert Hand
[8] Homer is the archaic Greek author of Iliad, and Odyssey.
[9] Hesiod whose works include Theogeny and Works and Days is placed in history about 750 BCE.
There are many resemblances between his mythological characters and the pantheon gods of
Babylon.
[10] Thales (ca. 624 - 546 B.C.E.) was more or less the father of "Natural Philosophy" and scientific
investigation. There are no written records from Thales although many of his students wrote of him,
" ... for there must be some natural substance, either one or more than one, from which the other
things come-into-being, while it is preserved. Over the number, however, and the form of this kind of
principle they do not all agree; but Thales, the founder of this type of philosophy, says that it is water..."
- - Aristotle Metaf. A3,983b6
Thales was the first person to investigate the basic principles, the question of the originating
substances of matter and was interested in almost everything, investigating almost all areas of
knowledge, philosophy, history, science, mathematics, engineering, geography, and politics.
[11] Anaximander - was thought to have been popular in the mid 6th century BCE and believed that all
things came from an unspecified boundless stuff. ( ca. 611 - 545 B.C.E.)
[12] Anaximenes - He is best known for his doctrine that air is the source of all things. This claim
contrasts with the view of Thales that water was the source, and with the view of Anaximander that all
things came from an unspecified boundless stuff. He also introduced the philosophical thought of the
cosmological macrocosm and the worldly microcosm (ca. early 600 - 528 B.C.E.).
[13] Heracleitus of Ephesus and Greek philosopher remembered for his cosmology, in which fire forms
the basic material principle of an orderly universe. Little is known about his life, and the one book he
apparently wrote is lost. His views survive in the short fragments quoted and attributed to him by later
authors. (ca. 540 - 480 B.C.E.)
[14] Socrates was a philosopher of Athens and left no known writings. Most of our knowledge of him
and his teachings comes from the dialogues of his most famous pupil, Plato, and from the memoirs of
Xenophon. (ca. 469 - 399 B.C.E.)
[15] Plato was a student of Socrates, and wrote numerous philosophical works. The Apology, The
Phaedo, The Crito, The Meno, The Symposium, The Republic, Gorgias, Phaedrus, Philebus,
Theaetetus, Protagoras, The Sophist and Timaeus. After the execution of Socrates, he took refuge in
Megara. He travelled extensively in Greece, Egypt, and Italy. In 387 B.C.E., he founded The
Academy in Athens. (ca. 428 - 347 B.C.E.)
[16] Pythagoras of Samos is often described as the first pure mathematician. He is an extremely
important figure in the development of mathematics yet we know relatively little about his mathematical
achievements. Unlike many later Greek mathematicians, where at least we have some of the books
which they wrote, we have nothing of Pythagoras's writings. (ca. 569 - 475 B.C.E.)
[17] Hippocrates a contemporary of Plato is referred to as a famous physician who had a philosophical
approach to medicine. He regarded the body as "a whole"--that is, as an organism. Trustworthy
information about his life is scanty. (ca. 460 - 377 B.C.E.)

[18] Aristotle more than any other thinker, determined the orientation and the content of Western
intellectual history. After being a student at Plato's Academy in Athens he became a teacher there.
One of the topics to which Aristotle made major contributions was the natural philosophy of matter,
change, movement, space, position, and time. He was the author of a philosophical and scientific
system that through the centuries became the support and vehicle for both medieval Christian and
Islamic scholastic thought: until the end of the 17th century, Western culture was Aristotelian. Even
after the intellectual revolutions of centuries to follow, Aristotelian concepts and ideas remained
embedded in Western thinking. (ca. 384 - 322 B.C.E.)
[19] Berossus was a priest of Bel at Babylon, who translated into Greek the standard Babylonian work
on astrology and astronomy, and compiled (in three books) the history of his country from native
documents, which he published in Greek in the reign of Antiochus II. (250 B.c.).
[20] Vettius Valens, "The Anthology Book II" Chpt. 29 translated by Robert Schmidt and published by
Golden Hind Press 1994
[21] Vettius Valens, "The Anthology Book III" Chpt. 11, translated by Robert Schmidt and published by
Golden Hind Press 1994
[22] Nechepso, the Egyptian Pharoah who is supposed to have written an important astrological
textbook in the second century BCE (?)
[23] Petosiris was supposed to have written with Nechepso.
[24] Vettius Valens, "The Anthology Book II" Chpt. 3, translated by Robert Schmidt and published by
Golden Hind Press 1994
[25] The Egyptian teacher of the magical system known as Hermetism of which are found both
practical (Liber Hermetis) and philosophical writings (Corpus Hermeticum). The name Trismegistus
means thrice greatest Hermes, and is the title given by the Greeks. (ca 200 B.C.E.) The Hellenistic
writers attributed the use of houses, or signs used as houses to Hermes. It is probable that aspects
are also Egyptian. The lots are almost certainly Egyptian as well as most of the systems of rulership.
[26] "The Problem with Astrology" by Robert Schmidt

Houses: Old and New


An Introduction to Houses
The only way I can conceivably discuss this topic is to first take some time to examine the history of
our house systems. I would like to just emphasise that by writing this "synopsis" I am in no way
endorsing one system over another. It's been my experience up to now to realise that different
situations require different techniques. Often I find myself in my own practice mixing their use
depending on what I'm looking for. So "my brand" of "Houses may be by no means the "best" or most
recommended for you and your needs. What is important to understand are what I like to call, the
"first principles". These foundations perhaps will help you to know what is best in your own practice
of astrology.
It is also important that I point out that by examining our history and the "classical" approaches to
understanding these systems I am not condoning that we return to the "good old days" or that we
should forsake our heritage we have today. We have an opportunity today that has never existed
before in the history of the art of astrology. For the first time in history we have dedicated astrologers
who have both the means and knowledge to translate and further transmit to us a more concise
record of the past. There have been valuable translations made in the past by others, Pingree and
Robbins, for example, but the approach was historical and to a large extent linguistic. Since the early
90's however through the efforts of accomplished astrologers such as Robert Hand, Robert Schmidt
and Robert Zoller, we have new translations that are linguistically consistent as well as contextually
accurate. Even in the days when the Arabs translated the Greek texts or the Romans the Arab texts
they did not have the vast resources that these folks have today. The work these gentlemen have
accomplished and are still busy accomplishing is in my opinion, invaluable.
The emergence of these texts has also in some ways, widened the already existing conflict between
"traditional" and "modern" practices. My intent is not to "convert" anyone. My sincerest desire is rather
that knowledge shared will help us to establish a "consistent" and more useful astrology for today,
one that meets the needs of our present "day and age". To do that though one has to lay aside on the
back burner any preconceived ideas and dogma, whether they are past or present, and take an
honest look at the "whole" picture.
As a building engineer by profession, (presently in ship building), I am perhaps more keenly aware of
"first principles". A boat built 1000 years ago is basically the same as one built today. What has
changed has been building techniques, material, and functionality. But while we have modified
designs to ensure stability, the "first principles" of designs have not changed through all of history. A
boat is a boat. In my study of astrology I am also keenly aware that these same principles exist.
Astrology is astrology. What has been difficult has been finding that continuity that ensures the
integrity of astrology. This is why as an early engineer we studied early ship design and why now I
have taken the time to study early "astrological design". The problem with finding that continuity within
astrology of course has been its first principles are a little less "tenuous" than those of building a ship.
At the heart of astrology we are dealing with "metaphysical" realities that are not as easy to
categorically define.
We find this truth in both classical and modern astrology. Robert Schmidt, in his article called "The
Facets of Fate" tells us,

"Fate, what the Greeks called Moira, . . . . takes as its province what is generally regarded as contingent or accidental matters that were excluded from serious philosophical consideration by the Athenian philosophers themselves as being
ultimately unintelligible."

Likewise the well known "father" of our modern day archetypal/psychological astrology, Carl Jung,
tells us in similar terms.
"...the Self is a borderline concept, which I call a symbol because it expresses something we cannot express otherwise,
because we simply don't understand it. The idea of the Self is really unknown ground. The psychological definition is that
the Self is the totality of consciousness and unconsciousness, and that sounds pretty definite, we seem to know what
consciousness is and to have a fairly clear idea about the unconscious. But to say we know the unconscious is going too
far; we only know of it.... A concept that contains a definite factor like consciousness and an indefinite factor like
unconsciousness is not scientific.... it is metaphysical in its nature per definition: it overreaches itself." [1]

In order today to resolve the differences between "modern" and "classic", there is going to have to be
reconciliation between the "philosophies" of both, because no matter how one turns the coin, it is not
the "scientific" nature that is the problem but rather one of a meta-philosophical nature. It is no
coincidence that both modern psychology and classical astrology have the same roots in ancient
philosophy. I sometimes can't help comparing the present dilemma to the story of Jacob and Essau in
the Old Testament of the Bible. [2]
My humble position having been clarified by the above, I would like to briefly outline just what I would
like to cover in this examination. First I would like to briefly describe the philosophy behind the use of
houses and where the thought comes from. Secondly we can examine their use and function in the
Hellenistic period. Thirdly we can look at the changes involved in the Arabic and medieval period.
Fourth we can study its further development from the Middle Ages to the 1700's. And perhaps lastly
look at their development from the Renaissance to today.
A Philosophical Look Into the Original Hellenistic House System
To avoid digressing into historical "daisy picking" if anyone is interested in some of the finer points of
the historical record, there are some very informative and interesting articles available on the web and
those references will be found at the end of this article.[3]
I hope everybody is ready for a ride down "memory lane", because we do have to go back quite a
ways in the History of astrology to find out about the "concept" of Houses. And in studying this
interesting topic I have to clarify that the word "Houses" is a bit misleading when discussing this
history. There is no record of them being called such in early astrology. Instead the word "topos" was
used in the Greek texts, simply meaning an area of life, a "place" in relation to the Ascendant. Our
word "topic" is derived from this Greek word.
The earliest records of natal astrology that have actually been uncovered are Chaldean or
Babylonian. They are very crude in nature and all lack a placement of the Ascendant so have no
house division whatsoever. Most likely the system of Houses has come to us from the Egyptian and
Hermetic influence. To place this in a time perspective, we are talking about the years from 400
B.C.E. to 100 B.C.E. approximately. The "Golden Age" of Hellenistic astrology was from about 100
B.C.E. to 400 C.E. In this time frame we have Dorotheus of Sidon, Vettius Valens, Ptolemy, Paulus
Alexandrinus, Hephaistio, Manilius, Porphyry, Julius Firmicus Maternus, and Antiochus of Athenes to
name a few of the most important. As you can see we have recovered a wealth of text to study.
These authors in turn often refer to earlier writings that they themselves have studied and which were
a source of their particular astrology. Unfortunately these texts have not been recovered much the
shame.
10

The earliest text we have available to us that deals with assigning topics to places in the Zodiac is
quoted in the writings of Hephastio. In the text it assigns the topics to the decans of each sign.[4]
Likewise there existed a division of the Zodiac into 8 places called (octotopos) of which we find
reference to in the writings of Manilius (~ 48 B.C.E. - 20 C.E.) and later reference in Firmicus
Maternus (335 C.E.).[5]
However through the Hellenistic period there was in clear use a popular system that divided the
Zodiac into 12 places. These "places" were closely related to Greek philosophical thought, especially
that of Plato.[6] The concept of these places represented a systematic separation and expression of
the "fate" concept. Robert Schmidt in his very excellent article on "the Facets of Fate" explains to us
this Greek concept and its ramifications as to House or "place" meanings.
"We cannot dispense with the fate concept when talking about Hellenistic astrology. All Hellenistic astrological concepts
and techniques ultimately derive their meaning and motivation from the articulation of the underlying cosmological model
in terms of Moira (fate). As we will see, it is central in the division of the zodiac into twelve houses, at the same time giving
these houses their coherence and integrity in a system." [7]

In conjunction with the concept of fate we must also consider the inherently mingled philosophical
"cosmology" model as described by Plato in his work "Timaeus".[8] In his Classic we are introduced
to two essential motions that would later become an underlying rationale in understanding the content
and strength of a house.
In his work Plato tells us that soon after the creation by the "Demiurge" (or the Creator - God), he
created what are known as the "Circle of the Same" and the "Circle of the Other". The Demiurge
made the "circle of the Same" to correspond to the celestial equator and so it corresponds to the
diurnal motion, which creates day and night. When looking at the Zodiac it is the direction that the
Houses/Signs travel (clockwise motion). The "circle of the Same" is similar in nature to the Monad [9]
and "sameness" and is regular and unchanging. The Demiurge then set the motion of the planets on
the "circle of the Other" to revolve in contrary motion to that of the motion of the "Same". This is what
we know as planetary movement, that is, when looking at the Zodiac the planets move in a counterclockwise direction. This was done to match the natures of the motions of these two circles to the
contrariety between the Monad and the Dyad.[10]
The significance of these motions become clearer when we see them in relation to the four angles of
the Zodiac, the Ascendant (horoskopos in Greek), the Midheaven, the Descendant and the Nadir or
IC. The Horoskopos marked the first place or House in the chart. The four angles were collectively
designated by the term "kentron", which generally meant any kind of point, but more precisely a sting,
a goad, and the point around which a compass arm turns (from which we get our word 'centre').
Figuratively and astrologically speaking then, each of the four pivots or angles were a special kind of
turning point.
If we take as an example the Ascendant, two other Houses, the 2nd and the 12th surround it. A
planet located in the second house moves by its own planetary motion away from the Ascendant. But
the diurnal motion of the Houses/Signs carries it backward towards the Ascendant. From this simple
"metaphysical" principle is derived the significance of the 2nd House. This motion directly symbolizes
what we pay out and what we receive from our investments, as well as the possessions and useful
items that we obtain to support our life (the Ascendant). Here, our source of support can be seen as
any action directed outward toward the world (away from the Ascendant) with the expectation of
gaining something in return appropriate for our well being.
11

Likewise a planet located in the twelfth house is being carried by its planetary motion towards the
Ascendant but the diurnal motion of the Sign/Houses frustrate this motion turning it back and carrying
it away from the Ascendant. It was considered "declining" from the Ascendant. This motion directly
symbolizes the things that intrude into our life or our situation in order to carry off our life, or what is
essential to our continued existence. An example of this is an enemy who robs, maybe even inflicting
physical injury in the process. It can also be a severe illness resulting in being hospitalised and
accruing debts so big one is obliged to sell ones entire livelihood, a form of submission to slavery
where our life is no longer our own.
From this congenial metaphysical principle we can gain a most valuable insight into all the "houses"
and their respective influences. Through this principle also is transmitted the Cardinal, Successive
and Cadent doctrine. In Hellenistic "speak" these were called the pivots, post-ascensional and the
declines. We can clearly see from the above example just why and how the houses were categorised
dynamically by their strength and purpose.
House Systems that the Early Hellenistic Astrologers Used
As I mentioned previously, it is quite impossible to separate the Hellenistic astrology from the
Hellenistic philosophy. For this reason I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise that the early
astrologers did not divide the quadrants into what we know as "Houses" when discussing the topical
nature of each place. There is a clear distinction in the early texts between a "topical" place and a
"dynamic" place.
One of the earliest uses of zodiacal divisions for specific topics or areas of life is in a work that
predates texts of the fabled Nechepso and Petosiris. It is called Salmeschoiniaka and has to do with
the division of 36 decans. A fragment of this text is quoted in the writings of Hephastio:
"One must also examine the decans since the first one of the Horoskopos deals with birth; the 28th from the Horoskopos,
which culminates early, deals with livelihood; the 25th, which culminates at noon, deals with sickness; the 9th, which rises
late in the east, deals with injury; the 17th, which rises in the west, deals with marriage and wife; the 8th, the door of
Hades, deals with children; the one in the subterraneous [pivot] deals with death." (II 18).

A decan was a division of a whole sign, so I imagine it would be appropriate to consider this division
Hephastio is discussing as a "whole decan" system. Contemporary with Hephastio's use was the
"dodekatropos" system, simply meaning a "twelve-turning" system. This system is mentioned in
numerous writers, in the epitome of Thrasyllus, Rhetorius, Valens and in Maternus. In all of these
cases these twelve "places" are unmistakably the same as the signs. Many of the early writers, such
as Dorotheus, do not even address the issue. They simply talk about the Horoskopos and the
Midheaven and places relative to these. Their failure to treat the issue thematically is an indication
that house-division was a convention so much taken for granted that it wasn't necessary to clarify or
discuss it. [11] The signs were the "topical" house or place.
Again, perhaps the reason for this is found in the basic philosophy. To the early astrologers the signs,
or what they called "zoidia" were more than just a boundary or description. They were considered to
have a life of their own: they were living in the sense that they were subject to the dictates of "Moira"
or fate, just as we are. So it was not conceivable for them to be "cut" up or partitioned any more than
it was possible to cut up or partition a human; a planet ruled the whole sign, a topic was described by
a whole sign, etc. This is very consistent with the early texts. That means that the 1st "house" was the
whole sign in which the degree of the Horoskopos or ascendant fell. If the horoskopos was 2 Taurus,
then the first "house" was from 0 to 30 Taurus. If it fell at 29 Taurus, the first "house" was still 0 to
30 Taurus.
12

To take a closer look at this concept let's look at a passage from Vettius Valens' "Anthology" Book IV
chapter 12,
"Concerning the Naming of the 12 Places and Concerning the Twelve-Turning (dodekatropos).
Let the beginning be from the Horoskopos, which is life, helm, body, and breath. The 2nd: manner of living, Gates of
Hades, shaded place, giving, receiving, community (in relation to how you profit from your local environment). The 3rd:
siblings, being abroad, kingdom, authority, friends (in relation to how you receive them in your home), relatives, heart (in
relation to how open it is to receiving guests. We would call it hospitality today), slaves (how they are treated in your
home). The 4th: reputation, father, children (how they are supported and raised), one's own woman and older persons,
what one does (in relation to how it supports your home), city, household, possessions, abidings, retribution, changes of
place, dangers, death, constraints, mystical matters. The 5th: place of children (how many and what kind), friendship (in
relation to how they can bring you something unexpectedly good), community, putting out of emancipated slaves, a kind
of good or well doing. The 6th: the place of slaves, injuries, enemies, ailments, and weaknesses. The 7th: the place of
marriage, luck, and intercourse with a woman, friendship, being abroad. The 8th: death, benefits from fatality, idle place
(This is a reference to the fact that the eighth zoidion, or place, is disjunct the Horoskopos and therefore unproductive. note by Rob Hand), lawsuits, weaknesses. The 9th: the place of friendship (what their philosophical relationship is to you),
being away from home, benefits from foreigners, the place of god, King, sovereignty, astrology, oracular consultations,
manifestations of the gods, prophesying, place of mystical or secret matters, community (your philosophical relationship to
your immediate environment). The 10th: place of what one does, reputation, advancement, children (how they may be a
product of your occupation), wife, change, and renewal of things. The 11th: place of friends (in relation to how they
support your profession), hopes, gifts, children (how they might take over your business or profession for example), of
emancipated slaves. The 12th: place of foreign countries, enmities, slaves, injuries, dangers, courts of judgment, ailments,
death, and weakness.
Each place then, properly produces what it signifies, but also the nature of the diametrical zoidion (or sign)
cooperates."[12]

We see from this text, through the context of this text, that we are dealing with "whole-sign" places.
",,,but also the nature of the diametrical zoidion (or sign) cooperates." And throughout Valens' charts
that he presents and discusses, the use of whole sign "houses" is consistent. One thing that is also
interesting to note is that we find topics repeated in various places. For example we find "friends" or
"friendship" in the 3rd, 5th, 9th, and 11th. Their topics were much more specific signifying the different
aspects of friendship in relation to the native. Likewise children are found in the 4th, 5th, 10th and
11th. As I mentioned previously, this is because of the relation of these places to their respective
angle or pivot and the motion of the planets in contrast to the diurnal motion of the signs. If I were to
question if my children were going to take over the family business the significator would be found in
the 11th house. If the result of my profession were going to produce children it would be signified in
the 10th. Even then they had to watch out for promiscuity on business trips!
The exception to this "whole-sign" system is found in another text from Vettius Valens, "Anthology"
Book III chapter 2 in his discussion in choosing the "predominator" or the Hyleg [13],
"Concerning the Notable Degrees of the Pivot Points
Before all, then, after one has established the degree marking the hour (the ascendant) and the degree culminating (the
MC) and the degrees of the remaining pivot points (the descendant and IC), it behoves him to take the interval from the
degree marking the hour up to the degree anti-culminating (IC), and to suppose that 1/3 part of the conjoined multitude in
the pivotal figure consists of profitable degrees, and that either benefic or malefic stars are powerful in these degrees. But
one must also suppose the remaining degrees from the next degrees up to the subterraneous pivot point (IC again) are
unprofitable and the stars upon them profitless and ineffectual; and that the diameters of the Horoskopos and the
remaining pivot points possess the same power in relation to the profitable and unprofitable degrees, the stars upon them
being likewise vigorous."

This appears to be the current method of his time according to Valens. But he continues,
13

"However it seems to me more natural for it to hold as follows: After taking the interval from the degree marking the hour
up to the subterraneous pivot point and reckoning 1/3 of these just as above, and after departing in order from the degree
marking the hour, to judge these degrees and their diameters to be powerful, and to judge another 1/3 of the degrees as
middling - - neither more good nor more base - - on account of the post-ascension of the Horoskopos..The first 1/3 part,
then, of the degrees from the Horoskopos are profitable and powerful; another 1/3 part is middling (mediocre); and
another 1/3 part noxious and base. And the stars (the planets) are also active after the same fashion." [14]

What we have here then is the division of the quadrants into areas of activity. You may notice that this
method is exactly the same as the Porphyry system we have today where each area between the
angles is equally divided into thirds. What is particularly significant to realise is that this division into
"dynamic" areas was in no way connected to the "topical" places. They did not replace them or
otherwise. They were only used as an indicator of strength of a planet found there. Surprisingly much
the same as the Gauquelin results revealed.
These divisions were also very important into revealing what transiting planets were "active" or
"inactive" in Solar Returns and profections or directions. Modern astrology struggles a little in this
area trying to understand why some transits are felt and others not. Our predecessors had no trouble
understanding this.
In a nutshell what we find in these Greek texts is that there were distinct uses for the house systems;
primarily to describe the topics of a "house" or to determine a planets strength in an area of the chart,
or a dynamic system. But they were never confused in these texts. The "dynamic" division was not
used to interpret the topical content.
In closing this part of our examination of House systems I would like to include two commentaries to
the above texts by Robert Schmidt and Robert Hand.
"From this chapter it seems quite clear that the early Greeks regarded the house systems originating from division of the
quadrants to be concerned with the profitable places - - that is, places of greater or lesser activity on the part of the planet
occupying that place, places where they could properly conduct its business. These house divisions, however, do not
seem (here at least) to be for the purpose of discriminating house matters, or subject areas of one's life. Presumably the
whole sign system of houses would continue to be used for that purpose. The two systems are thus not incompatible. This
raises the intriguing possibility that the later Greek commentators, who seem to be the first to get agitated over the
question of house division, were perhaps confusing two different issues."
- - Robert Schmidt
"It appears most likely that we can take this text of Valens at face value, i.e., that zoidia (or signs) are to be used for
interpretation, and these Porphyrean houses are to be used for the strength of the planet. This could be the beginning of
the answer to the whole problem of house division, that is, that astrologers ever since have been trying to combine two
unrelated functions, symbolic rulership and strength, that should never have been combined."
- - Rob Hand

In the next instalment I'd like to look at where and when the use of "dynamic" houses as topical
began.

14

[1] Carl Jung - "Nietzsche's Zarathustra" p. 413-4v


[2] See Genesis 25 - 28 of the Bible
[3] The following articles are very good for gaining an understanding in the history of astrology:

"Historical Background" - by Marilynn Lawrence (sorry for the lack of URL I can't find it again.)
"The History of Astrology-Another View" - by Rob Hand
"An Introduction to Hellenistic Astrology" - by Steven Birchfield
"Transmission of Astrological Doctrine from Hellenistic to Medieval Times" - by Robert Schmidt
"An Introduction to the History of Astrology" - by Nick Campion

[4]"House Division, Planetary Strength, and Cusps in Hellenistic Astrology" - by Robert Schmidt
Decans, or faces as they were also called, were a division of a sign that is 30 into three 10 segments. Each segment
was "ruled" by a planet. For example in Aries, 0 to 10 was ruled by Mars, 10 to 20 was ruled by the Sun and 20 to 30
was ruled by Mercury. There was two systems of Decans that were used but the most popular and that which has come
further through tradition is the one endorsed by Ptolemy.
[5]"The Dominion or Set of the 8 Houses" - by Patrice Guinard, PhD
[6] The Story of the 3 fates or "muses" is found at the end of Plato's "The Republic". Astrologer Anthony Pea has a very
interesting article called "Plato, Reincarnation, and the Zodiac" where he explains in good detail the story of the "fates"
and just how they distributed "Moira".
[7]"The Facets of Fate: The Rationale Underlying the Hellenistic System of Houses" - by Robert Schmidt
[8] By Plato Written 360 B.C.E.
[9] "In the beginning was the Monad, which is in essence a unifying principle. In the material universe, the infinitely small,
infinitely powerful point just before the big bang created the universe would symbolize this. This Monad is not aware of
anything outside itself for there is nothing outside itself at this stage. The number "One" is but a material representation
and instantiation of the principle of the Monad. The Monad because of its unity also represents sameness, from which
Plato coined the term "Same"." - - "The Cosmic Soul and Anima Mundi", by Curtis Manwaring
[10] The Dyad represents the principle of contrariety. This is not the same as opposite because opposites require a frame
of reference, which implies a 3rd entity, which has not been created yet. The Dyad because of it's contrariety, represents
otherness, from which Plato coined the term "Other". - - "The Cosmic Soul and Anima Mundi", by Curtis Manwaring
[11]"House Division, Planetary Strength, and Cusps in Hellenistic Astrology" - by Robert Schmidt
[12] Vettius Valens "Anthology" -Book IV - - translated by Robert Schmidt and published by The Golden Hind Press
1996
[13] The term "predominator" refers to a planets strength and power in determining life expectancy. Later in medieval
astrology it was known as the "hyleg" or "life giver", the planet that was used in determining length of life calculations.
Bonatti discusses this in length in his Liber Astronomae.
[14] Vettius Valens "Anthology" -Book III - - translated by Robert Schmidt and published by The Golden Hind Press
1994

15

Houses: Old and New - Part 2


An Appendum to Part 1
Before moving onward in the examination of House systems it is also necessary to mention that the
early Greek astrologers made many charts, derived charts, from the natal. These were all made with
a purpose of gleaning more information from the chart. To understand the unfolding of ones
successes and failures, they would make a chart with the Part of Fortune as the marker on the first
house.
The following is a quotation from Paulus Alexandrinus a 4th century author:
"And Fortune signifies everything that concerns the body, and what one does through the course of life. It becomes
indicative of possessions, reputation and privilege."

And Vettius Valens who lived at about the same time as Ptolemy wrote the following:
". . . the Lot itself will possess the power of the Horoskopos, that of life; the tenth zoidion [sign] from this, the power of the
Midheaven, that of reputation; the 7th, the power of the Descendant; the 4th, of the subterraneous zoidion, and the
remaining places will possess the power of the 12 regions." [1]

You'll notice that a lot of emphasis was laid in the fact that the strength of the Lot had the power to
become the Ascendant. So if the Lot of Fortune was in Gemini, then in the "Fortuna" derived chart the
"whole-sign" of Gemini became the 1st "house", Cancer the 2nd, Leo the 3rd and so forth. Now, the
lot itself occupies a degree somewhere in the sign destined to become the first house of a derivative
system; the presence of the lot therefore had the power in itself to somehow alter the very sign in
which it fell, making it an appropriate first house for that of which it is the lot. This sign was then
considered a "prosperous" place. If the Lot fell in the natal 3rd sign or "place" it became a prosperous
place regardless that the 3rd place was cadent. You could say that the place became an "accidental"
dignity.
If you wanted to know more about ones actions in life, ones motivations and choices, you could
conceivably use the Lot of Spirit as the Ascendant and derive a "Spirit" chart. This is one lot there is
not a whole lot of clarification on. Maybe it is because it deals with an area of life that the early
astrologers were less prepared to deal with. As I understand this particular lot, in today's language,
this would deal with the "unconscious" and "conscious" self. There are absolutely no examples of its
use in earlier texts, although Valens describes this lot in this way;
"Whence the Lot of Fortune and the Spirit will have much power over the imposing and turning back of actions. For, the
one (Lot of Fortune) shows matters concerning the body and handicrafts, the Spirit and its ruler matters concerning the
soul and the intellect, and actions through discourse and through giving and receiving." [2]

A thought that has been at the top of my mind at least is if this technique could give us a more valid
picture of the "psychological" workings of an individual. Using modern application and interpretation of
this ancient technique might just produce some interesting results.
Besides using the various lots as derived charts the ancients also could "turn" the chart to give further
clarification of the natal places. By turning the chart so the 4th was on the Ascendant one could learn
about the mother, or the wife of the father (7th from the 4th). By putting the 3rd on the Ascendant, the
success or misfortune of siblings (the 10th from the third) and so on. This technique is very important
in today's Horary astrology.
16

Another chart that was essentially derived from the natal was the Solar Return chart and profections.
These were all derived from movements of the natal chart through time and they were all consistently
whole sign houses.
As we've seen in this study of ancient house systems the entirely modern problem of house division
did not exist. The early astrologers did not see the signs as separate from the houses. The houses
were simply roles that the signs took on depending upon their relation to some point that marked one
of the signs as being the first house or place. Since this system is attributed to the early Egyptian
writers, such as the legendary Nechepso and Petosiris, one can easily assume the source to be
Egyptian. What is interesting though is the fact that Vedic astrology uses "whole sign" houses and I
wonder about how much early influence actually comes from Vedic astrology. If so, then there is
clearly an earlier influence of Vedic than that attributed to later Persian astrologers.
Ptolomey
We saw in the previous parts of this series the historical and philosophical roots of modern "house
systems". The differences are quite significant and lead us to certain relevant questions. Just how did
our systems become so different? Was it because the earlier methods didn't work? Was it because of
new innovations or changes due to philosophical reasoning?
This part of our examination of the historical record will focus on the pivotal events surrounding this
change and I think in order to get a clear picture of events I need to discuss a little about the man who
was decidedly the most important contributor to the development of Astrology, Claudius Ptolemaeus
(aka Ptolemy ca. 100 -178 C.E.).
Ptolemy was an astronomer, mathematician and geographer. He wrote two major works, which were
actually composed of several books. The first, Mathematical Syntaxis (widely called the Almagest),
was a thirteen book mathematical treatment of the phenomena of astronomy. Tetrabiblos is a fourbook volume that systematically organises the mechanics, philosophy and cosmology of Astrology.
Apart from his writings, very little is indeed known about this man who has had so much influence not
only on the astrology that was to follow him but also science in general and specifically astronomy.
There is a lot of speculation as regarding his relationship to astrology. His writings give us some
indication however that he was not a "practicing" astrologer. It is also very interesting to note that two
of his close contemporaries, Dorotheus of Sidon and Vettius Valens never once refer to him or his
writings while it is quite apparent that Dorotheus knew of Valens as he refers to him twice in his work
Carmen Astrologicum. Vettius Valens at the age of 35 (ca. 155 C.E.) moved to Egypt where he
expressly travelled to study under a multitude of Astrologers. This date is contemporary with Ptolemy,
and since Valens was in Egypt to study, I find it strange indeed that he never mentions once
someone who was to have so much later influence.
I think I can put this mysterious lack of relationship into modern terms. I am an engineer. It is my
livelihood and what I spend 8-10 hours a day, 5-7 days a week doing! I build ships. In order to do that
we receive drawings of what the ship is to look like from an architect. It is not the architects job to
draw a final solution, they do have a "limited" knowledge of certain principles, but their job is only to
define what the owner would like the final product to look like. That definition is a neatly organised
picture of the total product. However, my experience after 25 years in this field, is that while on the
outside the finished product looks like the architects principle drawings, getting there often required
the revision of the individual functioning parts as defined by the architect. In other words what looks
"nice" in theory, quite often has no relationship to the practical building and does not work! When I am
17

trying to find a workable solution to a problem in engineering, I don't go to an architect. I go to other


engineers who are working in my field and study the techniques they used to arrive at something that
works in reality. An example of this is one of the last projects I worked on where we ended up with 32
revisions of the architect's original drawings!
My point is this: I have a very strong suspicion that Ptolemy's contemporaries did not study his
writings for the exact same reason. Ptolemy's works were irrelevant to their practice. Oh, it gives us a
very nice "picture", well organised and catalogued, but I think they regarded it as strictly qualitative
and not a reference for the actual "building" process of a horoscope from a practitioners perspective.
Ptolemy wasn't even so much an "architect" as he was a compiler of architects. The problem with
compilation and cataloguing lies in the fact that often it requires taking things out of context and that is
where mistakes and misunderstandings are made, especially if one is lacking the skills of the applied
science.
Ptolemy's Environment and the "Great Library" in Alexandria
To complicate matters worse, what if in the next 200 years engineers became a "persona non grata"
in the social structure and for various reasons all writings on applications of the principles of
engineering were systematically destroyed. If at a later date engineering became popular again, but
the only remaining documents were those of the architect, just how far along in the building process
could we come? In effect this did occur with astrology and is truly one of the greatest travesties of
justice in mankind's history.
Under the Ptolemy's (the Greek rulers of Egypt after Alexander the Great and not related to Claudius
Ptolemaeus), the Great Library of Alexandria was built. The Ptolemaic kings paid special attention to
enrich the Library with treasures of knowledge in all fields and branches of knowledge from every part
of the then Greek Empire. They were anxious to acquire originals of works and the most valuable
collections. They "borrowed" scrolls from the Chaldeans, Babylonians and virtually every centre of
learning in the occupied territories. They would borrow the originals, copy them and return the copies
to the owners. It is even reported they went so far as to search each ship that visited Alexandria and if
a book was found, it would be taken to the Library to be copied and the copy would be returned to the
owner. The ancient Library was the only truly universal library. We have no record of an exact count,
some speculate at its peak it held some 700,000 scrolls, equivalent to about 100-125,000 printed
books today. The Library also encouraged translations, and the Septuagint, the first translation of the
Old Testament from Hebrew to Greek, took place there.
Under the Roman rule of Alexandria the Library still existed. The Great, or more properly, "Royal
Library" formed a part of the Museum that was located in the palace quarter of the city of Alexandria.
A "sister" library was located in the Great Temple of Serapis, simply called "the Serapeum", which
was in the southwestern quarter of the city of Alexandria but was considerably smaller.
It was in 48 B.C.E., during the first Alexandrian war in which Julius Caesar became involved to
support Cleopatra VII against her brother Ptolemy XIII, it is believed that the Royal Library was burnt
to the ground. In the recorded historical accounts of this tragedy it is said that Marc Anthony
compensated Cleopatra with the gift of the 200,000 scrolls from Pergamum. These were said to have
been placed in the Museum which, unfortunately, was itself destroyed along with the Royal Quarter
sometime in the third century AD during the further strife and accompanying power struggles that
shook the Roman Empire.
Ptolemy is believed to have done his work and compiling in Alexandria, so must have used as his
references those documents remaining in the Museum and the sister library in the Serapeum. What
18

documents he had at his disposal, we can only conclude with surety, were those whom he himself
says were the source of his work. In optics it was Euclid; in geography, Marinus of Tyre; in
Astronomy, Hipparchus. Only translations of Euclid's works survive today. We know nothing of his
astrological sources, however his doctrines of planetary influence, the portrayal of the stars' and
signs' characteristics, and certain general procedures found in Tetrabiblios are very similar to those
found in all ancient astrological writings. However there is a core of specific doctrines and methods,
not to mention entire areas of forecasting common to his other contemporaries and predecessors,
which are not included nor even alluded to, in Tetrabiblios. The complete teachings of sect, Lots,
Places (or houses), the periods of the stars or "chronocrators" and "Time Lords" and there is
absolutely no use of numerical methods. He also omits all procedures for "elections" and
"Interrogations" (horary).
Very simply it is not certain by his own writings that Ptolemy had access to a vast resource of the
earliest writings at all and secondly his style of approach is quite different from his contemporaries
which suggests that Ptolemy viewed astrology much as he did the other disciplines, strictly as a
theoretical science, by the use of which the scientist can explain the interconnections between
celestial and terrestrial phenomena and can trace the cause-effect relationships between the stars
and the earth. This is much clearer in his detailed inclusion of general astrological prediction for the
earth as a whole, astrological geography and his study of eclipses and planetary effects on the
weather. This can be seen in contrast to the "hands-on" astrological practices of Dorotheus who
introduces us to very detailed Electional and horary techniques and Valens who conveniently supplies
us with some 125 actual horoscopes and "case" studies.
The next and final blow to posterity came at the close of the fourth century C.E. when the Emperor
Theodosius in 391 AD forbade by decree all non-Christian religions. Theophilus, who was the Bishop
of Alexandria from 385 to 412 C.E., moved ahead under this decree and destroyed the Serapeum
and its "sister library", condemning them as being the house of pagan doctrines. Some few scholars
survived for another generation till the murder of Hypatia in 415 AD, which ushered in the end of the
Alexandrian scholarship era. Thus passed from existence the majority of historical records also. What
we have remaining today is probably only a fraction of a very small percentage of the original works
and many of them are translations of translations of translations. Dorotheus' work, Carmen
Astrologicum, is a good example. What we have in this current English translation is taken from an
Arabic translation made around 800 by Al-Tarabi, itself a translation from a 3rd century Persian
translation of the original Greek.
Now this entire history lesson is very relevant to our study of Houses. I'm sure you're asking why?
The answer is simply because our current astrology as well as much of traditional and medieval is
influenced to a large extent on the main surviving text from this era, that of Ptolemy. This is in no way
to discredit his work either. If he hadn't recorded what he had, astrology may well have died
completely. It is his treatment (or actually lack of it) of the Houses that have influenced our
understanding of them today.
Ptolemy's Equal House System
Ptolemy is given the credit as having invented the equal house system that begins 5 degrees before
the Ascendant. But there are some real questions, in my mind at least, if this was in fact what he was
doing. Several important points should be taken into consideration before that conclusion is made.
First it must be said for Ptolemy that his scientific works were not "new" innovations. He instead
attempted to verify and add to existing data by new investigation, observation and mathematical
procedure. He then presented his data in precise tables and format. He did not redo original
19

observations or revise the original conceptual frameworks already existing. Ptolemy was very
conservative in his work. He does not introduce any house-system whatsoever in his first book, which
deals with the elements of astrology. In fact, when he does talk about "places" (or houses) his
language is identical to his contemporaries and uses all the traditional language of pivots, postascensions, and declines. There is no reason to believe that Ptolemy regarded the Horoskopos,
Midheaven, etc., as anything other than whole-sign houses. In Book III, chapter 6, dealing with
siblings, he explicitly calls the place of the mother a zoidion (or sign) and invokes the tenth place
relative to this in the traditional manner of a derived house system. He never says that he will be
describing a "new" or revised house system in an upcoming chapter, though he does say this in the
case of the Lot of Fortune and certain other matters. We have no evidence of this particular house
system prior to Ptolemy, and if he were innovating, I would have expected him to say so because of
his very conservative methods.
Secondly when he does discuss an equal house system starting from 5 degrees before the
ascendant it is in a specific context. This system he introduces in Book III chapter 11, is where he
describes the procedure for finding "the place of releasing" or in other terms the place in the chart
suitable for the "hyleg" or "life-giver" to be found. This chapter is identical in context to Valens
discussion of the "Predominator" in Book III chapter 1 of his "Anthology". This is the same treatment
where Valens introduces us to the division of the mundane quadrants by equal thirds in order to
establish the strength of a planet. There are clear differences in the two texts, but they are differences
involving "strengths" and not topical in nature. For example Ptolemy says, "For one must properly
refuse the whole region under the earth for so great an authority." Here Ptolemy is invoking the
doctrine of sect as outlined by earlier writers.
"Whence, for those who are born by day, if someone should be found to have Zeus, the Sun, and Kronos well figured
above the earth, it will be better than having them beneath the earth. Similarly also for the nocturnal planets, if someone
should have them above the earth [at night], it will be expedient."-Vettius Valens Book III chapter 5 "The Anthology"

So like Valens, Ptolemy instructs us to examine sect in the determination of the "strongest" place. But
unlike Valens I think it is rather obvious that Ptolemy either did not understand the whole doctrine of
sect, or he did not have the full historical records regarding this. I say this because like Valens,
Ptolemy tells us that the suitable planets as the hyleg are the Lords of Sect, the Sun and the Moon.
However in a Day chart the Moon was in its greatest strength below the earth and the Sun below the
earth in a nocturnal chart according to the doctrine of sect. So his statement is not quite true. If the
Sun was placed in the 9th "house" above the earth in a diurnal chart while the Moon was placed in
the 5th below the earth, the Moon in fact is of the greater strength because of the Suns cadency and
the Moons proper sect placement and successive placement. But this as I said is a question within
the context of the subject matter of Ptolemy's discussion of planetary strength. His whole treatment
however does not turn these "places" to measure the strength of a planet into topical houses, very
much in agreement with Valens' treatment of the same subject. So there is no reason to believe that
Ptolemy was intending to turn this new system into a topical system.
Thirdly we have to examine the use of "houses" in the work of those immediately following Ptolemy in
History and who were in fact commentators of his work. What I personally find interesting is that those
that came after Ptolemy and quoted him extensively in their own writings, such as Porphyry (232
C.E.), Paulus (378 C.E.), Hephaistio (415 C.E.), and Rhetorius (ca.600 C.E.); all utilised the wholesign topical "house" division.
It is also clear by comments from Hephastio, that this question of house division already exists and
many of his contemporaries like Maternus were using it. However, Hephastio quotes an earlier
commentator of Ptolemy, Panchios, who did not think that Ptolemy had in mind an equal house
20

division of the zodiac at all, but rather a quadrant style division similar to the one mentioned by
Valens, the only difference being that he accommodates the five degrees above the Ascendant
required by Ptolemy.
The exception was Maternus who did use an equal house system, which he attributes to Ptolemy. It is
also a fact that it was Julius Firmicus Maternus' astrology textbook called Mathesis, which was one of
the first Roman works on astrology to be rediscovered in Mediaeval Europe. It was first made
available again in 10th century Spain, and reached as far as to England by the end of the 11th
century, even before the works of Ptolemy were translated.
Conclusion
All of this discussion points to some very disturbing possible conclusions. What we are discussing are
not "philosophical" issues nor are we discussing issues of technique because of the inadequacy of an
earlier tradition, but rather issues that surround the transmission of the historical record. If anything is
being revealed it is the fact that there is the possibility that the historical record has become
corrupted. I don't think it is fair either to lay the blame on Ptolemy. As a matter of fact, given the
conditions of the "Great Library" in Alexandria in Ptolemy's day, it could very well have been the prime
motivation of Ptolemy to preserve and restore what was possible, a very courageous venture indeed.
What much of this information means for us indicates a need to re-examine our doctrines that we hold
so dearly today and that includes our doctrines on "House systems".
In the next instalment I'm going to begin examining the record from the Arabic period to the medieval
period and we'll see if their approaches can shed any further light on our inquiry.

Bibliography

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.

"Theoretical and Practical Astrology: Ptolemy and His Colleagues" by Mark T. Riley 1987
"Ptolemy's Use of His Predecessors' Data" by Mark T. Riley 1995
"The Anthology" by Vettius Valens, Translated by Robert Schmidt
"Paulus Alexandrinus and Olympiodorus, with the Scholia from later commentators" - translated by Dorian
Gieseler Greenbaum
"Carmen Astrologicum" - Dorotheus of Sidon, translated by David Pingree
"Introduction to Astrology" -Paulus Alexandrinus, translated through Project Hindsight
"Hephaestio of Thebes. Compendium, Bk I and II" - translated through Project Hindsight
"Tetrabiblos" - Claudius Ptolemy, translated by J.M. Ashmand
"House Division, Planetary Strength, and Cusps in Hellenistic Astrology" - by Robert Schmidt
"The Mysterious Fate of the Great Library of Alexandria" - by Bede

[1] Paulus Alexandrinus: Introduction to Astrology 378 A.D. 1993 Robert Schmidt, through Project Hindsight, Published
by The Golden Hind Press. Vettius Valens: Anthology, Bk II - IV aprox. 160 A.D. 1994 Robert Schmidt, through Project
Hindsight, Published by The Golden Hind Press.
[2] Anthology, Bk II, Part I chapter 20 1994 Robert Schmidt, through Project Hindsight, Published by The Golden Hind
Press.

21

Houses: old and New - Part 3


The Equal House System
I mentioned in Part 2 that I was going to go on to the Arab authors however I think it might be more
worthwhile to finish off this period of history with a little closer examination of what has been called
Ptolemy's "Equal House" system.
In Tetrabiblos, Ptolemy offers us this house system as part of the procedure for finding the planet
which was to be the hyleg or "life giver" of the chart. This planet was important for length of life
calculations. In this method of calculating the house cusps, the degree and minutes of longitude for
the Ascendant (the point where the ecliptic intersects the horizon on the eastern side of the meridian)
is the starting point. All the remaining cusps are measured in 30-degree increases from that point.
Thus, each house cusp contains the same degree and minute of longitude as the Ascendant, but
progresses through the astrological zodiac one sign at a time around the chart wheel. The Equal
house system therefore is not "latitude-dependent" and the 4th and 10th house cusps are not on the
meridian.
I am no longer sure this is a system introduced by Ptolemy! For in fact, Vettius Valens introduces us
to this exact same system (minus the 5 before the Ascendant cusp) in Book IX of his Anthology. I
was tempted at first to revise my previous statement that Valens did not use Ptolemy as a source.
However similar the two systems are, there is a very BIG difference in how they were used. This
reason alone makes it difficult for me to attribute Valens "Equal House" to Ptolemy.
Vettius Valens' Equal House System and Derived Houses
In chapter 3 of Book IX of his Anthology, Valens discusses the technique and procedure for deriving
additional meanings of the topical houses. We know this procedure today as "derivative" houses
where we turn the chart and treat the place the various houses occupy as a derived ascendant. If
more information was required concerning the father, the 4th place became the ascendant and the
successive places then became the same as if in the natal, so the natal 5th would have become the
derived 2nd, and the natal 10th would have become the derived 7th and so forth. If you wanted to
know something of the father's brothers or sisters you could look at the derived 3rd house from the
4th, the natal 6th, to find out. This procedure is used extensively in Horary astrology. Now Valens
specifically calls this procedure a "twelve-turning", which he attributes to the teachings of Hermes (not
Ptolemy). In the paragraph immediately following his treatment of this procedure, Valens introduces
us to a new way of dividing the chart, which is to help us in this new procedure:
"But before all it is necessary to reckon the places to the degree. And at least whenever the degree of the Horoskopos
may be grasped, it is necessary to count from that degree up until the 30-degree completion of the next zoidion. And that
will be the place concerning life. Then similarly up to the completion of another 30 degrees concerning livelihood; and the
next as before. For often two places falling together onto [or coinciding on] one zoidion foretell both species in accordance
with their distances in degrees. And similarly, it is necessary to examine the lord of the zoidion, in what zoidion it chances
to be and to what sort of place it holds fast, according to its canonical description in degrees. For in this manner the
procedure will be judged. And if someone would reckon platically at one place per zoidion (which is rare), they encounter
[1]
constraints and outrages, or the entanglements of matters."

Let's examine this paragraph closer. The first lines of this paragraph tell us exactly how to establish
this new division. When you have determined the degree of the Ascendant, you move from the
Ascendant degree 30 degrees into the next sign (Zoidion). This 30-degree segment then becomes
"the place concerning life", or the 1st house or "place" as Valens describes it. You then move another
30 degrees and this segment becomes the place "concerning livelihood", the 2nd House, and so on
22

around the Zodiac.


Mr. Robert Schmidt, who did the translation of this book, lacks faith in this translation.
"I am not the least bit confident of this translation. For example, I am not sure which two places he is referring to in the
middle of the paragraph. It could be two places in the style of equal houses from the Ascendant overlapped by one
zoidion, but this would contradict his own clear employment of whole-signs in the delineations immediately preceding; it
could also be two derivative places (say, the perfectly coinciding on one zoidion) which would be consistent with context
but render the last two sentences uncertain. I am not even sure about the meaning of the algorithmic clause, 'it is
[2]
necessary to count from that degree up until the 30 degree completion of the next zoidion.' "

I certainly do not in any way presume to be a greater "expert" in this field than Mr. Schmidt. I would
like to offer, however, some considerations which to me tend to support his translation and Valens
teachings remarkably consistent. Mr. Schmidt says, "I am not even sure about the meaning of the
algorithmic clause, 'it is necessary to count from that degree up until the 30 degree completion of the
next zoidion.' " This "algorithm" is not confusing in itself, what clouds the issue is the translation "of
the next Zoidion"! The Horoskopos degree (ascendant degree) is always located between 0 and 30
of the sign in which it falls. 30 from that degree will always take you to the next sign! Only if the
Horoskopos were 30 would it take you to the "completion of the next zoidion." This is an impossibility
since the 30th degree is always the 0 degree of the next sign and it then excludes all other degrees
between 0 and 29! It is much easier to understand this algorithmif one simple change of wording
were to be considered as the source of confusion. I am going to make that change and restate the
algorithm: ", 'it is necessary to count from that degree up until the 30 degree completion (in) the next
zoidion.' " I have more faith in this translation! Valens is talking about starting his 30-degree interval
from the degree of the Horoskopos (ascendant) so why would he suddenly talk about the completion
of the next Zoidion (sign)? This is a complete shift of subject from a degree to a sign! By changing
"of" to "in", the subject remains consistent, the degree of the horoskopos! And I don't see any reason
why Valens would intend otherwise.
Mr. Schmidt also has some reservations, unable to reconcile Valens use of "whole-sign" places in the
delineation text for derived houses and the "places" in this paragraph in question. I have not been
able to read this entire text, as it is as yet unpublished. However, I would wager that Mr. Schmidt's
assumptions are based on the names of the places and not necessarily because Valens calls those
places Zoidion. It is an easy assumption to carry into this text also, as up until now Valens has been
very consistent in his use of whole-sign topics! In all his example charts he refers to the first "wholesign place" as the "place of Life", or the 4th whole-sign as the "subterraneous place" or the 11th
whole-sign as "the place of Good Spirit" etc. So why shouldn't we also assume that is what he is
doing here? Because Valens expressly tells us he is not! In the paragraph in question Valens tells us
what this first 30 segment is "And that will be the place concerning life" and the second 30 segment
the place "concerning livelihood"! Why should we question this when Valens explicates in the first 3
words of this paragraph, "But before all"! Before all what? He has just finished treating delineating
derived places, and he says, but before all these delineations it is necessary to "reckon the places to
the degree"! He says this in another place also when treating a subject where it was necessary as a
part of the procedure, to change houses! We saw this earlier when I discussed how the mundane
quadrant was divided in order to find the "places of strength" or the dynamic houses. In Book III when
Valens discuses first how to decide which place is an approved place to determine the hyleg, he
makes all these definitions of what is a good or poor place and the paragraph which follows his
delineations starts by saying, "Before all, then.." And then he divides the quadrants into trisections of
equal length for dynamic purposes. We are fairly comfortable with this understanding because in this
case he is dealing with another purpose in house division, that is, a dynamic purpose. So why should
one be uncomfortable then with this new treatment of the topical houses? Again Valens is defining
how to use a precise procedure for a specific purpose. He is not replacing his earlier system of
23

exploring the topical houses in relation to the Ascendant, I believe what he is trying to say is that the
individual topics or places have in themselves an interconnected relationship with the other topics or
places, which defines themselves and not just the "native" as symbolised by the ascendant. In other
words what I believe he is trying to get across is that not only does the 3rd place of siblings and
Goddess relate to the native, but also the other 11 places define just what the place of "goddess"
entails in itself.
An Example from the Past
Let's go back and look at the other elements in this paragraph. ". For often two places falling together onto [or
coinciding on] one zoidion foretell both species in accordance with their distances in degrees. And similarly, it is
necessary to examine the lord of the zoidion, in what zoidion it chances to be and to what sort of place it holds fast,
according to its canonical description in degrees. For in this manner the procedure will be judged."

To get a better grasp of Valens doctrine here let's look at an actual chart. Following is the chart of
Jimi Hendrix.

If we want to examine Hendrix's career a little closer then we can turn the chart and put the natal 10th
on the Ascendant. The outer ring is the natal whole-sign house positions and the inner are the equal
house derived divisions marking the 10th natal as the 1st in the derived chart. The 10th house is the
house of action, profession, or occupation; reputation; rank, honours, privilege, and advancement.
Since the 10th/midheaven is the height of the power axis, and because it is the highest point (on the
ecliptic) it is also one of the most visible areas of the sky. Fame, social responsibility, status and
character come from this visibility.
Now Valens tells us that, "often two places falling together onto one zoidion foretell both species in
24

accordance with their distances in degrees." This is a rather different perspective than that which we
today are used to seeing. Our "modern" approaches teach us, "When a house is formed of two
signs.the lords of the signs are the lords of the house"[3]. In Jimi's chart we would say then that the 1st
house falls on two signs, Libra and Scorpio and that one of the Lords of these two signs, Venus or
Mars, which contributes the most influence by degrees represented in the House has the most
influence while the other is regarded as a co-contributor. So in our chart Venus would be the principal
ruler of the 1st house (Libra contributing 21 degrees) while Mars would be a minor co-contributor
because only 9 degrees of Scorpio make up the first house. So in our modern approach, what we say
is contributing are the two successive signs and their respective rulers.
Valens however presents us with quite a different perspective. It is based on their "whole-sign =
House" philosophy. What is under examination is the 10th house, which is a whole sign, Libra. Valens
tells us then that when two "places" or these newly derived houses, fall on one sign, then they will tell
us how their activities or "species" contribute to that whole-sign house under examination. They will
also tell us how much they contribute depending on how many degrees they occupy in the sign under
examination. In our chart, both the derived 12th and 1st, fall on the natal 10th sign/house of Libra and
the 12th derived house occupies 9 degrees while the 1st derived occupies 21 degrees.
Valens then says, "...it is necessary to examine the lord of the zoidion, in what zoidion it chances to
be and to what sort of place it holds fast, according to its canonical description in degrees." Since
both of these derived houses fall on Libra then we are to judge Libra's ruler (Venus) by looking at the
sign Venus is in and which derived house it falls. In our sample chart you would look at Venus in
Sagittarius in the 2nd derived house. So Valens approach is saying that two topical houses and the
ruler of the sign in which they fall is what is contributing to the 10th natal house. I guess generally
speaking one could say that a career is a source of life (derived 1st) and a source of bondage and
affliction (derived 12th). How much of each, depends on how many degrees of each are in the natal
10th. Maybe this is why career and success is better suited for some than others. To one person it
can become their shining point while others a form of slavery. In any case it is an interesting concept.
Summary Up to this Point
To sum things up a bit, we've established a sort of "framework" surrounding our house systems. The
earliest traditions used "whole-sign" houses in working with natal charts. Within the natal, other
procedures with their appropriate house systems were used in order to further extract information
from the natal chart. Ptolemy seems to be the exception due to his scientific and strictly "naturalistic"
approach.
"On each of the foregoing points of inquiry," states Ptolemy, "the doctrine and precepts to be followed shall be thoroughly
and succinctly detailed; but all idle conceits promulgated by many persons without any foundation capable of sustaining
the test of reason, shall be utterly avoided in deference to the only true agency, which is derived from primal nature
[4]
herself."

As you can see, Ptolemy only accepted that which would fit his own "naturalistic" perceptions. There
was no room for the "metaphysical" in Ptolemy's opinion. And this opinion certainly "colours" all of his
transmission of astrological doctrine and more than explains his omission of many of the basic
tenants in early astrology. He did not test these things by trial, but by scientific reason. If it didn't fit his
perspectives and two-dimensional world, it wasn't valid and it was not acceptable. This in itself would
certainly explain his lack of popularity among his contemporaries. The majority of astrologers which
followed however, were for the most part adherents to the earlier Greek methods with the exception
of a very small minority few, and it was this very small minority whose doctrines were the most
successfully transmitted to later generations. The practicing Greek astrologers were definitely more
"spiritually" or philosophically aware of immeasurable metaphysical realities.
25

The next influence to astrology was to come with the rise of Islam and the subsequent conquests that
followed their expansion. That influence we will begin to investigate in the next instalment.

[1]

"House Division, Planetary Strength, and Cusps in Hellenistic Astrology" - - by Robert Schmidt

[2]

"House Division, Planetary Strength, and Cusps in Hellenistic Astrology" - - by Robert Schmidt

[3]

"The Book of Instruction in the Elements of the Art of Astrology" - - Al-Biruni, ...R. Ramsay Wright translator and
published by Ascella
[4]

"Tetrabiblos" - - Ptolemy, ...Ashmand translation and published by Astrology Classics Publishing

26

The Living Signs Part 1:

Introducing the Zoidia


This essay has been a rather ambitious project I've been working on for several months and it
appears it may be a while longer before it is completely finished. However I wanted to begin
publishing it in the individual parts as I feel comfortable with the results. So what is now available is
pretty much finished and as I finish the other sections I will be including them.
I wanted to discuss the "Signs" on perhaps a little different level in this essay. We are all used to
seeing a lot of interpretations of the 'Sun in the Signs' or the Moon or the other planets in the Signs.
You don't hear much about the signs themselves.In fact it is pretty consistent that when the "signs"
are discussed as a subject themselves, we find the traditional descriptions most prevalent where their
elemental nature, mode of action, physical attributes, etc. are described. A very typical example of
this is Lilly's teachings of the signs, which are quite consistent with and well preserving of the earlier
tradition.
There is another side however that appears with remarkable consistency throughout the major early
writers, a side that has perhaps fallen off a bit into obscurity and ambiguity. In order to understand
this side we will have to go back a ways in our astrological history and try to regain just what the early
Hellenistic astrologers meant when they used the term we call "signs".

The Zoidia
The word we use today to relate to the constellations that make up our zodiac really falls short of the
original Greek meaning. We call them "signs" and if you say 'sign' to the average person, they have
conjured in their minds things like billboards, or something physical or even a gesture that is used to
convey an idea or message. The hearing impaired use a 'sign language' and when they are
communicating to one another it is called 'signing'. Our English word originates from the Latin word
signum and besides it's normal connotation it also has a secondary meaning of 'image' like in artwork
or a statue or picture. But most people when looking at a beautiful Rembrandt don't stand and gush,
"oh what a beautiful sign", do they? As a matter of fact in our English language the only time we refer
to a picture when using the word sign is when we speak of the constellations and the pictures and
images associated with them. And in this sense of 'image' then the word is an approximate equivalent
to the Greek word Zoidion, which also has a sense of the meaning of 'image'.
The only way I can really explain it is to break down the Greek word 'zoidion'. Zoidion is formed from
the root word 'zoion'. Zoe meant 'life' and the 'ion' was used as a locative and/or a diminutive (that
means it placed the root somewhere and/or gave a definition of size). Thus a zoion was a 'place for
life' and/or a 'little life'. We preserve the sense of this in our saying that "the body is the seat of the
soul" or "the temple of the spirit". The Greeks were famous for their temples such as the Olympion,
which was the dwelling place for the divinity of the Olympian Zeus. That however does not make the
definition any simpler.
Perhaps if we catalogue the uses of this word we find in Greek literature we can come to a better
understanding. Robert Schmidt in the 'Translators Preface' of the 1st book of Valens 'Anthology' takes
the time to catalogue for us many of the references to the word zoion found in Greek literature.
27

In Plato's 'Epinomis', the Athenian stranger defines for us that a zoion results "whenever a
single copulative union of soul and body should give birth to a single shape" [981 a 7-9]
A little further in the same dialogue, the gods, who are likewise characterised as zoia, are
identified with the stars. The stars are "either the gods themselves, or else images [zoia] of the
gods created by the gods themselves." [983 e 5-6]
In Plato's 'Phaedrus', Socrates characterises paintings [zoia] as the "offspring of the painter's
art that stand before one as though alive." [275 d 5]

In all of these usages there is the clear inference that the zoia in each case, result from something
'higher' and more 'real'.
"A picture is not a zoion-image because it is an image of some subject or some scene. It is an image because it reflects or
'images' the artist's soul - - or at least something that exists in the artist's soul."

Taken to another level,


"...in Plato's 'Timaeus', the Demiurge creates the world itself as a zoion, a living being. But this living being is also created
in the image of the 'Idea of a Living Being'. This is not so much an abstraction of thought as it is a more fully real prototype
of all living things!" [1]

Not only in Greek philosophy do we find this concept, but also if we examine closely in the Bible a
human life is a zoion! It is the result of a copulative union of soul and flesh. "So God created man in
his own image [a zoion], in the image of God created he him; male and female" Genesis 2:27. In
other words we could just as well regard human life as the "offspring of the painter's art that stand
before one as though alive"
It is doubtful then that the Greeks would only consider the picture or image character of the "signs" of
the zodiac as just mere human projections of men and animals into the sky. But rather they were
living images; they were divine artwork, the creations of a 'higher' source which, had a 'life' of their
own.
In certain quarters of modern astrology we find a re-awakening of this concept, and none so clearly
as in Jungian Archetypal astrology.
"I dare say that we shall one day discover in astrology a good deal of knowledge that has been intuitively projected into
the heavens. For instance, it appears that the signs of the zodiac are character pictures, in other words libido symbols
which depict the typical qualities of the libido at a given moment." -Carl Jung in a personal letter to Freud

In simpler terms, the creation of the libido symbols [zoia] is the result of the psychic energy of the
'collective unconsciousness' being projected into the heavens. A good friend and colleague, Anthony
Pea related to me that,
"Nothing could have been further from Jung's thought [vis.The mere human projections of men and animals into the sky]
in regard to living, active symbols of the unconscious. Whenever Jung discusses the concept of "psychological
projections" - it has significantly more import, serious intent, and "meaning" than the average person will allow for. With
Jung, "projections" of the psyche are never taken "lightly" and/or treated as a matter of "just" imagination and/or "just"
psychological projections. For Jung, "projection" was a natural function of psyche that served as a vehicle into the very
depths of the soul and into the healing of the soul."

Now it is interesting from both these perspectives of virtually the same idea that the Greeks could not
clearly define this 'higher reality' any more than Jung could define his "unconscious".

28

"Fate, what the Greeks called Moira, . . . . takes as its province what is generally regarded as contingent or accidental matters that were excluded from serious philosophical consideration by the Athenian philosophers themselves as being
[2]
ultimately unintelligible."
"...the Self is a borderline concept, which I call a symbol because it expresses something we cannot express otherwise,
because we simply don't understand it. The idea of the Self is really unknown ground. The psychological definition is that
the Self is the totality of consciousness and unconsciousness, and that sounds pretty definite, we seem to know what
consciousness is and to have a fairly clear idea about the unconscious. But to say we know the unconscious is going too
far; we only know of it.... A concept that contains a definite factor like consciousness and an indefinite factor like
[3]
unconsciousness is not scientific.... it is metaphysical in its nature per definition: it overreaches itself."

I think however I will leave the philosophical controversies that exist between these areas of thought
for another time and another place. The main purpose of this essay is to emphasise the living quality
of the zoidia, which is the relevant part of this discussion regardless of whether one leans toward the
modern or classical.
Much of the significance of the zoidia, [I will use the word zoidia or zoidion in place of 'sign'
throughout the rest of this text], has slowly diminished and been relegated to a place, like an
inanimate building, to where they are only domiciles like a house with descriptive qualities that are
totally void of life and define only to the extent that we might say a house has a certain shape to it's
roof or the windows are so and so big and that it keeps the weather off your head. It is only the shell
for another force, which is the actual life within the house, the planets. But I cannot believe for one
moment that it was possible for the earlier astrologers to have used this language without being ever
conscious of the deeper significance presented in the word, zoidion. And if one examines closely the
written record from Valens to Al-Biruni, one will discover an underlying concept, which while
unspoken, is certainly visible in the type of astrology and approaches to actual usage.

A Cosmic Eco-system
In recent years we have been made increasingly aware of the system of balances that exist in our
environment: global warming, deforestation, pollution and the slow death of our oceans and water
masses have awakened in us the need to understand just how interactive each level of life is on the
total environment. From the lowliest plankton to the highest in the food chain there is an intricate 'liferole' played out.
The apostle Paul was probably well versed in the Greek philosophy concerning this intricate working
of each level and the 'life-roles' in nature, as he relates this idea when he writes,
"And there are differences of administrations [roles or ministries], but the same Lord. And there are diversities of
operations...For the body is not one member but many...And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now
are they many members, yet but one body...much more, those members of the body which seem to be more feeble, are
necessary." I Corinthians 12 KJV

In like manner, our early forbearers understood that each part of the zodiac was a 'life-role' played
out; each different and each necessary. We've seen the creation was a zoidion, the stars were zoia,
and the signs were zoidia. And just as our environment is the product of the quality of each level of
'life' so is the individual a product of the quality of each level of 'life' found in the individual zodiac.
This is the point of this essay, to regain a proper perspective of the level of 'life' represented by the
zoidia: to take them from an inactive and perhaps a bit neglected significance and put them back in
their proper place in the Cosmic eco-system. I'm sorry to "wax philosophically" here but in order to
understand what the Greeks meant; you have to understand this quality of the zoidia. The zoidia had
29

a 'life' of their own and as such they could and do have relations with each other. And because the
signs were the domiciles of the planets (who were also zoia) then the planets could have a
relationship and dealings with each other. Al Biruni illustrates this relationship when he says,
"Whenever two planets are in signs which are in aspect to each other, they [the planets] also are said to be in aspect;"
[4]
[emphasis is mine - SB]

We find within this statement an inference of inter-dependence that because of this, what I will call,
'living' familiarity between the zoidia then there exists a 'living' familiarity between the planets. In fact
in several authors, including Ptolemy, there are great pains taken and several chapters devoted
before all else, to the 'living' qualities of the zoidia. In the following pages of this essay then, I am
going to as best I can, re-acquaint the awareness of you the reader, with the qualities of the 'Living
Signs': the Zoidia.

[1]

General Note by Robert Schmidt in preface to Valens Anthology Book I 1993 Robert Schmidt, and published by The
Golden Hind Press. See pages xvi - xix.
[2]

"The Facets of Fate: The Rationale Underlying the Hellenistic System of Houses" - by Robert Schmidt

[3]

Carl Jung - "Nietzsche's Zarathustra" p. 413-4v

[4]

259, 446 of Al-Biruni's "The Book of Instruction in the Elements of the Art of Astrology" - - Translation by R. Ramsay
Wright 1934 - - Published by Ascella.

30

The Living Signs Part 2:

A Quality of 'Life'- - Seeing and Perception


Aspects were the sense of sight to the zoidia. In fact the word "aspect" comes from the Greek word
"to look". The different types of glances the zoidia have towards each other are the same in all
respects that a person would make. Psychologically we make a distinction between things that we
see (which is a passive action) and things that we perceive or behold (when something "catches your
eye" and we consciously receive an impression). Similarly, the zoidia made distinctions in how they
looked or saw ahead in the order of the Zodiac while they perceived those following them. In
Medieval astrology seeing ahead became known as 'sinister' and perceiving behind as 'dexter'.
Curtis Manwaring gives a simple and precise explanation of this aspect of 'seeing'. [See figure 1]
"What determines the signs seeing and perceiving is the angle between the signs. The angles must be perfect divisions of
a circle until 7 rays (one representing each of the visible planets) are fulfilled, and it also must be divisible by 30 degrees
with no remainder (because a whole zoidion sees or perceives, not a part of it). First we divide the zodiac circle into 2
equal portions. We get half a circle or 180 degrees. This represents the opposition and first ray. Then we divide it into 3
equal portions and we get a trine, which is 120 degrees. This forms the 2nd and 3rd rays because the sign looks forward
and perceives behind. Then we divide it into 4 equal portions and we get 90 degrees each, which each forms a square
ray. Since the opposition is already accounted for, we have the addition of the 4th and 5th rays 90 degrees forward and
backward in the order of the signs. When we divide by 5 we get 72 degrees, but it is not divisible by 30, so it is not an
aspect. When we divide by 6 we get the hexagon (or sextile) of six equal portions of 60 degrees. Since the 2 trines and
[5]
opposition have been accounted for, we have the 6th and 7th rays, both ahead and behind in the order of the signs."

The relative strength of this 'seeing' aspect, or the strength of the relationship, was also based on a
simple relationship of familiarity. From Leo to Capricorn was the 'diurnal' half as the Sun is the diurnal
sect Lord and from the Cancer to Aquarius was 'nocturnal' because the Moon was the nocturnal sect
31

Lord. Leo looked forward to Libra and Cancer perceived Taurus. The aspect, being made through
three signs, was a sextile ray of the benefic nature of the common ruler to Libra and Taurus; Venus.
So the sextile was profitable. The look forward from Leo to Scorpio was similar in nature as the
Moons perception back to Aries; a square, which was of the nature of Mars the ruler of Scorpio and
Aries- difficult. The ray forward from Leo to Sagittarius and from the Moon to Pisces were similar and
of the nature of Jupiter, a trine and very beneficial. And finally the ray from Leo to Aquarius was the
same as the ray from the Moon to Capricorn, an opposition and of the nature of Saturn. [See figure 2]

Of course there is an order and geometry to the Greek concept. Ibn-Ezra in his 'Book of Reasons',
gives us a unique perspective as to the harmonics involved in the Hellenistic model - but it was not
necessarily just the geometry that decided it or made the rules by which it applied. It was not just an
applied science that determined how the aspects were formed but also a quality of life through
'familiar' relationships, which the mathematical concept supports and gives testimony to.
What a zoidion sees or perceives, just like with us, is dependant upon its position in respect to the
other zoidia. When we look straight ahead at an object what happens? You see that object and the
things which are immediately on either side, fall out of perspective. Extreme cases of this are called
"tunnel vision". As I am writing this I am looking straight ahead at my screen and that is where my
attention is focused. I have a coffee cup standing on my desk next to my screen but although it's in
my field of vision it falls out of perspective. In order to 'perceive' that cup I have to shift my eyes and
attention. If Aries looks at Libra then the immediate zoidia on either side of Libra fall out of our
perspective. The object of focus is Libra, the opposition, while the zoidia Scorpio and Virgo, are no
longer in the field of perception. These two zoidia then were in "aversion" to Aries or what we know as
inconjunct. Likewise again looking straight ahead from Aries, our vision does not cover a full 180
degrees or what we call peripheral vision, and neither could the zoidia. They could not see or
perceive those zoidia that were immediately beside them. So Aries could not see or perceive Taurus
or Pisces or what we call the semi-sextile.

32

"The two signs, which are each side of the one (sign) in question and their opposites, viz. the second and twelfth and the
[6]
sixth and eighth are not in aspect and are known as inconjunct."
"The signs that have no aspect between them nor [are they of the same element] nature are four - the 2nd, the 6th, the
[7]
8th and the 12th. The weakest among them are the 6th and the 12th. Some of the signs have enmity by aspect yet
friendship in another way either because they have the same ascension [time], or same strength, or by ecliptical position."
[8]

"The position of the zoidia unconnected to one another has the numerical interval from 2, 6, 8, 12, and the zoidia taken in
such intervals are also called averse to one another. And so the stars found in these zoidia become inharmonious. And
sometimes they bring about hostile conditions, sometimes separations and banishments when such a condition has
befallen all, whether by parents to children, by brothers, by man and wife, by fellowship, or by slaves and masters, and all
[9]
resembling these."

Good vision made better


Being able to see each other by aspect, the perception of the zoidia could be strengthened through
also having a sense of familiarity with others. This kind of 'looking' or 'perceiving' was based on being
equal distances from the two solstice signs of Cancer and Capricorn. They could see and perceive
each other because of equal authority, based on the fact that they are the same height with respect to
the celestial equator and because their diurnal arcs [10] were equal in length. [See figure 3]

Table 1 [11]
6LJQ
'LXUQDO$UF

























By examining Table 1 and looking at figure 3, we can see that Gemini and Leo are first, equally
placed above the celestial equator. And in the table we see that Gemini has a diurnal arc of 212 and
Leo also has 212. Ptolemy tells us that,
33

"Any two signs, equally distant from either tropical sign, are equal to each other in power; because the Sun, when present
in one, makes day and night, and the divisions of time, respectively equal in duration to those which he produces when
present in the other. Such signs are also said to behold each other, as well for the foregoing reasons, as because each of
[12]
them rises from one and the same part of the horizon, and sets in one and the same part."

Abu Ma'shar gives us a little different perspective by also telling us that while Gemini and Leo are
equal in power, Gemini obeys Leo.
"It may be said of the signs that are direct and oblique in rising that one of them obeys another in the other way; for
[13]
example, that Gemini obeys (sees) Leo, Taurus Virgo, Pisces Scorpio, and Aquarius Sagittarius.
. . . As for Aries
obeying Libra, and Capricorn, Cancer, even if one of the two obeys its companion, neither pair of them indicates
[14]
agreement and friendship because of their being in opposition to each other."

Abu Ma'shar gives us those zoidia that are of short ascension (direct) as obeying those of long
(oblique) ascension. [15] Paulus is very precise also in distinguishing those zoidia that are just 'seeing'
and those that 'perceive'. You probably notice that Paulus' relationships of 'seeing' and 'perceiving'
are reversed in the lower half of the zodiac. It is most likely that this 'seeing/perceiving' relationship
represents the true realities of the hemispheres. In our northern hemisphere Pisces is of short or
direct ascension, however if you are in the southern hemisphere Pisces is of long or oblique
ascension. Thus Pisces 'perceives' or commands and Scorpio (short ascension in the southern
hemisphere) 'sees' or obeys.
I think too, that perhaps the terms 'command' and 'obey' are a little misleading. In the military you
have a clear 'command and obey' relationship. However here we have more of a business
relationship or partnership. In a large company you may have several department heads or in a law
firm you may have senior partners. These heads are on equal authority but there is a co-operation
that exists because they are working towards a common goal for the company. In the company I work
for in the ship industry, we have heads of engineering, heads of design, heads of specifications and
heads of production etc. It is not unusual that the head of engineering needs the principle drawings
from the design department head. In order to produce a ship on time, the formers' need becomes a
'command' that the latter 'yields' to in order for a harmonious functioning in the company. Both have
'equal' authority but there is this sense of need and yielding. And this is the relationship that the zoidia
that see and perceive have to each other. In successful close personal relationships there exists this
same familiarity.
The strengthening of an aspect
Paulus describes the effects of such a relationship by saying,
"The zoidia which see one another contribute to sympathy and friendship and goodwill . . . They harmonise also for every
[16]
association and things resembling these."

Now if most of you are like me, while enjoying and appreciating perhaps, the more 'romanticist'
symbolism in this, I like to see the practical application. It is the practical application that brings us to
the heart of the whole purpose in the concept of the 'living signs'; and that is perfecting the function of
the planets that may be positioned there.
Going back to Paulus, he gives a clearer purpose for this familiarity between zoidia when he states,
"And while (on the one hand) the side of a triangle [the trine aspect] is harmonious and harmless, that of the square (on
the other hand) makes the result of the final outcome discordant and irregular. The hexagon [the sextile aspect], if found
in zoidia which hear or see one another [I'll come to the 'hearing' zoidia further in this essay], has the power of a triangle,
[17]
but when in other zoidia [is only] half [as powerful]."

34

Basically what we have in this statement is the idea that the familiar relationship the zoidia have to
each other could significantly strengthen the effect of the aspects between the planets posited there.
The sextile between Gemini and Leo was greatly increased in strength as compared to the sextile
between Leo and Libra. In fact the relation between Leo and Libra half reduced the sextiles efficiency.
This is quite similar in fact, to the result of a harmonious work environment on the job being
conducive to higher productivity.
As an example, if you had the Moon posited at 12 Leo and the Sun was at 15 Gemini, the Moon is
applying a sextile aspect to the Sun. In this case however, the Moon would appear to have some
difficulty in functioning, as in the domicile of the Sun she is lacking any essential dignity. You would
have the same results if you invited a total stranger off the street to run your household and family
and take care of your financial affairs while you took the week away from home. In order for her to
regain some dignity here she would need to be received by the lord of this domicile. She is, by the
sextile aspect from the Sun to some degree, although the sextile is the weakest of the favourable
aspects and the Sun is also without appreciable dignity in Gemini. Applying the aforesaid 'familiarity'
between the zoidia, there is already a stronger mutual friendship and the sextile is made into the
strength of a Trine. There is less demand on the planets themselves to be dignified. Since the Sun is
in Gemini, the yielding partner, then the Moon is receiving considerably more support in her position,
thus the zoidia themselves contribute to the planets effectiveness.
Ptolemy gives us another example of how zoidia that see and obey can increase the effectiveness of
the planets. In chapter 14 of the third book in Tetrabiblos He is discussing the number of modes of a
prorogation [a primary direction] and tells us that certain degrees are anrectic (destroyers) to
significators. These are degrees for example that the malefics may cast their rays (aspects) to and to
which the significator may be directed. He says,
"But in the prorogation made into succeeding signs, the places of the malefics, Saturn and Mars, are anrectic, whether
meeting the prorogator bodily, or by emission of rays in quartile, from either side, or in opposition;"

The trine and sextile aspect could cause problems but were not usually deadly except in one
situation, namely when the malefic was in a sign that "sees and obeys" the sign where his ray fell.
"They are sometimes anrectic by sextile ray, if in a sign of equal power, obeying or beholding the sign of the
prorogator."

In this particular case then the effectiveness of these zoidia works contrary to the good of an
individual. The effectiveness is then indiscriminate to the planets and what they signify will be
increased in efficacy whether for good or ill.
So one attribute or characteristic of the 'living' zoidia is that they have sight. Let's move on and see if
we can discover others.

A Quality of 'Life'- - Hearing


Sight is by far the most used sense perception we have and the one we rely on the most. However as
those who are sight-impaired can tell you, hearing is a sense perception that we undervalue. Hearing
becomes especially important when we lose our ability to see. The zoidia also have this ability to hear
each other. [Figure 4]

35

"Similarly, one must come to an understanding of the hexagonal hearing and seeing zoidia by means of ascensions,
thusly. For example, Pisces looks at Taurus. For the second zone, the ascensions of 6 zoidia from Pisces becomes 160,
and from Taurus to Libra 200. Pisces becomes[i] less than Taurus and hears it. And the ascensions of the 2 zoidia
[18]
amount to 360."
"The commanding zoidia have this order: Taurus commands Pisces and Pisces obeys it, Gemini commands Aquarius,
[19]
Cancer Capricorn, Leo Sagittarius, Virgo Scorpio."

These zoidia have an unequal but cooperative relationship with each other. Valens calls them
'hearing and seeing zoidia' and they are equally distant from the equinoctial zoidia. This relationship
is also based on the diurnal arc of the zoidia.
=RLGLD
'LXUQDO$UF

























The Zoidia 'seeing' AND 'hearing'


Once again if we look at the table of diurnal arcs we see for example that Taurus has a diurnal arc of
200 and Pisces has one of 160. Together they equal 360, the completecircumference of the
zodiac. This is a little different relationship than we saw previously where both zoidia had equal
authority. We also have the sense of sight here as these zoidia also have a relation by aspect, only
here we have a stronger sense of authority and compliance. In our previous example was also
compliance but it was based on a common purpose and good will. In this case it isn't just a question
of good will but of service. If we digress to my previous analogy in the business place, here we have
the department head and his subordinate. A department head isn't a head unless he has a body
under him, and that is those who perform the task required so he can be free to do the things that
only he can do. It's called delegating responsibility. In order for the department head to effectively do
his job he needs a complimentary staff: together they get the job done. As any good leader knows, in
36

this kind of relationship familiarity can easily breed contempt, so there is a certain respectful distance
between the two. I liked very much the way Curtis Manwaring describes this relationship.
"It may also be that if a planet-pair is on this commanding-obeying axis, then the commanding planet may represent the
[20]
subject matter and the obeying planet, the outcome."

As with the zoidia that 'see and perceive', these that 'see and hear' also produce effective results. The
sextile between Taurus and Pisces and Virgo and Scorpio are especially benefited from this
relationship as Paulus told us, "if found in zoidia which hear or see one another." So here as above,
the same rule applies and these sextiles take on the characteristics of a trine.
If you'll study closely the table of diurnal arcs, you'll notice that Pisces is not the only 'complementary'
zoidion to Taurus, so is Scorpio. This presents us with some very interesting insights into the nature
of oppositions, which I will discuss later. Following is a table that I've made to represent these
relationships.
Table 2

6LJQ3DLUV







2QHTXDO

RUGHUV


5HODWLRQVKLS

WHUPV


REH\V




RUGHUV

REH\V




RUGHUV


RUGHUV


REH\V




REH\V




RUGHUV

REH\V




RUGHUV

REH\V


RUGHUV

REH\V


RUGHUV

REH\V


RUGHUV

REH\V

[5]

"The Secrets of the Lost Horoscope . X-Files" - - Chapter 5 'Aspects and Seeing', an e-book from Curtis Manwaring - available from his site Zodiac-X-Files
[6]

373 of Al-Biruni's "The Book of Instruction in the Elements of the Art of Astrology" - - Translation by R. Ramsay Wright
1934 - - Published by Ascella
[7]

This is because the 6th and 12th are "in Decline" or cadent, while the 2nd and 8th are post-ascensional or successive.
SB
[8]

Chapter III of Ibn-Ezra's - - "The Beginning of Wisdom" - - Translated by Meira B. Epstein - - an ARHAT publication
1998
[9]

Chapter 11 of of Paulus' Introductory Matters, "Late Classical Astrology: Paulus Alexandrinus and Olympiodorus with the
Scholia from Later Commentators" - - Translation by Dorian Greenbaum - ARHAT Publications.
[10]

The diurnal arc is the number of degrees required for 6 signs to rise based on their degrees of RA over the Meridian. In
simpler terms this is the amount of degrees that one sign requires to traverse the sky during the daytime, to rise and then
set. SB
[11]

The table is based on the Babylonian table A of ascensions for the signs. I could have used the actual ascensional
degrees for today but the relationship is identical and for the purpose of this demonstration, simpler to use the nice round
numbers the Babylonians used. The following is their table of ascensions for the signs. - - SB

37



[12]













Chapter XVIII BkI of Ptolemy's "Tetrabiblos"- - J.M. Ashmand Translator - - Astrology Classics Publishing 2002

[13]

In Abu Ma'shar's original text the pairs are listed wrong as he pairs Taurus and Cancer, Virgo and Capricorn, and
Scorpio and Capricorn. These combinations however do not accomplish his description of "the length of daylight of one of
the two is equal to the length of night of the other." - - Chapter 1, 94, "The Abbreviation of the Introduction to Astrology" - Edited and translated by Charles Burnett - - ARHAT Publications 1997
[14]

Chapter 1:94and 95 in Abu Ma'shars' - - "The Abbreviation of the Introduction to Astrology" - - Edited and translated by
Charles Burnett - - ARHAT Publications 1997
[15]

Signs that are 'direct' rise at an angle to the horizon that is nearer to a vertical 90. The 30 degrees of longitude of
these signs require 30+ degrees of equator to rise across the horizon and take more than 2hrs to rise and so they are
termed 'signs of long ascension'. Signs that are 'oblique', some authors called these 'crooked', rise at an angle that is
more slanted. This slant ensures that the whole sign rises before 30 of the equator has passed the horizon and is why
they were called 'signs of short ascension'.
[16]

Chapter 8 of Paulus' Introductory Matters, "Late Classical Astrology: Paulus Alexandrinus and Olympiodorus with the
Scholia from Later Commentators" - - Translation by Dorian Greenbaum - ARHAT Publications.
[17]

Chapter 10 of Paulus' Introductory Matters, "Late Classical Astrology: Paulus Alexandrinus and Olympiodorus with the
Scholia from Later Commentators"- - Translation by Dorian Greenbaum - ARHAT Publications.
[18]

Bk I ch.7 - - "The Anthology" of Vettius Valens, Translated by Robert Schmidt and published by Golden Hind Press.

[19]

Chapter 9 of Paulus' Introductory Matters, "Late Classical Astrology: Paulus Alexandrinus and Olympiodorus with the
Scholia from Later Commentators"- - Translation by Dorian Greenbaum - ARHAT Publications
[20]

"The Secrets of the Lost Horoscope . X-Files" - - Chapter 5 'Aspects and Seeing', an e-book from Curtis Manwaring - available from his site Zodiac-X-Files

38

The Living Signs Part 3:

Aversion, the loss of sight


As I said earlier in this series, the zoidia that do not behold or see each other are in aversion [or
inconjunct] to each other. This was one of the worse things that could happen to a planet, to fall in a
zoidion that was in aversion to its domicile zoidion. It was called falling amiss. A planet falling amiss
from its own domicile could not for example receive or a help a planet that might be posited there. But
equally as bad, that planet could not run the affairs of the 'topical' responsibilities of its zoidion. If, for
example, Libra marked the ascendant and its lord Venus fell in Taurus/8th zoidion, then Venus was in
fact 'blind' and the ascendant [or horoskopos], like the helm of a boat as it was called, would lack an
effective 'helmsman' to steer the ship. I don't know about anyone else, but having a 'blind' helmsman
doesn't inspire a lot of confidence in me that the ship will arrive safely to port. Valens makes a
statement in Book I of his 'Anthology' that is rather important. He is specifically discussing the nature
of the zoidia and says,
"And all things that the ruler is at times accustomed to produce by its own nature, whether good or base, or lesser or
greater, each one of the zoidia will also produce according to whether the figure description of its ruler is operative or
[21]
unprofitable."

The 'figure description of its ruler' is simply whether or not the zoidion, where the ruler is posited, can
or cannot 'see' the ruler's domicile. This infers that it's not necessary for the lord of the zoidion to be in
his domicile for the sign to effectively function, but in order to be 'operative' he must see it. The
zoidion [and thus the 'house' or 'affairs of life' which were the responsibility of that zoidion] became
dysfunctional and adverse when the 'lord' could not see it. This was a serious situation as "the stars
found in these zoidia [in aversion] became inharmonious. And sometimes they bring about hostile
conditions, sometimes separations and banishments." [22] If the ruler of the 10th was in aversion to it,
then it would be very difficult to find a 'harmonious' integration of ones actions in regards to ones
career for example.
History is replete with examples of people with serious impediments and dysfunctions who, in spite of
their handicap, have made considerable contributions to society and mankind in general. The
dysfunction, where overcome, was made an incredible strength. And likewise we find its parallel
within the relationships of the zodia. In astrology, as in life, zoidia in aversion could overcome an
aversion through the use of other 'senses'.
A Sharpened Sense of Hearing and Touch
There are then four conditions of the zoidia that mitigate aversion and we can well liken them to the
conditions that exist when we are physically blind.
The first of these conditions were zoidia who were in aversion, or 'blind', but had the same lord or
ruler. If you look at figure 5, we find that Cancer and Leo, Taurus and Libra, Scorpio and Aries, and
Aquarius and Capricorn are all in aversion to one another. According to all the earlier writers,
however this aversion could be mitigated and made strength. [see figure 5]
"[Aspectual connection between] signs in the ecliptic is true for every two signs that are the domiciles of one planet, such
as Aries and Scorpio [that belong] to Mars, Taurus and Libra [that belong] to Venus, Gemini and Virgo [that belong] to
Mercury, Sagittarius and Pisces [that belong] to Jupiter, Capricorn and Aquarius [that belong] to Saturn. Even though the

39

Moon has [only] one domicile and the Sun has [only] one domicile, as they are both rulers
[24]
considered as belonging to one ruler."

[23]

, the domiciles are

"Of them there are those 'agreeing in the path', namely the pairs of signs which belong to one planet, such as Capricorn
[25]
and Aquarius to Saturn, and Sagittarius and Pisces to Jupiter."
"Abu Ma'shar has called the two signs which have the same presiding planet as concordant in itinerary, .it is a relation
[26]
which must be considered"

I hope all you women can appreciate the significance of this arrangement between the Sun and
Moon! Ibn-Ezra certainly did, "as they are both rulers, the domiciles are considered as belonging to
one ruler." Not only are these two signs not in aversion, but also the lord and lady [Sun and Moon] is
one and the same ruler. In fact here we may have full equal rights. The Moon is fully familiar with Leo
just as the Sun is fully familiar with Cancer. There was a mutual respect as if they were one ruler! If
we continue this logic to it's natural conclusion it's difficult to say then that the Sun is without dignity in
Cancer and just as difficult to say the Moon is without dignity in Leo, as these zoidia were seen as
having one ruler, a joint rulership. I'm not going to go into it here but this does raise some interesting
insights into how sect should function.
Both Schmidt and Greenbaum have translated this relationship as 'like-engirdling' and the likeengirding zoidia are: Leo and Cancer because of the Sun and Moon, Gemini and Virgo has Mercury
representing them, Taurus and Libra whom Venus represents, Aries and Scorpio with Mars
representing them, Sagittarius and Pisces because of Jupiter and Capricorn and Aquarius because of
Saturn representing them.
Before I go into just how these relationships are advantageous I'd like to finish presenting all of the
various conditions that could mitigate an aversion.
Zoidia corresponding in course - Antiscia
40

The next relationship we meet is one, which many who deal with horary questions, are familiar with.
That is zoidia that are "Corresponding in Course" or "Of Equal Power". [Figure 6] In other words these
are signs that are equidistant from the solstice points 0 Cancer and 0 Capricorn, and relate to the
length of time during which a degree (or moira [27]) of the zodiac is above or below the horizon. This is
of course relating to antiscia. Antiscia are points or degrees symmetrical to the solstice points. In the
Northern hemisphere 0 Cancer is above the horizon for the greatest amount of time each day while
0 Capricorn is above the horizon the least amount of time. This reverses in the Southern
hemisphere. In either hemisphere 1 Gemini and 29 Cancer are 29 from 0 Cancer just as
29Gemini and 1 Cancer are both 1 from 0 Cancer. They have corresponding inverse degrees and
so have equal light as they spend the same amount of time above (or below) the horizon. The signs
that have equal light are Gemini and Cancer (in aversion), Taurus and Leo, Aries and Virgo (in
aversion), Pisces and Libra (in aversion), Aquarius and Scorpio, Capricorn and Sagittarius (in
aversion).

"Two signs revolving in the same parallel, North or South (equidistant from a Solstice) are described as corresponding in
course (in itinerary), their day hours are equal as are their night hours, and their ascensions are identical at the equator,
such as Gemini and Cancer, Taurus and Leo. The correspondence is also by inverse degrees, the beginning of Cancer
[28]
corresponding to the end of Gemini, and the tenth of the former to the twentieth of the latter."
"Six of these signs are direct in rising; these are from the beginning of Cancer to the end of Sagittarius. Six are oblique in
rising; these are from the beginning of Capricorn to the end of Gemini...Two signs indicate agreement and friendship, for
example Gemini and Cancer, Taurus and Leo and the others like these. Those agreeing in the length of daylight are said
[29]
to be powerful agreeing in power."
"Those of the same strength are the sign whose crooked [temporal] hours are equal, like Cancer and Gemini, Taurus and
[30]
Leo, Aries and Virgo, Pisces and Libra, Aquarius and Scorpio, Capricorn and Sagittarius."

Equally ascending and Equipollent zoidia - Contra-antiscia


41

The last two conditions are related, and contain a familiarity between the same zoidia. These zoidia
are of equal ascension and they are likewise equidistant from the equinoctial points of 0 Aries and 0
Libra. The later was referred to as "equipollent". [Figure 7] The equally rising zoidia and equipollent
zoidia are Aries and Pisces (in aversion), Taurus and Aquarius, Gemini and Capricorn (in aversion),
Cancer and Sagittarius (in aversion), Leo and Scorpio, Virgo and Libra (in aversion).
'Equipollent' is referring to the fact that at 0 Aries and 0 Libra the night hours are equal the day
hours. This relation remains constant as you move away from the equinox by inverse degrees. So at
1 Aries the daylight hours are equal the night hours at 29 Pisces just as at 29 Aries the daylight
hours are equal the night hours at 1 Pisces. This later became known as contra-antiscia. [Compare
this similarity with 'Like in Course' whose daylight hours and nocturnal hours were equal at all points,]

"Any two signs configurated with each other at an equal distance from the same, or from either equinoctial point, are
termed commanding and obeying, because the ascensional and descensional times of the one are equal to those of the
[31]
other, and both describes equal parallels."
"Of them (as may be said of each pair of them) there are those 'agreeing in the zodiac-belt', namely, the pairs which are
equal in their rising times such as Aries and Pisces, Taurus and Aquarius, Capricorn and Gemini and the others which
[32]
follow this."
"Two signs equidistant from an equinoctial point are said to be equipollent, because the day hours of each are equal to
the night hours of the other, and their ascensions are equal in all places, such as Aries and Pisces, Taurus and Aquarius,
etc. The correspondence is by inverse degrees (contra-antiscia), one being north the other south, the 1st of Aries being
[33]
equal to the 29th of Pisces and the 10th (of Aries) to the 20th (of Pisces)."
"The signs in the summer semicircle are commanding; those in the winter semicircle, obeying: for when the Sun is present
[34]
in the former, he makes the day longer than the night; and when in the latter, he produces the contrary effect."
"Those whose ascension [time] is equal are Aries and Pisces, Virgo and Libra, Taurus and Aquarius, Leo and Scorpio,

42

[35]

Gemini and Capricorn, Cancer and Sagittarius." "A planet in one of the even [temporal hours] signs is called the master
[36]
[commanding] and the one in the opposite degree in one of the crooked signs is the slave [obeying]."

In this particular familiarity between the signs we also find the aspect of 'hearing'. As mentioned by
the earlier authors, one sign 'commands' and one sign 'obeys' based on 'temporal signs' [summer
signs] and 'crooked signs' [winter signs]. While these signs cannot 'see' one another they sense one
another and are familiar with one another through what I would compare to a sense of 'touch'.
Likewise these same zoidia also possess a sense of hearing.
The Mitigation of Aversion
"All signs, between which there does not exist any familiarity in any of the modes above specified, are inconjunct and
[37]
separated."

Although Ptolemy did not include zoidia which were 'like-engirdling' many other authors did, and his
statement is nonetheless valid. Being 'familiar' was not just aspectual, as we have seen; it was also
based on other astronomical association, whether of equal ascension, equal diurnal hours or where
diurnal hours were equal to nocturnal etc. We have in our Zodiac 24 pairs of inconjunct zoidia and
through 'familiarity' 12 of them are mitigated. Following is a table that lists these.

43

Table of Pairs of mitigated Aversion

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Paulus in his 'Introductory Matters', gives us some insight into just how this mitigation works.
"And those neighbouring to themselves have sympathy for one another just as if they were placed in the same domicile,
while those zoidia 6, 8, or 12 intervals away have power just as if they were in diametrical position.The equally ascending
zoidia which are adjacent to each other, likewise will exert the same power on each other as has been said, as if they
[38]
were positioned in like-engirdling or similar configuration."

44

While Paulus does not explicitly list the antiscia zoidia, other later authors certainly do, but Paulus
nevertheless does leave us with the feeling that these two are not the only such configurations as he
ends this chapter by saying "or other similar configurations".
Paulus tells us that "And those neighbouring to themselves have sympathy for one another just as if
they were placed in the same domicile." That is they are similar to a conjunction. You may feel some
confusion in his next statement however when he says, "while those zoidia 6, 8, or 12 intervals away
have power just as if they were in diametrical position." This may seem like it doesn't make sense. If
you consider Pisces for example, has Aries (2), Leo (6), Libra (8) and Aquarius (12) in aversion to
itself. The aversion with Aries is mitigated because they are equally ascending and the aversion with
Libra is mitigated because they are of equal-light (antiscia). So by his explanation, a planet in Pisces
should be "as if they were placed in the same domicile" [or conjunct] with another placed in Aries.
Libra being in the 8th position from Pisces would "have power just as if they were in diametrical
position" or behave as if in opposition. These are so far clear, but the confusion arises if you consider
Aries has these zoidia in aversion to it: Taurus (2), Virgo (6), Scorpio (8) and Pisces (12). The
aversion with Virgo is mitigated because they have equal-light; with Scorpio because they have the
same ruler Mars, and are like-engirdling. These two according to Paulus should have the power of the
opposition. What about Pisces? His list says it should be like an opposition. There appears to be
some ambiguity here. I say this because he clearly states "those [plural, like Aries/Pisces]
neighbouring to themselves [plural] have sympathy for one another just as if they [the plural again]
were placed in the same domicile." and again at the end of his chapter he re-affirms this by saying,
"The equally ascending Zoidia which are adjacent to each other, likewise will exert the same power
on each other." This is specifically talking about Aries and Pisces or Libra and Virgo, "or similar
configurations." So it is perhaps difficult to see the consistency of logic in being in conjunct on one
side but opposition on the other.
The only way this arrangement can make sense is that Paulus also in the same chapter says, "the
power being more for those averse zoidia, which are like-engirdling and equally ascending, which
come to be active this way by position on the right." In other words the relation is more powerful from
Pisces to Aries (Pisces being on the right of Aries) than Aries to Pisces (Aries being on the left of
Pisces). That is to say a sinister aspect, one that looks forward in the order of the zodiac, is more
powerful than one that looks back or is dexter. This is consistent with the Greek concept of 'seeing'
and 'perceiving' but is the opposite of medieval tradition, which considered the dexter as superior to
the sinister. But it's important to remember that here we are talking about aspects from zoidia and not
planets. The medieval tradition lays more significance to the aspects of the planets than those of the
zoidia. In both Hellenistic and later traditions, it was more propitious for Saturn, Jupiter and Mars to
be oriental of the Sun. The Sun would then be casting its rays against the order of the zodiac in
dexter aspect to these slower planets (a lighter planet always aspects a heavier or slower one).
Likewise it was better for Mercury and Venus to be occidental of the Sun because since they were
lighter they would cast their rays against the order of the zodiac, or in dexter aspect to the Sun. So it
is a significant point to notice, that the activity of the zoidia was not quite the same as that of the
planets.

45

[21]

Bk I ch.2 - - "The Anthology" of Vettius Valens, Translated by Robert Schmidt and published by Golden Hind Press.

[22]

Chapter 11 of Paulus' IIntroductory Matters, "Late Classical Astrology: Paulus Alexandrinus and Olympiodorus with the
Scholia from Later Commentators" - - Translation by Dorian Greenbaum - ARHAT Publications
[23]

They are the presiding "sect" rulers. - - S.B.

[24]

Chapter III of Ibn-Ezra's - - "The Beginning of Wisdom" - - Translated by Meira B. Epstein - - an ARHAT publication
1998
[25]

Chapter 1:97 of Abu Ma'shar's - - "The Abbreviation of the Introduction to Astrology" - - Edited and translated by Charles
Burnett - - ARHAT Publications 1997
[26]

377 of Al-Biruni's "The Book of Instruction in the Elements of the Art of Astrology" - - Translation by R. Ramsay Wright
1934 - - Published by Ascella
[27]

"Update on Moira. Chapter 3 of the present translation deals with the assignment of boundaries (traditionally called
'terms') to different parts of the zodiacal divisions. The grammatical usage there leads us to believe that we were correct
in assuming that the Greek astrologers used the word 'moira' in full consciousness of it's meaning as an 'allotment' or
'apportionment', and did not simply regard it as a neutral division of a circle into parts...We are moving more and more in
the direction of discarding the translation 'degree' entirely." - - Translators Preface Bk I "The Anthology" of Vettius Valens
- - by Robert Schmidt - - 1993 Published by The Golden Hind Press
[28]

377 of Al-Biruni's "The Book of Instruction in the Elements of the Art of Astrology" - - Translation by R. Ramsay Wright
1934 - - Published by Ascella
[29]

Chapter 1:90, 92 of Abu Ma'shar's - - "The Abbreviation of the Introduction to Astrology" - - Edited and translated by
Charles Burnett - - ARHAT Publications 1997
[30]

Chapter III of Ibn-Ezra's - - "The Beginning of Wisdom" - - Translated by Meira B. Epstein - - an ARHAT publication
1998
[31]

Chapter XVII BkI of Ptolemy's "Tetrabiblos" - - J.M. Ashmand Translator - - Astrology Classics Publishing 2002

[32]

Chapter 1:96 of Abu Ma'shar's - - "The Abbreviation of the Introduction to Astrology" - - Edited and translated by Charles
Burnett - - ARHAT Publications 1997
[33]

377 of Al-Biruni's "The Book of Instruction in the Elements of the Art of Astrology" - - Translation by R. Ramsay Wright
1934 - - Published by Ascella
[34]

Chapter XVII BkI of Ptolemy's "Tetrabiblos" - - J.M. Ashmand Translator - - Astrology Classics Publishing 2002

[35]

Chapter III of Ibn-Ezra's - - "The Beginning of Wisdom" - - Translated by Meira B. Epstein - - an ARHAT publication
1998
[36]

Ibid

[37]

Chapter XIX BkI of Ptolemy's "Tetrabiblos" - - J.M. Ashmand Translator - - Astrology Classics Publishing 2002

[38]

Chapter 12 of Paulus' Introductory Matters, "Late Classical Astrology: Paulus Alexandrinus and Olympiodorus with the
Scholia from Later Commentators" - - Translation by Dorian Greenbaum - ARHAT Publications

46

The Living Signs Part 4:

Sign aspect - Planetary aspect:


The Separation of Church and State
This noticeable difference of aspects between the zoidia and aspects between the planets raises
another question: that of the power of the aspects. For example, just what is the power of the
opposition? Olympiodorus who was a commentator of Paulus' work says,
"And in the same way also, the seven stars, if they should be unconnected with one another, they are most evil...But
again one must consider this also, even if the stars are unconnected, whether they are actually in like-engirdling or equally
[39]
ascending zoidia. For thus the evil is moderated."

Here we have explained to us that 'the power of the opposition" found in the equally ascending zoidia
of Gemini and Capricorn for example, moderates any evil as a result of their being inconjunct.
There are a couple of possibilities I can think of which may explain why this is so:
1. We are speaking 'relatively'. The Inconjunction was the worse that could happen so an opposition
was more preferable to that, like the lesser of two evils. It at least brought the planet back into the
workings of the whole chart.
2. The concept perhaps is closer to the Arabic model, where Abu Ma'shar calls the inconjunct relation
of Gemini-Capricorn for example, as being a 'natural opposition' because it is closest to being an
opposition in nature so that the equally ascending signs are in fact moderating an opposition like they
do the square aspect between the like ascending signs of Taurus and Aquarius. [40] Or,
3. There is something more to the opposition between zoidia than just merely being 'inimical' as it is
called.
The first proposition is an obvious one and of course true in the sense that it is better to find all the
planets active and participating. Although one might argue that an opposition brings just as many
problems and maybe it would have been better not to create new ones.
I question the reasoning of the second proposition as presented by Al-Biruni quoting Abu Ma'shar.
Zoidia that are equally ascending and 'like in course' as he calls them, are based on the relationship
of inverse degrees. If one were to look at the angle between 1 Aries and 29 Virgo, then yes they are
almost 180. Just as valid though, if you look at the angle between 1 Virgo and 29 Aries, they are
closer to a trine. So who is to say that the inconjunct between these two zoidia isn't that of a 'natural
trine'? The degrees in each sign in their natural order are always and at all points 150 from each
other and therefore at all times inconjunct and neither a 'natural opposition' nor 'natural trine'. So I
have the least amount of faith in this proposition.
This brings me to the third proposition. Are there really so many inconsistencies or am I missing
something? Is the opposition truly inimical or is it something else? To answer this, I think we have to
go back to what this thesis is proposing; and that is that the zoidia, independent from the planets,
have their own "life" in regards to each other and that the result of this life creates an environment for
the planets to function in and produce their results. Two individual 'eco-systems' that are
47

interdependent.
If you go back and examine the figures for the 'seeing and hearing' zoidia (figures 1,3,4) you'll find
that all the figure descriptions are either sextile, trine or oppositions. They are all constructive and
beneficial and every opposition is represented. In comparison looking at the figures which describe
the mitigation of aversion (figures 5,6 and 7) you'll see these are the very difficult relations for the
zoidia and they are all either inconjunct or squares. Perhaps then, these figure descriptions between
the zoidia, are in fact truly representing what is beneficial and what is not between them, that the
relationships they have to each other are inherently different than those the planets have to each
other and that they have an effect on the 'life role' that the planets have amongst themselves.
I find some support for this in Valens Anthology Book I, where he is very careful to delineate the comixture of the planets separate from the zoidia. He tells us in chapter 20,
"For, I did not want to compile commixtures at great length and with many subdivisions.The synoptic manner, then, which
is easily taken in at a glance from the natural activity of each star AND zoidion, will be preferred by those who can see."

[41]

What is clear from Valens statement is that there is a 'natural activity' of the stars [planets] and a
'natural activity' of the zoidia. These are two distinct activities, which are not necessarily the same.
Dorotheus of Sidon in his writings in Carmen Astrologicum also takes great pains to separate the
aspects between planets and influence of the zoidia. He discusses each on its own terms and a look
at the table of contents makes this very clear.

Aspects of trines, If one of the planets aspects another from trine


Quartile [aspect]
On the planets aspect from opposition
Aspect of the planets from sextile
If Saturn is with one of the seven
If Jupiter is with one of the seven

After explaining planetary aspects he then explains the importance of their placement in the zoidia in
relation to the ascendant zoidion.

Knowledge of the places of the planets


Arrival of the Moon in the Places
Arrival of the Sun in the Places
Arrival of Saturn in the Places etc.

He then gets a little more specific and goes so far as to explain how each planet reacts in the different
zoidia based on domicile.

Arrival of Saturn in another's house


Arrival of Jupiter in another's house
Arrival of Mars in another's house
He goes through each of the planets and ends: On the arrival of the planets, one of them in the house of another.

So I repeat, it certainly seems clear there was a separation of the natural actions of the planets from
those of the zoidia.
So is an opposition between zoidia the same as the opposition between planets? I think perhaps this
early separation of 'Church and State' if you will, does not make an opposition of zoidia necessarily
48

inimical. It was usually an inimical planet or a planet made inimical by position or astronomical
circumstance, being posited in an opposing zoidion to its own domicile, exaltation or triplicity
[detriment or fall] that highlighted the ill-effects of the opposition. Mars in Libra and Saturn in Virgo
might illustrate an example of this. Since Mars is the lighter of the two he is casting his aspect to
Saturn. Saturn is in the 12th from Mars and since the aversion is mitigated being equally ascending
zoidia, then it is as if Mars in its detriment is in opposition to Saturn. Not a very promising aspect.
However if Mars were in Virgo and Saturn in Libra, Mars is now casting his aspect forward to Saturn
and since Mars is on the right of Saturn then this aversion becomes like a conjunction with Saturn in
his exaltation. This becomes a totally different relationship and result. If instead of Mars, Venus was
in Libra, then the 'mitigated aversion become opposition' would produce yet another result where the
opposition has perhaps a more positive effective because of Venus' dignity in her domicile.
I wonder if the fact that the opposition falls among the figures that are helpful and have the greatest
potential for effectivity is important. I think in some respects our more modern view of oppositions is
perhaps more accurate. We may at times go to the other extreme in fact. What I understand is
needed in all of this, is to separate the ideas of opposite zoidia from opposite planets. The truth I think
lies in the synthesis of the 'natural activity' of the zoidia and that of the planets. Which is probably why
the early astrologers taught each separately.
We've seen that the zoidia certainly had 'inimical' relations with each other. I think the square being
found amongst the figures for inconjunct zoidia is indicative of just how hard a square can be. It's like
two people looking at each other but not seeing each other because they are so far apart in ideology
or they can't see [are blind to] each other's point of view. So I would imagine that the squares that are
not mitigated by equally ascending zoidia, or like-engirdling zoidia, or zoidia of like course are
extremely hard and among the worst kind of environments to function in along with the zoidia in
aversion. [42]
I think this inference is not without precedence. Antiochus of Athens tells us,
"The zoidia, which have sympathy for one another in accordance with a square zodiacal side are these: Taurus to
Aquarius, and Leo to Scorpio through equal ascensions. Again Leo to Taurus and Scorpio to Aquarius through equal
power. And Gemini to Virgo and Sagittarius to Pisces through like-engirdling. All other squares happen to be useless for
[43]
sympathy."

It appears to me then that of all the aspects, the opposition is extremely, 'case sensitive'. If we
understand that an opposition by zoidia is not necessarily an evil in itself, but rather creates a
sensitive environment for the planets to exist and function according to their natures in, then Paulus'
statement makes a lot of sense. In fact I wonder if it is a 'misnomer' to say the aspects between zoidia
are 'good' or 'bad'. It might be more correct to say that the environment produced by these aspects is
more 'conducive to' or 'inimical to', creating a better environment or more difficult environment for
planets to work in. To say then that the mitigation of aversion between zoidia is good and constructive
is true in that the potential is there. The actuality with regards to the outcome in an individual is how
the planets agree or disagree.
It is interesting in this regard to look at the interpretations of the planets in opposition to each other to
see that in fact the opposition between zoidia only made something very potent but it was not
necessarily malefic of itself. If we take a couple of examples from Dorotheus we can quickly see the
difference.
"If Saturn aspects the Moon from opposition, it indicates the spoiling of his mother's property and pain and hidden illness
and grief and irritation."

49

[44]

"If Jupiter aspects the Moon from opposition while the Moon is western [and] increasing in number [waxing] then he will
be celebrated with respect to his livelihood, a famous man, and he will be one of those who relies on himself and will not
[45]
obey another."

We can see a clear difference in the effects in these two examples. While the outcomes are totally
different, one that is totally unprofitable and one that is profitable, what is common to both is the
strength of the effect. In both there is a strong result. What is also common to both is that they are
oppositions and the difference in outcome is because of the planets concerned. Dorotheus
unfortunately does not give us a description of each planetary pair in opposition but mainly those that
were malefic, those from Saturn and Mars and a selected few with the Moon. He does not give us
those with Jupiter or Venus or Mercury or the Sun. It is clear however from those he gives us that
what makes the opposition hard is the condition and nature of the aspecting planets. It is likewise
clear from each example that the opposition is very strong in producing the effects from the planets.
Valens gives us a little more insight into oppositions when he says,
"But we did not comprehend the malefics in a diametrical positioning [opposition] to be harmful in every way for every
nativity, but there are times when they are benefic (and especially for notable nativities), unless they are also confounded
with many afflictions - And the diametrical positionings will be judged in accordance with both stars, one positioning
whenever a star should be diametrical to a star while marking the hour, another whenever it should be diametrical in its
own house or trigon or exaltation. And when the lords of the trigons or of the sects are opposing themselves, the natives
[46][Emphasis is mine - SB]
will become the most afflicted and unstable in their livelihood."

Valens simply tells us that you can't just judge an opposition because it's an opposition, but you have
to judge an opposition "in accordance with both stars." One criterion is the positions in relation to the
ascendant, and he gives the example of two planets in opposition where one is rising and the other
setting. The next criterion he gives is if a planet, from one of his dignities, is opposing another. But he
says one of the worst things is if the Triplicity rulers or the sect Lords, the Sun and Moon, should
oppose their own domicile. So again I have to emphasise the different natures inherent in zoidia and
those of the planets, and I also have to emphasise their interdependence. It wasn't all up to the
planets as their positioning in the zoidia changed their condition and it wasn't all up to the zoidia either
as the nature of the planets influenced their relationships with each other.

[39]

Chapter 3 of Olympiodorus' On Paulus, "Late Classical Astrology: Paulus Alexandrinus and Olympiodorus with the Scholia
from Later Commentators" - - Translation by Dorian Greenbaum - ARHAT Publications

[40]

440 of Al-Biruni's "The Book of Instruction in the Elements of the Art of Astrology" - - Translation by R. Ramsay Wright
1934 - - Published by Ascella
[41]

Bk I ch.20 - - "The Anthology" of Vettius Valens, Translated by Robert Schmidt and published by Golden Hind Press

[42]

In the following table, the square sign pairs that are mitigated and those that are not are listed.
0LWLJDWHG
8QPLWLJDWHG

[43]

Chapter 17 of "Antiochus of Athens, The Thesaurus" - - Translated by Robert Schmidt and published by Golden Hind

50

Press
[44]

These are the 'diurnal' conditions of the Moon and harmonise with the diurnal nature of Jupiter so benefic. -SB

[45]

"Second Book of Dorotheus from the Stars on the Judgments Concerning Nativities" On the planets aspect from opposition.
Carmen Astrologicum - - translated by David Pingree and published by Ascella
[46]

Book II chapter 41 - - The Anthology" of Vettius Valens, Translated by Robert Schmidt and published by Golden Hind
Press

51

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