Let’s see if I can kill two birds with one stone in this post.
Today I got two remarks about my interest in astrology – which I have always regarded as remote, a fact that, however, has never stopped me from flirting with this discipline on a daily basis.
Situation: My friend, Dana, wanted to know how my days last weekend went with a visit that I call illustrious from a teacher and master of all things astrology, cards, psychology, and history of arts, something that he professes at the university in a far away land. The latter two more than the first two. I shared my enthusiasm, yet instantly remarked, when Dana wanted to know about the work on the self, that the whole weekend was spent not on the ‘know thyself question’, but rather on method, calculations, astro gadgets, and the latest news about the oldest masters.
Me: ‘I like the whole sign ‘house’ system. Let’s do charts side by side with the Placidian houses, or Alcabitius, and see what different nuances we may spot here.’
Me: ‘Oh, ok, but you know, even William Lilly made judgments relying on the method and techniques that the old astrology masters developed, precisely when they used the whole sign place system. Rob Hand makes a good case for it too, in his book on the whole signs as something other than houses.’
You can draw your own conclusion as to what happened when I disclosed to Dana that this dialogue took place between a complete dilettante (me) and a real master with some 40 years empirical and statistical study of all things astrology (him). But you can also draw more conclusions when I now disclose the fact that I have never been a good student in my life. Which is the reason why I kept going on and explaining to Dana something about the difference between horary and electional astrology, er, kind of my way.
Situation: A student of cards, Ryan, who has been studying with me on a private basis for a while now, made the following remark also pertaining to the above mentioned visit, saying: ‘I have to admit I’m surprised you’re on the side of the esoteric here.’
Well, I’m not. While explaining to Dana the difference between the various branches of astrology, I have actually said this very thing: I’m interested in astrology to the extent that we can use it as we use cards. I don’t care much for the claims to science in astrology as I see astrology as an interpretative art, just as I see the cards as an interpretative art. If anything, I’m interested in the semiotic part in the divinatory arts rather than the esoteric.
I gave Dana an actual example of how and what I use horary astrology for: As a way of living the magical life that, at least for me, consists of observing life and the correspondences that we can create across unlike things and situations, if we care to look around.
Dana has sent me a wonderful surprise gift, a large Alpaca shawl that she knitted herself. When I got the shawl, I noted the time, like all the good horary people do, of when exactly it fell into my lap. That is to say, I noted the exact time when the postman rang the bell handing the parcel over to me.
While looking at it, and not knowing what it was, I thought, ‘ah, yes, a perfect horary astrology situation. If I draw a chart right now, I should be able to see what Mercury is up to, the act of delivery, who sent it, and the spirit in which it was sent.’
If I follow my master here, and go with the Placidian house division, the situation is very clear. The postman rings the bell and hands over the parcel (Ascendant in Gemini, ruler Mercury in House X, the house of manifestation). The matter of the thing delivered was thus concluded for the other, the sender signified by Jupiter, the ruler of House VII in Sagitarius. We find Jupiter in House IV, the house of showing how things end. Jupiter is also the ruler of 4 planets in House XI, the house of friends, so everything matches very neatly. If I insert my significator here, I would find it as represented by a very exalted Venus in this house (is the ruler of the 11th house, in the turned chart, indicating the friend of the ruler of 7th, the sender, in the radical chart). We can also conclude that the spirit in which this shawl was sent to me was a spirit of strong initiative (Mars) and great beauty (Venus) Indeed, I wish others could have a go at touching the soft wool, which Dana has knitted in a most lavish and fat way; A thing of warmth and luxury. An expensive thing too, given with glorious love.
All this fits the very attributes of the planets in House XI, with Venus presiding grandly, as she is exalted in Pisces. Moreover, Mars, Venus, the Moon, and the Sun are all disposed by Jupiter in Leo, in turn thus disposed by the Sun, so lots of good reception here, of the jovial and generous kind.
The object itself, a House II matter, indicating my property since the moment I opened the box, is signified by the Moon in House XI, the house of friends. The shawl is well represented here by the Moon, which we associate with women’s crafts, and in this case here, with a thing made for cold winters, the Moon being a cold planet herself. Incidentally this might also explain the square aspect from the Moon to Saturn, a malefic planet in House VI, the house associated with illness and servitude. A shawl was served unto me, on a golden plate to protect me from getting a cold. Saturn also makes a square to the Sun in House XI. While Saturn did slow down the swift delivery, at least I didn’t pay customs. Other than that, Saturn representing the other in our relationship, and signified by the ruler of VII is well disposed here, and connecting to Jupiter as well, being disposed by this planet of goodwill. Saturn also trines both Mars and Venus, and makes a very friendly sextile aspect to Mercury. Quite excellent.
The midpoint between Jupiter and the South Node is in Gemini 15, ruled by Mercury, so again we have here very neatly represented the idea of a friend communicating with me via the postal service. As Mercury makes a sextile aspect to Venus and Mars, we get a reinforced sense of the spirit of this gift. A sextile aspect to Saturn too tells us that this is some serious business. A thing of gravity was indeed delivered onto me. Oh, the lush and heavy Alpaca…
Now, what of the whole sign house system, some may ask, and why do I want to consider such ancient methods of reading the planets? (The whole sign house system is the first we know of in terms of how we associate the zodiac with places). First of all, for the sake of nuance. And second, for the sake of illustrating why I prefer classical astrology and its symmetry around the 7 traditional planets.
Let’s have a look, but first let me mention that according to the whole sign system, and unlike in the quadrant house system, we look at the horoscopic points as points of departure, from where we then count not ‘houses’ but placements. The most common of the horoscopic points are the Ascendant, the Lot of Fortune, and the Moon.
Also, in my own understanding, whereas the quadrant house system (that is, the house system that divides the zodiac into 4 parts (AC, MC, DC, IC) is linear – we start with the Ascendant always marking the cusp of the first house, and then go through the Midheaven, Descendant, and Lower Heaven or Nadir – the whole sign system is a system that favors placements relative to the horoscopic points. For instance, if I find my Lot of Fortune in the 4th place after the Ascendant, I can then count 11 places from the Lot of Fortune if I want to figure out where I will be getting my money from (the 10th placement indicating what professional activity I engage in that would yield some money). The 11th place would correspond to House II in the quadrant house system.
In the quadrant house system, the individual house matters are determined always in relation to the first house and not in relation to the other horoscopic points of interest. House X is always about activity, and we find the Midheaven (MC) pinned to it. Not so when using the whole sign system in which we can easily find the MC in the 9th place after the Ascendant or even in the 11th or 12th.
Now, what I’m interested in here is looking at how the ruler of the Ascendant, Mercury, falls in the 9th placement after the first, emphasizing the idea of a long travel – the shawl came all the way from Tennessee, and it took some time to get here, something Dana told me after I gave her the news of her gift’s arrival. The ‘house’ of all things manifested, the 10th place after the Ascendant, now holds the significant cluster of planets: Sun, Moon, Venus, and Mars, all ruled by Jupiter, now found in the third place, or ‘house’, after the Ascendant.
I particularly liked this touch. As Dana refers to me as ‘Sister’, the fact that Jupiter sits in the place where the sisters sit gives me joy. To have Jupiter here indicates great fortune, as it tells me that I can rely on this sister’s great heart. Jupiter is disposed by the Sun, so there’s a nice enforcement here of the gift that manifests in such generous, sisterly light. But the best must be the fact that Jupiter in this place directly answers my question: ‘Who sent me this?’ with ‘Sister did.’ As my own blood sister lives in Denmark, and as I only have one other soul sister who calls me ‘sister’ in Tennessee, I knew exactly who sent this just by looking at the chart that uses the whole sign house system for division.
OF THE HOUR
As we can see then, a lot can be gaged from doing a bit of horary astrology, and the joy of interpretation is quite unparalleled. Even considering both systems for house division (quadrant vs. whole sign) is worth the while. Here, I can also safely conclude that the whole sign system is more subtle in its lucidity where the Placidian system is just lucid.
I also hope that my little demonstration here proves my claim that not all astrology need be of the esoteric kind, dealing with hidden and occult knowledge. Some branch of astrology can just deal with enjoying a bit of the art of reading signs, and some other can entertain us with guessing and predicting – electional astrology is good at that, especially as it ties in with considering the transit of planets in a natal chart. More things to interpret.
For me, all interpretative arts are just that, interpretative. They are not science, and they are not woo-woo either. They give me a chance to test my own cultural competence against the background of old and tested methods of reading the signs between the heavens and the earth. And that’s pretty much all.
Hand, Robert (2000) Whole Sign Houses: The Oldest House System. An Ancient Method in Modern Application. Arhat Publications
Houlding, Deborah (2006) The Houses: Temples in the Sky. The Wessex Astrologer, Lmt.
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