Ut Supra Ita Infra
Once dismissed as a relic of the unenlightened past, Astrology has reëmerged with renewed vigor. Its claims once again invite serious consideration, despite several centuries of contempt and ridicule from astronomers and scientists working under the Modern paradigm. The remarkable reëmergence of Astrology is a corollary to the fractal revolution in mathematics. As it turns out, a number of old astrological concepts and techniques foreshadowed this line of mathematical thought, especially the idea of self-similarity. Indeed, the central aphorism of Astrology, ut supra ita infra (“as above, so below”), is an elegant statement of this principle.
In an imprecise and general sense, ut supra ita infra may be understood as establishing a correspondence between celestial phenomena and events on earth, and that of course is the controlling assumption of Astrology. But the aphorism has other implications as well: for one thing, a continuing downward progression is implied—infra being taken to refer not only to mundane events, but to units on a still smaller scale, such as the human body or the atom. This is obviously a fractal conception, with patterns on smaller scales demonstrating fractal similarity to those at higher levels; indeed, the possibility (or probability) of circular scale is implied. Also implied is the ancient idea of the Hollow Earth—illuminated by an interior sun (“Pellucidar”), with openings to the surface through vortices at the North and South Poles. Concerning this, see Poe’s Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1838), Cyrus Teed’s (unfalsifiable) mathematical model known as “Cellular Cosmogony” (1869), W.G. Emerson’s The Smoky God: A Voyage to the Inner World (1908), the rumors associated with Adm. Richard E. Byrd and “Operation Highjump” (1947), and a remarkable passage in the Zohar: “We have learned that all these evil types emerge from the North, and we have learned that when the North Wind is aroused at midnight, all these evil spirits and evil aspects gather together from the whole world and enter through the hole of the Great Abyss” (Terumah 876). Such an idea is referenced in the mythologies and cosmogonies of many cultures, particularly those of the Americas.
This notion corresponds to a related idea: that in the same way as we enter the dream-plane from waking consciousness by falling asleep (i.e. surrendering to, waiting for, submitting to it; the well-known image of the Sandman comes to mind—a being who cannot be summoned, and whose coming cannot be anticipated or remembered)—in just the same way, the next level below that one is “a dream within a dream,” and we enter it by falling asleep yet again, in the context of a dream. Indeed, the Zohar (Terumah 865) states that sleep is one-sixtieth of death (the precise meaning of this proportion will be discussed below).
One stumbling-block to belief in Astrology has been the lack of any demonstrable Causal Principle. However, the principle of self-similarity obviates that consideration, as the astral influences are not to be understood in terms of Causation, but rather in terms of Concurrence or Synchronicity. Properly understood, the astrological system which has come down to us from classical antiquity is a fractal of infinite complexity and terrifying beauty—holographic and self-similar, with disturbing implications for our understanding of the soul and its multiple (and manifold) incarnations.
With that much said, let us proceed to a discussion of some of the specific manifestations of the principle of self-similarity in Astrology!
The Zodiac in Miniature: The Dodecatemoria
The dodecatemoria (divisions of each of the 12 signs into 12 parts) are perhaps the most striking instance of self-similarity in the western astrological tradition. Each of the 12 signs of the zodiac is subdivided into 12 miniature signs, so that the entire zodiac is replicated in each of the signs. Since each sign comprises 30º of the circle, this subdivision of the signs results in 144 dodecatemoria (12 per sign), each one comprising 2½º. These miniature signs are distributed in the usual order, beginning with the sign they are in—thus, the 12 dodecatemoria of Aries are Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricornus, Aquarius, and Pisces; the 12 dodecatemoria of Taurus are Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricornus, Aquarius, Pisces, and Aries; and so on, yielding a series 144 dodecatemoria which concludes with that of Aquarius at the end of Pisces.
There are two ways of calculating the dodecatemorion of any given point along the circle. The first way is simply to locate where that point falls within the matrix of the miniature zodiac. For example, if there is a planet at 11 Aquarius, we count from the beginning of the sign: Aquarius (2½º), Pisces (2½º), Aries (2½º), and Taurus (2½º), which brings us up to 10º of Aquarius; the remaining degree will obviously fall 2/5 of the way through the dodecatemorion of Gemini—at 12 Gemini to be exact. Each degree equates to 12º in the miniature zodiac, each minute to 12’, and so on. To give a further example, the dodecatemorion of my radical Mars at 14 Cancer 19 is at 21 Sagittarius 48. The second way to perform this calculation, which yields the same result, is simply to multiply the degrees and minutes by 12, and then add this distance to the beginning of the sign the original point falls in. Returning to the two examples just given: for 11 Aquarius, we multiply 11º by 12, yielding 132º. Counting from the beginning of Aquarius, that is four signs (Aquarius + Pisces + Aries + Taurus = 120º), with the remaining 12º falling in Gemini—the same result as before. For 14Can19, 14º x 12 = 168º, and 19’ x 12 = 228’ (or 3º48’), for a combined distance of 171º48’; counting from the beginning of Cancer, that is five full signs (Cancer + Leo + Virgo + Libra + Scorpio = 150º), with the remaining 21º48’ falling in Sagittarius, as before.
The use of dodecatemoria is well attested in traditional Astrology; and is discussed by Ptolemy, who calls them topoi (Tetrabiblos I.22), by Manilius, who divides each dodecatemorion into five half-degrees, which are assigned to the five planets (Astronomicon II.693-748), and by Hephaestio, who delineates the special characteristics of all 144 dodecatemoria (Apotelesmatica III.4); they are discussed by many other writers as well.
However, there is an alternative procedure for finding the dodecatemorion, which is of great interest and possibly of even greater antiquity. It involves multiplication not by twelve, but by THIRTEEN. This results in a division of each sign into 13 segments of approximately 2º18’28”. The distribution of these “dodecatemoria” (actually triskaidekatemoria) for the sign of Aries is as follows: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricornus, Aquarius, Pisces, and Aries again. Likewise, the 13 dodecatemoria of Taurus begin and end with Taurus, and so on for the remaining signs, for a total of 156 dodecatemoria. Although it appears strange at first, this arrangement is actually more natural, since the sequence of miniature signs continues unbroken from one sign to the next (the last dodecatemorion of Aries is Aries, and the first dodecatemorion of Taurus is Taurus), without the skipping of one sign which is entailed by division of the signs into 12 parts. This method is described by Firmicus Maternus (Mathesis II.15), Vettius Valens (Anthologia I.), and Paulus Alexandrinus (Isagoge 22), and appears to have originated as a Babylonian practice (O. Neugebauer and A. Sachs, “The ‘Dodecatemoria’ in Babylonian Astrology,” AOF 16 (1952-53).
Using the 13-fold division of signs, the points mentioned above have different dodecatemoria: 11 Aquarius has its dodecatemorion at 23 Gemini, and 14Can19 has its dodecatemorion at 6Cap07. The easy way to do this is simply to add the degrees and minutes of the original point to its 12-fold dodecatemorion (12 Gemini + 11 = 23 Gemini; 21Sag48 + 14º19’ = 6Cap07). Very often the two alternate dodecatemoria will fall in different signs; 6Cap07 is a much more powerful position for Mars, since Capricorn is the sign of its exaltation.
These two alternate systems of dodecatemoria are of great interest: the 12-fold subdivision of signs obviously reflects the solar motion, while the 13-fold division appears to be derived from the lunar motion (since the moon passes through 13 signs in the course of one synodic month, or lunation).
But what is the meaning of the dodecatemoria? They are thought to be of special importance for the analysis of the ascending degree (Hephaestio, Apotelesmatica III.4), and the place of the moon (Bonatus, Liber Astronomiae V.89). Indian astrologers maintain that a radical (natal) chart with all positions recomputed to their dodecatemoria is the radical chart of the previous incarnation. I have looked into this matter using my own chart. I found that the most recent configuration where all planets fell in the signs (not the degrees) indicated by the dodecatemorian chart occurred around 600 B.C. A configuration matching the precise degrees indicated has probably not occurred since the Ice Age, at least! Another curious feature of these dodecatemorian charts is that the Sun, Mercury, and Venus are often widely separated—while in real life, Mercury can never elongate more than one sign from the Sun, and Venus no more than two. Greater separations than these could never have been observed from the earth in its present location.
It is also possible to subdivide any 2½º dodecatemorion into 12 sub-dodecatemoria (usually known among astrologers as “sub-dwads,” from the Sanskrit dwadashamsa [dodecatemorion]). This way, each sign is subdivided into 144 parts of 12’30”, and the whole zodiac into 1728 of these. This procedure is occasionally done, though the astrological literature contains few references to it. These sub-dodecatemoria would presumably correspond to the planetary positions of a still earlier incarnation. Division by 13 could be used instead (dividing each sign into 156 or 169 parts, and the whole zodiac into 1872 or 2028 parts), though I have never come across a reference to this.
Obviously, such a procedure could be continued ad infinitum. However, it must be understood that even where the actual position is known with great precision, the margin of error increases with each division. Thus, my radical Sun at 23 Sagittarius 45’07” yields a dodecatemorion of 15 Virgo 01’24” (with a margin of error of 12”). This in turn yields a sub-dodecatemorion of 0 Pisces 16’48”, this time with a margin of error of 2’24”. Repeating the operation yet again, we get 3 Pisces 21’36” (just 3’ from my radical Ascendant at 3 Pisces 24, but now with a margin of error [28’48”] amounting to nearly half a degree. Descending still deeper into the fractal, the next position is 10 Aries 19’12” (margin of error = 5º45’36”), and next (the position of the radical Sun at the fifth incarnation before the present one?) is 3 Leo 50’24” (margin of error = 69º07’12” [!]). It would be pointless to proceed any further. The whole point of the dodecatemoria and sub-dodecatemoria is to identify the planet which rules the sign associated with each successively smaller arc. Mathematical precision doesn’t matter as long as that planet can be identified. For this reason, starting with a planetary position precise to one second of arc, its dodecatemorion, sub-dodecatemorion, and sub-sub-dodecatemorion can be reliably identified; but there is no way of going further because the margin of error will exceed 2½º.
The doctrine of dodecatemoria and the whole associated line of reasoning implies that any given radical horoscope is itself the dodecatemorian chart of some larger horoscope at the next unit of scale. Using 11 Aquarius as an example, if instead of multiplying we divide by 12, we find a point of origin at 0 Aquarius 55. However, since each sign contains the entire zodiac, each of the 12 signs contains a point which, when multiplied by 12, will also yield a dodecatemorion at 11 Aquarius. These 12 points are as follows: 0Aqu55, 28Pis25, 25Ari55, 23Tau25, 20Gem55, 18Can25, 15Leo55, 13Vir25, 10Lib55, 8Sco25, 5Sag55, and 3Cap25. Notice that these points are all 27½º (11 dodecatemoria) apart. These 12 alternate points would logically refer to 12 parallel future lives, of which more will be said later. For now, let it suffice to say that there is just one way down, but 12 ways up.
If the same procedure is applied to the 13-fold division of signs, there will be two different points in Aquarius that will yield a dodecatemorion of 11 Aquarius, and one point in each of the remaining signs that will yield that same result, for a total of 13 (one way down and thirteen ways up).
In addition, any point in a horoscope is one of 12 (or 13) that lead to the same dodecatemorion; however, the other 11 (or 12) points do not exist in the horoscope itself. They exist in 11 (or) 12 parallel horoscopes on the same level of scale as the first one, but these are not mutually accessible. As a set of parallel possibilities, they could only be accessible from a higher level of scale.
Through the Looking Glass: The Antiscia and Contrascia
Rather than looking for parallels of declination as modern practitioners do, traditional astrologers had recourse to the concept of antiscia (lit. “anti-shadows”), which yields similar results. The zodiac was divided in half by means of a line drawn from 0 Cancer to 0 Capricorn (the summer and winter solstice points), and this line was treated like the surface of a mirror—so that any point on one side of the line had its antiscion, or mirror-point, on the other side of the line. Thus, a planet at 10 Cancer (just 10º in advance of the summer solstice point) has its antiscion at 20 Gemini (10º behind the summer solstice point). 11 Aquarius is 41º ahead of 0 Capricorn, so its antiscion falls at 19 Scorpio. My Mars at 14Can19 has its antiscion at 15Gem41. These mirror-points are regarded as having an influence comparable to the planet’s bodily presence at that point; however, authorities differ as to whether this influence is confined to the specific degree of the antiscion, or whether it extends to the entire sign. The contrascia are an alternate set of mirror-points computed in the same way, but using the Aries-Libra (equinoctial) axis in place of the solstitial axis. An easy way to find the contrascion of a given point is simply to find the opposition of its antiscion. Thus, since the antiscion of 11 Aquarius is at 19 Scorpio, its contrascion would be exactly 180º away, at 19 Taurus. To do this the long way, we would measure the 49º separating 11 Aquarius from 0 Aries, then measure off the same distance ahead of 0 Aries, which will yield the same result of 19 Taurus. The antiscia are analogous to bodily conjunctions, while the contrascia may be likened to oppositions.
Thus, in the case of two planets at 20 Gemini and 10 Cancer, although there is no aspectual relationship between them (they are in neighboring signs), they are still in a relationship analogous to a conjunction, owing to their antiscia. Likewise, if the two planets are at 20 Gemini and 10 Capricorn, they are inconjunct (five signs apart), but still in a kind of opposition through their contrascia. If all the values of any given horoscope are converted to their antiscia (or contrascia), the resulting horoscope will be a perfect mirror-image of the first one—if you hold the horoscope up to a mirror, you will get precisely the same result.
This idea of mirror-images manifests itself in several other doctrines of traditional western Astrology. In Primary Direction, two planets are said to be “in mundane parallel” when they are the same proportional distance along their diurnal arcs from one of the Angles (Ascendant, Medium Coeli, Descendant, Imum Coeli). Similarly, the very ancient system of paranatellonta associates stars (and planets) which reach two of the angles simultaneously; as for example, one star is rising at the same time another is culminating or setting. In both these cases, the Angles themselves function as mirrors.
All of this brings to mind a very interesting passage from the Zohar, which is worth setting out in full:
"And you shall make fifty clasps of brass..." (Shemot 26:11). Rabbi Elazar and Rabbi Aba
were sitting one night. When it became dark, they entered a garden that was by the Sea of Tiberias. In the meantime, they saw two stars that were moving, one from one side and the
other from the other side. Then they met and disappeared (Terumah 831).
One possible way to understand this has to do with reflection and mirror-images (indeed, there is an explicit reference to a mirror a little further on, Terumah 840). Notice that R. Elazar and R. Aba were sitting by the sea. This fact provides one way of explaining the phenomenon described here: One of the stars was setting in the west. The other star was the reflection of the first star on the surface of the sea. As the star set, its reflection rose nearer to the horizon. When the star touched the horizon, its reflection rose to meet it. When the star dropped below the horizon, both the star and its reflection disappeared from view.
The Black and White Keys: Reduction of the Zodiac to Binary
It is also possible to subsume the entire zodiac under its first two signs, Aries and Taurus. There are several reasons for doing this. First, any two consecutive signs form a complementary system: odd-numbered signs (like Aries) are masculine and diurnal, while even-numbered signs (like Taurus) are feminine and nocturnal. Such an arrangement suggests an alternating binary cycle (day + night), which obviates the remaining ten signs. Second, in addition to their cardinal position at the beginning of the zodiac, Aries and Taurus have special significance: Aries is both the exaltation of the Sun and the diurnal domicile of Mars, while Taurus is both the exaltation of the Moon and the nocturnal domicile of Venus. Thus, in addition to their unique association with the two luminaries, these two signs are precise counterparts in terms of both sect and gender and so must be understood as a unit (comparable to a married couple). Third, since the 60º of the two signs combined can be understood as a complete revolution (like the 60 minutes of a clockface), they can be set equal to the 360º of the zodiacal circle. This arrangement is known as the 60-degree dial, and can be visualized as a circle with two hemispheres—a dark hemisphere below the horizon (Taurus) and a bright hemisphere above the horizon (Aries); since the Taurus hemisphere is about to rise, this implies that the 60 degrees are to be counted in a counterclockwise direction, beginning from the first degree of Aries on the Descendant (western horizon). By this equation, 1º of Aries-Taurus corresponds to 6º of the complete zodiac, and 5º of Aries-Taurus corresponds to one of the 12 signs; moreover, the 60 degree-units of the Aries-Taurus circle will be seen to correspond to the 60 planetary terms—another very important way of subdividing the zodiac! It is also very interesting that, according to the equation just established (60º = 360º), any half-sign (hora) will correspond to a 2½º dodecatemorion in Aries-Taurus; this is yet another indication that the self-similarity of the dodecatemoria is foundational to the entire system.
The signs and subdivisions of the zodiac are assigned to the planets according to a traditional arrangement: two of the twelve signs (Cancer and Leo) are ruled by the Moon and Sun, respectively, while the ten remaining signs are ruled by the five planets (Aries and Scorpio by Mars, Taurus and Libra by Venus, Gemini and Virgo by Mercury, Sagittarius and Pisces by Jupiter, and Capricorn and Aquarius by Saturn); each of the twelve signs is also divided into three Decanates (10º each), and these are also assigned to the seven planets, this time in the Chaldaean order (Saturn—Jupiter—Mars—Sun—Venus—Mercury—Moon), beginning and ending with Mars; finally, each of the 12 signs is subdivided into five Terms, which vary in extent from 2º to 12º, and these are assigned to the five planets (not including the Luminaries), in a traditional order which varies from sign to sign. However, alongside this well-known arrangement, there is corresponding system which subdivides the zodiac according to a binary arrangment: as noted, the odd-numbered signs are assigned to the Sun (positive, masculine, diurnal), and the even-numbered signs to the Moon (negative, feminine, nocturnal); next, each of the 12 signs is divided into two Horae (15º each), and these are also assigned to the Sun and Moon (the first hora of a diurnal sign to the Sun, the second to the Moon; the first hora of a nocturnal sign to the Moon, the second to the Sun); finally, the 36 Decanates are also divided into halves called Quinances (5º each, also called Quinaries), and these are also assigned to the Luminaries according to the following arrangement: for odd-numbered signs, Sun—Moon—Moon—Sun—Sun—Moon; for even-numbered (nocturnal) signs, Moon—Sun—Sun—Moon—Moon—Sun. This binary arrangement compensates for the fact that the Luminaries have no Terms and each rules only a single sign. The 60 degrees of Aries and Taurus comprise a minimal unit in terms of the binary analysis of the zodiac, which may be summarized as follows:
1-30 Aries (Sun)
1-15 Aries (Sun)
1-5 Aries (Sun)
6-10 Aries (Moon)
11-15 Aries (Moon)
16-30 Aries (Moon)
16-20 Aries (Sun)
21-25 Aries (Sun)
26-30 Aries (Moon)
1-30 Taurus (Moon)
1-15 Taurus (Moon)
1-5 Taurus (Moon)
6-10 Taurus (Sun)
11-15 Taurus (Sun)
16-30 Taurus (Sun)
16-20 Taurus (Moon)
21-25 Taurus (Moon)
26-30 Taurus (Sun)
It should be mentioned that there is also a traditional scheme of Masculine and Feminine Degrees; however, these are distributed irregularly (for example, the first 8 degrees of Aries are masculine, the 9th is feminine, the 10th through 15th are masculine, the 16th through 22nd feminine, and the last 8 masculine; the first 5 degrees of Taurus are feminine, the 6th through 11th are masculine, the 12th through 17th feminine, the 18th through 21st masculine, the 22nd through 24th feminine, and the last 6 masculine—and so on, with a different distribution for every sign); if this factor were added to the scheme tabulated above, obviously Aries-Taurus would no longer comprise a minimal unit.
Aries and Taurus are given special attention in the Voynich Manuscript; unlike the pages devoted to the other ten signs (one sign per page), the two halves (horae) of Aries and Taurus are portrayed as four separate circles of 15º and appear on four separate pages (70v, 71r, 71v [a foldout]). In each case, the degrees are arranged in two concentric circles: an inner circle of five degrees and an outer circle of ten degrees—perhaps reflecting the 5:10 (or 10:5) assignment of solar and lunar degrees to the horae, as seen in the tabulation above. For inexplicable reasons, the Voynich MS appears to have reversed the traditional arrangement of the four horae, making them dark-light for Aries and light-dark for Taurus. A possible explanation for this is that the matutine quadrants (from the Ascendant to the Midheaven, and from the Descendant to the Imum Coeli) are described as masculine and diurnal, while the vespertine quadrants (from the Midheaven to the Descendant, and from the Imum Coeli to the Ascendant) are feminine and nocturnal; so according to the hemispheric arrangement described above, the first half of Aries corresponds to a vespertine (dark) quadrant.
Be that as it may, it is possible to translate any zodiacal position into its corresponding position within the Aries-Taurus system simply by taking its distance from 0 Aries in degrees and minutes and dividing by six. This way, the first half of the zodiac (Aries—Virgo) will fall to Aries, and the second half (Libra—Pisces) to Taurus. Thus, a planetary position at 11 Aquarius (311º from the beginning of the zodiac ÷ 6 = 51º50’) would correspond to 21Tau50, in the second (diurnal) half of Taurus. My Mars at 14Can19 would correspond to 17Ari23’10”, in the second (nocturnal) half of Aries (104º19’ ÷ 6 = 17º23’10”).
Indian Astrology unites any pair of diurnal and nocturnal signs through the use of the so-called trimsamsas (thirtieths of signs). As in western Astrology, such a pair forms a minimal binary unit; this is accomplished through an ingenious scheme involving an irregular distribution of degrees to the five planets, somewhat analogous to that of the western planetary terms (termini). For the odd-numbered signs, the first five degrees are allotted to Mars, the next five degrees to Saturn, the next eight to Jupiter, the next seven to Mercury, and the last five to Venus. For even-numbered signs, the order is reversed: the first five degrees are allotted to Venus, the next seven to Mercury, the next eight to Jupiter, the next five to Saturn, and the last five to Mars. For the odd-numbered signs, these trimsamsas are specifically associated with the diurnal signs ruled by these planets (Aries, Aquarius, Sagittarius, Gemini, Libra), while those in the even-numbered signs are associated with their nocturnal signs (Taurus, Virgo, Pisces, Capricorn, Scorpio). This scheme can also be used to generate an extremely bizarre miniature zodiac of ten signs, with Cancer and Leo (the signs ruled by the luminaries) omitted, and which is probably best left alone.
I cannot conclude this discussion of the 60-degree dial without some mention of Geomancy. This is an ancient procedure, apparently developed among the Arabs, for generating a “mock-horoscope,” without reference to actual celestial phenomena. Using a stick in the sand or a pen and paper, the geomancer would make 16 rows of random marks. Each row was then counted to determine whether it contained an odd or even number of marks; then, with the application of a few simple rules, the resulting array of 16 one’s and two’s could be converted into a crude horoscope.
Back to Sumer: The Sexagesimal System
The convention of dividing degrees (and hours) into 60 minutes, and of subdividing minutes into 60 seconds goes back to the Sumerians, who used a sexagesimal (base 60) number system. Though seldom used today, there was also a division of seconds into 60 “thirds,” of thirds into 60 “fourths,” and so on ad infinitessimale. Now what would happen if we worked in the other direction? Starting once again with a degree, we would presumably multiply it by sixty to obtain an arc of 60º, or two signs—leading us back once again to the 60-degree dial of Aries-Taurus, the minimal binary unit of the zodiac! This discovery has profound implications. If we multiply two signs (60º) by sixty, we get 120 signs (3600º), or ten times around the circle. That equates to ten solar years, which bears a suspicious resemblance to the decennium of 129 (30-day) months (10 years, 217 1/3 days). The fractal self-similarities inherent in this system are obvious; this concept may even underlie that enigmatic statement in the Zohar (Terumah 865) to the effect that “whenever that Other Side awakens, all the creatures of the earth taste the taste of death, one-sixtieth of death [chad mi-shithin be-motha], and she rules over them.” The Aramaic word shithin (sixty) is of great interest because it can also be read as “pits,” referring specifically to the pits beneath the Altar into which libations were poured. Regarding this, see T.B. Sukkah 49a: “The Pits [shithin] have existed since the six days of Creation [me-shesheth yeme be-reshith] . . . the cavity of the Pits descended into the abyss.” The phrase chad mi-shithin be-motha could conceivably be construed as “one of the pits of death.” In the same section, it is said that “the school of R. Ishmael taught: be-reshith: read not be-reshith (‘in the beginning’) but bara shith (‘he created a pit,’ or ‘he created six’).”
However this may be, the number sixty is clearly of great importance in Astrology. Apart from the sexagesimal computation of minutes and seconds of arc, the ecliptic circle was divided into exactly 60 unequal planetary terms (termini). Furthermore (bene notet lector!), many writers on astrology discuss the putei (“pits,” “deep degrees,” “pitted degrees”). These degrees are said to cancel the influence of any planet which occupies them; according to Albumasar, “Many say that when benevolent stars are in them, they give good fortune at first, but bad at last” (Thorndike, 26). The putei are approximately sixty in number (Lilly lists sixty-one; some writers do list exactly sixty), and are irregularly distributed around the zodiac. This suggests the possibility that each of the putei is to be associated with one of the planetary terms. It is also possible that each of the putei has a dodecatemorian relationship to some other zodiacal point or points.
This brings us to a discussion of the half-degrees, of which there are 60 in each sign, and 720 [or 6!] in the entire zodiac. This suggests further relations of self-similarity—a correspondence of the two-sign (Aries-Taurus) binary unit to each zodiacal sign, with its two halves corresponding to the horae (15º half-signs); a correspondence of the entire zodiac with its 60 terms to the 60 half-degrees of each sign (the miniature zodiac again; this is what Manilius was doing when he allotted each of the half-degrees in a 2½º dodecatemorion to one of the five planets); and the correspondence of signs to 60-minute degrees. In addition, Manilius uses the same term dodecatemorion to refer both to the 2½º twelfths of signs and to the half-degrees themselves. This may be because each of the five planets was allotted twelve half-degrees in each of the twelve signs. It is very interesting that Manilius’ account of the half-degrees is followed by a curious digression about the building of a city (Astronomicon II.750ff.). Since the half-degrees were definitely seen as an esoteric teaching (widely known among professional astrologers but seldom discussed in their writings), it may well be that this digression presents additional information about the half-degrees in an encoded form; it might be well to examine the word-count, letter-count, and versification of that passage. In Indian Astrology, both the dodecatemoria and the half-degrees (known as shastyamsas) were associated with ancestors and previous incarnations. The analysis of shastyamsas is exceedingly complex, involving the identification of each of the 60 half-degrees in a sign with one of 60 daemonic spirits.
A Year for a Day: The Progressions
The principle of Progression is to set two cycles equal to one another. The most common way of doing this, often referred to as Secondary Progression, involves the equation of each day after birth to a year of life. In this way, one rotation of the earth (a day) is equated to one revolution around the Sun (a year). Thus, a new moon (for example) which occurred three days and four hours after birth is predictive of life events occurring at the age of three years and two months.
The origins of this technique are obscure. It is mentioned once by Vettius Valens (Anthologia III.6), but the idea was not popularized until Placidus de Titis published his Primum Mobile (1657). Other progression techniques include Minor Progressions, which equate each lunar month to a year (clearly implied in a passage by Porphyry, Introductio 2), and Tertiary Progressions, which equate each day after birth to one month of life. Converse Progressions of various sorts, equating (for example) the seventh day before birth to the seventh year of life, are also possible. A related technique that is sometimes done is that of Converse Transits. This means that each day before birth is made to correspond to a day after birth, so that every day, month, and year of life is precisely mirrored by similar intervals in the prenatal epoch; the present becomes the past, as seen through a looking-glass. In my own case, a highly traumatic experience on 23 December 1979 was found to correspond to 7 December 1941—the precise day of the bombing of Pearl Harbor!
In theory, any two cycles could be equated in this way, but only the ones mentioned are in use (Secondary, Minor, Tertiary, both Direct and Converse). A 30-year revolution of Saturn, for example, could be equated to each day of life, reaching thousands of years into the future (or past) and superimposing all of their details onto a much shorter span of time. Another interesting possibility would be to equate sidereal months (27.31 days) to synodic months (29.53 days); this would yield complex and highly interesting results as the two cycles drifted further and further apart.
Closely related to the Progressions is Ptolemy’s “key” for computing the fulfillment date of Primary Directions, which equates one degree to one year. Since Primary Direction is based on the so-called Primary Motion (the diurnal revolution of the celestial sphere), this means that one 24-hour day is being set equal to 360 years, one hour to 15 years, one minute to 3 months, and so on.
Clearly, all of the techniques just described exemplify the principle of self-similarity.
Wheels Within Wheels: The Revolutions
Closely related to the Progressions are the Revolutions, an extremely important part of astrological practice which has been the subject of numerous books and treatises. The western astrological tradition recognized revolutions of three kinds: Solar Revolutions, Lunar Revolutions, and Diurnal Revolutions. The Solar Revolution (also known as the Solar Return or Birthday Chart), is the most important of these. The concept is simple: a chart is erected for the precise moment when the Sun returns to its radical position in degrees, minutes, and seconds. This occurs annually, on or about the birthday. Each revolution may be likened to the birth of a new year. The resulting horoscope is treated as the radix of the year to come. It can be directed, progressed, and subjected to any other operation or mode of analysis, just like the radix. The Lunar Revolution (Lunar Return) is a similar chart which is erected every month when the moon returns to its radical position; this is usually a sidereal return (return to radical zodiacal position), though an alternate procedure, using a synodic return (return to radical lunar phase) is also possible. This chart is used for prognostications relating to the coming month. Finally, the Diurnal Revolution (or “Diurnal”) is a chart erected daily at the precise time of birth. All of these charts are subject to detailed analysis, either separately or in combination with the others and/or the radix. This whole doctrine of Revolutions is based on the principle of self-similarity at ever-decreasing scales:
Radix : Solar Revolution : Lunar Revolution : Diurnal Revolution
Lifetime Year Month Day
Each of these is regarded as a Gestalt, a snapshot, a hologram subsuming within itself all subsequent developments until its cycle is complete.
Infinite Complexity: The Profections
The Profections are analogous in many ways to the Revolutions. In Profection, zodiacal signs are equated to units of time. The locus classicus for this is found in Manilius (Astronomica, III.537-559), where he makes reference to profection by years, months, days, and hours. In an annual profection (the most common type), the planets and house-cusps of the radical horoscope are rotated through one complete sign for each year of life. This interesting procedure leads to two observations: first, the horoscopes generated in this way do not correspond to any actual celestial configuration (apart from their starting point with the radix); second, the complete cycle occupies 12 solar years and thus corresponds to the oriental zodiac, with its twelve animals (the oriental zodiac, however, probably had its origin in the 12-year revolution of Jupiter through the zodiac); third, all the profections are recursive cycles—the profection of the 13th year of life is precisely similar to that of the first year of life; fourth, it will be seen that one month of the annual profection is one-twelfth of a sign, or 2½º, bringing us back once again to the all-important dodecatemoria! This suggests the possibility of still larger cycles—conceivably, we could rotate the zodiac through one dodecatemorion per year (one sign in 12 years, the entire zodiac in 144 years), and so on.
It might be assumed that the mensural profection involves rotating the radix through one sign per month, but that is not quite the case; rather, the radix is rotated through thirteen signs in twelve months, or 32½º per month. In a month, therefore, the planets and angles will advance through one complete sign plus one dodecatemorion, or 13 dodecatemoria in all. This offers yet another striking parallel to the dodecatemoria, this time to the thirteen-fold division of the signs, and further demonstrates how the number 13 is built into the system. Both of these procedures are based on the moon’s passage through 13 signs in the course of one lunation.
As for the diurnal profections, some authorities prescribe advancing the planets and house-cusps through one sign per day (12 day cycle); others say one sign per 2½ days (30 day cycle). John Gadbury, for reasons best known to himself, prescribed a diurnal profection rate of 2 days, 3 hours, and 54 minutes (Genethlialogia, 35.1); at that rate, profection through the entire zodiac would take approximately 26 days.
The horary profection mentioned by Manilius would presumably involve an advance of either one or two signs per hour. By extension, we could also perform profections by the minute, by the second, by the third (i.e. 1/60 of a second), and so on ad infinitum. Profection thus not only exhibits self-similarity, but also allows for infinite precision in the timing of events!
The Disposed Years: Decennia and Firdaria
The western astrological tradition has made use of many different systems of Disposed Years (Chronocrasis, or time rulership). This involves the assignment of planetary chronocrators (lords of time) to various periods and sub-periods of the lifetime. The principal classical writers on Astrology (Ptolemy, Manilius, Firmicus Maternus, Vettius Valens, Hephaestio) present a wide array of these systems, some of them exceedingly complex and implemented through Primary Direction. However, the two most widely used systems of Chronocrasis are quite a bit simpler, and also demonstrate self-similarity. These are the Decennia and the Firdaria.
To compute the decennia, you must begin with the Minor Years of the planets (30 years for Saturn, 12 for Jupiter, 15 for Mars, 19 for the Sun, 8 for Venus, 20 for Mercury, and 25 for the Moon). These total 129 years. When divided by 12, the result is 129 months (one month for each Minor Year). For diurnal births, the first period of life is assigned to the Sun, which thus has dominion over the first ten years and nine months (129 months) of life (in the computation of decennia, the convention of a 30-day month is generally used, although variations are possible employing sidereal months [27.31 days] or synodic months [29.53 days]). For nocturnal births, the first 129 months are assigned to the Moon. In either case, subsequent periods of 129 months are assigned to each of the remaining planets in zodiacal order (the order they appear in the birth horoscope, counter-clockwise through the zodiac beginning with the planet which rises next after the Sun or Moon). The remaining six planets can thus appear in any order, though some of the possible configurations are exceedingly rare.
We thus obtain seven equal periods of 129 months (totaling 75 years and 3 months), each of which is assigned to one of the seven planets in an order derived from their relative positions in the radix. Each planetary period of 129 months is further divided into seven unequal planetary sub-periods. These are allotted to the planets in the same order as the decennia, beginning with the planetary period-ruler itself. Each planet is then allotted the same number of months as its Minor Years. Using my own radix, this scheme is realized as follows:
15 December 1960 – 20 July 1971 Sun
20 July 1971 – 2 June 1982 Jupiter
2 June 1982 – 5 January 1993 Saturn
5 January 1993 – 11 August 2003 Venus
11 August 2003 – 16 March 2014 Mars
16 March 2014 – 19 October 2024 Moon
19 October 2024 – 25 May 2035 Mercury
My current decennium (11 August 2003 – 16 March 2014) contains the following sub-periods:
11 August 2003 – 3 November 2004 Mars
3 November 2004 – 23 November 2006 Moon
23 November 2006 – 15 July 2008 Mercury
15 July 2008 – 5 February 2010 Sun
5 February 2010 – 31 January 2011 Jupiter
31 January 2011 – 19 July 2013 Saturn
19 July 2013 – 16 March 2014 Venus
The firdaria are an alternate system of Disposed Years. This ancient scheme is of Persian origin, and has been transmitted to us through the writings of the Arabian astrologers (Ibn Ezra, Albumasar, al-Biruni, et al.). Nine major periods (firdaria) are allotted to the planets and to the lunar nodes, as follows: 11 years to Saturn, 12 to Jupiter, 7 to Mars, 10 to the Sun, 8 to Venus, 13 to Mercury, 9 to the Moon, 3 to the Ascending (North) Node (Caput Draconis), and 2 to the Descending (South) Node (Cauda Draconis)—for a total of 75 solar years. The reasons for this distribution of years are obscure.
As with the decennia, these periods are distributed beginning with that of the Sun for diurnal births, and beginning with that of the Moon for nocturnal births. However, unlike the decennia, the order of the planetary periods is fixed: they follow the Chaldaean Order of the Planets (Saturn—Jupiter—Mars—Sun—Venus—Mercury—Moon)—beginning with the Sun and ending with Mars for those born by day, with the Nodes inserted at the end of the series. For those born by night, the series begins with the Moon and ends with Saturn; most authorities place the Nodes at the end of the nocturnal series also, although there is an alternate scheme which inserts them between Mars and the Sun. Each of these major periods is divided into seven sub-periods of equal duration (the periods assigned to the Nodes are not subdivided). These seven sub-periods are then allotted to the seven planets, again using the Chaldaean order, beginning with the planetary ruler of each major period. Unlike the decennnia, where the computation is based on regularized 30-day months, the computation of the firdaria is based on solar years. My own firdaria are distributed as follows:
15 December 1960 – 15 December 1970 Sun
15 December 1970 – 15 December 1978 Venus
15 December 1978 – 15 December 1991 Mercury
15 December 1991 – 15 December 2000 Moon
15 December 2000 – 15 December 2011 Saturn
15 December 2011 – 15 December 2023 Jupiter
15 December 2023 – 15 December 2030 Mars
15 December 2030 – 15 December 2033 North Node
15 December 2033 – 15 December 2035 South Node
The current firdarium (15 December 2000 – 15 December 2011) contains the following sub-periods:
15 December 2000 – 11 July 2002 Saturn
11 July 2002 – 5 February 2004 Jupiter
5 February 2004 – 1 September 2005 Mars
1 September 2005 – 29 March 2007 Sun
29 March 2007 – 23 October 2008 Venus
23 October 2008 – 20 May 2010 Mercury
20 May 2010 – 15 December 2011 Moon
Both decennnia and firdaria exhibit self-similarity in their division of planetary periods into sub-periods. However, neither of these schemes contains a mechanism for further subdivision.
Twelve and Thirteen: The Solar and Lunar Zodiacs
The zodiac with its twelve signs (Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricornus, Aquarius, Pisces) has as its basis the annual cycle of the Sun around the ecliptic. The four seasons are defined by the Sun’s entry into Aries (the spring equinox), Cancer (the summer solstice and longest day of the year), Libra (the autumnal equinox), and Capricorn (the winter solstice and shortest day of the year). These four cardinal ingresses are the angles of the zodiac, corresponding to the four angles of the horoscope (Ascendant, Imum Coeli, Descendant, Medium Coeli). According to Ptolemy (Tetrabiblos I.), each of the four quadrants is divided into three signs because each of the seasons has three parts: a period of transition from the previous season, a season when its own conditions are in full force, and a period of transition to the next season.
Alongside this Solar Zodiac, there has always existed a lesser-known Lunar Zodiac. In the western tradition, the Lunar Zodiac is divided into 28 Lunar Mansions, each corresponding roughly to the distance the Moon travels along the ecliptic in the course of one day. Like the sun-signs, these Lunar Mansions (Arab. manazil al-qamar) have an ancient series of names and symbols associated with them, and each one has a planetary ruler as well (there are at least two alternate schemes of planetary rulership). The mansions are approximately 12º51’26” in extent, so that seven mansions correspond to three sun-signs. This system appears to be of Babylonian, Persian, or Arabian origin, but has been known in the west since Greco-Roman times, as witnessed by Maximus of Tyre, a writer of the 2nd century A.C. (Tester, 82). Thus, the Solar and Lunar zodiacs have coexisted since ancient times. While the Solar Zodiac has formed the basis of the western calendar, the Lunar Zodiac has lingered on in the shadows, and has a long association with witchcraft and divination.
The Lunar Mansions do not reflect the Moon’s motion precisely because they have been made to synchronize with the Solar Year, at the rate of seven mansions to three sun-signs. Thus, each Lunar Mansion is three-sevenths of a sign, and each sign corresponds to 2 1/3 mansions. This equation gives rise to the Septenaries (septenaria), an extremely important but little-known subdivision of the Zodiac. Each sign of the zodiac is divided into seven septenaries of approximately 4º17’09”, so that each Lunar Mansion comprises three of these septenaries. The septenaries are thus the least common denominator unifying the solar and lunar zodiacs. There are 84 septenaries in all, and each one is associated with one of the twelve signs according to the following scheme: the seven septenaries in every odd-numbered (masculine, diurnal) sign (i.e. Aries, Gemini, Leo, Libra, Sagittarius, Aquarius) are assigned to seven signs in zodiacal order, beginning with the sign itself and ending with the sign opposite; the seven septenaries in every even-numbered (feminine, nocturnal) sign (i.e. Taurus, Cancer, Virgo, Scorpio, Capricornus, Pisces) are assigned to seven signs in zodiacal order, but beginning with the sign opposite and ending with the sign itself. In other words, the entire zodiac is counted off seven times, beginning with Aries (the first septenary of Aries) and ending with Pisces (the last septenary of Pisces). It will be seen that this gives rise to an alternate version of the miniature zodiac!
The mediaeval astrological literature makes reference to the septenaries form time to time, bu they are mentioned only in passing, and I have yet to find an explicit discussion of their use and meaning. The possibility of Primary Direction to the septenaries (on the analogy of Primary Direction to the Planetary Terms) strikes me as being pregnant with possibilities. The septenaries could even be used as an alternate (seven-fold) set of planetary terms. Another valid procedure would be to allot the 28 Lunar Mansions to the septenaries, counting off the entire series four times over. This would result in an alternate (lunar) scheme of planetary rulerships. In Indian astrological practice, the septenaries are associated with the begetting of children.
The Decanates (or Decans) are perhaps the single most important (and sinister) concept in all of Astrology. There are 36 Decanates, three for each of the twelve signs (perhaps on the analogy of the division of each of the four quadrants into three signs). Each Decanate is 10º (1/3 of a sign) in extent. This system is Egyptian in origin, and may be of greater antiquity than the twelve signs. Like the signs of the zodiac, each decanate has a name and a symbol, and each of them is associated with a particular daemonic spirit; each of these spirits can be invoked during the period of roughly 40 minutes each day when its decan is rising in the east. This concept is pervasive throughout western Astrology, and has lurked just beneath the surface from Classical and Mediaeval times down to the present. This alternate zodiac is copiously described and depicted throughout the astrological literature, and was thoroughly investigated in a classic study by W. Gundel and S. Schott, Dekane und Dekansternbilder (1936). Although very few modern practitioners of Astrology have even heard of this, it is impossible to read the traditional astrological literature without coming across repeated references to it. There is an extremely important statement in the Corpus Hermeticum [ref.] to the effect that the true meaning of each of the twelve signs is to be found through the three decanates of which it is comprised. This will be further discussed and illustrated later on.
So what is the point of this digression about the Egyptian decanates? It is because they also make it possible to synchronize the solar and lunar zodiacs. From earliest times, it was taught that just as each sign is divided into three decanates, so also each one of the decanates is subdivided into three munifices (Gk. leitourgoi) or “ministers,” which are said to bring about chance events at the behest of the decans. These munifices were known to the mediaeval astrologers as the Novenaries (novenaria, ninths of signs), of which there are 108, each one 3º20’ in extent. Bonatus (ref.) teaches that the Novenary in which the Moon is placed is of special importance. Each of the 108 novenaries is particularly associated with one of the twelve signs, using a scheme based on the Triplicities (the four elements): the nine novenaries in each of the fire signs (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius) are assigned to the nine signs in zodiacal order beginning with Aries (the first fire sign); the nine novenaries in each of the earth signs (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn) are assigned to the nine signs in zodiacal order beginning with Capricorn (the third earth sign); the nine novenaries in each of the air signs (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius) are assigned to the nine signs in zodiacal order beginning with Libra (the second air sign); finally, the nine novenaries in each of the water signs (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces) are assigned to the nine signs in zodiacal order beginning with Cancer (the first water sign). This scheme counts off the entire zodiac nine times over, so that the first, fifth (middle), and ninth (last) novenary of each sign will be of its own Triplicity.
Now it so happens that Indian Astrology makes use of a Lunar Zodiac different from the Lunar Mansions of the western tradition. Instead of 28 Lunar Mansions of (approximately) 12º51’26” each, the Indians divided the 360 degrees of the ecliptic circle into 27 Nakshatras (moon-signs), each of exactly 13º20’. Like the Lunar Mansions, each of these nakshatras has a name and a planetary ruler (in this scheme, the lunar nodes are also used as planetary rulers). Each nakshatra is subdivided into four padas (“petals”), of 3º20’, and these are none other than the 108 novenaries of western practice!
Thus, the division of each sign into three decanates leads in turn to the subdivision of each of the decanates into three novenaries; when reassembled into sets of four, these novenaries yield the 27 lunar nakshatras of Indian Astrology.
As we have seen, the significance of both the septenaries and the novenaries is that they serve to connect the solar zodiac to a lunar zodiac (comprising either 28 mansions or 27 nakshatras). It is very interesting to note that in Indian Astrology, there are actually not 27, but 28 nakshatras; an additional nakshatra (called Abhijit) is sometimes inserted between the 21st and 22nd nakshatras, but usually has no degrees or minutes assigned to it. This extra nakshatra is sometimes used in horary and electional procedures; in such cases it is given a span of just 4º13’40”, which is deducted from the nakshatras on either side of it. It is associated with Vega and the constellation of Lyra. It appears from this that the 28 Lunar Mansions are the primary system, and that the Indian reduction of these to 27 was a simplification to allow for lunar nakshatras of precisely 13º20’ in extent; these were preferable to the Lunar Mansions, whose extent (12º51’26”) could only be approximated.
Finally, it must be noted that both the decanates and the Lunar Mansions are sometimes designated by the alternative term facies (“face” or “phase”). This is especially interesting in the case of the Lunar Mansions, since it points to their possible origin in a scheme of 28 lunar phases (in modern times, James Joyce worked out a comparable system of his own [ref.]). Not only were the decans and lunar mansions confounded under the facies designation, but there are also Greco-Roman references to the munifices (leitourgoi) as being either 84 or 108 in number (Tester, 116-17). Clearly, references to both decans and lunar mansions as facies led to a similar confusion in the terms used to designate their tripartite subdivisions. Similarly, both the septenaries (thirds of lunar mansions) and the novenaries (thirds of decans) were known by the same name (munifices, liturgi). This may not reflect a confusion of terms, however, but rather an understanding of their similar function of unifying the solar and lunar zodiacs. It appears that the septenaries and novenaries were understood respectively as lunar and solar leitourgoi.
This brings us finally to a discussion of the astrological significance of the numbers Twelve and Thirteen. As previously stated, twelve is a solar number since the twelve months and the twelve signs of the zodiac are generated directly from the annual motion of the Sun. Thirteen, however, is a lunar number and is no less important, although the astrological concepts associated with it are not as generally known.
The counting of the syzygies (New and Full Moons) in a solar year generates the numbers twelve and thirteen. For any solar year, there are exactly three possibilities: there may be 12 New Moons and 12 Full Moons, 12 New Moons and 13 Full Moons, or 13 New Moons and 12 Full Moons. A year containing 13 New Moons is called an Embolistic Year; a year containing 12 New Moons is called a Common Year, regardless of the number of Full Moons. There are seven Embolistic Years and twelve Common Years in a 19-year Metonic Cycle, at the end of which the Sun and Moon will return to nearly the same positions they occupied at the beginning of the cycle. For example, I was born on December 15, 1960, with the Sun at 23Sag45 and the Moon at 16Sco14. On the occasion of my 19th Solar Revolution (December 16, 1979 at 1:55 AM), the Sun was again at 23Sag45, and the Moon at 16Sco39—just 25 arc-minutes from its radical position.
The number Thirteen expresses itself in several other important ways, all of them related to the Moon. In the course of one sidereal month (the time required for the Moon to make one entire revolution through the zodiac, about 27.31 days), the Moon travels an average distance along the ecliptic of approximately 13º10’55” per day. So 13º is roughly equivalent to the Moon’s diurnal motion. In the course of one synodic month (the period determined by the Moon’s phases as it goes from one New Moon to the next, about 29.53 days), the Moon travels a total distance of approximately 389º (388º59’57”)—or very nearly 13 signs of the zodiac (390º). Thus, if the New Moon occurs in the first degree of Aries, the Moon will pass through all 12 signs, plus 29º of a thirteenth sign, so that the next New Moon will occur in the thirtieth degree of Aries. As stated previously, this is clearly the basis of the division of signs into 13, since the 13 subdivisions of Aries (for example) are assigned to Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricornus, Aquarius, Pisces, and Aries again.
The idea of a year comprised of thirteen lunar months, in association with the convention of 28 lunar phases or mansions, gave rise to the traditional definition of a solar year as “a year and a day,” which comes up from time to time in the mediaeval romances. This is because 13 months of 28 days amounted to 364 days, and one additional day makes this a very good approximation of a solar year!
The system of 28 lunar mansions of approximately 12º51’26” also generates the number Thirteen in a very ingenious manner: since any degree is defined as an arc of 60 minutes, the 10th degree of Aries (for example) extends from 9º00’01” through 10º00’00”. Therefore, the boundary between the first and second lunar mansions at 12Ari51’26” falls in the 13th degree of Aries. If we examine the boundaries of the lunar mansions in the first quadrant of the zodiac, we get the following result:
12Ari51’26” 13th degree of Aries [13º of the quadrant]
25Ari42’52” 26th degree of Aries [26º of the quadrant]
8Tau34’18” 9th degree of Taurus [39º of the quadrant]
21Tau25’44” 22nd degree of Taurus [52º of the quadrant]
4Gem17’10” 5th degree of Gemini [65º of the quadrant]
17Gem08’36” 18th degree of Gemini [78º of the quadrant]
We will obtain a similar result for the other three quadrants. These degrees (the 13th and 26th of the cardinal signs [Aries, Cancer, Libra, Capricornus], the 9th and 22nd of the fixed signs [Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, Aquarius], and the 5th and 18th degrees of the mutable signs [Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, Pisces]) are known as the Critical Degrees. It will be seen that these Critical Degrees are all multiples of Thirteen. Along with the cardinal points (first degrees of Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricornus), there are 28 of these, marking the beginning of each of the lunar mansions. The Critical Degrees have a wide array of applications in traditional astrological practice.
Lilium tredecimplex: The Sacred Number
The opening passage of the Zohar speaks of a Lily (shoshanah) with thirteen petals (‘alin), corresponding to the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy (cf. Ex. 34:5-7, Micah 7:18-20). The passage also notes that in Genesis 1, the first and second references to Elohim are separated by 13 words, and associates these with the thirteen petals and the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy. The second and third references to Elohim are separated by five Hebrew words, and these, according to the Zohar, correspond to the five sepals or leaves (‘alin taqqiphin) which surround the thirteen petals of the Lily. It is very interesting that if this procedure is continued, it will be seen that the third and fourth, fourth and fifth, and fifth and sixth references to Elohim are all separated by five words, while the sixth and seventh references to Elohim are separated by twelve words. These numbers bring to mind the second Pythagorean triple, a right triangle whose sides measure 5, 12, and 13 units. The number Thirteen is of the greatest significance in the Zohar, and the text recurs to it again and again.
It is also highly significant that the gematriacal value of echod (one) is 13 (aleph = 1, ches = 8, dales = 4). When the opening words of the Shema (De. 6:4-9), shema‘ yisro’el adonoi elohenu adonoi echod (“hear O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is One”) are read in light of this fact, it becomes clear that Thirteen is a divine number.
Twelve and Thirteen are juxtaposed in another remarkable passage from Genesis: “Twelve years they served Chedorlaomer, and in the thirteenth year they rebelled” (Ge. 14:4). In Genesis 37:9, Joseph relates his dream: “ Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me.” In Joshua 6, we learn that the walls of Jericho fell after the Israelites had marched around the city thirteen times. These are just a few of the numerous occurrences of the number Thirteen in the Old Testament, where it lies hidden in much the same way as in the Zodiac. In both cases, we see a system which is ostensibly built around the number Twelve, but where closer inspection reveals the number Thirteen to be of equal or even greater significance.
My hypothesis is that Thirteen is the fundamental number of the fractal in which our universe has its existence. The structure of this fractal is clearly reflected in the ancient division of each sign of the Zodiac into thirteen dodecatemoria. Thirteen is also a Fibonacci number, and is frequently seen in nature; for example, the seed-pod of a poppy is surmounted by thirteen ridges; certain species of flowers (including several varieties of rosaceae) have 13 petals; the design of a pinecone incorporates 8 clockwise spirals and 13 counterclockwise spirals; the leaves of the almond and the pussy willow are arranged in such a way that there are 5 turns for every 13 leaves. Another very interesting fact which points to this conclusion is the famous “kissing number problem”: how many nested spheres of radius 1 can touch a central (unit) sphere? Newton believed (but could not prove) that the number was 12, while David Gregory argued for 13. The problem was eventually solved in 1953, when it was proved that Newton was right: thirteen spheres can be packed together in such an arrangement (Casselman, 2004).
Origen’s theology, which incorporated Stoic and astrological ideas, included a belief in reincarnation. He believed that history unfolds in cycles corresponding to the Platonic Year (the precessional cycle 25,920 years); thus, each cycle begins with Creation and ends with Conflagration (ekpyrosis) and Restoration (apokatastasis). All souls are pre-existent, and all souls are eventually redeemed; thus, the function of hell is not punitive, but purgative. This idea that all things will eventually be reconciled to God has a strong basis in scripture (cf. II Cor. 5:18-19, Mt. 17:11, Mk. 9:12). Upon the completion of each Platonic Year (signalized by the Great Return of all the heavenly bodies to their original configuration), the entire self-similar cycle is repeated. One fascinating fragment from Origen’s lost writings states that every soul has formerly existed as an angel, as a devil, and as a human being. This implies that every incarnation may go either up or down. Both quantum branchings actually exist, and God knows them both equally well. Both lead ultimately to the same result, since the downward path through hell leads eventually to heaven. In the words of one of the epigrams in the Anthologia Graeca (which I memorized for some reason at the age of 19, though I had no idea of its significance), he hodos ano kato kai oute (“the road up and the road down are the same”). Eventually each soul passes through all 360 degrees of the circle. Also implied is an endless repetition of the cycle of Creation, Rebellion, Redemption, Apocalypse, and Restoration.
Belief in reincarnation was prevalent in first-century Judaism. For example, Jesus’ disciples asked Him, “Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” (Jn. 9:2). This question implies the possibility of someone being punished for a sin committed before birth. In response to Jesus’ question, “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” (Mt. 16:13), the disciples answered, “Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets” (vs. 14). The reference to John the Baptist seems very strange, since John and Jesus were contemporaries, and John had only recently died; the disciples’ statement would imply that some kind of overlapping or sharing of souls was considered possible (more on this below). Jesus said nothing to discourage such beliefs; indeed, He clearly taught reincarnation Himself. Speaking again of John, He said, “if ye will receive it, this is Elias [Elijah], which was for to come” (Mt. 11:14, cf. Mark 9:11-13). Christian attempts to explain this passage away inevitably descend into drivel.
Belief in reincarnation and the manifold structure of the soul is also hinted in the Old Testament: “And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me” (II Ki. 2:9). This raises the possibility that souls are multiple in nature, so that the same soul travels multiple paths. Based on the structure of the dodecatemoria, it is possible to hypothesize that 12 or 13 different paths feed into each birth, and that death likewise may lead to 12 or 13 alternate paths. There may also be parallel paths going neither up nor down; this way, a person’s present life could be one of 12 or 13 running in parallel.
This discussion finds some extremely interesting parallels in quantum mechanics. According to the “many-worlds interpretation” proposed by Hugh Everett III in 1957, “in every circumstance in which there is a choice of experimental outcome, in fact each possibility is realized. The world at that instant splits up into many worlds, in each of which one of the possible results of the measurement is the one that actually occurs. Thus for Schrodinger’s cat there is one world in which it lives and another world in which it dies. These worlds are, so to speak, alongside each other but incapable of communicating with each other in any way. This latter point is supposed to explain our feeling that we experience a continuity of existence for ourselves. The cat who lives is unaware of the cat who dies. All the time I am being repeatedly cloned as copies of myself multiply to pursue their separate lives in the many worlds into which my world is continually splitting.” (Polkinghorne, 67). But is reality actually this chaotic? Do entities (and universes) really multiply themselves without limit? Quantum mechanics has developed under the constraint of the correspondence principle, which requires that classical mechanics must be recoverable for large systems. Feynman demonstrated that over time, there is a tendency for neighboring paths of subatomic particles to cancel each other out: “For really large systems this will have the consequence that the only paths which contribute significantly to the final result will be those in a region where the action changes as slowly as possible, since here the cancellations are minimized. This region is threaded along what is called the path of stationary action, since the latter is by definition the path from which small changes of trajectory produce negligible changes of action. . . . classical mechanics will arise as the limiting behaviour of large systems since the only paths that will count in their sum over histories will be extremely close to the classical trajectory of least action.” (Polkinghorne, 43).
It may be that this limiting principle, perhaps in conjunction with some version of observer-dependent reality, has the effect of reducing the actual possibilities to a much smaller number: Thirteen. Like the nine lives of the proverbial cat, our souls are assembled in a manifold of thirteen. Despite what appears to be a near-infinite number of potential illnesses, accidents, and misadventures, the paths of exit from any given human life are thirteen in number. This may be likened to a large maze constructed of bricks of thirteen colors: the maze is divided into thirteen sections, each section built from a different color of bricks, and each of these sections leading to only one exit from the maze; however, there is a very limited number of paths leading from any given section into any of the others—so that a random path through any of the thirteen sub-mazes is unlikely to lead into one of the other twelve sub-mazes, and will probably find its exit through paths of that same color.
All thirteen sections of the maze are real, and all thirteen exits will inevitably be found. In the course of lifetime, we will experience some of these as “close calls,” not realizing that the two alternatives (death and continued life) were both equally real. In astrological terms, these alternatives may correspond to the first and last of the 13-fold dodecatemoria of any given sign; it is not for nothing that these regions coincide with what are called the “early degrees” and “late degrees” of a sign. Revolutions and Profections should be carefully inspected for points whose dodecatemoria fall in such places, as these may be the places where one path breaks off into two.
As stated earlier, the 13-fold dodecatemoria generate a system in which there is one way down, and thirteen ways up. To be precise, there are twelve or thirteen ways up, since two of the thirteen dodecatemoria are the same. Thus, there may be thirteen concurrent lives (or component lives), which may be combined and recombined in various ways.
21,600 Minutes: Firmicus Maternus and the Myriogenesis
In the Mathesis, Firmicus Maternus refers repeatedly to a work entitled Myriogenesis. This text is no longer extant. Firmicus’ fullest description of it appears in book 5:
If you read the Myriogenesis of Aesculapius which he claimed Mercury had revealed to him,
you will find that from individual minutes, without any help of the planets, the order of the
whole chart can be explained. For the ascendant, located in individual minutes, explains the
whole order of life most clearly and obviously: its appearance and experiences, kinds of
danger, and the first day of life. Since the individual sign consists of 30 degrees and 1800 minutes, the location of the ascendant in one minute describes the entire fate of men (Mathesis V.i.36, trans. Jean Rhys Bram)
Firmicus goes on to say (V.i.38), “do not look for the theory of Myriogenesis in this book. When our meager talent with the help of favorable powers will have finished this book, then I will write for you in twelve other books the secrets of that teaching. But for now we must continue, or we will never arrive at the Myriogenesis. First we must learn the basic principles.”
In other words, the Myriogenesis was a system of analyzing the arc-minutes of the ecliptic circle, with such precision that the resulting delineation was comparable in detail to the analysis of the chart itself, including all seven planets in their signs, houses, and mutual aspects. This is truly an astonishing idea.
What was the form and procedure of the Myriogenesis? Since there are 360 degrees in the zodiac, each divided into 60 minutes, there are 21,600 minutes in the ecliptic circle; the Myriogenesis supposedly generated a unique and specific delineation for each one of these minutes! It is very interesting to note that in Indian philosophy, the number of breaths (inhalation plus exhalation) taken in a 24-hour day is said to be 21,600; moreover, the most widely recognized astrological definition of the beginning of life is the moment when the infant takes his first breath.
Myriogenesis = one minute
Behind the North Wind: Draconis Puteus Hyperborealis
Cat’s Eye Nebula, one of the most complex nebulae known, with numerous concentric rings generated just a few centuries apart—no known physical mechanism to explain this, as the usual time-scale for such extrusions is much greater; we are looking back at our point of reference, into the hollow interior of the sphere; entry into which requires surrender to that vision) Cf. the Myriogenesis, but this = one point!; there is a certain analogy/can be drawn to Firmicus Maternus and his account of the Myriogenesis.
Ursa Major = Pleiades = 7 planets (?)
Dragon guards the North Ecliptic Pole (the point the earth’s axis points to without ever pointing to it); its nebula is a point of infinite complexity; Symmes Hole; Tower of Babel; Direction Under the Pole (a technology of undreamed-of implications), the Opening of the Pole (direction under the pole of the ecliptic), Angel with Sword pointing in all directions = North magnetic pole; hollow earth analogous to a mirror—looking into the next room, but not really.
“The Queen of the South will rise up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.” (Matthew 12:42; cf. Luke 11:31)
The Theory of Astrological Correspondences
As Hume (2007) observes, the Principle of Correspondences is a concept which pervades the Western esoteric tradition. This, too, is a manifestation of fractal Self-Similarity, as seemingly unconnected things of all sorts are categorized and juxtaposed in terms of their Binary, Elemental (Fire, Earth, Air, Water), and Planetary associations. This principle expresses itself in Astrology in several important ways—first, in the doctrine of Planetary Sect, by which the seven planets are divided into two families or sects: the Diurnal Sect (the Sun, Jupiter, Saturn; Mercury in its matutine phases), and the Nocturnal Sect (the Moon, Mars, Venus; Mercury in its vespertine phases); second, in the classification of the planets by gender (the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn being masculine, the Moon and Venus feminine, and Mercury of indeterminate gender); third, the planets are categorized in terms of Temperament. The most common understanding of this is that the Sun and Mars are Hot and Dry, the Moon and Venus Cold and Wet, Jupiter Hot and Wet, and Saturn and Mercury Cold and Dry; this concept is closely tied to that of the four Triplicities or Elements (Fire, Earth, Air, Water).
The planets are also associated with the 12 signs of the Zodiac in various ways. Each sign has a planetary ruler, with Aries and Scorpio ruled by Mars, Taurus and Libra by Venus, Gemini and Virgo by Mercury, Cancer by the Moon, Leo by the Sun, Sagittarius and Pisces by Jupiter, and Capricorn and Aquarius by Saturn. In addition, the seven planets have their Exaltations in particular signs (the Sun in Aries, the Moon in Taurus, Mercury in Virgo, Venus in Pisces, Mars in Capricorn, Jupiter in Cancer, Saturn in Libra), and are said to “rejoice” in particular mundane houses (Mercury in the 1st, the Moon in the 3rd, Venus in the 5th, Mars in the 6th, the Sun in the 9th, Jupiter in the 11th, and Saturn in the 12th). Finally, as we have seen, the innumerable subdivisions of the signs all have their planetary rulerships and zodiacal associations.
Without going into great detail, let it be said that at the most basic level, there are three sets of astrological correspondences: the seven-fold Planetary Correspondences, the twelve-fold Zodiacal Correspondences, and the twelve-fold Domal (House) Correspondences. The planets are essentially seven unique characterizations, although broader categorization of the planets according to Sect, Gender, and Temperament is also involved.
The 12 signs of the Zodiac may also be seen as 12 unique archetypes, but in this case, categorization and aspectual relationships are clearly organizing principles. Thus, the 12 signs have a binary categorization as Diurnal (Aries, Gemini, Leo, Libra, Sagittarius, Aquarius) and Nocturnal (Taurus, Cancer, Virgo, Scorpio, Capricorn, Pisces); a ternary categorization as Cardinal (Aries, Cancer, Libra, Capricorn), Fixed (Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, Aquarius), and Mutable (Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, Pisces); and a quaternary categorization as Fire signs (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius), Earth signs (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn), Air signs (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius), and Water signs (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces). The signs can be grouped in many other ways as well—as “commanding” and “obeying,” “fecund” and “sterile”, “seeing” and “hearing,” “human,” “quadrupedal,” “reptilian,” and so on.
Signs which are two signs apart (sextile aspect) or four signs apart (trine aspect) are considered Harmonious; signs which are three signs apart (square aspect) or six signs apart (opposition) are Disharmonious; neighboring signs and those which are five signs apart are Inconjunct (no relationship).
The 12 Mundane Houses are similarly classified as Angular (1st, 4th, 7th, 10th), Succedent (2nd, 5th, 8th, 11th), and Cadent (3rd, 6th, 9th, 12th).
Once these principles are clearly understood, it becomes possible to derive complex patterns of astrological associations. The Planets, Signs, and Houses have innumerable associations with colors, occupations, places, animals, plants, and objects. Virtually any object can be categorized in this way. The planet Saturn, for example, “ signifieth Husbandmen, Clowns, Beggars, Day-labourers, Old-men, Fathers, Grand-fathers, Monks, Jesuits, Sectarists. . . Curriers, Night-farmers, Miners under ground, Tinners, Potters, Broom-men, Plummers, Brick-makers, Malsters, Chimney-sweepers, Sextons of Churches, Bearers of dead corps, Scavengers, Hostlers, Colliers, Carters, Gardiners, Ditchers, Chandlers, Diers of Black cloth, an Herdsman, Shepheard or Cow-keeper. . . . He governeth Beirsfoot, Starwort, Woolf-bane, Hemlock, Ferne, Hellebor the white and black, Henbane, Ceterach or Finger-ferne, Clotbur or Burdock, Parsnip, Dragon, Pulse, Vervine, Mandrake, Poppy, Mosse, Nightshade, Bythwind, Angelida, Sage, Box, Tutfan, Orage or golden Hearb, Spinach, Shepheards Purse, Cummin, Horitaile, Fumitory. . . . Tamarisk, Savine, Sene, Capers, Rue or Hearbgrice, Polipody, Willow or Sallow Tree, Yew-tree, Cypress tree, Hemp [N.B.!], Pine-tree. . . . The Asse, Cat Hare, Mouse, Mole, Elephant, Beare,Dog, Wolf, Bastlisk, Crocodile, Scoprion, Toad, Serpent, Adder, Hog, all manner of creeping Creatures breeding of putrification, either in the Earth, Water or Ruines of Houses. . . . The Eele, Tortoise, Shel-fishes. The Bat or Blude-black, Crow, Lapwing, Owle, Gnat, Crane, Peacock, Grashopper, Thrush, Blackbird, Ostritch, Cuckoo. . . . He delights in Deserts, Woods, obscure Vallies, Caves, Dens, Holes, Mountaines, or where men have been buried, Church-yards, &c. Ruinous Buildings, Cole-mines, Sinks, Dirty or Stinking Muddy Places, Wells and Houses of Offices, &c. . . . He ruleth over Lead, the Lead-stone, the Drosse of all Mettals, as also , the Dust and Rubbidge of every thing. . . . Saphire, Lapis Lazuli, all black, ugly Country Stones not polishable, and of a sad ashy or black colour. . . . He causeth Cloudy, Dark, obscure Ayre, cold and hurtfull, thick, black and cadense Clouds. . . . As to Age, he relates to decreped old men; Fathers, Grandfathers, the like in Plants, Trees, and all living Creatures. . . . Late Authours say he ruleth over Bavaria, Saxony, Stiria, Romandisle, Ravenna, Constantia, Ingoldstad” (William Lilly, Christian Astrology, 1647:61).
According to Lilly, the sign of Pisces is “an idle, effeminate, sickly Sign, or representing a party of no action.” It is associated with “All diseases in the Feet, as the Gout, and all Lamenesse and Aches incident to those members, and so generally salt Flegms, Scabs, Itch, Borches, Breakings out, Boyles and Ulcers proceeding from Blood putrificated, Colds and moyst diseases. . . . It represents Grounds full of water, or where many Springs and much Fowl, also fish-ponds or Rivers full of Fish, places where Hermitages have been, Moats about Houses, Water Mils; in houses neer the water, as to some Well or Pump, or where water stands.” Pisces gives “A short stature, ill composed, not, not very decent, a good large Face, palish Complexion, the Body fleshy or swelling, not very straight, but incurvating somewhat with the Head,” and is associated with “Calabria in Sicilia, Portugall, Normandy, the North of Egypt, Alexandria, Rhemes, Wormes, Compostella” (Lilly, Christian Astrology, 1647:99).
Notice that for each of the signs, Lilly gives both interior and exterior places—another fascinating set of Correspondences! Thus, the sign of Aquarius is associated with “Hilly and uneven places, places new digged, or where quarries of Stone are, or any Minerals have been digged up; in Houses, the roofs, eaves or upper parts; Vineyards, or neer some I little Spring or Conduit-head” (Lilly, Christian Astrology, 1647:99).
Each of the 12 Houses is associated with various “matters.” Lilly writes that the 8th house pertains to “the Estate of Men deceased, Death, its quality and nature; the wills, Legacies and Testaments of Men deceased; Dowry of the Wife, Portion of the Maid, whether much or little, easie to be obtained or with difficulty. In Duels it represents the Adversaries Second; in Lawsuits the Defendants friends. What kinde of Death a Man shall dye., it signifies fear and anguish of Minde. Who shall enjoy or be heir to the Deceased. It rules the Privy-Parts. Of colours, the green and Black. Of Signes it hath Scorpio for Cosignificator, and Saturn, the Hemoroids, the Stone, Strangury, Poysons, and Bladder are ruled by this house; and is a succedant House, and Feminine” (Lilly, Christian Astrology, 1647:54).
Sometimes house associations involve a procedure known as “Chart Turning” or “Derived Houses.” For example, the house of one’s paternal uncle is found by first taking the 4th house (the house of the father); and then, using that as a new starting point, taking the 3rd house (the house of brothers) from the 4th, which is the 6th house of the radical chart. The house pertaining to a second (part-time) job would be the 8th (the 3rd from the 6th), since employment is a 6th house matter, and the duplicate of anything is considered as its “brother” (3rd house). By contrast, the house of the potential duplicate of a thing is “its house from its house”—so a new car (not yet purchased) would be in the 5th house (the 3rd from the 3rd); things not yet realized are said to be derived from themselves (what exists already).
Once these principles are clearly understood, it becomes possible, with a little practice, to identify the planetary and zodiacal elements underlying any scene or situation—something like focusing on the brush-strokes or pixils of which a picture is composed. A rusty nail or a dead cat pertains to Saturn, a violin to Venus, a laptop computer to Mercury; a policeman directing traffic corresponds to Mars and Mercury, his badge to the Sun, his gun to Mars, his black uniform to Saturn, and so on.
Medical Astrology made much use of these Correspondences. The four Humors (blood, phlegm, black bile, yellow bile) were understood in relation to the four Temperaments and the four Elements, with obvious astrological associations. The concept of Melosthesia associates the parts of the body with the 12 signs of the Zodiac (Aries with the head, Taurus with the neck, Gemini with the shoulders, Cancer with the heart, and so on). A Decumbiture chart is erected for the moment the patient falls ill (takes to his bed), and is analyzed according to special rules in order to ascertain the seat of the illness and its cause, and to develop a prognosis for the progress and outcome of the disease. As the quotations from Lilly demonstrate, all of the materia medica have planetary and zodiacal correspondences, and these are used in conjunction with the theory of the humors in order to select an appropriate regimen of treatment.
In addition to the planets, traditional Astrology makes much use of the Fixed Stars. This is indeed a complex and difficult subject. As Cardanus says, “some [things] are neither known, nor can be known, as the complete commixtures and distinct virtues of all the Stars.” In one sense, the fixed stars are seen as unique and irreducible influences comparable to those of the seven planets, but for purposes of analysis, they are evaluated in terms of the complex lore of planetary correspondences to the fixed stars. The foundational texts for this mode of analysis are Ptolemy’s Almagest, which includes a catalogue of 1028 fixed stars which may be regarded as more or less definitive (although later Arab astrologers were to modify and expand it in various ways); and Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos (Quadripartitum), which includes a tabulation (i.9) of the fixed stars in terms of their planetary correspondences. For example, Ptolemy writes that “the bright stars in Ursa Minor have a similar quality to that of Saturn and, to a less degree, to that of Venus; those in Ursa Major, to that of Mars; and the cluster of the Coma Berenices beneath the Bear’s tail, to that of the moon and Venus; the bright stars in Draco, to that of Saturn, Mars, and Jupiter; those of Cepheus, to that of Saturn and Jupiter; those in Bootes, to that of Mercury and Saturn; the bright, tawny star, to that of Jupiter and Mars, the star called Arcturus.” It will be seen from this that there are several modes of planetary correspondence: some stars (like those of Ursa Major) are associated with one planet only. Others have a mixture of planetary associations: some (like those in Ursa Minor) are associated principally with one of the planets, but have a secondary association with a second planet; others (like those in Cepheus) combine the influences of two planets equally; and some (like the stars in Draco) combine the influences of three different planets. In many cases, all the stars of a given constellation have a similar influence; occasionally, however, individual stars (like Arcturus in the passage just quoted) sometimes differ from other stars in the same constellation. A later Hellenistic work, the “Anonymous of 379,” is another source for this sort of information.
In order to evaluate the effects of the fixed stars, it is necessary to project them to positions along the ecliptic by converting their Right Ascension and Declination into Longitude (with or without Latitude). This derivation of imaginary ecliptic positions for stars at some distance from the Ecliptic is yet another important instance of Correspondence and Self-Similarity. Due to precession, the positions of the fixed stars slip backward through the Zodiac at a rate of approximately one degree in 72 years.
Once these astral correspondences are combined with the planetary and zodiacal correspondences, they enable us to interpret scenes, situations, and events down to the smallest detail, in terms of an exceedingly complex network of interwoven planetary and astral influences. As the Zohar says,
Come and see: It is written, “that brings out their host [tseva’am] by number (Yeshayah 40:26)—the Holy One, blessed be He, brought forth all the hosts and companies and
stars, each one by name and none was missing. Throughout the stars and constellations
of all the firmaments (kokhovayya u-mazzole di-reqi‘in kullehu), leaders and supervisors
(negidin u-pheqiddin) were appointed to administer the world, each one as is worthy for
him. There is not even one small blade of grass in the world that does not have a star
and a constellation in the firmament (kokhovo u-mazzolo bi-reqi‘o) that rules over it,
and over each and every star is an appointee (meshamesh) that serves before the Holy
One, blessed be He, as is proper for Him. All the stars in the firmament are in charge
over this world, and they are all appointed (meshameshe) to attend to (leshamesho) every
single thing for those that are in this world. No grass, trees or vegetables grow without
the supervision of the stars that stand over them and appear to them face-to-face, each
one as is proper for it” (Terumah 835-836).
Congregatio Effigierum Charnii: The Hall of Images
A very important part of our understanding of astrological concepts arises from the traditional Symbols and Images used to describe the Zodiac and its subdivisions. The Twelve Signs, of course, are extremely well known. However, there are several other sets of astrological symbols that are not so well known. The most important of these are the traditional symbols of the 36 Decans. As mentioned previously, it is said that the true meaning of each of the 12 signs is derived from the three decans of which each of them is composed. For example, the first sign is Aries (the Ram). Aries is composed of the three decans Senator, Senacher, and Sentacher (the Hellenistic names of the decans are corruptions of their original Egyptian names). Senator is described by Cornelius Agrippa as “a black man, one who is standing, dressed and wrapped around with a white garment; he is of massive body, with red eyes and great strength, and looks angry.” Agrippa describes Senacher as “a woman, outwardly clothed with a red garment, and under it a white, stretching forth one foot,” and Sentacher is “a pale man with red hair, dressed in red garments, holding a golden bracelet in his left hand, and an oaken staff in his right; he is gazing forward, restless and angry because he is unable to attain or perform the good things he desires” (De Occulta Philosophia, II.37). So how do these three combine to describe the Ram? It is not too difficult to see the scenario which arises from these three symbols in combination: an aggressive, sexually dominant Negro male, a sexually wanton white female, and a frustrated and impotent white male who is holding a ring-shaped object (traditionally associated with the female pudenda). The inner meaning of Aries the Ram may therefore be summarized in terms of a sexual triangle involving certain archetypal anxieties about the Negro male.
A set of symbols for the 24 horae (halves of signs) was transmitted by the Indian astrologer Sphujidvaja (fl.270 A.D.). The first of the two horae which comprise the sign of Cancer is described as “a woman who holds a blossoming lotus in her hand. She stands in the water, pale as the color of a campaka flower. Her upper-garment and ornaments are pale like moon-beams.” The second hora of Cancer is “a very pale man in the middle of a garden who leans on a bright weapon. . . . holding a lotus, the beloved one pours forth his complaints” (Yavanajataka I.14-16). This book is believed to be a translation of a Greek work dating to the 2nd century B.C. There are also numerous mediaeval Latin manuscripts which associate symbols with the horae (University of Saskatchewan, 2009).
The 28 Lunar Mansions are associated with a set of names and symbols which was widely known and has been preserved (with variations) in numerous sources. The first lunar mansion (from 0 Aries 00’ to 12 Aries 51’26”) is called Alnath and has the image of a black lion, dressed in hair garments, bearing a lance in his hand. The second mansion (from 12 Aries 51’26” to 25 Aries 42’52”) is called Albotain, and its image is a crowned king. The third lunar mansion (from 25 Aries 42’52” to 8 Taurus 34’18”) is Azoraya. Its image is a girl with her right hand on her head.
There are also various sets of Degree Symbols, which purport to summarize the significance of the individual degrees. Most of these, such as the degrees of Charubel (1898), or the well-known Sabian Symbols (1925), are of modern origin. One set, however, which was recorded by Petrus de Abano (ca.1250-ca.1316) and printed in the Astrolabium Planum (1494) of Johannes Angelus (Engel), may go back to late Antiquity. For the first five degrees of Aries, the symbols are as follows:
1 a man holding a sickle in his right hand and a crossbow in his left
2 a man with a dog’s head, extending his right hand and holding a rod in his left
3 a man gesturing toward things in the distance with his right hand, and grasping his belt with his left hand
4 a man with curled hair, with a falcon perched on his right hand and a whip in his left
5 two men: one chopping wood with an axe, the other holding a scepter in his right hand
There is also supposed to be a set of 360 degree symbols attributed to Ptolemy, known variously as the Liber imaginum Ptolemaei, or Liber ad Heristhonem. This has been transmitted in numerous mediaeval manuscripts, but has never been published as far as I know, and I have never seen it. This, too, may go back to a Hellenistic source.
Finally, there is also a very old and very chaotic tradition of symbols associated with the paranatellonta (or synanatellonta)—the extra-zodiacal asterisms which rise concurrently with the decans rising on the ecliptic. For these there are many sources. For Aries, Abraham Ibn Ezra (Reshit Chokhmah, ca.1150) gives the following paranatellonta:
1st Decan: the figure of a radiant woman, and the tail of the Sea-Fish that resembles a serpent, and the head of the Triangle, and the form of an ox
2nd Decan: fishes, and the middle of the triangle, and half of the animal, and a woman with a comb in her hair, and a bronze armor, and the Head of the Devil.
3rd Decan: a young man sitting on a chair with a cover over him, and in his hand icons, and a man bowing his head, and he is crying out to the Lord. There also ascends the Belly of the Fish and its head and the end of the triangle, and the second half of the Animal.
Albumasar (Introductorium Majus, vi.1) gives a somewhat different series of paranatellonta for Aries, all of which are described as being iuxta Persas (according to the Persians) or ut Persae ferunt (as the Persians say):
1st Decan: femina cui nomen Splendoris filia postquam cauda Piscis Marini ac principium Trigoni caput—que Cervotauri i.e. forme ex cervo et tauro congeste. Post hec Cinocefalus manu sinistra candelam, dextra clavem gerens.
2nd Decan: medium Piscis Marini, medium Trigoni medium Cervotauri, Navis, Eques manu telum gerens, Femina caput suum pectens cum brachiis ferries, caput Meduse curvasque harpes Persei, quem Arabes Nems, Perse Filus vocant.
3rd Decan: Iuvenis cuius nomen Fasius solio residens cum quo Equus duplex, ac posteriora Solii Filus deficiendo deos acclamantis pectus quoque Piscis et caput postremumque Trigoni cauda Cervotauri, secundaque medietas Frontis. [a young man whose name is Fasius, sitting on a throne, with whom is a double horse, and behind the throne ]
In addition to these variegated sets of Symbols and Images (a term particularly associated with the Lunar Mansions), we possess verbal descriptions (but no visual imagery) of the 60 terms (Vettius Valens, Anthologiae i.3) and of the 144 dodecatemoria (Hephaestio, Apotelesmatica iii.4).
These concentric levels of symbolism are obviously of the greatest importance in traditional Astrology, enabling the astrologer to clearly visualize and understand all sorts of astrological relationships and combinations. These can be of great assistance in the analysis of a chart, particularly when it presents some intractable problem to which the mind must recur again and again. They also function as mnemonic devices and can be used for meditation and as aids to reflection. The use of the Zodiac and its subdivisions as a mnemonic device was well known in ancient times, and was associated with Metrodorus of Scepsis (1st century B. C.) Quintilian (Institutio Rhetorica, XI.ii.22) reports that “Metrodorus . . . found three hundred and sixty different localities in the twelve signs of the Zodiac through which the sun passes.” According to Cicero, “Metrodorus of Scepsis in Asia, who is said to be still living, . . . used to say that he wrote down things he wanted to remember in certain ‘localities’ in his possession by means of images, just as if he were inscribing letters on wax” (De oratore, II.lxxxviii.360). W. Den Boer (1986) notes the “great importance [in classical antiquity] of astrology as a mnemonic and organizing system. . . . Metrodorus’ ‘topical system of mnemonics’ remains worthy of attention. By means of this system one acquires 12 x 30 sections to arrange the memory’s stock in one large circle of the Zodiac (p. 14). Observing that Greek historical works abound in astrological data, Den Boer suggests that these astrological references may embody a mnemonic system, a “treasure-chamber of memory . . . , i.e. the Zodiac and its sections or loci, in which the imagines of history are stored” (p. 30). Den Boer believes that modern scholars have ignored “what the [Greek] authors took for granted, namely, a principle of division derived from astrology” (p. 35). He maintains that although no specific examples of Metrodorus’ method are known, that is merely because “a quest for them has never been made” (p. 35). It may be that many classical works of history and philosophy were constructed around these symbols as a mnemonic device.
For whatever purpose they were used, each of these sets of symbols obviously embodies a highly developed set of astrological correspondences.
Astrologia Rediviva: A Postmodern Pandora’s Box [UNFINISHED CONCLUDING SECTION]