Sunday, March 28, 2010

Listing natal astrology topics

Books III and IV of Claudius Ptolemy's Tetrabiblos deal with the inquiries about specific topics in the natal chart. That is to say, topics like the material fortune or possessions, the rank and eminence, the marriage, the "action", etc.

I would like to underscore the importance of this subject. Most contemporary books about traditional astrology give the reader the impression that to interpret a chart is just a matter of looking (for each topic) at specific houses, planets, and other points of the chart, according to their symbolism. One should look at the 10th for the career, the 2nd for the money, and so forth. It would be just a matter of (grammatically) "reading" the chart.

In horary astrology one need to simplify the inquiry, by choosing the more appropriate planet, house and/or point of the chart related to the topic under analysis so this "reading" might work quite well, but in natal astrology it looks like things are a bit more complex than that.

Here is the list of those "genethlialogical" topics according to the Tetrabiblos:

1. Concerning the parents, brothers and sisters (of the native)

2. About the birth of the native and whether the child will survive. (This includes the topics of the monsters and and the children that do not survive or are "exposed")

3. Concerning the length of life.

4. Concerning bodily form and mixture (and temperament); and bodily injuries and diseases.

5. Quality of the soul; and the diseases of the soul.

6. Possessions or material fortune.

7. Rank or dignity (eminence).

8. Quality of action.

9. Sexual union, marriage; and children.

10. Friends and enemies.

11. Travel abroad.

12. Quality of death.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


This text is an essay on what Guido Bonatti might have had in mind when he wrote the Chapter 2 of the section about the TENTH HOUSE of the Treatise 9 (Nativities) of his Book of Astronomy. Chapter 2 is “On the force of the native and his prosperity, and on his duties and on his kingdom”.

Eminence is a topic we can find – in a very consistent way - for centuries in the astrological writings. From Ptolemy until Lilly, at least. In other words, ancient astrologers always wanted to know about the probability of the native to be in a leadership position, or famous, or successful, or in a high ranking position. In other words, eminence has to do with the native’s status. It is something important because it has consequences on different areas of the native’s life, such as money, power, family life, professional success, happiness.

For every topic, ancient astrologers wanted to know three kind of things: a) the “indicators” (those that “give signs for”) of the matter under analysis; b) the significators of the topic under analysis; c) the condition of the significators.

I must take this opportunity to raise a crucial question: the difference between what I call the “indicators” and what the Ancients called the significators. In his late 90’s talks, Robert Schmidt stressed the difference between the planets (or others factors of the chart) that “give signs for” a specific topic and the significators of the same topic.

And here is my interpretation of Bonatti’s method for assessing the degree of eminence of the native. It is a very hard to understand text that can be read on pages 1347 and 1348 of Dykes’ translation. I’m not going to repeat here what he says, but only the way I understand his procedure.

FIRST STEP: check the luminary of the sect

(This means the Sun, in diurnal charts, or the Moon and Saturn, in nocturnal charts)

You should check whether:

  1. they are in the angles
  2. they are joined with the benefics
  3. there are with “reception”
  4. in the case of Saturn: if he aspects the Sun (in case he is oriental); or if he aspects the Moon (in case he is occidental)

Note: in nocturnal charts, according to Bonatti, Saturn is also the significator. I have no idea of the rationale behind this.


First, Bonatti selects the luminaries (in fact, the luminary of the sect), as significators of the whole life of the native. This is an exception to the principle of the “indicators”. These are planets (or other factors of the chart) that inform about the significator of the topic. However, in this instance, the luminaries are, by themselves, the significators of the topic. The Sun (diurnal chart) or the Moon (nocturnal chart) are, by themselves, the significators of eminence.

The luminaries have a dual nature. On one hand, they are one of the seven “planets” of the traditional astrological system. On the other hand, however, the two luminaries can function as much broader significators. This happens in different instances, such as the determination of the hyleg, the predominator, etc.

To assess “the force of the native and his prosperity” Bonatti asks us to check the condition of the luminary of the sect.

a) In the case of Muhammad Ali, the luminary of the sect is the Moon.

b) is the Moon in the angles? Yes (from the whole-sign houses standpoint), the Moon is in the seventh sign, which is cardine. However, from the quadrant houses standpoint, things are not that clear. The Moon is having a 7 degrees conjunction with the Descendant. Does this make her angular? No, if we follow the Ptolemy’s 5 degrees rule. Nevertheless, if we consider the 12 degrees orb of the Moon, and the 0 degrees orb of the Descendant (which is not a planet but a “point” in the chart, thus has no orb) the maximum orb (moiety) for this conjunction is 6 degrees.

c) Is the Moon “joining” (that is, in conjunction or aspect with) any benefic? Yes, the Moon and Venus are conjunct by a 7 degrees orb (the maximum orb aloud for these two “planets”, the moiety, is 9.5 degrees).

d) Is there any “reception”? The Moon is in Aquarius squaring Saturn by a 9 degrees orb (moiety for these two “planets” is 10.5 degrees). So, there is a “reception”. (Note: there is a reception, according to Bonatti, when a planet is in conjunction or aspect with its ruler.)

Following the rules as stated by Bonatti, one should check the condition of Saturn.

a) he is angular, both in whole-sign and quadrant houses. Furthermore, it is only 9 degrees ahead of the MC, although there is no conjunction (the moiety is 4.5 degrees)

b) Saturn squares Venus, a benefic.

c) Saturn is under a reception, because he is in aspect with his ruler (Venus)

d) Saturn is occidental and aspects the Moon (square)

Conclusion: yes, both the luminary in sect and Saturn completely fulfil the conditions stated by Bonatti. One might say that yes, Muhammad Ali would “be a king”.

Second step: check rulers of the 10th and Part of Kingdom

Bonatti states that, if those conditions are not met, one should check the ruler of the 10th and the ruler of the Part of the Kingdom to see if they are: angular, joined to a benefic, in reception, and in aspect to the appropriate luminary.

Summing it up, either checking the appropriate luminary, and Saturn, or the lords of the 10th and the Part of the Kingdom, one should check whether the four conditions are met.

A) the appropriate significator should be angular. What does that mean? It means that the significator should be strong, that is, in a position that makes his power of manifestation strong.

B) The significator should join a benefic. (Curiously enough, this apparently includes the square and the opposition) One good question here is: why is a benefic benefic? Probably a benefic is benefic because it is a temperate influence, hot enough but not too much, humid enough but not too much. While the malefics are malefics because they are too dry (Mars) or too cold (Saturn). This recalls me the Chinese principle of balance or equilibrium. When there is balance, there is opportunity, good luck. While the imbalance means “bad luck”, lack of opportunity: qi (the cosmic energy) doesn’t circulate harmoniously. That’s why any “well disposed” planet may function as a “benefic”, according to Bonatti. Using our 20th century thinking I would say that any well integrated influence helps a lot keeping life in balance and, in the end, means good luck.

C) The significator should be “with reception”. This consists of a condition in which a planet is located in a zodiacal place under the influence of a certain other planet (by domicile, exaltation, triplicity, bound or face) and aspects that planet. By connecting the significator with its ruler, the aspect embodies the combination between the two influences. The significator becomes richer by means of acquiring new qualities.

Finally comes something related to the Ptolemaic “luminary with doriphory or spear bears” configuration. The Sun and the Moon are the cosmic King and Queen, their power go far beyond their own bodies. This is a typical expression of power. The Moon needs “occidental” spear bears, while the Sun needs the “oriental” ones.

Final note: this is the method proposed by Bonatti to assess the eminence of the native. Bonatti’s chapter about this topic is, in fact, very long, but I think what I mention here is the essence of his method. After explaining his own method, he talks about his predecessors methods.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


“How to interpret a chart?”. Some years ago I raised this question in the Skyscript Forum, and a well-humored member replied: “It’s very easy! You just need to take the beginners course of this site.”
Although my interlocutor was just showing a very good sense of humor, I think he made a good sum up of how contemporary astrologers see the problem of the interpretation of a chart.
In a way, it is not, in fact, a very difficult process. As soon as you understand and memorize the meanings and the rich symbology of the planets, the signs, the houses, and the aspects, you are ready to begin to interpret a chart. At least at a very basic level. After that, it is a matter of experience and a very good intuition (together with the guidance of a well prepared teacher, of course).
Planets, signs, houses, and aspects are the letters and the words of a very special language: astrology. Of course, it will take some time (may be some years…) and a lot of hard work until you feel confident of understanding these basic and fundamental units, the bricks of the astrological building. They really are the foundations of astrology.
Let’s go ahead. After the letters and words comes the grammar. As a matter of fact, it is not a difficult grammar.
The planets represent specific kinds of actions, reactions, or behaviours. Signs work as adjectives: they indicate the tone or the quality of that action or behaviour. Finally, the houses indicate in what area of life the planet’s energies are more likely to manifest. Whereas aspects tell how these different “verbs” (actions, reactions or behaviours) articulate with each other.

When we start dealing with specific cases, however, the doubts, the questions and the problems start to emerge. Interpretation is not that simple, after all. We will have the opportunity to confirm this while trying to interpret the charts of various celebrities in this blog, and while discussing the traditional methods of interpretation of a chart.

[Here are some theoretical and practical considerations I found worth considering while trying to answer to that apparently simple question “How to interpret a chart?”]

1) “Everything is important” versus the hierarchical approach

It looks to me that the dominant concept in the twentieth century astrology is something like this: the more information you can get from a chart, the better. It is like a camera taking photos with more or less pixels. With more pixels, the photos look better – you can clearly see the details of the pictures. Everything, every small piece of information is important and welcome. You read a chart as someone reads a book or contemplates a picture.
However, this is not the only way of interpreting a chart. Take for example Guido Bonatti’s method for delineating the profession (in Book of Astronomy). He proposes the following method: first check whether there is any planet in the first house. If there is one (and that planet is Mercury, Venus, or Mars), take it: that planet is the significator of the profession of the native. Forget about everything else, and focus on that significator, trying to understand it as deeply as you can.
(If there is no planet in the first, then check whether there is any planet in the tenth. If there is one, take it: it is the significator of the profession of the native! And so forth.)
Summing it up, I would say that you choose one planet (one factor in the chart that becomes the significator) and you focus on it. Of course you still keep taking into consideration the remaining of the chart, but only as a background.
This kind of procedure is also used in the horary astrology. First, you choose the significators of the inquirer and the question, then you focus on them to get the answer to the question.
As a matter of fact, contemporary astrologers also use “significators” (like Venus and the 5th house for love, and so forth) but the philosophy of reading is less hierarchical.
This is an interesting antinomy. Both options make sense. We’ve got one “passive” way of reading. Even when you check the several significators and topics of the native’s life and psychology your mind is in a passive state, and follows the trends of the chart and the intuition. The chart talks by itself.
The hierarchical way is a more active approach. You have definite steps to follow.
This antinomy is also related to the “Symbology versus ‘energy’” topic (read below). When Bonatti wants us to check whether there is any planet in an angular house in order to select the professional significator, the rationale beneath his procedure might be something like this: “See if there is any planet in a ‘strong’ position – if there is one, take it as the significator; if there is none in the angles, check whether there is any one with a special configuration with the luminaries (either heliacally rising or aspecting the Moon), which indicates a major degree of manifestation.”
The 10th house appears in this list not because it has a symbological link with the career of the native but because, in the traditional astrology, the 10th house is the second strongest of the four angles.

Note 1. In the late 90’s, up to the year 2000, I heard Robert Schmidt mentioning a “hologram” paradigm to explain the 20th century astrology, but I’m not sure whether that idea has anything to do with this “’Everything is important’ versus hierarchical approach” consideration. Furthermore, I have no idea of what does he think about this nowadays.

2. Quality (or intensity) versus strength

Each planet is a specific force, agent or “verb”. In a way, it is like a primary colour (the three primary colours are yellow, blue, and red, and they cannot be made by mixing other colours together).
A planet in its pure state is something that we never find in the practice of astrology. A planet is always in one or another sign – which conditions it – and it is, at the same time, exchanging energies with other planets, by means of rulerships or aspects. That’s why it is never “pure”. However, it may be more or less close to its pure state.
Mercury in Gemini is intensively mercurial, unless any other planet interferes. His energy is in a somehow “pure” state. This is a qualitative statement.
If that same Mercury is rising however, we are talking about something else: its “strength”. Its manifestation is stronger, that is, it shows itself “more” (you can find signs of its influence on more aspects of the life of the native and in more situations), which is a quantitative kind of phenomenon.
Schmidt used to stress this “intensity versus strength" antinomy, but I don’t remember him mentioning it in the 2006 Project Hindsight Conclave. Consequently, I have no idea of what does he think about this topic nowadays.
This is one of the highest importance issues concerning the interpretation of the astrological charts, with direct consequences in the daily practice of astrology. If the Mercury in Gemini is weak (for instance for being cadent) this means that its ability to manifest itself is poor (its almost “pure” state is of little use). While the angular Mercury (even if it is “impure” or in a toned down state, for instance for being in Capricorn or Piscis, with strong aspects to other planets) manifests itself in greater quantity, that is it is stronger.
This is an issue still open to debate.

3. Potentiality versus actuality (or manifestation)

This antinomy is very close to the previous one. Something that is actualized is stronger, more visible in the world of facts, while something in its potential state keeps the “potentiality” of being actualized one day, although presently it is not actualized.
Several 20th Century astrologers (for example Liz Greene, Bernardette Brady, Steven Arroyo) agree with the idea that the “cross of the matter” (the ascendant/descendent and the MC/IC axes) are zones of the strongest actualization (or manifestation) power of the astrological chart. When Mars is ‘touching’ (or very close to) the cross of the matter you can recognize extensive signs of its presence in the life and in the psychology of the native.
For the traditional astrologer too, the “cross of the matter”, together with the luminaries, is one of the fundamental elements of a chart. Whenever the traditional astrologer is talking about something important (such as the determination of the hyleg or hylaj, or the “Giver of Life”) the two luminaries and the four angles are involved. Even the Lot of Fortune/ Lot of Spirit is a projection of the angular relationship between the luminaries upon the ascendant.

4. Universal versus particular significators

Morinus criticized many of his predecessors (starting with Ptolemy) for mixing up the difference between the universal significance and the particular significance.
Let me try to briefly explain Morinus’ idea about this issue. He says that, contrary to what Ptolemy and others say, the Sun per se does not signify the father. It only signifies the father when it is in the 4th house, rules de 4th, or is anyway connected to the 4th. Any planet can signify the father, as long as it is related to the 4th. The difference however is that the Sun is much more suited to signify the father than other planets. This is what one should mean when one says that the Sun is the universal significator of the father. According to Morinus’ thesis, the Sun not related to the 4th house does not signify the father at all.
(Note that the 20th century astrology is more based on the universal significance than on the particular significance.)
This basic distinction have strong implications on the daily practice of astrology.

5. Symbology versus ‘energy’

A goldsmith works with metals. Metals (iron) are Mars. A goldsmith is ruled by Mars (according to Ptolemy). This is symbology. (see NOTE)
“The nature of Mars is chiefly to dry and to burn (in conformity with his fiery colour and by reason of his nearness to the sun, for the sun’s sphere lies just below him)” – says Ptolemy. This means that Mars is, basically, of the nature of the element Fire. Defining Mars like this is defining it in terms of “energy”.
A native with Mars in a strong position is energetic, easily shows its energy, but, at the same time, likes to stress the differences between him/herself and other people and situations. His likes and dislikes are clear and strong (dry primary quality). He clearly separates what he likes from what he doesn’t like. This means, for example, that he might be a good communicator – due to the vivid way he expresses what he things and feel about life (hot quality combined with dry quality). You don’t need Mercury or Gemini for reaching that conclusion.
I will elaborate on this subject later.
(NOTE - Each specific metal is ruled by a different planet. Mars rules metals in general. The example I give here is based on Ptolemy's Tetrabiblos)

6. Experience versus ‘symbolic deduction’

Imagine that, based on his/her experience (or on statistics), an astrologer or researcher realizes that Jupiter is very often found in the charts of people who end up getting divorced. In this case, when interpreting his clients’ charts, he would take this finding into consideration, although apparently this doesn’t make much sense from a pure symbolic point of view - once the ‘great benefic’, Jupiter, in the house of marriage is the best one could hope to find in terms of marriage.
Another way of approaching the interpretation of a chart would be to entirely follow the symbolic method. Jupiter in the seventh is good for marriage, unless you find strong indications stating the contrary.
Both viewpoints make sense. May be these two ways can complement each other.
One should keep in mind however that this kind of apparent contradictions between new discoveries and previously existing theories might be more apparent than real. Something is discovered which apparently is contradicting an existing theory but in fact it ends up confirming the previously existing theory in a broader way and on a more solid ground.
Imagine that the “Jupiter in the seventh in the divorced people charts” finding did really happened. Would this be a reason to immediately abandon the idea that “Jupiter in the seventh is good for marriage”? I don’t think so. For example, further research could show that the very jupiterian nature of the influence of Jupiter tend to lead to divorces due to its warm and charming nature (element Air), which indicates the predisposition for a great number of relationships. (The meaning of the traditional aphorism “Jupiter in the seventh is good for marriage” would be a mere probabilistic statement meaning the fact that, typically, Jupiter in the seventh favours the marriage. But that doesn’t mean that in all cases that configuration would correspond to a good marriage.)

7. Natal versus horary approaches to astrology

There is a lot to say about this topic. Of course there are not two astrologies, one natal and one horary. There is only one astrology, although the two approaches are different in the way they use the basic mechanisms (such as aspects, rulerships, etc) to read a chart. Authors like Guido Bonatti and William Lilly separate, in their books, the sections where they deal with the reading of a natal chart from the sections where they deal with horary charts. They are absolutely clear about that. The procedures for each case are different. The same topic (for example, the career or profession) is interpreted differently in a natal chart and in a horary chart.
In both cases we deal with the indications that the stars provide about the processes of actualization and transformation in the ‘sublunary world’. However, while in the natal astrology we deal with the chart of the moment when an organic entity comes into being, in the case of the horary we chart and try to interpret the moment when a specific “situation” comes into being (that is, it is formulated before the astrologer).
In the natal case, we have a unipolar reality, one human being, while in the situation under the horary scrutiny we have a multipolar context. In the natal we have one individual, and other people are meaningful only insofar as they have a meaning to, and a influence upon the native.
In the horary chart however we may have several centres. If the question raised has to do with the enemies of the native, it would be possible to get (from the horary chart) detailed information either about the native himself/herself or each of the enemies themselves. In a way, the native (actually, in this case there is no native but a querent) keeps being the centre of the chart, although not in a so marked way as in the case of the natal chart. (There are even cases when the centre of the chart is clearly “the question” itself, while the several individuals involved (including the native) in the “plot” are mere characters of the same plot.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Muhammad Ali's Biography

Muhammad Ali

BIOGRAPHY – Main points

1. His biography is a continuous success story. Although he had some difficult times (namely when – in 1967 - the NY State Athletic Commission suspended his boxing licence and stripped him of his title, then he did not box for three and a half years), he actually won virtually all his battles.
2. His success is a direct consequence of his physical strength and his physical ability to fight, including superb reflexes.
3. Furthermore, his continuous success is also a consequence of his persistent determination to win and his strong will. To be a successful boxer demands a lot of daily training and discipline. To be a winner demands a lot of positive outlook and self confidence.
4. Ali was involved in another battle: the political one. In the 60’s he was audacious enough to challenge the authorities, by refusing to serve in the US Army. He became very unpopular: “Many Americans vehemently condemned Ali’s stand. It came at a time when most people in the United States still supported the war in Southeast Asia” (in Britannica). However, at the same time, according to other biographies, he came to be respected, by some, as a hero who stood up for his principles.
5. “In addition, he was criminally indicted and, on June 20, 1967, convicted of refusing induction into the U.S. armed forces and sentenced to five years in prison. Although he remained free on bail, four years passed before his conviction was unanimously overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court on a narrow procedural ground.” (Britannica)
6. This refusal to serve in the Army is an important episode of his life. However, whether it was a good one or a bad one, that is an arguable question. On one hand, he was not allowed to box, meaning that he couldn’t to do something he certainly loved and needed to do to feel happy. On the other hand, however he eventually went back to the boxing (three and a half years later) and won his case in the New York Supreme Court – a personal and political victory of the highest importance. Everybody was paying attention to him, he was the centre of the world, and he ultimately won – from this viewpoint, it was a good experience.


PHASE 1 (THE BEGINNINGS) - 1954 (12 years old) to 1960 (Rome Olympic Games, golden medal). The beginnings and the golden medal.

PHASE 2 (GROWING) - from 1960 to February 25, 1964. More highly regarded for his charm and personality than for his ringing skills (Britannica).

PHASE 3 (PRIME TIME) – from Feb 1964 (challenged Sonny Liston, and won, becoming the new champion) to April 1967. Dominating boxing, “as thoroughly and magnificently as any fighter ever had” (Britannica). Definitely, his prime time.

PHASE 4 (CONTROVERSY TIME) – from April 1967 (the refusal to serve in the US Army) to October 1970. His most controversial time, being worshipped by some as a hero but hated by many Americans.

PHASE 5 (MUHAMMAD ALI – PART II) – October 1970 to 1979.

PHASE 6 (THE RETIREMENT) – from 1979 until now. Note: This second part of his life reveals a new personality and a new existence, but I’m not going to approach it in this preliminary analysis of his biography.

My comments

a) This analysis seeks more the research than the daily practice of astrology. It may be useful for someone who’s still puzzled by this very basic question: “does astrology work?”.
b) My goal is to compare the astrological analysis with reality. My strategy is to try to match the big picture of the horoscope with the big picture of reality. My supposition is that what is more obvious in the chart should match what is more obvious in the native’s life.

What do I expect to find in Muhammed Ali’s horoscope (and his Chinese Ba Zi’s chart)?

1. I expect his charts to tell me that the native is someone particularly strong, both physically and psychologically. Moreover, I expect them to state it in a very unequivocal way. (One must keep in mind that every astrological chart shows a predisposition for at least some degree of physical and psychological strength of the native. So, the mere presence of a weak semi-sextile between Uranus and Jupiter or Mars is not enough for our purposes.)
2. I expect his charts to tell me that the native is well skilled to (physically) fight. Good reflexes, and so on. Furthermore, I expect the charts to say it in an unequivocal way as well. Ali was not just a good fighter: “Ali’s place in boxing history as one of the greatest fighters ever is secure.” (Britannica)
3. I expect his charts to tell me that the native is not only someone particularly combative but also someone particularly successful in (all) his fights.
4. I expect his charts to unequivocally state that the native tend to be successful and lucky. My comment: most of the celebrities that we study in astrology and “life analysis” (I will define this expression in another place) are successful. If they were not successful, in a way or the other, they wouldn’t be worthy of being studied. But not all of these celebrities know the success during their whole life. A number of them faced hardships and defeats in different epochs of their lives. Ali’s case is different. Even during his hard times (Phase 4) he ended up winning.
5. His charts should show the native as someone daring, audacious, extreme. This radicalism is manifest in his whole career. (Although not in the current retiring phase of his life, PHASE 6)