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Hellenistic Astrology


I've just signed up for Chris Brennan's Introduction to Hellenistic Astrology course and over the coming weeks (and months?) I'll be trying out some of the material and techniques that I'm learning about. This means that from time to time I might need a volunteer or two to act as a guinea pig

I've already run a thread on the Lots in Hellenistic Astrology but reading a natal chart using Hellenisitic techniques is something totally new to me. The emphasis seems to be not so much on describing the personality, but on forecasting the native's future over a period of time. The intial chart reading giving an impression of how succesful or not the native is likely to be in life.

So probably after the first few posts as I try to get to grips with the chart description, this thread will tend to be dominated by predictive techniques.

Hellenistic Astrology came into existence around the first or second century BCE (it's not easy to date precisely and there's some discussion of precisely when it arrived). It is really the Grand Daddy of Horoscopic Astrology, that is where an Astrologer casts a chart for the moment of birth (or other event) and uses, houses, planets and aspects to draw conclusions. It gave meanings to the various twelve houses, meanings which are largely still used or at least based on those original meanings and it gave us the system of aspects (well the major aspects) which we still used today and it seems, introduced the idea of relating signs to the four elements. It also heavily influenced Jyotish, that is the horoscopic Astrology used in India, indeed it's almost certain that Jyotish would not contain horoscopic charts at all but for the importing of Hellenistic principles.

Although all of the surviving texts were originally written in Greek, the writers were dispersed across the former empire of Alexander the Great. The main centre though was undoubtedly Alexandria in Egypt. From the Mesopotamian tradition it took and developed the idea of the Zodiac (settling on twelve signs) and from the Egyptian tradition it took the idea of dirunal motion - the revolution of the Earth on it's axis - giving not only the Ascendant but also the twelve houses that are still used.

It seems very likely that Hellenisitic Astrology was 'invented' quite quickly, using the ideas of those traditions, so it is a very systematised approach from the beginning, rather than developing over a longish period.

Because it's a 2,000 year old version of Astrology, there's the obvious question of how relevant it is today. So in my next post I'm going to show that it's the Astrology that most of you are familiar with, or at least came into contact with first - The 'Your Stars' Newspaper column.
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Your Stars!!


I know I often criticise these columns because they emphasise the Sun alone and ignore the rest of a person's chart. So in this post I'm going to be a bit kinder to them (though not a huge lot).

The main reason why the Sun is the only planet to be used is that these columns are aimed at the general reader, who may have little knowledge of Astrology and the vast majority of whom has no idea what their chart looks like. Given that the age range of readers may be between 10 and 90, the Sun is the only planet whose position is reasonably predictable for all ages. All that the publisher need do is list the day/month(but not year) ranges for the Sun in the various signs, and the reader can then select the prediction that applies to them.

The problem for the Astrologer who writes the column (assuming that the publisher bothers paying one) is that the position of every planet other than the Sun is totally unknown and in the case of the Sun has possible range of 30 degrees. And that's where Hellenistic Astrology comes to their aid.

Helenistic Astrology used Whole Sign Houses for 'topics' that is the various areas of a person's life, each house was co-incident with a sign, depending on the sign in which the Ascendant lies. Now a modern Astrologer would simply cast a Sunrise chart for someone for whom the time of birth was unknown, in effect assuiming that everyone is born at sunrise. And the degree of the Ascendant would be part the way through a sign, depending on how far into the solar month the person was born. This would leave part of the sign above the horison (and thus in the twelfth house).

Using Whole Sign houses would make ALL of the rising sign the first house, irrespective of how much of it had risen. Thus someone born with say 3 degrees of Leo rising would have exactly the same first house as someone with 28 degrees of Leo rising. For both all of Virgo would be the second house, all of Libra the third, all of Scorpio the fourth. through to all of Cancer for the twelfth. Thus casting the prediction chart for a Leo Ascendant automatically fixes all the other houses and threfore allows predictions to be directed to particular areas of life.

Indeed the Hellenisitic Astrologer was used to casting charts which did not have the Ascendant as the first house but had a different starting point such as the Lot of Fortune, or the Sect light (that is the Sun by day and the Moon by night). Although the Ascendant was used for the large majority of charts, this acceptance of other 'starting points' was what led eventually to the concept of 'turning the chart' which is still used by modern Astrologers.

So we have a blank chart, with the houses as whole signs, starting from the sign of the Sun (we can't do a nocturnal version because we don't know which sign the readers' Moon is in), and the 12 houses laid out.

The next stage is the only one that requires some research. We look up in an ephemeris the current planetary positions for the period for which we want to make a prediction. You can find an online ephemeris here:

http://www.astro.com/swisseph/ae/2000/ae_2013.pdf

If we are doing predictions for a daily newspaper, we really only need to bother with the classical 7 planets (unless we want to allow for these being conjunct or in aspect to the outers) and even then it's really Moon, Mercury, Venus and Mars, that will figure the most, except for when Jupiter and Saturn change signs and indeed the outers in this way). So for our 'Leo' we could have predicted on 6 October that Saturn had entered their fourth House (Scorpio) and that they would find the situation with parents (or simply at home) getting more constrained over the next few months.

We would plot the planets daily on our blank chart, and look also not just for sign ingresses but also stations retrograd and direct and indeed when they leave a sign. We would also look for major aspects between the transiting planets and each other and to the Whole sign houses.

Now Hellenisitc Astrology used whole sign aspects, so Saturn entering Leo is not only bringing domestic constraints, it's also squaring the Ascendant by whole sign, so those constraints are going to make life difficult for the 'Leo' That might come to a head when the Sun enters Tauru sin April, because now the Sun will be in opposition to Saturn and the Sun is the 'Ascendant' ruler. As we can see that this will occur on the 28th April, we can used that to pin down the day in which domestic issues come to a head.

Strictly speaking Hellenisitc Astrologer were a little more sophisticated, whole sign aspects were mainly seen as being more effective if they came from a planet earlier in the zodiac So the Sun would be opposing Saturn from the moment it entered Taurus to the moment it left, but the period when the degree aspect is 3 degrees or less would indicate it's strongest effect (in both directions), so we might build a 3 day range either side of that prediction.

Hellenisitic Astrology labelled Venus and Jupiter as having a favourable effect and Mars and Saturn having an unfavourable effect (which is still seen as the case). So When Jupiter enters Aries (the ninth House for our Leo) it will not only benefit areas such as overseas travel or education, it will also trine the Ascendant from the right, so this will also have a good effect on the person's health and spiritual well being. When Venus enters the fifth House (Sagittarius) she will also have a beneficial effect not only on children (born or as yet unborn) but also on the affairs of the Seventh house (Aquarius by sextile), so the marriage might be blessed with a child or existing children bring happiness to the parents.

These are all simple statements that could be made for our predictions. and all we need to do is complete the same information for the other eleven 'solar Ascendants' using the same positions by sign (but not house) which we have taken from the ephemeris.

So our newspaper column is constructed using the Hellenistic whoe sign houses and whole sign aspects plus planetary ingresses, stations, and egresses coupled with aspects between transiting planets and especially aspects of those planets to the Ascendant. You can't really do this using modern Astrology because it doesn't use whole sign houses and aspects are only seen to be by degree, not by sign. Thus even if we know that Saturn has ingressed into Scorpio we are not sure which house that is, under a quadrant house system. Indeed the fourth cusp might be in any one of Libra, Scorpio and Sagittarius.

Now does that mean that newspaper columns are to be trusted. Well not really because they only show a small amount of what is going on astrologically and any self respecting Hellenistic Astrologer would have been wary about using their techniques in this way (unless of course Murdochius offered them a lot of drachmas to do it). But it does show there is a kernel of genuine Astrology there and it's something you can actually do for yourself or others (any volunteers to do the Aeclectic 'Your Stars' column?).

So if you know your Ascending sign, you might actually try reading the predictions for that, instead of your Sun sign and you might find that it works better. If you wish to keep to your Sun sign and are born within a day or so of the quoted range of days, please check using the epehemeris for your birthday to see which sign the Sun actually was in on that day and indeed if it changed signs at some point during the day, check to see if that was before or after you were born. There is some annual variation in solar ingresses and you shouldn't go through your life believing tht you are a Leo when you are in fact a Cancer
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Ronia  Ronia is offline
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I am a volunteer but not for the My Stars column. I have tried in the past reading the columns (and monthly horoscopes) for my Ascendant but they were even further off than for my Sun sign where certain astrologers actually have hit the nail more then once.
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I think we need to be careful about 'horoscopes' in this sense. When you ignore all of a chart but for one planet, albeit a very important planet you're bound to get a highly skewed result and as you say one that is far more likely to be wide of the mark, rather than an accurate prediction. They are in effect a piece of fun, rather than a serious attempt at prediction, and they need to be recognised as such. I still get hot under the collar when people take them seriously or believe that what they are reading is all that there is to Astrology and on that basis dismiss it out of hand. I think I once said that they are one of the main obstacles to getting people to take Astrology seriously.

My aim here is to show that a 2,000 year old system can be and indeed is used today, though the writers of those columns may not be familiar with the origins of their methods, and they may be using those techniques in a way that doesn't do the practice of Astrology much credit.

I doubt that the Alexandran copy of 'Hoi Horoi' or 'Apollo' contained such a column, so please don't think I'm trying to justify Helleniistic Astrology on the basis of what appears in 'The Times' or the 'Sun'.

However as I go through, you and others may see techniques that you can integrate into your own practice, without becoming a Hellenisitic Fundamentalist LOL. One such is the use of Whole Sign Houses. I'm finding that for some things they can be very insightful and far less ambivalent than quadrant houses. But I still won't give up using a quadrant system. They in turn can be extremely useful. Indeed as I understand it by the end of the Hellenistic period Astrologers were using both in tandem, in order to get a better understanding of a nativity.

I also see no reason at all why Uranus, Neptune, the plutoids and the asteroids, etc cannot be used together with some Hellenistic approaches. Chris Brennan sees the future as something of a synthesis of our renewed knowledge of the Tradition and many of the concepts and techniques of the last 60 - 100 years.

I started my voyage into the 'Tradition' because I wasn't satisfied with Astrology as it was practiced and I'm lucky in a sense that my misgivings coincided with the revival of traditioal techniques. But I didn't really intend to stay rooted in the tradition but use it's context to sort out which modern bits were ones I could use and go forward with. I've taken a lot longer than I originally expected but I am beginning to see ways in which I can begin to use at least some of the outer planets in a way that is grounded in astrological principles rather than some psychologically oriented belief in the value of Greek mythology as a metaphor for both the psyche and the meaning of planets. Who knows in 10 years time Dave and I might both be practising a new hybrid.
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Minderwiz, your detailed explanations make me (a) wish I had paid more attention to math in school, and (b) finally understand why the daily horoscopes in the papers are so off the mark. Still, it'd be pretty hard to explain in one soundbite to the non-astrologically inclined why that is so...!

Given the constraints you list re the system, or rather what we know of the system, what would Hellenistic astrologers back in the day have used their techniques for?

I would be keen to be your guinea pig for practice as long as it doesn't involve too much running on a treadmill (weak ligaments you know) but like Ronia I'm certainly not volunteering for a 'Your Stars' column Something tells me that by the time I'm done with today's stars, it'll be next month for the rest of the planet.
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Stages of Analysis


I'm now ready to do a trial run on a willing subject I did get one or two volunteers but given the delay since I last posted I'll use this as post as a reminder just to ensure that I still have their permission to use their charts.

There are four stages in the process of a Hellenistic reading.

Stage 1 is the Preliminary Natal Analysis (PNA) and involves examining each planet in the chart, with special attention to the Lord of the Ascendant

Stage 2 is Universal Hermetics, which is really concerned with indicating how well or otherwise the planetary placements allow the native to navigate the sea of life - an adverse set of placements will make it difficult for the native to cope, a good set of placements should indicate the steering of a succesful course through life. The presumption here is that the native has a goal or set of goals he or she wishes to acnieve.

Stage 3 Topical Analysis. This looks at individual areas of life by examining the houses, their rulers and any relevant Lots.

Stage 4 Forecasting what future events will occur and how the native will cope with them. There is a battery of techniques for forecasting, some of which are still used today such as Transits, others of which have dropped out of Western Astrology but still occur in Jyotish (Indian Astrology) such as the Time Lords (Dashas) and ones that whilst originating in Hellenistic Astrology gained a more general use in later periods, such as Solar Returns or Primary Directions.

For this exercise I'm going to confine myself to Stages 1 & 2. Stages 3 and 4 will be the subject of later exercises.

I am using two sources for my work here. The first is Robert Schmidt of Project Hindsight, whose 'Nautical Paradigm will feature in Stage 2 and also some material from Chris Brennan. At the moment I don't know which of these two will prove the most useful, so forgive me if I seem to do things in two rather different ways.

I'm also using Delphic Oracle software and this is configured for the Robert Schmidt approach but should be easily adaptable to allow for any differences in Chris Brennan's material.

Finally in this post, I should point out the obvious. Hellenistic Astrology, like much of Traditional Astrology is not primarily a psychological approach, so you're not going to get a character analysis as such but you will get a 'fitness for purpose' assessment in the sense of an indication of how well or otherwise you will do in achieving your goals (assuming that I get it right - which is by no means guaranteed). The more useful stuff for the sitter will probably come when I look at stages 3 and 4 but to do those succesfully I really need to have completed the first two stages.
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Configurations


I also need to say something about configurations or aspects, as Hellenistic Astrology has some significant differences from modern practice, or even the practice of William Lilly or J, B, Morin in the seventeenth century.

The commonality with the modern approach is the use of Conjunctions, Oppositions, Squares, Trines, and Sextiles but the differences lie in precisely how these are treated. The first difference is that Hellenistic Astrology has two ways of looking at them, by sign and by degree. The latter is the common approach now but was only part of the approach for the Hellenisitic Astrologer. The first difference is that Hellenistic Astrologers would allow an aspect by sign. So if you have Mercury at 3 degrees Cancer and Jupiter at 27 degrees Cancer, these two are treated as being in conjunction or to be more precise, to be 'with each other' (co-preseent). The very presence of the one, will have some affect on the other, rather like two people having rooms in the same house, even if they rarely meet. If they are between 3 to 15 degrees of separation from each other, it's called Assembly or Meeting (such as Mercury at 13 degrees Cancer and Jupiter at 27 degrees Cancer). Finally if they are less than 3 degrees apart they are Adhering to one another. In other words the closer together they are the stronger becomes the relationship, but it is never entirely absent.

A similar idea holds for the Opposition. There is opposition by sign, in which, say Saturn in 15 degrees of Capricorn gives 'testimony' to both Mercury and Jupiter in Cancer. But an aspect of 3 degrees or less allows the planets to scrutinise each other. This 3 degree orb can cross sign boundaries, whereas the whole sign aspect cannot.

With Squares, Trines and Sextiles, there is a very important distinction, which is rarely found in modern Astrology. That is between Left and Right sided aspects. Consider Venus in 27 degrees Aries. Venus squares Mercury in Cancer by a square in the direction of the signs (forward in the Zodiac). If you can imagine standing in the middle of the chart, looking at Venus, then Mercury will lie to the left of Venus. This aspect is taken as being more powerful than Mercury's square to Venus by sign. Indeed the Hellenistic Astrologers' theory of optics allowed Venus to see Mercury but made it very difficult for Mercury to see Venus (the idea being both are looking in the direction they are going - so Venus being behind Mercury can clearly see Mercury ahead, on the other hand Mercury is facing the wrong way to see Venus and would have to 'glance backwards' to stand a chance). They use the term Casting Rays, to describe Mercury's attempt at seeing Venus and casting rays is weaker than 'seeing'. So we have a way of distinguishing the relative power of two planets in a square (trine or sextile).

Now consider Venus and Jupiter. Both are in 27 degrees of their respective signs and the three degree orb comes into play. Within this range the analogy is that Jupiter can easily glance round and see Venus - the power of the aspect is more even between the planets. The phrase used is to 'hurl rays', so Jupiter is hurling rays at Venus. Which is going to prevail will now depend on additional factors (such as essential and accidental dignities).

This takes some getting used to as it's not something that crops up in a modern approach. Which is one of the reasons I need to see how this works in a few natal charts.

There are one or two additional configurations, but I'll deal with those if and when they arise.
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Sect


The last preliminary area I want to say something about because it will arise in all the chart analyses is Sect. Hellenisitic Astrology divides the planets into two teams or sects. The first Sect comprises Sun, Jupiter and Saturn and the strength of this sect is that it plays better by day. So if you were born during the day, Sun, Jupiter and Saturn will function better than they would otherwise do in the same signs and degrees but in a night chart.

Moon, Venus and Mars are the night time team or sect. They function better by night (when the Sun is below the horizon).

Mercury is as usual, equivocal. Depending on the chart and which planets he is configured to, Mercury can be either a day or a night planet. I'll look at this on a case by case basis, as it's something I need to practice.

Chris Brennan says that being in sect (that is a day chart for Sun, Jupiter and Saturn and a night chart for Moon, Venus and Mars) does not increase the quantity of a planet's power but affects the quality of how it performs. Being out of sect reduces the quality of performance. This is particularly important for the benefics and malefics. In any one chart one of the benefics, either Jupiter or Venus will be in sect and the other out of sect. You really want the benefic of sect to be placed better than the out of sect benefic. With the malefics, the one out of sect is more likely to be associated with troubles, difficulties and setbacks.

The idea of sect has disappeared from Astrology in the modern era, indeed Lilly made no reference to it in the Seventeenth Century. Whether it is a useful concept is something that I want to investigate.
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This is fascinating Minderwiz, I'm still willing to be your guinea pig. Shall I PM you details for you to cast my chart?
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You still have the permission to use my chart.
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