Thursday, 25 June 2009

Terms' Poll

The Tradition journal and the Academy of Astrology is now conducting a survey to discover which system of terms is favoured by practitioners. You can participate by following this link:

Don't forget to download your FREE copy of The Tradition NEWS for updates, the results of the House System Poll and comments on the Vernal Ingress. Follow the journal link to the right.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Manilius on Hard Work

There would be no harm in emphasising Peter Stockinger's comment below on House Systems where he tells us that the secret to becoming a competent astrologer is hard work. It reminded me of a passage in Astronomica by Marcus Manilius which was written in the 1st century AD and which very eloquently explains the principle.

The object of your quest is God: you are seeking to scale the skies and, though born beneath the rule of fate, to gain knowledge of that fate; you are seeking to pass beyond your understanding and make yourself master of the universe. The toil involved matches the reward to be won, nor are such high attainments secured without a price; so wonder not at the winding route and the intricacy of things. It is enough that we have been given the power to make the search: let the rest be left to us. Unless you mine mountains, gold will elude your grasp, and the earth that is heaped above will bar access to the wealth it hides. Men will traverse the entire globe to make jewels available, and will not shrink from occupying the sea to gain the precious pearl. Each year the anxious farmer will utter every prayer he knows, and yet how small is the yield of the treacherous countryside! We shall face the perils of the sea-winds in our search for gain and follow the god of war in hope of booty. Ah, shame on those willing to pay so high a price for perishable goods! Luxury too entails a kind of military service: the glutton keeps sleepless watch over that which proves his ruin, and profligates oft pant for their own undoing. What then shall we give for heaven? What is the worth of that, with which we may purchase all? Man must expend his very self before God can dwell in him.
Nothing much has changed in 2000 years.

House Systems

Following the publication of the House Systems' Poll in The Tradition NEWS , Peter Stockinger has made some interesting comments on his web log. I should say straightaway that I agree with him completely and because I think his post is important, I would like to take up his discussion from another perspective.

When I read the results of this poll, I was reminded of the situation with house systems when I began in astrology in the early 1980s when Equal House and Placidus were the dominant systems. Campanus, Koch, Porphyry and many others were discussed and written about, new systems were presented each supposedly answering doubts found within the others. Regiomontanus came to the forefront because of the indefatigable work of Olivia Barclay in her attempts to promote the work of William Lilly, thus it was that this system became popular, and I will say more about this below. With all the arguments about which was the definitive house system, most students were left confused and unsure about what to do, until someone (I don't know who) came up with the solution of the 'no house' house system. That is, the angles of the chart would be calculated and then left at that; the chart being delineated through the quadrants. (Porphyry itself was seen as a compromise between Equal House and Placidus and thus as a solution.) This, too, became fashionable and I recall that it held its ground for a little while.

If I were to list the order of popularity of the house systems from 20 or 30 years ago, you'd see that little has changed in terms of the understanding of house systems. The choice for most people seems to made on the basis of who it is that is recommending the system, and little to do with the system itself.

I began my studies before the advent of the personal computer and astrological software. A few years later we did have some software for certain
scientific calculators, but that was it – we used tables. This probably was beneficial because to be able to generate these other, more novel systems, one needed the tables to go with them. Tables of houses could only be found by going to a bookshop, although sometimes we could buy through mail order. Also, calculating manually did tend to slow down some of our more eccentric activities; I could calculate and draw a chart in about 15 minutes (this is very fast), but even I was disinclined to calculate lots of charts simply to test some new-fangled technique.

Peter Stockinger has brought up the idea of fads and fashions in astrology and I agree with him, but this doesn't only extend to the house system, it also extends to the astrological method in totality. Modern, Traditional, Medieval and Classical (Hellenistic) attract their own adherents or followers, but the largest proportion of each are those who use a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Mixing systems or methodologies is a mistake and does no justice to any of the systems or methods employed. You might think that the mixing takes place between the Modern system and one of the earlier methodologies, but this isn't completely true. There are many practitioners who mix, say, Medieval with Traditional, or either of these with Classical which displays a lack of confidence and understanding.

Working astrology on a 'pick 'n mix' basis is understandable these days because there is so much information so easily available through the internet. But what needs to be said, I think, is that its recent manifestation began with the rising success of the Tradition in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s. Whilst the Tradition was encapsulated within horary astrology, and stayed there, no questions or antagonisms were raised; it was a specialised field that required its own 'rules' and no-one disabused the Modern practitioners of that (readers might not know that when I began my studies in the Tradition, horary was an astrological pariah). Later I began to lecture and write on the use of the Tradition in nativities and mundane work. It became clear to me that the idea that the same system could be universally applied was causing some people problems, particularly as other Traditionalists began to do the same, and as natal courses became available. It seems to be at around that time that the divisions of application were set, that is, that the Traditional system was to be used for horary and perhaps mundane, and the Modern system for nativities. As this happened, so too did decisions about house systems – one for each astrological application.

There is only one astrology and it encompasses nativities, horary, elections, and mundane. Choose your period and stick to it, learn it thoroughly and cleanse your mind of everything else you've learned about astrology. Do not be tempted to introduce techniques from other periods ('bolt ons' don't work in astrology), use the house system associated with that period, and understand the historical and cultural context for that period. Just because we have access to all these historical periods, doesn't mean that we have to make porridge of them. Astrology is the language of the stars, not Esperanto.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

The Tradition NEWS

There is a free download of The Tradition NEWS available now at The Tradition Web Log. It features updates on the forthcoming issue of The Tradition and articles.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Lilly's Nativity in Finnish

My article regarding William Lilly's true nativity has been translated into Finnish by Petri Laakso and can be found at

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

William Lilly's Nativity - continued

My decision to publish William Lilly's true nativity here was made after much thought.In terms of circulation, the internet is second to none, but it has many drawbacks, too. I wanted the widest possible audience for an astrological fact. Too often astrologers are deluged with opinion and it is time that a few facts were introduced into a daily diet of pre-digested whimsy. William Lilly's nativity, offered for your interest here, is a fact, but not a universal truth. It is a fact because it exists and because it was the calculation which Lilly himself used (Elias Ashmole tells us so). It is not a universal truth because it is a personal instrument rectified to Lilly's own satisfaction and so broadly comes under the heading of opinion. Nevertheless, it is Lilly's opinion, not that of an enemy. I don't understand why it is that astrologers appear to accept so readily that Gadbury's approximation is good enough to work with. But, unfortunately, this is just an example of an attitude which helps to perpetuate less than rigorous scholarship. I am not a scholar, I am an astrologer who has engaged in serious study and research, even so, I am capable of providing the sources of my information so that readers may form their own opinions.

There is only one astrological system. It may have evolved over the centuries, but it remains fundamentally the same and anyone who has even looked at the authors of the past will see that. However, method does vary and we can link that to cultural changes, yet the system remains recognisable from one age to another - until the 20th century that is. William Lilly is important because he presents the system in a way that modern minds can readily understand because his time is much nearer to our own. Still we have to deal with the cultural differences, but nothing so vast as that when we try to approach the medieval period or the classical. William Lilly is important because he speaks of astrology as it was, not as it became through the Enlightenment. He speaks of astrology as a magical art, inextricably linked with the other hermetic arts. William Lilly is important because he practised what he preached and his success will never be matched by anyone in this age, we simply do not have that level of understanding. Our culture has robbed us of the means by which we might approach the subject and we have lost innocence, as William Blake might say. And yet we still claim astrology as our own...

The very least we can do is to get our facts straight.

My thanks to Luis Ribeiro of Academia de Astrologia (link shown right) who produced this video.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Lilly's Nativity iin Portuguese

The article below regarding the true nativity of William Lilly has been translated into Portuguese and can be found by following the link to the right for Primum Mobile. My thanks to Helena Avelar and Luis Ribeiro for translating it.

Friday, 12 June 2009

The Nativity of William Lilly

For many years, the only extant copy of Lilly's nativity was that provided by John Gadbury in his Collectio Geniturarum of 1662. This version was also used in the Regulus facsimile of Christian Astrology in 1985; since Gadbury hated Lilly, it seems a travesty to have published it in Lilly's greatest work. I know that Olivia Barclay detested the chart, but she wanted the facsimile to be published and thus didn't stand in its way. (To set the record straight, it was she who began the recovery of the Tradition in the early 1980s by promoting Lilly's work and allowing her original copy to be pulled apart for photographing. As much as other notable astrologers might have done in this regard later on, she was the first, the most active and the most well-known. I know this because I was there, having been one of her earliest students.)

Whether it matters or not that most astrologers know only Gadbury's rather poisonous version of Lilly's nativity, I will leave for you to decide. However, since we always bemoan the lack of accurate data, it seems a little odd to ignore the chart that Lilly himself used. I have published it before in the Astrological Associations's Journal, and presented it at a lecture at least five years ago, so it hasn't been hidden from sight.

There are serious differences, particularly regarding the Moon's position and that of some of the cusps, between this 'authorised' version and that published by Gadbury and his friend Blackwell. You will notice that Lilly has gone to the trouble of calculating some planetary positions to the second, so it's a little optimistic to say that the differences are small and thus trivial. If you are not using primary directions for natal predictions, then these discrepancies won't mean as much, but it seems that to follow the Tradition and *not* use primaries is missing the point somewhat.

The following chart is from MS Ashm. 394 and is endorsed by Ashmole himself as being Lilly's nativity copied by Ashmole. This is the correct chart and the one which Lilly rectified and directed himself. Anyone wishing to comment on Lilly's life should be referring to this and no other unless for reasons of comparison.

From Lilly's unpublished papers:

From Gadbury's published works:

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Physical Description

The workshop at Lisbon brought up a number of interesting astrological points relating to physical description, one being the value of "moles, marks and scars". It is a technique used by William Lilly and explained in Christian Astrology and one which I've favoured for many years. However, I have used it mainly for horary work and haven't really taken the opportunity to explore it in nativities. The workshop enabled me to correct that and I am now more convinced that this technique is valuable.

Obviously, in such an environment, it wasn't possible to be certain in all cases – they could hardly take their clothes off to check some of the more private areas! I'm hoping, though, that those who needed to check afterwards will do so and let me have the results. If this occurs, it might be possible (with their permission and without identification) to post those results here. In any case, the results were positive enough to warrant further investigation into those charts and supported my experience with horary descriptions. So, hopefully, there will be more from me on this later on.

So, watch this space...