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From Lilly's unpublished papers: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:


  1. This is great gift!

    It was you who find the chart?
    It would be interesting to know details of your discover.

    Which library is the manuscript?


  2. Yes, I found it, but there was nothing difficult about it. I found reference to it in the autobiographical notes of Elias Ashmole and followed it up. It was something that anyone could have done.

    Ashmole's collection is in the Bodleian Library.

    I'll post more about all of this later on, but will probably write something for the autumn edition of "The Tradition" journal, too.

  3. Thank you very much for Lilly's true chart, Sue. Unfortunately I don't have a copy of the AA Journal where you wrote about it (btw, which number is it?), so I wonder if you could reveal the data for this chart. The AA Online Chart Database has the following data:

    Date of Birth: 11 May 1602
    Time (Hours:Mins:Secs): 02:13:00
    Time Zone: GMT
    Hours to GMT: 00:00

    Longitude: 1° W 15’ 0”
    Latitude: 52° N 47’ 0”


    When I try to fit the planetary positions you give into Solar Fire I get a very late Aries ascendant.

    And while I'm here I'd like to thank you for blogging. I love to read your musings.

    Best regards,
    Erna Ahlfors

  4. The original doesn't give the time, but it's round about 2pm (see below).The date given by the AA is New Style (GC). The latitude given is 53°N with no longitude given (see below).

    You won't be able to replicate this chart very easily because we are using computers not tables - even with modern tables, it's difficult to replicate computerised calculations. Also, longitude was calculated differently then - Greenwich had not yet been denoted as 0°. There was a system of longitude which you'll find in the back of "Christian Astrology", but I'm not sure that this was definitive.

    So, you might like to try playing around with the time of about 2.05pm (1st May) with Regio. cusps. Do let me know if you manage to get closer to the original than I did, I found the 3rd cusp difficult to reconcile.

    I should say that William Lilly's appearance is Piscean and not Arien.

    This is actually a good subject for an article!

    Thank you, Erna, for your kind words; to my surprise, I've found that I quite enjoy 'blogging'.

  5. Apologies, I forgot to mention that I can't remember which issue of the AA Journal the article was published. You might like to search for "Beyond the Great Fire: Lilly and Ashmole", which was the title of the lecture and probably of the article, too. Or write to them, they are usually very helpful.

  6. Luis Ribeiro has kindly located the details of the AA Journals in which this chart was included as part of an article.

    Part 1 - Volume 47, Number 3, May/June 2005
    Part 2 - Volume 47, Number 4, July/August 2005

  7. Thank you Luis for finding the AA Journal. That was nice of you to dig it up.



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