I wanted for a long time to open a section on Hellenistic astrology, as well as to write this article, but something kept stopping me. Even after I had read almost all the books and articles on the subject, listened to a lot of audios, even examined many charts, using the techniques of Ancient Astrology, something was holding me back. I read and understood each sentence, but something was escaping me. I had fallen into a crisis, and it was a serious one. Some time had to pass, during which I deliberately ceased practising Astrology, to realize that the crisis I had was one of perceptions.
I had entered into something incredibly deep, but it had become clear that I was lacking a Basis. This Basis is of course Philosophy. What do I mean?
Hellenistic Astrology: the key role of Philosophy
Back when I started studying Astrology, because of my personal activities focused on the Spirit, I did not have the contemporary worldview. This helped me tremendously. I started studying Astrology from 19th and first decades of the 20th century, where there is no psychology. Then, for some period I also studied psychological/modern Astrology. But when I seriously took this Art up and enrolled in the courses of Robert Zoller, it became absolutely obvious that one can not practice true Astrology if they have the modern worldview, because it is counter to the Spirit and is therefore non-astrological.
Because of my own involvement with the Spirit, the transit time for me was short and painless. What followed were years of cementing the views of Medieval Astrology. The problem was that I was even taught that Medieval Astrology’s development took place between 2nd-1st century BCE to 17th century AD, i.e. that there is no difference between Medieval and Hellenistic Astrology. A big mistake!
What I mean is that without a philosophy consistent with Hellenistic Astrology, there is no point in starting with it whatsoever.
After reading Plato (especially the Timaeus) and materials from Stoicism and rereading Greek mythology, but from this Hellenistic centred point of view, things started to get clear for me, but more importantly – I started to feel a little bit of the backbone of Hellenistic Astrology. Again, I can not stress enough how absolutely vital Philosophy is!
Hellenistic Astrology: the deliberately concealed manner in which its texts were written
All of this is complicated by the concealed/occulted and the sort of indirect way in which the ancient practitioners and philosophers wrote. Perhaps the clearest example is the dispute between Plato and his student Aristotle – dispute to this day, that is, 2350 years after death – which can not be resolved. Furthermore, the way of writing itself, the very ancient Greek language can be very ambiguous, and one can very easily maneuver between the meanings with punctuation and write sentences with length of entire paragraphs and even pages.
Add to this that the books which Hellenistic astrologers wrote were meant as guides for their students, not to substitute teachers. In other words, the information was sketched, but no correlations and synthesis were made …. and not only the link of the transmission of these sources was interrupted, but the historical and philosophical currents on which Hellenistic Astrology was based, suffered a great decline and went “under the radar” with the occurrence of organized religions. Only thus can you begin to understand why this is so and why certain passages are extremely difficult to understand, although every word is translated!
Change in philosophy
After changing /adjusting my philosophy, I could not use the same astrological chart. It just did not make sense. As much as I wanted to use my favorite square chart, I could not. The only possible compromise was it to show the ascensional times of the zoidia and to emphasize the zoidia.
Speaking of philosophy, I throw away Ptolemy with a big sigh of relief and place Valens on the throne – where he belongs. Be warned, even those dealing with Medieval and especially the so-called Renaissance and the Astrology of Lily (16-17century), you will have serious problems. As far as modern astrology practitioners are concerned, the faster you unlearn it, the greater your chances are to begin to understand how deep the rabbit hole (Astrology) can really be. This is about a living Universe, the Creator, the forces serving the FateS, Spirits, and where man fits into the whole Scheme.
We are studying of the Consciousness of the Cosmic Soul, not some rough physical emanations of the planets. Planets indicate the Language of Creation and processes inside of it. They speak and make phases. The trick is this whole thing, this Logos, to be turned into human language.
There has never existed nor can it exist the so called humanistic astrology. This is an oxymoron, and shows the ignorance and arrogance of modern practitioners who imagine that they can humanize anything, no matter how big.
Astrology does not depend and in any way is derived from human life, nor is its role to be subordinate to it. Astrology is a Cosmic Language. It is pure coincidence, in astrological terms, that humanity exists and can accordingly use Astrology. I’m not sure whether you understand what ensues from that. You know, it would be unthinkable for a man in ancient times to say “my Venus is on your Sun”, for example. Planets are not yours and cannot be not only yours, but to belong to anyone except to the Creator. Therefore, the correct way to say is “Aphrodite / Venus in my natal chart is” in such and such a place or with such and such planet or a Lot or a star.
Hellenistic Astrology: the concept of the Rulers of the Times
Undoubtedly the most important thing in Hellenistic Astrology is the concept of the Rulers of the Times (misleadingly called “time lords”, which implies that there is only one time, whereas in actuality there are many timeS. Please be aware of this as this is what almost everyone uses and it is wrong!). They are called Chronocrators from Greek. For those practising Medieval Astrology, that will not be so much news because at least the profection technique (although in its extremely simplified form) was transmitted. So was the directing through the terms/bounds or so called Distributions. In addition, the Persians added Firdaria and the Arabs the Lord of the Circle/Period/Orb.
Yet one can say that even Medieval Astrology is poor in terms of Rulers of the Times. But more importantly – the view of them has changed. Quite expectedly of course, nothing survives of the Rulers of the Times doctrine in modern astrology. Therefore, instead of periods divided by many sub-events culminating in the main event, only single events are being watched for (e.g. solar arcs or transits), which is a highly incomplete view. Needless to say, the Rulers of the Times are at the top of the hierarchy of predictive Astrology, while transits are at the lowest possible level.
The three approaches for entering the chart in Hellenistic Astrology
Another fundamental that has been lost is the approach of reading an astrological chart. There are three such in Hellenistic Astrology. As usual, they are not really given names, as is the case with the predictive techniques. Robert Schmidt calls these approaches:
1) Universal 2) Topical, 3) The approach of the Rulers of the Times;
Each of them is a way to enter the chart, but at different angles.
The Universal approach provides general information about life, such as: to what level someone would reach in society/eminence, general happiness etc.
The Topical approach examines specific topics only: will the native have children, will they marry, will they be financially rich or poor or middle, whether they will be traveling a lot, what profession they will have, etc.
The Rulers of the Times approach examines specific pieces of time in the native’s life and says what will happen in them. For example, if the chart shows that you will get married after the age of 30, the period between the ages of 20 and 30, although activating the topic of marriage and partners, will happen so that you will not marry. Instead, you will receive an inheritance in this period, not in the previous one, for example, provided this is promised in your natal chart.
The key thing to understand is that all three approaches should be used and that the Hellenistic astrologer should consider the whole life of the native. He/she must think biographically – how separate and seemingly unrelated or even minor episodes of his life – magnificently come together at a later stage and culminate, regardless of topic. ALL this is based on the concept of the Rulers of the Times.
Whole sign houses and the names of the 12 places
Another key component is the so called “whole sign houses” system 1. After carefully reviewing and translating Hellenistic texts it became clear to Robert Schmidt that whole sign houses were used by every single Hellenistic Astrologer.
Accordingly, the term “house” is wrong. In Hellenistic Astrology it is called “place” (topos). House is the home or domicile of a planet. For example, Cancer is the house of the Moon, The Lion is the house of the Sun. So the 7th house for example, we call it the place of marriage.
As this is an introductory article, I will not be dwelling on the meanings and differences of the places. Here are the names of places:
1) The Ascendant (the Horoscope/Horoskopos, Hour marker) is known as the Helm;
2) The second place is the Gate of Hades;
3) The third place is the Goddess;
4) Fourth place is subterraneous place, or the lower Midheaven;
5) The fifth place is that of Good Fortune;
6) The sixth place is that of Bad Fortune;
7) The seventh place is known as the setting place;
8) Eighth place is known as the place of death and idle place;
9) The ninth place is the God;
10) The tenth place is known as a place of profession, actions, power;
11) The eleventh place is the Good Daimon /Spirit;
12) The twelfth place is known as the Bad Daimon.
Quadrant systems, those based for dividing the distance between angles in 3 parts, are only used to measure the strength/activity of a planet. This system was used up to the 9th century when Abu Mashar began emphasizing the quadrant system Alchabitius (there was no Placidus and Regiomontanus back then) and made the solar revolution chart a separate chart with house cusps. The quadrant systems were used only for two cases: one was the calculation of the length of life, and the other is too complex to go into in this introductory article.
This is a very important element in Hellenistic Astrology. You can not hope to use it with a quadrant system. Ptolemy did not actually even use houses, but only topics i.e places = the Topical approach. It takes time, but starting to use topical places (it is more correct to say topical places than whole sign houses) is inevitable. It took some time even for myself to switch to topical places because I was taught quadrant, although the topical places had to be considered. But I was not told what the history of houses was. You see for yourselves what dangerous consequences may result from a break in the tradition 2!
Astrological language is used in Hellenistic Astrology, not astronomical
I already mentioned how the ancient astrologers expressed themselves and how deep the ancient Greek language is. It is time to focus on something more important – the language of Astrology. Since so many key terms and concepts have been lost, what has been preserved from the language of Astrology? Unfortunately, almost nothing is left, that is, much less has remained than the preserved techniques. This is an absolutely vital topic that deserves utmost attention and covering in detail, but the material will become very long.
I absolutely recommend the „Definitions and Foundations” book, translated and published by Robert Schmidt in 2009, and his other translations and seminars. If you are to buy one book, other than Valens of course, buy this one. It contains dozens of Hellenistic astrological terms, as well as some unheard of topics and definitions, and practising Hellenistic Astrology is impossible without it!
The ancient Greek names of the planets are used, not their Latinized version
This is Hellenistic Astrology, that is, the ancient Greek concepts are used rather than their Latinized version. It is unforgivable for those modern minded translators to translate or astrologers to teach what is written as Zeus in ancient Greek as Jupiter in English. This is unprofessional and biased and, what is worse, the readers are not even told!
But more importantly and as far as the planets are concerned – in the past they were considered gods, and as those practicing Magic or even real Music know, there is power in the sound/pronunciation of something. Guess what happens when you use the incorrect pronunciation … Also, the ancients called the planets “stars” often. For example, instead of Ares they said the star of Ares to show that it is not about the brute physical world out there, but about the god Ares and that planets signify and do not cause, as the naïve modern “scientists” or public believe. So we have Kronos, Zeus, Ares, Helios, Aphrodite, Hermes and Selene 3.
Geometrical figures instead of the names of the aspects
As far as the so-called aspects/rays we have: diameter /diametrical configuration/position/attitude, triangle /trigonal/triangular configuration, either left or right, hexagonal configuration, again left or right, tetragonal configuration, again left or right, i.e. seven planets, seven rays. The so-called conjunction is not a configuration/aspect. It is called the same but it is more correct to say bodily conjunction, as all configurations/aspects are conjunctions, but figural 4.
Zoidion/image, NOT sign
Another key concept is zoidion, multiple zoidia. This concept has remained in Bulgaria due to its bordering with Greece, or for other reasons, although the word has slightly changed. We have “zodia” for singular and “zodii” for plural and so when someone asks you “what is your zodia in Bulgarian”, they mean what sign the Sun was when the native was born.
I will not repeat what Robert Schmidt has written and explained many times. Some others who I also greatly respect have written about this, such as Steven Birchfield.
The point is that zoidion, (as well as other Hellenistic definitions) have very deep metaphysical implications and Plato and Aristotle considered this in their work as far as the Universe is concerned. ALL of this is lost if you just use the word “sign”.
Therefore I cannot and will not use the word “sign” and any other astrological term used by modern practitioners not only because it is meaningless, has connotation and creates confusion, but also because it is astronomical, and I could not care less for the solely earth based, limited sciences.
Most importantly, when I write Hermes instead of Mercury, I remember that Hermes rules wrestling and education of children etc, etc – significations forgotten even in Medieval Astrology, let alone in modern; when I write a tetragonal configuration, I don’t mean just the usual square, but I immediately think whether this tetragon kills or dominates in the native’s life etc etc.
Yes, changing concepts takes time, as in every field of knowledge, and it might even be annoying at first, but weighing the potential costs and benefits, no doubt remains what the right choice is.
Also, it is hardly worthwhile pointing out that the Hellenistic terminology is not in power now only because it was lost in the transmission of knowledge and that Astrology, (and its concepts) studying the Eternal, can never grow old.
Portion/moira, not degree
Another key concept is moira, which Schmidt translates as portion and fully elaborates why degree is wrong to use and what one loses, which in this case has to do with the Fates.
Configuration by zoidion, testimony, and an applying aspect within 3 portions
I have already mentioned the term configuration, but it must be said that the doctrine of configurations is completely different compared to the medieval one. There is hardly need to mention modern astrology (and its left-overs), which itself has no foundation, and the imaginary and fictitious “minor aspects”.
So we have configurations by zoidia, not just by portion. There is of course the perfection of a configuration thing, that is, an applying aspect in modern parlance, but it is different. It is one for the Moon, which also has application, it is another for the other planets, which do not.
Planets do not have separate orbs. There exists a commonly accepted orb for each planet – 3 portions, the rest is testifying/providing testimony, provided that the configuration is perfected before one of the planets leaves the zoidion it is in. The significance of the so called separating aspects, which are called separating figures when below 3 portions, is still lower even than in Medieval Astrology.
Walking backwards, first and second sitting, and the astronomical visibility of the planets
Also, retrograde is another astronomical term. I can not use it in Hellenistic Astrology. It means walking/moving backwards. The ancients also used “subtracting in numbers”, but the term may be ambiguous as it also refers to a planet that is moving slower than usual.
The term stationary also does not say anything, so instead of first and second stations we have first and second sitting. Remember that this concerns processes in the Mind of the Cosmic Soul, not the physical planets, which are just an alphabet.
Accordingly, the concepts of heliacal phases in Hellenistic Astrology are different from those in Medieval Astrology. In modern astrology, accordingly none of this has survived. Ptolemy was misunderstood and incorrectly translated as Schmidt shows (see the introduction to the fourth book, written by Schmidt and the translated book from him) and he himself made gross errors as far as the calculation of the astronomical visibility of the planets is concerned. I will not dwell on this now because it is long, but could illustrate it in some future article.
Ultimately even the ancient Greeks had it wrong for the most part and the Babylonians had it right. Rumen Kolev is the biggest specialist in the world on these topics. I highly recommend his materials and his program Porphyry Magus 2. It is the only one in the world which properly calculates heliacal phases of the planets, as it is based on many first hand observations of the sky in different continents.
Hellenistic Astrology: the concept of sect and rejoicing conditions
A very key concept is that of sect, as well as the conditions in which planets rejoice. It survived in the medieval tradition, but its importance has greatly diminished over time. Accordingly and again, nothing of it has survived in modern astrology.
day/diurnal planets are Sun, Zeus and Kronos
nocturnal ones are the Moon, Aphrodite and Ares.
Hermes varies: if it rises before the Sun it is diurnal, if after the Sun – nocturnal. Valens says that it depends on its confine/bound ruler. If that planet is diurnal so is Hermes, if nocturnal, so is Hermes.
Diurnal planets rejoice when in the hemisphere of the Sun, the nocturnal ones are “looking to escape from it” and rejoice when in that of the Moon.
Diurnal planets rejoice when in masculine zoidia, nocturnal ones – when in feminine.
Diurnal ones rejoice when above the horizon in a day chart, nocturnal ones below; in a nocturnal chart it is the opposite.
Diurnal planets rejoice when placed in the eastern/masculine quadrants, nocturnal ones in the western/feminine ones (4,5,6 and 10.11 12 houses, and 1,2,3 and 7,8.9 houses respectively).
Diurnal planets rejoice when they are eastern relative to the Sun, which means the quadrants of 90 portions behind the Sun and the one who is in opposition, nocturnal ones enjoy when western relative to the Sun, which is 90 portion after the Sun and the quadrant in opposition to this one.
Planets that are against /contrary to the sect of the chart create problems and obstacles and things do not go as smoothly as with those of the sect of the chart, because the latter are in power.
Another thing that is very telling is that in one of the first techniques in Hellenistic Astrology which show how to calculate how long one will live – given by the king Nehepso – shows that the length of life in Ancient Astrology is calculated differently, depending on whether the person was born during the day or night. This reminds me of the technique for determining one’s profession, which depends except on whether the native was born during the day or night, but also whether during a new Moon or a full Moon phase.
The concept of the ascensional times of the images and the minor years of the planets
Another lost concept, but absolutely crucial is of the minor years of the planets. The truth is that it is a technique from Babylonian Astrology, although there are some slight differences in the number of years allotted to the planets. I will not dwell on the origin and the “why” of the number of years, but I will say that they, like everything else in Ancient Astrology, are not random but are based on a principle /cycle.
This technique is undoubtedly the most simple at first glance, but at the same time it is the most or one of the most complex ones. Otherwise, the basis behind it is clear – every planet promises something in a chart, either alone or with other planets in configuration. When this period is completed, that given planets gives an event, be it external or internal.
So Kronos gives 30 years, Zeus 12, Ares 15, the Sun 19, Aphrodite 8, Hermes 20 and the Moon 25.
Besides the minor years of the planets we have the ascensional times/rising times of the zoidia. They depend on the latitude of the birth place, i.e. on the geographical location relative to the terrestrial equator. This concept did not survive even in Medieval Astrology, except a little bit in Abu Mashar. As far as modern astrology is concerned, as almost always – neither the minor years of the planets – nor the ascensional times of the zoidia survived.
Valens mixed these two concepts and added a third, but I will not discuss it in this article because it is too complicated (see book VII of Valens).
Hellenistic Astrology: Lots, not (Arabic) Parts
Another key thing is the use of the Lots, totally erroneously called by some “Arabic parts.”There are dozens of Lots, but the two most crucial are Fortune 5 and Spirit. They are so fundamental that I am telling you directly that without them there is no point in taking up Hellenistic Astrology. Fortuna is the more important Lot and is even called the main Lot or simply the Lot. It is otherwise known as the Lot of the Moon or the lunar Lot, while Spirit is the Lot of the Sun or the solar Lot. Fortuna is used as an Ascendant.
The formula for Fortuna in daily chart is from the Sun to the Moon and project from the Ascendant and reverse at night (ignore Ptolemy, he is wrong here as in other places) Spirit in a day chart is calculated from the Moon to the Sun and project the distance from the Ascendant, and at night the opposite. It is important to know that it is generally counted in the order of the zoidia, but if the two bodies are too close you can go backwards/clockwise, but then you project from the ascendant in the same direction. Interestingly, Fortune and Spirit are always the same distance from the Ascendant.
Other key Lots are Exaltation (in a day chart from the Sun to its degree of exaltation and project from the Ascendant, by night, from the Moon to its degree of exaltation and project from the Ascendant), Eros Necessary 6, Basis, etc.
Almutens are not used in this type of Astrology
Another key thing that is different from Medieval Astrology is that Hellenistic Astrology does not use the so called Almuten/Al-mubtazz. Ptolemy mentions something like this, but even with him the various dignities have the same values, (the so called non-weighted Almuten where each of the four dignities of domicile, exaltation, triplicity and bound get 1 point).
Also in Hellenistic Astrology the so called decanates or faces are not considered a dignity. The reason that the different dignities have the same value is that they are used for different things and counting/Almuten usage obliterates these differences and makes one dignity worth more than the others, which is not strictly true. Also, keep in mind that Ptolemy was not a mainstream Hellenistic astrologer, but a reformer and a scientist.
Why Philosophy is crucial
I am coming back to the Philosophy part, which I purposefully left for last. To practice any form of Astrology, you need a Foundation, because without such, things fall apart. When you look at a chart, be it natal, electional, horary, mundane etc, you must be 100% aware of what you see before you. You must be aware of what is it that you are learning. Does Astrology show the Eternal, or is it subject to be determined by the beliefs of humans in a given era? If Astrology reflects the Eternal, if it shows the Mind of the Cosmic Soul, is it possible that Astrology is not perfect?
What I am getting at? Of course that I am getting at the outer planets, which should more accurately be called trans-Saturnian. The keen readers should already know what I am going to say, but more importantly – why it is so and why this position is not personal, but simply reflects reality. So, reflecting the Eternal, Astrology does not change and therefore nothing can be added to this Knowledge, but only to be rediscovered, because it is inherently perfect.
There is no way for Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto to rule Aquarius, Pisces and Scorpio
And hence, trans-Saturnian planets can never rule zoidia and be Rulers of the Times. This automatically means that they are largely, if not totally – unnecessary in Hellenistic Astrology (and any other form of Astrology up to the 17th century). Any whims of collective evolution and collective development of consciousness are complete bullshit and have nothing to do with Astrology. That’s right – this is the basis of modern astrology – Darwin, Herbert Spencer and especially Theosophy. There is no room for personal interpretation and guessing here.
Therefore, if you can not read a given chart without the trans-Saturnian planets, I sincerely and heartily appeal to you to completely stop practising Astrology, or make a pause and inquire about the sources of this Art and how little in common modern astrology has with them and what all of this entails.
That is, if you believe that any astrological event cannot be seen without these trans-Saturnian planets ( I am not going to mention the all sorts of fictitious asteroids and “minor aspects”), then you do not know what Astrology is and what you are practicing is not Astrology, but a bunch unproven theories covering the truth about this Science.
I say all of this with the realization that I myself was taught to use Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto at the beginning, and about their importance 7, but over time I could not close my eyes that they do not show me anything new, let alone that are largely invisible to the human eye and what results from that. But I’m still only one practitioner – the truth is clearly visible only from experience, but with the right knowledge and adherence to rules.
Jyotish/Indian Astrology and the Supreme Court in India
I should mention Jyotish, whose knowledge I respect enormously. I may not agree with some things, but the important thing is that they have Philosophy, they have a Basis. NOBODY can touch them. I already wrote that in 2012 a case reached all the way to the Supreme Court of India and it was stated that: Astrology has been used for 4000 years and is a respected science. I mean to say that the Indians also do not use the trans-Saturnian planets. Why? Because there is no need for them.
Please understand me correctly. I do not even dream of telling you what to use or not – Hellenistic texts themselves will show you the truth of my words. You will see that you cannot use a quadrant system, you cannot use the trans-Saturnian planets as Rulers of the Times. There is no way for Uranus, Neptune and Pluto to be part of the calculation of the length of life in Hellenistic and Medieval Astrology, etc etc. All that remains are the transits to the angles and to the personal planets …. and transits are the weakest astrological predictive technique. And believe it or not, secondary progressions are a technique of Hellenistic Astrology 8 (See Valens Book 9).
Finally, I remember a conversation some time ago with Dimitar Kozhuharov (whom I greatly respect) and how he was explaining to me where Hellenistic Astrology stands in relation to Medieval Astrology and modern astrology. He said that if modern astrology is a puddle, Medieval Astrology is a large lake and Hellenistic Astrology is an ocean. I really laughed then, because I did not believe the gap to be that huge. The more the time passed and the more I kept advancing in my studies in Hellenistic Astrology, the more clearly I could see how right he is.
So my advice is if you are not afraid of the deep waters, jump boldly. Just do not forget to take off your “clothes”!
1 No house cusps here. The zoidia are the houses. Even if the Ascendant is at 28 Virgo, this whole place is first house, all 30 portions, even those above the horizon and in the quadrant 12th house. The Second house is all of Libra, the third house is all of Scorpio, etc. There are no interceptions.
2 Which reminds me how the American astrologer Demetra George, who taught at Kepler College of Astrology in the U.S., said in a radio interview how teachers of modern astrology in the United States refused to check an exam just because the students had used not the quadrant but the whole sign houses system.
3 Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury and Moon. For the luminaries, because they are special group, I would not say it’s really a problem and will be using Sun/Helios, Moon/Selene in a mixed way even prevailing for the Sun and Moon, but for the other planets it is really serious.
Also note that we say Hermeticism, not Mercurianism or whatever.
4 opposition, trine, square, sextile and conjunction. I emphasize again that this is a telegraph explanation. Robert Schmidt made a whole seminar: The Hellenistic Doctrine of Planetary Configurations.
5 This is a very long topic and is very incomplete to limit it to a concept. So I call it Fortuna – as the goddess. I strongly recommend you to explore the topic. It is reflected in art and music, such as the occult Carmina Burana by Orff.
6 There are different formulas for these Lots. Ultimately it is shown only in Valens how to use them and his formulas are different from those of Paul of Alexandria and Firmicus. But judging by the formulas, there are subtle differences in the significations of those Lots.
7 An absolute must for any practitioner is Sue Ward’s study about the transSaturnian planets. It costs only 5 pounds and is in electronic form. Sue (who is a follower of William Lilly) even uses the money as a donation for homeless animals.
8 In fact, do an experiment and ask your teacher, or if you are interested – someone knowledgeable you know – where secondary progressions come from. At least 95% of them will not know (ignoring Valens, talking about what is only widely known).
Written in March 2013