Short versus Long Ascension

In the first time-based house system that we looked at, the Alcabitius system, we carefully measured the time it took for the point of the ascendant (the point where the horizon meets the Sun’s path along the meridian), to reach the culmination point of the Sun at the midheaven, or MC (Medium Coeli).

Illustration from C.T. Definitions

We then took the total time of the Sun’s path along the ecliptic from the ascendant to the MC and divide the time it took into three equal parts.  Adding one of these parts to the time of the ascendant gives us the time when the point of the ascendant reaches the 12th house cusp, adding the sum again gives us the 11th house cusp, and we convert those times into degree points on the ecliptic.

Illustration from

The beauty of this system is that it is linked to the local meridian, and thus more directly to the location of the earth-based native of the chart.

With Alcabitius, at first glance it would appear that since time is trisected between the ascendant and the MC, that the time it takes for the Sun (or any planet) to travel would be the same for each of the trisected houses, since each of the houses represent an equal amount of time.

However, this is not the case.  And this is where the innovation of the Placidus system enters the picture.

The fact of the matter is that the Sun transverses some astrological signs more quickly than others. This is what William Lilly referred to as “straight signs” versus “crooked signs”.  Or put another way, “signs of right ascension” as opposed to “signs of oblique ascension”, or “signs of long ascension” vs “signs of short ascension”.

Because of the way the earth is tilted with respect to the ecliptic, six of the constellations along the ecliptic seem flatter/not as tall/crooked/shorter than the other six, which appear to be standing upright, “straight”, or long.

 The Sun takes less time with the crooked/oblique/short signs to “ascend” along the ecliptic than it does with the upright, straight, or long ones.

In the northern hemisphere, the signs of right ascension (straight/upright/long) are: Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio and Sagittarius. 

The signs of oblique ascension (crooked/oblique/short) are: Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces, Aries, Taurus, Gemini.

In the southern hemisphere, due to the earth’s tilt of 23.5° in relation to the ecliptic, these are reversed: i.e. the signs of long ascension become the signs of short ascension.

You can easily see for yourself how widely the ascension times vary for each sign in any astrological program capable of animating a chart wheel, such as Astro Gold or Solar Fire. I’ve prepared a demonstration video in Solar Fire to demonstrate this, you can do it yourself at home!

And here is a lovely YouTube video using Stellarium and Sumer 1.3 by Rumen Kolev which demonstrates the phenomenon of long ascension versus short ascension quite nicely, observe especially the image on the right:

So in summary, Porphyry is an ecliptic-based system which simply divides the ecliptic in three equal parts from the ascendant to the MC, and then again from the MC to the Descendant, and by extension to the rest of the 12 astrological houses.

Alcabitius is a time-based system, which measures the time it takes for the point of the ecliptic to move in a diurnal (primary, literally “to the right”) direction until it reaches the MC. We then divide the time by three (rather than dividing the ecliptic itself).  Then we do this operation again from the IC to the ascendant, and by extension the rest of the twelve astrological houses.

Placidus was an innovation, in that it took into account that although the signs are a standardized 30° each on the ecliptic, the Sun moves along these signs at different rates of speed due to their positioning in relation to the local meridian. It is thus a more accurate representation of the size of an astrological house in relation to the native’s position on earth.  We do not get this in any of the other previously mentioned house systems.

We will go more deeply into the Placidus system in the next post.


Alcabitius House system

We’ve discussed ecliptic-based house systems such as whole sign houses, equal houses and Porphyry. Now I’d like to move on to two of the “time-based” house systems: Alcabitius and Placidus.

Ecliptic systems divide the ecliptic itself into houses.  In the whole sign house system (WSH), the astrological sign itself becomes the house, with each sign/house consisting of a standardized 30° of ecliptical longitude. The Ascendant is floating freely within the first house, and the midheaven (M.C.) is generally floating anywhere between the 8th – eleventh houses.

Ditto for equal houses, except each house starts with the degree of the ascendant.

The Porphyry house system takes the distance from the Ascendant to the midheaven, and trisects it into three equal divisions, which determines the house cusp degrees for houses 10, 11 and 12, and by extension for houses 4, 5 and 6. Then, the longitudinal distance between the midheaven and the descendant is measured and trisected, giving us the degrees of houses 9, 8 and 7, and by extension the degrees for houses 3, 2 and 1.  The Porphyry system is the simplest form of “quadrant house system”, so called because it divides the 360° circle of the ecliptic into four quadrants.

Now we come to the Alcabitius system of house division, which is called a “time-based” house system.

So how is Alcabitius time-based? What does this mean?

Consider the ascendant, the astrological point to the East where the horizon meets the ecliptic… This is the point where the Sun rises.

As the earth rotates this point will rise along the diurnal arc (i.e. the ecliptic) until it becomes the midheaven (MC), the point where the Sun culminates (not to be confused with the zenith).

The “time” we are speaking of here is the time it takes for the point of the ascendant to move along the “semi-arc” of the until it reaches the MC, the cusp of the tenth house, where it transverses the local meridian

This amount of time is then trisected in Alcabitius: it is divided into three equal parts, which we refer to as “trisecting the semi-arc of the ascendant”. 

Thus, we are trisecting time in the Alcabitius system, as opposed to a system that is dividing solely the ecliptic, such as WSH, equal houses or Porphyry, and all that this implies symbolically (which we shall discuss in more depth a bit later on).

Back to Alcabitius now…

So, let us say that it takes 5 hours, 32 minutes and 16 seconds for the point of the ascendant to rise in a diurnal direction (primary direction) to the midheaven. 

All one does is divide that by three, which gives us 1 hour 50.7 minutes. To determine the 12th house cusp we simply find out what longitudinal degree the ascendant was on at 1 hour 50.7 minutes after the precise hour of the rising point. We double that to find the eleventh house cusp, and to check one’s work we simply multiply by three, and if our calculations were correct, we arrive at the same degree as the midheaven.

Easy, right?  At least it is conceptually.  It is a beautiful and elegant system which was used widely in Europe from around the 10th century up until the introduction of the Regiomontanus system in the late 15th century.

The second and third house cusps are found the same way as the eleventh and twelfth, except rather than moving forward in time, we look back to when the point of the ascendant was at the IC, determine what time this occurred, divide the time it took by three and follow the same procedure for the lower semi arc that we used for the upper one.

One advantage of the Alcabitius system is that there is little less distortion in the relative sizes of the houses.  For example, in Placidus – another time-based house system – at the latitude of Paris we sometimes find a huge sixth and twelfth house. In the Alcabitius house system the houses tend to be more evenly distributed, as a general rule.

Chart 1: Placidus (note H6 & H12). Chart 2: Alcabitius.

Indeed, we would probably be using Alcabitius widely today if it had been included in Raphael’s Ephemeris, which was the standard reference for astrologers during the 19th and well into the 20th century.  But alas, it wasn’t; it was Placidus that was included, which goes a long way to explaining the current popularity of Placidus, for astrologers tend to use whatever house system their teachers used.  Quite understandable, of course.  Though perhaps unfortunate.

In our next discussion, we will look at the Placidus system of house division to see how it is calculated, and compare it with Alcabitius.


The three great celestial circles: the ecliptic, the local horizon and the local meridian.

Earlier, we spoke of ecliptic-based house systems (c.f. blog 24 January 2021).

In the course of talking about these older house systems, we are going to look at the ecliptic, the horizon and the meridian, see what they look like in the sky above us, and finally we will look at how they are represented in an astrological chart.

The easiest house systems to calculate are the ones that are based on the ecliptic. The three major house systems based primarily on the ecliptic are: (1) the whole sign house system (WSH), (2) the equal house system, and the (3) Porphyry house system.

These three house systems use as their basis three great celestial circles: the ecliptic, the local horizon, and the local meridian and are easy to calculate.  All one needs to know is the longitudinal position on the ecliptic of where the ecliptic meets the horizon, this is called the ascendant.

Then we need to find the point where the ecliptic meets the local meridian, this is called the midheaven. 

Once we know these positions, the rest of the calculations can be done in one’s head!

I’d like to introduce a more complex house system, but before we get to that, let’s review the basic celestial circles that we have covered so far: the ecliptic, the horizon and the meridian.

The Ecliptic:

The ecliptic, of course, is the apparent path of the Sun as it is seen from the point of view by an observer on earth. 

Illustration: Christopher A. Weidner

The five visible planets never drift too far from the path of the ecliptic, so in astrology we usually measure the longitudinal position of the luminaries and planets, including the outer ones, as longitudinal degrees along the 360° circle of the ecliptic, which by convention we divide into twelve sectors of 30° of longitudinal position each.  Each of these twelve sectors is represented by an astrological constellation (Aries, Taurus, Gemini, etc.), which may or may not correspond with the ones in the sky.

The Horizon:

The horizon is the great circle on the celestial sphere that is directly between the zenith (the point directly above you) and the nadir (the point directly below you).

Illustration: Christopher A. Weidner

The horizon is always perpendicular to the local zenith and nadir, that is to say the horizon is 90° from the ascendant.

The Meridian:

The meridian is the great circle passing through the celestial poles, as well as the zenith and nadir of an observer’s location. In astrology, the midheaven is defined as the point where the ecliptic meets the local meridian.

Illustration: Christopher A. Weidner

How the great circles are represented in an astrological chart:

In an astrological chart, we squish these great celestial circles together, we flatten them so that they are represented by straight lines:

The outer circle represents the ecliptic, and on it we see the degrees of the house cusps, which were calculated in Porphyry in this chart.

The vertical line going from left to right, from 5° Leo to 5° Aquarius, represents the horizon, which of course is actually a circle, not a straight line.  Because western astrology was developed in the northern hemisphere, the Sun was always to the south.  So since the chart assumes that we are facing south, the east is on the left and the west is on the right.  This convention has stayed with us through the ages, and we use it today, even if we live in the southern hemisphere.

Finally, the vertical line that goes from the bottom at 15° Libra to the top at A5° Aries represents the local meridian, which of course is also a great circle, and not a straight line (c.f. illustration 3).  The point of the midheaven represents the point where the two circles intersect: it is the point of intersection of the meridian with the ecliptic.

The beginning of the tenth house in a quadrant house system such as Porphyry, Alcabitius, Campanus, Regiomontanus or Placidus is called the Medium Coeli (M.C.), which is Latin for midheaven.

The M.C. is where the Sun reaches its highest point in the local sky, NOT to be confused with the zenith, which is the point directly above the observer. 

So, to give an example, if one is in the northern hemisphere at a mid-latitude location, for example Wisconsin, or in Europe in France, the Sun would be towards the south as it rises, culminates, and sets.  The Sun only passes directly overhead the observer at the equator.  The Sun travels along the ecliptic, the local meridian is perpendicular to our local horizon, so basic physics tells us that the Sun will reach its highest point when, travelling along its path on the ecliptic, it meets our local meridian. 

Our local zenith is also on our local meridian, it is directly above where one is standing.  But the local zenith is not on the path of the ecliptic, unless we happen to be standing exactly on the equator!

Having reviewed these three basic circles, in the next blog I hope to cover later astrological house systems.  The next one we will cover is the Placidus house system.


A Neptunian question!

What is the difference between the way a contemporary astrologer would interpret Neptune on the descendant, as opposed to how it would be interpreted traditionally or Hellenistically? 

This is a question that came up recently in a study group that I participate in.

It’s true that the approaches would be quite different. 

Even though many astrologers working with traditional and/or ancient techniques work mostly with the seven visible planets, if an outer planet (Uranus/Neptune/Pluto) touches an angle, many of us will take that into consideration.

Here is how I would define the difference between the contemporary approach and that of traditional or ancient astrology:

In contemporary natal astrology, each of the seven visible planets represents a component of consciousness within the native, and the three outer planets symbolize an element of the unconscious mind (in its Jungian sense). The natal horoscope is interpreted as a map of consciousness and the various psychic impulses of the native. The entire natal chart and all the astrological symbols within it become a means of analyzing character and the psychology of the native.

However, in both traditional and ancient astrology, the approach is different: The ascendant, any planets in the first house and the ruler of the first house symbolize the native, both physically and psychologically.  Houses other than the first house represent everything outside of the native. 

So, for character analysis, both traditional and ancient astrologers interpret the ascendant, the first house and any symbols found within it.  Additionally, a traditional astrologer (medieval, renaissance) will make an analysis of the native’s “manners”, by which is meant the temperamental balance of the chart.  Is the person choleric or melancholic?  Sanguine or phlegmatic? Or perhaps a combination thereof…  These serve to give us effective delineations of the character of the native.

Keeping all this in mind, let’s return to the original question:

How would a contemporary astrologer interpret Neptune on the cusp of the seventh house? The seventh house being the house of marriage and partnerships.

Neptune is in the seventh house of this chart.

Simply put, a contemporary astrologer’s interpretation would be that the native approaches seventh house relationships in a Neptunian way!

If the aspects to Neptune are soft ones, the native’s relationship strategies will probably manifest in a positive way (a spiritual approach, total immersion with the other person, etc). If there are hard aspects, then the manifestations would more likely be negative (difficulty seeing the other person in the relationship clearly, confusion, etc.)

For the traditional/ancient astrologer, the approach would be to see Neptune as a type of person or situation external to the native. If I saw this in a client’s chart, one of the first questions I might ask is if they happen to be married to a musician! Or poet… Or negatively, perhaps a drug addict!

And if it turned out that they weren’t currently in a relationship, the next step would be to use various traditional and ancient time lord techniques to find out when they would be likely to meet such a person.

That, for me, is the traditional approach (renaissance, medieval) , and also the Hellenistic (ancient) one.

Another related question that came up during our study session was: if the client is having a problem of some kind with their seventh house Neptune, how do we help them with it?

Using the contemporary psychological approach, we help our client by identifying the exact nature of the problem, for example if their Neptune was square or in opposition to Venus, we might explore whether they had difficulty seeing their love interests clearly.  We’d help them identify the exact nature of their problem, and offer strategies as to how the difficulty might be solved.

The traditional astrologer’s approach would be to help the client by identifying the type of person likely to appear in their lives, when this person would be likely to next appear, and to advise them as to whether this person ought to be accepted with open arms, or to run for the hills!

 If it turned out that the Neptunian influence was negative for some reason, then the next steps for the traditional astrologer would include looking at the various significators for the seventh house (its lord, other planets contained within and aspects to them), also looking at the lot of marriage and the lot of eros.

And THEN, we’d look at Venus for the boys and Mars for the girls, and by the time we’ve finished doing all that, we’d have quite a bit to talk about and will have normally helped the client see things more clearly vis-à-vis their seventh house issues.

At least that’s what we hope!


Ecliptic-based houses

Let’s look at each of the major house systems one by one with a view to understanding how they are calculated and how this might affect the symbolism of the horoscope.

The easiest house systems to calculate are the ones that are directly based on the ecliptic. The three major house systems based directly on the ecliptic are (1) the whole sign house system, (2) the equal house system, and the (3) Porphyry house system.

To understand these systems and what they might symbolise, let’s review what the definition of the celestial circle known as the ecliptic.   

The ecliptic is the plane of Earth’s orbit around the Sun. From the perspective of an observer on Earth, the Sun’s movement around the celestial sphere over the course of a year traces out a path along the ecliptic against the background of stars.

Here is a helpful illustration of the ecliptic:

As you can see from the illustration, the Earth revolves around the Sun and as it does so, from the perspective of someone on Earth, we see the 12 signs of the zodiac, a different sign each month! The ecliptic in the above diagram is the celestial circle in red, which, being a circle, is divided into 360° of celestial longitude, and is the circle we see represented in two dimensions when we look at a horoscope.

In astrology, each of these signs which we find along the ecliptic are divided up into 30° of celestial longitude. Of course, astronomically speaking, these constellations of stars do not literally and uniformly take up exactly 30° of longitude, indeed some of them are larger and some are smaller. It was towards the end of the 5th century B.C. that Babylonian astrologers divided the ecliptic into 12 equal “signs”, by analogy to the 12 months, each sign containing 30° of celestial longitude, thus creating the first known celestial coordinate system.

This system of division of the ecliptic was used by the ancient Greeks in the form that is now called “whole sign houses”, where the division of the ecliptic was made into 12 portions of 30° each, each of these portions known as “houses”.  The two other house systems that were used during this period were the equal house system, and the Porphyry method of division.

It is not my purpose here to debate the prevalence of one house system over another during the Hellenistic period, nor will I make any attempt to conjecture how and for what purpose these systems were used in ancient times. My aim here is to simply define how these systems are calculated and how we might begin thinking of their symbolic significations in a contemporary context.

The Whole Sign House System:

  • The Whole Sign House system uses the zodiac signs on the ecliptic to define the twelve houses.
  • The zodiac sign which rises over the horizon at the time of the birth or event defines the entire first house. The remaining eleven signs create the rest of the houses, moving in a counter-clockwise direction.
  • Each house begins at 0° of the zodiac sign and ends at 29° and is thus 30° in size.
  • This is a non-quadrant house system and does not use the ascendant or midheaven to define the beginning of the first and tenth houses. The ascendant and midheaven in this system are floating. The ascendant always defines the first house. The MC can be present anywhere between the ninth and eleventh houses.

The Equal House System:

  • The Equal-House system is a variation of the Whole sign House system (WSH). The difference is that the degree of the ascendant defines the start of the first house and becomes the starting degree of each of the remaining eleven houses.  The MC floats and does not define the start of the tenth house.
  • Symbolically speaking, the personal point of the degree of the ascendant is emphasized in this system as a defining feature which dictates the remaining eleven house cups. The symbolism becomes a bit more tied to the earth in that the eastern horizon takes on an elevated importance.
  • The equal house system is a non-quadrant house system.

Porphyry – a quadrant house system:

In quadrant house systems the ascendant and descendant define the first and seventh house cusps, and additionally, the midheaven (MC) is used to define the tenth house cusp, while its opposite point the I.C. (Imum Coeli) defines the cusp of the fourth house.

This creates four sectors or zones within the circle of the ecliptic, otherwise known as quadrants.

The earliest quadrant house system, used in Hellenistic times, is known as the Porphyry house system, named after the third century Neo-Platonist Porphyry, although he was not its creator as this system was described in the second century by Vettius Valens in his astrological textbook entitled Anthology.

In the Porphyry system of houses, the span of the ecliptic between the horizon and midheaven is trisected equally to produce three houses. Because the number of degrees between the horizon/ascendant and MC/midheaven varies according to location, time of day and season, the quadrants are not of equal size.

So, the three houses from the rising quadrant, i.e., from the degree to the culminating degree (MC), houses 12, 11 and 10, will be a different size to the setting quadrant, i.e., houses 9, 8 and 7.

This difference is carried over diagonally across the horoscope into the houses below the horizon.

So, in Porphyry, the ascendant forms the first house cusp, and the MC forms the 10th house cusp.  The Porphyry system, though quadrant, is still based on the ecliptic, as are whole sign houses and equal-houses. Yet one could say that symbolically it is more earth based in that a heightened important is given to the ascendant and MC; also, the geographical location of where the chart is cast is highlighted insofar as the cusp of the first and tenth houses reflect the earth-bound location.

Initial conclusions: Whole Sign houses, Equal-houses and Porphyry houses are arrived at through division of the ecliptic, which is a celestial circle. So in order to understand its symbolism, we need to reflect upon what the various celestial circles might symbolise.

The celestial circles used to arrive at the major house systems are as follows:

  • The ecliptic
  • The prime meridian (runs north through south through the poles)
  • The prime vertical (runs east through west through the zenith)
  • The celestial equator (which is projected from the earth’s equator)

Returning to our consideration of the ecliptic, where is the ecliptic located? 

It is the apparent path the Sun takes around the earth when viewed from an earth-based, geocentric perspective.

It is extra-lunar rather than sublunar.

A good deal of symbolism could be drawn from this.  We will begin to consider it after we have covered the other major house systems and how they are calculated.

Next up: House systems coming out of the astrolabe.

House Systems

In my last post we spoke of how varying house systems have gone in and out of style over the years. In my case, during the 70s I used Campanus houses, Koch in the eighties, switching over to Placidus in the 90s through the 2000s. Then I started using exclusively whole sign houses for a time, then I switched to Regiomontanus.

All these systems worked fine and gave good results.

So what gives?  If they all work fine, then why use one over the other? 

For many of us, we use the house system that our teachers used.  I used Campanus in the 70s because that’s what Charles and Vivian Jayne used. I used Koch in the 80s because Robert Hand, Marion March and Joan McEvers were recommending using it. I later used Placidus because that’s what most of my astrologer friends were using.

I got into WSH because Robert Hand (after the late 80s) and more recently Chris Brennan among others were saying that WSH was the system that Valens mainly used. Lilly used Regiomontanus for horary and natal and elections, so I started using that, also.

The point I’m making is that often the house system we use is a result of who we happen to study with.  We find that it works well and get used to it.  If we switch it makes us uncomfortable because some of the planets are in different houses, yikes!

And of course, sometimes we make a switch to other house systems because we want to experiment with ancient, medieval, or renaissance techniques, and thus want to work with the house systems that were used during the period that we are looking at.

That being said, it is all very well to use a house system because that’s what our teacher used, or because this or that ancient, medieval or renaissance astrologer did or didn’t use it, but now that we’ve looked at these various techniques, it would be nice to have a discussion that looks at each of the major house systems and compares them, looks at how they are arrived at and what they are based on, and above all, to explore the symbolic implications of each of them, and based on that discuss the strong points of each one.

I propose to do that in my next post, but in the meantime, I’ll make two blanket statements about the subject:

  1. The various house systems are calculated and based on varying celestial circles: some are based exclusively on the ecliptic, some use exclusively the celestial equator, some use the prime vertical, and others use diurnal circles. So to understand how the house systems differ, we need to look at the celestial circles that they are based on and think about what they might symbolise.
  2. That the reason all the house systems seem to work, even though a planet in one system might be in a different house in another system, is because they are looking at the same subject from a different perspective!

For example: I was looking at a natal chart that had a stellium of planets in H12 in Placidus.  But in WSH, most of them switched over to the first house.  So, what is the story here?  Is one “right” and one “wrong”? Absolutely not!

I know this native very well, the H12 chart (Placidus) chart described a psychological/emotional issue that the native had to deal with.  The H1 (WSH) chart perfectly described a completely different area of the native’s life!

The point here is that if one chooses two use two house systems to describe the same native, we don’t get to choose the one we like best!  We must use BOTH! For the two charts are describing the same native from different perspectives.

I’ll stop here.  Next time, we’ll look at each of the major house systems and go into more detail vis-à-vis how they are calculated and what they might symbolise.


House systems (1) from December 2020

I wanted to do a post on my checkered past with astrological house systems:

In the seventies I used Campanus houses because my aunt and uncle were professional astrologers and that’s what they used. I was not yet an astrologer in the seventies.

In the eighties, I decided I wanted to cast my own charts. This was a bit before the time astrological software was commonly used, so with the aid of my trusty copy of The Only Way to Learn Astrology (Vol 2) by Marion D. March and Joan McEvers, I learned the math for casting charts by hand.  March & McEvers recommended using Koch houses, and the Table of Koch houses book came with a handy form by Robert Hand that one used to do the calculations.  Hand said he liked Koch because it put his Mars in the fifth house, rather than the sixth! Since it did the same for my Mars, and because I figured if Koch was good enough for Robert Hand, it was good enough for me, I started using Koch houses.

Then the 90s came and astrological software made using house systems as easy as pulling down a menu.  I started using Placidus because that’s what most of my friends were using.

The readings I got from astrologers who read my chart using Campanus were accurate and spot on.  When I started reading charts myself using Koch and Placidus, aside from sometimes putting planets in different houses, I got consistently good results.

Then, about five or six years ago I was having coffee sitting in a Parisian café with my friend Lynn Bell, who was telling me about her work with the planetary joys and the good and bad daemons of the eleventh and twelfth astrological houses. At that point in time, I didn’t fully understand what a planetary joy was, so Lynn helpfully explained that it was a concept coming out of traditional astrology. I figured I had better find out more about this branch of astrology…

So I downloaded a workshop by Demetra George entitled “Traditional Astrology 101”.  Looking back, I think it should have been called “Ancient Astrology 101”, since what it covered was Hellenistic astrology, but I found it fascinating and eventually enrolled in Chris Brennan’s Hellenistic astrology course, which covers the subject exhaustively. I also took some workshops with Kelly Surtees and Austin Coppock, all of whom used whole sign houses in their work, so I started using whole sign houses, too. 

I got good results using whole sign houses.  After completing his full Hellenistic Astrology course, I took my first introductory horary course with Brennan, and whole sign houses were used.  Horary is an area of astrology where you one can’t fudge around.  You either get it right or you don’t in horary, it scary that way for the astrologer. I got consistently good results using WSH in horary as well as in natal charts.

About twenty years ago, I apprenticed with a Welsh magician and studied ceremonial magic with him, eventually joining a lodge based in the UK. Through Brennan’s Astrology Podcast, I became aware of astrological magic and a magician who had been practicing it for many years, Christopher Warnock. My own work in magic only touched on astrology, so about two years ago I began my studies with Warnock, who specializes in the astrology of the Renaissance and all things Lilly! It is normal when we study with an astrologer that we use their house system, so I started working heavily with Regiomontanus. After studying magic for about a year with Warnock, I embarked upon and completed his full horary course; and it being astrology of the renaissance, we worked with Regiomontanus houses.  I got good results from this system also.

The point I’m making here is that I got good results from using a wide variety of house systems.  What gives? Is one better than the other? Why would I use one over another? Is deciding which system to use a matter of fashion or taste? Or peer pressure?

Well, of course it could be any of those things. But one likes to think, when we move past our teachers and start thinking for ourselves, that there might be a deeper reason for choosing one house system over another than doing so because it is what another astrologer used, be this astrologer a modern one or one of yesteryear.

I have ideas concerning how to go about doing this that I would like to share, which I will do the next time I post.


From 27 June 2020: Tropical vs Sidereal Astrology

A study group that I’m part of was looking recently at three possible zodiacs: the constellational zodiac, the sidereal zodiac, and tropical zodiac.

For those who are not quite sure what the differences are between these zodiacs, I’ll provide an explanation below, but I’d like to start off with the point I wanted to make first.

I’ve heard debates from time to time within the astrological community on the subject of which is better: the sidereal or the tropical zodiac. My viewpoint is that this is a dumb question, it’s asinine. As Robert Hand once famously said concerning the various house systems, asking if one is “better” than the other is like asking if German a better language than French.

It could be argued that both zodiacal systems couldn’t be “true”. It must be a zero-sum situation. One must be false and the other true, because in one system a person’s Sun can be in Libra, but in the other their Sun is in Scorpio. So how could they both be right?

The response to that question is: when looked at within the parameters of its own system of correspondences, each tradition (sidereal and tropical astrology) is “right” with respect to itself. It is like taking a photograph of someone from two different perspectives. We are looking at the same person, but from different points of view.

Indian astrology is based on the sidereal zodiac. It goes back 2000 years or so and it works just fine! So does Western sidereal astrology.

Tropical astrology has a history going back to early Hellenistic times, and it works just fine, too!

So which zodiac do I use? I use the tropical zodiac. Why?

Well, to be honest, I learned astrology at the feet of my uncle and aunt (Charles and Vivian Jayne), and they used the tropical zodiac, so that’s why I use it. And these days I have my hands full getting my head around medieval and renaissance astrology, so I don’t have time at present to add sidereal astrology to my toolkit. I’ll leave that to those who specialize in it. Just as there are many traditions within the community of magic, so there are within
astrology: we each choose the path that has heart for us.

Ok, that’s my viewpoint. In case you have no idea what I’m talking about, here is a quick explanation of the different zodiacs:

The constellations in the sky are not of equal sizes. For example, the constellation Virgo is much larger in terms of zodiacal longitude than Cancer. They are of unequal size. This is the way the stars look in the heavens when we view them. This is the zodiac that the ancient astrologers used.

Eventually, by the 5th century BCE, the astrologer-astronomers of Mesopotamia standardized the zodiac so that it contained twelve signs of exactly 30° each. This is referred to as the sidereal zodiac and is an idealized division of the zodiac – the ecliptic of the Sun – into 12 equal parts: 12 signs of 30° each. The sidereal zodiac roughly corresponds visually to the actual constellations that we see in the sky.

When Hellenistic astrology was developed a few centuries later, the seasons were roughly aligned with the sidereal zodiac. The beginning of the seasons aligned with the cardinal signs: Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn.

The tropical zodiac is measured relative to the seasons; its starting point is the vernal equinox at 0° Aries. After that, the other signs are measured out in 30° increments starting from there.

That the qualities of the 12 signs were drawn from both the sidereal and tropical zodiacs became problematic later on when the two zodiacs started drifting apart due to an astronomical phenomenon called precession. this phenomenon is known as the precession of the equinoxes.

Precession is due to the Earth wobbling on its axis very slowly over the course of 26,000 years. The result is a drift between the two zodiacs of about 1° every 72 years, with the two zodiacs differing presently at about 24°. This ends my brief technical explanation.