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.