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The Master of the Nativity: Finding the Ruler of the Chart

The Master of the Nativity: Finding the Ruler of the Chart

In episode 205 astrologers Chris Brennan and Leisa Schaim present a lecture on the ancient method of identifying the overall ruler of a birth chart, called the Master of the Nativity.

While in modern times astrologers tend to refer to the ruler of the Ascendant as the ruler of the chart, in ancient Greco-Roman astrology the method for determining the ruler of the chart was much more complex.

There are references to the master of the nativity in many of the surviving astrological texts from the Hellenistic astrology tradition, although there are not many surviving discussions about how to calculate it.

The approach that we present in this lecture is derived from chapter 30 of Porphyry’s Introduction to the Tetrabiblos, which is itself derived from a lost work of definitions by Antiochus of Athens.

During the course of the lecture we talk about how to calculate the predominator (epikratētōr), the master of the nativity (oikodespotēs geneseōs), the co-master or joint master of the nativity (sunoikodespotēs), and the lord of the nativity (kurios).

We also discuss various questions such as the arguments for and against having one overall chart ruler, the use of the master of the nativity to identify the guardian spirit or daimōn by ancient astrologers and philosophers, and the use of this doctrine to identify more important placements in a chart.

This lecture was originally presented by Chris at the Northwest Astrological Conference in May of 2017, and then again at the United Astrology Conference in May of 2018. We decided to re-record the lecture for the podcast now in order to give a more careful and deliberate presentation of the material, a better recording, and in order to open up this research to a wider audience.

Thanks to all of the patrons who support the podcast on an ongoing basis and made this episode possible through our page on Patreon. If you enjoy the episode and want to help support the production of future episodes while getting access to additional bonus content, then please consider becoming a patron.

This episode is available in both audio and video versions below.

First I will outline the calculations for the different rulers of the nativity presented in this lecture, and then you will find the recordings available at the bottom of the page.

How to Calculate the Rulers of the Birth Chart According to Porphyry

Here are the rules for calculating the different rulers of the birth chart that we review in this podcast, based on chapter 30 of Porphyry’s Introduction.

The Rulers of the Nativity

There are four different rulers of the nativity that are important to pay attention to:

  1. Predominator (epikratētōr)
  2. Master of the Nativity (oikodespotēs)
  3. Co-Master or Joint Master of the Nativity (sunoikodespotēs)
  4. Lord of the Nativity (kurios)

Predominator

In order to find the Master of the Nativity you must first find the Predominator, since the Predominator is the one who designates the Master. The Predominator is typically one of the luminaries, as long as they are well-placed. If they are not, then it defaults to the Ascendant.

Here are Porphyry’s considerations for determining if one of the luminaries can become Predominator:

  • The luminary that belongs to the sect of the chart is preferred (Sun day day, Moon by night).
  • The luminary that is more angular is preferred over one that is in a less angular house.
  • The one that is more eastern in the chart (towards the rising sign) is preferred.
    • g. if the Sun is in the 1st house in a day chart, Sun is the Predominator.
    • Sun in the 9th with the Moon in the 1st, then Moon is Predominator.
  • If both luminaries are in cadent houses, then the Ascendant becomes Predominator.

Master of the Nativity

According to Antiochus and Porphyry there are two variant traditions for calculating the Master:

  1. The Master of the Nativity is the domicile lord of the Predominator.
    • The bound lord of the Predominator becomes the Co-Master of the Nativity.
  2. Others say that the bound lord of the degree of the Ascendant is the Master of the Nativity.
    • The domicile lord of the rising sign is the Co-Master of the Nativity.

Lord of the Nativity

Two separate approaches are given for the determination of the Lord of the Nativity:

First Approach

  1. The Lord is the domicile lord of the Midheaven, if this planet is angular. If it is not, then:
  2. The Lord is a planet in the Midheaven/10th house. If there is no planet in the Midheaven then:
  3. The Lord is a planet in the 11th house.

Second Approach

Planets capable of being the Lord of the Nativity in the second approach are:

  1. The domicile lord of the Ascendant. Or
  2. A planet in the rising sign, and (especially?) in the bounds of the Ascendant. Or
  3. The lord of the Moon. Or
  4. The lord of the Lot of Fortune. Or
  5. A planet that makes a heliacal rising, setting, or retrograde station within 7 days of the birth (if there are multiple then the one that is not under the beams is preferred).
  6. The bound lord of the prenatal lunation.

Porphyry makes an important statement after outlining the second approach to the effect that the Lord of the Nativity is the planet that generally is:

  • Capable of rising out from under the beams of the Sun.
  • Has more familiarity (“dignity”) in its location, through zodiacal rulership.
  • Has the most “power” in relation to the “figure” of the nativity, which probably means being in one of the “advantageous” or “busy” places, which are houses that are more angular.
  • Has the most power in relation to its configuration with the other stars in the chart.

Further Reading

For a translation of the Porphyry passages that these calculations are discussed in see:

  • Porphyry the Philosopher, Introduction to the Tetrabiblos, chapter 30, trans. James Holden, American Federation of Astrologers, Tempe, AZ, 2010.

Timestamps

Here are some timestamps for topics covered at different points in the episode:

00:00:00 Introduction
00:03:37 Starting point is the Master of Nativity
00:03:48 One Planet to Rule Them All
00:07:22 A Fragment from Petosiris on the Master
00:14:57 Surviving Treatment of Porphyry
00:23:08 Chronology of works on the Master of the Nativity
00:28:52 Porphyry on the Rulers of the Nativity
00:34:32 Calculations of rulers according to Porphyry
00:34:42 How to find the Predominator
00:36:18 Similar to the medieval concept of the Almuten
00:38:24 How to find the Predominator
00:39:18 Identifying the sect of the chart
00:41:15 Angular luminary is preferred over less angular one
00:43:05 The luminary that is more eastern is preferred
00:43:48 Explaining East vs. West in a chart
00:48:34 Use of Equal and Quadrant Houses
01:01:38 Quadrant House based East/West question
01:04:00 Quadrant houses divide the chart into east and west
01:04:30 Meridian vs. whole sign 10th house
01:05:09 Three different midheavens
01:09:13 Finding the sect
01:15:52 Jupiter rising & reaches highest Elevation
01:22:00 Examples from Porphyry
01:22:16 Diagram of Porphyry example
01:22:26 Sun in 1st house, day chart
01:24:27 Moon in 1st house, Night chart
01:25:04 Moon in 1st or 2nd, Sun in 9th, Day chart
01:27:14 Sun in 2nd, Moon in 9th, Night chart
01:30:49 Night Chart, Moon in 9th, Sun in 2nd
01:30:56 Night Chart, Sun/Moon below horizon
01:32:14 Night Chart, Sun angular, Moon in cadent house
01:33:19 Day Chart, Moon & Sun in cadent 9th
01:34:07 Summarizing predomination argument
01:34:58 Can there be a tie?
01:35:19 Night Chart, Sun 4th, Moon in 4th or 5th house
01:36:21 If equal, will degree of angularity matter?
01:39:11 The master of the nativity
01:39:57 First method of Determining the Master
01:40:50 The Master is the domicile lord of the Predominator
01:41:27 Sign/planet rulerships
01:52:17 T. S. Eliot
01:55:34 Salvador Dali
01:57:04 Linda Goodman
01:50:28 Ancient Character Interpretation
02:04:21 Iamblichus on the Guardian Spirit
02:06:02 Rhetorius on Venus as Master of the Nativity
02:08:05 Identifying the Guardian Spirit in Porphyry
02:21:56 Co-Master or the Joint Master of the Nativity
02:22:22 Co-Master / Joint Master
02:22:59 Bound lord of the Predominator becomes Co-Master
02:23:30 Terms / Bounds / Confines
02:23:42 Bounds according to the Egyptians
02:28:32 Table of Planetary Rulerships
02:29:13 Use in the Length of Life Technique
02:33:00 Years associated with each of the Planets
02:35:02 Quote from Firmicus on the Master of the Nativity
02:38:00 T. S. Eliot
02:44:26 Second Method of Determining the Master
02:49:17 Franklin D. Roosevelt
02:52:08 Judy Blume
02:52:12 Linda Goodman
02:55:03 Summarizing the Role of the Master of the Nativity
02:55:51 Bonus Material – The Lord of the Nativity
02:59:00 First Approach to Determining the Lord
03:02:45 Second Approach to Determining the Lord
03:05:20 Second Approach to Determining the Lord
03:06:37 Difficult and Complex doctrine
03:07:47 Valens on the Master of the Nativity
03:13:45 Conclusions
03:13:50 Final Remarks 

Watch the Video Version of This Episode

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Listen to the Audio Version of This Episode

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11 comments
  • Wow very extensive and interesting. Thank you both. It also reminded me of the templar’s quest for “knowledge and conversation with your holy guardian angel” etc.. (also random side note, my last name is the Latin version of porphyry: Purpura.) thanks again!

  • Hi Chris and Leisa,
    Great discussion. These podcasts are so educational thanks for doing them. I have a question about the master of Nativity that I don’t think you discussed. What about a full moon (exact) with both sun and moon on angles. I’m using my own chart as an example. Here’s how I’m thinking about it. it is a night chart. Sun in 4th 27 Sag. Moon in 10th 27 Gemini. 1 moon since night chart, 2 moon is more eastern since in 10th ???? unsure about this one. Sorry to bring this up if you did discuss it. If not What are your thoughts?

  • Thank you both so much for this episode, this is a fascinating technique! I think it helps to explain a lot why some planets you might “feel” more in your chart than others. Any thoughts on which approach might be more accurate? I tried it with myself and a few others, and the 2nd approach seemed to make more sense to me, but that was just with 4 different charts. When reading the master of the Nativity and how it serves to “steer” our decisions, do you consider the sign, house,and aspects all to have heightened influence, or perhaps just that planet’s significations in general? Thanks again!

  • Thank you both so much for this episode, this is a fascinating technique! I think it helps to explain a lot why some planets you might “feel” more in your chart than others. Any thoughts on which approach might be more accurate? I tried it with myself and a few others, and the 2nd approach seemed to make more sense to me, but that was just with 4 different charts. When reading the master of the Nativity and how it serves to “steer” our decisions, do you consider the sign, house,and aspects all to have heightened influence, or perhaps just that planet’s significations in general? And if you do use the house to interpret, would you use the whole sign or Porphyry house? Thanks again!

  • Great episode as usual! I’m just a little confused about 2 things, one of them is similar to a previous question. Are some of the considerations for the predominator more important than others? I’m wondering because my sun is in Gemini in the 4th, but I have a night chart with my moon in Cancer, but my sun is also more eastern on the chart. This also brings me to my next question, who is the domicile lord then if your predominator is leo or cancer?
    Thank you for putting all this information out there for all of us!!!!

  • Chris kindly referenced my commission of his original unpublished paper on this topic. This resulted in the following working paper “Astrology and the Soul: History and Sources” published in 2012 and available for free download here.
    http://regulus-astrology.com/pdf/Astrology_of_the_Soul_History_and_Sources_April_25_2012.pdf
    Since writing that working paper, my research efforts have been directed to testing these techniques for individuals mentioned by James Hillman in his book The Soul’s Code. I have published results for 150 so far and hope to have the project completed next year.

  • Which house system was this technique made for ? You gave three examples, two of which you used quadrant house system, and a third example you used whole house system.

  • Well done. I’m blown away. I attended the UAC lecture, where you were pushing up against the time constraint. I was certain there was more to be uncovered, but I had no idea just how much. It’s not off the rails, nor hyperbole, to state that this is a groundbreaking technique that begins to add clarity to the murky inscrutable: ancient/traditional astrology. Thank you for the digressions, which add so much. Looking forward to the future podcasts that come out of those. You’ve much work ahead!

  • Leisa, Is the Master of the House song from Les Mis?
    My husband (fan of Les Miserables) asked me if I knew the song and all I could do is start laughing!

  • what if the sun is in 8th house in sect but the Moon is in 10th? Would you pick the moon? Asc lord is in 9th moving away from beams

    thanks