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Ep. 13 Transcript: Ben Dykes’ New Translation of Hephaistio of Thebes

The Astrology Podcast

Transcript of Episode 13, titled:

Ben Dykes’ New Translation of Hephastio of Thebes

With Chris Brennan and Ben Dykes

Episode originally released on December 18th, 2013


Note: This is a transcript of a spoken word podcast. If possible, we encourage you to listen to the audio or video version, since they include inflections that may not translate well when written out. Our transcripts are created by human transcribers, and the text may contain errors and differences from the spoken audio. If you find any errors then please send them to us by email: theastrologypodcast@gmail.com

Transcribed by Gülşen Altay

Transcription released November 10th, 2018

Copyright © 2018 TheAstrologyPodcast.com

CHRIS BRENNAN: Hi. I am Chris Brennan and you are listening to the astrology podcast. Today is Wednesday, December 18, 2013 and this is the 13th episode of the show. You can find the show at the astrologypodcast.com and you can also listen to us on iTunes.

My guest today is astrologer, translator and publisher Benjamin Dykes and our topic is his recent publication of a translation of the third book of Hephaistio of Thebes which is one of the earliest surviving texts on electional astrology. Ben’s website is bendykes.com and  this is his second time on the show.

Ben, welcome back to the show.

BENJAMIN DYKES: Hi. Thanks for having me back.

CHRIS BRENNAN: Hi. It is good to have you. I think you are my first interview and we actually last summer I interviewed you on your book on essentially Medieval electional astrology but now I think we are going to be talking about in earlier form of electional astrology from the Hellenistic traditions.

Let’s talk about the book. What is  the title of the book again?

BENJAMIN DYKES: Well, it is called ‘Apotelesmatics’, that is the English version of the Greek word and it is ‘Book III: On Inceptions’…


BENJAMIN DYKES:… and Apotelesmatics roughly translate to outcomes or final outcomes. It has to do with interpreting the stars and from then interpreting what they mean and what will happen because of what they mean?

CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure and especially based on the beginning or the inception of where the stars are placed at the moment that somebody initiate something. Correct ?

BENJAMIN DYKES: Right. There is overlap in the book which I know we are going to talk about between that is seem like horary questions, elections, event charts, something called thought interpretation. All of these are broadly considered inceptions by Hephaistio.

CHRIS BRENNAN: Okay and speaking of Hephaistio so we are talking about Hephaistio tips although I think you named him Mario title used to closer to the Greek which is Hephaistion. Correct?

BENJAMIN DYKES: Right and that was a decision that I made with the translator Eduardo Gramaglia and we just decided to go with that. We could have gone either way but we settled on that.

CHRIS BRENNAN: Okay and this is a translation of Hephaistio, the third book of Hephaistio of Thebes. Hephaistio wrote three books, I believe in the fifth century some around, let’s say 415 C.E. Let’s talk a little bit about who are the translator?, and how did you go about basically producing this translation?

BENJAMIN DYKES: Well, the translator was Eduardo Gramaglia. He is a professor of musical analysis in Argentina and he has also for some years been translating Greek astrology works into Spanish and we worked together to produce this translation. It is our first joint work and you know we worked out what you know how we were  going to translate certain words, what the procedure was going to be but in the long run it was Eduardo translating and then me editing, making commentary, writing the introduction, producing the book so I acted more as the editor and publisher even though obviously when we are looking at this kind of translation I am also thinking about how other languages are expressing some of these technical terms that Hephaistio is looking at or that Hephaistio is losing so I was slightly more than an editor and a publisher but mainly that.

CHRIS BRENNAN: Yeah, it really reminds me of some of the early Project Hindsight translations where you would see commentary in the footnotes by both Schmidt who was the translator as well as Hand who was doing the editing and oftentimes Hand would have a lot of insightful sort of commentary to make along the way and that sort of seems like part of the role that you took in this translation and edition to the editing but also have providing some running commentary as well as the introduction. Right?

BENJAMIN DYKES: Right and some of the footnotes I point the reader to may be an alternative reading somewhere else or I will say well he is referring to something that Bonatti talks about or that you know someone so talks  about so it is meant to stand alone as a work on elections but I also see it as part of my larger astrology project where there is lots of cross referencing to other authors and other books.

CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure and definitely showing some of the interactions between this book and what became of electional astrology in the Medieval tradition was certainly an interesting point that you contributed to it and I really appreciate also Eduardo’s translation style and I think it is great that he is also an astrologer, instead of just having for example an academic or two academics’  working on the translation, you have two people that have an academic background and have academic training but you are also astrologers and you bring an interesting perspective to doing a translation like this, I think as a result of that.

BENJAMIN DYKES: Yeah, there were some points at which you know Hephaistion Greek was obscure or we weren’t  too sure at first what he was talking about and if we weren’t astrologers it would have been easy to say well you know  will just a word it like this and move on but we had to sort of think as a astrologers and try to figure out what is Hephaistio mean and what is he doing?, and for me that is always fun in translating because it is not just about producing a book and writing down the words, it is trying to figure out what is this person’s approach?, and what are they think about astrology? How are they using it?

CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure. Exactly. Okay. Great and Eduardo have done a few translations before I know it. He posted a translation of Serapio on the Hellenistic astrology website at one point a few years ago and I know he is definitely a good person has a great background and I think he attended a Project Hindsight conclave sometime over a decade ago and that was one of the things, I remember him telling me that God him sort of motivated and interested in Hellenistic astrology then he went back and got some training in Ancient languages after that or probably around that time.

Let’s talk a little bit about the book itself. As we said before this is the third book of Hephaistios so it is the third and last book and this is a book that a lot of people have been waiting for. I mean me especially I have been waiting for a long time to see a translation of this book because on the one hand we had Books I and II. We had translation of those for quite a while now. I think Robert Schmidt produce those in mid to late 1990s and those are largely on mundane astrology and natal astrology from Hephaistio but this book is on specifically and almost entirely on  the topic of electional astrologer, at least what we call electional astrology but for Hephaistio he referred to as katarchic astrology. Why don’t we talk a little bit about that and a little bit about the structure of the book I guess let’s start with.

BENJAMIN DYKES: Okay. Well, the book begins with some general commentary by him on how to look at an inception chart, how to plan out an election essentially and in these really chapters he is then also introducing fab interpretation which is related to what we now called consultation charts so about the first sixth chapters are basic rules and ideas  about how to approach inceptional charts and event charts and thought interpretation. Everything else is listed by topic; you know ‘If you want to ask someone for a favor, here is how you plan the election’, ‘If you want to buy something at the right price, here is how you do it or here is how you plan at the time for doing it’ so there is generally introductory  section of several chapters and then just chapter after chapter of topics.

CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure and it is maybe like fifty chapters of topics or something like that?

BENJAMIN DYKES: Right and it is, I think 47. What we have also got in here which we can talk about in a moment is, we have got what are called Dorotheus excerpts and Dorotheus fragments as well of some other things, too and  I mention Dorotheus not only because he forms part of the appendices but throughout Hephaistio one of the notable things is that he is constantly quoting Dorotheus from the original Greek poem…


BENJAMIN DYKES: … which is extremely rare in fact Hephaistio was our greatest source for the original Greek poem and what is kind of fascinating for me is that the bits or he quotes Dorotheus poem are the only Dorothean portions of the book because we also have Umar al-Tabari’s Arabic translation we can see that a lot of the regular paragraphs in the book are right out of Dorotheus, they are Hephaistios paraphrasing of poem.

CHRIS BRENNAN: Right and that is definitely, I think the biggest reason that myself and a lot of other people have been waiting for this translation and they are very glad that you were able to pull it together and do it because it preserves…, because Hephaistio himself didn’t really write a lot of unique content on astrology but instead he was more of a compiler from the later part of the Hellenistic tradition and Book III largely consists of Hephaistio either quoting directly or paraphrasing large parts of the fifth book of Dorotheus which we don’t have the original Greek version of,  all we have is this Arabic version from the Medieval tradition that has been altered and changed and in which some material has been inserted so that we don’t always know what is original Dorotheus material and what is inserted by the later Medieval tradition so this is one of the things I think that your translation of Hephaistio will finally clear up is what did Dorotheus originally say?

BENJAMIN DYKES: Right and it is not just getting the astrology right, you know maybe there is a strange rule in the Arabic text and you are not sure of that is sort of Dorotheus means maybe the Greek clears it up. There are  other things, too. For example as I am sure all the listeners know, in traditional astrology there are a lot of verbs in Greek in particular, verbs for looking and seeing how to do with aspects and various ways the planets are configured and it can be easy to assume that each of these has its own various special technical meaning and that is how some other writers and translators have to taken this but now that we actually have the poem from Dorotheus who is very early, very authoritative. We can see that he often uses all sorts of words for looking and seeing with no particular difference between them. In fact it seems he is probably picking and choosing his words so that the meter and number of syllabus on each line of the poem works so that was kind of an eye opening thing.


BENJAMIN DYKES: Not only can Hephaistio be a corrective to our existing Arabic Dorotheus but it also gives insight into whether and how every astrologer took all of these looking and seeing words to be set in stone.

CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure, so help it to clarify some of the early Greek technical terminology that you and I and people like Demetra George and others have been really focused on over the past few years and trying to understand things like the original aspect doctrine.

BENJAMIN DYKES: Yeah. I mean that it is for example you know he may say in his poem, well you might read in other texts like Valens that at some point  he will say if a planet looks upon another planet but then a few lines later he would talk about a planet scrutinizing another planet and it could be easy to assume that looking upon and scrutinize thing have got to be very different kinds of words but if you read Dorotheus you will see that  ‘No’, he often uses them just interchangeably.

CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure. Well. Yes, I mean that will complete some interesting pieces just in terms of the early study of that Dorotheus text since we couldn’t do that previously since all we have is the up until now the English translation of the Arabic  translation of the Persian translation of the original Greek poem of Dorotheus from the first century.


CHRIS BRENNAN: Yeah, that is a big thing that this publication will help to complete as now what we have is Hephaistio who largely either quoted excerpts of Dorotheus directly or did paraphrase large parts of Dorotheus and even included also as you mentioned an appendix where you had…, what is it basically all of the existing Greek fragments of Dorotheus that Pingree in his critical edition had found and you translated them into English?

BENJAMIN DYKES: It is not all of them. What Pingree did was he drew two groups of material. When he published his Arabic Dorotheus, well you know these English translation of Umar’s Arabic in 1976, he included long sections of what he called Dorotheus fragments and then some years later when he was doing research he found another Greek  manuscript which had sometimes lengthy sometimes not but furrows quotes of Dorotheus material and he often knew that they were Dorotheus material because he had already translated Arabic and Hephaistio and these he called the Dorotheus excerpts.


BENJAMIN DYKES: What I did for this book is we translated most of the fragments or many of the fragments, if they pertained to this electional  material and but we also translated all of the excerpts but I only included the ones here, the only Dorothean excerpts that pertained to these topics in Hephaistio so it isn’t all of the fragments and excerpts but it is many of them.

CHRIS BRENNAN: Okay. It is all of the ones that pertained to Book V of Dorotheus or that may have been related to Book III of Hephaistio.

BENJAMIN DYKES: Right and what I plan to do in the future is to produce a kind of reconstructed Dorotheus using lots of Arabic and Greek material including this so I will be using the excerpts and fragments all of them in the future or kind of reconstructed Dorotheus.

CHRIS BRENNAN: Excellent. Well, I look forward to that and that is important I mean just in case and who is listening doesn’t understand the significance of that, it is important because Dorotheus is not only one of the earliest text on Western astrology  that is survived largely intact into the present day but it is also easily one of the most influential texts on the later tradition both on the Hellenistic tradition and then the number of later Hellenistic authors who is asided from Dorotheus and drew on his work but also especially the number of Medieval authors who drew on Dorotheus for different topics like  for natal astrology or for Medieval astrology and so on and so forth or for electional astrology and so on and so forth.

BENJAMIN DYKES: Yeah, as a matter of fact it is hard to understate the influence of Dorotheus because for example Masha’allah is known too to translate it, the Persian Dorotheus as well, not just Umar but Masha’allah also and yet we are always told that this version of Masha’allah’s is lost, nobody knows what happened to it but I believe  when we open up books of Medieval astrology by people like Masha’allah, Sahl, al-Khayyat, other people, al-Rijal on elections we are actually reading Masha’allah’s translation and I make an argument separately in a couple of other books that Masha’allah just repurposed Dorotheus material directly into his material on questions and elections and nativities and so on so we have a lot of Dorotheus material that does go under his name like Umar’s translation but we also have Dorotheus permeating all of the other branches or knows to the other branches in Medieval astrology and he isn’t explicitly named so it is hard to underestimate the influence of his work. If there is no Dorotheus we would probably barely have you know half, what we do half of Medieval astrology

CHRIS BRENNAN: Yeah, especially of elections and of horary.

BENJAMIN DYKES: Yeah, definitely. Yes, certainly horary would be only the faintest reflection of what it is now and likewise elections.

CHRIS BRENNAN: And will clarify why that is later just want to insert a quick statement because to give people some idea of the relative importance of Dorotheus and therefore the relative importance of this publication that preserves a lot of Dorotheus material. I am trying to take next to outside of Ptolemy, Dorotheus probably really is the second most important and most influential astrologer in terms of the extent of his influence on the later tradition, I can’t think of, am I still think Ptolemy would probably outway Dorotheus, if you took into account also some of his astronomical influences and everything  else but Dorotheus would probably be the second most influential astrologer in terms of the transmission of his work to the subsequent traditions. Would you agree with that?

BENJAMIN DYKES: Yeah, in some ways I think it is a toss-up. You could easily argue that Dorotheus was more important but it is a…., they are very close.

CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure. Okay so very important and one of the reasons for and I guess the main reason for this maybe we should get into this discussion since we have already mentioned it, is that there has been this question about and one of the most important things that this translation of Hephaistio is finally able to answer is the question of ‘When did horary astrology originate?, and did it originate in the Hellenistic tradition? Did it exist as a separate branch or even as a practise in the Hellenistic tradition? or ‘Is horary something that does not show up in the existing texts that have survived into the present day?, and therefore does it seem like it develop later in the Medieval tradition? Dorotheus or Hephaistio is one of the last text that we knew really could answer this question one way or another because Hephaistio preserved so much of this earlier material from Dorotheus and in some of the Arabic text of the same material, there are references to horary but the question for a long time has been ‘Will the same material in Hephaistio will it contain the same references to horary or will those references be absent, will they be missing?, will it turn out to the related insertions from the Medieval tradition once horary had already been introduced?’ Yeah so what was the conclusion? I mean you have spent a quite a bit of time in your introduction dealing with this question.

BENJAMIN DYKES: Right. I would say If by horary or questions we are looking for a developed branch of astrology kind of in the way that nowadays you might specialize in horary or in Lilly’s time or Bonatti’s time or even someone like Masha’allah in the 700s, if by horary you mean that the answer is no. There is no evidence of procedural text  books on horary with standardized lists of questions prior to people like Masha’allah in the 700s not that I have seen and certainly not in Hephaistio. However there are a couple of places, there are two places in particular where the way he frames the inception reads almost exactly like a horary chart or horary question and there are other places in the book where when he is talking about what we call consultation charts or thought interpretation and predicting some  outcomes of things, this starts to overlap with what would later become horary so full blown horary of the kind you can learn and study and specialize in does not exist in this book but there is a lot more that overlaps with it and would become part of horary astrology later.

CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure and my biggest surprise because I have worked with Hephaistio before I had never full translation of it but I had gone through the text with Schmidt and just side read it to see if any of the passages in the Arabic  version of Dorotheus that had references to horary because it is really weird because there is only 40 chapters or something in the Arabic version of Dorotheus on elections in Book V and only five or six of those chapters contain references to horary, the rest of it is clearly just on electional astrology but the title of Book V of Dorotheus in Arabic manuscript has been changed to say that is on questions…


CHRIS BRENNAN: … even though the majority of the book and even the first sentence or two says explicitly that is on inceptions or elections.

BENJAMIN DYKES: Yeah and this is actually an important point to make is that this is why I phrased my earlier answer the way I did. You have talked about a question chart, if by question you just meant any kind of consultation with an astrologer period or any kind of question you might ask, well then sure the book is full of questions because it is about people coming to the astrologer for help so when we read things like in Arabic  that Book V of Dorotheus’s on questions which is the Arabic word that they use, we have to be very careful about what we mean, it does mean that someone is inquiring of the astrologer, sure but it is not a complete full blown manual on what we would call the branch of horary.

CHRIS BRENNAN: Right. Yeah and it is just not. I mean, I think that was an error in the Arabic version to say that, that book was on questions because it  even clarifies in the first like I said two or three sentences that is on inceptions or elections but the big surprise for me, since you know this is a one of the earliest research papers that I wrote that I really published and put out there was in 2007 my paper on the origins of horary and in that paper I argued and I pointed out that I think for one of the first times partially drawing on Pingree’s work but also drawing on just any available Hellenistic text that we had in translation and just as well as some that we didn’t at the time that references to horary seem to be conspicuously absent in the Hellenistic tradition and therefore drawing the conclusion that it probably didn’t  exist certainly as an independent branch in the Hellenistic tradition and one of the text that I looked at with Schmidt was the Hephaistio text in order to see if any of the material that Hephaistio preserved, indicated that there was horary in Dorotheus in the first century as it seems in the Arabic text and that conclusion that we came to was that, the answer was no. One of the biggest surprises for me in your translation and one of the things that this translation has cleared up and finally provided an answer to is, this one instance, there is only one strong instance new provide a really good analysis of all of the different possible instances in which there could be references to horary throughout the Hephaistio text and you sort of analyse them and talk about which ones are ambiguous, which ones are not? But the one reference which comes in I believe it is Book III obviously if Hephaistio chapter 11 on the topic of its own separations…


CHRIS BRENNAN: …there is one clear reference to horary and that is the biggest thing that your publication has changed for me is that I have to coincide now that, that is definitely a reference to horary and what is terrible about it in a way  partially for me at least as someone humbling about it, is that I was aware of this reference, have been aware of it is since 2006-2007 but one think that Schmidt always pointed out to me and which I was took for granted is that in the footnotes or on the critical apparatus that Pingree included in his critical edition, Pingree pointed out that in one of the manuscript traditions that in the P…, I think it is the P manuscript or X manuscript tradition. Which one?


CHRIS BRENNAN: Okay. Right. In the X manuscript  tradition that so in the actual manuscript Pingree compiled what he thought his reconstruction what the original text says, It says there is separations and returns so it is about when basically a wife leaves her husband and they two have a separation and the husband wants to know if the wife will come back to him…


CHRIS BRENNAN: … and Dorotheus gives these instructions and he says or Hephaistio does he says their separations and returns are to be examined in the following manner  in the inception and which the separation occurs or else at the time that someone inquires from you look at Venus and the Sun and then he goes on and on and gives you instructions but in that he first says look at the event chart for when the separation occurs, when the wife leaves her husband but then he says or  if you don’t have that basically, look at the chart for the time that the husband comes to you, the astrologer and inquires about that question so that is a clear reference to horary in those manuscripts and I have had always been under the impression that there was a major alternate manuscript tradition which omitted the second phrase about casting a chart for when the client approaches you essentially with a question about this topic but one of the things you guys clarified is that, that is not actually a strong enough manuscript tradition to rely on because so many of the other manuscripts include the horary reference and also because the other manuscript tradition the alternate one is kind of a miner tradition. Right?

BENJAMIN DYKES: Yeah, what Pingree pointed out in his description of his manuscript is that this X, this manuscript X that he is labeled X is the only one that omits that phrase or else at the time at someone inquires from you, every  other manuscript includes it but this manuscript X not only is it the only one that omits it so you should be suspicious about omitting it that way but X itself only has little tiny bits of Hephaistio that are stuck in the midst of material on Valens so it is not as though manuscript X even you know represent a sustained version of Hephaistio so it seems to me that yes this phrase should be here or else at the time someone inquires from you but you know on the other hand remember that Hephaistio calls this an inception and the inception is the action taken by the wife, she is undertaken an action, it is an event chart or an action and so we could treat it just as a straightforward election or event chart where the husband says here is when she left what would be the outcome and what he is seem to suggest is maybe the kind of way that horary astrologers started. He says, well he alludes to this in some other places that if you don’t know the time of the event, if the client doesn’t know the time then use the time that the client has come to you and that is not really full blown horary, that is more like ‘Well, if you can’t do anything else and you have to cast a  chart you might as well casted for the time that they come to you.’.

CHRIS BRENNAN: Right. Yeah, you provide actually some really good insight into that with the other chapter that you say should be taken into account  along with chapter 11 which is chapter 47 on runaway slaves because it shows that there is different levels of like a hierarchy of inceptions that you should use if you have them available but then if you don’t, then you default to like what is essentially a lesser starting point or a lesser inception, then there is actually it ends up being like a certification of three or four different possible inceptions and then eventually if none of those are available then you use just the chart for when the client approaches you.

BENJAMIN DYKES: Right. If you are the astrologer, you need to use some charts so what it is going to be, that is basically so you have this hierarchy and something like this also happens in later horary, too. That was even there amongst the Persians and Arabs and that is that if someone comes to you and they have questions that you would normally use the natal chart for like ‘When will I get married?’ or ‘ Will I have money?,  that kind of thing. Well, if that client doesn’t have their nativity, what are you going to to? Well, they would cast what we now call a question chart or horary chart?, and they called it a universal question or a general question and so that the question chart is a second best alternative to having the actual nativity and here in Hephaistio casting a chart for the time of the consultation is second best to knowing when the wife ran away or when the slave ran away.

CHRIS BRENNAN:  Right and actually in certain context it might be third best because in chapter four which is on runaway slaves, the first instruction he gives is, to cast a chart for when the slave runs away and that is the primary chart is the event  chart for the slave departs in order to determine if the slave will return to the master, what have you. Then in sentence 51 in chapter 47, there is a brief sentence or two words, gives instructions saying that if the time in which the runaway depart is not known then you should use the time for when the master first found out that the slave was missing.


CHRIS BRENNAN: And that is the second best sort of inception chart within that context so that is almost like the second and then you must wonder then if the chapter 11 consideration would come in third if you don’t know even that time, then the third best option is if you don’t have the chart for one the actually event happened, if you don’t have the time for when the person  realized that the event had happened then the third best thing is you could maybe cast a chart for when the person comes to the astrologer asking them for help figuring out when things will be fixed.

BENJAMIN DYKES: Right so I have no problem saying that horary existed in a kind of generalized way just in the sense that you have to cast a chart, you need some kind of chart if you can have the preferred chart casted for the time of the consultation or that they might have used, they might have taken the thought interpretation techniques which are very clear in Hephaistio and later on adopted that to the topic of…, to horary so the later on you get the full blown branch  that you can read about and learn on your own or from a teacher but at this stage it is still the horary chart, is either you know the second or third best chart, there is no developed doctrine or there is still stuck of the stage of doing thought interpretation

CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure. Yeah, definitely I wanna talk about thought interpretation because that is the other thing that goes into a quite bit that is really exciting seeing that in the early tradition and also seeing that as kind of a precursor to horary but before we get away from chapter 11, I do just wanna say even though on the one hand this is literally the only clear reference, the  clear unarguably unambiguous reference to horary in the entirety of this book and therefore even in the entirety of Dorotheus. To me, this is the still clear reference to horary, this is a clear reference to the idea underlying that eventually became this separate branch of horary, this fourth branch of astrology was clearly there in Hephaistio and in fact when I checked it, it matched the Arabic text, the sentence matched the Arabic text so well that I think  it probably was what Dorotheus originally said as well which means that this reference even if it was only single reference to being able to cast a chart for when somebody comes to you with a question about whether their wife will return to them, that is enough to tell me that something like horary was already developing as early as the first century C.E. and in that I have to really you know it is very humbling for me I think you know but perhaps many other people don’t know, I have to sort of escrow a bit because there have been some people over the past few years who have been saying that this reference is there. For example Deborah Houlding an elector at UAC last year in 2012 and Dorian Greenbaum have said this reference is there. Now we may still disagree about some other references in other Hellenistic authors where there is sort  of this debate about whether consultation charts or thought interpretation constitutes horary and there is still some room for debate over the extent which other authors refer to horary and the Hellenistic tradition but when it comes to this I have to now I think revise my position that I have adopted back in 2007 when I published a paper on horary that horary did not exist at all as a concept in the Hellenistic tradition or that the closest you get to it is the consultation chart or the thought interpretation and now just do the single reference that you guys have published and information about the manuscript tradition and everything else you are given around it, I definitely have to revise that position and say that horary or at least the inklinks, the starting point of horary does seem to have already existed by the first century.

BENJAMIN DYKES: Yeah and I think you put it to the right way of a few sentences ago, you said the idea of horary  because yeah, this one reference is not very much to hang one’s head on and if you are looking for you know a Greek William Lilly, this is no evidence of that so I think your general conclusions were still correct from that paper because you know this is only one sentence and it does only express a general idea of horary so that is just that would be my reaction to that.


BENJAMIN DYKES: I think your general conclusion was still correct.

CHRIS BRENNAN: Yeah, I mean one of the things that I think you have and your publications on Medieval texts on thought  interpretation over the past few years like the search of the heart and some of the other texts and then even this one, one of the things you did confirm about my argument that was unique and some people I think give too much credit or thought that I was drawing in entirely on Pingree for my argument about the origins of horary but that wasn’t necessarily the case because one of the unique things I try to argue is that horary probably developed originally out of consultation charts and the thought interpretation framework and that is one of the things that I think you have kind of shown some of your works, Medieval translations is that there was a much larger branch of thought interpretation and consultation charts that existed as sort of a subset of electional or inceptional astrology in the early Medieval tradition and that it was kind of connected with the horary tradition in a way so that argument that I made that horary may have partially grown out of the idea of consultation charts was sort of confirmed by that.

BENJAMIN DYKES: Yeah and actually it was only after understanding your argument and hearing about that, that I began to see thought interpretation all over the place and recognize it for what it was so yeah, I think we could also say and we could  look at Hephaistio as an example of this, developed thought interpretation techniques that also include predicting the outcomes of thoughts and the outcomes of plans that can we use as a kind of early template for horary.

CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure and that is one of the sort of debates that is happening right now and you have made some interesting distinctions or you generally distinguish between thought interpretation/consultation charts versus predicting outcomes from that versus event charts and then finally versus horary, full blown horary questions  and one of the debates for example that we have been recently like for example Deborah Houlding takes the position that there is no distinction between horary astrology proper and a consultation chart whereas I sort of see those two as being conceptually different and I think you sort of adopted that position as well in distinguishing most of the time between thought interpretation being one thing and horary astrology proper being something different. Right?

BENJAMIN DYKES: Yeah, I do see them as different, they are procedurally different, have different rules for people who use both methods thought interpretation comes first and yeah, so thought interpretation is definitely distinct from horary even if you are working as an astrologer and someone comes to you and you do a consultation chart as they walk in the room and they are already telling you the question, well then you know the thought interpretation and the question and the consultation all kind of mixes together so might be that in real life many times you won’t see the difference but in a lot of these texts they are very clear thought interpretation techniques are different and they often need to come first and interpreting and identifying someone’s thought is different from predicting the outcome of it.


BENJAMIN DYKES: In fact, in Hephaistio in chapter three so Book III chapter three, he talks about what he calls irrational inceptions and this just seems really strange because he is saying you cast this chart and then from it you determine  whether or not this is in a rational person or it is in a rational action which seems kind of weird because you wouldn’t already know through talking with them whether this was you know you wouldn’t already know that if they were talking to you so I think with this chapter has to do is, it is like a consultation chart in which you are interpreting whether or not this person’s plans and ideas are even sound enough to be carried out.

CHRIS BRENNAN: Right and that chapter was exciting because to me that indicated or that look like a precursor to what became later in horary, the considerations before judgement.


CHRIS BRENNAN: Literally just  things that you taken into account that give you some idea about what the client is thinking or what their intentions are and in some instances if their thoughts or their intentions are not good then it sort of alerts the astrologer to this ahead of time.

BENJAMIN DYKES: Right. I mean in this short little chapter it is only three sentences long but it is very clear, he is not saying you know look at the lord of the Ascendant and see if it connects to the lord of the 10th and tell you whether the action is irrational, this is a chapter about identifying an irrational client even apart from whatever it is they want to do so it is almost like it doesn’t matter whether they think they want to get married or ask a favor or get a job if this consultation chart shows that they are  rational people to begin with then yeah it is like a consideration before judgement it is a morning sign.

CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure and that is definitely still the rooted very much in the consultation chart itself that chart cast for the inception of the consultation.

BENJAMIN DYKES: There is nothing really horary like about this kind of consultation chart because you are diagnosing what is in the head…., you are diagnosing the sanity of the client.


BENJAMIN DYKES: Quite apart from whatever their question happens to be so this is a good example of how thought interpretation we absolutely distinct from whatever the client wants to do or know about.

CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure and there is actually very exciting because it is the most extensive there is a very long chapter in which  Hephaistio gives rules for determining also what is on the client’s mind or what they are thinking about based on the twelfth part that is rising at the time of the consultation. Right?

BENJAMIN DYKES: Yeah and you can see again how this could be procedurally and conceptually different from horary. Suppose you cast a chart, a consultation chart for when the client arrives and you use these twelfth parts to identify a kind of broad topic. Well, this can be a guide for you while the client is talking. I mean what if the client comes to you and he is confused and goes into a 20 minute discussion, well now 20 minutes have gone by and that can mean the difference between having one Ascendant versus another one you can finally cast the question chart so if my take a while to  narrow down what exactly the question even is what the consultation chart, what the thought part does is, identify at least a broad range of things to begin with.

CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure and one of the other issues that came up or one of the other things that I kind of have to backtrack on that I have taken as a position in the horary paper, I think as also interesting is that because all of this is being contextualized within the context of the word of katarche or the word  that you are translating consistently and I usually also would prefer to translate as inception or beginning that this entire book is on inceptions so casting a chart for the inception of event or the moment that an event is initiated or takes place under the assumption that either you can proactively pick an auspicious date to initiate something or an auspicious moment or that you can retrospectively look at an event that has already began if you know when it began in order to determine what its outcome will be.


CHRIS BRENNAN: The fact that they do contextualize that one instance in what chapter 11 of Hephaistio where he says look at the inception chart for when someone  inquires about this topic to you the astrologer that means that they are using basically or moving towards a horary framework or that the idea of horary is starting to come up, it is sort of like a proto-horary within the context of the word katarche or katarchē and that is important to me because that is something that Geoffrey Cornelius spends a lot of time on in the Moment of Astrology talking about the importance of this Greek term within the context of horary and I kind of he was emphasizing how it was used later in the Greek tradition and some of the horoscopes that are contained in Neugebauer and Van Hoesen’s work Greek Horoscopes in the, I think there is four or five charts from the fifth or sixth century attributed to Palchus and like two or three of them are clearly horary questions and Cornelius made very big deal about this because they used the term katarche within the context of horary questions and I have sort of questioned whether or not we could use that as an example of in order to understand Greek technical terminology in the full range of meaning of the term katarche. At the time I questioned that at least although now this is another instances where I would say Cornelius was right in that horary was sort of a subset in a way of katarchic astrology in early Hellenistic tradition or eventually it developed out of that. However the part where he might not like as much is that clearly I think Hephaistio text demonstrate that this term katarche is being used to refer to the  sort of chronological inception or beginning of an event in time as being an important moment in that, that is something that is necessary that you have to have some sort of inception moment in order to cast a chart and in order to be able to do any sort of astrological divination or what have you so that is gonna raise a lot of interesting discussions now that are gonna be reviewed about Cornelius’s use of that term and the extent to which this notion of inceptions is tied into to horary I guess.

BENJAMIN DYKES: Well, in one way you could look at it this way. If you go to that chapter 11 about run away wife Hephaistio calls it an inception, well what part of it is an inception? Is it the client? Is it the husband coming to you? No, that is not the inception. The inception or undertaking was the wife’s leaving and so what the guy is doing when he comes to you, he is asking about an event that has already happened that he is in the mid stuff and he wants inside into what is going to happen?, and what we could say is this is a kind of  if we generalize that situation we get essentially in a horary consultation because what is someone come to the astrologer for?, they say well these are the things that they have been happening and I am midst of them now and I want to know what is going to happen?, so that we could generalize this thought and said that any horary consultation is also an inception.


BENJAMIN DYKES: Not because the word is ambiguous but because people are only there because of something else that has been undertaken in the past that is affecting them now.


BENJAMIN DYKES: And you know this is something that you look at in a horary chart you look at the separations and the applications of  the Moon and Dorotheus talks about this so when the Moon separates from a planet that shows you what has been happening, Hephaistio does the same thing I think with the 11th house or the ninth house in one of the early chapters. I mean I am averse to just glossing all of this stuff has been katarchic astrology because there are enough differences between thought interpretation, predicting outcomes, horary and you know straight up elections and event charts, all of those things are distinct and so even though they might have this common threat of concept of undertakings  running through them, I don’t think that, that means we should just gloss all off it as being katarchic.

CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure. Yeah and I definitely was in trying to say that I guess I was just saying that one of the points that on the one hand in Cornelius’s book the Moment of Astrology he tries to adopt the term katarche as being this very important term for understanding  and gaining insight into horary astrology and he goes in a certain direction with it about the ceremonial and sort of spiritual or other sort of meanings that might be associated with it. Well, at the same time trying to reject the notion that the idea of temporal moments of origin is the conceptual or philosophical bases for astrology…


CHRIS BRENNAN: … and so, on the one hand I am actually I am backtracking and saying you know you are right the katarche is more important for horary than I earlier acknowledge but then I am also on the other hand pushing back and  saying however it turns out that if you were gonna go that direction and that seems to be true to some extent than that actually ties astrology even closer to this notion of temporal moments of origin then previously thought.

BENJAMIN DYKES: Yeah, yeah, absolutely and I think we can look to the astrologers themselves and their explicit statements to show that. One of them again would be this some of the thought interpretation material where they are talking about how to interpret what is recently happened or  with the runaway wife? The katarche is what the wife did at a particular time and you need to know of the time…


BENJAMIN DYKES:…or you know in Ptolemy when he talks about the birth, the nativity as a katarche because it is something that is subsequent to the conception, they are not using this in a ritual sense, they are tieing to actual moments.

CHRIS BRENNAN: Right, symbolically significant moments at the beginning or the inception of some event or some venture in time and that is actually explicitly stated in that sentence we keep coming back to does have the clear reference to horary it says, ‘if you wanna figure out if the person’s wife will come back to you it says look at in the inception in which the separation occurs’ so either you are looking at the inceptional chart for  the moment that the wife left her husband or else at the time that someone inquires from you so again it brings it back to the this temporal moment of someone approaching you to talk as the astrologer, to talk about this question at that moment as having some sort of symbolic significance that you can draw from astrologically.

BENJAMIN DYKES: Well and the a bit about the runaway slave does something similar because what you prefers the  inception chart for the moment, the stuff was stolen but if not and this is an interesting variation if not you take the time when the owner of it found out.


BENJAMIN DYKES: And what that means is that you are taking the time when it became a problem for the owner…


BENJAMIN DYKES: … or became a problem in the owner’s mind so they need a time and the time has got to be closely related to you know when these things became a problem although I mean I could see Cornelius’s point maybe for the…, if we are talking about a chart when the owner found out about it because the goods are already stolen, they are gone.


BENJAMIN DYKES: But when you found out about it, it could be a more symbolic kind of event a symbolic moment but nevertheless they are clear that what I like about these passages is that they don’t just tell you when to cast a chart, they are giving  you some options and we are able to interpret why certain options might be better than others.

CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure and that is really what is very exciting to me about this translation and one of the reasons why I think everyone should get it is just, those little statements that you can pick up, provides such important and sort of profound, have the potential to provide such profound insides into the theoretical and philosophical conceptualizations of horary astrology or not horary but of astrology in general of electional astrology for one but then also some of the broader implications that they may have  for the…, or understanding conceptualization of astrology in what it does in general and we are certain I don’t wanna do or sort of glossing over some of Cornelius’s argument and I don’t wanna do disservice to it by giving it such a brief treatment and I had little time here but that was just a little piece that I thought this is definitely gonna become relevant to some of the arguments he made in that book 20 years ago and I think your book will help to both on the one hand solve and affirm some of the questions and the points that he raised but also on the other hand there may be some other points where we will have to go back and discuss again.

Moving on a little bit and just there are last a little bit of time here, I just want to talk about one of the other things which is just it is really interesting to me from a technical standpoint as an astrologer the reoccuring approach that comes up over and over again in the different topics for different types of elections, oftentimes the main focus of the election is not on things like figuring out what house which of the 12th house is matches the topic of whatever you are trying to start but instead almost every election is framed within the context or maybe the majority of the elections are framed within the context of just looking at the four angular houses and having the first house indicate the one who initiates the action, having the seventh house oftentimes indicate the other party who is receiving the action, having the 10th  house indicates something about the quality of the action and then the fourth house indicating something about the outcome and that framework comes up over and over again and it is really fascinating framework that provides a lot of insight into early electional astrology because I almost got the sense that it was almost coming  from a strata of the early astrological tradition perhaps around the time of Dorotheus or before the time of Dorotheus when the concept of the four angles was there and they are placing a lot of emphasis on those four angular places the rising sign, the setting sign, the culminating sign and the anti-culminating sign but they are not necessarily putting a lot of emphasis on the other houses at least not for topics or not topically.


CHRIS BRENNAN: I don’t know if you had any…, I mean do you think that is true,  maybe the majority of the elections really seem to focus on the four angles and not so much the rest of the houses?

BENJAMIN DYKES: It could be related to this idea of solar motion or diurnal motion, you know you have the action that is arising would obviously be the Ascendant and you know the Midheaven being in the culmination point would be something more like the purpose or the action you are striving for or the success that you are striving for, the fourth house at one point, I think one of the thought interpretation chapters he says the fourth house is also hidden things that you don’t know about, obviously that is symbolic of the Sun being below the earth.


BENJAMIN DYKES: There is something going on that you don’t see so it could be that they were using these the symbolism and metaphors involved in diurnal motion to structure their elections and that is certainly something that could go away back.

CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure. Yeah, it just raises some interesting…, I mean there is some interesting historical questions about the development of astrology that, that raises for me since this comes from Dorotheus who himself claimed to have been drawing from earlier strata of the tradition both from the Mesopotamian stream and the Egyptian stream according to his introductory or marks in the Arabic text and so it is sort of made me wonder if there wasn’t something that someone at some point maybe of the work out or make an argument about in terms of either the development of electional astrology and perhaps this indicating that it comes from an earliest strata perhaps very early on or even just drawing from strengthens just before the Hellenistic tradition going back to the Mesopotamian tradition or perhaps that you could draw some implications in terms of the development of the houses where some people often do argue that the angles were developed and established first before they really had developed an understanding of what the other significations of the other houses were and so perhaps this could place some role that affect that they only  really focus on the four angular houses in this early electional work could tell us something about the development of the use of the houses and what came first chronologically or what have you.


CHRIS BRENNAN: These are sort of fully developed conclusions or thoughts that I worked out but it is just little things that came up to me as I was reading your translation.

BENJAMIN DYKES: Well and that  reminds me of something I believe in Bonatti where he points out he says older authors keep whenever they look at their questions and elections they keep focusing on the angular houses and he is basically saying they need to broaden their view and pick some different houses for some of these questions.


BENJAMIN DYKES: There was something that Bonatti, I believe it was Bonatti was noting one and seem to be a bit irritated by.

CHRIS BRENNAN: Yeah, I mean I could easily see how somebody I mean even myself just any normal astrologer, any astrologer who does Modern electional astrology even Medieval electional astrology if you read this book you will see a type of electional astrology that is notably different in some ways technically from what we are use to and that is  because it is coming from such an early strata of the astrological tradition from the first century C.E. and even before that it looks a little bit different but in that you can really see the origins of what became of electional astrology for the next 2000 years.

Yeah, very exciting. I think we are getting towards the end of our hour so one of the things I did wanna ask you about is what  you are planning on working on next, what sort of projects you have lined up for the future both on your own, in terms of your own translation efforts but also in terms of with Eduardo and if the two of you plan to doing editional translations of other Hellenistic texts.

BENJAMIN DYKES: Yes, we have a lot of things planned both worked on jointly or in my case I would be producing a translation of Firmicus Maternus.


BENJAMIN DYKES: But we already have a plan that we are going to do a number of other Greek works together including the works of Theophilus who is a big question mark really, it is a kind of a blank spot in the history of astrology and an important one  because he was seem to have been, he was writing in Greek during a period when everyone else was moving into Arabic so he was living at the same time as people like Masha’allah and Umar al-Tabari but he was still writing in Greek so there is all sorts of information that is going to be in his books so we are going to be working on Theophilus as well as a number of other things together and then I am going to soon after I finish my the next two mundane books, my Medieval serious will be complete that I projected several years ago.

And I am going to work on a lengthy Arabic series as well as later on or occasionally a later Medieval early modern Latin series.

CHRIS BRENNAN: Okay, from the like late Medieval early Renaissance period.

BENJAMIN DYKES: Yeah, translate John of Ashendon and Cardan and you know some of the primary sources that William Lilly was using and those folks from the later Medieval early modern period.

CHRIS BRENNAN: Okay and you recently I guess a few months ago back in August you released your first book in the series on mundane astrology and you are working on the second volume right now. Right?

BENJAMIN DYKES: Yes and that is going to have a lot more from Arabic, I plan on translating the complete Book VIII of al-Rijal which is the mundane section of his large book and this second volume is going to focus on conjunctional theory and timelord systems and how to  interpret you know annual ingress charts so this is going to be very nitty and it is going to be more narrowly focused on that material where is the first volume was on a number of techniques which will not always closely related.


BENJAMIN DYKES: All of them derived somehow or another from Ptolemy and his mundane writings but the topics for somewhat separate. Volume II is going to focus on time lords and conjunctions and ingresses.

CHRIS BRENNAN: Excellent. That is exciting because there wasn’t a lot, I mean the Hellenistic tradition was very much primarily focused on natal astrology and then secondarily maybe on elections but you don’t get a lot of Medieval or mundane astrology until the Medieval tradition where you have this huge fully worked out approaches to the subject.

BENJAMIN DYKES: Yeah. Ptolemy he talks about ingresses what he wants is the lunation, the chart for the lunation that  was just prior to the seasonal ingress so he focuses more on new moon and full moon charts but even so and this was picked up by the Persians and the Arabs but I am not aware of hand of other people in the ancient world who followed him in that so even though he was talking about those kinds of charts it was really the Persians and Arabs who started developing the material more fully.

CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure and worked out the full Jupiter-Saturn cycle and everything else…


CHRIS BRENNAN: … which is good timing that you are publishing these since we are do for another conjunction here in just few years like 2020. Right?

BENJAMIN DYKES: Yes, yeah, in my book I will explain lots of tables that explains different kinds of conjunctions and when do we expect each conjunction depending on whether you use tropical or sidereal?, and all of that sort of thing.

CHRIS BRENNAN: Okay. Excellent.

All right. Well, I guess that does it for our show. Thanks for coming on to talk about your book on Hephaistio of Thebes.

BENJAMIN DYKES: Thanks, it was a pleasure.

CHRIS BRENNAN: All right. Well that is it for this episode of the astrology podcast. Thank you for listening. If you want to subscribe to the show then just enter your email address on the sidebar of the astrologypodcast.com. Please check out Ben’s website and I will put up a link or you can order the book from there at bendykes.com. If you enjoyed this episode, then please go, give it a good rating on iTunes and that is it.

Thanks for listening. We will see you next time.