The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 221, titled:
William Lilly and His Book Christian Astrology
With Chris Brennan and guest Nina Gryphon
Episode originally released on September 13, 2019
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: email@example.com
Transcribed by Arien Dijkstra
Transcription released February 19th, 2020
Copyright © 2020 TheAstrologyPodcast.com
Chris Brennan: Hi, my name is Chris Brennan and you’re listening to the Astrology podcast. In this episode I’m going to be talking with astrologer, Nina Gryphon, about the 17th century astrologer, William Lilly, and his work and his book on astrology titled Christian Astrology, which is one of the first English language text books on astrology. This episode was recorded on Sunday, September 8th, 2019 starting at 4:16pm in Denver, Colorado, and this is the 221st episode of the show. For more information about how to subscribe to the podcast and help support the production of future episodes by becoming a patron, please visit theastrologypodcast.com/subscribe. Hey Nina, thanks for joining me today.
Nina Gryphon: Thanks for having me, Chris.
CB: Alright, so this is a big topic. We’re going to be talking about the life and work of William Lilly, who was easily the most prominent astrologer of the 17th century but also had a huge impact on later traditions of astrology because he wrote what was essentially the first major textbook on astrology in the English language. And this is somebody whose work you’ve really focused on and come to specialize in to a large extent, right?
NG: Yes, that’s correct. I have studied with Deborah Houlding and John Frawley. Both of whom, as we will later discuss, come out of the Olivia Barclay lineage, who of course is very tied in to William Lilly. And it’s been a big part of my own study and learning of astrology as well.
CB: Okay, brilliant. So in terms of Lilly, what was his dates and time frame? What years did he live and die?
NG: Sure, so Lilly had a particularly long life by 17th century standards. He of course was born in England, and he was born in 1602 and died in 1681.
CB: Okay, so pretty much the entirety or the greater part of the 17th century pretty much encapsulates his life.
NG: That’s right.
CB: Alright, and he was not just like a theoretical astrologer but he was actually a practicing astrologer who lived in London and saw clients on a regular basis, right?
NG: Yes, that is correct. So, he was not originally from London and we’ll talk a little bit about his bio later. But William Lilly really saw a number of clients every day, and we know this, not only because of his own and contemporary accounts, but also because he had his own case books that he kept so whenever a client would come see him, typically about a horary chart, that is what we’ll talk about.. more about what that is. But he would write down the chart the client’s name and the question and answer that he gave. And these case books are still preserved, again we’ll discuss a little more about that later but we have really good records of how many clients he saw, how often, what his typical day even looked like just based on these contemporaneous diaries.
CB: Okay, brilliant. And what he became the most known for especially in subsequent generations was this big text book on Astrology that he wrote titled ‘Christian Astrology’, right?
NG: That’s right and ‘Christian Astrology’ is interesting because not only is it a very big book with a lot of pages and a lot of information, but it’s also the first real Astrological textbook written in English. Prior to his time all Astrological works were written in Latin.
CB: Okay. So, Latin was like the educated language in Europe that most scientific and other types of texts were written in up to that point.
NG: That’s right. It was really the language of the sciences, and Astrology being one of the sciences, was of course written in Latin so that people from all different kinds of countries could read it and have a conversation about it.
CB: So, why did he decide to write his book, his major treatment of Astrology, in English at that point instead of continuing the tradition of writing it in Latin where it would have been more accessible to let’s say people in other countries?
NG: I think there were a couple of things going on. One is he himself was actually quite excellent in Latin, perhaps better than most of his astrological contemporaries. And again this is part of sort of the interesting aspects of his life. But I think you recognize that because very few people were very good at Latin, they really were not able to perfect their knowledge of astrology because a lot of the texts, even though they may have been available to them, were simply not very accessible because of the lack of Latin learning. So I think he wanted people to really know astrology and he wanted to be able to essentially condense and translate what he knew from all these Latin texts into one vernacular text that would be accessible to a much larger audience.
CB: Okay, yeah so he.. I mean, one of the things in reading Christian Astrology, is he really comes of like a teacher, somebody that has a genuine interest in teaching, and that was probably pay of his goal or motivation and writing in English was that part of him that really wanted to help everybody to learn this subject.
NG: I think that’s right. And you know one of his ongoing issues had been that the standard for the practice of astrology was not necessarily very high or at least it was very uneven. Pretty much just depending on the level of education of the particular practitioner, and in those days not many people had much as it was a short of a luxury commodity. So I think he wanted to make good astrology available to all.
CB: Okay. What kind of influence did he have, because it seems like after he wrote his text.. was his.. sometimes this trips me up, how to frame it? Whether it was the first English text on Astrology ever? Or was it the first major textbook on astrology? Because there were other sort of shorter books in English prior to Lilly’s, right?
NG: So, I’m only aware of one other work prior to his on astrology in English. So if you know of others, I’m happy to be corrected. But in my research I’ve only come across one. And that was a short treatise on medical astrology that was sort of pseudonymously published by somebody, I think he called himself the initials: G.C. Gentlemen. So it was sort of an odd, maybe half-hearted attempt to put Astrology out there, but only one aspect of it, medical. Certainly nothing of the scope Lilly was contemplating.
CB: Okay, sure. Yeah, I’ve only found one other. It was like a very short book that was more like an almanac or a prediction about an upcoming Jupiter Saturn conjunction that was in English, but it wasn’t like a textbook in Astrology. And that’s why I feel we can say with some certainty that this was the first major English language textbook on astrology. But then after that point it seems like he influenced a number of other people, and this started a trend of Astrology books being written in English, right?
NG: I think that’s right, and we certainly have a number of authors flourishing contemporaneously and after him who just wrote in English.
CB: Okay, so who were one of the other Astrologers that started writing English language, like major Astrological texts after Lilly?
NG: So, we have quite a few. We have Nicholas Culpeper who wrote about medical astrology because he was a physician as well as an Astrologer. We have John Gadbury, William Ramsay, Joseph Blagrave. There were quite a few others. A number of them, like Lilly himself, were not just astrologers but they were on a particular side of the English civil war. And so they were often engaged in a war of printed matter and a war of words with Lilly. If they were on the opposite side publishing almanacs and predictions that contradicted each other and where they attacked each other personally and so on.
CB: Right, yeah there’s a lot of funny bickering and back and forth between the astrologers in the 17th century that’s somewhat occasionally entertaining to watch, and other times, you’re sort of rolling your eyes seeing the sort of squabbling between done of them.
NG: That’s right, a little cringey sometimes.
CB: Right. And I don’t know if I mentioned the date, what was the publication date for Christian Astrology?
NG: So, Christian Astrology actually just came out twice, and there’s not a huge difference between the two. So the first edition was 1647 and the second edition was 1659. And add I understand it there isn’t a big difference between the two. I think he basically corrected done errata from the first printing and so is not exactly a second printing in 1659, but it’s pretty close to one, there aren’t major editorial changes or anything like that.
CB: Okay, so 1647. That becomes an important date for us to remember, of the first major English text on Astrology. And then not long after that within just a few years we start seeing a bunch of these other English language texts on Astrology start to appear as well by some of those figures you mentioned like Gadbury and Ramsay and so forth.
NG: That’s right.
CB: Okay. Alright, so that’s an important turning point. Other publications later in his life, he also translated Anima Astrology or an Astrologer’s Guide in 1676, right?
NG: He did, and the Anima Astrologiae, which is what he called a guide for Astrologers. It was basically translated by his student or not exactly adopted son, but kind of an amanuensis, Henry Coley and it included material from Guido Bonatti’s book of astronomy as well as Gerolamo Cardano’s book. And so it’s sort of a book of aphorisms, and guidance that Lilly thought was especially helpful. And Lilly provided the forward to it so sometimes it’s listed under his name although Coley really did the translation.
CB: Okay, got it. And for that people can actually go back and listen to Episode 108 which was your previous appearance in the podcast where we talked about Bonatti’s book of Aphorisms and sort of touched on Coley’s translation of that as well, right?
NG: That’s exactly right so this is something that happens a few centuries later, and it’s again for the first time available in English
CB: Sure. So after that point, after Lilly died eventually, he continued to be highly influential in the astrological tradition because his texts in various forms continued to be sort of drawn on or continued to influence other later traditions of astrology, especially in English, right?
NG: That’s right, and it’s sort of interesting Chris, because one of the things that is sort of an interesting game you can play is when you start looking at 18th and 19th century astrological texts, many of which borrow from Lilly to a larger or lesser extent. And so in a way the 17th century astrology of Lilly’s day continued to live on many hundreds of years later uncredited essentially plagiarisms in various astrology books published later.
CB: Right, all the way through to the 20th century even though the original text of Lilly didn’t necessarily survive or at least wasn’t widely available until relatively recently.
NG: That’s exactly right.
CB Alright, so aside from publishing Christian Astrology, which was his major text book on astrology, he was also heavily involved in, and during his day was perhaps even more well known for publishing almanacs, right?
NG: That’s right and that was probably a significant moneymaker for him in a couple of different ways. So he published, my records here say 36 years of annual almanacs, and we’ll talk a little bit more about the contents of those later. But he published them starting in 1647, which again was an important year for him, Christian Astrology first came out and he published them until 1682.
CB: Okay, so that’s a lot of work for 36 years in publishing almanacs and he actually became the best-selling almanac writer for a period in England during that time in the mid 17th century, right?
NG: That’s right. I think by a longshot. I don’t know if we have comparative numbers for the other authors but he sold as much as thirty thousand pieces of these almanacs per year. Which I think would be a pretty good number even today for a relatively niche topic. But back then in England with a much smaller population than we see today that’s pretty impressive
CB: Right. So what did these almanacs contain or why were they so popular, what did they even cover?
NG: I think there were a couple of things going on. So they contained.. you know as you can imagine, weather predictions sort of the mainstay of almanacs but what was very important is that they also contained significant amounts of political predictions with respect to England and other countries. Now the reason that political predictions were so popular, even though I think they’re almost always popular, is because the English Civil War and the very difficult aftermath was basically happening during most of Lilly’s life essentially. There was always something related to the civil war. And because of this, because of the intense, obviously anxiety and upheaval that was happening in England at that time, for many many years people were very eager to read these almanacs to understand which way the wind might blow next year.
CB: Okay, so it contained not just like weather predictions but also political predictions and other sort of discursions into different areas or different topics
NG: That’s right, and occasionally he would write you know he would put in some astrological sort of teaching in there it wasn’t that the large some of it so I don’t want to overstate the importance of it but every now and then he might put in something from Ptolemy like different effects of eclipses in different decans and things like that.
CB: Okay, and so this is really important because I was reading that how the laws had changed, where there had been anti-astrology laws for quite a while on the books up to that point, but then shortly before Lilly sort of came onto the scene and became prominent, part of the reason he became prominent with his Almanac, as he was able to, I don’t know if exploit is the right term, but he was able to take advantage of an opening where suddenly the press was more free for a period of time and he was able to sort of get away with publishing these almanacs and making these political predictions without as much issue with the government or the authorities as he might have had up to that point.
NG: That’s right, you know politically what was going on in England that led up to the civil war was that the King, Charles the first, was extremely repressive. And maybe you know this, but he essentially shut down Parliament for eleven years. Obviously that was considered a very dictatorial move because the Parliament was where the people, to some extent, had a voice. And so for him to shut that down, that was just one of the ways in which he tried to squash dissent. And over the long term it didn’t work out for him but that the censorship of the press and the prohibition of anything like a political prediction, or anything like an almanac would definitely have been part of that.
CB: Okay, so maybe let’s expand on that a little bit in terms of the political situation in England at that time just for those that aren’t familiar where there were those tensions between those two sides, between the King and his supporters, and the Parliament and their supporters, right?
NG: That’s exactly right. I think when we’re talking about polarization of the political and national body. It was very extreme during most of the 17th century in England and it took a number of years for it to work itself out and in many ways it continued even after Lilly’s death in other forms but yes you basically had the astrological community divide itself into two camps, the royalists and the parliament supports on the other hand, Lilly was on the Parliament side so you might say on the side of the people and so many of the predictions that e published in these almanacs and through other means were very much supportive of Parliament, and so we’re considered to be propagandist.
CB: Okay, yeah because they were against the King or for the most part they tended to be against the King.
NG: That’s right.
CB: Okay. So what was the loophole then, if there was such an extreme sort of ban or so much censorship on astrology up until a certain point, what happened that suddenly made it so that he could start issuing political predictions like that through his almanacs?
NG: Well, the political climate had changed because as you know of course the English Civil War started to try to overthrow the King and the entire country was thrown into chaos so at some point the laws changed perhaps in an effort to appease people you know to try to kind of manage the situation a little bit and loosen the reins and that’s the void that Lilly jumped into with his almanacs. I’m sure other people had thought of doing that before him but he was very well positioned to do so having already built up quite a reputation as a practicing astrologer.
CB: Okay, and so in one of his most famous that appeared in one of his almanacs was of the Great Fire of London of 1666, right?
NG: Yeah, that’s right and he predicted it well in advance in 1652, in a pamphlet that wasn’t an almanac it was called “Monarchy or No Monarchy” which again as you can tell from the title deals with you know, should we have a King? Should we have a parliament? What does a republic look like? You know.. consider that they were in England, they were really wrestling with issues that other European countries hadn’t really dealt with so extensively or at all for the most part. So he was, you know he’s trying to say of course you know monarchy is not necessary, and here are the bad things that are going to happen to the monarchy as well but in this document he doesn’t just make predictions about the King but he also has this very strange engraving or hieroglyph as it’s been called, that if you look at it symbolically portrays potentially the symbol for the City of London, which is twins because London is thought to be under Gemini. And a fire and certain other characters that look like they could be planets and so it’s thought that this was a prediction of the eventual fire of London which occurred fourteen years later and burned down so much of that city.
CB: Okay, and he actually got in trouble for that to some extent or almost did, right?
NG: He did I think you know it was later found and you know that you know it wasn’t arson that started the great fire it’s just the things that happened in a 17th century city where most things are built of wood and you know there’s just not really great fire safety and maybe not really great fire extinguishing apparatus available but of course the way that people are they are always looking for a culprit and so a number of people got hauled into court and he was one of them because how could you possibly know so far in advance that a great fire would consume the city?
CB: Right, so they accused him of setting the fire but that accusation was eventually dismissed?
NG: That’s exactly right.
CB: Okay, and going back to the political situation there, it seemed like there was some ambiguity in his biography because occasionally it seemed like he tried to do things that were helpful towards the King right or there were some instances where there was some ambiguity about what his full stance was?
NG: Yes, I think in general his role is a little bit blurry and of course that’s intentional because, to take a step back, a lot of the information that we have about Lilly’s life came from his autobiography which she wrote toward the end of his life and by the time he wrote it, the monarchy was restored in England. Charles son was brought from exile to be the next King. And so suddenly all the people like Lilly, who had been very vocal on the Parliamentarian side, found themselves in the very awkward and dangerous situation of having to justify or soften some of the anti-monarchist statements that they had made in the preceding years. So often in his biography, I think when he had the opportunity to say something positive about the King, and to minimize his own involvement in the parliamentary cause, he took it. But you know the other side of it to Chris is that I think he really did try to, as far as we know, he really did work for clients on both sides. And there are a number of cases that we know of where the Kings very close supporters came to Lilly to try to get advice even as the king was essentially being imprisoned to see if they could help the King escape and so on. So there are cases where, as far as we know, he gave honest advice, although it’s not clear his advice was taken seriously given his partisan background.
CB: Right. He was somehow involved in almost helping the King to escape at one point from prison?
NG: He was. And there’s a very curious incident, that you know, it’s a little bit.. it’s a little bit hidden obviously. Just because there aren’t a lot of witnesses to it, and everybody later tried to sort of change their stances to the situation. But he did advise a woman named Jane Horwood who was one of the Kings confidence and she helped him she tried to help the King make an escape from one of the palaces or castles where he was being held, you know before he got put into prison, it wasn’t like they took the King and put him directly in jail. There was a long intermediate period where they’re kind of putting him from one place to another they’re moving him around and they’re maybe moving him to more secure locations. So the situation was very fluid. And so one of his supporters you know came to Lily and said okay we’re you know when should the King escape and what direction should he go? And apparently Lilly did advise some very specific, based on I assume a horary chart, some very specific locations where the King could go. But you know, and I assume she relayed that information to the King, but it’s not clear that the King felt that all safe taking that advice from Lilly.
CB: Okay, so the advice wasn’t necessarily taken and eventually this entire scene culminates with the King, with Charles actually being executed, right?
NG: That’s exactly right. So of course Charles the first was a King who was executed by you know, partly he had tried to escape, and the situation just kind of you know it got more and more fraught there was really I think partly where the king placed himself he was very just as a personality he was very uncompromising and so he didn’t leave himself a lot of room to exit the situation gracefully I think instead he was very entitled and very imperious to the end and so it just drove this dynamic with Parliament where they felt that the only way to really get him out of the way was to execute him and there are some rumors or guesses or conjectures about Lilly maybe being involved in timing that execution and it’s entirely possible. But of course we don’t really have any direct evidence because if we did, then we probably would have been executed once the restoration occurred.
CB: Okay, yeah I can’t remember. I thought I had read in Holden’s master’s thesis that he almost that Lily seemed startled by the execution or something or felt that it went too far but I don’t know if I’m remembering that correctly.
NG: Yes I think there was something like that on the other hand there is some evidence that that Lilly was called to a meeting with a couple of the men who essentially had made, you know who were powerful in the parliamentary cause, and had made a decision to you know kind of what happened to the King and yeah he was asked to bring a couple of pages of an almanac with him. So there is some sense that maybe he was asked as to timing or you know he was being asked to advise, so that okay if we were going to do an execution, when is the right time to do this? So that you know things go the way that we had planned.
CB: Sure. So Lilly part of like all of this that’s really interesting is just how involved politically he was and that he had he was seeing clients who were politically powerful people from both sides during the course of this civil war. But sometimes occasionally, it seems like several times throughout the course of his life, as a result of like knowing people in high places he was occasionally able to get out of trouble. As a result of that and really lucked out several times where somebody else who wasn’t as well connected might have ended up in jail or worse.
NG: I think that’s right. Of course the paradox of it is that you know it’s those connections that probably it’s some other high level connections that got him in trouble to begin with so maybe if he wasn’t very connected he wouldn’t have been hauled up. But that did happen during the restoration he was called before court a couple of times. And of course that could mean execution and it would also mean likely forfeiture of his entire estate and assets. And so luckily in both cases he had friends who were able to vouch for him and just show that whatever people were trying to drum up, because obviously he was a known anti-monarchist, his words were in print so he couldn’t really deny that. So he had friends who were able to essentially vouch for him and then sort of wind his way out of some of these accusations.
CB: Okay. So I mean let’s take a step back as like reading and learning about all this it’s just so bizarre how prominent Lilly was how well-connected he was how involved in the politics of his day he was, and part of it was just because he was taking advantage of where he was in the right place at the right time to take full advantage of a new communication medium which was the ability to rapidly distribute you know information through these printed almanacs, and that that had become a new sort of source of where people were getting their information and how people were being influenced in terms of their political views and things like that at the time. And he happened to be just incredibly well positioned, in terms of that, to some extent.
NG: Yeah, that’s absolutely true.
CB: Okay, so that’s interesting. It’s just a repeating phenomenon that I see with astrologers at different points in history where they tend to be often people that are at the forefront of new advancements in technology and communication and as a result are often like taking advantage of those things in order to promote astrology and use it for astrological purposes and in order to communicate with the public. And Lilly’s definitely a really great example of that.
NG: That’s exactly right and you know it’s one of those things where it was sort of a double-edged sword right He took advantage of this great medium that perhaps wasn’t available before but it also placed him at a lot of danger or later in his life when the political climate changed.
CB: Right. I feel like a modern analogy might be like blogging or something ten years ago. Or maybe doing podcasts in this decade. It’s like if Lilly was alive now he would be doing a podcast, and be like his monthly almanac. And just imagine if that had become a really successful podcaster and that he eventually got involved on a high level with having different political contacts and even influenced what was going on with like let’s say the White House. To some extent that would be almost like the modern analogy of what he was doing or his role in society in the 17th century.
NG: I think that’s right. Now I think on top of that imagine something like the American Civil War happening in the background and you have sort of an American version of maybe what he was experiencing.
CB: Right, and you just have this astrologer who is sort of connected to both sides and who’s being seen by important people from both sides who were actually in some instances taking it as advice for major steps in the process or major decisions that they’re taking.
NG: That’s exactly right. And like I said it’s a double-edged sword you know once the political climate changes.
CB: Right. Alright, so I think that gives a good context for like his life and times in terms of his political involvement. Let’s go back and talk more about his astrological textbook though, Christian Astrology and talk a little bit about the scope and contents of the work.
CB: Christian Astrology is divided into three books, right?
NG: That’s right.
NG: Mmhmm. So, it has three books. It was published as two volumes so book one is the basics of astrology. It’s got your signs houses the meaning of planets just various astrological concepts planetary motion, things like that. Then book two he goes directly into horary astrology questions and that book is organized by house or generally the kinds of questions that would be associated with a given house. Although there are some cases where you know something might be, let’s say a third house, it might be in the third house chapter but it’s actually that the analysis doesn’t really use the third house but that’s that’s a different issue and then book three deals with natal astrology and the analysis of natal horoscopes as well as prediction from natal charts.
CB: Okay, and one of the things that’s really interesting about that is that he treats horary astrology first in book two, and then he treats natal astrology later. So he gives a greater precedence to horary astrology in that sense in his textbook.
NG: Yes, and I think that’s very interesting and I can’t imagine exactly why that would be other than it seems that horary astrology was probably the key way that astrology was practiced in London of his time. Partly because horary is so flexible and can answer so many different kinds of questions. But also just from a practical perspective. Probably the average client would not have their birth time. And you know it just maybe was not very practical. Also just the the level of manual effort that was involved if he wanted to predict from a needle chart you had to write you had to create a lot of charts so I think it would have been both practically and financially out of reach for most clients. Whereas horary was something that everybody could save up a few you know whatever it was whether it was farthings or shillings or pounds to to be seen by an astrologer at that time.
CB: Yeah well.. and it’s just a good example of the shifting emphasis of astrology how much more prominent horary had become by let’s say the 17th century versus let’s compare it to like Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos in the second century where the first book is introductory material then the second book is mundane astrology and then books three and four are natal astrology. Or like Dorotheus in the first century, his first book was intro stuff, then there’s natal astrology, and then the last book is election astrology. So it just shows how much things had shifted in this greater emphasis perhaps in the later part of the tradition by the time of the Renaissance on horary over natal astrology to some extent.
NG: Yes, that’s that’s exactly right Chris.
CG: Okay, let’s see. Then in terms of natal I’ve heard it sometimes said by some people that specialize in Lilly, that they tend to think that his treatment of horary was better or stronger in some ways than his treatment of natal. Do you feel like that’s an accurate statement to make or is that your own opinion as well?
NG: I think that’s right. I mean don’t get me wrong you could certainly learn a lot about natal astrology from his natal book. What’s different between the two books is that there aren’t as many examples. And so that’s really, you know one of the exceptional things about the horary volume, is that it has a number of examples from his time from his own practice, sometimes his own personal questions. And that’s great because historical text books on astrology very rarely had examples that had a nice narrative, that showed you okay here was the question, here’s what I said here’s what actually happened. And in the natal book there is a nativity that he analyzes. And then you know he does a nice job with it, but you kind of want a little bit more right? He does predictions with it as well. But I think it’s one of those things where he would probably have, if he maybe had more time and more energy, he really probably could have filled it out with more examples and just the richer you know just a richer text that way.
CB: Right. Yeah, and it’s great. The horary a textbook that is the most valuable part is just that he has at least one if not more examples for each of the twelve houses, as he goes through them and sort of tells you theoretically or abstractly what topics are assigned to that house, or what kind of questions you can answer they relate to that house. But then he has actual studies of time timed horary charts where he can explain what the questions were and then exactly what happened.
NG: Yes, that’s exactly right.
CB: Okay, and that’s been really useful in modern times as people have started to study his textbook and study his work again and study his case studies. Although it’s funny sometimes when astrologers have done that, they sometimes notice differences between I feel like general principles that he lays out versus what he does in practice and the examples. And sometimes that creates sort of matters of interpretation where people have had debates over, you know what was his true approach, or what approach did he really endorse, right?
NG: That’s exactly right. I mean once you start putting examples out there in a way those are what people often take to be the truth because that’s a worked example. And it may not always reflect the theory that he is describing in the text itself.
CB: Okay. One of the other things I love is really early in book two when he starts getting into hurry and gets into first house questions and his I think his first example chart he does a very detailed analysis of what the questions were and what his delineations were and then what happened. But at the end he then summarizes it more shortly just to make sure you get the main points and he really shines through as a teacher at that point to me, as somebody that really wants the student to understand and know what the takeaway lesson was from that example.
NG: I think that’s right and sometimes I wonder if in writing this book he wrote the book that he wishes he had when he was starting to read about astrology and learn it.
CB: Right, right. Yeah that makes a lot of sense to me. And in terms of some of the in the notes when you talk about the first book you say that sometimes he took some of his treatment of like the introductory or basic material from other authors or he was heavily influenced by other authors?
NG: So, he was certainly, I mean I don’t know what that he necessarily took it from them, but he as you know, he did a lot of work he did a lot of work in sort of popularizing some of these more obscure Latin texts. And in doing so he I you know I don’t see him copy I haven’t really encountered that although I suppose I haven’t seen all of his primary sources but he does lean you know he does lean on Bonatti and he does lean on Cardano. He loves Naboth and we can talk about that a little bit later. Because I think nod was very influential in his approach. And you know, you can tell he’s a very well-read author who over the course of his years of practice has managed to synthesize a lot of the work that was available out there and to put it into a format that would be easily understandable and digestible by a reader.
CB: Yeah, and that was really crucial his role in bringing together so many different sources and then synthesizing him, basically all the sources that were available to him up to that point, and then demonstrating his synthesis through the example charts of what his actual working synthesis of the tradition was at that point as a practicing astrologer in London in the mid 17th century. So let’s talk about some of his sources for Christian Astrology, because he actually includes an extensive bibliography in the text that tells you exactly what books he had access to and which ones he was using especially for different branches or different approaches to astrology.
NG: Yes, that’s exactly right. So there’s a famous bibliography at the end. And there’s some debate about whether it reflected just his own library but I think the best sources seems to say that he probably had a lot of those texts but he didn’t have them all, they were just ones that he had seen in other people’s libraries, or that he had borrowed, or you know that he had access to from other people. However, in the text itself, as he writes he will sometimes say you know Abu Maʿshar or like the arabs or he will refer to particular authors whenever he says okay well they say ‘X’ and I agree, or he might say well they say ‘Y’ and I disagree because my experience has found something else. So, he will have this he will engage in this kind of ongoing dialogue inside the text with the different authors.
CB: Right. I love that he’ll often state what the tradition says, or what the quote, unquote the ancients say, but then he will say but in my experience you know this is usually the way that it works out because that’s so much a part of the standard model that I see in other earlier authors as well where there’s always this dialogue throughout the tradition of you know, reporting what the inherited tradition is, but some instances modifying that when it doesn’t work out in the actual experience of the practitioner.
NG: Yes, that’s exactly right and it’s very helpful because you can see on the one hand they have a lot of respect for the tradition. And they don’t want to just make that editorial decision to not tell you what the ancients might say. But at the same time they do feel obligated to editorialize and tell you what they have found.
CB: Right. Okay, so in terms of his library, and in terms of his sources he seems to have drawn on some Hellenistic sources some Medieval sources and some Renaissance sources. Who were some of his primary sources if we could make like a blanket statement about his entire work?
NG: Well, certainly Ptolemy is definitely way up there and there are some historical reasons that Ptolemy might be number one versus some of the medieval Arabic authors, who were also available in translation at the time. Like I said, he speaks very highly of Valentine Naboth. And so in his works where Naboth critiques Arabic sources, that’s you know potentially a different discussion, but he also leans of course heavily on Bonatti, and you know he follows Bonatti’s organization of his book. And you can sometimes see him quoting Bonatti or referring to Bonatti’s horary volume in his own work. And then of course Gerolamo Cardano who was a major astrological author of the time.
CB: Okay, and Valentine Naboth was an astrologer who lived about a century before Lilly in the 16th century. What was the thing you were referring to about him critiquing Arabic authors?
NG: So, Naboth wrote a book, he wrote a number of books, he was extremely literate and highly you know highly well-read and well written. And Naboth wrote a book called Commentary on Alcabitius. And this is a very important book because in it he essentially has a very detailed discussion of ok here is why the Arabic medieval authors are wrong in specific ways and Ptolemy is right. Because as you can imagine Ptolemy and the Arabic authors do not always agree on everything. And there are various cultural and I would say religious reasons as to why Naboth may have taken the side of Ptolemy. But at the end of this book, which Lilly says that it’s he’s the most profound author he had ever met with was Naboth. He says that you know really what we need to do is follow Ptolemy, and it’s this tradition that is the most important. And so I think Lilly himself was very influenced by that trend.
CB: Yeah, so this is part of like a renaissance trend of like what’s been called the sort of back to Ptolemy movement, where there was a lot of Renaissance out authors, where they inherited the majority of the tradition that they inherited at that point of text written in Latin were like Latin translations of Arabic texts that were written between the 8th century and the 12th century. And then a bunch of those were translated into Latin in the 12th century and synthesized. And then that became like the inherited astrological tradition. And a lot of those texts in the early part of that like the 8th century were influenced by the works of authors like Dorotheus of Sidon and Vettius Valens to create this own sort of like unique tradition of medieval astrology. But then at some point in the Renaissance there was this movement to recover the original Greek text of Ptolemy. And once they did that they realized that there were some major discrepancies between the way Ptolemy practiced astrology versus the way that this other inherited tradition that had come from the Arabic speaking astrologers, how they were practicing it. And sometimes that created tensions in trying to figure out how to reconcile those two approaches.
NG: I think that’s right. And you know I think we also can’t discount the importance of kind of the religious aspect of this too is that you know Europeans were very much inclined to be anti Middle Eastern and anti Muslim. Because don’t forget that by Lilly’s time and certainly by Naboth’s time there were very significant conflicts and incursions. For example by the Turks into Europe and a lot of conflicts with the Islamic world. And so I think there was a real trend to see, okay, do we do we really need these guys for our astrology.
CB: Right. So that was interesting because that has sometimes really important and specific impacts on the technical approach to astrology that Lilly makes because often times when there’s a conflict in the tradition where there’s one approach that’s represented by the Arabic or strand of the tradition versus another approach that’s represented by Ptolemy, he’ll tend to side with Ptolemy. And pretty much all instances where there’s some sort of discrepancy. So that this results in specific things like he’ll use Ptolemies approach to the bounds, or the terms instead of the Egyptian approach that came from like Dorotheus and Valens and those authors that was then filtered through the medieval tradition. Or he’ll use Ptolemy’s approach to the triplicity rulers instead of the Dorothean approach or for the calculation of a lot of fortune he’ll default to just using the day formula, like Ptolemy says, versus.. instead of reversing it for day and night charts as the medieval astrologers did following Dorotheus.
NG: Yes, that’s exactly right. And again, I don’t know how much of that was his own research that led him to that versus following someone like Naboth who he made a very strong case for Ptolemy
CB: Right. Well, so let’s talk about that because that’s actually I’m glad you brought that up. So there’s like one there’s one argument you could make where you could just say well this is just part of the back to Ptolemy movement and he’s following Ptolemy. When there’s discrepancies based on cultural or religious or other motivations but then there’s certainly practitioners or people that follow Lilly that would defend him and say no he’s following those approaches that happen to align with Ptolemy because those are his preferred technical approaches that he feels worked better in practice.
NG: Yes, I think that’s right and I don’t know that we’ll ever know which it was because there’s clearly evidence that he was a very practical and hands-on person. So I don’t necessarily see him just taking information as received wisdom. But you’re right. It is interesting that you know if as his experimentation does seem to follow Ptolemy so closely in these certain matters. You do have to wonder how much of it he is just sort of accepting, you know some of the arguments that he gets from earlier authors.
CB: Sure, yeah and I don’t know what the answer is between those. I just wanted to definitely clearly outline that there’s like two different sort of approaches that people take and their interpretation of what Lilly is doing there. In different ways that you could view that and like most things it’s probably some sort of mixture between the two.
CB: So, let’s see. I’m trying to think of any other things in terms of that. Well there was some irony in terms of that though, just in that Ptolemy, when you go back to the Hellenistic tradition and other authors that Lilly didn’t have access to, it turns out that Ptolemy sometimes was the outlier because he was a bit of a reformer and was doing things differently than the other astrologers there whereas contemporaries as far as we can tell and so it’s actually from them that the later medieval tradition followed some of those practices like reversing the calculation with a lot of fortune or using the alternative triplicity rulers scheme. So that’s one of the ironies of the back to Ptolemy movement and the Renaissance tradition as they were going back to a tradition which itself wasn’t the mainstream in the era that they were drawing from evidently.
NG: Yes, and I imagine that’s often the case when you go back far enough in history is that you don’t always know maybe until much later until other texts come to light whether you’re following the mainstream or something a little bit more eccentric.
CB: Right, yeah and it’s funny because I’m sure we’ll have that at some point in our own time of like you know people going back and picking up certain authors and focusing on them, but later if other authors are discovered, and there’s like a clearer picture of the broader context in which things are being practiced or maybe things that we don’t know because our vantage point is limited to a certain extent, based on just the handful of sources that we have available.
NG: That’s exactly right.
CB: All right. So yeah, I want to move on then so we’ve talked and we touched on a little bit about Lilly’s life story very briefly in terms of his involvement in politics and everything else. But maybe we could get a little bit more into that into his background and life story, because he’s actually unique as one of the first astrologers that I’m aware of who wrote a biography or an autobiography about their life, right?
NG: That’s right. I don’t know very many other astrological autobiographies that are earlier than Lilly I mean obviously we have a bunch of 20th century ones. But it just wasn’t something that seems to be very common and often, as you know, details about historical astrologers tend to be quite dim.
CB: It’s like the further back you go we know less and less about these guys’ lives. Aside from just the book that they wrote that survives or sometimes two books and in some instances, like with Valens for example, we only know anything about his life through little digressions that he makes during the course of writing these books. Or Ptolemy, we only know a little bit about his life based on reconstructing the four or five texts that he wrote in terms of what his time period would have been. And then you go forward a little bit further and in the medieval tradition we start knowing a little bit more about some of these authors. And occasionally we have guys like Abu Maʿshar where his student, Shadan wrote a text with anecdotes about his teacher. But it’s not until we get to the 17th century that suddenly we have an astrologer who was not only extremely prominent and influential, but actually left an autobiography where he went into detail about the background surrounding his story.
NG: Yes, that’s exactly right. I was thinking about Abu Mas’har as well because that’s probably one of the richer biographies we have. And that sort of course filtered through his students and we don’t know exactly how much of a is legend and how much of it is true, but that’s about as good as it probably got before Lilly.
CB: Right, so he wrote an autobiography but it was published after his death, right?
NG: Mmhmm, that’s exactly right. So he wrote an autobiography quite late in his life and encouraged by his friend Elias Ashmole, and we can go a little bit into that. The nice thing about the autobiography is that it is available on the internet because it’s obviously off copyright, being very old. And there are some new versions of it. There is a nicely edited version by Wade caves via the Rubedo press that I would recommend. It’s a short little book and it’s a good read with a nice introduction. So if you’re interested in that I would definitely pick it up because you kind of get to see the situation and get to see Lilly’s life and times really in his own words.
CB: Yeah, you can get that the title is William Lilly’s History of his Life and Times, and you can get on Amazon or from Rubedo. Rubedo.press is the publisher’s website.
NG: That’s right.
CB: Okay, so when was Lilly born and we actually have his birth data, right?
NG: We do. So he was born new-style, May 11th 1602 at 2:07AM with 3 Pisces rising. And this is according to his own rectification as well as a chart that was published by Gadbury. There is some debate about whether this chart is true simply because there were people contemporaneous with Lilly who were very afraid of having their charts published because they were worried that their enemies, of course there were plenty of enemies around at the time because of the political situation, could somehow misuse their chart and somehow caused them problems. But as far as we know Lilly’s chart, it does seem to comport with his life in a number of ways and what we know of him. So we don’t really have a strong reason to believe that it’s somehow wrong or misleading.
CB: Especially if it was published in the autobiography like after the fact, right?
NG: That’s right, that’s right.
CB: Got it. So how did he grow up? Or what was his family background?
NG: So, his background is interesting. Like I said, to really be a good astrologer at the time you had to have a strong command of Latin. Which meant that only people who came from very educated backgrounds were able to study astrology thoroughly and properly. And he grew up in a somewhat prosperous peasant family in Lincolnshire. And he received a very strong classical Grammar School education as we would call it. Which means that he learned Latin extremely well, and he seemed to have a bit of a talent for it as well. And because this was a strong focus he thought he was going to be a clergyman, he thought that his father would send him to Oxford and that he would study for you know to be in the church. Now his father lost money as Lilly grew up, and so by the time that Lilly turned eighteen and his education in Lincolnshire was complete there was no way that they could send him to university. So, instead he went to work for a family as a sort of a secretary, in general all around personal assistant, in London.
CB: Okay and for those watching that video version I wanted to share just pulled up the chart so this is the birth chart and I set it for Alcabitius houses that’s correct, right?
NG: Yes, that is correct.
CB: So, his primary house system that he uses all throughout Christian Astrology was Alcabitius?
NG: Mmhmm, that’s exactly correct.
CB: Okay, so the chart has the ascendant at 3 degrees of Pisces according to his rectification. What are some of the other major features of this chart approaching it from Lilly’s perspective?
NG: So, from Lilly’s perspective you know he has three planets in Taurus, Mercury Venus and the Sun with Venus very closely conjunct the Sun. He’s got Mars in Virgo on the cusp of the seventh house, and we can talk about how that may have been reflected in a number of aspects of his life. Jupiter in Libra in the eighth house, and again this is using his half system. Saturn in the ninth house, and the moon in Capricorn in the 11th house. So again very strongly represented among the Earth signs for sure.
CB: Right, he’s got a lot of Earth signs and Saturn up at 18 Scorpio in the ninth house. Midheaven in Sagittarius at like 19-20 Sagittarius. And the Lot of Fortune.. actually no, Using the night chart, a reversal calculation, where’s the Lot of Fortune? I guess it’s in Libra if you used his non reversed..
NG: That’s right.
CB: Got it. Which actually you could make an argument for, given his inheritance played a major role in its life.
NG: Exactly, so I you know I I do have this theory, Chris, that sometimes astrologers pick up certain practices because they feel like they work really well in their own charts and and I wonder if that was the case with him as well you know where he saw maybe that part of fortune with Jupiter in the 8th and he did inherit quite a lot of money from his first and second wives so it wouldn’t be an incorrect interpretation in his case.
CB: Right. Yeah, it’s just tough because then it’s like the ruler of his ascendant in his 10th house is that Jupiter that’s like there as well. So that 8th house is gonna be prominent no matter what. I could see why putting the part of fortune there would even emphasize it more and that would seem really attractive to him given his life story which we can we can turn back to now.
NG: Yes, that’s right
CB: All right, so he had a knack for an aptitude in languages and he studied Latin and Greek in school, right?
NG: Yes, that is right. So I think his Latin was definitely the stronger language although I think he had some Greek as well. And so because of this, I think that really put him sort of head and shoulders above many of his contemporaries who practice astrology because they just weren’t able to read the texts as well as he did. So last we saw him he was on his way to London and it was sort of an interesting job because like I said he was sort of a secretary. And he was, the family that he was going to work for was quite wealthy. So, the man who ran it was very, was quite wealthy. He lived on rents and Lilly says that the man had no profession. So clearly it wasn’t that he had any particular skill, but the way that he made his money was that he was like a household manager like a chatelaine for some noble families. So I was thinking about this, if you ever watch the show Downton Abbey, so this is kind of like Mr. Carson you know, so this is somebody who’s basically in charge of running the entire often massive households and multiple land holdings that the family might have. What was interesting about this man is that he was illiterate. So he must have been very talented because you think you would need to learn to read and write to be able to do some of this work. And Lilly, that’s why he was his secretary, to help him in those things that the man just couldn’t do in running his own household now that the older gentleman was retired.
CB: Okay, so how long did he roughly serve that role for as kind of like an assistant to this guy?
NG: So, he got there at age eighteen and I want to say that, was he twenty seven, so he was there nine years I believe but there’s there’s a little bit more complexity to it and if you don’t mind I’ll go into it because it’s a it’s quite an interesting twist. So if you can imagine so he goes to this house and there is the man I think he worked for was in his early 60s and he had a wife who was a bit older than him she was I want to say late 60s or early 70s. And Lilly says that the two of them the husband and wife just did not get along even though they were both very nice to him. He sought to work pretty hard you know in addition to secretarial work. He says you know one day he remembers hauling up like seventeen tubs or giant buckets of water up from the Thames you know so he worked, he did a lot of manual labor for them too. But they traded him reasonably well. And he said that the husband and wife didn’t get along because Lilly says that the wife married the husband for so called nocturnal society, but the man did not hold his part of the bargain up. And as a result you know the man was just sort of living off of her money so the two of them just really didn’t get along and the woman after a while died. She had breast cancer, and Lilly, in his autobiography mentions that he actually assisted in the amputation of her breast as part of that treatment, after which she didn’t live very long.
CB: He was actually involved in caring for her and treating her.
NG: He was, yeah.
CB: It may have started, like initiated his interest that became more prominent later in life and like medical astrology or something.
NG: Yes, yes that’s exactly right, and I’m sure he wasn’t very satisfied because she only got worse and she later died. And so the master remarried he married somebody younger than himself. I forget her exact age, but she wasn’t young she would have been like you know in her 50s so she wasn’t like a girl. But then you know he remarried and then the master died and Lilly saw his chance and he went to his essentially you know new boss and said you know I would like to marry you, and to perhaps his own surprise she said yes. So essentially in the same household he went from being a servant to being the lord of the house and there was this obviously large estate that came with that marriage.
CB: Right, and in the autobiography, when I read it, I I know there’s different interpretations, and sometimes people take a cynical view about these things in terms of the financial like inheritance that he received, and became much more well off as a result of being in this marriage, but like the way that at least he presents it comes off I thought as pretty romantic in the way that he approached her with this. Because he presents it as like she’s complaining for a long time about how she’ll never find somebody, or something like that ,and then he says that he’s found the perfect suitor. And then he says it’s me or something like that like it was actually it sounded very smooth to me. And I thought he writes it off as being relatively romantic in the way that it went down. I don’t know, what did you think about that, am I getting the details right?
NG: Oh yeah, I think you are for sure. And it’s hard to know because presumably the only people who were part of that were him and the woman but you know I I don’t think that the two are mutually exclusive. I mean maybe to him he sort of did play this romantic figure to this obviously significantly older woman. But you know obviously they both knew that there was also money at stake but maybe they just you know she said heck why not you know as she said maybe she wasn’t super happy in her previous marriage. And she thought maybe I can marry somebody that seems to like me and treat me reasonably, so you know people are complex, obviously.
CB: Right, so here’s the quote from his autobiography says this is just part of me but he says however all of her talk was of husbands and in my presence saying one day after dinner she respected not wealth but desired an honest man I’m a dancer I thought I could fit her with such a husband she asked me where and I made no more ado but presently saluted her and told her myself was the man. She replied I was too young I said nay what I had not in wealth I would supply in love and saluted her frequently which she accepted lovingly. And the next day at dinner she made me sit down at dinner with my hat on my head and said she intended to make me her husband for which I gave her many salutes.
NG: That’s right, that’s right.
CB: Yeah, so I don’t know. I’m gonna go with that’s a romantic version and I thought that was really interesting and then this you know began, they got married but she talks about how they kind of had to keep it if not completely secret kind of like on the lowdown because she didn’t want there to be a bunch of weird social repercussions or something like that.
NG: Yes. I mean I think it would have been rather unorthodox for a woman of her means to marry a servant you know especially with the age difference and all of that. So, I believe that they did end up in some litigation from family who you know once they found out about the marriage maybe that was something she was anticipating you know they tried to claw back some of that estate.
CB: Okay got it. So they were married for several years happily, right?
NG: Mmhmm. That’s right and he always speaks very positively of her so whatever even if he thought differently he I think he always referred to her in a very positive light. So we have no reason to think that they didn’t get along. So yeah and so then eventually she died it wasn’t too long but during her life even obviously he didn’t have to work anymore, and it sounded like for a couple of years he sort of you know knocked about he sort of played bowls and you know didn’t really do much other than just kind of have fun and took a vacation.
CB: His social status is suddenly elevated at that point.
NG: That’s right, social status is suddenly elevated and he had a lot more free time and presumably disposable income. And so but then he got interested in astrology. And this I think this is probably where things get really interesting in my view just because it’s almost like some switch gets flipped and he realizes that there’s this whole science, this area that he knew not knew nothing about, and he now had the means to pay somebody to tutor him in astrology as well as of course to start buying astrological texts and studying them all day and all night basically for several years.
CB: Right, which he could do because he had that background in Latin and to a lesser extent Greeks so he could read texts going back centuries just because he had the language skills to do so.
NG: That’s right, that’s right and this is for me one of my favorite parts of the entire book where he talks about, he sort of doesn’t talk about himself a whole lot, but he just talks about a lot of the occultists who were practicing in London at the time, and he doesn’t exactly always say what his interaction with them was or his exact relationship but he will talk about how for example they would do different magical experiments together Lilly was deeply interested in magic. And don’t forget he was coming out of that Elizabethan period with John Dee and and you know all those those personages. So he and some friends tried to call up a spirit to show them where some treasure was in a church and they got scared away. But there are all these wonderful anecdotes of magicians practicing in London as well as astrologers and he’ll kind of give you his opinion on all of them.
CB: Okay, so and he had an initial teacher but this guy he didn’t study with him for very long, right?
NG: That’s right, and his teacher was very interesting because he was one of the kind of.. what I would call you know workmen practitioners of London, who maybe they weren’t particularly wealthy or particularly highly educated, but they saw lots and lots of clients. But then Lilly at one point saw that the teacher was giving advice to a woman that he thought was.. he would have given her other advice if she if she didn’t pay him in other words he felt that the teacher was in a way sort of prostituting his good astrological judgment in the service of making an extra buck. And so at that point Lilly left. Yeah.
CB: Right, he thought that the teacher gave like an unethical delineation of some sort and he stopped his interactions with that teacher as a result of thinking that he was unethical.
NG: That’s exactly right.
CB: Okay. Which was really interesting and that gives you some insight into Lilly himself as a person and as an astrologer at least in terms of the way that he presents himself and assuming that that’s definitely like the way things went down just in terms of what his motivation was and how he approached the subject and how much reverence he had for astrology. Which then you can kind of see come through in the way that he advises the person reading his text and his students to sort of like comport themselves as astrologers in some of the rules and the ethical guidelines that he gives.
NG: That’s exactly right, and that is one of my favorite parts of Christian Astrology. And also I think he alludes to that and in his autobiography where he has some sort of practical advice for life and being an astrologer and being out in the world. And as you say you know he always advises people to act in accordance with sort of virtue and with the highest character.
CB: Right, he actually like opens up Christian Astrology with a letter to the student that gives a lot of that advice or a lot of those.. almost like rules of how to hold yourself as an astrologer and how to behave.
NG: That’s exactly right.
CB: Okay so he has that teacher does he have any other teachers after that or was there just that first sort of short-lived failed relationship with the one teacher?
NG: I think he studied informally or worked, I don’t know worked is the right word, but he definitely sort of apprenticed with a number of different astrologers although I don’t know that there was ever a formal relationship kind of like with this one. And the reason I say that I think he got to maybe you know sort of shadow a few astrologers is because he seems to know a lot about exactly how they practiced, and sort of you know he would occasionally make objections about this one or that one. So to me there is at least some evidence that he was able to see how they worked on a day to day level.
CB: Right I got this sense reading one of the biographies and I don’t know if it was Holden’s treatment or the autobiography itself, but there was an allusion to like meetings. So it seems like astrologers were holding meetings of some sort in London and there were some sort of like social circles, so that he probably met directly with and talked with and got to know a bunch of the different practitioners in the city at the time.
NG: Yes, exactly some things never change.
CB: Right yeah I mean that’s in it of itself fascinating as well because then that is some of the documentation of some of the first like you know quote, unquote astrology groups that you can think of in the world or at least in the history of what we know about in the history of astrology.
NG: That’s right and you wonder, you know did they have like kind of like we have little presentations? Or was it more informal? They just all got together at the pub? you really wonder what that might have looked like.
CB: Right, yeah it’s just something that comes up to me over and over again as so many of the dynamics that we see in the astrological community that are core dynamics in terms of not just a social sphere of astrology but also how astrologers learn astrology and practice it. So many of those dynamics are probably present in earlier eras in ways that would surprise us if we were fully aware of just the extent to which there were similar themes and similar dynamics.
NG: That’s right. Even though it must not have been you know very well-documented but we can sort of get little gleanings like this.
CB: Sure. So he was married to his first wife and that allowed him he suddenly was very well off, and he was able to start studying astrology and buying a lot of astrology books and starting to build a library. And his wife passed away and she left him her entire estate, right?
NG: That’s exactly right. It said that she loved him more than a thousand pounds which of course at the time was a very very competent fortune. And there were houses there was cash. So it was he was obviously a wealthy man as a result of this marriage so after this he decided to after a few years he decided to remarry and we can talk about maybe what planet this wife represented in his chart because he does tell us in his autobiography. Do you remember, Chris?
CB: Yeah, I believe he alludes to being married the second marriage not going super well and he attributes it to like Mars being in the seventh house in his birth chart .
NG: That’s right he says that my second wife was the nature of Mars so obviously things were not not super happy and the Lilly household while he was married to this woman.
CB: Right. Yeah, so by this point do we know when he started practicing astrology based on similes that like the horary chart examples ‘cause a lot of, even though he published Christian Astrology in 1647, a lot of the.. some of the chart examples go back to like the 1630s or something, right?
NG: Yes, that’s right. The impression that I get I don’t know at the end it may be that people with access to his case books might know this more closely but it doesn’t seem like there was much of a lag time between, you know he studied astrology very intensely he says for two years, he just read it the books day at night and then he started practicing probably soon after. So he might have started practicing maybe even before he before he turned 30 or or thereabouts.
CB: Okay, got it. And so he had he gets involved in politics, he publishes Christian Astrology, becomes very prominent for several decades in ways that we’ve already talked about. Not just prominent in politics and with the public at large due to publishing the almanacs and being involved in political predictions and everything else but also prominent in the astrological community due to the publication of Christian Astrology which must have set him up as like one of the foremost astrologers at the time. Although even there he had some tensions with other astrologers occasionally, right?
NG: I think it’s more than just tensions Chris. Yeah it’s sort of interesting you know when it’s tempting to say that the Mars in his seventh house in Virgo made for some very heated debates in writing often in his life. And it was interesting because that seemed to very much be his mode of.. his modus operandi you know he would he would write these long screeds about other astrologers and the monarchist cause in print, and then the other astrologers would reply in their publications. And then there would also be denunciations from like the pulpit you know from from unsympathetic preachers or priests. So there was kind of this whole very public ongoing verbal brawl going on. But I have no evidence to see that he didn’t enjoy that to some extent because it must have been quite intense at times.
CB: Right, so there are different astrologers would often accuse each other of being purely motivated by political reasons, rather than astrological reason in issuing some of their predictions, especially about the Civil War. And so that’s what some of the debates and the conflicts with other astrologers were about. But then he also threatened idea biography repeatedly refers to being really annoyed by some of the religious.. there’s a specific religious group or Christian group that he was most annoyed with that he often was on the receiving end of attacks by, right?
NG: Mmhmm, yes that’s exactly right obviously the the presbytery group who were kind of like the puritans of his time who took over for a while definitely did not appreciate astrologers and you know they’re kind of in the movies that are made about that period they’re like the non fun guys that you know shut down theaters and anything related to fun that they thought was immoral.
CB: Okay, and astrology, they treat it as a form of divination that was against the religion. Is that part of the motivation then or what is the motivation for him titling his book Christian Astrology?
NG: That was my impression as well. Now I don’t know exactly what whether he thought that was political, and maybe it helped him, but I think there is definitely I would say a consensus today the titling and Christian Astrology would perhaps help insulate him from some of the attacks from their religious quarters.
CB: Okay, yeah ‘cause even just getting a book like that published was a little bit of a dicey venture to begin with. And I’ve I’ve read or I’ve heard that the introduction where he says very many positive things about this well-connected political figure that part of that was helping to get it published, and then the revised edition he removes the reference to that person or something like that. So they were different like political and cultural wranglings that he had to get through in order to even publish a book like that and that could have been part of that.
NG: Yes, very much so. You very much see you know.. fortunes rise and fall quite rapidly in this period during the English historical you know the Civil War. So I wouldn’t be surprised if you know you have a name that gets mentioned in the first of all in the first printing that is no longer there by the second time.
CB: Sure, but even that being said he still was certainly a religious man to some extent. And he was a Christian, and certainly had some religious beliefs that he incorporated to some extent in into his astrology. Even though his astrology isn’t doesn’t otherwise come off as overtly religious and any notable sense that’s different from some of the earlier authors.
NG: Yes, I think that’s right, and you know we could speculate that this is a Christian Astrology that does not lean too heavily on the Muslim authors, or I should say the Middle Eastern authors because in fact very few of them were necessarily Muslim but.. but yeah it’s one of the things that you definitely see that he was genuinely a believer as I think most of his contemporaries would have been. I don’t think it’s necessarily like a cynical ploy for acceptance but I think he just recognized that titling it and making his feelings clear that he is you know, that he is a Christian would make it as you say more acceptable and more likely to be published.
CB: Right, and that he could be both a Christian and an astrologer and there wasn’t necessarily a conflict between those two in his view.
CB: Okay, that makes sense. All right so later in life there’s the English Civil War like died down by the time he’s later in life? Or what’s the situation with that?
NG: Right. So I don’t know if ‘died down’ is exactly the right term but over time people basically became very discontented with the with the government of Oliver Cromwell, who took over England as the Lord Protector, so they had sort of republic. But things aren’t you know things are not necessarily going well especially once Cromwell dies. There’s a real power struggle which often happens once you have a powerful figure who dies so there is a vacuum there’s a power struggle and I think people are just really really tired of the wranglings of most of that century. And so, to make a very long story short the monarchy is restored and England brings back the man, who becomes Charles II from exile in France, and so suddenly after all of these decades as not a monarchy and or as a questionable monarchy, you are now living under a monarch once again. In fact it’s the son of the man who was executed.
CB: Wow. So yeah that’s a pretty big change suddenly and potentially put Lilly himself on the wrong side of history because he had been more against the monarchy than for it in a lot of his political predictions earlier in his life.
NG: Yes, that’s exactly right. I don’t know that people necessarily would have expected a restoration of monarchy when the Civil War was at its height, certainly not after the execution of Charles the first.
CB: Sure. So eventually he ends up like sort of leaving London and sort of retiring to the country in his later years and gets more into or moves more towards the practice of medicine.
NG: Yes, so he ended up getting a medical license from the Archbishop of Canterbury so that he could practice medicine. And he practices it out in the country, obviously using astrology and medicine because they were used jointly at that time, which is a fascinating episode I suppose in itself. But he ends up doing this and probably one of the reasons he left London was just to be out of the public eye a little bit. Again, he was a man with you know a significant estate. And I guess the other thing that happened too, I should probably point out, is that you know his second wife died. I don’t know how sad he was about that given the unhappiness that she seems to have brought him. But he did remarry and he moved to the country with his third wife, who was not wealthy, she was significantly younger, but as far as we know you know she was a lovely person and he says that you know she represented, I believe it was Jupiter in his chart.
CB: Wow. Okay and he’s practicing medicine in terms of helping people and a lot of that work was not necessarily paid work but he was like working with the poor and doing volunteer services to some extent.
NG: Exactly. Presumably he had no need for extra money so maybe his expenses were relatively low now that he was out of the big city. So I think he just wanted to do kind of the charitable thing and live a quieter life maybe than he had earlier.
CB: Sure, and eventually very late in life his eyesight starts to fail. And he dictated the past few years of his Almanac, he dictated it to his assistant or his protege Henry Coley I think I read.
NG: Yes, that’s right, that’s exactly right. And at this point in his life he also became good friends with Elias Ashmole, who was sort of an interesting person in himself. And again that’s probably a whole different episode because he was also a very colorful figure from that period. But Elias Ashemole was a Royalist nonetheless he and Lilly were great friends. And Elias had a great interest in magic and alchemy certainly astrology and he had a massive library of his own and when the restoration occurred Ashemole received some very lucrative royal appointments so he was already a fairly prominent man, but then he became quite wealthy. And he was the person who encouraged Lilly to write his autobiography, which I assume it was an entire Lilly’s idea but a Ashmole sort of nudged him to do that.
CB: Ok, wow and Ashemole would go out to the country and visit Lilly pretty frequently later in life.
NG: Yes that’s exactly right so I’m sure their ideas and discussions cross-pollinated quite a bit.
CB: So, eventually Lilly passed away he died in the year, sorry what year was it 1681?
NG: That’s right 1681 he died at the age of 79. Yes, he did and his library which must have been quite extensive Ashemole bought it from Lilly’s widow along with the famous oil portrait of Lilly and some medals that Lilly had received from King Gustav of Sweden. He bought it from the widow for 450 pounds. So that became part of Ashemoles estate and so once he died his holdings got donated to Oxford University where today they are in the so called Ashmolean Museum and so his case.. so Lilly’s case books are also part of this. So his books, his portrait is there his case books are there all thanks to this friend who was a great collector and who eventually donated everything to charity or to Oxford as well.
CB: Wow, that’s really wild and then Ashemole of course brought to publication Lilly’s autobiography a number of years after his death eventually.
NG: Yes, that’s exactly right. So he did it, he did that much later. I don’t know exactly what the delay was whether it was sort of politically motivated or practically or what the issue was, but yes it wasn’t published during Lilly’s lifetime.
CB: Sure, and that was probably he was able to be much more open and like honest about some of the different things that happened especially politically by having it published after his death, rather than when he was still alive.
NG: Potentially, yes. I mean obviously it was written you know when he didn’t know what it was. I don’t know if they had planned to publish it immediately or after his death I guess I should I should say that.
CB: Okay got it, that makes sense. Okay so after Lilly’s death, I mean astrology was already in decline in Europe in general in the continent by that point and so that’s one of the things that’s really interesting and unique and kind of weird about Lilly is this was kind of like the historians usually treat this as the last great flourishing of astrology that occurred in the 17th century before the subject kind of fell out of favor in intellectual circles in general and fell out of the universities and sort of went into a low point of a couple of centuries.
NG: Yes, that’s exactly right. What’s interesting about Christian Astrology is that in one form or another it was pretty much never out of print. And so just tracing the book’s fate after Lilly’s death is sort of a fascinating study in itself. And the influence that it had directly and indirectly on the astrology, as it was practiced even through some of these less.. I should say less active times.
CB: Right, so even though astrology goes into a low point for a couple of centuries, especially in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries after Lilly’s death his book continues to be highly influential and continues to show up in different places and influencing some of the astrologers who did exist and who did make major contributions during those low periods for two centuries. And then eventually there was a version of it where it was republished and this is known as the Zadkiel edition which was published in 1835. And this was like an abridgment and like a rewriting of Christian Astrology, right?
NG: Yes, that’s exactly right. So it’s you know Zadkiel took Lilly’s book and then he kind of rewrote it. He knew he changed some things he took some things out. So you’re getting Lilly but through a pretty heavy filter I would say through a pretty heavy editorial process. And then, so it came out again in 1852 when he combined it in an addition with some other works. And this later edition this combined edition continued to be republished into the 1980s. So it was that the real challenge historically, since Lilly’s time, wasn’t to get a hold of Lilly it was really to get a hold of Lilly in his own words in his own book.
CB: Okay, so Lilly continued to be influential but it was like filtered through this abridged like edited edition where because it’s not just an abridgment but like I think he throws in like Uranus and stuff like that. Or he’s started to incorporate changes that were already happening to astrology that makes it different than what Lilly had written in the mid 17th century.
NG: Exactly. I think Zadkiel kills sort of takes that and he’s like you know I think this needs to be updated for modern times. And you know I’m sure he thought he was doing a good thing, and in a way he was I mean I think I would much rather have Lilly’s work be republished, even if it’s dramatically changed, so that perhaps as happened people become interested in the original. It’s much better I think that it you know disappears completely but yes I think that was the intent.
CB: Yeah, ‘cause there was a limited number of copies that were printed of the original versions of Christian Astrology of the first and second edition and those just were not in wide circulation and as time went on became increasingly scarce or increasingly more valuable but also just not available to like the everyday astrologers so that you couldn’t read Lilly’s original works so having it republished in this abridged forum was something that was probably useful in propagating Lilly’s work over the next couple of centuries.
NG: That’s right, making it more affordable and available.
CB: Sure, so eventually though that changed and I actually recovered this in a recent episode just a couple of months ago when I interviewed Clive Cavan from the Regulus Publishing Limited, in episode 212, where he talked about in the mid-1980s when he and a few other astrologers got together in order to republish the original version of Christian Astrology, which was even more scarce by the 1980s and just nobody had access to. And suddenly by republishing it, astrologers for the first time in a few centuries had a widely accessible edition of Lilly that they could read in its original language.
NG: Yes, that’s exactly right. Which was revolutionary.. I mean it really did take you know over 300 years for us to come full circle.
CB: Right, yeah so that’s such a long time. So after that point so that started kind of a renaissance in the 1980s of focus and interest in Lilly and suddenly astrologers going back and reviving his methods and especially reviving his approach to horary astrology, right?
NG: That’s exactly right, yes. I don’t want to go too far afield here but horary astrology did continue to be practiced between the Lilly’s time and ours but it did take on a somewhat different character as people incorporated outer planets, but also as they just used things, they used houses differently and you had people who were sort of innovating in the field. Ivy Goldstein-Jacobson is one person who comes to mind, although she’s definitely not the only one. So horary was taking a very different direction. So when this book was published when Lilly became available in his own words again people started to reevaluate her array and started to as you say use some of his methods which were perhaps different from what had evolved through the 20th century to that point.
CB: Right, and even horary had become less prominent, like Natal was much more prominent through most of the 20th century and much more popular in horary was sometimes looked down upon or even scorned.
NG: Yeah. I think often. You were definitely right about that and part of that Chris is you know as we all know the the stringent anti fortune-telling laws of the 19th and early 20th centuries were very much anti prediction and so no astrologer wanted to land in jail. So that’s one of the reasons that horary was just not particularly politic, and particularly good to use certainly publicly. You know perhaps you had folks who were using it for themselves or for friends but as a real kind of public thing that you would teach and that you would publicly espouse, it was very much I don’t want to say forgotten but not used very often.
CB: Sure, yeah because natal astrology astrologers if sometimes been able to kind of like rationalize that and contextualize it as like a natural, almost science or contextualized in the early 20th century as a character analysis or something like that, or later as psychological analysis but with horary it’s just much more clear that you’re making specific often very concrete statements about the future and therefore it comes off much more like a form of divination which is harder to sort of justify in a purely like naturalistic context.
NG: Exactly, and you know I don’t want to say it was the anti fortune-telling laws, but I think that was definitely a key reason why people moved away from prediction. And then you know once you get into you know the Freudian and Jungian eras people really sort of start you know thinking of psychology is kind of the the real reason that we need to be using astrology at all. So it well again horary still had a few adherents, it was quite a different practice than I think when the Lilly revival occurred.
CB: Sure. So, we have the republication of the Regulus edition of Lilly in 1985 and I believe for that edition they had a few different copies of Lilly and they seemed to have like emerged in some instances like my understanding was that they kind of created a merged edition of the first and second edition that incorporated incorporated some of the corrections from the second edition to create a merged edition of those two, right?
NG: Mmhmm, exactly. So it you know every every edition every modern edition sort of took a different approach and so it’s always worthwhile seeing kind of what editorial decisions they made since they are dealing with two publications of that book which Edition will they use or again as you say do they merge them more modern editions if I may jump forward like by Dave Roell, he wants to you know, he modernizes the spelling for example, which is obviously 17th century spelling that Lilly would have used.
CB: Right, so the the Regulus Edition comes out in the mid 80s and this causes a renaissance of interest in Lilly and there’s some teachers especially Olivia Barclay who sets up a correspondence course for learning horary astrology following Lilly’s methods. And this is the certification that she starts offering is known as the qualifying horrors certification right am I getting that right?
NG: Yes I think that’s right, the QHP.
CB: QHP, okay and she ends up teaching and certifying a sort of generation of astrologers who then go on and start setting up practice themselves and practicing horary and writing articles about it and there’s this flourishing of like scholarship and textual analysis that’s very much focused on Lilly but also increasingly on the broader community of astrologers from the 17th century as they start reviving other texts from that time period like William Ramsey and John Partridge and Gadbury and everybody else.
NG: That’s right, yes. For example, so again I studied with John Frawley who was one of Olivia’s students, and a big part of our study was not just Lilly but for example Nicholas Culpeper. So when you’re studying medical astrology you would go to his text, you know in addition to whatever love you might have to say about judging medical charts for example.
CB: Right, and so this is the first wave of what now we look at as the revival of traditional astrology, which was possible because this was basically going back to the very earliest texts that you can read without having any specialized language skills in needing to know like Latin or Greek or Arabic or what-have-you. But you could actually pick up you know like the reprinted version of Lilly and read it in English. Even though the language is somewhat removed from our own and sometimes there’s ambiguities about what he means because certain words have changed or like fallen out of usage you can more or less sort of like get by reading the text in English.
NG: Yes, that’s right, Andit you know I often wonder to what extent Lilly’s text was sort of the gateway text where people started thinking, hey you know maybe we should really start translating and republishing a lot of older texts that maybe weren’t in English to begin with. Would you say that that was the case?
CB: Yeah, I would. There’s like a debate about that just because there’s sort of squabbling about it but I think Rob Hand for example was definitely influenced by what was happening with the revival of Lilly and that’s part of what prompted him to start looking into old sources so that he was more open to eventually in the 90s when he got together with Schmidt and Zoller they was more open to collaborating and going in that direction so I think that definitely influenced project hindsight to that extent. But then I know some of them.. there was some interesting stuff where they didn’t feel like when they started publishing Greek, Hellenistic and medieval translations they didn’t feel like a lot of the people they had gotten interested in Lilly were as interested in that older material than they expected, so that there was some tensions there. Once the full tradition or all the traditions were revived there started being almost like different camps of people that were in two different forms of traditional astrology which were not always necessarily like perfectly overlapping or like one in the same.
NG: That’s right. Right, do you like new traditional astrology old traditional astrology?
CB: Right, just because every time astrology was transmitted it changed in different ways.
NG: That’s right. Yeah and I agree and I think that’s one of the interesting things so you could say in a way, at least in some cases, Lilly was influential twice, right? He was influential for his writings but then also in sparking this real return, at least as you say for some astrologers, a real return to some of even Lilly’s sources. Really.
CB: Yeah, definitely. So that was huge and then so you get this whole generation of astrologers. And one of the things that’s interesting about, even though what Lilly is Christian Astrology is written in English, because it’s you know English from several centuries ago there is still sometimes some ambiguity in the wording that requires like some interpretation or where there’s some passages that are open to interpretation. And it was interesting seeing that in the decade after the revival of Lilly sometimes there were arguments over textual analysis about how to interpret what Lilly was doing or interpret certain passages of Lilly, especially when there was a conflict. So for example one of the conflicts was the considerations before judgment where some of the students of Lilly in the 1990s noticed that he mentions the considerations before judgment and outlines that in like book one in the introductory text, but when he gets to the chart examples he has charts where the considerations are there but he still judges the question. And so there were different stood students of Olivia’s who came up with different interpretations of how to reconcile that apparent conflict in the text.
NG: Yes, I think that’s a very interesting point and a great example of some of the inconsistencies in his text. So I think I would actually say there are two.. well lots of ways, but there are two key ways in which all of these texts can be ambiguous. One is what you alluded to, which is where he just might say something but it’s not clear what he means, and I don’t know how much of that is always language I think it’s just honestly just imprecise writing. Because even though he was a pretty educated man he wasn’t a scholar you know this was obviously the first book of his kind of its kind and so there are times when what he writes could be interpreted in different ways and so obviously that sometimes gives rise to confusion but the second way as well as what you pointed out is once you have examples people start looking at what you do instead of what you say and the considerations before judgment is a great example of that where he seems to ignore them, although he you know maybe he’ll mention it. But it certainly didn’t seem to stop him from judging charts. Also when you look at his case books that’s again the case.
CB: Sure. So let’s talk about that because it’s a great and interesting example that in the recovery of this text that there were some times in the people that recovered it like wildly different interpretations of what to do then, based on what you were reading in the text. So there was one school of people especially earlier in the 20th century that were still using some rules from Lilly based on the Zadkiel addition and the way that they interpreted the considerations before judgment is that if any of these placements are in a horary chart that it means you you shouldn’t judge the chart at all and you should just forget about it and like walk away. And that’s one interpretation of Lilly’s considerations before a judgement, right?
NG: Yes, that’s exactly right and that’s it’s a view that seems to have had a lot of currency just from what I can tell in the 80s and 90s. Where it was kind of like if you judge it was never really explained sort of why you should walk away. But there was this like.. the chart is telling you, do not judge me. And so I see that a lot less in the last say 20 years but there was definitely a period where as you say people interpreted those judgments or those considerations very stringently.
CB: Right, and then there was another group who interpreted them as.. that these were just rules I think like for example John Frawley, one of your teachers, said that his way to reconcile this was just like if these are present in a chart these are just rules that astrologers came up with to get out of answering questions that they don’t want to answer. And that it wasn’t a legitimate astrological technique so much as it was almost like a social way for an astrologer to avoid answering certain questions if they choose to or something like that.
NG: Right, and then you know obviously you certainly could use them that way and I think that’s the other extreme and I don’t know that that’s necessarily the case either just because we do see these transmitted through a number of texts. Obviously Bonatti you know makes you know he devotes a fair amount of time to the considerations. That is another option, there’s also a third option but maybe you were getting to that.
CB: Yeah, I just wanted to outline what was.. I also always historically like strongly objected to that interpretation because I thought that these were legitimate astrological.. yeah, they had a purpose and then astrologers didn’t need to like transmit these rules over hundreds of years in order to just get out of answering questions. That almost seemed like a weirdly negative interpretation of attributing false.. you know premises to the astrologers
NG: Right, yeah bad faith.
CB: Yeah, bad faith.
CB: So, another interpretation that some of the other students of Olivia took were just that these were things that you were supposed to take into account that could give you additional information about the chart that you were judging, and that you were supposed to.. they were supposed to like give you pause. But not necessarily mean that you couldn’t answer the question at all, and that’s why Lilly continued to still judge charts that contain the considerations.
NG: Yes, and I think that’s I don’t know if that’s the closest one. I’m certainly the closest to that view although maybe minus item 3B rather than that exact definition, but I think in general you know the considerations certainly do seem to, and just now speaking as a hoary practitioner, and also based on what we see in in Lilly’s charts, they do seem to have descriptive power. So it’s not so much that they’re strictures which is I think a term that Barbara Waters had used but they are things that I would tell you are sort of metadata about a chart. So they might tell you you know is the person asking a question before they’ve really given it a lot of thought or there’s a lot of research as to the feasibility of the issue. For example, it doesn’t mean you can’t answer the question, but it does tell you a little bit about where the person is coming from and you know.. how you could perhaps couch your answer.
CB: Right. Or there’s the other one up like Saturn in the first house and that there might be a problem with the person asking the question, or Saturn in the seventh house and since the seventh house represents the astrologer and a hoary question that there might be a problem on the astrologers side, either with your judgement or maybe you calculated the chart wrong or something like that.
NG: Exactly. So I think they can convey valuable information that may or may not necessarily stop you from judging the chart, which obviously would be your decision.
CB: Sure. So, it’s just interesting historically that there were those debates in this discussion that came up surrounding Lilly in the recovery of this text, or even a text written in English is still open to interpretation sometimes when you run into issues that appear to represent discrepancies that need to be reconciled.
NG: That’s absolutely right. There are a number of questions and discrepancies and again part of it is the function of the fact that he’s got all these examples in his book. One of the reasons we don’t run into this always with older authors is because there are no examples or no real sort of you know difficult examples like this. So maybe if we had those authors too would be subjective of the intense disputes that Lilly seems to engender in some cases.
CB: Right, definitely. Or another one is the interpretation of what does it mean for the Moon to be void of course and different interpretations that have sprung out over that, it seems like over the past 20 or 30 years.
NG: That’s right I mean if you want to see astrologers express some very strongly held opinions just mention the void of course definition and you’ll definitely get something like that.
CB: Right, okay well we’ll leave that one for another episode or another discussion.
CB: So, what were some of the later additions so we had the Regulus Edition which came out in 1985 but then there’s been other editions of Lilly where astrologers have tried to republish the original text since then, right?
NG: That’s right, so there was the Ballantrae reprint. Renaissance Astrology, which is Christopher Warnock.. put out a reprint as well. And JustUs Associates put one out. And then again the one I mentioned by Dave Roell, The Astrology Classics Edition, which I believe is the most recent among all those.
CB: Yeah, and then there was also in 1999 the Ascella edition, which was published by Deborah Houlding.
NG: That’s right.
CB: And that’s actually my favorite addition. It’s like out of print, but I lucked out and I picked it up in a used bookstore at the Magus bookstore in Seattle in 2007. And I wish that Edition was still in circulation but I think the company associated with a seller went out of business or something like that yes.
NG: That’s right as you and I’m sure you know astrological publishers you know blink in and out of existence pretty rapidly.
CB: Right, so that additional was in 1999 but it’s very scarce. And so at the present time I believe the most widely accessible, let’s say easily accessible print edition, is the astrology classics edition that was published by David Roell in two volumes. In Volume one contains books one and two and volume two contains book three which is just on natal astrology.
NG: Mmhmm, that’s correct.
CB: And what was your proviso with his translation? That it’s okay but he’s updated the spelling?
NG: That’s right that’s right and you know he’s done a lot of good so one thing that is nice is he preserved the pagination. So that you know if you’re talking to other Lilly enthusiasts you can talk about the same page number without obviously having to change that based on addition. But he also.. he did update the spelling in a lot of cases. And I have a facsimile of the first 1647 edition. And so I compared some of the language between the two, and now I will say I have not done a full line-by-line comparison between the two books. So as far as I know David did not make substantive textual changes, but he definitely updated the spelling to modern spelling, instead of kind of the more the more exotic to us 17th century English spelling
CB: Okay got it. So here’s those two volumes they look like that and they’re relatively cheap you can get them on Amazon, but otherwise there’s PDFs of the original Edition that you can get online I’m sure, right?
NG: That’s right, that’s right.
CB: Okay. I think sky script has a version with extensive commentary in a PDF and that’s probably got to be one of the best that’s online but I’m not sure if that’s been completed at this point.
NG: I don’t believe it is complete Chris. You know the version that I have which is the the 1647 version that came from Philip graves is scans of the original book so it’s very you know it’s very clear, obviously it’s in PDF form, but that’s what I use.
CB: Do you remember what the URL is for the site?
NG: It’s astrolearn.com okay great so people should check out astrolearn.com
CB: Okay, great and you can find the PDF, probably there he which either has for free or for sale at this point.
NG: I think it’s for sale. The way that I got it as far as I know unless Philip changed it, it was part of a DVD called I want to say it’s called from Lilly to Partridge. And it’s got a number of texts on it from that time that Philip owns and that he has scanned as very high quality PDFs.
CB: Right. I just remember I’ve been trying to get him to convert that to like digital downloads instead of a DVD. At this point and he’s still in the process of doing that so I’ll see if I can talk to him to get at least where he could sell the PDF of Lilly sometime soon so I can link to it on the description page of this episode
NG: That would be nice, yes.
CB: Okay, good. Let’s see, other sources for Lilly. There’s different modern treatments, of course one of the main sources is his autobiography, and you can get that in different places online as well. I believe that’s right.
NG: So, you know I just google it so I don’t have a great website for it, but I’m sure if you could put a link up on the show notes and that’s freely available.
CB: Okay, otherwise there’s a really excellent edition that Wade caves did just a few years ago through Rubedo Press.
NG: Yes, and I recommend that. It’s a very nice book. It’s a good way to support astrological publishers obviously, you know and it’s footnoted and it’s a nice guide if this is your first foray into the world of Lilly.
CB: Yeah, so you can get that on Amazon. The title is just William Lilly’s History of His Life and Times – From the Year 1602 to 1681. And it has a bunch of great footnotes as well, very nice layout and design that makes for easy reading, compared to reading like a scan of the original text.
NG: Yes, that’s exactly right.
CB: Other than that other treatments of Lilly. I read and I really loved because I’d read pieces of it but it was only recently that I sat and read the full thing where it turns out that James Holden did his master’s thesis in 1953 on William Lillie and it’s just this really excellent, clear treatment of Lilly’s life and his work in Christian Astrology, as well as some of his political wranglings and about like at like a hundred pages or a hundred fifty pages or something like that. And it’s amazing how much of Holden’s style from his later works that were all published in the 1980s and 90s and 2000’s, how much you can already see his voice at that point much earlier in his life in 1953.
NG: Yes, and the other thing that’s amazing to me, Chris, is just the fact that James Holden was so ahead of his time in recognizing Lilly’s importance. Right?
CB: Right, I know.
NG: These are the fifties when nobody was really talking about Lilly.
CB: Yeah, it’s literally 30 years before the Regulus Edition came out. And before there was that huge flourishing of astrology we have this lone astrologer who’s getting a classics degree and he did all this amazing work on Lilly. And what was interesting is like if you read it he didn’t even have the text itself, he was working from like micro films and just like reading the text through those reproductions.
NG: Yes, James Holden is a fascinating man. And I think you know when I had the opportunity to speak with him about ten years ago now we talked a little bit about his journey to astrology. But it’s still amazing to me that he so early in life was able to identify the importance of Lilly, and as you say, put a lot of effort into studying Lilly’s work.
CB: Yeah, well I’m really grateful you did one of the only I think biographical interviews on the Holden that anybody ever did, and published it on your website or on your blog. And that’s really important like historical document at this point because nobody else was able to interview him to get the background to what is actually really interesting story about one of the most notable astrological historians of the past century.
NG: Yes, and I mean it wasn’t for lack of access. He was I think a very gracious person. But I think people just weren’t really thinking of James Holden as the force behind so many of these translations.
CB: Yeah, and so much because he did that that sort of thesis on Lilly in 1953, but then he went on to I think work is like an electrician or something, and he just did translations on the side in his spare time and researched the history of astrology in his spare time and most of those translations wouldn’t actually be published and towards the very end of his life like 40 or 50 years later.
NG: Exactly, yes he was he was a phone engineer for the state of Texas as he told me so that was his that was his professional life and he said he would just come home every day and translate a few pages. So you know in some ways, like I said he seemed to have a real love for the classics, and Lilly was very much a part of that as well.
CB: Right, so that’s amazing and that master’s thesis I don’t know if it’s like publicly available anywhere. If it’s not like I might just post a link to it on the astrology podcast website because it should be out there, because it’s a really fascinating read, and is really useful as an objective treatment of will Lilly’s life and biography.
NG: Yeah. I would appreciate that as far as I know Chris and again maybe you were able to find it elsewhere but as far as I know there you know it’s just his university in Texas has a copy of his thesis. I don’t know that they digitized it, so if you have a version that you know of or can post I think that would be it would be a great service.
CB: Okay, I’ll see if I can link to that on the description page for this episode on the Astrology podcast website. Other than that, there was another book on Lilly that came out a few years ago, which was titled the man who saw the future by Catherine Blackledge. And that’s kind of like a biography of Lilly. It seemed to be endorsed by a number of people I’ve only read part of it. Is that a good source for reading Lilly’s life?
NG: I think so. It’s certainly a good source. The part that I wasn’t sure about is I don’t know to what extent Catherine Blackledge was able to get some of the primary sources. Again, Lilly’s case books would be one, but it’s a very readable book and it’s just it’s another way to approach Lilly if you don’t want to read you know a 17th century text in the form of his autobiography right away.
CB: Sure, yeah it’s good to sometimes work up to those things.
CB: Yeah and then there was also a treatment by Derrick Parker in 1975, titled Familiar To All, but that’s sometimes a controversial account of Lilly.
NG: Right, and it’s not so much that it’s deeply wrong. I think there are some inaccuracies, but that’s not the concern. I think it’s more that it’s unsympathetic as you had alluded to earlier, a lot of 20th century astrologers, or at least some I would say had a very negative view of horary and therefore of Lilly because they saw it as kind of just like cheap fortune-telling, and so that seems to be the tack that Derek Parker took as well.
CB: Okay, interesting. Well luckily we have so many other treatments at this point that that’s not the only treatment that people have to read. Is there any other, as we’re getting towards the end of this and winding down, are there any points about Lilly and his work that we should have touched on and haven’t or that we’re spacing out at this point?
NG: I think we covered everything pretty thoroughly Chris, although I’m sure I’ll think of five different things once we finish the podcast I think we’re I think we’re pretty good.
CB: Okay, well maybe we can do a follow-up episode at some point to talk about some of those different things. Thank you so much for doing this with me. I’ve been wanting to do this episode forever and I’ve been thinking about it for a few years but wasn’t sure how to approach it and I’m really glad that we got a chance to collaborate on this today, so thanks for all of your..
NG: Yeah, it was my pleasure Chris.
CB: So, what are you working on, or last time I saw you on the podcast was a few years ago and you were doing the work on Bonatti’s considerations, but you’ve been working on not just that but other things lately as well, right?
NG: Yes, yes so I guess like Lilly himself to some extent I do have an interest in astrology and magic. And so I pursue both of those interests, and you know a big focus of my work is traditional astrological magic, which you know.. in a way that would have been practiced by Lilly and his contemporaries. But also probably the people preceding him as far as we know. So to that end you know I publish a monthly magical elections document, which is essentially a document that you can get at NinaGryphon.com, which is my site and it guides magicians to the best times to do their rituals in the upcoming months. So it’s something that is a fairly niche product, but it’s interesting for those who like to find that intersection between magic and astrology. I do also have a class on astrological magic coming up at Kepler College online starting October 19th, that’s 2019 if you’re listening to this later. And you can always find me on my site NinaGryphon.com. I’m on Instagram, Facebook, all of the major platforms.
CB: Brilliant. And you said your website is NinaGryphon.com.
NG: Yes, that’s right.
CB: Excellent, and the Kepler class, people can find out more information about it Kepler.edu
NG: Thank you.
CB: Okay, cool. All right, well I guess that’s it for this episode. Thanks to all the patrons and to the sponsors who helped to support the production of this episode by signing up through our page on patreon.com. Specifically I wanted to give a shout out to patrons Christine Stone, Nate Craddock, as well as the Astro Gold astrology app, which is available at AstroGold.io, and the Portland School of Astrology, which is available at Portlandastrology.org. So, thanks for supporting the production of the podcast. And I guess that’s it for Episode 221 of the astrology podcast. So, thanks everybody for watching or listening to this episode and we will see you again next time.
NG: Okay, thank you Chris.