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Ep. 264 Transcript: The Origins of the Concept of Detriment in Astrology

The Astrology Podcast

Transcript of Episode 264, titled:

The Origins of the Concept of Detriment in Astrology

With Chris Brennan and guest Benjamin Dykes

Episode originally released on July 28, 2020

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Note: This is a transcript of an audio podcast. We strongly encourage you to listen to the audio version, which includes inflections that may not translate well when written out. Transcripts are created by using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and the text probably contains some errors and differences from the audio version. Please submit any corrections to Chris Brennan by email at astrologue@gmail.com.

Transcribed by Andrea Johnson

Transcription released January 10th, 2021

Copyright © 2021 TheAstrologyPodcast.com

CHRIS BRENNAN: Hi, my name is Chris Brennan, and you’re listening to The Astrology Podcast. Today is Friday, July 24, 2020, starting at 4:11 PM, in Denver, Colorado, and I believe this is going to be the 264th episode of the show. 

In this episode, I’m going to be talking with Dr. Benjamin Dykes about the origins of the concept of detriment in the Hellenistic and Medieval astrological traditions. So, hey, Ben, welcome to the show.

BENJAMIN DYKES: Thanks for having me.

CB: Yes, you’re back again already. Our last episode–two or three months ago–was on the origins of the concept of exaltations. So it’s actually kind of fitting that we’re doing what is accidentally a follow-up to that with the origins of the concept of detriment. 

BD: Yeah, it makes sense. Soon we’ll hopefully have the occasion to do an episode on Abu Ma’shar’s Great Introduction which is almost ready too.

CB: Yeah. So that’s what you’re finishing right now? That’s your next big translation?

BD: Umm-hmm. 

CB: Excellent. All right. Framing this episode is a little tricky because it’s tied into this mysterious issue that I noticed years ago and I spent a number of years working on, which is that in the later astrological tradition–like in the late Medieval and early Renaissance traditions–there was the concept of a planet being in its domicile and then the concept of a planet being in its exaltation. 

And then there were the signs opposing that, which are the signs known as a planet’s fall, which is opposite to its exaltation, and a planet’s detriment, which in the Renaissance tradition was said to be the sign opposite to a planet’s domicile. These are seen as either positions that were somehow positive or auspicious if a planet was in its domicile or exaltation, or somehow inauspicious or negative or problematic if a planet was in its fall or detriment. 

And that’s pretty well-established by the late Medieval and Renaissance traditions, but it’s not something that’s well-established in the Hellenistic tradition. They’ll define ‘domicile’, they’ll define ‘exaltation’, and they’ll define ‘fall’, but then for some reason, they won’t mention the concept of ‘detriment’, and this was kind of a mysterious thing for a number of years. 

And I know even you mentioned this in the introduction to one of your early translations of Sahl and Masha’allah in 2008, where you noted that there was some continuation of this in the Medieval tradition where they still weren’t referring to the concept of detriment as frequently as you might expect, right?

BD: Yeah. It wasn’t as frequent and it did not seem as dire, and also, oddly enough, not quite as rich as fall. They were very interested in fall, but mentions of detriment all by itself were much more rare, and sometimes they would just be heaped in with a list of bad conditions. So I noticed that there was an asymmetry with how they were treating these. By the time of William Lilly and later Renaissance, detriment was just part of the package, unquestioned. 

CB: Right. And so, this is an issue for me as well. It was something I struggled with in the Hellenistic texts. We have a handful of introductory manuals, and it’s really notable to see them having a chapter where they talk about domicile and what that means, and having a chapter where they talk about exaltation and then fall; and then they just move on with the rest of the text and they don’t define any other concept. 

And that’s true for most of the Hellenistic authors from the 1st century writing in Greek and Latin, all the way through until about the 5th or 6th centuries. But then you get to the end of the Hellenistic tradition with the last, or one of the last great Hellenistic astrologers known as Rhetorius of Egypt, and then all of a sudden, the concept is suddenly there. He has a chapter where he’s defining the concept that later became known as detriment, as well as saying that that’s a problematic factor for planets when they fall in that sign opposite their domicile. 

So it’s just there all of a sudden in Rhetorius. And to me, it left this question for a number of years of either, A) this was a new development that only happened later in the Hellenistic tradition and that’s why it shows up in Rhetorius suddenly; or B) the second option was that Rhetorius was simply articulating something that was implicit or was used in earlier authors, even if it wasn’t usually explicitly defined for some reason. Those are the two options that I struggled with for a number of years.

BD: Mm-hmm.

CB: So eventually, by the time I wrote my book, I taught it. I was ambivalent about the issue for a number of years, and that’s how I taught it in my course on Hellenistic astrology for a number of years and outlined this issue to people and said I wasn’t really sure what direction to go on this. 

By the time I wrote my book, I found enough references–not just to the concept in Rhetorius, but also in a few other Hellenistic authors–that I figured that Rhetorius wasn’t just inventing the concept out of nowhere, but he must have been drawing on some earlier astrological tradition where this was used in the Hellenistic tradition, even if it wasn’t very well-formalized into a specific definition or concept. 

So, for me, in the section on this in my book, Hellenistic Astrology, I outline the issue, but then say it was probably a concept that existed earlier–and it certainly did by the late Hellenistic tradition–so the focus became picking a term to use to refer to it. Unfortunately, the tricky issue in Rhetorius is that he uses the Greek term enantiōma to refer to the concept that we know as detriment, but that term just means ‘opposition’. And the problem with this is that the Hellenistic authors used another word. They called the aspect of the opposition typically diameter, using geometrical language for it. But this word, opposition, later came to be used by most Western astrologers as the word for the aspect. 

So, I, in my book, struggled with introducing a different concept to refer to this term in the Hellenistic tradition and I suggested ‘adversity’ and ‘exile’. And then later I suggested the term ‘antithesis’ which I thought I just discovered last year in 2019, but it turns out I recorded a podcast–Podcast #44 of The Astrology Podcast–and I mentioned in passing that I was playing with that as a possible term; I must have forgotten about it by the time I wrote my book. 

So, for me, this was kind of a settled issue at that point. But then recently on Twitter, somebody linked to an article by a former student of mine who took my Hellenistic course 10 years ago when I was still ambivalent about detriment. His name is Anthony, and he writes the website sevenstarsastrology.com; and it’s a really good, really detailed website for a bunch of articles on Hellenistic astrology and different investigations of it from both a conceptual and a practical standpoint. 

So he wrote a long article–which you can find at sevenstarsastrology.com/detriment–where he primarily tried to do a survey and show how many Hellenistic authors had the opportunity to mention detriment and then just don’t; like he fact that it’s never mentioned by Ptolemy, it’s never mentioned by Firmacus Maternus, and other authors. 

And it’s an extremely long, almost hundred-page article–if you print it out as a .pdf, as I did–and he’s somewhat critical and he pushes back against my statements in my book that the concept must have existed prior to Rhetorius. He calls into question some of the citations that I found to back up that argument or that position, and he argues that the concept didn’t exist in the earlier Hellenistic tradition and therefore isn’t a valid concept in astrology. 

So that kind of prompted me to do what I should have done awhile ago, which was go back and do a much more detailed survey of all of the Hellenistic references to the concept of detriment over the course of the past week with Levente László who’s doing the Horoi Translation Project through this page on Patreon. He’s translating a bunch of Greek texts, and we were able to find a bunch of other references to detriment in the Hellenistic tradition and reconstruct how it actually developed. 

And when I talked to you about this, you said that you had found a number of additional references and done a lot of additional research on the Medieval tradition since your initial findings in 2008, right?

BD: Yeah. And one of the things that I found which I’m guessing you did with Levente László is looking for those words that begin with enantiō, which discovered was the special Greek term that referred to being in the opposite domicile. I found that very same kind of thing–specialized vocabulary–in the Arabic. 

So, yeah, I was able to find interesting references that sometimes are based on ancient texts, sometimes come from them, but a little bit has been added to them. But, yeah, there’s lots of references to detriment. I have my own ideas about what might have happened, and we’re going to talk about that, but I still stand by my view that there’s an asymmetry in how they were treating these.

CB: Mm-hmm.

BD: So they were not treating detriment as the opposite of domicile as a pre-given set of dignities and counter-diginities that they would just teach straightforwardly in the same way that they would do exile–sorry, exaltation and fall. Though by the time you get to Sahl’s Introduction and his books, he does mention detriment right along with the others, but it seems to have been something that happened in those middle centuries, making it more official.

CB: Yeah. And I think one of the things that’s important is approaching it not with a preconceived notion that what we’re looking for is going to look exactly like what the later Renaissance astrologers–or the late Medieval astrologers were doing when the conceptualized detriment–but instead, just looking to see how the concept developed on its own organically. I think when you do that you see a natural progression that provides some interesting insight into what the conceptualization was. And it was coming from things like the aspect that a planet has with its domicile and things like that.

BD: Yeah. So there’s lots that we can look at to see how this became official or what we think happened.

CB: Yeah. All right. So one of the things I want to do is I want to go through some of the passages that Levente László and I found over the course of the past week, because I think this right away will start to show what happened and will start to just get rid of the idea or really challenge the idea that this wasn’t a concept that was used in other Hellenistic authors. In fact, I think you can trace it back to Dorotheus and Valens; those are probably two of the influential authors that Rhetorius was drawing on when he eventually formalized the concept in the 7th century–in the 6th or 7th century.  

BD: I have a Valens reference that I’m not sure is in your list, so we’ll have to see.

CB: Okay. So this is a document I’m going to share. I’m going to share it on the screen for the video version, but this is also going to be something I link to. I’ll put a .pdf of it up because I want to release this research publicly. So I’ll put it in the description page for this episode on The Astrology Podcast website–as well as probably in a link below the YouTube video for the video version of this–but it’s a collection of passages that Levente and I found in the Hellenistic tradition arranged chronologically. 

The earliest references we were able to find, unfortunately, a lot of these don’t survive in the Arabic version of Dorotheus–which has a bunch of things missing and is corrupted but still contains a lot of Dorotheus–but we were able to find some references which likely go back to Dorotheus that are being paraphrased or quoted in later Hellenistic astrologers. 

So the first one is in a collection of texts attributed to Anubio where he’s describing the mutual configurations between the planets, and it says: In general, every star being diametrical ​​to his own domicile himself diminishes everything that he promises.” This is an early reference, and it’s interesting that it’s focusing on the idea of the planet being opposite to its own sign, or having an opposition to its own sign, and this is thought to be Anubio paraphrasing a line from Dorotheus. Elsewhere, in Hephaistio, when he talks about annual profections, he basically paraphrases the chapter on profections from Dorotheus. And at one point in there, there is a similar reference that says: “That when the stars are in opposition ​​to their own domiciles, they are corrupted.” 

So there’s been some argument and some question, for example, in Anthony’s article about whether this is a clear reference to the concept of detriment or something like it, or whether this is just referring to a transit reference or something like that because it occurs within the context of a discussion about annual profections and solar returns. But I think when you analyze the full passage–where I have Schmidt’s translation here–it’s pretty clear that he’s analyzing the condition of the lord of the year, or the profected lord of the year, which is the domicile lord of the sign that the profection has come to. 

In the sentence before that, it says: “That the stars occupying their own thrones rejoice even if they should be under the beams; the benefics increase the good things and the destroyers are changed over in the direction of beneficence.” And then immediately in the following sentence, it says: “That when stars are in opposition to their own domiciles, they are corrupted.” So, to me, clearly this is contrasting planets in their thrones–which is usually a reference to planets being in their domiciles or their exaltations–and contrasting that with the concept of being opposite to their domiciles as potential reference to the concept of detriment or what we know as detriment at least. 

Later in the paragraph, it goes on and it starts giving delineations about the planet being in another’s domicile, contrasting a planet being in its own domicile being good and being the best-case scenario versus if a planet is in another planet’s domicile and that being potentially problematic, which again I think reinforces things. 

Elsewhere, in Book 3 of Hephaistio, he starts paraphrasing some rules from Dorotheus again, in a subsection on interpreting the Lot of Fortune. The line in Hephaistio says, “When the Lot of Fortune falls in the third sign from the Hour-marker and the lord of the sign opposes it, one must see that the hatred and disagreement with friends is thereby indicated.” So this notion that the 3rd house signifies friendship, then if the ruler of the 3rd house is in the sign opposite to that, it inverts the signification and it indicates hatred and disagreement amongst friends, or something like that.

BD: The lord of the Lot is in the sign opposite the Lot, or contrary to the Lot, and he’s using, again, some version of that prefix enantiō, which means ‘conflict’ or ‘contrariness’.

CB: Yeah. ‘Contrariety’ is one of the other definitions that Schmidt used for it, which is a good transition. I was using that word, antithesis–the idea of it being antithetical in some way. If you have your house signification and that’s the thesis–or the foundation or basis of signifying something–then what is the antithesis of that? You’ll find it in the sign opposing it.

BD: So the Greek does not say that it’s diametrical to it, which is the aspect term. Instead, it’s using a special word of contrariety and opposition that makes specific reference to the things it’s opposite to.

CB: Yeah. So this term enantiōma in Rhetorius becomes the special keyword that he starts using to refer to detriment and defining it very specifically in the 7th century, and that’s his keyword for detriment. When we see it in earlier Hellenistic authors, they do seem to have a tendency sometimes to use that special keyword, enantiōma, to refer to the concept of detriment as well. 

It’s not clear if it was formalized as it became in the time of Rhetorius because sometimes they’ll still alternate and they’ll still use the term opposition or enantiōma. But it does seem like there’s a tendency to use enantiōma more when they’re referring to this condition. So it does essentially become their equivalent of the term detriment to some extent, but note that it’s still very much connected to and still tied in with the notion of the planet being opposite or aspecting its domicile through an opposition in some way. 

So that gives us some clues right away that part of how the concept of detriment developed initially was just through the notion of a planet being opposite to its domicile, and especially when the planet is ruling a sign, what happens if it’s supposed to be carrying out the significations of that sign or that house, but then it finds itself as far removed from that sign as it possibly can and configured to it through the aspect of opposition, which was said to be a tense or adversative aspect.

BD: Yeah. And I think we’ll continue to see this in the Arabic material too, there are references to this.e want a plant to aspect or look at its own sign because that helps it manage the affairs of its sign.

CB: Mm-hmm.

BD: Well, what’s wrong with an opposition–that looks at the sign? Except that there’s something really different that happens when you are in the opposite sign to the one that you rule; different things come into play due to factors that we’ll talk about. So you can see the sign, but being diametrical to the sign puts you in a different kind of condition, enantiōma.

CB: Yeah. Like you said, we have that long passage in Firmacus that’s always quoted and thought of where he explains the Hellenistic conceptualization of a planet in its own sign is like ‘a person living at home’, whereas a planet who’s in a sign that it doesn’t rule is like ‘a person who’s living away from home’, who’s staying with somebody else and then has to rely on the person who hosts that sign for support. And by extension then the Hellenistic astrologers had a common interpretive principle that it’s good for the ruler of a sign to be able to aspect or to see its sign so that it can support any ‘guest’ planets that are staying in it.

BD: Mm-hmm.

CB: That means, normally, any aspect is positive–whether it’s a sextile or a square or a trine–but you run into a little issue when you get to the opposition because the opposition was conceptualized as the most challenging of the four or five aspects. So they must have started running into an issue of what do you do in that case: Is the opposition still helpful, or is there some challenge or some problematic conditions that come along with that?

BD: Yeah. And that comes through in one of the quotes from Abu Ma’shar which brings that out. What happens if you are in a configuration that’s hostile to the very thing you’re supposed to be taking care of? 

CB: Right.

BD: And people live in that kind of state also. What happens if you’re hostile to the things that you’re supposed to be taking care of?

CB: Yeah, hostile. That’s a good term because a common term for the opposition is the notion of hostility or adversity. Here’s Porphyry’s basic definition from Chapter 7 of Porphyry translated by Levante about the nature of the different aspects, and it says that, “The configuration by trigon–which is the trine is sympathetic and beneficial–and when a malefic is involved, it is less harmful. The tetragon–or the square configuration–is unpleasant and inharmonious and capable of causing distress when a malefic is involved. And the diametrical configuration is adversative, but it is even more pernicious when a malefic is involved.” So we have this notion of oppositions being a challenging aspect, and therefore, that’s starting to be problematic if a planet is the ruler of its sign and is configured to its own sign through that aspect. 

All right, so let’s go back to the quotes. That’s Hephaistio probably paraphrasing Dorotheus. There is a similar paraphrase of, again, probably Dorotheus in the text of Palchus, who was a later compiler. It says, “If the lord of the third place is in opposition, he will have enmity for friendship.” And then again, “If the Lot of Fortune falls in the third sign, and its lord is in opposition, he will have enmity for friendship.” So it’s just this notion that the lord of a house opposing its house brings about the opposite of what the house is supposed to signify in some way. 

So those are some of the references that make me think that this does in fact go back to Dorotheus as a condition–as an outgrowth of not just the aspect but also the rulers of the houses and what happens when they oppose their own house. We actually find a bunch of passages that are very similar in Valens; and I think this is overlooked in this survey that we were talking about earlier where it was stated that Valens didn’t refer to detriment. But in fact, all throughout Book 2, there were several different references, including some example charts. 

So in Book 2, Valens has a section on interpreting the placements of the Lot of Fortune and the Lot of Spirit, and at one point, he says, “Likewise, if the ruler of the Lot of Spirit is in opposition to this place–to the place of the Lot of Spirit, or the sign of the Lot of Spirit–it indicates men who reside abroad and become distressed.” That’s from Riley’s translation, and Schmidt translated it  very similarly. He says, “Similarly, if the ruler of Spirit should be opposite to this place, it foretells those who dwell in a foreign land and undergo troubles;” so again, the idea of the lord of the Lot opposing its sign being problematic in some way. 

And here, we start to get some significations that become later, where in this case it talks about living in a foreign land and undergoing troubles, or being distressed. I think that notion of being distressed is probably coming from the idea that this is the ruler of the Lot of Spirit, which is supposed to represent a person’s mental state. And if it’s supposed to indicate one’s mental state–if it’s well-placed–then it would indicate auspicious or positive things for the mental state; but if it’s opposite to its sign, it’s going to indicate some sort of tension there with the mental state, which they delineate as being distressed in some way. 

So this starts to bring in some of the traveling-type significations, which I know come up later in the Medieval tradition as well, right?

BD: Mm-hmm, yeah.

CB: Okay, so we’ll get to that. Next, a few chapters later in Valens, Chapter 23, he’s interpreting the Lot of Acquisition–or I should say the Place of Acquisition, which is the 11th place relative to the Lot of Fortune–and it says, “When the lord of the Acquisition is opposed to the Place of Acquisition, it makes the property void.” 

So the Place of Acquisition is the 11th place relative to Fortune, and Valens has a whole chapter about how this indicates how the native will acquire wealth and property. And he says that if the ruler of the 11th place relative to Fortune is opposite to its own sign, then it will invert things and it will indicate a loss or a uselessness in terms of wealth and acquisition, so that’s pretty straightforward. 

In Book 2, Chapter 24, it says, “If the Lot concerning Debt should fall amiss, or if its lord should fall on squares or diameters with it, it makes the nativities debt-ridden.” This isn’t as clear of an example, but it’s more showing how they’re paying attention to differences between the quality of the aspect that a Lot has with its lord and that having qualitative differences in the prediction of the outcome. 

Elsewhere, in Chapter 30 of Book 2, Valens has a section on travel that he excerpts and he paraphrases from an earlier author named Abraham, and this is actually the first time that Valens introduces the technique called zodiacal releasing. So within that context, at one point, he says, “When, again, the lords of the signs having the times or division–the zodiacal releasing periods–should happen to be in aversion to the signs or opposed to them, the signs provide stays away from home. If the lord of the sign or where the times are–the current time-lord period–should be opposed to it; it causes either moves or being away from home.” 

Again, he’s doing two things: One, he’s associating a planet being opposite to its sign with the potential for travel; and secondarily, he’s starting to group–and this is something we’ll see in the other authors later–the opposition together with the concept of aversion or not having any aspect with one’s sign. 

And I think this is a change that happens at one point in the Hellenistic tradition where they thought it was good for a planet to be configured to its domicile and it was bad for a planet to be in aversion or have none of the major Ptolemeic aspects with its domicile. But at a certain point, they started thinking that the opposition was so difficult that it was practically like an aversion rather than being an aspect with the domicile itself and that may have been part of the development. All right. So back to the quotes. 

Finally, there’s a chapter in Book 2 of Valens–which is Chapter 41–and it’s his chapter where he gives indications for a potential for violent death of the native. And he actually has a bunch of example charts in this chapter, but this ends up being his primary discussion where he starts talking about the concept of a planet being opposed to its sign. At one point, at the end of the chapter, I think Valens realized that he had talked about this concept a lot without defining it, so at the end of the chapter, you actually see him stop and define it formally. 

Before we get there, towards the beginning of the chapter, he says at one point, “Whence, the all-blessed nativities are not allotted good fortune all the way to the end; but rather when the ruler of a star for a certain matter should fall amiss or else should be opposed, it will furnish misfortune.” So again, he’s grouping when the ruler of a place is in aversion to its sign or even is opposing its sign together as being a negative indication. 

So then he goes in and he starts citing chart examples for violent death, and in at least two of these examples in this chapter, he mentions planets being opposed to their domiciles as being negative indications. Here’s one chart example; I’ll read it through from Schmidt’s translation. It says in this example, “The Sun, Hermes, Aphrodite are in Pisces; Kronos is in Virgo; Jupiter is in Scorpio; Mars is in Taurus; the Moon in Sagittarius; and the Hōroskopos–or the hour-marker Ascendant–is in Leo. The Lot of Fortune is in Taurus.” He says, “Mars, holding sway over the Lot of Spirit was upon Taurus and opposed.” 

So this is important. He’s looking at the Lot of Spirit here–he says it’s in Scorpio–however, the ruler of the Lot of Spirit is in Taurus, and therefore is opposed. And I believe he uses the term enantiōma here. He’s using what became Rhetorius’ special keyword for detriment later here in a technical context to say that there’s something challenging about this placement because it’s opposite to its sign.

BD: Do you happen to know in the Greek grammar–when you and Levante have looked at this–I notice that it doesn’t say, “and he opposed it.” If it said “he opposed it,”–namely, Scorpio–that would sound more like an aspect. 

The verbal form of that enantiōma here, does it mean something to be in an oppositional state? Because Greek has that ability to talk about yourself in a way like that. So does it mean that it is in a kind of conflicted or oppositional state, or is it a straightforward, verbal form, meaning, “and he opposed it?” I don’t know the answer.

CB: I think enantiōtheis is the Greek that Levante put in, and then later, Valens uses the same term to refer to another planet, and he says, ēnantiōthē; so those are the two forms that it’s in. Schmidt was always such a stickler for grammar that if it was in the form of “and it opposed it” then he would have put that. But instead, the fact that Schmidt translated it as “and opposed” means its’ the other one.

BD: Mm-hmm.

CB: Okay. So Valens says the Lot of Fortune was in Taurus; Mars holding sway over Spirit was upon Taurus and opposed. Another way you could translate that is “and is in the place of its contrariety,” or detrimented; basically the equivalent of what later became detriment. 

BD: In contrariety; maybe, something like that.

CB: Yeah, in contrariety. So then he goes on; he says, “The deadly place was in Sagittarius.” And for Valens that’s the 8th whole sign house relative to the Lot of Fortune. The Lot of Fortune’s in Taurus, so then the 8th from Fortune is Sagittarius. So he says, “The Moon, lying upon it–being in Sagittarius–has Saturn in a superior position to it, while Saturn is in the sign of the Whole Moon.” 

And then, finally, the last thing that he brings into account here as an indication for a violent death, he says, “Similarly also, Hermes–which is Mercury–the lord of the Whole Moon–which is the prenatal lunation–was opposed;” and then he says, “Such a one had his throat cut.” So, again, he doesn’t just cite one example of what we know as detriment here, but he cites two of them. The second one is that Mercury is the ruler of the prenatal lunation, and the prenatal lunation falls in Virgo; and the ruler of that is Mercury, which falls in Pisces, the sign opposite to that; so two references there. 

Later, he gives another example chart that’s similar. So this one has Scorpio rising with Mars in Taurus; he delineates the three different things that are supposed to be indications of violent death. He says, “The Lot of Fortune was in Sagittarius. The lord–which is Jupiter–was with Mars in the Descendant–in the 7th place.” Then he says, “The deadly place–which is the 8th from Fortune–was in Cancer. Saturn, the lord of the–prenatal–Whole Moon was in aversion.” And then, finally, he says, “And Mars was also opposed to its own house. Such a one fought with wild animals.” 

He’s implying dying is a result of fighting with wild animals; or in Riley’s translation, he translates it as, “He was thrown to the lions.” So, again, I’m assuming that he’s pointing to Mars being opposed to its domicile as being a negative indication for vitality, because in this chart, it has Scorpio rising; so Mars is actually the ruler of the Ascendant. 

Valens seems to recognize that he’s using a concept here that he hasn’t defined. So at the end of this chapter, at the end of Book 2, Chapter 41, he goes on this long digression where he starts talking about the nature of ‘oppositions’. And he says at one point, in Riley’s translation, “The configuration of opposition can be interpreted in two ways: one way when a star in the Ascendant is in opposition to another; the second when a star is in opposition to its own house, triangle, or exaltation.” 

So right there, that’s a formal definition of the concept of detriment, and he groups it together with the same concept of fall by saying that you have exaltation, and the planet opposite to that is referring or implying to the position of fall; and then next to that, he refers to a planet being in its own domicile and what happens when a planet is opposite to that as being the opposition. 

BD: So he’s explicitly distinguishing an aspect from a relationship–from an opposing relationship to a dignity.

CB: Yeah. He realizes that he doesn’t really have a separate term for it, or it’s not very well-distinguished. So he’s being clear that, “Sometimes when I say opposition,” interestingly, he actually uses the term, diametrē here. He says sometimes we’re referring to the aspect when two planets are in aspect by opposition to each other, but he’s saying that sometimes when we use this term, we’re talking about a planet being in opposition to its domicile.

BD: Now that’s interesting that he adds the triplicity there because that’s something that is in Hephaestion, Book 3, where he says it’s bad when the Sun is Aries’ signs because in Aries’ signs, all of the Aries’ signs are opposed to fiery signs, and the fiery triplicity is his triplicity. So Valens couldn’t have been the only one who said it was also bad to be opposite one of the signs of your triplicity; so that’s interesting that that’s also in Valens.

CB: Yeah. One thing that’s interesting that I’ve been thinking about is if some Hellenistic astrologers like Valens and Dorotheus and Rhetorius recognized this concept why other Hellenistic astrologers maybe wouldn’t have or didn’t recognize this concept if it’s true that others didn’t. 

You actually have a similar parallel–which I’ve talked about before, which we explored–with the discovery about the origins of how the elements came to be assigned to the triplicities, and how some Hellenistic astrologers applied the four elements of earth and air and fire and water to the signs of the zodiac, but some Hellenistic astrologers, like Ptolemy, didn’t. The astrologers who did were Dorotheus potentially–definitely Valens and Rhetorius did apply the four elements to the signs of the zodiac through the triplicities. 

But one of the issues with that and the argument that I made at the time that the reason why somebody like Ptolemy would omit that is because it followed the Stoic rationales for attributing the qualities to the signs of the zodiac, which made fire signs hot and air signs cold and put those signs in opposition to each other in the zodiac so that fire signs are always opposed by air signs, and therefore, they have diametrically-opposite qualities of hot and cold, which are adversarial or contrary to each other. And similarly, the water signs are conceptualized as being wet and the earth signs are conceptualized as being dry; so therefore, they’re diametrically-opposed qualities. 

I could see how this could be a another potentially underlying factor that could have helped contribute to the development of the idea of detriment and of opposing signs having these contrary or adversarial or canceling-out qualities–especially when the lord of one sign is in the opposite sign–and also, potentially why some authors like Valens could have recognized this concept, whereas, somebody like Ptolemy, who didn’t use the elements, maybe was less inclined to.

BD: For example, Venus rules Libra. Now if she’s in Aries, we would say she’s in detriment, or she’s in enantiōma to Libra. But we could say also that is also a bad thing if you’re using the Stoic attributions of the elements because Venus is in Aries’ sign, and Aries is a fiery sign, and those are opposed qualities.

CB: Mm-hmm.

BD: So it’s not just that she’s opposing her own sign, she’s now in a sign of opposed qualities.

CB: Yeah. This came up, and I almost recorded an episode last week, because there’s been a lot of interesting discussion about this, this year, about modern, contemporary astrologers who are practicing Hellenistic astrology and adopting traditional techniques, but then trying to adapt and reconceptualize, or at least understand some of these traditional concepts within a modern context. 

And so, there was some discussion earlier year on Twitter and Instagram under the hashtag of #dignitybabes. There was a group of astrologers that were writing different articles and talking about how to conceptualize it, such as through idea of self-autonomy versus the opposite of that and when a planet its domicile having self-autonomy versus what happens when you are in the opposite situation from that and your autonomy is somehow taken away from you in some way, or you are not fully in control of your own environment and understanding dignity and debility in that way. 

Another article that I read recently–by an astrologer named Alice Sparkly Kat–was titled, “Decolonizing Essential Dignities.” And one of the things that they pointed out and argued was that they didn’t like the analogy that people were sometimes making of planets when they were away from their domicile as being on a trip or on a vacation. They said, especially when a planet is opposite to its domicile–and it’s in an alien land–that’s an extremely uncomfortable position to be in when you’re actually the outsider. 

They made analogies of like a person who is a minority in some sense compared to the dominant or established group that they find themselves in and what kind of awkward position that puts them in, as well as a position where they have less self-autonomy in order to accomplish their own ends or do the things that they want to do. 

So I thought those were both really interesting discussions, and I think it ties in really well with some of the ways that the Hellenistic astrologers may have been trying to conceptualize this using things like these opposing qualities.

BD: Now you did miss or overlook the Valens passage that I said that I had found that is reflected in later people, like Sahl. So maybe we should wait until we look at that special topic in Sahl.

CB: Okay. Sure. When Valens defines it in that way, that’s really compelling to me. Not just that he gave this definition where he grouped being opposite to its own house as being similar to a planet being opposite to its exaltation, but the fact that he uses it three times at least in two different example charts is pretty compelling to me. 

But other than that, in the Serapio, there’s a collection of passages that was attributed to Serapio. Some of it may come from Serapio, some of it may come from other sources; Eduardo Gramaglia translated this at one point. There’s a passage in here where it’s talking about the idea of finding the Master of the Nativity. At one point, he says that planets in opposition to their domiciles is actually a disqualifying condition, according to whatever astrologer is being drawn on, whether it’s Serapio or some earlier astrologer. 

In the Holden translation, it says that, “The astrologers do not approve the prevalence as chart-ruler of the one that is under the Sun beams and the one that is in its fall, and the one in opposition–and in a word–the one having a bad phase.” 

In another translation, for example, in Levante’s translation, he says that, “Astrologers do not consider the prevalence of domicile-mastership the star that is under the beams that is depressed, that is in opposition–and again, it uses the term enantiōma here–or simply has a bad appearance.” To me, this is pretty compelling because this means that either Serapio of some other early Hellenistic astrologer, when doing the calculations for determining the Master of the Nativity, would discount a planet that was presumably opposite to its own domicile. 

All right, moving on. In Hephaistio, Book 3, Chapter 2, sentence 3, Hephaistio has general principles for picking electional charts, and towards the end of this, he instructs you to look at the ruler of the Ascendant, to the Moon in particular, and then he says, “and the stars should not be in diameters with their own domiciles and exaltations, nor in a weak condition.” 

So this is really explicit. Hephaistio is living around 415-ish CE, so early 5th century; so it’s getting later in the Hellenistic tradition. But at least by this point, by the time of Hephaistio and Rhetorius, it seems like this is becoming a much more common and well-defined concept.

BD: The two primary sources it seemed that Hephaestion used for nativities and elections, his two main sources were Ptolemy and Dorotheus. So it’s not like he was just drawing on the latest fad.

CB: Right.

BD: He was drawing on 1st and 2nd century authors to a large extent.

CB: Or innovating. For the most part, Hephaistio is a largely non-innovative author. He’s really just drawing on, most of the time, Ptolemy; and then other times, especially in Book 5–sorry, in Book 3 of Hephaistio, he’s largely just drawing on Dorotheus. So anytime we’re looking at stuff in Hephaistio, we have a question of, is this just Hephaistio talking, or is he paraphrasing this from an earlier author like Dorotheus? The answer is probably that he’s getting this genuinely from Dorotheus. 

In another chapter, in Book 3, Chapter 5, in a section where he’s talking about investigating the prenatal lumation and inception charts, he starts talking about an ‘assembly’. An assembly is the term that you and Eduardo, in your translation of Hephaistio, used for the pre-inception chart lunation conjunction, right?

BD: For a conjunctional nativity, yeah.

CB: Okay. So it says…

BD: Or a conjunctional inception if you’re doing that in election charts.

CB: Yeah. So he starts giving you instructions to look at the ruler of that prenatal lunation, and he says, “When the ruler of the assembly occupies its own place or is in a triangle to the place, it will produce those who succeed in everything, and those effective in acquisition. However, this will not be the case when found to be in aversion or oppositional.” And again, it uses the term enantiōma, grouping aversion together with the oppositional placement, so that they’re really firmly starting to treat it more and more of a planet being opposite to its domicile as being like or pretty close to aversion. 

Finally, there is an example–and I actually quoted this in my book and I thought it was pretty compelling–where Rhetorius preserves this delineation of an example chart which later scholars identified as the birth chart of a 5th century scholar named Pamprepius of Panopolis. This guy was apparently a noble pagan scholar who rose to high position, but ended up being banished by his enemies at one point in his life, or possibly twice. 

Rhetorius uses his birth chart, and at one point, he’s looking at the triplicity rulers of the sect light and the Ascendant, and he’s also looking at the condition of the Moon. He notes that both of them are in Taurus, and that the ruler of Taurus in this person’s birth chart is Venus and it’s located in Scorpio, which is the sign of its detriment or opposition. He says, “…but also, Venus, ruler of it and the Moon posited in opposition to her.” So he says basically the ruler of the Moon is Venus and the ruler of Saturn is Venus, and they’re both in opposition to her. 

And then Rhetorius asks, “How could he not have had a troublesome first age, but indeed also flights were made in many places because of the Moon’s being opposed by its own sign ruler.” In order to back this up, Rhetorius then quotes some earlier Hellenistic author who he doesn’t identify–it may be Dorotheus; it may be some other astrologer who wrote in verse–and the verse says, “Behold the Moon is in the domicile of some star, and if you find that one lurking in the opposition, he will also indeed be a fugitive, obscure and a wanderer.

BD: So if the Moon is in Sagittarius and her lord Jupiter is in his detriment in Gemini opposing her, she’s in a sign in which the lord of the sign is in its own detriment opposing that sign.

CB: Yeah. I think that’s partially because the Moon, one of its general significations, is supposed to be home and the living situation. If the Moon and the sign its in indicate the home and living situation, but the ruler of that is in the sign opposite to that, then it must indicate that which is antithetical to living at home; and the most antithetical situation to living at home is actually being banished from your home country and being unable to return home, having to stay abroad.

BD: Mm-hmm.

CB: Yeah, so that’s pretty compelling. Elsewhere, Rhetorius quotes the same rule in an earlier chapter, where he says, “The Moon being opposed to its own ruler makes fugitives, dishonored persons, wanderers, and those living abroad.” 

Rhetorius is the first author who finally, at the end of the Hellenistic tradition, moves this from just the delineation sections, like Dorotheus and Valens were doing. Right at the top of his work, when he’s defining basic concepts, he actually has a definition of detriment and he groups it when he mentions all the signs of the zodiac with the basic properties of domicile, exaltation, fall, and then the sign of a planet’s detriment. 

In Chapter 7 of Rhetorius, he actually announces that he’s going to explain the rationale for not just the exaltations and depressions, but also the concept of contrariety or detriment, and he does so in Chapter 8, where he has this long paragraph that says–and this is from Schmidt’s translations–”Why is it that the domiciles of the Sun and the Moon are contrary–and he uses the term enantiōma, so you could say detriment here–to the domiciles of Kronos, or of Saturn?” 

And then Rhetorius says, “We say that it is because the Sun and the Moon are the lights of the cosmos, while Kronos is the master of darkness. Whence light is always contrary to darkness, and darkness to light. Again, why is it that the houses of Hermes are contrary to the houses of Zeus, and the houses of Zeus to the houses of Hermes? We say that it’s because Zeus is the overseer of possessions and abundance, while Hermes is always the master of arguments. The intellectual facility, then, is always contrary to, and looks down upon the desire for possessions, and abundance is contrary to what is intellectual. Then again, why is it that the houses of Mars are contrary to the houses of Venus? We say that it is because Venus is the overseer of every desire and delight and pleasure, while Mars is the overseer of every fear and war and passion. The delightful and appetitive and pleasurable, then, is contrary to the terrible and the passionate and the polemical.” 

This is Rhetorius’ attempt to explain and rationalize and actually formalize the concept of detriment at the end of the tradition, where he’s saying it’s not just about a planet opposing its sign and the tension of the opposition being difficult; it also has to do with the interaction between a planet when it’s staying as a guest in another sign, and the ruler of that sign has contrary or, literally, opposite significations that somehow cancel out or are antithetical to that planet’s inherent qualities or significations.

BD: Mm-hmm.

CB: So that rationale also, then, comes up and gets enshrined later in the Medieval tradition as well. I think it shows up in Abu Ma’shar and maybe other authors, right?

BD: Yeah. I think when we get to the slides with my quotes on it from Abu Ma’shar and Sahl, we’ll see a lot of these things come together. What I’ve done in my course is I’ve grouped them into three groups that seem pretty consistent. The quotes that I’ve given you, many of them come from or are based on traditional, earlier texts.

CB: Okay.

BD: But they start to fall into groups, and we’ve sort of explored through these quotations why they could fall into groups, because we’ve seen some of the same reasoning pop up again and again. 

CB: Right. Yeah, let me see if there’s anything new or unique in the Hellenistic authors. The rest are from Rhetorius, although some of Rhetorius’ delineations get copied over by Theophilus of Odessa, at least once or twice. For example, Rhetorius says, “The ruler of the fourth house opposing its house means that the native will meet his end abroad.” So the native will die abroad if the ruler of the 4th is opposing its own house. Theophilus copies this a few centuries later, and he says, “The ruler of the underground pivot opposing its own house say that he will die in foreign lands.” 

Similar thing with the ruler of the 11th place. There is eventually one delineation of the Lot of the Father and what happens when the ruler is opposite to that, indicating that the native is illegitimate in some way, or that the parentage is contested. Here it is–Rhetorius, 5, 48, “If the ruler of the Lot of Father should be found to be opposite to its own house, where the Lot of the Father happens to be, it says that such are suppositious,” which means illegitimate or falsely-presented as a genuine heir. 

So those are all the Hellenistic quotes, and there’s a few more, but I’ll leave them for people to check out in the .pdf that I’ll attach to this episode. To me, I think that shows how this concept started developing. And even though it wasn’t perhaps formally defined early on, we see a constellation of overlapping concepts and reasons why it eventually may have started to coalesce in that direction, until, eventually, by the time of Rhetorius, he really does start formalizing the definition. 

And then Rhetorius’ text is one of the ones that was passed off to the Medieval tradition, in addition to parts of Valens and large parts of Dorotheus, right?

BD: I’m sorry, say that last part again.

CB: That Rhetorius’ text did make it into the Medieval tradition, the Arabic tradition, and also, parts of Valens made it into the Medieval tradition, as well as large parts of Dorotheus.

BD: Yeah. They made it in there in different forms, but yes, they had access to that material.

CB: Okay. As a result of those texts making it in the Medieval, we start to see something very similar showing up in those texts. This is where you started grouping it into the three categories of where those references show up. 

BD: Mm-hmm. And we also see some specialized vocabulary also in the Arabic as well. Now that we’ve been going through these, the word that clearly they’re using as their version of enantiōma in Greek, the verb that they use in Arabic is ḍādda, which means it has a very similar range of meanings: to be contrary, opposed, contrasting, antagonistic, and to be inverse; to be the inversion of something.

CB: Inversion–that would be a good translation too; like the sign of a planet’s inversion.

BD: Mm-hmm.

CB: I like ‘antithesis’ conceptually, but it’s very hard to put in a usable–it doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily.

BD: Yeah, but that falls within this range. So ḍādda is their main verb, but there’s another word, which is wabāl. Wabāl is an interesting term; it refers to a theory of illness coming through bad air. Wabāl literally means ‘unhealthiness’, but it has to do with the idea that the unhealthy body is corrupted somehow, usually by bad air, so there’s a sense of disintegration and corruption in that term as well. So those are the two main ones they use.

CB: That’s probably the term, then, that eventually is translated into Latin, in something that starts becoming detriment, right?

BD: Could be. I haven’t tracked it exactly. Detrimentum really means ‘to wear something out’; it does not mean ‘the opposition of something’. So it could be that they got this idea of detriment from wabāl, but I can’t be sure quite yet.

CB: Okay. But the point is that the Arabic astrologers, they started developing a special term or two that was used for this because they were starting to recognize that it was something unique. They must have picked up from the late Hellenistic tradition that it wasn’t just an opposition aspect, but there was something unique about this. 

And that’s always been one of the interesting that I’ve appreciated about your studies of Medieval astrology since the beginning, going back to 2007 and 2008 in your books, is showing how the early Medieval astrologers that were translating the texts into Arabic, from Greek and earlier authors, they did try really hard to find words that were close the Greek technical terms that they were translating and they were very conscious of that.

BD: Yeah. In fact, we talked about the difference in Greek between two signs in a diameter, which is the normal aspect term, and this enantiōma, which is a kind of contrariety; in Arabic, it’s very similar. Their word for the opposition is, standardly, muqābala, and muqābala actually means ‘to stand across from something and look at it,’ like this.

CB: Okay.

BD: It means to be across, in a relationship with something. But the word that they use here for the contrariety of being in detriment is muḍāddah, and that means to be in a state of contrariety or inversion or hostility. So it has similar ideas of being opposite, but it’s a different verb, different root. They were clearly trying to be careful. They must have noticed that their Greek and Persian sources were using special terms.

CB: Mm-hmm. Okay. So do you want to look at some of the passages that you found from the Medieval tradition? So here’s a few. I threw this in my own PowerPoint, if that’s okay.

BD: Yeah. I put it on a couple of slides. I listed them in several categories. Are they all here?

CB: Yeah. I separated it into five slides, I think.

BD: Let’s start with the first one. Okay.

CB: Is this it?

BD: So this first one is just a general statement. It’s a list of bad conditions that the Moon could be in. And here, now, we see one of the things that we’ve been seeing before: [When she’s] “in the contrary of her own house–and I think that’s the muḍāddah term–or [she is] absent from it,” and that means she’s in aversion to it.

CB: Okay, so they’re grouping it together again.

BD: Mm-hmm. That’s a kind of throwaway, definitional statement.

CB: Yeah, but a general statement about these are eight conditions of difficult placement in electional charts.

BD: Yeah. 

CB: Okay.

BD: And it’s grouping detriment and aversion in a way that we can see that the predecessors did too.

CB: Okay. 

BD: So here’s one of the three major groups of themes. It’s what I call division, contrariety, and dependence. And the idea here is that when you’re in the opposite of the sign that you rule, you are in a condition that is similar to being alien or peregrine. If you’re in a place that you don’t rule–that’s an alien or peregrine planet–you are subject to the situations and the significations and the qualities of the planet that does rule that place. 

Like we saw, if you’re in a sign who’s lord has the significations that are the opposite of yours, there’s a kind of divided attention. There’s a kind of a conflict going on with what the planet wants to do and the conditions it’s able to operate under.

CB: Right.

BD: So here are two quotes from Sahl; one is from his Aphorisms. He says: “If the lord of the Ascendant (or the Moon) was in the seventh from its own house, [then] the owner of the sought matter–that’s the querent; this is in a horary chart–[the querent] will be reluctant about the sought matter…and it will weigh heavily upon him.

So what do you do when you are seeking something that you don’t actually want, or you’re going for something that you already feel burdened by? That could describe the situation of being in the opposite of your own house because you’re laboring under contrary conditions.

CB: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

BD: Another one is in the on Questions. “[If] the lord of the seventh was in the Ascendant–so the lord of the seventh is in detriment by being in the Ascendant–[then] the woman–who, here, is the seventh house–will be more eager than the man is.” So the lord of the seventh manages the woman in this question, but she’s in the house of the man, which means it’s as though she is more subject to and dependent on and more interested in the man than he is on her. 

Again, we have this idea that you’re not just in a different place. You’re in a place where the attention of the planet is somehow being divided or divided against itself, or two contrary interests are at work, rather than the planet in its own sign being more unified and direct. 

CB: Yeah, I think another area where this may have come from as well is through a division also between the 1st house and the 7th house, and the 1st house always being the house of the self–either in natal astrology or even electional astrology or horary astrology–and the 7th house being the default place of the other, which becomes the partner, or the marriage partner, or other people in general, but also becomes the default other, and possibly this concept of detriment growing out of that partially as the place of ‘other-ing’. 

When a planet is in the place of its detriment, it’s in a situation where it is the one who is ‘other-ed’ and has its own interests, in some way, set aside or minimized in some way.

BD: Mm-hmm.

CB: And then that also works with derivative houses because you always have that issue anytime you’re looking at the binary pair of two opposing houses and the topics that they signify as being similar sometimes, but also sometimes opposed, or–not conflicting, but competing with each other in some way. Like what happens when you contrast–like in a horary question–the 2nd house of your finances with the 8th house of the partner or other people’s finances or something like that.

BD: Mm-hmm.

CB: All right, so back to your quotes. 

BD: Yeah. Actually, another way to put that would be the difference between the 2nd and the 8th is not just the 8th is the opposition to it, it’s that the 8th is the money of other people.

CB: Exactly.

BD: It is subject to other people’s control.

CB: Right.

BD: It’s not just a sort of abstract opposition. The people who own that money and are controlling it might have different kinds of interests than you do.

CB: Right. And what happens when that happens, it creates an inherent contrast or conflict. It’s not one that can’t be overcome; if the placement is well-placed, you can see the positive. If it has benefics configured to it, you can see the positive resolution of that versus if it has negative indications then that could be a challenge or a negative thing. But the point is, initially, that it does set up a contrast that inherently has a bit of a tension because it’s almost like a contradiction. 

There might be a similar contrast–even if we’re talking in more modern terms, but still relatable to the Hellenistic tradition–between the 4th house of your home and living situation and private life versus the 10th house of your career and your public life and what happens if, let’s say, the ruler of the 4th is in the 10th, and your private life is suddenly public and the inherent tension in that versus if the ruler of the 10th is in the 4th or what have you. 

Maybe some of this then grew out of a continued tradition of using things like the rulers of the houses and just what happens inherently when the ruler of one house is opposite to its house, just when you start playing with that logic. And that’s something that was always there from very early in the tradition, from Dorotheus and Valens onwards, looking at the rulers of the houses. 

Although, it is interesting that it’s not really until Rhetorius, for the first time, in Chapter 57, where he systematically tries to go through and delineate the rulers of the houses when they’re in different houses. That’s something that as a tradition progressed and became much more standard as a basic technique.

BD: We’ve got here the idea, so far, in this first category, of a contrasting place by opposition, but also having a planet’s attitude and interests being mixed with contrary planets who are in charge of that place.

CB: Right. Okay, so back to your quotes.

BD: The second quote–and I just have one here–is the idea of corruption and disintegration. And again, this is the idea that a healthy person, or a healthy body, has a kind of integrity and balance and cohesion, but a sick body is one that is falling apart and has less cohesion and more imbalance, and that’s why they use the word wabāl, unhealthiness, to describe the sign of detriment. 

So when he’s talking about children, he says: “And if you found [these planets] in their unhealthiness, he will not have children.” He lists some planets; they ultimately come from Valens and Dorotheus. If you find these planets in their unhealthiness, he will not have children. “While if they were raised–that is, if he did have children–[he’ll be saddened] because of them.” 

CB: Okay, so a sort of corruption of what the house is supposed to signify under the best-case scenario.

BD: Yeah. It either corrupts and disintegrates the topic itself, or even if the topic is produced, it makes things fall apart later.

CB: Okay. That reminds me that–and this is also probably another concept that may have, over time, tied into and helped this concept of detriment to develop organically. Very early in the Hellenistic tradition, in Antiochus and in Porphyry, you have the definition of the concept of ‘counteraction’. 

They say when a planet is well-situated in the chart, if it’s in a sign ruled by a malefic, and the malefic is itself poorly-placed in the 6th or the 12 house, then it can drag down or counteract the significations of the original planet, and it can corrupt them or maltreat them in some way. 

So that notion of a planet, when it’s not in its own sign, really relying on the domicile lord of that sign was a big deal to the Hellenistic astrologers. And this again, could be a reason why or could point to a reason why a planet being in a sign ruled by a planet that has contrary, basic principles could be problematic to the functioning of that planet.

BD: Mm-hmm.

CB: All right. And then you have a few more.

BD: I have one more category and then a special topic. So this third category is things that have to do with foreigners, travel, and some other things, including something that I’ve found. Similarly to fall, a planet in detriment can show something that is considered unusual or countercultural or disapproved of; it’s contrary to what’s familiar. 

Here are a few examples. The first one, from Sahl’s Nativities, this is the chapter on travel: ”And if you found the Moon contrary to her own house and the lord of the Ascendant contrary to the Ascendant…, then the native’s livelihood will be outside of his parents’ country.” 

There’s other passages too that include the Sun in this. It means that the planets that are describing the native, that also describe the native’s upbringing and homeland, if they are in the opposite places, then the native will do those things abroad or in a different homeland.

CB: Right.

BD: So among foreigners, travelers, and strangers.

CB: Got it. Okay. 

BD: The next one is–and this is from one of the chapters on religion and it’s very similar. I think it’s based on a passage in Rhetorius. There’s a couple that are like this.

CB: Yeah. I mean, that last one was very similar to Rhetorius’ delineation of the Moon, and then Rhetorius quoted that earlier author in verse; so it’s like we can see a continuation of the Greek interpretation.

BD: Mm-hmm. In the middle passage: “If the lord of the Lot [of Spirit] was contrary to itself–in detriment–it indicates transgression, foolishness, and slander.” And this is similar to the passage in Rhetorius because Rhetorius talks about this like the person will speak in tongues and this sort of thing. 

It’s hard to tell whether this person is a lunatic, like they’re out of their minds, or whether they’re inspired maybe by strange wisdom somehow–but they’re not themselves. If you think of maybe channeling or speaking in tongues or something, you’re you, but you’re also channeling something else.

CB: Yeah.

BD: You’re crossing the boundaries into a different dimension, which could either be lunacy or an inspiration.

CB: And also, just the idea that the Lot of Spirit is supposed to signify the mind and intellect–that’s how Valens talks about it and how Dorotheus talks about it to some extent–and what happens when you have the opposite of that. You incorporate the notion of contrariety when a person has internal, intellectual conflicts with themselves or is cancelling out their own thoughts in some way. 

So we have that quote from Rhetorius–this is Holden’s translation–that says: “The ruler of the Lot of Spirit, being opposed to the Lot of Spirit, makes those who give poor advice, those with contrary opinions, braggarts, and insolent persons.” “Contrary opinions” is interesting because it’s almost like somebody who likes to be contrary. Contrarian is a term that we still use today if somebody likes to pick the opposite side in debates just for the sake of being contrary.

BD: Mm-hmm. Yeah, you’ve got another one here from Sahl: “The lord of the Lot of [the Spirit] looking at its own lord from its unhealthiness.” This is a more complicated one, but it’s a similar kind of thing. Is this person off their rocker, or are they channeling something really important?

CB: Right. And even Theophilus picks up on this, saying: “The ruler of the Lot of Spirit opposing it, makes those indiscreet of counsel, with contrary opinions, boastful, and insolent persons.” 

BD: The third passage, from this third category, comes from Abu Ma’shar, and it seems like we’ve seen versions of this; this is in profections. So suppose you’re profecting the Ascendant, and you come to the 7th house–he calls it the house of wedding–”and in the revolution–that is, in real-time, at the solar revolution–its lord and Moon are opposing their own houses or exaltations, then the owner of the revolution–the client–will hate his own country, and travel to another.” 

CB: Okay.

BD: This is a similar issue of dignity as a homeland, detriment as travel, but also, as a form of hostility.

CB: Yeah, and interestingly, incorporating that into a timing technique. Those positions indicate the natal promise, but that natal promise won’t actually happen or be delivered until it’s activated as a time-lord.

BD: Mm-hmm.

CB: It’s interesting. Did we talk about that? Because it’s not just the idea of a planet being in its sign being at home and then detriment being away from home, but the sign of a planet’s detriment would literally be in the zodiac, as far as you can get away from a planet’s domicile. So that’s why they would be interpreting it as being away from home, or the opposite of home, or even being cast out of your home and banished, because the sign opposite to a planet’s domicile is literally as far in the zodiac as a planet can get away from its home.

BD: Yeah.

CB: Okay.

BD: So then, if we could look at the last thing I had here were some special topics, adoption and adultery. And both of these come from ancient sources, the first one about adoption or you being alleged to be the child of a different father. This comes from Dorotheus, 1.14, sentence 6, and the very end of Valens, 2:32. And there’s several versions of this in Sahl’s Nativities. I don’t know; he liked the material so much, he had to say it three times or four times.

CB: Okay.

BD: But there’s a couple versions of this. “If the Lord of the opposite sign of the Lot of the father [is] on the Lot, or if that planet looks at the Lot from its own sign of detriment”–wait a minute; that is said very awkwardly. 

The main one they use is if the lord of the sign that’s opposite the Lot–so the lord of the sign of detriment–is on the Lot, and so, is in its own sign of detriment, it’s going to bring that sense of foreignness. Foreignness and probably also suspicion and immorality and that kind of thing, it’s going to bring that to the topic of the father. Your father isn’t your father, it’s someone else who is your father.

CB: Right. So it brings the idea of the other to whatever that topic is, basically, if the lord of the sign of detriment is in the sign that you’re looking at.

BD: Mm-hmm. And similarly, with adultery, Sahl uses a passage that we can trace back to Dorotheus. There’s two possible examples here: “Either the Lord of that opposite sign of the Lot of marriage [is] on the Lot, [and/or] the lord of the Lot [of marriage is] in the seventh from the Lot,” namely, in its detriment. In those cases, Sahl and Dorotheus talk about adultery and keeping secret mistresses and that sort of thing. So it’s immoral and secret sex with other people.

CB: Right. So in both instances, the thing that’s tying it together is how would you identify in a chart if it was the other versus the person who it’s supposed to be, theoretically.

BD: And that also ties back to some of the general meanings of being corrupt or bad. I mean, I’ve seen this in client work too, where a planet in detriment can also mean things in people that go bad, that are doing bad things.

CB: Sure. I mean, it can go either way. It can be positive or negative. Let’s talk about that. I did want to read this passage really quickly. It was a really interesting passage, the ‘father’ one from Dorotheus, from your translation of Dorotheus. It’s kind of complicated, but it says: “And he who is the lord of the sign, in which the Lot of father is, for if you found it, not looking at the Lot, or you found the lord of the Lot in what follows its own, or the lord of the sign opposed to the sign that the Lot is on–that is on the Lot–then the native will be attributed to someone who is not his father.

BD: And Valens actually has a clear statement of that, which I can read.

CB: Okay.

BD: I have it up right here. It’s at the end of 2.32. Now, here, he seems to be talking about the adoption of the father; that is to say, whether the father himself is adopted.

CB: Okay.

BD: “Take the adoption of the father from the diameter that is dropped down the Lot.” So you find the Lot of the father and then find its diameter. “If the lord of the Lot of the father should happen to be upon the diameter, or the lord of that diameter upon the Lot, it indicates that the father was adopted.

CB: Okay.

BD: Similarly, also, the lord of the Lot of the mother–and he says the same or similar things for the mother–then the mother is adopted. 

CB: Okay.

BD: They might not all have agreed on exactly who this applied to, the native or the father, but some of these very same factors we’ve been talking about mean that other people are either sleeping around with other people and the wrong people, or you’ve been adopted by other people.

CB: Yeah, so just this idea of other-ing. It’s a very 1st house versus 7th house-type thing. In the early tradition, in the Hermes text, there’s that contrast between the 1st house signifying life and the 7th house signifying death; but later, in some of the texts, even travel gets associated in some instances with the 7th house.

BD: Again, it’s not just the contrast–but you’re being raised in someone else’s house.

CB: Mm-hmm.

BD: Someone else is taking care of you. So this opposition doesn’t have to be a bad thing if you were being taken care of by somebody else.

CB: Right. It just means not your original family or what have you. In another instance, if we’re talking about banishment or something, you’re in a foreign country or a foreign culture. And in some ways, as a result of that, in and of itself, you are out-of-place. 

Maybe that’s another phrase we could use, out-of-place. But whether that works out well, or works out poorly, is going to really depend on the condition of the planet, its configuration with benefics and malefics and things like that. It’s just the out-of-place-ness of the placement that really is the key focus in some ways.

BD: Mm-hmm. And so, maybe what makes detriment so similar to alienation–where you’re in another planet’s place–but in some ways worse than it is because you’re in the place of a planet with contrary meanings.

CB: Right. Okay, let’s take that analogy further. That’s something I really want to emphasize about this; I want to get into a little bit the actual interpretation detriment in practice. Sometimes, if the domicile lord’s not there, or it’s a malefic and it’s squaring or has a really hard aspect, and is contrary to the sect, that planet’s just getting hammered; the planet in detriment is getting hammered. That being out-of-place is going to be something bad and negative, and is going to result in not very good outcomes for whatever it signifies. 

But if the domicile lord is there, or it’s being supported in some way, it’s like being in a foreign country that has a very different culture from your own, but you’re getting support from your hosts, and perhaps, you’re able to adapt to that, rather than have that be something that’s continually oppressive; it might be difficult at first. 

Actually, I spoke to somebody recently who was using their chart as an example of detriment, and they had Mercury in its detriment. They said that they were born in a different country, and then moved to the US when they were five, and had to learn English. They were very out-of-place and they felt very uncomfortable at first being in a completely different culture and not speaking the language. 

But then, eventually, as the person grew up, they were able to overcome that and to learn the language and then actually become a really fantastic writer. That was a really good example, to me, of detriment and using some of these analogies and how they might work out in practice.

BD: Mm-hmm. 

CB: Yeah. Okay, so did you have any more quotes, or is that all the quotes?

BD: Nope, those are the quotes.

CB: Okay. So your three categories of how this comes out in the Medieval tradition is very similar to how it comes out in the Hellenistic tradition, which category one is interdivision and contrariety, category two is corruption and disintegration, and category three is foreign things, strangers, and others.

BD: And travel.

CB: And travel, okay.

BD: Yeah.

CB: So we’ve had our historian hats on most of the time here. What is the historical summary? The historical summary is that detriment doesn’t seem to have been introduced as an essential sign quality early in the Hellenistic tradition, but it does seem, from a relatively early stage–from at least Dorotheus and Valens onward–to be treated as secondary quality that could be problematic for a few different reasons. 

One of them, because of the nature of the opposition to a planet’s domicile, it started being grouped together with a planet’s domicile lord being in aversion to that sign, and then, secondarily, potentially, as Rhetorius later interpreted it, through the quality of the domicile lord of the sign having significations that are opposite to that planet who’s staying as a guest in that sign, in the sign of its detriment.

BD: Yeah, I think several things perhaps all happened at once. You realize pretty quickly that the opposition is a special kind of aspect because it brings in extra considerations that other aspects don’t necessarily do.

CB: Right. In Hellenistic tradition, sign-based aspects were still very important, and some of the astrologers may have taken into account additional things, like the elemental qualities that would have made them interpret it a certain way versus other Hellenistic astrologers, like Ptolemy, may not have taken that into account, so may not have gone as far in that direction. 

We have to say it wasn’t defined in the initial, introductory texts in the same way as domicile and exaltation and fall were, and it only later started to get that. By the time of Abu Ma’shar, he does firmly define it with the other qualities, right?

BD: Mm-hmm. Yeah, and Sahl also defines it. So we’re talking 8th and 9th centuries.

CB: Okay. And for all intents and purposes, Rhetorius does as well in the 6th or 7th century. So it’s that time frame when it becomes firmly established, but it has earlier precedent.

BD: Exaltation and fall seem pretty straightforward and simple and everyone defines them. The vocabulary is there and everyone knows what they mean.

CB: Right.

BD: So the question is, with detriment, how much of it is a patchwork of things that they just sort of cobbled together versus interrelated features that are really there that you have to recognize, but took time to coalesce? The factors are just laying there, all they’re waiting for is a name; enantiōma seems to have been the name. 

If you look at the categories I have–the division and contrariety, corruption and disintegration, and foreignness, travel, others–a planet’s own house is precisely the contrary of all of those. It is a place of unity and sameness. It’s a place of healthiness and coordination of effort.

CB: Of self-autonomy.

BD: Yeah, and autonomy, and a place of the homeland. So it’s not like they casually came across some things and kind of wove it together in this artificial way because a planet’s own house really does mean the opposite of all these very same things.

CB: Right.

BD: So it could be that the reason it took a long time, a reason that we don’t see a really unified treatment of this is simply that detriment is complicated in a way that fall is not.

CB: Yeah. I mean, it’s complicated, and also, you could almost take it for granted, to a certain extent. I hesitate because I could be charged with being anachronistic to say that you can take it for granted. 

And certainly, we have to be careful too, especially when it comes to issues like this. Somebody walking in from the Renaissance tradition and just expecting that detriment would be there, if they actually read Firmacus or Ptolemy, honestly–and realized that it’s not there in those texts, or at least, they don’t mention it–then you have to realize that you can’t just assume it’s there. 

But if some of those ideas, like a planet having self-autonomy or being at home, or other things are inherent in the concept of domicile, then, to a certain extent, a planet being in a sign opposite to that, that’s a natural extension of that. There’s something opposite about that sign or that house, so that it may have been kind of a given.

BD: Mm-hmm.

CB: Yeah.

BD: It’s that question of, how much are we at an advantage or disadvantage when we’re trying to reconstruct this material?

CB: Right.

BD: We’re at a disadvantage because we don’t live in their world, so we’re not always sure what they took for granted.

CB: Mm-hmm.

BD: But on the other hand, we have access to way more languages and texts than any one of them did, and so, we’re able to survey from the outside, which can be a real advantage. Sometimes it takes an outsider to see things.

CB: Yeah, to get kind of a bird’s eye view, which is what we were trying to provide here by showing all of these different quotes. So instead of just being one thing in isolation, you’re seeing how all these different astrologers are tying this together using very similar wording and grouping it together in similar categories.

BD: Mm-hmm.

CB: Yeah. There’s a few points still to touch on in order to wrap this up. What else are we missing?

BD: I just want to say whatever was going on, whatever the real story is, I think we can say that these kinds of categories that we’ve been looking at with detriment are real. They are real because they immediately draw in other concepts from astrology. It makes detriment special, even if it’s complicated.

CB: Yeah. Actually the most important and interesting about this to me is it makes detriment come alive in a way that’s much more real and much more interesting than just the flat, two-dimensional view of it that it sort of became in the later tradition, where it was like if you have domicile, then you get 5 points, but if you’re in detriment, you get -4 points, whatever the counting system was.

BD: Right. Yeah.

CB: Here, there’s specific conceptual meanings that you can extract from it, and then begin to look for and apply in example charts, in very concrete, and potentially, profound ways. What’s interesting here is that, occasionally, some of the Hellenistic astrologers are looking at concrete, external manifestations in the person’s life, but sometimes, they’re actually talking about internal things. When they were talking about the ruler of the Lot of Spirit and the person having contrary thoughts, or contrary opinions, or things like that, they’re talking about almost a psychological context of detriment in some way.

BD: Well, Sahl talking about reluctance and the thing that you’re aiming for is also weighing heavily on you at the same time.

CB: Right. So there’s a level of nuance and detail that’s there as well, that’s accessible now to us, by understanding this, and also, by being careful not to project this backwards. One of the issues that people sometimes run into when they look at this is that you could be looking for, “Well, this is the Renaissance concept of detriment, but it’s an inherent sign quality.” So if we look back and we don’t see an inherent sign quality–like the concept of exaltation or domicile in the Hellenistic tradition–then the concept doesn’t exist. 

In fact, what happened is detriment developed out of this constellation of different overlapping meanings during the course of the tradition, before it eventually became crystallized as a concept in the 7th or the 9th century, and then later, after that, sort of flattened out into something much more simple.

BD: Mm-hmm. Yeah, you’ve got more of an interrelated constellation of ideas with detriment. Each one seems to imply the other, if you look at it closely, in a way that you don’t really see with fall.

CB: Right.

BD: But I like your idea that they might have used that word, enantiōma, because, to them, it already implied several of these complicated things.

CB: Mm-hmm.

BD: But we don’t appreciate the immediate effect that that word might have had on them when they used it in that way.

CB: Yeah. And I should have read the entry of the Liddell and Scott Lexicon, the Greek dictionary for ancient Greek because it actually has a few other translations of the meaning of the term enantiōma, which it says primarily means ‘opposition’ or ‘opposite’, but it also means, they say, ‘incompatibility’, ‘conflicting’, ‘differences’, and ‘discrepancies’. So that right there starts picking up a lot of the terms and where we see the astrologers going with that in some of their later interpretations.

BD: I have here–this is the standard Wehr Dictionary of Arabic; so this is not the older, Lane dictionary. 

CB: Mm-hmm.

BD: It also points out that one of the words that we get from this is ‘an antidote’ or ‘a contraceptive’, and ‘antiseptics’; so things that are explicitly working contrary to something else.

CB: Right. I love that. Yeah, that keeps taking me back to antithesis; and I wish that worked better in a sentence and wasn’t as awkward. But my primary terms, the two I had in my book were ‘adversity’–which was from the Latin translation of the Liber Hermetis, how they translated enantiōma, where they translated it as adversitas–and then ‘exile’, which is interesting. 

When I researched this, it turned out a bunch of other languages, besides English–I think in French and Portuguese–one of their terms for detriment is actually ‘exile’. So it continued into even the modern traditions of astrology, in some other languages, this idea that a planet being in its detriment meant being cast out of one’s home, but it just didn’t make it into English for some reason. So that is one potential term, and then, finally, antithesis. 

You introduced one other term earlier in this episode. I forget what it was, but that was a good one as well.

BD: Inversion?

CB: Inversion, yeah. Inversion is really good; the idea of the opposite sign inverting the significations of the planet.

BD: Mm-hmm.

CB: So we’re just going back to the domicile scheme and the notion that–let me share an image; for example, the Sun in Leo. Right now, the Sun just moved into Leo a few days ago. I was re-reading Abu Ma’shar and his treatment from the Hermes text of why Hermes supposedly assigned the Sun to Leo. 

It was entirely about assigning it to 15° of Leo being the height of the summer and the height of the length of days and when the heat is at its most intense, right in the middle of that season, and that being the reason for why the Sun should rule the sign of Leo, or the 12th part of Leo, and the opposite to that being Saturn being right in the middle of winter and ruling Aquarius as the opposing sign during the time of the year where the days are the shortest and the cold is at the most intense. 

BD: Mm-hmm.

CB: So just that idea of opposing qualities and what happens if you take the Sun and you put it there, in Aquarius, during the middle of winter, when it’s cold and the days are short and there’s not much sunlight versus taking Saturn–a cold, dark planet that’s not very visible–and putting it in Leo, and making it operate in that context. You can start to get the idea of, like I said, antithesis or inversion, the place of a planet’s inversion. 

All right. One thing I do want to say though, just from a practical standpoint, I do think one good thing about this and one pushback that’s important is the idea that detriment is not the end of the world. Sometimes when people learn it, and especially because detriment because the term established later in the tradition, it was taken to mean that it’s this terrible, terrible thing to have, or that if somebody has something in detriment, it means something negative about them, or that it’s the end of the world, or that it’s a major affliction. 

One thing that’s pretty clear is even once this gets established as a relatively significant concept in the late Hellenistic and early Medieval tradition, they were still not treating it as the worst thing that you could possibly have in your chart, right?

BD: Right. In a list of other things, it was…

CB: It was way far down on that list.

BD: I don’t know about way far down, but it was definitely not mentioned as often as fall.

CB: Right. 

BD: The standard list of the worst things to be–fall, being burned under the rays, being retrograde–those would almost always be mentioned before detriment and appear as a cluster without mentioning detriment.

CB: Okay. Because I was ambivalent about it for so long after reading the Hellenistic texts and finding it absent for the most part and not knowing what to make of that, eventually, once I realized it was a concept in the Hellenistic tradition, I started to pay attention and integrate it into my practice. Most of the past decade has been spent working on that, figuring out what to call it, if not detriment, and then seeing how it works out in charts. 

My main conclusion, from a practical standpoint, is that while it can indicate an obstacle that arises or a sense of otherness or alienation that the person has in some part of their life, like I said earlier, if the planet is well-placed, it can still work out very well, based on other considerations–like configuration to benefics, or house placement, or other things like that. Whereas, if it’s afflicted and has poor condition, according to other things, that’s when you can see those other compounding factors leading the detriment to be more of a problem. 

One of my favorite chart examples is the poet Maya Angelou, that has Mercury in Pisces. She had a traumatic experience when she was younger that caused her to stop speaking because she was afraid of the power of her voice. She thought that something she had said had caused this really negative event to happen when she was five or something, so she stopped speaking for years. But then, later, when she grew up, she got her voice back and started speaking again, and then grew up to be a famous poet, of course. 

I think Mercury is in adherence or a conjunction with Venus and it’s being bona fide. There’s a really positive counterbalancing factor, so that even though there was that initial obstacle or problem, there was also a positive resolution, and then she was able to adapt to it and become perfectly strong with that position, despite the initial issues.

BD: Another example could be–well, two examples I can think of with friendship, the lord of the 11th in detriment, in the opposite house.

CB: Mm-hmm.

BD: Your friendships might be with people who live in other parts of the country. They’re far away, your friends are far away–that’s the travel part–but they’re still your friends. However, having friends who are far away that you communicate with, mainly by telephone, can also be really difficult to keep holding together; that’s the disintegration part.

CB: Right.

BD: And yet, they are still your friends. If it’s Jupiter, and he’s, let’s say, in the same sign as Venus, they are your friends, and they could be lasting friendships, but they take extra effort to hold together because the friends are far away.

CB: Yeah, definitely. That makes sense. We were talking about 2nd and 8th house examples, and I’ve seen examples of somebody that has the ruler of the 2nd in the 8th. They have Gemini in the 2nd house, and Mercury is the ruler of the 2nd, and it is in the 8th house, which signifies both other people’s money, as well as mortality; and it’s relatively well-placed; it has some bonification. But one of the things is that the native became an accountant. So they literally make their own money through other people’s money. And you can see other situations like that, when there’s connections between the 2nd and the 8th. 

Yeah, I’ve seen the reverse as well; somebody that had the ruler of the 8th in the 2nd, but it was actually a very difficult placement. They were very rich, but then they got divorced and there was a major settlement, and they lost millions and millions of dollars. And it was a very public loss of money from that person that they then had to give to their former spouse.

BD: The ex- took the money.

CB: Right. 

BD: So this is also important for people to know, that even in the texts where they talk about detriment in these kinds of general ways, they do also point out that a lot depends on what kind of planet you’re talking about. And the houses are different.

CB: Right.

BD: I mean, if you’re married to someone, your finances ought to be blended in some way.

CB: Mm-hmm.

BD: It’s not like any relationship between the 2nd and 8th houses is automatically bad; a lot depends on who the planets are.

CB: Right.

BD: It depends on what houses we’re also talking about, their condition and so on. You can have a situation, for example, where I saw the chart of a man who had lots of planets in detriment. He traveled a lot, and he worked for short amounts of time for companies all around the world.

He was worried that these planets in detriment meant something very bad, but there were other indications in his chart–through cardinal, or the movable or convertible signs–that his life was characterized by the ability to change quickly. And so, because he was comfortable with change, it actually wasn’t a problem for him; it was an exciting life. 

But if you’re the kind of person where important planets are all in fixed signs, or the angles are all fixed signs, that you have a lot planets in detriment, that kind of instability that detriment brings can be a lot harder on you because you’re the sort of person who doesn’t adapt and change quickly or well.

CB: Sure. Yeah, so there can be different ways of adapting to it, depending on how the chart’s set up and what’s involved. Another thing worth mentioning here, also, is even though we’re more traditional, often, our tendency is more to state this in terms of good or bad, or easy versus challenging. There’s also a level where some of these placements of planets in signs can be purely descriptive and describe how a person just goes about doing whatever that planet signifies, and sometimes it can be the opposite of how the planet might perform in its most purest expression. 

I know somebody, for example, that has Jupiter in Virgo, and they really excel at collecting data, like a lot of little things; like thousands and thousands of things. They’re an astrologer, and they decided to collect as many birth charts as they can and as many examples of different things as they could. They excel at building these huge databases of things, but then sometimes have a hard time getting the big picture and summarizing that into something short. 

They’ll have a tendency to write very long articles with many, many words, instead of summing it up into something short and concise. It’s sort of like the Jupiterian principle of being big and expansive, but it has to manifest in the context of Virgo, which is ruled by Mercury, and is…

BD: Mercurial, yeah.

CB: Yeah. Mercury is great and Virgo is great about focusing on the details, but when you put Jupiter in that context, it means it focuses on all of the details; or it blows up the details and makes them much, much bigger and much more expansive.

BD: Mm-hmm. Yeah, so that goes back to the idea that the planet in detriment is subject to the conditions of the contrary planet that rules the sign that it’s in. But this could be a problem for someone too, because, “Well, I’ve spent my life collecting all this data. Now what in the heck does it all mean?”

CB: Right.

BD: Well, that can be a real problem. You could be a master of details and have no idea of what any of it means, and so, that can be a problem too.

CB: Right, versus Mercury, and you put it in a sign like Sagittarius or Pisces. Let’s stay away from Pisces. Let’s say Mercury in Sagittarius, otherwise, you overlap with the fall and exaltation. But you put Mercury in Sagittarius and it’s really good at looking at the big picture things and talking about the overall philosophy of things and drawing grand, sweeping conclusions, but it’s not as good at looking at the small details. 

Yeah, it’s the opposite issue from Jupiter in Virgo. Where Jupiter in Virgo is great at collecting many facts, Mercury in Sagittarius is better at looking at the broad picture, but has an issue when you get into the details.

BD: Corrupts Mercury in a different kind of way.

CB: Yeah, or it presents a challenge to the basic functioning of the planet because it has to operate the opposite of how it’s used to. And if you just keep that basic meaning in mind, and you apply that to all of the signs, you start getting a much more useful usage of the concept of detriment as a descriptive factor that can help you to describe how the planet is operating. It doesn’t necessarily always have to work out as a negative thing–it just depends on how it’s configured–but it just qualifies the functioning of that planet in a certain special way.

BD: Mm-hmm.

CB: And the last thing is just this really brings up how, in traditional astrology, there’s all these little concepts like this that have basic keywords. It almost seems too simplistic at first; it almost seems like it’s not giving you enough to work with at first. 

But then when you start stringing them together, you realize that it not only provides you with quite a bit of information, it also provides you with very concrete information that’s based on very specific, astronomical properties, like a planet being opposite to its sign means this. When you string it together with this other concept, it modifies it to mean this, and so on and so forth, so that it actually does start becoming, not just more complicated and more complex, but also, it still maintains the ability to be very concrete about making specific statements about a person’s life.

BD: Mm-hmm. They often packed a lot more into fewer words. And if we’re living in an age where we like to just skim through lots of words, or skim across a lot of words to get a general impression of what someone’s saying, you have to take a different attitude towards them; they were packing a lot in there.

CB: Yeah. And that’s why, to me, when we read these passages and we see these infrequent, but recurring references to detriment in the early Hellenistic and later Medieval tradition as being a concept, we have to take those really seriously. We also see that the later Medieval astrologers also understood that, so that when they came across a concept like this, they didn’t overlook it or put it aside, they actually incorporated it into their astrology and considered even those passing references to be a big deal that contained major interpretive principles.

BD: Mm-hmm.

CB: Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention what complicated this whole situation is that in the Indian tradition, they don’t have the concept of detriment. This is one of the things that always complicated things because that presumably then came as a result of Hellenistic astrology being transmitted to India. Because the concept wasn’t overtly articulated in the introductory texts, they also didn’t incorporate it as a basic concept; it wasn’t introduced with domicile, exaltation, and fall. 

However, I was talking to Austin Coppock the other night. He was telling me that the concept of detriment still does come up indirectly through the idea of planetary friends and enemies, so that when a planet is in certain signs, the signs that are opposite to a planet’s domicile, more often than not, do tend to be enemies with that planet; so there is already an interpretation of an inherent conflict between them. 

It may be that the concept is actually in Indian astrology, but just in an indirect way, just like it was in the Hellenistic tradition, and how Rhetorius described it as well.

BD: Mm-hmm. Yeah, very interesting.

CB: Yeah. All right, well, I think that’s pretty much it. This is a pretty solid, two-hour episode. Thanks a lot for joining me today for this. 

Some of the quotes that you used were actually derived from material that you’re preparing for your course, which you’re getting ready to launch before too long here, right?

BD: Yeah.

CB: Okay. So what’s the deal with that? Where are you at with that, at this point?

BD: Well, the deal is I am trying very hard–as I’m also finishing the Great Introduction of Abu Ma’shar–to finish all of the lessons in the first third of the course. What people have to understand is that I wrote the course kind of backwards. 

Part three of the course, with all of the house-based material, that’s almost completely done. 

CB: Okay.

BD: I have to proofread; but some of the beginning lessons are still in a state of flux. I’m finishing those up. I will start putting together a list of beta testers and putting together the system to do that. Hopefully, we can start a group of beta testers on part one of the course, before the end of the year. That’s where I am.

CB: Cool. And how far are you from finishing your translation of Abu Ma’shar’s Great Introduction?

BD: The translation’s done. I’m doing the hand-edits and proofreading right now. So if I can keep doing that everyday, I think we could have an edition in about a month.

CB: Wow, that’s exciting. I think everyone will appreciate a more affordable translation of the Great Introduction than the $300 or $400 one that’s out there right now, so thank you for that. 

And there’s one other translation you’re working on. I don’t know if it’s okay to mention it, but you’re working on it with someone else. Any update on where that’s at, or do you want to save that for another announcement?

BD: Let’s maybe save that for another announcement.

CB: Okay, no problem. All right, well, thank you for this. Thanks also to Levante László for his help with the translation of a lot of these passages that I read from the Hellenistic tradition. He did a lot of work on that this week, so I just want to give a shout out to him. 

I’ll put a link to his website, which is HoroiProject.com, and you can find him on patreon.com/horoiproject. I’ll be interviewing him next month about some translations he’s doing of Porphyry and Antiochus and other Hellenistic authors. And I’ll put a link to the handout or the .pdf in the description, below this episode. 

Also, thank you to Anthony, of course, for holding my feet to the fire and causing me to go back and re-look at some of this to finally answer this question more thoroughly, which I feel like we’ve done here. 

But I appreciate that sort of back-and-forth that sometimes comes when different people have different ideas and then you’re supposed to challenge them. That exchange, or that tension causes positive developments like this. 

Cool. All right, well, thanks, everyone, for listening or watching this episode of The Astrology Podcast, and we’ll see you again next time.

BD: Thanks. Bye.

CB: Thanks to the patrons who helped to support the production of this episode of The Astrology Podcast through our page on patreon.com. In particular, a shoutout to patrons, Christine Stone, Nate Craddock, Maren Altman, Irina Tudor, Thomas Miller, Bear Ryver, Catherine Conroy, Michelle Merillat, and Kate Pallotta, as well as the Astro Gold Astrology App, available at AstroGold.io, the Portland School of Astrology at PortlandAstrology.org, and the Honeycomb Collective Personal Astrological Almanacs, available at Honeycomb.com. 

The production of this episode of the podcast was also supported by the International Society for Astrological Research, which is hosting an online astrology conference September 12th and 13th, 2020. You can find out more information about that at ISAR2020.org. And finally, Solar Fire Astrology Software, which is available at Alabe.com, you can use the promo code AP15 for a 15% discount on that software. 

For more information about how to become a patron of The Astrology Podcast and help support the production of future episodes, while getting access to subscriber benefits, like early access to new episodes or other bonus content, go to patreon.com/astrologypodcast.