The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 292, titled:
Defining the Void of Course Moon
With Chris Brennan and guest Yasmin Boland
Episode originally released on February 24, 2021
Note: This is a transcript of a spoken word podcast. If possible, we encourage you to listen to the audio or video version, since they include inflections that may not translate well when written out. Our transcripts are created by human transcribers, and the text may contain errors and differences from the spoken audio. If you find any errors then please send them to us by email: email@example.com
Transcribed by Andrea Johnson
Transcription released January 11, 2022
Copyright © 2022 TheAstrologyPodcast.com
CHRIS BRENNAN: Hi, my name is Chris Brennan, and you’re listening to The Astrology Podcast. Today is Sunday, February 21, 2021, starting at 2:33 PM in Denver, Colorado. So today I’m going to be talking with Yasmin Boland about the void of course Moon and some of the different ways that the concept of void of course is defined. So hey, welcome to the show.
YASMIN BOLAND: Thank you, Chris.
CB: So you’ve been asking me for a little bit—like a week or two maybe—to do an interview for your show to talk about the void of course Moon because you learned and had been wrestling with some of the different ways that it’s defined in ancient astrology versus how it’s defined in modern astrology. And so, we’re recording this today as something that might do double-duty for both of our programs as just sort of a casual discussion about that topic.
CB: So that’s part of the background. Let’s first introduce you to my audience, if there’s anybody that’s not familiar with your work. The Moon is something that you really focus on and specialize in in astrology, right?
YB: Yes. So I studied astrology like everybody else—maybe slightly differently, I had lots of different teachers along the way. I like to think I’ve had lots of amazing, amazing mentors. And I mean, I just studied astrology like anyone else does, and I had all the books that everybody else does.
Not that I sort of tuned into the Moon, but at one point in my studies—probably about two years in—I was having a conversation with one of my very early mentors, and I said to her, “What about Moonology?” And she’s like, “Huh, what, what?” I’m like, “What about Moonology?” And she’s quite psychic and so on, and she said, “But hang on a minute—actually I think that’s a really important word for you.” And I said, “Oh, okay,” so I just kept it in my mind.
And around about that time, I was discovering meditation, chakras—and all of that kind of stuff that people like me are interested in—firstly, I think I came upon the fact that women had traditionally done their magic spells at the New Moon, which kind of fascinated me.
And then I also came upon Jan Spiller’s book, New Moon Astrology, and I felt like something I hadn’t felt for many years. I was a journalist at the time, really. And I just became obsessed—you know, when something just grips you, and you’re just like, “Oh, my God!” and I ordered this book off Amazon. It was back in the day. I was living in Bondi Beach in Sydney Australia.
And I just couldn’t wait to get my hands on this book, and the whole thing kind of just went from there and I started working with the Moon. I don’t think I’ve mentioned to you on-air—I mentioned off-air—my Moon is conjunct my MC. I mean, it’s like 1° out. Now I look back and I think, “Oh, of course I’d do Moonology.” And that’s the name of my website—I’ve also got a website with my name—but I registered the URL and it’s literally just grown organically. I ended up doing some media astrology and everybody else was really into it as well, the Moon.
I mean, I personally think that the reason why this is all coming up now—the Moon—is because I think that the Divine Feminine is reemerging and women have always worked traditionally with the Moon. So my publishers are like, “Wow, it’s so great that the Moon’s so popular.” I’m like, I think it’s part of what’s happening in the world. What’s happening in the world? The Me Too movement is (or was). All these kinds of things are connected.
So the Moon has always been my thing and I just gravitated towards it. And I love the fact that you can teach people how to make New Moon wishes, and we do Full Moon forgiveness as a way of working with all the emotions that come up with the Full Moon, and I kind of took out the astrology in a way and just left Moonology.
So I’ve always paid attention to the void of course Moon ever since I first read about it. I mean, I knew about it, but I didn’t know that people still used it. The videos that I saw you doing on YouTube, it was like it could be current. And I just became fascinated with the idea of talking to you about it, so that’s why we’re here, I think.
CB: Okay, brilliant. So yeah, your book is titled, Moonology: Working with the Magic of Lunar Cycles…
YB: That’s it right there.
CB: …and it’s been a popular book. What year did that come out?
YB: Came out in 2016.
YB: And it’s still in the Amazon astrology bestsellers.
CB: Okay, brilliant.
YB: It’s amazing. But I think it’s the Divine Feminine—I don’t think it’s my book.
CB: Okay. So why don’t we define void of course as a concept then. So the Moon has always been, obviously, a very important body in astrology; it’s still a very important body. While in early 20th century astrology, the Sun—due to the invention of Sun sign astrology—became more and more important, realizing that you have a Moon sign is one of the first things that astrologers learn when they actually get into the subject.
And more recently, it’s been really cool to see that people don’t just know their Sun sign anymore, but now, it’s common for people to know their Sun sign, their Moon sign, and their rising signs—so the ‘Big 3’. I think that’s what most people call it, their ‘Big 3’.
YB: Yeah, they’re the three pillars, aren’t they?
CB: Yeah. So the Moon’s really important in astrology and it always has been in different traditions. In modern times, one of the concepts that’s been emphasized a lot is one of those concepts that’s been popularized, sort of like Mercury retrograde, where it’s almost gotten some entrance or some penetration into the public consciousness of people knowing about it as a concept even if they’re not astrologers, which is this concept of…
YB: And Saturn return.
CB: Saturn return, yeah. So Saturn return, Mercury retrograde, and then void of course Moon is one of those other things that’s really been popularized in the past few decades.
CB: So how do we define that? What’s the starting point for the modern definition of the void of course and what it’s supposed to mean?
YB: Do you want me to tell you?
CB: Yeah, tell me how you define when the Moon is void of course.
YB: Okay, so the way I’ve been doing it is the method that I learned from good old Al Morrison—whoever he may have been—which is the Moon has made its last Ptolemaic aspect to one of the planets before it changes signs. From the time that it makes that last aspect to when it changes signs, it’s void of course.
And what’s done when the Moon is void of course will bear no fruit. In my parlance, it’s very much a time to just be. It’s a time to meditate. It’s just a time to just not start new things. I mean, in my case, if I want to bury something, I would always think, “Well, let’s start it when the Moon is void of course.”
And I have to say after 20 years of working with this, I don’t think it’s let me down. So I’m really curious about how this system is so different to the original and what happened in the middle of all this.
CB: Sure. Let me see, let’s finish just establishing what the modern usage is first. So I’ve got a little diagram here that’s not a great diagram, but it might suffice for our purposes of a void of course diagram that I made years ago.
So imagine a chart where it has Cancer rising, and let’s say that—for those just listening to the audio version of this—the Moon is at 16° of Aries, Mercury is at 15 Aries, the Sun at 21 Pisces, Venus at 10 Aquarius, Jupiter at 2 Taurus, Saturn at 4 Gemini, and Mars at 8 Virgo.
Let’s just say for the purpose of this that we’re only looking at the seven visible planets or the seven traditional planets, and we’re only using the five so-called Ptolemaic aspects (or major aspects), which are the conjunction, sextile, square, trine, and opposition.
CB: So the Moon—in the modern definition that’s been used in the past few decades—is void of course as soon as it completes its last aspect that will go exact before it changes signs, is what you just said, right?
CB: Okay. So if the Moon’s at 16° of Aries in this chart, that means it just completed a conjunction with Mercury at 15° of Aries. It recently completed a sextile with Venus from 10° of Aries to 10° of Aquarius.
YB: Yeah, semi-sextile doesn’t count.
CB: Yeah. So we’re not using minor aspects, like semi-sextiles or inconjuncts, just the major Ptolemaic aspects. And it looks like the next aspect it’s going to make is a conjunction to Jupiter at 2° of Taurus, but it’s only after it changes signs.
YB: Bearing in mind—for anyone who doesn’t know—each degree has, sorry, each sign has 30°.
CB: Right. So what that means is that there’s this span or period of about 15°, 14° the Moon is moving through—after it completes that last aspect of conjunction with Mercury here—where it’s not going to complete any other exact Ptolemaic aspects within the rest of that sign, and that’s the period where the Moon is said to be void of course.
CB: And there’s different ways you could phrase that because the original Greek term was kenodromia, which means ‘running in the void’ or ‘running in the emptiness’. So you can kind of see how the modern concept is still very much connected with that. It’s ‘running in the emptiness’ because there’s this empty or this void span of time towards the end of the sign where the Moon is not completing any exact aspects or relationships with any other planets, basically.
YB: Or is there?
CB: Well, yeah, we’ll get to that later. But most of the time when you mention the concept of void of course, this is how it’s understood by virtually all astrologers at this point in time, that this is basically what it means, right?
YB: Yeah. I mean, I didn’t know if it was just me being ignorant actually.
CB: No, I mean, it’s also in calendars, like I think in the Llewellyn calendar, it’s marked. In most astrological calendars, it’s marked. So you had said in the pre-interview that you had originally learned this concept from Debbi Kempton-Smith, and she credited an earlier astrologer named Al Morrison.
CB: Al Morrison, right?
YB: Morrison, yeah.
CB: Yeah. And what was Debbi Kempton-Smith’s book again?
YB: Secrets from a Stargazer’s Notebook. It’s a great book for anyone who’s just getting started.
CB: Okay. And in terms of void of course, this is something that basically happens every few days, right?
YB: Yeah, I mean, based on this really, pretty much. Barring the odd moment when you’ve got planets right at the 29th degree or at 0°, it pretty much goes void of course every single time it changes signs.
CB: Right, towards the end of the sign.
YB: Yeah. And obviously, when there’s planets at the end—like Pluto’s at the end of Capricorn—we get less void of course time per week, say, or per month at the moment, especially if you’ve got a couple at the end of various degrees with the different elements or whatever. But yeah, it means the Moon goes void of course a lot.
CB: Right, so anytime it gets towards the end of the signs. Basically, just whenever it completes its last aspect in a sign, then the rest of its period in that sign—until it switches to the next sign—it’s going to be void of course.
YB: That’s right.
CB: So symbolically we can see that it’s something that’s associated with having completed one aspect and not completing another until changing signs, and this notion of there being endings—because it’s moving through the last part of the sign—or things that don’t come about or aren’t completed or aren’t brought to completion in some way.
CB: I think that’s usually how it’s interpreted, right?
YB: I think of it as slightly untethered. The Moon is slightly untethered during that period after it makes the final aspect and before it makes the next aspect after changing signs. I think of it as the ‘untethered Moon’—it’s a bit poetic.
CB: Okay, so where do we go from here? I guess where we go is…
YB: I have a question actually?
YB: No, no, where were you going to go, first? I was going to go to I think one of the reasons why this is so popular isn’t just the likes of Debbi Kempton-Smith and Al Morrison, I think it’s William Lilly. Because when you look at horary astrology, this is basically the definition of the void of course Moon that Lilly uses mostly. Probably in Christian Astrology there’s a few variations because there’s always variations to everything.
But overall, in the practice of horary astrology, if the Moon is void of course, nothing’s going to happen. And generally, if you’re doing the sort of astrology (horary astrology) that John Frawley teaches, for example, it’s the Moon goes void of course in this way and after that you’re in for nothing. And I just wonder if that’s been one of the contributing factors to the rise and rise of this method, or if it fell out of favor for another reason. I’m mean, I’m really curious.
CB: Yeah, I mean, I think it’s definitely that’s primarily been used for the past few centuries as something that’s primarily applicable in either horary astrology questions or in electional astrology, where you’re trying to pick an auspicious chart in order to launch a new venture.
Most of the time, ideally, you’re trying to pick something that’s going to indicate a successful outcome for you, and the void of course Moon is traditionally something that’s treated as a negative or problematic factor that will not indicate a very successful outcome. The Moon’s lack of completion of any aspects in the near future is interpreted as meaning that nothing will happen or that the thing that was initiated at that time will not come to fruition and will not have a successful outcome; basically, that nothing will come of it.
YB: I do think you can flip that and say during this period—whatever you start—will bear no fruit. I have been known to get up at two o’clock in the morning and take my tax return and post it when the Moon went void of course at 2:00 AM because nothing will come of it, in theory.
I can use it both ways. I don’t see it as a bad thing. I just see it as a thing where the world just takes a break. Everything just takes a break. So don’t start anything really important there because it’s sort of like numinous time—that would be how I would say it.
CB: Right. I think that tax return example is a common one that astrologer’s use for the void of course Moon, saying that they try to use that in their favor because they don’t want anything significant to come from the tax return.
YB: Exactly. There you go. We’re all up there at two o’clock in the morning posting our things in the post box.
CB: So that being said, one of the reasons why we’re doing this episode today, it was partially just due to circumstance. But also, one of the things that’s funny, ironically, is we started here with Cancer rising in Denver, and the Moon is actually—according to the definition that we’re using, the modern definition of void of course—void of course.
There—the Ascendant just switched over into Leo. Let me back it up to where we started in Cancer. So we have a nice little test of this today in terms of whether…
YB: If it ever sees the light of day.
CB: …whether our interview comes to nothing. We’ll see. So the Moon is at 26° of Gemini. It recently completed a trine with Venus at 25° of Aquarius. And it looks like the next aspect isn’t going to be until it changes signs into Cancer. And then it will form a trine with the Sun at 3° of Pisces, right?
YB: Yeah, but there is also within the void of course Moon parameters per the Medieval/horary/Al Morrison module. We didn’t start this whole thing when the Moon was void of course. I would have made sure that I did not send you the first email when the Moon was void of course.
So I do think that that’s something people have to take into account, particularly because the Moon goes void of course so often—because you just get to the point where you don’t start anything. So my feeling is that had I sent the first email when the Moon was void of course, then, presumably, we would never have gotten this far. The fact that the Moon is void of course now, in a way, I think, well, that’s all right.
CB: Right. So part of the reason this has come up lately—especially in the past 10 years—and one of the reasons I started researching the history of the void of course Moon was back in the 2012 presidential election in the United States, there was a lot of talk about how Obama was given the nomination for his political party to run again for the presidency in 2012 under a void of course Moon.
YB: The second time. But you know, he was sworn in the first time—he took oath on the Capitol steps when the Moon was void of course.
CB: Yeah, back in 2009 in January.
YB: When he was first elected. And you know what happened, don’t you?
CB: Well, that was tricky because Mercury was also retrograde that time as well.
YB: And what happened three hours later, after the Moon was no longer void of course?
CB: There was a misspeak where the Supreme Court justice said the oath slightly wrong.
CB: And so, they retook it again like a few hours later, later that night, just in order to be extra cautious.
YB: Yeah, but I always thought the whole of the astrology world was a-twitter with the fact that Barack Obama was being sworn in the first time when the Moon was void of course. And then what happened was, “Oh, he flubbed his lines, how very convenient,” because then three hours later, he redid the pledge when the Moon was no longer void of course. And many people say that he had an astrologer because he always made decisions that vibed really well with the astrology—and he follows me on Twitter.
CB: Okay, well, that’s actually impressive. I did not know he follows you on Twitter.
YB: That’s praise if ever I’ve heard it.
CB: I was a little skeptical when you first started saying that, but I am a little bit more intrigued now.
YB: Yeah, he follows 600,000 people on Twitter.
CB: I mean, I’m sure you’re the primary one that he pays attention to, though. But I always associated that more, the Mercury retrograde, with the inauguration thing.
YB: Oh, no, it was all about the void of course Moon, for me.
CB: Sure, maybe, but let me say my point first. By 2012, a lot of astrologers were basing entire predictions on the fact that he accepted this party’s nomination during a void of course Moon. And a lot of people cited Debbi Kempton-Smith’s book, who said that for the last hundred years, anybody that’s ever accepted their party’s nomination under a void of course Moon has gone on to lose the election, and she cited Al Morrison for this claim.
And so, at the time, I went back and researched this more—both Al Morrison, as well as the void of course Moon—and it turned out that he was actually one of the primary modern astrologers who was responsible for popularizing the concept of the void of course Moon. And he produced an annual calendar that showed void of course Moon times, and he also made some very striking—and I think, honestly—maybe not fully-grounded claims about the void of course Moon in terms of the political history of that.
One of the things I learned when I researched this was the claim that anybody that had been nominated under a void of course Moon over the past century would not be elected president—we don’t have times for when people were nominated because in the early 20th century, that’s something that used to be done behind closed doors, and it’s only in the past few decades that it’s become a more public televised process.
CB: So I think Al Morrison was actually not being entirely truthful in his claim that anybody nominated under a void of course Moon would always lose the presidency.
CB: And I grew skeptical about it and I started studying the history of the void of course Moon, realizing that there were different definitions of what even constituted void of course Moon. So the traditional or ancient interpretation and definition of that may not have been the same as our modern interpretation.
And one of the points that’s worth mentioning again really quickly in connection with that is, indeed, anybody who predicted that Obama would not be reelected based on the Moon being void of course in 2012—when he accepted the nomination—turned out to be wrong because he was in fact reelected to the presidency. So that did not turn out to be a sufficient condition to base the entire prediction on, which…
YB: I wouldn’t take that as enough to base that prediction on at all. Again, going back to the point of when something starts, I mean, yes and no, sometimes the Moon will be void of course in a process like that that’s probably got fifty different points where it begins, but the last point is the inauguration.
CB: Yeah, there’s a lot of things and a lot of different factors and things you can take into account that go into predicting an election, and a lot of different variables—that’s a really good point. I guess I just bring that up as an example of how, to me, that was the high-water mark of going too far and too much hype being associated with the void of course Moon, sort of in the same ways that when a technique becomes popularized—like Mercury retrograde, for example—sometimes people can take it too far and they can treat it as the end-all-be-all of making predictions in astrology to indicate the worst-case scenario every time, but that’s often not the case. Often things are much more nuanced and there’s a lot more going on than just like one indication.
So part of my work with the void of course Moon has been recognizing that there’s different definitions, and there’s a lot of nuance and variation to it, so that it might be important to tone it down a little bit and at least not go that far in basing everything off just that one consideration sometimes.
YB: Yeah. I mean, I’m actually 90% sure—and we can double-check—but I’m pretty sure somebody said to me actually the Moon was void of course at Obama’s second inauguration as well. And they said that was why he didn’t have enough—I’m not good at politics—but he didn’t have enough people in the Senate or the Congress—or whatever it is—to pass all these bills. In the second term, it was quite difficult for him to get his bills through, as far as I’m aware.
And people put that down to the void of course Moon—that’s his presidency, though there was a second term, it was very difficult because of that. And he didn’t do a second flubbing of his lines because that would have just been pushing that a little bit too far. But I’m curious to ask you something, if I can just flip the tables on you for a minute.
CB: Hold on really quick because there’s a good way to wrap that section up, which is part of your motivation for wanting to have this discussion recently is that this came up again with Biden, right?
YB: Okay, I can say that now.
YB: But I’d also love to ask you something later. Okay, so, true. Moving on from Barack Obama, funnily enough, obviously the Barack Obama inaugurations and nominations got you interested in the void of course Moon situation, which is kind of fascinating.
What got me interested in the Hellenistic void of course Moon, the reason why I stumbled upon it—I actually knew about it. Actually in my book, Moonology, I had to do the three definitions of the void of course Moon, but I knew that the second one I gave was the one that everybody used.
But Biden was also now going to be sworn in under a void of course Moon, which I didn’t realize until about twenty-four hours before the inauguration, which really surprised me because normally, I suppose, I rely on the chatter of astrologers to kind of bring these kinds of things to attention.
And all of a sudden, I was like, “Hang on a minute. I’ve just looked at the inauguration chart. The Moon’s void of course and no one’s saying anything about this.” And I was really panicked because I was quite keen to see Biden sworn in, let’s put it like that. So it set me off on this little bit of research, which as I said, ended up with me seeing you talking about the Hellenistic void of course Moon.
I mean, I would be interested to know which one you use. Do you use both? Do you use one? Do you use the other? Or you don’t use either?
CB: So you’re saying that Biden—in his inauguration chart for January 20—the Moon was void of course using that definition?
YB: Yeah, it was—using the Medieval version, not the Hellenistic one.
CB: Well, okay, we’ll get into that because we haven’t defined it. But that’s what sparked your interest in researching this topic and finding out more about the history?
YB: Yeah, because what happened was I saw you talking about this Hellenistic void of course Moon, and that the Moon is only void of course—according to the ancient, 1,000-year-old, Hellenistic definition—when it doesn’t make a Ptolemaic aspect for 30°.
And apart from the fact I found it really hard to visualize when the Moon might not make a Ptolemaic aspect for 30°, I was just excited because I thought, “Okay, well, hang on a minute. Why did we chuck out this old version?” and that’s what brought this whole thing up. Like when did this become unfashionable? How come we all do this? What’s going on? That’s why I wanted to speak to you because I actually think you’re probably one of the people best qualified in the whole world to talk to. So tell us, Chris.
CB: Sure. Yeah, I’ve done a video on this, but also, my primary thing was an article I wrote for one of my websites, The Astrology Dictionary. I went through and wrote an article talking about the different definitions of void of course and just trying to define the concept because one of the issues that I ran into was I found in the tradition at least three different versions—possibly four versions actually—of what it means for the Moon to be void of course.
So what we’ve defined as the modern version, that’s been used for the past few decades. But if you go back 2,000 years to the earliest definitions of void of course, what’s surprising and what surprised me and a number of other astrologers and translators over the past two or three decades—since ancient texts started being translated from the Greek and Roman astrological traditions—is that there’s a book of definitions that’s attributed to an astrologer from the 1st century named Antiochus of Athens, and he has this one concept that he defines, called kenodromia. Literally, it means ‘running in the void’ or ‘running in the emptiness’, and this is the exact ancient word that we get our modern term ‘void of course’ from.
But the problem is that when Antiochus defines this concept, he says that it occurs when the Moon does not complete any exact major aspects within the next 30° of its journey or of its course; so the next 30°. And he doesn’t say anything about sign boundaries, also; it’s not mentioned in the definition.
So what that seems to mean—as long as we’re interpreting this text correctly, and every translator I’ve talked to seems to interpret it the same way—is that it literally just means that the Moon in its original definition was thought to be void of course if it doesn’t complete an exact aspect in the next 30° regardless of sign boundary.
YB: And in some ways, that makes more sense. Because if you think about it, it’s all very easy for us to be working out when the Moon is void of course every two-and-a-bit days because we’ve got computers, but if you’re an astrologer 2,000 years ago, it’s quite a big deal to working that out on a regular basis. I think it makes more sense that they were a bit broader about it.
But I find the whole thing fascinating. I mean, I cannot tell you how much I’ve been looking forward to talking to you about this because it’s so strange to have something that’s stated. I mean, at the risk of sounding completely unread, how seriously do we take his opinion? Did he invent the void of course Moon, which then got changed?
CB: No, it’s mentioned in Antiochus, and then it’s mentioned in Porphyry, and then it’s mentioned in a later Hellenistic astrologer named Rhetorius, so it seems to have been relatively consistent.
CB: And one of the things that’s interesting and worth mentioning here is even though it’s largely something that’s used in an electional and a horary astrology context in the later traditions—like in the 20th century, or even in the 17th century in William Lilly—in the definitions here in the Hellenistic tradition, they’re primarily for natal astrology.
And there’s actually interpretations for what the void of course Moon means in the 4th century astrologer, Firmicus Maternus, but they’re entirely about what it means if a person has this in their birth chart, but it’s something that’s treated as very rare and something that’s treated as very negative.
YB: And that’s 500 years later as well.
CB: Yeah. I mean, Antiochus is the 1st century, and then Porphyry is the 3rd century, and then Firmicus is the 4th century. My point, though, is just that originally it was probably a natal astrology concept used in birth charts. It’s something that only occurs once or twice a year, so it’s a very rare thing for the Moon not to complete any exact aspects in the next 30°.
And because that’s more than basically two days, that’s basically two days of the Moon not completing any aspects. And therefore, you can understand why it was called ‘running in the emptiness’ or being ‘void of course’—having nothing in its path—because it’s like a planet that has no relationships and will form no relationships with other planets. Because you have to remember that aspects were conceptualized as relationships and means for the planets to interact with each other.
CB: So what happens if the Moon is void like that for 30°? It’s kind of like an isolated or a lonely Moon, you might say that has nobody keeping it company, and therefore, it has no support and assistance from other planets or other people.
YB: Yeah. I mean, I’m just trying to find this list I’ve made of people who have got the void of course Moon using the Medieval or modern definition. I mean, I can’t remember off the top of my head, but I’m 99% sure Winston Churchill, for example, has a void of course Moon.
You can’t really say that guy’s life amounted to nothing. Whatever you think of him, he’s a figure in history. So that, to me, it kind of leans towards, okay, well, maybe the Hellenistic definition shouldn’t have been thrown out quite so easily. And that’s why I’m fascinated to know what happened to it.
CB: Well, and I think that’s one of the issues that I have with it because I think Al Morrison did popularize it. But sometimes, some of the later modern astrologers, they would go back and read astrologers like Firmicus Maternus, from the 4th century, when Firmicus would give you interpretations of the void of course Moon—except he actually doesn’t say how to determine it or how it’s defined.
He does have a chapter on just interpreting what it means in a birth chart and he gives these extremely negative delineations of what it means. And then the modern astrologers who read that in the 20th century thought those applied to the modern definition, which is much less rare.
YB: Like mixing apples and oranges.
CB: Yeah, exactly. So I think part of the problem is we have to be careful sometimes to make sure when we’re looking at ancient texts that they’re defining things in the same way that we are, because sometimes we can actually misinterpret and we can mix things up in a way that can be problematic.
CB: So I’m trying to flip through a translation of Firmicus really quickly to find his definition of void of course. It’s kind of over-the-top, honestly, but it gives you some context for how they defined it. I just found it. So it’s Firmicus Maternus—this is the translation by Jean Rhys Bram from the 1970s. It’s in Liber Quartus, Chapter 8.
It says: If the Moon is moving towards nothing: If the Moon is located that she is moving towards nothing, it is in aspect to no planet, and there is no benefic planet on the angles, this will make paupers destitute of all necessities, without means of daily life. They beg for a living and are always in need of a stranger’s help to sustain life. They will always be inferior to their parents and their bodies sickly. They suffer from infected wounds. And he actually goes on and it’s not very nice.
YB: Well, now we have to look at Winston Churchill’s chart and see if he had Jupiter on an angle because he certainly doesn’t fit that.
CB: That’s actually a really important point, you noting that. He doesn’t just say ‘Moon void of course’, he says if the Moon is void of course and there’s no benefic that is angular in the chart. So there’s mitigating conditions to even his delineation here right from the start.
And that’s another interesting, consistent thing that I found in the history of the void of course Moon as well. There can be mitigating conditions that you’re supposed to take into account, and this is also true from some of the later definitions as well.
YB: All right, well, let’s have a look. I’ve got Winston Churchill’s chart.
CB: Do we have a good birth time for him?
YB: Let’s have a look at what I’ve got here. I have 1:30 AM on Astro-Seek.com.
CB: Okay. Astrotheme is not reliable.
YB: Not the best?
CB: It looks like I have it as well, and it’s an A-rated chart from Churchill’s father to the astrologer John Addey, so that seems okay.
YB: According to this, he might have Venus just about on his Descendant.
CB: Oh, we have an issue because his Ascendant’s really late.
CB: That’s more of an issue for me—because I use whole sign houses—than it is for you. But his Ascendant…
YB: No, I actually use whole sign houses. It’s just this chart isn’t whole sign house, so let’s have a look.
CB: Okay. So here’s the chart. It has 29.56 Virgo rising with a 1:30 AM birth time from 1874. So honestly, it could be either Virgo rising or Libra rising, we don’t really know. But it’s actually really interesting that in this chart—if we took the Virgo rising chart—it would be a night chart with Venus angular in the 4th whole sign house at 22° of Sagittarius.
YB: So it is, yes.
CB: Not too far from the degree of the IC at 29° of Sagittarius. So even in the quadrant, it’s getting close there.
YB: I have to find my list of people born with the void of course Moon, because I’ve got an extensive list of it.
CB: Okay. So this would be void according to the modern definition? Is that what you were saying?
YB: Well, yes, it would be. It’s 29°, so there’s nothing.
CB: But you weren’t using this as an example of the Hellenistic definition, though, right?
YB: No, I was using this as an example of—oh, there we are. I don’t seem to have it. It’s really annoying. No, I was using it as an example of void of course in the Medieval version. But again, I suppose we’re mixing apples with oranges. Because the whole thing about the benefic on an angle is from the Hellenistic, is it?
CB: Yeah, that’s from Firmicus, from the Hellenistic tradition.
YB: Yes, from the Hellenistic tradition.
CB: But that’s a good example in terms of reading from Firmicus and noting right away that there were exceptions.
CB: He says if the Moon’s void of course and there’s no angular benefic, because if there’s an angular benefic, that’s going to contradict some of those indications very strongly. Let me see if there’s anything else that Firmicus says that’s relevant and not super-depressing.
YB: Yeah. What about if it’s in Taurus or Cancer?
CB: That’s a Medieval mitigating factor and we can get to that in a second.
CB: Okay, he says: They suffer from infected wounds or malignant humors under the skin.
YB: Okay, let’s not freak people out too much.
CB: I’m not trying to freak them out. It’s Firmicus, and he’s very over-the-top.
YB: Yeah, so don’t freak out.
CB: Especially if the Moon is running through the vacuum [which the Greeks called kenodromia] if it is in opposition or square aspect to Mars or Saturn on the first or third day, or if malefic planets are on the angles. So he gives another mitigating condition for it. If there’s malefics that are angular, and the Moon is void of course, then it can be more problematic. He goes on and gives some other mitigations like if the Moon is aspected by benefics and other conditions.
Anyway, the point of that was just he’s delineating that originally within the context of a natal delineation of a birth chart of something that only occurs very infrequently, and that’s one of the reasons why it was considered to be something worth noting.
I only saw the Moon go void of course according to that definition. I think the people from the Honeycomb Collective Astrological Planner found one instance of it that happened last August, in August of 2020, but I think that was the only one for that entire year, if I remember correctly.
YB: Unfortunately, I don’t have it on me, and I know I told someone about it. Someone wrote to me there is a Hellenistic void of course Moon calculator on the internet. And I looked at a few years, and it seems to happen—I would say from memory—up to seven times a year. Some years just had it once or twice. So just to really get things clear in my head here, according to the Hellenistic version, it’s if the Moon doesn’t make an aspect to a planet in the next 30°, unless there’s a benefic on one of the angles.
CB: Well, let’s just say…
YB: In a natal chart.
CB: Let’s leave the other mitigating conditions out because that’s more just stuff that will make it better, even though it’s still theoretically pretty bad. But let’s just define it as the Moon is void of course if it doesn’t complete any aspects in the next 30° regardless of sign boundary and that’s it, and if you have that, then the Moon is void of course.
CB: And there can be things that can make it better, because it’s not the end of the world and there’s other mitigating factors, but for our purposes, it’s that. So the site you mentioned, I think that’s Astro-Seek.com.
Yeah, Astro-Seek.com, which is a really amazing website that’s been really just killing it over the past few years in terms of integrating a lot of great new techniques, both modern and ancient, and making calculation services for them. So I just found the Hellenistic calculator that you mentioned on their website. I forgot that they had programmed this.
YB: Yeah. What is it again? The URL?
CB: So here it is.
YB: Yeah, that’s the one—MoonCalendar.Astro-Seek. Because I would have it in my memory, my computer memory. There it is.
CB: Yeah, so MoonCalendar.Astro-Seek.com. So it has different options. We’re going to do traditional seven planets, aspects (main aspects). I should actually have them change that to major aspects.
YB: It’s actually a brilliant thing to have this.
YB: Solar Fire doesn’t have this. They should put this in there.
CB: No. I mean, and that’s what’s really great about Peter’s website. He’s been really responsive in integrating new things like this as they come out.
CB: He also did a profections module and a zodiacal releasing thing, and he has a Lot calculator and a lot of stuff.
CB: So under Void of Course Method, he defines the different ones. And he has a Hellenistic one, which is a 30° orb for the Moon, and he says it happens very rarely, a few times a year. So if you click that, under 2021, it looks like there’s just two that happen. So there’s one on October 2.
YB: I think that’s it actually. I think it goes void of course and then it stops being void of course on the 5th.
CB: Oh, it stops on the 5th. Okay, that makes sense. So it’s just one time in this entire year, and the Moon will be void of course from 25° of Leo to 27° of Virgo. Which is a really long span of time because usually there’s other planets in different positions that the Moon will hit an aspect with at some point.
YB: Until I saw this website, I just couldn’t believe it ever happened. I was like, how can this ever happen? And then I see, okay, it does actually happen.
CB: Yeah, and here’s the one for 2020. So it was from August 29 to September 1. And the Moon’s last aspect I guess was a square to Mars, and then the next aspect was a sextile to Mars.
YB: The mystery to me here, Chris, is I said to you before I was never a history buff. I didn’t used to be, and then suddenly something changed in me. I mean, I lived in Paris for a few years, and I was surrounded by this history and I was never interested. So I went to all the modern exhibitions and all that. I just wasn’t and all of a sudden I was.
And now I think, okay, this is queer, strange. It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever that this thing has just been thrown out, and it’s been completely replaced by something completely different. Like it just doesn’t make sense to me. Like how does this even happen? How do we get to the bottom of it?
CB: Well, part of it is just that you have to realize that the history of astrology is extremely long—like we’re talking about 2,000 years ago—so we’re talking about generations and generations of astrologers. And one of the things you have to realize is that the history and transmission of astrology over the past 2,000 years, even though it’s relatively easy for us to transmit information today—through the internet or through books or blogs or podcasts or YouTube or what have you—they didn’t have that 2,000 years ago.
But instead, for most of the astrological tradition, in order to pass on teachings, you either had to pass them on verbally—from teacher to student through an oral transmission or teaching—or more commonly, you had to pass them on through books. And copying a book in the ancient world, you actually had to get the book, and then have a scribe sit down…
YB: Actually write it.
CB: …and literally copy the text over, and that’s how a book was copied. Now this was also complicated by the fact that over the past 2,000 years, it hasn’t just been one, singular language and one, singular culture that’s been practicing astrology all along. But instead, we’ve had many different cultures that have practiced astrology and many different empires that have risen and then fallen during that time. And then astrology has been transmitted from one culture to another and translated from one language to another.
And sometimes when you translate astrology from one language to another, the transmission is not always perfect. Sometimes translations, you can misinterpret things, or sometimes when you’re translating an old text, it can be hard to understand exactly what they mean and you might misinterpret what they mean and come up with an entirely different definition of something based on your misinterpretation.
So there’s a lot of different instances where sometimes that happens. There’s other instances where astrology has changed, or there’s been new techniques introduced, or even new planets introduced over the past 2,000 years. And sometimes that causes changes and innovations in the system that are more deliberate, but nonetheless, they still cause shifts in how things are interpreted, so that’s part of the background of that.
YB: I mean, that’s true because if you think about it, Pluto, for example, is a very modern planet, relatively speaking. I guess back in the day, before Pluto was discovered, it was much easier for a planet to go 30° without making an aspect, or before Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto were discovered. I guess if you didn’t know they were there, then you wouldn’t know that the Moon was making an aspect to them, and I suppose it was much more common.
And at the same time, I would ask you, as a Hellenistic astrologer, or someone who knows a lot about it, if we are to use Hellenistic void of course Moon definition, do we have to take Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto out of the picture? Probably you can’t use the Hellenistic version and Pluto.
YB: Like one has to cancel the other out.
CB: I mean, I think there is something to be said for drawing some sort of distinction between the seven visible traditional planetary bodies that you can see with the naked eye versus the three outer planets—Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto—which are typically invisible to the naked eye.
In most forms of divination, what a person can see with the visible eye and what you can actually observe, there is a difference there—a conceptual and interpretive difference—between that versus that which you can’t see or what’s obscured in some way.
So there might be a good reason why you might want to draw a distinction between using this within the context of the traditional planets versus incorporating the outer planets. If you’re going to incorporate the outer planets, are you also going to incorporate minor planetary bodies, like Ceres or Vesta or Pallas or other asteroids or other things like that?
YB: I mean, I think if you’re going to use the Hellenistic definition—which I’m quite drawn to just because it was the first one. I mean, you’re the person who convinced me to use whole sign houses because you gave that brilliant argument, and also, Robert Hand told me to use them as well at an astrology conference.
If you’re going to use the Hellenistic void of course Moon, you cannot use the planets that were discovered after the telescope because it just doesn’t make sense—it’s too different. And that presents me with a problem because I do consider myself a modern astrologer.
And when John Frawley tried to convince me to de-select all the modern planets off my Solar Fire, I said, “No,” and I still say no because they are there and we know they’re there. But then if you’re going to use the Hellenistic version, I think you do then have to say, “except we can’t count them then.” I just feel like the modern definition or the Al Morrison definition, let’s call it—the Medieval version—I feel like that’s kind of been made up, and that disturbs me.
CB: Well, let’s get into that, because that will get us to our second and third definitions of void of course, which we haven’t introduced yet. So let’s see, where do we start here? So going back to my article where I defined the different versions of void of course, I started with the Hellenistic definition, and that one was used all the way through the 7th century CE, just the Hellenistic version.
YB: Until the 7th century, okay. Interesting.
CB: Yeah, until about the 7th century because Rhetorius mentions in the 6th or 7th century. So it still exists then towards the end of the Greek tradition where astrologers were primarily writing in Greek, and sometimes Latin; basically, during the Roman Empire. But by the time of Rhetorius, the Roman Empire is in full decline and astrology is not being practiced as much in Europe and in the Roman Empire in general at that point.
But instead, around the 7th and 8th century, we have the advent of the Islamic Empire, and the capital at one point gets moved to Baghdad. And the ruler at the time, the caliph at the time, got together a group of astrologers and he said, “We want to found a new capital in this city that will be called Baghdad. Pick an auspicious astrological chart for founding the city.” And they did.
YB: And when was this—sorry–around about?
CB: Let me pull up the chart. The chart survives from an Arabic-writing historian named al-Biruni who actually preserves the chart for us. So it looked a little bit like this. So it’s set for July 31, 762 CE, around 2:00 PM in modern-day Baghdad, Iraq.
So it has Sagittarius rising, with Jupiter in Sagittarius in the 1st house in a day chart. The Sun is up at 10° of Leo in the 9th whole sign house, which is probably important and somewhat deliberate. The Moon is somewhere in Libra, although it’s a little bit tricky because how we calculate the chart here may have been slightly different in terms of the astrological methods that they were using at the time.
CB: But I do think that they were trying to put the Moon in Libra where it actually would have been exchanging signs or in a mutual reception with Venus, which is in Cancer.
CB: Although it’s interesting that, again, just connected with our topic, the Moon actually—according to the modern definition—would be void of course here at 27° of Libra.
YB: What are the chances?
CB: Yeah. But Baghdad did pretty well for the first few centuries, and after this foundation it became a center for not just the entire empire, but also, for learning and commerce and philosophy and even astrology.
YB: Cradle of civilization.
CB: Yeah, and even for astrology. So that’s the chart for Baghdad. Where was I going with that? So the focus shifts, a bunch of the Arabic astrologers started translating texts from Greek and Latin and Sanskrit into Arabic. And at some point during this tradition—or during some of the subsequent ones after a few centuries—astrology was transmitted back to Europe, where the Europeans started translating texts from Arabic into Latin, and that’s how astrology came back into Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire in the 12th century.
CB: So somewhere around this time, we get this new definition of void of course that we start seeing in different authors in the early and late Medieval astrological traditions.
YB: So from about the 8th century CE?
CB: Yeah, let’s say the 8th century through the 12th century.
YB: Okay. Amazing.
CB: Yeah. I’m looking to see if I have the book here—I may not have it in this room—by my friend Benjamin Dykes, where he actually takes the definition. But go ahead and talk or say something, and let me see if I can find this on the computer really quick.
YB: Well, I think the first thing I’m going to say is I’m…
CB: Do you have questions about the historical part?
YB: Yeah. I mean, I find it absolutely fascinating to talk to you about this. The history of astrology just blows me away, to think it was eight centuries that this void of course Moon new definition came in. I mean, for one thing, it’s such a long time after the first definition that you’ve told us about. I mean, we’re looking at eight, 900 years of the first definition really, aren’t we?
CB: Yeah. One of the things that’s important that is maybe worth mentioning here is there was a new development in the history of astrology that started happening between those times—between the late Hellenistic tradition and the early Medieval tradition in Arabic—which is the introduction or at least the full-fledged practice of horary astrology questions, which became the fourth branch of astrology. So earlier in the Hellenistic tradition, they primarily had three branches which were mundane astrology, natal astrology, and electional astrology.
CB: But slowly, in the Hellenistic tradition, there was this new practice that grew out of electional and eventually became a full-fledged, fourth branch in the Medieval tradition. A client could approach an astrologer and ask a single specific question, and the astrologer would cast a chart for the moment they received the question and then attempt to answer the question just based on the chart for that moment, and that’s what’s known as horary astrology today.
So that type of astrology—the first full textbook on horary astrology wasn’t written until around 775. So some of the texts by astrologers like Theophilus of Edessa, Masha’allah, and Sahl ibn Bishr are some of the earliest complete works on horary that survive, and they’re all writing around the year 775 or 800 or so.
CB: So that’s important because…
YB: That is important.
CB: …in horary astrology—like how familiar are you with horary?
YB: I mean, fairly, fairly.
CB: So the primary…
YB: I mean, fairly I know how horary astrology works. I mean, I don’t know all the ends and outs.
CB: Sure. So the basic premise of answering most horary questions—which I think grew out of the Persian tradition, as well as the early Arabic tradition in the 6th and 7th and 8th centuries—is that the astrologer casts the chart for when they receive the question, and they always associate the 1st house with the querent or the person who asked the question. And usually the planet that rules the 1st house or rules the Ascendant or the rising sign, that planet is thought to represent that person in the chart, right?
CB: So then the other thing the astrologer has to do is they have to identify what house matches the topic of the question.
CB: So if the client is asking about relationships, then they’ll usually look at the 7th house. If they’re asking about their parents or their home, they might look to the 4th house. If they’re asking about their career or something, they might look to the 10th house.
CB: And then what they do is they find the ruler of that house—let’s say it’s a relationship question, so they look to the 7th house. They would then identify what planet is the ruler of the 7th house, and they would see if that planet is forming an aspect with the ruler of the Ascendant.
YB: The querent.
CB: Yeah. And if those two planets are forming an aspect that’s still applying, then oftentimes the answer will be affirmative or the answer will be ‘yes’. Whereas if they’re not applying to an aspect or if they’re separating, or just not aspecting at all, then the answer is negative or is a ‘no’, right?
YB: Yeah. I mean, just for anybody who’s listening, I think it’s really interesting that one of the reasons why—as I understand it—horary grew was because back in the day—back in the year 700-and-whatever when it was starting—the average person didn’t know when they were born, what date, let alone what time. I think you had to be a king or a queen to have that kind of information recorded.
So I think that’s one of the reasons why it grew up, wasn’t it? Because the moment the question is asked and understood, then you look at the chart. I mean, I like that idea because I’m quite a cosmic person. I’ve always felt in astrology there’s no such thing as a ‘bad’ chart, so to me, horary astrology works. But is that when we saw the change then beginning? Because maybe it suited the horary astrologer to have a different definition of void of course Moon.
CB: Exactly. I think that’s part of what starts happening at this point. Because of that new approach to horary—and horary becoming much more popular—there were also some new techniques and new concepts that were introduced in order to be able to answer horary questions.
CB: Because if you’re using that approach where it’s only if two planets are directly applying to an aspect—and those happen to be the rulers of the two houses that match the question in the chart—it’s kind of rare that that happens. So they had to introduce a few additional concepts at this time in order to make other situations where those two planets could connect even if they weren’t doing so directly.
CB: So at this time, we see the introduction of concepts like ‘transfer of light’, which is where you have two planets that are not aspecting each other or that are separating, but if you have a third planet—like the Moon or Mercury that’s really fast and it swoops in and separates from one planet and applies to another—then it can connect the two of them or ‘transfer the light’, as it’s called, right?
YB: Yeah, and if the Ascendant is too early or too late as well, they introduced it, didn’t they?
YB: Maybe they just wanted to come up with a whole lot of different kinds of mitigating factors.
CB: Yeah, and there’s a lot of little factors like that that then came about and either were deliberately invented or that were discovered—I don’t really know—but I think it was possibly connected with horary, which is much more dynamic.
YB: The rise and rise of horary, yeah.
CB: Yeah, which is a much more dynamic use of horary, where this notion of application and separation and what are the significators doing becomes very important.
CB: And especially the Moon in horary is always treated as a secondary significator for the question or for the querent.
YB: And is vital in electional astrology.
CB: Yeah, exactly. So if the Moon is not in good shape—there’s many different conditions where the Moon can be in good shape or bad shape—then that’s very important in either your horary question or in your electional chart.
CB: So let me read you some definitions of void of course that come from the Medieval tradition, from like the 8th and 9th century.
YB: And who they’re from.
CB: Yeah. So this is from a book by my friend Benjamin Dykes where he translated a bunch of Medieval texts a few years ago, and this book is titled, Introductions to Traditional Astrology: Abu Ma’shar & al-Qabisi.
And I don’t have the PDF. I have a pre-publication version on my computer that I was proofreading, so this may not be the final translation, but it’s close enough. So it says: Emptiness of course. So this from Book 3 or Section 3, Definition 9. The Arabic, Ben says, is ‘emptiness of course’, and other later translators translated it as ‘solitude’ or ‘void in course’ and so on and so forth.
So according to the abbreviation of the Introduction to Astrology by Abu Ma’shar, it says: Solitude, is if, a little after disregard, some star attaches to it in none of the above-stated ways, but neither does it attach to any start while it is in that sign. So that’s a little complicated because it’s taking into account other definitions such as ‘disregard’ that’s already defined, but let’s read the next one. This is from Abu Ma’shar’s Greater Introduction. It says: The emptying of the course is if a planet would be separated from the conjunction of another planet by [bodily] conjunction or by aspect, and it would not be joined to another so long as it were in that same sign.
A definition from al-Qabisi. It says: And if one planet is being disregarded by another, and it is being connected to none of the planets so long as it is in the same sign, [its] course is said to be “empty.” And finally, from The Book of Nine Judgments, or Nine Judges—unless this is from al-Qabisi, I’m actually not sure—but it says: If the Moon were void in course…it signifies futility and annulment, and turning back from that same purpose, and the impediment of that same purpose. And Ben has a little definition—or a little diagram here and he goes on to explicate the concept.
So what’s interesting here is in the Abu Ma’shar definition, we’re seeing the introduction of something that’s new, which is he has the statement, ‘so long as it were in the same sign’. So he says when a planet is separated from the conjunction of another planet, either bodily conjunction—which is what we consider to be a conjunction today—or by aspect (and what it means by that is by the other aspects, which are sextile, square, trine, or opposition), and it would not be joined to another planet so long as it were in the same sign.
CB: So here we’re starting to see a different definition coming on…
YB: And when was he writing?
CB: Abu Ma’shar was in the 9th century.
YB: 9th century.
CB: So let’s say around the year 850-or-something CE.
CB: So he doesn’t specify…
YB: He’s the culprit by the sound of it.
CB: Maybe, although—go ahead.
YB: I was just going to say the other thing that I keep thinking as we’re talking is nowadays people don’t just talk about the Moon being void of course. People will say the Sun goes—well, not the Sun really—but Venus goes void of course.
Some people talk about planets being void of course. I mean, I don’t know how unorthodox that is, but they’re definitely using the same definition as well. So then you sort of think, okay, well, when did that start? How’s this all grown up? Because I feel like we should stick with the original, quite frankly.
CB: Well, that’s a really good point, though, that you’re making here. Because one of the things we can note about this definition is that it doesn’t restrict it to the Moon in Abu Ma’shar’s definition.
CB: It just says if one planet—if a planet—is separated from the conjunction of another planet, then it is not…
YB: And the Moon isn’t even that planet.
CB: Well, it means that it’s not just restricted to the Moon in this case. Even though the original definition in the Hellenistic tradition seemed to be just about the Moon, they’ve actually made it wider so that it’s talking about any planet; and any planet, as long as it’s not applying to another planet, will not complete that aspect before it changes sign. So maybe that’s also, again, due to horary because it has to do with the horary significators and what they’re going to do and how that describes the outcome of the question.
YB: I don’t think horary takes into account a planet being void of course, does it? Well, I suppose it does in terms of the fact that if it’s a significator, it’s not applying to the object. Well, I mean it does and it doesn’t. It does, but not specifically.
CB: Yeah, I mean, I think that’s relevant. It’s not the most common thing, but if a planet—which is one of your important significators—is towards the end of the sign, and it’s not applying to any other planet, then that may tell you something.
Let’s say somebody is asking if the person they’re interested in, if they’re going to get married or something like that, and the significator of the other party is…
YB: Void of course.
CB: …void of course, then that’s not going to be a great indication that you guys are getting together in the future because the planets themselves are not moving towards each other. One of them is just completely out to lunch and wandering around on its own, so perhaps that represents a sort of wandering or isolation on the part of that person.
YB: But you were saying that the Hellenistic astrologers who were first talking about the Moon being void of course—and using the traditional, original definition—they were applying it to natal charts.
YB: And now, we’re talking about it being taken from natal charts into something which didn’t even exist at the start of things—horary–which was introduced, I suppose.
YB: Again, I think we’re mixing apples with oranges, I do. It doesn’t leave me any clearer in a way, but at least I’m understanding the timeline.
CB: I mean, that being said, they may have used it in electional charts. There’s a few surviving works on electional astrology, like Dorotheus of Sidon from the 1st century or Hephaistio of Thebes from the 5th century. I can’t remember—I think Hephaistio might mention void of course as an electional condition at one point.
CB: But that being said, it’s mainly used in a natal context, like we saw in Firmicus Maternus.
CB: So yeah, I mean, I do think it’s important. The other thing that’s a difference is that in the Hellenistic tradition, they were using both sign-based aspects and degree-based aspects. But in the Medieval tradition, due to the shift towards horary, there was a shift more towards just using degree-based aspects rather than, in addition, using aspects by sign.
So I think that’s also a relevant consideration here because the definition of void of course also becomes more dynamic and becomes more focused on just very close degree-based aspects at this point.
YB: It becomes based on not making an aspect before leaving the sign.
CB: Okay, so at that point, we could stop because, here it is, the definition of void of course. It’s introduced in the Medieval period, we see it here in Abu Ma’shar. And then that definition more or less gets repeated by later authors, such as Guido Bonatti and William Lilly in the 17th century who…
YB: Who really takes it town, I suppose, because he could print his book.
CB: Well, Lilly was important because he was the first major astrologer that wrote a major textbook on astrology in English. And up to that point, the astrologers tended to write their books in Latin, basically because Latin was the educated language in Europe at the time that scientific and philosophical works were written in.
So Lilly wanted his text to be more accessible, so he wrote it in English, and a lot of astrologers followed suit shortly after Lilly did that. But Lilly has a definition of void of course in his book, Christian Astrology, that then has pretty much influenced all subsequent traditions of understanding void of course in the rest of the English tradition at this point.
CB: You don’t happen to have a copy of Lilly lying around, do you?
YB: I do not have a copy of Lilly in this house actually. It’s in storage.
CB: You don’t just have 17th century texts lying around?
YB: No, but I might have it on a PDF. Hang on. I mean, it is on PDF.
CB: Okay, well, I actually do have a copy of Lilly lying around right behind me. So I’m going to very quickly flip to his definition of void of course.
CB: I can’t, unfortunately, put it up on the screen, but I can at least read it for us. If you find the PDF, that would be great. I know his definition…
YB: I have found it.
CB: …of void of course is somewhere in the first book because he defines a bunch of terms and concepts.
YB: Yeah, it’s all public domain now for poor Mr. Lilly.
CB: Yeah, that copyright ran out a few centuries ago.
YB: Exactly. No, it’s not going to be easy to search because it’s kind of a picture. So it’s not text.
CB: Oh, it’s a scan of it, okay.
YB: Yeah, it’s a scan.
CB: He deals with the Moon. This is funny that we’re doing all this on the fly here with this episode, but that’s fine.
YB: I mean, we pretty much know what his definition is anyway. I mean, I suppose it’s nice to hear it from the horse’s mouth.
CB: Well, it’s important because there’s been a reinterpretation of Lilly that’s led to a brand new definition.
CB: We have to be aware of that because now it turns out that there’s other astrologers who define it differently in the modern period, and that’s starting to cause some different traditions.
YB: Yeah. You see, I’m anti- all this sort of ‘let’s all just decide how we want it to be’. The last question today, Chris, which we will get to is going to be, are we going to try and resurrect the original void of course Moon definitions? And I think I can tell you right here and now, my answer is ‘yes’. I’m all for it. But let’s see what Lilly says when he decides to weigh in however many hundreds of years later.
CB: Yeah, I mean, I’ll get to mine later. But part of my thing is I think when it comes to things like this, all of these considerations are relevant and have something important to say from a symbolic standpoint, so that’s one of the things that’s useful, though, about understanding the distinction between them. So any luck?
CB: I found the Considerations Before Judgment, where he defines what it—oh, here it is, void of course. I’m reading the Ascella edition of Lilly, which is my favorite edition, which I’m sad is out of print because it seems like the best one. But it’s on page 54 of the Ascella edition, which is around page 112 of Lilly’s actual text.
It says: Void of course. A planet is void of course when he is separated from a planet, nor doth forthwith [remember, this is the 17th century], during his being in that sign, apply to any other. This is most usually in the Moon; in judgments do you carefully observe whether she be void of course, yea or no; you shall seldom see a business go handsomely forward when she is so.
YB: So it’s very much about horary, not about natal, just for the record.
CB: Yeah, because Book 1 of Lilly is introductory concepts, and then right away in Book 2, he jumps right into horary astrology.
CB: So horary was for Lilly his primary practice. He does introduce natal astrology in Book 3, but it’s not as thorough of a treatment as his treatment of horary is. And one of the reasons people really love Lilly’s work is that he uses a bunch of example charts of real-life horary questions to demonstrate how things worked out and what the interpretation of the chart was.
So later, on page 122 of Lilly, he has different considerations before judgment, which are different horary considerations that you’re supposed to take into account before judging a horary chart or before interpreting one. One of the ones that he gives a few conditions of the Moon. One of the ones he says is: It’s not safe to judge when the Moon is in the later degrees of a sign, especially in Gemini, Scorpio, or Capricorn. And then he goes on and he mentions the via combusta.
Then he says: All manner of matters go hardly on (except the principle significators be very strong)—except if they’re very strong—when the Moon is void of course; yet somewhat she performs it void of course, [and be] in [either] Taurus, Cancer, Sagittarius, or Pisces.
So basically he reiterates the void of course thing. He says that in interpretation, if you get a horary chart where the Moon is void of course—a horary question—he says ‘all manner of matters go hardly on’, but then he gives an exception. And he says unless…
YB: Except if…
CB: …the Moon is in the sign of its exaltation (which is Taurus), the sign of its domicile (which is Cancer), or in one of the signs ruled by Jupiter (which are Sagittarius or Pisces).
YB: And that’s purely because Jupiter’s lucky.
CB: Yeah, Jupiter’s the greater benefic planet.
CB: Presumably. I mean, I don’t know.
YB: Because when you said that, I was thinking, okay, but why Pisces and Sagittarius? I didn’t think, of course, they’re both ruled by Jupiter traditionally.
CB: Well, and additionally, the other mitigation, he said ‘matters go hardly on’ unless ‘the principle significators be very strong’.
CB: So he’s saying there’s some instances where the Moon can be void of course, but the horary question can still be positive if other factors in the chart are strong.
YB: Like if the Sun’s sextiling Venus or something.
CB: Yeah, if the significators are dignified, or alternatively, if the Moon herself is dignified. That can nullify or counteract the void of course placement if the Moon is in Taurus, Cancer, Sagittarius, or Pisces.
So this is important because since this is the first English version of void of course, this version gets repeated by astrologers for the next two or three centuries, and I think eventually becomes kind of the basis for Al Morrison, in a sense.
YB: Yeah, definitely. I mean, he definitely had gone from that.
CB: Yeah. So one of the things, though, that’s unfortunate is typically those mitigating conditions aren’t taken into account—for example, that being an exception in those four signs. And that became relevant because I remember some of the research I did going back to 2004—the 2004 United States presidential election.
When John Kerry was nominated for the Democrats, the Moon was void of course. But if I’m remembering correctly, it was void of course in Sagittarius or something like that, so there was a mitigation, or there was one of these nominations not too long ago. Maybe that was the one for George Bush actually, where it was like void of course. But there was a mitigation like that, and I noticed that people weren’t taking into account mitigations.
CB: Anyway, so we had to read Lilly’s definition because just from a basic reading of that, it seems as if that’s just following the earlier Medieval definition of void of course, which seems very similar to the modern definition, right?
YB: Yeah, it does. It’s almost exactly the same. Apart from that nobody takes into account the mitigations.
CB: Okay, so the problem with…
YB: I don’t think they’re mentioned by Al Morrison either, frankly, but I don’t know. I only know what I know about him from Debbi Kempton-Smith.
CB: Right. So the problem is that there’s another definition that’s come about that I tried to document as ‘interpretation or version three’ of the concept of void of course in my article, which is that there’s been some alternative interpretation of Lilly’s definition of void of course and what he meant by that in the 1980s and 1990s.
In particular, there was this 1995 article titled “The Considerations Before Judgment” by the astrologer Sue Ward, where she argued that Lilly’s definition of void of course had been misunderstood, and provided an alternative interpretation that was quite different than what the modern astrologers had been using or how people had understood that definition up to that point.
YB: Yeah, I actually have this definition in my book, Moonology. Strangely, I think I must have got it from you, but the Moon is not making an exact aspect within a 10° orb. But a lot of people don’t know about that. Because I’ve run that past other astrologers and they’ve gone, “Huh? Never heard that one.”
CB: Yeah. Here, let me read mine; just because I’m trying to remember exactly how it went. But my summary of this and of Sue’s argument was that even though: Lilly is usually used as the primary source for the modern definition of void of course, where a planet is void when it will complete no other aspects until it moves into the next sign. [Sue] Ward argued that Lilly’s actual working definition in chart examples was that a planet is only void of course when it is not applying to an aspect with another planet within orb, regardless of sign boundaries.
So I go on and I say: This interpretation of Lilly’s definition of void of course is similar to the original Hellenistic definition in that it ignores sign boundaries, although it happens much more frequently than the Hellenistic definition because Lilly’s orb for applying aspects tends to be less than 10 degrees.
Unfortunately since this interpretation of Lilly’s definition of void of course is largely based on inferences made from his chart examples, [it’s] somewhat controversial. Some astrologers agree that this is the correct interpretation of what Lilly meant, and thus that there is a third definition of void of course, while others do not agree that this is the correct interpretation of the text, and thus, they believe that there are only two potential definitions [which is the Hellenistic and the modern one].
So maybe we should give an example. Let me see if I have a diagram. Yeah, here’s one that I made that shows this definition, if this interpretation of Lilly is correct. Let’s imagine you have chart where the Moon is at 10° of Aries and it’s just completed a sextile with Venus at 10° of Aquarius, and the next aspect that the Moon is going to make is not until it reaches a conjunction with Jupiter at 29° of Aries, at the very end of that sign.
So this is something like 18° or 19° away before the Moon will conjoin Jupiter, which is well outside of any sort of standard orb for a conjunction or other major aspect, which usually tends to be like 10° or less. So the point is that the Moon would be void of course then during the range in which it is outside of the orb of an exact aspect with another planet using the Ptolemaic aspects. Does that make sense?
YB: Yeah, yeah, that makes total sense. So it’s void and then it’s not void before it actually leaves Aries.
CB: Yeah. So this definition would completely remove any consideration of sign boundary because it all just entirely becomes a matter of is the Moon within orb of an aspect—an applying aspect. A separating aspect I don’t think is taken into account, or is it?
YB: And do we think that Lilly came up with this after years and years of doing horaries and researching and then came up with this idea, or plucked it out of thin air because it made the king happy? What do we think happened here?
CB: I don’t know because I don’t know if this is a correct interpretation of Lilly, and I’m not enough of a Lilly scholar to wade into trying to either defend this interpretation or to reject it entirely. I am somewhat suspicious that the Medieval astrologers—like Abu Ma’shar—like we saw are clearly mentioning a sign boundary being involved in the definition of void of course.
I believe when I brought this up to Ben Dykes, he also pointed out that Guido Bonatti is also taking into account a sign boundary as part of his basic definition of void of course, and that Lilly himself also mentioned a sign boundary in his definition of void of course. So I’m a little bit skeptical that the sign boundary thing is just completely not taken into account at all.
CB: But I don’t want to come down too hard either way. I just wanted to outline that what this means effectively is that we’ve got three different possible definitions of void of course.
CB: We have the modern definition that we started with at the beginning of this discussion, which is the one most modern astrologers have used at this point over the past few decades.
YB: Which I think we can safely call the ‘Lilly’ definition for people because he did popularize it, unless Sue Ward is right. It’s hard. Maybe he was a sloppy astrologer. Maybe he did research and he went from what they’d been saying all these years about the sign definition.
I mean, how many horary charts a day was he doing? He was probably researching as he went, going, “Well, hang on a minute?” Maybe he was one of the biggest researchers of all and we should listen to him, I don’t know. What do you think?
CB: Yeah, I mean, it is tricky when it comes to astrologers sometimes and the theory of how they outline something versus what they do actually in chart examples.
CB: Maybe there could be differences between those sometimes. And I think maybe, yeah, that’s possible. We have to take that into account as a possibility especially if Sue Ward is saying that this is due to seeing inconsistencies in the way that he’s applying this in the actual chart examples.
CB: And people can read this article. It’s still on Sue Ward’s website—or it’s on somebody’s website—which is Horary.com, and it’s titled, “The Considerations Before Judgment” by Sue Ward. And if you scroll down three-quarters of the way through, it has a whole section titled “Void of Course.”
She says: Contrary to what most of us understood, this does not mean that the aspect has to perfect when the Moon is in its current sign. What it does mean is that the application has to be in effect while the Moon is in its current sign. Application operates only when the Moon (or planet) is ‘within orbs’ of the planet it next meets by major aspect. This matter largely depends on the definition of application in Lilly’s terms, and those of the authors he drew upon, and [what] it meant to be within orb.
And then she cites some other examples. The evidence in Christian Astrology supports this only exclusively and I conclude that the Moon is not void of course if it is contacting another planet through the joint moieties. And moieties is like an obscure Medieval orb system.
YB: Whether it perfects in or out of its current sign. So just to understand, Sue Ward is saying that in these charts of Lilly’s that she’s studied the Moon is not void of course if ‘contacting another planet through joint moieties’. Say it’s 29° of Sagittarius and Venus is at 0° of Gemini, but there’s no other planets for it to aspect before it changes signs. Then it’s not void of course because it’s going to aspect Venus in a minute.
CB: Yeah. I mean, I think she’s basically saying that if the Moon, let’s say, is at 29° of the sign, Venus is at 1° of the next sign, then it’s not void of course because it’s within orb of a conjunction. So that’s her definition.
YB: Right. Where does this leave us?
CB: Yeah, well, it leaves us with a big mess, but here’s the example she cites. She says: The crucial point about this definition of ‘application’ and having checked all the charts in Christian Astrology to see just how Lilly uses this term, I found only three that are dubious in this regard. Well, she’s listing counter-examples, so we don’t have to go into that. But the point is just that…
YB: Can we just say ‘good work’ by Sue Ward.
CB: Maybe—if she’s right. I don’t know if she’s right or wrong. There’s some astrologers I know that are really into Renaissance astrology that believe very strongly that Sue Ward is right and this is the working definition of void of course that they use, and they think that this was the original definition. But then there’s also some Renaissance astrologers—people that practice Renaissance horary and other astrology—that strongly believe that Sue Ward’s interpretation of this is wrong.
CB: So we’re not going to come down on either side of that, but we will say that due to this, at the very least, even if this was a wrong interpretation, it’s now created a third variant or a third version of what it means for a planet to be void of course in modern times. Because regardless of if this is correctly what Lilly thought, there are now astrologers that are using this definition in modern times in their personal practice based on the belief that this is what Lilly did.
YB: This would be a small percentage, though, wouldn’t it?
CB: I don’t know what the percentage is because there’s a decent number. I don’t want to name names because I’m not 100% positive on who falls where on this, but there are some rather prominent Renaissance-style astrologers and horary practitioners that I think do use this definition following Sue Ward.
YB: The ‘Wardian’ definition, we should call it.
CB: Yeah, I like that. That has a ring to it—assuming that I’m right that she was the one that came up with this, which I’m pretty sure I am. So anyway, back to our overview, though, this means that there’s three different definitions then of void of course potentially: one, when the Moon does not complete an exact Ptolemaic aspect with any planet within the next 30°, which is the Hellenistic definition; two, the Moon does complete an exact Ptolemaic aspect with another planet until it moves into the following sign of the zodiac, which is, let’s say, the modern definition; and then, three, the Moon is not applying to an exact Ptolemaic aspect within orb, whatever the orb is of the planet, or the Moon, in this instance, regardless of sign boundary.
YB: Yeah. And so, if you think about it, they’ve had about equal—well, let’s not take the ‘Wardian’ definition in just for the moment.
YB: But the other two have had about 50/50 of astrology’s history as we’ve defined it today, since it was first mentioned to now. It’s been about 2,000 years, hasn’t it?
YB: And it’s been about 900 years each. Maybe a little bit more on the—you call it ‘modern’, I call it ‘Medieval/Al Morrison’ version.
CB: Yeah, I mean, you could definitely say that, you could split the tradition in half. Let’s put the Sue Ward definition aside. Then yeah, we could say if there were only those first two definitions, then probably the first thousand years of the practice of Western astrology—from maybe the 1st century BCE until the 7th century CE—used the Hellenistic definition, the 30° one. And then from about the 8th century forward, astrologers have used the other definition, where it doesn’t make another aspect until it changes signs.
YB: Yeah. And just to jog my memory, I actually had assumed that the changeover came with Lilly in the 1600s. But you’ve explained to me today, in fact, it was first mentioned around 700-800.
YB: Was it mentioned in 700-800 only with regards to horary? Did it come up in the 700-800s because of horary, not natal? Because that also is a slightly cloudy thing in the whole thing as well.
CB: I mean, it’s introduced in the 8th century within the context of just general definitions in introductory works on astrology of concepts…
YB: Not just horary.
CB: …that you need to know. Yeah, because it’s in Abu Ma’shar’s Greater Introduction, and he’s trying to introduce concepts you need to know for everything.
CB: And al-Qabisi is basically just writing a shortened version of Abu Ma’shar. So it was stuff that was supposed to apply to natal and electional and horary. Horary was kind of like a new technology—sort of like the iPhone or something like that was introduced 10 years ago, and everybody was using it and it became really popular.
Horary was a little bit like that, I think, where once it was introduced and it got really integrated into the tradition, people started using it a lot more. Yeah, some of these concepts may have become more popular partially as a result of that.
YB: Yeah. Okay, I have a thesis after this incredibly illuminating and fascinating discussion with you, Chris, which I’m really grateful for. This is my deduction from this, and you tell me what you think.
CB: All right, let’s hear it.
YB: It’s not my final thing. I just want to get your opinion. Okay, I think when…
CB: And be careful because this might become the ‘Boland’ definition for the next several centuries.
YB: Okay, all right. When you’re looking at a natal chart, go Hellenistic. If you’re doing horary, you can use the other one.
CB: Yeah, I mean, I think that that might be okay. One of the things about the Hellenistic definition is you’re hardly ever going to see it, so it’s almost not relevant in most discussions.
YB: I think that’s good for people not to feel that they’re born under a void of course Moon. I don’t think we need to put that on people if it wasn’t invented until the 8th century.
CB: Yeah, well, and even if you do have a Hellenistic version of a void of course Moon, there can still be mitigating conditions and other exceptions that are going to make it not that bad. That being said, one of the things that appeals to people about traditional astrology is even though some of those definitions—like what I was reading from Firmicus—can sound extreme, sometimes people do have genuine hardships or trauma or difficulty in their life in certain areas.
And sometimes it’s useful or helpful or good when the astrology is able to articulate why, or articulate what part of a person’s life maybe they have had some problems in, if they have had that. And there can be something useful and therapeutic about it that doesn’t necessarily have to be all depressing and oppressive or what have you.
YB: But Saturn is often going to be the culprit anyways—you know, that misery. I mean, Saturn and misery do go hand-in-hand, so you’d look at that as well.
YB: I just think the idea of the void of course Moon—it’s almost like saying your life is not right. And I’m glad that your astrological exposition here has supported the idea that it actually makes sense to use the Hellenistic version at least in natal charts.
Obviously, people are going to have tough times. And some people I know, the son of a billionaire—who’s got Venus square Saturn—who doesn’t get on with his mom, so astrology will always play out. If this wasn’t in the original remit, I’m happy not to tell people they were born with a void of course Moon. Somehow I don’t like the idea of being born with that. It’s like nothing’s going to come of your life. I mean, what a horrible thing to have to say to someone.
CB: Yeah, I mean, there can be difficult indications in a birth chart. Yeah, I don’t think this is super important using the Hellenistic definition. It’s only in the past 10 years or 20 years tops that these texts that contain the Hellenistic definition have been translated, so astrologers haven’t even had very long to start observing this condition in astrology in general.
CB: And so, one of the things that I think we have to do is when that comes up once a year—I guess the next one is in October, the last one was in August—we should pay attention to what happens on that day, or what happens in electional charts and see what happens, and see if that sheds any light on the usefulness of this as a unique and somewhat rare concept.
In the same way that there’s indications for comets in some of the ancient texts, which also don’t happen very often, but occasionally they do. For example, I think there was a comet last spring around the time of the coronavirus outbreak and the lockdowns.
YB: Yeah, that’s true actually. We saw it. I saw it. Did you see it in America?
CB: I didn’t. I was staying inside like way too much during that time period, partially because I was sick. But yeah, sometimes there can be very rare astronomical phenomena that when it occurs important things do happen or coincide with it.
YB: In fairness, for the sake of historical accuracy, I saw that comet. I was in France, and the coronavirus was already in full swing.
YB: Just so we don’t say it was portent. It was June, and we’d all been in lockdown since February. So we can’t fairly say that it was a portent of the coronavirus because it was in full swing—just for the sake of historical accuracy and not freaking people out.
CB: I think it was interesting that it was discovered around April or something. That is when astronomers first became aware that it would be coming into view. And I do think it’s interesting that it coincided with some of the waves of deaths around the world or some of the first major waves of deaths in some parts of the world, but that’s a whole thing. Mundane astrology is a whole weird thing unto itself, and there was a lot more going on astrologically last year than just that, with the pileup of planets in Capricorn and everything else.
YB: It was amazing.
YB: And amazing this year as well. Yeah, now that’s very interesting. But can I just say one more thing? Because you were saying, okay, so now let’s look at October when the Moon actually goes void of course with the original example.
YB: As far as I’m aware—well, I know this because I looked at it—one of your arguments for using whole sign houses is it’s the oldest, it’s the first one. Why would we just take on these other house systems that people have since decided to use? And I think we should think like that. I do.
If people are going to take the trouble to translate these ancient documents and tell us what they mean, then I think it’s important that we take them onboard. And I think for that reason I think we should bring it back. I’m all for it—except maybe in electional.
CB: Let me clarify, though, with whole sign houses.
CB: Part of my argument is actually just that in the Hellenistic tradition, they used both whole sign houses and different degree-based forms of house division like equal houses or quadrant houses, which is similar to modern-day Placidus houses. They would use both at once, but they would start with the sign-based approach and then overlay the degree-based approach on top of that.
So part of my argument is just that we’ve shifted over the past thousand years entirely to the degree-based approach to astrology—partially I think due to horary—and it would be good for us to start taking into account the sign-based approach again, which includes not just whole sign houses, but also, whole sign aspects as well.
YB: No, I’m all for it. I don’t know if I said it on-camera or off-camera, but I saw your argument for whole sign houses. I read your document, and I was like, well, I’m convinced. And then I saw Robert Hand had actually said the same thing to me at a conference 10 years earlier; I hadn’t swapped; I think I was using Placidus. But I just swapped from then on. I just went, that’s it, I’m whole sign all the way now.
And I think it was there in the beginning and then the monks invented Placidus at some point. I don’t know. I’d like to go to the root of it, which is why I wanted to have this conversation about the void of course Moon. Like if people are going to decipher these documents, let’s listen to what they’ve got to say.
CB: Sure. One of the things I would say, there’s some part of that I definitely agree with. I wrote an entire 700-page book called Hellenistic Astrology: The Study of Fate and Fortune in 2017, which took me 10 years to write and was one of the first comprehensive treatments of ancient Hellenistic astrology as it was practiced from the 1st century BCE until the 7th century CE; one of the first comprehensive treatments in modern times.
But I very deliberately, at the end of that book—in my conclusion, my final paragraph—really made a strong point to say that while I do think that there’s a good reason to go back and look at the past and to take some of the best pieces of astrology from the past and bring them forward into the future, I don’t think the purpose is to go back into the past and to stay there. I don’t want this to result in some sort of astrological fundamentalism where people only go back and use ancient astrology and they ignore some of the great innovations that occurred in the later Medieval and Renaissance and modern astrological traditions.
So I think actually the best approach is to synthesize some of the best parts from ancient astrology with some of the best parts from modern astrology, and there’s something to be gained from all of those different approaches.
YB: Yeah, I mean, I do agree with that, but I also think that you can’t just go changing the rules. You can add the overlay of modern psychological astrology to traditional astrology, and you can add in Neptune and Uranus and Pluto and all that, but that’s not fundamentally changing the rules.
CB: You don’t think so?
YB: I mean, that’s what I do a lot of in my own work. I work with angels and goddesses and all sorts.
CB: Right. I’m a little surprised that you’re the one arguing for the fundamentalism here, and I’m the one arguing for embracing modern and ancient.
YB: Nothing will convince me. From now on, for me, the void of course Moon in the natal chart is the Hellenistic version and no one’s going to talk me out of that.
YB: If you want to say ‘in horary’—the one I don’t know what I think yet is electional. Did it come from horary? So we kind of have to put it in the ‘horary’ basket. I mean, it sort of did in a way, didn’t it?
CB: Okay, that’s a good discussion point. Let’s focus on that point. So I agree, I don’t think void of course is that relevant in natal, and it’s not going to be super-huge as an important consideration. So we’ll set that aside and just say not that important for natal, and if you’re using the Hellenistic definition, then it’s not going to show up in 99.9% of the charts that you look at anyway.
CB: Void of course is primarily relevant in electional astrology and in horary astrology. So not a lot of astrologers proportionally practice natal astrology, but there are enough that use some form of electional astrology where this is a genuine question then of what should you use, and that’s actually a really interesting thing. So were what you saying about in the context of electional?
YB: Well, what I was saying was that, okay, I can see that horary astrology has almost got its own definition of the void of course Moon that it’s taken to its heart and it’s really embedded in there. And I suppose you could see horary astrology and electional astrology as a kind of mirror.
YB: If you cast a chart for a horary question or you cast a chart for opening your new business, it’s sort of a similar thing, I suppose, from that definition. I mean, again, I don’t know. Is there a clear demarcation between which came first, electional or horary, or did they kind of come at the same time? Because they are kind of the same thing.
CB: Yeah, I mean, in my opinion, electional started first.
CB: We have the first, full-fledged texts on electional astrology that exist from the 1st century BCE, and especially the 1st century CE.
YB: Sort of getting at the Hellenistic thing then, isn’t it? But then do I have the courage to start a new business when the Moon is void of course? I don’t know when it’s Medieval void of course. I think I would still rather that the Moon had changed signs.
YB: So now, I’ve got to deprogram myself.
CB: Yeah, so I think just to answer your question that horary developed out of electional, and electional came first, they’re very intertwined in terms of their history and the techniques, and there’s lot of overlap there. To me, the way that I’ve been approaching this question—just to answer what some people may be asking in terms of how I deal with this—is I think they’re all relevant in some way, but just in differing levels of intensity and relevance.
Like maybe the worst-case scenario is the Hellenistic definition of void of course where it’s not applying to anything within the next two days basically, which is a very extreme and rare condition, which may be potentially very extreme and not good if you were trying to launch a major venture at that time.
CB: Let’s say there’s a business that you wanted to launch, and you were about to found a new website company that was going to compete with Google or something like that, and you’re desperately hoping for the success of this venture in the future. You’re going to probably want to follow standard electional rules and try to pick a day where the Moon is applying to a favorable aspect with, let’s say, Jupiter in a day chart—like a conjunction with Jupiter—because in electional astrology, applying aspects indicate the future and separating aspects indicate the past. So whatever the Moon is applying to is going to indicate the future of what you initiate at that time.
YB: Yeah, and you’re more or less making a birth chart for your business.
CB: Yeah, exactly. That’s the real promise and that’s the thing that’s interesting with electional—the concept that you can deliberately choose the birth chart for whatever you’re starting at that time, whether it’s a business or a marriage or a major journey or writing a book. Have you used electional for any of your major books or projects?
CB: For everything?
YB: If I’m writing a pitch for my next book, I will not send it when the Moon is Medieval/modern void of course.
YB: I’ll always look at the chart before I send it. And one thing I get a lot, though, is I get the Moon in the 12th house a lot when I’m thinking, “Shall I do this now?” Because there’s a part of me that thinks if I change my action just because the Moon is void of course, does that even count because the idea was kind of there? But then I often get the Moon in the 12th house and somehow that seems to be okay for me when it’s an astrological matter because I think it’s hidden and it’s secret because of Moonology.
YB: Anyway, now I think I’d go Hellenistic/natal, and I think I would look at Medieval for electional and horary. I think because they’re so similar they need to be in the same basket.
CB: And the way I do it, I do sort of a hierarchy where I say the worst-case scenario in an electional chart would be the Hellenistic one. I would probably want to avoid that the most if I had a choice.
YB: Yeah, for sure.
CB: Then the next worst one is going to be—in terms of what I actually pay attention to—is the Moon applying to within reasonable orb of, let’s say, 13°—or 12°, which is the average daily motion of the Moon in a 24-hour period. Is the Moon applying within 12° to an exact aspect, even if there’s no sign boundary? And is it a favorable aspect?
So even if the Moon is applying to something like a benefic, if it’s not going to complete that while it’s still in that sign, but it will hit a benefic as soon as it changes signs—within, let’s say, a few degrees—then I’ll still treat that as a favorable indication that’s probably okay to go with.
YB: Within 12° or 13° because of the daily motion.
CB: Yeah, within 12°. Actually the ancient Hellenistic orb of the Moon was 12°. They used 3° for degree-based aspects for planets, especially 3°, but they would extend it to 12° with the Moon because the Moon moves about 12° in a 24-hour period.
CB: So 12° regardless of sign boundary is the next one down. And then finally, the next and sort of least important would be the other definition, which is just is it not going to complete an aspect before it changes sign boundaries—only because that happens so frequently.
CB: That’s sort of how I structure it myself because what we’re doing here when we’re talking about astrology is we’re talking about symbolism.
CB: We’re taking astronomical movements and astronomical placements and then we’re saying, what would that describe if it was describing something or if we were to interpret it symbolically?
CB: And I don’t think the answer is that one of these has a symbolic interpretation that’s relevant and the other two don’t have any symbolic interpretation, but rather, all three of them in some way could probably describe some scenario that’s relevant or could manifest in some specific way. It’s just a matter of what priority are you really going to give that if you’re using that in electional astrology. And for me, even if I use that hierarchy of those three, that’s still kind of down low on my considerations for electional astrology.
YB: Oh, is it? Because it’s my number one.
CB: Your number one is just start with the Moon and what is the Moon doing?
YB: And I thought that was sort of what everybody did.
CB: I mean, I think it is to a certain extent only in so much as the concept of void of course has been so popularized—and almost over-popularized—that the first thing that most people in modern astrology learn about electional astrology is the void of course thing.
Because one of the things I learned when I started trying to learn electional astrology in the mid-2000s is that there weren’t a lot of texts out there written in modern times on electional astrology; there’s not a lot of books on electional. I think there was one written finally in the past 20 years—that little short book on electional by somebody—but it’s not a very common topic. So I don’t think most modern astrologers are that familiar with what some of the traditional rules were for electional astrology in Hellenistic or Medieval astrology necessarily.
YB: There’s a niche because that’s basically what astrologers do a lot of. People in my work—people are always asking me, “When should I get married?” “When should I move house?” “When should I do this?” “When should I do that?”
YB: I mean, somebody should write that book—and it’s not going to be me.
CB: I will put it out there that that could be something that could be filled in the not-to-distant future, since that is something I specialize in and that’s something my partner and I specialize in. We do a podcast each month where we release four auspicious electional charts for the month ahead, and we just tell you what the good charts are for each month.
Right now, we’re actually working on the charts for March of 2021. So we’re getting ready to record that in the next few days. It’s something that’s available through our page on Patreon.com. But I might fill that need at some point in the not-to-distant future with the work on electional astrology.
Because something that I would avoid more than a void of course Moon is the Moon applying to an opposition with Saturn in a night chart, for example. Like that would be worse to me because that’s more of a definite ‘no’ about what’s coming up for you in the future, or a definite difficulty than a void of course Moon using the modern definition. But for you, you’d be more wary of the void of course, between those two?
YB: The thing is my Dad was a psychiatrist, and he always said to me, “Yasmin, you’re so black-and-white.” So I have to believe that he was a good judge of my character, and I think I am very black-and-white. And I think, for me, because I took it to heart, it’s always been ‘void of course, don’t’.
YB: Like if I’ve got a big meeting, I’ll look and that’s the first thing I’ll check. Because even if the Sun’s squaring Saturn or Pluto or whatever, I feel like, okay, you can push through things like that. But the void of course Moon, to me—I feel like, gosh, how many years have I been doing this—it’s always been a nonstarter. And now, I’m really wondering about that. But I think I still will probably listen to it for plans, but I’m going to go Hellenistic for natal.
CB: Okay. Can I throw one last little historical kink in this whole situation with a fourth definition that may exist to void of course?
CB: I’ll try to keep it short. So there were interactions between the Greek astrologers, the astrologers who wrote in Greek during the time of the Roman Empire, from the 1st century through the 7th century CE. There were trading ships that would go back and forth between the Roman Empire and India, and as a result of that, there was interaction between the astrologers during that time period, and there were some works on Greek astrology that were translated into Sanskrit during that time.
CB: So remember how the Greek astrologers, their original word for void of course Moon was kenodromia, which means ‘running in the emptiness’ or ‘running in the void’? Well, in the Indian tradition, they have this definition that’s suspiciously called Kemadruma yoga. Basically, it’s like a transliteration of the Greek term kenodromia, where they’ve just taken the word and how it sounds when pronounced out loud and rewritten it the Sanskrit language or the Sanskrit alphabet basically.
Okay, so listen to this. So this is just the Wikipedia page. It’s not great, but it provides an acceptable definition. It says: Kemadruma yoga, is one of the most important yogas formed by the Moon. According to Varahmihir, [who I think lived in the 6th or 7th century] this Yoga is formed when one house in front [of] and [behind] the Moon are vacant. In other words, the second and the twelfth house from the Moon should be vacant so that this Yoga can be formed. This Yoga is not at all inauspicious [this is just Wikipedia, but it is considered to be inauspicious].
YB: ‘Provides strong power to a person’. Interesting.
CB: Yeah, we have to be careful with Wikipedia. But at least the definition is correct, which is that the Indian definition of void of course is that the Moon is in a sign on its own and there’s no planets either in the sign before the Moon or the sign after the Moon.
And I think it also extends potentially to aspects to those signs, although it gets complicated. Indian astrologers use a different aspect system than we do in the West. But it’s very similar in its concept, which is just the Moon is in the sign by itself, and it’s neither separating by a sign-based aspect from any planets in the sign before it, nor is it applying to the sign after the one that it’s in to any planets in the sign either.
So interestingly, there’s mitigations for this, and the mitigation is—well, actually they don’t list the mitigation very well in this, but there’s some mitigations that were similar to the one in Firmicus. I think it’s like if benefics are angular or something like that, then it cancels out the negative indications of that placement.
CB: So I just wanted to mention that as a potential fourth one out there as well. In the Indian tradition, due to the interaction between the Greek and Sanskrit astrologers, they also have their own definition of void of course.
YB: I mean, here, my feeling is I don’t think that you can just pluck what you like from Vedic astrology—not you personally. One can’t pluck what one likes from Vedic astrology and just chuck it into Western astrology.
I mean, I haven’t thought about it that much, but I’ve thought about it a bit. I was lucky enough to go to one of those East-West conferences in India that Alex Trenoweth organizes, so we had a lot of discussions there.
I mean, I know enough about Vedic astrology to know that as much as I would like to mix them—because I’m a meditator, I’m a chanter, I work with Hindu goddesses and all that—but I don’t think you can take from Vedic astrology and put it in Western astrology.
I think that’s just too much just because there’s so much in Vedic that we don’t understand. At least with Lilly, people have done the work for us in the past, or people like you and Sue Ward and whoever are doing the work now. But not going to get that. Not going to buy that one.
CB: Really quickly, I was just remembering where that came from, and it was from the Yavanajataka. I know this is going on really long, but I just want to make sure I include this.
YB: No, that’s all right. I’m actually just curious to look that up. What was it called?
CB: It’s called Kemadruma yoga, and yoga just means ‘combination’.
CB: So this is from Chapter 10 of the Yavanajataka. And the Yavanajataka was one of the earliest texts that some scholars like David Pingree argued was a text on Greek astrology that was written in Egypt sometime around the 1st or 2nd century in Greek. He thought that it was translated at some point into Sanskrit and then synthesized or merged with the indigenous astrology of India at that point to create a sort of hybrid approach, which then became what we know of as Indian astrology over the past 2,000 years.
So in Chapter 10 of this text, it has this definition of void of course. It says: If a planet is in the second place from the Moon, those who understand yogas call it sunapha; if it is leaving the Moon, they call it anaphora; and if (there are planets) on both sides (of the Moon), they call it daurudhura [which is just a transliteration of the Greek term doriphoria, which means ‘bodyguarding’ or ‘spearbearing’].
He says: If these yogas with respect to the Moon do not occur and there are no planets in the cardines [which are the angular houses: the 1st, 4th, 10th, and 7th], this configuration, lacking the aspect of all the planets, is called kemadruma; [and] it is of the lowest influence.
YB: Right. So there’s quite a lot of mitigating things there. And also, I don’t know actually—are Vedic houses the same as Western houses?
CB: A little bit. There’s some overlap, yeah. But really quickly, it gives an interpretation later. It says: The authorities say that one born under kemadruma is a low slave to others, who does not enjoy family, wife, home, food, one whose actions and conduct are reviled and who practices various devices. Anyway, the point was that it seems to be defining this in this text…
YB: So you have to have the Moon in a house with an empty house before it, an empty house after it, and no planets in any of the angular houses.
CB: Yeah, that seems to be the definition that it’s giving here, which is oddly sort of similar a little to Firmicus’ statement of having no benefics in the angular houses, which he used as a canceling thing. So that could give us some indication that this really was influenced by or had some connection with the Greek tradition.
But it’s interesting that in this context at least, they’re defining it as sign-based aspects and a sort of bodily connection, where the Moon is not applying to any aspects by a sign-based aspect in the next sign following it.
YB: Yeah, yeah. And with Firmicus—was it Firmicus you were referring to a second ago?
YB: Was he saying no planets in the angular houses, or no planets on the actual angles?
CB: Well, that’s a tricky question in terms of Firmicus because Firmicus is drawing on early sources, and Firmicus mixes whole sign houses with equal houses. So he could have had something in mind that’s like an overlap between the two.
Because in his delineations, he’ll go through and delineate using whole sign houses, and he’ll say a planet in an angular whole sign house is strong, but then he’ll say, however, a planet that’s on the exact degree of an angle—like the Midheaven—will be the strongest, so there’s like degrees of variation.
YB: I don’t think we have to bring the fourth one into account. I think we can make our considerations before judgment based on the first three.
YB: Because I think that was a Sanskrit astrologer and a Western astrologer having a chat and then something being lost in translation.
CB: Yeah. Well, and one of the things that fascinates me about the history of Western astrology is that that is the astrological tradition. Every time you put two astrologers in a room together, they will start talking and comparing notes, and their astrologies will rub off on each other.
CB: Sometimes they may not agree and sometimes they may get into arguments. But nonetheless, even if there’s a tension between their approaches, there’s still some sort of exchange or rubbing off that occurs between the traditions.
And that’s basically how we got to the type of astrology that we have today—4,000 years of astrologers trading techniques back and forth and developing new ideas and innovations, but also, passing on as best as they could certain traditional doctrines.
I don’t know if you have this, but in elementary school, they had this game called ‘Telephone’, where 10 kids would sit in a circle, and one would…
YB: Oh, yeah, ‘Chinese whispers’ I think we called it, very politically incorrectly back in the day in Tasmania and Australia. Yeah, one kid whispers to the next, to the next, to the next, and you see what comes out.
CB: Yeah, and then what’s funny is by the end of the circle, the message will often be much different than what it started as.
YB: Which is why I like to go to the source.
CB: Yeah, so what’s useful about going back and studying the astrological tradition and studying the ancient sources is sometimes it gives you a clearer picture of how things started.
CB: And you don’t always have to go back and stick with whatever that original message was. But at least if you go back and study the entire tradition, you can move forward more deliberately and more consciously in terms of picking what definition you think makes the most sense and then going from there.
YB: Hmm, whereas I would be more black-and-white about it and say go to the source. If somebody can figure that out, go to the source. And I suppose on one level I do believe astrology in a way to be some kind of divine revelation. So as much as I think you can kind of add to it—like I said before, I’m not a big fan of changing the rules.
YB: But what a great conversation, Chris Brennan. Thank you so much. I’ve had so much fun.
CB: Yeah, thank you.
YB: I’m not cutting you off, but literally, like, wow, that was great.
CB: Yeah, thank you for doing this. I know you’ve been wanting to do a short interview with me for a little while. You said we were going to do like 30 minutes, and then I realized this could actually be an interesting topic, talking about the void of course Moon. And it’s something I’ve been intending to do a longer podcast on for a while, and then we just sort of did it suddenly, at the spur of the moment. I think this went pretty well.
YB: Yeah, so much food for thought.
CB: The Moon was void of course.
CB: Yeah, so long as our recording doesn’t disappear immediately after this.
YB: Oh, my God. Well, I have recorded me talking, I think. I haven’t gotten you on my recording, I’ve just got me.
CB: Well, as long as we’ve got your end of the conversation, I think we’ll be good.
YB: We’ll fill in the gaps.
CB: Right. People will infer what the rest was.
YB: Yeah, I can say whatever. Amazing.
CB: Where can people find out more information about you and what you have going on?
YB: Well, people can find me at my website, YasminBoland.com. They can find me on Facebook and Instagram and YouTube and Amazon and all that. I love astrology. I’m a passionate astrologer, but I give full respect to people like you who’ve gone back and done the really hard yard so people like me can come along and just pick your brains and just get it the easy way.
YB: That sounds bad, but you know what I mean. Like I’m really grateful to people like you who’ve made it easy for people like me to kind of understand the context of the whole thing. Because I learned astrology on a computer and it just works. And you just test it and go, “It works. Okay, fine, I’ve got it.” But when you start to really look into it, that’s when it blows your mind.
CB: Yeah, one of the beautiful things about astrology and being an astrologer is there’s many different ways to be an astrologer, and there’s many different roles and ways that you can build a career doing astrology. And you don’t have to just be locked into one thing, there’s many different people that specialize in different areas.
So for me, one of the things I decided to specialize in is the history of astrology, and that’s what I went to school for. But that’s not everything and that’s not for everyone. So I’m always happy when I can use some of that knowledge and pass it on to other people based on what I’ve studied and everything else. So thanks for giving me the opportunity to do that today.
YB: Oh, no, it’s brilliant, it’s brilliant. I mean, I would love to be able to, like you, have just the whole timeline of astrology in your head like that, with just everything complete. I’m still shocked by looking on your website that when you give your timeline—I think I said this to you at the start—Hermes Trismegistus doesn’t come in until your third period.
You start in the 5th century BCE, then the 4th century, then the 3rd century, 2nd century, and then in the 1st century BCE, we get a mention of Hermes Trismegistus. Like I’m amazed that there’s—one, two, three—400 years of astrological history. I kind of thought Hermes Trismegistus was older than he is, frankly.
CB: Yeah, I mean, there’s a lot of early legendary stuff around astrology. And sometimes part of the challenge is unraveling the legends and the mythology that’s built up from what actually happened and what the actual surviving evidence is.
But most of Western astrology and Hellenistic astrology starts around the 1st century BCE, but there were 2,000-year-long traditions in Mesopotamia and Egypt of mundane astrology that built up to that point, so there’s a lot of history for thousands of years.
YB: And we’re talking about stargazing, not entrail-deducing. You know what I mean?
CB: Yeah, astrology started as a late form of divination, where they started noting correlations between celestial movements and earthly events, like eclipses.
YB: And we’re talking 5th century BCE.
CB: More like 2,000 BCE is when the first records of astrological omens were being recorded.
YB: Actually, funny you should mention that, because I actually know that because for one of the books I wrote, Angel Astrology 101, with a woman called Doreen Virtue—who’s since abandoned everything to do with the New Age and become a fundamentalist Christian—I was very interested. And she was kind of making the change just as we were writing the book. So she, I think, was a little bit conflicted about writing it at all with me.
YB: And so, she got me to do a whole lot of research into Jesus, for one thing, the fact that Jesus almost certainly would have known astrology because he was a Chaldean priest, and back in those days, everybody who was a Chaldean priest studied astrology.
But one thing I found when I was researching that was the oldest markings that can be found—cave markings in France—they’re 26,000-years-old. Okay, so we’re talking quite old, 26,000-years-old, the Sun and Moon cycles; the lunar cycle basically.
YB: Presumably they needed to know not when the Moon was void of course, but when the Moon was going to be full and they can actually see at night; and also, as a way to count the seasons, I suppose.
YB: But 26,000-years-old.
CB: Yeah, there’s a lot of interesting archaeoastronomy stuff with things like that, or Stonehenge and that being oriented towards the solstices and the equinoxes, which of course later became the basis of the tropical zodiac.
For people that are interested in the history of astrology, I have two favorite books that I’d recommend: one, A History of Horoscopic Astrology by James Holden, which is my favorite book on the history of astrology.
YB: I actually think I have that on my shelf and I haven’t read it yet.
CB: It’s really good.
CB: It focuses on telling the history very concisely based on telling you who the major astrologers were in any era. So it has a few-pages section on William Lilly and what his book was about and why he’s important, or it has a few-pages section on Claudius Ptolemy or Abu Ma’shar or some of the other astrologers we’ve talked about here, so that’s a really good one.
CB: The other good one is Nicholas Campion and his two-volume series titled, A History of Western Astrology, Volumes 1 & 2.
CB: So if people want to learn more about the history, I’d definitely recommend checking those out.
YB: Yeah, okay, I will because I’m getting more and more interested. I’ve always thought of myself as a really hardcore modern astrologer, but I’m more and more interested in all this.
CB: All right. Well, have you read my book?
YB: No, I will be reading your book, and I’ll be having you on my radio show to talk about it, please.
CB: I might need to send you a copy then. So you’ll have to send me your…
YB: Oh, no, I’d be delighted to buy it, with pleasure. I’ll buy it from Amazon or somewhere less politically incorrect.
CB: Yeah, fine bookstores everywhere. Well, in the UK…
YB: They’re all closed.
CB: I’m trying to think of—is it Treadwell’s?
YB: Treadwell’s, we’ve got. Daunt Books, we’ve got. Waterstones. But I’ll buy it, and I’ll read it with great interest.
CB: Watkins—that’s my favorite in London.
YB: Yes, Watkins is great.
CB: Watkins is amazing. They did a very good job when my book came out.
YB: And they’re almost certainly online now as well.
CB: Yeah. All right, cool. Well, thanks a lot for joining me today. Thanks again for this invitation and for having this conversation with me, I appreciate it.
CB: Yeah, this was perfect. And thanks to everybody for listening to this episode of The Astrology Podcast, or Yasmin’s show, wherever you’re listening to this. So thanks for listening and we’ll see you again next time.[credits]
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