The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 296, titled:
With Chris Brennan and guest Sue Ward
Episode originally released on March 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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Transcribed by Andrea Johnson
Transcription released January 28, 2022
Copyright © 2022 TheAstrologyPodcast.com
CHRIS BRENNAN: Hi, my name is Chris Brennan, and you’re listening to The Astrology Podcast. This is Episode 296, and I’m recording it today on March 17, 2021, starting at exactly 9:47 AM in Denver, Colorado. Today I’m going to be talking with astrologer Sue Ward about the considerations before judgment in horary astrology. So hey, Sue, welcome to the show.
SUE WARD: Thank you very much, Chris. It’s nice to be here—and it’s nice to see you again.
CB: Yeah, it’s been about 12 or 13 years. The last time I saw you in person was at a history conference that the Lodge was hosting, I think in October of 2008.
SW: A long time ago.
CB: Yeah, a lot has happened, but we’re going to be talking today about some of your work over the past few decades—especially in the early-to-mid-‘90s—on the considerations before judgment which you did a lot of work on, and I think it was much more controversial, I get the sense. I wasn’t around during the mid-‘90s, so I’ve had to piece together some of this history myself, but some of your interpretations were more controversial then.
But then I realized in recent years a lot of people who didn’t follow some of your interpretations—especially of the void of course Moon—have been won over and have in some instances sort of like reluctantly adopted that, so that it’s seen as a notable discovery at this point rather than something that’s more controversial. So we’ll get into the details about some of that.
I wanted to first start just by introducing you and talking about your background in astrology a bit. So how long have you been practicing astrology, or how did you get into it?
SW: Well, I’ve been studying astrology for probably about 40 years, and I’ve been saying that for a little while now, so it might be longer still. I began I think in the early ‘80s going to a class—of about eight women—by a very nice woman called Kay Way.
And I didn’t think I was going to like it. I thought it was probably going to be rubbish, but I went anyway to stop my friends from nagging me. But I was captured immediately—I mean, absolutely immediately. I became completely obsessed. I couldn’t learn fast enough—this was the trouble—so I sort of ended up tripping over myself a bit.
But she had a great library that she had collected over the years, and one day we were sort of going through the books, and she said, “Have a look at this one,” and it was Zadkiel’s bastardized version of Christian Astrology. And we had a look and I thought it was really quite quaint, very florid language—you know, the archaic English—and interested in horary.
Of course, I did not really know what that was at all—I had no idea. These questions were listed, “Will I die?” and “What’s wrong with me?”, “Will I get that job?” and so on and so forth, and I was fascinated by it. So she had a business card or an advert or something of Olivia Barclay who had relatively recently started her horary course, and I phoned Olivia, which probably in some sense was a bit of a mistake. I should just have written because I’d agreed to send her a check within about 15 minutes, but I had already begun with the faculty of Astrological Studies, so I was already studying with them, but I picked up on Olivia’s course at the same time, yeah.
CB: And the faculty at this time in the early ‘80s is teaching primarily just modern astrology of maybe the Margaret Hone-type school, right?
SW: Very, very Margaret Hone. In fact, I think one or two of the textbooks were Hone’s. As I recall, although it was contemporary and everything, she was actually far more cautious about some of the changes that were being made than I think perhaps others were. But anyway, yes it was very contemporary, so I completed that. I think it was then the intermediate course—I completed that.
CB: And that was coming off of like in the 1970s, there was more of a movement towards psychological astrology, or in some instances scientific astrology with statistical tests to attempt to validate astrology and things like that, right?
SW: Yes. I mean, one of the problems in our discussion is the problem of William Lilly, and he had been picked up as a subject for a book by Derek Parker—I’ve forgotten what it’s called now. It’s the only book that’s been written with any kind of biographical pretensions at all of William Lilly, and people kind of thought that was William Lilly.
Of course you had the old Dictionary of National Biography which had a kind of 19th century article on William Lilly, which completely slated him. Plus, Derek Parker’s—Mr. Parker’s book, it didn’t do the tradition any favors, because what they were trying to do in the ‘70s when Derek Parker’s book was published was they were trying to kind of get rid of what they called ‘superstition’ from astrology. I mean, that was never probably defined, but they said they knew what they meant. I mean, I was in no position to judge, I was so green.
So that was the big thing, and it was this push towards acceptance by ‘the academy’, whether it be scientific, or as you say, cultural. I mean, it was very difficult to tell, but yeah, there was a lot of that going on. It was a kind of an extension of what the Theosophical astrologers were doing in the earlier part of the 20th century.
CB: Okay. I mean, I would think that it would almost be like a rejection of the Theosophical astrologers and their spiritualism, which in the ‘70s, some of the popular things were like Michel Gauquelin and the ‘Mars effect’ and tests of astrology and maybe astrologers to some extent.
SW: Well, that’s true, except that, as far as I’m aware, the interpretative nature of astrology remained Theosophical.
CB: Right. Okay.
SW: So although you’ve got this idea of trying to separate it off, I mean, don’t forget the Theosophical astrologers were doing the same thing—you know, new ‘scientific’ astrology—changing the names and trying to get that word in as often as possible. I don’t know if much changed really. Yeah, you had the Gauquelin data, which people got very excited about. I don’t quite know what happened to that.
CB: Yeah. So one of the things, though, is most of that was focused on natal astrology. And part of what you discovered with Lilly and traditional astrology and starting to study with Olivia was horary astrology, which was seen at that time in the 1980s as a bit weird and sort of old-timey, right?
SW: Yeah, yeah. I think it was Jeff Mayo—in the back of one of his books—who mentions horary astrology, and he says something like “it’s of the fairground.” And this was quite widespread that it was kind of fortune-telling.
CB: Like the circus.
CB: Like the circus.
CB: Like a circus trick.
SW: Yeah, fortune-telling—tea leaves and palm reading, things like that. And that was quite common, so we felt—as we were studying—we felt almost like ‘astrological pariahs’. We were sort of on the periphery of everything. Everyone thought we were a little bit odd. When I spoke to one or two of the more experienced astrologers, they said that it was a mistake to study horary astrology so early in my studies because it was so complicated—that was the general rule.
But after a while, I was going to the Astrological Lodge in London quite a bit where you were allowed to talk about the tradition and horary without being laughed at. And Mike Edwards was a longstanding member there and a great horary astrologer, and he said to me, “I begin all of my classes with horary because it’s easier; because of its structure it’s easier.” And I always remembered that—I kept that with me. And he’s right. He was definitely right.
CB: Okay. So I know you told me at one point that you liked the fact that not only were you studying a very unusual subject with astrology in general, but you were also considered a bit weird—even within that community by others who were studying it—as a result of focusing on horary.
SW: Yes, yes, there weren’t that many of us. Somebody was giving a talk, and I’ll tell you where it was—it was at one of the Astrological Association open days. They had a horary day, right? This was a big deal, and I went, Olivia went. And I wish I could remember who it was that was talking; he said, he felt a bit like—I don’t know if you know the joke about the dirty postcard salesman who’s always got these dirty postcards here. You couldn’t say, “Want to buy a dirty card?” So he says, “Do you want to see a horary?” You know, you’ve got to keep it under your jacket and don’t tell that many people. Yeah, it was that kind of thing. Yeah, it was that kind of thing.
CB: That makes sense. That’s really funny compared to now. So part of this has to do with the early revival of traditional horary in the 1980s and early 1990s that was especially centered around the revival of William Lilly’s book, Christian Astrology—which published in 1647—and this especially came about partially due to Olivia Barclay and some of her students.
So you found Olivia at some point in the early-to-mid-1980s, and she was already practicing or moving towards a more traditional style of horary based on she had a copy of William Lilly’s text. And she was photocopying some portions of it, right, and making that available to students?
SW: The horary section, which is Book 2, she photocopied that. Just as an aside, in case people don’t know this—because it’s fascinating—her original copy, she picked up for £10. That’s about $13 or $14.
CB: Wow. And it was an original copy from 1647?
SW: Yes, yes.
CB: How did she find it—just in like a used bookstore or something?
SW: Yeah, she just tripped over it.
CB: Oh, and it was an accident.
SW: A secondhand bookshop.
CB: Okay, so she was just looking for astrology books, and she finds a 300-year-old astrology text that happens to be the first English textbook on astrology.
SW: Yes, exactly. And she said, “And afterwards, when I realized what I’d got, I did feel quite guilty for a while.” So I said, “Well, go back and give him some more money.” So she said, “No, I’m not doing that.” So yeah, £10, or $13 or $14 now. I mean, £10 was worth a bit more then.
CB: Sure. Do you happen to know roughly what year that was when she found it?
SW: I don’t. I’m sort of guessing it was the end of the ‘70s because she must have started her course—see, I can’t remember when I joined up with her. She’d been running for one or maybe two years by the time I joined, so I’m guessing probably the late ‘70s she found that book.
CB: So she had been working with Lilly’s methods then for a number of years up to that point, and started the Qualifying Horary Practitioner course which became kind of a famous course for horary, because a number of students of that course—such as yourself or other notable astrologers—ended up taking it and getting certified and then going on to be notable practitioners of horary in their own right; like you, John Frawley, Lee Lehman, Barbara Dunn, and I think Deborah Houlding, or Deborah Houlding studied through you. So you studied with Olivia and then you ended up teaching and becoming a tutor for the Qualifying Horary Practitioner course, right?
SW: Yes. Yes, that’s right. I did that for—I don’t know how long—a year or two, something like that.
CB: Okay. And then eventually you went off on your own and started teaching horary on your own.
SW: Yes—well, the tradition. It’s the tradition. Although, yes, it is horary that I focus on, what we have to keep in mind always with this is that there is only one traditional astrology and we apply it differently. Whether that be horary events, elections, or nativities—you know, mundane—it’s the same astrology.
I like to say that because it’s actually something that is a bit of a hangover from those early days where people thought it was something all on its own—horary astrology sort of existed in a vacuum. But it’s not, it’s just one application.
CB: Right. In reality, once you learn the principles of traditional astrology, you realize that a lot of them are interchangeable no matter what branch you’re applying them to.
SW: Exactly, exactly.
CB: Okay. All right, so let’s see—so are there any other notable students of Olivia? I’m just trying to give context since you were there at the beginning.
SW: Well, there were lots that started and didn’t finish.
SW: I’m trying to think—Jackie Slevin—she was a student.
SW: I worked with her for a time. Who was it that had the Ivy Goldstein-Jacobson course? Was it Gilbert Navarro?
CB: Yeah, I think Anthony Lewis told me that he studied with Gilbert Navarro or had some interaction with him.
SW: Yeah, I think he taught IGJ’s methods, and I think he may have come onto Olivia’s course at least for a time—there was some connection there. But I actually can’t remember because she did turnover quite a number of students actually, but an awful lot didn’t stay the course.
CB: Sure. And then many of them—some of her more notable students ended up having students of their own who have since become notable. Lee Lehman, for example, one of her students was Christopher Warnock, and then Christopher Warnock has gone on to teach other students since then, and there are a lot of other instances like that where since it’s been a while now, it’s created these whole lineages of astrologers.
SW: If I remember correctly, I think I was the first one to set up a course after Olivia’s course.
SW: Yes, so that would have been in the late ‘80s, early ‘90s. So that would have been the first one and then they kind of followed in fairly rapid succession after that, I think. And you’ve got numberless courses now.
CB: Yeah, and it seems like there was an explosion of the practice of traditional horary astrology and different publications set up for either traditional or for horary in particular. And this was complemented by a previous episode—Episode 212 of The Astrology Podcast—I did an episode on the reprinting of the Regulus edition of William Lilly’s Christian Astrology in 1985, which was like this huge turning point it seemed in the community.
Clive Kavan—I interviewed him when I visited London a couple of years ago in 2019 about this project to reprint the original version of Lilly’s Christian Astrology and make it available to astrologers, and that was a big sort of turning point it seemed.
SW: It was. It absolutely was—I mean, a beautiful, beautiful edition. And if anyone has the leather-bound edition, hang on to that because there weren’t very many of those printed up. I think it was something like 70 were printed. It wasn’t very many, but it is a beautiful edition. And mine is now broken to bits over the years, but it’s holding together after all that time.
CB: Because you’ve used it so much.
CB: Because you’ve used it so much.
SW: Because I’ve used it so much, yes, exactly. But what it meant and what it meant to me particularly —it’s a bit like getting rid of the priests because I could now access William Lilly directly. I also had that first book which gave you the foundation which was essential—none of us had had that. No one had been taught those fundamentals.
CB: Okay. Because the photocopies that Olivia was circulating up to that point were just Book 2, the horary part, but it wasn’t the first book.
SW: Yeah. So trying to come to grips with the astrology in Book 2 was almost impossible. It was so difficult, aside from the archaic language, so having that first book just changed my life completely. The book on nativities, later, that was my obsession—I have these obsessions. And Book 1 was an obsession for quite some time, and I turned that inside out a number of times and then moved on to Book 3, because Book 3—that’s the nativities section and the natal prediction section—some of that I’ve never heard of. Profections? Never heard of profections before. For example, primary directions, I’d never heard of before. And also the vocabulary is so rich.
So yeah, having that book did literally change my life because, I mean, you cut me half, it says ‘astrology’ all the way through the middle. I’m absolutely soaked in it. So getting that book was marvelous, marvelous. Yeah, wonderful.
CB: Okay. And part of the context is there’s horary chapters floating around in photocopies. And then there was an updated version of Lilly that was published in 1835 by Zadkiel, but it’s kind of like an abridged version where he…
SW: Oh, it’s bad.
CB: He updated it and he included new things like Uranus and newly-discovered planets and other things like that, right?
SW: I don’t know. I never ever read it. I only saw it once when my teacher showed it to me.
SW: But I mean, it’s generally accepted as being a bastardized version, and there’s no way I would touch it with a disinfected barge pole because you can’t trust what it’s got. And why should you? Why would you when you’ve got the real thing now?
CB: Yeah, I definitely agree with that. It’s just interesting that for many generations up to that point, there’s tiny bits of the practice of horary that survived in 20th century astrology in astrologers like Ivy Goldstein-Jacobson or Barbara Watters.
SW: Barbara Watters used it. Yes, she did.
CB: They tend to be drawing on the Zadkiel edition of Lilly.
SW: I don’t know which one, because we had to also study Watters and Jacobson for Olivia’s course. And Watters also was something of a Ptolemy scholar—she knew Ptolemy too. So yeah, but nevertheless it was very modern. No, I think—yeah, sorry, I interrupted you. Carry on.
CB: I was basically there’s a little bit of practice of horary in let’s say mid-20th century astrology, but it tends to come from these later versions of Lilly from Zadkiel that are, at the very best, like an abridgment of Lilly, but at the worst, I think you used more strong language than that.
SW: No, no, that’s not rude. That’s a proper word—it’s in the dictionary.
CB: Okay, well, there’s lots of words in the dictionary that I’m not allowed to use in polite company.
SW: I’m sorry.
CB: No, that’s fine.
SW: It’s not a swear word. It is proper.
CB: Right. So there’s Ivy Goldstein-Jacobson, there’s Barbara Watters, and then there’s like a version of horary that’s floating around, which is like a more modern version that contains some traditional elements, but also has many modern elements and some things that have changed and the considerations are ones that we’ll get to.
I know around 1985, one of the things I noticed that was interesting in the timeline in trying to piece together Derek Appleby’s book on horary astrology—titled Horary Astrology: An Introduction to the Astrology of Time—came out. And that was something that seemed like it was somewhat in line with some of the modern tradition in being somewhat influenced by Lilly, but also taking into account other things from Ivy Goldstein-Jacobson or other horary astrologers.
SW: I think he was an IGJ student originally. Yeah, I think he was.
CB: Got it. So part of the appeal then after the Regulus edition of Lilly came out is that people were reading Lilly directly on their own again. Olivia’s approach was still very much influenced by modern views of horary by people like Ivy or Barbara Watters. But then, all of a sudden, there’s this new generation of astrologers like yourself who are getting into Lilly much earlier, and they’re getting into Lilly directly through the source, with no intermediaries, and then starting to struggle with that text and read it and do textual analysis of Lilly.
So sometimes this textual analysis would inform or modify the techniques employed, and sometimes reading the text raised questions or discrepancies, and the considerations before judgment is one of those areas where some of these discrepancies came up.
SW: Yes. Yes, that’s right. We had noticed, as you know, they were regarded as strictures earlier in that you couldn’t judge a chart if one of them arose. And that’s pretty much how people practiced, and it was one of the complaints from people outside of horary astrology. There were so many charts that you just can’t judge because one of these things—these strictures—comes up and you’re stuffed.
CB: Were there other areas where textual analysis—before we get to the considerations—where reading the text directly—the original text of Lilly—brought up issues or debates? What sort of debates were had—aside from the considerations—amongst other people who were reading Lilly?
SW: Well, yes, but this is what I’m saying. Because it was drilled into us that they were strictures, you were more likely to notice them when they came up in a published chart. So you were already tuned in—conditioned—to spot these things; it might be at a conference or an evening at the Lodge or something. If somebody had put a chart up, and one of these strictures was in place, everyone would jump on it, so we thought we knew what they were.
So now being able to read Christian Astrology with this background of Book 1, now you can start to see. You look at his chart examples and you say, “Well, hang on a minute, the Moon’s void of course here,” or “That’s a late Ascendant,” or “Saturn’s in the 1st. What’s he doing? These are strictures—they should not be there.”
But of course the suspicion was that Lilly was a charlatan and that he actually was cheating, or he was wrong or something, because there were many detractors—Maurice wasn’t the only one. And of course Olivia took this very personally. Well, the one thing you can say about Olivia, she was like an encyclopedia. She could quote page numbers, one after the other, after the other from Christian Astrology. She knew exactly where these arguments were—absolutely phenomenal. I mean, I can’t do it. Yeah, so these things were constant battles amongst the community.
CB: So one of the things that people like yourself were doing is they were reading Lilly and basically committing it to memory, so that people like you or Olivia knew every square inch of that text eventually.
SW: No, I wouldn’t memorize. It’s just for Olivia, yes, she was looking for ammunition really to defend what she was doing and to defend William Lilly. So that is what she was doing—she could do the chapter and verse thing.
For me, it’s been three separate restarts. I’ve rebooted my astrology three separate times—and not including the first time—through Christian Astrology. So I know the book pretty well because I’ve been through it from cover-to-cover at various times. So yeah, I mean, that’s not memorizing. My memory is awful—there’s no way I can remember all of that. And that’s the other thing about it, you don’t have to, the book’s there.
CB: Right. Sure. Okay, so I guess let’s jump into our main topic fully then, since you’ve started to go there. So Lilly has a section on the considerations before judgment in Christian Astrology, and he seems to have standardized a bunch of rules—miscellaneous rules—that he picked up in earlier authors.
For example, Guido Bonatti who lived in the 12th or 13th century was one of the people that he took some of these rules from, and they sort of were like, generally speaking, things that you’re supposed to take into account before judging a horary question. And in some instances it might tell you something to be careful about in the chart, and in other instances it might be something to tell you to avoid reading the chart altogether is one of the ways that they were interpreted, I think, by different astrologers.
Let me actually show an image of this, because I took a picture of just where it starts on page 121 of Christian Astrology yesterday, and it’s just this section—it’s towards the end of Book 1. So the entirety of Book 1 is basic concepts and definitions, and it goes through the signs and the planets and the houses. And then at the very end of Book 1, he just has this section titled “Considerations before Judgment” where he introduces this topic right before transitioning into Book 2 where he introduces horary astrology proper essentially, right?
SW: Yeah, that’s right. So if I could just say first, before we enter the details of this, Christian Astrology is a massive compilation of his tradition—the authorities of his tradition—so it’s a huge compilation. You’ve seen his bibliography—it’s massive, so he’s read this.
It’s not just Bonatti, which, by the way, Clive Kavan also published Anima Astrologiae—which was some of Bonatti’s considerations and Cardan’s—which was translated by Lilly and Coley; so he produced a very nice copy of that too. So it’s not just Bonatti—although Lilly did favor him—he mentions in those considerations al-Kindi, but there are many other authors.
So what he’s doing is he’s pulling it all together, and what he says in his introduction is that he is trying to systematize the material which has never been done before. He’s not talking about revising. When he says, “This is my method. I’ve methodized this,” he’s talking about the systematized—the structure of the book.
SW: “Okay, this has not been done before,” he says. And he’s pulled together all those authors, so you’re going to find throughout that book evidence of his sources.
SW: But the beauty of it is that he also applies it with his own experience. So you’re going to find his sources popping up all through the book, very little of the theory. Unless he says it, very little of that theory is his—it’s not coming out of his head. He has translated it and put it into English and organized it, but he will say when it’s his experience or his method.
CB: Yeah, that seems to be one of the marks of all of the great traditional astrologers is that there’s this blend or this synthesis between, on the one hand, them reading and synthesizing whatever authors they had available to them, and sometimes prioritizing certain authors that they think are more important authorities or have the best rules and interpretations.
And then on the other hand, astrologers like Lilly actually putting those rules into practice and seeing what works for them by seeing lots of clients and applying the principles on a day-to-day basis until they eventually form a system of their own that’s a blend between what they’ve inherited versus what they think works in practice, and that’s kind of what Christian Astrology is.
SW: Yeah, quite. I mean, what they had was respect for their forebears. And actually it wasn’t just respect, that was the convention at the time. If you didn’t show that you knew who your preceding authorities were, then you were counted to be uneducated and ignorant. So it was very much a part of their tradition, as far as I know, that you did always refer back.
And actually in Christian Astrology, he parts company—I can’t remember why now—he parts company with Ptolemy, and he says to the reader, “I’m sorry that I’ve done this, but I am differing with him. But know that everything I do now has been informed by everything I’ve read up to date.” So though he says he’s kind of breaking slightly with tradition here, he has been informed by that very tradition, so he’s not doing anything outrageous.
CB: Yeah, so it’s always the tension between those two. Because occasionally, he’ll cite what the authorities say, but then he’ll say, “But this doesn’t quite work for me.” Or sometimes he does have—not disagreements—but maybe certain authors he’s not in full agreement with, right?
SW: Well, that’s right. I mean, I think you find a lot of that actually in the 7th house where he’s doing lost and mislaid and stolen articles. There are so many conflicting theories throughout that section—it’s a big section, big chapter—because he’s pulling them in from all over the place, and then you find Lilly’s ‘best experience’ rules, this section where he’s put together where he’s actually worked with this.
He’s pulling from the Arabs—the ‘Arabs’ in quotes. He’s pulling from the Arabs, and they were busying themselves with trying to get this all organized and pushing the boundaries of astrology and finding out—they were great explorers of science—and he’s trying to make sense of what he’s reading when you’ve got conflicting arguments coming from different authors.
So he’s trying to make sense of that, and he does help. Really, his experience—what I think has been worked out—he was doing something like eight client charts a day, everyday. I don’t know anyone now who does anything like that.
CB: And these were people that were coming to see him or sometimes writing letters. And I think you said that you had access to some of his private working files, and that he sometimes would start at 7:00 AM and then he would just work and see clients the rest of the day.
SW: Yes, he’d keep going. I mean, they would use daylight of course as much as possible. Walking the streets of London in the dark wasn’t something to be recommended, particularly since the streets were quite often filthy—you could see what you were treading in, for example.
But yes, he did—and by letter—sometimes nativities and other work. But that was interesting because the only real obstacle I could see to his reading—to his working—was when he kind of stopped in the middle of the day, and it appeared anyway that he didn’t pick up again until I think it was the following day. I’m testing my memory here, but there was a big gap.
And what had happened—what was happening astrologically was the Moon had moved into the later degrees of the sign, and it had done that in Gemini. So you can speculate that he’d stopped because of that; he stopped working because of that. You could also speculate that he was hungry or needed to go to the toilet or something, or had to go to the shops for something as well. But yeah, that was the only time I could find. And I haven’t looked at all of his workbooks—you know, only two or three. So yeah, there are others, but that was the one that stood out.
CB: Got it. Let’s see, so going back to the considerations, let me just read—or do you want to read this first paragraph from Christian Astrology, just where he introduces?
SW: Yes. All the Ancients that have wrote of Questions, doe give warning to the Astrologer, that before he deliver judgment he well consider whether the Figure is radicall and capable of judgment; the Question then shall be taken for radicall, or fit to be judged, when as the Lord of the hour at the time of proposing the Question, and erecting the Figure, and the Lord of the Ascendant or first House, are of one Triplicity, or be one, or of the same nature. Is that enough?
CB: Yeah, that’s brilliant, thank you. So that’s how he introduces the considerations. And this is in 1647 when he originally writes this, and by the time of the 1970s, some of these considerations had been around for centuries and passed on in what little practice of horary survived into the 20th century. They eventually morphed into strictures in horary practice—or what became known as strictures—and started being interpreted as rules meaning that the chart can’t or shouldn’t be judged or interpreted.
So ultimately, this was partially derived from Lilly, but long-removed from his direct source texts. So Ivy Goldstein-Jacobson called them ‘cautions’, and then eventually in her 1973 book, Horary Astrology and the Judgment of Events, Barbara Watters referred to them as ‘strictures’.
And then it seems like this term ‘stricture’ started becoming popular and started being common by the time of that first generation of traditional horary astrologers in the 1980s. I noticed Carol Wiggers using the term ‘stricture’ in the first issue of the Horary Practitioner in 1989. So this was like a common idea that if one of these considerations came up that you weren’t supposed to interpret the horary chart at all.
SW: That’s right. Yes, that’s right. Absolutely right. And of course I forgot about Carol Wiggers. She was a student too. Yes, that’s absolutely correct. I kind of suspect that it was a hangover—a kind of New Agey superstition that you were being told something; that you’d be best to step away. Like Mission Impossible, this chart was going to explode in front of you if you didn’t accept the mission.
CB: Right, right, because the considerations were passed on—sort of roughly speaking—from Lilly, and so they were viewed as something that was centuries-old and probably venerable. But there was this air of danger if these showed up, and some astrologers took that so seriously that they advised you just to not even touch the horary chart if they appear.
SW: Yeah, that’s right. Yeah, I mean, that was the feeling you got. And I suppose if you want to move forward to Maurice McCann’s critique, he kind of called everybody out on that really.
CB: Right. So this is where you come in and your story, which is that astrologers in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s noticed that Lilly actually still read some horary charts where the considerations were present. There were chart examples in Christian Astrology where the considerations are there.
So there’s suddenly a disconnect between this modern notion that you should never read a horary chart where the considerations are present versus this realization—once the original text of Lilly was available again—that he actually did read some charts where the considerations were there. And Maurice McCann was one of the first that really jumped on and focused on this a lot. But you also noted that Olivia noticed this but didn’t broadcast it because she didn’t want to undermine Lilly.
SW: Yeah, I had the conversation with her. I remember having the conversation. And I think Maurice had maybe written his article, or maybe had told her he was going to write this article—I can’t remember now where we were at. No, no, no—it was before the article, and he had said that he’d picked this up.
And I said, “But it’s—whatever it was—void of course. In that chart, that Moon is void of course.” And she said, “Yes, I know,” but kind of “Shhh, don’t tell anybody, but it’s void of course and he’s judging it.” But I still was thinking in terms of strictures at that time, so it seemed odd. It was questionable to say the least.
CB: Okay, so originally coming into astrology, and especially traditional astrology in the mid-2000s—I think I read my first horary book in 2004 or something like that—I noticed that it seemed like there had been a bunch of discussion amongst Olivia’s students about this discrepancy. But recently, I’m realizing this was something that came up or was discovered primarily by Maurice who started talking about it. So this is Maurice McCann who was an Irish astrologer that was active especially in the 1980s and 1990s, and he passed away in 2001, I believe.
So he published an article in 1992 titled, “Lilly Says…A Reference to the Considerations before Judgment,” in the Astrology Quarterly, Vol. 63, No. 1, Winter of 1992. And what he did is he went through and he tabulated the number of charts where Lilly had considerations before judgment present but still interpreted the chart, and he pointed out the number of times that these were present indicated that it was like a rule that Lilly wasn’t actually following in some way.
And he made a very strong argument then saying the considerations for judgment—I think he tried to argue—were worthless and should be rejected at the most extreme; or at the very least he said early on maybe something softer, that they should be contemplated or reflected on, but not something that should tell you whether the chart should be judged or not. I mean, it seems like this was a really pivotal article that a number of people took note of, but you especially were affected by and reacted to it very strongly.
SW: I think what it demonstrates is how useful the new Regulus edition was, because, as you said, people were now beginning to read it properly instead of accepting things, making assumptions. But Maurice was as conditioned as the rest of us, and we were all making assumptions and speculating. And also, the thing that always aggravates me is when people assume that because they don’t understand something, there’s something wrong with the text, with the source, when it could just be their level of understanding. They need to stop and think a bit harder, and this was going on.
I mean, Maurice had found something, and he used to do this quite a lot. He would find something that was really quite spot-on, but he’d run off on a tangent. He’d kind of get all excited and then run off on a tangent and lose it. And this was really what he did here because he made a number of mistakes in that article, which I think had he slowed down a little bit, he wouldn’t have made—but it was an open goal for me.
But what he did do was he made me read through every chart and check every chart, and then keep going back to that section that I just read out—you know, the considerations before judgment. Check them. Check them. Go back. Go back. Go back. And this took a long time to write—a long time. So he did us all a favor actually because he called us all out on this.
CB: So it was a surprise because up until that point what had become the strictures were taken so seriously by some in the horary tradition, and this raised the question then of what was the purpose of the considerations if they were not supposed to be used to reject horary charts entirely.
SW: Well, because everybody slipped over onto the IGJ ‘caution’ thing, and started talking about them being ‘cautions’, which is fine, nothing wrong with that, but the detail was important. And Maurice had kind of suspected that in his work—that is to say, he kind of slipped off the side—because he was interested in demolishing Lilly and Lilly’s arguments.
CB: Right, it seems like he sometimes had a tendency to do that with analyzing sources. When I met him the first and only time—when I met you at that Lodge history conference—I remember he gave a talk that was on Bonatti and how Bonatti used some hypothetical chart examples that were astronomically-impossible.
And his conclusion from that was that Bonatti didn’t know what he was talking about or something like that. Like he took it to a somewhat extreme conclusion that I was a little bit surprised by, and I know my friend Ben Dykes was there—who had translated Bonatti—was also surprised by it.
So this was also something he did with Lilly similarly where he noticed this discrepancy where Lilly used the considerations—or interpreted charts even though the considerations were present—and he drew somewhat extreme conclusions about Lilly and Lilly’s practice as a result of that.
SW: Yes, it really was. And what you can see once you’ve read mine and how I’ve answered, how I’ve replied to his criticisms, you can see where he’s gone wrong—and I think he did later too. And then after the Lodge one—this was a little while after all of this—he was in the pub, and he saw me and he said, “Ha, I’ve got him this time.” I said, “You’ve got who?” “Lilly. I’ve got him. I’ve got him.” I said, “Oh, really? What have you got him on this time?” He said, “The receptions. I’ve got him on the receptions.” I said, “Well done, Maurice,” and he wrote an article and I had to reply to that one as well. So he kind of had a bee in his bonnet about Lilly.
CB: Sure. So I wanted to mention really quickly some of my reconstruction of the history of some of this in the 20th century horary, I wanted to acknowledge Lee Lehman and her “Entry on Horary Astrology” in the second edition of The Astrology Book by James R. Lewis that was published in 2003, because it was actually kind of useful in piecing some of this together.
So some astrologers, though, came to different conclusions about what Maurice’s discovery meant for the considerations before judgment. So some astrologers like John Frawley claimed that the considerations were meaningless and they were just used by some astrologers—or concocted by some astrologers—to get out asking horary questions when they didn’t want to answer them.
And I remember hearing this a lot. It became a very popular statement to repeat that many of Frawley’s students repeated in the 2000s that always really annoyed and drove me crazy for a period. And you don’t hear it as much anymore, but I know there was a period in the 2000s where it was just like lots of people were repeating that statement. So that was one instance…
SW: Yeah, they were repeating that statement like they repeated the statement about the strictures.
SW: It’s the same kind of conditioning, yeah.
CB: Yeah, so that always bothered me because there was no historical evidence for that. Like he didn’t find a manuscript where Bonatti or somebody said that they just made them up to get out of answering questions. It was just an attempt to explain the disconnect between the idea of the strictures versus Maurice’s discovery that Lilly still used charts even when the considerations were present.
So that was one conclusion for Maurice. One of the things you’ve said is that it was kind of an indication—or his conclusion was that Lilly didn’t know what he was doing. For others, though, like you, you made the conclusion that the considerations were just useful pieces of information to take into account, and Maurice’s critique prompted you to do a careful analysis of the considerations and to go back over Lilly’s chart examples to see how he actually interpreted those charts. So you ended up writing an article as a direct response to Maurice in the Astrology Quarterly. It was titled, “Lilly’s Method: A Response to Maurice McCann,” in Vol. 63, No. 2, Spring 1993 of the Astrology Quarterly journal.
And you went through and did this careful analysis partially because one of the things that Maurice did that I noticed in his article was that he just tabulated everything and added up the numbers, so that it was just a sort of numerical tabulation of which considerations were present in which chart examples. And he went through and counted each of the considerations and how many times one of those showed up according to his tabulation in different ones.
For example, some of the numbers for like whether the lord of the hour consideration was present or whether it was not present, the numbers were kind of even on that, or whether there were charts with an early degree rising or a late degree rising, or the Moon void of course or what have you, so he did this kind of numerical tabulation.
But one of the things I noticed you did in your response article is that you kind of rejected that approach because you argued that it was important to go through each example and take them each on their own terms. And when you did that, it turned out that many of the considerations were sometimes incorporated into Lilly’s delineation in some notable way.
SW: Yeah. I think this is a topic that needs to be—this is a subject that needs to be grasped. Context is everything in horary.
SW: Every chart. This is why it’s so difficult. That tabulation is okay, but it’s very, very difficult to do that for very long. And it’s one of the reasons why you can’t really prove it according to modern scientific standards because you need the context, which potentially makes every single horary chart different from every other single horary chart.
So Maurice had completely forgotten about context when he did that. And by doing what he did—doing that tabulation—he’s quite clearly not reading the judgment. He’s just looking at the chart—the chart square itself. So that’s very limiting, particularly for an astrologer. It’s very limiting. You have to look at what the context was, what the background was. I mean, you just have to look at the judgment, which is what of course Lilly was doing.
CB: Right. And you took into account Lilly’s workbooks, and you argued for retaining the considerations against Maurice’s apparent attempt to just reject them entirely. And part of what you showed in the statistical approach being misplaced was that in many instances where the considerations were present, there were mitigating conditions in the chart examples that sort of explained why the chart was still relevant or why that consideration was not a major deal-breaker.
In some instances, you pointed out areas where he incorrectly included event charts instead of horary charts, so that the consideration wasn’t relevant because it was an electional chart or an inception chart. In many other instances, you pointed out instances where the consideration actually gave relevant information that was incorporated into Lilly’s interpretation or that described the situation in some way.
SW: Yes. And of course this was all new to me. I maybe would change some of my views of his judgments now, but certainly that was all new to me then. So it was absolutely fascinating to work on this—truly fascinating—and you get the gist that he’s a working astrologer, that Christian Astrology is a primer; it was the first of its type in this country. He is not going to be publishing anything that is going to be contentious. He’s not going to lay himself open to more criticism than he already had by publishing in the first place, so you have to start from that premise rather than.
And I saw in that slide you showed of Maurice’s article that he said, “by today’s standards.” These charts, by today’s standards—you can’t do that. You cannot judge a 350-year-old chart by today’s standards. You have to judge them by their standards, otherwise it’s just not fair, is it? So there it is, right at the bottom: “Strictly speaking, by today’s standards, these are the only horoscopes that are fit to be judged.” This is a big mistake.
CB: Right, because he says at the end—after tabulating and coming up with a lot of instances where the considerations are present—he says: “The only truly radical charts according to the modern interpretation of Lilly’s considerations are: [the examples that appear on] pp. 389, 436, 439, and 452,” so basically, four charts.
So his point was that if you take these considerations and you reject any horary charts where they’re present—according to the modern interpretation of the considerations before judgment—then there’s only four examples in Lilly that would survive that should have been included in Christian Astrology.
SW: And this is a fatal mistake when you’re looking at historical texts. You can’t judge by today’s standards. I mean, any historian worth their salt attempts at least to sympathize with the period that they’re dealing with—to show some sensitivity. And that was completely lacking there, and I think that’s why it went wrong—part of the reason it went wrong. If you start from the position that somebody is a crook, then everything you turn up is going to support your premise.
CB: Right. I mean, it’s an interesting issue that astrologers run into sometimes when they try to do historical studies of ancient texts or older texts, especially from different languages or earlier centuries and cultures. Sometimes an astrologer—even despite their best efforts—can have preconceptions going into it about what they expect to find or what certain definitions are, and sometimes that will color their interpretation when they’re reading the text.
SW: Well, objectivity is impossible of course—complete objectivity—even for the most experienced and knowledgeable historians, but you have to attempt it, and I’m talking about in a historical sense. In an interpretative sense, no, then you’re wholly subjective. But in terms of interpretation, the objectivity should already be deeply ingrained in your training.
CB: Sure. But I guess the issue is that many astrologers—like in the first generation of astrologers who were struggling with Lilly, for example, and reading this 17th century text that had suddenly become available again—you astrologers at that time were having to learn critical analysis or textual analysis and were kind of doing it on the fly or teaching yourselves how to study historical texts in this way.
SW: Certainly it was true for me, yes.
CB: Yeah. But for you, it wasn’t just a historical text, it was also a living document with doctrines that you hoped to incorporate into your practice.
SW: Yes, that’s true. Absolutely. I mean, I actually do think about astrology almost as an entity. So having a book of it like that—particularly that particular book—is a very special exposition of that. It’s an expression, if you like, of that entity. So it’s that entity speaking because he had respect for his art, and he had respect—well, he was devout Christian for starts, as most of them were. Well, perhaps Ashmole wasn’t, but he was.
So there was a kind of respect. Whilst all the world was changing around him at that time—with plague and civil wars, the Restoration, and so on and so forth, everything was changing—he maintained a line throughout his published career, and it was the same line for 40 years thereabouts.
CB: Okay. When I was reading your articles—both Maurice’s article and then your response to it—it seemed like one of the things that you were slightly annoyed about was that you had a stronger reverence for that text, for Lilly in particular, and your reverence made you—not defer to it, but gave you a deeper appreciation for it and a desire to understand it on its own terms better and sort of annoyance with anybody who might reject it out of hand.
SW: Yeah, rejecting it on educated grounds is one thing, rejecting it from ignorance is another. And as I said to you earlier, the thing that really does get to me is when people don’t test their own understanding first before criticizing something or someone for not teaching them properly or not explaining properly. And when that happens, you have to stop and think, is it my understanding? You can’t ask him to explain again, but you can go back to the text and reread. And too often people go in with expectations or assumptions based on a superficial understanding of the tradition, not just of Christian Astrology.
It’s like the historian has to have a kind of sensitivity to the period he or she is dealing with. You have to, otherwise you’re never going to crack the nut—never. And this is the same with astrology. Open your mind up, show a little bit of humility, and ask the questions of the text. And keep asking the questions. Don’t tell it what you think it should be. Ask, and then you get your answers. It all becomes clear.
CB: That makes sense. All right, so here’s the article from the Astrology Quarterly—Maurice’s original article in 1992—and then your response to him, which came out in 1993. So the gist of it is that you argued and were able to point out that Lilly did actually seem to pay attention to the considerations to some extent, he just didn’t completely reject charts in all instances based on them.
So this article came out in 1993. It was reprinted a few times in different journals. I’ll put a link to it—where people can read it on The Astrology Podcast website—in the show notes for this episode, so people can check it out because it was a really great article and discussion about the considerations. So let’s actually talk about them at this point and get into the individual considerations and what they are about. So the considerations are on pages 121 through 123 of Christian Astrology, and you read the first one earlier.
CB: But one of the points that’s actually important is that even though people focus on that two or three pages where they first appear at the very end of Book 1, he actually repeats many of the considerations later on in a section titled, “Aphorisms and Considerations for Better Judging any Horary Question,” on pages 298 through 302, which is I think towards the beginning of his interpretations for 7th house horary questions, right?
SW: Mm-hmm. I believe so, yes, yes.
CB: Okay. So in the original treatment, though, at the end of Book 1, it seems like there are 12 discrete considerations before judgment in the initial section. If you incorporate the later ones that appear in Book 2, it might raise it to 13 or more. But for the sake of just focusing on the initials—which then got passed down as part of the tradition—it seems like it’s broken down into 12.
And Lilly uses specific language that I tried to write down when describing them—one of the words that he uses is calling them ‘warnings’. But he has this discussion and he starts using this terminology of whether the chart is radical or rooted or has a strong foundation at this point, saying: “whether the figure is radical and capable of judgment: the question shall be taken for radical or fit to be judged,” and so on and so forth. So maybe this would be a good point to discuss what that means for a question to be radical or not radical.
SW: Yeah, good idea because you have to ‘question’ the question before you can get into the considerations before judgment. And of course he does talk about that, as do other authors—early authors. They talk about the horary question. First and foremost, all questions are not horary questions. A horary question is the question put to the astrologer and only then.
Now that sounds obvious, but actually in the early days, people weren’t doing that. People were kind of listening to a conversation and somebody would say, “Well, it’d be good if I could find out if I was going to buy that house.” And the ‘undercover’ horary astrologer would then look at their watch, take the time, then do a surreptitious chart. Well, you can’t do that. That was not a horary question, that was just a question in general conversation.
The idea is that by approaching the astrologer with your horary question, you are now part of a magical process. This is a process whereby the astrologer is taking over for you and is putting your question to the heavens. The Moon is your transmitter, your modem.
So they prayed, they’ve done their bit—as certain authors recommend that they pray for a day and a night, not if it’s urgent of course—to pray for a day and a night to get the question right. They’ve got the problem, now they’ve got to have a question. Now they approach the astrologer and that now becomes a horary question.
CB: Right, that was especially emphasized in the early horary question where the question had to be important. It had to be not pointless or not a frivolous question—that’s the word I was looking for. And also, in some authors, the person had to have been important, and the person needs to have thought about it for I think Bonatti says like a 24-hour period or something.
SW: It’s a day and a night.
CB: A day and a night?
CB: Okay. And I think Lilly says something similar. He says unless it’s some really pressing, important matter or something like that.
SW: Yeah, they want people to pray. I mean, this was their way of doing things. And this was pre-Christian, they would be doing this. The same principles would apply that you are properly directed to make a clear question.
Now once it’s gone to the astrologer, it’s not the astrologer’s responsibility to make sure they understand that question. That too sounds very simple, but I know from my early days, I used to get myself in a right twist over this, and of course that affected the timing of the question.
And this is the essence—this is a word I use a lot in astrology is finding that ‘essence’. It’s that really deep down kernel of truth, and this is what it is about the question. The essence of the question is finding out what the querent wants in an ideal world. So if money is no object, if you could move the Earth three feet to the left, if everything was ideal, what would be the outcome you would want?
Once you have that, now you understand the question. Once the querent has been honest with you—because they aren’t always. They don’t mean to lie, it’s just they might be a bit embarrassed or may not be that clear about their own question anyway, so what you ask is what is their ideal result. Once you have that, now you understand, now you set your time, and now you ask the heavens for your answer.
So that’s the essence of the question. Even I’m making it sound really simple—and it is fairly straightforward—but that’s why you’ve got these considerations. Because you can’t always trust the question because the question can be wobbly. I mean, I’ve had questions—for example, in the early days—where somebody would ask a really sort of wooly question like, “Will this relationship go somewhere?”
We all know what they mean or kind of—it’s a sort of everyday way of putting things—but what you really have to find out is what is the ideal. And 9 times out 10, it’s that they want to be married to that person but won’t say it; they just won’t come out and say the ‘marriage’ word. So you have to kind of say, “What is your ideal?” No holds barred, nothing’s going to stand in the way of what is your ideal, if you keep pushing, pushing, and pushing—so that’s the kind of thing.
Now if you went in and said, “Will we stay together? Is this a worthwhile relationship?” You’re going to get into a terrible tangle with something like that. I mean, what is worthwhile? What do we mean by that?
So I think the question and the importance of the horary question is the reason for these considerations and so many of them, and why the Arabs—again, ‘Arabs’ in quotes—why they were pushing boundaries, as I said earlier, and really exploring outwards into the finer, finer detail and actually creating this fine detail. They had to be careful.
I mean, Olivia would say, “Well, if you’re going to get your head chopped off, you’re going to be quite careful about giving your answer.” But that is why the question is very, very important. And if it’s not properly-constructed and not properly understood, then you’re going to get these kinds of problems.
CB: Right. I was talking to an astrologer from Australia—Rob Bailey—who does traditional horary about this, and he had written a paper that he hasn’t published yet, but he was trying to trace the origin of some of the considerations back to earlier authors in the earlier Medieval tradition. And one of the things that we talked about was how it seemed like some of the considerations just go back to this real emphasis that some of the earlier astrologers had on the question being important, and the emphasis on it being an important question that was also like a valid horary question.
And one of the distinctions I sometimes see between ancient horary—in the Medieval and even Renaissance period—versus modern horary is I feel like there’s more of a tendency sometimes in modern times to accept sort of frivolous questions, or for horary to be applicable to any sort of question versus…
SW: And I’ll tell you why—because you can whack it out on the computer in no time, on an iPad or something like that. There’s no work involved.
CB: It’s easier to calculate charts now, so people will just cast charts for anything. Do you think that’s part of it?
SW: Yes, I do. Oh, very much so. Obviously, when I was calculating charts, we didn’t have the computerized programs and applications. You know, some people had scientific calculators that had been programmed with something or other, but I didn’t have one of those, and I managed to calculate and draw up a chart. I could do this in 20 minutes. Hand-calculate, hand-draw, get a chart up in 20 minutes—that was fast. But nevertheless, it’s a bit different to a couple of nanoseconds on the computer.
SW: Those people are called ‘figure-flingers’. They’ll just go in to throw up questions. And one thing I always tell my students is to print the chart, don’t try and read it off the screen. Print it, because it’s still virtual up on the screen. Ground it. Bring it down to Earth and put it on paper because that’s how it always was looked at, and then it becomes real. It’s no good looking at it. I mean, I’ve tried and it’s never that successful.
CB: Okay. Yeah, so it seems like that’s really important. And this gets back to the idea of radicality and this term ‘radical’. It’s from the Latin term radix, which means ‘root’ or ‘foundation’. And the considerations have to do with the description of the chart and that being the ultimate test of radicality, which is, does the chart match the question?
And one of the points that you make in your article is that the rules were meant to protect the astrologer and to give them useful information. The other thing is that it seems to help to confirm the serious intent on the part of the querent and also to establish the seriousness versus the frivolity of the querent.
And the very first consideration that Lilly gives comes from Bonatti, and Bonatti spends a decent bit of time talking about how part of his issue is that sometimes people would come to him to either test him or to try to trick him in some way, and he kept noticing certain things coming up when that would happen. And that seems to be the origin at least of one of the considerations—just a desire to weed out serious questions (or real questions versus not-real ones) by saying that certain things would come up in those instances where these things were present.
SW: Yeah, you see the thing we’ve lost with computers—and I love computers. I absolutely adore gadgets, I love it. I love computerized anything. But the thing we’ve lost as astrologers is we don’t know what’s happening.
If you are drawing up even three or four charts in a day—and I mean for that day; we’re talking maybe horary questions—you know exactly where everything is. You know what’s moving, what’s fast, what’s slow, what’s retrograde, what’s direct, what’s stationing. You know what the planetary hour is, you know roughly where the planets are, you can gauge it in the sky, you can even roughly work out where the Ascendant is—all of those things you get from manually-calculating and drawing a chart, which is what they had.
So when you were saying that Bonatti would notice this or the other thing, he knew in his head because he’s dealing with it all the time, all day long. When somebody comes in and it’s a Mars hour, he’s got to think, “Whoa, hold on a minute. What’s going on?” If he knows that maybe Scorpio’s rising, he’s going to be more cautious. So you listen to those people because they were ‘working at the coalface’.
CB: That’s a really good point. So part of where the considerations come from is the more divinatory origins of horary, and that you pay attention to everything that’s happening in the moment of the horary question as being relevant and giving you relevant information about what is happening in that moment and how it relates to not just the outcome of the person’s question, but also what led them to ask the question, and what is in the mind of or what is in the inner thoughts of that person who’s come to you at that moment as a client.
SW: Yes. As I said—I mentioned it once—it’s a magical process. And if you’re involved in a magical process, you ought to make sure that it’s as clean as possible, that you stay on the right side of things. You don’t want to get into trouble. You don’t want your self to be contaminated or corrupted by something that the querent is doing.
So that’s another reason for these considerations. It isn’t just that you’re going to get into trouble if you get it wrong, or somebody’s going to take the mickey out of you. You do it because it’s part of divination, it’s part of your soul. It’s keeping your soul clean. I mean, these things I didn’t know when I first wrote those articles. I was not aware of that. These are things that I’ve come to understand in later years.
But that, I suspect, is at the bottom of these considerations. It’s not as mechanical as we tend to look at it. It’s much more to do with, yeah, protecting themselves, but also making sure that they’re not getting dragged into something they shouldn’t be dragged into.
CB: That makes sense.
SW: Because it is a magical process. You are speaking to the gods.
CB: Because part of what happens with a horary question is that there is an exchange where a question is posed by the querent—or by a client—to an astrologer. And then one of things that is kind of magical and interesting and weird about this is that the astrologer themselves gets implicated in the question, and the horary chart—which is cast for the moment when the question is posed to the astrologer—doesn’t just reflect the querent and the nature of their question and its outcome, but also sometimes you can see the astrologer’s role in the chart itself as well, and that’s partially where the considerations come from.
SW: Yes, exactly. I mean, what you’re talking about is you’re kind of the middle-person—you’re the querent’s agent, in a sense. But you’re also the heaven’s agent to querent, if you see what I mean. So you’re working two ways, much like the Moon does. The Moon is the modem, so it goes both ways, and you’re in the way.
So as my friend would say, if that ‘mystic’ anvil in the sky is going to drop on anybody because something’s gone wrong, it’s going to be you because you’re in the way. As the astrologer, you’re the one that’s stuck their head above the parapet and is speaking to the gods, so that’s another reason for showing some respect and a little humility, you see. So all these things come together, and you see them in these considerations. You see those cautions, trying to be prepared for the worst.
You know, in the old days, when they were doing their magic, they would call it ‘suffumigation’, ‘to clear the room’. They would suffumigate the room to make sure that it was clear of all evil influences. In a sense, the considerations before judgment are a bit like that. They’re suffumigating the chart so it’s a bit safer for you to proceed, and safer for the client of course, too.
CB: Right. Okay, I think that makes a lot of sense. And I think some of the considerations can be understood better in the context of almost like a consultation chart, or what I call the consultation chart framework, which is that…
SW: Oh, okay. Yeah, I know what you mean.
CB: …when somebody poses you a question and you’re receiving it as an astrologer, it’s also sort of setting up something similar to what modern astrologers call a ‘consultation chart’.
SW: Yes, I understand.
CB: You cast a chart for the moment a consultation begins, and it’s supposed to tell you something about how that consultation will go. And some of these rules focus on not what the querent is doing or thinking, but sometimes how it will relate to you, the astrologer, and the astrologer gets assigned to the 7th house in that context.
SW: Mm-hmm, that’s true. I mean, this is such a huge subject, Chris. When you’re looking at astrology as divination, you kind of have to look at the tradition. There is nowhere else to look for it, you have to look at the tradition. You have to look at how they approached their lives, their worldviews, their cultures. All of these things are important, which is why it’s important to read around to get your historical context.
And I think that William Lilly—I mean, he’s written these down—he may well have written more down had he had more time, or if that particular book had turned up while he was writing this. Remember this is quill pen and parchment and ink, right? No word processors. So if you make a mistake, you’ve got to do it all again.
CB: How long did he work on it? It was like 10 years or something like that, wasn’t it?
SW: No, no, no. Quite amazing actually, he did this quite quickly. He started publishing in 1644.
SW: He published I think three or four booklets—treatises—in 1644. One included was the almanac for the year. So no, this would have been put together in three years, I would have thought.
CB: How long had he been studying astrology before he published Christian Astrology?
SW: Uh, 1635, I think that was when he started.
CB: Okay, yeah. So about 12 years earlier.
SW: Oh, I see what you’re saying. Okay, fair enough.
CB: So he started studying astrology in 1635, and then he published Christian Astrology in 1647.
SW: Yeah. Okay, fair enough. I take your point, yeah. I mean, I don’t know that he ever intended at that early stage to be publishing.
CB: Right. No, I was just thinking in terms of how long had Lilly been reading through different source texts and synthesizing different sources, as well as putting the principles into practice, how long had he been practicing horary.
SW: Well then that would be, yeah, 10 to 12 years, something like that, by the time it was published.
SW: I can’t remember the exact date when he first went to—oh, what was that man’s—Evans, John Evans. When he first went to him, I don’t remember. But after that, he taught himself, then he left London, and then came back and started practicing in earnest—practicing astrology in earnest.
Because you remember—or perhaps you don’t—he was meeting John Booker for the first time, and he felt he really needed to kind of revise his astrology. So he got into his books really quickly, so that he wouldn’t look silly when he met John Booker. So he was still quite new by that time.
CB: Okay. And you actually published a really great book with Peter Stockinger on William Lilly titled William Lilly: The Last Magician, Adept & Astrologer back—when was this? In 2014?
CB: Okay, and that includes his autobiography. But also, you did a study of different parts of his life and some of his relationships with different astrologers.
SW: Yeah, the Gadbury thing. That was, again, an irritation where people assumed they were rivals and they weren’t. There was no way John Gadbury could ever come close to William Lilly socially or intellectually. And that’s not just me saying it because I’m a fan—it’s how it was.
So we embarked on this because I was getting fed up with reading about it. So we embarked on this research project to find out just exactly what the truth was, and the truth was far different. I mean, you’ve only got to look at the chronology to see that it’s Gadbury that’s getting himself into a state for whatever reason. And then 10 years goes by where there’s nothing, and then suddenly Gadbury—I don’t know—gets a bee in his bonnet and starts again.
But it just was nothing. It was because Gadbury betrayed him—betrayed Lilly. And that’s where it all started, after all the kindnesses that Lilly had done for him—employing him, helping him with his library and so on and so forth; introducing him to people, which was so important then; it was so important to have a network of supporters and hopefully patrons—and then he stabbed him in the back. So that’s why it’s called “Monster of Ingratitude” because it was worse than murder in those days, ingratitude.
CB: Why, or how did Gadbury betray Lilly?
SW: He wrote against him.
CB: Okay, he started attacking him in print.
SW: He started attacking him, yeah. And it was a demonstration. It wasn’t so much of what he said or anything because that early attack wasn’t that bad, but it was the ingratitude. That was a very, very serious crime to commit—very serious.
SW: And he died with that label around his neck, Gadbury.
SW: Nobody ever forgets. I mean, John Partridge made sure he didn’t forget, he kept reminding him. But yes, he was a ‘monster of ingratitude’—he absolutely was—and not a very good astrologer either.
CB: Okay. Well, that might be a whole show in and of itself at some point. I’m just very interested by some of these interrelationships between different astrologers and who knew who and who was connected with who, or who was enemies with who.
This was one of the first periods—well, you get little bits and pieces of that in the Arabic tradition in the 8th and 9th centuries. I just did an episode on Buran of Baghdad where we talked about the astrologers she knew or was connected to. It’s really not until you get to this period in the 17th century that all of a sudden you can really document much better some of the connections and the social connections between different astrologers and how that played a role in shaping the history of astrology essentially.
SW: Absolutely. It’s fascinating—absolutely fascinating. And actually Professor Josten—who edited Ashmole’s autobiographical notes, massive task—he suspects or suspected that there was some kind of secret society that Lilly was involved with because he knew just about everybody. And if you read some of the letters that still survive—letters to Lilly—they’re very deferential, very. Yeah, I mean, they’re usually asking for something, so they would be showing some kind of respect, but they were deferential.
And even though Elias Ashmole could have been said to be his social superior, that wasn’t the level of their friendship, because Ashmole was still consulting with Lilly for astrological reasons right to the end.
SW: So yeah, these social connections are important actually in understanding—you’re quite right—and it is fascinating.
CB: Yeah. And then he also had students and some students who later go on to be notable astrologers, like Henry Coley and others like that.
SW: Yeah, Henry Coley was one. Richard Sanders was another and Richard Edlin was another, I believe. And I believe it was Edlin who was due to inherit Lilly’s almanac and his astrological practice, but he died before Lilly, so he died quite young. So that’s why Coley ended up as his amanuensis and taking over, but I don’t think it went on for that long, just a few years.
And then you find that I believe Partridge was criticizing Coley for selling talismans, something he’d learn from Lilly. So selling these talismans because some woman client apparently had gone back to Partridge and said, “Look, he’s given me this. He sold me this.” Partridge just leapt on it—absolutely jumped all over it.
CB: And what was the relation in terms of translating Bonatti’s considerations later? Who did translate those? Because it seemed a little unclear about whether it was translated by Lilly or translated by Coley.
SW: I think it was probably both. But certainly, Coley would have been instrumental in that because of Lilly’s eyesight apart from anything else.
CB: His eyes started going bad later in life?
SW: Yes. He was almost completely blind at the end, which is why he needed an amanuensis.
CB: Okay, got it. All right, I wanted to break down the individual considerations, so why don’t we jump into that if you’re ready.
SW: Sure. Carry on. Yes, I’m sorry. We kind of got sidetracked.
CB: No, that’s fine, there were a lot of things. Some people will probably be a little annoyed that we didn’t jump into the considerations initially at first. But part of what I wanted to do with this episode was interview you about your background and history because you’ve made notable contributions to the history of astrology at this point and influenced the astrological tradition with some of your analysis of Lilly, and I wanted to document that.
And then I wanted to document the modern take on the considerations before judgment and what they had become in turning into strictures, and then some of the debate that you had with Maurice and everything else. And then in this final third part here, I want us to go through the actual considerations and talk about what they mean and what the actual definitions are and what that might actually mean, or how it might be relevant in a horary chart.
SW: Okay, fair. Fine.
CB: All right, so back to sharing just the first page of the considerations before judgment from Lilly. The very first one that he gives is talking about having some sort of connection with the lord of the hour and the Ascendant or the ruler of the Ascendant essentially, so that the lord of the hour and the lord of the Ascendant are supposed to be of the same triplicity or the same nature. And if they are, then the chart is radical, and if they’re not, then it’s supposed to be some sort of indication that there might be something wrong.
SW: The planetary hour is important. He doesn’t always note it in Christian Astrology, but in his workbooks, it’s there all the time. He’ll put the planetary day at the top of the page when he starts work and so on and so forth. So he is fully aware.
CB: Like Monday (Moon Day) or Mars Day, Mercury Day, so on and so forth?
SW: Yes, exactly. So this is important, and I write about it in that article. In my view, it relates to the journey of the Sun god through the heavens. It’s a 24-hour journey, and each hour—these were astrological hours—has to pass through a gate. And it has to give the right password to that gate—no, to the gatekeeper, I beg your pardon—before it can pass through that hour and down to the next one.
I’ve interpreted that to mean being with the flow of events. So this is where you find that sympathy of the heavens with the question. So for example, you want to start a new business, and we’re in a recession. Not a good time to start a business I think anybody would say that. But you’re likely to find that any query, any question about that is going to have a planetary hour that does not accord with the Ascendant because the times—the ebb and flow—are not going with you, they’re going against you.
Now that doesn’t mean you can’t start your new business. It just means it’s going to be more difficult because things aren’t flowing with you—they’re not going to help you. So the atmosphere of the time, the way things are, the political situation at the time, or the economic situation at the time is working against you. The atmosphere is wrong. So that doesn’t preclude your getting a successful answer.
And this is another point that we have to bear in mind with all of these things—and with any horary chart actually—the horary chart assumes the best is possible. And the best that is possible—particularly in the past—was that it kind of fell through the ceiling into your lap. It just happened. You didn’t even have to go out of the door, right? It just happened—that is the best possible result.
But as we know, most often it requires effort. So that’s when you start to see the square aspects and you start to see planetary hours not working very well, you start to see difficult significators, because it isn’t going to just drop out of the sky into your lap. So we have to keep that in mind as well when we’re talking about the considerations—they are talking about the best possible outcome. And the best possible outcome is that you don’t have to lift a finger to get whatever it is you’re asking about.
CB: Right, and there being a spectrum from best-case scenario versus worst-case scenario versus whatever is in between where there might be some obstacles or some bumps in the road along the way.
SW: Yes, exactly. They don’t preclude you getting what you’re after, but it just makes it more difficult in that you’re going to have to expend some energy, put yourself out. For example, going back to my ‘you want to start a new business’ analogy, you might find that the bank manager isn’t quite as keen on giving you money, for example. So that’s going to be a problem if you can’t get the extra finance that you require, but it doesn’t stop you starting your business.
So that’s the planetary hour, there are mitigations. As I say, it doesn’t necessarily preclude your moving forward to the judgment. As with anything in any horary chart—you’ve already said this—the descriptions are essential. They should describe the people involved and the situation—the current situation as it stands. If it doesn’t—and you’re also getting one of these considerations coming up—you need to think very hard about proceeding.
CB: Right. So, one, why don’t we define really quickly the three criteria that Lilly gives for how this can be a match? And it seems like the first one is ‘the ruler of the hour and the ruler of the Ascendant are the same planet’.
CB: So for example, if it was the hour of Venus, and Taurus was rising so that Venus was the ruler of the Ascendant, that would be an instance where there would be a connection.
CB: So that would be a good thing.
SW: So the planet that represents the querent—Venus in this case—is tying in, is sympathizing, or the heavens are sympathizing with that planet, so you have an identification between the two. So you can see because it’s a Venus hour, it suits Venus very well; so it’s in the right place, it’s in the right atmosphere.
CB: Okay. So the second one is ‘when the ruler of the Ascendant’s triplicity and the ruler of the hour are the same planet’.
CB: So what would be an example of that?
SW: Mars. So Scorpio rises, Mars is the ruler of hour. So any watery sign rising—Mars, Cancer; sorry, Scorpio, Cancer, or Pisces—that is going to be in accord because Mars rules that triplicity, rules the water triplicity. And he gives that example actually—that’s a simple one.
So if, for example, Scorpio rises, Mars rules Scorpio. The planetary hour is also ruled by Mars, so that is in accord, that is in agreement. Using the triplicity is interesting actually because it gives you another idea about atmosphere. You know, when people talk about ‘being in their element’?
SW: That expression? Well, that’s what we’re talking about here. It’s the same thing.
CB: Okay, interesting. That makes sense.
SW: It suits.
CB: And then the third consideration, or the third one as part of this criteria is when ‘the ruler of the hour and the Ascendant have the same temperamental nature’ or underlying temperament quality.
SW: Yes. So the ruler of the hour is, say, Mars, again. Leo is rising, which makes the ruler of the Ascendant the Sun. Sun and Mars are now in agreement because they have the same nature. They are both hot and dry—that’s what they mean by nature.
CB: Got it. So there’s just these three conditions that show a link between the ruler of the hour and the planets connected to the Ascendant. So this is the consideration where I was trying to trace where this comes from, where Bonatti mentions this in his aphorisms—or considerations—in Aphorisms 7 and 143. And he says that if this happens, ‘the question will not be rooted or radical; it will be lacking in a firm foundation or intention if this condition is not met’. So this is listed under a section on ways in which an astrologer can err.
So if there was not one of these connections, then for Bonatti—and then evidently for Lilly—there was something off or there was some sort of disconnect between not just the hour and Ascendant, but something about the question not lining up with the heavens in a sense at the time.
SW: Yeah, it’s not sympathizing. The heavens aren’t sympathizing with the question. And this idea of rooting, radicality, and so on, and radix—this is substance. This is bringing it down to Earth, that’s what this is talking about. It’s not up in the air still.
You know, we were talking about the chart on a piece of paper and the chart on the screen. The chart on the piece of paper is real—that on the screen is virtual. So what we’re talking about is something that can actually be achieved in an earthly context, in a material context, so that’s the idea of rooting. Rooting goes into the ground—grounding.
So is it feasible? Is it substantial? Is it plausible? Will it work? Will I meet my soulmate? What does that mean? Chances are you’re not going to get a radical chart because that really isn’t grounded, is it? That’s up here somewhere in fantasy. I mean, we need to get it grounded before it can become a horary question.
SW: Bring it down to Earth.
CB: Or in the case of Bonatti and his preoccupation with somebody testing or playing a trick on him, if he doesn’t see the lord of the hour matching up with the ruler of the Ascendant, then he’s seeing a disconnect between what the person is asking versus what the chart’s saying; and therefore, starts questioning whether the intentions of the person are genuine or whether that’s an indication that there’s something else going on and they might have ulterior motives.
SW: Sure. Well, I’m not as familiar with Bonatti’s work obviously as I am with Lilly’s, but this idea of rooting is this idea also of plausibility. So if you’re talking about a disconnect, what you’re getting is, yes, it is a disconnect. It is something that is completely out of kilter with what’s going on in the world now, right?
So this isn’t plausible. This isn’t feasible. This doesn’t have grounding. It’s not real. It’s a fantasy. So you can see from that point of view why he might suspect somebody coming in in that condition, I speculate, but I can kind of understand that. Now whether that was Lilly’s problem or not, that I can’t tell you because sometimes he judges charts when the planetary hour isn’t in accord.
CB: Right. But it seems like the underlying thing here is just that the chart is supposed to reflect the question, and if the chart’s not reflecting the question in some way, then there might be a problem for some unknown reason.
SW: Yes, yes.
SW: Or no, you might know the reason. Like I told you about the business and the economic situation. I mean, you might well know what the reason is. I mean, you have to know that the question is possible.
CB: Have you ever had somebody test you, or do a trick horary question, that you know of?
SW: Not that I know of.
SW: I mean, no.
CB: Or somebody that was skeptical of horary, that was just asking a not-important question or something like that?
SW: Well, I wouldn’t do it. I wouldn’t, no. Yeah, I’ve got better things to do with my time than play games. I noticed that Lilly, in 4th house matters, talks about a game he plays about mislaid items. He actually recites this that he would go to a friend’s house and they would hide something from him, and he would have to find it by the horary chart.
SW: I’m not sure that was a horary actually, but he says he used the horary to find these items. And I don’t disbelieve him, he obviously was one for using it in that way. But then on the other hand, when it was about theft, he would say quite outright he hated them. He hated questions about theft because it was too easy to get the wrong person, to blame the wrong person.
CB: Okay, that makes sense. All right, so let’s see—that’s basically the first consideration and it’s inspired by Bonatti. The second consideration is ‘the Ascendant being in the first degrees of a sign’. And Lilly says especially the signs of short ascension which rise very quickly. And he says: “You may not adventure judgment [and then he gives an exception for this one] unless the Querent be very young, and his corporature, complexion and moles or scars on his body agree with the quality of the sign ascending.”
CB: So with this one, the second consideration is if the Ascendant is basically in the first 2° to 3° of the sign.
SW: 0, 1, 2, and up to 3. 0°, 1°, and 2°, yeah.
CB: Got it. So if the Ascendant is very early—and let me see if I can share a picture of this one—very early in the sign, then, again, there’s some sort of issue going on here with the chart, or there’s some sort of consideration that you need to take into account in terms of the question.
But that exception is very important and very interesting because he says ‘unless the querent is very young’, because the querent being very young would mean that they’re very early in their life or they’re not very old; and therefore, an early Ascendant would symbolically be reflecting or echoing the person is young. So it would be radical in the sense that there would be a clear connection between why the Ascendant is so early because it’s actually describing the querent being very early in their life.
SW: Exactly, it’s descriptive. And you might want to extend that slightly to a situation. The situation is new, not just the querent. A brand new situation will often show up in early degrees, of course, not necessarily on the Ascendant.
I wonder—particularly when they’re emphasizing signs of short ascension—if there is a calculation problem here, if the tables were less than reliable, if that’s what this also is reflecting. So this is going to be more to do with the older, the Medieval situation where their tables were awful. Lilly would have considered his tables to have been much more accurate. Not would have—he did. So that’s possibly one that he’s just recounting. I mean, most of these he’s reporting.
CB: Yeah, I mean, that’s a valid issue. If the Ascendant is at 0°-and-1-minute of the sign—unless you have very, very exact precision—it could actually be at the end of the previous sign. And for a horary question that’s going to be crucial because it will change the ruler of the Ascendant, and you could get the judgment wrong, the interpretation wrong if you’re looking at the wrong chart.
SW: Exactly, but then that’s the next consideration, late degrees rising. It’s kind of the other end of the argument, isn’t it? So if your early-degree chart is out, it can still happen. It still varies with computerized calculations, algorithms. So if your chart is out, it goes into late degrees, it’s still not radical either way.
CB: Right. So that’s definitely a potential issue, that it could be a calculation issue. But then also, I noted on page 298 that Lilly said: “If few degrees ascend, the matter is not yet ripe for judgment.”
SW: Yes, that’s right.
CB: And Culpepper makes a similar statement in Aphorism 22, saying the question is not yet ready for judgment. So there might have been a symbolic meaning for some of those questions when this appears as a consideration. You need to take into account that there’s something premature or early about the question—like perhaps the situation hasn’t fully developed yet.
SW: Yes, that’s right. And you see exactly its opposite with the late degrees—exactly the opposite to that—and I think that’s true. And Culpepper is after Lilly, so he would have been following that tradition too.
So yes, anything in the early degrees is an early situation—you can use that word. The same with late degrees. It’s a late situation. So whether it’s on the Ascendant or anywhere else—or a planet in a sign early or late—you have the same situation: an early situation or a late situation. Now that can be good or bad depending on what the question is.
SW: I’ll give you an example for the late because that’s more frequent in my experience anyway. The late degrees—somebody who already had I think four or five children—a man—said, “We think my wife’s pregnant again.” Now that would have been, I don’t know, five or six or seven or something. And he kind of sighed and said, “Is my wife pregnant again?”
So up went the chart and it came up with late degrees—it wasn’t the only thing—but it was late degrees on the Ascendant. And I said, “The question is past maturity.” And he said, “Well, what do you mean?” I said, “Well, I think that’s one argument that she’s not pregnant because it’s gone beyond that point.”
But the other thing was that the Moon was void of course. So I had two in the same chart, but I still judged it. And I said, “No, she’s not; you’re worrying about nothing,” and she wasn’t. He did have the decency to let me know—not everybody does. But yeah, he did.
SW: And there’s another one that was a late Ascendant. I can’t go into details about that because it’s in the course, but it was another situation where the situation that was being asked about had already been completed.
CB: Yeah, whereas for the early Ascendant, I’ve seen that in situations where the person’s asking too early and the situation just hasn’t developed yet.
SW: Yes, they’re talking too far into the future, or there is an event that needs to take place first.
SW: “I want to go into business.” Okay, you want to go into business. “Will my business be successful?” Well, hang on a minute, have you got the funds? Have you worked out your business plan? Have you done this? Have you done that? That would be early degrees.
CB: And then you ask them that after you’ve cast the chart, and they say, “Well, no, I haven’t even started the business yet.”
SW: That’s right.
CB: Or something like that, so there’s like a prematureness. Or if they were saying, “Will I get married to this person?” and then later it comes out that they haven’t even started a relationship yet or something like that.
SW: That is very common, yes. I’ve had a number of those, yes.
CB: Right. So I think that’s a really common one, and I think that tends to be where other later horary astrologers over the past decade or two go with that. I know that’s how Lee Lehman interprets it, and that’s one of the ways I learned from her—as one of my first horary teachers—about how the considerations tell you something that’s relevant about the situation that are just like helpful tips.
SW: Not always, but they can be, yeah.
CB: Yeah, not always, but just sometimes that’s how they are useful pieces of information rather than things that completely invalidate the chart—even though in some instances, it might. It might mean that it’s too premature or that there’s some things that need to happen first before this question can really be brought to fulfillment in some way.
SW: Yeah, but you see, what you’re doing is you’re answering that question about what is radicality. And radicality—as I said to you—is that grounding. Is the seed in the ground so that it can grow? Well, the questions you were talking about, no. Haven’t even got the seed yet, much less planted it. So there’s no root. Do you see?
CB: Right, it’s lacking in a foundation.
SW: You’re lacking radicality. You’re lacking a root.
CB: Yeah. And so, I did look back at Bonatti because he mentions this in consideration 7 as like a personal observation, saying that he noticed it happening frequently when people either came to test him or asked a question without having a true intention behind it. And he says that what he would do then is call them out on it, and they would be impressed and start believing in astrology if they were skeptical about it; or if they were trying to deceive him, he would call them out and they would kind of freak out and leave.
So it’s interesting seeing Bonatti and part of the reason why he introduced this consideration versus how Lilly and Culpepper are using it as more like something that’s coming up, that gives you relevant information about the question being premature in some way.
SW: Yeah, I mean, obviously, things will develop, and you’re going through these people in the mid-to-late 17th century who were inundated with clients. They were doing charts left and right in very difficult circumstances, so you get lots of war charts of various sorts for questions related to war. So it was a breeding ground for astrologers. There were no restrictions on publishing at that time, which is of course, 1642-ish.
Yeah, I mean, they were doing a lot of work—a lot of work—so why wouldn’t they develop the theory that they’d inherited? Why wouldn’t they develop it? Of course they would, but they’d still have to be as cautious as everybody else. And William Lilly particularly, as I said, was a devout man, but he was also an occultist. So he would have been cautious for all of the reasons that I’ve given you. In my opinion, he doesn’t write this down.
CB: Right, that makes sense. All right, so that’s that one. The third consideration, as you mentioned, is just the Ascendant being in the last few degrees of a sign. Lilly says: “It’s [in] no wayes safe to give judgment,” except—he gives an exception again—if the native is of the same age as the number of degrees that are rising.
So for example, if you had 28° or 29° of a sign rising, that would be a consideration for a late Ascendant. But if the person actually is 28- or 29-years-old, for Lilly that would mean there was a connection between the chart echoing or reflecting something that’s actually happening in reality, which is the age of the querent.
SW: It’s descriptive again. It’s giving a description, but fundamentally, the late degrees are showing impending change. It’s either that something is past maturity—so it’s a dodo—or it’s impending change; that’s what late degrees generally show. So you’ve got early degrees showing a new change, late degrees showing an impending change.
And this is throughout the chart, not just on the Ascendant. But on the Ascendant of course, if the Ascendant is the Ascendant of the question as much as of the querent—so if it’s late degrees—something fairly major is going to change, which is likely to make that question irrelevant, okay?
CB: That makes sense. And also, by contrast, if the early degrees Ascendant indicates that something is premature, a very late Ascendant may mean that it’s overly-mature, that it’s past the point somehow of being relevant. So on page 298, Lilly says: “If few degrees ascend, the matter is not yet ripe for judgment; if the later degrees arise, the matter of the question is elapsed, and it’s probably [that] the querent hath been tampering with others.” What does he mean? Do you know what he means by ‘tampering with others’? I’m not clear on that.
SW: They’ve been asking questions of other people.
CB: Okay, so maybe it’s a question they’ve already posed to like another astrologer and they got an answer to, but they didn’t like that answer, so they went and asked somebody else.
SW: I think that’s what he means. They had an awful lot of speculators then, didn’t they? Crystals and all of that, summoning spirits and so on. So that’s why he’s saying ‘just others’, not necessarily other astrologers. These days we might say they’ve been to a tarot reader or a crystal reader or whatever else.
CB: Got it.
SW: The question needs to be clean.
CB: Got it, okay. So that’s number three. The next one is ‘it’s not safe to judge when the Moon is in the later degrees of a sign, especially in Gemini, Scorpio, or Capricorn’. So that’s one that kind of gets into the issue with the void of course definition because this kind of gets conflated with a few considerations down—he mentions the Moon being void of course. But here, he’s saying something about the Moon being in the last few degrees of a sign being a potential consideration or some sort of cautionary indication.
SW: It’s not cautionary. You need an understanding of the Moon’s function and purpose really to be able to understand these kinds of considerations. And I mentioned earlier that the Moon is a kind of modem, so it kind of picks up the horary question and casts it up—you have to put it through the Moon.
The Moon is the nearest to us, so it has to go through the Moon to the Sun. It’s the Sun—as the lord of the heavens—that will then answer the question and put that out and give, if you like, his commands and instructions to the other planets that will then be brought down by the Moon into the answer. So the Moon’s action—because it behaves in this way, because it is so important—it’s always a co-significator. For that reason, it’s important that the Moon is in a good condition, that it can actually do this.
Now these late degrees are the terms of the malefics. All of the late degrees are the terms of the malefics. So it’s late-on—so we’ve got this late degree thing again—so there’s an impending change. The Moon is already about change anyway—you’ve got an impending change—now it’s going to be in Capricorn, ruled by Saturn, in Scorpio, ruled by Mars. And in Scorpio, it has its fall; the Moon has its fall in Scorpio as well.
So you’ve got all of these things going on—and it’s in detriment in Capricorn, sorry. You’ve got all of these things damaging the Moon’s ability to act, to complete its function, and this may well be why he suspended work that day when the Moon moved into the end of Gemini, and he said, “We’ll leave this for now. I can only do so many bad news judgments. Thanks very much, we’ll end this one for today.” And I think that’s what it’s about. It’s about understanding the Moon’s function—that is vital.
CB: All right, so we’re talking about the Moon and that makes sense because the Moon is always one of the main significators in any horary question. So anytime there’s a problem with the Moon, that’s going to be a major issue in terms of the horary chart in general, because the Moon is always treated either as a secondary significator of the querent or as a general significator for the question as a whole.
SW: Indeed, it’s both.
CB: Both? Okay.
SW: It’s both of those things. And this is why it can get confusing of course, but it is a co-significator of the querent. It is the ‘natural’ significator of the question. You said ‘general’, which is what Lilly would say. He would say ‘general’, but we would interpret that as ‘natural’ as opposed to ‘accidental’.
So it is vital, and this becomes increasingly clear when you’re working with elections. It’s essential that you keep the Moon clean and strong. And this is the case here—it’s not clean and it’s not strong, so the question is going to be likewise.
CB: Yeah, if it’s in the last few degrees of a sign, which is late and is the bounds of the malefics, or the terms of the malefics, as you’ve said. But then also, like you were saying with the last one, if planets are in late degrees, then something’s about to change, something’s ending, and there’s about to be a shift of some sort.
SW: Yes. The Moon itself is associated with change, yes, because of its tidal nature and its phases, so it’s associated with change anyway. So when you’re coming to late degrees, you’re looking at a changing situation. Where the Moon is concerned, you cannot rely upon it. So you can’t rely upon a changeful Moon, in a changeful position and damaged by that position to bring about what you’re looking for—so forget it.
CB: That makes sense. And since that consideration comes right after the one of late degrees rising, it’s very much tied in as almost like the same thought, or as a very similar thought in terms of something being late or overly-mature or already ending.
SW: Chris, this is an original copy.
CB: Yeah, this is my original copy. After I did my interview with Clive in 2019 in London, he let me look at his copy. He actually brought it to the interview. I was so amazed by it, and I was so taken by it that I was able to save up and buy an original copy of Lilly, which I have tried to use.
Because sometimes when you share scans of stuff that’s in black-and-white, it doesn’t show up very well, and I wanted to be able to share excerpts from this and do different episodes. And I did an episode on Lilly with Nina Gryphon, as well as this episode with you, and it’s nice to be able to have reference to the actual original copy.
SW: Beautiful. It’s beautiful. Yeah, absolutely beautiful.
CB: Yeah, so late degrees Moon. Then the next consideration after that is ‘if the Moon is in the via combusta’ which Lilly says is “when she is in the last 15 degrees of Libra or the first 15 degrees of Scorpio.” So a similar thing there in terms of the Moon being an important significator and being in that troubling spot.
SW: But he says, “some say.”
CB: So that’s one of those little clues that Lilly gives that maybe he’s not fully onboard with this, but that it’s the opinion of some people to pay attention to that?
SW: I don’t think I’ve noticed him take any notice of it, and he certainly, as far as I can recall, doesn’t mention it. And I think there is some debate about what this via combusta is or why it is, and it may have been a collection of nasty stars—fixed stars—at some point that nobody can actually identify, or as far as I know, can identify that are no longer in that position.
CB: Yeah, I’ve always been a little skeptical of the via combusta as well. The best explanation I saw somebody mention at one point was maybe it had to do with the fact that the fall of both of the luminaries happens to be in those signs—in Libra, where the Sun has its fall, and Scorpio, where the Moon has its fall—and their fall degrees would be somewhere around there. But that doesn’t match up with 15° of each of those signs.
SW: Dorotheus is big on this first-half and last-half of the sign kind of situation, so it may be that, but I just don’t know. It’s not something that I notice much. I mean, obviously, I notice if the Moon goes into Scorpio—as you would of course—but I don’t really take any notice of the via combusta.
SW: Having said that, that ‘mystic’ anvil’s going to drop straight on my head now.
CB: Let me check where the Moon is. It is not in the via combusta right now. It’s actually the opposite of that, the Moon’s exaltation. All right, so let’s go back to the considerations. After the via combusta comes perhaps the most important and your favorite one—which the next consideration is ‘if the Moon is void of course’.
So this is the one that you’ve done the most research on and made the most significant contribution on, that grew partially out of your exchange with Maurice. It caused you to go back and look at Lilly’s chart examples when he mentions the void of course Moon, and that’s when you found something interesting. Maybe we should read the definition first, though, before we get there.
So Lilly says here for this consideration that: “All manner of matters goe hardly on (except [when] the principle significators be very strong) when the Moon is voyd of course; yet somewhat she performes if voyd of course, and be either in Taurus, Cancer, Sagittarius or Pisces.”
So his keyword is that all manner of matters go hardly on if the Moon is void of course. But then in order to answer Maurice’s critique where he pointed out that the Moon is void of course according to the modern definition in several chart examples, you went back and looked at Lilly’s chart examples and you found something interesting.
SW: I was shocked actually. It really did shake me up that we’d all been reading it wrong, so you have to look at his definition of void of course.
CB: So what was the modern definition?
SW: Oh, I have to remember now. The modern definition is that the Moon is void of course when it makes no major aspect before it leaves the sign.
CB: When it completes no major aspect.
SW: Right. No, you’ve got to think modern. It makes no more aspects. Yeah, it could be complete.
CB: Let’s say perfects, using horary language.
SW: They don’t use the word ‘perfect’, or do they? I can’t remember. I can’t remember what it is, Chris. It’s something about before it leaves the sign, right?
CB: Yeah, I mean, it’s basically that—here, I have a diagram that might help. So this is the diagram for the modern version in the 20th century—the horary tradition from Ivy and from Barbara Watters, the definition that they were using, I believe—which is that once the Moon completes its last major aspect in a sign, and it will not complete any other major aspects before it changes sign, then it is void of course; and this tends to happen in the later degrees of the signs. So for example, if Jupiter was at 25 Cancer and the Moon was at 26 Scorpio, then the Moon would be void of course having completed its last aspect with Jupiter at 25.
SW: That’s not how I understood it. I mean, I had to unlearn an awful lot, and that was one of the things I had to unlearn, so I’m probably not remembering it. But I thought it was ‘make’—it’s not making any more aspects before it leaves the sign. But yes, certainly, it’s to do with the later degrees. Absolutely.
And the reason that you can do that is because the orbs now belong—in the modern school of thought—the orbs belong to the aspect, not the planet. Once you reinstate the orbs to the planets, then it becomes a much easier principle to understand.
And then when you’ve got that principle of the orbs to the planets and then you understand what application means—and that was crucial, understanding the meaning of application—it doesn’t just mean moving towards. It is a technical term that means moving towards whilst being within the joint moieties of those orbs. So they have to be touching for an application to be in process.
CB: Right, they have to be within orb.
SW: They have to be within the moieties—the joint moieties—of their orbs. So yes, within orb is the shorthand.
SW: So yeah, they have to be within orb. And in doing so, they have to be, one, the faster one in the normal course of events has to be moving towards the other. So now an application is in process—we have an application. And the void of course rule says that: when it has no more—when the Moon or the planet, he actually says, is not making any more applications.
CB: So here’s the definition from Book 1 of Lilly for void of course.
CB: Do you want to read it, or do you want me to?
SW: Okay. “A planet is voyd of course when he is separated from a Planet, nor doth forthwith, during his being in that Signe, apply to any other.” Now this sentence has been ripped to bits so many times, it has to be what he’s emphasizing. And he does differentiate in his examples. He is emphasizing that that application must be occurring at the time of the chart, right? You cannot say, “Oh, but it will apply later,” that doesn’t count. The application must be in operation now, forthwith. The application has to be in process, not the perfection.
CB: Right, that’s the important point that you realized, that he says ‘applying’. If it’s not applying, then it’s void of course. But he doesn’t say anything about perfection, about completing the aspect, he only talks about it being applying.
CB: And that ends up being crucial because when you started going through his example charts, you found that his actual working definition seemed to be that the Moon is not void of course if it’s applying within orb of an aspect to another planet regardless of sign boundary.
CB: But there could be other instances—even if the Moon was much earlier in a sign—where if it was not applying within the next 10°-12°, then he would consider it to be void of course, even if it would still make other aspects or complete other aspects later in the sign.
SW: Well, that’s having a curse. So when the Moon is moving towards another planet, but they’re not in aspect—they will be, but they’re not now—the Moon is having a curse to that planet. So it’s moving towards it—it is not applying. And he uses this—you see it in his work—and you see when he judges the chart when the Moon is void of course; he states it, he says so.
It’s one of those, if you like, considerations that, generally speaking, he nearly always includes in his judgments, if not always. Whereas, the via combusta, late degrees of the Moon, and so on and so forth—Saturn in the 1st or 7th and so on—he doesn’t always note those unless they’re part of his judgment.
SW: But he doesn’t say, “Oh, this consideration is in operation here. Oh, Saturn’s in the 1st house, you’ve got to be careful.” He never ever says that, but he will always say when the Moon is void of course.
CB: Okay. So let me see, here’s a diagram—and let me see if this diagram matches your understanding of void of course. So let’s say we’ve got a chart where the Moon is at 10° of Aries and it’s recently completed a sextile with Venus at 10° of Aquarius, but it’s next aspect that it will complete isn’t until it reaches a conjunction with Jupiter at 29° of Aries, so that the very end of that sign. But because it is not within, let’s say, 12° of an exact aspect with any other planets in this chart, the Moon would be considered void of course because it’s not applying to any other planets.
SW: Yeah, well, the Moon has got an orb of around, let’s say, 10° or 12°, so it’s got a moiety of about 6. Jupiter’s got roughly the same. So for them to be in touching distance—which they are not—would put them in an application. But in that diagram, the Moon is void of course and will remain void of course until those joint moieties touch between itself and Jupiter in about eight-ish degrees.
CB: Okay, so once the Moon gets within orb of Jupiter, it’s no longer void of course. But there would be that span right there in the middle of Aries where it would be considered void of course.
SW: But it would also be noted as separating then from void of course. So applying to the conjunction of Jupiter, but separating from void of course.
CB: Okay. And that would be incorporated into the delineation with Lilly?
SW: It would. Yes, it would. And it often can signify things like you have had no news, or the situation has come out of nowhere. There’s no background to it. There’s no news. Those kinds of things are indicative of the Moon—and sometimes the significator—separating from void of course.
CB: Okay. So this was actually a big discovery and this is what came out. Initially, you mentioned it in your response to Maurice’s article, and then it caused some waves it seems like in the community because this was much different than how other astrologers thought Lilly defined the void of course Moon up till that point. And some people pushed back, I’m guessing, and didn’t agree with your interpretation.
SW: Nobody actually said so, though.
CB: Well, to his credit…
SW: Nobody said so to me.
CB: Okay. Well, I have heard some people who disagreed over the years, who later changed their minds and actually said you were right. So I’ve seen actual opinions of other horary astrologers in some instances begrudgingly agree that you were right in the end about your interpretation of Lilly’s chart examples and what Lilly was doing in practice.
And to his credit, it seemed like in his articles that Maurice acknowledged you were right relatively early on about the void of course Moon.
SW: Yeah, he was pretty good. Yeah, Maurice was pretty good for that.
CB: He did agree with you?
SW: Yeah. I mean, I don’t have a drum to beat on this. Whatever people want to do, they do, but the evidence is irrefutable. And I didn’t just go with Lilly, I took it back. I went back as far as I could with the sources that I had available at the time—and there weren’t that many—but we did have the Project Hindsight translations at that time, and I was one of the early purchasers.
So I went through those and it was in one of the Greek translations that I found the meaning of application as well. And it just is repeated throughout history that is what the void of course Moon or void of course means—it’s repeated throughout history. So the evidence is irrefutable. What you do is entirely up to you, it’s not my concern.
CB: Sure. I did an episode last month on the void of course Moon, and it’s a little tricky because some of the earliest definitions from Antiochus and Porphyry define it as an aspect that isn’t applying within the next 30°.
But then later in the tradition, Rhetorius seems to condense that definition, and it becomes potentially—at least in his shortened version of the definition—the Moon not applying within the next 12° or 13°, which is the range that the Greek astrologers used for an applying aspect or an applying conjunction.
SW: Is this not, though, to do with the refinement of the orbs—the distances of the orbs? I mean, it seems to me anyway it was a bit of a bone of contention for a very long time. And still, when Lilly writes about the planetary orbs, he’s giving a band. He doesn’t give aid, apart from Mercury, which is 3.5° and that’s it. It’s 7° overall, sorry, but the others, he gives a band. He actually says, “I use whichever one I remember,” so he was not exercised by this at all.
Because if you have an understanding of the chart—of astrology generally—then you let the chart speak to you. You don’t get too bogged down by these details. This is a very modern thing. It’s the exact ‘this’ that we demand and we don’t really need. If you are comfortable with astrology and you understand it, then you should be able to stay flexible.
CB: Right. You mentioned Lilly mentioning in passing at one point that he gives two different lists of orbs for the planets, and he says, “I use whatever one I remember most recently in the moment,” or something like that. He wasn’t super concerned about it in some sense.
SW: No. I mean, he says, “I use whichever one I remember.” It’s there in Book 1 where he gives the planetary orbs—he says it there. He says, “Some say this, some say that. I use whichever one I remember.”
SW: I think we do need to kind of undo the courses a little bit sometimes. Being modern, we tend to be much more demanding of our measurements, and the human mind always wants to measure of course. But yeah, we are very demanding of that.
And if you read through the very early section of that first book where he’s talking about the calculation of charts, it’s very, very interesting his attitude to calculating. And it’s not just his attitude, right? He’s working as everyone was working—as they used to work. So he’s speaking pretty much for astrologers plural. It’s a very interesting section.
CB: And I think some of this confusion around void of course earlier in the tradition might have had to do with a difference also between sign-based aspects versus degree-based aspects, and some astrologers taking both into account in the earlier tradition, which could also lead to explaining some of the ambiguity surrounding things like orbs in the tradition and some of the fluidity.
SW: I mean, it’s possible. ‘I don’t know’ is the answer to that, but what you’ve got is a kind of mantra: ‘the Moon is void of course when it makes no further aspects in its current sign’. It’s a mantra, and you just keep saying that. And when you read Lilly’s definition, and you’ve got this mantra in your head, I mean, I did it. You’ve got this mantra in your head—that is what that says.
SW: Lilly’s definition says the Moon is void of course—the planet is void of course—when it makes no further aspects in its current sign; that’s exactly what it says there. Of course it doesn’t because you’ve got the mantra. And this is what happens, so you just accept it.
Most people just accept what they’re told, and they apply that. And then you say to them, “No, hang on, that’s not right. Look, this is what it should be. Oh, it’s not right. It’s not right according to the tradition,” I should say. “Look at the evidence.” They can get a bit crossed.
CB: So did you have pushback to that interpretation? You said you never heard anyone openly oppose it early on.
SW: No, once I did. Yeah, that’s not true. So yeah, once I did, but that’s people, isn’t it? It just shows how emotionally-tied we get to our precious rules and our bits of astrology that we understand.
CB: Do you know if that was the interpretation of Lilly? One of the things I haven’t gone back to see is at what point did it shift to the alternative, 20th century version, where it was more about perfection, or at what point did that become the favorite interpretation in the tradition. Do you have any idea?
SW: given all the other changes that were made, I would take it back to the early 20th century Theosophical astrologers. They wouldn’t touch horary astrology with a disinfected barge pole because it went against their principles and their ethics.
So other people picking up horary astrology later in that century would have been hamstrung because they had no background, they’ve got no context, and so it would have been interpreting according to what they thought it said. So I think it goes back—not that old. I don’t think it’s that old.
I mean, one astrologer that perhaps would be interesting to look at—I did start once and then got bored—is Sibley, Ebenezer Sibley, of course as he was that later manifestation of what astrology sort of developed into in the 18th century. So he would be an interesting case in point to see what he’s saying, and if he has changed the rule. ‘I don’t know’ is the answer.
CB: Yeah, well, that would be an interesting research project for somebody at some point to see if they can trace when the modern definition came about. I’ve been trying to do the same from the other end, from the Hellenistic tradition.
This is from Robert Schmidt’s translation of Antiochus, but it gives the two earliest definitions from Antiochus and Porphyry, and then a third one, a later one, from Rhetorius. And I think this is where the definition that Lilly used—or that you’ve been using—comes from, from Rhetorius.
SW: Yeah, I’ve read something like this. It wasn’t this one, but I did read something like this from Project Hindsight. It might have been Antiochus actually.
CB: Yeah, well, the initial translation that was labeled as ‘Antiochus’ by Project Hindsight in the ‘90s was actually Rhetorius, who was from the end of the Hellenistic tradition, so this page shows the development of it.
You have Antiochus, who’s probably from the 1st century—the actual text of Antiochus here at the top—and it says: Running in the void [which is the Greek term for void of course] is said whenever [the Moon] does not join with any star, neither zodiacally [by sign] nor portionally [by degree], and neither by adherence nor by figure [which is to say aspect], and nor indeed is it about to make a conjunction or meeting within the nearest thirty [degrees]; and that this figure maltreats the nativity. So this is being said in a natal context.
And a few centuries later, Porphyry repeats this definition and says: There is said to be running in the void whenever [the Moon] does not join with any star, neither zodiacally nor [by degree], and neither by figure nor by adherence, and nor indeed is it about to make a conjunction or a meeting within the nearest thirty [degrees]. Such nativities are undistinguished and unable to make progress.
SW: That’s almost identical, isn’t it?
CB: Yeah, it’s the same definition. So what’s interesting here, though, is then by the time you get to Rhetorius a few centuries later in the 6th century, Rhetorius at the very end of the Hellenistic tradition shortens the definition, and he just says: “There is a running in the void of [the Moon] whenever it does not join with any star, neither bodily nor by figure.”
And what’s interesting then is if you look up Rhetorius’ definition of joining—as well as Antiochus and Porphyry—it’s basically the same, which is they say that it’s an applying aspect within 3° for planets or 13° for the Moon.
So here’s the definition of application. Antiochus says: “There is adherence whenever a star approaches a star, the faster the slower, being not more apart from it than three portions.” And Porphyry says three portions—so here it is.
Rhetorius at the end, though, says: “In the most proper sense, there is adherence or conjunction whenever a star approaches a star, the faster the slower, if it is not more apart from it than three portions.” But then he says: “The adherence of [the Moon] is [the] conjunction whenever it stays apart from the portion of,” and then he goes and he says within 13°. Basically, they say 3° for planets, but 13° for the Moon. And right there it becomes basically the definition that you found that Lilly uses in practice, of void of course.
SW: Yeah, because the principle’s the same, isn’t it? I mean, the details may change, but the principle remains the same.
CB: Yeah. And here it is—it’s engagement, sunaphe, which means ‘application’. So Antiochus says: “There is joining whenever [stars] either join [by degree], or, being within three portions, they are about to [do] so. But in the case of [the Moon], the conjunction is said whenever it is about to join within thirteen [degrees].” And the Porphyry makes a similar statement that it’s 3° for planets or 13° for the Moon.
So the point here would just be that according to that Rhetorius definition, if he’s just defining void of course as the Moon not ‘joining’ to any planets, then that would be just not applying to any planets within 13°. So right there then, we would get the working definition that you kind of found in Lilly’s Christian Astrology.
SW: In fact, I would go so far as to suggest—in fact, I’m convinced that as long ago as Greek astrology is from us—such a long time ago—the system can be traced right up to Lilly. You can see that system carrying through, being developed of course by the Arabs in cahoots to the Nth degree; they did a lot of development. But it’s still the same system evolved, developed, detailed, but still the system remains the same.
And this goes back to some of my irritations. I don’t understand Hellenistic astrology. I tried—I did try—but I wasn’t very successful at it, and I did try to understand it. But I could see that they understood what they were talking about. I didn’t sit there and think, “Well, I don’t really understand this. This is a load of rubbish.” I accepted that it was beyond the way my brain worked, and so I left it alone. But I could see the similarities—I could see that it was the astrological system that I recognized in the early modern period.
You know, I think it’s important that these historical texts are investigated. We need to know that it’s joined up—and it is joined up. There is a thread that goes right from there or wherever they got it. Where did they get it from? India? And it comes right up to the tradition as it’s expressed today. It’s the same system. We don’t have to keep making changes to it.
CB: Yeah, there’s a lot of continuity in the tradition, which is surprising sometimes when you’re talking about such huge spans of hundreds and hundreds of years.
SW: Yes, indeed. Anyway, yes.
CB: Okay. So long story short, in the chart examples, there’s instances you found where the Moon is at the end of the sign in Lilly’s chart examples, but as long as it’s applying within orb to an exact with another planet, he would not treat it as void of course.
SW: Exactly, exactly, yes.
CB: Okay, so good to know and for people to be aware of or to discuss for whatever that’s worth. So the other consideration—the seventh consideration—was ‘if the cusp of the 7th house or its ruler is afflicted’. Lilly says be wary basically, or he says: “It’s an argument the judgment of the astrologer will give small content, or anything pleases the querent.”
CB: And the reason for this, he explains, is because the 7th house generally has signification for the astrologer.
SW: Yeah, I think there’s a bell ringing in my head. There is an example somewhere where he says that he got a small reward or small appreciation for a chart that he did. I can’t remember now which one it was—a horary he did—but I think that, yeah, you would take notice of it. The other thing you have to be aware of is that Saturn in the 7th, or the 7th cusp afflicted, or the ruler of the 7th afflicted is not really relevant to the astrologer if it’s a 7th house matter being asked about.
CB: Right. So if it’s a 7th house matter, then the focus of the question’s going to be on the 7th house and that’s the primary thing that’s important that the 7th is going to describe. It’s mainly in non-7th house questions that some of these considerations involving the 7th house could be relevant to the astrologer.
SW: Yeah. Again, it’s about description. Does it have a descriptive element to it? If it does, then hold on. If it doesn’t, then be careful.
CB: Right, that makes sense. So just going back to this whole consultation chart framework and the idea that the querent is the 1st house and the ruler of the 1st, and the astrologer is the 7th house, the person that’s received the question. And this may also be tied in with, for example, there’s medical questions where astrology was used for medicine, and sometimes the doctor was the 7th house or was assigned to the 7th house.
SW: Yeah, the physician is the 7th.
CB: Right. And this one I was able to trace back to Pseudo-Ptolemy’s Centiloquium, which is a collection of aphorisms, and this consideration is mentioned there. So I think that may have been part of Lilly’s inspiration for this one.
SW: Possibly. I mean, he read just about everything that was available to him and he was trying to bring that to us. I mean, he discusses this at the beginning of the book because he was despairing of the state of astrology at the time, and he was trying to bring together all of these sources that would have been out of the reach of most people. Books were hugely expensive. So he’s collated, if you like, and compiled this information to make life easier for people who want to study astrology—and he wanted more people to study astrology. So that’s the purpose of all of this.
CB: Well, and also, he had the means to study astrology and to collect all these books, as well as the ability to read Latin and do that sort of textual analysis and compare different authors. And then making this available as a book and bringing all those sources together, but also making it available in English—he seems to have been interested in accessibility and making astrology more accessible in some ways.
SW: Much so, yeah. But beyond that—actually going a step further than that—he wanted more astrologers. Definitely wanted more astrologers—so yes, that’s part of it. If you read his almanacs or the other texts/treatises he published, they all assume a certain astrological education on the part of his readers. Most people now wouldn’t understand them. But yeah, he had a very wide audience. So yes, he was interested in education, very much so.
CB: That makes sense. And I can relate to that—I think different astrologers can relate to that because people that get deeply interested and invested in astrology also become invested in seeing it passed onto other people and seeing it thrive and flourish.
SW: Did you know—this is just a little factoid—that he was invited to give a reading of Christian Astrology? You know, when you get certain authors and they’re asked to come and read from their books?
SW: He was invited to read from Christian Astrology. Now how would that work? I don’t know, but he did. So that’s just an interesting little…
CB: For who? Who did he read it for?
SW: Don’t know. An audience.
CB: Okay, but just that he was invited to come and read an excerpt from it in front of an audience.
CB: That’s really cool.
SW: Yeah, like an author would today.
SW: Authors do that today. So that’s just a little factoid. That is a very technical book to be reading out to people and to draw an audience. Can you imagine reading those considerations before judgment? People, yeah, they would have flocked.
CB: Yeah, it must have been an extremely popular book. It’s sort of the equivalent today of like a New York Times bestseller or something like that.
SW: Very much so. You know it was pirated.
CB: Oh, really?
SW: Did you know it was pirated?
CB: I did not know that. How did that work?
SW: I don’t know. They got hold of the plates somehow and they published another edition. Someone published another edition in 1659.
CB: That’s not the second edition, right?
CB: That’s different from the second edition that Lilly himself published?
SW: He didn’t publish a second edition.
CB: Oh, so you’re saying the second edition was pirated.
SW: And it wasn’t a second edition, it’s identical to the first.
CB: Okay, I thought there was like some major improvement—or minor changes or improvements or something with the second edition.
SW: No, nothing. You know where you’ve got that mix up with the page numbers early in the 100s or in 170-something like that? There are a few pages where the page numbering goes out of sync—it’s kind of back-to-front or something. It’s exactly the same thing in the 1659 printing.
CB: Wow, that’s really interesting and wild. I did not know that. I mean, that could be a whole episode in and of itself, like ‘Lilly Facts: Some Things that You Didn’t Know About Christian Astrology’ because that’s a little mind-blowing. So somebody got a hold of the plates and they issued an unauthorized edition years after the first one.
CB: Wow. Okay, interesting.
SW: He knew about it. You can find it. It’s in the libraries.
CB: Oh, yeah, I have the second edition because I wanted to compare them to see what the improvements were or the changes, but I hadn’t done that yet because I was curious what he changed in the decade interim.
SW: If you have a look at pages, it’s around 174, isn’t it, where the page numbers go a bit wacky? There’s a few pages that are kind of back-to-front. I think it’s 174, 175, 176, something like that—and it’s exactly the same in the 1659 printing. It’s not an edition.
CB: Okay, very interesting. Well, yeah, I would like to look into that more. So really quickly, from Pseudo-Ptolemy, it’s Aphorism 14, from the Centiloquium. This is from Ashmand’s translation of the Tetrabiblos, where at the end there’s an appendix that has this, and it says: “The astrologer will be entangled in a labyrinth of error, when the seventh house and its lord shall be afflicted.”
SW: That’s a lovely expression, isn’t it?
CB: Yeah, it’s very flowery and stuff. So this was speculated to be from like a 9th or 10th century Arabic author and this got translated then into Greek. But I think Henry Coley, in his book, includes a translation of these aphorisms.
SW: Yes, he does.
CB: So they were in circulation. And I don’t know if that was the exact inspiration for Lilly including this consideration, or if it was more of practical thing, but that consideration and the next few—where he cites the Arabs and al-Kindi for the next several considerations—often are connected with the 7th house and the notion that the astrologer’s implicated in the question through the 7th house and its ruler.
SW: Yeah, I mean, there are a number of those, and they’re all ‘much of a muchness’. It doesn’t really require great analysis to work out what’s going on. Again, if there’s anything wrong with the 7th house, and it’s not about a 7th house matter, then you might want to be careful, you might want to think again and wonder about your client, your querent.
Obviously, this only applies where you’re not your own astrologer—the 7th house. You are the 1st house, so the 7th house is irrelevant if you’re doing your own horaries. But if you’re doing client horaries, yeah, you might want to think about that.
CB: Right. So what could be an issue on the astrologer’s part could be if you’ve miscalculated the chart, or if you’ve misunderstood something or something of that nature.
SW: Yes, really. But also, I think this earlier one about the querent in this not satisfying this, that also has to be kept in mind. I think separating them out like this if you’ve got an afflicted 7th house (7th house ruler)—and it’s not about a 7th house matter—then think hard about proceeding.
CB: Okay. Yeah, I think one of the last ones is Saturn being in the 7th house.
SW: Same thing. It’s exactly the same thing.
CB: Yeah, it’s exactly the same thing. And Lilly says in the 7th, Saturn: “either corrupts the judgment of the astrologer or is a sign the matter propounded will come from one misfortune to another.”
SW: Yeah, yeah. So either way, if it’s really awful—if your answer is going to be really awful—you have to really think if you want to give that answer to the querent, and if the querent is actually going to listen to you.
This is a very difficult thing to do, remembering before the modern period—no, before our period really—life was pretty brutal. So no welfare, no healthcare—I mean, all of that stuff—life was brutal. So there are only so many times in a day when you want to break the bad news, if you see what I mean.
And I think probably, as an astrologer with several clients, you would want to take a step back and say, enough.
CB: Sure, that makes sense.
SW: Enough, enough.
CB: Or it’s interesting just the concept—he says, ‘corrupts the judgment of the astrologer’–and the idea that the horary chart itself could be warning you that you could make a bad call on this one, or you could interpret the chart wrong.
SW: Yeah, I mean, I really haven’t thought about them that hard other than what I’ve already said to you. If it comes up, and you’re unhappy, don’t judge the chart; or at least don’t give the judgment to the querent. Step away from it.
CB: Got it.
SW: It could be that your judgment is clouded. Perhaps you’re being too subjective. Perhaps you’ve been affected by the querent, so that you want to give them the answer they want to hear—one of the reasons I don’t do personal consultations anymore. So yeah, if you’ve been affected, you are likely to give an incorrect judgment.
CB: Okay, so that makes sense. So ‘Saturn in the 7th’ is consideration nine—a problem with the astrologer potentially. Consideration eight is Saturn in the Ascendant, which Lilly says: “The matter of the question seldom or never comes to good.”
SW: And yet, he judges with Saturn in the Ascendant.
CB: Oh, yeah, you said that he incorporates that into the delineation. It was actually very prominent and relevant in describing something about the querent in those instances.
SW: Yes, it does, but again, it’s descriptive. It has to go with the rest of the descriptions. It has to go with what you know of the current circumstances, so yes. In fact, that’s true of all of this.
CB: Right, right. Okay. Let’s see, the other ones—10 is just the ‘lord of the Ascendant being combust’, and Lilly says: “Neither question propounded will take or the querent will be regulated.” What does ‘regulated’ mean in a 17th century context?
SW: Advised. They won’t take advice. You know, they won’t be told.
CB: They won’t listen to you.
SW: So they’re going to go their own way. So you know, “Don’t put your fingers in that electric socket,” they’re not going to listen, they’re going to put their fingers in anyway—that kind of thing.
CB: I like that imagery of a combust planet being like putting your finger in an electric socket.
SW: Yes—sorry. My own humor passed me by there, I’m sorry. But it’s actually even better than that because that combust planet—significator, I should say—is important because it’s showing that the querent’s brain is kind of frazzled, it’s a burnout.
So it could be burnt out, it could be huge stress, it could be that they’re just running around like a headless chicken. You see these kinds of things in very stressful, fast-moving horary questions—a combust planet is common. But also, it’s secretive.
CB: Hmm, something hidden.
SW: Yeah, hides the querent from you, or the querent may not be entirely honest.
CB: That makes sense. I had one like that, a horary question. And it was interesting in that it was like a combust planet that was also in Scorpio, and it was the ruler of the Ascendant. And the person actually was like a secret agent or a spy and that was tied in with their job description in the horary chart.
SW: Yeah, and also, that job is high-pressured.
SW: A lot of stress in a job like that. So you get that idea of a ‘fried’ brain in many respects, or in some respects. So yeah, that’s a combust significator. I mean, again, it could be descriptive. You could have someone who is in a very high-stressful situation, or is ill—mentally ill even—with a combust significator.
SW: Again, it could be descriptive.
CB: All right, and then, let’s see—consideration 11 is ‘lord of the 7 unfortunate, or in fall, or malefic bounds’. And Lilly says: “The artist shall [scarcely] give a solid judgment.”
SW: Yeah, we’ve done that.
CB: Yeah, we’ve done that. And then finally, the last one he gives is 12. ‘When the testimonies of benefics and malefics are equal’, he says: “Defer judgment. It is not profitable to know which way the balance will turn. However, defer your opinion till another question better inform you.”
SW: Hmm, that’s interesting, isn’t it?
CB: Yeah. What does that mean, the last part? I mean, I understand the idea of deferring if the indications are so even that it’s hard to make a judgment call either way. But what does he mean about ‘defer your opinion till another question better inform you’?
SW: I know. I know.
CB: Until the querent asks a question, or a different question at a later time?
SW: I’m assuming so. We have to be careful about repeated questions for fairly obvious reasons, I think. But to actually advocate asking again is unusual. It’s the only place I’ve seen it.
CB: Right. Maybe after circumstances have changed and a bunch of things have happened, then perhaps it would be enough.
SW: Something—I mean, possibly. I can’t tell because equal judgment—if the testimonies are equal—I never went through and tried that; it’s through his examples. And of course, if they were equal, he wouldn’t have judged it anyway, so there aren’t going to be any examples. I mean, there’s no evidence.
CB: That was one of the issues I had with the analysis of the charts that made it into Christian Astrology, and the analysis of the considerations before judgment. One of the things we can’t know is what charts didn’t make it into Christian Astrology that may have had some of these that he of course wouldn’t have included because he didn’t end up judging them, if there were any instances where that occurred.
SW: Yeah, but you see, he wouldn’t even have drawn the chart up, I don’t think, because if you are seeing up to eight clients a day, you know exactly what’s going on in the heavens—you know exactly. You can always tell what the question’s going to be before they’ve opened their mouths.
CB: Right. So you think there may be instances where there was that one client that walked in at like one o’clock in the afternoon, and he knew that Saturn was on the Ascendant, and he just said, “Get out of my office,” or something like that.
SW: Yeah, yeah. He just wouldn’t have seen them. I mean, I’m suggesting that for where he appears to have stopped work, when the Moon went into the late degrees of Gemini.
SW: Now he would have had people waiting outside—they queued up—but he just would have sent them away. So he knew that was coming. And if there was—I don’t know—some affliction coming around, he knew roughly what was rising when, so he would have known what was on the 7th. So he knew if that was going to be afflicted or unfortunate or any of these arguments that he gives here. He would have known that. So the chances of his actually drawing a chart up for that are slim.
SW: Why would he?
CB: Sure. Okay, that makes sense. And I tried to trace that one—I think I found it. Masha’allah mentions this consideration and it gets repeated in I think Bonatti and some other authors. So it’s another one of those ones that was passed on in the tradition, when the testimonies of the benefics and malefics are equal.
So that’s the 12th and final consideration basically and the core considerations before judgment. In the later aphorisms, he throws in a few other things like Saturn or Mars in the 10th house and what sort of credit the astrologer gets for answering the question, or whether there’s some problem there if they do answer the question that could add additional considerations or aphorisms. But for the most part, it’s these core 12 which are the primary considerations before judgment.
SW: Yeah, well those aphorisms—he’s actually absolutely going to be lifting out of other authors, without a shadow of a doubt; otherwise, they would have been included in this first section.
CB: Okay, interesting.
SW: Okay, so he’s got these—he’s collected these from his authors. He’s writing, writing, writing, writing, writing—now he comes to the aphorisms that he wants to include in his book.
SW: But they actually repeat some of this or add to some of this, but it’s too late, he’s finished. He’s finished that section of the book—it’s gone off to the printer.
CB: So you think there might have been others? Because he does repeat some of them, but then he throws in others that he picked up in the interim.
SW: Yeah, yeah, but it’s a lovely book. Yes, I do. One of the problems with writing a book before word processing is you can’t go back—it’s a real problem. And I think that because of the size of this book, he may well have been sending portions of it to the printer.
Now when he gets into the later sections, he’s now shut up from the plague and nothing is coming out of the house at that stage.
CB: Oh, yeah, I forgot. So that was one of the nice anecdotes that came out over the past year that’s suddenly relevant to us today in modern times. Lilly wrote Christian Astrology in the middle of a major outbreak of the plague in London.
SW: Yes, but he was also in London for three of the great plagues. The one where he was working for Gilbert Wright—they left for the country and he stayed to look after the house, collect rents, and so on; he stayed. The second one, he’s shut up from the plague—that’s the other one—and the third one, they moved out to the country. So he kind of did all of the various responses to plague, outbreaks of plague—he did one of each. By 1665, the last great plague, he was in the countryside.
CB: Well, hopefully, that’s encouraging to some people who are tired of being locked up—that sometimes great works can be accomplished still under those difficult circumstances.
SW: Can I put some cold water on that?
SW: You mind if I put some cold water on that? December 21, we had the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction right on top of the solstice, and it is in Aquarius. Well, if you think about Aquarius—it’s a sanguine sign, so it’s blood and air. And at that time, we got notice—we knew about our plague. So the chances are the first three months after that—because of the solstice—is what we can expect for the next 20 years.
CB: You’re saying in terms of the length of the pandemic?
SW: Well, no, no, not as a pandemic. Because even with the plague, it was kind of there all the time, but they had occasional outbreaks. And they had no inoculations that we have. So it’s going to be a bit like leprosy—it’s never going to go. Or flu—you’re never going to lose it. But it’s definitely going to be around seriously for the next 20 years, which is roughly when the next Jupiter-Saturn conjunction will occur.
CB: Well, hopefully, some people will write some ‘Lillyesque’ tomes during that time and still be successful as astrologers or be productive in some way.
SW: Yeah, well, if you look at the first three months, you had your new President saying new things. So that also should last for another 20 years, which would be good, wouldn’t it?
CB: Yeah, we’ll see.
SW: Not quite so great here, but never mind.
CB: Sure, we’ll see what happens. So that’s pretty much it for the considerations before judgment. So just to wrap this up, I think we’ve talked about how they were not always used to reject questions necessarily. They were often giving you descriptive information about what was going on in the chart and that can sometimes be very helpful or useful information that you can incorporate into the delineation itself in different ways.
SW: Yes. And the most important factor for finding radicality in a chart is description. Now that can be the ‘moles, marks, and scars’ routine, which is very useful and works. It can be a physical description of how the querent looks and so on, or a circumstantial description, but description is key.
And this would have been, in my view, what Lilly would have used ultimately because he saw most of his clients, so he could see whether they matched the chart or not; and he was very good at physical descriptions.
So that’s the ultimate—considerations before judgment are considerations. Consider these things if they arise before you proceed to judgment. As long as your descriptions match, then your chart is probably radical.
SW: That and the question. That question has to be examined closely—closely.
CB: Right, and to what extent does the chart match the question.
SW: Oh, yeah, it has to. That’s your description.
CB: Gotcha, okay.
SW: That is your description.
CB: Perfect. All right, so I wanted to mention a few things—one of them is your book. You wrote that book with Peter Stockinger and that came out in 2014. So that’s probably something people—if they wanted to learn more about Lilly—would be a good source, right?
SW: Yeah. I mean, the autobiography, that was from—sorry. The autobiography—that came from the autograph—so it’s Lilly’s own handwritten copy. And something that Professor Josten actually said in Ashmand’s autobiographical notes was there wasn’t a complete autobiography—a biography of Lilly. Well, that autobiography is complete. It is according to what he wrote, and also has Ashmand’s annotations later after Lilly died, so we have extra information.
The research we did for the “Monster of Ingratitude” was all done with primary sources. We went to the horse’s mouth for that paper, for that treatise. So yeah, it’s all done as thoroughly as we possibly could and as reliably as we possibly could.
CB: Okay, so that would be good for people to check out. That’s available on Amazon. Just search for William Lilly: The Last Magician, Adept & Astrologer. You also, in 2010, with The Tradition Library, with Helena Avelar and Luis Ribeiro, put out Lilly’s autobiography—a very nice edition of that.
And even though that website’s no longer there, I’ll put a link up to that in the show notes, because that would be good for people to read if they want to learn more about Lilly and more about his life. Because you do some commentary in that text as well, I think, right?
SW: Yes, yes. I mean, not huge amounts, but some, yes.
CB: Okay. And then what do you have going on in terms of consultations or classes or other offerings?
SW: Well, I still take clients, but I stick now with my established clients. Courses—I’m still running the two correspondence courses, the Traditional Horary Course foundation and diploma. Forthcoming will be online courses that I’m hoping will be late spring. It’s in development now.
I think we’ve all learned a lot, haven’t we, with the lockdown about Zoom particularly and Zoom-type meetings. And I think that we’ve learned its shortcomings, but we also can see that it’s a great window, and it’s a great way of reaching people if you want to. So yeah, I wasn’t a great advocate of it, but I must say this last year it has proved its value, I have to say. So yes, that’s in process.
CB: Okay, so you’ll be offering classes soon. And you also have a blog where you post articles.
SW: Yes, the blog really is replacing my website. So this is a great way of keeping up with what I’m posting up there, but Facebook and Twitter are good ways of contacting me.
CB: So your blog is at Sue-Ward.blogspot.com and your Twitter is @susanward. And can people email you as well?
SW: Yes, that’s the iCloud email address there.
CB: So it’s SueWard2459@icloud.com.
CB: All right, thank you so much for doing this episode with me and for sticking with it. I really appreciate it. And yeah, thanks for your analysis and your contributions to the tradition through your analysis of the considerations to help better unravel and understand what they actually mean in modern times.
SW: Well, thank you. It’s nice to have the opportunity to be able to talk about these things rather than write. It’s quicker, for a start, it requires less effort to talk about it, and you can laugh at the same time, so that suits me very well.
So this has been very interesting. You’ve been forensic in your questions, and I’m pleased about that. I hope I’ve managed to answer all of them to your satisfaction and I have enjoyed it. I quite liked being kind of questioned that closely. I quite enjoy it actually.
CB: Yeah, well, I appreciate the opportunity. One of the things that was interesting for me about researching this—again, thanks to Philip Graves for scanning a bunch of old articles for me from his library, early journal articles, so I could piece together what happened and study the exchanges between you and Maurice and other things you had written.
But I started studying astrology in 1999 when I was like 14 or 15, and I didn’t get into traditional astrology until 2004 and 2005. But the whole traditional revival—so much had already happened in the late 1980s and 1990s that I could only learn about it in retrospect.
But very important developments and discussions had already taken place a decade or two before I even became aware of a lot of this and a lot of that was only available in print journals. So unless you happened to have access to those—which are somewhat scarce—or you happened to have been around during that time, a lot of these discussions, if you weren’t around for it, then you didn’t hear it.
So it’s nice to be able to talk to somebody directly who was not just there and participated in the discussions, but actually took part in and carried out some of the important research that has since shaped the tradition over the past two or three decades. So thanks for allowing me to have this conversation with you.
SW: Oh, you’re very welcome, and I really enjoyed it. It’s been lovely talking to you. And it’s actually nice to have had a proper conversation with you actually after all this time. So I mean, if we come across each other, we can just pick up where we left off.
CB: Definitely. That sounds good.
SW: Carry on with that conversation. But it’s great. Thank you so much for your time. Thank you for inviting me. Thank you very much. I’ve really enjoyed it, and I hope I’ll see you soon when all this is over.
CB: Definitely. All right, thanks everyone for watching or listening to this episode of The Astrology Podcast. And I guess that’s it for this episode, so we’ll see you again next time.
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