The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 348, titled:
With Chris Brennan and Demetra George
Episode originally released on April 25, 2022
Note: This is a transcript of a spoken word podcast. If possible, we encourage you to listen to the audio or video version, since they include inflections that may not translate well when written out. Our transcripts are created by human transcribers, and the text may contain errors and differences from the spoken audio. If you find any errors then please send them to us by email: email@example.com
Transcribed by Mary Sharon
Transcription released April 26, 2022
Copyright © 2022 TheAstrologyPodcast.com
CHRIS BRENNAN: Hey, my name is Chris Brennan and you’re listening to The Astrology Podcast. In this episode, I’m going to be talking to Demetra George about her new book that just came out, Ancient Astrology in Theory and Practice Volume Two that was just released today. Basically, we’re recording this on Tuesday, April 19th, 2022, starting at 1:23 pm in Denver, Colorado. So hey Demetra, welcome back to the show, and congratulations on the release of the book.
DEMETRA GEORGE: Thank you. It’s been a long road and I’m really happy to be close to the finish line at this moment.
CB: Yeah. This has been a long time coming, you’ve been working intensely on this book for the past several years as the second in a two-volume series on ancient Hellenistic astrology and the origins of Western astrology basically, but it’s also something you’ve been working on on a longer timeframe since you started seriously studying Hellenistic astrology 20 years ago in 2002. Right?
DG: I think it was even longer than that. And then reflecting it goes back to 1993 when, at that time, I was an astrologer very immersed in the mythic asteroids and Goddess spirituality and astrology. At a NORWAC conference, I heard Rob Hand announce the beginning of Project Hindsight, that was April of 1993. And because I had a sort of past life regression that showed me translating ancient texts in the Renaissance period, I thought to myself when I heard Rob’s announcement that they were reclaiming the tradition of ancient Greek and Latin astrological texts. I thought, “Oh, perhaps I have some connection with this.” So I marched up and handed over my Visa card. And Rob later told me that I was the first subscriber to Project Hindsight. So it was at that moment exactly 30 years ago now that I realized I put my foot on the path that would inevitably lead me to this point, having completed these two works. Though I didn’t know that at the time, nevertheless once I was on that path it seemed like there was hardly any leeway to get myself off of it.
CB: Right. And Project Hindsight itself that you signed up for in April of 1993 and became the first subscriber had itself only started a year earlier, based on a series of conversations that happened at the United Astrology Conference in Washington, DC in May of 1992, I think, right?
DG: Yes, it was in May of 1992. When we were reflecting back to the first connections, that was in May– I think it was in August, there was an AFA conference in Chicago– and people I knew invited me to a local house party of people they sort of knew that was happening. And I went and Bob and Ellen and Zoller and Rob were all that house party and so within a few months of that, I had the opportunity long before I fully understood what would unfold in the future… One could say the fate points began to cross.
CB: Right. That’s really kind of crazy and kind of wild that it all started with Project Hindsight exactly almost 30 years ago to the month, which makes it a complete Saturn cycle of like Saturn and Aquarius coming back around 30 years later. I guess what was big at that time, though, historically is just everybody to give some context. Everybody had been practicing what we call modern astrology, which is the type of astrology practiced in the West by the time of the late 20th century, and most modern astrologers didn’t have access to and hadn’t read many of the texts from prior to the 20th Century because they were locked away in ancient languages like Greek and Latin that most people couldn’t read. And so that was what was novel or unique at that time is that a group of astrologers got together and started translating some of those texts so that modern astrologers could read them.
DG: Right. For us modern astrologers, not only was that the sense we couldn’t read them because they were locked away, we didn’t even know that they existed. And there was a way in which when we began to learn astrology in the 60s and 1970s people of my generation, we naively thought that the kind of astrology that we were studying was the way it had always been done. There was no awareness whatsoever that there is a whole tradition behind that that had gone on for 2000 years that was obscured to all of us until the work of Project Hindsight began uncovering and revealing it. That was one of the great revelations that it took my generation a while to fully comprehend what was going on and the import of what was trying to be done.
CB: Right. So early on, there was a feeling and I get the sense and I hear from a lot of astrologers who were active during that time period that they thought it was a good idea once it started being promoted by Robert Schmidt and Robert Zoller and Robert Hand of Project Hindsight, contemporary astrologers would sign up for this novel subscription service where they were releasing translations each month on a subscription basis. Astrologers would sign up but then once they got the books, sitting down and even reading the translations even ones that were in English was a whole nother matter and turned out to be a lot more challenging and complicated than anybody expected, so that it didn’t necessarily for the first 10 years have the immediate impact that it might have. Right?
DG: Right. That was absolutely true and like excitement when we get to try, to get the translation, open up and read it. And I had no idea whatsoever what it was saying, it still could have been in ancient Greek and Latin for I actually understood. I remember early on going to one of Rob Hand’s lectures on Hellenistic aspects that he was giving at the conference. He was tossing all this Hellenistic jargon around of spear bearers and maltreatment and the projection of race, and it was incomprehensible and I remember going up to Rob or asking a question, I said, “But what does it mean? How do I use it in charts? Like, what’s the benefit of it?” And he said, “We don’t know yet. At this stage, our job is simply to translate it. And we’re telling you what we’re translating in but it will take a number of years before we actually understand what it means and how to apply it and utilize it in contemporary chart interpretations.” He said we’re not there yet.
CB: Right. So the initial phases of the translation project were just translating and recovering all this stuff, and then it took a number of years to start to put it together and figure out what to do with it and how it fit together. That’s eventually where you came in around 2002 when you got seriously interested in studying Hellenistic astrology and in the practice and the techniques, and then by that point, some of the people associated with Project Hindsight had started really putting it together more.
DG: Right. I can’t say that I got seriously interested in it. It was more like I was put in the position to learn it lest I be totally embarrassed and humiliated. And in the late 90s, I’d returned to university to get my master’s degree and at that point, even though I had been a subscriber of Hindsight, I was still very involved in my mythological studies and I wanted training to be able to do a more scholarly level of myth. So when my children were raised and done enough that I could return to school, I looked at the departments available and I thought the classics was the department that would most be suitable for studying Greek mythology. And I remember that professor saying, he said, “Well, you can do that here but you have to take Greek and Latin because that’s what we do.” And I said, “Well, okay, whatever.” And then that brought me into that one because I was going to have the master’s degree in the right field for the beginnings of Kepler College by the time I graduated. And as the board needed people with certain academic credentials, Kepler College asked me to be part of their first-year faculty to teach the history of ancient astrology. So I still wasn’t there with the actual practice of it. But as the story goes, after the first year of Kappeler teaching the ancient time period, it coalesced with a NORWAC Conference– yet NORWAC once again comes into play– where Project Hindsight had a booth. Alan White showed up, he gave an impromptu lecture on Hellenistic astrology. Many of our Kepler students attended. They were fascinated and they came to me and they said, “Why aren’t we learning about this? Isn’t this part of our curriculum?” And I said, “Yes, it is.” That prompted me to go to Cumberland where Robert Schmidt was giving an intensive– and that was in the summer of 2001– and during that week, it was as if my old astrology crumbled away, I had visions of what traditional astrology could look like, and I was at that point that I was inspired with both the passion and the realization that it had to be taught. So it was in that next year that I arranged and got permission from Kepler College to add it to the curriculum; permission from Robert Schmidt and Alan Black to actually offer it, and then arrange with Alan White to be able to spend a winter in Cumberland, Virginia area where both Alan and Bob supervised me in creating a course. And hence the first class happened at Kepler College in 2002. That’s the evolution of that. Once again it wasn’t, “Oh, I need to teach this,” but circumstances conspired to put me in a position where that was obviously the right thing to do in terms of a certain academic integrity that if we’re going to teach the history of astrology in the ancient cultures, then my goodness, we should teach the practice of it as well.
CB: Right. And so not too long after that, that began a series of where you eventually started teaching Hellenistic astrology to groups of students at Kepler College. And it was like the only place or one of the only places in the world for this period of time in the 2000s where students of astrology were learning some of the foundational principles of ancient astrology from 2000 years ago literally in centuries. And so at that time, that was what was unique about that, and that’s where I started studying Hellenistic astrology in 2004 and 2005. It was under you at Kepler. But it was kind of an exclusive thing because it was just Kepler College students who were learning this, which was a relatively small group, and you had these very detailed lecture notes and written notes that went along with the translations in order to guide students through them and make them understand them. But for many years, that was pretty much the only place that you could seriously study Hellenistic astrology. And now, fast forward almost 20 years later, part of what you’ve published now and completed with volume two of this series is all of your work and all of your notes that used to be exclusive to just the Kepler College students, as well as a lot of work that you’ve done in the interim over the past two decades and researching and putting this material into practice is now available for everyone in the world.
DG: Right. That’s in combination with your book on Hellenistic astrology and the course that you offer. I feel both of us have participated in being intermediaries and stepping stones between the initial translation of these works and putting them into a form to make them accessible to our community at large and sort of anchor and ensure the continuity that future generations of astrologers will have access to the beginnings of the Western astrological tradition. It’s been very much something in tandem that we’ve done together.
CB: Yeah, and I love that people have been reading our books together because they really compliment each other very well. But it’s a necessary step because it’s incredibly hard to just sit down and read a translation of like Ptolemy or Vettius Valens and really understand what they’re doing. You really need a primer and you need somebody to guide you through the terminology and some of the exotic techniques and things like that, and that’s really especially what your book is best for because it has not just the instructional portions where you talk people through things, but also it has workbook sections at the end of each chapter where they can go through and apply the concepts to their own charts step by step.
DG: Yes. And my many years of being a teacher, I found that that’s one of the important keys and actually making the material your own is not simply listening to it, but having a structure that organizes the way and the order of how you think about it, and the order that allows you to interpret it and make meaning and sense. So the workbook portions are very much like a program text that leads you through a structured process of first this, then that, then that, that brings you to an interpretation that follows naturally from the previous steps instead of having to make it come out of your head from nothing. [laughs]
CB: Right. Yeah. That’s something you’ve been able to refine now through 20 years of teaching this material and teaching ancient astrology and then being able to integrate it into this book. To circle back around, the other thing I think that’s really important, I was trying to find the date of the United Astrology Conference in 1992 and I’m having trouble finding the exact date but we know it was in May of 1992. I pulled up the chart for that and it has Saturn somewhere around the middle of Aquarius around 17-18 degrees of Aquarius. Yeah, 17-18-19 Aquarius in May of- Oh, it’s stationed. Actually, that’s funny. [laughs] Saturn actually stationed towards the end of May of 1992 at 18 degrees of Aquarius. And you know what? It probably was one of those ones like most United Astrology Conferences where they end up falling really close to Labour Day weekend which is towards the end of May. I bet you it’s pretty close to that.
DG: Memorial Day weekend.
CB: Memorial Day. Okay, thanks. And then of course now Saturn is currently at 23 degrees of Aquarius. So this is the Saturn return. The other thing that’s important about that is it helps to me, I feel like symbolically the publication of your book brings to completion, everything that was started back then in 1992 with Project Hindsight and with the movement to revive and recover Hellenistic astrology, which not everybody that founded it got a chance to see that to completion because we had the, you know, we’ve lost some major astrologers that played a really important role in that movement such as Robert Schmidt a few years ago who passed away, who was the primary Greek translator. Robert Zoller who also passed away. And even Robert Hand, even though he’s still around and is still active, because he was focusing on his PhD so much over the course of the past decade or two, has never really published a follow-up book that outlines his approach to ancient astrology at this point so far. So I feel like with the publication of your book, it really brings things full circle from 30 years ago.
DG: Yes, you should also mention Alan White in that list who was a ‘critical link’ as Alan used to say. Schmidt would translate the Greek and then Alan would translate Schmidt, and then Alan conveyed it to me. [laughs] In that process, I would write it down and give it back to Alan who had made corrections, and he would give it back to Schmidt who would make his corrections, and then we get it to the Kepler students. But Alan was a very important person in this transmission happening, and I think Schmidt where they’ve never have had the time or the patience to work with me in getting those teachings clarified in the way that Alan had so that they could be accessible to the Kepler students.
CB: Yeah. Alan always said he needed to translate the translator. [Demetra laughs] It was a little inside joke but it’s also kind of true, that the way that Schmitt thought about the material was very high level and the way that he unpacked it certainly was… He had a way of systemizing it in a way that was brilliant, but also not easily accessible to the entry-level student. So there were a few intermediate steps that had to happen in the transmission of this material to contemporary astrologers. And Alan, Alan passed away about a decade ago but I asked him to record for me his famous Intro to Hellenistic Astrology flip chart lecture, which I actually released as an episode of The Astrology Podcast a couple of years ago. Weirdly, actually, it looks like it’s exactly two years ago on April 20th, 2020.
DG: That’s great.
CB: This is pretty much… I mean, it’s not because he was sick towards the end of his life, he didn’t have quite the same vigour that he had probably when he originally presented it 10 years earlier when you saw it in 2002 but this is essentially the lecture that you got that night at the Northwest Astrology Conference.
DG: Right. And this is what fired up all the initial Kepler students. When they heard Alan’s lecture, they were raving afterwards with excitement that we have to learn this material.
CB: Right. So that’s an important step if you want to go back and watch that and just understand the context. But then with this book, and here once again is the cover for those watching the video version. So it’s titled Ancient Astrology in Theory and Practice: A Manual of Traditional Techniques, Volume Two. This goes into just a huge amount of depth in some of those things that maybe Alan touched on in passing in that short 90-minute lecture. But this is the second part and what ends up being over 1200 pages when you combine it with volume one, just going into detail on just about every major area of Hellenistic astrology. So with this book, the first book you’re primarily focused on the planets and determining planetary condition, whereas in Volume Two you’re really focused on the houses and identifying the different rulers of the birth chart, right?
DG: Yes. In some ways the book on the houses is called Down to Earth. Volume one was on the condition of the planets as they are in the sky pretty much for everyone on that day. But what makes them unique to an individual is at the moment of birth, what houses they fall into in a specific birth chart is defined by the degree of the ascendant to the rising sign. And that’s where celestial influences become manifest in the Earth realm, and then actually express in all have the different kinds of activities and experiences that we encounter in our own journeys from life until death. And so those on the simplest levels with the houses represents the spectrum of human experiences. So that’s the larger concept of how a planet with all of its more fortunate and more challenged predispositions actually is able to bring forth its agenda by using, and some ways having to use, the topics of the house that it finds itself in at the time of a person’s birth. I think that sets up the big picture, and then the book starts out with understanding the various ways the houses have been classified and how that impacts their dynamic strength and potency, their assignment of the favorable and more challenging topics of life that people have to encounter and their range of responsibilities, and looking at the significations of the houses.
CB: Right. So it really has a lot to do then part of it with going back to what were the original meanings of the houses and what were those derived from conceptually or symbolically.
DG: Yes. And so I looked at that but also the more I got into it, the more I went through how some of those significations changed that were added to during the Persian medieval period. And then what came in during the Renaissance and then what new significations came in during the early modern and contemporary periods, and trying to find the common theme that ran through all of them. And my– what’s the right word here– operating principle is, every generation of astrologers will take astrology and shape it in certain ways that it begins to reflect back to them the meaning and topics that are relevant in their own lives. It is inevitable that people will do that. And so in the process of that and in the course of that, new meanings get added in, old meanings get tossed out because they’re no longer applicable. But in order to keep the essential core principles of astrology have some vertical integrity and uniformity, the question is; the new significations, do they in some way conform to the principles that lie underneath the meanings of the earlier significations? And that is one measuring tool that we can use for evaluating which significators are relevant and important work. I found that to be especially important in the years I was working with the research arm of the AFA and attended several research conferences, and saw astrologers using very advanced statistical methods with huge amounts of data to decide if like, some meaning of a sign or planet or house panned out in analyzing many 1000s of charts. A certain point that I remember, there was a meaning of, I think they may have been looking at Uranus, where they expected the spread to be individuals who were erratic and unconventional, individualistic, rebellious. And instead what their data showed was that you had ultra-conservative personalities showing up under large concentrations of Aquarian energy. And I remember having one of those conversations at a conference on the balcony drinking wine after hours and saying, “But of course, you know Saturn’s the ancient ruler of Aquarius, it makes total sense that you might get a very conservative finger under that energy.” And the modern astrology was just shocked as if that was totally new information to them. At that point, I realized how important it is that astrologers as a community have the gamut of the different significations that have come through the tradition, which one of those have remained at the core, which have been trines at the moment that they get to start it in order to do the kind of statistical research that now the computers and AI and all of that are making it very easy to do? That’s sort of a long background in my essays on each house, there’s an appendix for each house chapter where I’ve looked at the Hellenistic, the Arabic, the Latin Mediaeval, the Renaissance, the early modern, the modern significations of the houses so that people actually can see the continuity and change of house meanings over time.
CB: Yeah. I think that’s possibly the most important or most useful contribution of this book that readers will find. It’s that for every single one of the houses, you have this section where you will go through a bunch of ancient Greek and Latin Hellenistic authors and you will list– for example, here I have a few pages up from the treatment of the fifth house and its significations or topics– and you’ll cite the Hellenistic astrologers, the earliest ones from the earliest to the latest ones first, of like Hermes and what Hermes says. The fifth house signifies what [unintelligible] and others signify by the fifth house. And then you’ll move into the medieval Arabic authors and you’ll show what they said the fifth house signifies. And then later you’ll even move into some of the late medieval and Renaissance authors. And then finally, some of the modern 20th-century authors especially English astrologers what they thought the fifth house signified. And in that way, you can see some of the continuity in the tradition over the past 2000 years and how there has been a great deal of continuity in the transmission of astrology and just the conceptualization of what certain houses mean, but then how also there’s been either drift or sometimes in some instances, even very radical changes in astrologers understanding of what the houses mean.
DG: Right, that was fascinating. And then that was reflected in my essays about each house, that I wanted to make the material applicable to a contemporary astrologer. So I began with some of the earliest Hellenistic, but then I brought it forward to how it has been since I’m shaped by more modern and contemporary astrologers, particularly in terms of themes that are meaningful and relevant to today’s practitioner. So the house essays aren’t strictly ancient, but they show that development over time.
CB: Right. And so part of the purpose of that is just to show the contrast as well as the continuity, and maybe in doing so give people a much broader perspective about what the houses have meant over time so that they can then make their own informed decision about what they think each house should mean in practice, or what it could mean in practice.
DG: Right. And there are certain houses where the ancient meanings were very clear but the significations fell out of the transmission process, and in many cases I think are very important that they be recognised and added back in today, not as new things we’re making up and just sticking somewhere, but seeing that their roots exist there and they’ve always been part of those meanings. One of the examples is the name of the third house. Well, in contemporary astrology, we get the third house as communications, that’s like the first keyword that often arises for most people writing communications. They may throw short journeys in there and some people may remember that has to do with siblings, and that starts the process of interpretation. But the ancient meaning of the third house was goddess. It did mean some of those other significations, but it also meant sacred rites and rituals. And while the ninth house was religion and dealt more about the concepts of religion, the theory of religion, the dogma, the third house related more to the rituals that you actually do; of chanting what you’re going to chant, or doing your chants, or your indications of lighting candles of other parts of the ritual and likewise, of divination. And it arose much about the short distance travel of the local cults that each Greek city state had, and each little town had their own goddess or god whose temple was the central focus of the religious activity for that area. And it was there that they performed the daily and monthly and yearly rituals to their local guardians. All of those practices were part of third house significations. Valens writes if a person has their certain set of planets in the third house, they will be a priest or priestess of the great goddess. So in today’s world where many people are involved not only in women’s spirituality and the worship of the goddess, but also of nature-based religion and worship, that’s bringing it to one’s local area the spirits and ancestors of the land that we’re on. And I’ve noticed many young astrologers are opening their lectures with the acknowledgment of the lineage of earlier peoples who lived on land that we’re now on and honoring them. That places us right in the third house of the honoring of local divinities. So I think that for many people who are involved in this aspect of spiritual activity, who have many planets in the third house, it’s so useful for them to understand that it’s that part of their chart rather than, “Well, what book are you supposed to write in your life?”
CB: Right. That’s a really tangible way of maybe how going back and studying the ancient texts can help us to conceptualize and know where to place some things that are happening now that astrologers would want to associate with certain parts of the chart, but having a more clear connection and lineage with that?
CB: Okay, great. In terms of that, I wanted to show the diagram– this is right at the beginning of your book that just shows the significations of the houses in the Hellenistic tradition and some of the just basic meanings of each of the 12 houses. Some of these are familiar from modern astrology where some of these houses still largely mean similar things, whereas there’s other significations that are a little bit different or not what we’re used to 2000 years later. Do you want to go through each of them? Like, not in their entirety, but just mention them briefly.
DG: Well, let’s see. Maybe we can just jump around a little bit.
DG: And we might get to all of them or we might not. Just want to be a little bit free of the structure [laughs] of starting Aries and go piece by piece through Pisces or however it is that we do that.
CB: Right. We talked about, for example, one of the interesting ones about the third house that you mentioned is divination, which is associated with the third house. One that I thought was interesting about the fourth house where it’s always primarily been the parents in the home or living situation, but also the fourth is associated with the end of life in Hellenistic astrology.
DG: Okay. That has to do with the diurnal motion of the Sun. The Sun rises in the East every day, it culminates overhead, it sets in the West. If I move my cursor around, can you see that, Chris?
DG: On the screen. Okay. Do you have a cursor that you can move around that people can see? If not, then I’ll just talk it through.
CB: Yeah, let’s just talk it through.
DG: Okay. So when we look at the first house which is called the Horoscope, this is the point where the Sun rises every day, and in the Sun’s motion it as it rises toward high noon, it goes in a clockwise direction through the 12th house and the 11th House in the 10th where it reaches its highest elevation overhead. Then it begins its descent through the ninth and eighth and seventh where it then sets. And then it continues its decline under the world, under the Earth in the sixth and fifth. And when it gets to the fourth, it is its lowest anti-culmination point. And Hermes, he likened this diurnal motion of the Sun to the basic ages of life. And so… I’ve lost the chart.
CB: Yeah, I was just switching the camera back to you. Go on.
DG: Okay. He associated youth with the first house in the horoscope and so if you had planets there, those planets would symbolize events that would take place during the first part of your life. And then the midheaven where the Sun culminates was associated with the middle part of age. The seventh house, according to various authors, was either old age or death itself, where the Sun sank beneath the horizon. But to the extent it was old age by the time you got to the fourth house, it was the death of the Sun that then from that point is regenerated in the underworld. And you see this motif very much in the Egyptian myth of the journey of the Sun and the Egyptian Book of the Dead and the regeneration of the soul that this is where the soul is presented to Osiris and the soul becomes regenerated. And then it starts some coming up again, going through the second house which is called the gates of Hades, and these are the gates of the underworld. And then it’s reborn again at the ascendant.
That was the astronomical motif that brought astrologers to the eighth house being the end of life, your circumstances of extreme old age, when you would die… It also had to do– even though the eighth house is a death house, the fourth house likewise was that it had to do with funeral rites and ancestors. And ancestors worship through tending the graves of your relatives who had passed away. I have a friend in Italy, [Anna Sushi], who is an art historian. She first shared with me some of her insight into this in terms of the plan of the Roman household. And you could see this when we walked through Pompeii and we saw, like, the ruins of the houses that were there. You’d walk in through the door, and this first room is a kind of atrium that’s a sitting room. And around that room are the busts or head statues of all of one’s dead ancestors who are honored. She then explained the rest of the layout of the house but there was that immediate association with the home and the ancestors of one’s family, and that when someone died they were laid out in this room for a certain amount of days where people could come and pay their respects before they were carried to their final resting place. That’s where we had the whole concept of the end of the life with the fourth house of the home and the ancestors all melded together in the traditions, cultural and social traditions of an era in which the astrology was formulated.
CB: Right. Okay, so there’s some aspects of the meaning of the houses that come from astronomical properties that are being interpreted symbolically, like in this instance, the Sun rising in the East and the first house culminating then setting and then being down at its lowest and most hidden part of the chart in the fourth house. But then there’s also symbolic and cultural things like the name of the fourth house being the subterranean or under the Earth place, and having some of those associations of the underworld being sort of like the place that you go to after death, and that being tied in with other cultural motifs in the ancient world?
DG: Yes, definitely.
DG: Right. Because I came to astrology, initially, primarily through mythology. Throughout my discussion of the houses, I bring in many of the mythic themes and historical and cultural themes into understanding the significations of the houses. My point of view is that both streams have their roots in classical antiquity. And well, this isn’t the discussion and I don’t know how much we want to get into but I feel that the mythology and the nature of the gods was such background that everyone just knew that there was very much an association of the meanings of the planets with the attributes and characteristics of the gods that they represented.
CB: Right. Yeah, that would have been taken for granted in just the cultural context of its day. Okay. That’s really interesting. Another thing that that brings up and that you mentioned in passing that may be really important here is that there wasn’t always just one house that meant something, but sometimes you could have multiple houses that are connected with the same topic or different variations of that topic. Like in this instance, the fourth house being one of the houses associated with death, and the eighth house also being associated with the concept of death.
CB: Okay. A large part of your treatment then of the houses is just unpacking a lot of those different cultural and mythological and astronomical and symbolic things in a very detailed way as you go through each of the 12 houses in the book.
DG: Exactly. And then showing how the meanings of the houses- Well, not necessarily derived from mythian culture are minimally conceptually consistent with the beliefs of the myth and culture and philosophy of the time. And they function as a sort of an integrated understanding.
CB: Right. Okay. I want to get into two houses in particular but before we do, I’d like to mention just the significations that you gave in all of them. I’m going to mention them really briefly just because I like your articulation of the specific keywords that you used for certain ones I thought was really good and really insightful. But in your diagram and at the beginning of the book, you said the first house signifies the life, the breath, vitality, the body, and the character of the native or the one who was born at that moment in time– the owner of the birth chart. The second house signifies livelihood and wealth. The third house is siblings, divination, and short travel. The fourth house is parents, home, and end of life. The fifth house is children and pleasures. The sixth house is illness, injuries, and servitude. The seventh house is marriage and spouse. The eighth house is death and inheritance. The ninth is religion, divination, and foreign travel. The 10th is profession, reputation, and actions. The 11th house is friends, alliances, and hopes. And the 12th house is enemies, sufferings, and danger.
So one of the things I know that you put some thought into and you put sort of a statement at the very beginning of the book is that it’s important to understand just the cultural differences between now and contemporary times versus 2000 years ago, and that we have to understand the original significations within the context in which they originally practiced. And somehow there can be major cultural or moral differences between how astrology is talked about today versus how it was back then, but it’s still important, nonetheless, to be able to understand the original significations in their own cultural context. And once we do understand that, we can choose which ones we use today and we can adapt them in ways that are more appropriate to not just the rationales, but just the cultural norms of today.
DG: Yes, that’s true. This is a thorny situation that came up in various layers of editing and proofreading the book, where there are cases where the ancient astrologers use certain words that are considered trigger words today. There was discussion about whether those should be eliminated or changed, and I found myself in the situation of on one hand wanting to be sensitive to modern sensibilities, and at the same time, not wanting to rewrite the words that the ancients were able to report, what earlier astrologers actually said themselves, rather than change it to something that I thought might be more palatable to contemporary people. And that became a very delicate operation at multiple places throughout the process. There are many points where we had different resolutions of accommodating those two different extremes. I think we did include a note about that at the beginning of the section that what I tried to do for the most part was to report the words of the astrologers themselves, rather than try to, from my own point of view, improve or change or misrepresent them even though that may have been a more correct thing to do in this particular area. I’m aware that that can be maybe an issue for some people and I’m in the place of trying to be true to the scholarship, and at the same time considerate of my audience.
CB: Yeah, that makes sense.
DG: An example of that is in the sixth house. Do we want to go there with the sixth house?
CB: Sure. One of the terms you used that I thought was actually a good word to use in the sixth house is you use the word ‘servitude’ as one of the keywords for the sixth house. Because in the ancient Greek and Roman texts, the term that was sometimes used was slaves and slavery was a practice and a common thing in the ancient world.
DG: It was a very common thing in the ancient world. What’s important to be aware of was that the bad fortune of finding yourself being a slave was not due to only the color of your skin, but it also could be due to your ethnicity or to the country that you came from, or to the challenging financial practices of your ancestors. And in the Hellenistic time period, there were many separate kingdoms that were the result of Alexandria, the Macedonians conquest, and Deby among his military leaders. Those kingdoms were in a continual state of warfare with one another and they comprised of not only Greeks and Macedonians who had moved there, but all of the Syrians and Phoenicians and Egyptians and Mesopotamians and all the different nations that live there. When these battles would happen, whoever was the victor– and these were temporary victories, many of them, because then they kept fighting– but the victors had the right to take whoever they wanted in the country they conquered, and bring them back to their home country and turn them into slaves in their household. So there are many people who became enslaved who were not simply poor or a certain color or race or language, but also doctors and lawyers, physicians, scribes, intellectuals. Archimedes, who’s like one of the greatest ancient scientists and mathematicians, was an enslaved person in a Roman household to which he was taken. And so this was a very important query of ancient people going to an astrologer saying, “Hey, do you see in my chart, my fate of at some point in my life becoming an enslaved person for someone else due to war?” That could happen. Or if a person couldn’t pay their debt, part of the legal system was that that person and their family could then be taken into their debtors household as slaves. That was another way that that could occur, there are multiple ways. And this was a huge concern. And so what that word has come to mean in the contemporary context of the sixth house among other things, is finding oneself in a position of servitude to someone else who has power over you, upon whom part of your economic well-being is dependent. And that forces you into a position of servitude in order that you and your family can survive economically and in dealing with situations of oppression. This can happen as a culture and it can happen individually. It can be individual people where let’s say, the ruler of the seventh of marriage is in the sixth house of servitude, that via marriage, that person finds themselves in a state of being not much more than a servant in their partner’s family.
Or in any relationship; a relationship between the teacher and the student, between two partners, between an employer and an employee, even between the parent and the child, whenever you have that conflation of the ruler of one of these houses and the ruler of the sixth house being in each other’s houses or in aspect, you have this power dynamic of one person being in power over another. And the sixth house can give a key toward recognizing that and beginning to unravel it. Now, when we add to that, the planet Mars has its joy in the sixth house. Mars archetypally is the warrior, and one of the ancient significations of the sixth house were insurrections. Then you have a situation where individuals who have been dealing with oppression for so long martial up their Mars energy and there is a protest and insurrection and desire for liberation from those circumstances. So, when you take the sixth house and overlay it with work, worker strikes and worker unions are part of that. I just finished a five-day retreat on Time Lords last week, and we were looking at the chart of Frida Kahlo who has Mars in the sixth house. And Mars is exalted in the sign of Capricorn but it’s also the malefic contrary to set. Frida is very famous for that major accident she had in her life; the multiple bones that were broken, more than 35 surgeries and incredible pain and suffering that she went through, and how that was transformed and portrayed in her art. But as the participants there started going into the timing of Mars using the Hellenistic Time Lord techniques, they found that it also showed up prominently during times of her political revolutionary activity that she was a communist. From the time she was very young, she had communist sympathies and was involved in political movements for the rights of the working class and social equity. And that became one of the exciting revelations of the class, seeing Mars activated and there’s Frida out, and all of her physical incapacity, protesting again with the workers.
So I think that many of the contemporary protest movements going on whose cause has to do with the oppression of different classes of individuals, that the sixth place is very rich and fertile place to look for understanding that parts of one’s personality, the timing, the inclination, for that kind of activity of rebellion against servitude of any kind.
CB: Right, that makes sense. While the cultural context of astrology has changed over the past 2000 years per the premises that to the extent that we can go back and understand the original symbolic meaning that was underlying the individual significations, we can actually find ways in which some of those meanings can still inform in a helpful or useful or insightful way, our understanding of the houses today.
DG: Absolutely. That was my hope, and putting the section on the houses together was to be able to do that kind of archaeological process of the houses and sifting layer by layer to get to the original foundations, and then to be able to see through that into what’s going on now and have a clearer insight.
CB: Right, that makes sense. One of the areas where it’s really interesting to watch the development and growth and evolution of the houses or one of the houses in particular is the fifth house, for example, where some of the meanings get expanded over the years based on different concepts that become more and more prominent as the tradition goes by. The fifth house is one of those houses and I thought we could go through some of those significations really quickly just to give people a taste of what the book spends a lot of time doing and what it’s really good for, because it brings a lot of primary sources that most astrologers aren’t going to have access to of, like immediately being able to pull 20 translations off of their desk but instead, you use your sort of library in your vast knowledge of all these different authors and bring them together in a concise list. Here’s the section for the fifth house. It starts first just by giving a summary of the Hellenistic approach and it says, “The name of the fifth house is good fortune in terms of angularity. It’s a succedent house in terms of strength. It’s said to have moderate dynamic strength and support. In terms of favourability, it’s said to be a favorable house. In terms of ranking, it is the fourth best house in terms of that overall ranking. In the age of life, it’s said to signify things said about the native after death. The planetary joys that Venus is said to rejoice in the fifth house and so many of the significations of the fifth house are derived from Venus and its meaning.” In terms of traditional significations, you say it signifies children, pleasurable pursuits, romance and sexuality, creative arts, good fortune and riches, and an increase of beneficence. And then you list additional modern significations that have been added in over the past century are things like gambling and speculative endeavors, and non-serious or non-committal sexuality. So when you go though into the full section, it breaks it down chronologically starting with the earliest authors and then taking it up through the medieval and Renaissance and modern authors. So under the fifth house, the very earliest author that we have access to is Hermes as cited by Thrasyllus in the first century, who says that the fifth house signifies good fortune. And then Thrasyllus himself gives one of the significations of the fifth house, he says his children, then entire case of Athens says that the fifth house signifies good fortune, acquisition of animals, increase of things pertaining to livelihood, and children. Then it goes to Vettius Valens in the 2nd century who says that the fifth house signifies children, friendship, donations, putting forth emancipated slaves, good or well-doing, lord of ascendant or fortune in fifth gives good things in accordance with its own nature, it also signifies the life of children and good fortune. Then Paulus of Alexandria says it signifies good fortune, house of Venus, children, benefics rejoice and give good childbirth, malefics become destroyers of children. Firmicus Maternus in the 4th century says the fifth house signifies the number and the gender of children, good fortune because it is the house of Venus, and it has a strong association with the ascendant due to the trine. Then Rhetorius at the very end of the Hellenistic tradition of the 7th century says it signifies good fortune, house of Venus is rejoicing, planets in accordance with the sect bring the good things of their own nature. So then after that, you jump into the Persian and the Arabic tradition where the author Al Ansgar who’s maybe 7th century Persia is getting a little iffy, I think, says that the first triplicity lord signifies children, the second triplicity lord signifies delight, and the third triplicity lord signifies Leggetts. Then Sahl ibn Bishr in the 8th or 9th century says that the fifth is the place of love, delight or pleasure, children, everything that is hoped for, everything in which there is trust, Leggetts, donations, seeking of honor, seeking women and friendships of women, cities and their citizens, fruits of real estate. Then Abu Ma’shar in the 9th century says it’s called children. It indicates children, messengers, gifts, piety, hope, seeking women, friendship, friends, towns, conditions of their people, the revenues of landed estates.
And it just keeps going through the medieval tradition and then the late medieval tradition where you get into authors like Ibn Ezra in the 12th century who says that the fifth signifies the Sun or children, gambling, food, drink, fine clothing, pleasure, gifts, emissaries, crops, treasures of the father. The first triplicity lord signifies children and ancestors’ property, the second indicates pleasure and the third emissaries. Then eventually you get into the Renaissance tradition where William Lilly says the fifth signifies children, ambassadors, state of women pregnant with a child, banquets, alehouses, taverns, plays messengers, wealth of the father, stomach, liver, heart, sides of the back, masculine and succeedant. Co significators are Leo and Venus who doff joy, thus the house of pleasure, delight, and merriment. So he’s starting to bring in associating Leo, the fifth sign, with the fifth house itself and in addition to Venus having its joy there, so we’re starting to see some changes. Then we jump to the modern authors, and we have Alan Leo in the early 20th century saying that the fifth house signifies offspring, generative powers, sensations and pleasurable emotions arising from senses, energy, loins, heart, back, all matters of speculative character concerned with pleasure and generative principles, planets show trends of past lives, worldly enterprise, all speculative things where there is room for individual effort and initiative, house of heart, love affairs, pleasure-seeking, children, artistic and creative capacity. So he’s starting to bring in some concepts like karma and reincarnation and his work in the early 20th century. And then eventually we get to [Reggio] but it’s kind of similar where [Reggio] says offspring, children, artistic creations, speculation, amusements, exteriorization of self, creative and procreative ability and recreations. So there he’s starting to integrate some psychological concepts. And then finally, the last author you mention is Derek and Julia Parker from The Complete Astrologer in 1971. You say that it signifies creativity, children, pleasures, holidays, enterprises and new undertakings, speculation, games of hazards, sport, love affairs and the objects of its instinctive affection, pets, playmates, sweethearts. Afflicted planets indicate looseness of behavior and self-indulgence.
You do that for every one of the houses and it’s super exhaustive, but the point is that again like we said earlier, that’s just a practical example of how it shows both on the one hand, an amazing amount of continuity over 2000 years of astrologers in different languages and different cultures and different geographical areas who are passing along the same tradition and some of the core meanings are staying surprisingly consistent over that 2000 year period. While in other areas, we can see this drift and we can see an opening up and sometimes a shifting or changing and incorporating of new concepts and new conceptual structures that’s taking the significations in different directions.
DG: Yes. With Venus, initially, it was simply children. It was, by and large, an increase in good fortune, and having a lot of children was considered to be very fortunate because you had workers to your farm or your business. But also it was a sign of children were considered to be blessings. And with the trine from the first, it was the reproduction of the self in terms of once progeny. Then in the Persian medieval period-
CB: Hold on a second before you jump. So, the primary conceptual structures at that point then are just essentially three of them, right? Which is that the fifth house is associated with Venus. It’s a succedent house. So the fifth house is the joy of Venus, they’re drawing significations from Venus. The fifth is a succedent house because it follows after the angular fourth house. And then finally, it’s viewed as a good house because it’s configured to the ascendant through a trine aspect, which is one of the best aspects. And so from that, the primary distillation is that it signifies children and good fortune.
DG: Right. Because it’s in direct houses, it’s the second from the fourth. It’s the wealth of the land, which is good fortune if you have land that produces a lot of crops, so the wealth of the estate. And that also brings that quality of good fortune into its understanding.
CB: Yeah. Also, if the fourth is one’s family and parents and ancestry, and the fifth follows after that as a succeedant house, then what follows after one’s current family is one’s future family and the future of one’s family-
DG: Yeah, exactly. The continuity through one’s progeny, the continuity of one’s family line. And that was important for ancient people that they had someone to carry forth their line.
CB: Right. Those are like the primary conceptual structures and to a certain extent, somewhat limited range of meanings for the significations of the fifth house in the Greek and Latin authors of the first through the seventh century.
DG: Right. And even though it was the house of Venus, and we think about Venus and love affairs and certainly she did mean that then, but also Venus was a planet that was connected with children and childbearing. She was a significator of having children and giving birth to children, and seems that in the fifth house, that was the primary understanding of Venus’s role had to do in bringing forth of children. Now, this is not to say that the ancient astrologers didn’t talk at all about romance and sexuality and passions and affairs of the heart. But if you read the text they were discussing that more in terms of Venus and Mars as planetary significators with their various aspects and signs. But visa vie in the fifth house, it was focalized upon children.
CB: Yeah. So it’s somewhat limited significations of the fifth house early on and the list is somewhat short, but then when we jump to the medieval tradition starting with the pretty early Arabic authors like [unintelligible], they start really taking Venus having its joy in the fifth house much more seriously and they start expanding upon taking significations of Venus and applying it to the fifth house, it seems like.
DG: Right. And so it becomes pleasures and all the things that give you joy. So, good food and beautiful music and gardens and the love of a woman. And pleasures of sensuality, not only sexual pleasures but sensual pleasures of everything that enhances and pleases the senses begin being added into the fifth house area. They also introduce ambassadors, emissaries, Leggetts are all the same words, because if one country sent out ambassadors to another country, they always came bearing lots of gifts. And so the arrival of a leggett or emissary was like good fortune where you get all this great stuff that some other ruler was gifting you as a way of entering into a profitable alliance. And so you see Leggetts and ambassadors, emissaries, be very important in the Middle Ages, but then by modern times, almost completely drops out of the tradition. Because now like you’re not allowed to receive gifts from foreign ambassadors. [laughs]
CB: Yeah, I was thinking also the fifth being again the succedent of the fourth. And if the fourth is your country or your home country basically, then somehow the fifth is to succeed in being like the sending out from one’s country. But going back, you mentioned Sahl ibn Bishr. His very first signification at least that you list here is place of love and the place of delight or pleasure. That’s a really important expansion of the significations where the tradition is certainly still following a very similar tradition and conceptual structure, but it’s starting to- We’re seeing an elaboration of that structure.
DG: Exactly. And from the Hellenistic being Venus primarily in her role as signifying children. Now, Venus in her role signifying sensual and sexual pleasures, gets added to the list of significations. And they’re both part of Venus’s emanations, but now they’re being articulated in terms of Venus’s place of joy in the fifth house.
CB:Right. And then one of the things that starts becoming important in the Renaissance, and I saw a tweet of somebody that was reading my book just a couple of days ago, that they were surprised by this statement coming at it from modern astrology, but they were surprised to read that in the earliest part of the tradition, they didn’t have the conceptual structure of associating each of the 12 signs with each of the 12 houses in the sense that in modern astrology, the fifth sign of the zodiac Leo is associated with the fifth house. And there’s an interchange or drawing of significations from Leo and applying that to the fifth house. But that’s not a conceptual structure that we see in the earliest texts.
DG: Right. One of the ways that– I think it was in Dario’s 16th-17th century French, and [Shona], which was the 16th century– we begin to see the first conflations of what would become the contemporary planet, sign, house correlations. But where it began, and the eighth house is a really good place to illustrate that, is in the earliest strata of Hellenistic astrology in the medical astrology called [unintelligible], there was the assignment of signs of the zodiac with parts of the body. And so Aries was the head and Taurus was the throat, Gemini the arms and shoulders, and by the time you get to Scorpio, it had to do with the private parts or the sexual organs. And then Pisces is the theme. So you have that very early on in the tradition. Then in the Renaissance… It’s in Shona, I believe, maybe Dario, that they begin to assign body parts to the houses. And the eighth part is associated with- It said pubic hair and genital organs. And so you have those pieces, then it was a short step to– because those body parts were associated with Scorpio, that you then put Scorpio as being the sign ruler of the eighth house. And once you have that sequence that took 1600 years to happen, then that jet begins to generate the sequence of signs going with houses in the way that we understand them now.
CB: Right. So it starts initially with just the parts of the body and some of the Renaissance astrologers like Lily and Dario and Shona in the 15th and 16th and 17th centuries starting to associate certain houses with certain parts of the body based on a crossover with the signs of the zodiac. And we can see that for example, here’s the significations that you give, for example in Dario it says the co significators at the very end for the fifth house are Leo and Venus. So it’s not just the older medieval and Hellenistic association of Venus with the fifth house, but he also says that the sign Leo is associated with the fifth house. Although it’s interesting that for the significations for the most part, he’s still drawing on the earlier traditional ones where he says that the fifth signifies children, love, ambassadors, messengers, gifts, joys, play, banquet, apparel, joy of Venus, color, honey rules the stomach, liver, heart, sides, back. So there it is maybe, the heart as one of the body parts-
CB: Yes, that’s where the heart comes in.
CB: With Leo?
DG: With Leo, yeah.
CB: And then William Lily, similarly he gives largely traditional significations. He says in the 17th century children, ambassadors, state of a woman pregnant with child, banquets, ale, houses, taverns, plays, messengers, wealth of the father, then stomach, liver, heart, sides of back, masculine and succeedant, co significators Leo and Venus, who doth Joy thus the house of pleasure, delight, and merriment. This is a really important turning point because what’s happening is that now in the 17th century, the connection between saying that certain signs are associated with certain houses like the fifth house in Leo has been made, but they’re not doing a lot with that at that point except for associating with body parts. But because that was established, we then start to see in subsequent centuries especially starting in the early 20th century and then accelerating from there, astrologers using that conceptual structure and building on it by then taking more significations from Leo and applying them to the fifth house.
DG: Yes, that’s just the way it happened. One of the pieces here is to show how many of the first level significations of houses came from the planet that rejoiced in that house. Hence, the Venus in the fifth house. Also, I’ve also shown that with each of the other houses how much can. And then it was only later because of the body parts, that the sign of that body part was added to it. And then once the heart was added to the fifth house, then Leo got added to the fifth house, then the fifth house became the house of creativity. And while artists were always under the auspices of Venus of creating beauty, the Leo as a sign of creative self-expression, found its home so to speak, in the fifth house as a sign.
CB: Right. It seems like-
DG: And then we said people could give birth to children of their body, or children of their mind. And the children of the mind became their artistic, their musical, their literary creativity through which they reproduce themselves; the trine from the first to the fifth. Through not only their physical children but also their mental and creative children. So you can provide a justification for that, you know, on basic principles, but it’s fascinating to see the developments of that over time.
CB: Yeah. And important to understand the distinction in the different eras and the stratification of the different eras in the history of the conceptualization of the houses so that you don’t take it for granted that it’s always been that way. Because, in fact, many of the things that contemporary astrologers take for granted sometimes are newer developments compared to centuries ago.
CB: And then just to round that out, I think it’s most clearly what you’re just saying expressed in the passage from Margaret Hone in the mid-20th century, The Modern Text Book of Astrology that was published in 1950. For the fifth house, she says, “Creativity, principle of fatherhood rather than sexual impulse, desire to express oneself, risk-taking, children, creation of the artist, author or actor, pleasures, making love, engagements, lovers, games, racing, gambling, speculations, related to Leo, the Sun, fire, succeedant and fixity.” So yeah, really drawing in a lot of Leo significations and there’s a shift more towards creativity in the creative impulse from Leo things. So that becomes then one of the main challenges I think for a lot of new students of ancient astrology, is making the transition to if you want to at first just learn ancient astrology on its own terms, decoupling your understanding of the signs and the houses. That can be hard to do at first because it’s so ingrained in contemporary astrology but can be a useful step just in terms of understanding the ancient astrological tradition on its own terms and what they thought the significations of the houses were originally. Okay, so that’s sort of part of the goal of doing all of that, basically.
DG: Right. It’s part of the goal. [laughs]
CB: Okay. Was that hard for you initially? I mean, it was kind of hard for me initially to do, to decouple my understanding of the signs and houses. But was that hard for you as well?
DG: Yes, it was very hard. Along with decouple quadrant house systems to whole sign house systems and decouple aspects by degree into aspects by whole sign, the whole thing was very fragmenting. The whatever you thought you knew and you believed and you understood and how you practiced all of a sudden all of that was open to question. And there was a gap that I think for people just starting out, I don’t know if they have that experience as severe as many of us who are totally ingrained in modern astrology, who then confronted the Hellenistic that we had to let go of everything and enter this period of not knowing what anything meant again until we started to put the pieces back together.
CB: Right. So as experienced almost as like a complete demolishing of the system that you had used for a long time up to that point, and then rebuilding it not taking anything for granted, just from scratch. Because that was hard for me making that transition and I don’t I’d been studying astrology for four or five years up to that point, but you had been doing it for like 30 years at that point, right?
DG: Well, let’s say from 1971 to 2000. So, yeah.
CB: Yeah. Okay. That’s a pretty major transition to make and it’s something- You’re right. I mean, it’s not as hard if you’re a newer student of astrology but if you’ve been doing it for a while you’re taking certain things for granted, it is like a whole transformation that you have to go through.
DG: Yeah, I remember there being a couple of years where I didn’t know what anything meant. It was very disturbing and unsettling and hard to manage. And then there was some reading I was doing and the individual was having a Saturn transit to the degree of the IC. And in my previous astrology, it was like, “Okay, Saturn transits the IC, it’s now going into the fourth house and you can have perhaps added responsibilities with your housing situation or perhaps with your parents. So there might be some construction going on in the area.” Except the degree of the IC was in the third house. And I’m thinking to myself, “Well, I can’t talk about the parents in the home because it’s in the third house. Like, what does Saturn over the IC mean in the third house?” I remember having a panic attack. And then what rapidly came out in the course of the consultation was that this person, their parents had recently passed away and left all of the property divided equally among three or four siblings who were all having a lot of disagreements in how everything should be disposed. And so there, you still had the IC meaning of parents’ land home, but now with it being in the third house, it was in the context of the discussion going on with all the siblings and that’s where the challenge was. I think it was in that moment that there was like one of those turning points of beginning to understand how the transition could be made that wasn’t totally discarding the old but learning how to integrate it with another system. So it still made cohesive sense.
CB: Right. Yeah, it’s actually in terms of that particular issue where in the whole sign house system and approach the degree of the IC can fall in the third whole sign house and then you get an overlapping or a doubling up of significations. Okay. All right, so fifth house we’ve covered that pretty– and I guess this comes up the most prominently in some of the major ways when there’s major distinctions in the houses like for example, the eighth house in modern times became the primary house associated with sex and sexuality. But in ancient astrology, we see that in the medieval tradition, it was primarily associated with the fifth house as the place of Venus. And then there was also some ambiguity because I think Valens when you get to the seventh house chapter, associates sexual intimacy with the seventh house.
DG: Right. In my understanding of the seventh house as marriage and intercourse with one’s spouse, that seventh house arrangements based on partnership all had to do with legal contracts and commitments. And marriage was very much a legal issue where there was a transfer of money, for a dowry, of land, of titles, one person came into the marriage and then the other person assumed all of their financial assets. Sometimes children were betrothed when they were very, very young and when they came of age, they were legally bound to become married. In many cases, that first act of the consummation of the marriage was the piece that made the contract solid and fulfilled. I’m just gonna get light here for a moment. You know, when we do marriage electionals and we’re looking for like, “Well, what’s the time? Is it the beginning of the ceremony or is it when you say the I dos or what it is?” And it came down to it’s when the efficient pronounces the couple husband and wife, wife and wife, husband and husband, however the languaging it is. And at that point, we’d start joking it’s at that point that you become responsible for your partner’s taxes and debts. Any moment before then you can be a runaway partner and you’re not responsible legally for their finances, but at that moment it shifts. And so in that way that Valens and everyone had put marriage, and Valens had intercourse with one spouse, I think people can argue this with me and it’s totally okay but I think that that was the context in which they understood that. And that sexuality for pleasure was in the fifth house, but sexuality with one’s illegally married spouse for the purpose of bearing legitimate heirs who could assume the financial benefits of being legitimate was a seventh house understanding of children.
DG: You’re right. And then when we get into multiple significations of the houses, the 10th house was also called the House of Children, and it had to do with children gave one status in the world. And for women in traditional societies, if you had a lot of children, it was a symbol of your fertility. You were more elevated in social ranking and village culture, you got better food. If you were the father of the children, it proved your virility that gave you more status in cultures. Then you have the 11th house also being the house of children in terms of derived houses being the house of stepchildren, the fifth from the seventh, but also have being as the good spirit. And most of the shrines in the ancient world where people went to pray for blessings and good fortune for the future were for the blessings of children. So in that way, children fall into the 11th house as well. You had mentioned that earlier that one specific signification can be understood in several different houses that each give their own perspective as to the meaning or benefits of children through different lenses.
CB: Yeah. I think that’s a really important thing that’s much more obvious and prominent in Hellenistic astrology that you can have the same topic show up in different houses in different ways. And because Hellenistic astrology was primarily focused on natal astrology, that’s much easier to see because you can have different transits through different houses or different placements that bring up the same topic in different ways. And during the course of the entirety of a person’s life and all the different multifaceted events and circumstances that happened, there’s much more malleability and seeing those things show up in different ways. I think it was more later in the tradition, like once you get to the Horary tradition once Horary becomes more prominent in the medieval and Renaissance tradition, that we start seeing more of an obsession with narrowing it down. So there’s just like one topic associated with one house because there is a necessity for that in order to answer Horary questions where you need to be able to identify the significators and apply them to a certain house and then see if they’re applying or not applying. Because that’s how you determine a Yes or No answer to the question. And if you have the same topic showing up in two or three or four different houses, then-
DG: It’s really hard to know how to judge the question.
CB: Yeah. It might be really important for us to revisit that, especially in the context of natal astrology being the primary focus and as prominent as it is once again today in contemporary astrology in the 21st century, that maybe we can have the same topic showing up in multiple houses and sort of be okay with that, and find ways to work with that that are still useful and help to make the tradition more rich or the practice more rich, rather than being something that is just paralyzing in terms of there being too many different options. Yeah. Okay, so that’s a whole topic and that’s something you go into in the book. You also spend a bunch of other chapters talking about other ways that planets can become rulers of the houses, and how the houses can interact with each other through planets becoming rulers of the houses and being placed in different houses. Right?
DG: Right. So after this whole section of these are the essays on each of the houses, these are the significations of the houses over 2000 years, the second main section of the book is interpreting planets and houses. And in some ways that’s based on volume one, thoroughly understanding a planet on its own terms based upon its condition to bring forth its positive agenda for the best interests of the individual. And then you take that understanding, it’s well able to do its best or it’s a little bit challenged. And then you actually place it in the house and there’s this extended workbook section that goes on for more than 100 pages, understanding that a planet along with its condition is placed in a house and first of all, it has to use the topics of that house to bring forth the matters that it signifies. You can’t use the topics of some other house. [laughs] It’s like to use the topics of the house it’s in, so if it’s in the second house, it has to use the principles of generating finances through your livelihood and dealing with financial matters and all of that. If it’s in the fourth house, it has to function through where it is that you live in, what’s your relationship to your parents and et cetera. But it’s not simply a matter of the house the planet is in, it’s also the houses that are rules. So let’s say Mercury is in the second house and it needs to make money. It needs to use its intellectual, verbal communicative skills to generate wealth. And let’s say Mercury rules the fifth house, and the fifth house is connected to children and so Mercury is really responsible likewise for one’s children. And so the need to make money so that one can support the children and in turn, the fifth house children are the motivation for why you need to make money. And mercury as a second house, so that there’s the interplay between not only a house that the planet is in, but the houses that it rules that speak to its role and responsibility and the kinds of larger expanse for its activities. You also need to look to its own domicile lord. It could be that the planet Mercury is in challenge condition and it’s really struggling to pull off this money-making endeavor to support the kids, but if it’s domicile lord is a planet, a benefic planet in good condition that has a favorable aspect, it will get assistance from its domicile lord. And its long-term prognosis can be that as life goes on, its financial situation will get better. So you’re looking at the interpretation of a particular planet in terms of that multi variance of the houses it rules and the relationship with its own domicile lord. Then you move the focus from the planet to the house itself and how does the topic of a particular house turn out? How does the topic of relationships turn out? And so then you’re looking to the presence of any planets in the house of whether they are benefic or malefic, if they’re in good or bad condition. And you looking to the lord of that house and integrating those factors will give you the overall indicators of how your seventh house will work out.
And so I take those dual approaches in that chapter– we’re going to look at it from the point of view of the planet in the house, and then we’re going to look at it from the point of view of the topic of each of the houses and how do you create those interpretations based on your knowledge of the significations of the planets, their condition, and the various significations of the houses that they’re connected to. So it’s a whole process and weaving a number of different strands together in order to get the overall picture of what that planet is doing in the chart.
CB: Okay. This is really important because this is basically the key to chart synthesis, which is something that people, once I get to the intermediate stages of astrology really start to struggle with, which is how do I put everything together to tell a coherent narrative? And it seems like the rulers of the houses, that starts being that intermediate key that you really have to understand in order to bring together different parts of the chart to create a whole.
DG: Yes. And the workbook format that I’ve developed, we take each of these piece by piece and we build it up from the foundation. So at the end of the sequence, you begin to see the pattern and then it becomes clear how to put that together in a meaningful paragraph or two.
CB: Okay, brilliant. So planets have meaning relative to their own significations, they have meaning relative to the houses that they occupy and rule, but then also you go into another whole section in the later portions of the book where there is the entire ruler of the entire nativity where you start talking about the overall chart ruler and some of that doctrine among the different Hellenistic astrologers which is, you know, legendary as being some of the most important but also some of the most difficult things to establish in Hellenistic astrology.
DG: Yes. So as you said, a planet has a particular topic it rules and it sends significations. But then there are certain planets that in addition to that, they have roles in managing the life as a whole. And certain planets have more important and universal and global roles to play. So we go on to a careful examination of the domicile lord of the ascendant, the domicile lord of fortune, and the trigun lords of the satellite. And to show how the planets that hold those additional roles play the part of a supporting cast, let’s say in the play that’s your life. And they hold up the foundation of your life in terms of– using in Hellenistic terms– the relative overall of all success, prosperity, well-being, health, good fortune, respect, eminence, how well the planets support the basic foundations of the life. And then that section concludes with looking at what astrologers thought perhaps might be the two most important planets, the master of the Nativity, which for those of you who know the Greek is the Oikodespotes with the capital O, and the Aquarius, which is the Lord nativity. Those were considered to be the supreme rulers. But I also show that each astrologer had their own way of determining that planet, and that there is no one uniform universally agreed-upon doctrine. And that’s why a Porphyry said, “This planet is really hard to determine. [laughs] But if you get it, that’s everything.” So I explicate the various approaches that the different Hellenistic astrologers had and then work it out in my example charts, and then show how each astrologer would have determined the master and the lord. And then how they would take the planets that were the five rulers of Nativity and then make the broader statements about the light responsible.
CB: Okay. That’s really important and this is the first time anyone’s dealt with that ancient doctrine of the overall master of the chart in a really detailed and thorough examination of how the different Hellenistic astrologers dealt with that in tracing it back to its earliest stages in the Western tradition. And you know, it’s funny because at the end of my book, if you read the conclusion of my book, I’m like, we’ve covered a lot of ground and I try to pack everything into one book because I always had this vision of just a singular book that covered everything. But then I acknowledged at the end of the book that there was some stuff I didn’t even get to, like the doctrine of spear bearing or dorophoria, as well as the doctrine of the overall ruler of the chart or the master of the nativity. And I made some offhand comment about, hopefully, at some point I’ll be able to deal with this in some future book. But I was very much aware that Firmicus Maternus said the same thing, but we don’t have that other whole book that exists.
DG: Right. Oh, yeah. [laughs] I’ll get to that later. I’ll get to that later.
CB: Yeah. That’s the other reason that I’m personally extremely happy about the release of this book because you took that job on and did that, and that’s exactly what you did with this book which is an exhaustive examination of the different approaches to analyzing the overall master of the Nativity in Hellenistic astrology. I don’t have to do that and that’s now in this book, so if people were curious about that follow-up at some point, I’m not not going to have to do that because you’ve dealt with that in this book very well and very thoroughly so it’s kind of exciting then in that way that I feel like this initial phase of the revival of Hellenistic astrology is now complete, because we now have a couple of books or three books out there that really thoroughly cover most of the major topics that are really important from that earliest stratum of the tradition.
DG: Yes. And that was really the, I want to say the final pieces but then there was still one more final final after that. Well, there are actually several more final finals after that but it was realizing that while the master of Nativity was for some astrologers important as a general indicator of the character as a whole, that for the most part, there is this obsession with thinking that it had to do with length of life and longevity. And that was the impetus toward trying to determine it. I’m not with Kurios that there’s something else altogether that in some ways was unique to Porphyry and because of his spiritual and metaphysical orientation that I discussed, but to the extent that the Oikodespotēs was longevity. Then I do some very broad outlines of the different kinds of timing procedures, and how each astrologer once they had their own method of determining the master of Nativity, then they had their own method of which timing procedures they would use to generate that final answer. And because length of life is such a challenging topic to bring up and many people coming from astrological, religious, ethical, philosophical points of view don’t think it’s an appropriate topic to discuss, I wanted to include something about that because I wanted to report the tradition as it was practiced and what was important to them. And my conclusion is like, despite all of these machinations that all the astrologers did, I know it seems to me that not anyone actually got it absolutely correct, and that all we will come up with different planets for the Oikodespotes, different timings that they use, different ages of life… That’s what I wanted to communicate with was A, it was really important to them to embark upon this quest. And B, it might be as it’s been said, that’s one of the things that astrology can’t actually predict. And so to leave that work out there, and it may be for other people to carry through. But with that, there was a kind of completion to this book with the knowledge that bringing things to the end, the [unintelligible] and the complete fulfillment of a person’s potential at birth comes to its fullest maturation at the end of their life. And so dealing in very broad and general way with end-of-life matters at the end of the book.
CB: Right, that makes sense. Yeah, that’s a really weighty topic but with that, you then also brought to completion, like I said, this sort of revival of something that began 30 years ago and now the majority of the techniques, people can pick up this book and have a pretty thorough overview of the vast majority of the tradition or the apparatus of Hellenistic astrology. And that doesn’t mean that there’s not other little sub-topics or sometimes significant sub-topics like different timelord systems or different techniques like solar returns or other things like that that still don’t need to be investigated and worked out or worked on within the context of Hellenistic astrology, but that for the most part now, the revival of Hellenistic astrology is complete.
DG: Well, complete is- There’s still a lot more there for ongoing students and scholars to do, but in terms of laying the foundation for understanding the interpretation of the natal chart, I think that we’ve covered between the two of us, we have covered most of the material that’s there.
CB: Yeah, that’s a good phrase, “laying the foundations.” So in terms of the initial phase, I guess I meant of the revival of Hellenistic astrology there’s something that feels like this initial stage it’s having its Saturn return literally, you know, perhaps not like an individual that has their Saturn return towards the end of let’s say, adolescence or maybe the first third of their life and between the ages of 27 and 30. And there’s some stage of maturation that takes place where you move from your late 20s into your 30s, and there’s a new sort of era in terms of the considerations that you start focusing on at that point once you have a more firm foundation of the first 30 years of your life, and then you start heading in another direction for the next 30-year cycle.
DG: Yeah, I think so. And so for many of the people now who’ve been awakened to the fact that we have an ancient tradition, and that tradition has been brought forward and who may want to work with it have something solid in which to start to which to do their studies and bring it to the next iteration that current young astrologers will inevitably do in the course of their own lifetimes in astrology.
CB: Yeah, that makes sense. And I also like that phrase used of laying the foundation because that’s very much a good keyword for why you would want to study this or what you can do with Hellenistic astrology, is that it lays the entire foundation of Western astrology and therefore it’s good to learn relatively early on in one’s studies because then it does become sort of like your foundation or your bedrock of having the foundation to then build and elaborate on and create a larger structure on top of that, but starting with having a good foundation by understanding all of the basic concepts and why we do what we do with astrology, and some of the basic techniques becomes just a super useful starting point for further studies and further practice.
All right, well, that’s kind of it. That’s the end of Volume Two and that’s- Is this going to be… Is this the last book on Hellenistic astrology that you’re going to be writing? Or do you have Volume Three?
DG: I hope so. [laughs]
CB: Okay. Yeah, I know it was a process.
DG: Yeah, it was like a long haul. [laughs] I’m happy right now, I’ve been able to set down the burden. I recently did that five-day retreat for some of my advanced students on Hellenistic Timelords and someone asked me if I was going to write that book and I said I hope not, and that my intention was giving them as much as I knew about all the timing techniques, and allowing other people to carry that work forward. But no one knows, one should never say never. I’m having some sort of loosening of the bond coming up in a few years that corresponded with the loosening of the bond that I had previously that threw me into graduate school where I got landed in a position where all of this would happen.
CB: Yeah. It’s hard to experience this until you’ve gone through it but I feel like as a man, the closest experience that I will probably ever come to experiencing what it’s like to give birth to a child or go through the process of childbirth is probably like publishing a book and how difficult and laborious and occasionally painful in different ways that it is. And I can’t believe you did it twice now in the span of the past few years of publishing two books of the same length and complexity. Yeah, so you’re not looking forward to do that again anytime soon, I think you are up for a needed break, it’s well deserved. So the book, I said at the very top that it was released today, I just want to clarify that a little bit because we do have an electional chart for the release of the book, which just happened a few hours ago before we recorded this interview.
DG: There are multiple releases that actually have been going on.
CB: So, over the past month there was an electional chart for the release of the book to everyone that had pre-ordered it. I think that was a couple of weeks ago or two or three weeks ago.
DG: Yes. Yeah, it was at the very end of March. I remember on Friday, April 1st when I was teaching in Boulder and getting an email from my publisher Erin that the book had been released or sent to the printer, the first copies were going out the pre-orders. And I received that email within less than two hours of the transit of Uranus modern planet being exact on a midheaven to the minute. That was like a momentous moment.
CB: You mind if I show you a chart?
CB: Okay, so here’s your chart. July 25th, 1946 at 6:22 am in Chicago, Illinois. Your midheaven is at 12 degrees and 54 minutes of Taurus, and your ascendant is at 21 degrees and 21 minutes of Leo. Let me see if I can animate the chart to put the transits up on the outside of it. All right, and you were saying it was on April 1st that you got that email?
CB: Yeah, there’s there it is. So Uranus passed over on May 31st, 2020. It was at 12-52 Taurus. And then by April 1st, it was at 1255 Taurus. So it passed over in that day in exact conjunction with the degree and minute of your midheaven at 1254 Taurus?
CB: That’s pretty cool.
DG: That was very cool. And then when we were speaking earlier, you mentioned last night that the solar eclipse at the end of this month will likewise be on my midheaven.
CB: Yeah, I think it’s really cool that the book has just come out today, it’s come out publicly today and now everybody’s going to order it and then start reading it basically, over the course of the next week or so by the end of the month. We’re about to experience a solar eclipse at 10 degrees of Taurus on April 30th and that’ll be also very close to your midheaven and your 10th whole sign house. That was interesting also because I released my book on a lunar eclipse, a lunar eclipse in Leo is the day of the lunar eclipse. So I think that’s really interesting and illustrative as-
DG: Yeah, the power of eclipses and I don’t know, maybe people won’t like [unintelligible] eclipse as well.
CB: I think that that’s one of my, in defense of eclipses, I think sometimes eclipses can indicate really major events or turning points in a person’s life. And that can go either way. It can be positive or negative, it doesn’t always have to be negative.
DG: Right, that’s correct. It will be momentous, however significant, however it happens.
CB: Yeah, for sure. And this release date of today at least for the public release, Leisa Schaim actually helped to pick the electional chart for the release today, right?
CB: Okay. Let me pull that up.
DG: Right. This is the day Aaron announced it and-
CB: Aaron Cheak the publisher?
DG: Yes. And presumably when it becomes available on Amazon.
CB: Okay. Even though we’re recording it and we’re recording this today on April 19th and I said it was released today, for Aaron because he’s in Auckland, New Zealand, the release chart was set for April 20th, 2022 at 3:19 am in Auckland, which had 15 degrees of Pisces rising, and Venus conjunct the degree of the ascendant at 15 degrees of Pisces, with Jupiter also there in the first whole sign house at 25 Pisces in a night chart. And then the Moon is up at seven degrees of Sagittarius and it’s applying to a square with Venus from the 10th whole sign house. That’s your release chart for the book, or at least one of the public release charts.
DG: Public release chart.
CB: And then last week there was a really striking day when you were out here giving on the very last day of your workshop, which you think might be one of your last workshops doing a big intensive like that on Hellenistic astrology.
DG: Five-day intensive on Hellenistic? Yes.
CB: Yeah. And on the very last day of that intensive, the book, it was the day of the Jupiter-Neptune conjunction or right before it. And the print book actually showed up for the first time in person. It arrived and was in your hands and physical form for the very first time.
DG: Right. It’s quite fascinating because initially after the publication of volume one which was in January of 2019, there was the expectation that volume two would be out by the end of the year. However, it’s taken 2020, 2021, two years since that come to form. And at some point it was like, relaxing the tension about when is it going to be out even though people had been asking me and concerned for many months and years, and knowing that it would come out whenever it came out. So it’s been fascinating to look at this confluence of the transits with the Jupiter-Neptune conjunction and the- My students realized how my progressed Moon was at 24 Pisces conjunct the Jupiter-Neptune conjunction last week as well. And so, just in the same way that babies will be born when they’re born when they’re supposed to, there’s this knowledge that with all of our anxiety about timing in astrology that things will come to fruition at moments when they will and to just relax and be amazed at what the indications are at that moment when they come out.
CB: Yeah, for sure. I know part of that delay because everyone was asking me when is the book coming out? When is the book coming out for the past year or two, but they went through a really intense final year of proofreadings and revisions just to clean it up and make sure it was perfect or as close to perfect as it could. And I know Leisa with her– and I cited her in the introduction to my book as her legendary Virgo Moon as being the reason why my book didn’t have hundreds and hundreds of typos due to her superhuman ability to find typos and to help me catch them before publication. And similarly, there was a huge year-long process of doing that over the past year in order to get the book in the shape that it is in today.
DG: Absolutely. Leisa is phenomenal, and her vision and what she was able to notice and see and not even typos, but also consistency in terminology and concepts that ran like from earlier chapters to later chapters and making sure that there was that consistency. It was like her job was monumental and phenomenal and amazing. And Aaron Cheak my publisher created a 38-page index for both volumes, and that was something that many people have been concerned about that there’s no index to volume one. And due to Leisa’s eyesight, there is not a single place where the space between consecutive numbers and the comma is off in that entire index. That was just unbelievable to witness her ability to do what she did. I have so much gratitude to her, and then to Aaron Cheak as well. I say that he is the only person in our community who was able to hold the work in its entirety and bring it to the form that it has been brought to on multiple levels.
CB: Yeah, so Aaron Cheak of Rubedo Press published volume one of your book and he had done content editing of my book. In that intense year in which I rewrote my entire book, Aaron was the editor, basically, of helping me to craft it and shape it into the final form. He made a huge contribution to that. And then after we were done with mine, you were struggling to find somebody that knew ancient history and knew how to read Greek and Latin and could do a really good job that this book deserved in order to do a good job putting it out there and making it presentable, and that there was very few people that had the skills and the ability to do that in all the different levels that were necessary. I don’t remember how that came about or how the referral process came about but I’m so glad that he ended up being the one, after helping me so much with my book, that ended up becoming the publisher and helping to bring yours to conclusion.
DG: Exactly. Exactly.
CB: All right. And people can find out more information about the book itself through Aaron’s website which is rubedo.press. Yeah, just rubedo.press and you’ll find the entire description page for Ancient Astrology in Theory and Practice: A Manual of Traditional Techniques, Volume Two, as well as some snippets and some previews and a table of contents of all of the different things covered in the book. You can also find out information about the first book there as well as some other previews. And then it’s not live right now but I think by the time this episode comes out, it should be available in all other online booksellers as well, like amazon.com or Barnes & Noble or wherever you go for books, you should be able to order right here from those sellers pretty soon as well. Great. All right. Other than that, what else is coming up for you? I think you’re speaking at the Northwest Astrology Conference in Seattle next month, right?
DG: I am. I’m going to be giving two lecture presentations, one on the seventh house and one on the eighth house. I’ll be demonstrating some of the techniques that I outline in the book for house interpretation. I’m also doing a pre-conference workshop on the progress lunation cycle, which I’m looking forward to. I’m returning to some of that early work on the Moon and the Moon phases. And then at the end of August, I’ll be teaching at ISAR. That will be happening back in the Denver-Boulder area, and giving one talk in Hellenistic astrology and second one on the asteroids and transpersonal activism.
CB: Nice. Awesome, that’s exciting. And those will be, you know, some of your first talks back in-person at conferences since the pandemic in two years. So it’d be really good. And I’m sure a lot of people who have been reading your book over the course of the past two years is a great opportunity to actually see and receive some of your teachings in person at these conferences.
DG: Yeah, that will be wonderful to see everyone. That’s what I’m longing for, is the live connection with our community once again.
CB: Right, for sure. Yeah, because really important and sometimes unexpected things can come out of those in-person connections, like the forming of Project Hindsight at a conference in 1992 or you, you know, stumbling upon into Alan White’s lecture on Hellenistic astrology at the Northwest Astrology Conference in 2002 and then it changing the course of your life.
DG: Exactly. Exactly.
CB: Yeah. All right, brilliant. Well, thank you so much for doing this interview, and thanks for doing this book. I’m really excited. I said at the book release launch party last week when we all toasted, that I’m really happy that both of our books are out there and being read by different people together, and I feel like in some sense they probably will be now intertwined in some way for centuries that students will be reading our books. And it’s really heartening to me because it’s sort of like a token of and a representation of our friendship and the work that we had together during the course of our lives over the past two decades, that somehow that will live on long into the future. There’s something really, really nice about that to me.
DG: Right, that’s how I feel as well, that our friendship both on a personal level and on an intellectual collaborative level, that it’s been through that support and feedback and communication that has greatly enhanced and facilitated the production of this work. So, my gratitude to you.
CB: Yeah, and mine too. Thanks for being my teacher and teaching me Hellenistic astrology, and now teaching hundreds and thousands of other astrologers Hellenistic astrology as well. And congratulations on the release of the book.
DG: Thank you, Chris.
CB: All right. I think then that’s it for this episode of The Astrology Podcast. Thanks, everyone, for watching or listening to this episode, and we’ll see you again next time.