Hellenistic Astrology


So, the East is dominant, right? This is still considered when we speak of rising planets, especially in return charts.

What about the planets below the horizon?

Earlier in the zodiac dominates (well up to the opposition). So a planet in Capricorn on the Descendant dominates a planet in Pisces in the ninth, even though Capricorn is the most westerly sign.

Ronia said:
Being practical here, I don't really think my Sun is dominated by nearly every other planet in my chart, as this distinction suggests. I guess this is just one consideration of more.

Your Sun dominates any planet in later sign connected by a major aspect up to it's opposition. That is any planet to which it makes a sextile, square or trine to its left.

Yes other factors may effect that butas a general rule that's how they saw it. It's always worth rotating the chart if you're not sure if it's the planet on the left or the planet on the right


Your Sun dominates any planet in later sign connected by a major aspect up to it's opposition. That is any planet to which it makes a sextile, square or trine to its left.

Yes other factors may effect that butas a general rule that's how they saw it. It's always worth rotating the chart if you're not sure if it's the planet on the left or the planet on the right

Yes but it's dominated by any planet on its right. Rotate the chart? Why? You mean people get confused what's east, what's west? I know it as the 12th is actually the "rising" house and from there we move up towards the MC. It's opposite to a regular map.


Yes but it's dominated by any planet on its right. Rotate the chart? Why? You mean people get confused what's east, what's west? I know it as the 12th is actually the "rising" house and from there we move up towards the MC. It's opposite to a regular map.

It's nothing to do with being in the East :) The example I gave had the dominant planet in the West. Diurnal rotation means that at some point in the day each planet is in the east. What matters is its position at the time of birth and its position at that time relative to other planets that lie to its left or to its right. That is therefore a relative position and may not always be obvious. Thus Jupiter in Pisces will dominate or overcome Venus in Taurus in the sense that the Jupiter component of the aspect will be the strongest. If the chart has Jupiter in the eleventh and Venus in the first Vrnus happens to be the forther East and happens to be rising but she still looses out to Jupiter in general

Now consider the same configuration with Jupiter in the third and Venus in the sixth. As you look at the chart it has Jupiter further to the left of the chart than Venus, which is on the chart's right. Yet Jupiter still overcomes....think about it :)


Eek, Chris has posted another 4 hour lecture on the Lots. I hope that's simply an update of the previous one, as I've not finished the 13 hour lecture yet - still 30+ slides to go.


Houses (Places)

Have you ever wondered why there are 12 houses and not 8 or 6? You can find those in the history of Astrology especially some attempts in the Hellenistic period but the Hellenistic Astrologers fixed the number of houses at 12 because they used Whole Sign Houses to examine the topics in a person's life (or issues related to an event).

I have my Ascendant in Leo. The Hellenistic Astrologers called the Ascendant the Horoskopos, whic best translates as hour marker. In the whole sign system my Leo Ascendant has significance in the main because it determines that Leo is the rising domicile or sign and thus Leo becomes my first place (or house in modern terminology). That is not just the portion of Leo that has greater degrees than my Ascendant but the whole of the sign of Leo.

Virgo becomes my second place, Libra my third, Scorpio my fourth and so on, ending with Cancer as my twelfth place. This system does not allow intercepted houses, it does not break down in high latitudes (North or South) and there's no room for debate about where the house divisions are. My second house starts at 0 Virgo and that's it.

As I once posted elsewhere a very crude version of this is used by Sun Sign columns, which assume that the sign that your Sun is in, is the rising sign and hence your first house (or place). Sun sign columns use the other signs as place markers for the house - so if Venus is in Aries, for me with a Libra Sun, that would be treated as a transit of the Seventh.

This actually points to one use that can be made of Whole Sign Houses, when you know your Ascendant. In the example above, Venus is actually transiting my ninth house and that's where the influence will be felt, not in my seventh. Venus will affect my ninth from the moment it enters Aries till the moment it leaves - planetary ingresses therefore become important.

One consequence of the move to Whole Sign Houses is that while your Ascendant and Descendant remain in the first and seventh houses/places resepectively, your MC and IC can 'float' around at the top and bottom of your chart. Commonly you can find the MC in the eleventh, tenth or ninth houses by Whole Sign, and occasionally in the eighth or twefth for extreme latitude births..

The MC and IC were not ignored, they were treated as sensitive points and if they fell outside the tenth, the signification of that house was blended in to the interpretation of the tenth. Thus Robert Hand, the Astrologer, actually has his MC in the ninth place and the ninth amongst other things signifies divinatory techniques in general and Astrology in particular - the significations of the ninth are relevant to career matters.

Quadurant houses - those using the Ascendant, Descendant, MC and IC as house cusps were actually developed in the very early Hellenistic Period but for most of it they were used specifically to assess planetary strength in the length of life technique.

Whole sign houses were used well into the Ninth Century by Astrologers such as Masha'allah and Sahl ibn Bishr but sometime afterwards they fell out of use. Why that happened we don't know for certain. Hand has speculated that it was through a mis-translation at some point. Brennan has speculated that it might come from confusion about Ptolemy. Ptolemy uses the Whole Sign House system, though he never explicitly says so (it is clearly implicit though) but in Book 3 of the Terrabiblios, (the third of four books) he goes into the length of life calculation and like all Hellenistic authors he uses a quadrant house system. In this case he explains how to calculate the houses. This seems to have led to a belief that this was his preferred system, when it wasn't. To make things even worse, Ptolemy's explanation was not clear and there are several medieval texts suggesting alternative systems as the one that Ptolemy meant. Thus Ptolemy may inadvertently have caused the multiplicity of house systems used today Ptolemy's text is the one Astrological text that remained continuously available between the second century and the 21st century and therefore was for long periods the only available Hellenistic text. Thus attempts to get back to a 'pure original' form of Astrology tended to be associated with a 'Back to Ptolemy' approach.

Does all of this invalidate quadrant house systems? No it doesn't but it does suggest that using Whole Sign Houses can be a useful addition to the astrologer's repertoire. There does seem to be an increasing interest in the system not just from Traditional Astrologers, but from all branches of Astrology. There was a recent poll on the Facebook Professional Astrologers group on house systems used and Whole Sign Houses featured strongly as a system used or intended to be used.

Some useful links are:




The Significations of the Places - Introduction

My last topic before I begin with a chart is to look at the significations of the Places - the House meanings or associations in modern terms.

My first point is that there was no conception of house meanings being derived from either the signs or the planets, despite the fact that they used whole signs for houses. So the eighth house has absolutely no connection with Scorpio or with Mars (or even Pluto) in their scheme. The 'Astrologicial Alphabet' is very much a twentieth century invention for house meanings. Yet the main significations of the houses still derives in the main from the Hellenistic system - there are some changes introduced in the medieval period, together with some additions and there's the Mars=Aries=First house approach used by quite a few Astrologers today but as the modern significations are largely rooted in the Hellenistic tradition, the Astrological Alphabet is not the source of house meanings and appears to be based on erroneous understanding of how the houses are derived.

The sources they used appear to be:

Angularity and Angular Triads

Configuration to the rising sign

The Planetary Joys

and I'll look briefly at each in turn.


Angularity and Angular Triads

Our modern conception of Angular, Succeedent and Cadent houses comes directly from Hellenisitic Astrology. They saw things a little differently though. The angular places (first, fourth, seventh and tenth) form a Pivot, around with the chart in general and the associated triad in particular turn or revolve. This concept applies to both Whole Sign Houses and to Quadrant Houses, but remember that the Tenth plance in Whole Sign Houses does not necessarily contain the MC, nor is the MC a house cusp unless it falls exactly on 0 degrees of the tenth sign or domicile.

Angular houses goad planets into action - a concept which Dave uses (though expressed differently) in his system of daily Solar Return charts.

The angular houses also act as a centre for the triad and here we need to see the way in which the triad operates. The first Place in the Triad is said to be in decline - it's what we call a cadent house. The sign/domicile was first to the Pivot, but are now declining away.

Then comes the Pivot Place - the sign or domicile on the tenth

Then comes the Post-ascension Place - what we would term the Succedent House.

There are arguably two ways of looking at this. The triad is ordered as it is because of the diurnal rotation of the Earth, with declining signs having reached the angle and post-ascension signs following on to the angle. The second way of looking at the order is that it follows the order of the zodiac, declining signs come first in zodiacal order, then the pivot then the post-ascension. Declining signs are losing their energy, Pivot signs are at the point of greatest expression and activity, Post ascension signs are full of potential waiting to be fully expressed.


Configuration to the Rising Sign

The first Place (the Rising Sign) is concerned with the health and physical (and mental) vitality of the native. Therefore any place that is configured to the Ascendant is one which they saw as supporting that health and vitality, even if that support might prove difficult or bring problems. So those places are given generally positive signification.

Places that are not configured to the Ascendant (second, sixth, eighth and twelfth) were seen as being unsupportive of the native and therefore generally received bad or negative significations and were actually called 'bad' places. They are not all equally bad though, just as the 'good' places are not equally good. Modern psychology doesn't like using the terms 'good' and 'bad' and therefore either falls back on euphemisms or uses circumlocation to express the meanings of the 'bad' places. 'You might be on the point of death but that's simply a new door opening to new opportunities'. :)


Advantageous and Disadvantageous Places

From the previous two posts we can see how a preliminary view of the houses works.

Nechepso saw the Angles and Post ascension houses as being the busy places where things could get done but the Decline houses are losing energy and not conducive to business or getting things done. So planets in Decline are not going to be able to help the native as much as planets in Pivot and Post ascension houses.

A different view comes from Hermes (for both Nechepso and Hermes we only have secondary references). In this view the advantageous places are the four pivots, the places configured to the Ascendant by trine (ninth and fifth houses) and the succcedent place to the Midheaven - that is the eleventh place (again remember we're not talking about quadrant systems here). Hermes therefore combines some of the energy of the pivots with configuration to the Ascendant. The disadvantageous places are now the twelfth, eighth, sixth, third and second places. Also Hermes view shifts the focus onto the Ascendant, so we know that these disadvantageous places are disadvantageous to the native.


The Joys

The last source of meaning for the places comes from the Planetary Joys, a concept that is not known to modern Astrology. In brief, each planet was given a place as their 'Joy'.

The Sun rejoiced or 'joyed' in the ninth
Jupiter's joy was the eleventh,
Saturn's joy was the twelfth,
Mercury's joy was the first
The Moon joyed in the third
Venus joyed in the fifth
Mars joyed in the sixth.

Note that all the dirunal planets have joys above the horizon and all the nocturnal planets have joys below the horizon. Only Mercury has a joy which is a pivotal or angular place.

Chris Brennan has an extensive paper on the nature of the Joys, which he claims are not just a source of house meanings but also are crucial to the introduction of the elements into Astrology and the fixing of the Fire, Earth, Air and Water Triplicities.

Here it's worth noting that the two malefics are in places that are not configured to the Ascendant. They are therefore figuratively kept away from places that support the native.

This helps keep the sixth and twelfth houses as disadvantageous but it suggests that the ninth and third must be advantageous as they are the places of Sun and Moon respectively. The eleventh and fifth places are those of the benefics and they are definitely required to support health and vitality.

Overall we want places that support life and are busy or active - the four privots, the joys of the Sun and Moon plus the two benefics, which gives us 8 advantageous places. We can exclude the sixth and twelfth as they are not configured to the Ascendant, aare the joys of the malefics, and are Decline places. That just leaves the second and the eighth, both of which are Post-ascension houses but both of which are not configured to the Ascendant. The second place is the Post-ascension place for the Ascendant, so it cannot be seen as too disadvantageous, the eighth has no relation to the Ascendant so the second joins the 'good' places but with a low ranking and the eighth joins the 'bad' places.