The question of whether or not a horary is radical is one of the more confusing aspects of traditional horary practice for clients. Clients often ask me "what does it mean if a horary is not radical?" and it is not easy to even explain what radicality is, let alone its significance.
First, let's explain what radicality is and in fact, this will illuminate some important issues about horary astrology. Horary astrology is itself somewhat confusing to many people because rather than looking at a person's birth chart, in horary we look at the birth of a question. By looking at the chart of a question, we can determine the answer. This works because everything in the Cosmos is connected through chains of spiritual sympathy and correspondence. The connection of the cycles of the Heavens to the time of your birth allows for prediction of your entire life, while their connection of the time of a question, allows the astrologer to accurately and precisely answer a horary question.
While there are issues with timing a person's birth (where's my birth certificate, did my mother remember the time accurately, is the birth certificate accurate?) timing a horary is more complex. Because of the ease of asking questions, as horary astrologers we try to make sure we have charts that are likely to accurate reflect the situation we are trying to predict. An accurate chart, in other words, is a radical chart, in the most general sense of the word.
The word radical nowadays is treated as meaning "extreme" as in radical left. Radical comes from the Latin radix or root. So in the original meaning a radical change would be one that went to the root of a problem. A radical chart, in the general sense, is therefore a chart that is rooted in the actual situation, that accurately reflects that situation.
However, when we consider radicality in the general sense, that is, as accuracy, we have a problem. The only way to know if a chart is accurate is to know the outcome of the question and if we know that, then we don't need a chart.
This is where technical radicality comes in. This is a more restricted sense of radicality and is what we are generally talking about as horary astrologers when we speak of a radical chart. Technical radicality is a term that I use because I find it useful, it is not in common use among astrologers. To determine technical radicality, we look at certain indicators in a chart. If these indicators are present, they are an indication, but not an absolute guarantee that the chart is accurate. Technical radicality is like an internal calibration.
So what is technical radicality? Lilly, in his 1647 magnum opus Christian Astrology says, "The question then shall be taken for radical, or fit to be judged, when the lord of the hour at the time of proposing the question, and erecting the figure, and the lord of the ascendant or first house, are of one triplicity, or be one, or of the same nature.” CA, page 121.
So we do a comparison between the planetary hour ruler and the lord of the Ascendant, ie the planet ruling rising sign. We find the planet that rules the hour and apply three tests to it:
1. Does the planetary hour ruler rule sign on the Ascendant?
2. Does the planetary hour ruler rule the triplicity that the sign on the Ascendant belongs to?
3. Is the planetary hour ruler of the same elemental nature as the planet that rules the Ascendant?
If it passes any one of these three tests, the chart is technically radical. The first rule is fairly easy, for example, if Mars rules the planetary hour and Aries rises, the chart is technically radical since Mars rules Aries.
For triplicity my method is to (1) use the Dorothean triplicity rulerships and look to the planetary hour ruler and see if it rules the triplicity of the sign on the Ascendant. (2) I also don't worry if the planetary hour ruler is the day, night or mixed ruler as any of the three will do for radicality purposes. So using my method if Sagittarius rises and it is the planetary hour of Saturn, then the chart is technically radical since Saturn is the mixed ruler of fire.
Other traditional astrologers may use different triplicity rulerships and may require the day triplicity ruler by day or night triplicity ruler by night. They are not "wrong" just using different variations.
Finally, if none of these tests apply, then we look to see if the planetary hour ruler and the planet that rules the sign on the Ascendant have the same elemental nature. For example, if Leo rises, the Sun is the ruler of the Ascendant. The Sun is hot and dry. Mars is also hot and dry, so if he rules the hour when Leo rises the chart is technically radical. Note that we compare the planetary hour ruler and the Ascendant ruler, not the planetary hour ruler and the elemental nature of the rising sign.
Let's give an example of each. If Aries rises and it is the planetary hour of Mars, the chart is technically radical because Mars rules Aries. If Cancer rises, and it is the planetary hour of Mars, then the chart is technically radical because Mars rules water signs by night. If Leo rises and it is Mars hour, then because the Sun, the ruler of Leo is hot and dry and Mars is hot and dry, then the chart is technically radical.
Ok, so what does it mean if a chart is radical or if it is not radical? Generally when this is asked the question refers to technical radicality, whether the chart has the internal indications of accuracy noted by Lilly. It sounds like from Lilly that if a chart is technically radical that it is "fit to be judged" Logically it would follow that a non-radical chart should not be judged. I have not found this to be true. I have found many non-technically radical horary charts give perfectly accurate answers.
In fact, I am supported in this by a traditional source. Nicholas Culpepper in his 1656 Opus Astrologicum at horary aphorism 21, gives the same tests for radicality as Lilly and even uses the "fit to be judged" language. However, in a side comment he says, "I have found many Questions true wherein this hath not been so." In other words Culpepper says in his experience a chart does not need technical radicality to be accurate. v So, in my experience, backed up by an impeccable traditional source, you can judge a non-technically radical chart and still get an accurate answer. Technical radicality, in my view, is a bonus and nice to have, but it is not required. Not being radical, does not stop a horary chart from being judged.
So when I do a horary the first thing I note is whether or not the chart is technically radical, though I refer to this simply as being "radical" If the chart is not radical, I note it and say, "nevertheless we can still get an accurate answer from the chart." This is, unfortunately and understandably, confusing clients, which is why I decided to write a complete explanation! Given that radicality is confusing, should horary astrologers continue to note it? I think so. It is a nice bonus to have a radical chart and it was a feature that our illustrious predecessors themselves noted.