I was just asked by a poster on my discussion group Spiritus Mundi about the void of course Moon, specifically if this only affected Moon talismans, or had a more general application to all talismans or possibly even broader.
This is a very interesting question, very timely! I appreciate the opportunity to hold forth at length on this topic, which would be impossible without such good questions. It is interesting how various themes becomes fads and then fade away. Over my 15 years as a traditional astrologer I have seen a lot come and go through the much larger, predominately modern astrological and New Age/contemporary esoteric community.
When I first started as a traditional astrologer people wanted to know how I could have the temerity not to use the outer planets. That faded and then was replaced by the overwhelmingly apocalyptic Mercury retrograde, which still has many adherents, but is not at the raging flood level of a few years ago. The next fad was the 13th sign, Constellational Zodiac. Currently we are in the grip of the deadly, to the level of Ebola-pandemically dangerous, void of course Moon which seems, in the popular astrological imagination, to blot out the good in any chart and destroy any election irretrievably.
I have a dual role and interests here. As a traditional astrologer I am repeatedly called upon to explain and to justify why traditional astrology does not conform to the currently accepted views articulated in these fads. As a student of the magic of the soul and psychology of Giordano Bruno, (see Mass Magic Course and An Example of Mass Magic on the Renaissance Astrology website), I am very interested in the formation and power of fads and memes.
Ok, so let's get oriented. The first problem is the idea that there is "astrology" in general. In this view, there is one objective reality out there and lots of individual astrological techniques floating around that can all be used independently. We can test these and find out which is the "best" house system, for example, and this will be true for all astrologers, for all time, in all circumstances. This is how modern science operates and thus it is not unreasonable for modern people to adopt this view of astrology.
My view is that there is no such thing as "astrology" in general, except perhaps as a general intellectual classification. There are actually a number of major schools or types of astrology. For example, Hellenistic astrology, the astrology of classical Greece and Rome; traditional astrology, the astrology of the European Middle Ages and Renaissance; Vedic astrology, the traditional astrology of India, and modern Western astrology, which is the predominate type in the contemporary West. Each of these schools has different methods, different techniques and in the case of modern astrology, a different philosophical approach. If you ask someone what type of astrology they practice and they answer "astrology" then they are modern astrologers.
In my view the schools of astrology are like languages, indeed astrology literally means the language of the stars. This means that if we are to practice astrology intelligibly we need to stick to one school. Otherwise we would be like someone who felt that German had the best verbs, Spanish the best nouns, English the best adjectives, etc., Their speech would be impossible to understand. At certain points genius astrologers have indeed invented or been part of the creation of new schools, for example the brilliant Arabic speaking astrologers like Abu Mashar or Mashallah, who created the incredible synthesis of Hellenistic, Vedic and Persian astrology that is traditional astrology. Personally I know I am not a genius and I cannot see that I am capable of creating a new astrological language. I am happy to be able to practice such a supple and complex system as traditional astrology.
This may seem like a digression, but it is, in fact, the basic explanation of why traditional astrology uses certain techniques, like the Tropical Zodiac. I would not maintain that this is the "best" Zodiac because this is like arguing Spanish has the best verbs. Individual techniques really cannot, in my view, be individually evaluated. It is the overall accuracy of the methodology in prediction that is key and for this I have personally been able to verify that traditional astrology is highly, though not 100%, accurate in prediction. Thus the reason for not using techniques that are modern or used in a modern way is almost tautological. Traditional astrology uses only traditional astrological techniques because otherwise it would not be traditional astrology. As a practical matter, over 1000 years of use by our predecessors and 15 years of personal use as a professional astrologer, it seems apparent that traditional astrological techniques used in the overarching traditional school, do work very well.
I have previously provided detailed explanations of traditional astrology and the outer planets plus Mercury retrograde and the 13th sign and Constellational Zodiac. I have mentioned Void of Course Moon in the context of fixed star elections but I have not discussed the issue of void of course Moon in general in traditional astrology.
Ok, the void of course Moon in traditional astrology. The famous astrology William Lilly in his magnum opus Christian Astrology says, "A Planet is void of course, when he is separated from a Planet, nor doth forthwith, during his being in that Sign, apply to any other: This is most usually in the Moon; in judgments doe you carefully observe whether she be void of course yea or no; you shall seldom see a businesse goe handsomely forward when she is so." Christian Astrology, page 112.
Lilly also says, "All manner of matters go hardly on (except the principal significators be very strong) when the Moon is void of course, yet somewhat she performs if void of course and be either in Taurus, Cancer, Sagittarius or Pisces." Christian Astrology, page 122.
So first the definition of void of course Moon is vexed and traditional astrologers go back and forth on how to define it. What I use and again this is not necessarily the "best" definition, just what I was taught and seems to work, that the Moon is void of course when she doesn't perfect any more aspects in the sign she is currently in. She may, however, be in orb of an aspect, but is still void of course if she has to leave the sign she is in to perfect the aspect.
Note that Lilly doesn't exactly say that void of course Moon is a total disaster, just that things seldom go handsomely forward. Even that is riddled with exceptions. In my view, as a traditional astrologer, the void of course Moon is just one of many possible afflictions of the Moon, some major, some minor, some not even typically used. The famous medieval Italian astrologer Guido Bonatti lists 17 different afflictions of the Moon, aphorism 5 of his 146 Considerations. He mentions void of course, but also pitted, azimene and dark degrees, which, to my knowledge, weren't even used by most 17th century English traditional astrologers, let alone contemporary ones.
So in my view, void of course Moon is not a major affliction, certainly not compared to Moon in detriment or fall or combust or applying to square or oppose an afflicted planet. I do not consider void of course Moon to be a significant affliction even in a Moon talisman chart. In a horary chart, void of course Moon is a very useful indication of a lack of significant contact or action, but of course just a single indication that needs to be considered in the context of the complete chart and the situation at hand.
So that's the traditional astrologer speaking. What does the student of mass magic, of fads and memes see?
The attitudes and philosophy of modern astrology and the techniques that pass muster under that attitude and philosophy are not surprisingly dominant in any contemporary discussion of astrology. Modern astrology is predominately psychological, natal astrology which arose around the end of the 19th century and melded very well with Jungian archetypal psychology. Modern astrology therefore focuses on birth charts and predicts a person's psychology based on their birth chart. In fact, it does this very well and I myself predict psychology in natal charts, as this was done by traditional astrologers, though they would term this character.
First, modern astrology, following modern thought in general, is very skeptical of fate or destiny and believes that individuals can freely choose almost any area of their lives. Secondly, since modern astrology is so based on psychology, it imports the attitude of psychologists to patients which is going to be fairly upbeat and optimistic, encouraging to all as an aid to treatment and therapy, though all will not necessarily improve significantly from psychological treatment. What this means is that modern astrology is extremely positive and upbeat about almost every astrological factor. There are almost no negative factors in pure modern psychological astrology.
This is in distinction to traditional astrology, which attempts to accurately model reality for prediction, which is a different purpose than modern astrology's therapeutic goals. Thus the astrological factors in traditional astrology range all the way from terrible to wonderful with every shade of gray in between, in order to be able to provide accurate predictions since as a practical matter the concrete outcomes of events also range all the way from terrible to wonderful and everything in between.
Again, this is not to say that these basic philosophical stances are "right" or "wrong" Both of these schools work well within their area of expertise, traditional for prediction of concrete events and modern natal for understanding the psyche of the native (person whose natal chart is being examined).
Just from a practical standpoint, the lack of negative factors in modern astrology is problematic for electional astrology because if every factor is good, how do you choose a particular time and date astrologically? What factors should be avoided?
But, what also I notice is that the predominately positive approach of modern astrology creates a psychological vacuum, that the necessary psychic balance of negativity is lacking for practitioners. As much as we like good things and good feelings, we seem to also need bad things and bad feelings.
In modern astrology these negative astrological factors are provided by a selective adoption of a few techniques from the plethora of traditional malefic factors. As I noted Bonatti lists 17 traditional afflictions of the Moon. Modern astrology recognizes just one, the void of course Moon. This minimal adoption of malefic factors is logical, first to adopt all of the traditional malefic factors would be too obvious a compromise of the basic tenet of optimism of modern astrology. In addition, the factor needs to be simple to explain and simple to determine if it is going to be adopted on a mass scale. Traditional astrology is extremely complex, which militates against its mass adoption.
Finally, there does appear to be a desire to be frightened, or rather to be able to focus and localize fear and thereby gain some control over it. If we "know" that void of course Moon is dangerous, we can avoid danger by avoiding the void of course Moon. It is can be pleasant to point out the mistakes and shortcomings of others, with a corresponding sense of our own superiority in not using such an obviously incorrect factor as void of course Moon in an election or other chart. In addition, it can be difficult to accept that there are other methods and other approaches from the one we are most familiar with, particularly if we are of the view that there is one "astrology" and one "right" way to do it.
So these are the factors that I think help explain the popularity of void of course Moon and retrograde Mercury. Based on these factors I think we will continue to see regular periodic adoptions of singular easily understood and applied factors from traditional astrology or possibly other sources, in modern astrology and in the wider esoteric community's basic understanding of "astrology".