Sunday, April 18, 2010

Natal Factors in Elections?

I was asked by a poster about the use of natal factors in elections. While traditional sources often insist on using the natal chart for elections, they rarely give any practical advice on how to do so. One of the few sources to explain how to use natal charts for elections is Gadbury's Nauticum Astrologicum, which actually gives actual examples of how to elect using a natal chart, a horary chart and just straight elections.

Nauticum Astrologicum is available as part of my Renaissance Electional Astrology Compilation also available at Amazon

Essentially what Gadbury suggests in the use of natal factors, is making favorable aspects between significant houses and planets in the natal chart and in the election.

More typically we get sources like Ramesey who say to use the natal rulers in elections without explaining exactly how this is done.

What is notable about Gadbury's examples and also real life examples, is that when you try to use natal factors in elections, you end up with some pretty pathetic elections. The problem is that you can generally only select for say 3-5 factors in the chart and if you are limited by the natal chart already it messes up your election. Gadbury does say that you can do a good election without natal factors at all. I personally endorse this approach

It sounds appealing, particularly to moderns who have natal on the brain and use it for everything, but trying to import natal factors into an election has serious practical limits. It is very easy to pontificate about elections and supremely easy to criticize ANY election, but invariably when it comes time to actually come up with an election, the pontificators' and critics' charts are truly godawful.

I just try to get a good election, then, if I can add in something like the same rising sign as the elector (person using the election) that's nice. This is certainly an area in which views differ and I recognize that my approach is not in line with many traditional sources. However, these sources never seem to give any real examples! As a professional astrologer I cannot say to a client, "forget about filing those court papers until Saturn is no longer afflicted 6 years from now since you have Aquarius rising." Besides I do have Aquarius rising and I managed to do lots of good elections when my Ascendant ruler was afflicted. So while this is a bit of a rough and ready approach, it does have the advantage of being practical and usable.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Solar Return Travel?

I had an e-mail the other day asking what I thought about the idea of Solar Return travel. First, I need to explain what a Solar Return is. This is what modern astrologers call the traditional Solar Revolution, which is when the Sun returns to the exact degree and minute it occupied when you were born. There are many versions of revolution, most importantly the Aries Ingress, when the Sun goes into the 1st degree of Aries, ie 0 Aries.

Basically as astrologers we can use the return/revolution as a way to forecast the upcoming year. It is not used by itself in traditional astrology but along with natal timing techniques like primary directions and firdaria and then trigger timing is done using transits. Now there is some controversy over whether or not to use the natal or current location for solar revolutions. Morin endorses the use of the current location.

Solar Return travel has grown up as a modern practice in which modern astrologers advise clients to travel just for the day of their Solar Return to a specific location which maximizes the positive and reduces the negative factors of their natal chart. Perhaps that nasty afflicted Saturn can be moved off the Ascendant in Cincinnati and pushed into the 12th house if you go to Tahiti for your birthday.

Now my initial reaction to the idea of Solar Return travel was that traveling for one day wasn’t going to work. But then I mentioned it to my wife and she said, “well maybe there is something magical about it.”

Ah, ha! Now, I had a handle on how to think about Solar Return/Revolution travel. Basically if you treat it as a predictive technique then it is going to be an [broadly] accurate method of predicting the upcoming year for the location you use for the return. If you do your solar revolution with Chicago as the location it will give you a prediction of what will happen to you if you live in Chicago. The Tahiti revolution, as nice as it is, isn’t going to be an accurate predictor unless you permanently move there.

The only reason that going to Tahiti for the day of your solar revolution would make a difference would be if there was something magical going on. And indeed this seems to be how it is characterized by some modern astrologers,

“Take charge of your life! and receive the support of the stars. Travel on your birthday to the best destination, location to energize a positive focus for your current year’s Solar Return. Empower your intentions, your goals, and your desires for the year unfolding.”

They don’t call it magic, because that gives them the heebie jeebies or they simply don’t recognize that that is what is going on. Still it does makes sense that you could use your solar revolution as a magical election.

That being said you are going to need to do something with this election other than simply showing up! If the energy of the moment of the solar revolution is special then you need to fix it somehow. This is exactly what astrological talismans do. Being created at a particular moment they capture the energy and power of that moment and preserve it. At the very minimum you would need to do an invocation of the appropriate astrological spirits.

My sense would be that you treat solar revolution magic like a house talisman. Invoke the key planets or even all of them and inscribe their symbols on a talisman as we do for house based talismans like the Fountain of Wealth talisman.

Once again the fact that modern astrologers really don’t have a clue as to how astrology works causes endless confusion. In this case, the Hermetic and Neoplatonic philosophy that underlies traditional astrology and our experience with astrological magic gives us an excellent template for evaluating solar return travel.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Course in Old English?

The issue of "old English" comes up frequently with my course material. It does not mean any English over 20, 50 or even a hundred years old.

As far as the term "old English" this has a specific technical meaning. Old English is the form of English spoken from the 5th to 12th centuries and is essentially a foreign language. The most famous work in Old English is Beowulf.

Middle English was spoken from 1200-1400 and its most famous author was Geoffrey Chaucer whose most famous work was the Canterbury Tales.

Early Modern English dates from the 16th & 17th centuries and its most famous author was Shakespeare.

Modern English dates from around the 18th century till the contemporary period.

Lilly and the other Renaissance English astrologers wrote in Early Modern English, not "Old English", and in a form about 50 years after Shakespeare when spelling had settled down a bit. An educated, native English speaker really has no excuse for not reading Early Modern English. It takes a bit of practice. If English is not your native language then you may need to take some extra effort with it.

Two points. First, what is most complicated about Lilly's Christian Astrology, written in 1647, is not that the f's look like s's, though that's what jumps out at you, but the concepts and methods themselves.

Secondly, there just isn't much of a substitute for reading these 17th century authors. Christian Astrology is the key text for horary, Ramesey for electional. Ben Dykes has sold out his English translation of Bonatti's Book of Astronomy which is about the only other text you could use which is not in Early Modern English.

Insisting that, "I only want to study traditional astrology in modern English not 'Old English' [that is to say Early Modern English]" reminds of potential students that call me up and say, "I want to study traditional astrology with a teacher right here in Houston!" Sure and I want to teach students right here in Iowa City. Too bad the twain never meet since there are only about two teachers of traditional horary astrology in the whole US!

If you want to learn traditional astrology in English, you will eventually have to tackle Early Modern English texts.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Half Right = Half Wit

I just got a post about a dude that wanted me to judge his "sidereal" chart even though I am a traditional astrologer who uses the Tropical Zodiac. The poster said that they thought it was really strange that the dude did enough research to think I was wrong, but still wanted me to do his chart.

I totally agree, which leads me into my other rant de jour, which is students that insist on arguing with me. Just this week I had to fire a student, who was without a doubt the absolute best student I have ever had in terms of their use of traditional sources, because they would not stop arguing with me.

What I found most bizarre about the situation was exactly the point the poster made, if I am so consistently wrong why would you want to study with me at all? Furthermore, if one, as student, is in the position to be able to decide that individual portions of what the teacher teaches are wrong, what do you need a teacher for?

I told this student that I am not insisting that my methods are infallible and I expect my students, after they finish my courses, to pursue their own idiosyncratic style. I don't follow my teachers exactly in my practice. However, when I studied with them, I followed their directions and did my level best to try to understand how they did what they did.

There are two levels of misunderstanding that students fall into. The first is not learning the rules, and the second is thinking that the rules are all there is to traditional astrology. Many students don't want to take the time to learn all the myriad of traditional techniques and methods. They will get nowhere as this is a necessary first step.

However, a more subtle trap is thinking that all that you need to do is look up techniques in our traditional sources which are the final arbiter. This is the mistake my rebel student made. First we master the rules, then we penetrate to the essence of traditional astrology which is grasping the pattern that is presented by an actual chart be it natal, horary, etc. This is not a pure academic discipline, this is the application of knowledge for a practical purpose, prediction of events in advance.

What the sources cannot teach, and what an actual teacher is vital for, is the situation where, after mastering the rules, you run up against an actual chart. We do not throw the rules away, but neither do we rely on them as the be all and end all of our practice. Each master of traditional astrology, while still working within the traditional system, develops some idiosyncratic methods. A master could be loosely defined as someone who has judged say 500 to 1000 actual charts using traditional methods.

Beyond this is the issue of respect for both the teacher and the tradition that they represent. Personally, I have very carefully checked out my teachers in advance, but once I decided they knew their stuff, I followed their directions. Of course they had personal faults, but I was always very appreciative of their knowledge and experience and of the fact that they were passing on this great tradition to me. I might ask for clarification of a point, but it simply never entered my head start an argument with a teacher. I can't really remember disagreeing with a teacher because how was I in a position really to think I was right? Beyond that, even if I did disagree, I would either keep it to myself or express myself in a very respectful manner. If I truly did disagree with a teacher I would really have to stop being their student.

I know that this goes very much against the grain of the modern mythos of EQUALITY. I very strongly agree with political and legal equality, but clearly when it comes to knowledge and experience we are not equal. This itself is a very traditional view and the traditional view of a student and teacher was of a master and disciple. Now this can obviously be abused, but personally I cannot function as a teacher with students that argue with me.

Traditional astrology is hard to learn. The rules are not easy to master and then trying to judge actual charts is even harder. It is difficult enough to teach when students are cooperating with me and doing their absolute best to work with me and understand what I am trying to teach. When a student refuses to accept what I have to teach and fights my methods, then teaching becomes impossible.

Trust is necessary. The student needs to trust that the teacher knows the subject and knows the best, or at least a workable way to teach the subject. If the student doesn't trust the teacher, and manifests this by arguing, then they really shouldn't be studying with them at all.

Now Sidereal is Uranus!

When I first started doing traditional astrology over a decade ago, I was constantly having to defend the use of traditional techniques. One favorite area of attack was the use of the outer planets, ie Neptune, Pluto and Uranus (urinous, you're anus? I've heard it pronounced Ouranos to avoid that whole mess). 500 separate posters seemed to be under the impression that they had come up with this great idea on their own, "Hey, if there are more planets, asteroids, comets, etc., you HAVE to use them!"

One of the reasons I set up my personal discussion group Spiritus
and was part of the group that set up the Society of Astrologers was so traditional astrologers could have some safe zones where they could be free from having to justify doing what Western traditional astrologers have been doing for a 1000 years and free from relentless attack from moderns.

I've been very pleased to see the number of traditional astrologers grow along with knowledge of traditional technique and the constant barrage of "Uranus, Uranus, Uranus" has died off. However, a new and sinister astral red herring is rearing its anus, the SIDEREAL [sic] ZODIAC!!!!!

The hoof beat of the sidereal herd became so thunderous recently that I had to write a whole web page on the subject of the Tropical, Sidereal and Constellational Zodiacs. I thought that this would be sufficient to fully articulate my views, which are, as much as possible, simply an expression of what traditional astrologers would have said on the subject. Unfortunately, this is turning out to be about as effective as lecturing lemmings as they swarm into the proverbial abyss.

Just this week I got a call from a fellow that wanted me to read his "sidereal" chart. When I informed him that I was a traditional astrologer, he informed that the Tropical Zodiac was "wrong". I asked him if he had read my Zodiac webpage, that was "wrong" too because, and I actually am quoting what he said, "They were uneducated after the fall of the Roman Empire, they were using the Roman numerals, not the Aramaic numerals. Once there were the Crusades then they used the Aramaic numerals!" I am not kidding about this being an exact quote. Needless to say, I did not take this particularly well, which flabbergasted the fellow. "Gosh, I don't know why you are so defensive, can't you see that you are completely wrong?", stateth he.

So this is fair warning folks, don't contact me and ask me why I foolishly insist on using the Tropical Zodiac! Don't stick your hand in the cage on that one since you'll be the 500th caller. My views, and as much as I could, the views of traditional astrologers are laid out at my Zodiacs page

If you are drawn to using the Sidereal Zodiac, by all means do Vedic astrology or be a modern, if you are drawn to the Constellational Zodiac, be a modern, but you cannot be a traditional astrologer and use anything other than the Tropical Zodiac anymore than you can be a classical musician and play ragas on an electric guitar. These are systems, folks, where the interactions of the whole are paramount, they are not a bunch of little parts that can be broken down and reassembled. The mix and match method of modern astrology strikes me as being like using a Mercedes body, Honda transmission, Chevy engine and wheels from a bicycle. "Boy, in my head I thought this was going to be great!" Learn and respect the systems!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

More on "Malefic" Talismans

I want to expand a bit on the use of "malefic" talismans. Let's look at the fixed star Algol as an example. Vivian Robson in Fixed Stars and Constellations in Astrology (admittedly a modern source but with a lot of good traditional material) says of Algol in a natal chart, "It causes misfortune, violence, decapitation, hanging, electrocution and mob violence, and gives a dogged and violent nature that causes death to the native or others. It is the most evil star in the heavens." at 124.

However, as a talisman Algol, "gives animosity and audacity, guards the members [of the wearer] and makes victorious over what you wish." Hermes on the 15 Fixed Stars. Silver Algol Talisman

This at first seems paradoxical, how a "bad" talisman be good? Firstly, it appers that one use of malefic talismans is to direct that "bad" energy outwards away from you as protection. This certainly fits what Hermes on the 15 Fixed Stars says, plus I have been getting pretty consistent reports about how the Algol talisman works. Algol is described as "a bulldog" and you go through an initial stage where he is rather rambunctious. The day I put my Algol talisman on my fixed star altar my electronic thermostat went blooey! and my Internet connection inexplicably went out. However, once this initial stage is over, people describe Algol uniformly as the most powerful protection talisman they have ever dealt with, actively going out and neutralizing threats to you.

This initial stage of problems is also not surprising giving that indeed we are dealing with a malefic talisman, note that Hermes says the Algol talisman gives "animosity", so along with the very powerful benefits we have some problems. Malefics tend to be like that in horaries or natal charts, since even when fully dignified and thus capable of providing benefits they always seem to have a bit of an edge. I have Saturn in Aquarius, his sign and triplicity, but still get a certain amount of Saturnine melancholy.

Finally we have the issue of inconsistencies among our sources. Robson says of the Pleiades star cluster, "They are said to make their natives wanton, ambitious, turbulent, optimistic and peaceful; to give many journeys and voyages, success in agriculture and through active intelligence; and to cause blindness, disgrace and a violent death. Their influence is distinctly evil and there is no astrological warrant for the oft-quoted passage Job (xxxviii. 31) "Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades…?" which is probably a mistranslation." at 182.

Yet Hermes on the 15 Fixed Stars says the Pleiades talisman, "protects the light of the eyes, gathers daimons and spirits of the dead to come and speak and makes [the wearer] to know of secret and hidden things."

Which is "right?" Personally I am not sure that there is one correct interpretation here. I have used the Pleiades talisman and found that it is excellent for discovering occult secrets. Silver Pleiades talisman. Yet at the same time I have used the Pleiades in horary as a negative indication and gotten correct readings.

Perhaps this is another example of the inadequacy of the scientific idea of a single objective reality when applied to the spiritual realm. Not all subjective realities appear to be accurate, but at the same time, it sure doesn't seem like there is a single objective reality either!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Benefits of the Malefics?

I had question recently about why one would want to use the talisman of a malefic planet, after all aren't they bad?

We have to be careful not to simply think malefic = 100% bad and benefic = 100% good. As the Centiloquium or Liber Fructus the 100 Aphorisms attributed to Ptolemy says,

"In election of days and hours, make use of the two malevolent planets Saturn and Mars; for even so doth the expert physician use poison moderately for cure of man."

Aphorism 10.

While Jupiter's expansive acquisitive qualities and Venus' fun loving pleasures are more attractive, Mars' strength, power and courage and Saturn's discipline and deep wisdom are also necessary qualities. Jupiter and Venus can almost be seen as secret malefics since they can turn into excessive pleasure and enjoyment. Not a popular view in the modern world, but then we have lost our balance, haven't we?

So what else can we do practically with malefics and affliction? Let's look at an example, my Rats Begone! talisman

This is a definitely a malefic, even a curse election. However, it is only malefic for the rat that I want to get rid of, as far as I am concerned what's bad for him is good for me.

Here's another example of the use of malefics and affliction. Being too close to the Sun, known as combustion, is considered in general to be a severe affliction. However, the medieval Italian astrologer Guido Bonatti says,

"And when [the Moon] is under the rays of the Sun she signified secrets and things that have been hidden, and also she signifies matters that must be hidden; wherefore, at that time it is good to manage things that must be hidden and do those things which we wish to conceal from people before the Moon should be separated from the the Sun, but to be sure, at the time after she is separated from the Sun, [we must do] those things which we want to be hidden before she goes out from the Sun's rays."

Liber Astronomiae, Book III (Arhat ed.) page 38.

But approaching this as "hey, what have the malefics done for me recently?" ultimately misses the point. In Hermetic and Neoplatonic philosophy the Cosmos itself proceeds from the One and the Celestial World, in particular, retains that connection and unity. Each planet and star has a necessary role to play. Shakespeare says of Mars, for example,

O great corrector of enormous times,
Shaker of o’er-rank states, thou grand decider
Of dusty and old titles, that healest with blood
The earth when it is sick, and curest the world
O’ the pleurisy of people!

The Two Noble Kinsmen Act v. Sc. 1.

As difficult and unpleasant as the effects of the malefics can sometimes be, they are a necessary part of the unity of the Cosmos.

Christopher Warnock

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Necessary Elements of Astrological Ritual?

I got a post on my discussion group insisting that it was always necessary to make an offering to the spirits, basically a donation of an item ruled by the planet or star to a person or entity ruled by the planet or star, as an invariable accompaniment to any magical rite.

There are many commonalities among magical systems and there are many differences, so we need to be careful in assuming that what is done in one system is universally applicable. Similarly we need to be careful not to assume that what works for us personally even in a particular system works for others in that system.

I would agree that a sacrifice, which could be an offering, is definitely part of traditional astrological magic. Picatrix is full of animal sacrifice, which I personally won't do. I consider the use of candles and incense to be a sacrifice because they are consumed by flame. What you describe as an offering is something I have been suggesting for awhile following the example of planetary charity in Vedic astrology.

While I agree that the offering you describe is entirely appropriate and would be good to do, I disagree that somehow following this method is required. If we look at Picatrix Bk IV, ch 9, with regard to the creation of Mansion talismans, there is no mention made of an offering, for example,

"The second mansion is Albotayn, and it is for the removal of anger [from between two people]. When the Moon has passed around to this Mansion, take white wax and mastic and melt them together over a fire. After [they are well mixed], remove them from the fire and form from it the image of a crowned king. Cense this [image] with lignum aloes, and say: "Thou, O Enedil, drive away this anger with NN from me, and let me be reconciled with him, and let my petition be agreeable to him." And you should carry this image close by you, and it shall be done as you wish. And know that Enedil is the name of the lord of this Mansion. And this is his figure."

The key elements to creation of a Mansion talisman are the creation of the talisman, burning of incense and invocation at the astrologically appropriate time. If you do this, as I have done, you will create a magically powerful talisman.

Certainly one can do more, and certainly an offering as you describe will be a useful addition, but it is not vital as we can see from Picatrix.