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Example chart: Death of John Smith
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An Introduction to Decumbiture, part 10, by Dylan Warren-Davis

Part X
The Eighth House: Death

Capital In a decumbiture chart the 8th house represents the patient's death; as Lilly explains it shows: Death, its quality and nature... What kind of Death a Man shall dye... feare and anguish of Minde. Of the significators, he states: it hath Scorpio for consignficator, and Saturn (CA., p.54).

Death is certainly an issue which has a considerable amount of fear surrounding it, demonstrating a strong link between the two themes that Lilly mentions. With this house traditionally ruled by Saturn the connection of the 8th house with death and fear is predominantly made.

Before describing the link between Saturn and death it's important to remember that Saturn is also linked to birth.[1] In the Hermetic philosophy, used by Culpeper within his astrology, death is the opposite of birth and not the opposite to life as many believe. Hermetic philosophy embraces this spiritual perspective of death. Saturn, in providing the physical body, is also responsible at the appointed time for taking it away. This is reflected in the mythology of Saturn devouring his own children. A fascinating detail of Saturn the reaper devouring his own children can be seen in the woodcut depiction of 'Saturn' by Hans Sebald Beham 1530-40 (below).

'Saturn' by Hans Sebald Beham

Furthermore Beham's woodcut shows Saturn's chariot being pulled by two basilisks. These reptilian creatures are said in myth to be capable, by their very looks or breath, of rendering a person's heart to stone. Such is the nature of fear when it grips, that the mind is numbed into submission; will-power becomes depressed and the vital energy flowing through the body becomes stagnant. Intense fear can so block the will of a person to live, that they just give up and die. The metaphor for experiencing intense fear is to be petrified (L. petra = stone or rock), literally meaning 'to turn to stone'.

Returning to the theme of incarnation, in the first instant Saturn represents the descent of the soul into matter through the body, so that the soul can learn, mature and evolve. In the second instant Saturn represents the decay of the body, releasing the soul to make its journey back to the light.

Therefore in order to fully understand death in a decumbiture chart, the process of incarnation that precedes birth should be considered. Once clothed in the darkness of the body the soul forgets the light from whence it came. This Hermetic perception of incarnation is found in Agrippa's De Occulta Philosophica and quoted here at length. Of the nature of the soul Agrippa says:

The soul of man is a certain divine Light, created after the image of the word, the cause of causes and first example, and the substance of God,... also the soul of man is a certain divine substance, individual and wholly present in every part of the body.[2]

Of its descent into a body:

Therefore mans soul being such, according to the opinion of the Platonists, immediately proceeding from God, is joyned by competent means to this grosser body; whence first of all in its descent, it is involved in a Celestial! and aerial! body, which they call the celestial vehicle of the soul, others the chariot of the soul.

Of the soul's seat in the heart:

Through this middle thing, by the command of God who is the centre of the World, it is first infused into the middle point of the heart, which is the centre of mans body, and from there it is diffused through all parts and members of his body, when it joyneth his chariot to the natural! heat, being a spirit generated from the heart by heat; by this it plungeth it self into the humours, by which it inhereth in all the members, and to all these is made equally the highest, although it be diffused through one to another; even as the heat of the fire adhereth most nigh to the air and water, although it be transferred by the air to the water; thus it is man fest, how the immortal soul, by an immortal body, viz, an Etheriall vehicle, is included in a grosse and mortall body.

In this extract the Sun symbolises the generation of the vital force in the heart, while the Moon symbolises its diffusion through the blood.

Of the death and decay of the body:

but when by a disease or some mischief these midle things are dissolved or fail, then the soul it self by these middle things recollecteth it self and floweth back into the heart which was the first receptacle of the soul; but the spirit of the heart failing, and heat being extinct, it leaveth him, and man dieth, and the soul flieth away with his Celestial! vehicle, and the Genius his keeper and the Damon follow it being gone forth, and carry it to the Judge, where sentence being pronounced, God quietly leadeth forth the good souls to glory: the evil the fierce devill draggeth to punishment.

In the last extract from Agrippa, Saturn is linked to the destruction of the vital force whereby life is no longer possible in the body. The cold dryness of Saturn is inimical to the generation and circulation of the vital force, ruled by both the Sun and Moon respectively. After death the soul leaves the body; its tissues decay leaving the bones of the skeleton, the foundation of its former physical existence.

The fixed water sign Scorpio being the co-significator of the 8th house, is linked to death through its association with ice. Since 99% of all biochemical processes take place in water, when water freezes these physiological functions cannot take place causing the death. During the night when the first frost of autumn occurs, the scythe of the grim reaper cuts through the air. By morning all that remains is the bedraggled, greying leaves on stark, bare stems. All ephemeral forms of life die. The 8th house is where the vital energy sustaining the body perishes.

Having covered the Hermetic perspective of death it is now possible to explore the 'Signes of Death' given by Culpeper:

First of all the Lord of the Ascendant afflicted in the 8th; the Patient is more made to be APUD INFERNOS [near to the infernal], then death is to have him; The man will dye, and his life will be caste away absolutely with evil guidance.

Lord of the Ascendant in the malefic 8th house indicates the vitality of the patient is vulnerably placed in the house of death. Its affliction by one of the malefic planets symbolizes the negative demonic spirits attacking the vital force of the patient as it leaves the physical body behind. Hence the idea of being near to the infernal. If at the Decumbiture you find the Lord of the Ascendant combust in the Ascendant, passe the same judgement with the former [near to the infernal].

The combustion of the Lord of the Ascendant in the 1st house of vitality symbolizes the burning up of the patient's vital energy as in a high fever, to the point where the patient perishes.

If the Lord of the 8th house be in the mid-heaven, and afflict the Lord of the Ascendant, the Physitian will be in a shrewd mistake, and instead of curing go near to kill.

The Lord of the 8th house indicates death in a decumbiture chart. If the Planet indicating death is in the mid-heaven the part of the chart indicating medicine it signifies that the medicine is poisonous. Moreover if this Planet afflicts the Lord of the Ascendant which symbolizes the health and vitality of the patient it is an indication that the poisonous medicine is adversely affecting the patient's health and vitality. Just the presence of the significator for death in the 1st house can be a portentous indicator of death, for it too is able to blight and weaken the patient's vitality:

The Lord of the 8th house very strong in the Ascendant, gives you fair warning that death is a coming.

The direct contact between the planetary significators of both these houses is even more ominous.

A conjunction between Lord of the 8th and the Lord of the Ascendant, is as mortal a sign as the heavens can shew.

However if the perfection of this critical aspect is prevented by the retrograde motion of one of the significators, then a period of remission is created, as Culpeper describes:[3]

If the Lord of the Ascendant fall retrograde from the Body of Lord of the 8th, it gives you a timely warning of death at their next conjunction, unless the Lord of the Ascendant meet with the Sun before he meet with the Lord of death again.

The retrograde motion preventing the perfection of the aspect, just gives a warning of death until the possible perfection of the conjunction. In the interim should the Sun contact the Lord of the Ascendant this would significantly strengthen the patient's vitality and show they have once more gained the will to live.

Death can be of course linked to the signification of the disease in decumbiture, as Culpeper explains:

It is a very unlucky sign when the Lord of the 8th house is Lord of the [6th] house at the Decumbiture.

Thus if the signification involves the same planet shared between the two houses it would directly indicate a fatal illness. However if the significators are separate it is not quite so grave.

Even when the luminaries are found ruling the 6th house of illness, their contact with the Lord of the 8th is still regarded as threatening:

If the Sun or Moon be Lord of the [6th] house, and behold the Lord of the 8th, the sickness is sent to proclaim the approach of death.

An angular placing of the Lord of the 8th in the decumbiture chart, in giving the planet greater dignity, clearly gives strength to the patient's death:

The Lord of the 8th in an angle, especially the western angle, the Moon and Lord of the Ascendant being in cadent houses, or afflicted by malevolents, death may be feared, and that justly so especially if a malevolent be in the 8th, or Lord of that house.

Culpeper here focuses upon the Lord of the 8th at the descendant; not only is this the place where the Sun sets, signifying the weakening of the generation of the vital force in the body, but also the 7th house symbolises the physician in the chart, implying a link between the patient's death and the influence of the physician a topic Culpeper often waxes lyrical upon as found in the following quote when the Lord of the 8th house is also Lord of the 7th house: 'Tis a sad thing when the Lord of Death must be the physitian in the disease.'

Returning to the aphorism, the placing of the Lord of the Ascendant (patient's vitality) and the Moon (the circulation of vital force) in cadent houses, signifies that the patient's vitality is weak. The greater dignity to the Lord of the 8th implies the patient has insufficient vitality and is in a critical condition. Very specifically Culpeper comments on the 7th and 4th houses:

The Lord of the Ascendant in 7th or 4th house, and there afflicted, gives warning to the sick man that his dissolution is at hand.

With the 7th house reflecting the role of the physician, the Lord of the Ascendant afflicted here indicates the patient is critically placed in the hands of the physician before the house of death. A similar warning is given for the 4th house which signifies the person is dangerously close to their grave.

The Moon with both Saturn and Jupiter, profits not the sick at all, unless Jupiter be stronger than Saturn, or [the Moon] with the Lord of the Ascendant then either of them. In such a case medicines under the influence of Jupiter will [not] do good, because his body is afflicted by so potent an adversary [Saturn].

The translation of this aphorism is somewhat awkward and convoluted. I hope my insertions help with its clarification. Generally, when the Moon aspects Jupiter it is a good indication, for Jupiter symbolises the restoration of temper to the humours within the blood, thereby enhancing the flow of vital force around the body. However when Jupiter is afflicted by Saturn the former's benevolent influence is blocked, unless Jupiter has greater dignity than Saturn, such as when Jupiter is conjunct Saturn in Cancer. Accordingly, if the afflicted Jupiter is Lord of the 10th house of medicines, then Jovial herbs will not have a beneficial effect on the body.

In this situation of Jupiter being afflicted by Saturn, the Moon making a good aspect to the Lord of the Ascendant indicates the restoration of flow to the vital force around the body. Despite the lack of clarity to this aphorism, Culpeper acknowledges its importance, saying:

This I had from Dr Reason; .... a foundation to build other truths upon; a rule for practice; a key to open the closet of practice, an heuretes to find other truths by.

The next two aphorisms deal with affliction of the three principal significators of the patient's vitality, the Lord of the Ascendant, Sun and Moon:

The Lord of the Ascendant in the aspects, or with the antiscion of an infortune in the 8th, threatens death, unless the wholesome beams of Jupiter and Venus help; which if, there will be a strong contest between nature and the disease. The fortunes strive to maintain nature, the infortunes to destroy him. In such a case look which is strongest, and pass judgement upon the end of the dispute accordingly.

Clearly even a planet located in the 8th house, in contrast to the Lord of the 8th house, is able to adversely affect the patient's vitality. A similar judgement is made in the case of the luminaries:

If you find the Moon in a like case [located in the 8th house] in an acute disease, or the Sun in a Chronical [disease], pass the same judgement.

'Acute disease' here relates to the first month in which the Moon makes its full cycle around the decumbiture chart, thereafter the disease is considered to be chronic and the Sun moving one degree each day becomes the most important luminary symbolically.

Generally, affliction of the luminaries is worse when they are both absent from the heavens at night, so that no light reaches the sick patient. Symbolically, the generation and circulation of vital force reaches a very low ebb.

Both the Luminaries afflicted under the earth bids the sick provide for a change for the worse.

Interestingly, a mutual reception between the Lord of the Ascendant and the Lord of the 8th house is able to ameliorate the affliction, though not without difficulty, as Culpeper says:

If there be a reception between the Lord of the Ascendant and the Lord of the 8th by any aspect, the sick will probably live; ... but the sickness will be long and tedious, and the effects of it lye long in the body.

The role of the malefic planets in a decumbiture chart cannot be ignored, as Culpeper explains:

Saturn opposite the Lord of the 8th house, threatens danger enough to the sick.

When Saturn, the natural ruler of the 8th, opposes the actual Lord of the 8th house, the malevolency of the latter is clearly intensified. Furthermore:

It is very bad when Saturn is in his Perigaeon, or near it,if the disease comes of retention.

Here it should be recalled that Saturn rules the melancholic humour in the blood, whose function is the retentive virtue.[4] The closer Saturn is to the Earth the stronger its influence, and the consequent amplification leads to the retentive function being more pronounced. So a Saturnine disease such as strangury, the painful and interrupted emptying of the bladder, is likely to be even more prolonged and painful. As Culpeper mentions, the same principle holds true for the other Planets:

Judge the like by Mars, if the disease be a Feaver, or proceed of Choler; and here you have another instructor to teach you knowledge; the nearer a Planet is to earth, the more stoutly will he maintain and encrease the humours he governs.

The influence of malefic planets in afflicting the luminaries is particularly ominous in decumbiture, as Culpeper describes:

The Moon with Saturn and Mars, or the Moon with the one, and the Sun with the other, or either of them with one, and Lord of the Ascendant with the other, or the Lord of the Ascendant with both, gives shrewd suspitions, that the sickness is but the PROMODUS or usherer of death.

With this degree of affliction to the luminaries, the generation and circulation of the vital force would be critically impaired. Furthermore he adds:

The slower in motion the afflicting infortune is, the worse it is; for then the Moon meets him again upon a Critical day.

The 'critical days' refers to the times that the Moon makes square and opposition aspects to her position at the time of the decumbiture. Of these days Culpeper says:

Upon a critical day, if the Moon be well aspected with good Planets, it goes well with the sick; if by ill Planets, it goes ill;

To which he adds:

It is evil if the Moon be in her detriment or fall at the Crisis, though she be not afflicted at all; the time of the Crisis is the time of the combat between nature and the disease. And if the Moon be weak, she is not able to maintain nature in combat.

The crisis mentioned here is the physiological counterpart in the body of the critical days associated with the Moon's movement around the decumbiture chart.

Culpeper then refers to the 'Horoscope' which traditionally relates to the degree of the Ascendant. The word horoscope (Gk hora = time + skopos = observer) literally means 'the hour which comes into view'. Of this degree Culpeper says:

An infortune upon the cusp of the Horoscope, bids the sick provide for a change [for the worse].

The Ascendant is connected to health and vitality; consequently when Saturn or Mars is highlighted by the very degree of the ascendant it indicates affliction to the patient's vitality. Similarly when fixed stars are brought into focus at the ascendant Culpeper says:

Fixed stars of a violent nature, speak the same language, if they be upon the Horoscope.

He then mentions those fixed stars that he regarded as being particularly malefic in medical matters, such as Lanx Australis, the Bull's eyes (Ain Hyades and Aldebaran), the Scorpio's heart (Antares), and Algol.

The bulk of the remaining aphorisms dealing with the signs of death focus upon the condition of the luminaries:

The Sun afflicted by the conjunction, square, opposition or Antiscion of a malevolent, tell the Patient the disease will be long and tedious if not mortal; and bids him provide himself with such a physitian as knows how to do something else besides only tell money.

The Sun symbolises the soul where the vital force is generated; its affliction represents a significant weakening of the generation of vital force and the will of the patient to live. A lack of vitality enables the disease to flourish and when the generation of vital energy stops there is insufficient vitality for the body to survive so death ensues. Doubtless fear of death will further debilitate the vital energy. A good physician needs to be able to inspire hope as well as strengthen the generation of vital force, if they are to enable the patient to survive.

The Moon opposed to the Lord of the Ascendant at the beginning of a sicknesse; if the Lord of the Ascendant be also retrograde or combust, shewes bitter accidents will fall out to the sick during the time of his sicknesse; he is a wise Physitian that can remedy them; but he is wise that can anticipate them.

The Moon's harmonious influence on the flow of vital energy through the body is dependent upon an adequate reserve of vital force in the body. If the Lord of the Ascendant is retrograde or combust then this indicates the reserve is inadequate. When the Moon comes to the opposition of the Lord of the Ascendant, the effect is to exaggerate this deficiency. For example, if Mercury is Lord of the Ascendant and is combust, it is frequently a sign of extreme exhaustion. The Moon's opposition to Mercury accentuates this lack of energy; the patient has to force himself to work and is often too tired to sleep. No wonder accidents befall a person in such a debilitated state.

The Moon in the 4th house with the body, Square, opposition or antiscion of Mars, soon brings a man to his laste inheritance, the grave; she threatens it, if she be there no way afflicted, unless she be very strong.

The 4th house, symbolising the end of the sickness and associated with things buried underground, signifies the grave. The Moon's mere presence in this house suggests the disease will end in death. However it is only when the Moon is actually afflicted by Mars that the patient's life will end in the grave. Mars represents a sudden severe weakening and depletion of the vital force of the patient, such as can occur in fevers, once again when the Moon is afflicted by Mars that the patient's life is immediately threatened. Mars depicts a sudden depletion of vital force, such as occurs in fever, again leading to insufficient vitality for the body to survive. Similar explanations are relevant for the next two aphorisms:

As I judged by the Moon, so judge by Mars if you find him; for if he being there have any dignities in the Ascendant, he urges a man so fast to the grave, as ever sleep urged him to bed.

The Moon conjunct Mars in the 4th house will send the sick to take supper in another world, though both their fortunes stand and look upon him.

The traditional reputation for the Moon in the 1st house is not good. She was seen to be afflicted by her location there due to the house being naturally ruled by Saturn:

The Moon in the Ascendant . . . always hurts because she has most power over the body of the sick

Culpeper qualifies this aphorism from his experience, by adding when she is:

…in Cancer or Taurus, she will rather help than hinder the sick. If the Moon do hate the Ascendant ...I suppose the reason to be because Saturn loves it; and then she hates the 8th and 12th houses by the same Rule. And if you call your wits into examination, they will tell you it is true enough.

However, he clearly did not accept this traditional aphorism, for even when the sign at the ascendant has a contrary nature to the Moon, Culpeper does not see that she is sufficiently weakened as to endanger the life of the patient:

If the Moon be in the Ascendant, and the sign ascending of a contrary nature to her, it is a hundred to one that the sick dye not of that disease.

This aphorism is starkly contrasted by how he saw the combustion of the Moon:

The Moon applying to the body of the Sun within 12°, the sicknesse comes not so much to terrifie your body, as to give you warning of your end.

The absence of light from the Moon indicates she is unable to influence the flow of vital energy through the body. With the stagnation of vital force, the body perishes. This idea is repeated in the following aphorism:

The Moon combust in the 8th in Leo threatens death says my Author; and so the truth is she doth, if she be combust in any other house or sign, unless she separate from the body of the Sun.

The power of the Sun is strongest in its own sign of Leo, consequently of all the times when the Moon is combust in a year this is when she would be weakest. Once the Moon separates from the body of the Sun she obviously gains in strength with a subsequent enhancement of the patient's vitality. A similar theme is found in the next aphorism, where the Moon is also afflicted by the malefics, to further blight the flow of vital force:

The Moon beseiged by the bodies of the malevolents, [or] posited between the Sun and one of them, the hopes of life are very small, or none at all.

Eclipses are particularly malefic, as times when both luminaries are devoid of light. In physiological terms they show when the generation and flow of vital energy is in suspense and consequently the patient is very vulnerable. The Moons contact with the nodes is also malefic, since these are the areas where eclipses occur in the heavens:

The Moon applying to her own Nodes, namely the head and taile of the Dragon, is very bad, but not so bad if she separates from them.

Obviously the actual event of an eclipse is even more dangerous, as the following aphorism shows, to which Culpeper adds his own experience:

It is a very bad sign, if not desperate, if there be an Eclipse of either Luminary upon a Critical day; and if it miss a day of it, it will break no squares in such a case; the time of the Eclipse hath to my knowledge anticipated the time of the Crisis a whole day natural, and proved mortal too, as I have had experience in Essex, in the latter end of October 1649.

The squares of the Moon to her position in the decumbiture chart, which constitute the critical days, are times when the body's vitality has sufficient strength to counter the influence of the disease. Should an eclipse occur then it would denote a collapse of the vital energy at a crucial time in the healing process and thus be considered fatal.

The following aphorism is interesting as one of few instances where translation of light is used in decumbiture.

It is very bad when the Moon carries light of the Lord of the Ascendant to the Lord of the 8th, it threatens death, but it does not so in all diseases; For example, in such as come and goe by fits as Agues [fevers], Falling-sickness [epilepsy], &c. you may make use of it, that none are fit to make Physitians, but such as are intimately acquainted with Madame Nature, and her eldest son Dr Reason.

Of all the indications of death, the Lord of the Ascendant aspecting the Lord of the 8th is the most menacing. The Moon, in translating light between the two significators, can easily be seen to threaten death. What is interesting is how the translation is used to describe illness that has spasmodic episodes. It is of note from a clinical perspective that there can be a loss of consciousness, with both high fevers and epileptic fits, similar to the dying process.

The disease will appear little otherwise than the forerunner of death, if the Moon be [combust] in Libra and Jupiter and Saturn in conjunction; he that knows any thing in Physick that he should know, knows the reason well enough.

The Libran section of the Via Combusta is where the Moon is debilitated by the dignity of Saturn, while the Sun also has his fall in this sign. The weakness to the luminaries here indicates that the flow of vital force in the body is compromised. The conjunction of the benefics means they are also compromised since the heat of Jupiter is neutralised by the coldness of Venus. Consequently Jupiter is unable to restore the temper of the humours in the blood and Venus is unable to strengthen the vital force in the body. While this situation persists the disease has the upper hand, threatening the life of the patient.

Finally it is important to consider whether the Moon aspects the fixed stars, for as at the Ascendant they are able to debilitate the vitality of the patient; as Culpeper explains in the last two aphorisms:

The Moon with the Pleiades, and the Alderbaran, or with any other violent fixed star, shews danger of death. It is extream bad when the Moon applies to any star in the 8th, as bad as when she applies to the Lord of the 8th himself.



Announcement of massive heart attack 8:05 am on 12/5/94

On the 12th of May 1994 at 8:05 am, it was announced that the leader of the Labour Party, John Smith, had just suffered a massive heart attack. He was rushed to intensive care but sadly to no avail: by the 9.00 am news he was declared dead.

Death of Labour leader John Smith

In designating the significators for this chart, John Smith is shown by the Sun since Leo rules the Ascendant. A fitting signification for the then leader of the Labour Party. With Leo at the Ascendant, attention is immediately directed to the heart. The very early degree particularly highlights its sudden onset. The poor dignity of the Sun (-8) indicates his vitality was weak, while his heart was in a poor condition. It was public knowledge that he'd had a previous heart attack approximately three years earlier.

His disease is shown by 6th-ruler Saturn which also rules the melancholic humour, that part of the blood associated with formation of blood clots. The Sun's sextile to Saturn succinctly describes a blood clot occluding the cardiac arteries causing his heart attack. The cardinal sign of Capricorn at the 6th house cusp indicates that the illness rapidly gets better or worse! With Saturn also ruling the 6th house of work, many of his friends regarded his heart attack as being brought on by sheer pressure of work. Indeed the timing of the chart suggests the heart attack started very shortly after resuming his political responsibilities for the day. Since the ruler of the 8th house is also Lord of the 6th, it highlights the fatal nature of the disease.

Saturn is also Lord of the 7th house, showing that the medical personnel of the emergency services were not in a position to help John Smith. If anything, the signification shows that their actions would have been highly likely to have compounded his desperate state.

The dignity of Saturn (+10), indicating the fatal nature of the disease, far outweighs the poor dignity of the Sun, indicating his vitality had insufficient strength to recover. So here we have in the two principal significators of the decumbiture the whole medical drama of this tragic event. However it is in the closer examination of the chart's peripheral details that the full awesomeness of this moment is revealed in the light of the signs of death.

Firstly on considering the sextile aspect between the Sun and Saturn, Culpeper has these ominous words: A conjunction between the Lord of the 8th and the Lord of the Ascendant, is as mortal a sign as the heavens can shew. Though here the Sun is sextile Saturn, any aspect to a malefic in decumbiture will still afflict the Sun.

The Sun, the co-significator of the disease, is conjunct the fixed star Aldebaran; of which Culpeper says: The Moon with the Pleiades, and the Aldebaran, or with any other violent fixed star, shews danger of death. The Moon also makes a square aspect to Saturn; a very important detail, for:

The Moon with Saturn and Mars, or the Moon with the one, and the Sun with the other, or either of them with one, and Lord of the Ascendant with the other, or the Lord of the Ascendant with both, gives shrewd suspitions, that the sickness is but the PROMODUS or usherer of death.

In this decumbiture the Sun and Moon both contact Saturn, which is not quite as stated in the above aphorism. However when it is remembered that the cold and dryness of Saturn opposes the heat and light of the Sun and fluidity of the Moon, then this planetary configuration should not be ignored. This double affliction of the luminaries would indicate the generation and circulation of the vital force respectively are seriously threatened. This is clearly an ominous sign. The Moon's application to the square of Saturn becomes even more significant when it is realised that Saturn is Lord of the 8th house. Of this particular signification Culpeper has this to say:

The Lord of the 8th in conjunction, square, or opposition of the Moon at the Decumbiture, threatens death unless there he a reception between them. If the Lord of the 8th be retrograde or unfortunated, you may the more confide in his judgement.

This aspect perfected at 9.00 am when his death was announced!

Those of you with beady eyes will have noticed that the Sun is also conjunct Algol. Culpeper regards aspects that the Ascendant and the principal significators of the decumbiture chart make to the violent fixed stars as always very ominous, while commenting on the nature of Algol he adds from his own experience:

Dr Experience himself certifies that his conditions are as bad as who is worst. Neither shall he come behind any one of the fixed stars in doing mischief.

Algol or Caput Medusa is associated with people losing their heads; whilst it did not happen literally in this ease, the Labour Party certainly lost their head for a while!

It is notable that the Sun is located in the 11th house of hopes and wishes. For a politician the amount of posthumous praise and love for John Smith that was publicly displayed was truly remarkable. He was undoubtedly a greatly admired man.

Notes & References:

  1 ] Previously discussed in my article: 'The 1st House: Health & Vitality'; initially published in The Traditional Astrologer, Spr. 1994.
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  2 ] H.C. Agrippa, De Occulta Philosophica, tr 1651, bk III, ch 37.
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  3 ] Extracts from Culpeper are taken from Astrological Judgement of Diseases, 1651, Ch. 14 - Signes of Death. Aphorisms 1-44.
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  4 ] Previously discussed in my article: 'Decumbiture & Humoral Physiology '; initially published in The Traditional Astrologer, Aut. 1993.
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Dylan Warren DavisDylan Warren-Davis has been practising herbal medicine (naturopathy) for 25 years, qualifying as a prize-winning student with the National Institute of Medical Herbalists (UK) in 1982. Since completing his herbal training, Dylan has researched the lost European metaphysical teachings, upon which Western herbal knowledge is based. He has also been engaged in the commercial production of herbal tinctures and has been a consultant on the manufacturing of herbal tinctures to the herbal industry in Britain. In addition to seeing clients, he is currently promoting glyconutrition in both the UK and Australia. He may be contacted by email at

© Dylan Warren-Davis. Published online July 2008. This article was published in The Traditional Astrologer magazine, issue 13, January 1997, pp.28-33, of which Dylan was a contributing editor.

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