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Using Whole Signs or Placidus for Natal
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waybread



Joined: 05 Mar 2009
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Posted: Wed Nov 30, 2011 5:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I just love this discussion, everyone-- although it will take me a while to fully digest all the posts.

On another forum I became so puzzled about the oft-repeated statement that whole signs were the only house system used before the late Hellenistic period, that I challenged some members simply to show me the evidence, chapter and verse. A lot of the "evidence" seems to come from Robert Hand's 2-part article in The Mountain Astrologer, subsequently republished as a small book. I don't have a copy and it seems to be out of print except for a few on-line book-sellers who still carry it. TMA has the article available on CD-- plus a lot of other material on it that I don't necessarily want. Two of the discussants have a copy of Hand's book and I asked if either of them would puh-leeze simply quote the lines from the original sources upon which Hand bases his argument. Still waiting.

If anyone here can paraphrase Hand's hard evidence from the original sources, I would love to hear from you!

Francesca Rochberg (1998), the authority on Babylonian astrology in cuniform, says that the Babylonians didn't use houses. They did use other divisions like "seasonal hours" or indicating that births occured "late at night" or "before sunset."

Does anyone know about the ancient Egyptians?

So I wonder where the idea of houses even came from.

Ptolemy (Tetrabiblos), who had access to both traditions (2nd century AD) says next to nothing about houses. He names only five of them. Nearly all of his techniques have no reference to houses: he uses planets to address most of the themes that I would allocate to houses. Then there is the peculiar place (III:10) where he says to start counting 5 degrees into a sign.

Manilius Astronomica seems to have compiled several different systems, as I think one could make a case for Porphyry or something like it (2:778ff), for a constellational astrology with his ascendants based on a constellational calendar (book 4). Then he's got a kind of turned house system that might be more whole-signs based.

I hope someone can enlighten me, whether orthogonally or elegantly!
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Eddy



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Posted: Wed Nov 30, 2011 9:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mark wrote:
However, the above texts give me enough cause to question how universal the exclusive use of whole sign houses really was in hellenistic astrology.
In that case it is not clear and we now will have to make the best of it.

I remember that thread you mention Mark. Reading Martin’s comments there and other things, I more and more think that Placidus must has left a big footprint on modern astrology in the English-speaking world with the passing through of Placidus in the 18th century when astrology was much less practiced.

waybread wrote:
Francesca Rochberg (1998), the authority on Babylonian astrology in cuniform, says that the Babylonians didn't use houses. They did use other divisions like "seasonal hours" or indicating that births occured "late at night" or "before sunset."
Perhaps the ‘planetary hours’ preceded the house systems in being a time sector being followed by a space sector. Babylonian astronomy/astrology was more arithmetic while Greek astronomy/astrology was more geometric.

Quote:
So I wonder where the idea of houses even came from.
Not a really elegant answer but perhaps the pressing need for more information stimulated their development. The analogy (in number) with the 12 signs seems obvious.

Perhaps Kepler’s view about houses wasn’t so bad and the use of houses should be abandoned. And if houses still are to be used, I suggest we all use equal MC houses from now on Smile.
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Martin Gansten
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Posted: Wed Nov 30, 2011 10:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks to Mark for his timely quotations. I have been disinclined to get into the discussion on this regularly recurring theme, but there are two brief points which I think ought to be made:

1. The 'topical' house meanings are obviously based on several principles, the two most important being (a) the aspectual relationship of a house to the ascendant, and (b) the place of a house in the diurnal motion. The 9th house is beneficial because it trines the ascendant; the 10th house has to do with fame and visibility in the world because it is culminating. These two principles not seldom conflict with one another, which leads to my second point:

2. Many ancient and medieval authors, whether writing in Greek, Sanskrit, or Arabic, seem to work from an idealist mindset. They may know that the sign culminating is not always the 10th from the one rising, but they still think that it ought to be so -- that this is the ideal or normative situation -- and their formulations with respect to houses reflect this thinking.

As a practising astrologer working on a chart, my personal solution is to attempt to unravel the threads that go into the combined significations of any given house, in order to understand which of these may or may not apply to a planet which is, for instance, falling away from the midheaven but in square to or disjunct the ascendant; etc.
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Mark
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Posted: Wed Nov 30, 2011 7:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Martin,

Can I just ask when do you think Porphyry houses were first being used in Indian astrology?
I should state I dont have any personal problem with whole sign houses. I actually utilise them myself. Especially, in natal astrology where I find them very effective. I tend to give more weight to quadrant houses in horary and electional astrology. I rather like the approach of Persian astrologers like Masha'Allah who combined whole sign and quadrant houses in his delineation. My main issue is deciding which time based house system (Alcabitius or Placidus) to use in combination with whole sign houses. Thats a topic I may open for discussion elsewhere.

Its seems to me one can approach this subject in various ways. Firstly, historically, based on the development of house systems. Secondly , a logical checklist of pros and cons. Thirdly, practical experience of working with the two approaches.

Looking at the advantages of whole sign houses I see the following points:

Pro-Whole Sign
1 The Original House system (?)
2 No intercepted houses
3 No problem of Northern latitudes stretching/squeezing house size. Such systems become unusable at very high latitudes. In this respect Placidus is more subject to this than Alcabitius.
4 Ingress to Sign=house less ambiguous than numerous alternative quadrant house cusps
5 Many of the cases of prominent 12th house nativities with quadrant houses are actually 1st house with whole sign!

Arguments against
1 MC can fall between 8th-12 houses. Blurs delineation MC or WS 10th house? Same issue for IC vs WS 4th house
2 WS charts are somewhat generic beyond the ascending sign. Quadrant houses such as Placidus or Alcabtius arguably more accurately reflect the astronomical relationship of the zodiac signs and the ecliptic to an exact location on earth. In essence this argument states Whole sign houses are an idealized representation of the signs but not ‘natural’ as signs in reality take different amounts of times to rise at a specific location.

Pro-Placidean houses
1. Angles associated with house cusps. More accurately reflects planets in powerful or weak positions in relation to the angles.
2 House cusps of quadrant houses such as Placidus reflect exact location on earth
3 Different ascensional rising time of signs is better reflected in systems such as Placidus and Alcabitius
4 One Placidean house=Two planetary hours-Coincidence?

The arguments for and against whole sign houses tend to overlap. What one person might perceive as a strength another may see as a weakness. For example the stretching/shrinking of Placidus houses (or the ever increasing intercepted signs) could be seen as a practical weakness or a strength reflecting astronomical reality.

As I said I dont see any reason why one cannot work with both approaches. They are both quite elegant in different ways. Lets have our cake and eat it I say. Smile

Mark
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Last edited by Mark on Wed Nov 30, 2011 8:05 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Mark
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Posted: Wed Nov 30, 2011 7:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Eddy wrote:
Quote:
In that case it is not clear and we now will have to make the best of it.


So true of so many issues in astrology I think. Its reassuring to believe things are cut and dried but the truth is seldom so straightforward. As Jean-Paul Sartre said 'We are condemned to choose'.

Eddy wrote:
Quote:
I remember that thread you mention Mark. Reading Martin’s comments there and other things, I more and more think that Placidus must has left a big footprint on modern astrology in the English-speaking world with the passing through of Placidus in the 18th century when astrology was much less practiced.

Yes John Partridge the late 17th century astrologer seems to have been a big influence on later English astrology in terms of adopting Placidus houses. He was strongly influenced by Placidus and his Primum Mobile. Somewhat ironic considering his personal anti-Roman Catholic prejudices. However, Martin is the resident expert. He has lectured on this subject and I think(?) written an article on this very topic.

Mark
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Eddy



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Posted: Wed Nov 30, 2011 8:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mark wrote:
The arguments for and against whole sign houses tend to overlap. What one person might perceive as a strength another may see as a weakness.
That's true. Your point 3, no intercepted signs (and houses, I don't know the correct term), is the most attractive one. However non-interception already occurs with any 'equal' (along the ecliptic) method.

Chris Brennan wrote:
The transit doctrine also becomes more interesting with whole sign houses, because sign ingresses gain increased importance since the ingress of a planet into a new sign is also an ingress into a new house, and the topics associated with that house begin to become more prominent in the native’s life shortly thereafter.
This advantage has a disadvantageous side too. While the sign ingress becomes more important, the house ingress becomes less personal. There are many people with the same rising sign. This should be noticed in society as a somewhat collective event for an average of each 1/12th of the population, somewhat akin to sign ingresses used in Sun-sign astrology, but a bit more personal.

Because of the different rising times, the Leo and Scorpio rising sign people would be in the majority, and the Pisces and Aries rising sign people would be in the minority. (This applies to the northern hemisphere, in Australia it's vice versa). Would the latter group then be more special, as a rare species?

A whole MC sign variant would hardly suffer this problem. The MC moves more regularly through the signs with a slightly longer (ca. +8 min. per sign) than average (2 hrs) stay in the signs on each side of the solstice points, an average stay in the fixed signs, and a slightly shorter stay (ca. -8 min. per sign) than average in the signs on each sign of the equinoxes.

Mark wrote:
Yes John Partridge the late 17th century astrologer seems to have been a big influence on later English astrology in terms of adopting Placidus houses. He was strongly influenced by Placidus and his Primum Mobile. Somewhat ironic considering his personal anti-Roman Catholic prejudices.
I believe that Placidus' works were placed on the Index of forbidden books of the RC Church, so that perhaps explains Partridge's stance. Moreover anti-Roman-Catholicism was strong in 17th century England.
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waybread



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Posted: Wed Nov 30, 2011 8:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

More cool responses!

Martin, thanks for your clarity. Just a question, though:

Robert Schmidt (CURA, 1996; TMA, 1999/2000) essentially argues that there were 3 different house systems for different purposes.

1. Topical: This would be themes like reputation, illness, and marriage (depending upon the author and date, as their house contents varied.) Whole signs.

2. Dynamical: assessing the strength of a planet according to its position in its quadrant; i.e., angular, succedant, cadent. Porphyry.

3. Unnamed, but it corresponds to your 1a. Planets are well or poorly placed in a given house because of its aspect to the first house. The bad ones are semi-sextile or quincunx. House system not mentioned.

You've explained the houses somewhat differently. Are their flaws in Schmidt's 3 categories from your perspective?

Also--anyone--in thinking of how and why someone invented houses back-when: although houses are invisible, they have a logic that is very much tied to the geocentric view of the world; and some awareness of the heavens as a celestial time-piece.

AS/DC are the horizons on the ecliptic. The MC is the high point of the sun's journey on the ecliptic. I am struck by how important the angles and quadrants were to the ancients I've read so far.

Then with houses, we need some rationale for further division. If I use the sky as a celestial clock, I might offer to meet someone when the morning sun is just half-way between the horizon and the high point. I can even use my hands and arms to point to such a location in the sky. At night we could even say we will meet when such-and-such a heavenly body reaches the middle of the quadrant. This could lead to an 8-house system. If we've had practice with this sort of time-keeping, however, we could divide the quadrant into 3 sectors: closest to the horizon, in the middle, or closest to the natural mid-heaven.

The advantage to the latter would be that it: (a) offers finer delineation, and (b) gives us the magic number 12. But if we stick to such a natural, visual system of time and sky division, we would have no necessary link to whole signs except during the 12 moments when the celestial clock points and sign cusps coincided.

My sense is that this is what Manilius did, as he seems to rely on a "natural" midheaven and calculates rising sign within a few degrees from rising constellations; vs. somebody like Valens who seems to view the MC and even the AC as calculated, derived, points.

Any thoughts on this?
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Mark
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Posted: Wed Nov 30, 2011 10:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello Waybread,

I should let you know that Robert Hand's book on Whole Sign Houses still seems to be readily available. Lala Happy

You can order it from Robert Hand's own online bookstore:

http://www.arhatmedia.com/newavailpub.htm

The Astrology Center of America also stock it:

http://www.astroamerica.com/arhat.html#h41

Its a great booklet and helped get me hooked on whole sign houses but the text (excluding index etc) is only 46 pages. Its principally an introductory text and devotes quite a lot of space to practical delineation with chart examples. I suspect many of your more in depth questions will remain unanswered. It really only devotes about 6 pages to a detailed discussion of historical sources. Moreover, that is restricted to Ptolemy, Firmicus Maternus and especially Valens. Like Robert Schmidt, Hand doesn't really regard Manilius as a representative hellenistic text and therefore ignores it in his booklet. I think its fair to say that Deborah Houlding strongly disagrees! Hand also put forward his view that Ptolemy was probably using a variant of whole sign houses too.

Hand's basic theory is that most hellenistic astrologers combined equal house 'cusps' with whole sign houses. However, his only source is Firmicus for that and not everyone would accept his interpretation of that source.

Keep in mind the etymology of the word 'cusp'. The word "cusp" comes from a Latin word "cuspis" which is the tip of a sword or the point where the energy is concentrated. The cusp is the most sensitive or important point in the house, however it is not necessarily the boundary of the house. You can see this in Indian astrology where I believe the 'cusps' fall in the middle of houses not the beginning. This will come as quite a shock to many modern astrologers!

Mind you the book came out way back in 2000. More recently,(2007) Hand has written an article on houses: ''Signs as Houses (Places ) in Ancient Astrology.'' Hand discusses Firmicus Maternus, Ptolemy and Valens again in regards houses (places) and reasserts his view that whole sign houses was the default system in early and intermediate hellenistic astrology. I do detect a more cautious approach to Ptolemy though but that may reflect the more academic nature of this publication.

Robert Hand's main argument in his article (2008) is that the lack of a calculated MC in the vast majority of the hundreds of surviving Greek and Demotic (late Egyptian) horoscopes is not necessarily a sign of incompetence or rudimentary astronomical ability but rather evidence that these early astrologers gave primary focus to the tenth place from the ascendant not a calculated MC.

Hand's source for this position are Neugebauer and Van Hoesen's Greek Horoscopes ,and Jones Astronomical Papyri from Oxyrhynchus. These collections contain the vast majority of recovered horoscopes from the ancient period. Hand relies on the research of J.D North (author of Horoscopes and History) and sources him with the statistic that out of 168 horoscopes presented in Greek Horoscopes only 27 give both an ascendant and midheaven. Only two charts give house cusps of the intermediate houses according to J.D. North.

Hand's article is from a special double issue of Culture and Cosmos published in 2008 devoted to Ancient Astrology. It contains articles from Giuseppe Bezza, Deborah Houlding, Joseph Crane and Dorian Greenbaum amongst others. The articles were presented at a Conference at the Warburg Institute in London in 2007 entitled 'The Winding Courses of the Stars'. I highly recommend the whole issue of Culture and Cosmos to any student of ancient astrology.

Here is the link if you wish to purchase a copy:

http://www.cultureandcosmos.org/issues/vol11.html

Mark
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waybread



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Posted: Thu Dec 01, 2011 7:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mark, thank you so much! Really helpful.

Robert Hand's site seemed to direct people to the bookshop at the AFA; but they don't carry his whole signs book(let) any more. I am reluctant to trust my credit card to on-line book-sellers without a demonstrable track-record of credit card security, but I would like to get a copy-- so thanks.

Your synopsis actually confirmed my hunch about Hand's "evidence". That there aren't many (any??) explicit references to the whole sign system in the primary sources; but that once one "reads" Hellenistic astrologers as using the whole sign system, the tumblers to the combination lock of house systems in antiquity fall into place and the lock opens.

Trouble is, such "aha" moments can actually be mistaken. It is easier and less troublesome to get an "aha" moment than it is to painstakingly slog through the original sources, line by line.

I don't know if anyone else is bothered by Hand's or other astrologers' deliberate exclusion of certain Hellenistic authors who don't "fit their pictures." I don't find this practice acceptable; because actually we have so few extant sources from antiquity, that exluding Manilius or Ptolemy as "outliers" reduces us to just a small handful of presumably valid, extant, traditional sources. And then we would have to do a lot more homework to substantiate a conjecture that the "kosher" sources were mainstream or accurate purveyors of older traditions.

Astrologers who turf out Manilius, for example, seem to ignore that his book is very mainstream in the context of earlier Greek and Roman works on the heavens. For example, Hesiod, Works and Days, Aratus, Phaenomena; and Ovid, Fasti.

Similarly, an arbitrary judgement that Ptolemy knew diddly-squat about "real" astrology ignores some important points. (1) Not all Hellenistic astrology was genethliacal. Some of it legitimately dealt with mundane astrology, astrological meteorology, or cultural geography. These branches do not deal with clients' birth charts. Robert Schmidt termed them "universal astrology." (2) Ptolemy's specific project was to put astrology on a more "scientific" (for the 2nd century AD) footing. As such, he fit very well into the Hellenistic scientific and mathematical cultures of his day.

(3) Vettius Valens, Mr. Pt's contemporary, is often held up as "the real astrologer." I'm sorry, but some of his calculations just seem (to me) to be make-believe; for example, how to calculate the ascendant when one has zero clue about the native's actual birth time. Also, many of Mr. V's horoscope synopses clearly could not have come from his own "client files."

The inquiry continues!
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Chris Brennan



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Posted: Thu Dec 01, 2011 8:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi everyone,

I noticed some traffic coming in to my blog today from this thread, and I wanted to make some comments after reading the discussion. This post is primarily in response to Mark's post from the first page where he critiqued a statement I made about the use of whole sign houses in the Hellenistic tradition. I don't know how best to do this without making the discussion overly complicated, but I guess that I will just respond to some of those points individually by quoting them first.

Mark wrote:
The problem with that statement is that it is a serious oversimplication of the available evidence and makes a lot of assumptions.

...

I am no authority on statistics but to maintain the position that 100% of hellenistic astrologers were using whole sign houses (excluding length of life calculation) is drawing a conclusion that many of the available sources simply dont support.


It is true that my statement was a bit of an oversimplification, but not as much as you are making it out to be here. My general point was simply that Schmidt was only partially correct in saying that the quadrant systems were used in order to determine how active a planet is. My general observation has been that the quadrant systems usually tended to be introduced within the specific context of the length of life treatment, whereas elsewhere whole sign houses are often used in order to determine angularity. That is what I meant by the 100% remark. For example, outside of the length of life treatment, Valens seems to use whole sign houses 100% of the time in order to determine how angular a planet is. Just look at the example charts in book 2 where he discusses the trigon lords of the sect light, which are primarily judged within the context of how angular they are.

Mark wrote:
No one is really sure what house system Ptolemy was using. The topic has been discussed ad nauseum here on Skyscript for years and the only rational conclusion is that we dont have enough information in his Tetrabiblos to know quite what system he was using.


I disagree that the only rational conclusion is that we don't have enough information to know what system Ptolemy was using. I personally found Schmidt's analysis of Ptolemy's consistent reference to the signs as 'places' throughout the Tetrabiblos as conclusive evidence that he was using whole sign houses. The only instance in which this is not the case is within the context of the length of life technique, but that is because this is the technique that quadrant houses were originally specifically designed for. As with Valens, just because Ptolemy uses quadrant houses within the context of the length of life technique does not necessarily mean that that was the primarily form of house division that was meant to be used with the rest of the system that he presents.

Deb is the only person I know of who has seriously questioned this position, although I don't agree with her argument for the reasons stated above.

At this point for me if someone wants to argue that Ptolemy was not using whole sign houses then they need to tally up every single instance in the Tetrabiblos in which Ptolemy uses the word zoidion to refer to a house and explain how exactly this does not demonstrate that he was using whole sign houses.

Mark wrote:
One of the earliest surviving astrological texts is the Astronomica of Manilius dating from the early 1st century CE. He seems to be using a house system dividing up the celestial sphere. It has been suggested that this may be the Campanus house system.


I disagree. Although he is often a bit sketchy on the details, Manilius seems to use the signs as houses. He certainly does this within the context of the the Lot of Fortune, for example in book 3, 75-86:

Manilius wrote:
"The lots of these activities she allocated to each sign, not in such a way that they should remain in a permanent quarter of the sky and, always looked for in the same place, be drawn to influence all human activities alike, but so that they should receive their proper position according to the moment of birth and change from sign to sign, each lot at a different time moving to a different constellation, so that the nativity then meets with a new pattern in the zodiac, without however disturbing everything with irregular motions. But when the section of the activities which is assigned to the first lot receives its proper place at the moment of the nativity, the rest follow attached to zodiacal signs in their usual sequence. The procession follows the leader until the circle of the lots fills up the circle of signs." (trans. Goold, pg. 169)


This isn't just true of derivative houses from the Lot of Fortune though, but he also seems to talk about the houses within the context of the signs later in book 3, 599-5:

Manilius wrote:
"And the trigon of the Horoscope which rose first and is on the right bestows sixty and the double of four. The trigon on the left and following in the wake of the preceding signs doubles thirty years and adds three over and above. And the temple which is separated by one intervening sign from the first sign rising at the cardinal point and which is now next to heaven's peak, this multiplies a score by three and takes three years away." (trans. Goold, pg. 213)


Why is Manilius talking about the houses/temples as if they were signs here, or able to be counted out evenly in terms of being separated by a certain number of signs?

Furthermore, why does Manilius say at one point that once you calculate the ascendant that all of the other angles are already determined? Why doesn't he mention the degree of the MC? Does the lack of reference to the MC or to intermediate house cusps imply that he was using whole sign houses like some of his contemporaries? From book 3, 503-509:

Manilius wrote:
"So must you seek among the fast-rotating stars the rising point of the heavens and the Horoscope with its fixed ascension, so that, when precise accuracy attaches to the location of the first cardinal point, the zenith of heaven on high will not be able to elude you, nor the swift setting, and the foundations with be correctly fixed at the nadir, and the signs will duly light upon their proper portions and influences." (trans. Goold, pgs. 204-5)


Ultimately Manilius's text is so murky and he mentions the houses so infrequently that it is difficult to be certain of anything, but based on the quotes above as well as other statements in his work I think there is reason to think that it isn't as simple as saying that he was using Campanus houses and that is the end of the story.

Mark wrote:
The third century astrologer Porphyry was obviously using the quadrant system named after him.


It is really not as simple as that. The only astrological text we have from Porphyry is his Introduction, which is only partially preserved, interpolated, and largely consists of definitions that he is either quoting or paraphrasing from the earlier author Antiochus. So, in much of the text there is the question of who the author is, and if we should attribute the doctrines to Antiochus, Porphyry or some other later Medieval source who has been inserted into the text such as Sahl.

That being said, there are places in Porphyry's Introduction where the author is clearly referring to the signs as houses. In chapter 36 he cites an earlier author named Timaeus for the opinion that there are seven chremetistikos houses, and he specifically equates these places with signs relative to the ascendant:

Porphyry wrote:
"According to Timaeus, 7 signs are effective in each nativity - the 4 angles, the 2 trines of the ASC, and for the remaining one, the cadent of the MC." (trans. Holden, pg. 27).


Holden has a footnote here in his translation pointing out that whole sign houses are being assumed here. Are we to take this as being reflective of Porphyry's personal preference, or do we just ascribe this view to the sources he was drawing on? Interestingly, in this chapter the author goes on to say that if the degree of the ascendant is very late in the sign then the following sign will also be rendered jointly chrematistikos, which echoes a similar sentiment that Dorotheus expresses at one point, perhaps in a way that supports Schmidt's argument. Nothing is said about the MC or intermediate house cusps though, as this is still apparently a sign-based framework that the author is employing.

In chapters 41 through 43 Porphyry talks about the rising times of the signs in order to be able to calculate primary directions for the length of life technique. It is here in chapter 43 that he introduces what has become known as Porphyry houses, and he does so at this point because he notes that Ptolemy had his discussion of quadrant houses in his chapter on the length of life as well.

The only other discussion of quadrant houses in Porphyry outside of chapter 43 occurs at the very end of the work in chapter 52 when he talks about another type of length of life technique that has to do with the ages of life as determined relative to the houses in clockwise order starting from the ascendant. He reiterates a form of Porphyry style house division for the specific purpose of this technique. Are we to take this as indicative of the type of house division that he applied in general practice though, or is he introducing it just for the purpose of this technique because it relies so heavily on the concept of angularity? If it is the former, then why does he talk about the signs as being "active" or "inactive" earlier in the book, which is usually something that is reserved for the houses? Unfortunately at this point in the Introduction the rest of the text is just interpolations from Sahl and then it ends abruptly, so we never really get to find out how Porphyry applied all of these definitions in practice.

Mark wrote:
While Valens does use the porphyry house system for the length of life calculation it is Robert Schmidt's theory that this was the only way it was utilised. I have quoted a post below by Deb that questions this assumption.


I don't find Deb's argument about Valens applying the names of the houses to his quadrant divisions to be very compelling. I think that Ptolemy and some of the others do this as well, although they make it clear that they are making a sort of analogy, saying that the 3rd quadrant house is like the house of Goddess in terms of its angularity. The point still remains that we don't see Valens actually applying topics to these quadrant divisions.

All of that being said, there were certainly some changes that took place during the course of the Hellenistic tradition. This is basically what I think happened at this point:

The original system was whole sign houses. This makes sense partially due to the fact that the conceptual structure of most of the system is predicated on a sign-based framework. For example, as Martin mentioned earlier, the significations of the houses are largely derived from their configuration to the ascendant and their angularity. The good places are good because those signs aspect the ascendant, while the bad places are bad because those signs do not. This is always true in a sign-based framework, but it is not always true in a quadrant framework because you could have the bad houses aspecting the 1st house in those systems. It creates a sort of logical inconsistency in the system that isn't there with whole sign houses.

So, at some point this 12 topic sign-based house system is introduced. Some authors ascribe the 12 topic system to Hermes, so perhaps there was a text written under that name in which it was originally outlined. But then there was this other really important text that was published at some point after that, which was ascribed the Nechepso and Petosiris. I can demonstrate pretty conclusively that one of the techniques that was originally outlined in the N&P text was the specific length of life technique that was used by virtually every subsequent Hellenistic and Medieval author. This is the familiar technique that involves the determination of a Predominator/hyleg, a "Domicile Master"/alcocoden, and the dual process of directing the predominator through the bounds until it hits the rays of malefics while at the same time calculating a specific number of years based on the condition of the "Domicile Master."

In was in this original treatment of the length of life technique that the authors (N&P) seem to have outlined some form of quadrant house division in order to determine a suitable candidate for the Predominator. For some reason they decided not to use the idealized whole sign house system for the purposes of determining "angularity" in this context, but instead they used some sort of system where the actual degrees of the MC and IC are taken into account, and it is the area just after the those degrees which becomes "angular" in this context. This explains why several of the major Hellenistic astrologers including Valens and Ptolemy introduced their quadrant based systems within the context of their discussions about the length of life treatment, while at the same time alluding to mysterious "ancient" authors who originally outlined the length of life doctrine itself. Whatever the Nechepso and Petosiris text said about quadrant houses during this originally exposition must have been somewhat difficult to interpret though, as you can see different authors presenting different solutions to how to trisect the quadrants, or which part of the quadrants should be deemed "active." Perhaps this part of the text was written in a way that it was open to interpretation, sort of like how Valens says that Nechepso's cryptic statements about the calculation of the Lot of Fortune have been interpreted in different ways by other authors.

So what you have then during the earlier part of the tradition in the 1st and 2nd centuries CE is essentially a whole sign framework when it comes to dealing with houses, except when it comes to this major technique which requires the introduction of an alternate "house" system in order to calculate it properly. This eventually led to some issues because it caused some astrologers to pay attention to the actual degree of the MC rather than just the idealized midheaven/10th whole sign house. You can see sort of an intermediate stage in the development of this issue in book 5 of Valens where he explains that the degree of the MC and the IC actually import what are essentially 10th house and 4th house topics into whatever whole sign house that they fall in, essentially doubling up the topics of that sign/house. He makes an even more interesting and revealing statement in the same chapter though - within the context of annual profections he says that if you are in an angular profection year then you can profect from one angle and it will land on another, regardless of if those angles actually occupy whole sign houses that are angular from each other. So for example, if you are in a 10th house profection year and you want to profect from the degree of the IC, but the IC falls in the 3rd whole sign house, the profection will go to the ascendant rather than to the 12th whole sign house. He leaves it at that though and he doesn't talk about calculating or profecting from intermediate house cusps in this chapter.

So, as long as this section isn't an interpolation, it seems to represent this sort of intermediate stage where some of the Hellenistic astrologers were struggling with and finding creative solutions to the clash between the whole sign and quadrant house frameworks. For the most part Valens' work is still largely sign-based though, although there is a chapter in book 9 where he seems to advocate equal houses for the purpose of doing derivative houses, although he never seems to use this in an example charts so it is not clear how he integrates it into his broader system. Firmicus Maternus also outlines what appears to be equal houses at the beginning of his book, but then as James Holden pointed out to me a few years ago in a private email, he never seems to actually use equal houses in the rest of the text, but instead he consistently refers to the signs and houses. This was Holden's position circa late 2007:

James Holden wrote:
"Firmicus explained the Equal House system of house division in one chapter of the 'Mathesis', but I don't think that he ever used it. As nearly as I can tell, all the rest of the 'Mathesis' is based on the Sign-House system. It was the original system, and it seems to have been the primary one used for the first 500 years of Horoscopic Astrology. A few astrologers tried Equal House, but I doubt that it ever became popular. And I think the same could be said for Porphyry houses."


Now, by the late Hellenistic tradition in the 6th and 7th centuries it seems clear that things have changed substantially, and quadrant houses were starting to be employed topically. This seems clear to me at this point in both Rhetorius and Olympiodorus, who were both writing at the very end of the tradition. It wasn't really a clean break at this point though, but instead what we appear to have is this weird middle ground where both whole sign houses and quadrant houses are being applied in order to study topics at the same time. In chapter 113 of Holden's translation of Rhetorius he uses an example in which he calculates Alchabitius house cusps, but he deliberately switches back and forth when he goes through the planetary positions, saying that one planet is angular "by [whole] sign" but cadent "by [quadrant] degree." In the earlier portions of his Compendium it is clear that Rhetorius was drawing on an earlier tradition that was largely sign based, as often the house delineations refer to houses as signs, but it appears that in practice he favors this newer approach that blends the two systems.

Finally, Olympiodorus wrote a commentary on Paulus in the summer of 564, and in it there is chapter in which he appears to have dealt with the house division issue explicitly. I'm not fully familiar with the textual issues here, but the editors inserted this section into the end of chapter 23 of Olympiodorus' commentary. Here Olympiodorus basically says that he is drawing on a tradition that is largely sign-based, but he points out that this creates issues when you take into account the degree of the MC:

Olympiodorus wrote:

"There has come to be a certain amount of difference and ambiguity for the astrologers concerning the division and separating of such twelve places. For they define the whole place as the zoidion itself, whole degree is found marking the hour or culminating. But in this reckoning other faults also result, especially because from the hour-marking degree up to the culminating one there is not always a distance of 90 degrees..." (trans. Greenbaum, pgs. 118-9.)


Olympiodorus goes on to describe Porphyry houses, even giving part of a chart example, which is unfortunately undatable because it only gives the degrees of the angles and the cusps.

But as long as this chapter in Olympiodorus and the one in Rhetorius are legitimate, they make it clear that a major shift in the way that houses were being conceptualized was in the process of taking place by the very end of the Hellenistic tradition, and this is basically the legacy that got handed off to the early Medieval astrologers like Masha'allah and Sahl. It seems to me that their familiarity with earlier Hellenistic authors like Valens and Dorotheus led the early Medieval astrologers to favor whole sign houses initially, as noted by Hand, but then eventually at some point later in that tradition the quadrant systems completely displaced whole sign houses for some unknown reason.
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Martin Gansten
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Posted: Thu Dec 01, 2011 9:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mark wrote:
Can I just ask when do you think Porphyry houses were first being used in Indian astrology?

I regret that I can't say. Indian texts on predictive astrology (phalita-jyotiṣa) tend not to include mathematical-astronomical considerations (gaṇita-jyotiṣa), and I have mainly studied the former. Some of them (the earlier ones in particular) do tend to use words for 'zodiacal sign' (such as rāśi or bha) in the sense of 'house', but not exclusively so. And then there are questions of dating and of text interpolations... It's a jungle.

Quote:
4 One Placidean house=Two planetary hours-Coincidence?

No, of course not. If one feels that a house system ought to reflect the planetary hours, then Placidus is the obvious choice. But it is not obvious (to me at least) why one should feel that.

Quote:
Yes John Partridge the late 17th century astrologer seems to have been a big influence on later English astrology in terms of adopting Placidus houses. He was strongly influenced by Placidus and his Primum Mobile. Somewhat ironic considering his personal anti-Roman Catholic prejudices. However, Martin is the resident expert. He has lectured on this subject and I think(?) written an article on this very topic.

My lecture at the 2010 Sophia conference is available here. It mentions Partridge at the beginning but goes on to deal more with Worsdale and Oxley. Robert Hand, who was the previous speaker, dealt primarily with Partridge. His paper should be in the printed volume (which I have yet to see); I don't know if it's also available online.
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Martin Gansten
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Posted: Thu Dec 01, 2011 9:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

waybread wrote:
Martin, thanks for your clarity. Just a question, though:

Robert Schmidt (CURA, 1996; TMA, 1999/2000) essentially argues that there were 3 different house systems for different purposes.

1. Topical: This would be themes like reputation, illness, and marriage (depending upon the author and date, as their house contents varied.) Whole signs.

2. Dynamical: assessing the strength of a planet according to its position in its quadrant; i.e., angular, succedant, cadent. Porphyry.

3. Unnamed, but it corresponds to your 1a. Planets are well or poorly placed in a given house because of its aspect to the first house. The bad ones are semi-sextile or quincunx. House system not mentioned.

You've explained the houses somewhat differently. Are their flaws in Schmidt's 3 categories from your perspective?

I haven't read the article, but I can't see the difference between categories 1 and 3 as you present them. Using whole-sign houses, the aspect relationships between the houses are naturally fixed.
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Martin Gansten
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Posted: Thu Dec 01, 2011 9:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Chris Brennan wrote:
The original system was whole sign houses. This makes sense partially due to the fact that the conceptual structure of most of the system is predicated on a sign-based framework. For example, as Martin mentioned earlier, the significations of the houses are largely derived from their configuration to the ascendant and their angularity. The good places are good because those signs aspect the ascendant, while the bad places are bad because those signs do not. This is always true in a sign-based framework, but it is not always true in a quadrant framework because you could have the bad houses aspecting the 1st house in those systems. It creates a sort of logical inconsistency in the system that isn't there with whole sign houses.

As you mention my name: my point is that there is a logical inconsistency either way, because it seems obvious (to me, anyway) that aspectual relationships are only one part of the matter, and that some major house significations are based on things like culmination and anti-culmination (and approaching or falling away from culmination, etc). The 10th place wouldn't be invested with certain powers if it were not for the fact that it was supposed to be culminating, and so forth.
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Eddy



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Posted: Thu Dec 01, 2011 10:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Perhaps the moment of certain events expressed in seasonal hours and related to a certain meaning was there before the use of houses and/or planetary strengths
Van der Waerden wrote:
On the other hand, the older astro-logical texts use the popular division of day and night. The omen of an eclipse depends on the night watch in which it takes place.
B. L. van der Waerden - Babylonian Astronomy. III. The Earliest Astronomical

The oldest source of the ascendant is of 4 BC (Michael Baigent – From the omens of Babylon). Perhaps only just short after the mathematics had developed into something that could calculate the ascendant as an intersection point of the two great circles of ecliptic and horizon. Before this time it must have been done otherwise, either by direct observation at birth or by some more or less crude arithmetical method. Whole signs then seem logical as a first step in this development.

Perhaps the procedure somewhat looked like this. At latitudes a bit north of Paris the ratio of the shortest to the longest day is 1:2 or 8 hours : 16 hours or 120:240 equinoctial degree ‘times’. The old arithmetic (and not according to reality) method of calculating the rising times of the signs, would then lead to rising times of
Aries 13°20’
Taurus 20°
Gemini 26°40’
Cancer 33°20’
Leo 40°
Virgo 46°40
Libra 46°40’
Scorpio 40°
Sagittarius 33°20’
Capricorn 26°40’
Aquarius 20°
Pisces 13°20’

The times are expressed in equinoctial degrees where 1°=4 clock minutes, 30°=2 hours.
(Note the symmetries, probably a source of inspiration for antiscia etc.)

If someone would have been born with Sun in 0°Scorpio, it would take (40°+33°20’+26°40’+20°+13°20’+13°20’=) 146°40’ times till 0° Taurus rises. If the measured birth time would have been expressed in seasonal times (based upon the diurnal arcs) and would be 2/3 of the diurnal arc or 120 seasonal times then this would be 2/3*146°40’= 97°46’40” equinoctial times. So from 97°46’40 times after sunrise on that you will have to subtract the rising times of the following signs: 97°46’40’-40°(Scorpio)-33°20’(Sagittarius)=25°26’40”. This is slightly shorter than the rising time of Capricorn, so the ascendant would be somewhere at the end of Capricorn. (The correct calculation is quite close to this method.) In whole sign measurements the exactness isn’t necessary. Moreover, the old Greek astrologers used these sign rising methods without taking into observation the difference of rising speed within one sign. Ptolemy rejected this use.

Chris Brennan wrote:
At this point for me if someone wants to argue that Ptolemy was not using whole sign houses then they need to tally up every single instance in the Tetrabiblos in which Ptolemy uses the word zoidion to refer to a house and explain how exactly this does not demonstrate that he was using whole sign houses.
I’d say that the whole sign proponents should do this as well when demonstrating that he was using whole sign houses.

waybread wrote:
My sense is that this is what Manilius did, as he seems to rely on a "natural" midheaven and calculates rising sign within a few degrees from rising constellations; vs. somebody like Valens who seems to view the MC and even the AC as calculated, derived, points.
What’s the difference? I don’t understand what you mean here.
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margherita



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Posted: Thu Dec 01, 2011 10:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm strangely in agreement with Mark Smile and I would say that we don't know exactly what Greek astrologers used and how.

For example it can be easily showed that Ptolemy examples of primary directions in Tetrabiblos III,11 fall on "Placidean" cusps:

http://heavenastrolabe.net/ptolemy-and-placidus-primary-directions/

Is it a coincidence? It is not likely.

Does Ptolemy use different methods for different subjects? That was just Ptolemy method or Ptolemy took it from someone else? I'm sure nobody, neither Bezza or Schmidt really know....

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