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John Frawley

John Frawley

Books by John Frawley:
The Real Astrology

The Real Astrology Applied

Horary Astrology - an extracted chapter from The Real Astrology - by John Frawley

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When will the repair man arrive ?

Let us consider an example to show how simple horary can be. I had been told that the electricity repair-man would arrive at some time that morning. I wanted to have a bath, so, knowing that nothing is more certain to make the door-bell ring than settling into the tub, I cast a horary to find out exactly when he would arrive. [3]

When will the repairman arrive ?

The querent is always shown by the planet ruling the Ascendant, in this case Jupiter. At 0 degrees of Aquarius, Jupiter has no strength; being so close to the Sun, the most destructive position a planet can hold, confirms my total lack of power in this situation. Trapped in the twelfth house, the section of the chart concerned with imprisonment, there is nothing I can do other than wait. The repairman's position is quite different. He is shown by the Moon, ruler of the sixth house, as repairmen are rumoured to be our servants. In its own sign, Cancer, it is very strong: he is in control of the situation.

I had expected to see his planet applying to aspect - probably by conjunction - either the Ascendant or my significator. The distance his planet would have to travel in order to complete the aspect would then show the time that must elapse before his arrival. I was horrified to see his significator, which is moving round the chart in an anti-clockwise direction, just entering the sixth house, the house of servants. This can be read quite literally: the repairman is going into his own house. The Moon makes no major aspects to any of the traditional planets before leaving its sign: this is further confirmation that he is going nowhere except home. And so it proved.

Horary judgements are only rarely as straightforward as this, largely because horary questions are only rarely this simple: profound as may be my desire for my bath, "When will the repairman arrive?" has none of the emotional complexity of the tangled situations from within which querents usually pose their questions. The principles, however, remain the same. Muddy situations inspire muddy charts, but the same few simple rules applied patiently and with care will unravel the most knotted bundle of conflicting passions.

Horary can deal with a variety of differing types of question. Questions of state seek an understanding of how things actually are at that moment, looking for information that is veiled from the querent, such as "Where are my keys?" or 'Am I pregnant?". We can peer back into the past, with queries such as "Did the cleaner steal my ring, or did I just lose it?" Most often, however, questions are directed into the future, asking if, how or when a certain event will take place.

The technical principles for judging charts set for such questions as these are in essence simplicity itself. Most significantly, for all that they must be applied with subtlety of understanding, these techniques are fixed. There is not the slightest question of intuition, except in the sense of Polyani's formulation of intuition as 'tacit knowledge', - that is, the way that a mechanic knows what is causing that squeak without necessarily being able to articulate the reasons why, large experience having made certain stages in the reasoning process redundant. Any competent astrologer looking at the same chart should, allowing for human fallibility, reach the same conclusions. Intuition in the common understanding of the word - or even in its higher and original meaning of intellection as regards a particular fact or allotment of knowledge - has nothing to do with it: the client can get 'intuitions' from his next-door neighbour; from an astrologer he requires the truth.

These techniques involve first locating the planet that signifies the querent; then the one that signifies the thing they are asking about. If these planets meet by aspect, we have the possibility that the thing will happen; if they do not, it won't. Once we have found that an aspect is there, bringing the two planets together, we must assess the strength of the planets, in order to determine whether they are strong enough to make the event happen; then we evaluate the nature of their connection with each other to find out if they both want the event to happen. If the planets are adequately strong, if they share an interest in making the event happen and if they meet by aspect, we may judge - within as always the possible limits of prediction, as all is ever subject to the will of God -that the event will come to pass.

So if the question were "Will Susie go out with me?" and the chart showed my planet and her planet coming to immediate aspect, this would be an encouraging start to judgement. The aspect provides, as it were, the occasion, without which nothing happens. If both our planets were strong, the chart would look rosier still, as we both have the ability to act. Suppose her planet were weak: no matter how desperate she was to go out with me, any obstacle would prove too much for her to surmount. The chart would show the nature of the obstacle: perhaps she is afflicted by the planet that would represent her father, so we could judge that he will not let her see me. Finally, we examine the way in which the two planets regard each other. In this situation, the ideal would be for my planet to be in a sign ruled by her planet, while hers falls in a sign ruled by mine: this would show intense mutual feelings. If her planet were not in any part of the zodiac ruled by mine, we would judge that she is not interested in me. As the asking of the question implies a certain level of interest, we might expect my planet to be in some part of the zodiac ruled by hers; if, however, it were in one of my own signs it would show clearly that I have no real interest in her, but just want the kudos of being seen with Susie, the prettiest girl in the school. We might make do with planets that do not indicate any interest in each other, but do show a shared interest in something else, as evinced by their both being in parts of the zodiac ruled by a third planet: we don't think much of each other, but we do both want to go to the dance.

As with the lovely Susie, so with any other issue. In the example about the repairman, his planet is very strong, while mine is weak: he can choose what happens, while I cannot. His planet is in a sign ruled by itself: his main priority is his own business. His planet is in Cancer, a sign where my planet, Jupiter, is said to be exalted; this is an important dignity, so I am clearly of some significance to him; unfortunately of not nearly as much significance as he is to himself. In sum, he has the power, while I don't; he is more interested in himself than in me; there is no aspect to bring us together. In this instance, I would happily have settled for an aspect without any indications of his interest in me: I should have been happy if he had turned up; I would not have minded if were thinking of something else while he was working. If the context were different and I were asking about Susie, the amount of interest she had in me would be of the utmost significance.

Suppose I ask "Will I get this job?" My planet strong in the chart would indicate that I have the ability and qualifications to merit it. My planet could be weak in either of two ways: if it is in a part of the zodiac where it has no power, it would suggest that I am weak of myself - in this context, I lack whatever is necessary to get the job. It might, however, be in a congenial part of the zodiac but be afflicted by another planet or by being in an unfortunate part of the sky relative to the horizon: I have the necessary skills, but something gets in the way - maybe I arrive at the interview drunk (my planet weak by being in the house of self-undoing), or perhaps my undoubted abilities are overshadowed by the urgent need to find a post for the chairman's new son-in-law (my planet afflicted by another). Even if my study of the chart revealed that I lack the strength to deserve this job, all might not be lost. Perhaps the planet representing the job has something in common with my own, so I dig out my old school tie or rehearse the secret handshake knowing that this will outweigh my inadequacies. But for all this, if the two planets representing me and the job fail to meet each other in aspect, nothing will happen. No matter how promising the situation, I will not get the job: perhaps the company decides not to hire new staff after all; perhaps great-uncle Silas dies, relieving me with his riches of all need to work: the chart will indicate which.

Where is my fish?

Before turning to a consideration of the basic tools with which astrology works, by which we assess the relative strengths, interests and possible actions of the actors in whatever drama we are watching, whether it be the non-arrival of the electricity man or the demise of a great empire, let us examine a last example of horary, which makes clear some of the apparently problematical issues surrounding this branch of astrology more even than any other. This chart was judged by one of the greatest masters of the craft, William Lilly.

Lilly practised during the Seventeenth Century, acquiring a reputation for accurate, specific astrology stretching far beyond the shores of his native England, a fact that presents us again with the two options: either our ancestors were singularly stupid, or he had at least some measure of the abilities which he claimed. The bulk of his practice was in horary; his surviving notebooks show him dealing with some 2000 clients a year, a depth of practical experience which combined with a huge breadth of study to enable him to write Christian Astrology, a text-book of horary and natal astrology that was, suffering varying degrees of distortion, to be the standard work on the subject until Alan Leo put the dying corpse of astrology out of its misery two and a half centuries later.

Lilly had ordered some fish and a bag of Portuguese onions to be sent from London to his home, just up-river in Hersham. But when the warehouseman arrived at Lilly's house, instead of delivering the goods he told the astrologer that the warehouse had been broken into and the fish stolen. Lilly set a horary chart to find the thief. [4]

Where is my fish ?

In a question of theft, a planet without strength placed in an angular house often shows the thief, while the Sun or Moon in the Ascendant in one of its own dignities shows that the thief will be discovered. Here, Jupiter is without strength and angular, while the Moon , in its dignity, is in the Ascendant. Jupiter is the natural ruler of the rich and noble, but Lilly decided that a gentleman was unlikely to burgle warehouses to steal fish. He did, however, take note of the sign that Jupiter is in: Scorpio, a water sign. The Part of Fortune, which falls at 17 degrees of Cancer, represents the querent's 'treasure' in the chart; Lilly's treasure here is his missing fish, so its being in Cancer, another water sign, is of significance. Mercury, ruler of the second house in the chart, and as such significator of Lilly's property - his fish - is in the third water sign, Pisces. Considering this evidence and the circumstances of the theft, Lilly decided that the thief must be connected with the water, probably by working on the river (Jupiter in water sign) and the fish must be in some moist place (Part of Fortune and Mercury in water signs).

The Moon usually works as secondary significator of the querent, so its immediate formation of an aspect with Mercury (the property) shows that the querent will recover it. Unfortunately, Mercury is very weak in Pisces: the aspect shows that the fish will be recovered, but this weakness shows that it will be found in less than pristine condition. Lilly judged that he wouldn't recover the fish intact, but that he would get some of it back. The chart has told him that he will discover the thief and recover some of the goods. This judgement has been made by the application of fixed rules: Lilly is not employing his intuition.

Apart from a weak planet in an angular house, the thief can also be shown by the ruler of the seventh house. Here, this is Mars. Mars is on the point of leaving Scorpio, which is its own sign. This suggested that the thief had recently moved house, or was just about to do so (the technical term house was commonly applied both to sections of the chart and to the signs of the zodiac). Combining the indications of the two possible significators of the thief, Jupiter and Mars, Lilly was able to work out a physical description of the man. After making enquiries, he heard of a fisherman with a reputation for thieving who had just moved to a house by the river, as was shown by the chart's emphasis on water signs. Tall and well-built with fair complexion and reddish-yellow hair, his appearance was typical of Mars combined with Jupiter. Lilly had his suspect.

Armed with this combination of astrology and detective-work, he approached the local magistrate, who readily granted a warrant to search the man's house and provided him with a bailiff to enforce it. They found part of the fish, at which the thief confessed all, explaining that the rest had already been eaten. Lilly grumbled at the man's wife about the fate of his Portuguese onions - not knowing what they were, she had made soup out of them - but then relented and let them keep the remains of their loot.

As we have seen, the discovery of the thief and the retrieval of the fish are shown, clearly and according to set rules, in the chart; but these predictions depended on certain actions to make them happen, actions which need not, apparently, have been taken. The chart guided Lilly to the thief. Having found the thief, many people would not have confronted him. This was a small community: Lilly might have been frightened of the consequences of his accusation, or uncertain of his judgement and scared of embarrassment if he had got it wrong. He wasn't. This was the same Lilly who, shortly after arriving in London as a young man, had performed a mastectomy on his master's wife, and who was later to risk execution with his vehement astrological propagandising on behalf of Parliament during the Civil War: he wasn't one to back down from a challenge. Then, to allow the prediction to come true, Lilly had to be in a position to obtain a warrant to search the thief's house. Few modern astrologers would find much sympathy arriving at their local police station waving a chart and claiming to know who had stolen their belongings. Lilly had a strong reputation as a worthy citizen and an accurate astrologer. The wealth he had gained through his astrological practice had made him the magistrate's social equal, so he would have found no problem in obtaining the warrant.

Lilly's character and circumstances were necessary factors in the accuracy of the prediction. But it it is reasonable to think that had the circumstances, including Lilly's character, been different, he would not have asked this particular question at this particular time. If, for example, he were timid, he might well have spent another hour worrying about the situation before asking the question, resulting in a different astrological chart; if his reputation as an astrologer had not made him the social equal of the magistrate, he could probably not have afforded to order the fish in the first place. The chart itself is a product of the man and the situation just as much as whatever takes place in the life; unless we are to make the rather bizarre, but currently fashionable, assumption that life is a succession of random events, the two must be meaningfully connected. There is only one possible set of circumstances that could have led to that exact prediction being made at that exact moment. That set of circumstances is the one, and the only one, that had actually arisen. Anything else exists only in the world of hypothesis, as the product of man's tireless fancy.

It is easy to see now why most modern astrologers, from choice or ignorance, have no truck with horary, and why many of them become surprisingly excitable when the subject is raised: the prospect of there being a verifiable, accurate astrology based on sound principles inevitably touches a sore spot.

Some moderns have managed to deal with the threatening intrusion of reality into their nebulous dream-world by breeding an unearthly creature called 'psychological horary'. This strange product of genetic engineering knows nothing so vulgar as providing a simple answer to a simple question, but must delve into the psychological motives for that question having been asked. Had William Lilly been foolish enough to have demanded of one of these astrologers "where is my fish?" he would have received the response "What does your fish mean to you?" What strange psychological quirk makes you want to know what has happened to the fish that someone has stolen from you? In this way, reality is reduced to its customary place as an adjunct to the client's psyche, and what happens in the life is of no importance other than as a means of casting light on our own kaleidoscope of whirling mental fixations. We might note in passing that such attitudes absolve us from the necessity of any engagement in the world, for whatever we may perceive as wrong-doing is merely our psychological projection, and so we may justifiably admire ourselves in our mirror while the world burns around us.

We might suspect that William Lilly would have given the enquiry "What does the fish mean to you?" a short and dusty answer; we might certainly suspect that using the chart only to analyse this question would not have put the fish on his dinner-table - but to think such thoughts reveals our lack of sophistication: "What does your dinner mean to you?" Any question is construed as an invitation to the contemporary astrologer to trample through the querent's psyche. Whilst some may find this titillating we cannot but regard it with abhorrence. Indeed, René Guénon has pointed out that what the mind keeps unconscious it keeps unconscious for good reason; it does not do to go poking around in it. [5] The amount of psychic detritus we see all around us is not unconnected with the Twentieth-Century fashion for doing just that. All manner of unsavoury genies have been released from bottles in which they slumbered quite safely; they are not easily returned.

While we are most certainly wrong to reduce the great benefit of horary astrology to a means of psychological analysis, we are wrong also to think that the importance of horary is in the immediate results that it offers. Whether we can find the lost ring or determine whether the repair-man will arrive on time is not, in the great scheme of things, a matter of any significance. As horary is the doorway to astrology, the celestial science, we are given a few sweets to tempt us inside. We are provided with some immediate verification of the truth behind the science; yet it does not do to place too great an importance on these proofs. The point, as always in astrology, is to look beyond towards the Divine. "We shall show them Our portents on the horizons and within themselves until it will be manifest unto them that it is the Truth" [6] but we must not become attached to the portents: the signpost is not the destination.

Notes & References:
  3 ] January 22nd 1997, 9.07 am GMT, London.
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  4 ] February 20 1638 n/s. 9.00 am LMT, Hersham
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  5 ] The Reign of Quantity, p.279. 3rd edn. Sophia Perennis, Ghent, USA, 1995
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  6 ] The Holy Qur'an, 41:53
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John Frawley is the editor of The Astrologer's Apprentice magazine, and tutor of the Apprenticeship Courses in Horary, Electional and Traditional Natal Astrology. The book from which this work is extracted, The Real Astrology, was awarded the Spica Award for International Astrology Book of the Year in 2001. His follow up book, Real Astrology Applied is now available and a further title The Horary Textbook will soon be due for publication. For details of John's work, publications, appearances and courses, visit his website at
© John Frawley

Horary Astrology
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