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by Dylan Warren Davis:

The Hand Reveals

By Dylan Warren-Davis

An Introduction to Decumbiture, part 6, by Dylan Warren-Davis

Part VI
The Seventh House: The Physician

Following on from his previous articles, Dylan Warren-Davis now looks in detail at the seventh house and its signification of the physician.

Of the 7th house Lilly says: 'It giveth judgement... in Astrology [of] the Artist himselfe; in Physicke the Physitian'. Of the significators for this house he adds: 'It hath consignificator Libra and Moon; Saturn or Mars [are] unfortunate herein...'[1]

In decumbiture the placing of the 7th house opposite the 1st house of health and vitality symbolises the physician's astrological skills in relation to the patient. The Moon's association with the house reflects the sensitivity and receptivity of the physician to the patient. As the closest planet to Earth, the Moon is located on the threshold between the celestial and elemental worlds and represents the translation point where the influence of the planets above is mediated to the elements below. Within the Hermetic 'three world view' this is the border between emotionality and physicality. [2]

A physician in the 17th century was more of a spiritual healer than we would currently associate with the term. In addition to tending to a patient's physical needs, the physician directly communicated with the spiritual world for the benefit of the patient. This is demonstrated by the symbol for Jupiter (Jupiter) being the basis of the term 'prescription' (L. pre - 'before' + scribo - 'I write').[3] Before writing down the medication, a physician marked the glyph for Jupiter at the top of the page. This is an invocation to Jupiter to supply knowledge of the appropriate herbs to use for the patient. After receiving the knowledge, the list of medication is more correctly called the recipe, from the Latin recipere meaning 'to receive'. The spiritual role of the physician is clearly described by Culpeper:

Many a times I find my patients disturbed by trouble of conscience and sorrow and I have to act the divine before I can be physician. In fact our greatest skils lies in the infusion of hopes, to induce confidence and peace of mind.[4]

A significant part of a physician's diagnostic skill lay in interpreting the pulse. Taking the pulse has been used in medicine since classical times. The Roman physician Claudius Galen (c. 130-200 AD) identified 27 different pulses. Taking the pulse provides a particularly strong emotional connection to a patient, which is often deeply reassuring to them and enhances their faith in the physician. Again, the Moon is symbolically linked to the establishment of emotional rapport.

In humoral physiology the Moon influences the circulation of the vital force through the blood. Pulse diagnosis is directed towards interpreting this flow: One of the techniques of pulse diagnosis used to determine which humour predominates in the blood, utilises the recognition of planetary qualities from feeling the pulse. Each of the four humours are connected to the planets as follows:

  • Sanguine humour ruled by Jupiter
  • Choleric humour ruled by Mars and Sun
  • Melancholic humour ruled by Saturn
  • Phlegmatic humour ruled by Venus and Moon[5]
By identifying the prevailing planetary pulse the predominating humour can be identified.

  • The pulse for Jupiter is 'strong and lofty'.[6]
  • The pulse for Mars is 'high and swift'.
  • The pulse for the Sun is 'uneven, swift, and intended'.
  • The pulse for Saturn is 'slow and remiss'.
  • The pulse for Venus is 'low and remiss, but somewhat intended'.
  • The pulse for the Moon is 'uneven, slow, faint and remiss'.[7]
(Mercury does not have a characteristic pulse since it does not rule any of the humours but rules the vital force itself.) Thus a 'high and swift' pulse of Mars found with a fever would indicate the predominance of the choleric humour.


Sanguine HumourHot and moistDigestive virtue
Choleric HumourHot and dryAttractive virtue
Melancholic HumourCold and dryRetentive virtue
Phlegmatic HumourCold and moistExpulsive virtue

The giving of herbs is essential to the therapeutic skill of a physician. In physic the Moon is used to obtain the most appropriate time to give herbs to patients. Culpeper clearly demonstrates this role of the Moon when describing the administering virtues. The four administering virtues are essentially functions of the individual humours within the blood: the sanguine humour is linked to the digestive virtue, the choleric humour is linked to the attractive virtue, the phlegmatic humour is linked to the expulsive virtue and the melancholic humour is linked to the retentive virtue.[8]

Just as the sanguine humour is the principal humour of the blood with all the other humours contained within it, so is the digestive virtue the principal administering virtue, with the other virtues - attractive, retentive and expulsive - constituents of it. Culpeper explains:

The digestive virtue is hot and moist, and is the principal of them all, the others like handmaids attend it.
The attractive virtue [hot and dry] draws that which it should digest, and serves continually to feed and supply it.
The retentive virtue [cold and dry] retains the substance with it, till it be perfectly digested.
The expulsive virtue [cold and moist] casteth out, expels what is superfluous by digestion. [9]

The principle of administration utilises the correspondence between virtues, humours and zodiacal signs. The digestive virtue, for example, with its link to the sanguine humour, concords with the air signs, so it is enhanced by the Moon being present in air signs when herbs are administered to the patient. Culpeper explains of the digestive virtue:

In fortifying it, let your Moon be in Gemini, Aquary, or the first half of Libra, or if matters be come to that extremity that you cannot stay till that time, let one of them ascend, but both of them together would do better, always provided that the Moon be not in the ascendant.

The influence of the Moon is further enhanced by ensuring that signs of the appropriate element rise on the ascendant. Similarly, the attractive virtue, with its link to the choleric humour, concords with the fire signs:

This attractive virtue ought to be fortified when the Moon is in fiery signs, viz. Aries and Sagittary, but not Leo, for the sign is so violent, that no physic ought to be given when the Moon is there.

Again, the retentive virtue, with its link to the melancholic humour, concords with the earth signs:

In fortifying of it,... let the Moon be in Taurus or Virgo, Capricorn is not so good, say authors.

Finally, the expulsive virtue, with its link to the phlegmatic humour, concords with the water signs:

In fortifying this, (which ought to be done in all purgations,) let the Moon be in Cancer, Scorpio, or Pisces, or let one of these signs ascend.

Within these instructions the dignity of the Moon is also considered, for if she lacks dignity the influence of the planets in the heavens will not be mediated down to the elements below and the herbs will not work properly. Hence the strictures upon giving herbs when the Moon is in Capricorn where she is in detriment and in Leo where she is overpowered by the dignity of the Sun. The 'first half of Libra' given for fortifying the digestive virtue is also significant, for the 'second half of Libra' is where the Via Combusta starts. The Via Combusta, extending from 15° Libra to 15° Scorpio, has long been recognised as a section of the zodiac where the luminaries are weak and the malefics are strong. The Sun has his fall in Libra and the Moon has her fall in Scorpio, while Saturn is exalted in Libra and Mars is dignified in Scorpio. In the first half of the Via Combusta the Moon is debilitated by Saturn being dignified. In administering herbs it is also important to ensure that the Moon is not in the first house, since her influence is weakened by Saturn being a consignificator of this house.

In the judgement of a decumbiture, the 7th house focuses upon whether the physician is in a position to help the patient:

if Lord of 7th be unfortunate, the Physician shall not cure.[10]


An infortune in the 7th shews but a Paltry Physitian, though he be a Collegiate. A fortune there, the contrary.[11]

If the Lord of the 7th is weakened in dignity or by aspect to the malefic planets, the healing role of the physician is distinctly compromised. If Saturn is present in the 7th house it indicates the physician's receptivity to the patient is blocked and their role impaired to the point where they will be unable to derive a living, hence a 'Paltry Physitian'. Similarly Mars present in the 7th house indicates they would be rash in their judgements concerning patients that would detract from their ability as a physician. Saunders expands on this point:

When thou find the 7th House or Lord thereof afflicted with Saturn or Mars, or beholding it with a Square or Opposition, change thy Physician, for he shall do no good, but be crafty in his actions and Judgement, and to thee unfortunate.[12]

By contrast, Jupiter in the 7th indicates a compassionate physician who will be particularly sensitive to the higher inspiration needed to gain insight into a patient's problems and accurately prescribe medicines for them - a quality substantially contributing to their success. Similarly, Venus in the 7th house would indicate a particularly caring physician, known for their concern for their patients. Saunders elaborates on this:

But if thou find Jupiter or Venus in the 7th House, or in any good aspect with the House, or with the Lord thereof then refuse not in any ways the help of the Physician, for he shall by Gods help Cure thee, to Gods Glory, and his Credit.

A particularly ominous signification is when the same planet rules both the 7th and 8th house, which could show that the physician is linked to the death of the patient. As Culpeper puts it:

'Tis a sad thing when the Lord of Death must be the physitian in the disease.[13]

The relationship between the physician and the patient was also examined in the synastry of the respective natal charts. Saunders says on this:

The Patient shall be in great danger by means of the Physician, if the Sick have or had Jupiter or Venus in those degrees wherein the Physician had or hath Saturn or Mars in their Nativities; if in a Square very hurtful, but not evil as in Conjunction, for that [the conjunction] and Opposition are the worst.[14]

In contrast:

The Physician shall be right welcome to that Patient whose Ascendants or Lords do agree, or be in any good Aspects together, or if the Luminaries be in any good Aspect together, or if the Lights of one do behold the Lights of the other with a favourable Aspect; of if the Lights of the one do behold the Ascendant, or the Lord of the other, with any friendly and amicable Aspect.

- Case History: -


February 19th, 1981 / 3:30 pm (GMT) / 01E25, 51N13

The time of this decumbiture was given to me by Olivia Barclay.[15] It concerns a friend of hers who was critically ill and who had asked Olivia to go and sit with her. The friend knew the exact time that she had first gone to bed which was used for the decumbiture chart. She was diagnosed as having pyelonephritis.

Pyelonephritis is a kidney condition in which the nephrons, the tiny filtration units within the body of the organs, become inflamed. Normally blood passing through the nephrons is filtered forming urine. Into the urine the body excretes waste products from the metabolism. The inflammation that occurs in pyelonephritis blocks the production of urine, causing a build-up of urea and other nitrogenous waste-products in the blood. This build-up of waste products is potentially life threatening, often leading to a coma and causing death. The small volume of urine passed is characteristically dark, like varnish, because of the escape of red blood cells from the nephrons into the urine. The swelling of the kidneys brought about by the inflammation leads to intense back pain, while the condition is generally associated with a high fever caused by the infective organism.

Case history

The illness is shown in the decumbiture by Capricorn on the 6th house cusp; hence Saturn in Libra signifies the pyelonephritis. The traditional listing for Saturn in Libra includes the following (the most relevant correspondences are in bold):

shows the blood corrupted, back and kidneys distempered, strangury, consumptive pains in the knees and thighs, rheumatism, sciatica or gout.

Saturn in the air sign Libra, with its connection to the sanguine humour, gives rise to the idea of the 'blood corrupted'. This is particularly descriptive of the build-up of urea in the blood, a condition called uraemia. The description of the 'back and kidneys distempered' comes directly from Libra ruling those parts of the body.

It is noteworthy that pain from the kidneys is referred to the back. 'Strangury' is difficulty in passing urine. Saturn, associated with blockages, would particularly denote difficulty in passing urine.

Saturn is conjunct Jupiter, which is also descriptive of her condition. The traditional listing for Jupiter in Libra:

shews the patient has too much blood, whence arises obstructions, corrupt blood, fevers, piles, surfeits, tumours, inflammations.

The hot and moist nature of Jupiter associates this planet with the heat of 'fevers'. Similarly Jupiter is linked with swelling and 'inflammations', which when present in Libra is located in the kidneys. With Libra connecting with the sanguine humour and Jupiter signifying abundance, there arises the idea of 'too much blood'. With the blockage and inflammation in the kidneys, elimination of fluid from the body is poor, leading to greater blood volume, i.e., 'too much blood'. Saturn afflicting Jupiter shows the normal balance of the sanguine humour is lost.

Her condition was critical. Leo rises on the ascendant so the Sun, which distinctly lacks dignity, signifies her health and vitality. The Sun is located on the 8th house cusp, indicating that her vitality was on the threshold of life and death - a very graphic detail, which gave a particular warning that she might sink into a coma. By contrast Saturn, signifying her disease, is strongly dignified, illustrating that her illness is stronger than her vitality. The general prognosis here is that she lacks the vital force to overcome her illness. The conjunction of Saturn with Jupiter, Lord of the 8th house, is another indication of the terminal nature of the illness.

The Moon, co-significator of the illness, applies to an opposition of Mars in the 8th house, which signifies the high temperature associated with the condition. To quote Lilly:

The application of the Moon to a Planet in the eighth [the house of death] is always dangerous.[16]

The 8th house, through its connection with Scorpio, is associated with the elimination of urine from the body. Mars, connected with the red blood cells and present in the 8th house, captures symbolically the presence of the red blood cells in the urine, causing its varnish-like appearance.

Remarkably, despite the gravity of her condition, the patient recovered about six weeks after the decumbiture chart was drawn. The reason for her recovery is best described by Lilly where he says: 'The fourth house signifies the end of the sicknesse,..'[17]

Venus, Lady of the 4th-house cusp, has a powerful mutual reception with Saturn by sign. If this mutual reception is invoked, the reception of Saturn into Aquarius symbolises the removal of the blockage from the kidney. Correspondingly the reception of Venus, natural ruler of the kidneys, to Libra symbolises the restoration of proper kidney function and the flow of urine. This clearly signifies her dramatic recovery.

When I first studied this decumbiture I noted that Saturn, Lord of the 7th house, signified the physician. Reminded of the aphorism 'if the Lord of the 7th be unfortunate, the Physician shall not cure' and seeing that Saturn ruled both the 6th and 7th houses, I wondered whether her physician was linked to her illness. I asked Olivia to approach her friend once more and discovered that she had suffered from depression for many years. Saturn, Lord of the 6th house, is linked to depression and melancholia.

For her depression her doctor had prescribed major tranquilizers while she was taking the contraceptive pill. This drug combination is contra-indicated in kidney weakness. When asked whether she thought her doctor was instrumental in causing her disease, she replied 'Absolutely, I have never felt well since first taking the tablets'. Ironically her kidney problem started after having been 'dried out' at a special clinic for drug addiction.

Notes & References:

  1 ] W. Lilly, Christian Astrology, 1647, p. 54.
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  2 ] D. Warren-Davis, The Hand Reveals, Ch 2 - Hermetic Philosophy, pub. Element Books 1993.
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  3 ] D. Warren-Davis, 'Decumbiture & Humoral Physiology', The Traditional Astrologer, issue 3.
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  4 ] 0. Thulesius, Nicholas Culpeper, English Physician and Astrologer, Pub. The Macmillan Press Ltd, 1992.
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  5 ] D. Warren-Davis, 'Decumbiture & Humoral Physiology', The Traditional Astrologer, issue 3.
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  6 ] R. Saunders, Astrological Judgement of Physick, 1688.
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  7 ] The description of the Lunar pulse was missing from Saunders - this description is mine.
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  8 ] N. Culpeper, Astrologo-Physical discourse on the human virtues in the body of man, 1653
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  9 ] Ibid.
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  10 ] W. Lilly, Christian Astrology, 1647 p. 282.
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  11 ] N. Culpeper, Astrological Judgement of Diseases, 1651. Ch. 10. Ap 6.
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  12 ] R. Saunders, Astrological Judgement of Physick, 1688.
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  13 ] N. Culpeper, Astrological Judgement of Diseases, 1651 Ch. 7.
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  14 ] R. Saunders, Astrological Judgement of Physick, 1688.
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  15 ] O. Barclay, Horay Astrology Rediscovered, p. 282; pub. Whitford Press 1990.
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  16 ] W. Lilly, Christian Astrology, 1647; p. 256.
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  17 ] W. Lilly, Christian Astrology, 1647; p. 282.
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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 2007. This article was published in The Traditional Astrologer magazine, issue 7, Winter 1994, pp.14-17, of which Dylan was a contributing editor.

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