by Dylan Warren Davis:
A Study of Infertility
his decumbiture evolved from a retrospective study of past
successes and failures in my herbal practice. This particular case history was a notable success, despite my lack of confidence at the time in handling such a problem, and my inexperience of using herbs. I had often pondered on how this result had been achieved beyond my own expectations. Having subsequently studied decumbiture I was keen to see what light could be shed on the consultation and the herbs used.
Tracy's principal concern was her infertility. She had been trying for many years to have a baby and had attended a number of infertility clinics where she had been given the whole range of drugs then available, including 'domed' the drug well known for multiple pregnancies. She was very depressed about being unable to have children. Her health was generally weak - she lacked energy, was prone to 'flu and suffered from constipation.
She had also in the past suffered from endometriosis, a poorly understood condition where cells that normally line the uterus are found located at other sites in the pelvis and lower abdomen. These misplaced cells respond to the circulating sex
hormones in the blood by swelling up and bleeding like their counterparts within the uterus. The condition frequently causes considerable pain, especially at the time of the period, within the abdomen. In order to control this problem she had been put on the pill, which by inhibiting the menstrual cycle lessens the severity of the pain and discomfort. Endometriosis is frequently associated with infertility, while the use of the contraceptive pill in suppressing the menstrual cycle makes conception even more difficult. However if a woman is able to conceive then the hormonal changes within the body during pregnancy generally corrects the condition.
1st House - Health & Vitality:
With Aries at the Ascendant, Mars in Pisces in the 12th house signifies Tracy. The weak condition of Mars in a water sign indicates her weak health, lack of energy and run-down state. This is further reflected by the poor dignity of the Sun in the 8th house, conjunct Saturn. This specifically indicates the generation of her vital force is weak. The Moon also lacks dignity in her sign of detriment, Capricorn, showing the circulation of the vital force around the body is poor. With all three principal significators of health and vitality so lacking in potency, it recalls the following aphorism:
The Lord of the Ascendant, Sun or Moon joined to an infortune, prolongs the disease; and the weaker they are, the longer the disease is like to last.
The location of Mars in the 12th house
of 'self undoing' indicates that she is
'always to be her own foe in respect of health'.
6th House - Disease:
With Virgo on the 6th cusp, Mercury in Scorpio in the 7th house signifies the disease. The traditional listing for Mercury in Scorpio includes:
...distempers in the secret parts, afflictions of the bowels, rheumatic pains in the arms and shoulders.
Mercury in the fixed sign of Scorpio indicates the stagnation of vital force in her pelvic organs, while Virgo, a 'barren sign', shows her childless state.  With Virgo ruling the intestines and Mercury in a fixed sign, this also describes her constipation. The combination of symbolism indicates that the intestines are the likely site for her endometriosis.
Mercury is conjunct the fixed star Unuk, of the nature of Saturn and Mars. This too is descriptive of endometriosis, for with each period, blood released from the misplaced patches of cells is generally unable to flow from the body, unlike those cells in the uterus. Blood is forced into the tissues causing localised swelling which gradually resolves in a similar manner to a bruise. The nature of Saturn reflects the blockage to the blood flow while the nature of Mars shows the pain and discomfort it causes.
The Moon - Co-significator of the Disease:
The Moon is clearly in detriment in the cold and dry sign of Capricorn, further denoting barrenness. It indicates the lack of a proper menstrual cycle -hence the incapacity to be a mother.
The Moon is separating from Neptune which is associated with the birth of the pharmaceutical industry, reflecting Tracy leaving the hormonal treatment of conventional medicine. Neptunian disease often involves depression of the vital force with a subsequent proneness to infection. Neptunian illness is frequently experienced as becoming increasingly mentally spaced-out and detached from an exhausted body. Similarly her infertility was treated purely physically without any consideration of her mental and emotional state.
Venus is a natural significator of Tracy's womb. Venus is in detriment in Scorpio and located in the Via Combusta indicating her infertility. Venus is applying to the conjunction of Pluto, indicating a very threatening situation. Tracy's doctors wanted to perform a hysterectomy, but with her strong wish to have children she was naturally firmly against this. Plutonic disease is linked to emotional issues, often life-threatening, that have to be faced. However if these issues are overcome it leads to a tremendous regeneration of health. Endometriosis particularly has this dimension, if a woman is able to get pregnant it usually completely resolves the condition.
Venus is Lady of the 7th house signifying Tracy's husband. Though he had been very supportive, the infertility was an issue that she perceived threatened the future of her marriage. This is perhaps a reflection of the location of Venus in the Via Combusta.
Venus, Lady of the 7th house, is also significator of the physician. Notably, here Venus is conjunct the degree of my Ascendant. The location of Venus in the 7th house indicates I was in a good position to care for the patient, as Saunders describes:
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 God's help
Cure thee, to God's Glory, and his
The tine aspect that Venus makes to Mars indicates the rapport that I was able to establish with Tracy during the consultation. This is further shown by the two planets having a powerful mutual reception between them.
5th House - Children:
With Leo on the 5th house cusp, the Sun in Sagittarius in the 8th house signifies Tracy's children. The 8th house corresponds to the pelvic organs, so the Sun afflicted by Saturn here is descriptive of the poor vitality to her sexual organs, whereby a soul is prevented from incarnation. Leo, another barren sign, is on the cusp, impeding her ability to bear children. Most notably the Sun conjunct Saturn indicates the depression surrounding her inability to have children.
With Mercury and Venus in Scorpio (cold & moist), the Moon in Capricorn (cold & dry) and the Sun conjunct Saturn (cold & dry), all the significators show that her vitality lacked heat and that her womb was too cold to conceive.
10th House - Medicine:
Capricorn on the 10th cusp shows the medicine is signified by Saturn. As part of her previous treatment, Tracy had been given stilboestrol, a hormone extracted from pregnant mare's urine. Appropriately, Saturn is located in Sagittarius the sign associated with horses, while the 8th house is associated with urine. If the nature of the medicine is symbolised by Saturn, then clearly it would have suppressed conception (Sun conjunct Saturn), hence it did not work. This detail of her case history recalls another aphorism:
If the 10th house or Lord thereof [be unfortunate], his Physick is improper.
While Culpeper says only:
If the Lord of the 10th be strong, make use of his medicines.
Clearly in this situation Saturnine medicines were to be avoided.
Without using decumbiture I prescribed the following herbs on the basis of her case history: hawthorn, ginger, chaste tree, dandelion, red clover and motherwort.
Of the first two herbs I chose hawthorn (Crataegus oxyacanthoides) and ginger (Zingiberis officinale) as these work well together as circulatory tonics. The ginger generates heat in the body, and promotes absorption of the other herbs in the medicine thereby potentiating their action. The chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus) was chosen for its specific use in regulating the hormonal imbalances of the female reproductive system. Dandelion (Tarcuacum officinale) was chosen as a liver tonic, as during the effects of illness on the body the liver can always do with a boost. The final two herbs, red clover (Trifolium pratense) and motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) were chosen for their effects on the womb. Red clover has an oestrogenic action that is useful in promoting the menstrual cycle, especially in women who have formerly been on the pill yet remain unable to conceive.
As its name implies 'motherwort' has a long tradition as a uterine tonic. To enable this girl to be a mother was just what the situation needed. Additionally I suggested that she should take iron tablets since she appeared anaemic. A useful
supplement in the event of her becoming pregnant.
After six weeks of being on the herbal medicine she phoned to cancel her next appointment. She said 'it was not necessary as she had conceived'.
Once the Planetary rulerships are noted, it can be seen that the chosen selection of herbs naturally accords with Culpeper's principles of physic. Both the hawthorn and ginger are ruled by Mars, being hot and dry in nature. These herbs sympathetically accord with the ruler of the Ascendant and therefore enhance the patient's health and vitality. Specifically, they improve her circulation and increase her body heat. The chaste tree is ruled by the Moon. Its use sympathetically strengthens the menstrual cycle which is also ruled by the Moon. Another common name for this herb is 'monk's pepper' which refers to its hot and dry temperature. It again enhances the circulation of vital force around the body.
The dandelion is ruled by Jupiter. Its use antipathetically opposes the nature of Mercury
- Lord of 6th house - so weakening the influence of the disease on the body. With Jupiter governing the liver, we can see how dandelion gets its particular reputation as a liver tonic. In humoral physiology the liver is important for keeping the proper balance and composition of the blood
so that the vital force can circulate through it.
Finally both the red clover and motherwort are ruled by Venus. With Venus ruling the womb, these herbs sympathetically strengthen her womb. Culpeper describes motherwort as governed by Venus in Leo, which is reflected in the Latin name -Leonurus cardiaca, capturing the herb's additional use as a heart tonic. The herb's action on the heart also enhances the generation of vital force. It is another hot and dry herb which, by increasing her body heat, helped to enhance Tracy's health and vitality. Specifically, the Venusian rulership directs the heat to her womb.
The iron tablets are of the nature of Mars, hence these too would have sympathetically enhanced the vital energies in her body. The dramatic result is perhaps reflected by the mutual reception between Venus and Mars. Clearly Venusian and Martian herbs in the medicine would have enhanced this situation. The reception of Venus in Pisces in the 12th house signifies health returning to her womb while Mars being received in its own sign of Scorpio signifies the heat going to the pelvic organs, enabling conception to occur.
Notes & References:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
© Dylan Warren-Davis. Published online January 2008. This article was published in The Traditional Astrologer magazine, issue 9, Summer 1995, pp.7-9, of which Dylan was a contributing editor.