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Extracted, with permission, from Benjamin Dykes's translation of The Works of Sahl and Masha'Allah

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Masha'allah 'On Receptions'

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Masha'allah - On Reception

The following reproduces the first chapter of Masha'allah's On Reception. There are twelve chapters in the text altogether, several of which provide chart examples to demonstrate the theoretical points. This is one of eleven books by Masha'allah and five by his rough contemporary Sahl (or Zael, Zahel) that have been translated by Dr. Dykes. Masha'allah and Sahl were both Jewish astrologers of Persian descent working in the 8th and 9th centuries AD in the Arabic period of traditional astrology. For more details about Ben's new release, and to order online, see

Chapter 1: What is reception?

Know that reception comes to be from the exaltations and the domiciles, in the causing of matters, whether they are or not: this is, that some planet of the seven is in the exaltation of another planet, or in its domicile, and it is joined to it from the seven known aspects; or, were both in one sign, and some one of them is in the exaltation [or domicile] of its associate, joined to it. Therefore, then it will be joined to it by its own body, an example of which matter is [this]: if Saturn is in Aries, in the twentieth degree, and Mars in the fifteenth degree of the same.

Mars Receiving Saturn by Domicile

Then Mars is being joined to Saturn by his own body, and Mars receives Saturn in his own domicile, but Saturn does not receive Mars. This comes to be if some planet were not in the known aspects, who is closer to the conjunction of Saturn (namely degree by degree), in front of Mars. Which if there were a planet in the known aspects (or in Aries) who is closer to the conjunction of Saturn, that one will be more worthy for the conjunction of Saturn than Mars is, for a true conjunction is degree by degree (both for a [corporal] conjunction and an aspect).

And there is another example of reception: if Saturn were in Aries, the twentieth degree, and Mars in the tenth degree of Capricorn, and none of the planets is closer than Mars to the conjunction of Saturn (namely, degree by degree). And when Mars would be joined to Saturn degree by degree, then they receive each other mutually in their domiciles, for Mars receives Saturn (because [Saturn] is in [Mars’s] domicile), and Saturn receives Mars (because [Mars] is in [Saturn’s] domicile).

Likewise the exaltations are just like the domiciles, but the exaltations are of greater authority in a kingdom—namely if [something] is done concerning a king, the Lord of the exaltation is stronger than the Lord of the domicile. Therefore, if the Sun were in Aries in the tenth degree, and Mars in Capricorn in the tenth degree, then the Sun is being joined to Mars, and Mars receives the Sun because [the Sun] is in [Mars’s] domicile; but the Sun does not receive Mars, because [Mars] is not in the domicile of [the Sun].

Mars Receiving the Sun by Domicile

Likewise[1] the rest of the seven planets, whichever one of them were joined to its associate from its domicile or exaltation in the known aspects, or in one of the signs, and it projected or committed its disposition, [then] if the one to whom it is committed receives [the disposition],[2] it will perfect the matter, by the command of God. And the Sun in this aspect [above] does not receive Mars, because [Mars] is not in [the Sun’s] domicile, nor in [the Sun’s] exaltation; and Mars receives the Sun because [the Sun] is in [Mars’s] domicile.

Saturn and the Sun Receiving Each Other by Exaltation

And if the Sun were in Libra in the first degree, and Saturn in Aries in the thirtieth degree, and no planet were in Aries, nor [one] in all of the aspects closer than the Sun to the conjunction of Saturn, nor did Saturn go out from Aries until the Sun is joined to him degree by degree, [then] the Sun receives Saturn, and Saturn the Sun: each one receives his associate in this place by exaltations.[3] And if it were in the square aspect or the opposition, it signifies labor and error, and anxiety, and contrariety; and in the trine and sextile aspect, and in the conjunction, smoothness and piety and loftiness. And if the Sun were joined to Saturn, and [Saturn] received the Sun, with [Saturn] even being received in turn by the Sun, from their own domiciles or exaltations, they will make peace[4] and perfect the matter, by the command of God.

Likewise, all of the benefic planets with benefics increase the good.

And the malefics with malefics come to be good on account of withdrawal— that is, they make good, and their evil and impediment withdraws.[5] And the benefics with malefics make an agreement, and their evil recedes, and the matter is perfected—unless they were in the square aspect or opposition, because there is a certain labor and error in this.

But if the Sun were in Aries, and Saturn in Libra (just as I told you before about the conjunction), there will be enmities and contrarieties, ignorances,and refusals, because [neither] of them receives its associate.[6] And all of the planets do likewise.

For a conjunction[7] comes to be from the known aspects (namely from the opposition, trine, square and sextile aspect) and from the [corporal] conjunction. And this comes to be in the noted domiciles. And whatever would be less than two signs, is being separated from conjunction. This comes to be if a planet entered the following sign before a planet who is going toward it, would be joined to it—nor is it [then] joined to it.[8]

And know that the conjunction comes to be in this way, whichever of the seven planets it was: a light one is joined to a heavy one, and a heavy one is not joined to a light one, because a light one overtakes a heavy one, and a heavy one does not overtake a light one. For a conjunction comes to be from degree by degree when they are conjoined (namely the light to the heavy): then they are joined from degree by degree, and [the light one] commits its own disposition to [the heavy one]. After this, [the light one] is separated from [the heavy one], and does not stop aspecting him (from [the aspect by which]) he is being joined to it, until he is separated from it. But a conjunction is an aspect, because however long a planet were going to another planet, it will aspect it with its own light and own nature, until it projects its own light upon it, from degree by degree: than it will be a true conjunction, and [the light one] will commit its own matter to the other.[9] After that, it is being separated from it, and the end of its aspect is in this way.

And a planet, if it were going to the conjunction of another, will indicate what does not yet exist. And the one who is being separated from [the conjunction] will indicate what is past and is already done. Namely, a star will indicate what is past from the star from which it is being separated; but what is going to be will be indicated by the star to which it is being joined.

Benjamin Dykes received his PhD in Philosophy from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has eight years' experience as a college instructor, concentrating on the ancient and medieval philosophy that informs much ancient and medieval astrology, and many years' experience in ritual practice in the Western Mystery Tradition, including the Golden Dawn, Wicca, and Thelema.

Since earning his Diploma of Medieval Astrology studying with Robert Zoller, Ben has been active in translating and publishing works that focus upon medieval astrological techniques. His own text, Using Medieval Astrology is available through his website at He has also recently translated Abu Mashar's Flowers of Astrology, as well as the eagerly awaited Book of Astronomy by Guido Bonatti.

Notes & References:

  1 ] This paragraph is ambiguous. First, it seems strange that after these examples Masha’allah would feel the need to mention the other planets specifically—could this be a new topic? Besides, this new discussion of committing disposition is also ambiguous because it is unclear to me whose dignities we are in.
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  2 ] Remember that reception proper is not the same as receiving a disposition which is pushed to a planet.
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  3 ] Note the ambiguity here, based on this statement about Saturn leaving the sign before reception. Do they receive each other already because the aspect will perfect while they are in their own signs (in which case the perfection of the aspect is merely preferable to being in a whole-sign reception), or are they not in reception at all until the aspect actually perfects?
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  4 ] Here and elsewhere two related verbs are being used: pacifico, “to conclude peace, make peace, pacify,” and pacificor, “to enter into an agreement.” Both of these suggest that reception makes planets discard their differences and come to an agreement (even if certain aspects make this agreement brief and unstable).
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  5 ] Abu Ma‘shar discusses this (and attributes the concept to certain “ancients”) in Gr. Intr. VII.4.483ff. According to him, if Saturn and Mars were joined by corporal conjunction, they would help to temper their respective cold and hot qualities (which could be further changed by their sign placement or solar phase, etc.). But this seems hard to square with the claim that the Saturn-Mars conjunction in Cancer is a terrible thing—as Masha’allah says in On Roots Ch. 11 and Abu Ma‘shar describes at length in OGC II.8.
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  6 ] Both planets are in their own exaltations. In fact one might say their opposition is made worse, because each will be proud, powerful, and puffed-up—not a good situation for people seeking agreements.
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  7 ] Here and elsewhere the translator (and probably Masha’allah) uses “conjunction” equivocally, sometimes meaning any conjoining of the planets whatsoever, and sometimes only the corporal conjunction.
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  8 ] This situation assumes that the planets are in the same sign, and one planet goes to the next sign. But we still have the same ambiguity as above, due in part to the use of the subjunctive. For while the conjunction cannot be perfected, does reception exist at all, or does it not exist because it will never be perfected?
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  9 ] This suggests that committing disposition only takes place when the aspect perfects— which raises the further question, whether the disposition can be committed at all if the aspect will not be perfected while they are in their current signs.
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© Benjamin Dykes, August, 2008.

Title image detail is from an engraving by Albrecht Dürer, from the title page of the Masha'allah ibn Athari's Astronomy Treatise De Scientia Motus Orbis (Latin version with engraving, 1504). The compass is a reference to God as the architect of creation. From Wikimedia Commons