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The Earth & the Lunar Relationship
The Moon and 'Elementary Bodies'
When the Moon 'Translates Light' or becomes 'Void'
The Moon's ability to Translate Light
Lilly's Void of Course Examples
Points to Note
About the Author

Void of Course Moon Refernces

The Moon as the transmitter of influences, by Deborah Houlding

"Consider that all things under the Moon universally, whether men, beasts, or plants, are changed, and never remain in the same state … look upon your own genesis, and you shall find your thoughts moved to choler, so often as the Moon transits the place where the body or aspect of Mars was in your genesis; and to melancholy when she doth the like to Saturn; the reason is, because the Moon is assimilated to the body of man; whose vertue as well as her light increaseth and diminisheth; for she brings down the vertue of the other Planets to the creatures, and to man as he lives upon the earth."
- Culpeper

The Earth and the Lunar Relationship

Culpeper's quote above is similar in essence to that of the great classical astrologer Ptolemy, who wrote of the Moon:

The Moon,... as the heavenly body nearest the earth, bestows her effluence most abundantly upon mundane things, for most of them, animate or inanimate, are sympathetic to her and change in company with her; the rivers increase and diminish their streams with her light, the seas turn their own tides with her rising and settings, and plants and animals in whole or in some part wax and wane with her. [1]

In fact we know that view of the Moon is far more ancient, and was being recorded at least as early as the 7th century BC, where religious texts refer to the Moon as the 'Womb that gives birth to everything on earth'; the 'progenitor and destroyer of the land', and the god whose word 'settles down on the earth to make the earth green and produce vegetation'. [2]

In modern science the connection between the Moon's cycle and earthly rhythms is so well known that it is now considered a meteorological or biological principle, rather than an astrological one. Only the Moon's interplay with the Sun has been seriously studied, and in this it is known to act as a cosmic trigger for many natural rhythms and breeding cycles. Its effect upon tidal flows makes it reasonable to assume that its waxing, waning, and changing states have far-reaching effects upon all physical conditions, including the human one since the human body is mainly comprised of water.

We can get some sense of the Moon's ability to express harmonious or destructive conditions in our environment by considering the tidal effects that relate to its solar aspects. Tides are created as the Moon passes overhead, dragging a bulge of water behind it, with a second bulge created on the opposite side of the Earth. High tides occur at new and full Moons, when the Sun, Moon and Earth fall in line with each other and there is a strong focus to their gravitational force. Low tides occur at a quarter Moon, when the Moon is square the Sun and their gravitational pulls conflict with and counteract each other. Both highs and lows represent periods of atmospheric bombardment which affect the Earth in many ways. The surface tension of all water is increased, and even the density of air surrounding the Earth ebbs and flows like the tides in the sea.

The Moon's effect on the tides

Ancient astrologers recognised the conjunction, square and opposition of the Sun and Moon as unfortunate periods, full of tension; and claimed that when the lights of heaven are in such a relationship there is a state of imbalance in all mundane and human affairs. There is no shortage of modern statistics to support this assertion. Many documented studies show that suicide rates increase around the full Moon, and that new Moons, quarter Moons and full Moons all indicate crisis periods when reported incidents of violence and accidents increase. One study, conducted between 1956 and 1970, examined 4,000 murders that had taken place in Miami and Cleveland, USA. The investigating psychologist, Arnold Leiber, wrote that he was 'astounded' at the way the murders peaked around the new and full Moon: "Our results indicated that murders become more frequent with the increase in the Moon's gravitational force". [3]

In the past, belief in the power of the Moon to affect human as well as geological behaviour was widespread and deep-rooted, based upon personal observation and the accumulated experience of many generations. 'Moon madness' was taken very seriously, hence the Latin word Luna forms the origin of the words 'lunacy', 'lunatic' and 'loony'. Lunacy grows worse at full and new Moon - taught the 16th century physician Paracelsus, referring to a disease that had been recognised since Classical times, and which became official under British Law in the mid-nineteenth century. The 1842 Lunacy Act defined as a 'Lunatic' a demented person enjoying lucid intervals during the first two phases of the Moon and afflicted with a period of fatuity in the period following after the full Moon.[4]

The ancient Greek Philosopher Thales taught that all physical life derives mainly from water. Whilst his teachings are now regarded as only a stepping-stone in the development of the theory of elements and humours, many of the points he argued have lasting significance. Water covers 78% of the Earth's surface and the Moon's association with water is strongly embedded into its astrological influence. According to Ptolemy:

The Moon principally generates moisture; her proximity to the earth renders her highly capable of exciting damp vapours, and of thus operating sensibly upon animal bodies by relaxation and putrefaction. [5]

Recent surveys also support tradition in showing that the Moon's influence over the Earth's waters does not only extend to rivers and tides, but also effects rainfall cycles and the rhythms of bodily moisture (such as the menstrual cycle which mirrors its 28 day period). Observations collected from 1,544 weather stations in North America from 1900 to 1949 reveal that heavy rain occurs most on the days immediately following the full and new Moon. [6] The increase in haemorrhaging during full Moons is well-known to medical practitioners, and confirms astrological belief that it is unwise to 'let' blood during the opposition of the Sun and Moon. [7] In fact, the disturbing effect of the full Moon upon public behaviour is so familiar to emergency services that the website of the United Dynamics Corporation, which serves the needs of American police forces, includes detailed information about the need to integrate lunar cycles into staffing levels. Its homepage includes the comment "The Full Moon has long been suspected by Law Enforcement Officers, Paramedics, Nurses and Doctors as a trigger for abnormal behaviour and increased problems." [8]

The Moon and 'elementary bodies'

"The course of the Moon is to be observed in many operations both in the Sea and Rivers, Vegetables, Shel-fishes, as also in the bones and marrow of men, and all creatures; also seed sown at the wain of the Moon, grows either not at all, or to no purpose."
- Culpeper [9]

Traditional gardening lore teaches that the waxing and waning of the Moon reflects a monthly cycle of water content in the Earth and its produce, with the full Moon representing the time of greatest moisture. The first quarter of the waxing Moon is the ideal time to plant seeds, re-pot plants, sow lawns, etc.; but if the weather is particularly dry the gardener is advised to plant his seeds at the full Moon, when the Earth receives more moisture. Full Moons are also favoured for harvesting plants that need to be rich in moisture content, such as grapes, tomatoes, and strawberries, while plants that produce 'below the ground', such as potatoes and carrots, are best planted during the 'dark of the Moon'. The drier period of the waning Moon is the time for killing weeds, cutting back dead growth, harvesting root vegetables and drying herbs, flowers and fruit.

Within humoral philosophy, moisture denotes sensitivity and responsiveness to external stimuli. The moist quality of the Moon supports its reputation as a highly impressionable - and therefore markedly changeable - planet, capable of absorbing and transmitting the influence of whatever superior planets it is in contact with. Of the neutrality of the Moon's own nature, the 17th century astrologer William Ramesey writes:

She is neither fortunate nor unfortunate, but as she is placed and in configuration with either the Fortunes or Malevolents. [10]

The Moon's swift motion acts like a shifting focus in astrology, highlighting the influence of the planets it draws into contact with, or triggering the latent potential of natal positions so that they are experienced at a physical level. As Culpeper says: "you shall find your thoughts moved to choler so often as the Moon transits the place where the body or aspect of Mars was in your genesis".

In his article 'The Sublunar Sphere' [11] David Plant describes the Moon as "vital in animating the planetary configurations", referring to the way that the Moon acts as a mediator between the celestial and terrestrial regions. But as well as being an activating factor, the impressionable and responsive nature of the Moon allows it to become charged with the energy it is in contact with, which it brings forward to its next planetary contact. In traditional works there is a strong repetition of the principle that the Moon transfers planetary 'light' or 'virtue' from one planet to another, and brings their influence down to physical manifestation:

"Draw your attention to the Moon in all works as if she were the chief of all the other planets because she brings about evident manifestations and judgements in all things in the world. She pertains to the power of generation and corruption and she is the mediatrix in the advance of your work, receiving the influences and impressions of the stars and planets and pouring them out to the inferiors of this world."
- Picatrix [12]

"For she is the schoolmistress of all things; the bringer down of all the planets' influences, and a kind of 'internuncio' between them, carrying their virtues from one to the other, by receiving the disposition of one planet and bearing it to another."
- Guido Bonatus [13]

Traditional astrological techniques such as horary and electional astrology maintain this heavy reliance upon the Moon, using it as an important co-significator in every chart. This approach is evident in even our earliest sources, with the ancient text of Dorotheus describing the Moon as "the indicator at the base of every action". [14] It is often stated that the Moon is the co-significator for the querent in every horary; yet whilst this is true, it's influence is more extensive than that - the Moon also reveals the 'action' or the general drift of events and as such it demonstrates the underlying motivation towards the event, and the way that the querent's interest may or may not be supported by external events.

"She is most powerful in operation of all the other Planets on Elementary bodies, by reason of her proximity to us, and her swiftness, by which she transfers the light and influence of all the Superiors to us, by her configuration with them."
- William Ramesey [15]

As David Plant explains in his article, by describing the Moon as the most powerful in operation on 'elemental bodies', Ramesey draws upon Aristotelian philosophy which sees the Moon as the principal operator upon the physical world. The sub-lunar sphere is 'elemental' in that here physical presence (composed of the corruptible elements) dominates pure spiritual presence. Astrological philosophy regards the Moon as having the greatest significance over the mundane world or animal spirit; in some respects acting as the planetary embodiment of the 'Spirit of the Earth'.

Although this view originated out Aristotle's geocentric perspective of the heavens, and therefore may appear antiquated; in fact it is not diminished by the adoption of the heliocentric perspective since the Moon orbits the Earth as its satellite and is a body to which heliocentricity does not apply. The Earth and Moon combine to form a binary system, with a shared centre of gravity that lies within the Earth, and the term 'satellite' seems particularly appropriate since it is used generally to indicate something which extends from a larger body with the purpose of receiving and transmitting information. But for the Moon to transmit an influence, it has to be 'in contact' with the planets involved. As Ramesey says, the Moon transfers the influence of the superiors "by her configuration with them". Like any satellite, the Moon cannot transmit signals which are, for itself, out of range.

When the Moon 'Translates Light' or becomes 'Void'

"If you find the Moon void of all the planets, none of them aspects it, and none is in the ascendant or aspecting the ascendant, then this native is void of good in livelihood, possesses pain and hardship in the pursuit of what he needs"
- Dorotheus [16]

"The 10th [way in which the Moon can be afflicted] is when she is void of course, that is, not joined to any planet by body or aspect"
- Bonatus [17]

A good deal of controversy surrounds the correct definition of a void of course Moon - because there have been so many different labels and variations of qualifying details set out by historical sources. The accompanying article, Void of Course Moon References, illustrates that the Moon's lack of aspect to other planets has always been considered a significant debility, although authors have diverse opinions upon the correct specifications for when the Moon is 'void', 'void of course', 'running through a vacuum', 'feral', 'desart', 'wild' or 'isolated'. Taking the overview, it is clear that a lull of energy and motivation is expected whenever the Moon is out of orb of aspectual contact with all the other planets. There would therefore seem to be no controversy in referring to the Moon as 'void' (ie, empty of influence), whenever it is fully separated from its last aspect and not yet within orb of its next aspect.

Again taking the overview, it also seems obvious that when most authors refer to the Moon as 'void of course' they mean that it is out of ob of an aspect and will remain so for the duration of its transit through its current sign. One of the clearest definitions of this, and the way that medieval and renaissance astrologers expected the Moon to remain free of entering into the orb of application, is given by the German astrologer Johannes Schöner (1477-1547), who wrote in his Opusculum Astrologicum:

When a planet is separated from any other planet by conjunction or aspect, and is not joined to another by body or aspect, for as long as that planet is in the same sign, it is called void of course. However, this ought to be understood according the orbs and rays of the planets. Take for example the following: If there is the Moon conjunct Jupiter in Sagittarius, and after her separation from Jupiter there is no planet in Sagittarius to which she can be joined by the moiety of orb or of the ray of any planet which she can aspect, in that case the Moon is said to be void of course until she leaves Sagittarius and is joined to any planet in body or in aspect. But we do not observe this only in the Moon. Another example, Saturn 9 Aries, Jupiter 10 Gemini, Mars 17 Gemini, Sun 20 Aries, Venus 5 Pisces, Mercury 24 Aries, Moon 26 Taurus. There the Moon is aspected by nothing in 26 Taurus, nor is anything joined to her, while she is in Taurus, wherefore she will be reckoned void of course. [18]

This is as good a definition as we are likely to find regarding the traditional understanding of a void of course Moon. The main difference between this, and that frequently taught in modern textbooks, is that the latter often fails to stress the importance of the orb, leaving modern astrologers to believe the Moon is void of course if it doesn't manage to perfect a future aspect in its present sign, which would happen far more often than the traditional definition would allow.

The remainder of this article explores the use of translation of light and the void of course Moon according to the 17th century text of William Lilly: Christian Astrology.[19] This demonstrates that beyond the general definition of being void when out of all reach of planetary aspect, or 'void of course' when failing to enter into orb of a new aspect until its movement into a new sign, the Moon can also be recognised as having temporary 'void of course' periods. These can occur when the Moon is within orb of an aspect, but where there is an inability to carry forward the influence of the last aspected planet to the next; (so that, for example, translation of light would not be possible). For the Moon to be legitimately described as 'void of course' according to the principle expressed in Lilly's work, one of the following conditions must be present.

  1. The Moon is fully separated (ie, out of orb) of its last aspectual contact and not yet within orb of its next aspectual contact (already defined as 'void' above).
    None of the 35 charts published in Christian Astrology, nor any of Lilly's horaries that I have seen published elsewhere demonstrate the Moon in such a condition. In fact, I don't recall the Moon being in this position in any of my own horaries or in any other historical examples. This is not surprising since it describes a lack of influence or interest in both fields: the relevant past and future of the situation.

  2. The Moon is still within orb of its last aspectual contact but not yet within orb of its next aspectual contact.
    It is expected that the Moon will remain responsive to the influence of its last planetary contact for as long as the two bodies remain within the limits of the orb. [20] Hence we could argue that the Moon is not truly 'void' in this position. However, Lilly refers to the Moon as 'ad vac [going to nothing]' in two of the three charts he publishes which have the Moon still within orb of its last aspect but out of orb of its next aspect. [21] In one judgement he labours upon the significance of this, clearly describing the Moon as going to be 'void of course' for a little time and interpreting a period of confusion and inactivity that corresponds with the number of degrees that the Moon must travel before it enters into orb of new aspects that perfect within its present sign. So even though the Moon is not yet empty of the influence of its previous aspect, the fact that it cannot presently communicate this influence forward to its next contact, shows that the Moon's 'course' is interrupted: the flow of virtue cannot resume until the Moon can communicate freely between the planets.

  3. The Moon is within orb of its next aspect but it has already fully separated from its last aspectual contact.
    There are nine charts in Christian Astrology that have the Moon in this position, and Lilly makes reference to the Moon being 'currently void of course' or separating from that condition in four of them.[22] This is the opposite principle to the above and again demonstrates an interruption in the Moon's ability to communicate freely between the planets. Debate will obviously continue as to whether it is generally correct to consider the Moon fully 'void' or even 'void of course' in such a position, but Lilly's terminology can be justified because as the Moon moves forward to complete its current aspect there has been a gap over which the influence of its previous aspect cannot be transmitted.

The second and third definitions are correct according to Lilly's perspective, but they do not describe an empty, powerless Moon which is devoid of all significance; nor do they suggest that the chart cannot be read. They relate to either a recent or upcoming period of inactivity/communication breakdown, and describe periods were there is a potential interruption in the development of the situation. Some of the most revealing charts will be examined at the end of this article to consider the impact of this in practical chart judgement.

It is apparent that the definition of a void of course Moon as understood by most modern astrologers bears little relation to William Lilly's technique, even though it was once assumed to be an accurate description of it. In this it is claimed that the Moon is 'void of course' from the moment that it perfects its last aspect within its present sign up to the moment that it enters a new sign. Students of Lilly's work were taught to expect this in the 1980s and early 1990s: the modern definition being originally taught by the Olivia Barclay Qualifying Horary Course, which instructed people like myself, Carol Wiggers, Sue Ward, Lee Lehman, John Frawley, Barbara Dunn, and many others who passed that viewpoint over to our own students. This assumption helped to generate the false belief that Lilly was a sloppy astrologer, inconsistent in the application of his own technique and willing to publish work that was riddled with errors.

It was not until Sue Ward did some in-depth research into this matter and presented an article in 1992 (entitled 'The Void of Course Moon: An Important Discovery') that students of Lilly realised there was a need to look again at what he was actually doing in his charts with some of the blinkers removed. Maurice McCann also did important research into this, resulting in his book The Void of Course Moon. [23]

Sue Ward rightly pointed out that the need for 'perfection' is not specified in Lilly's definition (most traditional definitions state that the Moon is void where it does not 'apply' or is not making 'an application'). A study of the technique within practical chart judgement shows that 'to apply' or 'to make an application' means to have entered into orb of an aspect, so the Moon is fully 'void' much less often than is commonly supposed (whenever it is out of orb of any aspect), yet by Lilly's definition it can be described as 'void of course' (unable to transmit an influence forward) much more often than supposed.

Although some authors have claimed that orbs are not of any great importance in horary, [24] Lilly's work shows that he regarded them as very significant, and his use of translation of light and his definition of the Moon as void were dependant upon them. But before returning to the relevance of 'void of course', it is important to understand how the issue of 'translation of light' fits into this. First consider the meaning of the word 'void' according to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language - all of the definitions given here are relevant in this matter as we shall see.

As an adjective:
  1. Containing no matter; empty.
  2. Not occupied; unfilled.
  3. Completely lacking; devoid: void of understanding.
  4. Ineffective; useless.
As a noun:
  1. An empty space.
  2. A vacuum.
  3. An open space or a break in continuity; a gap.
  4. A feeling or state of emptiness, loneliness, or loss.

The Moon's ability to Translate Light

Because the Moon has the role of collecting planetary virtues and 'bringing them down' to earth, it is considered 'void' or empty of significance whenever it is out of orb of any aspect. Because it is also responsible for carrying planetary virtues "from one to the other" it can become 'void of course' wherever it loses the ability to commit the virtue it has collected forward to its next contact. Lilly's work shows that the Moon can only make a translation of light between two planets that are simultaneously within its reach. This is reliably demonstrated in all the occasions where he refers to the Moon transferring the virtue of its last contact to the next: both planets being within the Moon's orb. Becoming 'void of course' in this way presents a break in continuity - a gap - over which the Moon loses the power to transmit. Examples where Lilly refers to the Moon translating light are detailed below:

p.177 ff. A tradesman of this city

In this chart the Moon is separating (ie, still within orb) from the sextile of Mars and the conjunction of Mercury. It is applying (within orb) to the conjunction of Venus. Lilly says that the Moon was "transferring the light and nature of Mercury and Mars to the querent [Venus]"

p.177 ff. A tradesman of this city

It is often assumed that translation of light only occurs between the last and next points of contact but this is not the case as this judgment demonstrates - the Moon can carry forward the influence of Mercury as well as Mars to Venus; both are relevant because both are currently within the orb of the Moon, as is Venus.

p.200 ff. A report on Cambridge

Moon is within orb of a separating sextile from Jupiter and within orb of an applying square to Venus. Lilly describes the Moon as "transferring his [Jupiter's] light and virtue to Venus". [Jupiter = 8.28 Aries | Moon = 12.43 Gemini | Venus = 15 Pisces]

p.219 ff Master B His Houses

Moon is within orb of a separating conjunction with Mars and an applying square to Saturn. Lilly writes of the Moon translating the influence of Mars to Saturn. Both are within orb of the Moon. [Mars = 11.06 Virgo | Moon = 19.38 Virgo | Saturn = 21.25 Sagittarius]

p.289 ff Whether the sick would live or die

Moon is separating from the conjunction of Mars and the sextile of Mercury; applying to the square of Jupiter. Lilly refers to the Moon transferring the influence of Mercury (1st ruler) to Jupiter (8th ruler) as supporting testimony for his judgement of death. Both are within orb.

p.289 ff Whether the sick would live or die

p.389 ff If she should marry the man desired?

Moon is separating from the square of Jupiter; applying to the trine of Mercury. Lilly refers to the Moon carrying the light of Jupiter to Mercury. Both are within orb. [Jupiter = 13.20 Cancer | Moon = 13.49 Libra | Mercury = 14.47 Gemini]

p.421 ff If have the portion promised?

Moon is separating from the conjunction of the Sun (ruler of the 8th house); applying to the trine of Saturn (ruler of the 1st). Lilly says that the Moon translates the virtue of the Sun to Saturn, assuring the querent of the money he was promised. Both are within orb. [Sun = 2.25 Leo | Moon = 10.20 Leo | Saturn = 15.21 Sagittarius]

p.452 ff Prince Rupert

Moon is separating from the trine of Jupiter; applying to the trine of Saturn. Lilly refers to the Moon transferring the influence of Jupiter to Saturn in his judgement. Both are within orb. [Jupiter = 10.24 Pisces | Moon = 10 Cancer | Saturn = 18.40 Pisces]

There are other charts that fulfil this condition where the principle of translation is used or implied in the judgement but not specifically termed as such. [25] However, of the considerable number of charts where either the Moon's last or next aspect are out of orb, Lilly never makes use of the principle of translation of light. This may not have been the case for other authors, a point for which we suffer from a lack of access to judged charts; but it does appear to have been the case for Lilly.

From a more modern source - Nicholas De Vore in his Encyclopedia of Astrology - we also find an expressed need for the translating planet to be simultaneously within orb of the planets it is translating between. In offering up a definition for translation he writes:

The conveyance of influence which occurs when a transiting planet, while separating from an aspect to one planet is found to be applying to an aspect to another, in which event some of the influence of the first aspected planet is imparted to the second aspected planet by a translation of light. For example, assume an Horary Figure in which Jupiter or Saturn, the Significators of the parties to the negotiation of an agreement, are in no aspect to each other; but Venus while separating from Jupiter is applying to an aspect of Saturn. There results a translation of light from Jupiter to Saturn, which is a powerful testimony that Venus represents a person or an idea that will bring about a settlement. The nature of the aspect, and of the aspecting and aspected planets through which the translation is accomplished, determines whether the outcome will be fortuitous. [26]

At first glance Lilly's older definition does not appear to specify this 'in orb' requirement; but if we read it again with an emphasis on the word 'presently' meaning at the same time, we see that it does:

Translation of light and nature is, when a light Planet separates from a more weighty one, and presently joins to another more heavy. [27]

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language states that whilst the word presently means 'in a short time' according to modern use, its archaic meaning, which dropped from use after the 17th century, is 'at the present time; currently'. [28] With this in mind we can see that Lilly's definition of translation is consistent with his demonstrated use of it, and that it is only applied when the translating planet is in orb of the two or more planets it is translating between.

However, this issue has been confused by the fact that Lilly gives two important passages where he describes translation of light; the one noted above and another on p.125 where he specifies a need for the translating planet to be received into one of the dignities of the planet it is translating from. The source for both passages appears to be the 1557 treatise of Claude Dariot: A Brief and Most Easy Introduction to the Judgement of the Stars.

Dariot himself probably rested upon an earlier source, but the fact that he also gives two similarly conflicting definitions of translation - one at chapter 8 which specifies no need for reception but implies that both planets should be within orb "as Mercury, separating himself from the Sun and applying to Venus, doth transport the light and virtue of the Sun unto her"; and another in his 21st chapter, which states that translation occurs when a planet separates from one planet "of whom he has been received, and applyeth to the other significator before he doth behold or apply unto any other planet" - makes it likely that Lilly was reproducing elements of Dariot's Introduction into his own.

We therefore have two commonly repeated definitions of translation, one of which calls for reception, and the other which does not require reception but which appears to stress the importance of the application to the future contact occurring simultaneously with the separation from the last. We can see from his charts that Lilly adhered to the latter and under these circumstances did not feel constrained by a need for the translating planet to be received by the planet it translated from.[29]

Lilly's Void of Course Examples

It was also Dariot who left us one of the clearest accounts of how "Application happeneth when the circles or beams of the planets come to join together";[30] that is, when they first move into moiety of the orb. This is seen as a point of 'contact' from which the planets are able to express an influence upon each other. The influence increases until fully expressed at 'completion' (or perfection), and remains in force - though diminishing - until the planets are separated as they pass beyond the limits of the orb. This means two things:

  1. If there is an interim between the Moon's last aspect and its next, so that it is not within orb of them both simultaneously, the Moon is unable to communicate the force of the one to the other and will enter a period when it is temporarily void of course. This is so, even if the Moon will go on to perfect an aspect before the end of its current sign.

  2. But if the Moon is in orb of an applying aspect, it will bring whatever influence it has to that planet, even if it must enter a new sign to do so.
These principles are demonstrated by the charts in Christian Astrology, some of which are illustrated below.

p.439 ff. If Presbytery shall stand?

Lilly has written in the chart form: "Moon a opposition Venus ad vac, ad square Mars et Jupiter [Moon from opposition of Venus, to void of course, to square of Mars and Jupiter]" - indicating that there is a period after the Moon opposes Venus when it is out of orb of an applying aspect, before it then enters into orb of its applying square to Mars and Jupiter at the end of the sign. Lilly refers to this twice in his judgment saying:

"We have the Moon separating from Venus in the 8th, then going to be Vacua Cursus [empty/void of course], afterwards she squares with Mars, then with Jupiter"

and later:

"we find the Moon, in plain language (after a little being void of course) run hastily to the square of Mars and Jupiter".

If Presbytery shall stand?

Although the Moon is still close within orb of its separation from Venus, it must move forward around 2-3 degrees before it enters into the recognised orbs of Mars and Jupiter. This is the span of its 'void of course period'; we can be fairly confident of this because of the judgement that Lilly applies to the chart. This is one of Lilly's political charts and the length of the judgement, as well as the overall precision of calculation, illustrates the care and deep thought that he gave to something that he knew could stir political feathers and leave him open to stinging criticism if he made astrological mistakes.

Since the judgement of this chart is relevant to understanding Lilly's use of technique, the backdrop to the question deserves some explanation. The question was asked in March 1646 as Presbyterianism, (a staunch form of Protestant Christianity particularly favoured in Scotland), was gaining political strength. King Charles I was proposing to make it the official religion of both Scotland and England, a move which would have secured the support of Scottish Royalists in his struggles against Parliament. The question concerned whether that move would succeed. The proposal received support from some of the more conservative members of Parliament, and the Church of England was to embrace Presbyterianism by an act of the Long Parliament in 1647. However, it's influence was to be dramatically challenged in 1648 as Cromwell, who refused to accept its authoritarian imposition on the beliefs on other Protestants, rose to the highest office of the state to lead the 'second civil war' that resulted in the execution of the king. In December 1648 the power held by Presbyterian MPs was ended when 96 of them were purged from Parliament.

Despite the powerful political consequences, this is a religious matter, so Lilly takes the heavily afflicted Venus, ruler of the 9th house, as the main significator for the current state of religious division and the influence of Presbyterianism. He regards Saturn in the 9th as a secondary significator and suggests from this that "Presbytery shall be too strict, sullen and dogged for the English Constitutions". Lilly is also interested in Jupiter as the natural significator for religion, and the fact that Jupiter is stationary and turning direct provides a background for his judgement that current events will be subject to later alteration. He sees the Moon's forthcoming squares to Mars and Jupiter as indicating the prospect of future conflict over the matter, when the public will challenge the religious authorities, precipitated because "the soldiery then, or some men of fiery spirits will arise". [31]

The detail of this part of his judgement appears to hinge upon the temporary void of course Moon period - as there are less than three degrees before the Moon moves into is future applications, so Lilly refers to a period of less than three years wherein the public will be confused and unsure of what is happening, before the soldiers (Mars) begin to act, and "the Commonality [Moon] will defraud the expectation of the Clergy [Jupiter]". So as the Moon moves into the orb of its next contacts, it once again resumes its activating role.

What we see from this, is that whether or not Lilly refers to the Moon as 'currently void of course' or 'separating from void of course' as it moves forward to enter into the orb of its next aspect, the Moon is capable of 'bringing down' the influence of other planets from the moment that it moves into their range, and for as long as it remains so.

p.165 ff. Example of another ship

In this example Lilly reviews the Moon's last aspect. This is something he routinely does to get a grounding for the background of the question, even if the Moon's last aspect is well out of orb or occurred in the previous sign.[32] This is relevant in symbolising the last event to impact upon the situation under scrutiny. In this case he has to trace the Moon right back to the middle of the previous sign to find it: a square to Saturn. Since the afflicted Saturn rules the 8th house of death and the 9th house of sea journeys, he judges this to show that the Ship had met the "danger (of death) viz, shipwreck" some time before the question was asked. From that point on the Moon had remained void of course until its present application to Saturn by trine.

Despite the Moon's current application to Saturn by trine, the violent fixed star connections and damaging indications in the chart are overwhelming; so Lilly judged the ship was lost.

Example of another ship

In this chart the Moon, as the ruler of the ascendant, represents the ship and those that sail in her. Lilly describes the Moon as "at the time of the Question void of course", an indication that the ship and those that sail in her were lost at sea. This is not a definition that most astrologers would apply, since the Moon is in a new sign and is well within orb of its applying trine to Saturn. Perhaps he meant to say that at the time of the question the Moon had been void of course, but what Lilly emphasises in this judgment is that the Moon is unable to carry any directing influence forward to Saturn. It has only separated from its last square of Saturn in the previous sign (which indicated the time of 'death'), and will next apply to the trine of Saturn and then the opposition of Mercury, (which as ruler of the 12th and 4th houses brings the unfortunate news of the drowning), so in a sense the Moon is void because it is empty of virtue. The most important point is that the recognition of a void of course period was a major factor in Lilly's judgement and we can see that he used it to denote a period of inactivity and confusion: "and as the Moon had been void of course, so had no news been heard of her".

p.152 ff. If her son were with his master or at her own house?

Many modern astrologers would define this Moon as void of course, because it perfects no aspects before it changes sign. But Lilly makes no reference to it being void of course, and he would not consider it such because the Moon is still within orb of its last aspect and already within orb of its next. He tells us "I observed further, that the Moon did apply to a sextile dexter of Saturn, Lord of the fourth house" - which helped to form his judgement that the son was at his mother's house and that they would be united. The Moon must enter a new sign before perfecting its sextile to Saturn, but it is within 7° at the time of the question, so within orb of application.

This is one of several examples where Lilly makes great use of the Moon's application to one or more planets that it perfects with in the next sign. [33] This approach is not peculiar to Lilly; we have a scarcity of accessible horaries from authors that preceded him in the medieval period, but of the examples we do possess we can see that they did not dismiss the value of aspects in orb that will or have perfected over sign-boundaries, and some of them were surprisingly generous in the allowance they gave.

If he son were at home

p.401 ff. If his Excellency Robert Earl of Essex should take Reading?

Lilly notes on the chart form that the Moon is "a vac" [from nothing] and applying to the sextile of Mars and the trine of the Sun. He doesn't term the Moon 'void of course' but states in his judgement that "the Moon separated (a vacuo [from nothing]) and indeed there was little hope that it [Reading] would have been gained in the time that it was".

Take Reading?

At the time of this question the Earl of Essex, fighting for the Parliamentarian cause, was engaged in a siege on the Royalist stronghold at Reading. The question was asked by a man 'of honour' who favoured the Parliamentarian cause, and so Lilly assigns Essex to the ascendant and uses Mars as his significator. The Moon's last aspect was a trine to Jupiter in its present sign, but this is separated by over 17½ degrees so well beyond the limits of the orb (widest orb allowed between the Moon and Jupiter is 12° 15'), and therefore not considered an influence that remains in present effect. The Moon perfects no future aspect in its present sign, but is already within orb of its application to Mars and the Sun, although the Moon must change sign in order to complete these aspects. This is a situation where modern definitions would write off the influence of this Moon as void of course and discount the relevancy of the application to Mars in the following sign. Yet it is a pivotal point of Lilly's judgement that Reading would hold: "because the Moon was so directly to the sextile of the Lord of the Ascendant [Mars], without any frustration or prohibition".

Lilly describes the recent 'empty' period of the Moon as denoting a time of "little hope" of effective resolution at the start of the siege, and he looks to the future application of the Moon to Mars to indicate the point at which Essex achieves his aims. The chart is published for posterity and Lilly confesses that he was three days out in his prediction of when Reading would be successfully taken, because it was delivered on the 27th April whereas he had argued for the accomplishment eight days after the question was asked, He points out, however, that it was on the eighth day that the two armies entered into treaty, which made the generality of his prediction correct if not the specific details of how it ended. Although he doesn't state as much, it is fairly obvious that Lilly took this eight day time span from the number of degrees that separated the Moon's applying sextile to the out-of-sign Mars.

Generally, it is considered that the movement of a planet out of one sign into another brings a dynamic change, so the energy of that planet is fundamentally altered, as if a 'reset' button has been pressed. Therefore we might assume that if the Moon is carrying forward a planet's influence, it needs to make contact with another planet to discharge the influence before it leaves its present sign. However, since application denotes contact, a transfer of disposition begins as soon as the two planets move into orb of each other. Although the aspect is not completed before the change of sign, the fact that contact has been made is enough to ensure the planets remain locked into their relationship with each other until it is completed.

There are many charts in Christian Astrology that could be said to contain a void of course Moon if we go by the modern definition; although there is only one where the Moon fails to enter into application of a new aspect before it gets to the end of its current sign: the 'Horse stolen at Henley' chart on p.467, which has the Moon separating from Saturn at 11° Leo and making no further applications in its current sign. Here Lilly overlooked the affliction of a void of course Moon because of the "many good significations that the querent should recover his lost horse", including a direct application between the significator for the horse and the ruler of the querent's house of substance. He has explained that it is viable to do this in one of the most revealing comments he makes regarding the condition of void of course on page 122, where he succinctly captures the element of inactivity or lack of underlying motivation in writing:

"All manner of matters go hardly on (except the principal significators be very strong) when the Moon is void of course".

Points to Note:

  • To be 'void' implies a state of emptiness and a lack of impetus. In Lilly's charts we can see that it is possible for the Moon to be defined as temporarily void of course without remaining out of orb of aspect for the remainder of its movement through the sign. These interludes are descriptive of periods where there is little sense of clear motivation, clarity, or definable energy.

  • Beware of the stock phrases that a void of course Moon means "it doesn't matter", "nothing will happen/can be done", "there is nothing to worry about" or "the chart cannot be read". Lilly only says that "All manner of matters go on hardly" when the Moon is VOC, and as the lost ship chart shows, this does not necessarily equate to having nothing to worry about. Each chart is unique, but a more reliable principle is that there is a lack of momentum to drive the event forward. Some of Lilly's comments regarding the Moon when it is void of course include:

    • …you shall seldom see a business go handsomely forward when she is so (p.112)

    • … if the Moon was void of course, the news proved to be of no moment, usually vain or mere lies, and very soon contradicted (p.192)

    • …unless the Significators apply strongly, there's seldom any Bargain concluded … and yet both parties wrangle, and have some meetings to no purpose (p.377)

  • If the main significators are strong and effective, a chart with a void of course Moon can still have a positive outcome. A strong application is less dependant upon the need for support from the Moon.

  • To be void is a particular debility for the Moon, since it relies so heavily upon the influence of superiors for expression. The Moon's role in transmitting virtue is the reason why it is taken as a natural significator for messages, messengers, letter carriers, general communication and the relaying of information between one person and another.

  • Lilly's use of translation of light requires that the translating planet is within orb of the planets it is translating between.

  • The translating planet may translate the influence of more than one planet, providing they are both within orb of aspect.

  • In this case it is not necessary that the translating planet is received into the dignities of the planet it is translating from, but it might be a more productive or welcomed translation when this occurs.

  • Although Lilly's judgements contain fewer examples of collection, the same principle of needing to be within orb seems expressed in his definition on p.126, where he states that the planets being collected should "both cast their several Aspects to a more weighty Planet then themselves". Ideally, it will also involve reception but this is a strengthening element and is not necessarily essential.

  • Aspects that are 'out of orb' need not be ignored. Lilly regularly considered the Moon's last aspect to understand something of the background to the horary, regardless of how far back it was. He also considered the potential of aspects that were presently out of orb but which would perfect before one of the planets moved into the next sign. But these were treated as currently inactivated and there was no sense of transmitting or collecting virtue between these planets.

Notes & References:

  1] Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, I.2; Trans. F.E. Robbins (Harvard Heinemann ed. 1940); Loeb Classical Library p.7.
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  2] See 'The Hymm to the Moon god' translated by J.B. Pritchard in Ancient Near Eastern Texts relating to the Old Testament The tablet is assumed to have been compiled between 668-633 BC but the text states that it was copied from an older composition, the antiquity of which is unknown.
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  3] R.E. Guiley, The Lunar Almanac, (London, Piatkus, 1991) p.147
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  4] Robert Eisler, The Royal Art of Astrology, (London, Herbert Joseph Ltd., 1946); p.145. In Britain the Lunacy Act was replaced by the Mental Health Act in 1959.
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  5] Tetrabiblos, 1.4; tr. J.M. Ashmand, (London, David and Dickson, 1822); p.13.
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  6] D. Bradley, M Woodbury and GW Brier, 'Lunar Synodical Period and Widespread Precipitation', Science Magazine, issue 137: 748-750 (1962).
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  7] The ancient text of Dorotheus advises against performing operations that could lead to bleeding when the Moon is new (until it has separated from the Sun by 13 degrees), and when it is in opposition to the Sun. Carmen Astrologicum, trans. David Pingree. Leipzig: Teubner, 1976; V.39. 2-4.
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  8] See A detailed article on the 'Full Moon Effect' is subtitled "Why does all hell seem to break loose on or around the Full Moon?". Its main thrust is that changes in ions in the air cause "hyperactivity, depression, violent behavior, road rage, higher occurrences of migraines and asthma". (Accessed 10 Nov 2004).
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  9] Semiotica Uranica or An Astrological Judgement of Diseases; 3rd edition, (London, Nathanial Brooke, 1658), p.4
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  10] Ramesey, W., (1653) Astrologia Restaurata (Astrology Restored). Facs. (Nottingham, Ascella, 1995); Chap. VII.
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  11] Originally published in The Traditional Astrologer, issue 5: p.29 (1994). Available online at
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  12] Translated by Christopher Warnock. Quoted in his book The Mansions of the Moon, (Washington DC, Renaissance Astrology, 2006); p.22. The Picatrix is the Latin name for a compilation of many earlier works. It was originally published in Spain around 1000 AD under the title Ghayat al-Hikam (The Aim of the Wise) and was first translated into Latin in 1256. It was circulated secretly in manuscript form, a copy of which was owned by William Lilly (see Warnock, p.21).
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  13] The Astrologer's Guide: Anima Astrologiae 'Being the One Hundred and Forty-six Considerations of the famous Astrologer GUIDO BONATUS translated from Latin by Henry Coley, together with the Choicest Aphorisms of the Seven Segments of JEROM CARDAN OF MILAN, edited by William Lilly'; (1676). Facs., London: Regulus, 1986. Con. 5. Guido Bonatus was a highly influential 13th century Italian astrologer.
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  14] Carmen Astrologicum, V.5.18.

  15] Astrologia Restaurata, Chap. VII.
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  16] I.12.7
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  17] Consideration 5.
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  18] Originally published 1539. Translated and published by Project Hindsight, Latin Track Volume IV, 1994.
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  19] Lilly, W., (1647), Christian Astrology. Facs. London: Regulus, 1985. A copy of the text from volumes I & II is available online as a free word document download at (Accessed January, 2006).

William Lilly's significance in this matter is often regarded as pivotal because no other traditional work currently available demonstrates the interpretation of the technique as firmly as he does through his practical examples.
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  20] For an explanation of the traditional approach to calculating aspectual orbs (denoted by the planets involved rather than the aspect involved) see 'The Classical Origin and Traditional use of Aspects' by Deborah Houlding, and the links that extend from that page.
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  21] The three charts are: p.399: A Figure erected to know whether Sir William Waller or Sir Ralph Hopton should overcome; p.439: If Presbytery shall stand?; p.467: A Horse lost or stolen near Henley, if recoverable or not?
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  22] p.165: An Example of another Ship; p.385: A Lady, if marry the Gentleman desired?; p.401: If his Excellency Robert Earl of Essex should take Reading?; p.436: Terrible Dreams.

The five charts that make no reference to the condition are on pages 286, 392 (a poor example because the Moon is only a few minutes out of orb), 455, 470 and 473. A failure to reference the condition does not mean that it was not recognised of course - like most horary astrologers Lilly concerned himself with detailing only the factors that were most instrumental in his judgement, not of trying to specify every condition that exists in the chart. In the same way we wouldn't expect him to explain that the Moon is in the Via Combusta in every chart where it is not a main element of his interpretation.
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  23] Sue Ward's original article was published in the Horary Practitioner magazine; issue 15, October 23, 1992. (JustUs & Associates. Issaquah, USA). Further discussion was raised by Sue Ward's response to Maurice McCann's article 'the Considerations before Judgement' (series 1 and 2, Volume 63, Astrological Quarterly, the magazine of the Astrological Lodge of London), and replies within the subsequent issues.

Sue Ward's more recent article 'The Consideration Before Judgement concerning the Moon when Void of Course' is available online at (accessed 6 Nov, 2005).

Maruice McCann's book on the void of course Moon was published by Tara Publications, 1997. Details are available on his website at Although much of his content is very illuminating, I disagree with some of McCann's suggestions - for example that Lilly was wrong to discount aspects to antiscia in his use of void of course, because this was not part of Lilly's usual technique or a principle that he advocated. Both authors deserve credit however for helping to stimulate a more critical appreciation of Lilly's work.
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  24] For example, John Frawley, in his The Horary Textbook, claims "Any two planets in the same sign have an effect upon each other, no matter how far apart they may be", but on the same page he asserts "we are mainly concerned with planets exactly aspecting each other". These perspectives seem incompatible and leave confusion as to whether the validity of aspects is determined by the signs or the planets involved. (Apprentice Books, London, 2005) pp.97-98.
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  25] Examples include: 'A Woman of her husband at sea' (p.417) and 'If Obtain the Parsonage?' (p.437).
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  26] Philosophical Library, New York, 1947.
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  27] CA., p.111.
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  28] The definition is available online at
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  29] For example, the Moon is not received into the dignities of Mars in the translation used in the chart 'Master B His Houses'.
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  30] A Brief and Most Easie Introduction to the Judgement of the Stars, Fabian Withers translation, Chap.7.
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  31] Various factors of this chart relate well to Cromwell, who in 1648 rose to the highest ofice in the country through his opposition of these policies. Alongside his margin note 'The soldiery will distaste it' Lilly writes: "If you would know who shall most afflict, or who shall begin the dance, or most of all oppose it? Saturn represents the countryman, for he afflicting the house properly signifying Presbytery shows the cause".

Cromwell, though remembered for his 'fiery spirits' was generally a "quiet, simple, serious-minded man who spoke little". He "was not a learned scholar" but was "born into a common family of English country Puritans, having none of the advantages of upbringing that would prepare him to be leader of a nation". See 'Oliver Cromwell: Lord Protector of England (1599-1658)'

Traditional commentaries on Cromwell's chart are reviewed by David Plant in his article 'The Nativity of Cromwell: Gadbury vs Partridge'.
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  32] Other examples where Lilly reviews the significance of aspects that perfected in the previous sign include: p.392: A dog missing; (p.392 ff.); p.442: If attain the Philosopher's stone?; p.468: If Bewitched?; p.473: The Time of his Excellency's Robert Earl of Essex, last setting forth into the west.
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  33] Other examples include: p.238: If the Querent should ever have children?; p.385: A Lady, If marry the gentleman desired?; p.401: If his Excellency Earl of Essex should take Reading? (in this example Lilly notes the Moon's application to the Sun and Mars: both of which perfect in the next sign but are currently within orb); p.417: A Woman of her husband at sea; and p.471: A Lady of her Husband at Sea.
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Deborah HouldingDeborah Houlding is the web mistress of the Skyscript site. The past editor of The Traditional Astrologer magazine, and author of The Houses: Temples of the Sky, her articles feature regularly in astrological journals. She has a particular interest in researching the origin and development of astrological technique and as a consulting astrologer specialises in horary. She is the principal of the STA school of traditional horary astrology, which offers courses by correspondence and intensive residential seminars.

By Deborah Houlding:
The Houses: Temples of the Sky

The Houses: Temples of the Sky by Deborah Houlding

© Deborah Houlding, October 2006.

The Moon