Skyscript home page

Translation of light
Collection of light
About the Author

Part II of this feature, covering 'contriety' and 'return of light'.

A review of the astrological tradition concerning the perfection of significators and its denial (part I) by Graeme Tobyn


In this review I shall explore the six types of denial of perfection of significators in a horary question that are handed down in the astrological tradition. These are: refranation, evasion, prohibition, abscission, contrariety and return of light. I will show that Lilly, on whose writings the modern understanding of perfection has been based, adapted these forms and I will argue that (a) some aspects of the tradition obscured in Lilly are worthy of consideration to inform a modern understanding of perfection and its denial, and (b) the medieval forms in their totality cannot be replicated because of a change in modern practice in the calculation of the first application of significators from a spatial to a temporal determination.


The six types of denial of perfection are fairly consistently detailed in the writings of the Arabic astrologers of the 8th to 11th centuries: Masha'allah (1549), Abu Mash'ar (1997) and al-Biruni (1934), and in their translations into medieval Europe as evidenced in the works of Bonatti (1550) from the 13th century and Schoener (1994) and Dariot (1558) from the 16th. The revival of horary astrology in recent astrological practice, however, is based on and endebted to the work of William Lilly, the famous astrologer of the early modern period, whose seminal text, Christian Astrology (1647) was republished in the UK in 1985. Lilly "conversed with the ancients" but adapted their rules and significantly departed from the tradition of the 6 types of denial. His new forms of denial of perfection have been haphazardly adopted in modern practice, usually in ignorance of the tradition which preceded them, and this not least because only recently have translations into English of some of the above texts become available.

1. perfection

For a perfection of the matter inquired after in horary astrology, whereby the thing is shown as being able to be brought to pass, the significators for the person asking (querent) and the thing being asked about (quesited) must come together by conjunction or major aspect. The horary chart cast for the moment of inquiry must show the significators in an applying aspect, denoting that the matter will come to pass. Bonatti tells us that there are three forms of perfection:
  1. the ruler of the ascendant and [or] the moon, as significators of the querent, perfect an aspect with the ruler of the quesited.

  2. A third planet in a prior separation from one significator and immediately applying to the other significator translates the light and nature of the former to the latter, thus perfecting the matter by means of a third party or thing signified by the translating planet. For this to occur the translating planet must be in swifter in motion than either of the two significators. It is called a translation of light.

  3. A third planet slower than either of the two significators receives before any other aspect the first application of each significator in turn, thus collecting their light.

The first example is a simple perfection of significators of querent (Ascendant ruler and/or the Moon as co-significator) and quesited (ruler of the house signifying the matter inquired about). The second and third examples are of a complex perfection involving a third interposing planet, either a fast-moving planet moving between them and translating light, or a slower-moving planet later on in degrees, collecting the light.

Translation of Light

Bonatti's definition of translation puts an interposing, faster-moving third planet between the degree areas of the two significators, such that this third planet last separates from one significator and next applies to the other significator. This is type one translation of light. Here is an example:

Jupiter 11 Leo Mercury 14 Leo Venus 16 Libra

Venus and Jupiter are significators, with Mercury placed between their degree areas (ie. between 11 and 16 degrees). Mercury is separating from Jupiter and applying first to Venus, thus translating the light of Jupiter to Venus. The separation of significators suggests that there had been attempts to reach the desired outcome but without success, and now the matter looks lost. But Mercury translates the light and thus symbolises a perfection of the matter via a third party or thing, which the astrologer must identify in the world in order to advise the client how to proceed.

This translation between separating significators can fit the definitions of translation of light in Abu Mash'ar, Bonatti, Schoener and Dariot, which do not stipulate the aspectual relationship between significators. Al-Biruni mainly discusses translation between significators not in aspect, while Lilly's definition can allow separation or no aspect between significators, (except that the astrologer could not judge that there had already been a failed attempt to obtain the thing desired where the significators are not in aspect).

Abu Mash'ar, al-Biruni, Bonatti, Schoener and Dariot also describe a type two translation of light as in the following example:

Mercury 15 Virgo Venus 16 Taurus Jupiter 21 Leo

Mercury and Jupiter are significators not in aspect. Mercury applies to Venus and gives his light to her. She then applies to Jupiter, and translates the light of Mercury to him, thus allowing perfection.

In this case the interposing planet is not separating from one significator and applying to the other, but receives one application and then applies to the other. In this example it is clear that without the third planet, Venus, there would be no perfection of significators. Only through Venus can the perfection be made. Al-Biruni provides a further example of this type of translation of light between significators not in aspect:

Mercury 15 Virgo Jupiter 16 Leo Venus 17 Scorpio

Mercury and Jupiter are significators not in aspect. Venus is separating from Jupiter and carrying his light. Mercury catches up with Venus and the light of Jupiter is translated to Mercury.

So far, our forms of translation of light have depended on the significators being in separating or no aspect. Can the same forms hold, however, when the significators are in applying aspect? Type one translation posits a third planet between significators in a 'piggy-in-the-middle' interposition, as in Example 6 in the table below. None of our authors specifically disallow such a form of translation. Al-Biruni mentions the significators applying in one example, "but far from conjunction". Schoener, whatever the arrangement of significators, wants the translating planet to join with the second significator "before the separation is completed" from the first significator.

Often, the interposing planet translating light is the Moon. Thus, in the case of applying significators, the Moon as co-significator for the querent can only show perfection of the matter:

Mercury 15 Virgo Moon 16 Gemini Jupiter 17 Virgo

Mercury and Jupiter are significators. Mercury and co-significator Moon both apply to Jupiter.

This arrangement fulfils Bonatti's first type of perfection, not considered by him to be a translation of light but rather a simple perfection of both significators for the querent with that of the quesited. If the interposing planet placed between applying significators is another fast-mover such as Mercury, then this third party can participate in a more effective perfection of significators, according to Lilly's example:

"Let Saturn be in 20 degrees of Aries, Mars in 15 degrees of Aries and Mercury in 16 degrees of Aries. Here Mercury, a swift planet, separates from Mars and translates the virtue of Mars to Saturn. It's done also as well by any aspect as by conjunction. And the meaning hereof in judgment is no more than thus: that if a matter or thing were promised by Saturn, then such a man as is signified by Mercury shall procure all the assistance a Mars man can do unto Saturn, whereby the business may be the better effected."

It appears that Lilly is suggesting the possibility of the applying significators, Mars and Saturn, perfecting on their own, but the interposition of Mercury points to how the outcome may be more successfully achieved. All will depend, as we shall see, on whether Mercury is a helpful friend or an interfering enemy to the querent

In type two translation, the third planet placed between applying significators is shown in Example 8 in the table below. Bonatti's example puts all three planets are in the same sign:

Mercury 15 Virgo Venus 16 Virgo Jupiter 21 Virgo

Here Mercury conjoins Venus, then Jupiter, finally Venus conjoins Jupiter. But we might argue that Mercury is applying to Jupiter but Venus is in the way! Can the interposition of Venus - like an enticing sweet shop (Venus), standing in the way of the boy (Mercury) and his bible studies at church (Jupiter), his money for the collection box burning in his hand - prohibit this perfection? Our authors seem agreed on the idea that a planet passes on its light and virtue to the first planet it aspects (but see Bonatti's comments below under 'Reception'). Thus Mercury gives its light and virtue to Venus and the boy spends his donation in Mrs. Jones' sweet shop. When Mercury next conjoins Jupiter and the collection box is being passed around after class, the boy has nothing to give. His light (and money) is being carried by Venus (Mrs. Jones), who conjoins with Jupiter, translates to him the light of Mercury and so the matter is perfected. In other words, Mrs. Jones, herself a good Christian woman, rejoices at the boy's study and takes his money up to the church at evensong.

Lilly forestalls on this type of translation between applying significators. His definition requires significators to be separating or in no aspect. Where they are applying already, the interposing planet must be translating the light between them. In any case, however, the interposition must be evaluated in terms of whether the person or thing signified by it will support or obstruct the perfection of significators of querent or quesited in the matter inquired after. In the section concerning the 'whole natural key to all of astrology', Lilly wants us to consider the house which the interposing planet rules, by which to judge whether the interposing planet will help or hinder the matter sought. For instance, if Venus in our example were ruler of the 11th, then Mrs. Jones is a friend indeed to the boy who will want to help him with what he set out to do. If Venus rules the 12th, she is a secret enemy to the boy and will keep the money and not help him. By taking this approach, Lilly does not strictly follow the traditional teaching of the translation of light and nature, since he is more attentive to the perfection in sight and wants to consider whether any planets intervening will further or hinder the pursuit of the matter. Lilly might have judged of our scenario that the boy should not spend all his money in the sweet shop (Mercury to Venus), but make a purchase and keep some back for the collection (Mercury to Jupiter), so that his conscience is clear and he has some sweets into the bargain.

Collection of light

A collection of light occurs when two significators apply in turn to one planet, which is a superior, more slowly moving planet than either of the significators. This third planet collects the light of the significators and so perfection is obtained via this third party or thing:

Mercury 15 Virgo Jupiter 21 Libra Saturn 22 Gemini

Mercury and Jupiter are significators, not in aspect. Both apply in turn to Saturn, who collects their light and effects the matter.

Al-Biruni allows collection of light of significators which are not only in no aspect, or separating, but also in applying aspect ("is just as good as" a perfection of significators). Dariot places the three planets in his example in the same degree of different signs, which introduces confusion into his delineation. Lilly stipulates only significators in no aspect (and, in at least one of his judgments, significators in separating aspect) but following his 'whole natural key to all of astrology', the matter of collection where significators are in applying aspect depends once again on whether the third planet collecting the light is friend or foe to the querent.


Another matter that the ancients considered is that of reception. Reception occurs when one planet applies to another and either (a) the applying planet is in the sign of rulership or exaltation of the receiving planet; (b) the receiving planet is in the sign of rulership or exaltation of the applying planet; or (c) the planets receive one another by rulership of exaltation (mutual reception) or a mixture of these (mixed reception). Bonatti classifies the facility of the perfection according to the following conditions involving reception by sign or exaltation:
  1. easily and firmly achieved without effort when the significator apply by sextile or trine with reception between them

  2. quickly, perhaps unexpectedly, achieved without effort when the significators apply by trine without reception, or by sextile with reception

  3. achieved through pursuit and enthusiasm when the significators apply by square with reception, or by sextile without reception

  4. with pursuit, enthusiasm, but now with urgency, toil and inconvenience, when the significators apply by opposition with reception, or by square without reception.

  5. Scarcely or never achieved, though after the greatest labour and effort, accompanied by anxieties and sadness, and to the despair of friends and loved ones, when the significators apply by opposition without reception.

Within the tradition different views are expressed and discussed concerning whether reception is essential for perfection, as Masha'allah and al-Biruni seem to suggest ('when reception does not take place, the result is negative'). Bonatti wants to argue, for instance, in the case of translation of light, that the translating planet must have been received by the first significator in order for it (the significator) to pass on it light and virtue to the translating planet, which then carries it to the second significator and perfects the matter provided that the translating planet in turn receives the second significator and successfully translates to it the light and nature of the first significator. Likewise, in collection of light the collecting planet must receive the first significator to apply to it and must in turn be received by the second significator when it perfects its aspect to it. However, he recognizes that his sources are not as clear about this as he wishes to be and he accepts that "because these persons were wiser than I am, their sayings ought to be sustained whatever their intention may have been". The Arabic tradition does not unambiguously require reception for perfection.

Different types of reception are given different names in Abu Mash'ar (ch.3). Lilly requires reception in his definitions of translation and collection of light and suggests a range of strength of receptions by any of the essential dignities (rulership, exaltation, triplicity, term or face) as material in all 3 forms of perfection:

"when it seems very doubtful what is promised by a square or opposition of the significators, yet if mutual reception [the strongest and best of all receptions] happen betwixt the principal significators, the thing is brought to pass, and that without great trouble, and suddenly to the content of both parties".

Lilly on the quality of perfection

Lilly lists other conditions which can modify the success or failure of a perfection of significators, Although Lilly seems to follow Bonatti in requiring reception between significators and the planet translating or collecting light, this becomes only one of several testimonies for the strength or weakness of a perfection. Also to be taken into account, writes Lilly, are the essential and accidental dignities of the significators:
  1. perfection by conjunction in an angle suggests easy achievement of the thing asked about, even sooner if the significators are swift in motion and essentially or accidentally strong. A longer time is necessary with the significators in a succeedent house, and with difficulty and struggle if in a cadent house.

  2. Perfection by sextile or trine out of good houses and with the significators essentially dignified.

  3. Significators applying by square aspect but essentially dignified and out of good houses can perfect, otherwise not, [unless, presumably, they are in a strong reception.]

  4. Significators applying by opposition only perfect through a mutual reception and translation of light also pertaining to the application. But if not, Lilly says, "I have rarely seen anything brought to perfection by this way of opposition, but the querent had been better the thing had been undone. For if the question was concerning marriage, the parties seldom agreedÂ…and if the question was about portion or monies, the querent did, it's true, recover his money or portion promised, but it cost him more to procure it in a suit of law, than the debt was worth."

A summary of points to be considered regarding perfection

Perfection of the matter inquired about in the horary chart may depend on:

  • First application of significators or a translation or collection of light between significators

  • Type of aspect between significators

  • Reception between significators

  • Condition of significators by essential and accidental dignities and debilities

  • Conjunction of significators in angular, succeedent or cadent houses.

  • Whether the person or thing signified by the interposing third planet will help or hinder the coming together of the primary significators

2. The six denials of perfection

The possibility of a denial of perfection is predicated upon the presence of an applying aspect between significators in the horary chart. You cannot deny a perfection that is not there. Of these six forms of denial of perfection, five figure a third interposing planet coming between significators; the first we shall discuss, 'refranation', involves only the significators themselves.


In this form of denial of perfection, two significators are in applying aspect, but before their aspect is perfected, the applying significator turns retrograde and refrains from the perfection of the aspect. Bonatti describes this "as for example when one checks a galloping horse by holding the reins and not allowing the horse to run whither it intended", and suggests that the rider has lost hope in getting to his destination (obtaining the desired outcome) and so turns around.

Abu Mash'ar, al-Biruni, Dariot and Lilly also call this refranation, the last two considering it to be a form of prohibition (see below).


Evasion occurs when two significators are in applying aspect, but before their aspect can be perfected, the receiving significator changes signs, thus evading the perfection and denying the desired outcome.

Venus 22 Cancer Jupiter 29 Taurus

Before Venus can perfect the sextile with Jupiter, Jupiter evades her by changing sign.

Abu Mash'ar and al-Biruni call this evasion. Bonatti, Dariot and Lilly name it frustration. Abu Mash'ar stipulates that the significator changing signs must then aspect a third planet, before the applying significator also changes sign and catches up with it:

Venus 21 Cancer Jupiter 29 Taurus Saturn 0 Libra

Jupiter moves into Gemini and trines Saturn before Venus changes sign and sextiles Jupiter.

Al-Biruni teaches the same, but emphasizes that the next aspect of the applying significator, as Venus above, will be to Saturn (from Leo) and not to Jupiter. Bonatti also describes the same and likens it to what "sometimes happens on hunting parties when one of the parties chases and overtakes a wild beast to bag it before another can, but another does bag it and the first man's hunting is thus frustrated". He gives the following example:

"A question was put concerning marriage, with Libra rising, Venus in Aries [in 7th] wishing to join herself to Mars [7th ruler] as described. It appeared that Mars must receive her in Aries. The person signified by Mars had good intentions towards the person whose significator was Venus, concerning the effecting of what she sought and a good conscience in their engagement and he believed he was doing what she asked of him. With matters continuing apace, there appeared some other factor not of his devising which perhaps seemed to him to be more serviceable than marriage, or about which he could not tell her, as often happens. And so he abandoned the plans long made and went after the new thing and all that might follow in its wake".

In each of Bonatti's examples, there is a third planet with which the receiving significator unites, either actual (the other party who bagged the game), or potential (the 'new thing'), thereby denying the querent's desire.

Schoener and Dariot depict the same, but in Dariot it is given as one of two types of frustration or cutting off the planet's light (the other, abscission, is discussed below). Lilly is back to one description, but it is that of abscission. He seems not to think it necessary to differentiate this particular placement of planets from his general description of abscission. The matter inquired after will not go well, anyway, with one of the significators void of course. And if it were the Moon, the horoscope may not be fit to be judged at all.

In the remainder of this paper I will discuss prohibition and abscission. In a part two of this paper, I will deal with contrariety and the return of light, draw some conclusions from the tradition and review what later writers have made of these six forms of denial of perfection.

Tables delineating the possibilities of interposition

The tables below delineate the possibilities of interposition among significators. Each example will be referred to in the following discussions of prohibition, abscission, contrariety and return of light. In table one, Mars represents the applying significator moving directly to a sextile of Saturn, the receiving significator. This is the intended perfection that an interposing planet may deny. In relation to these two significators, the third planet can lie either behind (earlier in degrees), between (degrees) or in front of them (later degrees). Mercury represents a fast-moving third planet while Jupiter moves faster than Saturn, but slower than Mars. In table two, showing the interposing planet in later degrees, Venus represents the applying significator moving first to a sextile of Jupiter the receiving significator. Mercury represents a fast-moving third planet, Saturn a slow-moving one, Mars one whose speed is faster than Venus', but slower than Jupiter's. In all cases, assume that planets are advancing at their usual speeds.


In this form of denial, according to Abu Mash'ar, two significators are directly applying but a third planet standing between them in degrees is closest to the receiving significator, illustrated in example 5. Here we might imagine the story of a man (Mars) who wanted to build an extension on his property (Saturn). He knew exactly how to do it and was ready with tools and supplies, but was having some trouble with the paperwork for the local planners (Mercury). Not until a planner had looked over the site and the plans he had for it (Mercury square Saturn), could he hope to proceed (Mars sextile Saturn). For the regulations prohibit building until planning consent has been obtained.

Abu Mash'ar takes no account of planetary speeds and simply counts the number of degrees between the receiving significator and the two applying planets. If the interposing planet (Mercury) is fewer degrees away from the receiving significator (Saturn) than the applying significator is (Mars), the significators cannot perfect until the interposing planet has aspected the receiving significator. In his second example of prohibition, the two applying planets are equidistant from the receiving significator but in different signs. Discussion of the speeds of the equidistant planets is absent and instead recourse is made to a hierarchy of aspects, where application by conjunction proves stronger than by aspect.

It is as if our authors rather ask themselves 'who is closer to whom?' than 'who will get there first (in time)?' It is likely that planetary tables 1000 years ago were less reliable and astrologers looked more to the spatial arrangement of planets in the horoscope than to the temporal arrangement in the timing of sequential aspects which were difficult to calculate but which we today are easily able to follow in an ephemeris. Al-Biruni gives the same two forms of Abu Mash'ar's prohibition, but calls this form 'prevention'. He uses the phrase "nearer to completion" to denote the greater closeness of the interposing planet to the receiving significator, which may indicate a spatial or a temporal measurement. Schoener and Dariot also reproduce these two forms of prohibition, and speak of "nearer to conjunction" or aspect. Their examples work both spatially and temporally, as does Bonatti's first example:

Sun 10 Capricorn Mars 14 Capricorn  Jupiter 16 Capricorn

Sun and Jupiter are significators. Mars conjoins Jupiter first and "does not stop prohibiting the conjunction of the Sun with Jupiter until he passes Jupiter and separates from him. The Sun applies to Jupiter from the time that Mars has passed him"

Mars will get to Jupiter first not only because he is spatially closer to Jupiter, but because temporally he will conjoin him sooner than the Sun, so this example is ambiguous. But Bonatti's example of the second type of prohibition clearly points to the spatial arrangement:

Moon 4 Aquarius Venus 4 Aries Mars 9 Aries

Moon and Mars are significators. Venus prohibits the perfection of Moon and Mars, because, although equidistant with the Moon from Mars, she applies by conjunction which is stronger than the Moon's sextile.

To our eyes Moon must get to Mars before Venus does and so perfect the application, but the teaching here concerns equidistance of planets, and the superiority of aspects. Al-Biruni remarks that, in his day, "astrologers have not pronounced" on the hierarchy of aspects, that is, which aspect takes precedence after the conjunction. Furthermore, there is a reference in Persian editions of al-Biruni's text, to deciding between applying planets by strength of reception with the receiving significator; to be used, presumably, if the two planets are equidistant and apply by the same aspect. It is no surprise then to find Bonatti discussing reception in the last part of his section on prohibition.

Elsewhere, in another section entitled "on the return of light and its abscission" but which in effect provides another example of prohibition (Example 7 in the table), Bonatti again demonstrates the primacy for him of 'spatial arrangement':

Sun 12 Cancer Jupiter 15 Gemini Saturn 18 Libra

Sun and Saturn are significators. "the Sun applies to Saturn by square aspect, but Jupiter who is closer to joining Saturn than is the Sun, applies to him by trine aspect and abscinds the light of the Sun from Saturn. And this is called an abscission of light or a return of light since Saturn returns to the Sun the light which it has begun to receive from him, and receives the light of Jupiter who is closer to himself, because Jupiter is in the 15th degree of his sign and the Sun is only in the 12th degree of his sign. In this way the matter in question can be destroyed, or else there is still hope.

It appears that Renaissance authors like Schoener and Dariot cannot follow the medieval understanding of spatial arrangement, as evidenced in Bonatti's examples above, and so give temporally accurate examples to accompany a definition in accord with the earlier spatial tradition. Lilly, however, abandons the spatial arrangement entirely. Now considered according to closeness of aspect in time, Lilly's two forms of prohibition, by conjunction and by aspect, can now countenance the possibility of prohibition by a faster-moving planet from behind, as in examples 2 and 3 above, and in Lilly's own example:

Sun 6 Aries Mars 7 Aries Saturn 12 Aries

Mars and Saturn are significators. "The Sun is swifter in motion than Mars, he will overtake Mars and come to conjunction with Saturn before Mars, whereby whatever Mars or Saturn did formerly signify, is now prohibited by the Sun his first impediting Mars and then Saturn, before they can come to a true conjunction".

In his second example, Lilly places Mars and Saturn again in Aries and the Sun at 5 Gemini and "he then being more swift than Mars", again the Sun aspects Saturn first. Note how the application of the interposing Sun to Mars, the applying significator, is relegated in importance to the Sun's 'competitive' application to the receiving significator, Saturn. Sun will get to Saturn before Mars does. It is quite clear that by Lilly's time the temporal ordering of aspects had become primary, and the medieval spatial consideration had been abandoned.

An interesting idea to be gleaned from the tradition regarding prohibition is that it prevents a perfection until the interposing planet starts to separate from the receiving significator. The interposition may not completely deny the perfection, but only delay it (Bonatti's "In this way the matter in question can be destroyed, or else there is still hope"). However, in example 5 above, as Mercury square Saturn without major reception suggests, the man's desire to build the extension could end at the site visit with a bad report to come from the planning officer. It must be remembered that Bonatti called this section of his text "on the prohibition of conjoining and wherefore matters are sometimes not perfected". In Bonatti's 'spatial' approach, the possibility of a complete denial of perfection, rather than a delay, may depend on a hierarchy of aspects and on reception. For Lilly, it is a case of using his 'whole natural key to all of astrology' to determine the friendliness or otherwise of the interposing planet, and the quality of perfection according to the condition of the significators and their receptions.


Abscission means "cutting the light", when a planet interposes in some way between the applying significators, thereby cutting the light between them. Abu Mash'ar describes three kinds of abscission where the interposing planet cuts the light between significators by aspecting (a) the receiving significator only (b) both significators in turn, (?) the applying significator only.

The first kind (a) is shown in example 19, where a planet (Mars) retrogrades back into the previous sign and first aspects the receiving significator (Jupiter) before the applying significator can (Venus), thus cutting the light of the applying significator to the receiving significator. Abu Mash'ar says of this that "an unexpected man will obstruct the intention of the querent". Note that Mars, having squared Jupiter, does not then aspect Venus. Examples 11 and 15 are effectively the same, except the retrograding Mercury or Mars has not returned from the next sign.

The second kind (b) appears in example 16 and involves the abscinding planet contacting both planets. Abu Mash'ar comments: "when this happens, the aim of the querent will be changed when the affair is almost completed, by a change of his own will".

The third kind (c) is described in examples 1, 9, 14 and 17, where the applying significator first applies to (Ex.9 and 17) or is applied to (Ex.1) or there is a mutual application (Ex.14) by a planet that is not the receiving significator (significator of the quesited, in Abu Mash'ar's words). Here the interposing planet does not aspect the receiving significator.

Example 16 appears to conform with Abu Mash'ar's definitions of both abscission and collection of light, in that the significators are in applying aspect but both first conjoin the third, heavier planet. How would he have distinguished them? One clue may be that he uses the word 'push' to describe the movement of the receiving significator to the third, heavier planet. This recalls his definitions of perfecting involving receptions ('pushing nature', 'pushing two natures' and 'pushing counsel'), a hierarchy of aspects ('pushing counsel') or the essential dignity of significators ('pushing power'). In example 16 there is no strong essential dignity of the planets involved and no strong reception between Saturn and the significators, but the aspects are trine and sextile. Would this have been enough for Abu Mash'ar to judge the interposition a collection of light?

Al-Biruni gives only one form of abscission of light, the first (a) of Abu Mash'ar's three kinds. Bonatti describes two types, (a) and (b) above, yet, in both cases, gives examples whereby the interposing planet will aspect both significators in turn. Schoener and Dariot do likewise with the same two forms of abscission.

Lilly only gives type (b) of Abu Mash'ar and calls in frustration. His example shows the interposing planet aspecting both significators:

Mercury 10 Aries Mars 12 Aries Jupiter 13 Aries

Mercury and Mars are significators "but Mars first gets to conjunction with Jupiter, whereby Mercury is frustrated of the conjunction of Mars. In questions it signifies as much as our common proverb 'two dogs quarrel, a third gets the bone'".

The classic case of abscission is best shown in example 18, which the Company of Astrologers has named 'heading for a heavy'. Lilly's example by definition cannot be for him a collection of light, since the significators are applying, but in the final analysis he will have recourse to his 'whole natural key to all of astrology' once more, in actual judgment, and may yet find a perfection here.

Continue to part II, covering 'contriety' and 'return of light' >>


  Al-Biruni (1934) The Book of Instruction in the Elements of the Art of Astrology, trans. R. Ramsay Wright. London. p303-314
Albumasar [Abu Mash'ar] (1997) The Abbreviation of the Introduction to Astrology, ed. & trans. Charles Burnett, with historical and technical annotations by C. Burnett, G. Tobyn, G. Cornelius and V.Wells. p22-30
Bonatus [Guido Bonatti] (1550) Liber Astronomiae. Basle. p138-148 & 215-222
Dariot C. (1558) L'Introduction au Jugement des Astres. Lyon. p47-53
Lilly W. (1985) Christian Astrology. London: Regulus. p105-114 & 123-128
Messahalla [Masha'allah] (1549) De Receptione. Nuremburg. Ch.1
Schoener (1994) Opusculum Astrologicum trans. R. Hand. Berkeley Springs: The Golden Hind Press. p45-47.

Graeme TobynGraeme Tobyn is an expert in medieval astrology and decumbiture. A practising, qualified Herbalist, he is a member of the Company of Astrologers, and the National Institute of Medical Herbalists. Graeme frequently lectures at home and abroad on astrology's application to medicine; his book, Culpeper's Medicine: A Practice of Western Holistic Medicine, (Element 1997) is an incomparable guide to the theory and practice of Holistic Medicine. A contributor to ARHAT's translation project, his research interests lie in the history of medicine and herbal medicine and the re-evaluation of traditional, holistic approaches to therapeutics, particularly humoral medicine.
Graeme is a senior lecturer on Herbal Medicine for the Department of Primary and Community Nursing at the University of Central Lancashire, which offers degree courses in Herbal Medicine and Complementary Medical Science.

© Graeme Tobyn, March 2007.

By Graeme Tobyn:

Culpeper's Medicine by Graeme Tobyn

University of Lancashire degree course in Herbal Medicine