“Spear-bearing” in Amelia Earhart’s nativity

What is “doryphory” or “spear-bearing”?

In discussing natal testimonies to fame and honors, Ptolemy in his Tetrabiblos introduces an important relationship between the Luminaries and the other planets called “doryphory” or “spear-bearing”. Planets in doryphory act as heralds, assistants and guards to the Sun or the Moon. Indeed, the original Greek word comes from military usage to describe the armed bodyguards in attendance on royalty. The idea behind the doryphory is that the Luminaries are the main engine of destiny in the chart, while planets in doryphory show how the native is helped, specifically, towards fulfilling that destiny. For specific references to Ptolemy, please see my notes further on in the discussion of Amelia Earhart’s chart.

Doryphories can show how helpful the parents may be to the native, the native’s most important aptitudes or their friends and allies in life. Unraveling the doryphories can also be of great help when a great or powerful person has what to all appearances is a mediocre chart. A strong doryphory with either Light – particularly when the angle rulers participate – can make a civil servant into a vizier and a general into an emperor (Caesar Augustus!). Once you see the power of “spear-bearing” at work, it will become one of the first things you look for in any nativity.

Planets in the doryphory of the Sun are any that are oriental (rising before the Sun) either in the Sun’s sign or the one preceding it by primary motion (ex. with the Sun at 15 Cancer, Venus at 2 Cancer and Mercury at 28 Gemini would be in the Sun’s doryphory). Conversely, planets in the Moon’s doryphory are those occidental to her (rising after her), either in her own sign or the one following (ex. with the Moon at 15 Gemini, Mercury at 28 Gemini and Venus at 2 Cancer would be in the Moon’s doryphory). A careful reading of Ptolemy’s remarks suggests that planets may also be spear-bearers through casting an aspect into these places, with the qualification that the malefics participate remotely only through square and opposition, while the other planets do so through the benefic sextile and trine.

As you might also have inferred, based on the huge importance of sect in Ptolemy, the doryphory of the Sun is more important in a daytime chart and, in a nighttime chart, that of the Moon. Still, from experience, I do believe that a strong doryphory of the Luminary contrary to sect can still be of great help.

To my knowledge, the doctrine of spear-bearing is brought forward, of all the ancient authorities, only by Ptolemy. Yet, the way that it envisions planetary relationships in social and political rather than abstract and mathematical terms looks past the Greek system back to the Babylonian. It is one indicator that, whatever his rationalizing program, Ptolemy also preserved (and understood) fragments of an older astrology with a more primal imagination of the sky. He is a vital link to the past, not a diversion from what has, of late, come to be widely perceived as the more authentic Hellenistic astrology represented by a Vettius Valens or a Dorotheus.

In the discussion that follows, endnotes are marked as [#].

Amelia Earhart

In the first week of December, possible artifacts of Amelia Earhart’s last flight were found on Nikumaroro Island.[1] What, I wonder, will Earhart’s doryphories tell us about this exceptional woman and her mysterious death?

Amelia Earhart
July 24, 1897
11:30 PM CST
Atchison, Kansas

Following Ptolemy’s method,[2] these are Earhart’s doryphories:

I. Doryphories of the Moon (11 Gemini in the 2nd house)

–      Venus (17 Gemini 43) follows the Moon in Gemini. Venus is peregrine in the 2nd house and rules the 1st & 2nd houses. She is part-ruler of the 6th house.
–      Mercury casts a sextile ray to 12 Gemini. Mercury is angular in the 4th house but peregrine, conjunct the South Node and under the sunbeams. Mercury rules the 3rd and 6th houses.
–      Jupiter casts a sextile ray to 10 Cancer. Jupiter is unfortunate, being in detriment and conjunct Mars. Jupiter is in the 5th house and rules the 9th and 12th houses.

II. Doryphories of the Sun (2 Leo in the 4th house)

–      Jupiter, as above. As a masculine planet, Jupiter’s doryphory will have more kinship with the Sun than the Moon.

Following Ptolemy, there are testimonies to worldly honors here. Both luminaries are in masculine signs, and one of them – the Sun – is in an angle.[3] A total of three planets are involved in Earhart’s doryphories, and all of them cast dexter rays, giving strength to the configuration. All three planets work for the Moon, but only one of them is allied with the Sun. This is not a huge problem. The chart is nocturnal, so it is more important for the Moon to have assistance than the Sun.[4]

Yet, with only three planets involved, and none of them rich in dignities (and one in detriment), even the Moon’s doryphories are quite thin.[5] We might not expect one of that era’s truly international celebrities – and now an icon and a mystery – to be wanting in this important index for measuring fame. But with closer study the configuration does make sense.

First, according to Ptolemy, planets in doryphory testify to the parents’ degree of fortune and wealth.[6] Relatively weak doryphories, as in Earhart’s case, argue that the parents will be of little help in securing a future for the child. Accordingly, Earhart’s mother was socially unconventional and her father an alcoholic and underachiever who eventually abandoned the family in Earhart’s youth.

It is interesting to see, however, that the mother’s unorthodox sensibilities, although potentially a hindrance for a child of lesser aptitudes, very probably had a great deal to do with Earhart’s success at breaking through so many glass ceilings – and the sky itself! – on behalf of women. Amy Earhart did not want to mold her daughters into “nice little girls”[7]. She let Amelia and her younger sister Grace wear “bloomers”, a garment perceived by many as unfeminine precisely because it provided the wearer so much freedom. In this way, Amy very literally gave Amelia a “leg up” in life. The greater strength of the Moon’s doryphory is obvious, as is the Moon’s character in this chart: oriental the Sun (hence more unconventional), in hard aspect of masculine Mars and Jupiter, restless in Gemini, and leading all the planets by the primary motion. This is a Moon unafraid to let women take the lead.[8]

There is a second reason that Earhart’s less than impressive doryphories make sense. We must remember that Earhart’s reputation was based on her record as a pioneering solo aviator.[9] Her own resourcefulness was the real key to her success. “Never do things others can do and will do, if there are things others cannot do or will not do,” she wrote.[10] Early in life, self-sufficiency had been thrust upon Earhart, and it became a driving value in her years of accomplishment.


In fact, her strongest incidence of doryphory – that of Venus, which rises bodily right after the Moon – suggests this “go it alone” style. Venus rules the Ascendant. Hence Earhart is best served by her own ingenuity. Venus is fittingly in a masculine, mercurial, air sign and receives a square from the 5th house Mars/Jupiter conjunction in Virgo. It is an apt picture of Earhart as a hugely energetic, driven woman (Venus square Mars/Jupiter), naturally assertive (strong masculine signature), and even as a pilot (mercurial, aerial) who flew for “the fun of it”[11] (5th house influence). And her “fun” did eventually bring the kind of “favours, gifts, honours, and magnanimity” that Ptolemy expects when Venus governs the doryphory:[12] the Cross of Knight of the French Legion of Honor and the U.S. Distinguished Flying Cross, among others.

Earhart also spoke often of the “lure of beauty” (Venus in doryphory) as one of her deep motivations to fly solo: “After midnight the moon set and I was alone with the stars. I have often said that the lure of flying is the lure of beauty, and I need no other flight to convince me that the reason flyers fly, whether they know it or not, is the esthetic appeal of flying.”[13] How fitting for a nocturnal chart, with the Moon and Venus leading the planets by primary motion, that Earhart would be so profoundly moved by the fascination of the night sky.


Mercury’s influence in the Moon’s doryphory is likewise very pronounced, especially as he receives the Moon into his domicile. Of course, Mercury participates in the aviation symbolism of the chart, though he certainly cannot account for it on his own. Mercury is, after all, in a fixed sign and at the bottom of the chart – hardly the best signature for flight.[14]

According to Ptolemy, when Mercury attends the luminary of sect, it gives honors based “upon intelligence, education, and the care and management of affairs.”[15] As a personality trait, Earhart’s bold but methodical intelligence was evident in childhood, when she maintained a growing collection of local flora and fauna or built her own makeshift roller coaster as an early experiment in flight.[16] Earhart was passionate about books, both reading them and writing them. Mercury’s role in her Moon’s doryphory is especially evident in how her fame was enlarged by her popular books and articles, and by her own gifts as a speaker much in demand. We see that Mercury is helped by being angular in the 4th. Significantly, he rules the 3rd (communication) and, being in Leo, answers to the Sun, ruler of the 5th house (pleasures, joie de vivre). This Mercury will be very good at getting the word out about Earhart’s zest for life.

Mercury also has a great deal to do with the kind of helpers that Earhart had throughout her life. From what I have read, Earhart did not work in a team. She had sidekicks and advisors, always intimates.[17] For example, Mercury rules the 3rd house (siblings). As a girl, Earhart’s loyal sidekick was her sister “Pidge,” the nickname that Earhart used for Grace all her life.[18] Mercury also rules the 6th house (servants). In 1931, Earhart married her publisher (Mercury), the writer and newspaperman George Palmer Putnam who managed her publicity.[19]


It is impossible to ignore the fact that Amelia Earhart’s enduring fame comes not so much from what she accomplished as what she so disastrously failed to accomplish – the circumnavigation of the globe at the equator. Jupiter, I believe, tells the story.

Since the luminaries are separated by only one sign, it is possible for Jupiter to be spear-bearer to both planets, through his sextile dexter ray into Cancer. To the extent that Jupiter naturally magnifies fame, his assisting both lights is a good thing. Jupiter rules Earhart’s Sagittarius 9th house, contributing to her vanguard spirit, her compassing intellect and her global appeal.

But Jupiter is in detriment and rules the unfortunate 12th house (imprisonment, self-undoing). With Jupiter in this condition, there will always be bad with the good, or the good will come to evil in the end. Jupiter is made even more difficult in Earhart’s geniture by his conjunction with Mars/8-ruler – hence excess energy and dangerous haste. Through his square aspect from the 5th house to the Moon and Venus/1-ruler, Jupiter will incline Earhart to overreach (i.e., 12th house/self-undoing) in pursuit of adventure (9th house) and excitement (5th house): “Flying may not be all plain sailing, but the fun of it is worth the price.”

Ultimately, Jupiter exacted a hefty price for fame. Earhart went missing over the central Pacific Ocean[20] on July 2, 1937, along with her navigator Fred Noonan – another “mercurial” assistant. It appears that Noonan became disoriented; their radio equipment failed, and they lost their way. We see Mercury’s weakness here.[21] Although he is Jupiter’s dispositor, he is finally unable to restrain Jupiter’s harmfulness.

Yet, even here, Jupiter is acting as a spear-bearer to the light of Earhart’s life. He precipitates a disaster, yes. But through that disaster Earhart becomes more than a celebrity. She becomes a legend.


What seems clear is that the relationship of the doryphories to the luminaries represents another category of relationship between the planets, related but not identical to the other structural components of the chart: rulership, conjunction, aspect, antiscia, parallels, etc.[22] This suggests an intriguing corollary. Perhaps the natal promise made by the doryphories can also be triggered through relevant directions, treating the doryphories as significators and the luminaries as promittors (or vice versa, depending).

A suggestive illustration: On July 2, 1937, when ground control lost contract with Earhart’s Lockheed Electra, Earhart’s Sun had come by secondary progression to the degree of Jupiter. With hindsight, we can see here a triggering of the difficulties promised by Jupiter’s doryphory of the Sun (5th house ruler: paying a big price for “the fun of it”). The Moon has just entered the first degree of Jupiter’s sign Sagittarius (near the cusp of the 8th house!), so it is plausible that Jupiter’s doryphory of the Moon is being activated at the same time.

It will be interesting to look at this at another time, using predictive techniques favored by the medievals: firdaria, profections and primary directions.

Works Cited

Al-Biruni, Muhammad. The book of instruction in the elements of the art of astrology. Translated by Robert Ramsay Wright. Bel Air  Md.: Astrology Classics, 2006.

“Amelia Earhart – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amelia_Earhart.

Earhart, Amelia. Last Flight. Random House Value Publishing, 1999.

———. The Fun Of It: Random Records Of My Own Flying And Of Women In Aviation. Kessinger Publishing, LLC, 2010.

Goldstein, Donald M., and Katherine V. Dillon. Amelia: The Centennial Biography of an Aviation Pioneer. 1st ed. Brassey’s Inc, 1997.

Ptolemy. Tetrabiblos. Translated by F.E. Robbins. Loeb Classical Series 435. Cambridge  Mass.  ;London: Harvard University Press ;;W. Heinemann, 1980.

“The Official Website of Amelia Earhart.” http://www.ameliaearhart.com/about/quotes.html.

[1] “On December 14, 2010, the research group said it had found bones that appeared to be part of a human finger, as well as several artifacts including pieces of a pocket knife of the same brand as one listed in Earhart’s aircraft and personal belongings of a woman, during their summer 2010 expedition. The bone fragments have been transported to the University of Oklahoma to be DNA tested.” “Amelia Earhart – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amelia_Earhart.

[2] Not requiring angularity for attendant planets; allowing rays to the places preceding the Sun or following the Moon, according to the diurnal motion; benefics send trines and sextiles, while malefics send oppositions and squares. See Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, trans. F.E. Robbins, Loeb Classical Series 435 (Cambridge MA;London: Harvard University Press, 1980), 241-3.

[3] Ibid., 377.Without an angular luminary, the honors would not be of the “more conspicuous” kind (Ibid., 378). The reasoning seems to be that the strong luminaries make the life more visible while planets in doryphory assist that visibility in various ways. In other words, the luminaries confer fame and the attending planets specify and determine it.

[4] “… particularly if the luminary of the sect is also attended by the five planets, matutine to the sun and vespertine to the moon, the children will be kings.” Ibid.

[5] On the other hand, all the planets and the sun are occidental the Moon, and hence are correctly placed respecting the luminary of sect, even if they do not “attend” as spear-bearers in the strict sense. This is surely important. Now, in Tetrabiblos Book III.4 (Ibid., 241), where he discusses parents, Ptolemy wants doryphories to be present by body or ray in the light’s sign or sign adjacent, following the rules of orientality and occidentality. In Book IV.3, the topic is different (“fortune of dignity”), and his language is less restrictive. The luminary of sect may be “attended in guard by” (pres. part. gen. doruphorouménou) planets matutine to the sun and vespertine to the moon. I will grant that Ptolemy probably wants us to recall the rules from Book III.4. But if Book IV.3 is open to a more generous reading, then Earhart’s nativity is rather richer in testimony to honor and fame.

[6] Tetrabiblos III.4 (Ibid., 241).

[7] Donald M. Goldstein and Katherine V. Dillon, Amelia: The Centennial Biography of an Aviation Pioneer, 1st ed. (Brassey’s Inc, 1997), 8-9. Cited in “Amelia Earhart – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.”.

[8] Earhart herself would become a leader in the movement for women’s equality.

[9] Earhart was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, from Newfoundland to Ireland in 1932 and the first woman to fly across the U.S. and back by Autogiro.

[10] “The Official Website of Amelia Earhart,” http://www.ameliaearhart.com/about/quotes.html.

[11] Also the title of one of her most popular books: The Fun of It. Amelia Earhart, The Fun Of It: Random Records Of My Own Flying And Of Women In Aviation (Kessinger Publishing, LLC, 2010).

[12] Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 381.

[13] Amelia Earhart, Last Flight (Random House Value Publishing, 1999), 29.

[14] It is also curious that all the classical planets, except the heaviest – Saturn – are below the earth. It’s too easy to overstretch this kind of symbolism. Still, it is a signature that attracts attention. I wonder if any others might have some thoughts as to its meaning.

[15] Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 381.

[16] See “Childhood”: “Amelia Earhart – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.”

[17] Mercury is in the 4th house. Earhart’s helpers will tend to end up at home with her, either through family ties or marriage.

[18] “Pidge” is short for “pigeon.” According to Al-biruni, the pigeon is one of the birds ruled by Mercury. Muḥammad Bīrūnī, The book of instruction in the elements of the art of astrology, trans. Robert Ramsay Wright (Bel Air  Md.: Astrology Classics, 2006), sec. 419, 37.

[19] The astrological signature for this is Mars/7-ruler (spouses) in Virgo (disposited by Mercury, ruler of 3rd and 6th houses) in the 5th house (agents). Mercury is in the 4th: the agent becomes the husband and domiciles with the native.

[20] Water will be dangerous for Earhart. She has watery Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces on the 4th (end of things, the grave, drowning), 8th (manner of death) and 12th (self-undoing) respectively.

[21] Being peregrine, under the sunbeams and conjunct the South Node.

[22] A planet in doryphory need not be in aspect to the Sun or Moon, just appropriately placed either oriental or occidental.

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