“Horary Astrology Re-examined,” by Barbara Dunn


Horary Astrology Re-examined: The Possibility or Impossibility of the Matter Propounded”
by Barbara Dunn

The Wessex Astrologer (2009)

Barbara Dunn’s “Horary Astrology Re-examined” has been my constant companion over the past few weeks, since receiving my long-awaited copy from Wessex Astrologer. To read it is both a project and a pleasure. Ms. Dunn is Olivia Barclay’s successor as Principal of the rigorous QHP (Qualifying Horary Practitioner) course. Accordingly, she wants her reader to get serious about the hard and painstaking work that it takes to master the art of horary. Bracing as her message is, there is something deeply refreshing about being required to measure up to the highest standard in what is sometimes regarded — very inappropriately, she thinks — as the most elementary “branch” of traditional astrology.

“Horary Astrology Re-examined” is both a textbook and a casebook, exacting and thorough on both counts. Ms. Dunn insists that her aims are practical rather than philosophical. Fair enough: she is a craft astrologer. Nevertheless, she is also making a sustained argument throughout the book, not just presenting a survey of techniques.

Her thesis — which is summed up in the sub-title, “The Possibility of Impossibility of the Matter Propounded” — is basically this: it is the whole chart, excluding nothing, that shows the perfection or failure of the quesited matter, not a single testimony or set of factors isolated from the chart. Perfection isn’t given simply by Significator X and Significator Y coming together with the right aspect and receptions. If the chart as a whole fails to support the outcome, it won’t happen in the best way, or it won’t happen at all.

Ms. Dunn seems to be taking a position against those – like the often luminous John Frawley – who teach (a) that in horary we can ignore everything that doesn’t immediately relate to the question and (b) that horary, natal, and mundane methods are part of a hierarchy of increasing complexity in which additional considerations are added at each level. I think that Ms. Dunn is right. But she does make our lives more complicated. There is now no such animal as the “simple horary”.

It’s essential to her case that horary methodology work along the same lines as natal. For Ms. Dunn, considerations that we usually reserve, in any practical sense, for natal interpretation — sect, orientality, hayz, the relationship of the lights, the relative strength of the fortunes and infortunes, etc. — really ought to be part of the horary astrologer’s basic toolkit. Conversely, considerations typical of horary– like looking seriously at the Planetary Hour Ruler — don’t suddenly lose their force just because the chart is a geniture and not a question. No more “branches” of astrology or “specializations”. It all counts, everywhere, all the time. One sky. One astrology. One method.

The author’s example judgments fully demonstrate her approach. Instead of just looking for what’s happening to the main significators, she tests the quality of the chart as whole, gathers up all the positive and negative testimonies, considers them on balance and only then arrives at judgment.

This is definitely a sobering way to answer questions. It’s also not for the timid, since she won’t let us ignore that hell-bent malefic or that toxic Full Moon, even when they aren’t obvious players in the drama. In practice, as in life, “no” is the probable answer.

Ms. Dunn works in a very analytical, impartial way which, speaking personally, isn’t entirely within my comfort zone. I’m used to looking for the “story” in the chart and seeing how the symbolism plays it out. There can be a lot of vitality and fun in that approach, but we all know how easy it is to read a story into the chart and not out of it. Ms. Dunn offers a very helpful corrective to those of us who tend to rhapsodize. Horary, she insists, isn’t about unveiling narratives, making sense of the querent’s experience or “helping” the querent. It’s also not about keeping anyone entertained. The horary astrologer’s responsibility is to answer the question — nothing more and nothing less. Other aims tend to darken counsel.

And, yes, there is a truckload of technique in this book. And, given Ms. Dunn’s thesis, you can expect to find lots of useful insights for your natal work, too.

A work of real substance and lasting value. Five stars in a circlet of gold.


{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: