The Houses in Summary

vintage_celestial_astrology_zodiac_wheel_1555_postcard-rad0eb3d24fdb4bf5b507b45f51caa80a_vgbaq_8byvr_512 William Lilly famously insisted that an astrologer must have “the exact knowledge” of the twelve houses. Otherwise he will be “like an improvident man, that furnisheth with variety of household stuffe, having no place wherein to bestow them” (Christian Astrology, p. 50). Given Lilly’s advice, I thought it would be prudent to knuckle down and work at getting a better grasp on how the houses work. This discussion represents part of that effort. It leans heavily on Lilly’s summary of the “Nature and Signification” of the twelve houses in Christian Astrology, Book I (pp. 50-56) while drawing on evidence from the rest of Christian Astrology as well as other traditional authors.

1st House:

Lilly understands that the 1st House principally describes the life, body and character of the native in genitures or of the querent in horaries (CA 50). Lilly, however, generously expands the range of topics, drawing in the house’s mundane associations (> the common people and the realm), its medical loci (> head and face/Aries co-significator), indications for pregnancy questions (> masculine), and color notes useful for lost property horaries (> white). The horary perspective in particular runs through all of Lilly’s house descriptions. Obviously, this – along with the mundane focus of his almanacs – was the bread and butter of his practice and the lion’s share of what his teaching in Christian Astrology, so it makes sense that he would emphasize it in this section.

Other authorities also associate the 1st house with beginnings of all kinds: Manilius with early education and the circumstances at birth, Dorotheus with “incitements and the beginnings of quarrels”, Dariot with every kind of inception. Lilly does not include these associations in his summary of house meanings. Even so, they do from time to time appear explicitly in Christian Astrology. The 1st house, for example, will describe the beginning of a journey (CA 423), and it is surely latent in Lilly’s association of the Ascendant (not the whole of the 1st house, however) with the vernal quarter of the sky and the years of one’s youth.

Nevertheless, we cannot say that Lilly gives inceptions uniquely to the 1st. We might put this down to his obvious commitment topical specificity, which returns us to the practical emphasis of Christian Astrology. With Lilly, the houses are given over to particular things and matters rather than generalities. Lilly also understood that each house cusp is an Ascendant with respect to that house’s affairs – the basis of derived houses. So, for example, Dariot cannot be exactly right when, in elections, he gives the 1st house dominion over beginnings indiscriminately. In electing a time to conceive, for instance, the 5th must surely be an equally or more important place of inception.

2nd House:

It is in his treatment of the succedent and cadent houses that we clearly see Lilly’s characteristic thoroughness, starting here with the 2nd House.

Between them, the other astrologers in this lesson give only three distinct 2nd House meanings (possessions/riches, servants, hope). Lilly offers us more than ten, including its medical and color symbolism. Lilly removes servants to the 6th, as the place of toil, and thereby abandons an older perspective – which seems to survive vestigially in Dariot – in which servants (i.e., slaves) are a calculable asset. Given his religious and populist convictions, I think that Lilly would have recoiled at the idea that people are anyone’s property but God’s. “Hope” (Firmicus, Dariot) might seem a poor fit for the 2nd, except that it is that Gate of Hell (Manilius) through which we exit the underworld, having entered through the 8th. This symbolism has become dormant in Lilly, who will move the virtue of hope to the 11th House, which for him more aptly symbolizes aspiration to those higher and better things represented by the Midheaven.[1]

For Lilly, the 2nd house mainly rules the resources belonging to the 1st house. This includes the querent’s or native’s belongings, liquid and moveable assets, and even money lent, since they still have a claim upon it. Lilly expands the principle of “resources” to apply to contest charts – where the 2nd rules the querent’s right hand man – and also to affairs pertaining to the wealth and allies of the realm.

Lilly also gives the medical, color and other rulerships (i.e., neck, green, feminine, Taurus & Jupiter co-significators). A feminine house.

3rd House:

Lilly identifies this simply as the “third house.” Manilius and Firmicus call it by its more ancient and pagan name, Goddess (Dea), a tradition preserved in Dariot. While Lilly would surely have been familiar with this designation, he does not preserve it, perhaps in keeping with his mission of codifying a monotheistic astrology for the new Christian commonwealth. Still, he does remind us that the 3rd is the Joy of the Moon – a very important point for interpretation. We find this as far back as Manilius, and whether Lilly realized it or not, this is a vestige of the old veneration of the “Goddess” here (Astronomica 2.916).

Like other authorities, Lilly retains the association of the 3rd house with those relationships that the querent or native has with his cohort group: brethren or siblings, cousins, kindred, to which Lilly adds neighbors. Lilly gives a few more significations – short journeys, letters and messages and rumors – long recognized by the tradition (e.g., al-Biruni).

Lilly’s chapter on 3rd house questions reveals an interesting historical emphasis. He begins with aphorisms for questions about siblings and neighbors – will we get along? if absent, how are they faring? But the rules do not particularly stand out, because they could be applied generically to any similar topic (e.g., relations with children, spouses, friends, etc.), as is clear from his examples of this class of question (“Where an absent brother was?” CA 196, “Whether the Querent should have brothers or sisters?”). But the rules governing a second category of 3rd house questions – those pertaining to the truth or falsity of a rumor or message – are more sui generis. These sorts of considerations would have been especially serviceable in matters of politics and war (e.g., “A Report that Cambridge was take…if true?”, CA 200), in which he was of course deeply involved.

Lilly again gives the medical, color and other rulerships (i.e., shoulders, arms, hands; red, yellow; Gemini and Mars co-significators). A masculine house.

4th House:

Lilly calls this the Angle of the Earth or Imum Coeli, following in the tradition of Firmicus (Imum Caelum). There is little to distinguish Lilly’s associations for the 4th house from those of earlier authorities. For all of them, the principal meaning of the 4th for all of them is “fathers” or parentage. It is the place of one’s roots, symbolically linked to the firmness of the earth under one’s feet, which Lilly, like the others, expands to include the earth itself – estates, land, ground, and property (immoveable goods) for sale – and by extension things hidden in the ground or placed upon terra firma, from treasure troves to cities and castles (CA 52-53).

Interestingly, Lilly gives lost object questions to the 4th house (CA 202 ff.), in spite of preferring Lord 2 as the significator of the “thing hid or mislaid”. The 2nd shows the what. But it is of the essence of 4th to describe the where (i.e., the quality of the environment), which is after all the really critical information in these matters.

Another subset of 4th house topics has to do with endings of all kinds. This particular symbolism probably arose from a number of associations – the underworld as the conclusion of the Sun’s diurnal journey; the knowledge that “thou art dust and to dust shalt thou return”; and perhaps even the Aristotelian principle that all moving things seek their rest in falling toward the earth. For Dorotheus and Manilius, this means that the 4th house is old age and the end of life. Likewise Lilly. So, the 4th house can signify the room belonging to the oldest person in the house (CA 203); and in missing person questions, it can argue death (CA 257, 404), though irrespective of the age of the quesited. For Lilly, the “endings” proper to the 4th include, more generally, the conclusion of any matter.[2] Here he follows Dariot (“end of all things”) and Dorotheus (“outcomes”), seeking in the 4th what he calls “the determination or end of anything” (CA 52): the success of a business transaction (CA 209), the verdict in a civil suit (CA 249), the resolution of disease (CA 282).

Lilly also gives medical, color and other rulerships (i.e., breast, lungs; red; Cancer and Sun co-significators). A feminine house.

5th House:

Lilly, like the other authors, associates the 5th house with essentially fortunate matters and carries on the ancient conception found in Manilius and especially Firmicus, who calls it Bona Fortuna. It is almost universally understood to be the house of children, Manilius being an exception. This was a particularly important topic for Lilly’s horary, in an age without recourse to pregnancy screening, prenatal healthcare and paternity tests. His rules for judging such questions run for a tight thirteen pages (CA 222-235), a very substantial discussion by comparison to most other topics in Christian Astrology.

The 5th is also the house of “pleasure, delight and merriment” and all places of refreshment and recreation (CA 53). While it rules the delights of lovemaking, it does not signify the lover – whether casual or long-term –, for whom Lilly always uses the 7th house. Deborah Houlding makes a strong case that these associations are deduced from the fact that the 5th is the Joy of Venus (CA 53, Dariot = “House of Venus”) and not the other way around, given the antiquity of the joys. This partly explains the 5th’s connection with children and pregnancy, inasmuch as Venus excites the passions that lead to conception. It is interesting to note that Manilius relates Venus to the 10th house, and as a consequence gives none of these rulerships.

According to Lilly (also Dariot, al-Biruni et al.), the 5th house also rules messengers, agents and ambassadors. Perhaps this is because the 5th is in good aspect to both the Ascendant and Descendant (= trine and sextile respectively). It is, in a sense, favorably positioned to provide an intermediary between the 1st (querent) and the 7th (the others). Lilly’s guidelines for judging these matters (CA 235-238), as elsewhere, reveal his concern that horary be made particularly useful in matters of state.

The father’s wealth and family legacies also belong to the 5th (CA 53). This is a traditional association (see al-Biruni, Book §462) based on derived houses, the 5th being the 2nd from the 4th. However, the principles for judging questions about inheritance are taken from the 2nd.

Lilly again provides the medical, color and other rulerships (i.e., stomach, liver, sides, back; black & white, honey; Leo and Venus co-significators). A masculine house.

6th House:

The 6th house is one of the three malefic places in the chart, including also the 8th and the 12th. These houses are alike in that they have no aspectual relationship to the Ascendant. They are therefore considered inimical to life – places void of life and therefore readily hijacked by life’s enemies. In ancient astrology, the 6th and the 12th were seen as mirror images of one another. Manilius calls them both the Portal of Toil, the main difference between them being that in the 12th “one is doomed to climb, in the [6th] to fall” (Astronomica II.865). But because it is cadent to the 1st house and therefore immediately touches the place of life, the 12th is far worse than the 6th.

This might explain in part why illness is linked to the 6th – “sickness, its quality and cause” (CA 53). Bodily infirmities are bad, but spiritual ones are much more to be feared. So, Firmicus gives it the name Mala Fortuna (Bad Fortune) in contrast to the Malus Daemon (Bad Spirit) of the 12th. Correspondingly, the 6th is the Joy or House of Mars (Lilly, Firmicus), the Lesser Malefic. It should be pointed out, though, that Mars is not always unfortunate in the 6th. If essentially strong, it can signify a surgeon – a bloody occupation but one equipped to remedy the distresses of the 6th.

Lilly’s treatment of the 6th house matter of sickness is the longest single section of Christian Astrology, longer even than what he has to say about stray cattle and theft. Unquestionably, this is an objectively weighty subject meriting lengthy consideration. It might also be an expression of Lilly’s growing interest in medicine, which would later become his main source of income. He surely knew how useful astrology could be in diagnosis and prescription. This is particularly evident in his horary for “a sick Doctor” (CA, c. 45), which tacitly commends astrology to the medical community.

The 6th’s connection to toil (again, Manilius) accounts for the other associations in Lilly. Any matter that involves labor performed on behalf of the querent/native belongs here. In antiquity, this mainly meant slaves (> Dorotheus), but for Lilly “day-labourers, tenants, farmers, shepherds”, etc. (CA 53).   Lilly has little to say about 6th house questions pertaining to servants (CA c. 48, p. 296). He gives only one topic – “If a servant shall get free from his Master?”. Curiously, the 6th house is not mentioned even once in this section. The servant, being the querent, is given the Ascendant, as in any other query. I see Lilly’s egalitarianism in this. A servant is no more essentially yoked to the 6th than a king is to the 10th. All have equal standing before the Heavens. But when it is a question of a master seeking a fugitive servant (CA c. 61, p. 390), then the significator is found from the 6th.

The basis of the 6th’s connection with small animals and “lesser Cattle” (CA 53) is uncertain. It might be that small cattle were the main beasts of burden – hence of the 6th –, and so larger cattle were placed in the 12th by way of reflection across the axis. Or perhaps large cattle and beasts were seen as fearsome and difficult to tame, like the passions – think of the twin horses of the Phaedrus – and therefore akin to the nature of the 12th. In which case, lesser cattle were given to the 6th as a diminutive reflection of the 12th. Lilly lived in London, “where we have few or no small Cattle,” so his only example chart of this kind concerns a missing dog (CA. c. 62, p. 392), at the end of the chapters on 7th house questions.

Here are the medical, color and other rulerships: intestinal tract; black; Virgo and Mercury co-significators). A feminine house.

7th House:

For the earliest astrologers, the meanings of the 7th house arise principally from its connection to the west (“occident”: Firmicus, Ptolemy), the place of the setting Sun and the end of the day (dysis: Firmicus). Lilly likewise specifically names the 7th house the “Angle of the West”. Yet, whilst he has of course inherited a full set of 7th house topics, their original basis in the logic of the ancient solar symbolism has been somewhat obscured.

Manilius tells us that the 7th is concerned with projects brought to completion (“consummation of affairs”) – for it “puts the stars to rest after traversing heaven” – and with things enjoyed when the day’s toil is over (“banquets”, “leisure and social intercourse”, see Astronomica 2.836-40). By extension, it naturally enough came to be be linked with loss of vitality and death. Thus it is the “Portal of Pluto” which “keeps control over the end of life and death’s firm bolted door. Here dies the very light of day, which the ground beneath steals away from the world and locks up captive in the dungeon of night” (2.955).

For Manilius, interestingly, this invites more positive, cultic associations. Because the 7th “buries” the Sun and surrenders its power to the underworld, it can be understood to hold the priestly office of sacrifice. Thus it becomes the celestial temple uniquely consecrated to the “worship of the gods” (2.839-40), assuring the world-ordering stability of the solar cycle. This is why Manilius can reasonably place in the 7th house not only religious matters but also “good faith and constancy of heart”, topics which Lilly – following a different train of thought – merges into 9th and 11th house affairs respectively.

A 7th house topic that illustrates the gap between the classical frame of reference and that of Lilly is marriage. For the later tradition represented by Lilly, marriage is the primary meaning of the 7th (CA 54). We see this particularly in Dariot, who gives it the name “Marriage or Wife”. Death has withdrawn almost completely to the 8th.

By contrast, as we observed above, Manilius makes the 7th to be principally about (1) sacrifice and divine worship and (2) the end of the day, and (3) the “consummation of things” – a topic that Lilly’s astrology moves to the 4th (“end of the matter”), which also participates in questions about death. All other 7th house topics, including marriage, are particular instances of these three foundational themes. Specifically, the rite of marriage in Graeco-Roman society began at the end of the day, so that hearth-fire could be transferred from the bride’s home to the groom’s by night (ignis communicatio). At the climax of the ceremony, the bride and groom would together offer an animal sacrifice to seek the favor of the gods. And the marriage would be concluded with the act of physical consummation by dark in the wedding chamber.

The symbolic scheme of Manilius social and religious through and through. We, by contrast, are used to conceiving of the 7th primarily as “the other”, by way of symbolic abstraction from its opposition to the 1st. This is true also for Lilly’s astrology, where the 7th house is associated with binary relationships of all kinds. These may be the constructive, “us-and-them” ones – the marriage partner (CA 54, 302-319), the other party in a sale (CA 376-379), the doctor, the astrologer sitting on the other side of the consultation desk – or the antagonistic, “us-versus-them” ones, as with thieves (CA 331-366), fugitives (CA 319-331), or enemies in court or at war (CA 366-376; 383-385). Given how big a role marriage plays in the organization of society, not to mention in affairs of the heart, it is no wonder that it would come to be taken as the chief expression of 7th house matters.

Here are the medical, color and other rulerships: waist and sides; dark black; Libra and the Moon co-significators. It is probably through the convergence of marriage and the Moon’s co-signification here that the 7th also came specifically to represent women. Even so, it is a masculine house.

8th House:

For Lilly, as for the whole tradition as far back as we go, the foundational meaning of the 8th house is death – the name given to it by Dorotheus, Firmicus and Dariot. As with the 6th and the 12th houses, its malefic nature arises from its lack of aspectual contact with the Ascendant. Because it is averse the Ascendant, it attracts and harbors the enemies of life.

The 8th house’s specific determination to death rather than other kinds of misfortune seems to be linked to its proximity to the 7th, the house archetypically linked to the sun’s passage into the realm of the dead. Firmicus writes that the 8th is called Epicatafora, that is, the place of “casting down towards (the Underworld)”. While the 9th house might be the place where we begin to decline from the peak of life, the 8th gives us the momentum that hurls us to our demise.

It makes sense, then, that the 8th would also signify “fear and anguish of Mind” (CA 54) or, as Dariot says, labors, sadness and heaviness. It encompasses all those times when we anticipate the loss of what we cling to or feel the sword of Damocles hanging overhead: “the same Fear is true, and certain that there is cause for it, or that great labour and grief shall molest him” (CA 414). Each is a little death, giving us a foretaste of the big one that we really dread.

The other keynotes of the 8th are based on its relationship to the 7th, as the 2nd house of the native’s 7th house relations. Lilly is particularly interested in this dimension of the 8th, since so many questions he dealt with from day to day involved “other people’s money”: the “portion of the wife” (CA 412-413), the resources of the lender (CA 173) or the adversary. Lilly also merges the themes of death and “other people’s money” by emphasizing the 8th’s rulership over “the Estate of Men deceased” (CA 54).

The other useful associations of the 8th are: green and black; the sexual organs; its co-significators are Scorpio and Saturn. A feminine house.

9th House:

Given how pagan and monotheistic theologies have elevated power above the other divine attributes, one might be surprised that astrology gives the 9th house, not the 10th, to God. Our earliest sources call the 9th place the House of God (e.g., Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, III.10) and associate it with the solar deity, by whose action the whole cosmos is held in order. Hence the 9th is also known as the Joy of the Sun, the sovereign of heaven. The 9th house, says Manilius, is where “Phoebus nourishes [the planets] with his splendour” so that “they decree what ill or hap our bodies take beneath his rays” (Astronomica 2.905-909).

Chris Brennan makes a complex – and I think persuasive – argument that the connections between the 9th, the Sun and God arose from interweaving considerations based on sect and gender, elevation, aspect and finally solar theology. Manilius’ position, though obliquely articulated, is simpler: in the 9th, the Sun is configured in a commanding position over the 6th and 12th houses and the malefics who joy in them – “the two powers of chance and godhead affecting this region of uncertainty on either side” (2.903-905).[3] The 9th is therefore the house of Providence, or power exercised with wisdom, justice and mercy – attributes that distinguish divine power from the arbitrary human kind.[4]

The more this-worldly meanings of the 9th are rooted in the transcendental one. It is the house of religion or the priesthood, as well as dreams and visions, by which the gods send us messages. It also takes on a connection with teaching and education, as these are meant to broaden our horizons and finally lead us to the highest learning, which in hieratic cultures is always knowledge of the scriptures. The most quotidian meanings for the 9th – voyages and long journeys (Firmicus, Dariot, Lilly) – continue the theme, inasmuch as long journeys and foreign lands are a cipher for the wayfaring state of life, which is meant to lead the soul to its final destination in God. So the 9th also rules pilgrimage.

The first topic that Lilly gives in his own list of house associations for the 9th is “voyages or long journeys beyond seas” (CA 55), and he devotes the first eight pages of chapter 74 (CA 422 ff.) to it.[5] It would be hasty to conclude from this that day to day concerns have been promoted over religious ones. In fact, horaries relating to journeys have been moved to the chapters dealing with the 1st (see CA 431). Every illustrative horary in the chapters on 9th house questions has to do with loftier matters (even when the query itself is petty): what do these terrible dreams mean? will the (money-grubbing) parson get his benefice? can the alchemist make the Philosopher’s Stone? The horary “Will the Presbytery stand?” verges on the prophetic and, in its inspiration, probably takes us as close to the spirit of the 9th as any question in Christian Astrology.

Its colors are green and white. In the body it rules the hips and things. Sagittarius and Jupiter co-signify this house. It is masculine.

10th House:

The 10th house – the Midheaven – attracts most of its associations from the intensity, height and visibility of the Sun at zenith. Manilius calls it the arx caeli, the “stronghold of the sky”, where the heavens pour out glory, honors, distinction and worldly success. Accordingly, we refer to the 10th house matters that pertain to reputation or public and professional standing. But it also includes all kinds of work, no matter how humble, whereby people make their mark on the world.[6] So it makes perfect sense that under the umbrella of 10th house questions, Lilly considers not only “preferment” for someone high-born (CA 444ff; 456) but also “magistery or trade” of country people (CA 450).

For Lilly, as for the tradition historically, the 10th house also signifies anyone who holds authority: “it personateth Kings, Princes, Dukes, Earles, Judges, prime Officers, Commanders in chief” (CA 55). This symbolism arises from the fact that the Midheaven is where the Sun is strongest and, furthermore, where the universe is evenly divided between east and west and held in perfect balance by divine sovereignty (Astronomica, 2.920-921). This is why judges, who weigh right and wrong on the scales of justice, are 10th house persons; likewise kings and the nobility who are – or ought to be – justice personified.

Since Lilly placed himself in the thick of the Civil War, some of his most important horaries have to do with the king, princes, and other 10th house persons of rank. The objective association of such persons with the 10th does not vary with according to circumstances. The Prince Rupert question (CA 452ff) makes the point well. In Lilly’s judgment, the querent is a Parliamentarian and gets the Ascendant. And while Prince Rupert is the enemy, he is not given to the 7th: “in regard Prince Rupert is a noble Man, or person of eminency, he is signified by the 10th house and the Lord thereof” (CA 453).[7] Yet 10th house persons need not be preeminent. Sometimes they are simply whoever is in charge, as in the mother’s query “if her Son were with his Master, or at her own House” (CA 153), where Lord 10 (the Sun!) signifies the master of trade.

Lilly, like Dariot, follows Ptolemy and the ancients in giving mothers to the 10th. In a general way, parents belong to the 4th – the “house” with its “name”, i.e., the family tree. When it is necessary to differentiate mother and father, the tradition assigns the father, as name-giver, to the 4th and so the mother as his spouse to the house opposite.

The other useful associations of the 8th are: red and white; the knees and thighs; its co-significators are Capricorn and Mars. A feminine house.

11th House:

Everybody likes the 11th house. The astrologers considered in this discussion know it variously as Happy Fortune (Manilius), Good Fortune (Dorotheus), the Good Daemon (Ptolemy, Firmicus), and Good Spirit (Dariot). While Lilly does not use this older pagan nomenclature – due again, probably, to his theological frame of reference –, he nevertheless treats the 11th as a place of reliable good fortune. So, for example, if the significator of a missing person is found in the 11th, it is an argument that he is alive not dead (CA 151). A ship lost at sea will reach safe harbor with its significator in the 11th. Good fortune indeed.

The 11th house’s special felicity is based on a number of intersecting factors. It is favorably configured to the Ascendant by sextile; this sextile is actually stronger than the 5th’s trine of the Ascendant because it belongs to the diurnal hemisphere. Being the house that succeeds to the 10th, it belongs uniquely to the greater benefic Jupiter, who is diurnal, masculine, and the ruler of the fire triplicity by night. Finally, because it is a house that rises to better things – “surges ever higher” (Astronomica 2.882-4) – its very nature is yearning, ambitious and triumphant. According to Manilius, it is “not to be outdone by its neighbor (the Midheaven)” (Astronomica 2.881-2) – which is really an extraordinary statement, since one tends to think of the Ascendant or the Midheaven as the best places in the chart.[8] For Manilius, though, the Midheaven is a precarious place. There is no place to go but down. In the 11th, though, everything is looking up.

With all this in mind, the other primary meanings of the 11th make perfect sense. The hoped-for thing belongs here because this is the place of aspirations. Similarly, the 11th rules friends, who give us a leg up in the world.[9] Lilly’s chapters on the 11th house are concerned with these two themes (CA 457-459). He gives cursory guidance for deciding if the querent will get what he is hoping for in a general way,[10] or specifically a dignity or honor from a person of rank (the 11th being the 2nd of the 10th – “the gift of the king”.[11] Finally, as we would expect, are the horary rules concerning friendships, which are to be evaluated in much the same manner as other kinds of interpersonal relationships. Lilly provides no examples of 11th house charts.

The co-significators of the 11th are the Sun and Aquarius. Other useful meanings: the ankles; the color yellow. It is the Joy of Jupiter. A masculine house.

12th House:

The basis of the 12th house’s association with gravely unfortunate matters is rather more fully explained in the older texts than in Christian Astrology, which is concerned foremost with craft, not theory. Since the 12th is cadent – “falling away” – from the Ascendant, it is where the soul first tastes the bitterness of the Fall (so it is, as Manilius says, the “Portal of Toil”) and meets its mortal enemies, the world, the flesh and the devil (thus both Firmicus and Ptolemy name it “Bad Spirit”). Ptolemy proposes a related basis for the 12th’s assimilation of so much misfortune:

[it is] called the house of Evil Daemon, because it injures the emanation from the stars in it to the Earth and is also declining, and the thick, misty exhalations from the moistures of the Earth creates such turbidity and, as it were, obscurity, that the stars do not appear in either their true colours or magnitudes. (Tetrabiblos, III.10)

By analogy, then, the 12th house is a kind of metaphysical swampland where miasms percolate up from the underworld, obscuring the soul’s path into life. Still, the reason for its especial maleficence is essentially the same for Ptolemy as for the other ancient authorities: cadency, aversion, and adjacency to the Ascendant. And, indeed, Lilly alludes to his acceptance of this point of view: “[the 12th is] vulgarly sometimes called Cataphora, as all Cadent Houses may be. This is the true Character of the severall Houses, according to the Ptolomeian Doctrine, and the experience my self have had for some yeers…” (CA 56).

The 12th is universally said to be the house of Saturn’s joy. Lilly thinks this is because Saturn, being the Greater Malefic, naturally gravitates to a place where he can leave the most wreckage: “Saturn doth joy in that House, For naturally Saturn is Author of mischief” (CA 56). But Saturn was probably originally linked with the 12th for different reasons, viz., to create an orderly arrangement of the planets around the angles where their fundamental natures can be best expressed. That this process led to Saturn’s association with a house so very congruent with its essential nature is one of many arguments that the tradition in astrology was not so much constructed as it was discovered.

Throughout Christian Astrology, the 12th house and its ruler are used mainly as negative modifiers of other house concerns. So, for instance, in questions concerning relocation, the ruler of the 12th afflicting Lord 1 or the Moon augurs evil, backbiting neighbors. If Fortuna is placed in the 12th, it argues financial losses there (CA 212). Examples could multiplied many times over.

The section on the 12th house is also very amply illustrated with four worked examples, which cannot be said of Lilly’s survey of other important houses.[12] These horaries deal specifically with one of the major 12th house matters: large animals (“A horse lost or stolen neer Henley…”), witchcraft (“If Bewitched”), and imprisonment (“A Prisoner escaped out of Prison…” & “A Lady of her Husband imprisoned…”). That two of these questions are iterations of topics belonging in a more general way to the 7th (horse lost = lost animal; prisoner escaped = fugitive) reinforces at least one important lesson in technique: when it is possible to be specific with your significator, do so. But of course there is more to it than that. These horaries represent a cross-section of what must have been an enormous swathe of major client anxieties. The topics are not exactly quotidian – prisoners and witches–, but an adequate astrology must have instruments for taking the measure of even the most unusual matters.[13]

Any busy horary astrologer can tell you, furthermore, that unusual questions of a 12th house nature are by no means rare. In the modern western consultation they often – though by no means – take on a different coloration from what we find in Lilly – imprisonment in vicious circumstances, addiction, victimization, gaslighting, mental illness and even psychic attack.[14] Yet the underlying concern is the same as in Lilly’s day or in the time of Firmicus, Manilius and Ptolemy: darkness, confusion, malice, self-harm, captivity. The 12th is a seething cauldron of nastiness. It is no wonder that witches were thought to flock to it.[15]

Pisces and Venus are co-significators of this house. In medical questions, it rules the feet. Its color is green. A feminine house.

[1] Nevertheless, the 2nd and the 11th have in common that they are ascending succedent houses and are therefore upwardly mobile by nature.

[2] “End of the matter” is a signification widely abused by horary astrologers. It should not be treated as a generic placeholder for the way things “pan out”. If that were true, it could be used to resolve every question whatsoever, which would obviate the need to investigate other forms of perfection and denial. That is obviously absurd.

[3] Although Manilius gives Venus to the 10th, due to her association with marriage as a social covenant, his cosmological reasoning better supports the ordinary arrangement of the Joys. With the Sun joying in the 9th, he assigns the malefics to the 6th & 12th via the square, the benefics to the 5th and 11th through the trine and the sextile, the Moon to the 3rd by opposition, and Mercury to the 1st through the trine. Each planetary joy is related to the Sun (and the Moon) by an aspect that, in a fairly consistent way, harmonizes with the nature of the planet and the house.

[4] For myself, I wonder if the Sun’s rejoicing in the 9th might also suggest a perspective on the human spiritual journey: that the soul (the inner Sun) is not most fully realized when at its peak (10th) but instead when material accomplishments are relinquished, the inevitability of death embraced, and liberation sought. As in the transition in Vedic culture from householder to renunciate.

[5] His discussion in this section is particularly useful because it illustrates in a small space how quite distinct orders of signification – i.e., from the 9th house proper; from the angles; from the Moon – can be brought together harmoniously in judgment. It also holds some clues to predicting the weather (CA 423 – What wind you shall have).

[6] We should note that Manilius makes “enterprises and profession” a 1st House matter, reserving the 10th for honors and advancement. This is really a matter of emphasis, not an anomaly. Lilly also wants us to consider the Ascendant and Lord 1 in vocational questions. This does make sense, since the querent’s temperament, aptitudes and manner have a great deal to say about what kind of work suits them. On the other hand, for Firmicus Maternus, the 10th is so entirely determinative for the native that it even takes over some duties of the 1st house, ruling the native’s life and vital spirits. Either way, the tradition underscores the close cooperation between the 1st and the 10th – the life and the fruition of the life in its actions.

[7] Yet reges subjacent legibus Stellarum. “To the student in astrology”, CA, xxxi.

[8] Yet, much as the distinction between essential and accidental dignity teaches us, there is a great difference between what is strong and what is good.

[9] The modern idea that the 11th represents “groups” has obviously gotten things by the wrong end of the stick.

[10] I suppose there are situations when this sort of way into the chart would make sense, for example, should a querent not wish to be specific. Otherwise, judgment should follow the rules pertaining to the matter. It is possible, after all, to frame almost any question as an 11th house concern. But that is as foolish as deciding every outcome through the 4th house. Or deciding the truth of any message by appeal to the 3rd.

[11] A question of technique: would a promotion at work be a 10th or 11th house matter? Or if someone is being considered for a job at Buckingham Palace: 10th or 11th? These are both, in different ways, gifts of the king (11th), as well as matters of career advancement (10th).

[12] His chapters on 5th house matters, for instance, conclude with only two example horaries.

[13] Lilly includes in his discussion a long recipe – some of the ingredients being urine and thatch! – for using sympathetic magic against witchcraft. The astrologer, who uses occult means to expose occult enemies, should also know how to apply occult remedies to avert occult harm. It is an interesting mirror image of Lilly’s intense concern for medicine in his 6th house chapters. He could be forthcoming about medicine, but much less so about magic – and one comes away with the impression that he had a lot more to say.

[14] No one has ever asked me about horses.

[15] No offense to my witchy friends is intended. What Lilly (or Shakespeare) would have meant by “witch” is continents away from the positive natural magic practiced by many today. That being said, the kind of witchcraft that Lilly would have recognized is inarguably afoot in the world today.

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: