There is a long lasting debate whether Hellenistic astrologers used Whole Sign house system in horoscopic delineations or they used divisions too. Most of the scholars nowadays agree that Hellenistic astrologers most likely used WS house system for topical delineations and they applied divisions, or dynamic house system for strength of a planet delineation or some other specific techniques like length of life delineation.

The Perso-Arabian astrologers who inherited the vast Hellenistic astrology tradition were also, most probably, not in consensus regarding this issue. Masha’allah most likely used WS for topics and Abu Ma’shar and Umar al-Ratabi used divisions. I use the words “most likely” since there is no consensus among today’s authorities, nor hard facts which would lead us to either direction to conclude regarding any particular author of the tradition (of the Late Antiquity) that he used WS or divisions. The examples they give are sparse and even though some very good pointers in them lead us to conclude that they used WS for topics, as we will see from this example from Valens, we no longer can be sure if this was really the case.

The argument which I will try to make with this example of Valens is also not 100% assertive for any kind of conclusions, but I really want to leave space and open mind for interpretation of the kind I am offering here. We all have our favorite house systems and even presumptions regarding this, which I don’t think would ever lead to any astrological convention and consensus regarding the problem. There will always be disagreements and quotations from different authors which would fill the gap of continuity in the system we follow. It is good to have this in mind before entering the explanation of Valens’ example.

In book V Valens continue the explanation of the Profections (transmissions) he began in Book IV. In book III he already gave his explanation of the divisions, something which we today call “Porphyry house division“. Many astrologers today agree that what Valens applied in that chapter is division of strength of planets and not of topics.

To make this exploration clearer I will add a brief explanation of what is the topical vs dynamic approach. The scholars and astrologers today who apply WS as topical approach, say that planet in 4th Sign, but in 3rd house division, will bear the significations, the topics of 4th house (parents, home, inheritance, heredity, etc) but the strength of the planet is weaker since it falls into the 3rd house division [falling from an angle]. Namely, that planet would bear the topics of 4th house, but because of its falling from an angle, the loudness of her significations in life would not be so straightforward as if the planet would have been in 4th division as well.
The second type of astrologers say that no matter if a planet is in 4th sign, if that planet is in 3rd division, that’s it, it will bear the topics and significations of 3rd house (siblings, neighbors, journeys, etc).
The third type of astrologers would mix both approaches. They would say that this planet has significations and topics, both: that of the 4th house of parents, home, etc; and that of 3rd house, that is, that of journeys, siblings, etc.

These are the 3 main groups regarding the house system approach.

The first type of astrologers make the arguments that in the beginnings of horoscopic astrology, the house system that was used was WS, and that the adding of divisions as topic significations is an aberration of the true horoscopic astrology practiced in the beginnings of this Art.

The third type of astrologers do not agree with this, they say that the divisional approach is not an aberration of the original doctrine but evolution and quite a good one, of the WS system, which is workable, logical and there is no err in using it as such.

The second group are most often modern astrologers. I haven’t seen traditional astrologer using such approach, without taking into account the placement by sign. This is why I neglect further discussing that approach in this post.
[Edit: I must admit that I have seen some very good astrologers who are using more of a medieval-Renaissance astrology in their practice, using this second approach with pretty good results].

Now, the question arises ‘are we sure that Hellenistic Astrologers did not use divisions for topic delienation?’.

As I said, I do not aim to answer this question here, since it is above my current familiarization of the subject; but I want to point out some sections in Valens which would make us re-consider our attitudes toward the subject, I hope.

In chapter 2 of Book III “The Significant Degrees of the Angles“, Valens gives, as I said, what we today know as the Porphyry house system of divisions. Valens says that he takes this from the book of certain Orion. He wants us to calculate the distance from AC to IC and divide that distance into 3 equal parts. The stars in the first division, from AC toward IC, would be powerful and operative (chrematistikhos), the second division will be average in operation, and the third division will be non-operative and also the stars there would be weak, wicked, base, bad (φαῦλον). The same goes for the divisions from the other angles.

It is clear that Valens here speaks about dynamic interpretation of a planet in certain division, since he speaks of strength.

But then in the end of the chapter Valens says:

It is necessary to calculate likewise from MC, and to consider the first third of the distance between angles as operative, the second third, following MC, as of average influence (thus it was called Good Daimon by the ancients), and the last third, up to the Ascendant, as afflicting and inoperative. The Places in opposition to these will have the same force. Orion expounded all this in his book. [Riley p.91]

We see here that Valens applies the name “Good Spirit” to the division also. This is a weak argument in regard of using the divisions as topics, but leaves open room for speculations.

Having said this, lets now move on to the book V.

In chapter 9. “The Reason Why The Same Results Do Not Happen at 12 Year Interval” Valens gives, what is most likely, his own birth chart and says how some things were not explainable by the method of transmission of planets through the places without considering the axis of IC-MC and its falling into 11-5 or 3-9 places for example.

Our situation is as complex: we must attend to our studies and come to the art of forecasting as if we were traveling by many roads. For many thousands of events happen to men, events which cannot be grasped through the use of one method or star, but through the use of many. Knowing that twelve Places are indicative for each nativity and that very many configurations can be derived from these Places and from the nature of the stars, we must observe the position of the angles and the interchange of the Places. Often two Places fall together in one sign, or a presumed angle really just preceeds the <true> angle. This also occurs with the events indicated by the Ascendant.

Valens here says that when, for example, the MC angle does not fall at the Peak Place (10th sign by counting), but in let’s say 9th sign, then the transmission of the stars (profections) should follow that route.

An example: Gemini in the Ascendant, MC in Aquarius when calculated by degree. This X Place includes the Places relevant to action, to rank, and to children. It also includes the Places of Foreign Lands and of the God, since it is found (when calculated by sign) in the IX Place from the Ascendant, and the transmission operative from places 4 and 5 signs apart acts from it to the Ascendant, while the transmission operative from places 9 and 10 signs apart acts from the Ascendant to it. In the same way the sign in opposition to Aquarius (Leo, which is IC) includes the Places relevant to buildings, estates, and parents, and the Places of the Goddess, brothers, and strangers; the transmission from places 3 and 4 signs apart acts from the Ascendant to it, while the transmission from places 10 and 11 signs apart acts from it to the Ascendant. Let the same calculation be made for the other signs, particularly for those of long rising time, because in those signs, MC would be sextile <to the Ascendant>. In short, if we calculate the Places and the distances between stars by degree <not just by sign>, we will not go astray.


In this example Valens asks us to calculate the MC by degree. As we can see the MC falls in 9th sign and not in 10th which would be the Peak Point, or the 10th sign counting from ascendant. Now, Valens says to us that this MC in 9th sign would have BOTH significations: that of action, rank and children (10th) and that of foreign travels, God etc (9th). The transmissions (profections) from Asc to 9th sign and to the MC would bear BOTH significations, since in the first case we count by signs, and in the second case, we count by divisions! Try to count 9 by sign, starting from Asc being the first. You will come to 9th sign where MC falls. Now try to count 10 by counting not through signs, but through the divisions, you will again stop at 9th sign but 10th angle.
Now, I know that Valens applies this only for the angles and not for the other divisions, but, what if the commingling of the significations is also applicable for the other places? We see in the photo above that through Porphyry kind of divisions 5th division falls into the 4th sign, could we commingle both significations for that case? Valens advises us that we would not go astray if we calcualte the places by the degree! What if a planet is in 28°Virgo where 5th division falls? Can we apply it as having significations of BOTH topics of 4th and topics of 5th? Valens says to us that he was forced to apply the MC-9th (or MC – 11th) significations of commingling, since when doing transmissions he saw that some results are wrong, do not give the proper significations applied to them by the ordinary transmission. We will see in the next example he gives of his own horoscope, where he says that the person from the chart (most probably, himself) in that year when the transmissions reached the peak point, he went to foreign country, and this is most explainable if the transmissions are done not to the peak place but to the MC which falls into the 9th sign.

Since we are already here, let us move on to that example.


An example: Mars, Ascendant in Virgo, moon in Scorpio at IC, MC in Taurus. It is necessary to investigate the 34th year. 34 divided by 12 gives 2, with a remainder of 10. The transmission can go from the moon to Mars, since they are both at angles, and from the Ascendant and Mars to Taurus (i.e. to MC). During this period the client worked abroad, was a friend of great men, was in mortal danger because of a woman, and suffered cuts and bleeding. Other transmissions were operative at this time, but they did not reveal the <particular> crisis.

We do know that Moon is at Scorpio, but we do not know exactly at what degree.
So for the sake of the example let us put it anywhere. The point Valens makes here is that he says that BOTH Mars and Moon are at angle. Now, Mars is in 1st sign and 1st division.
But the Moon is in 3rd sign and IC falls here. Now if we make the transmissions with the reminder of 10 and count it by sign, we would not arrive at Mars’s sign, but in the sign preceding Virgo, that is Leo. But, if we count by divisions, we would come from an angle to an angle, that is, from IC to AC where Mars falls. In the same manner, if we count 10 signs from Virgo and Mars we would not come to 9th sign and MC, but to the Peak Place at Gemini. But Valens says that this is not explainable, instead, using the transmission counting by divisions, would come to the 9th sign where MC falls. The “mortal danger because of woman” is most probably delineation of the transmission between Moon and Mars. “Worked abroad” for Mars, Ascendant-9th-10th transmission”, etc.
We have many questions opened here. I know that many would argue that what Valens meant here is applicable only for the angles and not for the intermediate divisions. I just want to point out the “why not” factor.
I was told by students of Zoller’s Diploma Course of Medieval Astrology that he used profecting by houses instead of signs, and that he was highly criticized for this usage, as not being “According to the tradition”.
Could we recognize an embryo of this approach in Valens’ Anthology?
The arguments for this are, as I said, not so strong, and the interpretation of these passages can go either way, but if we do not re-question often time our attitudes we hold toward the tradition of our Art, we could get stuck into the place of obduracy, inveteracy.
I do not set anything into stone here, just throwing some thoughts for reconsideration. 😉

10 thoughts on “Valens and Division of Places

  1. This article is of particular interest to me because there is something that doesn’t quite resonate in the process of observing topos in WS and then looking for planetary strength using divisonal or quadrant houses.

    First of all, we don’t make this demand of any other system and the Indian astrologers still use WS, as far as I know without using a second system to complete the picture. Also, using other house systems pesents us with a more immediate dillemmna. They will in most cases give us different esults. There is short study of this on my blog.

    For example, in Porphyy we might have an angular Mars and Regio it may be cadeent. That’s a very big difference. Do you see any reasonwhy WS couldn’t be used on its own? After all, we still have dozens of ways to determine the strengths of planets and luminaries.

  2. Hi Ile.,

    First of all I notice my main post is still waiting moderation, so I’m assuming you didn’t have a chance to read. it. ,

    For Nativities I use WS and quadrant. However, I increasingly feel that adding the latter may be redundant. I’m more and more inclined to use WS exclusively at this point in time. We have so many ways of judging planetary strength. Since the use of a a few quadrant system gives us different results, depending on which one you choose, this method is seems redundant. Also bear in mind that Indian / Vedic astrologers use WS to this days with high degrees of accuracy

    1. Hi Peter,

      I apologize, I was online through my phone so I didn’t catch your first post, just the second one with the link.
      I am familiarized with Vedic astrology concepts, but not thoroughly. I think there are some Vedic astrologers who would apply those principles in quadrant systems but there are others who are strongly against using it and incorporating it, that is , mixing it with Vedic astrology principles. To my knowledge, the second ones are more in number today, than the first ones, and they have some very good arguments about it. But as I said, I am familiarized with the whole problem in Vedic astrology only superficially.

      I tried to incorporate the WS system for a brief period of time, but was not, honestly, convinced of its superiority over the type of approach I am using; and that is, applying both, the WS and Quadrant system, for significations of topics. So yes, at current time I am of those third type of astrologers I’ve mentioned in my post. This approach was, as far as my knowledge goes, firstly incorporated by Robert Zoller (from the modern-traditional astrologers) and then followed by Steven E. Birhfield, both astrologers who had and have strongest influence into shaping my astrological practice.

      So in this approach, planet in 8th sign and 7th division is influencing both topics, and bears significations for death, other people’s money (8th) and open conflicts and enemies, women, etc (7th). I know that some argue that this approach is a “messy one”; but as in many things, once you are using it on a daily and continual basis, it becomes second nature. It is the same with incorporating the Lots, the more you are using them, you see their workability, even though in first place they seem ‘messy’ too.

      The problem that different quadrant systems give different results, the problem you have raised in your article is very serious and logical one, and needs further examination on theoretical-speculative basis, and on practical as well.

      Nowadays many people apply “what works” approach with which I personally have problems, because, “what works” approach is also applied by modern astrologers who have departed by the initial construction of principles in our Art, and if their principles “works” then we, presumably, can’t say anything against it. This is funny, and I agree with Robert Schmidt’s theory he developed on the subject that in first place, our horoscopic Art, was a theoretical construction which was on great deal based on familiarization of that person (who invented it) with ancient mystery tradition and Greek philosophy as well. So, the point those who use strictly Hellenistic astrology is that by reviving those principles, we would come to the only true astrology, which had its own philosophical, theoretical basis on whom the later authors and practitioners rely.

      From here, numerous problems arise into which I don’t want to enter in this comment. The main path that splits into two directions is that one group of astrologers (mostly those following Hellenistic astrology principles) think that the Arabian and later astrology, especially those using quadrant system for topics, get into aberration of the initial principles. So, it is not a matter of “what works”, but that the principles they use, are an aberration of the initial ones, and that is not the same pure tradition anymore.
      The second direction is that those who use Medieval astrology do not think that medieval astrology is an aberration of the initial principles, but a kind of Evolution – and a good one – of the Prima Astrologia, to put a title of this kind. Now the first type of astrologers, those who follow Prima Astrologia, have a very good argument against this: “If there exist evolution of principles, then modern astrology and psychology astrology is applicable and astrology with merit too. Because, they too have made an evolution upon the initial principles” [though I would not say that they follow any reliable principles or that they build on something reliable].

      I intentionally made this digression here to point out that there is disagreement on the theoretical basis too, not only on practical. This is why in my post I said that I hardly believe that there would exist astrological consensus regarding this subject. There are some pretty good astrologers using both systems. Take on one side astrologers who use WS like Robert Schmidt, Ben Dykes, Chris Brennan [to name a few], and on the other side Robert Zoller, Steven Birchfield, David Hernandez [to name, again, only few]. They are all excellent astrologers, and they belong to, mainly, two separate groups regarding house systems.

      I want to point out here again, although I made an “edit” above in my post, that I know some Italian astrologers like Margherita Fiorello, Mario Costantino, and other from Cielo e Terra school who use quadrant systems exclusively (let they forgive me if I am wrong) and they are also, very good astrologers with good practical baggage in their astrological life. They mainly follow the Italian Renaissance [the Ptolemy-Placidus if I am right?) school and I have high regard for those astrologers, of whom, I am highly impressed by Cardan, Gaurico, Ristori – all who lived in the same (16th) century. I think that they used quadrant houses exclusively, though as far as I was able to get from their writings (mostly in Italian and Latin), there are places which points out to me that they would still regard the WS placement of a certain planet, in comparation with quadrant systems.

      Complex subject, and I think that with the reviving of the astrological material from the past, we would be faced with the need to reconsider many of our today attitudes, and we would either become more clear about certain subjects or even more confused 🙂

      Thank you for taking time to comment on this blog and keep your beautiful posts, I am now going to read your post about Ibn Arabi. I think he is so important for understanding the mystical background of many of the principles in our Art!


  3. I’d like to thank you for this blog and in particular this thoughtful article. You are one of three or four blogs on my blog role. It’s true that we can’t use “well it works for me” as singular justification, but it would be at least as bad not to admit that something didn’t work

  4. When Rob Hand asked the group at the first Project Hindsight conference if anyone had tested Whole Sign Houses in their modern Western astrological practice, I was the only one who raised his hand. (Rob himself had not done much testing at that point). It was very apparent to me at the time that while Whole Sign Houses might apply if one is approaching a chart using Hellenistic principles, Whole Sign Houses did not work well at all in modern Western astrology.

    Shortly after that conference, I began my journey into Vedic astrology, and discovered that Whole Sign Houses work splendidly using the Sidereal Zodiac (Lahiri Ayanamsha). I wonder if the reason that planetary placement via Whole Sign Houses (in modern Western astrology) fails to be as accurate is because of the Zodiac employed. In Hellenistic times, the difference between Tropical and Sidereal placements was, of course, much less.

    1. Greetings,

      >>Shortly after that conference, I began my journey into Vedic astrology, and discovered that Whole Sign Houses work splendidly using the Sidereal Zodiac (Lahiri Ayanamsha). I wonder if the reason that planetary placement via Whole Sign Houses (in modern Western astrology) fails to be as accurate is because of the Zodiac employed<<

      This is very interesting remark and provokes thoughts for contemplation and investigation in that direction.
      Thank you for taking time to read and comment on this blog.


  5. I tried to use Whole Sign house system few years ago, and found it much cleaner. The reason for this was that I felt that house cusps for non-angular houses simply did not work reliably for any prediction technique. I found non-angular house cusps useless. Also, different quadrant house systems give different house cusps coordinates, which is unsettling.

    And thirdly, after I learned that in some “quadrant” house systems coordinates of non-angular houses were calculated based on Earth SURFACE, while coordinates of the the angles were based on Earth CENTER, the whole idea of using this “quadrant” mess seemed not serious at all.

    I found whole-sign houses more “informative” about the native. I want to say though, that I am not a “professional” astrologer, it’s just my “lifetime hobby”. I have no time to practice it (so far), so I’m only doing charts for friends and see how they “fit”.

    The whole “New Age” astrology is a disappointment, with fantasies presented as “teachings”. Medieval is OK, I like Lilly, but in many cases you don’t know the reason for particular interpretation, and there’s a lot of contradictory logic in examples.
    Just recently I “stumbled upon” articles on Hellenistic astrology, and found it fascinating. And I am very, very pleased with whole-sign approach!

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