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.
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.
Could we recognize an embryo of this approach in Valens’ Anthology?
I do not set anything into stone here, just throwing some thoughts for reconsideration. 😉