Soldiers of Fate

The Three Moirai (Fates), Triumph of Death.

It is without doubt that many of Valens’ passages in Anthology contain Stoic elements in it. This requires special study since Valens in no place states that “Yeah, I am a Stoic”. However, one who is acquainted even a bit with the Stoic sages from those early ages can notice that some of Valens’ advices on how to except life’s hardships and how to be a brave soldier of the fortune, have Stoic reminiscences in them.

Marcus Aurelius lived in 2nd century AD, in the same age Valens lived. Marcus Aurelius is born 121 AD and died 180 AD, very close to the supposed date of birth and death of Valens (120 AD – c 175 AD).

Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations are probably most popular (even today!) Stoic read. What I find similar to the approach of exercising ‘happy life’ in Meditations is the teaching of the three topoi (fields of study) which were highly thought by Epictetus [55 – 135 AD] to his followers. This was standard Stoic practice which I will describe shortly in what follows; but what is interesting to me in investigating Stoicism of this period is the excitement of somehow ‘catching the spirit’ of times. You know, hardly that we today have a real Stoic who was thought by a real Stoic and this one was thought by a real Stoic. What I mean by ‘real Stoic’ is a Stoic who is a part of the chain of teacher-student lineage, something which we have in Hindu tradition and their religious traditions. As a language like Latin or Ancient Greek, this Stoic practice is a ‘dead practice’ that needs revival. I mean, we do not have succession of teacher-student, we do not have lineage of Stoics that survived till today, if I am correct. Now, as in revival of ancient language, revival of ancient astrology, here lie some barriers in revival of the practice of these ancient sages through the books and fragments we have from them.

This is always a hard task. I know this from my studies of Orthodox Christianity in my late teens, when I was involved in reading many Orthodox Christian books about how to live moral and blessed life, BUT until I met my first teacher who was also Orthodox priest, I was never able to get into the spirit of the teachings of the Orthodox sages. When I met my teacher, his presence and spiritual power, illuminated me like no book I have ever read. This is the same with Stoicism, I have never met a Stoic, if not a Stoic from a Stoic ‘lineage’, at least, a Stoic who spent his life in practicing this art of living. However, since I met with great Orthodox teachers and spiritual men in my life, I can get a bit from the spirit of these sages, because the Orthodox spiritual practice, bears some similarities with the practice of the Stoics, even though in its core is very much different, because of the cosmic philosophy, eschatology, etc.

To get back to the three topoi. The three topoi in the Stoic teachings are:

1. Desires (orexis) and aversions (ekkliseis).
2. Impulses to act (hormas) and not to act (aphormas).
3. Value-Judgment (sunkatathesis).
[John Sellars, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Marcus Aurelius entry]

This was the practical philosophy of Epictetus and his famous always repeated ‘things that are in our own power and things that are not in our own power’. The thing is that we as human beings have impressions (phantasia), the whole difference in practicing philosophy and how to live a blessed happy life (eudaimonia) is how do we value-judge those impressions. If I see a man is drinking wine, the impression is that he drinks a wine, the value-judgment [sunkatathesis] would probably be that he will get drunk and that he is immoral, which is of course bad value-judgment because how do I know from only seeing the appearance, what is there, maybe he drinks something else that looks like wine?!

Epictetus, and hence Marcus Aurelius, teaches us that we need to work on our value-judgments and correct interpretation of our impressions. If we receive bad value-judgment temptation upon some impression, we could easily decide by our own inner power to correct this value-judgment and say ‘I do not want to value this impression in this manner, I will value it such and such’.

Impulses to act (hormas) are also in our own power, although the outcome of our actions is not in our own power. The archer can strive to hit the target, to do his best, but he can’t control the wind and other outer circumstances to achieve his goal. Here lies the analogy as to the things that are in our own power and those things that are not in our own power. ‘I know that I can control the outer circumstances’, someone would say, ‘I can reach my hand and grab that stone’. Yeah, but the Nature already put the stone there for you to grab it. The point is that we do not have total control and we have only limited amount of power, some more some less. We should then, not lament on the things that are above our control since the Nature or the Cosmos of which we are part as everything around us, has ordained the things as they are meant to be in perfect order for those who can see this order without the value-judgment of our habitual thinking.

The exercise of the desires is the knowledge that the desires for outer circumstances which are above our own control and power, are unpredictable and can bring us despair and lament. The true desire is the desire for inner excellence, for virtue (aretē), striving for wisdom and happy inner life, free from value-judgments and wishful thinking for ‘creating’ our lives in their external form. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing bad in this, there is wrong in the totality of expectation that whatever we strive for, whatever we wish for the outer world, will come true. Taming the desires for the contrary of what is already predestined by this Cosmic Creature, and having the desire for inner excellence and living virtuous life, is what is needed for the sage to be.

This is very practical philosophy and working with it on a daily basis, brings inner strength of the character (prohairesis), moral betterment and facing the challenges of life more easily. As a consequence, life becomes more fulfilled and happy (eudaimonia) This is indeed very helpful for those of you who think that great deal of our lives are predestined and that Astrology as an art, is capable of revealing at least part of that destiny.

Valens speaking on the crisis-producing places in book V [Riley] says:

“Some are fated to have unwanted experiences and to be unable to act as they desire. Some seem to be under the power of others; even though they are free, they are punished by a bad conscience. Some travel abroad or sail, and are held somewhere on an island or in deserted places, or they do service in temples or sacred places. Occasionally they are confined by recurrent diseases or by epilepsy, fits, spells, blindness, the ague, and syndromes such as these.”

Exactly these are the things that are fated and outside of our power; things that are fated: our outer circumstances and bodily accidents like illnesses, things that ‘happen to us’. No matter how much we strive with the ‘power of our intention’ to achieve something, the fact is that things in our life ‘do happen’ and it is not that we only ‘make things to happen’.

“Accordingly then, the initiates of this art, those wishing to have knowledge of the future, will be helped because they will not be burdened with vain hopes, will not expend grievous midnight toil, will not vainly love the impossible, nor in a like manner will they be carried away by their eagerness to attain what they may expect because of some momentary good fortune. A suddenly appearing good often grieves men as if it were an evil; a suddenly appearing evil causes the greatest misery to those who have not trained their minds in advance.”

How the initiates of this art [astrology] will be helped? By knowing that sometimes benefic planets in ruling the times, bring only an appearance of good after which some misfortune follows. This is life, the soldier of fortune would know all this and will never be disturbed by the appearance of bad nor overly excited by the appearance of good. This is the exercise of the three topoi offered by Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius.

The training of the mind in advance, and actually the whole passage from Valens above is one of the things which relate him to the Stoic practical philosophy of life. We can see here how Valens was trained Stoic or at least, bears practical philosophy very similar to that of the Stoics I explained above.

I will finish this exposition here with one of my favorite quotes from Valens:

“Fate has decreed for each person the immutable working out of events, reinforcing this decree with many opportunities for good or bad consequences. Through the use of these opportunities, two self begotten gods, Hope and Fortune, the assistants of Fate, control man’s life and make it possible for him to bear Fate’s decrees by using their compulsion and deception. One of the two <Fortune> manifests herself to everyone through the forecasted outcome, proving herself to be good and kind at one time, at another time dark and grim. Fortune raises some high only to cast them down, and degrades others only to raise them to glory. The other of the two <Hope> is neither dark nor bright; she moves everywhere in disguise and in secret, smiling on everyone like a flatterer, and she displays many attractive prospects which cannot be attained. She controls men by deceiving them: these men, even though they were wronged and were enslaved to their desires, still are attracted to her again, and full of Hope, believe that their wishes will be fulfilled. They believe her—only to get what they do not expect. If Hope ever does offer solid prospects to anyone, she immediately abandons him and goes on to others. She seems to be close to everyone, but she stays with no one.” [Riley p. 102]

Just a final remark. I do not claim that Valens was a Stoic. I do want to point however, that some of his passages bear Stoic elements, even though this does not make him a Stoic per se. The times in which Valens lived, were times of philosophical eclecticism and different mystery cults, borrowing elements from different philosophical schools and commingling of religious-philosophical influences of different traditions.

Critodemus on Violent Death

There exists a fragment compiled in CCAG (catalogus codicum astrologorum graecorum) from the pre-Valens astrologer by name Critodemus who Valens quotes in his Anthology. The fragment is on violent deaths and which factors in the chart are causers of violent death. The chapter also contains the principles for examination of the manner of death.

Here I will make a list of these pointers, using the original Greek text found in CCAG 8, 4 and Schmidt’s translation of the chapter named “General Figures of Violent Death” found in the book-compilation: ‘The astrological record of the early sages in Greek’. After giving the list, I will give an example of violent death.

  1. Calculate the Lot of Destroyer (Asc + Moon – Lord of Ascendant reverse by night)
  2. When Moon sees the Lot of Destroyer, causes violent deaths.
  3. It is worse if the Moon is in sign with limbs cut-off.
    [this is a controversial topic as to which of the signs are with limbs cut-off? This is obviously related to the constalletional images of the corresponding signs, but the list varies from author to author. Schoener lists Aries, Taurus, Leo and Pisces, of which Leo appears to be without the limbs cut off. So, I suggest to skip this one, but just have it in mind for your own edification].
  4. When the Lord of the prenatal lunation is in aversion to the sign of the prenatal lunation, AND it is contemplated [regarded] by malefics.
  5. When the prenatal lunation is regarded only by malefics.
  6. The first triplicity lord of IC  or the 4th whole-sign house, is in bad house and is regarded by malefics without intervention of Jupiter and Venus.
  7. Find the Lot of Death (Asc + 8th Whole Sign – Moon by day and night without reversing).
  8. Examine the planets regarding the Lot. If only malefic/s regards it, it causes violent deaths.
  9. Moon enclosed in a sign with Saturn and Mars, causes violent deaths.
  10. Mercury when distant 24° from the Sun, causes violent death, Venus does this when distant 28° from the Sun.
  11. Examine the 3rd, 7th and 40th day of the Moon. When 40th day of the Moon should be found with malefics, causes violent death.
  12. Look at the Nodes. When Ascending Node is in the 8th Place, with Mars, Saturn and Mercury regarding it, causes violent death. In such cases, either native’s head is cut off, or they are impaled. If Sun testifies, these nativities are wounded in the eyes or the feet.
  13. Descending Node in 8th Place with Jupiter, Venus and Mars there, causes violent deaths, those whose head is cut off.
  14. Lord of Lot of Fortune and Lord of 8th are opposite each other, they cause violent death.
  15. Mercury opposing the Whole Moon and contemplated by malefics causes violent death.
  16. Moon in 4th in sign of Mars, without benefic planets regarding, causes violent deaths.

Manner and Places of death

–          Look at the bound (term) lord of the 7th whole sign. If it is malefic and under the Sun’s beams, it causes death by guile and treachery.

–          And if it is out of Sun’s beams, signifies those who are put to death openly.

–          If this bound lord is malefic and stationing or ascending, it destroys with injuries, drugs and wounds.

–          If this bound lord is in signs of human shape, and contemplated by malefics, it causes death from men.

–          If in watery signs, from water.

–          If in signs of animal shape, from animals or heights.

–          Saturn ruling the 8th house and witnessing it and benefics do not intervene, death by water. And if Saturn is in watery sign, in rivers or seas, but if in earth-like sign, on mountain or desert.

–          Sun as Lord of 8th house and in someone else’s sign, while Sun and 8th being afflicted, gives death from heights.

–          Mars ruling the 8th house (read whole sign, or Place) and the 8th house afflicted, gives death by robbers, beasts or enemies. But if Mars is witnessed by the Sun, gives death from crucifixion by the people or multitude, or kings or decapitation or making them to fight with animals.

–          Venus as Lord of 8th and she and 8th place afflicted without Jupiter intervening, gives death from women or too mooch vine.

–          Mercury as Lord of 8th place and it and 8th afflicted, gives death from slaves or writings.

–          Jupiter as Lord of 8th and afflicted alongside the 8th, gives death by kings and leaders.

–          Lord of 8th not looking at the place (in aversion) and in someone else’s sign, gives death in foreign land. And if it looks at that place and is in its own place, trigon or exaltation, these things will happen in his own fatherland.

–          Benefics only contemplating the 8th Place, without Mars and Saturn, they cause pleasant death.


I will now give an example of how to use these rules. I will examine the natal chart of Sharon Tate.

The procedure of examining natal chart with a set of rules, is that one of collecting testimonies for y/n. The more testimonies in one direction, more assurance will give for the definitive judgment of the astrologer.

Let’s start with examining the rules.


1. First calculate the Lot of Destroyer with the algorithm given above. Sharon’s Lot of Destroyer is found on Ascendant.

2. Moon sees the Lot of Destroyer which in this case happens to rule. Even though she rules the Lot, we will follow the rules given even though I am not sure if in this case Moon would indicate this [violent death]. (y)

3. Moon is not in the signs with limbs cut-off on the list above. (n)

4. Prenatal lunation is Full Moon in 0° Cancer. Moon is not in aversion, but it is contemplated by malefics. (y/n/)

5. Prenatal lunation (in the natal chart?) is not regarded only by malefics. Jupiter is here. (n)

6. First triplicity lord of 4th is Venus in bad place (8th) and without contemplation of Jupiter – the other benefic.  (y)

7. Find the Lot of Death using the 8th sign instead of the cusp of 8th house division. Sharon’s Lot of Death is in Sagittarius.

8. Only malefics are regarding the Lot. Mars is with the Lot and Saturn is regarding it from opposition. Remember that the Pivots (angular signs) from some place are most energetic. Jupiter is in aversion and Venus is too weak to help. (big Y)

9. Moon is not enclosed in a sign with the Malefics on both sides, but she is kind of enclosed tetragonally by the two malefics, Saturn is in superior square and Mars in inferior square. Saturn is Lord of 8th, so Lord of Death is in superior square to the Lord of Life (Moon ruling ascendant). (Y)

10. Mercury is not 24° distant from the Sun and Venus is not 28° distant from the Sun. (N)

11. Approximation in calculating the 3rd, 7th and 40th day of the Moon is the following. On the 3rd day, Moon is in the sign next to that in which she falls in natal. On the 7th day she is in the sign in square to the one in the birth chart. On the 40th day she is in opposition to the sign in which she is found in natal chart.
On the 7th day, Moon being found in Sagittarius, is hurt by natal Mars and Saturn, and by Saturn in that chart of the 7th day. Mars already ingresses in the next sign.
On the 40th day, Moon being in Pisces, is in square to Saturn and Mars in natal, and in square to transiting Saturn, Moon is being combusted under the Sun’s beams. (Y)

12/13 Descending Node is in 8th Place with Venus, Sun and Mercury, contemplated by Mars and Saturn (Y).

14. Lord of Lot of Fortune and Lot of 8th is one = Saturn. (N)

15. Mercury does not oppose Whole Moon. (N)

16. Moon is not in the 4th sign. (N)

We have several big ‘Yes’ here, and bear in mind that some indications are more powerful then the others, so the likelihood that she would die violent death is rising in percentage. Critodemus doesn’t mentions here, but in the chapter in Anthology, where Valens examines violent deaths, chapter which is based on some of these rules, he continuously notices Moon in 8th sign from Fortune in nativities who died with violent death. Sharon has Moon in 8th from Fortune.

Examining the manner of death, we would notice that the bound lord of the 7th place is Mercury, found in the 8th place of death, under the Sun’s beams and in a sign of a human shape (Aquarius). This gives indication that the native would die violent death caused by men, which was the case, she died by the knife of the Manson’s women.
Critodemus says that the native would die due to treachery or guile if the bound lord is placed under the Sun’s beams. Guile and Treachery are natural significations of Mercury, and in a way she died because of a guile of Mercurial type. I mean, the guile of fate, to put it in this way. Namely, Manson’s family didn’t go in that house to kill Sharon Tate, they didn’t know which celebrity is receding in that house, their aim was about to kill a celebrity, no matter who that celebrity would be. The house was often rented by celebrities, and in this period of time it happened to be rented by Sharon and her husband – the famous Roman Polanski who was traveling in this time, while Sharon was in the house with her friends. This was pretty much of an ill fate for Sharon and she was at the wrong place at a wrong time. The death indicated by the bound lord of 7th Place being under the beams of the Sun, would probably give indications of the ‘secret’ death in her home. That is, the death was not public, was not on the city square or something.

As you can see, these rules given by the ancient sages are relevant and used by skillful astrologer can give indications for the type of death of the person whose chart is under examination.

Disclaimer: One should not predict death if one doesn’t know what is doing here. The time of death, and the manner of death should be predicted if only the person who is interested in doing this for their own chart, is knowing the consequences of such an analysis and is fully capable of receiving the answer which the astrologer would provide. Astrologer should always bare in mind that while Astrology is a true Art, astrologer can err and such an err can cause a despair in someone’s life. So, be careful whenever you are analyzing the time and manner of death in prediction. While exercising the techniques of a person who is already dead, in hindsight is not probably as harmful, predicting death publicly for a person be it unknown or someone who is celebrity, is a sign of a lack of wisdom.

Sun and Consciousness – short philosophical exploration

Nowadays throughout the Astrology world we  can hear how Sun is referred to as the Consciousness. Is this true from traditional astrology perspective, from the ancient doctrines and is this how the ancients looked at the Sun and its associations? I think that the truth is not far  away, and I will explain this in a minute.

The English term ‘consciousness’ comes from the Latin ‘conscientia’ which in itself involves the verb ‘scire’ (to know), with preposition ‘cum’ (together with). Latin scientia is used to translate Greek ‘suneidésis’ which is equivalent of our consciousness, awareness, etc. As a philosophical term, ‘consciousness’ was introduced by Ralf Cudworth, in his True Intellectual System of the Universe (1678). However, the term suneidésis was used by several different philosophical schools in Ancient Greece and different philosophers in different context and with different meaning. Stoics used it in the context of -self-awareness, or perception of ones body, something which every living being posses, like animals who are self-aware of their own bodies, and not in a sense we are using the term ‘consciousness’ today, instead, more like ‘awareness’ – having a mental perception of the things inside your body. Now, the term ‘awareness’ has broader meaning, for example, being aware of what is going on around you, not only inside you. Other philosophers seems to have used this term in a sense that a human being is aware of the sensations inside the body, be they of a physical nature, be they of a psychological nature. So, the word suneidésis can be more accurately translated like self-awareness, at least in philosophical terms.

The word consciousness is very much pregnant in today’s New Age thought and hence New Age astrology. It is filled with very much poorly understood Hindu philosophy and hence many of those modern astrologers who use it doesn’t even know what it actually means. I will explain this further in my elaboration here. For now, let’s stick with Ancient Greece.

At the very beginning of Anthology, Vettius Valens gives description of the 7 planets, and starts with the Sun: ‘the light of the mind (intellectual light), the organ of mental perception of the soul’ (φῶς νοερόν, ψυχικῆς αἰσθήσεως ὄργανον [fōs noeron, psuchikēs, aistheseōs organon). Noun αἴσθησις (aisthēsis) means ‘self-perception, sensation, senses, means of observing, impressions of sense, visible things, etc’. The verbal form of this noun is ‘aisthomai’, with meaning ‘I perceive’. So, Sun is the organ of perception of the Soul. This is very much similar to the notion of self-awareness or consciousness as it is used today but not in all terms. Now we should go to the Hindu philosophy to see what is their take on ‘consciousness’ and what do they mean by that term.

Sanskrit word for consciousness is ‘Chith‘. Chith is not an active process like feeling or perceiving actively, it is more like passive observation. When we sleep we are not aware of the outer world but when we are awake we are aware of the world around us. Hindu philosophy teaches that there is illusion or maya and what sages do is actually going beyond this conditioning of all the people and they ‘evolve their consciousness’, it is not that it is ‘their’ consciousness, but more like taking more space of the consciousness itself which exist separately and of which every human being is part, but due to the illusion or maya, is not able to perceive. It is a complex subject and different Hindu schools posses different particulars on this teaching, but for us it is only desirable for now to know the overall notions and their application in Hindu astrology.

The great Hindu astrology classic Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra says:

 सूर्य नत्वा ग्रहपतिं जगदुत्पत्तिकारणम्‌।‌।वक्ष्यामि वेदनयनं यथा ब्रह्ममुखाच्छ्रुतम्‌॥ ६॥

6. And having bowed to Surya (Sun), the Lord of the grahas [planets] and the source of creation, I shall now describe the eye of the Vedas (Jyotish) as heard from the mouth of Brahma. [translated by Joel Lumiere].

Sun is greatest of all planets, the principle planet, the Paramatma (the Supreme Soul), in every particular chart it is Atmakaraka or Significator of the Soul.

Parashara again says: ” The lord of the sky (Sun) is all atma.”
Atma is soul or consciousness. Moon is Mind and as Moon is borrowing the light of the Sun, in that way the Mind is borrowing the light of the Soul or the consciousness itself from the ocean of the All Consciousness (Paramatma).

As we can see from this short elaboration, Sun it is consciousness, the organ of mental perception, the intellectual light and the means of the awareness of the soul, in both systems, the particulars and philosophy behind is different though. However, the importance of the Sun in any horoscope is not to be underestimate, we should pay due attention to the examination of the Sun and its associations in the chart with other points and planets.

Life and Work of Abu Ma’shar

The Persian astrologer Abu Ma’shar  (787-886 AD) had a profound effect on Western astrology and the modern-day student of the Western Predictive Tradition will be well rewarded by close study of his works and their influence.1

With these words Robert Zoller begins his treatise dedicated on the life and work of the wonderful astrologer by name Abu Ma’shar.

In my study of traditional astrology so far, there are few astrologers who were able to take my attention for a closer study and Abu Ma’shar is one of them. His astrology is very insightful, concrete and rational. Once you try to incorporate it in your astrological practice tools, it is hard to forget about it, jut because it is so natural and fluent.

This will be the first of the series I’m planning to write on Abu Ma’shar’s approach to astrology.
In this article I will try to give a broader scope of his life and works, his influences and influences on him, and in the later series I will give practical examples of his delineation style and approach.

His Life

The full name of Abu Ma’shar is Abu Ma’shar Ja’far ben Muhammad al-Balkhi, was born 10th of august in year 787 in town Balkh, an ancient city on the territory of today’s Afghanistan. Today it is a small city in the province of Bakhl, which is one of the 34 provinces in Afghanistan. But once it was a great city in the then famous Khorasan. Marco Polo says that Balkh was “noble and great city”. Khorasan was a name of territories during the caliphate in 750 AD. It was part of Persia, and bordered with Hind (Sind, which was culturally connected mostly to India [Hindustan]) on north-east. Hence the influence in Abu Ma’shar’s mundane (and natal) works from the Hindu’s Siddhantas in which the entire system of Hindu’s chronology was preserved. Abu Ma’shar used this chronology in his mundane calculations,  but I will speak more on this in the future series.


Abu Ma’shar entered into the world of Astrology in his late years (around 47). He was at first criticizer of the subject but his teacher – the great polymath Al Kindi –  told him that a wise man should not criticize any subject before studying it.
It was this decisive moment when Abu Ma’shar decided to study Astrology and become his life since.

One of his students wrote about his master depicts him as an “omniscient wise men”.

There is an interesting anecdote written in the medieval treatise “Albumasar in Sadan”:

“Abu Ma’shar said that when a native’s 2nd house is impeded at birth and its ruler also unfortunate, the native never prospers. When asked why he never mentioned this in his writings, he said: “The sage who writes down all he knows is like an empty vessel. Nobody needs him and his reputation declines. He should keep some secrets to himself and communicate them only to his closest friends.”2

Abu Ma’shar died on 9 March 886 in Wasit, Iraq.


Abu Mashar’s works

  1. The Greater Introduction to Astrology (as I’m aware, no full translation of this work is made in English)
  2. The Flores Astrologicae (translated in English by Benjamin Dykes)
  3. On the Great Conjunctions and on the revolutions of the world (translated in English by Keiji Yamamoto and Charles Burnett)
  4. On the Revolutions of Nativities (translated in English by Benjamin Dykes as the third of the  series of Persian Nativities).
  5. Thousands (translated in English by David Pingree)
  6. The Abbreviation of the Introduction to Astrology (there exist two translations, one made by Burnett,Yamamoto and Yano, and the newer made by Benjamin Dykes compiled together with Al-Qabisi)

Abu Ma’shar’s works served for a greater part of the Guido Bonatti’s monumental work Liber Astronomiae. He often quotes him using his Latinized name Albumasar.

In 1489 at Augsburg, Erhard Ratdolt published three of his works, the Greater Introduction to Astronomy in eight books, the Flowers and 8 books concerning great conjunctions and revolutions of the years.
John of Spain and Hermann of Dalmatia translated the Introduction and the French translation of Hagins the Jew made in 1273 (from which Peter of Abano translate portions for his compilation): “Le livre des revolutions desiecle”.

Another work cited by Peter of Abano and other medieval authors is “Albumasar in Sadan”, also called “Excerpts from the Secrets of Albumasar”. The famous orientalist and biographer Moritz Steinschneider is of opinion that the Latin translation of this work is a shortened or incomplete version of an Arabic original entitled al-Mudsakaret, or Memorabilia by Abu Sa’id Schadsan (corrupted into ‘Sadan’) who wrote down the answers of his teacher to his question. (Lynn Thorndike p.651).

There is also a work called Mysteries, in Greek “Musteria”, also preserved in Byzantine versions of Shadhan’s Mudhakarat and of Abu Ma’shar’s Kitab al-madkhai al-kabir.
Giuseppe Bezza has Italian translation of fragments of this work preserved in the Angelicus Graecus 29. The translation into English by Daria Dudziak can be found here:


(Albumazar: woodcut from his ‘Introductorium in Astronomiam’, Venice, 1506.)

Indian influence on Abu Ma’shar

The Art historian Aby Warbug gave a lecture dating in year 1922 on a congress in Rome on the study he had made on the eerie frescoes in the Palazzo Schifanoja of Ferrare.
In that lecture he claims that the key to ‘read’ these images is astrology!

Abu Ma’shar was mentioned in this work of Amy Warburg as a “principle authority of medieval astrology”, whose work “Introductorium majus” (The Great Introduction) served to the compilation of Peter of Abano by name “Astrolabium magnum”.
In the lecture Amy Warburg is tracing the chronology of migration of the Sphaera Barbarica, and states that it was Abu Ma’shar’s work which is deserving praises for surviving of the decanic images which later on served to the mentioned compilation of Peter of Abano.

Amy suggests that the Sphaera was traveling from Asia Minor by way of Egypt to India, and found its way to Persia through the work of Abu Ma’shar (Great introduction).
This text was then translated by a Spanish Jew by name Ibn Ezra (supposedly John of Spain?). Then, his translation was translated into French by a person named Hagins, a Jewish Scholar, and Amy suggests that this French translation served as a basis for the Latin translation made by Peter of Abano in 1293.

In investigating the source of the decanic images, Amy is of opinion that Abu Ma’shar had an ‘unacknowledged’ Hindu source. This is the sixth century Indian author by name Varahamihira “whose Brihat jataka was Abu Ma’shar’s unacknowledged source”:

“The first Drekkana of sign Aries is a man with a white cloth tied around his loins, black, facing a person as if able to protect him, of a fearful appearance and of red eyes and holding an ax in his hand. This Drekkana is of the shape of a man and is armed. Mars (Bhauma) is its llord”.

Abu Ma’shar (Boll, Sphaera 497) writes:

“ The Indians say that in this decan a black man arises with red eyes, a man of powerful stature, courage, and greatness of mind; he wears a voluminous white garment, tied around his midriff with a cord; he is wrathful, stands erect, guards, and observes”.
(German Essays on Art History, Amy Warburg: Italian Art and International Astrology in the Palazzo Schifanoia Ferrara, Continuum International Publishing Group, Jun 1, 1988 edited by Gert Schiff p.242)


(Decans of Aries from Astrolabium Magnum)

Lynn Thorndike in his “A history of magic and experimental science” says that although he was the most celebrated astrologer of 9th century Bagdad astrologers, he was also accused for plagiarism (p.649).
Some things never change?!

David Pingree, in his article published in Viator Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Volume 1, by name “The Indean and Pseudo-Indian Passages in Greek and Latin Astronomical and Astrological texts” compares texts in Abu Ma’shar’s “On Solar Revolutions” in the section dedicated to the Novenaria with that of the Hindu “Navamsas” as explained in III.9 of this book. I here refer to the translation by Benjamin Dykes in his series of Persian Nativities, but Pingree discusses the Arabian original by name “Kitab ahkam tahawil sini al-mawalid”.
Abu Ma’shar in that particular chapter tells us that in determining the ruler of the year, the Indian astrologers used the lord of the first navamsa in the sign in which the revolution of the years of the nativity has reached.

Pingree says: “Abu Ma’shar frequently in his other works in Arabic refers to Indian theories of one sort or another, but little of this material was translated into either Greek or Latin”. (p.173)

Pingree argues that Abu Ma’shar was one of the most important transmitters of a knowledge of Indian astrology among the Arabs. His pupil Shadhan says that his teacher had some direct contact with India.

Abu Ma’shar was highly influential in the years to come after his death.
He influenced as we said, Bonatti’s monumental work Liber Astronomiae, but he also influenced Morin even though Morin was probably not aware of the fact that he is reading and quoting an Arabian astrologer.
In quoting him in his Astrologia Gallica nr.23 dedicated to the Solar Revolutions, Morin thinks that he quotes some person by name (or pseudo-name) “Hermes the Philosopher”. At this moment I’m not sure whether Morin knew who the author was but decided not to quote the name due to his despise of Arabs (political reasons), or he truly didn’t knew about the fact that he is quoting the famous Abu Ma’shar.
Morin’s delineation style of the Solar Revolutions depends a lot on this treatise of Abu Mashar.
We saw also how Abu Ma’shar’s works was important for the persevering the ancient decanic images, which he probably took from Indians through some corrupted version of the original Greek or Babylonian sources. He has tremendous importance for the preservation of the knowledge of mundane astrology practiced in Perso-Arabian times, and has great value for us today.
It is important to note though that Abu Ma’shar preserved the ancient tradition of Hellenistic Astrology migrated through the Sassanian sources. Abu Ma’shar got his basics in astrology from Valens:

And when Abu Ma’shār transferred to the Great Introduction the elements (of astrology) from al-Bizīdhaj (The Anthology), he mentioned that the Persians called the first type which is equipollent (lit. corresponding in strength) potent, and the type which is corresponding in ascension he called corresponding in course, and he left the third type as it is. And when Abū Muḫammad al-Saifī has mentioned it and called the first type equipollent and he called it also corresponding in course. And he judged Abu Ma’shār (adversely) for calling the second type the ones corresponding in course, and he ascribed it to ignorance of the heavens. And in spite of his (Abu Ma’shār’s) telling the truth, he (Abū Muḫammad) still degrades Abu Ma’shār, and he does not give him his due esteem. For after all Abu Ma’shār does not deserve all this attribution of ignorance, even though he erred in his nomenclature here and followed partially the author of al-Bizīdhaj. (Valens)

This is documented in Al Biruni’s On Transits; but this can be observed as correct by knowing the similar approach to certain techniques Abu Ma’shar had with that of Valens. For example, taking into consideration the planet present into the sign in which the annual profections (or Solar Return Ascendant) came as a Lord of the Year, instead of the Ruler of the Sign. There exist other similarities of which I will talk in the next series dedicated on Abu Ma’shar.
If we trace this thread of influences, we can draw an interesting line between Valens, Abu Ma’shar and Morinus, who even though didn’t incorporated the “non-natural” segments of the astrological tools (such as the lots for example, which are numerical fractions and not real astronomical phenomena) into his Astrology, it is obvious that the approach in delineating is very similar.
I hope I was able to spark your curiosity for this very important astrologer, and your impatience to read some of my further articles on this subjects 🙂

1.Robert Zoller – Abu Ma’shar: Prince of Astrologers, p.4.
2.Thanks to Steven E. Birchfield for pointing me out this and the quote from Al-Biruni [later in the text].


– Robert Zoller – Abu Ma’shar: Prince of Astrologers (A New Library Publication, electronic edition 2002)
– German Essays on Art History, Amy Warburg: Italian Art and International Astrology in the Palazzo Schifanoia FerraraContinuum International Publishing Group, Jun 1, 1988 edited by Gert Schiff.
– Lynn Thorndike – “A history of magic and experimental science”. (Volume II, Columbia University Press,1923).
– David Pingree – “The Indean and Pseudo-Indian Passages in Greek and Latin Astronomical and Astrological texts”, published in Viator Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Volume 1.
– Abu Mashar – “On Solar Revolutions”, translated by Benjamin N. Dykes PhD, Persian Nativities III (The Cazimi Press 2010)
– Al-Bīrūnī on Transits – A study of an Arabic Treatise entitled Tamhīd al-mustaqarr li-taḫqīq ma´nā al-mamar (5:10-19 p6.), By Abū l-Rayḫān al-Bīrūnī Translated by Mohammad Saffouri & Adnan Ifram With commentary by Edward S. Kennedy, Institute for the History of Arabic-Islamic Science, At the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University Frankfurt am Main, Islamic Mathematics and Astronomy Volume 33 ©1998

© Beyond The Heaven, Oct. 2012


Decennials – Ancient Timing Technique

I have discovered, tested, and put to use the following distribution, which had been discarded casually,
even blindly, because the explanation of it had been puzzling. I append it now so that lovers of beauty may
make their nature divine, travelling through many paths to one power of forecasting. They may expect to
meet in one place after travelling many straight, as well as many rough, roads.
(Vettius Valens – Abthologies, Book VI, Riley trans., p.117)

I have found this technique used at several places and these places (according to my current position of material I’ve read) are:
– Vettius Valens – book VI of Anthology.
– Hephaistio of Thebes – Apothelesmatics, Book II, Chapter 29.
– Firmicus Maternis – Mathesis, Chapter 33.
– The now famous analysis of the chart of the Italian nobleman Alfonso D’este from an unknown Italian astrologer from 16th century.

Some say that the medieval title of this technique as “Decennials” is a misleading and wrong, but I’ve found it “handy” for use in lack of a better name. Decennial means “recurring in ten years”, which is not the precise timing because the technique uses a period of 10 years and 9 months and not 10 exact!

What is the logic behind the 10.9 division?
The sum of the lesser years of the planets is 129 years total. The sum of 10 years and 9 months is 129 months. It is like a microscopic mirror of the cycle of the lesser years of the planets.

The first planet in the cycle starts from the beginning of life till 10 years and 9 months.
Here is a simple table:
1. From 0 years, o months to 10 years, 9 months.
2. From 10 years, 9 months, to 21 years, 6 months.
3. From 21,6 to 32,3.
4. From 32,3 to 43.
5. From 43 to 53, 9.
6. From 53,9 to 64,6.
7. From 64,6 to 75,3

Some of the ancient Egyptians, having already added together the periods of the 7 stars, which extend to 10 years and 9 months, beginning from the primary light of the sect, divided (this number) among the stars successively in zodiacal order, giving to each planet its own period; and furthermore also making a proportionate subdivision of each period into shorter times, they likewise gave them to each of the planets in order, (starting) from the time-lord”
(Hephaistio of thebes – Apothelesmatics, Book II, Schmidt trans., p.83)

Places Conducive to Business

However, the problem arises in choosing from which light to start the chronocratorship. All sources seems to agree that we should start from the light of the sect, but if it is “declining and unconnected to the Horoskopos” Hephaistio advises us to use the other light, and if this is also in bad shape, then Valens advises us to use the first planet (in good shape?) after the Horoskopos in zodiacal order.

Here we must apply the doctrine of the busy and non-busy places (operative and non-operative).
The places conducive to business, or in Greek “Chrematisticos” (which means “profit) are places where the planet is said to have operative strength. “Achrematisticos” are non-profitable places, or places non-conducive to business.

According to Nechepso, Achrematistikos are only the cadent places.

But according to the system of Dorotheus, non-profitable places are only the places that don’t regard the ascendant (2, 6, 8, 12) and for some reasons the 3rd which is the only place of these which regards the ascendant. Hephaistio seems to use Dorotheus’ system because he says “if the planet is declining and unconnected to the Horoskopos”.

The question that arises is whether the Sun in 9th in the system of Nechepso would be counted as “Achrematistikos” when we know that it is in its joy; and Moon in 3rd in both systems, when we know that the third is her joy. I don’t think that the lights are achrematistikos in those places.

However, the unknown Italian astrologer, who probably follows Firmicus – who BTW didn’t gave strict rules for which planet to use and when to use – in his analysis of the chart of Alfonso D’este, starts with Sun which is in the 8th place, which is a place conducive to business according to Nechepso, but not for Dorotheus.

In my own practice I’ve found that in some cases the 8th place apheta is operative for using it in this technique, but it all depends. This planet may be attacked and made unfortunate in different ways then just being in place conducive or non-conducive to business.

For example, Valens gives us an example of a night birth where Moon in Pisces on IC was operative to be an apheta. Valens says that this is so because she is on IC, in feminine sign and in a triangle of the sect member (Mars rules the watery triplicity in a night charts), and is “appropriately situated”.

As we can see, Valens here does not investigate Moon’s place only, but the position in zoidia and triangle. But my mind full of questions again and again goes back to the unknown Italian astrologer and I’m asking myself why he used Sun as apheta.

An introduction to this astrologer you can read on these two links:

The second link is in Italian, but the first link is very good introduction in English from Margherita Fiorello. I advise you first to read her article, and then if you know Italian or use Google Translate, try to read the Italian article.

Back to the Italian astrologer. I think he had no other option than the Sun.
If he discarded the Sun because of the placement in the 8th, then get to the Moon, he probably saw as we see that the Moon is in 12th house, place achrematistikos in both systems. Then he probably looked at the first planet after the ascendant, and saw Mars in Sagittarius, malefic contrary to the sect in favor and a planet which is not suitable for being apheta. Jupiter and Saturn are in bad zodiacal shape, Mercury and Venus are also in 8th place, so the Sun in the zoidia of a sect member, in 8th, and first option by day, probably was the best candidate of this magnificent astrologer, knowing that some astrologers in the past has used the 8th place as chrematistikos.
And he did great job of predicting the life of Alfonso D’este with great precision.

I know that many people would like to have strict rules in choosing the apheta, but I don’t think there can be such rules. Sometimes a Light in angular house would not be fit to be apheta. It all depends on the circumstances of the chart, and experienced astrologer would use his experience and knowledgeable intuition to decide from which star to start the distribution.


Rulership of the Decennials are then subdivided into the rulership by months, i.e. days.
The distribution of the months is according to the lesser years of the planets minimized in to months instead of years. So, Saturn would rule 30 months, Jupiter 12, Mars, 15, Sun 19, Venus 8, Mercury 20, and Moon 25.

The order of the planet would not be like the one I gave here in the tables (except accidentally), but will go to the zodiacal order of the placement of planets in the particular chart. Saturn when rules by monthly decennials, will always give the first distribution of days to himself, and then would give the following days to the planet next in zodiacal order and etc.

Distribution of days is less proportional and there exist two systems, the one which Hephaistio gives and the one which Valens gives. Valens’ system seems more precise because it divides the months of the planet which rules up to the minute precisely. Hephaistio’s system adds more days to the distribution which exceeds the monthly rulership of the planet in question.

I will present here the both systems in tables, so you decide which you will use in your practice.
When Saturn rules the Decennials, the monthly rulership then goes in the following order:

  • According to Hephaistio:                                              According to Valens:
    Saturn gives to itself 210 days.                                209 days, 6 1/4 hours.
    Jupiter 84 days                                                                83 days, 17 1/3 hours
    Mars 105 days                                                                 104 days, 15 2/3 hours
    Sun 133 days                                                                    132 days, 13 5/12 hours.
    Venus 56 days                                                                 55 days, 19 1/2 hours.
    Mercury 150 days                                                          139 days, 12 2/3 hours
    Moon 175 days.                                                              174 days, 10 hours.

Note: Hephaistio’s system gives total of 913 days, which is 13 days more than Saturn’s actual rulership of 900 days (30 months multiplied by 30 days).

Naming of the Periods

Some use the names “General time lord” and “Specific time lord” to designate the overall ruler of 10.9 period (general) and the ruler of the months (specific).
Other astrologers use the names 1st, 2nd and 3rd level to make a difference in rulership assumed.

360 year or Conventional Year?

With the advancement of astronomical observations and calculation tools, it is well established at present day that the actual year is 365.2421897 days in length.

Egyptians, Mayans and Babylonians (to name a few) had in use a calendar of a year 360 days long. However, they were still aware of the fact that this was not an actual length, and the astronomers of those days reported that the actual length of the solar cycle is 365 ¼ days.

There is interesting myth on the increasing of the length of the year involving different Egyptian gods:
A long time ago, Re, who was god of the sun, ruled the earth. During this time, he heard of a prophecy that Nut, the sky goddess, would give birth to a son who would depose him. Therefore Re cast a spell to the effect that Nut could not give birth on any day of the year, which was then itself composed of precisely 360 days. To help Nut to counter this spell, the wisdom god Thoth devised a plan. Thoth went to the Moon god Khonsu and asked that he play a game known as Senet, requesting that they play for the very light of the moon itself. Feeling confident and that he would win, Khonsu agreed. However, in the course of playing he lost the game several times in succession, such that Thoth ended up winning from the moon a substantial measure of its light, equal to about five days. With this in hand, Thoth then took this extra time, and gave it to Nut. In doing so this had the effect of increasing the earth’s number of days per year, allowing Nut to give birth to a succession of children; one upon each of the extra 5 days that were added to the original 360. And as for the moon, losing its light had quite an effect upon it, for it became weaker and smaller in the sky. Being forced to hide itself periodically to recuperate; it could only show itself fully for a short period of time before having to disappear to regain its strength.


Egyptian calendar was based on a lunar cycle of 12 months grouped in three seasons of 4 months each. They based the system on the flooding (rise and fall) of the river Nile which begins to rise somewhere in the end of June. But this was not a precise measurement because it happened in period of 80 days, so the experienced astronomers of those days noticed that the Nile’s rising coincide with the heliacal rising of the brightest star in the sky: Sirius.

The rising of Sirius was somewhere near the date of 21th of June in the constellation of Canis Major. The Egyptians called this date “The Opening of the Year”. But because rising of Sirius is a stellar event which occurs every 365 ¼ days, and the Egyptian calendar was based upon the lunar cycle, the dates did not matched because the lunar cycle ended after 354 days – 11 days before the solar year. To correct this, the Egyptians add an extra month to create a “Great Year” of 384 days in every 2 or 3 years.

In 238 BCE Ptolomy III add an extra (epagomenal) month of 5 intercalary days, or 6th “leap” day on every 4th year to match the solar cycle.

In the calendar most in use today (Gregorian calendar), those intercalary days are distributed in certain months (with 31 days instead of 30) throughout the year. Every 4th year is a leap year where February has 29 instead of 28 days to add that 6th intercalary or a leap day.

There are some scholars who believe today that once the actual year was of 360 days of length indeed. It is a well-known astronomical phenomenon today that the change in speed of the axial rotation of Earth, directly affects the orbital distance between the earth and moon.

However, for our purpose of learning “the way” of the ancient astrological masters, I propose to use their method of 360 days a year, which of course, will require converting.


Converting the dates

This will require having calculator in your hand or in your computer and access to this webpage: where you can calculate how many days are in between two dates in 365 days year.

Valens uses 360-day system for calculating the distribution of days and cycles, but a 365 ¼ days for calculating the native’s years.

129 months multiplied with 30 days equals 3870 days in total.
3870 divided by 365.25 (365 ¼ days) equals 10.595.
To convert these 595 in days, you need to further multiply these 595 with 365.25 to get around 218 days. So, a decennial reulership would be 10 years and 218 days in total.

But let’s try a little bit easier method by using this web tool:

This is a date calculator where you add a number of days from a certain date, in order to find the resulting date in the 365 days system.

Let’s find the decennial distributions of this chart:


The person is born 23 January 1984. For the sake of the example let’s assume that Sun is apheta.
We enter the date in the first column of the web tool and in the column bellow under the group of Days (be sure to check ADD instead of subtract) add 3870 days. The web tool will calculate the date 3870 days from 23 January 1984. 3870 as we said are 129 months of 30 days each multiplied. We came to the date of 28 August 1994. Sun will rule the Decennials by general period from 23 January 1984 to 28 August 1994.

Next we put the new date (28 august 1994) in the first column and calculate again 3870 days from that date, to see to which date will rule the Moon by general period and etc.

To find the months rulership you will first calculate with your calculator how many days has the particular monthly rulership. For example, Moon rules 25 months which multiplied with 30 days month gives total of 750 days. To find to which date Moon rules the specific (monthly) times you only add the number (750) in the days column in the web tool I refer above.
In our example, Moon would rule from 28 August 1994 till 16 September 1996, which is total of 750 days, or 25 months of 30 days each month.


Let’s try this technique with an example.

I have been in doubt whether to use Sun as apheta or Moon in this nativity (see the chart above).
Sun is in 8th so according to Dorotheus’ system non-operative, but according to the system of Nechepso, place conducive to business.
Hephaistio would probably use Moon. But since Sun is in the trigon of its own sect buddy (Saturn), I will try to use it as apheta and we will see where would lead us.

The date in question is 30 of June, when native was 28 years and 159 days old.

Open the two web applications: date to date calculator and date calculator.
Go to date calculator add the birth date and in the column named “days” add 3870 days. This brings us to 28 August 1994. Sun will rule from birthdate, till 28 August 1984.

Then Sun transmits to Moon. To find the exact period of rulership, now enter the new date and add 3870 days. This brings us to 2 April 2005. Then Moon transmits to Mars who rules from 2 April 2005 to 6 November 2015.

Because this exceeds the date in question, we now need to calculate the specific rulership.

Mars would distribute to himself 15 months, this is 450 days. We add 450 days in the column named “days” of the date calculator. This leads us to 26 June 2006. Then Mars distributes to Saturn 30 months, or 900 days. This leads us to 12 December 2008. Saturn will rule the specific period till 12 December 2008. Then Mars distributes to Venus which rules 8 months or 240 days.
This leads us to 9 August 2009. Then rules Jupiter for 12 months or 360 days. This leads us to 4 August 2010. The next specific ruelrship goes to Mercury for 20 months or 600 days. This leads us to 26 March 2012. On 26 March 2012 the specific rulership goes to the Sun which rules 19 months or 570 days. This exceeds the date in question, so we should now count the daily rulership. Sun would distribute to himself (refer to the tables above) 84 days according to Valens’ table (I round 84 because of the 22 hours, and try to compensate later).
From 26 March, 84 days leads us to 18 June 2012. Next rules Moon for 110 days, and here we found the daily ruler.

So the rulership goes like this:
Mars received the distribution from Moon, Sun received the distribution from Mars, and Moon receives from Sun.

We can see that the times are troublesome because the general ruler is the contrary to sect in favor malefic – Mars. Mars receives from Moon which is the ruler of the nativity, and Mars transmits to Sun. Hephaistio says that Mars distributing to Sun by day brings “dangers and plaints on account of public affairs.

The event that happened was very troublesome for the native, and he was in danger for losing his life. Also, dangerous problems with coworkers arise and this brought him public infamy.

Sun is in the 8th but is goaded toward action in the 7th angle.

For the Sun transmitting to Moon in diurnal nativity, Hephaistio says that it is not good, because it brings jealousies and loses.

Further investigation needs to be made in the usage of Decennials. I’m planning to investigate their timing on more life events to compare the results and I hope I will be able to post them in future posts. I have used Firdaria in the past and I have good results with it. But the technique of Decennials intrigued me so many times, and I just can’t ignore it.
I hope that this short introduction to the Decennials will spark the enthusiasm in your astrology soul, to investigate furthermore in this direction and to use this very ancient timing technique.

Vettius Valens – Anthologies, translated by Mark T. Riley.
Vettius Valens – Anthology, book VI, translated by Robert Schmidt (The Golden Hind Press, 1997).
Hephaistio of Thebes – Apotelesmatics, Book II, translated by Robert Schmidt (The Golden Hind Press, 1998).
Joseph Crane – Astrological Roots: The Hellenistic Legacy (Published by The Wessex Astrologer Ltd, 2007)


The charts are calculated in free Morinus software.

© Beyond The Heaven, Sep. 2012