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What's to Consider?
by Maurice McCann

"Astrology has persisted in spite of all attempts to explain it; but in accordance with Ptolemy's sound philosophy it is every astrologer's duty to avail himself, with the utmost of understanding, of all knowledge that is applicable to the science, whereby to arrive at the true and correct explanations which alone can bring the improved technic that will enhance Astrology's value to society." (Nicholas DeVore: Encyclopaedia of Astrology)

    Horary astrology is replete with rules and aphorisms, which have been handed down throughout the ages. Though some had a sound astronomical basis many others were created out of the imaginations of the astrologers. The considerations before judgement as Lilly called them had their origins with the Italian astrologer Guido Bonatti who invented the later and early degrees, and the planetary hour considerations. Bonatti found that a number of people only consulted him in order to make fun of him. For this reason he created what he thought were the means by which he could identify such characters. He needed to know who his genuine clients were as opposed to the pranksters. Unfortunately today, these considerations have been taken out of context and are regarded almost as laws that prevent the judgement of horary questions. This article will demonstrate that this is not the case.

    Bonatti lived in the 13th century in Milan, Italy. One of his books, known in English as The Astrologer's Guide, was translated out of Latin by Henry Coley and edited by William Lilly in 1675. In it he warned the reader "When the querent comes only to try him, or put a trick upon him, as many do, saying "Let us go to such an Astrologer, and ask him such a thing, and see if he can tell us the truth or not."

Guido Bonatti (imaginary portrait, Biblioteca Comunale Forli)

    Questions were either genuine or not genuine. Genuine questions were called radical and non-genuine questions non-radical. The dictionary meaning of the word radical is "of the root or roots; naturally inherent, essential, fundamental; forming the basis; affecting the foundation." According to Bonatti, if the querent was genuine then the question would naturally be firmly rooted or have a firm foundation in their mind. In other words they were sincere in their desire to seek the advice of the astrologer. They had no ulterior motives and the question was radical. If the question was not radical it meant that it was not firmly rooted in the mind of the querent. It was either because they did not ask seriously, or it was a flippant, fleeting, silly question with no foundation or basis in reality. The querent was either unsure of their own question, or insincere, or had the intention of making fun of the astrologer. The problem then was how to distinguish between radical and non-radical.

    Before attempting to explain the difference between the two it should be made clear that radicality only refers to the question born in the mind of the querent. It may then ensue that the horoscope is redundant as a result of a non-radical question. Radicality has to do with the genuineness of the question, not the genuineness of the horoscope that springs out of the question. The question comes first, the horoscope second. If there is no question there is no horoscope.

    Bonatti believed that he had discovered a means by which the horoscope itself would warn him for he wrote "I observed the hour of the Question, and if the Ascendant then happened very near the end of one sign and beginning of another, so that it seemed as between both; I said they did not ask seriously, or that they came to try me..." According to Bonatti this indicated that the question was not radical.

    Note that he was saying "...very near the end of one sign and beginning of another, so that it seemed as between both..." He did not specifically define which degrees exactly but was probably more concerned with the 29th and 1st degrees. He may have written "very near the end of one sign and beginning of another" purposely in order to convey the idea of change and movement, rather than writing "the early and late degrees" which does not have the same impact. In Bonatti's day (the 13th century) time keeping devices were unsophisticated and not very accurate. Also, ephemerides and tables were unreliable leading to much confusion when the very end of a sign or the beginning of another appeared on the ascendant, especially with signs of short ascension. Remember also that the solution to the longitude problem, resolved by John Harrison in the 18th century, was not officially settled until 1773 by a new act of the English Parliament.

    There were probably two ways of looking at Bonatti's considerations. One may well have been a concern as to whether he had calculated the ascendant correctly. With the 29th or 1st degrees of signs of short ascension, Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces, Aries, Taurus and Gemini on the ascendant, the astrologer could not be certain as to which planet ruled the person asking the question. Bonatti then interpreted this to mean the querent was not to be trusted, that is of course where he suspected the querent was being insincere. With signs of short ascension the sensible thing to do would be to give more elbowroom by judging from around maybe 25, 26 or 27 degrees up to 3, 4 or even 5 degrees of the next sign. With signs of long ascension a smaller degree area could be used. Therefore it would be safe to assume that there was no fixed number of late and early degrees as we have come to believe today, but rather he judged them using a sliding scale.

    The second possibility could simply be that he judged the querent to be insincere if late or early degrees ascended whether the exact ascendant had been accurately calculated or not. The changing signs may have indicated to him deviousness in the querent. In my opinion this is the more likely explanation. After all it was for this purpose that he started the considerations in the first place. He did not create them because he was worried about the accuracy of his calculations or the exact degree on the ascendant.

    The modern belief that the early and late degrees, specifically 27 30 degrees and 0 3 degrees, mean "it is too late or too early to say" is incorrect. There is no evidence for this. It seems that Lilly was the first to state that the degrees were 0, 1 and 2 degrees, and 27, 28 and 29 degrees. Also, the modern belief that some kind of lateness or earliness can be inferred about the question or answer is groundless and is a distortion of Bonatti's original intention. In the 17th century John Partridge may have been the first to suggest that "...if few degrees ascend, the matter is not yet mature for judgement..."

    Bonatti also noted, "...a third way whereby an Astrologer may err, is when the Lord of the Ascendant and the Lord of the Hour are not the same, nor of the same Triplicity, or be not of the same Complexion with the Ascendant; for then the question is not radical, as I have frequently found by experience. And this I have recited, that thou mayst know for what persons thou should'st undertake to give judgment..."

    He used the planetary hours as a back up to the above rule. If he was undecided as to whether Aries or Taurus was on the ascendant but found that Venus ruled the hour, it?s plausible he would use this to confirm a Taurus ascendant.

    Next he would use the triplicities rather than a planet?s exaltation degree and sign because there was a greater chance of scoring a hit with a planet that ruled three signs instead of one planet exalted in one sign. Besides, five signs of the zodiac do not have exaltation rulers. Furthermore, the weakness with triplicities was that in the vast majority of cases it excluded the Moon, Mercury and Jupiter as these had rulership over night triplicities. Most horary questions were put to astrologers during the daytime when the Sun, Venus, Mars and Saturn ruled the day triplicities. In Christian Astrology for instance, only 4 out of the 35 charts are night charts. Bonatti would then have overcome this problem by including the natures of the planet ruling the ascendant and the planet ruling the hour. This now meant that he could use all the planets to help him decide which sign ascended.

    Furthermore, "And this I have recited, that thou mayst know for what persons thou should'st undertake to give judgment..." Bonatti was clearly indicating that these considerations were only to be used under certain circumstances, when the astrologer believed the querent to be insincere. On the other hand if the querent was obviously trustworthy then there was no need to use them.

    Claude Dariot was born in France in the 16th century. [Ed. N.: The French physicist and astrologer, Claude Dariot (1533-1596), born in Pommard, near Beaune, is the author of L'introduction au jugement des astres (Lyon, 1558), first published in latin in 1557, and translated in English in 1583.] In chapter 19 of his book, A brief and most easy Introduction to the Astrological judgement of the Stars, he wrote, "...certain things are diligently to be considered, lest error be committed in the same." He mentioned only two considerations, Bonatti's planetary hour, and the condition of the seventh house, which he wrongly attributed to Ptolemy.

    He wrote "First therefore the 7th house and the lord thereof are to be considered, for if the 7th house be letted by the aspect or presences of malign planets, or his lord be letted, that is, if he be in his fall or retrograde, or combust, or otherwise hindered by misfortunes aforesaid, you may not safely give judgement, fearing to commit error. For Ptolemy in the 14th aphorism of his Centiloquium saith: In how great error shall the astronomer be wrapped, when the 7th house and the lord thereof are afflicted."

    David Plant referred me to Henry Coley's book, A Key to the whole Art of Astrology, where Coley had re-published Ptolemy's Centiloquium. Apparently these aphorisms were very popular around the 16th and 17th centuries. Today, it is rightly suspected that Ptolemy didn't write them, for one thing he didn't write about horary. Coley had amended a number of them so that the originals could not be separated from Coley's own work. This was a typical astrological practise; others had done the same with other books throughout the ages.

    Dariot continued, "Furthermore, it is diligently to be marked whether the question be radical or no, which is known if the lord of the ascendant and lord of the hour be one, or of one triplicity or nature. For this constellation rising, the question is radical, contrariwise it is not and therefore absolute judgment is not to be given...Likewise, neither the first nor second rules hold in nativities, neither in any question where the certain hour of the thing done is known and given."

    Note that he says, "absolute judgment is not to be given." Here Bonatti's reasons for the planetary hour rule have been either forgotten, ignored or not fully understood. According to Dariot it now becomes compulsory, in other words a horary cannot be judged if the planetary hour does not agree using Bonatti's techniques. There is no longer any choice as to whether the querent is honest or not, everyone is tarred with the same brush. All questions are now non-radical under Dariot's conditions.

    Lilly agreed with Dariot that the horoscope was not radical if the planetary hour disagreed, even though he was aware of what Bonatti had written. Later in life he edited Coley's translation of The Astrologers Guide which contained Bonatti's considerations. Furthermore, Lilly quoted Bonatti's theory in Christian Astrology that the void of course Moon placed in Taurus, Cancer, Sagittarius and Pisces was able to "perform somewhat". He had obviously read Bonatti in Latin before publishing Christian Astrology. Perhaps Lilly did not feel that he had to explain why Bonatti had created the later and early degrees and the planetary hour considerations. Nevertheless, it was remiss of him to state that the planetary hour was mandatory since there is every reason to believe that he fully understood Bonatti's reasons for inventing them. It is also a puzzle as to why Lilly wrote that the early and late degrees had to do with the querent's age. Literally it seems ridiculous that the querent should be aged between 1 - 3 years when there is an early degree and between 27 - 30 years when a late degree. This is one example of augmenting and amending of the kind that plagues astrology. It makes it difficult to sort out original material from what has been changed or added to by later authors.

    A number of English astrologers who published horary books after Christian Astrology in 1647, stated that later and early degrees indicated the querent to be a knave or fool or that the question was forged, showing some awareness of Bonatti's original intentions. Among them were Gadbury, Coley and Partridge. Gadbury thought that the early and late degrees indicated that the querent had been tampering with other astrologers or that the question was forged. Coley simply thought the querent was consulting other astrologers. Partridge wrote that only the late degrees meant the querent had been with other astrologers. Unfortunately it appears that the majority of today's astrologers have not read these and other writers and have only read Christian Astrology. This could explain their unawareness of those who supported Bonatti's original ideas.

    Lilly also attributed the considerations related to the 7th house to Alkindus and the Arab astrologers. In fact, Al Kindi as he is better known, did not write on horary, at least not in the texts available to us today. He is believed to have written around two hundred titles. In Lilly's own library listed in the back of Christian Astrology, he mentions one book by Al Kindi which was on weather forecasting and two others whose titles are suspect.

    The modern belief that radicality is shown by describing the querent's physique was probably invented by Lilly. Bonatti certainly mentions that the querent's face can be described by the ascendant and its ruler, but does not say that it indicates radicality. Lilly in fact does not strictly mention this method either in his considerations before judgement in Christian Astrology. There is no indication in Bonatti, Dariot or Lilly that this is necessary. It should therefore be pointed out most emphatically that this is merely an option and cannot be used as a deciding factor as to whether to read the chart or not. Lilly may well have been playing games, after all he mentioned more than one experiment that he carried out while in social company. He liked to entertain the gathering by discovering their hidden moles, marks and scars, or finding concealed gloves etc, just for the fun of it. This may have been one way of impressing his clients.


    The considerations before judgement were first invented by Guido Bonatti out of a desperate need to verify whether horary questions were authentic or not. He indicated that they should only to be used if there was some reservation about the question. If we are to remain faithful to Bonatti's original purpose, they should never be used where the question has been asked with a serious intent. Yet there is still no guarantee that they really do what he claimed. In my own personal experience it is quite rare to receive the type of questions Bonatti worried about, therefore strictly speaking, no need for me at least to query the radicality of the question.

    This brief history of Bonatti's considerations demonstrates that his original concept was very quickly forgotten and replaced with a variety of new ones. It's clear that for several centuries astrologers were unaware of the fact that much of the material they believed to be legitimate had been forged or tampered with and was therefore unreliable. No wonder horary has been so difficult to understand if the basic rules and tenets are shrouded in mystery due to incompetence and carelessness.

Lilly's list of the 12 considerations before judgement.

    The most popular list of considerations in use today is William Lilly's, which are found in Christian Astrology. Because of this popularity it is important to examine each as to their authenticity in the light of the revelations in this article.

1. The Lord of the hour.
2. Early degree.
3. Late degree.

    These three were invented by Guido Bonatti in order to try to identify false questions from dubious clients.

4. Moon in later degrees of a sign, especially Gemini, Scorpio and Capricorn.

    There is no source that I could find for this consideration, it's possible it was invented by Lilly. Although some of his contemporaries supported the Moon at the end of the sign idea, they did not particularly mention Gemini, Scorpio and Capricorn; he was the only one to do so.

5. The Moon in the Via Combusta.

    Al Biruni first defines it but does not treat it as a consideration. In fact, Al Biruni does not write about considerations before judgement at all. This may mean that astrologers of that time and place did not see the need to discover whether the question was genuine or not, though we can't be sure. Al Biruni's book would have been unread by the English astrologers of the 17th century since it was not translated and published until1934.

6. The Moon void of course.

    Strictly speaking this should not be treated as a consideration, but as the Moon or any other planet for that matter, unable to form aspects or take part in the rules of perfection, namely collections and translations of light.

7. Cusp of the 7th afflicted.

    This may have been invented by Lilly based on the 14th aphorism of the dubious Ptolemy Centiloquium, or his own mistaken references to Al Kindi and the Arab astrologers.

8. Saturn, especially retrograde in the ascendent.
9. Saturn in the 7th.
10. Lord of the ascendent combust.
11. Lord of the 7th unfortunate.

    These four were wrongly attributed to Al Kindi and the Arab astrologers by Lilly and to Ptolemy by Dariot.

12. When the testimonies of the fortunes and infortunes are equal.

    Bonatti says that this comes from "the learned".

    There are only two in the above list that make astrological sense and should be taken seriously, the void of course Moon and the ruler of the ascendant combust. The Moon in the Via Combusta is in its weakest position since in Scorpio especially it is in its fall and peregrine, but it is still able to form aspects and take part in the horary rules of perfection. The rest are not worth considering since they are either pure inventions or were taken from doubtful sources.

Ed. N.: This article was first published in Réalta (February 1999, Issue 5.1), the journal of The Irish Astrological Association.

To cite this page:
Maurice McCann: What's to Consider?
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