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The Truth about the Triplicities
by Valerio Simei

Ed. N.: Valerio Simei is born in Rome in october 1966. Translator from latin, he is preparing a book upon the history of Astrology in the ancient Rome.

    The triplicities, like the terms, are essential dignities that have two principal systems accepted by astrologers. There is Ptolemy, and then Greeks like Dorotheus Sidonius and the Arabs. The difference between them is in the rulership of the four triplicities. The common doctrine is based on the four elements of signs and their rulerships on the constant orientation of winds when the Moon transits in every sign of the triplicities. The astronomer Geminus was the first to explain this theory reported to the Chaldean's wisdom (Isagoge I,9). So, this theory, it would seem, was born because of ancient observation of meteorological phenomena. All of the ancient astrologers agree with the opinion that the movements of planets in opposition to the diurnal motion upsets the elements, especially air.

    The first triplicity, the fire trigon, is considered to be the northern triplicity because when the Moon transits these three signs it raises the wind of the north, Borea. In the Southern triplicity, we find the earth trigon that moves the wind of the south, Notus. The Western triplicity is the air trigon, with the West wind, Zephir. The Eastern triplicity is the water trigon that brings the East wind Apeliote.

    This theory also respects the traditional relations of planets with the four cardinal points. Jupiter is to the north, Venus to the south, Saturn with the east and Mars with the west. Mercury is excluded because his nature is convertible. Another condition for the rulership of the triplicity is based on the conformity of the temperament of the planets of each trigon:

    In fact, Placidus affirms that "triplicitatem venatur a similitudine sexus, et conditionis, hairesis, et a dignitate domus, maxime in segnis fixis."

    Cecco D'Ascoli, in his own study of the triplicities, said "that every group of three signs that concords in their temperaments and complexions, gives the triplicity the name of its own element". Almeon in the book De Unitate Secreti ad licteram where he affirms, "Triplicities are four and keep the four simple humours and so the triplicities cause virtues to hide their nature, latitant per naturam". So we understand that these four triplicities are causes of the four elements, as Aries, Leo and Sagittarius bring fire. Aries rises in fire impressing it with hot and dry moderation, because it's the beginning of natural movement of spring life. Leo upsets the fire impressing it with hot and dry bringing up these elements to the temperaments, because it's the sign that causes a natural motion of impediment to all that is coming to the world. Sagittarius shakes the fire, stamping on it, hot and dry to all temperaments, because it's the sign that begins the natural motion that causes obstacles to the growth of seeds and grass. And so it's the same of all the other triplicities in their expressions. Triplicities preserve the elements by three movements, or rather by beginning, medium and end, and all the humours in our bodies. When Almenon says, "the triplicities cause virtues to hide their nature, latitant per naturam" we understand that these hidden shapes are a specific form in events for their nature is limited. Anyway, the astral aspects that are against the universal action of the stars establish limitations and transform the elements proportions in mixed creations. And this is what Damascenus wanted to say, that medicine doesn't act because it's hot or cold, but because of its own celestial virtues, the same for the astrological aspects that modulate the proportion of elements. In the same way the magic images for love or honours operate. If we made a love image in the Venus hour, with Venus in Pisces or in Taurus, bringing these strong astrological qualities at the moment of printing, the result will be clear and sensitive. So these hidden forms in their own nature or in a specific figure, are a due proportion of mixed elements, limited by the aspects of celestial bodies that gives the forms. Therefore, these triplicities through the power of planets causes every hidden and fugitive nature…"(Commentary to the Alcabizzo)

Table of Greek Triplicities

    As we can see in this table, the diurnal and masculine planets rule the diurnal and masculine sectors, with the priority given to the ruler of the fixed sign. In the nocturne and feminine sector the nocturne and feminine planets rule, with the exception of Mars, lord of the feminine and fixed sign Scorpio. Mars is masculine but traditionally a nocturne planet, because his nature is extremely dry and hot, so it's less malefic in the moistness of the nightime. Ptolemy doesn't consider the third ruler of the triplicities as an essential dignity with the exception of the water trigon, which is ruled by Mars day and night, but with the participation of Venus and the Moon. He uses the third ruler of trigons only for the doctrine of winds and the divisions of lands, but for this last one he don't use a regular system. Dorotheus instead substitutes the third ruler of the fire triplicity, Mars, with Saturn, maybe to have only diurnal planets in the sect of the Sun. This tradition is followed also by Manethon, Rhetorius, and Paulus Alexandrinus. Ptolemy hints at his third ruler of this triplicicity of fire, Mars, only for an orientation of the trigon for lands and winds in Northwest direction, the trigon of "Borrolibyan" wind. (Tetrabiblos I, 18).

    With the same "Greek" system, Hermes Trismegistus doesn't consider any third ruler and Dorotheus changes the third ruler Mars with Saturn in the Earth triplicity, because Mars has his exaltation in Capricorn. Ptolemy prefers Saturn as third ruler, but only sharing a role in the orientation of winds. In the same way, Ptolemy considers Jupiter to be third participant ruler of the air triplicity because it's a masculine planet and diurnal like the first two lords of this triplicity, Saturn by day and Mercury by night. The same is said of the third ruler for the "others". Only Paulus Alexandrinus considers this trigon to be West orientation, while Ptolemy Northeast. These subtle distinctions were important for the astrological division of countries. For the water triplicity Ptolemy caused a small revolt. While Dorotheus and other Greek astrologers considered Venus for day, Mars for night, and the Moon participating in the night, Ptolemy put Mars as lord of the trigon, both day and night. He said, "the fourth triplicity is left to the last planet, Mars, which is related to it through its house, Scorpio, on account of the sect and because the signs are feminine, the Moon in the night, and Venus the day are co-rulers." (Tetrabiblos I, 18). We can see that Ptolemy considers Mars as first ruler of this triplicity, sharing Moon and Venus as second and third ruler.

    By the way, what are the reasons for the unusual triplicities employed in Christian astrology, that Lilly attributes in his table to Ptolemy? Lilly seems to have lost the second and third rulers of the water trigon. We have seen that Ptolemy is very clear and I don't think that Lilly can have forgotten these important details. He takes away the Moon and Venus maybe because these planets are in fall and exiled in Scorpio? Or, is it because of personal experience? Why doesn't he also exclude the Moon in detriment in Capricorn, which rules the earth trigon by night? This time Lilly does not follow Bonatti's tables of triplicities. In fact the Italian astrologer uses the Greek system of trigons. Anyhow, if the difference between Ptolemy and the others is because of the use of the third ruler of the triplicity and the water trigon, the same Greeks and Arabs astrologers like Al Biruni, in their writings hardly ever use the third lords of triplicities. Personally I think that Ptolemy's system is the most rational.

    In horary astrology, Lilly affirms that a planet in his own triplicity "shows a man that is modestly endowed with the properties and fortunes of this world, a man of good descent" but not so strong as the planet in their domal or exaltation dignities. Bonatti reports that this dignity means a man between his helpers, administrators, and followers, with no blood relations with him. Ibn Ezra considers this planet like a man in the house of good neighbours, not in his own house and not in the same estate of a special guest but yet in a comfortable position. Cecco D'Ascoli considers the rulers of triplicities "when they are in a reciprocal good estate, the more they arrange the men to happiness." Al Qabisi said that the planet in the triplicity "is like the man in his praise, between their assistants and ministers". For Hamad it is like a man between his friends and supporters.

    In my horary experience a planet in his triplicity denotes a respectable person who has a sufficiency of everything, a quiet and comfortable existence, but I take note of every aspect or position that can amplify or reduce these meanings. Cardano considers planets in their triplicities to be like men taking care of their mediocre properties and that the triplicities have major virtues in the divisions of the lands.


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Valerio Simei: The Truth about the Triplicities
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