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HouseDivision,PlanetaryStrength,andCusps inHellenisticAstrology

IntheupcominganalysisofhousedivisioninHellenisticastrology,wewillbemakinganew distinctionforwhichthereisasyetnoaccurateterminology.Sometimeswewillbetalking aboutatwelvefolddivisiondoneforthepurposeofascertainingplanetarystrength;wewill usuallycallsuchadivisiona"dynamical"division.Atothertimeswewillbeinterestedina twelvefolddivisiondoneforthesakeofestablishingregionsthatareassociatedwithareasof lifehousesinthemodernsense;wewillcallsuchadivisiona"topical"division.Thislatterisa usefulwordbecauseitderivesfromtheGreekwordtoposthatsimplymeansplace(thatis,a placerelativetotheAscendant).However,thisGreekwordalsoacquiredthemeanofa"topic" orissueinthemodernsense;forinstance,PtolemyoftencallsthechaptersoftheTetrabiblos thatdealwithspecificissuessuchasparents,theshapeofthebody,etc.,"topics." TheEarlyTraditionofHouseDivision Oneoftheearliestusesofzodiacaldivisionsforspecialtopicsorareasoflifeisinaworkthat antedatestheroottextofNechepso/Petosiris.ItiscalledSalmeschoiniakaandhastodowith thedecans.Onlyfragmentsofthisworksurvive,butfortunatelyapiecequotedbyHephaistio employsthedecansasplaceshavinggovernanceoverspecialissues. "OnemustalsoexaminethedecanssincethefirstoneoftheHoroskoposdealswithbirth;the 28th from the Horoskopos, which culminates early, deals with livelihood; the 25th, which culminatesatnoon,dealswithsickness;the9th,whichriseslateintheeast,dealswithinjury; the17th,whichrisesinthewest,dealswithmarriageandwife;the8th,thedoorofHades, dealswithchildren;theoneinthesubterraneous[pivot]dealswithdeath."(II18). Sincethedecansareclearlyunderstoodtoberelatedtodivisionsofthesigns,thismightbe calledawholedecansystemofhouses.Possiblycontemporarywiththisisthedodekatropos (or"twelveturning")attributedtoHermes.ThisismentionedintheepitomeofThrasyllusand inRhetorius;italsoseemsimplicit(althoughHermesisnotmentioned)intwoplacesinValens andinthediscussionofMaternusinBookIII,chapters27.Inallofthesecasesthetwelve places(orhouses,tousethesomewhatmisleadingmodernterm)areunequivocallycoincident withthesigns.Nowhereintheearlierwritershavewefoundanequalhousesystemfromthe Ascendantdegreeoranysystemofmundanehouses(suchasthosebasedonthedivisionof themundanequadrant).Manyofthem,suchasDorotheus,donotevenaddresstheissue. TheysimplytalkabouttheHoroskoposandtheMidheavenandplacesrelativetothese.Their failuretotreattheissuethematicallyisanindicationthathousedivisionwasaconventionso muchtakenforgrantedthatitneednotevenbeaddressed.Inthatcase,thefewwhodogive clearindicationsofawholesignsystemcanbetakenasrepresentativeofthegeneralpractice.

WholeSignHousesinValens,withTwoExceptions AlthoughlaterthanPtolemyhistorically,Valensrepresentstheearliertraditionuninfluencedby theTetrabiblos.IntheconsiderableamountoftranslationwehavedonefromtheAnthologyso far,wehavefoundaconsistentuseofwholesignhouses,withtwoapparentexceptions,which wewillnowdealwith.InBookIII,chapter2,hediscussesadivisionofthemundanequadrant intothreeequalpieces(latercalledthePorphyrysystem).However,itisperfectlyclearfrom contextthathisintentionthereistodeterminetheplacesinwhichtheplanetsmaybemost andleastactive.Heinnowayindicatesthatheisestablishingadivisionintotopics,ora housesysteminthepropersense.Infacthemakesitclearthatheisnotwhendiscussingthe secondplacesoconstructed,"andtojudgeanother1/3partofthedegreesasmiddlingneither moregoodnormorebaseonaccountofthepostascensionoftheHoroskoposandtheGoddess andthediameterofGod."Now,thepostascensionoftheHoroskoposisthesecondwholesign, whileGoddessisthetraditionalnameforthethirdwholesign.Inotherwords,thisdivision hasanintermediateactivitylevelbecausethetwosecondandthirdtraditionalwholesigns overlaponit.Noticethathedoesnotreassignthename"postascension"tothesecondinterval northename"Goddess"tothethirdintervalofhisnewmundanedivision. Furthermore,Valensoffersthisassessmentofactivitylevelsashisowncorrectionofatradition thatpreceded him,inwhichthefirst1/3 ofthemundanequadrantwasconsideredtobe powerful,butalltheremainingdegreesweak.Thus,itmayhavebeenValensfirstofallwho extendedtheactivityassessmenttotwelveplacesinsteadofeight,andsuchasystemcouldnot inthatcasehaveprecededhim. The second apparent exception to Valens' otherwise perfectly consistent use of wholesign housesoccursinBookIX,chapter3,anditisindeedpuzzling.ItisinthischapterthatValens introducesthewellknownprocedureof"turningthewheel"toderiveadditionalmeaningsof thehousesfromthebasicones.Heexplicitlycallsthisa"twelveturning,"aswesaidabovea methodattributedtoHermes,sothispassagetooapparentlypreservestheearliertradition. Now,inhisdetaileddelineationofthissystemheexplicitlymentions(andfrequentlyimplies bygender)zoidia.HealsoemploysthetraditionaltopicalnamessuchasGoodSpirit,Goddess, etc.Thus,thistooisawholesignsystem.Theproblemoccursinaparagraphimmediately followingthistreatment,whichItranslatehere: "Butbeforeallitisnecessarytoreckontheplacestothedegree.Andatleastwheneverthe degreeoftheHoroskoposmaybegrasped,itisnecessarytocountfromthatdegreeupuntil the30degreecompletionofthenextzoidion.Andthatwillbetheplaceconcerninglife.Then similarlyuptothecompletionofanother30degreesconcerninglivelihood;andthenextas before.Foroftentwoplacesfallingtogetheronto[orcoincidingon]onezoidionforetellboth speciesinaccordancewiththeirdistancesindegrees.Andsimilarly,itisnecessarytoexamine thelordofthezoidion,inwhatzoidionitchancestobeandtowhatsortofplaceitholdsfast, accordingtoitscanonicaldescriptionindegrees.Forinthismannertheprocedure[orperhaps turning] will bejudged. And if someone would reckon platically at one place perzoidion (whichisrare),they[thenatives?theplaces?]encounterconstraintsandoutrages,orthe entanglementsofmatters."

Iamnottheleastbitconfidentofthistranslation.Forexample,Iamnotsurewhichtwoplaces heisreferringtointhemiddleoftheparagraph.Itcouldbetwoplacesinthestyleofequal housesfromtheAscendantoverlappedbyonezoidion,butthiswouldcontradicthisownclear employmentofwholesignsinthedelineationsimmediatelypreceding;itcouldalsobetwo derivativeplaces(say,theperfectlycoincidingononezoidion)whichwouldbeconsistentwith contextbutrenderthelasttwosentencesuncertain.Iamnotevensureaboutthemeaningof the algorithmic clause, "it is necessary to count from that degree up until the 30 degree completionofthenextzoidion."ButIwillsparethereaderallthegorydetails. Inthemidstofallthisconfusion,andassumingthatValensdoeshaveinmindsomesystemof equalzodiacaldivisionbasedontheAscendantdegree,letmemakeaspeculationbasedon Valens' use of lots which may provide us with an important clue about the relationship between wholesign houses and equal divisions from the Ascendant. It is intrinsic to his treatmentoflotsthattheymayberegardedas"Horoskopoi,"orquasiascendants;thatis,they canbecomethefirsthousesofderivativewholesignsystems,themeaningsofthesesignsin successionbeinganalogoustothoseinthebasicnatalchart.Theonlyrealdifferenceisthatthe fundamentalwholesignsystemisregardedasmoregeneral,whilethederivativesystemis intendedtoyieldgreaterdetail.Nevertheless,theyareconceptualizedinthesameway. Now,thelotitselfoccupiesadegreesomewhereinthesigndestinedtobecomethefirsthouse ofaderivativesystem;thepresenceofthelotmustbethoughtofassomehowalteringthevery signinwhichitfalls,makingitanappropriatefirsthouseforthatofwhichitisthelot(the father,forinstance).Similarly,thesigninwhichtheAscendantdegreefallsbecomesthefirst houseofthegeneralwholesignarrangement;theAscendantdegreeisakentron,apivotor hingearoundwhichthesignturns,anditisthispivotingthataltersthesignandmakesitserve theroleasthefirstwholesign,wherevertheAscendantpointmayfallinthesignitself.Might notthefirstdegreeofeachequal"house"fromtheAscendantberegardedasthe"pivot"ofthe wholesigninwhichitoccurs,akindofpointaroundwhichitturnsandwhichmakesthe entiresignthesecondplace(orhouse),forinstance,givingititsuniquecharacter?Thus,the "twelveturning"wouldbeanextensionoftheideaofapivot,formerlyrestrictedtotheangles, toalltheintermediatesigns. Inconclusion,ifthisinterpretationhasanymerit,everydegreewhichisthirtydegreesfrom theAscendantoramultiplethereofshouldberegardedasa"cusp"(orturningpoint)ofthe wholesigninwhichitoccursalbeitnotacuspononeoftheextremitiesofthesign.Itwould alsofollowthattheintervalsbetweenthesedegreesshouldnotberegardedashousesatall. Suchanequalhousesysteminthemodernsensewouldbeamisinterpretationoftheoriginal purposebehindtheequaldivisionofthezodiacfromtheAscendant,whichwastoestablishthe turningpointswithinthesignsthemselves.ItisinterestingtonotethatMaternusisthefirst authorweknowofwhoexplicitlyusesanequalhousesystemfromtheAscendant(inBookII, chapter19,eventhoughheelsewhereuseswholesignplacesrelativetotheAscendant,asin Book III, chapter 2). He is two hundred years after Ptolemy and Valens. Might he have misunderstoodtheearliertradition?Itisatleastveryinterestingthatheusesthewordcuspis forthefirstdegreeofeachofthesehouses,forthewordcuspis,meaningpoint,andcardo, meaninghinge,arebothfairlygoodtranslationsoftheGreekwordkentron,whichseemsto containboththeLatinmeanings.

BeforeweleaveValens,thereisonefinalpointtomake.Justpriortohisdiscussionofthe "twelveturning," he mentions an "eightturning," which was apparently used by Nechepso/Petosiris.Thenatureofthissystemisstillsomewhatmysterious.However,fromthe contextwecouldsaythatittoowascoincidentwithsomedivisionsofthezodiacratherthan definedbyabisectionofthemundanequadrant.Asaguess,Iwouldpointoutthatinancient timesthesignswerenotonlydividedintothreewiththedecans,butalsointotwowiththe "steps." Thus, just as each wholesign house consisted of three decans, so each eightfold divisionmayhavecoincidedwiththreestepsofthezoidia. Ptolemy'sEqualHouseSystem Ptolemyisregardedastheauthorofaspecialequalhousedivisionthatbeginsfivedegrees above the Ascendant, and it is now widely assumed that this was his preferred system. However,threethingsneedtobepointedouthere.Firstofall,priortoBookIII,chapter11, the discussion of length of life, there is no reason to believe that Ptolemy regards the Horoskopos, Midheaven, etc., as anything other than wholesign houses. He uses all the traditionallanguageofpivots,postascensions,anddeclines.InBookIII,chapter6,dealing withsiblings,heexplicitlycallstheplaceofthemotherazoidionandinvokesthetenthplace relativetothisinthetraditionalmannerofaderivedhousesystem.Hedoesnotintroduceany housesystemwhatsoeverinhisfirstbook,whichdealswiththeelementsofastrology.Finally, heneversaysthathewillbedescribinghishousesysteminanupcomingchapter,thoughhe doessaythisinthecaseoftheLotofFortuneandcertainothermatters.Wehavenoevidence ofthisparticularsystempriortoPtolemy,andifhewasinnovating,wewouldexpecthimto saysowhentheissuearose. ThesecondpointisthatwhenhedoesintroducehissysteminBookIII,chapter11,itisina veryspecificcontextoflengthoflifecalculation.Theproblemistodeterminethe"placesfor releasing,"thatis,theplaceswherethereleaser(orhylegasitwaslatercalled)mustbein ordertoqualifyforthatrole.Theimplicationisthattheplaceshelistsareplaceswherethe planetwillpossessthegreatestactivity,asisonlysuitableforsuchanimportantsignification aslengthoflife.Accordingly,hesays,"foronemustproperlyrefusethewholeregionunderthe earthsogreatanauthority."Asplaces(orhouses),severalofthem,suchastheseventh,ninth, andeleventh,havenoimmediatetopicalconnectionwiththeissueoflife.Soitseemsthatthe zodiacaldivisionhedescribesisnotforthepurposeofestablishinghousesperse. Third, one of the earliest commentators on the Tetrabiblos, Pancharios (as quoted by Hephaistio),didnotthinkthatPtolemyhadinmindanequalhousedivisionofthezodiacat all, but rather a mundane style house system similar to the one mentioned above in the discussionofValens,theonlydifferencebeingthatheaccommodatesthefivedegreesabove theAscendantunequivocallyrequiredbyPtolemy.SinceValensintroducedalmostexactlythe same system for the clear purpose of making distinctions of planetary activity and not of topics,wemaysurmisethatthisisPanchariosintentionaswell.AsIhavepointedoutinmy notes,Panchariosevidentlyhadadifferenttextathisdisposalthatallowedhimtomakethis interpretation(byinference,ashehimselfconcedes). IfsomeonewishedtoarguethatPtolemydidindeedregardhisdivisionasatopicalhouse

systeminthefullestsense,thestrongestpieceofevidenceinhisfavorwouldbethepassages inchapter11whereheseemstocallhisnewdivisionsbythenamestraditionallyusedto designatewholesignhouses,suchasEvilSpirit,GoodFortune,etc.However,asIhaveargued inmycommentaryonthatsection,thereareatleasttwootherwaysofreadingthepassagein questionwithoutassumingthatPtolemyistransferringhousenamestohisowndivision.And fromthenumberofmanuscriptvariationsatkeypointsinthetext,itappearsthatanumberof readersandcopyistswereindoubtonexactlythisissue.Ishouldfurthermentionthatallthese housenamesaresolooselyconnectedtothebasicsyntaxofthesentencethattheycouldeven havebeeninterpolatedbyalatereditor;theyarepresentinthetextthatHephaistioquotes andmayhavepresentinthetextofPancharios,althoughthiscannotbeinferredforcertain fromHephaistiohimself. Onefinalremark:IfPtolemydidintendtouseanequalhousesystemoriginatingfivedegrees above the Ascendant, he clearly did not mean it to establish house cusps of a wholesign systeminthemannerofourspeculationabove.Rather,itwastheintervalsinbetweenthat were of interest, as would be only natural in the case of the determination of planetary strength.Andifhefurthermoredidapplythetraditionalhousenamestohisnewdivisions,this wouldmeanthatthetwodifferentbutequallyfundamentalprototypesofhousedivisionother thanthewholesignmodel(forthesakeofestablishingplanetaryactivityandthecuspsof wholesignhouses,respectively)havebeenfusedtogetherintoonehybridsystem. EqualandMundaneDivisionsintheLaterCommentators Paulus still uses wholesign houses exclusively in his topical delineations, despite his admirationforPtolemy,asifhedidnotregardhisequalhousedivisionastopicalatall.From Hephaistio'sremarks,itisclearthatmostofhiscontemporaries,Panchariosnotwithstanding, didregardPtolemy'ssystemasatopicalequalhousesystembeginningfivedegreesabovethe Ascendant,whichisstillacommoninterpretationtoday.However,Hephaistioseemstofavor Pancharios'interpretationbasedonamodifiedtrisectionofthemundanequadrant,asdoes Porphyry, and finally Rhetorius (although he does report the "twelveturning" of Hermes). Thereisnoevidencethatanyofthesethreeattemptedtoturnthisdynamicaldivisionintoa topicalsystem.Maternus,aswehavealreadymentioned,usesanequalhousesystemfromthe Ascendanttopically,althoughelsewhereheusesplacesrelativetotheAscendantsign. Conclusion Iftheaboveanalysisiscorrectwecandrawseveralconclusions.First,sinceitisapparentthat noastrologerwritinginGreekeverusedadynamicaldivisiontopically,wewillhavetolookto thelatermedievaltraditiontoseewhenthistransferencetookplace.Furthermore,weshould viewsuchamovewithgreatsuspicionsinceitmostprobablywasbasedonamisinterpretation of the earlier tradition. Of course, it is always possible that this was a creative misinterpretationthataccidentallyhadsometruthtoit,butattheveryleastweshouldbracket theuseofmundanehousestopicallyuntiltheycouldbeverifiedinsomeexperimentalmanner. However,wearestillleftwiththeproblemofthecorrectdynamicaldivision,thoughherethe Gauquelindatamaybeofsomeassistance.

Secondly,somewherealongthelinethecuspsthemselves(whichoriginallyfellsomewherein thesignsthemselvesandwereemployedtodeterminetheturningpointsofthesesamesigns) cametobeunderstoodastheboundariesorextremitiesofthehousesamisunderstandingthat beganeveninGreektimes.Thecuspsinthedynamicaldivisionevidentlyunderwentthesame transformation.However,wemight evenspeculatethatthemundane cusps,orcuspsof a dynamicaldivision,mightalsobeinterpretedasgivingaspecialdynamiccharactertothesigns inwhichtheyoccur,acharacterdifferentthanthetopical.Thismayconnectwiththeancient doctrineoftheprofitableplaces(orprosperingplacesaswearenowtranslating),whichwere thesignsinwhichtheplanetshadenoughactivitytoconducttheirbusiness,orinwhichthey couldbeusedoracularlydependingonhowweinterprettheambiguoustermchrematistikos. Here too we should look to the later medieval tradition to see how this second misunderstandingcametobetakenforgranted. Ametaphormayhelptojoinallthesespeculationstogether.Wemayimaginethatthecusp withinthesigngivesacertaincharacteristic"curvature"tothatsignthatqualifiesittobethe second,third,etc.,wholesignhouse.Thedifferentpossiblepositionsofthecuspwithinthe signdonotchangethefundamentaltypeofcurvaturegiventothesign;theyonlymodifyit withinthisspecies,justastherearedifferentindividualhyperbolas,eachhavingaunique curvature,thatallhavethedefiningcharacteristicofahyperbola.Thepresentofadynamical cuspinasignmodifiesitinadifferentmanner,givingitacertainsize,forinstance,magnifying or reducing it. These topical and dynamical cusps together absolutely determine the "curvature"and"size"ofagivensign. Weinvitemodernastrologerstotrytodistinguishthesetwoaspectsofhousedivisionintheir chartreadings.

ByRobertSchmidt