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Ancient, Traditional Astrology

Ancient astrology is the Greco-Roman stuff, and more recent authors inspired by them. It is earlier, and different, from Medieval.

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MATHESEOS LIBRI VIII - Ancient Astrology Theory & Practice - Firmicus Maternus, translated by Jean Rhys Bram, $29.95


The actual table of contents in this book, as well as in Holden's translation (below) is a simple "Book 1, Book 2, Book 3", etc. I have expanded. - Dave

Book 1: Opening letter, arguments, difficulties, refutations, conclusions.

Book 2: Introduction, signs, domiciles, exaltations, falls, decans, degrees, diurnal/nocturnal sects, matutine & vespertine, rising times, signs & winds, dodecatemoria, life cycles, houses, angles, aspects, human body, length of life, chronocrators, antiscia, etc.

Book 3: Planets in houses, Mercury/planet conjunctions, moon in houses, moon with Part of Fortune.

Book 4: Moon applying to planets, moon void of course, moon translating light from planets, Parts of Fortune & Spirit, Lord of the geniture, climacteric years, vocational indicator, full & void degrees in decans, masculine & feminine degrees, angular lunar conjunctions, etc.

Book 5: Angles by sign, ascendant by terms & conjoined planets, Saturn & Jupiter by sign, Mercury & Moon by terms or decans, advice on interpretation.

Book 6: Bright stars, planets in trine, square, opposition & conjunction, lunar configurations before birth, unfortunate nativities, sexual proclivities, planets as chronocrators, etc.

Book 7: Astrologer's oath, exposed infants, twins, monstrous births, infirmities, parental death, orphans, number of marriages, homosexuality, murder of spouse, infertility & celibacy, royal genitures, violent death, criminal nativities, eunuchs, hermaphrodites & perverts, occupations, etc.

Book 8: Astrologer's creed, Enenecontameris (90th degree), beholding & hearing signs, degrees in zodiacal constellations, extra-zodiacal constellations, the Myrogenesis (degrees of the zodiac), bright stars, advice on interpretation, conclusion.

Appendices: Translator's notes, Index of occupations, List of ancient astrologers, Bibliography, Glossary, Index.

Comment: Julius Firmicus Maternus, a native of Sicily, was a Roman lawyer of the senatorial class. He lived from c.280 to c.360. He was also a student of Greek astrology, which forms the basis of this book. James Holden writes, The Mathesis is the lengthiest astrological treatise that has come down to us from the classical period. It consists of 8 books, of which the first forms an introductory essay on astrology and the rest set forth the fundamentals of Greek astrology. Several sections contain material that is found nowhere else.

One of the classic books, studied by astrologers for more than a thousand years. This is also one of the best-translated books we have seen. The English is modern, clear & direct.

A reader raised a question about the list of full & empty degrees, given on pgs. 148-150. To clarify: For each sign, there are six locus. For Aries, the first locus has three degrees & they are empty. The second locus has five degrees, and they are full. The third has 9 degrees, empty, the fourth has four degrees, full, the fifth has five degrees, empty, and the sixth & last has four degrees, and is full. Checking the other signs, Cancer has 31 degrees, and a seventh locus (of 1 degree), which appears to be a mistake. As the total of empty Cancer degrees totals 12 (one more than it should have), we may presumably delete the last Cancer locus. Total of full & empty degrees in Libra also totals 31, which is the number of degrees the text says it should have (a zodiac of 361 degrees, presumably). (I would like to hear a solution for that.)

Click here for an extract (PDF).

Astrology Classics, 338 pages.

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MATHESIS - Julius Firmicus Maternus, translated by James Herschel Holden, $59.95


Translator's preface

The actual table of contents in this book, as well as in Bram's translation (above) is a simple "Book 1, Book 2, Book 3", etc. I have expanded to produce what follows, but I used the Bram translation to do so. The table of contents for Holden's translation should be essentially the same. Note the appendices are unique to each translator. - Dave

Book 1: Opening letter, arguments, difficulties, refutations, conclusions.

Book 2: Introduction, signs, domiciles, exaltations, falls, decans, degrees, diurnal/nocturnal sects, matutine & vespertine, rising times, signs & winds, dodecatemoria, life cycles, houses, angles, aspects, human body, length of life, chronocrators, antiscia, etc.

Book 3: Planets in houses, Mercury/planet conjunctions, moon in houses, moon with Part of Fortune.

Book 4: Moon applying to planets, moon void of course, moon translating light from planets, Parts of Fortune & Spirit, Lord of the geniture, climacteric years, vocational indicator, full & void degrees in decans, masculine & feminine degrees, angular lunar conjunctions, etc.

Book 5: Angles by sign, ascendant by terms & conjoined planets, Saturn & Jupiter by sign, Mercury & Moon by terms or decans, advice on interpretation.

Book 6: Bright stars, planets in trine, square, opposition & conjunction, lunar configurations before birth, unfortunate nativities, sexual proclivities, planets as chronocrators, etc.

Book 7: Astrologer's oath, exposed infants, twins, monstrous births, infirmities, parental death, orphans, number of marriages, homosexuality, murder of spouse, infertility & celibacy, royal genitures, violent death, criminal nativities, eunuchs, hermaphrodites & perverts, occupations, etc.

Book 8: Astrologer's creed, Enenecontameris (90th degree), beholding & hearing signs, degrees in zodiacal constellations, extra-zodiacal constellations, the Myrogenesis (degrees of the zodiac), bright stars, advice on interpretation, conclusion.

1. The Aldine version of the signs of the zodiac
2. Rhetorius's secondary significations of the Moon in houses 5 to 9 [from Chapter 57]
3. Table of fixed stars mentioned by Firmicus
4. Table of Paranatellonta mentioned by Firmicus
5. Index of occupations
6. Index of the causes of death
7. Index of personal characteristics

Index of persons


Preliminary: You will ask, since I publish the Bram translation of this book, should I be selling a competing version? My reply: Of course. My goal is to promote astrology, by any means that come to hand. But you wonder, Won't you lose money, since, as publisher, it must be more profitable to sell your own product? First, money isn't important. As an old boss once told me, if you're reduced to counting pennies per sale, you're already sunk. Surprisingly, the price difference between these two books is so great that, in fact, we will make more money, per copy, selling Holden's book than we make, per copy, on Bram's. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but this is a case of win-win, as far as we're concerned. I'd throw a party, except what the boss told me is also true in reverse: minor windfalls don't make for success. Get back to work!

In his Preface, Holden says he first started translating the Mathesis in 1955, many years before Bram came along. He was about halfway through when, in 1975, Bram's translation was published. Whereupon Holden set his work aside for many years. Why was Bram published but Holden was not? Because at the time Jean Rhys Bram was the Ph.D. Professor of Classics at Hunter College in New York. At the time James Herschel Holden was an aspiring astrologer with a day job. He has since become the AFA's Research Director and translator of many published volumes.

Among professionals, it is a matter of courtesy to let an existing translation stand, in other words, for Holden not to have published. This is an exception to this rule, for several reasons. One is that Holden, not Bram, has had a lifelong asociation with this book, which shows. The second is that it has been a great many years since the Bram translation - which I, not the original publisher, revived in 2005. Third is that Holden is working from a slightly different text. Fourth, and perhaps most important from our point of view, is that Holden is an astrologer with a life-long interest in ancient Greek astrology. By contrast, Bram had to be helped to get the astrology right.

So, how do the two translations stack up? I am torn. Here are identical passages from the end of Book IV:


[Conjunctions and defluctions of the Moon]

1. We must now show you how the Moon receded and how she is joined; phenomena which the Greeks call synafas (junction) and aporroicas (defluction). For in all signs she recedes from many and is joined in aspect to many. For whenever she is found in the sign or terms of some planets she is always in a state of receding from their house and entering into the next house.

2. Observe therefore if the ruler of the terms aspects her and from what house. Observe the planet whose sign she enters in the third place - for that also has power in the forecast - and pass on to the last degrees of that sign, so that you will be able to find everything which pertains to the Moon's significance.

3. You must notice that in all signs when the Moon possesses the last degrees she does not indicate anything; for if she is impeded by the sign she is meeting. Again when she is in the first degrees of a sign and receding from no one, then only the effects of the aspects must be considered. All the power of the sign she has just passed through is left behind at the boundary which is between signs, and another meaning is allotted in the first degree of the next sign. (pg. 153)


[Chapter 14a. The Moon's Separations.] [IV.25]

1. Now we ought to make known to you in what manner the Moon separates and also in what manner she is joined, which the Greeks call its synafae [and] aporroicae.[1] For in all the signs, she both departs from many [planets] and is joined by an aspect to many. For in whatever sign and the terms of whatever star she is found, departing from this one, she bears toward that one; and in the same sign she has entered the terms of some other star in the second place.

2. Look, therefore, to what degree the Ruler of the Terms aspects heror is posited in the same house [with her]. And, having grasped the preceding astrological influences, you will be able to explain the whole fate of a man with true statements. Look also, in the third place, at the degrees of which star she enters - for from that one[2] she receives the power of denoting [something] - and proced thus down to the last degrees of that sign, so that you can find everything in particular that pertains to the efficacy of the Moon.

3. For it must be known that in all signs, whenever the Moon possesses the last degrees, she bears to none, for she is prevented from doing so by the obstacle of the next sign.[3] But also again, when she is posited in tghe first degrees of a sign, she departs from none, but then only the efficacy of the [next] conjunction is investigated. For all the power of the preceding degrees is forfeited from her having passed over the dividing line, which is between both the signs, and she is allotted another efficacy from the first degree of the sign. (pgs. 244-5)

[1] These Latin neologisms are derived from the Greek words synaphai 'applications' and aporroiai 'separations'.
[2]Reading ex 'from' with the MSS rather than the Teubner editors emendation of et 'and'.
[3] Since the classical astrologers viewed the signs as households divided by walls, they did not recognize aspects from the end of one sign to the beginning of another as moderns do. In effect, it was the signs that were in aspect, rather than the individual degree pjositions of the planets within the signs.

Both extracts are very nearly gibberish. Bram might have known what she was translating, I do not know. Holden does. The subjects of these three paragraphs are, 1. Void of course Moon, and, 2. Whole sign aspects. I am disappointed that Holden is not more clear, as he could easily have been. (Whole sign aspects were the rule until Kepler, if I am not mistaken. There is a contradiction between voids and out-of-sign aspects: both cannot be true, but I digress.)

Frankly I do not think you need to have both of these. Which one should you get? If money is no problem, get Holden. As Bram translates concepts (when she understands them), her translation is more idiomatic. Lacking her professional training (a Ph.D counts for something), Holden translates sentence by sentence, resulting in translated Latin. Bram's translation is slightly clearer, but Holden has a slightly better source text (this is true of all old books: research constantly improves them), and Holden, not Bram, is an astrologer.

For both Holden and Bram, the price of each book is very nearly ten cents per page. Holden's book has twice as many pages, therefore the price is twice as much. I wish this book was not as expensive as it is. I would love to see Holden and Bram go head to head, without price being a barrier.

AFA, 618 pages.

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CARMEN ASTROLOGICUM - Dorotheus of Sidon, translated by David Pingree, $21.95
Contents: Preface

The first book of Dorotheus: On the upbringing and condition of the native
1. The knowledge of the seven in longitude and latitude, and the triplicities of the signs and their lords; 2. The exaltation of the planets; 3. Judgment about the case of the native or his difficulty to his mother; 4. Judgment concerning the matter of the upbringing of the native; 5. On the superiority of the places; 6. The power of the seven planets; 7. The upbringing of natives, and for whom there will be an upbringing or for whom an upbringing will not be known; 8. Knowledge of the masculine and feminine “hours” of the nativity; 9. The matter of bringing up again; 10. Knowledge of what indicates whether the native and his mother are slaves or free;

11. The knowledge of how many will own the native if he is a slave; 12. Consideration concerning the upbringing of the native, his condition, and his livelihood; 13. Knowledge of the lot of the father; 14. The lot of the mother; 15. Knowledge of the death of the parents of the native, one of the two before his companion; 16. Knowledge of whether the native will inherit his parents’ property or not; 17. Knowledge of how many will be born to the mother of the native; 18. On the matter of brothers; 19. The lot of brothers; 20. Knowledge of the love of the brothers;

21. Knowledge of the number of brothers and sisters; 22. Knowledge of the matter of the fortune of the native and [his] property and his illness; 23. Knowledge of the division of the planets with regard to good and evil; 24. In it are judgments concerning the matter of fortune and property in nativities; 25. On the knowledge of the excellence of fortune; 26. The magnitude of fortune and property; 27. The decline of status and disaster; 28. Knowledge of masculine and feminine signs, eastern and western, and diurnal and nocturnal.

The second book of Dorotheus: On marriage and children
1. “The beginning of its beginning is from marriage"; 2. Knowledge of the lot of wedding; 3. Knowledge of the lot [in] the nativity of a woman; 4. The lot of marriage; 5. Knowledge of how many wives he will marry; 6. Knowledge of the lot of wedding by day and by night; 7. Knowledge of sodomy; 8. Exposition of the matter of children; 9. Knowledge of the number of children; 10. Knowledge of the lot of children;

11. Lot of transit with respect to children; 12. Knowledge of females and males; 13. Knowledge of whether females or males are more numerous; 14. Aspect of trines, if one of the planets aspects another from trine; 15. Quartile [aspect]; 16. On the planets’ aspect from opposition; 17. Aspect of the planets from sextile; 18. If Saturn is with one of the seven; 19. If Jupiter is with one of the seven; 20. Knowledge of the places of the planets;

21. Arrival of the Moon in the places; 22. Arrival of the Sun in the places; 23. Arrival of Saturn in the places; 24. Arrival of Jupiter in the places; 25. Arrival of Mars in the places; 26. Arrival of Venus in the places; 27. Arrival of Mercury in the places; 28. Arrival of Saturn in another’s house; 29. Arrival of Jupiter in another’s house; 30. Arrival of Mars in another’s house; 31. Arrival of Venus in another’s house; 32. Arrival of Mercury in another’s house; 33. On the arrival of the planets, one of them in the house of another.

1. Governors and indicators of the years of life; 2. The haylaj.


1. “Introduction"; 2. Judgement according to the crooked and the straight; 3. Judgement according to the tropical [signs]; 4. Judgement according to the twin [signs]; 5. The corruption of the Moon; 6. One who wishes to build a building; 7. If you wish to demolish a building; 8. “Hiring and letting out"; 9. Buying and selling; 10. The buying of land;

11. The buying of slaves; 12. The buying of animals; 13. If you want to free a slave; 14. If you want to ask from a ruler or from a man for a request or a gift or other than this; 15. If you want to write to a man or you want to teach a man a science or writing; 16. Marriage and matrimony; 17. The courtship of a woman, and what occurs between a wife and her husband when she quarrels and scolds and departs from her house publicly; 18. A pregnant woman, if her child will die in her belly; 19. Partnership; 20. Debt and the payment for it;

21. The journey; 22. Departure from a journey; 23. Buying a ship or building it; 24. Commencing to build a ship; 25. Commencing to row the ship in the water; 26. “If a book or a message or a letter"; 27. Bondage and chains; 28. Judgement about what may not be afterwards of a matter which one hopes for, or according to this of things; 29. Query about the sick; 30. The commencement of all things;

31. “To know the condition of a sick [man]"; 32. “To know when the property of the native will increase or decrease"; 33. Clarification of the matter of two adversaries, if they argue and plead before a judge, which of the two will be successful and which of the two will be defeated; 34. “Concerning whether whether a man will depart from his land"; 35. If you want to know the matter of a theft that has been committed or something that has been lost, whether he will possess it [again] or not; 36. The runaway; 37. The treatment of spirits; 38. Someone wishes to retain [his food] or to drink a medicine for diarrhoea, and the rest of what is a remedy, with which he is cured from vomiting and diarrhoea; 39. Someone wishes to cut something from his body with a knife or scalpel, or to bleed a vein; 40. If there is an infection in the eye or a covering over it or something of what is treated with iron;

41. Illness as Qitrinus the Sadwali says; 42. The will; 43. On clarifying the phases [fasis] of the Moon and the head of the dragon and its tail, which indicate selling and buying and cheapness and expensiveness.

Appendix 1: Charts in modern format; Appendix 2: Table of dignities; Appendix 3: Dodecatemoria; Index

Comment: Dorotheus of Sidon, who appears to have lived in Alexandria, flourished in the first century AD. He wrote his Pentateuch (five books) on astrology in Greek, in verse. This translation, from 1976 by David Pingree, is from a fourth century Pahlavi (Persian) source.

The first book is on the judgement of nativities. Book two concerns marriage and children. Book three is on the length of life. Book four is on the transfer of years, i.e., forecasting. Book five is on interrogations, i.e., electional astrology.

In this book are the earliest known astrological charts. Dorotheus bases much of his interpretative methods on the triplicity rulers, by day and by night. All fire signs have the same rulers. All earth signs have their rulers, as do air and water signs. He uses Egyptian terms. He, like the Greeks of his day, also uses the Dodecatemoria, which are the twelfths of a sign. And many, many lots, all defined.

For the first time in this edition: Pingree's Preface newly translated. An appendix with charts in modern format. A complete table of terms and triplicity rulers. A table to calculate Dodecatemoria. Newly reset to match Pingree's original 1976 edition.

Written a century before Ptolemy, here is the mainstream of Greek astrology. It will handsomely repay study. Click here for a pdf extract, which happens to include seven of the nine charts in the book.

Astrology Classics, 192 pages.

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THE BOOK OF INSTRUCTIONS IN THE ELEMENTS OF THE ART OF ASTROLOGY - Al Biruni, translated by R. Ramsay Wright, $12.95
Contents: The Signs: Nature, characteristics, related to compass & winds; Influence on character, figure, face, profession, disease, crops, animals; Years of signs; Signs & planets in aspect & inconjunct; Relations other than aspect; Ascending & descending; Triplicities & quadrants

Planets: Nature, characteristics, related to compass; Lords of the hours & days of week; Relation to climates & cities; Their years, periods (Firdaria) of control of human life; Tables for indications as to soils, buildings, countries, jewels, foods, drugs, animals, crops, parts of the body, disposition & manners, disease, professions, etc.; Orbs & years: details of Firdaria; Domiciles & detriments, exaltation & fall; As lords of triplicities; Aspects, friendship & enmity

Divisions of the signs: Halves, Faces, Paranatellonta, Decanates, Ptolemy's thirds; Terms & their lords; Ninths & twelfths; Characteristics of degrees of the signs

The Houses: Tables of indications at nativities, at horary questions, as to organs, powers, joys & powers of the planets; Sex; Characteristics of of groups of houses in threes & sixes

The Part of Fortune: Tables of other Lots cast in a similar way; Relative position of planets & sun; Gazimi; Orientality; Influence changed under certain conditions; Tables; Application & separation; Dead degrees; Conjunction in longitude & latitude; Dignities; Order of precedence; Favorable & unfavorable situations of planets in signs & houses; Interference with their conjunctions; Reception, etc.; Substitute for conjunction & aspect; Opening the doors; Strengths & weaknesses of planets; The Combust Way

Judicial Astrology: Five divisions & astrological principles on which inquiries are based in each; Lord of the year; Determining conditions at a nativity, Hyleg, Ascendant, Horoscope, Direction or Aphesis, Gifts of length of life, Positon of the malefics which terminate it; Elections; Selecting suitable time for action; General questions; Thought reading; Danger of hasty conclusions; Index.

Comment: Written in Ghaznah in 1029 AD, this is a classic compilation of astrological rules & techniques. Much of the Greek-based material in the book is contrasted to Hindu astrology, which only reminds us that the Arab world was located between the Greek & the Indian. Among the highlights: Introduction to Firdaria, as well as ninths (navamsa) & 12ths (dodecatemoria) of signs. The largest listing of Arabic parts (Lots) ever, more than 150. Here they are organized by house, with secondary groups for planets, as well as mundane, crops & horary. The discussion of areas of the sky promoting blindness led to the surprising discovery that Arabic lunar mansions have shifted by two entire mansions over the past 1000 years. In other words, what used to be the 5th mansion is now the third. Notes on astrometeorology of the signs are further broken down by decanate & declination. Many other surprises in this book, I suspect. Completely reset (including tables), with index. Click here for a pdf extract.

Astrology Classics, about 100 pages.

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VETTIUS VALENS OF ANTIOCH ANTHOLOGY BOOK 1 - edited and translated by Andrea Gehrz, $29.00



1. On the nature of the wandering stars
2. On the nature of the twelve constellations of that comprise the zodiacal circle
3. The "bounds"; sixty tiny sections of degrees throughout the twelve signs
4. The hour of birth; also known as the "Horoscopos"
4.5 The gnomon of the Sun, Moon and ascendant
5. The midheaven
6. The ascensions of the zodiacal signs
7. The signs that "hear one another" and "see one another"
8. The manner with which to calculate the "newmoons" and "fullmoons" by hand
9. The seven celestial spheres and the seven sabbatical days of the seven planets
10. The planetary ruler of the year
11. The masculine and feminine degrees
12. On the Photismoi of the Moon Selene
13. The Krupsis of the Moon; also called "concealment"
14. The third, seventh and fortieth days of the month
15. The method by which to calculate the "ascending node of the moon"
16. The method by which to find the Bathmos and the Anemos of the moon
17. A counting of the moon as laid out by Hipparxeios
18. The calculation of the other wandering stars; also known as "planets"
18.5. The wandering stars and their paths through the houses
19. The twining of the qualities of the wandering stars
20. the twining of the qualities of the three planets
21. On conception
22. Possible outcomes for a birth that might occur around the seventh month of gestation

Works cited


The first of the nine books of Vettius Valens is introductory in nature. We are introduced to the twelve signs, we are introduced to the 60 terms or bounds (in medieval we use "terms," in Hellenistic we use "bounds," they are the same things). We are given the basics of chart construction, including ascensional times, which is the time it takes the 30 degrees of any given sign of the zodiac to cross the ascendant at any given degree of latitude north of the equator. Rising times are, in fact, Alcabitius houses, though astrology would not have the numbers to use it as a house system for several centuries. In Valens rising times function as a simple form of primary direction.

Unlike the Riley/Roell edition which will appear at some point in 2012, Gehrz's translation is pretty much exactly the book you are expecting and which you will want. In Gehrz's edition, the fussy bits of calculation are there, but are easy to overlook, in favor of cookbook delineations and general advice to the student. Gehrz is neatly packaged with very attractive, easy to read layouts. If Andrea is not a layout artist, this book easily qualifies her as one. (Good layouts are important.) This is Hellenistic astrology which fits neatly with the current understanding of Hellenistic astrology, and which advances the study.

The Riley/Roell edition will be much more intense. Roell gives charts, in Book 1 he takes Valens' calculation routines and proves them. Between Prof. Riley, and Roell, all tables are fully worked out. Roell provides numerous marginal notes. A lot of the detail will go over your head. I mention this now so that you have an idea what I'm up to.

Andrea needs 241 pages for the first book, for a price of $29.00. The first book in the Riley/Roell edition has a mere 49 pages. Riley/Roell will give you the entire 9 books, plus introductions and appendices, for about $60 (don't hold me to that). Andrea tells me she intends to translate and publish all nine books over the next year or two. So, if Andrea continues as she has, you will spend a lot more money on her edition, than you will with the Riley/Roell. Personally, I think she's worth it, and if you really want to know, I will be studying her work as I put the final preparations on Prof. Riley's. Andy is good, and I am proud to be in her company.

You will want to know how the two editions compare. Here is an example:


Saturn and Jupiter

Saturn and Jupiter are of the same sect and thus they are sympathetic to one another. Together they can bring about help from the "affairs of the dead", as natives with this combination can come into earthly resources through the mixing of their qualities. Saturn and Jupiter can bring about a native that would do well in the role of an administrator or trustee. It can make the native inclined to take care of the affairs of another, as together these planets can involve the native with domesticity in all its forms, especially the activities such as paying monthly installments and bills. (pg. 205)


Saturn and Jupiter

When Saturn and Jupiter are together, they are in agreement with each other, and they bring about benefits from legacies and adoptions, and they cause men to be masters of property consisting of land, to be guardians, managers of others' property, stewards and tax gatherers. (pg. 33)

You will note that Gehrz, the astrologer, has teased out the word sect, as she is familar with the term, which Riley, an academic, has overlooked. Which has value to us, as we know how sect is structured. On the other hand, "gathering taxes" is the inverse of "paying bills", and of the two translators, I would here trust Riley over Gehrz. Neither of these are trivial distinctions, and obliges us to study both translators.

I look forward to Andrea's work with the other books in this series. I expect that many of you are looking forward to my work with Riley's translation. You will have it soon.

Moira Press, 263 pages.

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Chart data

1. Astrology's bricks & mortar
2. Astrology's planets
3. Kinship of planets & the zodiac
4. Triplicites
5. Planetary lords & determination of soul
6. The Hellenistic lots
7. The twelve places
8. Aspects & other connections
9. The planets & when you see them
10. Representing love & parents
11. The non-wandering stars
12. Transits & perfections
13. Planetary time lord systems
14. Ascensions & directions


Comment: In his second book, Joseph Crane offers an in-depth analysis of Hellenistic astrology, with many chart examples & detailed analysis.

The introductory chapters give a thorough grounding in astrological basics, including many that astrologers have long ignored. Like Rumen Kolev, Crane emphasizes the importance of looking at the sky itself: How the sun rises, how the seasons progress & what this means, north & south of the equator, by day & by night. In the process, he tells us not only the techniques Hellenistic astrologers used, but the questions they asked in order to interpret the chart in front of them.

Chapter 6, is on Lots, or Parts. Crane knows what they are, knows how to intepret them, and finds them essential in understanding a chart. Crane gets his from Paulus, he seems unaware of Al Biruni's list. Crane will tell you what to do with them. Specifically, Fortune, Spirit, Necessity, Eros, Courage, Victory, Nemesis, Exaltation, Accusation & Basis. Past chapter 6, Crane employs Lots for the rest of the book. Lots with houses, lots with aspects, lots with everything.

Chapter 7, on houses, does a good job of explaining & advocating whole sign equal houses, a major part of Hellenistic astrology. It is not until the reader gets to this chapter that he will understand the earlier charts in the book, a minor quibble. In the Preface, Crane says he has not attempted a complete treatise on Hellenistic astrology, that he has been forced, one way or another, to pick and choose what he has included. I would like to think there is more about houses, or Places (Crane's chosen term) in Hellenistic astrology than what Crane has given us.

The book notably lacks a glossary. A passing note on two of the charts used in the book: I have come to suspect that Mozart's birth data was fudged by his father, Leopold (as was Beethoven's, by his father, but I digress). I suspect Mozart's birth was perhaps 3-5 years earlier than commonly accepted. And one should consider that Mother Teresa, a Serb, may had her birth recorded in the Julian calendar, not the Gregorian, as is commonly believed.

Crane bases his work on that of Dorotheus of Sidon, Manilius, Hephaistio of Thebes, Antiochus of Athens, Paulus Alexandrinus, Anonymous of 379, Firmicus Maternus, Abu Mashar, and, above all the others, Claudius Ptolemy & Vettius Valens. My quibbling aside, you will learn fabulous things from this book. So far as natal astrology is concerned, you may learn more from this one book than you will learn from any other, but it is not an easy book to master.

Wessex, 314 pages.

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R.V. writes:
Crane's exposition is wide, albeit with problems. He fails to brigde the theory to the practice. My perception is that the book ofters you a large array of technics but you won't be able to interpret.

Contents: Introduction;

1. Historical Perspective: What astrology is & is not; Early beginnings; Greek astrology; Roman & early Christian influences; The Islamic contribution; The Renaissance & astrology's glory; Astrology as a pseudo-science; The resurgence of scientific astrology.

2. Genethliacal Astrology: The branches of astrology; The astronomical basis for astrology; The tools of astrology; The Loci; The meanings of the loci; Astrological terminology; Chart construction.

3. The Signs: The Aristotelian basis for astrology; The triplicities; The sects; The quadriplicities; The decanates; The nature of the signs; Some peripheral descriptions of the signs; Places indicated by the signs; Parts of the body & diseases indicated by the signs; Flora & fauna indicated by the signs; The years of the signs; The meanings of the degrees of the signs.

4. The Planets: The nature of the planets; The domiciles of the planets; Face & sect; Debilities & exaltations; Rulers of the triplicities; Friendship & enmity of the planets; Rulership of the decans; The terms; Rulership of a point in the chart; Theory of the years of the planets & signs; The nodes; The trans-Saturnian planets.

5. The Aspects: The classical theory of aspects; The power of the aspects; The apparent velocity & accleration of the planets; Application & separation of aspects; Orientality & occidentality of the planets; The planets' power as regards to loci; Other significant planetary relationships; Completion of the aspects; Modern aspects; Review of the theory of planetary power.

Appendix A. Time; Appendix B. Classical loci division; Bibliography.

Some of the tables found in the text: Delineation of signs & decanates (whole, north, south, each decanate individually) years of the signs, male & female degrees, bright & dark degrees, fortunate degrees & pitted degrees (a list), day/night lords of the triplicities (both Ptolemaic & Arabic) which largely agree with Dorotheus, Ptolemaic rulers of decans, lords of the hours & days of the week, Ptolemaic terms.

Comment: In the introduction, from 1982, the author writes, This book is an attempt to reconstruct the astrology of the classicists, (i.e., astrology of the period 200 BC to AD 1600). No claims are made concerning the efficacy of this astrology. The reader who wishes to apply the principles outlined in this text can determine for himself the practical limits of their applicability. In any event it is hoped that the reader will gain an appreciation for what astrology really was, and how and why it was expected to work. If the misconceptions surrounding this ancient art can be laid to rest, perhaps astrology may once again take its place as a valid course of study within the academy. (pg. vi)

Noonan studied Aristotle, Ptolemy, Al Biruni, Masha'allah, Firmicus Maternus, Plato & Abu'mashar, among others. In the last chapter, he relates Ptolemy to Pythagoras, the aspects to the Tetractys (a pyramidal arrangement of 10 dots), these to ratios, and the ratios to musical intervals (octave, fifth, fourth, etc.), which uncovers the real meaning of the "music of the spheres". To further help you "place" Noonan, he considers Morin a better astrologer than Lilly. Many more useful details & insights in this wonderful book.

AFA, 192 pages.

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ASTROLOGICAL COMPENDIUM: Containing his explanation & narration of the whole art of astrology - Rhetorius the Egyptian, $24.95


Translator's preface to the first edition
Translator's preface to the second edition
Translator's preface to the third edition
Translator's preface to the fourth edition

1. Masculine & feminine signs & houses, and stars that become masculine & feminine
2. The sects of the stars
3. The natures of the twelve signs
4. Rough-skinned, leprous, mangy, & the scurvy signs
5. Licentious signs
6. Signs harmful to the eyes
7. Exaltations & falls
8. The oppositions of the stars
9. The sect of the rulers of the triplicities
10. The 36 decans & the paranatellonta & the faces
11. The bright fixed stars & the powers of the paranatellonta
12. The terms according to the Egyptians & Ptolemy & the bright & shadowy degrees
13. The risings in the seven climes
14. The parts of the body ruled by the signs
15. Trines & squares & oppositions & those that are disjunct with each other as with the opposition
16. Disjunct signs & those having sympathy with each other
17. Squares that are sympathetic & those that are not
18. The dodecatemories of the stars
19. Hearing & seeing (signs)
20. Beholdings

21. Casting a ray
22. Dexter & sinister aspects
23. The doryphory of the stars
24. The out-of-sect doryphory
25. Doryphories with harmony
26. Dominance
27. Affliction & ineffective houses
28. Effective houses
29. In proper face
30. Joint possession
31. Incongruity of position
32. Joint rulership
33. The house-ruler
34. Kollesis
35. Application
36. Intervention
37. Separation
38. Bonding
39. Void of course
40. Juxtaposition

41. Besieging
42. Fortified stars
43. Chariots
44. When stars rejoyce
45. Stars under the sun beams
46. Times of life of the angles, succedents & cadents
47. Sigification of the lots
48. Signification of these lots
49. The complete & least years of the stars
50. How one calculates the increment of the signs & the hours of the climes
51. The greatest years & the complete revolution of the seven stars
52. Stars disjunct with the lights
53. Influence of the doryphories of the sun
54. Topical examination of the horoscope
55. Childbirth
56. The kinds of nativities indicated by the day-ruler & the hour-ruler
57. Significations of the twelve houses of the chart
58. The power of the fixed stars
59. General configurations of the moon
60. The dodecatemorion

61. General configurations of injuries & sickness
62. Degrees injurious to the eyes
63. Those who are bold
64. Those with gout
65. Madmen & epileptics
66. Lechers & drunkards & homosexuals
67. Houes & degrees producing lechers & homosexuals
68. Decans producing lechers
69. The sun
70. The moon
71. Saturn
72. Jupiter
73. Mars
74. Mercury
75. The ascendant
76. Lecherous signs
77. General configurations of those dying violently
78. General configurations of those who are exiled
79. The phases of the moon
80. The ascending node & the descending node

81. General configurations of those enjoying good fortune
82. Action & pursuits
83. The three stars signifying actions
84. Trades
85. Orators& preachers
86. Astrologers or diviners
87. Bath-workers
88. Removers of corpses
89. Architects & potters
90. Drunkards & lewd persons & sorcerers
91. Carpenters & tanners & stone-masons & gem-engravers
92. Masters of the hounds & falconers & bird-keepers & painters
93. Sailors & steersmen
94. Tailors
95. Mechanics & jugglers
96. Mimes
97. Parents
98. Parents who are foreigners
99. Patricides & matricides & enemies of their parents & outcasts
100. The longevity of the parents

101. Parents from new moons & full moons
102. Which of the parents dies first
103. The number of children born previously
104. Brothers, their friendship & how many there are
105. The friendship of brothers
106. The third sign from the ascendant
107. Elder & younger brothers
108. How many brothers
109. Application & separation
110. An example
111. Bonding
112. Void of course
113. The nativity of a grammarian
114. Why he was a grammarian
115. Why he was a traitor
116. His lechery
117. The rising of his fortune
118. The nativity of a child who died early

1. The twelve signs. Index of constellations & star names
2. The nature & force of the seven planets
3. Judging an eclipse
4. How the points of the twelve houses must be found to the exact degree
5. The time of life according to all the rulers & the ruler of the nativity
6. Comparison of chapter numbers

Index of persons


Here is how the translator, James Herschel Holden, described Rhetorius in his book, A History of Horoscopic Astrology:

Rhetorius the Egyptian seems to have lived around 505 AD; he compiled a valuable compendium of the works of Antiochus & Porphry, with excerpts from Vettius Valens & some other earlier writers. His book seems to have been entitled, From the Treasury of Antiochus, an Explanation & Narration of the Whole Art of Astrology. A number of chapters are nearly identical to chapters in Porphyry's Introduction. This probably indicates that both Rhetorius & Porphyry independently borrowed those chapters from Antiochus of Athens.

There is much material in Rhetorius's book that is found nowhere else. In addition we get the impression that Rhetorius himself was a competent astrologer. One particularly notable section in his book is Chapter 54, "Topical Examination of the Chart," which contains the only systematic method of chart reading that has come down to us from the classical period. The anonymous compiler of the Book of Hermes copied this into his work as Chapter 16 & the medieval Latin translation is useful for emending the text of Rhetorius & for supplying portions of the text thast are now missing in the Greek.

Chapter 57 contains the most elaborate set of interpretations of the planets in the twelve houses that has come down to us. Actually, it is a double set, for Rhetorius evidently had two separate sources for this material. One of them is the same source used by Firmicus in Book 3 of the Mathesis. The other one is different. Rhetorius also gives the signirication of the nodes in the houses, and he gives many significations for the ruler of one house being located in another house (e.g. when the ruler of the 5th is in the 3rd). (pgs. 85-6)

In his History, Holden goes on to quote Rhetorius on the 8th house. No need for me to do that. You can now get the book.

This translation has a long history, which Holden details in his four Prefaces. The late David Pingree was working on a new compilation of this book, but died before he could complete it. Holden gives this & many other details, but omits the one that interests me most: Was this book originally in verse, or not?

As I've elsewhere mentioned, the reason early writers all quoted one another, and at length, is because the books were in verse. Verse is different from prose. These authors had earlier memorized entire books & when the time came to write their own, they had a great deal of information at their fingertips. Contrast this to William Lilly who had memorized nothing & therefore had to fall back on trite phrases, such as (said of Schoener), A good book but not methodical. Which, by the way, implies that Schoener did not write in verse. Neither did Lilly. As a result, there is not a man alive, including John Frawley, who can quote Lilly at length.

This book ranks in importance with Ptolemy and Firmicus. It is essential.

AFA, 222 pages.

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Elizabeth Hazel writes,
Rhetorius (and Holden’s translation of him) deserves a resounding five-star salute with additional accolades. This book is a veritable jewel of material from the classical period, with lots of wee bits and treasures not often found in other ancient books. Top-notch, must-have book for any astrologer interested in ancient astrology & methodology. Rhetorius is the whip. The section at the end with constellations includes some very rarely mentioned Babylonian constellations that were pretty much forgotten by his contemporaries, and certainly out of use by the time of Porphyry. Fascinating stuff.

THE JUDGMENTS OF NATIVITIES - Abu 'Ali Al-Khayyat (trans: James Holden), $23.95

Introduction by James Holden; Preface to the edition of 1546 by Joachim Heller of Weissenfels.

1. Rearing of children; 2. Hyleg & the knowledge of the length of life; 3. The Alcochoden & what it signifies about life; 4. How much the stars add or subtract to the years of the Alcochoden; 5. The native's quality of mind; 6. Testimonies signifying the nativities of kings; 7. The native's prosperity & adversity (with 12 examples); 8. The time of the native's good fortune; 9. The sources of the native's prosperity;

10. The native's circumstances & the things indicated by the 1st house; 11.The native's wealth & its sources & things signified by the 2nd house; 12. The fortune of the brothers; 13. The number of brothers; 14. The reputation & nobility of the brothers; 15. The mutual friendship or hatred of the brothers; 16. The fortune of the parents & things signified by the 4th house; 17. The length of life of father; 18. The length of life of the mother; 19. Finding the hyleg for the life of the parents;

20. The status of the children & the things signified by the 5th house; 21. The time of the children; 22. The native's slaves & subordinates & significations of the 6th house; 23. The native's luck with animals & cattle; 24. The native's infirmity & its causes; 25. Matrimonial matters & their causes & the things signified by the 7th house; 26. The things signified by the Part of Marriage; 27. The native's travel & trips & the things signified by the 9th house; 28. Utility or loss on a trip; 29. The native's law & religion & his dreams;

30. The native's dignity & work & the things signified by the 10th house; 31. The native's place in the kingdom; 32. The native's prosperity & power; 33. The native's profession; 34. The native's audacity & courage; 35. Friends; 36. Enemies & the things signified by the 12th house; 37. The quality of death & its occasions; 38. The general way or method of judgment of the 12 houses of heaven; 39. Saturn in its own domicile & in those of the other planets in diurnal & nocturnal nativities;

40. Jupiter in its own domicile & in those of the other planets; 41. Mars in its own domicile & in those of the other planets; 42. The Sun in its own domicile & in the domiciles of the other planets; 43. Venus in its own domicile & in those of the other planets; 44. Mercury in its own domicile & in those of the other planets; 45. The moon in its own domicile & in those of the other planets; 46. The lord of the hour; 47. The significations of the planets in the individual house of the natal horoscope: Planets in the ascendant; Planets in the 2nd house; Planets in the 3rd house; Planets in the 4th house; Planets in the 5th house; Planets in the 6th house; Planets in the 7th house; Planets in the 8th house; Planets in the 9th house; Planets in the 10th house; Planets in the 11th house; Planets in the 12th house; 48. The head & tail of the dragon of the moon in the 12 houses of heaven; 49. The effects & indications of the Part of Fortune in the 12 houses of the natal horoscope; 50. The rest of the accidental dignities or debilities of the Part of Fortune; A caution that must be observed in judgments.

Appendix 1: Notes on the 12 example horoscopes. Appendix 2: Masha'Allah's Book of Nativities. Glossary. Bibliography.

Comment: A small but excellent treatise from the early 9th century. Although the author was one of the leading Arabic astrologers of his day, this book is a compendium of Greek, not Arabic, astrology. (Most of what is termed Arabic astrology, including the Parts, were already in use by the Greeks centuries before.) Of Abu 'Ali's ten known books, only two have survived to modern times. Originally in Arabic, Holden has translated the 1546 Latin translation of Joachim Heller.

May, 2009: Newly reset. No longer in dot-matrix. This is now a very nicely done book.

AFA, 146 pages.

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INTRODUCTION TO THE TETRABIBLOS, by Porphyry, and, ASTROLOGICAL DEFINITIONS, by Serapio of Alexandria, translated by James Herschel Holden, $18.95


Translator's preface
Preface to the second edition
Preface to the third edition
Preface to the published edition

By Porphyry the Philosopher: Introduction to the Tetrabiblos of Ptolemy:
1. Preface
2. Changes produced by the transfers of the Sun, Moon & stars
3. The configurations that the stars make in their high and low points, the apogees & the perigees
4. Diurnal & nocturnal stars
5. The houses which are also called the zones of the stars
6. Exaltations
7. Co-rulers
8. Aspects
9. Dexter & sinister aspects
10. Platic
11. Applications & Kollesis
12. Separation
13. Another definition of separation
14. Blockade
15. Besieging
16. Intervention
17. Transfer of nature
18. Aggregation
19. Refrenation
20. Predominating
21. Prevailing
22. Homoresis
23. Void of course
24. Casting rays
25. Chariots
26. Joint possession
27. Incongruity of position
28. Affliction 29. Doryphory
30. The house ruler & the ruler & the ruling planet
31. Obeying signs
32. Equipollent signs
33. Seeing signs & maximum days
34. Inconjunct signs
35. Cadent & succedent houses
36. Effective signs
37. The conception sign of the Sun
38. The conception sign of the Moon
39. The Dodecatenory of the Moon
40. Masculine & feminine signs
41. The rising time of the signs
42. In how many times each degree rises by signs
43. The determination of the angular, cadent & succedent house for a particular degree
44. What sort of body part each sign was allotted
45. What sort of part of the body each star rules
46. The apparel & dye or complexions the stars rule
47. The 36 decans & their paranatellonta & faces
48. The powers of the bright fixed stars & their paranatellonta
49. The terms according to the Egyptians & Ptolemy & the bright & dark degrees
50. The Melothesis of the signs
51. Trines, squares, sextiles, oppositions & disjuncts having testimony to each other as in the system of oppositions
52. The times of the angles, the succedents & the cadents
53. In how many ways the influences of the planets are generated
54. Exposition of the testimony of the planets
55. The rays (orbs) of the planets

Index of persons

By Serapio of Alexandria: Astrological Definitions:
Translator's preface
Astrological definitions
Index of persons


Ptolemy's Tetrabiblos was a century old when Porphyry came to write his Introduction to it. Porphyry's book looks a lot like a condensed version of Al Biruni's book, written 8 centuries later. That Porphyry stuck Ptolemy's name on it tells me several things. One, that Ptolemy wrote his book in verse, not prose, because only books in verse circulated. (Ptolemy's original text was lost, he exists only in the paraphrase of Proclus, of the 5th century. Which, to Porphyry, was centuries in the future.) Next, it tells me that despite books by Vettius Valens, Rhetorius, Dorotheus & others, Ptolemy's book had already become a standard reference - at least as far as Porphyry's immediate neighborhood was concerned. A reference that was flawed, in that it (Ptolemy) lacked essential details, the necessary twiddly bits, that make the rest of it work. Hence, Porphyry to the Rescue!

In his Preface, Holden notes that parts of this book turn up, verbatim, in books by Antiochus, Rhetorius & Sahl Ibn Bishr. This leads Holden to speculate that Porphyry's book was a composite patched together by Demophilus around the year 990. Dear Mr. Holden, should you chance across these notes, it is critical to know if these sources are all in poetry, and if so, if they were all written in the same language and used the same meter, which, if so, would indicate they were not copied from one manuscript to another, but recited, independently, from memory onto paper, by each of the people concerned. Just as I might recite Row, row, row your boat / Gently down the stream or Poe's The Raven, from memory. In my view, it is critical to establish how knowedge was transmitted from one generation to another, to better understand how ancient society worked.

Which brings me to Porphyry's book itself. In brief, some of the details will be familiar to students, but many will not. It will repay study. Study the list of contents, above, closely.

Seraphio's Definitions comprise a mere ten pages. Many of them look as if they are aphorisms written in code. To wit:

The stars are said to be in their own chariots whenever they are in their own exaltations. (pg. 63, emphasis in original)
The identity of Seraphio, his dates, are unknown. It is speculated he lived in the first century BC or AD, which is rather vague, and that his book (more like a monograph) was compiled around 1000 AD, perhaps, again, by Demophilus.

Another very useful book from Mr. Holden. I wonder how many more surprises he has in store for us.

See also the Gehrz translation of this same book, which follows immediately below

AFA, 73 pages.

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AN INTRODUCTION TO THE TETRABIBLOS - Porphyry of Tyre, translated by Andrea L. Gerhz, $16.95


Introduction to the text
Introduction to Greek & Ptolemaic cosmology
Introduction to aspects & beams
Translator's introduction

1. Introduction
2. The things signified by the revolutions of the Sun, Moon & the remaining planets
3. The places in which the planets reach apogee & perigee
4. Nocturnal & diurnal planets
5. The naming of certain zones & signs to the specific planets
6. Exaltation
7. Co-rulers of the places
8. Testimony
9. Right-handed & left-handed aspects
10. Transmission
11. Planets in union or closing in on one another
12. Separating
13. More on separating
14. Being surrounded
15. Being enclosed
16. Intervention
17. Transference
18. Collection
19. Turning away
20. Upon the tenth
21. Superiority
22. Juxtaposition
23. Void of course
24. The casting of rays
25. Chariots
26. Cooperation
27. Counteraction
28. Maltreatment
29. Keeping guard
30. The sign ruler, the lord, and the ultimate ruler of the nativity
31. Signs of correspondence
32. Signs of equal power
33. Signs that are visible to one another & the magnitude of the day
34. Unconnected signs
35. Cadent houses
36. Productive signs
37. The conception sign of the Sun
38. The conception sign of the Moon
39. The twelfth part
40. Masculine & feminine signs
41. The ascensional times of the signs
42. The amount of time equivalent to each degree of each ascending sign
43. A method for distinguishing the boundaries, by degree, between the angular, cadent & sucedent houses
44. The parts of the body signified by each sign
45. The parts of the body ruled by each of the planets
46. The clothing, dyes & colors ruled by each planet
47. The thirty-six decans & the paranatellonta & their associated characteristics
48. The fixed stars & the power of the paranatellonta
49. The bounds according to the Egyptians, and Ptolemy & the dark degrees
50. The assigning of the parts of the body to the signs
51. An outline of the different methods for calculating trines, squares, sextiles & oppositions
52. The times of life in regards to the angular, cadent & succedent houses
53. The manners through which the indications of the planets come to fruition
54. A consideration regarding the testimony of the planets
55. The beams of the planets

Appendix of Scholia by Demophilus (or Theophilus)
Section 2
Section 30
Section 42
Section 53

Works cited


This is the same book as has been recently translated by James Holden (see directly above). For details of the book itself, discussion of the contents, etc., see my notes above. Here I will focus on translation.

This is a different kind of translation than what we are accustomed to. For an approximation of the differences, study carefully the two Tables of Contents.

Many years ago I spent a semester at the Universite Paul Valery, in Montpellier, France, studying the French language. While there I associated with French students studying English. We sort of helped each other out. From time to time I saw some of their lessons. One I remember was to translate a rather complex French sentence into English. I could read the French fine, and, as a native English speaker, I could easily see the first two choices were grammatically incorrect. The third choice I thought was a perfect fit, while the fourth was slangy. I chose the third, and then checked the answer.

And I was wrong. The correct answer was not the one that most closely matched the French original. The correct answer was the original thought, reconceptualized into idiomatic English. The right answer was fourth, not the third.

I've remembered that ever since. And I've remembered that whenever I've found myself reading books in translation. Novels, for example, where command of the English language is vitally important to narrative flow. Not fidelity to the structure of the original.

As of the last 20 years we find ourselves, as astrologers, reading translations of ancient texts. Some of these translations are better than others, but many are just plain dreadful. For example, I have heard stories that a new translation of Firmicus Maternus, an "improved" version, is in the offing. The fragments I have seen look to be a close approximation of the Latin original - and perfectly hideous to read. Jean Rhys Bram knew what she was doing. She made Firmicus sing.

Andrea Gehrz is a translator in the style of Bram. You won't know what I'm talking about until you see her work, side by side with Holden's. Here are two contrasting translations, by Gehrz and Holden, of the same passage from An Introduction to the Tetrabiblos of Ptolemy:


Section 11: "Planets in Union or Closing in on One Another"

They call it a union and a closing in whenever there is a configuration by degree, or there is an aspect that is about to come together within three degrees. It is also termed a closing in whenever a faster moving planet is approaching a slower moving planet, but the planets are no greater than three degrees apart from one another. Certain authors suggest that, in regards to the moon, these configurations should be considered within a span of thirteen degrees, because the moon travels 13 degrees in the course of one day and one night. (pg. 16)

11. Application and Koellesis

They say that an application is a kollesis whenever they apply partilely, according for example to a configuration at some particular time, or even when they are about to come together within three degrees. It was also said if it was thus: it is a kollesis whenever one star moves towards another star, the swift one moving to the slow one that is not distant more than three degrees. And in the case of the Moon, some say within thirteen degrees; that is, in both her day and night course to observe the conjunction when she applies to one of them. (pg. 13)

Read these, and then re-read them, critically.

Holden is technically more correct than Gehrz. The Greek original in fact flows (or so I presume) more or less as Holden has rendered it.

But note this, think about this carefully: The Greek original was presumably idomatic to Greek speakers of Porphyry's day. (Idiomatic defined as: Using, containing, or denoting expressions that are natural to a native speaker.) Holden's translation is not idiomatic to modern English speakers. With Holden's translation we struggle to understand what Porphyry has (presumably) stated clearly. We are additionally hobbled by Holden's refusal to fully translate. We are left with "kollesis" as well as the presumably atypical use of the word, "application". Much of what Holden has translated is very nearly gibberish.

We come now to the Gehrz translation, which rings with clarity. Has anything of significance been lost in the Gehrz translation? Not so far as I can see. No, we can't use her text to reconstruct the Greek original (presuming we'd want to do such a silly thing), but then, we can't use Holden's translation for that purpose, either. So why are translations like Holden's (and Hand's, and Schmidt's, and Dykes', etc.) so convoluted?

Judging by the pictures on her website, Andrea Gehrz is somewhat less than 40 years old, perhaps a lot less. She represents a new generation in translators. James Herschel Holden, by contrast, is somewhere north of 80. Holden has many outstanding translations, a lifetime's work, to his credit. For many years he has been the Research Director at the AFA.

So I was disappointed the AFA refused to carry the Gehrz translation. Did not want to upset Mr. Holden. Which limits her distribution. This is Gehrz's first translation, and it is an excellent one. With encouragement, she will give us many more.

Moira Press, 74 pages.

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Contents: Preface; 1. Introduction: Why classical?; 2. Have you forgotten what the sky looks like at night? The Babylonian captivity; 3. Elements, qualities & triplicities; 4. Historical context: from the fall of Rome to the end of the Renaissance, Historical interlude: the cyclic new ages; 5. Essential dignities; 6. Accidental dignities; 7. Everything you ever wanted to know about Sect; 8. The Part of Fortune; 9. When a quincunx (or semi-sextile) is not inconjunct;

10. The nodal cycle: From Ptolemy to Rudhyar; 11. What is mutual reception, anyway?; 12. The ancient medical model & its meaning in wellness & psychology; 13. Beyond aspects: how to read a house; 14. Profections: the easy way to spin a chart; 15. Changes. References, Appendix: Classical sources index, Charts.

Comment: A mixture of shrewd historical commentary, coupled with explanation & analysis of classical (eg, traditional) astrology. Lehman not only explains how to do things, she also says why things are done they way they are & why that makes sense. She has an excellent (and quite rare) grasp of astrological history, the who/what/when/where/why that makes her subject come alive. The end result is to mix old techniques with new, combining the best of both. She applies these to the charts of Prince Charles, Aleister Crowley, Catherine de Medici, Muhammad Ali, George Foreman & others. An excellent, absorbing book.

Whitford, 350 pages, paper.

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ASTRONOMICA (aka Five Books of Manilius) - Manilius (trans: G.P. Goold), $28.00


The world of Manilius (map)

About the poet
A guide to the poem
The manuscripts
Editorial principles
Bilbiography (with addendum)

The Astronomica of Marcus Manilius

  • Book One
  • Book Two
  • Book Three
  • Book Four
  • Book Five

The skies of Manilius (star charts)

Comment: From the inside front flap:

Marcus Manilius, who lived in the reigns of Augustus and Tiberius, is the author of the earliest treatise on astrology we possess. His Astronomica, a Latin didactic poem in five books, begins with an account of celestial phenomena, and then proceeds to treat of the signs of the zodiac and the twelve temples; there follow instructions for calculating the horoscoping degree, and details of chronocrators, decans, injurious degrees, zodiacal geography, paranatellonta, and other technical matters. Besides exhibiting great virtuosity in rendering mathematical tables & diagrams in verse form, the poet writes with some passion about his Stoic beliefs & shows much wit & humour in his character sketches of persons born under particular stars. Perhaps taking a lead from Virgil in his Georgics, Manilius abandons the proportions of his last book to narrate the story of Perseus & Andromeda at considerable length.

In spite of its undoubted elegance, the Astronomica is a difficult work, and this edition provides in addition to the first English prose translation a full guide to the poem, with copious explanatory notes & illustrative figures.

If you ever wondered why so many early books were in verse, rather than prose, the answer is that books themselves were often scarce. One way of making a book "go further" was to write in poetry. Poetry, unlike prose, has meter, and meter enables wholesale memorization. So a book that could be memorized is a book that could be passed along, from student to student. Nowadays few realize the power of illiteracy to enhance the human mind in this fashion. We are all lazy readers with no memory at all. The sheer torment of unwanted advertising jingles is all we have to remind ourselves of the power of the mind. This translation, however, is in modern prose, not poetry.

In the Introduction is an outline of the books themselves. As this is more useful than the printed Table of Contents, I will give it in full. This also applies to the Creech translation, below.

Book One:
The origin & nature of the universe
The stars of the sky
The planets
The circles of the sky

Book Two:
Signs of the zodiac
Conjunctions of the signs
The guardians of the signs
The parts of the body allocated to the signs
More relationships of the signs
Zodiacal dodecatemories
Planetary dodecatemories
The fixed circle of the observer

Book Three:
The circle of the twelve athla (lots)
The lot of Fortune
How to find the horoscope
Length of life
Tropic signs

Book Four:
Zodiacal influences on the native
Partes damnandae (favorable & unfavorable degrees)
Influences of certain zodiacal degrees
A description of the world
National differences
Zodiacal geography
Ecliptic signs

Book Five:
Planetary influences
Stellar magnitudes

The Introduction, over 100 pages in length, is a very good guide to the books themselves. In places it can substitute for Manilius completely. Regrettably, the subheads given in the Introduction are not copied into the books themselves, so one must use line numbers, which is not quite as handy. The introduction also contains numerous tables & illustrations, all of which are most helpful.

The format of the five Books themselves has original Latin on the left-hand pages, English translation on the right, as is standard in scholastic treatises such as this. Overall, this is an outstanding effort to make practical sense of Manilius's work.

Loeb Classical Library, hardcover with dustjacket, 393 pages.

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THE FIVE BOOKS OF M. MANILIUS, containing a system of ancient astronomy & astrology together with the philosophy of the Stoicks - Manilius, translated by Thomas Creech, $11.00

Preface to this edition, by Ernest Grant, 1953 (founder & head of the AFA)
An account of Manilius

The Five Books

Comment: This is poetry translated as poetry, which is a difficult & thankless job (I can read French, and English translations of French poetry simply do not work). By the time this translation was first published, in 1697, there was an abundant trade in English prose books (Christian Astrology having appeared some 50 years earlier), so there is no clear reason why Thomas Creech should have written poetry rather than prose, aside from his personal taste in the matter.

In addition to being poetry, and in addition to its wire binding, the text is set in an annoying typewriter font, which on a few pages is a bit light. If there are any advantages to this, over the Loeb edition (aside from price), it is that astrological terms, such as square & trine, are accurately rendered. This is not a significant advantage, in my view.

See above for an extended listing of the contents.

AFA, spiral bound, 179 pages.

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TETRABIBLOS - Claudius Ptolemy, translated by J.M. Ashmand, $19.95
The famous 1822 translation by J.M. Ashmand. The cornerstone of western astrology, Ptolemy's Tetrabiblos is the source of many of the concepts that still guide astrology.


Book 1: 1. Proem; 2. Knowledge may be acquired by astronomy to a certain extent; 3. That prescience is useful; 4. The influences of the planetary orbs; 5. Benefics and malefics; 6. Masculine and feminine; 7. Diurnal & nocturnal; 8. The influence of position with regard to the sun; 9. The influence of the fixed stars; 10. Constellations north of the zodiac;

11. Constellations south of the zodiac; 12. The annual seasons; 13. The influence of the four angles; 14. Tropical, equinoctial, fixed & bicorporeal signs; 15. Masculine & feminine signs; 16. Mutual configurations of the signs; 17. Signs commanding & obeying; 18. Signs beholding each other and of equal power; 19. Signs inconjunct; 20. Houses of the planets;

21. Triplicities; 22. Exaltations; 23. Disposition of the terms; 24. The terms (according to Ptolemy); 25. The places & degrees of every planet; 26. Faces, chariots and other attributes of the planets; 27. Application, separation & other faculties.

Book 2: 1. General division of the subject; 2. Peculiarities observable throughout every climate; 3. The familiarity of the regions of the Earth with the triplicities & the planets; 4. The familiarity of the regions of the earth with the fixed stars; 5. Mode of particular prediction in eclipses; 6. The regions or countries to be considered as liable to be comprehended in the event; 7. The time & period of the event; 8. The genus, class, or kind liable to be affected; 9. The quality & nature of the effect; 10. Colours in eclipses, comets, and similar phenomena; 11. The new moon of the year; 12. The particular natures of the signs by which the different constitutions of the atmosphere are produced; 13. Mode of consideration for particular constitutions of the atmosphere; 14. The signification of meteors.

Book 3: 1. Proem; 2. The conception & the parturition, or birth, by which later even the animal quits the womb & assumes another state of existence; 3. The degree ascending; 4. Distribution of the doctrine of nativities; 5. Parents; 6. Brothers & sisters; 7. Male or female; 8. Twins; 9. Monstrous or defective births; 10. Children not reared;

ll. The duration of life; 12. The prorogatory places; 13. The number of prorogators, and also the Part of Fortune; 14. Number of the modes of prorogation; 15. Exemplifaction; 16. The form and temperament of the body; 17. The hurts, injuries & diseases of the body; 18. The quality of the mind; 19. The diseases of the mind.

Book 4: 1. Proem; 2. The fortune of wealth; 3. The fortune of rank; 4. The quality of employment; 5. Marriage; 6. Children; 7. Friends and enemies, 8. Travelling; 9. The kind of death; 10. The periodical divisions of time.

Appendices: Extracts from the Amalgest; The complete Centiloquy; The zodiacal planisphere.

Comment: Ashmand's translation is superior to that by F.E. Robbins in one critical respect: Ashmand was an astrologer & well-understood what he translated, the result shows - on every page. Every important astrologer in the last 2 millennia has studied this book, every major astrologer of the last two centuries has poured over these very words. Join with them, join in the continuing astrological renewal of the last ten years.

Click here for an excerpt (pdf).

164 pages with footnotes throughout. Astrology Classics, paper.

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TETRABIBLOS - Ptolemy, translated by F.E. Robbins, $28.00 First published in 1940


The luminaries & planets
The signs of the zodiac

Book One:
1. Introduction
2. That knowledge by astronomical means is attainable, and how far
3. That it is also beneficial
4. Of the power of the planets
5. Of beneficent & maleficent planets
6. Of masculine & feminine planets
7. Of diurnal & nocturnal planets
8. Of the power of the aspects to the Sun
9. Of the power of the fixed stars
10. Of the effects of the seasons & of the four angles
11. Of solistial, equinoctial, solid & bicorporeal signs
12. Of masculine & feminine signs
13. Of the aspects of the signs
14. Of commanding & obeying signs
15. Of signs which behold each other & signs of equal power
16. Of disjunct signs
17. Of the houses of the several planets
18. Of the triangles
19. Of exaltations
20. Of the disposition of terms
21. According to the Chaldeans
22. Of places & degrees
23. Of faces, chariots & the like
24. Of applications & separations & the other powers

Book Two:
2. Of the characteristics of the inhabitants of the general climes
3. Of the familiarities between countries & the triplicities & stars
4. Method of making particular predictions
5. Of the examination of the countries affected
6. Of the time of the predicted events
7. Of the class of those afflicted
8. Of the quality ofhte predicted event
9. Of the colours of eclipses, comets & the like
10. Concerning the new moon of the year
11. Of the nature of the signs, part by part, and their effect upon the weather
12. Of the investigation of weather in detail
13. Of the significance of atmospheric signs

Book Three:
1. Introduction
2. Of the degree of the horoscopic point
3. The subdivision of the science of nativities
4. Of parents
5. Of brothers & sisters
6. Of males & females
7. Of twins
8. Of monsters
9. Of children that are not reared
10. Of length of life
11. Of bodily form & temperament
12. Of bodily injuries & diseases
13. Of the quality of the soul
14. Of diseases of the soul

Book Four:
1. Introduction
2. Of material fortune
3. Of the fortune of dignity
4. Of the quality of action
5. Of marriage
6. Of children
7. Of friends & enemies
8. Of foreign travel
9. Of the quality of death
10. Of the division of times


Comment: Ashmand is the better translator, as he well-knows who will be reading his text & what they will expect. Robbins has the better source materials, but does not handle them as well. Both these translations are good, but there remains a slight advantage to Ashmand.

The Loeb edition lacks the Centiloquy, which, while customarily appended to the Tetrabiblos, is by other hands.

Loeb Classical Library. Hardcover, 466 pages.

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ANCIENT WHISPERS FROM CHALDEA, Making Babylonian Astrology work for You - Arthyr W. Chadbourne, $19.95
Contents: Introduction;
Part 1: 1. Intelligenesis; 2. Initial basics; 3. The Sun; 4. The Moon; 5. The planets; 6. Exalted strength; 7. The lunar nodes; 8. Chaldean sunset system; 9. Chart interpretation; 10. The solar return; 11. The horary chart; 12. Harmonics

Part 2: History: Overview; 13. Chaldean astrology; 14. Egyptian cosmology;

Bibliography; Index.

Comment: First printed in 1999 (a long time ago), there were two things about this book that initially put me off: Only available from an obscure printer, and well-meaning but off-putting hype, such as, The most innovative astrology in 1,700 years!.... The astrological upgrade for the new millennium (both from the back cover).

This is, in fact, as serious & as scholarly a book as can be found outside academia. I do not know where Chadbourne gets his "stuff", but reading the opening pages closely, it's clear he has a good grasp of the relevant materials. From the Chaldeans we get time itself: The seven day week, the 24 hour day, the 60 minute hour, and, by extension, the daily & planetary rulers, and from that, not only astrology, but magic as well.

Chadbourne tells us the differences between Chaldean, Greek & Egyptian cultures, to wit, the Chaldeans were inventors & innovators, the Greeks eager students & proselytizers. The Egyptian civilization, by contrast, emphasized The Now (aka the Nile), which made astrology redundant. Of the three, Egyptians knew best how to run a library, which gives us Alexandria.

Chaldean astrological innovations include what eventually became known as Primary Directions, as well as the sunset chart, lunar mansions, exaltations, nodes & more. The uses Chadbourne makes of these, the ways in which he brings them into the modern world, will surprise you.

Intelligenesis Publications, 510 pages.

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This is hands down the best and most useful system of astrology I have ever been exposed to. As you know I read everything! The Sunset system is awesome. I work it on the 90 and 30 degree dials, along with the rotating 360 degree Sunset Wheel. I used biographies in other books to test Chadbourne's techniques. Under One Sky with all it's dated events was most helpfull. The system is so powerfull you can do without a natal (birth time) chart when situations require that. Determining a planets role in the chart using his 30 degree stacking by decan is accurate and reliable. It is a sidereal system so I don't include the signs just the placements by degree and the 5 degrees per year clockwise diurnal arcs. It's like Primary Directions meet Solar Arcs, only better. The timing of things is really on point. Wow! 24 hrs. = 72 yrs., is far more informative than 6 hrs.= 90 yrs. I can't say enough about this wonderful work in astrology, but I guess I have. -Dave in New York

BABYLONIAN STAR-LORE: An illustrated guide to the Star-Lore & constellations of ancient Babylon - Gavin White, $29.95


About this book

Introductory Material:
A Babylonian cosmos
A brief guide to the Star-map

A-Z Gazette of Stars & Constellations

1. Reconstructing the Babylonian Star-map
2. The age of the Star-map
3. Chronological table
4. Textual sources
5. The writing system
6. Divination & omens
7. Seasonal cycle
8. The 12 months
9. Constellation names used to represent the planets
10. Stellar associations to regions
11. Stellar associations to cities
12. The four winds
13. Identification between constellations
14. Coincident stars
15. Further reading

Thematic indexes

Comment: This book is an attempt to reconstruct the Babylonian star-map, the complete pictorial representation of the sky as envisioned by the Babylonians, as early as 1300 BC. The Babylonians divided the visible sky into some 50 constellations, each with their own images, symbols & myths. We know twelve of them as the signs of the zodiac. There are also numerous fixed stars.

In the section entitled, About This Book, the author writes,

The fundamental aim of this book is twofold: - to reconstruct the Babylonian star-map as it would have been known in the 1st millennium BCE - and to describe the symbolic meanings and ominious natures of all the mainstream stars & constellations in the Babylonian tradition....

This book is set out in three major parts - an introductory section that describes the basic organizaton of the archaic cosmos & the overall nature of the star-map - an A-Z gazette that gives more detailed descriptions of all the major stars & constellations - and a set of appendices that provide further information on specific subjects related to Babylonian astrology. (pg. 13)

The author has illustrated each entry, the small line drawings (similar to those on the cover) are excellent. There are entries for each of the 50 constellations, for significant fragments of the various constellations, and for all the significant fixed stars. Many of the entries include illustrated phonetic breakdowns of the glyphs that compose it.

I wish the author had given us an overall key, or legend, to the book as a whole, such as a simple list of constellations, a list of fixed stars, a list of gods not yet found in the sky, etc. This would be useful in sorting out the many entries. The index does not quite do this. It would also be helpful if the locations were given in standard astronomical coordinates.

For those researching the origins of constellations & Greek star-lore, this book will prove useful.

Solaria Publications, 319 pages.

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