Astrology Book Review: The Judgments of Nativities (Abu ‘Ali Al-Khayyat, trans. James Holden)

May 10, 2009 by  

Prophet Elijah. Astrology Book Review: The Judgments of Nativities

This essential work has been re-released by the AFA more than 20 years after the first edition appeared in print. The Judgments of Nativities is a classic of natal astrology, and a remarkably lucid and systematic exposition of traditional astrological principles. Many astrologers keep their copy of The Judgments of Nativities close to hand, and most copies from the 1988 edition are disintegrating at this stage from frequent use. Thus, the re-release is a most welcome step by the AFA, who obviously took great care in the presentation of their new edition. The new edition font is clear and easy to read, while the cover is a handsome glossy red abstract design. Inexpensive printing options have clearly advanced a great deal in the last 20 years!


The content in the 2nd edition is unchanged, as far as I could tell. The translator’s 1988 preface is still there, providing a good, beginner-friendly introduction to this 1000-year-old astrology text. In the introduction, Holden actually gives a summary of the history of astrology, placing Al-Khayyat’s book in proper historical context. The book is suitable for intermediate astrology students, since some previous knowledge of concepts like triplicity rulers, for instance, is assumed. An excellent text on natal astrology according to the Arabs.

Contents & Structure

The Judgments of Nativities starts with material on rearing of children and the length of life; the traditional astrologers, including Al-Khayyat, always started their analysis by determining whether the native will survive infancy, and if so, the length of his life. There is also material on the native’s quality of mind (what we might call personality today), and several example charts apparently taken from Greek sources. The examples illustrate the triplicity lord method, indicating the success of the native by looking at the condition of the sect ruler’s triplicity lords.

Al-Khayyat then goes house by house to determine the quality of the different areas of the life. There are many aphorisms sprinkled throughout this portion of the text with a distinct Hellenistic provenance, such as “if any one of the fortunes is in the 11th sign from the Part of Fortune, it signifies the acquisition of money and of assets from good things.” There is also some interesting material on determining the parents’ length of life.

Chapters 39-50 are cookbook style materials on the placement of the planets in the houses and signs, with some material on the placement of the Part of Fortune. The latter materials appear to be specific to profection of the Part of Fortune, rather than just natal placements.

There are some excellent appendixes in this text. Appendix I goes through the many example horoscopes provided in the text, figuring out their approximate dates (they are from the 1st and 5th/6th centuries AD. Appendix II is from Masha’allah’s Book of Nativities, giving additional techniques for calculating the native’s length of life, so the reader can compare Al-Khayyat and Masha’allah’s methods, which are very similar, but not identical.


As always, James Holden’s translation is clear and easy to read, bringing this old text closer to modern readers. Because of Al-Khayyat’s thorough and succinct approach, this text is highly recommended for astrologers who want to get started with traditional natal astrology. An extremely accessible and cohesive text.


The Judgments of Nativities

Abu ‘Ali Al-Khayyat, translated by James H. Holden, M.A.

American Federation of Astrologers, 2008, 146 pages, paperback.

USD 23.95

Available from,, and


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