Astrologer Interview: Benjamin Dykes (Part 3 of 5)

August 6, 2008 by  

For those of you just checking in, this is part 3 of 5 of an interview with Dr. Ben Dykes, the noted traditional astrology text translator and astrologer.  Read part 1 and part 2 of the interview before continuing here.


NG: [Changes in astrological meanings, terminology, and concepts are easy to miss] especially when you follow a certain thread of a concept from one book to another. And then perhaps to yet another text. Unless you are a professional I can’t imagine that you would pick up on that.

I think over time your translations are going to really change the way that astrology is practiced and also what our understanding of traditional astrology will become. Is that something you were conscious of when you were doing this? What is your very big picture of where you see your translations making an impact?

BD: My big-picture goal is to make sure that more people who are interested in traditional astrology can practice it and read it, and can both appreciate and communicate the riches that are there. I found that for many people who maybe have some modern astrological training, when they’re presented with traditional ideas and rules, rules of interpretation, they get very turned on and they get very excited. I think this excitement has a good chance of spreading amongst astrologers generally.

One thing I would suggest is that modern astrologers have spent a lot of time focusing on their vision of the universe, their vision of the mind, their cosmology. But my feeling is that they are not as good on techniques. There is not as much discipline with regard to techniques, among other things. On the other hand, while traditional astrology is very heavy on techniques, the traditional astrologers are not very strong on communicating their vision of the universe. Now, some do communicate this. Abu Ma’shar communicates this in his Great Introduction. But it often falls to other kinds of writers who are astrology symphathizers to express what this vision of the universe is.

I think there is work we need to do in traditional astrology to articulate its vision, but one thing we can do is show how these techniques will work for modern astrologers.

NG: It sounds like the techniques are what gets people interested, and then hopefully they absorb some of the traditional world view along with it.

BD: Right. Because by and large, the traditional astrological writers only give a few statements here and there about what their vision of the universe is; but once you start practicing the techniques you’re almost forced to sit back and ask yourself: “Well, what kind of world do I live in that makes these techniques work?” It forces you to look at your view of the universe.

NG: Is that something that happened to you as you got involved in traditional astrology? Was there a moment that you had that you thought: “I’m really not in Kansas anymore?”

BD: It was a shift that took place for me when I was studying under Zoller, because Zoller thinks this is very important. I was already undergoing this shift. I was lucky because I was already teaching traditional philosophical materials from Aristotle and the Stoics to college students, and was personally adopting some of the ideas. I was already prepared to undergo this shift, but I still had to go through it. I

n earlier years, when I had tried to study horary and tried to study Lilly, I found that no matter what ancient or traditional material I was teaching or studying in other parts of my life, whenever I approached the chart, I had my modern psychological hat on. I became easily frustrated because I found that the interpretations didn’t seem to be working. And what I didn’t know until I was studying under Zoller, and was able to blend this traditional material with astrology in my mind, was that in order to practice traditional astrology you really need to take a whole different attitude towards the chart. If you can’t adopt this attitude and make this shift and make certain value judgments the chart will never work out for you.

NG: That’s very interesting. I mean on one hand it’s perhaps the most ephemeral part of being an astrologer and practicing traditional techniques. On the other hand, it sounds like it really does underlie everything else that you do in your practice. Do you think it’s one of the biggest things that traditional astrologers face today?

BD: I think it is. And I think one reason is that the traditional attitude forces you to adopt a kind of critical distance from the chart. When you are trying to analyze planetary strengths and weaknesses, what signs they’re in and so on, and especially when you assume that the houses and the planets refer to objective facts—that’s a very different approach from what some modern astrologers do, which is to rely on their intuition or on associations of psychological ideas in their own minds. Because then the astrologer’s psyche and whatever is bumping around in the psyche is going to insert itself into the judgment. The traditional attitude forces us to have a critical distance. That doesn’t mean there aren’t better and worse traditional astrologers. And that doesn’t mean that traditional astrologers don’t talk about the mind, because they do; but they talk about the mind in a different kind of way. This traditional worldview and how it forces you to approach the chart can’t be underestimated, I think.

NG: How do you think we modern people living today can achieve that paradigm shift? Is that something that simply comes from trying to work with the techniques until your mind is made malleable enough?

BD: I think that most modern people have a lot of junk ideas in their minds about the world. We get them from many different places. But I think that, underlying these ideas, modern people have a natural receptivity to traditional ideas; so often it’s just a case of trying to appeal to what’s already there. So for example, when I taught Stoicism to college undergraduates, I would start out by listing a number of things that the Stoics taught. I would list maybe ten things and present it in a way that seemed incredible and absurd. At first Stoicism seemed like an insane philosophy.

But then once we actually got into how the Stoics think the world works and how the psyche works and how emotions work, I was often able to convince students that they already believed the things the Stoics were teaching. But they hadn’t been taught how to pay attention to it. So in some ways we need more formal instruction and that is something that I’m very interested in doing.

The issue of fate and free will often comes up when we talk about modern-versus-traditional attitudes. And it’s definitely relevant. But unfortunately, very few people who actually talk about the topics have done the research and have actually read traditional authors to figure out what exactly is meant by fate and free will. For example, there are many people who consider themselves modern and atheist in thought who will very vocally insist that we have free will.

But the fact is that our notion of the free will was invented by a set of Jewish and Christian theologians, and they had theological and biblical reasons for inventing this notion. So even people who consider themselves modern and not traditional at all, and are maybe disdainful of traditional attitudes, often hold on to ideas that they don’t know the source of. I think we need broad and detailed discussions by people who are studying this, and who have done the research, to reintroduce and reacquaint us to traditional ideas, many of which I’ve said modern people are already receptive to.

One of those ideas is that people’s lives are to a great degree fated (depending on how we define fate), and that the so-called free will is very rare, if it even exists at all. There are good reasons to think it does not exist, and we see ambiguous attitudes toward it in the astrological texts.

Read part 1 and part 2 of the interview with Ben Dykes.

Read part 4 and part 5 of the interview with Ben Dykes.

Astrologer Interview: Benjamin Dykes (Part 2 of 5)

August 5, 2008 by  

This is part 2 of 5 of our interview with traditional astrology translator and practitioner Ben Dykes.  Read part 1 here, if you missed it.

NG: Since you started speaking about Masha’allah and Sahl, the most recent translation: one of the things that I noticed is that you pulled together a lot of shorter texts, even more so than the Bonatti. Bonatti has treatises but here there’s a bunch of books. I was trying to understand why you selected some of the texts that you did. Are these all of the ones available by Masha’allah and Sahl? What were your criteria?

BD: They were the most readily available for one thing. They are also among the most famous. But I do have some other works by Sahl, for example. There’s one on the magical use of precious stones, which I only have in one manuscript edition. But it’s hard to read and uses a lot of Latin terms for gems and minerals that don’t necessarily match up with modern terms you could simply look up in a minerology book now. So I didn’t feel like it was worth, right now, taking the time to do this short text and then end up delaying the entire book. There are other works that I have. There are two longer works by Sahl and Masha’allah that I’ll eventually get to. I plan on using at least one of them in my next book. But the ones I selected for Works of Sahl & Masha’allah are among the most famous, the most influential, the most quoted in the medieval tradition, and they were more readily available.

NG: When I first read your Bonatti translation, he cites a lot of older Arabic authors, and I wondered if that was the next logical step for you to then go a step back from even Bonatti’s sources.

BD: That was a big part of my reasoning. I wanted to know what the earlier authors had said, in part because people like Sahl and Masha’allah were active during the most fruitful period of Arabic astrology, and their texts were so central for later authors. There were also two other reasons. The first was that I had noticed changes between the two editions of Bonatti I worked on, concerning the question of whole-sign houses and quadrant houses. There had been editorial interference in the texts, so that in the earlier edition the text might speak of a planet in the fifth, let’s say, and it would be very clear from the Latin that we were talking about the fifth sign. But in the later edition, the word endings had been changed so that they referred to houses and possibly domiciles at the same time: so that there was some distortion involved. I wanted to know what was going on with the earlier authors. I had seen them use whole signs more, so I was very curious about that.

The other issue was that I’ve been very interested in the transmission of Greek material to the medievals, and I wanted to see to what extent Greek concepts had been communicated to the Persians and the Arabs, because some of these techniques and approaches are not as evident in the Latin period. So I wanted both to work back from Bonatti and forward from the Greeks, and see what was going on during this Persian/Arabic period.

NG: You started with Bonatti: is that just because that’s the text you encountered first and it was perhaps the most cohesive? Did you ever have the sense that maybe you should have done something else first?

BD: Several things had come together. Zoller makes extensive use of Bonatti in his course, so while I was already familiar with Bonatti I also wanted to know what else he said. It was also the text that was presented to me by this manuscript collector. Compared with some other translations that are available in Latin it was a very pleasing Latin style. It was easier to work with. There are other Latin translators like Hugo de Santalla and Robert of Ketton, for example, or Hermann of Carinthia, who adopt a very different Latin style from that of Bonatti or John of Spain. It’s slower going. You sometimes have to read between the lines, because sometimes verbs that are implied but not expressed. But Bonatti has a really pleasing Latin style. So a lot of things came together at once that made Bonatti the obvious choice.

NG: For you as an astrologer, what was the most exciting thing for you in each of those texts? Was there a method or technique or approach that you thought: “Wow, this is great, this will really impact my own practice and understanding of astrology in some way?”

BD: There are two recent things that both come from the Sahl and Masha’allah book. First, I think I have finally cracked the code for understanding the debilities of detriment and descension. I think I have figured out how they work and I have started to use them in this new way in charts, and they work. I’d always treated them as debilities, but you don’t always get a clear sense from every author what they think the differences between them are. But Sahl and Masha’allah say enough that we now know what they are. And some of it has to do with traditional attitudes towards physics, for example in the case of detriment. So that’s one thing I find very exciting.

The other thing, which comes from Greek concepts and was transmitted into the Arabic period, is the importance of the planets aspecting their own domiciles or signs. Planets that do not aspect their own sign have a harder time bringing about the matters pertaining to that house. It’s like they can’t communicate with it, they don’t receive support, they can’t support the house: so a planet not aspecting its own sign is going to show certain bad things for that topic. It’s something that is mentioned in Bonatti but he does not use it as consistently and clearly as they do, and this is something else that I think will be important for medieval astrologers in the future.

NG: One of the things that I found fascinating were the ways in which Bonatti texts really differ from the later authors. By the time you get to a few hundred years later you essentially end up with certain things are very different just like the issue you mentioned. I’m glad that you are reading the texts as an astrologer to bring out these threads that you feel have kind of been pushed in to the background but may be quite essential.

BD: Yes, there are certain things that I have to do solely as a translator, but I do think being an astrologer is useful. You notice things that might not seem to be of much importance if you were just looking at things from a translation perspective.

[Read Part 1 of the interview with Ben Dykes.]

[Read Part 3 of the interview with Ben Dykes.]

Astrologer Interview: Benjamin Dykes (Part 1 of 5)

August 2, 2008 by  

I was delighted to speak with Dr. Ben Dykes, a traditional astrologer and translator of ancient astrology texts.  He published a comprehensive translation of medieval astrologer Guido Bonatti’s Book of Astronomy last year (a first in English), and, just last month, Works of Sahl and Masha’allah, two 8th-9th century astrologers.  I will be reviewing his latest book this coming week.

Ben Dykes studied astrology with Robert Zoller, earning his AMA degree.  A traditionalist through and through, he also taught philosophy at the University of Illinois.  He currently practices astrology and translates texts full-time from his home in Minnesota.

NG: I would like to talk to you about why you started doing translations and what you envision the overall plan for your translation work to be? What do you hope to achieve?

BD: Some years ago I was studying under Robert Zoller and practicing medieval astrology. I had studied Latin for a number of years in high school and college, and I was interested in seeing what other translations were out there, since not a lot of medieval material had been translated at that point. In 2004 or 2005 I found out that a local university library had a copy of Abu Ma’shar’s Flowers in Latin. And it had never been translated. I decided to experiment and have some fun, and I found that translating it was really enjoyable. I thought this it would be useful to a lot of astrologers and myself if I started doing translations. Speaking of which, a totally revised version of the Flowers will be included in my next book.

At that time I had also met a friend who had been a collector of Arabic and Latin manuscripts for about 20 or 30 years. And he had tried at various times to get some of these manuscripts and printed editions translated, but had run into various problems. I had expressed an interest in translating Bonatti, and it turned out he had a copy of the 1550 edition of Bonatti: so he gave me a photocopy and encouraged me to work on it. I found it totally engrossing, really had a wonderful time with it, and that’s how I got started.

Along the way I was researching some of the citations that Bonatti had made from other works, and I found I could get a lot of them on microfiche and microfilm from various libraries. So in the course of translating Bonatti I suddenly found myself doing partial translations and examinations of a whole bunch of other works. This spawned an idea in my head that in addition to doing charts, I both needed and wanted to continue to translate. It was partly because of my own interest and partly because I was presented with this opportunity, but also there were very few medieval sources out there in English.

NG: I assume it was the translation process you found enjoyable. What about it do you enjoy? What about it was particularly fulfilling for you?

BD: First it was uncovering a lot of material I had not seen before. In Zoller’s course for example, there are some partial translations of some material in Bonatti and other works, but you don’t get the full scale treatment of every possible topic. This is not a criticism of his course—it’s just that a full-scale translation would be so huge, there would be no room for the course lectures themselves without making it impossibly large.

I was discovering new things. I was discovering more of the traditional cosmology and concepts, and that interested me, too. When you translate you have to be very careful about every word that you’re writing, which means you are paying very close attention to exactly what the astrologer is saying. You’re not just looking a topic up in the book and skimming it. You have to examine carefully how each part of the book relates to other parts. So it’s a little bit of detective work. Some of it is just straightforward learning.

The other thing I found really interesting and important is that there are certain technical terms we take for granted in astrology, which, if you look at them from the perspective of the original languages, although they are still used as technical terms they have really concrete meanings that make the text and the techniques come to life in a way that you won’t necessarily see if you are not paying attention to them.

One easy example is the word “Ascendant.” In Latin, the word literally means “what is ascending,” and in Arabic they call it “the rising.” Normally if we just take “Ascendant” as a straightforward technical term in English, you often think that it’s the degree of the Ascendant. But the medievals often made clear distinctions between the degree of the Ascendant and the Ascendant pure and simple: when they talk about the Ascendant pure and simple they often mean the entire rising sign.

So if you’re paying attention to the grammar and what the word actually is, you find that the meaning is not always the same. A planet in the ascending sign is going to be described as being “in the Ascendant,” but you won’t necessarily understand that fact if you’re not paying attention to the language.

Another example that I recently discovered, which I wrote about in the introduction to the Sahl book, is the idea of the angles. The Greeks used the same word to talk about both the axial degrees (let’s say, of the Mid-heaven) and the whole-sign angles (the first sign, the tenth sign, the seventh and the fourth). The Greek word actually has sticking or stabbing connotations.

Now in Arabic, the word that they use is watad, which means a “stake”: like a stake or a pole you stick in the ground. Actually, a tent stake is specifically what it meant. But when you get to the Latin, the authors do not use the normal words for stakes, pegs, poles, that kind of thing. They usually use the word angulus which we translate as “angle.” Now the thing is that an angle or angelus in Latin means a “corner,” like the corner of a room. There is no relationship between that word and the very concrete idea of sticking something in the ground or having a point which the degrees of the Mid-heaven and the Ascendant are. So there is a distortion involved. There’s a distortion about what is really meant. When we say “angle” does it mean the axial degree itself? Does it mean some space around the angle or following the axial degree? Or does it mean the whole sign itself? This is going to affect our interpretations.

I have an idea about why some of the Latin authors were using the word angelus, and that is if you look at a square medieval chart, you see that the houses of the Ascendant and the Midheaven and the other angles form square corners. But since those corners are defined by the axial degrees, there’s a distortion involved that doesn’t capture some of the meanings already there in Arabic and Greek.

So those are some of the things I’m uncovering that I’m very excited about. It means we’re going to have to look at some of our techniques differently. And it means that some of the ignorance about these issues was passed on to later Renaissance and early modern astrologers.

[Read Part 2 of the interview with Benjamin Dykes.]

Interview with Astrologer Deborah Houlding (Part 3 of 3)

July 10, 2008 by  

Interview with Astrologer Deborah Houlding (Part 3 of 3)

This is the third and last part of Gryphon Astrology’s Interview with astrologer Deborah Houlding.  If you have missed them, read Part 1 and Part 2 of this interview first.

Deb will be lecturing on forensic astrology this September in San Francisco.

Can we expect a forthcoming book on horary astrology or on another astrological topic from you? What books do you have out already?

Yes, there will be a forthcoming book, and I hope to have several forthcoming books on horary before too long, but I have a few large projects currently nearing completion and these are my priority for the moment. I came close to publishing a book on horary astrology a few years ago, but then all of these new translations started becoming available, and I decided to research and re-evaluate my understanding of some of the traditional writings on horary technique before committing myself to print.

I am pleased now, that I have not rushed to publish a horary book so far, because I feel that my theoretical knowledge has become far more robust over the last few years, and I want the book that I write to be a sum of my astrological knowledge, and not a summation of a stage where I was still exploring some of the theoretical principles.

One of the long term projects I have been doing involves going through Christian Astrology again, annotating it with more explanations and cross-references to other texts. I published an annotated version of Christian Astrology before, but that is out of print, and it was getting ready for an update anyway. Unfortunately the electronic files were lost, so it has been the case of starting again from scratch.

Although it has been more time-consuming, in a way it’s a good thing that I’ve started again from the beginning, because now I don’t have any restrictions in being tied to an old format. I do enjoy this sort of work, but it’s a monster of a project. Sometimes I wonder if I am seriously preparing something for publication, or using it as a place to park my own endless notes and annotations! Of course, I also wrote Houses: Temples of the Sky a few years ago, and that is still available.

You have a well-established astrological presence on the web with your website. I discovered it a few years ago, but it took me some time to realize that it belonged to a Deb Houlding. The site really is not about you, but about astrology, which is rare and refreshing.

I did not want the site to be just about me, as part of me does not like too much attention (I have the Moon in Virgo in the 4th house), but because of that, I think, people have been extraordinarily generous in letting me use their content on the site. One person could never have done it all, and I think because the site was always about the astrology first and foremost, other people have contributed much more than if I had made it all about myself and my own views. I found that I would just start something, try out an idea on the site, and someone else would volunteer to make it happen and take it further; so if someone else was involved, I was now more invested in it myself.

I am finally now thinking of putting up a small personal site, separate from the Skyscript website, that will talk about upcoming events and such. But at the moment having time for students and my own research is my main priority, and in that respect I know that self-promotion is a double-edged sword, so I’m approaching it with caution.

Thank you for taking the time to talk, Deb, and I look forward to seeing you in California in September!

Deb Houlding kindly provided her birth data, and agreed to share her horoscope with us.  The horoscope is below.  I didn’t publish the birth data, as I’m old-fashioned and don’t believe in revealing ladies’ years of birth 🙂

Deborah Houlding\'s Horoscope

Interview with Astrologer Deborah Houlding (Part 2 of 3)

July 8, 2008 by  

Interview with Astrologer Deborah Houlding (part 2 of 3)

This is a continuation of Gryphon Astrology’s (dare we say it? exclusive) interview with Deb Houlding.  If you have missed Part 1 of the interview, read it first.  Part 3 will be posted tomorrow, along with Deb’s chart, which she kindly shared.

Deb will be presenting a workshop on horary astrology Forensic techniques this September in San Francisco.

NG:  How did you get into astrology? Was it through Linda Goodman’s books, through whom it seems everyone got started?

DH: No, I never even picked up a Linda Goodman book! I actually started out as a skeptic. I always assumed the daily horoscope column in the newspaper was completely made up, and that is how I thought of astrology in general. To my mind, anyone who could believe astrology was a bit intellectually deficient. The way that I got involved in astrology is that I promised a ride to an astrology class to an older friend of mine without a car. I thought it was complete rubbish, but in order for me to be able to drive her to and from the class – it was a series of classes – I stayed for the class itself. I went through the course, still not believing in astrology, but by the end of the course, I found I was pretty good at it!

I had an intellectual curiosity and social interest in astrology long before I had any kind of personal belief in it. Because of that I kept wanting to know more about it, and I took up the Faculty of Astrological Studies Correspondence course. But it was a good two years after starting to learn about astrology that I finally realized that it worked, and that I had learned to trust it without wondering whether it was ‘logical’ or not.

NG: I wanted to ask you about an issue that is “hot” in astrological circles right now: is the radicality of horary charts important, that is, the idea that the horary cannot be judged if the horoscope doesn’t have certain characteristics? You have an article on the subject on your website, so I’d like to hear your thoughts on the matter.

DH: I think it’s important to distinguish between the chart itself being radical and the question being radical. People tend to focus on the technicalities of the horary chart; the agreement between the lord of the Ascendant and the lord of the hour, and so on. But when you read the traditional astrology texts, the old astrological authorities are talking about the question being radical, not the chart itself.

There is really something deeper in play, which Ben Dykes addressed in his translation of Bonatti: the meaning of the word radical is “rooted,” or the “rootedness” of the question in the querent’s soul. I have not yet seen a chart that did not work or produce an answer, but the more urgent the question is, and the person really needs to know the answer, the clearer the horary will be. Sometimes, when people ask me to look at a horary they attempted to judge, but it was not very clear, it’s often the case they did not need to know the answer very urgently, and the chart reflects that lack of motivation.

NG: Along the same lines, do you follow any special ritual when doing horary horoscopes, for you or for your clients? I’m thinking of Bonatti, who said that the prospective querent should first turn over the question in his mind for at least a night and a day, then pray earnestly for God’s help in finding the truth, and only then he should go see the astrologer. Do you believe in following that?

DH: This follows what I was saying earlier about sufficient motivation to know the answer. I’ll give you a example of my own which I often demonstrate to students. I had misplaced my handbag. I thought of casting a chart for it, but then I didn’t really need it right away, so I hadn’t really bothered to search very hard for it. I was thinking that a horary might save me the bother of a search, but as I opened up the astrology program, I realized that I wasn’t really committed to doing whatever needed to be done to find the bag, so I stopped myself from drawing up the chart.

A few days later, I really, desperately needed to find that bag, I turned the house upside down trying to find it, and just couldn’t. Then I cast a horary, because I had now developed a genuine need to find the bag and I was entirely focused on that one thing – the chart just could not be clearer. I looked at the chart, and went to the unlikely place where the bag should have been, according to the chart, and found it right there.

But to answer your question more directly, I don’t really pray, or anything like that, before judging a chart. I have found that the most effective thing is to make sure that the question I take really is radical, and that the person has a genuine need to know the answer, and is not just asking something unimportant out of curiosity, or something that doesn’t even concern them directly. I can sense it when the person is not really invested in knowing the answer, and then I will decline the consultation. I am selective about the questions I take, again because of client motivation and the chart’s radicality.

[Tomorrow: The final part 3 of Gryphon Astrology’s interview with Deb Houlding, including Deb’s horoscope.

Yesterday: Part 1 of Deb Houlding’s interview.]

Interview with Astrologer Deborah Houlding (Part 1 of 3)

July 7, 2008 by  

Interview with Astrologer Deb Houlding

English astrologer Deborah Houlding will be presenting astrology classes in San Francisco this September. Deb is a well-known traditional astrologer (though she may eschew that label, as she explains in the interview), and her San Francisco classes teach astrology with hair on it.  She calls it “forensic astrology,” as the methods reveal specific details about past events or specific persons.  Deb is also the founder of the astrology website, Skyscript.

I talked to Deb last week about her upcoming workshop and her thoughts on astrology.

Nina Gryphon: You will be doing a workshop in the San Francisco Bay area in September 2008, focusing on ‘forensic horary’. What do you mean by ‘forensic horary’?

Deb Houlding: The workshop called ‘forensic horary’ concentrates on how we deal with what I call ‘the mystery charts’ – lost items, missing pets, thefts, abductions, and those situations where we have no idea what happened or who might have been involved. A lot of the emphasis is on how to discover the identity or appearance of someone essential to the question. My goal for the workshop is to help astrologers feel more confident about their approach to these charts, and to show them how to get a very good description about something or someone that is known, and then to successfully project that technique onto the unknown. The goal is to get astrologers looking forward to those charts instead of dreading them! It is a workshop with broad appeal because it is about clarifying some of the basics of horary astrology, whilst discussing methods that are de-emphasized in modern discussions of traditional techniques.

NG: Why did you decide to teach a workshop specifically about this aspect of horary astrology?

DH: On the surface, the notion of “forensic” horary is partly about having a dramatic, and intriguing title to the workshop, but ultimately, it conveys the principle of needing to break down, analyse and fully investigate the depth of meaning that is built into the planetary significators. Mostly, horary astrologers barely scratch the surface of the information they could get from the planetary significators, and this workshop shows that the key to discovering the meaning of these charts lies in understanding the symbolism as it relates to something that has already happened. I am always keen to stress that planetary signification is meaningful, that the selection of the planets used is never random, so getting every drop of reliable descriptive information that we can get from the main significators is essential. We see Lilly doing this in so many of his judgments; even though it was not necessary to the querent’s question. He will often tag a few comments about physical descriptions to the end of his judgements, as if he was constantly monitoring his notes and updating his knowledge. He sometimes goes into great detail, describing the persons involved, even though the physical description might not seem relevant to the querent’s concern.

Even though the physical or psychological description is not what the querent specifically asked about, it is still part of the question. The premise behind this is that everything in a horoscope is significant. So if Mars symbolizes the querent in a horary question, the person will be Martial in some way, in their psychological involvement, or in their appearance somehow.

Astrologer Deborah Houlding

NG: Can you talk about your approach to astrology? Whose methods do you use? William Lilly’s or someone else’s?

DH: William Lilly is the greatest influence on my astrology. I am constantly going through his books, and I am still finding things that I thought I understood, realizing that what I once thought is not what he had meant at all! Now, with Ben Dykes’s Bonatti translation in English, I’ve found it especially valuable to go through Bonatti and find passages that Lilly translated; and of course Bonatti himself was translating the passages out of yet older authors, such as Masha’allah, Haly or Sahl, even back to Dorotheus. So there is a long line of tradition behind many of the passages published in Lilly’s Christian Astrology, and scrutinizing this tradition is – I think – very helpful in terms of constantly re-evaluating my own understanding of traditional astrology and the symbolism of horary. But I do not exactly think of myself as a traditional astrologer, because all of us living here today are essentially modern people. I see myself as someone in the continuing tradition of astrology, but ultimately, none of us can get away from being a product of our times.

[Continue to Part 2 of the interview with Deborah Houlding.]

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