Astrology Book Review: Astrologia Gallica, Book 17 (Jean-Baptiste Morin, trans. James Herschel Holden)

May 31, 2009 by  

Astrology Book Review: Astrologia Gallica 17

James Herschel Holden, the premier English translator of the works of Jean-Baptiste Morin, recently published this essential volume, Book 17 of the Astrologia Gallica. Book 17 discusses the qualities of the 12 houses, and, as is typical for Morin, he lays out and refutes the objections of those who say that the division of the sky into 12 parts is arbitrary. Never one to shrink from ambitious projects, Morin discusses the reasoning behind the meaning of each house, and makes some of his own emendations according to his own logic. Then, he moves on to discussing the various house systems, and makes arguments for his own preference for Regiomontanus, after which he explains his own eponymous system. Book 17 concludes with some theoretical discussion of the calculations used in determining house cusps, which is primarily of theoretical and historical importance, though less so for practicing astrologers today.

Briefly…

A slim but essential book for understanding Morin’s system of horoscope construction and interpretation. The theory behind house construction is interesting, primarily for those with interest in the history of astrology and astronomy. For astrologers who simply want to understand Morin’s assignations of the house meanings, there is plenty of food for thought and in-depth discussion as well. Perhaps the most unique feature of Morin’s house meanings is his linking of opposite houses. For example, the traditional meaning of the sixth house is that of illness; Morin also assigns this as one of the meanings of the opposite, the 12th house, precisely because the two are opposite and therefore share some essential meaning. Book 17 of Astrologia Gallica will be of interest to intermediate to advanced astrologers, but beginners can get a great deal out of it as well, provided they can keep up with the various historical references to other astrologers and some of the more obscure astrological/astronomical terminology. For those who want additional information by Morin about the houses, he wrote a short work called The Cabal of the 12 Houses, which was translated in 1659 by the English astrologer Sir George Wharton.

Contents and Structure

The book is divided into three major parts: Section 1, “The Cabal of the Astrological Houses and Its Natural Foundation That We Have Revealed,” Section 2, “The Erection of Celestial Figures for Astrology,” and Section 3 “In Which the Essence or the Formal Reason for the Astrological Houses Is Stated.”

Section 1 begins with restating basic arguments that Morin made in Book 14 of Astrologia Gallica, namely that the “birth, bigger, decline, and the death of things” are all distinct periods of life on earth, and therefore are shown by different parts of the heaven. Philosophically, Morin assumes agreement with the basic notion of “on earth as it is in heaven.” Chapter 2 begins with the most basic distinction in the heavens; above the horizon and below it, with the ascendant, or the rising place being the most powerful of all the points in the heavens. The Midheaven is the apex of the path of the body as it travels through the heavens, the setting represents decline, while the angle of the earth or the fourth house is directly below the Earth and represents the death or end of something. In Chapter 3, Morin provides a table listing the meanings of each of the houses. The two major differences between his meanings and those of the older astrologers is the assignment of illnesses to the 12th house and the assignment of both the parents to the fourth house, whereas before it was only associated with the father. It is interesting to note here Morin’s reference to Kepler, who correctly stated that it is the earth that turns, and not the heavens. Morin apparently went to his grave believing that the earth is stationary, in accordance with the Church dogma of that time.

Chapter 4 affirms that there are 12 divisions of the heavens, and they are divided by three because of the divine Trinity. Thus, it follows naturally in Chapter 5 is an explanation of the threefold division, the triplicity. Each of the four triplicities is associated with with one of the angles; for example, the first house in the first triplicity is that of the ascendant, followed by the ninth house of religion, and then the fifth house of children. Morin calls it the triplicity of life. He goes through each of the triplicities in turn, concluding that everything that happens to humans can be shown by one or more of the 12 houses. Chapter 6 presents Morin’s view that the opposite houses are related, as discussed above with the example of the sixth and 12th houses. Chapters 7 and 8 are theoretical reputations of anti-astrological writers, including Pico Mirandola, and an additional exploration of the relationship of the fall of man and the division of the heavens into 12 houses. Morin comes to the conclusion that even if we lived in a prelapsarian state, the heaven would still have been divided into the 12 houses we know today. Here, he runs into the theological problem of suffering, which is only said to have begun after Adam’s exile from Eden. This makes it difficult to place houses four, eight, and 12, which are associated with suffering, but he performs a little logical legerdemain.

Section 2 takes up the division of the houses into two halves, that above and below the horizon, and of the vertical division of the Meridian. Chapter 2 examines and rejects be equal house system which divides the ecliptic into 12 equal parts. Morin attacks that on the basis of the two most important points of the horoscope, the Ascendant and the Medium Coeli, not starting their appropriate houses. In Equal House system, the first house would begin at 0° of the given sign, and the Ascendant would be somewhere in the house, but not necessarily copresent with the beginning of the house. Morin also shows the horoscope of Cardan, “the Prince of Astrologers,” to demonstrate the efficacy of systems other than the equal house system. Perhaps somewhat inevitably, Morin shows his own nativity, which he uses throughout Astrologia Gallica, and complains of his Pisces stellium in the Vale of Miseries, also known as the 12th house. This is an interesting chapter, because in it, Morin gives great autobiographical detail, and reveals his character indirectly. He uses the difficulties of his life to show that in the Regiomontanus system, his miseries were shown by all the planets in the 12th house, whereas in the Equal House system, they would have been in the benefic 11th house. Of course, some might argue that his life was indeed very fortunate, prosperous, and highly accomplished. He then uses as an example another nativity that shows up throughout Astrologia Gallica, that of Gustavus Adolphus, the King of Sweden. He died in battle, and his chart is indeed very violent and indicative of a military death. Another horoscope is given, that of the Duke of Montmorency, and that of Albert Wallenstein, the Duke of Friedland. These were all military commanders during the war-filled 17th century, all of whom died violently in battle.

Chapter 3 lists a few other house systems of which Morin disapproves, including that of Porphyry and Alchabitius, the latter having been used extensively before and during Morin’s time. In Chapter 4, Morin examines the Campanus method of house division, and finds it wanting, partly because the system divides the ecliptic and the equator into unequal parts, and often does not intersect the ecliptic. Moran also shows his natal chart as it would have been drawn using the Campanus system, and points out that in that system Saturn would have ruled his ninth house of religion, rather than Jupiter, and Saturn would not have made Morin as deeply devout as he had been. He then displays the Nativity of François de Bonne, the Constable of France, who ascended through the ranks of the nobility, which is better indicated by the Regiomontanus system. Chapter 5 comes to the inevitable conclusion that the Regiomontanus is the better house system, and Morin’s own variation of it, which later becomes known as the Morin house system, is by far the best method to use.

Section 3 is the most theoretical and perhaps mathematical of the entire book, and begins with the assertion that the essence of an astrological house is the relation of its location to the native’s location on the earth. Chapter 2 states correctly that the houses are determined by a line that passes through the center of the earth, even though a human is born on the surface of the earth. The difference between these two locations should be corrected by parallax, but Morin does not apparently do so for any of his charts. Chapter 3 determines that the heaven should be divided into 12 houses, rather than some other number, and reaffirms the privacy of the ascendant degree. Chapter 4 and Chapter 5 discuss some of the ambiguities that are writes from dividing the sky into houses. Chapter 6 briefly discusses some traditional divisions of the houses, such as into four quadrants. Moran quickly dispenses with these, stating that it is illogical for the fourth quadrant, comprising houses one, two, and three, to be called that of the old age, because it contains the first house, which represents the beginning of life, not its end.

Observations

Book 17 of Astrologia Gallica is challenging, but essential for understanding some of the concepts that Moran later takes for granted in the following volumes. It is particularly useful to look at the concepts that he retains from the tradition, and those that he discards, such as the division of the heaven into four quadrants, as shown in the last chapter. The book is also worthwhile for examining the lives and natal horoscopes of people largely forgotten by history, and to watch over the master astrologers shoulder as he interprets them. Another highly recommended book from the Astrologia Gallica series.

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Astrologia Gallica: Book Seventeen, The Astrological Houses
By: Jean-Baptiste Morin
Translated by: James Herschel Holden, M.A., Fellow of the American Federation of Astrologers
American Federation of Astrologers, 2008
21.95 USD
Available from Amazon.com, AstroAmerica.com, and Astrologers.com.

Astrology Book Review: Astrologia Gallica 16 (Jean-Baptiste Morin)

September 8, 2008 by  

The indefatigable James Holden has translated another volume of Jean-Baptiste Morin’s astrological opus. Book Sixteen, a relatively slim volume relative to others in the series, discusses “The Rays and Aspects of the Planets.” The book is mostly theoretical, unlike some of Morin’s more hands-on volumes, and all but the most hardened Morinistes will value the book as an exposition of the theory behind astrological aspects. The reason for this is that Morin takes some unorthodox positions, most of which are not implemented today.

Briefly…

A fascinating theoretical book about astrological aspects for the advanced astrologer or hard-core Morin fan. If you are still learning about astrology basics, or even grappling with more intermediate topics, Book 16 will be hard going. However, if you are interested in the complexities of astronomical arguments so beloved by Morin, get this book.

Contents and Structure

The book consists of three sections, each composed of several chapters. The first three chapters of Section I define aspects and planetary rays, and their effects on this world. Morin defines an aspect as the relationship between the rays of two planets. In Chapter 4, Morin enumerates the Ptolemaic aspects, and adds a few of his own, besides, such as semi-sextiles, semi-squares, sesquiquadrates, and others. Chapters 5-9 discuss and refute other astrologers’ views on the planets’ maximum latitudes. Finally, Morin presents his own method, which the translator writes out in simpler terms following Chapter 9.

In Chapter 10-12, we learn about the natures of the aspects, which are benefic and which malefic, and why. For example, trines are benefic, because they are sides of an equilateral triangle, and always fall in the signs of the same element and sex, and is “the greatest and particular symbol of love.” Morin makes the point in this chapter that “every Planet that is malefic…badly afflicted…and determined to evil in the figure…harms that to which it is determined with all of its aspects.” The implication is that a bad planet can cause trouble to another planet regardless of the nature of the aspect between them.

Chapter 13 discusses Morin’s “new and improved” orbs, based on the visibility of the planets outside of the Sun’s rays. Chapter 14 is about applying and separating aspects, as well as dexter and sinister aspects, which are determined by the direction of the aspects with or against the direction of the signs.

Chapters 15-17 talk about antiscia (or antiscions), which are the planets’ shadow positions. Morin reworks this doctrine as well, adding in the concept of declination.

Chapter 18-20 refute arguments against aspects by other astrologers, including the currently fashionable Marsilio Ficino. Chapter 21 talks about whether fixed stars can cast aspects (recall that a conjunction is not, properly speaking, an aspect) – the conclusion is that the stars cannot aspect planets, but planets can aspect stars.

Section II of Book 16 starts off by discussing applications and separations of the planetary aspects, and the strength of applying versus separating aspects. Chapter 4 touches on the concept of doryphory, or planets attending the luminaries, which helps determine the worldly fame and distinction of the native.

Section III analyzes the three modes a planet has when near to the Sun; cazimi, combustion, or being under the sunbeams. Morin analyzes the opinions of the ancient astrologers and (unsurprisingly) finds them mistaken. For instance, he differs with them on the weakness of intellect as indicated by Mercury combust, instead interpreting this position as hidden knowledge: “And so, those persons for whom Mercury is combust, and the significator of intelligence, do not disclose to all either their own intelligence, or what they have in mind, but something is always researved, or revealed in the smallest things they keep back for themselves.”

Observations

A clear translation of a complex and sometimes confusing work. It is important to remember that though Morin often finds reasons to dismantle astrological tradition, he lays out his logic fully, helping us understand his reasoning. Especially valuable are his references and summaries of astrological authorities well known in his time, but forgotten in ours. Recommended for the more advanced astrologer or lover of the Morin system.

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Astrologia Gallica: Book Sixteeen, The Rays and Aspects of the Planets

By: Jean-Baptiste Morin

Translated by: James Herschel Holden, M.A., Fellow of the American Federation of Astrologers

American Federation of Astrologers, 2008

21.95 USD

Available from amazon.com, astroamerica.com, and astrologers.com

Astrologer Interview: James H. Holden (Part 3)

September 6, 2008 by  

This is the third part of an interview with astrologer, author, and translator, James Herschel Holden.  Mr. Holden has a number of translations coming out in summer and autumn of 2008, including Books 16 and 17 by Morinus, and a collection of ancient astrological texts in Five Medieval Astrologers.  To catch up, read Part 1 and Part 2 of the interview.

NG: I was curious what prompted all your recent translations.

JH: There is one thing that’s causing some of them to come out pretty close together. I don’t know if you’re aware of it but the AFA was reorganized last year. And now we have a new chief executive officer, Kris Riske. For about six months or a year before last summer I don’t think the AFA had printed very many books. And this was partly because people hadn’t offered any and said, “Hey, I’ve got a book; would you like to print it?” And then when the AFA was reorganized, why it took six months or a year to get the office straightened out, because there were a lot of things that needed to be done with a leadership change. So during that time they didn’t publish any books, because they were busy doing other things. And it’s just in the last few months that Kris Riske, who also is the principal editor, has had time to deal with anything like that.

And so some of the things that she’s done for me, I had done in earlier years, but they’re coming out close together now, not because every month I did something new, but they’re just kind of sitting around waiting to be published. And there’s more to come.

If you’re interested I can tell you a little bit about the Morin Method. Twenty years ago, and for two or three decades before that, there were only two people to my knowledge in the United States that knew anything about the Morin Method and they were the only ones that had ever even heard of it, except for the Morinus system of houses which is kind of a joke. But anyway, one of them was Zoltan Mason, and he was in New York City. And the other one was a man named Gerhardt Howing who lived in Dallas. I used to be in Dallas. And I attended some classes with Gerhardt and he taught the Morin Method. Now those to my knowledge were the only two people in the United States that knew anything about it. And both of them taught classes. And Bob Corre was a student of Zoltan Mason.

Mason died a couple years ago I think. And he hadn’t been teaching any for the last few years of his life. But Corre has picked up where Mason left off and he is a very active teacher of the Morin Method. He travels all over the world. He’s lectured all over Europe and Australia and every place else on it. And he also has a correspondence course over the Internet that you can sign-up for. And Corre has encouraged me to translate a good many of the books of Morin’s Astrologia Gallica.

And that’s what caused me to do most of those. And I think the method is good, and Corre finds them useful in his course so I havel translated aquite a few of them.

I have a new translation of Firmicus, for example, that I hope we can get printed this year. And I think it will be a considerable improvement over the Bram translation that’s available now.

And also, there’s several other things. Like I said, Book 25 is going to come out on Meteorology and Mundane Astrology, which I think people that are interested in either one of those will like.

Incidentally, if you are interested in Meteorology, Kris has written a book on that. Kris did something that I think a lot of people didn’t do. She actually collected statistical data on notable hurricanes and all kinds of storms and things like that and studied them astrologically. And [she] took some of the old rules that were in the old books; and well, she tried them out to see if they work. And so the book that she wrote is based on practical experience, and she gives a whole lot of examples in there. So, if you’re interested in that subject, I recommend that book.

NG: Are you also a practicing astrologer, whether amateur or professional?

JH: No, I’m not. Actually, I’m a retired telephone engineer. I worked for the phone company all my life. And I was a senior engineer, and then I got put in charge of the engineering budget for the state of Texas. That was when I was living in Dallas; I’ve only been here in Phoenix since `93. And prior to that, I was living in Dallas. And I would say that I never did practice professionally to amount to anything. I have read charts and answered questions for friends and family, for free of course. I think we all do that. And I had have done some work for pay in the past. Nothing in recent years. But if somebody came up to me that I hardly knew and wanted me to do their chart or answer a question or something, I charged those people. And I did it partly for this reason: I thought, well some other professional might have gotten this job and if people get the idea that they can get it done for nothing, why then I’m sort of knocking somebody else out a fee. And since I was a Professional Member of the AFA, I thought I guess I really ought to charge people that weren’t close friends.

But as far as having a standard practice or putting my name on the door and having the public come in, I never did that at anytime, because I didn’t have time, for one thing. And after I retired, I spent most of my time studying and writing books. That’s all I did.

JH: You were curious about how I got started in astrology. You’ll laugh at this. I think I was about twelve when I got interested in astronomy. And I studied up on the planets and their orbits and the stars and eclipses and all that kind of stuff. And the next year I took note of a publication that we got every year which was an almanac that was printed by the Telephone Company. And on the front, they had the figure of a man with the signs of the zodiac all around, Aries for his head [and so on]. And then they had some Sun sign material. I think they had one page of that in there; and I read that,and I got fascinated by that. I thought, hey, this is something really interesting.

And then that was age thirteen. I guess when I was thirteen and maybe early fourteen, I used to occasionally go to the beauty shop with my mother; she would pick me up at school, and then stop off at the beauty shop to get her hair done, or something like that. And here I am a teenage kid sitting there with nothing do. They had two kinds of magazines. They had movie star magazines and they had astrology magazines. Well, at thirteen or fourteen, I couldn’t care less about reading about movie stars. But I began to read astrology magazines. They had Horoscope. They had American Astrology. I think there was one that used to be called World Astrology, and there were two or three others. Back in those days there more of them than there are today.

And I read those and I looked at the charts and I got fascinated. And I found out they were sky maps and I looked at the numbers around the edge, the cuspal numbers. And I wondered how they figured those. And I got real interested in all of that, and I guess in a way, that’s what really sucked me into astrology. Like I said, when I was around eighteen I got hold of a copy of Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos. And about the same time I found the Latin text of Julius Firmicus. I’d had four years of Latin in high school so I could read Latin pretty well. And at the University I had had nine hours of Latin, in which I guess would be fifth year and first half of sixth year. So I could read the Latin without much trouble. And both of those books fascinated me. And they got me interested in the old stuff, and then I began to apply the astronomy that I had.

Well, I did quite a bit of those things like you saw in the introduction to The Book of Flowers, I was working on that thing back in the sixties. When I’d get bored with doing anything else, I’d say oh, I’ll get that out and translate another page or two, something like that. And also I had in the late fifties and early sixties begun to acquire the Greek texts of some of the classical Greek astrologers that had been published in Europe. And I taught myself Greek and I began to translate some of those.

NG: You must have a real gift for languages.

JH: Well, I guess I do or I wouldn’t have been able to have done it then. I can’t take any credit for it, I guess you’re born with that sort of thing. I have thought to myself sometimes, and I don’t say this as a piece of braggartry, but just as a fact. I think of all the people in my high school that took Latin I’m probably the only one that ever did anything with it.

To show what you can do, I got that Latin text [Guido Bonatti’s Book of Astronomy]; I guess I’ve had that thirty years or so. And I sat down one day and I made a table of contents for it. The pages aren’t numbered, but they ave what they call folio numeration every fourth page: why, you’ve got B and then you’ve got one, two, three, four and then you’ve got C, and so on. And I made a complete index of the whole thing, so now if I want to look up something, well I get that out. I can open up the book and find a page that’s got that information on it. So it’s kind of handy. And then I discovered the Universal Bookstore (or something like that) up there in Canada that reprints old books. Anyway, they’ve reprinted a lot of the old books,and they offered Coley’s book, for example. And I bought that thing, oh, I guess twenty-three years ago.

I got several other of the 17th century English books that they reprinted, and those are very handy. You can find a lot of stuff in there that you’d be hard put to locate in the modern books. Like I said, Coley had done the three Centiloquies, and that was the only place I knew where you could find all three of them. And I don’t know that anybody ever did al-Mansur, or I guess somebody must have translated it, but I’ve never seen it. Anyway, that’s some of the stuff that I put together over the years.

[Read the final Part 4 of the interview with James Holden.]

Astrology Book Review: The Strengths of the Planets (Astrologia Gallica 18)

July 12, 2008 by  

Astrology Book Review: Astrologia Gallica Book 18, The Strengths of the Planets

Why Review Astrological Books?

There are innumerable astrology books out there; many are not very useful, but a few are worth their weight in gold. The problem is, how to find them. The astrological book market being what it is, many of the best books are not heavily marketed or advertised, and these gems often do not register in the public awareness. To address this, Gryphon Astrology will feature a weekly or biweekly book review column to help you find some of the best available astrological publications. The frequency of the column will depend on our book acquisition funds!

If you have written or published an astrology book you would like reviewed on Gryphon Astrology, please contact me at nina [at] gryphonastrology.com or write to me here (don’t forget to include your contact info).

Astrologia Gallica, Book 18: The Strengths of the Planets

Written by: Jean-Baptiste Morin

Translators: Pepita Sanchis Llacer and Anthony Louis LaBruzza

Recommended For: Intermediate or advanced astrologers comfortable (or who wish to get more comfortable) with concepts like planetary dignities, mutual reception, and qualities of the houses. Great for exploring the nuances of planetary rulerships and interrelationships at a theoretical level, supported by many real-life example horoscopes.

Jean-Baptiste Morin was a 17th century French physician and astrologer who wrote prolifically; his most famous and longest work being the huge Astrologia Gallica. This monumental work is being gradually translated, volume by volume, by dedicated astrologers who can read Morin’s Latin treatise.

Morin saw his work as an elucidation of much older astrological tradition from the medieval and Arabic times. In the process of cleaning up after the “confused and inadequate” ancient astrologers, as he calls them, he ends up making changes to the tradition. As a result, his works are commonly considered to comprise “the Morin system,” which is based on, but sometimes varies from earlier astrological tradition.

Many of the earlier volumes of Astrologia Gallica are astronomical/astrological and philosophical treatises, not of immediate interest to working astrologers or hobbyists. The present volume, Book 18, is extremely useful, however. Morin discusses in great detail the strengths and weaknesses of the seven visible planets, and the ways these qualities manifest in practice.

For example, Morin explains how a planet can rule two different signs, one of which may not be in apparent agreement with the planet’s elemental nature. His example is Jupiter, which rules Sagittarius and Pisces. Jupiter, in Morin’s view, has an outward fiery nature, which puts it in agreement with the fire sign Sagittarius; however, he also says that Jupiter has a watery hidden side, which is compatible with the water sign Pisces. As a result, whenever Jupiter resides in any fire sign, his fiery domicile, Sagittarius, is strengthened. The same is true for Pisces when Jupiter passes through a water sign.

While this is a logical approach to planetary rulership, it is rather different from the way ancient authorities may have approached the topic. Sign rulership theory is but one of the many examples of Morin’s subtly changing or re-emphasizing parts of the existing astrological tradition.  In that sense, the Morin reader gets one view of the astrological tradition, but it is by no means the only view or even the prevailing practice.

Later in the book, Morin tackles the way planets are affected by reception. He makes the point that mutual reception between planets is only beneficial when either of the planets can offer something constructive to the other. Morin likes to use contemporary astrological charts, and he gives the example of a contemporary named de Hayes who had been decapitated by order of the King. The native’s mutual reception between Mercury in Pisces, ruler of the eighth house of death, and Jupiter in Gemini, situated in the eighth house, could not save him, as both planets were in signs of their detriment and so had nothing positive to offer the native.

The book is full of gems such as this, with many examples clearly illustrating Morin’s approach and conclusions. Morin goes on to discuss planetary strength based on planets positions relative to luminaries; planetary strength based on their motion (speed and direction); and planetary strength based on diurnal or nocturnal condition.

The second part of The Strengths of the Planets discusses planetary strength based on position in the chart; aspects and house positions. Here, Morin revamps the relative strengths of the houses, based on a simplified point system. The results are interesting and somewhat odd, whereby the malefic eighth house is given 3.5 points, but the ninth house is only given 2. While Morin gives his reasons for assigning the point values he does, his assignments do not always coincide with older authors’ use of the houses. For example, the ninth house, associated with religion, higher learning, and travel, is considered more benefic and “stronger” than the eighth house of death, even though the ninth is cadent and the eighth is succedent.

The Strengths of the Planets is slim, weighing in at 131 pages, but it bears slow, careful reading, to extract maximum value. The book was first translated from Latin into Spanish by Pepita Sanchis Llacer, and then translated into English by Anthony Louis LaBruzza. The translation is extremely readable and accessible by modern-day audiences, no doubt largely thanks to the skill of the translators.  The book is heavily footnoted and annotated by both translators, as well as by the renowned astrological writer and translator of other Morin books, James Holden. Robert M. Corre, a disciple of Morin, also contributed many footnotes to the translation.

The Strengths of the Planets costs $17.95 at astroamerica.com.