NEW – Tradition Journal Issue 4

The Tradition Journal Issue 4 has just been released:


The Role of Dispositors of Planets in Signs

By Martien Hermes

Fit to be Judged: The Necessity of the 23 Considerations Before Judgement

By Christopher Magnus

Between Science and Superstition – The Astrology of Comets

By Peter Stockinger

For Posterity – Rensberger on Comets

Transcription by Peter Stockinger

Incarnation – Reincarnation

By Sue Ward

Book Reviews

This issue is available in PDF and EPUB (ebook) format and inclues a complemetary copy of William Lilly’s autobiography transcribed and annotated by Sue Ward.

Copies may be purchased via the website: Tradition Journal

Solar Eclipse

A total Solar eclipse will occur on Sunday, 11th July 2010. The chart shown below has been cast for the time of the eclipse in the UK:

William Lilly writes about eclipses in his work Annus Tenebrosus, published in 1652:

[A Solar eclipse occurring in Cancer, in the 2nd decanate]

“it dryes up Rivers and fountaines and intends much incontinency in man and women, and petulency, or ill offices amongst mortal man, viz. one cunningly thrusting another one out of his place”

In his Merlinus Anglicus of 1676, Lilly gave his opinion about Solar and Lunar eclipses:

“The Ancients do enjoyn us seriously to consider of present Solar and Lunar eclipses, and there is something therein to be considered; but in reality I declare, That nothing of that powerful efficacy ever apperared unto me as they have delivered and given caution of, I mean Eclipses operate not with that violence or so terribly as the Ancients have recorded and left in their Writings to Posterity, however they are with moderation to be handled; and the very truth is, they do rather work generally than particularly.”


A transcription of Lilly’s Choice Astrological Aphorisms from his Merlinus Anglicus 1676, by Sue Ward and a transcript of the meaning of eclipses and faces, from Annus Tenebrosus, by Luis Ribeiro, can be found at the Tradition Library

Void of Course

After a lengthy discussion about definition and validity of the void of course Moon on another astrological web log, [see the whole of the original discussion here], I thought it to be a good idea to have another look at William Lilly’s views on the subject and share my findings with the readers of my web log.

To show that Lilly was drawing on a long-standing tradition, I first want to quote from Dr. Dykes’ excellent new translation “Persian Nativities” vol 1, wherein he translates Masha’allah (p25): “But the Moon is said [to be] solitary whenever she applies to neither fortunate ones nor the malevolents with her own body, nor does she regard any [star] from the trigon, tetragon, hexagon, or opposition” The footnote states that he [Masha’allah] must have drawn this from Rhetorius Ch.39, because in Ch.112 and in other Hellenistic authors is added: “within the next 30 degrees”. Dr Dykes adds that “this fuller definition makes a void in course Moon extraordinarily rare”.

But let’s now have a look at Lilly’s definition of “void of course”:

“A Planet is void of course, when he is separated from a Planet, nor does forthwith, during his being in that Sign, apply to any other: This is most usually in the Moon;…” (CA, p112)

To fully understand this concept and its use, we have to look further and find Lilly’s definition of separation:

“Separation, is in the first place, when the two Planets are departed but six minutes distance from each other[…]”(CA, p110)

And here is his definition of application which is as well necessary for the understanding of the concept of “void of course”:

It [application] is when two Planets are drawing near together, either by conjunction or aspect[…] (CA, p108)

This definition can only be understood properly, if one considers the use of platic aspects, orbs and moiety in horary charts. Lilly did this as the next quote about application shows:

“[…] for every Planet that applies is allowed half his own orbs and half the orbs of that Planet from whom he separates.” (CA, p110)

Lilly explains further:

“A Platic Aspect is that which admits the Orbs or Rays of two Planets that signify any matter. […] As if Venus be in the 10th degree of Taurus, and Saturn in eighteen degrees of Virgo, here Venus has a Platic trine, or is in a Platic trine to Saturn, because she is in the moiety of both their Orbs.” (CA, p107)  

Moiety is of course half the value of an orb; a table of the orbs Lilly used may be found in CA, p107.

On the basis of these definitions it should be easy to determine if and when a Planet is void of course.

If an aspect can only be perfected when the Moon has crossed over into another sign and the aspect is in moiety of the orbs of both Planets concerned, it is likely that the matter propounded will have a positive outcome, although there may be difficulties in the process. Further  indicators for a positive outcome in these cases are mutual reception, or the position of the Moon in Taurus, Cancer, Sagittarius or Pisces.

Should the Moon be in late degrees, particularly in Gemini, Scorpio or Capricorn, this is an indication for a negative outcome.

For a thorough investigation into the matter of “void of course” and a detailed and illustrated explanation of the operation of application, please see Sue Ward’s excellent article “An Introduction to the Astrology of William Lilly”, which can be found on her website, or accessed here:

Anna Kingsford and Valentine Weigelius’ Astrology Theologized

In the recent discussion concerning my web log entry LVX – The Light of Creation in Traditional Astrology, Sue Ward mentioned the influential role of the mystic Anna Kingsford. Unfortunately many people, although interested in the Western Mystery Tradition, are not aware of the importance of her contribution in the field of Hermetics and her influence on McGregor Mathers and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.


Anna Kingsford was born in 1846 in Essex. She was a precocious child and already wrote her first novel at the early age of 13. Later she became interested in animal welfare and women’s rights and advocated equal rights in education for girls and boys. In 1874 she enrolled in the Paris Medical School and qualified as a physician in 1880. During her medical studies she had a series of mystical illuminations which would shape her future life. She decided to teach the Western Mystery Tradition and became president of the Theosophical Society in 1883. In 1884 she was offered her own Hermetical lodge, but its existence was only short-lived. In May 1884 she formed, together with Maitland, the Hermetic Society. Due to her ill-health she could not continue to lecture there after 1886. McGregor Mathers, who had been giving lectures at the Hermetic society, was heavily influenced by Anna Kingsford. He founded his magical order, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, in 1888, the year Anna died.

More information on Anna Kingsford may be found at

In 1886 Anna Kingsford published her translation of Valentine Veigelius’ Astrology Theologized, The Spiritual Hermeneutics of Astrology and Holy Writ Being A Treatise upon the Influence of the Stars on Man and on the Art of Ruling Them By the Law of Grace, which had been originally published in 1649. It includes a Prefatory Essay, written by Anna Kingsford, on the True Method of Interpreting Holy Scripture.

A copy of her translation of Astrology Theologized can be read online at:

As an homage to Anna Kingsford, to astrology and the Hermetic arts, I want to give a short excerpt from her beautiful translation of Astrology Theologized, hoping to kindle some new interest in her and her work.

Astrology is Philosophy itself, or it is the whole light of Nature, from whence ariseth the universal natural Wisdom, or a solid, sincere, and exquisite knowledge of natural things: which light of Nature is twofold, external and internal: external in the Macrocosm, internal in the Microcosm.

The study of Astrology or Philosophy is conversant about the universal knowledge of all the wonderful and secret things of God, infused and put into natural things from above in the first Creation.

The exercise therefore of the Light of Nature is the most sagacious perscrutation (INTENSE SCRUTINY) and enucleation (TO PEEL OUT or EXTRACT) of the abstruse, internal and invisible virtues, lying hid in external, corporal and visible things; to wit,

  • What should be the first matter of this great world whereof it was made.
  • What the Elements should be, and those things which are bred of the Elements, and consist in them; of what kind is their creation, essence, nature, propriety and operation as well within as without.
  • What might be in the stars of heaven, what their operation.
  • What in volatiles, what in fishes, metals, minerals, gems; what in every species of sprigs and vegetables.
  • What in animals, beasts, creeping things, and in the whole frame of the world.
  • Lastly, what is in Man, who was made and created of all these; to wit,

What is that mass, or slime, or dust whereof the body of the first man was formed, and whence he received his soul, and what it is; and whence he hath the Spirit, and what he is: And so the Light of Nature, or Astrology comprehends in itself all the wisdom and knowledge of the whole universe; that is, all these are hid and learned in the School of the Light of Nature, and are referred to as Astrology, or are rather Astrology itself; to wit,

The Subject of Astrology is therefore double; the Macrocosm and the Microcosm, the greater world and the lesser world.

An article  discussing Anna Kingsford’s nativity can be found in Primum Mobile, the web log of the Academy of Astrology.

“Monster of Ingratitude” – The Relationship between William Lilly and John Gadbury

Sue Ward and I have just completed a paper entitled “Monster of Ingratitude” which will be published in the forthcoming edition of “The Tradition” journal (due to be released in September).

Scholarship into the history of astrology has improved over the last ten or fifteen years and has brought us a huge amount of information regarding astrology’s development from many perspectives. However, biographical information about those who practiced astrology in centuries past is not of such a high standard. There are several reasons for this, not least an apparent lack of autobiographical material. It was from this point of view that Sue and I examined the relationship between William Lilly and John Gadbury.

This rather large piece of research has taken several months to complete, but still leaves many questions unanswered. However, what we did discover was that those few biographies of William Lilly are markedly flawed. Most researchers rely upon Derek Parker’s “Familiar to All” which, whilst it presents one of the earliest biographical texts about Lilly and which hasn’t been bettered, presents very few sources as grounds for the author’s opinions. Nonetheless, it is those opinions that we find most frequently in subsequent biographies of the astrologers of 17th century England, particularly those of Lilly and Gadbury. Indeed, much of the personal detail regarding Lilly’s life found in Parker, can be found nowhere else. It may be that Parker had access to material unknown to us, but there are no references with which to follow this up. (It may be that a full and detailed review of “Familiar to All” is required in order to test the assertions made there against known sources.)

We have attempted to address these, largely unsubstantiated, opinions and present source material which leads to alternative, and often very different, conclusions. As an example, the main theme of our paper is the infamous contention between Lilly and Gadbury and our research shows that it has been misconstrued by historians throughout. This study has brought to light a number of other doubtful areas relating to Lilly’s contemporaries, too, but our remit precluded going very far with that; we had already far exceeded our original intentions.

The paper contains:

  • brief biographies of the two men;
  • the beginning of their acqaintance and how it came about;
  • how the enmity began, developed and ended;
  • the rather one-sided pamphlet war;
  • others involved in the contention;
  • a study of the published material;
  • all sources of information;
  • alternative conclusions based on the above.

We hope to draw the attention of astrologers to an area which requires far closer attention than it has attracted hitherto, and perhaps encourage others to proceed in this research. Furthermore, we hope to demonstrate that Gadbury’s work is far from reliable and could easily be replaced by that of a better qualified author of the period, such as John Partridge. That is, if astrologers want to investigate the art as it stood post-Lilly and as it collided with the new science.

William Lilly and the Cabala

Sue Ward’s web log entry about the Primary Problem with Venus, which is supplemental to her recommended presentation God, the Universe and Everything, raised the important issue of the intrinsic interconnectedness between astrology and the glyph of the cabalistic Tree of Life. Some of the readers of my web log may know that  this glyph was extensively used by magical orders of the 19th and 20th century, but what is of interest here is the importance of this knowledge to traditional astrologers and especially to William Lilly.

Ramon Lull (1232 – 1315) was the first writer and philosopher who introduced the Cabala to the West. He was followed by Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463 – 1494), who studied the Cabala as well as the teachings of Hermes Trismegistus; they became known as the Hermetic Mysteries. Mirandola believed he could, through the revelations of the Cabala, unify Christianity with the teachings of Plato and Pythagoras.

John Dee (1527 – 1608), the famous astrologer and mathematician of the Renaissance condensed all his knowledge into one glyph, the Monas hieroglyph.


It is said that his writings on astrology, Cabala and the hermetic arts buildt the foundations of the 17th century Rosicrucian movement.

In 1614 a manuscript with the title Fama Fraternitatis: The Declaration of the Worthy Order of the Rosy Cross was anonymously published in Germany, followed by Confessio Fraternitatis and The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz, in 1615 and 1616. These manuscripts were drawing their information from a range of sources, including John Dee’s Monas Hieroglyphica. His glyph was to be found on the front page of the Fama Fraternitatis. The publication of these books triggered the beginnings of a vast Rosicrucian movement in Europe. William Shakespeare was linked to the movement and important personalities like Robert Fludd and Elias Ashmole identified themselves as Rosicrucians.

We know that Ashmole and William Lilly were both deeply interested in all aspects of the hermetic arts and especially in the writings of John Dee. As Sue has so rightly pointed out in her presentation, it was this spiritual bond that made the friendship between these two men possible. But can we be sure that Lilly knew about these secrets and used them in his astrology? As in many cases, the thorough study of his masterpiece, Christian Astrology, provides us with an answer, as Lilly writes:

“It is a recieved, general Rule amongst those Artists that know the Cabalistic Key of Astrologie, that  if one Planet be the Lord of the ascendant and twelfth house….” (CA, p464)

This quote shows that, at least in my opinion, Lilly knew about the cabalistic correspondences and used them in his daily work, if the necessity arose to do so. Another revealing piece of information can be found in Lilly’s Merlinus Anglicus Ephemeris for the year 1680, where he writes:

“But We must owne the assistance of our Friend Mr. Henry Coley herein; of him We have had experience for several Years past, and to him shall communicate many Secrets in Art, not know to the Vulgar Astrologer;…”

I hope I could outline how cabalistic teachings were integrated in the Western Mystery Tradition and became an intrinsic part of the lore. Astrologers like William Lilly were well versed in the symbolism through their studies of the hermetic arts. For them astrology was only one expression of the mysteries which enabled them to get closer to the Divine.

A depiction from the Syriac New Testament, Vienna 1555, illustrates this beautifully.

Tree of Life

God, The Universe and Everything

If you, dear reader, never had the fortune to attend any of Sue Ward’s lectures on the subject of the philosophy of astrology, you might appreciate  to know that she has put a movie presentation based on a number of her lectures on her website.

This highly recommended presentation with the title: “God, the Universe and Everything” can be accessed here: (to be found under Articles)