Written by Wade Caves
Each branch of astrology serves its own purpose. Natal astrology seeks to explore the birth chart to unlock hidden potential and explore essential life themes. Mundane astrology focuses primarily on the fates of cities and nations, using the celestial bodies to chart their courses and involvement in world affairs. Electional astrology is an incomparable tool that helps keep you proactively in step with cosmic forces whilst planning major life decisions and events.
While these have been relatively well known in recent decades, there is yet another branch of astrology newly emerging from its historical shadows – horary astrology. Horary is a divinatory method used for the resolution of specific problems and dilemmas that have reached a crisis point, and was once the bread and butter of the astrologer’s practice.
We will be exploring the content of this article in greater detail during my upcoming workshop, The Divinatory Art of Horary Astrology, 14 January 2017 with the WSAA. For the time being, this article can serve as a gentle primer for the full-day workshop.
A perplexed individual (called the “querent”) puts forward a question about some compelling issue and the astrologer draws the figure of the heavens at the time and place s/he understands not only the question, but its implications and the assumptions being made. From here, the astrologer uses time-tested techniques and a smattering of theoretically sound conjecture (what you might call a “developed instinct”) to divine information about the problem from the chart.
So long as the query presented is of spiritual import, something that really stirs the soul, there is no limit to horary’s transformative ability to illuminate the path ahead. Matters of property, relationship, life or death, illness, career, items or persons missing, even the interpretation of haunting dreams are all open for exploration. What we are looking for when we employ horary is a better understanding of present circumstances, how these are connected to our recent past, and what astral guidance is available to help us best move forward.
It can take a lifetime to feel adept in the deep wealth of symbolism that each of the signs, planets and houses has to offer us, but the fundamental principles of horary astrology are relatively straightforward and accessible to anyone approaching the subject with an honest heart. Horary simply requires a different way of thinking about chart work and a pinch of instinctual creativity during consultation.
This article explores five introductory points that are useful when beginning to explore horary technique. While they are far from exhaustive, this should serve to whet your appetite for more intentional study. To help illustrate these points, I am providing a case study from my own files that centers on whether or not a querent would be relocated with her current job.
The querent’s career required her to be internationally mobile. A United States citizen, she had been assigned to a post in Germany some years before our consultation. While she enjoyed her time abroad, she was ready for change. She was struggling with some financial hardships and hoped to return to her home country for a bit of stability and comfort. The querent had put in requests for relocation, but she was getting nothing but ambiguity in response. Even if she was to be selected for relocation, the querent knew there was no guarantee she’d end up stateside. She may be required to travel to yet another country, which she desperately hoped to avoid. Her question for me – “Am I going to be relocated? If so, where and when? If not, what do I need to do to make it happen?”
The full chart is shown above dated for 25 September 2013, 7:53am LMT, Los Angeles, CA (USA).
Point 1: Wait for soulful intent.
When working with horary, the first place we must begin is with the question. The only hard and fast rule in horary is that the question must be appropriate and meaningful. Horary is about resolving problems, not simply predicting their outcomes. Any question we submit for horary analysis ought to have primary importance in the querent’s life, and the querent should be in a positon to act on the advice you provide. For example, there’s no sense in trying to predict whether or not someone will pass such-and-such test if the test has already been taken, because there’s no guidance to provide – the opportunity to act has passed. This is what the ancient texts call an “idle” question. Far better to encourage the client to develop a sense of patience, and come to you in the future when there is still time to impact the outcome.
You will also want to consider whether the common-sense alternatives have been exhausted. The last thing we want to do is run to horary when the obvious solution still lies unexplored. This can often be an issue when people want to “test” horary to see if it works. This is the wrong attitude and state of heart from which to approach horary. I cannot underscore this enough – if the question is flippant and trivial, the chart’s symbolism will be flippant and trivial. What we need in horary is an underlying foundation of emotive, pressing concern. As a horary astrologer, it is your job to ensure these questions are the only ones that occupy your time.
Conversely, you need to be in a position to fully engage with the question and its corresponding horary figure. When you draw up a chart, it becomes your responsibility alone to interpret and employ the symbolism of that chart. I frequently see new students so eager to practice horary that they draw up a question for every passing concern, and then find that they don’t know where to begin and give up on horary altogether. It’s patently obvious that that approach does more damage than good. It is far better to wait six months for one powerful, profound question than to cast six practice charts a week, getting nowhere with any of them. In the end, horary relies on your confidence to convey the message from the heavens to your querent, so be sure not to engage in silly, inconsequential questions that will jeopardize your confidence in judging the one chart that really matters.
For our example horary, “Am I being relocated?”, the querent ran through all of the options she felt she had. She had reached out to all reasonable channels, and had played the waiting game for months. If the cards weren’t lining up for her relocation, the querent wanted me to consider what she could do to change that. When the querent came to me as her astrologer, you could feel the frustration, confusion and irritation in her communication.
The querent’s question passed all of my initial tests – the question was of direct importance to the querent and was of radical concern (i.e., rooted in the soul), it wasn’t too late for me to advise, and I was personally in a position to handle the resulting chart regardless of its complexity or the time that might be involved. I drew up the chart for the time, date and location of my locality, and that became my horary figure.
Point 2: Assess your significators.
Horary astrology requires a solid, functional knowledge of house rulerships. Each house in the astrological chart has correspondence with a different aspect of human experience. When the Sun rises over the 1st house cusp (also known as the ascendant, because when planets cross this point they ascend over the eastern horizon), we see the light and warmth of a new day. For this reason, the 1st house has significations of life, health and vitality, and signifies the one who initiates action. In horary we assign the querent to the 1st house, the sign on the cusp of the 1st house and its ruler. More on this below.
A brief listing of other house rulerships will be helpful at this stage. The 2nd house has significations of our finances; the 3rd, our siblings and neighbors, messages and short journeys; the 4th, our ancestral lineage (the father specifically), and property; the 5th, children and pregnancy, games of chance and lovemaking; the 6th, illness (not health, as some mistakenly assert), servitude and small animals; the 7th, anyone with which we engage one-on-one – business partners, romantic partners, husbands and wives, and the enemies we know about; the 8th, death, anxiety, our debts, and others’ money (because the 8th house is the 2nd house from the 7th, and you can do this kind of turning with all of the houses as necessary); the 9th, mysticism, religion, dreams, long-distance journeys and higher education, lawyers and the clergy; the 10th, our career and vocation, status, the government; the 11th, benefactors and friends, those who seek to aid us, where we seek shelter; the 12th, secret enemies, self-undoing, tribulations, imprisonment, large animals and the more severe forms of slavery and illness.
NB: An excellent resource for studying how houses came to be associated with these areas of life is Deborah Houlding’s book, “The Houses: Temples of the Sky,” published by The Wessex Astrologer in 2006.
In our question we take the first house to signify the person asking the question. We have Libra rising and Venus as its ruler in Scorpio. This describes the querent as affable, well proportioned and attractive (Libra is a human sign, and known for giving sensuous curves and a symmetrical build). Scorpio imparts a tendency to withdraw and seek privacy, and an introspective demeanor. Venus’s placement in Scorpio is concerning as Scorpio is the sign of Venus’s detriment, as is her recent conjunction with Saturn. The querent is uncomfortable in her living situation, feeling lonely and stretched financially. Notice Saturn is on the 2nd house cusp showing a restriction of finances.
You will want to put a special emphasis on the Moon in every horary, without exception. Often the Moon is called the co-significator of the querent, but in actuality the Moon shows the focus of the question and can be thought of as a general significator of the question itself. In questions where the querent becomes the central focus, we often do find the Moon symbolizing the querent in some way. Generally, though, the Moon will add color to our understanding of whatever the querent is seeking because the Moon signifies things that stray, become lost or wander, and things that require search. If you feel lost when determining the Moon’s role in the chart, step away to consider other factors and come back to it once other symbolic messages have settled.
The Moon in our example horary rules the 10th house and provides insight into the querent’s job. The Moon is in Gemini, a sign known for movement and flexibility, placed in the 9th house of foreign and international travel.
There are three primary relocation houses in astrology – the 3rd, which shows nearby locations; the 9th, which shows locations far away; and the 7th, which shows the destination. It’s no surprise to me to find the Moon in a relocation house, particularly one that is connected to long-distance and/or foreign travel. This reflects the querent’s fervent desire to get as far away from Germany as she can.
When assigning your significators in horary astrology, it is critical that you stick to the traditional sign rulerships. This means that we take Mars as ruler of Scorpio (not Pluto), Jupiter as ruler of Pisces (not Neptune), and Saturn as ruler of Aquarius (not Uranus). This isn’t to say that the outer planets don’t exert an effect on our lives or that they aren’t deserving of consideration in the chart, but they cannot offer the rich level of detail that you employ in advanced horary analysis. For that we need the inner planets that experience visible phases and variations in motion. The outer planets tend to operate similarly to fixed stars and become important in horary charts when within 5º of a primary significator, angle or relevant house cusp.
Speaking of house systems, I encourage you to use whatever system works best for you. I personally use Regiomontanus, but for no other reason than being told to use it when I began studying horary. I didn’t question it then, and am too comfortable to change it now a few years on. I have since heard compelling arguments for the use of Placidus, and I wonder if I would have switched to Regiomontanus from Placidus if I knew then what I know today. Ultimately this is a personal decision and the system should feel right to you. My only suggestion is to stick with quadrant-based systems. Contacts to house cusps are very helpful in interpretation, and with sign-as-house systems (sometimes called “whole sign houses”) we lose level upon level of detail with no noticeable gain to offset that loss.
Point 3: Scan the angles.
Immediately after assessing the state of your significators (which, after some practice, will take you under twenty seconds), scan your angles. The angles in the horoscope are the 1st, 10th, 7th, and 4th houses, and particular attention needs to be given to the cusps of those houses. These four areas of the chart are said to hold up the spheres of heaven and are supercharged with activity. Planets in these houses show their effects in great force, and the closer the planet is to the cusp of an angular house the more sure you can be that it will be central to chart interpretation.
A planet in the 1st house shows energy that emanates from the querent. A difficult planet there – Mars, Saturn or the South Node – shows the querent is the source of their own frustration or misery. It could also mean their living space (and in some cases their physical body) has been overtaken by something connected to that harmful planet, identified either by the house(s) that planet rules or by what it naturally signifies.
In the 7th house, the tension is coming from outside the querent, from the “other(s)” involved in the problem. Harmful planets in the descendant are in an inherently adversarial position to our querent, being in the house directly opposite the querent’s own 1st house.
A planet on the 10th cusp is “out there,” showing itself in a way that everyone recognizes, just like the Sun overpowers everything else in the sky at mid-day. The 10th house is a public one and garners a lot of attention, and any planet here deserves your immediate attention.
The 4th house is hidden beneath the horizon and is at the base of the chart. Planets here are naturally hidden and operate in a similarly covert manner. Still, their effects are at the root of the problem and are churning the situation from underneath.
You can apply this kind of thinking to all the planets in angles, colored by and adapted to that planet’s unique form of expression.
Returning to our querent’s dilemma, your eyes should now be immediately drawn to Jupiter in Cancer on the 10th house cusp. Over and over again in traditional literature we see authors telling us that angular planets set the tone for the chart and the situation’s outcome. Jupiter is called the Greater Benefic, and his position at the most elevated point in the sky casts a benevolent ray down on our querent’s desire to relocate. Jupiter exalted in Cancer alleviates pressure, and strives to bring things together in a harmonious way. Already I’m feeling good about where this chart will lead me, not only because of Jupiter’s presence but because I noticed Venus, the querent’s significator, was applying to Jupiter by trine within one degree. A welcome change is on the way!
You will also find Mercury in the 1st house. Though not as close to the corresponding angle as Jupiter is, Mercury’s presence has an important message to impart and shows something coming to the querent (again, because the planet is placed in her house). Both Jupiter and Mercury rule houses associated with travel and movement (Jupiter rules the 3rd, Mercury the 9th), so their angularity clues us into a chart theme of relocation.
Point 4: Look for meaningful connections.
In horary, what you look for are connections between primary significators, houses and/or house cusps. In a question like, “Will I get the job?”, we hope to see an applying aspect between the 1st and 10th house rulers, because this brings potential for the querent and the desired job to come together. The order in which the significators come together is important to keep in mind, because this has a bearing on how the situation will come to pass. If the 1st-ruler applies to the 10th-ruler, the querent is the one going after the job. This aspect alone doesn’t necessarily promise perfect, although it can if other chart factors support that resolution. What we prefer to see is the 10th-ruler applying to the 1st-ruler, because that shows the job coming to the querent and the querent is in the position to decide how to respond. We can gather details on how the other planet will be received by zodiacal position, type of aspect formed between them, and other planets plugging into their dynamic by aspect or house position.
Traditionally, astrologers only considered the Ptolemaic aspects – the conjunction, showing a blending of energies; the sextile, showing moderate ease; the square, showing tension and moderate difficulty; the trine, our best indication of ease and free-flowing cooperation; and the opposition, a jarring and violent connection that can be likened to a head-on vehicular collision. While the minor aspects may provide peripheral information to you as the astrologer, it is always best to reduce your number of considerations to the most focal and prominent so the chart can only be read one way. There is nothing that can be seen from minor aspects that will not be seen quicker, and more reliably, from the major Ptolemaic aspects.
Our goal is to find signs of relocation. Mercury as the 9th ruler in the 1st house is a pretty good argument, as is Jupiter on the 10th house cusp, but personally I wouldn’t be satisfied relying on those planets alone. What I want to see is more information coming from aspectual connections.
As there are many ways to see relocation in a chart, you can fall back on the Moon to guide you. The Moon’s orb is 13º when applying or separating, so we can see that she has been traveling void since her last aspect with the Sun just over 13º ago. This reflects the slow progress the querent has experienced, but the chart has good news for her – the situation is going to be developing quickly, and to her liking.
NB: A planet within 5º of a house cusp is said to be powerfully resonating with the messages of that house. While you may notice that Mars is technically in the space of the 10th house, you would call it an 11th house Mars because it is fewer than 5º away from its cusp. Jupiter, therefore, is considered a 10th house planet, Saturn a 2nd house planet. The Moon, though, remains 9th house, because it is inside the cusp of that house.
Next the Moon trines the ascending degree, sextiles Mars on the 11th house cusp and trines Mercury in the 1st house. Like Mercury’s placement in the 1st house, the Moon’s connection to the ascendant from the 9th house is a promising indication of relocation. The Moon is also in orb of a sextile to 11th-house Mars, which rules the 7th house of destination. The fact that the 7th-ruler, Mars, is in the 11th house suggests a positive relocation experience where the querent is placed somewhere that fulfills the hope and happiness of 11th house symbolism.
Finally, the Moon is in aspect to the 9th house ruler, Mercury in Libra. Both the Moon and Mercury are in air signs, which point westward, so my initial prognosis was that the querent would be relocating overseas to the west (remember, she was in Europe at the time of questioning). Mercury’s placement in the 1st house, positioned in the same sign as the ascendant, gave me reason to believe she would be heading back to the United States.
It is important to note that the Moon is doing all the work in this chart, not the querent’s significator (Venus), so part of the consultation process here was to urge the client to relax and let things fall into place in their own time. I didn’t see a need to encourage the client to escalate matters, but did suggest she reach out to a supervisor one more time (Venus does trine a planet on the 10th house cusp, after all!). Beyond this, all she needed to do was sit and wait.
Point 5: Trust your instincts.
We marry two things together in astrology – science and art. Science is that part of our work that falls back on basic astronomical principles. What sign is rising? What does it even mean for a sign to be rising? Where is the midheaven? What are the cusps of the houses, and the zodiacal degrees of the planets? Are the planets direct or retrograde? Speeding up or slowing down? Are they in aspect to other planets, or unaspected? What houses do they occupy? These are the Mercurial facts that we gather together to prepare us for the most important part of our job – judgment.
Astrology is given to the 9th astrological house, where the Sun is said to rejoice. There is an illumination and reunion of soul with truth that happens when astrology is effectively activated. In order to get to the moment of recognition where truth seems to jump out of the chart, we have to learn to trust our instincts and let go of our inhibitions. There’s a moment of connection with the creative life force of the cosmos that can only come when we set aside our fears and plunge forward with full trust in the process.
This isn’t to say that we fall back on intuition willy-nilly. Our intuition tells us not to run headlong into traffic because we have seen from experience what happens to those who do. Outside of consultation is the time to study, learn, develop skills and refine technique. You can also cultivate interpretive competencies by getting feedback on your previous chart judgments. What did you miss? What did you get right, but could your precision have been better? These are the questions to ask, and the pride of getting this or that detail wrong needs to be set aside for proper growth.
In the consultation setting, however, you must allow yourself the space to listen to your inner voice. There’s a real power in horary that circumvents the astrologer’s shortcomings. If the question is earnest, and the astrologer is soulfully engaged, a reliable answer will emerge. Sound judgment comes when we not only trust in horary, but in ourselves. This is why I believe, on so many levels, that astrology – particularly horary astrology – is a solar endeavor and belongs to the Sun before any other planet.
Bringing it All Together.
After a few moments with the horary chart, I told the querent what I believed the chart was telling me. I could see in the figure that the querent was having financial difficulties (Venus in 2nd house in detriment, Saturn on 2nd house cusp), but she would soon find them alleviated (Venus applying to trine angular Jupiter in Cancer, then square to Mars as 2nd-ruler with reception).
I was confident that she would be relocating, and soon. Indications pointed westward, particularly to the southwest – westward because both the Moon and Mercury are in air signs, and southwest because Gemini (the sign on the 9th cusp where we find the Moon) inclines a little south.
While I knew the querent would be returning to a familiar place of comfort (angular Jupiter in dignity ruling the 3rd house), I wasn’t sure how to marry that with the 9th-ruler Mercury in the 1st house. This was because the 9th house shows places that are somehow foreign to us, and in many cases that does mean somewhere international. I didn’t let that bother me, and I stuck with what I knew to be reliable – the chart promises a westward journey, a return to something familiar, that very little action would be required of the querent to make this happen, and that she would be supremely happy with the relocation choice.
I didn’t hazard a response for when the querent would get news of an approved relocation request. I was relatively new with horary at this time and didn’t feel comfortable with timing techniques. Still, the chart bore all the telltale signs of immediacy so I did tell her that details would come quickly and without any more intercession required on her part.
One week after consultation, on 30 September 2013, the Moon came to conjoin transiting Mars at 21º Leo (7th house ruler in the horary), and both bodies were in an almost perfect square to Venus at 22º Scorpio. As the Moon perfected that aspect to Venus the same day, the querent got news that her relocation was being processed. She was being sent back to the United States, which put her over the moon, though she would be going to a state she had never been to before. This puts a nice bow around the confusion I had with marrying 3rd and 9th house symbolism. Her new home would be somewhere familiar (her home country), but the exact destination itself was new to her (a new state).
Perhaps more fascinating still is how the chart connections echoed on into the future. The querent boarded a plane back to the U.S. on 28 December 2013. Around the time of boarding the Moon hit 16º Scorpio, the degree of Venus in the horary. Jupiter, who had traveled as far as 20º Cancer before turning retrograde, was now back at 16º Cancer, in perfect trine with horary Moon and Venus, transiting its own position in the horary on the 10th house cusp.
Keep It Simple.
I hope what has been demonstrated in this article is that, despite the need to develop a strong sense of planetary symbolism, the techniques employed in horary astrology are easily followed and simple enough to command for yourself. Horary astrology is a powerful tool to unlock in your own astrological practice, and pays careful study back in dividends. In the end, it comes back to consistency, simplicity of heart and approach, and a small leap of faith into the mysteries of a complex and fascinating cosmos.
If being able to judge astrological charts like these fascinates you as it does me, join us for our full-day workshop on 14 January 2017. Hope to see you there!
Wade Caves is an astrological consultant, speaker and educator specializing in horary, electional and classical astrological technique. Wade received his certification as a horary practitioner from Deborah Houlding’s School of Traditional Astrology (STA), and now serves as a faculty member and tutor for the STA in North America. Prior to this he has was certified with distinction from the Mayo School of Astrology in London, and is well-versed in both traditional and modern psychological methods of chart delineation. Wade maintains an astrological practice based in San Francisco, CA. He can be found online: http://wadecaves.com and http://solarspindle.com.