William Ramesey on the Great Conjunctions
William Ramesey had this to say about the Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions. This is a selection from my book, Astrology of Sustainability (2011; Schiffer Press: Atglen, PA), and includes my commentary on the passage.
The 1653 work, Astrologia Restaurata, by William Ramesey (1627-1675/6) is the first comprehensive work on mundane astrology published in English.1 It follows the structure of Bonatti quite strongly, even preceding the section on mundane with a section on electional, just as Bonatti had done with Treatises 7 and 8. One component of the earlier systems which has become vestigial by Ramesey’s day is the location system of climata. Perhaps the discovery of the New World as well as Asian and Pacific exploration made the old system seem naively stunted as it defined a center of civilization that simply no longer applied. This would only be replaced wholesale in the modern period by new systems of pinpointing locations. But even by Ramesey’s time, the climata were not strictly necessary, since Aries Ingress charts could be run for multiple locations. In any case, they had developed lists of countries and cities that were ruled by particular signs, and these listings had replaced the climata, although it remains to be determined how much of the lists had in fact been derived from them.
Where Ramesey and his other contemporaries differed was in beginning to lay greater emphasis on using the aspects besides the conjunctions of the superior planets. Thus, we see the following:
“Wherefore then know, that years of War, Dissention, Quarrels and Bloodshed, are to be judged from the Conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter, as also from their Square and Opposition, also from the Ascendant and Angles of the Revolution of the year; for if these Superior Planets be either in Conjunction, Square or Opposition of each other, or applying to each other by any of these Configurations, wars are to be feared, and that they shall then begin when they are in Partil Conjunction or Aspect, if they are in Angles, or else they shall begin when Jupiter enters his exaltation or one of his houses [i.e., Pisces or Sagittarius], or any of the Angles of the Figure at the time of the Revolution; and judge that party to have Victory that is signified by the Planet most elevated in his excentrik; for if Jupiter be most elevated, and be exalted above Saturn, they shall overcome who make insurrection or begin the strike.
“Also if Mars be in any of the Angles at the time of the Revolution, whichsoever it be, he excites and stirs up wars according to his strength and power; for if he be strong and well dignified, it will be the more certain, also the strife and war will be the more invective and grievous; in like matter if he be in a Square of Saturn or Jupiter, because these are the Superior Planets; for take this as an approved Aphorism, that when any of the Superiors, viz. Saturn, Jupiter or Mars (who are thus termed because they are above the Sun) are in Conjunction, or any Malevolent Configuration one of another, there happens great and manifest Alterations in this Elementary world, according to their strength and natural and accidental Significations.”2
Let’s tease out the ideas here that were already present in the Arabic material:
- This quotation began by referencing the Jupiter-Saturn cycle as the source of wars and other contentions, which is exactly like the material we have already been examining from the Arabs. But immediately, Ramesey adds the other hard aspects to the conjunction as being significant. Now, instead of a twenty year cycle for Jupiter-Saturn, we are talking intervals of, on average, five years, depending upon the retrograde cycles. Also note that, since he references all the superior configurations, that there is a guarantee of an approaching aspect of Mars-Saturn to consider in every Aries Ingress, unless Mars is retrograde, because now the 2+ year cycle of Mars and Saturn can be divided by four to give well less than a year. We should note that the Arabs recognized the hard aspects as being significant: Abu Ma’shar discussed them in The Book of Flowers.3 One does detect a somewhat subtle shift, from the minor to the normal.
- An additional activation factor needed to make the promise of the hard aspect or conjunction come true is the presence of the superiors in angles; Abu Ma’shar discussed that in Part Seven of his work, On the Great Conjunctions. They still have signification over mischief by house placement regardless; it’s just that the angles are more significant for actual war.
The other additional factor, which comes right out of the Arabic material as well, is that Jupiter in his Exaltation can push things over the edge. Abu Ma’shar discussed the exaltations of the planets at length, giving the impression that the exaltations were at least as significant from the standpoint of strength as sign rulership. To our modern ears, we might not think of the exalted Jupiter as so warlike, but perhaps this is a function of overconfidence and self-righteousness on the part of the ruler. As a cultural artifact, it seems that moderns view war as an aberration of peace, whereas the ancient view was that war was the business of princes.
- The relative elevation of the superiors is also an Arabic concept: that the planet most elevated is stronger. The Arabic material had gone so far as to specify combinations, according to which of the three was most elevated. Elevation is a measure in this case of proximity to the MC. Later, we shall see how bodies at the IC can be extremely unpleasant – just the flip side of the elevation idea.
Lest it be thought that Ramesey was putting too much emphasis on the Aries Ingress at the expense of the major conjunctions, his Chapter XI and the succeeding ones address these conjunctions directly. First, he lists the seven sorts of major conjunctions one needs to consider:
“The first and greatest of all the rest, is the Conjunction of the two superiour Planets Saturn and Jupiter in the first term or degree of Aries, which happens but once in nine hundred and threescore years.
“The second is the Conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter in the first term or degree of every triplicity, and this is accomplished once in two hundred and forty years, yet once in twenty years, they come into Conjunction in one part or other of the Zodiack.
“The third is the Conjunction of Saturn and Mars in the first term or degree of Cancer, and this is once in thirty years.
“The fourth is the Conjunction of the three superiours, Saturn, Jupiter and Mars in one term or face of any sign.
“The fifth is the Conjunction of Jupiter and Mars, which is a mean and the least Conjunction of the superiours, and therefore is not the fore-runner of such great mischiefs as the other;…
“The sixth is the Conjunction of the Sun with any of the rest of the Planets at the time of his entrance into the first point of Aries.
“The seventh and last is the Conjunction of the Sun and Moon, which happens once every month.”4
Notice that points 1-3 follow exactly from Abu Ma’shar, with the addition in the enumeration of the specific definition of the first degree or Term of the sign in question.5 The thirty year cycle of Mars-Saturn is mentioned twice in Abu Ma’shar.6
This material does raise a point that, in my opinion, was never addressed adequately in the classical literature. That question concerns malefics in dignity and debility. I refer specifically to the 44th Aphorism of Guido Bonatti:
“The 44th is, To consider if the Significators, Fortune or Infortune, be in his own House, Exaltation, Triplicity, Terms or Face (but the latter being not of that virtue with the rest, ‘tis necessary it should be assisted with another Dignity, which is Hayz or Light); for in such case the Infortune loses his sting; and being rein’d in like a wild horse from doing mischief, his malice is converted into good, and though this seems strange, yet the ancients affirm and I myself have often found it true by experience.”7
The idea here is that malefics dignified behave rather well. This is an aphorism that I have used for years, because in horary, either Mars or Saturn dignified hardly need be counted as a malefic at all. When it reverts to a sign of no dignity, the change can virtually be described as catastrophic.
1 Ramesey, William. Astrologia Restaurata. London,: Printed for R. White, 1653.
2 Ramesey, pp 280-281.
3 Holden, James Herschel. Five Medieval Astrologers. Scottsdale, AZ: American Federation of Astrologers, 2008.
4 Ramesey, p. 327.
5 Abu, Ma’shar, Keiji Yamamoto, and Charles Burnett, 2000, p 11.
6 Abu, Ma’shar, Keiji Yamamoto, and Charles Burnett, 2000, p 11 and 149. The authors have a rather curious footnote on the later page questioning what was going on with the thirty year cycle and weakness: I would read it as simply referring to the weakness of both planets in the sign Cancer.
7 Lilly, William, Guido Bonatti, and Girolamo Cardano. Anima Astrologiae: Or, a Guide for Astrologers. Being the Considerations of the Famous Guido Bonatus, Faithfully Rendred into English. As Also the Choicest Aphorisms of Cardans Seaven Segments, Translated and Methodically Digested under Their Proper Heads. With a New Table of the Fixed Stars, Rectified for Several Years to Come, and Divers Other Necessary Illustrations. microform. Printed for B. Harris at the Stationers Arms in Sweethings Rents near the Royal Exchange, London,, 1676, pp 22-23.