The Hyleg (Arabic), Apheta (Greek), Prorogator (Latin), or Giver of Life, was a planet or point that was calculated as part of the process to evaluate both the life expectancy, and periods when the Native was at mortal risk. When this point was directed (using what we would now call primary directions) to an Anareta (or killing point – there may be more than one), or vice versa, death occurs. Early versions such as that of the Roman astrologer Babillusi allowed any planet to be Hyleg; later versions restricted the Hyleg (except under relatively rare circumstances) to being one of the hylegical points: Sun, Moon, Ascendant, or Part of Fortune.
House placement is critical to the definition of the Hyleg. The earliest Greek houses were what we would now call whole sign: if the Ascendant was in Cancer, then the first house was Cancer, regardless of the degree of the Ascendant. This is similar to traditional Vedic usage as well. In this system, the words “sign” and “house” become literally interchangeable, as in, “The Sun is in his own house” being equivalent to saying “The Sun is in Leo.” Ptolemy, who represents the later Greek period, used equal houses from the Ascendant, where the 1st House was comprised of the region from 5º before the Ascendant, through 25º after. Each of the following houses was constructed the same way. Using this definition, Ptolemy then defined the prorogational or hylegical places, or houses: the 1st, 7th, 9th, 10th and 11th Houses.ii Before we proceed, we need to also mention that in Ptolemy’ s definition, the Part of Fortune was always taken using the daytime formula: unlike many classical sources, he did not reverse the calculation by day and by night.iii
In calculations of the Hyleg, the general procedure is to examine particular hylegical points in a given sequence. Determine if the first planet or point in question is in a hylegical house. If it is, and it meets all other specified criteria, then that body or point is declared the Hyleg, and the procedure ends. If it is not, then the next body or point in the sequence is examined, then the next, as necessary.
Ptolemy’ s method begins with no provision other than whether the body or point is in a prorogational or hylegical place. The sequence of placements examined depends on whether the chart is diurnal or nocturnal.
If diurnal: examine first the Sun, then the Moon, then the planet which has the most types of rulership (all five essential dignities) over the Sun, the prenatal New Moon, and the Ascendant. If none of these bodies or points is in a prorogational house, then the Ascendant is Prorogator or Hyleg.
If nocturnal: the Moon, then the Sun, then the planet which has the most types of rulership (all five essential dignities) over the Moon, the prenatal Full Moon, and the Part of Fortune. If none of these bodies is in a prorogational house, then the Ascendant is Prorogator or Hyleg if the prenatal syzygy (i.e., lunation) was a New Moon; otherwise if the prenatal syzygy was a Full Moon, use the Part of Fortune as Hyleg.
Ptolemy then uses the Prorogator and principally its aspects to benefic and malefic planets to calculate the length of life.iv
By contrast, here is the system of calculation according to Bonatti.v At Bonatti’ s time, we also need to specify what ‘placement in a house’ meant. Bonatti did not use 30º houses. In his system, if a body was on the cadent side of an angle, it was still angular if it was within 7º of the cusp. If was on the angular side of a succedent house, it was still succedent if it was within 5º of the cusp. And if a planet was on the succedent side of a cadent house, it was still cadent if it was within 3º of the cusp. In this table, the Hyleg is found once a statement is true. In other words, once you come to a true statement, stop looking: you’ ve found your Hyleg.
The Sun in 1st,10th,or 11th House in a masculine or feminine sign.
The Sun in 7th, 8th, or 9th House in a masculine sign only.
Moon is in an angular house or in a Succedent house; & in a feminine sign, & possessing any of the 4 dignities: exaltation, trip, term, or rulership.
Born on a waxing Moon: examine the dispositors of the Ascendant. If any of its dispositors also aspects the Ascendant, the Hyleg is the Ascendant, otherwise check Fortuna for an aspecting dispositor.
Born on a waning Moon examine the dispositors of Fortuna. If any of its dispositors also aspects Fortuna, then use Fortuna as Hyleg; if not, check the Ascendant for an aspecting dispositor.
If all else fails see what planet has dignity in the degree of the New or Full Moon before birth.
If none of these work then the chart is a 3rd differentia and child will die before age 12
While this might look like a very rigorous system, there is actually one point of ambiguity. In Bonatti’ s original definition, it was not stated that the Sun or Moon, in order to be Hyleg, also had to aspect one of its dispositors. The necessity for an aspect between any potential Hyleg and one of its dispositors was made in Omar of Tiberius’ commentary,vi but it was initially unclear whether this was simply a variation introduced by Omar, or whether it reflected Bonatti’ s actual usage. With the availability of more classical sources, we can now be reasonably sure that Bonatti simply gave a slightly abbreviated version of his actual working definition.vii
While this might seem like a relatively minor point, its significance is that one study of the efficacy of the various classical definitions of the Hyleg was done, using the data from the shootings in the classroom in Dunblane, Scotland, in which about half the students were killed, and half were not. Penny Shelton compared methods from Ptolemy, Dorotheus, Bonatti, Lilly, Gadbury and Coley, and found the Bonatti system to be the most satisfactory in predicting which of the children lived, and which died.viii However, Shelton did not incorporate the necessity for the Sun or the Moon to aspect a dispositor to be counted as Hyleg. So perhaps this particular restriction needs reexamination.
The later methods of Lilly, Gadbury and Coley that Shelton included represent various simplifications of the older system. Later, the simplifications became even more extreme: for one thing, all the earlier definitions were dependent on the five essential dignities, and this became impractical once these dignities were forgotten.
In the Arabic period, the calculation of the Hyleg and its derivatives became the principal system for evaluating the length of life. In the Hellenistic Period, this function was instead derived from the position of the Ascendant.ix
The calculation of the length of life proceeds as follows. First, we need to examine the Alc[h]ocoden, which is the Almuten of the Hyleg in the case of the Sun or Moon, or the planet which is the aspecting dispositor (see above in the definitions) for the Ascendant and Part of Fortune (also the Sun and the Moon, if you require this as part of your definition). The Alcocoden is also called the Giver of Years in English.
We then examine the condition of the Alchocoden with respect to the Table of Years given below. If it is essentially dignified (and I would include only the major dignities here; i.e., Rulership, Exaltation and Triplicity) and angular, then according to this first step, the Native’ s life span is enumerated from the “old years” column. As the transition occurs to lesser dignity to no dignity, and Succedent to Cadent, then the starting point shifts to one of the other columns.
The final stage, as given by Omar of Tiberius, is to examine whether the Alchocoden is aspected by either the Benefics or Malefics. In either case, an aspect results in either adding or subtracting the lesser number
Table _. Table of Years. After Gadbury, page 92.
To get a better feel for how well this works, I’ ve taken the data for a series of Czars, with the results as follows in Table _. While there are a couple of very close hits, overall, the system is not one that I would pick for staking my reputation! One of the reasons I picked this particular set is that, with the exception of Nicholas II, none were really subject to the modern understanding of hygiene and allopathic trauma care, which arguably could have thrown off the longevity compared to traditional expectations.
Table _. Longevity expectations for Czars of Russia.
When freed from being a system of precise longevity calculation, the system does provide some very useful information. Clearly, a person who shows a short to medium longevity is more likely to have serious health consequences earlier in life than a person with greater longevity. This can translate into the necessity of paying more attention to bodily symptoms so that serious conditions are not the only necessary outcome.
There are two completely different components to medical astrology: that which belongs in nativities, and that which is done through interrogations. Both parts have their genesis in Hellenistic astrology.
The early medical applications in nativities involved the following:
The general calculation of the length of life through the Apheta, a calculation that later become known as the Hyleg. See Hyleg.
The sign position of the Sun could indicate the nature of infirmities, or even death if sufficiently afflicted.x
Sickness could also be generally interpreted through the delineation of the 6th House.xi
Bodily form and temperament could, to a certain extent, indicate particular tendencies toward particular health conditions, as well as ideas for living a more successfully healthy life. This interfaced to astrology, because astrological methods of computing temperaments were developed. See Temperaments.
The calculation of planetary periods of the life, which could have health considerations as well as more general ones, such as riches, marriage, children, etc.xii
Sign Position of the Sun:
The signs were assigned to parts of the body, as follows:
Table __. Parts of the body assigned to the signs of the zodiac.xiii
Shoulders, arms and hands
The breasts and stomach
Heart and back
Kidneys, small of the back, genitals
Bladder, reproductive organs
Bones, skin, knees, teeth
Thus, the Sun in Sagittarius could mean possible weakness of the hips, or the region of the hips.
The planets were also assigned parts of the body, which generally overlapped with their traditional sign rulerships.
Table __. Parts of the body assigned to the traditional planets.xiv
Kidneys, small of the back, reproductive organs and seed, throat
Brain, hands, tongue
Left eye (men), right eye (women), brain, bladder, stomach, bowels, womb
These planetary rulerships would be utilized either to delineate the effects through house rulership, or if a planet were particularly compromised in the chart.
The 6th House:
In the Arabic and Latin Medieval periods, the 6th House emerged as a focal point for the delineation of illness. xv The Ruler of the 6th House and especially its debilities could show something about the frequency and severity of illness, especially when that ruler was afflicted by primary direction.
The Periods of Life:
The periods of life were not primarily or exclusively a medical technique. They were used to examine the predominant planetary influence of any given period, much like the Vedic system of Dhasas or Bhuktis.
As for death, the sign of the 8th House was understood to have something to do with the means or manner of death, although this was usually counted as the 8th from the Part of Fortune, not the Ascendant.xvi In the extant horoscopes from the Hellenistic period, references to death far outnumber references to accidents or disease: this is especially interesting since the average person presumably has multiple illnesses and only one death!
The other primary system for using medical astrology involves interrogations, which are better known as horary, event and electional astrology.
The form of delineation is the same for the horary question, “What is the cause of my illness? What will be the course of the disease?” as for the delineation of any event known as a decumbiture. A decumbiture is a moment of health crisis, of which the following are typical:
An acute event, such as a heart attack, stroke, breaking a bone, or having a car accident
The time for checking into a hospital
The time that a diagnostic procedure is performed
The time that the patient is given a diagnosis
Waking up in the morning and finding that you are sick and cannot (should not?) get out of bed
Having that feeling that this time, the flu has really got you, even though you don’ t experience full-blown symptoms, but only something like a tickling in your throat
In all event (decumbiture) charts, the 1st House is given to the patient. In horary questions about health conditions, the 1st House is for the person asking the question. When a person asks his or her own question, this is no problem. But when a question is asked about another person (or an animal, for example), the chart may need to be turned. The exception is that if a person asks on behalf of someone else, i.e., when the person asking is acting as the “agent” for the patient, then the patient is considered the 1st House, and the technical Querent (person asking the question) is ignored. If this is not the case, then the chart is turned to give the patient to the house that most closely indicates the patient’ s relationship to the Querent: as to the 5th House if the Querent is the parent of the patient, etc.
Before proceeding with the delineation, one of the things we need to know is whether the disease is physical, mental, or spiritual. Table _ compares some of the astrological indicators of physical vs. mental or spiritual disease.
Table _. Typical configurations for physical and mental diseases, as described by Lilly and others.xvii
Ascendant and Moon afflicted; their rulers not afflicted.
The Ascendant and the Moon not afflicted; but their rulers afflicted.
Mars or Saturn afflicting the Moon, but not the Ascendant.
Mars or Saturn afflicting the Ascendant, but not the Moon.
Jupiter in the 1st or 6th
Ruler of the 9th or 12th in the 6th (witchcraft)
Ruler of the 1st in the 6th
Ruler of the 6th is Mercury (witchcraft)
Moon or Ruler of the Ascendant in the 12th.
Ruler of the Moon or Ascendant in the 12th.
The debate in classical medical astrology was about whether the Moon and the Ascendant, or their rulers, represented the body or the mind. However, the presence of a 12th House influence was an argument for witchcraft. Witchcraft in those days was believed to be a spiritual affliction. In modern parlance, we would translate the use of “witchcraft” as involuntary coercion, a psychological affliction.
Before we can examine this classification, we need to define the astrological houses that are used in beginning a medical horary analysis.xviii
The 1st House represents the health and vitality of the patient/Querent.
The 5th House shows the liver, and what virtue(s) are disrupted.
The 6th House shows the disease.
The 7th House shows the health care practitioner
The 8th House shows the possibility of the death of the patient
The 10th House shows either the method of cure, or the diagnostic method or technique, depending on the nature of the question.
The normal diagnosis assumes a condition of physical disease. While there are literally thousands of aphorisms that apply to medical astrologyxix, the basic rules are fairly simple. Among the most important rules are:
The Moon represents acute conditions (ones that are less than ninety days in duration); the Sun chronic ones. All the rules that are given as applying to the Moon are subsequently interpreted according to the placement of the Sun after 90 days.xx
It is better to have as little relationship as possible between the 1st and 8th Houses, and the Moon and the 8th House. When there are ties between these, it is an indication of death.xxi We define death as meaning that the person would have died in the 17th Century, prior to the advent of modern medical crisis procedures. Nowadays, we would call this a life-threatening illness, and it can still mean death.
A relationship between the 1st and 6th Houses means that the patient is the “cause” of his or her own disease.xxii This usually translates to a lifestyle choice or decision, like eating the wrong foods or ignoring a serious food allergy, taking a drug that provokes a reaction, or having to cope with too much stress.
A relationship between the 6th and 8th Houses means that there is a danger of the patient having the disease unto death, meaning that the patient is likely to still have the condition at death. This does not mean the patient dies as a result of this condition.xxiii
In both decumbiture and medical electional delineation, the basic procedure is to look for an improvement in the patient (1st), quite probably as a result of the treatment protocol (10th), without putting the patient in danger (8th), and without allowing the disease to become chronic (6th).
In electional, it is still common to be asked to elect a time for surgery, or other medical procedures. Let’s begin with some basic considerations.
Know your disease or condition. In order to elect a proper time, you need to understand the context of the condition in question. This includes:
What is the purpose of the procedure? Is it meant to diagnose, or to cure?
What part of the body is being affected? Right or left?
What are the odds of survival of the procedure? Obviously, you must apply much more care if there is only a 30 % chance or survival, compared to 99.97 %!
What days of the week/ times of the day does the health care provider operate?
How long is the procedure?
Is anesthesia given? General or local?
How long is the typical recuperation period?
Consider the condition of the Moon. The Moon is unequivocally the paramount concern in all medical charts. In surgery, the cardinal law is never to cut those portions of the body that are ruled by the sign of the Moon.
Consider the qualities of the angles. Do you want cardinal, fixed, or mutable, according to the nature of what you are electing.
Oftentimes, the best service the electional astrologer can perform is to scan a period of time, such as several weeks, looking for the best possible time within the range of times specified by the health care practitioner. This involves eliminating the worst times, leaving times that, while perhaps not ideal, are at least acceptable.
The theory of temperaments or complexions incorporated four basic qualities: Hot, Cold, Wet, and Dry. These four qualities varied by season, gender, age, and person. The ideal of Hippocrates was to lead a balanced life, because if the body is balanced, then disease is less likely to take hold. The method of creating balance was diet and regimen, which meant life style issues such as frequency and type of exercise, time of eating, and sleep patterns.xxiv
The entire ancient scheme was based on the four qualities: Hot, Cold, Wet and Dry. “Hot” and “Cold” were one pair – “Wet” and “Dry” the other. From a behavioral perspective, “Hot” is exactly what you would expect from the common parlance: someone who reacts vigorously to anything even remotely perceived as an attack. “Hot under the collar” is exactly on target. A “Cold” type is basically lethargic, or slow to react, often perceived as being unemotional, but “slow to react” would actually be closer. The expression “cool under pressure” is also a good fit.
“Dry” represents anything with a discrete shape or structure, while something “Wet” adapts its shape to the container. “Dry” thinking is characterized by making distinctions, while “Wet” thinking sees connections. A new example of Wet thinking is “hyper-linking:” the World Wide Web is definitely Wet! A Dry thinker is more easily swayed by intellectual argument than by passion. A Wet thinker fits emotion into the picture. Dryness is the position that this moment is unique, that reality can be “objectively” known.” Yet one other way to contrast the two is to say that the epitome of Dry thinking is clarity and the epitome of Wet thinking is ambiguity. And yes! The very process of attempting to explain the concept is Dry!
Each of the four qualities actually represents a cluster of concepts. For example, the qualities Hot and Cold do not represent extremes of a temperature continuum, as we would define them. They represent qualities of energy, where Hot represents high energy or physical heat, and Cold represents low energy or physical Cold. But these qualities are opposites in a critically different way from the way we normally envision them. Take temperature. From a purely chemical perspective, molecules in a hotter gas vibrate more rapidly on average than molecules in a colder gas. Mixing Hot and Cold gases will produce an intermediate result. In other words, in our thinking the “Cold” portion is completely canceled out by a portion of the “Hot” component. But this is not how it works – at least as far as the qualities, and not chemistry, is concerned! Opposites do not cancel each other out!
Thus, people have Hot and Cold qualities simultaneously. In fact, having “half and half” would be to manifest equal quantities of each, not to have a “zero-sum state” in which “Hot” cancels “Cold,” perhaps producing lukewarm.
Finally, this is where Astrology comes in. Hippocrates put forward a workable theory of qualities, but other than general distinctions of age, gender, and physical appearance, he had no way to classify a person as having a particular make-up. We do. By using the chart, we can actually calculate the temperament type. Further, this result can then be used in a host of ways, including to establish a diet and exercise plan that truly supports well being.
We finally get something we can sink our teeth into, because Astrology eventually became the preferred mode for distinguishing the general constitution from its components, or humors.
There are several possibilities for the computation of the temperament type. The general definition includes the following components. xxv
1. Sign of Ascendant
2. Planet ruling Ascendant
3. Planets aspecting Ascendant
4. Moon sign and phase
5. Planets aspecting Moon
6. Quarter of Year
7. Lord/Lady of Geniture
8. Lord/Lady of Moon
Each component is assigned qualities as follows:
Fire Hot and Dry
Air Hot and Wet
Earth Cold and Dry
Water Cold and Wet
2. The Moon is classified by phase.
New to 1st Quarter Hot and Wet
1st Quarter to Full Hot and Dry
Full to last Quarter Cold and Dry
last Quarter to New Cold and Wet
3. Seasons are classified as follows.
Spring Hot and Wet
Summer Hot and Dry
Fall Cold and Dry
Winter Cold and Wet
4. Lord/Lady of the Geniture: this is a compound Almuten for the hylegical points and angles: the Sun, Moon, Part of Fortune, Ascendant and Midheaven.
This actually gives nine temperament types, not four. The reason is that often two of the qualities are often in balance, or so close as to have little dominance. These nine types are:
Hot and Wet sanguine
Hot and Dry choleric
Cold and Dry melancholic
Cold and Wet phlegmatic
What may appear to be the simpler states, the single quality ones, are actually more complex. The reason is that the single quality types are in fact mixtures, because, as we have seen, qualities don’t cancel out. Having close to an even ratio of Hot and Cold, or Wet and Dry, means that it is easy to become out of balance: stress, the change in season, or even too much to drink.
i Neugerbauer and Van Hoesen. 1959. Greek Horoscopes. The American Philosophical Society: Philadelphia, pages 76-77.
ii Ptolemy, Claudius. 2nd Century A.D. Tetrabiblos. Translated by F. E. Robbins. Harvard University Press: Cambridge. 1971, III(10): page 273.
xi This technique did not become typical until the Arabic period. In the Hellenistic era, the 6th and the 12th Houses were named after the Bad Spirit, so bad things could happen here, but this would not have been restricted specifically to illness.
xii See for example, Document 95 in Neugebuaer, Otto and Van Hoesen, pages 28-38. This horoscope dates to 95 CE.
xiii For a fuller version of this table, with full citations, see Lehman, J. Lee. 2002. The Martial Art of Horary Astrology. Whitford Press: West Chester, PA.
xiv For a fuller version of this table, with full citations, see Lehman, (2002).
xv Burnett, Chalres, Keiji Yamamota and Michio Yano. 1994. Abu Masar: The Abbreviation of the Introduction to Astrology. E. J. Brill: Leiden, page 105; and Levy, Rachel. 1939. The Beginning of Wisdom: An Astrological Treatise by Abraham ibn Ezra. Johns Hopkins: Baltimore, page 226
xvi Neugerbauer and Van Hoesen, pages 84, 99, 102, 103, 109, 122, 126.
xviii For a fuller exposition of this concept, see Lehman, J. Lee. 2002. The Martial Art of Horary Astrology. Whitford Press: West Chester, PA.
xix I have programmed many of these in Solar Writer/Medicus, available from Esoteric Technologies Pty.
xx Culpeper, Nicolas. 1655. Astrological Judgment of Diseases from the Decumbiture of the Sick. American Federation of Astrologers: Tempe, AZ, page 7.
xxi Lilly, pages 251, 257; Culpeper, page 68; Saunders, Richard. 1677. The Astrological Judgment and Practice of Physick, deduced from the Position of the Heavens at the Decumbiture of the Sick Person, &c. Thomas Sawbridge: London, page 62;
xxiv For a fuller exposition of this concept, see Lehman, J. Lee. 1996. Classical Astrology for Modern Living. Whitford Press: West Chester, PA.
xxv The method of computation comes from Gadbury, John. 1658. Genethlialogia, or The Doctrine of Nativities Together with The Doctrine of Horarie Questions. Printed by J[ohn] C[oniers] for William Larner. In production: Regulus Publishing Co., Ltd.: London, pages 249-258; and more specifically in Lilly, William. 1647. Christian Astrology. Reprinted in 1985 by Regulus: London. Also available: Just Us & Associates, pages 531-534 and 742-749.