Why do you want to know? Some astrologers do claim there are ancient methods but i've never tested them. If you're really curious, contact Lee Lehman at www.leelehman.com - she's an expert in early astrological techniques - you could test out the theories on some people you know who've already passed away and then ( if you dare) on yourself.
Now, as a result of this, I have received some inquiries! But not, I might add, from crazies, but from people who are earnestly asking questions. Twenty five years ago, I might have blown these questions off. But twenty five years ago, neither of my parents had died. And of course, I was twenty five years closer to immortality than I am now!
So what do these "ancient" methods say about death? There are several Hellenistic and Medieval calculations that collectively said several things relating to death:
- That there is a way of measuring vitality in the chart, and that this measure can be turned into an approximation of the length of life
- That the birth chart does speak to the manner of death, at least in general terms
- That methods for looking at "accidents" (i.e., events) to the persons life have to show a trigger at a critical time in order for death to occur.
Any time one discusses the subject of death, it's reasonable to point out that the demographics of people's life expectancy have shifted dramatically since these techniques developed. As there is not some radical discontinuity in the components of a birth chart then vs. now (presuming that we choose to examine the chart without the outer planets that have been discovered since), then the conclusion is that either the techniques were bogus all along, or that they were showing something other than necessary death - something like possible or probable death. This idea even applies to my specialty, horary astrology, where it is possible to ask a question like, "Will I die in my 52nd year?" or "Is this diagnosis of cancer fatal?" When I see a chart laden with the classical arguments of death, I am really seeing a probability statement - and my answer at that point is generally that, had you been living in the 17th century before modern medicine, then yes, you would have died.
When I have conducted classes where I taught people this death method, and then everybody examined her or his own chart, a large portion of the class had inevitably lived past the point where they "should" have died. However, most of these students recalled events in that year that were circumstances such that, in that hypothetical 17th c. case, they would have died. Instead, that moment became a turning point, or at least a component of who that person became after the event.
My conclusion from this is that all of us are confronted with "opportunities" to die far more frequently than we think. In infancy and childhood, those windows are passed by for reasons outside one's immediate "control" - one's socio-economic class gives better nutirition, a fatal scenario is averted because of a medical intervention. Later in life, other factors come into play, including one's own will to live. And will to live is a variable thing, based among other things on one's psychological state of mind.
I believe that both of my parents died when they encountered circumstances such that their will to live was broken. Watching them, watching their pain and their process, certainly brought home to me that if, as astrologers, we spend our lives focused on the moment of birth, then we have to consider the endpoint of life just as surely as the beginning.
Years in advance, I would have been hard-put to predict an actual year of death for them. But then, one of the things which is a basic requirement is an accurate birth time, and I didn't have this on either one. However, when time telescopes and you know you're coming down to the wire, whether this year or next, this month or next, or this day or next, the techniques telescope as well. My partner's mother was diagnosed with cancer about five months before she died - and I was able to predict the death to within one day of exactitude at that point. But had I been asked a couple of years earlier, I would not have been able to be so precise. And as it turned out, Dad visited us two months before he died - and my partner asked a horary about death, and that chart was accurate to within a week - and Dad hadn't been diagnosed with anything at that point.
The first time I was called upon by a client to predict death, it was just after AIDS had achieved public recognition - and I had already lost an acquaintance to it. A guy I had never met contacted me and said he had been diagnosed - and asked me what his prospects were. I had never seen so many indications of death as I did in that chart. But being much younger then - in life, and in my profession - I didn't know how to say this. So what I did say was, if you want to live, this is the level of change you will have to make in your life - and the amount was massive. What's more, what I said was actually completely true, given the chart. I didn't believe he could do it, and he didn't - and he died.
On the other hand, I've been wrong. A woman several years ago asked about when her mother would die, because her mother had become a significant burden on the entire family. I didn't have an accurate time for the mother, so I attempted to read it off her daughter's chart. It didn't work. But the daughter became involved in helping a former partner go through terminal cancer and death. Sometimes the chart shows the topic, not the subject.
Just what is it in a chart that shows death? Like with most of astrology, there's always more than one possible configuration. I can absolutely see the value in calculating and examining these "windows," especially if by that means one knows when to be especially vigilant.
But we also have to acknowledge that death is inevitable. None of us will cheat death in the end. As a life lesson, however, I keep thinking of that Chinese guy. Planning and acting before reaching the terminal stage may open the space for a change in consciousness - this time.