Wednesday, March 08, 2017

The Accuracy of Historical Solar Returns

©2017 J. Lee Lehman, PhD

In Classical Solar Returns, I discussed accuracy issues with respect to the accuracy of the calculation of solar returns, even as recently as several hundred years ago.1 This critique was based on wok that has been done on the accuracy issues facing ancient astronomy and its attempts to create accurate orbital equations within the geocentric system of circular orbits that were how these orbits were computed prior to Johannes Kepler.2 The conclusion of Morelon was that there was a genuine question of the accuracy of such returns.

Recently I began perusing Abraham ibn Ezra’s work on solar returns, and was stunned to discover that the very first paragraph in the work gives the method for computation which, examined carefully, gives a method for computation which turns out to not be as inaccurate as I had been led to believe.3 The method was simple, but definitely not what I learned myself when doing by-hand computations, lo! So many decades ago. In ibn Ezra’s method, the calculation was done by adding 365 days, plus 5 hours and 49 minutes to the time of birth for the next year after birth, and then repeating the computation as many times as necessary to arrive at the desired age of solar return. By contrast, our modern method was to interpolate between the time (noon or midnight) in the ephemeris for the day before the solar return to the day after, to arrive at the precise degree of the Sun, preferably expressed to complete minutes and seconds.

The figure 365 days plus 5 hours and 49 minutes is ibn Ezra’s figure for the length of the mean solar day. In other words, the solar return calculation is by definition, the time between the occurrence of the Sun at a particular degree and minutes, and the next time the Sun returns to that point is the solar day. My question was: how accurate is this? Ah, the internet is our friend, and so I found a very helpful page detailing modern ideas about this.4 It turns out the modern figure is 365 days + 5 hours plus 48.75 minutes: just 0.25 minutes less than ibn Ezra’s! This told me immediately that, while ancient figures would nt completely agree with modern ones, they would be fairly close.

To assess this concept in practices, I did the first few solar returns for Julie Andrews, whose chart I just so happened to have up in Sirius at the time. Here are the results.

Solar Return Year
Time computed in Sirius
Ascendant degree
Time computed by ibn Ezra method
Equivalent Ascendant degree
27 Sc 43
26 Sc 52
02 Pi 51
02 Pi 40
14 Cn 27
15 Cn 23
18 Vi 16
17 Vi 43
19 Sc 40
19 Sc 08

Natal data (B): 1 October 1935, 6:00 am, Walton-on-Thames, England.

As you can see, these are not huge differences: all amounting to less than a degree on the Ascendant.

1 Lehman, J. Lee. Classical Solar Returns. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Press, 2012, p. 19.
2 Morelon, Régis, “Eastern Arabic Astronomy between the eighth and eleventh centuries,” pp 20-57 in Rashid, Roshdi, and Régis Morelon, Encyclopedia of the History of Arabic Science. London ; New York: Routledge, 1996.
3 Ibn Ezra, Abraham, and Shlomo Sela. Abraham Ibn Ezra on Nativities and Continuous Horoscopy : A Parallel Hebrew-English Critical Edition of the Book of Nativities and the Book of Revolution. 2013, p. 373.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Special Considerations relating to Relationship Horaries

©2017 J. Lee Lehman, PhD

While relationship horaries are one of the simplest types of horary to teach and learn, in practice, relationship horary clients are often not very happy. I would like to explore some of the reasons this is true.

Why use horary at all compared to natal methods? In fact, what each method can accomplish is quite different. The typical natal chart comparison model, whether by synastry, composite, or relationship chart, shows how two people will interact - if they interact. The "if" is very important. A friend years ago wrote a very funny synastry description of herself and Henry Kissinger: the point being, she had never met Henry Kissinger, but if she did, it could be a bombshell! Chart comparison applies regardless of the type of relationship, whether business, romantic, casual, serious, or even cross-species. Because it describes how the two will interact, it cannot also describe whether they will interact in any capacity. This is a very important distinction.For someone evaluating a potential relationship, knowing something about the complexity and contours of that relationship can be very useful.

But it's horary that answers the question of whether A will have a relationship with B of the nature specified by the question. Thus, it is possible to ask about friendship, romance, or partnership.

And now we enter the special issues that arise in horary. The adage is true: if you look at the ephemeris, most of the time, the answer to a question would be "no." Think about this. For any horary which requires action in order to come about, you need either a translation of light, and approaching aspect between significators, or a reception. This has to be between the specific planets that rule the appropriate houses for the chart. How often is this true? Yes, if someone really is "supposed" to get a "yes" answer, they will ask at an appropriate time, but you get the idea: horary tilts toward the default "no."

Relationships represent strong emotional issues for us. A "no" feels like rejection. But now, let's examine this more closely. I have always noted that there is a class of querents who are actually relieved to hear "no." Given how hard it is for many people to say "no" to a process, sometimes having an outside objective party using the word can be tremendously empowering.

And speaking of objective, that's another word that's important, especially in horary, but in natal too. The role of the astrologer is to be the objective outsider - someone with a different point of view.

However, for every querent who is relieved by "no," there is another querent who expects a "yes." Tarot and other readers will recognize this subpopulation as well. But let's be honest: if any querent approaches any method of divination with too much conviction about what the outcome has to be, then there is a disappointment and difficulty about to occur - and the reader is the one likely to be blamed.

As a reader, you can only call what you see. And while those convinced of the outcome are not the majority, it is a real class - often, the very same one that "shops" for the reader who finally tells them "yes," and then castigates all the others who said "no," in blissful ignorance that it is only the first reader in the series who actually could give a "real" answer.

However, there is another set of reactions which seemingly only occur when the answer is "no." It is these questions that I would like to discuss. The questions at this point are often along the lines of asking what the success rate of horary is. The problem is: that answer is more complicated than it would appear at first blush.

As I taught in Martial Art of Horary Astrology, we can understand the horary question as having an implied beginning phrase, "If things continue as they are now,..." In other words, what happens in a divinatory moment is that the Querent and the Question lock into showing the path of least resistance for the querent in that moment - what will happen if all players operate according to their own tendencies. But this raises the question: how often is it true, that people follow this path of least resistance? The answer appears to be: the vast majority of the time. Horary astrology appears to be able to be about 90% accurate on most types of questions.

We can, however, say more about this. A horary can always be read in strictly predictive, which is to say deterministic mode, if the nature of the question involves movement. But often, it can be read in a second way: to pinpoint why the answer is no, and then to see whether there is an alternative strategy to reverse the expected result. In Lilly's horary, "A Lady, if marry the gentleman desired?" which begins on page 385, uses the chart to devise a strategy to achieve her goal, because, frankly, she had blown it. He takes that same tack in two other horaries in Christian Astrology as well.

The total horaries where Lilly takes this approach is only about 10% of his examples. Why not all of them? The answer appears to be: because that's about the right ratio of those cases where there's a reasonable chance of changing the outcome. In the most recent example where this came up for one of my clients, her potential husband was ruled by Saturn in Sagittarius in the 6th, while she was ruled by Venus in Libra in the 4th. The two would come to a sextile, but only after Venus conjoined Jupiter, and only after 18 degrees.

So could you change the result? In Libra, the Moon is peregrine. It's coming to another planet, which means another potential partner anyway. But Saturn is cadent. She, as the Moon could move or adjust, but he couldn't. The peregrine nature of her shows that she really doesn't have the strength to create the result on her own - and anyway, with a new Mr. Right coming into the picture, why should she? Mr, Less Right had mixed Triplicity, but the cadency took away such strength as he had.

That other trite phrase, it takes two to tango, also reminds us of the difficulty of changing the fate of a relationship: the other party has to agree as well. Unless you want to use magic to coerce the other party, there better be some agreement and enthusiasm. Horary is the measure of that duality of purpose - or its lack.

2017 New York STA Horary