Astrology is a bitch (and we love it)

It was an innocent walk in the park. Luís and I were just trying to relax after a long and exhausting week. We were not expecting what happened next. As we were strolling along, something heavy and compact bumped into our legs. A small black dog, friendly and jumpy, just came out of nowhere and stood for a moment in front of us, smiling like dogs do, before going off running again after another dog. Cute, we thought, and we continued our walk. After a while we noticed that the dog was following us. The other dog had gone home, but this one had stayed. He is not really following us, we said to each other, he’s just going home, and it happens to be in this direction. Could be – but in the back of our minds we noticed that he had no collar. A few more steps and we reached the end of the park. Further ahead there were busy streets full of cars. We turned back to return home, hoping the dog would finally go his way. No – he kept following us, this time in the opposite direction. We stopped. He stopped in front of us, waiting. There was no doubt: he had adopted us.

We are both animal lovers, Luís and I, but truth be said, we are most definitely cat-persons. We have cats at home. Cats – not dogs.

So, there we were, the two of us and the black dog, in the middle of the park, on a Sunday afternoon. Now what do we do? A horary question, of course! Luís had his iPhone and there is an app for that!

Here is the chart: 31st January 2010, 16:16 UT, Lisbon, Portugal (ASC 22ª08’)

Quite surprisingly, the dog is represented by dignified Jupiter in Pisces; it is posited in the 8th house, which is the 3rd derived from the 6th (small animals). It was therefore in good conditions (dignified benefic) and possibly close to his home. We concluded that the dog was OK and that it would be just a matter of time before his owner would take him home. We walked around the park. We asked some people passing by. We waited for the dog to tire of us and go home. All in vain.

So, how could this be? How could the chart say one thing, and reality, another? Another quick look at the iPhone, just to confirm if the chart was radical – and it was: the ruler of the hour was the Moon, and the Ascendant was Cancer. Definitely, a valid chart – and still, so different from reality. How could this be? And then we finally realized: the dog was OK because he was with us! No owner was about to appear, we were the ones who were going to take care of him! In the chart, the Moon, ruler of the Ascendant (and therefore representing us) applies to the opposition of Jupiter (the dog). So, we were taking the dog in. It was an opposition because it was complicated for us, because of the cats. Another thing: Jupiter was in the 3rd not because the dog’s home was nearby, but because we live in the neighborhood.

So, it was not the Astrology that was wrong. It was our understanding of the chart that was incorrect.

Ok, then. The dog’s fate was up to us. We started to make phone calls to everyone we could think of, to get the dog a temporary home, while we found him a permanent home. A nice old lady passing by produced a piece of rope, and we manage to improvise a leash. We could not risk crossing a busy road with the dog without some kind of restraint. We took him to the vet (there is one open on Sundays near our home) and we confirmed that he had no chip implanted. Then we took him home (just into the hall, because of the cats), to give him water. And we waited for a miracle.

And the miracle came: Luís’ father has a friend who keeps his dogs in a private kennel. He accepted to lodge this one for a few days, just to give us time to get him a proper home. Halleluiah!

So off he went to the kennel. The dog didn’t wanted to stay there, and it broke our hearts to leave him in a box. We just had to do it, for his own good. He is now protected from cars, warm and well fed; and he has a future, something he would not have if he had stayed in the street – but we cannot explain this to him.

We are now publicising the case, trying to find it a home. Does anyone want a nice friendly dog?

And by the way: it is a bitch!

Helena Avelar



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Murder, She Wrote: the strange case of the medieval sniper

Being an enthusiastic student of history and having the habit of scrutining ancient chronicles in search of the birth data of historical figures, I am always thrilled when I eventually find such data. This is the case of the Portuguese Duke Dom Pedro, whose birth data can be found in the Chronicle of Fernão Lopes [1] . Dom Pedro was the second son of King João I and Queen Philippa of Lancaster (herself the first child of duke John of Gaunt and Blanche, Duchess of Lancaster). Here is his natal chart, calculated for the 9th December 1392, 01:00 am LAT (Local Apparent Time), Lisbon, Portugal.

The most evident feature of this chart is of course the Moon conjunct the Ascendant, suggesting movement, adaptability and popularity; the latter is further emphasised because the Moon rules the MC. The Moon is in airy and sanguine Libra, another strong sign of sociability and politeness. The Moon in 4th quarter adds a phlegmatic note to his behaviour, thus making him somewhat shy and introverted. “He was graceful in speech – the chronicler says – and his sentences were grave and substantiated”.

Saturn in the 1st house also contributes to the reserved side of his nature, but as it is strongly dignified by exaltation, triplicity and face, results in a courteous and somewhat sophisticated manner. “He was liberal in the right measure (…) and he delighted in study”. Indeed, he was exceptionally intelligent and cultured, having translated into Portuguese some of the classical Latin works. Saturn is also the almutem of this chart, which confers upon him a pronounced sense of individuality. Among his brothers and sisters, he was called ‘the English one’, that is, the one closest to the English style and character of his mother, Phillipa.

As to his physical appearance, it was also determined by Saturn as all the chroniclers describe him as having a “long face… thick nose…and coarse hair”. As to the Moon, it can be detected in his ‘dull eyes’ – definitely an accurate description, although not a very pleasant one.

He had a great devotion to the Archangel Michael, and because of that the adopted the archangel’s symbol of the Scales in his coat of arms. Could it be just a coincidence that is Ascendant is Libra, the scales?

He travelled widely, visiting the courts of London, Bruges, Venice, Rome, Germany, Hungary and Spain. All these travelling brought him the nickname of ‘prince of the seven corners of the world’. Travels are suggested by the angularity of the Moon and Mars which is still conjunct to the MC, although debilitated, in moveable signs. Also the ruler of the 9th house, Mercury is in the 3rd, closely aspecting the Ascendant and the Moon, therefore promising several journeys, both short and long. The main motivation for his travels was definitely mercurial; he wanted to learn and to experience new places and new people. For him, the words ‘prince’ and ‘wise’ “should be one and the same thing”.

But as both Mars and Mercury are debilitated and retrograde, there is some difficulty or discomfort related to travel and learning. In fact, the other reason for his travels was that he felt undervalued.

As the second son of the king, Dom Pedro was not meant to reign, however, his natal chart says otherwise, as it places the ruler of the MC in the Ascendant. In fact, a complex set of circumstances led him to a position of great power.

His older brother, Dom Duarte[2], died in 1338 at the age of 47, a victim of the plague. He left his six year old son, Afonso, as heir to the throne. The obvious regent for the kingdom was the dowager queen, but she was rejected by some because of her Spanish ascent, and eventually ‘invited’ to return to her natal Castille. Being Afonso’s paternal uncle, Dom Pedro was the next logical choice as regent. Life at court was not what he had planned. He had intended to retire to his duchy near Coimbra, to study and work in translations, but he decided to accept. He ruled wisely and capably, for an entire decade. During that time, he developed a good relationship with his nephew, and even after the young king’s coronation he maintained his position as political adviser and favourite uncle. He also arranged Dom Afonso’s marriage with a suitable bride – which coincidentally happened to be his daughter. Wise man, indeed.

But during all the time of Dom Pedro’s rulership some factions at court had been undermining his work and poisoning his relationship with his nephew. In Dom Pedro’s chart Mercury rules the 12th house of secret enemies, thus pointing to intellectual, argumentative and crafty enemies, and because the planet is debilitated, also disloyal, prone to gossip and intrigue. Mars is also debilitated, rules the 7th of opponents, and is conjunct the 10th house, therefore pointing to strong opposition; the debility of Mars suggests resentful and covertly aggressive opponents. The Moon, ruler of the MC, aspects the two malefics, Mars by square and Saturn by conjunction; all the planets are in angles making the situation impossible to hide. And though technically the Moon is not besieged because Mercury interposes[3], it is still in a very difficult position; and besides, Mercury is the ruler of the 12th house, being therefore of little help in this matter. With all these conditions, difficulties and oppositions, both in personal and in public life, are to be expected.

The young king soon came under the influence of Dom Pedro’s enemies, and believed that his uncle was hindering his plans. By the spring of 1449, things at court were so tense that Dom Pedro decided to withdraw to his duchy, hoping that this would help to calm down his opponents. It was a wrong move. His enemies took advantage of the situation and set a trap for him. The Duke of Bragança (who was his half-brother[4] and main opponent), accompanied by a heavily armed escort, demanded permission to cross Dom Pedro’s lands, pretending that they were in a rush to get to Lisbon. Dom Pedro took this demand as a personal offence and sent his own army to intercept him. Again it was a wrong move: this was the excuse his enemies needed to provoke a conflict. The news soon spread to Lisbon and the Portuguese nobility immediately began to take sides. The king supported the Duke of Bragança, and a large faction of the nobility did likewise.

In spite of his fall from grace, Dom Pedro still had some powerful allies. His 11th house ruler is the Sun, a clear symbol of power, dignified by triplicity, thus ‘among his own’ and in the 3rd house of close relatives. One of his supporters was his younger brother Henrique (Henry the Navigator), who tried to intercede.

But it was already too late to achieve any agreement: incited by the Duke of Bragança and other noblemen opposite to Dom Pedro, the young king sent his army to engage his ‘rebel’ uncle. Meanwhile, Dom Pedro and his men moved towards Lisbon – yet another bad move. The two armies clashed in Alfarrobeira, on the 20th of May, 1449.

Now here is the mysterious part: Dom Pedro died in this battle, but the circumstances of his death were never clear. He was shot in the heart by a single arrow, but his body presented no other wounds, nor any sign of a fight – definitely not the classic case of death in battle. Actually, it would be very difficult for an enemy to get close enough to attack him, even in the heat of battle, because he would have been at some distance, overseeing the battle, and surrounded by his escort at all times. As it would be expected of a 57 year old man and a member of the royal family, only on occasion would he have engage in combat.

The circumstances of his death are described in his natal chart: Venus rules both the Ascendant and the 8th house, identifying the individual and death – he contributes to his own downfall. But this possibility of danger would not by itself be enough to predict certain death, if it was not aggravated by the poor condition of Venus, combust and cadent in the 3rd, and afflicted by the opposition of Mars in Cancer – an arrow (Mars) through the chest (Cancer).

Some of his allies at court were not convinced that he died in battle; there were rumours that he had been assassinated by a cross-bowman – the medieval equivalent of a sniper. If so, his death was murder, not a casualty of battle.

The chronicler, Fernão Lopes, seems to have no doubts about this, as he clearly says “the bowman who shot him was well known and very skilful in the craft”, and “he was chosen [by Dom Pedro’s enemies] to hasten his death”.

So, he says it was murder, and the solar return for that year agrees with him:

– The Moon is again conjoining the Ascendant in a airy sign, and this time it rules the 3rd house of brothers and short travels. Once again it is afflicted by the malefics, as it separates from a dissociate square of Mars and applies to a square of Saturn. In fact, he was confronted by his nephew (another 3rd house signification) and his half-brother while travelling to Lisbon;

– The ruler of the return’s Ascendant is Mercury which is afflicted by combustion in the 8th house of death, thus suggesting a dangerous, if not fatal, situation. Furthermore, Saturn, ruler of the 10th in the return, is peregrine (therefore having no support) and is conjunct the South Node (loss, depletion), pointing to a possible loss of status;

– Allies are of little help this year, as they in the return are signified by Jupiter, ruler of the 11th, which is peregrine and cadent in the 6th house; it also rules the 7th and 8th houses, therefore identifying the allies with the opponents and death.

– On the other hand, the enemies are strong: Mars, the ruler of the return’s 12th house of secret enemies and conspirators, is strongly angular in the 10th house. (It is worth noting that Mars rules the natal 7th of opponents.)

Everything in Dom Pedro’s solar return speaks of betrayal and death. Shot by a sniper? Most probably. The astrological chart also confirms the chronicler’s theory.

So, murder it was. Even with 600 years of delay, it is good to come to a conclusion.

Note: this stet conflict between uncle and nephew has a wider context, as it symbolises the conflicts between two forms of government: the medieval, exemplified by the king and feudal lords, and the modern principles of government, incarnated by Dom Pedro, a forerunner of the Modern Age. Things were changing rapidly in the 15th century, and in astrological terms, this corresponds to a major change, as the Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions were shifting from the Air signs to the Water signs. The conjunction before the battle occurred on 17th July 1444, at 9º Cancer – right on Dom Pedro’s MC!

Helena Avelar


[1] Crónica de D. João I, written by Fernão Lopes (reprinted in 1983 by Livraria Civilização). The chronicler says “he was born in the city of Lisbon, one hour past midnight, nine days of the month of December of 432 years” (Era of Caesar); although the medieval chronicles are often wrong when it comes to dates (as this one is), there are several other documents which confirm the year of 1392.

[2] The name “Duarte” is a Portuguese version of the English name “Edward” (another version is “Eduardo”); although not a common name for a Portuguese king, it was taken from his maternal great grand-father, King Edward III of England (the father of John of Gaunt).

[3] Technically, besiegement occurs only when a planet separates from an hard aspect with one of the malefics and applies to hard aspect of the other; in this case, the Moon separates form the square of Mars, but then it applies to the sextile of Mercury (which is not a malefic), before perfecting the conjunction of Saturn.

[4] Afonso Duke of Bragança (1377-1461) was the bastard son of King João I and Inês Pires, a commoner.


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The cat eclipse – a horary tale

This is another cat story, one of a long stream of animals we have rescued throughout the years.

Some time ago I was working at the office, in our 3rd floor flat, and because the windows were wide open I could hear the neighbours talking in the backyard. I was only vaguely aware of their presence, because my focus was on work, but somehow one of the sentences captured my immediate and total attention: “the cat is going to die”.

My immediate reaction was to rush to the window and try to find out what that was about. I saw a man and two children in the backyard of the next building. The children, two girls of about 10 and 12 years old, seemed distressed, and the man, a builder, seemed totally indifferent to them. As he moved way to the farthest corner of the yard, I called the children and asked them what the problem was. The problem was, obviously, a cat – or more correctly – a kitten.

According to the girls, a stray kitten had “inexplicably” jumped into the sewage pit, which had being open for repairs (later I found out that the kitten was trying to escape the children’s unwanted attentions). The girls thought they could pull him out, but they soon found out it was impossible, as the hole was too deep and too narrow; the kitten could not climb out and the children could not reach to pull him out. As they had been warned not to disturb the kittens, they knew they would be chastised for their actions. So, their first reaction was to hide the fact and hope the kitten could miraculously escape, which of course did not happen.

After some time, the builder appeared and started to put back the final section of the drain and its cover – therefore, unknowingly, burying the kitten alive. By then, the girls were so distraught they were willing to risk a reprimand, as long as the kitten could be rescued. So they told the man what was happening, hoping he would help. But, shockingly, the man showed no compassion either for the animal or for the children. It seems he had warned the girls earlier that day not to chase the kittens, so he thought it was only logical (and, in fact, educational) that the cat should die a horrible death, just to prove his point! His reply to the children’s request, “the cat is going to die” was the sentence I had overheard.

As soon as I realized the gravity of the situation, I called Luis for help. During all this time he was at the computer, totally unaware of the situation, but it took only two words – “cat emergency” – to prompt him. We rushed to the neighbouring backyard with a transporter box, and we got there just in time: in that brief interval the builder had sealed the drain, and the kitten was now imprisoned inside the pit. Trying to remain calm, we asked him politely to remove the cover, but he replied he had to go, because he had finished work for the day. And so he did, totally indifferent to the fact that a living being was choking inside the pit.

We promptly removed the tube to allow some air and light into the drain, but the problem remained, as the hole was too small to allow rescue. Fortunately, Luís found an alternative: the main junction of the sewer was just a few centimetres away, and if we could remove the lid, perhaps the cat could be retrieved through the opening, which was considerably larger. It took great effort and co-ordination to remove it, as it was stuck fast, but Luís did it, and the sewer was finally open.

The kitten was at the bottom of the pit, facing the opening, in deep shock, and no longer reacting. It was a pitiful little thing, cold, wet and dirty. He didn’t try to escape, and didn’t even move when Luís reached in and grabbed him. We showed him to the children, who were extremely relieved, and hurried to bring him home. We cleaned him and tried to raise his body temperature, as hypothermia is an extremely serious (sometimes fatal) condition in a cat. He reacted eventually, but remained inert and somewhat vacant. By then we realized we had a previous commitment, an astrology class, and students should be arriving at any moment. So we left him in a warm room, with a bed, food, water, a litter box and an electric heater, and went to the class. Because so many of our students are animal lovers, we talked about the situation after the class, and asked them to help us find a good home for the kitten.

The kitten just after being rescued
The kitten just after being rescued

Back from the class, later that evening, we found the kitten a bit better, but still not reacting; he had not touched the food or used the litter box, in fact, he hand’t even moved from his previous position. We were not certain that he would recover from his horrifying experience.

So, we asked the question: How is the cat?
Here is the answer.

The chart is very clear: the cat is great! The Sun, ruler of the 6th house, has just entered Leo, therefore becoming dignified. The previous situation is also clearly represented: the Sun (kitten) is just separating from the South Node (diminishment, damage); so the kitten is just moving away from a potentially damaging situation. Furthermore, this Sun-Node conjunction was a solar eclipse, which occurred in the last degree of Cancer. This is very descriptive of the situation: the cat (Sun) has disappeared into a drain (eclipse in Cancer, a water sign). But right after that terrible event, the kitten enters a new and much better condition (represented by the sign of Leo, which it rules). The kitten was therefore very well, or it would be well soon.

This proved to be right, as the kitten fully recovered within a few days, and we found him a new home, a week later. He is now being properly cared for and loved, and we hope the terrible experience in the sewer will eventually fade from his memory.

Kitten a few days after

Kitten a few days after

Helena Avelar


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The Tradition News!

Dear friends,

The Tradition NEWS is an occasional update on the proceedings of The Tradition journal proper. It is free of charge and enables us to bring information to you that would otherwise have to wait for the next issue of the journal. This time we bring you the results of the House System Poll. Please download you copy here!

We hope you enjoy it!

The editors,
Helena Avelar, Luís Ribeiro and Sue Ward

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William Lilly’s nativity by himself

Sue Ward has just made available on her blog William Lilly’s true nativity.

This a very important information. So far the only source for the chart of this great astrologer came from his rival John Gadbury – which is know for his errors in chart data. Now we finally have a chance to look at the real thing, from Lilly himself.

Read the complete post at:

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Sue Ward in Lisbon

Workshop: Temperamentos e Aparência física

Sue Ward was in Lisbon last Saturday to present a workshop on The Temperaments and Physical Appearance. Sue also explained the correlation between the natal charts and marks, moles and scars, using the charts of the participants as examples.
Here are some photos of the event:

Workshop: Temperamentos e Aparência física

The participants

Workshop: Temperamentos e Aparência física

Sue Ward with her usual sense of humor

Workshop: Temperamentos e Aparência física

Applying the technique

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Anna Kingsford: a warrior for her beliefs

Since we are talking about animals in The Tradition web log, it seemed appropriate to evoke the life and work of Anna Kingsford, one of the most prominent, and yet relatively unknown, British women of the 19th century.

Anna Kingsford was born at 5:00, 16th September 1846 in Stratford, Essex, England (the chart was corrected trough the primary directions to 4:53 pm) [1].

In her natal chart Saturn, the ruler of the Ascendant, is strongly placed in Aquarius (a fixed sign) in the 1st first house, clearly describing her strong will and firm sense of individuality. But the harsh, saturnine traits of her personality were somewhat softened by her sanguine temperament, which conferred her sociability and versatility.

While conducting a busy practice as a physician, she could still find the time to pursue many other activities in the areas of spiritualism, literature and charity. She was a writer, a feminist, a lecturer, a spiritualist and – above all – a devoted supporter of animal rights.
Her 9th house of beliefs and religion starts in Scorpio, a fixed watery sign, which associates stubbornness and emotional intensity to these matters. The 9th house ruler, Mars, is combust and therefore distempered by the Sun; this configuration adds impatience, boldness and excessive zeal to her beliefs, sometimes to the point of obsession. In fact, she could go to extremes, devoting all her time and energy to what she believed it was right.

In order to continue the animal rights and anti-vivissection campaign from a position of authority, she decided to study Medicine in Paris. She left for France with the blessing of her husband, but at the university she was confronted with aggressive rejection from some of her teachers, who could not accept a female student.
At the university she witnessed some horrific situations of cruelty against animals in the vivisection laboratories, and these visions would haunt her for the rest of her life. Again, the Sun-Mars conjunction can be linked to this ‘haunting’, as it is placed very close to the cusp of the 8th house, of fears and death.

In spite of all the odds, she managed to obtain her degree in Medicine – and she achieved it without ever performing a single experiment in animals, something unheard of at that time. Her final thesis, later turned into a book, endorsed the benefits of vegetarianism.

She was also active in the spiritualist movement in England, and became president of the Theosophical Society in 1883. Most of her works in this field are now available in digital format.

At heart Anna Kingsford was a writer and a communicator as Mercury, dignified and angular, stands as her main vocational significator. The participation of Venus, which is conjunct to Mercury and in mutual reception with it by term, makes her also a poet and a storyteller. She started writing poetry and stories at a very early age, published countless articles in the field of medicine (especially about vegetarian nutrition) and was for a brief period director of an avant-garde magazine.

Throughout her life she suffered from poor health, and her passionate campaigning efforts in favour of her causes ultimately contributed to her premature death at the age of 42.
In 1886 she travelled to Paris to visit Louis Pasteur, a well-know vivisectionist, trying to collect evidences of cruelty towards the animals in his laboratory, in order to publicly expose him. In November 17th, while waiting in front of Pasteur’s laboratory, she was caught in heavy rain; she stood there for several hours, her clothes soaked and exposed to cold wind. Her already fragile health suffered terribly because of this episode: what could be a simple cold developed into pneumonia and later into consumption. She never recovered, and died 15 months later, on 22nd February 1888.

Helena Avelar


1) Among other indicators: Ascendant in primary directons squaring her natal Moon, ruler of the 6th house of illness, by the time of her death. The differences between the two charts are minimal, although important. For the 5:00 pm chart: Ascendant: 17º00’ Aquarius; MC: 11º47’ Sagittarius; P. Fortune: 03º58’ Capricorn. For the 4:53 pm chart: Ascendant: 13º53’ Aquarius; MC: 1 0º08’ Sagittarius; P. Fortune: 00º48’ Capricorn.

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The Tradition Weblog!

The Tradition journal has now a web log!
You can now contribute with comments and reviews.

Visit us at

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Claus Stauffenberg: A Hellenistic Perspective

This week we present an article by astrologer and researcher Maria J. Mateus – Claus Stauffenberg revisited by Hellenistic astrology.

Helena and Luís

Claus Stauffenberg: A Hellenistic Perspective

by Maria J. Mateus

Birth Data: November 15, 1907, 1:00 AM, Jettingen, Germany (source: Astrodatabank, citing birth certificate in Astrolog.)

Hellenistic astrology is event-based (apotelesmatika). It does not concern itself with a study of the individual character of a native, but rather with the kinds of events that will occur in the native’s life. It is easy to interpret the relative impact, fortune, and success of a famous person’s life events when we know in retrospect what that event is. This is not so when we are looking at a chart blindly or at the chart of a young person who has not yet left their imprint on the world. Thus, Hellenistic astrology first establishes the entire life as a single event whose good or bad fortune must be assessed as a type of overall signature. Only then can the individual life’s events be placed within the broader backdrop of this life’s general signature.

If we did not know anything about Claus Stauffenberg’s life, we would first want to consider how generally fortunate this man’s life as a whole will be. Will his life be filled with unrest, fear, grief or with success, prominence, abundance or renown? The assessment comes from an examination of the condition of the sect light and its trigon lords (1), or what has been translated from the Medieval tradition as triplicities. Valens says of the 3 trigon lords: “If the ruler of the preeminence [the first in the sequence] by day or by night should fall amiss upon badly situated zoidia, while the ruler by proxy [the second in the sequence], should be found upon a pivot point and well figured, then after the native has had his ups and downs in his early years until the ascension of the zoidion or until the return of the circular period, he will later be active, except that he will spend his life without stability and in fear.”(2) The criteria he uses to assess the condition of the trigon lords are as follows: whether they are at a pivot (angle), post-ascension (succedent) or decline (cadent) house, whether they are rising or setting, or in their own signs, and whether they are witnessed by benefics or malefics. Of the two authors who write about this technique, Valens places heavier weight on the sect condition of the trigon lords, while Dorotheus places a greater emphasis on their house placement.

Let us then look at Stauffenberg’s sect light and its trigon lords. Stauffenberg was born at night, therefore his sect light is the Moon. The Moon is in Pisces, the sign of the water trigon, whose rulers in the nocturnal order are Mars, Venus, and the Moon. The Moon is in a partile conjunction to Saturn, an indication that the life as a whole has difficulties “shining forth”.

The first trigon lord in the nocturnal sequence, Mars, is said to rule over the first part of his life.(3) Mars is located in Aquarius, the 6th house, a declining place, and does not see the sect light. Valens says Mars in sect will “entrust leadership and generalship and popular rank in public affairs,” particularly since it is also witnessed by Jupiter. However, the poor condition of Mars as trigon lord of the sect light indicates that even while Claus might attain military prominence and rank, the first part of his life is generally expected to be difficult, with “ups and downs” as Valens notes and “without stability and in fear”. We know from his biography that Claus was a frail boy and prone to illness in his youth, which is consistent with a 6th house Mars placement.(4) Dorotheus says that if the lord of the trigon does not see either the sect light or the Ascendant, “this indicates also that he will not long survive, especially if Saturn or Mars be in this place.”(5) The second part of Stauffenberg’s life is ruled over by Venus, the second trigon lord of the nocturnal sect light. Venus is located in Sagittarius, the 4th house (a pivot), is witnessed by a benefic, Jupiter, and does itself see the Moon, the sect light. Additionally, Venus is in sect in a nocturnal chart. This indicates that the second part of his life should generally be more supportive with benefits coming from his family and/or homeland.

The question then becomes when does the 1st part of the life give way to the second part? Using the method Valens gives to calculate the activation times of the trigon lords,(6) we find that Mars is located in Aquarius and becomes activated at his birth latitude just before his 20th year of life (when he is 19 years old). This means that the Mars period in his life activates sometime in 1926. It is that very year that Stauffenberg joins the military, becoming a member of the family’s traditional regiment, the Bamberger Reiter-und Kavallerieregiment 17 (17th Cavalry Regiment) in Bamberg. It is not clear from the traditional texts what the exact role of the participating trigon lord is. We are only told that it “participates” with the other two trigon lords. Interestingly, the Moon rules the 11th place, which relates to alliances and patronage and its ascensional time activates it in 1922. It is during this time at school that Claus and his two elder brothers join the Neupfadfinder, a youth movement where they develop a number of friendships that will ally him with the nationalistic ideas of poet George Stefan and his circle. Many of the members of this circle would later become active participators in the resistance movement. Thus, the Moon appears to participate in the circle of friendships that will play a part in his failed coup.

Venus, the second trigon lord activates by ascensional time during his 37th year of life, that is, just before he turns 37 in November of 1944. From his biography on Wikipedia, we read that in 1943, Claus was promoted to lieutenant-colonel of the general staff and sent to North Africa to fight the Allies. His vehicle was hit by British forces and he was severely wounded losing his hand and left eye. During a slow recovery back home, he participated with conspirators of the resistance movement and actively developed a plan to assassinate Hitler from September 1943 to July 20, 1944. The plan was unsuccessful and on July 21, of 1944, Stauffenberg was executed for high treason. Interestingly, another central figure in the assassination plot was Claus’ eldest brother, Berthold, who was executed by slow strangulation. We note that Mars rules both the 8th house of death as well as the 3rd house of siblings. To put it in Hellenistic terms, it seems then, that Mars was handing over the times to Venus at just about the time when he died. Had he been successful, one might have expected a very fortunate remaining life with benefits coming from the homeland coming from the Venus activation. But other time lords interfered with the transition.

The Divisions of the Times

Having established a general signature for the life as a whole and identified a problematic governing of Mars as trigon lord for the first part of it, we may now turn more closely to dividing up the life into smaller segments. A full exposure of these time lord techniques is not possible. Instead, we’ll simply examine the Hellenistic version of Primary Directions translated as circumambulations (7) since quite a few of the Hellenistic authors spend a great deal of time discussing them. In contrast to the Medieval method of directing, the circumambulations establish periods of influence corresponding to the ascensional time (in a 1 degree per year correspondence) that it takes the prorogated point (Dorotheus’ haylaj) to traverse a particular bound (term) at the birth latitude. The planet ruling over the bounds of this period becomes a time lord that governs over the nature and quality of the events pertaining to matters of that hyleg.

We’ll examine the prorogated Ascendant in Stauffenberg’s chart, since it has to do with matters affecting the body, travel and changes in residence. The circumambulating Ascendant entered the 7th degree of Libra – the bounds of Mercury – in February of 1935 and would remain within Mercury’s bounds until it reached the 14th degree of Libra in July of 1944. Thus, with regard to matters affecting the body, travel and changes in residence, Mercury had primary rulership during this period (Abu Mas’shar calls this the distributor of the years or the Zamoktar, according to the Persians). We find that Mercury is particularly important with regard to the body and physical life since it also rules the Ascendant in Stauffenberg’s natal chart. It is natally located in Scorpio in the 3rd house in a superior square to Mars. Mercury is not in good condition: it is retrograde, in none of its rulerships, in a declining house, and combust. Therefore, during this time we might expect setbacks and difficulties relating to communications, documents, travel, vehicles, and ideas that may have repercussions on his body and occupation (also rules the 10th). Because of Mercury’s testimony to Mars, we would also expect these endeavors to relate to the war and his military duties. Hephaistio says that when Hermes (Mercury) distributes the years and it is located in the signs ruled by Mars, it “causes clamor and business intrigues, and accusations and oppressions and slanders and insurrections of enemies and slaves and pain and treachery in dealings.”(8) We’ve already seen that it is at the end of this period that he is wounded in a military attack on his vehicle and certainly intrigues and insurrections abounded.

Abu Ma’shar says that if Mercury distributes the years but is in a corrupted state “the native will be unwell with terrible ailments”. During this 9 year period, Mercury’s distribution has a participating influence from Jupiter, since Jupiter casts a sextile ray into its bounds. According to Abu Ma’shar, “it indicates an increase of knowledge and education, through which the native will be benefited, and he will acquire benefits and wealth from kings and rulers.” In his biography, we read that in June 1944, Stauffenberg was promoted to Colonel and appointed Chief of Staff to Home Army Commander General Friedrich Fromm, the only man able to implement operation Valkyrie.(9) This gave him direct access to Hitler’s briefing sessions and  set the stage for his downfall.

Abu Ma’shar also tells us that the period when a bounds ruler hands over the distribution of the times to another time lord, this is the most intensified period during the planet’s governance.(10) We find this to be the case here, since it was precisely at the change-over in July 1944 that Stauffenberg’s plan to assassinate Hitler was implemented. In itself, the handing over of the distribution from the bounds of Mercury to those of Jupiter would not have been interpreted as a particularly difficult one. But in Stauffenberg’s chart, Jupiter has several problems associated with it. First, it is located in the 12th place, a declining house related to imprisonment and secrets, it is out of sect, and it forms a superior square to Mercury and witnesses the malefic Mars through opposition. Thus, the transition could bring strife or imprisonment through enemies in high rank, particularly from enemies who govern the homeland (Jupiter rules the 4th and 7th).

1943, A Closer look at a terrible year

Having identified the period between 1943 and 1944 as particularly problematic, we will use the Hellenistic method of profecting from the Ascendant to find the lord who is said to hold the ‘time-lordship’ over that year, (11) which we know in retrospect was Stauffenberg’s fateful final year. On Stauffenberg’s 36th birthday (his 37th year of life), the Profection had come to Virgo, the rising sign of his nativity. A profection through any of the angles always marks a significant time. Thus, with a Virgo profection, we also have Mercury activated as time lord for the year running from November 15, 1943 to November 15, 1944. Therefore, the handing over of the distribution becomes activated under this very profection.

The Hellenistic authors all tell us that the planet ruling the annual profection needs to be checked in the nativity as well as in the Solar Revolution and by transit. We’ve already seen that Mercury is configured with Mars in the nativity, as well as being opposite the Part of Fortune, both universal significators for this life as a whole.(12)

In the Solar Return (the Solar Revolution) for this year, we find Mercury has once more returned to its natal sign of Scorpio, is combust, and in a declining house (the 6th) that does not see the Ascendant, nor any of the planets it disposits in Gemini (Moon, Mars and Saturn). Dorotheus says that if the year lord is in the western part of the sky it indicates misfortune. Interestingly, as ruler of the Ascendant of the Solar Revolution it receives a superior square from Jupiter in Leo, echoing its 12th house placement in Leo in the nativity. Therefore, this solar return also marks a return of Mercury and Jupiter to their natal signs, yet another sign – given what we already know about the division of the times – of a particularly significant year.

In the transits for the day of the plot, July 20, 1944 we would also be interested in what Mercury was doing. We find that on this day, Mercury has come to within a 3 degree opposition to natal Mars and a superior square to its own natal position. Thus it is setting off the potential that has been signaled by the larger time frames mentioned earlier. Although Mars is not the year lord, it is, as was mentioned earlier, a participator in the distribution of Jupiter, which occurs during this year. In the transits for July 20th,1944, Mars is in partile square to the Midheaven, both disposed by Mercury. Thus, all of the danger associated with Mars is triggered through his public occupation (the MC).

We can see from this abbreviated examination how a Hellenistic astrologer would have followed a thread that begins with the most important universal chart element (the trigon lords of the sect light) and traced it down through a series of time-lord techniques to a particular year and day containing a high degree of danger to the life.


(1) This technique is outlined in The Anthology, Book II, Chapter 2. Vettius Valens. as well as in Carmen Astrologicum Book I, Chapter 22. Dorotheus of Sidon.

(2) The Anthology, Book II, Chapter 2.

(3) The Anthology, Book VII, Chapter 3. Although it is not the case here, it is possible for the ascensional times of the signs in which the trigon lords are found to activate them in a sequence different from that dictated by the trigon. Thus, had Mars been in Sagittarius and Venus in Aquarius, Venus would have activated before Mars.

(4) Hoffmann, Peter. Stauffenberg. A Family History, 1905-1944. Second Edition (Revised). (Montreal & Kingston, London, Ithaca:  McGill-Queen´s University Press) 2003.

(5) Carmen Astrologicum Book I, Chapter 25.

(6) The method consists of calculating the Ascensional times of the sign in which the planet under consideration is located or the planetary period of that planet. See The Anthology, Book VII, Chapter 3 for details.

(7) This seems to be a commonly used technique in the Hellenistic tradition, although there are variations in its use and calculation. Here, I follow Ptolemy who is unique in using the directed significators topically, rather than selecting a universal significator, as in Valens IV, 11; Hephaistio II, 26; and Dorotheus III, 2.  See Ptolemy’s, Tetrabiblos. Book IV, Chapter 10.

(8) Book II, Chapter 35

(9) Hoffmann, Peter. Stauffenberg. A Family History, 1905-1944. Second Edition (Revised). (Montreal & Kingston, London, Ithaca:  McGill-Queen´s University Press) 2003.

(10) On Solar Revolutions. Book II, Treatise III.

(11) See the technique as it is outlined by Paulus Alexandrinus. Late Classical Astrology: Paulus Alexandrinus and Olympiodorus with Scholia by Later Commentarors. Dorian Greenbaum trans.ARHAT. pp.130-133. See also Apotelesmatics. Hephaistio of Thebes. Book II. Chapter 27; and The Anthology, Vettius Valens, Book IV, Chapter 17.

(12) We will not treat this here. Further discussion of the role of the Part of Fortune in assessing the overall good or bad fortune of the life as a whole can be found in The Anthology. Vettius Valens Book II, Chapter 3.


Filed under Historical Figure

Old habits die hard: a practical guide to the contemporary traditionalist

Old habits die hard – this is certainly true for astrology students who try to ‘go Traditional’ after several years of contemporary practice. As an increasing number of students reach intellectual maturity, they choose to study the Tradition, in order to expand and deepen their astrological knowledge. But this study, although simple at first glance, is in reality quite difficult. It requires a complete mind set change, discarding the old habits and allowing new ways to ‘think astrology’. It is a major change, for it implies modifying the very core of astrological perception.

This change has proven to be as difficult and challenging as, say, learning to write with the non-dominant hand – no simple thing, as can be easily confirmed by anyone who tries it. The difficulty resides in the long-established habits of thinking (the more physiologically-inclined would refer to the neurological pathways of the brain) which prevent, or at the very least make it very hard, to have new thoughts regarding ‘old’ topics. In other words: it is difficult to learn a new astrological approach (in this case the Traditional one) because of old, deeply embedded astrological habits, which in most cases were learned and practised for years.

In this article we will present some suggestions on how to bypass these old habits, in order to establish a solid foundation to the leaning and practising of the Tradition.

Pride and prejudice

First of all, let us talk about the most difficult factor of them all: pure and simple pride.

Those who studied contemporary astrology enthusiastically and whole-heartedly for years, no doubt take some pride in their technical knowledge and delineation skills. It is therefore understandable that they respond with raised eyebrows to any suggestion that they might be partially wrong. How can they be wrong? Well, it happens. Everybody is wrong on occasion, but only a few will openly admit it. It surely happened to the contemporary renowned traditional astrologers as they, just as everybody else, started by learning contemporary astrology, and at a certain point they had to admit they were wrong, in order to expand their astrological knowledge. So, if they did, why don’t we?

Those who surpass this first obstacle soon find themselves in new and exciting territory, full of possibilities. Some see it as an alternative to the more contemporary approaches of astrology – and here we find our first prejudice. Traditional astrology is not just another alternative; it is not another way to look at it, or a new trend born out of the dusty mind of some eccentric traditionalist, and soon to be forgotten. Traditional astrology is ‘the real thing’. It is astrology as it has been practised interruptedly throughout the centuries, without major reformulations or additions.

Traditional astrology sets the rules for reliable delineation and it offers the possibility to accurately predict future events. ‘To predict’ – here is another prejudice related to Traditional astrology, the recurrent accusations of determinism. It is out of the scope of this article to discuss this matter in depth, so we will only state that astrology (whether Traditional or Contemporary) is not fatalistic, although some astrologers (again, Traditional or Contemporary) are. This concept emerged around the beginning of the 20th century, and it has ever since been used as an excuse to dismiss the Tradition, it came forth from the ignorance of some astrologers, who simply could not understand the Traditional rules (or go to the trouble of study them) and so decided they had to be reformed, to adjust to their own and simplified view of the Universe.

Yes, it is possible to predict with Traditional astrology, as long as the Traditional rules are correctly understood and applied. And by the way, the long-term dispute between fate and free will is, in fact, pointless as they both have their place in Traditional astrology.

Less is more

The first practical step towards the Tradition is to ‘clean’ the chart, to make it work better. Simple and clear charts work better, cluttered charts confuse the mind. So, what should we take away? Well, modern astrology, of course, and all that pertains to it!

– Planets

Let us start by taking of the modern planets – all three of them, Uranus, Neptune and dwarf Pluto. And since we are at it, let us also remove the asteroids, planetoids, midpoints, etc. Every celestial body that cannot be seen by the naked eye has to go. For some astrologers this is a bold step and a frightening one too. Facing an almost empty chart is almost like looking into the abyss, but as Nietzsche would say “it also looks back at you” (1), and in this case it reveals the very essence of the chart. By clearing the chart, we allow the mind to quiet and to focus; only then can we perceive the perfect balance of the spheres, without the ‘white noise’ of all the extra planetary bodies. From the apparent emptiness surfaces a complete and deep delineation.

– Aspects

Since we are talking of ‘empty’ charts, we might as well know that there is yet another level of emptiness to achieve that is, the removal of the aspect lines in the centre of the chart. This avoids distractions, and keeps the students from jumping into the aspects right away, even before weighing the planets and determining significators. Although removed from the chart, the aspects will not be lost; they can be listed on the side, or simply calculated when needed during the delineation (and yes, this is perfectly possible, as any of our 1st degree students would confirm). Another important change: only the conjunction and the major aspects – opposition, trine, square and sextile – are considered in the Traditional system; all the minor aspects disappear (2).

– Orbs

Since we are at it, we might as well reset the orbs of the aspects according to the Traditional rules. That means that instead of orbs by aspect, we will have orbs by planet – a totally new concept. In practice, we gain some aspects, and we lose some too; the results are sometimes surprising.

So we now have an empty, almost ‘zen’ chart, with ‘only’ the seven classical planets, and ‘only’ the classical aspects, with no aspects lines in the centre, and with a completely different concept of orbs.

After all these changes, are we ready to go traditional?

Not quite yet. There are a few more technical adjustments to do.

– House System

The other main technical point is the choice of a house system. We will not go into much detail here, as this topic has been widely discussed among the main experts of this field. Some astrologers choose a house system appropriate to the period he/she intends to study, while others prefer to apply different systems for different purposes (for instance: one for natal, another for horary), and others look for a ‘universal’ system, suitable for all purposes and periods.

In any case, astrologers should understand, at least in general terms, the mathematical and philosophical principles of the system of their choice. And we don’t mean just to know that a give system divides time, or another divides space, we mean the mathematics! Again in any case, they should not choose randomly, nor use a system just because it is the default of the computer, or because everyone else uses it.

So finally, we have attained the technical basis for a Traditional chart – a simple, clean and functional chart. But there is something still missing. The Traditional chart is just the starting point, not the goal in itself. We still have to learn to interpret according to the Traditional rules, and for that we need to shift from a Contemporary mind set to a Traditional one – and that is the real task.

No artificial additives, please

Here is the really difficult part: even when we understand the technicalities and have the ability to ‘read’ the chart in the appropriate language, we can still feel the need to add something more to the reading. For some astrologers this means adding some ‘extras’, like tarot, chakras, crystal-therapy or reiki (or everything together). While all these topics can be valid ways to express one’s spirituality, they can also be a distraction to our main goal: astrology, and the ability to deal with it efficiently. And for some astrologers this habit of adding extras is so embedded they cannot read a chart without them.

Among the most common additives to astrology today we find mythology, psychology (in some cases, psycho-babble) and all sorts of therapeutic approaches. Although it is appealing to combine astrology to all these things, the fact is that the majority of practitioners replace astrological knowledge and technique with them. Therefore, their replacements are used as ‘patches’ to compensate for technical inconsistencies and to cover for pure and simple ignorance of the astrological system.

To put it crudely: if astrology doesn’t work without ‘extras’, it is because the astrologer didn’t learn it properly, and so it is the astrologer who cannot ‘work’ properly. This should not be taken personally, for it is not that big a deal. The great majority of today’s astrologers have learned astrology the ‘bad’ way (that is incorrectly, incompletely and mixed with other subjects), simply because that was the only astrology available at the time. Only afterwards were some of them able to un-learn the bad habits and begin to move towards a better astrology – as so many students are trying to do now.

When we understand the main astrological techniques and achieve some proficiency, we perceive astrology as an autonomous and proficient knowledge, able to function by itself, so no additives are necessary to make it work.

Learn it properly – from the start!

If we study the Traditional system thoroughly, with dedication and commitment, we soon find out that it works. Astrology describes reality as it is, and if we learn to read a chart (whether natal, horary or other) according to the Traditional rules, we can attain that ability. We fail eventually, of course, but it will be by our misunderstanding of the system, not by astrology’s fault.

Unfortunately, some prefer to attribute their own mistakes to any other cause but to themselves. Therefore, some say the ‘malfunction of astrology’ results from the loss of ‘ancient knowledge’; although part of this is possible, we have nonetheless a significant amount of knowledge retrieved from ancient sources, more than enough to provide complete and accurate readings. Others prefer to attribute their astrological faux pas to the gap between ‘old’ astrology and ‘human evolution’, arguing that humanity has reached a state where the ‘old’ techniques no longer apply. To those it must be pointed out that astrological knowledge is perennial and therefore appropriate for all stages of evolution; cultural or technological change should not be confused with the transcendence of the human condition; all things considered, in essence we are really not that different from our ancestors. In fact, the so-called malfunction of astrology is due to a simple fact: students don’t learn it properly. They should allow themselves enough time to learn, to practice, to fail, to understand the mistakes and to correct them.

Our suggestion is to keep astrology as a separate field, at least during the learning process. This will give it room to develop as an independent field of knowledge and allow the student to apprehend its specificity. If we don’t do it, we will never be able to learn astrology properly, by itself, and we will go on insisting that it does not work.

No shortcuts

This process of learning astrology in its purest state – that is, according to the Traditional rules and without mixture – requires two things: patience and trust. It takes a while to learn the basic concepts, and a while longer when we have to un-learn the contemporary theories and then re-learn everything according to the rules. It takes a bit more to re-gain proficiency in interpretation and prediction, and much more to achieve a deep, intuitive (often a misused word) understanding of the astrological principles. Only deep study and commitment can bring depth and solidity to astrological knowledge. But patience is only a part of the requirements to get rid of old habits and re-learn astrology; trust is the other, and no lesser, part.

As we all know, trust does not come easy; trust grows in us – slowly and tentatively. This is so for any situation, and it is particularly true for astrology students, as they are trying to make sense of a singular and somewhat marginal knowledge, very different form the present-day Cartesian-based thought. In astrology, trust must come from study, deep thought and experience – and all this requires a long period of development, which brings us back to the patience topic. So this is the knot we have to untie: on one hand patient study which requires an a-priori trust in the astrological system, on the other, the ability to trust the system even before it has proved itself reliable. Unlike the proverbial Gordian knot (3), this one cannot be impatiently severed by a stroke; the only way to do it is the patient way. There are no shortcuts in astrology.

Here and now

Still talking about ‘extras’, it is worth mentioning that some astrologers feel the need to refer to the native’s past lives while reading the chart. This is a rather common practice, and in fact it is regarded as a ‘must’ by some. Nowadays it is almost compulsory for the beginners to bring the subject into their readings. This distracts the native from the most important moment of his/her life: the present. In short: while reading a chart, keep the past lives in the past and the evolution in the future; focus on the present. Describe the native’s here and now, enhancing his/her skills and possibilities, goals and challenges. A good, solid reading, delivered in a clear and realistic manner, is much more impressive – and more useful, in both the material and the spiritual planes – than any speculative interpretation of past or future lives.

Thou shall not preach

Personal beliefs are not part of astrology. Some astrologers are deeply religious, others are not. They both can be good astrologers, or they can be bad ones – it all depends on their astrological skills, that is, their capacity to interpret an astrological chart. Personal beliefs do not necessarily enhance the astrologer’s abilities; in fact they can even diminish them, as they hinder the astrologer’s neutrality and clarity of mind.

So, astrologers should suspend their pre-judgements when it comes to this matter. Spirituality is – we must keep in mind – a very personal and private matter, totally independent of the astrological practice. Opinions and experiences regarding spiritual matters can of course be addressed on many occasions, as they constitute an important part of life for many people; they should not however be mingled with the astrological reading, nor should they be imposed in any way (directly or indirectly) through astrological means. Astrology is a language, and it is meant to be clear and reliable, it should not be a means to impose on others our own personal views.

Becoming an astrologer

So here it is, a general overview of the ‘old habits’ that any student must bypass in the transitions between Contemporary and Traditional astrology. To get over these habits is the task of all serious astrologers, as they stand in the way of astrological maturity.

Paraphrasing Simone de Beauvoir, we could state that one is not born an astrologer, but becomes one (4) – and we may add that the quality of what the astrologer we will become depends largely on our effort and commitment to overcome our flawed education, eradicate old habits and finally reconnect to the source of astrological knowledge – the Tradition.

Helena Avelar


(1) From his book, Beyond Good and Evil; the exact quotation is “… if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you”.

(2) Except in primary directions, as exemplified by William Lilly in his delineation of the Merchant’s chart, Lilly, William, Christian Astrology, pg. 765.

(3) Gordian knot: a metaphor for a intricate problem where the only solution would be a sudden stroke; the name comes from a legend related to Alexander the Great.

(4) The correct quotation form Simone the Beauvoir (1908-1986), is “one is not born a woman, one becomes one”, or alternatively “one is not born, but rather becomes, a woman” (alluding to the pressure forced upon women to act and behave only in the ways approved by the patriarchal society).


Filed under Thoughts and Reflections