What is “Traditional” Astrology?
In seventeenth century England, astrology flourished. Most people who become interested in astrology come across the name William Lilly at some point in their studies and Lilly was probably the greatest of the seventeenth century astrologers.
However, to achieve this greatness required a supporting cast and there were many others who filled this role. Although they never matched Lilly’s reputation as astrologers, such figures as George Wharton and Henry Coley, John Gadbury and William Ramesey (not to mention the herbalist Nicolas Culpepper and the intelligentsia epitomised by Sir Isaac Newton and Elias Ashmole) played an important part in creating a climate where astrology was recognised and accepted.
As the seventeenth century closed and scientific progress became more focused on physical reality, abandoning many of the mythological and symbolic beliefs which had been held for centuries, astrology became discredited and went underground.
When it emerged again into the mainstream some two hundred years or more had passed and it was left to the leading astrologers of the early twentieth century to pick up the pieces and somehow put them back together again into a recognisable form. While astrology had been away from public view, three major planets and a host of asteroids had been discovered while many of the traditional techniques for astrological interpretation had been lost or misunderstood.
Not until 1980 did Lilly’s masterpiece Christian Astrology re-enter the public domain.
Traditional astrology is a term which is now generally applied to those astrologers who seek to re-learn the techniques that had been practised for centuries and then lost for over two hundred years.
Among the contentious issues which have surfaced between those who have learned their astrology from the modern methods and those who seek to use the methods passed down through history are:
- How do the “modern” planets (Uranus, Neptune and Pluto) fit into the scheme of things? Can they be assigned to rulership of signs of the zodiac or does this compromise the original scheme of rulerships?
Are there more planets still to be discovered which would complete what might at present be seen to be a “transitional astrology?”
- How important are the “essential dignities?” Most “modern” astrologers are aware of the signs in which planets are “rulers” or “exalted” but what about dignity by triplicity, term and face? Are they relevant to an astrology which revived, survived and thrived for most of the twentieth century without them?
- The distance for which an aspect between two planets is valid has been calculated in the twentieth century as a function of the aspect itself but traditionally it depended on the orbs of the planets involved. Which is better practice?
- What is the correct definition of a “void of course Moon?”
- Do mothers belong to the tenth house of a chart and fathers to the fourth house or is it the other way round?
In the practice of horary astrology (the answering of specific questions) how much weight should be given to the traditional “Considerations Before Judgement” or are these just outdated bits of mumbo jumbo?
These issues are discussed in astrological magazines around the world and in forums on the internet. As in many other areas of life, astrology divides into various camps from the hardliners who will have nothing to do with anything discovered after the death of Lilly and the seventeenth century to those who can impute a meaning to every living asteroid.
However, life isn’t so simple that every other school of astrology can be dismissed by the traditionalists. There is more than one way to skin a cat (if I can use such a politically incorrect phrase); in the end it is the results that count and, above all, the consistency of those results.
Many claims are made for non-traditional techniques which I suspect wouldn’t hold much water if tested through a large enough sample (and we seldom hear a champion of a new techniques telling us about the six times it didn’t work).
Fond as I am of locational astrology I have to say that in terms of results, it may be good but it is nothing like as consistently good as traditional horary astrology.
I used to say that, despite my affinity for traditional astrology I couldn’t dismiss the modern planets completely as I had seen the effects of Uranus only too clearly in my own life. Then I began to realise that the more I learned about traditional techniques, the more I could have seen exactly the same effects in my own chart using these techniques and ignoring the modern planets.
After pondering this subject for much of the last four years I currently hold the view that many of the techniques reflect each other in their results but that the important thing is not to mix techniques. Let the beauty of the asteroids shine as brightly as the fixed stars in the seventeenth century sky but keep each discipline separate for the best effect. My own affinities are for the traditional techniques; others may delight in cosmodynes or psychological astrology. Let us each cultivate what we do best and bring that to the table in its most refined form.
This, perhaps, is the real meaning of the seventh commandment, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”