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The Considerations Before Judgement


Sue Ward

About three years ago I carried out some research into Lilly's apparent disregard of the, so called, strictures. This was as a result of work done by Maurice McCann on the apparent inconsistencies in Lilly's chart work. The following is a result of the work I did at that time and presents my findings. It seems to me that the strictures, while used by most horary astrologers, are little understood and, in my view, have developed into a regime that demands that horaries are discarded if they do not conform. As a teacher and practitioner of this art I accept any protection the chart may offer me by way of cautions, but I do not believe that the horary necessarily becomes tainted should one of these rules be operating. Nonetheless, care is required and I do not dismiss them.

Astrology has a set of established principles which act as a guide of action and procedure and offer a standard to aim for. In this sense the Considerations before Judgement are rules. On the other hand, disapproval is implied by the word 'stricture'. So, a stricture in a chart is like a rebuke and is usually treated as making a chart unreadable, suggesting that an incorrect answer will be obtained.

These strictures have been a bone of contention for some considerable time and have become an established principle during the modern period. When an established principle seems to be restrictive or redundant, a very careful approach is required before attempting to remove it, as with any investigation.

My objective here is to deal with these 'rules' with reference to various criticisms aimed at the example charts in Christian Astrology3. Furthermore, I have access to Lilly's workbooks for parts of the years 1647 and 16494, so the points raised regarding Christian Astrology can be extended into Lilly's daily practices. Hopefully, this will clear up some of the misapprehensions associated with these procedures, in terms of Lilly's use of them. In the first place, though, I have not found any reference to the term 'stricture' in anything I've read up to, and including, Christian Astrology (1647) and so have no idea of the source of this term or its modern use.

A few words about Lilly's workbooks might be in order for those who are unfamiliar with them. These take the form of ledgers, which he stamped with chart squares as required. There could be up to six on a page. It was not unusual for him to undertake eight charts a day, beginning at around 7.00am. These were mainly horaries, but also included event and natal charts. He was very busy and would see clients personally as well as dealing with questions by post.

The pages are crammed with charts and scribblings; sometimes there are notes about the querent, the question and, occasionally, the answer. Sometimes he calculated the planets' positions roughly, sometimes more accurately - significators were dealt with more carefully in general. He would have been acutely conscious of the planetary hour and restrictive phenomena, such as a void of course Moon, early and late degrees rising, Moon in the Via Combusta or late degrees of a sign. His charts often had only a few minutes separating them, so it would have been impossible for him to have been unaware of these things.

The importance of Christian Astrology, and that of its author William Lilly, to this discussion, is that in drawing together the work of so many ancient writers he presents a body of knowledge which, I suspect, is unavailable in any form anywhere. Lilly presents astrological principles which had been established for many hundreds of years. He tested these in his own practise, which was huge; rejected those precepts which could not be substantiated, and simplified those which were overly complicated, but still reported the bulk of the accepted precepts. He thus presents his method and, by example, his attitude to ancient rulings. His manner of addressing the so-called strictures is an integral part of his method of judgement, so trying to assess the former out of the context of the latter, is a bit like trying to assess a car with no engine. It might look like it will do all the things you expect of it...

Students of traditional astrology soon find that Lilly's attitude is surprisingly progressive. He is very frank when he disagrees with ancient authorities, but then Christian Astrology would never have been written if he had blindly followed his predecessors. Apparent inconsistencies in Lilly's method have, quite rightly, been raised from time to time. But, Lilly did not take the free and easy attitude to astrology that he is sometimes accused of - far from it: ... and yet I was never to seek a sufficient reason in Art, whereby to give a good and satisfactory answer to the Proponent, etc ...5. In other words, whilst he detaches himself from established principles in this case, he still uses rigorous astrological reasoning to obtain an answer. It does not mean that he made it up to suit his convenience.

Lilly's method, before judging a chart, was to ascertain the physical description of the party or parties concerned. He was meticulous in this respect, and in his workbooks there is supporting evidence of his using this method of testing a chart for radicality. Lilly advises the use of common sense and astrological reasoning when judging, so, the context of the question should also be kept in mind.

It can sometimes appear that Lilly judged all charts no matter what, but that is an unsafe assumption, as I will try to demonstrate. The Considerations Before Judgment, are there for a reason and, in my opinion, should never be ignored.

Planetary Hours

If there is no accord by the three methods Lilly quotes, then the chart is not radical and is unsuitable for judgement - or so says the ancient rule. This is that the planetary hour should be the same planet as that which rules the ascendant, or that rules the triplicity, or the ruler of the hour and the ruler of the ascendant should have the same nature - hot and dry, cold and moist and so on. (There is a current misunderstanding that the hour ruler and the rising sign should have the same nature, this is incorrect). Maurice McCann checked Lilly's charts in Christian Astrology and found that eleven were non-radical according to these criteria. In fact, only ten can be counted since one is an event chart (page 472, regarding the Earl of Essex). None of these rules applies to event charts.

Of this list of eleven non-radical charts I found only two that had no mitigation (pages 238 and 395). While not strictly radical in the ancient sense, there were three instances of the ruler of the hour being angular (pages 219, 286 and 385), two of the hour ruler being in the house of the quesited (pages 392 and 419), one of its being the natural significator (page 417), one of it being the accidental ruler of the matter (page 468), and two of it being involved with trines to the ascendant and/or triplicity ruler (pages 177 and 219).

From information supplied to me by C J Puotinen6 I was able to check those charts which do not show a planetary hour. She calculated the hour rulers from the data supplied by Lilly. These are not necessarily those which he used, though - the lack of clock time standardisation causes problems in this kind of exercise. However, of the nine I checked (not ten, the chart on page 397 is of an event) only two complied with the radicality criteria. The rest, though, had the hour ruler angular, or it was the natural ruler of the matter, or it was placed in the house of the quesited or a combination of these. The trines between the hour ruler and the ascendant or triplicity ruler were not in evidence.

It would be incorrect to suggest that Lilly ignored the planetary hour, since it is included in so many charts. The fact that it is not included in all of them is not material - none are shown in his work books. I would suggest that Lilly knew what the planetary hour was at all times, but lack of strict radicality did not prevent him from judging these charts.

To my mind there is no evidence here to support the view held by some that it should be ignored which misunderstands the purpose of planetary hour agreement. This technique is very ancient and may have survived from ancient Egyptian mythology. The ruler of each hour guarded a door and entry could only be gained by supplying the correct password. This was particularly the case with the Sun God's journey through the Underworld at the end of each day. He could only proceed into each hour, and thus to rebirth at dawn, by permission of the hour ruler.8 This suggests to me, and this is unsupported by any written evidence, that planetary hour agreement in a horary chart gives permission to the querent to proceed with the matter under examination. For example, if a business person asks a question about whether to expand his business activities during a recession and the planetary hour does not accord in any of the three ways mentioned above, it could well be describing that the querent is trying to swim against the flow, against the tide of events. We know that this would not necessarily prevent the querent from achieving his or her aim, but it would make it much more difficult.

Early degrees on the ascendant

The chart on page 417 certainly has an early ascendant, but Lilly explains that this is acceptable if ...the Querent be very young, and his corporature, complexion and moles or scarres of his body agree with the quality of the sign ascending.7 He is at pains, though, to provide a detailed physical description of the querent and of the conditions of the quesited. There are also examples of the early ascendant in his work books. This can often indicates newness and so might indicate that the querent is being premature with their question, perhaps some other conditions must be fulfilled first. If this description of newness can be justified then the astrologer might decide to proceed to judgement, but as much information as possible about the querent and the situation should be obtained.

Late degrees on the ascendant

I found only one or two charts in the workbooks like this, one of which was entitled, One at Twickenham, of her sweetheart. The chart is generally afflicted, so whatever the exact question, the outcome would not have been good. Late degrees often ascend in horaries about life or death situations (as with the Moon in late degrees) and so, are descriptive. Lateness often shows an imminent change in circumstances, but on the ascendant for no known reason, is cautionary.

The Moon in late degrees

Although there are no charts in Christian Astrology with the Moon in late degrees in Gemini, Scorpio or Capricorn, there are in the workbooks. Again, this does not mean that Lilly disregarded this rule, but perhaps judged accordingly. In life and death questions, for example, you wouldn't necessarily throw a chart out because of late degrees. These areas of the signs are the terms of the malefics and so afflict the Moon when it is so placed. However, this can be very relevant and descriptive. Again, much depends on the context of the question. I ought to mention that there was a significant gap in the workbooks after Lilly had judged three charts with the Moon in late Gemini. He restarted work after the Moon had changed signs.

Via Combusta

Lilly says on page 122: ... as some say, when she [the Moon] is in the Via Combusta ... suggesting disagreement among other writers about this matter. He does not allow this to prevent him judging a chart. The Moon in the Via Combusta can show many things: fear, illness, death, hidden matters and imprisonment being some. Therefore, it is not unusual to find this position in charts about these topics. One of the charts with the Moon in this position (page 415) is a question about which of the husband or wife would die first. Lilly says that there were many serious reasons why the question was asked. He uses the Moon to show the wife's conditions, which are commensurate with those of the Moon - she died soon after.

The other chart (on page 468) is that of bewitchment. The querent was very ill and the Moon in the Via Combusta showed the tremendous fear felt by the invalid of being attacked by witchcraft.

Both charts would fall under the heading of describing the conditions of the querent and would therefore be radical in Lilly's terms.

When the 7th cusp or its ruler is afflicted

In my opinion this rule deals directly with the safety of the astrologer, but not, I would say, when the astrologer asks their own question. This rule is applied when the question is not a 7th house matter. The following three charts were judged with this rule operating:

So, only one chart seems to be afflicted in this way and that has mitigation, so it is always a good idea to look a little beyond the rules as they stand before attempting a conclusion.

Saturn in the 1st house

This Consideration is preceded by the phrase: The Arabians ... doe deliver these following rules, as very fit to be considered ...9 which is also the case for Saturn in the 7th house, the ruler of the ascendant combust and the ruler of the 7th unfortunate. It is not clear whether he is in agreement here or merely reporting.

The chart on page 437, has Saturn retrograde in the 1st house. This question, If he should obtaine the parsonage desired?, was rather distasteful to Lilly, since he disliked the priest and his reasons for asking. Nonetheless, he judges the chart and, in fact, uses this placing of Saturn to describe the querent's conditions: Saturn is impedited in the ascendant, and by his presence infortunates the question, causing the querent to despaire in the obtaining of it. So, he agrees that Saturn here is afflicting the chart as a whole and certainly the priest was advised by Lilly not to proceed with the matter and did not obtain the parsonage. It ended unfortunately, in that the priest did go ahead and was subsequently reported anonymously for some liaison with a woman, ruining his chance of getting the post.

The outcome didn't bring any good and it ended badly for the querent, but that doesn't mean that it should not have been judged. If Saturn was representing a lost or stolen item; found in the first and retrograde it could be said that the item would be found or returned or that the querent still had it in their possession. Saturn is often found in the ascendant in charts about kidnap and other serious crime, where it can show someone in fear for their life. Also, it can describe worry and old age, so any of these descriptions can be useful in finding radicality rather than denying it.

Saturn in the 7th House

This falls under the same heading as the above, in that it isn't clear whether he actually advocated the use of this rule or not. It is my view that each of these 7th house considerations can only apply when it is not a 7th house matter under scrutiny and each of the following charts falls into that category.

Ruler of the ascendant combust

The chart on page 219, If I should purchase Mr. B his houses?, was Lilly's own question. His significator is combust in the 7th house. However, these are the two primary significators and it was the perfection of the conjunction of his significator and the Sun which successfully closed the deal, after some difficulties.

Ruler of the 7th unfortunate

I suggest that since this Consideration is more or less the same as those above, the same arguments apply, especially since many of those charts cited in the earlier paragraphs are included in this one. Therefore, further investigations would be superfluous.

Equal testimonies

It would be too tedious to check thirty five charts to see if the arguments were equal. Lilly instructs his readers to ask another question if this equality is found, which casts doubt over the stricture, (the source of which is unknown to me) that a question may only be asked once.

Void of Course

Most of us followed the same method of deciding when this rule was in effect, that is, when the Moon has no more major aspects to perfect in its sign. So, at first glance there are five charts which seem to have the Moon void of course. Lilly has, in fact, used the next aspect the Moon will perfect after it changes sign in each of these charts. This, of course, is nothing new, I was aware that Lilly did this and others must have been, too. But there is more to it than Lilly exercising artistic licence.

Lilly says: A planet is void of course, when he is separated from a planet, nor doth forthwith, during his being in that sign, apply to any other: ...".10 Contrary to what most of us understood, this does not mean that the aspect has to perfect while the Moon is in its current sign. What it does mean is that the application has to be in effect while the Moon is in its current sign. Application operates only when the Moon (or planet) is 'within orbs' of the planet it next meets by major aspect. It doesn't matter, from this point of view, that it has to leave the sign before perfecting the aspect. So, to be void of course the Moon (or planet) has to be out of orb of the next planet it might meet by major aspect - even if it will eventually perfect this aspect within the current sign.

This matter largely depends on the definition of application in Lilly's terms, and those of the authors he drew upon, and it meant to be within orb. The application happeneth when as the circles or beames of the planettes come to joyne togeather by a corporall conjunction or by aspecte of the one half of their deamiters.11 This definition is clear: a planet cannot be said to be applying until it is within orb, or joint moieties, of another. The meaning of application has altered in modern times to that of 'moving forward in the sign', but Lilly deals with this separately. 'Applying to' means to be within the joint moieties of the two planets concerned.

For example, the Moon has a moiety of about 6° and Mercury one of 3½°, so if the Moon were at 26° Aries and Mercury at 3° Taurus (about 7° difference and so within the joint moieties) an application is operating, the Moon applies to the conjunction of Mercury. It doesn't matter that there is a sign change before perfection. The important point is that the application should occur before the sign change. In interpretation, application shows that the event promised by the perfection is already a possibility. If the Moon were at 3° Taurus and its next contact was Mercury at 15° Taurus, there is no application since they are separated by more than their joint moieties (about 9.5°), so the Moon is void of course. According to ARHAT, in the Greek tradition application meant 'coming into contact with'. This was still the case in the 17th century, but has changed in more recent times.

The evidence in Christian Astrology supports this almost exclusively and I conclude that the Moon is not void of course if it is contacting another planet through the joint moieties, whether it perfects in or out of its current sign. Therefore, the Moon (or planet) can be void of course even when it is in early degrees, if the next planet it meets in major aspect is out of orb.12 This does not mean that even more horaries will be invalid, as you will see further on.

The crucial point about this is the definition of 'application' and having checked all the charts in Christian Astrology to see just how Lilly uses this term, I found only three that are dubious in this regard:

Although this could simply be a matter of wording since he might mean 'and then will apply to Mercury'. This seems more certain since he has not marked this future application on the chart.

I have no explanation otherwise for these discrepancies, but I think that having only two or three charts at variance with the rest of the evidence, does not necessarily invalidate that evidence. Besides Lilly would not have been very concerned about ½° difference. He himself says that he used whichever orb he remembered at the time. (Page 107 which shows the variety of orbs offered.)

The most telling example of how application was used and, perhaps, an explanation of how it became confused, is the well known horary If Presbytery shall stand? (page 439). Venus, ruler of the 9th house, is at 9°16' Aries, he says: ... but before she fully get out of this movable signe Aries, she first hath occurse to the sinister square of Jupiter, then of Mars, ... Jupiter is at 28°54' Cancer and Mars is at 25°40' Cancer, both are out of their joint moieties, so Venus is not applying to aspect. He is registering this by using the word 'occurse', meaning that Venus has to make these aspects before leaving the sign. He is not saying that Venus is applying to aspect these two.

This is further supported later in the same judgement: We have the Moon separating from Venus in the eighth, then going to be vacua cursus [void of course] afterwards she squares with Mars, then with Jupiter: ... The Moon is at 13°37' Libra, Mars is at 25°40' Cancer and Jupiter is at 28°54' Cancer. Mars and Jupiter are out of orb of the Moon and so the Moon is not applying, but because he feels that these aspects are relevant he mentions them as occurring later. This chart has been judged with the Moon void of course in Lilly's terms.

The following charts are good examples of the rule in practice and show that Lilly did not ignore it, but that it was dealt with differently.

So, it seems that it is rare for Lilly to judge a chart when the Moon is void of course. The one example that I have mentioned (If Presbytery shall stand?) had great descriptive value. It was also an afflicted chart in other ways, one being the Moon in the Via Combusta, but that is hardly surprising considering the nature of the question and its implications.

Lilly provides several interpretations of the Moon void of course which suggests that these charts are readable in some circumstances13. It is my view that this condition provides its own answer and in any case, Lilly says that it can be dealt with if the primary significators are strong, or if the Moon itself is in Taurus, Cancer, Sagittarius or Pisces, as is the case with many of the preceding examples.


Lilly's judgement of charts which strictly speaking are not radical, does not show that he disregarded the rules of radicality. Several of these were, what would now be called 'afflicted' charts, that is, those which have unfavourable configurations and under the stricture regime might be discarded. These types of chart are often about very serious matters: kidnappings, murder, war - it would be surprising to find them wholly radical in the ancient sense. However, in almost every case where he has not adhered to the strict sense of the Considerations, the outcome was bad, or was brought about with difficulty. A certain amount of discretion and common sense, applied within the context of the question, would seem to be part of the answer. I also find that when a caution is in evidence, finding an answer to the question 'why?' is usually revealing.

The evidence seems to support the assertion that these rules, or Considerations, were not viewed by Lilly as strictures. To say that any of them should be discarded, though, is unwise. Radicality must be found, but I think that the methods of finding that allow a little more scope than the strictures would admit. The evidence, as far as I can ascertain, shows that Lilly did acknowledge the rules. Clearly he spent a considerable amount of time finding description in the chart, and this must be the ultimate test of radicality. Henry Coley verifies the use of description in this respect: But when the sign ascending, and his lord represent the querent, or a planet in the ascendant signifies him truly, you may safely venture to give your judgement. If any of these rules are in operation with no descriptive reason, then it probably would be better not to give judgement to a client. It is here, I think, that the strength of the rules lies: they protect the astrologer. We no longer have to fear for our lives if we make an incorrect judgement or give the querent an unattractive answer. However, we still have our reputations to protect (and our pride!).

Lilly did not reject a chart simply because one or other of these rules was in operation, but appears to have made a careful appraisal of the situation before proceeding to judgement. I think that I have demonstrated that he certainly did not ignore the rules, rather he applied the spirit of the rule and that the rules are there to help and advise, not to restrict. An open minded, questioning approach forestalls most potential problems. This is so in all of astrology, not just in considerations before the judgement of a horary chart. More importantly, Lilly found a method that allowed him to assess radicality in a broader sense than perhaps had ever been used before. In his words: ... and if my Judgements doe vary from the common Rules of the Ancients, let the Candid Reader excuse me, sith he may still follow their Principles if he please; and he must know, that from my Conversation in their Writings, I have attained the Method I follow.15 Therefore, each must make their own decision, but it would seem unwise to deal with the rules as he did and then not to follow his method.

The rules are there to guide us in our judgements and were ratified by William Lilly - a better astrologer than any of us is ever likely to be.


  1. New English Dictionary, Odhams
  2. Op. cit.
  3. Christian Astrology by William Lilly
  4. Ashmolean Mss 210 and 420
  5. Lilly, page 452
  6. C J Puotinen, co-editor of The Horary Practitioner magazine
  7. Lilly, page 122
  8. My thanks to Deborah Houlding for this information.
  9. Lilly, page 122
  10. Lilly, page 112
  11. A Breefe and easie Introduction to Astrology ... by Claude Dariot (1583?),Chpt 7,
  12. I am aware that authorities up to (but probably excluding) Ibn Ezra insist that conjunctions have to occur within the current sign and that void of course was dealt with differently.
  13. Lilly, pages 190, 192, 299, 310, 377 and 448
  14. The Key to the Whole Art of Astrology by Henry Coley, page 127,
  15. Lilly, page 142

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    22 February 1996

    Copyright © Sue Ward 1995