Why Free Software?
I rely on free and open source software options as much as possible in my work. Free software has a very beneficial and democratizing effect on the practice of astrology. I prefer free software for the site because it allows readers of any income level to replicate my charts and tables. Furthermore, there is a wealth of free birth data online, particularly on Astrodatabank. Access to free software allows for easy chart-calculation to test out techniques against a wider range of data than I can present in an article.
What is Morinus?
As readers of the blog will know, my favorite free software program is Morinus. I have used the Traditional Morinus for the examples in almost all blog posts, and I’ve discussed using it in previous posts in this series.
Morinus is not just free astrology software, it is great astrology software. It will allow you to do many things that even some of the more costly programs won’t do. For instance, I can have a wheel in which the terms of the signs, the 7 hermetic lots of Paulus Alexandrinus, and the twelfth-parts of the planets are all immediately visible. I also have quick access to primary directions and zodiacal releasing information.
Importantly, Morinus is open source, so it is truly “the community’s software”. Members of the community with coding experience are free to check out the source code and adapt it to meet their needs. They can develop their own “versions” of the program which expand upon it. In this sense, the developers (thanks Robert!) have given the astrological community a truly valuable gift. We’d be fools to pass it up for commercial products with less community potential.
Over a year ago, in early 2014, a new version of Morinus emerged specifically tailored to Hellenistic astrology. It is called “Valens“, after the 2nd-century Hellenistic astrologer Vettius Valens. Valens was inspired by Chris Brennan’s course on Hellenistic astrology, in which some of Valens’ timing techniques, especially Zodiacal Releasing, figure prominently. In addition to the inclusion of Zodiacal Releasing, this version of Morinus also features the ability to easily insert the prenatal syzygy, the 7 hermetic lots (a lot for each planet as discussed by Paulus Alexandrinus and sourced from an early text attributed to Hermes), and the twelfth-parts of the planets into the chart.
After trying out the software, I firmly believe it is the best yet for Hellenistic techniques, and will serve readers well as they read the posts on this blog.
You can download the software here (for Windows scroll to the bottom of the page and download the Valensexe.zip). Follow the installation instructions that you find on that page, as there is one additional step after you unzip the zip file (you will need to install the “Valens” font, located in the “Res” folder, by double-clicking it, or the chart will have letters in place of symbols).
A Few Optimizations
If you want your charts to look like the ones on this blog, here are a few tips. Before you’re begin, hold SHIFT and press U, so that your options will be saved automatically.
First, right click on the chart and choose “B&W” to make your chart black and white. I prefer the clean look of a black and white chart. Of course, this is a personal preference that does not impact practice. Unfortunately, Valens does not save the color setting so it may revert back to color when you reopen.
Secondly, you’ll want to set the Moon’s node to the “true node”, which you can do by holding the SHIFT key and pressing ‘W’.
Thirdly, get rid of any quadrant divisions if there are any by holding SHIFT and pressing F1.
Finally, let’s go into the appearance options (Appearance from the Options menu or hold SHIFT and press ‘A’). For typical use, I would set my appearance options as shown in the table below, as I do like to see the two main Hellenistic lots (Fortune/Moon and Spirit/Sun – click for more information on the Hellenistic lots) as well as the prenatal syzygy, and the twelfth-parts (click for more information about the twelfth-parts). I don’t use the hermetic lots of the planets all that much so I leave them unchecked. I also find the round chart more intuitive and easy to read, so I choose that over the square (Hellenistic) chart.
You should end up with a chart that resembles the one below:
A Few Bugs to Work Out
As of this writing, Valens still lacks a few of the features that are found in traditional Morinus. For instance, you cannot save a chart and instead must manually use screen-capturing software (or the PrtScn button). Ideally, this should be fixed in the near future.
As I use both Morinus and Valens, an optimal solution would be to port the extra Hellenistic astrology features found in Valens into the generally more feature-rich Morinus. In this way, we can just enjoy (and the programmers can just maintain) one program that does everything we need. However, I’m not a programmer and both programs are free so I really can’t complain. For now, I’ll just keep using both Morinus and Valens together.
For more information on how to use Valens, please see the documentation on the site for the software. Additionally, check out the other articles on this site which explore specific techniques, such as lots and primary directions.
I hope you’ll start turning to the Valens program as the first one that you use to pull up charts. Please spread the word!