Elections and the Art of Choosing Times | 1. Dorothean Foundations
April 2019 Update:
This article was significantly revised and expanded in March/April 2019. In the years following its initial 2012 publication, relevant new English translations of Carmen, Dorothean fragments and excepts, Hephaistion’s Book III, and Sahl’s “On Elections” were released. The article has been updated to incorporate additional insights and facts brought to light by these new releases. An example has also been added.
The 4 Branches of Astrology
Electional astrology (elections for short) is one of the four major branches of astrology. It is distinct from the other three branches, though all use the same basic elements and principles. The other three branches are horary, natal, and mundane.
Elections concern the art of choosing the right time to start something important; a time that will facilitate a desired outcome. Traditionally, the rules of electional astrologer were also used for analysis of event charts. Event charts could be read like elections for events that had already occurred. Consultation charts were a type of event chart used to better understand consultation dynamics, including the motivations and concerns of the client. Altogether these uses were termed katarchic (inceptional) astrology.
The Other Three Branches
Horary astrology uses the chart for the time of an inquiry in order to address that inquiry. In other words, someone (a querent) asks the astrologer a question about an important matter in their life (the quesited). The astrologer then reads the chart to divine the answer crystal-ball-style. Horary astrology grew directly out of the use of consultation charts so it is the most strongly related to electional astrology.
Natal astrology takes the time of birth, the birth chart or nativity, to indicate the nature of life circumstances. This is probably the branch with which you are most familiar. It concerns examining the character and inclinations of the individual in light of the birth chart as well as understanding key recurring themes and circumstances. Timing techniques indicate the timing of important developments in the life. The bulk of astrological material from the Hellenistic period was on natal astrology.
Mundane astrology uses important cycles and astronomical events, such as equinoxes, solstices, and lunations, to indicate things about worldly affairs. It concerns astrological analysis related to the important movements of history, from politics to art and religion. Another traditional concern of mundane astrology is the changes in the weather and the prices of commodities.
The Ascendancy of the Individual
The earliest horoscopic astrological literature comes from the Hellenistic world of the first few centuries CE. This literature emphasized natal astrology. This is in contrast to the greater preoccupation of its predecessor, Babylonian astrology, with mundane astrology.
Hellenistic astrology saw major developments in the astrology of the individual. Large tomes of material on natal astrology were written at that time. All of the major figures of Hellenistic astrology devoted the bulk of their texts to natal matter. This includes early astrologers like Dorotheus and Manilius of the 1st century CE, Ptolemy and Valens of the 2nd century, Maternus of the 4th century, and Hephaistion of the 5th.
Waning Mundane / Intimations of Horary
Interestingly, mundane astrology seems to have waned in importance during this era. It would come to be revived and reworked by Perso-Arabic astrologers of the Middle Ages. Also, horary astrology did not yet exist as such. There is some limited evidence of using electional rules to address questions in Hellenistic astrology, but it had not yet developed as its own separate branch of astrology. It was developed as such by the later Perso-Arabic and Indian astrologers.
Will and Choices
Perhaps the emphasis on the individual during the period also helped spark the ascendancy of electional astrology. Elections strongly pertain to the individual will and choices. Its prominence alongside natal astrology is certainly a testimony to shifting philosophical attitudes during the period about fate and individuality. While most practitioners did not feel that elections could radically alter one’s fate, it did open the possibility to optimize it. By starting important endeavors at key times their odds for success were improved (not guaranteed).
The text of Dorotheus of Sidon is one of the oldest surviving Hellenistic astrological works and it addressed both natal and electional astrology. It was composed in the 1st century CE and became known as the Carmen Astrologicum or “Song of Astrology” (written in verse) and also as the Pentateuch or “Five Books”. Its first four books pertain to natal astrology. However, it is its final book, focused on electional astrology, which concerns us here.
The fifth book of Carmen includes more than just elections. Sometimes Dorotheus used the chart of an event or the consultation to predict an outcome. These uses will strike the reader as being very similar to horary astrology. As noted, event and consultation charts are strongly related to elections as aspects of inceptional astrology (‘katarche’ in Greek).
This fifth book of Dorotheus laid the foundation for the horoscopic approach to electional astrology. Its influence is felt from the Hellenistic era thru the Middle Ages and all the way to the present. As the roots of horoscopic electional astrology are Dorothean, I feel that a study of electional astrology should begin with a study of Book V of Dorotheus. Interestingly, the approach to electional astrology in Carmen is also very different from that of the Middle Ages. It presents a viable alternative to the typical approaches to elections.
Examining the Dorothean foundations sounds good in principle but there is a confounding factor at play. The version of Dorotheus that has survived is an early medieval (8th-9th century) Arabic prose translation of a Pahlavi translation (3rd-4th century) of the original Greek poem. Furthermore, the text has some notorious corruptions, including a few possible insertions. The works of Julius Firmicus Maternus and Hephaistio of Thebes were influenced by it, so they can provide some confirmation. There are also fragments and excerpts attributed to Dorotheus which can be consulted.
Hephaistion of Thebes
The third book of The Apotlesmatics by Hephaistion is particularly helpful when it comes to the electional material. Hephaistion is the only Hellenistic astrologer who appears to have explored that material in depth. An excellent translation of Hephaistion’s third book was made by Eduardo Gramaglia in 2013. It includes Dorothean excerpts and fragments, a table of correspondences between the texts, explanatory intro, and many more helpful features. There is so much interesting material in this book that I really cannot recommend it more highly.
Hephaistion did not just copy Dorothean material though. Actually, Hephaistion was known to synthesize and give his own take on matters. We see this clearly in his natal astrology which represented a unique synthesis of Ptolemy and Dorotheus. His electional and inceptional material is very rich. He moves well beyond Dorotheus. There are in depth techniques for consultation charts involving twelfth-parts, material on best elections by Moon sign, and much more. Here, my focus is just on Dorothean foundations.
Early Medieval Electional Astrology
There are additional Persian medieval works which further develop the Dorothean material. However, they often significantly vary from the Hellenistic approach. “Choices & Inceptions” is a collection of important medieval electional texts translated and compiled by Ben Dykes. It is the best source for the study of elections as developed and elaborated upon by the Persians. However, serious students of electional astrology should first understand the foundations of the art as laid out in Dorotheus and Hephaistion.
Works by early Perso-Arabic astrologers, such as Masha’allah and Sahl bin Bishr reflect the Hellenistic approach more closely than later authors. For this reason, I’ve consulted “On Elections” by Sahl bin Bishr (9th century CE) , available in Choices and Inceptions, for another perspective on some matters. Still, there are some significant differences which are due to the influence of a more finely developed horary.
Event to Horary to Electional
I found an interesting chain of influence in my exploration exploration of early electional astrology. It is well known that techniques for event and consultation charts gave rise to horary. However, what is interesting is that the extensive development of horary by Persian astrologers transformed it from being primarily about the symbolism of the stakes of the chart to being about ever finer distinctions. These distinctions help to make the horary chart come alive and tell a much deeper story. This greater amount of informational content and ability to make fine distinctions is very helpful for horary, where one wants to be able to say specific things about the outcome.
Unfortunately, in my opinion, these horary rules then in turn influenced electional astrology. Electional astrology became more about fine distinctions such as transfer to of light and connections between accidental rulers in the Middle Ages. I feel this is unfortunate because electional astrology has very different aims. One is not interested in minutiae, fine distinctions, and the story of the chart in electional astrology in the same way as in horary (and natal) astrology. The earlier electional astrology was more focused on driving auspiciousness, momentum, and stability to the fore than in crafting an horary chart that speaks of success or a harmonious birth chart, as we’ll see.
A Different Type of Elections
There is much in Dorotheus (and Hephaistion) to suggest that electional technique was done quite differently in Hellenistic astrology. The Dorothean approach differs considerably from the later emphasis on the lord of the 1st, the application of the Moon, and the lord of the house signifying the topic. Can you imagine electional astrology without concern for void of course Moon and dignity scores? Void of course was not a concern for Dorotheus and dignity doesn’t appear to have been one either.
In Hellenistic astrology the outcome is shown by the Moon’s ruler, rather than the planet she applies to Also, the emphasis is on strengthening natural significators, not accidental ones. However, when it comes to strength, the focus is on accidental strength (angular places) and certain sign types, rather than on zodiacal dignity.
In my opinion, these differences are the strengths of the Hellenistic approach. It focuses on more overt factors, as electional astrology should. The point is to add momentum, stability, and auspiciousness to your undertaking. The priorities of Hellenistic electional astrology align with that mission.
A Distinct Branch
Many aspects of the Dorothean approach to elections were gradually lost in the later tradition. Today, even among stalwart traditionalists, electional astrology is practiced in the more Medieval style. It involves the fine distinctions of Medieval horary, often with some appeal to principles of natal astrology, Hellenistic or Medieval. What we see in the actual Hellenistic electional texts of Dorotheus and Hephaistion is something quite different.
Horary astrology is about fine distinctions while elections are about overt ones. Natal astrology is about rich possibilities for personal circumstance while elections are about trying to add momentum and auspiciousness to an undertaking. We must be careful about blurring the distinctions between these branches. Electional astrology was its own distinct branch with its own distinct concerns. In electional astrology the focus is on the Moon and natural significator, which are more overt symbols of the matter at hand than house rulers.
Despite textual issues, we can rest assured that the principles I will discuss in this article are Dorothean ones, not Medieval additions. I have checked the passages against the new translation from the Arabic by Dykes as well as the fragments, excerpts, and Hephaistion’s Book III. Additionally, the strong differences between the Dorothean approach and the Medieval approach argue against Medieval interpolation.
At times I will also compare with Sahl. However, by the time of Sahl we see that the development of an horary of finer and finer distinctions was already impacting the practice of electional astrology.
Let us now turn to Carmen and explore its doctrines. Then we will look at how to put these principles into practice.
Book V can be divided into two main sections. First off, Chapters 1 thru 6, 29, and 31, deal with the general principles of elections. These principles can be applied to facilitate a diverse range of elections, from when to start a journey to when to carry out a secret theft. By contrast, Chapters 7 thru 28, Chapter 30, Chapter 32, and Chapters 34 thru 44 pertain to special considerations. These sections deal with specific topics, from construction to sales, marriage to sickness. in Chapter 33 there appears to be some misplaced natal astrology.
Book V by Topic
Topically the book can be examined as follows (covering all the chapters). In what follows chapter numbers are given for the Dykes translation. Simply subtract 1 from the chapter number for the equivalent chapter in the Pingree translation.
- Rising Sign: Its fundamental importance in elections – Chapters 2-5 of Dykes; 1-4 of Pingree).
- The Moon: Its fundamental importance in elections – Chapters 5-6 and 29.
- Natural Significators: The importance of each planet as a natural significator in elections – Chapters 4, 6, 31 .
- Asking Favors: Making requests to different types of people – Chapter 15.
- Real Estate: Important things to examine for construction, demolition, leasing, buying land, and loans – Chapters 7-9, 11, and 21.
- Sales and Money: General buying and selling – Chapters 10 and 44. Money and possessions (with some natal material) – Chapter 33.
- Servitude and Animals: Slaves, animals, imprisonment – Chapters 12-14 and 28.
- Teaching, Letters, and Wills: When to write or teach some topic – Chapters 16, 27, and 42 (Ch. 27 is really inceptional, i.e. an event chart, rather than electional).
- Partnership: Courtship, marriage, and the like – Chapters 17-20.
- Journeys: When to leave and ship or vehicular matters – Chapters 22-26, 35.
- Illness: Event chart indications and elections for medicine and dispelling spirits (exorcism) – Ch. 30, 32, 38-42.
- Legal Contests: Mainly event chart indications – Ch. 34.
- Thieves and Fugitives: Mainly event chart indications of theft, lost items, and runaways – Ch. 36-37.
In this article, we will be exploring the general principles. The sections pertaining to those principles are those on the Ascendant, the Moon, and the natural significations of the planets. Therefore, I recommend a reading of chapters 1-6, 29, and 31 for a good introduction to elections.
The Rising Sign
Surprisingly, Dorotheus begins his book on elections with four chapters on choosing a rising sign that will facilitate success. By contrast, traditional electional astrology usually puts the emphasis on the lord of the Ascendant and the application of the Moon, not the type of sign rising.
The first chapter (or two in Dykes) introduces the book and stresses the importance of the rising sign for every action. Whether the sign is straight or crooked in rising is paramount, as it is indicative of whether “its end will be good or bad” (Dorotheus, Book V, Ch. 1, Pingree trans., 2005, p. 262). The next three chapters further explore the importance of rising sign type.
Crooked and Straight Signs (Ch. 2)
The signs that rise straight on their rising (those from Cancer through Sagittarius), if they chance to be unharmed, bring about their dealings without impediment. The crooked ones (those from Capricorn through Gemini) without the testimony of benefic stars, indicate what is hard to come about and takes a long time. (Hephaistion, III.1, Gramaglia trans., 2013, p. 34)
This matter of crooked or straight rising signs is important enough to be stressed first by both Dorotheus and Hephaistion.
Unfortunately, this is a case where the Dorothean manuscript conflicts with the reconstruction. The Arabic manuscript states to favor crooked signs but Hephaistion’s treatment of Dorotheus states to favor straight signs. In my original version of this article I echoed the Pingree translation (from a later Latin manuscript) that favored crooked signs. Ben Dykes new translation is from the Arabic where it also favors crooked signs but he has corrected the translation to read “straight” for “crooked” following Hephaistion.
Hephaistion (5th century CE) was an astrologer whose language was Greek and had access to a Greek copy of Dorotheus. By contrast, the Arabic translation was made from a Pahlavi translation, and is a work 3 or 4 centuries after Hephaistion. Therefore, Hephaistion is considered the more reliable source for the original passage. I’ve actually quoted from Hephaistion’s paraphrase of Dorotheus above due to its greater clarity. Dorothean fragments and excerpts also support the Hephaistion interpretation.
Sahl and Straight Signs
Sahl bin Bishr (9th century CE) was also influenced by Dorotheus. He favored straight signs lending further support to the view that there was an error in the Arabic manuscript which favored crooked signs. At multiple points in On Elections, Sahl advised that straight signs are associated with better and more stable results.
And always set up the Ascendant and the Moon, in all beginnings, in signs of straight ascension, because they signify ease and progress; and you should not put them in signs of crooked ascension, because they signify complication or hardship or slowness. (Sahl bin Bishr, On Elections, #26, Dykes trans., 2012, p. 102)
One of the reasons for confusion is that the symbolism could be said to support either type of sign as desirable. Crooked signs (signs of short ascension) rise fast, so one could see how that could be symbolic of quick success. However, they rise off-kilter which could be symbolic of lack of stability and being corruptible. Reading with Hephaistion it is the stability or rectitude (as with “fixed” signs discussed below) which is key here, so we should favor straight signs (signs of long ascension).
Identifying Crooked and Straight Signs
Which signs are crooked or straight depends on whether you are in the northern or southern hemisphere. The straight signs are Cancer thru Sagittarius in the northern hemisphere. These signs rise more perpendicular to the horizon so they symbolize rectitude and rise over a longer period. Crooked signs (Capricorn thru Gemini in the northern hemisphere) rise on more of an angle so they symbolize irregularity and rise over a shorter period. These are reversed in the southern hemisphere.
For clarity, the northern hemisphere straight signs are Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, and Sagittarius. The northern hemisphere crooked signs are Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces, Aries, Taurus, and Gemini.
Sign Quadruplicity (Ch. 3-4)
Tropical (i.e. cardinal or moveable) signs (Aries, Cancer, Libra, Capricorn) indicate only brief activity. Therefore, action may break off before completion and need to be repeated. Twin (i.e. mutable or common) signs (Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, Pisces) indicate complexity. Therefore, an additional condition may arise that needs to be addressed before the action completes. Since both of these signs encourage additional demands, one should elect when a fixed sign is rising (Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, Aquarius).
Combining Quadruplicity and Ascensions
Fixed signs and straight ascensions are often grouped together for signifying long lasting and fortunate things, particularly in later authors like Sahl. Similarly, cardinal signs and crooked signs are often grouped together as encouraging quick changes but also being prone to upset. As signs vary in terms of their actual ascensional time, it seems that some later medieval authors (like Sahl) viewed longer ascension signs as straighter and more able to balance out something like cardinality (i.e. add more stability). Similarly, Aries, one of the signs of shortest ascension (in northern hemisphere) and a cardinal sign. It would be the quickest but in the most unstable and herky-jerky way, so could be particularly problematic.
Sign Sect/Sex (Ch. 5)
It is stronger and more fortunate to elect when the sign rising is of the same sect as the time of the election. In other words, for an election in the day time, one should have a diurnal sign rising. Diurnal signs are the masculine signs, and are all of the fire and air signs. By night, one should have a nocturnal sign rising. The nocturnal signs are the feminine signs, and they are all of the water and earth signs. For more on sign sect in Hellenistic astrology, see my article on the topic.
Rising Sign Conclusions
When one combines these sentiments one should conclude that in general terms it is Leo (the straight, fixed, diurnal sign) that is the most fortunate rising sign to elect with by day. Similarly, Scorpio (the straight, fixed, nocturnal sign) is the most fortunate rising sign to elect with by night. This holds for those electing from the northern hemisphere. The straight signs become crooked and vice-versa when in the southern hemisphere. Therefore, take the opposite signs as those mentioned in this section if you are practicing in the southern hemisphere.
Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, and Aquarius by day, or Taurus, Cancer, Leo, and Virgo by night, can give you two out of three. Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, and Virgo by day or Libra, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces by night give only one of the three indications. By this logic it is generally unwise to elect with Capricorn or Pisces by day and Aries or Gemini by night. They give none of the three indications, and would greatly encourage instability. Note that Pisces and Aries also have the shortest ascensional times (most crooked signs)
The bulk of material on the Moon is in Chapter 6 (Ch. 5 in Pingree). Interestingly, a passage at the end of Chapter 6 provides a different perspective than typical. I quote Pingree’s (2005) English translation:
Look concerning the commencement of every matter at the ascendent and the Moon. The Moon is the strongest of what is [possible] if it is above the earth, especially if this is at night; the ascendent is the strongest of what is [possible] if the Moon is under the earth by day. (Dorotheus, Book V, Ch. 5, Pingree trans., 2005, p. 267)
This passage implies that rising sign should be given primary consideration by day (especially if the Moon is below the horizon). By contrast, the Moon should be given primary consideration by night (especially if she is above the horizon). This is another fascinating doctrine that has apparently been lost and could be a fruitful avenue for further electional research.
Moon/Ascendant Similarity in Symbolism
In Chapter 5, discussing sign sect, Dorotheus noted that it is good when the Moon is in a sign that is in sect. The Moon should be in a diurnal sign by day or a nocturnal sign by night. Similarly, there are passages in Book V that imply that you want to avoid putting the Moon in a mutable sign. Therefore, there is a parallel between the Ascendant and the Moon for elections.
This is also reflected in the quote of Sahl above on straight signs. The indications given for the rising sign also apply to the Moon, but more so at night, especially when she is above the horizon.
However, the Moon is in fall and often via combusta in Scorpio. Via combusta was one of the corruptions of the Moon (discussed below). Hephaistion also advised not to use planets in fall. Therefore, keep in mind that Scorpio may not be the ideal sign for the Moon in nocturnal elections in the same way it can be for the Ascendant.
Importance of Sign Type
There are some passages by Dorotheus on electing for a sea journey (V.26 #35-36) which really highlight the importance he placed on sign type. Today, electional astrologers are very concerned about the void of course Moon (more on this below). However, Dorotheus emphasized that even if the Moon is aspected by no planet, if she is in a stake and in one of the appropriate signs that he noted at the beginning of the book then it is good. He then emphasized the same for the Ascendant and Moon more generally when they lack any aspects also. Therefore, we might surmise that ideally we want both an aspect from a benefic and a good sign type (for Moon and Ascendant). Lacking one condition, the other becomes even more crucial.
The Moon’s Lord
Another contrast with typical traditional electional doctrine is that there is less emphasis on the lord of the Ascendant. However, the lord of the Moon is very important (and possibly that of the Sun). In Ch. 6 (a passage attributed in the manuscript to Valens), it is advised that one is to pay great attention to the Sun and Moon and the lords of their signs. After that, the Sun is no longer mentioned and the section pertains only to the Moon. The Moon is said to indicate the base or start of the action while its ruler indicates how things end up.
Today, there is more stress placed on the aspectual application of the Moon. This is also mentioned by Dorotheus but is given much less stress than the lord of the Moon in indicating the development and success of the matter. Additionally, as we’ll see, Dorotheus emphasized the Moon’s separations more than her applications.
Success by Lord of the Moon
Hephaistion (III.2 #6) echoed these sentiments. He advised that if the Moon is in a stake while her lord is in a cadent place then things start well but become unproductive in the end. The reverse situation is said to hold when the Moon is cadent while her lord is in a stake. In that case, things start badly but turn out productive in the end. See “Fortifying the Moon” below for more on this issue.
For the beginnings belong to changeable Selēnē
herself, but the accomplishment to the powerful god of the house.
(Hephaistion directly quoting Dorotheus, III.2 #8, Gramaglia trans., 2013, p. 37)
Sun Lord, MC, Lot of Fortune
Hephaistion advised to look at the Sun and its lord in the same manner for diurnal elections. This echoes the passage about the Sun and Moon and the lords of their signs which was attributed to Valens in the Dorotheus manuscript. In fact, Dykes adds that there is evidence this passage is actually from the original Dorotheus. It is echoed in Hephaistion as well as in
Both Dorotheus and Hephaistion also add to look at the Ascendant and Midheaven. They had both already stressed the Ascendant so that is no surprise. However, it is unclear how they want the Midheaven to be examined. This may just refer to the desire to have the Moon and benefics in the Ascendant and Midheaven.
Additionally, Hephaistion advised to place a benefic with the Lot of Fortune or at least ruling it. Dorotheus also has a minor comment to examine the lord of Fortune, so here Hephaistion may be clarifying what was meant. Still, the primary emphasis is on the Moon, her lord, and the sign rising.
Fortifying the Moon
According to Dorotheus, we should fortify the Moon and her lord. The main way we do this is to put the Moon and her lord in the stakes, with benefics regarding them. We must also avoid corruptions of the Moon (discussed further below).
When it comes to strengthening the Moon, we again find a variance from the typical doctrine. It is often said in modern electional astrology that the Moon shouldn’t be in the rising sign because it could create instability. However, in Book V we find it explicitly advised that one put the Moon (and its lord) in the Ascendant (1st house) or Midheaven (10th house) if possible. Those are the strongest two positions, indicative of the greatest success.
Generally, we want to put the Moon in one of the stakes (1st, 10th, 7th, or 4th houses). Avoid putting the Moon (or its lord) in a cadent place (12th, 6th, 9th, 3rd). Even succedent places can indicate delays when the Moon is placed in them so the stress is on the stakes, especially for the Moon’s lord.
Roots of Modern Moon-Ascendant Prohibition
By the time of Sahl (9th century) we find a prohibition against putting a waxing Moon in the 1st place if she is not regarded by her lord. My guess is that the doctrine of not putting the Moon in the Ascendant resulted from a later distortion of a Dorothean passage on electing for a journey. In that passage, Dorotheus advised not to put the Moon in the 1st if it was aspected harshly by a malefic. This is presumably because both the Ascendant and Moon can signify the body, so together they strongly signify the body. In such a scenario a harsh aspect from a malefic could signify bodily harm.
When it comes to strengthening any planet, it is important to take into account the regards of the benefics and malefics. The planet should not be regarded (i.e. whole sign aspect) by malefics from square or opposition. It should be regarded by benefics. This holds for the Moon, her lord, and the other factors discussed.
Corruptions of the Moon
Dorotheus advised to avoid starting an action when the Moon is corrupted. Corruption is defined as pertaining to one of the following conditions.
An eclipse (solar or lunar) is a corruption of the Moon. This is especially so if it is in the sign the Moon occupies in the nativity or a sign of the same triplicity (i.e. element). Similarly, Hephaistion added to avoid the Moon on the nodes or in her extreme southern declination (90 degrees after south node).
The New and Full Moon are lesser corruptions than the eclipse. A New Moon is a corruption of the Moon because the Moon being hidden under the Sun’s light lacks exposure. However, this is actually beneficial according to Dorotheus for elections involving secret actions, especially if commenced as the Moon is moving out from the rays. A Full Moon (Sun-Moon opposition) is also a corruption and is said to indicate quarrels and upset.
Moon at End of a Sign
The Moon is corrupted in the last bound of a sign. The last bound is always ruled by Mars or Saturn.
Lunar Twelfth-Part with a Malefic
The Moon is corrupted when her twelfth-part falls in a sign occupied by a malefic. I originally interpreted twelfth-part of a malefic in Dorotheus to mean a twelfth-part ruled by a malefic. However, Hephaistion clarified that it is a twelfth-part that falls in the sign occupied by Mars or Saturn.
Moon in the Via Combusta
The Moon is corrupted when she is in the degrees from 15 Libra to 15 Scorpio. This seems to pertain to descending south toward the midpoint (at 15 Scorpio) between the celestial equator (0 Libra) and the furthest southern latitude of the ecliptic (0 Capricorn) given the comments on it. Dorotheus described it as descending to the south in the middle of the line of equality. Therefore, this should probably be reversed in the southern hemisphere (15 Aries to 15 Taurus).
Moon in IX in a Twin Sign
The Moon is corrupted when she is in the 9th house and in a mutable or common sign. This condition is said to cause things to become nullified.
Slow and Slowing Moon
The Moon is corrupted when she is decreasing in speed while moving less than twelve degrees per day. This is indicative of slowness and difficulty.
Being with or Regarded by Malefic
Avoid electing when the Moon is in the same sign as a malefic or is being regarded by one. My understanding is that this means you want to avoid any close degree-based aspect with a malefic or a harsh whole sign regard (malefic opposing or dominating the Moon).
When the Moon must be Corrupted
Dorotheus ends the sections on a corruptions of the Moon with a remedy for those situations when you can’t avoid some corruption of the Moon. Echoing his continual stress of the 1st and 10th places, he adds that a benefic in one of those places can help an election succeed that must be undertaken during a period of lunar corruption.
So understand when you consider what I have put down for you of the corruption of the Moon, and do not start anything in it; but if a matter comes which you are not able to put off until the condition of the Moon is suitable, then let Jupiter or Venus be in the Ascendant or in the house of authority [10th place]. (Dorotheus, V.6 #15, Dykes trans., 2017, p. 235)
Note on Lack of Concern for Void of Course Moon
One of the more interesting differences between Hellenistic and Medieval electional astrology is the lack of concern over void of course Moon. There is no mention in Dorotheus of void of course Moon. It is also not mentioned in Hephaistion’s treatment of corruptions of the Moon. In terms of electional astrology, this appears to be a Persian addition. Supporting this view, we see Sahl tack on void of course at the end of his list of the corruptions of the Moon with the following note which appears to acknowledge its Persian origins.
The tenth, which Māshā’allāh and the sages of our time have said: this is if the Moon were empty in [her] course. (Sahl bin Bishr, On Elections, #22g, Dykes trans., 2012, p. 101)
Hellenistic Void of Course
There was a concept of void of course Moon in Hellenistic astrology. It was defined by Antiochus. It appears in Porphyry (Ch. 23) and Rhetorius (Ch. 39 & 112). It seems to have been mainly used for natal astrology, judging from Porphyry’s paraphrase of Antiochus.
There are two Hellenistic definitions (both from Antiochus) and they differ considerably from the modern notion. Basically, a void of course Moon is one that just disappeared (i.e. is applying to conjoin the Sun) or one that will not complete an aspect with another planet in the next 30 degrees of travel.
It is termed void of course whenever the Moon does not conjoin any one [of the planets] either zodiacally or partilely or by aspect or by kollesis or within 30 degrees of the next conjunction or when it is going to make a conjunction [with the Sun]. And nativities of this sort [are] undistinguished and lacking in advancement. (Porphyry, Ch. 23, Holden trans., 2009, p. 18)
Note that void of course doesn’t have to do with sign boundaries. The concept pertaining to sign boundaries developed later in the Perso-Arabic period. For instance, it is found in the definition given by Abu Ma’shar. Therefore, if you want to add void of course as a corruption of the Moon, consider using it in the Hellensitic sense.
Finally, the way that the Moon’s aspects are viewed also has some subtle differences from typical doctrine. Typically, the separations of the Moon are not very significant because they are said to pertain to the past. It is the applications of the Moon which are typically given crucial importance as they represent the future. Similarly, Dorotheus associated the separation with ongoing situations and what has passed, and the application with things to come. However, the separations, rather than applications, of the Moon are typically emphasized in Dorothean elections.
Separation and Basis
In Chapter 6, the separations of the Moon (particularly those in the same sign) are indicative of the basis of the action. They ideally should be from benefics. The exception is in the matter of fleeing from those who wish one harm. In such case the symbolism of the Moon fleeing from malefics takes precedence. Interestingly, the importance of the separations is noted before the applications are discussed.
When electing for buying and selling, the Moon’s separation is vitally important. Dorotheus advised that the Moon may symbolize the commodity, the planet she separates from the seller, and the planet she applies to the buyer. Therefore, the seller will want to emphasize the strength of the planet the Moon separates from.
Application and Outcome
The star to which the Moon connects is also very important if the election pertains to creating a new situation rather than modifying an existing one. Again, the separated planet represents the current situation, while the applied one indicates a new situation. Dorotheus advised to make the planet the Moon applies to strong, by putting it in a stake (i.e. angle).
This reflects his advice for the lord of the Moon, and shows a parallel symbolism between the two. However, it is important to remember that greater stress is placed on the lord of the Moon than on her application in Dorothean elections.
Summary of the Lunar Principles
There is a lot of information pertaining to the use of the Moon in elections in Dorotheus. Below, I summarize the Dorothean principles for using the Moon. I particularly highlight the way they differ from typical traditional electional doctrine:
- It is the Moon and Ascendant that are important in the Dorothean doctrine, but not necessarily the lord of the Ascendant. The sign of the Ascendant is the most important by day and the Moon sign is most important by night, but both are always significant.
- The type of sign the Moon is in plays a big role in facilitating the action, as does the type of sign of the Ascendant.
- The Lord of the Moon is very important and signifies the final outcome so it should be strengthened.
- A strong Moon (or planet generally) is one in an angle, especially the 1st or 10th house, while weakest is when cadent.
- Avoid corruptions, like lunations, and harsh malefic influences on the Moon.
- Pay attention to the separations of the Moon as the basis or foundation of the action, good or bad, and strengthen the planet the Moon conjoins to.
- There is not concern given to having the Moon apply to such and such house lord of such and such topic. Strengthening the topic itself actually pertains to natural significators (see below).
By natural significations I mean the significations of the planets themselves. These significations are in contrast to the accidental significations that planets take on by ruling or being in houses. Natural significations are much more immediate and overt. When a planet is generally strengthened or made more prominent, it is like turning the volume up on that planet’s energy and influence.
Importantly, we see more of an emphasis on generally strengthening the planet that signifies the matter in Dorothean electional astrology. This is in contrast with the preoccupation with connecting the lord of the first and the Moon to the lord of the relevant house. That approach became prominent in the late Middle Ages and is still dominant today.
Staking the Benefics
In Chapter 3, Dorotheus advised to make the benefics strong and the malefics weak. By strong, he meant angular. He explicitly advised to put the benefics in the angles, especially the 1st or 10th. Presumably, we also want the malefics to be cadent. He noted that malefics in the Ascendant (or regarding it) slow things down and create trouble. Therefore, particularly avoid putting any malefics in the 1st or 10th house.
In Chapter 6, Dorotheus advised to let Jupiter or Venus (the benefics) be in the 1st or the 10th. Additionally, he advised that they should be in good condition (see corruptions below).
Therefore, we seek to make the benefics more prominent and strong, and the malefics less so. We harness the natural significations of the benefics for good and ease. When we can, we obscure the natural significations of the malefics by putting them in cadent places.
Fortifying the Natural Significator
In Chapter 31, Dorotheus advised to look at the lord of the action and make sure it is in good condition. He clarified that he meant the planet which naturally signifies the thing. Again, this is not the lord of the house that signifies that matter, but the planet itself that signifies the matter. Below is a list of the matters he associated with planets (and their combinations).
- Saturn and Jupiter together: buying land (i.e. real estate), power of attorney
- Mercury: theft, gifts, arguments, practice, friendship, partnership, insults, love, trades, cultural events
- Venus: marriage, love, food, perfume, aesthetics
- Mars: fights, military, war, etc.
- Jupiter: government, asking favors, momentous needs for good
- Sun and Jupiter together: important or beneficial matters but not involving secrecy or evil
Corruption of Natural Significators
You will want to avoid weakening the natural significator that most pertains to the matter of the election. The planets can be corrupted in the following ways (from Dorotheus V.6 #16-18):
- Under the Rays
- Cadent and in a mutable sign
- With a malefic in the same sign
- Aspecting a malefic by degree
- In “Dark” Signs
These are self-explanatory except the “dark signs” part. Dykes has taken this to refer to Libra and Capricorn following Sahl. I think what is being referred to is the places that don’t regard the Ascendant (2nd, 8th, 6th, 12th).
Hephaistion on Solar Phases
When it comes to being under the rays, Hephaistion distinguishes particular distances from the Sun. For him, a star moving away from the Sun by 12 degrees starts to have activity and becomes fully active at 15 degrees. Going toward the Sun a planet loses power from 15 to 7 degrees away and become very weak when closer than 7 degrees.
Hephaistion also implies that oriental planets (those rising before the Sun) are stronger for day elections and occidental ones (those setting after the Sun) for night elections. He states that the opposite phases (by day/night) are sluggish.
The morning phases by night, and the evening ones by day, are more sluggish. (Hephaistion, III.4 #6, Gramaglia trans., 2013, p. 40)
Stakes in Elections
The stakes (1st, 10th, 7th, and 4th places) take on special meanings in Dorothean elections. The meanings depend primarily on the particular topic being elected for. Those meanings will be explored in the articles pertaining to those topics. This use of the stakes is even more prominent in the use of event charts for judging outcomes.
Hephaistion gave some general meanings for the stakes. He stated that the 1st place signifies the inquiry, the 10th the activity, the 7th the end, and the 4th what is hidden or secret. These can be helpful but as noted we will find that Dorotheus often assigned more specific meanings to each stake based on the topic of the election.
Meaning of Stakes in Dorotheus
The meanings of the stakes in Dorothean elections are very interesting. In my own opinion they reflect the 4 Aristotelian causes pretty nicely (1st as Efficient, 10th as Final, 7th as Formal, and 4th as Material). However, Dorotheus doesn’t say as much so beware taking the Aristotelian approach too far when it comes to the stakes. Still, there are some common themes to the way Dorotheus uses the stakes across many topics, which I touch on below.
Common to Dorothean elections is the sense that the 1st house is the initiator or thing under consideration (traveler, stolen object, accuser, master of escapee, doctor).
The 10th house is the purpose (e.g. reason for travel or escape, price/wage), decider (e.g. judge), and party in need (e.g. owner of stolen item, patient).
The 7th house is the partner (e.g. marriage partner), business partner (e.g. buyer, seller, or landlord on the other side of transaction), adversary (e.g. opponent, thief, slave, illness), or destination (e.g. place one is traveling to).
The 4th house is the result concerning the outcome sought or it is the material factor. In terms of material factors these include the dowry in marriage, quality of soil in cultivation, thief’s stash, treatment used on an illness, and the object being bought/sold.
To drive home the rules of this type of election, let’s look at an example. Let’s say you want to ask your boss for a raise. This involves asking a favor from someone in a position of authority so we will generally defer to Jupiter as the natural significator.
Here is your current situation below. Should you act now?
You should hold off for the moment. While Jupiter is in a stake (Sagittarius), as is the benefic Venus (Pisces), Mars is in a stronger place (10th; Gemini). Additionally, a mutable, nocturnal sign is rising and the Moon is in a mutable nocturnal sign.
When to Act: Limited Options
The choice of when to act depends largely on how much time you have and your limitations. Let’s say you had to act today during business hours. A little bit earlier, at 3:30 pm would have been better as it would have given Leo rising, which is an ideal rising sign for a diurnal election. Additionally, Jupiter would be in a close trine with the Ascendant, the Moon is uncorrupted (her twelfth-part is in the 1st house), she is with a benefic, and her ruler is Jupiter which is strong. Mars is still stronger than we’d like but overall this time is preferred for an election that must be that day during work.
In the next article, we will look at some more considerations specific to asking favors.
In conclusion, Dorothean electional astrology differs in many ways from today’s electional astrology. It involves paying greater attention to the sign type of the Ascendant and the Moon. We also seek to strengthen the Moon, her lord, the benefics, and the natural significator of the matter. The planet that the Moon applies to or separates from might also be significant depending on the nature of the election. The angles or “stakes” of the chart are the critical houses used for strengthening planets. They are also usually significant for characterizing important aspects of the matter.
Personally, I prefer the Dorothean approach to elections. I urge you to experiment with the guidelines for electing as discussed in this article. Only through keeping an open mind and a willingness to experiment can we decide the best times for facilitating actions.
Dorotheus of Sidon, & al-Tabari, U. (2017). Carmen Astrologicum: The ’Umar al-Tabari Translation. (B. N. Dykes, Trans.). Minneapolis, Minn.,: The Cazimi Press.
Dykes, B. (2012). Choices and Inceptions: Traditional Electional Astrology. Minneapolis, MN: The Cazimi Press.
Hephaistion of Thebes (2013). Apotelesmatics Book III: On Inceptions. (E. Gramaglia, Trans.). Minneapolis, MN: The Cazimi Press.
Porphyry, & Serapio. (2009). Porphyry the Philosopher. (J. H. Holden, Trans.). Tempe, AZ: American Federation of Astrologers.
15 thoughts on “Elections and the Art of Choosing Times | 1. Dorothean Foundations”
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I learned from John Frawley that Moon on the asc in a natal chart is not well placed either. My cousin has an autistic son who has Moon exactly on the asc in Libra and a 12th house Mercury in Virgo (which I *thought* at the time would be a good thing, but since have learned otherwise from this website and other newly translated books. (His Mercury is also closely square a stationary direct Neptune in the 3rd). When he was born, I told his mother that he might have a slight speech impediment or a learning disability like dyslexia. I never expected that it would manifest as extremely as it did (nor did I want it to). For those who use chart layout patterns, his was a bundle and everything was on the eastern side of the chart (extreme self-containment).
It probably has something to do with my applying Moon-Venus conjunction in the 10th but I’ve known a few people really well that have had Moon in the first and/or very close to the Ascendant, all female, one of them from a long-term relationship. None of them were autistic or particularly learning disabled. One had a birth deformity though (relatively minor to the hand), and her Moon was on the Ascendant within about a degree (and she also had Saturn and Mars in her first house; and did I mention that her first house is Scorpio; she was born at night though) – she’s a radio personality at the local NPR affiliate and is generally quite nice and successful – no learning disability that I know of. Another had obsessive-compulsive disorder (her Moon was about 15 degrees earlier in the sign than the Ascendant). The third had the Moon in the 12th house but at the end of the sign, with the Ascendant at the beginning of the next sign, so Moon was on the Ascendant within a few degrees. She just had a larger than life and very quirky personality. All three were very drawn to the irrational, occult, astrology, and herbology. I’d be interested in the chart you mentioned, but I’d understand if you can’t share it due to privacy concerns.
That’s very interesting – is the Moon in Via combusta? (or maybe conjunct some star?)
Also, you may like to know that Mercury in 12th is considered good by Firmicus Maternus.
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Another great post 🙂
Regarding the idea of the Moon’s position in the 1st as bad – I was wondering if it might have something to do with the notion of its intrinsic enmity with the ascendant. The Moon is nocturnal, cold and moist and ascendant is diurnal,hence hot and dry. The Moon’s direction to ascendant was regarded as potentially very dangerous/able to kill, the same goes for the Sun/Moon contacts.
I can buy that argument as a reason why it may have later come to be regarded as a poor placement for an election. What I usually hear is that the Moon is unstable and changeable so by placing the Moon in the Ascendant you create instability, sort of like how Dorotheus avoids Cardinal, and especially Mutable, signs in elections. Ptolemy really put a lot of stress on looking at things from the Aristotelian hot/cold and wet/dry dichotomies and was very influential upon the astrologers of the Middle Ages, so perhaps that played a part.