Elections and the Art of Choosing Times | 3. Dorotheus on Letters and Teaching

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In the first article of this series, I presented the general rules for electional astrology as laid out by Dorotheus. I briefly touched on how they contrast with the rules of the later tradition. We found some differences in emphasis in the electional astrology of Dorotheus.  One must be attentive to the sign types of the Ascendant and the Moon, the strength of the Moon itself, the strength of her lord, strengthening benefics over malefics, and making the natural significator of the matter more prominent. In the second article of this series, I looked at the more specific guidelines for electing a time to ask a favor.  We saw a reiteration of the importance of a strong Moon and strong natural significators. Now we look at letters, news, and other things under the dominion of Mercury, the messenger.

Letters and Information

In this article, we will again deal with a common but specific type of election.  The matter at hand is that of writing and teaching. For instance, when is the best time to write to someone?  We would typically think of this in terms of when to send a letter, when to teach, or when to deliver some important information.  I am of the opinion that the same rules apply to signing or delivering contracts as well.  The electional side of this was dealt with in Chapter 16 (Ch. 15 of Pingree trans.) of Book V of Carmen.

We will also attempt to draw information from Chapter 27 (Ch. 26 of Pingree). That chapter pertains to interpreting the event chart of when one receives a letter or some other information (such as a book).

Writing and Teaching

Dorotheus is very concise in his advise on this matter. I quote the entire Chapter 15 of the Pingree translation below, which is one sentence:

Let this be when Mercury is with the Moon and none of the malefics is with it or aspecting it while Mercury is eastern and is not under the [Sun’s] rays or retrograde in [its] motion and the Moon also is free from the misfortunes which I wrote of [and] untroubled.     (Dorotheus, Book V, Ch. 15, Pingree trans., 2005, p. 271)


Not surprisingly, we notice that the key natural significator to strengthen in the matter is Mercury.  As is always the case with elections, we want the Moon strong.  Along with strengthening Mercury it is best if Mercury is oriental the Sun (morning rising) and not afflicted by malefics.  Finally, we want the Moon and Mercury to be linked together strongly. Ideally, we’d like them to be in the same sign.

It’s helpful to consider each separate factor as helpful.  One often has to write, teach, sign, or deliver important documents frequently. It is not always possible to do so when Mercury is direct, oriental, not in the beams, strong, not regarded by malefics, and with a strong Moon in the same sign.  In fact, it could be the case that such an ideal scenario doesn’t occur for months.  However, first we can use the general rules which I discussed in the first article, and go from there.

  1. Strengthen the Moon, as with all elections.
  2. Strengthen Mercury as the natural significator. A matutine (morning rising) Mercury is preferred.
  3. Make sure the Moon and Mercury are strongly linked together, with an application in the same sign being preferred.


An example may be in order.  Today is 9/2/2012.  Mercury is at 3 Virgo and is under the beams of the Sun.  Mercury will be under the beams for a while. It is also in a mutable and straight sign which is nocturnal.  Unfortunately, being under the beams and being in a mutable sign are not ideal.  Additionally, we have a letter that must be sent at some point in the next week. Ideally we want to send the letter at night as Mercury is in a nocturnal sign.  Mercury is at least oriental to the Sun and in a straight sign.

Election Example 9-2-12

We should strengthen the Moon and Mercury as much as possible. While doing this we need to link them together. Additionally, we’ll pay some extra attention to the signs of the Moon and Ascendant.

Connecting the Moon to Mercury

Currently, the Moon is in Aries which does not see Virgo. Therefore, the connection between the Moon and Mercury is quite weak.  Additionally, Mercury is connecting (applying aspect within 3 degrees) with Mars and the Moon is opposed to Saturn.  When the Moon connects with Mercury from Taurus, she will also be applying an opposition to Mars, which is not ideal.  On the other hand, when the Moon is in Gemini things look better. She will be in one of the stakes of Virgo, in Mercury’s domicile, and with the benefic Jupiter. She will not be regarded at all by Mars and only regarded by Saturn by inferior trine.

Strengthening the Moon

Gemini is a mutable sign and a crooked one at that. However, the fact the Moon will be with Jupiter and unafflicted by the malefics alleviates the instability of the sign.

The best time for such an election, in my opinion, is when the Moon is in Gemini and is rising while applying to Mercury.  This would be at moonrise, the night of the 7th, near midnight of the 8th.  Immediately after the Moon rises in Gemini, she would be on the proper side of the horizon (in halb).  Jupiter will be in the same sign which is fortunate. Both will be very prominent, as will Mercury and the Sun.

She connects with Mercury from a strong applying square, while Mercury is in a stake, advancing, lord of the Ascendant, with Fortune.  The benefic Jupiter would be prominent and the malefics would be weakened.

Letter Election - Constrained to a date from 9/2 to 9/9

Note on Combustion

While Mercury being under the beams is not ideal, Mercury is in its own sign and exaltation. Some Hellenistic astrologers (see Rhetorius and Serapion) thought that a planet was actually made stronger under the beams if it was in its exaltation or some other type of rulership. Mercury has exaltation and domicile rulership of its position, and rules the Sun in the same way.

Note on Mutability

Mercury, the Moon, and Ascendant would all be in mutable signs which is also not ideal. However, Jupiter in the 1st helps to alleviate this to a great degree. Additionally, we have made the Moon and Mercury as strong as we can.  We have also linked the Moon with Mercury as strongly as we can. The benefics have been augmented and the malefics diminished.


In conclusion, we have found a facilitating time, despite possibly discouraging circumstances (Mercury combust). In this case, our connection between the Moon and Mercury is even more ideal than having both in the same sign.  This is because Mercury is with the Sun so the Moon and Mercury will get together on a New Moon which is one of the corruptions of the Moon.

It is very important to go into elections looking to augment the time rather than to be a perfectionist. No matter what the general state of things looks like, there is always some times that are more optimal than others. As things will follow largely according to other root charts, such as your own natal chart, don’t go into elections with too much of a mindset of it being like the natal chart of your undertaking. When people do this they tend to see the flaws in the time and feel that things lean toward failure by default because of something like a combust Mercury. In other words, they see individual factors as sealing the fate of the undertaking. No, these currents are subtle. You can push against some currents. The point is to get some more significant currents working in your favor.

Clues from the News

Chapter 26 pertains to using the event chart of when some news arrives (such as a letter or other message). The chart is read to tell us what the news is or was about.  Interestingly, it is one part event chart astrology and another part natal astrology. We look at the relationship between event chart planets and natal positions.

The basic idea is to view the event chart as a set of transits to the natal chart. We determine if benefics are influencing natal Mercury, or transiting Mercury is influencing natal benefics. Also, we see if the transiting Moon is connecting to natal Mercury free from malefics.  Another method is given also, in which one looks to see if it is the benefics or the malefics that are transiting the places (or the stakes of the places) of the natal luminaries (Sun and Moon) and to judge according to that.

As far as input for our Mercurial elections goes, this is not extremely helpful.  We do see that Mercury again is important though. Mercury is the central planet to consider whether one is on the transmitting or receiving end of a message. When looking at the event chart of the act of receiving it essentially becomes more of a matter of transit analysis. Benefic transits to natal Mercury and Mercury transits to natal benefics show good news. If these involve malefics then we have bad news. Also, we want to see if it is transiting benefics or malefics that are mostly influencing the Lights (Sun and Moon).


In this special topic, we find that the natural significator of communications, Mercury, becomes very important. The general rules of elections are again also put to use.  This is a significant type of election for people in business or politics who must sign important documents, deliver important messages, and make important requests on a regular basis. The implications for this particular type of election extend beyond letters to the best times to sign contracts, deliver important emails, perform a lecture, make a webcast, file important legal paperwork, and even publish articles (I really need to use that more).  We live in very Mercurial times. Therefore, while the advice given by Dorotheus in Chapter 15 is very brief, it is some of the most versatile advice on electing that he has provided.


Dorotheus of Sidon. (2005). Carmen Astrologicum. (D. Pingree, Trans.). Abingdon, MD: Astrology Center of America.


Blogger interested in all things astrological, especially Hellenistic, medieval, Uranian, and asteroid astrology.

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