Medical Astrology

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An image of a zodiacal man representing medical astrology with the rulership of the signs over his body and organs from the late fifteenth century, Germany. Reproduced by permission of Fortean Picture Library.

Medical Astrology

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

There are two completely different components to medical astrology: one that belongs in nativities, and one that is done through interrogations. Both parts have their genesis in Hellenistic astrology.

Nativities

The early medical applications in nativities involved the following:

  1. The general calculation of the length of life through the Apheta, a calculation that later become known as the hyleg.
  2. The sign position of the Sun could indicate the nature of infirmities, or even death if sufficiently afflicted.
  3. Sickness could also be generally interpreted through the delineation of the 6th house. (This technique did not become typical until the Arabic period. In the Hellenistic era, the 6th and the 12th houses were named after the Bad Spirit, so bad things could happen here, but this would not have been restricted specifically to illness.)
  4. Bodily form and temperament could, to a certain extent, indicate particular tendencies toward certain health conditions, as well as ideas for living a more successfully healthy life. Because of the development of astrological methods of computing temperaments, this interfaced to astrology.
  5. The calculation of planetary periods of the life, which could have health considerations as well as more general ones, such as riches, marriage, children, etc.

In nativities, the signs were assigned to parts of the body, as shown in the accompanying table.

Thus, for example, the Sun in Sagittarius could mean possible weakness of the hips or the region of the hips.

Parts of the Body Assigned to the Signs of the Zodiac
Zodiac Sign Body Part
Aries Head, face
Taurus Neck
Gemini Shoulders, arms and hands
Cancer Breasts and stomach
Leo Heart and back
Virgo Intestines
Libra Kidneys, small of the back, genitals
Scorpio Bladder, reproductive organs
Sagittarius Hips, thighs
Capricorn Bones, skin, knees, teeth
Aquarius Shins, ankles
Pisces Feet

The planets were also assigned parts of the body, as the accompanying table shows. They generally overlapped with their traditional sign rulerships.

Parts of the Body Assigned to the Traditional Planets
Planet Body Part
Saturn Bones, knees, spleen, teeth
Jupiter Arteries, blood, lungs, ribs, sides, veins, reproductive seed
Mars Gall bladder, kidneys, reproductive organs, veins
Sun Left eye (women), right eye (men), heart, sinews
Venus Kidneys, small of the back, reproductive organs and seed, throat
Mercury Brain, hands, tongue
Moon Left eye (men), right eye (women), brain, bladder, stomach, bowels, womb

These planetary rulerships would be utilized either to delineate the effects through house rulership, or to determine if a planet were particularly compromised in the chart.

In the Arabic and Latin Medieval periods, the sixth house emerged as a focal point for the delineation of illness. The ruler of the sixth house, and particularly its debilities, could show something about the frequency and severity of illness, specifically when that ruler was afflicted by primary direction.

The periods of life were not primarily or exclusively a medical technique. They were used to examine the predominant planetary influence of any given period, much like the Vedic system of Dhasas or Bhuktis.

As for death, the sign of the eighth house was understood to have something to do with the means or manner of death, although this was usually counted as the eighth from the part of fortune, not the ascendant. In the extant horoscopes from the Hellenistic period, references to death far outnumber references to accidents or disease.

Interrogations

The other primary system for using medical astrology involves interrogations, which are better known as horary, event, and electional astrology.

The form of delineation is the same for the following two horary questions: What is the cause of my illness? What will be the course of the disease (as for the delineation of any event known as a decumbiture, which is a moment of health crisis)? The following are examples of such moments:

An acute event, such as a heart attack, stroke, breaking a bone, or being in a car accident

The time for checking into a hospital

The time that a diagnostic procedure is performed

The time that the patient is given a diagnosis

Waking up in the morning and finding that you are sick and cannot or should not get out of bed

Having that feeling that this time, the flu has really got you, even though you don’t experience full-blown symptoms, but only something like a tickling in your throat

In all event (decumbiture) charts, the first house is given to the patient. In horary questions about health conditions, the first house is for the person asking the question. When a person asks his or her own question, this is no problem. But when a question is asked about another person (or an animal, for example), the chart may need to be turned. The exception is that if a person asks on behalf of someone else, i.e., when the person asking is acting as the agent for the patient, then the patient is considered the first house, and the technical querent (person asking the question) is ignored. If this is not the case, then the chart is turned to give the patient to the house that most closely indicates the patient’s relationship to the querent (e.g., to the fifth house if the querent is the parent of the patient).

Before proceeding with the delineation, one of the things the astrologer needs to know is whether the disease is physical, mental, or spiritual. The following table compares some of the astrological indicators of physical vs. mental or spiritual disease.

Typical Configurations for Physical and Mental Diseases

Physical/Mental/Spiritual

Ascendant and Moon afflicted; their rulers not afflicted.
The Ascendant and the Moon not afflicted; but their rulers afflicted.

Mars or Saturn afflicting the Moon, but not the Ascendant.
Mars or Saturn afflicting the Ascendant, but not the Moon.

Jupiter in the first or sixth.
Ruler of the ninth or twelfth in the sixth (witchcraft).

Ruler of the first in the sixth.
Ruler of the sixth is Mercury (witchcraft).

Moon or Ruler of the Ascendant in the twelfth.
Ruler of the Moon or Ascendant in the twelfth.

The debate in classical medical astrology was about whether the Moon and the ascendant, or their rulers, represented the body or the mind. However, the presence of a twelfth house influence was an argument for witchcraft, which, in those days was believed to be a spiritual affliction. In modern parlance, “witchcraft” would be translated as involuntary coercion, a psychological affliction.

Before examining this classification, the astrological houses used in beginning a medical horary analysis need to be defined:

The first house represents the health and vitality of the patient/querent.

The fifth house shows the liver, and what virtue(s) are disrupted.

The sixth house shows the disease.

The seventh house shows the health care practitioner.

The eighth house shows the possibility of the death of the patient.

The tenth house shows either the method of cure, or the diagnostic method or technique, depending on the nature of the question.

The normal diagnosis assumes a condition of physical disease. While there are literally thousands of aphorisms that apply to medical astrology, the basic rules are fairly simple. Among the most important rules are:

The Moon represents acute conditions (ones that are less than 90 days in duration); the Sun represents chronic conditions. All the rules that are given as applying to the Moon are subsequently interpreted according to the placement of the Sun after 90 days.

It is better to have as little relationship as possible between the 1st and eighth houses, and the Moon and the eighth house. When there are ties between these, it is an indication of death. Death is defined as meaning that the person would have died in the seventeenth century, prior to the advent of modern medical crisis procedures. In modern times, this would be called a life-threatening illness, although it can still mean death.

A relationship between the first and sixth houses means the patient is the cause of his or her own disease. This usually translates to a lifestyle choice or decision, such as eating the wrong foods or ignoring a serious food allergy, taking a drug that provokes a reaction, or having to cope with too much stress.

A relationship between the sixth and eighth houses means there is a danger of the patient having the disease unto death, meaning the patient is likely to still have the condition at death. This does not mean the patient dies as a result of this condition.

In both decumbiture and medical electional delineation, the basic procedure is to look for an improvement in the patient (first), quite probably as a result of the treatment protocol (tenth), without putting the patient in danger (eighth), and without allowing the disease to become chronic (sixth).

In electional astrology, it is still common to be asked to elect a time for surgery, or other medical procedures. Some basic considerations:

Know the disease or condition. In order to elect a proper time, one needs to understand the context of the condition in question. Appropriate questions include: What is the purpose of the procedure? Is it meant to diagnose, or to cure? What part of the body is being affected (right or left)? What are the odds of survival of the procedure? What days of the week/times of the day does the health care provider operate? How long is the procedure? Is anesthesia given? Is it general or local? How long is the typical recuperation period?

Consider the condition of the Moon. The Moon is unequivocally the paramount concern in all medical charts. In surgery, the cardinal law is never to cut those portions of the body that are ruled by the sign of the Moon.

Consider the qualities (cardinal, fixed, or mutable) of the angles.

Often, the best service the electional astrologer can perform is to scan a period of time, such as several weeks, looking for the best possible time within the range of times specified by the healthcare practitioner. This involves eliminating the worst times, leaving times that, while perhaps not ideal, are at least acceptable.

—J. Lee Lehman

Sources:

Burnett, Charles, Keiji Yamamota, and Michio Yano. Abû Masar: The Abbreviation of the Introduction to Astrology. Leiden, Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1994.
Culpepper, Nicolas. Astrological Judgment of Diseases from the Decumbiture of the Sick. 1655.
Lehman, J. Lee. The Martial Art of Horary Astrology. West Chester, PA: Whitford Press, 2002.
Levy, Rachel. The Beginning of Wisdom: An Astrological Treatise by Abraham ibn Ezra. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1939.
Lilly, William. Christian Astrology. London: T. Brudenell, 1647. Reprint, Philadelphia: David McKay Co., 1935.
Neugerbauer, Otto, and H. B. Van Hoesen. Greek Horoscopes. American Philosophical Society: Philadelphia, 1959.
Saunders, Richard. The Astrological Judgment and Practice of Physick, Deduced from the Position of the Heavens at the Decumbiture of the Sick Person, & c. London: Thomas Sawbridge, 1677.