The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 2, titled:
With Chris Brennan and Benjamin Dykes
Episode originally released on July 19th, 2012.
Note: This is a transcript of an audio podcast. We strongly encourage you to listen to the audio version, which includes inflections that may not translate well when written out. Transcripts are created by using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and the text probably contains some errors and differences from the audio version. Please submit any corrections to Chris Brennan by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Transcribed by Gülşen Altay
Transcription released November 6th, 2018
Copyright © 2016 TheAstrologyPodcast.com
CHRIS BRENNAN: Hello. I am Chris Brennan and this is the second episode of the astrology podcast. The show is available at the astrologypodcast.com or you can find this on iTunes by searching for the astrology podcast. I am recording this episode today on Tuesday July 17, 2012. During this episode, I will be doing an interview with Dr. Benjamin Dykes who is one of the leading authorities in the world today on the subject of Medieval Astrology. I will be interviewing Ben about a new book that he has just published on the topic of electional astrology. The title of the book is Choices & Inceptions: Traditional Electional Astrology. The book is a compilation of translations of several Medieval text on electional astrology with material from authors such as Masha’allah, Sahl bin Bishr, al-Kindi, al-‘Imrani, al-Rijal, and a later author known as Bethen. The book is significant because this is the first time that many of the texts contained in the book have been translated in the any modern language and despite the fact that many of these text are foundational texts for the practice of Western electional astrology, many of them have not been available in wide circulation at least until now. During the course of the interview we will discuss some technical, conceptual and philosophical issues related to the practise electional astrology.
With that introduction out of the way, let’s get started with the interview.
Ben, welcome to the show.
BENJAMIN DYKES: Hi! Thanks for having me on.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Yeah. Thanks for being my first guest on the astrology podcast. Today we are gonna be talking about your new book which is titled of Choices & Inceptions: Traditional Electional Astrology. I thought that would be a good idea to start simply defining by our topic and maybe coming up with the definition of what exactly is electional astrology for those who may not be familiar with that branch? How would you define it?
BENJAMIN DYKES: Well, electional astrology very broadly, it is a very old branch of traditional astrology and old idea that goes back to other kinds of spiritual traditions too basically, it has to do with choosing auspicious times to do something and here we are talking about using different features of an astrological chart or even simple things like the motion of the Moon which is a very general thing to find auspicious times to act.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Okay and by act I guess you actually included that in your title because your title was kind of interesting. You could have titled it perhaps ‘Elections & Inceptions’ that would have been more familiar to a modern reader but you specifically use the word ‘choice’ there and why is that?
BENJAMIN DYKES: Well, a couple of things, you know for one thing, some of the kinds of texts that you will read, don’t just deal with something with an event or an action that is deliberately chosen, they do seen in some cases to have to do with if so called event charts as well but the word election just means choice from the Latin verb eligo, it is a normal word, it just means the choice so like in a political election that is when the citizens choose a leader so that is all it means is a choice and I wanted to bring that out particularly in the title.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure.
BENJAMIN DYKES: I called it election or choices because it has partly to do with making a deliberate choice and I also choice inception because inception means a beginning of something and that covers event charts as well but also because there is a linguistic difference in the texts. What I found was that in a lot of these texts when they talked about an election or choice, it often seem to have to do with instructions for the astrologer that this is how you choose the right kind of chart. I mean yes, a person is choosing to act in most cases but the astrologer is choosing the time whereas when they would talk about the action itself, they would often refer to it as an inception or beginning and so I suggested in the introduction that this word election which strangely enough does not seem to appear in earlier Greek sources, this idea of a choice might have been a term of art among astrologers and they instead referred to the action itself or what was happening as an inception or beginning.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Interesting. Yeah, that term inception obviously I am very familiar with that because in the earlier Greek texts, they would usually refer to this branch both of if electional astrology and inceptional astrology under the same heading just as a katarchic astrology using the Greek term katarche which just means a beginning or inception.
BENJAMIN DYKES: Right.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Yeah, it is interesting how we don’t use that where we kind of distinguish or at least modern texts tend to distinguish between elections almost as being beginnings that will take place at some point in the future like selecting on a auspicious moment to do something in the future versus an inception chart being, casting a chart for some event that are already occured in the past in order to see study the astrology of that event but it is interesting that at least originally they dealt with both of those under the same heading essentially.
BENJAMIN DYKES: Yeah, that is my understanding of it.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Okay. Well and that is a very important and this was the, I guess the second or third branch of traditional western astrology. You have mundane astrology which deals with cities and nations, you have natal astrology which deals with individuals like casting a chart for the moment of their birth, you have horary astrology which involves casting a chart for the moment of a question in order to determine the outcome of the question and then you have electional astrology which is choosing auspicious moments to begin ventures or undertakings although I guess even electional astrology we should probably rethink whether not that is even appropriate because it is perhaps the term inceptional astrology would be more appropriate since it is really just the type of astrology that deals with studying beginnings essentially. Right?
BENJAMIN DYKES: Maybe. The problem that I would have, the only hesitation I have right now about that, is that virtually anything could be considered an inception but the traditional astrologers had certain rules of and about how you were supposed to understand an inception. What I mean is that you know sometimes people will cast a chart for some event, let’s say a natural disaster, thinking for example of Saint Lucia, there was the tsunami in the Pacific I think it was what 2006 something like that.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Yeah, 2005.
BENJAMIN DYKES: 2005 and at the time of the tsunami astrologers were putting up charts, treated the …… charts and they would notice things like that Uranus was on the Midheaven and that Mars was squaring Uranus and they would see now, this shows the quality of the event but Uranus is on the Midheaven somewhere in the world 24 hours a day and there aren’t tsunamis everywhere 24 hours a day.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure.
BENJAMIN DYKES: I don’t wanna simply say inceptional astrology because that would make people think that just any old thing could have a chart that explains what it is and I don’t think that is true. We have to bring in other ideas like the fact that an event like a mundane event is often related to another kind of chart which is called its root chart just as an election or choice that you make is going to be related somehow to your nativity and that is the root chart. I think there is a risk when we say inceptional astrology, if people don’t understand how to conceptualize that it can seem as though it refers to just any old event that happens.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure and that was actually an interesting discussion that takes place a few times during the course of the book is some of the authors that you translate it since it is a compilation of translations of Medieval texts they keep talking about this issue of the root chart and it is something that I don’t see a lot of discussion about in modern text on electional astrology but there seems to have been a debate about to what extent you needed to relate an electional chart back to a root chart or foundational chart as you are calling which is either a natal chart or even a horary question apparently could act as a proxy chart for the natal chart.
BENJAMIN DYKES: Yeah, those are the two main mounts they talked about
CHRIS BRENNAN: Right, the idea is essentially that the…, I guess could you explain on that at least from the perspective of the natal chart? What the idea is there and using that as a root chart?
BENJAMIN DYKES: Yeah. Well, the idea of a root chart in some ways goes back to Ptolemy, I am sure goes back to other people, too. In the Tetrabiblos Ptolemy says he compares a conception chart or the conception to the nativity or birth and he says…, he distinguishes between something that is more or less an absolute beginning and then something that is a derived beginning and he says that the nativity is a katarche which is normally the word that we understand to mean a beginning but he says the conception is an arche. The difference between them is that an arche is more of an absolute beginning whereas a katarche in Greek that little kata pretext means according to word following so we have an absolute beginning the conception and then we have the nativity which is a beginning that follows on the conception and then but the birth might be a begin more or less absolute beginning relative to something else and likewise your conception was a derived beginning depending on your parent’s actions of their nativities so what the traditional astrologers very sensitive to is that almost no charts stands alone. Every chart is situated in a complex of other kinds of charts of greater or lesser influence and although you could cast an election chart on its own, it wouldn’t be a fairly complete election or one that is very tailor to what you want unless you can relate the moment of that electional chart to something else that sort of grounds it or roots it like a nativity or a favorable horary question.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Right, I think that what was in Masha’allah uses a specific example in order to demonstrate this point of why you need to pay attention to root charts of casting an electional chart for a group of people to take a trip and how different people on that trip can have much different experiences and one of them can get sick and one can lost and another can come with treasure or what have you and that a lot of has to do with natal chart.
BENJAMIN DYKES: Yes, that comes out in Sahl’s Book on Elections and I believe Abu’Ali Al- Khayyat who was one of Masha’allah’s students also talks about it and it gets repeated in another author’s’ so probably Masha’allah is the one who came up with the example and the idea is that you can choose a favorable time for a group of people to go on a voyage but that doesn’t mean that everyone is going to have exact same result and the reason is because some of them are going to have certain things going on in their nativities, you know predictive methods that should show that time wasn’t going to be good for them anyway. In other cases you might have chosen certain things in the electional chart that for this person activated or highlighted problematic things in their nativity so we have to relate in order to be really through to do the best job, we have to relate an electional chart to some kind of root whether it is the nativity supposing that we know it or the other culminal alternative that they talked about is a valid horary question which for the most part they talked about as something you would use if you didn’t know your nativity but you can imagine other reasons why you would use a horary chart also.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Yeah, that was actually really brilliant discussion that was in the book and it made me thing because usually astrologers are used to at least maybe to some extent casting electional chart and trying to refer it back to the nativity but in a Medieval context they were saying essentially that or some of the astrologers were saying it, I guess there is not complete agreement but if you did not have the natal chart that a legitimate horary chart about the trip or about the subject of the election itself could stand in the place of the natal chart because if the horary chart itself says…, you know will the trip be successful? or will we survive at the trip? , if the horary chart says ‘yes’, then presumably the horary chart is reflecting something that is also in the natal chart or would be in the natal chart if you had access to that so it is kind of interesting.
BENJAMIN DYKES: Yeah, there was a debate about that. Some of them would say that yes, if the chart of the question says yes, well the question isn’t going to contradict to the nativity so it would becomes a question of should you use let’s say Ascendant of the question chart and treated as though it is the natal Ascendant and make it strong in the election and so on?, or some people said you shouldn’t do that and that you shouldn’t choose, you shouldn’t elect on the basis of a good question, if you don’t have the nativity because you might be featuring something in the nativity that is a problem so actually became really a debate in ethics. It was an ethical debate about what are the moral responsibilities of the astrologer if you don’t have someone’s nativity?
CHRIS BRENNAN: Right. It was interesting how some of the astrologers came down and different extremes where some of them were saying if you do not have the natal chart you should not do an election for this person at all whereas there is this other extreme, that was saying you know you don’t necessarily need a natal chart, you can just do an election and even if that is all you have then that will be more useful to a person than nothing at all.
BENJAMIN DYKES: Yeah and it really and it was al-‘Imrani who really brings this home I think because he basically says if you are an astrologer then you have to agree that some moments and times are better than others maybe none of them is absolutely perfect but you have got to agree that some times are qualitatively better even if a little bit are better than other times so it is your responsibility he said that even if you don’t have the nativity, if you can’t choose the best kind of time, this person is in need coming to you for help and if you believe in astrology it is your duty to do what you can to give them the best election. He comes down very strongly in that sense and basically challenges his readers ‘Do you believe in astrology?’, because if so this is your duty whereas others are shying of and say well if you can’t do, basically in his view other people are trying to make perfect the enemy of the good. He is saying you can’t get a perfect election so you have to do what you can whereas others are saying if it is not up to our specifications we are not going to touch it.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Right and it is interesting. You get both technical issues there and technical quests as well as moral ethical issues and that was one of the unique things I think about some of the texts that you translated here is that there were these unique discussions about the moral and ethical position of the astrologer and what they could do to help clients and what they should do which you don’t see very often I think in a lot of texts because they are usually technical texts basically and not ethical discussions.
BENJAMIN DYKES: Yeah, that is one thing that is so nice about al-‘Imrani because yeah, few of the astrologers you know openly reflect on what their profession means so it was really refreshing to find this discussion.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Okay. We have mentioned some of those names a few times, maybe we should backtrack a little bit and talk a little bit about what the nature and scope of the book is and which authors are included in the translation. The book is basically a compilation of Medieval texts on electional astrology dating from the eighth century through about the 12th or 13th century. Correct?
BENJAMIN DYKES: Right.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Okay and it is a collection of texts that were originally written largely in Arabic and then were subsequently translated into Latin and now you have translated all of them from either Arabic or Latin into English and it includes six major authors who wrote significant texts on electional astrology in the Medieval tradition. Could you talk a little bit about some of these authors?
BENJAMIN DYKES: Sure. Well one, people might have heard this name before, he is called Bethen. I think his name is probably assumed, he is probably adopting the name of the one of the mansions of the Moon as his name and that is a work on planetary hours largely. We have Sahl who is a very famous guy, this is a new translation of his work on elections. He comes from the Masha’allah lineage both he and Abu’Ali Al- Khayyat and so the material that he is reporting is most likely straight out of a book on elections by Masha’allah in the Arabic, it is probably largely word for word so what we really getting is Masha’allah’s views on elections.
CHRIS BRENNAN: And Masha’allah was like c. 775 C.E.
BENJAMIN DYKES: Yeah, the last half to the last quarter of the seven hundreds and I think he died in about 815 or so.
CHRIS BRENNAN: He is practising in Iraq or in Baghdad during the early flourishing of astrology during the Medieval period. Correct?
BENJAMIN DYKES: Right. He was one of the famous people along with the Umar al-Tabari who was chosen by the cale of a Baghdad to…, the cale of to elect a chart for the foundation of the city so he was a very well known guy reports a lot of important material and one reason he is important is because he independently of Umar translated into Arabic Dorotheus’s five part work on astrology including Book V which is on choices and inceptions so…,
CHRIS BRENNAN: And Dorotheus is important because Dorotheus is one of the earliest text that we have that survive somewhat into modern times. One of the earliest text on Western on Hellenistic astrology basically but it is the earliest text on electional astrology that survives more or less intact dates about a year somewhere around the 75 C.E.
BENJAMIN DYKES: Right, he is very early first century A.D., his work then you know was very popular and he was very well respected some of his Greek material we find him in Hephaistio a few centuries later but his work then went over to the Persians, it was translated into Pahlavi and underwent some changes and then finally was translated independently by both Umar and Masha’allah into Arabic and we know this not only from reports but we have Umar’s Arabic and then we have all of this material from Masha’allah that we can make a one to one correspondence between sentences in Masha’allah & Sahl and Umar’s Arabic except that Masha’allah’s material is lineage some of the instructions of slightly different so we know we are dealing with two different translations here so there is Sahl, there is a work on the Moon by al-Kindi, major work on elections by al-‘Imrani, also I have translated the entirety of Book VII of al-Rijal which is interesting because near the end he shows that he had access to bits of Valens that I will think anyone knew or pretty much no one knew they had access to so those are the some of the authors in the book.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Okay, so we got five major Medieval authors that are all writing separate texts on electional astrology. Some of them are kind of drawing on each other and then all of them in someway seem to be influenced by this first century author Dorotheus of Sidon who wrote this very important and influential work that covered electional astrology in Greek in the first century so and then Dorotheus’s text was so influential because it was written in Greek and then it was translated into Persian and then the Persian text were translated into Arabic and then the Arabic translations became the foundation of virtually all of the later electional text in the Medieval tradition so we see hints of Dorotheus’s rules for electional astrology sort of popping up in all six of the major authors that you translated.
BENJAMIN DYKES: Yeah, he is looking very strongly in the background in all of these works.
CHRIS BRENNAN: One of the things that as I was reading at this past week so those are really interesting to me in being as familiar with Dorotheus and especially Book V of Dorotheus as I am is there is some parts where…, because Dorotheus’s text we have today is very badly damaged and it has incomplete and it has interpolations and some of the sections obviously went on or in the original should have been much longer than they are now but I noticed some discussions where it is almost like they have extended discussions of material that was in Dorotheus and that makes it kind of exciting because perhaps we confuse some of these electional text that you just published and translated in order to reconstruct some of the passages and Dorotheus that seem to be somewhat pretailed. Have you looked into that?
BENJAMIN DYKES: Yeah and I think that well with Masha’allah for example you know it is a…, what I think is that if we look at this Masha’allah lineage of authors particularly Sahl and Al-Khayyat, their natal material Sahl’s book on nativity is researchly word for word in Arabic taken from a work of Masha’allah’s that I have translated as the book of Aristotle from a Latin translation, if we put together these works of Masha’allah because you can again with the natal work you can go sentence by sentence and compare them with sentences in Umar, I think that between the natal work that we already know about anything from the Masha’allah lineage on elections as well as some of the material on questions that we find in The Book of the Nine Judges and in Sahl as well as some other bits and pieces, I think in the future will be able to largely reconstitute what the original Dorotheus probably was, you know Pingree did a lot of groundbreaking work in that area by identifying passages of Dorotheus in Hephaistio. I think with these Arabic authors will get even closer so that is very exciting to me.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Yeah, that is very exciting news just because Dorotheus I mean really that text is the foundational text on electional astrology for most types of electional astrology over the past 2000 years so being able to recover and reconstruct that original text would be very important and very useful for anyone who’s interested in practising electional astrology.
BENJAMIN DYKES: We are agree.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Okay, so speaking of practising electional astrology, let’s talk a little bit about some of the general principles of electional astrology that are outlined by some of the authors in this book, just to give an overview for those who aren’t familiar with electional astrology what kind of things you might look for and what you might trying to, if you are going to trying elect auspicious chart for new venture undertaking.
BENJAMIN DYKES: Well, al-‘Imrani talks about this best, I think. He is clearest about breaking this down into stages you have more general kinds of rules and approaches to the electional chart and then especially if you have a good nativity or reliable nativity, you can get more fine tuned, there is certain general things you want to do to make this circumstances or find circumstances that are generally favorable for action right off the bat that aren’t very particular to your action. For example you wanna make sure that the Moon is in a good condition for most actions, in some actions they point out you don’t want it in a good condition, it depends what you are looking for but you would want let’s say the ruler of the Ascendant and the Moon to be in a good condition maybe in one of their dignities or in a good house, you would want the Lot of Fortune and its lord to be in a good condition and the way I look at the Lot of Fortune it is because you want this person to be favorably placed within the flow of events which is roughly what the Lot of Fortune means refers to being in the right place at the right time to take advantage and have opportunities so those are some general things you might want for any kind of action, that is in a very general level.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Yeah and that comes up in almost every election, they always seem to mention the Moon and they always seem to mention Ascendant and specifically the planet that rules the Ascendant so the Moon and the ruler of the Ascendant is being two most important planets in almost every type of election that seems come up.
BENJAMIN DYKES: Yeah, because they say that the lord of the Ascendant signifies the person who is undertaking the action so that is the agent and the Moon describes the cores of the events themselves. What is been happening?, and what is going to happen?, so you are trying to make sure that the person is acting well and able to act well, they are in the right place at the right time and the events sort of flowing towards what you want them to be so those are all very general and it is important to point that out because and al ‘Imrani often does point out that he is not going to keep repeating this.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure.
BENJAMIN DYKES: Because you know if the Moon for example is applying to let’s say Jupiter, she is applying to Jupiter everyone in the world at that moment but it is not going to be good for everyone in the world to do just any action they like and that is why you need a nativity to help make it more specific, if you are doing like a fifth house type action, you want to then narrow this down and make the fifth house more favorable that kind of thing.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Right and even the identification of the rising sign itself helps to locate the natal chart, too that native’s specific location on earth whereas the position of Moon of course what apply to anyone no matter where they are at moment in time
BENJAMIN DYKES: Yes, exactly and so what you might even want to do then and this is one think they suggest is that you might want to make sure that you know not only is the Moon good and Lot of Fortune and all of that but you might want to make the person’s natal tenth house, the Ascendant of the election to really link their natal impulse to act which is the tenth house with their role as being the initiator of an action in the election which should be the Ascendant so there is all sorts of ways they try to make the specific to a person and a place and a time.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Right and that can actually with the Ascendant that brings up one of the real distinctions I think between modern and traditional astrology which is that modern astrologers tend to look at the entire chart as representing the native and representing different almost parts of the native’s psyche whereas traditional astrologers tend to segregate things a bit so that is really always the Ascendant and the ruler of the Ascendant that directly represent the native themself and their body and their physical constitution because they are borned at that moment in time.when that sign of the zodiac was rising over the eastern horizon and then all of the other houses really to other…, usually at least to other people in the person’s life or other areas of the native’s life and so in that way the Ascendant becomes the point that is in a natal chart most closely associated with the native and then in the same way in an electional chart it becomes the house that is most closely associated with the person who initiates the action at that time.
BENJAMIN DYKES: Right and in this sense it is a lot closer to a horary astrology or questions because I mean let’s say if you are engaging…, whether you are engaging in a partnership that would be more of an election or you are asking a question about a partnership in a horary chart, if you are looking at the seventh house, you don’t want to look at the seventh house as being your beliefs about your potential business partner, you want to know what is actually going on with your business partner because if we look at it that way then we are able to use in electional chart or question chart to diagnose possible problems or to see other things that are going on with the other person which we wouldn’t really able to see if we viewed everything in the chart as just to reflection of our own subjective mind.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Right, the seventh house is not your suppressed, I guess internal vision of the other default other person in a electional chart or horary chart literally represents the other person that you are inquiring about or your marriage partner or what have you.
BENJAMIN DYKES: Right or the experience, the actual experience, the objective experience of relationships for example, yeah.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure. Okay, so yeah this really explains why then the ruler of the Ascendant and any planets plays in the Ascendant would gain added importance or perhaps the most important when you are trying to construct an electional chart because the Ascendant and the ruler of the Ascendant literally represent you and literally represent what you are initiating at that time, although then brings you to one other rules which is that some of the authors seem to emphasize trying to make sure that the topic associated with what you are initiating at that time that the ruler of that house is well placed so that if you are let’s say taking a journey you might look to the ninth house and the ruler of the ninth house and trying to make that well placed and what have you.
BENJAMIN DYKES: Yeah, in that sense again it is very close to horary astrology and there is a historical connection there and we have talked about it in another interview in other places that yeah, you would want let’s say there to be a favorable connection may be between the lord of the Ascendant and the lord of the ninth so that your action of initiating something is well connected with the topic of travel in that case so just as you might ask in a horary chart ‘Will I go on the journey?’, or ‘Will the journey be successful?’ that very same kind of connection would help answer yes or no.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Right and the relationship between those two planets, say between the ruler of the first which represents you and the ruler of the ninth which represents the journey represents or sometimes literally represents how you will relate to that journey and how the journey will go for you essentially.
BENJAMIN DYKES: Yeah and in that sense I think one way, maybe not the ultimate way but one way to think about elections versus questions is that a question is almost like an election ahead of time because the very same rules that you would use to interpret whether you know someday as a good day to travel or often very same rules you would use to interpret in earlier horary chart that asks ‘Will I travel?’
CHRIS BRENNAN: Right.
BENJAMIN DYKES: There is a conceptual and the temporal relationship between elections and questions which I think is interesting and should be explored more.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Yeah and that distinction between past and future brings up one of the other major rules and distinctions in electional astrology that is kind of unique if you are coming out of…, most people I think approach electional and horary first coming out from a natal perspective and in natal astrology it is not always clear what you do with applying and separating aspects but in electional astrology becomes like a core doctrine and the doctrine is essentially that applying aspects indicate things that will develop in the future after you initiate the election or the action or the inception versus separating aspects indicate things that happened in the lead up to initiate in that action or that occured at some point in the past and set the stage for it so that is a kind of tied as well.
BENJAMIN DYKES: Yeah so it is a lot more concrete because they were talking about at a particular action at a particular time rather than a general kind of tendency in the nativity that only gets turned on or off at certain points.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Right. Yeah, it has much more I guess concrete usage in that sense and as a result of that you really end up and certainly some electional authors seem to emphasize paying much more attention to the applying aspects and paying perhaps less attention or putting less emphasis on the separating aspects because the future itself is more relevant since you are looking to create a strong foundation for the future. Would you say that is true?
BENJAMIN DYKES: Yeah because you are acting and you wanna see what is going to happen next with your event or with your actions? , so yeah the applying aspects is going to be very important.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Right and so that would apply to both the ruler of the Ascendant so you would want to the ruler of the Ascendant to be applying towards either favorable planets or at least favorable aspect with other planets in the chart and you would also want the Moon as a secondary significator to also be applying towards favorable planets like benefics Jupiter and Venus or applying at least to favorable aspects to other planets in the chart.
BENJAMIN DYKES: In most cases that is true. In some cases you don’t want that to be true. For example al‘Imrani reminds us in several places that I think it is when you are hunting a fugitive, you don’t want the Moon to be in a good condition because the Moon represents the fugitive, you want that Moon to be you know applying to a square with Mars or something like that.
CHRIS BRENNAN: All right.
BENJAMIN DYKES: And so what that does, is get aspect to that question of ‘What do we do if we don’t know a nativity?’ ‘Should we avoid any contact between the Moon and you know and Mars or not?’ depending on what your nativity is like, you might have to tailor the rules specifically to your situation.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Yeah, that might be surprising to some people because I think if you are to apply electional astrology just generally, then you might just think that in all instances you should always have like the ruler of the Ascendant and the Moon applying to benefics and never applying to malefics or another planets but in fact one of the authors I think makes the point that in some instances based on the natal chart like if a person has Saturn ruling the Ascendant or if Saturn is the ruler of the nativity then you might wanna make Saturn in much more prominent planet and it might not be as difficult or malefic of a planet for the native when it comes to using in that in their electional chart.
BENJAMIN DYKES: Yeah, especially if in the nativity that same Saturn is, you know shows powerful actions and is doing something good for the native.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Right, whereas conversely, theoretically you could have a benefic that is actually in a very poor condition is like in the debilitated by sign and is in the12th house and is afflicted by Mars or something and then if you make that like a very prominent planet in the electional chart then you run the risk of actually invoking the difficult basically placement in the natal chart which could potentially backfire on the election.
BENJAMIN DYKES: Right, either a backfire is, there is a problem later or it just doesn’t get off the ground. Yeah, so that is where the astrologer has to you know understand the rules or understand the what we are trying to do and you know to tailor the rules to a nativity but also as some of them say also to know when to not obsess about the details and just do the best that you can.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Right, right.
BENJAMIN DYKES: If you are waiting a…, you know if you wanna get married with someone for example and you want the absolutely perfect election for marriage what if that election doesn’t happen until 3 o’clock in the morning two years from now…
CHRIS BRENNAN: Right.
BENJAMIN DYKES: …then when you are not really getting out of electional astrology what you are supposed to and the perfect election is not going to help you if you and your partner are fundamentally mismatched. You know, let’s say natal chart, this is something that al-‘Imrani points out, if your natal chart shows that marriage is going to be a disaster for you, you shouldn’t be looking for a time to elect marriage probably or you should be very careful about it.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Yeah and just speaking generally for a minute aside from the book, just on my own personal practise like in doing electional charts for clients like you really, the perfect election a doesn’t exist like there is almost no such thing as a perfect election and because you are always working with time constraints because there is always some kind of time constraint no matter what because you know worst case scenario somebody is gonna wait like 20 years for the perfect alignment of planets in order to launch their business or what have you, you know they have got to do it in the next two months or three months or maybe best case scenario next year maybe have a year to work with but in that context you really just create the best electional chart you can and even just…, practically speaking even just trying to get a good electional chart itself that has all of the right things and has the ruler of the Ascendant well placed and the Moon well placed and the malefics not too prominent and nothing hugely debilitated even that in that of itself is difficult enough and narrows it down to a small collection of potential chart that sometimes it is hard even at that point to then incorporate the natal chart and then incorporate that is another variable that you have to then pay attention to and look at.
BENJAMIN DYKES: Right, yeah.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Yeah so electional astrology can be kind of difficult and you do have to end up weighing the pros and cons of some of these different options and what is more important ultimately?, and you know what if you are gonna do an electional chart what you have got a prioritize I guess.
BENJAMIN DYKES: Right and they keep pointing out that the you can’t let the election take on all the responsibility for the action, the election in a sense can only be a modification of what is fundamentally in your nativity? , so we have to go with the basics of the nativity instead of obsessing every possible detail in the election chart.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Right.
BENJAMIN DYKES: And a really good election with really problematic natal situation might not help somewhat but it can’t take on all the responsibility for creating a perfect situation with no problems in it.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Yeah and that really raises some you know additional side sort of philosophical issues with astrology and with the nature of free will and fate and what you can change you know can use electional astrology in order to change something that doesn’t look good in the nativity because from a traditional perspective there are certainly placements that will say you know that it will be more difficult to have a marriage or that it will be more difficult to have children or more difficult to achieve one’s career aspirations or what have you and to what extent can you really use electional astrology in order to change you know something when the cards are sort of stacked against you for some of those topics in the natal chart?
BENJAMIN DYKES: Well, not only that but al-‘Imrani points out something interesting which is that an astrologer ideally should also know things about, if the astrologer at least doesn’t have medical knowledge you might have to availer of self of that, for example he gives a specific example of electing the time for a woman to conceive, he says but you want to make sure that you know she sees a doctor that you can rule out any possible medical conditions, you know the astrology would help you she has a seperate medical condition but another situation might be what if you want to start a business, but you live in a town in which there are absolutely no opportunities, the best kind of election in a town that who is real event doesn’t have any real opportunities isn’t going to help you.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Right.
BENJAMIN DYKES: We need to understand what can do astrology do strictly astrologically but how do we as astrologers also place these astrological choices and inceptions in a real world context.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Right and how much are things I mean that is fundamental question, also as how much are things fixed from the moment of birth? , and how much live away do you have working with that versus you know if the natal chart says repeatedly something about a specific topic whether is good or bad? How much choice do you have to change that or alter that using something like electional astrology or using something like you know some concept of free will? Yeah, so I mean I am sure a lot of people have different views on that but obviously this is something that gets raised as an issue and that astrologers have to still sort of argue about from time to time.
BENJAMIN DYKES: Yeah, I agree.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Okay so as far as…, so we talked about the ruler of the Ascendant, the Moon, we talked about looking at their applying aspects versus their separating aspects obviously, also you want them well placed by sign and by house, by sign that would I guess technically from a traditional standpoint that would be things like being in the planets own sign or one of the signs that it rules or perhaps the sign of its exaltation versus the sign of its fall or its detriment perhaps.
BENJAMIN DYKES: Yeah, in most cases that is true, in another cases you have situations where unusual qualities of the signs that in modern astrology especially you don’t hear much about you have to take advantage of those for example in certain medical questions when you want to take certain kinds of medicines it might make a difference they say if let’s say the Moon is in one of the signs that chew the cud which…,
CHRIS BRENNAN: It is like Taurus or something?
BENJAMIN DYKES: Taurus is one of them.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Okay.
BENJAMIN DYKES: Signs of animals that chew the cud might be good or not good for taking certain kinds of medicines because it might be to upset stomach or you know something like that but you know how many of us have heard of signs that chew the cud, these kinds of thing can be relevant and you will sometimes only hear about them in these electional type texts.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure and that brings up another point which is that one of the early instructions that it seems a lot of the authors give or there is almost like two different approaches to electional astrology and there is some overlap but one approach that is very distinct seems to be like you might have one conceptualization like that you set up an electional chart and you are trying make all of the significantors really strong or whatever you conceptualize as the strong positions like being in their own signs or being exalted or being in the 10th house, being angular or being configured with benefics or what have you like the classical sort of conceptualization of what an auspicious placement is for significator but then there is this another approach which is also mentions several times by different authors which is this notion that you should try in match the chart that were electing with the nature of the event so for example Bethen early on in the book he seems to recommend that for example in elections that involved water to put water signs on the Ascendant or if you were electing something where you want it to be very stable into last for a while that you put a fixed sign on the Ascendant or if there is a situation that you don’t want to last for a while for example I think one of them was like getting engaged that you don’t want that to last for like five years so you want a sign that indicates quickness you put a movable sign or cardinal sign on the Ascendant because that indicates that the matter or the election which is basically the engagement will go by quickly rather than being stable and fixed so that is one approach for electional astrology that you make the chart match either what the event itself is supposed to be or what you hope to achieve from that.
BENJAMIN DYKES: Yeah and this is where that idea of the different levels of specificity come in, you know in any chart you might want the Lot of Fortune to be in a good situation or the Moon then you go one level more specific, then you say well if I am doing a water related event or then I might wanna water sign or if it is a fifth house event, I might want something good about the fifth house and then even the level that is more specific than that the probably be things like…, well another level below that would be making sure that features of the person’s nativity are well treated in the election and then a rule even more specific than that would be what is the exact nature of the event?
CHRIS BRENNAN: Right.
BENJAMIN DYKES: For example with my example about taking a medicine, you might want all sorts of general things like the Moon and the lord of the Ascendant and stuff to be have certain features, then you might want certain things about you know the sixth house to be in a good situation and then things about the natal chart and then finally most specific you would want you know let’s say the lord of the sixth to be in one of these special signs that specifically addressed that taking of this kind of medicine so you have all of these levels of generality going from the most general that could apply to any kind of action to the most specific.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Right and I guess backing up a little bit to the most general things which is the most general thing basically that you can pay attention to is the Moon and I was reading through some of the recommendations the things they say to avoid specifically in the text because the book is kind of nice because some of the translations actually give these ordered list of things that you should try to put in your electional chart and you make it auspicious versus things you should try to avoid. Some of the notes that I wrote down for things you should avoid that are associated with just the Moon. If you are just looking at the Moon’s placement which for example if you couldn’t control the time of your election and the only thing you could control is perhaps the position of the Moon you might wanna avoid a putting the Moon under the beams for example or putting it too close to a conjunction with the Sun that is one of the things that was recommended although there is an interesting exception to that which is that if you want to make I think some authors mention if you want to make what you are trying to initiate at that time secret or hidden and you should put your significator, put the Moon under the beams of the Sun.
BENJAMIN DYKES: Exactly and so likewise if you were doing an action that you wanted lots of publicity and wanted everyone to know about, then you wouldn’t want the Moon to be under the rays because that signifies hiddenness.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Yeah and that raises important point which is that there is a type of election for most everything and even for some of the things there are traditionally bad from an electional perspective like you know having the Moon being in its waning phase or having the Moon applying to malefics. There will be certain types of elections where you might actually want that. I think Dorotheus for example says if you are gonna build a house or if you are gonna build something up, then do it when the Moon is waxing or in the waxing phase of its cycle versus if you are going to tear something down or destroy something to do it or initiate the action when the Moon is in the waning phase of its cycle when it is closing down.
BENJAMIN DYKES: Right. Exactly, because those signify increase and decrease or raising something up, tearing something down. Yeah.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Yeah and so that might be an important thing to keep in mind especially for modern astrologers that are coming into, electional astrologer coming into traditional astrology and seeing all these ideas about ‘good and bad’ and ‘benefic and malefic’ that in some ways it is being contextualized in different ways is things like growth into key and building things up versus destroying them and so on and so forth so even though for many types of election there are certain things that you will often try to avoid that are conceptualized is not favorable, there are always gonna be certain instances in which those might be useful or might be applicable.
BENJAMIN DYKES: Yeah, you bring up an important point because and this is something that applies to all areas of traditional astrology. When a lot of modern people especially don’t like those ideas of good and bad is that a lot of that is those are handy terms that describe everyday experience and they are not meant to be absolute. From God’s point of view, you know Mars and Saturn aren’t evil or bad, they perform their functions and even though they indicate things like death. I mean what would be world like if no one ever died, probably be awful but you know if you talked about an election you might say that let’s say shooting someone is bad but what if that person is an ex-murderer who is trying to kill you and your children, well then shooting them is probably a good thing so this language of good and bad is often contextual and we don’t just say good and bad and stopped there. We are trying to contextualize these actions and these planets when we understand what the person wants and I think in all branches of traditional astrology that is what we are doing with those ideas of benefic and malefic.
CHRIS BRENNAN: And just to interject there. I do have to say if you are being chased by an ax-murderer, I would not recommend stopping to cast an electional chart, but that is just me.
BENJAMIN DYKES: Right.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Okay so …,
BENJAMIN DYKES: Find a room to hide in and then pull out your ephemeris or your app or whatever it is.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Right. I can see the headlines on the local news like ‘A local astrologer dies by ax-murderer today found clutching ephemeris.’
Okay. One other last point I want to mention about the Moon because a few other things they say to avoid when it comes to the Moon but one of them that comes up frequently and that a lot of people are still familiar with and that I have been researching recently is when the Moon is void of course and I noticed that wasn’t defined and that kind of bugged me because I have been realizing that there is some debate over the definition of void of course recently and there are at least three separate definitions that are floating around right now of what a void of course Moon actually entails. Do you have any opinion on that?
BENJAMIN DYKES: Well, I realize there are several definitions, the one that I would just go with is that the Moon does not complete a connection by degree or an aspect by degree whether it is a conjunction or an aspect, does not complete it before she leaves the sign she is in that is how I would normally understand it. The idea being that a change in sign suggest the ending of some old situation or opportunity and a presentation of a new kind of situation or opportunity and what you want is to have an action that we are taking advantage of a real opportunity that goes somewhere so to have the Moon not completing or connection with another planet before she ends the sign means that you know the energy just sort of peters out or something else has to change before it can work and you don’t really want that in election, you want to be at the right place at the right time for things to just to work.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure.
BENJAMIN DYKES: I realize I am departing a little from idea of the definition.
CHRIS BRENNAN: No, no. I mean that, no that is great.
BENJAMIN DYKES: But that is how I would understand it in part because there is another Medieval idea called escape and it has to do with, you know two planets they are trying to connect but one of them changes signs so that the first one can’t finish its aspect with that until it also changes sign but sometimes that second planet that change sign completes an aspect to somebody else in the meantime so to speak escaped the first planet and so this idea that you are trying to complete a connection before you leave your sign is present in several of the definitions so that is the one I would normally follow but I know the Hellenistic one presented in Antiochus is a bit different, it seems to have its own rational.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Yeah, when we spent some time together working on that definition with Demetra. I guess we realize that the apparently the original definition of void of course was that the Moon does not complete any exact aspect with any other planets within the next 30 degrees regardless of sign boundaries apparently.
BENJAMIN DYKES: Right, right.
CHRIS BRENNAN: It is curious. I mean at the very least we have a problem or there is this curious historical issue were that appears to have been the original definition of void of course and then at some point in the Medieval tradition it appears to change that was involving not making an aspect to another planet before it moved into the next sign and then there is this separate like third issue that I only became aware of recently where apparently I think it was first Sue Ward who has done a lot of great work with William Lilly and then on horary astrology has put forward the argument that Lilly’s definition of the void of course Moon is that the Moon does not make an applying aspect with any planets within I think in the next 12 or 13 degrees regardless of sign boundaries and that can occur that any point in the sign even if it is not the last aspect that the planet will make in that sign.
BENJAMIN DYKES: Right, if she is not applying within orbs at any given moment, she is void in course.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Right.
BENJAMIN DYKES: And I think when we talked about this earlier, Lilly has some ambiguous statements about that. It can be a little hard to pinion down because he does I think at one point basically give the definition that I gave….
CHRIS BRENNAN: Right.
BENJAMIN DYKES: …if you wonder the complete one you know she is void of, she doesn’t complete it before she leaves her sign but yeah, so there were some changes in definitions and I think they were reasons for some of those changes as well, some of the ideas for example in the Hellenistic definition, show up in the Medieval definition of a feral or wild planet which is the interesting idea on its own.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Yeah, it seems like there is a lot of new aspect definitions they are introduced and I still can’t help thinking of some of them must have been introduced for the purposes of horary at that point in order to provide additional means by which planets could either complete their aspects or could be stopped or frustrated from completing those aspects.
BENJAMIN DYKES: Right and I put a table in my introduction to traditional astrology book in one of the appendices to show that if you look at these definitions you get from the Persians they are trying to go through every possible permutation of whether a planet being blocked, are they being blocked in the same sign or different sign? , are they being blocked by retrogradation or by planet would direct motion? , is it this or that?
CHRIS BRENNAN: Hmm.
BENJAMIN DYKES: And so they are trying to define different kinds of situations that will cover all possible planetary situations and it makes sense to me that would be in the context of questions or horary that they do that.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure. Well yeah, I think those were some of the main questions that I wanna to ask you about your book. What other projects are you working on at this point? You just published this book and literally just came out a week or two ago and people can get on your website. Correct? , bendykes.com
BENJAMIN DYKES: Yeah, they can get it on my site. I am now moving into the mundane part of my…,what I call my essential Medieval astrology cycle, the first volume is going to be on weather prediction, comets, eclipses and choreography which is where you assigned, you associate different planets or signs different geographical regions so that is going to be the first volume and then the next couple of volumes are going to be other works on mundane astrology that deal more with politics and interpreting history astrologically so conjunctional theory you know Saturn-Jupiter conjunctions, there are even like mundane profections and other mundane time lord systems that will appear in these books.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Excellent. You completed a series on natal astrology, you completed a series on horary, even now completed entire book or two on electional astrology and now you are moving into your focus on mundane astrology.
BENJAMIN DYKES: Yeah and I am really excited about this material, it is an area that a lot of people don’t really know a lot of about but the material that was being produced by the Persians and published in Latin as well, you know spent many centuries and it is really exciting interesting material, I first got introduced to it by Rob Zoller, a seminar of his and it was just amazing so I am really excited to get to work on this series.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Yeah, Zoller is one of the only people I know who is really done a lot of work with an issued actual predictions based on the technics of Medieval mundane astrology…
BENJAMIN DYKES: Right
CHRIS BRENNAN: …and I think some of his like his September 11 predictions which I think he is most famous for, is one of the things that was partially based on that.
BENJAMIN DYKES: Yes. Yeah, it was.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Well. Great. Well, I look forward to some of those publications then.
Okay. Well I think that about does it for this interview so everyone should check out your website bendykes.com and order the book and yeah, we will have to have you on again next time once the next book comes out.
Thanks for joining me on the show.
BENJAMIN DYKES: Okay. Thanks for having me.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Well. That is it for this episode of the astrology podcast. I hope you have enjoyed it and I will see you next time.