Anatomy of a Horary Failure

Parsifal the Scribe
6 min readMay 28


AUTHOR’S NOTE: Back in 2017 I wrote an essay on the subject of “strictures against judgment” in horary astrology, those conditions pertaining to a horoscope that render it unfit for interpretation (i.e. it is not considered “radical”). Although I don’t adhere rigidly to this principle, I recently cast a missing-person chart for an Oregon “cold case” that seemed to satisfy all of the earmarks.

Seven years old at the time, Kyron Horman of Portland went missing from his school in 2010 and he hasn’t been seen since. I was contacted by an adult acquaintance of Kyron’s (most likely a family friend) who asked me to look into the case. Using John Halloran’s AstrolDeluxe astrology program and John Frawley’s horary text, I came up with the following Regiomontanus map and provisional observations.

Right off the top, this horoscope has three strikes against it that diminish its suitability for judgment: 1) it has an early degree of Cancer on the Ascendant; 2) the querent is a third party who does not appear to have a legitimate “need to know;” and 3) Saturn, the “Greater Malefic” and “Lord of the 7th House,” is sensitively placed almost exactly on the Midheaven and is further disadvantaged by aspect as we shall see.

Elizabethan master astrologer William Lilly had this to say about an early degree of any sign rising:

“Whether either 00 degrees or the first or second degree of a Signe ascend (especially in signes of short ascensions, viz. Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces, Aries, Tauruis, Gemini), you may not adventure judgment, unless the Querent be very young, and his corporature, complexion and moles or scarrs of his body agree with the quality of the Signe ascending.”

While it might be reasonable to assume that Kyron was “very young” at the time of his disappearance, his physical “corporature and complexion” as shown in photographs do not place him squarely within the Cancerian demographic. Therefore, Lilly’s exceptions can’t be applied with any degree of confidence. However, John Frawley does not put much store in “strictures” and states that any chart can be read, so I proceeded to the next caveat.

The “need to know” restriction is an antiquated stipulation on which Frawley wastes few words, saying only that the querent must have a “spark of genuine interest in the question,” because he believes that anyone can ask almost anything and get an answer. While I align myself with him on this, I feel that it needs some explanation in the present case. On Noel Tyl’s website I found a modern take on this injunction and other horary prohibitions by R.J. Smith (search on “strictures” to find it):

“ONLY a querent who has a direct stake in the question asked is eligible to ask the question. No third-party questioners are allowed ! Relatives, spouses, family members or personal friends MAY be eligible to ask.”

With missing-person “cold cases” I almost invariably pose the question myself as part of my ongoing exploration of the horary paradigm. Few people are aware of my work or know enough to approach me, so I take on these occurrences as an academic pursuit. However, I have consistently applied the 1st House to identify the status of the missing individual rather than having it signify my own capacity as “querent.” Thus, the condition of the “Lord of the 1st House” (ruler of the ascending sign) provides a straightforward hook on which to hang judgment, even though Frawley says that when considering a missing “animate object” that is “larger than a goat” (such as a human being), the astrologer should use the 12th House. Here, because I have received a valid request from a “genuinely interested” party, I decided to give that person the 1st House as “querent” and look to the 12th House for the “quesited.”

The “stricture” that gives me the greatest pause here is the condition of the “Lord of the 7th House.” Saturn sits in the 10th House within 15 minutes of arc from an exact conjunction with the Midheaven, casting a long, dark shadow on the entire proceeding. Frawley lumps all manner of “officialdom” under the 10th House, and Saturn sitting prominently on the MC would seem to be putting a “big chill” on any investigative progress in the search for Kyron. But that isn’t the crux of the stricture. Lilly says the following about the status of the 7th-House ruler:

“You must also be wary, when in any question propounded, you find the Cusp of the seventh house afflicted, or the Lord of that house Retrogade or impedited, and the matter at that time not concerning the seventh house, but belonging to any other house, it’s an argument the judgment of the Astrologer will give small content, or any thing please the Querent; for the seventh house generally hath signification of the Artist.” (He means the Astrologer here.)

While it could be argued that Saturn closely conjunct the Midheaven doesn’t automatically qualify as “impedited,” this fact significantly raises its dolorous profile in the reading. It is also opposed to the Part of Fortune and square to the 12th-House Sun in the place of “imprisonment.” The Part of Fortune in the 4th House lies in the “deepest” region of the chart, while the Sun is in the “most concealed” location: one is buried while the other is occluded, and the constrictive influence of Saturn does nothing to improve their accessibility. The Sun in the 12th House is also intercepted in Gemini, in what I consider to be a “lamp under a bushel” scenario that sheds no light on the matter. Between the Sun’s interception in the sign of communication, its “hidden” 12th-House placement and its “blocking” squares, no meaningful insights are likely to arise from this projection. But the key point in all of this is that the 7th House represents “the Artist” or astrologer (in this case me) and the debilitation of its “Lord” places considerable doubt on my ability to penetrate the mystery using horary techniques.

The “Lord of the 12th House” is Venus in Cancer in the 1st House, suggesting the affectionate connection the querent had to the boy (who would now be 20 years old). Because the Sun is intercepted and doesn’t reside in 12th-House cuspal Taurus, the condition of Venus does not seem to have much to say about Kyron’s whereabouts or current state of well-being. Similarly, the Moon as universal significator of “lost” items or people, rules the house of the querent and is positioned in Leo, the Sun’s sign of rulership, in the 2nd House, which Frawley labels “Lost, Stolen or Strayed” in his chapter on “Second-House Questions.” The Moon is in a fading (“separating”) sextile to the Sun that doesn’t offer much encouragement. All of this ties the querent directly to the question and lends credibility to that individual’s involvement. It’s possible that she “intuits” more about the situation than she is able to prove since the Moon is in a tight fixed-sign square to Mercury, clouding the latter’s cerebral discernment and hampering fluid discourse between the mind and the emotions.

Although they don’t serve as significators in this horoscope and are therefore of secondary (or even tertiary) importance, ruthless 2nd-House Mars in Leo and seismic 8th-House Pluto in Aquarius join in a fixed-sign opposition that forms a rather brutal Grand Cross with the nodal axis, suggesting a “severing of connections” between Kyron’s fate and those who would know more about it. Reinhold Ebertin’s comments on this complex in The Combination of Stellar Influences are instructive. Of the sociological implications of Mars contacting the “Dragon’s Head” (Moon’s North Node) he says: “Associations of people working together to a common end or purpose,” but the negative import of the Mars square brings in connotations of “Quarrels and disputes within communities, organizations and associations, a disruption of associations.” Adding Pluto to the equation yields “a violent or forced separation of a partnership or union.” It sounds to me like the resolve to continue the search is evaporating amid considerable rancor.

The bottom line in this case is that the “horary gods” have chosen not to speak to me, as evidenced by the inauspicious degree on the Ascendant and the overarching dominance of Saturn as the most elevated planet in the chart and planetary “driver” of the aspect pattern that is most relevant to Kyron’s fortunes. Frawley’s keywords for this planet are “old, black, hard, heavy, dead, decayed, restrictive, dry, cold, solitary, sad,” altogether unfavorable for success. In that sense, Saturn square the Sun may have dire consequences for the boy’s (now young man’s) vitality, but that steps outside the bounds of horary convention; here I think it speaks more directly to the moribund state of the investigation that is also compromised by the square of the Sun to the Midheaven. I will now turn to the tarot to see if I can come up with more revealing answers.

Originally published at on May 28, 2023.



Parsifal the Scribe

I’ve been involved in the esoteric arts since 1972, with a primary interest in tarot and astrology. See my previous work at