The Horary Difference
Horary astrology is different, and its distinction — as well as its charm — lies in its economy of expression. As a psychological astrologer doing natal horoscopes back in the ’70s, I prided myself on the thoroughness of my chart delineation. I didn’t have a computer early on and it was not unusual for a handwritten (or manually-typed) natal report to run eighteen or twenty pages even though I didn’t use the asteroids since I didn’t think they were necessary (and still don’t). Computerized report-generating services appeared shortly thereafter, but the reports were still several pages in length and the observations were decidedly impersonal in nature. I found them rather bloodless and devoid of the imaginative turn of phrase that made astrology so fascinating for me as a writer. (I’m not sure how well AI-generated text would handle it today, but as a creative person I’m highly suspicious of its indifference to human factors.)
The revelation came when I began exploring traditional astrology, of which the horary methods of 17th-Century astrologer William Lilly form an important part. As performed today, classical astrology uses only the seven “original” planets (Sun through Saturn), the “sensitive points” (chart axes or “angles,” Moon’s nodes, Part of Fortune, etc.) and the five “Ptolemaic” aspects (conjunction, opposition, square, trine and sextile), while ignoring Uranus, Neptune and Pluto (and, it goes without saying, all of the previously unknown asteroids) and disregarding the “Keplerian” semi-sextile, inconjunct, sesquiquadrate, quintile, biquintile, novile and other increasingly inconsequential aspects. It mostly steers clear of psychological jargon, instead applying the temperaments and “humours” which grew up around the Hellenistic elements (Fire, Water, Air and Earth) of the Greek philosopher Empedocles. By modern standards, this limited interpretive palette produces an overly simplistic (some might even say anemic), “stripped-down” model for character analysis, but it in fact yields an entirely serviceable profile of the individual’s personality. (I’ve come to believe that the proponents of Jungian astro-psychology are guilty of overthinking, a perception that extends to my dubious take on the “psychology of tarot.”)
I bought a facsimile copy of William Lilly’s monumental work, Christian Astrology (not, I must add, “religious” by any stretch), but it nearly drove me crazy trying to decipher its antiquated font. It wasn’t until I began acquiring more recent texts on the ancient practice of astrology that it began to come together for me. One of these was The Horary Textbook by John Frawley. He is obviously a devotee of Lilly (while still being appropriately critical of Lilly’s more fanciful notions), and his commentary allowed me to reappraise Christian Astrology with a fresh set of eyes; of particular value in this regard were Lilly’s tables.
One of the first things that struck me about Frawley’s approach to horary is that applying the conventions of natal astrology to horary chart evaluation amounts to gross over-analysis and thus both unnecessary and imprecise overstatement of the case. At its most basic, horary prediction requires examining only the planets that represent the “quesited” (thing asked about) and the “querent” (person asking about it), and their inter-relationship according to a narrow yardstick of parameters: house placement and rulership (including “rotated” houses and planetary “disposition”); the condition of the two (whether honored or debilitated by essential and accidental dignity); any major aspects between them (whether applying, separating or “perfecting”); and their diurnal/nocturnal orientation (above or below the horizon), with a few of the more subtle nuances of traditional astrology thrown in if you need to get particularly anal about it.
Any more detail amounts to excessive iteration that has little to do with the core features of the horoscope. I’ve had excellent results sticking with the fundamental architecture of the horary chart, especially in the areas of finding lost items or people, elective initiatives (selecting the best time for an action), and forecasting socio-political “world events.” It’s also worth noting that most of my horary write-ups take no more than a page-and-a-half (and incidentally, my natal delineations now run only five or six pages). Gotta love that pragmatic economy!