The development of horoscopic, mathematical astrology is of a relatively late historical date. Up until the end of pre-Christian era mathematics and astronomy were relatively undeveloped so the methods of calculating mundane houses were equally imprecise and not always accurate. The more precise calculations occur, roughly speaking, in Ptolemy’s time. It is believed that the astrology of mundane houses, the mundane division of zodiac and ecliptic, was developed in the early Hellenistic period. The first division, from which all the others, more complex ones were deduced was the mundane quadrant system which is in theory also known as “the system of centre” or “cardines system.” Hence, the first mathematical horoscopes comprised the four mundane parts of the chart divided by the four celestial points. The first point is that of the ecliptic which arises above the horizon in the moment of the astrological interrogation, the second occupies the point of the meridian’s (the longitudinal arc which passes through the observer’s zenith) intersection with the ecliptic, the third is at the ecliptic’s setting point and the fourth is situated in direct opposition to the second, i.e. on the degree where the second half of the meridian intersects the second half of the ecliptic. At that time, the first point was called “horoscopos”, the second is also known today as “medium coeli”, the third was termed “ovois”, in Latin “occasus” and the fourth is today’s “immum coeli.” The first horoscopes functioned for a short period of time within the framework of the four mundane points and this is mentioned in an old hermetic work, in the chapter XXIV where it’s written:
“On the four quarters of a person and how you can discern the four ages of man from his birth. The beginning is the horoscope (ascendant). From this point up to medium coeli is the eastern, masculine quarter and it signifies the first part of life. From the degree of the MC to occasus is the feminine and meridional quarter which signifies the middle part of life. It is also called southern, meridional quadrant. The third quarter is from occasus to the lower meridian and it is a masculine one which symbolizes the first part of the old age. The last quarter from IC to ascendant is northern and feminine and signifies the ultimate, decrepit old age.” (“The History of western Astrology”, Jim Tester, ‘Prosveta’, 1996. Belgrade)
The early astrology performed for a very short period of time within the boundaries of these four quarters so the areas of life were distributed according to the natural symbolism of the planets which we also recognize today. The planets substituted houses as we know them today in their essential symbolism. In the same book it is further stated that:
“If the Moon is in the ascendant, and Venus in the setting quarter, and Mars on the MC, then a child of a slave woman will be born or of some other person from a lower social status…”
It is interesting that, based upon this principle, we could analyze all kinds of horoscopes even today, quadrants signifying different parts of life and planets symbolizing all the rest. This primary and great influence of the planets survived in what we term today their ‘natural rulerships, in contrast to their mundane dispositions. Venus signified marriage, the Moon physical fitness and vitality, the Sun the active principle of influence and dominion, Mars warrior spirit and inclination for work and productiveness, Jupiter expansion, money, beneficence, Saturn restrictions, old age, etc. By a simple analysis of the relations among the planets within the four quadrants the chart was judged.
After quadritopos, octatopos emerges in Hipparchus’s time, the mundane system of eight houses which was constructed by a simple division of each quadrant into two parts so that every cardinal point comprises two houses, one which arises before it in the direction of primary motion and another which arises after it. The significations of these houses remained constant until this day, meaning that the interpretation of a horoscope ended with the 8th house. The areas of life which are today assigned to the 9th, 10th, 11th and the 12th were signified by the relevant planet’s natural symbolism and its analogue house according to the Chaldean order. Saturn started the sequence (the ascendant, its natural rulership according to astronomical order) and ended it as well so every planet ruled one house except Saturn which ruled two, considering his ontological symbolism tied to the beginning of time, birth and death, depending upon belief. This system, in my humble opinion, wasn’t at all the result of undeveloped mathematical astrology but the consequence of a logical decision of astrologers not to connect mundane houses to zodiacal signs, but to the planets, which is actually correct if we bear in mind that the zodiac symbolizes the timeless which serves as a conceptual framework for the planetary movement, symbolizing time. Mundane houses, as their name testifies, are worldly, and as such, temporal. If it weren’t so, time wouldn’t be a constant in the formula for their calculation. Hence the perfect logic of the first thinkers which connect mundane houses to the planets starting with Saturn and ending the circle with him as well. Mundane houses are essentially moveable but apparently fixed framework in which, just the same, the essentially immovable zodiacal sphere appears to be moving. By positioning planets according to Chaldean order in the diagram’s quadrants (the first ones were such) octatopos becomes perfectly clear. Even today, practically, you can change your natal chart into this mundane form with all the possible variations regarding mundane systems. In that time, about two centuries BC, the entire sign of the ascendant represented the first house. The 1st half of the second sign was a border between the 1st and the 2nd houses which ranged up to the IC, representing the beginning of the 3rd (the fourth sign from the ascendant) and it extended up to the first half of the 5th sign where the 4th house began, ranging up to ‘occasus’ which designated the beginning of the 5th house, all the way up to the first half of the 8th sign from the ascendant where the 6th house emerged. From the 10th sign, covering it and the first half of the next sign, the 7th was to be found. From the second half of the 11th sign up to the ascendant, the 8th house was located. The 3rd house of octatopos, (the 4th of today), signified travelling and brothers, for example. The 7th signified things pertaining to marriage and rulership/influence. The house was simply brought into connection with the symbolism of the planets according to their Chaldean order so the 4th house of the octatopos signified everything pertaining to solar domain, since the Sun is the 4th planet in this order (the father, but the worldly status as well). The 5th carries the same meaning as today, since it is Venus’s place in the circle, the 6th belonged to Mercury, hence medical science, diseases but the intellect as well, the 7th belonged to the Moon so it signified marriage and to a certain extent, profession, the 8th signified secret enemies, death, the greatest miseries in life, in accordance with the symbolism of Saturn. The second house carried Jupiter’s symbolism – money, beneficence, livelihood, etc. The vestiges of octatopos can be found in traces in some later astrologers’ works which mainly used the system of 12 houses. One such example is encountered in the 8th book of “Matheseos Libri” (Firmicus Maternus) in the chapter “On the 8 houses” where he terms the 1st house vita (life), the 2nd lucrum (gain), the 3rd fraters (brothers), the 4th parentes (parents), the 5th filii (children), the 6th valetudo (health), the 7th coniunx (spouse) and the 8th mors (death).
Especially interesting examples of octatopos vestiges can be found in Culpeper’s “Judgement of Diseases" from the Decumbiture of the Sick where he writes about the decumbitures comprising eight houses, as opposed to the, then far more widespread, decumbiture of the 16 houses (hexakaidekahedron). He states that the octatopos system was used by Hippocrates and Galen. A decumbiture chart is drawn for the moment of disease’s inception, the occurrence of the first symptoms or the first visit to the doctor’s, that is, the first examination. The first house starts at the degree and minute of the Moon’s location at that time. The first, as well as every subsequent house comprises 45 degrees measured from the initial Moon’s position in the zodiacal order so every house in fact represents a half of a lunar phase. The beginning of the 3rd house, i.e. the 90th degree from the initial lunar position represents the 1st critical point which should be carefully analyzed according to the aspects and potential contacts with the rulers of the 8th or the 4th house, the Moon’s change of speed, the change of latitude or the relation between Moon’s degree and some important fixed star. The second critical phase begins at 180 degrees distance from the Moon’s initial phase, and the third after another 90 degrees of arc. If the disease doesn’t end until the lunar return, it changes from acute to a chronic (long-lasting) one and then octatopos decumbiture chart assumes solar position as its primary point of reference in the beginning of a new lunar cycle. Solar decumbiture is interpreted in the same way as the lunar one, but now the Sun becomes the primary object of inquiry.
Author: Natasa Karalic Koprivica