New to Learning Horary Astrology? Avoid These 10 Common Mistakes

I run a small Horary Astrology study group on Facebook.  Lately, Horary has become quite popular so I have a steady stream of people entering the group who are curious to learn more about it.  Most of these beginners have a background in modern astrology and so they usually tend to make the same mistakes when they first attempt to read a Horary chart.  And many of these errors were the same ones I made too, when I first started studying Horary.  So to save you some grief, here’s a run-down of some of the chief trouble spots for beginners.

Mistake #1.  Assuming you can Learn Traditional Horary as Quickly and Easily as you Learned Modern Astrology

For the most part, modern natal astrology is fairly easy to learn because you can pick up the concepts quite quickly and apply them to your own personal experience.  Read a few online articles, watch a few youtube videos, laugh at a bunch of memes on your favorite social media platform and you are on your way!  Not so with traditional astrology and especially not with traditional Horary, which is a different beast altogether. 

If you really want to learn Horary, you will need to put in some effort.  You will need to read a lot of books, some of which will be written in olde English, or will be translations of historical source texts.  Then you will need to read them and re-read them again, until it sinks in.  (For a reading list of books on Horary Astrology and General Traditional Astrology, jump to the end of this article.)  You will likely spend hours and hours trying to understand ancient geocentric views on planetary motion, perhaps wondering all the while how this could possibly apply to your personal life.  And after months of doing that, when it finally starts to gel, you still might be feeling uncertain about your skills.  But don’t give up.  Keep reading.  Or enroll in a course.  It takes time, effort and patience to get good at Horary, especially if you are new to traditional astrology.

And even though I run a Horary Facebook Group, I really would not recommend that you try to learn your Horary principles in a Facebook group!  There will be a million different opinions thrown at you, so you will get very confused.  And you will have no way of knowing who is using correct technique  and who is not.  By all means, join a Horary group–they are a great way to practice your chart reading skills.  But use them in conjunction with your study books or courses and understand the limitations of these groups.

Mistake #2.  Using Modern Psychological Astrology Technique instead of Traditional Technique

If you have never studied traditional astrology, your first response will be to use modern natal technique on a Horary chart.  Don’t do it.  Period.  You will not get correct answers.  Traditional Horary astrology uses a completely different method and the rules are rigid and should not be improvised upon. 

Study Tip:  Do not try to use the trans-Saturnian planets (Uranus, Neptune and Pluto) and asteroids right away when you begin to study Horary.  Once you actually have learned traditional Horary technique using the seven visible planets (and grasp it fully), then you can start to carefully add in the trans-Saturnian planets and maybe a couple of asteroids but you will need to read them in a different way than you are used to.  Treat these modern additions like Fixed Stars of a malefic nature and limit their use so that they merely provide additional information to the fundamental message of the chart.  

Study Tip:  Use Ptolomeic Aspects Only.  This means you will be using the conjunction, sextile, square, trine and opposition only.  While it is true that the renaissance Horary astrologer William Lilly used the semi-sextile, it was not very often.  So for now, skip the minor aspects.  The concept of aversion will be fairly useful, but its underlying meaning is somewhat different than modern astrology’s quincunx aspect.  So for now stick with the major aspects.  And it is vital to know whether an aspect is applying or separating so you will need to learn how to tell the difference.

Study Tip:  Traditional Houses are Different than Modern Houses.  No, your mother is not assigned to the 4th house in traditional Horary.  Ever.  She is assigned to the 10th.  Your Father is the 4th.  Period.  Sorry, but if you really wish to learn traditional Horary, this is the fastest and most accurate system to use.  If you want to make your mother the 4th in your modern natal charts, feel free to do it to your heart’s content.  But don’t try to do it in traditional Horary because then you are tinkering with the system’s underlying philosophy, and it is this very system which is responsible for its mind-blowing accuracy.  So if you mess with the system, then your charts won’t give correct answers.

Similarly, the 6th house does not represent your job.  Your job is signified by the 10th house and the ruler of the 10th.  And even if you have a job that is in a health profession or is service-oriented, your job is still signified by the 10th in Horary.  The 6th is the house of your employees, servants and small animals.  And while we are on the topic of the 6th house, it is the house of illness, not health.  Health falls under the 1st house.  And the 8th house does not refer to sex in traditional Horary.  That’s reserved for the 5th house–the house of play, entertainment and fun.

In order to get your traditional Horary houses straight, I highly recommend you get a copy of Deborah Houlding’s book The Houses–Temples of the Sky.

Study Tip–Beware of False Positives.  Beginners who attempt to read Horary charts using modern astrology seem to always read the chart in a positive way that supports their desires and gives a “yes” answer to the question.  They read a Horary chart kind of like a tarot spread–with a lot of intuition, creativity and positive spin.  However, Horary technique is complicated and has specific rules about which parts of the chart are to be focused on and which are not.  What looks like a “yes” in modern astrology could be a flat out “not in a million years” using proper Horary technique.  Furthermore, Horary is brutally honest.  Often you will get the answer you don’t want to hear.  Nevertheless, you will get the truth.  There is little room to spin the answer to suit your desires. 

Mistake #3.  Asking Frivolous Questions

Horary was never meant to be a superficial enterprise or form of entertainment.  That is why historically, astrologers who did consultations with the public quickly learned to develop tests of radicality–to ensure their clients weren’t trying to trick them, waste their time, or in some cases, engage in illegal activities.  So your Horary questions should never be frivolous or spur of the moment.  The ancient Masters were pretty clear on this.  Bonatti in Liber Astronomiae wrote that if you are thinking of casting a Horary chart, it should be regarding a matter that is serious and has been pressing on your mind for at least 24 hours or more.  And before you bring the question to an astrologer, you should have spent considerable time reflecting on the issue yourself (or as Bonatti would advise, pray for guidance on the matter):

when he intends to take an artist’s judgment of things past, present, or to come, he should, first, with a devout spirit, pray unto the Lord, from whom proceeds the success of every lawful enterprise, that he would grant him the knowledge of those things of the truth of which he would be resolved; and then let him apply himself to the astrologer with a serious intent of being satisfied in some certain and particular doubt, and this not on trifling occasions, or light sudden emotions, much less on matters base or unlawful, as many but in matters of honest importance, and such as have possessed and disturbed his mind for the space of a day and night or longer; unless in sudden accidents which admit not of delay (1).

If you are a professional astrologer and you have a client who is willing to pay a fee for a horary chart reading, then you can assume they are probably pretty serious about their question.  However, if you are reading charts in an online group, this could be a potential problem.  If a querent is not super invested in the question they post, the chart might be a weak one, and the people who are attempting to read the chart could get tripped up.

Study Tip:  Avoid Frivolous questions such as:

  • Questions that are not of significant importance to you. eg. “Will I go shopping at the mall tomorrow?”  Is this really an issue of huge importance?  If not, don’t make it a horary question.
  • Questions whose answers you can easily discover using more practical means  eg.  Casting a missing object chart without actually physically searching for the object first.  
  • Questions that are actually none of your business and could be classified as spying.  eg. “Does my Ex have a new lover now?”  Unless your Ex is still part of your everyday life in a significant way, for example, due to shared custody of children or other circumstances, the answer to this question is technically none of your business. 

Mistake #4.  Formulating Your Questions Incorrectly

Your question should be clear and carefully thought out in advance of drawing up the chart.

Study Tip:  Be Specific  This is important especially when you are the querent and are posting your chart online for someone else to read.  Take for example the question:  “Should I take this job?”  Well what is it that you are really seeking?  Money?  Status?  A good boss?  Instead you might ask:  “Will I enjoy the work environment?”  And instead of asking “Should I buy this house?” you might ask: “Is this house structurally sound?”  Focusing specifically on what you want or need also helps clarify the entire situation in your mind even before you draw up the chart and this clarity can help guide your final decision.

Study Tip:  Consider Using a Time Frame   Instead of asking “Will I ever—? questions, it might be a better idea to put a time limit on your question.  So instead of asking “Will I ever get married?” ask:  “Will I get married this year?” And instead of “Will I ever regain my health?” ask  “Will my health improve in the next six months?”  I like to think that human beings have a certain amount of agency to affect their future through the choices they make each and every day.  So I prefer to ask questions of a limited time frame.  Other astrologers are okay with “Will I ever–?” questions so it is your call.  But if you choose to ask a “Will I ever–?”  question, perhaps first consider if you are truly willing to hear the answer “no” and what that might do to your state of mind.  If you get an answer that dooms you for the rest of your life, you might inadvertently participate with that by creating a negative self-fulfilling prophecy from now on.  To avoid this slippery conundrum, use shorter time frames for your questions.

Study Tip:  Simplify your Question  Situations involving numerous options tend to trip up beginners.  Should I go out with Alex or with Alexis?  Should I buy this house or that house?  Should I invest in bean spouts, tooth brushes or pencil erasers?  Arguments tend to break out amongst astrologers about which houses and planets to assign to all the options.  While there are methods of looking at two or more options in a single chart, it might be better for now to just choose one option and draw up a chart specifically for that.  There will be tons of info in that single chart to give you insight into the matter and help you make your decision.  For example, if you do a chart about going out with Alex and the chart looks like a total disaster to the point that it could not get any worse, well, it stands to reason that Alexis might be a better choice.

Mistake #5.  Misunderstanding the Concept of Radicality

For a horary chart to be deemed “radical” (fit for judgement), it should match the radix (latin for “root”) which is the natal chart of the querent.  Ideally, the horary chart must have significant planets or points that match the natal chart.  If we do not have access to the natal chart, then we turn to other more formulaic ways to measure radicality in the Horary chart alone.  

Historically speaking, the concept of radicality was of great concern to astrologers because they usually did not have access to a natal chart during personal consultations and so did not have the means of knowing whether their client was trying to test them or trick them with false questions.  Without access to the natal chart, the astrologer had to determine radicality from the Horary chart alone, via the Horary’s description of the querent’s physical appearance or by matching the Horary’s planetary hour with the Ascendant (through rulership or humoral nature.)

Mistake #6.  Overly Rigid Use of the Considerations Before Judgment 

In 1647, William Lilly published Christian Astrology, (2) a significant text in the canon of traditional astrology.  In his work, Lilly included a section titled “Considerations Before Judgement” which listed a number of chart configurations that require special attention before reading a Horary chart.  

Today there appears to be some confusion about how these Considerations should be used in practice.  As Deborah Houlding notes, (3) Lilly never intended that the Considerations be applied as strict rules to automatically stop an astrologer from reading a chart, and yet that is how some astrologers treat them today.  Houlding points out that this trend began with the 20th century astrologer Barbara Watters.  In a book published in 1973, (4) Watters took four of the Considerations Before Judgment and turned them into “Strictures Against Judgement”In particular, Watters focused upon: 1) a void of course Moon, 2) Saturn positioned in the 7th house, 3) the Moon positioned in the Via Combusta and 4) very early or late rising signs.  Watters stated that if a chart contained one or more of these “strictures,” the chart was not radical and should not be judged.  And as Houlding notes, Watter’s book influenced subsequent writers who then passed along the idea of “strictures” throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s.  

On social media, I tend to see a lot of Horary students religiously adhering to the notion of “strictures.”  When attempting to read a chart, they will often jump on a single point:  “Saturn is in the 7th.  The chart is not radical.  The chart should not be read.”  Or: “The Moon is void of course, so you should not read this chart.”  However, it is unnecessary to throw out a chart simply because one of these configurations show up.  You can still proceed to read any chart whether or not they contain these features.  After all, William Lilly often did. (5)  The Considerations were never intended as strictures to make you stop dead in your tracks and throw out a chart.  Furthermore, the feature in question is often descriptive of the situation that the querent is asking about and therefore offers the astrologer vital information.  While it is always your choice as an astrologer whether or not to continue reading a chart, it would be wise to first investigate what the symbolic meaning a particular “stricture” might have in relation to the querent’s experience.  

William Lilly. Engraving by J. Neele. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Mistake #7.  Ignoring Essential Dignity, Accidental Fortitude and Aspectual Reception

You cannot do traditional Horary accurately without using essential dignity, accidental fortitude and reception.  And this goes beyond simply identifying the basic rulerships and knowing what mutual reception means.  Before you can understand a planet’s condition, you have to examine whether it has any dignity by rulership, exaltation, triplicity, term or face.  And you have to understand how its house placement, phase, motion and aspects strengthen or weaken it (accidental fortitude).  Most modern astrologers can grasp the concept of mutual reception but reception is not usually mutual in charts, so understanding the effects of one-way reception becomes super important.  If you have avoided learning about essential dignity, accidental fortitude and reception, then get yourself some good traditional astrology text books and spend some time hashing this out once and for all.  For a reading list of books on General Traditional Astrology, scroll to the end of this article.

Table of Essential Dignities according to Ptolemy

Mistake #8.  Misinterpreting the Void of Course Moon

Modern astrology uses a different definition of the void of course Moon than traditional astrology does.  And even within traditional astrology, there are different definitions as well.  Modern astrologers tend to define the Moon as being void from the time of her last aspect to a planet until the time when she enters the next sign.  However, in Horary, many astrologers follow William Lilly’s definition of void of course which is based on aspects rather than sign change.  Lilly would not consider the Moon to be void if it was still within orb of aspecting another planet while changing signs. In Christian Astrology he writes:

“A planet is void of course, when he is separated from a Planet, nor does forthwith, during his being in that Sign, apply to any other.  This is most usually in the Moon; in judgements do you carefully observe whether she be void of course yea or no; you shall seldom see a business go handsomely forward when she is so.” (5)

Lilly also stated in his Considerations Before Judgement that a void of course Moon still performs if it is in its signs of rulership and exaltation, or in the signs of Jupiter’s rulership or exaltation:  “All manner of matters go hardly on (except the principal significators be very strong) when the Moon is void of course; yet somewhat she performs in void of course, and be either in _, a, f, or i“. (6)  This is important to note because if the main signifiers of the Horary chart are applying in a positive way, a void of course Moon in a favorable sign will not likely harm the outcome.

Mistake #9.  Asking the Same Question More than Once

Let’s say you post a chart in an online Horary group asking about your love life.  You are new to Horary and so you are not really confident in your abilities yet and you really want some input about your new love interest.  So you ask:  “Does this person like me?” and then wait for someone to come along and give you some feedback on your interpretation of the chart.  A handful of people answer your post, the majority of whom say something like: “Sorry, but no, that person isn’t into you and you won’t end up in a relationship.”  If they have clearly explained the astrological theory behind their judgement, and if they have been properly following the rules of Horary, then that is probably your best answer. 

Study Tip:  If the chart’s answer to your question is “no,” do not draw up another chart to answer the same question the next day, or a week later hoping for a different answer.  The original chart has all the information you need, from start to finish.  Drawing up a different chart will not supply you with a different answer.  But it will mess up your ability to learn Horary.

If you are not going to pay attention to the answers your charts give, then you are kind of weakening your connection to the Horary process and will struggle to draw up future charts that are strong and clear.  So if you are extremely unwilling to hear that the answer might be “no,” then perhaps don’t draw up a chart.

Mistake #10.  Casting a Chart without Making a Final Judgement

When I was first struggling to learn Horary, I first read this tip years ago in a book, and for the life of me I can’t remember whose it was, but I would like to thank the author because it made such a big difference.  If you are going to go through the effort of drawing up a Horary chart, always make a judgement on it.  Don’t just look at the chart for a while, hum and haw, then decide it is too confusing and put it on the shelf, knowing life will eventually show you what the answer is if you wait long enough.  Instead, force yourself to make a judgement on every single chart you do.  Use a pen and paper and make notes as you read the chart, then after spending some serious time and attention studying the chart, make that judgement.  If you actually force yourself to answer every chart you draw up, you end up learning things you never could have otherwise.  The learning process speeds up and gets much deeper.

To Conclude

When you are learning Horary astrology, be prepared to make a lot of errors at first. If you are a whiz at modern astrology, making constant mistakes with Horary will likely feel frustrating because you are probably used to feeling competent.  But stick with it because over time, things start to sink in better through repetition and experience.  And it might cheer you up to know that even the best practitioners of Horary do not get every single chart right.  That’s just how Horary is.  So don’t be afraid to leap in, even if you fall flat on your face.  Hey, we’ve all been there.  And it’s all part of the learning process.

To book a personal consultation with Danielle click here.

Notes 

  1. Bonatti, G.;  Liber Astronomiae;  Renaissance Astrology (2012) 26/06/2021;   https://www.renaissanceastrology.com/bonatti146considerations.html#A
  2. Lilly, W.;  Christian Astrology;  Astrology Center of America (2004).
  3.  Houlding, D.; STA Practitioners Level Horary Certificate Course Textbook; School of Traditional Astrology (2020); p.148.  (cited with permission).
  4. Watters, B.;  Horary Astrology and the Judgement of Events; Valhalla 1973.
  5. Houlding, D.;  ibid. p. 149  (cited with permission)
  6. Lilly, W.; ibid.  p.  112.
  7. Lilly, W.;  ibid.  p. 122.

Further Reading

Horary

Christian Astrology by William Lilly

Horary Astrology: Plain & Simple: Fast & Accurate Answers to Real World Questions by Anthony Louis

Horary Astrology: The Theory and Practice of Finding Lost Objects by Anthony Louis

Horary Astrology: Your Ultimate Horary Textbook with 124 Example Cases by Ema Kurent 

Temples of the Sky by Debora Houlding

The Martial Art of Horary Astrology by J. Lee Lehman

The Horary Textbook Revised Edition  by John Frawley

Bonatti on Horary: Guido Bonatti’s Book of Astronomy: Treatise 6: On Questions by Guido Bonatti, Benjamin N. Dykes (Translator)

The Book of the Nine Judges by Benjamin N. Dykes (Editor)

Traditional Astrology (General)

Traditional Astrology for Today: An Introduction by Benjamin N. Dykes

Ancient Astrology in Theory and Practice: A Manual of Traditional Techniques, Volume I: Assessing Planetary Condition by Demetra George

Introduction to Traditional Natal Astrology: A Complete Working Guide for Modern Astrologers by Charles Obert 

Hellenistic Astrology: The Study of Fate and Fortune by Chris Brennan 

To book a personal consultation with Danielle click here.

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