A Question of Combustion


An anonymous Indian astrologer recently requested astrologers at large “to develop their own faculties of discrimination and judgement which is necessary to appraise an individual chart. No set of rules can provide for all contingencies and all the permutations and combinations possible.”

Yet Vedic astrology has a vast number of considerations resulting in 66 different Yogas alone. If this applies to Vedic then it certainly applies to Traditional Western Astrology.

Divination is not a mechanical or dogmatic process. In fact, some cannot learn it at all. The word Divination is from the Latin divinare “to foresee, to be inspired by a god”

Considerations Before Judgment are laid down for posterity to assist in the different forms of astrology. Bonatti alone identified 123. We don’t know whether he applied them all in every case, but I should think it virtually impossible and certainly unnecessary.

Moreover, he is not in complete agreement with his predecessors or posterity. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t read what he has to say.

Traditional astrologers are wont to mock Modern astrology for its “cookbook” answers to deep questions or being fuzzy-minded as well as employing outer planets without adequate knowledge of the original ones. I think this criticism comes down to saying there is no coherent metaphysical underpinning for Modern astrology.

It’s essentially based on the whims of the Theosophists with little or no foundation in the true origins of the Art.

However, when Traditional astrologers unquestioningly follow rules,  precepts, and dogma, they too can fall into the cut and paste category in its worst manifestation. More often though, they just become confused. Divination is to know and read the Divine Will. It can’t be learned by rote or practised without critical judgment. The sources are not all in agreement about everything.

The Theory of Combustion is based on the same metaphysical framework as orbs. In Traditional astrology planets, not aspects have orbs. These are actually orbs of light. We then remain true to the principal of at least potentially visible light. In fact, without light, there is no vision.

However, William Lilly and his Christian Astrology have arguably shaped Traditional astrology over the last few decades. For many astrologers, his is the last word on the subject. His form is in fact referred to as “The Real Astrology”  When someone of his stature decides to innovate in such as way as to undermine the entire edifice upon which Traditional astrology is built, this surely raises some very interesting questions.   He tells us that if the planet is in another sign from the Sun, it can be conjunct the Sun and not be Combust.


Venus Transits Sun – Cazimi

This may seem to be a fine point,  but he who argues that this is consistent with the larger scheme of astrological theory based on light will find himself denying the undeniable. This might serve as a cautionary tale of dogmatism versus Divination. Essentially, Lilly broke the Cardinal rule but is still loved and respected as a great astrologer because he was. Lilly is distinguished in his humility and honesty. When he gets it wrong, he tells us. For some reason, he persisted in using the same formula for the Part of Fortune, day or night, although even in the earliest sources it’s reversed. He seems a bit muddled on that point, but at least he was aware of the issue.

Strictly speaking, William Lilly already broke with tradition if we are to disallow any form of innovation.

Let’s look at one or two practical examples: first of all, anyone who believes that Mercury has anything to do with thinking or intelligence will need to explain why Albert Einstein’s Mercury is Combust, not in a good sign and applying to Saturn in Aries! Oh yes, and the Chart Almuten is Venus in her Fall.! Followers of Lilly will find an opportunity for validation, but it still won’t explain why being under the beams is still relevant. The theory based on celestial light cannot be used here

If you didn’t know whose chart it was, the chances are you would think of art before science. I think it’s fair to say that Einstein had an approach to knowledge unlike the majority of theoretical physicists. Whether in another sign to the Sun or not, I would say they are working together to some extent. It helps that Mercury is in the Exaltation of the Sun and that Pisces is visionary.

There are two principal reasons for this. The first is that the Traditional is not a monolith and our predecessors didn’t agree on everything. Take a simple example regarding Combustion. Some will tell you that a planet cannot be combust if it’s in a different sign from the Sun. Another will tell you that anything within 15 degrees of the Sun in either direction is rendered virtually useless. Others give the number of degrees at eight and some as little as three.

Although physical attraction is subjective to some degree, there are many people considered attractive by a large number of people. Super models, actors and actresses might come under this category. A brief survey finds that many people who are considered attractive tend to have Venus well beyond the Beams as would be expected

Kate Moss on the other hand, has her Venus within 3 degrees of the Sun and retrograde. If we say Kate Moss has her Venus Combust, we are saying that all things Venusian are radically undermined, are we not?

It’s clear that we need to consider the nature of the planet Under the Beams in a variety of ways in the context of the entire chart. Mars Combust might share some Solar traits depending on Sign or other considerations.  We would be foolish to downplay the power of a combust Mars with other forms of strength, including reception.

Let me be very clear. I am not trying to undermine any Traditional beliefs. What I am saying is that there is a time to consider the spirit rather than the letter of Divination. The Craft requires constant studying. When we cease to query it will die.

7 thoughts on “A Question of Combustion

  1. The question of visibility and combustion is very tricky. It is something that completely vanished in modern astrology although the visibility and their heliacal phases was well documented among he Greeks. Sadly enough ,only some few traces can be still be found among the Arabs and the light of Sumero-Babylonia disappeared when medieval authors started to ignore it. So, from 1650 onward the Renaissance authors completely forgot about it.

    The fact in the matter is that a horoscope doesn’t always tell us what is going on in the heavens : a planet may be at 12 or 15 degrees from the sun ( or even more) and be completely invisible at Sunrise or sunset. On the contrary, a planet may be at 6 ecliptical degrees from the sun and still be visible at sunset.

    This depends on what Ptolomey called the “arcus visionis “. This arcus visionis tell us what is the altitude of the Sun below( or above) the horizon when a certain celestial body is exactly on the horizon (or meridian). This differs from planet to planet: when ,at sunset ,Venus is 5,8 degrees above the horizon (latitude and NOT ecliptic degrees) as an evening star it is still is visible whereas Saturn (which arcus visionis of 12) will already be combust for a certain time.

    The first time when a planet became visible ( heliacal rising) and the last time ( heliacal setting) is very important . For instance : Einstein is born on the day the Mercury became visible after its combustion which was considered very good . So, when modern (or even traditional astrologers for that matter )claims that Einstein’s mercury is weak he is wrong and overlooks an important fact : the phase of the planets !

    As I said Einstein is born the day Mercury was heliacally rising but it doesn’t stop her ! A couple of days before the day of his birth, Jupiter rose out of combustion. And Jupiter is extremely important here as the planet is exaltation ruler of the ascendant , rules the MC and is dispositor of the Moon !

    Same goes for the horoscope of Hitler : the man was born when Mars was going to disappear in the light of the Sun. This was, according to Mesopamian principles a very strong and violent Mars.( the last day of freedom of a criminal who is going to disappear in prison )

    There are indeed so many things that remain hidden in the horoscope if the astrologer doesn’t look up at the sky !

    John Timperman

  2. hi james,

    nice article and i agree with your general view here.. whenever anyone is incapable of thinking for themselves, i think they run into problems.
    “Strictly speaking, William Lilly already broke with tradition if we are to disallow any form of innovation.”
    either astrology is capable of innovation, or it isn’t.. i think it is!

    interestingly when lillys material was coming on-stream, the hellenistic material had yet to arrive.. what meant ‘traditional’ astrologer in the 90’s looks different now, lol… no offense to anyone who follows any particular period of astrology, but these labels are a bit limiting.

    john timperman,

    i like how you have focused on helical rising of the planets. this is yet another area that is not so easy to understand, at least for me.. i do find it interesting how you suggest einsteins mercury is strong, while mars is weak.. i realize one is a superior and the other an inferior planet, but i am not convinced of the strength of mercury in einsteins chart from a helical point of view.. how do you get that? regardless, the idea of a planet being combust is a general idea that needs to be understood in the context of just what planet it happens to be.. more thoughts on helical rising is welcomed, as there is not much data on this topic and it is a very interesting one that i continue to want to know more about.. i had heard some talk of someone working on a book on just this topic and making a focus on mercury and venus, but haven’t head any more about it..

    cheers james

    • Hello James,

      Thanks for your reaction.

      First of all, I didn’t say that Einstein’s Mars was weak. On the contrary I think he is oriental, so definitely strong.

      As to the Mercury of Einstein, Mercury is strong since the planet is in a phase of heliacal rising : according to the tables of AV values of Carl Schoh, Einstein was born on a day when Mercury became visible, seeking the company of Saturn which is excellent for a scholar…

      According to Mesopotamian tradition (and also to the Hellenistic) a planet becomes stronger when she is in a “phase “ of first visibility and looses power when she is about to enter into the beam’s sun.

      Most ancient astrologers agree that it is good if a mostly well-portending planet, or a constellation representing such a planet is bright, and bad if an evil-portending planet is bright and vice versa if they are faint
      Mars shining extremely bright all night long ( opposition or acronycal rising) was considered to contribute to conflicts wars, droughts and everything that is like his nature.
      However it seems that some astrologers contradict this. ( Babylonian planetary omens –Reiner&Pingree).

      They pretend that it is good for Mars when bright ( far from the Sun) and bad when faint (in the vicinity of the Sun ). The logic here could be that Mars is hot and dry and the company of the Sun could only increase its warmth which is bad.

      Another important factor which contributed to good or bad ( at least according to Mesopotamian tradition) was the “path” of the sky in which a planet was heliacally rising. (En-lil ,An or Enki – north, east etc…of the eastern or western sky).

      The heliacal rise of Hitler’s Mars before birth happened around July 29 1887 in the path of Enlil which is the worst path to rise in.

      Indeed ,there are so many mysteries in the sky unsolved…but this was my twopence.

      John Timperman

      • hi john,

        thanks for your additional comments!

        you said hitlers mars was weak.. my apologies for neglecting to put hitlers name with the mars, while einsteins chart goes with the mercury..

        one could consider planetary sect here too. both einstein and hitler are day charts with mars a planet of the nocturnal sect in the upper half of the chart which is more conflictual. hitler’s mars in taurus is considered worse by sign and by phase, but it is interesting what you present about the degree of light from the planet and i wonder what we would actually see here in the difference between the 2 men’s charts..both mars are setting in the western part of the chart..

        hitlers chart is always used by astrologers to dump on.. i find that kind of limiting. i do like the fact einsteins mercury/saturn conjunction in aries is often used to show how a mercury/saturn conjunction doesn’t have to be a bad thing too.. looking at this using the idea of ‘sect’ saturn is in hayz here which is considered strong in a positive sense.. i don’t know how many consider this and i certainly never did prior to reading robert hands book on planetary sect! cheers – james

  3. Astrology is very nuanced, and I can’t help put point out the obvious in regard to Einstein’s Mercury combust and joined with Saturn in Aries (and I disagree that it is rising heliacally):

    He learned to talk so late that his parents feared that he was mentally retarded, not until he was three, and was not fluent until he was nine. For awhile, he was considered subnormal because of his slow development, and his teachers were continually saying that he would never amount to anything (taken from biography on AstroDatabank).

    Perhaps four things should be considered here: (1) Mercury is angular (Placidus) (2) Saturn is in its fall (which might not be as problematic as believed) (3) Mars is the dispositor and in its exaltation, aspecting by sign and also angular (4) an out of zodiacal sign combustion, which might portend a state less deleterious that supposed by some.

    The point, however, is that Einstein did not come into existence with an unscathed Mercury as is obvious from his early life.

  4. “Einstein did not come into existence with an unscathed Mercury as is obvious from his early life.”

    According to my own research over the years, Einstein didn’t know how to do simple tasks such as writing cheques. He had others do the simple math because he found it too difficult. On the other hand, he worked as a patent clerk, which might suggest the setting had much to do with his abilities.

    I think Einstein was more of a visionary at the end of the day. I agree with others (as written in the article) that in the myopic concern with Mercury we loose the larger picture

    Heliacal risings of Mercury are relatively commonplace. Einsteins are not. John’s thoughts on the role of Jupiter are much closer to the mark in my view, but I still say we have a case where the reality is more than the sum of its parts

  5. A great astrological mystery to me is why iconic French pop star Serge Gainsbourg was so physically ugly. Both his chart and his photo are here, and his birthtime is A-rated: https://www.astro.com/astro-databank/Gainsbourg,_Serge

    Venus is in Pisces, her sign of exaltation, CONJUNCT THE ASCENDANT (and BTW not remotely under the beams/combust/etc.). Venus also conjuncts Mercury, squares the MC, trines Pluto and widely opposes the Moon. Venus’s traditional ruler, Jupiter, is conjunct exalted Sun in Aries, and in Placidus it’s in the first house. The only astrological *hint* of ugliness, and it’s only a hint, is the square from Saturn in Sag to the Venus-ascendant conjunction.

    Gainsbourg was a very successful artist (strong Venus), and apparently attractive/charming (again, strong Venus); after all, he had a torrid affair with Brigitte Bardot at the height of her beauty and he married the gorgeous Jane Birkin. But his face!!! That is not what I would ever normally think of as a Venusian face. Piscean, sure, but Venusian??

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