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Cyril Fagan


The Exaltations and Time Reckoning, February/March 1954

In this article, Fagan explains the origins of the exaltation degrees, modes of time reckoning and the importance of the stars on the ascendant. He also discusses the importance of transits to the lunar return and to the progressed chart. 

By this time the reader will probably have correctly gleaned that the heliacal and acronychal settings and risings of the planets and fixed stars held immense significance for the peoples of antiquity.  That this was so is abundantly confirmed by the Babylonian “Astronomical Tables” of the Seleucid Period which gave the year, date and sidereal longitudes in degrees and minutes of all important heliacal phenomena expected to occur.

According to the Eponym Chronicles, Nabu, the great god of astrology, was enthroned in his new temple at Nineveh (not Kalakh as stated in Zodiacs Old and New) during the reign of Adad-Nirari III and in the year commencing at sunset on April 3, 786 B.C.  Calculating in terms of the Babylonian zodiac the following astonishing sidereal longitudes were obtained.  On “New Year’s Day” (1st Nisan), i.e. April 3, 786 B.C. Venus’ sidereal longitude was found to be Pisces 27°, the Sun, Aries 19° and the Moon, Aries 30°.  With the exception of the Moon (which shows the small deviation of –3°), these planets were exactly in their traditional exaltation degrees, known to the Greeks as their Hypsomata* (Elevations”).  It will thus be noted that on this Babylonian “New Year’s Day” Ishtar (Venus), Shamash (Sun) and Sin (Moon) formed a Triad, and this triad invariably figured on Babylonian boundary stones. 


During the ensuing twelve lunar months, the following remarkable quadruple heliacal phenomena occurred:


Sivan 21 (June 22, 786 B.C.) Jupiter in Cancer 15° set in the West


Elul 15 (September 13, 786 B.C.) Mercury in Virgo 15° set in the East


Elul 25 (September 23, 786 B.C.) Saturn in Libra 21° set in the West


Shebat 6 (January 30, 785 B.C.) Mars in Capricorn 28° rose in the East


Here again all four planets were exactly in their traditional exaltation degrees.  The odds against this happening by chance are almost incalculable as to leave no doubt whatsoever that the Hypsomata (exaltations) originated during this year and in terms of the sidereal zodiac.  This is confirmed by Dr. Ernst Weidner in his Handbuch der Babylonische Astronomie (1915), page 51, where mention is made of a four-planet list found in Boghaz Keni in Asia Minor in which Venus is missing because, as the doctor infers, “she formed a triad with the sun and moon.”


It is now known that all Babylonian astronomical texts from the time of Naburiannu, 500 B.C. to the 2nd century A.D. were computed in terms of the sidereal zodiac.

The Greek Zodiacs

Because the equinoctial points, perpetually, rose and set due east and west respectively, the Greek astronomers persuaded themselves that they were absolutely fixed in space; and they never succeeded in freeing themselves from the grip of this error.  In one version of their zodiac, probably that of Cleostratus, the vernal point was in Aries 12°, in another 10°, due no doubt to the attempt to make it conform to Naburiannu’s “System A.” In the Callipic version it was fixed absolutely in Aries 8° to make it accord with Kidenas’ “System B.” This was the “zodiac” favored by the majority of Greek and Roman astrologers, including Manetho and Manilius. As the result of comparing 6° between the autumnal equinoctial point and Spica [alpha Virgo, ed.] with Timocharis and Aristyllus’ earlier measurement of 8°, about 139 B.C. Hipparchus, the “Father of Greek Astronomy” realized that the fixed stars are not fixed, but moving.  At first he thought that the shift was confined to the zodiacal stars, but later he found that all the stars shared in the general forward movement.  Seeing this to be the case he argued that it would be ridiculous to measure the positions of the planets from a star that was itself in a state of flux, and therefore the only sensible thing to do was to measure them from those points in the sky that were unalterable, namely the equinoctial points.  In a brilliant paper read before the Royal Irish Society in 1901, Maxwell Close showed that Hipparchus never doubted that the equinoctial points were absolutely fixed in space for eternity. So he invented the tropical zodiac, in which all the planets and stars are measured from the “fixed” vernal-point, which he considered to be “Aries 0°” in the complete conviction that he had established the true fixed zodiac. Had Hipparchus realized the truth, namely, that it was the equinoctial points and not the fixed stars that were shifting and in consequence that the tropical zodiac was moving and not fixed, it would not have been devised. As Maxwell Close remarked, had Hipparchus or Claudius Ptolemy suspected that the equinoxes were retrograding along the ecliptic path they could not fail to have discovered that the earth itself was in motion; but some sixteen centuries had to elapse before that discovery was made by Copernicus. Fundamentally all the Greek “zodiacs” were tropical since they were all tethered to the backsliding vernal point and not to a fixed star, as was the case with the Babylonian zodiac. Despite the popularity among the Greeks of the Callippic zodiac, Claudius Ptolemy adopted Hipparchus’ version when penning the Almagest in the 2nd century A.D. The sidereal and tropical zodiacs coincided in A.D. 221.

The Day
It is common knowledge that with the Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Greeks, Jews, early Christians and Muslims (and in fact virtually all the peoples of antiquity), the day of 24 hours began at eve (sunset).   Indeed, this method of reckoning the day persisted in Bohemia and Florence up to the middle of the eighteenth century, and it still persists with the Jews.  The Romans, alone among ancient nations began the day at apparent midnight.  When at eve the disc of the sun was seen, from the top of the church belfry, to disappear below the western horizon, the tolling of the Angelus announced the beginning of a new day.  The famed Round Towers of Ireland were erected by the monks so as to permit of an uninterrupted view of the horizon so that the setting of the sun and the rising of the sickle—moon—which heralded the beginning of the new month could be more easily detected, weather permitting.


The coming of the mechanical clock in the fourteenth century, somewhat haltingly introduced the equinoctial hour into civil life.  Previous to that, time was reckoned in temporal hours; the diurnal temporal hour being one-twelfth of the interval between sunrise and sunset, and the nocturnal being one-twelfth of the sun’s arc between sunset and sunrise.  From the introduction of clocks till the close of the eighteenth century local solar time, otherwise called local apparent time (i.e. time as recorded by a sundial) was used for all civil purposes. Astrologers who have a flair for calculating historical horoscopes should note that the use of mean time for civil purposes did not become general until late in the eighteenth century or the early part of the nineteenth century.  I have no record as to when meantime became official in the U.S.A. but it became official in London in 1792.  The difference between apparent and meantime—known as the equation of time—can amount to plus or minus 16 minutes, which is not inconsiderable in the computation of “Solunars.” **

The Astronomical Day
To record astronomical phenomena Claudius Ptolemy made use of the Nabonassar calendar. This was identical to the ancient Egyptian calendar except that the day commenced at Mean Noon at Alexandria (31°N12', 29°E52') on Wednesday, February 26, 747 B.C. which was “New Year’s Day (1st Thoth).  Astronomers and astrologers alike adhered to the old Egyptian calendar even though it had been obsolete for many centuries, for it lent itself admirably to the compilation of tables and prophetic measures.  Maurice Wemyss, for example, has successfully demonstrated that the planetary periods were derived from the number of years that elapsed between their heliacal rising on the same Egyptian date. 


Since Ptolemy’s time all astronomical almanacs, ephemerides, planetary elements and the like have been computed from the astronomical day that commenced at mean noon.  Origanus in the seventeenth century calculated his Ephemeris for Frankfurt (52°N22', 14°E32') mean noon, but nearly all later ones were compiled for Greenwich Mean Noon including the (British) Nautical Almanac, Raphael’s Ephemeris, Zadkiel’s Ephemeris and Die Deutsche Ephemeride.


In 1925 astronomers decided to abandon use of the “Astronomical Day” and from the year 1931 the (British) Nautical Almanac *** and similar publications adopted the Civil Day commencing with Greenwich mean midnight (0 hours).  The use of the popular “a.m.” and “p.m.” was dropped in favor of Universal Time (U.T.) , which is reckoned in terms of a 24-hour clock from Greenwich Mean Midnight.  Most astrological ephemerides followed suit except for Raphael’s, which continued to adhere to the astronomical day. American Astrology Ephemeris was unique in that it was also computed in terms of the civil day, but in Eastern Standard Time (E.S.T.), or five hours slow of G.M.T.


[For the remainder of the February installment and half of the March installment of 1954, Fagan enumerates a number of rules for setting up horoscopes by hand using logarithms, tables of houses and ephemerides that have been almost universally abandoned in the current age of computers.  Accordingly those portions are omitted.  The work picks up in the middle of the March 1954 installment, ed.]

Transits and the Lunar Return

In regard to the more rapidly moving planets, their transits only become significant if they should closely configure the birth planets on the date of a lunar return.  For example, if Mars should be in exact opposition, conjunction, or to a lesser extent, square the radical sun on the date of a lunar return there will be a liability of an accident, hurt or illness.  Otherwise such a transit may pass without anything untoward occurring.  So it is always advisable to note all the transits to the birth planets, especially to the natal moon, that are exact or nearly so, on the date of a lunar return for they are certain to be effective.  Indeed the Indian Janma-Rasi method of monthly prediction, which has proved so astonishingly successful, was probably originally based on such transits.


Progressions (Secondary Directions) are nothing more than long term transits and they should be interpreted as such.  Thus the progressions of the Sun to the conjunction of the birth Mars have identically the same influence as a transit of the Sun over the birth Mars; only while the effects of the later are fleeting, those of the former are more enduring.  Similarly the progressions of the Moon have the same influences as the transits of that body.  He who can interpret transits correctly has already mastered the art of delineating transits successfully.

The Signature

The fixed stars especially those that lie within the zodiacal belt, determine the conformation of the physical body (Tetrabiblos II, III).  These include not only the comparatively small number of bright stars, familiar to night observers, but also the teeming millions that are only visible through high-powered telescopes and which can be seen clustering in every degree of the ecliptic.  It might be objected that only the stars visible to the unaided eye can affect us, but if this were true then we must dismiss the influences of Neptune and Pluto (the latter is only a 15th magnitude object, capable of being viewed only through the more powerful instruments). Members of the same family often bear a decided resemblance to one another however much they may differ in character and genius; and it will be found that they are either born under the rising of the same fixed stars or have them on one or the other of the angles at their birth.  The interchange of the angular fixed stars in the horoscopes of parents and children is well known (compare for example, the angular interchanges in the horoscopes of King George V, Queen Mary and their six children).


The signature (physical appearance) determined by the rising stars will be modified (a) by the planets that are simultaneously rising or setting and (b) by the fixed stars and planets that configure the Sun, especially should the latter be also in the foreground.   It is, of course, understood that the appearance will conform to the racial and hereditary pattern.  The horoscopes of animals and human beings can be identical.  As the fixed stars are by their very nature relatively static they can only signify that which is static, namely the mould, the form or the body which becomes the seat of consciousness.  But without the vivifying power of the Sun it would lack life and thought; and without the influence of the Moon, it would be devoid of action, emotion and locomotion.  But while the rising stars in the aggregate translate and condition the expression of thought and emotion, they are not themselves the source of thought and emotion. 


In this respect one must be on one’s guard not to attribute to the rising constellation effects that do not belong to it.  For example, a lady who confessed that she roars when annoyed attributed this to the fact that she was born with Leo rising, which would imply that about one twelfth of the world’s population also roared when they got annoyed, which is absurd.  Even if those born under this constellation did snarl—which is nonsense—she ought to have known that in her case the conjunction of the gentle Venus with the ascending degree would have precluded such a possibility.  To roar is the violent expression of an emotion signified by the Moon, and at her birth that luminary was in conjunction with clamorous Mars in Capricorn!

The “Me” and the “Moon”
The radical (and progressed) Moon is the source of craving which in frustration produces the “Me” and the “Mine.”  In a word the Moon denotes the ego.  Our manners and deportment, our characteristic moods and daily habits, our personal idiosyncrasies, our way of eating and talking, our predilections and aversions and our reactions to all the impacts of life are indicated by the position of the radical Moon and its configurations with the fixed stars and the planets.  For example, should the Moon at birth be in conjunction or opposition to Mars the native will be vigorous, dashing, hasty, reckless, loud, outspoken, argumentative, devoid of shyness, apt to take the front seat at a lecture, prone to interrupt the speaker and be the first on the floor to question him; he usually arrives uninvited and at an inopportune moment and overstays his welcome, and he is much too impatient to take due care of his person, his clothes, his style and his spelling.  If the configuration falls in the foreground these characteristics will be all the more obvious but if they occur in the background they may not be apparent at all.  Even the Moon’s configurations give way to the influence of the planets that are in the immediate foreground.


For example, the conjunction of the Moon and Jupiter generally denotes a jovial, merry person, bubbling with fun and the gaiety of life, but in Hitler’s theme this conjunction fell in one of the weakest parts of the mundane sphere, namely the third house, and it was therefore altogether subservient to Mercury, the planet of oratory, which was the strongest planet in his horoscope [because Mercury was the most angular planet, ed] and it was by the magic of his oratory alone that Hitler held Germany spellbound for more than a decade. 


Transits to the Moon were long ago found to be so significant that they gave rise to the Janma-Rasi system method of monthly prognostications, so much favored in India to this day.  But more effective still are transits to the progressed Moon.  Indeed these are so efficient that can be used to the approximate time of birth when the latter is not known.  For example, the transit of Mars to the conjunction or opposition of the progressed Moon usually causes the native to lose his temper, or else get very annoyed.  Check back over your astrological diary and find a date when this happened, then note the sidereal longitude of Mars for this date and the sidereal longitude of the progressed Moon for the speculative time of birth.  (If there is no speculative time, then calculate the progressed Moon for a noon birth.)


Should the longitudes of Mars and the progressed Moon be identical then it can be taken that the speculative time is reliable, but if they differ, ascertain by how much they differ and allow two hours to every degree.  For example if the transiting Mars were in 5° Libra and the progressed Moon in 7° Libra, then the assumed time of birth is about four hours too late.  But if Mars were in 10° Libra it would be about six hours too early. By a process of trial and error, and with greater refinement in computations, a time can be found which will approximate closely to the truth.


In assaying the effects of transits one must always be alive to the possibilities of the situation.  Obviously transits in the lunar returns of toddlers will not register the same effects as in those of the mature and aged.  Moreover a man serving a life sentence behind prison walls will be more immune to the impacts of transits than one living in public life.

*Hypsoma (hypsomata, pl., ϋψωμα, high position or elevation) is the Greek rendering of the Babylonian ašar/bit niṣirti which means “hiding place” or “house secret.”  The hiding places are the exaltations where a planet is strongest.  The earliest reference to the ašar/bit niṣirti is from inscriptions of Essarhaddon, king of Assyria 680-669 B.C.  (See Astral Sciences in Mesopotamia, by Hermann Hunger and David Pingree, Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 1999, p. 28).  When Essarhaddon ascended the throne of Assyria upon the assassination of his father Sennecherib in the winter of 681-680 B.C., by one of his elder brothers, a period of political instability followed until Essarhaddon could consolidate his power.  Omens were taken that indicated Essarhaddon’s eventual success.  In particular, Hunger and Pingree note in their Mul.Apin. An Astronomical Compendium in Cuneiform, Archiv für Orientforchung, Beiheft 24, 1989, p.147, that Jupiter in the month Simanu (May 30, June 29) in 680 B.C., “…came near the stars in which the Sun was and reached its ašar niṣirti in Pet-babi (Tišritum, i.e., September-October).  Hunger and Pingree further add that the first visibility of Jupiter (after a period of invisibility, i.e., Jupiter’s heliacal rising) was on June 27, 680 B.C. when its (tropical) longitude was 75° (15° Gemini); and on October 2, 680 B.C. its (tropical) longitude was 91° (1° Cancer ), near the delta star in Cancer. On June 27, 680 B.C at dawn Jupiter was in 27° Gemini 15' with respect to the Fagan-Allen ayanamsa and 14° Gemini 47' in terms of tropical longitude, although there was no tropical zodiac in the seventh century B.C nor had the Greeks adopted sexagesimal degree notation from the Babylonians at that point.  The point is that the Babylonian positions are accurate.  Jupiter entered Cancer by the Fagan-Allen ayanamsa on July 10, 680 B.C.  Originally, Babylonian astrology related primarily to the king.  It was therefore good for him and the country when Jupiter was in Cancer.  There are many references in the ancient world that relate to how Jupiter in its exaltation brings bountiful rain and harvests.  Accordingly, in another passage about this first year of Essarhaddon’s reign (See Mesopotamian Astrology, by Ulla Koch-Westenholz, Museum Tuscalneum Press: Copenhagen, 1995, p. 157) one of Essarhaddon’s scribes wrote:


In the month of Simanu, bright Jupiter, which makes decisions for Akkad, approached the place where the sun lights up, and stood there shining, its rising was perfect like the rising of the sun.  The angry gods became reconciled with the land of Akkad, there was plenty of rain and regular flooding (for irrigation) in the land of Akkad.  It then doubled its course and in the month of Pet-babi it reached its hypsoma and stayed in its house.


Pet-babi or Tišritum is the September-October period.  Jupiter turned retrograde on October 27, 680 B.C. at 14° Cancer 37' with respect to the Fagan-allen ayanamsa which is virtually identical to ancient Babylonian reckoning.  The exaltation degree of Jupiter is 15° Cancer.  Jupiter did not reach its bit niṣirti until the following year by tropical reckoning.  To stay in “its house” means to remain in that sign, although Jupiter quickly moved out of tropical Cancer back into tropical Gemini.   It remained however in sidereal Cancer. Those who take issue with these facts will doubtless maintain that it is enough for Jupiter to have been in the mere sign of its exaltation (Jupiter when it turned retrograde on 10/27/680 B.C was at 2° Cancer 10' in terms of tropical longitude) but specific degrees are common in the ancient literature with respect to astrology.  They are just not present in every piece of astrological work.  The point is that there is evidential support for an established twelve-fold equal division zodiac as old as this, otherwise these instances, which are by no means unique, could not be cited; whereas there is no support whatsoever for tropical reckoning in the form, 0° = vernal equinox until Hipparchus in the second century B.C. and even then that form of reckoning was not fully embraced in the West even during Ptolemy’s lifetime three hundred years after Hipparchus.  Sidereal reckoning is the original form of the art and was displaced by tropical reckoning in error because of Greek insistence that we live in a geocentric universe, whereas our solar system is heliocentric.  See more on this in appendices II and III in An Introduction to Western Sidereal Astrology by Kenneth Bowser, Tempe, Arizona: American Federation of Astrologers, 2012.

**This is explained in much greater detail in the article, Local Apparent Time by Kenneth Bowser that appeared in the June/July 2000 issue of The Mountain Astrologer. To read this article, click here


***The American Ephemeris and Nautical Almanac adopted the Civil Day and midnight reckoning in 1925.


                                                                                                                                            —K. Bowser

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