“It signifies Marriage, open Enemies, Lawsuits, Controversies, Contracts, Warres, Bargaines, Fugitives, Thefts, &c. Because the Demands which do naturally appertain to the seventh house, require more consideration, and are more difficult to judge then of any other house, I have been forced to be more large in delivering the opinions of the Ancients, as well as of some modern Practisers…”
William Lilly’s Christian Astrology of 1647 is my text, and his instructions for an astrologer to determine important things about a proposed marriage, such as:
Who shall be Master of the two…
How they shall agree after Marriage…
Whether a Man or his Wife shall dye first, and the time when
This being 17th century England, we are soon getting to the main issue (I have expanded Lilly’s use of the common astrological signs):
“Whether she be a Maid, or Chaste, of whome the quere is.
Look if the Lord of the Ascendant [Venus] and the [Moon] be found in fixed Signs, good Planets beholding them, then say, she is a Maid, and chaste: But if in place of Fortunes there be Infortunes, say she is neither a Virgin, nor chaste; especially if [Mars] be there, and he in the house of [Venus] without Reception: Also, if [Moon] and [Sun] behold themselves and [Mars], she is no Maid; but if the Significators be in moveable Signs, Infortunes beholding them, say then she desireth a man very much, and that she refrains and restrains her concupiscence very much, and casts off her Suitors; yet it is not good to trust always to this judgment, because the nature of women is changeable.
Whether a Woman be honest to her Husband.
The Lord of the Ascendant, the [Moon] or [Venus] in fixed signs, in aspect of the Fortunes, she is chaste; these being in aspect of the Infortunes, not chaste, chiefly with [Mars]; [Sun] or [Moon] beholding [Mars], she is meretrix; [Sun] and [Moon] in no aspect, nor [Mars] with them, she is suspected a privy harlot, or rather privately wanton; but not yet come to the act.”
At this point, Lilly reminds those readers learning from him how to determine these delicate things that they will be playing with fire:
“I must charge all Sons of Art, to be sparing in delivering judgment upon these queries, rather to be silent; for as men, we may err; and so by delivering an unlucky judgment, be authors of much mischief.”
Nevertheless, he continues inexorably on, through all the permutations of temptation, resistance, inclination to frailty, extenuations of circumstance:
“Of a woman, whether she be corrupt, or hath a Lover besides her husband or Sweet-heart
Behold the Ascendant and his Lord, and the [Moon], and see if they be both in angles or fixed Signs, then say the Maid is a Virgin, and they lye of her, or what is reported is false: if the Lord of the Ascendant and [Moon] be in fixed Signs, and the angles be moveable Signs, she was tempted, but gave no credit or admittance to the Tempter. If the [Moon] be joined to [Saturn] [Jupiter] [Mars] [Sun] corporally by aspect, so that there is between them but five degrees or less, she is tempted of some one who hath the effigies of that Planet to whom she is joined; but if the [Moon] be joined to [Venus] or [Mercury], she is tempted by some woman for a man, but she makes no reckoning of the old or young Bawds words: but laughs her to scorn …
If then the [Moon] be with [the dragon’s tail], she hath formerly offended, and is still guilty, nor will she amend hereafter
The [Moon] in the last face of [Gemini], the woman seems to be corrupt, if the Ascendant be a moveable Sign, or common, or if the Lord of the Ascendant or [Moon] be in moveable or common Signs she is no Virgin; the Lord of the Ascendant combust in a moveable or common Sign, the woman hath been tempted and made a harlot by violence, or she was unwillingly drawn to lewdness.”
The astrologer’s client might want to know just where the actual or contemplated lover is: Lilly gives the rules that determine his actual distance:
“If [Mars] be with the Lord of the seventh, or with [Moon], or in one Sign in [conjunction], or with [the dragon’s tail], the woman hath a Sweet-heart in contract, not far from her house; and if they be in one degree, then he is in the house, and one of the familiars of the man that asks the question.”
He even seems to produce the signs in the sky that indicate if the woman is actually lesbian in her inclinations:
“The Lord of the seventh joined to [Venus] with Reception, with or without any aspect, or else by a [trine] or [sextile], or[square] without Reception, the Woman cares not for men, but hath friendship with women.”
And the final outcome of all this celestially vexed mating:
“Whether the Child conceived is the Son of him who is reputed is Father
Behold the Lord of the Ascendant and the [Moon], who signifie the Interrogant; then observe the Sign of the eleventh and his Lrd, these signifie the issue in Conception; if these Significators behold one another by [trine] or [sextile], with Reception or not, the Conception is legitimate
But if none of these things be, but that [Saturn] [Mars] or [Venus] behold the fifth house, or Lord thereof, there may be just suspicion that the Child is conceived in adultery, and the Mother was stuprated.”
The double standard is in its perfect form here. Lilly just cannot imagine an astrologer being consulted by a woman client about her prospective partner’s chastity. Women having so many more potential faults than men, the system seems set up to find and confirm them.
‘Christian astrology modestly treated'? The man had a nerve. Lilly thought, of course, that his art let him interpret the purposes of the largest elements in God’s creation (which always had meaning in relation to His prime creation, man): the whole sky was a divinely ordained system of influences. Lilly will always claim that his astrological predictions or readings do not entail any necessity, that repentance, or self-restraint, or resistance are always possible to the free human will. But once you read him in the full flow of confident exposition, he looks like the willing prisoner of his own system, seduced by its intricacies into describing an astral predetermination. A latently Calvinist God lurks behind all this, and maybe that’s what made Lilly think he was expounding something ‘Christian’ - rather than the arbitrary and prejudiced gim-crack assembled from all sorts of traditions, which you could charge with being mechanistic if it wasn’t so susceptible to delivering what suited the operator’s own opinions.