I have always found the stories behind an individual’s spiritual journey to be endlessly compelling. This is for good reason, considering what I do for a living—and by that, I don’t mean astrology. One of the ways I implement astrology is in the practice of spiritual direction, which, put simply, is making oneself available to listen to another person as they unpack the motions of their interior life in order to be able to offer them companionship. Spiritual direction is never “directive,” per se, and neither is the responsible use of astrology as a way of knowing.
I wondered aloud the other day on Twitter whether certain signatures in the natal chart could be used to describe (not to prescribe) the unfolding of a native’s spirituality. Being able to look at the natal chart and examine a person’s religious temperament would improve my ability as a pastoral caregiver to shape conversations in directions that are more fruitful for the task at hand, which is, namely, care of the soul.
For those unfamiliar, “care of the soul” is a coinage by the well-known author and therapist Thomas Moore, who defines it elliptically in his seminal work of the same name:
“…The first point to make about care of the soul is that it is not primarily a method of problem solving. Its goal is not to make life problem-free, but to give ordinary life the depth and value that come with soulfulness… The word care implies a way of responding to the expressions of the soul that is not heroic and muscular. Care is what a nurse does, and “nurse” happens to be one of the early meanings of the Greek word therapeia, or therapy… Cura, the Latin word used originally in “care of the soul,” means several things: attention, devotion, husbandry, adorning the body, healing, managing, being anxious for, and and worshiping the gods” (Moore 4-5).
In utilizing astrology in caring for their clients’ souls, the caregiver is accessing a most powerful tool—and it’s not for any small reason that Moore draws so heavily on the work of Marsilio Ficino. The working thesis is that, yes, spiritual temperament be discerned from the configuration of natal charts. If I know going into a consultation or a pastoral care visit that a given person is going to have difficulty engaging with abstract concepts when it comes to spirituality, I may as well focus on what appears to be the here and now in my time with them.
For some people, storytelling technologies like astrology aren’t something that they will want to access for spiritual growth, but rather, they want to have their anxieties assuaged about whatever is on their plate at the given moment. That’s as legitimate as my own desire to tease out the spiritual plotline of even the smallest chance incidents that happen in my day to day life. All that aside, having this information going into the consultation will enable the practitioner to speak the client’s language when it comes to matters of soul—and make for a more effective consulting practice without needing hours of interview time to learn each other’s language.
Beyond Lilly’s judgments in the third book of Christian Astrology, I’ve not seen any systematic work on how exactly one goes about this, so what I hope to do over the ensuing weeks and months is to build a collection of case studies that give practitioners inroads into how to address matters of spiritual temperament and “soul” with their clients. My own working thesis agrees with what Moore and Ficino both propose: yes, such information can indeed be gleaned from the natal chart, and various passages in the work of Lilly and others corroborate this.
The question stands: which points in the natal chart are we going to take to discern this information? In my initial tweet, I supposed that the Moon and Jupiter would be thematic, and my teacher and friend Wade Caves added that matters of the 9th house would also be germane here, as the Moon and Jupiter placement by sign are the same for every person every 2.5 days (which is a legitimate point). Lilly writes of the 9th house:
To start building some initial observations we’ll take the Moon, Jupiter, and the 9th house cusp and its ruler as our points of departure, weighing their dignity, aspects, and configurations with other planets. Let’s also take a look at Lilly’s rules for judging matters of religion:
“Saturn, Mars or South Node in the 9th, or Saturn or Mars in the 3rd opposite to the 9th house, being in a movable Signe, and Jupiter weak, peregrine or in his detriment, and in a cadent house, afflicted of the Maleficals, viz. Saturn or Mars, usually such Natives are either very backward in Religion, expresse little, or else are of none at all, or are perverted in that wherein they were educated, or if they doe stumble upon any Religion, they prove most pernicious Sectaries.
“But if Jupiter, Venus or North Node possesse the 9th or 3rd, the Native proves a good Christian, and a lover of Religion wherein trained up. The Sun, Moon, Mercury or Part of Fortune in those houses, are moderate Signes, and doe augment the signification of goodnesse, when in any benevolent aspect of Jupiter or Venus; decrease and diminish it when in aspect with the Infortunes.
“If no Planets occupy the 3rd or 9th, consider Jupiter, the naturall Significator of Religion, if he be in his owne House, Exaltation, and also in an angle, or in Reception with Venus or Sun, Moon or Mercury, it denotes a good minded and a religious man.
“If Jupiter be peregrine, in his Fall or Detriment, and in a cadent house of the Figure, and afflicted of the malevolents, he notes the contrary.
“I would not here in this Chapter have any man to think that the influence of the Starre, enforceth to this or that Religion, or that they are the causes of ones being either Religious or Contrary, it’s the grace of ones being either Religious or contrary, it’s the grace of Gods effects that, viz. gives Piety, Godlinesse, and the Graces of the Spirit; the Starres onely decipher the naturall propensity of the Native to good or ill, and whether he will be permanent or not in order, according to his naturall inclination.” (Lilly 611-612).
Lilly also includes aphorisms showing indications of piety or impiety in the chart, and as I start to build this log of case studies, I will keep those in mind as well. I’ve reproduced them here (they are, essentially, standard rules of dignity, debility, help, affliction, beneficence and malevolence). Meanwhile, I’ll interpret his comments about Christianity as we proceed, rooted as they are in the cultural milieu of a governmentally established Christian Church. In general, I think it’s a safe assumption that we might swap out “Christian” for whatever the mainstream, most widely-accepted religious tradition is in the geographic region where the native spent her or his formative years. Were Lilly writing in Istanbul in 1647 instead, the religion noted would likely have been Islam, if not Greek Orthodoxy (but that’s a whole other article). I’ll also draw a distinction here between spirituality and religiosity—a lazy one, but it’ll work for our purposes: I consider spirituality what’s happening on the inside and religiosity how those interior motions are expressed.
I’ll start this project using the charts of people whose religious journeys I know very well, with their kind permission. All individuals will be anonymous. Then, once I’ve gotten a few known delineations down, I’ll ask (likely on Twitter) for a number of individuals whose stories I don’t already know to submit their birth information so that we can test Lilly’s rules. For the purposes of this article, I’ll stick with a handful of charts I know very well (relatives and friends). This is not meant to be a formal research paper, but it’ll grow into that in time, for sure. In all of these examples I am using Dorothean triplicities, Egyptian terms, and Chaldean decans, and all houses are Placidus.
This chart, which belongs to a relative, has several very interesting features as regards the question of spirituality and religiosity. We see immediately that there are no planets in the 9th house, but the 9th ruler, Mars, is highly dignified in Scorpio in the 3rd, notable because this is a fixed water sign (and we might expect “fixity” to figure prominently here). On Mars in the 3rd, Lilly writes, “Saturn or Mars in the 9th or 3rd, Direct, irradiated with the good aspect of the Fortunes, themselves occupying a fixed Signe, argue approved Piety,” which is to say, the native practices a spirituality or religiosity that is socially acceptable.
The 3rd ruler, Venus, is in Capricorn, not quite in the 6th house, but knowing this native I am going to choose to read Venus as being around the cusp of the 6th (Lilly does this sort of thing all the time). She also separates from the square of the 9th house cusp, “boxing in” the 9th. From these significators alone, I am going to judge that this is a person with a spiritual style that is highly attuned to the common people’s spirituality (3rd house) and who feels a duty to keep up appearances in matters of communication, yes, but also in terms of that core relationship to the “faith of our fathers” (3rd ruler Venus in 6 in Capricorn—whew!).
Meanwhile, Jupiter, the natural significator of spirituality, is both in detriment and peregrine immediately conjunct the ascendant, and in Virgo, this Jupiter is one which will allow the native to scrutinize her beliefs, despite the 9th ruler being highly dignified and in a fixed sign. Fixity of belief is an important element of this individual’s story, as we will see shortly. This Jupiter does not have all of the significations that Lilly notes would suggest the native being the opposite of a “good minded and religious” person, but this is still going to be a predominant theme for this individual’s spirituality. Also consider who it is that Jupiter disposes in this chart: the Moon, in Pisces, on the eighth cusp. Any sort of change or variation, or any kind of Moon-in-Pisces activity, is going to be a source of dread for this individual.
Of note also is that the cusp of the 3rd house is fairly close to Spica Virginis (23 Libra 50 as of this writing). Lilly writes “Jupiter, Venus or North Node in the 9th or 3rd, or with Spice Virgo, Signifie a religious party” (612). Though there are no planets conjunct Spica in this instance, we might speculate that house cusps conjunct prominent fixed stars—Spica in particular—can be telling secondary testimonies. It’s worth keeping in our back pocket, at least.
In sum, the spirituality of this person is going to be highly unlikely to change and will be keyed by-and-large to the socially acceptable practice of the common spirituality of her birth place, which will be practiced as much out of earnest belief as a sense of responsibility to social order and “keeping up appearances,” very much a post-war approach to religiosity that is unlikely to shift. However as the native ages, we might reasonably expect her to have periodic reevaluations of what is working and what is not in her faith and practice (and we might expect each first house profection year to bring this sort of change, so, 12, 24, 36, 48, etc. Jupiter being conjunct the ascendant—this also means that the native’s Jupiter returns will correspond with first house profections). With the ruler of the first house being Mercury in Capricorn, we might expect something along the lines of “opportunities to rearrange one’s mental furniture” rather than wholesale religious crises.
This individual was raised in the Southern Baptist tradition and is married to a minister in a mainline protestant denomination, which has formed a significant part of this person’s identity and lifestyle for the majority of her adult life (notice that Jupiter rules the 7th and is conjunct the ascendant). Without revealing too much of this person’s personal life, I will note that every twelve years she has encountered some type of change in relationship to spirituality as matters are examined and re-examined, notably during her 60th year, which was both a first house profection year and a Jupiter Return year, during which she encountered several crises of belief and expectation as she learned to live with her gay son. Fill in whatever blanks you like, but it is a happy ending (less of a rarity these days, thankfully).
The second chart is that of my husband. This time, we have another instance where we have no planets in the 9th (Pluto is within five degrees of the midheaven, so we read him in the 10th), yet the 9th ruler is in the 3rd, but it’s significantly different from the first chart because of the dignities involved. Lilly writes, “Saturn, Mars, South Node in the 9th or 3rd, in movable Signes, Jupiter being peregrine or in Detriment, Cadent, infected of the Infortunes, argue, the Native will not be constant in one Religion” (613). We’re not dealing with any of the malefics, but we are dealing with the benefic of the sect in detriment and ruling the 9th placed in the third. The 9th ruler here is Venus, and the 3rd ruler is Mars. At the very least, Mars has dignity by term and face, but Venus is in rotten shape altogether—debilitated and cadent, just about opposing the 9th cusp. She is not an accidental malefic but because of her condition she is not going to manifest as constructively as she would otherwise. I suspect that in matters of religiosity, the native feels as though he exists as an outsider among the “common religion,” and being in a cardinal sign, the ruler of the 9th is going to take pains to create their own ways to accomplish what they want to do in terms of the 9th house as regards philosophy and spirituality (as well as the 4th, which remains relevant later on).
We also have Jupiter debilitated but angular here ruling the 2nd and the 11th suggesting that opportunities for the native’s promised religious scrutiny will emerge in the context of partnership and will incorporate considerations of his own individual resources as well as the groups with whom he associates. Meanwhile, the Moon in Pisces is applying to the conjunction of the third ruler (and ruling the 6th—duty, labor, and illness), connecting 6th house ideas to the expression of the 3rd house ruler, who is doing the very best he can all things considered. Mars at least has a little bit of ability to manifest his natal promise here, unlike Venus, which will forever be a bit of an outsider in terms of spirituality and religion. The Sun rules the 7th and is placed in the 3rd, so we might suspect that this native’s partner has close and fixed ties to the “common religion.”
Side note: I wonder whether the religion vs spirituality axis might be distributed to the 3rd and the 9th, that is, the 3rd rules religion in terms of outward practice and the 9th rules spirituality in terms of one’s own philosophy. The jury is out on this one, I suppose.
A few words about my husband are in order, then: he grew up in a cult (the Church of Christ, not to be confused with the United Church of Christ) and religion has been a thorn in his side for several years—and yet, he’s taken me, a mainline protestant pastor and astrologian, as his husband. He was disowned by his CofC parents when he came out, and his mom even published a lovely blog post on our wedding day entitled “On Giving Your Son to the Devil.” Super fun!
We may readily see the 4th ruler Venus in detriment in Aries in 3 as signifying parents who utilize emotional manipulation tactics to attempt to get their son to see “the error of his ways,” so to speak, but remember that Venus is playing for him, too, so we can see how that’s not quite going to work. Were Venus in Taurus in 3 instead of in Aries, we would expect him never to have left the Church of Christ. As it stands now, he identifies most readily with Daoism, which is about as much of a Taurus Sun/Pisces Moon faith tradition as I can imagine. True to Venus in Aries fashion, my husband has created a support group for survivors of abusive forms of Christianity.
This is the chart of a dear friend of mine who gave me permission to use his as an example as it proves a fantastic case study. Once again, we have nothing in the ninth house, but we have the ninth ruler in the 3rd. Moreover, we again have the 9th ruler in detriment and cadent. The difference in the plot though, here, is that the the 3rd ruler, Mercury, is combust the Sun in the 8th, with no dignity, and he’s not making a phase either. However, thematic in this chart is the fact that the dispositor of the 3rd ruler, Mars, also rules the 8th and is both highly dignified and angular. Jupiter must appeal to Mercury, who must appeal to Mars to accomplish their respective purposes, and Mars in Aries—namely, the ability to stand one’s ground and find their own way forward—has the ability to make things happen for this person as regards spirituality. We should also note that Mars applies very closely to the trine of the 9th and the sextile of the 3rd. Although Mars is the malefic contrary to sect, his dignity here leads me to believe that he will manifest constructively.
It would be irresponsible to neglect the fact that Jupiter also rules the midheaven and the ascendant, as well as being the natural significator of spirituality here. We see immediately that this native’s relationship to the “common religion” is a significant life theme in terms of their identity as well as their public perception. Lilly writes, “If Jupiter be peregrine, in his Fall or Detriment, and in a cadent house of the Figure, and afflicted of the malevolents, he notes the contrary” (612). Knowing this person, I am not prepared to say that a debilitated 9th ruler is an indicator of any kind of “spiritual apathy.”
Quite the contrary—the “outsider” factor of a house ruler in debility, as we saw with the previous chart, is something to keep in mind. In this instance, the native was a member of the Southern Baptist faith tradition and studied at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, but in his early 20s (around the time of his second Jupiter return) he underwent a personal transformation that caused him to reconsider how he related to the faith tradition of the surrounding environment—and Kentucky is decidedly a Bible-belt state, so, that’s the tradition under consideration here.
He eventually was ordained within the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a progressive family of faith in the Baptist tradition, and he has become an advocate for LGBTQ inclusion in the Church. To this point, Lilly’s note on Jupiter in the 3rd is notable: “But if Jupiter, Venus or North Node possesse the 9th or 3rd, the Native proves a good Christian, and a lover of Religion wherein trained up” (612). But all the same, we have Jupiter in a common sign on the 3rd in his detriment, so we see how there is a tension between devotion to the religion of the native’s upbringing and his need to find new expressions of the same. He is no longer a Southern Baptist, which has cost him some connections to major figures in his upbringing, but all the same, he has been able to find a path within the broader current of the religious tradition of his upbringing where he can find a place of rootedness.
I do want to speak about the placement and rulership of the Sun and Saturn as well, because both of them figure prominently not only into this individual’s spiritual and religious identities, but also into their professional life and sense of purpose.
This person is a clergy colleague of mine whose vocation has brought him to a position where he is working in hospital chaplaincy. He discerned this call while he was providing chaplaincy to inmates at a local prison. He is preparing to begin a training residency at a regional hospital. Notice that the 12th ruler is Saturn, who has natural rulership of places of confinement, viz., hospitals and prisons. Saturn is dignified and placed quite close to the midheaven in the 10th. Meanwhile, the native’s Sun is in Scorpio in the eighth, suggesting that he will be unafraid to plunge into deathly depths to do what it is that he has been called to do. Moreover, he has no problem putting haters in their place (Mars in the 1st).
From these three examples, we see that Lilly’s rules of judgment are on track, yet they must be extrapolated in instances where there are not specific instances that match the considerations he lists as primary in judgment. In those instances, we take the nature of the sign where the significators in question are placed.
I realize as I write this that all three of these examples have Pisces Moons and Jupiter in detriment, and all three of these examples are people for whom spirituality (a Jupiterian matter) have been thematically significant in their life. All the same, we see how these respective Pisces Moons have transmitted the powers of the superior planets in different fashions, for the powers of those planets were in each instance in different situations, and the house rulerships were different as well.
There remains much more work to do, and I’m excited to continue engaging therein—a number of my readers have submitted their chart data for inclusion in this case study. If you’d like to participate, get in touch! I’m offering a 10% discount on any service to anyone who submits their data for inclusion in the study.