Supplementary Significations of Disease
n the case history illustrating my earlier article The First House: Health & Vitality, the signification of disease utilised a traditional association between parts of the body and planetary placements within the zodiacal signs. In Christian Astrology Lilly acknowledges the Arabic origins of this knowledge and formally presents the scheme under the title: A Table showing what members in Man's Body every Planet signifieth in any of the twelve Signes (CA., p.119).
At first glance the table seems to make no sense. Why, for example, should Saturn in Aries indicate the breast or arm when Aries is generally associated with the head and Saturn with the bones? Closer inspection, however, reveals the sequence of bodily organs that we usually associate with the signs. This is readily apparent descending the lunar column, although in the other columns it appears far more haphazard.
If you take the sequence of bodily areas to start with the head and then look down each column in turn, the sign where the word Head is found corresponds to where the Planet ruling the column is dignified. Noting that Saturn is dignified in both Capricorn and Aquarius, it's easy to see two consecutive zodiacal sequences beginning at these signs. As Lilly expIains:
Every planet in his own house or sign, governs the head; in the second sign from his house, the neck; in the third sign from his house, the arms and shoulders; and so successively through the twelve signs
However there are still a number of anomalies to these correspondences; the most obvious one is found in the Lunar column where the head also begins in Aries. Lilly comments on this, though fails to give a full explanation:
The Moon observes the same order as the rest; yet the Arabians, from whom this learning is, do allow her in Aries the head as well as the knees: The head, because Aries signifies so much: the knees, because Aries is the ninth sign from Cancer.
Other associations defy explanation. For example, why should Mars in Cancer indicate feet when it clearly breaks with both sequences of bodily organs? Perhaps this is a scholastic, translation or printing error? Alternatively such a correspondence might have been based upon some sort of empirical observation. It could even be an intentional error on the part of the original author to obfuscate the knowledge contained in this table. It is intriguing that Mars has his fall in Cancer and the feet are the obvious part of the body linked with tripping
and falling. A symbolic pun to 'trip up' one's understanding of the scheme. Whatever is the true explanation here, Lilly has endorsed the totality of the Table at face value including any such irregularities, as can be see from his charts incorporating its signification.
The most interesting illustration of how Lilly used the Table is shown in his horary chart entitled: A sick Doctor, what was his
Disease? If Curable? (CA., p.286)
Before exploring Lilly's judgement it is important to point out that this chart is a horary chart about the Doctor's health rather than a true decumbiture. In other words the chart is based upon the time questions were raised about the Doctor's illness rather than the time of its actual onset. Accordingly, the sharp distinction of the 1st house representing the patient's health and vitality and the 6th house representing the patient's disease, typical of a decumbiture, is not clearly defined here. It is additionally noteworthy that Lilly, at the time of this horary, unlike his student Nicholas Culpeper, did not practise physic. His judgement therefore has the abstracted perspective of the astrologer rather than the hands-on perspective of a physician. Lilly begins his judgement in answer to the question:
What part of the Body was afflicted?
The Sign ascending in this Question is Scorpio, the Chelae notable fixed Stars near unto the ascendant, yet it is not afflicted by the evil position or presence of any evil Planet;
The Chelae or the 'Claws of the Scorpion', more usually known as the
South and North Scale were located in Lilly's day at 8 and 9 degrees of Scorpio respectively. Despite their influences being of the nature of Saturn with Venus and Jupiter with Mars respectively, Lilly sees these stars as insufficient by themselves to denote heavy affliction to the Ascendant. Without any malefic planetary interaction with the 1st house he next turns his attentions to the 6th:
... therefore I must look to the 6th house, and see if it be afflicted, wherein I find Saturn in his Fall, who thereby afflicts that house, which naturally signifies Diseases by his unlucky presence, from which I concluded, that from thence and from that house I must require the part or member of the Body afflicted or most grieved.
His conclusions of which parts of the body are afflicted are as follows:
Aries represents the Head.
Saturn in Aries signifieth the Breast.
Mars, Lord of the ascendant, in Leo doth signifie the Heart.
Aries is the sign on the 6th house cusp, so indicates the head. Saturn in Aries afflicting the 6th house of disease, utilizing Lilly's Table indicates the breast. Mars, Lord of the 6th and the Ascendant in Leo, again utilizing Lilly's Table, indicates the heart. Closer inspection of the Square aspect between Mars and Saturn leads Lilly to further conclusions:
The Lord of the ascendant is Mars, and but lately separated from a dexter square of Saturn, both of them in Cardinal Signs, Mars at the time of that square in Cancer, which presents the Breast and Stomach: from hence I positively concluded, as to the parts of the Body grieved, they were the Head, Breast, Heart and Stomach, and that there lodged in the Breast or Stomach some melancholic Obstruction, the cause of all his disease and Misery.
Saturn rules the melancholic humour and causes obstructions, hence Lilly's conclusion of 'some melancholic Obstruction, [was] the cause of all his disease and Misery'. He further elaborates on Saturn:
From what Cause the Sickness was?
Saturn being principal Significator of the Infirmity, in his own Terms [27-30 Aries], and the Moon in his house applying unto him, did prenote Melancholy, and such dry Diseases as are occasioned from melancholy distempers, and might abide in the Head and Breast:
The 'melancholy distempers' afflicting the 'Head and Breast' would describe the tough dry phlegm that causes nasal congestion and blockage of the sinuses in the head. Also the same tough phlegm causes obstruction of the lungs in chronic bronchitis. From Mars' square aspect to Saturn he notes that it also has a part to play in the Doctor's illness:
Mars Lord of the ascendant was also in the Terms of Saturn [0-6 Leo], and the Moon out of his [Mars'] Terms [26-30 Aquarius] applied to a square of the Sun, and he in Mars' Terms [27-30 Taurus]; so that Choler was secondary cause of this Doctor's sickness;
In saying 'that Choler was secondary cause of this Doctor's sicknesse' Lilly is noting there is a fever associated with his illness. Finally he gets his astrological observations confirmed when he gets to see the patient:
…and indeed when I came to speak with him, he was afflicted with great pain and rumbling in his head, very silent, dull and melancholy, slept very little, had a very dry Cough, and complained of great weakness and pain in his Breast, and at the Heart.
Most interestingly Lilly notes:
... his Complexion was betwixt black and yellow, as if there was inclination to the Jaundies [Fr. Jaune = yellow];
Black is the colour associated with the melancholic humour and yellow is the colour associated with the choleric humour. With the former ruled by Saturn and the latter ruled by Mars, Lilly perceived the antipathy between these two planets in his complexion. Lilly further notes that:
... he had besides these, a lingering Consumption and great weariness all over him, and in every joint, for the Moon is in an airy Sign;
Saturn rules consumptions. Consumption is the old name for tuberculosis. Usually TB is a chest infection producing a high fever and copious quantities of phlegm. The body is soon ravaged by the fever causing it to dramatically lose weight, becoming thin and wasted. Hence the name consumption deriving from the Latin consumere meaning 'to waste away'. The patient's vital force becomes severely depleted causing extreme tiredness. The Moon in an Air sign links with the sanguine humour or the blood, with the Moon applying to the sextile of Saturn Lilly visualises the flow of vital force through the blood has become blocked, the patient has no energy to do anything.
Lilly carries on with his
... and as Scorpio doth ascend, which signifies the Secrets, Stone in the Bladder; so doth also the Moon in Aquarius signify the Secrets and Diseases therein, &c. so [he] had difficulty in making Urine, voided red gravel, and was greatly pained in those parts, &c.
When tuberculosis becomes advanced the infection frequently spreads via the blood to the kidneys, causing inflammation, blockage to the urine flow and considerable pain. Lilly's advice is simple but based on sound principles:
Having myself little judgement in Physic, I advised him to prescribe for himself such Physical Medicines as were gently hot, moist and cordial, whereby he might for a while prolong his life;
Cordial remedies strengthen the vital energies of the heart (L. Cor, cordis = heart), hence their name. Usually cordial remedies are Solar herbs that are opposite in nature to Saturn. Similarly herbs that have a hot and moist temperature will counteract the cold and dry influence of a Saturnine disease. Hence Lilly's idea of prolonging the Doctor's life for a while. Though clearly he did not have great hope for him:
…for the Moon in the 4th in sextile with Saturn argued sickness until death: He died the 14th of August following.
The 4th house shows the end of the matter. The Moon, co-significator of the disease, in the 4th house applying to the sextile of Saturn, a natural significator of death and Lord of the 4th, clearly indicates the sickness ending in death. Finally Lilly considers prognostically the length of the disease:
Whether the Disease would be long or short?
Saturn being author of the Disease,
showed it would be permanent, or of
some continuance for he is a
ponderous, slow Planet: besides, the
Angles of the Figure are all fixed, the
Moon and Sun both in fixed Signs, and in square, out of Angles, both in the Terms
of an Infortune; Mars Lord of the Ascendant and 6th in a fixed Sign; all these portend the longitude of the Disease: Beside, the Antiscion of Mars falls near the Sun, and thereby afflicteth him, being the Luminary of the time.
Saturn is always linked to chronic disease, for it indicates a depression or weakening of the vital force whereby the body is unable to shrug off illness, which consequently endures in the body. Fixed signs on the angles, together with the Sun, Moon and Lord of the Ascendant all present in fixed signs, compounds the duration of the disease. The application of the Moon to the square of the Sun denotes antagonism in the generation of the vital force; the subsequent weakening of the vital force suggests the inability to overcome illness.
Lastly, since the Sun is the light of the time, being a day time chart, its affliction by the Antiscion of Mars indicates the disease weakening the source of vital energy in the body, further indicating that the disease will be hard to overcome. All in all, it is difficult to refute Lilly's conclusions on the matter.
Notes & References:
has been practising herbal medicine (naturopathy) for 25 years, qualifying as a prize-winning student with the National Institute of Medical Herbalists
(UK) in 1982. Since completing his herbal training, Dylan has researched the lost European metaphysical teachings, upon which Western herbal knowledge is based. He has also been engaged in the commercial production of herbal tinctures and has been a consultant on the manufacturing of herbal tinctures to the herbal industry in Britain. In addition to seeing clients, he is currently promoting glyconutrition in both the UK and Australia.
He may be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
© Dylan Warren-Davis. Published online March 2008. This article was published in The Traditional Astrologer magazine, issue 10, Autumn 1995, pp.6-18, of which Dylan was a contributing editor.