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In the whole world shines the Triad, over which the Monad rules. This order is the beginning of all section; For the mind of the Father said, that all things be cut Into three. (The Oracles of Zoroaster) Classical philosophy tells us that number three, the Triad, is a sacred number symbolising harmony, balance, completion and fulfilment. Three is the number of the triangle, and in mystical geometry and numerology both shape and number are used to represent the natural cycle of life; that is:
1. The descent of the soul into the body at birth,
2. Life, 3. The return of the soul to its Parent at death. Hence, number three is the number of completion, the 'whole', the beginning, middle and end of all things. All world religions are underpinned by this ancient belief; the Christian faith speaks of the Holy Trinity being the Father (universal parent from which we emerge), son (separate life as an individual) and Holy Ghost (universal soul to which we return). Holy trinities are not peculiar to Christianity; they are part of a very widespread and ancient tradition that recognised the power of number three. The Babylonians, for example, were particularly fond of classifying their gods into triads that of Anu, Enlil and Ea being their most notable. In astrology the beneficial associations of number three are evident in the interpretation of the trine aspect as a relationship that denotes harmony and fulfilment. They are also evident in the use of triplicities - the connection of signs that share a common agreement - and in the determination of planetary dignity through the use of triplicity rulers. Trigonal relationship of signs The 1st century astrologer Manilius wrote in his Astronomica that triangles inscribed within the circle of the zodiac group the signs into four sets of triplicities:
Where the circle of the zodiac's rightward wheel is bounded, a line runs out into three equal lengths and joins itself at limits which are mutually extreme; the signs which the line strikes are called trigonal, because an
1 The Classical use of Triplicities by Deborah Houlding
then the Sun. In Hellenistic astrology.  The selection of triplicity rulers is dependent upon the correct alignment between planetary nature and sect.angle is thrice formed and is assigned to three signs separated from each other by three intervening signs. The argument is that nocturnal planets have a very different quality to diurnal ones. a diurnal triplicity could not be governed by a nocturnal planet and vice-versa. 'the lords of the triplicity of Aries by day are the Sun. plus a third ruler which is common to both sects. and that beneficial influences are increased when planets are located in a suitably compatible environment. in other words. The list of triplicity rulers given by Dariot in the 16th century  is a more faithful reproduction of the earlier scheme used by the likes of Vettius Valens and Dorotheus in the classical period.  Triplicities were identified because of the harmonious relationship inherent in the shape created by their relationship to each other. The Ram beholds at equal distance the two signs of the Lion and the Archer rising on opposite sides of him. then Saturn. One point that confuses many people about planetary sects is that 2 The Classical use of Triplicities by Deborah Houlding . Though humours were essential to their work. then Jupiter. then Saturn'. there was no characterisation of say. By night Jupiter..but originally there were three rulers for each sect. the recognition of the triplicity lay in the fact that it facilitates agreement between the signs that are associated through the shape and symbolism of the triangle. The association between triplicities and elements arose from this but was not explicitly stated by early astrologers such as Ptolemy and his contemporaries. Ancient Assignment of Triplicity Rulers Each group of triplicities has its own set of planetary rulers. Consequently any planets that are placed within those signs are able to create an harmonious blend of energies. In this system each triplicity has two rulers which exchange priority according to whether the chart is diurnal or nocturnal. Lilly mentioned two for each triplicity . Aquarius as an 'air-sign' or Scorpio as a 'water-sign'.a day ruler and a night-time ruler .. the signs of the Virgin and the Bull are in harmony with Capricorn . 'Know the lords of the triplicities of the signs' said Dorotheus.
Scorpio and Pisces. Mars. remember that it was done to moderate the natural excess of Mars and not to strengthen it. comprising Gemini. However. Since the Sun is essentially debilitated in two of the three signs that make up this triplicity. Moon Libra trigon . we might expect that it would be ruled by Mars. comprising Cancer. so the Moon.Venus. which is assigned to the warmth of the diurnal sect in order to moderate its naturally excessive coldness. Jupiter 3 The Classical use of Triplicities by Deborah Houlding . Mars is damaging through its excess of heat and is better able to produce a beneficial influence when its natural qualities are harnessed than when they are promoted. the ruler of Libra is dismissed because it is a nocturnal planet and so needs to be substituted for a diurnal one. the diurnal ruler of Capricorn is also substituted for Mars which is better placed in the nocturnal sect.Sun. Saturn. while Mercury. because it both rules Aquarius and is exalted in Libra. is substituted. who delights under such conditions. Mars and Jupiter. Jupiter.notably hot and dry . The Libra triplicity is diurnal. as they would be if Mars were aligned with the diurnal sect. Libra and Aquarius. The options are Jupiter or the Sun. Venus. ruler of Gemini takes precedence at night. Saturn takes precedence during the day. The rulers of these signs are the Moon. The Capricorn triplicity comprises Taurus. Leo and Sagittarius. Finally.Mars .is aligned to the nocturnal sect which is cold and moist. but the intrinsically dry nature of Mercury makes it uncomfortable in the moist nocturnal triplicity. Mercury. the respective rulers of these signs. Mars cannot be accepted as a ruler because it is assigned to the nocturnal sect and this triplicity is diurnal. Sun and Jupiter. Saturn is therefore substituted for Mars and acts as a co-ruler for the triplicity both day and night. Jupiter is the natural choice. Virgo and Capricorn three nocturnal signs. If this seems confusing. the Cancer triplicity is nocturnal.Saturn. The same goes for Saturn. It might be argued that Mercury should take a part in ruling this triplicity because of its dominion over Virgo. Saturn Cancer trigon . but because Jupiter is diurnal it is substituted for nocturnal Venus.  The sects to which the planets are most suited are: Breakdown of Rulership Logic Given that the Aries triplicity comprises Aries. The rulers of each triplicity are thus established as follows: Aries trigon . especially at night.
Capricorn trigon . Perhaps they rejected the convoluted logic that lay behind the definition of sect. but many later ones. For example. and in the last it is bad. I have experimented with this technique on many examples of my own and have so far been impressed with the results. the lords of the triplicities decide it. Dorotheus advises us to consider the Sun and the rulers of its triplicity in a diurnal nativity and the Moon and the rulers of its triplicity in a nocturnal nativity.  If you want to know about a man's general relationship with women. Dorotheus. 4 The Classical use of Triplicities by Deborah Houlding . Use of the Three-Rulership scheme The 3-rulership scheme maintains a natural symbolic significance to the principles encapsulated by the Triad. the second indicates the middle years and the third indicates the end of life.Venus. yet explicitly mentions three rulers for the others. because the first of the lords of Venus's triplicity indicates the first years. particularly in allowing the three rulers to be used as significators of the beginning. while the Moon and its triplicity rulers will tell you about the life of the Mother. and as for everything of afflictions and distress which reaches the people of the world and the totality of men. rotating their priority by day and night. For the record. Moon. middle and end of any project. especially in this kind of symbolic overview of any situation. then this condition in the matter of women is good in the beginning of his age.  In his Carmen Astrologicum. Mars Most early astrologers used all three planets. in a diurnal nativity the Sun and its three triplicity rulers indicate the condition of the father. Practical Examples In judging the overall fortune and condition of life. it would be difficult to overstate the importance of triplicities in classical astrology. including Lilly. writing in the 1st century. The following charts are taken from ancient texts to demonstrate the use of triplicity rulers in practice. Dorotheus shows how the triplicities can be used to interpret almost any aspect of life. chose to use only the principal rulers. look to the triplicity of Venus: If the first of the lords of Venus's triplicity is in a good place and the second in a bad place. says of them: I tell you that everything which is decided or indicated is from the lords of the triplicities. Although astrologers make poor use of them today. or perhaps they were confused by Ptolemy who appears to mention only two rulers for the Aries and Capricorn triplicities.
All three triplicity rulers are cadent. then Venus. The nativity is nocturnal so recourse is to the Moon and its triplicity rulers. then Venus. then the Moon itself. so it indicates mixed circumstances. There is still a certain amount of good fortune. Chart 3 comes from the files of Vettius Valens. Chart 2 is a diurnal nativity with the Sun in Aries. which Dorotheus took to indicate that the native would always be poor and needy and would struggle to meet his daily needs. the 3rd ruler of the Sun's triplicity is cadent but it is in the sign of Jupiter and is aspected by trine to its dispositor. Because the Moon is in Cancer by night the triplicity rulers are Mars. Dorotheus took this to mean that the native would 'receive the praise of noble and wealthy men'. 5 The Classical use of Triplicities by Deborah Houlding . Saturn.Chart 1 is a nocturnal nativity so it is ruled by the Moon. The Sun rules the Aries triplicity by day with Jupiter as the secondary ruler. Valens says that it is evident that the nativity is a notable one because all the triplicity rulers are in their own signs and two of them are angular. then the Moon. Both these planets are strong by being angular in their signs of exaltation. It is the nativity of a 'distinguished' person born in 50 AD. Because the Moon is placed in Scorpio its triplicity rulers (by night) are Mars.
but he also adds a warning:. is accidentally dignified in the midheaven. Because Saturn is retrograde. Many ancient texts speak of Saturn causing damage through floods 6 The Classical use of Triplicities by Deborah Houlding . the 2nd triplicity ruler is also well placed in the 10th house in its own sign while Saturn. This man will 'abound in gold and silver' says Dorotheus. The Sun is therefore the principal ruler of its own triplicity. Notes & References: 1] Book 2. in aspect of Mars and in opposition to its dispositor (Venus). from which the matter of the end and the situation of death are known. Available from Ascella Reprints. 1st century.'his end is evil because the lord of [the cardinal] under the earth. 1. 3] Carmen Astrologicum. The nativity is diurnal and the Sun in Aries. well placed in the 11th house in its sign of exaltation. available from Ascella Reprints. middle and end of life. The chart is taken from the work of Rhetorius and is claimed to be the nativity of the poet Pamprepius.3. Jupiter. and Venus in this nativity is cadent in the sign of calamity [12th house]'. Pingree translation.Chart 4 demonstrates the use of triplicity rulers as significators for the beginning. It is a diurnal nativity and Rhetorius points out that Saturn is the first triplicity ruler of both the leading luminary and the ascendant. born in 440 BC.1. the 3rd triplicity ruler. is Venus. 4] It was also done to promote the qualities of dryness. published 1583. Claudius: A Brief and most Easy Introduction to the Astrological Judgement of the Stars. 275-285 2] Dariot. Rhetorius asks 'how could he not have had a hard first period of life?'  The final example is again taken from Dorotheus's Carmen Astrologicum.
162 6] Ibid. was also notable for its threat of moisture. Hellenistic astrologers placed a great deal more emphasis on Saturn's malefic qualities being through an excess of moisture than we would expect today. 5] Dorotheus. pp. Philadelphia Philosophical Society. issue 6: Autumn 1994. I.and death through drowning. Greek Horoscopes. Aquarius. 7 The Classical use of Triplicities by Deborah Houlding .II. especially as it was governed by Saturn. I. First published in The Traditional Astrologer magazine.4.12 7] Neugebauer and Van-Hoesen. 140/141 © Deborah Houlding. p. which we call a cold and dry sign..
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