Book review: A Practical Guide to Traditional Astrology

joseph crane

Published by Arhat Publications, first time in 1997 and then in 2007 (second edition), this book presents some astrological techniques from the late Hellenistic and Medieval periods. Joseph Crane, the co-founder of the Astrological Institute, also wrote Astrological Roots: The Hellenistic Legacy, a book which treats the same subject, but in a more detailed and comprehensive manner.

Chapter 1. Traditional Planetary Dignity and Disposition

You will find here explanations for different aspects that appear when dealing with planetary dignities, such as every important planetary disposition (domicile rulers, exaltation, fall, triplicities, terms and faces), the meanings for dignity and disposition or the planetary sect influence (more about that here). There are two tables, at pages 2 and 10 with all dignities, very clear.

About triplicities is good to know that there are two systems: one linked with Dorotheus of Sinon and the other with William Lilly. The last one is better known to us and is using only 2 planets (one for day, the other for night). The first system was used in a more interesting way: one should divide his life in 3 parts and assign a triplicity-planet for each third. A quotation will make things clear:

“For example, I want to find out about relationships throughout my life. Since I was born at night, I would look at the night triplicity ruler of the 7th House sign of Aries, which is Jupiter. That`s the first third of life. I would continue with the Sun, which is the diurnal ruler of the fire signs. For the last part I would locate Saturn, the participating ruler for the fire triplicity, in my chart”. Isn’t that interesting?

Then, you can read about terms, faces, peregrine planets and the main dispositor. The main dispositor or Almuten is the planet “in charge of the affairs of a planet or a house”. Is the most powerful planet (who has more dignities) in that place, but not necessarily the domicile ruler! For example, in day chart the Sun is the Almuten for 15 degree in Aries, not Mars! Because the Sun is in exaltation, is the triplicity ruler and also in his face!

In Chapter 2. Angles and Houses is presented the Whole Sign Houses system and a brief meaning for each house. About his experience with the Whole Sign Houses system Joseph Crane says that he has been encouraged but not overwhelmed by the results.

Every planet has a favorite house (planetary joy): Mercury – H1, Moon – H3, Venus – H5, Mars – H6, Sun – H9, Jupiter – H11, Saturn – H12. Also houses can be likened with life periods: H1 – first part of life, H10 – the prime of life, H7 – old age, H4 – death. In the final part of the chapter one can learn to compute planetary periods, named Firdar or Alfridaries. About this unusual technique (house associated with life-time periods and Alfridaries) I tried them but didn’t get satisfying results.

Chapter 3: Aspects in Hellenistic and Medieval Astrology

Besides some usual notes about aspects you can find here interesting theory  about the inconjunct aspects (semisextile and quincunx), antiscia, signs of equal rising time, “looking ahead” and “hurling rays” positions, parallels and contra-parallels, collection of light,  joining and separating, reception and a table with Al-Biruni orbs for the planets. Also look if the lord of house sees the house (not having an aspect with the house is a bad omen!) and what is the first aspect that the Moon will have. I observed this is true: the Moon first aspect is very important and gives a lot of information.

Other possible aspects like “transfer of light”, “frustration”, “refrain”, “abscission”, “prohibition” are also presented here!

Chapter 4. Planets as Significators in Ancient Astrology

For every planet is allotted only a half of page but it seems like for Joseph Crane is enough to point out the most important characteristics and to present how the planet manifest when is good or bad placed. For example:

“When poorly placed, Venus gives testimony for dullness, voluptuousness, sordidness, and quaking shyness.”

Mercury is the planet that rules astrologers, if you didn’t know, and has the ability to blend anywhere (makes favorable configurations better and unfavorable ones worse!). Other interesting idea is that the Moon has to do with the sensitive and irrational mind. I am thinking that the Moon also symbolize what C. G. Jung named “the collective unconscious”…

Then, you will see what traditional astrology tells about the planets which signify love and marriage (Venus, Moon), character (lord of the Moon and Mercury), action or career (Mercury, Venus, Mars).

Chapter 5. Planetary Sect

What is written here can be found in a detailed manner in this this book: “Night and Day – Planetary Sect in Astrology”. So, read this review if you want to find more!

Chapter 6. The Phases of the Planets

Here we can learn when a planet is heliacally rising or setting and how this influences her strength. Let see a suggestive quotation:

“A planet rising from the Sun (in either the east or the west)  is like a warrior coming out of a battle victorious (Bonatti), or a planet recovering from a sickness and being restored to health (Al-Biruni).”

Then, Joseph Crane teach us how to determine one’s temperament. This can be done if we see the orientality or occidentality of the planets and determine their qualities: hot, moist, cold and dry. Because these give temperamental types: sanguine (hot and moist), choleric (hot and dry), melancholic (cold and dry) or phlegmatic (cold and moist). This is a very useful exercise and you can compare the results with those obtained by other psychological methods.


Conclusion. After you read  this book you will say: “What a wonderful book, I learned so many things!”. And, how the title says, everything is very easy to apply, it really is a practical book. Excellent, very easy to understand, presenting a lot of lost techniques that can prove to be useful. 8,7!