Death, horimea and primary directions: an example from Placido

Surely the most popular chapter from Ptolemy’s  Quadripartite is the chapter about the duration of life,  ((III, 11-14)) where Ptolemy explains primary directions.

Primary directions were surely the most important tool of the traditional astrologer in foreseeing the facts of life:  lost of sight in the 20th century, they are reborn thank to the work of Rumen Kolev  ((Rumen Kolev, Primary Directions)) and more recently of  Martin Gangsten, (( Martin Gangsten, Primary Directions: Astrology’s old Master Technique, the Wessex Astrologer, 2009)) who has just published a book on the subject.

In Italy we are lucky to have Marco Fumagalli,  ((I Moti del Cielo, CieloeTerra, 2000)) who was recently overwhelmed by my calculations and bacchanals of primary directions  cum and without latitude about a modern “guinea pig” chart and always replied without a lament.

The example (page 287) we will working on is this, Placido gives no data: ((Placido Titi, Physiomathematica, sive Coelestis philosophia naturalibus hucusq; desideratis ostensa principiis. Mediolani: I.B. Malatesta, 1646. ))

Example from Physiomathematica, Placido Titi
Example from Physiomathematica, Placido Titi

Before examining the chart we should give some general information taken by Tetrabiblos chapter about duration of life.

According Ptolemy the first thing to do is searching the hyleg, i.e the giver of life according the proper sect of the chart:

1) For day charts, the Sun, if it’s in an hylegiacal place – the 10th house, the 1st, 11th, 7th, 9th – then  the Moon, then the planets which has three  kind of dignity on the Sun, the preceding New Moon, and the Ascendant, then if no planet is in this situation, the Ascendant.

2) For night charts, the Moon, if it’s in an hylegiacal place, then the Sun (being a night chart the Sun could be just in the  first house), then the planets which has three  kind of dignity on the Moon the preceding Full Moon, and the Part of Fortune, then if no planet is in this situation, the Ascendant if the birth was preceded by a New Moon, or the Part of Fortune if the birth was preceded by a Full Moon.

Ptolemy goes on:

WHEN the prorogator has been determined as above directed, it is also necessary to take into consideration the two modes of prorogation; one into succeeding signs, under the projection of rays, as it is called; and, when the prorogator may be in an oriental place, that is to say, in any place between the mid-heaven and the ascendant, this mode only is to be used. The other mode extends into signs preceding the prorogator, according to what is called horimea or horary proportion; and, in cases when the prorogator may be situated in any place receding from the mid-heaven, or, in other words, between the mid-heaven and the angle of the west, both modes of prorogation are to be adopted.

So when the prorogator is in the first quadrant, the deadly direction will be in the order of signs, but when the prorogator is between MC and DESC, the deadly direction will be the one which crosses the Descendant.

Traditionally the Descendant – the place where the Sun actually sets- was associated with several stars of the Barbarian sphere with doomed names, the Acherusian lake (the lake souls of deads should cross on Charon’s boat), Minos and so on. ((see Firmicus’ Mathesis or Albumasar list of 36 facies in the Great Introduction.))

It is next to be observed, that certain degrees are anæretic; though, in the prorogation made into signs preceding, the only degree which is strictly anæretic is that of the western horizon; and it becomes so because it obscures the lord of life; while other degrees, of stars meeting with or testifying to the prorogator, both take away from and add to the aggregate amount of the prorogation, which would otherwise continue until the descension or setting of the prorogator. Of these last-mentioned degrees, however, there are none properly anæretic; since they are not borne to the prorogatory place, but, on the contrary, that place is carried to their positions.  In this manner the benefics increase the prorogation, but the malefics diminish it; and Mercury assists the influence of either party with which he may be configurated. The amount of the increase or diminution is indicated by the degree, in which each star, so operating, is exactly situated; for the number of years will depend upon, and correspond with, the horary times  proper to each degree; and if the birth be by day, care must be taken to calculate the diurnal horary times; if by night, the nocturnal. These directions are to be understood as applicable to instances wherein the degrees in question may be in the ascendant; if farther advanced, a deduction proportionate to the distance is to be made, unless they should be on the occidental horizon, in which case there can be no remainder.

When we are considering a planet in its direction to the setting point, other rays this planet meets are not deadly, just add or take away years.

Obviously this method is linked with the 360 years of planets, as indicated by the terms they rule:  57 to Saturn, 79 to Jupiter, 66 to Mars, 82 to Venus, 76 to Mercury. ((Paulus Alexandrinus,  (transl. Giuseppe Bezza), Introduzione all’astrologia. Lineamenti introduttivi alla previsione astronomica (Milano: Mimesis, 2000). ))

But how does the method work in practice? This is not evident, because there are very rare examples in astrological literature, the most known is the one taken from Ephaestio.

This is the one taken from Placido, I tried to re-do his calculations.

Placido does not mention any data for this chart – I copied it here as I found – but googling a little it’s easy recognising Pope Urbano VIII, born Maffeo Barberini

Urbano VIII
Urbano VIII

The heart of Lion – Regulus -is rising with the Ascendant, receiving the trine by the Sun in the ninth house, the Sun being in a sextile in mundo with Venus  and in parallel with Jupiter in mundo, because the Sun is distant from the MC as Jupiter from IC.

Now let’s see how Placido explains horimea.

Calculation of arcs of direction

The Sun – the prorogator or hyleg- is in the second quadrant so  the deadly direction is the one of the Sun to the Descendant, increased or decreased of the rays of benefic or malefic planets to it.

Let’s start calculating the direction of the Sun to the Descendant.

This is the speculum given by Placido for this chart.

A direction is just the motion of a planet to another point with its own pace, in the case the path of the Sun to the Descendant.

The position of the planet is given by the hourly distance, its pace by the temporal hour.

the pink area is the semiarcus while the violet one is the meridian distance, so it’s evident the difference between the two areas is again the wanted direction.

arc of direction= semiarcus- meridian distance (i.e. the distance in AR of the planet from meridian)


99.26-(45.31-23.49)= 99.26- 21.42=  77.44

Now we should add and take away according benefic and malefic rays of planets, as in Ptolemy’s chapter.


The direction of Venus to Descendant:

83.50-(360-344.43+45.31)= 83.50-60.48= 23.02

now Placidus says that if the whole arcus 167.40 gives 13.57 temporal hours, how much will give the direction arc of 23.02?

i.e. 23.02/12= 1.55 (Placidus writes 1.54)


Saturn to the Ascendant.

Saturn is under the horizon, so the nearest meridian is IC

arc of direction: 84.53- (225.31-173.58)= 84.53- 51.33= 33.20

the proportional part

33.20/12= 2.46 (Placido writes 2.37)


Jupiter to the middle of the third house, from which it will trine the Descendant.

Jupiter in this chart is in the middle of the 4th house, so we should move of one house, ie. 1/3 of the semiarcus.

110.24/3= 36.48

arc of direction: 36.48 + (246.23-225.31)= 36.48 + 20.52=57.40 (Placido writes 57.38)

the proportional part



Mars at MC, from which it will square the Descendant

arc of direction= 121.24-45.31= 75.53

proportional part

75.53/12= 6.19 (Placido writes 6.16)


So we can recapitulate results:

1) the arc of the Sun gives 77.44

2)  Jupiter and Venus  give together 1.54+4.47= 6.41

3 ) Mars and Saturn take away   2.37 + 6.16 =  8.53

so life of the native will last 77.44 + 6.41 -8.53= 77.44 – 2.12 =  75.32

Placido’s key

At this point Placido does not convert directly degrees in years but uses his own key.

Adding the result 75.32 to the RA of the Sun he gets

75.32+ 23.49= 99.21

He finds that this RA corresponds to 8.35 Cancer.

The Sun arrives at this degree on the 20th June 1568.

Between the 5th April – birth date – and the 20th June there are 25 days of April, 31 of May, and 20 of June= 76 days which correspond to 76 years.

Urbano died on the 29th July 1644, at the age of 76 years.


Claudius Ptolemaeus , Le previsioni astrologiche (cura Simonetta Feraboli), Scrittori greci e latini (Milano: Fondazione Lorenzo Valla : A. Mondadori, 1985).

Claudius Ptolemaeus, Tetrabiblos, translated by Giuseppe Bezza

Giancarlo Ufficiale, Le direzioni- for Cida School

Written by Margherita Fiorello @ year 2009



4 thoughts on “Death, horimea and primary directions: an example from Placido

  1. well thanks, I gave a look to your site too. The article about the quality of the souls is very beautiful indeed.

  2. I have read the method of calculating Death time, but I don’t understand the method which is used for people who has prorogator in the first quadrant.

    They direct protogator to the Ascendant, isn’t it?

  3. no, you should search an anaeretic aspect from some malefic to the prorogator. It is the prorogator in this case which receives the aspect.

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