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Defining the Moment
Example: The Bee Sting Chart
Notes & References
About the Author

by Dylan Warren Davis:

The Hand Reveals

By Dylan Warren-Davis

An Introduction to Decumbiture, part 1, by Dylan Warren-Davis

Decumbiture is a specialist form of medical astrology which flowered in the 17th century. Its most famous exponents include Nicholas Culpeper (1616-54) and cheiromancer Richard Saunders (1613-75). The technique is based upon the time a patient falls ill and decides to go and lie down. The name decumbiture derives from the Latin decumbo 'to lie down or to fall'. Using astrological charts of these moments physicians made judgements of diagnosis, prognosis, and what medication - predominantly herbs - to use. Further importance was placed upon the best time to gather and administer the herbs to the patient.

This is a the first of a bi-monthly series of articles by practising Medical Herbalist and astrologer Dylan Warren-Davis. The series will present the principles of decumbiture so that readers can rediscover the techniques and philosophy used in this largely neglected branch of astrology. This first article deals with the fundamental question: 'when should a decumbiture chart be drawn up?'

There are a number of possible moments to base a decumbiture. The various authors quoted below clearly place importance on different moments, and though some of these may appear contradictory, the practical situation usually determines which time is used to draw up the chart. The following is a range of possible times which may be used. The first definitions for timing are taken from William Lilly's Christian Astrology.

That in the first place, we ought carefully to take the exact time of the party's first falling sick, viz, the hour as near as can be had, not that moment when first the Patient felt a smatch of it but that very time when first he was so ill, or so extremely oppressed that he was enforced to take his Bed, or to repose.[1]

This is the truest moment in time to judge a decumbiture. However, not everyone takes to their bed when unwell, even if they would like to.
Secondly, if that cannot be had, then accept of that time when the sick party's Urine was first carried to somebody, to enquire of the Disease, whether the party enquired of was Physitian or not. [2]

In Culpeper's time there was a whole branch of astrological diagnosis based upon the time of the patient bringing their urine to the physician. Despite the importance of urine analysis in modern medicine however, it is rare nowadays for a patient to bring their urine to the first consultation. Usually a urine specimen, if needed, is specifically requested by the physician, not the patient, and therefore it is not a practical option for timing a decumbiture in a contemporary medical context. However, should a patient spontaneously take their urine to the physician, there is no reason why this time should not be used.

Thirdly, if no such thing can be had, let the Physitian take the time of his own first speaking with, or access to the Patient, or when first the Urine was brought unto him, let a Figure be erected accordingly, and the place of the Moon exactly rectified to the very hour...[3]

This is by far the most available time for basing the decumbiture, particularly when many people have difficulty recalling the year in which they first felt unwell, let alone the time and day of their illness starting. In the last 300 years the general character of illness has changed. The infectious acute fevers with their very defined time of onset that were commonplace in Culpeper's day, have been replaced by chronic illness of a much more insidious and imperceptible onset.

Culpeper places importance upon finding the time of invasion of the disease.

When any notable disease comes, if you would discern whether it tends to Health, Death, Mutation or Continuance, it is necessary that you begin at the first punct of time of invasion of the disease. This GALEN saith is very hard, if not impossible to find; 'tis taken PRO CONFESSO, that it may be easily known, when a man takes his bed in his sickness, but when the beginning of the sickness is, that's the question. For a lusty stout man bears the disease longer, and is longer before he takes his bed, than a puny weak sickly man is: a mere suspicion of a Sickness will send a fainthearted man to bed; you may persuade him he is sick, whether he be or no.

Notwithstanding this is most certain, that in most acute diseases, as also in many other diseases, as the Falling Sickness, Palsies, Apoplexies, Pleurisies, &c. tis an easy thing to find out the beginning, or the precise time of the invasion of the disease.[4]

Culpeper further clarifies this moment as being when the patient is first aware of their disease.

Â…that the moment is to be taken for the beginning of the disease, in which a man finds a manifest pain or hurt in his body: for instance when a man hath got a fever, usually the head aches certain days before; this is not the Fever, but a Messenger or forerunner of the Fever; the true beginning of the Fever is when the disease appears sensibly, or when a horror or trembling invades the Sick, as does usually in the beginning of a Fever: that is the beginning of the disease, when the disease appears manifest to sense; and this was the judgement of HIPPOCRATES, one of the honestest of Physitians: And you shall find this always, that the more acute the disease is, the more manifest the beginning of it is to sense: yea, so manifest, that it is almost impossible that the beginning should be hid from any one that wants reason, if he have but sense.[5]

Regarding the time of the first speaking with the patient, the contemporary use of the telephone often means that the time of first conversation between a therapist and patient is quite separate from the time of the first consultation. When known, the time of the telephone conversation is to be preferred over the time of the first consultation, since this is when the patient is prompted into doing something about the state of their health, as opposed to when they are able to come to the consultation.

However, in the absence of a preliminary conversation, the time of the first appointment can be used with impressive results. Patients arriving early or late for their appointments can also be significant in this respect. Where there are two possible times for drawing up a decumbiture, such as the time of making an appointment and the time of attendance, comparison of both decumbitures with the patient's natal chart can identify the most radical of the two.

The Bee Sting Chart

In order to illustrate the interpretation of decumbiture, I have included an example 'Bee Sting' chart. The chart arose as a result of my research into decumbiture and has a very precise time defining the onset of disease. On this particular morning, I had been contemplating the validity of decumbiture in a contemporary medical context, when an idea came to mind. Would the heavens show something as insignificant as a cut or a bruise? After pondering this question for a while I resumed my studies and thought nothing more about it.

A few hours passed and I decided it must be lunchtime, so I went downstairs to the kitchen. After noting the time on the clock, I realised that it was still early for lunch so decided to return to my studies. Just at that moment the door burst open and in rushed one of our dispensers. She exclaimed, "Dylan, Dylan I have just been stung, what shall I put on the sting?" She had been outside gathering lime flower blossoms for a tincture, when she was stung by a bee on the tip of her left index finger. On closer inspection, I saw the sting embedded in her finger with the venom sacs still pulsating and injecting venom in it. I quickly pulled it out with my finger nails and then rushed to get an onion which I cut in two, pushing her finger tip into one of the halves.

Onion is a particularly effective remedy for bee and wasp stings when directly applied after the incident. Within two minutes all pain and swelling had gone from her finger tip. Afterwards I went back upstairs to suddenly realise I had got a response to my question. I had noted the time just before the door burst open! Lunch was late that day in my haste to draw up the chart and further investigate my question.

Lilly's collection of Astrological APHORISMS beneficial for PHYSICIANS listed in his Christian Astrology provides an excellent introduction to a decumbiture chart, which will be expanded on in future articles.[6]

In questions concerning sick people, give the asc and his Lord and the Lord of the Figure for significators of the sick party.[7]

The ascendant is 9°50' Libra, so the dispenser is shown by Venus at 27°30' Leo in the 11th house. Jupiter is the most dignified planet in the chart, located at 22°50' Pisces in the 6th house. The 6th house traditionally rules work while its ruler, Jupiter, is the natural significator of lime trees.[8] This appropriately symbolises the dispenser harvesting lime flowers at work. The 6th house also rules small animals so Jupiter is the significator for the bee. Again this is appropriate since bees are traditionally ruled by Jupiter.[9]

From the sign of the sixth, the Lord of that House, Planets therin placed, and the place of Heaven and Sign wherein the Moon is, require the Disease or part afflicted, with relation to the ascendant.[10]

With Jupiter in the 6th house also indicating the disease, there is an extraordinary symbolic connection between the dispenser gathering the lime flowers, her encounter with the bee and her disease from its sting.

Jupiter is also lord of the 3rd house which in the body represents the arms and hands. This very precisely links her disease with the hand, while Jupiter's location in the western hemisphere specifically indicates her left hand is diseased.

Stings are naturally ruled by Mars. It is noteworthy that Venus is placed in Leo, in the term and face of Mars, while Jupiter is placed in Pisces in the triplicity, term and face of Mars, showing the connection between her health (Venus) and her disease (Jupiter) is the sting. Mars is retrograde at 17°53' Capricorn, separating from a sextile aspect of Jupiter. This separating aspect suggests the bee going off to die leaving its sting in the index finger - a detail further shown by retrograde Saturn at 3°42' Sagittarius conjunct the 3rd house cusp. The arrows of the archer of the fire sign Sagittarius additionally suggest stings and burning, while the retrograding onto the 3rd house cusp, depicts the barb of the sting embedded in the finger. (Saturn is located in the terms of Jupiter.)

Jupiter, having a hot and moist nature, in the water sign Pisces (cold and moist), is very descriptive of the inflammation and swelling associated with stings. The Moon at 12°47' of the fire sign Leo, indicates the burning pain she must have felt with the sting, while also being descriptive of her dramatic entrance through the door!

The Seventh house represents the Physician, the tenth his Medicine; if the Lord of the Seventh be unfortunate, the Physician shall not cure; if the tenth house or Lord thereof, his Physick is improper.[11]

As the 7th house cusp of Aries rules the physician, I am shown by Mars. Despite its retrograde motion, Mars is strongly dignified, indicating I am in a good position to cure the patient. Additionally, the retrograde Mars is conjunct my natal Mercury, indicating my research into the use of decumbiture.

The 9th house of the chart connects with my 3rd house, again signifying my studies. With Gemini on the 9th cusp, Mercury in the 10th house of medicine further denotes research into decumbiture. The Moon's previous aspect was a conjunction with Mercury, reflecting my prior questioning of what decumbiture could show.

The selection of the onion as a remedy is shown by the 10th house ruler, the Moon. In traditional literature onions are listed as being under the dominion of either Mars or the Moon. Since the Moon is in the fire sign Leo, with the Sun (hot and dry) on the 10th cusp, the hot and dry quality of the onion can be seen as countering the swelling indicated by Jupiter in Pisces (cold and moist). The Moon ruling the 10th house of medicine, unaffected by the malefic planets of Saturn and Mars, is an indication of the 'physick' working well. Of the Moon Lilly mentions:

If the Moon be swift in course, and encreasing in light, and by a sextile or Trine apply to the Lord of the ascendant, though under the earth, it hastens the cure, the more easily if any Reception be; the cure must needs be sooner if the application be above the Earth to the Lord of the ascendant. [12]

The Moon here is increasing in light, applying to a conjunction of Venus (Lady of the ascendant) signifying the medicine assisting the dispenser's health. This conjunction is above the Earth where the luminaries are strong in their role of enhancing the vital energies of the patient. There is a powerful mutual reception between the Sun, at 16°58' Cancer, and the Moon, at 12°47' Leo, both located in the 10th house. Since the Sun generates the vital energy and the Moon circulates it around the body, this is a particularly strong indication of the dispenser's recovery. Of the healing role of the Sun Lilly mentions:

The Sun is the candle or light of Heaven, and that Spirit which clarifies and beautifies those signs he is in, destroying nature's enemies.[13]

The fourth house Signifies the end of the Sickness, and whether it will terminate quickly, or endure long: fixed Signs prolong, common [mutable] Signs vary the Disease, moveable [cardinal] ones show an end one way or other quickly.[14]

The moveable sign of Capricorn on the fourth house cusp reflects the whole incident resolving in five minutes. In response to my question, the heavens clearly do reflect relatively insignificant medical issues. However, the most stunning detail of this study is linked to Jupiter ruling the dispenser's hands (3rd house) her disease (6th house) and the index finger on which she was stung, traditionally associated in cheiromancy with the energies of Jupiter.

Notes & References:

  1 ] W. Lilly, Christian Astrology, 1647; ch. XLIV, p.243
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  2 ] Ibid., p.243
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  3 ] Ibid., p.243
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  4 ] N. Culpeper, Astrological Judgement of Diseases, 1651, ch. II.
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  5 ] Ibid.
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  6 ] Lilly, pp.282-4
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  7 ] Ibid., Aphorism I
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  8 ] Culpeper's Complete Herbal (published by Foulsham), p.216
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  9 ] Lilly, p.64
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  10 ] Lilly, p.282. Aphorism 2
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  11 ] Ibid., Aphorism 3
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  12 ] Ibid., Aphorism 20
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  13 ] Ibid., Aphorism 37
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  14 ] Ibid., Aphorism 4
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Dylan Warren DavisDylan Warren-Davis 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

© Dylan Warren-Davis. Published online February 2006. This article was published in The Traditional Astrologer magazine, issue 1, June 1993, of which Dylan was a contributing editor.

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