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Cusps
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cicatrix



Joined: 28 Feb 2010
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Posted: Tue Mar 23, 2010 10:24 am    Post subject: Cusps Reply with quote

This is my first post, and I'm not sure where I should put it, so apologies in advance.

My idea/question:

I have read somewhere on the web (don't remember where) that some people think that in ancient times the cusp of a house was not considered its beginning, but somewhere in the middle. I was just thinking about this last night, and wondered if this would work:

Whole sign house system. You have the Ascendant somewhere in the middle of the first house. What if you took a quadrant house system's calculated cusps and used them in the whole sign system? Like each house's "Ascendant", for lack of a better expression? Has anyone ever thought about this before, or am I just crazy? I mean, the angular houses already have important points in them, and in quadrant systems they are the cusps, so why not give every house one?

I will try to find where I saw the information about cusps being not the beginning of houses, in case I'm making a bad first impression with this post.

I do want to say to Deb, I think it's wonderful that you are so active on this forum, and that your site and forum are amazing! I've been learning so much in the past few weeks just from looking through your site and the old threads in this forum. Thank you so much for making this wonderful place available to everyone!
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Mark
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Posted: Tue Mar 23, 2010 11:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello cicatrix,

Quote:
This is my first post.


Welcome to Skyscript. Very Happy

Please take the opportunity to utilise all the features of the site including the immense library of articles here. Thumbs up

Quote:
I'm not sure where I should put it, so apologies in advance.


This part of the forum is ideal for such questions related to traditional astrological techniques. Your post could not have found a better home. Smile

We just had a discussion on this very topic in the Nativities & General Astrology part of the forum:

http://skyscript.co.uk/forums/viewtopic.php?t=5225

As you will see current research by astrologers like Robert Hand indicates Whole sign cusps were free floating within ancient Greek and Roman astrology. They were not automatically in the middle of a Whole Sign house. The cusps were determined by degree of the ascendant. Thus the cusps conformed to those of the Equal house system but they fell within Whole sign houses. These cusps were seen as sensitive points rather than the boundaries between houses.

Tom, one of our Moderators here put this very well in the previous thread:

Quote:
The word "cusp" comes from a Latin word "cuspis" which is the tip of a sword or the point where the energy is concentrated. The point (no pun intended) is that the word "cusp" does not mean "beginning." The cusp is the most sensitive or important point in the house, just as the the front door is not the most important point in your home, you have to get inside a little bit to get there.


In Indian astrology the cusps normally fall in the middle of a Whole sign house as you indicated.

There are variations there though. In a previous thread one of our members who is an authority on Indian astrology (Martin Gansten) explained how cusps (Porphyry house system) can also form the centre or midpoint of a quadrant house too.

Quote:
The cusps are the same as in a western Porphyry chart, but the first house begins halfway between cusps 12 and 1 and ends halfway between cusps 1 and 2, etc.


Quote:
...we need to know both the Asc and the MC. Dividing the ecliptical arc between them by 6, every other point you get will be a house boundary (bhāva-sandhi) and the rest will be the house cusps (bhāva-sphuṭa) or house midpoints (bhāva-madhya). The latter are identical with the Porphyry cusps.


I am not aware of any instances of incorporating quadrant house cusps into Whole Sign houses. For example, using a quadrant system such as Placidus houses would lead to the rather odd position of some Whole sign houses having two cusps while others would have none. Still, that is the reality of quadrant systems anyway with some signs necessarily being intercepted between cusps.

Mark
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Levente Laszlo



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Posted: Wed Mar 24, 2010 8:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Mark,

MarkC wrote:
As you will see current research by astrologers like Robert Hand indicates Whole sign cusps were free floating within ancient Greek and Roman astrology. They were not automatically in the middle of a Whole Sign house. The cusps were determined by degree of the ascendant. Thus the cusps conformed to those of the Equal house system but they fell within Whole sign houses. These cusps were seen as sensitive points rather than the boundaries between houses.


I wonder whether the notion of cusps ever existed in Hellenistic astrology. Latin cuspis is a translation of Arabic markaz, itself one of the possible translations of Greek kentron; thus what we call "cusp" is only an Arabic extension of the notion of the angles like the Ascendant. It seems to have first appeared in the Latin translation of al-Qabīṣī. But it is very interesting that in the text a cusp (markaz/cuspis) is a synonym for a house (bayt/domus), not its beginning. In fact, markaz means "site" also, and thus might even be a possible replacement for makān "place", which was an original translation for Greek topos but fell out of fashion already in early Arabic astrology.
So it may well be that speaking about cusps in Hellenistic astrology as degrees of the beginning of houses is anachronistic.

Levente
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Tom
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Posted: Wed Mar 24, 2010 11:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Latin cuspis is a translation of Arabic markaz, itself one of the possible translations of Greek kentron; thus what we call "cusp" is only an Arabic extension of the notion of the angles like the Ascendant.


My source for the origin of the word "cusp" is the Online Etymology Dictionary

http://www.etymonline.com/

And this is the entire quote under "cusp."


Quote:
1580s, from L. cuspis "point, spear, pointed end." Astrological use is earliest.


A Qabisi (aka Alcabitius) was first translated into Latin in the 13th century and this source claims the earliest use is astrological (no source given) and from the late 16th century (again no source given). If correct, Lilly's use of the English word "cusp" would have been new at the time he used it. Anyone have a access to the OED?

Tom
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Mark
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Posted: Wed Mar 24, 2010 5:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
So it may well be that speaking about cusps in Hellenistic astrology as degrees of the beginning of houses is anachronistic.


If Robert Hand's ideas on Whole Sign houses are correct that would seem to be the case. Based on his analysis of Firmicus Maternus Hand suggests the Hellenistic cusps are free floating and determined by equal house cusps.

I am no authority on etymology. However, even if our modern word 'cusp' has an Arabic source that doesn't mean the technique originates there. If you believe cusps are a later Persian or Arabic development how do you explain the presence of quadrant house systems in late hellenistic astrology such as Porphyry and Alcabitius?
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cicatrix



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Posted: Tue Mar 30, 2010 7:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for the warm welcome MarkC. I have been studying through this site for quite some time, yet I still have not been able to read everything. There is so much!

I apologize for not noticing that thread. This one seems a bit redundant now.

So it seems like I had the right idea. But would it be that big of a leap to use, say, Regiomontanus "cusps" instead of equal house "cusps"? Or maybe both?
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Levente Laszlo



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Posted: Wed Mar 31, 2010 11:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

MarkC wrote:
If you believe cusps are a later Persian or Arabic development how do you explain the presence of quadrant house systems in late hellenistic astrology such as Porphyry and Alcabitius?


Let us define a "quadrant house system" as a system which consists of a set of twelve so-called "houses" possibly varying in ecliptical length, each beginning with a so-called "cusp". The 12 houses has their own topical meaning and are grouped as "angular", "succedent" and "cadent" houses. Besides some exceptions, the cusps of the 1st and 7th houses are the Ascendant and the Descendant, and most of these system employ MC and IC as cusps of the 10th and 4th houses, respectively. Now, this is a modern notion, whereas the Hellenistic one was different in numerous details.

First, all Hellenistic astrologers used the system called "whole-sign system" when speaking about houses (topoi or "places"), no matter that topically or "dynamically" (as the category of "angular" etc. houses, more correctly kentra or "pivots" and so on may be called) or regarding their use (conducting business etc.) or otherwise. Another subsidiary system also appear in the sources: in procedures ascertaing the length of life, a certain Orion devised a partition based upon the horizon and the meridian, in order to ascertain which sections are strong and which are weak for evaluating the predominator. This is reported by Valens in his Book III and a somewhat similar but rather obscure procedure is to be found in Ptolemy, who were later elucidated by Pancharius (as reported by Hephaestio) and Porphyry, the latter actually using the same reason which Valens did. This method, based on an ecliptical section is misleadingly called "Porphyry method": apart from the fact that it was not Porphyry who invented the procedure, it is not a "quadrant house system", only a partition of the zodiac devised specifically for longevity matters.

There appears yet another system which is dubbed "equal system" nowadays, but also nothing of a "quadrant house system". This can be found in a corrupt passage of Firmicus Maternus and also in a murky sentence of Book IX of Valens, but even if we take it in face value, it has only topical meaning, nothing else. "Cusps" as starting degrees of these "houses" (actually no "place" is found either in Firmicus or in Valens) do not appear. Ptolemy may have used this in his longevity treatment but at least his commentators conceived it in another way, as I has written above.

Finally, from a remark by Valens made in Book V we know that MC and IC has something to do with the topical meanings of 10th and 4th houses, therefore the signs containing MC and IC signify something topically also which is connected to these houses.

To sum up, beside the "whole-sign system", where the notion of "cusps" did not exist, there are references to a method of strong and weak sections in a longevity procedure and degrees or intervals which has something to do with topical meanings. The main factor of incertainty is the text of Ptolemy, who, although not using houses at all, names some of the houses in his otherwise tricky longevity treatment, giving the impression that this is his explication of houses by degree. This can be seen as his commentators struggle with his precepts.

From these attempts to interpret Ptolemy, a new system now called "Alchabitius" emerged. I have already summarized here how it may have happened; what I want to point out now is that this system raised to the same level as the original "whole-sign system" only with Abū Ma‘shar , and I really doubt if it had ever replaced it in the Arabic era. The fact that the Arabic word for "place" became obsolete and replaced by the word for "domicile" (house, as it is used now) can be explained only if we assume "whole-signs" as "houses". And again, the notion of "cusps" (but not "beginnings" of houses) is still missing.

Finally, with a Latin translation of al-Qabīṣī the "Alchabitius" system become default, with the misunderstanding of "cusp" as "beginning of a house" not as an alternative name for a house itself, and in the same time the over-explanation of the rationale of this system the underlying notion of "whole-sign houses" went to oblivion.

So if my summary is right, then the current notion of house systems is fairly modern, and if we attempt to project some particles back to Arabic or Hellenistic time, like speaking about cusps in Arabic or Hellenistic astrology or about house systems in Hellenistic astrology, we can easily find ourselves mistaken as not having observed the development of not only the tools but also the way how to conceive them.


Last edited by Levente Laszlo on Wed Mar 31, 2010 1:25 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Deb
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Posted: Wed Mar 31, 2010 12:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Without wanting to spend time on a discussion that goes around and around and doesn’t move forward, I do want to say that – in my opinion - Osthanes is in danger of presenting assumptions in a very factual manner.

Osthanes wrote:
First, all Hellenistic astrologers used the system called "whole-sign system" when speaking about houses (topoi or "places"), no matter that topically or "dynamically" (as the category of "angular" etc. houses, more correctly ketra or "pivots" and so on may be called) or regarding their use (conducting business etc.) or otherwise. Another subsidiary system also appear in the sources: in procedures ascertaing the length of life, a certain Orion devised a partition based upon the horizon and the meridian, in order to ascertain which sections are strong and which are weak for evaluating the predominator... it is not a "quadrant house system", only a partition of the zodiac devised specifically for longevity matters.


Well it's a marvellous feat, to be able to know exactly what was originally meant in a passage of text which has never been found Smile I not only did not know that Orion specifically intended 'his system' to be applied in the measurement of life and for no other purpose, but even now I am told this I struggle to understand why he would have been so insistent. If the quadrant division is more reliable and gives better results for important matters which require precise calculations, then surely some astrologers figured it was good enough to use in other matters too? What about timing pregnancy and child birth - do we use whole-signs for measuring the appearance of new lives but shift to quadrant houses for measuring the dissapearance of old lives? Or do we use quadrant divison for all important timing matters and then redraw in whole sign for unimportant stuff?

On the other hand, if we only need to integrate knowledge of the horizon and meridian into timing techniques, then why do the ancient texts leave instructions on how to calculate the intermediate cusps?

I don’t think this matter is anywhere near as cut and dried as presented here. Ancient astrology was deeply concerned with the measurement of time, and the places were representative of spaces of the sky which would rise during periods of time associated with hours; hence there was an ancient motivation towards obtaining the quadrant division information - which were based upon hour circles - and all aspects of ancient astronomy found a corollary in astrological interpretation. Also, as I believe I demonstrated in my book, the actual meaning of the houses demonstrates that they are spatially representative of connections to the angles – for example, if the 10th house was not originally intended to be concerned with the expression of the midheaven, then why is its symbolic meaning reflective of being the uppermost region of the chart which conveys superiority of position and height of influence? (one example of 12: the meaning of every house relates to its position with respect to the angles, and the associated expression of strength or weakness based upon angularity or cadency).

Unfortunately many of the ancient charts and texts we possess are copies of copies and there is a great deal of sifting of evidence to be done. Perhaps Osthanes and I have to accept that we have different views on this, so I will bow out of the discussion – however (sorry Osthanes) not without putting on record my objection that this matter is still undergoing a lot of research and needs more exploration. We need open-minded enquiry that is intrigued by the mysteries and curious enough to look into them; not one that pretends they don’t and never did exist.

However, I do think the comments made about the early use of the word ‘cusp’ are very valuable. That’s an interesting point to consider without loading it down with assumptions before its been fully explored. I’m not sure when the Latin term was introduced, but perhaps we might find a comparison between the Latin term cuspis meaning ‘point, spear or sting’ (and so suggesting something sharp and concentrated) and earlier forerunners to the term – for example, the nautical expressions of ancient astrological texts, which speak about the ascendant being the ‘rudder’ ?
Deb
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Posted: Wed Mar 31, 2010 8:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
. . . if the 10th house was not originally intended to be concerned with the expression of the midheaven, then why is its symbolic meaning reflective of being the uppermost region of the chart which conveys superiority of position and height of influence?


Since we need to keep an open mind and might do well to check all the possibilities . . .
Pythagorean philosophy is a foundational influence of Hellenistic astrology. Could this be an expression of numerological significance in the fact that it's the 10th sign to rise and not necessarily a spatial significance? Maybe numerological thought took hold here. I'm not up on ancient Pythagorean numerology, but it might be worth investigating the possibility of achievement, success and strength of position being indicated by the first double-digit number, a sort of fulfillment and completion of all the preceding single-digit numbers. Ten does appear much later in the numbered cards of the four suits of Tarot and in the 10 Sephiroth of Kabbalah. I know I'm spreading out here chronologically and culturally, but the idea of 10 as, say, fulfillment was banging around out there.
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dr. farr



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Posted: Thu Apr 01, 2010 3:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kirk, a very excellent and insightful post! Zoller (and others) have made much of this very issue, and I lean strongly to this point of view.

PS:
That the MC was not (and need not be) necessarily connected with the 10th house, was widely known throughout the Classical Antiquity period of Western astrology. For example:

"For you should also know this, that the Midheaven is not always the 10th from the horoskopos, but it is sometimes the 11th, sometimes the 9th, according to the ascension of the zoidia."

Olympiodoros
564 AD
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Deb
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Posted: Thu Apr 01, 2010 8:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think some point has been missed here. No one is suggesting that whole sign or equal house approaches were not taken in the Hellenistic era – that much is obvious. But this does not preclude the use of quadrant systems either before, after or simultaneously, just as different astrologers use different systems today. We would need to be blindly ignoring the obvious in favour of the unlikely to suggest that the 10th house's symbolic meaning originates all out of a numerological association rather than its representation of the crown of the chart. I am quite familiar with what is known of Pythagorean numerological principles, and this link has been explored; but whilst the Decad is a number of perfection, it is not symbolic of the expression of power and influence, and our outpourings into the world, as the midheaven is.
Nor is the Tetrad, the number four, implicit of the underground (the literal translation of the ancient name for the 4th house), our ancestral line, and the things that go deep down beneath us, in the way that the IC is.
The number 11 does not symbolise ambition, hope and a rise to power, as the 11th house does because it is rising by diurnal motion towards the pinnacle of the chart, etc., etc...
Pythagorean principles are foundation principles for many astrological points, but their influence upon house meanings is based upon association through shape not number.
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Posted: Thu Apr 01, 2010 10:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
. . . but whilst the Decad is a number of perfection, it is not symbolic of the expression of power and influence, and our outpourings into the world, as the midheaven is.


I'm on borrowed time here as my Internet service was to discontinue March 31st. I have no idea why I'm still able to connect – I certainly haven't paid for it. But while I'm here . . .

Why the fixation on the midheaven? Just think '10th sign from the Ascendant = perfection of the Ascendant potential through power, influence and outpourings into the world'. Who needs a midheaven ?
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Deb
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Posted: Thu Apr 01, 2010 11:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kirk, however you chose to make the houses work for you is fine by me - the system that people prefer is not my interest in this thread. As you can see my post is not fixated on the midheaven, since I make the point that the principle applies to every house meaning: that every 'place' expresses meaning related to angularity and diurnal movement of stars and planets - something that happens in the sky: they are not just random bits of space that have no meaning outside of their count from the ascendant on a piece of paper. But that was pretty much the theme of my book and I would turn into a bore to keep playing the same record ...
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Mark
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Posted: Fri Apr 02, 2010 3:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Pythagorean philosophy is a foundational influence of Hellenistic astrology


Hello Kirk,

I think it would be more accurate to state that Pythagorean philosophy is one of the foundational influences of Hellenistic astrology along with Platonic and Stoic philosophy.

Mark
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Posted: Sat Apr 03, 2010 9:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So it looks like I'm getting free Internet service while the company figures out exactly what services they are going to offer. I was looking forward to a period of being Internet free.


Mark,

I wrote:
Quote:
. . . is a foundational influence of Hellenistic astrology.


You wrote:
Quote:
. . . is one of the foundational influences of Hellenistic astrology. . .


Confused Aren't we saying the same thing, my 'a' indicating that there were others? Thank you for naming other influences, but you forgot the Chaldean. Smile



Deb,

I wasn't referring to any system. I was questioning such a strong focus on the midheaven – perhaps meridian is a better word – for the origin of 10th house significations. I was considering the possibility of an entrenched and favored ancient numerological idea in relation to the all-important Ascendant leading to 10th house meanings. The Ascendant was the 'hot spot' for the Greeks, and the idea of the 10th sign to rise there, bringing fulfillment, completion and success, seems quite plausible. Rather than looking at a high point in the center of the sky I was considering the development of ASC potential. Rather than looking back and forth between the ASC and MC, switching the focus between the horizon and the sky, I was staying with the ASC and wondering what formerly may have been seen to develop directly from it – the 10th house as an outgrowth and completion of the ASC. There might be a chance that the two approaches came together and gave us the 10th house. But I ain't no expert.
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