Launch charts, collision charts, horaries and elections - for one reason or another astrologers seem to have a deep interest in the study of maritime events. Most of us, at some time, have studied the chart of the ill-fated Titanic, even though today there is no shortage of shipping disasters to grab the interest of the astrologically curious.
Astrologers and ships go back a long way. One of the earliest surviving horary charts concerns a missing ship, long overdue in its journey from Alexandria to Smyrna. The chart, cast in 479 AD, is one of several inquiry charts preserved in the collection of Palchus, an Egyptian astrologer who published work between 474 - 487 AD. Palchus devoted a whole chapter of his book to charts on travel by ships, probably using his own up-to-date examples to illustrate doctrines which were, even then, quite ancient. The Richard Garnett 1899 translation of the 479 chart is included here, with additional astronomical details taken from Greek Horoscopes by Neugebauer and Van-Hoesen. 
It would appear that, for as long as man has sought to cross the ocean, there has been a trade for astrologers to soothe or confirm anxious fears. William Lilly's classic text, Christian Astrology, shows the pertinence of sea travel in the 17th century by its inclusion of a number of horary charts relating to this issue. The first, entitled 'An Example of a Ship at Sea', asks whether a delayed ship has been lost. Many vessels had recently been sunk by tempestuous weather but with no definite news of this vessel the insurance company would not allow any claims. A second chart on page 165, 'A shipp at Sea, in what Condition?', was certainly unfortunate. Full of 'evill
testimonies of receiving losse rather then benefit' Lilly judged that the ship was cast away - 'and so it proved'.
Lilly's discourse in chapter 26 of Christian Astrology, entitled 'Of a Ship, and whatever are in her, her Safety or Destruction', contains many general aphorisms for this kind of judgement. There are also several useful considerations contained within his section on the 9th house and travel on pages 422-429. Most of these have been collected in the list of aphorisms for travel at sea which, with the development of modern methods of long distance travel, may be generally adapted to apply to trains, airplanes, and the like. An example modern horary, 'Will I get there?' demonstrates that times have changed but astrological principles haven't. Lilly's method of judging the condition of several absent travelers is also included for its relevance to this issue, but again, lends itself to various uses.
It doesn't take much imagination to realise that to our ancestors, sea travel was an extremely precarious business. Without the benefit of modern communication systems, safety procedures or dependable schedules - not to mention the speed of modern engines - every journey ran a heavy risk of something going wrong. It's easy to understand why loved ones, waiting anxiously at the shore for
news of a delayed or missing vessel would be prompted to turn to astrologers for advice and counsel. Today, the story is a little different. Long distance travel does not pose the threat to safety that it once did and, even when the worst happens, media coverage and modern communication systems ensure that everyone is kept fully informed with minimal delay. We no longer face the agonizing wait to find out if growing fears about a late vessel are based on imagination or reality.
Probably for this reason, most modern shipping charts are event charts, drawn in hindsight after a disaster has occurred. Such examinations can be very illuminating and a great way to learn more about predictive techniques. As an example, Cynthea Tasker's event chart of the disaster of the Braer, which released its deadly cargo of oil on the coast of the Shetlands, is a fine illustration of traditional astrological theory in practice. When read together with Lilly's aphorisms, this chart should prove to anyone that astrology has less to do with personal interpretation than with tried and tested principles that require applied study and philosophical understanding.
One man whose philosophical understanding of the basis of astrology can hardly be questioned is Dennis Elwell, who scored a media triumph for astrologers in his widely reported 'warning ignored'. His prediction of troubled waters ahead in the world of shipping made headline news in Britain in 1987 because of the offhand way in which it was dismissed by a company which immediately suffered a major shipping tragedy. Mr Elwell takes a broad perspective in his predictive work, looking for patterns in the fabric of the universe which focus along 'lines of least resistance'. For a man who claims he is 'not in the prediction business' it seems he knows a great deal of interest to those of us who are!
Notes & References:
|Starlore vol.III, no.23 (Sept. 1899), p.43. Greek Horoscopes pp. 144-5. The Greek is given in Catalogus Codicum Astrologorum Graecorum, Vol.1, pp.103-4.
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© Deborah Houlding. Adapted from Traditional Astrologer magazine, Issue 1, June 1993