LONGEVITY AND THE HYLEG
Health and Longevity Factors in the Horoscope
So much of the interpretation and judgement of horoscopes in older forms of astrology is decided by planetary significators. There are planetary significators for virtually every aspect of the individual's life, each with its own distinct rules for determination. From a field of candidates, the planet chosen as the significator is the one that best fits all the selection criteria.
In Medical Astrology, the most famous and fabled of such planetary significators is the Hyleg, also called the Apheta, or the Giver of Life. It signifies the native's potential for health and longevity.
There's a lot of confusion and conflicting opinions amongst the old classical and medieval authorities on exactly how to choose the Hyleg. Noone is really wrong and noone is really right, because these procedures and criteria have changed over the course of astrology's long history.
The basic methods of astrological interpretation have also changed considerably over the course of astrology's long history. And so, modern astrologers going back over the old rules for determining the Hyleg and other significators may find that things get garbled in the translation into modern astrological methodology.
The older methods and techniques must be approached on their own terms. This requires learning something about the older forms of astrology of which they were a part.
The Hylegaical Houses
Nearly all the old authorities are in agreement that the Hyleg must come from certain houses. The houses deemed fit to hold the Hyleg are the First, Tenth, Eleventh, Seventh and Ninth, in that order of preference or priority. With the exception of the First House, the House of Life and Health, all the other Hylegaical houses lie above the horizon. And the Eighth and Twelfth houses, which are associated with pathology and disease, are excluded.
Planets Considered to Be Hylegaical
Because the Hyleg pertains to older forms of astrology, the outer planets generally aren't considered. They have their own special roles to play in the horoscope, and are usually concerned more with pathology and anomalies than they are with basic health, vitality and longevity. The general rule is to limit the selection of the Hyleg to one of the seven classical planets.
The luminaries, or the Sun and Moon, being the main sources of power, energy and vitality in the natal horoscope, are naturally the first planets to be considered. In a day birth (Sun above the horizon), the Sun takes precedence over the Moon, but in a night birth (Sun below the horizon), the Moon takes precedence. Also, the priority sequence of the Hylegaical houses can be used to decide which luminary is preferred; a First House Sun, even in a night birth, will take precedence over a Ninth House Moon, unless the former is debilitated or afflicted.
If neither the Sun nor the Moon qualify to be Hyleg, then the other planets are considered. The Hyleg planet should preferably be a benefic or neutral planet. The malefic planets, Mars and Saturn, are the lowest in preference or priority to be considered for the Hyleg, but may become Hyleg if none of the other planets qualify, and if they are strongly placed, with no major afflictions or debilities.
The Hyleg should have no debilities; in other words, it should not be in the sign of its detriment or fall. It should also not be afflicted or in hard aspect to another planet, especially to the malefics - Mars or Saturn. Exceptions may be made for the Sun and Moon at the lunar quarters. The Hyleg planet should also not be retrograde, nor should it be in anything other than a Hylegaical house.
If none of the seven classical planets can qualify as being the Hyleg, then the Ascendant itself becomes the Hyleg. This could be considered to be the default option.
Ptolemy's Method for Determining the Hyleg
Claudius Ptolemy, generally regarded as being the father of Western astrrology, states in his Tetrabiblios that the Hyleg is the planet with the greatest essential dignity in five important chart positions:
1) The degree of the Sun
2) The degree of the Moon
3) The degree of the Ascendant
4) The Part of Fortune
5) The Prenatal Syzygy - the degree of the New Moon or Full Moon before birth (New Moon if the natal Moon is waxing, and Full Moon if the natal Moon is waning).
When it comes to matters of essential planetary dignities, classical astrologers like Ptolemy had a much more complex and involved system for reckoning them than modern astrology. In addition to the modern dignities of rulership and exaltation, the ancients also figured in the triplicity rulers as well as the lords of the terms and faces.
In addition, they had a point system for tallying up or measuring the relative strength or debility of a planet, based on its essential dignities and debilities. Five points was given for a planet being the domicile ruler, four points for it being in exaltation, three points for it being the triplicity ruler, two points for being the term ruler, and one point for being the face ruler. The planet with the greatest essential dignity is called the Almuten.
With Ptolemy's method the Hyleg, being the planet with the greatest essential dignity over the above five key positions in the natal horoscope, functions like a Grand Almuten of the entire chart. To score and determine exactly what this Grand Almuten is, put the symbols for the seven classical planets across the top of the page. Under each, write down in a vertical column all the points each planet receives regarding each of the above five positions. At the end, tally up the total number of points for each planet; the planet with the highest score or total overall wins.
As a reference chart for scoring, especially regarding the more obscure classical dignities, I provide you with the following link. It's a chart of the essential planetary dignities according to Ptolemy, with an explanatory article of several pages that follows it:
One additional qualification remains: the planet must also be in a Hylegaical house. For purposes of selecting the Hyleg, Ptolemy considered the first five degrees above the horizon to be functionally part of the First House; a First House planet, to be Hyleg, must also be in the same sign as the Ascendant degree. If no planet can qualify to be the Hyleg, then the Ascendant itself becomes the Hyleg.
Once the Hyleg has been determined, it is analyzed according to its various accidental dignities to determine the native's potential for health and longevity. The point system for scoring these accidental dignities and debilities is also in the the Skyscript article that accompanies the chart on the above link. Accidental dignities add to the Hyleg's potential for health and vitality, whereas accidental debilities detract from it.
The 17th century English astrologer William Lilly also had his method for determining the Hyleg. It can also be found in the above Skyscript article.
The Anareta: Destroyer of Health and Longevity
In classical and medieval astrology, there was also a planetary significator that was antithetical to the Hyleg. It was called the Anareta, and was also known as the Interfector or the Killer Planet. It was considered to be the planet most involved with illness, pathology and death.
The Anareta may be a planet that is particularly afflicted or debilitated, preferably a malefic. It may also be the lord or dispositor of the Eighth house, or the Almuten of that lord. It could also be a planet in the Eighth House, which was classically considered to be the House of Death.
The terms, or segments of signs ruled by the Anareta were called the Anaretic Degrees (see chart of essential dignities according to Ptolemy for a table of these terms). Aspectual contacts between the Hyleg and the Anareta, and the Hyleg's transit through the Anaretic Degrees, were considered to be times of danger, when the risk of illness or injury, or the threat to life and health, was high.
The Alchochoden: Giver of Years
There's another planetary significator connected with the Hyleg that was used in classical and medieval astrology to clculate the native's life expectancy, or allotted span of life. It's called the Alchochoden, which means, "The Giver of Years".
In classical Greek astrology, the Alchochoden was the bound ruler of the Hyleg. In medieval astrology, it was the Almuten of the Hyleg.
To measure out the expected lifespan of the native, there were elaborate formulas involving chronocrators, or Time Lord systems of prediction. Medieval astrology also had its own Time Lord systems, usually of Arabic or Persian origin, such as the Al-Firdars, or Alfridaries. In modern astrology, the transits and progressions of the outer planets, including Saturn, bear the brunt of predicting major life milestones and transitions, as well as life expectancy and the probability of mortality or death.
Life span prediction and matters involving the Alchochoden is one area in which a lot of further research and development are necessary. Project Hindsight is at the forefront of research and revival of knowledge concerning the Time Lords, or chronocrators: www.projecthindsight.com Regarding medieval Time Lord systems, Robert Zoller is probably the world's leading authority: http://robertezoller.com
There are obvious ethical and moral dilemmas involved in predicting or forecasting a person's time of death. Even if the prediction is totally sound and accurate, the psychological implications and their possible traumatic impact on the mental and emotional state of the patient or client must be considered: Is he/she really ready to receive and know such information?
Modern Astrology and the Hyleg
Modern astrology's position on matters such as the Hyleg and its associates, the Anareta and the Alchochoden is, at best, ambiguous. The old classical and medieval formulas seem too rigid and formalistic, failing to allow for individual differences in the natal horoscope. They also have the stigma of being too fatalistic.
Modern Medical Astrologers may not even use or have a procedure for determining the Hyleg. Then, the native's potential for health and longevity are assessed through a careful analysis of the Big Three: the Sun, Moon and Ascendant, which is also called the Vital Core of the natal horoscope. Various points and dispositors connected with the Big Three, like the Ascendant Ruler, the Sun / Moon midpoint, and the Part of Fortune, are also figured in to determine the overall picture.
Whether or not one uses a set formula or protocol to determine the Hyleg and its associated significators, any medical analysis of the natal horoscope will reveal a certain planet, or planets, to be bulwarks or sources of health and vitality for the native, and others to be sources of pathology and infirmity. Essentially, the former could be called the Hyleg, and the latter the Anareta.
And what about the outer planets? Although I said earlier that they're not generally considered in determining the Hyleg and its associates, because these older astrological techniques predate their discovery, I feel that one of them definitely has the potential to be the Hyleg under the right conditions, if it is otherwise well-placed within the nativity. That planet is Pluto, whose positive aspect is healing, transformation and regeneration, often from catastrophic illness, or against overwhelming odds.
As for being the Anareta, all the outer planets have superb qualifications, being involved quite often in grave or chronic pathologies. Challenging transits of the outer planets to the vital centers of the birthchart can often pose threats to the life and health of the individual.
As for the Alchochoden and life expectancy, the outer planets, including Saturn, function very well in modern astrology as timers of major life transitions and milestones. Although modern astrologers, primarily for ethical reasons, shy away from predicting a date of death or demise, challenging transits of Saturn and the outer planets, as well as transiting configurations between them and Mars, the other malefic, to the vital centers of the birthchart, indicate times when the native's health and vitality, and even his/her will to live, will be low, and the risk of death or mortality high. But discretion must be used as to how this information is shared with the client.
To satisfy my curiosity and concern about matters related to the Hyleg, I did a little research on famous individuals who were noted for living long and healthy lives. I reasoned that, if the classical formulas and doctrines concerning the Hyleg were true, then every one of these individuals must not only have a clear Hyleg in their natal chart, but its power, dignity and placement within the chart must also be totally magnificent.
However, I found that this was not always the case; the natal charts of many of these longevity superstars failed to even turn up a clear Hyleg. Nevertheless, there were definitely other factors in the birthchart, often connected with the Big Three, of the Vital Core of Sun, Moon and Ascendant, that did guarantee them excellent longevity.
Internet Resources and Acknowledgements
In the preparation of this article, I consulted the following internet articles and websites: