The Limits of Influence: Pico, Louvain, and the Crisis of Renaissance Astrology

By Steven Vanden Broecke | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER EIGHT
PROROGATIONS, HOUSES, AND NATAL ASTROLOGY

The desire to return to Ptolemaic practice also manifested itself in natal astrology. Its most forceful expression was the use of prorogations, a specialized technique for the prediction of life expectancies that Ptolemy discussed in Tetrabiblos III.10.1 Ptolemy compared the lifespan that was allotted at birth to an arc of the celestial ecliptic. This arc started with a particular ecliptic point (the prorogator) where a person’s life was “launched,” and from where that person started a lifelong journey along the ecliptic. This journey was symbolized by a steady progression of the initial point, during which time it encountered one or several destructive points or planets (the “anaeretae”) that represented serious threats to life, or even the individual’s death. Prorogation gained a broader scope in Tetrabiblos iv.io. Instead of a single prorogator, symbolizing the individual’s lifespan, this chapter proposes no less than five prorogators for each individual (horoscope, lot of fortune, moon, sun, and mid-heaven). Each of these was linked with a specific sphere of human life, which implied that every person simultaneously completes five different prorogatory trajectories.2

1 Latin astrological texts habitually use three terms to refer to this technique: pro-
rogation directio
and progressio, although at least Gemma Frisius also suggested dimissio
or emissio. See Gemma Frisius, De astrolabo catholico (1556), fol. 96v. All three render
the Greek aphesis (“a letting go,” “dismissal”). Historians of astrology have preferred
“prorogation” (especially through Robbins’ translation of Tetrabiblos nr.10), “pro-
gression” (Hogendijk) or “direction” (Burnett and North). The use of “direction”
has the problem that additional neologisms would have to be coined for Greek
derivative words like

, (“director”?). Likewise, the use of “progression” has
already spawned cumbersome translations like “emittive point” (Hogendijk). This
study therefore adopts “prorogation,” which at least has the advantage of consistency
and tradition in translating the various variants of . In Arabic, was usu-
ally translated as tashyir, while was rendered as haylag. Its Latin transliteration
hykg, hylech, or hileg was frequendy used in medieval and early modern Latin texts.
Neither Latin nor English seem to offer common translations for the destructive de-
grees or planets that Ptolemy called . The Greek
was simply transliterated to the Latin “anaereta,” which is the word I have retained
in English.

2Tetrabiblos, p. 449: “We shall apply the prorogation from the horoscope to events

-227-

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