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Books by James Herschel Holden

James Herschel Holden is the Research Director at the American Federation of Astrologers. Many years ago he made translations of a number of old astrological texts, which, for many years, he circulated privately among his friends.

The ongoing back to the basics movement of the 1990's & 2000's, has encouraged the AFA to publish many of them. When these books arrive, I had been filing them according to the author. It was recently pointed out to me that organizing them by translator, in other words, Mr. Holden himself, would let students instantly access these books. I am thankful for the suggestion, which came from Ken M., of Maryland.

Note also his excellent translations of Morin, which you will find on that page.

Finally, Holden, a student of history, has also written three excellent books on astrological history. You will find them at the bottom of this page.

Indicates a book on our Top Ten list. If you would like to find more books like it, click on the star.

INTRODUCTION TO ASTROLOGY - Paul of Alexandria, translated by James Herschel Holden, $21.95

Translator's preface
Preface to the second edition
Preface to the third edition
Summary of Paul's Introduction to Astrology

Paul of Alexandria: Introduction to Astrology:
1. Preface
2. The twelve signs
3. The terms that were allotted to the five revolving stars in the twelve signs
4. Those things which the seven stars have power over from the faces of the decans in the twelve signs
5. The single degrees the stars rule in the signs
6. The sects of the two luminaries
7. Quadrants
8. Signs that see each other
9. Commanding and obeying signs
10. The trine, sextile, square and opposition aspects
11. Signs that are inconjunct with each other
12. Signs that sympathize with each other though averted
13. Signs that are in aspect and momozones and equal-rising
14. The phases that the five stars make with the Sun
15. Stations
16. The configurations that the Moon makes with the Sun
17. The separations and applications that the Moon makes with the revolving stars
18. Foreknowledge of the winds
19. The knowledge of how many are the days of the Gods
20. The knowledge of each day: to which of the Gods it belongs

21. The day ruler and the hour ruler
22. The Dodecatemories
23. The seven lots according to the Panaretos
24. Tabular exposition of the twelve houses
25. Children
26. Action
27. Cadent houses
28. The motion of the Sun and rough the rough calculation of its sign and degree
29. The ascendant: how it should be calculated
30. The midheaven
31. The ruler of the year, the month, and the day
32. Single-degree rulers by triplicity
33. Determination of the required degree of the ascendant
34. Climacterics
35. Configuration of the Moon with the Sun
36. Rulership of the nativity
37. The nativity of the world


Appendix 1: Chapter 23 of Heliodorus's Commentary
Index of lots

Appendix 2: The horoscope of Cronamon

Index of persons



Holden's translation of Paul of Alexander dates from 1986, many years ago, but publication was limited to photocopies and distribution limited to his friends. There was a second limited edition in 1994, and then this one, of 2010, which the AFA has now published (2012). I used to stock a translation by Dorian Greenbaum that Arhat (Rob Hand) published (Late Classical Astrology: Paulus Alexandrinus and Olympiodorus) but that is now out of print. Holden's translation, combined with AFA's publishing, is superior.

Holden declares this text to be incomplete. The signs of the zodiac are given extensive treatment, but there is not very much on the planets. The usual survey of topics - such as one finds in Ptolemy - is limited to Children and Action. Holden asks, why there is no chapter on planets? And why, if there is a chapter on children, there is none on marriage? (pg. ix) Holden speculates that much of Paul's book may have been lost over the centuries.

There are many tables: Terms of the planets are given in such a fashion as to make it clear the maximum years of life, as given by the various planets, is the addition of their term degrees (two separate tables). There are decans, monomoiria (single degrees), commanding and obeying, etc.

This book is famous for its scholia, or commentaries, which are marginal notes found with various copies of the book. These have been collected and comprise nearly 35 pages. These are given out of context, but it is generally clear what they are referring to. This is followed by Heliodorus's Commentaries, which list a great many lots, perhaps as many as can be found in Al Biruni.

There are many useful details in this book.

Which brings me to Holden's personal notes. He begins with where the zodiac started in ancient days. He says the Greeks in Alexandria started the zodiac at 15 Cancer, not 0 Aries. Holden says the Greeks used a "fixed zodiac" which he calls "Alexandrian." Exactly how this relates to the tropical or the sidereal I am not quite certain. A guess would be that Tropical positions, which are easily had, were from time to time projected into the sky, and when, as the decades and centuries passed, the stars had drifted out of those locations, a new fixing would be had. Such would be the origins of the Sidereal zodiac. (If it wasn't for Vedic astrology I would suspect the Sidereal zodiac to be a wholly modern invention.) This comes up in the discussion of Commanding and Obeying signs, which are derived from antiscia. Pg. 147, Holden notes that signs that "obey" each other do so because they cast equal shadows. Which, if I can believe that, are Tropical positions on the face of it, because the Tropical summer and winter solstices are defined as the longest and shortest days of the year, which has to do with shadows. Count the days before and after the solstices: Ten days before and ten days after, shadows are the same length, thus, antiscia. I've examined this in some detail in Valens, who goes on and on about solar and lunar gnomens. The gnomen is the shadow-casting part of a sundial.

Holden has a most useful detail in calculating planetary positions, as given in Valens. One is to start the count, not from the date of the death of the Emperor, but from the start of the next year, which at the time was August 29 or 30.

Holden then examines why things were so quirky in Alexandria. Supposedly everyone who was anyone was in Alexandria, but so far as anyone can tell, everyone did things their own way, they customarily contradicted each other, and no one knew any of their contemporaries. This is very puzzling, but I have a solution.

Which is that "Paul of Alexandria," "Jane of Alexandria," "Dorotheus of Sidon," "Vettius Valens of Antioch," etc., are all misleading. In point of fact, the academics who live in a town always end up in one big club - a college or university - just as they do now. In point of fact, when these people write books, they write for themselves. Not for an audience. Not for the public. Largely they carry on arcane feuds and for the most part are so unremarkable as to be completely forgotten. Remember any of your college professors? I don't.

What we actually have, instead, is a situation which appears similar to the Marseilles Tarot. Which goes like this: Once upon a time in the 18th century there was an enterprising printer in Marseilles who printed lots and lots of tarot cards, which, over time, became associated with the city of Marseilles itself. Such that when other printers, in other towns, printed their own tarot cards (all more or less identical), they called them "Marseilles" cards in order to pass them off as the genuine article. The "Marseilles tarot" became a generic term, in other words. Which it still is to this day.

Such is what I suspect happened with "Alexandria." If all the people who have "Alexandria" or "Egyptian" associated with their name actually lived in that town, how did the locals tell them apart?

But what if, instead, some enterprising fellow in Damascus, or Crete, or in far-off Sicily wanted to pass himself off as learned? If Alexandria was the center of learning, and if, perhaps, he had actually been there, he might stick "Alexandria" on his name, the way we might put "Ph.D." after ours. It gave him respect. It was a title. It set him apart.

If this is true, then few if any of these men had anything to do with Alexandria. It means their books will be from their own locales. Not from Alexandria. Each with its own, unique, local quirks. And why not? The ancient world was a large place, with many notable cities. Astrology is of interest everywhere, not just in a port city in Egypt. It is logical to think that books were written throughout the ancient world, and that the better ones have come down to us, regardless of who wrote them, or where. Which means we can have great fun trying to figure out where these men really lived and worked. From the klimes that Valens gives, I've put him in the Greek colonies in the Crimea. The Greeks extensively colonized the Crimea, a fact which today seems to be known only to the Ukrainians.

Holden has fascinating notes on how the ancients calculated the day of the week, the Sun's position, as well as ascendant and midheaven - which in the case of the angles was often none too accurate, as I discovered in duplicating the calculations given in Valens. Holden seems to be of the opinion that ancient sundials were more or less similar to the garden ornaments we know today. This is wrong. Obelisks could easily be made to function as community sundials, and with simple lines on the ground and monthly tables, would be accurate to under a minute. Any tower, or even tall wooden shaft, can be made to function in this way. I am puzzled why no one has figured this out before me.

In his notes on calculation, Holden at several points chides Paul for using arithmetic instead of trigonometry. This is unfair. Paul did not have the modern number system available to him. "Arabic" numbers were developed in India around 300 AD, spread to the Islamic world sometime around 800 AD, and to Europe in 1202, a date that ought to be engraved in everyone's head, as the Arabic system of numbers revolutionized the entire world, most especially astrology, which can - and should - be divided into not-Arabic, and Arabic periods. Paul had Ionian or Attic or Roman numbers, which were all versions of hash marks and unsuitable for anything harder than adding and subtracting. For fancier operations, the abacus was used. It wasn't only a Chinese invention. (Chinese numbers, up to Mao, were even worse.)

We are slowly puzzling out the riddles of Hellenistic astrology, thanks to the tireless efforts of men like James Holden.

AFA, 206 pages.

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ASTROLOGICAL COMPENDIUM: Containing his explanation & narration of the whole art of astrology - Rhetorius the Egyptian, translated by James Herschel Holden, $24.95

Translator's preface to the first edition
Translator's preface to the second edition
Translator's preface to the third edition
Translator's preface to the fourth edition

1. Masculine & feminine signs & houses, and stars that become masculine & feminine
2. The sects of the stars
3. The natures of the twelve signs
4. Rough-skinned, leprous, mangy, & the scurvy signs
5. Licentious signs
6. Signs harmful to the eyes
7. Exaltations & falls
8. The oppositions of the stars
9. The sect of the rulers of the triplicities
10. The 36 decans & the paranatellonta & the faces
11. The bright fixed stars & the powers of the paranatellonta
12. The terms according to the Egyptians & Ptolemy & the bright & shadowy degrees
13. The risings in the seven climes
14. The parts of the body ruled by the signs
15. Trines & squares & oppositions & those that are disjunct with each other as with the opposition
16. Disjunct signs & those having sympathy with each other
17. Squares that are sympathetic & those that are not
18. The dodecatemories of the stars
19. Hearing & seeing (signs)
20. Beholdings

21. Casting a ray
22. Dexter & sinister aspects
23. The doryphory of the stars
24. The out-of-sect doryphory
25. Doryphories with harmony
26. Dominance
27. Affliction & ineffective houses
28. Effective houses
29. In proper face
30. Joint possession
31. Incongruity of position
32. Joint rulership
33. The house-ruler
34. Kollesis
35. Application
36. Intervention
37. Separation
38. Bonding
39. Void of course
40. Juxtaposition

41. Besieging
42. Fortified stars
43. Chariots
44. When stars rejoyce
45. Stars under the sun beams
46. Times of life of the angles, succedents & cadents
47. Sigification of the lots
48. Signification of these lots
49. The complete & least years of the stars
50. How one calculates the increment of the signs & the hours of the climes
51. The greatest years & the complete revolution of the seven stars
52. Stars disjunct with the lights
53. Influence of the doryphories of the sun
54. Topical examination of the horoscope
55. Childbirth
56. The kinds of nativities indicated by the day-ruler & the hour-ruler
57. Significations of the twelve houses of the chart
58. The power of the fixed stars
59. General configurations of the moon
60. The dodecatemorion

61. General configurations of injuries & sickness
62. Degrees injurious to the eyes
63. Those who are bold
64. Those with gout
65. Madmen & epileptics
66. Lechers & drunkards & homosexuals
67. Houes & degrees producing lechers & homosexuals
68. Decans producing lechers
69. The sun
70. The moon
71. Saturn
72. Jupiter
73. Mars
74. Mercury
75. The ascendant
76. Lecherous signs
77. General configurations of those dying violently
78. General configurations of those who are exiled
79. The phases of the moon
80. The ascending node & the descending node

81. General configurations of those enjoying good fortune
82. Action & pursuits
83. The three stars signifying actions
84. Trades
85. Orators& preachers
86. Astrologers or diviners
87. Bath-workers
88. Removers of corpses
89. Architects & potters
90. Drunkards & lewd persons & sorcerers
91. Carpenters & tanners & stone-masons & gem-engravers
92. Masters of the hounds & falconers & bird-keepers & painters
93. Sailors & steersmen
94. Tailors
95. Mechanics & jugglers
96. Mimes
97. Parents
98. Parents who are foreigners
99. Patricides & matricides & enemies of their parents & outcasts
100. The longevity of the parents

101. Parents from new moons & full moons
102. Which of the parents dies first
103. The number of children born previously
104. Brothers, their friendship & how many there are
105. The friendship of brothers
106. The third sign from the ascendant
107. Elder & younger brothers
108. How many brothers
109. Application & separation
110. An example
111. Bonding
112. Void of course
113. The nativity of a grammarian
114. Why he was a grammarian
115. Why he was a traitor
116. His lechery
117. The rising of his fortune
118. The nativity of a child who died early

1. The twelve signs. Index of constellations & star names
2. The nature & force of the seven planets
3. Judging an eclipse
4. How the points of the twelve houses must be found to the exact degree
5. The time of life according to all the rulers & the ruler of the nativity
6. Comparison of chapter numbers

Index of persons


Here is how the translator, James Herschel Holden, described Rhetorius in his book, A History of Horoscopic Astrology:

Rhetorius the Egyptian seems to have lived around 505 AD; he compiled a valuable compendium of the works of Antiochus & Porphry, with excerpts from Vettius Valens & some other earlier writers. His book seems to have been entitled, From the Treasury of Antiochus, an Explanation & Narration of the Whole Art of Astrology. A number of chapters are nearly identical to chapters in Porphyry's Introduction. This probably indicates that both Rhetorius & Porphyry independently borrowed those chapters from Antiochus of Athens.

There is much material in Rhetorius's book that is found nowhere else. In addition we get the impression that Rhetorius himself was a competent astrologer. One particularly notable section in his book is Chapter 54, "Topical Examination of the Chart," which contains the only systematic method of chart reading that has come down to us from the classical period. The anonymous compiler of the Book of Hermes copied this into his work as Chapter 16 & the medieval Latin translation is useful for emending the text of Rhetorius & for supplying portions of the text thast are now missing in the Greek.

Chapter 57 contains the most elaborate set of interpretations of the planets in the twelve houses that has come down to us. Actually, it is a double set, for Rhetorius evidently had two separate sources for this material. One of them is the same source used by Firmicus in Book 3 of the Mathesis. The other one is different. Rhetorius also gives the signirication of the nodes in the houses, and he gives many significations for the ruler of one house being located in another house (e.g. when the ruler of the 5th is in the 3rd). (pgs. 85-6)

In his History, Holden goes on to quote Rhetorius on the 8th house. No need for me to do that. You can now get the book.

This translation has a long history, which Holden details in his four Prefaces. The late David Pingree was working on a new compilation of this book, but died before he could complete it. Holden gives this & many other details, but omits the one that interests me most: Was this book originally in verse, or not?

As I've elsewhere mentioned, the reason early writers all quoted one another, and at length, is because the books were in verse. Verse is different from prose. These authors had earlier memorized entire books & when the time came to write their own, they had a great deal of information at their fingertips. Contrast this to William Lilly who had memorized nothing & therefore had to fall back on trite phrases, such as (said of Schoener), A good book but not methodical. Which, by the way, implies that Schoener did not write in verse. Neither did Lilly. As a result, there is not a man alive, including John Frawley, who can quote Lilly at length.

This book ranks in importance with Ptolemy and Firmicus. It is essential.

AFA, 222 pages.

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Elizabeth Hazel writes,
Rhetorius (and Holden’s translation of him) deserves a resounding five-star salute with additional accolades. This book is a veritable jewel of material from the classical period, with lots of wee bits and treasures not often found in other ancient books. Top-notch, must-have book for any astrologer interested in ancient astrology & methodology. Rhetorius is the whip. The section at the end with constellations includes some very rarely mentioned Babylonian constellations that were pretty much forgotten by his contemporaries, and certainly out of use by the time of Porphyry. Fascinating stuff.

THE JUDGMENTS OF NATIVITIES - Abu 'Ali Al-Khayyat (trans: James Holden), $23.95

Introduction by James Holden; Preface to the edition of 1546 by Joachim Heller of Weissenfels.

1. Rearing of children; 2. Hyleg & the knowledge of the length of life; 3. The Alcochoden & what it signifies about life; 4. How much the stars add or subtract to the years of the Alcochoden; 5. The native's quality of mind; 6. Testimonies signifying the nativities of kings; 7. The native's prosperity & adversity (with 12 examples); 8. The time of the native's good fortune; 9. The sources of the native's prosperity;

10. The native's circumstances & the things indicated by the 1st house; 11.The native's wealth & its sources & things signified by the 2nd house; 12. The fortune of the brothers; 13. The number of brothers; 14. The reputation & nobility of the brothers; 15. The mutual friendship or hatred of the brothers; 16. The fortune of the parents & things signified by the 4th house; 17. The length of life of father; 18. The length of life of the mother; 19. Finding the hyleg for the life of the parents;

20. The status of the children & the things signified by the 5th house; 21. The time of the children; 22. The native's slaves & subordinates & significations of the 6th house; 23. The native's luck with animals & cattle; 24. The native's infirmity & its causes; 25. Matrimonial matters & their causes & the things signified by the 7th house; 26. The things signified by the Part of Marriage; 27. The native's travel & trips & the things signified by the 9th house; 28. Utility or loss on a trip; 29. The native's law & religion & his dreams;

30. The native's dignity & work & the things signified by the 10th house; 31. The native's place in the kingdom; 32. The native's prosperity & power; 33. The native's profession; 34. The native's audacity & courage; 35. Friends; 36. Enemies & the things signified by the 12th house; 37. The quality of death & its occasions; 38. The general way or method of judgment of the 12 houses of heaven; 39. Saturn in its own domicile & in those of the other planets in diurnal & nocturnal nativities;

40. Jupiter in its own domicile & in those of the other planets; 41. Mars in its own domicile & in those of the other planets; 42. The Sun in its own domicile & in the domiciles of the other planets; 43. Venus in its own domicile & in those of the other planets; 44. Mercury in its own domicile & in those of the other planets; 45. The moon in its own domicile & in those of the other planets; 46. The lord of the hour; 47. The significations of the planets in the individual house of the natal horoscope: Planets in the ascendant; Planets in the 2nd house; Planets in the 3rd house; Planets in the 4th house; Planets in the 5th house; Planets in the 6th house; Planets in the 7th house; Planets in the 8th house; Planets in the 9th house; Planets in the 10th house; Planets in the 11th house; Planets in the 12th house; 48. The head & tail of the dragon of the moon in the 12 houses of heaven; 49. The effects & indications of the Part of Fortune in the 12 houses of the natal horoscope; 50. The rest of the accidental dignities or debilities of the Part of Fortune; A caution that must be observed in judgments.

Appendix 1: Notes on the 12 example horoscopes. Appendix 2: Masha'Allah's Book of Nativities. Glossary. Bibliography.

Comment: A small but excellent treatise from the early 9th century. Although the author was one of the leading Arabic astrologers of his day, this book is a compendium of Greek, not Arabic, astrology. (Most of what is termed Arabic astrology, including the Parts, were already in use by the Greeks centuries before.) Of Abu 'Ali's ten known books, only two have survived to modern times. Originally in Arabic, Holden has translated the 1546 Latin translation of Joachim Heller.

May, 2009: Newly reset. No longer in dot-matrix. This is now a very nicely done book.

AFA, 146 pages.

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INTRODUCTION TO THE TETRABIBLOS, by Porphyry, and, ASTROLOGICAL DEFINITIONS, by Serapio of Alexandria, translated by James Herschel Holden, $18.95


Translator's preface
Preface to the second edition
Preface to the third edition
Preface to the published edition

By Porphyry the Philosopher: Introduction to the Tetrabiblos of Ptolemy:
1. Preface
2. Changes produced by the transfers of the Sun, Moon & stars
3. The configurations that the stars make in their high and low points, the apogees & the perigees
4. Diurnal & nocturnal stars
5. The houses which are also called the zones of the stars
6. Exaltations
7. Co-rulers
8. Aspects
9. Dexter & sinister aspects
10. Platic
11. Applications & Kollesis
12. Separation
13. Another definition of separation
14. Blockade
15. Besieging
16. Intervention
17. Transfer of nature
18. Aggregation
19. Refrenation
20. Predominating
21. Prevailing
22. Homoresis
23. Void of course
24. Casting rays
25. Chariots
26. Joint possession
27. Incongruity of position
28. Affliction 29. Doryphory
30. The house ruler & the ruler & the ruling planet
31. Obeying signs
32. Equipollent signs
33. Seeing signs & maximum days
34. Inconjunct signs
35. Cadent & succedent houses
36. Effective signs
37. The conception sign of the Sun
38. The conception sign of the Moon
39. The Dodecatenory of the Moon
40. Masculine & feminine signs
41. The rising time of the signs
42. In how many times each degree rises by signs
43. The determination of the angular, cadent & succedent house for a particular degree
44. What sort of body part each sign was allotted
45. What sort of part of the body each star rules
46. The apparel & dye or complexions the stars rule
47. The 36 decans & their paranatellonta & faces
48. The powers of the bright fixed stars & their paranatellonta
49. The terms according to the Egyptians & Ptolemy & the bright & dark degrees
50. The Melothesis of the signs
51. Trines, squares, sextiles, oppositions & disjuncts having testimony to each other as in the system of oppositions
52. The times of the angles, the succedents & the cadents
53. In how many ways the influences of the planets are generated
54. Exposition of the testimony of the planets
55. The rays (orbs) of the planets

Index of persons

By Serapio of Alexandria: Astrological Definitions:
Translator's preface
Astrological definitions
Index of persons


Ptolemy's Tetrabiblos was a century old when Porphyry came to write his Introduction to it. Porphyry's book looks a lot like a condensed version of Al Biruni's book, written 8 centuries later. That Porphyry stuck Ptolemy's name on it tells me several things. One, that Ptolemy wrote his book in verse, not prose, because only books in verse circulated. (Ptolemy's original text was lost, he exists only in the paraphrase of Proclus, of the 5th century. Which, to Porphyry, was centuries in the future.) Next, it tells me that despite books by Vettius Valens, Rhetorius, Dorotheus & others, Ptolemy's book had already become a standard reference - at least as far as Porphyry's immediate neighborhood was concerned. A reference that was flawed, in that it (Ptolemy) lacked essential details, the necessary twiddly bits, that make the rest of it work. Hence, Porphyry to the Rescue!

In his Preface, Holden notes that parts of this book turn up, verbatim, in books by Antiochus, Rhetorius & Sahl Ibn Bishr. This leads Holden to speculate that Porphyry's book was a composite patched together by Demophilus around the year 990. Dear Mr. Holden, should you chance across these notes, it is critical to know if these sources are all in poetry, and if so, if they were all written in the same language and used the same meter, which, if so, would indicate they were not copied from one manuscript to another, but recited, independently, from memory onto paper, by each of the people concerned. Just as I might recite Row, row, row your boat / Gently down the stream or Poe's The Raven, from memory. In my view, it is critical to establish how knowedge was transmitted from one generation to another, to better understand how ancient society worked.

Which brings me to Porphyry's book itself. In brief, some of the details will be familiar to students, but many will not. It will repay study. Study the list of contents, above, closely.

Seraphio's Definitions comprise a mere ten pages. Many of them look as if they are aphorisms written in code. To wit:

The stars are said to be in their own chariots whenever they are in their own exaltations. (pg. 63, emphasis in original)
The identity of Seraphio, his dates, are unknown. It is speculated he lived in the first century BC or AD, which is rather vague, and that his book (more like a monograph) was compiled around 1000 AD, perhaps, again, by Demophilus.

Another very useful book from Mr. Holden. I wonder how many more surprises he has in store for us.

AFA, 73 pages.

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FIVE MEDIEVAL ASTROLOGERS - translated by James Herschel Holden, $21.95


Translator's preface

Albumasar (c.787 - 886): The Book of Flowers

Pseudo-Ptolemy (author unknown, date prior to 800 AD): The Centiloquy

Hermes Trismegistus (author unknown, date prior to 1262): The Centiloquy

Bethen (probably written by Ibn Ezra, 1148): The Centiloquy

Almansor (12th century, Toledo, Spain?) The Propositions


Comment: These are five sets of aphorisms, of Greek or Arabic origins, that were translated from (largely lost) originals by the celebrated Twelfth Century Translators, of Spain & Italy. Increasing trade between Christian Europe & the Islamic world, in particular, Spain, had given Christians a taste for the many splendors in Arabic libraries. The twelfth century produced many hundreds of translations to satisfy this need. The Wiki page notably omits Every.Single.Astrological.Work translated by these men. When in fact many, if not a majority of the books translated were astrological in nature. We are, today, many years from exhausting those treasures. It was these translations that set the stage for the Italian Renaissance some three centuries later.

Medieval scholars gave far greater importance to the nature of numbers than we do today. Hence there are many sets of 100 aphorisms, from whence the title, "Centiloquy". One of the earliest surviving, and one of the best, is the one attributed to Ptolemy, though he did not write it. The next most famous is the set by "Hermes", though, again, actual authorship is unknown. All three sets given here, along with Almansor's 150 Propositions, mix some natal astrology with a lot of horary & electional. Albumasar's Book of Flowers is, uniquely, a book of mundane aphorisms. I have long awaited such a book.

These translations were made from critical editions of source material. In particular, the translation of the "Ptolemy" Centiloquy is from the recent Greek text of Emilie Boer.

AFA, 153 pages.

THE INTRODUCTION TO THE SCIENCE OF THE JUDGEMENTS OF THE STARS - Sahl Ibn Bishr, translated by James Herschel Holden, $24.95


Translator's preface

Book 1: Introduction:
The essential signification of the circle; The accidental signification of the circle; The ascending house & whatever is in it is about questions, and the rest of the twelve signs; Angles, succedents & cadents; Difference in strength of the houses; Aspects; The 16 modes that signify perfection and destruction; The knowledge of the light or the orb of the seven planets; Separation; The conjunction of light; Prohibition; Reception; Minor reception; A planet not received; Void of course; Return; Giving virtue; Giving disposition and nature; The strength of the planets; The debility of the planets; The defects of the Moon; Explanation of besieging; Hays; Testimony; The joys of the planets

Book 2: The Fifty Precepts

Book 3: Questions or The Book of Judgements of the Arabs:
General rules; A chapter on the conjunction of the ASC

The second house on matters of substance

The third house on the matters of brothers

The fourth house on matters of heredity

The fifth house on matters relating to children and first about one child; Whether a child will be born to him or not; Whether a woman is pregnant or not, and whether she will bear a child or not; Whether a pregnancy is true or false; Whether or not a pregnant woman will bear twins; Whether she will bear a male or a female

The sixth house on the matter of infirmity; Something on the matter of slaves & freedmen; Buying a slave-girl; The relicts of a dead slave; Poseesion of the same

The seventh house on matters of marriage; Whether a woman who has fled from her husband will return; Whether a woman is a virgin or not; Whether or not a woman will bear a child; Whether a woman is pregnant from fornication; Whether a woman has a man she loves, or one who loves her; Which of the two will win a competition; What will be the action in buying & selling; Whether a fugitive or property or something else that is lost will be found or not; The place of the fugitive or the robber; Whether it is better to flee or to return; Whether or not the querent will get back what was stolen; A question about something lost - will it be found or not; A question about the robber - is he a foreigner?; The place of the stolen items; Whether the number of stolen items is one or more; The suspicion of the robber; On the same subject; What sort of thing was stolen; The thing stolen or pilfered, what it is and the type of thing; A question about the robber, whether it is a male or a female or an imbrio; A question about association & its outcome; A question about a general going to war; The cause of wars; The quality of the army

The eighth house in connection with the absent person

The ninth house on the matter of travel; The entrance of a traveler into a city; The journeys of princes & kings; What land would be better for the querent; Whether it would be good for the querent to set out on a journey; Release from captivity; The return of someone absent

The tenth house, about a kingdom; Question about anything, whether he will getit or not; Royal expenditures; A question about someone's condition put by a representative; Where is the ruler of the kingdom; A question about his taking his seat; The current condition of a kingdom; A person or king absent from a kingdom; Will he remain in his kingdom or not

The eleventh house, about hopes; The relationship between two persons; The realization of something hoped for

The twelfth house, on the matter of animals; The condition of the animal; A question about the age of the animal; Enemies

Letters; Another chapter on letters; Whether the letter is good or evil; What will be the response to the letter; Whether the letter is delivered or not; Whether the letter is signed or not; The man who is sending the letter; Whether a letter has reached the king or not; Rumors; A question about something that is feared; If a slain person will be avenged or not; Whether anything is true or false; Many things; More things; Hunting on the land; The quantity of hunting; A banquet to which you have been invited; The cause of the banquet; The signification of the planetary hours in questions

Book 4: Elections;
The ascendant and what is in it of elections in the knowledge of the natures of the signs, the first of which are the mobile signs; The fixed signs; The common signs; An election for the beginning of any work, and the ten impediments of the Moon

The second sign or the second house with its elections, and first about receiving & allocating money; An election for sharing money or some kind of work with someone; An election for investing money in order to profit from it; An election for buying or selling; An election for alchemical operations

The fourth sign or the fourth house and whatever kind of elections are in it, and first for building a house; An election for tearing down a house; An election for buying land or for leasing it, so that you may receive a return from it; An election for diverting a river or for digging a well; An election for planting trees; An election for sowing seed

The fifth sign or the fifth house with its elections, and first about begetting a male or female child; An election for removing a dead fetus from the womb; An election if you want to enroll a son in a course of instruction or send him to a place in which he may be taught some trade

The sixth sign or the sixth house with its elections, and first about expelling devils and ghosts from any place; An election for taking medicine or applying a plaster or any other kind of medication to any part of the body; When remedies for the belly should be administered; The head; The body; Cures for diseases; The eyes; An election for shaving the head with medicine; An election for buying slaves; An election for giving freedom

The seventh sign or the seventh house with its elections and first for marriage; An election for going to war; An election for buying or mutually accepting or returning instruments of war, or for destroying any place or instrument

The eighth sign or the eighth house with its elections

The ninth sign or the ninth house with its elections, and first for travels; An election for the entrance of a traveler into a region or city

The tenth sign or the tenth house with its elections, and first about going with the king to a region that he rules; An election for elevation to a kingdom; An election for putting the king on the seat of empire; An election for putting someone in charge of a restoration; An election for strengthing a rulership; An election for being inimical to a king; An election for mollifing a king who is angry with you

The eleventh sign or the eleventh house, and first for making friendship; An election for seeking something from someone

The twelfth sign or the twelfth house with its elections, and first for buying animals; An election for going out to hunt; An election for taking flight, or for whatever you wish to do secretly; An election for finding a fugitive; An election for writing a letter

Book 5: The Book of Times:
The principal knowledge of the times; Finding the significator of the time; The life of a man in the ascendant; The house of substance; The times of the third & fourth houses; The house of children; The house of illness; The seventh sign for the times or hours of war from the sayings of Theophilus; Remarks on the eighth house; The ninth sign on travels from the sayings of the ancients; The return of a traveler; A letter and rumors; The tenth sign in connection with a king from the sayings of Masha'allah

Appendix: A 9th house question: A question about a vision or dream

Index of persons

Comment: Like many acient books, the Table of Contents is a de facto index, listing the contents of the book, virtually page by page.

James Holden's Introduction says that Sahl Ibn Bishr, known in the west as Zahel or Zael, was a learned Jew who lived in the first half of the 9th century. He was at one time court astrologer to the Vizer of Baghdad. He is credited with writing 18 books in Arabic, five of which were later translated by a group known simply as the 12th century translators. The books were: Introduction to Astrology, The 50 Precepts, Judgments of Questions, Elections, and, The Book of Times. These are the five books which Mr. Holden has translated for us. For a source, Holden has conflated the first complete printed edition (Venice, 1493, I am unable to find it in Gardner), with a privately made microfilm copy of a 13th century Latin text from the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris.

Based on the Latin text, Holden declares Sahl to have been a master of horary & electional astrology. His work was copied, without attribution, by Bonatti and Ibn Ezra, and later turns up in William Lilly's Christian Astrology, as well as Anima Astrologaie. So now we have the original source, or, at the very least, a much earlier one. Here is one of Sahl's entries:

A question about the robber, whether it is a male or a female or an imbrio [youth?]

And if you were asked about the robber, whether he is a male or a female or an imbrio, then consider which ascends of the forms of men in the face of the ASC in which the question is made, and declare according to the substance of those forms. And you may know that in the first face of Aries, there ascends the form of a black man dressed in a white tunic; and there ascends in the second face, the form of a woman over whom there are red strips of cloth; and in the third form is that of a man of a pale color with red hair.

And there ascends in the first face of Taurus, a man looking around and a naked man; and there ascends in the second face, a naked man in whose hand is a key; and in the third face, a man in whose hand is a snake and an arrow. (pgs. 87-88)

This is a use of faces that I had not read before, and potentially a very useful one. To be strict, Holden is unsure if this section is actually by Sahl or was added by later hands.

In his Introduction, under the heading, Special Features of Sahl's Techniques, Holden discusses the sign-house method of chart construction, where the first house is the entire rising sign, the second house is the entire second sign, the tenth house is the entire tenth sign (ie, the MC degree is ignored). He attributes this to the Alexandrians in the second century BC, he says it was imported to India (in theory, India learned astrology from the Greeks), where it is still used today. Holden does not mention the Greek book which allegedly taught India astrology. It was the Yavana Jataka (or Yavanajataka, "Greek Astrology"), which was translated by the late David Pingree. If I can get permission, I want to reprint this book & in my introductory notes, give a proper analysis of the role & function of early books, with an emphasis on the sign/house problem.

But two quick notes: The sign/house conflation is native to equatorial climes & presumably originated there. At 31 degrees north - the latitude of Alexandria - sign/house conflation only works somewhat. Further north in Europe, it collapses altogether. Which is why Europeans have spent a thousand years grappling with house division. It is bizarre to see this crude system promoted anew by the likes of Arhat & Hindsight. (Holden seems to be holding his nose.) Why was this issue not tackled by the Greeks? Because they lacked numerical representation that would enable them to perform the necessary calculations. If all they had were "Roman numerals", consider the problem of dividing MCCCXLVIII by XXIII (848 / 23 = 36.87) using such a crude symbol set. It is for this reason that Western mathematics was stunted until the introduction of Indian numerals, by way of the Arabs. What we know as "Arabic numerals" were first introduced to Europe by Fibonacci in 1202, but did not become commonplace until the invention of the printing press in the 15th century, some one thousand years after they were first developed in India. See Wiki's discussion.

As for the Yavana Jataka being the "seed book" for Indian astrology, this rests on a dual misunderstanding. First, of the role of early books in societies where knowledge was largely imparted from teacher to student by oral, not written, means. Second, India was not then, and is not now, the sort of society where ideas are easily propagated from one locale to another, which makes foreign seeding a very foreign idea. Ideas spread quickly & widely in Europe for a very different reason. But these remarks are better saved for later, when they can be presented in proper garb.

But aside from that. Another huge piece of the puzzle has just been given to us. All thanks to Mr. Holden, and the American Federation of Astrologers.

AFA, 213 pages.

SIX ASTROLOGICAL TREATISES - Masha'allah, translated by James Herschel Holden, $24.95


Translator's preface

The Book of Reception in Horary Questions

Translator's preface

The Book of Reception in Horary Questions

The reception & connection of the planets
Questions of the ASC
A question about the death or life of the querent
Another question about life
Questions of the second house
A question about money
A question whether he will have the wealth of a king or not
A question about the time of having the thing
A question about inheritance
A question of the tenth house
A question about good or evil
A question about a kingdom
A question about getting a kingdom
The life of a native
The years of alcochoden
A question by a certain duke
Index of persons

- 66 pages -
The Book of Nativities
Translator's preface

The Book of Nativities

1. Whether the child will live to be weaned or not
2. The hyleg is the knowledge of life: When the nativity of the child indicates life
3. The alcochoden, through which is known the computation of the length of life
4. How to know what the planets add or subtract
5. To know the will of the native
6. To know the good fortunes & misfortunes of the native as shown in his own nativity

Appendix: Twelve nativities
Index of persons

- 40 pages -
The Book on the Revolution of Years
Translator's preface

The Book on the Revolutions of Years

1. The revolutions of the years of the world
2. The knowledge of the rulers of the year
3. When the ruler of the year commitsits disposition to another planet
4. The significator of the king & his subjects
5. The significations of aspects and of the ruler of the year and of the rest of the significators
6. The severity of the revolutions of the years of the world
7. A chapter on fear for the king
8. A question about war & which of two will win
9. A question about the impediment of mortality and in how many parts they are dying
10. The division of the world & the climes by the substance of the planets & signs
11. The signification of the ruler of the year and of each planet when it is the ruler of the year

Index of persons

- 35 pages -
The Book on the Significations of Planets in Nativities
Translator's preface

The signification of the planets in their own signs & in the signs of other planets
1. The signification of Saturn
2. The signification of Jupiter
3. The signification of Mars
4. The signification of the Sun
5. The signification of Venus
6. The signification of Mercury
7. The signification of the Moon

The significations of the of one house in the other houses
8. The signification of the ruler of the ASC in the twelve houses.
9. The signification of the ruler of the 2nd in the twelve houses.
10. The signification of the ruler of the 3rd in the twelve houses.
11. The signification of the ruler of the 4th in the twelve houses.
12. The signification of the ruler of the 5th in the twelve houses.
13. The signification of the ruler of the 6th in the twelve houses.
14. The signification of the ruler of the 7th in the twelve houses.
15. The signification of the ruler of the 8th in the twelve houses.
16. The signification of the ruler of the 9th in the twelve houses.
17. The signification of the ruler of the 10th in the twelve houses.
18. The signification of the ruler of the 11th in the twelve houses.
19. The signification of the ruler of the 12th in the twelve houses.

The signification of the planets in their own terms or in those of another planet
20. The significations of Saturn
21. The significations of Jupiter
22. The significations of Mars
23. The significations of Sun
24. The significations of Venus
25. The significations of Mercury
26. The significations of Moon

Index of persons

- 41 pages -
The Epistle on Conjunctions
Translator's preface

1. An account of the circle & the stars
2. The diversity of the imprints of the work of the stars on the regions of the world
3. The natures of the signs
4. The revolution of the years
5. The eclipses of the Moon & their signification
6. Changes of the weather caused by changes of the planets in the signs of the planets
7. The eclipses of the Sun & their signification
8. The conjunction of all the planets & their effects
9. The conjunction of the planets & its action
10. The major conjunctions
11. The middling conjunctions
12. The minor conjunctions

Index of persons

- 19 pages -
The Book of Thoughts & Interpretations
Translator's preface

The book of thoughts

On interpretation

- 13 pages -


The first of the six books in this volume deals with reading an horary chart by reception of the rulers. I have long wanted to see an horary technique like that. Masha'allah works out numerous questions by this technique.

The second book, on Nativities, is based on Dorotheus of Sidon's book, in that it uses triplicity rulers in delineation. Masha'allah delineates the same twelve charts as given in Dorotheus, which are also delineated by Abu Ali in Judgments of Nativities. (It is indeed gratifying that all of these books are again in print. It was not so long ago that none of them were even in translation.)

The third book, on Revolutions, concerns the annual ingress of the Sun into Aries, which is mundane astrology. I have long wanted to see an early book on mundane. For openers, Masha'allah says if the ascendant ruler is in a bad way, the year will not go well. On the other hand, if the sun makes a favorable aspect to the ascendant, the year will be good.

The third book deals with climes, and as climes have been mysterious to me, I Wickied it. Climes are bands of longitude based on the longest day of the year (summer solstice), in half-hour intervals. Here in Bel Air, latitude 39N32, the longest day of the year is 14h46m from sunrise to sunset, which puts us in the 6th of 33 climes, but in the system of seven climes, we're in the 4th or 5th (Wiki is fuzzy). According to Masha'allah, the fourth clime is ruled by the Sun, the fifth by Venus. Since the ascendant is based on latitude, climes were a crude, early way of working it out. (The MC is determined by time, while precise definition of intermediate cusps had to wait until a system of numerical notation had been devised that would enable them to be calculated.) Once upon a time the exact latitudes for each clime were known, but modern researchers have not paid them any attention, so far as I can tell. This is a pity. Climes had rulers. Ptolemy divided climes with quadrants, the result was his system of astrological rulerships of the various regions of the world. It would be nice to reconstsruct & update that.

We get a glimpse of Masha'allah's clients in his attention to the ruler of the year & the king's fate. In the first book, on horary, there were a series of questions concerning kings. By contrast, William Lilly, who wrote the great textbook on horary, did not have a king for a client. This book is brief & to the point.

The fourth book in this volume, The Signfication of the Planets in the Nativity, starts off with delineations of planets in the signs of other planets. Instead of delineations of Saturn in Aries, Saturn in Taurus, Saturn in Gemini, Masha'allah gives us Saturn in the domicile (signs) of Saturn, Saturn in the domiciles of Jupiter, Saturn in the domiciles of Mars, etc. The next section gives the rulers of the various houses, in the other houses. These are both short & to the point.

The third section, on the planets in the various terms of the planets, has to do with planetary periods. Regrettably, neither the author, nor the translator, state just what sort of periods these may be. I presume they're Firdaria. Which always struck me as crude, as day births all start with the Sun, night births all start with the Moon, and then proceed through the other planets in strict order & time periods. Which means to customize Firdaria, you must consider the sign, house & dispositor of the planet whose period it is. Which requires skills I do not have, alas.

The fifth book is on the Conjunctions of Planets. Which includes Superior (Jupiter/Saturn), middling (Saturn/Mars) and minor (Jupiter/Mars) conjunctions, as well as eclipses. The treatment is brief.

The final book is The Book of Thoughts as well as On Interpretation. The first is how the horary chart may reveal the intentions of the Querent, not merely give the outcome of his question. Interpretation is but two paragraphs, cautioning the astrologer to ensure his sundial or astrolabe is correct, that he not fail for silly reasons.

AFA, 220 pages.

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CONFIDENTIAL RECOLLECTIONS REVEALED - Gustav-Lambert Brahy, translated from the French by James Herschel Holden, $19.95

Translator's preface
By way of a preface

Looking for a vocation
Initiation into the phenomena of spiritualism
First contacts with magic & the science of the stars
An astrological vocation
Campaign for the rehabilitation of a repudiated murder
About the "commercialization" of astrology
Conflicts between astrology & occultism
Fifteen years of professionalism
Astrology at the bank of proof of the stock exchange
About some international conventions; Under the shadow of the Swastika
A trip to the United States; The phantom of Mrs. Elizabeth
The international convention at Paris, The end of a dream
A critique of the modern astrological movement; Conflicts & polemics
The public such as it is
The speculation in images
Can one speak of an astrological "science"?
From the invasison of Belgium to the reappearance of the periodical Domain
The periodical Domain under the occupation
Bill & statement of profits & losses
Postface & P.P.C.

Index of persons

Comment: Here is the AFA's blurb for this book:

"This is the autobiography of an occultist & pioneer astrologer from 1894 to 1946. Brahy founded the Belgian Institute of Astrology & its astrological journal, Demain [Tomorrow], and he also founded the Belgian branch of the Rosicrucian Fellowship. From the late 1920's on, he published stock market advisory letters & a book explaining the astrological methods that he used. He gives an account of the development of astrology in the 1920's & 1930's, culminating with the three International Congresses of Astrologers in Europe & his visits to the US in 1937 & 1939. And he tells how astrology managed to thrive during the Nazi occupation of Belgium, 1940-1944.

"He also gives a valuable assessment of the difficulties encountered in managing both an astrological consulting business & a magazine & book publishing business. And throughout the book he discusses the problems of astrology & its place in modern society. Readers interested in Astrology & Rosicrucianism will find many fascinating details of Brahy's experiences & associations with leading figures in those fields."

The translator, James Holden, has long had an interest in the history of European astrology. For those of us in the English speaking world, knowledge of continental astrology is essential.

AFA, 217 pages.

A HISTORY OF HOROSCOPIC ASTROLOGY: From the Babylonian Period to the Modern Age, 2nd edition - James Herschel Holden, $29.95
Synopsis: This thoroughly researched book is a history of the development of western horoscopic astrology from its origin among the Babylonians, and its subsequent creation in its present form by the Alexandrians, down to modern times. Special attention is given to background history and to the working conditions and techniques used by astrologers during the last 2000 years. (From the back cover.)

Contents, comment.

AFA, 375 pages, paper.




Preface to the published edition

The biographical dictionary


This book was based on the earlier Astrological Pioneers of America (see immediately below) and is an expansion on it. The earlier geographical restrictions have been removed. This book now also extends backwards in time. You will find in its pages William Lilly, Firmicus Maternus, Claudius Ptolemy, Vettius Valens and many more. You will also find many, many unjustly forgotten foreign names. This is now as a complete and comprehensive reference as is possible for a single man to produce, remembering always that teams of researchers are generally required to produce a book of this size.

The book includes some 2200 astrologers. Whenever possible, it includes birth and death data, date, time and place. As Holden himself says, History is made by people, so biography is the basis of history.

In the English speaking world, we sometimes think astrology originated in Greece and then magically appeared in England and America. This, I am happy to say, is not true, and this book will provide a rich sampling of international astrologers through the ages. Of more recent astrologers, the previous cut-off of births in or prior to 1923 has now been raised to 1936, or, in a few cases, later, although deceased. This book is intended to supplement the author's History of Horoscopic Astrology, which you will find, above.

It is long past time that astrologers themselves took the lead in preserving our own history. The days of begging academics to give us a look-see I suppose will never end, but we can and will write our own histories, even if Wiki's express policy is to prohibit all mention that we have done so.

This book was intended for use by libraries. I might pick at it and find a great many trivial faults, chief among them the inclusion of many minor American astrologers, but it is better to err on the side of completeness. I only wish astrologers who were active in, say, the 1980's and who are still alive and noteworthy, had been included as well.

Though the author hopes his books will be the start of an on-going series of astrological reference works, they are more likely to be orphans. In this regard, the AFA itself will be critical. When the day comes that Mr. Holden resigns his post as its Research Director, I am hopeful the AFA will speedily appoint another, and assign him the task of keeping Mr. Holden's works up to date. I cannot stress enough how important the American Federation of Astrologers is, and will remain, to the future of astrology in the US, as well as to the world as a whole.

I regret this book, which weighs nearly five pounds and is two inches thick, will be extraordinarily expensive to ship. There is the possibility that I will ask the AFA to drop ship, and that they will ask the printer, Lightning Source, to drop ship in their stead. If so, delivery would be about two weeks.

AFA, 777 pages, hardcover, oversize.

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ASTROLOGICAL PIONEERS OF AMERICA - James H. Holden & Robert A. Hughes, $20.95

Comment: From 1988, this eventually formed the core of Holden's A History of Horoscopic Astrology (above). This is a biographical dictionary of American astrologers: Professionals, teachers, writers & students, born 1923 or earlier, as well as younger astrologers who were already deceased, a total of some 1300 entries in all. Includes birth data when available, biographical information & selected bibliographic listings. Also included is an appendix of foreign astrologers associated with US astrologers, some 148 entries. Most of the entries are brief. This is a fascinating & essential catalog of the famous, near famous & completely obscure. Originally issued to commemorate AFA's 50th anniversary in 1988. At the time the AFA was briefly using an inferior printer & as a result, the binding on this book will crack & the pages will fall out. Buyer beware! There are no returns for a bad binding with this book (apologies!).

AFA, 237 pages, paper.

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