Wednesday, July 20, 2005

How to Read William Lilly

Hint: With your wits firmly ensconced about you. Or, to paraphrase the 17th century physician and astrologer Nicholas Culpeper, you must keep your brains in your head where they belong and not in your books.

Let's get this out of the way first: why even read William Lilly's Christian Astrology? Because it is the greatest book on astrology that has been written in the English language. Ever. Whatever you may think of the most recent editions of Neptune or Solar Arcs or that timeless classic, Astrology to Instantly Firm Up, Groom, and Tone Your Karma. Reading CA is guaranteed to turn you into a better astrologer, provided you use some common sense when reading. There can arise an infinite number of charts, each different from the last, and even the most explicit 1-2-3 instructions (on which Lilly tends to skimp, anyway) will not work in all cases.

Reading William Lilly is frequently crazy-making, and it's not because of his archaic language (you should know by now that Lilly's "clown" so often mentioned in CA = our peasant/country bumpkin/hick). Rather, it's because he is not a particularly methodical writer or explainer. Don't get me wrong - he was a truly excellent astrologer. It's just that in the conveying of the information, he would be somewhat stream-of-consciousness. Disorganized, we would say nowadays.

So, how do you read Lilly for pleasure and profit? Since he himself provides no handy manual, here are some necessary steps:

1. Check and recheck that brain is in your head not book. Less messy that way.

2. Get pen & paper.

3. Open your CA, and start writing. Organize Lilly's instructions numerically; break each segment down into an outline. Once you have a good algorithm for a certain operation (e.g. how to tell if it will be a girl or boy in a horary), go and test it out on some charts. As you do this, keep asking yourself at each step, why? Why do we care what the 11th house is doing in a pregnancy chart? (Answer: because in most pregnancies, it takes two, and the 11th house is the 5th house of the partner, who is signified by the Querent's 7th. And it's the partner's kid as much as the Querent's.)

Note that in many if not most chapters, Lilly will give several possible algorithms for a certain operation. In such cases, try to use both when learning, but mainly, be very analytical. Observe what common elements arise among the instruction sets. Then try to figure out why these elements are important.

4. Rinse and repeat, banging head against wall as little as possible.

Good luck, and let me know if you have questions. You can always reach me at nina " at "

(c) Gryphon Astrology, 2005

Categories: William Lilly, Astrology Books, Houses in Astrology.


Anonymous Starlight 51 said...

Cool webpage Nina! You should answer horary questions on the blog too!

10:02 AM  
Blogger Gryphon said...

Thanks, Starlight 51 - I have gotten no less than 4 other emails in the last day asking for the very same thing. You guys aren't all in league together, are you?

Anyway, it could be fun. Start sending ye queries now, me beauties!

10:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good write up on reading Lilly. I have the book, but dread that old English, so have a hard time learning from it. I'll keep trying.

5:59 AM  
Blogger Gryphon said...

Thanks, anonymous,
Glad you liked it. I find it's not just Lilly's English but also his "non-linear" reasoning style. And not to mention the old-style font where "f" is really "s."

7:14 PM  
Anonymous Richard Smykowsky said...

Love your work, as they say. Confirm and support your opinion of Lilly's standing in the Astrological Canon. It's very clear that you're a Frawleyite - so am I. Your humour, perspective, and approach is refreshing "sweet" water in the current atrological wasteland. Approaching Lilly with a sense of "algorithm" is both intelligent and practical. My suggestion is for readers to use both CA and John Frawley's "Horary Textbook" side by side - HT being an excellent modern guide to the motherlode in CA. But your best advice is brain engaged in head, with pen and paper at the ready. Thanks again from another student of the art.

9:31 PM  

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