Timing is probably the most difficult part of horary. While easy to understand, it can be difficult to master, even for more advanced students as the rules surrounding it lack a logical formula and require the student to estimate and use wiggle-room words instead of straight up predict with any sense of accuracy. The most frustrating part of timing is the inability to be taught the appropriate units to use in any given situation. It mostly comes down to what “sounds right” rather than any hard and fast rule that can be passed on to those struggling. So, let’s take a look at the two major timing techniques and explore the whether-tos and why-fors of using timing.
The first timing technique, and the most well-known, is the “degree by degree” technique. After finding an applying aspect that would signify the perfection of the matter, you look at the degrees between the planets and convert those degrees into units of time. So, an application of the Moon at 12° to Jupiter at 18° would be 6 units of time, as there are 6 degrees before the perfection of the conjunction. Figuring out which unit of time is the most appropriate to use is often the difficult part. Jirjis’s rules are mainly based off of the quality of the sign, whereas most use timing based mainly off of the quality of the house.
Focusing on Jirjis’s rules for a moment, he tells us if the planet being applied to is in a Fixed sign, each degree corresponds to a year. If the planet being applied to is in a mutable sign and a succeedant house, then each degree corresponds to a month. If that same planet is in a mutable sign and in a cadent house, every two and a half degrees correspond to a month, but if that planet is in a cardinal sign and a cadent house, each degree corresponds to a day. After this, Jirjis tell us if the Moon is in a cardinal sign and a succeedant house, every 30° between her and the significator corresponds to a day, but if she’s in a cardinal sign and cadent house every 12° represents an hour. While confusing and incomplete in the examples provided, it does give us a sense of a hierarchy where fixed signs are slower than mutable signs who are slower than cardinal signs. Also, angular houses are slower than succeedant houses, which are in turn slower than cadent houses in signifying timing.
Moving away from Jijiris into more familiar territory, Bonatti (writing about 400 years later than Jirjis), gives us much the same information, but doesn’t mention the quality of the signs. Take the degrees between an applying aspect that promises perfection, and if both planets are in cadent houses, then the degrees correspond to days, if they are both in succeedant houses, the degrees equal weeks, and if both are in angular houses, the time is then in months. Bonatti tells us though, that if it seems like it will take a long time, then to make the time years instead of months if both planets are in angles. Bonatti also mixes them up and tells us that angles plus succeedants give months, a succeedant house and cadent house placements signify weeks, and one planet in an angle and the other in a cadent signify months as well.
Lilly discusses timing somewhat irregularly, it tends to just pop up in the middle of his sections on particular house questions as a natural evolution or flow of the questions preceeding it. So, you have to dig around a lot to get a complete picture of the techniques. It begins in his section on the first house and time when accidents happen to individuals, here he says fixed signs signify years, mutable signs signify months, and cardinal signs signify weeks. He moves on to discuss the chart below.
He notes the Moon applying a Trine to Jupiter within three degrees, and says this shows three years, most likely because Jupiter is both in a fixed sign and an angular house, both signifying the longest amounts of time. Afterwards, he looks at the Lord of the Ascendant and sees it in its exaltation, and even though the Sun is in a cardinal sign and conjunct the cusp of a cadent house (which should signify the shortest amount of time), he ascribes a month to every degree before it enters Taurus. Finally he considers the distance between the opposition between the Moon and Mars which is a little more than seven, but says it’s not seven years, nor is it seven months because the mutable signs should signify a mean of both, and gives this 3 ½ years, or 7 half-years. This is what I mean by timing being difficult, Lilly is inconsistent with it here.
That being said, the next time Lilly discusses timing is probably the most important and generally useful. This occurs in the middle of his section on second house questions and echoes the rules handed down to us by Bonatti. The number of degrees between an aspect occurring in cadent houses signifies days, if it occurs in succeedant houses it signifies weeks, and if in angular houses it signifies months.
“But herein the astrologer must use discretion, and consider if it be possible that the matter inquired of may be effected in days, weeks, or months; for if it be a business that may require much time, instead of months you may add years”
So here we see our over-arching issue of “the astrologer will have to decide what makes the most sense”, while this is liberating, it’s also somewhat confusing as it leads to a lot of second guessing. Many times astrologers will offer insights such as “the event will occur in 4 days/weeks/months” because pinning down which of those time measurements is the appropriate one to use can be so difficult to ascertain, they’ve just given up on trying!
The long and short of this is you’re going to have to go with time measurements that make sense (such as using years instead of months or weeks when discussing general periods of a life), but I’ve found the formulas that Bonatti and Lilly recite to be accurate in general practice. If you’re confused, take into account the signs involved and see if they suggest a longer or shorter period of time than you originally were calculating, but otherwise stick with the house positions, they should be enough to get you through.
The second and less used timing technique is referred to as “mundane timing”, and this has to do with the motion of the significators and when they perfect their next aspect or conjunction in real time as opposed to using degrees that are symbolic of time periods. Bonatti quotes Masha’Allah about this technique, where he says that if both of the significators were in the same sign and the Lord of the Ascendant is the heavier planet (thus the Lord of the queisted is applying to it), then the matter will perfect on the day when the two planets perfect their conjunction. However, if the Lord of the Ascendant is the lighter planet, then the heavier planet will have to receive it to perfect the matter and for the timing to mean anything. If this doesn’t work, then the heavier planet going into combustion of the Sun (either through applying to the Sun or the Sun applying to him) will show the perfecting of the matter once that planet escapes combustion.
Lilly agrees with this, but he adds on to it to allow for any applying aspect, removing the limitation of it being a conjunction-only type of perfection. He utilizes this type of technique in his judgment concerning the chart below.
Here the question is about a brother the querent hasn’t received news of. After giving a description of his current condition (and finding he isn’t dead), Lilly looks at the Trine between Venus (significator of the missing brother) and Saturn (significator of the querent) and uses the perfection of the Trine between these two planets occurring later that very day as showing when the querent would hear some news concerning his brother. Lilly reports that this was the case.
In this chart, Lilly is asked by a mother if her son is at her house in the country or with his master. From the chart, Lilly judges that the woman’s son is at her own house and that she will see him there on the day that Venus perfects her applying Trine to Jupiter, which was July 25th. Lilly reports that this was also the case, as it took her until the 25th to return home where she found her son waiting for her.
I really like this technique. In fact, I prefer it over the symbolic degree technique. It’s very straightforward and very difficult to mess up, so it takes all the guesswork out of timing and simplifies it. The only unfortunate part is it’s very difficult to tell which technique to use for any given chart, so I tend to use both and offer the date given by the mundane timing technique and the time frame offered by the symbolic degree technique. That way all of the bases get covered. However, I do have to say that I’ve had much more success with mundane timing and recommend it much more.
Necessity of Timing
Finally, we need to take a moment to discuss when to use timing techniques and when these techniques are inappropriate. This is actually really simple, all we need is an aspect that promises perfection. We see this echoed over and over again in the examples Lilly gives us as all of his timing is given by immediately applying aspects. Umar al-Tabari offers us a pretty open and shut case on this matter in his book.
“The significator of any affair, and the victor over the East, principally determine the hour of the matter’s effect. For once a question is given, if a joint aspect of each is discovered (and the promise of their effect), then it is suitable to describe its nature. Which if they were deprived of this benefit and solace, these things must be passed over.”
So, if there is no aspect and promise of perfection, there isn’t a need to go into more detail about the ifs and whens and timing can be overlooked in favor of perhaps investigating what keeps the matter from being completed. Otherwise, not only is timing difficult to do as you wouldn’t have a concrete aspect to base it off of, it would be pointless as you would be giving a date for something that has no evidence of occurring
While difficult and confusing, mastering timing techniques is probably the most rewarding part of horary. Pinpointing when events happen (even if you aren’t quite sure exactly what the nature of the event is) is exciting for the astrologer and impressive to the querent. Luckily the tradition gives us a couple of ways to do this, and one astrologer can use both techniques without taking away from either of them, which can inspire confidence and encourages the practice of both. However, it is equally important to be able to tell people no and to know what charts don’t necessitate timing due to inaction in the chart or an unanswered promise.