Horary is an interrogational astrological discipline, whereby a question can be answered by interpreting the positions of the planets in the sky at the moment the question is understood. Throughout the history of horary astrology, astrologers developed and reported “considerations before judgment” and aphorisms about horary questions. I believe the main impact of these considerations is the reduction of ambiguity in a practice that is vulnerable to it, by making sure the question was valid and that the chart was appropriately “radical” (meaning that it was fit to judge and likely to produce a correct answer). In our modern age of the internet, horary has faced unprecedented new possibilities and pitfalls. It might be worth re-evaluating what makes a good horary question to best ensure the integrity of the practice of horary astrology. Here is my attempt to do just that.
1) The Horary Question Must Be Valid
Okay, but what is a valid question? That’s a fair question! I think a valid horary question is one which is personal and pressing.
a) Is It Personal?
An ideal horary question should be personal to you, directly related to you. Why? Say you ask a question on someone else’s behalf. It may be a little confusing deciding whether the 1st house represents the messenger or the sender. That could be simple enough, but what if the question the messenger delivers doesn’t even directly concern the sender asking it? You might even be able to figure out some sort of solution for that, but how much more removed can the querent be from the question? While it is unlikely, what if it’s your father’s brother’s nephew’s cousin’s former roommate who is asking? It complicates who the Ascendant represents, and who or what the derivative houses are about. I’m not saying a question like that couldn’t or shouldn’t be done, but that you can no longer be as certain as you could be about what means what in the chart if you do. Consider what Lord Helmet thinks of how meaningful such tenuous connections are:
Even if you are representing yourself as the querent, your question should still directly concern you. I have seen some astrologers, even astrologers I greatly respect, ask horary questions about matters that do not directly concern them. For example, I have read astrologers announcing the results of horaries they cast about who might win an election for political office. While the outcome of an election may certainly impact the person asking, it seems to me that in order for the chart to be truly relevant to the question or radical, it should be asked by a person to whom it is actually a personal question, such as the candidates themselves, or even a spouse or campaign director. I have also seen people try to interpret horary questions about whether a character on a TV show would die. I think a question like that is problematic because it’s not a personally relevant question, unless it’s the actor who plays that character who is asking because it would concern their employment!
If a horary question has to be personally relevant, it would also preclude questions of a more philosophical, abstract or absurd nature, such as asking what the meaning of life is, what the square root of 81 is, or why Nicholas Cage’s hair is a bird. Casting a horary for a question like this might reflect the thought itself and maybe its meaning for someone, but it is unclear bordering on doubtful that it would yield a useful or meaningful answer, because horary is best at producing answers for personal inquiries.
b) Is it Pressing?
Once you have determined if a question is personally relevant, a horary chart has the best chance at reading out well if it is for a pressing question. If you’re just asking when the mail is going to come out of idle curiosity, you can hardly expect the horary chart to be particularly striking. If you’re asking when the mail is going to come because you’re urgently waiting for something to arrive, then the circumstances of that question makes it a pressing one, and the resulting horary might be more informative.
The answer to the question “Will I get married?” is one that someone might be heavily invested in, but if that person does not have a partner or prospective partner with whom it would actually be even a remote possibility, it’s hard to say that the question is pressing or urgent. A horary would not necessarily be reliable, and other methods could be used to determine the answer.
A good rule of thumb to use to determine if a question is pressing is if you feel you have such a need to know the answer that you don’t care whether it’s a yes or no, you just have to know either way. If you can honestly answer “yes” to that question about your horary question, then it may be worth asking. Bottom line: If Buzzfeed would consider your question “important”, it’s probably not a good horary question.
c) Ask Right Away
Don’t sit on a personal and pressing horary question. If you have one, ask it right away, as soon as the developments that lead to the question occur. This is so that the planetary positions of the horary chart have the best chance of reflecting the circumstances in which the question arose as closely as possible. If you wait too long, then the question is not asked from the same place of urgency as when you first asked it, and it may no longer be “pressing” even if you have a lot invested in the question and the resulting horary chart may be unreliable.
2) Word Your Question Carefully
a) Frame Questions Positively
Astrology is a language that imperfectly corresponds to the languages we speak. Therefore, in the interests of keeping horary astrology intelligible, it would be best that how we word a question is also what we mean by that question. Avoiding double negatives and framing questions as positive statements makes the meanings of “yes” and “no” clear. Horary doesn’t follow “Never Have I Ever” rules. Otherwise you could encounter the following situation:
Applying aspects indicate “yes” or converging matters while separating aspects mean “no” or diverging matters, so a question like “Will we divorce?” could be more ambiguous than it seems. An applying aspect between the 1st and 7th house significators would be a “yes” to the question, even though an applying aspect between the 1st and 7th house significators would otherwise be an ideal arrangement for a marriage election since the significators are coming together. A divorce between two people would be better represented by a separating aspect between significators of the 1st and 7th house. The question might be better framed as “Will we stay married?” so that applications still mean “yes” and separations still mean “no”. Speaking of yes and no…
b) Ask Yes/No Questions
- Instead of “When will X happen?”, try “Will X happen?” The astrologer should be able to tell when it would happen if it happens. So it’s best not to presume that X will happen in the question.
- Instead of “Where is X?”, try “Will I find X?” The one downside to these questions is that you have to still try to find it, but the upside is that the astrologer should be able to tell when you will find it, or that you won’t.
- Instead of “Should I do X?”, try “Will I do X?” “Should I” questions invite the astrologer to make a value judgment rather than interpreting what will happen. Astrologers tend to be an open-minded bunch but I doubt anyone wants an astrologer’s unconscious biases to affect their judgment more than it already may.
This may seem overly conservative for many practicing horary astrologers, but I think we can all agree that questions formulated in this way reduces the amount of variables and ambiguity in delineating horary charts.
3) Ask the Question Once
It seems as though this should not have to be said, but it is not unheard of for someone to ask an astrologer a horary question, not like the answer they receive and ask another astrologer the same question in hopes of getting a more favorable answer. Horary questions aren’t car insurance quotes, you can’t shop around for the best one. If you do want a second opinion, it’s probably best to show the second astrologer the original horary chart to interpret, or investigate the issue with a different technique. The reason why it is not best to shop around a question is because it is not coming from the same place of urgency as the time it was originally asked. Anyway, in short, avoid horary double dipping for the best results!
4) Ask An Astrologer
This point may be controversial with many horary practitioners, but I think it helps to ruminate about what horary is, fundamentally. I think at its root, it is a question asked with the expectation of an answer. It is an exchange from one party to another, an inquiry and a reply, a call and a response. You need at least two people to truly ask a question and receive a response that isn’t already somewhere in the mind of the person asking. There is something significant in the act of asking someone a question with the intention to receive an answer, in a way that it isn’t when you ask yourself a question.
Not to put too fine a point on it, I think asking yourself a horary question is akin to masturbation, which while sexual, is not actually sex, for which you need (erm, at least) two people. The act of asking someone a horary question is astrologically significant for its genuine human connection…like sex. Essentially, the exchange between a querent and an astrologer for a personal and pressing question is what makes the moment significant enough to cast a horary chart for, and why that chart should be meaningful at all.
Another good reason to avoid asking yourself a horary question is that it can help you maintain objectivity about the interpretation of the question. As professional superstar astrologer/translator Ben Dykes recently posted to Facebook:
I’m getting ready to publish Leopold of Austria’s Compilation in the Science of the Stars, and I came across this nice quote in it today that addresses the issue of judging charts, particularly judging your own question or horary chart:
“Love and hate remove a man from the rightness of judging: love subverts reasoning by means of longing, hatred through a liability to anger.” (Leopold, Complilation Ch. VIII.1, 29)
I think this is really the core of why answering your own question can be tricky, because by definition the querent is emotionally engaged in the problem. We should try to detach ourselves as much as possible when answering our own charts. As I put it (and I may have heard this from someone else), “be prepared for the answer you don’t want, before you commit to the chart.”
If asking yourself a horary question is at one end of the questionable horary practices spectrum, asking no one in particular would be on the opposite end. I have seen horary questions posted by someone in an online astrology forum, and then some astrologers would attempt to answer the question by using their own location and time that they understood the question. This seems conceptually problematic. How can multiple horary charts from different time zones provide a correct answer for the same question? Or, perhaps only the first astrologer who responds has the genuine horary chart. But what if an astrologer was the first to see the post and decided not to respond? Then the true horary chart existed at another time and place than the first posted response. The 7th house is supposed to generally represent the person being asked the question, the astrologer, so if no one in particular is being asked, then there is no true exchange and thus no radical horary chart from which to judge. It seems the remedy against this confusion is to address the question to one astrologer privately to ensure they are the first and only person to first understand the question.
In summary, I contend that horary astrology has the best chance to give a clear answer if the question is personal, pressing, positively framed, yes/no, asked once to one person in particular other than yourself. I know a lot of this might be controversial to a lot of astrologers, and I don’t want to be misunderstood. I’m not saying that if you do not follow these suggestions that your practice is wrong, or that you can’t or shouldn’t do things the way you want. It’s a free country. However, I am raising the possibility that not every question can be considered appropriate for horary analysis. If you agree that there are some limits to what you can ask and who can rightfully ask, then it’s worth thinking about and discussing what those limits are. Feel free to tag me in any conversations you have about this on Facebook, or respond in the comments below if you have any thoughts about this. Happy Horary-ing!