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Astro*Dictionary by Michael Erlewine





3 articles for "Occidental or Oriental"

Occidental or Oriental [Astro*Index]

[L. occidentalis, orientalis; Gk. hesperios, heoios].

In contemporary usage, this term has a variety of meanings, not all of which are consistent. A body is oriental when east in some sense, occidental when west. The contemporary usages are:

1) A planet is oriental of the Sun, if it rises and sets before the Sun; occidental, if it rises and sets after the Sun.

2) The waxing Moon is oriental (east) of the Sun; the waning Moon is occidental (west) of the Sun.

3) The Sun is oriental in houses 12, 11, 10, 6, 5, and 4, but occidental in houses 9, 8, 7, 3, 2, 1. Oriental houses are defined as those in which the Sun has passed the horizon, and is moving toward the meridian.

4) Any body located in the eastern hemisphere of a chart (i.e., in houses 1-3 and 10-12) is on the oriental side of the chart (i.e., nearest the East Point of the Horizon); bodies located in houses 3-9 are occidental.

In order to see how this confusion of concepts has arisen, see historical treatment below.

Today this distinction is mainly employed in horary astrology. For the outer planets, the condition of orientality is considered to be an accidental dignity; for the moon and inner planets, it is occidentality that is the accidental dignity. These evaluations may ultimately be derived from notions of waxing or waning in relation to the sun. That is, when an outer planet is oriental, and thus rises before the sun, it is also waxing in relation to the sun. This is because an outer planet also moves more slowly than the sun, and thus its angular separation from the sun is increasing when it is oriental. The reverse applies to the inner planets.

The way in which this pair of terms is employed is somewhat counter-intuitive and has been the source of considerable confusion. Originally, Ptolemy distinguished between orientality (occidentality) in relation to the sun and in relation to the ascendent. "For the general time of what is predicted, [we must observe] whether [the planets] are oriental or occidental in reference to both the sun and the ascendent, since the quadrants preceding each of these and the ones diametrically opposed to them are oriental, while the remaining and succeeding quadrants are occidental." [Tetra. III.3] That is, oriental in relation to the ascendent describes a body in the eastern quadrant between the eastern horizon and the midheaven (or in the opposite quadrant between the western horizon and the lower midheaven). Oriental in relation to the sun describes a body that would be in this same eastern quadrant (or its opposite) when the sun was rising, and thus precedes the sun in the natural order of signs by less than 90 degrees, or by more than 180 degrees but less than 270. Thus, the body would be "in the east" with reference to one of these two situations, and not "east of" the sun or horizon, although this latter usage seems to be suggested by the expression "oriental (or occidental) of the sun", which however is probably a mistranslation of Ptolemy's original expression "oriental in relation to [pros] the sun".

The Arab tradition seems to have used orientality and occidentality mainly in reference to the sun, but otherwise consistent with Ptolemy's usage, although they developed the concept within the context of heliacal rising and setting and thus articulated it much more completely. For example, Albiruni says that the superior planets begin their period of orientality with their heliacal rising and continue in this condition until their distance from the sun is 30 degrees, after which time they may be described as "weakly oriental" until they reach a separation of 90 degrees and cease to be oriental [p. 296]. When discussing the inferior planets he gives special attention to Venus, because owing to its high latitude, it is often difficult to establish the onset of combustion and orientality [p. 297]. He also gives delineations for each of these conditions. It is important that Albiruni makes a careful distinction between the concept under discussion and "position right and left of the sun". These two notions seem to have coalesced into the Renaissance concept of orientality, which is still with us today, as the above definitions testify. Lilly defines orientality as follows: "to be oriental is no other thing than to rise before the sun [glyph]: to be occidental is to be seen above the horizon, or to set after the sun [glyph] is downe." [Christian Astrology p. 114]. In his explication Lilly makes it unambiguous that he is referring to the entire period from conjunction to opposition as the time of orientality for the superior planets. (He makes the appropriate modifications of this statement for the inferior planets and the moon.) Thus he takes the two preceding and contiguous quadrants (to the right or west of the sun) to be the region of orientality, while the earlier tradition took the preceding quadrant and its opposite to be such. As a modern echo of this concept, compare Anthony Louis: "If you rotate the chart so the Sun is upon the Ascendant, planets below the horizon are occidental." [Horary Astrology, p. 523] All the planets above the horizon are oriental.

It is clear that the ancient and the modern definitions will contradict one another about half the time. Curiously enough, Ptolemy's second sense of oriental, namely in relation to the ascendent, has survived only in the notion of orientality and occidentality of the sun. (Refer to third definition above.)

There is also disagreement over the interpretation of oriental and occidental. Regarding the timing of a predicted event, Ptolemy says that the ruling planets are more active at a commencement "when they are oriental or at the angles", whereas they are somewhat delayed in their action "when they are occidental or in one of the succedent [signs]".

This is in striking contrast to the dictum in more recent horary astrology that significators in cadent houses resolve the matter with the least dispatch. It is true that Ptolemy says immediately before the passage in question that the planets are less influential (with reference to the magnitude of a predicted event) when in cadent [signs]. Again we have a disagreement between the claims of Greek astrology and that of the Renaissance, unless this is just an intrinsic difference between horary and natal astrology. It is significant that the statistical research of Michel Gauquelin imputes an unexpected effectiveness to planets in the cadent houses, especially the twelfth and the ninth, in direct contradiction to the rules of Lilly, although not necessarily in contradiction to those of Ptolemy. It would be interesting to determine the frequency of solar orientality in Gauquelin's data, particularly those born with a planet within 30 degrees of the sun and thus, using Albiruni's criterion, strongly oriental.


See also: ♦ Horary Astrology
Occidental or Oriental [DeVore]

These terms have various meanings, when differently applied; as: (1) The Moon is oriental of the Sun when it is increasing in light, from the lunation to the full; occidental of the Sun, when decreasing in light. (2) A planet is said to be oriental of the Sun when it rises and sets before the Sun; occidental of the Sun, when it rises and sets after the Sun. Planets are said to be stronger when oriental of the Sun and occidental of the Moon. (3) Applied to the Sun, a special significance is involved in that when the Sun is setting in one hemisphere it is rising in the other. Therefore the Sun is said to be oriental in Houses 12, 11, 10, 6, 5, or 4; and occidental in the opposite Houses. Thus the oriental Houses arc those which have passed the horizon and are culminating toward the meridian; the occidental Houses, those which have passed the meridian and are moving toward the horizon. Some authorities speak of the Eastern Houses, the entire eastern half of the Figure, as the oriental Houses; the entire Western half, as the occidental Houses. This practice only introduces confusion and should be discouraged. If one must use the term, it should always be qualified; either as "in an oriental House" or "oriental of the Sun." The same applies to Occidental.


See also: ♦ Horary Astrology


Astro*Index Copyright © 1997 Michael Erlewine


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