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Beyond the Great Fire

By Sue Ward

Based on a presentation given at the AA Conference, Bath Spa, September 2004.

We know too little about William Lilly and his work, but we know enough to avoid constant references to his prediction of the Great Fire of London. As much of an achievement as this might seem, it has become hackneyed and his achievements go beyond that. So, in order to broaden our working knowledge of Lilly, I will offer some lesser known horoscopes and documents with the aim of improving our understanding of the man through his relationship with Elias Ashmole and through his own nativity which I present here. Sometimes more questions are raised than answered, but at least we will have a clearer understanding of what those might be. In this original research I shall be referring to primary sources in all cases: Lilly's own autobiography in manuscript [1] and Ashmole's autobiographical notes[2]. Manuscript references are provided where relevant.

Lillys involvement in post-Restoration politics

We begin later in Lilly's life in 1673, at the advanced age of 71 years. After the Restoration in 1660, Lilly, like many other prominent Parliamentary supporters of the Civil War years, found it advisable to exercise caution in his public life. Charles I had promised that, with the exception of the regicides, there would be no reprisals; even so, in 1660 and again in 1661, Lilly was in trouble with the authorities. In the first case he was called before a Parliamentary committee to give evidence regarding Charles I"s execution because it was thought that Lilly might know who the executioner had been; in the second case, he was arrested for "fanaticism"[3]. So, his caution was well-founded although he continued undeterred to publish his annual almanacs with their mundane predictions. But had his enthusiasm for, and involvement in English politics faded? Had he lost his influence and power? This paper provides evidence of Lilly's continuing interest and involvement in public affairs, and of his close connection with the powerful.

The following horoscope[4] is a clear demonstration of Lilly's enduring authority. While we cannot say for certain that Charles II knew that Ashmole was consulting his friend regarding the King's concerns, it seems likely that he did. This judgement clearly shows Ashmole"s attempt to fulfil the King's wishes, therefore it would not be true to say that Charles intended that Lilly should give judgement on this matter.


chart"the Parliament meeting after the Prorougation the King made a Speech." The horoscope is set for the time the King began his speech at the opening of Parliament. Professor Josten's opinion is that the notes in longhand are a draft of the judgement the King had asked Ashmole to make. Josten also thinks it likely that this consultation went on for a longer period because there are other similar matters with which Ashmole concerns himself and which can be found in his Autobiographical Notes...[5] The king had prorogued Parliament in April 1671, their first meeting having been in January of that year. During the prorogation another war with the Dutch had erupted and the king needed to finance the military action urgently. His reason for recalling Parliament was solely to obtain money for the war.

In February of 1673 Parliament did vote for an amount of money, but it was to be spread over three years on condition that the king complied with certain requests. One of these was the Test Act by which every holder of civil or military office had to take the sacrament of the Lord's Supper according to Church of England custom. It was also required that the oaths of supremacy and allegiance had to be sworn, along with a declaration against transubstantiation which was guaranteed to be refused by all Roman Catholics. These conditions were severe, and they brought about the resignation from the admiralty of the King's brother James. [6]

When the Test Act had received royal assent in March, Parliament adjourned. By its next meeting, to which Ashmole's chart refers, the Prince of Orange had deployed agents to excite more opposition.[7] So, the King's anxiety is understandable. Charles gave ground and Parliament had its way, and although the King got his money, in the following year of 1674, Parliament withdrew England from the war.[8] This had further serious ramifications for Charles; the war with the Dutch had been joined to support the French, whose king had been subsidising Charles. If Charles could not send military support to the French then the subsidies would cease. It is interesting to keep these important historical points in mind in relation to Lilly's letters to Ashmole on the subject before considering the final judgement.

30 Oct. 1673[9] A letter from William Lilly to Ashmole "in sheer lane": "Charissime Patrone, et Ptolemee, I have seriously weighed and considered your profound judgment, uppon the figure sent mee, and I am very glad of the honor his Majesty did you, but more satisfied at your prudent and well grounded answer about the success ??which certainly will correspond with your grave judgment. Mars on the cusp of the M.C. will asperse his honor ??and because hee disposeth of Part of Fortune: they will bee ill satisfied with the dispose of monyes, etc. Moon and Mercury are for the Parl: the most inferior planets/Moon in via combust ??Mercury sub radiis, going to combustion, Trine Saturn, And Mars. Saturn Rx. will pass the bill when least expected. Or when Sun Lord of the ??South Node in the 8. they will not give plentifully but plead poverty of the subject. But it is Actum agere to add to what you have sayd."

3 Nov. 1673[10] A letter from William Lilly to Ashmole "in sheer lane": "Doctissime Patrone I long to hear what was done on Friday, I fear his Majestys occasions found Difficulty: it was malus dies. you will find Mars in the 10th: many aspersions uppon ??but when the male aspects separate ??melius sperandum/the Presb. have frequent meetings, more then of late, pray much for the Parliament ??the hand of Joab [11] is in all these difficultys ??vincet qui patitur - ..."

6 Nov. 167312 A letter from William Lilly to Ashmole "in sheer lane" ??"& a Hamper":"Docte Patrone Vincit qui patitur. our Novembers observations [13] come near the present Matters now agitated. You mistake the Significator of the King ??had the Chauncellor onely spoke, you had been right ??but himself speaking hath no other Significator but the Lord of the ascendant ??which you may know, by the 4 Votes ??all which reflect on his Majestys honor etc., its true, when Kings speake, the Sun hath some signification ??but in the main, is still the Asc. and his Lords ??and this is Naturall-well: I hope well, and am positive for his Majesty in all conferences ??assured that those prophetick spirits who long since hinted at him, have delivered nothing but Divine oracles, which shall in fullness of tyme bee verified.: but syth the tymes are so ticklish, I shall acquiess ??Oh Saturn in Aries ??and the late Comet therein but syth wee may not be publiq, wee will bee silent in private ??however great judgments are impending ??this ??tibi tantum[14]. ..." The Judgement Chart square: "The time the King made his speech to the Parliament after the short prorogation". Beneath that: "Prorogued 4. Nov following 10H.30" A.M. R ad U & V." Above the figure: "U upon the Cusp of M.C. will asperse the King's honour." [Extracted from Lilly's letter.] Beneath figure: "W Rx, Money will be had when least expected perhaps upon N W Q, 18 Nov. > in the 8 They will not give plentifully but plead poverty". [Extracted from Lilly's letter.] "Upon N W and U 26 Decem: the bill may pass for money." [Extracted from Lilly's letter.] "The Moons applicacon by conj. to U Lord of the 10th: his applicacon by conj. to V Lord of the Ascendant shewes there wilbe a notable harmony & unity betw: the King & Parliament within a few daies..." In this passage Ashmole is referring to the King as Mars, ruler of the 10th.

There is no application of the Moon to Mars, they are out of joint moieties. Here and throughout these and Lilly's comments, they address the actual movements of the planets in the heavens, which is usual in mundane matters.<

"U Lord of the 10th culminating, entring H & disposing of V Lord of the Ascendant & W partly Lord thereof, so also the Q & S & R when she enters into H manifests that the King wilbe able to dispose of and controle the House of Commons in all things, shall please him, nor will they be able to carry on any thing if he contradict it..." Ashmole is again putting the king to the 10th house. He is saying that the king will be in control because Mars is on the MC and rules it, and that it will soon enter its own sign strengthening it further. Also, the Sun, Mercury and Jupiter are all in Scorpio and in the 10th, so the King will be able to dispose of all of these in due course, as also when the Moon changes signs.

"< in the second shewes there will meanes bee to which add that the..." The 2nd house according to Ashmole represents Parliament's finances, so he says that they have enough money.

"R is ad___ the Cuspe of the 2nd in the radix [it is at 16 Libra in the event and the natal 2nd is at 11Libra] spared ["enough to" is deleted] to gratifie the Kings Demands enough though W Lord thereof being Rx. & in his fall will cause it to come hardly, which U disposing both of W and ; (the former being in his 2nd house [of the nativity]) he will have a considerable supply. The Moon is separating from an aspect with the king's natal 2nd house which is at 11 Libra. He thinks this shows that there will be enough money granted to satisfy the kings demands. Although, because Saturn is Rx. and in fall and is ruler of the event 2nd it will be difficult to obtain. But Mars disposes of both the ruler of the 2nd and the POF which is in the natal 2nd, so he judges that the king will get a large sum of money.

The Cusp of the 9th is the degree Ascending in the radix & S Lord thereof disposed by U sig: that Religion Priviledges & Prophets wil be settled as hee likes, & wars particularly as is already established seeing T is also Lady of the 9th well dignified and posited in the 9th house, But being opposed by W ____ will _____ with great difficulties. R herein is in place of the Duke of Yorkes S & his V in N to his place there. His U in N to this Ascendant. His Q in the place of V here. All evident testimony he will grow into better esteeme with the parliament then he lately was. These remarks refer to the nativities of both King Charles and his brother James, the latter having been unpopular for some time and an avowed Roman Catholic.

It is clear why Lilly disagreed with Ashmole. His last letter on the subject of the 6th November 1673 seems to refer to a different or incomplete judgment made by Ashmole, to that referred to in Lilly's letter of the 30th October where he is in agreement with Ashmole.

The king obviously could not "dispose of" and "control" Parliament because, as already mentioned, Parliament insisted on strict conditions and later withdrew England from the war with the Dutch. And so the king"s "special relationship" with the King of France was brought to an end.

Lilly's relationship with Ashmole One of the things that is made clear from the above correspondence is the trust that each had for the other. Lilly was able to confide in his friend even though their politics and religious practices differed; nevertheless, Lilly would not accept incorrect astrology and continues to instruct Ashmole. We know that theirs was a close and enduring friendship. It began when, during the evening of Friday 20 November 1646, Jonas Moore (the famous mathematician and Royalist) introduced Ashmole to Lilly. Ignoring the prohibition on Royalist officers, to whose ranks Ashmole had belonged, he returned to London on 30 October 1646.

It is interesting that this followed so soon after Ashmole had joined a Masonic lodge on 16 October 1646. Josten's comments are also interesting; he writes: "Perhaps his newly acquired masonic connextions had influenced Ashmole's decision. Certainly, on his return to London, his circle of friends soon included many new acquaintances among astrologers, mathematicians, and physicians whose mystical leanings might have predisposed them to membership of speculative lodges, yet it is not known if any of them belonged to the craft. To many orthodox minds the study of mathematics and astrology, which to all intents and purposes still were but two aspects of one discipline, savoured of heresy and atheism, a suspicion which might easily have fostered the formation of mathematicians' lodges or other secret societies, yet no evidence supporting such a conjecture is known."

I would venture to take this further and argue that such a group could well have centred around a mutual interest in the study of the hermetic sciences. We know of Ashmole"s longstanding practice of alchemy, as we do Lilly's early magical practices. It is a "conjecture" which often arises when considering William Lilly's life and his wide circle of friends and acquaintances which seems to have flourished in spite of religious, political and social differences. This is especially outstanding when we consider the upheavals of the period which often focused on these differences.

Ashmole notes on 2 January 1647[15] "At night I dreamed that Mr. Lilly had assured me, he would procure me Jupiter [Mrs March16] by his art." Josten thinks that "art" probably means magic, but when referring to the period some twelve years earlier, Lilly says in his autobiography: "..and since have burned my bookes, which instructed those Curiositys: for after that, I became melancholly, very much afflicted with the Hypocondriack melancholly, growing lean and spare, and every day worse, so that in the year 1635, my infirmity continuing and my acquaintance increasing, I resolved to live in the country, and in March and Aprill 1636 remooved my goods unto Hersham wher I now live, and in may my person, wher I continued until 1641, no notice being taken who or what I was."

The "curiositys" to which Lilly refers related, in one instance, to his assisting a pregnant lady to gain access to her estranged lover and perhaps were not the same as the "art" to which Ashmole refers. Nevertheless, he tells us that he burned those books, implying that he had ended those activities. It is difficult to believe that Lilly would burn his books, especially considering how expensive and highly prized books were. Ashmole's reference to Lilly's "art" also suggests that he had not discontinued these practices. One of the reasons for Lilly's departure from London was to lead a quieter life, without fame and publicity, but perhaps his renown extended beyond his astrological abilities.

In his autobiography, Lilly tells us that he began his astrological education with the astrologer-magician John Evans in 1632. In 1634 Lilly acquired a parchment book known as Ars Notoria, a well-known grimoire attributed to Solomon. He explains that it has "the names of those Angells and their Pictures which are thought and beleeved by Wise men to teach and instruct in all the 7 Liberall Sciences and this is obtained by observing elected Tymes and those prayers appropriated unto the several Angells. I do ingeniously acknowledg, I used those prayers according to the form and direction prescribed for some weeks, using the word Astrologia for Astronomia, but of this no more." Lilly began teaching astrology in this same year; whether his rapid progress in astrology was due to natural or supernatural means is open to speculation, but he seems to imply it was a least partly due to the latter.

Lilly was already in high standing when Ashmole arrived in London, but it has always been assumed that it was because of the part he had played as Parliament's astrologer. We should now consider whether Lilly's status and influence was based on something along with his renown as an astrologer.

At the beginning of their acquaintanceship things did not run smoothly. Ashmole was a friend of Lilly's rival and enemy George Wharton[17], whose Royalist pamphlets ran the latter into numerous scrapes with Parliament. On 19 November 1646, the day before he was introduced to Lilly, Ashmole asks the horary question: "Whether it will be any prejudice for me to publish Wharton's errors against Lilly." Wharton had produced two such almanacs in 1647 supposedly revealing Lilly's astrological errors. So on the day before his first meeting with Lilly, Ashmole begins to have second thoughts about this joint enterprise. Unfortunately, either Ashmole's grasp of astrology was not very good, or it was too late to turn back.

The Ascendant is very early, and because this is not a copy of the chart Ashmole judged, but a calculation based on his data, we cannot be sure what he was examining. Taurus is a sign of short ascension, rising in about an hour, so allowance must be made for the possibility that late degrees of Aries rose. Either way it is not a good start. An early Ascendant, especially with Saturn there, suggests that the querent should delay any decision. If Ashmole is signified by Venus we see that he is in detriment and opposes the 1st house. In other words, he puts himself in a position where he damages himself, and has put himself into the hands of his enemies. Notably, Saturn rules the 11th and 12th houses, perhaps signifying pretended friends, but certainly bringing scandal to Ashmole through an friend.

If late degrees of Aries rise and he is Mars, then we see a conjunction with Jupiter (peregrine and an accidental infortune because it rules the unfortunate 8th and its other sign of Pisces is intercepted in the unfortunate 12th). But this is a separating conjunction, and the next application of Mars is with Saturn. Actually, this is a mutual application which indicates a sudden event, and as the malefics are involved, a sudden, evil event would be anticipated. Saturn remains the ruler of the 11th and 12th houses and in the 1st, so the previous delineation maintains. Therefore, he should have judged that such an action was prejudicial to him. I would speculate that late degrees of Aries rose and that the die had already been cast.

A year later, on 16 November 1647[18], the horary perfected and Ashmole notes: "This morning Lilly told me of my discovering his secrets to Wharton." Josten also notes that Ashmole does appear to have supplied Wharton with information which provided the latter with his ammunition, so Ashmole did not simply publish the pamphlet. Two months after that on 5 January 1648[19], Ashmole writes: "This evening I delivered to Mr. Lilly Picatrix [20] and was reconciled with him."

We might speculate on how Lilly perceived Ashmole's treachery when we consider Lilly's "Epistle to the Reader" in The Worlds Catastrophe (1647): "But one day, happily complaining of my want of convenient time, to Translate these succeeding Treatises unto Elias Ashmole Esquire, my noble Friend...This worthy Gentleman no sooner heard my complaint, but offered Balsom to the wound, and most humanely and courteously proferred his learned indeavours..." Lilly continues in praise of Ashmole"'s abilities, "...that being in years so young, should understand and distinguish terms and names, so obsolete, and not frequently vulgar; and yet hath he rendred them in our mother-tongue in so compliant and decent Phrase, as might well have become an Antiquary of double his years."


We also know that Ashmole had worked with Lilly on Christian Astrology [21] which was published in November 1647. In that same month Lilly confronted Ashmole. Whether Lilly had provided Ashmole with paid employment is unknown, but it is possible as Ashmole was in need of money. He had not yet procured an advantageous marriage and he still had not resumed his law practice. Lilly had been betrayed by the person he had tried to help and who had been working closely with him, perhaps even under his personal tutelage and protection.

Although they had been reconciled, a month and a half later on 19 February 1648 [22] Ashmole had further cause for concern: "At noon I received the book written in the behalf of Mr. Lilly. At 2: after noon I first read it. Now scandal threatens to fall upon me upon the £ of W and S which was the 18th day." This "book" was in fact a pamphlet supposedly written by a cavalier officer [23]. It answered and refuted Wharton"s allegations in his pamphlet against Lilly.

This reply was published in London in January 1648, and moreover it has been suggested that Lilly himself wrote it. However, in the postscript the anonymous author relates a meeting he had with Wharton subsequent to the publication of Wharton"s broadside: "I met Wharton since my last coming to towne, and inquiring of the man seriously, wheretofore he thus abused Lilly about Hows, and why he imputed such ignorance to him, when as all men who read his writings know otherwise... he sincerely professed, that he did much admire Lilly's parts, but knew not how to be revenged of him otherwayes then by thus aspersing him, and that he was importuned hereunto by one M. and by one Ashinole [the "in" is almost certainly a printer"s misreading of "m"] an Atturney, as for his part he protested he knew no one thing of it either true or false. He further sayd that if he mentioned not Lilly in his Mercuries [the name of Wharton"s almanacs], they would not sell;..." On the same day Ashmole drew a horary for the question: "Whether that book was of Lilly's contriving and whether he be not a secret enemy or public enemy of mine …, 2 F ascending." [24]

From the question, it is clear that Ashmole is wondering how long Lilly had known about his complicity with Wharton, especially when he mentions "a secret enemy". It is possible that Lilly had known about it for some time and had awaited the publication of Christian Astrology before dealing with Ashmole"s treachery. Either Lilly hid his knowledge from Ashmole throughout their reconciliation, or the second pamphlet supporting him did indeed reveal information that Lilly had not been privy to. If that is so then clearly Lilly could not have written it himself.

In this chart we know the Ascendant that Ashmole calculated, but care is still required with all the other house cusps. He says that it was 4 hours after noon, but to achieve this Ascendant I have used a time of 4:30 p.m.

The notable thing about this horary is the angularity; all but Venus are angular. Our problem here is in deciding which planet Ashmole considered to be Lilly's significator. It is tempting to view the question in two parts: did Lilly have something to do with the writing of the pamphlet, and is he an enemy to Ashmole? If Lilly had been connected with the publishing or writing of the pamphlet, then by necessity it would mean that he was Ashmole's enemy. However, it is also possible that Lilly was Ashmole's enemy and yet had nothing to do with the pamphlet.

Using the astrological rules given by Lilly (Christian Astrology p. 384), where a potential enemy is named, the 7th and its ruler are significant. Judging by the Sun and Mars in the 7th, I suggest that Ashmole had more than just Lilly to fear. Mercury and Jupiter, significators of the two parties, are in a mutually applying opposition. Of this Lilly says: "the enmity, difference or controversie is approaching, is not yet over, will grow to a greater height then now it is, and the party enquired after [Lilly in this case], doth what in him lyes to thwait and crosse the occasions of the querent." In other words, this opposition, because it is applying, means that Lilly is going to do everything he can to obstruct Ashmole. This is more so, since the aspect is mutually applying which is a sudden and ill application arguing that a great deal of contention and animosity were to follow.

Moreover, Lilly says that if the ruler of the 7th (Jupiter) is in conjunction or in aspect with any planet which is in square or opposition to the ruler of the Ascendant (Mercury), or the Moon, without reception, then "the quesited is averse and an enemy to the querent". In this chart, Jupiter is in aspect by mutually applying square with Saturn and Saturn is in square to Mercury; worse still is that Saturn disposits Mercury. So, we have both arguments for Lilly's being Ashmole"s enemy. There is no need to consider the secret enemy part of the question, because since he has named Lilly, the rules refer back to the 7th house.

What needs to be considered in this chart is the prominence of Saturn; it is in the 10th and is fairly strong because of its mutual reception with Venus and because of its position. Venus is in the Saturn ruled 5th, the turned 11th of Lilly's assistants. We should also note that the 7th cusp is close to Lilly's natal Ascendant. So, I think that there is no doubt that Lilly was doing everything he could to neutralise, and possibly avenge, Ashmole"s disloyalty.

Mercury and Jupiter in each other"s houses show direct confrontation, but whereas Mercury is moving further into Lilly's hands, Lilly is retrograding out of Ashmole"s. In fact, after Ashmole collides with Jupiter, he is confronted by a dignified Mars, and as he does that, he becomes combust and is obliterated by the Sun: Ashmole is vanquished.

As to whether or not Lilly wrote the pamphlet or was complicit in its writing and publishing remains uncertain. It seems doubtful that Lilly wrote it; his style of writing was well known, and a letter from him is printed in the same pamphlet. He may well have known that it was going to be published, but whether he caused it to be published is doubtful. We might consider that he had little need to extend himself in his own defence because he had many friends who would do that for him as is indicated in Ashmole"s horary chart. The last passage referring to the conversation the author was supposed to have had with Wharton, is interesting. Either Wharton did say those things, or it was based on detailed information from someone else of Ashmole"s involvement. It is noticeable that the prominent and exalted Moon, the carrier of messages, is ruler of the 11th of Ashmole"s friends.

It is unlikely that either pamphlet changed anyone"s mind about Wharton or Lilly. But these allegations (that Lilly had tricked a lady into marrying his client), were very dangerous for Lilly, and had to be countered.

On the 14th March 1648 Wharton was imprisoned, and there is a suggestion that Ashmole suspected Lilly of causing the arrest. Notice that the Moon in the preceding horoscope signifies Ashmole"s friends and after its trine to Venus, it runs straight into Saturn of imprisonment. Saturn and Venus are co-operating through mutual reception. The Moon also applies to the friend"s 12th.

Wharton escaped Newgate in September 1649 but was recaptured on 21 November 1649. The next day Ashmole approached Lilly on Wharton"s behalf, and that is the first mention we find of their meeting since February 1648. So, their estrangement had been prolonged, although Ashmole had attended at least two Astrologers" Feasts during this period and it is possible that they had met there.


Ashmole recounts that when he had apprised Lilly of the situation regarding Wharton, Lilly replied: "himselfe very sorry, because he knew … it was intended to hang him, and most generously (forgetting the quarell that had been betweene the Captaine and him) promised me to use his Interest with Mr: Bulstrode Whitlock (his Patron) to obteyne his release." Without labouring the point, Lilly achieved this, although Ashmole insists that he had to "constantly solicit" Lilly's assistance.


The ice seems to have been broken because on 26 January 1650 Ashmole proposed a horary question to Lilly [25]. Then on 7 April[26] he asks the horary question, "Whether Mr. Lilly will prove a real friend to me in the suit against Sir Humphrey?" which gives evidence of his having approached Lilly for personal assistance. A little later that month on 29 April 1650[27] he notes that at about 8:30 a.m. he gave "chambers to Lilly". Presumably meaning that Lilly had come to him for legal services. However, on the same day, Ashmole posed another horary question to Lilly, and again on 7 May 1650. Then, at the publication of Ashmole"s book Fascilus Chemicus, Lilly's name is the first in a list of names, possibly of Ashmole"s friends, who were to receive a copy.

Lilly's nativity A further indication of the strengthening of their friendship is demonstrated when Ashmole and Lilly together visited Dr Ardee on 3 June 1650[28]. Ashmole asked at least one further horary of Lilly leading to the horary of interest here. Their friendship had been repaired enough for Lilly to reveal his natal data to Ashmole. However, their reconciliation was not complete and Ashmole remained distrustful of Lilly because his note for the 25th September 1650 at 8:10 a.m.[29] records the following rather well-known horary: "Whether Mr. Lilly told me true last night, when he said that he had L ascending and ; in 1 H in his nativity."

Following the rules Lilly provides regarding the truth or falsity of a report (Christian Astrology p.192), most arguments in this chart are of truth, others plead the opposite. (see the two charts on page 12)

Ashmole attempted to rectify Lilly's horoscope resulting in an Ascendant of 25° Virgo. "He saith he hath 3.56 of L ascending in his nativity." "This scheme I believe is the truer, for midheaven came to the ; as well as N to R at one time, and when he married first he had a good estate with his old wife." (MSAshm. 312). But at another point Ashmole gives Lilly's Ascendant as 3° 56´ Pisces, indicating that he had by that time accepted Lilly's word. Gadbury"s rectification [30] is well known, even being included in the Regulus edition of Christian Astrology; the Ascendant there is 4° 36´ Pisces.

Fortunately, we have Lilly's horoscope and accidents used by himself [31] which Ashmole copied and seems to have acquired following Lilly's death. At the end of Lilly's list of directions, the last entry being for 1664, Ashmole writes: "Thus far Mr. William Lilly's nativity was directed by himselfe. He dyed the 9 of June 1681 of dead palsey.", implying that Ashmole accepted this horoscope as correct. Josten also notes that it is likely that this is the true scheme and that Ashmole"s suspicions were unfounded. I agree that it is the true nativity, but I doubt that Lilly gave Ashmole the whole truth. However, finally, we have the nativity of William Lilly, Astrologer.

Each planet is calculated precisely to seconds of arc, and the Part of Fortune is placed at 29° 26´ Libra. So, Lilly did tell the truth about his Ascendant, but perhaps he still did not trust Ashmole completely. The Part of Fortune is calculated from the positions of the Ascendant, Sun and Moon, so by giving Ashmole the incorrect position, Lilly cast doubt on those three very important positions. In fact, with the Part of Fortune itself and the Midheaven, Lilly caused uncertainty about what are known as the five Hylegiacal places which are crucial for directions. Such a device would also ensure that should anyone ever publish his nativity—as Gadbury did—Lilly would always know the source of that information.

The following reproduction shows part of Lilly's directions.


Using Lilly's own methods of calculation, it would appear that he had a phlegmatic/sanguine temperament and Jupiter, although weak, is the strongest planet in the chart with the Moon in close second place. We know from his own question about Master B"s. houses (Christian Astrology p.219), that he himself placed emphasis on this Jupiter.

We see evidence of this temperament in his moving from and to London after his inheritance. He left London in the first place to escape fame, for peace and quiet (phlegmatic), and returned for the opposite reason (sanguine). Eventually he set up home permanently in Hersham.

If we look at the nativity from just one point of view, that of scholarship, he tells us in Christian Astrology that neither temperament type make good students, so a mixture will not enhance that. And yet we know that he was an excellent student and scholar. The laziness associated with the phlegmatic temperament is not apparent in what we know of Lilly and in that regard we might accept the detrimented Moon as being obsessively hardworking. It is in square to a sanguine and angular Jupiter which would lift the gloom associated with that Saturnian Moon. However, its application to the sextile of Saturn, repeats the emphasis on work and also reminds of us of his first removing from London due to "hypocondriak melancholly". Although Saturn is in poor condition, we might accept its conjunction with Agena as improving its more malefic qualities. Agena is a first magnitude star of the nature of Venus and Jupiter, and as its nature is not Saturnian but rather the opposite, we might expect a mollification.

Jupiter as the strongest planet rules both the 9th and 10th houses, and is in the sign of Saturn"s exaltation. So, there is some justification for describing a scholar of some achievement. We might also note that Mercury, although a long way from the Ascendant, is still in the 1st. But what can be said about Mercury in Taurus? In the system of humours, Mercury is choleric because it is oriental of the Sun. So, we gain another clue about Lilly's speed of thought and sharpness of tongue. When we add that to its trine to Mars in Virgo, we get an image of not only a quick and volatile mind, but one which is also enthusiastic and passionate.

Focusing on Jupiter, we see a likeable, affable man with a generous spirit. We know that he was sociable and a genial host who kept a good table. He had many friends and supporters, and the letters that exist show that he was held in high regard, and that his help was often sought. This idea is supported by Jupiter"s dispositor, Venus, which is in its own sign.

1634: a busy year We might also look briefly at one year in his life and compare it to his own profections and directions. In 1634 he notes the following events in his autobiography, and because of that they must have had a special place in his memory: bought Argol"s Primum Mobile; taught astrology to Sir George Peckham; bought a half share of thirteen house in The Strand for £530 (Master B"s. houses); on the 18th November he married Jane Rowley ("of the nature of Mars"); he, Davy Ramsey and others went to Westminster Abbey and dowsed for treasure; at the end of this year, or the beginning of the next he interceded magically for an unmarried and pregnant young woman; his developed melancholia which began to affect his physical health and he lost weight. The following year it increased to hypochondriac melancholy; his public profile increased to beyond his capacity; Davy Ramsey introduced him to Sir William Pennington of Muncaster with whom Lilly became very friendly; Taught the magical art of constructing sigils, lamens and the use of divining or dowsing rods to the Dutchman John Heginus.

The natural ruler of buying and selling, teaching, magic and Astrology is Mercury, as the natural ruler of property (real estate), and melancholy is Saturn. His renown is associated with the Sun and possibly the Moon, and Venus is the natural ruler of love and marriage. Therefore we should find all of these planets activated in his profections and directions, as we should the accidental rulers of these matters in his nativity. This has Jupiter ruling the 1st and 10th houses, Mercury ruling the 7th and 4th houses, and Saturn ruling the 11th and 12th houses, with the Moon ruling the 6th.

His profections for that year had Scorpio on the Ascendant and Leo (natal 8th) on the MC (natal intercepted 6th), Mercury, Venus and the Sun fell in Capricorn (natal 11th and 12th), Saturn in Cancer (natal 5th and 6th), Jupiter and Part of Fortune in Gemini (natal 3rd and 4th), Mars in Taurus (natal 2nd), and the Moon was in Virgo (natal 7th).

Keeping these planets in mind, Lilly notes that in 1634 the Ascendant was directed to the opposition of Saturn, the conjunction of the Sun and the conjunction of Venus. The MC was directed to the 12th cusp. The Sun"s converse directions were to the terms of Mercury, the sextile of the Sun, Mercury and the Moon. The converse Part of Fortune met with the contra-antiscium of Saturn (with latitude) and the square of Saturn itself. Jupiter was in sextile to its natal position and conjunct the North Node. Finally, Mars came to the conjunction of Saturn (with latitude). All of the planets one would expect to find involved in the various events of that year, both naturally and accidentally, are indeed repeatedly prominent, enough to ensure that subjectivity is diminished.

And so, the mutual distrust faded and the friendship held firm for the rest of Lilly's life. There is a touching moment in one of Lilly's letters [32] to Ashmole in 1677, when at the end of giving his general news and before sending love, Lilly writes just two words: "my eys."33 In that brief but moving comment we can read of Lilly's fears and grief over his rapidly diminishing eyesight, and he confides all of that in his dear friend.


1 MS Ashmole 421
2 Elias Ashmole: His Autobiographical and Historical Notes, Ed. C.H. Josten, OUP, 1966.
3 A term relating to religious beliefs and, during this period of the new Act of Uniformity, often aimed at Nonconformists.
4 MS Ashm. 436 10v
5 For example, MS Ashm. 1136, f. 159v and MS. Ashm. 240, f. 263.
6 The Later Stuarts 1660-1714, Sir George Clark, OUP, Oxford.
7 King Charles II, Arthur Bryant, London, 1936.
8 History of England, G.M. Trevelyan. London 1976.
9 MS Rawl. D. 864, ff. 61-62v
10 MS Rawl. D. 864, ff. 63-64v
11 Referring to 2 Sam. XIV. 19.] i.e. someone putting word's into another's mouth, or manipulating the situation from behind the scenes.
12 MS Rawl. D. 864, ff. 65-66v
13 The observations for November in his almanac for 1673. Interestingly he writes of "Clandestine treaties in many countries, underhand transactions, Counsels, neither pleasing the people or many of their Superiors."
14 "you only" or between us.
15 MS Ashm. 1136, f.219
16 Ashmole pursued this lady for marriage.
17 Ashmole had met Wharton in Oxford in 1645. Ashmole had begun his studies at Brasenose College, and Wharton was already an established astrologer.
18 MS Ashm. 1136, f.205 19 MSAshm. 1136, f.184
20 A grimoire of astrological magic.
21 In one of Ashmole's notes in the manuscript of Lilly's autobiography he says: "I devised the forms and fashions of the severall schemes."
22 MS Ashm. 1136, f. 185v
23 MS Ashm. 546
24 MS Ashm. 1136, f. 185v
25 MS Ashm. 374, f. 6v
26 MS Ashm 374, f. 25
27 MS Ashm. 374, f. 31v
28 MS Ashm. 1136, f. 22v
29 MS Ashm. 374, f.66
30 Collectio Geniturarum, John Gadbury, 1662, London.
31 MSAshm. 394, f.108v
32 MS Rawl. D. 864, ff. 126-7v
33 MS Rawl. D. 864, ff. 126-7v.

Sue Ward is the Principal of the Traditional Horary Course, a working astrologer and researcher. The chart of the voyage to Algiers is extracted from a forthcoming paper.

The matter of the trans-Saturnian planets is taken up in her paper Uranus, Neptune and Pluto: an investigation into their symbolism, a review of which was published in the last issue of the Journal. Details of all of the above and of astrological techniques not explained here can be found at her web site: www.sue-ward.co.uk and in her courses. Sue will be giving two lectures at the AA Conference at Bath Spa University in September 2004.

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