TRIMSAMSHAS AND BOUNDS
In the previous two articles we’ve covered the division of a sign in two parts called hora and division of a sign into three parts called drekkana, dreshkana or decan. We’ve also briefly touched upon the navamsha and dvadashamsha, the ninth and the twelfth division. All of the parts created by these divisions were of equal degrees and the rationale for their construction is very clear. None of this is the case with the trimsamsha and the bounds. We are in a totally different territory now. Some equate the two, the Indian trimsamshas and the Hellenistic horoi or bounds, but as we will see, although these divisions are ruled by the five elementary planets in both systems, they are used differently.
The trimsamshas or trimsalavamshas are mentioned by all the major astrological texts of India. They are not used in Jaimini’s system, however. Here we have a division of a sign into five unequal parts that are ruled by the five non-luminaries, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn and each of them gets to rule over a specific amount of degrees and the rulership reverses in the even signs as is the case in some other vargas.
“The portions of Mars, Saturn, Jupiter, Mercury, Venus are five, five, eight, seven, and five (degrees) in the odd zodiac signs (Aries, Gemini, Leo, Libra, Sagittarius, and Aquarius), but in the even zodiac signs (Taurus, Cancer, Virgo, Scorpio, Capricorn, and Pisces) they are situated in the reverse.” (Brihat Jataka, chapter 1, verse 7 (Michael Douglas Neely’s translation))
“In odd signs 5, 5, 8, 7 and 5 degrees are trimsamsas of Mars, Saturn, Jupiter, Mercury and Venus, respectively, while the arrangement is reverse in even Signs.” (Saravali, chapter 1, verse 15)
“The trimsamsha lords for an odd sign are Mars, Saturn, Jupiter, Mercury and Venus. Each of them in order rules 5, 5, 8, 7 and 5 degrees. The deities, ruling over the trimsamshas, are, respectively, Agni, Vayu, Indra, Kuvera and Varuna. In the case of an even sign the quantum of trimsamsha, planet lordship and deities get reversed.” (Brihat Parashara Hora, chapter 6, verse 27-28)
Picture no. 1: Trimsamsha
In Indian astrological traditions the five non-luminaries ruling the trimsamshas are connected with the five elements. The arrangement of trimsamshas is very interesting. We always have Jupiter ruling the middle portion of a sign and then we have Mars as fire and Saturn as air, two male elements on one side of the neuter ether of Jupiter and two female elements, Mercury as earth and Venus as water on another side. Why this arrangement is such becomes clear when we put trimsamshas in a circle together with the horas.
Picture no. 2: Horas and trimsamshas.
Here it becomes evident that the two divisions are complimentary and that the trimsamshas were designed to fit the horas. The horas exclude non-luminaries and trimsamshas exclude the two luminaries – Sun and Moon. The arrangement of trimsamshas is due to the horas. We can see that the two male elements (fire and air – Mars and Saturn) are always in a Sun’s hora and that the two female elements (earth and water – Mercury and Venus) are always in a Moon’s hora. The trimsamsha being an elementary division would suggest that the non-luminary rulers of these portions could be seen as agents through which King and Queen – Sun and Moon play out their agendas or in other words, through which element and thus which one of the senses the two aspects of consciousness, the Lights are experiencing the physical world most strongly. Naturally, the placements of Sun, Moon and the ascendant would be the most important to look at in the trimsamshas.
On the other hand, the horas are there to tell how the elementary planets fare. Are they in the appropriate hora to their nature? Are they in their own trimsamsha and thus can function very much with their own nature? Are they in a trimsamsha of an element that will help them or hinder them?
TRIMSAMSHAS IN PRACTICE
The instructions on how to use the trimshamshas in practice are pretty scarce. For the most part they are used for determining the nature of a woman in a female horoscope. Both, Saravali and Brihat Parashara Hora give delineations for the ascendant or the Moon in each trimsamsha.
“If it is in a sign owned by Mars, the trimsamsha of Mars denotes a harlot, that of Venus a female devoid of virtuous history, that of Mercury one with cunning disposition, that of Jupiter a chaste lady and that of Saturn one in servitude.“ (Saravali, chapter 46 – Female horoscopy, verse 6)
“When ascendant or Moon is in a rashi belonging to Mars, the woman born in a trimsamsha of Mars will have illicit relations with a man before marriage. If she be born in trimsamsha of Venus, she will become unchaste after marriage; if of Mercury, she will be full of guile and adept in conjuration; if the trimsamsha be of Jupiter, she will be worthy and virtuous; she will be menial, or slave, if birth be in a trimsamsha of Saturn.” (Brihat Parashara Hora, chapter 80 – Female horoscopy, verse 9)
The only place the trimsamshas are used prominently in Indian astrology is in reading horoscopes of women. Less prominent use is for determining strength of a planet which is most elaborated in Brihat Parashara Hora in the context of sthana bala (one of the strengths in shad bala) and varga vimshopaka, where it becomes a part of a dignity pointing system. Parashara also says to look at the trimshamsha for evil effects. Other than this it doesn’t seem to be used for much else. We do find a hint of trimsamshas being used for timing in Yavanajataka, but the instruction is quite cryptic and very brief. What is interesting is that Yavanajataka suggests using dvadashamshas, the 12th parts together with the trimshamshas wich is a practice we find in Hellenistic astrology where we pay attention into which bound a 12th part, a dodecatemorion of a planet falls in.
“In (each) sign there are dvadasamsas (dodecamoria) which fill the sign with their own influences. There are subtle modifications in respect to height or depth of action when (their) influences are combined with those of the terms (trimsamsas).” (Yavanajataka, chapter 1, verse 36)
“A planet in own Trimsamsa gives happiness and good qualities.” (Saravali, chapter 1, verse 31-33)
This is how Hellenistic astrologers thought of a planet when in its own bound. We read that if a planet is in its own bound, that it is like being in its own sign.
HELLENISTIC HOROI / BOUNDS / TERMS
A common name for these is bounds, so henceforward I’ll call the horoi bounds. According to research there were many varieties of bounds in existence, but the type that has been the most common is what we call the Egyptian bounds. If Indian trimsamshas have a repeating pattern, the bounds seem very chaotic. The degrees each bound occupies in a sign vary from sign to sign as does the order of the rulers. The two things trimsamshas and bounds have in common is that they are five unequal parts of a sign which are ruled by the five non-luminary planets. The bounds are mysterious because we don’t really understand their underlying rationale, but their complexity and a specific arrangement do hint at their profoundness. Let’s see how the bounds look like:
Picture no. 3: The Egyptian bounds
Vettius Valens in his Anthology, Book 1, chapter 3 describes qualities of each bound in every sign.
“The first 7° of Cancer belong to Mars: hurling thunderbolts, moved in different directions, uneven, contradictory in his wishes, manic, prolific, poor, destructive, and in the end, base. The next 6° belong to Venus: prolific, censorius, moist, changeable, skilled, popular, promiscuous,. The following 6° belong to Mercury: precise, a robber, a leader in public matters, a tax gatherer, in the public eye, rich, wealth producing. The fourth term, 7°, belongs to Jupiter: kingly, imperious, glorious, judging, great-hearted, temperate, ruling, entirely noble. The final 4° belong to Saturn. In this term everything is water, moist, poor in personal property, and in the end quite needy.”
If the use of the trimsamshas was fairly simple, the use of the bounds was more complex and even almost central to the Hellenistic system. Along with the dodecatemoria, the 12th division they were the main division, apparently even more important than the decans since Vettius Valens doesn’t really deal with the decans in his Anthology. The condition of a planet was always judged by its bound placement along with other basic factors. In fact a planet in its own bound was considered dignified as in its own sign. Later along the way of astrological development in the West the bounds became a lesser dignity or even fell out of favor completely.
»We must observe these terms carefully; for when a planet is found in its own terms, it is just as if located in its own sign.« (Firmicus Maternus, Mathesis VI-1)
As we’ve seen in Yavanajataka which already uses Indian trimsamshas, which could be considered as a simplified version of the bounds, the 12th parts were judged by their placement in the trimsamshas which is what we find in Hellenistic practice.
»Consider therefore whether the full moon happens to send a duodecatemorion by day toward the terms of Mars or whether, when waning, she sends one into those of Saturn, or whether Mars on the descendant sends one toward Venus, or Venus into those of Mars.« (Firmicus Maternus, Mathesis XIII – 4)
»When Saturn is located in these houses, carefully observe his degree so that you may find in what house and in which terms the duodecatemorion is; from this information you may discover the whole power of Saturn.« (Firmicus Maternus, Mathesis , Liber tertius, II-27)
There are other important things to look at when using the bounds:
- See if a planet is aspecting its own bound in a house and thus getting a prominent influence on the matters of that house. For this, of course, we should look at the aspect to a degree.
- See if a planet is in a bound of its sect mate and thus get an important piece of information regarding the auspiciousness or inauspiciousness of the planet.
- Pay attention to mutual reception by bound when the two planets are in a whole sign aspect and this reception is treated as good as reception by sign. Valens writes:
»Jupiter trine with Mars, if one is the house ruler and the other the master, indicates great men, leaders and dictators, especially when these stars are in their own signs, triangles, or degrees, in operative signs, or when they have exchanged domiciles or terms, especially if they rule the Lot of Fortune or its house ruler. They make great affairs: kings, those in charge of the military (navies or armies), those who rebuild cities or those who destroy them.«
Covering all the different uses of the bounds in Hellenistic astrology would require a separate series of articles which I actually hope to write one day as I’m very much interested in practical application of the bounds. What I’ve given here is for the illustration of their use and to demonstrate how this unequal division has been stressed far more by Hellenistic astrologers than it was by Indian astrologers. As said before, the rationale behind them is a mystery and we have very few explanations available. I suggest reading this article in order to become more familiar with this subject. In order to get an idea of how the bounds are used in delineation of a horoscope see my Astro Diary #3.
TIMING WITH THE BOUNDS
If Yavanajataka gives us only a basic idea about using trimsamshas for timing, the time-lord method employing bounds in Hellenistic astrology is clearer and while it isn’t much explored by today’s astrologers it looks very logical and promising on paper. Usually it is called circumambulations through the bounds or directing of the ascendant through the bounds. The later name gives us a good idea of what is it all about. We move the ascendant through bounds using primary directions (learn more). When we direct the ascendant it enters different bounds within a sign and thus a planet that rules the bound becomes its temporary ruler, a chronocrator or time lord. Traditionally primary directions are used, but I see no reason why we shouldn’t try doing this with other kinds of progressions. Since the bounds are not ruled by the Lights it would naturally make sense to progress them through the bounds and thus see which planet becomes the ruler of the Light for a particular period of time, indicating what the consciousness will experience through the agency of the five elements. I’m currently testing this method using primary directions, secondary and solar arc progressions, and it looks like it gives a broader picture, a color of a period as opposed to a more event pinpointing capable zodiacal releasing time lord technique which I will discuss in a separate article as the technique is really worth investigating. Timing with the bounds is something we need to test more in order to get a clearer idea of what can be expected from this technique.
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