SAPTAMSHA – THE 7th DIVISION
In previous articles we’ve looked at three divisions:
HORA – one sign split in two parts
DREKKANA or DECAN – one sign split into three parts
TRIMSAMSHA and BOUND – one sign split into five unequal parts ruled by five non-luminaries
As we’ve seen, various astrologers of antiquity constructed these divisions in different ways and for the most part there are specific rules for each division in regards to the rulership of a particular portion of a sign. Between trimsamsha and saptamsha there are two other vargas we find in Indian astrology and these are:
CHATURTHAMSHA (TURYAMSHA in Tajika system) – one sign split into four parts which are ruled by the ruler of the sign and the rulers of the three angles from the sign (4th, 7th, 10th). Chaturthamsha seems to be specific to Brihat Parashara Hora and is not mentioned by either by Varahamihira, Kalyana Varma or Sphujidhvaja in their famous texts. For this reason I have chosen to skip this division.
PANCHAMSHA – one sign split into five equal parts, ruled by the five non-luminaries; Mars, Saturn, Mercury, Jupiter and Venus. The order reverses for even signs. Panchamsha appears rarely, to my knowledge only in Tajika Neelakanthi and Phala Dipika, therefore I will skip this division, too.
SHASTAMSHA – one sign split into six parts which are ruled by the rulers of the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th and 11th sign from the sign we are dividing. This division is specific to Tajika (North-East Persian) system and it doesn’t appear in other classical texts, therefore I will skip this one, too.
In Indian astrology the seven commonly used vargas, also known as saptavarga include:
D1 – Rashi or radix chart – the primary twelvefold division of the ecliptic – the Zodiac
D2 – Hora – one sign divided into two parts
D3 – Drekkana – one sign divided into three parts
D5 – Trimsamsha (yes, D5 and not D30, because it is a division of a sign into 5 and not 30 parts)
D7 – Saptamsha – one sign divided into seven parts
D9 – Navamsha – one sign divided into nine parts
D12 – Dvadashamsha – one sign divided into twelve parts
These are the vargas we find in Brihat Jataka, Saravali and Yavanajataka, although Yavanajataka briefly mentions that there are also 60 sauras in a sign and Kalyana Varma when he describes the seven divisions or saptavarga tells us that we can calculate other vargas and he gives a formula by which we calculate what we call a harmonic or parivritti varga. Unfortunately he doesn’t give a single hint of how to use them. I was delighted by this discovery as it hinted towards an older and pretty much a lost tradition of calculating vargas as harmonics that has been present in India but feel out of favor or has been forgotten during the middle ages and only a few harmonic vargas have survived and one of them is the samptamsha. Or is it?
SAPTAMSHA IN YAVANAJATAKA
»There are portions (bhaagas) (of each sign), they say, belonging to the seven planets, and these (saptamshas) undergo modifications according to the planet.« (Yavanajataka, chapter 1, verse 35, David Pingree’s translation)
»From those which they declare the portions of the seven planets, the changes are explained of those possessed of the planets [referring to the saptamshas of a zodiac sign]. (Yavanajataka, chapter 1, verse 35, Michael Douglas Neely’s translation)
»They say that the saptamshas belong to the lords of the signs (in order) beginning with the lord of the sign itself and excluding repetitions« (Yavanajataka, chapter 1, verse 40, David Pingree’s translation).
»Those beginning with the lord of the zodiac sign are declared the seven of the lords of the zodiac sign, excluding the indicated repetitions.« (Yavanajataka, chapter 1, verse 40, Michael Douglas Neely’s translation)
To sum it up, the first saptamsha is ruled by the lord of the sign and the rest are ruled by the lords of other signs in order, but repetitions are excluded. The saptamshas in Yavanajataka are unique and we don’t find them elsewhere.
Picture no. 1: Saptamshas as found in Yavanajataka
Although Yavanajataka differs in saptamsha construction from texts like Brihat Parashara Hora and Saravali it describes the use of the saptamshas quite elaborately. In chapter 30 we can read descriptions of appearance and qualities of a person who is born when the Moon is in various saptamshas.
»In the first saptamsha of Aries is born a thin and weak man who has a mustache and the corners of whose eyes are red; a fierce and aggressive man who is clever at stealing and desires battles and wounds; the best of men who is well versed in sexual acts.« (Chapter 30, verse 10)
»One born in the seventh saptamsha in Libra is a hero with big eyes and a thick row of teeth, a bony man with limbs as soft as lotuses, purplish eyes, and soft, brown hair; he wears a huge garland.« (Chapter 30, verse 58)
We can see how a Martian influence is present in both descriptions as both saptamshas are ruled by Mars. The Libra saptamsha belonging to Mars is a combination of Venusian and Martian traits, a hero with a bodily features that are quite Venusian.
Yavanajataka gives such vivid descriptions for every saptamsha of every sign. The usefulness and accuracy of these descriptions should of course be tested in practice. In chapter 31 we can read descriptions of bodily appearance and qualities of a person born when the Moon is in each one of the navamshas. This immediately prevents us to use saptamshas in isolation and it is natural to blend what is given by saptamsha and navamsha positions of the Moon. What is obvious is that this is not a varga, but we’re only dealing with amshas – parts, as is the case with decans, bounds and trimsamshas. We actually look at the placement of a planet in a part of the sign, see which planet rules that part and then take the symbolism of that planet along with the sign symbolism and by synthesis of symbols get a picture of how a particular planet gets colored. I am heavily leaning towards the opinion that the hora, drekkana and caturthamsha as found in Brihat Parashara Hora also belong to this family of divisions and are not meant to be combined into a varga chart, but we should only take the ruling planets into the account in order to assess dignity and coloring of a planet.
THE COMMON SAPTAMSHA
The type of saptamsha that is the most common in Indian astrology is the first of the harmonic vargas or parivritti vargas amont the saptavarga. I’ve mentioned the Sanskrit word parivritti a few times in this article and some explanation of its meaning is necessary. Vritti means turning or whirlpool or cyclical motion or oscillation. Pari means fully. So parivritti means something like fully turning and in the context of vargas for which it is said that the signs are meshadi (from Aries or Mesha onwards) it simply means that the natural order of the signs from Aries to Pisces is repeating cyclically as many times as we have divided the circle, much like a sine wave.
It is interesting to note that before the saptamsha all the other vargas we have examined are non-harmonic, which means that the order of the signs in these vargas is not repeating naturally and if we connect the same instances of a sign when we draw a varga chart it doesn’t create a geometrical pattern which would indicate a particular geometric relationship of two planets. It is easy to find some rationale for the triplicity drekkana where the lords of the three portions of a sign are its lord and the two trine lords. And it is also easy to assign four lords to the four portions of a sign or chaturthamshas, which are the angle lords. The division into five portions is also not that difficult as we have five non-luminaries. But what do we do when we want to divide a sign into 6, 7, 8, 9, etc portions? Then, the medieval authors suddenly switch to the parivritti type. The common saptamsha is such a varga. What we have in jyotish today is mixing of apples and oranges, because the two types of vargas do not share the same rationale, but are being used together in the same dignity pointing system like varga vimshopaka. I will write more on this after we will examine the seven common vargas, and we will go deeply into the parivritti or harmonic vargas as it appears from the research I’ve done so far that these have a long history, but fell out of favor or were forgotten during the middle ages.
The common, meshadi (from Aries onwards) parivritti saptamsha looks like this:
Picture no. 2: The common saptamsha.
As we can see, the order of the signs flows naturally and if we connect the seven instances of the same sign we get a perfect septagon. Thus if two planets are conjunct in saptamsha chart they are either conjunct or have a spatial relationship of approximately 51 degrees or a multiple of this. This is called a septile aspect in modern Western astrology which is an angle of 51 degrees 25 minutes 43 seconds. It is important to pay attention to number 7 here, which is the number of Saturn and a septagon is a geometric form of Saturn. We read in Brihat Parashara Hora, that we should look to the saptamsha for children. A natural question arises: »What does Saturn have to do with children«? Directly, Saturn is of course not a significator of children or sexual union. However, it is a planet that signifies responsibility and commitment. Thus the saptamsha shows how much are we able to accept responsibility for outcomes of our actions and how much are we able to commit. Thus it gets a much broader interpretative use than only in regards to children. Many astrologers link the saptamsha to the 5th house, some because it is the 5th varga mentioned by Parashara (which is a very strange reasoning) and some because it’s supposedly there for reading the topic of children in a horoscope. The connection to the 5th house might be there, because the 5th holds children, pleasures and even sexual pleasure, so Saturn’s sense of responsibility applies here, but I believe that when Parashara says »children« that he does that in a symbolic way and makes us think deeper about the meaning of the saptamsha. However, since this parivritti version of this division cannot be derived from the primary twelvefold division (the Zodiac) I am inclined to dismiss it and consider the original saptamsha of Yavanajataka to be the valid one, because its construction doesn’t depend on the mathematical relation to the Zodiac. Since the only instruction of how to use this saptamshas comes from Yavanajataka and to my knowledge hasn’t been a part of Indian astrological practice for centuries, we’re only left with the text itself and experimentation.
Thank you for reading! Please, subscribe to my newsletter and get notified about future articles!