The building blocks of astrology involve knowing planets, signs, houses, triplicities and quadruplicities; these are some of the foundations on which various interpretive techniques are based.
The triplicities are among the easiest to master, breaking the signs down to their elemental properties: fire (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius), air (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius), earth (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn) and water (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces). Even if you know very little about astrology, you’ve likely heard of water signs, earth signs, air signs and fire signs. From here, a more complicated, albeit highly instructive, interpretive shorthand can offer insights into periods of anative’s life by specific topics. Before we examine the technique it’s helpful to unpack the triplicity rulers further.
Bonatti on Triplicities
In his second treatise on signs and houses, the thirteenth-century astrologer Guido Bonatti writes that the triplicities “are distinguished so, namely because every three signs which agree in one nature and in one complexion, make one triplicity…like a ‘threefoldness’” (1). He explains that since Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius all share the same principal qualities of heat and dryness, they also thus share a triplicity. This triplicity is characterized as being “fiery…masculine, eastern, diurnal, choleric, bitter in taste…the Lords of which…are the Sun in the day, in the night Jupiter…[and] in both day and night is Saturn” (60). This is an important point to note: like the Hellenistic doctrine of sect whereby teams of planets govern the chart according to whether the native was born during the day or the night, triplicity lords follow a similar concept of governance according to day and night teams. By contrast to sect teams which solely govern based on the time of day, triplicity lords are based on the elemental property of the signs that they govern and then are further subdivided by sect — a day ruler, a night ruler, and a participating ruler. There are many tables of the triplicity rulers available online so I won’t reproduce one here, suffice to say that even Wikipedia has an entry on this concept and each triplicity has its own trio of planetary rulers.
In contrast to later astrologers, like William Lilly, who simplified the triplicity scheme to omit the participating ruler, Bonatti, drawing on the work of his Arabic astrological predecessors, utilizes three triplicity rulers per sign and does not appear to distinguish their strength in a chart according to sect. Bonatti goes on to describe the triplicity lord of the Ascendant and of a question — since this technique similarly appears to have been applied in horary astrology — as “generally [disposing] the life of the native or querent, according to three divisions from the beginning of the native’s life up until the end of his natural life” (2). In his treatise nine on nativities, Bonatti also employs the lords of the triplicity to aid in finding other horoscopic points, such as the Lord of the Geniture, in addition to ascribing them topical significations based on their conditions in the chart according to the various houses whose rulership they govern.
Interestingly, Bonatti also credits both ad-Dawla and al-Andarzaghar for assigning a topical signification to the triplicity lords of the houses. Taking the first house as an example, Bonatti writes:
“And ad-Dawla and al-Andarzaghar said, in nativities, that the first Lord of the triplicity of the 1st house signifies the life and nature of the native or querent, and his enjoyments, and in what things he delights, and what he loves or hates, and what happens to him (whether good or bad) in the beginning of life, namely in the first one-third of it. And the second Lord of its triplicity signifies life and robustness, or virtue and strength…And the third Lord of its triplicity signifies that which the first and second ones do, and it signifies the end of life and whatever happens to him in the last one-third of his life” (3).
Since the first house always relates to the native, their health and overall condition in life, it is predictable that we would not necessarily find significantly different topical significations associated with each triplicity ruler. However, as other houses of the natal chart often capture myriad topics, later house descriptions include varied significations for each triplicity ruler governing its ascribed third. For instance, on the fourth house Bonatti writes that “al-Andarzagar said the first Lord of the triplicity of the house of fathers signifies fathers; the second one, cities and lands; and the third, the end of matters and prisons” (4). These types of descriptions continue for the other houses alongside lengthy passages inventorying the significations according to various astrologers.
Using al-Andarzaghar’s Triplicity Ruler Scheme in Astrological Predictions
I had first come to al-Andarzaghar’s name and technique at an astrological workshop. The instructor had referred it as an Arabic approach, but gave little in the way of its origin or how it might have been employed, if at all, by Hellenistic astrologers. You can therefore imagine my excitement upon finding references to the triplicity rulers in both Vettius Valens’ Anthologies (Book II.1) and Dorotheus of Sidon’s Carmen Astrologicum. It is little wonder that the technique might have been ascribed to al-Andarzaghar, since it is largely through the contributions of the Islamic world that we have any preservation and transmission of astrological learning after the fall of Rome, and certainly Dorotheus of Sidon’s pentateuch was well-preserved through Pahlavi translations (5).
We know little about al-Andarzaghar and for scant biographical details I consulted David Pingree, who indicated that the largest extant corpus of al-Andarzaghar’s work is found in a surviving compilation from the early twelfth century; this text, covering continuous horoscopy, includes content on “the revolution of the years of nativities, the chronocrators, and the periods and sub-periods of the native’s life dominated by each of the planets” (6). This last point is one that, I surmise, likely included the triplicity scheme, particularly since Pingree writes that “these methods of astrology have their roots in the Classical texts of Dorotheus and Valens, but the Sassanian author [al-Andarzaghar] presents a far more elaborate system that differs in detail from those of the extant Greek authors” (7).
To understand Dorotheus’ use of the triplicities, and potentially al-Andarzhagar’s adaptation of them, it is important to note this comment, which Dorotheus makes in Book I on “Upbringing, Parents and the Condition of Life,” “…every thing which is decided and indicated comes to be from the lords of the triplicities. And for every thing of tribulation and hardship which afflicts the people of the world and the generality of men, the lords of the triplicities decide it ” (8).
Throughout several chapters, Dorotheus mentions evaluating the quality of the positions of the triplicity rulers, for instance in matters of the native’s upbringing, fortune and the manner of death; there are no specific topical rulerships for the triplicity lords of the houses as in the technique ascribed to al-Andarzaghar. For example, if one is curious about the topic of siblings and how relationships might manifest over the lifetime and the house cusp were ruled by Gemini by day, then, for the first third of life, one would look to the position and quality of Saturn, then to Mercury, and finally to Jupiter. The position of the planets in the chart by house help colour the interpretation of this topic; however, in al-Andarzaghar’s triplicity ruler scheme, the ruler of each third of a house governs its own specific topic.
Using Bonatti as the entry point to al-Andarzaghar’s system is the only one I am aware of for easily accessible tomes that can be purchased via local or online booksellers; however, if anyone knows other sources covering this technique, do share. For these significations, I cribbed from Bonatti’s second treatise, chapter 5, “On what is signified by the twelve houses.”
In order to apply this to your own or others’ birth charts (or, alternatively, to a horary question), you’ll need a table of the triplicity rulers, which, as mentioned earlier, can be found online. You will follow the sect order of the triplicity rulers depending on whether the chart you are evaluating is diurnal or nocturnal; to distinguish that, look at the degree of the ascendant in whatever house system you are using, and then locate the sun — nocturnal nativities obviously have the sun below the horizon, diurnal above it. Once you have this information, you will simply look to the following topical significations and find where the triplicity ruler is located in the chart. From there, you apply all the usual interpretive considerations, including dignities and aspects, to gain more information about the quality of the judgment according to the topic you are investigating.
First Triplicity Ruler: The life and nature of the native, enjoyments, loves and hates, what happens to the native in the first third of life.
Second Triplicity Ruler: Vitality, strength, what happens in the second third of life.
Third Triplicity Ruler: The end of life according to the last third of life.*
*Note: Typically the length of life technique is used to identify the length of the native’s natural life (i.e., that which is not cut short by illness or accidents), however, I have used this technique without this calculation, approximately dividing the life up around 25(ish)-year increments to a total of 75–80(ish) years.
First Triplicity Ruler: Material substance in the first-third of life.
Second Triplicity Ruler: Material substance in the second-third of life.
Third Triplicity Ruler: Material substance in the last-third of life.
In evaluating “material substance” you can draw on all the typical second-house significations, including wealth, possessions, goods, business dealings, earned income, etc.
First Triplicity Ruler: Younger brothers.
Second Triplicity Ruler: Middle brothers.
Third Triplicity Ruler: Older brothers.
First Triplicity Ruler: Fathers.
Second Triplicity Ruler: Cities and lands.
Third Triplicity Ruler: End of matters and prisons.
First Triplicity Ruler: Children and their life.*
Second Triplicity Ruler: Delights.
Third Triplicity Ruler: Envoys (i.e., messengers).
*Note: Bonatti offers further explanation of this first triplicity ruler, indicating that, in questions concerning children, the lord of the fifth house must be evaluated with the first lord of the triplicity since the way the two interact, relate and “behave” offer some indication around the topic.
First Triplicity Ruler: Infirmities and convalescences.
Second Triplicity Ruler: Domestics and slaves.*
Third Triplicity Ruler: The usefulness of domestics and slaves*; animals (i.e. “all quadrupeds, and their strength, their multitude and scarcity and of their staying in his possession or going out of it”); prison and confinement.
*Note: Given that very few of us nowadays have “domestics and slaves,” employees or people that report to you could be substituted here.
First Triplicity Ruler: Women.*
Second Triplicity Ruler: Contentions.
Third Triplicity Ruler: Partnerships.
*Note: As this is the house of marriage, it may be that female natives may consider men here instead.
First Triplicity Ruler: Death.
Second Triplicity Ruler: Ancient [or old] matters.
Third Triplicity Ruler: Inheritance; partners.
First Triplicity Ruler: Pilgrimage and what will happen to the native on these journeys.
Second Triplicity Ruler: Faith and religion and their state and manner.
Third Triplicity Ruler: Wisdom and dreams, the knowledge of the stars and their truths, auguries and the practice of them.
First Triplicity Ruler: Power and exaltation.
Second Triplicity Ruler: Voice of command, boldness.
Third Triplicity Ruler: Stability and durability.
First Triplicity Ruler: Trust.
Second Triplicity Ruler: Friends
Third Triplicity Ruler: Usefulness and benefit [of friends].
First Triplicity Ruler: Enemies.
Second Triplicity Ruler: Labours.
Third Triplicity Ruler: Beasts and cattle.
It really is quite an elegantly simple technique, and yet one that offers a great deal of insight into the broad brush strokes of a topic in the native’s life. In a reading, I might use this as an introductory approach to particular conversations before delving deeper into more detailed chart analysis.
If you give this technique a try, let me know how it goes. And, don’t forget to follow me here on Medium or check me out on Instagram @theeclecticoccultista.
(1) Guido Bonatti, Bonatti on Basic Astrology: Guido Bonatti’s Book of Astronomy Treatieses 1–3: Theory, Signs, Planets, Houses, Configurations, trans. by Benjamin N. Dykes (Minneapolis: The Cazimi Press, 2010), p. 59.
(2) Ibid., p. 68.
(3) Ibid., p. 95.
(4) Ibid., p. 102.
(5) Ibid., p. 1 in Dykes’ introduction.
(6) David Pingree, “Classical and Byzantine Astrology in Sassanian Persia,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 43 (1989): 227–239 (p. 235) <https://www.jstor.org/stable/1291610> [accessed 21 May 2022].
(7) Ibid., p. 235.
(8) Dorotheus of Sidon, Carmen Astrologicum: The ‘Umar al-Tabari Translation, trans. and ed. by Benjamin N. Dykes (Minneapolis: The Cazimi Press, 2019), p. 62.