The purpose of these blog post is to analyse the significations of the Sun given by Vettius Valens in his Anthology. For this, I will be primarily focusing on the version translated by Mark Riley as it is available online for anyone to download (1). However, I will be borrowing from other translations as need be, specifically that from Chris Brennan’s book on Hellenistic Astrology (2). This is Part 1, an introduction and preliminary considerations. Part 2 and Part 3 will focus on the individual significations themselves.
Currently, Valens’ (who lived about the second century CE) text is one of the most comprehensive sources of technical information on Hellenistic Astrology. I personally find it a very interesting resource on traditional significations of the seven planets.
Initially, Valens focuses on the Sun, Sol or Helios, as it was called in Hellenistic times. Helios (3) was commonly depicted as wearing a crown or a halo on his head and riding a chariot of four horses through the sky. As a solar deity, he was considered the source of life and creation. It is also interesting to note that Helios was brother to Selene, the Goddess of the Moon. Other solar deities which may influence the signification of the sun in astrology are Ra, Sol Invictus, Apollo and Jesus Christ.
In Hellenistic astrology, Sol was said to be the sect light of the diurnal sect (4). Sects were essentially two factions of planets whose strengths were dependent on whether it was day or night. These factions were led by the sect lights: The sun for the diurnal sect and Luna for the nocturnal sect. Furthermore, the sun was said to be masculine (5). This masculinity can be seen in the deities it represents coupled with its nature to emit heat.
In Tetrabiblios, Claudius Ptolemy claims the “active power of the sun’s essential nature is found to be heating and, to a certain degree, drying” (5). This temperate nature is probably due to the extreme heat of Sol being balanced by the “moist exhalations” of the earth leading to its creative power. In Hellenistic Astrology, it seemed the feminine and moist planets, namely the Moon and Venus were heavily associated with fertility (5). Alternatively, the rays of Sol may be mediated by the moist nature of the moon (or even Venus) as they pass through. This rationale can be seen in the Qabalah in two ways.
First, if one were to study the Ten Spheres of Assiah in Figure 2 (a), one would notice that the Sphere of Luna (Levanah), is right above the Sphere of the Elements (Cholem Yesodoth)(6). Right above the Sphere of the Moon are, the Spheres of Mercury (Kokab), Venus (Nogah) and the Sun (Shemesh). Therefore, influence from Sol must pass through all the feminine and moist spheres, Venus and Luna. Furthermore, if Mercury is an evening star (setting after Sol in the evening (7)) is can be said to take on a feminine and moist nature. Second, if one were to look at the Qabalistic Tree of Life (Figure 2 (b)) specifically used in ceremonial magic etc. one would notice the linear nature of the Spheres of Earth (Malkuth), the Moon (Yesod) and the Sphere of the Sun (Tiphareth) along the middle pillar (8).
Ptolemy further goes on to state that “This [nature] is made more easily perceptible in the case of the sun than any other heavenly body by its size and by the obviousness of its seasonal changes, for the closer it approaches to the zenith the more it affects us in this way” (5). I believe this phrase is obvious in that there is no other object in existence that is vital for life, growth, time and evolution.
Valens specifically says this about Sol:
“In a nativity the all-seeing sun, nature’s fire and intellectual light, the organ of mental perception, indicates kingship, rule, intellect, intelligence, beauty, motion, loftiness of fortune, the ordinance of the gods, judgement, public reputation, action, authority over the masses, the father, the master, friendship, noble personages, honours consisting of pictures, statues, and garlands, high priesthoods, <rule over> one’s country <and over> other places. Of the parts of the body, the sun rules the head; of the sense organs, it rules the right eye; of the trunk, it rules the heart; of the spiritual (i.e. the perceptive) faculties, the nerves. Of materials, it rules gold; of fruits, it rules wheat and barley.” (8)
In Part 2 and Part 3, I will go through all these significations in detail and relate them to what was described above.
(1) Vettius Valens Anthology, translated by Mark Riley https://www.csus.edu/indiv/r/rileymt/Vettius%20Valens%20entire.pdf
(2) Brennan, C., Hellenistic Astrology: A Study of Fate and Fortune, Denver, Amor Fati, 2017, pp 168-169
(4) Ptolomy, C. Tetrabiblios, translated by ASHMAND J. M., Book 1, Part 7, http://www.astrologiamedieval.com/tabelas/Tetrabiblos.pdf
(5) Ibid, Book 1 Part 4.
(6) Regardie, I., The Golden Dawn, 6th edition, St Paul. Llewellyn, 1989, p 63.
(7) Brennan, C., Hellenistic Astrology: A Study of Fate and Fortune, Denver, Amor Fati, 2017, pp 205-206.
(8) Vettius Valens Anthology, translated by Mark Riley, pp 1, https://www.csus.edu/indiv/r/rileymt/Vettius%20Valens%20entire.pdf