Time Lords in Hellenistic Astrology

by James Brockbank

The following article is based on work done by Robert Schmidt and other astrologers (published by Project Hindsight), and his tapes on Hellenistic astrology. To a large extent the methods used below are Robert Schmidt's but the implementation is my own.

At the moment because so few astrologers use them there is no generally accepted way to use Hellenistic techniques. The first problem we face is that there were at least twelve different systems for generating Time Lords, so that several different Time Lords would be operating at any one time. Each astrologer would have his own preferred system and some of the systems were more popular than others. The seven I detail below are the ones I find most interesting.

Time Lords were one of the methods the Hellenistic astrologers, practising from about 200 BC to 600 AD; used to make predictions. The theory is simple: when a planet was a Time Lord it would allow only those matters pertaining to its nature to occur; if something was promised in the birth chart then that something was likely to occur when the appropriate planets were Time Lords. In practice it was much more complicated. In this article I will first outline some of the different systems used to generate Time Lords, then detail how they should, in theory, be used, and finally show how they can work in practice. The example chart is Evelyn Waugh's. His time of birth and all the details of his life are taken from Selina Hastings' biography. All the information on Time Lord procedures is from Robert Schmidt's translations of the Hellenistic texts.

The first four methods I want to consider generate a General Time Lord, which will rule a given period of time, and then that period of time is divided into smaller sections ruled by a Specific Time Lord. (These smaller sections of time could usually be divided into even smaller segments, but I will not detail how this was done.) All four of these methods use the minor planetary periods to divide the time. The minor planetary periods are: the Sun 19 years; the Moon 25 years; Mercury 20 years; Venus 8 years; Mars 15 years; Jupiter 12 years; Saturn 30 years. These are not completely arbitrary but do have an astronomical basis, although the astronomical accuracy varies: Sun: 19 years is the Metonic cycle when an eclipse occurs at the same degree.

Moon: in 25 Egyptian years (365 days) there are exactly 309 lunation cycles; every 25 Egyptian years the phases of the Moon will occur on the same days of the year.

Mercury: 63 Mercury-Sun synods will happen every 20 Egyptian years.

Venus: 8 years is her recurrence cycle with the Sun. Mars: 15 years is his recurrence cycle with the Sun.

Saturn: 30 years is his recurrence cycle with the Sun. Jupiter: 12 years is his recurrence cycle with the Sun. There is little to indicate in the writings of the Hellenistic astrologers that astronomical accuracy was important. It seems likely that these periods had an ancient heritage and were passed down as lore, in the manner in which a horary astrologer might accept one of Lilly's rules without any attempt to change the periods in the light of any advance in astronomical knowledge.

The systems

1 Zodiacal Releasing

In this system we start the releasings from the Lot of Fortune, (ASC + arc from the Sun to the Moon, reverse in a nocturnal chart), and the Lot of Spirit (ASC + arc from the Moon to the Sun, reverse in a nocturnal chart).

When concerned about matters that relate to the body, release from the Lot of Fortune; when concerned with matters that relate to action or reputation, release from the Lot of Spirit. If either fortune or spirit, or their domicile rulers, is badly placed take the other for both action and body. If they are both in the same sign take action from the next sign. For infants release from fortune until they are old enough for spirit.

The releasing takes place from the sign in which fortune or spirit is placed. Each sign is given the minor period of its ruler in years, except for Capricorn which receives 27 years. You continue in the order of the signs. Each general period is split into specific periods by giving each sign its minor periods in months, starting with the general ruler. When you have gone round the zodiac once, you continue from the planet opposite.

A 360-day year is used. This means that the 8 years that Venus distributes are 360-day years which have to be converted into 365 ¼ day years. In Evelyn Waugh's chart, the Lot of Fortune is in Taurus and is well placed, being in a strong house. The first General Time Lord period is Venus, and she rules for 8 years, the second, Mercury, ruling for 19 years and so on around the zodiacal circle. The first Specific Time Lord in the general period ruled by Venus is Venus, ruling for 8 months, and then Mercury ruling for 15 months etc. However, as mentioned, these are 360-day years and 30-day months so you must convert that to real years.

2 Decennials

The second method releases from the Sun or the Moon. Total minor periods = 129 years =12 =10 years 9 months.

In a diurnal chart start from the Sun and a nocturnal chart from the Moon, unless either is badly placed, in which case start from the other. If both were badly placed Vettius Valens would start from the first planet after the Ascendant, whereas Hephaistio would start with the most powerful angular planet. Go round the chart from planet to planet in zodiacal order giving each 10 years 9 months. The specific periods are determined by giving each planet its minor years in months starting with the general ruler and going round the chart in zodiacal order. A 360-day year is used.

Evelyn Waugh's chart is nocturnal. The Moon is conjunct Saturn, which does harm it, but it is angular so I would still release from it. The Moon will rule the first 10 years 9 months, Jupiter will rule the second 9 months etc. The first Specific Time Lord period in the Moon's general period is the Moon, who will rule for 25 months, then Jupiter who will rule for 12 months, Venus who will rule for 8 months etc. Again these are 360-day years and 30-day months which have to be converted.

3 Quarters

Start from the first planet in zodiacal order after the pre-natal lunation, as marked by the Moon. Give each planet a quarter of its minor years. When you have completed the cycle, start the cycle again with the fourth planet from the original starting planet. The Specific Time Lord is determined by giving each planet a proportion of the General Time Lord period as its minor years is a proportion of 129 years.

When they are General Time Lords will not add up to 129 years. With this system a 365 ¼ day year is used. The first Specific Time Lord in a general period will be the General Time Lord of that period and they continue in zodiacal order. The Specific Time Lord is calculated by first working out what proportion that planet's general period is of the combined time of all the general periods added together. The same proportion is then applied to the general period being divided up. The exaltation points of the planets are: the Sun 19 Aries: the Moon 3 Taurus; Jupiter 15 Cancer; Mercury 15 Vireo; Saturn 20 Libra; Mars 28 Capricorn: Venus 29 Pisces.

In this system a normal 365 ¼ day year is used. In Waugh's chart the first planet after the lunation is the Sun. It rules for a quarter of its minor period, 4 years 9 months; Mars rules next for 3 years 9 months, followed by Saturn for 7 years 3 months etc. The Specific Time Lords are more complicated to calculate but in the Sun's general period the Sun will be the Specific ruler for 256 days which has the same proportion to 4 years 9 months as 19 years has to 129 years, and Mars will rule for 202 days which has the same proportion to 4 years 9 months as 15 years has to 129 years.

4 Exaltation, or Babillus' method

The first General Time Lord must be the Sun, the Moon, Saturn or Mars. Using the whole sign house system choose the one in the 10th house, or failing that the 1st house, 4th house, 7th house in that order. If more than one qualifies choose the one with most dignities in that place; if none qualify look at the succedent signs; if none qualify take the first of these planets after the Ascendant. After the first planet has been chosen the other planets will become Time Lords in zodiacal order. A planet will distribute the times for its minor period in years, less its minor period in days multiplied by the number of degrees it is away from its exaltation point. With this system a planet could distribute the times for only 50% of its minor period. Unlike the decennial system the combined total of the times distributed by the seven planets.

In Waugh's chart the first planet is the Sun. It will rule for 19 years (6840 days) less 19 days x 154 (Sun's distance from exaltation degree) = 2926 days. Therefore the Sun will rule for 3914 days.

It might seem that these systems are arbitrary but they are not. Most people are familiar with the apheta that Ptolemy uses: the Ascendant, the Sun, the Moon, the Lot of Fortune, the MC, and the prenatal lunation. Along with the Lot of Spirit these were considered the most important points in a natal chart. These different Time Lord systems use these apheta for determining the order in which the planets distribute the times.

Dorotheus and Ptolemy preferred to use directions for establishing Time Lords.

5 Directing through the bounds (terms) (Dorotheus' preferred system)

Dorotheus would progress the General Releaser by oblique ascension through the bounds, with each bound ruler becoming the principal Time Lord. Auxiliary Time Lords are derived when the General Releaser, by direction, hits a planet or an exact aspect to a planet. The planet hit becomes the auxiliary Time Lord.

The General Releaser could be the Sun, the Moon, the Lot of Fortune, the pre-natal syzygy or the Ascendant. In a diurnal chart one would consider them in the order just given and in a nocturnal chart one would reverse the Sun and Moon. A General Releaser had to fall in the 1st, 10th or 11th whole sign house, be free of malefics and be aspected by one of its rulers. One would first consider the bound Lord, then the domicile Lord, then the exaltation Lord and finally the trigon Lord. The aspect had to be by whole sign, except for the bound ruler which should be a partite aspect. The Lord aspecting the General Releaser would become the first Time Lord, with further Time Lords determined as the General Releaser was directed through the bounds.

6 Ptolemy's method

Ptolemy would direct the main apheta (Sun, Moon, Ascendant, MC, and the Lot of Fortune, which was not reversed for nocturnal births and when they hit another planet or made an exact aspect to a planet that planet would become the General Time Lord. Auxiliary Time Lords were derived by the bound rulers as the apheta passed through the different bounds. The apheta that Ptolemy chose to direct would depend on what topic he was interested in.

As can be seen Ptolemy and Dorotheus used inverted methods. In both cases one degree would equal one year in a life. Prior to Ptolemy all Hellenistic astrologers directed by oblique ascension but Ptolemy would direct only an apheta on the Ascendant by oblique ascension; he would direct an apheta on the MC by right ascension and apheta between the angles by proportional semi-arcs.

7 Profections

Vettius Valens' preferred method was profections. In order to get a general idea of the times, he would profect the Ascendant, the Sun, and the Moon. For specific topics he would profect all the planets, and the lots of Fortune, Spirit, Eros and Necessity, as well as the angles. The apheta profected would define the topic, while the Time Lord would be any planet in the sign that received a profection; if there wasn't one, a transit to that sign at the start of the year; if there isn't one the domicile ruler of that sign. In order to get over the problem of a repeating 12-year cycle Valens would also compare the profection to the Solar Return.

My own preferred systems are the four which use the minor planetary periods and profections, and those will be the only systems I will consider further; but one would delineate Time Lords generated from the systems using directions in exactly the same manner.

It is worth repeating that there is no established theory on how to use Time Lords. A workable theory depends on practice and use, and that is only just starting to happen. The procedures I detail below are not taken from some generally accepted Hellenistic astrology book, but are my own attempt to use these procedures and see if they work. I have no doubt that as more work is done using Hellenistic techniques that there is much written below that I would change. It should also be made clear that it would not even be possible to make an attempt to use these techniques without the work already done by Robert Schmidt and his team at Project Hindsight.

Before considering Time Lords for a natal chart one must first delineate the birth chart because the Time Lords will not produce anything that is not promised in the birth chart. When one does consider the Time Lords one cannot delineate them separately from the birth chart because the two are connected: if a malefic planet promises something malefic in a birth chart then when that planet becomes a Time Lord it will still be malefic and likely to produce those very events promised in the birth chart.

When delineating Time Lords one should be trying to determine three things: first, what will be allowed to happen; second, whether what is allowed to happen will be completed or remain unfulfilled; and third, whether the result will be malefic or benefic. To determine this one must consider the following:

1 To determine what type of events they will allow consider:

a) the planet

b) the house position of the planet (by whole sign)

c) the sign the planet is in

You must look at both planets and the domicile rulers of both planets.

2 To determine the strength of these events. whether they are likely to be completed or will remain unfulfilled, consider the following: whether the planet releasing the times is releasing from an angle to another planet on an angle, or whether the planets concerned are succedent or cadent. (By dynamical house position.) You must consider both planets and the domicile rulers of both planets.

3 To determine whether these events are likely to be beneficial or deleterious consider the following:

a) whether the two planets are in sect. (In a diurnal chart the Sun, Saturn, Jupiter and Mercury if it is rising before the Sun are in sect and the others are out of sect; in a nocturnal chart the Moon, Mars, Venus and Mercury if rising after the Sun are in sect and the others are out of sect).

b) whether they are aspected by malefics or benefics

Again you must consider both planets and their domicile rulers.


Once one has delineated the Time Lords one must examine the transits. For the Hellenistic astrologers a transit occurs when a planet ingresses the sign that contains the transited planet or is aspected to the transited planet. Thus, if Saturn is at 1 degree Taurus it is conjunct by transit another planet at 30 degrees Taurus and sextile by transit another planet at 30 degrees Cancer. A planet will be activated by a transit when one of the following conditions applies:

1 The planet transiting is a Time Lord

2 The planet transiting transits a Time Lord

3 The planet transiting transits a prospering place (considered to be lst house, 10th house, 11th house, 5th house, the house containing Fortuna, Spirit, Eros and Necessity).

A planet activated is able to produce whatever it promises to produce in the birth chart. Therefore, if a Time Lord is transiting a prospering place, itself, or the other Time Lord, it will be intensified and is even more likely to produce whatever it promises to produce in the birth chart. However, a planet can be activated even if it is not a Time Lord, so although a Time Lord will allow only something of its own nature to occur it seems an event could also occur if the planet promising it transits a prospering place, which obviously makes the interpretation of Time Lords harder.

James Brockbank has been studying astrology since 1992, and holds a Diploma from the White Eagle School of Astrology. He is also a QHP (Qualified Horary Practitioner), and has completed Robert Zoller's Medieval Astrology Correspondence Course. He is currently very interested in Hellenistic Astrology.