I found these “I just really need to know this person’s sexual history” horary rules, or as I call them, chastity rules, in Richard Ball’s Astrology Improved (1723), on Philip Graves’s DVD From Sibly to Simmonite. His including the rules is not unusual. Such rules are found in many traditional texts, reminding us that most horary clients were men, who were at times exceedingly concerned with the sexual (in)experience of certain women.

Ball presents the rules in a rather coy manner compared to Lilly or Bonatti. You see, the author has an ongoing problem with young ladies demanding to know when they would get married, when in fact they are already married! You know, they pay good money just to test his astrological prowess. The curious way in which he frames chastity rules may reflect his own discomfort with using horary to permanently ruin a woman’s reputation (since a negative answer would assuredly do so in certain times and places). It is somewhat reminiscent of William Lilly’s own caution to the reader of his Christian Astrology when discussing these rules, to be sensitive to the potential of destroying reputations with too hasty a judgment on a woman’s chastity.

In place of using such rules to tell if a woman has had sex, I would like to reclaim them for a more useful and less punitive purpose, and for both genders, such as determining whether a person of interest is otherwise engaged. I suspect that some of the rules were code for “how to tell if that attractive stranger is taken,” because they certainly can be used that way, in case their Facebook status is broken. Given the abundance of ways that a chart can show a woman to be socially unacceptable, these rules are an interesting if sad commentary on the very narrow path women were expected to tread in 18th century England if they wanted to maintain good reputations and marriageability. Marriage was the key economic power that women held and denying them this avenue through a negative horary judgment was tantamount to a social and financial death sentence. In much of the world today, this is still the case, if queries in horary forums are anything to go by.

These are the chastity rules in question, with my comments in brackets:

1. A planet in the Ascendant with the ruler in a fertile [water] sign means the person is married [NG: This is if the querent asks. If you are asking about someone else, we would use the seventh house instead of the Ascendant. Could be a useful rule today.]

2. No application between the Sun and Venus, ruler of the Ascendant, ruler of the seventh house, or the Moon; not married. [NG: There is a problem here. If you were to use this rule as stated, for a Querent who ostensibly wanted to get married, these rules would not only show that she is single, but that she would not get married! But the rule should work for “is s/he married?”]

3. If the ruler of the Ascendant is in a fertile sign, aspecting Mars and in his term, the Querent is “faulty” or married. [NG: I trust you see the issue with describing people as “faulty” especially these days in the West, where sexual inexperience is not a prerequisite for marriage. Today, it might show someone in a relationship with someone else, especially if one asks the other person’s relationships with men. For relationships with women, we might look at Venus.]

4. Lord of the Ascendant separating from Mars, the person is married or worse [!], unless they applying and Mars rules the seventh house, for it shows she is not married but wants to be. [NG: One could modify this to use Venus instead of Mars if asking about someone who prefers women.]

5. Significators in common signs in the ascendant, the fifth or seventh houses, give suspicion [NG: Heaven forfend. More seriously, suspicion ruined lives in certain eras and places.]

6. Ruler of the Ascendant, Moon, Venus [NG: One could substitute Sun and Mars for men.] in fixed signs, with no evil aspect to any planet, or are in aspect to the Fortunes, then she is chaste, but if they are aspecting Saturn or Mars and they are not lords of the seventh, it gives great suspicion. Scorpio ascending signifies the same. [NG: Generally, malefics in this context represent connections outside of marriage. In today’s world, I would ascribe them to relationships that are secret or otherwise socially frowned upon.]

7. Women’s significators in double-bodied signs, not dignified [NG: not in domicile or exaltation], in terms of Mars, the woman is married, corrupt, or a widow [NG: So much shaming and name-calling. The same would be true for a man’s significator in terms of Venus.]

8. Significators moveable, peregrine, in fruitful signs, and the Moon is void, out of her own dignities, she is a widow or one who has children [NG: If asking about men, I wonder if we could examine the Sun similarly, being a masculine significator. Or whether the Moon, signifying the thing inquired about would still be effective.]