The Mansions of the Moon

The Lunar Zodiac

Everyone knows the zodiac that consists of the twelve signs, from Aries to Pisces. That zodiac is strongly associated with the Sun. The Sun completes its journey around the sky in twelve months, and so there are twelve signs, each of them covering 30°, or 1/12 part of the ecliptic.

There also exists another zodiac, the lunar one. Traditionally, it was considered to be more important than the solar zodiac as the Moon is much closer to the Earth than the Sun, and so is much stronger connected to the events that take place on the Earth.

The Moon completes the full circle against the stars in about 27.322 days (so called sidereal lunar month), and in every school of traditional astrology, be it Indian, Chinese, Arabic or European, exists (or existed) a division of the sky in a number of sections corresponding to the Moon's one day journey. Some systems (like the contemporary Hindu astrology) use 27 divisions, others prefer 28. (In fact, in Hindu astrology — Jyotish — there is an alternative scheme with 28 divisions.)

We are going to concentrate on the Western astrological tradition which was strongly influenced by Arabic astrology and so uses the system of 28 divisions called Lunar Mansions (or the Mansions of the Moon, if you prefer).

Dividing 360 degrees of the Moon's path around the sky into 28 sections, we get 12.857 degrees, or 12 degrees, 51 minutes, and 26 seconds of arc, for the size of each Lunar Mansion. Since the solar zodiac is so well established, the position of the mansions in the sky is customarily expressed in signs and degrees of the solar zodiac. For example, the third of the mansions, Al-Thurayya, extends, approximately, from 25° 43' of Aries to 8° 34' of Taurus.

You will notice that lunar mansions have arabic names, and different sources offer different variations of these names. I am going to use the names from the translation of Picatrix by John Michael Greer and Christopher Warnock (see below for the details of the sources of information), but for practical purposes it might be easier to simply refer to the mansions by number.

How to Know When the Moon is in a Particular Mansion?

The easiest way is to use the Astrological Moon Calendar at Lunarium. It shows the beginning of each mansion, i.e. the moment when the Moon enters it, next to a little square with the number of the mansion. Here is an example:

An example of how the Mansions of the Moon are displayed in the Astrological Moon Calendar

You can see that on the 15th day of the month, the 13th lunar mansion, shown as a rounded square with the number 13 in it, starts at 15:49. On the next day, the 14th lunar mansion starts at 17:48.

I am also planning to add the mansions of the Moon to the iLuna mobile app. The iPhone version will receive the upgrade quite soon, the Android version — a little bit later.

How the Mansions of the Moon Can Be Used?

Different mansions are appropriate for different purposes. Traditionally, they were frequently used for talismanic magic, and one of the most ancient sources of information available to us, Picatrix, concentrates exactly on this use of the Mansions.

The Mansions of the Moon were also used for selecting the most appropriate day for various activities, which is demonstrated by the Ashmole 396 medieval manuscript.

As quotations from The Mansions of the Moon book by Christopher Warnock will demonstrate, the Mansions can also be used when answering horary questions.

Finally, there is no reason why we shouldn't use the Mansions of the Moon in natal astrology, and both Warnock and Volguine support this idea. The traditional approach would be to consider the Mansion in which the person's natal Moon is, and then make conclusions regarding the character and the destiny of the person. However, Volguine argues that it might make sense to also consider the position of other important planets in the Mansions, and I do find that the Mansion of the natal Sun can be very descriptive.

The Sources of Information About the Mansions of the Moon

The earliest sources of information about the Mansions of the Moon are The Book of Instruction in the Elements of the Art of Astrology by Al-Biruni and Picatrix.

The book by Al-Biruni, written around 1000 CE, was defined by its translator R. Ramsay Wright as a primer of 11th century science. Among many other things, it lists the 28 Mansions of the Moon and explains which stars belong to each of them. However, Al-Biruni doesn’t offer any interpretations for the Mansions.

Picatrix, according to its translator Christopher Warnock, is an encyclopaedic Arabic compilation made of many earlier magical and astrological texts. It was originally composed around the same time as Al-Biruni’s book (while translated into Latin in 1256 CE), and many other sources of information on the Mansions of the Moon make use of Picatrix in one or another way.

Working on this compilation, I used more contemporary sources of information listed below.

  1. Christopher Warnock, The Mansions of the Moon. A Lunar Zodiac for Astrology & Magic, Renaissance Astrology, 2010. This is probably the most recent of the systematic works of the Mansions of the Moon. It brings together many sources and ideas, and it also contains images for the Mansions created by Nigel Jackson on the basis of descriptions given in Picatrix. Christopher Warnock also offers a substantial section of his website devoted to the Mansions of the Moon.
  2. Alexandre Volguine, Lunar Astrology, ASI Publishers Inc., 1974. This book is predominantly about the Mansions of the Moon, but it also offers a few other ideas related to the Moon. Volguine brings together Chinese, Hebrew, Indian and Arabic sources to provide a comprehensive, although sometimes contradictory, descriptions of the Mansions.
  3. Henry Cornelius Agrippa of Nettesheim, Three Books of Occult Philosophy, Llewellyn Publications, 2013. This fundamental astrological and magical work was written in the 16th century. Two sections are devoted in this book to the Mansions of the Moon. The first section gives their descriptions, the second explains how they are used in magic.
  4. Ashmole 396 Manuscript is a medieval manuscript from the collection of Elias Ashmole, a celebrated English antiquary, politician and astrologer who lived in the 17th century. I used the version of the text of this manuscript offered in the Appendix E of The Mansions of the Moon book by Christopher Warnock.

On the following pages, you will find my compilations for each Mansion. When working on them, I attempted to bring forward those topics that are mentioned in more than one source and to create concise descriptions for the Mansions that could be used in the Astrological Moon Calendar and iLuna mobile app. I left aside most of the magical instructions as they do not match the purposes of this particular compilation.

I also list some quotations from the sources listed above — those that I believe are the most important or interesting. If you want to have more information, you can always use the sources.

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