Arabic Parts

Arabic Parts or Lots

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The Sociological and Historical Significance of Lots

Introduction/History | Sociology | Examples | Research Problems | Sources

Introduction & Brief History

The formulae commonly referred to as Lots in astrological parlance are also known as Arabic Parts due to the first popular collection of these formulae from Al-Biruni (b.973 AD). This is widely considered to be a misnomer, since selected formulae and the concept behind the lots were known to have existed at the time of Ptolemy, and as far back as 300 BC and before. The concept is considered to have been developed by the Chaldeans, expanded upon by the Greeks, and only then after an already substantial history being taken up by the medieval Arabs.

The most significant historical collections of formulae which have come down to us were those from:

Sociological Significance

What makes study of the lots most rewarding for me, personally, is their function as a symbolic language showing a glimpse into the culture and times in which the specific formula was created. The very existence of a formula shows that it was considered a fundamental and essential issue for the times in which it was being used. The structure of the formula describes the assumptions and perceptions related to the issue. I would like to give a few examples to demonstrate this concept.


Example One: Parts of Marriage


  1. Marriage and Partners: Asc + 7th Cusp - Venus
  2. Marriage & Love(I), Asc + Jupiter - Venus (most used)
  3. Marriage & Love(II), Asc + Venus - Jupiter
  4. Marriage, Fraudulent (and conditions fascilitating it), Asc + Venus - Saturn
  5. Marriage of Men(I), Asc + Venus - Saturn (reverse) (most used)
  6. Marriage of Men(II), Asc + Venus - Sun
  7. Marriage of Women, Asc + Saturn - Venus (reverse)
  8. Marriage of Women(II), Asc + Mars - Moon

All formulae use the structure of a personal point, a significator, and a trigger planet. The personal point is usually the Ascendent, since it is the most unique and powerful personal point in an individual's chart. The significator would be the planet or point which symbolically bears most strongly on the issue. The triggering planet or point would be that which symbolically represents the type of behavior or action under discussion. For example, in the first formula above, the Asc represents the person, Venus is love, and the 7th house cusp shows partnerships. Another way of referring to the components of the formula is that given by Robert Granite. "So it is with all the Fortunes: 1) the beginning of the question; 2) the end of the question; and 3) the casting off point, being the celestial body which interferes with the completion." (pg. 4) In his manner of explanation, the same formula would read with the Ascendent again as the individual, the 7th cusp as that which draws the individual toward partnership, and Venus as that which triggers someone toward marriage.

All the formulae above are consided ancient formula, and I have not had the opportunity to clarify the specific times that each was first implemented. For this type of interpretation, it is necessary to also be familiar with the accepted symbolism of the various planets at the time in question. I will not devote time to this here, assuming that either the reader already has a basis in astrological symbolism, at least the very rudiments which were commonly expressed in our literary heritage from the Greek myths through Shakespearean references and beyond.

Now, for our examples. Note that there are different formulae for men and women. The two formulae for men indicate very different reasons for the marriage. The first formula (#5) would indicate a marriage of duty and obligation, bringing restriction to love. The second formula (#6) shows the individual's personality and will being expressed through love. It is quite interesting that formula #5 for men's marriage (marriage through duty) is the same as that used for fraudulent marriage. #6 has taken on quite a different connotation in contemporary times, and is now used to indicate love and entertainment (Goldstein-Jacobson, The Way of Astrology, 1967), with no overtones of marriage at all. This is an interesting example of the symbolism remaining the same or similar, but the cultural context changing.

Please note that the first of the two formulae for women (#7) is the reverse of #5 for men. This shows the woman accepting restriction and duty because of love. Saturn also traditionally represented an older man, while Mars represented the young adult male, as well as sexuality. The second formula for women's marriage (#8) uses Mars. So either the woman would be activating her sexuality (which was only acceptable within marriage) or approaching a young man through her emotions and maternal nature.

The formulae for Love and Marriage are of relatively recent origin -- the first time I saw them was in publications from the 1980s. The two formulae are basically the same, except they can't seem to agree on which is the significator and which is the trigger. Again, the reason for each comes down to the symbolic language involved. Jupiter can be read in this context as either legalization or luck. Combined with Venus, it would either be the legalization of love (#2), or lucky in love (#3).

Example Two: Part of Cancer

This brief example demonstrates the evolution of a critical concept within a culture. This lot refers to the disease of cancer and was conceived and researched by Emylu Landers Hughes, with it being accepted into the wider astrological community with the publication of Ms. Hughes' book on marriage charts (see Sources) in 1986. The disease "Cancer" only was referred to by that name in this century, and could not have had a formula prior to that time. Ms. Hughes gave her reasoning for the formula (Asc + Neptune - Jupiter) as being that Jupiter controls the concepts of expansion and growth (ie. cell growth) and Neptune modifies Juptier's activity to show the confusion of the growth. Note that the reversed formula (Asc + Jupiter - Neptune) is used for depression (contemporary), "behest" / speculation / suicide (all traditional). There is no historical or traditional use for the formula for cancer.

Problems With This Type of Research

To examine a lot in its historical context, it is necessary, first, to determine at what point in time a given formula first appeared and became part of common usage. This can be done by referring back to the various compiled lists, their date of publication, and isolating the first time a formula appeared, or the first time a formula was used in reference to a particular issue.

Currently, this is a very difficult task, since most of the publications on lots are out of print, or available only in the original language. The contemporary publications do not agree with each other. Many of the publications include errors from copyist along the way, and it is not always clear what the actual formula was, or if it was reversed for a night birth. That is part of the reason for a compiled list such as the one on these pages. Hopefully, as more people use these pages, persons with access to resources other than the ones cited here will contribute clarifications. This would be greatly appreciated.


Granite, Robert Hurzt Granite. The Fortunes of Astrology: A New Complete Treatment of the Arabic Parts. San Diego, CA: ACS Publications, 1980.

Hughes, Emylu Lander Hughes. A Book of Marriage Charts. Tempe, Arizona: American Federation of Astrologers, 1986.

Lewis, James R. The Astrology Encyclopedia. Detroit: Visible Ink, 1994.

Louis, Anthony. Horary Astrology: The History and Practice of Divination. St. Paul: Llewellyn, 1991.

Zoller, Robert. Lost Key to Prediction. New York: Inner Traditions, 1980.

Zoller, Robert. Tools & Techniques of the Medieval Astrologers. Published privately by the author, 1981.

For additional resources, please refer to the Sources page. Thank you.

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Last modified August 23, 1997.
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