Scottish astrologer Maurice Wemyss (1892-1973) is best known for his research into the meanings of zodiacal degrees in his five-volume Wheel of Life or Scientific Astrology.¹ In fact, his whole approach to astrological interpretation is based on these degree significations and how they are “blended” together by the planets and their aspects (1: p.182). On a basic level, this blending occurs between two degrees in the chart when the planetary ruler of one occupies the other or is in close aspect to it or if the rulers of both degrees are closely aspecting each other. As an example, 26° Aries (an exploratory degree) and 7° Gemini (a degree of writing) may be blended if (1) Mars is at or aspects 7° Gemini, (2) Mercury is at or aspects 26° Aries or (3) if Mars and Mercury aspect one another. In the third instance, the influence of the signs ruled by Mars and Mercury may also be blended generally.
As well as his research into individual degrees, Wemyss also proposed other significant changes to the more ‘traditional’ approaches to astrology, including his understanding of zodiacal signs, his view of the rulership schema and his use of hypothetical planets.
For Wemyss, zodiacal signs are essentially interpreted as axes, in which a sign is grouped with the one opposite it: Aries-Libra, Taurus-Scorpio, Gemini-Sagittarius, Cancer-Capricorn, Leo-Aquarius and Virgo-Pisces. The meanings of these axes are derived through their association with what Wemyss names the “six fundamental functions” and the “six root instincts” (1: p. 26).
- Aries-Libra. Fundamental function: activity. Root instinct: food obtaining.
- Taurus-Scorpio. Fundamental function: desire. Root instinct: reproductive.
- Gemini-Sagittarius. Fundamental function: sensation and later perception. Root instinct: imitative.
- Cancer-Capricorn. Fundamental function: memory. Root instinct: precautionary.
- Leo-Aquarius. Fundamental function: association of ideas. Root instinct: communicative.
- Virgo-Pisces. Fundamental function: imagination. Root instinct: herd.
These functions and instincts form the base level of signification for the axes with individual degrees within the signs acting as particular instantiations of these concepts. For example, in the Taurus-Scorpio group, we find touch (4°), hunger and thirst (9°), sex (10°), magnetism (13°), bartering (14°), uniqueness (21°) and bargaining (23°) as some of the individual manifestations of the over-arching ideas contained within “desire” and the “reproductive instinct”.
Wemyss also reimagines the fourfold elemental structure of the zodiac and gives the following sixfold division instead: electric (Aries-Libra), crystalline (Taurus-Scorpio), energy (Gemini-Sagittarius), solid (Cancer-Capricorn), gaseous (Leo-Aquarius), liquid (Virgo-Pisces).
Planetary Signification and Rulership Schema
Wemyss understands rulership to be an issue of correspondence (1: p. 8), such that the signs and planets that rule them “correspond” in meaning. His rulership schema is therefore not that of traditional astrology; instead, he assigns planets to signs based on his own perception of their shared attributes. Wemyss’ system is as follows (1: p. 9):
- Aries: Mars
- Taurus: Venus
- Gemini: Mercury
- Cancer: Wemyss-Pluto²
- Leo: Hercules
- Virgo: Dido (and Lowell-Pluto)³
- Libra: Neptune
- Scorpio: Uranus
- Sagittarius: Jason
- Capricorn: Saturn
- Aquarius: Jupiter
- Pisces: Asteroids
Immediately of note is the presence of Wemyss’ four hypotheticals (Jason, Dido, Hercules, Wemyss-Pluto), the absence of the sun or moon as rulers and Jupiter’s association with Aquarius (the only one of the five classical planets displaced from any sign it rules in the traditional schema).
The first of these will be discussed more below; as for the second, Wemyss argues that the lights (sun and moon) “bring out strongly the influence of the signs in which they are placed” (1: p. 8) because they “embrace in themselves the meaning of all twelve signs of the zodiac” just as white light “contains all the colours of the rainbow” (3: p. 145). Finally, since Wemyss views Aquarius as a “linguistic” sign given over to “facile and tactful speech” (3: p. 132) as well as generosity and frankness, he assigns Jupiter to it rather than the “solitary, cautious [and] cold” Saturn (3: p. 147).
As Wemyss’ schema is one of affinity, he claims that the planets ruling these signs also derive their meanings from the fundamental functions and root instincts mentioned earlier. Thus, for example, Mars and Neptune (as rulers of Aries and Libra) represent the qualities of the Aries-Libra group: ego, dynamism, intensity, hope, struggle, self-assertion, curiosity and everything else which springs from the “food obtaining instinct” and the “fundamental function of activity”.
The Hypothetical Planets
Through extended observation of the progressed moon over a certain period in various nativities, Wemyss noted that similar events were occurring in the lives of the natives when particular sets of degrees were activated by the progressed moon. He furthered that these sensitive points appeared to move around the zodiac when different time periods were studied, leading to him to conclude that they must be occupied by planets as-of-yet undiscovered (3: p. 145). It is worth noting that this methodology and conclusion (i.e. that of astrologically relevant undiscovered planets) is not unique and other astrologers in the first half of the twentieth century did similar work (most notably Alfred Witte and Friedrich Sieggrün of the Hamburg School of Astrology).
In volume three of Wheel of Life, Wemyss provides heliocentric ephemerides for three out of his four hypothetical planets (Jason, Hercules and Wemyss-Pluto). He does, however, give a word of caution alongside his tables, writing that “neither precision nor absolute reliability is claimed for the positions and rates of motion given” (3: pp. 147-148) since these rates of motion may vary due to orbital eccentricity. It is clear from Wemyss’ ephemerides that a circular orbit has been assumed (zero eccentricity) and that equinoctial precession is not accounted for.
In the 2000-2024 ephemeris presented later, I have given the geocentric longitudes adjusted for precession while assuming an epoch of 1st January 1900.⁴ For instance, the heliocentric position of Hercules on 1st January 1900 is 18° Cancer in Wemyss’ tables; at a rate of 55° every century, Hercules’ heliocentric position on 1st January 2000 should be around 13° Virgo. Taking precession into account and converting to a geocentric longitude, the ephemeris below gives 15° Virgo 04′ as its position. Since Wemyss himself does not claim “absolute reliability”, allowing 2°-3° grace seems appropriate.
Jason, alongside Mercury, embodies the qualities of the Gemini-Sagittarius group: sensation, perception and imitation. Wemyss gives its orbital period as 45 years, placing its position between the orbits of Saturn and Uranus (3: p. 149).
Besides this general influence, Wemyss adds that Jason’s position has a “striking” correspondence with outbreaks of bubonic plague epidemics and that during periods of maximum sun spot activity, its heliocentric position is in affliction with 10°-20° of the cardinal signs (in the sidereal zodiac) (3: p. 151).
As the ruler of Virgo, Dido bears the significations of the imaginative function and the herd instinct, alongside derivative concepts such as intuition, humility, plurality, altruism, patriotism, similarity, obedience and self-abasement (all particular degree manifestations of the Virgo-Pisces group).
Wemyss expresses doubt about the position of Dido and does not give an ephemeris for it, only stating that there was “in 1892 a significant point in Cancer or Capricorn 1½ or positions in affliction with them” (3:153). The rate of motion is approximated to 1° a year, giving a 360-year orbital period.
In Wemyss’ scheme, Hercules finds affinity with the Leo-Aquarius axis. Its meanings therefore emerge from the communicative root instinct and embrace concepts such as friendship, courtesy, philosophy, idealism, eminence, sympathy and hospitality. Wemyss gives examples of its influence in the charts of engineers, musicians and novelists (3: p. 154). Its orbit is approximately 654 years.
Wemyss’ Pluto is the hypothetical ruler of Cancer. Its orbit is approximately 1366 years. As a ruler of the Cancer-Capricorn axis, its function lies in memory and is borne from the precautionary instinct. Like Saturn, the other ruler of this axis, Wemyss-Pluto is a storehouse of the past which can be used to construct a more productive future. The Cancer-Capricorn axis is typified by concepts such as possession, discipline, habit, organisation, sorrow, severity, duty, honesty, limitation, doubt, and accumulation of resources.
The 2000-2024 Ephemeris
¹All references to Wheel of Life in the text are given in brackets as (volume: page).
²Wemyss named his hypothetical planet Pluto before the discovery of (Lowell-)Pluto in 1930, as such “Wemyss-Pluto” is used to distinguish it from the dwarf planet we know today.
³After (Lowell-)Pluto was discovered in 1930, Wemyss claimed that it had co-rulership of Virgo with Dido.
⁴Although positions for Jason and Wemyss-Pluto were first published in the journal Modern Astrology in 1922, for simplicity I have taken 1st January 1900 as the epoch for three of the Wemyss hypotheticals save Dido, whose epoch I have taken as 1892 as per Wheel of Life 3: p. 153. Due to Wemyss’ own doubt about Dido’s position, I have placed it last in the order of planets and assumed its 1892 position was in Cancer for sake of ease.
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