Abu ‘Ali al-Khayyat (c 770-835 CE) was a student of Mâshâ allâh. Of his ten known works, only two have survived. Judgments of Nativities has not previously been translated into any modern language. Al-Khayyat was familiar with Dorotheus of Sidon (c 100 CE), and emulates him with his use of triplicity rulers, parts, and house rulers. Al-Khayyat uses Hellenic astrological techniques with Arabic modifications and developments, and was in the mainstream for his time. The book’s translator, James Hershel Holden, presents a very useful introduction with enough history to put the book in context with other ancient materials.

This is not a beginner’s book; the author assumed that readers knew the basics. He doesn’t define terms or offer formulas for Parts in the text. Fortunately, the translator fills gaps in the footnotes. Contents include an orderly presentation of topics by house order. The first few chapters center on the first house – the person’s upbringing, the Hyleg and determining the length of life, the Alcochoden, and tips on judging the person’s quality of mind. The author moves onto methods for evaluating second house property, prosperity and income. He gives many means for assessing the condition and relationships with a person’s parents, siblings, and children, and proceeds through the rest of the houses (although the 8th house is missing). Al-Khayyat suggests using specific Parts for supplemental analysis of each house’s topic, to confirm the testimony of the other planets involved with that house. Descriptions of outcomes run from excellent to middling to dismal, depending on the condition of the relevant planets. Here’s where triplicity rulers and house rulers show their stuff. 

Chapters 39 through 45 are a cook-book describing the condition of planets in signs and houses. Following this are chapters on the Lord of the Hour, the Nodes, and things to look for with the Part of Fortune. For example, on pp 106-107, the author writes that if the Part of Fortune is in the 5th house, “it is good for the native to act in common with his children, to tear off and put on clothes, to write letters, to send couriers, to stage banquets and get-togethers, to seek out pleasure and love affairs, to conduct business involving the goods of children, or those things which pertain to children or grandchildren.” In modern people’s terms, the individual will probably have luck in starting a business with a son or daughter, may do well at modeling clothing, party-planning or wedding planning, and will be lucky in love. Possibly the individual would be welcomed at nudist colonies; I’m not entirely sure about that bit about the clothing going off and on. The modern reader has to shift the antique meanings into something more modern. 

Al-Khayyat reminds the reader that any single planet or placement has to be considered in context with all of the others. The meanings he gives for placements are the extremes of what might be true if other indicators confirm it.

Holden supplies two appendices. The first gives notes on the twelve sample charts used by the author, some of which were borrowed from Dorotheus of Sidon. Holden suggests improvements on the data offered by David Pingree (the translator of Dorotheus), and has charts side-by-side for comparison. The second appendix is Mâshâ allâh’s Book of Nativities. There are only seven pages, so some of the text must be missing. There is a glossary of terms and bibliography at the end of the book

The book is well formatted and employs footnotes rather than an annoying collection of endnotes. There are a few problems with typos. Otherwise, another welcome translation of an ancient Arabic text that very few have had access to for over a thousand years. Recommended for astrologers with some previous experience in reading ancient Hellenic and Arabic texts.

~review by Elizabeth Hazel

Author: Abu ‘Ali al-Khayyat; translation by James Hershel Holden
American Federation of Astrologers, 2008

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