The relatively recent rediscovery of Hellenistic astrology has led to a resurgence in the use of the Lot of Spirit by astrologers, but up until now there has been no commonly agreed upon glyph or symbol to use in order to represent this point in astrological charts or computer programs.
I would like to rectify this situation by proposing a specific design for the symbol that should be used to represent the Lot of Spirit. I have included an image of the symbol that I’m proposing to the left of this paragraph.
The symbol is actually pretty simple. It is just a circle with a vertical line through it, with the line extending just a bit outside of the circumference of the circle. This is actually the sans-serif, capitalized version of the Greek letter ϕ / phi (usually pronounced as “fee”), and essentially what I’m proposing here is adopting this variant of the Greek letter phi as the symbol for the Lot of Spirit.
In Defense of the Proposed Glyph
This is actually something I’ve been thinking about off and on for a few years, and at this point I think that I can make a pretty good case for adopting this version of the Greek letter phi as the glyph for the Lot of Spirit. Here are some of the main points of my argument:
1) Whatever glyph is adopted, it should be somewhat simple, and ideally it would be nice if it was easy to draw by hand. Even if astrologers don’t normally calculate charts by hand anymore, I view the simplicity of the proposed glyph to be one the things that it has going in its favor.
2) The only other lot that has an established glyph at this point is the Lot of Fortune, and the most commonly used glyph for it is a circle with an X through the middle of it (pictured to the right). One of the things that my proposed glyph for the Lot of Spirit has going for it is that it has stylistic similarities with the Lot of Fortune, while at the same time being distinct enough that it is easy to tell them apart. I think that this is useful because then the glyphs used for both share something in common, and thus they can both be easily identified as lots.
3) The Greek letter phi is the first letter of the Greek word phos, which means “light”. As I pointed out a few years ago in my paper on the seven Hermetic lots, whoever first came up with the calculations for the Lot of Fortune and the Lot of Spirit seems to have wanted to associate the Spirit with the concept of light, and Fortune with the concept of darkness. This is probably due to different Platonic and Hermetic associations between the body and darkness, versus the spirit or mind and light. These concepts are embedded in the calculations that each lot is predicated on, and so it would seem fitting to include this subtle reference to that meaning in the glyph for the Lot of Spirit.
4) Since phi is already a symbol that is integrated into Unicode and most keyboard layouts, it should be relatively easy to use it or integrate it into astrology software programs. Even in instances when the glyph has not been integrated into the astrology font that software programmers are using, they could simply use the Unicode version of the Greek letter phi, and that would be a close enough approximation to the glyph.
5) Modern astrologers such as Alan Oken often interpret the design of the astrological glyphs as having certain symbolic meaning based on the shapes they are composed of. Since some of the astrological glyphs were introduced from the alchemical tradition in the Middle Ages, there is probably something to be said for this approach. From a symbolic perspective I would give this interpretation of the glyph that I’m proposing: The circle in the middle represents the spirit, or the soul. The vertical line through the middle represents upwards or downwards movement, which could be taken to refer to the ascent and descent of the soul through the planetary spheres, which a common motif in Hellenistic and Roman philosophical and spiritual traditions.
6) I realized after I started thinking about adopting this symbol for the Lot of Spirit that it already had a bit of history behind it, because it was already used as a placeholder in some of the early Project Hindsight translations to represent the Lot of Spirit. It was used in Schmidt and Hand’s translation of book 2, part 1 of Valens’ Anthology in 1994, although they used the serif version of the letter phi, and they didn’t explain their reasons for using this letter. I asked Hand about this recently and he said that he couldn’t recall whether there was a specific reason why they used that symbol for spirit, although he said that he has continued to use it since then. As I researched this more I remembered that another couple of astrologers named Antoine Garth and Claire-France Perez, who have done some work on Valens’ lots, followed Schmidt and Hand in using phi as the symbol for the Lot of Spirit. So, evidently there is already a bit of a tradition behind this symbol over the past 20 years, although the difference here is that I’m trying to be a bit more deliberate in making a specific case for why I think that the letter phi should be used, and I’m outlining the specific parameters of the symbol for others to adopt.
7) Evidently ϕ is often used to represent the golden ratio in mathematical texts, as well as a number of other things. Given Schmidt’s background in mathematics, I wondered if this wasn’t a contributing factor in their using the letter for spirit. I tend to think that they were probably just using it as a placeholder at that point though, since their early translations were supposed to be preliminary, and also since phi is often used in philosophical texts to represent some generic act.
8) There are two or three other potential versions of the Lot of Spirit glyph that have shown up in isolated places, although none of these have ever been widely adopted, and I would argue that the symbol I’m proposing is more appropriate for the reasons outlined above. One of the symbols is a circle with two wavy lines below it, which was in a 5th century horoscope that is discussed in an article by Deborah Houlding. Elsewhere, Rob Hand mentioned to me that the 16th century astrologer Johannes Schoener has a glyph for the Lot of Spirit in his text that “looks like the Part of Fortune but with the outer circle partly missing on the right-hand side.” Hand notes that he hasn’t seen this symbol used anywhere else. Finally, more recently a set of glyphs for all seven Hermetic lots was introduced by Curtis Manwaring as part of his Delphic Oracle software program, and each lot has the glyph for each planet in the middle, with a circle and a cross in the middle in the background. Manwaring’s glyph for the Lot of Spirit then is the symbol for the Sun with a circle and a cross in the background. I actually like this set of glyphs to a certain extent, and it is true that the Hellenistic astrologers seem to have associated each of the Hermetic lots with each of the seven planets. I think that the phi glyph that I’m proposing would be a better alternative for Spirit though because it is more in keeping with the more widely used glyph for the Lot of Fortune that most astrologers use today, which was depicted above. Additionally, the phi glyph places the emphasis of the lot less on the Sun and instead more on the concept of light in general, which I think is more in keeping with the rationale underlying the Lot of Spirit, if one reverses the calculation for day and night charts.
There are probably some additional arguments that could be made, but those are really the core ones that I wanted to make for the purpose of this post. I look forward to hearing what people think.