medieval astrology

Understanding Hyleg and Alcochoden in Medieval Astrology

Medieval astrology, a rich system of celestial analysis, offers fascinating insights into the human experience, including the concept of the hyleg and alcochoden, which were used to determine lifespan. 

When I was writing ALTERED DESTINY, I decided to incorporate some terminology from my medieval astrology research (and hobby).  In the novel, Veronica is the reincarnation of a thousand-year-old witch. She has the ability to remember her entire future in this incarnation…except that someone has shifted the timelines and, in this parallel universe,  she has to depend on her unique abilities as an astrologer. 

Medieval astrology offers a rich tapestry of techniques and concepts that have fascinated astrologers for centuries. Among these, the terms hyleg and alcochoden stand out, particularly in the context of determining a person’s lifespan. In the case of my novel, Veronica’s 90-year lifespan has been reduced to half in this parallel universe, so she relies on this medieval method to uncover the truth of her current reality.  

Background of Medieval Astrology

Medieval astrology, flourishing from the 5th to the 15th centuries, draws heavily from earlier Hellenistic and Islamic practices and was significantly influenced by prominent figures such as Ptolemy, Al-Biruni, and Guido Bonatti. These astrologers contributed to a detailed system of celestial analysis, focusing on predicting various aspects of human life, including longevity. The concepts of hyleg and alcochoden are central to this predictive framework, reflecting a time when astrology was deeply interwoven with the understanding of fate and destiny.

The Concept of the Hyleg

In medieval astrology, the hyleg is a critical component in the natal chart, representing the vital life force of an individual. Identifying the hyleg is the first step in the process of determining lifespan and is derived from key points or planets in the chart, each with specific criteria for selection:

  • Sun: Often considered the Hyleg in daytime charts.
  • Moon: Typically used in nighttime charts.
  • Ascendant: The rising sign at the time of birth. 

The choice of hyleg depends on its placement and condition in the chart. For example, if the Sun is above the horizon and in a strong position, the astrologer may choose it as the hyleg. Similarly, the Moon or Ascendant could serve this role if they meet the necessary criteria. Identifying the hyleg is a nuanced process that requires a deep understanding of the chart’s dynamics.

The Role of the Alcochoden

Once the astrologer identifies the hyleg, the next step is to determine the alcochoden, which represents the querent’s lifespan. The alcochoden is not simply the planet with the most dignities over the hyleg, but rather a complex assessment of several factors. These factors include:

  • Rulership: The planet ruling the sign the hyleg is in.
  • Exaltation: A planet strongly placed in its exaltation sign.
  • Triplicity: Planets that rule the triplicity (element) of the hyleg’s sign.
  • Term: Planets ruling the specific degree range the hyleg occupies.
  • Face: Planets ruling the decan (10-degree segment) of the hyleg’s sign.
  • Placement: The alcochoden’s position in the chart, including its house placement and aspects to other planets.
  • Strength: The overall strength of the alcochoden, considering its dignities, aspects, and other factors.

The planet that exhibits the strongest combination of these factors in relation to the hyleg is designated as the alcochoden. This planet then provides the basic number of years for the individual’s lifespan. However, it is important to note that the lifespan assigned to each planet is not a fixed rule and can vary depending on the specific astrological tradition and the individual astrologer’s interpretation. The alcochoden’s position, strength, and aspects to other planets can further clarify or amplify this base lifespan.

Identifying the alcochoden involves a detailed examination of the natal chart, ensuring that the chosen planet truly has the most dignities over the hyleg and is well-placed to perform its function. This process requires a blend of technical skill and interpretive insight,  reflecting the complexity and depth of medieval astrological practice.

Will I give you an example from my own life?  No.  For my own reasons.  Using this process to determine a death date is currently considered either too personal or too unethical, though it was popular in medieval times when determining a ruler’s lifespan was of interest to national security. I am, however, perfectly happy to allow my alter ego in my novel to use such obscure methods to calculate her life span in each parallel universe she finds herself in.

Veronica in the Witch Out of Time series uses astrology to determine which time line she’s trapped in–and hopefully how to get back to the correct one. Read more…


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *