That 19°49′ Aquarius Ascendant

Much of what Sibly wrote seems archaic by today’s standards, and much of the material is obsolete.  This impairs somewhat our present-day reading of the text, but one clue emerged a few months ago.

First, the engraving:

Sibly's 1804 engraving showing the delivery of an astrology chart to George Washington
Sibly's engraving that appears in "An Illustration of the Celestial Science of Astrology"

The chart, in square format common to the day, lists the seven classic planets, the lunar node, uses Placidus houses, and even has a date (July 4 1776) and time (10:10 PM) for us.  Simple enough on the surface, but looking closer, we see that the elements of time and place do not match, and the chart reveals itself as a cryptogram.


The chart is drawn for the latitude of London, but the planets are calculated for Noon at Philadelphia, which would equal 5 PM at London, which is not the 10:10 PM time, nor the time of that day that the chart’s ascendant of “19°49′ Aquarius” is rising.

What gives?  Is he just sloppy?  Or, is he trying to do the work of four charts in one?  Or maybe more?  Consider that Sibly is one of the few astrologers from the milieu of the late 18th Century that saw the events from the locale of England and left their thoughts on paper.  He saw England as the center of the political universe, and perhaps it was at that time.  He states his bias on page 1049, and believes Englad gave birth to the United States, and therefore his locale of choice is London.

Then, Sibly goes through a brief explanation of “ingress” charts for the spring equinox and summer solstice that preceeded the Declaration of Independence – a technique that is still used in contemporary astrology.  He them employs (on page 1053) an obsolete technique for progressing the ingress charts at the rate of a day for every week.  The reason he gives for using this particular rate of progression is that the two significators of the chart – Mars and Saturn – are in “common signs, which denote weeks.”

In other words, becuase July 4, 1776, fell 14 days after the summer solstice, the progressed angles of the solstice chart would notch up two days of motion.  The ascendant of the summer solstice over London in that year, according to Sibly’s calculations, is 16°19′ Aquarius.  The time of this event is 10:40 PM LMT, June 20, 1776, London.  Thus, 10:40 PM LMT of June 22 yields an ascendant of 19°49′ Aquarius, and the angles of the chart in the engraving.

It is understandable that this day-for-a-week technique had fallen under the radar of modern astrologers, but hopefully this will put to rest one confusing aspect of the so-called “Sibly Chart.”

Now that we know where it comes from, can we assume that it is highly unlikely Sibly was telling us that the actual timing of the signing of the Declaration of Independence had anything to do with 19°49′ Aquarius on the ascendant at London or Philadelphia.


Could it be that astrologers in Phili were using the same technique as Sibly, and timing events with this technique?

There is some historical evidence of consequence for this time of day on the 4th being important to the document, but this raises a larger question of the timing of events in July of 1776.  July 4th was really not considered “independence day” until some time after the fact, but we’ll get to much of that in posts to come.

– Ed K

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