The process of teasing out the meanings of the hermetic Lots is not a simple task. It requires technical knowledge of astrology, yes, but also inquiries into the cultural context of the symbolism. The search must go beyond WHAT a particular Lot means, into the realm of WHY.
The planetary Lot most demanding of answers to the question of why, is the Lot of Mercury. The Lot of Mercury is said to signify enemies, hatred, and contentions. Sounds a bit extreme, right? At most we tend to think of Mercury as being an occasional pain in the ass, so why is the Lot of Mercury described so severely?
The Lot of Mercury is known as the Lot of Necessity which is translated from the original Greek, Ananke. We all know what the word Necessity means so the inquiry usually stops there. But is that the same thing as Ananke?
Ananke to the Greeks wasn't just the word necessity as we know it today. Ananke is the personification of necessity. She is the mother of the Fates, the moirai, and is said to even have power over the gods themselves. We're talking about an entity with their own myths. Suffice it to say that the concept of Necessity being used here is more complex than any definition you may find in a dictionary.
Ananke in Myth
(image of Ananke seated on a throne holding a spindle above the three fates)
Ananke is generally portrayed as a severe and punishing figure in charge of Fate. One such example is in the story of Agamemnon and Iphigenia.
The story goes that Agamemnon angered the goddess Artemis by killing a sacred deer. This resulted in Artemis stopping the wind, preventing his soldiers from sailing to Troy, until Agamemnon sacrifices his daughter Iphigenia.
Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 217 ff (trans. Weir Smyth) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
"He [Agamemnon] donned the yoke of Necessity (anankê), with veering of mind [agreed to sacrifice his daughter Iphigeneia to appease the goddess Artemis so she would allow the Greek fleet to sail for Troy]." - accessed from theoi.com.
In this quote we see that Agamemnon donning the yoke of Ananke means he accepts the inevitability of Fate. There is nothing he can do in this situation. There are various endings to this story. Sometimes Artemis saves Iphigenia and sometimes she dies. The point is that there are some things in this world that can't be fought against.
Ananke lives in the space between a rock and a hard place. The contention Agamemnon finds himself in is because of something he HAS to do. There is immense pressure to act when it comes to Ananke, which has been likened to servitude.
Agamemnon's options were to either become a traitor by not bringing the soldiers to Troy, or he could kill his daughter. This is a lose-lose situation either way. Necessity is what forces his hand. Even if he had chosen to become a traitor and spare his daughter, that still would have been donning the yoke of Ananke. This isn't a choice Agamemnon wants to make but the yoke of Necessity is the inevitability of having to make it.
The Temple of Ananke and Bia
Now, not to get too pedantic but I want to actually break down the idea of "a rock and a hard place." It means you're in a difficult situation with limited options. How does that usually happen though? Your back is typically already up against the wall, THEN force is applied. That's the rock. The hard place was already there, that's where you started. The rock is the new thing.
For Agamemnon, the war with Troy was the hard place. That's where he started. He had to bring those soldiers to Troy come hell or high water. Then we have, Artmeis, Agamemnon's metaphorical rock, putting the pressure on by refusing to let them leave until he sacrifices his daughter.
Force, as it turns out, was also personified and worshipped alongside Ananke. The Greek geographer Pausanias describes a temple to Ananke and Bia (violent force) in Corinth which, oddly, no one is allowed to enter.
There's a certain amount of violence implied when talking about Ananke. I tend to think of it like a spur to a horse. Force creates inevitability. A horse when spurred must move to avoid more pain. Agamemnon when spurred by Artemis must sacrifice his daughter.
Just like the temple in Corinth implies, Ananke and Bia coexist.
(note: it's not that odd that people weren't allowed to enter the temple. In the same way Ares wasn't really worshipped cause nobody wanted war, these weren't goddesses people wanted to fuck with.)
The Yoke of Ananke
The earlier quote about Agamemnon "donning the yoke of Ananke" is important so I want to break that down a bit more. First, what is a yoke?
A yoke is a wooden contraption that locks two animals in place for a plow or whatever equipment to be attached and pulled. It looks kinda like a portable stockade for two. Like a stockade, it doesn't allow freedom of movement.
Now how do you feel about the phrase "donning the yoke of Ananke?" Make no mistake, this process isn't voluntary. We have Bia to thank for shoving us inside the yoke. Much like what she did to Prometheus.
We've all heard the story of Prometheus stealing fire from the gods and being chained to a rock to have his liver eaten by birds for eternity. It wasn't Zeus who actually put him there though. It was Bia ,the personification of Force, who tied Prometheus to the rock. The inevitability that followed this show of Force was his liver being devoured. Bia locked him in to that fate, literally.
Ananke and the Spindle
Fate, in many cultures, has associations with weaving. Threads are symbolic of people, or lives, and their entanglements in the weave represent our interconnectedness. Thus, the act of weaving, can be seen as a way of manipulating these fates.
The three Fates, the moirai, were the greek deities who spin the thread of fate. What does this have to do with their mother, Ananke, and her associations with spindles? First, let's look at what a spindle is.
A spindle is a wooden rod with tapered ends used to gather thread. It's a sort of axis which holds everything in place. Would fate be fate if you could always wiggle out of it? Ananke acts as a sort of axis of fate, forcing things to happen by restraint.
Why is the Lot of Necessity Generally Negative?
The Lot of Necessity is said to signify enemies, hatreds, and contentions. We've already discussed how Necessity forces action but we haven't really talked about morals yet. Necessity is strong enough to force Agamemnon to kill his own daughter. It's certainly enough to make a person lie, cheat, or steal.
If you were starving to death would you steal a loaf of bread? The force of Necessity can lead to desperation and people will do anything when they're desperate. There's nothing cute about people with their backs against the wall.
What things have been justified out of Necessity? If you asked anyone, ever, why they started a civil war, they'd tell you it was necessary. Much like the planet associated with it, Mercury, the Lot of Necessity is morally ambiguous. Mercury is neither considered a benefic like Venus and Jupiter, nor is it a malefic like Mars and Saturn. It depends on the context and the perspective.
Whatever the reason happens to be, whether it's stealing to avoid starving to death, or fighting against oppression we're talking about actions that are generally seen as negative. We would all generally agree that war and killing people are bad but are there situations where they're necessary?
Necessity and Fortune
The Lot of Necessity is calculated by taking the distance from Mercury to the Lot of Fortune then projecting that distance out from the ascendant. Reverse for night charts.
When talking about Necessity and Fortune in terms of Fate, they overlap but are different. Necessity has to do with necessary or inevitable fate. This is the fate that you can't fight against, like the need to eat. Fortune has to do with the capricious or chance aspect of fate.
Fortune would be like the metaphorical hand you're dealt. Let's say there's a drought in your village and the crops fail. The drought would be the work of Fortuna, the goddess of chance, dealing a shitty hand. Ananke is the force that requires you to make the most of that hand. You still gotta eat, drought or no drought, so what are you going to do? Does donning the yoke of Necessity in this scenario mean selling off prized possessions? Does it mean eating a boot or sawdust?
You've probably heard the phrase "Necessity is the mother of invention." That's because when you have no choice but to do the thing, people can get pretty creative. The first people that figured out how to hunt and how to farm did so because they were fucking hungry. Hell, the first people that figured out they could eat boots and sawdust to survive were pretty fucking inventive.
Fortuna isn't enough to motivate people to action. She isn't the driving force behind making fate move. The axis around which fate revolves is the spindle of Ananke. It's the things we have to do that get us out of bed and moving in the morning, not the coincidence of an unexpected guest.
The Lot of Ananke
The hermetic Lot of Mercury, the Lot of Necessity, and the Lot of Ananke are all different names for the same thing. How then does the goddess Ananke inform our understanding of what this Lot means?
Let's look at a practical example
We'll be looking at the chart of Jane Fonda who has the Lot of Necessity at 3° Libra.
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Jane Fonda has the ruler of her Lot of Necessity, Venus, in the 12th house in Sagittarius.
In an interview for Harper's Bazaar, Jane Fonda talks about her life and career. She tells of how she reluctantly became an actress at 18 because she had to do something to get out of her father's house. Her father was an actor and didn't seem to enjoy it so she initially had no desire to do so. Necessity forced her hand.
The need to eat and have shelter is a major motivator when it comes to getting us to do things. Hunger is the force that makes us all slip into that particular yoke of Ananke. You gotta work to eat and you gotta eat to live. That's why they're called necessities.
Jane Fonda also talks about her political activism and how she wanted to quit acting to become an organizer. She talked to her friend and mentor, Ken Cockrel, and told him she was going to quit the business. He sat her down and told her that they had plenty of organizers but what they didn't have was movie stars.
Again Ananke, Necessity, forced Fonda into a particular role. She became locked in to her fate as an actress by outside forces. It was her own will that determined what kind of actress she became but there was no escaping the yoke.
The Lot of Necessity aka the Lot of Ananke in Jane Fonda's 10th house necessitated her becoming a public figure. Her visibility became a necessity. With the ruler of her Lot of Necessity in the 12th house it's no surprise that she has often been arrested for her activism.
In the interview, she talks about meeting American soldiers who had deserted from the war in Vietnam who opened her eyes to what was really going on. After that she HAD to come back to America and do something about it by joining the anti-war movement. Ananke is involved here too. Fonda technically had a choice of whether or not to get involved but did she really?
Technically Agamemnon could have said "fuck Troy" and left his daughter alone but could he really do that? Sometimes the stakes are too high. Ananke is associated with inevitability. There's no escaping the yoke. The stakes may not be the same for everyone but there are stakes, situations, that compel each of us to act, whether we really want to or not.
Fonda undoubtedly would prefer to chill with her family than be at protests yelling. She protests because she HAS to. Necessity dictates action. If climate change was being adequately addressed then there wouldn't need to be protests about it.
The Lot of Necessity in Your Chart
What aspects of fate have Bia and Ananke forced you into? What roles have you taken up against your will? For example, I have the Lot of Necessity in the 8th house (other people's money) and I became the Treasurer for the Association for Young Astrologers (AYA). I REALLY don't like math. I didn't want the responsibility of doing the taxes and worrying about fucking it up. The reason I agreed to do it however, was because there was no one else to fill the role.
Technically I could have been on the board in another capacity but Necessity forced my hand. There was a role that needed to be filled so I filled it. This is where the contention aspect of the Lot of Necessity comes in. This Lot is talking about things you do because you HAVE to, not because you necessarily WANT to.
Look at the house the Lot is in and the house the ruler ruler is in. Just like we did with Jane Fonda's chart. Her Lot of Necessity is in the 10th house and it became necessary for her to be a highly visible actress. The ruler of her Lot of Necessity is in the 12th house which resulted in things like her being called Hanoi Jane and getting arrested multiple times while protesting.
You can also look at aspects to the planet ruling the Lot as well as aspects to the Lot itself for more information. Timing can be done by looking at transits to the Lot or the planet ruling it as well as activations by annual profections.