"In every case of two good works, if it is impossible that what is best should be had, one must not overlook the other good which is possible to have. For those who do this are likened to a certain traveler who, though he was able to go by horse, since he was not able to mount on a golden sedan chair, nor have a tent which would protect him from the rays of the Sun, after dismissing the horse the stupid man went along on foot."
-Al-Imrani, The Book of Choices
Electional astrology (also called inceptional) is perhaps the oldest branch of astrology. The goal of electional astrology is to select the most astrologically appropriate time to begin an activity to ensure the desired outcome. In the distant past, this was used mainly for affairs of state; elections would be constructed to select the best time to go to war, make peace, plant crops, or crown a king.
Eventually astrology would move out of exclusively royal hands and it is this shift that introduces elections for concerns that are more common to the modern era. Starting businesses, building homes, and marriages become prime topics for election charts.Medical professionals began using these same techniques when treating and medicating patients, and magicians would follow the same theories when constructing their talismanic pieces. The ripples of electional astrology go far.
Arguably the most utilized branch of astrology, people tend to make election-type decisions every day without realizing it. Many farmers and gardeners still use lunar or solar cycles for timing the various phases of their gardens and fields (one does not plant corn in December, for example), and people often choose what they consider the best time to get specific things done (grocery shopping on Monday morning is easier than Saturday afternoon). Electional astrology just takes this kind of thinking to its logical extreme; that there are times that are more conducive to certain enterprises.
Much ink has been spilled throughout the tradition about the appropriateness of electional astrology in many different contexts. Who astrologers ought to make elections for, what situations are and are not appropriate, and what exactly the use of elections are. These different stances on electing stem from conflicting philosophical stances on the nature and practical use of astrology. These ides are compared and contrasted in a separate article.
One thing that is certain, though, is that elections are a powerful tool. While there is no one time that is perfect for any and all endeavors, there are times that are better than others, and this is what an astrologer seeks to find and utilize. An endeavor that is initiated with Saturn on the Ascendant is likely to meet many delays, cause stress, or fold early, but the astrologer can identify this issue before it is too late and offer safer and more productive alternatives.
Electional astrology provides a great next step for students of medieval astrology. Horary astrology trains the student to scrutinize individual planets and judge the likelihood of success for the endeavors featured in a specific chart, but electional allows the student to use what they have learned through their experience in horary to actively craft charts that suggest good fortune.