A brief overview of the History in western Astrology
By the 3rd millennium BC, widespread civilizations had developed sophisticated awareness of celestial cycles, and are believed to have consciously oriented their temples to create alignment with the heliacal risings of the stars.
At that time until recently Earth was seen as the center of the universe and all the lights were believed to circle around Earth. All mathematical efforts mostly of navigational and religious nature, were based on that “fact”.
Astrology itself is in its broadest sense the search for timing of events, the meaning of the individual in social and urban context. For us now it seeks to understand general and specific human behavior through the rhythm of planets and other celestial objects projected on a seasonal sky map.
The validation of such approach has been argued ever since as well as acknowledged through its success in predicting events and evaluation of human character specifics.
Not only religion astronomy and holistic medicine and from that the modern medicine was funded on Astrology. The field of psychology joined in the line of participants. It all grew on Astrology and competed with it after it was established.
Basis of Astrology
Remember the last day out camping, sitting at the beach or on your porch at night looking at the sky full of lights? So it was 25000 years ago when folks gathered at the fire exchanging their thoughts. The societies were Nature bond following seasons and arranged their life’s among other inhabitants.
The first astrological approach was established around that time.
It was the moon circle that was used to determine the seasonal rites developed to a sophisticated timing of farming as well as the organization of the year through a primitive calendar. It was a revolution on rural level creating growth and development of broader socialization. In the following millennia’s, constellations of Stars were examined and categorized mostly for timing of religious rites.
The first steps of Astrology
Babylonian astrology is believed to be the first organized system of astrology, arising around the 2nd millennium BC. There is speculation that astrology of some form appeared in the Sumerian period in the 3rd millennium BC, but never confirmed. The history of scholarly celestial divination is therefore generally reported to begin with late Old Babylonian texts (c. 1800 BC), continuing through the Middle Assyrian periods (c. 1200 BC).
By the 16th century BC the extensive employment of omen-based astrology. Its contents consisted of 70 cuneiform tablets comprising 7,000 celestial omens. Texts from this time also refer to an oral tradition - the origin and content of which can only be speculated upon.
At this time Babylonian astrology was solely mundane, concerned with the prediction of weather and political matters, and prior to the 7th century BC the practitioners' understanding of astronomy was fairly rudimentary. Astrological symbols likely represented seasonal tasks, and were used as a yearly almanac of listed activities to remind a community to do things appropriate to the season or weather such as symbols representing times for harvesting, gathering shell-fish, fishing by net or line, sowing crops, collecting or managing water reserves, hunting, and seasonal tasks critical in ensuring the survival of children and young animals for the larger group.
By the 4th century, their mathematical methods had progressed enough to calculate future planetary positions with reasonable accuracy, at which point extensive ephemerides began to appear.
A collection of 32 tablets dating from about 1875 BC, are the oldest known detailed texts of Babylonian divination, and these demonstrate the same interpretational format as that employed in celestial omen analysis.
Gods were believed to present themselves in the celestial images of the planets or stars with whom they were associated. Evil celestial omens attached to any particular planet were therefore seen as indications of dissatisfaction or disturbance of the god that planet represented. Such indications were met with attempts to appease the god and find manageable ways by which the god’s expression could be realized without significant harm to the king and his nation.
We see here the consequent use of Astrology as vehicle of religious concept which had been established as social power link between Kingdom and peasant ruling the cultural body of society.
The rise of the Western Astrology
In 525 BC Egypt was conquered by the Persians so there is likely to have been some Mesopotamian influence on Egyptian astrology. Arguing in favor of this, historian Tamsyn Barton gives an example of what appears to be Mesopotamian influence on the Egyptian zodiac, which shared two signs – the Balance and the Scorpion, as evidenced in the Dendera Zodiac (in the Greek version the Balance was known as the Scorpion’s Claws).
After the occupation by Alexander the Great in 332 BC, Egypt came under Hellenistic rule and influence. The city of Alexandria was founded by Alexander after the conquest and during the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC, the scholars of Alexandria were prolific writers. It was in Ptolemaic Alexandria that astrology was mixed with the Egyptian tradition of Decant astrology to create Horoscopic astrology. This contained the Babylonian zodiac with its system of planetary exaltations, the triplicates of the signs and the importance of eclipses. Along with this it incorporated the Egyptian concept of dividing the zodiac into thirty-six decants of ten degrees each, with an emphasis on the rising decant, the Greek system of planetary Gods, sign ruler ship and four elements.
Decants were a system of time measurement according to the constellations. They were led by the constellation Sothic or Sirius.
The risings of decants in the night were used to divide the night into ‘hours’. The rising of a constellation just before sunrise (its heliacal rising) was considered the last hour of the night. Over the course of the year, each constellation rose just before sunrise for ten days. When they became part of the astrology of the Hellenistic Age, each decant was associated with ten degrees of the zodiac. Texts from the 2nd century BC list predictions relating to the positions of planets in zodiac signs at the time of the rising of certain decants, particularly Sothic.
Particularly important in the development of horoscopic astrology was the astrologer and astronomer Ptolemy, who lived in Alexandria in Egypt. Ptolemy's work the Tetra Byblos laid the basis of the Western astrological tradition. It was one of the first astrological texts to be circulated in Medieval Europe after being translated from Arabic into Latin by Plato of Tivoli in Spain, 1138.
The conquest of Asia by Alexander the Great exposed the Greeks to the cultures and cosmological ideas of Syria, Babylon, Persia and central Asia. Greek overtook cuneiform script as the international language of intellectual communication and part of this process was the transmission of astrology from cuneiform to Greek. Sometime around 280 BC, Berossus, a priest of Bel from Babylon, moved to the Greek island of Kos in order to teach astrology and Babylonian culture to the Greeks. With this the innovative energy" in astrology moved west to the Hellenistic world of Greece and Egypt.
According to Campion, the astrology that arrived from the Eastern World was marked by its complexity, with different forms of astrology emerging. By the 1st century BC two varieties of astrology were in existence, one that required the reading of horoscopes in order to establish precise details about the past, present and future; the other being theurgic (literally meaning 'god-work'), which emphasized the soul's ascent to the stars. While they were not mutually exclusive, the former sought information about the life, while the latter was concerned with personal transformation, where astrology served as a form of dialogue with the Divine.
Greek influence played a crucial role in the transmission of astrological theory to Rome.
The first definite reference to astrology comes from the work of the orator Cato, who in 160 BC composed a treatise warning farm overseers against consulting with Chaldeans. One of the first astrologers to bring Hermetic astrology to Rome was Thrasyllus, who, in the first century CE, acted as the astrologer for the emperor Tiberius. Tiberius was the first emperor reported to have had a court astrologer, although his predecessor Augustus had also used astrology to help legitimize his Imperial rights.
In the second century CE, the astrologer Claudius Ptolemy was so obsessed with getting horoscopes accurate that he began the first attempt to make an accurate world map (maps before this were more relativistic or allegorical) so that he could chart the relationship between the person's birthplace and the heavenly bodies. While doing so, he coined the term "geography".
Astrology was taken up enthusiastically by Islamic scholars following the collapse of Alexandria to the Arabs in the 7th century, and the founding of the Abbasid empire in the 8th century. The second Abbasid caliph, Al Mansur (754-775) founded the city of Baghdad to act as a center of learning, and included in its design a library-translation center known as Bayt al-Hikma ‘Storehouse of Wisdom’, which continued to receive development from his heirs and was to provide a major impetus for Arabic translations of Hellenistic astrological texts.
Another was the Persian mathematician, astronomer, astrologer and geographer Al Khwarizmi. The Arabs greatly increased the knowledge of astronomy, and many of the star names that are commonly known today, such as Aldebaran, Altair, Betelgeuse, Rigel and Vega retain the legacy of their language. They also developed the list of Hellenistic lots to the extent that they became historically known as Arabic parts, for which reason it is often wrongly claimed that the Arabic astrologers invented their use, whereas they are clearly known to have been an important feature of Hellenistic astrology.
invented their use, whereas they are clearly known to have been an important feature of Hellenistic astrology.
The roman church as owner of the lands of all of Europe banned Astrology widely from the surface of society. But among the peasants Astrology was ruling the day.
By the 13th century astrology had become a part of everyday medical practice in Europe.
Doctors combined Galenic medicine with studies of the stars. By the end of the 1500s, physicians across Europe were required by law to calculate the position of the Moon before carrying out complicated medical procedures, such as surgery or bleeding.
The healers used astrological rhythm for planting and harvesting healing plants as well as determined imbalances of the individual through astrology. However these practices of healers were seen as witchcraft by the roman church and banned from public grounds.
But the “science of the Stars” influenced all parts of public life especially on grounds of higher education. As the arts were seen as operating in ascending order, so were the planets in decreasing order of planetary speed: grammar was assigned to the Moon, the quickest moving celestial body, dialectic was assigned to Mercury, rhetoric to Venus, music to the Sun, arithmetic to Mars, geometry to Jupiter and astrology/astronomy to the slowest moving body, Saturn.
The down fall of the Terrestrial universe
During the Renaissance, court astrologers would complement their use of horoscopes with astronomical observations and discoveries. Many individuals now credited with having overturned the old astrological order, such as Tycho Brahe, Galileo
Galilei and Johannes Kepler, were themselves practicing astrologers.
At the end of the Renaissance the confidence placed in astrology diminished, with the breakdown of Aristotelian Physics and rejection of the distinction between the celestial and sublunary realms, which had historically acted as the foundation of astrological theory.
Rebirth of the Astrology
By the end of the 19th century Astrology became popular among the middle class and philosophers seeking a modern approach of Astrology apart of religious influence and rites. In the center of the new form of Astrology was the determination of Character goal and skills of the individual.
Theory here was to acknowledge an individual or event as part of the universal order which is an organism as whole. The Universe is seen as symphony of gravity that puts every single part within in its place circling among each other in periodic waves.
By examination of these waves of Planets circling around the sun and projecting these on the individual event a prediction of what time has to offer became reality. Studies on the Chinese Bio Rhythm method in the early 20th centuries in Berlin Germany show equivalence between the Planetary rhythms to the widely used bio rhythm method with even more defined results.
The consequence of creating a theory of rhythms affecting the individual performance, imprint and development has shown success in the determination of events and individual behavior. Further studies applied medical services to imbalances allowing a
competitive solution to common medicine and psychiatry.
1 Barton (1994) p. 24
2 Holden (1996) pp. 11-13.
3 Barton (1994) p. 20.
4 Campion (2008) pp.173-174.
5 Barton (1994) p.32.
6 Barton (1994) p.43/63.
7 Thompson, Clive. "The Whole World in your Hands". Smithsonian, July 2017.
8 Houlding (2010) Ch. 8: 'The medieval development of Hellenistic principles concerning aspectual applications and orbs'; pp.12-13.
9 Burckhardt (1969)
~Christian Hoffmann 4/2017