History of astrology
Note: this article should be merged with A Historical Overview of Astrology
- 1 Overview
- 2 Astrologers
- 3 First Period - Babylonian Astrology
- 4 Second Period - Hellenistic Astrology
- 5 Vedic Astrology History
- 6 Third Period - Medieval Astrology
- 7 Fourth Period - Renaissance & Early Modern
- 8 Fifth Period - Modern Astrology
- 9 Post 20th century
- 10 Sources
Astrology is not limited to Western astrology alone, which by itself has several branches and various offshoot traditions. In modern India the ancient Vedic astrology (or Jyotish) is commonly used to this day, and in China Chinese astrology has existed for thousands of years and continues to flourish. The system of Hellenistic astrology was developed by Greek speaking peoples in Alexandrian Egypt while the Mayans of Central America also developed their own form of astrology. The ancient Egyptians also had another system of Decanic astrology, and the various Mesopotamian civilizations developed what can broadly be referred to as Babylonian astrology. A unique system of astrology eventually emerged in Tibet as well. Other cultures and civilizations around the world also developed their own astrological systems independently.
The origins much of the astrology that would later develop in Asia, Europe and the Middle East are found among the ancient Babylonians and their system of celestial omens that began to be compiled around the middle of the 2rd millennium BCE. This system of celestial omens later spread either directly or indirectly through the Babylonians to other areas such as India, China and Greece where it merged with preexisting indigenous forms of astrology. It came to Greece initially as early as the middle of the 4th century BCE, and then around the late 2nd or early 1st century BCE after the Alexandrian conquests, this Babylonian astrology was mixed with the Egyptian tradition of Decanic astrology to create Horoscopic astrology. This new form of astrology which appears to have originated in Alexandrian Egypt quickly spread across the ancient world into Europe, the Middle East and India.
This tradition of Hellenistic astrology was passed to India sometime around the 1st century CE where it merged with the preexisting tradition of Babylonian astrology and the lunar astrology of the Nakshatras and this founded the tradition of Vedic astrology in India. Hellenistic astrology was practiced from the 2nd century BCE until sometime around the 7th century CE when Europe entered the Middle Ages. Astrology was then passed to and further developed by the Arabs from the 7th to the 13th century. It was subsequently transmitted back to Europe beginning in the 12th century and reached its peak in Renaissance Europe during the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries when astrologers became a dominating influence in European society. In Europe, public interest in astrology began to recede around the late 17th century and it was not fully revived again in the West until the late 19th and early 20th century.
List of Prominent Astrologers.
First Period - Babylonian Astrology
The Babylonian system of celestial omens began to be compiled around the 3rd millennium BCE.
Second Period - Hellenistic Astrology
Hellenistic astrology can be generally defined as the type of horoscopic astrology that was developed in Egypt and the Mediterranean sometime around the 2nd century BCE, and was practiced until the 6th or 7th century CE.
Several Hellenistic astrologers describe the history of the art by acribing its creation to a mythical sage named Hermes Trismegistus. Hermes is said to have written several major texts which formed the basis of the art or its evolution from the system of astrology that was inherited from the Babylonians and the Egyptians. This system can be labeled as "horoscopic astrology" because it employed the use of the ascendant, otherwise known as the horoskopos in Greek, and the twelve celestial houses which are derived from it. Several authors cite Hermes as being the first to outline the houses and their meaning, so the houses date back to the very beginning of horoscopic astrology and indeed they are one of the major defining factors which separate Hellenistic astrology and other forms of horoscopic astrology from Babylonian astrology and other traditions. This system of horoscopic astrology was then passed to another mythical figure named Asclepius to whome some of the Hermetic writtings are addressed.
According to Firmicus Maternus, the system was subsequently handed down to an Egyptian pharaoh named Nechepso and his priest Petosiris.1 They apparently wrote a major textbook which explicated the system and it is from this text that many of the later Hellenistic astrologers draw from and cite directly. This system formed the basis of all later forms of Horoscopic astrology.
Vedic Astrology History
Vedic astrology refers to the type of sidereal horoscopic astrology that has been practiced in India at least as far back as the first two centuries of the common era, and also includes the indigenous 27/8 sign lunar zodiac that most scholars agree was being used at a much earlier date.
Third Period - Medieval Astrology
Medieval astrology largely consist of works done by Arab astrologers from the late 7th century until about the 12th century when astrology began to trickle back into Europe. Around the 12th century certain prominent European astrologers begin to surface, and they created a segway for the explosion of astrological practice that occurred during the Renaissance.
Fourth Period - Renaissance & Early Modern
This period generally beginning sometime in the 1400's, and ending in the late 17th century, after the golden age of English astrology. The low period of astrology between the 17th century and the end of the 18th also goes under this section, although it is quite distinct from the period that came before it.
The Divergence of Astrology & Astronomy
Astrology and astronomy were deeply intertwined in the past, and very much one and the same throughout the overwhelming bulk of human history. In Medieval Europe the word Astronomia was often used to encompass both disciplines as this included the study of astronomy and astrology jointly and without a real distinction; this was one of the original Seven Liberal Arts. The two completely separate disciplines as we define them today cannot, in fact, be distinguished, until only the past few hundred years (they split up completely around 1750-1800).
Astrology and astronomy stayed together for a very long time - the funding from astrology supported major astronomical research, which was in turn used to make more and more accurate ephemerides for use in astrology. Indeed for the vast majority of history many of the advancements in astronomy were largely only accomplished in order to improve the accuracy of the astrology.
Most of the very early, ancient astronomers/astrologers up until about 1750-1800 were simultaneously employed as astrologers for the powerful and the wealthy; many Kings and Queens employed court astrologers to aid them in the running of their kingdom, and this is where most of the money that was used to fund much need astronomical research came from. More often than not it was only because of the prospect of getting better and more accurate astrological predictions that the rich (Royalty) were willing to invest in the very expensive projects of creating observatories and funding constant astronomical observations, which were very time consuming and just didn't seem quite as interesting or practical as the art of astrology.
Astrology and astronomy began to take divergent paths towards the end of the Renaissance largely due to the changing intellectual and religious climate in Europe during this time, as a result of the changing worldview and cosmology, and also partially as a result of the rise of the scientific method in the Western World. The purely mathematical, mechanical, empirical science of astronomy as is known today is of relatively recent origin. This discipline became separated from and generally antagonistic towards astrology only beginning around the time of the "Great Astronomers" -- Galileo Galilei, Johannes Kepler, Nicolas Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, etc., although it must be noted that all four of these "Great Astronomers" were also astrologers. This period is defined as the beginning of the scientific revolution, leading on into The Age of Enlightenment, sometimes referred to as The Age of Reason -- as stated, the two fields diverged completely in the West between approximately 1750-1800.
The primary goal of astronomy is to understand the physics of the universe. Astrologers use astronomical calculations for the positions of celestial bodies to observe correlations between celestial events with earthly events and human affairs. The role of astrology as an important motivation for astronomical research diminished as the works of Galileo and others solved the problems in celestial mechanics that were of interest to astrologers, and as belief in directly causal astrological influences or correlations became largely extinct among astronomers. The needs of modern navigation and physics became the prime motivating factors for subsequent astronomical research.
Fifth Period - Modern Astrology
The Modern period of astrology spans from the late 19th century until the end of the 20th century.
Post 20th century
This section is for documenting historical events in the history of astrology that have occurred since the beginning of the year 2000, or those that will occur as time progresses.
- Wikipedia's article on Astrology_and_astronomy - retrieved 12/6/2005 under the GNU Free Documentation License
- Wikipedia's article on the history of astrology - retrieved 12/20/2005 under the GNU Free Documentation License
Note 1: *See Firmicus Maternus, Ancient Astrology Theory and Practice â€“ Matheseos Libri VIII, translated by Jean Rhys Bram, Noyes Press, 1975. Pg. 118.