Astrological Roots: The Hellenistic Legacy

 

astrological_roots.jpgJoseph Crane (b. 1954 Brighton, MA) is an American astrologer and psychotherapist who practiced astrology since the late 1980’s and is the co-founder of the Astrology Institute. His main interest is to understand and teach Hellenistic astrology or, even more, "to reformulate modern astrology by using methods from astrology’s traditions". The most significant results of his work are his books: A Practical Guide to Traditional Astrology (1997) and Astrological Roots: the Hellenistic Legacy (2007). The last one is the most comprehensive study about Hellenistic astrology that we have nowadays. 

 

In the Preface the author gives a beautiful definition for astrology:

 

"Astrology is one of the great adventures of human civilization and has contributed greatly to people’s lives and to our culture over time. Astrology’s purpose is to use the positions of the planets and stars in the sky to gather information on the individual and on humanity. Astrology is a system that enables us to understand the past, present and the future within a universe full of meaning."

 

and then starts to criticize modern astrology as being too focused on speculations, too much connected by modern astrologers with different spiritual ideologies like supposed previous lifetimes, Jungian psychology etc., resulting in difficult, fuzzy, confusing interpretations. On the other side traditional astrology, the subject of this book, has clear concepts, gives better results and is easy to apply. He wants to help us reestablish contact with, what he calls "astrology roots".  

 

Introduction: Astrology then and now

First, Joseph Crane makes a brief incursion in the early evolution of astrology starting from Mesopotamia in 400 BCE until 400 CE when Christianity became a fierce enemy for astrology. Then, he discusses the most important critics regarding astrology: why many astrological predictions do not pass, how the planets can scientifically influence humans, how astrology match with different religious beliefs, why ancient astrologers judgments are fatalistic etc.  

 

Chapter 1: Astrology’s Bricks and Mortar

The author explains that in ancient astrology the relation between the astrologer and the visible sky was much more important that in modern astrology because now we use computers, software and forget to look at the real picture, on the sky. With this idea in mind, he presents several important matters in traditional astrology like: sect, the seasons and their relation with signs, the whole sign houses system, the planetary joys, triplicities, quadrants and a little piece of practical astrology. About the houses, he mentions that in ancient tradition the houses were not associated with signs (House 1 with Aries, House 2 with Taurus etc.) like in modern astrology. This is a good point to remember. Also, he explains very well the relation between seasons and signs, for example:

 

"Cancer is the sign that begins with the summer equinox, and the season is hot. Hot increases activity and can also go to extremes of expression. Cancer, however, is a water sign and we tend to think of signs in the water triplicity as sensitive, emotional, and imaginative. Cancer, more than Scorpio and Pisces, has hot qualities of dramatic emotionality. Cancer wears its heart on its sleeve, despite its desire to hide within its shell. Libra, which begins with the autumn equinox, is in the dry season of the year. Dry separates and sees things as distinct. Unlike Gemini and Aquarius, the other signs in the air triplicity, Libra discriminates carefully between it and others, and defines itself by form and protocol. Capricorn is an Earth sign in the cold season. Cold is subdued and self-contained, sometimes brittle. Capricorn’s reticence, sobriety and curmudgeonly qualities are legendary, especially in contrast with the restlessness of Virgo (in the hot and drying time of the year)and the sensuality of Taurus (in the wet and warming time of the year)." 

Chronology of the Astrology of the Middle East and the West by Period

 

Chronology_of_astrology.jpgChronology of the Astrology of the Middle East and the West by Period is a booklet of 38 pages wrote by Robert Hand and published by A.R.H.A.T. in 1998.

 

In the Preamble the author reveals that the purpose of this booklet is to:

 

"give a rough idea of the times and order of major developments in the history of astrology, a list of major astrologers, and events in the historical background."

 

The book is divided in 2 parts: the first one is a chronological list with the most important events for astrology (from 15000 B.C.E. to 1770 C.E.) associated with brief descriptions and the second part is an extended version of an essay about astrology history.

 

There the author presents his point of view about the origins of horoscopic astrology:

 

"astrology as we know it came into being only once in time and in one place; the place is Mesopotamia (roughly modern Iraq)"

 

The first birthcharts were created by Chaldeans (late Babylonians) and the oldest one, written in cuneiform, dates from April 29, 410 B.C.E. Then, astrology developed very fast in Egypt and Mesopotamia and, until 1 century C.E., quite possibly several centuries earlier, the entire apparatus of horoscopic astrology was in place. In the final part of the essay the author presents his opinions about the origin of Hindu astrology and the improvements brought by Arab astrology

 

MY EVALUATION: 7,95

 

Conclusion. It is a very useful book for those who want to read about the most important events in the early history of astrology. You will understand where astrology first appeared, how it started, what happened in Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece or Persia. It is not a complete, comprehensive history, it is for those who want to get in touch with the subject and to understand the main ideas, events. If you want to learn the history of astrology this booklet is a very good place to start with. My evaluation is 7,95.

 

 

 

Matheseos Libri VIII

 

matheseos_libri.jpgJulius Firmicus Maternus (280-360 A.D.) was a Sicilian lawyer from the upper nobility who retired from his career in order to devote himself to science and literature. He wrote Matheseos Libri VIII around 330 A.D. and dedicated to his friend, the consul Lollianus Mavortius. The material used for this book is mainly from Greek astrology sources. 

 

LIBER PRIMUS

The first chapter represents a letter written by the author to his friend Mavortius, Governor of the entire East. Mavortius was an intelligent and learned person who had lots of discussions with Julius Firmicus on many subjects, one being astrology. A big part of this letter is treating the conflict between astrologers and their opponents. To all the questions rose by those who deny astrology Julius Firmicus answers by showing that people can’t control anything in life, that Fate (represented by planets in his system) governs everything. He was a fatalistic astrologer who believed people can’t change their inherent destiny. 

 

LIBER SECUNDUS

Here you can find a wide range of astrological subjects. The author writes about the signs, the exaltations and falls (he considers a planet is more fortunate in exaltation than in domicile), the Egyptian decans and terms, matutine and vespertine planets, duodecatemoria, houses, aspects, antiscia etc.

Matutine planets are those which rise before the Sun (oriental), vespertine are those which rise after the Sun (occidental). The duodecatemoria is a technique based on the degree a planet have in a sign to compute another position which will reveal the whole essence. But, there is a problem because the algorithm is erroneous. You can find the good one here.

The aspects between planets are analyzed like whole sign aspects, without orb, giving much importance to the direction from which are formed: a right aspect is made from the back of the sign (dexter), a left aspect is in front of the sign (sinister).

 

LIBER TERTIUS

The first pages from Liber Tertius present Thema Mundi, the chart for the birthday of the Universe. This doctrine, writes Firmicus, comes by Mercury itself who transmitted to other intermediaries. Thema Mundi is a chart with all the planets in domicile at 15 degrees. I believe at least in this moment is much more mythology that science.

 

After that, you’ll find the explanations for the planets and luminaries in houses. I think the interpretations are quite delightful and a big part of them are matching with reality. The analyses always takes in account if the chart is diurnal or nocturnal, thus if the planets are in sect their effect is considerable better. Also, in many cases, the author introduces new aspects (very often the Moon), analyzes more than position in house, for example:

 

"Mercury located exactly on the ascendant in signs in which he rejoices, in a daytime chart, makes philosophers, teachers of the art of letters, or geometers […]or men skilled in sacred writings. Often he makes orators and lawyers, especially if in this house he is in his own sign or in other voiced signs. If either the Sun, Saturn or Jupiter are in aspect with Mercury in this house, he will make great men crowned with wreaths for being famous in sacred matters. […]But if Mars is in opposition or in square aspect or together with Mercury on the ascendant, the native is attacked by a variety of continual evils."