Book review: The Abbreviation of the Introduction to Astrology

This booklet is a translation made by Charles Burnett in 1994 to an Arabic astrology text written by Abu Ma’shar around 850 C.E. It has historical and technical annotations which cover nearly half of the book, but who will really help you to comprehend an old text which is often unclear, briefly wrote and hard to understand like almost every astrology book from that period or before. Very interesting, the annotations show the Greek influences on this book by indicating the possible sources (astrology books from the Hellenistic period) of different statements.  

In the Introduction you can find out that Abu Ma’shar (787 – 886 C.E.) was a leading astrologer of the Islamic world, born in Balkh (a city on the territory of Afghanistan). His main book about astrology is “Great Introduction to Astrology” (850 C.E.), “The Abbreviation of the Introduction to Astrology” being only a short compendium to the first one. Other interesting historical data can be found there.

In Chapter 1 are presented the astrological signs and their characteristics. The author indicates the planets with dignities (ruler, exaltation, decan) in each sign, the nature of signs, the humor and the taste for each sign and other features like: short or long ascension, cut in its limbs, upright, defective in figure (about sky constellations), colors, libidinous, fecundity and sterility, voice, corresponding parts of the body, regions and countries governs by signs. In the final part are presented the quadrants, triplicities and planetary joys.

In Chapter 2 you can read about the conditions of the planets in themselves, the size of their bodies and their conditions from the Sun. The practical results of those “conditions” are not presented, the explanations are very short, so this chapter won’t help too much. Probably, in the “big book” “Great Introduction to Astrology” is the detailed version of this chapter.

In Chapter 3 are described the 25 conditions of the planets: domain (Hayyiz), advance, retreat, conjunction, aspect, application, separation, void of course, wild, translation, collection, reflecting the light, prohibition, pushing nature, pushing power, pushing two natures, pushing counsel, returning, refranation, resistance, evasion, cutting the light, favor, recompense and reception. These planetary conditions appear in many old astrological texts, sometimes more or less than 25, sometimes under different names. For example, “pushing power” is “conferring of influence” and “advance” is directness” in “The beginning of Wisdom” of Avraham Ibn-Ezra.

Chapter 4 contains several words about the good fortune of the planets, their power, their weakness, the corruption of the Moon and dodecatemoria.

In Chapter 5 are presented the planets, their nature and characteristics. Maybe some statements will seem strange for those who are not used with the traditional astrology. For example, did you know that the Moon governs fugitives, messengers or Mercury governs divinity, revelation to prophets and astrology?

In Chapter 6 you can find out how to compute a number of 53 astrological lots, but the interpretations are missing. Anyway, until now, I am not convinced that these lots really work.

In Chapter 7, the last chapter of the book, the author writes about the years of the planets (Firdaria), the Egyptian terms, the dark, bright and shadow degrees, the masculine and feminine degrees, pits and protuberances. Dark degrees are bad, bright are good, masculine degrees are good in a masculine theme, feminine degrees are good in a feminine theme, pits stop the good or bad influence of the planets, protuberances bring happiness – these are some old and strange astrological techniques, not in use anymore, cloaked in mystery.


Conclusion. It is a booklet that presents briefly many techniques that belong to traditional astrology. It is more like an index of these astrological notions. I don’t think it has a great value because, when you read something like this, you need interpretations, explanations. The author did that in his book “The Greater Introduction”, so we don’t have to blame him. In conclusion, I don’t recommend the book. My evaluation is 7.

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