Astrology is the study of cosmic influences, that is, influences
associated with the motion of the Sun, Moon and planets and the position
of the stars that are considered to affect all living creatures,
including humans. It is also the study of the relationship of the motion
and position of these heavenly bodies with physical events.
The present distinction between astronomy and astrology is only relatively recent. In fact, most of those considered to be the founders of modern scientific astronomy, including Nicolaus Copernicus (1473 - 1543), Johannes Kepler (1571 - 1630) and Isaac Newton (1642 - 1727) were competent astrologers. The origins of astrology lie long before these intellectual giants however, and although the starry heavens have been used by man as a guide since time immemorial, the art now designated as astrology is considered to have originated with the Chaldeans, in Babylon, Mesopotamia, (now Iraq) around the fourth millennium BC. It was practiced in the temples, where it was blended with religious elements and was an important resource for farmers as well as physicians. It is thought to have spread to Egypt around the third millennium BC, as the first records of its use by Egyptian rulers as a predictive tool for agricultural events such as the likelihood of good or bad harvests, and the fate of the nation in relation to its fortunes in war and peace, are dated at this time. It may well be however, that comprehensive knowledge of the heavenly bodies in Ancient Egypt is much older, as recent study of the pyramids has brought new evidence to light that indicates that the principal Giza monuments form an accurate terrestrial "map" of the three stars of the "belt" of the constellation of Orion, as these appeared in the sky in 10,500 BC.
Inevitably the knowledge of the Egyptians and Chaldeans spread throughout the ancient and later the classical world. It was easy for the ancient Greeks, who were great traders and seafarers, to see the potential benefits of astrology, and they adopted this at an early stage. By the 8th. century BC, astrology had already become so important in Greek life, that the Greek poet Hesiod could write in his long poem "Works and Days", that the positions of the planets and stars should be used to determine propitious times for the commencement of all kinds of endeavors.
As the Roman Empire expanded its frontiers, it incorporated Greece at an early stage of its conquests, with the result that Greek culture with its highly advanced sciences became a source of considerable influence on Roman culture. With that influence came astrology, which rapidly grew in popularity and quickly became an increasingly important part of everyday life, reaching its zenith in imperial times, when it was used by people at every level of Roman society and was interwoven into almost every part of Roman culture and life.
Perhaps the most important work on astrology was written in the first half of the 2nd century AD by the Greek philosopher Ptolemy. It is a colossal compilation of works from previous centuries that consists of two parts: The Almagest and The Tetrabiblos. The Almagest deals with the astronomical movement of the Sun, Moon, and planets, while the Tetrabiblos deals with astrological interpretations of these movements. As many ancient works on astrology were destroyed in the disastrous fires at the Great Library of Alexandria, these books now represent the most complete extant record of ancient astronomy and astrology.
As the power of Roman Empire waned and Europe entered the Middle Ages, much of the influence of Roman culture remained. To this was now added a new cultural force, that of the Arabic Empire that had conquered the Eastern Roman Empire, including its main centre of learning, Alexandria, and by virtue of this had inherited the Greek wisdom traditions, which they soon expanded and enhanced. These advances were readily absorbed by Middle Age Europe and became incorporated into its cultural philosophy, bringing about considerable progress in science, medicine and alchemy - the forerunner of modern chemistry. The philosophy that bound all these disciplines together however, was astrology, as may be seen from commonly used terms that were in use in the 13th. to 17th. centuries, that defined different human characteristics according to astrological influences from the Sun, Moon and planets, such as mercurial, saturnine, lunatic, venereal, jovial and martial. These terms are still in common use today and remain a tribute to the work of those times.
Firstly, some terminology. In astrology "planets" traditionally refers to the "visible" planets: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, but also includes the Sun and the Moon. The more recently discovered "new planets" Uranus, Neptune and Pluto and the most recently discovered Chiron have only been in use in astrology for periods ranging from about 150 years ago to 10 years ago - in this particular order. The zodiac is a 16į wide band of sky that follows the apparent path of the Sun. The zodiac is divided in 12 equal parts called zodiac signs, which are: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces. Due to the earth's ration, the zodiac appears to rotate around the earth approximately once every 24 hours. The 12 Houses are fixed divisions of the sky - from the point of view of an observer on earth - through which the planets and the zodiac appear to move as the earth rotates on its axis.
In astrology each of the seven planets are associated with a specific correspondence or influence, that is modified depending on the location of the planet in the zodiac. The twelve zodiac signs represent general influences and influences relating to character attributes (your Sun sign) and personality (your Ascendant) and physical appearance (both the Sun sign and Ascendant). The 12 Houses represent environmental or "mundane" influences or effects.
There are three primary things considered in an astrology chart
of any type; these are: 1. the Sun, the zodiac sign and House it is in,
and any relevant influences from other planets; 2. the Moon, the zodiac
sign and House it is in, and any relevant influences from other planets,
and; 3. the Ascendant, the zodiac sign on its cusp, any planets located
in, or associated with the Ascendant, and any relevant influences by other
planets. The Sun is usually considered to be the primary indicator of the
character and vitality of a person, with the Moon representing the unconscious
and emotional aspects. There are also other things to consider, such as the
placement of the planets in the sky, that is the zodiac sign
and House the planets are located in, and their
relationship to one another, in other words, whether there is a
significant aspect (angular alignment) between planets.& Of
course there are a number of other considerations that are not
mentioned here, but this is just a basic
Most people today listen to weather forecasters who use careful observations and complex mathematical models to give us predictions that help us in planning our lives and prevent us from getting caught in potentially health damaging or even life threatening situations. In that respect it is often forgotten that weather patterns are, by-and-large due to external cosmic influences on this planet. It is therefore equally sensible to be aware of how these cosmic influences are likely to affect other aspects of our life, such as how efficient we are likely to be and how well we will tend to operate within our environment.
Author: Susan Hysen © 1984.