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"In a dark place we find ourselves, and a little more knowledge lights our way." -Yoda
Encyclopedia Britannica defines astrology as "the ancient art or science of divining the fate and future of human beings from indications given by the position of stars and other heavenly bodies." Astrology is ancient indeed, with the earliest evidence of man tracking the position of the sun, moon, and planets appearing on cave paintings from the 3rd millennium BC. There were several ancient civilizations that developed systems of charting celestial movements, but the Babylonians are generally credited with the birth of astrology.
The Babylonians’ astrological charts enabled them to predict the recurrence of the seasons, certain celestial events, even political happenings. This early version of astrology had it roots in divination and celestial omens indicating the “will of the gods”. However, it was recorded as objective occurrences. Meaning, they believed the movement of the planets and their impact on natural events (floods, eclipses, seasons, etc.) indicated the will of the gods, but that celestial movement and the cycles were something that could be mathematically measured, and therefore “predicted”. The scientific element of mathematical repetition and predictable results was a part of astrology since its beginnings.
Through his many conquests in Asia, Alexander the Great was responsible for introducing Babylonian astrology to the Greeks in the 4th century BC. Great philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle studied this new science, and by 1st century BC, astrology had two varieties: one that required the reading of horoscopes in order to establish precise details about the past, present, and future; the other emphasized the soul's ascent to the stars. Astrology was soon embraced by the Romans (the Roman names for the zodiac signs are still used today) and the Arabs, who later spread it throughout the entire world. By the 13th century, astrology was a part of standard medical practices, religious practices, and the arts in Europe.
The end of the Renaissance period and the birth of the Scientific Revolution/Age of Reason saw the rejection of Aristotelian physics, and with it, astrology was no longer seen as having a scientific basis. For centuries, astrology (looking for signs based on the movement of the celestial bodies) was considered fundamentally the same as astronomy (the scientific study of those objects). Ptolemy, Galileo, Copernicus, and Johannes Kepler were at the time considered to be astrologers. However, once Sir Isaac Newton mathematized the motion of the planets and realized that gravity controlled everything, that was essentially the moment at which astronomy came to be known as a science, and astrology was characterized as mysticism.
Astrology, as we know it today, is the study of your personal birth chart/horoscope to gain insight into what effect certain planetary cycles may have on your life. Early astrologers knew it took 12 lunar cycles (i.e., months) for the sun to return to its original position. They then identified 12 constellations that they observed were linked to the progression of the seasons and assigned them names of certain animals and persons (in Babylonia, for example, the rainy season was found to occur when the Sun was in a particular constellation which was then named Aquarius, or water bearer).
The signs of the zodiac are subdivided into four groups:
· Fire Signs: Aries, Sagittarius, Leo
· Water Signs: Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces
· Air Signs: Libra, Aquarius, Gemini
· Earth Signs: Capricorn, Taurus, Virgo
Each of these four groups is inscribed in its own quadrant, or group of "houses," on a circle. The division of the 12 houses is based on Earth's daily rotation and relates to such circumstances as relationships, finances, travel, etc. The division of the 12 signs of the zodiac, on the other hand, is based on the earth's year-long rotation around the Sun and relates to character traits and areas of life.
A horoscope is a map of the zodiacal circle with Earth at the center. The top of the circle represents the Sun at its highest point during the day and left and right of that are the eastern and western horizons. A horoscope charts the relative positions of the Sun, Moon, planets, and stars at a specific time and place of your choosing (e.g., the date, time, and location of your birth). Once the date and time are selected, and the location known and plotted, the astrologer consults an astronomical ephemeris (a table listing the locations of the Sun, Moon, planets, and constellations at any given time) to construct the chart. Proper interpretation of the chart is both an art and a science and should only be entrusted to a highly trained and accredited astrologer.
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Works by Nicholas Campion:
History of Western Astrology Vol I
History of Western Astrology Vol II
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