A.C. Nunes, Jr. and J. Dimmock. NOTES OF A MEDIEVAL ASTROLOGER

Предлагаем вашему вниманию статью, которую нам любезно предоставили для публикации старший научный сотрудник НАСА, специалист по сварке в открытом космосе, д-р Артур Нунес и профессор физики Университета Алабамы в Хантсвилле Джон Диммок.

Статья суммирует часть спецкурса «Теории происхождения вселенной», прочитанного студентам университета. Она посвящена астрологии, которая безусловно и долгое время считалась наукой, определяя собой пути развития научной мысли.


NOTES OF A MEDIEVAL ASTROLOGER 1

By A.C. Nunes, Jr. and J. Dimmock


Aristotle (384-322 BC) asserts that

...the end (telos) of every motion must be one of the divine bodies which are moved through the heavens. (Metaphysics XII viii 17)

And he locates the Prime Mover in the heavens.

Ptolemy [fl. c. 150 CE] has organized the empirical methodology by which it is possible to extract information from the state of the heavens about mundane matters in his "Four Books" (Tetrabiblos). The Tetrabiblos, by no means the only one of his times on the subject, is a classic like his "Great Synthesis" (Almagest), which provides the methodology for computing the state of the heavens at any given time. [In Ptolemy's day there were even machines incorporating trains of gears which would give the positions of the planets at any given time by the turn of a crank. One such device, the Antikythera Mechanism, has been found in a shipwreck in the Mediterranean Sea off the Antikythera Island that gives the mechanism its name.]

Al-Kindi [bef. 800-866 CE] supplies a mechanism for celestial influences in his book "On Rays" (De radiis). He applies the Neoplatonic idea that all existent entities emit characteristic aspects. How else would they be perceived? Fire emits heat. Snow emits cold. Al-Kindi asserts that every object emits rays which produce characteristic effects on other bodies.

The Franciscans Robert Grosseteste [c.1168-1253 CE] and Roger Bacon [c. 1220-1292 CE] took up the idea that the image of an entity was such an emission. Grosseteste, Dr. Illustris, proposed a theory ("On light" De luce) of the origin of the perceptible universe as an emission of light , the "first corporeal form", from an initial point of creation. Roger Bacon, Dr. Mirabilis, attributed all natural causation ("On the multiplication of species" De multiplicatione specierum)to an emission process called "multiplication of species", where an agent produces an effect by sending into matter a form (species) which elicits the effect. A body's appearance (species) was conceived as continually multiplying in its proximity as the form (species) elicited a like form in adjacent matter.

Celestial bodies influence the mundane world through radiated forms, i.e. primary qualities: hot-cold and dry-moist. The four elements comprising the mundane world are each produced by the influence of a pair of primary qualities. So are the four humors of the body; preponderancies of certain humors can make one bilious, sanguine, phlegmatic, or melancholic.

Element Humor Primary Qualities
Fire Yellow Bile Hot-Dry
Air Blood Hot-Moist
Water Phlegm Cold-Moist
Earth Black Bile Cold-Dry

The primary qualities of the celestial bodies have been inferred from their characters:

Sign Primary Qualities Element
  Hot Cold Dry Moist  
Aries x   x   Fire

Taurus

  x x   Earth
Gemini x     x Air
Cancer   x   x Water
Leo x   x   Fire
Virgo   x x   Earth
Libra x     x Air
Scorpio   x   x Water
Sagittarius x   x   Fire
Capricorn   x x   Earth
Aquarius x     x Air
Pisces   x   x Water
Planet         Special Characteristics
Moon (x)     x Inconstant (Emotion)
Mercury     (?) (?) Inconstant (Perception)
Venus (x)     x Moistening(Nurture, Joy)
Sun x   x   Heating (Power)
Mars x   x   Red (Strife)
Jupiter x     x Slow (Majesty)
Saturn   x (x)   Slow (Cold, Materialistic)





Al-Kindi's student Abu Ma'shar [787-886 CE] wrote a "Great introduction" (Ysagoga maiore) to astrology around 850 CE. It became a major source for medieval astrologers. Hermann of Carinthia has translated an abbreviated version (Ysagoga minor).

Let us inquire how to compute a horoscope. By horoscope we mean an image of the heavens at some specific time and from some specific place on earth. The word "horoscope" originally meant (in Greek) the point of the ecliptic just rising above the horizon, what is now called the "ascendent".

Because of the causal relation between the stars and the sublunar world, events in the heavens are in harmony with events in the sublunar world. We can infer mundane events from heavenly phenomena just as we can infer people will be lunching when the clock reads twelve noon. The Ancients [notably the Babylonians], on a purely empirical basis, have worked out a number of relatively complex causal relationships. (Of course no one would dare to assert that heavenly influences determine the behavior of men to the exclusion of free will. This would seriously contradict Christian doctrine. Rather the influences are seen as acting upon nature, for example when they disturb the balance of the humors so as to cause diseases, or by provoking behavioral tendencies, which a wise man can resist. Such tendencies would be expected to have significant global effects, however, for example when new religions arise at the Great Conjunctions of Jupiter and Saturn.)

The foundation of the horoscope is the mundane houses. They are numbered 1 through 12 and are arranged in a counterclockwise frame around the ecliptic. The signs and planets are embedded in the 12 mundane houses. The first house starts at the ascendant.

To begin the horoscope the ascendant must be found. It is the point where the ecliptic intersects the horizon. Insert the tympanum for the latitude of your location into the mater of your astrolabe. Rotate the rete of the astrolabe so that the ecliptic is located in the proper place on the equator for the time of the year and the time of day. For example, suppose it is midwinter and the sun is at 9 degrees into Capricorn on the zodiac. Further suppose the local time is 12:00 noon. The rete is set by placing the 9 degree Capricorn point of the ecliptic in line with the XII mark at the top of the limb of the astrolabe. The point on the ecliptic intersecting the horizon line on the tympanum, 15 degrees Aries, is the ascendent.

One way to divide up the mundane houses is to start with the ascendant and simply divide the ecliptic into 12 equal houses each of 30 degrees. Each cusp, or start of a new house, penetrates the same number of degrees into the next sign. That is, if the ascendant is at 15 degrees into Aries, then the cusp of the second house is at 15 degrees Taurus; the cusp of the third house at 15 degrees Gemini, etc. In the "equal house" system the medium caelum, located at the top (XII) position of the astrolabe, is not on a cusp. It is indicated separately on the horoscope as if it were a sign or a planet.

[Chaucer writes in the Canterbury Tales, "Whan that Aprille...and the yonge sonne hath in the Ram his halve cours yronne." Nicholas of Lynn's Kalendarium [1386] has the beginning of April as 20 degrees into Aries, rather more than halfway through Aries. Nicholas of Lynn uses the tropical zodiac, which fixes the cusp of Aries at the spring equinox, March 12 for him and March 20 for us after 600 years of progression of the equinox. The other zodiac signs follow at 30 degree intervals. The tropical zodiac signs do not fall on the actual constellations as would those of a sidereal zodiac. The actual constellations don't synchronize with the seasons. The seasons present an unequivocal manifestation of the power of celestial bodies. The tropical zodiac does follow the seasons. Hence astrologers in the West follow the tropical zodiac. This would imply that astrological influences derive from the planets, which includes the sun, and their aspects and that the constellations themselves serve merely as markers.]

A preferred method of dividing the mundane houses fixes the ascendant, midheaven (medium caelum), the descendent, and the nadir (imum caelum) as cusps of the first, tenth, seventh, and fouth houses respectively. The intervals between these "angular" cusps remain to be divided into three parts.

The method of Alcabitius [fl. c. 950] projects the angular cusps onto the limb of the astrolabe (using the alidade). Each projected quarter is divided into thirds and then projected back onto the ecliptic. If the tympanum for Huntsville, Alabama [latitude 34 degrees 41 minutes], is used, projections of the ascendant, midheaven, descendent, and nadir cusps are 5:45 AM, 12:00 Noon, 5:45 PM, and 12:00 Midnight. Hence the first quadrant is divided into intervals of 2 hours and 5 minutes: the second quadrant into intervals of 1 hour and 55 minutes.

The method of Regiomontanus [1436-1476] also projects limb divisions obtained as above, but uses as projectors great circles through the north point on the observer's horizon and the limb divisions. The cusps are located where these circles cut the ecliptic. House cusp lines computed by the Regiomontanus method have been marked on the tympanum of out astrolabe so that the cusps of the houses can be read directly from their intersection with the ecliptic.

Here is a comparison of the three computations:

Cusp Equal Hours Alcabitius Regiomontanus
1 15 Aries 15 Aries 15 Aries
2 15 Taurus 15 Taurus 24 Taurus
3 15 Gemini 13 Gemini 19 Gemini
4 15 Cancer 9 Cancer 9 Cancer
5 15 Leo 9 Leo 0 Leo
6 15 Virgo 11 Virgo 1 Virgo
7 15 Libra 15 Libra 15 Libra
8 15 Scorpio 15 Scorpio 24 Scorpio
9 15 Sagittarius 13 Sagittarius 19 Sagittarius
10 15 Capricorn 9 Capricorn 9 Capricorn
11 15 Aquarius 9 Aquarius 0 Aquarius
12 15 Pisces 11 Pisces 1 Pisces

[There are numerous other ways to divide the mundane houses and to this day there is no agreement on the best method of house division.]

After the houses are defined the heavenly bodies are placed in the houses. The locations of the bodies are generally read out of tables, such as those sponsored by Alfonso the Wise [1221-1284]. The tables themselves are extrapolated from observations using Ptolemy's model of planetary motion. As the computations are imperfect, tables go out of date and need to be recalculated from time to time. [The Rudolphine Tables [1627] computed using Kepler's model of planetary motion did not go out of date nearly so fast as its Ptolemaic predecessors.] There is a wonderful clock [built by Giovanni di Dondi c. 1334] in Padua, where the medical school requires the computation of numerous horoscopes, with separate faces showing the positions of all seven heavenly bodies.

We take the place Huntsville, Alabama (34 deg 44 min North Latitude, 86 deg 35 min West Longitude) and the time approximately Noon, December 29, 2000.

HOROSCOPE
Cusp Sign (Regiomontanus) Planet
1 15 Aries  
2 24 Taurus  
   

Saturn (25 Taurus-Retrograde)
Lot of Fortune (29 Taurus)
Jupiter (2 Gemini)
Head of the Dragon (15 Gemini)

3 19 Gemini  
4 9 Cancer  
5 0 Leo  
6 1 Virgo  
7 15 Libra  
    Mars (3 Scorpio)
8 24 Scorpio  
    Tail of the Dragon (15 Sagittarius)
9 19 Sagittarius  
    Sun (8 Capricorn)
10 9 Capricorn  
    Mercury (11 Capricorn)
11 0 Aquarius  
    Moon (22 Aquarius)
Venus (24 Aquarius)
12 1 Pisces  

The Lot of Fortune is a site on the horoscope located the same number of degrees from the ascendent as the moon is from the sun. The situation of the planet governing the site determines the material fortune of the subject of the horoscope. A particular planet rules each sign. Some say that the rulership was instituted at the Creation: that the arrangement of planets from Cancer to Capricorn was the arrangement at creation, the Horoscope of the World, and that the sequence was reversed for the subsequent signs.

Sign Ruling Planet
Aries Mars
Taurus Venus
Gemini Mercury
Cancer Moon
Leo Sun
Virgo Mercury
Libra Venus
Scorpio Mars
Sagittarius Jupiter
Capricorn Saturn
Aquarius Saturn
Pisces Jupiter

Thus the ruler of the Lot of Fortune is Venus. Venus is conjunct with the moon, which reinforces its character. In a natal horoscope this implies wealth from love, i.e. from an inheritance or gifts.

The Head of the Dragon [North Node] is the site where the orbit of the Moon crosses and rises above (i.e. north of) the ecliptic. The Tail of the Dragon [South Node] is the opposite site where the orbit of the Moon sinks below the ecliptic. The location of the Head of the Dragon is tabulated with the planets; the Tail is 180 degrees away. The Head of the Dragon is one of a number of candidate prorogators, used to determine the length of life of the subject of the horoscope.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of astrology is the determination of when the subject of a natal horoscope will die. This determination is dangerous. The prediction of a ruler's death is a sign that an assassin would be successful. This, of course, encourages assassins and is not in the interest of the ruler. The prediction of a ruler's death often carries a death penalty for an astrologer. The general procedure is as follows.

First a prorogator or, more poetically, Lord of Life, must be found. This could be the Sun or Moon or the planet ruling the Lot of Fortune or the ascendant. Whatever it is, it has to be located in one of the prorogative houses, the 10th, 7th, and 9th, in order of preference. Ptolemy (Tetrabiblos III 10) gives first place to the Sun if the Sun is located in one of the prorogative houses. In our case the Sun is located in the 9th house just before the cusp of the 10th house; hence the Sun is the prorogator.

As time elapses after the birth moment the prorogator moves from its original site in a counterclockwise direction on the horoscope. The number of degrees covered to the point where the ascendent is reached or the celestial body comes into a site where malefic influences destroy it determines the life of the subject in years. If our prorogator starting on 8 Capricorn were to get all the way to the ascendent at 15 Aries (97 degrees), he/she would live to the age of 97. But the prorogator comes into quartile aspect with preceding Saturn in about 49 degrees. Saturn is malefic and the quartile aspect is unfavorable. It appears that the subject is fated to die at the age of 49. Since Saturn, dry and cold, is causing the death, a dry, cold death is to be anticipated.

A lifetime of experience is necessary to get control of the full complexity of details of a horoscope needed to make consistently accurate interpretations. And certainty requires consideration of the entire horoscope. It is left as an exercise for the reader to determine whether some benefic planet may come to the aid of the subject and counteract the malefic influence of Saturn. Note that Saturn is proceeding from the house of its Fall (Aries) to that of its Detriment (Cancer, the sign opposite to its rulership) and its influence is not likely to be as strong as it would be on the other side of the Zodiac.

What kind of a person will the subject of the horoscope be? The houses have been associated with different aspects of the life of the subject upon which the influences of the planets and the signs act. [The rulership areas are from Abu Ma'shar. They differ somewhat from contemporary usage.]

House Elemental Affinity Rulership
1 Fire Body & Life in General
2 Earth Possessions & Dealings
3 Air Siblings & Relatives, Information

4

Water Parents, Location, Hidden Goods
5 Fire Children
6 Earth Illness, Slaves & Animals

7

Air Spouse & Marriage
8 Water Fear & Death
9 Fire Journeys, Study, Visions
10 Earth Profession & Reputation
11 Air Fortune, Fame, Companions
12 Water Hardship, Suffering, Enemies


The rising sign of the horoscope is Aries. Mars is its ruler. Mars is in Scorpio, one of its houses. Strong fiery Martian influence leads one to anticipate a fierce and determined individual of muscular build. The presence of Mars in the 7th house suggests aggressive and possibly stormy relations with significant others. But the setting rather than rising position weakens the effect of Mars.

Venus and the Moon are conjunct in the 11th house suggesting fortune. (The Moon on the occidental side of the horoscope implies an early marriage or a younger spouse.) The sun and Mercury are conjunct at the cusp of the 10th house suggesting a financially rewarding profession, and the sun actually is in the 9th house of study and travel, which implies an intellectual profession. The lot of fortune and the benefic Jupiter are in the 2nd house, again indicating wealth, but they are in the orb of influence of Saturn, malefic but also having associations with wealth.

[This does not tell as much as it might seem to. The horoscope seems to be one of a go-getter, who makes a fortune and dies before the age of 50. But whether the subject is a doctor, engineer, actor/actress, or real estate speculator is unclear. A more experienced astrologer could perhaps extract more information from the horoscope.]


Bibliography

Primary Sources

Ptolemy. c.150 Tetrabiblos.Edited and Translated by F.E.Robbins. Harvard University
Press: Cambridge, MA. (Loeb Classical Library 435) 1940.

Abu Ma'shar c.850 The Abbreviation of the Introduction to Astrology Together with the
Medieval Latin Translation of Adelard of Bath.
Edited and Translated by Ch. Burnett, K Yamamoto, And M. Yano. E.J. Brill: Leiden. 1984.

Robert Grosseteste c. 1230? On Light. Translated with Introduction by Clare C. Riedl.
Marquette University Press: Milwaukee, WI. (Medieval Philosophical Texts in Translation No. 1) 1942.

Roger Bacon. c.1267 Roger Bacon's Philosophy of Nature:A Critical Edition, with
English Translation, Inroduction, and Notes, of De multiplicatione specierum and De speculis comburentibus.
Edited by David C. Lindberg. St Augustine's Press: South Bend, IN. 1998.

Pelerin de Prusse, 1362 Pelerin de Prusse on the Astrolabe: Text and Translation of his
Pratique de astralabe.
by Edgar Laird and Robert Fischer. Medieval & Renaissance Texts Studies: Binghamton, NY. Volume 127, 1995.

Nicholas of Lynn. 1386 The Kalendarium of Nicholas of Lynn. Edited by Sigmund
Eisner. Translated by Gary Mac Eoin and Sigmund Eisner. The University of Georgia Press: Athens, GA. (The Chaucer Library) 1980.


Secondary Sources

Jim Tester. 1987 A History of Western Astrology. The Boydell Press: Woodbridge,
Suffolk, U.K.

J.D. North. 1986 Horoscopes and History. The Warburg Institute: University of London.


Source of Astrolabe

Janus, 9 Bigelow Road, New Fairfield, CT 06812.
Net address: http://www.astrolabes.org/personal.htm
Note: Inexpensive plastic astrolabes fully functional for computations.


Ephemeris

Neil F. Michelsen with Revisions by Rique Potenger. 1996. The American Ephemeris for the 20th Century: 1900 to 2000 at Noon, Revised Fifth Edition. ACS Publications: San Diego, CA.

 

1Contemporary editorial comments to our hypothetical medieval astrologer are indicated [in brackets]. The astrologer's own side remarks are indicated (by parentheses).