Astrology, is, the network of relationships existing between man and the heavens which, if correctly understood, gives a key to human character and destiny.[1]  The essence of astrology is the ability to accurately predict the configuration of the heaven at any desired moment. This can be done by applying laws of physics to create mathematical models used in astronomy to determine where the Sun, Moon, planets and Zodiac signs stood at the chosen moment.  When exactly the foundation of astrology took place is debatable, some has suggested it took place as soon as mankind was capable of intelligent thought but others suggested it happened right after the development of mathematical astronomy. The science of mathematical astronomy was not developed until the fifth century BC, which was the late phase of Babylonian civilization[2]. An agreement has not been reached over either astrology originated in Babylon, Egypt, Greece or Mesopotamia. However, astrological phenomena were very widespread during the Hellenistic era and became common to several early civilizations where some civilizations outside of Middle East have historical trace of astrology, such as in the Far East civilizations. It is only possible to say that all of these ancient civilizations had had some influence on the foundation and development of today’s astrology. 

 

           The Babylonians are generally credited with the birth of astrology. Their astrological charts enabled them to predict the recurrence of seasons and certain celestial events. Thus the astrology of the horoscope, and the calculated mappings of the heavens which lies behind it, are Greek in character, but built upon earlier Babylonian foundations. [3] Babylonians were the ones who evolved a calendar, and by 500 BC, they were already moving towards the invention of the zodiac, which was an essential element in the personalization of astrology. The Babylonians worked for centuries over the patterns in the night sky before producing a calendar reliable enough to enable them to predict eclipses and to work ‘backwards’ in order to figure out the celestial events of the past. The details of early calendars and their evolution were extremely complex; however, the Babylonians solved the problems with reasonable accuracy. [4]

 

            Once a calendar had been devised, observation and the application of mathematics meant that planetary movements could be predicted. The next step was the invention of the zodiac. The zodiac, which was derived from the Greek word zoon means "circle of animals", was believed to originate in Babylon. It is an imaginary belt in the heavens extending approximately 8 degrees on either side of the Sun's apparent path, that includes the apparent paths of the Moon and the planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Pluto's eccentricity is so great that it does not travel along the ecliptic like the other planets. [5]The Babylonians identified twelve 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.[6] Approximately 2000 B.C., Babylonian astrologers believed that the sun, moon, and the five planets known at that time, which were Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, Saturn, and Venus, possessed distinct powers. Mars, for example, appeared to be red and was associated with aggression and war.[7]

            Even though, it was believed that the zodiac as we known it originated in Babylon, It is not until recently become clear that it is actually the product of Babylonian, Egyptian and Assyrian astronomy. The Ram, for example, the symbol of Aries, is of Egyptian origin.[8] Just as in Babylonia, the Egyptian astrologers closely intermingled their already precise knowledge of the laws governing the apparent celestial movements. They also held a whole series of religious and magical beliefs about the attributes of the respective divine powers deemed to control the various zones of the sky. This is an Egyptian concept regarding astrology: it is the action of the planets which are held to bring about on Earth ‘the end of kingdoms, revolutions of cities, plagues, famine, the reflux of the sea and trembling of the earth.’ And for comets, ‘they are the messengers and manifest heralds of events which are bound to happen in the world.’[9]          

 

Some of the most interesting and misunderstood information about the Ancient Egyptians concerns their calendar and astrological system. Of the greatest fallacy about Ancient Egypt and its belief in astrology concerns the supposed worship of animals. The Egyptians did not worship animals, rather the Egyptians according to an animal’s astrological significance, behaved in certain ritualistic ways toward certain animals on certain days. For example, as is evidenced by the papyrus Cairo Calendar, during the season of Emergence, it was the advisement of the Seers, and the omens of certain animals they saw, which devised whether a specific date would be favorable or unfavorable.[10]The Egyptians were also more interested in the abstract measurement of time than the detailed observation of the heavens, and their achievements in this field have lasted to the present day. They invented the decanates, periods of ten days, which were later applied to the zodiac, and were responsible for the division of the day into 24 hours as against the Babylonian 12 hours.[11]

 

By the 500s bc, astrology had spread to Greece, where such philosophers as Aristotle and Plato incorporated it into their study of religion and astronomy, as well, it was the beginning of the rise of the Greek state and culture. The religion of Babylonia had made deep impression on the Greeks, therefore, it is agreed that much of astronomical and astrological knowledge came directly from Babylonia. The Greeks translated Babylonian star-names as early as the sixth century. However, as Greek astrology developed, it departed radically from its Babylonian roots; the techniques of astrology pre-supposed the Aristotelian cosmic structure, and the ability to compute precise positions on the celestial sphere.[12] By the fourth century BC, the twin giants of Greek philosophy, Plato and Aristotle, were both speaking of the universe as a complex of interlocking circular motion about the earth, which formed the centre of the whole system. The importance of their thoughts and works to astrology was the creation of a horoscope chart. “The movements of the heavenly bodies and the charting of horoscopes acquired a new, precise and agreed language to describe the configuration of the heavens. The horoscope chart could now be seen as a selective map of the heavens centered on the earth and charted for a specific moment in time.” [13]

 

Among all the ancient civilizations mentioned, the earliest evidence of astrology traces back to early Mesopotamia. Mesopotamia was a name given to the region by the Romans and Greeks and it means, "land between the waters." Mesopotamia was divided into two regions, Sumer in the south, and Assyria in the north, and these areas would give their names to its two significant early civilizations. The oldest text in existence about astrology are written in cuneiform script, a form of writing invented by the Sumerians, who dominated the area from at least the fourth millennium BCE, and continued by the Akkadians, who were dominant by the latter half of the third millennium BCE.[14] In the beginning, Mesopotamian astrology was much like that of other cultures, a simple examination of the heavens for omens that might affect the kingdom. Often these observations of omens would include weather phenomena intermixed with true astronomical ones. What made the Mesopotamians different, is that they began at an early time to make systematic observations of phenomena with an eye to finding regular patterns in the heavens that might correlate with patterns in human events. [15] The Mesopotamians inherited the sexagesimal system of numbers from the Sumerians, a system which used place notation in numbers much like our modern decimal system, and which had sexagesimal fractions very similar in kind to today’s decimal fractions. This enabled the Mesopotamians to do complex computations that would have been difficult in any other ancient system of numerical notation. The other ancient peoples paid Mesopotamian mathematical notation the supreme compliment. They used it whenever they had to do similar calculations of their own.[16]

 

Over the time in Mesopotamia, the influence of astrology became stronger and even exceeded the events of everyday life. One of the great temples in ancient Mesopotamia included a tower, called Ziggurat, which means literally ‘the house of the fundamental stone of heaven and earth.’ [17] The tower was made up of seven variously colored stories it symbolized the seven successive, hierarchized regions which unite the celestial vault to the earth. From the roof the tower, it was possible to observe the stars with precision. The Mesopotamians were one of the first to know how to calculate the dates of the solar and lunar eclipses. They were also the ones who established the common divisions of the calendar in the West, still in use today; the months, weeks, days and hours. It is, therefore, not surprising that, from regularity of the courses of the sun and the other stars, the Mesopotamian astrologers should have drawn their beliefs in a universal determinism, which was held to control collectives as well as individuals.[18]

 

            Although there are great amount of evidence that astrology originated in the Middle East, however, during that era, civilizations in the Far East, such as the ancient Chinese, also contributed to modern astrology. In China, astrology was already blooming several centuries before the Christian era, and its popularity increased right up to the Middle Ages.[19] One of the most important establishments by the Chinese astrologers is developing the Chinese horoscope, that is still equivalent today. In the eyes of a number of Chinese astrologers, the ideal horoscope would be that established for the moment of conception, a rarely obtained achievement, since this moment is very rarely known with real exactness.[20] The year of person’s birth does not just indicate the age in Chinese system of astrology.  According to the Chinese system, the year of birth indicates a certain phase or aspect of a sixty-year cycle of time. Three systems are used for counting and classifying the years: The ten Heavenly Stems, the twelve Earthly Branches and the twelve Animals. The Chinese animal signs are a 12-year cycle used for dating the years. They represent a cyclical concept of time, rather than the Western linear concept of time. A cultural sidelight of the animal signs in Chinese folklore is that horoscopes have developed around the animal signs, much like monthly horoscopes in the West have been developed for the different moon signs, Pisces, Aries, etc. For example, a Chinese horoscope may predict that a person born in the Year of the Horse would be, "cheerful, popular, and loves to compliment others". These horoscopes are amusing, but not regarded seriously by the Chinese people. [21] Still today, astrology is still living in regions of Chinese population or in countries, which have a very high percentage of Chinese in the population. Chinese astrology has given rise to analogous forms of the art developed in other countries of the Far East, such as in Korea, Japan, and central Asia.[22]

 

           Interest in astrology has persisted throughout the centuries, occasionally falling out of favor but always rebounding. Today, with practitioners in nearly every country, astrology's popularity is stronger than ever. After evolving for thousands of years, astrology has become today’s horoscope. While it has changed in many ways, it retains many of its traditional elements. The significant difference is in its adaptation to the present culture and its accessibility through the advent of the computer. Most astrologers today practice natal astrology and use psychological knowledge in their interpretations of birth charts. [23] The horoscope was first publicized on the Sunday Express for the birth of Prince Margaret in 1930.[24] For individuals who are superstition, they may perhaps discover the information embedded in the horoscope extremely accurate. People possibly will check every day’s newspaper before deciding what to do for that specific day. Astrology is found in every newspaper, funfair and circus, as well as on the Internet. Millions of dollars exchange hands in pursuit of the divination of the future, which is to do with the inherent weakness of most people to look outside themselves for help and guidance. [25] It is very true that Today’s astrology remains one of the most misunderstood fields of study as it combines certain elements of science, art and intuition. The majority of the people will embrace astrology as a part of their reality, which in the wrong hands can cause problems to a person who foolishly relies on it to shape their lives under the influence of false information that may be unwittingly supplied. Not everyone believes in astrologers, but hardly anyone is willing to deny the stars some effect on human life.

 

           Astrology is science, and it is the oldest of all the sciences. It is as old as civilization itself. Astrology is any of several traditions or systems in which knowledge of the apparent positions of celestial bodies is held to be useful in understanding, interpreting, and organizing knowledge about reality and human existence on earth. It is suggested that the historical foundation of astrology took place in the Middle East by the ancient civilizations. However, an agreement has not been reached over whether astrology originated in Babylon, Egypt, Greece or Mesopotamia. Babylonians greatest contribution to astrology is the creation of an early calendar. Egyptians, on the other hand, invented the decanates, periods of ten days, which were later applied to the zodiac, and were responsible for the division of the day into 24 hours as against the Babylonian 12 hours. Greeks, with the intellectual’s help, created of a horoscope chart. Mesopotamians established the common divisions of the calendar in the West, still in use today, the months, weeks, days and hours. Each of these ancient civilizations deserves credit on the foundation and development of today’s astrology, which are the horoscopes. What is seen in the every newspaper, funfair and circus, as well as on the Internet today would be the reflection of the ancient astrology.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Endnotes

 






[1] Whitfield Peter, Astrology: A History, p.7.

[2] Ibid., p.7.

[3], American Federation of Astrologers Inc, History of Astrology,

<http://www.astrologers.com/html/history.html>

[4] Parker Derek and Julian, A History Of Astrology, p.12.

[5] Wikipedia, Zodiac,

< http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zodiac>

[6] Ibid.,

< http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zodiac>

[7] American Federation of Astrologers Inc, op. cit.,

[8] Parker Derek and Julian, op. cit., p.14.

[9] Hutin Serge, History of Astrology; Science or superstition? p.45.

[10] Brier, Bob Ancient Egyptian Magic.

< http://www.mnsu.edu/emuseum/prehistory/egypt/dailylife/astrology.html>

[11] Campion Nick, Egyptian Astrology,

< http://www.nickcampion.com/nc/history/eygptian.htm>

[12] Whitfield Peter, op. cit., p.33.

[13] Ibid., p.29.

[14] Barton Tamsyn, Ancient Astrology, p. 10-11.

[15] Hand Robert, The History of Astrology: Mesopotamian Astrology First Stages,

< http://accessnewage.com/articles/astro/rhist2.htm>

[16] Ibid.,

<< http://accessnewage.com/articles/astro/rhist2.htm>>

[17] Hutin Serge, op. cit., p.42.

[18] Ibid., p.43.

[19] Ibid., p.66.

[20] Ibid., p.67.

[21] Chinese Culture Center's Zodiac Page, The Chinese Animal Zodiac,

< http://www.c-c-c.org/chineseculture/zodiac/zodiac.html#Sign%20Background>

[22] Hutin Serge, op. cit., p.67.

[23] Astro-To-Go, History of Astrology: Astrology Today

< http://www.astrotogo.com/learn/learn_dig_history.cm>

[24] Barton Tamsyn, op. cit., p.1.

[25]Miller Crichton E M, The Rise of Modern Astrology.

< http://www.world-mysteries.com/crichtonm2.htm>

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

 

 

1. American Federation of Astrologers Inc,. History of Astrology. 2002. Oct.30.2005

<http://www.astrologers.com/html/history.html>

 

 

2. Astro-To-Go. History of Astrology.2003. Oct 30.2005

< http://www.astrotogo.com/learn/learn_dig_history.cm>

 

 

3. Astrology, Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2005

<http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761552380/Astrology.html#p5>

 

 

4. Barton, Barton. Ancient Astrology. London: Routledge, 1994

 

 

5. Brier, Bob. Ancient Egyptian Magic. Quill: New York, 1980.

 

 

6. Burton, Annabel. Astrology History. Oct.30.2005

< http://www.annabelburton.com/astrology_history.html>

 

 

7. Campion, Nick. Astronomy and Astrology in Classical Greece 800 B.C.-0A.D. Oct 30.05

 

 

8. Chinese Culture Center's Zodiac Page. The Chinese Animal Zodiac,2004. Oct.30.2005

< http://www.c-c-c.org/chineseculture/zodiac/zodiac.html#Sign%20Background>

 

 

9. Eftoda, Shirley. Astrology.2005. Oct. 30.2005

<http://www.astrologyedmonton.com/article-history.htm#top>

 

 

10. Helms, Robert. The History of Astrology.2004. Oct 30.2005

 

 

11. Hutin, Serge. History of Astrology; Science or superstition?. New York: Bay Books Pty. Ltd., 1972.

 

 

12. Metareligion. History of Astrology. 2003.Oct. 30.2005

<http://www.meta-religion.com/Esoterism/Astrology/history_of_astrology.htm>

 

 

13. Miller, Crichton. Is Modern Astrology out by 2300 years.2003. Oct.30.2005

< http://www.world-mysteries.com/crichtonm2.htm>

 

 

14. Parker, Derek and Julia. A History of Astrology. London: The Oregon Press Limited, 1983.

 

 

15. Schoener, Dr.Gustav-Adolf . Astrology: Between Religion and the Empirical.Oct.30.05 <http://www.esoteric.msu.edu/VolumeIV/astrology.htm>

 

 

16. Whitfield, Peter. Astrology; A History. London: The British Library, 2001

 

 

17. Wikipedia, Astrology. < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astrology>2005. Oct. 30.2005

 

 

18. Wikipedia, Zodiac. < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zodiac>2005. Oct.30.2005

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The historical foundations of astrology and its meaning today

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    Date: 31.10.2005

    Course: SCI199Y1

    Name: Kelly Liu

          Student ID:994747887

    Prof.: W. H. Clarke