Wednesday, August 11, 2010

An Introduction to Astrology

Astrology, sometimes called Western Astrology, is the system of time developed by western civilization.  As one of the seven liberal arts of the Hellenistic Period, astrology was part of the formal curriculum including subjects such as rhetoric, mathematics and geography.  In this second level course, students learned the geometry involved in mapping the heavens along with the qualities of the zodiac, which can be thought of as a zoological wheel of the agricultural year.  Though some aspects of study have risen or fallen from favor over the centuries, such as medical astrology, astrology’s basis in using the movements of the planets, or wandering stars, against the stationary backdrop of constellations to mark off time, has remained unchanged.  

Calendars come and go with the rise and fall of empires, but the cycles of the planets in the heavens remain a constant on which we can look up and depend.  The sun will rise every morning, spring will always follow winter, and the new moon will wax for two weeks just as the full moon will wane.  The irony is that many of us bound up in schedules of alarm clocks and daily planners wonder how astrologers can attach so much meaning to something as seemingly insignificant as the moment of a person’s birth.  

Through all the discoveries of modern science and advances of the industrial age, astrology has remained a thriving tradition, though it may only be included as a sidebar in science books to distinguish it from its modern offspring, astronomy.   Now, in the modern age, it is as though the former were the ignorant old parent embarrassing the educated youth.  One mourns the fall of poetry and the other deplores the muddling of science with myth.

As we study your chart you will discover old ways of measuring time that are as fascinating as a guided tour through an antique shop.  Maybe you will be reminded that the nature of time is more ephemeral than mechanical, that though we are ruled by time we are also born of it.  We can be slaves to time or we can make music with it. 

There are many books and web sites with the basic vocabulary of astrology that are worth exploring.  It is a system of poetic symbols, so after you study what others say, you ultimately decide what the different planets and signs mean to you.

“The Almagest” by Claudius Ptolemaeus, an edited collection on the subjects of math, geometry and astronomy is one of the earliest ‘textbooks’ of astrology to which we can refer.  It was written around 150 when Ptolemy worked in the libraries at Alexandria, Egypt and originally called “A Mathematical Compilation.”  It came to be known as “The Almagest” from the Arabic translation.

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