Friday, October 10, 2014

Finding Treatise on Astrolabe by Chaucer

Once again I am using this blog as a journal to publicly document a special moment, in this case marking the minute I stumbled on the "Treatise on the Astrolabe" by Geoffrey Chaucer.  It is not just important as the history of astrology, but because it was written during a historic transit.  This first chart is for the moment of discovery.  Months or years from now when I am studying some astrological transit I will have this significant moment as an illustration.  I can translate the transit in question to calendar time, look up this date in the blog and find this moment as a real life example.

The term 'rising' means that as my location on the globe turned to the east, Mercury in Scorpio was about to become visible on the horizon.  It was still not visible.  In astrology a planet can be considered rising if it is in the 1st house (not yet visible) or the 12th house (just visible).  But it is in the 1st house that the action of rising takes place.  As long as it is not visible we still have subjective control.

Along the ecliptic Mercury was backing up into the end of Libra.  This morning in Raleigh it was still in the first 10 minutes of Scorpio.  Remember an inner planet backing up along the ecliptic is actually overtaking Earth. The sign tells us where a planet is along the ecliptic, the AC tells us which part of the ecliptic is coming into view from our point on Earth.

The AC was 26°59'  just a hair away from 27°.  The last 3 degrees of the sign Libra became visible above the horizon and then the first degree of Scorpio, while I was looking up the work by Chaucer and a picture of the astronomical tool whose use he explained for the first time in English. 

The MC tells what is seen due south (from the northern hemisphere).  By deduction from the MC we can locate ourselves in our daily spin.  Plato called it bastardized reasoning, at least that’s the word used in the two translations I’ve studied.  In other words we can’t know from direct perception where we are in our daily spin, since we are on the planet spinning.  We have to make a model of the solar system and deduce from that model.  By this deductive reasoning we know when we see the ecliptic highest above the celestial equator that we are in the lowest point of our daily spin.  And, when we see the ecliptic dipping down to meet the celestial equator we are starting the upward portion of our daily spin.  So the note at the top of the chart about Leo culminating tells anyone with knowledge of the real meaning of the zodiac, that Raleigh was cycling up from the Cancer low point.

Astrolabes truly were the computers of the Middle Ages
Astrolabes truly were the computers of the Middle Ages

This was a really exciting discovery.  I wanted to write a post about it immediately.  It was very hard to wait.  But I did wait.  And as I continued researching the subject I came across a link about a modern astrolabe craftsperson

Here is the chart for the year "Treatise on the Astrolabe" was written.  The article said he abandoned the work in Oct of 1391 when his son died.  In the introduction he explained that he was writing it in English since available Latin explanations would be difficult for a child to understand.  Though Uranus was not recognized in planetary listings back then, Chaucer would have been able to calculate the Sun's meeting of Mars in Scorpio- not a happy transit.    He would have known about Jupiter disposed by Saturn, and Saturn exalted in Libra - indicators of a weighty year but one in which diplomacy was praised.  All indications are that he would not have known about the historic meeting of Neptune and Pluto, or that Uranus was opposing them.  But we do.

Oct 31, 1391

"Treatise on the Astrolabe" is a great illustration of this historic meeting between the two outer most planets.  Neptune finally met Pluto at 4°in 1398.  In the chart for Treatise on the Astrolabe, Neptune is still 9° behind Pluto and they are both in Taurus.  The planet of social movements (Neptune) was under the influence of the even slower planet of profound social changes that seem to take forever (Pluto).   Chaucer’s English explanation of how to use an astrolabe made this tool for mapping the heavens accessible to people who could not read Latin.  It was the kind of task associated with Taurus, not glamorous or colorful, but quite useful.  Instructions for a tool once only accessible to the highly educated became instructions the average person could read and use.  The Very Rich Hours of the Duke of Berry was commissioned about 2 decades later when the meeting had taken place and both planets were separating in the sign Gemini.  The Book of Hours is an illustration of the revolution in engraving techniques that were making mass publishing much less expensive.  Remember this historic meeting ultimately takes place in the sign of communication.  Gemini is the sign where the time a signal is received above the horizon is still increasing but at an extremely reduced rate.  By the end of Gemini the increase has diminished completely.  In this section of the unit cycle there is energy built up but the input is very small.  (Link to Light and how it fluctuates throughout the cycle of the zodiac)

The four meetings before the one in 1398 took place in Taurus.  That goes back to 1071bc.  The meeting in 1569bc took place in Aries, as would have the one before that.  The conjunctions take place every 500 years, each time about 8 degrees further on in the zodiac.  The 1398 conjunction was the first in thousands of years that occurred in a sign associated with intellect (Gemini is an air sign).  Though these planets passed through Gemini at least every 250 years and other historic meetings occurred in Gemini, this was the big biggie.

The next meeting happened in 1891 in 8°♊. In this chart for the opening of the Chicago World’s Fair, planned and built during the conjunction, Neptune is only 1 degree ahead of Pluto.  They lined up exactly in Nov 1891, but since both planets are so slow they spend several years within a few degrees of each other.


May 1, 1893

Two historic meetings 1398 and 1891 in the sign Gemini.  And here we are communicating across the world with the flip of a switch.



  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I am copying a comment from one of the Our Sky group members on FB: "1391 was a year of terrible Jewish persecution in Spain as well."

  3. Thanks to Van Lee Cheeseman for the above addition of a historical event for 1391.