What Would The Ancient Astrologers Have Told Us About 2017?

What Would The Ancient Astrologers Have Told Us About 2017?

(Read the article on one page)

Modern astrology as we know it – in the form of a yearly, monthly or daily horoscope – is based on a celestial coordinate system known as the “zodiac”, a Greek word that means the circle of life. And, although astrology has been dated to the third millennium BC, it has been argued that it began as soon as humans made a conscious attempt to measure, record and predict seasonal changes.

But, unlike modern times where the idea of star signs and horoscopes is often scoffed at, until the 17th century astrology was seen as a scholarly tradition. And it is credited as influencing the development of astronomy – because back then its concepts were used in alchemy, mathematics, meteorology and medicine. And it was even accepted in political and cultural circles.

But by the end of the 17th century, emerging scientific concepts in astronomy undermined the theoretical basis of astrology, which as a result fell out of favour.

The ancient ‘mathematici’

Medieval astrologers – who were known as mathematici – wove stories in an attempt to say something true about the world. And, much like modern mathematicians, they made predictions which they hoped could be verified.

One of the earliest Christian authors, Origen, hinted at the presence and desire for knowledge about the future, given by mathematici. Origen, who had a somewhat uneasy relationship with Christian orthodoxy, speaks of man’s “insatiable desire” to know about the future.

Astrologer-astronomer Richard of Wallingford is shown measuring an equatorium with a pair of compasses in this 14th-century work.

Astrologer-astronomer Richard of Wallingford is shown measuring an equatorium with a pair of compasses in this 14th-century work. (public domain)

He complained about the situation of the Old Testament Israelites who were forbidden from “heathen”  divination techniques , including “astrology” and argued that in the Israelites’ desperation to know more about their future they turned to their prophets and the stories they told. Though, this was convenient for Origen because he argues that they foretold the coming of Christ.

Several centuries after Origen’s death, bishops at the Christian council of Braga in 561  condemned these mathematici and their stories  because of their implicit assumption that the future could be told by looking at the stars – which raised questions about free will.

Stars aligned

Throughout history, astrology and the stories told by mathematici were repeatedly condemned – and the frequent criticism of the practice only makes sense in the context of astrology’s prevalence in the everyday life of the early Middle Ages. After all, you can only disprove what is practised.

The purported relation between body parts and the signs of the zodiac.

The purported relation between body parts and the signs of the zodiac.  Limbourg brothers - Own work, Public Domain

Part of the problem was that the stories astrologers and their horoscopes elicited could be dangerous, wielded by kings and emperors like monarchical manifestos that described the tone of their rule, violent or peaceful, long or short. But like beauty, the meaning of a story lies in the eye of the beholder.

Astrology in the Middle Ages held an ambiguous position, disparaged but common, reviled but satiating an “innate desire”. It told stories about the world and the lives of the people in it, stories that hinted at their true desires and motivations.

Such desires are no more apparent and perhaps surprising that in the case of the bishop and  amateur astrologer Pierre d’Ailly  around the year 1400. At the time, the church faced a division which threatened to rip the institution in two.  The Great Schism  was a result of a desire for a Roman pope after years of the the pope having a base in Avignon, France – and a series of popes and antipopes brought turmoil to the Church and across Europe.

Plus, historically speaking, the beginnings of centuries and millennia have tended to encourage people to reflect on the stability of the world and its possible end – and the schism brought that sharply into focus.

D’Ailly examined the night sky, but did not predict fire and damnation, instead, he suggested that the end of the world was far in the future, something for other generations to worry about. D’Ailly confounded expectations by reading the stars and telling whoever would listen to him a convenient truth: the stars tell us to press on and to make something more of this world – and who could argue with that?

Reading the future

For D’Ailly, the prospect of an imminent apocalypse called only for man to repent and pray – and possibly abandon the institutions that kept the world ticking over. Whereas D'Ailly hoped that, by facing the fact that the world would continue, the church would heal its recent division and carry on with what it was good at – saving souls.

Comments

I agree that, The study of history is the best tool for devining the future. It’s all one big circle.

--Still learning--

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Related Ancient Origins Articles

Top New Stories

Searching for the Lost Footsteps of the Scorpion Kings
In the pre-dynastic period of ancient Egypt, there were two rulers by the name of ‘Scorpion’. They were long forgotten for most of the world until Dwayne Johnson played one of the rulers in the famous movie ‘The Scorpion King’. While the character depicted in the movie bears little resemblance to the real pharaohs, their history is even more thrilling.

Ancient Technology

Ten amazing inventions from ancient times
Dating back thousands of years are numerous examples of ancient technology that leave us awe-struck at the knowledge and wisdom held by people of our past. They were the result of incredible advances...

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article