Saturday, July 12, 2008

Chapter 2 - Astrology and the Zodiac

The meaning of the word astrology is simply the study of the stars. Scholars have found documents left by ancient stargazers who studied the cyclical movement of the seven planets and fixed stars. These were the first astrologers. Over the years, the meaning of astrology came to include the influence of the stars over earthly events. No one among early stargazers doubted the fact of how the daily circuit of the sun caused the difference between night and day, and how, over the course of a year, the seasons changed as the path of the sun traveled either higher or lower in the sky. The moon was also held to play its role in the world by regulating the ocean tides and the growth of living things on dry land.

Reasoning by analogy, then, the other five wandering bodies, which are also known as planets, must have their respective roles. Individually, the five remaining planets were identified among the Greeks as Kronos, Zeus, Ares, Aphrodite, and Hermes, whereas the Romans have used the names: Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, and Mercury. The significant planetary aspects for Saturn and Mars were mainly thought of as indicating misfortune, whereas the more generally brilliant aspects for Jupiter and Venus were thought to forecast good fortune in the world. At times, speculation within various circles among the Greeks and the Romans concerning the effects of planetary influence ran unchecked, and, in one extreme, the planets were thought to completely regulate the fate of mankind.[1]

Empirically, these five planets and the moon are never observed to travel too far a field from the circuit of the sun. This pathway of the sun is called the "ecliptic," and forms a great circle around the heavenly sphere. In fact, the moon and the other five planets stay within their own sphere of motion and appear to wander on either side of the ecliptic within a band some fifteen degrees wide from side to side. The breakdown of this pathway into twelve steps or stations came to be known as the zodiac. The picture of a stepped pathway, or ladder, reaching from the horizon into heaven with ascending and descending angels, as described by Jacob's dream in Genesis, appears to picture the basic outline represented by the zodiac.

Each step within the zodiac is identified by a prominent star-studded petroglyph or "Zoidion" (a small picture, or sign, literally, a small animal). The individual signs took on their own names. When listed together they are named as follows: Aries, the Ram; Taurus; the Bull; Gemini, the Twins; Cancer, the Crab; Leo, the Lion; Virgo, the Virgin; Libra, the Scales; Scorpio, the Scorpion; Sagittarius, the Archer, Capricorn, the Goat; Aquarius, the Water Carrier; and lastly, Pisces, the Fish. The word �sign� is used in two senses: (1) for a twelfth part of the zodiac circle, which is the distance for space marked off by stars or points; or (2) for the picture formed by the stars, according to the resemblance and the position of the said stars. The twelve signs of the zodiac are equal in size, but the star groups or constellations belonging to each sign are not equal in size and are positioned very loosely around each step to which they are assigned.

The twelve-signed zodiac is called the "solar" zodiac, because it can be used to mark the progress of the sun over twelve monthly periods. The circuit followed by the sun has been defined to begin with the "first point of Aires" or the spot where the sun stands among the fixed stars at the time of the vernal equinox. A basic problem, however, surfaced over the centuries, because the first point of Aries does not stand still as measured against this sidereal zodiac. This point marked off by the vernal equinox can be seen to shift over the centuries in a counter-clockwise direction. This shift is called the precession of the equinoxes. Consequently, the sidereal zodiac was abandoned in favor of a tropical zodiac, which remains stationary relative to the vernal equinox. During the reign of Augustus, these two zodiacs, as well as other variations, were used along side one another.

The Greek generation that followed in the wake of the Alexandrian conquest was mainly responsible for expanding the zodiac into all of its analytical detail. Greek scholars drew from the vast archives of heavenly observations recorded among Babylonian and Egyptian temple priests. Each sign of the zodiac measured thirty degrees, so the total came to 360 degrees. Since 360 degrees came close to the number of days in a year, the zodiac can also be used as a time reckoning device. The seasons can be marked off with the aid of the zodiac by any timekeeper or people anywhere in the world. Consequently, records were kept which accurately correlated a precise moment in time according to the recorded position of the planets within the zodiac. The birth date for Augustus serves as an example. This day was said to occur when the moon was stationed in Capricorn and in opposition to an exalted Jupiter. This date was transcribed into the solar Julian calendar used by the Romans as 23 September (63 BCE) and later on by the Greeks as 1 Kaisarios.

Whereas Providence ... has ... adorned our lives with the highest good; Augustus ... and has in her beneficence granted us and those who will come after us [a savior] who made war to cease and who shall put everything [in peaceful] order ... with the result that the birthday of our God signalled the beginning of Good News for the world because of him ... therefore ... the Greeks in Asia Decreed that the New Year begin for all cities on September 23 ... and the first month shall ... be observed as the Month of Caesar.

Decree of calendrical change on marble stelae in
the Asian temples dedicated to the Roman Empire
and Augustus, its first emperor.
Common astral nomenclature helped astrology spread throughout the Mediterranean region and encouraged new forms of star worship, or at least a new reverence toward heaven. Ancient earthbound tribal heroes and regional deities were often elevated into the heavens where they joined a consortium of other heavenly powers. Selected mortals, who were chosen by the gods, could also follow their patrons into the heavens. These heavenly excursions were portrayed by different spokesmen in the form of myth, dreams, and visions. The mythological Seven Sisters of the Pleiades; Enoch and Ezekiel, two major figures found in biblical literature; and the reported ascent of Julius Caesar's soul into heaven, along with "The Dream of Scipio" as written by Cicero in the Roman world all attempted to describe the upward journey of the chosen few into heaven. As soon as people became intimate with their heavenly counterparts, lengthy discussions evolved concerning the nature of the stars. The general conclusion held the stars to be immortal beings, whose emanations of fiery substance sustained all living things with the essential spark of life.

The character, that is brightness, periodicity, and movements of the planets, were especially studied. Since the sun obviously exerts the greatest influence among all of the planets, a solar description should naturally lead the way. The sun runs a course through the middle sphere of heaven, which covers a year, or roughly 365 days, with four distinct turning points or quarter-tense days. During its annual course, the sun blots out from view all the other planets and fixed stars that are encountered along the way. By way of illustration, the Pleiades, or Seven Sisters, a small cluster of stars positioned in Taurus, remain hidden from view for about forty days[2] when traversed by the sun.

The vernal equinox, or the first point of Aires, marks the beginning of the sun's annual circuit. On this day of equal day and night, the sun rises at dawn from its portal due east on the horizon and climbs most rapidly into the sky. The sun's daily circuit coils higher and higher into the sky until the time of the summer solstice when it traces its longest arc. At this time, the solar station is said to stand still or rest in Cancer. A reversal follows. The sun retraces its path until it again divides the day and night into equal parts at the autumnal equinox. Here the sun visits the house of Virgo. Afterwards, the angle of ascent falls more and more until the sun arches closest to the southern horizon. Even though the solar strength appears to wane, the sun struggles against those forces that drag it down, and emerges victorious on "sol invictus" the day marking the winter solstice. At the time when the Julian Calendar was implemented this event was commemorated on December 25th. On this date the sun is said to be reborn, and consequently turns its course away from its position in Capricorn, and the days begin to lengthen. Even so, the sun does not rise any earlier until several days afterwards. Some cultures outside of Rome marked their corresponding quarter tense day on January sixth. In any case, the sun is apparently invigorated and marches steadily northward every morning thereafter as seen against the eastern horizon until it returns once more to the first point of Aries.

Over the course of the year, the time of the summer solstice stands out, because at this crucial moment, the "clime" can be determined for any particular part of the world. The clime is simply the ratio of the number of daylight hours to the number of nighttime hours as recorded on the day of the summer solstice. This value varies for different people at different places. Northern and colder climes have ratios three to one or more, where more southerly and more torrid climes have a ratio closer to one. A temperate clime, such as the city of Jericho, lies in between. Jericho's clime at the moment when the sun "stands still" is reported in the Book of Joshua as within the vicinity of two to one[3].

The moon, which is our closest neighbor in heaven, comes next in line for discussion, because it is paired together as a companion and even as bride to the sun. The sun encounters the moon twelve times a year. During every such encounter, the moon disappears from view. The moon stays hidden for a short time within the "bridal chamber," and always reappears just above the western horizon on the third day from when it was last seen. The elapsed time between encounters comes to about twenty-nine or thirty days. At less frequent intervals, a full moon can be seen in exact opposition to the sun, where it can cause a lunar eclipse. At other rare times, an eclipse of the sun will occur when the path of the "invisible" moon passes directly in front of the sun. It is for this reason that the great circle along which the sun travels is called the ecliptic. The moon wanders both above and below the ecliptic as far as five degrees. One degree delimits an arc of about twice the apparent width of the moon. As it happens, the disk of the moon is very nearly equal to the same size as the disk of the sun. The total variability of the moon's position above and below the ecliptic can appear to be as much as twenty times its own size.

On some mountains within the southern temperate clime, such as Mount Sinai, the moon in Capricorn can be seen directly overhead once every nineteenth year or, more accurately, thrice every fifty-six years. This particular lunar event known as a major standstill has, most likely, contributed to the sacred nature of Mount Sinai[4], and other mountains similarly located. The biblical Moses may have observed this epochal event on Mount Sinai as a time of social renewal when he received the new heavenly bull in the form of the Ten Commandments, which were at first shattered and then reemerged whole again. In contrast, Aaron seems to be marking this same event with the building of an Apis type of golden bull calf, which was also broken into pieces. One may surmise that the act of breaking was carried out possibly for the purpose of bringing those pieces together again at a subsequent occasion of renewal. Many similar types of ceremony were reenacted by people of different backgrounds to emulate the way the full moon appears to be broken down piece by piece only to be reassembled again.

The moon, somewhat like the sun, breaks its circuit into four equal parts where each part is taken to be about a week. The first week begins when the new moon emerges above the western horizon just after sunset as a slender crescent. As the nights progress, the moon falls farther and farther behind the setting sun and waxes brighter and grows in shape. The first of the second week shows a �midsize� moon that appears to be broken evenly into two parts where one part is still missing, while the end of the second week shows a full moon. The full moon rises from the eastern horizon just as the sun sets in the west, and at midnight the lunar disk appears most nearly overhead, intercepting the great circle known as the meridian. The meridian divides the sky completely in two, with an arc that rises from the southern point on the horizon through the zenith, until it drops down again from the zenith through the celestial pole to the northern point on the horizon. The fixed stars circumscribe parallel circles about the celestial pole. At midnight, the fixed stars and planets that rise from the horizon when the sun sets will always be located along the meridian. The remainder of the month follows in reverse order. The moon wanes to midsize at the close of the third week, and finally, after the fourth week, the moon appears near the eastern horizon just before sunrise as a slender crescent. Finally, on third day thereafter, the lunar cycle repeats itself.

Next in the heavenly procession come Mercury and Venus, as they are always seen as close traveling companions to the sun. Their nature prevents them from wandering too far from the solar position. Mercury can be thought of as a messenger or merchant who travels about just above the sphere of the moon. He is said to have been the first to introduce mankind to the knowledge concerning mensuration and astronomy. His character appears quixotic and somewhat inclined to clandestine activity with his darting movements either behind the sun or below the horizon. At any rate, inconspicuous, but nimble, Mercury can be seen only briefly close to the eastern horizon near sunrise or after sunset close to the western horizon. Venus wanders about above Mercury's sphere and just beneath the sphere of the sun. People seek favorable treatment from Venus, because she is said to oversee love, beauty, and the fruitfulness of the womb. Venus has many more hours of visibility than Mercury, and appears to be subject to a large swing in brightness somewhat similar to the moon. But unlike the moon, Venus never appears more than 48 degrees above the horizon. At times on a moonless night Venus shines brilliantly enough to cast a shadow on the ground. Sometimes, during daytime hours, Venus can be seen with the naked eye. At other times, Venus seems more reclusive and hides behind the sun.

Among the early Greeks, when Venus shone as an evening star, it was called Hesperus, and was alternately named, Phosphorus, as a morning star. A Greek scholar from the island of Samos, named Aristarchus, when he was still only a shepherd boy, is said to have identified the seemingly different stars of Hesperus and Phosphorus as the same star.[5] It is very likely that for this reason people have frequently identified Venus as the "shepherd" star. The time required for Venus to complete a single circuit from evening star to evening star is 584 days, where five such circuits equals a twofold Olympiad of 99 lunar months or eight Egyptian years of 365 days. Venus glows especially bright in every such fifth cycle, or once every eight years.

Venus commences her journey just above the western horizon as an evening star. Venus then appears to climb higher and higher behind the setting sun. After a few weeks, Venus shines most brilliantly. Venus then begins to lose some of her brightness, but continues to climb higher in the evening sky until finally, after several months from her first appearance as an evening star, she reaches a resting point just above forty-five degrees. From there, Venus reverses her course, retreats rapidly towards the setting sun, and finally disappears from view. The time of her western appearance averages 263 days. Venus passes below the horizon for a short respite of about eight days whereupon she reappears as a morning star just above the rising sun and rehearses her former role in mirror image of the evening star. In contrast, the return of Venus to the western horizon requires a longer period, which averages out to about fifty days.

Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn proceed next in planetary review. These more elevated or upper planets, along with the moon, can rise in opposition to the sun, and deserve special attention at five different times during their circuit around the zodiac. These times are known as the heliacal rising, the first stationary point, acronychal rising (point of opposition to the sun), the second stationary point, and the heliacal setting. During three of these phases, the planets range near the meridian at midnight and exhibit an apparently irregular motion as plotted against the fixed stars. When viewed over a period of time, the planet slows down in its nightly forward progress and comes to its first stationary position, then reverses its direction for a short spell until it comes to its second stationary position, whereupon it returns to its normal progression around the zodiac. The backward motion is called its retrograde motion. When the planet has reached the middle of its retrograde motion, or acronychal rising, it stands in opposition to the sun, and can appear brightest when compared to any other solar aspect. The respective occurrences of first pre-dawn sighting or heliacal rising, and last evening setting, mark the two remaining noteworthy points of these uppermost planets.

Mars is said to be the master warrior and protector of farm and pasture land. He parades about the Zodiac within the sphere immediately above the solar sphere and returns to a new point of opposition on the average of once every 780 days, or two years and fifty days. On every seventh such encounter spanning about fifteen years, he returns close to his original position. Mars has a reddish color and, at a point of favorable opposition, shines especially bright at summertime and signals a time of strength. In contrast, a winter rising of this sort reveals a relatively dim appearance for the planet and marks a time of renewal.

Jupiter is the chief agent of wealth and good fortune among men. He is also known as the storm king, who blazes his thunder in heaven and swells the ocean waves to monstrous heights. He rules in the middle of the triumvirate of upper planets and requires nearly twelve years to circle the zodiac. Jupiter consequently steps through a sign in the zodiac about once every year. As for Jupiter's luminosity, the planet can appear nearly as bright as either Mars or Venus.

Finally we turn to Saturn. He is the ruler over time and patron to those in bondage. He is said to have been the ancient king during the Golden Age. The world became a different place when Jupiter overcame Saturn and exiled Saturn to an island of confinement beyond the setting sun. As a planet, Saturn is the slowest moving among his companions. By way of comparison, Saturn canters around the zodiac once every twenty-nine years and six months. This leisurely pace allows Saturn to reside nearly thirty months in each sign of the zodiac before moving along. On occasion, once every twenty years, Jupiter and Saturn will share the same region of the heavens. On every third such encounter, or once every sixty years, Saturn and Jupiter will meet again in the same sign of the Zodiac. When the two planets come in conjunction they appear to be traveling companions, but on certain rare occasions Jupiter and Saturn appear to be less cordial or even hostile to each other. At this time the pair closes together in conjunction and break apart three times in succession as if they were engaged in some reenactment of their power struggle at the conclusion of the Golden Age. Saturn's brightness measures poorly against Jupiter, and even some of the fixed stars. Still, Saturn deserves special attention, because he circles about just below the uppermost sphere of heaven, and stays close to the line of the ecliptic. This constancy of Saturn's path, as measured against the ecliptic and frequent nighttime appearance has earned it a high regard and the name, "Sun of the night."[6]

The outermost sphere of fixed stars turns about the world axis once every twenty-four hours. The planets are ranked according to their nearness to this outermost sphere so that each planet can, according to its rank, receive an assigned hour over which it is designated to rule. When a planet rules over the first hour of the day it is said to rule also over that day, and in like manner, when a planet's turn falls on the thirteenth hour it is said to be the co-regent for the day. Consequently, Saturn being stationed in the outermost sphere of heaven heads the weekly cycle of days. In this way, the Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, and finally Saturn, once again, each take their daily turn ruling over one day in the week.[7]

Established Order for Days of the Week
presented in the order of their planetary procession

Hour Saturday Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
1 Saturn Sun Moon Mars Mercury Jupiter Venus Saturn
2 Jupiter Venus Saturn Sun Moon Mars Mercury Jupiter
3 Mars Mercury Jupiter Venus Saturn Sun Moon Mars
4 Sun Moon Mars Mercury Jupiter Venus Saturn Sun
5 Venus Saturn Sun Moon Mars Mercury Jupiter Venus
6 Mercury Jupiter Venus Saturn Sun Moon Mars Mercury
7 Moon Mars Mercury Jupiter Venus Saturn Sun Moon
8 Saturn Sun Moon Mars Mercury Jupiter Venus Saturn
9 Jupiter Venus Saturn Sun Moon Mars Mercury Jupiter
10 Mars Mercury Jupiter Venus Saturn Sun Moon Mars
11 Sun Moon Mars Mercury Jupiter Venus Saturn Sun
12 Venus Saturn Sun Moon Mars Mercury Jupiter Venus
13 Mercury Jupiter Venus Saturn Sun Moon Mars Mercury
14 Moon Mars Mercury Jupiter Venus Saturn Sun Moon
15 Saturn Sun Moon Mars Mercury Jupiter Venus Saturn
16 Jupiter Venus Saturn Sun Moon Mars Mercury Jupiter
17 Mars Mercury Jupiter Venus Saturn Sun Moon Mars
18 Sun Moon Mars Mercury Jupiter Venus Saturn Sun
19 Venus Saturn Sun Moon Mars Mercury Jupiter Venus
20 Mercury Jupiter Venus Saturn Sun Moon Mars Mercury
21 Moon Mars Mercury Jupiter Venus Saturn Sun Moon
22 Saturn Sun Moon Mars Mercury Jupiter Venus Saturn
23 Jupiter Venus Saturn Sun Moon Mars Mercury Jupiter
24 Mars Mercury Jupiter Venus Saturn Sun Moon Mars

The order of events described in the biblical creation[8] follows the daily pattern as set aside to each of the ruling planets. The light comes forth on the day suited to the sun. The waters are divided on the day headed by the moon. The dry land, pasture and trees appear on the day cared for by Mars. The heavenly bodies and the seasons are set in order on the day falling under the auspices of Mercury. The creatures in the sea and the birds in the air come to life on the day adjudicated by Jupiter. The land animals and man are formed on the day under the life-flowing influence of Venus. Finally, the day of rest, or more literally the day of �bondage� (i.e. the state of being bound to a fixed place) is set aside on the day most honored by Saturn. It is quite plain that a cosmological framework for the entire world flows from the influence of the seven planets. The parts of the body, herbs, base metals, precious stones, as well as the various ages of man can all be shown to reflect the natural characteristics of one of the different planets.

Discoveries such as the precession of the equinoxes, which is related to the tilt of the world axis; the Metonic cycle, which is a whole number of lunar months in nineteen years; and the Saros cycle, which is the interval of time between successive lunar or solar eclipses, were all first recorded during the period of formal development of the zodiac. During the extent of this formative era, ideas based upon ancient religious tradition interacted freely with newfound explanations describing the order of the world. Knowledge of the Metonic cycle permitted improved regulation over the luni-solar cycle and various liturgical calendars. Awareness regarding the length of the saros cycle, eighteen years and eleven days, allowed "astronomers" to predict the occurrence of a series of lunar and solar eclipses. The idea of an endless count of such cycles promoted the view concerning eternity, while the realization that the stars in heaven shone everywhere stimulated the concept of a universal religion. The supreme heavenly force was at times attributed to the region above the sphere of fixed stars or even the sphere of fixed stars itself. At other times, especially in Syria, the sun was seen to be the supreme force of the world. And perhaps, most astonishing of all, awareness of the equinoctial precession within the Mithraic religion led to the appreciation of a force[9] even greater than that of the sun, or even the force that turned the sphere of fixed stars around the polar axis and drove the planets in their circuits. All in all, astrology fostered the belief in an all-powerful Supreme Being[10], and the enduring conclusion found in the Book of Ecclesiastes: "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven."[11]

[1] Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars, Tiberius, Translated by Robert Graves, 69, Penguin Classics
�His [Tiberius] belief in astrology having persuaded him that the world was wholly ruled by fate.�
[2] Hesiod, The Works and Days (lines 383 - 389), translated by Richmond Lattimore
�At the time when the Pleiades, the daughters of Atlas, are rising,
begin your harvest, and plow again when they are setting,
�The Pleiades are hidden for forty nights and days, and then, as the turn of the year reaches that point they show again, at the time you first sharpen your iron.�
[3] Joshua Chapter 10, 13b-14a. "So the Sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day, And there was no day like that before it or after it." i.e. at a clime of 2:1 the three days embracing the summer solstice contain one more twelve-hour "day" of daylight.
Day 1 - 16:8, Day 2 - 16:8, and Day 3 - 16:8, when taken together, yield an extra twelve daylight hours when compared to three normal twelve-hour spans of daylight.
[4] The Sinai mountain range lies along the parallel at 28.5 degrees North. At this latitude or clime, the moon can appear directly overhead at the time of its major standstill, much in the same way the sun can appear directly overhead at the summer solstice when standing on the Tropic of Cancer.
[5] Lloyd Motz, On the Path of Venus, 2-Venus and the Greek Boy of Samos
[6] Michael Baigent, From to Omens of Babylon: Astrology and Ancient Mesopotamia, Chapter 9, Shamash: The Sun, Judge of Heaven and Earth, pg 110.
[7] See Cassius Dio, History of Rome, XXXVII,19.1-3
[8] Genesis 1: 1 - 16.
[9] David Ulansey, The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries, Chapter 6c, The Mithraic Mysteries and the Precession of the Equinoxes
[10] Franz Cumont, Astrology and Religion among the Greeks and Romans
[11] Ecclesiastes 3:1

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