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What About Astrology?

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Astrology is a divinatory practice by which a person's traits or even destiny come to be described or forecasted. Western astrology clearly emerges since the 5th century B.C., in Babylone, with a reference to 12 zodiacal signs. A astrologer is needing accurate celestial bodies positions measurements to establish his horoscopes as astrology uses the motions of the planets in the solar system only against the background of constellations. It looks like such a Chaldean astrology then spread into the Hellenistic empire, India, Egypt or Rome, tending to less religious and more popular. In Greece or Egypt further, astrology comes too to support medicine. Independent astrological systems, on the other hand, appeared too in China or pre-Colombian Americas. A first main astrological synthesis was the 'Tetrabiblos,' a work by astronomer Ptolemy, by 140 A.D. Generally, that proves that, as he had written his Almagest and Tetrabiblos, one work dedicated to astronomy and the other one to astrology respectively, Ancients tended to distinguish both as a real difference was to be reached by the Renaissance in Europe only. The House of Wisdom, in Baghdad then, under the Abassid caliphs in the 9th century A.D., allowed to astrology too with scholar al Kindi founding a doctrine of the interaction between planets positions and impulsions at the origin of great events in History. His ideas further were spread through a disciple of him, Albumasar (died 886), in his book 'Liber magnarum coniunctionum' which had a strong influence upon western astrology during the Middle Ages. Thebit, a other scholar in the school (died 901), a Sabean in origin where he had gathered the Mesopotamian astrological knowledge, the astrologer to Antioche's caliph teached that each planet had a 'daemon' guiding it. Persians, Syrians and Jews came to supplement, with Mashallah authoring some 20 astrological treaties

As far as Christian West is concerned, Church had a ambiguous stance about astrology. Like any divinatory practice, it became forbidden, like in the Toledo Council by 447 A.D. it nethertheless kept being used in courts or studied by scholards, during the height of the Middle Ages by the 13th century, as Arabic Spain was instrumental into the presence of astrology in the West. As the Renaissance, with the Copernican revolution rooted out the anthropological basis of astrology, astronomers of the time either condemn, or practised it until about the 17th century, even by Newton as the office of the Astrologer Royal, at the French court, was suppressed at that time only. Astrology in England only was forbidden beginning in the 18th century! Jews meanwhile, during the Middle Ages used astrology like a help for their Biblical commentaries but Maimonide, as soon as those times, condemned that. Renaissant popes like Sixte IV, Jules II, Leo X or Paul III themselves allowed astrology in their court. Any ruler who cared about too much influence in astrology, like some Roman emperors Tiberius or Hadrian already had by the 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D. are stressing that any divination through planets is allowed to persons correctly trained in astrology only. St. Thomas Aquinas as far a he is concerned thinks that astrological forecast seem true due to that many humans obey their passions. He does not deny on the other hand that Moon might have a influence upon farming or seafaring as eventually calling to Origene he stresses that human liberty is not subject to stars as that suppression would lead that men by unable to evil, or good. It looks like in the Middle Ages a difference was made between a global, heretic astral deterministic fatalism, or even a planetary determination of God, and some astrological practices considered a mere, relativized, possibly helping aspect of how the world is working. Astrology in the Middle Ages mostly was used by the elite as mass mostly used divinatory practices. One of the most questionable aspect of astrology today is that the sky chart it uses never took in account the precession, which makes that the astrological zodiac today has shifted by one sign to the astronomical reality

Website Manager: G. Guichard, site Learning and Knowledge In the Carolingian Times / Erudition et savoir à l'époque carolingienne, Page Editor: G. Guichard. last edited: 1/6/2011. contact us at
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