Sunday, October 16, 2011

Fundamentals of Astrology

Byzantine period zodiac from the Beit Alpha synagogue

Ancient science
Astrology is probably among the earliest human sciences before the beginning of the modern scientific and technological revolution. It consists of observation, recording of the observations, various explanations of the phenomena and providing theories about the significance of the observations.

The Celestial clockwork with its accurately repeating events is the factual world that is being studied. We have ancient records of the movements of heavenly objects and their significance to man in the cuneiform texts in the clay tables of Sippora from Babylon. The books of Ptolemy represent the absolute height of the Science of Astrology and dominated human conception about the movements of the heavens above us for over a thousand years. For example the medieval Christian church found it very difficult to give up the Ptolemaic view of world and bitterly persecuted those among its own children who claimed that it was fundamentally erroneous.

One of the most basic concepts of the Celestial clock in astrology all over the world - and therefore probably a very ancient one - is the dividing of the zodiac into twelve hours of 30° each. Note the ancient 12 and 60 numeric bases.

"Essentially, the zodiac is a celestial coordinate system, or more specifically an ecliptic coordinate system, which takes the ecliptic as the origin of latitude, and the position of the sun at vernal equinox as the origin of longitude."  (wikipedia)
The Ramble Twins Crab Liverish;
Scaly Scorpions Are Good Water Fish.
Ram-Ble = Ram, Bull; Twins = Twins; Crab = Crab; Li-Ver(ish) = Lion, Virgin; Scaly = Scale; Scorpion = Scorpio; Are = Archer; Good = Goat; Water = Water Bearer; Fish = Fish

These and other ancient constellations of stars are, of course, used also in mapping the night sky in modern science of Astronomy.

The word horoscope comes from the Greek words ora and skopos, to watch the hours.  Sun, moon and the planets move regularly on their path from "house to house" and change their positions vis a vis the observer and each other. Their angles vary, so to say, when man looks at them up on the heavens and some times they appear as groups near each other and some times they are far from.

Astrology suggests existential meanings for humanity for these regular celestial movements and mutual relationships in time and space. How is this done and what is the fundamental logic in the system?

The twelve astrological signs
The zodiac is universally divided into twelve houses with traditional symbols for each

Table of astrological signs
from wikipedia 
Symbol Long. Latin name English translation Greek name Sanskrit name Sumero-Babylonian name[10]
1 Aries The Ram Κριός/Kriós Meṣa (मेष) MUL LUḪUN.GA "The Agrarian Worker", Dumuzi
2 30° Taurus The Bull Ταῦρος/Tauros Vṛiṣabha (वृषभ) MULGU4.AN.NA "The Steer of Heaven"
3 60° Gemini The Twins Δίδυμοι/Didymoe Mithuna (मिथुन) MULMAŠ.TAB.BA.GAL.GAL "The Great Twins" (Castor and Pollux)
4 90° Cancer The Crab Καρκῖνος/Karkinos Karkaṭa (कर्कट) MULAL.LUL "The Crayfish"
5 120° Leo The Lion Λέων/Léōn Siṃha (सिंह) MULUR.GU.LA "The Lion"
6 150° Virgo The Maiden Παρθένος/Parthénos Kanyā (कन्या) MULAB.SIN "The Furrow"; "The Furrow, the goddess Shala's ear of corn"
7 180° Libra The Scales Ζυγός/Zygós Tula (तुला) zibanitum "The Scales"
8 210° Scorpio The Scorpion Σκoρπιός/Skorpiós Vṛścika (वृश्चिक) MULGIR.TAB "The Scorpion"
9 240° Sagittarius The (Centaur) Archer Τοξότης/Toxótēs Dhanus (धनुष) MULPA.BIL.SAG, Nedu "soldier"
10 270° Capricorn "Goat-horned" (The Sea-Goat) Αἰγόκερως/Aegókerōs Makara (मकर) MULSUḪUR.MAŠ "The Goat-Fish"
11 300° Aquarius The Water-Bearer Ὑδροχόος/Hydrokhóos Kumbha (कुम्भ) MULGU.LA "The Great One", later "pitcher"
12 330° Pisces The Fish Ἰχθύες/Ιgthues Mīna (मीन) MULSIM.MAḪ "The Tail of the Swallow", later DU.NU.NU "fish-cord"

Giving meaning to the signs
Man wishes to give meaning to signs, as Charles Sanders Peirce, the founder of Semiotics,  famously noted.

The regular clock table on the sky marked by the paths of Sun, Moon and the planets, is just that - a regular clock table of twelve hours and measured by 30 degrees on the celestial sphere.

Man gives meaning to the zodiac and to the movements up there, as is his nature. God created us so that we give meaning to the things we observe and we are unhappy and unsatisfied with unexplainable or meaningless things. Life void of significance is empty.

These meanings are not, however, subjective ad hoc ideas that come to someone's head while looking at Jupiter in a constellation that somehow that resembles a Lion. No, humanity lives in a continuum of human experience, with memes that in many cases reach back in time to the prehistoric era. We probably carry in our complex brains memories of Paleolithic era and even before that, when we still were very close to our nearest cousins chimpanzees.

And who knows, perhaps we even carry memories in our deepest brain levels from the lizard times!

Accordingly, the significances humanity gives to the constellations in the Zodiac and to the celestial objects moving in them is closely tied to our collective memory and to the civilizations we belong to. Chinese horoscope uses different names and symbols and gives different meanings than the Hindu one or the Babylonian one. 

But the meanings are hallowed by the human tradition, by those wise books and millennia of observation.

Humanity lives more or less half of its life under that beautiful and intriguing night sky and there is longing for order, eternity, paths of life that we can know and control, also in the future.

Divine task!
Predicting is difficult, especially predicting the future.
Therefore we justly call it divinitation.

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