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Astrology

Astrology is any of several traditions or systems in which knowledge of the apparent positions of celestial bodies is held to be useful in understanding, interpreting, and organizing knowledge about reality and human existence on earth. All traditions are based on the relative positions and movements of various real and construed celestial bodies as seen at the time and place of the birth or other event being studied. These are chiefly the Sun, Moon, planets, Ascendant & Midheaven axes, and the lunar nodes. A practitioner of astrology is called an astrologer, or sometimes an astrologist. Astromancy, divination by the stars, is a slightly archaic synonym for astrology (likewise for astromancer and the rather rarely used astromancist).

Many of those who practice astrology believe the positions of certain celestial bodies either influence or correlate with people's personality traits, important events in their lives, and even physical characteristics.

Astrology is not considered to be a science, but is more appropriately an art, and is separate from astronomy, the scientific study of outer space. The calculations performed in astrology involve arithmetic and simple geometry and serve to locate the apparent location of heavenly bodies on desired dates and times based on tables constructed by astronomers. There have been astrologers who claim to try to put astrology on a sound scientific basis, but for most it is an art that merges calculations with their own intuitive perceptions. For most astrologers the purported relationship between the celestial bodies and events on earth need not be causal, nor even scientific.

The generally established opinion of the scientific community is that astrology is superstition, with no actual predictive ability.

The core principles of astrology reflect a general principle, which was accepted in some parts of the ancient world, that events in the heavens should have analogies on Earth. In some places, such as ancient India, China and Babylon, the apparently untoward movement of a comet across the otherwise orderly movement of the heavens was taken as a portent of disaster. Such ancient beliefs are epitomized in the Hermetic maxim: As Above, So Below. The famous astronomer/astrologer Tycho Brahe also used a similar phrase to justify his studies in astrology: Suspiciendo despicio — "By looking up I see downward."

Description

Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry: Astrology was once a respected discipline throughout Europe
In past centuries astrology often relied on close observation of astronomical objects, and the charting of their movements, and might be considered a protoscience in this regard. In modern times astrologers have tended to rely on data drawn up by astronomers and set out in a set of tables called an ephemeris, which shows the changing positions of the heavenly bodies through time. It is the interpretation of these science based tables that makes astrology a target for the label pseudoscience.

Central to most traditions of horoscopic astrology is the calculation of a horoscope. This is a diagrammatic representation in two dimensions of the celestial bodies' apparent positions in the heavens from the vantage of a location on Earth at a given time and place. The horoscope of an individual's birth is called a natal chart (other names for this diagram in English include natus, nativity, star-chart, astrological chart, astro-chart, celestial map, birth chart, sky-map, cosmogram, vitasphere, soulprint, radical chart, radix, or simply chart).

The path of the sun across the heavens as seen from Earth during a full year is called the ecliptic by astronomers. This, and the nearby band of sky followed by the visible planets is called the zodiac by astrologers. A few Western and all Jyotish (Hindu) astrologers use the sidereal zodiac, which uses the true astronomical positions of the stars and constellations which lie on the ecliptic. The majority of Western astrologers base their work on the tropical zodiac, which aligns with the seasons but not with the actual positions of the stars.

To determine the astrological signs in which the Sun, Moon, and the other celestial bodies fall on any given day, hour, minute, or second, it is necessary to consult an ephemeris or use an astrological computer program which will have a built-in ephemeris.

Computer programs make it easy to calculate the horoscope so that the modern astrologer can spend more time interpreting the chart rather than calculating it. The consequence is that it is now possible for some to practice astrology with little understanding of celestial mechanics.

Interpretation of a horoscope/natal chart is governed by:

  • astrological aspects: the positions of the major planetary bodies relative to each other,
  • their positions relative to the astrological signs of one of the zodiac sytems,
  • their position in one of the systems of astrological houses,
  • their positions relative to the horizon line (namely the ascendant/descendant axes, zenith/midheaven and nadir/immum coeli axes),
  • the position of deduced astronomical entities, namely the Moon's nodes.

Significant traditions of astrology include but are not limited to:

  • Western astrology (using the tropical zodiac),
  • Chinese astrology,
  • Jyotish (Vedic astrology,
  • Western sidereal astrology), (using the sidereal zodiac).
  • Mesoamerican astrology,
  • Tibetan astrology, and
  • Kabbalistic astrology.

Some of these can also be subdivided into specific branches, such as

  • natal astrology (the study of a person's birth, or natal chart),
  • judicial astrology (the foretelling of the destinies of individuals and nations),
  • horary astrology (a chart drawn up to answer a specific question), and
  • electional astrology (a chart drawn up ahead of time to determine the best moment to begin an enterprise or undertaking).
  • medical astrology (using the client's natal chart and/or a horary chart to diagnose and treat various illnesses)

Other areas of specialized astrological study are

  • Mundane astrology that sees correlations between geological phenomena (such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, etc.) and astronomical phenomena.
  • Political astrology , is the ancient branch of astrology dealing with politics, and government.
  • Meteorological astrology uses methods which are supposed to be able to predict the weather.

History of astrology

The study of Western astrology and the belief in it, as part of astronomy, is found in a developed form among the ancient Babylonians; and directly or indirectly through the Babylonians, it spread to other nations. It came to Greece about the middle of the 4th century BC, and reached Rome before the opening of the Christian era.

The ancient Chinese astronomers called the five major planets by the names of the Five Elements. The position of the five planets, the sun, the moon, and comets in the sky, and the Chinese zodiac sign at the time a person was born determine the destiny of a person's life according to Chinese astrology.

The validity of astrology

Astrology is a very controversial subject. The case for and the case against astrology's objective validity are discussed more fully at Validity of astrology.

Some astrologers argue that astrology works by a mechanism that is (yet) unknown to science and that it is validated by their personal experience when applied in real life cases. They argue that it does not make the hard predictions that science would require but informs the user of subtleties to decisions that would otherwise be missed.

Skeptics see astrology as repeatedly failing to demonstrate its effectiveness in controlled studies and see those who continue to use and believe in it as gullible and deluded, or even as charlatans.

These are the astrological glyphs as most commonly used in Western Astrology.

Effects on world culture

Astrology has had a profound influence over the past few thousand years on Western and Eastern cultures, along with the English language. Influenza was so named because doctors once believed it to be caused by unfavorable planetary and stellar influences. The word "disaster" comes from the Latin "dis-aster" meaning "bad star". Also, the adjectives "lunatic" (Moon), "mercurial" (Mercury), "martial" (Mars), "jovial" (Jupiter/Jove), and "saturnine" (Saturn) are all old words used to describe personal qualities said to resemble or be highly influenced by the astrological characteristics of the planet, some of which are derived from the attributes of the ancient Roman gods they are named after.

Astrology as a descriptive language for the mind

Many writers, notably William Shakespeare [1], used astrological symbolism to add subtlety to the description of their characters' motivation. An understanding of astrological principles is needed to fully appreciate such literature, along with the work of many other writers and poets of this and many other eras. Some modern thinkers, notably Carl Jung, have acknowledged its descriptive powers of the mind without necessarily subscribing to its predictive claims.

Astrology and the classical elements

A version of the anatomical-astrological human; medical astrology was particularly popular in the past.

Astrology has used the concept of classical elements from antiquity up until the present. Most modern astrologers use the four classical elements extensively, and indeed it is still viewed as a critical part of interpreting the astrological chart.

Astrology and alchemy

Alchemy in the Western World and other locations where it was widely practiced was (and in many cases still is) closely allied and intertwined with traditional Babylonian-Greek style astrology; in numerous ways they were built to complement each other in the search for hidden knowledge. Traditionally, each of the seven planets in the solar system as known to the ancients was associated with, held dominion over, and ruled a certain metal.

The seven liberal arts and astrology

In medieval Europe, a university education was divided into seven distinct areas, each represented by a particular planet and known as the Seven Liberal Arts. They were seen as operating in ascending order, beginning with Grammar which was assigned to the quickest moving celestial body (the Moon) and culminating in Astronomia which was thought to be astrologically ruled by Saturn, the slowest moving and furthest out planet known at the time. After this sequence wisdom was supposed to have been achieved by the medieval university student.

Dante Alighieri used the following associations of the seven liberal arts to the seven traditional astrological planets in the Divine Comedy and Convivio.

  • Astronomia — Saturn
  • Geometry — Jupiter
  • Arithmetic — Mars
  • Music — Sun
  • Rhetoric — Venus
  • Dialectic — Mercury
  • Grammar — Moon

Astrology and the Days of the Week

Each day of the week was created in honor of one of the seven celestial bodies (the Sun, Moon and five planets known in ancient times); and in ancient astrology, each day of the week was said to be influenced by the traits of the celestial body it was named after. The system was symmetrical and free of complication until the discovery of Uranus in 1781.

The English names, other than the obvious Saturday, Sunday and Monday, are taken from the Teutonic deities that were correlated with the Roman deities that were associated with the planets that the days were named after.

The days of the week and celestial bodies they are named after are:

  • Sunday — Sun
  • Monday — Moon
  • Tuesday — Mars
  • Wednesday — Mercury
  • Thursday — Jupiter
  • Friday — Venus
  • Saturday — Saturn

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