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History of Astrology

Ancient Priests.jpg

For almost 700 years, the astrologer-priest of Babylonia observed the skies. From atop their Ziggurats, they carefully followed and documented lunar phenomena. They wrote many of their observations on clay tablets that survive to this day. 

When Alexander the Great invaded Babylonia, he found a culture that had developed astrology alongside astronomy. After the destruction led to the development of what we know today as Western Astrology. 


In Greek culture, astrology became intertwined with medicine, philosophy, and religion. Later on, when the Roams conquered Greece, they incorporated Greek astrology, religion, and philosophy. The Romans renamed the signs and the planets and gave them the Latin names we still use today.

When the Roman empire fell in 476 CE, most astrologers fled Europe in the chaotic period that followed. Many of them sought asylum in Arab countries where they continued to practice. Astrology thrived in the Arab lands, as it all but disappeared In Europe. It gained a reputation for being witchcraft and devil worship. 

As the Inquisition took hold, the Catholic Church began to persecute astrologers as heretics. Nicolaus Copernicus and Galileo Galilei were two such astrologers. Copernicus declared that the Earth orbited the Sun; Galileo confirmed his theory. Both had to renounce their beliefs publicly. 

The Protestant Reformation weakened astrology further, and the Age of Enlightenment administered a near-death blow Reason trumped over religion and scientific thinking over faith. No longer the advisors to royalty, astrologers became entertainers at fairs. The practice fell out of fashion until late 1800.


A Russian woman named Helena Blavatsky led the reformation that changed astrology. Madame Blavatsky, the daughter of a Russian aristocrat,  married when she was almost eighteen. A few months later, she left, then divorced, her husband. 


Being financially independent, she was able to dedicate her life to finding and integrating the ancient teachings in the East and the West. To keep this knowledge together, she founded The Theosophical Society. 


Theosophy "seeks to understand the mysteries of the universe and the bonds that unite the universe, humanity, and the divine." [1] Among the many astrologers that Theosophy influenced was Alan Leo.

By 1915, Leo had authored and published about thirty books and founded the Astrological Lodge of the Theosophical Society. Almost single-handedly, he shifted the focus from forecasting to character analysis. Leo found astrology to be more effective as a tool for character analysis than for forecasting. Leo is responsible for the revival of astrology in the twentieth century.


When Linda Goodman wrote "Sun Signs," almost a hundred years later, astrology became firmly entrenched in the New Age Movement. Leo, Karl Jung, and Dane Rudyard were three of its heroes. "Rudyard attempted to reinterpret traditional astrology in a way that emphasized integration. He sought to present astrology as "a living and practical philosophy of psychological fulfillment and integration." [2]


A key part of this revival was Hermes Trismegistus' axiom "as above, below." The statement formed the core of Hermeticism, an esoteric religious and philosophical tradition based on the writings attributed to Hermes' teachings. Its holistic principle was important to the New Age movement.


One interpretation of this principle is that what occurs above influences events below. However, a more modern way of looking at this axion may be holistically. What is happening on Earth is a reflection of events in the skies because everything is interrelated. 


Western astrology focuses on interpreting these events through the horoscope. The exact moment and place of birth are necessary to cast a horoscope. Most horoscopes today are natal. With that information, the astrologer can determine the position of the planets and their interaction with the zodiac. 

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[i], Accessed 7/1/14.

[2] Dane Rudhyar, The Astrology of Personality, New York: Lucis Publishing Company, 1936, p 6; Santa Fe: Aurora Press, 1991. Quoted in Candy Hillenbrand, A Place in Space.

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