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Astrology refers to any of several systems, traditions or beliefs in which knowledge of the apparent positions of celestial bodies is held to be useful in understanding, interpreting, and organizing knowledge about human affairs and events on Earth. A practitioner of astrology is called an astrologer or, less often, an astrologist.

The etymological origin of the word "astrology" is the Greek word αστρολογία, derived from άστρον, astron, "star" and λόγος, logos, which has a variety of meanings generally related to "systematic thought or speech". Logos is written in English as the suffix, -ology, denoting a "study or discipline".

Although the two fields share a common origin, modern astronomy as practiced is not to be confused with astrology. While astronomy is the study and observation of celestial objects and their movements through space, astrology is the study of the supposed correlation of those objects with earthly affairs. There is no widely accepted evidence that astrology as a system has a falsifiable, scientific basis though individual astrological predictions may be subject to disproof. Where it has been tested, astrology has shown a consistent lack of predictive power. <ref> Rob Nanninga -"The Astrotest" - Correlation, Northern Winter 1996/97, 15(2), p. 14-20. </ref>, <ref> Skeptical Studies in Astrology, report of Shawn Carlson's double-blind test of astrology published in Nature (December 5, 1985).</ref>




Image:Astrological Glyphs.jpg The core beliefs of astrology were prevalent in most of the ancient world and 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." Although the principle that events in the heavens are mirrored by those on Earth was one generally held in most traditions of astrology across the world, historically in the West there has been a debate among astrologers over the nature of the mechanism behind astrology and whether or not celestial bodies are only signs or portents of events, or if they are actual causes of events through some sort of force or mechanism.

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, physical characteristics, and to some extent their destiny. However, there is some agreement amongst modern astrologers that the universe acts as a single unit, so that any happening in any part of it inevitably is reflected in every other part (thus "as above, so below" is still held to be true).

All astrological 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 event being studied. These are chiefly the Sun, Moon, planets, and the lunar nodes. The calculations performed in casting a natal chart involve arithmetic and simple geometry and serve to locate the apparent position of heavenly bodies on desired dates and times based on astronomical tables.

In past centuries astrology often relied on close observation of celestial 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. Many Astrologers throughout history made major contributions to Astronomy so as to add proficency to their Astrological efforts: Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler, Nicholas Copernicus, and Gary Duncan (JPL Pasadena) to name a few.


There are many different traditions of astrology, some of which share similar features due to the transmission of astrological doctrines from one culture to another. Other traditions developed in isolation and hold completely different doctrines, although they too share some similar features due to the fact that they are drawing on similar astronomical sources, i.e. planets, stars, etc.

Image:Zodiac woodcut.png Image:Astro signs.gif Significant traditions of astrology include but are not limited to:

Horoscopic astrology

Horoscopic astrology is a very specific and complex system of astrology that was developed in the Mediterranean region and specifically Hellenistic Egypt sometime around the late 2nd or early 1st century BCE <ref> David Pingree - From Astral Omens to Astrology from Babylon to Bikaner, Roma: Istituto Italiano per L'Africa e L'Oriente, 1997. Pg. 26. </ref> that deals largely with astrological charts cast for specific moments in time in order to interpret the inherent meaning underlying the alignment of the planets at that moment based on specific sets of rules and guidelines. One of the defining characteristics of this form of astrology that makes it distinct from other traditions is the computation of the degree of the Eastern horizon rising against the backdrop of the ecliptic at the specific moment under examination, otherwise known as the ascendant. This has been the most influential and widespread form of astrology across the world, especially in India, Europe and the Middle East, and there are several major traditions of horoscopic astrology including Indian, Hellenistic, Medieval, and most other modern western traditions of astrology.

The Horoscope

Image:Natal Chart -- Adam.jpg Central to horoscopic astrology is the calculation of a horoscope, or astrological chart. 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. In ancient Hellenistic astrology the rising sign or Ascendant demarcated the first celestial house of a chart, and the word for the ascendant in Greek was horoskopos. This is the word that the term "horoscope" derives from and in modern times it has come to be used as a general term for an astrological chart, or to denote the birth chart of an individual as a whole. Other commonly used names for the horoscope/natal chart in English include natus, birth-chart, astrological chart, astro-chart, celestial map, sky-map, star-chart, nativity, cosmogram, vitasphere, soulprint, radical chart, radix, or simply chart, among others.

The Zodiac vs Constellations

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.

The majority of Western astrologers base their work on the tropical zodiac, which evenly divides the ecliptic into 12 even segments of 30-degrees each with the start of the Zodiac (Aries 00:00) being the Sun's position at the first second of Spring (northern hemisphere) for each year. (See Precession of the Equinoxes.)

All Jyotish (Hindu) astrologers and a few Western ones use the sidereal zodiac, which use the same evenly divided ecliptic but which approximately aligns to the positions of the observable constellations of the same name as the zodiacal signs.

Image:Birth Chart (northern format).png Image:12 houses of heaven.jpg

Branches of Horoscopic Astrology

Every tradition of horoscopic astrology can be divided up into four specific branches which are directed towards specific subjects or used for specific purposes. Often this involves using a unique set of techniques or a different application of the core principles of the system to a different area.

The branches of horoscopic astrology are:

History of astrology

Template:Main The origins much of the astrology that would later develop in Asia, Europe and the Middle East are found among the ancient Babylonians and their system of celestial omens that began to be compiled around the middle of the 2nd millennium BCE. This system of celestial omens later spread either directly or indirectly through the Babylonians to other areas such as India, China and Greece where it merged with preexisting indigenous forms of astrology. This Babylonian astrology came to Greece initially as early as the middle of the 4th century BCE, and then around the late 2nd or early 1st century BCE after the Alexandrian conquests, this Babylonian astrology was mixed with the Egyptian tradition of Decanic astrology to create Horoscopic astrology. This new form of astrology, which appears to have originated in Alexandrian Egypt, quickly spread across the ancient world into Europe, the Middle East and India. In the european Middle Age, the book Liber Astronomicus by Guido Bonatti was reputed "the most important astrological work produced in Latin in the 13th century" (Lynn Thorndike). For a detailed description, including astrology in other cultures, see the main article.

The validity of astrology

Image:Cellarius ptolemaic system.jpg Template:Main Astrology is a very controversial subject. The case for and the case against astrology's objective validity are discussed in more detail in the main article.

Few astrologers today believe that a causal relationship exists between heavenly bodies and earthly events, but there are a number who have called for better statistical studies (for example, Mark McDonough, the President of Astrodatabank ) and several individuals (most notably Michel Gauquelin) who have found correlations between some planetary positions and certain vocations. Many astrologers have posited acausal relationships between astrological observations and events, such as the theory of synchronicity <ref> Maggie Hyde, Jung and Astrology. The Aquarian Press (London, 1992) p. 24-26. </ref> proposed by Jung. Many others have assumed there was a religious mechanism in operation, from the original Mediterranean astrologers through Guido Bonatti from Forlì (Italy), William Lilly, and to some extent, Geoffrey Cornelius. <ref> Geoffrey Cornelius, The Moment of Astrology. The Wessex Astrologer (Bournemouth, 2003.) </ref>

Skeptics see astrology as repeatedly failing to demonstrate its effectiveness in controlled studies, one prominent group saying those who "continue to have faith in astrology do so in spite of the fact that there is no verified scientific basis for their beliefs, and indeed that there is strong evidence to the contrary."<ref> Bart Bok, Paul Kurtz and Lawrence Jerome, "Objections to Astrology: A Statement by 186 Leading Scientists" in The Humanist September/October, 1975. See for complete text.</ref> Skeptics believe that the perceived accuracy of astrological predictions and descriptions of ones week or personality can easily be accounted for by the fact that we tend to exaggerate positive "hits" and overlook whatever does not really fit, especially when vague language is used, see Forer effect. <ref> Geoffrey Dean and Ivan W. Kelly, Is Astrology Relevant to Consciousness and Psi? , Journal of Consciousness Studies, 10, No. 6–7, 2003, pp. 175–198 PDF </ref>

Effects on world culture

Image:Beit Alpha.jpg Astrology has had a profound influence over the past few thousand years on Western and Eastern cultures, along with their languages. In the middle ages, when even the learned of the time believed in astrology, the system of heavenly spheres and bodies was believed to reflect on the system of knowledge and the world itself below.


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. More information about planetary linguistics can be found on this site.

Astrology as a descriptive language for the mind

Astrological interpretation is dependent on the particular culture's prevailing mythology. Being a part of the culture, it naturally reflects it and its images are often understandable to members of its culture. Most classicists think that Western astrology is dependent on Greek mythology.

Many writers, notably William Shakespeare<ref> </ref> (see, used astrological symbolism to add subtlety and nuance to the description of his characters' motivation(s). An understanding of astrological symbolism 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,<ref> Hyde, op. cit.</ref> believe in its descriptive powers regarding the mind without necessarily subscribing to its predictive claims. Consequently, some look at astrology as a way of learning about one self and one's motivations. Increasingly, psychologists and historians <ref>Richard Tarnas. Cosmos and Psyche(see more information in Further Reader below.)</ref> have become interested in Jung's theory of the fundamentality and indissolubility of archetypes in the human mind and their correlation with the symbols of the horoscope.

Western Astrology and alchemy

Image:Alchemy-Digby-RareSecrets.png Template:Main 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. 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. 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. See also: Astrology and the classical elements

The seven liberal arts and Western astrology

Image:Anatomical Man.jpg Image:Astrological remedies.jpg 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.

Dante Alighieri speculated that these arts, which grew into the sciences we know today, fitted the same structure as the planets. As the arts were seen as operating in ascending order, so were the planets and so Grammar was assigned to the quickest moving celestial body (the Moon) and so on, 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.

Astrology and the days of the week

The names of the weekdays are derived from the names of various gods, many of which were believed to be identical to or relevant for certain planets. For more information regarding planetary linguistics and the days of the week, please see this site.

See also

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Notes and references


Further reading

  • Robert Hand, Horoscope Symbols. Schiffer Publications (Altgen, PA; March 1987) ISBN 0914918168. One of the most thoughtful and authoritative books on astrological technique.
  • Garry Phillipson, Astrology in the Year Zero. Flare Publications (London, 2000) ISBN 0953026191. A balanced overview of thirty opinions on the validity of astrology, including skeptics.
  • Richard Tarnas, Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View. viking. (New York, 2006.) ISBN 0670032921.

External links


  • Kepler College of Astrological Arts and Sciences - Based in Seattle, USA, Kepler College is the only college in the western hemisphere authorized to issue A.A., B.A., and M.A degrees in Astrological Studies.
  • The Sophia Centre Based near Bath, England, the Centre is a department of School of Historical and Cultural Studies at Bath Spa University College. Funded by the Sophia Trust, the Centre teaches an innovative MA in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology and supervises postgraduate research.
  • Faculty of Astrological Studies - Founded on 7th June 1948 in London, England at 19.50 BST; its Diploma, the D.F.Astrol.S., is among the most highly valued and recognised international qualifications.
  • Astrology College Founded 2002
Comparision with other thought systems
Western astrology natal reports
Natal reports for other systems

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