The Evolution of Astrology
- Written by Frederick Gimino
Do the planets really affect our moods, personality, and life's course? Many of humanities earliest civilizations seemed to think so. The study of Astrology started during the Upper Paleolithic era with the creation of star charts in France between 16,500 and 13,000 BCE. The most famous of these prehistoric star charts depicted "The Summer Triangle" and the Pleiades constellations. The first Astrologer's early pictographs were symbols of animals like bulls, antelopes, and horses drawn with a series of dots resembling star constellations like Taurus and the Pleiades. There is some debate amongst scientists whether these dots and dashes represent an extensive star map or just a shamanistic spiritual vision common to other groups during this period.
Although early pictographs are interesting, the exact intent of the individuals drawing them is hard to discern. Therefore modern Astrology most likely developed in early Mesopotamia often called "the fertile crescent" which housed the first recognized human societies like the Sumerians.
Like many early observations of the cosmos, observation of the night sky for signs of significant events played a key role in the development of Astrology. The Mesopotamians, however, added a key element to this query into the constellations when they added a system of patterns including planets that might affect human behavior, personality, and societal events. Only when the stars evolved from just being signs from above foretelling events into a system of assigning humans with attributes based on planetary locations did true Astrology, as we know it exist.
The Greeks further expanded the first Astrology of the early Mesopotamians refining it to apply to their religious deities (which were assigned different constellations, planets, etc.). Deifying, personifying, and even worshipping the heavens became a practice at this point. The use of Astrology to foretell an individual's future evolved from the Astrology once reserved to foretell the fate of kings and principalities, in Greece during the sixth century BCE.
Later during the third century BCE because of the conquests of the Macedonian conqueror Alexander "The Great" Alexandria, Egypt became the hub of Astrological knowledge. The final evolution of this Hellenistic astrology prevalent in Alexandria during this period gave rise to modern Western Astrology complete with zodiac, horoscopes, and charts.
Finally, the astrological works of Greek and Egyptian astrologers migrated from its Alexandrian hub, in Egypt, into Europe. At this point Arabic scholars migrating into Europe during the High Middle Ages introduced Horary or Western Astrology to the European Continent. Europeans scholars translated the Arabic astrological texts to Latin during this period to create an "almanac" of star charts. Doctors were required to study this text and abide by certain aspects of it, in their medical practices.
During the Renaissance period, in Europe, which occurred between the 14th and 17th centuries a select few like the Medici family, in Italy, practiced Astrology at first. Interestingly enough the prominent Medici family also used one of the first known set of Tarot cards called the Minchiate Tarot (Also thought to be brought to Europe from Egypt). Over time as astrology became more popular, Astrologers became commonplace. These traditional Astrologers were usually scholars versed in mathematics.
The next period in the history of astrology occurred during the Age of Enlightenment. This period during the 17th and 18th centuries dealt the practice of Astrology a severe blow. With the acceptance of Mikolaj Kopernik's concept of heliocentric cosmology, the world cast aside the Ptolemaic basis for Astrology and Astrology itself. Mikolaj Kopernik's simple explanation of planets in retrograde also posed a problem for Astrology. Moreover, Kepler's scientific defense of Kopernik's work and theories on planetary movement along with Galileo's refractive telescope discovering four of the moons that orbited Jupiter compounded the issue. At this point Astrology and Astronomy where forever separated as science and pseudo-science. Astrology fell out of favor at this point for nearly 200 years.
During the twentieth century, however, a revival in Astrology occurred. Popular horoscopes based on sun sign astrology and the zodiac began appearing, in tabloids. Most people do not take these type of horoscopes as seriously as our ancient ancestors did; however, some still seriously consult the stars to see what fortune awaits them daily.