astrology each of the planets are allocated meanings. These associations
and relative positions of the planets are integral to astrological
interpretation. Although meanings allocated to any particular planet
often seem obvious to one steeped in astrological theory, an outsider
is likely to get the impression that long and comprehensive lists
have to be learned by rote before an attempt can be made to use
the meanings in interpretation. This is one thing that has led rise
to innumerable complaints about the arbitrary nature of astrology
from those decrying its use.
know that astrology isn't a science,'' said Gail. ``Of course
it isn't. It's just an arbitrary set of rules like chess or
tennis or-what's that strange thing you British play?'' "Er,
cricket? Self-loathing?'' "Parliamentary
Adams- Mostly Harmless
is based on 'arbitrary assumptions' and 'arbitrary rules'."
is an actual planet. The symbolism which has been imposed on
it is arbitrary and has no real meaning."
is claimed that there is no reason at all for astrology to work
if individual astrologers make up their own meanings. With no
rationale, no inner system and no evidence to support it astrology
is therefore a load of nonsense.
appears to be a consensus amongst commentators on astrology that
the associations made by astrologers with the planets are arbitrary
and unsystematic. Some go further and suggest or imply that astrologers
enjoy sitting down and making up meanings to go with the planets
so that they can sell their books. It is not only the anti astrology
camp that thinks like this. Many astrologers don't appear to know
from where the meanings of the planets are derived and simply
state that they are "heavy with history and legend" and that their
meanings are derived from the classical associations between gods
and the planets. And there are astrologers who believe that the
associations are arbitrary, but they don't waste time worrying
are studying signs and meanings, (so the argument goes), and the
arbitrariness of associations isn't a problem. Are the meanings
attributed to the planets arbitrary? It is impossible to say when
the first meanings were allocated and why or how, but there is
a remarkable degree of consistency of meaning through the ages.
It is tempting to assume that the associations are indeed arbitrary
because if they are not so that opens the possibility of astrology
having some validity.
have long sought to explain how the meanings attached to the planets
are allocated and how they fit into a coherent system. Explanations
given in different eras are consistent with the philosophy adhered
to by astrologers at that time. The meanings themselves lie largely
unchanged over centuries.
order to demonstrate how the meanings allocated to the planets
within astrology over time were explained I propose to take a
chronological survey of planetary meanings within astrology, beginning
with contemporary astrology.
is clearly impossible in the space available to examine every
view and the full range of material available relating to planetary
rulerships in great detail. Rather, indicative texts and a broad
sweep of views in each period will be surveyed. Additionally,
the allocation of meaning to the more recently discovered planets
is a long study in itself and so this paper focuses on the seven
classical planets only.
move towards a psychologically based form of astrology during
the latter part of the twentieth century has led to the explanation
that planetary meanings are derived from the mythological associations
made between the planets and the gods for whom they are named.
are seen as representing archetypal forces that exist in the individual's
psyche as well as in the soul of the world. The meanings allocated
to Uranus, Neptune and Pluto are seen as consistent with what
was happening in the world at the time of their discovery.
Sun, therefore, becomes a masculine archetype and derives its
meanings from myths of solar deities. The Moon is similarly associated
with lunar mythologies, although selectively. The association
of the Moon with masculine deities is generally ignored as it
is accepted as a feminine planet. Mercury becomes the Roman messenger
of the gods and Venus is the Roman goddess Venus, with a small
dose of the Greek Aphrodite - and so on.
psychologising the planetary functions the more negative aspects
of the planetary associations can be turned into transformative
and learning experiences. Saturn is no longer primarily associated
with melancholy and so the source of death. It becomes responsible
for highlighting issues relating to responsibility and discipline.
These theories are largely reliant on the acceptance of many astrologers
of the relationship of the work of Carl Jung to astrology. In
Jung's work mythology is seen as a key to understanding the mind.
are the energetic entities within the unconscious that form the
basis for and give structure to cultural images and mythology.
They exist in the personal and collective unconscious as form
without content. The collective unconscious can be considered
a single unconscious basket of archetypes shared by humanity.
Just as archetypes are underlying energy patterns of behaviour,
the planets and signs of astrology are seen as symbols of cosmic
process and universal principles.
all modern astrologers accept this point of view. Many adhere
to the attitudes pervading astrology in the earlier part of the
twentieth century. Much of early twentieth century astrology is
derived from Alan Leo, who added a theosophical and spiritual
interpretation to those commonly accepted, forming his own brand
of "esoteric astrology". In the early stages of his work Leo repeated
the elemental theories relating to the planet that would have
been familiar to other astrologers of the period. However, he
is inconsistent in this and the hot, cold, dry or moist nature
of the planet is clearly not primary in his interpretation. In
general terms the meanings Leo allocates to the planets vary little
from those accepted throughout the previous century. However,
it is notable that the tendency developed later of ignoring the
more negative associations with Saturn and replacing them with
an emphasis on the qualities of reliability and industriousness
(for example) instead of the qualities of smelling foul and devouring
(for example) given by Roger of Hereford in the twelfth century
and numerous writers thereafter.
the course of the twentieth century the meanings allocated to
the planets were largely consistent with those that could be found
in nineteenth century texts. Allusions existed to the doctrine
of signatures used to explain planetary meanings in previous times,
but most writers appeared to be satisfied with the explanation
that these were the meanings attributed by "the ancients".
astrology only having recently recovered in the early nineteenth
century most of the works produced reiterated the rulerships given
in the seventeenth century or earlier. In 1801 Frances Barrett
abridged the work of Cornelius Agrippa and published it as his
own work in The Magus, or Celestial Intelligencer (London
1801). This became highly popular and reintroduced the work of
Agrippa to a modern audience. Agrippa's contribution is briefly
discussed below and his theories received a new lease of life
in nineteenth century astrology and occultism.
latter part of the nineteenth century saw the rise of theosophy
and the repopularising of the works of writers such as Paracelsus
and Jakob Bohme. The theory of correspondences and signatures
as outlined in below gained new ground and coupled with the occult
revival were again used to explain the natural rulerships of the
of the most prominent astrologers of the eighteenth century was
Ebenezer Sibly (1751-1800), the author of A New and Complete
Illustration of the Occult Sciences published in 1790.
work was largely reliant on the works of Emanuel Swedenborg ,
who he names as one of his sources, and whose Heaven and Hell
first appeared in 1758. When it comes to planetary rulerships
he does not veer from tradition at all. However, being a Swedenborgian
his rationale for the reasons why the rulerships worked was a
is generally accepted that astrology died out during the eighteenth
century. However, one place where it continued was within the
world of freemasonry and Sibly was a freemason.
lodges and Masonic societies welcomed Swedenborg's teaching. Swedenborg
developed the doctrine of correspondences that states the relationship
between spirit and matter. He had practiced as a Natural Philosopher
for over fifty years and carried over a systematic and scientific
sensibility to his cosmology. For many, Swedenborgianism became
an umbrella philosophy under which other occult ideas could be
given a collective rationale - even if these were only remotely
related to Swedenborg's doctrines.
propounded a system of correspondences. He believed the occult
doctrine, "As Above, So Below," and taught that everything on
earth corresponds to a spiritual reality. Additionally he taught
that the human is a map of the universe, and that everything in
nature has a correspondence to something pertaining to the human
being. To Swedenborg the true correspondent of any natural object
is that, spiritual entity by means of which God created and sustains
the object in the physical plane. Sibley takes pains to point
out that his work is reliant on the doctrine of sympathy and antipathy.
He explains that everything is drawn by its like. The associations
with the planets are not at all arbitrary to Sibley, but are indications
of a wide sweeping doctrine.
Sibly retains the traditional associations relating to planets
in his work, he uses a different philosophical base to understand
how the associations work. Although Swedenborg's views were quickly
assimilated by astrology, by the twentieth century his influence
had been forgotten so much that Charles Carter was able to say
in a lecture given in 1955 "I do not know what he thought on the
subject of astrology."
doctrine of signatures was popular in some circles for centuries,
but it did not become part of medical thinking until the middle
of the seventeenth century. In simple terms, the doctrine is the
idea that God has marked everything created with a sign (signature).
The sign was an indication of the purpose for the creation of
idea was popularised in the early seventeenth century by the writings
of Jakob Böhme (1575-1624), a master shoemaker in the small town
of Görlitz, Germany. At the age of 25, Böhme had a profound mystical
vision in which he saw the relationship between God and man. As
a result of the vision, he wrote Signatura Rerum; The Signature
of all Things. His book espoused a spiritual philosophy; however
it soon was adopted for its medical application.
doctrine states that, by observation, one can determine from the
colour of the flowers or roots, the shape of the leaves, the place
of growing, or other signatures, what the plant's purpose was
in God's plan.
works of Paracelsus , previously published in German, also became
highly popular in the seventeenth century as a way of explaining
planetary correspondences. Although written in the previous century
many of the English translations became widely available in the
wrote on the nature of the planets and their properties. In considering
their nature he evaluated the elemental balance of each planet.
Rather than simply using the definitions of hot, cold, dry and
moist, Paracelsus also looked at the level of each, for example
describing Jupiter as moderate fire and moderate cold. Paracelsus
made the difference between the actual and the spiritual metals
as used in alchemy. The rulerships could vary depending on the
type of metal to be considered. In describing herbs and plants
he likewise attributed degrees of heat and moisture and provided
extremely detailed lists of substances and their elemental balance.
However, he noted that even these rules had exceptions.
elucidated the much older doctrine of signatures, using an analogy
of the shape, size, colour, taste, nature of habitat, processes
of development, etc. of a particular substance to deduce its potential
medicinal powers on parts of the human body.
considered that that the sky and the air do not only exist in
the outer in the macrocosm, but also in the interior of humans.
A drug depends on the will of the corresponding planet, is guided
and ruled by the planet, for example the plants belonging to Moon
are guided by Moon to the brain. Therefore it is essential to
know which planet governs which drug.
of the most memorable proponents of the theory in the seventeenth
century was Nicholas Culpeper , who took advantage of this theory
to explain the rulerships of planets he allocated to herbs used
for medicinal purposes.
there often appear to be wide differences in the planetary rulerships
allocated to herbs and plants, it is important to remember that
the rulerships could vary depending on what part of the plant
was being considered and to the use it was being put. For example,
roots were thought to influence the brain, stems the skeletal
structure and flowers the lower belly and genitals. Obviously
the system was far more complex than this. Therefore the differences
may not be as wide as at first appears. Other writers adhered
strongly to the works of Cornelius Agrippa in explaining planetary
would be ludicrous to consider astrology in the seventeenth century
without looking at the works of William Lilly. In Christian Astrology
(1647) he provides copious lists of rulerships including places,
gemstones, occupations and plants drawn from a variety of sources.
describes the planets in terms of their elemental nature, occasionally
making a distinction between the level of the element as in his
description of Venus being temperately cold and moist. However,
Lilly does not attempt to explain where the rulerships came from
or develop any systematic approach to allocating them. Owing to
the popularity of Lilly's work until the nineteenth century and
its revival in the late twentieth century, the lists offered by
Lilly are the most standard used from this point.
all contemporaries of Lilly agreed with his approach. In Country
Astrology John Pool (1650) listed many of the occupations Lilly
placed under a single planetary rulership as being under a combination
of planets. For example, although Mars ruled surgeons, butchers
and barbers, Mars conjunct Saturn was the ruler specifically of
surgeons, Mars conjunct Sun the ruler of an healer of eyes and
Mars conjunct Mercury the ruler of blood letters. It seems clear
that many of the rulerships given by Lilly have been simplified
from earlier sources. In the case of Venus, although music comes
under its rulership the ruler of those who sing at funerals is
allocated to Venus conjunct Saturn and trumpeters to Venus conjunct
Mars. The system outlined in this book allows for far more specific
rulerships than given by Lilly.
association of planets and gems was particularly important during
the sixteenth century. Although generally astrological associations
were used there was also a tradition that a special gem for each
month was probably founded on the original breastplate of the
High Priest, which contained twelve gems, on for each of the tribes
of Israel. The allocation of gems for each month largely came
from this tradition rather than any association with signs of
the zodiac. However, at a later date the associations with the
planets were subsumed into zodiac signs and the lists were muddled
with the Hebrew list producing a number of contradictions in lists
most important writer in this period was Cornelius Agrippa. His
De Occulta Philosophia Bk I, Ch xxxii states:
stone, or plant, or animal, or any other thing is not governed
by one star alone, but many of them receive influence, not separated
but conjoined from many stars".
plant, herb, jewel, bird, animal or whatever could partake of the
qualities of several planets and Agrippa went on to explain how
these virtues worked. His system was much more complex than that
of direct single planetary correspondences as appears in more recent
multiple rulerships highlight the richness and complexity of the
doctrine of signatures in renaissance astrology and magic. These
multiple rulerships were used when preparing astrological talismans
enabling the preparer to make a highly individual talisman according
to the person's horoscope.
saw the entire Cosmos as one great, interconnected Being, a system
based on intricate harmony, sympathy and correspondence, both
spiritual and material. He reiterated the elemental basis of all
things as described in earlier texts. Agrippa saw the elements
as having three natures, the pure and incorruptible form, the
changeable and compounded form and those which were not originally
elements but are compounded and changed and act as a medium.
acknowledged that working out what each planet ruled was a fine
it is very hard to know, what Star, or Signe every thing is
under: yet it is known through the imitation of their rayes,
or motion, or figure of the superiours. "
stated that there were certain objects that held solar or lunar
properties and he drew on the relationship between the ruling planets
and exalted planets in the zodiac signs to explain this. He explained
the association of the planets with parts of the body as given by
"the Arabians". The rulerships he gives are those generally accepted
in later years apart from a few differences, for example he gives
Venus as ruling the womb when it is more usually associated with
the Moon. He also described the occupations as being distributed
according to the planets, giving one planet rather than a combination
as seen in earlier texts.
listed a huge number of objects, gems, plants, animals etc associated
with each planet. The lists he gives are broadly the same as found
in seventeenth century and later texts. In an attempt to be more
systematic Agrippa explained how different things were associated
with each planet. For example, a plant that bore fruit was related
to Jupiter whereas its flowers related to Venus, seed or bark
to Mercury, wood to Mars and leaves to the Moon. This means that
a plant does not have a single planetary ruler but that the ruling
planet is chosen according to the use to which it is being put.
gives a variety of sources for his comprehensive lists and although
he makes few changes to what can be found in other sources he
offers an easy reference source for working astrologers. Unlike
other sources however, he also includes the fixed stars in his
system of rulerships.
the fifteenth century much of the work produced on planetary rulerships
related to gemstones and herbals. The lists given vary but are
substantially the same as those that appear in later centuries.
It was believed that each stone possessed a sort of living personality,
which could expel sickness and disease.
addition to individual planets being associated with herbs, more
complicated systems were drawn up. Differences were drawn between
different parts of the plant being considered and different proposed
types of usage. The meanings given were based on the elemental
associations of the plant and its ruling planet or planets.
primary rationale for the associations with planets was the doctrine
of signatures. This represented the centerpiece of mediaeval cosmology.
The planets and their movements governed everything. Their inherent
qualities were reflected in all animate and inanimate things on
earth. As the planets moved along their path their expressions
changed depending on the particular characteristics and elemental
quality of the sign through which they were passing. Everything
in the Universe was not just ruled by a particular planet but
was also perceived as a manifestation of the elements and their
respective qualities according to their level of heat and moisture.
to this cosmology the planetary energies reverberated through
the spheres and echoed through the four realms of existence leaving
their mark or signature in all aspects of the world.
doctrine of signature did not take a structured approach that
takes into account measurable and countable units instead it presented
images and archetypal symbols that required an intuitive mode
of observation in order to make sense. There was much room for
argument and disagreement in this approach.
of the most important works in this context during the fifteenth
century was the Picatrix, or Ghayat al Hakim, the
Aim of the Wise, a medieval manuscript drawing on earlier
sources, all pre-1000 AD and concerned with astrological magic.
Although it was composed in Arabic in Andalusia around 1000 A.D.,
and translated into Latin in 1256 it was during the fifteenth
century that it began to be widely used.
Picatrix focussed mainly on electional astrology and so the rulerships
of the planets were essential factors to be considered. The doctrine
of correspondences was a key factor and long lists of such correspondences
were compiled by the author of Picatrix. Divided into four books,
the Picatrix devoted the whole of Book Three to the qualities
of the planets and signs and advised how to speak to planetary
stones, plants and animals were said to have a special relationship
with the seven planets and twelve zodiacal signs. The lists cover
planetary stones, psychological faculty, activities, language,
exterior and interior parts of the human body, law or religion,
colour, profession, taste, places, stones, metals, trees, herbs,
spices, animals, birds and insects for each planet.
the thirteenth century astrologers had access to much of the material
published by Arabic astrologers in translation. One of the primary
figures during the thirteenth century was Raymond (Ramon) Lull
(c1235-1316). Underlying Lull's schemes was a theoretical philosophy
and the essential element in his method was the identification
of theology with philosophy.
held that there was no distinction between philosophy and theology,
between reason and faith, so that even the highest mysteries may
be proved by means of logical demonstration. This removed all
distinction between natural and supernatural truth.
his Book of the Seven Planets, Lull described the attributes
of the signs and planets in relation to the elements and how the
planets acted when placed in each sign. In addition to the attributes
commonly given to the planets, Lull also attributed properties
according to what he had observed in his work.
with lists of attributes, Lull also sought to explain why those
particular attributes were associated with each planet. Saturn,
for example, was bad as melancholy is a source of death. People
who were born under the influence of Saturn were grave and heavy
because of the earth make up of Saturn.
was not simply an earthy planet however, it had a dry and cold
nature and it was this combination that gave the characteristics
for people being born under Saturn to be hard workers and to build
large structures. Lull warned that when talking about the character
as described in the horoscope the proximity of other planets could
alter its condition.
in a similar fashion with the other planets, Lull explained their
meanings in terms of their elemental balance and how hot, cold,
dry and moist they are. However, although he does mention some
mundane associations - for example occupations, his work is primarily
about a description of character that can be derived from planetary
placement. Lull is unusual in this in that the majority of texts
would be concerned with making long lists of objects and ideas
that are associated with each planet.
of Lulls descriptions would be happily accepted by astrologers
today apart from the language being tempered a little the negative
associations made with Saturn are unlikely to be offered in such
damning language in an interpretation in modern times.
there are some variations to the rulerships generally accepted by
the seventeenth century. For example, as Lull associated Jupiter
strongly with blood he additionally associated it with anyone who
would be likely to draw blood - butchers, hunters etc. Usually these
fall under the remit of Mars on the basis that Mars is concerned
with tools and cutting. Lull also associated Jupiter with a number
of attributes that are normally connected to Venus - textiles, painters
of art, clothes and ornaments.
proceeded to investigate why the badness and goodness accepted
were associated with each planet and why each were associated
with the specific elemental balance.
discussed in detail combinations of elements and how this worked
in terms of character and in choosing medicines to resolve problems
that fell under the domain of said planet. He sought to explain
that a planet did not transmit anything but acted only in terms
of its sympathy and likeness by comparing the planets and signs
to an impression left by a wax seal.
described all to have both proper and appropriated qualities.
The proper qualities are as he described in his lists of associations
consisting of goodness, greatness, and duration etc - things that
arose from their elemental base.
qualities are such things as masculinity, femininity and such
things as metals, days of the week; Planets could exercise action
on bodies by dint of these qualities.
Liber Astronomiae was written some time after 1282 and
is widely considered to be the most important astrological work
of the thirteenth century. It was complied from the Latin translations
of most of the Arabic works available at that time and being written
in Latin was widely disseminated and read becoming one of the
most influential astrology texts ever written.
viewed the planets as having a concrete, physical influence on
sublunar bodies. For example, early signs are described as acting
on the earth element. He argues against the planets having signification
over universal situations and not particulars. If that were true
then the planets could only signify species and not individuals
and bodily parts as they were generally accepted as being able
planet has a long list of natural rulerships. Bonatti begins by
outlining its elemental nature and its basic rulerships. In doing
so he attempts to explain the associations. For example, Saturn
is slow and heavy and therefore is associated with all things
of this nature.
used the humours in his definitions and allies them with the elemental
balance of the allocated rulerships. When it comes to occupations
Bonatti details the conjunctions of the planets to give specific
occupations in the same way as is found in Arabic texts such as
those of Albubater. These rulerships are given in seventeenth
century texts and appear to be taken directly from Bonatti's work
- for example, John Pool's Country Astrology.
rulerships given by Bonatti are those found in other texts although
he offers more detail than many. Therefore a comparison on individual
things ruled will occasionally throw up differences. Saturn conjunct
Mars, for example, is said to be associated with the working of
leather from which the soles of shoes are made. This level of
detail is rarely reached in other texts and so a direct comparison
the twelfth century astrological knowledge in the west was virtually
limited to Macrobius's Commentarium in Sommium Scipionis
, the writings of Firmicus Maternus, and the Latin commentaries
on Plato's Timaeus. Then began the translation into Latin
of numerous Arabic texts and astrology began to enjoy unprecedented
with the proliferation of calendars and almanacs began a burgeoning
of astrological imagery, There appeared two unprecedented types
of image: first, the melothesia, which shows the astrological
signs, mainly those of the zodiac, distributed on the human body;
second, planetary images representing the divinities attributed
to each of the seven planets. These planetary allegories usually
show the divinity in a chariot, above a group of figures known
as his or her children, hence the name Children of the Planets
that is given to this widespread iconographical genre. In these
drawings, the children are persons who supposedly represent the
human characteristics of the relevant god; they are shown in series
or in groups, presided over by the planet. The attributes of each
planet could now be understood even by the illiterate.
of Hereford was born about 1150 and spent much of his life writing
and teaching in Hereford. His enthusiasm for the new learning
coming from the Arabs was not matched by many of his contemporaries,
but he became sufficiently well connected to be appointed an itinerant
justice and to cast the Queen's horoscope. His work relies heavily
on the work of Abu Ma'shar and of Al-Khwarizmi, but he also made
a substantial contribution himself. His best-known work, Liber
de astronomice iudicandi was a compilation of information from
various books. It was a practical work full of tables and rules
and notably devoid of philosophy. Roger even supplied a worked
horoscope as an example, thought to be that of Eleanor of Aquitaine.
texts had arrived in England by the start of the century. The
available tables now made it possible to predict, rather than
simply measure, planetary positions and opened the way for a more
pragmatic astrology. Roger's works were owned by John Dee.
regarded astrology as more certain than medicine and therefore
a superior science. The rules he supplied he stated had not been
previously collected together and much of his material related
to the nature of the planets. He used whole sign houses. The signs
of the zodiac in Roger's astrology are on the whole passive rather
than active. The strength and influence of the planets can be
modified by which sign they are in, but it is still the planets
on which the astrologer depends for interpretations. The signs
of the zodiac seem to be more important as a co-ordinate system
than as a diagnostic tool, and the attributes given are those
of humans ruled by the signs.
the planets are potential significators for the practice of judicial
astrology and the success of a diagnosis or election depends on
the correct choice of significator. As much information as possible
about the properties of each planet therefore had to be included
to reduce the likelihood of error. He therefore offered a checklist
of meanings for each of the planets.
longest entry is on Saturn under the section on planets, which
are listed in order of their spheres (Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun,
Venus, Mercury, Moon). No attempt was made to explain why these
attributes were allocated to the planets but rather this is a
combination of associations from a number of sources, some newly
available to the west. However, a comparison with meanings given
four centuries later shows that these meanings soon became generally
accepted and entrenched in astrological literature.
texts had begun to be available in translation in the West. Although
many of these texts date from the eighth and ninth centuries,
their influence in England was strongest from the fifteenth century
onwards when they became more readily available. However, some
of the information included in these texts was available from
an early stage so their influence is being considered here.
of the texts related to medicine and the medicinal virtues attributed
to herbs at this time are largely traceable to old Greek sources,
particularly those of Dioscorides and Galen.
of the most important Arabic writers on astrology was Ja'far ibn
Muhammad Abû Ma'shar al-Balkhî (c.787-886), known in the West
as Albumasar. Some fifty books are credited to him. His work became
widely available during the fifteenth century through translations.
Albumassar gave rulerships in his texts that are broadly the same
as those used in later centuries.
Bakr al-Hasan ibn al-Khasîb (late 9th century), known in the West
as Albubater, wrote a very popular book on natal astrology, which
was translated c.1225 at Padua, Italy, by Salio (or Solomon) -
the De nativitatibus, which was published in an astrological
compendium at Venice in 1492 and in another in 1493. The book
offers natal configurations that indicate some tendency or condition
that the native will have. When listing occupations or professions,
it is notable that Albubater used combinations of planets, rather
than single planets to indicate particular occupations.
mentions Albubater in Christian Astrology, p. 632, and
it is clear that he uses many of the definitions Albubater offered,
although much simplified.
important writer is Theophilus of Edessa (c.695-785), who became
court astrologer to the Caliph al-Mahdî (d.785). Theophilus wrote
four treatises on astrology in Greek. He stated the nature of
the stars as being specific and described dispositions and characteristics
allocated to each planet. For example, agricultural matters went
with Saturn, speech Mercury. Theophilus described how in the past
the stars were made use of according to their general and specific
973-1048 CE made some different associations to those commonly
used. For example, copper, which was normally associated with
Venus is associated with Mars . The point was made in his work
that common popular associations are not necessarily the same
as those that the astrologers use. He was clearly aware of the
differences of rulership he recommended and believed that popular
associations came from a different tradition and were not necessarily
originally astrologically based.
Biruni detailed planetary associations with parts of the body
and specific diseases in his Book of Instruction in the Elements
of the Art of Astrology. For example Saturn: Earth, black
bile and occasionally crude phlegm. Hair, nails, skin, feathers,
wool, bones, marrow and horn. Spleen. Some of this varies from
other lists available, for example he places the womb under the
rulership of Venus whereas it was more commonly given to the Moon.
And some of his associations are not to be easily found elsewhere,
it at all, for example the association with Jupiter with birth
by Caesarian section. Being well traveled and studied Al Biruni
was able to amalgamate knowledge from a variety of different sources.
Greek physician Claudius Galenos, known as Galen(130 CE), was
responsible for assimilating and reorganising medical theories.
For the next 1500 years Western medicine was termed Galenical
and extended its influence throughout Europe and into the New
believed in a vital energy or creative force that he called pneuma
similar to the Ayurvedic "prana." He accepted the concept of the
humours which arise out of the liver and form a subtle network
throughout the body. He also assigned foods and herbs to each
of the four humours.
four humours were four fluids that were supposed to permeate the
body and influence its health. The humours were made up of the
elements as follows:- Sanguine (air) hot/moist, Phlegmatic (water)
cold/moist, Melancholic (earth) cold, dry, Choleric (fire) hot/dry.
The humours each had associated physical and mental characteristics;
the result was a system that was quite subtle in its capacity
for describing types of personality. In addition, different humours
could be combined for more complex personality types: choleric-sanguine,
phlegmatic-melancholic, and so on.
is believed that Hippocrates was the one who applied this idea
to medicine. The imbalance of humours was thought to be the direct
cause of all diseases. A major part of ancient doctrine was the
use of humours. A humour is that that fluid moist "body" into
which our ailment is transferred into actual body substance either
by itself or in combination with something else.
Galen's system, herbs, plants, and other medicines, operate either
by heat, coldness, dryness, or moisture. They were divided into
a number of types with drugs being classified by their affinity
to humours. Galen classified drugs into four degrees of one or
more of the qualities warm, cold, moist, and dry. A drug might
be warm in the second degree and moist in the third degree. This
gave him a rough idea of the type and severity of the disease
that the drug could treat.
difference between these degrees in terms of hot and cold values
is that a second degree hot substance would speed up metabolism,
while a second degree cold would slow it down. In the fourth degree,
the difference would become more apparent, when a hot herb would
cause an increase of metabolism beyond the limits that support
life, while a fourth degree cold substance would slow down metabolism
to the point of death. The correct degree of moisture and heat
needed to be chosen as a wrong medicine could result in further
damage. The intention was to achieve a balance of the relevant
concrete objects are related by the four elements. And through
these same four primary elements, all objects are related to (and
influenced by) the planets (which also have primary qualities
within them). Galen's work was the basis of medicine for many
centuries and his division of the elements into four classes permeated
astrological theory and so the allocation of rulerships to the
during the second century Sextus Empericus wrote his treatise
Against the Astrologers. In this he makes it clear that
there is sympathy between things on earth and things in the heavens.
Corpus Hermeticum is a collection of texts from the second
and third centuries of our era that survived from a more extensive
literature. These texts are claimed to be the work of Hermes Trismegistus,
said to have been an Egyptian wise man who flourished before Pharaoh's
the middle of the second century BCE, the unknown author of an
astrology manual fathered his work on a pharaoh who ruled five
centuries earlier, Nechepso, and on the high priest Petosiris,
who reputedly took his revelation from Hermes and may correspond
to an historical figure of the fourth century. Fragments of the
handbook bearing the names of Nechepso and Petosiris survive in
the Anthology of Vettius Valens, a Roman astrologer who
wrote in Greek in the second century CE. Valens is one of the
earliest writers to attribute natural rulerships to the planets.
Hermetic texts applied astrology to special circumstances, for
example a treatise Peri seismon related earthquakes to astrological
signs. The Book of Asclepius Called Myriogenesis discussed
the medical consequences of the theory of correspondence between
human microcosm and universal macrocosm - a theory that was to
gain renewed hold in the seventeenth century. The Asclepius has
Hermes upbraiding his pupil Asclepius:
you not know, Asclepius, that Egypt is an image of heaven, or,
to speak more exactly, in Egypt all the operations of the powers
which rule and work in heaven have been transferred to earth below?
Nay, it should rather be said that the whole Kosmos dwells in
this our land as in its sanctuary."
earliest known list of planetary rulerships is on a cuneiform
tablet from Seleucid (i.e. Hellenistic) Uruk on which are recorded
for each zodiacal sign a temple or city, one or two trees, one
or two plants and one or two stones. These ideas originated in
religion was polytheistic, with thousands of gods, personifications
of every aspect of nature and of human society. The gods were
imagined to be much like human beings, save that they never died
and were far more powerful. The gods were married and had children,
they lived in their temples, where they were represented by their
statues. Of the gods listed in Mesopotamian literature, only a
few were thought to rule the universe. These were the ones identified
with the planets, who became the gods of astrology. However, not
all the great gods were primarily astral deities.
most prominent heavenly bodies are the sun and the moon and they
were the oldest and most important astral deities. Sin, the moon-god,
was more important to the Mesopotamians than his son, Shamash,
the sun. Shamash was the most important astral deity after Sin.
He illuminated the world, crossing the sky from entrance to exit
in a mule-drawn chariot and was also the god of justice and protector
of the oppressed. The third astral deity was the Mesopotamian
Venus, Ishtar. She was by far the most important goddess in the
later days of Mesopotamian civilization, absorbing most of the
others. Jupiter is the brightest of the planets after Venus, and,
unlike Venus, can be seen throughout the night, not only at dawn
and dusk. It was the star of the king of the gods, Marduk, the
patron-deity of the city of Babylon. The remaining planets visible
to the naked eye are Saturn, Mars and Mercury, associated with
the gods Ninurta, Nergal, and Nabu, respectively.
associations made between the planets and these gods are different
to those attributed to the planets in later times. Ninurta was
the god of the spring thunderstorms and god of hunting and warfare.
These are attributes more usually associated with Mars. Saturn
was also sometimes considered a second sun, representing law and
justice, in later times associated with Jupiter.
was the god of death, especially by disease and violence, and
by extension, the god of the underworld, the land of the dead.
Nabu was patron of agriculture and commerce, but he was especially
the god of scribes and of scholarship. In Enuma Anu Enlil,
Mars was the only consistently evil planet. One cuneiform document
survives which predicts people's fates from the planets visible
when they were born. In this Jupiter is associated with riches
and Saturn with sickness and constraint. Exactly the meanings
given to these planets today.
Plato's (429-347 BCE) time, it had become customary to name the
planets for the Olympian gods, and the Greek names roughly corresponded
to their Mesopotamian equivalents. In the early stages the names
were given as "star of.." and later took the name, ad so subsumed
the character, of the god himself. The alternative scientific
names for the planets circulating during this period (for example,
Mercury was Stillbon, Jupiter Paethon) fell from favour, although
there was a resurrection in the usage in the seventeenth century.
attributes were firmly attached to the planets at this stage.
For example, Jupiter became Zeus, the king of the gods, among
the Greeks and was seen as moderately warm and moist. Mars became
the Greek war god, Ares, or sometimes Herakles and was defined
as hot and dry. These are the same as given in sources up to the
nineteenth century. The actual groupings of the planets affected
the influences attributed to them.
sympathies between the planets and objects that have been described
in later times existed in Mesopotamia as well as ancient Greece.
Preparing an astrological prescription often included an invocation
to the appropriate planet. The origins of this are obscure. Egypt,
Greece and Mesopotamia all had old medical traditions which included
herbal medicine and the astrological connection could be noted
in Mesopotamia, where plants were picked at certain phases of
the moon and compounded medicines exposed to the stars.
Jewish tradition the Letter of Rehoboam or the Sepher Ha-Razim
(the Book of Secrets) is a text dating from the third century
that contains traditional material on Jewish/Hellenistic magic
and incantations, as well as astrological knowledge of the time.
In section VI and VII are listed the plants sympathetic with the
signs and the planets, respectively, along with instructions for
gathering them and using them.
of the most important passages on astrology is in the Babylonian
Talmud, tractate Shabbat. This contains a list of the personality
traits associated with the planets. These reflect the qualities
usually attributed to the planets in Hellenistic astrology.
above represents no more than a cursory glance at planetary rulerships
and the systems used to explain them over the centuries.
it appears apparent that far from the planets natural rulerships
being allocated arbitrarily they have a long and consistent tradition.
Although the rationale to explain the allocations varies a little
over time, in all eras there is recognised an affinity between
the planets and concrete objects which does not rely on planets
casting rays, as those opposed to astrology appear to delight
than planetary rulerships being
great mass of absurd and contradictory tradition"
is more correct to note as Geoff Dean points out in Recent
planets there is no astrology. In contrast to virtually all other
astrological concepts there is generally no fundamental disagreement
about what each planet represents."