Astronomy is concerned with the observation of the motions of heavenly bodies, and reduces to mathematical order these observations. Astrology is the study of the effects the movements of these celestial bodies have on human affairs. Through prolonged observation, the ancient astronomers were able to predict the recurrence of cosmic phenomena, and astrologers began to forecast the earthly events which coincided with these.
Astronomy is probably as old as man’s conception of time itself. In the beginning, astronomy was largely used to predict weather patterns and the most propitious time for sowing and planting crops. Later, these orbs of moving light the planets, were believed to be gods, and the subsequent quest for divine knowledge was probably the beginning of astrology.
Astronomy-astrology is said to have originated with the Chaldeans, in Babylon, Mesopotamia, (now Iraq) around the fourth millennium BC. It was practiced in the temples, where it was blended with religious elements. Later, it spread to Egypt, and around the third millennium BC was being used by rulers to predict the fate of nations: war or peace, famine or plenty.
The Chinese were also skilled astronomers, and are thought to have independently begun to use forms of prediction, along with the Maya of Central America and the peoples of ancient India. Some experts believe that Chinese astronomy may extend as far back as 5000 BC.
Recent researches into the Pyramids and Sphinx of Giza suggest that observation of heavenly bodies may have even more distant origins. There is startling new evidence that the principal Giza monuments form an accurate terrestrial “map” of the three stars of Orion’s belt as these constellations appeared in 10,500 BC.
Greek and Roman Times
Much later, after the death of Alexander The Great, astrology began to influence Greek life, as Greeks and Orientals mingled in the kingdoms of the Seleucids and Ptolemy. It became an increasingly important part of Greek and Roman life. The Stoic philosophers secularized this ancient art: Hippocrates, the “father of medicine” taught astrologie astrology to his students so that they could determine the critical days in an illness; and the poet Hesiod, who lived in the 8th century BC, wrote in his long poem “Works and Days” that the positions of the planets and stars should be used to predict propitious times at which to start things. Astrology reached its zenith in imperial times, was used by people of every social strata, and in fact, was a part of almost every branch of ancient culture.
Around the 2nd century A. D. Ptolemy, a Greek scientist, wrote a colossal work on astrology, which is divided into two parts: The Almagest and The Tetrabiblos: The Almagest deals with the movement of the Sun, Moon, and planets; the Tetrabiblos with the interpretation of these movements as they affect man and human events. These books are perhaps the most complete written records of ancient astronomy and astrology that have remained to us, and are a compilation of works from previous centuries.
The Middle Ages
The tradition of Greek, Arabic and Medieval astrology which was inseparable from the parallel tradition of alchemy, believed that Man responds to certain indefinable energies or vibrations of the Sun, Moon and planets, and words still used today to define different human characteristics, such as mercurial, saturnine, lunatic, venereal, jovial, martial, came from the astrological-alchemical schools of the 13th to the 17th centuries, remaining a tribute to the work of those times.
The Age of Reason
Astrology for centuries was used by kings, emperors, popes, scientists, doctors, the bourgeoisie and the poor alike, and together with astronomy was taught in the schools and universities of the world. But, as with most things, it was destined to reach an interval in the affairs of men, and toward the close of the sixteenth century in Europe, astrology was losing ground; although in England it continued to flourish through most of the 17th century.