|William Blake: Seven Spririts of God. Now he had some really funny ideas.|
Whenever we receive wisdom that’s come down through many centuries, we can be certain that it has lost half its original bodyweight, accrued an encrustation of opinion, developed a strange lopsided bias, and probably had most of its essential parts replaced.
But hey, that’s evolution for you.
The real origins of astrology are lost in the mist of time. It all started in Babylon, probably, and at that time and place, people believed in many gods and goddesses, they were ruled by absolute monarchs and a caste of priests, the twin rivers Tigris and Euphrates brought life, and famine was real.
In classical times, Ptolemy gave us his Tetrabiblos, which became as unassailable for some astrologers as another book written during those years, the Bible, is for some Christians. Those texts were written when the Mediterranean was the centre of the world, emperors ruled, the gods were a quarrelling, capricious mafia-style family, and slavery was normal, and Christians were fed to lions.
|An Arab illustration of the cycle of the
Moon and the signs of the Zodiac.
When the Arabs came to astrology, gods had melded into God, numbers had become infinitely flexible, and science was funded by the courts. Later, Renaissance astrologers, such as William Lilley were working at a time when the Church held tremendous power, and publishing had become a profitable business.
So each period has its own particular take on astrology, and the subject evolves through time, gaining and losing bits as it spirals from one era to the next. In the 20th century, astrology went all psychological – that was the century that started with Freud vs Jung, and ended with Ritilin.
Then there are the translations and mistranslations: most of the texts we inherited were in Greek, Latin or Arabic, and many have been translated from Greek to Latin to Arabic and then back again. It’s Chinese whispers.
And then there’s what has simply been lost – burned, mouldy, misplaced – that we can never know about, what falls out of fashion and what is taken up with fervour because it matches the spirit of the times. We’ve recently seen this with the hooha around the Mayan Calendar, which fitted in with the current end-of-times atmosphere.
|Looking for the feminine in astrology
Night by Edward Hughes
But the reason I’ve been thinking about the transmission of knowledge is because a while ago, I came across some references to tutelary deities in Roman astrology, an idea that has fallen completely out of astrological fashion. I wrote about this here. A tutelary deity is a kind of guardian angel, a benevolent friend, and according to this source, there was a deity for each sign. This is not the same as the sign ruler – a planet, as we know, that can be benevolent or malevolent. The tutelary deity is a facilitator.
Now as I explained here, this would mean that there are six goddesses and six gods in matching pairs, going some way to rebalancing the genders in astrology. And if you see which gods were assigned to which sign, you can see some signs are boosted – for example Neptune was assigned to Pisces – and some are given more balance – cool Capricorn is given warm Vesta, individualistic Aquarius gets Juno, the goddess of marriage and so on. The tutelary deities give us an idea of how to work with a sign.
But what happens if we match up these tutelary deities and the asteroids that carry the names of the missing goddesses – Ceres, Vesta, Juno and Pallas Athena. This marriage of classical theory and modern astronomy produces some intriguingly accurate and profound results.
And so astrology takes another turn on the spiral of evolution.
If you want to read more about the tutelary deities, here are my previous pieces. I haven’t read about them anywhere other than in a footnote by the English astrologer CEO Carter or Manilius Astronomica itself. If you find any other references I’d love to hear about it.
And here is some of the original text.