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form of divinationdivination,
practice of foreseeing future events or obtaining secret knowledge through communication with divine sources and through omens, oracles, signs, and portents.
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 based on the theory that the movements of the celestial bodies—the stars, the planets, the sun, and the moon—influence human affairs and determine the course of events. Celestial phenomena have been the object of religious sentiment since earliest times (see moon worshipmoon worship.
Although the moon has not had great prominence in the history of religion, the worship of it has been known since earliest recorded time—in the oldest literatures of Egypt, Babylonia, India, and China—and still exists today in various parts of the
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; sun worshipsun worship.
Deification and adoration of the sun occurred primarily in agrarian societies. When man became a farmer, and thus dependent upon daily and seasonal changes of weather, he often turned to worship the great force that regulated these changes—the light and heat
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). The Chaldaeans and the Assyrians were the first to discard their sky gods in favor of a nondeistic system of divination founded upon astronomy and numerology. They saw the heavenly bodies as exerting an influence upon the lives of individuals and the destinies of empires. Generally, future events were believed determined beforehand by a universal order that was a result of the motions of the planets and stars. The practices of astrology spread throughout the ancient Middle East, Asia, and Europe, but with the rise of Christianity, which emphasized divine intervention and free will, interest in astrology subsided, although astrologers continued to flourish. During the European Renaissance astrology as a form of divination regained popularity, due in part to the rekindled interest in science and astronomy. The European astrologer, considered a scholar exploring the mysteries of the universe through science and reason, was held in high esteem in the community for many years. However, in the 16th and 17th cent., Christian theologists waged war against astrology. In 1585 astrology was officially condemned in a bull of Pope Sixtus V, and in 1631, Pope Urban VIII reinforced this with another bull. At the same time the astronomical work of such men as Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, Kepler, and Galileo was undermining the tenets of astrology. Astrology, however, continued to be practiced. All of the aforementioned scientists remained practicing astrologers, as did other great thinkers such as Descartes and Newton; moreover, Copernican theory did not find sudden and widespread acceptance. Gradually, however, astrology declined, although this form of divination is still very much alive. One's horoscope is a map of the heavens at the time of one's birth, showing the position of the heavenly bodies in relation to the 12 "houses" or signs through which they pass (see zodiaczodiac
[Gr. zoion=animal], in astronomy, zone of the sky that includes about 8° on either side of the ecliptic. The apparent paths of the sun, the moon, and the major planets all fall within this zone.
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) and their positions in relation to each other. Each house has as its "lord" one of the heavenly bodies; the one in the "ascendant" is the one of greatest significance to the inquirer, supposedly endowing him with his temperamental qualities, his tendencies to particular diseases, and his liability to certain fortunes or calamities.


See E. McCaffery, Astrology: Its History and Influence in the Western World (rev. ed. 1942); L. Thorndike, History of Magic and Experimental Science (rev. ed. 1958); M. Gauquelin, The Cosmic Clocks (1967); C. McIntosh, The Astrologers and their Creed (1969).

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Woodcut of an astrologer, by Albtecht Durer, 1498. Fortean Picture Library.


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

As people began to consider the seemingly infinite universe, they wondered whether the stars could foretell future events and exercise control over human lives. A psalmist of the Bible wrote, "the heavens declare the glory of God" (Psalm 19:1). Zoroastrian astrologers called Magi traveled to Bethlehem at the birth of Jesus because they saw a "star" or sign in the heavens foretelling the birth of a Jewish king. Long before this, astrologers as far apart as Egypt, China, Peru, and England were building stone structures to aid in foretelling times and seasons based on the stars. Good evidence has been presented that the pyramids of Giza mirror the stars of the constellation Orion. There appears to be astrological significance attached to many of the enigmatic stone circles of Western Europe, including Stonehenge. Indians of the American Southwest seem to have been very aware of the significance of astral events, recording them on pictographs scattered throughout Arizona and New Mexico. Chinese mythology makes mention of comets and stars that are now followed by astronomers.

When the comet Hale-Bopp stood high in the sky during the spring evenings of 1997, groups such as the Heaven's Gate cult were sure it was a prophecy portending either doom or salvation for the human race (see Cults).

Such age-old wonder at the heavens perhaps naturally gave rise to astrology, the study of the stars. Astrology, a form of which is found in nearly all cultures, is a vast field of study that focuses on the correlations between celestial events and humanly meaningful events. While not a religion in itself, astrology has been put to use in many religious contexts. As astrologer James R. Lewis notes in The Astrology Book: "Most people are familiar with only a tiny portion of the science of the stars, namely the 12 signs of the Zodiac as they relate to the personality of individuals and the use of astrology for divinatory purposes"—that is, the horoscope as it appears in daily newspapers. Such horoscopes are based on a person's sun sign—which one of twelve constellations the sun appeared in, from the perspective of his or her birthplace, at the time of the person's birth. The positions of other heavenly bodies also make up one's so-called natal chart, which most astrologers are careful to note does not so much predict a person's future as describe possible influences, likely tendencies,

or the overall nature of one's personality—information one can use to set the course of one's own life. The same process can be applied to analyze the circumstances of any other event, past or potential, such as a wedding.

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Arabic astrologers, 1513. Courtesy Fortean Picture Library.


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Although not a part of Witchcraft itself, many Witches do practice astrology, the art of predicting earthly events based on the movement of the planets. Indeed, many regard astrology as one of the fundamentals of magic. While some Witches keep their personal Book of Shadows as a notebook for recording knowledge of herbs or divination, for example, others keep theirs to record findings and teachings in astrology.

Astrology is the study of the planets in relation to the earth and their influence on human life. The Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus (patron of the magical arts, associated with the Egyptian god Thoth) states, "That which is below is like unto that which is above, and that which is above is like unto that which is below, for the performing of the miracles of the One Thing." This is usually shortened to "As above, so below," meaning that what is found in the heavens is reflected here on earth.

From this study of the planets' influences, a "natal chart," or "genethliacal horoscope," may be drawn. This is, in effect, a map of the heavens as they were at the very moment of birth, as seen from the geographical location of that birth. This map is divided into twelve "houses," each with a different jurisdiction. The planets are seen as influencing the subject both directly on the subject and in relation to their relative positions. By plotting these juxtapositions, the astrologer is able to interpret forces at work on the person being reviewed.

It has been argued that astrology is invalid, since it stems from a time when it was believed that the earth was the center of the universe, with the planets revolving around it. However, the basis of astrology is the relative positions of the planets to the earth, as viewed from the earth. It therefore makes no difference whether or not those planets do in fact revolve around the earth or if they revolve around the Sun (or around anything else, for that matter!). The relative positions, as seen from here, remain the same.

In addition to the Sun and Moon, the planets reviewed are Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. For the purposes of astrology, the year is divided into twelve houses: January 21 through February 19 (Aquarius), represented by the Water Carrier; February 20 through March 20 (Pisces), the Fish; March 21 through April 19 (Aries), the Ram; April 20 through May 19 (Taurus), the Bull; May 20 through June 20 (Gemini), the Twins; June 21 through July 22 (Cancer), the Crab; July 23 through August 21 (Leo), the Lion; August 22 through September 22 (Virgo), the Virgin; September 23 through October 22 (Libra), the Scales; October 23 through November 21 (Scorpio), the Scorpion; November 22 through December 21 (Sagittarius), the Archer; and December 22 through January 20 (Capricorn), the Goat. (The actual dates may vary, depending at what hour of the night the Moon passes from one sign to the next.) The twenty-four hour period around the change from one sign to another is known as the "cusp," although the term applies specifically to the very starting point of the new sign.

Looking at the twelve Houses of the natal chart, the First House, known as the Ascendant, deals with the physical build, childhood, temperament, environment, development of personality and constitution. The Second House is material possessions, money, and the individual's attitude to these things. Third House is family connections, education, and communication. Fourth House is hereditary characteristics, houses, land, and the parental home. Fifth House is procreation, sexuality, children, pleasure, sport, speculation and risks. Sixth house is health, physical wellbeing, and subordinates. Seventh House is partnership, marriage, close relationships, the community, and obvious enemies. Eighth House is death and the afterlife, accidents, spouse's money, stocks, bonds, inheritance. Ninth house is philosophy, religion, mental exploration, spirituality, foreigners, languages, and travel. Tenth house is vocation, ambitions, professional and public life, outward appearance, and discipline. Eleventh house is friendships, clubs and societies, hopes, and wishes. Twelfth house is seclusion, escapism, self-sacrifice, obscure difficulties, and hidden enemies.

The actual positions of the planets are found in a book of tables known as the "Ephemeris," which details the positions at the many different minutes and hours over the years. It is possible to look back and establish the positions of every one of the planets a hundred years or more in the past for sixty or more years into the future. In this way, the astrologer is able to forecast what the influences will be on the individual at any specific time (not just at birth) and in any specific geographical location. Measurement of time is given in what is known as "sidereal time," measured by the stars rather than the sun. The stars appear to move around the sky at a faster rate than the sun, and this must be allowed for in sidereal time.

Astrology was supposedly invented by the Babylonians and by the Egyptian god Thoth (Hermes Trismegistus), known to the Romans as Mercury. The Romans held astrology in great repute, especially under the reign of Tiberius. The art developed in Mesopotamia, and applied primarily to kings and high dignitaries rather than to the common person. The Arabians, c. 825 CE, became very proficient in its use and were instrumental in promoting it. With the conquest of Spain, the Moors carried the knowledge there. As the art of Ceremonial Magic took hold throughout Europe, so astrology spread, flourishing in England and France, Italy and Germany. But by the early eighteenth century, astrology had gone underground due to a rising skepticism following the growth of its younger sibling astronomy. But by the end of the nineteenth century there was a revival of interest, especially in England and, later, in France. Germany did not rediscover the art until just before World War One. The European revival was attributable to the spurt of interest in occultism generally, with the practices of the Golden Dawn, the teachings of Helena Blavatsky, and interest in the Kabbalah and Theosophy. Today there is a tremendous interest in astrology, with enthusiastic practitioners in abundance.

The planets are seen as ruling all things, from herbs and gemstones to times for certain actions. Magicians and Witches will, therefore, observe these rulerships. A particular herb, for example, to be most effective, might have to be cut in the hour of Venus on the day of Mercury. Of two possible herbs that could be efficacious, one ruled by, say, Jupiter, might be far better than one ruled by Saturn. When making a magic wand, it might he necessary to cut the wood from a tree at a particular hour and day, and to work on it—inscribing and anointing it—at certain times and, finally, to consecrate it under a certain sign. Nicholas Culpeper, the famous astrologer-physician of the early seventeenth century, went strictly by the astrological rulerships of herbs.

Answering questions by means of astrology is known as horary astrology. There is also political or mundane astrology, which is astrological interpretation applied to inanimate objects, collections of people, or governments. So astrology can be a very powerful tool, and has a part to play in both magic and in Witchcraft.


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Astrology is the science or study of the stars and originally encompassed both astronomy and what today is call astrology. The word is a combination of astron, Greek for “star,” and logos, a complex word originally meaning “speech” (in the sense of discourse). Astrology is discussed extensively in the introductory essay to this encyclopedia.



a false doctrine whereby one can supposedly predict the outcome of undertaken activities as well as the future of individual people and whole nations from the positions of heavenly bodies, mainly planets. Astrology arose in remote antiquity as a result of the deification of heavenly bodies and phenomena that were mysterious to ancient people—for example, the motions of the planets, the moon, and the sun, as well as eclipses. Many natural phenomena that governed the life of society—the alternation of day and night, the changing seasons of the year, the arrival of periods of the year convenient for hunting and grazing animals, and the overflowing of rivers, which determined the periods for agricultural work—are connected with the laws of the earth’s rotation on its axis and orbit around the sun. The visible shifts of the heavenly bodies over 24 hours and the year are dependent upon these same motions. The apparent causal connection between the positions of heavenly bodies and natural phenomena is what gave birth to the idea of the supernatural influence of heavenly bodies on the life of people.

In ancient times, astrology was considerably developed in Assyria, Babylonia, Egypt, China, India, Greece, and Rome. The ability to influence the fate of people was ascribed to seven planets of the ancients—namely, the sun, moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. Based on their relative positions and their locations with respect to the 12 “houses” (constellations) and parts of the horizon at the moment of a person’s birth, a horoscope was drawn up, supposedly determining his fate. A horoscope was also cast for the time of an intended action as, for example, a battle. Astrology, in spite of its falseness, at a certain stage objectively stimulated the development of observational astronomy. During the Middle Ages meteorological astrology—the forecasting of weather with the aid of astrological methods—became widespread in Western Europe.

Copernicus’ doctrine about the heliocentric system of the world caused the decline of astrology. However, to this day, it is widespread in a number of capitalist countries where astrological societies exist, astrological journals are published, and so forth.


Gurev, G. A. Astrologiia i religiia. Moscow, 1940.
Böttcher, H. M. Sterne, Schicksal und Propheten: Dreissigtausend Jahre Astrologie. Munich, 1965.


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In astrology the signs of the zodiac are important symbols; the star groupings they represent supposedly have an influence on people’s fates and subconsciousnesses.



Astrology is the study or science of the stars. Often derided as medieval superstition, it nevertheless continues to fascinate the human mind. In fact, polls indicate that its popularity is growing.

Most people are familiar with only a tiny portion of the vast subject of astrology, namely, the twelve signs of the zodiac as they relate to the personality of individuals and the use of astrology for divinatory purposes. The Zodiac (literally, “circle of animals”) is the “belt” constituted by the twelve signs: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces. The notion of the zodiac is very ancient, with roots in the early citied cultures of Mesopotamia.

The connection between astrology and dreams has been tentatively explored by a few astrologers. One would anticipate that natives of various signs would have more dreams related to the central themes of their sun sign (the sign the sun is in when one is born) than natives of other signs. For example, Cancers should have more dreams about eating, Sagittarians more dreams about long-distance journeys, Scorpios more dreams about sex, and so on.

Also, the moon is thought to be associated with the subconscious mind, which, if depth psychologists are correct, is the source of our dreams. Thus, dreamers should have more vivid, or perhaps more psychologically significant, dreams during a full moon. The water signs are related to the astral plane—the level of the cosmos on which it is said that we dream. Hence, dreams should play a larger role in the lives of natives with a predominance of water signs (Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces) or with key planets located in the three houses corresponding to these signs—the fourth, eighth, and twelfth houses.


See also Zodiac.
ancient Mesopotamian land where study of astrology developed. [Ancient Hist.: NCE, 499]
manipulator and false astrologer; dupes Buonafede. [Ger. Opera: Haydn, The World of the Moon, Westermark, 68–69]
Mannering, Guy
cast fateful horoscope for young Bertram. [Br. Lit.: Guy Mannering]
Nostradamus (1503–1566) French
astrologer/seer; wrote Centuries (1555), famous book of prognostications. [Fr. Hist.: NCE, 1969]
muse of astrology. [Gk. Myth.: Brewer Dictionary, 1119]


1. the study of the motions and relative positions of the planets, sun, and moon, interpreted in terms of human characteristics and activities
2. the primitive study of celestial bodies, which formed the basis of astronomy
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