History of the Astronic tradition
Written by Astronist Institution
Edited by the Journal of Astronic History
Last updated: JAN. 12, 2020
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Not to be confused with the historiography of Astronism.
Astronic history is the historical development of the Astronic tradition of religions and philosophies, particularly oriented on the history of religions with an astronomical theme, that began during the Stone Age some 40,000 years ago.
In exploring the history of the Astronic tradition, events, beliefs, and practices are considered according to two primary dimensions, the first of which is according to time while the second is according location. Depending on which point in the chronology that is being referred to, different entirely separated civilisations will have experienced different interactions with the Astronic tradition.
Unlike in other forms of historical chronology, some of the ages in the timeline for Astronic history overlap with one another as they focus on particular events taking place in the spheres of astronomical religion as well as in the conflicts between religion and astronomy, namely the Astrological Age and the Age of Inquiry.
The study of the history of the Astronic tradition encompasses two branches named archaeoastronology and astronic historiography. Archaeoastronology studies the prehistoric and ancient forms of astronomical religion while astronic historiography explores the writing of astronic history.
Origins and purpose
The exploration of the Astronic tradition had started to occur as part of expansions of in archaeology and in the anthropology of religion in the 20th century. However, the first coherent timeline for the Astronic tradition was formed by Cometan during The Founding of Astronism era.
Astronist scholarship makes two main claims regarding the historical influence of the Astronic tradition. Firstly, that it is the oldest continuously practiced religious tradition, thus trumping Hinduism which has long since claimed that same title. Secondly, that the Astronic tradition, particularly astronomical religions, are at least the third oldest (if not the oldest) form of religious expression in human history possibly preceded only by bear worship and beliefs in an afterlife.
Some Astronist scholars, including Cometan himself, have postulated that the only archaeologically-verifiable connection between certain practices and religious belief were the depictions of stars and constellations on stone walls dating back to the early palaeolithic period which suggest demonstrate the earliest forms of astral worship. This is around the same time that the Aurignacian Löwenmensch figurine has been dated to which demonstrates a belief in zoomorphism that possibly represents a deity.
General ages of the Astronic tradition
Main article: Timeline of Astronic history
Forming a timeline for the history of the Astronic tradition combines a multitude of dimensions:
- History of religion
- History of astronomy
- History of astrology
- History of science
- History of philosophy
- History of technology
- History of agriculture
- History of calendars
Primordial Age (40,000 - 30,000 BCE)
Simultaneously occurring periods: Upper Palaeolithic period of the Stone Age (c. 50,000 to 10,000 BCE).
The Dawn of Belief (40,000 - 35,000 BCE)
- 40,000 BCE: On an amulet found, Ursa Major is depicted with meticulous care to demonstrate the differences between the brightness of certain stars over others by varying the sizes of the cavities carved. Furthermore, the positions that the stars are depicted in demonstrate a great antiquity for the amulet.
- Stone walls were carved depicting arrangements of stars in constellations that match their historical positions, particularly circumpolar constellations. Carvings on rock walls, sacrificial stones as well as amulets depicting the northern stars were hallmarks of this earliest astronomically-themed faith.
The Beginning of Utilitarian Faith (35,000 - 30,000 BCE)
- 35,000 BCE: Palaeolithic archaeologist Alexander Marshack put forward a theory in 1972 that bone sticks from locations like Africa and Europe from possibly as long ago as 35,000 BCE could be marked in ways that tracked the Moon's phases, an interpretation that has met with criticism.
Primitive Age (30,000 - 12,000 BCE)
Simultaneously occurring periods: Copper Age (5000 to 2300 BCE), and Bronze Age (2300 to 500 BCE).
The Emergence of Concepts (30,000 - 15,000 BCE)
- 30,000 BCE: Others who developed this astronomical science included ancient mariners who journeyed thousands of miles through the open seas, such as the Polynesians, whose long, Pacific voyages have been estimated to have begun at least 30,000 years ago.
- In many ancient religions, the northern circumpolar stars were associated with darkness, death and the underworld of the dead.
- 15,000 BCE: The myth of the Cosmic Hunt is believed to have developed at least at this time for it to have diffused across the Bering land bridge. The Cosmic Hunt is believed by Astronists to be the oldest form of the belief now known as transtellationism. Furthermore, this myth was later incorporated into Greek mythology in the story of Callisto, usually in the form of Catasterismi, as part of a tradition now referred to in Astronism as mythoasterism (constellation myths) which has become incorporated into the Astronic mythology.
- The oldest astronomical religion if not the oldest known religion in human history that we have archaeological evidence for emerges as the North Star cult.
The First Religious Dissemination (15,000 - 12,000 BCE)
- For the Aztecs, the northern stars were associated with Tezcatlipoca.
- In Peking, China, was a shrine devoted to the North Star deity. Such worship of the northern stars may have been associated with time keeping, as the positions of the stars could identify the annual seasons (spring began when the tail of Ursa Major pointed east at nightfall; summer when it was directed toward the south; autumn when it lay to the west; and winter when it pointed north). The stars of Ursa Major were appropriately called the "Seven Directors".
- In China, the north polar star was invoked as "great imperial ruler of heaven" and within a sacred inclosure of the temple at Peking was a shrine dedicated to the North Star god, having tablets to the sun, the five bright planets, Ursa Major and the 28 constellations or "lunar mansions" of the Chinese zodiac on its walls.
- It is clear from the examples provided that the worship of the northern stars may have had a utilitarian basis: the wheel of the north served as a clock-face long before the age of mechanical timekeepers with its "hands" pointing out both the hours of the night and the seasons of the year.
- It is believed that the swastika symbol first originated in China from the four significant positions of the Ursa Major due to its usefulness in predicting the seasons. In addition to this, a three-armed from of the swastika, known as the triskelion, is found with the swastika in such widely separated places as Germany, where it is carved on a spearhead, Sweden, where it appears on a bronze brooch, and Arkansas, where it is painted on pottery. It represents three positions of Ursa Major. Meanwhile, a two-armed form of the swastika is frequently found in the Maya and Mexican codices and was probably the hieroglyph for Ursa Major.
- The deification of the sun, the moon, the planets, and the stars all followed as a logical consequence of people's gratitude to those celestial bodies on whom their survival was dependent.
Agricultural Age (12,000 - 500 BCE)
The Influence of the Stars (12,000 - 5000 BCE)
- 12,000 BCE: Likewise, as agriculture developed, the need to keep accurate time led to more careful tracking of the positions of the sun, moon and planets; resulting with their deification when they became inextricably linked with the means of survival.
- 8,000 BCE: The Warren Field calendar in the Dee River valley of Scotland's Aberdeenshire. First excavated in 2004 but only in 2013 revealed as a find of huge significance, it is to date the world's oldest known calendar, created around 8000 BC and predating all other calendars by some 5,000 years. The calendar takes the form of an early Mesolithic monument containing a series of 12 pits which appear to help the observer track lunar months by mimicking the phases of the Moon. It also aligns to sunrise at the winter solstice, thus coordinating the solar year with the lunar cycles. The monument had been maintained and periodically reshaped, perhaps up to hundreds of times, in response to shifting solar/lunar cycles, over the course of 6,000 years, until the calendar fell out of use around 4,000 years ago.
- Astronomical lore began to develop.
- Beliefs began to emerge that the sun, the moon, and the stars held direct authority over the quality and abundance of crops. This emerged as a belief that the survival of the village was dependent on the affairs of the celestial bodies.
- The usefulness of the moon was also significant for early peoples due to its conspicuous change in size and shape from one night to the next which provided a way of counting off the days of the month thus forming the basis for the first primitive calendar. In order to count the "days of the moon's age", it was necessary to invent numerals beyond the 20 fingers and toes which formed the abacus on which our earliest ancestors solve their simple arithmetical problems.
- c.5000 BCE: Goseck circle is located in Germany and belongs to the linear pottery culture. First discovered in 1991, its significance was only clear after results from archaeological digs became available in 2004. The site is one of hundreds of similar circular enclosures built in a region encompassing Austria, Germany, and the Czech Republic during a 200-year period starting shortly after 5000 BC.
The First Civilisations (5,000 - 2,800 BCE)
- c.3500 - 3200 BCE: Our knowledge of Sumerian astronomy is indirect, via the earliest Babylonian star catalogues dating from about 1200 BC. The fact that many star names appear in Sumerian suggests a continuity reaching into the Early Bronze Age. Astral theology, which gave planetary gods an important role in Mesopotamian mythology and religion, began with the Sumerians.
- c.3000 BCE: the belief that the king was the son of the sun-god, if not the sun-god himself in earthly form, was well-established by this time. In Egypt in particular, there doctrine was of particular dominance in their solar religion when the dynasty associated with the Heliopolis held sovereignty over all Egypt. Furthermore, it has also been found that the belief in the divine kingship and its solar origin was shared by the ancestors of the Aryans from to India to Ireland. In the King's veins ran the "liquid of Ra, a magnetic fluid as luminous as the sun itself and the source of all life, strength, and continuance." The Pharaoh was believed to exercise power over the water supply, the fertility of the soil and the growth of vegetation. The occurrence of famines were thought to be due to a failure in his powers and he was either swiftly sacrificed or deposed whereafter his son would take his place on the throne.
- c.3000 BCE: Astronomy in the Indian subcontinent dates back to the period of Indus Valley Civilization during 3rd millennium BCE, when it was used to create calendars. As the Indus Valley civilization did not leave behind written documents, the oldest extant Indian astronomical text is the Vedanga Jyotisha, dating from the Vedic period. Vedanga Jyotisha describes rules for tracking the motions of the Sun and the Moon for the purposes of ritual. During the 6th century, astronomy was influenced by the Greek and Byzantine astronomical traditions.
- In Ireland, where much power rested with the Druids, the kings were removed regularly ever few years.
- c.3000 BCE: Stonehenge is believed to have been constructed. Ancient peoples wanted to know the exact date of the summer solstice, or the stand-still of the sun at its most northerly point. And so in many parts of the world they built temples whose fallen stones still point to the place of sunrise or sunset on June 22. Examples of which include Stonehenge and the Temple of Amen-Ra in Karnak, Egypt.
- c.3000 BCE: In the ancient Egyptian calendar, the date of the annual flooding of the Nile was predicted by observing the heliacal rising of a star.
The Godly Kings (2,800 - 500 BCE)
- c.2500 BCE: The moon-god of Mesopotamia came to be worshipped as the bestower of counting, numerals, the alphabet, the art of writing, literature and finally, all wisdom. "Some of the glyphs are found in the flat surfaces of rocks which seemed to have served as altars, the cavities being of the type known as sacrificial cups used to collecting the blood of the offering." "The association of these rock engravings with primitive religion (prehistoric astronomical religion) is thus established by 1) their presence on the sacrificial rock faces and 2) by their connection with amulets, reputed to have magical powers." This begs the question of why there was an apparent vital interest by these prehistoric societies in connecting circumpolar constellations with religious practices and rituals.
- c.1800 - 500 BCE: Further rock-engravings found in Bohuslän in Sweden depict the Big Dipper.
- In Mesopotamia and the civilised land of the Nile, the sun-god was revered as the law-giver. From regulating the procession of days, seasons and years, he came to rule supreme over the whole ritual of existence.
- c.1900 - 700 BCE: The Kokino site, discovered in 2001, sits atop an extinct volcanic cone at an elevation of 1,013 metres (3,323 ft), occupying about 0.5 hectares overlooking the surrounding countryside in North Macedonia. A Bronze Age astronomical observatory was constructed there around 1900 BC and continuously served the nearby community that lived there until about 700 BC. The central space was used to observe the rising of the Sun and full moon. Three markings locate sunrise at the summer and winter solstices and at the two equinoxes. Four more give the minimum and maximum declinations of the full moon: in summer, and in winter. Two measure the lengths of lunar months. Together, they reconcile solar and lunar cycles in marking the 235 lunations that occur during 19 solar years, regulating a lunar calendar. On a platform separate from the central space, at lower elevation, four stone seats (thrones) were made in north-south alignment, together with a trench marker cut in the eastern wall. This marker allows the rising Sun's light to fall on only the second throne, at midsummer (about July 31). It was used for ritual ceremony linking the ruler to the local sun god, and also marked the end of the growing season and time for harvest.
- c.1830 - c.626 BCE: Babylonian astronomy from early times associates stars with deities, but the heavens as the residence of an anthropomorphic pantheon, and later of monotheistic God and his retinue of angels, is a later development, gradually replacing the notion of the pantheon residing or convening on the summit of high mountains. Sayce (1913) argues a parallelism of the "stellar theology" of Babylon and Egypt, both countries absorbing popular star-worship into the official pantheon of their respective state religions by identification of gods with stars or planets.
- c.1770 BCE: King Hammurabi in Chaldea presented one of the most ancient codifications of law which was given to him by Shamash, the sun-god. The laws, codified into 282 paragraphs remarkably show concern for the poor and the oppressed as well as being engraved upon a bloc of stone eight feet high together with a bas relief depicting the sun-god in the act of handing the tablet of the laws to the king.
- c.1700 BCE: Gradually sophisticating star charts emerge, one of which depicting Ursa Major, Cassiopeia, Auriga, Cepheus, and Gemini is considered to be the oldest star chart in the world. Another chart of similar time period was found at Denderah, Egypt which dates back to 1700 BCE. This depicted humans in boats moving across the sky.
- c.1600 BCE: The Nebra sky disc is a Bronze Age bronze disc that was buried in Germany, not far from the Goseck circle, around 1600 BC. It measures about 30 cm diameter with a mass of 2.2 kg and displays a blue-green patina (from oxidization) inlaid with gold symbols. Found by archeological thieves in 1999 and recovered in Switzerland in 2002, it was soon recognized as a spectacular discovery, among the most important of the 20th century. Investigations revealed that the object had been in use around 400 years before burial (2000 BC), but that its use had been forgotten by the time of burial. The inlaid gold depicted the full moon, a crescent moon about 4 or 5 days old, and the Pleiades star cluster in a specific arrangement forming the earliest known depiction of celestial phenomena. Twelve lunar months pass in 354 days, requiring a calendar to insert a leap month every two or three years in order to keep synchronized with the solar year's seasons (making it lunisolar). The earliest known descriptions of this coordination were recorded by the Babylonians in 6th or 7th centuries BC, over one thousand years later. Those descriptions verified ancient knowledge of the Nebra sky disc's celestial depiction as the precise arrangement needed to judge when to insert the intercalary month into a lunisolar calendar, making it an astronomical clock for regulating such a calendar a thousand or more years before any other known method.
- c.1500 BCE: Various forms of astrolatry can be found in the Zend Avesta, the sacred scripture of Zoroastrianism, which was widely practiced in Persia and surrounding regions before the Islamic conquests of Persia and Central Asia occurred. One passage in the Zend Avesta is particular explicit of the role of astrolatry: "We sacrifice unto the new moon, the holy and master of holiness: we sacrifice unto the full moon, the holy and master of holiness."
- c.1400 - 800 BCE: Golden hats of Germany, France and Switzerland dating from 1400–800 BC are associated with the Bronze Age Urnfield culture. The Golden hats are decorated with a spiral motif of the Sun and the Moon. They were probably a kind of calendar used to calibrate between the lunar and solar calendars. Modern scholarship has demonstrated that the ornamentation of the gold leaf cones of the Schifferstadt type, to which the Berlin Gold Hat example belongs, represent systematic sequences in terms of number and types of ornaments per band. A detailed study of the Berlin example, which is the only fully preserved one, showed that the symbols probably represent a lunisolar calendar. The object would have permitted the determination of dates or periods in both lunar and solar calendars.
- c.1200 - 550 BCE: Astrolatry does not appear to have been common in the Levant prior to the Iron Age, and becomes popular under Assyrian influence. The Sabaeans were notorious for their astrolatry, for which reason the practice is also known as "Sabaism" or "Sabaeanism". Similarly, the Chaldeans came to be seen as the prototypical astrologers and star-worshippers by the Greeks.
- c.1200 - 165 BCE: The Hebrew Bible contains repeated reference to astrolatry. Thus, Deuteronomy 4:19, 17:3 contains a stern warning against worshipping the sun, moon, stars or any of the heavenly host. Relapse into worshipping the host of heaven, i.e. the stars, is said to have been the cause of the fall of the kingdom of Judah in II Kings 17:16. King Josiah in 621 BC is recorded as having abolished all kinds of idolatry in Judah, but astrolatry was continued in private (Zeph. 1:5; Jer. 8:2, 19:13). Ezekiel (8:16) describes sun-worship practiced in the court of the temple of Jerusalem, and Jeremiah (44:17) claims that even after the destruction of the temple, women in particular insisted on continuing their worship of the "queen of heaven".
- c.970-931 BCE: Solomon's temple in Jerusalem as well as the old Basilica of St. Peter at Rome were both oriented towards the east in order that the first rays of sunrise might cast through and illuminate the altar.
- c.800 BCE: In the Persian cult of Mithraism, which was carried to Gaul and Britain by the Roman army, the king was said to be the sun itself in a human body. It was from these early star-cults that ultimately formed the seasons of the agricultural year.
- c.600 BCE: The word hieroglyph, "sacred carving" suggests that the first calligraphy was associated with religion in around 600 BCE.
For for a continuation of this timeline, skip to the Age of Inquiry.
Astrological Age (2000 BCE - 1700 CE)
The Birth of Astrology (2000 BCE - 750 BCE)
- Indeed, the belief in a strong association between the events on the earth and in the heavens led to the development of astrology.
- c.2000 BCE: The first organised system of astrology arises in Babylonia.
- c.2000 BCE: Hindu astrology begins. The earliest use of the term 'jyotiṣa' is in the sense of a Vedanga, an auxiliary discipline of Vedic religion. The only work of this class to have survived is the Vedanga Jyotisha, which contains rules for tracking the motions of the sun and the moon in the context of a five-year intercalation cycle. The date of this work is uncertain, as its late style of language and composition, consistent with the last centuries BC, albeit pre-Mauryan, conflicts with some internal evidence of a much earlier date in the 2nd millennium BC.
- c.1800 BCE: The history of scholarly celestial divination is therefore generally reported to begin with late Old Babylonian texts (c. 1800 BC), continuing through the Middle Babylonian and Middle Assyrian periods (c. 1200 BC). The gods were also believed to present themselves in the celestial images of the planets or stars with whom they were associated. Evil celestial omens attached to any particular planet were therefore seen as indications of dissatisfaction or disturbance of the god that planet represented. Such indications were met with attempts to appease the god and find manageable ways by which the god’s expression could be realised without significant harm to the king and his nation.
- c.1600 BCE: By the 16th century BC the extensive employment of omen-based astrology can be evidenced in the compilation of a comprehensive reference work known as Enuma Anu Enlil. Its contents consisted of 70 cuneiform tablets comprising 7,000 celestial omens.
- c.1000 - 256 BCE: Chinese astrology was elaborated during the Zhou dynasty (1046–256 BC).
- c.1000 - 500 BCE: the development of the zodiacal signs originates in Babylonian astronomy. Ulla Koch-Westenholz, in her 1995 book Mesopotamian Astrology, argues that this ambivalence between a theistic and mechanic worldview defines the Babylonian concept of celestial divination as one which, despite its heavy reliance on magic, remains free of implications of targeted punishment with the purpose of revenge, and so “shares some of the defining traits of modern science: it is objective and value-free, it operates according to known rules, and its data are considered universally valid and can be looked up in written tabulations”. Koch-Westenholz also establishes the most important distinction between ancient Babylonian astrology and other divinatory disciplines as being that the former was originally exclusively concerned with mundane astrology, being geographically oriented and specifically applied to countries cities and nations, and almost wholly concerned with the welfare of the state and the king as the governing head of the nation, mundane astrology is therefore known to be one of the oldest branches of astrology.
The Divergence of Astronomy (750 BCE - 100 BCE)
- c.750 BCE: During this time, astronomy began to branch away from its religious origins and established itself as an independent, empirically-based subject distinct from astrology. This was particularly important during the development of Babylonian astronomy. A significant increase in the quality and frequency of Babylonian observations appeared during the reign of Nabonassar (747–733 BC). The systematic records of ominous phenomena in Babylonian astronomical diaries that began at this time allowed for the discovery of a repeating 18-year cycle of lunar eclipses, for example. The Greek astronomer Ptolemy later used Nabonassar's reign to fix the beginning of an era, since he felt that the earliest usable observations began at this time.
- c.700 BCE: At this time Babylonian astrology was solely mundane, concerned with the prediction of weather and political matters, and prior to the 7th century BC the practitioners' understanding of astronomy was fairly rudimentary. Astrological symbols likely represented seasonal tasks, and were used as a yearly almanac of listed activities to remind a community to do things appropriate to the season or weather (such as symbols representing times for harvesting, gathering shell-fish, fishing by net or line, sowing crops, collecting or managing water reserves, hunting, and seasonal tasks critical in ensuring the survival of children and young animals for the larger group).
- 673 BCE: An astronomical report to the king Esarhaddon concerning a lunar eclipse of January 673 BC shows how the ritualistic use of substitute kings, or substitute events, combined an unquestioning belief in magic and omens with a purely mechanical view that the astrological event must have some kind of correlate within the natural world.
- c.600 BCE: It was only with the gradual emergence of horoscopic astrology, from the 6th century BC, that astrology developed the techniques and practice of natal astrology.
- c.600 BCE: The calendars of Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica are based upon a system which had been in common use throughout the region, dating back to at least the 6th century BC. The earliest calendars were employed by peoples such as the Zapotecs and Olmecs, and later by such peoples as the Maya, Mixtec and Aztecs. Although the Mesoamerican calendar did not originate with the Maya, their subsequent extensions and refinements to it were the most sophisticated. Along with those of the Aztecs, the Maya calendars are the best-documented and most completely understood.
- 525 BCE: In 525 BC Egypt was conquered by the Persians so there is likely to have been some Mesopotamian influence on Egyptian astrology. Arguing in favour of this, historian Tamsyn Barton gives an example of what appears to be Mesopotamian influence on the Egyptian zodiac, which shared two signs – the Balance and the Scorpion, as evidenced in the Dendera Zodiac (in the Greek version the Balance was known as the Scorpion’s Claws).
- c.400 BCE: Babylonian mathematical methods had progressed enough to calculate future planetary positions with reasonable accuracy, at which point extensive ephemerides began to appear.
- c.300 - 200 BCE: After the occupation by Alexander the Great in 332 BC, Egypt came under Hellenistic rule and influence. The city of Alexandria was founded by Alexander after the conquest and during the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC, the scholars of Alexandria were prolific writers. It was in Ptolemaic Alexandria that Babylonian astrology was mixed with the Egyptian tradition of Decanic astrology to create Horoscopic astrology. This contained the Babylonian zodiac with its system of planetary exaltations, the triplicities of the signs and the importance of eclipses. Along with this it incorporated the Egyptian concept of dividing the zodiac into thirty-six decans of ten degrees each, with an emphasis on the rising decan, the Greek system of planetary Gods, sign rulership and four elements.
- c.300 BCE: One of the most famous astrologers in China was Tsou Yen who lived in around 300 BC, and who wrote: "When some new dynasty is going to arise, heaven exhibits auspicious signs for the people".
- c.280 BCE: Sometime around 280 BC, Berossus, a priest of Bel from Babylon, moved to the Greek island of Kos in order to teach astrology and Babylonian culture to the Greeks. With this, what historican Nicholas Campion calls, "the innovative energy" in astrology moved west to the Hellenistic world of Greece and Egypt. According to Campion, the astrology that arrived from the Eastern World was marked by its complexity, with different forms of astrology emerging.
- c.200 BCE - 200 CE: Chinese astrology flourished during the Han Dynasty (2nd century BC to 2nd century AD). During the Han period, the familiar elements of traditional Chinese culture—the Yin-Yang philosophy, the theory of the 5 elements, the concepts of Heaven and Earth, and Confucian morality—were brought together to formalize the philosophical principles of Chinese medicine and divination, astrology and alchemy.
- c.160 BCE: Our earliest references to demonstrate astrology's arrival in Rome reveal its initial influence upon the lower orders of society, and display concern about uncritical recourse to the ideas of Babylonian 'star-gazers'. Among the Greeks and Romans, Babylonia (also known as Chaldea) became so identified with astrology that 'Chaldean wisdom' came to be a common synonym for divination using planets and stars. The first definite reference to astrology comes from the work of the orator Cato, who in 160 BC composed a treatise warning farm overseers against consulting with Chaldeans. The 2nd-century Roman poet Juvenal, in his satirical attack on the habits of Roman women, also complains about the pervasive influence of Chaldeans, despite their lowly social status, saying "Still more trusted are the Chaldaeans; every word uttered by the astrologer they will believe has come from Hammon's fountain, ... nowadays no astrologer has credit unless he has been imprisoned in some distant camp, with chains clanking on either arm".
The Rise of the Astromancers (100 BCE -
- c.100 - 1 BCE: By the 1st century BC two varieties of astrology were in existence, one that required the reading of horoscopes in order to establish precise details about the past, present and future; the other being theurgic (literally meaning 'god-work'), which emphasised the soul's ascent to the stars. While they were not mutually exclusive, the former sought information about the life, while the latter was concerned with personal transformation, where astrology served as a form of dialogue with the Divine.
- c.100 - 1 BCE: The earliest Zodiac found in Egypt dates to the 1st century BC, the Dendera Zodiac. Particularly important in the development of horoscopic astrology was the astrologer and astronomer Ptolemy, who lived in Alexandria in Egypt. Ptolemy's work the Tetrabiblos laid the basis of the Western astrological tradition, and as a source of later reference is said to have "enjoyed almost the authority of a Bible among the astrological writers of a thousand years or more". It was one of the first astrological texts to be circulated in Medieval Europe after being translated from Arabic into Latin by Plato of Tivoli (Tiburtinus) in Spain, 1138.
- c.100 BCE: Although there is no absolute distinction between astronomy and astrology in antiquity, intellectual circles in Alexandria during the 1st BCE began to distinguish between astrology for making predictions and astronomical observation for scientific conjecture.
- c.1 - 100 CE: One of the first astrologers to bring Hermetic astrology to Rome was Thrasyllus, who, in the first century CE, acted as the astrologer for the emperor Tiberius. Tiberius was the first emperor reported to have had a court astrologer, although his predecessor Augustus had also used astrology to help legitimise his Imperial rights.
- c.1 - 100 CE: Even though some use of astrology by the emperors appears to have happened, there was also a prohibition on astrology to a certain extent as well. In the 1st century CE, Publius Rufus Anteius was accused of the crime of funding the banished astrologer Pammenes, and requesting his own horoscope and that of then emperor Nero. For this crime, Nero forced Anteius to commit suicide. At this time, astrology was likely to result in charges of magic and treason.
- c.100 - 200 CE: In the second century CE, the astrologer Claudius Ptolemy was so obsessed with getting horoscopes accurate that he began the first attempt to make an accurate world map (maps before this were more relativistic or allegorical) so that he could chart the relationship between the person's birthplace and the heavenly bodies. While doing so, he coined the term "geography".
- 269 CE: The oldest astrological treatise in Sanskrit is the Yavanajataka ("Sayings of the Greeks"), a versification by Sphujidhvaja in 269/270 AD of a now lost translation of a Greek treatise by Yavanesvara during the 2nd century AD under the patronage of the Western Satrap Saka king Rudradaman I.
- c.400 - 500 CE: The first named authors writing treatises on astronomy are from the 5th century AD, the date when the classical period of Indian astronomy can be said to begin. Besides the theories of Aryabhata in the Aryabhatiya and the lost Arya-siddhānta, there is the Pancha-Siddhāntika of Varahamihira.
- c.750 CE: The second Abbasid caliph, Al Mansur (754-775) founded the city of Baghdad to act as a centre of learning, and included in its design a library-translation centre known as Bayt al-Hikma ‘Storehouse of Wisdom’, which continued to receive development from his heirs and was to provide a major impetus for Arabic translations of Hellenistic astrological texts. The early translators included Mashallah, who helped to elect the time for the foundation of Baghdad, and Sahl ibn Bishr (a.k.a. Zael), whose texts were directly influential upon later European astrologers such as Guido Bonatti in the 13th century, and William Lilly in the 17th century.
- c.800 CE: Amongst the important names of Arabic astrologers, one of the most influential was Albumasur, whose work Introductorium in Astronomiam later became a popular treatise in medieval Europe. Another was the Persian mathematician, astronomer, astrologer and geographer Al Khwarizmi. The Arabs greatly increased the knowledge of astronomy, and many of the star names that are commonly known today, such as Aldebaran, Altair, Betelgeuse, Rigel and Vega retain the legacy of their language. They also developed the list of Hellenistic lots to the extent that they became historically known as Arabic parts, for which reason it is often wrongly claimed that the Arabic astrologers invented their use, whereas they are clearly known to have been an important feature of Hellenistic astrology. During the advance of Islamic science some of the practices of astrology were refuted on theological grounds by astronomers such as Al-Farabi (Alpharabius), Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen) and Avicenna. Their criticisms argued that the methods of astrologers were conjectural rather than empirical, and conflicted with orthodox religious views of Islamic scholars through the suggestion that the Will of God can be precisely known and predicted in advance. Such refutations mainly concerned 'judicial branches' (such as horary astrology), rather than the more 'natural branches' such as medical and meteorological astrology, these being seen as part of the natural sciences of the time. For example, Avicenna’s 'Refutation against astrology' Resāla fī ebṭāl aḥkām al-nojūm, argues against the practice of astrology while supporting the principle of planets acting as the agents of divine causation which express God's absolute power over creation. Avicenna considered that the movement of the planets influenced life on earth in a deterministic way, but argued against the capability of determining the exact influence of the stars. In essence, Avicenna did not refute the essential dogma of astrology, but denied our ability to understand it to the extent that precise and fatalistic predictions could be made from it.
The Integration of Astrology (1075 CE -
- c.1075 CE: Translations of Arabic works into Latin started to make their way to Spain by the late 10th century. Whilst astrology in the East flourished following the break up of the Roman world, with Indian, Persian and Islamic influences coming together and undergoing intellectual review through an active investment in translation projects, Western astrology in the same period had become “fragmented and unsophisticated ... partly due to the loss of Greek scientific astronomy and partly due to condemnations by the Church.”
- c.1200 CE: Knowledge of Arabic astrological texts started to become imported into Europe during the Latin translations of the 12th century.
- c.1300 CE: By the 13th century astrology had become a part of everyday medical practice in Europe. Doctors combined Galenic medicine (inherited from the Greek physiologist Galen - AD 129-216) with studies of the stars. Influential works of the 13th century include those of the British monk Johannes de Sacrobosco (c. 1195–1256) and the Italian astrologer Guido Bonatti from Forlì (Italy). Bonatti served the communal governments of Florence, Siena and Forlì and acted as advisor to Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor. His astrological text-book Liber Astronomiae ('Book of Astronomy'), written around 1277, was reputed to be "the most important astrological work produced in Latin in the 13th century".
- In medieval Europe, a university education was divided into seven distinct areas, each represented by a particular planet and known as the seven liberal arts. Dante attributed these arts to the planets. As the arts were seen as operating in ascending order, so were the planets in decreasing order of planetary speed: grammar was assigned to the Moon, the quickest moving celestial body, dialectic was assigned to Mercury, rhetoric to Venus, music to the Sun, arithmetic to Mars, geometry to Jupiter and astrology/astronomy to the slowest moving body, Saturn.
- c.1300 - 1600 CE: Development of the tradition of Hermeticism as supported developed by Marsilio Ficino, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Sir Thomas Browne, and Tommaso Campanella.
- 1343 - 1400 CE: Similar astrological allegories and planetary themes are pursued through the works of Geoffrey Chaucer. Chaucer's astrological passages are particularly frequent and knowledge of astrological basics is often assumed through his work. He knew enough of his period's astrology and astronomy to write a Treatise on the Astrolabe for his son. He pinpoints the early spring season of the Canterbury Tales in the opening verses of the prologue by noting that the Sun "hath in the Ram his halfe cours yronne". He makes the Wife of Bath refer to "sturdy hardiness" as an attribute of Mars, and associates Mercury with "clerkes". In the early modern period, astrological references are also to be found in the works of William Shakespeare and John Milton.
- c.1400 CE: Dante Alighieri immortalised Bonatti in his Divine Comedy (early 14th century) by placing him in the eighth Circle of Hell, a place where those who would divine the future are forced to have their heads turned around (to look backwards instead of forwards).
- c.1400 CE: One of the earliest English astrologers to leave details of his practice was Richard Trewythian (b. 1393). His notebook demonstrates that he had a wide range of clients, from all walks of life, and indicates that engagement with astrology in 15th-century England was not confined to those within learned, theological or political circles.
- c.1400 - 1700 CE: During the Renaissance, court astrologers would complement their use of horoscopes with astronomical observations and discoveries. Many individuals now credited with having overturned the old astrological order, such as Tycho Brahe, Galileo Galilei and Johannes Kepler, were themselves practicing astrologers.
- c.1590 CE: By the end of the 1500s, physicians across Europe were required by law to calculate the position of the Moon before carrying out complicated medical procedures, such as surgery or bleeding.
The Disintegration of Astrology (1600 CE - 1750 CE)
- c.1600 CE: At the end of the Renaissance the confidence placed in astrology diminished, with the breakdown of Aristotelian Physics and rejection of the distinction between the celestial and sublunar realms, which had historically acted as the foundation of astrological theory.
- Keith Thomas writes that although heliocentrism is consistent with astrology theory, 16th and 17th century astronomical advances meant that "the world could no longer be envisaged as a compact inter-locking organism; it was now a mechanism of infinite dimensions, from which the hierarchical subordination of earth to heaven had irrefutably disappeared".
- Initially, amongst the astronomers of the time, "scarcely anyone attempted a serious refutation in the light of the new principles" and in fact astronomers "were reluctant to give up the emotional satisfaction provided by a coherent and interrelated universe". By the 18th century the intellectual investment which had previously maintained astrology's standing was largely abandoned.
Age of Inquiry (500 BCE - c. 1750 CE)
The Rise of Philosophy (500 BCE - 300 CE)
- c.500 – c. 428 BCE: The first recorded conflict between religious orthodoxy and astronomy occurred with the Greek astronomer Anaxagoras. His beliefs that the heavenly bodies were the result of an evolutionary process and that the sun was a great burning stone (rather than the deity Helios), resulted in his arrest. He was charged with contravening the established religious beliefs. Although acquitted, he was forced to go into retirement.
- c.447 BC – 432 BC: In Greece, due to its rainier climate when compared to that of Egypt, the planting season and the new year were associated with the vernal equinox, and there were temples oriented toward the rising points of certain bright stars which warned of the sun's approach to this point. The Parthenon, for example, faced the rising of the Pleiades.
- c.300 BCE: The notion that the Earth revolves around the Sun had been proposed as early as the 3rd century BC by Aristarchus of Samos, but at least in the medieval world, Aristarchus's heliocentrism attracted little attention—possibly because of the loss of scientific works of the Hellenistic Era.
- 276 BCE: Aratus wrote of the benevolence of the great-sky god Zeus who had placed the stars in the sky for the purpose of guiding mariners and the tillers of the field.
- In the Burmese version of the widespread Tower of Babel legend, the moon is made responsible for the diversity of language on the earth. In the myth, it was said that "very long ago, the people of East Burma built an exceedingly high tower in order that they might catch the moon and tether it, for they wished to keep it shining always at the full so as the circumvent the cattle-stealing raiders who came on dark nights. A great many years passed and the tower grew higher and higher, and at last the moon became alarmed lest they should actually accomplish their purpose. So she sent a terrible wind which toppled the whole edifice to the ground. One can still see a chain of mountains where the tower fell. The workmen and their families had been isolated on the various stages for so many years that they developed different idiosyncrasies of speech. With the fall of the tower, the people on the various landings alighted great distances apart. As they continued to reside wherever they landed, they soon evolved distinct languages and became quite unintelligible to each other.
Era of Religious Prohibition (300 - 1500 CE)
- c. 390 CE: Augustine of Hippo criticized sun- and star-worship in De Vera Religione (37.68) and De civitate Dei (5.1–8).
- c. 440 – 461 CE: Pope Leo the Great also denounced astrolatry, and the cult of Sol Invictus, which he contrasted with the Christian nativity.
- c. 609 – 632 CE: The Quran contains strong prohibitions against astrolatry.
- As science began to develop towards the end of the Middle Ages, conflict arose between the orthodoxy of the Catholic church and the secular beliefs of scientifically inclined investigators.
The Copernican Revolution (1500 - 1650 CE)
- c.1500s CE: Heliocentrism developed and ignited the Copernican Revolution from which Copernicanism emerged.
- 1582 CE: Pope Gregory XIII consults astronomers on the reorganisation of the calendar due to the change in the sun's passage having slipped back from March 25 in Caesar's time to March 11. Gregory decreed 10 days were to be dropped out of the year 1582 to align the equinox with March 21 where it had been in 325 AD.
- 1593–1600 CE: Imprisonment, trial and execution of Giordano Bruno.
- 1633 CE: Galileo Affair -- who was tried by the pope on suspicion of heresy. However, many astronomers were also highly religious and attempted to reconcile their beliefs with the discoveries they made following the invention of the telescope.
Forming Theologies (1650 - 1750 CE)
- 1714 CE: The term astro-theology appears in the title of a 1714 work by William Derham, Astro-theology: or, A demonstration of the being and attributes of God, from a survey of the heavens based on the author's observations by means of "Mr. Huygens' Glass". Derham thought that the stars were openings in the firmament through which he thought he saw the Empyrean beyond. The 1783 issue of The New Christian's magazine had an essay entitled Astro-theology which argued the "demonstration of sacred truths" from "a survey of heavenly bodies" in the sense of the watchmaker analogy. Edward Higginson (1855) argues a compatibility of "Jewish Astro-theology" of the Hebrew Bible, which places God and his angelic hosts in the heavens, with a "Scientific Astro-theology" based on observation of the cosmos.
Waning Age (c. 1750 - 2013 CE)
The Waning Age refers to the gradual disentanglement of astronomy from the spheres of religion and philosophy which was arguably marked by the Catholic Church's fading opposition to heliocentrism in the mid 1800s. This was coupled with the events of the Age of Enlightenment which fuelled a definitive decline in the popularity and validity of astrology which had been a major bridge between astronomy and religions for thousands of years prior.
From this point onwards, religious institutions generally removed themselves from the topic of astronomy which was perhaps further accelerated by the secularisation of the West and the subsequent decline of the authority of religious institutions. According to the later Astronist writings of Cometan, this disentanglement of astronomy from religion and philosophy prior to the popularisation of academic study lead to a gap in the scholarship (as evidenced by the relative obscurity of particular figures like Giordano Bruno) as well as a misunderstanding of the vast history of astronomical religions.
The Distancing of the Church (1750 - c.1800)
The Development of Modern Astronomy (1800 - c.1975)
- c. 1900s CE: Manly P Hall (1901–1990), mystic and a 33rd degree mason, taught that each of the three Abrahamic faiths has a planet that governs that religion. Judaism is Saturn: the symbol of Judaism is a hexagram symbol of Saturn, and the day of worship is on Saturday, day of Saturn. Christianity is the Sun: the symbol of Christianity is the cross symbol of the Sun, and the day of worship is Sunday, day of the Sun. Islam is Venus: the symbol of Islam is the star and crescent (the star commonly thought to represent Venus), and the day of worship is on Friday.
- Space Age
The Secularisation of the West (1960 - )
- 4000 members who have preserved the oldest astronomical religion of the North Star cult to the modern era known as the Mandaeans (meaning Possessors of the Living World) who claim descent from the Magi. They have no permanent temples, but they are known throughout Iraq for their skills in silversmithing and for boatbuilding.
- The Zuni religion are a peoples that are part of the Native American group who believe there to be seven points in the universe. 1) the North Star, the central point of the cosmos 2) the four cardinal points each of which is associated with a color, a symbol, an element and a phenomenon 3) the Above and Below. North and west where the celestial bodies descend are the realm of Tezcatlipoca, south and east belong to the Above and their lord is Huitzilopochtli.
- The Jewish and Arabic calendars are still based on the phases of the moon.
- The Zoroastrians believed that Ahriman and his destroying demons came rushing down from the north.
- Until recently, Shintoism claimed for the emperor of Japan direct descent from the sun-goddess.
- Despite such prohibitions, Dorothy M. Murdock, a proponent of the study, has released books on the subject and teaches the connections between the solar allegory and the life of Christ. She also goes beyond the astronomical comparisons and postulates ties between the origins of many of the early Abrahamic religions to ancient mythologies of that in Egypt, Rome, and Greece.
Cometanic Age (2013 CE - )
- The Year of The Gift:
In Astronist culture, the Astronial Age is the age that is set to occur following the death of Cometan.
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