How Astronomy Begat Astrology

Imagine yourself several thousand years ago, at the end of a day looking up at night sky. What a show it must have been. There was no industrial pollution then dimming the stars. And no light pollution from city streets to lighten the sky. The stars shone much more brightly then.

They were the nightly entertainment. No television or radio. No computers or video games. No cinemas or theatres. No books. Just oneself and the sky.

And the sky moved, rotating through the night. Most of the stars kept fixed positions, but a few of them moved slowly past the other stars in orbits of their own. The Greeks called these the planeta, the wanderers.

Dominating this nightly show, as clearly as the sun dominates the day, was the moon, with a pattern of its own. Waxing and waning as she sped through the Heavens.

Imagine how it would have been watching these magical lights, night after night, noticing the patterns in their movements. At times the moon would pass by a planet, or two planets would draw close. What was already a spectacular sight would have attracted even greater interest.

It would have been hard not too see such awe-inspiring sights as auspicious. (Even today it's hard not to look at a brilliant Venus hovering over the afterglow of a sunset and not feel a little of that magic.) The ancients might have seen these special configurations as omens of things to come, or blessings upon the time. A child born under such a night would have been well-marked by the Heavens -- perhaps Mars was overhead, Jupiter just rising, and the crescent moon sitting between Castor and Pollux.

Today as I watch the movements of the planets I notice synchronicities between events in my life and patterns in the sky. Remarkable visual configurations often correlate with significant times in my own life. (As I’m writing this Mars is just visible, rising over the ocean.) I am not saying one causes the other, but I often notice the coincidences. I am sure the ancients would have felt the same.

The planets each have different characters. Venus, swift and brilliant. Mars, red and sultry. Jupiter, much slower, waxing and waning over decades. These characters would be part of the pattern. As would the different phases of the moon. And the constellations the planets were passing through. Which stars were about to appear over the horizon. What was at the highest point.

It would have been natural to ask when auspicious events might next occur. Or what meetings might be taking place, but unable to be seen due to cloudy skies? Or where there meetings that took place during the daytime sky?

Today astrology seems to have lost contact with its astronomical roots. Astrologers consult only their tables, having very little picture of how the stars actually appear in the sky. I recently pointed out to several astrologers that Venus, Mars and Jupiter were about to do a beautiful celestial dance that would be clearly visible in the evening sky. They had to look to their ephemeris to check that out the configuration, and even then did not pronounce it as overly significant. But to all who saw it was a spectacular event.

That’s why I like to watch the stars. To get back to the roots of astrology. To the time when astrology and astronomy were one.

And one final note. Today we also have hundreds of artificial satellites added to the nightly show. Imagine how it might if, after the fall of Western civilization, people sat around their camp fires watching these other lights cross the sky, lights that did not follow the planets, but raced across the sky in all directions, and just for an hour or two after sunset and before sunrise. What new astronomical systems would emerge? And what would people think as they noticed over the years that the number of these errant lights was steadily decreasing? The coming of the end of the world?