A is for Astrology (a brief history of Western Astrology)
1. The study of the movements and relative positions of celestial bodies interpreted as having an influence on human affairs and the natural world. --- Oxford Dictionary
The word astrology comes from the early Latin word astrologia, which derives from the Greek ἀστρολογία -from ἄστρον astron ("star") and -λογία -logia, ("study of" or "account of the stars"). Astrologia later passed into meaning 'star-divination'. In ancient times, Astrology and Astronomy were interlinked yet eventually the two practices became distinctly separated - Astronomy focusing wholly on the scientific method and Astrology becoming labeled as a pseudoscience. I find it interesting to point out interpretations of the two terms Astronomy and Astrology. Astronomy being rooted in Latin from "nomia" can translate as 'Naming The Stars"; while Astrology being rooted from the Latin "Logia" can be translated as "The Stars Speaking". Astronomy is the study of the properties of the stars and celestial bodies from a scientific standpoint, while Astrology is the practice of "Listening to the Stars", or interpreting meaning from the movement of celestial bodies.
The History of Astrology
Mankind has always studied the stars. Archaeologists have found paintings and carvings with maps of the stars and evidence of tracking Lunar Phases dating as far back as 30,000 BC. The study of the stars was our earliest method tracking of seasonal changes, as well as tracking our location using star maps. Archaeological records and Hindu Scriptures show the earliest development of Astrology in India beginning around 5,000 BC. This Astrological System has been developed and used for thousands of years and is still in use today; known as Vedic Astrology. The Sumerians in Mesopotamia made impressive star maps dating back to 6,000 BC, noting the movement of planets and creating detailed calendars. The Babylonians continued the work of the Sumerians, and between 2,400 BC and 331 BC they develop a detailed astrological system including the Zodiac Wheel we use today (with planets and houses) and the oldest known Horoscope (Birth Chart) dated to 409 BC. Around 331 BC Alexander The Great conquers the Sumerians, and the Greeks appropriate the Babylonian astrological system and incorporate it with their own methods. The Greek names for planets, signs, and other astrological terminology are still used today in modern Western Astrology - also known as Tropical Astrology.*
(* this article I will only really speak of Tropical Astrology, as I have not studied Vedic Astrology. I think both forms are valid and useful, but I have not studied the History of Vedic enough to speak on it.)
The uses of Tropical Astrology have changed over the years. To the Ancient Greeks astrology was commonly used to help predict outcomes of wars and battles, to help decide when and where to build a city, or determine the fate of a political movement. In the 5th Century AD with the fall of the Roman Empire, Astrology loses popularity and is seemingly forgotten for a few hundred years; flourishing again in The Middle Ages. For a time Western Astrology is very popular among doctors, mathematicians, scientists, the royal courts, and even used by monks and popes. Astrology begins to be used in more personal ways with a focus on Horoscopes and Birth Charts, particularly with Medical Astrology. It is during the Middle Ages that Placidus, a mathematics professor and monk, designs the House System that is still the most popular system in use by modern Tropical Astrologers. However, this popularity of Astrology is silenced as the Catholic Church grows in power and the Inquisition begins... many scientists are forced to renounce Astrology as it is labeled heresy and superstition by the church.
During "The Age of Reason" (1700 - 1800 AD) Astrology is shunned as a superstition, and the focus on Sciences and Skepticism prevails. Astrology in Europe is still practiced but largely seen as "for entertainment only" as a means of protecting people from prosecution under the Anti-Witchcraft Laws - and therefore practiced underground or in secret societies and only published under pseudonyms to protect the identity of authors.
In 19th Century England there is a renewed interest in mysticism and astrology (though still thinly veiled as "entertainment" since Anti-Witchcraft Laws still existed that defined Astrology & Divination as fraud.) However, during this time the Psychologist Carl Jung includes Astrology in the analysis of personality. This highly influenced how Astrology is used today as a form of understanding the personality and psyche rather than being solely focused on predictions and divination.
In the 1950's the final remaining Anti-Witchcraft Laws are repealed in England, resulting in the publication of books, magazine articles, and newspaper horoscopes - and a renewed public interest in Astrology around the world. With the invention of the Internet and the World Wide Web - access to information about Astrology also influences an extreme popularity in societies all around the world. Today there are many different Types of Astrology that focus on different purposes; such as psychological development, predictive divination, medical astrology, and spiritual development.
When you are beginning to study Astrology, it might be relevant to ask yourself what intention you personally wish to study astrology for, and begin by studying the type of Astrology that aligns with your intentions.
This is the first post in a series I will be publishing here called A to Z Astrology! Check back or subscribe to see a different Astrological term or concept explored each week!