On Anthropomorphised Clusters of Stars
Astrology dates before written history. The zodiac is one of the oldest picture-concepts in history. It shows the sun as it passes through 13 constellations over during a year. In other words, it is a lofty, imagined belt that extends 8 degrees on either side of the ecliptic, which contains the 13 zodiacal constellations. The moon and planets appear to move around it too. The belt, or zodiac, is divided into 12 zones of equal length, and called signs of the zodiac. Each is named after the constellation that it once lay in. And constellations are anthropomorphised, or personified as figures or animals.
Egypt had a "star clock" of decans (in the sky) as early as 2100 BCE, as seen on coffin lids. Each decan contained a set of stars and corresponding divinities throughout the Egyptian year. The very ancient Book of Nut, earlier termed The Fundamentals of the Course of the Stars, covers the subject. The text goes at least back to 2,000 BC. The work tells of sky and earth deities, such as the star deities and the decans deities. The cycles of the stars and the planets, and time-keeping. [WP, "Nut (goddess)"]
The Egyptian concept of decans were in time adapted to later Greek astrology, so that three decants make up one sign. [WP, "Decans"]
Views of the Catholic Church
The history of astrology is an important part of the history of the development of civilisation, says the Catholic Encyclopedia (sv. "Astrology"). It holds that Thoth (Djehuti) of Egyptian gods, later converted into Hermes Trismegistus among Greeks, was regarded the earliest teacher of astrology in Egypt. He is reputed to have laid the foundation of astrology in the "Hermetic Books", dividing the zodiac into the twelve signs, and much more.
Ancient Egyptians developed astrology to a condition that it varies but little from today. "Astoundingly daring theories of the world found in the Egyptian texts . . . permit us to infer that their authors were even acquainted with the helio-centric conception of the universe." (Ibid.)
For five hundred years astrology governed much public life of Rome, until Emperor Constantine issued an edict threatening all Chaldeans, Magi, and their followers with death. Astrology now disappeared for centuries from the persecuting Christian scene in the Middle Ages, while Arabian and Jewish scholars stood up for astrology. Jews busied themselves with astrological questions, being stimulated to it by the Talmud, their holy scripture. "Sefer Zohar" and "Sefer Yezirah" are two books that appeared in Jewish literature after the time the Talmud was finished. They are full of rules of astrological meanings and calculations.
Up to the time of the Crusades, Arabic learning got a gradually increasing influence on the West, so that theories of astrology got an entrance in the West again. Towards the close of the Middle Ages almost all princes and rulers had court astrologers. One was Angelo Catto, the astrologer of Louis XI of France. Forerunners of Humanism busied themselves with astrology. Emperors and popes became adherents of astrology - Emperors Charles IV and V, and Popes Sixtus IV, Julius II, Leo X, and Paul III. Astrology regulated their official lives. At the papal and imperial courts ambassadors were not received in audience until the court astrologer had been consulted.
Catharine de' Medici made astrology popular in France. She erected an astrological observatory for herself near Paris, and her court astrologer was the celebrated Nostradamus. Another well-known astrologer was Lucas Gauricus, the court astrologer of Popes Leo X and Clement VII.
In Germany, Philip Melanchthon were zealous and distinguished defender of astrology.
In the Renaissance, religion was subordinated to astrology.
[The Catholic Encyclopedia, sv. "Astrology"]
Later uses and oddities
Renaissance scholars often practised astrology. Major astronomers who practised as court astrologers included Tycho Brahe in the royal court of Denmark, Johannes Kepler to the Habsburgs and Galileo Galilei to the Medici. Astrology had a popular revival from the 1800s. The psychiatrist Carl Jung developed some concepts reflecting astrological thought. This led to the development of psychological astrology.
Further, the Catechism of the Catholic Church maintains that predictive astrology, is incompatible with modern Catholic fear "we owe to God alone." Either it is true or not true.
This view largely contradicts the respect for astrology as part of religions that the Vatican speak well of in its "Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions. Nostra Aetate" (below) - note it well.
[WP, "Christian views on astrology"]
- a far-fetched subject it is.
Does the Bible condemn astrology? The answer is yes and no. Some verses seem to approve of astrology, while others - Leviticus 19:26; Isaiah 47:13-14 - seem to condemn it. However, they are not to the point and too inarticulate. Much fluffiness (not being specific, accurate and to the point - hence lacking in useful substance and depth) is a problem with lots of Bible verses. [More contradictions in the Bible]
If you are among those who won't take no for an answer, the obvious answer to "Does the Bible condemn astrology", is "yes" . . . Another question is how primitive they were. They held the earth was unmoving, flat, four-cornered with edges, and on pillars. There's not much that is right there, but is in the Bible. [Isaiah 11:12; Revelation 7:1; Job 38:13; Psalm 104:5; Job 9:6]. Better sources of evaluation would be good. And it is fine to let astrology stand on its own bottom - as a good tub does. Astrological basic theories may be investigated and proved more or less formally, with more or less certainty as to how valid one's findings may be.
As for Bible stories, many of them can be interpreted ("understood") this way and that. Also, comparisons are many, but are they too "fluffy" to be good proofs? It matters to ascertain it well. [WP "Astrology in the Bible"]
2. Jewish Astrology
The Encyclopaedia Britannica too tells that Biblical astrology was due to influence from Egypt and Babylon.
There is some information on Jewish astrologers and diviners in the bible, especially Joseph and Daniel. Those two are given prominence. The astrologer and diviner Daniel even has his own book in the Old Testament, and is credited with apocalyptic visions and comments that the last book in the bible, Revelation, draws on. [Daniel 5:1-30; 7-12]
And in so far as astrology is a religion (orientation), the Vatican has not banned it. In medieval times it was used by popes too. Astrology has much of a say in Hinduism also.
Some Jews lived in Old Testament times, others after the Bible got its final shape and Christianity emerged. Some imagery of the visionary genre is at times interpreted according to astrology. There is a formerly secret astrology among Jews too, known as Kabbalah, which contains its astrology. The Kabbalah is a school of thought with shielded methods, and it is "proof-lackingly" claimed it originated in Judaism. Historically, Kabbalah emerged from earlier forms of Judaism in Southern France and Spain in the 11-1200s. To make one Jewish, astro-magical text acceptable, it is said to have been transmitted by the angel Raziel to Adam after he was driven out from Eden. I hope Adam could read at the time - Another famous work, the early Sefer Yetzirah, supposedly dates back to the patriarch Abraham. "Supposedly" is not enough as far as evidence goes. [WP s.v. "Kabbalah"]
The contemporary Kabbalist Z'ev ben Shimon Halevi claims that the hidden teachings of Judaism are called Kabbalah and that Jesus transmitted Kabbalah, according to Daniel Goleman. To what degree such fancy claims are opinionising or tricks may stand out by this: there seems to be no agreed-on evidence in these matters, but strong claims that are trusted without much and positive evidence.
Be that as it may, candid self-observational methods tend to offer help, also in meeting with more or less obscurely rooted astrology. [Source of the last two sections: Goleman, 49-54]
Later Intererst in Astrology
Good minds like Newton, Regiomontanus and Johannes Kepler practised astrology.
Interest in astrology waned in the 1800s, but interest was renewed in the 1900s. Several of many forms of astrology have been quite popular since.
[WP, s.v. "Christianity and astrology".]
Several Astrologies Around
Try to judge for yourself in practical dealings - clarifying things. For example, very many who get flattering sayings atop horoscope charts, could at least consider how far those descriptions address a whole lot of people, and not just a few, or one. This might be needed to combat a human weakness of preferring to be described in flattering terms also.
In figure 1, twelve star signs are shown, and their corresponding Chinese "token animals" are shown along with them. Put differently, 12 different signs define 12 types of humans. The Rat corresponds to Aries, the Ram (No. 1); the Tiger to Twins; the Rabbit to the Crab, Cancer; the Dragon to Leo; the Snake to Virgo, the Horse to Libra; the Sheep to Scorpio; the Monkey to Sagittarius; the Cock to Capricorn; the Dog to Aquarius; and the Pig to Pisces.
When people are born, the sun and moon and planets are seen in different places of the "big belt" around the earth, the zodiac, an imaginary band. Their meanings, placements and their angles are interpreted in many ways.
Whether you call yourself a Rabbit or a Crab by sun sign, is up to you. Astrology works allot meaning to all its signs by their aligned symbol animals. However, bear in mind that a comparison halts - and that comparisons are what we are dealing with right now. So thinking of yourself as a Rabbit or any other animal will not quite do if you are a human being. That is basic. Basics first. Yet, if you aim for a better living, limping or halting along by the metaphoric animal devise could also ease your way toward that end. Who knows? Gradual or quick progress may culminate in deigning you are an unfolding man or woman . . .
There are astronomical tables that show the exact placements of the heavenly bodies in question: the Sun, Moon, and all the planets are studied, and at last a pattern is revealed and interpreted - the horoscope. It is a Grand Map of a sort. It is not difficult to read it.
Three significant traditions for modern astrologers are:
Astrologers retain an interest in other old astrological traditions too, and regard them as an resources: Babylonian astrology (Ancient, near East); Egyptian astrology; Hellenistic astrology; and Mayan astrology are among these. Kabbalistic astrology is part of a long esoteric tradition among Jews.
More significant, in 'Alexandrian Egypt' Babylonian astrology was mixed with the Egyptian tradition of Decanic astrology. This new form of astrology quickly spread across the ancient world into Europe, the Middle East and India.
Apocalyptic (Visionary) literature
Apocalyptic religious literature is a genre marked by (1) dreams or visions; (2) angels; (3) future; and (4) imagery that may contain symbols. Much depends on fair and fit interpretations, as the first section of the Gospel of Thomas shows.
Dreams or visions: The primary example of apocalyptic literature in the Hebrew Bible is the book of Daniel. Daniel is standing by a river when a heavenly being appears to him, and the revelation follows (Daniel 10:2ff). John, in the New Testament Revelation (1:9ff), is told in much similar words.
Angels: Revealing beings called angels is a standing feature. They bring messages. Future: In the eleventh and twelfth chapter of Daniel, the history of the Greek empire in the East from the conquest of Alexander down to the latter part of the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes are presented are expounded, perhaps only as seen in the mind of the writer. There are eschatological predictions.
Imagery: The literature of visions and dreams is well illustrated in Jewish apocalyptic writing. The typically fantastic, swollen imagery contains strange living creatures with the properties of men and purely imaginary beings can be combined in grotesque ways [see Daniel 7:1-8, 8:3-12] Elements of "foreign mythologies" are occasionally found.
Many sorts of imagery and enigmatic references to times and places must be interpreted to be useful among good folks, is the bet - since symbols that are used to describe persons, things, and events may refer to this and that, according to the interpreter's fancy, for example the "horns" of Daniel 7 and 8; Revelation 17 and the seven seals of chapter 6 of Revelation; trumpets, 8; bowls, 16; the dragon, and so on, if the messenger angels do not interpret it also, and get specifics into the text also. Note how rarely that happens. Having got imagery and symbols to guide them in some ways, people tend to have widely differing interpretations of such elements, and some are evidently bit or hit by partisan views too, regrettably.