2 thoughts on “What religion does astrology stem from?

  1. I don’t believe from any religion, but it does stem from Greek/Roman mythology & culture.

  2. No religion – at least in the way we understand that word. A full blown introduction to the history of astrology is not realistic here, but here are a few basic facts.

    Western astrology probably began in ancient Babylon. However this would not be what we currently mean when we refer to astrology. This was closer to an “omenology” where events in the heavens were said to foretell events on earth. Something like, “When a comet flashes across the sky, a great King will die.” Although they did not cast horoscopes the Babylonians did keep all sorts of records. They also gave us the 360 degrees for a circle which was an enormous math breakthrough, if I may use such a reference. Science likes to refer to these people as “primitives (such hubris)”, but their contributions to mathematics are enormous.

    The Babylonians refined their studies, but it is the ancient Greeks who gave us horoscopic astrology. That it was developed in Greece seems irrefutable. Exactly what happened and who were the main players at the earliest stages are unknown. Legend says it was the gift of one Hermes Tresmigestus (The Thrice Greatest Hermes). One contemporary researcher believes that horoscopic astrology was developed quickly and that was largely through the efforts of one individual.

    Reading the ancient texts one thing is fairly certain, the myths had little to do with it. This will come as a shock to a lot of new age astrologers. None of the surviving texts mentions the myths at all other than the names of the signs and planets are the names of the Greek gods and myths. There is no effort to link the two fields of study. The works I’m referring to are Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos or as it is called in Latin, the Quadriparte (they both mean “four books”), the works of Vetius Valens, a younger contemporary of Ptolemy, and the works of Paulus Alexandrinus who came a couple of centuries after Ptolemy. There is no mention of religion or the myths other than the names. This is true of other well known early works by Firmicus and Dorotheus. It is true that Mars (Ares to the Greeks) was the god of war and that is how the planet is used in Greek astrology, but there is no mention of how Mars got that way or any stories about Mars or any other planet in the Greek books or any early text. You have to go to the 20th century for that.

    One of the interesting facts about astrology throughout the world. All cultures that developed an astrology used the planets the same way despite not having any contact with each other. No culture used Venus the way the Greeks used Mars or vice versa. Mars, regardless of his name in a culture is always the planet of violence. Venus is always the planet of love and beauty. Saturn is always a bad guy. etc.

    Greece fell, Rome took over the astrology, Rome fell and the Arabs became enamored of the subject as well. The Arabs, not known for their adherence to Greek or Roman theology, kept the names and principles and added their own ideas. Astrology managed to find itself popular enough to be banned by both Christianity and Islam. There are all sorts of lurid tales of thousands of astrologers being rounded up and burned at the stake. This did not happen.The occasional heretic was burned and astrology may have been at the heart of the charges now and then, but more often than not the rare accusation was a handy method of getting rid of political troublemakers. We do the same thing today sans the fire.

    Going back to basics: the Greeks were utterly rational and they took to astrology because it seemed to help make sense of the world which to this day can look irrational. The Arabs, and many of the so-called Arab writers weren’t Arab at all, loved numbers. This can be seen with their major contributions: the expansion of the Greek lots now mistakenly called “Arabic Parts.” They probably invented the use of solar returns, and may have also been the first to put a major effort into mundane astrology.

    All of this was accomplished despite disapproval form the major religions. Astrology might have a religious component at its core. The perfectly ordered universe envisioned by astrologers seems to be tough to discount as pure coincidence, but this is not the same as stemming from a particular theology.

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