Tag Archive for: History of Astrology

The Rediscovery of Astrology in Modern Times

In the West, astrology experienced its heyday during the Renaissance. Astrology was considered the royal science at the universities and courts. In the course of the 17th century, astrology was increasingly viewed critically by the emerging natural sciences. In the turmoil of the Thirty Years’ War (1618 – 1648), the increasingly sensationalist forecasts of astrologers still gave people comfort and support. But from the 1650s onwards, a rapid decline set in. The art of astrology seemed increasingly antiquated compared to scientific discoveries in physics and technology. In 1666, astrology was finally banned from universities in France and shortly afterwards sent to the realm of superstition throughout Europe. Thus astrology sank into a long twilight sleep until it was rediscovered at the end of the 19th century. Thus was born the astrology of our modern times.

Rediscovery by Theosophists and Rosicrucians

Alan Leo

Alan Leo

The English theosophist Alan Leo (1860 – 1917) is often called the father of modern astrology. He cleared out classical astrology and vested it in a contemporary garment. Compared to traditional astrology, his doctrinal structure was considerably simplified and easier to understand. In addition, Leo shifted the focus away from predictions of fate and towards psychological character interpretation. With his data collection “1001 Notable Nativities” he laid the foundation for empirical astrology. It contained the horoscopes of 1,001 famous personalities and historical events. For decades, this work was considered the data bible for researching astrologers. But Leo was also a resourceful businessman and was the first to recognise the potential for success in trivialisation. By reducing the complexity of a birth chart to the position of the sun, he was able to reach an audience of millions for the first time. “Star Sign Astrology” with its twelve human drawers was born and with it the popular newspaper horoscopes. He was also the first to produce horoscopes using text modules. With these two innovations, horoscopes were no longer elaborate custom work. They could be produced on an assembly line and sold cheaply to a mass audience.

Evangeline Adams

Evangeline Adams

In the Anglo-Saxon world, the first modern astrologers were mainly members of esoteric circles and spiritual associations, especially the Theosophists and the Rosicrucians. The best known of them were the Rosicrucian Max Heindel (1865 – 1919), the Theosophist Alice Bailey (1880 – 1949) and C.C. Zain (1882 – 1951), founder of the “Church of Light”. A prominent figure of this early phase was America’s first female astrologer, Evangeline Adams (1868 – 1932). She attracted a lot of media interest and made astrology really popular with her numerous striking predictions. She is said to have foreseen the fire of the Winsor Hotel in New York in 1899 as well as the stock market crash of 1929, the Second World War or the death of King Edward VII. Her clients included numerous celebrities such as the opera singer Enrico Caruso or the famous financial guru John Piermont Morgan, to whom the saying is still often attributed: “Millionaires don’t use astrology – billionaires do.” In 1911 and 1914 she was impeached for fortune-telling. In court, she convinced the judge of her astrological skills, so she was acquitted. In the media, which had followed the trial with keen interest, this was interpreted as scientific proof of astrology. Thus Adams became the first major media astrologer. She received her own radio broadcast and in 1930 also her own newspaper column.

Astrology in the German-speaking world

Around the turn of the century, rediscovered astrology reached the German-speaking countries. One of the first pioneers was Karl Brandler-Pracht (1864 – 1939). He published his first work “Mathematisch-instruktives Lehrbuch der Astrologie” in 1905. In the following decades he founded astrological societies and research groups in many Austrian, German and Swiss cities, as well as several journals. Brandler-Pracht is considered the grand signor of modern German-language astrology. Many well-known astrologers of the first half of the 20th century were students of his.

Grand Astrologers of the Interwar Period: Karl Brandler-Pracht, Frank Glahn und Johannes Vehlow

After the First World War, astrology entered two decades of enthusiastic optimism. Numerous doctors and professors were seriously engaged in it. They were sure that it would only be a matter of time before astrology could be proven by modern technical means and established as a science. Many astrologers from that time are still legendary today, for example Johannes Vehlow (1890 – 1958), who compiled a systematic collection of astrological knowledge from antiquity to the present with his eight-volume monumental work “Lehrkursus der wissenschaftlichen Geburtsastrologie” (from 1925). However, his house system, which places the Ascendant in the middle of the 1st house, was not able to assert itself. Also Frank Glahn (1865 – 1941) was very influential. His first astrology book “Erklärung und systematische Deutung des Geburtshoroskopes” (Explanation and systematic interpretation of the natal chart) was published in 1923. While the merit of Brandler-Pracht or Vehlow is above all the collection and compilation of traditional knowledge, Glahn shone through innovative techniques and new inventions. The house rhythms, still popular today, for example, can be traced back to him.

Uranian Astrology (“Hamburg School”)

The most groundbreaking technical approach was founded by the surveyor Alfred Witte (1878 – 1941) with the Hamburg School, later known in the Anglo-Saxon world as “Uranian Astrology”. He presented his system in several articles from 1919 onwards and was soon the talk of the scene. In the course of the First World War, Witte had calculated thousands of horoscopes of comrades and had to realize that crucial events such as bombings, wounds or marriages were often not visible at all in the horoscope with the classical methods. He compared the birth pictures of people with similar experiences, as well as of people with the same birthdays, and found that the same zodiac positions were triggered at the times in question. These positions moved slowly. So Witte assumed that they must be planets beyond the orbit of Neptune that had not been discovered yet. Using the fall curve of the known planets, Witte calculated the distance and orbital period of these points and came up with the orbits of his four additional planets: Cupido, Hades, Zeus and Kronos. Witte called these undiscovered celestial bodies beyond the orbit of Neptune “Transneptunians”.

Whenever someone from the front went home to attend a big family celebration, Cupido was triggered. Death, destruction, decay, filth or harlots and thieves were indicated by Hades. The point that triggered lightning attacks, steam engines or gunshot wounds Witte called Zeus. Kronos stood for rule and authority, for the high and sublime. The following list shows in short bullet points the orbital periods and significance of the transneptunians found by Witte. They were later extended to eight by Witte’s student Friedrich Sieggrün (1877 – 1951).

    Umlaufzeit Bedeutung
Uranian-Astrology-Cupido Cupido 262 years Family, Marriage, Art, Community
Uranian-Astrology-Hades Hades 361 years Solitude, abscence, dirt, disease
Uranian-Astrology-Zeus Zeus 456 years Leadership, procreation, targets, fire, machines
Uranian-Astrology-Kronos Kronos 522 years Self-Reliance, State, Ruler, Grandness
Uranian-Astrology-Apollon Apollon 576 years Fame, success, expansion, science
Uranian-Astrology-Admetos Admetos 618 years Inhibition, separation, standstill, rotation
Vulkanus 663 years Greatest force, power, energy, violence
Uranian-Astrology-Poseidon Poseidon 740 years Spirit, Idea, Insight, Light, Enlightenment

The Transneptunians of Uranian Astrology (“Hamburg School”)

Witte’s second innovation were the “Planetary Pictures”. Classical astrology only knows relationships between two planets, whenever they correspond to certain angles, the aspects. Witte’s planetary pictures instead consist of three or more planets, provided that one of them lies exactly in the middle between the other two. The introduction of these midpoints, together with the transneptunians, allowed much more differentiated statements than traditional astrology. Thus the houses and signs of the zodiac, the two basic problems of astrology, could be largely neglected in the interpretation. The “Planetary Pictures” were the new focus of the horoscope.

Especially in times without computers, this meant aconsiderable additional effort in calculation. On the other hand, the Hamburg School had the reputation of achieving by far the most exact forecasts and the highest accuracy. With the help of numerous experiments, their students proved the superiority of their system over the other astrological schools. They calculated the birth of a child to the day or predicted exactly the winners and victors of boxing matches. Or they cast horoscopes to find the place of disappeared persons. To what extent such hits were the exception or the rule remains open. In any case, hopes were high that Witte’s system would soon establish astrology as an exact science. Therefore the Hamburg School used to put its astrological rules in mathematical formulae. Their bible was the “Regelwerk für Planetenbilder” (“Rulebook for Planetary Pictures”, first edition 1928). It contains hundreds of formulas such as:


Moon + Cupido – Aries = Weddings. General social clubs. Public balls and societies.
Venus + Uranus – Mars = Hot but refined sensuality. Sudden acquaintanceships that turn intimate.
Lunar Node + Hades – Zeus = Being sharply rebuked for shortcomings. Coming into contact with the police as a result of crime. Being affected by fire.
Sun + Kronos – Neptune = Confused authority. Incompetent leadership. Experiencing deception or rejection by leaders or self-employed persons. Destroyed by state power. Deposition of princes. If = Mercury: the confused leader or the intuitive leader.

Uranian Astrology remains a curiosity even today within the astrology scene. On the one hand, many of its followers enjoy a high reputation, especially in the Anglo-Saxon world, where Witte’s teaching is still known today. On the other hand, the extremely mathematical approach never gained widespread acceptance. It was too complicated and detailed for a mass movement. Many astrologers were also disturbed by the strongly deterministic character of Witte’s disciples. Their claim to practice an exact science left no room for free will. Everything and everyone was precisely calculable. However, one should not overlook the fact that this strong orientation towards fate was very widespread in astrology until well into the post-war period.


Excerpt of Uranian Astrology Calculations, Alfred Witte (1924)

The Transneptunians brought the most rejection to Uranian Astrology. The existence of these eight additional planets was deduced from the analysis of thousands of horoscopes. But to this day, none of these bodies could be astronomically discovered. Moreover, it made many astrologers suspicious when the ninth planet Pluto was discovered in 1930, but it did not correspond to any of the Witte planets. Since 1992 tens of thousands of Transneptunian Objects have been discovered in the Kuiper Belt. But the Hamburg Transneptunians have no correspondence except for their names. Therefore they are now rather called “effective points” and no longer planets. Thus, the Hamburg School still leads an exotic existence, even though its achievements are considered undisputed in the astrology scene. The Midpoints and the Mirror Points, two techniques (re)discovered by Witte, have become commonplace in astrology.

Ebertin’s Cosmobiology

One of the most famous astrologers of the 20th century originally also had been a follower of Uranian Astrology: Reinhold Ebertin (1901 – 1988). He was the son of Germany’s first professional astrologer, Elsbeth Ebertin (1880 – 1944), who wrote the annual astrological forecast “Ein Blick in die Zukunft – Unabwendbare Geschehnisse in nächster Zeit” (A Look into the Future – Inevitable Events in the Near Future) in the interwar period. In 1928 he founded the Ebertin publishing house and published the journal “Neue Sternblätter” (“New Starpaper”), which was renamed “Mensch im All” (“Man in Cosm”) in 1933. This quickly became one of the most important mouthpieces of German astrology. Ludwig Rudolph, one of the main representatives of Uranian Astrology, or the well-known chirologist and physiognomist Ernst Issberner-Haldane published numerous articles in it. From 1932, the weekly magazine “Der Seher” (“The Seer”) appeared and soon reached a circulation of over 50,000.

Ebertin’s fame was also due to his organisational talent. In 1932 he organised the “Congress of Astrological Pioneers” with over 600 participants. It brought together all the leading figures in the astrology scene of the time. One of the aims of this congress was to critically examine the overflowing flood of astrological methods and to filter out the most successful techniques. To this end, Ebertin set 75 practical tasks over the course of time. Each astrologer, each school could solve them with their preferred methods. An evaluation of the techniques was then made on the basis of the correct or incorrect results. On this basis, the “Ebertin method”, later also called cosmobiology, developed in the course of the 1930s. The first edition of Ebertin’s main work “The Combination of Stellar Influences” was finally published after the war and is still considered a standard work of astrology today.

The “Ebertin Method” is less an independent approach to interpretation than an eclectic summary of the most generally accepted methods. From each school Ebertin integrated what seemed most useful to him and made numerous simplifications. This is the reason for the great success of his cosmobiology. From the Hamburg School, Ebertin adopted the Midpoint technique and the 90-degree disk. He rejected the Transneptunians, however. In addition, he turned away from the one-sided event and fate orientation of Witte’s teaching and emphasised the psychological side much more. To avoid the problem of the various house systems, his method dispenses with them completely.

Astrologer Persecution in the Third Reich

Thomas Ring

Thomas Ring

Like many astrologers of the interwar period, Ebertin initially tried to come to terms with the Nazi regime. He was a co-founder of the “Geistige Front, Reichsvereinigung für wissenschaftliche und praktische Menschenkenntnis, Berlin”. His journals contained articles on Germanism, racial physiognomy or “The Hitler salute as a Sign of Character” as well as horoscope analyses of Adolf Hitler, which astrologically confirmed his mission as a great leader. However, the association tried in vain to establish a professional body for astrologers in the “Kampfbund für Deutsche Kultur” (“Militant League for German Culture”). Although Nazi greats such as Hess and Himmler were very fond of the occult, astrologers were soon blacklisted in the Third Reich. In 1939, the “Astrologische Zentralstelle” (“Astrological Center Office”) was abolished and astrology was banned. After Rudolf Hess fled, numerous astrologers were arrested and deported in a great wave in 1941. Tons of astrology books were confiscated and burned. Many astrologers, such as Karl Ernst Krafft or Hubert Korsch, died in the concentration camps. Alfred Witte avoided arrest by committing suicide. Thomas Ring only narrowly escaped deportation when the well-known Freiburg parapsychologist Hans Bender (1907 – 1991) appointed him director of the Parapsychological Institute at the University of Strasbourg, thus helping him to leave the country.

To this day, the German astrologers of the interwar period are legendary. Like in hardly any other country, astrology had developed rapidly and aroused great interest even in scientific circles. Astrologers had already imagined themselves at the gates to the universities. But the Third Reich brought a double break. On the one hand, astrology was stigmatized by the public as a dubious occult practice due to its flirtation with the Nazi regime until 1939. On the other hand, many of its most important representatives and works were wiped out by the reign of terror.

The cosmobiology of Reinhold Ebertin survived the Third Reich best. In the post-war period, he succeeded in rebuilding his publishing house and making his teachings popular in America and Australia as well. Ebertin was active as an astrologer until the 1980s. In contrast to many German colleagues, he was also very active internationally and thus laid an important cornerstone for modern astrology. Since his death, however, his teachings have lost much of its radiance. The Ebertin publishing house finally went bankrupt in 2005. After the Second World War, Uranian Astrology (“Hamburg School”) was continued mainly by Ludwig Rudolph (1893 – 1982) and later by his son Udo. However, the great days were over. The great revolution in astrology faded. With its innovative approaches, Uranian Astrology had initiated modern times astrology after the First World War. But today it seems strangely antique and alien to theour modern mind.


The original version of this article including all sources can be found in the following book:
Niederwieser, Christof (2020) PROGNOSTIK 03: Trends & Zyklen der Zeit, Rottweil: Zukunftsverlag, S. 132ff


Astrology in early Modern History

In the wake of Islamic expansion, Arabian astrology spread from the 8th century via Spain to the borders of the Frankish Empire. From the 11th to the 13th century, numerous Arabic and Jewish works were translated into Latin. Oriental magic, Kabbalah and astrology thus entered the occidental cultural sphere and soon took on an independent development there. For a long time, the Church banned the divination of the stars as “empty fraud”. It was not until Christian theologians such as Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274) developed the ideological foundations that astrology could be reconciled with Christianity. European rulers began to employ court astrologers. One of the first great astrologers of the Occident was the Italian mathematician Guido Bonatti (1223 – 1300). As court astrologer to Frederick II of Hohenstaufen and Count Montefeltro, he achieved fame with his predictions. Astrologers still refer to his works today. In the second half of the 13th century, Johannes Campanus, mathematician to Pope Urban IV, developed a new house system which, for the first time, was not based on the ecliptic but on the celestial space of the place of birth.

The Zenith of Astrology in the Renaissance

Astrology reached its zenith during the Renaissance. Europe was fulfilled by the reborn spirit of antiquity. Universities were founded in all major cities to institutionalise the new wealth of knowledge. And Astrology was considered the royal science. Even art was highly influenced by astrological allegories.

The twelve Zodiac Signs in

The twelve Zodiac Signs in “The Last Supper” of Leonardo Da Vinci“ (1494 – 1497)

Thus the twelve disciples in the famous painting “The Last Supper” by Leonardo Da Vinci (1452 – 1519) were modelled on the twelve signs of the zodiac in their facial expressions, gestures and physiognomy. The row begins on the right with Simon the Zealot as a direct, combative Aries and ends on the left with Bartholomew as an impassively observing Pisces. The disciples are arranged in four groups of three, which correspond to the four astrological quadrants. Each disciple assumes the posture typical of his sign of the zodiac: Simon, Aries, resolute and impulsive; Thaddaeus, Taurus, neck-hugging and holding on to himself; Matthew, Gemini, youthfully smooth and wildly gesticulating; Philip, Cancer, fervently wallowing in emotion; the elder James, Leo, in expressive, radiant posture; Doubting Thomas, Virgo, warningly raising his index finger.

To the left of Jesus follow the autumn signs: John, Libra, weighing indecisively, Judas, Scorpio, stealthily receding, holding the purse tightly to himself, Peter, the religiously combative Sagittarius, hurriedly and disregarding the order, whispering in John’s ear. Finally, the three winter signs follow, the fourth quadrant. While all the other apostles are busy with themselves and their thoughts and feelings, the winter signs observe the events from a distance: the old, bald Andrew, Capricorn, anxiously raising his hands defensively, the younger James, Aquarius, fraternally embracing his friends, and finally the silently contemplating Pisces Bartholomew, the only disciple whose feet (traditionally assigned to Pisces) can be seen. As it was usual for his time, Da Vinci also incorporated astrological ideas into this famous work. He was probably advised in this by his close friend, the Swiss astrologer Konrad Fürst.

Albrecht Dürer "Sol Iustitiae"

Albrecht Dürer “Sol Iustitiae”

There are also numerous astrological allegories in the paintings of Albrecht Dürer (1471 – 1528). His copperplate engraving “Melencholia I” (1514), for example, is an artistic collection of the analogical chains of the planet Saturn. The astrological symbolism is probably most obvious in the copperplate engraving “Sol Iustitiae” (c. 1500). The personified sun is sitting on a lion. In her raised hand she holds a sword, in her lowered hand a pair of scales. This symbolises the astrological dignities of the sun. According to traditional teachings, the Sun rules Leo, is exalted in Aries (symbol sword) and in Libra in the fall. There are countless allegories of this kind in paintings and pictures from the Renaissance period. Numerous other examples can be found in the book “Astrologie in der Kunst” by Klemens Ludwig.

Doomsday Prophecies

Even though the reputation of astrology was at its peak during the Renaissance, there was already criticism at that time. One of the most influential opponents of astrology was the Italian humanist Pico della Mirandola (1463 – 1494). In his posthumously published work “Disputationes adversus astrologiam divinatricem” he turned sharply against astrology. He suggested that astrological theories should be subjected to statistical tests to prove their uselessness. Mirandola criticised above all deterministic astrology, which interpreted man’s destiny as an unalterable consequence of the stars. And indeed, the Renaissance brought not only a tremendous spiritual expansion, but at the same time a last great upsurge of superstition. Numerous prophecies of the end of the world were read from the stars to terrify the people. Especially planetary constellations in one sign gave rise to gloomy predictions.

Thus the emergence of syphilis was explained by the preceding great conjunction of the planets Jupiter and Saturn in the sign of Scorpio. The meeting of these two slowest planets was considered a royal constellation and extremely significant, especially for Mundane forecasts. Moreover, in the constellation of October 1484, all other celestial bodies except of Mars were in Scorpio, the sign of the sexual organs. A sexual epidemic seemed to be the logical consequence of this constellation for the astrologers of the Renaissance. The well-known astrologer Johannes Lichtenberger (1426 – 1503), on the other hand, predicted from the conjunction the coming of a prophet who would revolutionize the church. When Martin Luther led the Protestant Reformation a few decades later, this was seen as proof of the accuracy of Lichtenberger’s prophecies. After all, Luther had been born in the sign of Scorpio in 1483, just one year before the constellation.

Astrological Pamphlet "The Great Watering" 1523 by Leonhard Reymann

Astrological Pamphlet of Leonhard Reymann (1523): The Conjunction of all Planets in the Sign of Pisces will bring the Great Deluge

Particularly spectacular was the prophecy of a great Flood for the year 1524, which the well-known astrologer Johannes Stöffler (1452 – 1531) had already predicted in 1499. His disciples, especially the first astrologer of Brandenburg, Johannes Carion (1499 – 1537), held on to this prophecy until the promised year and published numerous lurid writings on the subject. The Flood prophecies were based on a conjunction of all planets in the sign of Pisces in February 1524. Carion described the coming effects of this constellation in detail in his book “Prognostication und erklerung der großen wesserung” (1521). He predicted destructive storms and floods, which would lead to crop failures, famine and epidemics. He also prophesied discord and dissension between the spiritual and secular leaders, which would bring “great bloodshed of the Christian people” and “oppression of great heads” in 1525.

The best-known depiction of this prophecy of the Flood is the pamphlet “Practica vber die grossen und manigfeltigen Coniunction der Planeten, die im jar 1524 erscheinen vn vngezweiffelt vil wunderparlicher ding geperen werden” by Leonhard Reymann, published in 1523. The upper part of the cover shows a large fish with a dead man, the sun, the moon and the five planets in its body. The great flood pours out of its belly and washes everything away. In the lower part of the picture, the king, the pope and the clergy on the right and the peasants led by Saturn on the left are hostile to each other.

The closer 19th February 1524 came, the more people panicked. The rich bought ships to survive the Flood. The poor prayed to God for mercy. But the great deluge did not come. This, however, did not diminish the fame of the astrologers. Reymann simply published another paper in 1526 on the planetary clustering in Pisces. The Flood had disappeared from the cover. Instead, only the hostile peasants and feudal lords were depicted. Although the great deluge had failed to materialise, Reymann praised the accuracy of astrology. Looking back on the year 1524, he spoke of a constellation whose consequences could not be prevented by wisdom and concentrated on the depiction of the German Peasants’ War of 1525. Admittedly, this was already clearly in the air at the time of the forecasts. But in retrospect, it was possible to turn the diagnosis into a forecast and thus pass it off as a success for astrology.

Cardanus and Nostradamus

Such artifices were common in Renaissance astrology. Thus, Pico della Mirandola’s harsh criticism was not surprising. Nevertheless, astrology continued to enjoy great recognition for many decades. Outstanding scholars dealt with it, among them Paracelsus (1493 – 1541) or the Italian physician and mathematician Hieronymus Cardanus (1501 – 1576). Cardanus was a pioneer of probability theory and used this knowledge to finance his studies by gambling. Moreover, he was the first to calculate with negative and complex numbers and to develop a method for solving third and fourth degree equations. Cardanus was famous as the greatest physician of his time and healed numerous kings and princes. He was also considered an outstanding physiognomist and astrologer. Cardanus was very precise with his astrological predictions. For example, he predicted that King Edward VI of England would fall fatally ill at the age of 55 years, 3 months and 17 days. In fact, Edward died at the age of 16. Cardanus was also not afraid to predict his own death to the hour. When that hour finally came, but he was still in the best of health, he took his own life at the age of 75. So at least this prophecy came true.

Another great astrologer of the 16th century was Nostradamus (1503 – 1566). His prophecies still fascinate people today with their cryptic language. For centuries, experts have puzzled over whether there is an elaborate code behind the symbolically encoded verses or whether they are simply projection surfaces that always fit some kind of event. His medium was annual almanacs, each of which contained predictions for the coming year. These works were very popular at the time and often brought their authors far more income than astrological consultations. If we take the sale of astrological annual almanacs in the German-speaking world as an indicator, astrology reached the peak of its popularity in 1580 – 1610. Then a slow decline set in.

The Astrology of Johannes Kepler

In the course of the 17th century, astrology finally fell more and more into the corner of superstition. The invention of the telescope and the increasing acceptance of the Copernican world view demystified the starry sky and with it astrology. The last great astronomers who also distinguished themselves as astrologers were the Dane Tycho Brahe (1546 – 1601) and his student Johannes Kepler (1571 – 1630). Both rejected large parts of the astrology of their time as unscientific, but still believed in the power of the stars. Kepler in particular tried to free astrology from its dubious, puffery-like ballast and to give it a new scientific foundation that would satisfy the demands of his time. In 1602 he published his short work on the secure foundations of astrology, “De Fvndamentis Astrologiae Certioribvs”. In this book he presented his theory of astrology and rejected many established methods as nonsense, for example the classical planetary dignities or the Arabic parts. Instead, he introduced new aspects into astrology: the quintile, the biquintile and the semi-sextile. He also made his predictions for the year 1602, a large part of which consisted of weather forecasts:

“The becoming stationary of Mercury now causes for the most part winds that are relatively rich in haze, and locally also snow or rainfall. We can expect these around 17 January, 20 April, 12 May, 15 August, 6 September and 9 and 31 December. (…) 4 January: Sun conjunction Mercury – snowfalls or winds as the general disposition will allow. Around the 10th/11th six extremely strong aspects – mild rains mixed with snow throughout. (…) I expect April to bring warmth at the beginning according to its nature through the biquintile of Mars and the Sun, that it will be rainy at least two days before and after the full moon. For all the planets are involved in the constellation.”

Horoscope for Albrecht Wallenstein, calculated by Johannes Kepler

Horoscope for Albrecht Wallenstein, calculated by Johannes Kepler, 1608

Kepler devoted the last pages of this treatise to event forecasts. He indicated the days of the year which, in his opinion, held an increased danger of disease and plague, as well as of war. If one compares his predictions with the almanacs that had been customary a hundred years earlier, Kepler’s strong reluctance to make concrete, exact forecasts is striking. The constellations do not compel, they merely incline.

Kepler did not only make astrological calendars. He also calculated horoscopes and was imperial mathematician and astrologer at the court of Emperor Rudolf II in Prague. To him he dedicated his Rudolfin Tables, by far the most exact planetary orbit calculations of his time. In 1608 he wrote what is probably his best-known horoscope for an anonymous client, who years later was to become the most powerful army commander of the Thirty Years’ War, Albrecht von Wallenstein. Wallenstein was so impressed by the quality of the horoscope that it shaped his life. His biography has astonishing parallels with Kepler’s predictions.

Kepler’s main work, Harmonice Mundi (1619), was ultimately an attempt to unite the scientific knowledge of his time, numerological mysticism and neo-Platonism into an all-encompassing world model. Here, musical harmonies, geometric symmetries, number proportions or its planetary laws can be found just as much as human affects, soul capacities, social systems, theology, guardian spirits or astrology. Everything is connected harmoniously with everything else. The divine will rules over and in all things and unites them in a world harmony that can be experienced scientifically.

The End of Astrology as an Established Science

However, Kepler’s contemporaries were already sceptical about his teachings. Although he was renowned as a natural scientist because of his three planetary laws, his World Harmonics were dismissed as mystical-magical speculation by schollars such as Galileo Galilei (1564-1642). The times of a theological-spiritual science were over. Rationalism and empiricism began their triumphal march. René Descartes (1596 – 1650) soon published his first works and taught people to doubt methodically. Henceforth, not faith but evidence was to be the source of human knowledge. The end of the Thirty Years’ War in 1648 brought the twilight of astrology as a leading prognostic discipline. The reason for this was not so much the emerging dominance of a “mechanistic-reductionist materialism”, as astrology enthusiasts like to claim to this day. Rather, the astrologers themselves were responsible for it with their numerous full-bodied false predictions, as the well-known astrology expert Nick Campion (*1953) states. Especially in comparison to the increasingly accurate forecasts of the emerging natural sciences, astrology was taken less and less seriously by the public.

The solar eclipse of 1654 played a major role in this, as the astronomer and calendar expert Klaus-Dieter Herbst (*1961) has discovered. Astrologers in Central Europe were divided as to whether the eclipse would be total or partial. A public dispute broke out which finally ruined the reputation of astrology. If the astrologers did not even know what kind of eclipse it would be, how would they be able to make their detailed predictions about coming wars, crop failures or natural disasters? In 1666, astrology was finally banned from universities in France and shortly afterwards in the rest of Europe. This was the end of astrology as an established science.

Only in England, where the eclipse of 1654 was not visible and hence did not raise public discussions, astrology experienced a last flowering with one last great astrologer. William Lilly (1602 – 1681) was best known as a master of Horary Astrology, a technique in which the horoscope is drawn not on the birth of the questioner but on the time of the question. Lilly advised numerous rulers and politicians in England and throughout Europe. His textbook “Christian Astrology” (1647) is still one of the great classics of astrology. His annual almanacs with forecasts for the coming year were bestsellers and contained numerous legendary hits. In the 1660s, Lilly’s fame also began to wane. In 1666 he was accused of instigating the Great Fire of London. One of his books from 1652 had contained a prediction about London burning. So it was suspected that Lilly had set the fire himself to refresh his fame as an excellent soothsayer. In the end he was acquitted. But he largely withdrew from public life.

In the second half of the 17th century, astrology sank into insignificance. The spirit of the Enlightenment had taken hold of Europe and wanted to free people from the shackles of faith, tradition and obedience to authority. Reason and objectivity were henceforth to be the maxims of thought. Science now had to prove its theories and be generally verifiable. Astrology could not meet such criteria. So it ended up in the curiosity cabinet of superstition and sank into popular belief as trivial fairground astrology. Only in a few secret societies astrological teachings continued to be practiced until they were finally rediscovered towards the end of the 19th century.

The original version of this article including all sources can be found in the following book:
Niederwieser, Christof (2020) PROGNOSTIK 03: Trends & Zyklen der Zeit, Rottweil: Zukunftsverlag, S. 119ff


The History of Ancient Astrology

Since time immemorial, man has looked up to the sky. When the daily hustle and bustle slowly comes to rest at dusk and the sun disappears on the horizon, the eternal order of the stars appears in the firmament. While everyday life is full of impasses, surprises, dangers and unknowns, the night sky offers stability and orientation. Seemingly unchanging, the stars form an eternal cosmic order in the nocturnal heavens. They offer man reliable anchor points in the waves of space and time.
The first lunar calendars of the hunter-gatherers, the first solar calendars of the Neolithic farmers, the monumental calendar buildings of the early civilizations, they are all based on astronomical patterns. They give people orientation in the course of time: When is the right moment for sowing and for harvesting? When will the days get longer again? When does the tide go out, when does the tide come in? Existential questions like these can be answered with calendars. And if already the course of sun and moon can give such precious information, why not also the course of the other wandering stars, the planets in the welkin? Thus, in the course of the 3rd millennium BC astrology arose in Mesopotamia.

The origins in Mesopotamia

Like the archaic calendars, astrology developed out of the interpretation of signs. For on the one hand the orbits of the planets are signatures in the sky. On the other hand they follow fixed temporal periodicities. Sun and moon not only form the basis of most calendar systems in the world. They are also among the main factors in astrology. Also Venus, the third brightest celestial body after the sun and the moon, had high influence in celestial interpretations. The Maya aligned her to the feathered serpent Kukulcan, one of their highest deities. They devoted extensive observations and their most exact calculations to Venus. Also in Mesopotamia Venus had been of high importance to forecast events. In early days it was interpreted as a celestial sign:

“If Venus is in a disk at the rising: The king will call his subjects to account in a battle. If Venus stands next to the sun’s disk as it rises: the land will revolt. Famine will be severe. The king’s people will kill him in a battle. If the solar disk is next to the moon as it rises, and Venus is visible before them: a well-known, important person will rebel against the Lord.”

Such celestial omina are found in Mesopotamia from about the middle of the 3rd millennium BC. By 2000 BC, numerous stone towers dominated the cityscapes in the Tigris-Euphrates region, up to a hundred meters high already. These towers were mainly used for observing the sky. They began to record the orbit of Venus, its declination values, its disappearance and its reappearance before and after solar conjunctions. Also the fixed star positions were noted. As the centuries passed, the other planets were added. But for a long time, divination from the stars was more interpretation of celestial signs than astrology in the modern sense.

It was not until the 8th century BC that sky observation slowly became astronomy. Calculation tables for the future positions of the sun and moon developed from the centuries of observation data. With the help of the Saros periods the Barû already were able to predict solar eclipses. Later also the orbits of the five planets were included in the calculations. For this purpose the Babylonians invented the zodiac with its 360 degrees as a coordinate system. Around 600 BC, they divided it into twelve equal sections, the twelve signs of the zodiac. This laid the most important foundations of astrology.

Beginning of natal Horoscopes in Greece

Until that time, the vision of the heavens was exclusively royal and mundane divination. From the signs of the sky the destinies of countries and their rulers were read. Individuals were not taken into account. It was not until the end of the 5th century BC that horoscopes began to be calculated for the time of birth of individuals. The oldest known birth chart was drawn for the 29th of April 410 BC. It contains the zodiac positions of the Sun, Moon and the five planets. The ascendant, today one of the central elements of a horoscope, was still unknown to the Babylonians. It was introduced into astrology by the Greeks only in the course of the fourth century BC. The Greeks adopted astrology from the Babylonians, especially during the Persian campaign of Alexander the Great (356 – 323 BC). After Chaldean astrologers predicted Alexander would die there if he entered Babylon, and this prophecy came true, astrology rapidly spread in the ancient world. Chaldean astrologers such as the Baal priest Berossos founded schools of astrology throughout Greece.

The Greeks gave astrology its present form. For the first time they put great emphasis on the rising point of the zodiac in the east, the ascendant. Also the individual horoscope experienced its first bloom. This is certainly connected with the high value of the individual in the Hellenistic democracy. Contrary to obscure theories that astrology was already more than 10,000 years old, it only exists a little more than 2,000 years.

Astrology in Ancient Rome

From Greece astrology came to Rome. Cicero (106 – 43 B.C.) dedicated a couple of side blows to it in his book “Of Divination”. Even then, in the last century before Christ, he considered astrology to be humbug. In the fictional dialogue with his brother Quintus, a large part of our modern arguments for and against astrology is already exchanged. He argues against astrology that twins do not have the same destiny, although they are born at the same time. Or he criticizes that the planets were much too far away from the earth to have any effect on people.

“For who does not see that children imitate the form and manners, and most also the postures and movements, of their parents? This would not come to pass if it were not the power and nature of the procreators, but the temperature of the moon and the nature of the sky that produced it. How? Do not people born at one and the same moment have different natures, ways of life and destinies? Does not this sufficiently prove that the time of birth has absolutely no influence on the destiny of life?” (Cicero 44 B.C. “Of Divination”)

Astrology, like other types of divination, was already controversial at that time. Ancient people have not been less critical to such magic teachings than today. Rather, astrology was repeatedly forbidden by law in the Roman Empire, for example in 139 BC with the banishment of all Greek astrologers from Italy, or under Diocletian in 294 AD and Velentinian in 370 AD. In the latter two edicts, astrology was even described as “damnable” and anyone caught practising “this forbidden error” was threatened with the death penalty, both the astrologer and his clients.
In other periods, however, Roman emperors used astrology as exclusive ruling knowledge, for example under Augustus (63 BC – 14 AD) or Hadrian (76 – 138 AD), the latter even being an astrologer himself. During these periods, it was hoped that the prohibition of astrology would give emperors an exclusive advantage. And it was therefore made a punishable offense for private individuals to practice it, especially if they dared to make predictions about the fate of the emperor or the state. In the inner circle of leaders, however, astrology was used intensively and all important decisions were made according to the stars. The public reputation of astrology was therefore already subject to great changes in the Roman Empire and oscillated between a respected science of the future and frowned upon superstition.

The first Astrological Textbooks

The first textbook on astrology did not exist until the turn of the century. The “Astronomica” by the Roman author Marcus Manilius presents the basics of astrology in five books. The work, written in verse, presents not only the signs of the zodiac, planets and ascendant, but also the houses, as well as the main aspects, the significant angular relationships between the planets, the Trine (120°), the Square (90°), the Sextile (60°) and the Opposition (180°). Another influential work was written in the second half of the first century AD by Dorotheus of Sidon. However, his “Pentateuch” has survived only in fragments, partly in Arabic translations from the 8th century.

The most important astrology book of the antiquity appeared in the middle of the 2nd century A.D. The Tetrabiblos of Claudius Ptolemy (about 100 – 178 A.D.) is considered as the standard work of astrology until today. It is a systematical text in four books and contains everything that constituted the stargazing of his time. Besides a detailed presentation of the mathematical and astronomical basics, it offers comprehensive astrological rules of interpretation for planets, signs, houses and fixed stars. The merit of Ptolemy does not lie in the creation of an independent system of interpretation, but above all in the systematic summary of the astrological knowledge of his time. His geocentric view of the world and his epicyclic theory shaped the astronomy of the Middle Ages until the Copernican Revolution.

The original version of this article including all sources can be found in the following book (German language only):
Niederwieser, Christof (2020) PROGNOSTIK 03: Trends & Zyklen der Zeit, Rottweil: Zukunftsverlag, S. 110ff