Astrology is the ancient practice of humans gazing towards celestial bodies to answer questions about the universe, ourselves, and those around us. Humanity has looked to the stars (and other celestial events) to make sense of their reality in some of the greatest civilizations. These include, but are not limited to Babylonian, Greek, Mayan, and Hindu. This practice creates a language for those who observe it which enhances their understanding of those around them. For instance, someone with a Mars in Aries in their natal chart may be quicker to incite conflict than someone with a Mars in its sister sign, Libra. While the definitions and validity of Astrology’s scientific contributions may vary, there are many forms of practiced Astrology today. Understanding the perspective and value of each will offer a more complete view of the practice.
Visual learner? Or just have ADHD like me? Check my TikTok for a 15-second version of my take on Astrology.
A Short History
Astrology’s History: Overview
The birth of Astrology occurred about 1,000 years after Astronomy. Astrology’s history began long before our globalized world of today. Babylonians of Mesopotamia were the first astronomers, recognizing and naming the zodiac, but Mayans, Greeks, and many others have had an influence on Western Astrology. Western Astrology is the form that those in the US are likely most familiar with. It is also the form I study and practice.
- Mesopotamia: Astronomers, created the 12 zodiac
- Greece: Added depth and drama to the practice
- Medieval: Major rise and eventual fall: 11th-17th century
- 20th-21st Century: Newspaper horoscopes and internet memes give Astrology a major comeback.
Babylonians realized that twelve consistent constellations could be found in the sky during the year. These constellations’ were unique because of their transit with the Sun. This contingency determines one’s Sun sign in astrology. For instance, the approximate dates of December 22-January 19 are the dates that the constellation Capricornus transits the sun. Dates nor transit split themselves evenly among this system. However, the Mesopotamian culture had an obsession with perfection, especially regarding numbers. So it is no surprise that there is a 13th sign technically within this part of the sky. As you may have heard every few years or so, his name is Ophiuchus. However, Babylonians chose not to include Ophiuchus. Additionally, modern forms of astrology follow suit using only twelve zodiacs.
During the 6th century, the Greeks were hard at work creating major advances on many fronts. Astrology was one. Greek’s were a major contributor to astrology’s history. After they discovered it in their conquering of Egypt it grew in popularity. Perhaps connected to their theatrical and lively lifestyle, the Greeks added an element of drama and animation to Astrology as well as a depth and rationale. For instance, Greek and Roman gods heavily influence the names and characteristics of planets in astrology. To illustrate, the goddess Venus (Greek name: Aphrodite), rules love and beauty. This is similar to the planet Venus in a person’s birth chart, which would govern that person’s love life and how they might perceive beauty. On top of this major addition, Greeks incorporated the four elements: Fire, Earth, Air, and Water (History of Astrology).
Medieval and Renaissance Peak and Fall
During the 11th-17th century, Astrology reached a peak in Renaissance Europe. With thousands of years of information to glean from, Astrology interested alchemists, mathematicians, philosophers, and astronomers alike. Shakespeare even respected the subject. Monarchs and aristocrats of the time rarely found themselves without their own personal astrologers. This cosmic practice was one that ruled the land unquestioned for hundreds of golden years.
While there is no one reason the practice of Astrology began to decline, it could be due to claims made against it for being unscientific. Additionally, astrology was at theological odds with one of the societal titans of our time and theirs, the Catholic church. Surely this did not slow the decline in practice and acceptance of the subject. Though the initial decline was quite major, the Renaissance was not the end of humanity’s astrological study (Overview of the History of Western Astrology).
20th-21st Century Revival
Despite its devastating decline, Astrology has not only returned to its initial Golden Days, it has largely surpassed them. Flooding the internet with memes, Astrology has made a major return. Especially in the United States, interest in concepts such as pseudoscience and humanism has become more popular. Religion becomes less popular. This phenomenon left and continues to leave plenty of room for Astrology to flourish.
Using Astrology to Understand Individuals and Humankind Alike
A major question for a person not familiar with Astrology or not understand potential benefits for those that practice it may be, simply, WHY. Why practice Astrology? What can it really offer to those that claim to benefit from it? After all, it has no scientific backing.
While this is currently true, the rise of Humanism and the fall of practiced and institutionalized religion, specifically Christianity (Decline of Christianity Continues), will come to save Astrology yet again from long-term downfall. Interest in Astrology has grown as apps like CoStar and others begin to flood US pop culture (Top 10 US Astrology Apps).
While there are varying definitions of and debates about Astrology in today’s social and scientific landscapes, Bertram Malle’s quote with the Atlantic seems to encompass my philosophy surrounding Astrology:
“Let me state first that I consider astrology a cultural or psychological phenomenon,” not a scientific one, Bertram Malle, a social cognitive scientist at Brown University, told Atlantic Writer Julie Beck in an email. But “full-fledged astrology”—that goes beyond newspaper-style sun-sign horoscopes—“provides a powerful vocabulary to capture not only personality and temperament but also life’s challenges and opportunities…”As Bertram Malle was quoted in the Atlantic’s writing of The New Age of Astrology
*Note: a short excerpt of the quote has been taken out that states: “[t]o the extent that one simply learns this vocabulary, it may be appealing as a rich way of representing (not explaining or predicting) human experiences and life events, and identifying some possible paths of coping”.
I took this out because I do believe Astrology can be a tool to help navigate life with some predictive abilities. I have found this in my day-to-day life and from others who practice Astrology.
Now you have a basic understanding of Astrology and its’ history. Have more questions? Check out some options below for more info on Astrology as well as Witchcraft, Tarot, and how to get your own personal reading below.