The History of Astrology & The Stars Smile on Us.
The Beginnings of Astrology
It is 6000 years ago and the ancient settlers of Mesopotamia, located in the area of present day Iraq, begin turning their gaze skyward and recording what they observe. They have recently settled in the fertile land between two rivers and are beginning to try their hands as farmers of the land. The kings are governing their small kingdoms and their priests are petitioning the gods in their temples with prayers for fertility. The priestly temple in each kingdom marks the center of the universe or the entrance to a secret path to its center. The physical horizons they see to the east and west are the boundaries of their lives.
The stars capture the awe and wonder of the priests who begin to study all the little lights in night time sky. They notice twinklings. They notice movements of some singular lights, and that other singular lights remain in one place. These early star watchers begin paying attention to what happens on the eastern and western horizons. They notice then record the predictable cycles of the moon’s, sun’s and wanderers’ (planets’) risings and settings. This instills in the priests a sense of time, a sense of timing and ultimately imparts meaning to them. These early star gazers regularly examine the skies for omens and expressions of divine will. They choose favorable times for their community events based upon the recurring celestial events that they observe.
About 2400 years ago, the Mesopotamians begin to feel the need to be more precise in forecasting events. They imagine the sky to be a pie and divide it into 12 equal slices. This gives them some very definite reference points for making their forecasts. Furthermore, they imagine 30 mini-slices within each of the 12 slices of the pie in the sky. For example, they can now say that when the first mini-slice of first pie slice appears on the eastern horizon, they will expect their lambs to give birth! They can now also track how many mini-slices a wanderer (planet) traverses in one year. For example, they soon witness Jupiter moving through 30 mini-slices or one full pie slice in one year!
Each clan within the tribal society of these times has a natural kinship to certain animals and plants. For example, some clans have a special affinity to sheep, others to goats, and still others to cattle. They live, breath and project the images of these special animals and plants into amulets, talismans, legends and totems. Each clan then superimposes their totems into the starry patterns in the night-time sky. Thus the clans and the tribe as a whole begin to derive meaning from the starry starry patterns in the night time sky.
Around 2100 years ago, there are 2 astrology systems and they live side by side. One chooses to honor the starry patterns more and adopts the sidereal (constellation-based) zodiac. The other astrological system chooses to honor the seasons more and adopts the tropical zodiac, based upon the sun’s seasonal movements from the north end of the sky to its south end, from the Tropic of Cancer to the Tropic of Capricorn, and back again.
1550 years ago, the majority of the Greek astrologers adopt the tropical system as the main system. India adopts the sidereal system and in doing so honors the Earth’s axis changing its orientation 1 degree every 72 years thus changing which mini-slice of the pie is seen rising on the Vernal Equinox.
Today, however, the sidereal and tropical astrology systems are very divergent from each other. The name of mini-slice in the sky is almost a full slice apart. (23 degrees different!) In other words, on the Vernal Equinox, the tropical astrologers name O Aries as rising over the eastern horizon at sunrise, while the sidereal astrologers name that same slice as 7 Pisces.
The Stars Smile on Us
Have the stars ever talked to you? I mean, have they ever really affected how you felt or your grand philosophy of the world?
As a girl I remember staring out of my bedroom window late at night as my parents are assuming I am fast asleep. The stars are twinkling at me from above. They are playful fun friends who wink at me and speak in a secret language all of their own.
Twenty years later, I am hiking, bushwhacking actually, up a steep mountain slope in the wilderness. We arrive on the mountain top, on the top of the world, around sunset, and hastily eat some warm some soup and burrow into our sleeping bags. As I gaze into the night sky above, I am awestruck by the pirouetting star showers and the misty veils of the Aurora Borealis arching over the skies. I am strangely at home here, in this place where the earth meets the sky.
Five years after that, I am camping out in a country parking lot at a bluegrass festival. It is 3am and the banjos and mandolins are a jammin’ with the singers and the bass players. As I stroll the grounds and gaze up at the clear night sky, my heart stirs with gratitude and I pen my first poem.
The singers were as children
in a playground.
And the stars
smile on them.
Still 5 years after that, it is evening on a Gulf Island off the coast of British Columbia. I meander out of a sweat lodge then back to my sleeping bag on the deck of my friend’s cabin. I lay down and look up. I am transported with utter velocity upward into a vast colony of stars. I know in my bones that these starry colonies is my irrevocable home away from home. I belong both to this earth AND to the universal sky of the stars.