Athena's Web Weekly Column

Week of October 24th - October 30th,  2003

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Claudius Ptolemy

Claudius Ptolemy

  This week we're going to take a look at some of the implications of our recent research into astrological origins. Where did it come from, where is it apparent, and how far back does it extend?

  Our first hard evidence of astrology is recorded in a work by Claudius Ptolemy called the Tetrabiblos, or 'Four Books'. In it, the alphabet of the stars is spelled out, and while some of the techniques have fallen into general disuse, most of what's described is still practiced today, such as the 12 signs and their rulers, the planetary exaltations, detriments and falls, the influence of the fixed stars and so on.


  We know very little about Ptolemy's life. He made astronomical observations from Alexandria in Egypt between AD 127-141. In fact, we can exactly date his first and last observations. They were on 26 March 127 and 2 February 141. We believe that he was born sometime around 85 AD and died about 165 AD.

  That's the hard evidence. Many scholars believe the first astrological influences did not reach the Greeks until possibly as late as the Alexandrian period, when Macedonian troops were exposed to the stellar influences of the Babylonians through their conquests. Others feel that this cultural diffusion occurred one or two centuries earlier, perhaps at the beginning of the 4th or 5th centuries BC. Two schools of stellar wisdom emerged from Egypt and Babylon, much of it probably transmitted by the Phoenicians, maritime navigators who often shared ports of call with the Greeks.

Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great

  What we've been doing is showing how basic astrological theory is woven into the choreography of Homer's Iliad. Written in the 8th century BC, t's design is simple. It follows the natural seasonal order of the signs. In the agricultural environment in which the calendar was born, Spring was the obvious choice for the start of the year. The twelve lunar cycles came closest to fitting into one year, and so the heavens were divided into twelve. In the time of Homer, Spring was marked by the constellation of the Ram, Taurus followed, and so on.

  Homer's Iliad then becomes an astrological primer. Study the Iliad, and you study the celestial influences of the stars as interpreted by the Greeks. In Aries, the first chapter, Achilles prize is taken from him, and their best fighter sits out of the battle, sulking. The Iliad opens with, 'Anger now be your song, Immortal One, Achilles' anger, doomed and ruinous.' These are all Martial themes. The 2nd chapter is like a bull, and speaks of the massed strength of the army. Chapter 3 represents the duplicity of Gemini, as Alexandros makes an oath, and promptly breaks it, etc. What we have here is a seasonal choreography, all taking place on the stage of life, with the appropriate personalities rising to the fore as the Hours open their gates. Thus far, we have shown how these themes have been woven into a cosmic tapestry, with each of the elements in their respective order, and divine instruction to be studied and digested. While the principle threads are easily recognizable, more subtle patterns also come through. Given a common frame of reference, the zodiac as we know it today, we can see what these people of three thousand years ago thought of these same patterns.

Holy Bible

  But, if our hypothesis is correct, not only does this give us a glimpse into the mindset of this culture, it says that at the origins of classical literature, both astrology and Greek mythology were one. There is no literary upstream of Homer. With the astronomical correlations we have witnessed in various instances, these myths descibe events from 1700, 2750, 2900, 3200 and even as far back as 5000 and 6000 BC. Homer is simply one of the first times we find myth arising as part of the written word.

  Not surprisingly, this same stellar thread is found when looking at the original books of the Old Testament, of Genesis through Ezra and Nehemiah. We can take these same patterns and see what cultural elements were the same, and which were different, for these early Hebrews.

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