Millennia ago, humans all relied on the heavens for basically everything they did, beginning with paleolithic lunar tallies serving as the first calendars in prehistory. This innovation radically altered the fate of the world in surprising ways. Soon, the original astrologers had even discovered signs in the stars that revealed prophetic patterns in planetary alignments, so the celestial cycles became sacred. That is to say, astrology originated from calendrical systems that were used to predict seasonal shifts and to interpret celestial cycles as specific signs of divine communications. Over time, these have come to express complex ideas about personality traits, life cycles, and relationship patterns through the shorthand of the zodiac symbols. These represent the band of stars through which the sun, moon, and planets appear to pass.
This allowed ancient astrologers to assess the different kinds of influences that the heavens have on humans, based on the arrangements of stars in the sky. As such, astrologers have been gathering information about human affairs and terrestrial events by studying the movements and relative positions of celestial objects for more than 500 generations and counting. Therefore, way back when Egypt was covered in rainforests, in the 105th century BCE, Natufian astrologers oversaw the construction of the Sphinx which was initially a lion statue facing the constellation of Leo. That was more than 12,000 years ago and astrology had already been handed down through the oral tradition for millennia by then. Much later, this knowledge was finally written down in Mesopotamia in the 30th century BCE. The Sumerians even had sophisticated awareness of celestial cycles and they oriented certain temples in alignment with heliacal risings of the stars.
Finally, in the 4th century BCE, Hellenic astrology combined Babylonian astrology with Egyptian Decanic astrology in ancient Alexandria, thereby creating horoscopes. So, the ancient Greeks were the first stargazers to use the zodiac as a classic way of profiling people. This happened when astronomy first emerged out of astrology, just as chemistry grew out of alchemy among the mixing of magic and mathematics during the Ptolemaic dynasty in ancient Egypt. From that point on, Western astrology has been a form of divination based on the construction of a horoscope for an exact moment, such as a person’s birth. This is a forecast of a person’s future, typically including a delineation of character and circumstances, based on the relative positions of the stars and planets at the time and place of that person’s birth. This is done by using the tropical zodiac, which is aligned to the equinoctial points.
Western astrology is founded on the movements and relative positions of celestial bodies such as the sun, moon, and planets, which are analyzed by their movement through twelve spatial divisions of the ecliptic, and by their aspects, based on geometric angles, relative to one another. They are also considered by their placement in twelve spatial divisions of the sky, known as houses. Astrology’s modern representation in mainstream pop culture is usually reduced to sun sign astrology, which only considers the zodiac sign of the Sun at an individual’s date of birth, and represents only a twelfth of the total chart. For instance, since I was born in Marion, Indiana at 8:11 a.m. on November 13th of 1976, I am a Scorpio. In line with this, from Aires to Pisces, every other sign is extroverted. So, as a Scorpio I’m introverted, and this is what my birth chart looks like.
This and every other natal chart visually expresses the set of relationships for the time and place of the chosen event, which in this case is my birth. These relationships are between the seven “planets”, the twelve “signs”, and the twelve “houses”. Each planet is in a particular sign and a particular house at the chosen time, when observed from the chosen place, creating two kinds of relationships. In addition to this, the third kind of relationship is the aspect of each planet to every other planet, where for example two planets 120° apart are in a harmonious relationship, but two planets 90° apart are in a conflicted relationship. In this way, my fate was written into the heavens the moment I was born, resulting in a map of my life. This doesn’t necessarily determine when something bad will happen to me, it just reveals which moments are the most likely for me to be accident-prone, and so on and so forth.
In line with this, Western astrology takes the earth’s axial precession into account, so the first point of Aries, the start of the astrological year, continually moves against the background of the stars. This is commonly known as the precession of the equinoxes. Thus, the tropical zodiac has no connection to the stars, and as long as no claims are made that the constellations themselves are in the associated sign, astrologers avoid the concept that precession seemingly moves the constellations. Furthermore, sole use of the tropical zodiac is inconsistent with references made, by certain astrologers, to the Age of Aquarius, which depends on when the vernal point enters the constellation of Aquarius. There is a difference of about twenty-two thousand miles between Earth’s location on any specific date in two successive years, so two people with the same birthday, but a number of years apart, are not under the same planetary influence.
As a consequence of this, astrologers have to be very precise when making observations, calculations, and interpretations. The classic example of this is found in the Bible. The way the story should go, way back in the 16th century BCE, the prophet Zarathustra used astrology to predict the birth of the Messiah in the 1st century BCE. This idea carried over to Moses in the 13th century BCE. However, even though there were many Jewish astrologers at the time, it was actually three Zoroastrian astrologers who went to Bethlehem to find baby Jesus. They did this because more than 1,500 years earlier the founder of their faith had predicted that on August 22nd of 7 BCE, when every planet would be in its own sign, the savior of the world would be born. This was the year that there was a triple conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in Pisces. More to the point, Jupiter signified kingship, Saturn signified the Israelites, and Pisces signified Judea, thus heralding the arrival of the “King of the Jews”.
Much later, after the conquest of Alexandria in the 7th century CE, the occult knowledge of the stars was taken up by Islamic scholars, and Hellenistic texts were translated into Arabic and Persian. Then, in the 12th century CE, Arabic texts were imported to Europe and translated into Latin. The 15th and 16th centuries were the golden age of astrology in Europe. As such, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, John Dee, the royal astrologer of England, was the most powerful person in the world. His advisement of her changed the course of human history in countless ways. Following this, after the Enlightenment’s emphasis on rationality in the 17th and 18th centuries, the Romantic movement found people returning to astrology, once more. In the 19th and 20th centuries, astrology became one of the core studies of the Western mystery tradition among ceremonial magicians in secret societies, like Aleister Crowley.
However, one of the best astrologers in history was a woman named Evangeline Adams who went to New York in 1899 to make it big. After years of hard work, she got an office in Carnegie Hall and had a weekly radio show. Then, in 1914, Adams was arrested and charged with fraud by fortunetelling. However, rather than just paying the small fine that she could easily afford, she took the case to court and put astrology on trial. The prosecutors asked her to interpret an anonymous horoscope. Her rendering from the natal chart indicated that the unnamed person would die an early death in a water-related accident. Then, the judge revealed that the horoscope was for his son who had recently died while swimming. The judge proclaimed from the bench that she had raised astrology to a science. The case was finally dismissed after Evangeline Adams successfully proved the effectiveness of astrology in a US court of law.
Tapping into the zeitgeist and drawing on inspiration from ancient Greek astrologers, the psychologist Carl Jung developed a branch of psychoanalysis that incorporates personality types that are based on the characteristics of the zodiac. This is because, from a psychological point of view, astrology provides a powerful vocabulary to capture not only one’s personality but also their challenges in life. Then, in 1953, the psychologist Michel Gauquelin failed to find evidence that supported indicators like zodiacal signs and planetary aspects, but he did find positive correlations between the diurnal positions of certain planets and success in professions that astrology traditionally associates with those planets. Simply put, he revealed that there is a significant correlation between the zodiac and career choices with more politicians being born when Jupiter is rising, while generals tend to be born under Mars, and so on and so forth.
As part of this, around the world and throughout history, a number of political leaders have consulted astrologers regarding matters of the state, so John Dee wasn’t the only pivotal figure in history who was paid to consult the stars. As a more recent example of what I mean, after John Hinckley’s attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan, first lady Nancy Reagan commissioned the American astrologer Joan Quigley to secretly work for the White House on their behalf. In no time at all, she determined everything the president did, including the precise times that Air Force One would leave the runway. She would create a horoscope and report to the first lady who would then instruct the president anytime something important needed to be done. However, Quigley’s role in global affairs soon ended in 1988 when this became public through the memoirs of former chief of staff, Donald Regan.
Regardless, nowadays, living in the 21st century, more and more people are finding themselves feeling powerless on this planet, so they’re turning to the stars for guidance. Currently, here in the US, more than 100 million Americans believe in the power of astrology to this very day, with horoscopes popping up more and more. Further verifying this trend, a 2014 study conducted by the National Science Foundation noted that in 2012, slightly more than half of Americans said that astrology was pseudoscience, whereas nearly two-thirds gave the same response in 2010. So, skepticism in astrology is now waning in the United States. In line with this, millennials, in particular, are becoming increasingly interested in their horoscopes as time goes on and the climate crisis continues to worsen. So, although the astrological renaissance is over, a modern revival is currently underway.