A History of Astrology

Background information on astrology, the astrological zodiac and horoscopes


Introduction to Astrological History


It’s a peculiar conceit to talk about the “history of astrology”, a study and a story which predates our own recorded history. The study of astrology probably began the first time that man made a connection between the things that happened in the sky and the things that happen on the Earth. Astrology has recognized that connection since the beginning of time, when man first realized that the sun is responsible for life and sought explanations for the things around them.


Nearly every culture throughout history has had some form of astrology. The most well-known astrological traditions today are Western astrology, derived from Babylonian and Greco-Roman traditions, Indian astrology which had its basis in the Vedas, and Chinese astrology. There are other smaller traditions among the African nations and First Nations of the Americas, as well as the Mayans and Incas of South America and the Celts of the British islands.


The earliest references to astrology can be traced back to Babylonia, around the third millennium BC. The early Babylonians recognized the importance of events in the sky. It was the Babylonians who studied the movements of the stars and the planets and the phases of the moon and learned to predict them reliably. At the same time, the Babylonian priests and scientists drew parallels between their observations of the sky and the happenings on Earth. Thus, astrology and astronomy, now seen as two very separate fields, were one in those early days.


The Development of the Zodiac


The basis of Western astrology is the Zodiac, the twelve signs that correspond to the twelve lunar cycles in a year. The Babylonians identified twelve constellations that were in the sky during each of those periods, and named them according to observations of things happening while they were in the sky. The Babylonians also recognized five heavenly bodies in addition to the sun and the moon – Mars, Mercury, Venus, Saturn and Jupiter – and those five planets along with the sun and the moon each were said to rule different signs. The signs of the Zodiac have become the basic underpinnings of astrology as most of us understand it today.


The Popularization of Horoscopes


Of course, in Babylonian times and through much of history, astrology did not concern itself with individual horoscopes. The messages that the gods wrote in the stars were believed to be of far more importance than that. Horoscopes and predictions had to do with world events and leaders, and it wasn’t until much closer to our own times that people began to look to the stars for clues and guidance about their own lives.


Creating a horoscope is a time-consuming process done by a person who has spent years studying the stars and their meanings. Until the past couple of centuries, horoscopes were only drawn up for royalty and the wealthy. It wasn’t until the mid-1800s that horoscopes and signs of the Zodiac became more popular as a diversion for the middle class and the wealthy. Still, there has always been a healthy amount of skepticism about the validity of astrology, dating even back to Greek and Roman times. Astrology as a divinatory art has drifted in and out of favor and popularity. It took another royal birth chart to restore astrology and start it on its most current upswing in popularity. When Princess Margaret was born in Great Britain, a London newspaper, seeking a novelty item to print about her birth, commissioned an astrologer to create her natal chart and ran a column about “what the stars have to say”.


It was the first astrological newspaper column and the beginning of a tradition that has popularized astrology to the point where even the President of the United States, Ronald Reagan, admitted to consulting an astrologer about decisions.

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