I wrote this short essay when I first starting working on The Zodiac Collection eight months ago. I wanted to understand where horoscopes come from and what importance they have played in society.
The origins of the zodiac remain historically uncertain. There are several different dates believed to be the beginning, however most historians believe it started around 400 BC influenced by the Babylonian’s. The Egyptian’s invaded Babylon and around 525 BC the Egyptians developed the first two documented zodiacs, most likely influenced by the Mesopotamian region and culture. It is interesting to note that Mesopotamian culture also developed the first written language, religion and agriculture. The two zodiac belief system continued on until 51 BC, then the Egyptians added two other signs and further developed their religion whilst introducing moon and sun cycle measurements. The Egyptian’s developed and categorised constellations to help with their everyday needs.
Horoscopes have had great influence on developing mankind and our knowledge. In the second century CE, the astrologer Claudius Ptolemy was so obsessed with getting horoscopes correct that he began the first attempt to make an accurate world map. However, later astrology had also been outlawed by the Roman’s when Christianity was introduced - the charges would be magic and treason and would result in the punishment of death by suicide (see Nero & Anteius).
The breakdown of Ancient Rome actually helped with the flourishing thought of astrology in the East. Other religions such as Islam embraced the idea, so much that the second Abbasid caliph, Al Mansur (754 - 775) founded the city of Baghdad to act as a centre of learning and included in its design a library translation centre known as Bayt al-Hikma “Storehouse of Wisdom”, and was to provide a major impetus for Arabic translations of Hellenistic astrological texts. Such texts by Sahl ibn Bishr were directly influential upon later European astrologers such as Guido Bonatti in the 13th century and William Lilly in the 17th century.
Continuing further on in history, The Renaissance period was widely considered to have become fragmented and unsophisticated due to the loss of Greek scientific astronomy and due to the condemnation by the Church. By the late 10th century, the translations from the Arabic into Latin started to make their way through to Spain and in the 13th century astrology had become a part of every day medical practice in Europe. The combination of Galenic medicine with the studies of the stars was used so frequently that by the end of the 16th century in Europe it was required by law to calculate the position of the Moon before carrying out complicated medical procedures.
Fast forward to the present day, as our culture has dramatically and drastically changed within the five hundred years since and still we find ourselves still turning to the stars for guidance. Under a rouse of hope and longing to know our identity which has long believed to be written in the stars. Contemporary Western astrology is often associated with horoscopes which explain aspects of a person’s personality and predict significant events in their lives. Astrology as a science has been refuted and rejected by the scientific community as having no explanatory power for describing the universe. This is not to be confused with astronomy which studies the contents outside of Earth’s orbit.
There are fourteen different branches of astrology to date, it can be anything from relationships and psychology to predictive and natal. As their names say, they focus on a certain topic and how the stars are positioned for a certain horoscope. These branches demonstrate how the human ethos and mind needs certainty and explain if no other belief is taken on. That is not to say that you can’t be religious and read your horoscope but it is certainly a way for us to connect to the vast universe above us and feel a sense of expectancy and trust in what has been, will be and will come.