My research into mundane astrology is raising some tough questions for me. The most fundamental is how to relate the state of the heavens to the earth below. It seems I am in good, albeit disheartening, company!
Al Biruni says “To find an association between a particular place and sign or planet is a matter for investigation and research but how are we to draw a horoscope or ascertain the lord of the hour for a place unless we know accurately the time of the beginning of its construction? And what city is there of which such a recollection is preserved? Even if a religious ceremony be associated with the foundation of a city, the history of its early conditions has passed into oblivion. Even suppose that is not so, and that we assume a certain date of its foundation and draw a horoscope and calculate the lords of the hours…how are we to do so for a well-known stream or great river, since we know nothing as to when the water began to flow in it and excavate its channel? These questions are futile and their absurdity is obvious to the intelligent”. (Al Biruni The Book of Instruction in the Elements of the Art of Astrology, Ghaznah 1029 AD para 393 p 31)
Al Biruni did not mince words! That said, one never relies solely on the testimony of just one man, even if he clearly knows what he is talking about.
Some Success Stories
William Lilly, a highly respected astrologer, predicted the Great Fire of London in 1666, some fourteen years before it happened! Even though he tried to use an occult blind for this prediction in the form of a hieroglyph, he was still called before Parliament after the Fire to explain himself. They thought he might have caused it. He narrowly escaped punishment by persuading them that his prediction had not been precise.
Lilly’s indirect involvement seems to have extended a little further though. It emerged from the earlier trial of Colonel John Rathbone who wanted to overthrow the monarchy that he and his conspirators had planned to set fire to London on September 03. They had chosen the date from Lilly’s almanac for that year which set the date as likely for the overthrow of the monarchy. (See the article titled ‘William Lilly’s Prediction of the Fire of London’ by Maurice McCann at www.skyscript.co.uk)
Robert Zoller made a strong prediction that warned of the tragedy of 9/11. He said in the August 2000 issue of his newsletter Nuntius –
“From September we are entering a period of increased danger to us in the West. In an earlier Nuntius I said that there is an increasing threat to the US citizens and this is particularly so on the Eastern sea boarder. I have also said that this threat is linked not so much to a new boldness in terrorist planning but more to US incompetence. At that time I couched those remarks as being non-astrological so as to play down the warning but I say again as was said in the July Nuntius if the US does not cease acting incompetently, it will invite the depredations of adventurers such as Osama bin Laden and Saddam. This is a wakeup call. Our way of life and cultural values (& our lives) are at stake.
As the next 12 months unfold we will see increased tension in those countries that fell under the path of the August 1999 eclipse but after the end of August 2001 this will take on a new twist and it will be the last 6 months of the eclipse effect that will be the worse……After September 2001 when the first big crisis will have hit the US we will never be the same again”.
Andre Barbault predicted world events, years and sometimes decades ahead. In 2011 he wrote an article titled “An Overview of Pandemics”. There he stated“It may well be that we are seriously threatened by a new pandemic in 2020-2021,”. (https://astrologynewsservice.com/news/astrologer-predicted-global-pandemic/) Also see the following interview with Barbault by Lynn Bell at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VgVYt7IQjJs. It is well worth watching. Barbault may have isolated himself from the world while working on his predictions but there is no doubt that he knew history in many forms extremely well.
Are we to believe that these men were just incredibly lucky? I think not. However, their wariness is noted. With good reason astrologers must be extremely careful when making predictions. This is no less true now than it was in Lilly’s day.
The vast majority does not understand astrology and is still likely to be sceptical if not suspicious of those making forecasts that are eerily accurate. Joe Public and governments alike love to play the blame game and conspiracy theories are a scourge of the modern world. Apart from this, there is the risk that the criminally minded may get ideas from the prediction itself and it could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. There is much to be said for discretion in astrological prediction!
It has occurred to me that attempts to parallel the methodology of mundane astrology on the same principles as natal astrology may be misguided precisely for the reasons given by Al Biruni. However, there may be other ways of interpreting and using astronomical data for astrological purposes as Barbault, among others, clearly demonstrates. It is in such alternative ways that I think many of the answers lie.
William Lilly wasa notable expert in horary astrology, but he must also have used mundane astrology in his almanacks since he was quite involved in the politics of his day. He knew for instance that Gemini is the Ascendant of London while Aries is the Ascendant of England. However, he never published a foundation chart for London. He also apparently never stated the basis for this information or how it was derived(See the fascinating article by Peter Stockinger on ‘William Lilly and the Great Fire of London’).
This is interesting because Lilly may possibly have established that London has a Gemini ascendant without using a founding date for the city. London is hoary with age with a history of almost two thousand years. It is older than England’s first natal chart which is generally given as 25 December 1066. However, England had been a single kingdom for at least 150 years before then. See the problem?
Could Lilly have discovered a chart for London from the combined patterns of the many horary charts he cast? Or did he just calculate almanacs for future years and compare them to his almanacs for previous years? Perhaps he used the ingress charts of several decades combined with notable conjunctions of the planets and known historical events in a form of rectification? Was there perhaps no decisive birth chart for London after all?
Fire had been a concern for some time. Lilly’s contemporary, Francis Bernard, wrote to him in 1644 discussing the possible causes for recent fires in the city. He too acknowledged the difficulty of creating a chart for London because its birth date was unknown. However, he did suggest that if fires were treated as fevers, a chart could be reconstructed.Using this method, Bernard worked out that 8 degrees, 14 degrees and 25 degrees of Gemini were sensitive points for London. His calculations agreed with those of Lilly.It hardly needs saying that sensitive points do not necessarily equate to an ascendant. For a discussion of the difficulties surrounding a natal chart for London see the informative article by Kim Farnell at https://www.academia.edu/78132564/Notes_on_a_chart_for_London.
Lilly had access to Bonatti who says –
“Even though it can be most difficult to see in what directions and in which regions, and in which climes, the accidents are going to take place, still to me it seems fitting to know, and not to omit, what can be known of it.” (Ben Dykes Bonatti On Mundane Astrology p838).
Bonatti then goes on to list some general rules citing “Messala the Indian” as his authority. He stresses the importance of “your own industry” i.e. the reader’s labour. Mundane astrology requires an immense amount of work and the casting of multiple charts. Bonatti then discusses the concept of the seven climes or climates into which the earth is divided (see Dykes on pages 838-840).
Al Biruni, some two hundred years earlier, also mentions them. The latter says –
“With regard to the seven climates the first from the equator to its boundary is given to Saturn the first and highest planet and the one with the widest orbit, because the first climate is the longest of all, the most generous in yielding the necessities of life and its inhabitants resemble Saturn in colour and disposition. The second climate belongs to Jupiter and so on to the seventh which is allotted to the Moon. Abu Ma’shar regards this as a Persian view and says that the Greeks give the first climate to Saturn, the second to the Sun, the third to Mercury, the fourth to Jupiter, the fifth to Venus, the sixth to Mars and the seventh to the Moon.” (Al Biruni ‘The Book of Instruction In The Elements of the Art of Astrology’.)
Saturn is indeed 1.8 times further from the Sun than Jupiter[i].It is easy to forget that in ancient Rome, Saturn was not only the god of time but also generation, dissolution, abundance, wealth, agriculture, periodic renewal and liberation[ii].It’s strange to think of warm, sunny, often wet, equatorial countries such as Ecuador, Brazil, Indonesia and the Maldives being ruled by Saturn.
The climes deal with latitudes but not longitudes, perhaps because longitude was such a knotty problem for centuries. As far as we know it was first solved only in 1759 when John Harrison of Yorkshire was able to build a chronometer that could accurately tell the time on ships at sea[iii].
I have learned over the years from the work of reputable scholars as diverse as Dr Michael Heiser and Julian Jaynes that we cannot presume to have the same world view as people from a few hundred, let alone a thousand, years ago. Neither should we arrogantly impose our modern mindsets and attitudes upon them. To fully understand what they left behind we must learn to see through their eyes.
The idea of picking out one of many potential natal charts for a city or country because it “resonates with you” is problematic. You can’t pick your natal chart and you certainly don’t pick a horary chart! Even in electional astrology your choice of a time is based on the positions of the planets in the signs, their aspects etc. This does not mean I am completely averse to using ‘natal charts’ in mundane astrology where times and dates are verifiable or other evidence is strong. I am just cautious about such an approach.
Could it be as ‘simple’ as observing the sky in a particular place at various times of the year like the Egyptians, the Babylonians and the Sumerians and noting correspondences with significant terrestrial events and patterns in that place? There is still much information to play with – the planetary hours, the decans, the lord of the event chart’s ascendant, the positions of fixed stars, declination, moon phases, essential dignity, accidental dignity, powerful conjunctions and aspects. After all, this is how astrology was done for millennia.
There is so much more to talk about, but this article is probably too long already. I am still learning.
[iii]https://geographyfieldwork.com/Longitude.htm#:~:text=John%20Harrison%2C%20a%20working%20class,to%20be%20used%20with%20confidence.Although I have always found it interesting that the more than 2000 year old Antikythera mechanism was found in a marine ship wreck rather than a dusty terrestrial ruin.
https://geographyfieldwork.com/Longitude.htm#:~:text=John%20Harrison%2C%20a%20working%20class,to%20be%20used%20with%20confidence.Although I have always found it interesting that the more than 2000 year old Antikythera mechanism was found in a marine ship wreck rather than a dusty terrestrial ruin.