The Babylonians are generally credited with the birth of astrology. Their astrological charts enabled them to predict the recurrence of seasons and certain celestial events. So, in the beginning and for more than 2,000 years, astrology and astronomy were the same science.
Babylonian astrology was introduced to the Greeks early in the 4th century B.C. and, through the studies of Plato, Aristotle, and others, astrology came to be highly regarded as a science. It was soon embraced by the Romans (the Roman names for the zodiacal signs are still used today) and the Arabs and later spread throughout the entire world.
While earliest astrology was used to bring a sense of order out of apparent chaos, it was soon utilized to predict weather patterns, primarily for agricultural purposes. It was eventually broadened to include forecasts of natural disasters and war and other events in the course of human affairs. Amassing successes in these fields, it was a natural progression for astrology to be used as counsel for kings and emperors and, in time, for all of us.
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The zodiac (which is derived from the Greek word meaning "circle of animals") is believed to have developed in ancient Egypt and later adopted by the Babylonians. Early astrologers knew it took twelve lunar cycles (i.e., months) for the sun to return to its original position. They then identified twelve constellations that they observed were linked to the progression of the seasons and assigned them names of certain animals and persons (in Babylonia, for example, the rainy season was found to occur when the sun was in a particular constellation which was then named Aquarius, or water bearer).
The signs of the zodiac are subdivided into four groups:
FIRE SIGNS Aries, Sagittarius, Leo
WATER SIGNS Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces
AIR SIGNS Libra, Aquarius, Gemini
EARTH SIGNS Capricorn, Taurus, Virgo
Each of these four groups is inscribed in its own quadrant -- or "house"--on a circle. The division of the twelve houses is based on the earth's daily rotation and relates to such circumstances as relationships, finances, travel, etc. The division of the twelve signs of the zodiac, on the other hand, is based on the earth's yearlong rotation around the sun and relates to character aspects (e.g., Venus represents affection, Mercury represents speech and writing, etc.). Each planet rules two signs and the sun and moon one each.
Approximately 2000 B.C., Babylonian astrologers believed that the sun, moon, and the five planets known at that time (Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, Saturn, and Venus) possessed distinct powers. Mars, for example, appeared to be red and was associated with aggression and war.
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A horoscope is a map of the zodiacal circle with the earth at the center. The top of the circle represents the sun at its highest point during the day and left and right of that are the eastern and western horizons.
Your horoscope charts the relative positions of the sun, moon, planets, and stars at a specific time and place of your choosing (e.g., the date/time/location of your birth). Astrologers don't use "clock time." Rather, they measure it as "sidereal" time, as measured from the equinox.
Once the date and time are selected and calculated as sidereal time and the location known and plotted, the astrologer consults an emphemeris -- a table listing the angles and locations of the sun, moon, planets, and constellations at any given time--to construct the chart.
While all this used to be tedious and exacting, today's computer software programs have made it extremely easy. The science of constructing a chart, however, is only the first step. Proper interpretation of the chart is both an art and a science--and, properly done, defies computerization (computerized chart analysis amounts to little more than an electronic parlor game) and should only be entrusted to a highly trained and accredited astrologer.
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Interest in astrology has persisted throughout the centuries, occasionally falling out of favor but always rebounding. Today, with practitioners in nearly every country, astrology's popularity is stronger than ever.
Some may regard astrology as superstitious nonsense and without scientific basis. Others acknowledge the gravitational forces exerted on our planet by the sun and moon and deduce that the planets have similar powers that can be charted through astrology. Still others maintain that the symbolism of astrology can provide a deeper understanding of ourselves and of events.
The ancient civilizations are gone, but their gift of astrology survives. If it didn't work, it would long ago have taken its place alongside them in the footnotes of history.
We welcome you on your exciting and rewarding journey as you continue to explore astrology, the oldest of the sciences!
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Last Revised 27th Nov 2005