Songs from the Gathas – Removing Spells & Illness

A Persian Zoroastrian King and his young son, Salmân al-Fârisî, enter a fire temple administered by three priests,

This is another of those topics which deserve a lengthy article, but for now, a blog entry will have to suffice as an introduction to a highly complex topic. The video, shown below, was made available on YouTube by a Zoroastrian gentleman who has an extraordinary channel at Fereydoun Rasti Zoroastrianism & Iran If this material interests you, I heartily recommend looking through the extensive archives of videos. 

I posted this rather lengthy video because it uses the Zoroastrian scriptures known as the Gathas. The similarity to the Vedic word Gita (song) is no accident: Maneckji Nusservanji Dhalla states that “It is an uncontested fact that there is a marked closeness between the grammar, meter, and style of the Rig Veda and the Gathas.” (History of Zoroastrianism p11).. The power of words is emphasized in both and the verses are meant to be sung, as the title suggests.

Zoroastrianism posits, quite sensibly in my estimation, that this world is in a battle between good and evil. There are no specific scriptural comments on astrology per se in the Gatha period at least, but astrology certainly became an important element of Persian beliefs. It was already ubiquitous. Zoroastrianism is not known as a superstitious religion. It is widely believed that Zoroaster was a priest and a prophet, associated with the Magi. He is considered a magician in the true sense.

The creator, Ahura Mazda, has always affected human reasoning and therefore actions. The aim is to reveal to humanity their innate connection to the source of light and consciousness. It should come as no surprise that Zoroastrianism was the impetus and source of Mahayana Buddhism.

There is also an angelology – the idea of celestial forces that could be called upon.  Ahura Mazda is ineffable.  The point for our immediate concerns are that the Gathas were sung for devotional reasons and also used to mitigate or cast out what were considered evil forces, including common illnesses. This cosmology lends itself very well to an astrological framework, but not one in which the planets or angels had a will of their own, as it were. We come back to the to the question as to whether the stars impel or compel us. The creed of Zoroastrianism comes down to “good thoughts, good speech, and good action..” With this thing in mind the practise of singing the Gathas, we find that this is more a practical application of divine principles than superstition.

The counterpart to Ahura Mazda is Angra Mainyu also known as the “evil spirit.” This dark manifestation is ultimately set to be destroyed according to Zoroastrian eschatology  In the meantime, the kinds of practises described in the video presentation are regarded as wise and efficacious, much in the way a Hindu or Buddhist might consider a mantra. We don’t consider the practise of such things as being indicative of superstitious minds and certainly neither do those employing these remedies. This is the source of confusion for many when being introduced to the Good Religion, as it is frequently called. A Monotheistic faith that recognizes dual forces of light and darkness within that wholeness is actually a fair and apt description of life.


The study of ancient and classical astrology inevitably including spending a great deal of time on the history, culture and particularly the religion of ancient Persia. There are several reasons for this, but the primary one can be realized immediately by the strategic location of a land that once included most of what is now Afghanistan and beyond. She borders India and the Sik Road to China, promoting trade and the exchange of ideas. Moreover, she also bordered and later ruled Babylon, Assyria, and Sumeria.

The capturing of Babylon also include the liberation of the Jews by Darius, who went further and paid to gave the temple re-built. darius forbid the use of slaves.  Later on, Persia was conquered by Alexander the Great, whose teacher was no less than Aristotle, Alexander’s conquest of Asia was a bloody affair and many scholars and written material were lost forever when he set the torch to Persepolis, burning the city to the ground amongst an orgy of violence, in spite of the fact that the inhabitants have surrendered. That was one of the best cases that have ever been made against the excessive abuse of alcohol in decision making in all of history.

Even the most unjustly founded empires do in fact has some advantages and this is very much the case in the transmission of knowledge. The Hellenistic world united Greece with Egypt and  Persia with both. The School of Alexandria was among the greatest venues for shared knowledge, from Hindu astronomers and astrologers, Buddhists, Pythagorean, numerous Solar religions, Neo-Platonists, devotees of Isis, Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians. This place of extraordinary learning was to meet its own demise under the Muslim invasions.

It’s a Persian, Indian and Greek alchemy that produced what we now call Hellenistic astrology. But that is only the beginning.

Astrology of the Bubonic Plague

(Detail() Triumph of Death fresco, circa 1448; Palazzo Abatellis, Palermo, Italy. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Not long after the Vernal Equinox of 1348 King Philip VI ordered a report on the causes of the Bubonic Plague from the University of Paris Faculty of Medicine. The response came by way of an astrological explanation. If the cause was understood, a cure might be found. The Faculty pointed to a chart for 1.00 pm 20 March 1345 there was a conjunction of Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars in the House of Aquarius. Moreover, there had been a significant Lunar Eclipse on March 18 at 9:38 pm.

There is another chart of great importance in this matter. It’s the Solar Revolution for the year that the first known strains of the Black Death made landfall in Byzantium and spread rapidly throughout the eastern Empire, killing 100,000 people a year. At this time the Empire contained the lands on the Mediterranean coast and stretched far into the heartland of Europe. The plague went as far as Denmark and Ireland, ultimately killing about half the population of Europe. The Emperor Justinian contracted the disease in Constantinople but miraculously survived.

Byzantium frequently imported large amounts of grain from Egypt. The shipments became infested with vermin, who in term carried fleas infected with the plague. It has been suggested that the Plague was a Pandemic originating in China at a time unknown. It is not certain however that it was the same strain, In light of this, our focus is on the European experience.

The Byzantine historian Procopius first reported the epidemic in AD 541 from the port of Pelusium, near Suez in Egypt (Wade, 2010). We are not given a date. The chart is set for 0°Aries at Suez, constituting a Solar Revolution.

First of all, a quick word about the symptoms of the Plague.

Plagues have been the result of various forms of Human y pestis infection, taking three main forms pneumonic, septicemic, and the notorious bubonic plagues. See Ryan KJ, Ray CG (2004). Sherris Medical Microbiology (4th ed.). pp. 484–488.

At first glance, we can see the Byzantium Chart is not good, but perhaps not bad enough to signify what we are looking at. However, we have Saturn in Martian Scorpio in Partile conjunction to the Ascendant. His dispositor is in the Eighth House of Death.

Mars is also conjunct the South Node and Almuten of the chart as well as the Ascendant, adding considerable strength to the malefics. Mars is the Killing Planet. The angles are in Fixed Signs lending more power and longevity to the influences.

Less obvious is Venus in her domicile in Taurus.  In most cases, this is a good placement for her. However, she is exactly conjunct the highly malefic Fixed Star, Algol named by the Chinese as ‘piled up corpses’ and by others as losing one’s head. as in decapitation or madness. The deaths were so numerous that the corpses were literally piled up.

You could say that Venus is a devil in disguise. She is in Hayz and Lady of the Year.  She is also Lord of the two most unfortunate houses, the Twelfth and the Sixth. Mercury is in his Fall and disposits Mars and Moon in the Eighth without benefit. However, he is in the fruitful sign of Pisces. It seems that everything is conspiring to ensure this Plague has all it needs to spread without hindrance.

The Ascendant is the only candidate for Hyleg. Being in a malefic sign and conjunct another, this is dire indeed. The humour of the chart is an airy sanguine, warm and wet. So what is promised by other elements of the chart has the advantage of the best conditions for the Plague to thrive. If it was too hot or cold and dry, it would have been arrested. The Piscean Mercury is Lord of the Eighth House, brings more wetness that only serves to spread the contagion


Let’s now consider the  Eclipse chart referred to by the astrologers from the Faculty of Medicine. The chart is for Paris, France. 18 March 1345 at 9:38 pm. There are some similarities between this and the previous chart.

The Part of Fortune is Hyleg and Conjunct Algol, as Venus had been.  She is again in Taurus and in the 7th House. She is Almuten of the chart. Saturn is the Almuten of health according to the rules set down by Omar.

The eclipse is the 6 / 12 axis denoting health and hidden enemies respectively. We know that by this time the plague had become airborne being passed from one to another on the breath. The Killing Planet is Saturn in his own domicile and dispositing Jupiter and Mars. The malefic element of Mars and Saturn are made larger by Jupiter in this case.

The eclipse would have been read as an omen

Finally, we look at the chart delivered to King Philip showing the conjunctions of Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars in the Fixed Air sign of Aquarius. This is on 20 March 1345, Paris France at 1:00 pm.

As physicians reading the chart there are many things that would have been clear. It’s Sunday in the Hour of Mars. The Moon is in Via Combusta. Saturn is in the 7th House

Offsetting the emphasis on Air is the Leo Ascending and the Sun and Mercury in Aries.  The Hyleg is the Sun. We end up with a Choleric chart, being hot and dry, hosting the two malefics in Aquarius with Jupiter Parallel Sirius (searing heat). Again, Saturn is the Killing Planet. This happens not two days after the Lunar Eclipse. More often than not, Eclipses auger bad fortune for those under its influence.

We now have the same air considerations, but the humour is now more a raging fever being driven by the forces of air. The close proximity of the Descending Node to the Sun merely aggravates and exacerbates the situation. The force is unstoppable and all the physicians can do is try to lessen the fatalities.  The Moon represents the people. She is about to slip into the sign of her fall in Scorpio and in the Fourth House. This has among other significations, that of ancestry and the end of the matter.

The Plague in Byzantium was bubonic, but the one referred to King Philip’s physicians appears to have been pneumonic. The first is primarily spread by blood, as in flea bites and the second is carried in the air. This is at the heart of the issue with the charts comprising Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars in the Fixed Air sign Aquarius.

The symptoms, in either case, include boils and ultimately, several organs can be affected, including the spleen and brain. The infection, accompanied by violent fever causes immunologic breakdown, leading to disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), resulting in bleeding and necrotic skin and tissue, particularly of the hands. This resembles gangrene. Historically, the disease was almost always fatal.

We can see then that the disease displays symptoms attributed to Saturn, Mars and Jupiter. Richard Saunders lists these in his Astrological Judgment & Practice of Physic (esp. pp. 52 -53). When we think of fever, Mars is what comes to mind. Indeed, Saunders duly lists, adds red Cholera, Smallpox, breaking of the veins and  great deal more that applies quite specifically to the Bubonic Plague.  Less well known are the attributes of Jupiter in the study of disease. Saunders includes all “diseases of the veins and proceeding from corruption of the blood, windiness and all putrefaction in the blood or fevers proceeding from too much abundance thereof.” (p. 50).

In the airy and Saturnine sign of Aquarius, these would be emphasized.  It would also make Mars and Jupiter * sympathetic* to Saturn in the Ficinian sense. Finally, we look at Saturn himself. The first quality is to make the disease persistent. Although victims didn’t last long and the disease wreaked havoc more or less continuously for more than a thousand years that we know of . Saunders also tells us the Saturn, if, in ill aspect with Venus, he corrupts the blood, with Jaundiesy and Melencholy (Black Bile) . We have noted Venus in all three charts and in the last two she is applying to a square with Saturn. The latter also “brings Black Jaundice and a super abundance of Flegm and crude humours”  Of course this is but a sampling of the attributes. but what can be seen most clearly is how the planets work together

Astrology can still be used for prediction and diagnosis with the same accuracy as in the time of King Philip. But what was an unmitigated tragedy on an epic scale would today be read as a warning, perhaps. The Plague is still with us and surfaces every now and again. Today we have effective treatments that make it no much more serious than a bad case of the flu. This doesn’t negate the fact of the accuracy of astrology and the validity of using it to warn of epidemics. seismic activity or extreme weather.

The Horoscope of the World in the Greater Bundahishn – Part I

Combat between Isfandiyar and Simurgh, from Firdawsi’s Book of Kings, circa 1330.

This is but a cursory introduction to the Greater Bundahishn which will be followed by articles with a sharper focus.  The work contains a concise narrative of the Zoroastrian creation myth, including the first conflicts between Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu for the hegemony of the world. In the process, the Bundahishn recites an exhaustive compendium on the nature of things, including the properties of the elements and significant astrological material. For those interested, there is a pdf version of the work here.

The Bundahishn exists in two forms, the Greater, and the Lesser. The first is the longer Persian version and the shorter or lesser is an Indian version. Here we will be discussing the former only. The title of the work translates as ‘primal creation”  The work concerns itself with every imaginable question that might be raised about the Creation, including the origin and nature of the dark force and it’s antagonism to the light force, ultimately for a greater good. Compared to comparable works, such as Genesis, it is concise, to the point and quintessentially Persian in its optimistic point of view, even in the face of cosmic adversity.  Although the work is late, almost certainly the ninth century, it harks back to the ancient religion of Zarathustra.

As stated by the author at Encyclopedia Iranica, “it’s a major Pahlavi work of compilation, mainly a detailed cosmogony and cosmography based on the Zoroastrian scriptures but also containing a short history of the legendary Kayanids and Ērānšahr in their days. There is also a Ṣad dar-e Bondaheš, a considerably later (ca. 8th-9th/14th-15th century) work in Persian of a hundred miscellaneous chapters on the Zoroastrian religion, morals, legends, and liturgy.” (Encyclopedia Iranica)

As David Pingree has observed,  “the Sassanian horoscope is quite different from the normal Greek Thema Mundi. with which it has been compared.” (Masha’allah: some Sasanian and Syriac sources. pp. 5) The most immediately noticeable feature of the Sassanian horoscope is that it is diurnal, with Aries, the exaltation of the Sun occupying the tenth house, rather than the Sun with Leo in the second house in the diurnal Thema Mundi. Instead of the planets and luminaries being placed in their respective domiciles, they take the place of their exhalations.  However, there are some interesting anomalies. The Ninth House is occupied by the sign Pisces with Venus and Mercury, the first is exalted in Pisces, but Mercury falls in the sign of the Fishes.

The degrees assigned to the signs and planets is crucial to the overall meaning. We know that Persians translated Greek astrological material. Less often mentioned is the influence of Indian astrology.

Thema Mundi

The Ascendant is in Cancer at the same degree as Sirius, “know as Tishtar in the Khurta (Lunar constellation) Azrarag, which corresponds to the Indian naksatra, Aslesa [9th of the 27 nakshatras in Hindu astrology.] (Cancer 16;40° – 30°)” Pingree p. 5-6.

The other most striking difference is in relation to the nodes, in the exaltation but occupying the unfortunate houses. The house of the Evil Spirit is given to the North Node (Rahu) and Gemini. The S. Node (Ketu) is given to Sagittarius.

However, the exaltation of the Sun in Aries is shown at 19° which concords with the Greek assignment. The Indian degree of exaltation is 9°. The Persian sources appear to be troubled by the Sun being in a nocturnal chart of creation. This makes perfect sense considering the importance and symbolism of the Sun in indigenous Persian religion. The Lunar Mansions and Fixed Stars clearly play a role in the placement of the planets and luminaries but beyond that, we need to refer to the Persian accounts of Creation.

The Hermetic Thema Mundi is an astrological teaching tool and it is also decidedly Platonic in its expression of a perfect world of the Forms to be referred to for those who practise astrological divination. It may very well be more than that, but the Sassanian version is something quite different. It appears, after all, in a text describing every element of creation, according to ancient Persian and specifically Zoroastrianism cosmology:

“According to the spherical model assumed in Sasanian Iran under the impact of Greek and Indian astral sciences, the inferior sphere was called the spihr ī gumēzišnīg “sphere of mixture;” it comprised the twelve constellations (Pahl. 12-axtarān) which were subjected to the “mixture” with the demoniac and evil forces (planets, falling stars, comets, etc.); this sphere, of course, included the Zodiacal belt (see Ir. Bd., II, 8-9; cf. Henning, 1942, pp. 232-33, 240; Belardi, 1977, pp. 125-26) with its 12 constellations (Gignoux, 1988); here a most important battle between astral demons and divine star beings takes place, according to the Pahlavi sources. In the framework of the fight between stars and planetary demons, the Zodiacal constellations were considered as bayān, in its early meaning of “givers” of a good lot in opposition to the planets, who are “bandits” (gēg) and robbers of the human fortune.” (Encyclopedia Iranica)

The Greater Bundahishn is a compendium of ideas that are believed to pre-date Zoroastrianism, but the core is true to the cosmology of that religion. There are also some elements that would indicate knowledge relatively contemporary to its ninth century appearance. It appears to be putting preserved knowledge in one place after the horrific destruction in the wake of the Islamic invasion.

‘Buddha offers fruit to the devil’ from 14th-century Persian manuscript ‘The Jāmi

Reading Māshā’allāh: Sassanian Ayanamsa

The Sassanid Palace at Sarvestan Shiraz Iran – Persian: kakh-eh Sassani-ye Sarvestan – Photo- Javad Jowkar

Before we begin, I would like to make it abundantly clear that it is not my intention to replace the chart we have for the foundation of Baghdad This is in most respects as well sourced as can be expected. What I would like to, however, is to explore what happens when we decide not to take the best of intentions as the only possible motivation and that, further, the shifting of one element in the charts’ construction can change the meaning dramatically and with often unexpected results. Scientists and other researchers understand the necessity of ridding ourselves, as much as is humanly possible, of preconceptions. I think it only fair to read Māshā’allāh using the Sassanian Ayansama to see what might be found. I will add that this study makes me uncomfortable for all the right reasons and I most certainly mean no disrespect to Māshā’allāh.

Māshā’allāh (from mā shā’ Allāh, i.e. “that which God intends”) was a Jewish astrologer from Basra. Ibn al-Nadīm says in his Fihrist that his name was Mīshā, meaning Yithro (Jethro).  Māshā’allāh was one of the leading astrologers in the eighth- and early ninth-century Baghdad under the caliphates from the time of al-Manṣūr to Ma’mūn, and together with al-Nawbakht worked on the horoscope for the foundation of Baghdad in 762. (See Māshā’allāh ibn Atharī (or Sāriya) [Messahala]

13-th century manuscript, drawn by Al-Wasiti of the celebrated book “The Assemblies”. Written by Hariri, shows a library in Baghdad

The chart that he was commissioned for the construction of Baghdad comes down to us from Al Biruni, a fellow Persian from modern-day Uzbekistan / Turkmenistan, in his monumental work The Chronology of Nations.  He is less commonly known by his full name of Abū Rayḥān Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad Al-Bīrūnī (4/5 September 973 – 13 December 1048).  Biruni gives us the time, place and date, but makes no mention of the House System or Ayanamsa used for the chart. It’s normally considered that Māshā’allāh used Whole Signs and we know his most famous student did also. This still leaves the thorny question of which Ayanamsa he used.

If he used the Sassanian Ayanamsa along with material available to him in the Greater Bundahishn. This would change a great many things and would certainly challenge some of our more cherished notions, such as the Chart for Baghdad being done in good faith in the hope of the greatest possible benevolence. Before proceeding any further, it needs to be said that this chart has been subjected to all kinds of tortuous logic by several astrologers, including my initial article on this chart a decade ago. It has always seems to have been discussed with a touch of reticence.

This is no more than a ‘what if’ because we cannot absolutely prove it either way.  As a Persian Jew, Māshā’allāh had good reasons to dislike and resent the Islamic invasion of Persia and the slaughter of Jewish tribes in the Arabian peninsula and elsewhere. Jews had enjoyed a good life in Persia for millennia, as they do to this day. It would be extraordinary if he had no reservations whatsoever.

Here we have the chart with all the information passed on to us by Al Biruni, using Whole Sign houses, calculated using the Sassanian Ayanamsa.  This strikes me as a struggling chart with little to commend it.  But the chart has never been unequivocally beneficent in any of its forms, using other house systems and the sidereal zodiac, for example. This has been part of the confusion. Baghdad was indeed a great centre of learning with widespread influence, both through space and time. However, it has also suffered excessive calamities and violence over the centuries and still suffers to this day.

A brief history of the city shows us that Baghdad’s early meteoric growth was stifled due to problems within the Caliphate itself, including a relocation of the capital to Samarra (during 808–819 and 836–892), the loss of the western and easternmost provinces, and periods of political domination by the Iranian Buwayhids (945–1055) and Seljuk Turks (1055–1135).

Nevertheless, Baghdad held her place and continued as a major cultural and commercial centre in the Islamic world. Then tragedy struck on a massive scale. On February 10, 1258,  the city was sacked by the Mongols under the command of Hulagu Khan. The Mongols killed most of the inhabitants, including the Abbasid Caliph Al-Musta’sim. They also destroyed large sections of the city. Even the canals and dikes forming the city’s irrigation system were destroyed. The attack ended Abbasid Caliphate. It has often been noted that Islamic civilization never completely recovered.

In 1401, Baghdad was again vanquished by Timur. So it continued, until the incursion of the Ottoman Turks. It’s difficult to make the case that Bagdad has not had far more than its share of sorrows and reversals of fortune.  It is equally difficult not to recognize the measure of success and abundance.

We are used to thinking of the Royal Stars of Persia – the Watchers of the Directions –  as Regulus, Aldebaran, Fomalhaut, and Antares, representing the four Fixed Signs and hear we see them on the angles. However, the Sassanian model put the emphasis on Sirius. canopus is used in Islam for the orientation of places of worship. For those reasons, I have included them. It is crucial to consider the Horoscope of the World which we examined in a previous article. In that schema, the House of Life (the Ascendant) was at the nineteenth degree of Cancer, the asterism Azara too was disposed in the star Sirius, which in the chart we have falls in the House of death at 24°18.  I cannot see how he could have missed this. He was certainly aware of the Horoscope and the extraordinary power of Sirius.

In the Great Bundahishn

in Chapter 2, sections 3 & 4, in the translation by Behramgore Tehmuras Anklesariawe, we find:

“3. Over these constellations, He appointed four chieftains, in four directions; He appointed a chieftain over these chieftains; He appointed many innumerable stars that are recognized by name, in various directions and various places, as givers of vigour, by cooperation, to these Constellations.

4. As one says: “Sirius [Tishtar] is the chieftain of the East, Sataves the chieftain of the South, Antares [Vanand] the chieftain of the West, the Seven Bears [Haptoring] the chieftain of the North; the Lord of the throne, Capricornus, whom they call the Lord of Mid- Heaven, [is the chieftain of chieftains; Parand, Mazd-tat, and others of this list are also chiefs of the directions.”

Ibn al-Nadīm lists some twenty-one titles of works attributed to Māshā’allāh; these are mostly astrological, but some deal with astronomical topics and provide us information (directly or
indirectly) about sources used which included Persian, Syriac, and Greek)  He was a learned, brilliant and extremely talented man. We wouldn’t expect him to simply make a mistake.

Most strikingly, we have both Sun and Moon in Leo in the tenth house. This is a great place for the Sun, but the Moon is weak as a Lord of the Ninth House – a very important placing when higher education, the meeting of foreign cultures and of course, religion. We find Mercury Retrograde and conjunct the South Node.

The Eighth House of Death is lord of the Twelfth House of hidden enemies and Venus also takes the place of open enemies. Jupiter that rises in the charts using the tropical zodiac is here relegated to the Second House (the purse) in his dignity, but retrograde. Saturn is in his Fall in an unfortunate, but an unproductive house.

I see no useful reason to further elaborate on this. It is after all entirely speculative, even if plausible. I realize this turns the old enigma in its head, but sometimes an entirely new way of looking at something can be useful.  At the very least, it ought to raise awareness of just how different a chart can appear when the astrologer is using an Ayanamsa that may not have occurred. It also asks the astrologer to consider the cultural differences between practitioners that may very well, on the source be in agreement on virtually everything. This demands that we read far beyond the astrology itself, to the very ground of being which informs us all.


Beginning in 1211, Genghis Khan and his nomadic armies burst from Mongolia and swiftly conquered most of Eurasia. The Great Khan died in 1227, but his sons and grandsons continued the expansion of the Mongol Empire across Central Asia, China, the Middle East, and into Europe.


Note: shortly after publishing this brief article, I became aware of another, written in 2003: The Horoscope of Baghdad: historical, astronomical, and astrological notes by Juan Antonio Revilla. The topic is not identical, but Revilla does well in describing context, methodologies and sensibilities involved in deriving the chart.  He has a familiarity with Sassanian astrology and discusses many things, such as the Tables of al-Kwarizm, which go beyond the limitations of a single blog post.

Mercury:The Hypocritical Planet?


Gemini – Horoscope from ‘The book of birth of Iskandar Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

This article is little more than a footnote that concerns an intriguing passage I had the good fortune to read while perusing a publication of The Metropolitan Museum of Art (1997) : Following the Stars: Images of the Zodiac in Islamic Art by Stefano Carboni.  The book is out of print, but you can find a digital version @ Google books.

Mercury is known as many, many things, from the Trickster to the Psychopomp, the Magician & the Physician. His very nature is protean and either gender may be applied, depending on the relative position of the Sun. He is also known as Quicksilver and the Patron of Scribes. Mercury is by nature duplicitous.  The glyph for Mercury suggests he is a messenger of the Sun and Moon But the term ‘hypocritical’ has further implications, specifically professing a virtue that not only one does not possess while impugning a lack of the same virtue in others. The term ‘two-faced’ applies and that may be one of Mercury’s greatest possessions.

The word munafiqun (‘hypocrites’, Arabic: منافقون‎, singular munāfiq) was a group decried in the Quran as those who professed to be Muslims but were secretly holding antipathy to the Islamic cause and sought to defeat the Muslim community.  For example, sura ‘Al-Munafiqun’, Quran 4:61, Quran 9:67, Quran 8:49, Quran 4:140, Quran 9:64, Quran 4:145.  Hypocrisy itself is called nifāq (Arabic: نفاق‎).

The Islamic context exceeds the negative connotations of the English word hypocrite. The Munafiq is considered worse than an unbeliever, with the tribal connotations of a traitor.

Ancient Persian gold cup featuring two faces gazing in opposite directions, with entwined serpents. 4th century B.C.E.

When he is represented as one of the seven planets and luminaries, the traditional iconography is maintained. However,  when the same planet is read in actual astrology, “he “hypocritical” association is operative.  Carboni explains that Mercury was considered a munafiq because it “did not have positive or negative influences (in conjunction with a lucky planet, he brought good fortune, and with an unlucky one,  ill fortune.) His neutral and ultimately weak nature was reflected in his image as conveyed by the representatives of the two Zodiac signs he presides over, Gemini and Virgo… that Mercury not only did not maintain his attributes of the pen and scroll but also was superseded by the more powerful image of the Head and Tail of the Dragon.” (p.13)

.This particular twist would seem to be in accordance with the Sassanian schema I discussed in the previous article.  The horoscope of the World is based on Exaltations, rather than the Domicile basis of the Greek Thema Mundi. It is probably the case that the Sassanian model sought one that placed the Sun not only in Dirunal charts but one that places the Sun in his Exaltation in Aries the Tenth House The Exaltation of the Head of the Dragon is Gemini.

Bichitr, A Scribe, ca. 1625.

 We know the Persian influence on Arabian astrology was enormous and we also have the Persian Al Biruni’s view, albeit indirectly expressed.  In this regard, we can look to the talismanic assignments given by Biruni who places a Serpent in the right hand of Mercury. Carboni touches on this briefly in the same article.

>This ought to show that although a great deal of imagery and meaning is shared from one culture to another, that in some cases the meaning can seem virtually alien. This should always be borne in mind when taking concepts from foreign cultures, even when they seem to have a great deal in common. On the other hand, the cognitive jolt one might experience from such interactions can force one to see connections that would otherwise have been missed.


Discernment & the Art of Divination



Saint John and the Poisoned Cup by Alonzo Cano Spain.

There is a legend that St. John was one given a poisoned cup of wine. He discerned the presence of the poison, blessed the cup and the poisonwas drawn out of the wine in the form of a snake. John then drank the cup unharmed. Discernment and the skill to act on it is key to all wisdom and of very great importance in divination.

At the Carter Memorial Lecture, given at the Astrological Association Conference and the Astrological Lodge of London, September 2009, John Frawley made the following comments.

“The idea that seeks perfection in the past – there was once perfection and we’ve fallen away since – is no more than the mirror image of the idea that there will be perfection in the future, if only we can piece together enough new stuff: discover enough new planets, for example. The story of the Tower of Babel should persuade us against this idea of a man-made perfection in the future. But when we see those who seek for authority in the past beating each other on the head with their weighty volumes, we see that reaching into the past brings us just as certainly to Babel.”

The address is concluded with the words “Truth is not back there somewhere, nor over there somewhere, but only, always, and ever, up there.” He evokes the painting of St. John the Baptist by Leonardo de Vinci, with his right hand held up to heaven as emblematic of the traditional astrologer.

Undoubtedly this “beating each other on the head” is one of the greatest and most recent curses in astrological circles and there is really no reason why we should assume that the older something is, the better it must be. Antiquities do of course have a great deal of value in and of themselves. They show us where we come from and where we might be going. But antiquity is not the guarantor of truth. We don’t believe that the newest ideas are inherently better, either.

The truth of the matter is that the longer we practise and study astrology and study the greatest sources, the better our chances are of using astrology as a divinatory method. One has to be careful about the sources we employ. The truth is that we would be very fortunate indeed to find a mere 20% of astrological theory to be of any useful purpose at all.

To put things in the simplest possible terms, modern astrologers subscribe to the theory that more is always better. Every new asteroid discovered might be just the thing to fill the void. If a handful of asteroids helps us, then surely scores of them will finally paint the full picture and we will finally realize why we are the way we are, And how can there be any question that three Liliths are better than one?

The great divorce between Traditional and Modern was perhaps most greatly felt in the addition of Uranus. Neptune and Pluto. It was more of a loss than an extension because it meant that the meaning of the traditional planets would be trivialized and mostly lost altogether. Indeed, for many contemporary astrologers, the outer planets are seen as the most significant and the significance of these was taken directly from the original seven sacred planets and luminaries.

Those who subscribe to Traditional or Classical Astrology face a rather different kind of dilemma: One soon finds out that Traditional Astrologers throughout history didn’t agree with each other. Of course, many of the differences are slight. But when we study horoscopic astrology from the Hellenistic period to the Seventeenth Century, we find that in some cases the differences are irreconcilable. They may negate one another altogether.

The process is an art. To be an excellent astrologer. one needs to read and understand to the best of one’s abilities the essence of what out forbearers wanted to pass on. We find that there are certain elements of the art that remain more of less constant – such as the association of Planets to Signs and the projection of mostly agreed upon specific archetypal constellations – although not necessarily universally understood. William Lilly very much admired Guidi Bonatti, but he didn’t follow him in every respect.


An image from the mysterious Voynich ms contains several recognizable elements and some that have yet to be deciphered.

Further, sometimes famous astrologers break their own rules. Rather than accept these facts, there are some, like the one’s Frawley mentions, who find the oldest and most arcane sources to beat their fellow astrologers over the head with. This is a form of snobbery that does little or nothing to further our art.

More puzzling are those traditional astrologers who have returned to using the outer planets in specialized forms of astrology, such as horary and the astrology of horse racing. Ironically these are mostly the followers of John Frawley, whose The Real Astrology seemed for a time to define Traditional Astrology as understood in the school of William Lilly.

The composer Gustav Mahler, is alleged to have said that “Tradition is not to preserve the ashes but to pass on the flame”

The fact is that neither uniformity or an insatiable appetite for the exotic for its own sake has ever been the cause of greatness, at any time in the history of the world. The one is born of fear and a lack of imagination and the second a sign of undisciplined self-indulgence.

This shouldn’t be the cause of undue anxiety or doubt in the process. We would neither expect nor desire that all painters throughout history used the same techniques or resorted to the same subject matter. No art worth seriously considered stands still. However, all great art is mindful of its place among the wider body of art.

To take tradition to a place of inspiration, we need to look closely at the idea of divination.

The Oxford English Dictionary defined divination as “The practice of seeking knowledge of the future or the unknown by supernatural means.” The core term is “divine” or “divining.”

The concept of the unknown is something scientists can easily embrace, but the term “supernatural” is associated with a lack of rationality and superstition and is therefore highly problematic to them. It infers a higher level of consciousness when applied to the idea of divination.

Albert Einstein’s familiar quote that “”No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it” is germane to this discussion. The question becomes: how may we reveal something hitherto unknown to us by discerning its divine essence.

My favourite Gospel is that of John the Divine. It provides a succinct, and the immeasurably deep way in which the divine is manifest or “takes flesh” John was probably a Hellenized Jew, which means he would be have been intimate with the works of Plato and the concept of the creative word or Logos. It is regarded by many as the most mystical Gospel. Some have said it is itself Neo-Platonic in expression.

The already introduced painting at the head of this article depicts John the Divine luring a serpent from a chalice. This is in part an allusion to an event at the Marriage at Cana The serpent rising out of the chalice is a symbol of poison in this case and the blessing draws it out making the wine or water pure. The Logos is understood as a heightened sense of Wisdom. It is the essence and origin of the light. Like all mystical writers. as well as more prosaic ones. John uses metaphors to convey his ideas with great efficacy.

” 1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2The same was in the beginning with God. 3All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4In him was life; and the life was the light of men. 5And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”

Marin V. Vincent does an admirable job of explaining the meaning of ‘Logos’ in the Prologue of John’s Gospel: “Λόγος is from the root λεγ, appearing in λεγω, the primitive meaning of which is to lay: then, to pick out, gather, pick up: hence to gather or put words together, and so, to speak. Hence λόγος is, first of all, a collecting or collection both of things in the mind, and of words by which they are expressed. It, therefore, signifies both the outward form by which the inward thought is expressed and the inward thought itself, the Latin oratio and ratio: compare the Italian ragionare, “to think” and “to speak.” The Meaning of ‘Logos’ in the Prologue of John’s Gospel Marvin R. Vincent, vol. 2 (New York1887), p. 25

The metaphor is developed by reference to Moses .In John 3:13-15 we find ” 13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

The earlier Italian painting by Piero di Cosimo (Piero_di_Lorenzo) in 1500 is more stylized and the artist has portrayed John as a Renaissance Magus. The majority of his opus is decidedly Neo-Platonic The developed metaphor of the blessing of the serpent suggests a transformation by Divine blessing that brings forth wisdom out of venom.

Pieri di Cosimo he had a reputation for being highly eccentric and is perhaps best known for his “Portrait de Femme dit de Simonetta Vespucci” which features a benign looking serpent entwined in the necklace. of a young lady, apparently a great beauty of Florence who also inspired Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus.” Here the artist appears to be taking the theme and altering the significance.  This is more like the Renaissance Neoplatonic doctrine of beauty drawing the soul to the divine, in which case the serpent is rendered harmless. I don’t find this as effective an allegory, but it does strive to expand the relevance.


Piero di Cosimo Portrait de femme dit de Simonetta Vespucci

If we apply this metaphor to divination, we already know that everything and every person comes to us from a divine source and the chart we use is like a mirror of the soul. It has the stamp of its origin, the Image of God. Interpretation comes as a heightened sense of consciousness or divine intuition. The master astrologers of the past usually prayed before reading a chart. There are many ways to do this and each must find their own way of opening the gate.

When we have drawn up a Nativity for example, we have the seed, or the particular vintage if you will, that can be read because it is Form.. in the Platonic sense – or the Logos in the more specific and mystical Hellenistic sense.

Once we know what we have to do, choosing a system that will best serve us is made much easier’ All the elements of our astrological palette may be selected, just as one chooses the right brush, the wisdom of our ancestors and our own experience come together. There is no place for rote learning and certainly not for snobbery. Ours is a divine art.

I leave the Apostle James with the final words.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” James. 1.17

The Disaster of Flight 370 of Malaysia Airlines : A Traditional Astrological Approach

By John Timperman

It is about three years ago, on 8 March 2014 , that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, a scheduled international passenger flight, almost miraculously disappeared when it was flying from Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia, to Beijing International Airport The aircraft, a Boeing 777 departed at 00:41. and last made voice contact with air traffic control at 01:19 MYT, when it flew over the South China Sea.

 Less than an hour after takeoff it disappeared from air traffic controllers’ radar screens at 01:22. Malaysian military radar continued to track the aircraft as it deviated westwards from its planned flight path and crossed the Malaysian Peninsula. It left the range of Malaysian military radar at 02:22 while over the Andaman Sea, 200 nautical miles (370 km) northwest of Penang. The multinational search effort for the missing aircraft was the largest and most expensive in aviation history. The Horoscope of take-off flight 370: Kuala Lumpur – March 8th, 2014 at 00:41 The chart of the take-off, and a picture of the sky is of particular interest: The first quarter moon is exactly at the Western horizon above the Fixed Star Aldebaran, one of the four Royal Stars. In the East, there is Antares, another Royal star which was, at take-off exactly conjunct the Ascendant. Both stars are distinctly Martian in character and traditionally presaged dangers of fatality, especially when they were in contact with the Moon.

Hydra, the water snake with the Alpha star Alphard is on the MC, which, GRUZ, traditionally is the indicator of the fate of the flight. The stars in the water snake were, in ancient astrology, indicators for difficulties or even tragedies that affect the sea and shipping.

Also of interest is the fact that the 8th of March, is the day that the constellation GRUZ, the Crane, with the Alpha star Alnair, at sunrise, heliacally rises at the Eastern Horizon above Malaysia. It also happened to be that. at take-off, this constellation was at the IC, the deepest place of the horoscope. The Crane is a bird that can reach very high altitudes and, when Alnair was with Mars, Ptolemy warned for falling from horses or from high altitudes. In this horoscope, here is no contact between Mars and the star but there is a paran of Alnair with two stars of a Martian temperament, Antares and Aldebaran.

It becomes even more interesting if we employ a Mesopotamian approach and project the chart onto the Babylonian astrolabe with its 36 decanates and rulers of the sky. The ascendant is in the decanate ruled by GIRTAB, or Isharra which, in Mesopotamian astrology, is the ruler of life and death. The sign of Scorpio itself is ruled by EA, one of three supreme gods that rule the world. The god AN rules the Sky, ENLIL everything between he Earth and the Sky, and finally EA, is the god that rules the oceans and the underworld. The planets Mars and Saturn are in a phase of morning station which is strengthening their malefic character.

In this case, although it may be a co-incidence, there is no denying that, at the very moment of take-off. there was a huge violent cocktail unfolding above the skies of Malaysian   Antares and Aldebaran are on the horizon. Hydra culminating and GRUZ on Nadir. The sky projected to the Babylonian astrolabe: 2nd decanate GIRTAB ( Isharra) rising and the sign of Scorpio ruled by EA, the Super god of the Oceans.