Myths and Marvels of Astronomy
by Richard A. Proctor
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Transcriber's Note

Obvious typographical errors have been corrected. A list of corrections is found at the end of the text.








At the Ballantyne Press


The chief charm of Astronomy, with many, does not reside in the wonders revealed to us by the science, but in the lore and legends connected with its history, the strange fancies with which in old times it has been associated, the half-forgotten myths to which it has given birth. In our own times also, Astronomy has had its myths and fancies, its wild inventions, and startling paradoxes. My object in the present series of papers has been to collect together the most interesting of these old and new Astronomical myths, associating with them, in due proportion, some of the chief marvels which recent Astronomy has revealed to us. To the former class belong the subjects of the first four and the last five essays of the present series, while the remaining essays belong to the latter category.

Throughout I have endeavoured to avoid technical expressions on the one hand, and ambiguous phraseology (sometimes resulting from the attempt to avoid technicality) on the other. I have, in fact, sought to present my subjects as I should wish to have matters outside the range of my special branch of study presented for my own reading.





















Signs and planets, in aspects sextile, quartile, trine, conjoined, or opposite; houses of heaven, with their cusps, hours, and minutes; Almuten, Almochoden, Anahibazon, Catahibazon; a thousand terms of equal sound and significance.—Guy Mannering.

... Come and see! trust thine own eyes. A fearful sign stands in the house of life, An enemy: a fiend lurks close behind The radiance of thy planet—oh! be warned!—COLERIDGE.

Astrology possesses a real interest even in these days. It is true that no importance attaches now even to the discussion of the considerations which led to the rejection of judicial astrology. None but the most ignorant, and therefore superstitious, believe at present in divination of any sort or kind whatsoever. Divination by the stars holds no higher position than palmistry, fortune-telling by cards, or the indications of the future which foolish persons find in dreams, tea-dregs, salt-spilling, and other absurdities. But there are two reasons which render the history of astrology interesting. In the first place, faith in stellar influences was once so widespread that astrological terminology came to form a part of ordinary language, insomuch that it is impossible rightly to understand many passages of ancient and mediaeval literature, or rightly to apprehend the force of many allusions and expressions, unless the significance of astrological teachings to the men of those times be recognised. In the second place, it is interesting to examine how the erroneous teachings of astrology were gradually abandoned, to note the way in which various orders of mind rejected these false doctrines or struggled to retain them, and to perceive how, with a large proportion of even the most civilised races, the superstitions of judicial astrology were long retained, or are retained even to this very day. The world has still to see some superstitions destroyed which are as widely received as astrology ever was, and which will probably retain their influence over many minds long after the reasoning portion of the community have rejected them.

Even so far back as the time of Eudoxus the pretensions of astrologers were rejected, as Cicero informs us ('De Div.' ii. 42). And though the Romans were strangely superstitious in such matters, Cicero reasons with excellent judgment against the belief in astrology. Gassendi quotes the argument drawn by Cicero against astrology, from the predictions of the Chaldaeans that Caesar, Crassus, and Pompey would die 'in a full old age, in their own houses, in peace and honour,' whose deaths, nevertheless, were 'violent, immature, and tragical.' Cicero also used an argument whose full force has only been recognised in modern times. 'What contagion,' he asked, 'can reach us from the planets, whose distance is almost infinite?' It is singular that Seneca, who was well acquainted with the uniform character of the planetary motions, seems to have entertained no doubt respecting their influence. Tacitus expresses some doubts, but was on the whole inclined to believe in astrology. 'Certainly,' he says, 'the majority of mankind cannot be weaned from the opinion that at the birth of each man his future destiny is fixed; though some things may fall out differently from the predictions, by the ignorance of those who profess the art; and thus the art is unjustly blamed, confirmed as it is by noted examples in all ages.'[1]

Probably, the doubt suggested by the different fortunes and characters of men born at the same time must have occurred to many before Cicero dwelt upon it. Pliny, who followed Cicero in this, does not employ the argument quite correctly, for he says that, 'in every hour, in every part of the world, are born lords and slaves, kings and beggars.' But of course, according to astrological principles, it would be necessary that two persons, whose fortunes were to be alike, should be born, not only in the same hour, but in the same place. The fortunes and character of Jacob and Esau, however, should manifestly have been similar, which was certainly not the case, if their history has been correctly handed down to us. An astrologer of the time of Julius Caesar, named Publius Nigidius Figulus, used a singular argument against such reasoning. When an opponent urged the different fortunes of men born nearly at the same instant, Nigidius asked him to make two contiguous marks on a potter's wheel which was revolving rapidly. When the wheel was stopped, the two marks were found to be far apart. Nigidius is said to have received the name of Figulus (the potter), in remembrance of the story; but more probably he was a potter by trade, and an astrologer only during those leisure hours which he could devote to charlatanry. St. Augustine, who relates the story (which I borrow from Whewell's 'History of the Inductive Sciences'), says, justly, that the argument of Nigidius was as fragile as the ware made on the potter's wheel.

The belief must have been all but universal in those days that at the birth of any person who was to hold an important place in the world's history the stars would either be ominously conjoined, or else some blazing comet or new star would make its appearance. For we know that some such object having appeared, or some unusual conjunction of planets having occurred, near enough to the time of Christ's birth to be associated in men's minds with that event, it came eventually to be regarded as belonging to his horoscope, and as actually indicating to the Wise Men of the East (Chaldaean astrologers, doubtless) the future greatness of the child then born. It is certain that that is what the story of the Star in the East means as it stands. Theologians differ as to its interpretation in points of detail. Some think the phenomenon was meteoric, others that a comet then made its appearance, others that a new star shone out, and others that the account referred to a conjunction of Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars, which occurred at about that time. As a matter of detail it may be mentioned, that none of these explanations in the slightest degree corresponds with the account, for neither meteor, nor comet, nor new star, nor conjoined planets, would go before travellers from the east, to show them their way to any place. Yet the ancients sometimes regarded comets as guides. Whichever view we accept, it is abundantly clear that an astrological significance was attached by the narrator to the event. And not so very long ago, when astrologers first began to see that their occupation was passing from them, the Wise Men of the East were appealed to against the enemies of astrology,[2]—very much as Moses was appealed to against Copernicus and Galileo, and more recently to protect us against certain relationships which Darwin, Wallace, and Huxley unkindly indicate for the human race divine.

Although astronomers now reject altogether the doctrines of judicial astrology, it is impossible for the true lover of that science to regard astrology altogether with contempt. Astronomy, indeed, owes much more to the notions of believers in astrology than is commonly supposed. Astrology bears the same relation to modern astronomy that alchemy bears to modern chemistry. As it is probable that nothing but the hope of gain, literally in this case auri sacra fames, would have led to those laborious researches of the alchemists which first taught men how to analyse matter into its elementary constituents, and afterwards to combine these constituents afresh into new forms, so the belief that, by carefully studying the stars, men might acquire the power of predicting future events, first directed attention to the movements of the celestial bodies. Kepler's saying, that astrology, though a fool, was the daughter of a wise mother,[3] does not by any means present truly the relationship between astrology and astronomy. Rather we may say that astrology and alchemy, though foolish mothers, gave birth to those wise daughters, astronomy and chemistry. Even this way of speaking scarcely does justice to the astrologers and alchemists of old times. Their views appear foolish in the light of modern scientific knowledge, but they were not foolish in relation to what was known when they were entertained. Modern analysis goes far to demonstrate the immutability, and, consequently, the non-transmutability of the metals, though it is by no means so certain as many suppose that the present position of the metals in the list of elements is really correct. Certainly a chemist of our day would be thought very unwise who should undertake a series of researches with the object of discovering a mineral having such qualities as the alchemists attributed to the philosopher's stone. But when as yet the facts on which the science of chemistry is based were unknown, there was nothing unreasonable in supposing that such a mineral might exist, or the means of compounding it be discovered. Nay, many arguments from analogy might be urged to show that the supposition was altogether probable. In like manner, though the known facts of astronomy oppose themselves irresistibly to any belief in planetary influences upon the fates of men and nations, yet before those facts were discovered it was not only not unreasonable, but was in fact, highly reasonable to believe in such influences, or at least that the sun, and moon, and stars moved in the heavens in such sort as to indicate what would happen. If the wise men of old times rejected the belief that 'the stars in their courses fought' for or against men, they yet could not very readily abandon the belief that the stars were for signs in the heavens of what was to befall mankind.

If we consider the reasoning now commonly thought valid in favour of the doctrine that other orbs besides our earth are inhabited, and compare it with the reasoning on which judicial astrology was based, we shall not find much to choose between the two, so far as logical weight is concerned. Because the only member of the solar system which we can examine closely is inhabited, astronomers infer a certain degree of probability for the belief that the other planets of the system are also inhabited. And because the only sun we know much about is the centre of a system of planets, astronomers infer that probably the stars, those other suns which people space, are also the centres of systems; although no telescope which man can make would show the members of a system like ours, attending on even the nearest of all the stars. The astrologer had a similar argument for his belief. The moon, as she circles around the earth, exerts a manifest influence upon terrestrial matter—the tidal wave rising and sinking synchronously with the movements of the moon, and other consequences depending directly or indirectly upon her revolution around the earth. The sun's influence is still more manifest; and, though it may have required the genius of a Herschel or of a Stephenson to perceive that almost every form of terrestrial energy is derived from the sun, yet it must have been manifest from the very earliest times that the greater light which rules the day rules the seasons also, and, in ruling them, provides the annual supplies of vegetable food, on which the very existence of men and animals depends. If these two bodies, the sun and moon, are thus potent, must it not be supposed, reasoned the astronomers of old, that the other celestial bodies exert corresponding influences? We know, but they did not know, that the moon rules the tides effectually because she is near to us, and that the sun is second only to the moon in tidal influence because of his enormous mass and attractive energy. We know also that his position as fire, light, and life of the earth and its inhabitants, is due directly to the tremendous heat with which the whole of his mighty frame is instinct. Not knowing this, the astronomers of old times had no sufficient reason for distinguishing the sun and moon from the other celestial bodies, so far at least as the general question of celestial influences was concerned.

So far as particulars were concerned, it was not altogether so clear to them as it is to us, that the influence of the sun must be paramount in all respects save tidal action, and that of the moon second only to the sun's in other respects, and superior to his in tidal sway alone. Many writers on the subject of life in other worlds are prepared to show (as Brewster attempts to do, for example) that Jupiter and Saturn are far nobler worlds than the earth, because superior in this or that circumstance. So the ancient astronomers, in their ignorance of the actual conditions on which celestial influences depend, found abundant reasons for regarding the feeble influences exerted by Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars, as really more potent than those exerted by the sun himself upon the earth. They reasoned, as Milton afterwards made Raphael reason, that 'great or bright infers not excellence,' that Saturn or Jupiter, though 'in comparison so small, nor glist'ring' to like degree, may yet 'of solid good contain more plenty than the sun.' Supposing the influence of a celestial body to depend on the magnitude of its sphere, in the sense of the old astronomy (according to which each planet had its proper sphere, around the earth as centre), then the influence of the sun would be judged to be inferior to that of either Saturn, Jupiter, or Mars; while the influences of Venus and Mercury, though inferior to the influence of the sun, would still be held superior to that of the moon. For the ancients measured the spheres of the seven planets of their system by the periods of the apparent revolution of those bodies around the celestial dome, and so set the sphere of the moon innermost, enclosed by the sphere of Mercury, around which in turn was the sphere of Venus, next the sun's, then, in order, those of Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. We can readily understand how they might come to regard the slow motions of the sphere of Saturn and Jupiter, taking respectively some thirty and twelve years to complete a revolution, as indicating power superior to the sun's, whose sphere seemed to revolve once in a single year. Many other considerations might have been urged, before the Copernican theory was established, to show that, possibly, some of the planets exert influences more effective than those of the sun and moon.

It is, indeed, clear that the first real shock sustained by astrology came from the arguments of Copernicus. So long as the earth was regarded as the centre round which all the celestial bodies move, it was hopeless to attempt to shake men's faith in the influences of the stars. So far as I know, there is not a single instance of a believer in the old Ptolemaic system who rejected astrology absolutely. The views of Bacon—the last of any note who opposed the system of Copernicus[4]—indicate the extreme limits to which a Ptolemaist could go in opposition to astrology. It may be worth while to quote Bacon's opinion in this place, because it indicates at once very accurately the position held by believers in astrology in his day, and the influence which the belief in a central fixed earth could not fail to exert on the minds of even the most philosophical reasoners.

'Astrology,' he begins, 'is so full of superstition that scarce anything sound can be discovered in it; though we judge it should rather be purged than absolutely rejected. Yet if any one shall pretend that this science is founded not in reason and physical contemplations, but in the direct experience and observation of past ages, and therefore not to be examined by physical reasons, as the Chaldaeans boasted, he may at the same time bring back divination, auguries, soothsaying, and give in to all kinds of fables; for these also were said to descend from long experience. But we receive astrology as a part of physics, without attributing more to it than reason and the evidence of things allow, and strip it of its superstition and conceits. Thus we banish that empty notion about the horary reign of the planets, as if each resumed the throne thrice in twenty-four hours, so as to leave three hours supernumerary; and yet this fiction produced the division of the week,[5] a thing so ancient and so universally received. Thus likewise we reject as an idle figment the doctrine of horoscopes, and the distribution of the houses, though these are the darling inventions of astrology, which have kept revel, as it were, in the heavens. And lastly, for the calculation of nativities, fortunes, good or bad hours of business, and the like fatalities, they are mere levities, that have little in them of certainty and solidity, and may be plainly confuted by physical reasons. But here we judge it proper to lay down some rules for the examination of astrological matters, in order to retain what is useful therein, and reject what is insignificant. Thus, 1. Let the greater revolutions be retained, but the lesser, of horoscopes and houses, be rejected—the former being like ordnance which shoot to a great distance, whilst the other are but like small bows, that do no execution. 2. The celestial operations affect not all kinds of bodies, but only the more sensible, as humours, air, and spirits. 3. All the celestial operations rather extend to masses of things than to individuals, though they may obliquely reach some individuals also which are more sensible than the rest, as a pestilent constitution of the air affects those bodies which are least able to resist it. 4. All the celestial operations produce not their effects instantaneously, and in a narrow compass, but exert them in large portions of time and space. Thus predictions as to the temperature of a year may hold good, but not with regard to single days. 5. There is no fatal necessity in the stars; and this the more prudent astrologers have constantly allowed. 6. We will add one thing more, which, if amended and improved, might make for astrology—viz. that we are certain the celestial bodies have other influences besides heat and light, but these influences act not otherwise than by the foregoing rules, though they lie so deep in physics as to require a fuller explanation. So that, upon the whole, we must register as needed,[6] an astrology written in conformity with these principles, under the name of Astrologia Sana.'

He then proceeds to show what this just astrology should comprehend—as, 1, the doctrine of the commixture of rays; 2, the effect of nearest approaches and farthest removes of planets to and from the point overhead (the planets, like the sun, having their summer and winter); 3, the effects of distance, 'with a proper enquiry into what the vigour of the planets may perform of itself, and what through their nearness to us; for,' he adds, but unfortunately without assigning any reason for the statement, 'a planet is more brisk when most remote, but more communicative when nearest;' 4, the other accidents of the planet's motions as they pursue

Their wand'ring course, now high, now low, then hid, Progressive, retrograde, or standing still;

5, all that can be discovered of the general nature of the planets and fixed stars, considered in their own essence and activity; 6, lastly, let this just astrology, he says, 'contain, from tradition, the particular natures and alterations of the planets and fixed stars; for' (here is a reason indeed) 'as these are delivered with general consent, they are not lightly to be rejected, unless they directly contradict physical considerations. Of such observations let a just astrology be formed; and according to these alone should schemes of the heavens be made and interpreted.'

The astrology thus regarded by Bacon as sane and just did not differ, as to its primary object, from the false systems which now seem to us so absurd. 'Let this astrology be used with greater confidence in prediction,' says Bacon, 'but more cautiously in election, and in both cases with due moderation. Thus predictions may be made of comets, and all kinds of meteors, inundations, droughts, heats, frosts, earthquakes, fiery eruptions, winds, great rains, the seasons of the year, plagues, epidemic diseases, plenty, famine, wars, seditions, sects, transmigrations of people, and all commotions, or great innovations of things, natural and civil. Predictions may possibly be made more particular, though with less certainty, if, when the general tendencies of the times are found, a good philosophical or political judgment applies them to such things as are most liable to accidents of this kind. For example, from a foreknowledge of the seasons of any year, they might be apprehended more destructive to olives than grapes, more hurtful in distempers of the lungs than the liver, more pernicious to the inhabitants of hills than valleys, and, for want of provisions, to monks than courtiers, etc. Or if any one, from a knowledge of the influence which the celestial bodies have upon the spirits of mankind, should find it would affect the people more than their rulers, learned and inquisitive men more than the military, etc. For there are innumerable things of this kind that require not only a general knowledge gained from the stars which are the agents, but also a particular one of the passive subjects. Nor are elections to be wholly rejected, though not so much to be trusted as predictions; for we find in planting, sowing, and grafting, observations of the moon are not absolutely trifling, and there are many particulars of this kind. But elections are more to be curbed by our rules than predictions; and this must always be remembered, that election only holds in such cases where the virtue of the heavenly bodies, and the action of the inferior bodies also, is not transient, as in the examples just mentioned; for the increases of the moon and planets are not sudden things. But punctuality of time should here be absolutely rejected. And perhaps there are more of these instances to be found in civil matters than some would imagine.'

The method of inquiry suggested by Bacon as proper for determining the just rules of the astrology he advocated, was, as might be expected, chiefly inductive. There are, said he, 'but four ways of arriving at this science, viz.—1, by future experiments; 2, past experiments; 3, traditions; 4, physical reasons.' But he was not very hopeful as to the progress of the suggested researches. It is vain, he said, to think at present of future experiments, because many ages are required to procure a competent stock of them. As for the past, it is true that past experiments are within our reach, 'but it is a work of labour and much time to procure them. Thus astrologers may, if they please, draw from real history all greater accidents, as inundations, plagues, wars, seditions, deaths of kings, etc., as also the positions of the celestial bodies, not according to fictitious horoscopes, but the above-mentioned rules of their revolutions, or such as they really were at the time, and, when the event conspires, erect a probable rule of prediction.' Traditions would require to be carefully sifted, and those thrown out which manifestly clashed with physical considerations, leaving those in full force which complied with such considerations. Lastly, the physical reasons worthiest of being enquired into are those, said Bacon, 'which search into the universal appetites and passions of matter, and the simple genuine motions of the heavenly bodies.'

It is evident there was much which, in our time at least, would be regarded as wild and fanciful in the 'sound and just astrology' advocated by Bacon. Yet, in passing, it may be noticed that even in our own time we have seen similar ideas promulgated, not by common astrologers and fortune-tellers (who, indeed, know nothing about such matters), but by persons supposed to be well-informed in matters scientific. In a roundabout way, a new astrology has been suggested, which is not at all unlike Bacon's 'astrologia sana,' though not based, as he proposed that astrology should be, on experiment, or tradition, or physical reasons. It has been suggested, first, that the seasons of our earth are affected by the condition of the sun in the matter of spots, and very striking evidence has been collected to show that this must be the case. For instance, it has been found that years when the sun has been free from spots have been warmer than the average; and it has also been found that such years have been cooler than the average: a double-shotted argument wholly irresistible, especially when it is also found that when the sun has many spots the weather has sometimes been exceptionally warm and sometimes exceptionally cold. If this be not considered sufficient, then note that in one country or continent or hemisphere the weather, when the sun is most spotted (or least, as the case may be), may be singularly hot, while in another country, continent, or hemisphere, the weather may be as singularly cold. So with wind and calm, rain and drought, and so forth. Always, whether the sun is very much spotted or quite free from spots, something unusual in the way of weather must be going on somewhere, demonstrating in the most significant way the influence of sun-spots or the want of sun-spots on the weather. It is true that captious minds might say that this method of reasoning proved too much in many ways, as, for example, thus—always, whether the sun is very much spotted or quite free from spots, some remarkable event, as a battle, massacre, domestic tragedy on a large scale, or the like, may be going on, demonstrating in the most significant way the influence of sun-spots or the want of sun-spots on the passions of men—which sounds absurd. But the answer is twofold. First, such reasoning is captious, and secondly, it is not certain that sun-spots, or the want of them, may not influence human passions; it may be worth while to enquire into this possible solar influence as well as the other, which can be done by crossing the hands of the new fortune-tellers with a sufficient amount of that precious metal which astrologers have in all ages dedicated to the sun.

That the new system of divination is not solely solar, but partly planetary also, is seen when we remember that the sun-spots wax and wane in periods of time which are manifestly referable to the planetary motions. Thus, the great solar spot-period lasts about eleven years, the successive spotless epochs being separated on the average by about that time; and so nearly does this period agree with the period of the planet Jupiter's revolution around the sun, that during eight consecutive spot-periods the spots were most numerous when Jupiter was farthest from the sun, and it is only by going back to the periods preceding these eight that we find a time when the reverse happened, the spots being most numerous when Jupiter was nearest to the sun. So with various other periods which the ingenuity of Messrs. De la Rue and Balfour Stewart has detected, and which, under the closest scrutiny, exhibit almost exact agreement for many successive periods, preceded and followed by almost exact disagreement. Here, again, the captious may argue that such alternate agreements and disagreements may be noted in every case where two periods are not very unequal, whether there be any connection between them or not; but much more frequently when there is no connection: and that the only evidence really proving a connection between planetary motions and the solar spots would be constant agreement between solar spot periods and particular planetary periods. But the progress of science, and especially the possible erection of a new observatory for finding out ('for a consideration') how sun-spots affect the weather, etc., ought not to be interfered with by captious reasoners in this objectionable manner. Nor need any other answer be given them. Seeing, then, that sun-spots manifestly affect the weather and the seasons, while the planets rule the sun-spots, it is clear that the planets really rule the seasons. And again, seeing that the planets rule the seasons, while the seasons largely affect the well-being of men and nations (to say nothing of animals), it follows that the planets influence the fates of men and nations (and animals). Quod erat demonstrandum.

Let us return, however, to the more reasonable astrology of the ancients, and enquire into some of the traditions which Bacon considered worthy of attention in framing the precepts of a sound and just astrology.

It was natural that the astrologers of old should regard the planetary influences as depending in the main on the position of the celestial bodies on the sky above the person or place whose fortunes were in question. Thus two men at the same moment in Rome and in Persia would by no means have the same horoscope cast for their nativities, so that their fortunes, according to the principles of judicial astrology, would be quite different. In fact it might happen that two men, born at the same instant of time, would have all the principal circumstances of their lives contrasted—planets riding high in the heavens of one being below the horizon of the other, and vice versa.

The celestial sphere placed as at the moment of the native's birth was divided into twelve parts by great circles supposed to pass through the point overhead, and its opposite, the point vertically beneath the feet. These twelve divisions were called 'houses.'

Their position is illustrated in the following figure, taken from Raphael's Astrology.


Particular Significations OF THE Twelve Celestial Houses, According to various Astrological Authors.


Cusp of the Ascendant.


Cusp of the Second House.


Cusp of the Third House.


Cusp of the Fourth House.



Cusp of the Fifth House.


Cusp of the Sixth House.


Cusp of the Seventh House.



Cusp of the Eighth House.


Cusp of the Ninth House.


Cusp of the Mid-heaven.



Cusp of the Eleventh House.


Cusp of the Twelfth House.



The first, called the Ascendant House, was the portion rising above the horizon at the east. It was regarded as the House of Life, the planets located therein at the moment of birth having most potent influence on the life and destiny of the native. Such planets were said to rule the ascendant, being in the ascending house; and it is from this usage that our familiar expression that such and such an influence is 'in the ascendant' is derived. The next house was the House of Riches, and was one-third of the way from the east below the horizon towards the place of the sun at midnight. The third was the House of Kindred, short journeys, letters, messages, etc. It was two-thirds of the way towards the place of the midnight sun. The fourth was the House of Parents, and was the house which the sun reached at midnight. The fifth was the House of Children and Women, also of all sorts of amusements, theatres, banquets, and merry-making. The sixth was the House of Sickness. The seventh was the House of Love and Marriage. These three houses (the fifth, sixth, and seventh) followed in order from the fourth, so as to correspond to the part of the sun's path below the horizon, between his place at midnight and his place when descending in the west. The seventh, opposite to the first, was the Descendant. The eighth house was the first house above the horizon, lying to the west, and was the House of Death. The ninth house, next to the mid-heaven on the west, was the House of Religion, science, learning, books, and long voyages. The tenth, which was in the mid-heaven, or region occupied by the sun at midday, was the House of Honour, denoting credit, renown, profession or calling, trade, preferment, etc. The eleventh house, next to the mid-heaven on the east, was the House of Friends. Lastly, the twelfth house was the House of Enemies.

The houses were not all of equal potency. The angular houses, which are the first, the fourth, the seventh, and the tenth—lying east, north, west, and south—were first in power, whether for good or evil. The second, fifth, eighth, and eleventh houses were called succedents, as following the angular houses, and next to them in power. The remaining four houses—viz. the third, sixth, ninth, and twelfth houses—were called cadents, and were regarded as weakest in influence. The houses were regarded as alternately masculine and feminine: the first, third, fifth, etc., being masculine; while the second, fourth, sixth, etc., were feminine.

The more particular significations of the various houses are shown in the accompanying figure from the same book.


A CELESTIAL DIAGRAM representing at one view the various symbolical significations of the Twelve Heavenly Houses; according to ancient manuscript writers of the twelfth century; and not to be found in Authors.

Brethren of friends, fathers of kings, sickness of public enemies, wives of enemies, death of servants, long journeys of children, friends of brethren, thoughts of the asker.

The end of youth, brethren of private enemies, fathers and grandsires of friends, king's sons, enemies of wives, magistery of children, private enemies of brethren.

Sects, dreams, churches, fathers of private enemies, sons of friends, sickness of kings, enemies of the religious, trade of servants, private enemies of fathers.

Dead men's goods, castles, treasure hid, the fate of the corpse in the grave, money of brethren, children of private enemies, sickness of friends, king's enemies, friends of servants.

Cards, dice, brethren's brethren, father's money, sickness of private enemies, enemies of friends, death of kings, friends of enemies, enemies of servants.

Vassals, children's money, brethren's fathers, father's brethren, enemies' enemies, death of friends, journeys and religion of kings, lay dignities, enemies of wives.

Fines, pleas, laws, nuptials, death of enemies, friends of brethren, sons of friends, sisters of brethren, death of enemies and of great beasts, religion of friends.

Labour, sorrow, inheritance of the dead, money of enemies, brethren of servants, sickness of brethren, dignity of friends, king's friends, enemies of religious persons.

Prophets, prayers, visions, omens, divine worship, wife's brethren, fathers of servants, children's children, sickness of fathers, enemies of brethren, friends of friends, enemies of kings.

Judges, brethren of enemies, servants, fathers of enemies, children of servants, sickness of sons, death of brethren, friends of enemies, enemies of friends.

Knights, esquires, children of enemies, sickness of servants, enemies and wives of offspring, death of fathers, journeys of brethren, enemies of enemies.

Envy, sorrow, guile, long hidden wrath, money of friends, brethren of kings, sickness of wives, servants' enemies, death of children, trade of brethren, a prison.


It will be easily understood how these houses were dealt with in erecting a scheme of nativity. The position of the planets at the moment of the native's birth, in the several houses, determined his fortunes with regard to the various matters associated with these houses. Thus planets of good influence in the native's ascendant, or first house, signified generally a prosperous life; but if at the same epoch a planet of malefic influence was in the seventh house, then the native, though on the whole prosperous, would be unfortunate in marriage. A good planet in the tenth house signified good fortune and honour in office or business, and generally a prosperous career as distinguished from a happy life; but evil planets in the ninth house would suggest to the native caution in undertaking long voyages, or entering upon religious or scientific controversies.

Similar considerations applied to questions relating to horary astronomy, in which the position of the planets in the various houses at some epoch guided the astrologer's opinion as to the fortune of that hour, either in the life of a man or the career of a State. In such inquiries, however, not only the position of the planets, etc., at the time had to be considered, but also the original horoscope of the person, or the special planets and signs associated with particular States. Thus if Jupiter, the most fortunate of all the planets, was in the ascendant, or in the House of Honour, at the time of the native's birth, and at some epoch this planet was ill-aspected or afflicted by other planets potent for evil in the native's horoscope, then that epoch would be a threatening one in the native's career.

The sign Gemini was regarded by astrologers as especially associated with the fortunes of London, and accordingly they tell us that the great fire of London, the plague, the building of London Bridge, and other events interesting to London, all occurred when this sign was in the ascendant, or when special planets were in this sign.[7]

The signs of the zodiac in the various houses were in the first place to be noted, because not only had these signs special powers in special houses, but the effects of the planets in particular houses varied according to the signs in which the planets were situated. If we were to follow the description given by the astrologers themselves, not much insight would be thrown upon the meaning of the zodiacal signs. For instance, astrologers say that Aries is a vernal, dry, fiery, masculine, cardinal, equinoctial, diurnal, movable, commanding, eastern, choleric, violent, and quadrupedalian sign. We may, however, infer generally from their accounts the influences which they assigned to the zodiacal signs.

Aries is the house and joy of Mars, signifies a dry constitution, long face and neck, thick shoulders, swarthy complexion, and a hasty, passionate temper. It governs the head and face, and all diseases relating thereto. It reigns over England, France, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Lesser Poland, Syria, Naples, Capua, Verona, etc. It is a masculine sign, and is regarded as fortunate.

Taurus gives to the native born under his auspices a stout athletic frame, broad bull-like forehead, dark curly hair, short neck, and so forth, and a dull apathetic temper, exceedingly cruel and malicious if once aroused. It governs the neck and throat, and reigns over Ireland, Great Poland, part of Russia, Holland, Persia, Asia Minor, the Archipelago, Mantua, Leipsic, etc. It is a feminine sign, and unfortunate.

Gemini is the house of Mercury. The native of Gemini will have a sanguine complexion and tall, straight figure, dark eyes quick and piercing, brown hair, active ways, and will be of exceedingly ingenious intellect. It governs the arms and shoulders, and rules over the south-west parts of England, America, Flanders, Lombardy, Sardinia, Armenia, Lower Egypt, London, Versailles, Brabant, etc. It is a masculine sign, and fortunate.

Cancer is the house of the Moon and exaltation of Jupiter, and its native will be of fair but pale complexion, round face, grey or mild blue eyes, weak voice, the upper part of the body large, slender arms, small feet, and an effeminate constitution. It governs the breast and the stomach, and reigns over Scotland, Holland, Zealand, Burgundy, Africa, Algiers, Tunis, Tripoli, Constantinople, New York, etc. It is a feminine sign, and unfortunate.

The native born under Leo will be of large body, broad shoulders, austere countenance, with dark eyes and tawny hair, strong voice, and leonine character, resolute and ambitious, but generous, free, and courteous. Leo governs the heart and back, and reigns over Italy, Bohemia, France, Sicily, Rome, Bristol, Bath, Taunton, Philadelphia, etc. It is a masculine sign, and fortunate.

Virgo is the joy of Mercury. Its natives are of moderate stature, seldom handsome, slender but compact, thrifty and ingenious. It governs the abdomen, and reigns over Turkey both in Europe and Asia, Greece, and Mesopotamia, Crete, Jerusalem, Paris, Lyons, etc. It is a feminine sign, and generally unfortunate.

Libra is the house of Venus. The natives of Libra are tall and well made, elegant in person, round-faced and ruddy, but plain-featured and 'inclined to eruptions that disfigure the face when old; they' (the natives) 'are of sweet disposition, just and upright in dealing.' It governs the lumbar regions, and reigns over Austria, Alsace, Savoy, Portugal, Livonia, India, Ethiopia, Lisbon, Vienna, Frankfort, Antwerp, Charleston, etc. It is a masculine sign, and fortunate.

Scorpio is, like Aries, the house of Mars, 'and also his joy.' Its natives are strong, corpulent, and robust, with large bones, 'dark curly hair and eyes' (presumably the eyes dark only, not curly), middle stature, dusky complexion, active bodies; they are usually reserved in speech. It governs the region of the groin, and reigns over Judaea, Mauritania, Catalonia, Norway, West Silesia, Upper Batavia, Barbary, Morocco, Valentia, Messina, etc. It is feminine, and unfortunate. (It would appear likely, by the way, that astrology was a purely masculine science.)

Sagittarius is the house and joy of Jupiter. Its natives are well formed and tall, ruddy, handsome, and jovial, with fine clear eyes, chestnut hair, and oval fleshy face. They are 'generally jolly fellows at either bin or board,' active, intrepid, generous, and obliging. It governs the legs and thighs,[8] and reigns over Arabia Felix, Spain, Hungary, Moravia, Liguria, Narbonne, Cologne, Avignon, etc. It is masculine, and of course fortunate.

Capricorn is the house of Saturn and exaltation of Mars. This sign gives to its natives a dry constitution and slender make, with a long thin visage, thin beard (a generally goaty aspect, in fact), dark hair, long neck, narrow chin, and weak knees. It governs, nevertheless, the knees and hams, and reigns over India, Macedonia, Thrace and Greece, Mexico, Saxony, Wilna, Mecklenburgh, Brandenburg, and Oxford. It is feminine, and unfortunate.

Aquarius also is the house of Saturn. Its natives are robust, steady, strong, healthy, and of middle stature; delicate complexion, clear but not pale, sandy hair, hazel eyes, and generally an honest disposition. It governs the legs and ankles, and reigns over Arabia, Petraea, Tartary, Russia, Denmark, Lower Sweden, Westphalia, Hamburg, and Bremen. It is masculine, and fortunate.

Pisces is the house of Jupiter and exaltation of Venus. Its natives are short, pale, thick-set, and round-shouldered (like fish), its character phlegmatic and effeminate. It governs the feet and toes, and reigns over Portugal, Spain, Egypt, Normandy, Galicia, Ratisbon, Calabria, etc. It is feminine, and therefore, naturally, unfortunate.

Let us next consider the influences assigned to the various planets and constellations.

Though we can understand that in old times the planets and stars were regarded as exercising very potent influences upon the fates of men and nations,[9] it is by no means easy to understand how astrologers came to assign to each planet its special influence. That is, it is not easy to understand how they could have been led to such a result by actual reasoning, still less by any process of observation.[10] There was a certain scientific basis for the belief in the possibility of determining the special influences of the stars; and we should have expected to find some scientific process adopted for the purpose. Yet, so far as can be judged, the influences assigned to the planets depended on entirely fanciful considerations. In some cases we seem almost to see the line along which the fancies of the old astrologers led them, just as in some cases we can perceive how mythological superstitions (which are closely related to astrological ideas) had their origin; though it is not quite clear whether the planets were first regarded as deities with special qualities, and these qualities afterwards assigned to the planetary influences, or whether the planetary influences were first assigned, and came eventually to be regarded as the qualities of the deities associated with the several planets.

It is easy, for instance, to understand why astrologers should have regarded the sun as the emblem of kingly power and dignity, and equally easy to understand why, to the sun regarded as a deity, corresponding qualities should have been ascribed; but it is not easy to determine whether the astrological or the Sabaistic superstitions were the earlier. And in like manner of the moon and planets. There seems to me no sufficient evidence in favour of Whewell's opinion, that 'in whatever manner the sun, moon, and planets came to be identified with gods and goddesses, the characters ascribed to these gods and goddesses, regulated the virtues and powers of the stars which bear their names.' As he himself very justly remarks, 'We do not possess any of the speculations of the earlier astrologers; and we cannot, therefore, be certain that the notions which operated in men's minds when the art had its birth, agreed with the views on which it was afterwards defended.' He does not say why he infers that, though at later periods supported by physical analogies, it was originally suggested by mythological beliefs. Quite as probably mythological beliefs were suggested by astrological notions. Some of these beliefs, indeed, seem manifestly to have been so suggested; as the character of the deity Mercury, from the rapid motions of the planet Mercury, and the difficulty of detecting it; the character of Mars from the blood-red hue of the planet when close to the horizon, and so forth.

Let us examine, however, the characteristics ascribed by astrologers to various planets.

It is unfortunate for astrology that, despite the asserted careful comparison of events with the planetary positions preceding and indicating them, nothing was ever observed which seemed to suggest the possibility that there may be an unknown planet ruling very strongly the affairs of men. Astrologers tell us now that Uranus is a very potent planet; yet the old astrologers seem to have got on very well without him. By the way, one of the moderns, the grave Raphael, gives a very singular account of the discovery of Uranus, in a book published sixteen years before Neptune was discovered by just such a process as Raphael imagined in the case of Uranus. He says that Drs. Halley, Bradley, and others, having frequently observed that Saturn was disturbed in his motion by some force exerted from beyond his orbit, and being unable to account for the disturbance on the known principles of gravitation, pursued their enquiry into the matter, 'till at length the discovery of this hitherto unknown planet covered their labours with success, and has enabled us to enlarge our present solar system to nearly double its bounds.' Of course there is not a word of truth in this; Uranus having been discovered by accident long after Halley and Bradley were in the grave. But the account suggests what might have been, and curiously anticipates the actual manner in which Neptune was discovered.

Astrologers agree in attributing evil effects to Uranus. But the evil he does is always peculiarly strange, unaccountable, and totally unexpected. He causes the native born under his influence to be of a very eccentric and original disposition, romantic, unsettled, addicted to change, a seeker after novelty; though, if the moon or Mercury have a good aspect towards Uranus, the native will be profound in the secret sciences, magnanimous, and lofty of mind. But let all beware of marriage when Uranus is in the seventh house, or afflicting the moon. And in general, let the fair sex remember that Uranus is peculiarly hostile to them, and very evil in love.

Saturn is the Greater Infortune of the old system of astrology, and is by universal experience acknowledged to be the most potent, evil, and malignant of all the planets. Those born under him are of dark and pale complexion, with small, black, leering eyes, thick lips and nostrils, large ears, thin face, lowering looks, cloudy aspect, and seemingly melancholy and unhappy; and though they have broad shoulders, they have but short lips and a thin beard, They are in character austere and reserved, covetous, laborious, and revengeful; constant in friendship, and good haters. The most remarkable and certain characteristic of the Saturnine man is that, as an old author observes 'he will never look thee in the face.' 'If they have to love any one, these Saturnines,' says another old author, 'they love most constantly; and if they hate, they hate to the death.' The persons signified symbolically by Saturn are grandparents, and other old persons, day labourers, paupers, beggars, clowns, husbandmen of the meaner sort, and especially undertakers, sextons, and gravediggers. Chaucer thus presents the chief effects which Saturn produces in the fortunes of men and nations—Saturn himself being the speaker:—

... quod Saturne My cours, that hath so wide for to turne, Hath more power than wot any man. Min is the drenching in the sea so wan, Min is the prison in the derke cote, Min is the strangel and hanging by the throte, The murmure and the cherles rebelling, The groyning, and the prive empoysoning, I do vengaunce and pleine correction, While I dwell in the signe of the leon; Min is the ruine of the high halles, The falling of the toures and of the walles Upon the minour or the carpenter: I slew Sampson in shaking the piler. Min ben also the maladies colde, The derke tresons, and the castes olde: My loking is the fader of pestilence.

Jupiter, on the contrary, though Saturn's next neighbour in the solar system, produces effects of an entirely contrary kind. He is, in fact, the most propitious of all the planets, and the native born under his influence has every reason to be jovial in fact as he is by nature. Such a native will be tall and fair, handsome and erect, robust, ruddy, and altogether a good-looking person, whether male or female. The native will also be religious, or at least a good moral honest man, unless Jupiter be afflicted by the aspects of Saturn, Mars, or Uranus; in which case he may still be a jolly fellow, no man's enemy but his own—only he will probably be his own enemy to a very considerable extent, squandering his means and ruining his health by gluttony and intoxication. The persons represented by Jupiter (when he is not afflicted) are judges, counsellors, church dignitaries, from cardinals to curates, scholars, chancellors, barristers, and the highest orders of lawyers, woollendrapers (possibly there may be some astral significance in the woolsack), and clothiers. When Jupiter is afflicted, however, he denotes quacks and mountebanks, knaves, cheats, and drunkards. The influence of the planet on the fortunes is nearly always good. Astrologers, who to a man reverence dignities, consider Great Britain fortunate in that the lady whom, with customary effusion, they term 'Our Most Gracious Queen,' was born when Jupiter was riding high in the heavens near his culmination, this position promising a most fortunate and happy career. The time has passed when the fortunes of this country were likely to be affected by such things; but we may hope, for the lady's own sake, that this prediction has been fulfilled. Astrologers assert the same about the Duke of Wellington, assigning midnight, May 1, 1769, as the hour of his birth. There is some doubt both as to the date and place of the great soldier's birth; but the astrologer finds in the facts of his life the means of removing all such doubts.[11]

Next in order comes Mars, inferior only in malefic influence to Saturn, and called by the old astrologers the Lesser Infortune. The native born under the influence of Mars is usually of fierce countenance, his eyes sparkling, or sharp and darting, his complexion fiery or yellowish, and his countenance scarred or furrowed. His hair is reddish or sandy, unless Mars chances to be in a watery sign, in which case the hair will be flaxen; or in an earthly sign, in which case the hair will be chestnut. The Martialist is broad-shouldered, steady, and strong, but short,[12] and often bony and lean. In character the Martialist is fiery and choleric, naturally delighting in war and contention, but generous and magnanimous. This when Mars is well aspected; should the planet be evil aspected, then will the native be treacherous, thievish, treasonable, cruel, and wicked. The persons signified by Mars are generals, soldiers, sailors (if he is in a watery sign), surgeons, chemists, doctors, armourers, barbers, curriers, smiths, carpenters, bricklayers, sculptors, cooks, and tailors. When afflicted with Mercury or the moon, he denotes thieves, hangmen, and 'all cut throat people.' In fact, except the ploughboy, who belongs to Saturn, all the members of the old septet, 'tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, apothecary, ploughboy, thief,' are favourites with Mars. The planet's influence is not quite so evil as Saturn's, nor are the effects produced by it so long-lasting. 'The influence of Saturn,' says an astrologer, 'may be compared to a lingering but fatal consumption; that of Mars to a burning fever.' He is the cause of anger, quarrels, violence, war, and slaughter.

The sun comes next; for it must be remembered that, according to the old system of astronomy, the sun was a planet. Persons born under the sun as the planet ruling their ascendant, would be more apt to be aware of the fact than Saturnine, Jovial, Martial, or any other folk, because the hour of birth, if remembered, at once determines whether the native is a solar subject or not. The solar native has generally a round face (like pictures of the sun in old books of astronomy), with a short chin; his complexion somewhat sanguine; curling sandy hair, and a white tender skin. As to character, he is bold and resolute, desirous of praise, of slow speech and composed judgment; outwardly decorous, but privately not altogether virtuous. The sun, in fact, according to astrologers, is the natural significator of respectability; for which I can discover no reason, unless it be that the sun travelling always in the ecliptic has no latitude, and so solar folk are allowed none. When the sun is ill aspected, the native is both proud and mean, tyrannical and sycophantic, exceedingly unamiable, and generally disliked because of his arrogance and ignorant pomposity. The persons signified by the sun are emperors, kings, and titled folk generally, goldsmiths, jewellers, and coiners. When 'afflicted,' the sun signifies pretenders either to power or knowledge. The sun's influence is not in itself either good or evil, but is most powerful for good when he is favourably aspected, and for evil when he is afflicted by other planets.

Venus, the next in order, bore the same relation to the Greater Fortune Jupiter which Mars bore to Saturn the Greater Ill-fortune. She was the Lesser Fortune, and her influence was in nearly all respects benevolent. The persons born under the influence of this planet are handsome, with beautiful sparkling hazel or black eyes (but another authority assigns the subject of Venus, 'a full eye, usually we say goggle-eyed,' by which we do not usually imply beauty), ruddy lips, the upper lip short, soft smooth hair, dimples in the cheek and chin, an amorous look and a sweet voice. One old astrologer puts the matter thus pleasantly:—'The native of Venus hath,' quoth he, 'a love-dimple in the chin, a lovely mouth, cherry lips, and a right merry countenance.' In character the native of Venus is merry 'to a fault,' but of temper engaging, sweet and cheerful, unless she be ill aspected, when her native is apt to be too fond of pleasure and amusement. That her influence is good is shown (in the opinion of Raphael, writing in 1828) by the character of George IV., 'our present beloved monarch and most gracious majesty, who was born just as this benevolent star' was in the ascendant; 'for it is well known to all Europe what a refined and polished genius, and what exquisite taste, the King of England possesses, which therefore may be cited as a most illustrious proof of the celestial science; a proof likewise which is palpably demonstrable, even to the most casual observer, since the time of his nativity is taken from the public journals of the period, and cannot be gainsaid.' 'This illustrious and regal horoscope is replete with wonderful verifications of planetary influence, and England cannot but prosper while she is blessed with the mild and beneficent sway of this potent monarch.' Strengthened in faith by this convincing proof of the celestial science, we proceed to notice that Venus is the protectrice of musicians, embroiderers, perfumers, classic modellers, and all who work in elegant attire or administer to the luxuries of the great; but when she is afflicted, she represents 'the lower orders of the votaries of voluptuousness.'

Mercury is considered by astrologers 'a cold, dry, melancholy star.' The Mercurial is neither dark nor fair, but between both, long-faced, with high forehead and thin sharp nose, 'thin beard (many times none at all), slender of body, and with small weak eyes;' long slender hands and fingers are 'especial marks of Mercury,' says Raphael. In character the Mercurial is busy and prattling. But when well affected, Mercury gives his subjects a strong, vigorous, active mind, searching and exhaustive, a retentive memory, a natural thirst for knowledge.[13] The persons signified by Mercury are astrologers, philosophers, mathematicians, politicians, merchants, travellers, teachers, poets, artificers, men of science, and all ingenious, clever men. When he is ill affected, however, he represents pettifoggers, cunning vile persons, thieves, messengers, footmen, and servants, etc.

The moon comes last in planetary sequence, as nearest to the earth. She is regarded by astrologers as a cold, moist, watery, phlegmatic planet, variable to an extreme, and, like the sun, partaking of good or evil according as she is aspected favourably or the reverse. Her natives are of good stature, fair, and pale, moon-faced, with grey eyes, short arms, thick hands and feet, smooth, corpulent and phlegmatic body. When she is in watery signs, the native has freckles on the face, or, says Lilly, 'he or she is blub-cheeked, not a handsome body, but a muddling creature.' Unless the moon is very well aspected, she ever signifies an ordinary vulgar person. She signifies sailors (not as Mars does, the fighting-men of war-ships, but nautical folk generally) and all persons connected with water or any kind of fluid; also all who are engaged in inferior and common offices.

We may note, in passing, that to each planet a special metal is assigned, as also particular colours. Chaucer, in the Chanones Yemannes' Tale, succinctly describes the distribution of the metals among the planets:—

Sol gold is, and Luna silver we threpe; Mars iren, Mercurie silver we clepe: Saturnus led, and Jupiter is tin, And Venus coper, by my [the Chanones Yemannes'] faderkin.

The colours are thus assigned:—to Saturn, black; to Jupiter, mixed red and green; to Mars, red; to the sun, yellow or yellow-purple; to Venus, white or purple; to Mercury, azure blue; to the moon, a colour spotted with white and other mixed colours.

Again, the planets were supposed to have special influence on the seven ages of human life. The infant, 'mewling and puking in the nurse's arms,' was very appropriately dedicated to the moist moon; the whining schoolboy (did schoolboys whine in the days of good Queen Bess?) was less appropriately assigned to Mercury, the patron of those who eagerly seek after knowledge: then very naturally, the lover sighing like furnace was regarded as the special favourite of Venus. Thus far the order has been that of the seven planets of the ancient astrology, in supposed distance. Now, however, we have to pass over the sun, finding Mars the patron of mid life, appropriately (in this respect) presiding over the soldier full of strange oaths, and so forth; the 'justice in fair round belly with good capon lined' is watched over by the respectable sun; maturer age by Jupiter; and, lastly, old age by Saturn.

Colours were also assigned to the twelve zodiacal signs—to Aries, white and red; to Taurus, white and lemon; to Gemini, white and red (the same as Aries); to Cancer, green or russet; to Leo, red or green; to Virgo, black speckled with blue; to Libra, black, or dark crimson, or tawny colour; to Scorpio, brown; to Sagittarius, yellow, or a green sanguine (this is as strange a colour as the gris rouge of Moliere's L'Avare); Capricorn, black or russet, or a swarthy brown; to Aquarius, a sky-coloured blue; to Pisces, white glistening colour (like a fish just taken out of the water).

The chief fixed stars had various influences assigned to them by astrologers. These influences were mostly associated with the imaginary figures of the constellations. Thus the bright star in the head of Aries, called by some the Ram's Horn, was regarded as dangerous and evil, denoting bodily hurts. The star Menkar in the Whale's jaw denoted sickness, disgrace, and ill-fortune, with danger from great beasts. Betelgeux, the bright star on Orion's right shoulder, denoted martial honours or wealth; Bellatrix, the star on Orion's left shoulder, denoted military or civic honours; Rigel, on Orion's left foot, denoted honours; Sirius and Procyon, the greater and lesser Dog Stars, both implied wealth and renown. Star clusters seem to have portended loss of sight; at least we learn that the Pleiades were 'eminent stars,' but denoting accidents to the sight or blindness, while the cluster Praesepe or the Beehive in like manner threatened blindness. The cluster in Perseus does not seem to have been noticed by astrologers. The variable star Algol or Caput Medusae, which marks the head of Gorgon, was accounted 'the most unfortunate, violent, and dangerous star in the heavens.' It is tolerably clear that the variable character of this star had been detected long before Montanari (to whom the discovery is commonly attributed) noticed the phenomenon. The name Algol is only a variation of Al-ghul, the monster or demon, and it cannot be doubted that the demoniac, Gorgonian character assigned to this star was suggested by its ominous change, as though it were the eye of some fierce monster slowly winking amid the gloom of space. The two stars called the Aselli, which lie on either side of the cluster Praesepe, 'are said' (by astrologers) 'to be of a burning nature, and to give great indications of a violent death, or of violent and severe accidents by fire.' The star called Cor Hydrae, or the serpent's heart, denotes trouble through women (said I not rightly that Astrology was a masculine science?); the Lion's heart, Regulus, implied glory and riches; Deneb, the Lion's tail, misfortune and disgrace. The southern scale of Libra meant bad fortune, while the northern was eminently fortunate.

Astrology was divided into three distinct branches—the doctrine of nativities, horary astrology, and state astrology. The first assigned the rules for determining the general fortunes of the native, by drawing up his scheme of nativity or casting his horoscope. It took into account the positions of the various planets, signs, stars, etc., at the time of the native's birth; and as the astrologer could calculate the movements of the planets thereafter, he could find when those planets which were observed by the horoscope to be most closely associated with the native's fortunes would be well aspected or the reverse. Thus the auspicious and unlucky epochs of the native's life could be predetermined. The astrologer also claimed some degree of power to rule the planets, not by modifying their movements in any way, but by indicating in what way the ill effects portended by their positions could be prevented. The Arabian and Persian astrologers, having less skill than the followers of Ptolemy, made use of a different method of determining the fortunes of men, not calculating the positions of the planets for many years following the birth of the native, but assigning to every day after his birth a whole year of his life and for every two hours' motion of the moon one month. Thus the positions of the stars and planets, twenty-one days after the birth of the native, would indicate the events corresponding to the time when he would have completed his twenty-first year. There was another system called the Placidian, in which the effects of the positions of the planets were judged with sole reference to the motion of the earth upon her axis. It is satisfactory to find astrologers in harmony amongst each other as to these various methods, which one would have supposed likely to give entirely different results. 'Each of them,' says a modern astrologer, 'is not only correct and approved by long-tried practice, but may be said to defy the least contradiction from those who will but take the pains to examine them (and no one else should deliver an opinion upon the subject). Although each of the above methods are different, yet they by no means contradict each other, but each leads to true results, and in many instances they each lead to the foreknowledge of the same event; in which respect they may be compared to the ascent of a mountain by different paths, where, although some paths are longer and more difficult than others, they notwithstanding all lead to the same object.' All which, though plausible in tone labours under the disadvantage of being untrue.

Ptolemy is careful to point out, in his celebrated work the 'Tetrabiblos,' that, of all events whatsoever which take place after birth, the most essential is the continuance of life. 'It is useless,' he says, 'to consider what events might happen to the native in later years if his life does not extend, for instance, beyond one year. So that the enquiry into the duration of life takes precedence of all others.' In order to deal properly with this question, it is necessary to determine what planet shall be regarded as the Hyleg, Apheta, or Lord of Life, for the native. Next the Anareta, or Destroyer of Life, must be ascertained. The Anaretic planets are, by nature, Saturn, Mars, and Uranus, though the sun, moon, and Mercury may be endowed with the same fatal influence, if suitably afflicted. The various ways in which the Hyleg, or Giver of Life, may be afflicted by the Anareta, correspond to the various modes of death. But astrologers have always been singularly careful, in casting horoscopes, to avoid definite reference to the native's death. There are but few cases where the actual day of death is said to have been assigned. One is related in Clarendon's 'History of the Rebellion.' He tells us that William Earl of Pembroke died at the age of fifty, on the day upon which his tutor Sandford had predicted his decease. Burton, the author of the 'Anatomy of Melancholy,' having cast his own horoscope, and ascertained that he was to die on January 23, 1639, is said to have committed suicide in order that the accuracy of his calculations might not be called in question. A similar story is related of Cardan by Dr. Young (Sidrophel Vapulans), on the authority of Gassendi, who, however, says only that either Cardan starved himself, or, being confident in his art, took the predicted day for a fatal one, and by his fears made it so. Gassendi adds that while Cardan pretended to describe the fates of his children in his voluminous commentaries, he all the while never suspected, from the rules of his great art, that his dearest son would be condemned in the flower of his youth to be beheaded on a scaffold, by an executioner of justice, for destroying his own wife by poison.

Horary astrology relates to particular questions, and is a comparatively easy branch of the science. The art of casting nativities requires many years of study; but horary astrology 'may be well understood,' says Lilly, 'in less than a quarter of a year.' 'If a proposition of any nature,' he adds, 'be made to any individual, about the result of which he is anxious, and therefore uncertain whether to accede to it or not, let him but note the hour and minute when it was first made, and erect a figure of the heavens, and his doubts will be instantly resolved. He may thus in five minutes learn whether the affair will succeed or not: and consequently whether it is prudent to accept the offer made or not. If he examine the sign on the first house of the figure, the planet therein, or the planet ruling the sign, will exactly describe the party making the offer, both in person and character, and this may at once convince the enquirer for truth of the reality of the principles of the science. Moreover, the descending sign, etc., will describe his own person and character—a farther proof of the truth of the science.'

There is one feature of horary astrology which is probably almost as ancient as any portion of the science, yet which remains even to the present day, and will probably remain for many years to come. I refer to the influence which the planets were supposed to exert on the successive hours of every day—a belief from which the division of time into weeks of seven days unquestionably had its origin—though we may concede that the subdivision of the lunar month into four equal parts was also considered in selecting this convenient measure of time. Every hour had its planet. Now dividing twenty-four by seven, we get three and three over; whence, each day containing twenty-four hours, it follows that in each day the complete series of seven planets was run through three times, and three planets of the next series were used. The order of the planets was that of their distances, as indicated above. Saturn came first, then Jupiter, Mars, the Sun, Venus, Mercury, and the Moon. Beginning with Saturn, as ruling the first hour of Saturn's day (Saturday), we get through the above series three times, and have for the last three hours of the day, Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars. Thus the next hour, the first hour of the next day, belongs to the sun—Sunday follows Saturday. We again run three times through the series, and the three remaining hours are governed by the sun, Venus, and Mercury,—giving the moon as the first planet for the next day. Monday thus follows Sunday. The last three hours of Monday are ruled by the moon, Saturn, and Jupiter; leaving Mars to govern the next day—Martis dies, Mardi, Tuesday or Tuisco's day. Proceeding in the same way, we get Mercury for the next day, Mercurii dies, Mercredi, Wednesday or Woden's day; Jupiter for the next day, Jovis dies, Jeudi, Thursday or Thor's day; Venus for the next day, Veneris dies, Vendredi, Friday or Freya's day; and so we come to Saturday again.[14]

The period of seven days, which had its origin in, and derived its nomenclature from astrological ideas, shows by its wide prevalence how widely astrological superstitions were once spread among the nations. As Whewell remarks (though, for reasons which will readily be understood he was by no means anxious to dwell upon the true origin of the Sabbatical week), 'the usage is found over all the East; it existed among the Arabians, Assyrians, and Egyptians. The same week is found in India, among the Brahmins; it has there also its days marked by the names of the heavenly bodies; and it has been ascertained that the same day has, in that country, the name corresponding with its designation in other nations.... The period has gone on without interruption or irregularity from the earliest recorded times to our own days, traversing the extent of ages and the revolutions of empires; the names of ancient deities, which were associated with the stars, were replaced by those of the objects of the worship of our Teutonic ancestors, according to their views of the correspondence of the two mythologies; and the Quakers, in rejecting these names of days, have cast aside the most ancient existing relic of astrological as well as idolatrous superstition.

Not only do the names remain, but some of the observances connected with the old astrological systems remain even to this day. As ceremonies derived from Pagan worship are still continued, though modified in form, and with a different interpretation, in Christian and especially Roman Catholic observances, so among the Jews and among Christians the rites and ceremonies of the old Egyptian and Chaldaean astrology are still continued, though no longer interpreted as of yore. The great Jewish Lawgiver and those who follow him seem, for example, to have recognised the value of regular periods of rest (whether really required by man or become a necessity through long habit), but to have been somewhat in doubt how best to continue the practice without sanctioning the superstitions with which it had been connected. At any rate two different and inconsistent interpretations were given in the earlier and later codes of law. But whether the Jews accepted the Sabbath because they believed that an All-powerful Being, having created the world in six days, required and took rest ('and was refreshed') on the seventh, as stated in Exodus (xx. 11 and xxxi. 17), or whether they did so in remembrance of their departure from Egypt, as stated in Deuteronomy (v. 15), there can be no question that among the Egyptians the Sabbath or Saturn's day was a day of rest because of the malignant nature of the powerful planet-deity who presided over that day. Nor can it be seriously doubted that the Jews descended from the old Chaldaeans, among whom (as appears from stone inscriptions recently discovered) the very word Sabbath was in use for a seventh day of rest connected with astrological observances, were familiar with the practice even before their sojourn in Egypt. They had then probably regarded it as a superstitious practice to be eschewed like those idolatrous observances which had caused Terah to remove with Abraham and Lot from Ur of the Chaldees. At any rate, we find no mention of the seventh day of rest as a religious observance until after the Exodus.[15] It was not their only religious observance having in reality an astrological origin. Indeed, if we examine the Jewish sacrificial system as described in Numbers xxviii. and elsewhere, we shall find throughout a tacit reference to the motions or influences of the celestial bodies. There was the morning and evening sacrifice guided by the movements of the sun; the Sabbath offering, determined by the predominance of Saturn; the offering of the new moon, depending on the motions of the moon; and lastly, the Paschal sacrifice, depending on the combined movements of the sun and moon—made, in fact, during the lunation following the sun's ascending passage of the equator at the sign of Aries.

Let us return, however, after this somewhat long digression, to astrological matters.

Horary astrology is manifestly much better fitted than the casting of nativities for filling the pocket of the astrologer himself; because only one nativity can be cast, but any number of horary questions can be asked. It is on account of their skill in horary astrology that the Zadkiels of our own time have occasionally found their way into the twelfth house, or House of Enemies. Even Lilly himself, not devoting, it would seem, five minutes to inquire into the probable success of the affair, was indicted in 1655 by a half-witted young woman, because he had given judgment respecting stolen goods, receiving two shillings and sixpence, contrary to an Act made under and provided by the wise and virtuous King James, First of England and Sixth of Scotland.

State astrology relates to the destinies of kingdoms, thrones, empires, and may be regarded as a branch of horary science relating to subjects (and rulers) of more than ordinary importance.

In former ages all persons likely to occupy an important position in the history of the world had their horoscopes erected; but in these degenerate days neither the casting of nativities nor the art of ruling the planets flourishes as it should do. Our Zadkiels and Raphaels publish, indeed, the horoscopes of kings and emperors, princes and princesses, and so forth; but their fate is as that of Benedict (according to Beatrice)—men 'wonder they will still be talking, for nobody marks them.' Even those whose horoscopes have been erected show no proper respect for the predictions made in their behalf. Thus the Prince of Wales being born when Sagittarius was in the ascendant should have been, according to Zadkiel, a tall man, with oval face, ruddy complexion, somewhat dusky, and so forth; but I understand he has by no means followed these directions as to his appearance. The sun, being well aspected, prognosticated honours—a most remarkable and unlooked-for circumstance, strangely fulfilled by the event; but then being in Cancer, in sextile with Mars, the Prince of Wales was to be partial to maritime affairs and attain naval glory, whereas as a field-marshal he can only win military glory. (I would not be understood to say that he is not quite as competent to lead our fleets as our battalions into action.) The House of Wealth was occupied by Jupiter, aspected by Saturn, which betokened great wealth through inheritance—a prognostication, says Professor Miller, which is not unlikely to come true. The House of Marriage was unsettled by the conflicting influences of Venus, Mars, and Saturn; but the first predominating, the Prince, after some trouble in his matrimonial speculations, was to marry a Princess of high birth, and one not undeserving of his kindest and most affectionate attention, probably in 1862. As to the date, an almanack informs me that the Prince married a Danish Princess in March 1863, which looks like a most culpable neglect of the predictions of our national astrologer. Again, in May 1870, when Saturn was stationary in the ascending degree, the Prince ought to have been injured by a horse, and also to have received a blow on the left side of the head, near the ear; but reprehensibly omitted both these ceremonies. A predisposition to fever and epileptic attacks was indicated by the condition of the House of Sickness. The newspapers described, a few years since, a serious attack of fever; but as most persons have some experience of the kind, the fulfilment of the prediction can hardly be regarded as very wonderful. Epileptic attacks, which, as less common, might have saved the credit of the astrologers, have not visited 'this royal native.' The position of Saturn in Capricorn betokened loss or disaster in one or other of the places ruled over by Capricorn—which, as we have seen, are India, Macedonia, Thrace, Greece, Mexico, Saxony, Wilna, Mecklenburgh, Brandenburgh, and Oxford. Professor Miller expresses the hope that Oxford was the place indicated, and the disaster nothing more serious than some slight scrape with the authorities of Christchurch. But princes never get into scrapes with college dons. Probably some one or other of the 'hair-breadth 'scapes' chronicled by the reporters of his travels in India was the event indicated by the ominous position of Saturn in Capricorn.

A remarkable list of characteristics were derived by Zadkiel from the positions of the various planets and signs in the twelve houses of the 'royal native.' Some, of course, were indicated in more ways than one, which will explain the parenthetical notes in the following alphabetical table which Professor Miller has been at the pains to draw up from Zadkiel's predictions. The prince was to be 'acute, affectionate, amiable, amorous, austere, avaricious, beneficent, benevolent, brave, brilliant, calculated for government' (a quality which may be understood two ways), 'candid, careful of his person, careless, compassionate, courteous (twice over), delighting in eloquence, discreet, envious, fond of glory, fond of learning, fond of music, fond of poetry, fond of sports, fond of the arts and sciences, frank, full of expedients, generous (three times), gracious, honourable, hostile to crime, impervious, ingenious, inoffensive, joyous, just (twice), laborious, liberal, lofty, magnanimous, modest, noble, not easy to be understood (!), parsimonious, pious (twice), profound in opinion, prone to regret his acts, prudent, rash, religious, reverent, self-confident, sincere, singular in mode of thinking, strong, temperate, unreserved, unsteady, valuable in friendship, variable, versatile, violent, volatile, wily, and worthy.' Zadkiel concludes thus:—'The square of Saturn to the moon will add to the gloomy side of the picture, and give a tinge of melancholy at times to the native's character, and also a disposition to look at the dark side of things, and lead him to despondency; nor will he be at all of a sanguine character, but cool and calculating, though occasionally rash. Yet, all things considered, though firm and sometimes positive in opinion, this royal native, if he live to mount the throne, will sway the sceptre of these realms in moderation and justice, and be a pious and benevolent man, and a merciful sovereign.' Fortunately, the time has long since passed when swaying the sceptre of these realms had any but a figurative meaning, or when Englishmen who obeyed their country's laws depended on the mercy of any man, or when even bad citizens were judged by princes. But we still prefer that princes should be well-mannered gentlemen, and therefore it is sincerely to be hoped that Zadkiel's prediction, so far as it relates to piety and benevolence, may be fulfilled, should this 'royal native' live to mount the throne. As for mercy, it is a goodly quality even in these days and in this country; for if the law no longer tolerates cruelty to men, even on the part of princes, who once had prescribed rights in that direction, there are still some cruel, nay brutal sports in which 'royal natives' might sometimes be tempted to take part. Wherefore let us hope that, even in regard to mercy, the predictions of astrologers respecting this 'royal native' may be fulfilled.

Passing however, from trivialities, let us consider the lessons which the history of astrology teaches us respecting the human mind, its powers and weaknesses. It has been well remarked by Whewell that for many ages 'mysticism in its various forms was a leading character both of the common mind and the speculations of the most intelligent and profound reasoners.' Thus mysticism was the opposite of that habit of thought which science requires, 'namely, clear ideas, distinctly employed to connect well-ascertained facts; inasmuch as the ideas in which it dealt were vague and unstable, and the temper in which they were contemplated was an urgent and aspiring enthusiasm, which could not submit to a calm conference with experience upon even terms.' We have seen what has been the history of one particular form of the mysticism of ancient and mediaeval ages. If we had followed the history of alchemy, magic, and other forms of mysticism, we should have seen similar results. True science has gradually dispossessed science falsely so called, until now none but the weaker minds hold by the tenets formerly almost universally adopted. In mere numbers, believers in the ancient superstitions may be by no means insignificant; but they no longer have any influence. It has become a matter of shame to pay any attention to what those few say or do who not merely hold but proclaim the ancient faith in these matters. We can also see why this has been. In old times enthusiasm usurped the place of reason in these cases; but opinions so formed and so retained could not maintain their ground in the presence of reasoning and experience. So soon as intelligent and thoughtful men perceived that facts were against the supposed mysterious influences of the stars, the asserted powers of magicians, the pretended knowledge of alchemists, the false teachings of magic, alchemy, and astrology, were rejected. The lesson thus learned respecting erroneous doctrines which were once widely prevalent has its application in our time, when, though the influence of those teachings has passed away, other doctrines formerly associated with them still hold their ground. Men in old times, influenced by erroneous teachings, wasted their time and energies in idle questionings of the stars, vain efforts to find Arcana of mysterious power, and to acquire magical authority over the elements. Is it altogether clear that in these our times men are not hampered, prevented to some degree from doing all the good they might do in the short life-time allotted to them, by doctrines of another kind? Is there in our day no undue sacrifice of present good in idle questionings? is there no tendency to trust in a vain fetishism to prevent or remove evils which energy could avert or remedy? The time will come, in my belief, when the waste of those energies which in these days are devoted (not merely with the sanction, but the high approval, of some of the best among us) to idle aims, will be deplored as regretfully—but, alas, as idly—as the wasted speculations and labours of those whom Whewell has justly called the most intelligent and profound reasoners of the 'stationary age' of science. The words with which Whewell closes his chapter on the 'Mysticism of the Middle Ages' have their application to the mysticism of the nineteenth century:—'Experience collects her stores in vain, or ceases to collect them, when she can only pour them into the flimsy folds of the lap of Mysticism, who is, in truth, so much absorbed in looking for the treasures which are to fall from the skies, that she heeds little how scantily she obtains, or how loosely she holds, such riches as she might find beside her.'



During the last few years a new sect has appeared which, though as yet small in numbers, is full of zeal and fervour. The faith professed by this sect may be called the religion of the Great Pyramid, the chief article of their creed being the doctrine that that remarkable edifice was built for the purpose of revealing—in the fulness of time, now nearly accomplished—certain noteworthy truths to the human race. The founder of the pyramid religion is described by one of the present leaders of the sect as 'the late worthy John Taylor, of Gower Street, London;' but hitherto the chief prophets of the new faith have been in this country Professor Smyth, Astronomer Royal for Scotland, and in France the Abbe Moigno. I propose to examine here some of the facts most confidently urged by pyramidalists in support of their views.

But it will be well first to indicate briefly the doctrines of the new faith. They may be thus presented:

The great pyramid was erected, it would seem, under the instructions of a certain Semitic king, probably no other than Melchizedek. By supernatural means, the architects were instructed to place the pyramid in latitude 30 deg. north; to select for its figure that of a square pyramid, carefully oriented; to employ for their unit of length the sacred cubit corresponding to the 20,000,000th part of the earth's polar axis; and to make the side of the square base equal to just so many of these sacred cubits as there are days and parts of a day in a year. They were further, by supernatural help, enabled to square the circle, and symbolised their victory over this problem by making the pyramid's height bear to the perimeter of the base the ratio which the radius of a circle bears to the circumference. Moreover, the great precessional period, in which the earth's axis gyrates like that of some mighty top around the perpendicular to the ecliptic, was communicated to the builders with a degree of accuracy far exceeding that of the best modern determinations, and they were instructed to symbolise that relation in the dimensions of the pyramid's base. A value of the sun's distance more accurate by far than modern astronomers have obtained (even since the recent transit) was imparted to them, and they embodied that dimension in the height of the pyramid. Other results which modern science has achieved, but which by merely human means the architects of the pyramid could not have obtained, were also supernaturally communicated to them; so that the true mean density of the earth, her true shape, the configuration of land and water, the mean temperature of the earth's surface, and so forth, were either symbolised in the great pyramid's position, or in the shape and dimensions of its exterior and interior. In the pyramid also were preserved the true, because supernaturally communicated, standards of length, area, capacity, weight, density, heat, time, and money. The pyramid also indicated, by certain features of its interior structure, that when it was built the holy influences of the Pleiades were exerted from a most effective position—the meridian, through the points where the ecliptic and equator intersect. And as the pyramid thus significantly refers to the past, so also it indicates the future history of the earth, especially in showing when and where the millennium is to begin. Lastly, the apex or crowning stone of the pyramid was no other than the antitype of that stone of stumbling and rock of offence, rejected by builders who knew not its true use, until it was finally placed as the chief stone of the corner. Whence naturally, 'whosoever shall fall upon it'—that is, upon the pyramid religion—'shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall it will grind him to powder.'

If we examine the relations actually presented by the great pyramid—its geographical position, dimensions, shape, and internal structure—without hampering ourselves with the tenets of the new faith on the one hand, or on the other with any serious anxiety to disprove them, we shall find much to suggest that the builders of the pyramid were ingenious mathematicians, who had made some progress in astronomy, though not so much as they had made in the mastery of mechanical and scientific difficulties.

The first point to be noticed is the geographical position of the great pyramid, so far, at least, as this position affects the aspect of the heavens, viewed from the pyramid as from an observatory. Little importance, I conceive, can be attached to purely geographical relations in considering the pyramid's position. Professor Smyth notes that the pyramid is peculiarly placed with respect to the mouth of the Nile, standing 'at the southern apex of the Delta-land of Egypt.' This region being shaped like a fan, the pyramid, set at the part corresponding to the handle, was, he considers, 'that monument pure and undefiled in its religion through an idolatrous land, alluded to by Isaiah; the monument which was both "an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar at the border thereof," and destined withal to become a witness in the latter days, and before the consummation of all things, to the same Lord, and to what He hath purposed upon man kind.' Still more fanciful are some other notes upon the pyramid's geographical position: as (i.) that there is more land along the meridian of the pyramid than on any other all the world round; (ii.) that there is more land in the latitude of the pyramid than in any other; and (iii.) that the pyramid territory of Lower Egypt is at the centre of the dry land habitable by man all the world over.

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