Cancer Ingress of the Sun – Summer Solstice

The Solstices and the two Equinox are of great significance.  For Mundane astrologers, they are consulted along with the ingress of the planets, eclipses and a variety of other elements, depending on exactly what is being sought.

The rule has it that Fixed Signs signify a longer period of the effect than Cardinal, and Mutable is even shorter.  A Solstice or Equinox chart is valid for the season it heralds. Most obviously, each season is greeted by a different element. All are in Cardinal Signs. Cardinal initiates.  Aries is Cardinal Fire and heralds the Spring, Libra heralds Autumn & Capricorn, winter. Along with these markers of the seasons, there are some interesting elements that are seldom considered. For example. Capricorn is the Detriment of the Moon and Libra is the Fall of the Sun. Cancer is the domicile of the Moon, as Leo is the domicile of the Sun. The luminaries are considered to be Peregrine, so in all the aforementioned cases of the four divisions, there is always intrigue.

But first and foremost, these times are particularly powerful and should be greeted in the spirit of reverence and celebration, of conscious reception. This moment is a point in a much larger cycle. The Summer Solstice heralds not only Summer itself but the two Royal Signs – indicative of the Queen & King. The Sun and Moon rule only one sign each.   These archetypes are particularly powerful and the Summer Solstice sparks celebrations all over the world. It’s also the great pivotal point between the waxing and waning light. Just as Winter Solstice is the longest night,  Summer Solstice is the longest day. In a Celtic tradition, a flaming arrow was shot towards the Sun as it rose, adding fire to fire.

The Celts had eight major festivals and four of them coincided with the tow Equinoctial and Solstitial periods. The Summer Solstice is called Litha. It was a time of clearing, a time to banish evil spirits to make way for a celebration of the light at its zenith and assure an abundant harvest. Feasting, music, and dancing took place. Bonfires were lit in celebration.

This is where the grand picture of astrology comes into play. We are reminded that events of this magnitude affect us all in some way and recognition of this is important. This isn’t primarily a personal chart, but it is certainly a collective one. The image blow shows the stars in the constellation of Cancer the Crab: Manilus writes:

“Shining at the hinge of the year by the blazing turning-point which when recalled the Sun rounds in his course on high, the Crab occupies a joint of heaven and bends back the length of day. Of a grasping spirit and unwilling to give itself in service the Crab distributes many kinds of gain, and skill in making profits; he enables a man to carry his investment of foreign merchandise from city to city and, with an eye on steep rises in the price of corn, to risk his money upon sea-winds; to sell the world’s produce to the world, to establish commercial ties between so many unknown lands, to search out under foreign skies fresh sources of gain, and from the high price of his goods to amass sudden wealth. With heaven’s favor he also sells seasons of idleness at rates of interest to his liking, wishing the swift passage of time to add to the principal. His is a shrewd nature, and he is ready to fight for his profits.” [Astronomica, Manilius, 1st century AD, book 4, p.235.]

Most of the stars in Cancer are relatively obscure and rarely mentioned. However, the left claw holds the Arabic-named Acumen’s, which translates to ‘the Claw.’ Arabian astrologers also give this name to one of the Lunar Mansions. This should not be confused with two stars in Libra, named Zubenelgenubi, Zubeneshamali, the”Northern Claw” and Southern Claw respectively.

The initial portion of Cancer relates to the eighth Lunar Mansion (0 Cancer to 12 Cancer 51) named Aluayra or Al Nathra. In Indian tradition, this Mansion is good for cutting new clothes, for women’s jewelry and putting it on. Rain will bring benefits, not damage, but this is not a good time to travel, except for the third part of the night. Arabian astrologers added that it causes love, friendship, and society of fellow travelers.

With all these things in mind, the chart for the exact moment of the Ingress of the Sun in Cancer takes on greater meaning.

Recueil d’astronomie et de mathématiques. This is a magnificent crab, even if it looks like someone who never met one. The primary interest of this painting is the positions of the stars that make up the constellation.

There are a few salient elements I would like to point out in this chart. Such charts often either lean on the gloomy side or are manically, even blindly, optimistic.

Mars and the Moon are never a good mix. The Moon is Martial Scorpio is in her Fall and Mars is in his Fall in Cancer.  Like Saturn,  Mars is worst when the most afflicted. In the 7th House, he is an open enemy. He’s in the decanate of Mercury which makes him that much more explosive; nevertheless, something needs to trigger the outburst. This position on a chart for the Pacific coast is prime for a maritime disaster, but nothing on a grand scale, such as a major earthquake.

Mars in his Fall From: Metaliʿü’l-saadet ve yenabiʿü-l-siyadet Seyyid Mohammed i

The second focus is the 5th House. The Moon is Exalted in Taurus, with Venus in her Domicile and the Parts of Courage and Necessity. Moreover, Mercury is strong and resilient in Gemini with the Part of Venus (Eros). This is a veritable garden of Venusian creativity, involving Mercury, and the Sun. This ought to be an encouragement to creativity versus negativity, despair or simple lethargy.

Jupiter is in the Exaltation of Saturn, but he’s still Jupiter and in the 10th House. The 11th House of Greater Fortune has the Part of Spirit and Victory, but also Nemesis.

Human life on this plane is always an admixture of fortunes. The Summer Solstice is a time to celebrate the light in whatever way speaks to you.

Isra and Mi’raj in the Zubdat-al Tawarikh

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Celestial map, signs of the Zodiac and lunar mansions in the Zubdat-al Tawarikh, dedicated to the Ottoman Sultan Murad III in 1583

First and foremost, I’m fascinated that a book on the natural world is prefaced with a painting of how that world is both sustained and came into being. The Celestial Map or Macrocosm above is the opening miniature in the Turkish Zubdat al Tawarikh or History of the World commissioned by the Ottoman Sultan Murad III. These very fine paintings were on vellum and the work was completed C. 1583.

The visual arts and astrology have long been inseparable.  The earliest star-lore was depicted visually in Sumer and far back into the Paleolithic period. The movements of the Heavens has always been of great importance and one picture really can be worth a thousand words when it comes to explaining Cosmologies.

Today, what we call history is not prefaced with a primary reference to the mystical creation. This makes these works most intriguing because they offer us a window into a mostly forgotten, but essential cosmologies. That is because we live in what we think is a linear, largely material reality. Other cultures, including the Turks, believed that time unfolded in spirals.

Miniature painting of a parade of two riding Gazi - Veterans from Rumelia - in front of Sultan Murat III from the Surname i hümayun 16th century CE

Miniature painting of a parade of two riding Gazi – Veterans from Rumelia – in front of Sultan Murat III from the Surname Ihümayun 16th century CE

Most importantly, we no longer live with the concept of divine origin. Traditional Astrology is very much aware of this reality The image contains an enormous amount of information. Most fundamentally, we have circles within circles At the centre is the source. Next the seven planets and luminaries are shown in their orbits following the Chaldean order. Beyond the orbit of Saturn have the realm of the Fixed Stars and it appears that the artist has chosen to place the zodiac beyond the black circle.

The seven planets and luminaries are shown in their orbits following the Chaldean order in a spiral. Beyond the orbit of Saturn we have the realm of the Fixed Stars and it appears that the artist has chosen to place the zodiac beyond the black circle.

What makes this a particularly fine work, is that it includes the Decans in relation to Lunar Phases as well as the twenty-eight Lunar Mansions, with Angels guarding the Four Directions.

Although the style is very much Turkish and Islamic in style, it is entirely recognizable as what has become known as the Ptolemaic Universe, The relationship between this cosmology and the Night Journey of Muhammad will become clear.

Muhammad-208Muhammad travels the seven heavens on Buraq

Muhammad travels the seven heavens on Buraq

Muhamad’s Night Journey is in Sura Al Nisra of the Quran and further embellished in the Hadiths It’s controversial these days. Many modern Muslims consider this to be a literal event that occurred at a particularly time and place.  – The Prophet rides on Buraq as is taken to Jerusalem where he ascends to meet the various Prophets from what is now known as the  Dome of the Rock.

The mystical version has is that the Prophet rose through levels of consciousness. In either case, there is an ascent of Seven spheres, an essential theme that has repeated over and over again. In Ayat 11 we have the following exhortation “And We have made the night and day two signs, and We erased the sign of the night and made the sign of the day visible that you may seek bounty from your Lord and may know the number of years and the account [of time]. And everything We have set out in detail.”

Portrait of Humayun, posthumously painted c. 1700

Portrait of Humayun, posthumously painted c. 1700 He was an avid astrologer.

This and other passages in the Quran support astrology as a guide to the wise. The usual context is in ‘to show the way’ which clearly refers to the use of stars in navigation but also implies other uses, such as choosing the correct time for an event,, medical diagnosis military matters and affairs of State.  If this were not the case, Islam would have had no cause to compose the type of artwork that we see here, or produce some of the finest astrologers in the Middle Ages and beyond.

The exhortations against astrology are most specifically related to attempting to know such things as the time of the last day and the resurrection. This is the prerogative of the Creator. Common fortune telling won’t find any more support in the Quran as it does in the Bible. Indeed, many sects of Christianity regard astrology as forbidden. In much of my work, I have tried to show the massive difference in intent, method, and applications of divination compared to the disreputable and unwise world of fortune telling.

Imagine for a moment that you visit your physician and she tells you that you have a serious illness and may not have long to live. That physician has just made a prognostication based on medical knowledge. This could be construed as prediction and in fact, it is. When a skilled astrologer reads a chart it for many of the same reason a medical professional might be consulted. Questions about physical, spiritual and mental health can and are addressed by competent astrologers.  Likewise, you might be concerned about making a choice between two or more things. The astrologer won’t make the choice for you, but they can offer very valuable information

Likewise, you might be concerned about making a choice between two or more things. The astrologer won’t make the choice for you, but they can offer very valuable information  There is time to seed and a time to reap. One of the greatest uses of astrology are, as far as I’m concerned, is in the medical field. Knowing your humour, the strengths and weakness you have are all sound applications of the Celestial Science. If you read scripture carefully, you will not find thes4e applications of astrology to be forbidden.

Makhzan al-Asrār by Niẓāmīمخزن الاسرار Folio 3v The Prophet on Burāq

Makhzan al-Asrār by Niẓāmīمخزن الاسرار Folio 3v The Prophet on Burāq

Above, we what is essentially the sane theme found in the previous paintings, but with a slight twist. This Persian Sufi painting describes the Night Journey of the Prophet. This work is far more complex than first meets the eye. The painting has deteriorated, but we can still see the planets, represented anthropomorphically. The Sun and Moon are represented as disks. occupying the first and fourth sphere, as per the Chaldea order. We can also see the constellations, but they are projected in such as a way that we have the illusion of looking through the spheres. Remember that this is illustrating Muhammad’s mystical Night Journey.

Returning to the Quranic position on astrology, let’s examine a few more quotations. There is a Sura in the Quran known as Buruj, an Arabic word meaning ‘Constellation’ or ‘Zodiac sign’. Surah Buruj is the 85th Surah in the Quran. The starting of the Surah is : “I swear by the sky where there are buruj…” (i.e Allah swears by th sky where are  zodiac signs.)

“I have created buruj  [Zodiac signs] in the sky and decorated them for viewers and I have also protected them from evils…” (Surah Hizr 16)

Prophet Muhammad-Miraj Isra

Prophet Muhammad-Miraj Isra

“How great he is, who has created buruj in the sky and placed the Sun and shining Moon over there…” (Surah Furkan 61 )

In Arabic Astrology, we find that the sign Leo is named ‘Asad Buruj’. ‘Asad’ means a lion thus the Arabic name of Leo, which is represented by a lion, is ‘Asad Buruj’. Similarly, Libra is named, ‘Meejan Buruj’. The Arabic word ‘Meejan’ means a balance.

The emphasis on the creation of constellations, given the context we have, does nothing to indicate that a study of the same is somehow haram.

Finally, we can take a brief survey of some of Islam’s most esteemed astrologer. Most are surprised to find that the poet Omar Khyyam was an accomplished astrologer(1019-1135)  He was a an astrologer of Khorasan.  He was so accurate in his predictions that he even understood about his own death. This isn’t exactly the same as knowing the time of his death, but points to a deep understanding of the art.  Many will be familiar with Sahl Ibn Bishr, Al Kindi, Ibn Arabi, Al Biruni and others.

However, I think the crown should go to Ibn Sina (980-1037) He was brilliant Muslim scientist who developed Alchemy. He was also very much devoted to astronomy and astrology, but other than his prolific philosophical works his contributions to medicine are immeasurable. His massive pharmacopeia is still in use among medical astrologers and natural healers.

This may seem trivial to some, but we have a great deal at stake worldwide. Literal Fundamentalism is not compatible with peace and has the effect of numbing the mind. The golden age of Islam did not flourish because of  a stricter adherence to Shariah, as is commonly thought by contemporary Muslims, but because it was a period of openness, serious study of Classical antiquity and a willingness to work with people of divergent faiths and ethnicities.

Legends of the Fall & the Ascent of the Soul

Lucas Cranach -  Der Garten Eden

Lucas Cranach – Der Garten Eden

There was a comment left by one of my readers remarking on the fact that phenomena such as eclipses and comets are invariably seen as negative events or even evil ones. There is a reason for this, and for good or bad, it is something with which every traditional astrologer needs to make their peace. The topic could easily fill many volumes (and does) but it can also be told quite simply for our immediate purposes. This article is likely to pose as many questions as it answers, but I have tried to show various avenues of inquiry for further research.

Since Eve ate apples, the stars have been far less friendly.  John Milton’s epic poem, Paradise Lost provides us with more than one passage about how the stars were turned, but the followed encapsulates it all very well. The post lapsarian cosmology comes into being immediately after the apple incident:

While the Creator, calling forth by name
His mighty Angels, gave them several charge,
As sorted best with present things. The Sun
Had first his precept so to move, so shine,
As might affect the Earth with cold and heat
Scarce tolerable, and from the north to call
Decrepit winter, from the south to bring
Solstitial summer’s heat. To the blanc Moon
Her office they prescribed; to the other five
Their planetary motions and aspects,
In sextile, square, and trine, and opposite,
Of noxious efficacy, and when to join
In synod unbenign; and taught the fixed
Their influence malignant when to shower—
Which of them, rising with the Sun or falling,
Should prove tempestuous. To the winds they set
Their corners, when with bluster to confound
Sea, air, and shore; the thunder when to roll
With terror through the dark aerial hall.

(From Paradise Lost  Book 10.).

Uriel with Sword of Fire by Walter Huacac Santa Cruz

Uriel with Sword of Fire by Walter Huacac Santa Cruz

The Fall changed all of creation, not just humanity After Adam and Eve were forced out of Paradise, an angel with a flaming sword guards the east and the Tree of Life with a flaming sword. This of course mirrors the new celestial restrictions. Adam and Eve. cannot return to the Garden – they must move forward into the world. The stars can still guide them in more ways than one, but they are now, as it were, the flaming swords protecting access to the Empireum.

After the Fall, humanity is in the Sub lunary Sphere and the seven spheres are bounded by the greater malefic. It is no coincidence that Saturn is associated with obstacles and limitations. Beyond Saturn are the Fixed Stars. He will not allow an easy passage. Existence in the the Sub – lunary sphere is subject to corruption, generation and delusions of all kinds The sphere is comprised of the four classical elements.

Buddhists would refer to this state of consciousness as Avidyā, symbolized by a person who is blind or wearing a blindfold.  It is ignore – ance in its true senseIn this state, we are  unaware of our true nature. Plato’s Allegory of the Cave where the cave dwellers believe the shadow play before them to be the real thing and in fact all there is. The one who unchains himself to turn toward the light of the Sun, outside of the cave. Essentially, you will remain in a state of illusion until you cast off the mind forged manacles.

There are many traditions that seek to win the Celestial Garden, such as Cabala, Hermeticism, Neo-Platonism and of course the Christian and Jewish faiths themselves, At the risk of over simplifying, these paths all strive for enlightenment and the Buddha tells us that the Enlightened don’t need astrology because they are no longer subject to cause and effect. All major religions and a good many philosophies subscribe to the belief, either stated or employed. Plato’s Doctrine of the Forms is very illuminating and will perhaps make a good starting point in understanding the traditional cosmology.

Ptolemaic cosmology diagram, showing stars as 8th sphere, and transcendent prime mover as 9th

Ptolemaic cosmology diagram, showing stars as 8th sphere, and transcendent prime mover as 9th

Islam rejects the notion of a Fall in the sense of original sin, but a Celestial Garden is the reward of the pious amd Adam and Eve lived in the Garden if Eden; the departure from the other Abrahamic religions in that Islam inteprets Adam as a prophet.

Stars play more than one role in Islam. Allah is referred to  as “He Who is the Lord of Sirius, “(Qur’an, 53: 49) while the Kaaba is oriented with Canopus and has a meteorite that is the stuff of pilgrimage. Modern Muslims tend to think that the reading of stars is shirk (attributing a partner to God,) by considering that the planets and luminaries compel us to act.  Essentially the same complaint was made by many Christians and for the same reason.

The history of Islam and its impact on traditional Western astrology is immense and the art is supported by the Qu’ran according to Muslims with whom I have spoken. There are two surahs that come to mind, but there are many more: “It is He Who maketh the stars (as beacons) for you, that ye may guide yourselves, with their help, through the dark spaces of land and sea: We detail Our signs for people who know. (Surah Al-An‘am, 97) ” This can be read to mean guidance of many types, including astrological.

Four_Angels guardian

Four Guardian Angels -Islamic

The second is this one : “He has made subject to you the Night and the Day; the sun and the moon; and the stars are in subjection by His Command: verily in this are Signs for men who are wise. (Surah An-Nahl, 12)” It is important to note that not only did Islamic scholars serve as conduits of Greek thought, including Hellenistic, but Middle Eastern traditions as well, such as Pre-Islamic Arabian and Persian, Almost all the star names we use are either Arabic or Persian. It is almost certain that Islamic astrologers were also exposed to Indian astrology. Our astrological roots are very deep, various and rich.

Furthermore, in all of these traditions there is a strong sense of having lost, or not yet attained, Paradise. Spiritual progress requires work ever since the Fall however one sees that and  to whatever metaphorical degree of understanding. The core trope is ubiquitous.

Finally the Yusuf Ali translation of 67:5 in the Qu’ran. we read: “And we have, (from of old), adorned the lowest heaven with Lamps, and We have made such (Lamps) (as) missiles to drive away the Evil Ones, and have prepared for them the Penalty of the Blazing Fire.” The evil ones are usually referred to as Jinn or “shaytans” in the plural. The former can be good or evil and are spirits of smokeless fire.  They are invisible unless they chose to be and live thousands of years. The “missiles” are commonly regarded as meteorites or comets, but also associated with the stars themselves who serve as guides and guardians.

Whether we look to Platonic myth of the Creation and Fall, the Mythos of the ‘people of the Book,’ and all major religions and most minor ones as well, there is the same theme: Creation in an ideal state which (ironically) cannot be sustained, a ‘fall from grace’ which includes all of creation and the promise of something far better than Eden. But it is conditional. Even the stars protect the inner sanctum, as it were, as well as the corresponding celestial realms – the microcosm and the macrocosm.

Islamic Eden

Islamic Eden

We could well argue that the mythos described is not literally true at all – perhaps even childish – but it has endured cross culturally for thousands of years. This may say something about the human mind or the nature of reality. Perhaps they are the same thing.  After all, cosmologies are a way to make things make sense and they remain more or less intact even before  our experiences reinforce them,

Of all the Fixed Stars used in astrology, only a handful promise good fortune. Among these are Spica, Canopus and others, but discernment is required to fully realize the benefits. It also makes a great deal of difference whether the star is ascending, culminating, setting and other considerations.

The Royal Stars of Persia, the guardians of the directions,  are all powerful, but their great benefits can only be realized by meeting certain conditions. If these are not met, they can become harbingers of very bad tidings indeed. If one is going to enjoy the blessings of Regulus, for example, one must avoid revenge or any of the lower impulses. One’s character must be equal to the task of nobility.

The Royal Stars each have an angel assigned to them as protectors of the directions . Regulus is associated with the healing Archangel Raphael, the watcher of the North. Fomalhaut, is identified with the Archangel Gabriel, the watcher of the South. Aldebaran is assigned the Archangel Michael, the watcher of the East.; to Antares, the Archangel Oriel, the watcher of the West.

This merely an expansion or extrapolation of the archetypal myth of creation, its fall and the goal of realization after traversing the spheres. Just like the conditional nature of the Royal Stars, the ascent causes the malefic to lose their power thus elevation us to a much higher version of the Garden.

The simple point, easily missed, is that we cannot ignore the cosmology that lead to the astrology we practise. It is not crucial to understand it literally at all, but neither can we neglect such a powerful archetypal system.

The stars can be guides to us, but we must not lose sight of the ultimate goal. The Neo Pythagorean schema below provides a heightened knowledge of the spheres insofar as it offers ways in which we can actively participate in the harmonies of the spheres.

pythagsource.17THE MUSIC OF THE SPHERES. Shown in this engraving from Renaissance Italy are Apollo, the Muses, the planetary spheres and musical ratios.

The Music of the Spheres. Shown in this engraving from Renaissance Italy are Apollo, the Muses, the planetary spheres and musical ratios.

Magic and the Occult in Islam: Ahmad al-Buni

What follows is a very fine lecture by Saiyad Nizamuddin Ahmad (Department of Arabic and Islamic Civilizations, American University in Cairo) delivered at the Warburg Institute, University of London, May 2003.

This is an important lecture in it’s own right, but I’m also posting this as an introduction to my next post, regarding the decoding of a manuscript using astrological elements such as Lunar Mansions, Constellations and significant stars; while making reference to the Picatrix. I’m delighted to see so much research and scholarship brought to bear on the astrological tradition and it’s association with Alchemy, Geomancy. & Theurgy.

Sacred Science & Materialistic Literalism

Pythagoras - Detail from Raphael's "School of Athens"

Pythagoras – Detail from Raphael’s “School of Athens”

Considering the extreme distaste modern scientists have for dogma, they can be surprisingly dogmatic. Of course the greatest minds realize there is not a single means of perception and the same phenomena can be seen and understood in different ways without being wrong. For example, The Vedas show a remarkable wisdom and understanding which may fairly be called sacred science. Yet the hubris of modern scientists often finds the term sacred science to be oxymoronic.

There is a persistent and pernicious belief that real intelligence began with the Enlightenment . Whether of not this is wilful ignorance, it is blind to the extraordinary wisdom and what I would call sacred science which is older by thousands of years. Much of it is only now being understood by modern people.

However, much of the common parlance of scientists suggests a teleological sensibility, For example, I recently watched a wonderful documentary on marine life at 15,000 feet below the surface of the Pacific Ocean off the coast of the Philippines. .

Essentially all life forms at that depth have a luminescence comparable to the terrestrial firefly. Then the marine biologist in charge stated that a jelly fish like creature had a red stomach so that other life forms couldn’t see luminescence in the stomach.

That statement is in fact teleological. It is telling us that this trait exists for a reason and is therefore not the result of random mutation. The Oxford English Dictionary defines teleological as an “explanation of phenomena by the purpose they serve rather than by postulated causes.” The sense that there is meaning and purpose in the universe beyond what is virtually blind chance has been ridiculed by the term “Intelligent Design.”untitled

While the vast majority of astrologers would want to distance themselves from biblical literalism with a fear of science, the term itself is well conceived. Every time a scientist finds herself explaining creation by the purpose they serve, she betrays a split in consciousness.

There has been a hoax circulating for many years suggesting that Einstein was supportive, even admiring, of astrology. It’s a moot point in any case as there is no evidence that Einstein ever studied astrology. I cannot think why he would. However, for those of us who dostudy astrology, his scientific and philosophical views seem familiar and harmonious.

In an interview with Alfred Stern in the Contemporary Jewish Record 8  (June 1945 pp. 245-249,  Einstein tells us that he is “not a positivist. Positivism states that what cannot be observed does not exist. This conception is scientifically indefensible, for it is impossible to make valid affirmations of what people ‘can’ or ‘cannot’ observe. One would have to say ‘only what we observe exists’, which is obviously false.” ~

This video addresses these issues in an intelligent and respectful way.*

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Modern materialist thought tends to be childishly literal, finding ancient systems of though such as astrology to be mere superstition or worse. Ironically, the greatest minds who lay the basis and furthered the cause of science were also serious astrologers. These include Galileo, Nicolas Copernicus and Sir Isaac Newton to name but a few. Wisdom and science were never so much at war as they have been since the European 18th Century

*I would like to give credit for the creator of this video, but have regrettably been unable to establish provenance beyond the VideoPress stamp. If you have this information, please contact me.