The Turning of the Wheel – Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice – Capricorn Ingress of the Sun – Dec 21 2017, 4:27:52 PM  GMT

I believe that the pivotal charts for the two Equinoxes and Solstices are not so much a time for analysis as they are of seasonal observation. They are times of celebration. I will make just a few brief observations on the chart for the time of the Solstice. Before we do that, I’d like to take some time to recognize the nature and symbolism of the Winter Solstice.

This is a particularly auspicious day for people of widely diverse cultures, ranging from the St Lucia Day celebrations in Scandinavia, Saturnalia and its modern variants, Chanukah, Christmas and many Pagan celebrations that go back to the dawn of time. Less well known perhaps is the Persian festival Yalda, or Shab-e Yalda . It’s a celebration of the Winter Solstice in Persia that began in ancient times. It marks the end of the month of Azar. Yalda is symbolic of the victory of light over dark ar the time of the longest night. It is the birthday assigned to the Sun god, Mithra.  There are family celebrations with traditional foods like nuts and pomegranates. The intent is to stay awake all night long in order to welcome the rising Sun.

In my indigenous Celtic tradition, we bring the symbolism of Father Christmas, holly, the Yule Log, Mistletoe, the Christmas Tree and almost everything else we think of at this time of year in European cultures and increasingly in Asian ones as well. Yule is a Pagan holiday that celebrates the Winter Solstice. Every detail has significance. While it is true that Santa Claus and the Christmas tree also originate in part from different, but parallel traditions, the core symbolism of the point of greatest darkness is the seed for the renewal of the light – the waning of the light gives way to the waxing of the light force.

The Celtic Wheel of the Year

The symbolism is shown in the wheel of the year, constantly turning, waxing and waning throughout the year. On this spoke of the wheel,  the Oak King, representative of the light half of the year, changes places with the Holly King, representing the dark half of the year. This ensures that the light and warmth of the Sun will begin to wax each day until the cycles begin again. The universality of celebrations with similar themes are evidence of our deep connection to the cycles of Earth and Heaven.

On this particular Winter Solstice, of particular note is that Saturn enters his own domicile of Capricorn on the day of the Solstice. This is a very good thing. Saturn is relatively miserable in Sagittarius and when Saturn is in a sign that is not congenial, it augurs for more difficulties. You might think of this as something of a homecoming, with Saturn stepping into Capricorn with the Sun.

The warm expressiveness of the Sun is contrasted with the cold, dry astringency of Saturn.  Still, I see this as more of a congenial meeting, particularly because Saturn is in Cazimi. This is a very rare occurrence for the Sun and Saturn to be in this relationship right at the moment of the Winter Solstice. Saturn ends up with the highest score when accidental dignities are considered. It’s an auspicious event to see Saturn enter into his own domicile in this way.

To better understand Cazimi, it’s important to note that traditional astrologers maintain that the proximity of Saturn to the Sun, within approximately 10 degrees, is combust. Combustion is a term of Medieval origin that indicates that a planet is, as it were,  swallowed by the beams or fire of the Sun. When a planet is combust, it won’t be visible. Because light is an essential element in traditional astrology, this further points towards the poor condition of the planet. However, the ancient astrological tradition also recognizes an important exception. This exception is named Cazimi, a transliteration of the Arabic term kaṣmīmī. This empowers the planet greatly. Saturn, as William Lilly stated  “will be ’wonderous strong.’

The Almuten or Guardian Spirit of the moment is Jupiter.  He is the Face ruler of the Sun but has none of the essential Dignity rulers of the Sun.  Jupiter then collects light from both luminaries. This makes him a more powerful participant than may be obvious at first glance.  Mars has greater dignity and is in his domicile. These two in the Fifth House under Mars can be a boisterous combination.  The more difficult elements are not so easily obvious either. For example, the Moon is in the Eighth House. This is the House of death and the place of Aquarius in the Thema Mundi and she is the ruler of the Ascendant. This augurs caution, particularly in London at this time.  This a wonderful time to celebrate at home with family and loved ones.

Feat on Yalda Night

Reading Māshā’allāh : Sassanian Ayanamsa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the Great Bundahishn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Indian Independence Part II

Mughal Empire

Mughal Empire

In my judgment, this act was one of the most ill-concieved in history. India was the loser in virtually all instances.  To understand the deeper nature of ongoing conflict there are many good books on the subject. I would personally recommend two fairly recent ones: Shadow War: The Untold Story of Jihad in Kashmir by Arif Jamal and Descent into Chaos by Ahmed Rashid.  A fine history of India since the Great Rebellion is Vishnu’s Crowded Temple by Maria Misra. The Hindus: An Alternative History by Wendy Doniger begins 50,000 years ago in the Indus Valley and brings us to the present.  I find it invaluable in understanding the Hindus and how the religion has shaped India’s history.William Dalrymple’s The Last Mughal is a modern masterpiece.

Last Mughal Emporer

Last Mughal Emporer, Bahadur Shah II. The Dynasty fell to the British in 1857.

India has been at war with Pakistan four times since its Independence, althuogh the conflict over Kashmir is constant and ongoing. She has also been at war with China over a territorial dispute initiated by China largely because India had given sanctuary to the Dalai Lama. It is important to note that although India and Pakistan are nuclear powers, only Pakistan has a first strike policy.

It is worthy of note that the Muslim conquests of India were bloody affairs But the establishment of the Mughul Dynasties brought a degree of civility. With 100 million hindus slaughtered over a three hundred year period, its small wonder that India accepted the dynasty. Yet Ghandi was able to say that Islam and Hinduism were the “two eyes of India.” I mention this in part to put the conflict with Pakistan in a larger context, but also to draw attention to what seems like an infinite tolerance on the part of Hindus when it came to religion.

India Prior to Independence & Segregation

Indian Empire Prior to Independence & Division


There is no need to look at all conflicts between India and Pakistan, but let’s take a close look at The Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. It was a military conflict between India and Pakistan. Indian, Bangladeshi and international sources consider the beginning of the war to be Operation Chengiz Khan, Pakistan’s 3 December 1971 preemptive strike on 11 Indian airbase. ( The World: India: Easy Victory, Uneasy Peace, Time (magazine), 1971-12-27.

First of all, the name of the operation was highly significant. Ghengis Khan was the great Mongol warlord that laid waste throughout Asia and the Middle East and to India. The Mughuls were descendants of the Mongols and other Turko-Mongolian tribes.  They had become Islamized before their assault on the Sub Continent and subsequently ruled India from 1526 to 1858.

“The Pakistan army conducted a widespread genocide against the Bengali population of East Pakistan, aimed in particular at the minority Hindu population,leading to approximately 10 million people fleeing East Pakistan and taking refuge in the neighbouring Indian states. The East Pakistan-India border was opened to allow refugees safe shelter in India. The governments of West Bengal, Bihar, Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura established refugee camps along the border. The resulting flood of impoverished East Pakistani refugees placed an intolerable strain on India’s already overburdened economy.” See Time Magazine December 1971firstsr

The Solar Revolution for 1971 gives us Mercury as Lord of the Year and he’s Retrograde in his Domicile and Exaltation in Virgo. He is also in Joy by house. Mars is also Retrograde – in Aquarius in the Sixth House. More crucially, Mars is with the Node and Sirius. Mars is said to be like a tiger in a cage in the Sixth House, but he is disposited by a well placed Saturn.

Jupiter has returned to Scorpio and disposits two angles, the Fourth and the Seventh. The third house is the house of brothers. With Mars dispositing Jupiter and the Fourth House as the end of the matter, it’s quite clear to me that India will prevail. Her hidden enemies are Venus (again the significator for Islam)  combust. The war lasted thirteen days and ended with the full surrender of the Pakistani army.

This occured when India was in her Mercury/Jupiter Fidar. The Lord of the Year and Almuten of the chart is Mercury. Mercury is in the Eleventh Lunar Mansion, the Mane of the Lion.

Indira Priyadarshini Ghandi was the second longest serving Prime Minister of India and the only woman to hold that office. She was the only child of Prime Minister Nerue. She Married Feroz Ghandi.. She was about as establishment as she could be in relation to the forces that brought Indepence to India. She was assasinated by her own bodyguards in 1984. Her son Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated a few years later.

Mahatma Ghandi and Indira - 1924

Mahatma Ghandi and Indira – 1924

She was known as the Iron Lady, just as Thatcher had been. Mahatma Ghandi went to Oxford Law School, Nehru went to Cambridge and Jinna studied at the University of London, succeeding Mountbatten as Viceroy. The point is that all the major players were educated in England and were part of the Raj. unsurprisingly, as the only child of Nehru, Indira was educated at Oxford. All of these people to some extent were deeply influenced by facets of British culture.

In 1937, Indira enrolled at Somerville College, Oxford, where she studied public and social administration, history and anthropology. She joined the British Labour Party and woked as an ambulance driver during the blitzkrieg  Her marriage to Mr. Ghandi – no relation to the Mahatma – was scandalous at the time. She was Hindu and her husband was Parsi. All this completes a picture of a few elite, but well meaning forgers of a post colonial India that fits well with the chart for Independence. They had a great deal in common with British Liberals and they had all grown up in the context of the Raj.

She was exceedingly authoritarian which she said was necessary because India was close to impossible to govern. She had made what looked on the surface to be small land reforms, but this was widely interpreted as a way to conceal the implementation of total authoritarian rule.


Her assassination was particularly ugly. Two of her own entourage, including her Sikh bodyguard shot thirty bullets into her  in New Delhi on without warning on October 31 1984. I’ve drawn up a chart for this day. It’s a Directed Ascendant Arc derived from the Independence chart.

We can see that Mars has slipped into Leo and holds the same position as the Independence Chart. The conflict is religiously based. Her bodyguard and accomplice were Sikhs. All Sikhs use this name and it means Lion ! Mars is parallel Aldebaran and in the Face of Saturn. — quite lethal and unexpected. The Lord of the Seventh is Venus once again The Tenth house Stellium is still there, but in Virgo. Once again Scorpio is a major player.

The full story of Operation Blue Star is long and convoluted, but in it’s simplest form it was a major conflict between Sikhs and the Indian Army. Mrs. Ghandi ordered the Army to arrest radical Sikhs. In the process, she was responsible for defiling the temple.

During this time the chart for Indian Independant is in the Moon / Sun Firdar.

I don’t believe any chart can ever define such an ancient and diverse people.  Hinduism thinks in terms of billion year cycles. Moreover,  the British had ruled India for less than century, the Mughals for considerably more. One of the Indian criticism of Gnadi is that he tried to portray a single Indian identity — the one that doesn’t have any colour ! We think of India as one country because her invaders tried to define her as such. But India is a vast mosaic of tribes, castes and ethnic groups. Hinduism has arguably given India it’s principle identity, but traditionally there are said to be 330 million gods associated with the religion !

Bright Sky : Thunderbolts & Tin

Jupiter and Semele - by Moreau

Jupiter and Semele – by Moreau

This is to discuss some of the etymological and ubiquitous symbolic qualities of the Sky God known by several names, but most famously as Zeus or Jupiter. He is perhaps best known as the Master of the Heavens.

He was identified by the Romans as Jupiter or Jove. Jupiter is known as the earth-shaker. At will, he could  summon rain, snow, hail, and all other meteorological phenomena.  He married his sister Hera.  Zeus was known for his countless love affairs. Neither chastity nor restraint are jovial attributes.

The son of Jupiter was Bacchus , synonymous with the Greek Dionysus. He shares some of his father’s traits, but in exaggerated form. He is typically depicted as the god of harvest, grapes, fertility and theater: other traits such as drunkenness, altered states including ecstasy makes him the opposite of Apollo.The “Apollonian and the Dionysian”  have been identified as archetypes in their own right.

Apollo, Dionysus & Hermes-Feasting. C. 450 BC

Apollo, Dionysus & Hermes-Feasting. C. 450 BC

Dionysus was very much his father’s son and was the subject of Mystery Cults, particularly in Greece.

Jupiter’s most feared and revered weapon was the lightning bolt, forged for him by the Cyclopes. Most cultures have a deity sharing enough similarities to associate it with Zeus.


Zeus’ name translates to “Bright Sky.” The letter zeta, is the Greek letter z for Zeus. Zeus is Jupiter’s namesake in Greek mythology. The same symbol represents tin, since it is one of the planetary metals in alchemy.   His Roman names are Jupiter and Jove. He is usually shown with his characteristic scepter and attendant eagles

I view the planets and luminaries as powerful archetypes, recognized cross culturally and for millenia. I prefer to think of these archetypes as Plato’s Forms.

This isn’t a modern idea as some misguided Traditional astrologers would say. It’s primordial.  

Indra, the Hindu king of the gods, is always shown with a vajra (thunderbolt) held aloft in his right hand. He too is an Earth shaker and bringer of all kinds of meteorological phenomena.

Images of Jupiter and Zeus were employed to portray Christ, particularly in the Eastern Orthodox Church, but there are plenty of examples to be found throughout Christendom. Justin Martyr is said to have converted a man to Christianity by assuring him that the Christian God was just like Zeus ! Read Plato’s On the Soul’s Recollecting True Being and Beauty from The Phaedrus for a the Platonic and Neo-Platonic conception of Zeus.

Also read William Lilly’s Of the Planet Jupiter & his Signification. for the the Medieval Astrological Jupiter.

Indra Holding Thunderbolt Vajra

Indra Holding Thunderbolt Vajra – Keshava Temple, Somnathpur

In astrology, Jupiter is a rich matrix of symbolism greater than the sum of its parts. He is power, excess, benevolence, jurisprudence. philosophy, joviality, exaggeration, generosity, and largesse. The thought of “the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom” comes to mind ( William Blake – The Marriage of Heaven & Hell)

It is  becoming increasingly apparent that Europeans , Central and South Asians migrated from a common region in and around what used to be called Aryana.  The term Indo European can be taken more literally than it has been.

The Celts  had deities which are almost perfect parallels to Greek and Indian gods.  There are perhaps thousands of words in English almost identical to Sanskrit: for example, such as naam and name. The Celts  had deities which are almost perfect parallels to Greek and Indian gods. See this article for a list of thunder gods

I stress this because our recovery and understanding of ancient astrology depends on having some deeper knowledge of anthropology as well as philology, history. philosophy and geography.