ecosophia: JMG in lecture mode (Default)
The Celestial Art I'm pleased to announce the publication of a new anthology on a subject of major interest to me -- and of course a lot of other occultists as well. Three Hands Press has released The Celestial Art, a collection of articles on astrological magic. Here's what it's got inside: 

AARON CHEAK, PHD Thigh of Iron, Thigh of Gold

FREEDOM COLE The Pulsation of the Cosmos

AUSTIN COPPOCK A Feast of Starlight

AL CUMMINS, PHD The Azured Vault

DEMETRA GEORGE Thessalos of Tralles: On the Virtues of Herbs

BENJAMIN DYKES, PHD The Planetary Magic among the Harrānian Sābians

JOHN MICHAEL GREER Sources of Power in Medieval and Modern Magic

LEE LEHMAN, PHD The Conjunction of Electional Astrology and Magic

JASON MILLER The Perfect and the Good

ERIC PURDUE On Identifying Presiding Daemons and Geniuses from an Astrological Chart

DANIEL A. SCHULKE The Planetary Viscera of Witchcraft


That is to say, plenty of tasty meat for the serious student. You can order a copy here.

ecosophia: JMG in lecture mode (Default)
I've been rereading my collection of Ivy Goldstein-Jacobson astrology books, and it occurs to me that astrology is approaching a historical bottleneck at least as serious as the one that nearly extinguished it as a living tradition at the end of the Renaissance. 

That bottleneck? Latin. Until William Lilly published Christian Astrology in 1647, pretty much every significant work on astrology in Europe was written in Latin, which meant that they were only accessible to the educated. When astrology dropped out of fashion at the end of the reality wars of the late Renaissance, the educated stopped studying it, end of story....except that Lilly's book was in plain English, and that meant that in Britain, Ireland, and the American colonies (once those were founded), astrology remained in common use among folk practitioners. It's the same story traced out by Agrippa's Three Books of Occult Philosophy, which also got translated out of Latin into several vernaculars around the same time, and preserved Renaissance magical philosophy straight through the dark ages of rationalist materialism that followed. In both cases, it was the folk practitioners who kept things going, and it was from there that astrology and magic both revived in the nineteenth century.

The bottleneck this time? Mathematics. It's not actually that difficult to calculate an astrological chart by hand -- in fact, if you've got a table of logarithms and a few other old-fashioned helps, and aren't afraid to use them, it's a very quick process -- but next to nobody knows how to do it any more. 

I was thinking about this while rereading Goldstein-Jacobson's Foundations of the Astrological Chart, which gives detailed instructions on how to do the thing. (So do dozens of other old books on the subject.) As the computer age winds to its end, and the capacity to type in some data and get back a fully calculated chart goes away for the foreseeable future, astrology will drop dead in its tracks if nobody knows how to crunch the numbers themselves. That seems worth doing something about. 

...and more generally it's got me wondering about how today's occult traditions are going to weather the Long Descent and the deindustrial dark ages ahead. Much to think about...
ecosophia: JMG in lecture mode (Default)
I find myself in an odd position in today's astrological scene. Of the astrologers I know or know of, nearly all fall into one of two camps. There are the up-to-date modern astrologers, studying and practicing the psychologically oriented, choice-centered astrology launched by Dane Rudhyar in the middle years of the twentieth century and elaborated in many directions since then, and then there are the traditional astrologers, for whom anything much more recent than William Lilly is not of interest. 

Me, I've got Uranus in the first house of my natal chart, and that means the road less traveled is always my route of choice. The astrology I find most congenial is the sort of thing that was practiced between the two epochs just listed: specifically the astrology of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century occult-influenced scene. I posted a little while back about Ivy Goldstein-Jacobson, who's one of the writers I study most closely; another is the genial Llewellyn George, whose A-Z Horoscope Maker and Delineator (get one of the old editions, before it was revised by the current copyright holders) is as important to that end of astrology as Israel Regardie's The Golden Dawn is to the comparable traditions in Hermetic occultism. 

One of the many things that sets these writers apart from most of those before and after them, in turn, is that they use parallels of declination. 

(Those of my readers who aren't astrology geeks will want to skip the next paragraph.)

As seen from Earth, the sun, moon, and planets move along a belt of sky called the ecliptic, and the degrees of the zodiac are measured along the ecliptic. When two planets are conjunct in the 14th degree of Aquarius, that means that they're both at that point along the ecliptic circle. That's one set of motions that astrology tracks. The other, declination, tracks the movements of planets up and down relative to the celestial equator. (Think of ponies on a merry-go-round: they go in a circle, but they also rise and fall.) When two planets are at the same distance above or below the celestial equator, they're in what astrologers call a parallel of declination; they can both be on the same side of the equator or one can be above and one below, but if they're both (say) 14 degrees of declination from the celestial equator, they're in parallel.

(Okay, the non-geeks can come back into the room.) 

Parallels of declination have roughly the same effect, astrologically speaking, as conjunctions, but tend to be a little quieter and spread out over a longer period of time. You can use them in every kind of astrology, and in my experience they explain things that other factors don't. 

For example, looking at my chart and my wife's together, if you don't consider parallels, it's by no means obvious why we should have tumbled into a relationship within days of moving into the same student household, gotten married a couple of years later, and thirty-three years after the wedding date we're still happily married. There's some good synastry -- that's what you call relationships between two charts -- but without the parallels, it's a matter of "huh?" Look at parallels, though -- our two moons are in parallel, and her Venus and my Jupiter are parallel as well as conjunct. making for a really strong connection -- and it changes from "huh?" to "duh!"

I'm far from sure why parallels got dropped from modern astrology, and even less sure why they don't seem to have a role in traditional astrology. More research needed...

ecosophia: JMG in lecture mode (Default)
Ivy Goldstein-JacobsonOne of the gifts I received for this year's solstice was a volume of astrological essays, Here and There in Astrology, by Ivy Goldstein-Jacobson. I've been asked several times why it is that I've moved back to modern or, shall we say, not-quite-modern astrology -- the sort of thing that was in common use before Dane Rudhyar's psychological astrology became all the rage. Ivy Goldstein-Jacobson is the reason.

The first of her books I encountered was Simplified Horary Astrology, which turned up in a used book store in Frederick, MD. (It's the same used book store where I found the obscure book on Welsh grammar that led me to the long-lost meanings of the Coelbren, the alphabet of the Welsh bards, so even though now that I've moved to Rhode Island I'll probably never go there again, it has a permanent fond place in my memories.) I'd been working on traditional Renaissance astrology for some years by that point -- this was not long after Chris Warnock and I published our translation of The Picatrix -- and I was very frustrated by my lack of success with traditional horary methods. 

(A word of explanation is probably needed for my non-astrologer friends. Horary astrology basically uses astrology the way a Tarot reader uses a Tarot deck: the astrologer or a client has a question, the astrologer casts a chart for the moment the question was asked, and the chart reveals the answer. Yes, I know, that can't possibly work; the fact remains that it does.) 

As I was saying, again, I was having a lot of trouble getting clear readings with traditional horary methods. Goldstein-Jacobson's methods aren't traditional; they focus on the aspects made by the Moon, starting with the last aspect formed before the question was asked, and ending when the Moon passes out of the sign she was in when the question was asked. You interpret those aspects as the events that will occur in the situation about which the question was asked, and give the answer accordingly. 

I gave it a try, and found that I could get clear, accurate readings using her methods, which I couldn't manage using Lilly's or any of the other traditional sources. I'm quite willing to accept that the difference is purely a matter of the personal equation, as I know people who get good results with traditional astrology -- but I don't, and so I gradually moved my astrological work over from the medieval and Renaissance approaches to the sort of thing you find in Llewellyn George, Robert De Luce, and Ivy Goldstein-Jacobson. 

One of the lessons I took from this is that the myth of the Golden Age can be just as toxic as the myth of progress. Just as being new doesn't make a technology better, being old doesn't make an astrological system better. Picking and choosing on the basis of personal experience, or even personal whim, seems to work better. 
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