Astrology as the Cosmic Clock
The following is an excerpt from Cosmic Navigator by Gahl Sasson:
Astrology was born not as a form of entertainment or as a scheme for fortune telling, but as a vital tool for survival. With the advent of agriculture, humans adapted their planting and harvesting routines to the dictates of the seasons. The measuring of time—the fluctuations in darkness and daylight, the arrivals of the winter and sum- mer solstices, the great rivers’ tides and flooding—became essential to a successful harvest. There is evidence that suggest that over 4,500 years ago the Egyptians kept a detailed calendar to help them predict the rise of the Nile. Guided by the sun and the moon, these early farmers also noticed the other planets moving about the fixed constellations of stars. Attuning their lives to the repetitive rhythm of the seasons and the orbits of the planets simplified and insured their survival.
This dependable, clocklike rhythm of the skies became so critical to human life that humans began to view the planets, moons, and stars as gods. The people of Mesopotamia, circa 2000 B.C.E., for example, worshiped gods called Sin (the moon), Shamash (the sun), Ishtar (Venus), Nergal (Mars), Marduk (Jupiter), and Ninurta (Saturn). The earliest written evidence of astrology to be unearthed so far comes from the Babylonian Tablet of Amisaduqa, written around 1646 B.C.E:
In month XI, 15th day, Venus disappeared in the west. Three days it stayed away, then on the 18th day it became visible in the east. Springs will open and Adad (god of weather and abundance) will bring his rain and Ea (the Babylonian water deity) his floods. Messages of reconciliation will be sent from King to King.
The early astrologers of Babylon and elsewhere were the first to apply the old alchemical formula of “as above so below.” They took note of the correlation between events in the heavens and those on the earth. For example, let’s imagine a day when the king was angry, ranting and raving at his advisors and his servants. On that same day, multiple fights erupted between merchants in the market, and several people were murdered. The king’s star gazer might have observed all these events and then noticed that Mars, the fiery red planet, was on that day in the sign of Aries, the constellation associated today with aggression and war. This early astrologer proba- bly would note this correlation in his diary and then await the next time that Mars orbited into Aries to see if a similar sort of strife appeared then too.
When the heavenly movements repeatedly corresponded with the reality on the ground, the associations crystallized. Astrology then unfurled her wings and traveled from Babylonia to Greece and Rome. It was picked up by the Indian scholars and then transported to China. It was assimilated into Judaism through Kabbalah and embraced by Christians and Muslims as well. As it spread over the centuries, it was tweaked into a coherent body of knowledge. Slowly, star-and-human-gazers clothed and reclothed the signs and planets in the names, tendencies, and colors that we use today.
The Kaaba in Mecca, the holiest shrine in the Muslim faith, functioned as a religious center long before the days of Muhammad. Back then, the cubical struc- ture was said to have housed 365 pagan idols, corresponding to the number of days in the astrological year. In addition, anthropological evidence suggests that the tawaf, the ritualistic seven circumambulations of the Kaaba practiced by Muslim pilgrims to this day, was devised to mimic the orbits of the heavenly bodies around the sun.
Notches carved on animal bones that date back to 15,000 B.C.E. reveal evidence of human attention to the lunar phases. The ancient wise men and women who carved the notches thought it necessary to trace the changes in the shape of the moon, which means these people could very well be the first lunar astrologers.
Humans are not the only inhabitants of the planet to recognize a correlation between the above and the below, between the stars and life on earth. Every dawn, the faithful olive baboons in Sudan gather to await the rising of the sun. They salute the appear- ance of the solar disk with shrieks and screams, almost as if they believe that their cacophonic rejoicing insures that the sun will return every morning. Just as boisterous applause for an actor on a stage might encourage that performer to do it all again, the baboons reinforce the Sun with their loyal adoration.
The ancient Egyptians, who inhabited lands adjacent to the home of these baboons, surely noticed this unique worship of the sun because they portrayed Thoth, one of their oldest gods, as a baboon that held the solar disk in his hand. In the Egyptian pantheon, Thoth served as the god of writing, knowledge, magic, and astrology. As you can see, much of who and what we are derives from our evolution from primates . . .
Stars and Spheres
The author of Sefer Yetzirah—tradition suggests it was Abraham, the first mono- theist of the Old Testament—provides precise associations between the zodiac signs and the Hebrew letters, yoking astrology to the sacred letters of the Torah. This manuscript details how God deployed the archetypal energies of the ten-sphered Kabbalistic Tree of Life and the twenty-two Hebrew letters to create the universe (see chapter 5).
The Midrash, a collection of Jewish myths and legends, tells us that King Solomon wore a magical ring engraved with Hebrew letters that afforded him the power to speak with animals. Since the word zodiac in Greek means “the wheel of animals,” one can say that King Solomon’s capacity to converse with animals referred to his ability to speak the language of the signs—to converse with rams (Aries), bulls (Taurus), lions (Leo), scorpions (Scorpio), horses (Sagittarius), goats (Capricorn),