Arabic Astrology

This study, by a practising Medieval Astrologer examines the roots of Medieval Astrology from the Arabic astrologers of the 8th - 12th centuries and their Greek antecedents. Particular attention is given to those practical and theoretical features that distinguish Arabic Astrology from Greek Astrology. The basic differences between Medieval Astrology and Arabic Astrology are examined and the important question of the continuity from Greek to Arabic and hence to Medieval Astrology is addressed.

The major practitioners of Arabic Astrology are identified and their dependence upon the works of Dorotheus, Hermes and Ptolemy are investigated. This is done within the broader picture of the state of learning in the West (at the beginning of the Dark Ages), the tracking of the rise of Islam and the Arabs’ assimilation of Greek Science (including astrology). In so doing this study shows the central role that Hermeticism played in shaping Arabic astrological practice and doctrine.

The impact of the writings of Ptolemy on Arabic Astrology is analysed. A list of the astrological techniques Ptolemy omitted from his Tetrabiblos is given. This throws the difference between Arabic and Greek Astrology in sharp relief and goes some way towards explaining how the divergence in techniques emerged.

Dorotheus’s lesser-known Carmen Astrologicum is also examined in detail. It is compared with the Medieval work of Guido Bonatti, the Liber astronomiae and with Firmicus Maternus’s Mathesis. The latter being a Latin work (circa 330 AD ) which exerted an important influence upon Medieval Astrology.

In dealing with the leading Arabic astrologers, Masha'allah, Abu 'Ali Al-Khayyat and Abu Ma'shar special attention is paid to their use of triplicity rulers in delineation, their use of the Almutem, and certain predictive techniques, including the highly skilled longevity techniques.

Abu 'Ali Al-Khayyat’s and Abu Ma'shar’s debt to Masha'allah is discussed and attention is focussed on the time periods Abu Ma'shar gives in his Kitab al-Uluf as presented by David Pingree in his The Thousands of Abu Ma'shar.

The Study concludes with a listing the major features of Arabic astrological practice and has an appendix of works concerning the astrological techniques for predicting the length of life.

For further insight into this topic please read: Robert Zoller on: Abu Ma'shar: Prince of Astrologers


(This only lists the principle texts referred to and is not exhaustive)

Martianus Capella and the Seven Liberal Arts
, Stahl, Johnson and Burge, New York, Columbia, 1971

Ancient Astrology in Theory and Practice: The Mathesis of Firmicus Maternus, Bram, Jean Rhys, Noyes, Park Ridge, 1975

Picatrix The Latin Version, London, Warburg Institute, 1986

Asclepius, in Hermetica, translated by Brian Copenhaver, Cambridge, 1992

Muqaddimah, Ibn Khaldun, translated by Franz Rosenthal, Bollingen, New York, 1958

The Astrological History of Masha'allah, Kennedy and Pingree, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1971

The Book of Instruction in the Elements of the Art of Astrology, Al-Biruni, translated by R. Ramsay Wright, London, Luzac & Co., 1934

The Judgements of Nativities, Abu-'Ali al-Khayyat, translated by James H. Holden, American Federation of Astrologers, Tempe, Arizona, 1988

Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos, translated by J.M. Ashmand, London, Foulsham, 1917

Tetrabiblos, Ptolemy, translated by Robbins, Harvard University Press, 1940, 1964

Almagest, Ptolemy, translated by R. C. Taliaferro, University of Chicago Great Books, Vol. 16, Chicago, 1952

Carmen Astrologicum, Dorotheus, translated by Pingree, Teubner, 1976

Liber astronomiae, Bonatti, Basel 1550

Science Awakening, Van der Waerden, Oxford, 1974

Greek Horoscopes, Neugebauer, O. and Hoesen, H. B., American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, 1959

"Albumasar in Sadan" by Lynn Thorndike , ISIS, 1954

The Thousands of Abu Ma'shar,
Pingree, London, Warburg Institute, 1968

The Five Books of M. Manilius, London, 1697, transcribed and reprinted by American Federation of Astrologers, Washington D.C., 1953

Hermetica, Copenhaver, Brian, Cambridge, 1995

Epitome totius astrologiae, Norimberg, 1548 John of Spain (Johannes Hispalensis)

Christian Astrology, Lilly, William, London, 1985

Clavis Astrologiae Elimata, Coley, Henry, 2nd ed. 1676 transcribed, Issaqua, Washington, 1996

Isagoge Alcabitius, Paris, 1521

al-Madkhal fi Sina'at Ahkam al-Nujum, Kusyar ibn Labban ibn Basahari al-Jili, translated by M. Yano, Brill, 1997

New and Complete Outline of the Occult Sciences, Ebeneezer Sibly, 1790 & 1791

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Arabic Astrologers of the 8th - 12th centuries and their Greek antecedents.... Read more