The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 86, titled:
With Chris Brennan
Episode originally released on July 31, 2016
Note: This is a transcript of an audio podcast. We strongly encourage you to listen to the audio version, which includes inflections that may not translate well when written out. Transcripts are created by using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and the text probably contains some errors and differences from the audio version. Please submit any corrections to Chris Brennan by email at email@example.com.
Transcribed by Emma Lambiase
Transcription released August 31, 2019
Copyright © 2019 TheAstrologyPodcast.com
Chris Brennan: Hi, my name is Chris Brennan, and you’re listening to The Astrology Podcast. This episode is recorded Sunday, July 31st, 2016, starting just after 4:15pm in Denver, Colorado, and this is the 86th episode of the show. For more information on how to subscribe to the podcast and help support the production for future episodes by becoming a patron, please visit theastrologypodcast.com/subscribe. In this episode I’m going to be talking about the process of writing this book on Hellenistic Astrology that I’ve been trying to finish for a while now and sort of checking in to give a bit of a progress update on that, but also specifically to talk about some research projects that I’ve been focused on in relation to the book over the past few months that I think listeners will find interesting. So, in particular I’m going to focus on two topics, the first one related to whether Saturn was originally conceptualized as a feminine planet in the early Hellenistic tradition, and then separately, I wanna talk a little but about this thing I’ve been focusing on in terms of identifying the earliest female practitioner of astrology or the earliest female astrologer let’s say, broadly speaking. So those are going to be our two main topics today.
First I wanted to start with doing the giveaway drawing for this month since this is the last episode of July. Originally there was gonna be another episode that was gonna take place at the end of July, but that got bumped to August so I decided to just do this solo show to talk about the book a little bit, since I said earlier this year that I was gonna check in periodically and do that and I thought it would be good in order to be able to get the sort of giveaway done and get it out there so that we don’t have to wait until sometime in August in order to do that. So, each month we do a giveaway for patrons of the podcast who donate in order to help support the show on the 5 and 10 dollar tier through our page on Patreon. And the winner of each month’s giveaway is announced at the end of each month. So, your can find out more information about the giveaway each month and who our sponsors are and more information about them by going to theastrologypodcast.com and then clicking on the link toward the top of the page that says giveaways. So our first sponsor this month is the new online astrology program called Archetypal Explorer. And this month were giving a free one-year subscription to the program as part of the giveaway. So, Archetypal Explorer is an online program for personal development based in the practice of archetypal astrology, which is the approach to astrology developed by Richard Tarnus and some of his associates over the past decade. So you can hear more about it if you’d like to go back and listen to my interview with Richard Tarnus just a couple of episodes ago where we actually talked about the principles of archetypal astrology, and I’m hoping to have other people on the show in the near future in order to delve a little bit more deeply into that topic and into that approach to astrology that’s been developing over the past decade. So, Archetypal Explorer uses a powerful method of transit analysis combined with cutting edge data visualization and cloud computing to display the ebb and flow of archetypal activity over time. Basically, I’ve been using the programs for the past few months and it has this really cool and innovative method of presenting short-term and long-term transits using this sort of futuristic looking graph, sort of display. So, the program renders both personal and world transit activity and will display transit over any span of time from a week, to a month, to a year, to a century. You can use it to navigate backward and forward in time, thus allowing you to inform, orient, and navigate your life in powerful ways. So, you can find out more information about the program at archetypalexplorer.com. So let’s see, let me pull out my bowl that has a bunch of names, and it looks like the inner of the free one-year subscription to, oops dropped the name, oh that’s funny, it’s actually Joe Gleason, who is a long time supporter for the past year. So, Joe Gleason you’ve won a free one-year subscription to Archetypal Explorer. So, congratulations, send me an email or message me through Patreon in order to get instructions on how to claim your prize and get access to archetypal explorer. Alright, so that was the giveaway prize this month for the $5 tier.
So now let’s turn to the $10 tier. So the prize we’re giving away this on the on the $10 tier is a free copy of the astrology computer program called Solar Fire. Which is actually awesome cause this is the program I’ve been using for about 12 years now, and I use it in just about every chart you see generated on one of my websites whether it’s, the astrology podcast, or whether it’s one of the other websites like the Political Astrology Blog or the Horoscopic Astrology Blog or what have you. So, Solar Fire is one of the most popular astrological software programs on the market today. It covers the full-range of astrological techniques including Natal astrology, Synastry, Electional, and Horary astrology. It also provide tools for various techniques from Ancient and Classical astrology to Uranian and Cosmobiology. Beginners love the array of different interpretations that are available in the program, while professionals enjoy the ability to fully customize the layout of charts. You can find out more information about solar Fire at, the name of the company that produces it as this point is Astrolabe. So their website is alabe.com. So let’s see who the winner of this month’s drawing is. And the winner of the free copy Solar Fire is Jamie Delp. So, congratulations Jamie, you just have to send me an email or a message through Patreon or my email address about how to collect your free copy of Solar Fire so, that’s pretty awesome and a pretty big deal and I’ve been excited about being able to give away you know big prizes through the podcast in order to give something back to the listeners, but also to kind of promote products that I actually use and appreciate, and want more people to know about. So it’s kind of a good exchange in that sense.
Alright so, that’s it for the drawing this month, I want to thank our sponsors the makers of Archetypal Explorer and Solar Fire as it’s been just really great being able to partner with them this month in order to talk about their programs and give away from free software to my listeners.
As I said, I’m trying to strike a balance with my giveaways as far as promoting products from the astrological community that I actually believe in, at the same time not trying to be too in your face about running to may commercials and stuff and I hope that I’ve been able to strike the right balance as far as that goes, but it’s kind of an ongoing process, and that’s sort of the other part of this show in terms of just talking about the state of the podcast where I’m at, since we’re about, we’re over halfway through this year, and it’s also been over a year now since I launched the Patreon campaign to being with. And we recently just reached another funding milestone goal so, we’re actually hitting some of the higher goals at this point and I’m starting to think about what the long term sort of future and plans for the podcast are going to be. So I’ll come to that, come back to that a little bit later perhaps.
So next month, the two giveaway prizes are going to be I think access to my online course for Hellenistic Astrology for those who are on the $10 tier. So one lucky person will win a free pass basically to access my online course on Hellenistic Astrology. And on the $5 tier, the other prize is gonna be access to my online course in Electional Astrology, for those who are on the $5 tier. So just to briefly mention those, since I’ll be putting the announcement out about that pretty soon, so the Hellenistic Course is of course something I’ve been teaching for almost 10 years now and it includes 90 hours of audio lectures on the history, philosophy and of course techniques of Hellenistic Astrology, showing you where most of the techniques of Western Astrology came from, how they were developed, and how to use them more effectively in order to interpret birth charts, Since that’s what most people are focused on or most astrologers want to learn is how to effectively read and interpret a birth chart. And that’s what that course is really about. So, the Electional course is a little bit different, of course, it’s more of a concise, 5-part course that teaches you all of the basic principles of what to look for when you’re trying to select an auspicious chart in order to begin a new venture, as well as what you should try to avoid. So basically if you’ve ever seen some of the auspicious election charts that I outline in the forecast episode each month, and wondered how they were determined, then this is the course for you because I basically outline my entire approach to Electional astrology in that course which lots of example charts and diagrams and lectures and so on and so forth. So, you can find out more information about both of those courses at my website which is chrisbrennanastrologer.com/courses. All you have to do to enter the giveaway to win access to one of these courses next month for free is become a patron of The Astrology Podcast through our page on Patreon at the 5 or 10 dollar tier, and then you’ll automatically be entered into the drawing with the winners of this months giveaway being announced at the end of the month. So, I’m gonna do it next month, I’m using my own courses so that I can leave things a little bit more, not up in the air but a little bit more flexible because I’ll pretty much just announce the winner of the next drawing on whatever the fourth episode is from this one. So, that should theoretically be at the end of August. Although, if I don’t get a full four episodes in in August then I may bump it to whatever he 4th episode is from now in September. So, we’ll see how that works, I’m trying to leave myself a little bit of room because I’m really starting to focus all of my attention or even more of my attention of the book and filling in citations and footnotes and things like that in order to bring some parts of it to completion and I’d like to make that the main focus of most of August so we’ll see what happens. So you can find out more details about the monthly raffle and links to find out more about each of the prizes that we’ve given out this month on the description page for this episode at theastrologypodcast.com. Alright, so with the giveaway out of the way or the month let’s move on to the main topic of the episode.
Alright so it’s been a while since I checked in about the book, I think my original intention was to sort of do a running series where I kept checking in about the book periodically and perhaps did more episodes or more solo shows that were just related to whatever I was writing n the book at the time because basically I didn’t think that I could keep the show going while still sort of you know doing one episode per week while still writing and still focusing most of my time on writing cause it actually takes a while to produce a single episode for the podcast, because especially if there’s an interview, I usually end up doing a lot of research prior to the interview, especially if it’s something like y’know a book like when I interviewed Jeffrey Cornelius, or when I interviewed Richard Tarnus, I would reread their books and take notes and try and formulate y’know, good questions and also present their work in a way that’s understandable to just anybody that’s come in off the street and hasn’t heard of them before and wants a nice synopsis on what their book was about. So those interviews usually take a lot of time to prepare for though, especially those, but also pretty much any episode I usually take a few days to sort of get prepared then we record the episode which is a whole sort of hassle in and of itself it takes about a day, and then we’ve got to go into the editing stage and edit the episode and piece everything together and adjust the sound levels and like remove coughs and things like that. And then, after that I’ve sort of got to release it, get it up on the website and then start promoting it on all social networks which adds another day or so. Anyways, I ended up not doing as many episodes talking about the book partially because sometimes I found it easier just to interview other people and I was worried about focusing too much on ancient astrology that I would start to lose sort of the broader audience that I was trying to cultivate.
So in terms of our topics, there’s two sort of research topics that have been, I’ve been sort of focused on that have taken like a few days worth of attention in the past few months that I thought would be interesting topics that I could fit into a single episode of the show. So, and they’re sort of, moderately, somewhat related to each other so I thought it would make for an interesting discussion. So this really only represents like one small sort of subsection in the book, it’s two little pieces of the book that takes up like, two pages, but it’s kind of an interesting topic and I’m not sure that its anything I’m not sure that it’s something that’s been talked about before, so it represents kind of new and somewhat original research that I wanted to share with you. So, the first topic is on the gender of the planets and specifically, the question of whether Saturn was conceptualized as masculine or feminine in the Hellenistic tradition. So this actually just started earlier this year when a friend of mine when a fellow astrologer named Charlie Obert pointed out that in the text of Dorotheus of Sidon, who lived in the late 1st century so he wrote somewhere around let’s say the year 75 CE, Dorotheus wrote this really important and really influential book on astrology it was actually five books that were all combined into one sort of treatise. Charlie Obert pointed this out and he wrote an article about it, he’s actually written a few articles about it on his website, which is studentofastrology.com and I definitely recommend checking out those articles and seeing the why he outlines and sort of makes the case because he’s approached this from a few different ways and especially focused on talking about the implications.
So I’m going to try to outline this piece by piece in terms of what my thoughts have been and what some of the pros and cons and what some of the issues were in trying to research this topic. So basically what Charlie pointed out, and this is something that I’m sure I’ve read, y’know, a number of times before but I didn’t fully register the significance of it and I sort of glossed over it, but Charlie pointed out that there’s this little parenthetical remark in Book 1 Chapter 10 of Dorotheus’ book from the 1st century where, and it’s even in parenthesis in the translation and it says, cause it starts talking about the application of, the concept of masculine and feminine planets and using that as a concrete interpretive principle in order to determine something specific in a person’s life about their external circumstances. And there’s this little parenthetical remark where it says, in the translation it says “…and the female planets are Saturn, Venus, and the Moon, and the male ones are the Sun Jupiter and Mars…” So this is really important and really interesting, and I went back and checked later and David Pingree actually also points this out in his commentary on the Yavanajataka that Dorotheus was unique, and that it actually says this in the text, that evidently, at least in this passage, and it’s Book 1 Chapter 10 sentence 18, that Saturn is female. So this is interesting on the one hand because this creates this symmetrical set of assignments. And where you have three planets of one side, you have Saturn, Venus, and the Moon on the feminine side, and you have three planets on the other side which are the Sun, Jupiter, and Mars. And then Mercury is, he’s usually conceptualized in most other astrologers and it’s probably also true for Dorotheus since he doesn’t mention Mercury, as gender-neutral, incapable of being masculine or feminine depending on other conditions or depending on its condition and placement in the chart. In sort of conditions that I’m not going to go into cause it’s not necessarily relevant here. But the point is that it, this arrangement would create an interesting and weird symmetrical arrangement where you have three planets assigned to each gender. So this is interesting and problematic because most of the rest of the tradition, virtually all of the rest of the Hellenistic astrologers of which there’s, y’know, at least a dozen or two dozen surviving major sources who have names and texts that we can identify, everybody else largely treats Saturn as a masculine planet. So for most other authors, especially starting with Ptolemy who outlines this very explicitly and very clearly ,and then most of the astrologers then that subsequently come after Ptolemy and most of them followed Ptolemy in some way, they all say that the Sun, Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars are all masculine, while the Moon and Venus are feminine, and Mercury is either neutral or masculine. So that’s basically the standard doctrine in most of the Hellenistic tradition in the 2nd century starting with Ptolemy for sure, and then for the next five or six centuries lets say, up through the end of the Western Roman Empire. So eventually in the medieval tradition a lot of the astrologers, especially by the late medieval tradition and the renaissance tradition, also ultimately basically end up following Ptolemy for the most part and treating Saturn as masculine as well. So there’s some different questions about why this is. Ptolemy has a specific conceptual or theoretical rationale that has to do with his perceived, or the qualities that he’s assigned to the planets or that he perceives the planets are associated with. They may have also derived it from just the associations with the gods. So, each of the planets was of course named after a specific god and these assignments go back to the first time they’re made I think is in the 4th century BC in a text known as the Epinomis which is said to have been written by a student of Plato’s, named Phillip of Opus. And in the text they’re explicitly attempting to name or to take certain Greek gods and match them up with the Mesopotamian or the Babylonian gods that had already been associated with certain planets. So from that point forward or starting with that point the names of the planets in Greek basically that became the classical names for the planets that we still use to this day based on their Roman equivalence was explicitly patterned off of the Mesopotamian names and the Mesopotamian assignments starting from about the 4th century BCE forward. So if you look at it from that perspective if that’s how they originally derived the gender of the planets lets say, then in that case the gods that were male were the Sun, Jupiter, Saturn, mars, and mercury, were all male gods. Whereas the only female gods would have been Venus and the moon, or the goddesses associated with Venus and the Moon would have been female. So we don’t exactly know sort of where they got it from or what the motivation was, but you can see already right that that in terms of the language that Greco-Roman culture would have naturally probably tended to view certain planets as masculine and certain planets as feminine to the extent that they were named after certain gods that already had very long standing, sort of preconceived genders assigned to them. And Saturn especially who would have been associated with the god Kronos would have been perceived as masculine to the extent that the names of the planets were derived from the gods or were at least associated with the gods to some extent.
So, that brings us to the question of this parenthetical remark that takes place in Dorotheus, and the question of whether this remark was actually in the original text, or if it was added later or if it somehow represents a translation error or a mistake of some sort in the textual history or transmission of this text. So basically the question is, was there some genuine variant tradition prior to Ptolemy in the 2nd century that did not view Saturn as male but instead viewed Saturn as feminine?, and that’s a question. So the problem here, and what you have to understand in this situation in order to understand why this is even an issue is that we have some problems with the surviving version of Dorotheus’ text, and you really have to understand the situation with Dorotheus’ text in order to get the issue. What we have of Dorotheus, of this text that was written in the late first century CE is an English translation of an Arabic translation of a Persian translation of the original Greek text, which itself actually, the Greek text was originally written in the form of an instructional poem. So it wasn’t even written as a prose text where he just, you know straightforward lays out Jupiter trine Saturn means this. Instead he wrote it actually as a verse text or as a poem that was supposed to like, rhyme and have a sort of rhythm to it, and where he picked certain words and used certain phrases in order to keep that structure which adds, y’know even an additional level of complexity to what the original text was. And then the fact that we’re not reading the original text in the original Greek, but what we have is the original text was translated into Persian, then the Persian translation was translated into Arabic, then the Arabic translation was translated, finally was translated into English in the late 20th century by a scholar named David Pingree. So that’s problematic because it turns out there’s a number of error and interpolations in the surviving text that come from later authors. So one of the examples of, and I’ve done a lot of work on this cause I wrote a paper on this back in 2006 and 2007 about Dorotheus and especially about the 5th book of Dorotheus which, it’s actually on electional astrology and most of the text is written about electional astrology. But if you just read the title of the text it says it’s on questions, which is the key word that’s used in the medieval tradition to refer to horary astrology, and in fact there are a number of references in a few chapters to horary astrology throughout that book in about 6 of the 40 chapters. But when you read the entire book, the vast majority of it is clearly on electional astrology. And while it turns out and you can hear more about this if you listen to the episode, the interview I did with Ben Dykes, and about the translation he did of Book III of Hephaestio of Thebes and that the edited of a new translation by Eduardo Gramuglia, what is a great publication so we talk about this more there but, we were able to identity that at least one the references to horary astrology was genuine and goes back to the original Dorotheus text. But we can’t really confirm that that’s the case with a number of the other ones, and it seems like a bunch of them may have been inserted by a later author, who basically recognized that because many of the rules of electional and horary were the same, you basically could just, y’know insert a phrase here or there saying that by the way, “the same rules that are in this text that apply to electional also apply to horary questions.” And it seems like that’s what somebody did. So that’s one of the issues with this text is there’s interpolations. There’s also, and an interpolation is when a person who is not the original author inserts something new into the text. So the other issue that we find in Dorotheus is that there’s just errors where somewhere along the way, either when the Persian translation was being made from the original Greek text or when the Arabic version was being made from the Persian text that sometimes there things that somebody just messed up and got wrong, that probably were not the fault of the original author. So an obvious example of that that I usually cite, and I have a long article about Dorotheus of Sidon if you’re interested in learning more about this on the Helenistic astrology website at HellenisticAstrology.com. So one of the obvious errors occurs in Book 1 Chapter 6, sentence 4, where he says that, where in the text at least in the existing translation it says “Saturn harms one who is born by day, and Mars harms one who is born by night.” So this is problematic because this is actually the reverse of the usual Hellenistic rule based on Sect which, if you’ve listened to this podcast long enough you’ve actually heard me talk about a million times so you’re probably already familiar with the rule. But if you’re not, basically the actual standard Hellenistic rule which is mentioned universally by almost every single Hellenistic author, is that Saturn is more harmful for people who are born at night and Mars is actually more problematic or it’s more, let’s say challenging significations come to the forefront for people who are born during the day. So if you read through the rest of the Dorotheus text he actually has the rule correct for basically the rest of the text, and the rest of it he consistently treats it as if Saturn is more harmful at night and Mars is more harmful during the day, But in this line very early in the translation, it’s only in the 6th chapter of the book, y’know it clearly has the actual rule inverted. So this is clearly just an error in the text where somebody messed something up at some point. One of the things you have to remember is it’s not just a matter of this book being translated through several different languages at this point before it got to us, but it’s actually been copied over by hand for almost 2,000 years now, because when you wanted to copy a text in the ancient world you couldn’t just go to a photocopier like a xerox machine and copy it over, or you couldn’t just take a picture of it with your smartphone, but you actually had to hire somebody in order to y’know take some papyrus or some pieces of paper of whatever you’re using and just copy it over by hand word for word, line by line and letter by letter, with a pen of what have you. So in this process sometimes there were words that would get messed up, there were sentences that would drop out, there were other sentences that would be added in. Like sometimes the scribes would writer notes in the margins of the text in a book and sometimes the next copyist who found the text would be reading through it and they’d be copying the text and they’d see a note that was over on the side and it actually said something really brief but really nice and insightful and the scribe who was copying the text would say “oh that’s a really good note let’s put that in the body of the text,” and then suddenly in the next version of the text that note that was originally just in the margins is now in the body of the text as if it was written by the original author. So that’s part of the whole issue of dealing with any text, like any of these ancient texts we run into the same issue, but it’s particularly an issue with this one because we’re dealing with a translation of a translation of a translation. Which has a bunch of errors that are very glaring and very obvious. It also has a bunch of interpolations besides the horary thing, which is actually a little bit controversial and do a more careful, deliberate sort of outline of that issue which I haven’t really done yet on the podcast but I’ve been meaning to for some time. But there’s other references to, for example, astrologers who didn’t live until like a century after Dorotheus lived. So for example Dorotheus wrote in the late 4th century, and at one point somebody’s taken a paragraph a couple of times and thrown it into various parts of the text where it says “and Vadeus Valens says this…” and then it copies like a paragraph form the late 2nd century astrologer Vadeus Valens who lived a century after Dorotheus and sort of threw it into the text because those two texts were being transmitted together at the same time through the Persian and then the Arabic tradition. So sometimes the interpolations represent things that were added by later authors who just decided to throw them into the text because they thought they were useful. One of the points that David Pingree made, and he did a lot of work in editing the texts over the past century during his lifetime, before his death in 2005, he actually edited the text of Dorotheus and he made a critical edition of the text of Vadeus Valens, and what a critical edition is when you take all the existing manuscripts of a text, even if there’s 20 or 30 of them and then you compare every single one of them and you note every single variation and every word in the text, and then your try to recreate what you think, based on comparing all the variations, what the original text was. So Pingree did that with a bunch of different texts including Dorotheus and Valens, and one of the things that he said, well he said two things, one thing is that he said is that every time astrology is transmitted from one culture to another that it changes in some way, that there’s always changes basically, somehow, one way or another. But the second thing he said was that with some of the astrological texts, they’re being transmitted by practitioners of astrology so the people copying the texts are not necessarily interested all the time in just retaining the original texts or keeping the text as solid as it is on its own, but sometimes if there’s new material and information that they feel is useful, or they’re come across that seems relevant, sometimes they’ll throw it into the text. And that’s something that you have to be aware of with the astrological text in particular because it means that there can be other material that’s been inserted that sort of contaminates or, maybe contaminates is a little bit too harsh, but that didn’t originally belong there. So that if you’re just taking everything in the text for granted you might not realize that y’know there’s an entire chapter by some other author that’s been inserted into this text. So there’s a really prominent example of that actually in The Introduction by Porphyry. So James Holden published this, it’s a full translation of the introduction to the Tetra-Biblos. So we think that, I think he was like the 3rd century, the neoplatonic philosopher Porphyry wrote an introductory text at one point that was supposed to be like an introduction to Ptolemy’s work where he says that Ptolemy didn’t do a very good job at introducing all of his terminology, so Porphyry was going to write an introduction where he defined all the basic technical terms that Ptolemy takes for granted. So Holden published a translation of this a few years ago, before he died just a couple years back. And at one point at the very end you can tell there’s three chapters at the end of the book that Holden flagged and said this material is pretty much exactly the same as the work of the 8th century astrologer Sahl ibn Bishr. And in fact what had happened was that somebody in the 10th century who was in the process of copying over Porphyry’s text, from the Greek, they also had an Arabic version of the work of Sahl ibn Bishr at the same time and they found a few chapters in Sahl’s book that they felt would compliment Porphyry’s very well, and so they decided to translate those from Arabic into Greek and to put those into Porphyry’s text, and then a thousand years later, it ends up with us today, we get this Greek text that has what Porphyry originally wrote and plus some other material that’s been translated from Arabic into Greek and then inserted into the text in the last three chapters. There’s also three chapters, for anybody actually listening to this that has that translation of Porphyry cause Holden didn’t catch this, and I think it was a major oversight but chapters 17, 18, and 19 are actually also chapters that have been taken from Sahl’s work from the 8th or 9th century, translated into Greek and inserted right in the middle of Porphyry. So these are the three, it’s the chapter on the transfer of light, on aggregation and on refranation. So Holden actually notes, he’s like in a footnote he’s like “it’s really surprising cause this actually seems like it’s talking about horary astrology,” and so he took this as an explicit reference to horary astrology in the Hellenistic tradition which otherwise is not talked about very frequently in the Hellenistic tradition. 36:44
But in fact it seems like he accidentally didn’t realize that there was more than just the three chapters that had been taken from Sahl and put into the end of Porphyry in this text, but instead there was three chapters that were inserted right into the middle. So that was kind of a long digression but it gives you some insight into the issues that we’re dealing with and why sometimes if we’re talking about a single, literally a single reference which is what were talking about in this case, in the reference to Saturn being feminine at the beginning of Dorotheus, we sometimes have to be extremely cautious about sort of drawing conclusions about that and needing to get additional evidence, and seeing if we can find other evidence or other corroborating sort of testimony in order to confirm that, instead of just taking a single reference sort of for granted because of some of the potential sort of downsides of that if it turns out that is was an interpolation.
So the question is whether this reference represents a similar error and unfortunately, I’ve been trying to research this over the past two months since Charlie announced it on his blog and started writing articles about it. I was initially kind of skeptical because I knew how many errors there were, on the one hand I knew how many errors there were in the received Dorotheus text and on the other hand I knew that virtually all of the Hellenistic astrologers seemed like they treated Saturn as masculine, so it seemed sort of unlikely that Dorotheus was the odd man out who was doing something completely different from what the rest of them were doing. So I tried to research this issue. Unfortunately there are not a lot of references to planetary gender in the rest of the Dorotheus text from what I’ve seen. And in general, looking at a number of different authors from the Hellenistic tradition they almost tend to focus on the gender of the signs of the zodiac and other things such as the phase relationship with the sun and so, for example planets that were morning stars, that rise before the sun on the day of the native’s birth were said to be more masculine, whereas planets that were evening stars that rise after or that come out, that set after the sun on the day of the native’s birth, were thought to be more feminine. The Hellenistic astrologers seem to focus on those two concepts much more than they focused on just the gender or the sort of perceived inherit gender on individual planets. So that’s one sort of complicating factor that complicates attempting to research this is there’s not a ton of references to the planets, there’s not as many references to the planets having specific genders as there are the planets having the ability to sort of adopt different gender or sort of have their gender modified heavily based on other conditions. So I did find a reference in Dorotheus Book 1 Chapter 21 sentence 10 that says that Saturn and the Sun signify older brothers while the Moon signifies older sisters and Venus signifies younger sisters. So to me this actually argues more in favor of Dorotheus viewing Saturn as masculine in alignment with the rest of the Hellenistic tradition. But then we run into the same issue with this sentence which is that ultimately we don’t know for sure if this is actually an interpolation or if the first one was. It could actually go either way so since we’re only talking about two references here we have to be kind of careful. The other things that I was looking at and the other things that I found was that Dorotheus uses the Sun and Saturn for the calculation of the Lot of the Father or what some people might know from the medieval tradition as the ‘Part of the Father.’ So he uses the Sun and Saturn for that, which itself actually almost implies that he views Saturn as more masculine than he does feminine because then for the lot of the mother he uses the Moon and Venus which are two feminine planets. So those two things I think put us on kind of questionable ground here when it comes to assuming right from the start that the first reference to Saturn as feminine definitely was Dorotheus’s originally and primary view. So that’s where I was as of a few days ago, and started becoming more skeptical about this and started going back and forth in on the one hand thinking y’know maybe it’s plausible because it creates a really symmetrical scheme if Saturn was feminine which was always one of the things that was very weird about the gender assignments in Hellenistic Astrology is that almost every other area of Hellensitic astrology there’s this real, this really overt desire on the part of the astrologers or on the part of whoever came up with it or whoever systemized Hellenistic Astrology, or at least some of the techniques, there was really this overt desire to create these really balanced symmetries between planets. So you see this coming up in the concept of benefic and malefic, you see it coming up in the concept of sect, you see it coming up in the concept of the planetary joys, you see it coming up in the concept of even aspects where you’ve got two easy aspects, and you’ve got two hard aspects, and then you’ve got one neutral aspect which is the conjunction. So in almost every area of Hellensitic astrology there this balance and this sort of symmetry that’s built into it but for some reason when you get to the concept of gender there’s this lopsidedness where you’ve got at least four planets, the Sun, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars which are conceptualized as masculine and then you’ve only got two planets which are conceptualized as feminine which are the Moon and Venus. So there’s something about Saturn being feminine and in balancing things out that almost, it’s not just that it’s personally conceptually appealing, but it’s that because other parts of the system are usually so symmetrical, it’s almost what you would expect more than the unbalanced version that becomes predominant later on. And the other thing is that, that makes me nervous about the dominant system that has four planets as masculine is it’s not fully clear. Because many of the earliest authors like Antiochus and Thrasyllus and one other person whose name I’m forgetting at the moment, they don’t, in their surviving text, which admittedly are only summaries, they don’t actually mention the gender of the planets. They do seem to mention the gender of the signs of the zodiac and other things like that, but they don’t mention the gender of the planets so there’s something problematic about the fact that we can’t sort of have recourse to some of those earliest authors to see what they did, but instead it’s really starting in the 2nd century, especially with Ptolemy, and then everyone after that who was heavily influenced by Ptolemy that we have this firm sort of establishing of which planets are masculine and which planets are feminine. And the problem with that is that Ptolemy sometimes changed the system of sometimes altered things in order to fit the broader sort of framework or conceptual framework for astrology that he was trying to create. And sometimes he was rearranging things that were already there, or sometimes he was just emphasizing things that were already present in the tradition, but sometimes that led him to change or to de-emphasize other things that were there and typically it’s when you look to other people like Dorotheus and Valens that you see more of what seemed to be sort of the mainstream of the Hellenistic astrological tradition. So one of the things that makes me nervous about the standard assignments is despite the fact that they’re so common, they could be so common because everyone was just following after Ptolemy, because Ptolemy after the 2nd century was viewed as this hugely eminent genius who had done this really amazing work, he became basically a towering figure in astronomy and everybody used the astronomical tables and the astronomical works that Ptolemy produced in the 2nd century. Everybody used them after that point or started using them not long after that point to cast charts and to calculate horoscopes or birth charts. So as a result of that Ptolemy ended up having far more influence and some of his, some of his conceptualizations of astrology had far more influence that they might have had otherwise. So this hypothetically could have been, or we at least have to entertain the notion that this could have been one of those things that Ptolemy changed that otherwise was different in the first century, in the century prior to when Ptolemy lived. The other thing that complicates this for me, and made me start paying a little bit more attention to it then I would have otherwise is that my friend Benjamin Dykes has actually been telling me that there may be some references to Saturn as feminine in the works of some later astrologers in the 8th century. Namely Theophilus of Edessa and Sahl ibn Bishr, who were basically maybe foundational astrologers who laid the foundation for medieval astrology in the late 8th century, And Ben is actually in the process of, he’s working with finishing up a translation of Theophilus with Eduardo Grimaglia right now, which is going to be amazing because that text has never been translated at all, we have basically zero texts from Theophilus at this point. And then Ben is working on a new translation of Sahl that’s going to be amazing directly from the Arabic. So Ben has pointed out that there’s actually been a few references to Saturn producing females or acting in a way that would only make sense if they were treating Saturn as a feminine planet, in the late 8th century. So this is problematic though or could potentially be problematic because this is not just isolated separate witnesses or it’s not necessarily that but Theophilus and Sahl actually are known to have drawn on the Arabic or the Persian translation of Dorotheus. So the same text that we have access to which seems to say at the very beginning of it that Saturn was feminine, they’re also drawing on the same, basically the same translation. So as a result of that they could just be following that book which became like this hugely influential work in the early medieval tradition, the work of Dorotheus, and a lot of medieval astrologers patterned their entire approach, at least in the early medieval tradition off of Dorotheus’ work. So on the one hand the references in Theophilus and Sahl are important because they may indicate that more astrologers were doing this that Dorotheus and that it was something that continued into the early medieval tradition and sort of bypassed the Ptolemaic tradition entirely, we have to be careful because they could just be reading the same translation that we are and therefore, and the error, there could have already been an error in the text before it got to them, which means that it doesn’t necessarily then represent a genuine sort of alternative tradition. So that being said, sort of like going back and forth with Ben about this, and his counterpart is that is could represent an alternative sort of Persian tradition of astrology that was taking place, because unfortunately we don’t know a lot about the practice of Persian astrology because a lot of their texts were destroyed during the early Middle Ages and because there’s a lot about it we don’t know, sometimes we only see glimpses of it coming up in later authors such as Theophilus and Sahl who then went on to found the early medieval tradition. So there’s references to it potentially to it in Theophilus and Sahl. Ben will be releasing those translations hopefully later this year and so we’ll be able to see more of what that actually looked like in those texts.
Additionally, I was looking through the Indian tradition a little bit starting with the Yavanajataka which may have been a translation of a Greek text that was translated into Sanskrit and then helped to sort of create the long standing and diverse tradition of astrology in India. And in that text, which may have been from the 2nd century give or take there’s actually some debates about that recently that I don’t need to go into, but in the Yavanajataka it says that Saturn is gender neutral. So it assigns gender to the other planets but then for some reason it says that Saturn is neutral. And this actually ended up being the case in basically the rest of the Indian tradition, I believe forward to the present time, where Saturn is treated still as being gender-neutral. So that’s kind of interesting because it doesn’t fully confirm the point about Saturn being feminine, but it does not say that Saturn is masculine either. So if anything, that almost leaves open room that perhaps there was an early Hellenistic tradition that treated Saturn as capable of being feminine or perhaps as more neutral in some sense. But it definitely raises some questions, so at the very least it doesn’t negate the possibility of Saturn having been feminine. But it kind of leaves the door open because it treats Saturn as gender-neutral which otherwise, we don’t necessarily see other Hellenistic astrologers doing. One final point that Ben made to me yesterday is that he pointed out that the Jewish Kabbalists also associated the sphere of Binah on the tree of life with Saturn, and that this is viewed as feminine. So that brings a whole other sort of tradition in terms of Jewish mysticism and Kabbalah, and, which, I mean there’s some questions about sort of how that integrated in terms of 1st and 2nd and 3rd century Hellenistic Astrology but there may have been some relationship between the two since there was at least, there was one Hellenistic text that was attributed to Abraham, and that was the text that was on the Lots, and that’s the text that potentially introduced the technique called zodiacal releasing that I use so much, and because it was attributed to Abraham there’s been some speculation that perhaps there was a group of Jewish sort of astrologers, or someone with Jewish ancestry who decided to write an astrological manual, and then attribute it to the sort of patriarch, biblical patriarch, Abraham. Yeah, so that’s a while separate stream that has to be explored as well if that’s true that in the Tree of Life Saturn, or essentially the sphere that was associated with Saturn, was treated as feminine, that could be an alternative sort of access point that could explain how, or could give some additional justification for how Saturn could be viewed as feminine by, let’s say an early Hellenistic astrologer such as Dorotheus.
So that’s pretty much all the evidence that I have at this point. The general point here is that I don’t know the answer to this question yet, but just that the symmetry of the assignment is suggestive enough that it’s actually worth researching further. I’d really caution people against, y’know this could still be a translation error, so I’d really caution people against jumping to conclusions too fast about it and saying that it’s definitely the case, because that’s how like entire traditions change overnight without necessarily good justification or without, by being based on what could be a mistake, I think this actually may have happened before with Dorotheus where, it seems like one of the translation errors, there’s this chapter on marriage where Dorotheus says to look at the triplicity rulers of Venus in order to find information about the native’s love life. And in the Persian/Arabic version of Dorotheus it says the first triplicity ruler indicates the first third of the native’s life, the second triplicity ruler indicates the second third, and the third triplicity ruler indicates the third third of life, so basically in the Arabic translation it breaks up the triplicity rulers as indicating three parts of the native’s life. However, we do have a fragment of Dorotheus that survives in the work of Hephaestio of Thebes that actually preserves what Dorotheus said in the original Greek for that chapter, and when you read that synopsis by Hephastio in the original Greek, it just says that the first triplicity ruler divides the life into the first half basically, the second triplicity ruler divides the life into the second half, and then that’s it. So in the original Greek text it said the triplicity rulers divide the life into two parts, whereas at some point in the Arabic or Persian tradition, something was changed in the text so that suddenly somebody, probably while they were trying to translate and interpret what this text was trying to say, may have misunderstood it as dividing the life into three parts rather than two, but then that actually ended up being a very influential interpretation and shift, and then suddenly everybody for the rest of the medieval astrological tradition is trying to divide life into three parts rather than in the entire Hellenistic tradition where everyone was pretty much uniformly just using them to divide the life into two parts. 56:06 So I give that story just as a caution to how sometimes, like a single line in a text can completely change the way that certain techniques are used, and people should be careful not to jump to conclusions until we’ve got, we’ve done the best job we can of reviewing all of the sources and looking at all the different arguments and sort of takes on this topic, and then sort of, hopefully as a community coming to some sort of conclusion. So I haven’t finished my work on that yet, and i’m still in the process of doing it but I wanted to sort of share that with the listeners in order to alert people to this as something that people are talking about. Like I said again Charlie has written a few articles on this that are really interesting in terms of, he’s really going into what some of the implications of it would be and what, some of the ways in which it might actually makes sense, especially from a conceptual standpoint, so you can check out some of his articles at studentofastrology.com. So hopefully I’ll have this, I’m not sure I’ll have this worked out by the time that the book is released but I’m at least gonna have an exploration of the topic so, you’ll have to wait and I will outline more of that then.
And I should probably clarify before I move on to the next topic that part of the reason that this was important– part of the reason that it was used in the Hellenistic tradition and the reason why they used some gender placements was, I mean for example we’ve already talked in some episodes, a few episodes ago in early June, the episode I did with Christopher Renstrom, we talked about how Ptolemy and other used gender in Hellenistic Astrology in order to explore things like sexual orientation, and gender roles in society and things like that. But it was also used on a much more concrete level to. Sometimes, in instances where appropriate, just identify whether the individuals involved in whatever activities inquired about were going to be males or females. So for example, some of the, there’s some instruction in some of the texts in natal astrology for determining whether, as like a diagnostic technique, if the native is pregnant or something, whether they’re gonna have male or female children. So sometimes it’s as simple as that where we’re talking about 2,000 years ago where they didn’t necessarily, they couldn’t do y’know X-rays or something like that in order to find out the gender of a baby that the native was gonna have, so you might have recourse to something like astrology in order to, y’know find that information out ahead of time basically. So sometimes the gender assignments are as simple as that. Other times they’re used for things like identifying and distinguishing between the native’s mother and the native’s father and different aspects of life related to them as seen through the native’s birth chart so that, y’know if a bunch of planets, if you’re looking for some topic and a bunch of planets fall in, than indicate the parents, they fall in a masculine sign, then it means that it’s going to come from the father, but if the planets all fall in a feminine sign then it means it’s going to come from the mother. So sometimes were talking about really concrete things like that, and I realize that there’s some like broader debates in modern times about the validity and usefulness and conceptual consistency of even assigning gender to the planets or to the signs of the zodiac or what have you. That’s not a topic that I want to get into now. At some point I might go there, i’m not sure if I really wanna fully go there because it’s a very sensitive topic that people have very strong feelings about either one way or another and I tend to, I don’t know I’m a little bit more interested in looking at right now at what were they doing 2,000 years ago: what was their theoretical and conceptual motivation for doing it, and are there any ways that that’s still applicable and useful today, versus what things are not as applicable or useful? So maybe at some point in that context we can come back to that issue of: is that still a useful and applicable concept today, and if so in what ways?
But for our purposes I’d first like to establish, y’know really important things like determining something like this, where, did they have balanced system where it was actually half of the planets were masculine and the other half were feminine? Or was it actually more of an unbalanced system, where y’know most of the planets were masculine and only a couple of them were feminine? Cause even that would, y’know then change the dynamic about some of the contemporary discussions about this topic potentially, because one of the objections that comes up sometimes is that, y’know there’s more masculine planets than feminine planets and that doesn’t seem, y’know reflective of the actual world, that seems like it’s y’know coming from some different place. So that’s one of the reasons why sort of research topics like this are important and interesting to me, because we’ve gotta work out things like this first in terms of what the system originally was or what the tradition originally was, and who was doing what, and then we can kind of have some of these discussions about, y’know, what’s the best approach today or what’s the most appropriate approach today, or what is the most reflective of the lives of the people that we’re actually working with when we’re applying astrology to people’s lives. So I think that’s all I wanna say about that topic and then we’ll hopefully some back to it at some future point and maybe I can have Charlie on the show to talk about it sometime especially if he has future sort of discoveries, or if Ben publishes his books of Theopholis and Sahl sometime in the next few months, maybe I’ll have him on to talk about this as one small aspect of that, and we’ll see how it goes.
So if anybody else actually finds or makes any discoveries related to this or has any observations or anything like that I’d love to hear it so just send me a message or post a comment in the comment section for this episode. Y’know I don’t, like I said I don’t wanna get into a huge debate about the validity of using gender, but I’m trying to just initially focus on researching the historical question of, was there a tradition or a subset of the tradition that treated Saturn as feminine? And if we can figure that out definitively, then at some point in the future we can sort of have other discussions about where to go from there.
First Female Astrologer
Alright so transitioning on to the second research topic, the other topic that I want to talk about today. Over the past month I’ve been putting together and trying to finalize this chapter of the book that’s gonna cover all of the Hellenistic astrologers, and it’s like over 50 pages long at this point, it’s a little bit, probably too long for the book. I’m gonna see how much of it I can retain, but I may have to cut some of it. It’s very similar to that, or it’s connected to, episode 62 was actually based on that chapter, which was episode 62 was when I did an episode on the lives and works of the Hellenistic astrologers, where I just went into sort of details and bios for all of the major Hellenistic astrologers. So I’ve been trying to finish up that chapter actually and fill in a bunch of citations over the past few weeks. And one of the points I actually meant to mention in that episode but didn’t get a chance to, and it’s probably good because I hadn’t finished fully developing my thoughts on that yet, but one of the points that you notice, of course, is that all of the names, all of the astrologers that, all of the names of the astrologers that have survived from the Hellenistic tradition were men. So the reason for that of course is that typically women didn’t receive the same education as men in the ancient world, just because of the way sort of Greko-Roman society was set up either in Greece, or in Rome, or in Alexandria or what have you. There was definitely some variation from culture to culture but pretty much across the board. Typically speaking, women didn’t receive the same education as men except in some very rare instances. So this actually raises a question that’s been kind of a question for the better part of a decade that I’ve seen discussed very sporadically which is: Who was the first female astrologer? Or who was the first female that we know of that had some training in astrology that we can actually name, that we know by name?
So an astrologer named Kenneth Johnson, who’s been on the show a couple of times, I’ve interviewed him, or we’ve had discussions on two different episodes. He actually wrote a great article in NCGR Journal I wanna say about 9 or 10 years ago now it was probably in about 2006 or 2007, it was the NCGR Journal that Demetra George edited on traditional astrology. Let me see if I have it around here… yeah, so it’s the Autumn 2006 issue of the National Council for Geocosmic Research Geocosmic Journal, and yeah wow, so that actually came out exactly 10 years ago so this is a good time to do this episode. So Kenneth Johnson wrote this really amazing article where he identified a woman named Buran of Baghdad, who lived in the 9th century in Baghdad in the Middle East, as the earliest woman that we know of who was, what he, he calls her an ‘astrological woman,’ which is essentially somebody who had training in astrology and is said to have used it in her personal life, and in one famous instance in order to make a pretty famous prediction, but y’know was not necessarily, let’s say, like making her full-time living from being an astrologer. So my definition, it’s like different people have different definitions of astrologer and we’ve talked about this a few times on the podcast. I think the 3rd episode I ever did of the Astrology Podcast if you go back was this sort of extended discussion between me and Nick Dagan Best where we talked about y’know what is an astrologer or how do we define astrologer and what kind of definition are we using when we say that somebody is an astrologer. And for me I actually, as I’ve said, I’ve probably said many times before on the podcast I actually use a much more broad definition of the term astrologer to mean essentially somebody who has had some training in astrology and who uses it in their personal life, so basically somebody who believes that astrology is a legitimate phenomenon and also uses it in some way in their personal life. Perhaps on a daily basis or from time to time, so that they actually have familiarity with the techniques and they actually use it themself. So to me that is what qualifies a person as an astrologer, even if that’s not their full-time job or their full-time vocation. Cause there’s literally thousands of astrologers, I would say the majority of people probably in the astrological community are in fact people who fit that criteria who believe that astrology is a legitimate phenomenon, that go to astrological conferences, that read books on astrology, who y’know look at their own chart or their own transits or sometimes look at the charts of other people, even though astrology is not their primary vocation. So Kenneth Johnson was basically using roughly the same definition of astrology when he identified Buran of Baghdad as probably the earliest woman we know of that we can name who was an astrologer, according to that definition and who used astrology, or it’s recorded, used astrology in that way, and had a famous prediction recorded that she had made.
So, this actually got me thinking as I was working on some of the bios if there was anybody else that we could identify that was earlier than that from the Greko-Roman tradition or from the Hellenistic tradition of astrology, y’know, given that I had that list of a dozen or two dozen different astrologers form the Hellenistic tradition who were all men. So in the Hellenistic tradition what we can say is that we know that women commonly consulted with astrologers. There’s some famous, not famous, but there’s some surviving court cases actually from the Roman Empire where women were accused of consulting with astrologers illegally, among other things; it was usually grouped in with a bunch of other charges that she did, y’know this, this, and this, and she also consulted with astrologers. And usually it was in the context of a specific Roman law that was put into effect I think in the year 11 CE by Augustus where people started basically generally in the Roman Empire, people generally started being, it became illegal to predict the length of a person’s life, to predict when a person would die, or to look at the chart of the Emperor. So the issue, like and this sort of came and went at different points in the Hellenistic tradition or in the Roman Empire where at different points the Emperors would basically try to outlaw astrology at different times in order to stop people from using it for political reasons. It was basically entirely, for the most part politically motivated, it wasn’t because they were y’know concerned about astrologers predicting the length of normal people’s live, it was because the Emperor specifically did not want predictions being made about when they would die. And so they would sort of issue an edict sort of outlawing that practice or expelling astrologers from the city, and different things like that because the different prominent political people were using astrologers for different purposes, and even some of the emperors themselves, like Tiberius, were employing astrologers in order to help them sort of run things and to make predictions about what was coming up in their life. So we have a few instances on the books where it seems like some women got in trouble for consulting with astrologers in a way that ran up against some of those laws. So that’s one thing, so we sort of know women were consulting with astrologers there.
We can also see in the handbooks of astrologers from the Roman Empire like Vadeus Valens and Firmicus Maternus that they’re kind of littered with references to how to interpret the charts of women, and it’s true that usually when they’re writing the delineation texts so like, y’know what Saturn-trine-Venus means, or what the Moon-square-Jupiter means or what have you, they’re usually writing it, it’s clear that they’re writing the default perspective as being from a male perspective. But then every once in a while they’ll have a digression and they’ll basically either say that the same delineation is true in the charts of women, or they’ll give an alternative rule for what to do in the charts of women if there’s some sort of interpretive principle that’s different in those instances. So for example one of the famous ones of course is that they would say that in a man’s chart the planet Venus signifies marriage whereas in a woman’s chart they would say that the planet Mars signifies marriage. So that’s one of the sort of examples or instances where they would actually say that y’know the same is not true or that there’s a different approach that you should take when interpreting the chart of women. And part of the reason they would include those sort of rules is because they probably did, or astrologers were consulting with women from time to time. So along those lines earlier this year when I was working on a bio for the 1st Century Thrasalus, I actually found this passage by the Roman poet Juvenal who wrote some pretty harsh satire pieces that critiqued contemporary society in his time, around the late 1st century in the Roman empire, so let’s say circa 100 CE. And at one point in one of his, in his famous poem he mocks female clients of astrologers who eventually begin practicing the subject on their own. So it’s kind of a long passage, I’m gonna only quote part of it. But he says, at one point he says, “be sure to keep out of the way of that type of woman too, you’ll see her carrying around in her hands like a ball of scented amber a well-thumbed ephemeris. She no longer consults but rather she herself is consulted. When her husband is leaving for camp or home she will not go too, if Thrasalus and his calculations detain her. When she decides to travel even a mile, a suitable hour is produced from her book.” So this is really interesting, because while the point of this passage is satire and is basically mocking Roman women in the 1st century, it probably still reflects some general point that is, was an actual reality in the 1st century by that point, which is that some female clients of astrologers were sort of seeing astrologers so frequently that they would start to actually pick it up and start to actually practice the subject on some level on their own, perhaps to the extent to where they themselves started reading the books of the astrologers such as Thrasalus, y’know learning how to use an ephemeris, and perhaps even starting to see clients or to read charts on their own. So even though, y’know, even though this is satire and he’s kind of mocking or kind of y’know creating a sort of, what to him would seem like an absurd scenario or he’s pointing out or commenting on an absurd scenario in that time period, it’s probably still sort of like, biting social commentary that reflects some core truth, which is not really that far fetched if you think about the way that things go today or you think about people that see astrologers regularly, like clients that see astrologers regularly and that eventually pick up enough of the subject that they actually become essentially astrologers themself, and sometimes read the chart of other people or friends or family members or what have you. It’s really not that different than the way that things work today, and it kind of makes sense that if there were all these astrologers running around sort of doing consultations back then that it would’ve been the case back then in the 1st century as well.
So the next question then is: who is the first woman that we can name who would have had some training in astrology, in the Greko-Roman tradition? We already know, Kenneth Johnson has done, he did a pretty good job of showing that Buran of Baghdad is definitely, y’know he was arguing that she was the earliest. I think I actually can make the case for another figure, for there’s actually another woman who lived earlier than that, prior to the 8th or 9th century who we, where we know her name and that we know that she probably would have had some training in astrology. And at this point I think I can argue that this would have been the famous philosopher Hypatia, who lived in Alexandria, Egypt who lived in the late 4th early 5th century CE, so let’s say somewhere around circa the year 400 CE. So Hypatia was the daughter of the mathematician and astronomer Theon of Alexandria, who lived toward the end of the 4th century, and Theon is known to have written some commentaries on Ptolemy’s astronomical works known as the Almagest and the Handy Tables. So the Almagest of course was Ptolemy’s most famous astronomical work that outlined his whole sort of astronomical and cosmological system. And it became this dominant, it became essentially, or it laid down the dominant astronomical and cosmological paradigm for the next over a thousand years until the time of the Copernican revolution basically, and Copernicus and Kepler and some of their contemporaries basically overthrew the old model that Ptolemy had established. So the standard model by this time, by the year 400 CE or by the 4th century was Ptolemy’s astronomical work, or was outlined in Ptolemy’s astronomical work. And two or three centuries after Ptolemy died, we have this astrologer name Theon of Alexandria who’s writing commentaries about Ptolemy’s astronomical works. So that included the Almagest, it included the Handy Tables which was like a shortened sort of version of the Almagest that allowed people to have a quick method of calculating where the planets would be at any given point in time. And this was extremely useful for astrology. So Theon also may have written an early work on the use and construction of an astrolabe, which would become very important later in the tradition, because astrolabes would be used especially by astrologers in order to determine things like what the degree of the Ascendant or Midheaven is, and thus to be able to calculate the houses and things like that. Some of Theon’s students included astrologers and that’s who he wrote, that’s who he probably wrote some of his commentaries for, and there’s some sort of statement to that effect in one of the commentaries I think on the Handy Tables, so that they would know how to use the Handy Tables and Ptolemy’s work in order to cast charts or to cast horoscopes, birth charts especially. So by this point in time, by circa 400 CE the empire, the Roman Empire had changed considerably and Christianity had become the dominant tradition. So it was just legalized I think in around I think it’s the year 313, Constantine legalized Christianity. By later in that century you start to see a bunch of laws start to be passed against astrology. So one of the early laws issued said that astrologers had to burn their books or otherwise face exile. So things were changing around that time. And perhaps or possibly as a result of this Theon didn’t really talk about astrology in his surviving works, although it may have just have been because this would have gotten him in trouble with the authorities or with the population of the empire which was increasingly becoming more and more Christian, and Christians were, Christian theologians especially were not happy about astrology and it caused some theological conflicts, which often resulted in the theologians sort or writing long attacks against astrology sort of, either dismissing it as superstition or dismissing it as like basically evil, the work of the devil or something like that.
So turning back to Hypatia, she evidently had an interest in astronomy like her father, and she’s actually said to have helped her father write his commentary on the Almagest or to have proofread it for him or something like that according to the manuscript tradition. So as an adult eventually Hypatia gained a reputation as a teacher of philosophy and mathematics as a teacher in Alexandria, and she had a number of students who really seemed to have held her in high regard. You can actually, there’s a movie that came out about her a few years ago, like a high budget Hollywood movie called Agora that starred Rachel Weisz as Hypatia. So it was actually a pretty good movie that you can check out for her whole story. It doesn’t really feature the astrology so much but it does feature her interest in astronomy. So she gained a reputation as a teacher of philosophy and mathematics, she had a lot of students. Part of my argument is that given her background in astronomy and in the works of Ptolemy, she would have at least had some training or familiarity with astrology as well. And I mean I think that’s a pretty straightforward and easy case to make, that if she’s helping her father write commentaries on Ptolemy and she’s that familiar with astronomy and has that kind of background in it, then she’s also gonna have some background and some training at the very least in astrology as well.
So unfortunately her story of course famously has a really sad, kind of depressing ending, because she was actually killed by a Christian mob in the year 415 CE. So their motivations are a little bit unclear and it seems like it may have actually primarily been for political reasons, although one of the later, one later hostile Christian source says that she was, it sort of prefaces the story of her death with the statement that she was involved in “evil or satanic practices” involving what the source says is “magic and astrolabes.” So it specifically refers to magic and it specifically refers to astrolabes which are, y’know one of the instruments used by astronomers and astrologers in order to determine things like where the Ascendant and where the Midheaven are located at any given point in time. So one article I was reading recently about Hypatia and Theon by a scholar named Elaine Bernard suggests that the mob may have actually either believed or may have been led to believe that Hypatia was practicing astrology and using this to draw others away from their Christian faith so that either, based on that hostile Christian source that said she was involved in magic and astrolabes, that somehow she was using what was being like depicted as these sort of ‘dark arts’ in order to lure away specific people from Christianity, and that this is how people got riled up and then, or how somebody riled up a mob who then eventually killed her. So the suggestion then is that basically Hypatia’s background in astronomy and potentially astrology could have been an excuse used in order to kill her. And ultimately from all of this we can’t say for sure whether Hypatia was a practicing astrologer, or even what her views on astrology were since almost nothing of her work survives. We have very very little about her and know only a little bit about her biography. However we can say that since she was somebody who was interested in and had some training in astronomy, that much is clear, that she also would have likely had at least some training in astrology as well. So it’s sort of a natural inference that we could make I think that seems pretty solid and straightforward. this would actually, if this was true, if you sort of accept that premise as true, then this would make her the first female figure that we know of by name to have had that sort of training. Although undoubtedly there would have been other female astrologers before her whose names have been lost. So my general point here is just, Hypatia probably would have been the first woman that we know of by name that would have had some training in astrology. And perhaps could have, using some definition of the term, could have been an astrologer. So I don’t think that, that doesn’t quite rise to the same level of evidence that Kenneth Johnson’s article had in terms of Buran of Baghdad and in terms of the prediction with astrology that she was said to have made. Because we don’t necessarily have anything like that with Hypatia, but I do think we can make a pretty good inference that in terms of just identifying somebody by name, by identifying a specific woman by name who we know for sure would have had some training and some background in astrology, that Hypatia is definitely a good candidate for that, and perhaps, I would think or at least as far as I can tell is the earliest person like that, that we know of.
So I don’t think I’ve talked about this before, or I may have talked about it very briefly, but I meant to talk about it on the Hellenistic astrologers episode and I’m glad I got a chance to, because I’ve been working on and trying to finish that section recently, I wanted to have a chance to talk about it here. So if anybody else finds any other references that are interesting or finds any other evidence that contradicts my argument, or finds another figure that I’m not even aware of that’s earlier, then I’d love to hear it. As far as I can tell so far, this is the best argument I can make in terms of there, in terms of identifying the earliest female figure who would’ve had some training in astrology. But I definitely want to keep researching this and see if we can find anything else. I did find a list of, there’s a number of different philosophers, there’s a number of different women who were said to be philosophers in the Roman world at different points, especially in the Neoplatonic tradition. And there’s a few references there that might be suggestive including one who, I think it’s like the daughter of Olympiodorus [the Younger] or something like that. Which is very interesting because Olympiodorus of course wrote a commentary on the astrological work of Paul of Alexandria who lived in the late 4th century, when was that, it was around 378, so actually, he would have been contemporary, Paul of Alexandria would have been contemporary and living in the same city as Hypatia, although we don’t have any, we don’t know if they knew each other or had any interactions or anything like that. But yeah, if anybody else finds any, we know there were other female philosophers sort of sporadically at different points, and it might be tempting to research into that further to see if there’s anyone else that had this sort of background training in astronomy that therefore would have had that, or could have had that familiarity with astrology at the same time. But as far as I’m at, in my current sort of point in this research, that’s the best argument that I can make in terms of identifying a specific figure.
Alright so, I think those are actually the two points that I wanted to cover in this episode in terms of whether or not Saturn was originally conceptualized as feminine, and some of the issues surrounding that, and then the other issue of identifying Hypatia as one of the earliest women that we know that would have had some training in astrology that we can identify by name. So I think that’s it for this episode. yeah, it’s been a great month, it’s been an active month. That interview with Tarnus was a really big deal and I spent a lot of time preparing for that. I’ve also mainly just been writing. I’m probably gonna take most of August off from doing podcasting in order to focus on the book and trying to finish some section of the book and doing some really intense, just pulling out all of my books and papers and stuff everywhere and starting to fill in footnotes in different chapters of the book so, I’m not entirely clear on how active I’m gonna be doing podcasts. At some point in August I’m gonna interview Aaron Cheak in order to talk about the relationship between Hermeticism and Hellenistic Astrology and alchemy. So that’s gonna be a really interesting show, I’m not sure at what point I’m gonna do it in August, but hopefully that should be one of the next episodes coming up after this. Alright, well I think that’s for this episode. So once again, thank you everyone for listening, thank you for your support, especially to all the patrons and congratulations to the two people who won the giveaway this month. Like I said I’ll be doing another giveaway next month for a free pass to my online course on Hellenistic Astrology and electional astrology, and then of course those are courses that anybody can sign up for at any point, so if you’re interested in learning more about either of those then go check out my website at chrisbrennanastrologer.com/courses and you can find out more information. Alright, well thanks everyone for listening and we’ll see ya next time.