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History of Astrology in the Renaissance
Christopher Warnock, Esq.
History of Astrology in the Renaissance

Renaissance Muse

History of Astrology in the Renaissance
Series Introduction
Revival of Ptolemaic Astrology
Growing Popularity & Attacks
Height & Decline of Astrology
Agrippa Biography
Ficino Biography
Lilly Biography
Paracelsus Biography
Ramesey Biography
Bruno Biography

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The Great Conjunction of 1524



Reaches Its

Height & Declines

These articles on the history of astrology in the Renaissance were originally published in the Mountain Astrologer. You can start the series at the Astrology in the Renaissance Main Page.

The Great Conjunction of 1524


In February of 1524, Renaissance astrologers reported that there was both a Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn and a conjunction of all the ancient planets in Pisces. The reaction to this significant astrological event is an interesting example of the confluent trends in Renaissance astrology.
The availability of printing allowed for wide publication of the many diverse views regarding the effects of the conjunction. Since the conjunction took place in a water sign, many prognostications focused on the possibility of flooding. Some more sensational predictions asserted that there would be a world wide deluge on the order of Noah's Flood.
Conjunctions of 1524
Other, more sober analyses predicted an abundance of rain and snow. Indeed it appears that it was a very wet and rainy year according to a day-by-day meteorological diary kept by a Bolognese astrologer. Lynn Thorndike, History of Magic and Experimental Science, Volume V (New York, Columbia, 1941) page 231.
There was also much controversy among astrologers over the propriety of using the Great Conjunctions of Saturn and Jupiter as a predictive technique. This practice was criticized as an Arabic technique, improperly replacing the older Ptolemaic use of eclipses. A number of astrological treatises on the conjunction of 1524 took the opportunity to decry not only the reliance on Great Conjunctions, but also the use of solar revolutions, neither of which was set forth in Ptolemy's Tetrabiblos. Nevertheless, despite a certain trend to Ptolemaic practice, most astrologers continued to use the techniques handed down from Arabic astrology.
We should note that modern astrological software reveals that the Great Conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter took place on January 30, 1524 before all of the seven planets were together in Pisces. On February 13, 1524 Mercury entered Pisces and all of the traditional planets were in Pisces, except for the Moon in Gemini. On February 20, 1524 Venus entered Aries with the Moon in Sagittarius.

The Height and Subsequent Decline of Astrology


Along with the revival of classical knowledge of art and literature, the Renaissance saw the rebirth of classical philosophy and science. We have already noted the effects of the revival of Ptolemaic astrology. Astrology also had an important part in play in the Renaissance rediscovery of Neo-Platonic and Hermetic philosophy. Marsilio Ficino's translation of the Corpus Hermeticum attributed to the sage Hermes Trismegistus stimulated much research and writing into esoteric subjects like astrology, magic and alchemy.
The Four Elements and the Cosmos
Astrology in the Renaissance was acclaimed as the Queen of the Sciences, capable of providing an explanation for the birth, growth and decline of all things in the Material World. The Zodiac and the planets, the Celestial World, provided a key link in the Great Chain of Being, acting as the essential intermediary between the Divine World of Platonic Ideas and Angels and the Material World, composed of the four elements of air, earth, fire and water.
Astrology provided a window into a Cosmos filled with beauty and harmony, where spiritual correspondences united all things in existence. The beauty of the Renaissance world view is apparent, not only in its architecture, paintings and literature, but in its astrology, as exemplified by the writings of such astrologers and philosophers as John Dee, Robert Fludd, Cornelius Agrippa and Marsilio Ficino.
Yet astrology entered an abrupt decline as the beginning of the seventeenth century ushered in the Enlightenment. Contrary to the beliefs of some modern authors, astrology was not so much disproved in the early 1700's, but rather went out of fashion. The primary cause for the decline of astrology was the increasing acceptance of a mechanical theory of causality.
By denying the existence of the realm of the spirit, the study of astrology, a spiritual science, became untenable. Where in the Renaissance science and religion did not essentially disagree, the Enlightenment begat a conflict between the scientific and spiritual that has continued to this day.
The lack of a unified schema of knowledge has produced a societal schizophrenia where biologists cannot talk to theologians, and mystics are dismissed by philosophers. Renaissance astrology represents the highest development of not only astrological theory and technique, but of an astrology that was not estranged from all of the other branches of knowledge.
The study and knowledge of Renaissance astrology increases the accuracy and scope of our modern astrologies, but its ability to unify both mechanical and spiritual causality, to heal the breach between science and religion, is perhaps its greatest legacy.


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