There are three main independent branches of astrology today, namely Western astrology, Indian or Jyotish astrology, and Chinese or East Asian astrology. The study of Western astrology and the belief in it, as part of astronomy, is first found in a developed form among the ancient Babylonians; and directly or indirectly through the Babylonians, it spread to other nations. It came to Greece about the middle of the 4th century B.C., and reached Rome before the advent of the Christian era. In India and China, astronomy and astrology developed largely independently.
With the introduction of Greek culture into Egypt, both astronomy and astrology were actively cultivated in the region of the Nile during the Hellenistic and Roman periods. Astrology was further developed by the Arabs from the 7th to the 13th century , and in the Europe of the 14th and 15th centuries astrologers were dominating influences at court. The Mayans of Central America and the Aztecs also developed their own form of astrology. Other cultures and civilizations around the world also developed their own astrological systems independently.
The terms astrology and astronomy have long been closely related. An Astrologer is an interpreter of celestial phenomena, while an Astronomer is a predictor of celestial phenomena. Astrology itself can be divided into two camps, comprised of “natural astrologers” (i.e. astronomers) who study the motions of the heavenly bodies, timing of eclipses, etc. “Judicial astrologers” study the supposed correlations between the positions of various celestial objects and the affairs of human beings.
During the last century as astrology gained widespread popularity with the general public, its detractors became increasingly more vocal against it.
Astrology in Babylonia
The history of astrology can now be traced back to ancient Babylonia, and indeed to the earliest phases of Babylonian history, in the third millennium B.C.
In Babylonia as well as in Assyria as a direct offshoot of Sumerian culture (or in general the “Mesopotamian” culture), astrology takes its place in the official cult as one of the two chief means at the disposal of the priests (who were called bare or “inspectors”) for ascertaining the will and intention of the gods, the other being through the inspection of the liver of the sacrificial animal (see omen).
The earliest extant Babylonian astrology text is the Enuma Anu Enlil (literally meaning “When the gods Anu and Enlil?”), dating back to 1600 B.C. This text describes various astronomical omens and their application to national and political affairs. For example, a segment of the text says: “If in Nisannu the sunrise appears sprinkled with blood, battles [follow].” Nisannu is the Babylonian month corresponding to March/April in the Western calendar.
By: James H Edwards
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