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

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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 Revival of Ptolemaic Astrology


Rationalizing & Refining Astrology

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 Trend toward Ptolemaic Astrology


Renaissance Portrait
One of the most characteristic components of the Renaissance was the trend towards humanism, a revival of classical knowledge. This rediscovery of the knowledge of antiquity also took place in astrology; astrologers increasingly turned to Ptolemy as the exemplar of "true" classical astrology.
Claudius Ptolemy was an Alexandrian Greek who lived in the 2nd century A.D. His Tetrabiblos, a basic text of astrology, was always highly regarded, but during the Renaissance, astrologers began to consider it canonical and to reject any astrological doctrine or technique that it did not include. Some branches of astrology, like horary and electional, or techniques like firdaria were branded "Arabic inventions" because they do not appear in Tetrabiblos. (Ironically, some modern scholars have speculated that Ptolemy was not even a practicing astrologer, noting that he provided no examples and fails to mention such basic techniques as the influences of the planets in the signs and houses.)

Rationalizing and Refining Astrology


Along with a revival of classical astrology, the Renaissance saw many efforts to test and refine astrology. Many astrologers began to systematically collect and annotate natal charts in an effort to systematize and increase the quality of delineation.
The work of Italian astrologer Luca Gaurico was typical of these efforts. In 1552 he published his Tractatus Astrologicus which gave charts of the foundation of various buildings and cities as well as the natal charts of popes, cardinals and other eminent religious leaders, kings and nobles, scholars, musicians and artists. Gaurico carefully examined each natal chart, compared it to the life of the native, and in the case of living subjects, predicted the outcome of their lives and careers. Lynn Thorndike, History of Magic and Experimental Science, Vol. IV, page 100 (New York, Columbia, 1941).
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Many astrologers published their own collections of natal charts, and popular interest in the nativities and futures of the kings, popes and other eminent persons featured made for a number of Renaissance "best sellers".
Renaissance astrologers also made numerous advances in technique. A number of new house systems including the Campanus and Regiomantanus systems were invented or more widely dispersed. New ephemerides were compiled, increasing the accuracy of chart erection.
Ironically, Copernicus, who is considered by modern skeptics to have disproved astrology by discovering heliocentric astronomy, made a major contribution to astrology. Based on Copernicus' work, Erasmus Reinhold in 1551 published new astronomical tables, known as the Prutenic Tables, which greatly aided astrologers in the accuracy of their computations.
Similarly, while Johann Kepler is renowned by modern scientists as an astronomer, he practiced as an astrologer, and in 1627 published the Rudolphine Tables which further improved the accuracy of astrological prediction and delineation.
John Baptiste Morin
One of the most ambitious projects to advance and rationalize astrology was undertaken by the French astrologer Jean Baptiste Morin. His Astrologica Gallica, published in 1661, is a monumental work and provides a philosophical and rational basis for astrology as well as a complete system of delineation.
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Morin carefully examined astrological doctrine, discarding those portions he found to be inaccurate or ineffectual and substituting his own methods, based upon his own systemic theory or experience. Morin systematically dealt with directions, revolutions of nativities and of years, progressions, transits, planetary conjunctions, eclipses, comets, as well as horary and electional astrology. It is unfortunate that only portions of Astrologia Gallica have been translated into English, given its great scope and penetrating insights.

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Specializing in Horary Astrology, Electional Astrology Astrological Magic and Astrological Talismans.

Copyright 2002, Christopher Warnock, All Rights Reserved.