Early Horoscopes

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Individual horoscopes were very basic at first. A horoscope of 225BCE, for example, records that "in year 77, the fourth day, in the last part of the night, Aristokrates was born. That day: Moon in Leo, Sun in 12° of Gemini, Jupiter in 18° Sagittarius. The place of Jupiter means his life will be regular, he will become rich, he will grow old, his days will be numerous. Venus in 4° Taurus. The place of Venus means wherever he may go it will be favourable to him..."

How the mythical creatures of the zodiac were born - the Virgin, the Fish, the Ram, and the rest - is unknown. Astrologers claim that associations between the signs and planets and certain human characteristics were empirically made, and there is much evidence to suggest that the elaboration of astrological techniques came about, not through psychic guesswork, or even via the symbolic unconscious, but (as in science) through observation and careful record-keeping.

The growth of astrology outside Babylonia and Assyria took very different paths. Persian interest in the planets was quite separate from Western astrology, for example, and Islamic astrology even more dissimilar, being derived from Greek, Indian, and Persian sources. Muslims were strongly interested in the subject and encouraged by the Koran: "He it is Who hath set for you the stars that ye may guide your course by them amid the darkness of the land and the sea." Simultaneously, the Chinese were developing their own version of a zodiac, with 12 consecutive years represented by 12 animals. Indeed, few civilizations grew without the aid of those who claimed to be able to see the shape of the present and the future in the behaviour of the stars.

Egyptian gods in an astrological scene from the Tomb of Seti I, created in around 1200-1085bce.

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