Astrology of Religion, Atheism, and Belief | 10. Abu Ma’shar
In an 8/9/19 interview with Chris Brennan on the Astrology Podcast, Dykes noted that his recent research has called into question the birth time for Abu Ma’shar used here. A student of Ma’shar reported that Ma’shar didn’t know his birth time. Therefore, the chart should now be considered to be conflicting/unverified in terms of reliability. See the end of the article for an addition pertaining to whether this chart accords with current events pertaining to Ma’shar.
Additional Update 8/13/2019: Added analysis of the timing of the publication of Margherita Fiorello’s book on the decans.
This article continues the series on examining religion, faith, or lack of such in the astrological chart. In the last article, we looked at the chart of Bill Maher. In this article we turn to the chart of the notable 9th century astrologer, Abu Ma’shar. The ingredients and recipes for this type of analysis can be found in the first article, on James Randi. The basics were reviewed with additional comments in a few articles back, on Madalyn Murray O’Hair.
Abu Ma’shar was one of the most influential of the later Persian Medieval astrologers. He differed from most Persian astrologers in his use of quadrant houses. Most earlier astrologers used whole sign houses, as done in the Hellenistic period. Additionally, he profected in 30 degree increments rather than by sign. The innovative approaches that he adopted were of particularly strong influence upon later European Medieval and Renaissance astrology. In my opinion, his greatest contributions were in introductory material, mundane astrology, and annual natal predictive methods.
Birth Time and Source
Abu Ma’shar’s “On the Revolutions of the Years of Nativities” is his work on natal predictive methods, including solar returns. In Ben Dykes’s introduction to his new translation he provided Ma’shar’s birth time and natal chart. The birth time was established by noted historian of science, David Pingree. The source appears to be from chart examples Ma’shar has given. There is some conflict between the positions implied by the day and time and those given by Ma’shar, by a few degrees. In any case, Dykes gives the day and time as 8/10/787 at about 10pm, near Balkh, Afghanistan (Dykes, 2010, p. 1).
The Ascendant of the reconstructed chart example is at 2 degrees Taurus. I’ve set my chart at 9:55 pm to match the example. All planets are in the same signs (and within 5 degrees) in the chart example as in the chart I use, except Saturn. Ma’shar’s example put Saturn in late Aquarius, while the day and time established by Pingree put it at 0° Pisces.
Why this Chart?
Given that there is some conflicting information about his chart from the reconstruction, why use this chart at all? The problems with the chart are probably owing to slight table inaccuracies and calculation errors committed in Ma’shar’s time. The chart should therefore be regarded as near B-rating accuracy, in my own opinion.
Ma’shar is interesting from a belief standpoint, as he was initially a skeptic but became a believer. Ma’shar was an astrological skeptic until his late 40’s, when al-Kindi brought him around to astrology (Dykes, 2010, p. 1). He went on to become a very notable astrologer and defender of the science of astrology.
Ma’shar’s Chart Analyzed in Brief
Jupiter is strongly advancing, within about 5 degrees of the MC. Therefore, Jupiter is very strong, even though it is in a cadent place.
Jupiter is naturally benefic and is in a good place, the 9th. While out of sect, Jupiter is not regarded by the malefics. Venus (sect benefic) dominates Jupiter. Therefore, Jupiter is very benefic in the chart overall.
Notes on Jupiter
Jupiter is one of the strongest planets in the chart. We expect expansive experiences, including spiritual ones, to play a major role in this person’s life. Jupiter is in the sign and bound of Saturn. Due to the influence of Saturn we may expect such experiences to also be accompanied by doubt. Jupiter is dominated by Venus, so there is likely to be a strong sensual or artistic orientation to the joys of Jupiter.
The 9th, Capricorn, is occupied by a very strong Jupiter. Saturn, planet of doubt, fear, loss, and dread rules the 9th. Saturn is pretty strong, as it’s advancing in the 11th, overcoming the Ascendant (sextile within 3 degrees). Venus, the ruler of the Ascendant, also dominates the 9th. Overall, the 9th is a very prominent place in the chart.
Mixed, somewhat benefic
Saturn rules the 9th, and is quite malefic, as Saturn is out of sect. However, a planet in the place pertains more directly to characterizing it than the ruler. The position of Jupiter in the actual 9th, and Venus dominating it, are enough to associate the place primarily with pleasant circumstances in the life.
Notes on the 9th Place
Matters of belief-systems and searching for some greater truth are fairly prominent in his life. His beliefs can be heavily informed by doubt/skepticism (Saturn rules the place), but also spirituality/religion/faith and deeper expansive truth (Jupiter), as well as sensual pleasure (Venus domination).
Saturn is advancing and is not subject to any major weakening conditions. Therefore, Saturn is strong.
Saturn is naturally a malefic, and here is out of sect. Saturn is in a good place and is overcome by Jupiter by sextile, which are mitigating. However, we expect Saturn to have regularly signified difficult matters and circumstance in the life.
Notes on Saturn
Saturn, as the significator of doubt, fear, obstruction, loss, and so forth, does have a pretty strong effect over the life in a general and pervasive way. Saturn is influential in matters of belief (the 9th).
Mercury is advancing, in phasis, and is in a “pivot” of the chart (i.e. the 4th), while assembled with the Sun and regarded by the Moon. Therefore, Mercury is very strong and prominent.
Mixed, somewhat benefic
Mercury is in sect and is in a good place, but is assembled with Mars, so there is quite a lot variation over time with whether Mercury’s significations are positive or negative. Overall, Mercury will tend to be positive.
Notes on Mercury
There doesn’t appear to be a strong identification with Mercury, as Mercury has no dignity at the Ascendant.
Ma’shar was not a religious leader, nor was he an atheist. He also seemed to identify quite strongly with the Moon and Venus. Unfortunately, we know little of his personality and life before astrology. However, what is notable about belief in his life is his doubt in astrology in particular, and then his very strong faith in it. In his life in general, we see that faith plays a major role, but that doubt is also quite strong, and both play a role in the belief system.
Saturn-Jupiter and Traditional Astrology
This interplay between faith and doubt is not uncharacteristic of the charts of serious astrologers employing rigorous methods. There is a desire to give concrete evidence for God or the gods shown in these charts. For instance, Robert Zoller has Jupiter in the 9th, dominated by Saturn. Though Zoller’s Saturn is a bit weak, and Jupiter rules the Ascendant, so there is much less doubt and much more faith there. Chris Brennan has Saturn as ruler of the 1st and in the 10th, while Jupiter is somewhat weakened. However, the 9th is made prominent through a Venus ruled by Jupiter. I myself also have Saturn ruling the 1st and Saturn in the 9th, but Saturn is conjoined to Jupiter in the 9th within 2 degrees.
08/10/2019 Addition – A Predictive Examination of the Questionable Birth Time:
Given that the validity of this chart has been strongly called into question, we should consider whether it accords with current events. This year, 2019, has seen a resurgence in Ma’shar translations. In addition to the Dykes translation of Ma’shar’s voluminous text on natal techniques (published 8/9/19), there was also the release of Burnett and Yamamoto’s translation of Ma’shar Great Introduction (published 4/4/19). Additionally, there was the publication of a book on The Decans of Albumasar, focusing on his treatment of the decans in the Great Introduction, by astrologer Margherita Fiorello on 11/14/2018.
8th House Year by Annual Profection: Benefics, Self, Legacy
Incidentally, the birth day on the chart above is August 10th, making today this supposed Ma’shar chart’s birthday. However, today the Sun is at 17 Leo and Ma’shar (of the chart) was born with it at 20LEO37. Therefore, this analysis and both published books took place in the final month of Ma’shar’s 2018 solar return. Ma’shar’s chart turned 1,231 years old on Aug. 13, 2018 at about 2:30 pm in Balkh, Afghanistan. At age 1,224 (every multiple of 12) the profection would be to the first house. Therefore, the profection of the year was to the 8th house for this cycle, 2018.
Ma’shar’s natal chart is picture below with twelfth-part positions. One thing that stands out about the 8th house is that it is ruled by Jupiter, that benefic which is strongly advancing toward the IC. Additionally, Sagittarius is occupied by Venus, the sect benefic which is also the lord of the 1st house of self. Furthermore, Venus and Jupiter are strongly associated with each other as Venus and the twelfth-part of Jupiter both occupy Libra.
Therefore, the 8th house, Sagittarius connects strongly with both benefics, the sense of identity (1st house). The 8th house pertains to death and benefits pertaining to death, but the 4th house typically pertains more to legacies. The twelfth-part of Venus is in a close trine with the Sun in the 4th house, Leo. Keep Sagittarius, Venus, the 8th and 4th houses in mind as we turn to the solar return and transits.
2018 Solar Return
Ma’shar’s solar return from 2018 at his birth place is given below. Note that Venus in the return is at 6 Libra, the exact same degree it held in the natal chart, and is advancing toward the MC (recognition). So the solar return presents a strong indication of the natal promise of Venus for this year. Additionally, the return Ascendant is at about 12 Sagittarius, in the natal 8th house, with the twelfth-part of Venus right near the Ascendant. Therefore, we get a strong sense of the promise of Venus, particularly with regard to her twelfth-part in Sagittarius, coming to the forefront in the year’s events.
The way that Ma’shar did monthly returns and profections was a bit different than the Hellenistic approach. Ma’shar considered the monthly return to be when the Sun reached each 30 degree segment from the natal Sun (a zodiacal solar month). At that point the profection proceeded to the next month. I won’t be analyzing Ma’shar’s idiosyncratic solar monthly returns (which I don’t use myself) but I will be looking at monthly profections.
November 14th, 2018
The publication of Fiorello’s book coincided with the start of the monthly profection to Pisces (just a day prior). Jupiter the lord of the year and of the month, was in Sagittarius, the sign of the year still, which was also the Ascendant of the solar return.
Transiting Mercury was also in Sagittarius at about 12SAG55, so it was right at the Ascendant of the solar return. Additionally, the twelfth-part of transiting Mercury was in Taurus (12SAG55 -> 5TAU), at Ma’shar’s own natal Ascendant and Moon. The transiting Moon’s twelfth-part conjoined that of Mercury that very day at 5TAU, around the time when the Moon transited past 8 AQU (7AQU55 -> 5TAU). The Sun was transiting in Scorpio which is the sign that Jupiter occupied in the return.
April 4th, 2019
Therefore, the first month (roughly Aug. 13th to Sept. 13th) is Sagittarius. The Burnett and Yamamoto publication came out on 4/4/19. That would be part of the 8th month of the year from the return, making Cancer the sign of the month. Cancer is occupied by the twelfth-part of Mercury in the natal chart. In the solar return Cancer is empty but its ruler, the Moon, is in Virgo in the 10th house. Cancer is also strongly influenced by Jupiter in the natal chart as Jupiter is the exalted ruler and is opposite the sign. The natal Moon is in turn ruled by Venus which is also in a stake of Cancer. Therefore, through Cancer there is a strong the indications of Moon, Venus, and Jupiter are significant.
One of the more striking features of the timing of this translation and the year in general is that Jupiter, lord of the year, spent much of the year transiting through Sagittarius, the sign of the year. At this time of this publication Jupiter was still transiting in Sagittarius.
The Moon (lord of the month) and the Sun were both transiting in Aries. Aries was the 5th house in the solar return. It is appropriate for new “children”, or creative works, of the year attributable to Ma’shar, despite his being dead for 1,200 years. Aries was also the position of the twelfth-part of Jupiter in the solar return (at 29ARI). Additionally, the twelfth-parts of the transiting Jupiter (24SAG15 -> 21 VIR) was exactly conjoined by that of the transiting Sun (14ARI15 -> 21 VIR) on this very day (at the natal North Node).
August 9th, 2019
The publication of the Dykes translation on 8/9/19 and the corresponding interview took place in the final month. The final month is that of Scorpio. This is very significant as Jupiter, the lord of the year, was in Scorpio in the solar return.
At the time of the publication Jupiter was still transiting in Sagittarius, the sign of the year. It was transiting at 14 Sagittarius which is a partile trine with natal Mars (14 Leo – lord of the month). Additionally, it was in a close trine with the transiting (and natal) Sun and transiting Venus (conj. n. Mars) at the time. The transiting Moon was also in Sagittarius (sign of the year) applying a conjunction with transiting Jupiter (lord of the year).
Mars, lord of the month, was transiting in its own return in Leo, with the Sun and Venus. On this day, the twelfth-part of Mars (24LEO30 -> 24TAU) also exactly conjoined the twelfth-part of Jupiter (14SAG30 -> 24TAU) at 24 Taurus. Therefore, on the day of the publication and interview the lord of the month’s twelfth-part conjoined that of the lord of the year, at 24 Taurus, in the first house of the nativity, in a partile trine to natal Jupiter (24 Capricorn).
Conclusion Regarding Conflicting Chart Data
In conclusion, while it is important to note conflicting and unverified data, it is also important to note that there may be some validity to the Ma’shar chart. Reading predictive techniques on a 1,200 year old natal chart for someone long deceased is anything but a straightforward process. I’ve also only scratched the surface in terms of indications. Still, there are some striking indications of dynamic natal activations from this chart that correspond with the events and the timing of those events pertaining to this life even still. File this one under worth checking when something big happens in relation to Ma’shar’s legacy.
Featured image is of illustrations in the 1515 Venice translation of Abu Ma’shar’s De Magnis Coniunctionibus. Image is in the public domain.