Persian Mundane Astrology | The Six Elements for Deducing Advanced Knowledge

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There’s a lunar eclipse today. It seems like a good time to discuss the importance of solar and lunar phenomena in ancient mundane astrology. Honestly, despite my great interest in mundane astrology, I haven’t studied it thoroughly. Therefore, I avoid mundane prognostication.

I’m sure that if you search for “lunar eclipse December 10, 2011, astrology”, you’ll be inundated with mundane astrological predictions. I’m also pretty sure that most of the predictions will be vague and obvious. You’ll see people predict that some existing long-term crisis will be prolonged. You know, the type of crisis that always takes years to resolve anyway.  🙂

However, if you want to spot a change in the trends, then you should know the type of charts to look at. Let’s take a look at that.

Mundane Astrology

Mundane astrology is the study of astrological significations as they relate to the general world, including political, religious, cultural, and meteorological events. In many regards, there is simply a lack of high quality and clear Hellenistic and Persian mundane texts in English. By contrast, there are extensive works on natal astrology. Additionally, in the Persian medieval period, there is an outpouring of pivotal horary and electional material, but the mundane material is less pronounced.

Abu Ma’shar On the Great Conjunctions

Perhaps, the most comprehensive, and certainly the most influential, treatment of mundane astrology from the period that interests me (pre-1100 CE), came from Abu Ma’shar in the 9th Century CE. It is known as The Book of Religions and Dynasties, or On the Great Conjunctions, among many other names.

An English translation by Keiji Yamamoto and Charles Burnett was released in 2000.  This translation can be a bit confusing, and at a price over $500 on Amazon, it can also be prohibitively expensive.  College students should know that Texas A&M University has a copy available for inter-library loan.

This text should serve as something of a bible for traditionalists into mundane astrology, particularly for those who are fans of Abu Ma’shar. I’ve heard that Benjamin Dykes, who produces clearest and most thorough translations of ancient astrological texts available, has planned on translating the text at some point.

16th Century Latin Text of a Work by Abu Ma'Shar
A 16th century Latin translation of Abu Ma’shar’s classic text of mundane astrology, On the Great Conjunctions.

Six Elements for Deducing Advanced Knowledge

One of the first issues that come up with mundane astrological work is deciding which charts matter most and how they fit together.

In Book I, Chapter 1, of The Book of Religions and Dynasties, Abu Ma’shar sets out the 6 levels of important mundane charts. These are hierarchically arranged in terms of the length of time for which they give significations. One of the more fascinating aspects of that exposition is that all of the charts are of lunar syzygies (New and Full Moons) and solar sign ingresses.  The level of importance assigned to a specific ingress or syzygy pertains to its proximity in time to important phenomena.  Here is the list of the six elements for deducing advanced knowledge (from Book I, Ch. 1, 12-21).  You may find it helpful to use the handy tables of Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions and Mars-Saturn conjunctions supplied on Richard Nolle’s website.

1. Aries Ingress Preceding Great Conjunction in Aries

A great conjunction is a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. Presumably, this is the first conjunction in Aries of the series in the fire triplicity.  This occurs about every 960 years. The next 1st conjunction in Aries of the fire triplicity series would take place every 960 years ideally, but can actually be a much shorter or longer period.  Currently, it’s the Aries Ingress of 1702.

2. Aries Ingress Preceding Great Conjunction in New Triplicity

Presumably, this is the 1st conjunction in a new triplicity marking the beginning of the series in that triplicity, even if there are one or two last bastion conjunctions after it in the series of the prior triplicity.  This occurs about every 240 years. Again, it seems it could be applicable for quite a bit longer or shorter a period, depending on the particular length of time of the series.  Currently, it’s the Aries Ingress of 1980 (great conjunction in air).

3. Aries Ingress Preceding Mars-Saturn Conjunction in Cancer

This occurs about every 30 years.  Currently, it’s the Aries Ingress of 2004.

4. Aries Ingress Preceding a Great Conjunction

This occurs about every 20 years.  Currently, it’s the Aries Ingress of 2000.

5. Three Quarterly Charts

A. Solar ingress into a cardinal sign (i.e. charts of the equinoxes and solstices – especially the Spring Equinox)

B. New Moon that precedes “A” (i.e. the New Moon preceding a equinox or solstice)

C. Full Moon that precedes “A” (i.e. the Full Moon that precedes the equinox or solstice)

The Aries ingress is the most significant of these and is the main chart used for predictions of the year.

6. Three Monthly Charts

A. Solar ingress into a new sign

B. New Moon

C. Full Moon

Typically B (new moon) was preferred when the lunation directly preceding the ingress was a New Moon, while C (Full Moon) was preferred when the lunation directly preceding the ingress was a Full Moon.

Solar Ingresses and Lunar Syzygies

This is the hierarchy of mundane charts presented by Ma’shar in Book 1.  Many indications and predictive techniques, such as profections of the chart Ascendant, are derived from these charts for the relevant locations.  There is much more to Ma’shar’s own mundane predictive system than just these charts, but this exposition gives a general sense of the fundamental role solar ingresses and lunar syzygies, including eclipses, played in traditional mundane astrology. Basically, all the mundane charts looked at were of one of these classes (i.e. either the moment of a sign ingress or the moment of a lunation).

Note on Mean Conjunctions and the Zodiac

Please note that I give the ingress chart date using the true conjunction in the tropical zodiac for each of the first four categories. However, many Persian astrologers (including Abu Ma’shar) used mean conjunctions and the sidereal zodiac instead. Mean conjunctions assume an idealized steady progression through the signs with a clean transition to each new triplicity, rather than the actual progression in which the length may vary.  I feel strongly (and so did some medieval astrologers and most later astrologers) that the actual Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions in the tropical zodiac should be the point of reference.

Abu Ma’shar. (2000). Abu Ma’Sar on Historical Astrology: The Book of Religions and Dynasties on Great Conjunctions (Islamic Philosophy, Theology, and Science). (K. Yamamoto & C. Burnett, Trans.). Leiden and Boston: Brill Academic Publishers.
Image Attributions
Featured image of the painting Selene (1880) by Albert Aublet (cropped) is in the public domain.
Image of the 16th-century translation of Ma’shar’s On the Great Conjunctions is in the public domain. 


Blogger interested in all things astrological, especially Hellenistic, medieval, Uranian, and asteroid astrology.