Astrology Book Review: Traditional Medical Astrology

March 3, 2012 by  


Lee Lehman’s latest book, Traditional Medical Astrology, is out, and it is a rich work with copious detail.  As she points out in her preface, “the study of medical astrology is not especially sexy,” but when we need it, we really need it.   The same is true for this book; there is little flash here but much substance for when the need arises.  Lehman’s book is a good start for those interested in the historical underpinnings of medical astrology – and historical they surely are, since the Western and Middle Eastern application of astrology to medicine originated in antiquity and lasted until the 17th century.  Lehman’s focus and sources are strictly traditional, though she will use the outer planets on occasion to fill in an interpretation.  Note that Lehman is not a medical practitioner.  As a result, we do not see the application of medical astrology to cases under the author’s care, an essential perspective that distinguishes the classics in the field, such as the works of Nicolas Culpeper.  As an overview of the many astrological methods applied to medicine, however, this thorough book is outstanding.


Traditional Medical Astrology is a well-researched overview of traditional astrological medical methods, with a good historical and conceptual overview of the key basics of ancient medicine.  The book covers natal topics, such as the temperament and length of life calculations, in addition to decumbiture/horary charts for specific instances of diseases.  The last few chapters are devoted to electional astrology and prediction of the course of a disease.  A solid reference book for those of us interested in the theory and practice of traditional medicine.

Contents and Structure

In an early chapter, “A Word to the Modern Astrologer,” Lehman encourages readers coming from a modern astrological tradition to dive in.  This strikes me as sensible, given that traditional astrology can be intimidating, due to its plethora of foreign terms and frequent reference to ancient books.  Few of us in this age of superficial knowledge have been educated to grapple with intellectual difficulty, but as with everything, more effort usually equals better results.

Chapter 1, “The History of Medicine and Astro-Medicine” is a good summary of the historical movements of medicine starting with prehistory, with a strong section on the four-humor structure, especially as applied to astrological diagnosis and theory.   In the chapter, Lehman articulates a theory I have long held myself – traditional medicine worked hand in hand with electional astrology to assist in determining the best time for preparation and administration of treatments.  The theory is that astrology fell out of the picture at the end of the 17th century and the treatments were timed according to what is convenient/practical for the practitioner.  Perhaps for this reason, traditional medical treatments lost much of their effectiveness, and modern medicine began to be born from the search for a better alternative.

Chapter 2, “Understanding Hippocratic-Galenic Medicine” provides background on ancient ways of thinking about health and disease, and gets into the specifics of establishing and maintaining humoral balance by keeping the hot, cold, wet, and dry qualities in balance.  This chapter provides some background on the four complexional types – choleric, sanguine, phlegmatic, and melancholic – their personalities and predominant diseases.   There are a few valuable tables here, notably Hippocrates’ injunctions for balancing health practices by the season.  In winter, for instance, we would be required to do lots of walking but eat only one meal daily.  The austere winter regimen is offset by Hippocrates’ recommendation to have as much sex as possible to heat the body (“But honey, the doctor said it’s for my health!”).  In summer, we are encouraged to wrestle in the dust and keep our exercise short and infrequent.

Chapter 3, “The Body, Its Health, Temperament, and Virtue as Shown by the Natal Chart” gets into the eternally disputed methodology for calculating temperament.  Lehman makes a few good points, notably the element of the Sun being used, rather than the season.  I am not convinced that a perfect calculation exists, seeing the temperament as one of the tools in the astrological toolbox, but not necessarily the most important one.  The author then provides a few temperament calculations of celebrities.  It would have been nice to see a few charts for people known to the author that she can comment upon personally; with public figures; it is difficult to know what is reality and what is the public image, especially when it comes to health and the overall constitution.  I enjoy speculation as much as anyone (possibly more), but for teaching purposes, the more first-hand information, the better.

There is an interesting section on Richard Saunders’ natal Almuten of Virtue, which looks to the 5th cusp almuten to see which bodily functions were likely to be impacted for someone.  The 5th house is an unusual choice for a health reading, since we initially look to the 6th or the 1st houses of disease and vitality, respectively.  The 5th rules the liver, however, the traditional seat of vitality, which regulates the humoral balance.   I would have enjoyed seeing additional analysis and examples of this method, especially since Saunders’ method was of his own invention.

Chapter 4, “The Body and Its Diseases As Shown by the Natal Chart” starts with an interesting observation; unlike classical astrology, which mostly cared about the timing of one’s death, modern astrology tries to determine the exact cause of death – will it be cancer or heart disease?  One can hardly wait to find out.  There are difficulties with the modern approach.  The Pluto in Leo generation, in a most inconsiderate fashion, has 36% lower rates of death by coronary heart disease than preceding generations, happily ignoring the fact that Pluto is a malefic and Leo rules the heart.

This chapter is where the author gets into some data crunching.  It would be ideal if she delved into the statistics, and I hope to see more information in Lehman’s future articles or talks.  Comparison of each factor to the norm to see the deviation, a discussion of the sample characteristics, and controlling for variables such as age and sex would be outstanding.   Lehman looks at a sample of about 700 A-rated charts and the natal planetary hour and 1st/6th house rulers represented in heart disease, cancer, and drug abuse.  There are a couple of short sections on traditional analyses of disease, namely by Lilly and Gadbury.

Chapter 5, “The Body and Its Longevity” deals with the traditional length of life calculations.  As in many other books on this topic, the author starts with an apologia, presumably to comfort the more sensitive readers who may be learning of the existence of death for the first time.  This is followed by a substantive listing of Arabian parts around mortality and morbidity, and Morin’s own list of significators for the same.  The author shares some statistics and bar graphs describing the placement of the Arabic parts and planets in heart disease and cancer deaths.

Lehman then walks us through the hyleg and alcochoden calculations that lead to a length of life estimate.  This is a rather complex and hotly contested area of astrology, so the interested reader will want to review as many sources as possible, test many charts, and draw her own conclusions.  As with calculating temperament, no one method works 100% of the time, but some are better than others.  Ten examples are given for the reader to follow along with the author.

Chapter 6, “Astrological Iatromancy” is my favorite chapter, not only because iatromancy is a great word, but also because this is where we learn to apply some of the most useful techniques of medical astrology.   The author discusses the difference between horary (question) and decumbiture (start of illness or diagnosis) charts, and a checklist for evaluating such charts.  Then we are off.  This chapter is where Lehman’s skills and insights as a researcher and compiler really shine.  There is a handy six-step checklist (I bookmarked this page, as it is a great summary), followed by a lengthy list of medical aphorisms (of which there are thousands) from traditional sources including Saunders, Culpeper, Lilly, Hermes Trismegistus, and Blagrave.  She then provides a few charts that she has run through a computer program that has all – yes, all – of the aphorisms in Lehman’s sources.  It is interesting to see all the aphorisms fighting it out amongst themselves, and one cannot help but reach the same conclusion as Culpeper; let us keep our brains in our heads and not in our books.  Each chart is different and applying thousands of rules to it will not give us a magic answer.  The author seems to come to a similar conclusion, as most of the charts consist of her analysis with her six-point checklist, rather than a mindless application of aphorisms.

Chapter 7, “Prediction through Time: Crises and the Development of Disease” is a fascinating topic, as the ancients spent a lot of time evaluating the changes in a disease.  Specifically, astrologers and doctors set charts for the crisis points of the disease and watched for the good and bad aspects in those charts.  Crisis times are when the transiting Moon makes a major hard aspect to the decumbiture Moon.  Judicial (intermediate) times are when the transiting Moon makes a minor hard aspect (semi-square and sesquiquadrate) to the decumbiture Moon.   For chronic illnesses, we look at the same positions of the Sun relative to its decumbiture position. I have used this method for myself when ill, and it works extremely well.  We then see some of the predictive value of solar return charts when it comes to illness and injury.

Chapter 8: “Surgery: Electionals and Events” shows us some rules for surgery, as well as examples of surgical elections and charts for surgeries done without astrological consultation, with discussion of how the procedures had turned out.  The attentive reader will not be surprised to know that the surgery where the #1 rule of medical astrology was violated – never have the Moon in the sign ruling the treated body part – turned out terribly.  The patient almost died and had to have multiple re-dos of the surgery.

Chapter 9: “Non-surgery Electional Astrology: Purges, Diets, and Breaking Habits” provides more opportunities to apply the art of electing the right moment for treatment.  These are the moments that are more electable than surgery; few surgeons have very flexible schedules, but if we want to find the right moment to quit smoking, start a new drug regimen, or start a diet, elections can be helpful.  We see a summary of the therapeutic methods of the Hippocratic/Galenic practitioners, few of which are in common use today; bloodletting, vomiting, purging, enemas, sweating, and diuretic procedures.  Even for today, there are some helpful rules here, e.g.: to stop a nasal discharge, put the Moon in Earth.  Lehman applies the ancient rules for more modern problems, like beginning a weight loss regimen: eat your first “diet” meal on a waning Moon, then once you enter a maintenance phase, do a second chart with lots of fixed signs to keep the weight off.

In Chapter, 10, “Conclusion: When We No Longer Engage in Bloodletting,” the author puts the study of traditional medical astrology in context.  As she points out, U.S. medical expenses have tripled in the last 50 years, yet life expectancy has only risen 10%.  She expects that inevitable cutbacks in medical funding will lead to more alternative treatments, where medical astrologers could find a niche combining their skills with alternative medical modes such as herbalism, traditional Chinese medicine, or homeopathy.

Finally, there are a helpful few appendices: classical concepts necessary for horary (for those brand new from the land of modern astrology), a glossary of terms used in the book, where we may learn the meanings of words such as abstergent and spagyric.  There are a few worksheets for temperament calculation, and medical rulerships of various body parts.  Don’t miss the small but useful table comparing indications of a physical vs. mental or spiritual disease as indicated in horaries.


I enjoyed delving into this book, as it summarizes many of the traditional medical books on my bookshelf in easy-to-understand modern language. Though it is not a substitute for the classical texts, it provides a painless, accurate introduction to many essential topics that one can learn about in more depth from the masters themselves.  This is not astrology lite by any means, but rather straddles the ground between a reference work and a critical text, as many of Lehman’s books do.  Highly recommended.


Traditional Medical Astrology

By: J. Lee Lehman, Ph.D.

Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., 2011

34.99 USD

Available at and

Astrology Book Review: America Is Born (Regulus Astrology LLC/Dr. H.)

May 16, 2009 by  

Nun in Thought. Astrology Book Review: America Is Born

The full title of this book is America Is Born: Introducing the Regulus USA National Horoscope. In it, the pseudonymous author, Dr. H., brings his horoscope rectification skills to bear on the U.S. national horoscope. He uses medieval astrological techniques and a great deal of historical data to arrive at a rectified version of the well-known Sibly horoscope for July 4, 1776.

Along the way, he demonstrates his primary direction sequence as a means of predicting events from the horoscope, as well as Abu Ma’shar’s method of directing planets via primary motion through the bounds (aka the planetary terms). As was the case with Dr. H.’s previous book on rectification, much of the really juicy material resides in the book’s appendixes. For example, Appendix C contains the rectified horoscopes of several individuals who strongly influenced the U.S. national consciousness, and the links between their horoscopes and that of the USA.


Another excellent, substantive book from Regulus Astrology, America Is Born is primarily suited to intermediate and advanced astrologers. Dr. H. really works the medieval techniques, and assumes his readers will have some familiarity with such methods. This is a book for enthusiasts of mundane astrology; the art of predicting political and public events, but many methods are presented that could also be used for natal horoscopes, such as directing planets through the planetary bounds. America Is Born is best read in conjunction with, or after, A Rectification Manual, which goes through the building blocks of astrology in greater detail.

Structure & Contents

America Is Born has perhaps the most fascinating preface I have ever read – in an astrology book or elsewhere. In it, the author discusses the symbolism of afflicted Mercury in the USA natal chart, suggesting that astrologers, being Mercury-ruled, are in particular danger should they make public their predictions of US events. This is interesting, but begs the question whether other Mercury-ruled professions in the US are in similar danger with going public (writers, finance people, accountants, lawyers, etc.).

Chapter One discusses the role of national horoscopes in mundane astrology, showing that the widespread adoption of the national horoscope really arose with Charles Carter in the 1950s. Dr. H’s book makes a compelling case for the use of such horoscopes, but one should note that such usage is not traditional; the medieval astrologers used planetary conjunctions and ingresses to make mundane predictions.

Chapter Two jumps right in, using primary directions to test the broad-brush positions of the Sibly chart; the chart’s sect and the position of the Moon. Chapter Three is an interesting meta-analysis of the “astrological moment,” the time that is most propitious for an astrologer to actually perform a rectification.

Chapter Four details Abu Ma’shar’s system of distributors and participators. This is essentially the method of moving a planetary significator by primary motion through the planetary terms. This method is a time Lord system, so for example, the distributor for 27 Aquarius 51 (the position of the Moon in the Sibley chart) is Saturn/Aquarius. Saturn refers to the Egyptian term ruler for that position. The author’s point is that we do not simply look at the nature of the planet ruling the bound, but also the sign, and we interpret them as a whole. The participator is a planet which has most recently contacted the point under examination (27 Aquarius 51 in our example), and which must be analyzed as a time Lord of the same influence as the distributor.

Chapter Five introduces the calculation of primary directions, with the author taking us through some of the key steps of calculating primaries. This is a very useful chucker for those who want to learn how to calculate primary directions, as well as those who want to understand the astronomical justification behind this method. Chapter Six gets to delineation and comparison of important events and periods in the United States history compared with some of the distributors of the time. For example, the period between May 27, 1960 and September 28, 1966 was ruled by Venus/Leo. The author’s attributions to this influence include Camelot, cocktail culture, and the Rat Pack, all indicative of pleasure, partying, and celebrity.

Chapter Seven introduces all of the planet-ascendant primary directions of the Regulus USA horoscope. This is the participator portion of Abu Ma’shar’s method introduced in Chapter Five. Chapter Eight starts with the Moon and its directions to the Regulus USA horoscope. The subsequent chapters all discuss each of the planet’s primary directions; the Sun through Jupiter, in Chapter 15.

Appendix A provides a list of events used for the chart’s initial rectification, comprising about five small-type pages. Appendix B gives a list of all ascendant directions by primary motion, direct and converse, that had been presented in previous chapters. For example, approximately the first three years after 1776, the distributor was Mars/Sagittarius sextile the Moon. Given that, per Dr. H.’ s analysis, this Moon has as one of its significations the political philosophy of human equality, it is fitting that the Revolutionary war (Mars) should be connected to these ideals. Appendix C shows the influence of directing through the balance on individuals, specifically those who particularly exemplified an era in American history. For example, the rectified horoscope of John Marshall, with his Capricorn Saturn in the 12th house, is associated with the Saturn/Capricorn distribution in the United States horoscope.

Appendix D details the author’s test of the efficacy of Egyptian versus Ptolemaic bounds, concluding that the Egyptian bounds are more accurate. Appendix E shows the author’s results from test of solar arc directions as compared to primary directions. He concludes that solar arc directions show more public events, where his primary directions show events more directly tied to the individual.


In some ways, America Is Born is a more specialized book than the author’s prior manual of rectification. This is because many of the techniques introduced in the previous book are taken for granted here, but for astrologers interested in the political prediction or interpretation, America Is Born is a gold mine of historical and astrological information. For starters, there are few horoscopes purporting to show the beginning of the United States of America that are as well supported as the one presented by the author in his book.  There are certainly few horoscopes supported by as much test data, and additional information (much of it at the author’s website, Regulus Astrology). For those who use national inception horoscopes, the author makes a very compelling case that his rectification should be used. Highly recommended.


America Is Born: Introducing the Regulus USA National Horoscope

Dr. H. (pseudonymous) via Regulus Astrology LLC

Regulus Astrology LLC, 2008, 407 pages, paperback.

USD 39.95

Available from, and

Book Review: Horary Astrology Re-Examined (Barbara Dunn)

May 3, 2009 by  

Book Review: Horary Astrology Re-Examined by Barbara Dunn

Reading Horary Astrology Re-Examined brought me back to the days when I was just beginning to learn horary, with Olivia Barclay’s book, Horary Astrology Rediscovered, at my side.  Dunn is a student of traditional astrologer Olivia Barclay, and Horary Astrology Re-Examined is similar to Barclay’s book, in that it is a compendium of traditional quotations on various topics from many authors.  Essentially, Dunn appears to have updated Barclay’s book with the new translations that had been obscure or unavailable when Barclay published her book in 1997.  Dunn has taken over Barclay’s horary course a few years ago, and it appears that in writing Horary Astrology Re-Examined, she has updated the course book as well.


This is perhaps the most thorough survey of traditional thought on horary astrology.  However, precisely because of its depth and breadth, I would not recommend this for a beginning horary astrologer.  The book is not written especially didactically, “soup to nuts,” but rather gives the reader absolutely everything, and more, right from the start.  Horary Astrology Re-Examined is more like a compendium of horary.  For the intermediate to advanced practitioner, Dunn’s book is a treasure trove of information, with seemingly everything traditional ever written about horary in one book.  It is best used as an encyclopedia when one wants to understand a specific topic in depth, with footnotes and references to primary sources galore.

Contents & Structure

Horary Astrology Re-Examined is organized into two major parts; Part I is methodology and doctrine, and Part II contains house-specific questions and judgments.

The Introduction sets out the author’s argument for traditional astrology, which is portrayed as losing ground to the new age facsimile of the art.  I am not convinced this is the case, as traditional astrology has come a long way just in the last decade, but Dunn’s basic hypothesis is sound, in that she views traditional astrology as a valuable, internally cohesive system that can be used for accurate methods of prediction.  The introduction is followed by a dozen or so pages of Terms of Art, which the student should understand as they learn horary.

Part I starts with a chapter about the planets; their nature, joys, friendships, associations (Morin, Lilly, and Abu Ma’shar), and rulership of the days and hours.  Chapter 2 describes the houses, the house systems, the nature of the quadrants and directions, and the nature of the angles/succedent/cadent houses.  There is a good-sized listing of the meaning of each house, drawn from the traditional authors (Lilly, Al Biruni, Morin, and Ptolemy).  This is not a substitute for a good book on the houses, such as Deb Houlding’s text, but is a very good start.  Included is a good discussion of the triplicity rulers of the houses, a natal technique.

Chapter 3 discusses the signs of the zodiac, their divisions, and associations with parts of the body, the seasons, colors, directions, fertility, places (for lost objects), and geographical locations.  Chapter 4 covers planetary sect, hayyiz, and the way these concepts are used in natal horoscopes, including the notions of oriental and occidental planets.  Chapter 5 explains planetary movement and aspects, antiscia, beholding, and orbs.  Oddly, not much time is spent on the nature of the major aspects, the heart and soul of horary, specifically the ways in which they can bring about perfection (square brings perfection with difficulty, for example, while the trine does so with ease).  The material on planetary movements is quite valuable, and unique, in the sense that no one has brought together this material as comprehensively as the author.  Concepts discussed include committing disposition – though we are never told what disposition is, exactly – pushing nature, pushing power, pushing two natures, pushing counsel, and the uses of a separating aspect.  There is also some discussion of void of course and feral Moon.

Chapter 6 deals with essential dignities, discussing domicile, exaltation, triplicity, term, and face, according to each of the ancient sources.  The author then gives information on the debilities of detriment, fall, and peregrination.  In the interest of comprehensiveness, it would have been most useful to include Ibn Ezra’s description of the dignities, both here and in the following chapter. 

Chapter 7 continues this theme with a discussion of accidental dignities and debilities, with a heavy emphasis on William Lilly’s point scoring tables, which apparently continue to exert fascination over astrologers despite their limited utility in practice.  There is also a table detailing the nature of the planets when occidental and oriental.  The table dates from the 1930s edition of Al Biruni’s treatise on astrology, and, in my humble opinion, should have been reset for easier reading.  A section on accidental dignity and debility follows, discussing each of the factors that strengthens or weakens a planet, depending on its position in the horoscope and relative to other planets.   Chapter 7 closes with a wealth horary by Lilly, demonstrating Lilly’s checklist of essential and accidental conditions of each planet. 

Chapters 8 and 9 address reception and almutens, respectively.  Both are very well presented, in that they summarize and quote the traditional authors on these multi-faceted topics.  Almutens are not as important in horary as in other branches of astrology, but they are important to know and understand.  A thirty-page chapter on signification follows, dedicated to the method for selecting the correct significator(s) in a horary chart.  There is a good discussion of natural significators, which tend to be under-utilized in today’s practice of horary.  Another good portion of the chapter is the section on planets and their role in appearance, another forgotten but highly effective horary technique.

A chapter on Considerations before Judgment is a good summary of the various pre-judgment cautions given in traditional texts.  Chapter 12, on The Question, is a particularly welcome and unique addition to this book.  Most books gloss over the importance of asking the question properly, but the author does not skip this rather unglamorous part of the proceedings.  An added bonus is a rather amusing deconstruction of a psychological horary analysis.  Chapter 13 gives a big picture view of how to judge a chart, including a section on timing.

Chapters 14 and 15 are titled “The Possibility of the Matter Propounded,” and “The Impossibility of the Matter Propounded,” respectively, and since they match the subtitle of the book, we can assume they form the center of the author’s work.  The chapters essentially summarize the ways that outcomes can perfect or fail to perfect; the assiduous student could create a checklist for each chapter and refer to it when judging a chart.  The more experienced astrologer may not find these chapters as useful, but they are essential to learning to read horoscopes.

Part II focuses on the specific horary types for some of the more popular houses; the 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 10th houses are detailed.  It is unclear why, with her obvious penchant for thoroughness and completeness, the author did not address the less riveting but still essential 1st, 3rd, 8th, 9th, 11th, and 12th houses, especially given that the traditional authors usually described them all.  The houses that are not addressed are the ones that have subtle meanings, and that give students the greatest trouble, so one would think that a comprehensive approach would be worthwhile.  The houses that are covered are done very well, with a detailed description of some of the criteria of the ancients, and supplemented with the author’s own examples. 

The book wraps up with an excellent bibliography and index.


An excellent book to round out one’s horary collection.  This is not the book to start with, due to its sheer comprehensiveness, and one would be better off starting with something a bit pithier.  Olivia Barclay’s book is useful, and, of course, John Frawley’s Horary Textbook is a great introductory text.  The attraction of Horary Astrology Re-Examined is that it encourages the reader to peruse the primary sources for himself, rather than rely on restatements by modern authors.  The frequent footnotes and rich bibliography make it easy to discover the sources for oneself.  Highly recommended.


Horary Astrology Re-Examined: The Possibility or Impossibility of the Matter Propounded

By Barbara Dunn

The Wessex Astrologer, 2009, 536 pages, paperback.

28.00 GBP (44.00 USD),,,

Book Review: The Art and Practice of Geomancy (John Michael Greer)

April 26, 2009 by  

The Art and Practice of Geomancy - The Fortuneteller

Geomancy is a divinatory practice heavily influenced by astrology, and I wanted to shine a spotlight on a topic with which few astrologers are familiar. Like astrology, geomancy came to Europe from the Arab world, where it was called khatt al-raml, “cutting the sand.” Geomancy uses the random generation of marks or dots to create a four-line figure, one line for each of the four elements. The divinatory meaning of the figure depends on the number and arrangement of the dots. The most common way to perform a geomantic reading is to generate fifteen such figures, the first twelve of which are assigned to houses, just as in an astrological chart. The remaining three figures summarize the situation asked about.


The Art and Practice of Geomancy is perhaps the most comprehensive book on the subject available today. With a basic understanding of astrological principles, one can use geomancy with ease, though I am of the opinion that astrology proper provides a richer, more nuanced symbolism than the somewhat abbreviated version used in geomancy. The author provides numerous ways to interpret the geomantic chart to extract the maximum information possible, so whatever information a geomantic reading provides, the reader can make the most of it using this book. There is also some information on geomantic magic and invoking spirits, which is not necessary to the practice of geomancy, but presented as a way of enhancing the divinatory experience. Personally, I would not go to those lengths to get an answer, but the reader’s mileage may well vary.

Contents & Structure

The Art and Practice of Geomancy consists of three parts: I) The Art of Geomancy, II) Geomantic Divination, and III) Geomantic Meditation and Magic.

Part I introduces the reader to the various way of practicing geomancy, giving real-life examples of the way the art had been used in the past. There is a good section on the history of geomancy, which discusses a possible link between the geomantic systems of equatorial Africa and their later adaptation by the Arabs. One conjectures that the astrological symbolism had been superimposed on geomancy by the Arabs once they had picked up astrology from the Greeks.

Chapters Two and Three contain information about the geomantic figures, followed by a list of the sixteen geomantic figures, with a detailed list of associations for each. For instance, the figure Acquisitio (Gain) contains information about its other names, a pictorial representation, keyword, quality (stable or mobile), planet, astrological sign, astrological house relationships (where Acquisitio is strengthened and where weakened), its outer and inner elements, its associated parts of the anatomy, body type, character type, colors, commentary, and divinatory meaning. This richness of meaning provides a useful divinatory alphabet for most questions.

Part II starts with the step-by-step instructions for conducting a geomantic reading. Because of the emphasis on magic in this book, one of the possible methods involves invoking planetary spirits relating to the topic of one’s question. Chapter Five shows the method of interpreting the fifteen figures, but the real fun for astrologers begins in Chapter Six, where the first twelve geomantic figures generated in a reading are arranged in a square astrological chart, one per house, and we are off to the races. The general themes of the houses are described in detail, though the astrologically-minded reader can get additional information in Deb Houlding’s Houses: Temples of the Sky. I don’t agree with every single house attribution in The Art and Practice of Geomancy, but the author’s method is generally traditionalist in nature, and I was delighted to see that that Greer does not assign either transformation or sex to the eighth house.

Chapter Six also contains some geomancy-specific techniques, which involve relating houses in the chart to one another for additional layers of divinatory meaning. Chapter Seven discusses advanced interpretive methods, such as geomantic readings used daily, weekly, monthly, or annually; life readings; finding locations and directions; timing; the geomantic/planetary hours (including a handy method of calculating the planetary hours in the day); determining names, and dealing with deceptive questions.

Part III, Geomantic Meditation and Magic, contains information not found in most astrological texts, so one gets the sense that this book is a rather different kettle of fish. Chapter Eight contains instructions for geomantic meditation and scrying, which of course are ancient practices that can be applied to methods other than geomancy. The author does give the reader the warning to test the spirits, which is sensible. Chapter Nine gets into magic proper, and provides instructions for creating geomantic talismans and gamahes. Chapter Ten gets into the ritual elements of geomantic magic, giving names of the planetary gods, intelligences, and spirits, and methods for invocation of one’s guardian genius.

The book closes with an appendix of the Orphic hymns, a classical collection of invocations of the Greek gods translated in the 18th century by Thomas Taylor. Included are also conjurations of the planetary intelligences.


The Art and Practice of Geomancy is a unique book on the topic that will undoubtedly become a classic in the field. It takes a common-sense approach to a long-forgotten subject, and covers all of the bases very thoroughly. The astrologer might find geomancy an easy adjunct to the astrological practice, as there is considerable overlap between the two systems. For beginning astrology students, Greer’s book can provide an excellent introduction to astrological basics from a traditional perspective, presented in a simple but substantive manner.


The Art and Practice of Geomancy: Divination, Magic, and Earth Wisdom of the Renaissance
By John Michael Greer
Weiser Books, 2009, 252 pages, paperback.
$18.95, available on

Astrology Book Review: Astrologia Gallica, Book 25 – Universal Constitutions of the Caelum (Jean-Baptiste Morin, trans. James Holden)

April 25, 2009 by  

Astrology Book Review: Astrologia Gallica 25, Morin

Book 25 of Morin’s Astrologia Gallica, a text on mundane astrology, is available for the first time in English, thanks to James Holden’s recent translation.   Mundane astrology, which focuses on predicting events of political and national/international magnitude, is a complex area of the art, one that few people have completely mastered.  The Universal Constitutions of the Caelum is a very coherent and practical treatise on the subject, and English-speaking astrologers everywhere should rejoice that it is finally available to them.  An abbreviated version of Book 25 was translated into French by astrologer Jean Hieroz in 1946, and until now, Hieroz’s was the only non-Latin version available.  In contrast to modern astrologers of the time, who were blindsided by WWII, Hieroz used Morin’s methods to correctly predict the war, and his 1939 article for an astrological journal is included in Holden’s translation as an Appendix.


The Universal Constitutions of the Caelum is not necessarily an introductory text, in that it assumes the reader’s familiarity with numerous astrological terms and concepts.  However, the “how-to” methods of mundane analysis presented by Morin are straightforward and easy to apply.  This book is best read with a pen in hand, because Morin gives step-by-step instructions on interpreting a mundane horoscope.  As is typical for him, Morin gives many examples of his method; in conjunction with Jean Hieroz’s article on WWII, the reader can see for himself the application of Morin’s principles.  Similar to other Morin books, The Universal Constitutions of the Caelum deserves careful study.

Contents & Structure

Book 25 is separated into two parts; the first is the more theoretical one, while the second focuses on practical application of mundane methods.  However, there is a significant amount of overlap, which means that one should read the entire book, not just skip ahead to the “good parts”!

Part I begins with chapters setting forth the basic concepts of mundane astrology, starting with a discussion of its validity.  Morin’s key concepts include the doctrine of subordination of horoscopes; the notion that mundane horoscopes do not act alone, but like nesting dolls, they are a manifestation of a larger cycle.  Therefore, the reader is directed to examine the lunations preceding an Aries Ingress, for example, and look for repeating themes among the horoscopes.

In Part I, Chapters 7 and 8, Morin discusses the specific characteristics of eclipses and planetary conjunction horoscopes.  In Chapter 9 and subsequent chapters in Part I, he gives guidance on interpretation of mundane horoscopes. 

The first step is to select ruler(s) of the horoscope, which are those planets that are especially powerful, and whose reemergence in subordinate horoscopes provide timing of the potentials promised earlier.  Here, Morin gives an interesting technique of ruler selection; focusing on the angle subsequent to the Primary Point of a horoscope.  For instance, an Aries Ingress with the Sun in the 12th house would have the Ascendant as the angle, and its rulers, occupants, and aspects would all be essential to determining the ruler – and thus the main theme — of the Ingress.

Chapters 11 and 12 provide details on the places where a mundane horoscope’s promise would most likely manifest, and the specific times in which the events will occur.  In his prediction of WWII, Jean Hieroz utilized the latter methods with consummate skill, and comparing Morin’s instructions with Hieroz’s application is most instructive.  Chapters 14 and 15 focus on the kinds of events one might expect with certain rulers (e.g.: Saturn and Mars ruling the mundane horoscope are bad, but fixed stars make them even worse).

Part II begins with a discussion of the elemental composition of mundane charts, and the planets’ behavior in signs of various elements.  This is especially important for weather prediction, a subset of mundane astrology.  Morin then goes on to emphasize the importance of the Aries Ingress as a description of a year’s events, with special attention to the rulers of the Ingress.  Chapter 4 is an excellent summary of the qualities of the planets when they are rulers of the year, with discussion of the fact that the luminaries can also be rulers of the horoscope, something the ancient astrologers did not address.

Chapters 5 -7 focus on the planetary qualities primarily for weather prediction, providing handy lists of planets in aspect and in various signs.  For example, Venus in Aries, as in the 2009 Aries Ingress, “under the sun beams produces humidity; when oriental, thunder and rains; when occidental, winds; when static, humidity.”

Chapter 8 gives an interesting list of aphorisms for determining events from the rulers’ motion; Morin considers all planets to bring rain when they are retrograde, for instance, though this tendency is emphasized when the planet is in a moist sign, a humid Lunar mansion, and in aspect with Venus or Mercury.  Chapters 10 and 11 are chock-full of aphorisms for further weather indications contained in the Aries Ingress and lunation horoscopes.  Chapter 13 provides guidance on comparing subordinate charts; such as that of an Ingress and a subsequent lunation.  Chapter 14 explores the intersection of place and horoscopes.  Chapter 15 gives guidelines for interpreting the appearance of comets.  First, one is to determine the planetary nature of a planet (mainly by its color), and then look at its position in the zodiac, interpreting the comet similarly to a planet in that sign.  Chapter 16 provides details on daily weather predictions, and some additional factors that go into such a specific prediction.

The Appendixes are particularly useful, giving a method for determining planetary strength, the WWII prediction of Jean Hieroz, WWI horoscopes, tables for the year 1625, and a list of the elemental qualities of the lunar mansions (and the mansions’ location).


A highly recommended text on mundane astrology.  The number of concrete guidelines and tips in this book justifies careful reading and re-reading.  James Holden’s translation, as always, is careful and thoughtful, with plenty of footnotes.  His preface is informative and places the book in appropriate context for the reader new to Morin.  A worthwhile addition to any astrologer’s library.


Astrologia Gallica Book Twenty-Five: The Universal Constitutions of the Caelum

By Jean-Baptiste Morin (trans. from the Latin by James Herschel Holden, M.A., Fellow of the American Federation of Astrologers)

American Federation of Astrologers, 2008, 241 pages, paperback.

$24.95 on and


Astrology Book Review: Introduction to Medical Astrology (Wanda Sellar)

April 18, 2009 by  


Medicine is one of the earliest applications of astrology, and one of the most neglected branches of the art today. Granted, going to see a doctor is less often the life-and-death affair that it once was; in the face of such odds, astrology was yet another tool of the physician to cheat death. Today, because much of the medico-astrological knowledge has been lost, and because of laws that prohibit the practice of medicine without a license, medical astrology is a relatively uneventful backwater on the oft-tumultuous ocean of astrology. The result is that there are few good books on medical astrology today.


Wanda Sellar’s Introduction to Medical Astrology is a solid beginner’s text in this vast and complicated field. It has obviously been carefully researched and supported with many references to important primary sources. However, the reader seeking a true traditional medical astrology primer will read Introduction to Medical Astrology somewhat selectively. There are enough 20th-century concepts and ideas, some not based on traditional astrological thought, that the purist must tread with care. Yet Introduction to Medical Astrology covers important subjects in sufficient detail and with copious footnotes, so that one can move on to more advanced texts, if one so wishes.

Contents & Structure

Introduction to Medical Astrology is essentially a primer, which examines each piece of the be horoscope individually, putting them all together at the end. What makes this book stand above the rest are the very accessible chapters on non-natal astrology; decumbiture and electing the times for medical treatment. Neither topic is covered in great depth in most modern texts, and their inclusion was particularly welcome in Sellar’s book.

Chapters 1 and 2 introduce the reader to the basics of medical astrology, and describe in detail its role in mankind’s history, starting in ancient Mesopotamia, up to today.

Chapter 3 starts on the building blocks in earnest, detailing the connections between the zodiac and health, first describing the nature of each of the elemental triplicities, and then going into detail for each sign. Chapter 4 builds on this to describe the basic life processes occurring in the body, again by elemental triplicity, and then describing each sign in terms of its masculine or feminine nature, and the organs which are rules. Chapter 5 then goes on to describe the quadruplicities and their effect on health, specifically the types of illnesses associated with each modality. For example, mutable signs are described as susceptible to “fluctuation in vitality and unpredictability and illness.” These guidelines are particularly useful when judging non-natal horoscopes, and derived directly from traditional medical thought. Chapter 6 explores the relationship (or non-relationship) between inconjunct signs, and the application of the concept to medical astrology.

Chapter 7 describes the planets from a medical standpoint, and though the author uses the outer planets and Chiron, she describes the rulerships of the traditional visible planets very accurately and succinctly. By the time the reader reaches this chapter, she will have been exposed to a number of excellent example charts, for example Vivien Leigh’s horoscope, notable for indications of bipolar disorder. The afflictions to Leigh’s Mercury and Moon, significators of the mind, are, sadly, quite apparent.

Chapter 8 explores the houses and their use in medical astrology, an important topic that is deftly handled by the author, though we would point out that the eighth house does not rule the organs of reproduction, a role reserved for the seventh house. Chapter 9 lists the important aspects in medical astrology, with reference made to William Lilly’s use of orbs; the traditional notion being that orbs are given to planets, not aspects. Chapter 10 is interesting, as it describes uninspected planets and missing elements in the chart. The latter is the concept that one may have an overabundance of fire, for example, but with insufficient water. This necessarily reflects a corresponding imbalance in the body. This chapter is very useful for locating problem areas in the horoscope, and it would have been helpful to get an introduction to basic humoral horoscope analysis earlier on in the text for those unfamiliar with the concept.

Chapter 11 briefly describes the use of midpoints, with which I do not have much experience, so cannot comment. Chapter 12 lays out the various way of dividing the life by planetary stages. We are first given a list of the phases of gestation, each associated with a given planet, and then ways of dividing up the actual life, according to 20th-century astrologers, but also Shakespeare! There are a handful of fascinating example charts in this chapter, and the author makes a usually abstract concept of planetary life phase assignments come to life.

In Chapter 13, all of what we have learned about natal horoscope analysis from a medical perspective is brought together, and the author takes us through a detailed chart analysis to demonstrate her working methods.

Chapter 14 describes the forgotten but ever-so-useful art of decumbiture horoscopes, defined simply as the chart for the time that a sick person first takes to bed when they are feeling unwell. Also, the time of consultation can be a become richer horoscope. These horoscopes are very useful for learning about the cause of the disease, its course, as well as the appropriate remedy. Heavy reference here is made to Culpeper, whose book on medical astrology and decumbiture in particular is very much worth reading as a more advanced source on the topic.

Chapter 15 gives a few electional rules for surgery, noting that the importance of finding the right time is still key today. A fascinating study is cited, noting that “in 1000 cases of postoperative hemorrhaging, 82% occurred between the first and last quarters of the Moon peaking at the full Moon.” If we learn nothing else about electional astrology, surely this tidbit is worth it. Chapter 16 teaches principles of finding fertility and pregnancy in the natal horoscope.

A generous anatomical glossary and disease glossary are provided, along with a substantial of reference section for those who wish to pursue this fascinating topic further.


Introduction to Medical Astrology is an excellent book for those just getting started in the art of medical astrology. More advanced students will find it useful for the liberal use of example horoscopes and their detailed explanations. There are few comprehensive yet balanced beginner texts for medical astrology available today, and for interested students, it is helpful to learn the basics from an easy-to-understand guide such as Sellar’s before they move on to more advanced texts. Recommended.

Star Myths of the Greeks and Romans: A Sourcebook (by Theony Condos)

December 9, 2008 by  

Astrology isn’t just about the planets. We use the fixed stars frequently in our work, and this handy sourcebook collects the ancient writings on the myths associated with various constellations. This translation of primary sources, including The Constellations by pseudo-Eratosthenes (1st/2nd century A.D.), and Poetic Astronomy by Hyginus (1st century B.C.), is very helpful in interpreting the deeper meaning of the fixed stars, without relying on modern sources who conveniently digest but also distort the information. It is said that only the fixed stars elevate from the depths of poverty to the heights of fame, but the planets do not do so. To achieve mastery in astrological interpretation, it behooves us to know the fixed stars well, an excellent reason to read Star Myths.


A historical compendium of astronomical myths, straight from the Greek and Roman sources. The ancient sources give interesting shadings to the Star myths, helping the astrologer understand the more subtle nuances of the stars’ symbolism. Because fixed stars have a strong say in a person’s character and destiny, understanding the stories behind the stars is very helpful in natal, electional, and mundane astrology. This book summarizes the stories clearly and with substantial detail. The author often adds useful astronomical tidbits about the behavior of each constellation, and its ancient use, such as the rise of the Pleiades indicating the beginning of the ancient sailing season.

Contents & Structure

For practical study purposes, one will want to read Star Myths with a star atlas or a book on the fixed stars, such as that by Vivian Robson. The reason is that Condos does not always identify each star, inserting a question mark where the original sources are vague as to the specific identity of the star.

The book begins with a preface identifying the tactics used in this compendium, including the translations that condos used to get a consensus of interpretation. The introduction places the two source texts, The Constellations and Poetic Astronomy, in their historical context, though unfortunately Condos takes the modern view that the star myths were somehow superimposed on the celestial canopy as a way of honoring ancient heroes, gods, et cetera. A more traditional approach would view the stars and the myths as existing interdependently, one reflecting the existence of the other, in accordance with the Hermetic maxim “as above, so below.”

The main body of the book consists of an alphabetical collection of some 40 plus constellations. Each constellation is described in the two ancient texts, followed by the translator’s commentary. For example, the chapter on Canis Major (The Great Dog) goes through the several associations of the dog in Greek and Roman mythology – because the symbol of the dog has appeared in various myths, the classical sources may reference more than one as a possible origin of the star myth. Canis Major has several characteristics salient to astrological interpretation; it was appointed by Jupiter to guard Europa, and later was used as a hunting dog because it “had the power to outrun any wild beast.” This constellation contains the brightest star, Sirius, which will indicate jealous guardianship but also great athleticism. We may think back to the horoscope of tennis ace Roger Federer, who has his Mars on Sirius.

The main body of the book is followed by an appendix listing the Greek and Latin names of mythological/astronomical characters, a list of the constellation names and abbreviations, followed by a couple of star charts. There are extensive endnotes here, most of which refer to classical sources for mythology. Because this is an academic book (it began as a doctoral dissertation), there is an extensive biography for those interested in additional information.


A useful book for the astrologer who wants to go back to the source for astronomical myths. The author often makes references to myths and mythological characters that are not developed, so it would be useful to have a mythological dictionary handy, particularly for the minor characters, to fully understand the import of each story. A great resource to keep on the shelf and commit to memory. The old engravings of each constellation and its image are a delightful touch.


Star Myths of the Greeks and Romans: A Sourcebook

By: Theony Condos

Phanes Press (rights: Red Wheel/Weiser), 1997

288 pages, paperback

18.95 USD

Available at and

Astrology Book Review: The Latin Picatrix, Books I & II (Trans. Greer and Warnock)

November 30, 2008 by  

The Picatrix (also known as “The Goal of the Wise”) is a renowned book of astrological magic, translated for the first time into English by a practicing astrologer (Chris Warnock) and a magician (John Michael Greer). It was written in Arabic around the 10th century, and translated into Latin in the 13th century. The original author is anonymous, but it is quite possible that the book was written in the Arab world of al-Andaluz, which was fascinated with astrology, magic, and philosophy. The fact that al-Andaluz was relatively lax in its observance of Islamic law, which strictly prohibits dealings with magic, points to a fertile ground for a text such as this.


The Picatrix is for advanced astrologers only, specifically those comfortable with electing horoscopes. This is only half of the work, as the reader is then expected to fashion talismans during the elected moment. Not being a seasoned talisman maker, I cannot attest to the efficacy of the Picatrix talismans, but there is something here for everyone: Charms for love, the founding of cities, business and trade, the safe escape of convicts, and stopping gossip. It is important to note that this is a “limited review edition” of a finalized version that will come out in the next year or so. This means that the cover and layout of the preview is very basic, but serviceable. The most important point is that the translation was done by a knowledgeable astrologer for an astrological audience, and is therefore very clear and easy to read. The same is not true of other English translations of the Picatrix.

Contents & Structure

This edition of the Picatrix contains the first two books of the entire four-book text. First, there is a prologue by the translator, appended to that of the author. The prologue describes the author’s purpose in writing the book, stating that the wisdom of the past has at last been revealed in this book “to reveal the highways and byways of this science.”

Book I, On “the nature of the heavens and the effects caused by the images [talismans] in them.”:

The first book of the Picatrix starts with theoretical and philosophical chapters. These contain a fascinating discussion on the nature of magic, and its connection to astrology, which is seen as a kind of bridge through which one must pass to create magical effects in the physical world. Then, we are introduced to the 28 Lunar mansions, and other conditions of the Moon to be learned before electing horoscopes. In Chapter 5, the author gives a list of talismans and their electional “recipes,” which is the heart of Book I. The final two chapters of Book I continue the explanatory and theoretical theme from the earlier chapters.

Book II, On “the figures of heaven and the motion of the eighth sphere [of the stars], and their effects on this world:”

The first chapter exhorts the would-be astrological magician to learn the classical Pythagorean sciences before approaching magic: arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. The author means the esoteric aspects of these disciplines, rather than assuming that one’s mastery of 1+1=2 qualifies one as a classical arithmetician.

Then, we get two chapters devoted to basic astrological concepts, such as the nature of the Moon, and some electional precepts. This section presents the basics of electional astrology in a practical, succinct manner, and it would be useful to all astrologers interested in this field, not just magicians.

The following few chapters expand on the “why and how” of astrological magic and the universe, including the relative strength of the planets and the fixed stars, the relationship of the four elements and similar topics.

There follows a short chapter with some talismanic glyphs, evidently based on magic squares (the ones where the numbers are arranged to add up to the same number horizontally, vertically, and diagonally). The next chapter lists the planetary affinities of stones and metals, and the talismanic images associated with the planets and their seals. For instance, one image of Mars “is the form of a crowned man with an inscribed sword in his right hand.”

The last two chapters discuss the images associated with the astrological decans, and the kinds of talismans best for each. So, if you wish to increase the milk given by your goats, make a talisman in the second face of Capricorn. These recipes are nothing if not down-to-earth.


The Picatrix is a classic in the magico-astrological field, and, most likely, in the Top Ten Banned Books of All Time list. The Greer/Warnock translation is excellent; clear and non-intrusive, their easy prose does a complex, very niche topic justice at last. The cost is steep for a 140-page paperback, but presumably this is because of the small number of printed copies. Yet, a would-be astrological mage might consider this a low price to pay for lessons in controlling the very fabric of space-time (cue dramatic music). Let us join the anonymous author in hoping that the book “might come only into the hands of the wise…and that whatever will be done by its means be performed for good and in the service of God.”


The Latin Picatrix, Books I and II

By: Anonymous (author), and John Michael Greer and Christopher Warnock, trans.

The Renaissance Astrology Press, 2008

54.95 USD, with 9.95 USD shipping (paperback), 74.95 + 10.95 for the hardcover.

Available at

Astrology Book Review: Astrologia Gallica 16 (Jean-Baptiste Morin)

September 8, 2008 by  

The indefatigable James Holden has translated another volume of Jean-Baptiste Morin’s astrological opus. Book Sixteen, a relatively slim volume relative to others in the series, discusses “The Rays and Aspects of the Planets.” The book is mostly theoretical, unlike some of Morin’s more hands-on volumes, and all but the most hardened Morinistes will value the book as an exposition of the theory behind astrological aspects. The reason for this is that Morin takes some unorthodox positions, most of which are not implemented today.


A fascinating theoretical book about astrological aspects for the advanced astrologer or hard-core Morin fan. If you are still learning about astrology basics, or even grappling with more intermediate topics, Book 16 will be hard going. However, if you are interested in the complexities of astronomical arguments so beloved by Morin, get this book.

Contents and Structure

The book consists of three sections, each composed of several chapters. The first three chapters of Section I define aspects and planetary rays, and their effects on this world. Morin defines an aspect as the relationship between the rays of two planets. In Chapter 4, Morin enumerates the Ptolemaic aspects, and adds a few of his own, besides, such as semi-sextiles, semi-squares, sesquiquadrates, and others. Chapters 5-9 discuss and refute other astrologers’ views on the planets’ maximum latitudes. Finally, Morin presents his own method, which the translator writes out in simpler terms following Chapter 9.

In Chapter 10-12, we learn about the natures of the aspects, which are benefic and which malefic, and why. For example, trines are benefic, because they are sides of an equilateral triangle, and always fall in the signs of the same element and sex, and is “the greatest and particular symbol of love.” Morin makes the point in this chapter that “every Planet that is malefic…badly afflicted…and determined to evil in the figure…harms that to which it is determined with all of its aspects.” The implication is that a bad planet can cause trouble to another planet regardless of the nature of the aspect between them.

Chapter 13 discusses Morin’s “new and improved” orbs, based on the visibility of the planets outside of the Sun’s rays. Chapter 14 is about applying and separating aspects, as well as dexter and sinister aspects, which are determined by the direction of the aspects with or against the direction of the signs.

Chapters 15-17 talk about antiscia (or antiscions), which are the planets’ shadow positions. Morin reworks this doctrine as well, adding in the concept of declination.

Chapter 18-20 refute arguments against aspects by other astrologers, including the currently fashionable Marsilio Ficino. Chapter 21 talks about whether fixed stars can cast aspects (recall that a conjunction is not, properly speaking, an aspect) – the conclusion is that the stars cannot aspect planets, but planets can aspect stars.

Section II of Book 16 starts off by discussing applications and separations of the planetary aspects, and the strength of applying versus separating aspects. Chapter 4 touches on the concept of doryphory, or planets attending the luminaries, which helps determine the worldly fame and distinction of the native.

Section III analyzes the three modes a planet has when near to the Sun; cazimi, combustion, or being under the sunbeams. Morin analyzes the opinions of the ancient astrologers and (unsurprisingly) finds them mistaken. For instance, he differs with them on the weakness of intellect as indicated by Mercury combust, instead interpreting this position as hidden knowledge: “And so, those persons for whom Mercury is combust, and the significator of intelligence, do not disclose to all either their own intelligence, or what they have in mind, but something is always researved, or revealed in the smallest things they keep back for themselves.”


A clear translation of a complex and sometimes confusing work. It is important to remember that though Morin often finds reasons to dismantle astrological tradition, he lays out his logic fully, helping us understand his reasoning. Especially valuable are his references and summaries of astrological authorities well known in his time, but forgotten in ours. Recommended for the more advanced astrologer or lover of the Morin system.


Astrologia Gallica: Book Sixteeen, The Rays and Aspects of the Planets

By: Jean-Baptiste Morin

Translated by: James Herschel Holden, M.A., Fellow of the American Federation of Astrologers

American Federation of Astrologers, 2008

21.95 USD

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Astrology Book Review: Flirting with the Zodiac (Kim Farnell)

August 27, 2008 by  

Both modern and traditional astrologers like to grouse at Sun sign columnists for prostituting the ancient astrological art. The complexity of the natal horoscope is reduced to one single factor – the Sun sign – and the public is disappointed when these simplified predictions do not pan out. At least, that is the common understanding. However, there is much more to Sun sign astrology than meets the eye, and it has quite a historical pedigree to boot. Flirting with the Zodiac is the latest book by Kim Farnell, who takes us along on a journey through the history of Sun sign astrology, showing that Sun sign astrology has its importance and has played an important role in astrology’s history.


A captivating and fascinating journey through 2000 years of Sun sign astrology. The strength of the book is in its vivid, brisk descriptions of the motley crew inhabiting the world of astrology. Recommended for astrologers of all levels; beginners will gain background on the who’s who of Sun sign astrology, while more advanced astrologers will find fascinating nuggets of information not widely available elsewhere.

Contents & Structure

Flirting with the Zodiac is set up chronologically; Farnell walks us through Sun sign astrology in the ancient world (did you know that the Roman legions carried standards with zodiac signs?), followed by its role in the Middle Ages. There is an in-depth discussion of the importance of almanacs in providing quick and easy astrology advice, like in daily newspapers today. Here we see an important reality check to those of us who like to believe that historically, all people were deep, profound beings with a grasp of the nuances of astrology. Really, the majority of people always wanted an astrological “quick fix,” whether it was via almanac prediction or by reading their daily horoscopes in The Times.

Interestingly, the chapter on the 16th century, arguably the best century in recent history for legal, quality, in-depth, profound astrological work, is the shortest with regard to Sun signs. Perhaps in the last few hundred years, the availability of the quickie astrology fix is inversely related to the amount of more in-depth astrology being done.

The book gets more detailed and anecdote-rich once we hit the last 150 years, with a fascinating journey through the interconnected worlds of mystical societies, gurus, and astrologers, all of which loom larger than life. The public’s hunger for occult wisdom about 100-150 years ago was undeniable, after a couple of centuries of pure scientism. Many astrologers stepped in to fill that void, including Sun sign columnists and publishers of astrology magazines. Serious astrology became interesting again, too, but the popular astrology got the lion’s share of attention.

Farnell gives us some in-depth chapters on two Sun sign greats; the turn of the century astrologer and palmist Cheiro, and 1960s “Queen of Sun sign astrology” herself, Linda Goodman. A nice summary of the scientific backlash against astrology follows.

Finally, we come to one of my favorite parts of the book, the Hall of Fame, which is a collection of biographies of some contemporary Sun sign astrologers, including Patric Walker and Russell Grant. These short articles provide an interesting summary of the astrologers’ careers, along with hard-to-find tidbits and facts about their lives.


Flirting with the Zodiac is something of a meta-book, in that the book is not unlike its subject of Sun sign astrology. Lots of interesting tidbits are presented in a snappy, engaging manner, but without wearing out the reader with too much technical or historical detail. A very good history of astrology, particularly with an emphasis on recent centuries, that can stand on its own as both a tribute and a history of this fascinating corner of the astrological world.  Farnell’s book has certainly given this astrologer a new respect for Sun signs!


Flirting with the Zodiac

By: Kim Farnell

Wessex Astrologer, 2007

256 pages, paperback

27 USD

Available at,, and