Astrology

How to win your LOVE!

Aries – Let him call the shots – give him plenty or room – be sexy yet intelligent at the same time – tricky, but worth it. Likewise, she is restless and loves being chased. She may seem fragile but underneath she’s tough a diamond and worth one, too.

Taurus – Impeccably groomed and dressed, he wants you to also look the part. He needs to be both paternal and maternal @ the same time so make sure you give him the chance. She may be a flirt but what she most wants is a safe and loving home. Treat her to art exhibits, plays & concerts, and of course, delicious food.

Gemini– He must be the life of the party so make sure you laugh at his jokes. He thrives on constant change so give it to him. She’s well-informed across the board so engage her in serious debate. She may act as if flowers don’t impress her but your efforts to please her won’t go unnoticed. 

Cancer– Let him brood. His moods are in sync with phases of the moon.  After he’s spent some time alone, he’ll come around and be his charming self again. She’s naturally shy, so soften your approach. She’s also a good sounding board so use her for that and remember to show your appreciation.

Leo – He needs to be the centre of attention so give gifts of clothes and jewellery that are at the height of fashion. Don’t be coy. Be open and direct to win this man’s admiration. She needs constant assurance that she’s your Number One. Ensure she always know how proud you are of her.

Virgo– To win this man, be always on your best behaviour. Everything you say and do must make sense. Ask for practical gifts. She likes clever men, the more academic, the better. If, at first, she doesn’t return your calls, try and try again. 

Libra – Although he’s a good candidate for marriage, don’t leave him alone for too long. He tends to fall in love with whomever is nearest & nicest to him. She abhors noisy, crowded places; no scary movies. She will likely appreciate your advice when struggling to decide just make sure its fair to everyone.

Scorpio – Do not try to dominate this man, it will backfire. Instead, get up on your pedestal and let him adore you. Also not try to make him jealous. Suspicious by nature, this woman must be able to trust you; loyalty is the name of her game. Ask about her philosophy on life. She’ll enjoy explaining.

Sagittarius– Don’t try to fence him in; he will escape. Instead, be adventurous – eat, drink, and be merry – this man needs a lover, not a parent. She also cherishes her freedom. She appreciates lovers who are both casual and flashy as the mood suits. Keep her guessing.

Capricorn– This man is clever and ambitious and he needs you to be the same. If you are loyal and supportive, you’ll be handsomely rewarded. She is attracted to power and influence and will also wield some of her own. Give ‘power’ gifts like antiques and expensive jewellery. 

Aquarius – Take him on holiday, have fun and keep things light and airy; emotional scenes scare him. He needs to love your mind as much as – if not more than – your body. She loves all that is strange and offbeat and is always up to rally behind worthy cause. She has a short attention span so make your impression hard and fast. You may not get another chance.

Pisces – This man requires romance. Candle-lit dinners and poetry readings are a must. Give him lots of encouragement and Tender Loving Care. She will appreciate help in making decisions as long as you don’t push too hard. Traditional gifts of love work wonders. Consider giving her a puppy or a kitten.

Astrology

BREXIT – Alpha & Omega

The chart of tonight’s BREXIT set for London sets the tone:

At the very bottom of the chart, we find Saturn/Pluto – the two heavy-hitter planets the conjunction of which earlier in January this year, astrologers have been fretting about for many months.

  • Although Saturn/Pluto conjunctions occur about every 30-33 years, they have not come together in Capricorn since 1518, when Martin Luther posted his thesis which, with the Protestant Reformation, ended the Catholic Church’s stranglehold on Western religion.
  • Astrologers have, for the most part, agreed, that (for a number of reasons) something equally as momentous can be expected this time.
  • Saturn/Pluto in conjunction puts us in touch with the necessity for endings. Either something is completely destroyed or utterly transformed beyond recognition. There are no other options.
  • This Saturn/Pluto conjunction, the energy of which has been building for many months, will be operative throughout most of this calendar year. The conjunction is both (1) the end of the previous cycle (which occurred in 1982 in Libra) and (2) the beginning of the next, which will end in 2053.
  • In this BREXIT chart, Saturn/Pluto straddle the cusp of 4th house. In mundane matters, the fourth house  symbolizes the common people as well as the families and clans which, naturally, they form. We might read this BREXIT chart as signalling the end of the ‘clan’ known as the European Union, to which the United Kingdom has belonged for some time.
  • We might also see it as a sign for the future – the necessity of the ending of the United Kingdom as it is now. With Saturn/Pluto, we often also get an advance look at the cracks that are forming in the foundation before they cause complete collapse. For example, Scotland has made no bones about it: the ‘clan’ to which they may more naturally adhere (i.e. Scots) has been dragged from the European Union against its will.
  • The good news is that in this chart, the Sun, which symbolizes the UK government is in Aquarius – it is progressive and radical, if not rebellious, at least ready and willing to try out new ideas. The bad news is that this Sun is not in a position to accomplish much (i.e. it is not ‘plugged into the angles) of any of this in the ‘real world’.
  • Leaving the past behind, we look to the future and in this sense, progressive talk is good but affirmative action is better. Over the coming months, we shall see how the current UK government fairs in this regard but don’t expect all to be made perfectly clear until this cycle comes to an end in 2053.
Astrology

Ms S gets a new friend, Part II

METHOD:

When looking astrologically at the relationship between two people, two techniques are favoured:

  • The first is to examine the synastry between the individuals’ two natal charts. This identifies the essential energies in play between them as well as showcasing what has most likely brought them together in the first place.
  • Whilst synastry examines the impact one person has the other, the second technique – a composite chart – uses the individual natal charts to create a whole new third chart. This represents the relationship as a whole and provides insight into the dynamics upon which it, as a relationship, functions.

By comparing the two techniques, we often find repeating themes which of are of special interest because they will have a significant, longer-term impact on the relationship.


ANALYSIS:

Kindness & Empathy

For Ms S and her new friend, Mr T, the Moon/Neptune theme is highlighted in both synastry and the composite chart. This is likely to impart an overriding degree of kindness and empathy between the pair, which can be quite lovely.

  • This natural, instinctual bond runs deep and will not easily be broken. Both parties will likely feel that they ‘know’ each other ‘well’ and because of the placement of the contact (by conjunction) in the composite third house, this comfortable rapport is likely to play out in their interpersonal communication.
  • However comfortable the Moon/Neptune contacts may feel, it is in itself is not an indication of romance. Indeed although this contact is one of the classic signatures of a ‘soul mate’ relationship, it is just as often found in purely platonic relationships as it is in those of a sexual nature.
  • Potential problems with such a tight and deep bond like Moon/Neptune include the propensity to lose a vital sense of personal boundaries.
  • Should this happen, it could leave both parties feeling emotionally drained. Another potential problem is that whilst one person endlessly gives (in this case, most likely it would be Ms S), the other person (Mr T) might endlessly take. If this dynamic remains unchecked as the relationship progresses, it could well prompt Ms S (the Moon person) to become increasingly more possessive – demanding more and more attention. In response, this could well prompt Mr T (the Neptune person) to ‘quietly slip away’ and become increasingly ‘emotionally unavailable’.
  • Both Ms S and Mr T need to be always mindful not to slip into a ‘redeemer/victim’ pattern of relating which is common with the Moon/Neptune dynamic. Should this occur and continue unchecked, both parties may begin to unconsciously ‘undermine’ the confidence of the other in order to keep hold of their tight bond.

Openness & Warmth

Another theme repeated in both the synastry and composite chart is that of Sun/Jupiter. This is likely to result in a feeling of natural harmony between Ms S and Mr T, marked by a sense of openness and warmth.

  • In the composite chart, the Sun/Jupiter contact (by conjunction) falls in the 7th house, which is the place of partnerships and marriages.
  • This suggests that should Ms S and Mr T form an alliance akin to a partnership, both will ‘shine brighter’ and enjoy significant personal growth as the result.
  • With the 7th house, however, we must also always remember that it is the not just the place for partnerships but also for ‘open enemies’ – i.e. if you’re not ‘with me’ then you’re ‘against’ me.

Power Plays / Domination

In the composite chart, Pluto is directly opposite the Sun/Jupiter (conjunction). This suggests that if Ms S and Mr T are not careful, their relationship could very well become an open battle ground.

Along the same lines, the composite chart has Mars close to the Midheaven (MC) and in square aspect to both the Ascendant/Descendant axis and composite Venus.  This again highlights the possibility of the relationship ultimately becoming a battleground – as ‘domination’ and ego-fueled ‘power plays’ become the order of the day.

Sexual Attraction / Open Hostility

Although as noted earlier, the Moon/Neptune contact is often found in purely platonic relationships,  in this case, a close Venus/Mars (synastry) contact suggests a sexual attraction between Ms S and Mr T. Beware. Without careful attention, this erotic energy may find itself ‘rechannelled’ into arguments – over even the most petty things – as both parties engage in the power plays, as noted above, and well know how to ‘push each other’s buttons’.

Valued-Added

Finally, this pair also enjoys a mutual Venus/Sun synastry contact (by trine and square) suggesting a natural harmony promoting a significant degree of mutual acceptance and tolerance.

  • This contact, however pleasant, also brings with it the danger of taking each other for granted and subsequent loss of that all important ‘spark’ of interest that brought them together in the first place.
  • It’s more than possible that Ms S will begin to feel that she’s being taken advantage of by Mr T and that he does not appreciated or value her as much as she does him.
  • If this occurs, then the more she goes out of her way to please him, the more complacent he may become.
  • Some balance  in ‘give and take’ needs to be negotiated else the relationship risks the possibility of Ms S holding a ‘grudge’ regarding the ‘unfairness’ of it all – and this could well ultimately drive a wedge between them.

Astrology

Crisis & Collapse / 2020

Last night, I had a horrible dream: I was sitting in my living room watching as (for no apparent reason) the wall of the house next door crumbled and collapsed.


This metaphor aptly depicts what we might soon expect from a series of planetary onslaughts across the bow of the Capricorn/Cancer axis.

To understand what this means, first remember that Capricorn is ruled by Saturn and Cancer by the Moon. Thus we can expect the cold, hard reality of material events (Saturn) to seriously disrupt our domestic and emotional security (Moon) as follows:

10 January – Lunar Eclipse

With every eclipse something ends and something begins but whilst solar eclipses tend to offer new opportunities, lunar eclipses tend to bring final endings. Because this eclipse (where the shadow of the earth blots out the light of the Moon) occurs on the Capricorn/Cancer axis, we can expect a shadow of some sort to fall across the promise of continued domestic/emotional security.

11 January – Uranus turns Direct

Now comes the turning point – although the proverbial writing may have been the proverbial wall for some time in regards to an upcoming change we can no longer ignore it.

12 January – Saturn/Pluto Conjunction

A seriously powerful planetary line-up in Capricorn (Saturn/Pluto/Sun/Mercury/Jupiter) assures us a crisis of significant magnitude to catch and hold everyone’s attention. The status quo explodes and as a consequence, we are forced to take action, like it or not.

The last time Saturn/Pluto were conjunction in Capricorn was 1518, when the world witnessed the start the Protestant Reformation and the end of the Catholic Church’s stranglehold on political and religious power.

The planetary line-up in 2020 is eerily similar to that of 1518.

During this period, we can expect nothing less than the total and utter structural (Saturn) collapse and death and rebirth (Pluto) of some status quo that will play heavy on our minds (Mercury).

Because of the nature of Saturn and Pluto in combination, this will not be pretty.

Add the Sun to this planetary line-up, and we can expect this crisis to bring about a sober AWAKENING – a mature, realistic understanding that something we’ve taken for granted has come to the bitter end.

17 January – Last Quarter Moon

The Moon in Libra reactivates the Saturn/Pluto conjunction of five days ago. The last quarter Moon is always a trying time – a test – a judgement of how well we’ve dealt with that which has come before. Expect more drama, disruption, and hard choices.

21 June – Solar Eclipse / Summer Solstice

Just minutes after the summer solstice, when the Sun enters the zodiac sign of Cancer, there is another solar eclipse. We’re looking at new chapter in the story that started in January re: crisis and collapse. What’s being offered here and will we take it?

5 July – Lunar Eclipse

By this time, the Jupiter and Pluto conjunction, which has been plodding along in the background since April, will have come center stage. At last, we might expect our story to be approaching some kind of resolution.

But before getting too optimistic (Jupiter), remember that the Jupiter/Pluto cycle is associated with political power struggles arising from excessive beliefs and optimism, i.e. fundamentalism and terrorism. Likewise, we might expect some death/rebirth (Pluto) regarding Jupiter-inspired things like the legal system or governmental rules and regulations.

29 September – Saturn turns Direct

Back in January, Saturn and Pluto formed that conjunction in Capricorn, one that reminds us of that formed in January 1518.

In April, Saturn moved out of Capricorn and into Aquarius, thus alleviating some of the pressure. But, unfortunately, it’s not over yet. In May, Saturn turned retrograde and started reversing back into Capricorn throughout the entire summer reigniting the crisis experienced earlier in the year.

Finally, at long last, Saturn turns direct moves definitively away from that January conjunction. Whilst it is true that Saturn’s 2020 conjunction with Pluto has set off a new cycle that will take approximately 33 years to unfold in its entirety, at least we now have some breathing space to reflect upon what has happened and adjust our lives in keeping with it.


In regards to my horrible dream, the wall (Saturn) of my neighbor’s house (Moon) may have collapsed (Pluto) in January but the dust didn’t start to settle until the end of the summer. Towards the end of 2020, my unfortunate neighbor will finally learns if he or she is can rebuild or need to relocate.

Astrology

When the ‘sun is spent’…

One of the perennial philosophies asserts that only in eternity (i.e. God, Plato’s forms, Aristotelian essences) can constancy be found. All else is subject to mutability, change as the result of time.

In Book Eleven of his Confessions, St Augustine questioned time in relation to God (the stable Truth) and His creation of the temporal world. He concluded that time – past, present and future – could be nothing more than a conscious act of human representation.

Whether or not this is true, I suggest that at least in his secular poetry, John Donne, the metaphysical English Renaissance poet, shrewdly manipulates his representations of time in order to explore ideas about constancy and mutability in new and thought-provoking ways.

One of the most interesting, at least for this time of the year, comes with his poem A Nocturnal upon St. Lucy’s Day, in which Donne uses the winter solstice to help his speaker come to grips with a difficult situation.

Someone important to the speaker, likely a lover or former lover (suggested by the speaker’s address to ‘other lovers’), has died.

It is indeed a dark time.

Yet the cycle of death is now complete – ‘this time to the Goat is run’ – (i.e. at the winter solstice, the sun enters Capricorn, ‘The Goat’, in order to die and be reborn). Because ‘spring’ is connected through rhyme with ‘thing’ (‘I am every dead thing’), there is hope of regeneration not only for the sun but for the speaker as well. In turn, this will ‘fetch new lust’ (the goat being associated with the genitals and the union of male and female powers).

The desolate speaker takes solace from the next (‘summer’) solstice – ‘let me prepare towards her’ (emphasis added) for after ‘midnight’ comes the new day.


With this, Donne has effectively reset the clock and put the difficult situation into new perspective and with similar reflection, you can do the same.


With Saturn and Pluto coming ever closer form their historic conjunction in Capricorn in mid January 2020, we can expect this solstice to be both a time of crisis and contraction. On so many levels, it spells the end of innocence, the end of an era that as with the speaker in Donne’s poem, we have little choice but to face with honesty and humility. Just as St Augustine reminds us, all in our temporal, material wold is subject to change as the result of time.

Yet as with Donne’s poem, this solstice offers the opportunity of true transcendence and healing if, and only if, we choose it to be.

Intention matters.


‘Tis the year’s midnight, and it is the day’s,
Lucy’s, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks;
         The sun is spent, and now his flasks
         Send forth light squibs, no constant rays;
                The world’s whole sap is sunk;
The general balm th’ hydroptic earth hath drunk,
Whither, as to the bed’s feet, life is shrunk,
Dead and interr’d; yet all these seem to laugh,
Compar’d with me, who am their epitaph.

Study me then, you who shall lovers be
At the next world, that is, at the next spring;
         For I am every dead thing,
         In whom Love wrought new alchemy.
                For his art did express
A quintessence even from nothingness,
From dull privations, and lean emptiness;
He ruin’d me, and I am re-begot
Of absence, darkness, death: things which are not.

All others, from all things, draw all that’s good,
Life, soul, form, spirit, whence they being have;
         I, by Love’s limbec, am the grave
         Of all that’s nothing. Oft a flood
                Have we two wept, and so
Drown’d the whole world, us two; oft did we grow
To be two chaoses, when we did show
Care to aught else; and often absences
Withdrew our souls, and made us carcasses.

But I am by her death (which word wrongs her)
Of the first nothing the elixir grown;
         Were I a man, that I were one
         I needs must know; I should prefer,
                If I were any beast,
Some ends, some means; yea plants, yea stones detest,
And love; all, all some properties invest;
If I an ordinary nothing were,
As shadow, a light and body must be here.

But I am none; nor will my sun renew.
You lovers, for whose sake the lesser sun
         At this time to the Goat is run
         To fetch new lust, and give it you,
                Enjoy your summer all;
Since she enjoys her long night’s festival,
Let me prepare towards her, and let me call
This hour her vigil, and her eve, since this
Both the year’s, and the day’s deep midnight is.

A Nocturnal upon St. Lucy’s Day, being the shortest day – John Donne

Astrology

The Christmas Star (Part IV)

The Christmas Star is one of the holiday season’s most fascinating and enduring stories. Yet even today, astronomers remain uncertain as to the precise nature of the heavenly event that inspired it.

In a series of blog posts, I’ll be reviewing some key pieces of evidence supporting several of the most likely contenders along with some traditional and not so traditional interpretations. 


Previously

A few days ago, we investigated the messianic biblical prophecy of Balaam (Numbers 24.17) and how it may be connected, through the Magi, to one of the strongest contenders, a triple Saturn/Jupiter conjunction in Pisces in 06/07 BC. 

Yet, because such conjunctions are not really all that rare, the question then became whether or not something else might have been going on. There was and it had to do with how the Magi referred to only as an amorphous group became three. Not only that, but these three magi, or wise men brought gifts. They also saved the baby Jesus from the clutches of blood-thirsty Kind Herod.

But just when the political machinations of this story found in the Gospel of Matthew reached its peak, we had to consider a completely different version, that found in the Gospel of Luke. Gone now is all reference to the magi, their gifts, Herod, and even our Christmas Star. We are instead presented with shepherds, an angel, and a ‘concerned’ Mary and Joseph.

Veering away from astrological interpretations, early Christian writers steered followers toward seeing the Christmas star as a miracle, free from any heavenly signs and accompanying ideas of fate or destiny. This naturally led to the suggestion that the heavenly event in question was a comet, for which there seemed sufficient historical and biblical evidence.

Yet this interpretation created its own set of problems, not the least of which involved the symbol of the virgin Mary giving birth with the crescent moon under her feet (as described in Revelations). Add to that no one had yet managed to fit the pericope of Luke, with the shepherds and an angel rather than Magi and a star into the picture, and everything seems a right muddle.


Although tempting, it would be a mistake to view this through a modern lens.


Hellenistic thinking

There is significant evidence that along with the rest of the New Testament, both the Gospel of Matthew and Luke were originally penned in Greek. This suggests that Hellenistic thinking, including Hellenistic astrology, itself laden with anthropomorphic Mesopotamian sky narratives, probably influenced these biblical texts.

This is important.

Not only were the constellations comprising the Mesopotamian zodiac different from those of our modern zodiac,  but celestial prophecy regarding that zodiac was not only prevalent, but also taken seriously.

In his book, Astrological Reports to Assyrian Kings, Hermann Hunger, an Austrian authority on Babylonian astrology and celestial omens, provides several relevant examples:

  • ‘If the stars of Orion [known to the Babylonians as The Shepherd of Anu] keep gaining radiance: an important person will become too mighty and commit evil. – Venus stands in front of Orion.”
  • The priest Bullutu records a bright Venus in the ‘Crook’, known later as Auriga, the Charioteer and writes of this combination, ‘the foundation of the throne will become stable.’
  • ‘If Orion [known to the Babylonians as The Shepherd of Anu] comes close to the moon; the days of the reign of the king will become long…’
  • ‘If Ada thunders in the middle of Taurus [the Cosmic Bull], the king will conquer a country not belonging to him.’

Putting it all together

On 1 May 7 BC, there was a new moon along with the first of the three Jupiter/Saturn conjunctions.
  • Immediately afterwards, the planet Venus, as the evening star, was just above the crescent moon, in the stars of the Shepherd of Anu,
  • While the Sun, the king, was in Taurus just setting at the horizon, close by.
  • We now have all the elements central to the nativity pericope in Luke: shepherds, cattle, and a stable (as foundation of the throne).


In Venus, the evening star, we may also have found the ‘woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet’ as noted in Revelations 12:1-5 (RSV).

Could it be that in some sense, both the apparently conflicting bible versions (Luke and Matthew) of the birth of could be true, as sky narratives, recording through visual celestial symbolism the story of the birth of the Christ and the attendant Christmas Star?

Better yet, should any or all of this be considered as having fulfilled the prophecy of Balaam:

…a star shall come for out of Jacob and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel…

Numbers 24:17 (RSV)

Interesting, the word ‘sceptre’ originally meant a rod or staff. In the Old Testament, it was thus specifically applied to the shepherd’s crook, which was considered an insignia of supreme power:

And all the tithe of herds and flocks, every tenth animal of all that pass under the herdsman’s staff, shall be holy to the Lord.

Leviticus 27:32 (RSV)

Shepherd thy people with thy staff, the flock of thy inheritance…

Micah 7:14 (RSV)

The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.

Genesis 49:10 (RSV)

Conclusion

As it is impossible to reach any definitive inclusions about the real nature of the Christmas Star, I invite you to consider what has been presented over this four-part series of posts and make up your own minds as how best to interpret all the possibilities and the evidence. Also, when you next sing about shepherds who watch their flocks or three kings bearing gifts, I invite you to consider the cultural role that such celestial symbolism still plays 2,000 years after the historical event that it depicts.

Astrology

Ms S gets a new friend!

Ms S has a new friend, Mr T, and she’s keen to understand how their relationship might pan out.


First, let’s take a closer look at Mr T:

  1. With Virgo rising, this fellow is practical to a fault – the devil is in the detail although with Mercury, the chart ruler, in Pisces this particular ‘devil’ may become a masterful piece of art.
  2. With Mercury in Pisces, we might expect Mr T to be perceptive, emotional, and contradictory. He could well have problems with boundaries as well as a tendency toward secrecy. Scattered thinking is a distinct possibility and so warning to Ms S – what you hear from him is not necessarily what you’ll get.
  3. Having said that, Mr T is both creative and intuitive if not downright telepathic. He craves emotional closeness and knows just when, where, and how to get it.
  4. This Mercury has the added ‘advantage’ of being closely square with Neptune, the ruler of Pisces and so we have a double dose of Pisces but not always in the easiest way to handle it. Stretching the truth, whether done consciously or unconsciously, is often the order of the day with this placement as well as being vague and succumbing to numerous digressions that likely lead nowhere.
  5. Put this together with a natal Sun (Aquarius) in close proximity to Jupiter and we find an individual with full faith that all will turn out right in the end (in his favor) but little ability and/or will-power to make it happen.
  6. Key words for Aquarius include dispassionate, impersonal, nonconformist, observant, and idealistic. Aquarius is not usually too concerned with the view others hold of him and in the case of Mr T, this could prove a god-send.
  7. Saturn, the ruler of his Aquarian Sun, is in Gemini. As is always the case with Saturn, we must remember he’s both a friend and a foe. With one hand, Saturn gives the structure and strength necessary to succeed in life but with the other, Saturn makes one feel like a foolish failure. With Saturn in Gemini, we might expect Mr T to be a workaholic, possibly a generalized overcompensation for feeling less than clever and articulate. This placement suggests difficulties with sharing and learning, whether real or perceived.
  8. Finally, his Venus (in Capricorn, also Saturn ruled) is closely square to Uranus. When it comes to love, this man gets easily restless and so conventional long-term relationships are probably not his cup of tea. Things will improve significantly, however, with plenty ‘time off’ and ‘space’ for personal freedom – with Mr T, ‘absence probably does make the heart grow fonder.

More tomorrow we will continue our analysis with synastry analysis and composite chart!

Astrology

The Christmas Star (Part III)

The Christmas Star is one of the holiday season’s most fascinating and enduring stories. Yet even today, astronomers remain uncertain as to the precise nature of the heavenly event that inspired it.

In a series of blog posts, I’ll be reviewing some key pieces of evidence supporting several of the most likely contenders along with some traditional and not so traditional interpretations. 


A few days ago, we investigated the messianic biblical prophecy of Balaam (Numbers 24.17) and how it may be connected, through the Magi, to one of the strongest contenders, a triple Saturn/Jupiter conjunction in Pisces in 06/07 BC. 

Yet, because such conjunctions are not really all that rare, the question then became whether or not something else might have been going on. Turns out that there was and it had to do with how the Magi, once an amorphous group of wise men, became only three. Not only that, but these three magi brought important gifts to the new born king. They also saved the baby Jesus from the clutches of yet another king, the blood-thirsty Herod.

But just as it was all beginning to fit together nicely, we had to consider a completely different version of the story, as found in the Gospel of Luke. With this, all reference to the magi, their gifts, Herod, and even our Christmas Star have disappeared. Instead, we are presented with shepherds and a harking angel.

What would the early Christian writers make of this muddle and how might it effect our thinking about the Christmas Star?

_________________

Until Ignatius of Antioch ( c. 35 or 50 CE – 89-117 CE), there was no Christmas Star, at least not in its current incarnation. It was with his Letter to Ephesians that the star as we now know it first appeared in an early marketing campaign for Christianity. In the view of Ignatius, the ‘star’ in question was a miracle not a predictable planetary configuration, a sign from the heavens that with the birth of Christ, mankind was set free from the historical bonds of magic and (astrologically inspired) fate.

A star shone forth in the heaven about all the stars: and its light was unutterable, and its strangeness caused amazement; and all the rest of the constellations with the sun and moon formed themselves into a chorus about the star…

From that time forward every sorcery and every spell was dissolved, the ignorance of wickedness vanished away…

Letter to Ephesians (19:2-3) – Lightfoot Translation

Following the lead of Ignatius, Origen (184 -253 AD), another early Christian writer, introduced the idea that the inspirational heavenly event in question was indeed not planetary in nature but instead a comet.

We consider that the star that was seen ‘at its rising’ was a new star, and not like any of the normal celestial bodies…

We have read in the book called Concerning Comets by Chaeremon the Stoic that at times comets have appeared when good events were about to occur.

Why would it be a great surprise that a star should have appeared at the birth of one who was going to introduce new ideas to the human race and to reveal his teaching not only to Jews, but also to Greeks, and to many barbarian nations in addition?

Now I would point out with respect to comets that there is no prophecy about comets in circulation stating that such and such a comet would appear at the rise of a particular kingdom or at a particular time. However, the star which appeared at Jesus’ birth had been prophesied by Balaam, recorded by Moses, when he said ‘A star shall appear out of Jacob, and a man shall rise up out of Israel.’

Contra Celsum 1:58-59

With this, both Balaam and the pericope of Matthew are covered. Even better, in 5BC, well within the required time frame, astronomers in China, had recorded a bright comet constellation of Capricorn in 5BC.

Here’s additional Biblical support for the comet theory:

And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars: she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery. And another portent appeared in heaven: behold a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems upon his heads. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, that he might devour her child when she brought it forth; she brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne.

Revelations 12: 1-5 (RSV)

The argument is that only a comet could appear as herein described. Indeed, Balaam’s mysterious reference to a ‘star’ and ‘scepter’ also fits to the appearance of a comet in the sense that at a key state of its apparition, a comet would look like a scepter.

Yet another biblical passage adds support:

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light: those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.

Isaiah 9: 2 (RSV)

Probably no one has done more to promote the comet hypothesis than Giotto di Bondone (1266/17 – 1337), the medieval Italian artist. His fresco entitled ‘the Adoration of the Magi’ in Padua portrayed the Christmas Star as a comet.


But if we are to embrace the comet theory, it appears we must also forgo the pericope in Luke with its shepherds and announcing angel. Indeed, might that not be what Ignatius wanted? And quite how are we to accommodate, the mother of Jesus, giving birth with the moon under her feet as described in Revelations?

Astrology

The Christmas Star (Part II)

The Christmas Star is one of the holiday season’s most fascinating and enduring stories. Yet even today, astronomers remain uncertain as to the precise nature of the heavenly event that inspired it.

In a series of blog posts, I’ll be reviewing some key pieces of evidence supporting several of the most likely contenders along with some traditional and not so traditional interpretations.


Yesterday, we investigated the messianic biblical prophecy of Balaam (Numbers 24.17) and how it may be connected, through the Magi, to one of the strongest contenders, a triple Saturn/Jupiter conjunction in Pisces in 06/07 BC.

Yet, because such conjunctions are not really all that rare, the question then became whether or not something else might have been going on.

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Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) suggested that there was.

After witnessing a conjunction of the three superior planets, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn in 1603, Kepler calculated that this event also occurred in 06/07 BC. Given that this happens only once in 796.4 years, it seems a better fit to the long-awaited ‘star’ prophesied by Balaam. Better yet, it provides evidence for the Western tradition that there were three magi who visited Jesus after his birth.

Interestingly, nowhere in the Bible does it specifically state that there were three magi. This notion must, however, have come from someplace and Hellenistic astrological thinking of the time might provide a clue.

Not only was there a triple conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter but now we have three powerful planets involved in what Ptolemy (c. 87-150) called a doryphory, or a train of important planetary attendants in service to one of the two luminaries (i.e. the sun or the moon). The very nature of the planets comprising a doryphory is that they bring useful gifts to the luminary, and, in the case of our magi, the gifts brought to the luminary (the son or Sun), Jesus, the new king, were three: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

And lo, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy: and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

Matthew 2:9-11 (RSV)

With the Matthean pericope, featuring the gift-bearing magi, the plot thickens as we now must account for King Herod.

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem saying ‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East and have come to worship him.’

Matthew 2: 1-3 (RSV)

Historically, it is accepted that Christ was born during the lifetime of Herod, which is generally acknowledged to have died around 04 BC. So far, so good because the conjunction of the three superior planets that so impressed Johannes Kepler, occurred prior to the death of Herod in 06-07 BC. This would also seem to support theory of the triple conjunction of Jupiter/Saturn that otherwise fit in with Balaam’s prophecy. If we recall, that triple conjunction is clearly noted to have also occurred in 07-06 BC.

Yet when we delve deeper, we also learn that prior to visiting Bethlehem, our wise men, or Magi, first visited Herod. Doubtless when Herod asked them to locate the child and then return with the news so that he too could worship the child, they were pleased. But after having paid homage to the child and delivered their gifts, they ‘departed to their own country by another way’, having been tipped off ‘in a dream not to return to Herod’. Later, according to the Matthean pericope, Herod was not best pleased with this turn of events and ordered the death of ‘all male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under’.

Clearly the Magi and Herod are key players in the story as reported by Matthew although there is little or no historical evidence that Herod actually ordered the reported infanticide. Furthermore, there is even a suggestion that Herod and the Magi (three or not) do not form part of this picture at all. Not only that but, the star seems to have disappeared altogether, potentially replaced by a shining angel.

And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them and their were filled with fear.

And the angel said to them, ‘Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to a all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.’

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to another ‘Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this this that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.’ And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they saw it they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child; and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.

Luke 2:8-20 (RSV)

These two biblical accounts could not be more different. Luke’s is humble, peaceful, and low-key in direct contrast to that of Matthew which is driven by the high political stakes tension of Herod’s reaction to the new born child.

What will early Christian writers make of all this?

The plot thickens more.

Astrology

The Christmas Star (Part I)

The Christmas Star is one of the holiday season’s most fascinating and enduring stories. Yet even today, astronomers remain uncertain as to the precise nature of the heavenly event that inspired it.

In a series of several blog posts, I’ll be reviewing some key pieces of evidence supporting several of the most likely contenders along with some traditional and not so traditional interpretations.


Let’s get started:

‘… a star shall come forth out of Jacob and a scepter shall rise out of Israel…’

Numbers 24.17 (RSV)

This is the messianic prophecy of Balaam (a diviner in the Torah) who, according to Ambrose of Milan (330-397) and Origen of Adamantius (184/5-253/4), was an ancestor of the race of Magi, an ancient priestly caste flourishing on the eastern edge of the Roman Empire.

Evidence suggests the Magi had long awaited the fulfillment of their ancestor’s prophecy. According to the writings of Strabo (43 or 63 BC – c 24 CE), just prior to the birth of Christ the official duties of the Magi included the election of the king of the Parthian empire (a major political power in ancient Iran). Hence not only were Balaam’s Magi sky-watching priests (experts in Mesopotamian astrology) but they also had considerable experience in the business of kingmaking.

Since the Sumerian period ( 3500-2300 BC) planetary tables recorded on clay tablets predicted the future movements of the planets and one such tablet dated from 08 BCE listed a forthcoming Jupiter/Saturn conjunction.

For Balaam’s star prophecy to be fulfilled, the birth of Christ needed to be at night even though at the time, all divine births (i.e. Augustus and Nero) were linked with solar deities and needed to occur at either sunrise or noon. The triple conjunction of Jupiter/Saturn in 07-06 BC was a highly anticipated sky event the fit the bill. Both planets were easily seen by the naked eye in the night sky yet in Mesopotamian astrology,  both Jupiter and Saturn were associated with powerful solar deities  (Marduk and Ninib, accordingly).

Not only that, but this conjunction occurred in the constellation of Pisces, the one of the most ancient of the twelve zodiac signs (first appearing on an Egyptian coffin lid dated c. 2,300 BC) which has since become most closely associated with the Christ.


If one looks closely at the glyph of Pisces, you’ll find that one fish is moving upwards whilst the other is moving parallel with the earth plane.


The symbolism here has been characterized as a formal embodiment of spirit, the penetration and materialization of spirit into the world of duality and form.

And the Word [of God] became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.

John 1: 14 (RSV)

As you can see, this all is quite tempting.

Yet conjunctions of Jupiter and Saturn are of themselves not really so rare, occurring every 20 years. True, a triple conjunction makes it a bit more rare and adding in that it would happen in Pisces would make it even more rare. But then Balaam doesn’t seem to have stipulated the necessity of Pisces any more more than he specified that Jupiter/Saturn had to be involved.

So was this particular celestial the subject of Balaam’s ancient prophecy?

Or was something else going on?

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