Persian Mundane Astrology | The Six Elements for Deducing Advanced Knowledge

There’s a lunar eclipse today, so I’d like to discuss the general primary importance of charts of solar and lunar phenomena in ancient mundane astrology.  Honestly, despite my great interest in mundane astrology, I haven’t studied it thoroughly, so I avoid mundane prognostication. I’m sure that if you search for “lunar eclipse December 10 2011 astrology”, you’ll be inundated with mundane astrological predictions. I’m also pretty sure that most of the predictions will be vague and obvious, such that there will be prolongation of some sort of already ongoing long-term crisis, you know, the type of crisis that always takes years to resolve anyway.  :-)

For those who don’t know, mundane astrology is the study of astrological significations as they relate to the general world, including political, religious, cultural, and meteorological events. In many regards, there is simply a lack of high quality and clear mundane texts in English, from the period prior to the European High Middle Ages, which is the period I’m most interested in.  Comparatively, Hellenistic and Persian texts treat extensively of natal astrology, and in the Persian period there is also an outpouring of pivotal horary and electional material.  Perhaps, the most comprehensive, and certainly the most influential, treatment of mundane astrology from the period that interests me (pre-1100 CE), came from Abu Ma’shar in the 9th Century CE, and is known as The Book of Religions and Dynasties, among many other names.  An English translation by Keiji Yamamoto and Charles Burnett was released in 2000.  The translation can be a bit confusing, and at a price over $500 on Amazon, it can also be prohibitively expensive.  College students should know that Texas A&M University has a copy available for inter-library loan.  This text should serve as something of a bible for traditionalists into mundane astrology, particularly for those who are fans of Abu Ma’shar. I’ve heard that Benjamin Dykes, who produces probably the best and most understandable, translations of ancient astrological texts available, has also planned on translating the text at some point.

Six Elements for Deducing Advanced Knowledge

One of the first issues that comes up with mundane astrological work is deciding which charts matter most and how the variety of chart indicators fit together.

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

  1. Aries Ingress preceding great conjunction (i.e. Jupiter-Saturn conjunction) in Aries (presumably, IMHO, the 1st conjunction in Aries of the series among the series in the fire triplicity).  Occurs about every 960 years (presumably, IMHO, until the next 1st conjunction in Aries of the fire triplicity series, which would take place every 960 years ideally, but can actually be a much shorter or longer period).  Aries Ingress of 1702.
  2. Aries Ingress preceding great conjunction in a new triplicity (presumably, IMHO, the 1st conjunction in a new triplicity marking the beginning of the series in that triplicity, even if there are one or two last bastion conjunctions after it in the series of the prior triplicity).  Occurs about every 240 years (again, it seems it could be applicable for quite a bit longer or shorter a period, depending on the particular length of time of the series).  Aries Ingress of 1980.
  3. Aries Ingress preceding conjunction of Mars and Saturn in Cancer.  Occurs about every 30 years.  Aries Ingress of 2004?
  4. Aries Ingress preceding a great conjunction.  Occurs about every 20 years.  Aries Ingress of 2000.
  5. Three types of charts that occur about every 3 months (though the Aries Ingress is most significant for the year as a whole): A. Solar ingress into a cardinal sign (i.e. charts of the equinoxes and solstices – especially the Spring Equinox); B. New Moon that precedes “A” (i.e. the New Moon preceding a equinox or solstice)(;  C. Full Moon that precedes “A” (i.e. the Full Moon that precedes the equinox or solstice).
  6. Three types of charts that occur monthly: A. Solar ingress into a new sign; B. New Moon; C. Full Moon. Typically B (new moon) was preferred when the lunation directly preceding the ingress was a New Moon, while C (Full Moon) was preferred when the lunation directly preceding the ingress was a Full Moon.

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

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


Abu Ma’shar. (2000). Abu Ma’Sar on Historical Astrology: The Book of Religions and Dynasties on Great Conjunctions (Islamic Philosophy, Theology, and Science). (K. Yamamoto & C. Burnett, Trans.). Leiden and Boston: Brill Academic Publishers.