This article continues the series on examining religion, faith, or lack of such in the astrological chart. In the last article, we looked at the chart of Bill Maher. In this article we turn to the chart of the notable 9th century astrologer, Abu Ma’shar. The ingredients and recipes for this type of analysis can be found in the first article, on James Randi. The basics were reviewed with additional comments in a few articles back, on Madalyn Murray O’Hair.
Abu Ma’shar was one of the most influential of the later Persian Medieval astrologers. He differed from most Persian astrologers in his use of quadrant houses. Most earlier astrologers used whole sign houses, as done in the Hellenistic period. Additionally, he profected in 30 degree increments rather than by sign. The innovative approaches that he adopted were of particularly strong influence upon later European Medieval and Renaissance astrology. In my opinion, his greatest contributions were in introductory material, mundane astrology, and annual natal predictive methods.
Birth Time and Source
Abu Ma’shar’s “On the Revolutions of the Years of Nativities” is his work on natal predictive methods, including solar returns. In Ben Dykes’s introduction to his new translation he provided Ma’shar’s birth time and natal chart. The birth time was established by noted historian of science, David Pingree. The source appears to be from chart examples Ma’shar has given. There is some conflict between the positions implied by the day and time and those given by Ma’shar, by a few degrees. In any case, Dykes gives the day and time as 8/10/797 at about 10pm, near Balkh, Afghanistan (Dykes, 2010, p. 1).
The Ascendant of the reconstructed chart example is at 2 degrees Taurus. I’ve set my chart at 9:55 pm to match the example. All planets are in the same signs (and within 5 degrees) in the chart example as in the chart I use, except Saturn. Ma’shar’s example put Saturn in late Aquarius, while the day and time established by Pingree put it at 0° Pisces.
Why this Chart?
Given that there is some conflicting information about his chart from the reconstruction, why use this chart at all? The problems with the chart are probably owing to slight table inaccuracies and calculation errors committed in Ma’shar’s time. The chart should therefore be regarded as near B-rating accuracy, in my own opinion.
Ma’shar is interesting from a belief standpoint, as he was initially a skeptic but became a believer. Ma’shar was an astrological skeptic until his late 40’s, when al-Kindi brought him around to astrology (Dykes, 2010, p. 1). He went on to become a very notable astrologer and defender of the science of astrology.
Ma’shar’s Chart Analyzed in Brief
Jupiter is strongly advancing, within about 5 degrees of the MC. Therefore, Jupiter is very strong, even though it is in a cadent place.
Jupiter is naturally benefic and is in a good place, the 9th. While out of sect, Jupiter is not regarded by the malefics. Venus (sect benefic) dominates Jupiter. Therefore, Jupiter is very benefic in the chart overall.
Notes on Jupiter
Jupiter is one of the strongest planets in the chart. We expect expansive experiences, including spiritual ones, to play a major role in this person’s life. Jupiter is in the sign and bound of Saturn. Due to the influence of Saturn we may expect such experiences to also be accompanied by doubt. Jupiter is dominated by Venus, so there is likely to be a strong sensual or artistic orientation to the joys of Jupiter.
The 9th, Capricorn, is occupied by a very strong Jupiter. Saturn, planet of doubt, fear, loss, and dread rules the 9th. Saturn is pretty strong, as it’s advancing in the 11th, overcoming the Ascendant (sextile within 3 degrees). Venus, the ruler of the Ascendant, also dominates the 9th. Overall, the 9th is a very prominent place in the chart.
Mixed, somewhat benefic
Saturn rules the 9th, and is quite malefic, as Saturn is out of sect. However, a planet in the place pertains more directly to characterizing it than the ruler. The position of Jupiter in the actual 9th, and Venus dominating it, are enough to associate the place primarily with pleasant circumstances in the life.
Notes on the 9th Place
Matters of belief-systems and searching for some greater truth are fairly prominent in his life. His beliefs can be heavily informed by doubt/skepticism (Saturn rules the place), but also spirituality/religion/faith and deeper expansive truth (Jupiter), as well as sensual pleasure (Venus domination).
Saturn is advancing and is not subject to any major weakening conditions. Therefore, Saturn is strong.
Saturn is naturally a malefic, and here is out of sect. Saturn is in a good place and is overcome by Jupiter by sextile, which are mitigating. However, we expect Saturn to have regularly signified difficult matters and circumstance in the life.
Notes on Saturn
Saturn, as the significator of doubt, fear, obstruction, loss, and so forth, does have a pretty strong effect over the life in a general and pervasive way. Saturn is influential in matters of belief (the 9th).
Mercury is advancing, in phasis, and is in a “pivot” of the chart (i.e. the 4th), while assembled with the Sun and regarded by the Moon. Therefore, Mercury is very strong and prominent.
Mixed, somewhat benefic
Mercury is in sect and is in a good place, but is assembled with Mars, so there is quite a lot variation over time with whether Mercury’s significations are positive or negative. Overall, Mercury will tend to be positive.
Notes on Mercury
There doesn’t appear to be a strong identification with Mercury, as Mercury has no dignity at the Ascendant.
Ma’shar was not a religious leader, nor was he an atheist. He also seemed to identify quite strongly with the Moon and Venus. Unfortunately, we know little of his personality and life before astrology. However, what is notable about belief in his life is his doubt in astrology in particular, and then his very strong faith in it. In his life in general, we see that faith plays a major role, but that doubt is also quite strong, and both play a role in the belief system.
Saturn-Jupiter and Traditional Astrology
This interplay between faith and doubt is not uncharacteristic of the charts of serious astrologers employing rigorous methods. There is a desire to give concrete evidence for God or the gods shown in these charts. For instance, Robert Zoller has Jupiter in the 9th, dominated by Saturn. Though Zoller’s Saturn is a bit weak, and Jupiter rules the Ascendant, so there is much less doubt and much more faith there. Chris Brennan has Saturn as ruler of the 1st and in the 10th, while Jupiter is somewhat weakened. However, the 9th is made prominent through a Venus ruled by Jupiter. I myself also have Saturn ruling the 1st and Saturn in the 9th, but Saturn is conjoined to Jupiter in the 9th within 2 degrees.
Featured image is of illustrations in the 1515 Venice translation of Abu Ma’shar’s De Magnis Coniunctionibus. Image is in the public domain.