Astrology of Religion, Atheism, and Belief | 10. Abu Ma’shar

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The ingredients and recipes for this type of analysis can be found in the first post of the series, which you can view here, and were reviewed with additional comments a couple posts back, which you can view here.

Abu Ma’shar

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 (rather than the whole sign houses used in the Hellenistic period and by most earlier Persian astrologers – and by me), he profected in 30 degree increments rather than by sign, as well as a few other innovative approaches that 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 in his particular natal predictive tool set (though I don’t always agree with the particular way he used the tools).

I was reading the introduction to Ben Dykes’ recent translation of Abu Ma’shar’s “On the Revolutions of the Years of Nativities”, which is Abu Ma’shar’s work on natal predictive methods, including solar returns, and I noticed that Dykes’ gives Ma’shar’s birth time and natal chart as established by noted historian of science, David Pingree.  The source appears to be from chart examples Ma’shar has given, and there is some conflict between the positions implied by the day and time and those given by Ma’shar, by a few degrees, sometimes one way, sometimes another.  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, so I’ve set my chart at 9:55pm to match the example.  All planets are in the same positions, in the same signs, in the chart example as in my chart, give or take about 5 degrees, except Saturn which Ma’shar’s example puts in late Aquarius, while the day and time puts it at 0Pisces.

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.  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.

Abu Ma'shar's Natal Chart
Abu Ma’shar’s Natal Chart

Ma’shar’s Chart Analyzed in Brief

  • Jupiter:
  • Very Strong – Jupiter is strongly advancing, within about 5 degrees of the MC, and so is very strong, even though it is in a cadent place.
  • Very Benefic – Jupiter is naturally benefic and is in a good place, the 9th.  While out of sect, Jupiter is not regarded by the malefics, and is actually dominated by the benefic Venus.  Therfore, Jupiter is very benefic in the chart overall.
  • 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, so we may expect such experiences to also be accompanied by doubt, and that the native will seek to make them more concrete or explicit for reassurance.  Jupiter is dominated by Venus, so there is likely to be a strong sensual or artistic orientation to the joys of Jupiter.   
  • 9th Place:  
  • Strong  – The 9th, Capricorn, is occupied by a very strong Jupiter, and is ruled by Saturn, planet of doubt, fear, loss, and dread.  Saturn is pretty strong, as it’s advancing in the 11th, overcoming the Ascendant (with a scrutinizing sextile).  Venus, the ruler of the Ascendant, also dominates the 9th.  Overall, it’s a prominent place.
  • 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, is enough to associate the place more typically with pleasant circumstances in the life.
  • Matters of belief-systems and searching for some greater truth are fairly prominent in his life.  His beliefs tend to be heavily informed by doubt/skepticism (Saturn rules the place), spirituality/religion/faith and deeper expansive truth (Jupiter), and also sensual pleasure (Venus domination).
  •  Saturn:
  • Strong – Saturn is advancing and is not subject to any major weakening conditions.
  • Somewhat Malefic – Saturn is naturally a mafefic, and here is out of sect.  Saturn is in a good place and is overcome by Jupiter by sextile, yet still, we would expect Saturn to regularly signify difficult matters and circumstance in the life.
  • 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, and particularly over matters of belief (the 9th).
  • Mercury:  
  • Very strong – 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, so Mercury is very strong.
  • 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, but overall they’ll tend to be positive.
  • 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 seems to identify quite strongly with the Moon and Venus (we know little of his personality and life before astrology). However, what is unique about him 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.

This interplay between faith and doubt, with a desire to give concrete evidence for God or the gods, is not uncharacteristic of the charts of serious astrologers employing rigorous methods.  For instance, Robert Zoller has Jupiter in the 9th, dominated by Saturn (though Saturn is a bit weak, and Jupiter rules the Ascendant, so there is much less doubt and much more faith there), and Chris Brennan has Saturn as ruler of the 1st and in the 10th, while Jupiter is somewhat weakened, yet the 9th is made prominent through a Venus (which is ruled by Jupiter).  Myself, I also have Saturn ruling the 1st, Mercury as bound lord of the 1st, a very prominent Mercury (in the 10th, in phasis, conjunct the MC within a degree), but Saturn in the 9th, conjoined to Jupiter in the 9th within 2 degrees, and with Jupiter scrutinizing my Ascendant by trine.

In future posts in this series, I am planning on expanding out from the basic analysis, to explore more thorough characterization of belief drawing upon Hellenistic and Persian astrological literature.

Blessings!

Anthony

 

References

Ma’shar, A. (2010). Persian Nativities III: Abu Ma’shar on Solar Revolutions. (B. N. Dykes, Trans.). Minneapolis, MN: The Cazimi Press.
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Anthony

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

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