From the beginning of human history people have looked up at the night sky and felt it contained a fascinating mystery. Long before the invention of telescopes, the observation of the times of the rising and setting of the Sun, the phases of the Moon the ‘wandering stars’(planets), the changing seasons of the year were so important .

From ancient times, the changes in the seasons determined the times for sowing, reaping, ploughing and storing grains and vegetables. Thus one of the dominant activities was the observation of the heavenly movements. Actual observations are known to have been recorded continuously since 15,000 BC in the middle east, where the earliest agricultural systems evolved. The Babylonians puzzled for centuries over the patterns in the night sky before producing a calendar reliable enough to enable them to predict eclipses and work backwards in order to figure out the celestial events of the past.

The earliest known astrological records date back to 1645 BC. The first horoscopes were developed around 410 BC. The origin of astrology is traced to the ancient Babylonians directly or indirectly and then it spreads to other countries. Other locations and cultures where the earliest records of astrology have been found include Rome, Greece, and Egypt.

egypt_dendera_zodiac

Rome had some ancient astrologers who wrote laws on the basis of the positions of stars and planets. Two emperors of Rome were famous astrologers as well. Greece had Ptolemy, who wrote influential astronomical and astrological texts. Egypt has the reputation of being the first nation that developed sophisticated calendar science based on astrological aspects.

One of the oldest astrological artefacts depicting a horoscope is the Egyptian Zodiac of Dendera (left), dated to 50bc, which was discovered on the ceiling of the Temple of Hathor in Dendera of Central Egypt. The Zodiac of Dendera depicts aspects of Nile Valley astronomy, astrology, agriculture and calendar making. It has two circles of figures in its design. The inner circle of figures move counter-clockwise like the stars, showing the astrological signs of the zodiac circling the North Pole (symbolized by the deity Anpu.)

The establishment of the calendar and the origin of Astrology probably coincided with the identification of the belt of fixed stars, the background against which the Sun, Moon and planets moved. This is the tropical Zodiac, (the circle of animals) which represented the 12 important divisions of the year and the ‘race track’ of the planets.

The chief interests of the early astrologers such as the Egyptians and Babylonians were the fortunes of the state, or of the King, the head of state. They paid particular attention to such conspicuous phenonomena as eclipses of the Sun and Moon. These and comets are still assumed to portend grand-scale happenings.

The publication of various astrological texts started during the Renaissance period when literacy became widespread. Copernicus and Galileo, who are considered among the founders of the modern scientific movement, belonged to this era. They were also renowned astrologers. This encouraged the belief that there is a close relationship between science and astrology, but the belief shattered and astrology lost its credibility after the failure of the myriad predictions about the great conjunction of 1524.

With the surging scientific revolution, astrology fell by the wayside and astronomy gained reputation and popularity. During the eighteenth and nineteenth century, astrology enjoyed some small revivals, but it won back its lost reputation and popularity only after the birth of Princess Margaret in 1930. This year, an astrological profile of the princess was published in the London Sunday Express. This started a new trend for modern newspapers, as all of them started publishing a horoscope column on daily and weekly basis.

Sophisticated statistical studies by French astrologers Françoise and Michel Gauquelin found out that human nature is deeply influenced by the specific positions of different planets. This study is referred to as Humanistic Astrology, and it has been further expanded by other renowned astrologers like Dane Rudhyar.

Modern astrology has three branches, including Chinese or East Asian astrology, Indian or Jyotish astrology, and Western astrology. Western astrology has its origin in the ancient Babylonians. In the middle of the 4th century B.C, astrology found popularity in Greece, and before the advent of the Christian era, it reached Rome. Eventually, with the Hellenistic Indo-Greek kingdoms, astrology found its place in India. Modern astrology is divided into two camps - natural and judicial astrologers.

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