Let’s talk about a really fun ‘Occult’ study today that started in Ancient Mesopotamia and evolved over the years to a practice we know and utilize today. I’m talking about the idea of astrology and the horoscopes we use to predict the future based on the celestial bodies around us.
While the practice of Astrology and predicting Horoscopes may very well pre-date any recorded information on the subject, the first organized and recognized recorded system of astrology has been attributed to the Mesopotamians, specifically in Babylon. Babylonian astrology was used by priests to decipher the will of the Gods and originated from old Babylonian texts from 1800BC, such as the Venus Tablet of Ammisaduqa, which is perhaps the oldest record of astrological omens preserved from that time. As priests believed that their jobs pertained to the heavens, they felt the sun, moon, and planets were a natural extension of this and took it upon themselves to use astrology as a divination practice.
As was common in older religion and occult beliefs, the Babylonians believed that gods were associated with certain planets and could present themselves as such, so movement by different planets foretold the actions of different gods. By seeing the seasonal movement of celestial bodies as divine intervention into their lives, they believed they could foretell what was to come. For instance, Jupiter was associated with Marduk, the patron god of Babylon, so Jupiter represented the role of Babylon and its people in their astrological predictions. This divination practice is deeply rooted into the lives of ancient Mesopotamia and more or less developed the system or astrology as we know it today.
What made early Mesopotamian astrology so interesting was that rather than telling smaller futures of individual people as we do today, this form of astrology projected the future of the nations and large public figures, such as kings and their dynasties. It was an important tool used by officials that drove the motivations of their society.
What is perhaps, truly fascinating is that we take many of their ideals and use them in our modern astrology today. For instance, Babylonian Astrology recognized 18 constellations originally, 12 of which later became adopted by the Greeks and more or less turned into the constellations we use for the horoscopes today in Western astrology.
The mainstream use and spread of the ancient Babylonian astrology and horoscopes is commonly attributed now to Alexander the Great. As he conquered and created a vast empire stretching through Macedonia to Egypt and Greece into part of India, he accepted and spread important philosophical and cultural beliefs with him. So, it is believed that after he conquered Babylon, their astrological ideals were brought over to ancient Greece and Egypt, as well, where it grew and evolved into more of the practice we see and recognize today.
After the Greeks took in the ideas of Astrology, they added more recognizable key factors to it such as the addition of the four elements (earth, air, fire, and water) and the involvement of the equinoxes. In fact, in 100AD, Greek Astrologer Ptolemy of Alexandria wrote Tetrabiblos which provided most of the ideals of modern astrology and was used as a textbook in the 17th century when Copernicus surmised that the Earth revolved around the sun.
So, while we attribute many of the historical factors of our modern astrology to the ancient Greeks, it’s important to remember that the foundation of astrology is credited to Mesopotamia, and we have Alexander the Great to thank for its spread across much of the Eastern world.