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Abu Ma’shar on Solar Returns, with Benjamin Dykes

Abu Ma'shar on Solar Returns, with Benjamin Dykes

Episode 218 features an interview with Dr. Benjamin Dykes about his new translation of a highly influential book on solar returns by the 9th century astrologer Abu Ma’shar.

The title of the book is Persian Nativities IV: On the Revolutions of the Years of Nativities.

Abu Ma’shar (d. 886 CE) was one of the most prolific and influential early Medieval astrologers who wrote in Arabic, living in Baghdad in the middle of the 9th century.

He wrote one of the most famous and comprehensive works on solar returns, titled On the Revolutions of the Years of Nativities.

Portions of this book were translated from Arabic into Latin in the 12th century, which then influenced many subsequent generations of astrologers in the west.

In 2010 Ben translated the Latin version of Abu Ma’shar’s book on solar returns and published it as Persian Nativities III.

Now he has gone back and translated the entirety of the original Arabic text, which not only contains a lot of material that was missing in the Latin version, but the meaning of the text is much richer and more nuanced because the translation is from the original language.

The book was just released today, on August 9, 2019, to coincide with the release of this interview, and you can buy it on Amazon:

Abu Ma’shar, On the Revolutions of the Years of Nativities

During the course of the interview we talk about who Abu Ma’shar was, why he thought that calculating solar return charts was important, and some of the specific things that he recommended looking at when trying to interpret a solar return.

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5 comments
  • Great discussion. I’ve ordered the new translation from the Arabic text and am looking forward to reading it. One comment that Ben made had to do with the translation from the Latin text which he published previously. It is possible that the version of the Latin translation used in Persian Nativities III was incomplete and that other sections of that Latin text are in existence. For example, the techinique of “lord of the orb” appears in several Latin texts and was taught regularly as part of basic astrology courses in Spain in the 1400s. In the 15th century Diego de Torres of the University of Salamanca drew heavily on the work of the Italian astrologer Guido Bonatti as well as that of the late 10th- early 11th century Arabic astrologer Ali ben Ragel (aka, Haly Abenragel), which was translated by Yehudā ben Moshe into Old Castilian for Alfonso X of Castile in 1254 under the title “El libro conplido en los iudizios de las estrellas” (The complete book on the judgment of the stars). A century later the Italian astrologer Franciscus Giuntini (aka Junctinus of Florence, b. 1522) also describes the use of the Lord of the Orb as part of the interpretation of solar returns.

    • Thanks for this and your comment on YouTube, which I just want to repost here for those who only listen to the audio version:

      “To the best of my knowledge Morinus in the 17th century was the first to advocate relocating the solar return chart to the actual location of the native at the time of the return. ”

      I’ve been getting a bit more interested in Morin lately, and I was wondering if you have a master list of which books of his have been translated at this point, versus which ones have not? I don’t think I have any of them yet, but I would like to start getting them.

      • Hi Chris,
        Again, thanks to you and Ben for such an informative Podcast on Abu Ma’Shar.
        Regarding Morinus (February 23, 1583 – November 6, 1656), his masterwork, which was first published in Latin in 1661 after his death, is Astologia Gallica. Morin spent 30 years writing the text. It is an encyclopedic work consisting of 26 volumes covering what he considered the major branches of astrology ( natal, judicial, mundane, electional and meteorological), and all the major techniques which he considered “scientific” as opposed to superstitious or magical. He rejected any techniques which he could not justify by rational and scientific argumentation.
        Morin’s predictive system consists of studying the promise of the natal chart and then using primary directions, solar and lunar returns, and finally transits to predict events in the native’s life.
        The majority of English-language translations were done by James Holden. The most important volume is #21 on Determinations which was translated by Richard Baldwin.
        In 2004 Robert Corey and James Mason asked me to translate Book 18, which I had just read in Spanish in an excellent translation by Pepa Sanchis, who also has a superb translation of Book 21 in Spanish. Working with Pepa’s Spanish text and photocopies of Morin’s original, I did the translation into English. James Mason helped when I got stuck on the Latin, and he actually translated one of the chapters of Book 18 because I found the Latin text of that particular chapter quite difficult.
        The late Zoltan S. Mason of NYC was a major teacher of the Morinus system. Zoltan asked Lucy Jane Freeman Little to translate book 21 on determinations, but that text is now out of print and, in my opinion, is not as good as the Baldwin translation. For those who read Latin, photocopies of the Latin edition have been available online but I haven’t checked to see if they still are.
        To the best of my knowledge this is a list of the books that are available in English from the AFA, with publication dates:
        Books 13, 14, 15, & 19 (2006)
        Book 16 (2008)
        Book 17 (2008) Houses of the horoscope
        Book 18 (2004) Strengths and dignities
        Book 21 (2008) Determinations (his most important volume)
        Book 22 (1994) Primary directions
        Book 23 (2004) Revolutions (solar & lunar)
        Book 24 (2004) Progressions and transits
        Book 25 (2008) Mundane
        Book 26 (2010) Interrogations and Elections