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The Relationship Between Hellenistic and Indian Astrology

nakshatras and zodiacIn this episode I talk with astrologer Kenneth Johnson about the relationship between Hellenistic and Indian astrology, and the transmission of astrological doctrines between the two traditions.

Kenneth has an M.A. in Eastern Studies from St. John’s College, where he focused on Classical Sanskrit, and has an extensive background in both Indian and western astrology. He is the author of a book on the nakshatras titled Mansions of the Moon: The Lost Zodiac of the Goddess.

mansions of the moon bookYou can find out more about Kenneth on his website, which is located at: KennethJohnsonAstrology.com.

During the course of the show we talk about the history of Indian astrology, and we discuss the somewhat controversial issue of the influence of Hellenistic astrology on the formulation of horoscopic astrology in India.

Here are the main topics that we discuss during the episode:

  • The large number of old astrological manuscripts in India that have yet to be cataloged, edited, or translated.
  • The similarities between Hellenistic and Indian astrology.
  • The indigenous system of lunar astrology in India known as the nakshatras.
  • What to call Indian astrology: Indian astrology?  Vedic astrology? Jyotish?
  • Does Indian astrology date back to Vedic times?
  • David Pingree’s argument about the transmission of Hellenistic astrology to India in the 2nd century, through a translation of a Greek text known as the Yavanajataka.
  • A recent paper which challenges parts of Pingree’s dating of the Yavanajataka.
  • The use of Greek astrological terms that have been transliterated into Sanskrit in Indian astrology.
  • Differences between Hellenistic astrology and the doctrines in the Yavanajataka.
  • The origins of horary astrology, and the question of whether it originated in India.
  • The value of studying Indian astrology for western astrologers, especially those who are interested in traditional astrology.


A full transcript of this episode is available: Episode 9 transcript

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  • Your podcasts on Jyotish astrology are some of my favorites. Note to self: pick up Coppack’s book on Decans.

    Keep up the great work.

  • Completely absurd notion that Pingree’s Yavanjataka shows ANY proof that it brought horoscopic astrology to India. If you actually read and compare what Pingree found, I’d venture to say 75-80% of Yavanajataka is not found anywhere in the Hellenistic sources he was quoting. If you read his commentary he is clearly clueless on many details of what he is looking at or what it means/how it is used. More than anything his work shows that India had a far more developed and congruent tradition at the time of this text with a vastly larger scope of practice. This is the only thing that can be proven and is clearly shown. The fact that there are Greek words in the text was likely more due to the fact that Greek was the “international” langauge of the times and India/Vedic culture spread far up to the area where there was regular contact with traders from the region. How this stuff gets repeated by “scholars” is amazing.