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Ancient Egyptian Astrology

Ancient Egyptian Astrology

In episode 398 professor Ian Moyer joins the show to talk about the history and practice of astrology in ancient Egypt, and discuss some of the notable Egyptian contributions to the astrological tradition.

Ian is the author of the book Egypt and the Limits of Hellenism, which explores the ancient history and modern historiography of cultural and intellectual encounters between ancient Greeks and Egyptians.

At the beginning of the episode we talk about the early Egyptian use of the 36 fixed star decans for calendrical and timekeeping purposes, and how these eventually came to be used for the purposes of astrology.

Other topics covered in this episode include:

  • The Naos of the Decades
  • The rising decan as a precursor to the Ascendant
  • Zodiacs in the temples of Dendera and Esna
  • The use of astrology by Egyptian priests
  • Demotic horoscopes
  • Astrological glyphs derived from Egyptian
  • Coffin lids with zodiacs

This episode is available in both audio and video versions below.


  • 00:00:00 Introduction
  • 00:09:42 The Egyptian language
  • 00:18:42 The decans
  • 00:35:10 The Naos of the Decades
  • 01:06:25 Decans as precursor for the Ascendant
  • 01:15:10 Egyptian hour priests
  • 01:40:27 Academic sources for Egyptian astrology
  • 01:45:27 What constitutes astrology in Egypt?
  • 01:58:35 Cosmic harmony
  • 02:03:25 Shai, Egyptian God of Fate
  • 02:11:45 Mesopotamian astrology transmitted to Egypt
  • 02:23:25 Hellenistic period and Ptolemaic Egypt
  • 02:32:25 Zodiac of Dendera and Esna
  • 02:56:20 The Thema Mundi
  • 03:14:33 Coffin lids with zodiacs
  • 03:29:05 Heliodora: Earliest known woman astrologer
  • 03:33:24 Demotic horoscopes
  • 04:00:55 Astrological glyphs derived from Egyptian
  • 04:09:15 Reassessing the Egyptian contribution
  • 04:23:50 The Hermetic tradition and origins of Hellenistic astrology
  • 04:55:45 Determinism and magic
  • 05:02:05 The lasting influence of Egypt on the astrological tradition
  • 05:18:58 Credits and sponsors

Partial Bibliography

Anne-Sophie von Bomhard. The Naos of the Decades: From the Observation of the Sky to Mythology and Astrology. Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology, UK, 2008.

Andreas Winkler. “Stellar Scientists: The Egyptian Temple Astrologers”. Journal of Ancient Near Eastern History; 8 (1–2), 2021: pp. 91–145.

Andreas Winkler. “The First Zodiac Sign and the Daimon: The Advent of an Astrological Tradition and Seven Elaborate Horoscopes.” Studien Zur Altägyptischen Kultur, 51, 2022, pp. 267–323.

Andreas Winkler. “On the Demotic-Hieratic Horoscopes from Athribis.” Journal for the History of Astronomy, Vol. 53 (3), 2022, pp. 328 –337.

Marina Escolano-Poveda. “Astrologica Athribitana: Four Demotic-Hieratic Horoscopes from Athribis (O. Athribis 17-36-5/1741 and ANAsh.Mus.D.O.633 Reedited).” Journal for the History of Astronomy 53, no. 1 (2022): 49–87.

Joachim Quack, “Egypt as an astronomical-astrological centre between Mesopotamia, Greece, and India,” in The Interactions of Ancient Astral Science, ed. David Brown, Bremen, 2018, pp. 69-123.

Dorian Gieseler Greenbaum. The Daimon in Hellenistic Astrology: Origins and Influence. Brill, Netherlands, 2015.

Otto Neugebauer and Richard Anthony Parker. Egyptian Astronomical Texts. 4 vols., Brown University Press, 1960.

Kim Ryholt, “New Light on the Legendary King Nechepsos of Egypt,” The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 97(1), 2011, pp.61-72.

Stephan Heilen, “Some metrical fragments from Nechepsos and Petosiris,” in La poésie astrologique dans l’Antiquité, Paris, 2011, pp. 23-93.

Watch the Video Version of This Episode

Watch the video version of this episode on Egyptian astrology on YouTube:


A full transcript of this episode is available: Episode 398 transcript

Listen to the Audio Version of This Episode

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