The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 107, titled:
With Chris Brennan and guest Dorian Greenbaum
Episode originally released on October 19, 2017
Note: This is a transcript of a spoken word podcast. If possible, we encourage you to listen to the audio or video version, since they include inflections that may not translate well when written out. Our transcripts are created by human transcribers, and the text may contain errors and differences from the spoken audio. If you find any errors then please send them to us by email: email@example.com
Transcribed by Mary Sharon
Transcription released June 15, 2021
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CHRIS BRENNAN: Hi, my name is Chris Brennan, and you’re listening to The Astrology Podcast. This episode is recorded on Friday, October 6th, 2017, starting just after 2:04 PM in Denver, Colorado. And this is the 129th episode of the show. For more information about how to subscribe to the podcast and help support the production of future episodes by becoming a patron, please visit theastrologypodcast.com/subscribe. In this episode, I’m going to be talking with Dorian Greenbaum about the recent discovery of a new papyrus birth chart from Egypt that dates to the 4th century. Dorian, welcome to the show.
DORIAN GREENBAUM: Thank you very much, Chris. I’m happy to be here to talk about this new chart.
CB: Yeah. I’m excited and honored that you joined me for this because there’s been a lot of excitement over the past few weeks after the publication of this paper that you co-authored with Alexander Jones about this discovery. A lot of astrologers, even a lot of modern astrologers who don’t have background in ancient astrology, were excited about this because it sounds like an interesting discovery even from a layman’s standpoint. But additionally, from the standpoint of somebody who has an interesting background in Hellenistic astrology, this is actually a really exciting discovery essentially, isn’t it?
DG: Yes, I first knew about this chart very shortly after it was discovered by Alexander Jones in Berlin in February, 2009. And yeah, I was kind of over the moon when I heard about it because it’s quite an amazing document. And for me and the material that I’m interested in in Hellenistic astrology, this was kind of like knowing about the mother lode, you know?
CB: Right. Yeah, especially because of your background in the calculation of the lots, which this horoscope contains and has a very important contribution to and other things. So that’s amazing that you’ve sort of known about it since that time period, since 2009, and then you guys finally got the paper out. I think it just came out in September, basically last month, September of 2017, right?
DG: Yes, that’s correct. It’s been quite a long time for this to finally have its appearance on the world stage, so to speak. Yes, it involved quite a lot of patience on everyone’s part.
CB: Okay. And the title of that paper, it’s kind of a long title. But it’s P.Berl. 9825: An elaborate horoscope for 319 CE and its significance for Greek astronomical and astrological practice by Dorian Greenbaum and Alexander Jones. And if a person does a search for that, they can actually find the paper online on the website for the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World. So before we get into it, let’s talk a little bit about your background and just introduce you to my audience. So, first off, what’s your background in astrology and when did you first start studying it?
DG: I first started studying astrology quite informally around 1988. Started to take classes in astrology around 1990 maybe. My teachers were Joseph Crane and his wife, Jill-Laurie Crane. And after I finished their program, Joseph and I did end up teaching classes together for about 12 years I’d say.
CB: Okay, and this was in Massachusetts or?
DG: Yeah, in Massachusetts. And I was also running an astrological practice at the time as well as teaching and writing.
CB: Okay. And then in terms of your educational background, you actually had an interesting story in terms of just your college education as well. What was your background there?
DG: I have a BA in classics from Douglass College, which is part of Rutgers University. Actually that was kind of my fallback choice for a major, because what I really wanted to study was Egyptology. I’ll just quickly tell you why I was interested in Egyptology. It’s because my great grandmother was a friend of the wife of Sir Flinders Petrie, who’s a very well-known 19th and 20th century Egyptologist. And Flinders Petrie’s wife and various of her sisters used to go on digs with them. And at one of those digs, one of the sisters came across a little scarab, and she sent it to my great grandmother. And I was completely fascinated by this, seeing the scarab as I was growing up. And I was just kind of besotted with Egypt. So I tried to learn to read hieroglyphs on my own, which didn’t turn out so well, but I always had an interest in Egyptology. And so when I was an undergraduate, my school didn’t teach anything to do with Egyptology. So I thought, “Okay, well maybe I’ll be a classics major, Greek could be interesting.” I’d had Latin in high school, so that’s how that came about. But my real interest was Egyptology, and that’s why I ended up doing my post-graduate work for my master’s in Egyptology.
CB: Okay, that’s brilliant. So yes, you went to Egyptology via classics, and then went on and got a master’s degree in Egyptology.
DG: Yes, yes, at Columbia University in the mid ’70s.
CB: In the mid ’70s, so you were actually doing those studies in ancient history and ancient cultures before you got into astrology?
DG: Absolutely, yes.
CB: Okay, interesting. And then some of that kind of came together it seems like a little bit for you in the 1990s with some of the work that was being done surrounding the translation projects that were happening with Project Hindsight and ARHAT, and that was something you were very interested in at the time.
DG: Yes, at the time I was extremely interested in it. And I should also say that my background in classics was absolutely the traditional classical period, and in Egyptology the same. We thought sort of anything after the 22nd dynasty was degenerate and late and we ignored it completely. That is not the case today. I’m happy to say there’s a fairly robust scholarship now for late periods in Egypt and the Greco-Roman periods. But at the time, I was especially interested in the 18th dynasty.
CB: That’s so funny. That’s like the philosophies. Up until not too long ago in philosophy, anything after Plato and Aristotle was seen as like the decline of Greek philosophy until greater interest in Hellenistic philosophy in general in the past few decades.
DG: Yes, absolutely very similar trajectory of scholarship. And when I learned astrology, I learned modern astrology, modern psychological astrology. I didn’t necessarily have any interest in what I guess we would have called ancient astrology at the time. And it really wasn’t until the Project Hindsight stuff that I decided this was something that was quite interesting to me too and could take advantage of the background that I already had.
CB: Right. Yeah, because then you basically realized that you have the perfect background because Hellenistic astrology and a lot of the roots of Western astrology from 2000 years ago are that intersection between sort of classical Greco-Roman culture and a lot of that coming out of Egypt as sort of the birthplace for Hellenistic astrology essentially.
DG: That’s right. You could never have predicted this ever happening in someone’s life, the things that you do that you really sort of fall into then turn out to be incredibly useful for what you end up doing with your life. I would never have predicted this for myself.
CB: Right. You literally had all of the exact sort of educational background that you would need in order to have that very unique sort of skills to work in that specific field of sort of Greco-Roman astrology, where those are like the three things that you need, which is basically background in classics and antiquity, background in Egyptology in Egypt, and then finally the background in contemporary astrological practices.
DG: Yes, absolutely. Yeah, so and without those, and in fact, I don’t think I could be as good a scholar in this area without obviously having the language background and the history background but the astrological background, because I can see things that people who are not trained in astrology don’t even notice. And I’m sure other people would say the same thing. Other people who’ve gone on in academia to do this kind of work.
CB: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.
DG: It really helps to have an astrological background.
CB: Right, because usually that’s not something you would have any sort of training in. And it almost seems like you have academic scholars who are classicists, oftentimes are people who specialize in the history of science, but they don’t necessarily have training in astrology. And then they come across some material like this and have to try to understand and contextualize it. Somebody like yourself that has all of that background, that would be extremely useful when it comes to things like this.
DG: That’s right. That’s right. It’s very, very helpful. And that is not to lessen in any way the achievements of scholars who don’t necessarily have that background in astrology. And they have probably far more skills than I do in philology and paleography, but this for me is a skill that’s been very helpful.
CB: Sure. So eventually, you decided to put some of those skills to work, I think by the late ’90s or early 2000s, and you published a translation of the introduction of the fourth century astrologer Paulus Alexandrinus and a later commentary on that work by the philosopher Olympiodorus in the year 2001, right?
DG: That’s correct. That’s correct. Rob Hand asked me to do that.
CB: Okay. So that was through Rob Hand’s ARHAT translation project. And how long did that take you to do that translation?
DG: It was over a year. Because basically I was very rusty on Greek at that point. I mean, I hadn’t really done any kind of Greek translation in years and years. So I more or less retaught myself Greek. And I said to him, “Okay, yes, this sounds really interesting. I’m very interested, but I need to get back up to speed with my Greek.” So that probably took eight or nine months, I guess. So, I don’t know, a couple of years, I would say from when he asked me to do it and…
CB: Okay, that’s not too bad.
DG: I don’t know if people think we just kind of sit down and turn Greek prose into English, but it’s not really that simple because there’s a lot of choices you have to make as a translator.
CB: Right, it’s more of a battle in some sense.
DG: I wouldn’t call it a battle. No, it’s not exactly a battle, but you’re always making compromises between translating something very literally, but you still… You want to retain the meaning of the words obviously, but you want to keep the context, and you also want to make it at least somewhat fluent in the language that you’re translating into. So you’re always making judgment calls of how to phrase things, that kind of stuff. So there are a lot of choices that you’re making as a translator between fluency and literality and keeping the ethos of the period in which the writing took place, all that kind of stuff.
CB: Right. Yeah, and you’re doing that sort of partially in the context. And I like your translation of Paulus, it’s my favorite translation of Paulus, even though there’s a few of them at this point. Because you seem to fall in that middle ground between the different translation styles that I’ve seen over the past couple of decades. Where on the one hand, sometimes you have people like Schmidt, who’s translating everything extremely literally in order to attempt to maintain and convey as much of the original Greek as possible, but then it makes it oftentimes incredibly hard to read for modern audiences. And then on the other hand, you have people like Holden that are often just translating it using modern sort of terminology whenever possible, even if in some instances that conveys something that’s quite different than what the original Greek said. And it seems like you shot for somewhere very much in between the two extremes. Is that more or less accurate?
DG: Yeah. Well, of course, I didn’t know Holden’s translation at the time. So yes, obviously I’d seen Schmidt’s translation because Rob Hand basically asked me to do my own translation of Paulus plus add the commentary by Olympiodorus to that, which had never been translated into English before. I did later find out that Giuseppe Bezza had made an Italian translation, at least of Paulus and possibly of Olympiodorus as well. I can’t quite remember. But anyway, I was of course trying to make my own translation in the way that I thought it was best to convey the Greek to an audience. And yeah, and I didn’t want to get so bogged down in the literality of the Greek that, you know, you kind of lose the will to live when you’re reading. I wanted people to be able to read it and say, “Oh, okay,” and not have to struggle with every sentence, you know? So again, this goes back to what I was saying before about the choices that we make as translators to set the right tone without too much modernization or too much archaism, if I can use that word.
CB: Sure, sure. Yeah, that makes sense. And so, okay. We’ll come back to Paulus a little bit later. But it’s good that we touched on that since that becomes so crucial for the discovery that we’re going to talk about in a bit here. So after that point, you started thinking about going back to school at some point in like the early 2000s, right?
DG: Yes. At that point, I think that the MA in cultural astronomy and astrology was just starting up in that period maybe. Yeah, probably around 2002 or 2003, something like that. And of course I knew about the program, and I did occasionally give guest lectures on the program when I went to England. At that point, it was still at Bath Spa College. And so I became interested in maybe doing a more advanced degree in something to do with ancient astrology, I didn’t know what.
CB: And there was a lot of astrologers going back to school at that point, it’s part of like a general movement or feeling it seems like among a lot of established–
DG: Yeah. Kepler College was also, I think, coming into existence around that time maybe, too.
CB: Yeah, 2000.
DG: You know, so there was a lot of ferment in the educational area. Since I already had a master’s degree, I didn’t necessarily want to do a master’s again. So I was thinking of a PhD and I was actually thinking of doing it at Bath Spa. And then I was asked to write a paper for an academic conference on The Imaginal Cosmos was the name of the conference. And Angela Voss had organized it at the University of Kent where she was teaching on an MA that had to do with divination.
CB: And that’s Geoffrey Cornelius’s program, right?
DG: Yes, Geoffrey was part of that program, but Angela was the initiator of that MA at the University of Kent. So she invited me to give a paper. And I said, “Oh well, I haven’t written an academic paper in probably 30 years.” She said, “That’s all right.” So I said, “All right, I’ll do it.” And I ended up talking about… It was called rising to the occasion, and it talked about appearance and light in Hellenistic astrology and various other topics that I don’t think we need to necessarily get into now. But I wrote the paper, I went to Kent, and I presented the paper. And because mine was the oldest time period, I was first. And after I gave my paper, there was a tea break. And the person speaking after me was Charles Burnett, who’s a very renowned professor of the Islamic influences on the classical tradition in Europe. And he came up to me after I gave my talk and he told me how much he liked it, and he liked my the etymologies that I had used, and we talked throughout the tea break. By the end of the tea break, he had invited me to present a paper on a topic in astrological medicine, which was a conference that they were doing at the Warburg the following spring. And I was kind of flabbergasted that Charles Burnett would even talk to me.
CB: And just for some context, this guy’s like the leading scholar in medieval astrology, especially of the Arabic astrologers who wrote in Arabic between, especially like the 8th century and the 12th century. He’s got to be next to somebody like David Pingree, who would have still been alive at the time, the leading scholar.
DG: Yes. I would say he is yes, one of the leading scholars if not the leading scholar in that area. And he’s done translations of Abu Ma’Shar on the great conjunctions and the abbreviation. And they’re now with… Is it Keiji Yamamoto or is it Michio? No, it’s Keiji Yamamoto. They’re almost finished with the great Abu Ma’Shar’s Great Introduction. So he has a very long and illustrious career as a scholar of this work. But he’s also one of the most unpretentious people that I’ve ever met. And now that I know him much, much better, I am not surprised that he came up to me because he’s that kind of person. But at the time, I was, “Charles Burnett is talking to me, oh my God.” So that was very exciting. And at lunch that day, I was actually talking with Geoffrey Cornelius and his partner, Maggie Hyde, and I said, I told them about what Charles had said to me. And they knew that I was thinking about doing a PhD. And Geoffrey said, “Well, Dorian, if Charles Burnett liked your work, you should go to the Warburg Institute, do your PhD,” which had never occurred to me before, but once he said it, I thought, “Well, maybe I could do that.” It took several months of various… Well, first I had to apply, I also had to convince my husband to let me go live in London for however long it was going to take to do the PhD.
CB: Right, several years. I mean, that’s an incredibly fortuitous meeting though, especially on something that was almost like a… Not a luck, but, you know, going out to give that to present that paper and then having him be in the audience and then…
DG: Yeah, it does make you wonder about your life events and how things work out. I still think about that. What if Angela hadn’t asked me to give that paper? What if I hadn’t met him? I mean, my life would be completely different obviously. But she did and he did and it all worked out.
CB: Right. And just to give some context, so The Warburg Institute is connected with the University of London, right?
DG: That’s correct. It’s part of the University of London.
CB: And it’s like this extremely prestigious almost sort of institute that’s been around since, what is it? The 1930s?Could you give some background on what The Warburg is for those that aren’t familiar with it?
DG: Yes. The Warburg Institute was actually founded in Germany by Aby Warburg, who was a scion of the Warburg banking family. And he had absolutely no interest in banking, but he was the eldest son and he was expected to go into the family business. But instead of becoming a banker, he went to, I guess, his father and said, “Well, what if I give up my rights of primogeniture to my brother who is interested in the banking field, and in return I get to buy whatever book I want for the rest of my life?” And they said, “Yes.”
CB: Right. And they’re like, “Well, sure, books aren’t that expensive. How many books could this guy possibly buy?”
DG: Well, as it turned out, quite a number of books. He was very interested in the transmission of the classical tradition into Europe. He was also very interested in what we would, I guess, broadly call magic and the occult. So those two interests drove the kinds of books that he began to collect. And his library was in Hamburg. And I think by the time he died in the late ’20s, there were at least 10,000 volumes, possibly more. You could go on the Warburg website and read the history. I may not have everything exactly right about this, but essentially that’s what he did. And at that time, in the late ’20s and early ’30s, it was becoming much more obvious to the people at the library in Hamburg, after Warburg’s death, Fritz Saxl took it over, and it was becoming increasingly clear to them that they couldn’t stay in Germany, Aby Warburg being Jewish and the library having a lot of Jewish affiliations. So they decided to leave, and they brought the library to London. I believe in the mid ’30s. In I think it was 1944, they became a part of the University of London. And that time they became The Warburg Institute, which consisted both of a library and of an educational program for post graduates. And they now run two master’s degrees and they take PhD students. So that’s a very short description, but that’s basically what the Warburg does. And I would say in terms of astrology, that it probably has the best academic astrological library in the world.
CB: Sure. And it’s just been the sort of center for some amazing scholarship over the past few decades in that field and other related sort of fields.
DG: Yes, absolutely. Now you have to understand that within scholarship, things like magic and divination and astrology have not been as kindly received as they maybe should have been. But the Warburg has had the reputation for careful scholarship and deep scholarship that it was able to examine these kinds of topics. Of course in an academic environment and in an academic way, but still able to work in these fields. And so it’s always had a reputation of welcoming people who want to work on this kind of thing.
CB: Sure. And that sort of in academia, it’s sort of seen greater acceptance in the past few decades that the study of things like the role of astrology in ancient society is sort of a somewhat more acceptable path to take or thing to focus on than maybe it was even, let’s say, a hundred years ago or something like that?
DG: Oh, well certainly. Yes, certainly more than a hundred years ago. But I mean, I would say in maybe the last 30 or 40 years, the environment has shifted to be more friendly to these kinds of studies and even in the history of science, the realization that astrology is an extremely important cultural part of the history of science. So yeah, that has changed for the better. I mean, not till in the days of Bouché-Leclercq, who wrote a massive book called Greek astrology, L’Astrologie Grecque in 1899, it’s still never been duplicated. But pretty much every other sentence in that book is a sarcastic remark about astrology. So it was obviously written by someone who wasn’t really a fan, yet it’s filled with information that still you can’t find, things that you really can’t find anywhere else. But the field itself has become much more welcoming in terms of the kinds of material that you can study and the cultural implications of things like astrology.
CB: Sure, and not needing to justify what you’re doing or make jokes about it and be like a comedian like Bouché-Leclercq was in order to still present the material as a serious study that shows the importance of the subject in the ancient world.
DG: Yeah, I shouldn’t make too much of Bouché-Leclercq’s sarcasm. I mean, it’s a very French way to write as well. So that is probably also part of why he did it. But no, it was not considered… You would never be able to say, “Oh, I’m an astrologer and I study this stuff.” I mean, I think even that is still fairly new, which is one of the reasons that I wanted to go to the Warburg. Because I wanted to be in a scholarly environment that would allow me to do that kind of deep scholarship in a very complete and detailed way because that gets you respect.
CB: Sure. Yeah. And you were one of the success stories of that group of astrologers that made that move to go back into academia and get the highest sort of degrees and training that you could, and then to start moving in the academic field and producing important scholarship on the history of astrology within an academic context. And so this is where your PhD comes into play, where you eventually focused on what you wanted to write your dissertation about and eventually did complete it in 2009, right?
DG: That’s right.
CB: And what was the topic of that?
DG: The topic of my PhD and the book that has subsequently been published based on the PhD was The Daemon in Hellenistic Astrology. Origins and Influence was the end of that title. And when I say Daemon, I mean what we in English today would know as demon, but I mean it in its Greek sense, d a i m o n. And so it does not have the negative connotation that it has in English, but the Greek religious and the Greek philosophical concept. And I was interested in that because just in the mechanics of astrology you find some very interesting appearances of that word. First in the places, what we call houses today. You have two places called good daemon and bad daemon, and you also have as a mirror image to the lot of fortune, you have the lot of daemon. So I thought, well, I didn’t know hardly anything about the daemon at that point, but I thought that might be interesting to just sort of research further. Why? Why is there a good daemon and a bad daemon place? Why is there this lot of daemon? How is it connected to the lot of fortune? And I thought there was probably an interesting story behind that. And as it turned out, there was.
CB: Right, like 400 pages of interesting story I think in the end, right?
DG: Yeah. Yes, about that.
CB: All right. And so your dissertation was finished in 2009, and people can actually find that, and it’s available freely through, I think it’s the University of London’s website. You can download a PDF of the dissertation, and I’ll put a link to that in the description for this episode on the podcast website. And then just a couple of years ago, you recently published an expanded version of the dissertation through Brill, right?
DG: That’s correct. Yeah. Unfortunately I had to cut a couple of chapters from my dissertation because it was too long. And so when Brill expressed an interest in publishing it, I said, “Well, what about these other chapters, can they go back in?” And one of my peer reviewers thought that was a really good idea. So that’s why the book has actually got more material in it than the dissertation itself. Although the dissertation, what you’ll read in the dissertation is fairly complete. It’s just lacking some extra material. And I should apologize for the cost of the book, I had absolutely no control over the price.
CB: Right, academic books are not cheap. Well, I accept your apology because I had to buy it like a year or so ago when it came out in order to make sure I was up to date on the latest references.
DG: Well, thank you. I appreciate that. Brill has made money off of you.
CB: Yeah. Well, it was worth the investment, and I definitely think people should check out the dissertation just because the chunk of all of your work is really there already in that PDF.
DG: Yes, yes, absolutely. And it’s certainly worth your time to read it. And then if you want to take that extra step, you can.
CB: Sure. All right. So with that background, which I think is really important because it gives a lot of really interesting context for this paper, but I think that’s a good transition point to actually start talking about the subject of our episode today, which is the discovery of this birth chart. And what it is is it’s a papyrus or it’s a birth chart essentially that was written on a piece of papyrus, and you were able to date it to the 4 century CE. So maybe first in order to get into that, we should talk a little bit or give a little bit of context or maybe you could tell us a little bit about this sort of area of ancient horoscopes that have survived. I think you guys said that in your paper there’s about 350 Greek horoscopes that survive from antiquity.
DG: Yes, about that. And you know, this doesn’t mean that we won’t find more. Recently, Stephan Heilen, who’s a very, very fine scholar of ancient astrology published quite a massive book called Hadriani Genitura in which he updates all of the Greek horoscopes. Well, not only Greek, but also Latin and Hebrew, Demotic and Arabic as well just to get a fairly complete tally of the amount of horoscopes that we have now. And he probably doubled, he was able to double the amount that for instance was in one of the sort of basic collections of Greek horoscopes. It was published by Neugebauer and Van Hoesen in 1959.
CB: Right. And so Neugebauer and Van Hoesen’s book Greek horoscopes published in 1959 was I think like the first collection of ancient charts, where they took they basically searched for all of the Greek birth charts that they could find from about the first century BCE through about the sixth or seventh century CE and dated them, wrote commentary and published them, and that was like the initial starting point of one of the major collections of surviving birth charts from antiquity.
DG: Yes, that’s true. I mean, there had been other articles prior to that. Neugebauer wrote an article on Demotic horoscopes, for instance, I think a little bit a few years before that. But yes, that was the biggest collection at the time. And even now, it’s still one of the bigger collections. I do recommend Heilen’s again, unfortunately expensive book, but Heilen’s list of horoscopes is now probably the most complete one that we have.
CB: Right. That’s another one of those expensive books that I had to invest in, but it was worth it for that index. Actually, if it just had that index and that’s all the book had, it would be worth it. And I think he actually says in a footnote that he’s going to or at least he plans to start a website at some point in the next few years to have that list on, to keep documenting it as new discoveries like this one come into play. So hopefully that happens.
DG: Yeah, yeah. No, he’s mentioned that to me as well, and I think it’s a great idea. Actually, it was Stephan Heilen who told me about this papyrus. I mean, he knew what I was writing on for my PhD. And he sent me an email and he said, “Well, did you know that Alexander Jones just discovered this papyrus birth chart that has seven planetary lots?” I’m like, “What? No.” Right. This was I think about six weeks before I was supposed to hand in my dissertation. Yeah, yeah. So I immediately wrote to professor Jones and asked him if he would be at all willing to share any of the details about this, and he was so kind. He wrote right back to me, he sent me all his notes and I said, “Can I mention it in my dissertation?” He said, “Well, yeah, you can kind of mention it in a general way, but it has to be published by Berlin first. So you can’t really go into great detail.” That was fine, but that’s six weeks before I’m handing in. So there had to be a little addition at end of my papers so that I could at least mention this because I realized immediately how important a document it was.
CB: Right, definitely. So yeah, and Alexander Jones is actually… So we had that original publication of a collection of all the Greek horoscopes in 1959 and there was like an addition to it by a scholar in 1992, an Italian scholar, and then Alexander Jones actually published one of the other major collections of surviving horoscopes in the mid 1990s which was his book, Astronomical Papyri from Oxyrhynchus.
DG: Yes, that’s right. That’s right, yeah. Yes, Greek horoscopes, Donata Baccani’s Oroscopi greci is the Italian one that you refer to is another fairly substantial collection. And then of course, Jones’s Astronomical Papyri from Oxyrhynchus, which considering its size is amazingly affordable. Those are probably the three biggest collections in addition to articles here and there, that kind of thing.
CB: Right. And Jones’s was interesting because Oxyrhynchus itself is an interesting archeological site because it’s essentially a bunch of pieces of papyrus and books and other things were discovered that were thrown in like the waste dumps of this Greco-Roman city in Egypt basically about 100 years ago, right?
DG: Yes, precisely. Yeah, so these little scraps of papyrus survived and lay there for thousands of years waiting for scholars to come around and check them out. Yeah, it was basically a rubbish dump, yes.
CB: Right. So it’s like the sort of waste dump for this town, and they would throw stuff out. And sometimes that would include papyrus or books or other things. And a hundred years ago, a group of archeologists find it. They dig it all up and like throw it in buckets and take it back and deposit it in a museum library. And then it takes sort of decades for scholars to eventually comb through it all. And one of the things they found is they kept coming across a bunch of little scraps of papyrus that had astronomical positions on them, which turned out to be birth charts basically, right?
DG: That’s right. Yeah, there’s a whole series of the findings from Oxyrhynchus that was created to document all of the findings, and it’s multi-volume.
CB: Okay, and so that is a good transition point then for this whole sort of category of what they call the Greco-Roman the “horoscopes”. And horoscope is usually sort of used in academic publications as a generic term for just a chart, which oftentimes in ancient Greek context or Hellenistic or Greco-Roman context is like a birth chart, right?
DG: Yes, that’s correct. In another paper that I wrote about the development of the Ascendant from practices in Egypt with my colleague, Micah Ross. We do go into a little discussion of the various meanings of horoscope. But I would say… And as you know Chris, of course the Greek word horoskopos means the Ascendant and did not refer to the entire chart, just to the Ascendant. So there’s some confusion there. But in general, yeah, the word horoscope is used to denote an entire chart, whether it’s a birth chart or some other kind of chart.
CB: Right, and I think they just used oftentimes like the Greek word thema in Greek texts which just means like chart or something, right?
DG: Yeah, more or less.
CB: So, and like we’ve said about 350 of these charts have survived, and there’s a distinction that’s sometimes used between surviving horoscopes that have survived within instructional manuals like from astrologers like Vettius Valens or Dorotheus of Sidon. And then there’s this other category which are the sort of standalone charts that have just been found in isolation on their own.
DG: Yes, an example of those would be the papyri from Oxyrhynchus, you know, the little scraps of papyri or the little shards of pottery that would have a birth chart written on them. Those would be called… They’re usually known as documentary horoscopes, whereas the ones in the manuals like the ones in Valens and Valens is a huge resource, he is single-handedly the reason why we have so many charts dated in the second century. It’s because he mentions them in his astrological textbook.
CB: Right. And he uses I think over a hundred example charts in his book.
DG: Yes. He’s a massive resource for this kind of work.
CB: Okay. And that’s important because with Valens, because he uses the charts within that context of he’ll say, he’ll teach you a technique and he’ll say, “This is how to use the triplicity rulers of the sect light.” And then he’ll say, “And here’s 20 examples demonstrating how this technique works in practice.” And that’s important because if we didn’t have instructional manuals like that and all you had was the other category where it’s just literally the charts with no delineations typically, we almost wouldn’t even know what these things were for aside from just being astronomical positions. Because they don’t typically contain any delineations, right?
DG: Typically, they do not, no. You might every so often see a line of what you might term interpretation. Like this has to do with enemies or this has to do with associations, but as practicing astrologers, if they knew their material, they wouldn’t necessarily need to write down an interpretation. They would know it just by looking at the data.
CB: Right, and so that brings up one of the points, which is that, I mean, it’s basically the equivalent even though these are written out positions, where most of them will say this person was born on such and such date and the Sun was in Taurus and the Moon was in Virgo and Mercury was in Capricorn. And then it says like good luck or something like that at the end. And that’s it.
DG: Yeah, pretty much. Yeah.
CB: So some of the speculation has been that the purpose of these little charts, which are just lists of positions like that, that they would be used at the beginning of a consultation, that the astrologer would have those positions calculated and then they would recreate the chart on a horoscope board, which is like a sort of like a chess board which would then be used to use little stones or other markers in order to recreate the chart visually essentially, right?
DG: Yes, that’s what we think was the case. And there’s a very interesting article by James Evans on this that I’m sure you know. And I’m pretty sure that that’s available online, where he talks about these horoscope boards. The Greek word for that is pinax, p i n a x. And they are usually circular, and they usually have some kind of divisions of the circle. So like a 12-fold division, which one would be for each Zodiac sign, and those might be subdivided into the terms or the decans, depending. And then you could just take, when you have your chart, you’d take your little marker, and we have evidence of very small astrological gems that could represent things like the planets, depending on the color or the stone that was used. So you’d have a Sun marker and a Moon marker, and we’ve even found evidence of Ascendant markers. So you would just put everything in the right place when you showed it to your client, and that’s how you would illustrate what it was you were telling them.
CB: Right, and that’s brilliant. It just makes so much sense that the astrologers would have something like that to actually do the consultation. And it really makes sense of why we have just all of these hundreds of little scraps of papyrus that just contain a written list of the planetary positions. And it sort of raises the question, I was curious to ask you about this, where I always thought that… It almost implied that sometimes maybe the calculations were being done separately or somehow… It’s like somebody was doing the calculations, and then they would write it down on a scrap of papyrus. But then is that the same person who is then doing the delineation and creating it on the horoscope board or does that imply that there might’ve been some almost separation between the two in some instances? I’ve always sort of wondered about that.
DG: I don’t know that this is a question that we will necessarily be able to answer definitively. I think it’s possible that one person would do calculations and another person would interpret them. But I also think it could be the same person. There’s very little use of things like mechanical things like astrolabes to determine the positions of planets in a chart. It was almost certainly done with tables. And we have lots of examples of ancient tables for planetary positions, for instance, so that you could just work it out. So I think it could be one or the other or both. When you read somebody like Valens who’s very careful about things, and he says, “Oh well, I use this one method for this and this other method for that.” He’s obviously doing it himself. I think it’s pretty clear that he’s doing it himself. But maybe you’re what Rob Hand likes to call your typical street corner Chaldean is not doing it himself. I don’t know. I’m not sure that we’ll ever really know because I don’t know how you would even document such a thing.
CB: Sure. And at the very least, I mean, it’s probably for a lot of them maybe, it was the equivalent of today or, you know, over the past 10 or 20 years if you go to see an astrologer in person, oftentimes you’ll receive a printout of your chart, and that’s at least a physical thing that you can take with you from the consultation. And if you wanted to, you could take that piece of paper, that chart to another astrologer and have them interpret your chart if you wanted to get a second opinion. So it’s almost like this would be one of the things probably that you would get from an astrological consultation when you’re out there.
DG: Yes, that’s completely possible. I mean, these little scraps may be just the astrologers notes and weren’t even meant to be given to the client. Then you have more elaborate horoscopes as the one that we’re going to be discussing are that… Well, there are many reasons why they could be created, but you’ll even see examples in Greek horoscopes with long pages of both techniques and some interpretations. So it’s hard to know whether those would have been given to the client or kept by the astrologer. We just don’t know.
CB: Sure. Well, let’s talk about that distinction a little bit and that’ll set us up for moving into this horoscope. So the distinction between the basically the basic horoscopes, which most of the surviving ones are, which just lists basically the seven traditional planets and the Ascendant and they say what sign of the Zodiac they’re in and that’s pretty much it, and that’s the majority of what survives versus this other category that I think Alexander Jones was the first to start referring to as a sort of deluxe horoscope, where it lists all of the planets, but it also lists what degree that they’re in and a lot of other factors, right?
DG: Yes, that’s right. Yes, most of them are very simplified. The positions are listed by sign, no degrees, very scrappy, very brief. So these deluxe or what we’re calling now elaborate horoscopes, there are far fewer of them than of the other kind.
CB: Okay. And I mean, part of the distinction there is for most things or for most techniques, just having the rising sign and the signs that all of the planets are placed in is largely sufficient for a lot of things in Hellenistic astrology. I think because they were using whole sign houses so that as long as you know what the rising sign was, then you’ve got the positions of the planets and all of the houses as long as you know what signs they’re in. So straight away you can already get a lot of mileage out of just that, right?
DG: You can, and we don’t… I mean, this has just occurred to me now. I mean, we don’t actually know that all of these little scrappy fragments were for birth charts, because it doesn’t… Sometimes it says the nativity, but sometimes it’s just a list of positions, which brings up another point. I mean, how many people would actually know their birth time? Which is another question. So I think that there is probably also a robust practice of what we would call katarchic astrology. That astrologers would have been able to do because if somebody doesn’t know their birth time, then they can ask a question. Or they could say, “I’m getting married, what’s the best time to do this?” And so you still need the services of an astrologer, but it’s beyond just doing the nativity. Richard Gordon, who’s a very fine scholar of this period, has written a really interesting article about this. And I recommend it if people can get ahold of it. It’s called Will My Child Have a Big Nose?: Uncertainty, Authority and Narrative in Katarchic Astrology. And it’s in a book called Divination in the Ancient World. It was published in 2013. And he makes the point that we have lots of lists from say Byzantine manuscripts, but they contain things like questions that show that the topics were in antiquity as well. For instance, he gives lists, what blessings and harm will befall me? Will my child be a human or a monster? There’s one about who’s going to win the chariot race, I think, which show that these are ancient topics. So, is the rumor true? That kind of thing. Finding out when the questioner will return and finding out about runaway slaves and that kind of thing, which of course people like Dorotheus also cover in their astrological manuals. But it’s pretty clear that these are the kinds of questions that clients would ask an astrologer, things that they would want to know. And if they didn’t know their birth time, then that’s a way to find out information.
CB: Right. That’s a really good point that a lot of these were probably birth charts, but that we know that they had other practices like electional astrology or even doing like sort of the ancient equivalent of a modern day consultation chart, where you’re casting a chart for the moment of the consultation to find out what the client is thinking about or what they’re going to focus on. Okay, that’s a really good point. All right. So that brings us to then this current horoscope that was rediscovered. And where was this chart found?
DG: Well, it was bought on the antiquities market in Egypt, so we don’t actually know where it was found.
CB: Okay, because that’s really interesting if you could explain that, that’s such a weird situation with a lot of the antiquities and things that come from Egypt, where sometimes they’re bought or sometimes they end up in the black market and then like a museum purchases them. And some of these things come about in a very roundabout way, right?
DG: Yes, I mean, you have to remember that Egypt being the land of so many tombs that may or may not contain valuable things and most of which were plundered if not in antiquity then later. So the antiquities market is quite robust there. This papyrus was purchased in 1902 by a man named Otto Rubensohn. He worked for the state museum of Berlin. And as I said, he purchased it on the antiquities market. So he did not know its provenance, he did not know where it came from. Someone had found it and recognized it as something that a European museum might want to buy and presented it. So we do not know where it came from. The most that we can say is that it’s cast for a birth that was at the latitude of Syene, which is in Southern Egypt, but that’s all we can say about its provenance. And there’s nothing to prove that it was actually from there.
CB: But we have a pretty good idea at least that it came from Egypt.
DG: It’s Egyptian, we know it’s Egyptian, but that’s about all we know.
CB: Okay. And that’s really weird and it’s interesting. So it was bought in 1902, but then it just sort of sat in this library in Berlin for a hundred years before anybody realized what it was or did anything with it essentially.
DG: I believe that it said, and I might not be correct in this, but it said something like astronomical or possibly even astrological text, but that was about it.
CB: Okay, so somebody had sort of glanced at it while doing a catalog and had noted that it has some sort of astronomical, astrological thing going on, and then they sort of moved on. But then at some point, Alexander Jones came along as he was probably searching for other and researching other texts of this kind and then realized what it was.
DG: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So he was in Berlin in February of 2009, and he said he recognized it right away that it was a horoscope.
CB: Right, because he had just maybe 10 years earlier just published a big collection of these from the city of Oxyrhynchus. So he would have recognized immediately that it fit the same mould of some of the other horoscopes he found.
DG: Yes, exactly, exactly. And he’s a very fine paleographer in addition to knowing a lot about ancient astrology. So yeah, he immediately knew what he had, shall we say. I should also add that a few more fragments from it were also acquired by the Berlin museum from the Saxon society of sciences, and they also did an exchange with [Giesen 56.04] to get all of the fragments that we have which are in four framed segments now.
CB: Okay. And I guess it’s an important point, that this is not just like a book or like a piece of paper, this is like a piece of papyrus that’s in fragments, and large chunks of it survived, but we’re actually missing pieces of it and it had to be reconstructed.
DG: That’s right. We’re missing what was probably the end of the papyrus roll, where you would have things like the name of the person and the date and the first positions that you would be looking at which would have been the Sun and the Moon. The Sun’s positions are entirely lost.
CB: Okay. So we’re missing fragments of it, it’s written in ancient Greek by somebody by hand basically. And let’s see what else in terms of that or in terms of description, and one of the things you realize right away, of course, as we said earlier, is that this is not just a tiny scrap of papyrus, but this is a sheet that lists a lot of details about all of the different positions of this person’s chart.
DG: It is amazingly complete. There are I think 18 columns spread over these four sections.
CB: Okay. Obviously, it’s one of, but is it the most detailed surviving horoscope at this point that survived?
DG: Yeah, I probably don’t want to say it’s the most detailed, but it is definitely one of the most detailed that has ever survived. Yeah.
CB: Okay. And I think at one point you guys list that there might be only a total of 26 of these detailed or these deluxe horoscopes that survived.
DG: That’s right, there’s very, very few elaborate or deluxe horoscopes that are still existing. Doesn’t mean we won’t find some, I mean, you never know when somebody else will go into a museum and find something like this, which must have been very exciting to see that and to recognize what it was.
CB: Yeah, I can’t even imagine. I’m still waiting on Nag Hammadi types of discovery of like the lost works of like Nechepso and Petosiris is what I’m still banking on. Aiming too high.
DG: I think, yeah, keep living the rest of your life. It’d be lovely If we did find such a text, but I don’t know, I don’t know.
CB: All right, I will not quit my day job. So what are some things that this chart lists that make it unique? As a deluxe horoscope, what are the things that it lists?
DG: Well, it has quite a lot of both astronomical and astrological information, and I’ll just go through some of the highlights, I guess. It’s got a lot of listing of dignities including the house ruler, what we know as the domicile ruler or sign ruler, the terms or bounds ruler, Monomoiria, which assigns each degree of zodiacal sign to one of the seven heavenly bodies, the triplicity ruler. It also lists Dodecatemoria, which associates either 12 or 13 equal divisions of each sign of the zodiac with zodiacal sign. It has fixed stars that are co-rising with the planets, the [unintelligible 59.51] And one of the most interesting things from my perspective is it has seven so-called planetary lots that are described in Paulus Alexandrinus. I mean, those are some of the main components of this horoscope.
CB: Okay. So it’s listing a lot, it’s basically listing almost every possible baseline factor for each placement of a planet and a chart that you would want to list.
DG: That’s right. It also lists the nodes and the presiding and managing planet and the master of the nativity.
CB: And so from all of these positions, even though some of them were lost or missing or there were pieces missing, it lists so much detail that you guys were actually able to reconstruct and to date this chart so that you know exactly what the astronomical positions are depicting or what date they’re set for, right?
DG: That’s right.
CB: And what was the date that it’s been or what’s the date of the chart?
DG: The date of the chart is probably the evening of the 19th of November 319 CE.
CB: 319 CE somewhere in Egypt?
DG: Yes. Well, it’s cast for the latitude of Syene which is in southern Egypt.
CB: Okay. And even that process of dating these I was always fascinated by, starting with the sort of precedent that Neugebauer and Van Hoesen set where you guys basically start with the outer planet positions and what signs they’re in in the chart. And then you look to see what ranges could possibly match those positions, and then you sort of work from there with sort of moving downwards towards the inner planets and the other personal points, right?
DG: That’s right, that’s right. You get a range of years based on the positions of Jupiter and Saturn, and then you narrow that down by adding, say, the node on Mars, and then you narrow that down further with the positions of Venus and Mercury and the Moon.
CB: Right. So if we cast a chart for today, for example, then we would know that tropically Saturn’s in Sagittarius and Jupiter is in Libra. But that’s happened maybe, I don’t know, a few other times in a few centuries before this one or after this one. But then you can narrow it down by the fact that Mars is in Virgo and whatever other planets are in other positions in order to eventually hone in on the specific date.
DG: That’s right. That’s right. And in this particular case there were six periods of about two years each where Jupiter and Saturn were in those signs that gave the first sort of gross dating of the chart, but only one of them from 319 to 321 had the longitude of Mars and the ascending node in the right place. And then you had to go further and look at Venus, Mercury, and the Moon, and that narrowed it down to dates between November 17th and 19th in 319.
CB: Right, because you basically just getting this piece of papyrus and then seeing that it has a chart, an astronomical chart of some sort. When you start looking at dating, you basically got to take at least, I’m guessing, like an 800-year range into account where you know that it’s possible that it could have been done anywhere in that range. And you have to look at positions during that timeframe, which is a pretty wide timeframe initially to look at.
DG: Well, in this case I think it was slightly less because I think Alexander Jones looked at between roughly 200 and 500 CE. And this would also be based on the paleography.
CB: Okay, right. So the actual handwriting–
DG: When you’re doing paleography, you can actually recognize writing styles changing over centuries.
CB: Okay. So even just the way that it was written and the document looked itself also seemed to imply something around like a fourth century data?
DG: Right. He said it was typical of a fourth century hand. And once he had the date by the astronomical conditions, then he can say, “Oh yeah. Okay. Well, that matches also the hand.” Sometimes you can’t. For instance, some of the examples in the Astronomical Papyri from Oxyrhynchus, he’s only dating based on the hand because there’s not enough data to give a closer date.
CB: Right. And in instances like this one, there was also this whole process of reconstructing and inferring some positions based on others because I think it was missing the position of the Sun and it didn’t have the Ascendant and stuff, right?
DG: It didn’t have the position of the Moon either.
DG: So, that had to be figured out also by the information that was in there. What was really, really helpful was having all of the lots. And actually, the Ascendant was there, the Ascendant degree and minutes of the Ascendant were there.
DG: So that was very helpful because once you have the Ascendant, you also have obviously the Descendant. But having the seven lots, which of course are based on the positions of planets and other lots, made it much easier to retroactively figure out the positions of those planets. Because the lot calculations seem to be extremely accurate.
CB: Right, because the lots themselves are derived from the planetary positions. If you’ve got the lot, you can sort of back-form what the planetary position that it was based on should have been.
DG: That’s right. And also the lots give both the house ruler and the term ruler. And that’s helpful, too.
DG: Because that gives you like a five-degree span that the planet could fall into based on the term ruler.
CB: Got it. Well, let’s talk about the lots a bit cuz that’s probably the biggest thing or biggest discovery that this horoscope contains. And not a lot of charts actually survived that contain the lots, right?
DG: That is true. I did a study when I was a PhD student. I was mainly interested in the Lots of Fortune and Daemon. I will put in a little plug here, if you don’t mind, that we stop calling it the lot of spirit which to me seems very vague and learn about the Daemon and call it the Lot of Daemon because that is its actual name. It’s not just some amorphous spirit, it’s this idea of a daemon that is a mediator between the human and the divine, and it brings in a lot of the context of both religion and philosophy in the idea of a guardian daemon, which is talked about in Plato’s Myth of Er, and is also culturally in this period very much related to fortune. So just a suggestion on my part that we maybe try to get away so much from calling it spirit and call it by its proper name. This is a case where I don’t want to for the sake of modern convenience pick a word that kind of describes what it is. I want to use the word that is what it is.
CB: Right. You wanna use the original Greek word because that invokes a whole range of different philosophical and religious and almost like metaphysical sort of concepts that were attached to that word in the ancient world.
DG: Yes, that’s right. And I should point out for your audience, for people who don’t know, the Greek concept of the guardian daemon is very much related to what the Christians call the guardian angel. But the Christians actually took that concept from the polytheists and made daemon into a negative word, demon, and then used the same concept of a spirit that guards you over your life and called it the guardian angel.
CB: Right. So you have this sort of ancient concept of there being sort of intermediary spirits or what have you between the human and the heavenly realms, and that’s a sort of pretty prevalent concept in the ancient world. And then later that becomes in a Christian context the idea of angels as intermediaries between the human and the heavenly realms, I guess.
DG: Yeah, basically they appropriated the whole concept wholesale from the polytheists and made it into the guardian angel for the Christians because demon by that time had quite a negative connotation.
CB: Sure. But in ancient context or prior to that, the sort of advent of Christianity, it was not necessarily viewed as negative or it could go either way?
DG: It could go either way. I don’t wanna give the impression that there’s only one meaning for daemon. It’s a very multivalent term as you will see if you get a copy of either my PhD or my book. But in this particular case, you have this idea of what we know as the guardian angel in Christianity is actually a guardian daemon who comes in at the moment of incarnation and guides a life and guards a life as well. And astrologically, this is interesting in its connection with fortune because then it takes on a whole complex of other meanings so that fortune has to do with body and daemon has to do with soul and spirit and mind. And so you have that whole contrast and two sides of the same coin phenomenon between fortune and daemon each representing different parts of the human body and the human psyche and the human mind and spirit.
CB: Right. So, yeah. And then in terms of that sort of good, bad dynamic, as we mentioned earlier, you also have the 12 houses or the 12 places, two of them were also given that name, where you have the 11th place of good daemon and the 12th place of bad daemon, right?
DG: That’s right. And the bad daemon, in that case, I think is more like–I don’t know. Again, it’s multivalent, but the idea that bad demons could cause illness or unfortunate events. And so we call the 12th place bad daemon. It’s associated with things like labor because labor was very dangerous then, and you didn’t know what was gonna happen when you were giving birth, if you were gonna survive, if your child was going to survive. So you need a portion of the chart that can represent that kind of thing. And so that’s the bad daemon place. But the 11th is more of this idea of the guardian, the good daemon. And you will notice that also those are opposite the houses of good fortune and bad fortune. So, you shouldn’t look at one and not the other because they’re intimately connected. That’s getting away from this trope, but I’ll get off my soapbox now.
CB: No, that’s good. I think that’s really important because part of the context and maybe an easier access point for a lot of people is most modern astrologers are still aware of the Part of Fortune, the so-called Part of Fortune which is typically referred to as the Lot of Fortune in Hellenistic astrology. And that’s still a chart component that’s used today by many modern astrologers, but it turns out that in ancient astrology they also had another part or lot that went with that which was the Part of Daemon which is what we’re talking about here. And those are the two most commonly used lots in both the ancient texts, but also in the horoscopes, right?
DG: Yes. And thank you for nicely bringing that back to the whole point of the use of fortune and daemon in extant charts from antiquity. Yeah. So I did a study when I was a PhD student on how many charts had these lots in them, and I discovered that–So, we have roughly 350 Greek charts. Of those, about 90 give the Lot of Fortune and about 33 give the Lot of Daemon. So that’s about a three to one ratio between them. But, as you can see, it’s not a huge component of the amount. It’s a significant minority, shall we say?
CB: Sure. But compared to other things that’s still like the second most used thing that will show up is those two lots besides the seven traditional planets. Usually it’s just the seven traditional planets and that’s it, but then the next most additional component that does show up is those lots basically, right?
DG: Yes. Yeah, that’s right.
CB: And that actually seems to be more common than the listing of things like the nodes for example in charts, right?
DG: Yes, actually. I think that’s true. I haven’t done a study of how many charts lists the nodes, but in the article I do talk about this. Yeah, I did go through a number of charts to see. And, yes, I found eight charts that give the Moon’s nodes, for instance.
CB: Okay. So there’s eight versus I think you said 30 that list the Lot of Daemon and then 90 or something that list the Lot of Fortune.
DG: Yeah, roughly. Actually, it’s been updated, so there’s about 95 that list lots. Of them we have 90 for fortune and 33 for daemon, some of them have both.
CB: Okay, got it. So and that demonstrates at least in the horoscopes that these were important and relatively frequently used points in ancient astrology. And then of course that also becomes clear if you look at the literary manuals like Valens or Dorotheus where they’re just using lots for things left and right basically.
DG: Yes, clearly. Especially with Vettius Valens who seems to be quite fond of them.
CB: Right. Okay. And so this chart though is unique because it contains a special set of seven lots for each of the planets, and these are a special set of lots that first actually appear interestingly in the work of Paulus Alexandrinus, who’s the astrologer that we talked about at the beginning of the show that you translated back in 2001.
DG: That’s right. And this is one of the things that was very exciting to me because in my work on lots I had never come across any chart documentary or literary that listed all seven of the lots that Paulus describes. This is the only example that we have.
CB: Okay. And what are the names of the seven lots again?
DG: Ah. Okay. So fortune and daemon, which, again, are the most used lots, but there’s a lot of Eros, necessity, courage, victory, and nemesis. And Paulus associates each one of these with a planet. Before Paulus, Eros and necessity were not necessarily associated with a planet. We see that first in Paulus, where he associates Eros with Venus and necessity with Mercury. But prior to Paulus, for instance in Dorotheus, in Firmicus, and especially in Valens, the formulae for the Lots of Eros and Necessity are quite different from the ones that Paulus gives us. So, I realized that there were really two lot traditions for the Lots of Eros and Necessity coupled with the Lot of Fortune and the Lot of Daemon. And in this earlier tradition, for instance, that’s what Valens did, the Lots of Eros and Necessity were formed by the arcs between fortune and daemon and projected in one way or the other from the Ascendant. So what they form is a double mirror image. And these were the lots that we see used in documentary charts prior to Paulus. So we have this one lot tradition where the four most used lots, which are fortune, daemon, Eros, and necessity, and Eros and necessity are very rarely used, I should make that clear, but they are all related to each other because they’re all being formed from variations on the same arc, fortune and daemon taking the Sun-Moon arc, and Eros and necessity taking the fortune-daemon arc and projecting it in one direction or another. But with Paulus, all of a sudden these are applied to planets. And this is not something that we see before him, before the fourth century in any documentary chart. We do have some evidence of the Paulus formula being used, but it’s late, it’s quite late. And in one example which is in the Olympiodorus commentary which is obviously sixth century written well after Paulus, and the other examples are even later than that in the 800s and early 900s CE. So to find evidence of this in a documentary chart is quite exciting.
CB: Right. So Paulus has a lot basically for each of the planets, and his text was written in the year 378 CE or some version of it that we have was written around 378 CE.
DG: We know that it’s 378 because he talks about finding out certain techniques and he gives an example, and we know what date he’s using.
CB: Right. He calculates like the lord of the day I think and he says it’s like Wednesday basically, and we’re able to back from that that he was writing on like Wednesday something something 378 CE.
DG: Right. That’s how we know the date of 378. And the same with Olympiodorus commentary, he gives examples that we are able to date to between May and July of 564.
CB: Okay. So, and Paulus gives these seven lots for each of the planets. So, there’s one for the Moon which is fortune. There’s one for the Sun which is the Lot of Daemon. There’s one for Venus which is the lot of Eros. There’s one for Jupiter which is victory. Necessity is Mercury. Courage is Mars, and Nemesis is Saturn.
DG: That’s right.
CB: And those are very interesting, but it’s like his is the first text where all seven of those are actually mentioned. And we have this issue that you’re talking about where there’s earlier astrologers like Valens and Dorotheus and Firmicus, who was slightly earlier, who also mentioned the Lot of Eros and the Lot of Necessity, but they’re using different calculations for those lots rather than the ones that Paulus is using.
CB: So what seems to happen then or what it seems to mean is, as you pointed out, that there’s these two different traditions for calculating Eros and necessity. There’s one earlier one and then there’s one later one that first shows up in Paulus. So Paulus in the chapter title it says something for that section, it says something like from the Panaretus, which seems to be a title for something, and that’s not clarified in the text itself. But then in the commentary by Olympiodorus a couple of centuries later it says that that was a book that was attributed to Hermes Trismegistus, right?
DG: Yes. I should say that the chapters of titles in these manuscripts may or may not have been original, we don’t know. So, the fact that Paulus never actually says where these are coming from, he just describes them, but he doesn’t actually say that they’re from the Panaretus. That is only in the chapter title of that chapter in which he describes these lots. So he says from the book called the Panaretus. Then we have a commentary on that passage, on that chapter of Paulus, a later commentary where he mentions Hermes Trismegistus. And Olympiodorus in his commentary also mentions Hermes Trismegistus as the author of that book. But of course that’s pseudo-epigraphical. It’s doubtful there was a real Hermes Trismegistus. So, it’s hard to know the origin of this idea. There are lots of texts that are attributed to Hermes. And the same for when people like Valens attribute things to Nechepso or Petosiris, those are probably not their real names. They are names that are given afterwards to what they call the ancients.
CB: Sure, just because it was in vogue in the ancient world sometimes to instead of taking authorship for work to attribute it to a famous or to a legendary or mythical figure from the past.
DG: Right. That’s right. That’s right. And some people have made conjectures about who these people may have been, but the fact remains that in antiquity they call Nechepso the king and Petosiris is considered to be his priest. But they don’t really say anything else in the ancient texts.
CB: Sure. So with this one though it implies presumably with Olympiodorus saying this is a text by Hermes, that it implies that these seven Hermetic lots that Paulus was drawing on unless he came up with them on his own which he doesn’t take authorship of them or he doesn’t say that he came up with them, but presumably, it means he was drawing on some text that was floating around that was attributed to Hermes by the fourth century that contained these seven lots.
DG: Yes, yes, yes. I did wonder at one time whether he had made them up, but I don’t think he did. That was just a thought that wandered through my head at the time, but I do think that he did find them somewhere. Whether he was the first one to find evidence of this, it seems like he could have been. The passages in which he talks about them are very similar to passages that are attributed to Antiochus by Rhetorius. But again, well, Antiochus first of all doesn’t give the formulae for them, only Paulus does that. And so we just don’t know, we really don’t know the origin of this book. It’s very unclear where the book came from.
CB: Yeah. And I wanted to point out about that. We’ll have to wait and see what Stephan Heilen’s critical edition looks like, but it wasn’t clear to me that that wasn’t Rhetorius who’s reporting those Hermetic lot interpretations that are so similar to Paulus because we know Rhetorius drew on Paulus.
DG: Well, right. But he claims that they’re from the Thesaurus of Antiochus. But if you compare what he claims is from the Thesaurus with what Paulus says, there are quite a lot of similarities. So maybe Paulus and Antiochus were drawing from a similar source. That’s possible. We don’t know.
CB: Right. One of the issues of course with trying to reconstruct what Antiochus did is trying to compare those three different versions of the summary of his work, the Porphyry version and then the Rhetorius versions which are often quite different and oftentimes you have to use the summary as a control. And the only thing that’s a little problematic is just that the summary doesn’t contain any reference to those seven Hermetic lots but only a smaller sort of subset of them.
DG: Right. Yeah. That’s right. Yeah, the passage that Rhetorius claims is from the Thesaurus is the one that’s very similar to what Paulus actually writes in his chapter 23. So maybe they were using the same source, but we don’t really have a way to prove that.
CB: Sure. So, this is the first time though. So Paulus was our earliest source for those seven Hermetic lots for all seven of them.
CB: And then suddenly with this discovery we have slightly earlier although almost still contemporaneous source basically from Egypt.
DG: Are you talking about the other method of calculating the Lots of Eros and Necessity?
CB: No, just saying that this horoscope actually contains all seven Hermetic lots.
DG: Oh, this particular one, yes, yes, yes. Yes, clearly there’s a connection with Egypt. And of course Paulus’s name, he’s Paul of Alexandria, so he has a connection with Egypt as well. Yes, so that’s quite interesting. And one of the things that I thought was quite striking about this papyrus horoscope is how many of the doctrines that it calculates are ones that you find in Paulus. And that really makes me wonder what kind of influence Paulus may have had on the writing of this horoscope.
CB: Right. That was actually a really significant point in you guys’s paper was that almost every technique that Paulus talks about in his introduction shows up in this horoscope in one way or another.
DG: Yeah, it’s quite striking how many of them show up. So, I speculated at the end of the paper about who might have been the writer of the horoscope, that maybe it was somebody who was studying Paulus as a student, but that was really speculation. We don’t actually have any way of knowing who calculated the chart, who the chart belonged to, why it was calculated, why it had all of this information that is very similar to what Paulus puts in his astrological textbook. It’s very tantalizing, the hints that we see when we look at the amount of material that’s covered in the horoscope and the similarities with the Paulus material.
CB: Sure. And it’s like we don’t have any way to confirm any of this, but there’s some at least three different really possibilities that we can’t really confirm or deny. One of them, the most interesting one of course would be that this horoscope would fall within the timeline of Paulus himself. If he wrote in 378 CE, then that means in 319 I think that’s when this birth chart is set for, that means that Paulus would have been like 59 years old when he wrote the introduction if it was his birth chart, let’s say, hypothetically.
DG: Yeah, yeah. I think that’s a lovely romantic fantasy that I had certainly at one time, but it’s completely unprovable.
CB: Sure. So that’s one option, it’s Paulus’s chart himself. Second option is that it’s somebody connected, as you said, with Paulus’s school or who’s following an extremely similar approach to astrology and who also lived during the same timeframe as Paulus.
DG: Right. Right.
CB: And then I guess the other broader option is just that this is somehow depicting what the contemporaneous sort of tradition of astrology looked like in the fourth century in whatever area of Egypt that it came from.
DG: Yeah. Well, I think the last possibility is probably the safest to make, that it was certainly an example of the kinds of practices that could have been used in this period and this timeframe. If we’re really being cautious, we probably shouldn’t go any further than that. I just thought that the coincidence of the material was so striking that it just seemed to me that it wasn’t a completely far-fetched thought to think that it might have some connection with Paulus and the kinds of astrology that he was teaching.
CB: Sure. And well, assuming that it’s not Paulus himself, then it will show for sure that this tradition of using the seven planetary lots was used outside of Paulus by other astrologers in Egypt in the fourth century.
DG: Well, yeah. Yeah, of course. And certainly that tradition of these planetary lots did go into the medieval period and became actually quite garbled. I don’t necessarily wanna get into all of that at the moment, but you have these two lot traditions, the one that Valens and Firmicus and Dorotheus were using for the calculations of the first four lots, fortune, daemon, Eros, and necessity. And then you have this other planetary lot tradition, and they all kind of move along in transmission into the Arabic period where it’s quite difficult sometimes to disentangle them.
CB: Right. Cuz it’s like by the time of Abu Ma’shar they received these two lot traditions where they’re probably drawing on like Dorotheus and Valens.
DG: And they are calling them planetary lots, but they’re not using planets in their formulae. So, what’s going on there? Something’s wrong.
CB: Right, I have to imagine, my personal opinion at this point is I think that the planetary lot tradition, the Hermetic lots that Paulus had probably originated with a text somewhere around the third century. So like a century after Valens some text is written and attributed to Hermes, but that’s different than the earlier lot tradition which also may have been attributed to Hermes in a completely separate text which had those alternative calculations for Eros and necessity. And then that’s why in the medieval tradition you see the confluence of these two traditions, and they don’t know what to do. So they just merge them, and they use the older tradition for Eros and necessity that comes from Valens and Dorotheus. And then they use Paulus’s tradition for the rest of the planetary lots for Jupiter and Mars and Saturn and whatever.
DG: Yeah. I don’t know how much I can go along with–I’m just very wary of making too many suppositions. So, I think for me I would prefer to just look at the evidence. I’m actually working on a paper about the transmission of the two traditions into Abu Ma’shar. So I will be exploring all the parameters of the evidence that we have for that in that paper. You can’t really say when a Hermetic text was written. It could be pre CE, it could be post CE.
CB: Well, you can say that we don’t have any evidence for these lots, all seven lots prior to the fourth century CE.
DG: We can absolutely say that. Yes, that is true.
CB: And then we can also say that neither Valens nor Dorotheus, even though they use Eros and necessity, they do not use the same calculations as Paulus in the first and second century.
DG: And I should point out also that there is evidence that people knew about two lot traditions in antiquity. And we find this actually in Hephaistio because there’s a scholion referencing a passage in Hephaistio book three chapter six sentence 11. He says that for every catarchic, one must observe the four lots, fortune, daemon, necessity, Eros. And it is hard to decide whether to cast out the Lots of Necessity and Eros according to Hermes Trismegistus or just as in the fourth book Dorotheus gives an account of the opinion of the Egyptians. So this to me says that the scholiast knew about two traditions of lots, and the earlier tradition which I call the Egyptian tradition in my book is the one that was used by Dorotheus and Valens and Firmicus. And the other tradition, Hermetic tradition that only came to light with Paulus, is this second tradition of these planetary lots.
CB: Right, although as a scholion, so that could have been written by a Byzantine compiler in the 10th century or something, right?
DG: Yes, it was clearly written later. Yeah. But the fact that he knew about it, that he knew that there were two different traditions shows us that somebody must have known about this. And if you just look at the documentary evidence, you see indisputably two different traditions.
CB: Right. And that’s basically the same thing that Abu Ma’shar then would have seen, observed.
DG: Right. Yeah, the whole Abu Ma’shar thing is a little bit complex. And I think it would be too much to get into that now. But, yeah, I’m gonna be looking at that evidence and exactly what comes where and how he uses it in the paper that I’m gonna be writing about that. But as far as this particular horoscope, this is a pretty amazing, if you want, transitional document from the idea of documentary horoscopes only using those earlier formulae to one that is using the formulae that Paulus himself uses. And the lots themselves in this horoscope are calculated so precisely that we can retrofit the proper planetary and luminary positions from them. That’s how careful the person who wrote this horoscope was about it. So, that’s a pretty interesting piece of evidence.
CB: Yeah, definitely. And so let’s see other things about this in terms of the lots, it’s a night chart, and it does actually reverse the calculation for the Lot of Fortune and for the other lots accordingly, it reverses it because it’s a night chart, right?
DG: Yes, absolutely. Ptolemy is the only person who doesn’t really do that because he says he does not like lots of numbers for which no cause can be reckoned.
CB: Right. And so it’s from Ptolemy’s legacy though that we have the modern tradition where until very recently the Lot of Fortune oftentimes was not reversed, but it turns out that in the ancient world just about every other astrologer besides Ptolemy including most of the surviving horoscopes do reverse the lots by day and night.
DG: Yes, absolutely. There’s abundant evidence that that was the case, and there’s even a passage in Rhetorius that takes note of this reversal. He says, “If the Lot of Fortune and its lord happen to be well placed with the Lot of Daemon and its lord happen to be badly placed to be held by malefics, they result in banishment for the nativity especially for a nocturnal nativity on account of the Ptolemaic Lot of Fortune actually being the Lot of Daemon.”
CB: Right. So he says basically if you don’t reverse the Lot of Fortune calculation, then you’re actually using the Lot of Daemon.
DG: That’s exactly what he’s saying.
CB: Got it.
DG: So he knows that Ptolemy was somewhat iconoclastic.
DG: I think.
CB: So, the other thing that’s interesting about this to me is there was this debate about 10 years ago around 2007, 2009 where Schmidt was trying to argue that the Hermetic lots should not be reversed or at least the ones like Eros and the other ones besides fortune and spirit should not be reversed because he thought conceptually that it was redundant. And then from his initial conceptual objection he tried to read into Paulus sort of textual argument that he said that either Paulus himself or that the author that Paulus was drawing on did not intend to reverse the lots. So one of the other things that, for anybody who’s followed that whole debate, that this horoscope does because this is a night chart and it does in fact reverse the lots, it actually demonstrates that they were in fact reversed which seems to disprove Schmidt’s theory at least to the extent of whoever this author was and the approach that they were taking to calculate in those lots.
DG: Yes, the author of this documentary horoscope is using the nighttime formula. There’s absolutely no doubt of that.
CB: So there’s no doubt at least in terms of this chart that they’re reversing the calculations because they’re counting for Eros for example instead of going from spirit to Venus as they do in day charts.
DG: No, no, no, they’re using the nighttime version.
CB: Right, which is from Venus to spirit.
DG: Yeah, I always mix these up in my head. But, yeah. I’ll assume you have that right.
CB: Yeah, so I just wanted to mention that as a brief side note, not that that’s a major discussion that’s still taking place. But for anybody who’s still sort of curious about that or–
DG: Yeah. I didn’t know about that idea, but I’m not sure what he’s seeing in the texts that will make him think that.
CB: Originally, I think it was a conceptual argument that he didn’t think it made sense conceptually that when reversing the calculations in that way that some of the lots would move very fast and others would move very slow. And I think it was originally just a conceptual thing like that that he didn’t subjectively think that that made sense.
DG: Okay. Well, fine. But he keeps saying the reverse for those at night.
CB: Right. Yeah. No. I know. We’ve gone over this, and there’s a whole thing about well, what does the reverse mean? And that was the whole thing.
DG: Oh, I see. All right. For what it’s worth, this papyrus horoscope uses the nocturnal formulae for all of the planetary lots. And I don’t see any reason why since we have multiple examples of reversals of lot formulae at night in other charts, not just these. I’m just not sure that that theory can be maintained.
CB: Yeah. And we don’t have to say any more beyond that except that this chart clearly reverses the calculations.
DG: Absolutely, there’s absolutely no doubt.
CB: Okay. So I wanna move on and just hit a few other points as we’re wrapping up here unless you have anything else to mention about the lots or their significance in this chart.
DG: I think we’ve covered it all pretty well.
DG: Why he did the lots, it’s anybody’s guess. But I’m certainly glad he did.
CB: Sure. Yeah, it’s huge for that reason. So other interesting points about this chart, one, it lists the degree of the angles, and it actually uses the nonagesimal degree when it lists the Midheaven, like the equal house Midheaven degree.
DG: No, no, no, no, no, it’s the actual Midheaven degree. Okay, you’ve got Virgo rising, so you’re gonna have them roughly 90 degrees from each other, aren’t you?
CB: Right. But it has it exactly 90 degrees, right?
DG: We do not know the minutes of the Midheaven, we only know the degrees of the Midheaven which is 10, and the Ascendant is also 10. But by virtue of the fact that it’s Virgo rising, you’re gonna get that kind of arrangement.
DG: So we don’t have the minutes. The minutes are missing for the Midheaven and the IC.
CB: Okay, but it just happens to be exactly 90 degrees.
DG: It just happens to be, yeah.
CB: It could theoretically be the equal house Midheaven.
DG: I think it is the actual Midheaven. I haven’t actually tested this out to see when you have 10 Virgo rising at that latitude if you’re gonna get a 10 Midheaven or not. I haven’t checked that. I think this is the actual Midheaven, I don’t think it’s an automatic 90 degree from that. We’ll say that’s 10, too.
CB: Sure. There’s just been a lot of debates over the past few years that heated up over what form of house division was used in Hellenistic astrology, which one was the most prevalent, what role did quadrant houses play, what role did equal houses play, and everything else. So that was one of the reasons why this might end up being important in terms of that discussion because that’s one of the–
DG: Not sure that it advances the discussion because of the fact that the Ascendant is Virgo which is going to make the Midheaven around 90 degrees anyway just by virtue of being Virgo. But all I can tell you is that I think this is not an equal house thing. I think the actual Midheaven is 10 degrees and something minutes, but we don’t know what the minutes are cuz they’re missing.
CB: But we really can’t say either way because it’s 10 and 10, right? I’m trying to understand for the sake of clarity cuz this is gonna come up in arguments and then it will be cited.
DG: Okay, yeah. I’m not sure that it helps the argument one way or the other. I think when you see the Midheaven calculated in charts which it’s not calculated all that often, but I’ve never seen an automatic 90-degree Midheaven that didn’t–Let’s see. How do I say this? I think all the Midheavens that are calculated in documentary charts are actual Midheavens.
CB: Right, because typically they wouldn’t need to list it if you’ve already listed the degree of the Ascendant.
DG: Right, but they often don’t even list the Midheaven because the Ascendant is what is going to give you the orientation for the chart.
CB: Right, if you’re using whole sign houses. But you need the meridian in order to calculate quadrant houses, right?
DG: Yes, you do. But whether they calculate it or not, you don’t know why. It’s pretty speculative I think to–Yes, absolutely. You do need a meridian for quadrants certainly, but in terms of documentary charts, when the Midheaven is calculated I believe it is the actual Midheaven. It’s not just an automatic 90-degree from the Ascendant thing that’s going on. Is that hard?
CB: Sure. I think so. I’m only trying to be extra careful because like Deborah Houlding for example has gone to great lengths to argue that the use of quadrant houses was more prevalent in ancient astrology and that this whole thing about whole sign houses has been blown out of proportion in terms of its usage and prevalence in Hellenistic astrology. And so that’s part of the context of the recent debate over the past few years. And then Schmidt has also recently come out saying that equal houses was more prominent, and so that’s why I was just trying to be very careful in stating what we can or cannot say about this chart based on the Ascendant being a 10 and the Midheaven being a 10.
DG: In terms of this being the actual Midheaven which would be giving you quadrants, I think that’s correct. Whether the astrologer would do a combination of quadrants and whole sign, could be, I don’t know. The diagram that’s in this paper is mainly for illustrative purposes so the people could see what it all looks like put together. It’s not making a judgement about what kind of house system is or is not being used cuz it is not discussed in anything in this chart. I’m not sure that this particular example, given that it’s Virgo where you would automatically have a very close to 90-degree difference between the Ascendant and the Midheaven, is gonna help that argument. But I do think it is a calculated Midheaven, it’s not an automatic 90-degree midheaven, if that makes sense.
CB: Sure. And it seems like in the paper you do take it for granted that they’re using whole sign houses in this chart because that’s I think you’ve written in the past the typical approach that most astrologers took in that tradition, right?
DG: I’m not sure that’s a question that we can apply to this particular example, whether it’s whole sign or not. I think that is a frame that is very common, very commonly used. But that doesn’t deny the idea of quadrants.
DG: I don’t think this particular example is going to give you an answer, a definitive answer one way or the other. And I think when you read textbooks where they talk about quadrants which plenty of them do and you read textbooks that are obviously based on a frame of one sign per place, I think that’s a normal way that people looked at things.
CB: Sure. Yeah. And it seems like that’s stated I think in the Olympiodorus commentary that you translated. There’s a passage where it talks about the ancients using both signs as places as well as degrees as places essentially.
DG: Right. First of all, unless we find a text where somebody spells it out, we’re not gonna know, we can only infer from what we see.
CB: Sure. So in this chart though it doesn’t calculate intermediate house cusps, right?
DG: It does not. It does not. It does not mention any intermediate house cusps. But that’s very typical that it would not do that. Well, I shouldn’t say never, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a documentary chart that did talk about the calculation of intermediate house cusps in this time period.
CB: Right. It’s usually later in the Hellenistic tradition like with Rhetorius and astrologers like that that you start getting intermediate house cusps when quadrant houses start being used much more generally.
DG: Much more generally, yeah, it’s not common in this particular period. But that doesn’t mean that you’re not using quadrants to look at certain areas of life. Paulus talks about that also in his book, but this particular example doesn’t say anything about any of that. It calculates a lot of different techniques, but a quadrant versus a whole sign perspective is not one of the things it goes into.
CB: Right. Cuz aside from listing the degrees of all four angles, it doesn’t go into the houses or their interpretation or anything at all.
DG: No, there is no interpretation, there’s only techniques. There’s no interpretation of what you should do with a Monomoiria for example or what you should do with a Dodecatemoria.
CB: Right. Okay, and then the final thing that it does go into that we’ve mentioned briefly in passing is that it does calculate the master of the nativity in the chart, right?
DG: Mhm, yes.
CB: And do you know what calculation was used for that or what tradition it was following to calculate the master of the nativity?
DG: I don’t know precisely because of the amount of other techniques that appear in Paulus. In my discussion of it, I did try to stick to the method that Paulus gives us in chapter 36, where he says that the Sun and the Moon are the most important and in a night chart you should look at the Moon, and if you find the Moon in a productive place, then you should use that to help you to find the master of the nativity. And you should also look at the Moon’s term ruler and the Moon’s house ruler. Having said that, it’s not clear to me why the person who created the chart came up with Jupiter as the master of the nativity and Venus as a participating ruler. Personally, I see that the Moon has quite a lot of dignity in this chart, so I’m not really sure. And all I can do is look at what it says and look at what Paulus says and try to reconcile that, and it was problematic. It was problematic to do that. It didn’t give me a satisfying answer. It wasn’t clear what method was used.
CB: Okay. I think you did mention that although the degree of the Moon is–So Jupiter is said to be the ruler of the nativity or the master of the nativity in this chart, right?
DG: Yes, with Venus.
CB: And the Moon, the position of it in the chart is reconstructed or approximate, but you did say that the Moon is potentially in the bounds of Jupiter, right?
DG: Yes, that’s right.
CB: Okay, so I think that’s pretty straightforward it’s a night chart.
DG: Right, but the house ruler of the Moon is obviously also the Moon.
CB: Right. But in most calculations like in Dorotheus, for example, they say that the bound lord of the predominator which is typically the well-placed satellite, the satelite if it’s well-placed, is the master of nativity.
DG: Yes, yes.
CB: So, it may just simply be because the Moon is in the bounds of Jupiter and it’s–
DG: It may be, yeah. No, that absolutely may be. And maybe the purpose of finding this was to determine some kind of length of life which is often what they were using it for in that case. But they also say that the star of Zeus held possession and the star of Aphrodite also had a share. So, that’s a little bit weird.
CB: Right. Well, in Antiochus one of the variants has to do with looking at the domicile lord of the hour marker or the domicile lord of the Ascendant and also the bound lord of the Ascendant he says is one of the variant calculations for determining the master of nativity. And it’s actually interesting that the degree of the Ascendant at 10 Virgo would be in the bounds of Venus. So that could actually be part of the reason why they say that Venus has some share as the master of the nativity.
DG: Possibly, yeah. I hadn’t thought about that. So, yeah, that’s certainly a possibility.
CB: Sure. And so as it says I think in your translation of Paulus he talks about this a little bit the master of the nativity being used in calculations for the length of life.
CB: And it was also, actually have a very large section on this in your dissertation about how Porphyry talks about identifying the master of the nativity that some astrologers used it to find the guardian daemon, right?
DG: Yes. Well, I think that’s what Porphyry’s doing as his own personal form of theurgy. But again, that’s my argument.
CB: Okay. All right. Well, yeah, people should definitely check that out then for more information about that whole approach and the philosophy behind it. And then you might gain some greater understanding of what the author of this horoscope was trying to do when they were doing things like trying to identify the master of the nativity in this chart.
DG: Yeah, I’m not necessarily saying that this person had any interest in a guardian daemon or anything like that. I think it much more likely had to do with figuring out length of life which was a normal concern.
CB: Right, in addition to other things like Rhoterius obviously uses the master of the nativity a lot in terms of character interpretation of the native if that’s the dominant planet in the chart and things like that.
DG: Yeah, that’s definitely post somebody like Porphyry. And I’m just not sure, given the wealth of technique in this horoscope,well, I shouldn’t make assumptions about the philosophical inclinations of the person who created it. But I’m guessing that the concerns were probably more mundane.
CB: Sure. All right. Great. Well, I think that’s everything I meant to cover in terms of this chart. Is there any parting thoughts that you have about it? Or if people are interested in this type of work, what can they do? Last month I had an episode where I talked about different educational paths and the path that you actually went down as one route that a person could go down if they wanted to study astrology in an academic context. Is that something you would recommend for some astrologers if this is something that they’re really interested in or this sort of approach speaks to them?
DG: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. If this conversation has thrilled you in some way into wanting to find out more about this particular era in history and what astrologers were doing, I would absolutely recommend becoming more informed about that period. And I certainly don’t think that everyone should be obliged to go learn Greek and read ancient history, but I’m a huge fan of education. So I think that there are many paths that you can take. But if you really did want to become a scholar in this field, it’s hard not to have languages to do that I would say.
CB: Sure. So ancient languages as being one of the primary things that’s important in terms of this type of work.
DG: Yeah, certainly. Well, depending on the period. In this period you would absolutely need Greek and Latin at least. If you were doing say medieval stuff, you would certainly need Latin. And depending on how interested you were in the Arabic tradition, you would need Arabic. I regret that I didn’t learn Arabic or Hebrew or Syriac.
CB: There’s still time, there’s always time for it.
DG: I know. I know. I know. I know and Demotic. I can read it in transliteration but not the squiggles.
CB: So would classics be the route to go then if somebody wanted to go–
DG: I think if you’re really interested in this material, then a classics education would be the way to go. Yeah, absolutely.
DG: And we’ve even had people on the MA at the University of Wales who’ve had Greek. One of my students just wrote an absolutely brilliant dissertation on astrology and Neo-platonism. He’s a native Greek, so he obviously knows ancient Greek as well. Because he knows astrology and he knows Greek and he knows philosophy, he’s a really good Neo-platonist scholar. That gives him an enormous advantage in interpreting this material. And so your listeners who already know something about astrology will be at an advantage if they wanted to go further in this. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it absolutely can be done and it’s extremely rewarding.
CB: Yeah, instances like this where you’re actually finding an ancient text that has something that is a brand new discovery and you’re able to put all of those previous educational skills and language skills and everything else to work in order to unravel its contents, that’s a very good demonstration of how rewarding it can be sometimes to go that route.
DG: Yeah. For me, I was just lucky. I was lucky that I had those skills. But that doesn’t mean that other people can’t acquire those skills.
CB: Sure. All right. And what’s your next project? Do you have another book coming up or anything we should know about?
DG: I’m still trying to recover from the first book.
CB: Still recovering from the first book.
DG: Well, yeah, that was a huge undertaking. I thought writing a dissertation was difficult, writing a book was even harder. But anyway, no, I’m not thinking about another book at the moment, but certainly at some point I would like to do a re-edition of Paulus. I’ve just written some articles on medical astrology and an article called Divination into Kombucha, which obviously is taking in both astrology and medical practice. As I mentioned to you before, I’m gonna be writing an article on the lot tradition in the Arabic period, particularly in Abu Ma’shar. I don’t know. At the moment I don’t have a book in my head, but you never know.
CB: Brilliant. Well, yeah, it sounds like you’ve got a lot of irons in the fire, and you’ll be speaking at UAC in Chicago next year, right?
DG: I will be speaking at UAC in Chicago. I’m going to be talking about the daemon. So all of you who might have been intrigued by my very brief description in our talk today can come along and hear more about the daemon and its philosophical and religious connections and how that ties into astrology.
CB: All right. Brilliant. Well, I will be there. And yeah, I look forward to seeing you there in Chicago next year. And I’m sure a lot of our listeners will be interested by this and will join us as well. I think that brings us to the end of our talk today, so thanks a lot for joining me.
DG: Thank you very much, Chris. Thank you for asking me.
CB: All right. Well, thanks everyone for listening and we’ll see you next time.