The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 137, titled:
With Chris Brennan and guest Jenn Zahrt
Episode originally released on December 18, 2017
Note: This is a transcript of an audio podcast. We strongly encourage you to listen to the audio version, which includes inflections that may not translate well when written out. Transcripts are created by using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and the text probably contains some errors and differences from the audio version. Please submit any corrections to Chris Brennan by email at email@example.com.
Transcribed by Mary Sharon
Transcription released April 17th, 2021
Copyright © 2021 TheAstrologyPodcast.com
CB: Hi, my name is Chris Brennan and you’re listening to The Astrology Podcast. This episode is recorded on Friday, December 8th, 2017, starting just after 11:26 a.m. in Denver, Colorado, and this is the 137th 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 Jenn Zahrt about Elsbeth Ebertin, who is a famous German astrologer who lived in the early 20th century and was one of the first prominent female astrologers in modern times. Hey, Jenn, welcome to the show.
JZ: Thanks, Chris. Thanks for having me.
CB: Yeah, I’m excited to finally have you on the show to talk about this topic. So, part of the genesis of this episode is that back in episode 86, I talked about some of the research that I did or have done into the earliest female astrologers and found that Hypatia was probably the earliest woman that we can name who probably had some astrological training, but it’s not really until the 20th century that we start to see many leading women emerge in the astrological community. And one of the first notable figures was this interesting figure from Germany named Elspeth Ebertin. And you are actually somebody who specializes in, or is focused quite a bit of research on her work, right?
JZ: Yeah, yep. I’ve done some MA and some of my PhD research on her work.
CB: Okay, so you actually went to school and got two degrees, where you actually focused a large part of your research or some portion of your research on the life of this particular astrologer?
JZ: Well, I found Elsbeth’s work while I was at Berkeley in my German PhD. She wrote a novel called Mars in the House of Death that really was the beginning of my relationship with her work. At the time, I was in a German literature department, so I was discouraged from looking at any technical manuscripts. But she had written a novel. So, I decided that I would get that novel and read it and figure out how she was using astrology and fiction. And that was the beginning of where I worked on her. But also, in a wider context, I noticed that around this time period in German history, nobody writing about this was writing about what the women were up to. So that seemed extra important as well as looking at what she was doing. And, yeah, that’s how it began.
CB: Right. It seems like there’s been, over the past few decades, it’s like we come into the astrological community and women obviously play a very major role in it today. But there’s been not a lot of research or discussion into some of these early figures, early female figures in the astrological community in the early 20th century. There is the biography that Karen Christino wrote about Evangeline Adams, but you don’t often hear about other areas or other countries. And so, that’s one of the things that really interested me about your work because as far as I can tell, Elsbeth is one of those pretty early figures, not long after the revival of astrology in the West, who was a prominent astrologer and did a lot of notable work in the field during that time.
JZ: Yeah, she was very, very proficient in publishing over 20 years of publishing consistently about astrology. It’s pretty impressive for the technology that was available at her time.
CB: Okay, well, then. So today, we’re going to talk a bit about Elsbeth’s life and work and maybe we should just start off with her dates. So, when did she live or what time frame are we talking about?
JZ: Elsbeth was born on May 14th, 1880 at 6:22 p.m. local mean time in Gorlitz, Germany, and it’s interesting. She has 11 Scorpio rising and I believe Jupiter’s there right now.
CB: Right. Yeah, I think there’s some actually interesting astrology going on right now in terms of the chart for when we’re recording this. Yeah, but we’ll save that for later.
JZ: Sure. So, she lived during the Wilhelm Reich. That was where she was brought up. And then she lived through the Weimar Republic, and then the beginning of the Third Reich, and unfortunately, she did not survive the Second World War. But she was around for all of these major political changes in Germany. And as a mundane astrologer, that’s quite significant, I think, given that her lifetime spans those three different regimes of German history.
CB: Right. So, she lived from 1880 to 1944, which basically means that she lived through World War One and most of World War Two and the period that you focus on, especially that period between World War One and World War Two as a special period in German history, right?
JZ: Yeah, I’ve always been attracted to the Weimar Republic from the beginning of learning German at all. And once I started also getting interested in astrology, I noticed that in the German context, the history of astrology was always geared towards explaining how the Nazis used astrology. And as I started to look around, I saw that there was so much more going on that didn’t have a direct relationship to Nazism and I just didn’t see that getting any attention. So, I thought I’m going to go back through those primary sources and take a look and see what else was going on and hope to bring those stories out. So yeah, hopefully, they’ve [Jenn laughs] made some inroads on that.
CB: Yeah. Well, what you showed, and one of the things I’m going to link to in the description because you’ve done several different things or you’ve written several different articles and research papers and entire thesis and everything else on this topic or related topics. But one of the things you did a good job of showing, I think, in the Mountain Astrologer article, which is now available on astro.com and I’ll link to it in the description where you did an article on Elsbeth Ebertin, is just that there was a flourishing astrological community in the early 20th century prior to World War Two. And that even though it isn’t often talked about or doesn’t get a lot of focus, there was a lot of interesting stuff going on there in the astrological community that often has parallels with discussions that are still happening in the community today, right?
JZ: Oh, yeah, it’s fascinating to look into some of the journals and see the gossip and Elsbeth was part of that. She has a very cozy writing style almost like she’s talking to you. It’s not very formal. So, she’ll tell you all these things about how she’s feeling and who she knows and what they are doing and what she thinks about it. And so, through her lens, you actually end up getting this really interesting picture on the social nature of what it was to be a professional astrologer at that time.
CB: Right. Especially when studying astrology from an academic context, that’s been part of the not just the motivation, but almost part of the justification for a lot of academics studying astrology during different periods is that when you study the interpretations like what an astrologer is saying during a different time period and how they’re describing their clients and things like that, they often end up describing their own culture. And so, you can actually get insight into different periods based on what the astrologers are saying. And that’s part of the premise of what you’re doing with this as well, right?
JZ: Yeah, one of the major motivations I have is to shine that light on the deep similarities we have between what’s going on in our community now and the fact that this was happening in Germany 100 years ago, and the same questions crop up and the same tensions crop up. So, how do we solve these problems? Maybe by looking at those primary documents that I’m translating and Elsbeth is the main source for now. We can actually get some reflective insights in thinking about how we can actually begin to address something that’s really had a lot longer legs than we notice right now.
CB: Sure, and we’ll get into some of the specific topics later. But just to mention some of them briefly some of those things that you found that were interesting that came up that were already being talked about in the astrological community that are still coming up today are; is astrology a science or debates about what was like certification or something like that. What professional designations and things are… What were some of the topics that came up?
JZ: They were really seeking to establish legitimacy, so trying to separate themselves from being understood as an occult science. They want it to be a legitimate study-able field in a university. And they also saw how this age-old body of knowledge can be neglected from being legitimate in society and so, they were really working on trying to figure out how to legitimize astrology. And then that obviously begs the question of who’s a charlatan, and who’s a professional, and who belongs, and what do you have to do to actually be an astrologer, and be wary of the ones who are just doing it for money, and all of these things that we still see today. Even just the other day on Facebook, someone was typing about anyone can pick up a book about astrology and then call themselves an astrologer, but they’re not necessarily doing due diligence and what the professional community would count as what it takes to become an astrologer. So, they were still talking about all of that stuff back then.
CB: Right. And one of the other areas they talked about in one of your articles was division between astrologers who were academics or had some academic training versus those who didn’t and tensions between those two communities?
JZ: For sure, yes. So, Elsbeth was a lifelong professional astrologer, but she didn’t have any academic background and we can get into this later. But in 1931, she had a public tiff with another academic astrologer who said she was just not qualified in a way. And she said, “How am I not qualified? I’ve been a published professional for 25 years. Are you kidding me? How is this even a topic?”
CB: Right. I love that. That’s so funny because that is a great parallel with today where you see the same arguments happening.
JZ: Yeah, because there is a difference. And this also hinges on something that is critical to the way they’re using the word science when they’re trying to establish it as a science is that there’s something experiential about the practice of astrology. And in that context, no amount of academic training will help you. You actually have to experience practicing the rules and even enough time has to pass for you to get a sense of what it’s like to go through certain transits and or learn these cycles of time. And so that experiential quality pervades everything including the way they’re talking about that word science. They call it an experiential science, or sometimes you could interpret that as empirical science, but the idea is that you have to have these collected units of experience inside of your own lived experience to build up the body of knowledge to become an effective astrologer. Without that, you’re studying something, but you’re not actually doing it. You’re not doing it yourself. I don’t know if that makes sense.
CB: Yeah, definitely. That was actually a conversation I had I think with Adam Elenbaas in a recent episode about the difference between the abstract understanding of astrology that you can get that you have as a newer astrologer or a younger astrologer relatively quick versus once you’ve actually been seeing clients for five years, or 10 years, or what have you and the difference that having some experience makes versus just abstractly knowing what a transit should manifest in or what have you.
JZ: Totally. And that goes right back to that debate between academic astrologers versus professional astrologers in Germany at that time because you can study something from the outside, but the professionals were just living it and doing it. And so, those tensions were completely alive and people were aware of them back then. But there’s still something about having a PhD that makes you somehow legitimate. So, it sounds like well, then the academic one must be the right one or the legitimate one when in fact, it’s not actually necessarily true.
CB: Sure, yeah. And that was actually a topic on an episode before that which was different paths to astrological education and the pros and cons of going those different paths. And actually, I hopefully, that’s something we can circle back around to maybe later on in this episode because you’ve had an interesting story in terms of the direction that you’ve gone and trying to do both in some sense or having some foot in both worlds.
JZ: Yeah, definitely.
CB: Yeah. Okay. So, before we get too far-off track, we’ll circle around to that. So, coming back to Elsbeth, she’s often only known in the English-speaking world as the mother of Reinhold Ebertin, who is a famous astrologer that’s known for founding a school of astrology known as Cosmobiology. But she was actually a notable astrologer in her own right who published 21 different books on astrology between 1915 and 1932. So, it’s weird because this should not be as a terribly obscure figure, but for some reason she is, right?
JZ: Yeah. I think one reason why that could be is Reinhold was really great about promoting Cosmobiology in the English-speaking world. And he went on his way and really got a lot of people in the English-speaking world, especially the FAA, to get into his work. And he loved his mom a lot. And he incorporated some things in his translations of, for example, the Fixed Stars book. There’s so many passages in that about fixed stars where he references his mother or his mother’s death. So, it really is almost this grief exercise for him. And also, then, eventually, I think he was behind the FAA translating her book about synastry. But other than that, he went his own way and I think he outshined her in his own way.
CB: Sure, and then his translation. So, for example, one of his works, he lived from 1901 Reinhold Ebertin lived from 1901 until 1988. And his most famous book, certainly in the English-speaking world, is The Combination of Stellar Influences. And this was translated into English and published by the FAA and then that translation I know influenced a lot of late 20th century astrologers like Rob Hand and Noel Tyl and lots of people. So certainly, in the English community, Reinhold is more well-known. But even in the German astrological community, I think one of the points that you made is that she’s not as well-known even there as Reinhold is, right?
JZ: Right. I think, with his development of Cosmobiology, he established a new technical angle on doing astrology, whereas she mostly published almanacs and very time sensitive predictions. And if you think about it in the ‘60s, or ‘70s, when you’ve just lived through two world wars, you don’t really want to know what the predictions for 1937 were, and you don’t really want to look back and see what she predicted for 1923. So, the effort or the desire to translate that material isn’t very strong. This industry book has instructions. It’s very much more like what we’re used to in terms of an astrology book. But now that 100 years have gone by, her work is gaining relevance from an academic standpoint, in that she is talking about this social media and also historical facts that just scream out from the pages and become interesting again. So, it’s almost like, it’s her time now, but it wasn’t necessarily earlier.
CB: Sure. So, a lot of what she wrote was almanacs and mundane predictions and things like that that were time sensitive. And so maybe that’s part of the reason why she’s not as well-known today as somebody who like Reinhold that mainly just wrote instructional manuals.
JZ: Right. And he did a lot of technical innovation, whereas she let him do his thing. She wasn’t really interested in technical innovation. Her main message from the very beginning up through the very last almanac that she made was to popularize it for the masses and get them interested in it. But she wasn’t on paper a technical innovator. I think the work that she did with Fixed Stars and medical astrology is infused in Reinhold’s work and he really took that on after she passed.
CB: Sure. Okay. Well, let’s back up a little bit then and let’s talk about her life and do a bit of a biography from this point forward starting with her early years. So, she had a somewhat difficult early life to some extent, right?
JZ: Yeah, so she was born to a pair of people who made costumes for theater. And when she was a young child, her mother used to enjoy telling her that when her mother had been young, she got to stay in the castle where Kepler had predicted the death of General Wallenstein. So, that was her little early exposure to astrology in the context of her childhood. That fact just stuck out in her mind because how special is it to have her mom be in a castle that Kepler was in. And Kepler is the Shakespeare of German astrology. Every astrology book in this time always wants to reference how Kepler did astrology. So, she just had this fantastic exposure to German culture through all of the costumes that her parents were making. And she was the oldest of six, so she got to be the boss of her siblings. And when she was 13, actually, a few years before that, her father was put into an insane asylum by her mother because I think her mother wanted to get divorced, but couldn’t stomach actually doing it. So, she said their dad was crazy and got him locked up. And so, she was forbidden from seeing him and she would still sneak away anyway and go visit her dad. And then eventually her dad, it’s hinted that he committed suicide. It’s unclear whether that was true. And then after that happened, her mom got remarried and she was instantly made the second in command of the family costume business. So, she was given, in her teen years, a very interesting deep dive into what it was to run a business from the get go. But one thing she picked up from all that theater exposure was that different playwrights and different characters had birthdays and death days and there seemed to be a lot of media buzz every time this would happen. And so, she really embedded that into her publishing in the early years. So, she ended up publishing things about certain people on their birthdays or death days, and then it would get picked up by the media because it was topical. So that early theater training, not theater training, but it gets exposure to providing theater with the costumes they needed actually set her up for a really successful start as a publisher.
CB: Okay. So yeah, so she’s both gaining experience from running the family business with like, how to run a business, basically. But then also, she has this interest in biography and writing literary biographies. And eventually, that’s what her first book was about that she published when she was 17, right?
JZ: Yes, yes, she did a literary biography at 17 and she was just fascinated with people’s stories, the stories of their lives, and I think that early fascination later just got an extra layer of depth once she became an astrologer. It was already there, this interest in what happens in a person’s life. She carried that sense of it with her in the entire time she wrote.
CB: Right. Yeah, that’s a thing. I’ve met a few astrologers who say that actually their first interest was just biographies of people and people that have interest in the biographies of individuals or of notable famous people. And then when you find astrology, it’s like you have a whole other way of looking at that if you already have an interest in biography, and she seems to be one of those people.
JZ: Most definitely, yeah.
CB: Okay. So, she publishes her first book which is just a literary biography at the age of 17. Around the same time, it seems like based on your article, she also met her husband who she actually married.
JZ: Yes, she met Fritz, I believe, dancing. She was asked to take dancing lessons. And so, she went and she met the teacher, and he was 10 years older than her. And they hit it off. But there was an issue. Her mom was never very supportive of her. And then later into her marriage, it appears that Fritz sided with the mom, and they both looked down upon Elsbeth’s independence. And so, after a while, Elsbeth got frustrated and said, “Hey, you guys aren’t really supporting me. So, I’m just going to go support myself.” So, she ends up leaving Fritz four years after Reinhold was born and says, “This isn’t really working for me.” And it was very awkward at that time to be a single woman, a divorced woman. She did not get custody of Reinhold. And she embarked on publishing to stay alive, really, as an independent person.
CB: Sure. And it seems like there was also something that happened because it seems like she got together with Fritz, her husband, around 1897 when she’s around 17, give or take. But then, not long after that, a few years after that, you wrote that she got really into the study of graphology around 1900, right?
CB: And what is graphology, for those that aren’t familiar with it?
JZ: Graphology is looking at the size and shape and flow of your handwriting to predict things about your personality.
CB: Okay. So, it’s a little bit of a blend between, let’s say, standard handwriting analysis versus almost like a form of divination, right?
JZ: Yeah, I would say so. There’s an element of predicting what someone’s going to be based off of how they’re writing their words. And it can shift as well if you change and you get more relaxed, maybe your handwriting isn’t as one way or another.
CB: Okay, so it’s one of those things. It’s like astrology where it probably falls somewhere, especially during that time period, let’s say the early around 1900, where it’s in that gray area between divination, or something occult versus something that that you could almost see is like scientific or that’s drawing on scientific elements?
JZ: Yeah, it fell into that category of occult science. So, people who wanted to divorce the adjective occult from science would say, “Well, look, we have all these handwriting samples. We can compile them, and then analyze them in groups, and then actually come up with fundamental principles.” And then once you know that, then you can extrapolate from there and make certain predictions on a regular basis, and so on and so forth. And eventually, actually a fun fact, in 1930 in Germany, there was a professorship established for graphology. So that gave it that field of knowledge a little bit of more legitimacy, actually, than astrology by that point. But yeah, there was just that effort of saying, “Look, we have this age-old science. We should be able to codify it and come up with almost peer reviewed fundamental principles to be able to extrapolate something about a person’s personality in future.”
CB: So that actually becomes a real thing that she’s passionate about, like interested in around 1900. And I meant to ask you because I wasn’t clear in the article, it seemed like that was part of why she had this weird interest in this quasi-occult subjects suddenly, and that that might have been something she wanted to pursue that her husband and her mother looked down upon. How much did that contribute, do you think, to her going out on her own and leaving her husband at that point?
JZ: I think it had a lot to contribute. I think if anything, her interest in it, she doubled down on her interest in it because she was already independent. And so, when they began to not like that aspect of her and try to restrict her from expressing it, she dug in her Taurus heels and said, “No, we’re going to do this extra hard. We’re going to go further and farther than anyone.” And she and Fritz also had a very difficult thing happen in I think in 1903, they lost a child. Not many people know about it, but in her autobiography in 1931, she writes about having her six-month-old daughter have an accident and die. And that put a lot of stress on the marriage as well. And I think after that point, she just struck out on her own because she was not being supported in any way. And so, yeah, it was tough. I’m not sure how much the graphology contributed to the breakdown of the marriage or whether it was losing a child because that can often be really traumatic for a couple.
CB: Yeah, yeah, definitely. So, she left her husband in 1905, strikes out on her own, and then within a few years of that starts actually publishing books on graphology.
JZ: Mhm, yeah. She started with newspaper columns doing short little analysis of people who would submit their handwriting and she would analyze that. And then she fashioned herself into the leading expert on graphology nationwide, just by publishing her heart out.
CB: Okay. And so, between 1909 and 1914, you wrote that she published six books on the subject?
JZ: Yes, including an introduction.
CB: Okay, brilliant. But then, of course, when we start getting into the 19 teens area, we run into World War One which was roughly between 1914 and 1918. And she basically ran into problems at that point with practicing graphology or publishing on it, right?
JZ: Yeah, there were draconian fortune-telling laws even before the war broke out. But with the outbreak of the war, I think that they started to get enforced more. And if we back up in 1911, Elsbeth actually started getting into astrology, and we’ll go back to that in a minute, but there is so much of a crossover. But yeah, once the fortune-telling laws got more enforced with the onset of the war, she shifted gears towards the astrology more because graphology at that point, didn’t have anything to rely on whereas astrology, there is the objectiveness of there’s stars out there, there’s planets out there. We can see them. They’re actually observable. And with graphology, it’s more whoa basically. [Jenn laughs] So, she just pivoted at that point.
CB: Right. So, graphology actually gets outlawed in the lead up to or around the time of the start of World War One. And that’s partially based on preexisting laws that were still on the books in Europe that were anti-fortunetelling laws, basically, right?
JZ: I’m fairly sure. I’m not sure if it was graphology, specifically, but fortunetelling, definitely. And so, I think it could depend on how you define that per jurisdiction. So maybe some jurisdictions would say, “Yes, graphology counts as fortune telling. No, you cannot do it.” But I’m not sure that that word specifically appeared, but I haven’t looked at the laws. So, I’m getting a lot of what I did in my research reported from her and from a researcher named Corinna Treitel who wrote a book called A Science of the Soul in 2004 that goes a lot into the various laws about fortune telling and their effects in Germany.
CB: Okay, got it. So yeah, so her interest in graphology is this interesting thing that plays a major role in her life for at least a bit over a decade. But then it sounds like, eventually, by 1911, something happened where she suddenly developed an interest in astrology. How did that come about?
JZ: Well, she went to go see a new female graphologist who had hit the scene, and I wish I could tell you her name, but I haven’t found it published anywhere. So somewhere in what is now Poland, she ended up seeing and it’s a city called Gorlitz, she visits this woman. And it’s almost like she’s trying to test her. So, she says, “Okay, I’m here with my sister. Check out my handwriting and tell me what you see.” And she goes, “Okay, well, I can only see one of you at a time and I need your birthday.” And she goes, “Okay, why can’t you see both of us and what’s with my birthday.” And so, she goes back and she starts tabulating some things and comes back out and she says all of this fantastic stuff. And because of Elsbeth’s own expertise with graphology, she’s like, “You’re not getting this from anything graphological.” She just knows that something else is happening. And so, she plays dumb. And then at one point, she’s like, “So do any resources where I can learn about graphology?” And the woman goes, “Well, there’s this book by a guy and this book by a guy.” And she says, “What about females who write about graphology?” And she goes, “Oh, there’s the Ebertin.” And she plays down a little longer and then she says, “Ha-ha, I’m the Ebertin.” And she goes, “Oh, wow, pleased to meet your acquaintance. Wow, I had no idea. It’s so great to finally get to know you.” And then so Ebertin says, “Hey, tell me the real skinny. I know you don’t actually get this stuff from graphological rules because let’s be honest.” And she goes, “You’re right. It’s not, it’s astrology.” And that’s when Elsbeth goes, “Oh, I need to figure out what this astrology business is about because that’s fantastic.”
CB: Okay, so that was a pretty life changing meeting that happened then in 1911.
JZ: Yeah. And then she looks up then she finds out about Albert Kniepf in Hamburg. And she starts visiting school there and that’s where she gets involved with learning astrology more professionally.
CB: Okay. So, Albert Kniepf was an older astrologer. He was born in 1853 and he lived until 1924, who taught an astrology school in Hamburg at the time in the early 20th century?
JZ: Yeah, yeah. And she actually was a student at the same time as Alfred Witte from the Hamburg school fame.
CB: Right. So, Alfred Witte was the one who went on later to develop the so-called Hamburg School of Astrology, which later became known as Uranian Astrology and some people more recently, I think are trying to rebrand it as Symmetrical Astrology, but he was essentially one of the founders of that school.
JZ: Yeah. And one interesting thing to note I think about this time period is that a lot of Germans were exposed to things like antiscia and midpoints and such. So, Witte didn’t come up with midpoints. He expanded and deepened his work with them after having learned from Kniepf. But when they were meeting in 1911, that was five years before he came up with Cupido, the first hypothetical planet. So, we’re talking about the very earliest roots of who would become the leaders of the astrology community in Germany.
CB: Right. And who would go on to basically Elsbeth had the same teacher as this other guy that became a very prominent astrologer that started that whole school of Uranian Astrology which then influenced Cosmobiology later on and led to other further cascades throughout the rest of the 20th century. But it’s a really interesting cross point between two notable astrologers through this one teacher in Hamburg in the early 20th century?
JZ: Yeah, definitely.
CB: And you made a point about midpoints. But that was something I’ve always been curious about because in his book The Combination of Stellar Influences, Reinhold Ebertin says that the Beta or that the Hamburg School got the concept of midpoints from Bonatti, but I’ve never been able to actually figure out what he’s talking about because there’s lots in Bonatti. But I asked Ben Dykes about this once and he was just as baffled because there’s no midpoints as far as I can tell in the tradition prior to the work of the Hamburg School. So where did that come from? Do you know?
JZ: I actually don’t and that’s a little farther outside because Elsbeth didn’t really use them. I think a lot of people confuse her work with her son’s work if they think, “Oh, she’s his mom. She must have taught him what he knows, but only to a certain extent up until maybe 1926 and then Reinhold goes just off on his own.” But she didn’t really get involved with the Hamburg School or midpoints much. She probably used them and didn’t talk about using them if that makes sense.
CB: Sure. And during this period, this is around 1911 when she’s getting into astrology, Reinhold is still very young and they don’t have a lot of interactions. And she didn’t teach him astrology or he didn’t learn any astrology from his mother until later on in his life, right?
JZ: Correct, yeah. They didn’t even have a discussion about astrology as far as he reports until 1917. So, it would be some years away from that.
CB: So, during this time, during the early 20th century, it’s actually really notable that she met an astrology teacher and started being able to study with him and draw on different things because astrology texts in German in the early 20th century were pretty sparse at this point, right?
JZ: Yeah, Karl Brandler-Pracht started publishing the astrological library Der Wiederentdecker Uralter Arischer Weisheit in multiple volumes, and eventually became at least 20 volumes long. And this was basically importing theosophical inflected astrology from the UK.
CB: So that’s the works of Alan Leo and people like that, right?
JZ: Yeah, if not directly, at least based upon it. So, she ends up getting very influenced at the beginning with theosophical kinds of interpretations even though her training is wider. It could have just been because it was fashionable to do that, but she’s still definitely aware of Firmicus and Ptolemy at that time.
CB: Okay. So, there were a few really early astral translations or excerpts of really early astrological texts or at least a few of them like Firmicus and Ptolemy, but then she was also having this other stream of some of the modern astrological works that were being done by people like Alan Leo were being translated into German as well?
JZ: Yeah. And the other thing is Germans are really interested in that sense of lineage of who is the last most important person to work on this field. So, after Kepler, they actually hook a lot onto Jean-Baptiste Morin, in a way that in the English-speaking world, we don’t really recognize as much. But for them, he was the last court astrologer, so therefore, his readings must be important. And I think his deterministic slant really appealed to the German imagination. So, they definitely referenced him a lot as well, but she didn’t reference him specifically as much. But I think that’s something to just know in general that there was a lot of Morin in the water.
CB: Sure, yeah. Especially, if she’s initially in her studies at least working with a teacher or working with an older astrologer who had been around for a while, and drawing on whatever, things are coming out of that?
CB: Okay. So, she develops an interest especially it seems in mundane astrology and natal astrology, right?
JZ: Yes. And I think one of her interests in mundane comes from those legal prohibitions on fortune telling. Because if she’s talking about a non-human subject, then in some way, she can say a lot more or say more freely than if she were to only be talking about your future client.
CB: Okay. So, focus on mundane astrology was almost seen as more or she could play it off as more acceptable in a way to do a mundane astrology forecast rather than interpreting somebody’s birth chart and their fate or something like that?
JZ: Yeah. And I think it’s because of things like the larger tradition of historical astrologers saying things about nations Kepler did it, you’ve got Ptolemy there. So, it’s like she can just hook into that and say, “I’m just doing a larger tradition, and therefore it’s acceptable. This is something that all of the greats who you respect have done, so therefore, I will just do that as well.”
CB: Okay. So, by the time of 1914, of course, World War One breaks out and she began publishing pamphlets at this point on mundane astrology, right?
JZ: Yes, and astrology. The first ones, they’re really just trying to introduce people into understanding what astrology is. And then she pivots into a cross between mundane and natal, in that she starts talking about the nativities of the major royal figures at play in the war.
CB: Okay. And then that became the subject of her first book in 1915, her first astrology book I should say,
JZ: Yes, that book was a compilation of her out of print articles. So, she said, in December of 1915, in the foreword, she says, “They’re out of print, but I want people to have access to them so I provide them here unedited.” And you can see actually, as you read them in a row, how they progress. She talks a lot about Karl Brandler-Pracht and then in midstream, there’s this translation from a Dutch astrologer C. Aq. Libra and she gets really excited about it and then she talks about his versions and interpretations for the rest of it. So, she actually probably didn’t edit them because you can see just her shift in tone and excitement about a new translation.
CB: Sure. And so, she published that book in 1915 which is a compilation partially because her pamphlets that she was publishing starting in 1914 were really popular and went out of print relatively quickly, right?
JZ: Yeah, yeah.
CB: So, she’s already very quickly even though she started studying astrology relatively recently in 1811 or something, she starts this little venture to start doing pamphlets. And she’s also shifting out of her work with graphology which has basically recently become something she couldn’t keep publishing on because it gets outlawed as fortune telling or is seen more as fortune telling than astrology perhaps and already, she meets with pretty great success in terms of publishing on astrology pretty early on.
JZ: Yeah, but that also raises some red flags. So, in an afterword to Royal Nativities, she has this whole episode which you can actually read. I have it translated on my Patreon. So, if you sign up for that, you can actually read it right now. It’s an entire episode detailing when she was detained for these publications and this police inquiry like, “What are you doing? Why are you doing this? You can’t do this.” And she tries to tell them, “Hey, this is part of our German tradition. Everybody’s been doing this. I’m not predicting the future. I’m just saying what here we go.” She is predicting the future, but it’s a tricky argument that she ends up getting out of detainment without any incident happening to her. So, she’s got a lot of these funny brushes with the law and she’s always very clever about getting out of it.
CB: Okay, but that was her first brush with the law was 1915 when she’s hauled in for police questioning about the work she’s doing in astrology?
JZ: It was actually her second. So, she actually had some experience about that. I don’t know what the first one is, but because she’s detailed the second one so thoroughly. It’s an interesting look at how the German authorities were treating people like astrologers.
CB: Right. Well, it’s interesting as one of the great cases or instances in the early 20th century where astrology is in this weird middle ground where there’s suddenly a revival of astrology in Europe after it’s been largely dead for a couple of centuries. And then it’s in this weird middle ground where there’s old anti-fortune telling and anti-astrology laws on the books. So that technically, it’s illegal, but nobody’s been practicing it for so long that it’s not that well enforced. And so sometimes you find these prominent astrologers in the early 20th century figuring out ways to talk themselves out of trouble when they get into trouble with the law when somebody does say, ‘Hey, you’re not you’re not supposed to be practicing that.” And so, you get Elsbeth Ebertin talking her way out of the police questioning, you have Alan Leo’s famous court case, you have later in the century of Evangeline Adams has a famous court case. So, there’s a lot of interesting court cases like this happening in Europe around the early 20th century.
JZ: Yeah. Yeah. And also, in parallel with Evangeline Adams case, where… Isn’t it that she predicted there would be a fire and the judge was astonished when there actually was one or something that would happen to his son and it did?
CB: Yeah, she was given, supposedly. I’m always curious sometimes about these stories and how much it went down specifically like that. But part of the story is supposedly that she was given an anonymous chart to interpret and she says, “This person drowned.” And then it turned out to be the deceased son of the judge or something like that. And he was just like, “Case dismissed.” But it almost sounds like so Hollywood that I always wonder about that, but that’s supposedly the story.
JZ: Yeah. So, when Elsbeth was in detainment, she starts telling them a story about an astronomer who worked at a university who came to her in private and wanted to have his reading be secret. And she said, “Hey, no worries, your secret’s safe with me. But you work in a university, why don’t you give us a hand here and actually help us since you’re obviously interested in what astrology has to say about your life? Give us a bone. Give us something.” And he goes, “No, no, I’d lose my job.” And then she predicts that he would get arrested. And as she’s telling the story and describing this person, the cop that’s questioning her realizes that he’d actually been the one to arrest that man and he’s like, “Wait, stop right there. Let’s look in the files.” And they go and look up in the files and turns out that her client was actually arrested in that very police station. And so, the police officer is like, “Whoa, something else is happening here.” And he’s now all ears. Yeah. Again, how is that true? Is it not? Who knows? These things are written. Maybe she embellished the story to make it more interesting, maybe it did happen. But in any case, it’s still using astrology itself somehow to get out of it.
CB: Right. So, this is her story in retrospect about that incident of being brought in for police questioning and having a real threat to the extent that astrology was technically against the law. And that’s part of her explanation for how she got out of it. And evidently, whatever she did was successful because she was able to go on and have a very relatively long and successful career doing astrology after that point. One of the other things I think you talked about is that she may have agreed to keep her writing more in a certain style which you referred to as literary academic. What did that mean, or what was that writing style that she had to adopt, supposedly, in order to make what she was saying about astrology acceptable?
JZ: I think it goes back to the biography. So, when she’s writing in Royal Nativities, a lot of it is biographies of these Royals and then linking up different points in their life with transits that have happened to them to say, “Oh, now we have George the 5th, we’ll look at his Saturn transits. That explains a lot about how he came to power. This is so unusual. So, in a way that literary academic style is in a different word, you could call it diagnostic and not necessarily predictive. But the funny thing there is a diagnosis is always already a prediction. So, it’s this interesting evasion of how she’s able to predict things without predicting them. Like her prediction of the death of Tsar Nicholas II, when you read the actual text of this prediction that “came true and launched her into national fame” what it says is if the Tsar doesn’t die by mysterious circumstances within three years, then he’ll go on to have a long life. But it just so happens that he does die by mysterious circumstances within three years. So, it’s like, was she predicting that he will or is she saying that he’s just got this potential? It’s not, I predict that he will die on this day by mysterious means. It’s actually a very ambiguous “prediction”.
CB: Right. So that’s really interesting just because it’s not the same as, but you can almost see parallels with Alan Leo having his court cases and then having to pivot towards character analysis where he could get away with using astrology for character analysis, but not for the prediction of events. And that was part of the outcome supposedly with some of his stuff in England at the time. And then over here in Germany, you have Elsbeth having to jump through some other hoops in order to make her what she was doing acceptable. And it seemed like she also may or may not have agreed to not see clients or something like that. There’s some ambiguity surrounding that.
JZ: Yeah, she gets very defensive when she’s talking about client work. A lot of times, she’ll say things or she’ll write things like, “I’m too busy for that. I’m writing and writing and writing, and I don’t have time to see private clients.” She gets sent a lot of letters. And I think in that way, it’s difficult for her to write people back in the amount that they’re sending them to her. So, then she starts to say, “No, no, I’m not seeing people”. And yeah, I think that these early experiences spooked her a bit from having one on one sessions. I think that she was more passionate about researching the fundamental principles over and against what was developing in Germany, economically and socially, and what was going on with the wars or the war at that point, but then later, the other one. I think that she was very much interested in trying to inspire other people to get interested in astrology. So that took time away from her ability to have a client practice. And I think she saw more money actually in being able to publish than seeing people one on one. So yeah, she gets very defensive. You can see it’s like a very interesting tone of defensiveness in her writing when that topic comes up and I’m not exactly sure why.
CB: Right. If it’s that she really is just too busy and she’s focused on her writing and that’s the medium she chose, or if she’s actually doing some consultations on the side, but it could be potentially thrown in jail if that was well-known. And she did end up, she had a famous or a very eminent client at one point later on in her career, right?
JZ: Yes, it was the ex-King Ferdinand of Bulgaria I believe, the King of Bulgaria. I’m not sure what his first name was. I’m forgetting it at the moment.
CB: But she died. She actually had a ring on that was a gift from him, right?
JZ: Yes, she did. It was one of the identifying features of her remains.
CB: Okay. So clearly, she at some point was seeing clients later on. So, there’s this weird interesting ambiguity that has to do with or could be the result of a few different things going on?
JZ: Yeah. There was also in the arc, the larger arc of our astrology, and its popularity during this time period. There’s a watershed year of 1926 and 1927. And during that year, she began a journal and only came out with Four Issues and she couldn’t even complete it because she got too busy. So, in the fourth issue, she says, “I wish I could keep this going, but I’ve got too much on my plate.” And the other thing I’d like to bring up is when you read her, she repeats a lot of the same stories in the same way. So, she’s a trustworthy author. When she says something, I do believe what she says because she says it often enough that it makes sense and it’s like, “Oh, yeah, she’s still doing her. She’s very candid.” So, in that sense, I don’t think that she’s obfuscating on purpose. She’s definitely clever, but you get a sense of honesty about it as well. She’s very open about her machinations when she has them like with the police officer in 1915. And in that sense, it builds a trust.
CB: Sure. Yeah. And that makes sense. Because even thinking of my own work, as my work on the podcast has ramped up over the past couple of years and doing four or six episodes a month, I have not been doing consultations. I can imagine somebody like her that has this huge writing output, especially doing these almanacs and different things almost constantly that that would have been her full-time focus. Sure. Okay. So, all right. So, we’re in basically World War One at this point. But that eventually winds down and she, towards the end of it…. Was it just after the war ended in 1917 that she started publishing a yearly almanac?
JZ: The world didn’t end until August of 1918. So actually, she began publishing her first almanac the last year of the war.
CB: Okay. Got it. And what was the nature of that almanac?
JZ: Well, I don’t have a copy from 1917 or 1918. They’re always published a year before, so she would publish them in the later part of the next year. So, I have one from 1920, meaning it was published in 1919. And she does talk about the astrology based off of the month you were born. So, it’s in a sense like a sun sign, but for years in this and then also, many years later, she’s consistent saying, “You really need to know what your ascendant is and that’s most important. But if you don’t know, then you can at least rely upon the month you were born.” And then it gives a general synopsis of the major transits, Jupiter, Saturn, various elements of what might be happening to the natives born at the beginning parts of the month or the latter parts of the month. And it is between one and three to five pages for each month. And then there’s also little essays and tidbits about astrology flanking that on either side. So, you’re not just getting a prediction for what’s going to happen in the year, you’re also learning something about astrology. And she’s also updating you about her life. Like this year, there was this and one year, she actually couldn’t publish it because she didn’t have the money. There’s no financial means for her to do it. So, there is actually a missing year. I believe it’s 1933, but it could also be 1924. No, not 1924, maybe 1923. But anyway, yeah, there’s one missing year, and it was very consistent and people loved it.
CB: And you said it had predictions for all 12 signs, right?
CB: Okay. So that’s an interesting precursor to the sun sign column, essentially, except I guess there’s some ambiguity because you were saying that she’s encouraging people to look at it from the perspective of their rising sign. But if they didn’t know that, then even from the perspective of their birth month which would essentially be their sun sign.
JZ: Yeah. And she labeled them as their sun sign. Except in her last almanac in 1937, she goes back to the Middle Ages and starts calling it “child of December, child of January” so that it’s not using the zodiac name because of the Nazis beginning their persecution of astrology. She scaled it back. So, I noticed that. That was an interesting thing to see is how that shifts and also the different font choices as they shift over the years from the middle of the Weimar period and going forward.
CB: Interesting. Yeah, that raises some questions for me just because Holden and some of the recent historians usually trace the start of sun sign horoscope columns and newspapers to the 1940s in the English-speaking world, but this is a real, much earlier precursor that shows that earlier astrologers in the 20th century were, to some extent, would default to the sun sign when writing general astrological columns for the sake of personalizing things a bit.
JZ: Yeah. And it was an almanac. So, it’s not a column in a different publication. It’s its own publication. So maybe that’s where they’re drawing historical difference in terms of genre given that you could just buy this and that’s all and it’s not included in anything else.
CB: That makes sense. Okay. So, the difference between what the actual publication is like a newspaper column for the masses versus somebody buying an almanac that must have some interest in astrology, you need to purchase that from the start?
CB: All right. So, she then gets very busy by this point, and eventually between 1915 and 1932, she published 21 books about astrology, right?
JZ: Yeah, just 21.
CB: Just 21, yeah. We were laughing earlier this year about Dane Rudhyar who wrote some ridiculous amount of books and we were trying to figure out if there was anybody we could think of who wrote more than him, his output was ridiculous. But this is equally ridiculous. 21 separate publications over the course of a two-decade long period, or just under two decades long period, right?
JZ: Yeah, it’s entirely ridiculous. I have so many of her books on my shelf. It takes up some serious real estate. And when we think of a book, it’s nothing like this new book that came out that’s just monstrous called Hellenistic Astrology, it’s so wide. You could fit maybe six of Elsbeth’s books in the span that that book takes up.
CB: Right, it’s not the bludgeoning device of my large [Jenn laughs] tome, but it’s still, and this is not print on demand. She’s not just xeroxing copies of the book. This is early 20th century publishing where you had to put some work into it in order to publish a book and you had to do like a limited print run. And if those ran out, then you had to do another full print run. So, publishing was a pretty serious endeavor and publishing 21 separate books is still something.
JZ: Yeah, definitely. The books range around 90 pages, maybe 100 pages, so they’re not long. They’re definitely cohesive and have a point. Her introduction, The Golden Bridge to the World of the Stars is about 108 pages long, for example. And that’s some biographical introduction to the subject of astrology, but she includes a lot of her own story in that. And so, another thing to know just about publishing in the Weimar period, people were printing like crazy. There would be newspapers coming out in the morning, and then there’d be an afternoon edition. And so, there was things flying all over the place, and ink and letterpress, you name it. It was just going, going, going and it was a very big part of the culture. And she definitely tapped into that vein, and she knew, the more I put out, the more I can sell which means the more I can put out. If I’m getting money from my almanac, then I can write my 21 books. So, when we look at her output, we have to understand she wrote 20 years of an almanac, and 21 books, and four years of a different almanac, and another journal in 1926, and articles for astrological journals.
CB: Right. And this is one of the things that makes her such an interesting figure in the early 20th century is she wasn’t just some astrologer that was doing readings every once in a while, or something like that. This is a powerhouse one-woman publishing. I don’t know the term, but she was really going to town in terms of publishing a ton of stuff on astrology and making a pretty big name for herself in the process.
JZ: Yeah, Oh, I forgot to mention her four novels that use astrology. And that was only actually, all of that was just her astrological stuff. She still published other novels about flowers, and obviously, the graphology material, and then novels that had nothing to do with astrology at all. I think she just really loved writing and just wanted to get her voice out there. But with respect to astrology, when you look at this roster of 21 books, the one common thread here is she’s trying any way she can to get through to someone in the public. So, she says, “Okay, I’m going to write an introduction. And now I’m going to write an autobiography. And now I’m going to try a novel.” Like I said at the beginning, Mars in the House of Death that got picked up by a screenwriter who turned it into a film. Unfortunately, the film’s been lost, but she even had a movie premiere in Munich about astrology. And that’s just so cool.
CB: And what year was that? That was in the early 1920s?
JZ: That was in 1925.
CB: Okay. So yeah, she actually had a movie made about one of her writings which is really striking?
JZ: Yeah, the book is about a wife and husband pair and they go to an astrologer and the astrologer goes, “Oh,” to the husband, “you have Mars in the house of death. Oh, my something, you’re going to have an accident. Something bad is coming your way.” And then you spend most of the novel reading how they’re sitting around in terror trying to prevent this accident from happening and then you can obviously guess what happens.
CB: Oh, man, that sounds great. So, the movie was actually produced, but it’s been lost.
JZ: Right. But we have the novel.
CB: Okay. All right. Well, I hope somebody takes on the project to recreate that movie someday or some version of it. Is it a good story? [Chris and Jenn laugh] It could be adapted to a good story, I don’t know.
JZ: Probably, yeah. The other thing is about ideas of, she was trying to use literature to talk about prediction, but let’s be honest, an author can make anything happen and it’s like, “Oh, that was fate.” And it’s like, “It’s actually your story. Who says it’s actually fate?” She says it’s based on a true event, but is it? That’s the other thing about fiction. It’s a slippery thing to try to prove astrology with fiction.
CB: Right. It’s more rhetorical or making a persuasive case rather than a scientific one, even though I hesitate to use that term.
JZ: Yeah, the whole point of fiction is you get to make it up. So, if you’re trying to use it as a proof, it’s like, well, but the book has a beginning, middle and end. It’s actually always already faded. Every book is, how every book will have an ending, and it doesn’t change no matter how much you read it. So, it’s like that analogy to how astrology works. I don’t think it’s actually a solid one.
CB: Sure. But at least she was trying to almost interface with the public and promote astrology in her own way, not just through doing astrological writings and almanacs, or columns, or books and stuff like that, but also through literature.
JZ: Yeah. Yeah. So that is the one common thread is she covers so many different areas of astrology in so many different ways. And I think it’s because she’s trying to find an inroad with this audience and then pivot and find an inroad with that audience. And then over the span of 20 years, cover so much ground that you have to look back at her life and say, hey, she didn’t not try. She actually tried out almost everything she could think of to get the public to get interested in this and to give it stature and to fight that stereotype that it is a charlatan type thing there that it is a joke. She was just trying anything and everything she could to appeal to the masses to try to get them to give it a second look.
CB: Right. And in terms of publishing, so initially, she was publishing through different presses, right?
JZ: Yeah, she published through various presses. In the book I just translated Can Assassinations Be Prevented, she has an afterword where she talks about having a contract for her first mundane astrology book. And she has a pretty long intro to what mundane astrology is. And the publisher said, “Well, paper is expensive.” The inflation was starting to happen. It was getting more and more expensive. And she said, “But I need the intro, I can’t publish a book about mundane astrology and not have people know its background and what it is and how to begin to do it.” And he goes, “Yeah, but we don’t really need to publish that.” And she said, “Actually, the integrity of the work is more important than you saving money on paper, so I’m going to find a new publisher.” And she does.
CB: Okay. So yeah, so she’s having some struggles with publishing with other people and then the editorial oversight that comes along with that, and she jumped around a few times before eventually just deciding to start her own press basically, right?
JZ: Yes, yes, she eventually founded Regulus Verlag and she named it Regulus Verlag in German means basically publication house or press. She named her press after the fixed star that was on her midheaven.
CB: So, she has Regulus conjunct to her MC?
CB: And then what was the logo? Go ahead. Sorry for interrupting.
JZ: Oh, yeah. And the press logo is actually her chart. If you look at it, there’s a Scorpion where the rising sign would be and then there’s a Mars Uranus conjunction nearest star at the top of a triangle. And so, you see this echo of her chart as the main logo of the press.
CB: Okay, brilliant. So, she establishes that. When was that established eventually in her career?
JZ: Midway, I actually don’t recall the exact year at this point. I would say probably right after hyperinflation of 1924 given that her novel Mars in the House of Death came out under her own label. So, at that point, I think she had gotten successful enough and/or tired enough of people telling her she could or couldn’t do certain things that she began her own house at that point.
CB: Got it. Okay. And over the course of that, basically like two decades long career of publishing all these different books, what are some of the different titles or topics that she ended up covering? What are some of the titles of her different books?
JZ: One of the first ones was called Historical and Contemporary Character Profiles. I’m just going to reference the English names, but you can find the German names online. And this was a book where it was basically a literary biography. She would take the chart of a notable person like Dante Alighieri or the German author Gustav Meyrink and she talks about their biography in the context of their astrology and also graphology. So, it’s got some interesting inclusions of various handwriting. Strindberg appears there as well. So, usually she’s trying to use these historical profiles to convince you that it’s worth looking at astrology. Then she talks in 1924 about mundane astrology. Things in Germany were getting pretty wild at that point. And so, she uses a lot of Ptolemy in that book on mundane and she’s trying to talk about what’s going to be happening coming up now that the Weimar Republic is firmly established and how can Germany recover from the economic sanctions being put on it from the hyperinflation that was going on. And then she pivots in ‘26, after her astrological novel comes out in ‘25. Then in 1926, she publishes a book on synastry called Astrology and Romance which is again the only one that’s been translated so far. And then after that point, she really does sink her teeth into a lot of almanac work, journals and things of that nature. It’s also in 1926 that she publishes her son’s first astrological article about transits in that small journal that she ended up not being able to continue after Four Issues. So that was a really fun find when I was doing my research finding Reinhold Ebertin’s first article. It’s like, wow!
CB: That was in 1926. So, he was born in 1981, so he’d be 25.
JZ: Yeah. And she fostered him during this time period. Around 1926, she really starts to foster his own work and inspires him to found Ebertin-Verlag, so they worked together. Because she didn’t raise him, she didn’t even really get to visit with him until 1917. Once he got his astrological legs underneath him, she was really great about promoting him in his career and just teaching him the ropes of publishing and making sure that he was setting himself up for a really awesome career.
CB: Right, that’s such an interesting story because it’s not he grew up around her doing astrology and just learned it from the start. It was like they were largely as strange as it seems until he was a teenager. And then at some point later on, he got interested in astrology and did start studying under her to some extent and she helped boost his career early on.
JZ: Yeah. Yeah, I think by helping him get into the publishing game and just learn the ropes of that, she definitely gave him a lot of mothering and adulthood in that sense. It was a way for them to get close again and I think they both willingly went into that relationship. You never hear her talking about him in any derogatory way at all. It’s always very supportive, and/or she doesn’t really mention him. And from his own autobiography, he has nothing but loving things to say about her, actually. So, it’s not like he’s got some axe to grind about her not getting custody, which I find very fascinating because you could be angry at your mom for not showing up when you’re small, but she definitely showed up later, completely.
CB: Sure. Yeah. That’s really interesting just in terms of there’s not a lot of examples of astrologers who were their parents were famous astrologers or famous parent astrologers who had children, they got into astrology. And this is one of those interesting unique cases where you have these two very prominent astrologers who were connected in that way.
JZ: Yeah, yeah, definitely. And I know a lot of things about her life from a book that she published in 1930 called The Two of Us from the 14th of May, which is a time twins’ book. And that’s where I learned a lot about her perceptions of her relationship with Reinhold and also just things about the fact that she was born to a family of costume makers and all of these other facts that have enriched the research. But this time twins’ book contains no charts. It is a literary autobiography from a guy named Karl, I forget his last name right now and her own autobiography sat side by side. So, you can see these two people born on the same day and how their lives change with outer planet transits. And she doesn’t reference the transits at all, she just lays it out. Here’s his life. Here’s an interlude about astrology in the middle. And then she directs you to her other publications for more technical material. And then she writes about her life. And it’s a pretty unique book, I think, in terms of just trying to do time twins without doing time twins without overlapping all of this astrological jargon. It’s more like, “Hey, isn’t it interesting that both of us had a crisis around the same time? Isn’t it interesting that we’re both involved in theater?”
CB: Right? So, this is a guy that was born on the same day in the same year?
JZ: Yes, but at a different time. So that’s also, she’s trying to make the point with time twins having a different ascendant completely changes things even though lots of the major themes stay the same.
CB: Right. Yeah, that’s really fascinating because that’s just another really interesting example of an astrologer in the early 20th century where clearly something like that you’re trying to make the case to the public for the validity of astrology and different innovative ways that she was attempting to go about doing that.
JZ: Yeah. And in the book itself, she knew she was publishing her almanac. So, at the very same time, she says to the reader, “If you check out my almanac for the coming year, you’ll see a time triplets’ article.” So, she actually found another person born on that same day and she’s written a small article with all three charts and also images of them. So, I actually recently just saw this new image of Elsbeth that I hadn’t seen before from 1930.
CB: Wow. Okay. And what was the title of the time twins’ book again?
JZ: It was called The Two of Us from the 14th of May or Die Zwei Vom 14. Mai.
CB: Okay, brilliant. And is that one just before… I know we’ll get to this later in terms of your future plans, but is that one you plan to translate at some point?
JZ: When it becomes public domain, yes. Or if I get permission from Boulder Ebertin.
CB: Okay, got it. All right. And we’ll circle around to that later. So, I think we’ve covered most of the main points so that period, her astrological career really ramps up in the second half of the 19 teens, and then is really flourishing in the 1920s. And she does receive a decent bit of recognition during that period basically, right, or notability as an astrologer?
JZ: Yeah, I think the public embraces her. But with the rise of the academic astrologers, she does come into some tension because she didn’t have a formal education, and they do. And so, to a certain extent after the 1930s, there seems to be a prejudice that because she spent so much effort appealing to the masses and writing in general terms and writing in so many different genres, she gets a bit overhauled or left behind by the community at large. And I think that’s why after the ‘30s, her output shifts pretty drastically. And then, once 1937 rolls around, that was about a year before the Nazis really started cracking down on astrological publications, she announces the end of her almanac. And she basically says, “If you’re not convinced after 20 years of consistent work, then it won’t matter if I do this for 50 or 100. So, I’m just going to put this to rest after 20 years. And if you’d like to see certain materials, I’m happy to send you the last three years of my almanacs if you send me five pounds or something like that.” I don’t know what the amount of money was, but it says there’s a little footnote like, “If you want to see more, I’ll just send you some stuff I’ve already put out.” But she turns in the towel at that point.
CB: Okay. So, there were real tensions at this point by the 1920s and ‘30s between… Was it between astrologers and academics or was it between astrologers who were just attempting to talk to the public and doing a more generalized or popular form of astrology versus those who were trying to make astrology more scientific or something like that? Is that what the tension was?
JZ: Yeah, I think it was claims over who gets to determine how and where astrology becomes legitimate in society. And so, the astrologers who had PhDs tried to take over and steer the narrative and they left Elsbeth behind because she didn’t have a PhD. So, she found herself suddenly having been one of the main popularizers of astrology in now a very populated field of people who all wanted to claim to be helping determine what would make astrology valid or legitimate. And so, she’s like, “Hey, I’m doing my work with the masses and you’re in the ivory tower, and you don’t even have practical experience under your belt, so what gives?” So, there was that tension emerging as…. She did a good job. She got a lot of the country interested in astrology. But that meant that there were people who wanted to take it to those next levels that she just wasn’t able to ever take it.
CB: Right. That’s one of those recurring tensions in the astrological community between those astrologers who are on the frontlines in interacting with the public in terms of presenting astrology on a consistent basis and making it approachable which is often in the form of whatever the more popular consumable form of astrology is in that time period, which in this time period is largely almanacs and pamphlets and things like that, versus people that are trying to make astrology theoretically or philosophically approachable or acceptable in a largely academic or philosophical context or even scientific context, I guess.
JZ: Yeah. And I think really what needs to happen is appreciate that there’s so many roles that we can all play and we all need each other because we can’t do it without public outreach and we also can’t do it without more theoretical synthesis. There’s a whole community it takes to really make something like this shift in the public’s eye. It’s not the body of one person. Elsbeth can’t do it by herself. And instead of wasting energy fighting with each other, it’s more like, “Okay, I’m doing this role, you’re doing that role. How can we support each other? Thanks for doing that. I can’t do that very well. I can do this really well.” How can we all steer this ship in that direction?
CB: Right. And it’s just such a typical, or I don’t say cliché, but it’s a very typical transition that people go through where they start oftentimes with sun signs or with general knowledge of astrology, and then they get into more advanced forms. And then sometimes, during that transition process, there’s often a phase for especially newer students or intermediate students of astrology where they sometimes are scoring the full then of the initial entry point into astrology is not being “real astrology” because it’s not the full chart, it’s just a piece of it. And it’s almost like, a phase that people always often go through. So, it’s funny seeing things like that repeated even 100 years ago in the astrological community in terms of some of those similar dynamics and tensions.
JZ: Yeah, I’m really hoping that as I continue translating materials that that sense comes through and that we can actually shift our questioning to, “Hey, can we stop doing this for 100 years?” I feel like when you’re new to it and you’re experiencing this initiation, you think, “Oh, I’m the first person to ever experience this tension.” But when you realize that these tensions have been going on for 100 years or more, it’s like now the task is to figure out how we can actually solve that problem and not dwell in it or replicate it.
CB: Right. And it’s often born out of a real sense of almost insecurity that astrologers feel in society because it’s not widely accepted and so different astrologers have different answers to how can we make this more accepted in society. And that almost seems like part of the tension there where Elsbeth is trying to appeal directly to the public through different media, different popular forms of writing versus let’s say, academics or whoever that thinks that, no, this is the other way that we can legitimize astrology.
JZ: Right. And I think it’s just a different approach, but it’s no less valuable.
CB: Right. Yeah. All right. The 1920s and early 1930s is really the high point, it seems of her career. So, now we start to get into her later years, and basically the last quarter, the last third of her life. And one of the things that does come up in her biography that sometimes one of the few things that she’s ever recognized for, cited for is that she’s often said to have predicted Hitler’s rise relatively early in his career. Is that true? Did she predict Hitler’s rise? Or what was the deal with that?
JZ: So, the original prediction appears in her almanac for 1924, which again was published at the end of 1923. And the backstory which Ellic Howe reports is that someone had passed along to her Hitler’s birthday, so no specific time. And if you remember, I think without a specific time, he could have a son in Aries or in Taurus. So, she fixes his son in 29° Aries and includes in her section for Aries, this prediction of this person with [unintelligible 38:37] a leading role or [unintelligible 38:40] right. So, this name that Hitler had been starting to call himself, so it was obviously a reference to him. And she says, “This person should be careful because if they do something that is too rash, they’re going to encounter some problems.” And later in that year, the Putsch happened and it was not a good outcome for him. So, she is credited with that prediction there. Of course, it’s nothing specific like Hitler will do this. She doesn’t name him, but she gives enough of that reference of here’s this person who’s going to sacrifice a lot for the German nation and it goes on into basically being a description of him.
CB: And says that he will rise to a leadership role or something like that.
JZ: Yeah, exactly. And she discusses this prediction at length with another pamphlet called Celestial Change and World Events which was coauthored with Ludwig Hoffmann, a major collaborator of hers throughout those years. And this got so popular. I think 70,000 copies of this were printed. And in that, it’s these pamphlets framed as a conversation between them much like it would be as if someone were to give a transcript of our current conversation. And they just go back and forth talking about her experiences. I think at one point, she almost met Hitler and/or was in the same room with him. But yeah, in the same sense of the prediction of the death of Sir Nicholas II, it’s vague. It’s there, but it’s vague. So, it’s to what extent can we actually say it was genuine prediction or not? How specific do predictions have to be to be predictions.
CB: Right? So, he was somebody that was doing something notable in society at that time because he just attempted a coup at the end of 1923. And she does end up mentioning him and saying that this person clearly alluding to him could play a leadership role, but that’s it? Okay. And then, let me see. Do we fast forward to what happens later or? One of the things I wanted to address with you so very quickly, I guess first, so that thing that she coauthored with Ludwig Hoffman becomes very popular and sells over 70,000 copies or there’s 70,000 circulation. So that’s a lot for the 1920s, right?
JZ: Oh yeah, it was massive.
CB: So, and then they did a follow up to that in 1928 where they even updated or issued some new predictions of some sort?
JZ: Yeah, it was a popular series. So, she does some more mundane predictions in that. But I actually haven’t seen that text, so I can’t speak more to what it contains.
CB: Okay. And the current Wikipedia entry, since that’s of course, a hugely reliable resource for biographical things especially for astrologers, which it’s not, but it paints Elsbeth almost as an admirer of Hitler or somebody who had said she wrote him a letter or a poem or something. Is that true? Or can you expand on that at all?
JZ: Sure. It’s a really tricky subject. And actually, this question specifically kept me from engaging with her for a very long time because I don’t want my own legacy be that I worked on translating a Nazi into English the whole time. So, I stayed away from her for quite a long time until I started looking at her earlier work. And then, consistently throughout her work, she writes that she stands above all parties, that she’s not political. Because her political viewpoint is effectively astrology, the only laws that pertain to all humankind or astrological laws. So, anything that a society does in the spectrum of communism or fascism is not something that she cares to promote or be involved with in any way. She’s just using astrology to report what’s happening in society in general. If you break down that position, that’s actually quite a position of privilege. To be able to say you’re not political oftentimes means that you do support whatever corrupt politics are in play at that moment. In her autobiography from 1931, she writes very respectfully of the Kaiser and the establishment. When the Weimar period gets inaugurated and they finally settled on who’s going to be president, she writes very respectfully of that authority figure. And then with the lead up to Hitler becoming Chancellor, she writes very respectfully of him because throughout her entire body of work, she’s very respectful of whoever’s in power at that time. And I want to maybe say that’s just what a good vilhelm in German would do. They’re respectful of authority whether or not they’ve analyzed the quality of who that authority is.
CB: Yeah. Well, and I have to imagine that after her earlier run-ins with the police in 1915 and earlier that she’s also probably paranoid about not pissing off the wrong people who are in power.
JZ: Right. So, it’s a hard thing to say. She never uses the word Nazism in her writings thus far as I can tell, and I believe in that Wikipedia entry, they say, “Well, we have proof that she was an admirer of Hitler because she signed a book to him.” The funny thing about that is most of the books I own that I’ve bought through antiquarians in Germany, she signed those books as well. I have her signature and even a handwritten poem on half the books that I own of hers. So, the thing is she signed books to almost everyone she could. That was her special touch. It wasn’t actually a unique thing to have a signed book by Elsbeth Ebertin. In fact, she signed so many of them, it’s actually quite common to the point of being almost useless. So, it’s not a special thing that she signed one to him, it’s more like, yeah, no, she signed all of her books. Of course, she’s going to send one to the president, but she also sent one to Jenn Zahrt in 2017. [Jenn laughs] So yeah, I don’t know if that argument actually holds any water given how many books she signed, and also just this general respect she had for authority. There’s some whispers around the New York Astrology Community of the Hamburg / Uranian variety that suggests that she was definitely an admirer of Hitler. I don’t know about that. It seems like hearsay. I think if anything, even if she was, it’s still worth looking at what she did do and what she was able to publish and how she wrote about what was going on around her. I think it’s just a tough question.
CB: Sure. Yeah. Well, one of the points I wanted to make is just it is complicated because you have a lot of things going on, including her long standing, the delicate role that she was in society where technically, astrology as divination or as fortune telling would have been illegal and she could have been thrown in jail for doing it and she’d been walking that very fine line for quite a while as a number of other astrologers and other European countries were at the same time. And so, it sucks that the astrologers lost out on the Wikipedia battle years ago because typically, the people that write the Wikipedia articles at this point are not favorable towards astrology and astrologers who are often banned from Wikipedia. And so unfortunately, you have somewhat biased articles being written for figures like this that wouldn’t deal with a subject like this with nuance. So that’s one of the only reasons that I wanted to dwell on it for a moment here. But anyways, so regardless of whatever was happening or what her personal views ended up being, she becomes almost a tragic figure in the last phases of her career because she certainly did seem to suffer under the Nazis when they did come to power. So, Hitler fully comes to power in 1933 when he becomes Chancellor, and Nazi censorship laws became increasingly oppressive especially towards astrology not long after that, right?
JZ: Yeah. And in a sense, this is where Cosmobiology gets a leg up because Reinhold had published his own almanac and they changed their name to a non-astrological title and even the word Cosmobiology doesn’t actually have astrology in it even though it is astrological and a lot of this nomenclature shifts with the Nazis coming to power. And that has a permanent trace throughout Reinhold’s work in that way. He was very clever about-
CB: I never thought about that. That’s really interesting. Cosmobiology is almost like a euphemism for astrology where we see echoes of that to some extent in the academic community today?
JZ: Oh yeah, definitely, 100%. Yep. And also, there’s the Nazis. This is an interesting thing because anytime I talk about the history of astrology during this time period, the first thing I’d have anyone in the English-speaking world mouth is “Oh, Hamburg School? Tell me more. Oh, Ebertin, Cosmobiology? And I’m like, “No, no, no, his mom didn’t do Cosmobiology. Sorry.” [Jenn laughs] So, then I have to go back and like, “Well, let’s talk about that.” So, as I referenced earlier and most people who do Uranian and/or Hamburg know, the hypothetical planets began to be discovered in 1916. Ludwig Rudolph was the main promoter of Witte. Witte was a reclusive person and didn’t really want to write or do his own thing. So, Rudolph compiled all of his notes into something called the Rulebook of Planetary Pictures and included interpretations for these hypothetical planets which is a whole different topic, but bear with me. Yeah, right. But in 1935, we know at that point, Pluto had been discovered and actually it was in one of Ebertin’s almanacs where there’s this massive footnote going, “Ha-ha, the joke’s on the Hamburg School because now we know Pluto is there and there’s no way Cupido could be at the same place.” Right? So, when the Nazis comes and-
CB: Elsbeth actually said that?
JZ: Not Elsbeth, it was someone in one of the almanacs that she published in a footnote. But yeah, I talk about that in a different paper I delivered in England this past summer. So, given that Cupido and Pluto would collide if they were in the same place and that we’ve obviously got visual evidence of Pluto, when the Nazis see this third edition of the Rulebook for Planetary Pictures in 1935, they’re like, “This is fortune telling. What are these hypotheticals? This is not real. Come on, give us a break.” So, they outlawed, they actually burn 3000 copies of the first printing of that book and ban it. And Reinhold looking at that goes, “Oh, you don’t like hypotheticals? Cool. Well, I’ll take what I’ve learned from the Hamburg School and strip out the hypotheticals and fashion it up in my own way.” And in 1940, he publishes The Combination of Stellar Influences. And this makes all of the Hamburg people who still can’t publish their own textbook anymore livid. It’s a massive problem. Because Reinhold basically takes a lot of that midpoint work and publishes it under his own brand and they have their hands tied for another four years at least.
CB: Right. So, it’s like that’s really interesting because that’s another one of those areas where there’s different nuances and stuff going on because sometimes the Cosmobiologists will present that. There was the Uranian School or the Hamburg School and they came up with a lot of great things like midpoints and planetary pictures and things like that. But then they were also using what some people allege are imaginary planets that don’t exist. And so, the Cosmobiologists are saying, “We’re taking the best pieces of this and we’re getting rid of the stuff that’s crazy like hypothetical planets and that’s sometimes how it’s presented by Cosmobiologists. But part of it, it may have been more complicated where using hypothetical planets like that could have been the reason why that was outlawed at the time. And so, it could have been partially a political move on the part of Reinhold Ebertin to develop Cosmobiology in that way.
JZ: I might use the words taking advantage of the situation.
CB: Sure, to be [Chris laughs] Yeah, maybe [Jenn laughs] I’m being gracious.
JZ: It’s what it seems like. But obviously, those are Reinhold’s fighting words. So, I’ll [Jenn laughs] close the chapter on that. One book was banned, another was published, people got mad. [Jenn laughs]
CB: Yeah, and who knows? And that’s obviously a continuing debate even still today, decades later between those two schools or practitioners of those two schools in terms of what works or what you should use versus what doesn’t. Anyways, so that’s interesting. But anyway, so it’s not just by the time of the mid-1930. So, they start cracking down on the Hamburg school and their use of hypothetical planets, but also just astrology in general, they start cracking down on it at this time and Elsbeth falls victim to this as well, right?
JZ: Not necessarily falls victim, I think she chose to remove herself. When she makes her final salvo of her almanac in 1937, she highly recommends to people to shroud themselves in silence for now and wait until things get better. And I think that’s very telling because after that point, she doesn’t really publish anything about astrology until she dies. It doesn’t mean she’s not doing research. It just means she’s not publishing anymore. And so unfortunately, when she was killed by an allied bomb that hit her house, a lot of that work that was taking place privately never got to be shared with the light of day. So, we think about 1937 to 1944, whatever she was researching, we just don’t have unless she gave copies of it to her son.
CB: Okay, sure. And I think you said in terms of the rest of the astrological community that the Nazis did begin shutting down other astrological publications by 1938, right?
JZ: Yeah. Yeah. And then by 1941, it was completely underground.
CB: Sure. So, she’s still over the next several years still studying astrology privately and continuing her studies, but doesn’t do any more publishing. And then she tragically dies in 1944 when her house is hit by a bomb at the age of 64?
CB: Okay. And obviously, that was her house and there was a lot of materials and research that she had there. And I think that you wrote that her son actually suggested that a significant amount of research was probably lost when her house was bombed, right?
JZ: Yeah, there was nothing left. The only way they could identify her as you brought up before was because there were bones that had the ring of King Ferdinand or King of Bulgaria. I forget. He’s Joseph? I don’t know. The king of Bulgaria and her glasses and her teeth, and that was the only way they could figure out it was actually her because everything was burned, so there was no way of saving any of it.
CB: To me, that’s really tragic in terms of how that went and that she became just the victim of history where she had been this powerhouse astrologer during this amazing period in the 19 teens and 1920s.
JZ: Yeah, yeah. And also, it was our bomb. It’s like, “Oh, that’s tough.”
CB: Right. Yeah. One of the side effects of it is just like one example of one of the side effects of people that got caught up in what happened in that war. So, what was her legacy after that? So, she had some other research and things. And even though a lot of it was destroyed, some of it still eventually made its way into the community to some extent, right?
JZ: Yeah. I have this funny poster that I got when I bought, either it was the secret Joel library that Linda Lehman gave to me or another woman named Cynthia Smith who passed and her husband sold her books to me. But there’s this wheel diagram of degrees, and then the various medical things that are associated with each degree of the zodiac, and they attribute it to Elsbeth. And it was published, I think, in the ‘70s. So, I’m not sure where they’re getting that information from, but I have it hanging on my wall. So, there’s that piece of just various things about her medical research that I think Reinhold must have transmitted at some point because I’m not finding it in anything that she’s written directly in her books. In terms of legacy as well, we do have her English translation of the synastry book. I’m currently translating her other books. And I think just her presence in Weimar, Germany popularizing astrology provided future students for other people doing astrology at that time. She was so interested in making it a popular topic of conversation that she woke the public’s awareness of it that gave it an industry in Germany during that time and she gave us Reinhold. So, in a sense, he wouldn’t be who he became if he hadn’t had her in her sport.
CB: Right. And it’s like we know of other figures in other countries that are often attributed with the popularization of astrology like Alan Leo and stuff, but it seems like she played that role in her public efforts to promote astrology and expand awareness of it and to make it more acceptable to some extent in that role in Germany during that that time period?
JZ: Yeah. I think without her presence, we wouldn’t have seen the Weimar period be such a Renaissance of astrology.
CB: Sure, which then has that ripple effect through those other schools in subsequent decades. So, despite that, and there was only that one book that was translated into English until recently the synastry one, as we said earlier, she was largely forgotten certainly in the English astrological community, but also in the German astrological community partially because a lot of what she wrote was time sensitive, right?
JZ: Yeah, I think that’s the main culprit when I started to look into it. You can imagine what if it’s only 1973, you don’t really want to look at a prediction for 1924. That’s not interesting to translate or worth the money or effort. But now, so much time has passed and we find ourselves in a strangely, eerily similar political situation unfolding. It’s like, maybe we should go back and look at what she was writing. Maybe there are some things in there that we can see that could help us out.
CB: Right. Sure. And especially in terms of understanding the techniques she was using and understanding the culture of her day and what people were talking about that when you read her almanacs and stuff, that it really does reflect what a person on the ground was thinking or how they’re contextualizing things that were happening in their world at that time?
JZ: Yeah. There’s a lot of people who want to know more technical things about her astrology. And sadly, I have to report that she was so interested in popularizing it for the masses. She consistently says, “Well, I could get more technical, but I’m going to keep things in terms everyone can understand.” And so, you actually have to do some extra legwork when she’s talking about astrological biography to figure out what she’s really doing. So, there’s not a lot of payoff there actually for you in terms of seeing. She doesn’t get very technical. And I think that speaks to why she wasn’t translated is because she’s always staying at this intro level. And if you’re hungry for more, she’s not really going to give it to you.
CB: Sure. Well, unless you do some extra legwork. And that is where you come in. And where does your story start? Because you actually have an interesting story in terms of your own interactions with astrology and then eventually finding Elsbeth’s work. And it actually started when you were pretty young, right?
JZ: Yeah. I was a student of Gary Lorentzen in high school and Gary is a prominent astrologer in the Pacific Northwest. Wasn’t he also on your show before?
CB: Yeah, he appeared in episode 75 where we talked about Maggie Nalbandian and the foundation of Kepler College which Gary was a pivotal figure in putting together during the 1990s, during the same period where your interactions with him started.
JZ: Exactly. Gary was talking to me after school about Kepler College and he started teaching me astrology also after school. And that began almost over a decade long apprenticeship with him, one on one very casual just anytime I had a question, we would talk and he would teach me more. And he started teaching me mundane astrology pretty quickly because that’s his own passion and he threw one of Nick Campion’s books into my hands. I think it was 14 or so. And so, it got this. It was The Great Year.
CB: Okay. Yeah, yeah. That’s a good one.
JZ: And I fell in love with it. And I thought, “Oh, you know what? When I grow up, I’m going to be the Nick Campion of German history and astrology.” So, I had wanted to go to Kepler right away, but I thought I should probably get a PhD first and then go to Kepler. And by the time I did that, Kepler had stopped issuing master’s degrees. So, I pivoted and went to the Sophia Center. And I did my PhD in German at Berkeley. And then I did my master’s degree in the history of astrology at University of Wales, Trinity St. David at the Sophia Center. And when I began at Berkeley because I was in the literature department, like I said, they did not want me to look at technical text, but the program that Nick is running in the University of Wales does let you look at more technical texts from a historical analytical standpoint. How are these different practices of astrology shifted? And what can that tell us about the cultures that they’re representing, and things of that nature, a cross between anthropology and history. And so that’s when I really got to dig into Elsbeth’s work. And I wrote the paper that became the TMA article at the Sophia Center and they actually just recently awarded me an honorary fellowship, which means I have a home for my research at the Sophia Center, but it’s not paid. So, it’s nice to have the university acknowledge this work especially given all of the things we talked about earlier about legitimacy in the university and who determines what astrologer’s role is or whatever.
CB: And so, how did you come across Elsbeth’s work, or what was your access point initially for finding her?
JZ: Well, I read about her in Ellic Howe‘s book which is still the definitive history of the Weimar periods astrology in English.
And what was the title again?
The title is various. There’s two versions of the same exact book. The one that I have is called Astrology: A Recent History Including the Untold Story of its Role in World War II. And in this book, I realized that even though he does give a thorough description of the history of astrology in Germany and during the Weimar period, most of his book is about World War II and that whole fast track to the Nazis using astrology. So, I parked her, I got her name and I saw that she was an active person. But I was in Kreuzberg, Berlin during my graduate studies and this book called The Spirit of Astrology hit me in the head. It fell off a shelf. It was from 1937. And then I realized it was the fourth edition, so I tracked it back and I said, “Oh, it’s actually 1922.” And it was by this dilettante named Oscar Schmitz. He was involved in various literature circles in Munich, but he was a dandy and he avoided serving in the military and he was just a mediocre astrologer, but he thought he would write this travelogue of astrology. And then he got involved with these people in Darmstadt, including this other woman named Dr. Olga von Ungern-Sternberg which is an unfortunate name. So, Dr. Olga von Ungern-Sternberg started talking about astrological psychology. And I thought that was very interesting because Jung wasn’t quite in the picture there and she’s talking about this whole psychological approach to astrology. So, I was like, “Okay, what’s going on here? And who’s this woman? And how come she’s not being talked about by anyone?” And then I realized nobody was really talking about any of the women. So, I thought, “One day, I’m going to go back to Elsbeth.” And I got very excited when I learned she had written a novel because I thought, “Oh, I can do that in my PhD thesis. I can read her novel.” And I read it and it really was not that great. So, I didn’t talk about it very much because it would have been [Jenn laughs] awful. But yeah, so then, yeah, once I got to Wales, I thought now I’ll begin to look at her more technical works. And once I started doing that, I got hooked because she’s so personable. It’s like she’s one of my buddies. She’s just sassy and hanging out, having her opinions about stuff.
CB: Right. And so, one of the things that seems like that happened for you in this period is just realizing how much astrology and history writers people that tend to talk about what was happening in terms of astrology in Germany and the first half of the 20th century often focused almost exclusively on what was happening during World War II especially surrounding the Nazis, but you realized that there was this whole period that was really not talked about a lot where there was a lot going on in the astrological community just prior to World War II?
JZ: Yeah, yeah. And you see regional differences. I’m working on writing this history, but there is a whole history of the richness of how this astrological culture started to flourish during that time. And I think it gets completely eclipsed by the narrative of well, the Nazis came to power and they use astrology so therefore, both of them are bad. Actually, there’s a lot of things that weren’t involved with that. Let’s maybe focus on them for their own sake and not continue on this path of history where we write these stories that are like all roads lead to Hitler. It’s more like, hey, let’s look at our community for its own sake, and see what we were developing for our own sakes and understand the nuances of our community that still exist even beyond cultural borders.
CB: Right. And it seems one of the things that you’ve set out to fix especially recently is that it’s so difficult for, sometimes in the English-speaking world, we read short snippets of a reference and like Holden’s book to somebody like Elsbeth, or other astrologers that wrote in in different languages. But if you don’t have translations of those works, it can be really hard to develop an appreciation for who those astrologers really were and what their contributions to the astrological community actually did. And it seems like that’s something that you’ve recently set out to fix for those in the English-speaking world through your translation efforts, right?
JZ: Yeah, I think that Ellic Howe wouldn’t have remained top dog for so long if there had been other people who had access to his primary sources. So instead of writing another definitive history of it, I actually want to provide original and primary source documents with commentary, obviously, for people to use so that they can also engage with it on their own terms. Obviously, it’s not the same as reading the original, but it’s the next best thing. And I think that it’s really important not only just for the German sphere, which I’ve focused on, but for any foreign language, we need these cultural bridges so that we can understand what’s going on in Slovakia, what’s going on in Latvia, what’s going on in Peru? What are all these other cultures doing with astrology? And what can we learn from each other? Yeah, I think translation is really… We’ve seen it with Project Hindsight, but it doesn’t have to be so heavy as this ancient text. It can also be as mundane as what was happening 100 years ago because it was really important. It’s not going to give you that gravitas of Hellenistic technique or a medieval technique coming through, but it still gives us really interesting access to being able to understand the modern history of what we’re doing.
CB: Right. Yeah. And that’s one of the things the translation efforts that have started over the past 20 or 30 years have really shown that there’s value in going back and studying different eras of history because you don’t always know what you’re going to find. And sometimes you can find very useful and interesting and important things that can help you understand and contextualize the history of astrology better.
JZ: Yeah. And on that note, just to touch back a little bit about Alfred Witte’s work, I was reading his original articles from 1913 and 1920 when he’s talking about astrology in general and then by 1920, the hypothetical planets, he actually has from day one even in the 1913 article, a specific cosmology of the universe. And if you understand his cosmology, then the hypotheticals make sense in a way that they don’t make sense at all unless you understand his cosmology. But nobody’s translated his cosmology. So, you think about it and you’re like, “I’m not going to mess with that branch of astrology. Those are fake planets.” And it’s like, well, actually, if you read the original source, there’s a cosmology that completely changes your view of the solar system and then completely changes your view of how they were using astrology. But it’s implicit in what they’re doing and no one explicitly states here is Witte’s cosmology. So that’s another thing I’d like to also bring across is his cosmology and write about that so that people can get a sense and oh, that’s what the hypotheticals are doing? Interesting.
CB: Okay. Well, I would love to talk about that actually on another show at some point then because that’s one topic I’ve been very hesitant to and have not broached yet, which is the whole area of the Hamburg School and Uranian astrology and everything that comes along with that.
JZ: Yeah. And I think one reason you hesitate is because no one’s ever brought across the sense of that cosmology enough to make it seem cohesive in a way. I think if you had that piece, you would change your mind in a way. Yeah.
CB: Maybe I don’t. I admit to being skeptical from what I know of the hypothetical planets that are used by Uranian astrologers so far, but at some point, we would still be open to a discussion about that as a whole topic. All right. So, and that’s part of just your broader efforts where basically you’ve launched what is essentially a crowdfunding effort in order to fund the translation of both Elsbeth’s works, but also more generally of works from this period of astrology in Germany in the early 20th century, right?
CB: Okay. So, you’ve established recently a new press, actually, and you’ve already started your first efforts, or I guess the first step was starting a page on Patreon and that’s how you’re funding your translation project at this point, right?
JZ: Yes, it is genuinely an old-fashioned Patreon campaign for this type of work to be spending the time it takes to translate. I’ve done all of the legwork to learn the German and get fully embedded in the astrology and now what I need is help to be able to have support to do the work and it takes a group of people. So far, I have 55 people on my Patreon page, so thank you. [Jenn laughs]
CB: Right. And they’ve actually funded. You’ve already done your first translation of one of Elsbeth’s works that was just published this year, right?
JZ: Yes. I had intended on starting with Royal Nativities which was her first book. And then I pivoted to Can Assassinations Be Prevented After the Election because it seemed apt. And so, I was able to do that. It’s a nice small book. It’s a primer on mundane astrology with reflections for Germany during 1922-1923. And now I’m about to finish Royal Nativities. And I want to have that launch on the 100th anniversary of her prediction of the Tsar’s death, so next year.
CB: Next year, okay. Brilliant. And so, I think that’s really great because it’s a really, like you said, it’s an old way of doing things in terms of having patrons who then fund astrological research and activity and translations and it’s been done at different points in different ways in the past, but this is definitely taking modern technology and harnessing that in order to fund projects of interest like this, while at the same time giving people who fund that work some recognition and some benefits for doing so, right?
JZ: Yeah, I’m very close to reaching the first mini goal, which would be to produce postcards for people who sign up for certain levels. But at the $2 level, your name will get printed in each book. At the $5 level, you’ll get to vote on which text I translate next. And then at the $10 level, you get a copy of every single thing I produce. And then there’s a higher level, the Regulus Guild, which is the inner sanctum of super supporters who can take pride in allowing me to do what I was born to do.
CB: Awesome, brilliant. And yeah, so people can check that out at patreon.com/jennzahrt. And I know there’s already a great review rave review of the first translation you did that’s been published by I think Kirk Liddell on Skyscript. So, people can read that for more information or at least for a great review of the book. Yeah, and then, of course, I’m going to put some links to your TMA article on Elsbeth Ebertin that’s available on astro.com as well as your website which is jennzahrt.com. And then finally, your press where these books will actually be published through which is revelore.press. Yeah, revelore.press, right? All right, awesome. Well, I recommend people check that out and support this work since it’s really important and interesting for all the reasons that we’ve talked about today.
So, in terms of just a post script for after Elsbeth’s time, it seems like she was one of the first really prominent female astrologers of the 20th century, but that she set a standard or showed what was possible and then a lot of people followed her later. But it really started very early on in the early 20th century with her striking out on her own in order to pursue her passion for astrology and then things changed. I want to say very quickly, over the course of a century maybe is not that quick from the perspective of each individual’s lives, but compared to the 2000 years or 3000 years of the history of astrology where men were the dominant players in the field, it seems like a relatively rapid change over the past century, right?
JZ: Yeah, definitely. I think that even in the German work that I’ve seen, there were a lot of men, more men than women. In print, let’s say, the evidence that I have in print shows that it was a lot of men.
CB: Right. And even during that period, she was still a unique figure because she seems like she was very independent and not afraid or maybe I’m sure she’d had some trepidation, but nonetheless, still struck out on her own and pursued her passion in astrology and publishing and did her own thing. And in doing so, yeah, set the standard for other people who would follow and then we have other prominent female astrologers that really contributed major changes to the astrological community and made big changes. So, you get figures like Evangeline Adams. Later on, in the US, you get Linda Goodman selling a huge amount of astrology books in the 1970s. And then finally, you just get the really dominant figures like the Liz Greene’s and Demetra George and other people by the latter part of the 20th century so that by the time you come to today, it seems like the majority of the astrological community is largely composed of women and there’s many women that are in leadership roles in the astrological community. And I guess that shows how much or at least to some extent how much things have changed compared to going back a century to where Elsbeth was not the only woman, but one of the loan women who were playing this leading role in trying to get the public interested in astrology, and to some extent she was successful.
JZ: Yeah, definitely.
CB: Brilliant. All right. So, are there any other things that we meant to mention or should have mentioned in terms of that, or in terms of her contribution, or in terms of the broader period? And what came out of it? Or the echoes of that time period?
JZ: No, I think we did a pretty good coverage of it. Really, I think that the deeper thing that we can get from looking at Elsbeth is a reflection on ourselves which you summed up pretty nicely there at the end of just thinking how far we’ve come and what it meant back then to be such a pioneer in the publishing world and also, just questioning what all this publishing is. Everything we’re writing now is reflecting our current societal situation. So, when we look at Elsbeth, we’re actually seeing her current societal situation and we’re all taking part in this and creating it together.
CB: Right. That’s really brilliant just looking at it from that perspective and realizing so many astrologers write articles about what’s going on today, or right forecast columns, or each month, Austin and Kelly, and I do the forecast episode for the next month and we’re going to record one later here in December for 2018 and for some of the astrological trends of the next year. But so often, when you do that, like we said at the beginning, you’re not just making statements about the future, but you’re also describing what’s happening in society right now. And it’s interesting to think about how if there was some intrepid young researcher that came along and they started researching what you’re saying now. But 100 years from now if they started looking back on your work, what would they think about it, and how would they understand? Would they understand how you saw the world in the way that you were describing it in your astrology? And that brings a lot of perspective to me in terms of what you’re doing and what the value and benefit is, especially for figures who are otherwise so often overlooked like Elsbeth has been up until recently.
JZ: Yeah, yeah. I think it can shift also in how we put out what we put out too and just thinking about that long-term view. What if the unborn James Holden of the future were looking at me? [Jenn laughs] What do I do now?
CB: Right. Yeah. And how would he interpret that one footnote that you had when you said something about-
JZ: Right, [Jenn laughs] the footnote about “Oh, we can see Pluto. So therefore, the Hamburg School, ha-ha.” That footnote exists from 1930. It’s really funny. And there it is. So, all of these conversations, they’re important, the historical ones and the current ones.
CB: All right, brilliant. Well, thanks a lot for the work that you’ve done in bringing attention and to documenting Elsbeth’s life and this important figure in early 20th century astrology in a way that it hadn’t really been up until you showed up. And yeah, good luck in continuing those efforts in order to make that period and astrological history more well-known and more well-documented.
JZ: Thanks, Chris. And also, thanks for having me in your podcast which itself is a very historical project, so I appreciate it.
CB: Yeah, I like the idea of thinking 100 years from now, somebody listening to this episode and then trying to understand better the research that you are doing and everything else during this time period. So, I hope it’s useful for somebody someday.
JZ: [Jenn laughs] Thanks.
CB: All right. Well, thanks everyone for listening. Definitely, check out Jenn’s website, so I’ll put a link in the description page for this episode and you can find out more information there. So, thanks everyone for listening, and we’ll see you next time.