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The Astrology Podcast

Ep. 198 Transcript: Sahl ibn Bishr: A New Translation by Benjamin Dykes

The Astrology Podcast

Transcript of Episode 198, titled:

Sahl ibn Bishr: A New Translation by Benjamin Dykes

With Chris Brennan and guest Benjamin Dykes

Episode originally released on March 22, 2019


Note: This is a transcript of a spoken word podcast. If possible, we encourage you to listen to the audio or video version, since they include inflections that may not translate well when written out. Our transcripts are created by human transcribers, and the text may contain errors and differences from the spoken audio. If you find any errors then please send them to us by email: theastrologypodcast@gmail.com

Transcribed by Andrea Johnson

Transcription released February 17, 2022

Copyright © 2022 TheAstrologyPodcast.com

CHRIS BRENNAN: Hi, my name is Chris Brennan, and you’re listening to The Astrology Podcast. Today is—what is it? It’s Tuesday, March 19, 2019, starting at 5:38 PM in Denver, Colorado, and this is the 198th episode of the show.

In this episode, I’m going to be talking with Benjamin Dykes about his new translation of the work of the 9th century astrologer Sahl ibn Bishr. 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. Hey, Ben, thanks for joining me today.

BENJAMIN DYKES: Thanks for having me back.

CB: All right, so this is Episode 198 of The Astrology Podcast, and you actually joined me for Episode 2. You were my very first guest on the podcast, I believe, way back in Episode 2 in 2012 when you had just published Choices and Inceptions, which was your translation of works on Medieval electional astrology, right?

BD: Wow, was it that far back? Okay, yeah, I remember.

CB: Yeah, apparently. So you’ve been busy in the meantime. I asked you yesterday how many works you had translated over the past decade, and I think the number you came up with was like 18, right?

BD: Yeah, I think so.

CB: Okay. All right, well, let’s jump into this discussion. So like I said, your first appearance was on episode number two. You’ve published 18 books over the course of the past decade, and they’ve largely been translations from Latin, Arabic, and more recently, Greek.

And part of your background—for those that don’t know about you or aren’t familiar with your work—is that you actually took Latin in high school and that was part of your background in ancient languages. And the very first book that you translated and published—your very first book was a translation of the 12th or 13th century astrologer Guido Bonatti, right?

BD: Right.

CB: Okay. And how many years did that take you to do?

BD: I want to say it took me a year to translate to a rough draft and then a year to edit to put it into final form.

CB: Okay, and that was two, big, thick books. Like how many pages was that in the end?

BD: Something like 1,500 pages, yeah.

CB: Okay. And that came out, I think, in, what, 2007?

BD: 2007.

CB: Okay. So then after that—that was like your first sort of entry onto the world stage as an astrologer. I think it was the following year, in 2008, you published your second book, which was Works of Sahl & Masha’allah, which is a compilation of translations of the 8th and 9th century astrologers Sahl ibn Bishr and Masha’allah, right?

BD: Right.

CB: Okay.

BD: I call it ‘the red book’.

CB: ‘The red book’, that’s what I call it as well. That’s still my favorite book because it’s one of the most important, because those two figures—where they were living—was right at the beginning of the Medieval astrological tradition, just coming off of a few centuries earlier the end of the Hellenistic tradition, which is the one that I specialize in. So that was way back in 2008, and you translated those texts from Latin at that point, right?

BD: Right.

CB: Okay. Because even though those two authors wrote the text in Arabic originally in the 8th and 9th centuries, those were later translated into Latin, and then later astrologers in the 17th century—like William Lilly—drew on those Latin translations from the 12th century of those 8th and 9th century Arabic texts.

BD: Right. What we know about them comes from those early Latin translations. What we have known about them comes from those early Latin translations, and they were very central to Medieval and early modern European astrology.

CB: Right, but they were sort of filtered through those Latin translations.

BD: Yeah.

CB: And initially, for those first few years, you did Bonatti at first, and then you did Sahl and Masha’allah and translated a compilation of their texts from Latin, and then you kept translating a bunch of other Medieval astrological works from Latin. But then at some point in the early 2010s, the earlier part of this decade, you decided to learn Arabic, right?

BD: Right.

CB: And when was that?

BD: Well, I had been teaching myself to some extent and then I got a grant from the Urania Trust to take Arabic at the university; so I believe that was in 2012.

CB: Okay.

BD: And so, right after that I was ready to start on the Arabic translations.

CB: Okay, so you started learning Arabic. And the purpose of that was kind of to bypass the Latin translations or the Latin intermediaries that had been translating up to that point, and instead, go back to the original source language of some of these texts.

BD: Yeah, because although I love Latin, and I loved translating the Latin works, I was realizing that—well, like you said—there were things that were kind of filtering into the Latin and things that were being filtered out, and I wanted to get a more original approach.

And at the time, I was starting to collect some Arabic manuscripts too, and I realized how much is really out there that was never put into Latin, and so will be ‘new’ for people to read today. So I realized this was the time to do it and that’s where I wanted to direct my attention.

CB: Okay. Yeah, with some of those Latin texts, there are some instances where the Arabic text, the Arabic original was lost and only the Latin text survives. But in a lot of instances, the original Arabic text is still floating around and so it almost makes more sense to go back to the original. I mean, what are some of the downsides of not going back to Arabic, but instead, translating from the Latin?

BD: Well, in some cases, you don’t always know why exactly the Latin translator is using certain words. One of the things—one of the words that came to be very important is the word ‘cadent’. It turns out that that word in Latin—which means ‘falling’, ‘to fall down’ or ‘falling’—that word ‘cadent’ was almost exclusively the only word used by the Latins, and it actually translates several terms in Arabic, all of which have different meanings.

So the Arabs and the Persians were being very careful about some of their terminology, but it all got sort of painted over or all of those distinctions kind of got smeared in the Latin translations. So going back to the original vocabulary is starting to open new paths of research and new interpretations for chart reading.

CB: Yeah, I mean, one of the most shocking things for me in reading the copy of the book that you sent me over the past couple of weeks is how much closer the terms that the Arabic authors and the translators were using in their astrological terminology—how close it was to the terms that some of the Greek or the Hellenistic authors were using, which surprised me.

There’s always been this assumption when Project Hindsight came onto the scene in the 1990s—part of the argument was that we need to go back to the original traditional of Western astrology in the Greek texts because in the original language, it has a richer technical vocabulary than we have in modern astrology, where the terms are more meaningful and the specific terms used were chose deliberately to invoke some sort of interpretive principle. But then there was an argument that this was somehow lost or changed over the centuries in the transmission to Arabic, and then Latin, and then other European languages.

But when I’m reading your translation of the Arabic texts—especially of Sahl over the past week—I was shocked to see that, in fact, the early Arabic astrologers in the 8th and 9th centuries were much more deliberate and much more thoughtful about picking specific astrological terms that matched the meaning of the Greek terms much more deliberately than I expected.

BD: Yeah, that’s one reason why translating the Arabic has been such a pleasant surprise because we’re now seeing subtlety where we didn’t know there was subtlety. We’re seeing new terminology that shows they were thinking about problems that we didn’t know they were thinking about. Ultimately, it’s going to make chart reading a lot richer, and it gives us a little window into their minds and how they were thinking.

CB: Right. Yeah, I really like that. And so, with that example you were mentioning earlier about the term for a cadent house, what are some of the different terms used in Arabic for that that you’re talking about, that then are collapsed down into just one term in some of the Latin translators?

BD: Well, one is a simple word that just means ‘to fall’—it just means ‘to fall’—and that would normally be used for a cadent sign; so you might say a sign or a planet is falling. But they have another term, which is za’ilun, and that means to kind of ‘back off’, ‘withdraw’, and ‘disappear’; and that is a word that they use for the rotation of planets with respect to the axes.

So when planets are approaching, let’s say, the Midheaven, when they’re approaching by the revolution of the sphere, when they’re approaching the degree of the Midheaven, they’re said to be advancing no matter what kind of sign that they’re in. And then when they pass beyond it, they are said to be withdrawing or retreating, again, no matter what sign that they’re in.

And as I’m sure we’ll talk about, it means that they can mix and match interpretations between the signs and the topics and the actual dynamics of where a planet is rotating in. And there is no way of knowing that when you’re just reading the Latin because you have no idea that they’re using multiple terms.

There’s another phrase, also, which means ‘to fall away from something’, and that is a phrase which means ‘aversion’; it’s what we call ‘aversion’. But again, the Latins don’t recognize that this is a special phrase, and so the entire topic of aversion just kind of disappears from the text.

CB: Okay, so part of what you’re saying here—and we’ll get into this in more detail later—but they had specific terms to refer to when they were talking about a placement in whole sign houses versus a specific term for when they were talking about it with quadrant houses, because they were trying to use both at the same time or reconcile those two approaches.

BD: Right.

CB: But then in some of the later translations, they would just pick one term so that that distinction—that sort of subtle, technical distinction disappears.

BD: Yeah, and then of course you have ‘aversion’ which is not based on those concepts, and that is so very prominent. But again, it belongs to those same family of words that many of the Latins all used the same word for, so you never really know that that’s what the Arabs and Persians really mean.

CB: Okay, great. Well, that’s a good example. So this isn’t your first translation from Arabic—or published translation. I think the first one was Dorotheus, which just came out a couple of years ago, right?

BD: Mm-hmm.

CB: Okay, so this is your second major translation of a Medieval astrological work from Arabic. And this is a huge, 800-page book basically, right? There it is. Can I see the side? Let me see how thick that is, 800 pages. Oh, yeah.

BD: You don’t want to be beaten on the head with this.

CB: Right. You could do some damage with that thing. So let’s talk a little bit about the book. So the book is a compilation of several works from this early 9th century astrologer Sahl ibn Bishr, all translated from Arabic.

BD: Right. It’s got five of the works that the Latins knew: his Introduction, which is basic principles, The Fifty Aphorisms, and his book, On Questions, which is on horary; then it’s got an electional work called On Choices, and then it’s got a book on timing techniques called On Times. But the majority of the book is taken up by his book, On Nativities, which there are only two manuscripts of in Arabic, and it was never translated into Latin. So this will be totally new—or almost totally new.

CB: Okay, so some of these works are works that people have seen before through the Latin translations that you’ve done in the past, like in ‘the red book’, where you had his book on horary that you translated from Latin (On Questions). In Choices & Inceptions, I think you had some of his electional work translated from Latin as well, right?

BD: Yeah.

CB: So those are ones that people have already seen. But since you’re now going back to the original text and translating it directly from Arabic, there’s actually some interesting ways in which the text is notably different.

Like I noticed when he’s talking about the significations of the houses in one of the texts, for example, you put in the footnote that the Arabic text in some instances is more concise or where it’s clear now that the Latin translator added in some things.

BD: Yeah, there’s been some adding and subtracting. Sometimes the Latin translation was of help, but in general, I think the entire thing reads a lot more clearly because we’re not reading it through the filter of the Latin.

CB: Yeah, that makes sense. It’s also important for historical surveys because sometimes traditional astrologers will go back and compare different texts and try to establish when certain concepts originated and who was doing what at certain points in time, and it can be problematic if you’re using the Latin translation because some things might have been added or changed. Whereas now that you’re going back to the Arabic, you can say for sure what was in the original text by Sahl.

BD: Yeah.

CB: Okay, so we’ve got the horary text, the electional text—which were seen previously—but these are new and much sharper versions. And then the big centerpiece of this entire volume is the huge work on natal astrology that takes up the majority of it, and this has never been translated before in any language.

BD: Right.

CB: Okay, so let’s see, so this is one of the most comprehensive treatments of natal astrology that exist—of Medieval natal astrology, or at least early Medieval natal astrology, right? I mean, I was trying to think of what else is as long as this. The only other one is maybe Abu Ma’shar’s Greater Introduction or something like that.

BD: I think probably in terms of natal astrology, maybe al-Rijal’s treatise on nativities, which has not been translated yet. Well, it was translated into Medieval Spanish. But al-Rijal’s might be around as big, but he’s often taking material from Sahl and some of the same authors, so it’s definitely one of the biggest ones out there. And one of the reasons…

CB: Okay, so it looks like…

BD: Pardon?

CB: Let’s say, top three maybe?

BD: Top three.

CB: Okay.

BD: And one of the reasons it’s so big is because he clearly had access because of where he lived and when he lived. He had access to all of these big-name astrologers, probably knew them in person, so he was able to put their material into his book.

CB: Okay, well, let’s talk about that a little bit. Let’s talk about his bio, the timeframe he was living because there’s a lot of interesting stuff about that. And the more and more I learn about it, the more I realize this was a really interesting time period in the history of astrology, which I always knew. But I didn’t realize how much biographical information we had about some of these astrologers, and I didn’t realize some of the interconnections between some of them, which are really interesting. So I’m trying to think of where to set that up. Because the first generation of ‘Medieval astrologers’ is only like a few decades—maybe a generation before Sahl, right?

BD: Yeah. I think maybe a good way to start is to remind ourselves of Theophilus of Edessa. So Theophilus of Edessa was born in the late 600s AD. He was born during the first major dynasty of caliphate, the Umayyad dynasty, and he lived long enough to become part of the second major dynasty, the Abbasids.

And we know because of his writings that his Greek-language astrology was on the way out, and the Arabic language and the Persians were on the way in. So he was an old man when the younger astrologers—like Masha’allah and Umar al-Tabari and those people—were moving into Baghdad and were becoming the court astrologers.

So these famous people—Masha’allah, Nawbakht the Persian, Umar al-Tabari—they were court astrologers and major players in politics and astrology during those first few decades of the Abbasids, which was also when they were translating everything into Arabic. And so, Sahl would have been probably a young child during the time of a very famous caliph in this dynasty called Harun al-Rashid. And this is the court in which the 1,001 Arabian Nights stories were written; so this is the ‘heyday’ of Baghdad.

So he would have grown up I’m thinking probably not in Baghdad. He was probably over in Persia, in an area of the empire called Khurasan. But as he got older, he joined the ranks of the elite astrologers and came to be part of the astrological administration of the caliphate.

CB: Right. Because the rulers were actually taking advice and directly doing important things based on what the astrologers were telling them at the time.

BD: Right. And what happened was that in Baghdad, you had one administration in the caliphate ultimately run by one brother—there were two brothers, two royal brothers—and he had his administration and his astrologers; by this time, Masha’allah and Umar al-Tabari were very old. But then over in Persia, you had a rival brother who was claiming to be caliph, and he had his administration. And for all of them, their chief viziers or advisors—chiefs of staff, if you like—their viziers were also astrologers. So they were helping to make political decisions based on astrology.

CB: Right. So this is things like the famous founding of Baghdad, where the caliph got together a group of astrologers and told them to pick an auspicious electional chart for the founding of his new city, which would become the new capital of the empire, and two or three really famous astrologers ended up picking that electional chart.

BD: Right. And in this case, you had vizier-astrologers who were helping to make decisions like who should live or die, who was an enemy and who was your friend, and should you go to war or not. And so, Sahl worked for one of these viziers who was ultimately on the winning side; so I suppose they did some of their astrology right.

CB: Yeah, so pretty standard stuff still today, I guess, is what you’re saying.

BD: Yeah.

CB: Yeah, picking who lives and dies and when to launch wars and things like that.

BD: Right.

CB: So Baghdad was founded—what year was it? Was it 776 or something like that?

BD: No, I want to say 762, I think.

CB: Okay.

BD: 762. Yeah, I’m pretty sure it was 762.

CB: Okay. And at that founding, there’s two really crucial astrologers that play into this story, one of them who you mentioned already is Nawbahkt the Persian, and the other one is Masha’allah, right?

BD: Yep, along with Umar al-Tabari and Kanaka the Indian.

CB: Okay, so Umar was also one of the astrologers involved.

BD: Yeah.

CB: So there were like three really notable astrologers.

BD: Yeah.

CB: Okay, so they picked out that electional chart. And then that becomes important because we have a Theophilus who is that last figure, who, by the way, you came on the show and we talked about in Episode 120, if people want to go back and listen for more detail on him. But he was that in-between figure where he could read both Greek as well as Arabic, so he’s able to read and draw on some of the earlier Greek authors, but he also wrote in Arabic some works that then influenced subsequent generations of astrologers.

So we have Theophilus, but then we have Nawbakht the Persian, and especially Masha’allah. And Masha’allah was writing in the last few decades of the 8th century and seems to be one of the most important foundational figures for establishing what became essentially Medieval astrology, right?

BD: I’d say so. He wrote several books on horary or questions. Only one of them got translated into Latin—but I’m going to translate the others—and that was his book, On Reception. But parts of his horary works and electional works were re-transformed and reworked by Sahl—or reworked by Masha’allah—and are included in some of the works here we now know. So Masha’allah became terribly important and is terribly important for Sahl’s Nativities as well.

CB: Right. So maybe next to Abu Ma’shar, Masha’allah would be the other most influential early Medieval astrologer it seems.

BD: Definitely, definitely.

CB: Okay. And some of the stuff in Masha’allah’s work is interesting because it still looks very much like late Hellenistic astrology—like Rhetorius of Egypt and some of the later Hellenistic astrologers—but it’s starting to incorporate new concepts that didn’t exist previously, or it’s starting to rapidly expand on concepts that didn’t exist previously very much or weren’t very common, like horary astrology.

BD: Yeah, some of his natal material in the Sahl book—it sounds like something you’d find in a horary book. So for example, in material on children, he’ll look at the lord of the 5th in all of the houses, and then he’ll look at the lord of the Ascendant in various combinations with the lord of the 5th—the type of thing you’d find in a horary question, but applied to nativities. So he was maybe applying a horary-type style from the Persians to nativities, in addition to the natal material he already had.

CB: Okay. Yeah, so that’s like the first generation essentially of early Medieval astrologers in the 8th century. And Sahl represents part of essentially the second generation because he’s a little younger, but he’s still early enough that his work still looks very similar to Masha’allah. And he’s still drawing on Masha’allah directly, even though he wasn’t as far as we know a student of Masha’allah, right?

BD: Yeah, we don’t know. Masha’allah would have been in Baghdad and died in about 815 AD, and the civil war—which Sahl was working for the opposite side—the civil war happened in the 810s. So don’t know if Sahl actually met Masha’allah, but in the end, he would have had all of Masha’allah’s works.

CB: Yeah, I mean, that’s a really pretty close time lap. It’s almost like Rob Hand right now who’s had a really long career up to this point and has been around for several decades versus people like me and you who are just coming into the field over the course of the past decade or so. And there is overlap there a little bit, even though we’ve not spent the majority of our careers working or interacting at the same time.

BD: Right.

CB: So what are the dates of these charts? In these works—because Sahl includes some example charts of horary questions and different things like that—you’ve been able to date Sahl’s approximate time-frame of activity based on some of those charts, right?

BD: Yeah, we definitely know that he was active during the civil war, and we know the people that he worked for and when they died, so we can place him in the 810s. But a lot of the example charts that he uses for things like ‘transfer of light’ and ‘collection of light’—and then also an actual horary chart from his practice—we can date most of those to about 824 and 825 AD. So that sounds like he’s now mature enough that he’s writing his own book after he’s had all these adventures and this important career.

It’s said that he left the Baghdad area and went back to Khurasan to write some compilations of his works, so he might have lived for many more decades. But until I translate his mundane work with the mundane charts in it and can date those, we’re not too sure, but 820s definitely. The 10s and 20s is when he was definitely very active in writing.

CB: Okay, so flourished circa 815 through 825.

BD: Yeah.

CB: What else do we know about him? He’s kind of unique in that he’s said to have been like a Jewish astrologer who converted to Islam, right?

BD: Well, he was a Jewish astrologer. I don’t know if he converted at all; I don’t know anything about that.

CB: Okay.

BD: But when he’s referred to, he’s called ‘al-Israeli’; so that means ‘the Israelite’ or ‘the Jew’. He might not have converted.

CB: Okay. Sorry, I maybe just misunderstood something then when I was reading. And that’s similar to Masha’allah who was also a Jewish figure, right?

BD: Right.

CB: Okay, so that’s kind of interesting to me, just because we know in the Hellenistic tradition—from like the 1st century BCE through the 7th century—we know there were Jewish astrologers who were practicing astrology, but we don’t really have names of specific practitioners whose works survived who were Jewish. So that makes Masha’allah and Sahl two of the earliest nameable figures that we know of for sure, aside from pseudepigrapha attributions to Abraham or other texts like that in the Hellenistic tradition.

BD: Yeah, sort of maybe legendary figures, but here we know where they were from, we know who they were working for, we have a lot of their works, so that’s an interesting perspective. Well, it’s an interesting perspective on the astrological administration too, because in the civil war, the viziers to the caliph who eventually won—who were from Persia—they were from an old Zoroastrian family. So it could be that in those days, for a few centuries at least, the astrologers were basically Persians and Jews and Zoroastrians, and maybe that reflects a centuries-old tradition that goes back to the pre-Islamic Persians—that’s an interesting possibility.

CB: Right, that makes sense. And then it’s not until you get to Abu Ma’shar, for example, who’s definitely one of the first—his background was as an Islamic astrologer writing in Arabic. And I think they said when he was younger, he was a teacher or interpreter of the religious books of Islam, right?

BD: I want to say so, I think. Yeah, he was from the East. By the time you get later in the 800s, and you have people like al-Kindi—who was definitely Arab and Muslim—it seems to me that the Persian influence started to wane—maybe, maybe.

CB: Sure. All right, so that sets some background on the figure of Sahl and the cultural context. You have mentioned a couple of times the civil war that Sahl was involved in, and you talk a lot about that in the introduction to set some historical background of who he was and what he was doing. But that was like two rival brothers who both had different claims for the throne that were fighting each other in the 815 timeframe, right?

BD: Yeah, it was just like out of a story from Game of Thrones. The old caliph dies, he leaves the empire to the one brother, but then leaves a province to the other brother and then thinks that everything will be okay; of course they immediately start to go to war.

CB: Right.

BD: Yeah, big power politics, and the astrologers were right there helping to make the decisions.

CB: Right. And that’s just so bizarre thinking about a civil war like that, with two kings essentially going to war with each other, who are in charge of different provinces, and then both sides employing astrologers for different—not just advice—but for strategic purposes, I’m sure, to pick electional charts and things like that.

BD: Yeah, in fact, in one of the histories, there’s a famous history of this whole period by a historian named al-Tabari—not the astrologer, but a different one. And I found a passage where he talks about one of those viziers—vizer-astrologers—warning someone not to go on a journey because the Moon is ‘corrupted’. So it’s made its way into the history that they were deciding whether people should travel based on the motion of the Moon.

CB: Right. That’s really interesting. And you sent me that translation of Abu Ma’shar’s student recently, and it has a really funny story about the void of course Moon in there and him trying to urge some traveling campaigns not to go on a trip when the Moon was void, and they didn’t listen to him and just went anyways. And he hung out back at camp and just had some food, and one of their party shows up later in very bad shape and accuses Abu Ma’shar of having something to do with the fact that they were attacked by robbers or something after that and that their trip didn’t go well.

BD: Right. Yeah.

CB: And his conclusion or moral of that story was never to talk about astrology with non-astrologers or something at the end of that. So yeah, there’s a lot of funny stories and things like that from that time period. And there’s also one interesting little historical tidbit that I only realized after reading your book, which is the first woman that we know of who practiced astrology and seemed to have had some training in it was Buran of Baghdad. And she’s also somewhere in this timeframe as well and has some sort of indirect connection with Sahl, the astrologer, right?

BD: Yeah, I want to say that I think she was the daughter of his employer, one of the viziers. There were two viziers, and I think she was the daughter of one of them, and she might have married the caliph. So yeah, he definitely would have known her. I mean, you want to wonder if maybe she was partly his student when her father was helping to decide whether to go to war. she might have studied under Sahl. They all would’ve known each other.

CB: Right. And then what’s bizarre also about her is that she was part of the Nawbakht family line. So her family line goes back to one of those astrologers who was involved in the founding of Baghdad. And so, you have this weird interconnection between all of these different figures of Nawbakht the Persian and Masha’allah and the foundational electional chart for Baghdad around the 770s. And then you have Sahl ibn Bishr, and he’s writing his texts, and he’s involved in the civil war in the 815s, and then you have her father that’s involved in the civil war or what have you, and then you have his daughter, Buran of Baghdad, who was the first named woman or female astrologer that we know of.

BD: Yeah, she married the caliph who won in 817 or 818.

CB: Okay.

BD: So after the war was over, and around the time that he made his triumphant entry into Baghdad, Buran—who was the daughter of his astrologer—he married her, the caliph married her, and Sahl was the employee of that vizier.

CB: Okay. So yeah, then our Sahl totally probably would have known her to some extent. And her marriage and the opulence surrounding the celebration were recorded in history books in very famous ways.

BD: Makes sense.

CB: Yeah.

BD: She came from a very illustrious family. Those two viziers—her father and her uncle—they came from a very illustrious, long family in Khurasan, so they were probably very rich.

CB: Right.

BD: It was probably partly a political marriage.

CB: Okay. Yeah, and there’s a famous story that’s preserved about her averting or stopping an assassination attempt on her husband, the caliph, or the king essentially, through what seemed like either natal or horary astrology or something like that. It’s almost kind of a fantastical sort of story in some ways, but it’s interesting that it’s attached to her.

And just through an accident of history, we don’t know of any other female astrologers prior to that by name, except maybe Hypatia, but we don’t know if she actually knew astrology or practiced it; we just just sort of infer that she might have. Whereas with Buran, we have this specific story about her using astrology, and she’s coming from the background of a family of astrologers that goes back at least a few decades.

BD: Yeah.

CB: All right, so I just wanted to mention that as a funny historical aside because I had been researching Buran more recently, a few weeks ago, and then I thought it was really funny seeing her come up in your book and realizing the overlap between those time-frames and what a small world it is.

Because the other thing we were talking about previously—with some of the Hellenistic astrologers—we know very, very little about their lives and very little about even their circumstances or the time-frames that they’re practicing astrology in. Whereas by the time we get to the Medieval period with some of these astrologers, we start to know a lot more about their lives and the context in which they were practicing astrology, and who knew who and different things like that, so the history starts becoming a lot more fascinating and a lot more detailed in some ways.

BD: Yeah, my knowledge of these caliphates was very slim years ago, but when I actually sat down to learn who was ruling and who were these people that he worked for, all of a sudden, it was really fascinating. And I realized they were living in pretty amazing and dangerous times, and a lot of these people all knew each other. So I’d never really put the details together, so it’s really come alive for me, and I hope it will for the reader too.

CB: Yeah. Well, you’ve got a really great introduction where you talk a lot about Sahl’s life and a lot about some of his background and history, and it was really fascinating to me, so I’m sure people will like that. Let’s talk a little bit more, though, about some of the actual texts and some of the techniques and stuff that are contained in this volume. So as we were talking about earlier, the work on natal astrology which is huge. How many pages does that actually occupy in the book roughly? Do you know? It’s got to be like 500 pages or something.

BD: Let’s see. I’m going to say it’s about 500 pages.

CB: Okay. And one of the things that’s really interesting about that that seems to occupy a lot of time and space that I was the most fascinated by or about is that it has a lot of cool delineation material on the rulers of the houses, and it will go through systematically and provide delineations for when the ruler of one house is in another house and what that means: like if the ruler of the 7th is in the 10th, or if the ruler of the 4th house of the home and living situation is in the 9th house of foreign travel, it means ‘this’ and so on and so forth.

BD: Mm-hmm.

CB: Is that a large part of what that text is dedicated to? I mean, it seemed that way to me, but I’m not sure.

BD: He includes it for every house, and he’s taking it from a work by Masha’allah; so he’s cannibalized a lot of Masha’allah’s works and put them into his book of nativities. So the lord of the Ascendant and the interaction with these other lords, or the lords of these houses throughout the houses, it’s from Masha’allah. And you can see him use a lot of derived houses; that seems to have been a favorite thing of his. And he’s also taken apart Masha’allah’s treatise on lots and put material for each lot into its own house. So the Lot of Assets or Money, he puts that in Chapter 2 from Masha’allah’s treatise.

CB: Okay. And some of these—like the natal treatise you said he incorporated or cannibalized—that doesn’t even survive necessarily from Masha’allah, right?

BD: Yeah, some of the stuff on house lords, it may survive in a Latin text that I translated for ‘the red book’, but some of the delineations are kind of weird in ‘the red book’, in the Latin. So in some cases, the distance between the ‘real’ Masha’allah in Arabic and the Latin—the distance is great. So he is putting stuff in there, though, that I don’t think we have otherwise.

CB: Okay.

BD: I didn’t know it existed.

CB: Yeah, and I would say that to me was my favorite part of reading the natal text, just the comprehensiveness of these delineations of the rulers of the houses. This has to be the earliest complete set of delineations for the rulers of the houses that I know of, because the only other one earlier in the tradition—prior to this era—the very first one that survives is Rhetorius, and I included large excerpts of that in my book on Hellenistic astrology.

But Rhetorius is only partially complete, and so it doesn’t go through systematically and do each of the houses and what the ruler of each house and all of the 12 houses means, whereas this text treats that much more systematically.

BD: Mm-hmm.

CB: So some of the delineations, like you said, are just what it means for the ruler of one house to be in another and it’ll produce a delineation; but then sometimes, like you were saying, it’s also interesting it produces it from the perspective of derived houses. So it’ll talk about the ruler of the 7th house in the, let’s say, 4th house, and it’ll produce a delineation about how that relates to the career of the spouse or something like that because the 4th house is technically the 10th house relative to the 7th.

BD: Right. Yeah, another one that appears several times is when the lord of the 3rd is in the 10th. He’ll connect the 3rd and the 10th and he’ll say it shows the death of the brothers because the 10th is the 8th from the 3rd, and he does it more than once. And I figure if ever there was text I didn’t know who it was by, and they started talking about the lord of the 3rd in the 10th, I’d say it’d have to be by Masha’allah. It seems to be a favorite thing of his.

CB: Okay. Maybe something that he saw that he got attached to his delineation or something that worked out well in some charts.

BD: Could be. But yeah, he’s very interested in derived houses. So it’s nice to see that get fleshed out in detail by a working astrologer.

CB: Yeah. And that’s definitely got to be one of the earliest treatments of that because derivative houses—while they existed in the Hellenistic tradition, are hardly mentioned at all—except in Valens. He has that set of passages of derived house meanings, but you don’t see actual delineations in a consistent sense like you do in this text.

BD: Mm-hmm.

CB: So that’s really cool. There’s also a lot of delineations of different types of lots for different topics and what it means for the ruler of a lot to be in different houses.

BD: Yeah, that was really interesting. Yeah, you’ve got a lot of delineations, you’ve got lords of lots. And the lot material is also from Masha’allah, and he nicely groups them into categories, like in the angles, or if you’ve got a lot or its lord in the 11th and the 5th because those houses are related to one another. So he’s got a nice systematic approach to this, including, I think, the only treatment I’ve ever seen of the Lot of Spirit in the chapter on religion.

CB: Right. And he calls it the ‘Lot of the Future’ or something, right? What’s it called? Immaterial?

BD: It’s a funny word, but I’m calling it now the ‘Lot of the Invisible’.

CB: Okay.

BD: The verb has to do with things that are not present. Well, the spiritual world is not present to the senses, so that’s kind of why they use that word. Yeah, so they call it the ‘Lot of the Invisible’ or the ‘Lot of the Absent’. And he’s talking about the personal piety and outward behavior of the native, which I find really interesting.

CB: Yeah, I mean, so this then also becomes for people that are interested in the interpretation of the lots—or the Arabic Parts in natal astrology especially—a go-to work for understanding how those are applied and how they’re actually interpreted in detail in chart delineations.

BD: Right.

CB: Okay, nice. So you wanted to translate this text, and you’ve been working on this for several years now, because I remember you working on parts of this text it had to be like three or four years ago, right?

BD: Yeah, it might have been four. It’s been a long time.

CB: It’s so long and so extensive going through all of the houses and all of the different topics in natal astrology. And one of the reasons that you wanted to translate this and make this one of the first texts that you translated from Arabic is because you wanted to use this. It’s such a comprehensive text on natal astrology, you wanted to use it as part of a course that you’re developing on Medieval astrology, right?

BD: Right. I’m writing a traditional natal course and this will be one of the two textbooks. So it covers all of the natal material and all of the basics of interpreting planets in houses and so on. So this will be one of the two books.

CB: Okay. And this text is really comprehensive in terms of that. It’s like one of the most comprehensive natal astrology—or traditional natal texts that I’ve seen. But that’s just one of, like we said earlier, six or seven different texts that you’ve translated in this volume, right?

BD: Right. There’s obviously the books on the other branches. There are a couple of appendices, one of them is by Sahl; it’s short aphorisms. And then there’s another appendix that shows the interaction of the lord of the Descendant with the lords of all the other houses and then gives detailed interpretations based on whose applying to whom and what house they’re applying out of. So there’s lots of really interesting stuff here that people have not seen before that will be useful for a student, both more sophisticated, advanced material, and also lists of all the different permutations with some quick and easy kinds of statements.

CB: Right. I’m trying to pull that up really quickly to see if we can give an example, just so people can understand what that means.

BD: The appendix?

CB: Yeah, because that’s really cool and it’s a really subtle distinction. Like if the ruler of the Ascendant is applying to an aspect—is a faster-moving planet that’s applying to an aspect—with, for example, the ruler of the 3rd house, it means ‘this’. Whereas if it’s reversed so that it’s the ruler of the 3rd house applying to an aspect with the ruler of the Ascendant, then it means something slightly different essentially, right?

BD: Right, and then he gives lists. I have a feeling this might be from Masha’allah, but there’s no author given, but it’s at the end of one of the Sahl manuscripts. So for example, the lord of the Ascendant and the lord of the 2nd. Well, it depends on where the light is coming out of. If the applying planet is in the 3rd sign, he’ll get the money because of siblings. If it’s coming from the 9th house, the assets will reach him from another country.

And then he goes through other kinds of signs: four-footed signs, human signs. There are even little rules—some of them come from Masha’allah—for how to tell whether something like the 6th house, whether you’re looking at illness and injury or animals and slaves and underlings. So sometimes they’ll give little rules for how you can tell the difference between what you’re looking at in houses that mean many different things.

CB: Okay, how to differentiate specific topics. Houses have a pretty wide range of different topics and sometimes it can be hard to figure out which topic it is.

BD: Yep, they do that; especially for the 6th and the 3rd, they definitely do that.

CB: Okay.

BD: The 3rd, they’re differentiating between siblings and religion or personal piety, so there’s some rules that kind of come along the way. Generally, a benefic in the 3rd or ruling the 3rd will steer the meaning towards the native’s piety and religion; whereas if it’s a malefic planet, it will tend to steer more towards siblings, which maybe gives a little insight into how they viewed sibling relationships.

CB: Yeah, I’m actually looking at that delineation right now.

BD: Mm-hmm.

CB: Let me read it really quickly. So it says: A Section: The lord of the Ascendant and the lord of the 3rd House. If the lord of the Ascendant handed over its management to the lord of the 3rd, it indicates writing and outings and encountering siblings and what resembles that. And if it accepted the management from the lord of the 3rd [so then it gives the reverse, which is if the lord of the 3rd is in an applying aspect to the ruler of the Ascendant], and the lord of the 3rd house is of fortune, it indicates the activity which he hopes for a fee from is from God.

So then it gives the religious delineation you were talking about and says: “If it wasn’t in fortune, a report will reach him which will distress him, and he’ll encounter some of his friends and siblings, and whatever there will be from that will be the light of the planet [whatever the light of the planet indicates].” And it just keeps going on and starts differentiating between what type of aspect it is between the two: whether it’s a sextile, a trine, or a square or what have you.

BD: Yeah, yeah.

CB: Yeah, so that’s really interesting and really cool because it starts getting into some very specific distinctions that aren’t really taken into account today, where astrologers often just group a sextile as a sextile and a square as a square and a trine as a trine. But here, they’re saying that the planet that’s faster-moving that applies to the other planet really matters, and like a square on the left is different from a square on the right and so on and so forth.

BD: Right.

CB: All right, so in terms of just really sharpening natal delineations—and not just being aware that there are distinctions like that abstractly, like we know about in Hellenistic astrology—but here actually putting specific delineations, so that you can start to really get to the heart of what the conceptual distinction is and how that works out in practice.

BD: Yeah, they’re putting all of the pieces together. There’s only one chart example of a worked-out horary chart, and it’s a very good one. But yeah, in their lists of rules—like what you were reading—it really gets you to understand and start to practice with how different types of aspects mix with different types of signs and different types of planets.

CB: Right. And what I love about the book and what’s really helpful is that you start the entire book out with this text known as the Introduction. And the Introduction by Sahl is basically a list of definitions of basic concepts and basic terminology, which opens up the entire volume in order to explain all of the technical terms that will be used later on throughout the rest of the work.

BD: Yeah, the first three books—I didn’t know this when I translated from the Latin—but the first three books (the Introduction, The Fifty Aphorisms, and On Questions), in most of the manuscripts, it seems those are all bundled together. Like those three books form a horary course or a horary manual. So the Introduction is an introduction to everything and concepts about everything, but it especially acts as an introduction to horary.

CB: Okay, brilliant. So it’s like some of the things that it defines are simple things—like what the significations of the houses are and things like that—but it also defines some more complicated or advanced concepts, like different types of aspects or different types of aspect relationships that planets can have, like ‘transfer of light’ or ‘collection of light’ and things like that.

BD: Mm-hmm.

CB: All right, so—go ahead.

BD: One of the things that did not really come out well in the Latin, I felt, but does come out well here is an interesting concept called ‘nonreception’ that he gives—he gives five different versions of it—and it’s something that is now making me think different about how reception fits into the scheme of all these concepts.

So normally, we think of reception as kind of a standalone sort of situation. Let’s say, the Moon is in Aries, and Aries is ruled by Mars. Well, if she is aspecting Mars and in his sign, then he receives her; he receives her into his sign. So there’s a sense of acceptance, some protection there. But Sahl goes through a number of examples which he calls ‘nonreception’, and this is when a planet is being applied to, for example, from a sign that is its fall.

For example, Mars is exalted in Capricorn, so he’s in his fall in Cancer. That means that Cancer represents his downfall; it represents something disgusting or terrible. He doesn’t like things that come from Cancer. So if a planet applies to him out of Cancer, it’s like someone who represents your enemy trying to influence you. Well, you would say, “No, way. I don’t want that light. I don’t want that influence.”

Well, it’s an interesting idea, but then I started to realize that when he goes through all of his examples, he’s also linking it to being ‘peregrine’, which is when you’re in a sign that you don’t rule. And I’m starting to think that there’s kind of a hierarchy of ways in which they thought about how a planet belongs to a sign and feels at home in a sign. If you are peregrine, it’s like being in a foreign country because you don’t really belong; you have no ownership over this foreign land that you’re in.

Well, it makes a big difference if you are in contact with your host, or if you are trying to talk to someone who thinks you are strange and weird and they don’t want to have anything to do with you—that would be an example of nonreception. So there’s in some cases kind of a psychological hierarchy that he’s building here of attitudes between planets based on whether they are in their falls or in each other’s falls or they’re peregrine and they need help and is there a planet who can help them. So it makes reception part of a broader system of concepts that could help make a horary chart come alive in a way that you might not have expected.

CB: Yeah, that was a lot more complicated and a lot more nuanced than I was expecting. You have a great little breakdown of some of the different possible scenarios of nonreception at one point in a table, where you give an example of Planet B is alien in Planet A’s sign. So for example, if the Moon is in Virgo, and it’s applying to Saturn, that would be an example of nonreception.

BD: Right, that’s an example of nonreception because Saturn does not have any dignity in Virgo. Well, I mean, he has a bound there, but in terms of just sign or exaltation, he doesn’t own anything in Virgo. So if the Moon is applying to him, that’s like someone asking you for help about something that isn’t even your business, and most of the time people would not—I mean, if you’re very nice you would help out; but we don’t go out of our way normally to help people in situations that are not our business.

CB: Right. Whereas if the Moon was in Aquarius and it was applying to Saturn, it would be the Moon being in Saturn’s domicile and applying it, so there would be reception; and therefore, Saturn would have a greater inclination or a position to help the Moon or to receive it as a result of that.

BD: Yeah, he’s responsible for Aquarius. So the things that happen in Aquarius, he’s responsible for. But he is in his fall in Aries. So if the Moon was in Aries and applying to Saturn, she’s in a situation that represents something that would drag him down. In a way, he might not want to help her because it would hurt him.

CB: Right. That makes sense, so that’s really important. And one of the more interesting areas of this is seeing the reception doctrine really become more formalized and become a lot more nuanced than I even realized in the early Medieval tradition.

BD: Yeah, it nicely comes out in the Arabic in a way that it doesn’t come out in the Latin.

CB: Right, definitely. Additionally, even with some basic concepts, just the fact that you’re going back and translating it from the Arabic, the specific terms that they’re using for some of the concepts and the way that you translate and then have commentary or footnotes explaining—or providing alternative translations—really provides a lot of a deeper meaning into even some very basic concepts. So for example, at one point in the Introduction, Sahl defines the concept of a planet being in his detriment, and some of the terms that you use—that you footnote from the Arabic—are really interesting in the way they’re describing them.

So he says: “The tenth consideration is if a planet were ‘inverted’, and that is when they are in the contrary of their house. That is, when they are in the seventh from their own house, and that is called ‘unhealthiness’.” So he’s actually referring to what we’ve called detriment, I guess, for a few centuries as unhealthiness.

BD: Right. Yeah, the word is wabal, and it’s one of the standard words for detriment. It means ‘unhealthiness’, and I think there’s a related word that means ‘unhealthy air’. And so, when a planet is in the contrary of its preferred place, it’s as though there’s something kind of malfunctioning and disturbed about its functioning, kind of like an imbalanced body that’s suffering from sickness. And that is why a planet in detriment implies some kind of corruption. Something’s falling apart. Something’s not able to be held together properly. It’s not functioning right.

CB: Yeah, I love that. In the footnote, you say, “This sense of internal contrast and conflict should be compared with the sense of unity and comfort a planet has when it’s in its own house [or own domicile; it’s own sign of the zodiac].” And I think this is a really great example of the real benefits that we’re getting to benefit from of you having learned Arabic and gone back to the original language. Because then you’re able to access and unlock some of the deeper and richer philosophical and symbolic meanings underlying this terminology that was picked out very deliberately by this first generation of astrologers that were writing in Arabic in the late 8th and early 9th century.

BD: Yeah, that business about detriment and a sense of inner struggle or inner contrariety comes out in other places too, when they connect being in detriment with travel. And normally, you would think that if a planet is in detriment then it’s as far away from its sign as it can be; it’s on the opposite side of the chart. But part of the delineation of that in a couple of places is that it shows travel, because the person is kind of disgusted with their homeland and wants to get out. So it’s not just that the planet is far away, but detriment implies a kind of restlessness and dissatisfaction.

CB: Right. And I was surprised to see this because I know in some of the later European languages—like in modern astrology in non-English-speaking countries—they sometimes refer to detriment as a planet ‘being in its exile’. And I saw that you actually used a term you translated as ‘exile’ at one point in this book from Sahl, right?

BD: Yeah, but in Sahl, exile means being peregrine.

CB: Okay.

BD: It means being foreign or alien.

CB: Got it, okay. So it was maybe just later that exile became applied to the concept of detriment in some later traditions.

BD: Could be.

CB: Got it. All right, so yeah, that’s really important in the Introduction, just because Sahl’s going through and he’s defining some of these basic terms, and he’s in some instances explaining what they mean. But you’re then giving in the footnotes this other, much richer, broader layer of interpretation by talking about the meaning of some of those terms, and I really appreciated that about this book.

BD: I have to credit in part the Arabic language because Arabic allows itself to be kind of unpacked and unfolded in that way; but yeah, I felt it was really important. And I felt it was important and that they were doing it intentionally, that they were picking their words intentionally in a lot of cases.

CB: Well, yeah, and that’s what’s so fascinating to me. You and I were really influenced by the work of Robert Schmidt, and that was always his argument about Hellenistic astrology that some of these terms were picked very deliberately to invoke a range of different meanings that had direct application to the interpretation of the astrological principle. If you just went back to the original Greek terms and retranslated them into what they literally mean, you can access this whole other level of the astrology, and his argument was always that you could only do that by going back to the Greek.

But one of the things that I was surprised and excited about here is we can see that that early generation of Arabic astrologers did the same thing, where they deliberately picked terms that would invoke a range of specific meanings so that they’re not just technical terms that are just randomly picked and don’t mean anything; but instead, understanding the term actually helps you be a better astrologer in some sense.

BD: Yeah, one interesting example that then looks forward to Lilly is one of the configurations—I don’t think it’s in Sahl, but it’s in Abu Ma’shar and others. It’s when, like in a horary chart, you want to know if something’s going to happen, and the ‘lighter’ planet applies to the ‘slower’ planet, but then just before it reaches it, it slows, stations, and goes retrograde and never completes the connection; and the word that the Arabs use is a word that has to do with breaking your word or not fulfilling a contract.

In Lilly, he interprets this not knowing, I don’t think, what the Arabic was—he was working from Latin—and he describes this as someone who will change their mind at the last minute. So they were picking words deliberately that described what the planet was doing, but gave it a kind of social meaning or psychological meaning that makes it really rich.

CB: Right. Yeah, I really like that. So that’s the Introduction, and the Introduction is really useful in that sense, and it sets a broad foundation for the rest of this work and some of the terms that are used; but also just some of the underlying symbolic meaning of different concepts in Medieval astrology.

And then the other major early work, though, that comes after the Introduction—this text that you translated—is The Fifty Aphorisms, which is really helpful, especially for newer students. I love the Medieval approach to writing aphorisms, and I always found it really useful because it’s just really short, condensed interpretive principles in astrology or general principles for the student to learn and sort of memorize that contain a lot of deep wisdom about different aspects of astrology.

BD: Mm-hmm.

CB: So what is The Fifty Aphorisms? It’s 50 short instructional principles in Arabic. And this is actually—you said in the introduction—connected to some other list of aphorisms that became very popular in the Latin tradition, right?

BD: No, that’s the 66 sections that’s in one of the appendices; those are also little aphorisms. Those came to be incorporated into a bigger list called The Propositions of Al-Mansur.

CB: Okay.

BD: The Fifty Aphorisms, some of them, I think, come from Masha’allah, some can be traced to Theophilus. Bonatti uses all or most of them in his book on the 146 Considerations, and then he comments on them. So this is the original list that Bonatti uses in his book and comments on.

CB: Okay, got it.

BD: Yeah, it’s short aphorisms, a lot of it is keywords. So it might give four keywords for being void of course, or keywords for being retrograde, and these can be really handy because, again, they seem to be deliberately picking their words; it’s not really casual. Yeah, The Fifty Aphorisms is very interesting and handy.

CB: Yeah, it’s got a lot of useful stuff. I mean, there’s some that are just interesting, basic interpretive principles. Like here’s a paragraph, like the second—or no, actually the very first aphorism is about the Moon. Do you mind if I read it really quick?

BD: Sure.

CB: So it’s just a good example of a general one. It says, the first aphorism: Know that the indicator, that is the Moon, is the nearest of the planets of the celestial circle to the Earth, and it is the most similar of the planets to the affairs of the world. Do you not see that man appears small and then grows big and then is made complete? Likewise, the Moon, so take her as the indicator for every affair, and her health is the health of everything and her corruption, the corruption of everything. And she hands her management over to the first one she encounters and is connected to because it accepts what she has handed over to it. And she is the bearer of these planets and the conciliator between two of them and the transfer from one of them to another. So it’s just a short paragraph, but it contains condensed, basic principles there.

BD: Mm-hmm. But it’s also showing you some analogies between astronomical behavior—like the phases of the Moon—to the life of the human being, and also the nature of events. Events themselves have beginnings, they mature, they peak, and then they fall apart, like the Moon comes to waning.

CB: Right. And then here is the sixth aphorism, the void of course Moon one that you mentioned. It says: “If the Moon was empty in course, not connecting with any of the planets, it indicates emptiness, idleness, and returning from that situation with scanty results, and the corruption of all of one’s purposes.” And that’s it. So it’s a nice little thing about trying to teach you what the basic meaning or principle is underlying that specific concept of the void of course Moon.

BD: Mm-hmm.

CB: And there’s a whole can of worms with that as well, because we were talking about recently what is the interpretation of the void of course Moon that they’re using. We know in modern times there’s recently been this debate about, for example, how Lilly’s defining void of course Moon and whether he’s using the modern definition or if he’s using another interpretation, which is just that it’s not applying to any other planets within orb regardless of the sign boundary, and there’s some weirdness surrounding that in this text.

BD: Yeah, I like the tenth one on retrogradation, and the fifteenth one—when a lot of people are interested in planets that are in the last degree of a sign—he has a very vivid example of this. But in retrogradation, a retrograding planet indicates disobedience, collapse, repetition, and disagreement. That’s a lot of things to really ponder.

CB: Yeah, I love that, repetition. That’s like a great keyword for retrograde planets. Even thinking of something as simple as retrograde Mercury, to some extent, Mercury retrograde is a common interpretive principle and an almost cliché interpretive principle today in early 21st century astrology as it’s become popularized. Like the idea of having to do things over again during Mercury retrograde is actually a common concept, and it’s really funny to see him using that keyword here when he’s talking about retrograde planets in the early 9th century and saying repetition as one of the keywords.

BD: One of the things that I found interesting about the Masha’allah excerpts, Masha’allah is very interested in retrogradation too. He talks about it a lot, and he links retrogradation with spirituality, because in the old astronomy, a planet that is moving direct is moving downwards towards the Earth, kind of like the soul coming down into the body.

And so, he says a retrograde planet—because the retrograde planet is sort of circling back up—it shows that either the soul (if you’re looking at an infant) or your activity is sort of not as focused on day-to-day affairs, but might be focused on spiritual affairs. And I had never heard that before, but it’s another way of using the astronomy to illustrate something about interpretation; and it might, for some people, put a whole new perspective on a retrograde planet that they have.

CB: Yeah, definitely. That’s really interesting. I’d never heard of that before. And then the fifteenth one that you mentioned is tricky because that’s actually tied into another modern debate about the concept of cusps. And Austin and I—Austin Coppock and I did an episode about that last fall where we were going back and trying to read some different texts, and I think we may have actually read this aphorism from your Latin translation from years ago. So it’s interesting that now you’ve translated this directly from the Arabic and it does raise some interesting questions about how planets at the very end of signs were conceptualized in traditional astrology.

BD: Mm-hmm.

CB: Do you want to read it?

BD: Yeah. And this is particularly, again, goes back to our discussion about how sign boundaries were very important to them, especially in questions. A planet changing signs means a change in the situation. So he says: If a planet came to be in the last degree of the sign, then its strength has already gone away from that sign and its strength is in the next sign. And it is in the position of a man putting his foot on the threshold of his door and on the verge of departing, so if the house falls, it will not harm him. And if a planet was in the 29° [so between 28 and 29], then, indeed, the strength of the planet is in that sign, for every planet has three degrees in which its strength is diffused: in the degree it is in, the degree in front of it, and the degree behind it.

CB: Okay. I mean, that’s a big deal to me because there’s different interpretations. We were having a debate—it was like Ryhan Butler was talking about his interpretation of that—and the question is what, practically speaking, does that mean and how far can we take that? If he’s saying that if it’s in the last degree of the sign, that its strength is in the next sign, what does he mean by ‘strength’ in that context?

BD: Mm-hmm. You know, I wonder if this could be one of the origins of that horary rule about the Ascendant degree being in the last 3° of a sign, that it’s not worth asking the question because the situation’s already done.

CB: Right. Yeah, that would make sense. I don’t know, it’s just become complicated in modern times because in pop astrology, it’s become common to say that if your Sun, for example, is at 29° of a sign some pop astrology books are saying that you interpret that as if it’s in the next sign. And so, the question is, is there any traditional or Medieval precedent for that, and whether somebody could point to a rule like this and say, “Yes,” or if somebody could point to a rule like this and say, “No, not necessarily. He means something else by that.”

BD: Yeah, I think in a horary context, they always want to know what is going to happen next, and what’s going to happen next here is the planet is leaving the sign, the situation is ending. So in that case, it is almost like you have to answer the question as though the planet is in the next sign because that’s what happens next.

CB: Sure.

BD: But in a nativity, I wouldn’t think so. Maybe something like that is relevant.

CB: Yeah. And I don’t want to come to any definitive—we don’t have to come to any definitive conclusions here, but it’s just an interesting question to ponder in terms of debates like that, and if you would really interpret a planet that’s at 29 Aquarius as if it’s in Pisces, for example, because that’s as far that is being taken in some forms of modern astrology. And there’s other astrologers that push back and say, “No, the sign boundaries are very strict,” and a planet in Aquarius is interpreted as a planet in Aquarius and not as a planet in Pisces or what have you.

BD: Right. Okay, I see, yeah.

CB: So fun things for people. That’s another nice tidbit for other people, modern astrologers. That’s a good motivation to me. I mean, these two things that we’ve touched on—we’ve just touched on two very widely-known, modern astrology concepts. And this gives you a good reason why if you’re a modern astrologer you might want to go back and read some of these Medieval texts, because we’re talking about the origins of some of these concepts very long ago, over a thousand years ago.

BD: Yeah, and some of them were still maybe in transition during this period. And whether they should have changed, whether they shouldn’t have changed, that’s for us to debate about.

CB: Sure. But at least here we can go back and trace the different origins of some of these concepts and then have that discussion about what’s useful or what’s valid or what’s applicable to us today.

BD: Yeah.

CB: All right, so we’ve got…

BD: And if I could just say, if you think about the times that Sahl was living in, this was life-and-death stuff. So you can imagine maybe Sahl walking over to Masha’allah’s house and saying, “Will you help me look at this chart?” and maybe Masha’allah says, “Well, you know, when a planet’s in the last degree of its sign, it’s like a man walking out of his house.” I mean, this had life-and-death consequences for them, and so the intensity which they might have examined this is intriguing to think about.

CB: Yeah, and even the subtlest of astronomical distinctions would sometimes have a major bearing on interpreting a chart one way or another, especially something like a horary chart where you’re sometimes trying to answer a very specific question with a ‘yes or no’ response, and something very subtle sometimes can make all the difference.

BD: Right.

CB: So that actually brings us to the other major work that you’ve translated here, which is On Questions, which is one of the earliest surviving complete texts on horary astrology. As we talked about before in our episode on Dorotheus a couple of years ago how there’s traces of something like horary that start to develop as early as the 1st century in Dorotheus, we don’t have any complete texts in Greek from the Hellenistic tradition that survive on horary. So this collection of texts from authors like Masha’allah and Sahl become some of the earliest foundational texts on horary that survive from the Western tradition.

BD: Yeah. And not only is Sahl presenting us a sort of fully-developed system here about horary, but we can also show now with other Arabic manuscripts that he was using Masha’allah’s other horary books that have never been translated. I have some of them in Arabic manuscripts, and I’ve footnoted cases where Sahl is clearly taking this material from Masha’allah and putting it into his book, and in some cases, Sahl is actually abbreviating Masha’allah. You’ll read the rules for a question and Masha’allah might go on for another page about the question, and Sahl just cuts it short and moves on. So the book, On Questions, is a very fascinating window into the state of horary and the choices that Sahl was making for his own book.

CB: Yeah, I think it’s kind of useful if somebody’s going to learn horary to go back and read some of these earliest texts on horary first in some ways, like the texts by Masha’allah, like On Reception, or especially Sahl’s book—which you’ve translated here from the Arabic, On Questions—because it shows almost in some ways a more basic approach to horary. It’s not quite as elaborate in some ways as it becomes in some of the later traditions; but instead, it’s somewhat more straightforward about how they’re answering questions as largely just ‘yes or no’ responses to specific questions, especially ones that are connected with one of the 12 houses.

And he goes through systematically in this text and groups different questions based on the houses and says these are all the questions that you can answer with the 7th house and the ruler of the 7th house. These are all the 8th house questions. These are all 9th house questions and so on and so forth.

BD: Yeah, plus some really interesting ones at the end. There’s one on retaliation or revenge. He has a section on questions that don’t fit into the 12 houses—and I think this is one of them—but it’s the chapter on whether or not you will get revenge on somebody. And he’s assuming that maybe your friend has been beaten up or killed by someone and there’s a blood vendetta and what will happen next.

CB: Okay. I mean, my favorite one—and probably the most important chapter—is chapter 18, which is on horary questions related to meals because I think that was definitely the pinnacle of Medieval astrology. I’ve been thinking about doing an article of top five trivial uses of astrology in history, and the meal questions were definitely up there on my list.

BD: Yeah, next time I go to a party, I want to cast the chart and see what’s going to happen at the party. But he even makes an interesting statement here about if it’s a banquet or a party that you aren’t able to get out of because it’s one of those stage-of-life kinds of banquets. “Well, we have to go to this party. Let’s see how terrible it’s going to be.” Yeah, so there’s a little bit of a realistic commentary about the fact that maybe the people will be fun, but the food will be awful, and so there’s all sorts of rules about what foods you should eat. “Eat the salad, but don’t eat the fish.”

CB: Okay, that’s good to know. That’s definitely a good selling point for this. So that’s the horary one. And then if that wasn’t enough, finally, there’s also a whole treatise you’ve translated here on electional astrology, which is the book, On Choices.

BD: Yeah, I’ve done other versions of it before, I hope this will be my last version of it. But it is very interesting. Some of it, you can tell, comes from Dorotheus, some of it—we now know—from Masha’allah and other people. In fact, Theophilus, too, makes an appearance, which we didn’t know before because we hadn’t translated Theophilus yet.

CB: Okay. Yeah, so basically you’ve got in this single volume like a complete approach to Medieval astrology that almost covers all of the major branches of the tradition. The only one that’s not in here, I think, is mundane astrology, right? But otherwise, you’ve got a huge text on natal astrology, you’ve got a perfect introductory text on horary astrology, and you’ve got a great, pretty comprehensive text on electional astrology.

BD: Yep, and volume two will be the mundane. He wrote a very lengthy mundane book with lots of chart examples, so that will be volume two.

CB: Okay, brilliant. So this is just volume one, and you’ve got a follow-up that you’re going to do at some point.

BD: Right.

CB: Cool. And finally, there’s one other little obscure text in here that I really love from the original volume of ‘the red book’—so I was excited to see this translated from the original language—and this is like a curious little text called, On Times, which is about timing techniques.

BD: Right.

CB: So what types of timing does this text address?

BD: It has to do with lots of different ways—both in general and in specific topics—how to tell when some effect is going to happen, and it seems to be more focused on horary and electional charts. So it could be things like if you find a certain planet that you’re using for the timing—let’s say, the Moon or the lord of the Ascendant—and it’s in a fixed sign. Will that make things go faster or slower?

Here are the different ways that you can convert the number of degrees between two planets into units of time. Or if you’re asking about some topic like, “When will I have children?”, here are some ways that you can look at the chart in order to give the timing for that. So there’s a lot of different approaches for timing techniques, again, mainly in horary. But there’s a lengthy one at the end on politics; it’s on the length of rulership when someone takes the throne.

CB: Okay. Yeah, I actually have a funny little anecdote about that and about your translation of this from before. Back in 2008—so 11 years ago now—I asked Patrick Watson a horary question about a relationship, and it was funny; it was actually about a relationship with Leisa. And I asked, “Will we have a relationship?” because I wasn’t sure what was going on, if there was something going on here and if this was actually going to turn into something or if it was just a mirage—not a mirage, but if I was misinterpreting some signals or something like that. So I asked this question, “Will we have a relationship?” and the ruler of the Ascendant and ruler of the 7th or something were applying with reception; it indicated the answer was ‘yes’.

And what was weird is that a month or two later, we did start a relationship and are still in a relationship 10 years later, but Patrick and I noticed that the day that we got into the relationship that the two significators—I think the ruler of the Ascendant and ruler of the 7th—completed their aspect and perfected the aspect at the time. And we were like, wow, that’s really amazing, and we thought we had discovered a new timing technique for horary that nobody had ever discovered.

And then like a year later, I was reading through your translation of ‘the red book’, this text, On Times. And Sahl’s talking about different ways to time horary charts, and he describes that exact thing, where he says when the significators perfect in the sky, then sometimes the horary question will come to completion or something like that, right?

BD: Yeah.

CB: Yeah, did I get that right?

BD: Yeah, and there’s different combinations too. If the Moon goes around the zodiac and when it comes to the Ascendant of the question that can also be a time; or if the degrees between two planets are converted into days or months or whatever time-frame is reasonable and there’s also a transit of the Moon corresponding to that time. So yeah, he gives a lot of versions of that.

CB: Yeah, I just really loved that because it’s an example of I was somehow oblivious to that and then later somebody told me that that’s already a timing technique that Lilly talks about. So apparently, I just didn’t get the memo, or that shows my lack of familiarity with some of the later traditions of horary, at least at that point in my career. But I thought it was a great example where sometimes in modern astrology, we can still discover things, or you can occasionally discover a principle on your own just through working with charts and learning things.

But sometimes it really pays to go back and read these older texts first because sometimes these astrologers from centuries ago have already done the groundwork and have already found a lot of really interesting and practical and useful things that you could start off with, instead of making it harder for yourself and having to rediscover everything from scratch as sort of empirical approach to astrology.

BD: Yeah, and I think it’s nice to get it from someone like Sahl that you know was a practicing astrologer and not just a compiler of preexisting books. He wasn’t just a compiler, he was someone who actually had to do the astrology himself. And that might be why he wrote the book, On Times, the way that he did.

CB: Right. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense to me. He’s casting dozens or hundreds of horary charts and seeing different things work out in practice and in action and then trying to pass that onto his students or to subsequent generations of astrologers as part of the collective wisdom that he’s accumulated in his career. And now, that’s come down to us centuries later through just these handwritten manuscripts in Arabic that you’ve now translated into English.

BD: Yeah, it makes me wonder if other Persians were doing the same thing because I don’t think in the Hellenistic material we have an equivalent to On Times. It’s almost like this is something that only someone in his kind of situation might have produced. No, I can’t think of any other similar kind of work.

CB: Yeah, I can’t either. It’s a really curious book, and it always was kind of a mysterious one, and ‘the red book’. And I think that’s why I originally overlooked it and only realized later that it had that technique already embedded in it, but it was kind of interesting finding it at that point.

BD: Mm-hmm.

CB: All right, so those are all of the major things that are in this volume, which is just a ton of stuff. It’s a big, thick, 800-page book. There were a few other things. You’ve got a great introduction at the beginning where you talk about some of the major things that this helps us to understand better. One of them that I know we wanted to talk about briefly before we wrap up this episode is that in these works of Sahl, we can see that he’s aware of and he’s using both whole sign houses, as well as quadrant houses. And in the language that he’s using, you actually were able to see that he’s trying to introduce some sort of conceptual distinctions between what one approach means versus the other.

BD: Yeah, we can really see if we look across the works of the people writing from the late 700s into the mid-800s—including in Sahl’s book—we can see that they were wrestling with this problem of whole signs versus divisions, quadrant divisions. The trend over time was to just use quadrant houses and leave it at that. But we also see that there are attempts to solve this issue, or when they give delineations, they will be very specific about if it’s an angular sign, but it is moving away from the cusp—what I call ‘withdrawing’ or ‘retreating’—that’s a different meaning than if it is in an angular sign, but it’s moving towards it.

And that’s a big topic. We can’t really go into it in too much detail here, but they were introducing vocabulary that shows they were absolutely aware of the problem. They knew it was an issue, many of them wanted to solve the issue, and would give specific interpretations that showed they knew the difference and were trying to, in practice, give specific interpretations.

CB: Right, and that’s really important. Because by the late Hellenistic tradition—by the 5th or 6th or 7th century in the Greek tradition, basically the end of the Roman Empire or when the Roman Empire is in free-fall—we see Rhetorius using an alternating back and forth between whole sign houses and quadrant houses, but it’s not really clear what sort of conceptual distinction he’s using and how he’s holding those two at the same time, even though it’s clear that he’s trying to. And we sort of see something similar with Firmicus. So it’s interesting to see these astrologers of the early Medieval tradition doing something similar, but also at the same time trying to be more explicit in expanding on some sort of explanation of what the conceptual distinction might be.

BD: Yeah, and this is going to be a big topic in my course, where I’m going to develop my theory of how this is solved. But they did a couple of things: one thing was they called whole signs—houses by whole signs—they called those ‘houses by counting’, and they called quadrant divisions—they called those ‘houses by division’ or ‘houses by calculation’. And you can see them explicitly use those phrases: Masha’allah uses it, Abu Ma’shar uses it. They know the difference and they’re giving different words to them, so that you’re not confused.

Another thing they do is, like I said, they have a different vocabulary for moving towards an axial degree and moving away from it. So they’re trying to formalize this difference and explain what the difference is, and probably they were all doing it a little bit differently. I think it can be reconciled, but it’s exciting to see that these high-level astrologers were not being haphazard.

CB: Right.

BD: They were making choices. We might not agree with every choice or not everyone is going to agree with every choice, but they were making deliberate choices because they knew this was an issue and wanted to explain it.

CB: Yeah, and one of the ways that this is interesting is that because they were sometimes using different terms when they were referring to whole sign houses versus quadrant houses, this is where we come back to the translation issue with the later Latin translators, like how we were talking about at the beginning. Instead of using distinct terms for the houses, they would sometimes just use the same term, like when you were talking about a cadent house, for example, for them always using the same term for a cadent house.

We can then see that this might be part of the reason why the whole discussion got collapsed down into just using quadrant houses. Because when you just start using one term—and you get rid of some of those nuances between different terms that they might have been implicitly using to refer to each approach—that’s why it might have gone in one direction rather than another in the later tradition.

BD: Mm-hmm. We also see in Abu Ma’shar—in my next book, which will be the other required book for the course, his book on predictive techniques—in one of the books, he explicitly addresses the fact that quadrant houses and whole sign houses do not always match and how do you handle it when you do prediction. And he explicitly talks about intercepted signs and when you have two cusps on the same sign, and what do you do, especially, he says, when you have something like profections, which is a sign-by-sign technique. Again, it’s the first explicit discussion I can think of of things like intercepted signs, but we’ll have to wait and see what his answer is.

CB: Okay, we’ll save that for next time. So that work is something you’re almost finished translating, and that’s going to be your next published book sometime in the next few months, right?

BD: Right, it’s about two weeks away from publishing. And one thing that comes out both in Abu Ma’shar and also in Sahl that I wanted to mention—which, again we wouldn’t have known unless we were looking at the Arabic—is that when we talk nowadays about time-lords, you and I and many other people, we talk about a planet being activated or something being activated. And I don’t know who started using that word—someone in the last 20 years or so started doing that when we were talking about time-lords. So imagine my surprise when I was translating both Sahl and Abu Ma’shar, and when they talk about prediction, they use a word that means ‘to activate or set into motion’.

CB: Wow.

BD: So we can see that they were thinking along exactly the same lines and that will also come out in the translations.

CB: Okay, brilliant. That’s really exciting. So yeah, you’ll have to join me again when you publish that book sometime in the next few months.

BD: Yeah, it would be my pleasure.

CB: Cool. All right, were there any major points? I’m trying to look through our outline to see if there’s anything we meant to mention or touch on. There’s a whole fascinating historical point here about the interrelationship between the text of Rhetorius—the last major Hellenistic astrologer—that was written in Greek and how that was transmitted and translated probably into Persian, and then how Sahl is drawing heavily on that Persian translation of Rhetorius. So we just have huge chunks of Rhetorius that are all over Sahl’s work, which is really fascinating for me to see in this volume, but I guess that’s a whole top in and of itself in some ways.

BD: Yeah, it has to do with the fact that he’s got much of part three of al-Andarzaghar’s book on nativities in this book, and al-Andarzaghar is composed largely of Dorotheus and Rhetorius in a very intricate organization of material. So I don’t know, maybe that would be better to save for later, I’m not sure.

CB: I mean, it’s up to you how you feel. Do you want to go into it really quickly? Because you published a previous translation that originally the modern editor, David Pingree, attributed to Masha’allah, which is The Book of Aristotle; and you translated that from Latin a few years ago. And initially, you accepted Pingree’s assumption that that was actually a lost work of Masha’allah, but you’ve since revised that, and that’s a major thing that you talk about in this introduction that was really crucial.

BD: Yeah, in Persian Nativities III, the second of my natal volumes, I translated a book from Latin called The Book of Aristotle—of course it isn’t really by Aristotle. But Pingree had argued that it was probably written by Masha’allah, and he believed that Theophilus of Edessa had a copy of Rhetorius and personally handed that book to Masha’allah, and then Masha’allah used that to write whatever the original Book of Aristotle was.

CB: Right, so Pingree could see that there was huge chunks of Rhetorius that were in some of Masha’allah’s works, and he assumed that because he was a contemporary of Theophilus—and Theophilus read Greek—that Theophilus must have had Rhetorius, and then he must have handed it to Masha’allah who then incorporated some of that into his Arabic writings.

BD: Yeah, he took what you might have thought of the long-term transmission and condensed it down into a one-to-one handing off of a book between two people.

CB: Right.

BD: They would have been in the same city and so on, but he never had any direct evidence for any of it. But I went along because I figured, well, he knows.

CB: Yeah, and to be honest, I always tend to accept a lot of Pingree’s hypotheses. So over the past few years, when I’ve heard you say that you didn’t believe Pingree anymore that that transmission had taken place, I was initially skeptical of your rejection of his scenario because it just seemed like a perfectly reasonable scenario, since we know that Theophilus and Masha’allah were contemporaries. And we know that there’s techniques that Masha’allah uses that just look like they’re straight out of Rhetorius, so I just assumed Pingree was correct.

But then I read your introduction, and the argument you make here about the actual true transmission is actually really compelling. And it was actually so compelling that I’ve completely changed my mind and accepted your argument at this point because it’s really well-made when you compare it with the text that’s in Sahl that we see here.

BD: Yeah, the argument is simply this: that Masha’allah has nothing to do with The Book of Aristotle. The Arabic original of this Book of Aristotle was not written by Masha’allah, he had nothing to do with it. It was written by an older astrologer that we believe lived in the 600s, maybe at the end of the Sassanian Empire, the Persians, named al-Andarzaghar. And many people might have heard that name, al-Andarzaghar, without really having read much by him, because allegedly not much exists.

What I’m arguing is that, no, what I translated as The Book of Aristotle, that is by al-Andarzaghar. And one of the reasons—I give lots of reasons in the book—and one of the reasons is that Sahl in about 11 passages quotes al-Andarzaghar and it is word-for-word from The Book of Aristotle. So that in itself upends a claim that Pingree made for many decades, but it’s also fascinating because it opens up a new window into what were the older Persians up to. They must have had access to Rhetorius by other means and not from Theophilus of Edessa.

CB: Yeah, and there’s this whole rich history and tradition of astrology in Persia from like the 3rd century through the 7th or 8th century that we know so little about because so many of the Persian texts were lost. But now we see some of the traces of that coming through with works that actually may have survived but weren’t recognized as such until now.

BD: Yeah, until someone would have translated this book of Sahl’s, no one would have noticed the repeated references that “al-Andarzaghar says ‘this’,” and it’s straight up out of The Book of Aristotle. And the thing is also that Sahl is constantly quoting Masha’allah, but none of it overlaps with the al-Andarzaghar stuff. So one theory I think is now disproven, but it now opens up some intriguing possibilities because of al-Andarzaghar and makes al-Andarzaghar a lot more important and intriguing as a person.

CB: Yeah. And I mean, the big thing to me is that it creates much more of a continuity between the late Hellenistic tradition and then the Persian tradition acting as an intermediary, where they’ve received not just Rhetorius from the end of the Hellenistic tradition, but they also have parts of Valens and they also have of course Dorotheus, which were translated into Persian. So that means you have those three really important Hellenistic texts—Valens, Dorotheus, and Rhetorius—translated into Persian and then those translations get transmitted to the first generation of astrologers writing in Arabic in the 8th and 9th centuries, which were Masha’allah and Sahl.

And this becomes the reason why—even 10 years ago when you published ‘the red book’—when you pick up and start reading through Masha’allah and Sahl, their approaches look so similar in many ways to the Hellenistic astrologers, so that it’s almost surprising, and it creates much more continuity between the Hellenistic and Medieval tradition than you might expect, at least in the early Medieval tradition.

BD: Yeah, in a way, it puts the Persians really back into the picture. I mean, why would you have hired all of these Persian astrologers if they didn’t have access to the older books? So in a way, it allows you to answer some really obvious questions. Why would they have bothered to hire some of these Persians if they didn’t have the books? So yeah, I like the way you put it—the continuity now makes a lot more sense.

CB: Yeah, and then it also pushes some of the changes back because Sahl then becomes an interesting intermediary or an intermediate figure. Because we can see him drawing a lot on the Hellenistic tradition and still doing a lot of things that are very similar to the earlier Hellenistic astrologers, like Valens and Dorotheus and Rhetorius, but then we can see also some new concepts starting to emerge, like ‘transfer of light’ and ‘collection of light’ and other concepts like that.

You note in the book that there’s some horary concepts that haven’t quite been developed yet or they don’t quite have words for that he’s starting to describe, but he just doesn’t have a specific term for, and that it’s not until Abu Ma’shar a few decades later that we get the final formulation of Medieval astrology in some ways.

BD: Yeah, what I also like, too, in the book on longevity, strangely, he uses al-Andarzaghar for almost everything else or includes it, but he doesn’t use al-Andarzaghar’s method for longevity; instead, he uses Nawbakht the Persian’s. So he clearly had access to the works of Nawbakht the Persian and decided he liked it better. Maybe he thought it worked better than what some of the other authors were writing. So we’re getting a peek at other people who were around at the time, other astrologers that we’ve never even heard of before and he quotes them on various topics. I think that Sahl and his times are really exciting and that’s one of the reasons I was just so excited to translate this book.

CB: Definitely. Well, I’m really impressed by it. I think it’s a huge accomplishment and huge landmark in terms of the revival of traditional astrology, to have all of these works in one volume that’s reasonably accessible and has just a huge amount of commentary in the footnotes and stuff from you to sort of guide us through it and to expand on it and give some explanation based on your understanding of the language and everything else.

Yeah, so this is great. Congratulations, I know it’s been a long project for you. Because it’s not just translating it for four years, but also you literally had to teach yourself a new language in order to translate this book.

BD: There was a lot to do and a lot of editing, a lot of checking every sentence to see if I could find it in Dorotheus or Rhetorius or al-Andarzaghar. Yeah, it was a long project and it feels good to be done and share it with people.

CB: Yeah, well, it definitely paid off. And we can see from this—even more than your translation of Dorotheus—the importance of having learned Arabic and going back to the original language, and how that does provide a very rich, new perspective on some of the technical terms and different things like that. So I’m really glad you do it. We have to thank, I guess, the Urania Trust for giving you that grant early on. A shout-out to them. Where can people find out more information about this book or order it?

BD: My website is BenDykes.com. BenDykes is one word. But you can order it online at Amazon or other online bookstores. If you are not in the US, check the online bookstores in your country because you don’t want to pay expensive shipping from the US. It should be available worldwide on Amazon and other online places.

CB: Okay, excellent. And people can just do a search for The Astrology of Sahl ibn Bishr, and you should find the book on Amazon or other fine bookstores everywhere.

BD: Yes.

CB: Awesome. And you’ll be launching your course on Medieval natal astrology at some point probably later this year.

BD: Yeah, I’m hoping. We’ll see by the end of the summer, the fall, but I’m really hoping to do it this year.

CB: Okay, cool. So people can check out your website, which is BenDykes.com for more information about that, as well as all of the other dozens of books that you will have probably translated before too long. I feel like every time I just stop paying attention or turn away and look back at you, you’ve translated a new one or two volumes of some ancient astrological text or another.

BD: Well, there’s a lot more to come, and I definitely sympathize with the people who feel like they haven’t even bought the last one and I’ve already done a few more. But I’m very appreciative of the people who buy the books and the audio lectures and who are interested in the course. It means a lot to me, and I love doing it.

CB: Yeah, and it’s literally funding your ability to keep doing these translations—people buying it and supporting your work—and then you’re able to just keep translating more things, learning more languages and reviving more of the ancient astrological traditions. Brilliant. All right, well, thanks a lot. Thanks for joining me today. I appreciate it.

BD: Well, thank you very much.

CB: All right, well, I guess that’s it for this episode of The Astrology Podcast. So thanks everyone for listening, or watching if you’re watching this on YouTube. I’ll put links to everything we talked about here in the description page for this episode on TheAstrologyPodcast.com website. So go there, and I’ll put a link to Ben’s book, as well as his website, where you can find out more information. So that’s it. So thanks everyone for watching and listening, and we’ll see you next time.