The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 372, titled:
The Anthology of Vettius Valens
With Chris Brennan and Jenn Zahrt
Episode originally released on October 17, 2022
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Transcribed by Mary Sharon
Transcription released October 18, 2022
Copyright © 2022 TheAstrologyPodcast.com
CHRIS BRENNAN: Hey, my name is Chris Brennan and you’re listening to The Astrology Podcast. In this episode, I’m gonna be talking with Jenn Zahrt about this new publication, the new translation of the work of the second-century astrologer, Vettius Valens, which is coming out this week, and that I’m publishing and Jenn helped me to put together doing the layout on. So it’s kind of a big announcement to release. So hey, thanks for joining me.
JENN ZAHRT: Thanks. It’s good to be here.
CB: Yes, you are joining me from, I see, this gigantic library that you’ve been building over the past few years, right?
JZ: Yeah. So, the Celestial Arts Education Library is where I’m sitting in Olympia, Washington. I began collecting collections of astrology books somewhat in I think about 2013. Linda Lehmann came up to me at NCGR in Philadelphia and she said, “I’ve got two boxes of these German astrology books, can you find them a home?” And I was thinking to myself, “They’re at home with me.” So over the years, it’s grown and grown and now it has become an institute.
CB: Amazing. All right, and we’ll talk about that more later. You are the head of a publishing company and you’re starting an astrology book publishing empire. And so I reached out to you for this project, we’ve been working on this for a couple of years now. We’re publishing it through my company but you did the layout and helped to sort of shepherd the entire project to completion. I wanted to talk to you today about that process of publishing the book, talk a little bit about who Vettius Valens was and the significance of his work. Later, the significance of this translation, as well as a little bit of an overview of some of the things that people might expect to find. Yeah. But this is a pretty big deal, though. We’ve been working on it for like two and a half years now, I think, right?
JZ: Yeah. You had said something about not ever seeing charts next to Riley’s translation. And that might be skipping ahead, but I think that was the part of our conversation that led to the idea of turning it into a book.
CB: Yeah. Valens, for those that aren’t familiar or don’t have any background in this, Vettius Valens was an astrologer who lived in the second century. He lived in the Roman Empire during that time, probably starting in the city of Antioch but eventually, he says that he moved to Egypt, probably to Alexandria, where he set up a school for astrology. And he wrote this series of textbooks for his students in Greek which he left for them, which demonstrated how to practice astrology, basically, and how astrology was practiced in his day. This book which is known as The Anthology, it’s a collection of little books that had been put together of all of his writings, and it’s nine books long at this point, but it’s probably the single most important surviving source for studying and understanding the practice of ancient astrology because Valens uses over 100 different chart examples in the text. So you can actually see not just the theory of the techniques, but you can see how he’s actually applying them in practice and what his interpretations are and things like that. So, Valens was pretty prominent later in the later Hellenistic period and in the Medieval period, but then he sort of became forgotten as people stopped learning how to read Greek, in terms of just contemporary astrologers. Eventually, there was a translation of Valens that was released about a decade ago by Mark Riley for free as a PDF online, but it didn’t contain any of the diagrams to demonstrate the charts for chart examples whenever Valens would explain them in the text because Mark hadn’t really finished his translation and it hadn’t gotten to the point of putting diagrams in it yet. That was one of the primary motivations for this project, was to go through and kind of finish and bring to completion Mark’s translation finally.
JZ: Yeah. Did you know he was going to put diagrams in or was that sort of a consideration that he had ever had?
CB: Yeah, I mean, he had one other academic paper which was his survey of Vettius Valens where he did actually… he refers to a couple of diagrams in the text that he meant to insert. So yeah, I do think he would have. And in earlier publications like in Neugebauer and Van Hoesen’s Greek Horoscopes from the 1950s, they had Valens’s text but then they also created some diagrams at the end of the book in order to illustrate and just visualize the positions. And I actually think Valens’s text probably originally did contain some illustrations, but like many things when you’re copying over texts over hundreds of years by hand, diagrams and tables and other illustrations have a way of falling out of the text and not getting copied over. And that was the case with several of the major even just tables of information in Valens’s texts which fell out of the text and had to be reconstructed later by scholars and academics.
JZ: I had maybe a misconception of the genesis of The Anthology because I thought his students had taken notes and that was part of what became these books. Is that true?
CB: No, it was more that Valens seems to have been writing these textbooks to his students. He actually refers to one of them named Marcus at one point. He dedicates one of the books to Marcus. And then later, as he’s getting older, in one of the later books of The Anthology because they’re written at different times in his life, at one point he says like, “Sorry, this isn’t as thorough as I intended it to be, but my eyesight is failing.” And he says, “I’m kind of depressed because of the death of one of my favorite students.” I don’t know if that was Marcus or if that was somebody else but you can see that at one point later he talks about addressing this to one of his students and saying that he’s leaving this book to him instead of like, a lot of money, because the information is so important and so valuable that he feels like by sort of leaving him with everything he knows about astrology, that that will be taking care of him in some way.
JZ: Very cool.
CB: Yeah, so it’s a whole series of different books. But it wasn’t very well known until modern times especially amongst astrologers because, in Europe and stuff, Latin became the common language and then eventually even astrologers stopped reading Latin and instead, astrology books started being written in English and other languages in the 17th century around the time of William Lilly and forward. This text was kind of locked away, and it wasn’t until the 20th century that there were some academics and some scholars that started to recover the text based on different manuscripts that had survived. And they published some of the first modern printed versions of Valens’s Anthology, but they published it in Greek. So unless you knew ancient Greek, you still couldn’t read the text, and so most astrologers and other people didn’t really have access to it. So… Go ahead.
JZ: No, I just wonder also to what extent in terms of the transmission of astrological knowledge in history, a lot of it seemed to also have been carried by the history of science in the academic studying the history of astronomy. And in that field, they take Ptolemy as the sort of expert in Greek astrology. But as we know, Ptolemy was more of a compiler and not a tactician on the ground. Right? And so that seems to have been what superseded Valens in a way, because he had written the Almagest and the Tetrabiblos and so for academics, it was sort of like, “Okay, here we have some kind of evidence of a crossover between the two fields.”
CB: Yeah, that was what was so fascinating about Valens and Ptolemy; is that they lived roughly around the same time in the middle of the second century, probably in the same city, probably in or around Alexandria, Egypt, where you had the famous Library of Alexandria was located at certain points in history. So they were both contemporaries, but they don’t seem to have been familiar with each other. And what happened is that Ptolemy was a polymath and he wrote several different works on different areas of science. He wrote a work on astronomy, on astrology, on harmonics, on geography, on a bunch of different topics, and he was just a sort of super smart guy that was trying to create a grand theory of everything that tied everything together. But what happened is that his work on astronomy was so groundbreaking and so revolutionary for the time that it became the standard that everybody used in order to calculate astronomical positions from that point forward. That gave him a great deal of prestige and made him so famous that his other works became famous and became preserved as well. That made his astrological work, the Tetrabiblos, also one of the most popular works because he was such a famous astronomer that it sort of raised the level of his astrological work as well. And then that astrological work is the only work that continuously from the second century forward kept being transmitted and translated into different languages, periodically, so that it was the one ancient work that sort of survived into all subsequent ages. As a result of that, people often assumed that Ptolemy’s work was the most representative of what astrology was like in the ancient world, and it was only later once certain works by Valens, for example, or other astrologers like Dorotheus were recovered, that all of a sudden over the past few decades, scholars and astrologers started to realize that Ptolemy wasn’t necessarily the most representative astrologer, but in some ways he was kind of like a reformer and his work is very theoretical. So it outlines his sort of theoretical statements and assumptions about how he thinks astrology would best be practiced, but the work itself, unlike Valens, doesn’t contain any example charts. So it’s not quite as practical in the same way that Valens is in that sometimes there’s open questions about how you put some of those principles into practice.
JZ: Yeah. It seems like you can even sense that Ptolemy’s strength was as a polymath, not as an astrologer. And in that way, the examples that aren’t there are evidence of him just not necessarily being somebody who practiced what he was compiling into that text. Whereas with Valens, you can see him in practice, you can follow his mind step by step.
CB: Sure, yeah, that’s possible. Yeah, that’s what makes it valuable just like in other areas for example in the 17th century, that’s one of the things that makes William Lilly’s texts so important is that it contains so many chart examples. He’s not just talking about the theory, but he’s showing you, “This is an actual client consultation, and this was the delineation that I gave, and this is how it worked out,” so that you can see not just the theory but the practice. And Valens is the ancient counterpart to that because he’s the one person that includes just so many examples that it really shows you how everything applies in practice. That’s the main thing that we tried to do with this book was, you know, Riley’s text has been in circulation for over a decade now online as a PDF, but not having those chart examples, I realized at a certain point that a lot of younger students were reading the work but not really understanding it or they weren’t getting as much out of it as they were supposed to, because they weren’t, sort of, writing down the chart examples and drawing them out so that you could see them visually. So that’s one of the things that we set out to do with this text was include all of those chart examples in it.
JZ: Mm-hmm. Yeah, and that style of learning is important in the history of astrology. People didn’t always draw charts. Was it expected that you would do that on your own, or?
CB: Yeah. I suspect that either there was an assumption. Because one of the things is that we have several of these boards that survived from the ancient world from the Greco-Roman or from Hellenistic astrology where they had these wooden chess boards that had zodiac or a zodiacal circle inscribed on them, and then the theory was that a person would get their chart calculated by somebody that knew the astronomy and the mathematics. And that person would write down the planetary positions on a little piece of paper or piece of papyrus, but then when they would go to the astrologer, the astrologer would take out some stones that matched each of the planets and they would place them around on this board in order to replicate or display the person’s chart. And that’s probably how chart drawings were done in ancient times. Either like that, or in the medieval period there’s some references to a lower key version of that where people might have drawn charts in sand, which also makes sense. So it’s possible that with Valens’s text, the student was just expected to go through and then write out the chart each time so that they could kind of visualize and internalize it. But not having that in the text directly makes it a little bit more challenging or more tricky than it has to be.
JZ: Yeah, because it’s assuming the person can visualize it in their mind or that they already know something that, if they’re just trying to learn it, it helps to see the diagram instead of being forced to produce it. You know? That’s like one of the last stages of learning, is production.
CB: Yeah, and there’s no reason to make things any harder than they already are because you’re already dealing with reading this ancient text, which – even though it’s translated into English – is still not super easy to read like reading a second-century text, and there’s still some challenges or a learning curve involved in that. But that’s why for the purpose of making this more understandable, this was kind of a necessary project. It was a project that I’ve done at different points over the years with my students where I would take different chapters that were dealing with different techniques and I would create diagrams for the chart examples, and then we would talk about and do commentaries on that or record different commentaries walking through the text in Riley’s translation. But I realized at a certain point a couple of years ago that that project needed to be finished and I needed to make the diagrams and the chart examples for the rest of the text.
JZ: Yeah, so you’ve been walking with this book, this version of Riley for quite some time.
CB: Yeah, if you read my first… For example, my first podcast was called Traditional Astrology Radio. And one of the very early episodes– I started that actually on my birthday 12 years ago. I’m actually about to hit the repetition of that in the profections but I started it on my birthday 12 years ago on November 1st, 2010. And about two months later, Riley dropped his translation in December of 2010 online suddenly, and this was the first time that Valens had ever been translated in its entirety into English so it was a really huge deal, and I recorded a podcast on it that’s still out there somewhere on the Traditional Astrology Radio website to this day sort of talking about it and its significance. But even before then, there were other translations of Valens that existed. The primary one was starting in 1993-1994. Robert Schmidt translated the first seven books of Valens between 1993 and 2001.
JZ: I have copies of them here.
CB: Do you have the little booklets?
JZ: Yeah, the little blue books.
CB: There they are. The little blue blocks.
JZ: These little friends, and the little… You know, fold it over and staple it.
CB: Yeah. See, that was super important because that’s early… They published those themselves through this innovative subscription strategy, where basically they did preliminary translations of a bunch of early Greek and Latin astrological texts, and then they would self-publish them and actually print them up themselves and staple and bind them and send them out to subscribers. Through that, the astrological community actually sort of crowdfunded the translation of a bunch of these texts from the ancient astrology, including Valens which had never been transmitted before. That was a really huge deal because, for many people, that was actually the first time that we were able to read anything about Valens. And starting in 2004 and 2005, that’s when I really got into that text first, through Schmidt’s translations and in those books, Robert Hand and Robert Schmidt had gone through and also inserted the chart examples as diagrams. So, that was how I sort of in a way grew up reading Valens and understanding the text and being able to follow things. Yeah, they use that–
JZ: Yeah, it’s an interesting kind of square chart.
CB: Yeah, that’s one of the formats, that sort of blend between a square chart and a circular chart that was one of the chart formats used in the ancient world. There were a bunch of different square and circular chart formats that were used depending on the source or the author or the era, but that translation by Schmidt, it was originally just supposed to be preliminary. He always said this was just a rough draft, it was never meant to be a final translation because they were still learning things and they were just translating at this rapid pace. And they would later… His plan was to go back and finish and finalize it at some point in the future. But then, unfortunately, he never got a chance to do that. He passed away a few years ago before publishing and releasing his final translation series, having only done those preliminary translations of the first seven books of Valens. In addition to that, Schmidt with his translations, because they were preliminary and they were done early in his career earlier in his understanding of Valens, I don’t think– He never republished them. He would never agree to republish the preliminary translations, and so they went out of print and they became very scarce. I think because since they were so early and they reflected an early stage of his thinking and his understanding of Hellenistic astrology, he didn’t want them out there or he might have been embarrassed about typos or mistakes or other things like that, and really wanted to wait to republish them for the final versions to be done. But as a result of that, what happened is that they just completely fell out of circulation by the late 2000s at the very latest, and became inaccessible to an entire generation of astrologers and academics who otherwise it would have been nice to be able to take advantage of some of that work.
So, that was the other reason why Riley’s translation was a huge deal when he released it online for free in 2010 because all of a sudden Valens was accessible again. It was accessible for free, it was available as a PDF through his website, and also it contained the entire text. Schmidt had only done the first seven books, but Riley had translated all nine books of the Anthology so it was actually the first complete translation.
JZ: Yeah, and these– you can see over here on my screen these Project Hindsight books, they don’t have any text on the spine. So it’s actually hard to even find which one is the Valens volume and which one is the next one. And as a person who’s managing books, it’s hard to work with them. It’s just a difficult format for publication.
CB: Sure, yeah. So, that was part of what happened. And about Riley himself, Mark T. Riley, he’s an academic scholar, he’s a classics scholar that taught Greek and Latin and he had a period of his career in the 1980s and 1990s where he went back and got really focused on the study of the history of science and he got into studying some of the works of the ancient astrologers. And he authored several papers on the works of the ancient astrologers, including or especially Vettius Valens and Claudius Ptolemy, and published some of these works, these papers in academic journals. At a certain point, he was actually contracted to do a really extensive survey of the work of Vettius Valens for this really important German publication on the classical world, and Riley did most of that survey. It was this huge 50-page survey of the works of Vettius Valens, but then unfortunately that periodical or that series went out of business or stopped being published before he was able to get that article in print. So he didn’t publish that and instead he just released that survey online, I think around 1986 or so, or maybe it was in the year 2000. I have it in the preface of this book. So he released that survey online for free, and putting it online for free it actually was used and incorporated into other academic works like this 2004 book by Joanna Komorowska that was on Vettius Valens – it was titled Vettius Valens of Antioch: An Intellectual Monography – because one of the most important things about Riley’s survey is that he did a lot of work on Valens’s chronology because Valens uses 100 chart examples, but because he uses these chart examples and he connects them with specific events in a person’s life, Riley showed that you can actually use that in order to determine the different time periods in which Valens was actually active. Like, if he’s using a birth chart for somebody from, let’s say, who was born in 130 CE and then he says that this person died at the age of 20, that means he was around and he was aware of this person’s chart by at least the 150 CE, for example, and that gives you sort of a timeframe of knowing that Valens was looking at charts around that period, right?
JZ: Yeah. Yeah.
CB: Yeah. That was really one of the most important things about Riley’s survey was a lot of the work that he did on Valens’s chronology amongst a number of other things. But during the course of compiling the survey, Riley actually made his own translation, like a rough draft of a translation of Valens for his own personal private use. And he used that and sort of drew on it during the course of writing his survey, but he ended up feeling like there was some other fragments of Valens that survived from the medieval tradition, especially in Arabic, and he felt like until some of those fragments could be translated, he didn’t feel like his translation would ever be as fully comprehensive as he would like. So he decided not to go ahead and publish his translation and he just ended up moving on to other projects and going into other areas of classics from the late 1990s forward and published other books on Latin and other areas of classics and sort of moved on from astrology at that point.
JZ: Yeah, and when he at least has this synthesis of the Pingree version with the Kroll version, it still feels really like so much comparison line by line and matching this with that and figuring out… It’s like zippering together two different prior scholars who’ve dealt with Valens’s text. And so inside the PDF version, it can look really complicated because you’re looking at that critical edition nomenclature as well as trying to learn ancient astrology.
CB: Yeah. Because I think part of what must have happened… So, there were two different versions of Valens of the original Greek texts that have been edited and published in modern times. One of them was by Kroll in 1908, and another was by Pingree in I think 1986. I suspect that part of what happened is that– I haven’t asked Riley about this directly but I think he must have started working with the Kroll version of Valens first, which was the original critical edition in the early to mid-1980s. And then he must have gotten a hold of Pingree’s translation after it came out in 1986 and then he started incorporating the citations in order to make sure he was citing both. I think that’s part of what happened there. And when you read the translation of The Anthology that’s online as a PDF, you’ll see him citing the page numbers on each page of both the Kroll edition and the Pingree edition. But for the purpose of this translation that we’re publishing here, I decided just to go with the Pingree numbers for the chapter heading, because that’s the more recent and authoritative edition that everybody cites at this point.
JZ: Yeah. And also for the scholar who wants to go through and see the nitty gritty of Riley’s work, they can always reference that PDF edition that’s free. But for the person who’s trying to learn the astrology, those were pieces of information that were distracting a little bit from the flow of reading and trying to really consume what Valens was saying.
CB: Yeah because, I mean, if anybody needs to cite the critical edition passages, they’re going to know enough at this point about Greek and Latin to be able to go into the critical edition and look it up. Versus if you’re just reading a translation, just knowing the chapter numbers is usually sufficient. Or if you want to cite the page number as it appears in this new published translation, that’s going to be sufficient for most people.
CB: So, Riley had done this whole translation of Valens, and then he just sort of set it aside. But then in 2010, he was talking to another scholar named Roger Pierce who was doing some research into Ancient astrology and I think Riley mentioned to Roger that he had done this translation and he never released it, and Roger Pierce was like, “You should absolutely post that online,” or something to that effect. And so Mark’s like, “Okay, fine,” and he just released it as a PDF. And that was a huge landmark event. It was released on December 14th, 2010, back then. So that was the original release.
JZ: Have you looked at the astrology of that day?
CB: I haven’t in a while but yeah, that would be interesting to look at just because, you know, there’s a lot of interesting things now in terms of chronology and things. And that’s why I tried to mention some of these dates in the preface so that people could piece some of this together if they wanted to because, you know, we have that release date. We have now the release date of this book which is about to be released on October 16th, 2022, and one of the things that’s so interesting is that we actually probably have the birth chart of Valens himself all the way back from the year 120 CE, so you can actually look at his birth chart. And it’s interesting to see some of the transits that he’s actually having right now this week because he’s got some significant transits going on which are sort of fitting in terms of him having a new book release almost 2000 years later.
JZ: But what about zodiacal releasing?
CB: That’s a little difficult because doing somebody’s zodiacal releasing for, you know, 1800 almost 2000 years, you’ve got to deal with questions like do you do a level one loosing of the bond, for example. Like, you can usually only ever do a level two loosing of the bond in normal human spent lifetime, but level one loosing of the bond and other questions like that, it gets a little murky.
JZ: Yeah, it’d be good for a listener to try it and see, you know? Maybe we could convince Kent Bye to update the software on nataltransits.com/timelord, that research tool. He’s got it set up for 200 years but I bet it’d be easy to make 2000.
CB: Yeah, that’s true. I’ll see what it can do. That, or I need to extend my annual profections wheel.
CB: It’ll calculate up to about 80 years old or something like that, but I need to extend that wheel just a little bit to calculate Valens’s profections, now that he’s like 1800 years old.
JZ: Yep, just for this once.
CB: Right. All right. Well, if anyone wants to calculate Valens’ profections, let me know in the comments below because I would be curious about that. So, let’s talk a little bit about Valens’s birth chart because this is actually one of the most fascinating things about his text as a case study. There’s this one chart throughout the Anthology that Valens keeps mentioning and he keeps using over and over again, this one example chart. He never says that it’s his chart specifically, however, he knows an awful lot about this one person. He knows their date of conception, he knows that they were involved in a shipwreck and had a number of relationship issues in their 30s. He knows that this person, one of their parents died before the other. He just knows an abnormal amount about this person… of intimate details about this person’s life, and he keeps using their chart over and over again in some of the most critical chapters of The Anthology. As a result of that in the 1980s when David Pingree published his edition of Valens’s text, he pointed out like this is actually probably Valens’ chart. That would not be super surprising. It wouldn’t be the only instance of this in the ancient world because we have two other examples of Hephaistio of Thebes and Manetho who also include their own birth charts in their texts as teaching examples. So Valens doing that would be kind of consistent even if he doesn’t mention it outright as his own. Additionally, when he gives events in this person’s life, the chronology matches up perfectly with about the time period where we think Valens was active around the middle of the second century. So that Riley also thinks that this is definitely Valens’s chart, and I think pretty much most people understand that this is Valens’s chart at this point in time.
JZ: Yeah. And the anonymity is definitely a pedagogic tool, right? A teaching tool of saying well, if he draws attention to himself as saying, “This is coming from my lived experience, plus my astrological knowledge,” to a certain extent, it might skew the student’s perception. So by keeping it as an anonymous example, it teaches the substance of the astrology without drawing attention to him in his biography as the authority.
CB: Yeah, because this is a recurring actual issue for astrologers even in modern times like over the past century, where we see people doing similar things of there’s sometimes astrologers that will use their chart in a lecture or in a book and be very open about that, and there’s other instances where somebody will, let’s say, use their chart but do it anonymously and not make it clear that that’s actually what’s happening. There’s actually somebody I did an interview with last month that said on the podcast that they had used their chart anonymously in their book, but they were open to sort of acknowledging that that was their chart now.
JZ: Right. Then you have someone like Robert Blaschke whose chart isn’t just inside the book, I think it graces the cover of one of his books. You know, he’s always talking about his own chart and how it works out and… I think David Roell, another person in the history of publishing in our field, had written a preface to a text of a medical astrologer blog rave. And in it, he predicted his own death using his chart, using the medical astrology in the book that he was about to publish. And he was accurate. And it was kind of spooky.
CB: Okay. Yeah. Well, Dave Roell was somebody who, when Riley came up with this translation, Dave Roell, he’d been republishing a lot of different academic translations of different astrological texts and other older astrological texts. He’d been republishing them in modern print form for over a decade, and he actually originally approached Riley about publishing his translation in 2011 and was going to but then he wasn’t able to finish that, and he passed away in 2014 unexpectedly.
CB: Yeah. There’s a lot of issues. There’s also reasons why astrologers might not want to like be clear that it’s their chart. I know that there’s some discussion that’s coming up recently about magical practitioners that are wary about sharing their chart for different reasons. I know that there’s other astrologers that kind of get annoyed sometimes when people overly focus on their chart in lectures, or sometimes there’s a perception like if you’re using your own chart then it almost comes off as more subjective, whatever you’re trying to teach at that point, rather than using a more supposedly objective example. So there’s a whole range of different reasons why somebody might use their chart but not say that it’s their chart, and we can’t really know for sure why Valens didn’t specifically say his chart or maybe he did say it was his at some point, and that part of the text just drops out because we know that we don’t have the entire anthology and there’s different parts of it that are in very bad shape where sometimes only a single manuscript survives which contains the text. For example in book nine, sometimes there’s major sections where there’s obviously just issues with the texts. So it’s possible that we’re just missing something where Valens was like, “Hey, this is my chart and this is why I’m using it,” and something else, you know?
JZ: Yeah. Yeah. But the hypothesis is a good one. I mean, it seems to track over the decades of people thinking about it this way. You know, just also the work that Riley’s done with it since the idea came to light and, you know, you’ve also worked extensively with this text. And so it would be… Yeah, it would be probably fair to say that it likely is.
CB: Yeah, so given that, let me share the chart for those watching the video version. So if this chart example that he just used a million times is his chart, which it probably is, this is the data. So, Valens would have been born on February 8th 120 CE or 120 AD at approximately 6:35 pm in what is now modern-day Antakya, Turkey, which is the ancient city of Antioch in the Mediterranean or near the Mediterranean. Valens’s chart should have early Virgo rising, the Ascendant somewhere in early Virgo. He was a night chart with the Moon in Scorpio in early Scorpio, the Sun at 18 degrees of Aquarius, the Moon at one degree of Scorpio, Jupiter’s in the second whole sign house at 23 degrees of Libra and it’s actually stationing. Venus and Mercury tropically are in late Capricorn. His Saturn tropically was in late Gemini. And then in terms of modern outer planets that Valens wouldn’t have known about, his Uranus was in Virgo in the first, Neptune in Leo in the 12, and Pluto was in Aries in the eighth whole sign house.
There’s a little bit of an issue with the zodiac problem because in Valens’s time, the tropical and sidereal zodiac were super close and super aligned. So many astrologers weren’t aware that there was even a distinction or that precession was an issue, and they were drawing elements from both the tropical and sidereal zodiac. This actually becomes an issue when you’re talking about Valens and looking at his chart because when Valens describes this chart, he actually describes it in a way where he says that Saturn was in Cancer, or at least by his calculations at the time, he thought Saturn was in Cancer, and he thought Mercury was in Aquarius, which depending on what sidereal ayanamsa you use, could match for example the Fagen/Allen ayanamsa that puts Saturn in Cancer and Mercury in Aquarius. So Valens may have been using sidereal tables, but there’s a whole discussion in some academic papers like by Alexander Jones, for example, where he says at one point that Valens may have ended up sort of using sidereal positions but he may have believed himself to be using tropical ones. And I know he does have a statement at one point in the book about how sometimes the tables would say one thing, but then observationally he would see planets be in a different place. And one of the issues with that is that, especially prior to Ptolemy, astronomical calculations were not always super super precise in the ancient world, because there were still having trouble for example calculating certain planets. Like especially Mars, you’ll see it be kind of off when it comes to recalculating the charts.
Yeah, so this is Valens’s chart. His chart’s really interesting in terms of even just thinking about current transits and things like that, because right now this month we know that Saturn is stationing at 18 degrees of Aquarius. So it’s kind of interesting to me that Saturn’s stationing exactly on the degree of his Sun right now at 18 Aquarius, and then there’s also a solar eclipse that’s coming up at the end of this month I believe at one or two degrees of Scorpio, and that’s going to fall exactly on Valens’s Moon in the third whole sign house at one degree of Scorpio. So, kind of fascinating. And I know you did a talk about this recently and we’ve talked about this before about how, for some reason, the way that astrology works, one of the weird surprising twists about astrology is that your birth chart keeps working after you die, and sometimes things about your legacy or your life or the memory of you or works that you did in your lifetime continue to be relevant or echo in terms of activations to your chart even after your death.
JZ: Yes. In fact, it is Valens’s technique which Schmidt terms zodiacal releasing that is really, really, really intense for that if you have an accurate birth time. You can get down to the day sometimes when someone’s going to come back into popular news. That’s why I was asking you, you know, have you done Valens’s 2000 years of zodiacal releasing to see, perhaps, well, I guess 1800. But still the idea of, you know, I want to bet whether you would do a loosing from L1 or not would be shown by whether or not something lines up with this weekend, and this book coming out.
CB: Yeah, for sure. I will look into that because that would be fun to calculate.
JZ: Yeah. And I still think that, I’m just gonna go back there but the idea of doing a profections table for 2000 years also seems kind of fun. Because I mean, posthumous astrology really, you know? Because what I like about when I first encountered Valens was through you actually in your teachings on zodiacal releasing. And then I collected a collection of works from an astrologer who had passed away in North Carolina, her name is Cynthia Schmitt, and now all of her books live here. In Cynthia’s books, she had a binder from Robert’s class on zodiacal releasing, which was never distributed because she took the class and there it is. And he had this whole preface around like, “This is a super potent thing, so be careful.” And it’s only been in Valens’s texts where this way of calculating time is discussed, right? And so in that way, to be able to see when someone’s going to be imminent based off of their lot of spirit, that is just a cool, cool thing. The math about it really got me excited. I started drawing art about it, because I was like, “Oh, these are like periods you can memorize. Let’s create little graphs.” And then I ran out of graph paper and had to run to Kent to make a new software because it’s a fractal. You know, if I was going to draw everything out, I would have to get a football stadium to complete it. But I just think what Valens came up with, with zodiacal releasing from the Lot of Spirit is really cool. And so I use it a lot when I’m looking at someone’s life to see like, “When are they going to be doing the thing that is their posthumous contribution?” Because it will live on beyond them, you know? Like, the fact that your chart exists at all means that it exists whether or not you stick with it, you know?
CB: Yeah, which is really interesting because it has some interesting implications about what the chart is and how astrology works, and that it has something to do with that moment in time being important and that moment in time echoing or reverberating throughout history. Yeah, that could be a whole episode or discussion in and of itself at some point.
JZ: Yeah. And then you get into converse progressions and transits, which are talked about by Alan Leo by the way, and it’s like it reverberates forwards and backwards. It’s not just unidirectional. That is also my latest excitement.
CB: Like that, or even like prenatal stuff? Like prenatal indications like the prenatal eclipse or things that happen prior to your birth somehow being relevant to your subsequent life.
JZ: Yeah, all of it’s very, very fascinating. But I’m glad that now you have given shape to this fourth book of Valens in a robust format. Can you hold it up? You haven’t held it up yet? [laughs]
CB: Yeah, I know. I should have held it up at the beginning. So, this is the first proof copy, but this is what the book looks like. It’s designed in the same format and font and everything as me and Demetra’s book so it will sit alongside them because it’s kind of a nice companion to those books since both of our understanding of astrology, of Hellenistic and Ancient astrology is in large part– not exclusively, but in large part predicated on having read Valens and our understanding of that text. So now having this in print and in circulation in a final form of Riley’s translation is really important in terms of people that want to go back and study Hellenistic astrology and want to understand some of the conclusions that we drew in our books. On the cover, there is an illustration from a 19th-century work of a drawing of a Greco-Roman coffin lid that survived from about the second century from roughly about Valens’s time period and roughly the same geographical location where it shows a depiction of the Egyptian sky goddess, basically– the goddess of the sky– and she’s surrounded by illustrations of the 12 signs of the zodiac. So it’s a really cool depiction of the signs of the zodiac in the ancient world. And it has this interesting sort of blend between Mesopotamian and Egyptian and Greek motifs, which is basically the whole cultural synthesis and blend that was going on in the ancient world that led to the development of this type of astrology during the Hellenistic era. I thought that would be a good image to have on the cover because it’s really both sort of roughly contemporary with Valens, but also representative of the cultural context in which he lived and practiced astrology.
JZ: And the crab on the front isn’t a lobster.
CB: It is not a lobster. We have evidence in the ongoing debate about lobster versus crab, and that is a round crab, I believe, rather than an elongated lobster. So score another one for crab being the correct interpretation of Cancer.
JZ: There we go. It’s been published.
CB: That’s probably the most important thing. Part of this publication is just settling that debate and putting forward new evidence.
JZ: [laughs] Yes. Yes.
CB: You, mentioning zodiacal releasing, brought up that maybe we should talk about some of the contents and the different… Like, give an overview of the book basically in order to talk about what’s in it and what are some of the things that people will find. All right. So, generally speaking, book one of The Anthology, it starts off right away with listing– Valens introduces the planets and the signs of the zodiac and he tells you what they signify and what their significations are, which is super interesting and super useful for understanding how the planets especially were conceptualized in ancient times. Book one has a bunch of astronomical stuff because it’s kind of a preliminary book for learning how to calculate different things in a chart or different astronomical concepts. At the end of book one, another interesting feature is that it has a whole list of planetary combinations when there’s two or three planets that are making an aspect to each other or are co-present in the same sign, which is basically in a sign-based conjunction. So Valens just gives this whole list of what it means when these different planets are mixing together and how their energies blend together in different ways, which is super useful for just understanding not just what the planets mean in isolation, but what they mean when they’re actually together in a conjunction. So that’s book one.
Book Two, it starts by talking about the triplicity lords of the sect light, which is an important basic technique the balance uses throughout The Anthology in order to determine what the foundation or support of a person’s nativity is like. But then in book two, he goes into an introduction to the significations of the 12 houses, as well as the concept of lots. And he introduces different lots like the Lot of Fortune and what it means, the Lot of Spirit, as well as other more exotic lots like a Lot of Exaltation and the Lot of Bosses or the Lot of Foundation. Book two is when he also starts introducing just a ton of chart examples. And just about every technique that he introduces, he eventually starts showing you what that actually looks like and the chart examples and how the technique actually applies in practice, which is just super valuable for understanding how he used even some of the more abstract or theoretical techniques like lots which seem more mathematical. He really just goes into it and uses example after example. For example, here is where he first starts doing chart examples in Book Two, Book Two chapter 22. And I believe actually somebody identified this first chart, it may actually be a birth chart of a Roman Emperor. I forget who, I think it might be Nero or somebody like that. Because he never says that this is an emperor, but he starts by saying he’s going to use an eminent chart and he shows indications for eminence in this person’s life. In the text, for example, he says, “For clarification of the previous points, we will use examples, taking first a distinguished nativity.” So he says this person’s eminent but he’s not gonna say who it is. Here’s a chart. He says, “Sun in Scorpio, Moon in Cancer, Saturn in Aquarius, Jupiter in Sagittarius, Mars in Scorpio, Venus in Libra, Mercury in Scorpio, and Ascendant in Libra. He’s trying to demonstrate… So that’s how in Riley’s text it was. It’s just like saying that the placements basically where most of the time Valens will just tell you what the placements are by sign, and then we put this diagram in the right to illustrate it. And we were very careful not to either add anything that Valens didn’t say or to take anything out that he did say so that the diagram perfectly matches what’s in the text as it should. But what those positions give you is it gives you the ability to calculate the sign placement of all the planets as well as the house placement because Valens was using the whole sign houses in over a hundred of his chart examples basically.
Then he goes into a whole delineation and it’s explaining how the triplicity rulers of the sect light work, as well as looking at the Lot of Fortune and its ruler, and a Lot of Spirit and its ruler, and how those connect to why he became so eminent in his life basically. So, that’s the first chart example. Then he gives a second and he gives a third and a fourth and a fifth and a sixth then he really just starts outlining tons and tons of chart examples. And that’s, as I said, why the text is useful. So that’s Book Two, dealing with houses, lots, and triplicity rulers for the most part as his primary focus.
In Book Three, he primarily deals with the length of life technique and the standard length of life technique that every astrologer used, probably derived from the work of Nechepso and Petosiris, where you first determine the overall ruler of the chart, the predominate and the overall ruler of the chart, and then you direct them forward using primary directions or circumambulation as it’s sometimes called, until it hits a hard aspect with the malefic. And then when that happens, that’s supposed to be the end of the person’s life or at least a major health crisis at that time. So and that length of life technique became just a major preoccupation for astrologers for a long time from ancient times all the way up until pretty recently, I feel like, right?
JZ: Yeah. Sort of, “Is it worth reading this chart anymore?” Right, because the rate of mortality was fairly high. So it took a lot of math back then to be working with the chart. And if you could figure out pretty soon whether or not the person is going to stick around long enough to listen to your advice, you could kind of cut off the work early.
CB: Yeah, and I think that was Ptolemy’s explicit rationale. And he cites Petosiris and he says, “There’s no point in predicting great things for a person who isn’t going to live long enough to see it,” in the time period that you’re talking about. Which kind of makes sense from a practical standpoint. It’s sort of fallen out of vogue. There’s a lot more debate about the appropriateness or even the effectiveness of the length of life technique in modern times, some astrologers taking different sides. That’s a whole episode I’ve been meaning to do at some point to talk about all the different technical and philosophical and–
CB: –ethical or moral issues surrounding that. Because that’s, you know, it’s something that’s not typically done anymore in Western astrology but then there’s other traditions of astrology like in India where it is pretty commonly done and that’s just one of the things that’s expected. So it’s interesting seeing different attitudes in different eras of the astrological tradition or different cultural traditions, basically.
JZ: Yeah. I know some of our colleagues who studied with Robert Zoller, he made them calculate their length of life and so some of them know. And they’re walking around professional alongside us just knowing that tidbit. But I do appreciate when I’ve pursued learning medical astrology, the idea that it is more indicative of a medical crisis and not necessarily the end of life. But it is perhaps, depending on what the nature of the crisis is, the end of a chapter of life for sure. And then also revising the understanding of the innate juice you’ve got in your battery, you know? And if you go beyond that prediction of length of life, then you’re a little more vulnerable to the forces of the world. Yeah, seems like that’s kind of what we’ve done with medical science.
CB: Yeah, and that’s been one of the questions or sometimes points of debate, is whether medical science is advanced enough that something that would have killed you in the ancient world doesn’t necessarily or that you might be able to survive it and so, therefore, maybe, sometimes it’s just showing rough health periods but there could be periods where you make it through without necessarily dying.
JZ: Yeah. And we have a different relationship to death in our society now at least in modern west than they would have had in Greece.
CB: Yeah. So, people for that chapter for some guidance can go back and listen to the previous episode I did on the Master of Nativity where I talk about some of the rules that are used that are very similar to Valens on determining the Predominator and the Master of the Nativity as well as the Lord of the Nativity as he calls them. So, that’s Book Two. There’s a lot of length of life stuff as well as a bunch of more example charts that uses on different topics for other techniques. In Book Four, Valens gets into different Time Lord techniques, which is probably one of the most interesting and important books that survives. He starts with the Time Lord technique that we sometimes call Quarters of the Moon, which isn’t super popular yet but I’m waiting for somebody to pick that up and get into it more than it has been because that was one of the earliest Time Lord techniques that some of the Project Hindsight people were exploring in the 1990s. I think that’s the first technique that Valens deals with in Book Four. Then a few chapters later in book four, he introduces zodiacal releasing or the technique that’s come to be known as zodiacal releasing now in modern times. He deals with that for a few chapters, I think it’s between chapters four and ten or something like that. This is Valens’s primary treatment of zodiacal releasing, if people want to go back and study what Valens himself actually said about that. That’s the primary source where people like myself and others have recovered the technique and re-popularised it. It’s not because Valens was the only source for the technique, because there’s other astrologers that mentioned it like Rhetorius. Some of the periods associated with zodiacal releasing get mentioned by Abu Ma’shar, and Valens himself seems to have gotten the technique from an earlier author named Abraham. Because he actually refers to Abraham when he first introduces the technique in a different chapter of The Anthology in, I believe Book Two. But this is the most extensive treatment of zodiacal releasing that survives into modern times or from ancient times. That’s one of the reasons why it’s so important and all subsequent treatments of zodiacal releasing now are predicated on these chapters.
JZ: Did the other mentions of it ever frame what we call zodiacal releasing in terms that could be teaching it to the reader? Or is Valens the only one who does that?
CB: I think that Rhetorius just mentions it in passing and he’s partially drawing on Valens because Rhetorius has this chapter at one point where he’s kind of unique among the ancient astrologers where he tells you roughly all the techniques and what order to use them in that an ancient astrologer would have done for a full chart reading. And he just lists everything that you could possibly do and what sequence you should do it in and at one point in passing he’s like, “And uses zodiacal releasing technique from the Lot of Spirit and Fortune just as Valens does.” So he kind of refers you back to Valens for the full treatment of that, but it makes it clear that he’s another astrologer that’s aware of and that’s using the technique. So it’s the Abraham text that would have gone into more detail about it and it seems like when Valens first introduces it in book two or three, he introduces it within the context of a discussion about how to determine when a person will travel or will be away from home. And it seems like that may have been the original context in which the Abraham text introduced it because of the way that Valens initially talks about it earlier in The Anthology. And what’s interesting about that is… So we have Valens referring to this earlier text attributed to Abraham. But then Firmicus Maternus in the fourth century, he also starts talking about this Abraham text when Firmicus starts talking about the lots, and especially the Lot of Spirit and Lot of Fortune. It seems that Firmicus had access to the same text, and basically confirms that it was a text that dealt with the lots, especially Spirit and Fortune. And of course, Valens is reading the same text and he’s drawing a timing technique from it that’s based on the Lot of Spirit and Lot of Fortune. So it’s clear that this text from Abraham was floating around in the ancient world and was influencing different astrologers but unfortunately, all that survives of it are these references to it Valens and these references to it in Firmicus and other authors.
JZ: Yeah, we got to get our hands on that one. [chuckles]
CB: Yeah, there’s a bunch of text like that. There’s like that, there’s also the Nechepso and Petosiris texts, which is this super crucial very early source text that outlined many of the fundamental principles of Hellenistic astrology from the earliest strata of the tradition. That’s another text that doesn’t survive, but that’s one of the reasons again why Valens is so important because he had access to it, he was reading it, and sometimes in the Anthology, he will quote excerpts from it. So that we can actually see glimpses of what that early source text was like, and actually reconstruct some bits of it just based on what Valens says about it. So that’s probably, you know, the other reason. Valens is important, not just because he was a practicing astrologer and he used tons of example charts. That is super useful but Valens is also important because his work is one of the longest surviving works from the ancient world on ancient astrology, and he cited dozens of different authors whose works no longer survive. Valens is our only source for preserving any knowledge of those ancient works, even though they were super influential in the ancient world.
JZ: Yeah, what a gift he gave to his students and us.
CB: Yeah, it’s a really huge deal then that this text survives. And it’s crazy that it does survive at all because until modern times, texts like this had to be copied over by hand by scribes. You literally had to have one copy of the text and then you had to copy it onto a piece of papyrus by hand. And even that process sometimes was tricky and sometimes mistakes could be introduced. So there was a lot of work that had to be done in modern times in order to clean it up and edit it and reconstruct what the original text was.
JZ: There’s a place in this one where we encountered that as we put the book together. Do you want to talk about that?
CB: Yeah. That was in Book Nine where it gets into the house division issue where Valens uses more than 100 chart examples in the text. Virtually, all of those use whole sign houses where he just tells you the sign of the Ascendant and then all the other house placements are based on what sign the planet occupies relative to the rising sign. And many of those chart examples, pretty much all of them, only work within the context of whole sign houses. So that it wasn’t just a matter of convenience, but many of the examples that he uses to demonstrate things like Profections only make sense if he’s using whole sign houses. However, there are some chapters and some passages, for example, there’s one passage in Book Three where he shows you how to outline quadrant houses using the Porphyry method of house division. And he appears to use that as a secondary overlay on top of whole sign houses. Then there’s another passage in Book Nine where he seems to be summarising from an earlier text attributed to Asclepius. He mentions Asclepius at the beginning of this chapter, and then he goes through the super abbreviated outline about both doing derivative houses, and then eventually he introduces how to calculate equal houses, which is probably from the Asclepius text because Firmicus also had the Asclepius text and he also introduces equal houses as a secondary overlay.
So at the end of this chapter, Valens tells you how to calculate equal houses and then they start saying something about what happens if the equal houses overlap entirely with the whole sign houses. But then the text breaks off suddenly and there’s some unrelated natal chart interpretations that were taken from a specific passage in Book Seven that were then copied over into the text, where it’s like some really negative delineations about dying and being sort of tied up or other things like that that are really extreme and just obviously not related to what he was just talking about with house division. What’s funny about that is some people have accidentally misread that and assumed that this was like Valens saying that you shouldn’t use whole sign houses, but they overlooked that there was just a textual issue here and Valens was literally just like– or the copyists, actually, accidentally copied these natal chart delineations from an earlier section of The Anthology, which is not unique because that actually has happened in a bunch of different places in The Anthology where the manuscripts sort of got messed up and got confused in different places over time. I remember this lecture that Rob Hand gave in 2005 where he said that he always imagined that somebody in the Middle Ages took the manuscripts of Valens and then threw them up in the air and then shuffled them together, and then that’s the text that we have today. [Jenn laughs] That gives you some idea of, you know-
JZ: Will you do that at the launch? Throw your hands in the air. Wave Valens like you just don’t care. [laughs]
CB: Yeah, Anthology confetti. I’m sure the scholars in the future would really appreciate that as they’re trying to reconstruct our version of this text 2000 years from now.
JZ: If there’s another UAC, I’m gonna be on the committee to make The Anthology confetti. [laughs]
CB: Yeah. But anyway, so-
JZ: But it is a big deal though to find these types of scribal transmissions and straighten them out, you know? That’s a really important contribution to be able to identify and show people, like, this scary few sentences after this whole other passage don’t really belong here, because turn back to chapter seven then you can see these are copied from that and something else was supposed to be here.
CB: Yeah. Well, and it’s like Riley flagged some of that in his translation but he didn’t always flag as much of it as he could have. And with Riley’s translation, we did do some editing of it to catch major obvious typos. Or in some instances, there were some chart examples where the received text had the wrong placement for a planet, and so we were able to identify that or other academics have identified that and we were able to put the correct position in the text. But for the most part, we tried to just let Riley’s translation speak for itself and put it in a final format. We were also able to finish some tables, especially in Book Eight, that he didn’t include in the PDF back in 2010 so that this version really does represent a much more complete and as close as it’s gonna get to a final translation from Riley of this text. But otherwise, we tried to leave it and let it speak for itself. I expect that there will probably be other translations of Valens by different scholars in the future, but it was important to finally get Riley’s translation in print and just let it get out there so it can speak for itself and so people can use it and build on his scholarship. But they also at the same time need to be aware that there are textual issues with the text and there’s still areas that are being explored and that you need to be careful about sometimes when it comes to just being aware of potential issues like that.
JZ: Yeah. I think you’ve done a really beautiful job as a publisher bringing everything together in that sense of giving chart examples in context, giving complete tables, helping Riley polish things to the standard that we know of now with minor errors being discovered and things, and also giving it a body. Because doing research on a PDF is very hard I think for a lot of us. Even now, like screen time, the last thing I want to do is spend more time in front of a computer. So to have a book, you can light a candle hanging out with Riley’s translation of Valens. And the book itself, I think you learn differently when you’re reading and you can hold it and it’s not just a printed PDF. I think there’s a different experience of Valens that you’re about to make available for a lot of people. I mean, even these little blue pamphlets from Project Hindsight don’t capture the fullness of having everything together under one spine, you know? And to get the survey together with it, you know? We haven’t talked enough about the survey and how important it is to have it with this.
CB: Yeah, even though there’s a place for ebooks and PDF books and things like that and that’s really important and valuable and more accessible, you know, I’m still a big proponent of print books and the importance of having print books on your shelves and things like that. I think that’s a really important and valuable piece of, especially for astrologers of our intellectual history and of what the transmission of astrology has been like for 1000s of years of writing something down and building up these libraries of the inherited theoretical and practical and conceptual and philosophical traditional astrology and passing that on sometimes through book form. That was one of the things that’s important about this that we’re trying to do with this publication and that I’m really happy that we were able to pull off here in the way that we were able to do.
I do want to mention this area, let me finish the overview really quickly of what people find in the rest of the book. So, he deals with quarters in Book Four then zodiacal releasing. But then starting in chapter 11, he begins the main technique that actually he spends the most time talking about in The Anthology, which is he introduces the technique that we know today as the concept of annual profections. Annual profections is introduced in Book Four, chapter 11, and Valens actually– Again it’s like, at crucial stages in The Anthology, he keeps using this one mysterious chart example that he knows a lot about, and of course, we find this chart example is the one that he introduces at this point when he first introduces annual profections and it’s, again, his own chart. So, Valens introduces annual profections here. He spends most of the rest of Book Four, which has a huge amount of chapters, talking about annual profections and different ways to use the technique. And then eventually in books five and six, he keeps returning back to the technique of annual profections and introducing different ways to use the technique and different advanced methods of understanding how to use annual profections. Because even though most other authors in the Hellenistic and Mediaeval tradition use a much more simplified version of annual profections, Valens has one of the most complex and advanced treatments of annual profections, I think, of any ancient author. So it’s very interesting and very important because that technique is one of his sort of centerpieces of the entire Anthology.
So, that’s books four, five, and six. Five and six also have some interesting digressions about he’s got this long philosophical digression about fate and fortune, and he talks about stoicism with some hermetic influences essentially or he has some very stoic-sounding philosophical digressions. He also mentions briefly electional astrology and different rules for Electional astrology that he pays attention to himself. Then in Book Seven… Books Seven is the one book that’s much more self-contained and it primarily just deals with a single timing technique or a couple of related techniques which are timing by essential times of the planets as well as planetary periods, and then different combinations of using essential times and planetary periods together in order to indicate when different parts of the chart will be activated in the person’s life. In Book Seven, it has one of the most famous set of examples where he has this chapter of this group of people that got involved in a shipwreck. One of those people was, again, probably Valens himself and he actually went around after the shipwreck collecting chart examples from people and he tries to show how each of their charts all indicated having this major traumatic event all at the same time based on this timing technique of essential times and planetary periods. So it’s a pretty cool and famous example.
Then in Book Eight, most of this is dedicated to this elaborate alternative length of life technique that involves a table, which was not included in Riley’s 2010 translation of the text but that we’ve– with Mark’s help– have actually been able to include in the text at the end of it. And this is kind of a complicated technique that’s going to be interesting if people work with it at some point and reconstruct and start using this technique again, but most of Book Eight is dedicated to that technique.
Then finally, Book Nine is kind of like an assortment of a bunch of different things. It’s not on a singular technique, but instead he returns to things like length of life, he talks about the Lot of Fortune and Lot of Spirit. He talks about derivative houses for the first time, drawing on the Asclepius text and mentioning equal houses, where again he’s probably summarising this text from Asclepius because he doesn’t ever actually use equal houses in a single chart example in the Anthology, which is one of the reasons why I think he’s summarising this text. Also, in Book Three, he introduces quadrant houses as a secondary overlay, and I think Valens actually preferred quadrant houses as a secondary overlay on top of whole sign houses instead of using equal houses for that purpose. But there’s other astrologers like Ptolemy who may have preferred equal houses as the secondary overlay. It was kind of a choice between what sign. Everybody used whole sign houses as the basis, but then everybody had a choice between what degree-based form of house division to use. And some of them chose quadrant houses like like Porphyry, and others used equal houses. So, Book Nine just becomes an assortment then it breaks off. Then there’s a few miscellaneous chapters that were added to the Anthology in the fifth century. We can tell that they’re from the fifth century because they use a few chart examples that are actually dateable to the 400s. And then that’s the end of the text. So that’s sort of a very broad overview of what you’ll find in the Anthology.
JZ: Yeah, and an index, which you don’t get in a PDF.
CB: Yeah, so we included an index so people can easily look through some topics or different authors that are mentioned during the course of the Anthology. That’s going to be super helpful for research. I wrote a few page preface to the text and then we also included Mark’s original 50-page survey or overview of the Anthology, since even though he released that as a PDF because he never got to publish it as part of that German classical series that never appeared in print and I thought it was important enough contribution especially with some of Mark’s work on the chronology of Vettius Valens, that it deserved to finally appear in print together with his translation.
JZ: Yep. And it gives a wonderful context for what follows so that you can- Similar to your book, you know, there’s the history and then there’s the practice. And so you have a sense of like, “What does this matter?” And you get a really nice… Also honoring Riley’s academic work on Valens, it’s good.
CB: Yeah, exactly. It just sort of honors that and completes that whole link in the tradition, because there’s so much work and so many different scholars put work into this and to have this text to survive and to where it is today. It’s really important to sort of recognize those contributions and have them brought to completion in some sense. That was part of what this project was about for me.
JZ: Yeah. It remains a primary source. Even in translation, you’re putting a primary source back into wide circulation, which I think is also a very powerful service to the community.
CB: Yeah. Yeah, it feels like an honor especially having learned ancient astrology largely through reading that earlier translation of Valens’s text and then eventually writing my book on it in 2017. It feels good to be able to sort of honor Valens by putting his text out there and making it accessible to students of astrology again, in the same way that Valens himself was a student of astrology and he evidently wanted his work to survive in some form and that’s why he left it to some of his students. So in this way, we’re able to sort of honor that and put it back in circulation so that he kind of gets his rightful place in the history of astrology as one of the great astrologers in history.
JZ: Yeah. Do you think you’ll be working with some of these timing techniques that you mention– quarters of the Moon and then everything in chapter eight? Will you be working with those and your students to perhaps bring them into wider focus?
CB: Yeah, one of my techniques has primarily been zodiacal releasing and annual profections in the way that Valens has taught them. And in my book and in my course on Hellenistic astrology, I go into really elaborate. We had done some commentaries at one point where we sat together as a group and went through and read Valens’s text, and then talked about what he was saying and what the implications were and how that applied to charts and what some of those different techniques meant. Because sometimes, it’s only through sitting with a group of other people and reading through the text together that you can really start to understand and dissect what he was actually trying to say. I’m hoping to do some more of that commentary with students in my Hellenistic course over time where we go through other chapters of the text and talk about it, and record some of those commentaries for other students just in order to help further understand what the teachings were.
JZ: Yeah, and having the table seems like it would be helpful for that new technique and length of life technique in chapter eight.
CB: Yeah, for sure. Because even if you’re reading a translation, sometimes it takes some extra help of somebody that has a little bit more understanding of it or has access to the Greek text to sometimes understand and help navigate trying to reconstruct how you can actually apply some of these principles in practice.
JZ: Yeah, for sure.
CB: Yeah. All right, so the book is coming out on Sunday on October 16th, 2022. The book’s available now, you can go ahead and order it either for pre-order, or if it’s after the 16th, you can already order it through online retailers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, AbeBooks, and tons of other places. There’s going to be an ebook version that will be forthcoming soon through Google Books, and then potentially other places, but it might take a little bit longer to get it on Kindle and other things like that. I have set up a page where I’m going to list any typos that are found because there’s always typos in different books once they come out. So before issuing different editions or other things of the book, if you want to look for a list of typos or corrections, you can go to hellenisticastrology.com/valens and I’ll have a link there for a list of different things for corrections in the future. I’ll also be doing some of those commentaries on different chapters with students in my Hellenistic course as I said, through my course at theastrologyschool.com.
So yeah, this was a huge project. I wanted to thank you in particular because this project never would have happened, Jenn, without your prompting where I was talking to you in 2020 about wanting to put those chart examples in the book and needing to do that and feel like that was important, because I’d been doing smaller versions of that for my students for years. But I realized that a lot of people really just weren’t understanding the text without a publicly available version of that. And you were the one I think that just mentioned offhand, you were sort of like, “Well, why don’t you just ask Riley if you can publish his translation with those chart examples inserted?” I hadn’t considered that up to that point and then I asked him and talked to him about it and he graciously agreed, and then the rest is kind of history. But all of that is thanks to you at this point.
JZ: Well, you’re welcome. I’m glad I could spurn that and get it going. It’s one of my favorite things to do. So, it’s a beautiful thing to see it come and actually be in existence. I have the other proof copy here in the library.
CB: Yes, that is the second copy of two out of three that will ever exist in the world of the very first proof copies that we’ve already updated to fix a few typos that we caught at the last moment. It wasn’t just the genesis of the idea or help to spur the idea, but you also helped to shepherd and usher this project to completion by doing the layout of the book, which is a huge mammoth job that you’ve taken on over the past couple of years and, yeah.
JZ: And had to keep secret. That was the hardest part. It wasn’t the work, it was not getting to talk about it. [laughs]
CB: All right. Yeah. Yeah. Well, it’s nice to finally be able to release it now that it’s real, and to get it out there and to acknowledge all the work you put into it. We also had other people helping us like Paula Belluomini who did all the illustrations and the diagrams for the book as well as the cover. We had Mikhail Medev who did the index for us, which was amazing and was very very helpful, especially in some of the last-minute fixes and updates. And also Claire Ruches who helped us with some of the diagrams and chart examples and other early work on the book, which was super crucial.
JZ: Yeah, it takes a village.
CB: Yeah, it’s a big process. And you know this because you are the head of a whole publishing company at this point and you actually specialize in helping different astrologers to publish their books as an in-between between the huge publishing companies at this point which aren’t doing a super great job anymore and are hardly publishing as many astrology books as they used to, versus the other extreme end of the spectrum, which is people starting to move towards self-publishing but that can be a huge task and burden to take on. You’re sort of occupying a really interesting middle ground there where you’re helping to publish different astrologers’ books for them and to make them actually really good and really impressive and not look just like self-published books essentially, right?
JZ: Yeah. The mission of Revelore Press is to be something that takes risks on books we know we need for our community that don’t necessarily have an instant market draw. The larger publisher would say, “Well, we don’t want to publish your advanced book because we don’t want to put an investment that we’re not going to get back.” And what they don’t understand sometimes is that it’s worth taking that risk because if you make something excellent, then it will find its home. So I’ve worked with many people in our community to make excellent books with them; sometimes within Revelore Press, sometimes with you, or work with you independently. I also work with the Mountain Astrologer. I’m the senior editor of the Mountain Astrologer, and sometimes people will bring in articles and I see an article and I’m like, “That’s a book! Come over, let’s talk.” Right? Because then this article can grow into something that needs to have its name on the spine to join our ancestors which are standing all behind me. So yeah, book culture is really important, especially as we move forward into an age where the digital might not survive, or in the way that we can. Like, what can be accessed on a floppy disk, right? Certain media forms do shift and so the technology of the book is really important and has not gone away since its invention, so by engaging with that and allowing our ideas to become an immortal conversation. That room is very loud by the way. I know they’re being quiet because I’m recording with you, but if you stand in there, you can feel all of these discussions of like, you know, this technique. No, this technique, you know? And it’s like you can see all of that cross pollination and then read a footnote and walk across the room and get that book and then look that up. And then they have a footnote. And you go across the room in the other direction and get that book. And then soon, your table’s covered with these amazing books and it’s like heaven on Earth to have this here.
CB: It makes me think of, like, publishing books is one of the ways that astrologers achieve almost a form of immortality, because our work and our thoughts and our observations continue to echo and reverberate throughout history and throughout the astrological tradition through those being passed down. And that some of those discussions and some of those debates that happen only survived through that printed form and the transmission of that, but it’s a really interesting way. You, just mentioning that, made me think of that and made me realize that a little bit more.
JZ: Yeah. Behind me here besides the Project Hindsight materials, there’s also newsletters where people in the community would write in. And now we do a lot of that work on public forums, like it used to be the Yahoo group and now it’s on Facebook, and it might be shifting to Discord servers or even inside Patreon communities. But those conversations that are only captured digitally can’t join this party, right? So, print publication still is very important for recording what we say, and giving an immortality to our statements so that we can speak to the people who aren’t born yet. And just how you’re bringing Valens to life or Valens to life, again, 2000 years after he’s not been on the planet for a while, you know, that’s such an important thing. And to also speak to, self-publishing has a deep history. I didn’t know this until I unpacked all the books in this building, but astrologers have been self-publishing from jump street. That’s partly because we have a kind of forbidden subject at our fingertips, and sometimes people didn’t want the gatekeeping that publishing can provide as well. But also there’s these really cool pamphlets with hand-drawn diagrams and, you know, weird monospace typewriter printings and various types of things. Those are important. The difficulty right now is when someone goes to self-publish, they’re hard to find. Unless you know what you’re looking for, it’s hard to find. So when people go to a publishing house like Revelore Press, you can see, “Oh, this is a place where I know I’m going to find something cool.” And you don’t know what you’re going to find yet, but you know if you look it will be cool. If you are self-published, you don’t have a community around you to draw attention to your book. It’s just simply sitting there. And so I’ve seen some amazing books be self-published, in this year alone, and one way that I’m trying to bring them back into the community is to have them come to the library and talk about their books so that others can know about it because otherwise, it’s just a silo. Ultimately, Google and Amazon are just search engines. But in order to search with that instead of stumbling around a library and finding something cool, you have to already know what you’re looking for. And if you don’t know it exists, you can’t find it.
CB: That actually brings up the last point, which is also the importance of libraries. It’s kind of sad how that’s declined in terms of astrological libraries. There used to be more of them, there used to be more astrology books on shelves in bookstores, but I’ve noticed that the astrology books on shelves in bookstores has really shrunk a lot over the past decade or two. I mean, even bookstores, for that matter themselves, are kind of becoming somewhat of a scarcity in some places compared to what it was like 10 or 20 years ago. But that’s one of your sort of life missions as well, is to create a very comprehensive astrological library, right?
JZ: Yes, I was turned on to astrology as a teenager and wanted to get higher degrees in it. And so I’m super envious that you got to graduate from Kepler because I always wanted to attend Kepler College. But then eventually, you and I were on the board of Kepler in 2015-2016 and their books were in storage. And it was part of their mission as a nonprofit to offer library services, so I just moved heaven and Earth to get those books out of storage. And because of the pandemic, they ended up needing to close their library. So I said, “Okay, I’m here. I’m still here. Bring them to me.” And so I ended up, you know, you are the one that actually alerted me to that needing to happen and so I said, “Okay, let’s make them a new home.” That’s what I’ve been doing, basically, since that conversation. And the instance for that reason is about this; it’s about the idea that when you go to a library, even at a university, they don’t collect books about astrology because they don’t think astrology is academic enough. In the same way that I’m sure Riley working on this text, when he was working on it, had very limited resources and or needed to go very far to find the things appropriate to translating what Valens was saying. So if we create a research institute that focuses on the academic study of astrology and it’s not affiliated with any one university, we have this neutral ground of simply gathering everything that we’ve said around our subject, and allowing people to discover and research and perform all of these skills. But if you don’t have it at your fingertips, it’s hard to do the research. And that increases the fact or it would increase astrology being less accessible, right? So if we can create a culture of research and a place where it’s easily accessible, then we can amplify and accelerate the research that we do.
CB: Okay, so it’s not just about creating a library for library’s sake, but also creating a research institute. What is the name and where is it located? You have a whole building, a whole facility at this point.
JZ: Yes. I’ve been working in print for 25 years now and it became very clear to me that without having some kind of control over the space, landlords could punt you out of the space and cause you to freefall and find a new space to be. And moving books is not fun, everybody knows that. So I was able to secure this 1500-square-foot building in Olympia. My aunt passed away and left me some income so I invested it all into this library. It is called the Celestial Arts Education Library. It’s a 15-minute walk away from Olympia High School. At some point, I’d like to have regular programming for youth so that they can get into looking at the stars in a new way, learning about the lunation cycle, and then slowly question like, “What’s upstairs?” “Oh, that’s the members-only research area.” Like, “Oh, I want to go up there.” And then they realize astrology has been with human culture from the beginning. So that’s the website. It’s called CAELi, for short. C-A-E-L-I, of the vault of heaven, genitive Latin form. But the idea is that this is a place where we gather all of the work in almost anthropological sense, so that anyone wanting to research how people were publishing almanacs with different publishing houses that are, you know, the Big Five, there’s a shelf of all of them if you want to cross-compare. Or how many covers did this Greens’ book of this title have? You know, and you just can see over the ages how things have been. Even Demetra’s early workbooks had been reprinted four or five times with totally different covers, you know? And so just to see that print culture and how different decades responded to needing different typography and fonts and all of that. So there’s a whole entire realm-
CB: Sometimes books change between editions, too. There can be minor, sometimes major revisions in a book. You know, my book has two editions at this point because of correcting some typos. I think there’s going to be a third edition soon. But even ancient astrology books, the beginning of Paulus Alexandrinus in the fourth century, he mentions his son Kronamon who was hassling him about not using the most up-to-date tables. He says at the beginning of the book that this is a second edition so he could fix the issue that his son pointed out to make the book more accurate.
JZ: Yeah, and I came across changes like that in more insidious ways. When I was pursuing my Ph.D. in Astrological Culture at the University of Berkeley– University of California, Berkeley– there was a book by a guy named Oscar Schmidt, who wrote in 1922 a book called The Spirit of Astrology, and it was reprinted four different times and the fourth time was in 1937. By that point, the Nazis had been in power for four years, and the book you read in 1937 is very different in some ways than the one that was published in 1922. But they don’t mention it, you have to actually read both, line by line to see what’s missing and what was changed. And it was realizing that way back at least in 2009/2010, again going back to that timing, where I realized no one has collected enough of this material to see that these things are being changed this way, and then writing about it and what it means. So obviously there, the implication would be that there were certain things you couldn’t print in Nazi Germany that were okay to print years before. But giving people the space to do those comparisons, I think is important, you know?
CB: Yeah. Well, that’s amazing. That’s really exciting. So you’re in Olympia, Washington, right?
JZ: Yeah. Yeah.
CB: Okay. And there’s office hours and events, I know you’re starting to do different events. And we might do another book launch for this later this month.
JZ: Yeah, I would love to have you over for a book launch virtually and have other virtual guests ask you questions about the book and have a kind of… That’s how I’ve done it so far. Earlier this year, I was hosting a few authors for launches where people could ask questions to the author directly and it was a very sort of cozy event as if it were in-person, but it was on Zoom. The building is accessible currently by members by appointment only, and we’re slowly unfolding the events calendar both for online and in-person events. That’s still in development as we sort of make our way into actually being able to open the building.
CB: Brilliant. Well, that’s really exciting. And I mean, if it’s not already, it’s probably going to become pretty shortly the biggest astrological library in North America, perhaps in the Western Hemisphere. I know of only one of their library that’s larger, and that is Philip Graves who you’re probably going to be vying for-
JZ: Not vying. No, no, no, we work together. We work together actually every week. So we have a very solid conversation going and it’s my goal to have him be the remote main librarian for us here, because he knows everything about the history of astrology books and even in some cases, the history of astrological techniques. And so he and I’ve been working very closely for the lot of this year to kind of become a kind of consortium of astrological research.
CB: Yeah. I was just joking by saying vying, I know that you’re also going to publish his book here sometime later in the year or early next year. I was looking forward to interviewing him, but that book is coming out through your company.
JZ: Yeah, we’re intending for a December date, all things cross your fingers. I’ve actually been working on it this week. It’s been percolating for quite some time but as you know, as one project wraps up, then you can turn to the next paper child and the next one. [laughs] I think of it almost sometimes as like an airport, so there’s planes on the tarmac and I’m like, “Okay, you’re going to take off this time, you’re going to take off that time.” And you don’t really like having delays or lost baggage. So it’s like you got to keep it all moving at this level of just seeing the projects go off. But I also love that moment, though, and I would encourage anyone listening to the podcast to like, when you have that research instinct or you get passionate about something in the same way that Chris you’ve been passionate about Valens and his work, just keep running with it and tell everyone and write something and just go for it, you know? And it might turn into a book or an article or something where your ideas about it enter this permanent conversation. We need your work to be a part of it, you know?
CB: Yeah, that’s part of the dialogue that sustains the astrological tradition is that continuing dialogue between both talking to people directly or in person, but also sometimes talking to people through time, through written works. And astrology becomes that language that transcends time and culture and everything else, and this is a really good example of that when we’re talking about the work of an astrologer who lived almost 2000 years ago surviving and becoming relevant again to us today and speaking to us in some significant way.
JZ: Right. New evidence will always come to light and you can’t help that, and by allowing Riley’s work to have completion in this form, you’re also throwing down the gauntlet to say, “Make a better translation, someone out there. Improve on this. Give us more.” Push back against it and say, “Oh, well, I just found this new piece of evidence that adds this to the picture so now we see clearer.” You know? That’s an important part of it, is to just participate. And yeah, I just love all of that part.
CB: Yeah, sometimes the recovery of ancient astrology is an ongoing process and it’s a process that has different stages. But I think we’re entering a new stage now with the publication of this book and some of the others over the past few years, where the picture is starting to become much clearer and we’ve almost finished sort of recovering most of ancient astrology at this point so that we understand way better than we did 30 years ago. Actually, that’s the other thing. It’s 30 years. This is the end of the Saturn Return of Project Hindsight that was started with Saturn in Aquarius, I completely forgot about this, and Valens is coming out as Saturn stations direct the final time before it departs from Aquarius early next year. Brilliant
JZ: Yeah, wonderful. And congratulations to you.
CB: Yeah. Well, my Ascendant is at like 17 degrees Aquarius, it’s stationed at my ascendant at the same time and Valens’s Sun is on my Ascendant. And weirdly, I noticed just the other day, I’d forgotten that him and I have the reversed Sun and Moon. Because he’s Sun in Aquarius and Moon in Scorpio, and I’m Sun in Scorpio and Moon and Aquarius. So there’s some funny things, funny contacts and things like that and it all feels very appropriate and very full circle.
JZ: Yeah. So your pseudonym when you write another astrology book is going to be Invalens?
CB: [chuckles] Invalens, I don’t know.
JZ: Inverse Valens.
CB: Yeah, the reverse Valens. We’ll have to workshop that. I’ll workshop that. We’ll have to work on that name.
JZ: Yeah, I know. I mean, now that I started, it’s not a secret. So you have to pick something else.
CB: There was a joke at Project Hindsight that was about a fake astrologer named Fraudius that we’ve come up that would introduce like weird techniques.
JZ: [laughs] That’s very frontal, Fraudius. Goodness me.
CB: All right. Well, thanks. I know we’re out of time and you gotta go do other important like 20 other things as you’re always doing with TMA and the library and other book projects. So thanks a lot for joining me for this today, this discussion. Thanks for helping me to launch this book and get Valens out there. And yeah, I look forward to having you back again to talk about other book projects and other library projects in the future.
JZ: Wonderful. Thank you for having me, and congratulations again to you and Mark Riley.
CB: Thank you. All right, I’ll put links to everything in the description below this video on YouTube where you can find the book or on the Astrology Podcast website. But other than that, that’s it for this episode. So thanks, everyone, for watching, and we’ll see you again next time.
Special thanks to all the patrons that helped to support the production of this episode of the podcast through our page on patreon.com. In particular, shoutout to the patrons on our producers’ tier including Thomas Miller, Catherine Conroy, Kristi Moe, Ariana Amour, Mandi Rae, Angelic Nambo, Issah Sabah, Jake Otero, Mimi Stargazer, and Jeanne Marie Kaplan. If you like the work that I’m doing here on the podcast and you would like to find a way to support it then please consider becoming a patron through my page on patreon.com and in exchange you’ll get access to bonus content such as early access to new episodes, the ability to attend the live recording of the month ahead forecast each month, access to a private monthly auspicious elections report that we put out each month, access to exclusive episodes that are only available for patrons, or you can also get your name listed in the credits at the end of each episode. For more information, go to patreon.com/astrologypodcast.
The main software we use here on the podcast to look at astrological charts is called Solar Fire for Windows which is available at alabe.com, and you can use the promo code AP15 to get a 15% discount. For Mac users, we use a similar set of software by the same programming team called Astro Gold for Mac OS which is available from astrogold.io, and you can use the promo code ASTROPODCAST15 to get a 15% discount on that as well.
If you’d like to learn more about the approach to astrology that I outline on the podcast, then you should check out my book titled Hellenistic Astrology: The Study of Fate and Fortune, where I traced the origins of Western astrology and reconstructed the original system that was developed about 2000 years ago. In this book, I outline basic concepts but also take you into intermediate and advanced techniques for reading a birth chart, including some timing techniques. You can find out more about the book at hellenisticastrology.com/book. The book pairs very well with my online course on ancient astrology called the Hellenistic Astrology Course, which has over 100 hours of video lectures where I go into detail about teaching you how to read a birth chart, and showing hundreds of example charts in order to really demonstrate how the techniques work in practice. Find out more information about that at theastrologyschool.com.
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