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A Relic of Astrology - Henry Carrington Bolton - aus dem Journal of American Folk-lore (1897)
Many people know and have already seen the beautiful illustration that opens this page (or something similar): the Star Sign Man, which depicts the relationships between the parts of the human body and the signs of the zodiac. The text, the first Italian translation of which we present, was read at the meeting of the American Folk-lore Society in Baltimore on 28 December 1897 and then included in the eleventh edition of the Journal of American Folk-lore and is now available online as a PDF at this address.
The mysterious image of a naked man surrounded by the signs of the zodiac, so common in all medical almanacs, is known to all, but few recognize the great antiquity of the symbolism involved and the interesting history of this astrological relic. These lines start from twelve individual objects placed around the central figure, namely a jumping ram, playful twins, a lying lion, an exhausted bull, a scale, an imaginary virgin, a determined bowman, a carefree water bearer, an agile ibex, two crossed fishes, a sea crab and a tropical scorpion with an articulated tail.
The connection between these twelve signs and the human anatomy becomes clear in the following lines written in 1720: The head and the face of the royal ram the law, The neck and the throat belong to the dark bull, The loving twins lead shoulders, arms and hands, The slow cancer commands breast and spleen.
The brave lion rules the heart of man. The humble virgin confined herself to the intestine. The kidneys and loins are judged in Libra, The Secretes shares the leader Scorpio. The first step in the development of this concept took place more than 4000 years ago, when Babylonian astronomers observed the circular area traversed by the sun during the course of the year and divided it into twelve constellations, resulting in the so-called zodiac sign.
These twelve subdivisions were associated with symbols, some of which are to be regarded as Babylonian ideograms of the months. The astronomers of Egypt adopted this system, and their vivid imagination populated the constellations of genes; in this way a symbolism arose in which each group of stars is compared with a particular animal or human character; these star signs are carved into the wall of the temple of Denderah, on the Nile, and similar signs were found by Champollion on sarcophagi and papyri.
The twelve constellations are enumerated in the old Latin verses: and they are figuratively catalogued in the English verses: Aries and Taurus begin the line, then twins, cancer and the magnificent lion, the virgin and scales, scorpion and Sagittarius are expected, even Capricorn and Aquarius, and fish with shining tails.
The word Mazzaroth means sign of the zodiac. Th. in memory of a child named Simplicius who died on the same day as his birth, there is an inscription stating that this double event happened "in the fourth hour of the night and in the eighth idea of the month of May, the day of Saturn, the twentieth day of the moon, under the sign of Capricorn.
In the thirteenth century, astronomy was rarely cultivated for its own benefit, the movements of the moon and planets were studied to determine the holy days, and the stars were observed with the intention of creating horoscopes. For centuries, the rise and position of the stars, the eclipses of the sun and moon, the appearance of comets, the aspects, connections and contrasts of the planets were considered closely related to the emergence of diseases and their healing.
Specifically, it was believed that the moon had a special power over physical and mental illness, as well as over the weather and minor living conditions â" a superstition that still exists even in enlightened minds. The position of the moon in the constellations determined the favorable time for the composition and administration of medicines â" a current belief in antiquity among the Anglo-Saxon peoples.
D. explains that this cleric visited a sick virgin at Wotton Monastery, Yorkshire, who was about to die. The runner asked when the girl had been salted, and when he realized that this had happened on the fourth moon, he said: "You did this on the fourth moon as a true ignorant and fool, for I remember Archbishop Theodore, whose memory is blessed, who said that the salination was dangerous when the light of the moon and the flood of the ocean grow.
In the meantime, a new conception was transferred to pseudophilosophy; the physical universe was regarded as an organized being endowed with a soul and similar to man; it was assumed that there was a close relationship between the universe and man, with the universe controlling man's destiny and body and man having power over the fundamental laws of nature.
The terms macrocosmos and microcosmos were used in this context, which for the first time described the world in its entirety, the second the smallest world in man. Man, or microcosm, was considered the physical and spiritual embodiment of the universe or macrocosm. Olympiodorus, of the Greek school of Alexandria, at the beginning of the fourth century, wrote about the micro- and macrocosmos, but the clearest explanation of this philosophy can be found in the letter of Isis, queen of Egypt and wife of Osiris, to his son Horus; it is one of the Greek-Egyptian writings on sacred art, unknown author and obscure origin.
Hermes calls man the microcosm because man, the small world, contains everything that is contained in the macrocosm, in the big world. The macrocosm has small and large animals, both terrestrial and aquatic; humans, on the other hand, have fleas and lice, which are land animals; they also have intestinal worms, which are aquatic animals.
The macrocosm has rivers, springs and seas, man has internal organs, intestines, veins and channels. The macrocosm has air animals, man has mosquitoes and other winged insects. The macrocosm has fleeting spirits like winds, thunder and thunderstorms; man has inner gases and porda of diseases. The macrocosm has two lights, the sun and the moon; man also has two lights, the right eye representing the sun and the left eye representing the moon.
The macrocosm has mountains and hills, the man has head and ears. The macrocosm has twelve signs of the zodiac, and also of man, from the earlobe to the feet, which are called fish. The terms macrocosm and microcosm are constantly used in medieval astrological, medical and theosophical works. Paracelsus thought that man was a microcosm compared to the Earth and a macrocosm compared to an atom of matter; the relationship between them formed a special science called Paracelsus astronomy.
The forces controlling the two floors are identical, and in both cases they can act abnormally and cause dysfunctions; humans can be affected by cramps, edema, colic and fever; the earth can be struck by earthquakes, rainstorms, storms and lightning. The famous physician and mystic Robert Fludd, who was not a complete charlatan, wrote extensively about the macrocosm and the microcosm (Utriusque kosmi) (1617).
There are also friendships and hostilities between one zodiac sign and the other, since the fire signs are in contrast to the watermarks and the nightly ones to the day signs, etc.. The famous Dutch physician Jan Baptist Van Helmont, the German Theosoph Jacob Boehme and much later Swedembrog, the apostle of the new Jerusalem, discussed the mutual influences of macrocosm and microcosm.
The presumed influence of zodiac signs on medicine and personal actions is shown in a curious passage in Husband-man Practice or Prognostication for ever, published in London in 1664. "Moon in cancer, good for rinsing with electricians; with pills, moon in fish; with potions, moon in virgin. Good for vomiting in the bull, virgin or second part of the shooter; for rinsing the head must be for sneezing at cancer, lion or virgin; for stopping currents and rheumatism the moon must be at bull, virgin or ibex; for bathing if the moon is at Libra, Aquarius or fish; for cutting hair or beard the moon must be at Libra, shooter, Aquarius or fishÂ".
The influence of zodiac signs on the horse's body. The pictorial representation of the influence of the zodiac on human anatomy was recurring from the end of the fifteenth century. In the 1504 edition, the zodiac signs are partly superimposed on the human body and partly placed around it (2); the drawing is pleasantly described by Robert Southey in the Doctor: â??This man is naked, but not shamefaced over the two fish, one foot each; the fish are neither in the air nor in the water nor in the ground, but seemingly floating in the void.
The ram is put with two feet on the head of the man and from him comes an arrow, which crosses the forehead of the man up to the brain. Capricorn exhales a visible influence from within that penetrates both knees; Aquarius adds similar stings to both legs; the Virgin is as if she were fishing in the gut; Libra in parts affected by angry school teachers; Scorpio takes the most perverse target of all" (The Doctor, vol v).
However, it differs from that in the Margarita Philosophica, since all animals and objects that mark the signs of the zodiac are placed directly on the human body. The ram rests on the head of the man, the bull sits comfortably over and behind the neck, the two twins climb over each arm to the shoulders; the cancer (as it is pulled, it is rather unâaragosta) attacks his chest; he has managed to put a lion between the head of the virgin and the Argostum, which in turn penetrates into the plates of the scales below her.
On the man's right thigh a centaur shoots an arrow in space; a goat jumps from one knee to another, and its hoof on the back touches the right knee and the one on the front touches the left; below it a pig pours water from a glass onto the two fish lying between the man's feet.
As Menenio says to Sicily: Â "If you see this in the map of my microcosm, does that mean that you know me pretty well? The edition of the works of Shakespeare of Cambridge edited by Clarke and Wright, the edition of Richard Grant White, the glossary of Dyce and the commentaries of Gervinus do not take this into account; Rolfe, Hudson and the lexicon of Shmidt simply point out that microcosm means âthe small world of manâ.
Henry Hirving's edition deals with the word microcosm wider, but none of these commentators pays attention to the whole sentence. In Shakespeare's time, the word âmappaâ was used in the sense of a rough graphic concept of something, and the expression âmappa del microcosmoâ obviously refers to the symbolic representation of the influence of the macrocosm on the microcosm.
In the British diary of 1721, the central figure takes on the form of a woman sitting on a sphere, the outer edge of which is divided into segments and surrounded by the name and sign of the twelve constellations. The same emblem appears in John Wings Domed Olympia for 1721 and in Nathaniel Ames' Coachack for 1729, published in Boston and accompanied by these verses: "The moor can easily change its skin, as much as the man can give up the way he grew up, so here I have put the old AnatomySperando with this pleasure to my countrymen.
But where is the man who was born and lives among us, who can an unstable crowd like? Ephemeris or Astronomical, Astrological and Metereological Diary by Job Gladbury, published in 1721, takes an entirely different form from the figure that "symbolizes the government of the moon on the human body as the twelve constellations of zodiac signs pass by.
A cherub smiling, curly and chubby, with crossed hands on his chest and a body bent backwards, his feet turned behind his floating head in a circle around which are the signs of the zodiac. On the same page there is the following quote: "When I think of heaven, of the works of your fingers, of the sun, the moon and the stars that you have ordered so that you may remember them!
The little mortal on the ground, curtains neck and heels to show the reader those parts of man and woman, sheep and pigs that are dominated by the heavenly signs; But the language of women, when it gives breath to passion, flees this and other government! It first appeared in the 1741 edition, with the drawing of a man sitting on a globe surrounded by twelve signs, on the square; about câera the legend: Here I sit naked like a fairy elevenMy seat is a pumpkin, I envy no human treasure, although I have neither bread nor cheese in the pantry, I say free of charge if it is healthy.
Around this figure there are four concentric circles with the name and sign of the twelve constellations. This predominant form of the emblem, the standing man surrounded by signs, appears in the arms of Richard Improvâd of 1783, and a slight variation of it is found in the Almanac of Father Tammanyâs of 1787, both published in Philadelphia, and from that time on this persistent astrological testimony appears annually.
The meaning of the repulsive figure is not explained except for the usual legend: Â "Anatomy of the human body dominated by the twelve constellationsÂ". Much less common than this emblem is the one that shows the supposed influence of zodiac signs on human physiognomy. Erra Pater's book of wisdom (Worcester, s. d.) contains a rough engraving of a human head on which the twelve signs are placed in the following order: Erra Pater also writes:
Â "There is no part of the face of the person which is not under special influence or the government of seven planetsÂ", and provides the following table: Modern simulators propagating the belief in the influence of the zodiac on human life are as bold in their claims as the most superstitious charlatans of the seventeenth century. It is ensured that each of the twelve signs points to a weakness or a vulnerable part of the body, but has no power over the spiritualized man, because the spirit is absolutely above matter.
However, it seems that Â "bull, cancer, virgin, scorpion, ibex and fish are cold, female, nightly and unhappy, while rams, lion twins, scales, Sagittarius and Aquarius are hot, male, happy and dailyÂ". Modern astrologers are responsible for predicting personal traits, temperaments, dominant weaknesses, predominant diseases and matters of the heart, as well as the foetal character of men born under each of the twelve constellations.
This Â "art with which villains conspire to madnessÂ" is now enjoying a resurgence in Europe and America. The cover of this pointless magazine is accordingly decorated with a bright sun, a growing moon, stars of all sizes, planets and comets surrounded by symbols of the zodiac. It is called âLo Zodiacoâ and its purpose is the complete study of the influence of the zodiac on human life.
The first public session was attended by some fifty women, who proposed to devote themselves month after month systematically to the constellations. It showed the influence of the zodiac and the planets on human life and was exhibited by a representative of the Faust Institute of Solar Biology. Occult studies, astro-phrenology and Bible historyâ di Philadelphia.
The map contained colorful concentric circles divided into twelve segments corresponding to the twelve constellations surrounding the head of a man marked to represent phrenological developments. At intervals on the map appeared the signs of the planets and the zodiac, the symbolic figure of human anatomy and other astrological signs. Below the paper there are twelve wooden dovecots full of printed flyers.
The flyer was illustrated with a mystical diagram in which the planetary and zodiac signs, the names of the twelve sons of Jacob and the twelve disciples of Christ were symmetrically arranged near words denoting human types and qualities.