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(X.) HISTORY - Towards the Dark

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Bianca
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« on: August 18, 2007, 07:12:59 am »

                         



                                             T O W A R D S   T H E   D A R K





For centuries, the man in the street, bourgeois as well as relatively poor, had consulted astrologers when he could afford their fees; but more often he relied on the annual astrological almanacs which, for a relatively negligible sum of money, offered all sorts of help and advice.

Almanacs began as simple records of astronomical events during the coming year: notes of market days, holidays and holy days as well as of days when eclipses would occur, on which the Moon was full or new; on which notable celestial events such as conjunctions of the planets took place.
                                                                 
                                                                  CLOG ALMANAC

In the Middle Ages these circulated in manuscript, or as 'clog almanacs' made of wood, metal or horn, with notches and symbols recording the lunar months and the church feast days. These were sometimes small enough to fit into a pocket, but occasionally more elaborate and even decorative, hanging on a nail at the fireside.
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« Reply #1 on: August 18, 2007, 07:14:36 am »









After the invention of printing, almanacs were among the earliest books to be published: a printed almanac was issued by Gutenberg in 1448 - eight years before his famous Bible - and within thirty years a large number of them was being published, not only containing astronomical facts but predictions based on them. The earliest printed 'prognostication' to have survived is dated 1470, but within a few years others appeared printed in Germany, France, Italy, Hungary, the Netherlands and Poland. The first English almanac we have is dated 1500, printed by William Parron, an Italian who for a while attended the court of Henry VII, but vanished shortly after the death of the Queen at the age of 37.

Manuscript almanacs continued to circulate for a long time after the invention of printing, and some 'clog almanacs' were still in use at the end of the 16th century.

But printed copies were more common considerably earlier, many of them imported from the Continent, and containing weather forecasts, predictions of a good or bad harvest, notes of 'good' or 'evil' days, and even suggestions of the future prices of cereals, fruit and other crops.

Political predictions crept in, too - an interest in the doings of royalty seemed as common among early almanac readers as with readers of 20th-century gossip columns. The Laet family, which produced generations of Flemish astrologers whose almanacs were published at Antwerp, seems to have made a speciality of these, on one occasion predicting (for 1517) that Henry VIII of England would be inclined 'to pass the time in honour among fair ladies', and later promising that he would experience matrimonial difficulties.
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« Reply #2 on: August 18, 2007, 07:17:04 am »








The almanacs sold like hot cakes at every social level. Though the nobility and gentry could well afford their own astrologers if they wished (and many of them did wish), they also bought the annuals, just as people today buy do-it-yourself health books to read in their doctors' waiting rooms.

There is an almanac of 1624 with the autograph of Charles I inside the cover; Lord Burghley, Elizabeth's Treasurer, had a series in his library, some annotated in his own hand; Essex, the Parliamentary general, the Earl of Clarendon, Bishop Wren of Norwich were other subscribers - the last two making careful notes in their almanacs while imprisoned in the Tower of London.

Many university dons 'took in' the almanacs, and seamen were devoted to them: Lieutenant John Weale, serving under Admiral Blake, took on his voyages 'a bottle of ink, a pocket almanac, and a sheet almanac'. As late as 1709 the Quakers of Derbyshire acquired (for a penny ha'penny) an almanac for their lending library.

Their popularity was enormous, partly because they were useful (as diaries, for instance), partly as popular entertainment. Some of them offered educational supplements on religion, medicine, magic, even sex: when the planets were in certain positions, love-making was positively dangerous - the 'dog days' of July and August were especially so.

One satirist suggested that this was a time of year when adultery was common, for most husbands obeyed the astrologers' injunction to refrain from sex, and their wives turned to other quarters for satisfaction, on the grounds that 'if husband won't another must'. But there was positive advice, too: Walter Gray, in his notes for May 1581, simply enjoined 'Let Venus be embraced', while a contemporary suggested that his readers should 'embrace Venus honestly' in May, and 'daintily' in November.

There is some evidence from population studies that people took this advice.
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« Reply #3 on: August 18, 2007, 07:19:47 am »







Dorothy Partridge, a midwife who with Sarah Jinner was one of a very few women astrologers, was more outright a century later: in January, she found 'a lusty squab bedfellow very good physic at this season'; but December and February were lusty months too, and an especially good time to be 'a husband to thy wife' was when the Moon was in Sagittarius.

The first Englishman to flood the market with his almanacs was William Lilly (1602-81), a yeoman's son from a tiny village in Leicestershire, who went to London as servant to an illiterate alderman and, marrying his rich widow, learned astrology from a disreputable master. By 1635 he was both teaching and practising astrology.

It was in 1644 that as 'Merlinus Anglicus Junior' he published his first almanac, and the publication continued annually until 1682, the year after his death. Lilly's notebooks are, like Forman's, a picture of an age, revealing the amount of work he did for men and women of all classes (he was consulted by Charles I as well as by servants, by army generals, sea captains and rich merchants, and nonentities).

If Lilly was perhaps the best-known astrologer of the 17th century, there were others almost as notorious. (There were none whose forecasts were so well publicized: Lilly was actually arrested on a charge of starting the Great Fire of London, on the grounds that his alleged prediction of it was so accurate that he must have started it to justify himself!) John Booker (1603-67) was a haberdasher's apprentice before he became an astrologer; he published his own almanacs from 1631 to 1667, and recorded in his casebooks a thousand clients a year before 1648 and 1665.

Lilly, better-known especially after the publication of his textbook Christian Astrology (1647), dealt with almost two thousand enquiries a year at the height of his activity.

And they had two hundred or so colleagues between the reigns of Elizabeth and Anne.
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« Reply #4 on: August 18, 2007, 07:22:57 am »








Some of them were, to say the least, less respectable than Lilly or Booker, or even the rascally Forman.

There was, for instance, one Captain Bubb, 'a proper handsome man, well spoken, but withal covetous, who stood in the pillory for fraud; Jeffery Neve, former alderman of Great Yarmouth and in 1626 deputy water-bailiff for Dover, who made a small fortune by rigging the accounts of the archery butts, and fled to Frankfurt; William Poole, 'a nibbler at astrology', who boasted that he had had seventeen professions, among them plasterer and bricklayer, and famous for the squib he published on Sir Thomas Jay, JP, who had falsely accused him of theft: on hearing of his death and burial, Poole made his way to the churchyard and defecated on the grave, leaving the following short note:


Here lieth buried Sir Thomas Jay, Knight,

Who being dead, I upon his grave did shite.


But there were many more respectable astrologers, of course, some from the ranks of the clergy.
John Aubrey tells us that the knees of Richard Napier (1590-1674), rector of Great Linford in Buckinghamshire, were '**** with praying', for he would go down on them before beginning to
draw up each horoscope. He also plied his brethren with 'whole cloak-bags of books', converting many
of them to astrology - including his neighbour the Rev. William Bredon, vicar of Thornton (so addicted to smoking, Lilly says, that when he had no tobacco he would cut the bellropes and smoke them).

Then there were Anthony Asham, Richard Harvey, Thomas Buckminster, John Maplet, Stephen Batman and George Hartgill - all 16th-century clergymen astrologers - and, in the 17th century, Joshua Childrey, Nathaniel Sparke, John Butler, Edmund Chilmead, Charles Atkinson and Richard Carpenter (author of Astrology proved harmless, useful and pious, 1657).
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« Reply #5 on: August 18, 2007, 07:27:43 am »








Their advice, in and out of almanacs, remained as broad as that of their predecessors.

During the Civil War, of course, the anxiety of parents for their fighting children, brother for brother, wife for husband, all increased their work load - and their incomes, when they were professionals; in 1662 it was said that Lilly was making £500 a year (at least £20,000 in today's currency).

But it is difficult to estimate the average income of a professional astrologer: in 1647 Lilly received twenty pieces of gold for advising Charles I, but he and Booker would give individual astrological advice for two shillings and sixpence (12½p); Richard Delahay left between two and three thousand pounds at his death, but John Vaux, the clerk to St Helen's church, Auckland (who used to sell his almanacs from the altar) charged only one shilling for finding a stolen mare, or four shillings for a horse and a mare - with an additional eightpence to be spent on drink.

There has not yet been sufficient study of the part played by astrologers during the English Civil War. Not only did rival astrologers publish rival almanacs, and pay personal visits to the opposing Royalist or Parliamentary troops, but the newspapers published rival predictions of success and failure.

Lilly had a great stroke of luck when early in the war, in 1645, he successfully predicted the Roundhead victory at Naseby; this success made his reputation. But he was roundly attacked by his rivals - on the Parliamentary side as well as the Royalist; for although he gave his support to Cromwell (and even worked for a while for the Commonwealth Council of State) he also advised Charles I, even procuring the file with which the king hoped to escape from Carisbrooke Castle!

The war of the almanacs was long and bitter, with Lilly and Booker on one side, John Humphrey and George Wharton on the other. At one moment, indeed, Lilly and Booker were outside the walls of Colchester with the Parliamentary troops 'assuring them the town would very shortly be surrendered, as indeed it was', while Humphrey was inside the city advising the then governor, Sir Charles Lucas, that relief would soon reach him.
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« Reply #6 on: August 18, 2007, 07:30:16 am »

                                   




During the Interregnum before the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, the publication of almanacs continued, but there was some censorship, and some astrologers were executed for their support for the king, although Lilly managed to save Wharton, whose work he respected. Even Lilly himself was censored, while some colleagues had their publications stopped completely, and others were imprisoned.

Unable to publish, they turned their attention to translating astrological classics hitherto unavailable in England, and this resulted in a great number of such works being available for the first time in English - added to which Lilly's rivals worked busily on textbooks to rival Christian Astrology, and Nicholas Culpepper, William Ramesey, John Gadbury, Richard Saunders, John Partridge, William Salmon, and John Case all in time published popular guides to the subject.

The serious interest of intelligent men was slower to wane in England than abroad. It is true that as early as the 1560s a few men began to criticize the astrological theory as being scientifically unsound, at least where prediction was concerned. But the astrologers had their answer: they, or the majority of them, never claimed that anything in the future would happen - the most they would say was that some event, or some turn of health, or some change of fortune, seemed likely.

In fact their almanacs were so crowded with 'maybe' and 'might' and 'perhaps' that they were criticized, as astrologers are today, of being too cagey. Yet all they were saying was that the stars compelled no man's action; all they did was to incline him one way or the other.

One section in the almanacs always read with interest concerned the weather: every almanac contained a section of weather forecasts, and readers seemed to find these useful. There were occasions on which the forecasts were extremely accurate.

One famous example is that of Patrick Murphy's Weather Almanac for 1838. Against 20 January, Murphy noted: 'Fair. Prob. lowest degree of winter temperature.' That day proved in fact to be the coldest day not only of the year but of the century, the temperature falling to -20°F at Greenwich.
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« Reply #7 on: August 18, 2007, 07:33:09 am »








Astrologers mostly based their predictions on the movements of the Moon, which was believed to control the Earth's atmosphere.

In France, Jean Baptiste Lamarck published his Annuaire Météorologique between 1800 and 1811, based on lunar data, and in Germany Rudolf Falb (1838-1903) coined the expression 'critical days' for dates when the Earth, Moon and Sun were in certain relative positions associated with various types of weather.

In Russia, Demchinskii did similar work, publishing forecasts not only for his fatherland but for the United States and Japan. And for a moment to stretch even further into the future, the 20th-century descendants of Partridge and Gadbury and Lilly published their weather forecasts in The Daily Mail in England, and Demchinskii's long-term forecasts were also printed in that newspaper, and considered unusually accurate.

Astro-meteorology has continued to flourish, and while professional meteorologists maintain a determinedly sceptical attitude, many of them will concede that insufficient study has been made of the planetary positions and their relationship to terrestrial weather.

They might well do so, in the face of such evidence of success as that presented by the career of John Nelson, an American astrologer who between 1946 and 1971 investigated radio disturbances for the RCA network, and of 1500 forecasts made in 1967 (often months in advance) achieved a success rate of 93.2% - a rate maintained for nine years!

Meteorologists are, at the time of publication, at last beginning to look seriously at the possibility that climatic cycles are linked to the movements of the so-called solar planets Mercury, Venus and Jupiter; there is, it is said, clear-cut evidence of associations between the period of peak solar tides and sunspot activity, and a link between sunspot activity, cosmic ray bombardment of Earth, and climatic change resulting from that bombardment.
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« Reply #8 on: August 18, 2007, 07:34:45 am »







But to return to the 17th century, it was not until the 1650s that general opinion in England began to swing against astrology. During Lilly's lifetime he and Wharton had been ridiculed by Samuel Butler in Hudibras, as Sidrophel and Whackham:




Some calculate the hidden fates

Of monkeys, puppy-dogs and cats,

Some running-nags and fighting-cocks;

Some love, trade, law-suits, and the pox;

Some take a measure of the lives

Of Fathers, Mothers, Husbands, Wives,

Make opposition, trine and quartile,

Tell who is barren, and who fertile,

As if the planet's first aspect

The tender infant did infect

In soul and body, and instill

All future good, all future ill ...




There were less literary attacks, too, such as the squib put about which told of a country bumpkin who went to see Lilly about a stolen purse, and found the doorstep fouled with human excreta:

Down came that profound Astrologer... who opening the door and seeing it in that shitten case, began to execrate and curse those beastly knaves that did it; vowing that if he did but know who did him that nasty trick, he would make them examples to all such rogues so long as they lived.

'Nay,' quoth the countryman, 'if he cannot tell who beshit his door, he can as well be hanged as tell me who had my purse!' and so went his way.
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« Reply #9 on: August 18, 2007, 07:39:27 am »




                                                         



Congreve sent up astrology, in the person of Foresign, in Love for Love (1695) - unlike Dryden, who thoroughly approved of it - and finally in came Swift with his demolition of the astrologer John Partridge in his Predictions of lsaac Bickerstaff for 1708.

In this fake almanac, Swift produced a straight-faced lampoon protesting that his real aim was to protect the public from the false claims of bad astrologers, and among other things predicted that Partridge himself would die at 11 p.m. on 29 March 1708, closely followed by King Louis XIV and the Pope. Shortly after 29 March, Swift published a detailed account of Partridge's sad death, and the latter had a hard struggle to prove himself still alive.

It is perhaps worth noting that neither Butler nor Swift (nor indeed any other writer who published anti-astrological work) actually set about destroying astrology by argument; all they did was ridicule it - and goodness knows it presented a broad enough target. Sometimes they did so for political reasons; as a matter of fact this was probably the case with Swift, for Partridge was a vociferous Whig and republican.

New argument about the basis of astrology was, as always, lacking. It was certainly not provided by the astronomers.

It has been suggested that Newton was almost personally responsible for the desuetude of astrology in England. Nothing could be further from the truth. His work may have made its contribution to the changing climate of opinion, but he clung to a belief in astrology until his death, and was very short with Edmund Halley when, as we have seen, the latter rebuked him for heeding such nonsense:


'Sir,' he said, 'I have studied the matter - you have not.'
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« Reply #10 on: August 18, 2007, 07:41:56 am »







Nevertheless, the temper of the time was against him. Doubts were openly expressed at the universities, and for the first time the use of astrology in medicine was questioned. The Royal College of Physicians turned against it, despite the fact that its President between 1601 and 1604 was an almanac writer and there was some use of astrology in the College's Pharmacopoeia.

Those attacked were (yet again) the extremists. No one rebuked Richard Mead, a vice-president of the Royal Society, for publishing in 1717 A treatise concerning the influence of the Sun and Moon upon human bodies, and arguing that attacks of epilepsy, vertigo, hysteria and asthma could be collated with phases of the Moon; and in 1680 it was claimed that astrological physicians were the most popular and sought-after of all doctors.

John Locke, who has been called the inspirer of the Age of Enlightenment, and whose philosophy had the most profound influence on the thought of Europe, accepted that the curative value of herbs was enhanced by their being picked and used at particular times of the year.

Still, by the turn of the century scientific interest in astrology was at its lowest ebb for many hundreds of years indeed, perhaps since the 3rd or 4th centuries BC.

Although there had still been no concerted attack on the theory from astronomers or universities, it was now the case that the former were no longer automatically interested in the effects the heavenly bodies had on earth; it was simply assumed that, apart from the obvious effects of the Sun and Moon, they had none.

The intellectual aspects of the subject, the philosophical and theological implications, were on the whole no longer discussed except by a decreasing minority.
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« Reply #11 on: August 18, 2007, 07:44:33 am »








By 1720 the last of the notable astrologers of the 17th century was dead - Francis Moore died in 1714, John Partridge in the following year - and with them a generation which, whatever its faults, had taken astrology seriously and practised it with some pretension to scholarship.

Lilly's Christian Astrology, for instance, is an immensely long work (something like 350,000 words in three volumes) enshrining much traditional astrology culled from a long check list of earlier volumes, some at that time untranslated. Whatever may be one's opinion of some of Lilly's wilder assertions about what astrology can and cannot do, it is an intelligently written work. No 18th-century astrologer would have been capable of it; they were far less interested in the intellectual or empirical truth of the claims they made, and most often were simply not intelligent enough for the subject.

They were, on the whole, cheapjacks.

There had been a few attempts to bring the study of astrology into line with the new scientific age:
J. B. Morin's posthumous Astrologia Gallica (1661) argued that any serious study of astrology must depend on a systemic examination of meteorological, political and religious developments in relation to the movements of the planets, and that any other method of examining the subject did more harm than good.

Joshua Childrey, an archdeacon of Salisbury, had argued for a reformation of astrology on the lines suggested by Francis Bacon, and Jeremy Shakerley, an astrologer much under Lilly's influence, wrote that 'astrology consists of too much uncertainty to inform us of anything', and was ambitious to seek 'from philosophical principles a foundation for a more refined astrology'.

Even John Gadbury claimed that 'one real experiment is of greater worth and more to be valued than one hundred pompous predictions.'
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« Reply #12 on: August 18, 2007, 07:46:59 am »








But the 18th century set off on its course of scientific empiricism, and determined to ignore the efforts of astrologers to claim that their subject should be included among those to be examined in a similar fashion.

The attitude continues to this day: one scientist at a conference in the 1970s, dissatisfied with statistical evidence offered as proof that some aspects of astrology were worth examination, was asked what kind of proof he would accept, and replied with splendid certainty: 'I can conceive of no evidence which would convince me that there is anything in the subject.'

If there were few serious astrologers in the 18th century, and even fewer in the 19th, there was plenty of money-making activity from quacks; the evidence of this lies in the continuing sale of almanacs. Partridge's annual almanacs continued to sell for over a century after his death, and Old Moore's Almanac is still issued today. In 1764, Old Moore sold over 80,000 copies in a year, although its prophesies were even more general, even more garbled, than those of earlier issues.

One development during the 18th century was the appearance of almanacs directed specifically at women readers: The Ladies' Diary, for instance, which appeared in 1704, and had articles on famous women, recipes and riddles as well as astrological items. Its editor, a Coventry schoolmaster called John Tipper, had the ambition of 'introducing the fair sex to the study of mathematics'. By the 1750s, it was selling 30,000 copies a year, and was widely read by gentlemen.

Such astrologers as there were, were as fiercely partisan in politics as the earlier astrologers had been during the Civil War.

George Parker was a high Tory whose views were so incendiary that the Stationers' Company refused to publish his work; Partridge on the other hand was violently Whig, and greeted the accession of George of Hanover as a day of deliverance from 'popery, slavery and English traitors'.
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« Reply #13 on: August 18, 2007, 07:49:04 am »








Towards the middle of the century, there was a swing towards religion, as though the astrologers wished to strengthen their position by getting the Creator on their side.

They emphasized the fact that only God could have worked out so finely the intricate movements of the planets; and even the composition of the matter of which the earth and stars were made proved the existence of God. As Job Gadbury, John Gadbury's cousin, put it, there could be nothing in the recently advanced theories that atoms came together by chance to form the universe, for 'though the air we breathe be full of them, yet they tend to nothing but to make us wink.'

The everyday work of the consultant astrologers went on much as it had always done: advice was offered about illness, love, lost property, and so on.

There seems to have been a sufficient popular interest for a large number of astrologers to make a reasonable professional living, although the fact that many of them are found rebuking members of the public who came to see them merely for amusement, and advising colleagues to get their hands on the fee before beginning to cast the horoscope, seems to indicate that a certain amount of doubt was now to be found at all levels of society and education.

The major British astrologer of the century seems to have been Henry Season (1693-1775), a doctor and surgeon from Wiltshire, who like most of the former astrologers was virtually self-educated, for he never attended school for more than six weeks at a time. He taught himself medicine and astrology, like Lilly and Forman, and after an apprenticeship during which he seems to have invented his own medicinal cures, managed to get a licence to practise as physician and surgeon.
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« Reply #14 on: August 18, 2007, 07:51:02 am »








The almanacs he published show him to be a very traditional sort of astrologer, giving the usual sort of advice; but he also used them for political argument, and as means of general advertisement of his personal views on everything under the sun - from the fact that stage plays were a disgraceful evil, to the view that it was a good thing man would never be able to visit the Moon, for he would without any doubt corrupt its inhabitants.

By the 1790s astrologers were numerous enough to have their own magazine, devoted entirely to 'a science which was studied by the patriarchs of the first ages, but which, by the craft of ignorance of pretenders, has been exposed to much calumny and error.' However, the magazine was ill supported (because much of it was devoted to non-astrological chatter about the occult) and ceased publication after its seventh issue.

Newspaper advertisements, scattered through the provincial press, indicate that astrologers still flourished, ready not only to give, on receipt of the date, time and place of birth, a 'true description of the complexion, colour of the hair, private marks and moles, temper &c', but (to quote John Worsdale of Lincolnshire) to help 'those persons afflicted with disorders of various denominations'.

On receipt of the necessary details, 'the nature and origin of the disease may be truly ascertained, and a remedy prescribed for all curable disorders, by the ancient rules of elementary philosophy.'
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