It has been said that the only institution in Western Culture to survive the Dark Ages was the Catholic Church of Rome. Yet, it may be even more remarkable that the Holy See has survived the Enlightenment and the industrial revolution.
The reasons for Catholic longevity have taken up many volumes of historical analysis, and we have no room for that here, but we should ask if this survivability has any discernible astrological strengths or patterns.
To start such a quest, I want to first look at an era when the Holy See was at its most vulnerable – the 16th Century.
The early 1500’s saw the rise of Protestantism, fueled by the Renaissance. Countermeasures by the Vatican included the sanctioning of the Society of Jesus, more commonly called the “Jesuits.”
The Jesuits were the creation of Ignatius of Loyola, a Basque priest who took to studying at Paris University in his 30’s. He formed a group of friends in 1534 that would be the nucleus of a sort of non-monastic Christianity-defenders who would pledge loyalty to the Papacy, and who would also set out on a spiritual and educational crusade that would last for centuries.
The Jesuits became very powerful within Catholicism, perhaps rivaling the ethos of the Papacy itself. As Malachi Martin wrote in his 1987 book on the Jesuits (pp 162-3):
It was the morning of September 27, 1540, in a private reception hall of the Palace of the Popes on Vatican Hill, Rome. The Pope was Paul III, a Farnese of the noble Farnesi and a genuine Roman, seventy-three years old, six years on the Throne of Peter… With one long, thin hand he held out a document he had just signed.
Ignatio Loyola … rose and went forward to take the document from the Pope’s hand … He bowed on one knee, kissed the lapel ring, and took the document from the Pope’s hand. No one could foresee it then, but by approving that document – The Formula of the Institute, in which Ignatius had described the organization he wished to place at the disposal of the papacy — Pope Paul III was launching the most efficient and the most loyal organization the Roman Catholic Church has ever spawned in its near-2000-year history… It established the Society of Jesus, and authorized Ignatius Loyola to make an initial recruitment of up to sixty new members.
Cutting to the quick, the moment of Paul III’s signature is not known, but we can look at a default “noon” chart for that date, with the known planets of that era:
Interpreting this chart through the practices of the day could reveal some ideas as to why such a chart would have been considered beneficial. Sun and Saturn are in conjunction, in the best sign for Saturn, but the “fall” of the Sun. Such a combination could have been seen as a way for Saturn to bolster the weakened Sun, and given that Jupiter, the great benefic, is in the Sun’s own sign of Leo, perhaps this was not such a bad placement for the Sun, astrologically. Venus is also in its “detriment” in Scorpio, with no other planet to “rescue” it in terms of reception. We also see a Moon in square to Mars from Virgo to Sagittarius, not really a very “happy” alignment; both lights are not in favorable signs for those planets. Moon makes favorable rays to Venus and Mercury in Scorpio, however, Scorpio is the sign of the Moon’s “fall.” Basically, this chart is not what would have been considered all that favorable for an “electional,” or a chart drawn for an event in hopes of selecting the best moment for an enterprise to commence.
Was there anything special about this date? It is the observed date for the Sainthood of John Mark, who is mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, and is considered to be one in the same as Mark the Evangelist, author of the Gospel bearing that name which is the source for the Gospel of Luke. Much is unknown about the exact identity of John Mark, and Saint Mark is venerated on March 25.
We do know that Loyola and ten of his fellow papists were in Rome, vigorously making the case for Paul III’s approval of their order for many months prior to the Pope’s signatory approval on the 27th. And, we do know that the early Jesuits were learned men, who understood the sciences of the day, which included astronomy, and thus astrology.
Could there be something more to the astrology? As it happens, if we include a couple of fixed stars into the mix, we arrive at a very interesting pair of alignments:
Here we can see that Jupiter is exactly conjunct the fixed star Regulus (alpha Leo) and Saturn is conjunct the fixed star Spica (alpha Virgo).
In fact, September 27, 1540 is the only day in all of Church history that both planet/star conjunctions occurred simultaneously with such close proximity. Jupiter makes the exact “partile” conjunction with Regulus in the morning hours, and Saturn makes his partile conjunction with Spica the next day, but the date on which both conjunctions are the least distant in total is the 27th. Even though Saturn is swift in motion, it does move relatively slowly when behind the Sun; Jupiter, also direct in motion, is swift in motion as well.
If a pair of conjunctions like this were in the consciousness of the budding Jesuits, and seen as some sort of remarkable situation in the heavens, then this election makes sense. Surely, the astronomical data was available at the time, and it’s hardly a stretch of the imagination to think that the people involved could have been aware of it.
Virgo, after all, is the Virgin Mother amongst the constellations, and Leo, the lion, was known to be the constellation of the House of David from which Jesus himself was heir.
Jupiter and Saturn were the two “outermost” planets in the classical era, and as such had the greatest, and most lasting, dominion over time itself, or at least long periods of time – time needed to do big things.
Are Spica and Regulus the two most important fixed stars in the heavenly kingdom of God itself, as they relate to the saga of the Savior which is the foundation of the Church of Rome? Such a notion is debatable, though there is no mistake that the constellation of Virgo (as opposed to the astrological sign of Virgo) is definitely the iconographic constellation of the Virgin Mary.
So, if we take this chart for the Society of Jesus as an elective, what message might Paul III and the eager Jesuits be leaving us? Could it be that such a chart provides a clue, of sorts, to the very astrology that was thought to be “in play” for the birth of Jesus himself?
To take such a speculation any further, we need a few more blogs, and hopefully I can provide them in short order.
6 thoughts on “A Brief Introduction to (some) Vatican Astrology”
Very thought-provoking. Seems the Vatican had some good astrologers on staff.
Hi there Ed, so good to see you again! You are missed in the groups.
This is very interesting indeed! But I thought that for fixed stars, max orb is one degree? Still, close enough to be interesting. Don’t mean to nit pick, though nit-picking is my thing.
Will read the other entries. Hopefully you will also cover the second most loyal group, Opus Dei.
Oh wait… I should have worn my glasses… nvm on the orb… damn! I must be getting old!
Hi Ed, have you looked at the chart for when the Jesuits were initially founded, Aug. 25, 1534 (converted to NS). The first Jesuits–Ignatius and six of his students–took vows of poverty and chastity and made plans to work for the conversion of Muslims. But the chart is quite remarkable, with most of the planets involved in a mystic rectangle and all planets making close contacts.
Thanks for the interesting article!
Reblogged this on The Astrology Junkie.