A Brief Introduction to (some) Vatican Astrology – Part IV

In the previous three installments of “…(some) Vatican Astrology,” I put forth three possible astrological charts for the Vatican’s approbations of the Society of Jesus, also called the Jesuits:

The three chart moments take place from 1540 to 1584, at the height of the Italian Renaissance, and also the final years of the Italian Wars.  More importantly, this was the period of the Counter Reformation, a reactionary era that began with Pope Paul III and his Council of Trent, which was scheduled to commence on May 23, 1537; a series of circumstances delayed the effort, and it finally commenced on December 13, 1545.

The Counter-Reformation saw the advent of numerous new religious orders, but none proved as impactful as the Jesuits.  By the time of Loyola’s death, on the last day of July in 1556, the Society had swelled to 150 members, possessed over 100 houses in twelve different regions of the world, founded 35 colleges for the higher education of youth.

Loyola was buried in the little chapel of Santa Maria della Strada, which was adjacent to the house he lived in since 1540.

Shortly after, it was decided to demolish the chapel to make way for the first Jesuit place of worship, the Chiesa del Santissimo Nome di Gesù all’Argentina, or the Chiesa del Gesù for short.  This church is considered the first truly baroque façade.

Construction began in 1568, and was mostly completed by 1580.  The church was consecrated by Cardinal Giulio Antonio Santorio, the delegate of pope Gregory XIII, on Sunday, November 25, 1584.



In Part III of (some) Vatican Astrology, I discussed the chart for Ascendente domino, the Papal bull of May 24, 1584, that was the third and final confirmation of the Order before its suppression.  If we draw up a noon chart for the November 25 consecration, we find that the Sun has indeed traveled nearly 180º, arriving within one degree of Antares, opposite of Aldebaran:


And, in the sidereal zodiac:


Keen observers may notice that May 24 and November 25 are near-opposite dates in calendar, and indeed they are 185 days apart, which is a bit more than the 182.5 days that comprise one half of a year of 365 days, but surely there is something to this.

Reprising the chart for Ascendente domino, we see that an eclipse is along the meridian axis, aligned also with the fixed “royal” stars of Aldebaran and Antares:



AND… we can also see that Mars is precisely conjunct the fixed star Regulus on this day as well!  Both charts directly above are calculated in the tropical zodiac, but the next bi-wheel is in sidereal, for comparison:


Thus, these two dates feature Sun, Moon, and Mars on three of the four “royal stars,” and this matches up with Regimini militantis ecclesiae in 1540, the originary Papal chart for the Jesuits, where Jupiter is conjunct Regulus.

I don’t see how all of this can be pure coincidence.  These alignments must be part of an elective astrological scheme.  The question is, then, what importance would all of this have for the Roman Catholic church in the first place?  Or, was this astrology only important to the core Jesuit company, and they directed an oblivious papal contingent to act at the times the company wanted?  Or, was it the other way around?

Pope Paul III, as any expert on the papacy might know, was obsessed with astrology.  He wasn’t the first, though. Pope Julius II (1443–1513) and Pope Leo X (1475–1521) were also defenders of the craft; Leo X actually established a chair of astrology at Sapienza University of Rome, the most prestigious college of the Papal States.

Historian Benson Bobrick counts at least twelve popes who were “votives” of the craft, and most of those assumed the Papacy during the Renaissance:  Julius II, Sixtus IV, Innocent VIII, and Urban VIII.

Astrology was quite the rage in those days, and even Martin Luther’s close friend Melanchthon advised him on matters astrological.

So, it should really come as no surprise that the Society of Jesus was wrapped up in astrological timing.  But, what does this astrology signify?  Was this simply an astrology of self-promotion, or were they trying to pay astro-homage to Jesus himself?  Or, more crucially, were they telling us that Jesus, the concept, was an astrological construct to begin with?

Thus far, with the few charts introduced in this series, we see an emphasis of certain fixed stars, and those stars had their own astrological influences.  First, Ptolemy, in his Tetrabiblos (Ashmand translation), gives these insights:

Leo. Of the stars in Leo, two in the head are like Saturn and partly like Mars. The three in the neck are like Saturn, and in some degree like Mercury. The bright one in the heart, called Regulus, agrees with Mars and Jupiter. Those in the loins, and the bright one in the tail, are like Saturn and Venus: those in the thighs resemble Venus, and, in some degree, Mercury.

The 1540 Jesuit chart has a precise conjunction of Jupiter and Regulus.

Virgo. The stars in the head of Virgo, and that at the top of the southern wing, operate like Mercury and somewhat like Mars: the other bright stars in the same wing, and those about the girdle, resemble Mercury in their influence, and also Venus moderately. The bright one in the northern wing, called Vindemiator, is of the same influence as Saturn and Mercury: that called Spica Virginis is like Venus and partly Mars: those at the points of the feet and at the bottom of the garments are like Mercury, and also Mars, moderately.

The 1540 chart features Saturn conjunct Spica, and here is a departure from Ptolemy, though other astrological and astro-lore influences should be noted.  Saturn, as a planetary deity, ruled over agriculture, and Virgo’s lore was closely tied to agriculture.  The word “Spica” comes directly from the term “spike,” as in “spike of wheat,” which is virgin, or just-harvested wheat:



Here, we might find some correlation with Matthew 9:3738, which reads:  Then He said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest.” The “Lord of the harvest” would be Saturn.  Saturn, Sun, and Spica are in Saturn’s exalted zodiac sign of Libra, which gives Saturn much dominance in the chart.

Saturn is highly dignified again in the Exposcit debitum chart, being in the Capricorn and Aquarius nexus:



The Sun/Saturn opposition, along with the Venus/Jupiter conjunction, highlight the two chronocrators, and strengthen them in astrological rules.

Finally, the chart for Ascendente Domino finds an eclipse aligned across the local meridian, conjunct Aldebaran and Antares.  Ptolemy says of these two stars:

Taurus. Those stars in Taurus, which are in the abscission of the sign, resemble in their temperament the influence of Venus, and in some degree that of Saturn: those in the Pleiades are like the Moon and Mars. Of the stars in the head, that one of the Hyades which is bright and ruddy, and called Facula*, has the same temperament as Mars: the others resemble Saturn, and, partly, Mercury; and those at the top of the horns are like Mars.  *The little Torch; now known by the name of Aldebaran.  (Footnote added by Ashmand.)

Scorpio. The bright stars in the front of the body of Scorpio have an effect similar to that produced by the influence of Mars, and partly to that produced by Saturn: the three in the body itself, the middle one of which, called Antares*, is ruddy and more luminous, are similar to Mars and moderately to Jupiter: those in the joints of the tail are like Saturn and partly like Venus: those in the sting like Mercury and Mars. The nebula is like Mars and the Moon.  *Adams’s Treatise on the Globes calls this star “Kalb al Akrab, or the Scorpion’s heart,” and adds, that “the word Antares (if it is not a corruption) has no signification.” But it should be observed that Ptolemy states that this star partakes of the nature of Mars: it seems therefore not improbable that Antares may be a regular Greek word, compounded of αντι pro and αρης Mars, and signifying Mars’s deputy, or lieutenant, or one acting for Mars.  (Footnote added by Ashmand.)

So, Mars, Mars and a little Jupiter.  We find Aldebaran as signifying Mithras and Ahura Mazda, as well as Zoroaster, in Brady’s Book of Fixed Stars, but her reasoning was that Aldebaran was the marker of the spring equinox when those deities appeared on the scene (see page 233 of Brady’s Book of Fixed Stars, 1998 edition).  Brady also goes as far as to assign Aldebaran to Horus, citing the Egyptian mythological tale in which Horus appears (pages 84-5), but that connection seems a bit fantastical.

I’m not sure about the precision of these claims, but there is a tradition of associating Ahura Mazda, and perhaps Mithras, with bull-slaying, which we would have to guess means the Sun entering the constellation of Taurus, and making the bull disappear for about a month, right around the spring equinox.

Kunitzch and Smart, in A Modern Dictionary of Star Names, tell us that “al-dabaran” means “The Follower,” as in being the lunar mansion (with the Hyades) that follows the first lunar mansion – the Pleiades.  Pleiades as the beginning of the “zodiac” has ancient, pre-Babylonian roots.  The “zodiac” in this sense means stars mark the moon’s path, though not necessarily near the ecliptic.

Allen’s Star-Names and Their Meanings tells us:

In all astrology [Aldebaran] has been thought eminently fortunate, portending riches and honor … Sharing everywhere in the prominence given in its constellation, this was especially the case in Babylonian astronomy, where it marked the 5th ecliptic asterism Pindu-sha-Shame, the Furrow of Heaven, perhaps representing the whole zodiac, and analogous to the Hebrew and Arabic Padan and Fadan, the Furrow.

Here we can connect the “furrow” as a trench a plow might make, which then goes back to the “V” shape in the Hyades.  This in turn has some connection to Virgo, and more specifically Spica, which was also associated in Babylon with the furrow, as grains were the product of the furrows of agriculture.  So, agricultural (Saturn) planting (Taurus) and harvesting (Virgo) of the wheat (symbolic, transubstantiated body of Christ), are all nicely represented in our Jesuit charts.

Are you hungry for more?  I’m not loafing around, so we’ll take another bite out of this in the next installment of “(some) Vatican Astrology” as I plow through more data that is sure to give you a rise.

~ Ed

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