Book Review: “On the Fixed Stars” by Hermes, translated by Rumen Kolev

Rumen Kolev is a familiar name in the traditional astrology community. He is the developer of the Placidus and Porphyrius Magus traditional astrology software. As someone who has a mathematical background he is also specialized in the study of primary directions. He is also well known for the restoration of Babylonian astrology.

Maybe not many people know that he is also a translator from Latin and Ancient Greek into Bulgarian and English languages. In 2013 Rumen translated De Stellis Fixis from the Codex Vindobonensis Latinus 3124 into Bulgarian language (I don’t have the English translation of the book, my review here is based on the Bulgarian translation). One thing I like much about his translations is that he gives the transliterated Latin original alongside the translated content. In such a way, it is easier for those who know a bit of Latin to compare passages alongside the translation. His introductions into the material and the history of the critical editions are also on pair with the best translators and editors in the astrological community.

Ego dicam vobis de rebus fortune!
I will tell you about Fortune!” – with these words Hermes Trismegistus begins his introduction into the world of the Fixed Stars – “and you will have great benefit and happiness from that“.

This book is known by the name “Beybenie” that comes from the full title “Liber Hermetis de Stellis Fixis que dicintur Beybenie“. According to Kolev this word comes from the Ancient Greek βεβαιόω (bebaióō) a verb which means “to make firm, establish, confirm, make sure, to fixate”.

Though the Codex Latinus 3124 from which Kolev translates is written in 15th century, Salio da Padova has translated this book in 13th century from Arabic, which was a translation from Pahlavi and this from Ancient Greek. Kolev traces the text to the third Hermes who lived in 9th century B.C.E. in Babylon. This may be far fetched and I suppose we don’t have enough material to prove such a claim at this moment.

When they speak of the social status and the prominence in the chart, many authors in the tradition begin their examination with the fixed stars and analysis of whether the native has some powerful star on the sensitive points in the horoscope.

On the matter that a star can override otherwise middling or unfortunate horoscope, Hermes speaks at the very beginning of his book:

“Indeed, the planets can be badly disposed in the horoscope, but this will not harm the native if these stars are on the five places which I mentioned above (Asc, Mc, Dc, Sun and Moon). Even if the planets are made unfortunate or in cadent houses, but if some of these stars are on the five places [I’ve mentioned], then this means elevation of the native, if God wills, and signifies that the native will rise to such a heights of which no one ever believed or thought about”.

Translation of the quote is of the author of this review from the Latin/Bulgarian edition of the book

The stars Hermes mentions in his book are the following:

Stars of Venus-Mercury nature:
– Spica
– Vega
– Deneb
– Fomalhaut

Stars of Jupiter-Mercury nature:
– Gemma
– Castor
– Zubeneschamali

Stars of Jupiter-Mars nature:
– Regulus
– Antares
– Sirius
– Menkalinan
– Altair

Stars of Jupiter-Saturn nature
– Rigel
– Alnilam
– Algol
– Rukbat
– Capella

Stars of Mars nature:
– Pollux

Stars of Mars-Mercury nature:
– Bellatrix
– Procyon
– Alpheratz
– Betelgeuse
– Shaula
– Scheat
– Zavijava

Stars of Venus-Jupiter nature:
– Acamar
– Arcturus

Stars of Venus-Saturn nature:
– Zosma
– Alphard
– Denebola

Stars of Venus-Mars nature:
– Rigel
– Aldebaran

At the end of the book the translator gives example charts of fixed stars in paranatellonta (stars “rising alongside”) with certain horoscopic degrees arising, culminating or setting, alongside other 5 ecliptic projections using three coordinate systems.

Though the translator may be biased and has strong opinions on some matters, I find it very interesting read. I especially like the astrological significations of the stars which Hermes gives to specific stars or group of stars united under one or two planetary natures.

Soldiers of Fate

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The Three Moirai (Fates), Triumph of Death.

It is without doubt that many of Valens’ passages in Anthology contain Stoic elements in it. This requires special study since Valens in no place states that “Yeah, I am a Stoic”. However, one who is acquainted even a bit with the Stoic sages from those early ages can notice that some of Valens’ advices on how to except life’s hardships and how to be a brave soldier of the fortune, have Stoic reminiscences in them.

Marcus Aurelius lived in 2nd century AD, in the same age Valens lived. Marcus Aurelius is born 121 AD and died 180 AD, very close to the supposed date of birth and death of Valens (120 AD – c 175 AD).

Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations are probably most popular (even today!) Stoic read. What I find similar to the approach of exercising ‘happy life’ in Meditations is the teaching of the three topoi (fields of study) which were highly thought by Epictetus [55 – 135 AD] to his followers. This was standard Stoic practice which I will describe shortly in what follows; but what is interesting to me in investigating Stoicism of this period is the excitement of somehow ‘catching the spirit’ of times. You know, hardly that we today have a real Stoic who was thought by a real Stoic and this one was thought by a real Stoic. What I mean by ‘real Stoic’ is a Stoic who is a part of the chain of teacher-student lineage, something which we have in Hindu tradition and their religious traditions. As a language like Latin or Ancient Greek, this Stoic practice is a ‘dead practice’ that needs revival. I mean, we do not have succession of teacher-student, we do not have lineage of Stoics that survived till today, if I am correct. Now, as in revival of ancient language, revival of ancient astrology, here lie some barriers in revival of the practice of these ancient sages through the books and fragments we have from them.

This is always a hard task. I know this from my studies of Orthodox Christianity in my late teens, when I was involved in reading many Orthodox Christian books about how to live moral and blessed life, BUT until I met my first teacher who was also Orthodox priest, I was never able to get into the spirit of the teachings of the Orthodox sages. When I met my teacher, his presence and spiritual power, illuminated me like no book I have ever read. This is the same with Stoicism, I have never met a Stoic, if not a Stoic from a Stoic ‘lineage’, at least, a Stoic who spent his life in practicing this art of living. However, since I met with great Orthodox teachers and spiritual men in my life, I can get a bit from the spirit of these sages, because the Orthodox spiritual practice, bears some similarities with the practice of the Stoics, even though in its core is very much different, because of the cosmic philosophy, eschatology, etc.

To get back to the three topoi. The three topoi in the Stoic teachings are:

1. Desires (orexis) and aversions (ekkliseis).
2. Impulses to act (hormas) and not to act (aphormas).
3. Value-Judgment (sunkatathesis).
[John Sellars, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Marcus Aurelius entry]

This was the practical philosophy of Epictetus and his famous always repeated ‘things that are in our own power and things that are not in our own power’. The thing is that we as human beings have impressions (phantasia), the whole difference in practicing philosophy and how to live a blessed happy life (eudaimonia) is how do we value-judge those impressions. If I see a man is drinking wine, the impression is that he drinks a wine, the value-judgment [sunkatathesis] would probably be that he will get drunk and that he is immoral, which is of course bad value-judgment because how do I know from only seeing the appearance, what is there, maybe he drinks something else that looks like wine?!

Epictetus, and hence Marcus Aurelius, teaches us that we need to work on our value-judgments and correct interpretation of our impressions. If we receive bad value-judgment temptation upon some impression, we could easily decide by our own inner power to correct this value-judgment and say ‘I do not want to value this impression in this manner, I will value it such and such’.

Impulses to act (hormas) are also in our own power, although the outcome of our actions is not in our own power. The archer can strive to hit the target, to do his best, but he can’t control the wind and other outer circumstances to achieve his goal. Here lies the analogy as to the things that are in our own power and those things that are not in our own power. ‘I know that I can control the outer circumstances’, someone would say, ‘I can reach my hand and grab that stone’. Yeah, but the Nature already put the stone there for you to grab it. The point is that we do not have total control and we have only limited amount of power, some more some less. We should then, not lament on the things that are above our control since the Nature or the Cosmos of which we are part as everything around us, has ordained the things as they are meant to be in perfect order for those who can see this order without the value-judgment of our habitual thinking.

The exercise of the desires is the knowledge that the desires for outer circumstances which are above our own control and power, are unpredictable and can bring us despair and lament. The true desire is the desire for inner excellence, for virtue (aretē), striving for wisdom and happy inner life, free from value-judgments and wishful thinking for ‘creating’ our lives in their external form. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing bad in this, there is wrong in the totality of expectation that whatever we strive for, whatever we wish for the outer world, will come true. Taming the desires for the contrary of what is already predestined by this Cosmic Creature, and having the desire for inner excellence and living virtuous life, is what is needed for the sage to be.

This is very practical philosophy and working with it on a daily basis, brings inner strength of the character (prohairesis), moral betterment and facing the challenges of life more easily. As a consequence, life becomes more fulfilled and happy (eudaimonia) This is indeed very helpful for those of you who think that great deal of our lives are predestined and that Astrology as an art, is capable of revealing at least part of that destiny.

Valens speaking on the crisis-producing places in book V [Riley] says:

“Some are fated to have unwanted experiences and to be unable to act as they desire. Some seem to be under the power of others; even though they are free, they are punished by a bad conscience. Some travel abroad or sail, and are held somewhere on an island or in deserted places, or they do service in temples or sacred places. Occasionally they are confined by recurrent diseases or by epilepsy, fits, spells, blindness, the ague, and syndromes such as these.”

Exactly these are the things that are fated and outside of our power; things that are fated: our outer circumstances and bodily accidents like illnesses, things that ‘happen to us’. No matter how much we strive with the ‘power of our intention’ to achieve something, the fact is that things in our life ‘do happen’ and it is not that we only ‘make things to happen’.

“Accordingly then, the initiates of this art, those wishing to have knowledge of the future, will be helped because they will not be burdened with vain hopes, will not expend grievous midnight toil, will not vainly love the impossible, nor in a like manner will they be carried away by their eagerness to attain what they may expect because of some momentary good fortune. A suddenly appearing good often grieves men as if it were an evil; a suddenly appearing evil causes the greatest misery to those who have not trained their minds in advance.”

How the initiates of this art [astrology] will be helped? By knowing that sometimes benefic planets in ruling the times, bring only an appearance of good after which some misfortune follows. This is life, the soldier of fortune would know all this and will never be disturbed by the appearance of bad nor overly excited by the appearance of good. This is the exercise of the three topoi offered by Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius.

The training of the mind in advance, and actually the whole passage from Valens above is one of the things which relate him to the Stoic practical philosophy of life. We can see here how Valens was trained Stoic or at least, bears practical philosophy very similar to that of the Stoics I explained above.

I will finish this exposition here with one of my favorite quotes from Valens:

“Fate has decreed for each person the immutable working out of events, reinforcing this decree with many opportunities for good or bad consequences. Through the use of these opportunities, two self begotten gods, Hope and Fortune, the assistants of Fate, control man’s life and make it possible for him to bear Fate’s decrees by using their compulsion and deception. One of the two <Fortune> manifests herself to everyone through the forecasted outcome, proving herself to be good and kind at one time, at another time dark and grim. Fortune raises some high only to cast them down, and degrades others only to raise them to glory. The other of the two <Hope> is neither dark nor bright; she moves everywhere in disguise and in secret, smiling on everyone like a flatterer, and she displays many attractive prospects which cannot be attained. She controls men by deceiving them: these men, even though they were wronged and were enslaved to their desires, still are attracted to her again, and full of Hope, believe that their wishes will be fulfilled. They believe her—only to get what they do not expect. If Hope ever does offer solid prospects to anyone, she immediately abandons him and goes on to others. She seems to be close to everyone, but she stays with no one.” [Riley p. 102]

Just a final remark. I do not claim that Valens was a Stoic. I do want to point however, that some of his passages bear Stoic elements, even though this does not make him a Stoic per se. The times in which Valens lived, were times of philosophical eclecticism and different mystery cults, borrowing elements from different philosophical schools and commingling of religious-philosophical influences of different traditions.

Year without trophy for Jose Mourinho

Football club Real Madrid last night lost the final of Copa del Rey from FC Atletico Madrid. This was their last chance to win a title in this year, and in that way to justify all the money they gave to buy expensive players over the past few years. They finished with empty hands and to hurt even more, in front of their fans on Santiago Bernabeu (their football stadium).

Famous self-proclaimed Special One (Jose Mourinho) received red card for the inappropriate behavior and leaved the match in the 2nd period, exclaiming after the game that this was the worst season in his life. He never had a season without a title.

The whole year was pretty much controversial for Jose Mourinho, and the attention of the press was all on him and his broken relationship with some of the key players for Madrid (like Casillas, Pepe and Ramos). His whole year was one of infamy and constant quarrels with the press, other coaches and the players inside the club. There were rumors that tension even existed between him and Florentino Perez (the president of R. Madrid).

Personally, I didn’t believe he will end up without winning any title (I speak as a fan of football game, not as an astrologer). I think despite his professionalism, he has huge luck in life (and in sports you must have that!) and it is hard to imagine him without any title in his hands. After loosing this title last night, I was curious to look at his chart from the yearly perspective, and here are my improvisations, ad hoc, in regard to that.

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He celebrated his 50th birthday this year, so the annual profections are in Pisces or third sign from ascendant, where Jupiter its Lord is found. Now, any superficial astrologer would pronounce very potent year by noticing this only and without getting into more details delineating all factors that give their influence in certain year.

I would not go in all the details, but will try to give some few important ones, and those of you who are familiar with the Hellenistic and Perso-Arabic astrology techniques, would investigate further in to the heavenly influences.

This is his Solar Return chart:

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We can see here Jupiter, the Lord of the Year, pretty much weakened. He is in his anti-domicile, the place where according to Serapio, planets ‘turn bad’, and retrograde. So two weakened conditions for this planet which is quite powerful in his birth chart. In natal this Jupiter is in 3rd sign and 2nd division, in Revolution it is in 4th sign and 3rd division.

In the chapter called “On the significations of Jupiter if he were the Lord of the Year, and were of a bad condition”, Abu Ma’shar says:

“If Jupiter were the Lord of the Year and in both the nativity and the revolution appearing retrograde or under the rays, or in an alien place, or occidental or in the domicile of a malevolent, or cadent from the angles and in contrary places, it takes away the renown of him whose revolution it is, and decreases his luckiness, and puts down his glory. It even signifies a multitude of expenses and a troublesome pouring out of riches, and he will do these things with a voluntary and spontaneous will, for the reason that he craves praise from many people“. [Abu Mashar, On Solar Revolutions, trans. Benjamin N. Dykes, PhD, p.93, underline mine]

Abu Mashar here speaks about the amount of bad conditions Jupiter has in certain year, and in another place he speaks, or advices us to look into the ‘proportion’ of the bad conditions of certain planet according to the factors listed in the quote above. This Jupiter is in: 1) Contrary or alien place, 2) Retrograde, 3) Occidental. So, the ‘according to the proportion’ factor here, we have 3 out of 6 conditions. This Jupiter is not of a good condition.Abu Ma’shar says that this will diminish his luckiness, which really did, he won nothing! He claimed himself that this was the baddest season in his life. However, this Jupiter is not baddest of the bad simply because he is in good condition in natal chart, even though, there also appears to be cadent, occidental, and contrary to the sect in favor. Still, he is in his own sign without heavy influence of malefic planets.

But for analyzing this furthermore, I would like to see few more factors involved.

I just could not ignore the transit of retrograde Saturn currently on his MC. Saturn rules his sub-period in Firdaria and hence it is relevant for examining his circumstances by transit. Actually, I am of the opinion that the transit of Saturn would be pretty much important even if he was not involved in Firdaria rulership, but this is accentuating him even more as to analyzing his conditioning.

In the chapter “On the ingress of Saturn to his own places and those of the rest of the planets”, Abu Mashar gives us indications as to what means when Saturn ingresses (enters) certain sign where a planet is positioned or certain place a planet owns. Now, I have talked with some people about these chapters in Abu Mashar’s On Solar Revolutions, and some of them were of the opinion that what is meant here is Saturn’s ingress in places where certain planets are positioned, and others were of the opinion that what is meant here is the ingress of Saturn in places which certain planets rule. I think that both these approaches to the delineation tips given by Abu Mashar have relevance. About Saturn ingress of Saturn into the places of Mars, Abu Mashar says:

“And if Saturn at the time of the revolutions will reach the [natal] place of Mars, and Saturn will have dignity in either the Ascendant of the nativity or in the revolution, or in the Lot of Fortune…
…he will be deceived about his own operations and will be idle in [his] education, and his thoughts will be unjust; and he will be of middling faith in his own tenets, and he will be accused on account of this“. [Ibid. Dykes]

Now this is extremely exciting passage, because Abu Ma’shar explains the whole situtation of Mourinho at the moment. His Saturn rules Ascendant, Lot of Fortune and Spirit, so he has relevance very much for his personal actions and behavior. Now, Saturn entering sign of Mars, Abu says that his thoughts will be ‘unjust’. What he does to the icon of R. Madrid, Iker Cassilas, is according to most of the fans and people who are more objective to the situation, real injustice! “He will be accused on account of this”, says Abu Ma’shar, and he really is. This year in R. Madrid brought him infamy and pretty much lost to his reputation as one of the best coaches in history of football game.

This Saturn transiting over MC in sign of natural malefic, is clearly not a good sign for his career and actions (MC), also for his reputation. Look at the stakes [angular signs] from Saturn. Saturn transiting is dominating planets in Aquarius: Moon, Sun and natal Saturn, and in the same time is dominated by natal Mars in the 10th from Scorpio.

Abu Ma’shar ends with: “And if Saturn will have no dignity with the aforesaid, he will suffer evils and be saddened on account of brothers and friends [because Mars signifies this, I.S.], and he will jump at the chance for travel and will go on a foreign journey“.

I think that he will leave R.Madrid this summer and will go to coach another football club ‘in foreign country’. Saturn ingress in the sign of his natal MC in sign of Mars, alongside the other indications would bring him [as he already brought him] infamy, loss of reputation and leaving not in a good terms. I suppose this Saturn brought him a good lesson regarding his thoughts and unjustified actions which contribute for the loss of harmony inside the team of R. Madrid in the past year.

As a P.S. I want to add one more thing, looking at the chart now after I wrote the post. Saturn is sub-lord of Firdaria in which Sun is overall lord of the times. So, Saturn will dispose the years of Sun, and we should look at the natal position and inter-relation of these two planets and their relationship in the Solar Return chart. Saturn is technically combust and invisible, but according to the Hellenistic astrology principles, planets in their own places bear the combustion better then in other places. But still, Saturn and Sun are natural enemies, the connection between these two is rarely good. One is the lord of the light and the other of the darkness. Mars is regarding this conjunction from opposition and this is not good for his reputation at all. Now in the year chart Saturn is dominating (being in 10th from the Sun) the Sun and even though he receives the Sun, I really don’t think that this mitigating condition is mitigating the natural enmity of these two planets 100% and turns them into cooperatives. Sun natally rules the 8th  and is in its anti-domicile where promises more then it can deliver, and Saturn is lord of Mourinho’s actions in his chart, by ruling Fortune, Spirit, Ascendant and being exalted Lord of 10th sign in natal. 8th Place rules the alliances of the public enemies (2nd from 7th) and Sun ruling the main period in Firdaria would awake such dispositions in his chart and life. Being in its anti-domicile, it is probably good to have it ruling the 8th since this would make the public enemies and their alliances weaker, and it is interesting how Mourinho very often wins his wars. When he substituted Casillas, the fate brought him exceptionally good goalkeeper in the name of Diego Lopez who saved them in many important matches. This was kind of proof to Mou that he didn’t put Casillas on the bench for nothing. But still, the fans didn’t like this decision of Mou, because Casillas is their favorite. Many of the players took the side of Casillas, so we could say that they are the alliances of Mou’s public enemy (Casillas). Their war is obviously public, they do not hand shake before nor after the matches. It is really interesting to notice these details in the birth chart when Sun and Saturn are disposing the times, and the activation of the things they promise in Mou’s natal chart, with the addition of the yearly chart and transits. I think we need to look at the overall picture, the more broader one, even when we look at the yearly divisions and charts like the Profections and Solar Return. Firdaria or the disposition of times gives an overall picutre of the times into which yearly charts and divisions happen to play role.