The Bundahisn is also known as the Zoroastrian Genesis. If we compare it with the Genesis of the Old Testament we find that there is more direct astrological reference. As we will see in our later discussion, this does not mean that there is no astrology in Genesis. Before looking more closely at the Horoscope of the World we need to form a clear picture of the Zoroastrian cosmology. In it there are two opposing principles. There is the fullness of being which is expressed in the World of Light and represented by Ahura Mazdao, the Lord of Light and Wisdom. Opposed to this is the negation of being and light expressed in the Abyss and represented by Ahriman, the Adversary. These two principles are irreconcilable and at war with each other. Their battlefield is creation. The Zoroastrian cosmology is a complex one and so we would misunderstand it if we merely said it divides the world into black and white. What we need to understand is that to each aspect of Fullness there is a power that negates it.
The Horoscope of the World shows the moment of the Fall. Before the Fall, all of the planets were in the sign of their exaltation. The Sun was always on the meridian. It was always day. All of creation was filled with the Light of the World. The Bundahisn states that, “Until the coming of the Adversary, the Moon, the Sun and the stars were standing still, they did not move, and were passing their time with purity, and it was always mid-day; after the coming of the Adversary, they were in motion and would not desist from that motion, until the end.” (Stanza 2:17)
With the Fall the dragon entered the scene. His head in the 12th house of misfortune in Gemini, his tail in Sagittarius. The ruler of Gemini, Mercury was the first poisoned and the first to fall. That is why in this chart Mercury is placed with Venus in the ninth house in his detriment and fall. Mercury was poisoned and became poison. It might be noted here that Mercury is the only planet that can be in his detriment and fall, and this is in Pisces. He received a double-whammy so to speak. From there the rest of creation became infected. The Sun which was on the meridian moved into the ninth house, by primary motion, to remedy the situation, and in so doing also moved into a cadent or falling house. The Sun made the first step towards his setting, celestial movement and the cycle of night and day began. Parallel to this, the shift of the Sun from the pre-fall house of God to the 9th house sets another remedial action in motion. The 9th house becomes the house of God. The secondary movement, in the opposite direction, of the mundane houses also began.
Although in the text an eclipse is described, the astronomical situation is not shown in this chart. We must remember that before this event there was no movement. The first eclipse is the entry of the dragon and is repeated astronomically ever afterwards. We also have to remember that with the dragon creation became occluded, a first level of turgidity distorts what had once been pure.
Thank you for that. Your essay is profound and will require much careful study on my part to begin to comprehend what is being said here. However, at least now I have glimmer of John Frawley’s meaning when he refers to the exaltation of the planets being their placement in the Cosmos before the Fall.
You are very welcome. It is indeed well worthwhile to look closer at this chart. It has much to offer.
I have come upon this article at the conclusion of my own research into the origins of the exaltation and debilitation of the lunar nodes (a subject with which I have been somewhat obsessed for several years now). There are no less than *six* imputed signs of domicile and exaltation in the Western astrological tradition (Gemini and Sagittarius, Capricorn and Scorpio, Virgo and Sagittarius, Libra and Capricorn), while in the Eastern tradition the Jyotisha classics impute the ownership signs of Rahu and Ketu to virtually every sign of the zodiac (in the opinion of one or another sage). It was not until I shared my interest in medieval astrology with some Sufi friends from Iran that I was pointed in the direction you have indicated above. Suffice it to say that had I known of the existence of this material years ago, I might have saved myself much time and trouble in chasing dragons. The information you have published here needs to be as widely disseminated as possible among astrologers who take their art seriously. I commend you on your excellent research and dedication to your craft and hope that your site continues to illumine and enlighten all students of the art. My ancestor CEO Carter would no doubt have commended you as well: original research and its considered conclusions does not mock or degrade the work of our forebearers, but serves to clarify and explicate it. Shame on those who would suggest otherwise.
Dear Andrew Carter,
High commendation indeed! Thank you. It is particularily valuable as it is from someone who has also done research in this direction, and confirmation that the material presented points in the right direction. It also motivates me to continue to use this platform to present it. I must admit I was beginning to have my doubts, particularily since there has been a notable silence among many of my astrological friends.
Yes I think it absolutely necessary that the cosmological background upon which western astrology is based be thought through, and if it is rooted in Reality, then much that has been lost over the centuries can be regained. This is I hope not presumption. The cosmology is complete, it is there. We need not merely quote the ancients we can also participate in the source of their understanding, and as you so rightly say clarify and explicate it.
I hope in time that this material will find a wider dissemination. It is after all a beginning. Some parts already now need revision…
with warmest regards,
Thank you, Thomas, for bringing my attention to the Bundahishn. It indeed includes a very detailed cosmology, and may provide clues to how astrology’s body of knowledge was developed in the very beginning.
I just wanted to make three brief technical observations, which I find quite revealing:
1. The Horoscope of the World is set in the tropical zodiac (“at the commencement of the conflict, when the Sun went forth from the first degree of Aries, day and night were equal, it was the season of spring”).
2. Since the MC was in the first degree of Aries and the Ascendant in the 19th degree of Cancer, the geographical latitude of the “observer” at the time was about 39-40 degrees north.
3. Since Sirius was in tropical Cancer then and it is also there today, the event was at least roughly 26,000 +-1,000 years ago presuming that the solar system (and the position of Sirius due to proper motion) hasn’t changed significantly over this period.
There is a lot more to the text, of course, but the above puts the time and place in some context for further research.
Very perceptive of you to recognize that the Horoscope of the World in the Bundahisn is set in the tropical zodiac.
Every now and then, and this on a regular basis it seems, the question of whether the sidereal or the tropical zodiac is older arises. Usually with the implication as to which is better. Proponents of the sidereal zodiac often argue that the Babylonians in their astral religion relied on a sidereal zodiac and that hence the tropical system is of a much later date…
That there might be a cosmological reason for using the tropical zodiac is often ignored. Although set in a mediaeval framework, Ibn ‘Arabi’s discussion of the Towers of the Zodiac also has a tropical basis. He wasn’t reinventing astrology, his sources were also out of an extant tradition.
39-40 deg. latitude would be northern Iran if you are focussing your attention to the left of the Caspian Sea. Actual physical location is not unimportant. But there is also a “mystical geography”. A very helpful discussion of this can be found in Henry Corbin’s “Spiritual Body and Celestial Earth, from Mazdean Iran to Shi’ite Iran”.
Thank you so much for your comment. Very exciting!
Yes, that’s exactly my thinking on the zodiacs, Thomas, and that’s why I noted it as significant. From reading various texts concerning the ancients, it would appear at first sight that the “invention” of the tropical zodiac was a progression from the “simpler” or “more natural” sidereal counterpart. This could be an entirely erroneous notion.
Regarding mystical geography, I don’t have access to Corbin’s book, but I’ve made a note to acquire it in some form in the future. Promises to be a very exciting read.
A footnote to the position of Sirius: This star entered tropical Cancer in the year 976 AD. The scribe of the Iranian recension of the Bundahishn is said to have committed the text to paper in around the 12th century. It is technically possible therefore that the cited horoscope is dated for a time between the 10th and 12th centuries AD based just on the position of Sirius. This, however, would not only be senseless given the historical perspective (the original Bundahishn originates from much earlier than that) but also impossible even on technical grounds. An electional search by Solar Fire for the required celestial configuration comes up empty for the period in question, even if we allow 3 degrees of error for Sirius and therefore going back to the 8th century.
So “at least 26,000 years ago” appears to be correct. This of course could mean 4 thousand million or more years ago, when the solar system settled according to modern astronomers, but ascertaining this will take a little bit more research and contemplation than what would fit here at the moment.
I’m also currently reading Matheseos Libri VIII by Firmicus Maternus, and he mentions a ‘horoscope of the universe’ in one of the ‘books’. In case readers are not familiar with this, here is a short recap:
Ascendant is in Cancer, MC in Aries
All planets are on or below the horizon and in the middle of their own signs, i.e. Moon in Cancer, Sun in Leo, Mercury in Virgo, Venus in Libra (on IC), Mars in Scorpio, Jupiter in Sagittarius and Saturn in Capricorn (on Descendant).
While Firmicus makes it clear that this is a symbolic representation and not a real chart, it is intriguing to entertain the possibility. Note that Mercury is 30 degrees from the Sun, and Venus 60 degrees, beyond their limits in today’s terms.
According to the Bundahishn, before the Adversary entered the scene, there was no movement, but once the battle transposed into the material realm, the planets started to move and ‘fell’ into their falls. The planets became ‘bound by the rays of the sun’, within 180 degrees for the outer planets, 31 degrees for Mercury and 47 degrees and 11 minutes for Venus. It is interesting that a mention is made of the boundary of outer planets as this would seem obvious for our modern eyes. Is there a significance in Mercury’s 31 degrees vs. our experience of 26 degrees today? What about the small discrepancy for Venus?
The movement of the planets would appear to be regular from the time of material battle: “Then, the point from where the Sun had advanced up to the same point where it returned is reckoned as a year of three hundred and sixty-five days, five hours and a fraction, each day of which is of twenty-four hours”.
So would they all first move into their falls and then to their own signs, as per Firmicus Maternus? Or is the latter strictly symbolic as he says?
Thank you for the F. Maternus reference. I’m not sure whether there is any significance in the differences in the boundaries of Mercury and Venus. It’ll have to be looked into.
It is more likely that Maternus’ prime interest was not the continued movements of the Planets in his Thema Mundi. He does of course speak of the individual transition of the different planets from a masculine to a feminine or from a feminine to a masculine sign but leaves it at that. His Thema Mundi seems more to form a background to understanding the ages of man, a sort of foil to project individual natal charts against. Note that the Cancer/Capricorn axis on the 1st/7th house axis and in this context tailors it to the individual human being, as Cancer is the Gate of Birth. If Aries were placed on the Ascendant the symmetry would be disturbed.
The Fall, as described by the Bundahisn, was not anything central to Greek astrology and so the Greek Thema Mundi would have to focus on another aspect of how man is embedded in the cosmos.