A Pilgrims Staff: Anno 1514


The Benedictine abbey of Niederaltaich has an electional horoscope, carved in stone, set in the south tower of its basilica. The chart was cast for the rebuilding of the towers in 1514. The house positions are given by degree, the planetary positions only by house. The chart itself cannot be calculated with a modern computer programme (I have tried). What I want to call your attention to is the postion of the Nodes. Why are they placed on the MC/IC axis?

The astrologer who elected this chart chose to place Saturn on the Ascendant in Scorpio and the ruler of the Ascendant, Mars in the 4th house. He also chose to place the Moon in the 10th house. We have Moon and Mars in opposition to another but they are held by either a sextile or trine to Saturn. This is understandable. Saturn is the planet of duration and so it is best placed on the ascendant. Saturn is in the domicile and triplicity of Mars and also trine Mars, which is placed in the 4th house, the foundations of the towers. This is also very clever astrology. The two malefics are placed on the angles and used as Significators and so kept occupied in a positive manner. The Moon, which could be an unstable factor, considering the oppostion to Mars, is held by the sextile to Saturn. Saturn holds the reins. Sun, Venus and Mercury are placed in the 9th house, the house of God. The Sun is in his own domicile and house and so strong.

The foundation for the “new” tower was laid on the eve of the feast of St. James of Compostela. This is another reason why the Moon is elevated in the 10th house. The Moon as natural ruler of pilgrims is in this chart also significator of the patron saint of pilgrims. The Moon is the scallop shell of the pilgrim. The Nodes on the MC/IC axis are the pilgrim’s staff. The staff is a metaphor of the Cross and so also the dried up trunk of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. It is an image of man’s journey. This can be better understood when one considers the 121st Psalm. The “canticum graduum” – a song of steps or pilgrimage. The pilgrim looks towards his goal in the heights (MC) and knows that the movement of his feet (IC) are held constant to their goal.

1 I have lifted up my eyes to the mountains,
from whence help shall come to me.
2 My help is from the Lord, who made
heaven and earth.
3 May he not suffer thy foot to be moved:
neither let him slumber that keepeth thee.
4 Behold he shall neither slumber nor sleep,
that keepeth Israel.
5 The Lord is thy keeper, the Lord is thy
protection upon thy right hand.
6 The sun shall not burn thee by day:
nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord keepeth thee from all evil:
may the Lord keep thy soul.
8 May the Lord keep thy going in and thy going out;
from henceforth now and for ever.

1 canticum graduum levavi oculos meos
in montes unde veniet auxilium mihi
2 auxilium meum a Domino qui fecit
caelum et terram
3 non det in commotionem pedem tuum
neque dormitet qui custodit te
4 ecce non dormitabit neque dormiet
qui custodit Israhel
5 Dominus custodit te Dominus protectio
tua super manum dexteram tuam
6 per diem sol non uret te neque
luna per noctem
7 Dominus custodit te ab omni malo
custodiat animam tuam Dominus
8 Dominus custodiat introitum tuum
et exitum tuum ex hoc nunc et
usque in saeculum

At some point I would like to return to this psalm. There is astrology here, though the wisdom contained in it extends much further and goes far deeper.

5 thoughts on “A Pilgrims Staff: Anno 1514

  1. One source states that the chart was cast for the afternoon (2h 8′) of 24 July 1514. Many medieval charts were riddled with computation and interpolation errors. Note that the nodes are in sextile and trine to Jupiter.

  2. Hello Andrew,
    Yes, even if one tries to calculate the chart with the then available tables, it doesn’t coincide with the carved horoscope. The main elements are there, the ones that were important were I think what were carved. The image of the Nodes as a pilgrims staff brings an added light to how they may be understood.

  3. Thomas,
    Words fail me. How I wish I could convey the uplifting of spirit your recent essay on the Pilgrim’s Staff inspired. Thank you.

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