If you recall, 2009 is the year of astronomy. Some may wonder why astrologers should take any interest, considering how modern astronomers seem to avoid the topic of astrology and when pressed must ridicule it so as not to lose face with their colleagues. On the other hand many modern astrologers do not seem to have a very high opinion of astronomers. Both sciences however share a common history and for centuries were not to be separated from one another. With that said I would like to present the ultimate modern book on astronomy for the astrologer and for the astronomer interested in the history of his or her science: “The History and Practice of Ancient Astronomy” by James Evans. Note that ‘practice’ is italicized, and that for a purpose. The book makes good its promise and presents also the tools used by ancient astronomers (or astrologers!) and how to use them. I have seldom been so excited by an astronomy book. This is it. I only regret that it has recently come to my attention and not in 1998 when it was first published. In terms of presentation, content and clear precise and riveting language this book has top scores and is my personal winner of Astronomy Book for the Year of Astronomy.
The author in his preface already shows the character of the book:
In the sciences, it is common to encounter monographs in which the author interrupts the development from time to time by posing problems and exercises for the reader. This is the author’s way of saying, ‘You can’t be sure you understand this material unless you can use it.’ But the exercises and suggestions for observations that are interspersed throughout this book are unusual features for a historical work. These are meant to give the reader a chance to practice the art of the ancient astronomer. Any attempt at a grand historical synthesis or a philosophical analysis of the Greek view of nature that is not underpinned with a sound understanding of how Greek astronomy actually worked is headed for trouble. (p. ix)
I think that this should also be taken to heart when trying to understand ‘traditional’ astrology, whatever the source.
In the very first chapter, ‘The birth of Astronomy’, the gnomon is introduced. This is the most ancient instrument of all – a stick set into the ground in a sunny place. The shadow is measured. And you will be surprised what wealth of insight such a simple device can deliver.
So dear reader, heigh you to your nearest bookseller…