In the West, astrology most often consists of a system of horoscopes purporting to explain aspects of a person's personality and predict future events in their life based on the positions of the sun, moon, and other celestial objects at the time of their birth. The majority of professional astrologers rely on such systems.
Astrology has been dated to at least the 2nd millennium BCE , with roots in calendrical systems used to predict seasonal shifts and to interpret celestial cycles as signs of divine communications. The text is dated between BCE to final centuries BCE by various scholars according to astronomical and linguistic evidences. Chinese astrology was elaborated in the Zhou dynasty — BCE.
Hellenistic astrology after BCE mixed Babylonian astrology with Egyptian Decanic astrology in Alexandria , creating horoscopic astrology. In Rome, astrology was associated with ' Chaldean wisdom'. After the conquest of Alexandria in the 7th century, astrology was taken up by Islamic scholars, and Hellenistic texts were translated into Arabic and Persian. In the 12th century, Arabic texts were imported to Europe and translated into Latin.
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Major astronomers including Tycho Brahe , Johannes Kepler and Galileo practised as court astrologers. Astrological references appear in literature in the works of poets such as Dante Alighieri and Geoffrey Chaucer , and of playwrights such as Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare. Throughout most of its history, astrology was considered a scholarly tradition. It was accepted in political and academic contexts, and was connected with other studies, such as astronomy , alchemy , meteorology , and medicine. Astrology thus lost its academic and theoretical standing, and common belief in astrology has largely declined.
Astrology, in its broadest sense, is the search for meaning in the sky. Scattered evidence suggests that the oldest known astrological references are copies of texts made in the ancient world. This describes how the gods revealed to him in a dream the constellations that would be most favourable for the planned construction of a temple.
The oldest undisputed evidence of the use of astrology as an integrated system of knowledge is therefore attributed to the records of the first dynasty of Mesopotamia — BCE. This astrology had some parallels with Hellenistic Greek western astrology, including the zodiac, a norming point near 9 degrees in Aries, the trine aspect, planetary exaltations, and the dodekatemoria the twelve divisions of 30 degrees each. The system of Chinese astrology was elaborated during the Zhou dynasty — BCE and flourished during the Han Dynasty 2nd century BCE to 2nd century CE , during which all the familiar elements of traditional Chinese culture — the Yin-Yang philosophy, theory of the five elements, Heaven and Earth, Confucian morality — were brought together to formalise the philosophical principles of Chinese medicine and divination, astrology and alchemy.
Cicero stated the twins objection that with close birth times, personal outcomes can be very different , later developed by Saint Augustine.
Plotinus argued that since the fixed stars are much more distant than the planets, it is laughable to imagine the planets' effect on human affairs should depend on their position with respect to the zodiac. He also argues that the interpretation of the moon's conjunction with a planet as good when the moon is full, but bad when the moon is waning, is clearly wrong, as from the moon's point of view, half of its surface is always in sunlight; and from the planet's point of view, waning should be better, as then the planet sees some light from the moon, but when the moon is full to us, it is dark, and therefore bad, on the side facing the planet in question.
Favorinus argued that it was absurd to imagine that stars and planets would affect human bodies in the same way as they affect the tides,  and equally absurd that small motions in the heavens cause large changes in people's fates. Sextus Empiricus argued that it was absurd to link human attributes with myths about the signs of the zodiac. The city of Alexandria was founded by Alexander after the conquest, becoming the place where Babylonian astrology was mixed with Egyptian Decanic astrology to create Horoscopic astrology. This contained the Babylonian zodiac with its system of planetary exaltations , the triplicities of the signs and the importance of eclipses.
It used the Egyptian concept of dividing the zodiac into thirty-six decans of ten degrees each, with an emphasis on the rising decan, and the Greek system of planetary Gods, sign rulership and four elements. Ptolemy's work the Tetrabiblos formed the basis of Western astrology, and, " The first definite reference to astrology in Rome comes from the orator Cato , who in BCE warned farm overseers against consulting with Chaldeans,  who were described as Babylonian 'star-gazers'. One of the first astrologers to bring Hermetic astrology to Rome was Thrasyllus , astrologer to the emperor Tiberius ,  the first emperor to have had a court astrologer,  though his predecessor Augustus had used astrology to help legitimise his Imperial rights.
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Choudhari in and , respectively. Astrology was taken up by Islamic scholars  following the collapse of Alexandria to the Arabs in the 7th century, and the founding of the Abbasid empire in the 8th. The second Abbasid caliph , Al Mansur — founded the city of Baghdad to act as a centre of learning, and included in its design a library-translation centre known as Bayt al-Hikma 'House of Wisdom', which continued to receive development from his heirs and was to provide a major impetus for Arabic-Persian translations of Hellenistic astrological texts.
The early translators included Mashallah , who helped to elect the time for the foundation of Baghdad,  and Sahl ibn Bishr , a. Zael , whose texts were directly influential upon later European astrologers such as Guido Bonatti in the 13th century, and William Lilly in the 17th century. In Paradiso , the final part of the Divine Comedy , the Italian poet Dante Alighieri referred "in countless details"  to the astrological planets, though he adapted traditional astrology to suit his Christian viewpoint,  for example using astrological thinking in his prophecies of the reform of Christendom.
In the seventh century, Isidore of Seville argued in his Etymologiae that astronomy described the movements of the heavens, while astrology had two parts: one was scientific, describing the movements of the sun, the moon and the stars, while the other, making predictions, was theologically erroneous. However, he attacked the use of astrology to choose the timing of actions so-called interrogation and election as wholly false, and rejected the determination of human action by the stars on grounds of free will.
In the late s, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola forcefully attacked astrology in Disputationes contra Astrologos , arguing that the heavens neither caused, nor heralded earthly events. Renaissance scholars commonly practised astrology. Catherine de Medici paid Michael Nostradamus in to verify the prediction of the death of her husband, king Henry II of France made by her astrologer Lucus Gauricus.
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Major astronomers who practised as court astrologers included Tycho Brahe in the royal court of Denmark, Johannes Kepler to the Habsburgs , Galileo Galilei to the Medici , and Giordano Bruno who was burnt at the stake for heresy in Rome in Advances in astronomy were often motivated by the desire to improve the accuracy of astrology. Ephemerides with complex astrological calculations, and almanacs interpreting celestial events for use in medicine and for choosing times to plant crops, were popular in Elizabethan England.
English astrology had reached its zenith by the 17th century. Among other things, astrologers claimed to be able to advise on the best time to take a journey or harvest a crop, diagnose and prescribe for physical or mental illnesses, and predict natural disasters. This underpinned a system in which everything — people, the world, the universe — was understood to be interconnected, and astrology co-existed happily with religion , magic and science.
During the Enlightenment , intellectual sympathy for astrology fell away, leaving only a popular following supported by cheap almanacs.
Astrology saw a popular revival starting in the 19th century, as part of a general revival of spiritualism and—later, New Age philosophy,  : — and through the influence of mass media such as newspaper horoscopes. Advocates have defined astrology as a symbolic language, an art form, a science , and a method of divination. These include Hindu astrology also known as "Indian astrology" and in modern times referred to as "Vedic astrology" and Chinese astrology, both of which have influenced the world's cultural history. Western astrology is a form of divination based on the construction of a horoscope for an exact moment, such as a person's birth.
Western astrology is founded on the movements and relative positions of celestial bodies such as the Sun, Moon and planets, which are analysed by their movement through signs of the zodiac twelve spatial divisions of the ecliptic and by their aspects based on geometric angles relative to one another. They are also considered by their placement in houses twelve spatial divisions of the sky. The horoscope visually expresses the set of relationships for the time and place of the chosen event. These relationships are between the seven 'planets', signifying tendencies such as war and love; the twelve signs of the zodiac; and the twelve houses.
Each planet is in a particular sign and a particular house at the chosen time, when observed from the chosen place, creating two kinds of relationship. Along with tarot divination , astrology is one of the core studies of Western esotericism , and as such has influenced systems of magical belief not only among Western esotericists and Hermeticists , but also belief systems such as Wicca that have borrowed from or been influenced by the Western esoteric tradition. Tanya Luhrmann has said that "all magicians know something about astrology," and refers to a table of correspondences in Starhawk's The Spiral Dance , organised by planet , as an example of the astrological lore studied by magicians.
The earliest Vedic text on astronomy is the Vedanga Jyotisha ; Vedic thought later came to include astrology as well. Hindu natal astrology originated with Hellenistic astrology by the 3rd century BCE,  :  though incorporating the Hindu lunar mansions. Greek 'Krios' for Aries, Hindi 'Kriya' , the planets e. Greek 'Helios' for Sun, astrological Hindi 'Heli' , and astrological terms e. Greek 'apoklima' and 'sunaphe' for declination and planetary conjunction, Hindi 'apoklima' and 'sunapha' respectively in Varaha Mihira's texts are considered conclusive evidence of a Greek origin for Hindu astrology.
The early use of Chinese astrology was mainly confined to political astrology , the observation of unusual phenomena, identification of portents and the selection of auspicious days for events and decisions. It is based on cycles of years, lunar months, and two-hour periods of the day the shichen.
They do not rely on direct observations of the stars.
The Korean zodiac is identical to the Chinese one. The Vietnamese zodiac is almost identical to Chinese zodiac except the second animal is the Water Buffalo instead of the Ox , and the fourth animal is the Cat instead of the Rabbit. The Japanese have since celebrated the beginning of the new year on 1 January as per the Gregorian calendar.
The Thai zodiac begins, not at Chinese New Year , but either on the first day of fifth month in the Thai lunar calendar , or during the Songkran festival now celebrated every 13—15 April , depending on the purpose of the use. Augustine — believed that the determinism of astrology conflicted with the Christian doctrines of man's free will and responsibility, and God not being the cause of evil,  but he also grounded his opposition philosophically, citing the failure of astrology to explain twins who behave differently although conceived at the same moment and born at approximately the same time.
Some of the practices of astrology were contested on theological grounds by medieval Muslim astronomers such as Al-Farabi Alpharabius , Ibn al-Haytham Alhazen and Avicenna. They said that the methods of astrologers conflicted with orthodox religious views of Islamic scholars , by suggesting that the Will of God can be known and predicted in advance. Avicenna considered that the movement of the planets influenced life on earth in a deterministic way, but argued against the possibility of determining the exact influence of the stars.
And if you astrologers answer that it is precisely because of this distance and smallness that their influences are negligible, then why is it that you claim a great influence for the smallest heavenly body, Mercury? Why is it that you have given an influence to al-Ra's and al-Dhanab , which are two imaginary points [ascending and descending nodes]? Maimonides , the preeminent Jewish philosopher, astronomer, and legal codifier, wrote that astrology is forbidden by Jewish law.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church maintains that divination, including predictive astrology, is incompatible with modern Catholic beliefs  such as free will: . All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to "unveil" the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers.
They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone. The scientific community rejects astrology as having no explanatory power for describing the universe, and considers it a pseudoscience. Confirmation bias is a form of cognitive bias , a psychological factor that contributes to belief in astrology.
Another, separate, form of confirmation bias also plays a role, where believers often fail to distinguish between messages that demonstrate special ability and those that do not.