A History of Astrology in Medicine
by Yerevan Yacoubian
Just as the practice of gardening by the phases of the moon is as ancient as agriculture, the healing arts have included astrology since the dawn of time. Although much of the knowledge of the ancients has been preserved and pieced together, much of it has been lost and buried. This is especially true of the role of women in ancient astrology and medicine.
Here are a few physicians of the distant past who practiced astrology that are acknowledged in modern academia:
Hippocrates, born in 460 BC in Greece has been called “Father of Medicine”. His days coincided with temple offerings to the Greek god of healing, Asclepius. People of his time and place took both healing and education very seriously. Many new or soon-to-be doctors of this modern age have taken the Hippocratic Oath, written by Hippocrates himself, and contains the code of ethics that all physicians are expected to abide by, but that they no longer truly put into practice. Hippocrates is often quoted with having said “the physician without a knowledge of Astrology has no right to call himself a physician”. He is attributed with the correlations made between the signs of the zodiac and the body parts affected.
Many of the physicians of the East maintained a holistic approach to healing even when it was abolished from the West. They understood the interconnection of body, mind and spirit and that to isolate the parts rather than to address the whole would not lead to any lasting cure. The medicine known by ancient practitioners began its resurgence in the Western world during the “hippie revolution” of the 60s.
Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa (1486-1535) was a German scholar, physician, soldier, astrologer and author. He was mostly known as a practitioner of alchemy and occult arts. He is not specifically noted for medical astrology but he believed in the connection between the stars, herbs, stones and man's fate and overall health. There is a list of these in his book Three Books of Occult Philosophy. He is one of the few men in his field and era who was known to defend women in general, including those who practiced occultism. He did not see them in any way as being inferior to men. Legends have it that he was an evil sorcerer or vampire.
Paracelsus, born in Switzerland (1493-1541) was a Hermetic philosopher, occultist, and physician who practiced astrology in combination with medicine. He believed that health was controlled by astral influences and that the key to healing was in arcane remedies that would restore the celestial harmony between one's inner “astrum” (star energy) and heavenly “astrum”. He was known as a restless traveler with a multitude of talents, but it is believed by some that his downfall was his tremendous ego, alcoholism and tendency to criticize his colleagues. He was apparently not fond of women either but who today can be sure. It is said that he believed himself to be “chosen by God” to debunk and surpass many philosophers and physicians who came before him, namely Aristotle and Galen. He attacked medical malpractices for good reason, stating that wounds must drain properly, for “if you prevent infection, Nature will heal the wound all by herself.”. Some have referred to Paracelsus as the “Luther of physicians”. One of his greatest contributions to the field of medicine was his observation that pathology was not only caused by internal factors but also by external ones.
William Lilly, born (1602-1681) was a highly influential English author and practitioner of horary astrology. He used horoscopes for medical purposes, to help determine the cause of disease and the length of life. One of his best known works is called Christian Astrology, which includes references to medical astrology.
Nicholas Culpeper, born in 1616 in the UK was an English apothecary, botanist, and physician who was inspired by the works of Paracelsus and incorporated astrology into his healing work. He was also inspired by his friend and fellow astrologer, William Lilly. Culpeper is best known for his book “Culpeper's Complete Herbal”, which includes a section on how to diagnose sickness with astrology. According to him, plants were living embodiments of the subtle life force energy of the planets. He is quoted with having said “To such as study astrology, who are the only men I know that are fit to study medicine, medicine without astrology being like a lamp without oil.”
Women doctors and healers since time immemorial have been practitioners of both medicine and astrology, although solid evidence of their astrological work has been wiped clean from most historical manuscripts. Through the centuries, medicine and astrology have both been male dominated, and yet today astrology is most widely practiced by women. One of the oldest recorded astrologers of Greece was Hypatia of Alexandria (c. 350-370 – 415 CE). Another was Buran of Baghdad (807-884 CE)