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Research Sources For Astrology

Islamic / Arabic Astrology

Islam grew up in an environment in which Christianity, Judaism and astrology were all important. Planet-worshiping Mesopotamian pagans (Sabians) who passed for an obscure religion praised in the Koran, were also influential. Islamic thinkers generally had an attitude toward astrology which resembled the Jewish one more than the usual Christian one. Islamic thinkers generally allowed one to practice astrology, while they might condemn ideas and practices which were conflicted with Islam, e.g., predicting the rise and fall of world religions astrology. Islamic astrologers combined Greek, Indian, Sasanian and Sabian practices and came up with innovations of their own, such as astrological history. Sabian scholars such as Thabit ibn Qura played an important role in translating Greek scientific texts into Arabic. These translations and further developments by Islamic writers in Latin translation greatly influenced Medieval and Renaissance Europe.

Biruni, Muhammad ibn Ahmad, al-, Tafhim li-awa'il sina`at al-tanjim Kitab# al-tafhim li-ava'il sina`at al-tanjim / ta'lif-i Abu Rayhan Muhammad ibn Ahmad Biruni Khvarazmi ; ba tajdid-i nazar va ta`liqat va muqaddamah-'i tazah bi-khamah-'i Jalal al-Din Huma'i. (Tihran: Intisharat-i Babak, 1362 [1983 or 1984] ) [Persian] {Includes bibliographical references and indexes on early works of Arab astrology.}

Chwolson, Daniel, Die Ssabier und der Ssabismus (St. Petersburg, 1859; reprinted Amsterdam: Oriental Press, 1965) {Excellent collection of nearly all texts, with German translation, on the Sabians. The Sabians were the pagan inhabitants of Harran, who emphasized the worship of the planet- gods. They played an important role in the translation and transmission of Greek science to the Arabic world, and claimed Hermes Trismegistus as their prophet.}

Creswell, K. A. C., Early Muslim Achitecture (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1932) {An excellent account of Ummayad architecture, including the zodiac painting at Qusayr Amra; cf. Gundel, "Zodiakos".}

Dirasat fi al-falak `inda al-`Arab. (Baghdad: Wizarat al-Ta`lim al-`Ali wa-al-Bahth al-`Ilmi, Jami`at Baghdad, Markaz Ihya' al-Turath al-`Ilmi al-`Arabi, 1989) [Arabic] {Papers presented to Nadwat al-Falak `inda al-`Arab, organized in Baghdad by Markaz Ihya' al-Turath al-`Arabi, 12/9/1987-12/10/1987. Includes bibliographical references.}

Fahd, T., "Ibn Wahšiyya," Encyclopedia of Islam, 2d ed., Vol. 3 (1971): 963-65 {on the author of Nabataean Agriculture, an important work on astral magic and perhaps the major source for Picatrix}

Fahd, T., "Matériaux pour l'histoire de l'agriculture de Irak: al-filâha an-nabatiyya {Nabataean Agriculture}," Handbuch der Orientalistik, ed. B. Spuler, Erste Abteilung, Der Nahe und der Mittlere Osten, Sechster Band, Geschichte der islamischen Laender, sechster abschnitt, Wirtschaftsgeschichte des vorderen Orients in islamischer Zeit, Teil 1 (Leiden and Koeln: E. J. Brill, 1977), 276-378 {Rodgers, JAOS 100, 7, n.8; Tubach, Sonn., 1986, 152, n.35; The Nabataean Agriculture is a ninth century CD supposedly giving the secrets to the agricultural success of the Sasanian and Byzantine farmers of the Fertile Crescent; Nabataean here means Aramaic-speaking peasant; it includes astral magic and religion, and was probably the source for most of the information on the Harranian Sabians in Picatrix; Fahd claims that he can show that it is largely based on agricultural manuals from Late Antique Mesopotamia perhaps the 4-5th centuries CE, and is preparing a critical text, translation and commentary on the whole work; this article deals with how to handle insect pests and parallel discussions in other Classical agricultural authors, such as Cato; cf. M. el-Faïz}

Faïz, M. el-, L'agronomie de la Mesopotamie ; analyse du "Livre de l'agriculture nabatéenne" de Qûtâma {ISBN 90 04 10199 3; info from list of _Studies in the History and Culture of the Ancient Near East_, ed. B. Halpern and M. H. E. Weippert, in back of Ann Jeffers, _Magic and Divination in Ancient Palestine and Syria_, 1996; cf. Fahd}

Fehevari, G., "Harran," Encyclopedia of Islam, III, (Leiden: Brill; London: Luzac, 1965-present) pages 227-30 {Fehevari has custody of Harran excavation materials at the School of African and Oriental Studies, University of London. Good survey of Harran's history, including astral religion in Late Antiquity.}

Margalioth, D. S., "Harranians," Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, ed. James Hastings, et al. (NY: Scribners, 1920) {Harran had an important temple to Sin, the Mesopotamian mood-god, from prehistoric times. Somehow, the native pagan religion survived in Harran well into the Islamic period, in the form of a cult of the planets. It's practitioners were called "Harranians" or "Sabians," and played an important role in early Islamic science and philosophy. This is a short but thorough account.}

Masha'allah, The Astrological History: On Conjunctions, Religions, and Peoples, in the version of Ibn Hibinta eds. E. S. Kennedy and David Pingree, (Cambridge MA, Harvard University Press, 1971) {"No text of Masha'allah's work has survived, but the Ibn Hibinta text is close, and for the general argument suffices. This work comprises not only a text, and translation of the Ibn Hibinta version, but also a most valuable commentary on the whole subject of Arabic (Islamic cultural, Ibn Hibinta was a Christian Arab, Masha'allah was Jewish) mundane astrological theories. Deals with such things as the development of historical periodization, attribution of astrological knowledge to pre-deluge figures, or other pseudepigraphic attributions. Very important for transmitting late Hellenistic cultural phenomena into European and Indian cultures, as well as an important source for various occult theories in our own time (i.e. Hermes Trismegistus as Ur-astrologer.) It also records many particular interpretive methods of Islamic culture area mundane astrology, particularly an emphasis on exaltation of the planets in addition to, or even instead of the usual rulerships." --Win Rowe. With Abu Ma'shar, Masha'allah was one of the most important Islamic scientific astrologers, and was very influential in Europe, too. Translated into Latin in twelfth century CE as Messahala.}

Morony, Michael G., Iraq After the Muslim Conquest (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984) {Very good discussion of religions in Iraq, including astral polytheism, before and after the Islamic conquest in the seventh century CE. Excellent bibliography.}

Nadim, Muhammad ibn Ishaq al-, The Fihrist of al-Nadim; A Tenth-Century Survey of Muslim Culture, 2 Vols., ed. and tr. Bayard Dodge (New York and London: Columbia University Press, 1970) {Al-Nadim was a book-seller at a time when Islamic book shops were the equivalent of European universities or Greek stoas. His "Catalog" is an encyclopedic history of scholarship, with a great deal of information on the Sabians of Harran, including an entire cultic calendar. He says the pagan Harranians gained toleration from the Islamic state by claiming they were the sect of Sabians mentioned in Koran, and their prophet was Hermes Trismegistus! Bayard Dodge was the president of the American University of Beirut.}

Nadwah al-Qawmiyah li-Tarikh al-`Ulum `inda al-`Arab, Buhuth al-Nadwah al-Qawmiyah al-Awwal li-Tarikh al-`Ulum `inda al-`Arab. (Baghdad, Iraq: al-Markaz, 1989) [Arabic] {Includes bibliographical references and maps.}

Peters, F. E., Allah's Commonwealth. A History of Islam in the Near East, 600-1100 A.D. (NY: Simon and Schuster, 1973) {The best book I have read on history of "Golden Age" of Islam and Arabs, with much on Islamic philosophy and science, including "scientific" astrology.}

Picatrix, "Picatrix" Das Ziel des Weisen von Pseudo-Magriti, Studies of the Warburg Institute 27, ed. G. Bing, tr. Helmut Ritter and Martin Plessner (London: Warburg Institute, University of London, 1962) {A classic Islamic grimoire, probably composed in 10th century Spain; probably the best known example of "religious" astrology from the Islamic world. It claims to give the rituals with which Sabians of Harran worshipped planets. It was translated into Latin in the twelfth century, and was influential in Medieval and Renaissance Europe, too.}

Picatrix, Das Ziel des Weisen [or Ghayat al-Hakim], ed. H. Ritter, Studien der Bibliothek Warburg 12 (Berlin: B. G. Teubner, 1933. repr. London: Warburg Institute, University of London, 1962) {Arabic text of Picatrix, falsely attributed to Spanish scientist Maslamah ibn Ahmed al-Majriti. Also translated into Latin. One of the most famous of all works of astral magic. There is an extended description in Thorndike, Magic and Science, and an important reference in Cumont, Astrology and Religion, as well as major discussions in Yates, 1964, and Ritter, 1923. This last essay, revised, also forms the introduction to the H. Ritter and M. Plessner German translation, q.v. Pingree has published the Latin translation, and promises editions of the various Renaissance vernacular translations.}

Picatrix [Ghayat Al-Hakim]: The Goal of the Wise, Volume I., transl. Hashem Atallah, Edited by William Kiese. (Ouroboros Press. Seattle, Washington ca. 2001) {English translation from the Warburg Institute's Arabic text by an Arabic scholar}

Pingree, David, "Astrology," in The Cambridge History of Arabic Literature. Religion, Learning and Science in the `Abbasid Period, ed. M. L. J. Young, J. D. Latham, and R. R. Serjeant (Cambridge: C. U. page, 1990), pp. 290-300 {Excellent survey of "scientific" astrology.}

Pingree, David, "Some Sources of the Ghayat al-Hakim," Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 43 (1980): pp. 1-15 {Very good on connections with the astral religion of Late Antiquity. Bibliography very useful.}

Pingree, David, The Thousands of Abu Mashar (London: The Warburg Institute, 1968) {"This is not a text of the Abu Mashar work, but rather a commentary on its sources, and dating, by a most distinguished historian of science. In the absence of an English translation this will have to do. The work duplicates much of the subject matter of the Astrological History of Masha'allah, with same characteristics of transmitting late Hellenistic ideas, pseudepigraphic habits, and romanticizing rewrites of history to fit into vast schemes of periodization, all of which leads to India and the Yogas and other Indian mythological perodizations. Given the Hellenistic background, some questions about relations to the gnostics with their Æons and so forth should also be raised." -- Win Rowe. As Albumasar, Abu Ma'shar was the father of Medieval and Renaissance European astrology, often referred to in Bouché-Leclercq's footnotes, while as Apomasar, he was prominent in Byzantium.}

Rice, D. S., "Medieval Harran. Studies on its Topography and Monuments, I," Anatolian Studies 2 (1952): 36-84 {Report on initial excavation. Rice believes the moon-temple of the Sabians may still exist, recycled into a Crusader-era fortress. In spite of important finds, the excavation did not last long. See Yardimci for the situation at the site as of 1993.}

Rosenthal, Franz, A History of Muslim Historiography (Leiden: Brill, 1968) {Pages 110-3 are on astrological history, a Sasanian Persian and Islamic specialty. Political historians were more skeptical than astrological ones, but the latter's works still contain useful information, Rosenthal says. I would guess that the chronological data is especially useful. All early chronology is based on astronomical events in any case.}

Ruska, Julius, "Griechischen Darstellungen in arabischen Steinbüchern," Sitzungsberichte der Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften, philsophisch-historisch Klasse, Bd. 10.1 (Heidelberg: Carl Winters Universitätsbuchhandlung, 1919) {Greek astrological ideas in Arabian garb. The astrological properties of stones were important to Greek astrological medicine, while Islamic astrologers used the same concepts to invent the talisman, a device to attract favorable influences from the planets.}

Shami, Yahy `Abd al-Amir. Tarikh al-tanjim `inda al-`Arab wa-atharuhu fi al-mujtama`at al-`Arabiyah al-Islamiyah. (Bayrut, Lubnan: Mu'assasat `Izz al-Din, 1994). [Arabic] {Includes bibliographical references (pp. 471-86) and indexes.}

Ullmann, Manfred, Die Nature- und Geheimwissenschaften im Islam, Handbuch der Orientalistik, Abteilung 1, Ergänzungsband 6, Abschnitt 2 (Leiden: Brill, 1972) {The standard work on the natural and occult sciences, including astrology, in the Islamic world. Contains an excellent bibliography.}

Wahshiyah, Amad ibn Ali, ibn, Nabataean Agriculture [al-filâha an-nabatiyya ] {Pingree, "Ghayat," 43:12; prayers to planets, major source of Picatrix; cf. Fahd; written C9; based on C5 meso. work? evidence of late meso paganism, sim. to Sabians? See also Ibn W.'s book on magical alphabets; Rodgers, JAOS 100, 7, n.8; Tubach, Sonn., 1986, 152, n.35; The Nabataean Agriculture is a ninth century CE work, supposedly giving the secrets to the agricultural success of the Aramaic-speaking (=Nabataean) farmers of the Fertile Crescent; it includes astral magic and religion, and was probably the source for most of the information on the Harranian Sabians in Picatrix; in the 19th century, it was the subject of academic controversy; Chwolson claimed that it was based on materials dating to the classic Mesopotamian civilization, while Noeldeke claimed it was completely of the Islamic era; Noeldeke won; Now Fahd claims that he can show that it is largely based on agricultural manuals from Late Antique Meso, perhaps the 4-5th centuries CE, and is preparing a critical text, translation and commentary on the whole work; }

Wahshiyah, Muhammad ibn `Ali, ibn, Kitab al-Filahah al-Nabatiyah [Nabataean Agriculture]/ tarjamat Abi [i.e. Abu] Bakr ibn Wahshiyah

(Frankfurt, Jumhuriyat Almaniya al-Ittihadiyah : Ma`had Tarikh al-`Ulum al-`Arabiyah wa-al-Islamiyah, 1984- ); 24 cm. {Arabic text of Nabataean Agriculture}

Yardimci, Nurettin, "Excavations, Surveys, and Restoration Works at Harran," in M. Frangipane, et al., eds., Between the Rivers and Over the Mountains; Archaeologica Anatolica et Mesopotamica Alba Palmieri Dedicata (Rome: Dipartimento de Scienze Storiche Archeologiche e Antropologiche dell'Antichita, Universita di Roma "La Sapienza",1993), pp. 437-52. {Alba Palmieri festschrift. Yardimci is currently in charge of restoration work at Harran. The article contains many good photos, for example, of the castle which may incorporate the Sabian Moon Temple, as well as maps of site and region. No notes, no bibliography, but a good over-view of excavations in the region. His historical survey largely ignores the Hellenistic and Roman epochs.}