Unlocking the Observatory: 17th Century German Pop-Divination Texts, Natal Stars, and Numbers

Where were we? We’re in the middle of discussing the obscure Telescope of Zoroaster (ZT), a manual of divination and spirituality originally published in French in 1796 (FZT) at the close of the French Revolution, which was later translated into German in 1797 (GZT) and then again in an abridged form as part of Johann Scheible’s 1846 Das Kloster (vol. 3, part II, chapter VII) (KZT), with Scheible’s work then translated into English in 2013 as released by Ouroboros Press (OZT).  Although OZT is how most people nowadays tend to encounter this system, I put out my own English translation of FZT out a bit ago as part of my research, and while that translation was just part of the work I’ve been up to, there’s so much more to review, consider, and discover when it comes to this fascinating form of divination.  Last time, we talked about the “natal stars”, ZT’s own take on the lunar mansions and the angels associated with them, and how utterly weird the whole thing is. If you need a refresher on what we talked about last time, go read the last post!

※ For those following along with their own copy of ZT (get yours here!), the relevant chapters from ZT are the “Second Supplement” and “Third Supplement”.

Following up on the last post, we talked about how utterly bizarre and obtuse this system is of associating the angels of the lunar mansions, or “natal stars” as ZT calls them, and given that ZT uses them nothing like lunar mansions it may be for the best to use ZT’s moniker instead.  This is all so clearly (and yet so unclearly) depicted by all the oddities of ZT’s Plate VI:

The more I looked at it, the more confused I got.  I tried plotting out all available information every which way: mapping out the house-to-mansion and mansion-to-house-less-the-intelligences-numbers, seeing if there was any repeating pattern of numbers being skipped, trying to trace geometric patterns between mansions on the Great Mirror—nothing.  The more I banged my head against this, the less I understood what was going on.  Heck, I even counted how many of the tiny divisions there are in the Border of Plate VI and found out that, although there are supposed to be 13 of them per mansion to represent the 13(ish) days per Sun traveling through the mansion (which is a super weird notion), which should yield (according to ZT) a total of 365, a handful of them have 14 divisions and one even has 15—and even then, 28 × 13 = 364, which doesn’t match with what ZT says regardless.  Even trying to reverse engineer and come up with my own systems and methods of assigning mansions to the houses wasn’t coming anywhere close to what ZT was doing.

Like, yes, to be sure, there are a number of things about ZT that I don’t have answers for—where it gets its unique take on planetary numerology, for instance—but all of those are relatively minor things that don’t impact the actual function or process of the divinatory method of ZT.  Meanwhile, here we have something that is clearly stated as being important, but which itself is not used in the actual divinatory method at all, which would still be functional (even if somehow potentially incomplete?) without it—and which even the Redactor of ZT says was something thrown on as an extra bit to keep people going in ZT and which wasn’t going to be mentioned at first anyway.  Again, the more I looked and considered this, the less sure I got of what the hell it’s doing.  It was clear that I wasn’t getting anywhere, and even the seeming leads that might have revealed a blind kept going nowhere.

I decided to take a different approach.  I mentioned the various options of what could be going on here last time: either it’s all arbitrary, it’s just a bad and incomplete pattern, it’s a blind, or it’s an importation based on another source that explains something about the method in a way that ZT alone can’t and doesn’t.  Maybe it’s that last option, and I would have to look at non-ZT texts to find something.

First, I tried looking up lists of lunar mansion angels.  It’s a distinct quality of ZT that gives such a list with the three big archangels Gabriel, Michael, and Raphael included; these aren’t in Cornelius Agrippa’s list from TBOP book III, chapter 24, and lists like this tend to be remarkably stable over time even if some of the spelling changes a bit.  The only thing I was coming up with was something from Franz Bardon’s work, specifically the list of angels of the sphere of the Moon which was encoded in Bardon’s work and subsequently decoded by Emil Stejnar, but I cannot for the life of me figure out where Stejnar was getting this list from in any of Bardon’s works, and Stejnar himself doesn’t say; indeed, the annotators of such a website note that the “angelnames are cited according to Stejnar[;] the edition of Agrippa’s ‘Occulta Theosophia’ in my possess gives different angelnames”.  Beyond that one dead-end of a lead, though, I couldn’t find anything.

I backed up and instead reconsidered: what about the lunar mansion names?  The list given in ZT’s “Second Supplement” (Alnacha, Albukaim, Alkoreya, Aldaboran, Almuzin, etc.) are all recognizably the names of the 28 lunar mansions, even considering their variants in older texts, and especially considering all the many and various ways Arabic names and words get corrupted and mangled in European texts.  In general, while such variation can occur from text to text, such changes only happen slowly over the course of many generations of copying, and are as much impacted by the source language as well as the destination language.  In that light, people don’t often just come up with their own transcriptions and spellings; they typically use the ones they’re shown.  While these names of the lunar mansions are definitely intended to represent the lunar mansions, and while they’re kinda close to what Agrippa has, they’re not exactly the same.  Maybe this is an indication of some alternative lineage of astrological information the author of ZT was privy to?

So I started googling for some of the names in older texts, and that’s when I found the 1757 Das Große Planeten-Buch, published in Leipzig by Johann George Löwen (DGPB).  It’s written in an older German in Fraktur, so it’s not the easiest thing to read, but as I was flipping through it, I noticed that it contains a whole lot of information about a lot of different divination systems—astrology, yes, but also geomancy, numerology, palmistry, phrenology, and the like.  In the first part of the book that focuses on astrology, pages 54—96 have information about the lunar mansions, spelled nearly identically to what’s used in ZT.  For example, consider this introductory paragraph from part I, chapter 35 (page 73): Von dem Stern Algayre und seiner Würckung “on the star Algayre and its effects”:

Transcribed and translated:

Dieser Stern so auch Alhayre heißt, und zum Beherrscher Jazariel hat, nimmt seinen Anfang im 2. Grad und 24. Minunten der ♓︎ [♍︎], und reichet mit seiner Kraft bis in den 15. Grad und 54. Minuten der ♎︎, ist temperirter ♃ und ♀︎ Natur, und ist mehr glücklich denn unglücklich.

This star, also called Alhayre, and which has Jazariel as its ruler, begins in 2°24′ of Pisces [Virgo] and its power reaches until 15°54′ of Libra.  It is tempered by the nature of Jupiter and Venus, and is more fortunate than unfortunate.

Here we have a description of DGPB’s mansion XIII Algayre (equivalent to Alhaire in Agrippa), and while the degrees are a bit off from what we’d expect, the chapter goes on to talk about people born in the mansion who have this or that quality, lucky days of the week, colors of clothes to wear and the like, and it even gives an angel name, too—but take a close look at this first paragraph, and you’ll see that it gives a nature of Jupiter and Venus to this lunar mansion.  We see the same with other examples, like mansion XV (Algaphar) being given to the Moon, mansion XVI (Alzibinin) being given to the Moon and Saturn, and so forth.

To be honest, given the contents of the book as a whole, DGPB doesn’t seem to be aimed at actual practicing astrologers; rather, it seems to be more of a manual and guide for non-experts who have an interest (if not quite a full study) in the work, and is meant to offer quick and simple approaches to astrology and other forms of divination and prognosis.  It is, in many ways, a lot like those pop-divination manuals we see for cheap in even otherwise mundane bookstores in the new age section that we often give to beginners or children as a gift to spur their interest.  In that light, consider:

  • It’s uncommon for non-expert guides for astrology to mention the lunar mansions.
  • It’s even more uncommon for such descriptions of lunar mansions to get planetary assignments.
  • It’s still more uncommon for there to be a mix of one or two planetary assignments per mansion.

…and ZT does all those things, too.

And would you look at that: of the 28 mansions that ZT lists, 13 exactly match with what DGPB give and another 6 partially match, for a total of 19 (well more than half):

Mansion ZT DGPB Match
1 ☉ ♃ N/A
2 Full
3 ♀︎ ☿ ☽ No
4 ♀︎ No
5 No
6 Full
7 ☉ ♄ ♀︎ ☽ No
8 ☾ ☽ ♀︎ ☽ Partial ☽
9 ♂︎ No
10 ☿ ☽ Partial ☿
11 ☉ ♀︎ ♃ ♀︎ Partial ♀︎
12 ☉ ☿ ☿ ☽ Partial ☿
13 ♀︎ ♃ ♀︎ ♃ Full
14 ♄ ♀︎ No
15 Full
16 ☽ ♄ ☽ ♄ Full
17 ☽ ☿ ☽ ☿ Full
18 ☉ ♂︎ ☉ ♂︎ Full
19 ☽ ☿ ☽ ☿ Full
20 ♄ ♂︎ ♄ ☽ Partial ♄
21 Full
22 ☽ ♄ ☽ ♄ Full
23 ♄ ♃ No
24 ♂︎ ♀︎ ♃ ♀︎ Partial ♀︎
25 ☉ ♃ ☉ ♃ Full
26 ☉ ♂︎ ☉ ♂︎ Full
27 ♀︎ ♀︎ ♃ Partial ♀︎
28 ♂︎ ♂︎ ☉ Partial ♂︎

Also, I should note, that specific linked copy of DGPB was published just a few decades before ZT in a major printing epicenter, Leipzig—which, I note, was a city that Nerciat himself worked in as a librarian.  Further, this book just happened to be part of a trend of similar books that produced virtually the same information verbatim for centuries.  Like, just searching for the unique spelling of some of the mansion names, I’m able to find dozens of copies of this book dating at least as early as 1650 and as late as 1852, but with even earlier versions under similar titles presenting similar information in a similar format but not the same wording as early as 1544 or 1541.  Notably, however, those earlier versions in the 1500s don’t seem to have the planetary associations, which only appear in the later versions starting (as far as I’ve found) in the 1600s.  At some point between the late-1500s and the mid-1600s, it looks like some minor German tradition of pop-astrology (and I’m only finding books in German in this situation using these similar names) added in planetary associations to the lunar mansions.

At this point, I’m not dragging it out further, because for the purposes of this investigation, we have a solid-enough conclusion, at least to my satisfaction: it appears as though ZT was heavily influenced in its development, at least as far as its angelic stuff is concerned, by some sort of popular or easily-accessible astrological resource (perhaps in or produced from Germany) that provided a brief introduction to the lunar mansions, but weirdly also provided its own innovative system of planetary associations to the lunar mansions, as well, which is not found  (at least to my knowledge) outside this weird “lineage” of “pop-divination” German texts.  The inventor of ZT took this system and adapted it to the geometrical restrictions of the Great Mirror, mapping what it could from these texts to the Great Mirror.  Not all such pairs of planets would work in the Great Mirror, to be sure; DGPB has mansions VII and VIII given to the planetary natures of Venus and the Moon together, but the Great Mirror has these planets on opposite sides of the hexagon, so there’s no such house that falls in both their orbits at the same time.  This would force the inventor of ZT to allocate what they could, and then squeeze in the rest what they couldn’t.  It’s not a perfect match, but it’s far more than just coincidental; barring anything else saying otherwise or any other source coming up with anything better, the notion that the author of ZT was relying on another book of astrology current and available to them and adapting it to their own system is far more likely than there being a blind or this being merely arbitrary.

And, while we’re at it, DGPB also includes a good chunk of numerological stuff.  In that version linked above, on page 14, it has a Tafel der überbleibenden Zahl, dadurch die Planeten den Menschen zugeeignet werden “Table of the remainder-number, whereby the planets are given to humans”.  If you take the numerical sum of someone’s name and reduce it to a single digit, by giving each of the digits 1 through 9 to one of the planets, you can determine the planetary nature of that name (and, by extension, that person).  Such a system doesn’t give numbers their own symbolic meaning, which is otherwise super common in many numerological systems, but rather gives the numbers to the planets and lets the planets define their meanings.  To that end, DGPB gives the following table:

  1. Sun
  2. Venus
  3. Mercury
  4. Moon
  5. Saturn
  6. Jupiter
  7. Mars
  8. Sun
  9. Venus

It’s not an exact match—Venus gets two numbers instead of the Moon, the Sun has one of its numbers off a bit, and Mercury and the Moon (swap with Venus?) would have to be swapped around—but several of the numbers do match between these systems.  This is certainly different than other numerology systems, like that of the Holy Guide (1662) of John Heydon, upon which later numerologists like Sepharial in his The Kabala of Numbers gives a table like:

  1. Sun
  2. Moon (New)
  3. Jupiter
  4. Sun or Earth
  5. Mercury
  6. Venus
  7. Moon (Full)
  8. Saturn
  9. Mars

It seems like those German pop-divination books like DGPB, even if not that specific one, provided both an astrological and numerological basis for ZT’s own system, although not exactly.  Admittedly, it’s just close enough to suggest a connection, but it’s just different enough to suggest that something else is going on, here, too.  I mean, at least with the numbers, if we consider ZT’s Plate II again…

…we can see that there’s this neat symmetry going on in how the planets are associated with the primitive Numbers.  Using Saturn/Lethophoro/5 as a fulcrum, each side is balanced by the other: Mercury with Jupiter (sophist/philosopher or servant/king), Venus with Mars (female/male), matter-Moon with spirit-Moon, and matter-Sun with spirit-Sun, which would also make Saturn in the middle as being the “dark” point between the two extremes of “light”.  By taking a numerological system like that of DGBP as a basis, it’s not inconceivable that the inventor of ZT shifted some of the numbers around to make a more pleasing balance of sorts, and then (like DGPB’s remainder-number planetary system) gives those numbers meanings based on their planets.

It’s all kinda circumstantial, both for the bit about the lunar mansions as well as the planet/number associations, but it’s not too unreasonable or infeasible that this is what happened.  I can’t prove at the present time, unfortunately, that this is what happened, and maybe some reader more adroit at 1600s-ish German (or other continental European languages) with an eye for tracking astrological or numerological texts can help trace and track down more such texts that might afford more leads, especially regarding how such texts like DGPB came to associate planets with the lunar mansions.  However, it’s what I’ve got to go on, and—if I do say so myself—it’s not an unbelievable possibility.

Let’s close down that line of inquiry; I’ve nothing more to go on, after all, and while this is a good thing to stand on, it doesn’t solve the other big issue we raised last time: how do the compound Number tiles themselves get associated to the angels/mansions?  Well, we have at least some inkling of what’s going on, at least.  To go through what we can discern from Plate VI and the table of angels:

  • There are 90 compound Number tiles.  28 goes into 90 a maximum three times with a remainder, so we can allot at least three compound Number tiles per angel.  28 × 3 = 84, and 90 – 84 = 6, so there are 6 remaining compound Number tiles.  ZG gives each of these remainder compound Number tiles to each of the corner houses in the Great Mirror.
  • For most compound Number tiles, we can simply allocate a tile to one of the houses in the orbit of the planet of that compound Number, e.g. how 43 reduces to 7, making 43 a number of Mars/Adamasto, putting this number into the orbit of Mars (specifically house 23 with Raphael).  These seem to have been done first.
  • All of the planets except the Sun have houses in their orbit that belong exclusively to them, while the Sun has no houses in its orbit that belongs exclusively to it.  Additionally, because the Sun and Moon are broken out into their material and spiritual Intelligences for their own houses for the purposes of the Great Mirror for the angelic associations for the rest of the houses (they’re all densely packed into the middle of the Great Mirror), it’s not clear how to cleanly allocate the solar and lunar compound Number tiles.
  • Because of this, the corner houses certainly have to get at least some of these tiles.  ZT says that they’re given to the Sun and Moon, and if we go down the table, the corner houses (mostly marked with a ✠) alternate between the Moon and Sun (mansion VIII/house 34 gets a lunar Number, mansion XI/house 25 gets a solar Number, mansion XVII/house 31 gets a lunar Number, etc.).
  • This also has the result, given how the mansions are allocated to the Great Mirror houses, that the left and upper corners of the Great Mirror all get lunar numbers, and the lower and right corners get solar numbers.  This matches with how the solar and lunar Intelligences themselves are allocated to the Great Mirror, with both Seleno and Psykomena on the upper left side of the Great Mirror, and with Genhelia in the lower right.
  • The rest of the solar and lunar numbers just kinda get…scattered around.

That is…well, frankly, as far as I can discern.  If we take a look at how many tiles fit the patterns above cleanly or not, then out of the 90 total compound Number tiles:

  • 57 tiles have no problem at all getting allocated and are all about where you’d find them; notably, these are almost all tiles of the non-luminaries (e.g. tile 40, given to house 31, a tile of Jupiter/Aglaé and in Jupiter’s orbit).
  • 3 tiles are kinda okay (62, 10, 46), which are in the orbit of their associated planetary Intelligence, but technically speaking these are the “extra” Intelligences of Genhelia (matter-Sun) and Psykomena (spirit-Moon) given to houses 3 and 6, respectively, and it’s not clear whether these Intelligences should be considered to have orbits of their own like the other planets do.
  • 28 tiles are those of Genhelia, Seleno, Psykomena, or Psykelia, which are just sorta scattered all across the Great Mirror.
  • 2 tiles seem completely incorrectly assigned:
    • Tile 39 (expected to be in the orbit of Venus) gets associated to house 23 (Raphael) in the orbit of Mars
    • Tile 94 (expected to be in the orbit of Mercury) gets associated to house 5 (Kiriel) in the orbits of Saturn and Mars.

Notably, of all the angels in the Great Mirror, Kiriel is the only angel that expects a tile of a particular planet (Saturn) but doesn’t have one.  All the other angels get at least one tile of each planet they’re in the orbit of, with the possible exceptions of house 2 (Tagriel) and house 7 (Michael), where they expect solar tiles (specifically of Psykomena) but get the wrong kind of solar tile (Genhelia), but given how closely associated Genhelia and Psykelia are, it’s not clear whether it’s okay that one substitutes in for the other.

Beyond this, I’m stumped.  Unlike the mansion/planet associations or even the possible connections between the planets and numbers, I’m not sure how ZT is actually doing the work of allocating the compound Numbers to the lunar mansion/angelic houses of the Great Mirror beyond the general rules above.  Like, to pick a perfectly regular set of tiles that have no surprises whatsoever (part of that large set of 57), it’s not clear to me why all the Jupiter/Aglaé tiles get associated to the houses they do:

  • Tile 15 with house 27 (mansion 6, Dirachiel)
  • Tile 24 with house 29 (mansion 14, Ergediel)
  • Tile 33 with house 29 (mansion 14, Ergediel)
  • Tile 42 with house 28 (mansion 25, Aziel)
  • Tile 51 with house 12 (mansion 13, Iazekiel)
  • Tile 60 with house 27 (mansion 6, Dirachiel)
  • Tile 69 with house 4 (mansion 1, Gabriel)
  • Tile 78 with house 29 (mansion 14, Ergediel)
  • Tile 87 with house 27 (mansion 6, Dirachiel)
  • Tile 96 with house 14 (mansion 12, Bethunael)

This is, unfortunately, something I’m stumped on.  Beyond the likelihood of the inventor of ZT just allocating what tiles they could based on the overall rules and notions they had and fitting in wherever they could wherever else they had space for it—with the possibility of a slip-up or two, like with the Raphael and Kiriel bits as noted above—I’m not sure what the rhyme or reason is for allocating the compound Numbers to the mansions/angels/houses.  I can’t determine a geometric pattern of triangles or flow, and I’m not seeing anything in DGPB that might indicate anything along these lines in whatever numerological stuff I can find.  It’s a bit of an anticlimax, unfortunately, after the whole bit about finding leads on the other questions I’ve had, but even if I can’t say that there’s a pattern, at least there’s a trend, and that’ll have to be good enough to content myself with for now.

This is, of course, where I plead to the broader community for help, at least for those whose eyes can suffer Fraktur longer than mine can and who can more deftly search Google Books or Archive.org for old German (or other continental European) texts on divination, numerology, and astrology.  If, dear reader, you might have any notions, inklings, or even leads about some of these unanswered questions, do say so in the comments!  It might not lead anywhere, given the obscurity of things like this, but who knows?  I’ve been surprised at a number of points before in this research, and I fully expect to be surprised yet as I continue it.

2 responses

  1. Pingback: Unlocking the Observatory: Actually Performing Divination « The Digital Ambler

  2. Pingback: Unlocking the Observatory: Summary and Recap « The Digital Ambler

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