Medieval astrology

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Ideas of astrology in medieval Europe were a long way from today's star sign horoscopes. Although some medieval astrologers were thought to be magicians, many were highly respected scholars. Astrologers believed that the movements of the stars influenced numerous things on earth, from the weather and the growth of crops to the personalities of new born babies and the inner workings of the human body.

 

Doctors often carried around special calendars (or almanacs) containing star charts. This enabled them to check the positions of the stars before making a diagnosis. Many of these almanacs included pictures which helped explain complicated ideas to patients. The picture above shows a 'zodiac man' from an almanac dated 1399. The diagram was intended to explain how the astrological formations (or star signs) rule over each part of the body. The man's pointing finger serves as a warning against the powerful forces of the stars.

 

Ancient studies of astrology were translated from Arabic to Latin in the 12th and 13th centuries and soon became a part of everyday medical practice in Europe. Doctors combined Galenic medicine (inherited from the Greek physiologist Galen - AD 129-216) with careful studies of the stars. By the end of the 1500s, physicians across Europe were required by law to calculate the position of the moon before carrying out complicated medical procedures, such as surgery or bleeding.