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Drawing Down the MoonMagic in the Ancient Greco-Roman World$
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Radcliffe G. Edmonds III

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780691156934

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691156934.001.0001

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Mysteries of the Heavenly Spheres: Astrology and Magic

Mysteries of the Heavenly Spheres: Astrology and Magic

(p.236) 8 Mysteries of the Heavenly Spheres: Astrology and Magic
Drawing Down the Moon

Radcliffe G. Edmonds III

Princeton University Press

This chapter studies astrology. The astronomical model of the cosmos described in astrology, with the divinities of the heavens proceeding in systematic and observable paths as they preside over the world of mortals, becomes one of the most important and widespread models for understanding the cosmos in the Greco-Roman world, starting with the Hellenistic period and increasingly so during the Roman Empire. Indeed, some form of this cosmological model appears almost everywhere in the Greco-Roman world in this time period, ranging from the most basic identification of traditional Greek and Roman gods with the visible planets to the most sophisticated and complicated systems detailed in the astrological manuals or Gnostic theologies. The most outstanding features of astrology that distinguish it from other forms of divination are its extreme complexity and systematicity. All forms of divination operate with a fixed matrix of signs and a random element of chance, but astrology works with a vast array of celestial signs, and the element of chance is limited to the moment of birth. While some of the multitude of uses of astrological ideas and images do not appear to be marked as abnormal or extraordinary, others bear the familiar stamp of strangeness that marks the practice as extraordinary, beyond the bounds of normal—magical.

Keywords:   astrology, astronomical model, cosmos, Greco-Roman world, cosmological model, astrological manuals, Gnostic theologies, celestial signs, birth, magic

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