Astrology

Off-Grid Astrology Cover Image: an Astrologer at his desk

When searching for an image for the Off-Grid Astrology course and book, I found the perfect one on Wikipedia. It’s called An Astrologer at his desk and it comes from an old book by William Lilly which was published in 1753. I love the sun in the corner, smiling down on the astrologer happily playing with his astrolabe – or perhaps an armillary sphere – and sextant. 🔭

I also love the fact that his chair is standing on the Papal cross, in defiance of the Church that would limit knowledge of the heavens. The astrologer also seems to have dropped his compass, and is that a model boat on the table next to the inkwell? You can see the original here.

The image is part of the Wellcome Collection of ancient and rare books. It comes from a book called The Book of Knowledge: treating of the wisdom of the ancients, and it’s not actually written by William Lilly. He translated it into English from the original by Erra Pater, the assumed name of the author of an almanac published in 1535.

The version of the book that contains this image doesn’t appear to be available online at the moment, but there are other versions. Here is a fantastic breakdown of the contents of one version, called The book of knowledge shewing the wisdom of the ancients in four parts:

I: Shewing the various and wonderful operations of the signs and planets, and other celestial constellations on the bodies of men, women and children; and the great influences they have upon those that are born under them.

II: Prognostications forever, necessary to keep the body in health; with several choice recipes in physick and surgery.

III: An abstract of the art of physiognomy and palmistry; together with the signification of moles, and interpretation of dreams.

IV: The farmer’s kalender; containing perpetual prognostications for weather. The whole mystery of husbandry, the compleat and experienced farrier, cow-leech, swineherd, and shepherd.

It goes on to say: “Written by Erra Pater, a Jewish doctor in astronomy and physick, born in Bethany, near Mount Olivet, in Judea, and made English by William Lilly, student in physick and astrology.

“To which is added, the dealer’s directory: containing the true form of all sorts of bills bonds, counter-bonds, letters of attorney and license, deeds of gift, bills of exchange, and other writings. The best method of getting in debts, and compounding them. An account of weights, measures, numbers, coins, tables of shires, post-roads, and principal fairs. A catalogue of all the markets, and days on which they are held, and diverse other necessary things and tables. With several additions which were never published in any of the former impressions of this book.”

In short, it contains everything a modern gentleman farmer needs! 🚜

There is a version of this book that you can read online at the Wellcome Collection here. It doesn’t contain this image, but it does have other illustrations, like this one showing (or shewing!) the astrological significations of the face:

The book is aimed at those “desirous of knowledge”, saying:

“The soul of man being a spark of immortality infused by its Almighty Maker, does still retain a relish of its original, that it covets knowledge above all other things, not confining its speculation to earth, but towering to Heaven, it searcheth out the Stars and all their various influences; nay, rifles all the Constellations, unlocking all the secret cabinet of futurity, and diving into the vast abysses of things unknown for man.”

Sounds great! However, some of the advice included in the book may be suspect. Did you know that:

“If either Man or Woman shall have a Mole on the Place right against the Heart, it doth denote them undoubtedly to be wicked.”

There’s a whole section on the placement of moles and what they signify, and it contains some gems:

“If a man shall have a mole overthwart the nose, it doth denote that he shall wander hither and thither, through countries and cities.”

And if you’re wandering hither and thither with your horse and it gets tired, the advice is to get it drunk! 🍺 I’m not kidding:

“To help a tired horse: pore a quart of good wine or ale down his throat, and it will very much refresh him.”

Not sure you should be wasting good wine on a horse, but okay. You can get more bad advice by exploring The Book of Knowledge here. Or just watch this: 🤣

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