Medical Astrology: Science, Art, and Influence in early-modern Europe

The Medical Astrologer's Toolkit: Part I

Explore: The Twelve Signs of the Zodiac | The Signs and their Earthly Qualities | Elements, Humors, and the Human Body | The Twelve Signs of the Zodiac and their Qualities in Translation 

Astronomer with compass and globe on a throne symbolizing the universe. Historiated Letter "C." Click the image for more information.

Correspondence between the celestial and terrestrial spheres was a fundamental premise of early-modern medical astrology. Underlying this proposition were the elemental theories of matter and terrestrial organization —inherited from Empedocles (ca.492–432 BCE), Aristotle (384–322 BCE), and Claudius Ptolemy (ca.100–170 CE)— which stressed the primacy of The Four Elements —i.e., AirFireEarthWater— in the sublunary spheres. By the late fifteenth century, these premises were revitalized and codified into practical medical doctrines together with another theory from the early Hippocratic corpus: humoral medicine. The basic premise of humoral medicine was that the human body consisted of Four Humors—i.e., BloodPhlegm, Yellow Bile, and Black Bile—produced by four internal organs: the Heart [Blood], the Brain [Phlegm], the Liver [Yellow Bile], and the Spleen [Black Bile]. Following ancient physicians, like Galen of Pergamon (129–ca.215 CE), medical astrologers in early-modern Europe theorized a system of celestial-terrestrial interrelation that further connected The Four Humors and The Four Elements to The Twelve Signs of the ZodiacThe Four Times of YearThe Four Cardinal Directions, The Four Elementary QualitiesThe Four Temperaments, and The Four Ages of Man, among other considerations. They defined good health and disease as the relative balance and imbalance of these variables, with respect to a particular patient and their unique humoral constitution. This was a system with a staggering number of moving, interlocking, and overlapping parts, for which precise terminology was ultimately key.

The Twelve Signs of the Zodiac

The Twelve Signs of the Zodiac* were integral to the language, theory, and practice of medical astrology. The word Zodiac—or der Tierkreis [circle of animals] in German— stems from the Latin zōdiācus, which is a loanword from Ancient Greek meaning “circle of little animals.” The circle in question was the ecliptic—i.e., the slanted pathway the Sun appears to trace against the background of the stars, between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn**, over the course of the Earth's annual orbit. Accordingly, the "little animals" referred to a selection of constellations through which the Sun appeared to travel over the course of the year. These constellations were twelve in number and encompassed more than the bestial configurations. Included from the northern celestial hemisphere were Aries (the Ram), Taurus (the Bull), Gemini (the Twins), Cancer (the Crab), and Leo (the Lion). The constellations of Virgo (the Virgin) and, its opposite, Pisces (the Fish) marked the intersections of the ecliptic and the celestial equator, signaling the Sun's bi-annual transition between the northern and southern hemispheres. The constellations cited in the southern celestial hemisphere were Libra (the Scales),  Scorpius (the  Scorpion),  Sagittarius (the  Archer), Capricornus ( the Horned Goat), and Aquarius (the Water Bearer). 

The Twelve Signs of the Zodiac—used by medical astrologers in early-modern Europe—were based on these constellations but not identical with them. In this particular context, The Twelve Signs of the Zodiac meant a tropical Zodiac, not a sidereal one. The difference between the two is a matter of annual timing and measure: a tropical year—also known as a solar year—is measured relative to the Sun, whereas a sidereal year is based on the rotation of the Earth relative to the fixed stars and constellations. Geometer Rachel Fletcher explains that the path of the Sun relative to the solstices and equinoxes—i.e., the two times of year when the Sun crosses the celestial equator—is what determined the astrological signs in the tropical Zodiac. Unlike the twelve constellations, then, The Twelve Signs of the Zodiac divided the 360-degree ecliptic and, by extension, the solar year into equal subsections:  each was allocated 30 degrees of celestial longitude, which, Fletcher notes, approximate the number of lunar cycles and calendar months during the same period. This manner of division accordingly aligned The Twelve Signs of the Zodiac with The Four Times of Year—Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter—which were likewise defined by the solstices and equinoxes. The Summer and Winter Solstices marked the Sun's entry into the astrological signs of Cancer and Capricorn, while the Vernal and Autumnal Equinoxes—i.e., the first days of Spring and Fall—were also known as The First Points of Aries and Libra. This seasonal tetrad, in turn, tied The Twelve Signs of the Zodiac to The Four Cardinal Directions, which were determined by the daily East-West passage of the Sun. Nevertheless, the images ascribed to the Twelve Signs of the Zodiac continued to reflect their namesake constellations: Aries was associated with a Ram, Taurus with a Bull or Ox, Gemini with human Twins, Cancer with a Crab, Leo with a Lion, Virgo with a Woman, Libra with Scales, Scorpio with a Scorpion, Sagittarius with a Centaur-Archer,  Capricorn with a Horned Sea Goat, Aquarius with a Water Carrier, and Pisces with Fish.

*Note: the number and type of figures associated with the Zodiac varies over time and according to cultural context. The twelve signs described here are the ones that are relevant for this survey. 

**The Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn are two circles of the celestial sphere that touch the ecliptic at its nothern-and southern-most parts; they are approximately 23°28′ north and south of the celestial equator. The Sun reaches the Tropic of Cancer (the nothern point of the ecliptic) at the Summer Solstice. The Sun reaches the Tropic of Capricorn (the southern point of the ecliptic) at the Winter Solstice.

The Signs and Their Earthly Qualities

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In addition to seasonal timing and directional orientation, The Twelve Signs of the Zodiac embodied elemental theories of matter and terrestrial organization. The hand-colored diagram at right helps explain. This image comes from the first print edition of De responsione mundi et de astrorum ordinatione (1472), otherwise known as De Natura Rerum by Isidore of Seville (ca.560–636).  It is a diagram of The Four Elements—i.e., AirFireEarth, and Water. The Latin text around the outer edge reads: "A thing created is made firm according to geometric order" [Creatura solidata est secundum geometricam rationem]. This order is expressed by the four interlocking circles in the center, each of which names one of The Four Elements. The blue circle at the top is dedicated to Fire. Its orange-and-yellow flames accompany Latin text that reads: "Fire. Sharp, Thin, and Mobile" [Ignis. Acutus, Tenuis, et Mobilis]. The yellow circle directly below is dedicated to Earth. A small townscape is pictured below the Latin text that says: "Earth. Dense, Blunt/Dull, and Immovable" [Terra. Crassa, Obtusa, et Immobilis]. The red circles in between are assigned to Air and Water. The Air circle at right features anthropomorphized clouds spewing gusts of wind onto the Latin text below: "Air. Mobile, Sharp, Dense" [Aer. Mobilis, Acutus, Crassus]. The Water circle at left pictures a stream flowing into the distance with Latin text above that reads: "Water. Dense/Thick, Mobile, and Blunt/Dull" [Aqua. Crassa, Mobilis, et Obtusa]. While the diagram generally evokes Empedocles's elemental theory of matter, the location of each element and the qualities listed for each seem to point, more specifically, to Plato (d.348/47 BCE) and the Timaeus.* Together, these element-circles represent the visible, tangible, and combinatory composition of the physical universe, and its elementary hierarchy.  This hierarchy reflects the increasing density of the elements. It begins with Fire—the thinnest/lightest element—followed by Air and Water, and ends with Earth, the densest of the four. Binding this terrestrial sequence together were The Four Elementary Qualities. In the diagram below, these Four Elementary Qualities of Hot (calidus), Cold (frigida), Dry (siccus/sicca), and Wet (humidus/humida) plainly connect the World (Mundus), Time (Annus), and Humans (Homo), intertwining The Four Elements and The Four Times of Year with The Four TemperamentsCholeric, Sanguine, Phlegmatic (i.e., Humor), Melancholic.

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The Twelve Signs of the Zodiac reflected this intertwining of The Four Elements, The Four Times of YearThe Four Temperaments, and The Four Elementary Qualities of each into the celestial spheres. In this context, The Four Elements describe geometric relationships among astrological signs that are situated 120° apart from one another within the Zodiac. Dividing the 360-degree ecliptic into four sets of thirds, these elemental-astrological relationships include Fire Signs (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius), Air Signs  (Libra, Aquarius, Gemini), Water Signs (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces), and Earth Signs (Capricorn, Taurus, Virgo). A combination of Elementary Qualities was characteristic of each elemental-astrological triad: Fire Signs were hot and dry, Air Signs were hot and wet, Water Signs were cold and wet, and Earth Signs were cold and dry. Accordingly, these celestial triads were theorized in parallel to The Four Temperaments: hot-and-dry Fire Signs were described as Choleric, hot-and-wet Air Signs as Sanguine, cold-and-wet Water Signs as Phlegmatic, and cold-and-dry Earth Signs as Melancholic. The same combination of Elementary Qualities was also applied to The Four Times of Year, as defined by the solstices and equinoxes: Spring was hot and wet, Summer was hot and dry, Fall was cold and dry, and Winter was cold and wet. The Twelve Signs of the Zodiac, however, further modified these seasonal significations by subdividing the four seasons into three equal parts: beginning, middle, and end. Cardinal Signs (Aries, Cancer, Libra, Capricorn) heralded the start of each season at the solstices and equinoxes, while the Fixed Signs (Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, Aquarius) and Mutable Signs (Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, Pisces) marked the middle and end of each. Aries, Taurus, and Gemini thus mapped onto Spring; Cancer, Leo, and Virgo onto Summer; Libra, Scorpio, and Sagittarius onto Fall; and Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces onto Winter. These celestial elemental combinations, in turn, were linked in the sublunary spheres to the balance and imblance of humors within the human body.   

* For more information on Plato’s four-element cosmology, see: Francis M. Cornford, Plato’s Cosmology: The Timaeus of Plato. London: Routledge, 1937.

Elements, Humors, and The Human Body

The Four Temperaments: Choleric, Sanguine, Phlegmatic, Melancholic (MS 26: 1553). Click the image for more information.

In early-modern medicine, the theory of The Four Temperaments was elemental as well as humoral. Classicist Jacques Jouanna traces the origins of this theory in medicine to antiquity: specifically, Galen's treatise De temperamentis. Galen's theory of The Four Temperaments, Jouanna explains, was originally elemental not humoral, though the physician established an initial connection between the two in his treatise On the Doctrines of Hippocrates and Plato. The bridge between the elements and humors, for Galen, was The Four Ages of Man—Childhood, Adolescence, Maturity, Old Age—which he accordingly aligned with The Four Times of Year. Galen's connection built upon an earlier correlation between The Four Times of Year and The Four Humors, which first appearend in the Hippocratic treatise The Nature of Man in the fifth century BCE. From these Hippocratic and Galenic teachings a hybrid elemental-humoral theory of The Four Temperaments arose in late antiqutiy that was carried forward into the early-modern period. By 1553, the date of the image above, this theory persisted as a cornerstone of medical-astrological practice. 

This image comes from the untitled, English medical and astrological manuscript known as MS 26. It depicts The Four Temperaments—Choleric, Sanguine, Phlegmatic, Melancholic—as four physiological and psychological male, human types. The adjacent text describes the distinctive elemental-humoral constitution of each. The Choleric person, it explains, "is hot, dry, lean, slender, covetous, ireful, hasty, deceitful, and he loveth black, russet, and gray color, and he hath his wine of a lion." To "hath his wine of a lion" means that he drinks alcohol in moderation or, alternatively, is bold and/or daring when drunk. The Sanguine person "is hot, moist, liberal (i.e., generous), plenteous (i.e., prosperous and/or productive), merry, ruddy; he drawith to women, he loveth his [hie] colored cloth, and hath his wine of the ape." He is, in other words, a complete drunkard; he acts as foolish as an ape when inebriated. The Phlegmatic person "is cold, and moist, heavy, slow, sleepy, ingenious; he spitteth when he is angry, he loveth green color, and he hath his wine of a sheep." A person who "hath his wine of a sheep" barely drinks alcohol at all or is, alternatively, docile when drunk. The last is the Melancholic person, who "is cold, dry, heavy, covetous, back-biting, malicious, and slow. He loveth to be clad in black and colored cloth, and he taketh his wine of the hog."  The Melancholic person, the text explains, was an immoderate lush; he was a slovenly drunk given to wallowing like a pig in mud. 

Dominating these personality and physiological types were four distinct humors. The hot-and-dry Fire-like Choleric was associated with an excess of Yellow Bile produced by the Liver; the hot-and-wet Air-like Sanguine with an excess of Blood produced by the Heart; the cold-and-wet Water-like Plegmatic with an excess of Phlegm produced by the Brain; and the cold-and-dry Earth-like Melancholic with an excess of Black Bile produced by the Spleen. To be clear: each person was thought to possess all four humors just in unique combinations.  When these were in balance, the person was deemed healthy. When out of balance, illness followed. Humoral balance, however, was subject to a number of different factors, including age, time of day, time of year, diet, exercise, geography, celestial movements, etc. 

From: The Astrological Judgment and Practice of Physick (1677). Click the image for more information.

The correlation between the celestial and terrestrial spheres was more than analogic; it was physical. The movements of the celestial spheres were thought to move the humors in the human body. While some physicians attributed these movements to occult powers, the vast majority linked them to discernable influences, such as the Sun and Moon's annual, monthly, and daily effects on weather, temperatures, and tides. In turn, these influences were increasingly mapped onto the human body.  The table at right represents one such approach to this delineation. As the seventeenth-century physician Richard Saunders explained in 1677, "if you would know where any disease what part of the Body," then "you may do so by the ensuing table." The table's title further explains its function: it is "A Table Showing What Members in Man's Body every Planet Signifieth in any of the Twelve Signs." While subsequent pages will address the topic of planetary influence in further detail, it is introduced here to emphasize a particular point. Whether described in humoral, elemental, or planetary terms, the human body's physical constitution—inside and out—was thought to exist in a dependent and sympathetic relationship to the celestial spheres. The Twelve Signs of the Zodiac represented a significant part of this relationship.

The Twelve Signs of the Zodiac and Their Qualities in Translation

Astrology and the nature of celestial influence were topics of great interest for a wide array of readers in early-modern Europe. By the early sixteenth century, the emerging print industry facilitated a booming market for popular astrological publications, particularly in German-speaking regions of the Holy Roman Empire. Dominating this industry were instructive, didactic publications like the so-called "Planetary Books" (Planetenbücher) or the anachronistically named "Folk Calendars" (Volkskalender), among others. Historian Robin Barnes explains that "these works were presented as comprehensive astronomical and astrological handbooks for the literate burgher." They typically included information on calendars, time calculations, astrolables, and geography, as well as planetary tables, astrological interpretations, horoscope tutorials, medical advice, and training in the fundamentals of medical astrology. Many of these generously illustrated texts were also circulated under the name of the famed astronomer Johannes Müller von Königsberg (1436–1476), otherwise known as Johannes Regiomontanus. False attributions aside, these popular books, Barnes notes, "had more in common with learned writings than is typically recognized." Their contents were consistent with the calculations of recognized experts and, Barnes notes, "their compilers invoked a full stall of Greek and Arab masters, quoting freely from newly available editions."  

The images and interpretations for The Twelve Signs of the Zodiac featured below provide a glimpse into these popular, early-modern publications. The passages are excerpted from a text entited Des weitberümtem M. Johannem Künigspergers, Natürlicher kunst der Astronomei kurtzer Begriff. Although attributed to Regiomontanus, this text was first published by Christian Egenolph in Strasbourg in 1528. A few aspects of the translations merit mention. First, the words Septentrional [Mitternächtig, mitternächtlich] / Meridional [Mittägig, Mittäglich] / Oriental [Orientisch] / Occidental [Occidentisch] make reference to The Four Cardinal Directions. Second, not all of the entries are consistent: information that appears in some is missing from others and some are longer or shorter. The entries for Aries and Leo, for example, are significantly longer than the rest and have been accordingly abbreviated. Finally, a note about the images: notice that each image is accompanied by a symbol or glyph, which is simply an alternate way to designate each sign in writing. Another example of this symbolic shorthand appears in the table above.


Aries is the first sign / and is hot / dry / of the nature of Fire / Oriental [Orientisch] / restless or "Cardinal" [unstaet] / Choleric / the diurnal home of Mars / Exaltation of the Sun / the Fall of Saturn / and rules the head in Man. When the Sun is in Aries / the Earth / has no roots and trees / and leaves turn green / the wells and water flows / people are lacking more in self-restraint / time increases the moisture of the blood / birds sing of confidence in the work of the Earth / in the future and of the fruit of the year (to come). If the moon is here / it is not good to speak / to let blood from the head / or carry out medical care / to wash / trim beards / cut hair / or touch with iron / it is bad to take laxatives [purgatz] / since again Aries is like the ruminant / the same again in all ruminating signs like Taurus and Capricorn.  If the sign rises in the east, then it will be a warm time (of year). / It is good in Aries to let blood from the arms / but not from the head / it is good to cut wounds / to travel toward the east / to send messengers / to cut and don new clothes / talk about marriage / make peace / but do not dedicate yourself until the Moon comes to a fixed sign / like Taurus / Leo / Aquarius / Scorpio. Good to work with fire / to take a sweat bath / to cut nails / to run / to stab [stechen] / war founded spice or jewelry / lead / steal / buy precious stones / begin learning / gift wine / to command gentlemen and men of war / to do business [mit in handeln] / it is good to desire what one wants (in an erotic sense). Bad time to retain things and to begin what should last a long time. Whoever is conceived [empfangen] or born under this sign / would be full of wealth and good early (on) / would not win many honors over time / is bold in his work / powerful and rambling / warlike and not too wise [zuuil weise] / but sage in many things / is ingenious / etc. 


Taurus or the Ox is the second sign / cold and dry / Meridional [Mittägig] / Earthly / Melancholic / the nocturnal [nächtlich] home of Venus / exaltation of the Moon / the fall of Jupiter / rules the throat in Man. When the sun is in Taurus / it means work / the time is good for hard, strong work (in/on) fields, gardens, and vines / but, at least, it will be done. If the moon is here / then it is not good to medicate the throat or touch it with iron / nor cut wounds / nor blood-let / nor take medicines / do not begin arguments / do not trek far cross-country / and what one briefly desires / is fleeting / and it is good to begin prolonged things / like laying foundations to build houses / having company / bring about peace and marriage / do business around midday / buy oxen / hire house servants [haußgesind dingen] / to take and drive women to church [weiber zukirchen füren und nemē] / to wean babies / to work in gardens / to plant trees / to sow / to have fun with women / to make small trips [klein wegreysen thun]. The time is cold and dry / and the clouds pass back and forth / is usually foggy. And this is first of the ascending signs of the East. Whoever is conceived [empfangen] or born under this sign / will be joyous in body / is steady in his undertakings [fürnemen] / comes late to great wealth / and in old age to quiet and delight / more chaste than un-chaste / bad and good befall him / finds more favor with strangers than at home.  


Gemini is the third sign / warm and wet / Occidental [Occidentisch] / Airy / masculine / Sanguine / the diurnal house of Mercury / exaltation of the “Dragon’s Head” (i.e., Lunar North Node) and the fall of the “Dragon’s Tail” (i.e., Lunar South Node) / rules the shoulders, arms, and hands in Man. When the sun is in Gemini, there is rejoicing among humans and animals in the fruits of good growth. If the moon is here, it is not good to medicate the above-named limbs / nor touch (them) with iron / make peace and have company / leave on travels / navigate over water / don new garments / move house / nor begin something that shall remain fixed. It is good to educate children and do learning / with writing and trade with merchants / buy and sell game and falconry / exchange and lend money / to speak against slander [die Klaffigen] / to contest and argue. Whoever is conceived [empfangen] or born under the sign of Gemini will be most sensible and enjoy work / (will) know and [have] good reason / virtuous / honorable / bashful and timid / easy to turn toward good and evil / has a number of ventures [mancherlei glück] / he easily strays from much good, also too it from him [felt im bald vil guts zu auch bald von ihm] / his heart is verbose toward many things.


Cancer is the fourth sign / cold and wet / Septentrional [Mitternächtig] / of the nature of Water / Phlegmatic / inconstant or "Cardinal" [unstaet] / the diurnal and nocturnal home of the Moon / exaltation of Jupiter / the fall of Mars / rules the breast, ribs, spleen and lungs. If the sun is in Cancer / then it is hindered from going the same number of degrees as is ordinary for it / and the same goes for the soil and its growth. If the moon is here / then it is not good to medicate the above-named limbs / nor touch (them) with iron / not good to take a wife / to deal with the elderly or men of war / to start war or anything else that involves fire. It is good to trade with merchants / to work in the water / to travel by ship / make ponds / to funnel water and fish / it is average to let blood from the above-mentioned limbs / good to send messengers and travel around midnight / to hunt / to cut nails / to bathe / to take electuary medicinal remedies / to buy cattle and general goods [Kramschafft] / to set up a house [ein haus fürbaß setzen] / to graft (a plant) [impffen] / to lend livestock / and everything that should soon get closer [alles ds bald naher gehen soll] / like asking for justice / wooing women [umb frawen werben]. Whoever is conceived [empfangen] or born under the sign of Cancer / will be happy and unhappy like the Crab / for and against / timid / sick / peaceful / quiet / suffers in hope / much consideration of other people [vil durchechtūg von ander lewt wegen] / trusts well / is humble and subservient / many sad thoughts / will be innocently lied to often.   


Leo is the fifth sign / hot and dry / of the nature of Fire / Oriental [Orientisch] / masculine / Choleric / the nocturnal home of the Sun / rules the heart, liver, sides, and back in Man / When the Sun is in Leo, there is immense heat and warmth / day and night / all herbs and roots / green and dry / have heat, at this time one is certainly safe from the cold. If the Moon is here, it is not good to medicate the above-named limbs / nor touch (them) with iron / bad to let blood / to ingest potions / don new clothes / travel over fields / deal with peasants or elderly people / and all that one is soon eager to avoid. Good time for what should be long / like beginning / to take office / good hunting / working in fire / manufacturing iron-fittings for firearms [büchsen giessen] / to ignite lime and brick kilns / to deal with princes and lords / to make contracts [gsind dingen] / to take a wife [weiben] / to run / to stitch? stab? engrave on? [stechen] / to buy and sell / specialty [specerei] and top-notch [besetzner] goods / to deal in gold and all other yellow and red colors / to enact societal unification and peace and connect together / … Whoever is conceived [empfangen] or born under this sign / will have good and bad fortune / if he does not die / then he will receive great honor and rule quite a few / will be valiant / gentle / and of a steady temper / he desires many things / is strong and easily jumps and ambulates / wise / sensible / and very gallant [sittig]. 


Virgo is the sixth sign / cold and dry / Meridional [Mittägig] / of the nature of Earth / feminine / Melancholic / rules the belly and the bowls within the human body / When the Sun is in Virgo / it is a nice time and much dewiness in the field. If the Moon is here, it is not good to medicate the above-named limbs / nor touch (them) with iron / also not good for intercourse / to begin legislation / nor to work in fire. It is good to take (copulate with?) widows / buy and sell cloth / as well as cows and other serious things / (for) menial things / to wean babies / to travel (by foot) around midday / to send messengers with letters / with writing / to deal with merchants and artists / to have company / to educate children and do delicate crafts / to inherit silver and gold / trade and lend money / do business / to assume office / to plant trees / to cultivate fields / to sow / and whatever else one does in the soil. Whoever is conceived [empfangen] or born under this sign will be modest and timorous / sickly / honorable and pure / easily [bald] swayed by something / believes easily [bald] / likes to complain / kingdom and foreign land [künigreich un(d) frembde land] / is merciful / good / true / humble. 


Libra is the seventh sign / warm and wet / Occidental [Occidentisch] / of the nature of Air / inconstant or "Cardinal" [unstet] / masculine / Choleric / the nocturnal [nächtig] (i.e., diurnal) home of Venus / exaltation of Saturn / the fall of the Sun / rules “the naval” in Man / the lower portion of the abdomen and the loin. When the Sun is in Libra / day and night are equal length. If the Moon is here, it is not good to medicate the above-named limbs / nor touch (them) with iron / neither to build houses nor move into them / take rule or charge / nor go to war. Good time to buy cloth / don on new clothes / provide medical care / to operate on wounds / to let blood / bathe / cut hair / to woo (a partner) / travel cross-country near east / send messengers [botten] / buy and sell. This sign indicates warm and moist times / immensely watery and windy, beginning from sunrise. Whoever is conceived [empfangen] or born under this sign will naturally balance happiness and misfortune equally just like a scale / becomes a wooer [buler]/ enjoys love / shrugs-off malice / generally good / fair / pure / honest / humble.


Scorpio is the eighth sign / cold and wet / of the nature of Water / Septentrional [mitternächtig] / constant or "Fixed" [staett] / feminine / Phlegmatic / the nocturnal home of Mars / the fall of the Moon / rules the private parts (literally “the shame” [die scham]), nerves, and bladder in Man. When the Sun is in Scorpio / it is a wonderful time / now warm / now cold / ripe / cold and raining / the days shorten / becomes dark and cloudy and a time that is fearfully bad. If the Moon is here, it is not good to medicate the above-named limbs / it is good to do little [other] than take potion and accept medical care / average time to let blood / not good to operate on wounds / to travel / don new garments / travel by ship carefully [sorglich] / (not good) to advance or seize command. Whoever is conceived [empfangen] or born under this sign / is both prosperous and misfortunate / fearful / quiet [still] / unfaithful / miserly / secretive [Heimlich] with his things.


Sagittarius is the ninth sign / hot and dry / Oriental [Orientisch] / of the nature of Fire / [mittel] / double bodied or "Mutable" [zwey leibig] / Meridional [Mittäglich] / masculine / Choleric / the nocturnal [nächtlich] (i.e., diurnal) home of Jupiter / the fall of the “Dragon’s Head” (i.e., Lunar North Node) /  the exaltation of the “Dragon’s Tail” (i.e., Lunar South Node) / rules the hips and thighs [diech] in Man. When the Sun is in Sagittarius / the time becomes ripe with wind / rain / and snow / being when the archer trusts unsteadiness with his bow. If the Moon is here, it is not good to medicate the above-named limbs / bad time to travel by ship / to plant. Good time for to bathe / to operate on wounds / to buy / to sell / don new clothes / to educate children / to travel (by foot) / promise marriage / shoot / unchaste / with princes / particularly spiritual / to trade / foment law / war / conflict / work in fire / make reconciliatory agreements [Rachtung machen] / to (ex)change / do business. Whoever is conceived [empfangen] or born under this sign / has both luck and misfortune / is strong / at first fearful / then bold / grateful / overcomes and upgrades much / is unchaste / prosperous / valued by the people / wins much honor and does much good.


Capricorn is the tenth sign / cold and dry / Earthy / Melancholic / Meridional [Mittägig] / inconstant or "Cardinal" [unstet] / feminine / the nocturnal house of Saturn / the exaltation of Mars / the fall of Jupiter / rules the knees in Man. When the Sun is in Capricorn / it is a dryer and colder time than every other month / the Earth is made barren / little work. If the Moon is here, one should avoid medical treatment for the knees / it is bad for bloodletting / taking a wife [weiben] / to take potion / erect scaffolding / foment war / work in fire. Good time to deal with the elderly / fields / to grow gardens and vines / to sow / to wean babies / buy lead, steel, and heavy things / it is a cold and dry time / the wind draws nearer to the Earth / humid / thick and dark foggy clouds roll in [lauffen]. Whoever is conceived [empfangen] or born under this sign / is simultaneously happy and unhappy / poor / ungrateful / fearful.


Aquarius is the eleventh sign / warm and wet / is of the nature of Air / Occidental [Occidentisch] / constant or "Fixed" [stet] / masculine / Sanguine / the diurnal house of Saturn / rules the shins and calves in Man. When the Sun is in Aquarius / there is snow and rain. If the Moon is here / it is bad to treat the shinbones and calves / to travel far / to don new clothes / do business with Lords [Herren]. Good time to let blood / to provide medical care / deal with the elderly / lay foundations / cultivate fields / to sow / to be married or “marital” [ehlich werdenn] / to travel by water / to hunt with birds [mit vöglen beyssen] / to cut hair / claim debts [schuld forderen] / and to desire what is fleeting [und was ein schellend begert] / the sign is warm and wet and makes good wind / and all of that so long as the sign is rising in the west. Whoever is conceived [empfangen] or born under this sign / has both luck and misfortune / (and) unfortunately often poverty.


Pisces is the twelfth sign / double bodied or "Mutable" [zweyleibig] / cold and wet / of the nature of Water / [Mittel] / Septentrional [mitternächtlich] / feminine / Phlegmatic / the nocturnal home of Jupiter / the exaltation of Venus / the fall of Mercury / rules the feet in Man. When the Sun is in Pisces / there will be thick / humid, dark, and rainy weather. If the Moon is here / it is not good to provide medical treatment to the feet / not good to hire servants [gsind dingen] / nor for working in fire. It is a good time to deal with prelates / judges / counselors / and women / to take a wife [weiben] / to make friendships and peace / to administer potions and take digestives / to buy and sell / to travel (by foot) around midnight / to don new clothes / to cut hair / is average for bloodletting / except on the feet / good time to operate on wounds / to fish / to initiate hydraulic engineering / to travel by ship / to plant trees / to buy and sell obligatory goods [ligende güter] / Whoever is conceived [empfangen] or born under this sign / has both luck and misfortune / he will be naturally circuitous in speech / fickle [unstet] / good / placid / peaceful and discourse little / of a weak nature / submissive / fearful and live modestly [erbars leben] / grateful / mendacious / and often has luck. 


"A Canon of What To Do or Not Do in Each Sign" (1528). Click the image for more information.  

Concluding the zodiacal descriptions in the text is the chart at right, which summarizes many of the points outlined above. The horizontal axis lists The Twelve Signs of the Zodiac, beginning at left with Aries (Wider) and ending at right with Pisces (Fisch). The vertical axis reviews many of the day-to-day topics raised over the course of the different sign descriptions: e.g., when to make friends, to travel, to cut one’s beard, etc. The points charted in between identify three possible values to each topic. The letters G, M, and B represent Good (Gut), Medium (Mittel), and Bad (Böß) times to undertake each endeavor over the course of the year.  


Works Cited on this Page
German translations by Laura Phillips.

Latin translations by Soffia Gunnarsdottir.

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