There have been many, many astrologers throughout history – a genuine count of the people who have used astrology to predict people’s futures is impossible. However, there have been hundreds who have become well-known and famous because of their talents and while it would be a mammoth task to list them all and their achievements what follows is a brief history of three of the most influential and most famous astrologers in history.
Michel de Nostredame
Perhaps the most famous of all astrologers, Michel de Nostradame, better known as Nostradamus has remained in print with his book Les Propheties since 1555 and he has been credited with the prediction of many of the biggest world events since his death. Nostradamus was born in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence in the south of France in December 1503, there is some disagreement around the actual date, but it is agreed to be either the 14th or 21st of December. He studied for a little over a year at the University of Avignon, but when the university was hit by an outbreak of the bubonic plague he left. What is interesting that if he had been able to stay he would have moved onto studying the Quadrivium (a medieval term that meant the four liberal arts) and the Quadrivium included astronomy/astrology as part of its curriculum, however because of circumstance Nostradamus never formally studied what he became most famous for.
He spent years travelling the countryside researching herbal remedies and through his own self-training, he became an apothecary, something that was to result in his subsequent expulsion from the University of Montpelier, as apothecaries were seen as being unsuitable to train as Doctors – his primary ambition.
It is unclear when Nostradamus first developed an interest in astrology, but what is certain was that he published his first work, an almanac for 1550 (it was at this point that he Latinized his name to the more familiar ‘Nostradamus’) and buoyed by the success and popularity of this work, he continued to write at least one Almanac a year until 1562. These early works are known to have contained well over 6000 prophecies and it was because of these books that he began to be sought out as a fortune-teller. Nostradamus continued to write his prophecies until his death.
He practised judicial astrology, which was the medieval distinction between what was seen as natural or meteorological astrology and the astrology that we recognise today (calculations based on the position of the Earth to the celestial bodies). Judicial astrology was classed as heretical by the Catholic Church at the time.
Nostradamus’s life and work are not without controversy, but he is, without a doubt the most famous seer or diviner in history and his prophecies (Quatrain’s) have been said to have foretold many events in world history including World War II and the September the 11th attacks.
Far less well-known than most of the other astrologers on this list, but notable for a number of reasons, Evangeline Adams was born in New Jersey in 1868 to a conservative family and had a life that in her time was considered scandalous. She broke of an engagement to her fiancé – Mr. Lord (something that at the time would have been seen as almost unforgivable in society) and she spent much of her life as the companion of Emma Viola Sheridan Fry, herself famous as a journalist, educator and suffragette. In her time Evangeline correctly foretold the passing of King Edward VII, Enrico Caruso, World War II, a fire in the famous Windsor Hotel and even her own death. It is said that she also saved the fortunes of thousands of her followers by predicting the stock market crash of 1929. She is well-known in the astrological world, her books which have been long out of print are much sought after but what makes her remarkable is the matter of her arrest for fortune-telling and subsequent acquittal and release.
In 1914, astrology was not considered a legal practice in New York and Evangeline was arrested for false fortune-telling. However, when it came to the trial, she was able to give an accurate astrological astrology description of the judge’s son, based only on his date of birth. This served as proof enough for the judge and she secured her release and acquittal on the strength of her reading. There are some that believe that she made astrology legal in New York, this is not the case, however what did happen was that her trial set a precedent and that would ultimately lead to a shift in the law.
It can be argued that Claudius Ptolemy could legitimately be considered the father or modern Western astrology. He was a Roman citizen of that there is no doubt, the name Claudius is a Nomen (this is a Roman term and can probably be best described as a clan name), though it is widely believed that he was born in Egypt in the city of Ptolemais Hermiou (though it is possible that he was born in Alexandria and lived there all his life). We also know that he originally wrote his works in the language of the ancient Greeks and that as well as astrology, he wrote important and influential works on astronomy and geography. These combined works were so important and forward thinking that they were translated and served as the basis for some of the major tenants in both Christian European and Islamic science for many years.
Ptolemy was, and is, considered to be one of the most important figures in the art of astrology and his work Tetrabiblos a four part volume was considered the essential work on the art for many, many years and is still in print today.
The major influence that Ptolemy had on astrology was his adoption of the tropical style of astrology, rather than the sidereal style and perhaps his work is so popular in that, unusually for the time it mainly concentrated on horoscopic astrology and didn’t cover medical astrology and the very popular electional astrology (the art of divining an outcome to an action at a given time).
Ptolemy also acted as an advocate for the idea of a person’s actions also being influenced by practical factors such as race, upbringing and environment. He knew that astrology was an important influence, but never saw it as being the sole factor.