Varahamihira and the Western Astrology Tradition

The Greeks, though foreign, must be honored since they have shown tremendous interest in our science. (Varahamihira [505–587 CE], Brihat-Samhita 2.15, Wikipedia)

Western astrology today encounters the problem of neglecting the tradition by most of the modern practitioners of this amazing art. There is a trend to “modernize” the actual traditional concepts of which a great amount of continuity of usage and theorizing upon was made by our predecessors – those wonderful masters of the art. It seems out that these “new astrologers” as I call them, have no need for a justifications of the concepts they use, nor any rationale behind their approaches.

Vedic Astrology has the similar problem. They also have terrorizing of the traditional concepts and approaches by the “new astrologers”, and is surprisingly to find how so many of these do not even know of the existence of Varahamihira whose importance for the Vedic tradition can be compared to that one of Ptolemy and Vettius Valens in the western tradition.

Even though my main interest is western tradition, I’m fascinated by the true Vedic astrology (Jyotisha) too!
As I said earlier, Persian Astrologers were particularly interested in Indian astrology.
I’ve spoke about Abu Ma’shar’s quote from Varahamihira in my post which can be found here:

Hugo of Santalla in his introduction to his translation of Book of Aristotle, testifies that Masha’allah knew about an earlier version of a book by name Bhrgu Samhita – collection of more then 1.000 nativities which is today almost entirely lost.
Abu Ma’shar uses Navamsas in his book on Revolutions and refers to the “Indians” in several places through out the book.

Now, most of the Persian astrology authors lived in the historical region known as Greater Khorasan, which on east bordered with Sind (Hind) which was culturally connected to Hindustan (India).
So, an influence of the Vedic astrology tradition was felt into the Western Astrology tradition too, though this was not in so great measure, these Persian authors were strictly interested in maintaining the tradition they have received from the Greek authors from the Late Antiquity like Ptolemy and Valens to name just those two.



About the quote I gave on the beginning. I’ve found another, yet quite dissimilar translation of it which goes like this:

“The Greeks, though foreign, must be honored since they were trained in sciences and therein, excelled others…..” (“mleccha hi yavanah tesu samyak shastram kdamsthitam/ rsivat te ‘p i pujyante kim punar daivavid dvijah” (Brihat-Samhita 2.15).

Which one is true I don’t know at this point.

However, I want to mention that the word “foreign” was used in India in the similar fashion as the word “Barbarian” in Greece. The Sanskrit transliteration is Mleccha, which means “non-Vedic”.

It is worth mentioning that Varahamihira was learned of the Greek method of astronomical calculations.

Encyclopedia Britannica says:

Varahamihira’s knowledge of Western astronomy was thorough. In five sections, his monumental work progresses through native Indian astronomy and culminates in two treatises on Western astronomy, showing calculations based on Greek and Alexandrian reckoning and even giving complete Ptolemaic mathematical charts and tables.
(“Varahamihira”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2012. Web. 10 Nov. 2012)

Is it possible this man to knew about the Greek astronomy and not about the Greek astrology?
I don’t think so. So, the influence of these two traditions of astrology was mutual, and in my opinion here lies the beauty of both traditions.

What amazes me most is how all these mean were learned above any ordinary measure. You can see how all of them were polymaths, men learned in many fields of sciences, arts and literature. They were not some ordinary man who happened to deal with Astrology just for fun. No, they were exceptional men with an exceptional knowledge about the matters of the world we live in.

In contrary to this, today we have astrologers who know nothing on any other subject then Astrology, and of this, only the characteristics of the Sun signs. Are we aware with what we are dealing today? With ignorance! With marketing!

These were just my morning ramblings, the article does not have the aim to make a thorough introduction into the Varahamihira’s influence on western traditional astrology, and vice versa. I will leave that for some other occasion🙂

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