Astrology in Ancient Mesopotamia
Book by Michael Baigent
Reviewed by Dr Nick Campion
Michael Baigent, Astrology in Ancient Mesopotamia: the Science of Omens and the Knowledge of the Heavens (Rochester, Vermont: Bear and Company, 2015).
As is now well known, the astrological traditions of India and the modern West share origins in the astrology of Mesopotamia. In the last twenty years a number of general books have been published on the subject, notably by Francesca Rochberg.
However, back in the 1980s it was next to impossible for most people outside a few rarefied academic circles to find out anything about it, beyond the vaguest or out-of-date information. Michael Baigent was determined to remedy this situation and set out to make the latest scholarly information available to all. He collected all the latest scholarly books and journal articles, a task which could then only be attempted through the British Library. He then wrote a synthesis which remains unrivalled as the most accessible introduction to the topic.
First published by Penguin/Arkana in 1994, Bear and Company have now brought it back into print. Baigent's writing is fluent, the book clearly structured, and the topics range from the story of the discovery of the first cuneiform tablets by the great nineteenth-century archaeologists, to descriptions of the planetary deities, accounts of the practice of astrology (including the remarkable letters from astrologers to the Assyrian kings) and the development of the zodiac and natal astrology.
Baigent also presented his own argument that the Babylonian worldview was preserved in Hermeticism and Neoplatonism and re-emerged powerfully in European culture in the Renaissance, coming down to the present day via western esoteric teachings. Although much scholarly material has been published since 1994, there have been no substantial revisions of the prevalent academic assumptions of the 1980s, and Baigent's book remains by far and away the easiest introduction to the history, theory and practices of Mesopotamian astrology. Bear and Company-s reissue is to be welcomed, and their price tag of $18.00 makes it accessible to all.
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