The Arab World and the Jupiter Saturn cycle
This issue contains a close look at the Jupiter-Saturn cycle, firstly
through the eyes of history; and, secondly, informed by the clay tablets of the
Assyrian astrologer priest, we consider what the Jupiter-Saturn cycle meant to
the unfolding sky narratives and the wellbeing of the King.
Dr Nicholas Campion discusses the historical importance
of the Jupiter Saturn cycle. We are proud to welcome Dr
Campion as a guest author with this special article on the historical background
of the Jupiter-Saturn cycle and its association with the situation in the Middle
East. Nicholas Campion is the co-author of Mundane Astrology and more
recently the author of a two-volume masterful work History of Western
Astrology (Continuum 2008). He is one of the world experts in mundane
The King Stands Alone ... again.
The Jupiter-Saturn cycle through Mesopotamian eyes
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Explaining the Arab Revolts According to the
Ancient Astrology of the Islamic World
by Nicholas Campion
The current revolts in the Arab world appear to many to be
unpredictable. However, the Persian astrologers of 2000 years ago developed a
system for measuring political upheavals according to the cycles of Jupiter and
Saturn, a point which is of interest as the two planets are currently in an
opposition: horoscopically Jupiter is in Aries opposed to Saturn in Libra.
Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain and Libya. Since the first popular protests broke
out in Tunisia in
countries in the region have seen political unrest.
This system observed the coincidence of timing between the
apocalyptic teachings of Zoroastrian religion and the combined cycle of Jupiter
and Saturn which were considered at that time to be the two slowest-moving
According to the Zoroastrians,
world history was driven forward by a process characterised by twelve phases of
one thousand years each. As one millennium came to an end and another began, a
crucial phase was initiated in the bitter struggle for supremacy between Ahura
Mazda, or Ormazd, the god of light, and Ahriman, his dark counterpart.
At some point, perhaps after the Persian occupation of Babylon in 539 BCE and
more likely following the spread of Hellenistic astrology after the second
century BCE, it was noticed that the conjunctions between the two slow-moving
planets, Jupiter and Saturn, which take place every twenty years, progress
through the signs of the zodiac in an orderly sequence of
240 years per element
which repeats itself after 960 years.
Our earliest surviving account of the Persian astrological
theories of world history was written down by the Persian Jew, Masha'allah (740
- 815). The theory of Jupiter-Saturn cycles and historical epochs was set out in
his On Conjunctions, Religions and Peoples, and he related the
astronomical pattern to socio-political and religious shifts which occurred
every 240 years, and the periodic conflagrations or catastrophes, such as Noah’s
flood, which were thought to take place every 960 years.
[NOTE: In truth
this cycle lasts around 800 years. The Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions occur
every 20 years and they stay in the same element - Air, Earth, Water or Fire
- for around 160 to 200 years. The cycle of earth signs began in 1802 in
Virgo and completed with the last conjunction in Taurus in May 2000. The
next conjunction will occur in Aquarius (air) in December 2020. Thus the
entire cycle through all the elements lasts for around 40 conjunctions and
takes around 800 years.]
The 40 Jupiter Saturn conjunctions and their
through the signs via the elements.
'We say', he insisted, 'that when the
conjunction of the two superior planets necessitate something in the
changes of religions and dynasties, the changes of the Sharias and the
Sunnas, the occurrence of important matters, the change of the kingdom,
the death of kings and the kinds of occurrence of prophets, revelation,
and miracles in religions and dynasties'.
Portrait of Masha'allah
Heinrich Vogtherr (c.1546)
The fundamental premise was that the nature of any Jupiter-Saturn
conjunction, on which was based its use as a forecasting mechanism, was
indicated by the horoscope cast for the preceding spring equinox, the date every
year when the Sun entered Aries.
The logic was that, at this moment, a new cycle of time began,
within which all possibilities for that cycle were contained.
Masha'allah included the horoscopes for the
spring equinoxes preceding the Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions prior to the great
deluge (it was believed that the rains which caused the flood began at midnight
precisely on 18 February 3101 BCE with a conjunction of planets in Pisces,
appropriately the last of the water signs) and the births of both Christ and
Political changes are permitted a quarter way through the cycle,
around every 240 years, while great prophets appear when the cycle was complete,
thus every 960 years a new prophet appeared. Of course nothing could be so exact
and Mohammed and Christ were separated by only 600 years. All the same the
structure of planetary cycles acted as an ideal, fixed framework within which
God could act. Yet the tension between two competing cosmologies is obvious:
could God, or the gods, act spontaneously, as theology decreed, or were they
bound by mathematical order? The solution worked out by devout Jews, Christians
and Moslems was that the order itself was created by God and was subject to him.
For Masha'allah, therefore, God might be free to send prophets whenever he
wishes but those wishes just happen to coincide with the multiples of the
20-year Saturn-Jupiter cycle.
This 'conjunctional' astrology
proved remarkably persistent. It was repeated by Al-Biruni (c.973-1050), the
most distinguished astrologer of the tenth and eleventh centuries, and by
the fourteenth century Tunisian statesman and scholar, Ibn Khaldun
(1332-1406) who, in other respects, was a bitter opponent of astrology.
As set out by Ibn Khaldun, the total period of conjunctions, 960 years,
indicated a change of dynasty, the medium period, 240 years, pointed to 'the
appearance of persons in search of superiority and royal authority', and the
short period, twenty years, exactly as Abu Ma'shar had written,
pointed to 'rebels or propagandists, and the ruin of towns of their
Anticipating the future was vital for political management
although, for historians, identifying the ebb and flow of historical patterns
with astronomical patterns seemed to take precedence over prediction, almost as
if their purpose was to offer proof of God’s plan in the correlation of the
patterns of the past with the heavens.
Even then prediction could not be avoided for, if God’s plan had unfolded like
clockwork to the present, so it must do in the future.
Amazing detail could be
marshalled in support of this proposition. One manuscript contained
ninety-three horoscopes as evidence, running from about 2200 BCE to 1000 CE.
Abu Ma’shar offered only seventeen horoscopes but over a larger time span,
from 3381 BCE to 928 CE, while a later text which focused on the career of
the Mongol warlord Genghiz Khan (1167-1227) took as its scope the entire
period from the 7th to 17th centuries.
Every planetary combination could bring its own set of
warnings. Abu Ma'shar was at times quite specific: when Aries is rising at
the Aries ingress, which would occur in years when the Sun itself enters
Aries at around dawn, we can expect tyranny, war, high pressure in the
spring and intense cold in winter. In a possible echo of Assyrian texts we
are told that the Babylonian king may go on a journey and defeat his enemies
while Armenia might suffer drought and starvation and the king of India may
Chaldean Astrologers on the
Tower of Babel - Artist unknown.
The actual structure of Abu Ma'shar's astrology is precisely
mathematical, derived from the Pythagorean strand within Platonism. Everything
in the historical process can be reduced to numerical formulae: when Jupiter is
moving towards Saturn but still has 120 degrees to travel, prophecies will
appear; when it has 90 degrees to go, religious and political leaders' affairs
will alter; and when there are 60 degrees left, conditions will be similar to
those that prevailed when the 120 degree situation took place. The whole
situation is mathematically regulated: social, political and religious
developments unfold with unerring regularity. For Abu Ma’shar, the nature
of the planets was crucial, so Saturn, for example, was destructive and Jupiter
system was reformed in the seventeenth century by the great astronomer
Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) who was more concerned with the long-term
patterns the planets made than their essential natures. Unfolding
celestial patterns, he believed, correlated with unfolding political ones.
adapting Persian theory, the current middle eastern upheavals would be
indicated by the next Jupiter-Saturn opposition, the midpoint of the cycle,
which takes place on 28 March 2011. Kepler would take two other factors into
account. Firstly he would look at why this opposition has had such powerful
(1571-1630). A 1610 portrait by an unknown artist.
|Secondly, we have
to hypothesise that, in view of his modern instincts, Kepler would have
included planets which were not known in his life time, of which two, Uranus
and Pluto, are approaching a ninety-degree square aspect, their first since
1933, and their first difficult aspect since the conjunction of the
Again, to adapt Kepler’s method, he would
have argued that the Jupiter-Saturn aspect has anticipated the Uranus-Pluto
one, and his rationale for this would have been a a square between Jupiter
and Pluto in mid-February.
Such work is part prophecy, part proto-sociology and
offers us, from within the traditional of the Islamic world itself, an
ancient cosmological framework for understanding the current Arab revolts.
Dr Nicholas Campion is a senior lecturer in Archaeology and
Anthropology and director of the Sophia Centre, and runs the distance learning
MA programme in Cultural
Astronomy and Astrology at University of Wales Trinity Saint David, UK.
See David Pingree, From Astral
Omens to Astrology From Babylon to Bikaner, (Rome: Istituto Italiano Per
L'Africa E L'Oriente, 1997), p. 49; Robert Hand (ed.) and Robert Schmidt
(trans.), The Astrological Records of the Early Sages in Greek,
(Berkeley Springs: Golden Hind Press, 1995), p. xiv.
 See Abu Ma'shar, On
Historical Astrology: The Book of Religions and Dynasties (On the Great
Conjunctions), ed. and trans. Keiji Yamamoto and Charles Burnett, 2 Vols., (Leiden:
Brill, 2000), I.16, pp. 11-13.
 This work has not survived
intact, but part of it is included in a work written in the early/mid-tenth
century by an Arabic Christian astrologer known as Ibn Hibintā (translated
in E.S. Kennedy and
David Pingree, The Astrological History of Masha'Allah, (Cambridge,
Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1971)
 Abu Ma'shar, On
Historical Astrology: The Book of Religions and Dynasties (On the Great
Conjunctions), 3.5. For an examination of Abu Ma'shar's historical cycles
see David Pingree,
The Thousands of Abu Ma'shar, (London: Warburg Institute, 1968).
 Al-Biruni, The Book of
Instruction in the Elements of the Art of Astrology, trans. R. Ramsay
Wright, (London: Luzac and co., 1934), chap. 250, p. 151. Also see Mohammed
Hakim and Ansar Zahid Zhan, Al-Biruni:
His Times, Life and Works, (Delhi: Renaissance Publishing House, 1990).
Ibn-Khaldun, The Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History, trans. Franz
Rosenthal, (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1987), 3.52, pp. 260-1.
 See the discussion in
Rosenthal, Franz, A History of Muslim Historiography, (Brill: Leiden,
1968), pp. 110-113.
 Abu Ma'shar, On Historical Astrology,
The King Stands alone... again
By Bernadette Brady
Following on with the theme of Jupiter and Saturn we can
also look at this combination using Mesopotamian eyes. For the Assyrian
sky-watching priest of the 7th century BCE, Saturn represented the king and
Jupiter was the crown prince, or any other ‘famous and important person’.
Such an individual was always be seen as a threat to the king and was therefore
There is no evidence to suggest that the early astrologers
worked with the Jupiter- Saturn 20-year cycle in the style of Abu
Ma'shar. However, there is a great deal of evidence for the continual
discussion concerning the events around both the King and Crown Prince as these
two planets, Saturn and Jupiter, moved through the heavens.
Visually the conjunction would have been seen as a joining
of both the King and the Crown Prince. This would be important as it represented
the two most powerful energies in the heavens, and thus in the kingdom, a
joining together. Where in the sky they joined and how they joined would have
been important issues.
In moving to the
contemporary period the last joining of Saturn and Jupiter was in May of
2000 when it occurred in the stars of Taurus, the Great Bull of Heaven.
The priest would
not have been happy with this combination as they considered that, 'If
Jupiter comes near to the Bull of Heaven: the treasures of the land will
perish.' Again in the same letter, '[If] Jupiter entered the Bull of Heaven;
the king my lord should bewared of drafts.' 
Being 'warned of
drafts' probably means a great deal more than a warning about a cold draft
of air. It may have meant a small threat that could turn difficult.
Since this joining in the stars of Taurus in May 2000 there
has been the global banking meltdown which has caused many 'treasures of the
land' to 'perish', and it seems now that leaders in parts of the Arab world are
indeed feeling 'the draft'.
These 'drafts' began to appear in December 2010 as Saturn
and Jupiter moved towards their opposition. Recognise in this early astrology
the opposition would have been seen as the Crown Prince standing apart from the
King. As one planet rose, the other would be setting, so they would appear to be
estranged, or as if the Crown Prince might be hiding from the King.
This estrangement when placed into the Mesopotamian world of
tension, trouble and upheaval would have warned of a most worrying time. The
nature of this concern would have been influenced by the location of the
other planets - which planets stood with the King and which with the Crown
With this in mind recognise that the king has stood alone in
the early morning sky since mid-January, as Saturn was the only planet
visible in the night sky. When he rose Jupiter set, appearing to be running
from the king. Furthermore by late January (Figure 1) the Crown
Prince had all the other gods gathering around him.
As we moved into February (Figure 2), the King
became more and more isolated in the heavens while Mars, linked since last
November with Nabu after they met in the Bow of the Archer and still close
to him, disappears into the light of the sun, and becomes hidden from the
view of the king.
At this stage the Egyptian
President of 30 years, President Mubarak, came under threat from a popular
The people were at that time so
'empowered' as indicated by the activity of Jupiter, that the Egyptian
‘king’ was cast out of the land on 12 February 2011.
However, it does not stop here. The
visual astrology shows that the Crown Prince is still gaining in
power as the other planets (gods) are moving every closer towards him.
From late February Jupiter moves
under the sun's light and in late March stands in direct opposition to the
king with both Nergal (Mars) and Nabu (Mercury).
Figure 1 - 31 January 2011 - The king
stands alone and the other planets begin to
gather around the crown prince (Jupiter).
Figure 2 - 12 February 2011 - The king (Saturn) stands alone as the
crown prince (Jupiter) gains power. President Mubarak in Egypt is forced to
In other newsletters we have discussed the meaning of
planets with the sun, suggesting that when a planet become invisible that they
go to the ‘other place’. With the current events we are seeing another
expression of this 'other place'. This meaning is the voice of the people, the
enemy that you cannot easily kill, the enemy that cannot be met on the battle
field, the enemy that wears the common face of the people. Thus
the empowered Prince in this sky narrative is not one single individual, not a
political rival that can be dealt with in the normal fashion but instead is the
power of the people, the proletariat.
By the 28 March 2011, as Nicholas
Campion has pointed out in his article, the Jupiter and Saturn stand
directly opposed. Thus the King and the other powerful force in the kingdom,
the Crown Prince, stand in opposition. However, the Crown Prince also
stands with the Sun, Mercury and Mars.
Now as we move towards this
opposition Colonel Gaddafi, Libya's ruler for 40 years is under huge
pressure from the people, to resign. The Mesopotamian astrologers would be
warning the king to hide in his palace, or put on the throne a substitute
who could be killed in his place, as this Crown Prince will be victorious.
One could not have predicted the
current events in the Arabic world with this Jupiter-Saturn opposition.
However, there was an indication of the nature of this Jupiter-Saturn cycle
back in late 2006.
Figure 3 - 28 March 2011 - The king (Saturn) stands alone as the
crown prince (Jupiter) is now opposing and holding all the power.
President Gaddafi under increasing pressure leave Liberia.
At that time Saturn was standing alone as Saddam Hussein
was sentenced to death (see VAN, November 2006). Thus as the king (Saddam
Hussein) became isolated, he fell from grace and lost his life.
So there are three points being revealed about visual
astrology by the current events:
Firstly, a letter written around 650 BCE by the
Mesopotamian astrologer priest discussing a Jupiter Saturn combination in the
stars of Taurus (which is also the current cycle we are in) talked of the
treasures of the land perishing and the king being subject to dangerous
Secondly, it emphasises again the concept of a King
standing alone, Saturn alone in the sky, and once again shows that, for any
leader, this is a difficult time where there could be deep underlying problems.
Thirdly, the place of enchantment, the 'other place' when
planets are with the sun and thus not visible, can be expressed as the voice of
the people. One is tempted to suggest that governments should always hold their
elections at such time as it is a time when the voice of the people can and will
But just as we can see this cycle happening on a political
level it will also be happening in your own life. What issue for you are
coming to a head or gaining in clarity? Is the voice of a minority making its
needs known through you or to you? Remember we do not live as islands, we
are all interwoven with these cycles.
1. Hunger, Herman.
(1992). Astrological Reports to Assyrian Kings. Helsinki, Finland:
Helsinki University Press. pg.169.
2. Hunger, Astrological Reports to
Assyrian Kings. p.29.