What Is Medical Astrology
Medical astrology is a diagnostic tool that was used in mainstream Western Medicine from approximately 400BC up until the late 17th Century and continued amongst alternative therapies and by a few renegade physicians into the 21st century. Like all ancient medicine systems, its philosophies were drawn from observations of the sky, the seasons and surrounding elements: earth, air, fire and water. Based on the health trinity (mind, body and soul) medical astrology is a constitutional assessment tool that was used to assist in medical diagnosis, determine appropriate remedies and lifestyle changes, timing for treatment and dates for surgery. Herbs were assigned to the signs and planets based on their energetics or temperament and treatments were prescribed by their desired balancing action. To understand medical astrology’s functionality and its connection with alternative medicine more fully, it is helpful to first explore the history of Western Medicine and Galenic humoral theory.
One cannot explore the history of Western Medicine without encountering astrology. Modern allopathic medicine and medical science is approximately 150 years old. Astrology in contrast is thousands of years old and medical astrology is believed to have appeared around 400BC. The Ancient Greek Physician Hippocrates, recognised as the father of medicine, and whom the origins of the Hippocratic oath is based upon, was an Astrologer, as were most practitioners of the time. Included amongst his many famous quotes that are used today is the following “A physician without a knowledge of Astrology, has no right to call himself a physician”. In fact, during the Medieval and Renaissance periods, astrology was considered integral to the practice of medicine and before a physician was given a licence to practice, study of astrology was required.
Most likely responsible for defining the four humors of the body, followers of Hippocrates continued his work for hundreds of years and it was Greek Astrologer Galen, whom expanded the theory, developing the system that was incorporated into medicine and wasn’t challenged until the last years of the Renaissance.
The Galenic Humoral theory identified four temperaments that were ruled by one of the four elements of fire, air, earth and water and it was believed that they existed in the body as fluids known as humors. Each humour was governed by a planet and it was thought that having a balance of the four humors produced a balanced temperament and ultimately good health. Disease was considered a manifestation of an imbalance and astrology was used as a diagnostic tool, offering insights into the nature of the imbalance and the appropriate lifestyle advice or remedies to bring back balance and restore health. We still regularly use many temperament descriptions today that are drawn from the humoral system. For example we all know what it means to describe someone as hot headed, a wet blanket, cold blooded or as having a dry sense of humor.
The Four Temperaments
Choleric represents the element fire, corresponds with the humor yellow bile, is governed by Mars, being hot and dry and associated with bitter taste.
Sanguine represents the element air, corresponds with the humor blood, is governed by Jupiter, being hot and wet and associated with sweet taste.
Phlegmatic represents the element water, corresponds with the humor phlegm, is governed by Moon, being cold and wet and associated with salty taste.
Melancholic represents the element earth, corresponds with the humor black bile, is governed by Saturn, being cold and dry and associated with sour taste.