Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Necessary Synthesis #3 Leopold's Talismans

If we wish to practice traditional astrology we need to stay within the tradition. This is less of a moral judgment than simply one of keeping our labels straight. We do not wish, as my mentor in magic Robert Zoller said, to be flying under “false flags” calling ourselves traditional astrologers because we like the sound of it and consciously or more likely unconsciously practicing modern astrology.

As we have explored in earlier posts, we face the delicate task of being true to the essence of the tradition without blind and slavish adherence to every jot and tittle of every traditional text.

We can perhaps say that we have begun to master the essence of traditional astrology by when we have followed our traditional sources carefully and delineated, say 500 charts or created 100 astrological talismans using only traditional methods. At this point we can begin to see through the letter of the rules to the essence.

Let’s look at an example. What follows are a literal and then a “synthesized” version of a translation from a passage in Leopold of Austria’s “Compilatio scientie astrorum” Compilation of the Science of the Stars, dating to about 1271. This passage is included in F J Carmody’s “The Astronomical Works of Thabit b. Qurra” (Berkeley-Los Angeles, 1960) at 172-3.

First here is a literal translation of the passage by our own John Michael Greer,

For having the love of somebody, make an image of the one whose love you want to acquire on the day and hour of Jupiter, under the ascendant of the nativity or question; a fortune ascending, and (a fortune) the lord of him (the ascendant,) and keep the malefics away from it; let the lord of the tenth be a fortune. And let it be joined with the lord of the ascendant, with corporeal reception or a good aspect, and name the image you make with the name by which that person is known; put another image with the first so that they embrace each other, and wrap in a clean cloth. And (what you did) with the lord of the first image, (do) to both images; the power is not in the metal of which they are made or the wax or clay, because the observation of the ascendant suffices with the conditions you should keep in mind.

Next, here is my “synthesized” translation,

In order to have the love of someone, make images for the acquisition of love in the day and hour of Jupiter under the Ascendant of the nativity [of the person whose love you wish] or of a horary question [regarding this person]; with a fortune rising and the Ascendant ruler fortunate; and remove malefics from the Ascendant; and make fortune the ruler of the 10th house and unite it with the ruler of the Ascendant with bodily reception or a good aspect, and name the image with the name of the person for whom it is made; and place the second image with the first image and cause them to be embracing and place them in clean cloth. And the lord of the first image is lord of both; the power is not in the metal out of which they are made or wax or clay, because it is enough to observe the Ascendant and be mindful of it when creating [talismans].

Ok, let’s look at the changes I made. First of all, the literal translation says “make an image” while I say “make images”. This is because later in the paragraph it makes a big deal out of a second image and making the two images embrace each other. This is a key part of the whole talisman creation process because embracing images cause the targets to embrace. The literal translation even says to do the same with the second image as the first!

Next another key is basing the election for these images on a natal chart or a horary. As we can see in De Imaginibus, we use the natal chart of the target or a horary that gave us a favorable outcome concerning them. The problem is that the literal translation goes on to say that you should make a fortune ruling the Ascendant. The fortunes are Jupiter and Venus, they rule Sagittarius, Pisces, Taurus and Libra. So what if the natal chart of your target has Capricorn rising? I have substituted “make the lord of the Ascendant fortunate” This preserves the concept of fortunating the Ascendant, which is what having a benefic rule it does, while also preserving the ability to focus the power of the talisman on the target. Similarly, making the lord of the 10th a fortune limits the signs that can rise, so I make a similar adjustment there.

We can see that the “synthesized” translation does not do anything that goes outside the usual traditional practice and in fact, it resolves the confusion the literal translation causes while still giving a recipe for a powerful talisman.

Translation, in fact, is an excellent analogy about how we need to approach traditional sources, even in English. Translation is an art, it cannot be done word for word, and we must balance fidelity to the literal words of the original with creating a translation that is meaningful to us, but still faithful to the original.

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