Astrology | Editing | Awesomeness

Translating Early Twentieth Century Source Works

In 1997, looking out of the large windows into the courtyard at Columbia River High during German class, a realization dawned on me. I had been reading a book called The Great Year, recommended to me by my German teacher, Gary Lorentzen. It was written by his friend Nicholas Campion, and it was the first book that really got underneath historical narratives and showed me a new way to think about temporality and ideology—and astrology. Gary had also recommended a few books by another colleague, Patrick Curry. What all these men had in common was a practicing knowledge of astrology. But Nick and Patrick were focused on the English history of astrology, and I was obsessed with German. Sitting there, just barely fifteen, a bolt of lightning hit me, if I become fluent in German, I could grow up to become the authority on the German history of astrology. And basically every choice I’ve made since then has been in line with that vision.

Now I write on the other side of spending a year in former East Germany on the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange scholarship (1998-1999), on the other side of pursuing my PhD in German from UC Berkeley (2004-2012), and chasing it with an MA in History of Astrology (2012-2016), and finally embarking on the actual work: translating the sources I used over the course of my education.


Weimar Republic SourcebookTony Kaes, my dissertation advisor at UC Berkeley, was fond of creating compilations of source works. He focuses on the history of film and the Weimar Republic. Every time I taught English-speaking students about the history of Weimar culture I used Tony’s Weimar Republic Sourcebook as a textbook. It was filled to the gills with small, inaccessible texts that had never appeared The Promise of Cinemain English before. He and his co-editors constellated them around various topics germane to the subject, which resulted in a very rich overview of an era using primary sources. A genuine article. And as a teacher, and immense resource. He has recently come out with a new tome gathering smaller texts around the history of film, The Promise of Cinema. (Which, for anyone who has spent hours in the microfiche rooms trying to root through the various film journals of the 20s knows, is another great contribution to the field. No more craning the neck in front of those oddly back-lit screens. Plus! The translations are ready-made to cite in your English-language articles). These two books are indispensable resources for the German scholar and also for bringing people who will never learn German into a solid understanding of what German culture has contributed to the world.


The material I have discovered over the two decades I’ve been working on this topic is rich. And it would be absurd to expect people to learn German to be able to access it. Much of what I have collected, I’ve had to buy from used book stores and antique dealers. I would say I’ve invested at least $3,000 in books and journals. Libraries simply do not value what these texts have to offer. Philip Graves, my colleague in Europe knows all too well the cost of collecting these types of materials; he’s got the largest collection of astrological historical texts in the world! And while some historians (mostly Ellic Howe) have examined this period in detail, the primary sources remain behind the linguistic barrier of German. I aim to provide access to the primary sources so that other scholars and astrologers who only know English can have better access to them and read for themselves.

Last week, I announced my intention to translate astrological source works that are currently in the public domain, and I already have 26 amazing folks supporting this effort (thank you!). As I work through these texts, I aim to publish them in a similar vein as Tony’s two source work projects. Patrons who support me at the $10/mo level and up will get all copies of everything published. What’s more, as this next decade proceeds (and if the copyright laws do not change), more and more material will start to become available. In 2018, foreign-published material from 1923 will enter the public domain. In 2019, material from 1924, and so on… As we approach 1926/1927, we hit a zenith of astrological publishing, and I’ll have heaps to do. Right now I am starting with a text from 1915 about the astrology of WWI.

If this project excites you, and you want to get in on the play-by-play and learn as I go, please support it through Patreon. This is a project with deep historical scope that will far outlive any topical podcast or horoscope column. My vision is that unborn generations will be able to look back on this and benefit from what they can learn about this rich period of astrological history. And I also hope that it provides an alternative to the known English history of the early twentieth century, so that the German/English linguistic barrier may be overcome and the astrological community can come to know itself and its past better.

I’ve spent the better part of two decades getting ready for this moment. Now I’m inviting you to join me in helping make it happen.

Do charts live on after death? A chat about posthumous astrology

What happens to our charts after we die? Do they continue on without us? What would something like posthumous astrology look like? These question has kept me quite busy in recent months. In November, Nina Gryphon approached me to share my thoughts with her new series, Rubicon, happening this Sunday, January 10. And in December, I had a chance to catch up with my colleague Dr Alexander Cummins and chat about it. Here’s some of our back-and-forth to whet your palate:



Jenn: So I’ve been researching the astrology of the afterlife for this upcoming talk…

Alexander: Oh SNAP. Sounds ace

Jenn: As in, how can we tell if someone is going to become prominent again after they die, Van Gogh style? Just a hypothesis…a public thinking out loud – a stab at a countermeasure to all the past life focus in astrology.

Alexander: Reputation and reception. Interesting…

Jenn: When I spoke with Nina about doing Rubicon, she asked me if I had any Saturn thoughts floating about because the topic for her January event is Saturn. So I told her, not exactly, but I have been thinking about a kind of post-Saturn problem… What happens to our charts after we die? I hypothesize that birth, as an ontological event, creates a chart that lives on after the native dies, so that techniques like zodiacal releasing also apply to the legacy of the lived life of the individual. And fixed star astrology has a way to predict your reputation after you die. Then we can talk about more predictable timing techniques like transits to the natal chart as the native’s products of life outlive it (companies, films, stories, inventions etc).

Alexander: So a lifetime might be longer than a lifespan.

Jenn: Precisely.

Alexander: So, to ask crudely, those same configurations in the nativity can be read as remaining pointing out into the world instead of into the native?

Jenn: What do you mean pointing out into the world?

Alexander: I’m just interested in how the nativity can be read in the legacy on the world, in impact.

Jenn: Yeah… I’m developing the short answer for that now, but don’t have it ready yet. The idea goes like this: if we look at Valens’ rule for prominence, and see that in your chart it doesn’t happen in your lifetime, but you have it happen 84 years from now, after you’re dead, will the things you made (companies, stories, inventions) become prominent at that time?

Alexander: Ahhh. How does Flying V define prominence?

Jenn: I’d say known to the world, fame of sorts, becoming the highest authoritiy in your field. For example, as Chris Brennan has shown, according to this technique Al Gore has seen his most prominent days. They are over, and he is receding from the global stage. The specific reference is in Book IV of his Anthology.

Alexander: How is a prominence date or period arrived at?

Jenn: The specific technique I am discussing now is called zodiacal releasing. Do you know it?

Alexander: Don’t think I do.

Jenn: Ok, well it is not very easy to describe at first because it isn’t well known yet, but in the tradition of medieval epic poetry, let me try. You know the Lot of Fortune, yes?

Alexander: …no?

Jenn: Hah! OK! The Lot of Fortune is a mathematical point arrived at by taking the arc distance between the Sun and Moon at your birth, and appling that arc to the ascendant. The rules are slightly modified depending on whether you were born during the day or during the night (known as the Sect of your chart). The Lot of Spirit, which comes up in my talk, is the inverse of the Lot of Fortune, when you apply the rules.

Alexander: Got it. So what does that have to do with zodiacal releasing?

Jenn: Zodiacal releasing is a Hellenistic astrological technique used to track periods of activity in someone’s life, and calculating these periods depends upon knowing where someone’s Lot of Fortune or Lot of Spirit are. Once you have the Lot figured out, then you apply the planetary periods in a regular temporal scheme. These planetary periods are fixed: so Mars = 15 years, Venus = 8, and so on… So, using zodiacal releasing you can basically create a road map, an outline of the chapters of someone’s life. My friend Kent and I designed an app for it, here:

If you click that website, you can see the general map as laid out from 1/1/1970 (birthdate of the UNIX operating system).

Alexander: Lol

Ebertin Example in the ZR app
Data for zodiacal releasing periods as seen in the ZR app.


Jenn: Here’s how to read what you see. The stripes are the periods by planet. On the left, you have the major cycles (referred to commonly as L1 and L2). On the right you see a breakdown of all the levels (L1/L2/L3/L4) side by side.

In zodiacal releasing there are four levels: so you have a major period based on the perfection of the 360 days of the Egyptian year, and then sub periods, which are 1/12 of the amount of the time of the major period. When you see the little mountains, those are what Chris Brennan has been calling “peak periods,” but, to quote Curtis Manwaring, “Valens used the word ‘chrematistikos’ and [Hellenistic astrologer, Robert] Schmidt has translated it as having the meanings ‘busy’ or ‘telling’.” I prefer to think of them as periods of maximum intensity for an individual, without evoking the type of positive imagery Western culture associates with the term “peak” because these times are not alway subjectively positive for the person living through them.

Notice: the stripes that the mountain peaks appear in are always the same color. This has to do with Valens’ interpretive principle regarding prominence using the signs angular to fortune. I’ll go over that in my lecture, suffice it to say, I designed the color coding this way, so that once you know the technique, you can basically instantly identify periods of intensity for your client.

So the period before a mountain peak is leading up to that peak, and the period after, is the denouement, so…you prep, you perform, and you wrap up, loose ends and whatnot. Like that zen koan: First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is a mountain.

Now, not everyone sees the major L1 peak in their lifetime. That is, will this plebeian will remain unknown forever? However, mathematically these cycles continue after people die. So, does the chart – as an ontological reality – live on past the human life? You can identify peaks by hand using the lists generated by other available software, but this software does the heavy lifting.

Alexander: Amazing

Jenn: Do you see it now?

Alexander: Yes, I see the truth of it. What are the lightning bolts?

Jenn: Those are another facet of this technique called “loosing of the bonds.” As Demetra George once shared with me, think of Saturnalia. Put roughly, whatever you were up to before that point changes. It is as though your bond with fate is broken, and you are set free to do something totally different.

Alexander: Fascinating. Points of severing and rearticulating.

Jenn: Yes. It is a pretty fabulous technique.

Alexander: That is cool.

Jenn: Chris Brennan and I ran Van Gogh’s chart thru it, and found that his most impressive record breaking painting sales occurred during his postmortem major peak periods. Chris talks about that in his latest module for his Hellenistic Astrology course.

Alexander: Ahah

Jenn: So for my Rubicon talk, I want to look at that more closely and posit that the sheer factor of our birth creates an ontological shift, and that our charts outlive us, that is, our personal astrology does not stop working once we do. What say you, stalwart theoretician!?!

Alexander: I think you make a strong case for it. I like this phrase ontological shift. The virtue of birth itself. Like the virtue of death itself contagious making somewhere unpleasant, not merely the existence of a ghost there.

Jenn: Well it also then begs the question… if our astrology works after we die, what about before we are born? !!!! We are always someone else’s transit.

Alexander: !!! The 4-dimensional literal family tree.

Jenn: Yeah but I mean I’ve been curious about this, because death appears to be a boundary, but our experience of loved ones dying is not so cut and dry, is it? They are still present to us, and if we look, we may find that transits to their charts manifest events for us (or those of us close to them).

Alexander: Right. What is a presence? Or what forces interplay to allow that person to, well, be-personing. Accrued patina of virtue remaining like a kirlian relief.

Kirlian Leaf

Jenn: I mean, for example, people often talk about past lives in evolutionary astrology, but if we “live on” after our deaths – if our charts are still active, meaning our SOUL is also – then how can we have a “next life”?

Alexander: I like thinking about death as prismatic when considering eschatology of the soul.

Jenn: Go on…

Alexander: Well, I just mean, splits you off into various different modalities. Both local haunts and ongoing elevations. Maybe like leaving behind various living serpent skin shed impressions in various astral wossnames of yourself. Like the yew tree, whose branches root and roots branch in an amphibious interplay of life and death.

Jenn: You, more than most, pay attention to this boundary (or seeming boundary). The topic of that day’s talks is Saturn, so I wanted to burst past Saturn and show that another kind of legacy possible.

Alexander: Sure. Still seems very apt.

Jenn: Yeah it’s still so hypothetical. I have no answers here. I’m just playing publicly, seeing what sticks to the wall, inciting new research and maybe some productive anger.

Alexander: Right. importance of public thinking, especially public thinking aloud…

Jenn: Yea, and owning the uncertainty, allowing others to meet you halfway. To have a chance to collectively think about the roots of what we are doing when we read astrologically. We assume certain things about death, but what do we really know? And what can we know through astrology? Can we come up with a posthumous astrology?



I hope you’ll meet me halfway. My Rubicon talk takes place online this Sunday at 12PM PST. Register by clicking the image below:



Rubicon III

Cover photo credit: © 2015 Dan Koperski

Culture and Cosmos: On Astrology and Literature

The current issue of Culture and Cosmos focuses on the interpenetration of literature, astronomy, and astrology. This is a topic that has been close to my heart for more than half my life, and it encompasses many of the questions that drove my PhD research at Berkeley. When the editors of Culture and Cosmos and I sent out the call for papers, we received a wide response, and this issue showcases the breadth and depth of the field.

One of my favorite parts about putting this issue together was choosing the cover image. Reinhard Mussik contributed an article analyzing one of my favorite books from the German Democratic Republic, Weltall Erde, Mensch. This textbook was the curriculum for the GDR’s secular confirmation ceremony, the Jugendweihe. East Germans were still getting confirmed in the Catholic church throughout the GDR years, but the Jugendweihe was a way for the State to encroach upon and control that religious practice. While I lived in Leipzig, Germany as an exchange student in 1998–99, my host family recounted their Jugenweihe experiences to me, and I ended up getting my own copy of Weltall, Erde, Mensch. While the text does not include any astrologers, per se, it is definitely a Marxist-Leninist cosmology wrapped onto the natural, social, and political histories of the world—definitely a fantasy narrative of extreme proportions. The cosmological perspective of the cover illustration orients the reader in the space they are about to enter in issue 17.1.

The editorial I wrote for the issue follows here:


Astrology and Literature

More often than not, the researcher interested in astrology will be challenged in the academy with questions of veracity: Is astrology true? Do you believe in it?[1] Yet, researchers in literary studies are rarely asked whether or not their material is true, or whether they believe in it. Fiction provides a modicum of shelter from such enquiry. When astrology is examined along the lines of and alongside narrative, the question of truth can be sidestepped and a rich array of cultural knowledge can be explored. This issue of Culture and Cosmos presents a collection of articles that delve into the intersections between textuality and cultural astronomy and astrology. I have deliberately chosen not to organise the articles according to temporal logic in order to resist any teleological connotations a chronological ordering may imply.

The issue opens with a robust collection of verse concerning the discovery of new astronomical bodies at the turn of the nineteenth century. Clifford J. Cunningham and Günter Oestmann present many of these works in full while demonstrating how poetry was used as an ‘intellectual tool’ of science, not only to memorialise the new bodies being discovered, but also to negotiate naming rights, often along political and linguistic lines.

While these nineteenth-century writers openly touted their findings, the next article discusses a potential covert encoding of astronomical observation in poetic form. Dorian Knight looks to the structure of the Eddic myth Hávamál, to reveal a verse description of the lunar cycle. He shows how allegory encodes astronomical information, and in turn, how this astronomical knowledge aids in unraveling the mythological content of the narrative.

In the next article Karen Smyth discusses the role of technical astronomical and astrological expressions in medieval literature by authors such as Geoffrey Chaucer and Adelard of Bath, among others. She argues that these terms become a site both for the comprehension of the temporal cosmos and the exercise of poetic experiment and the demonstration of its mastery.

Then, Kirk Little performs a literary analysis of Washington Irving’s 1832 tale, The Legend of the Arabian Astrologer, a tale that is curiously void of technical astrological terminology. Little situates his reading in the context of early nineteenth–century astrology in England and America, and argues that we can read Irving’s short story about an Egyptian astrologer as a litmus test for the status of astrological knowledge at the time—a useful model for future research into other tales.

Moving from a fictional Egypt to a real one, Guiliano Masola and Nicola Reggiani examine a curious papyrus, dated to 194 CE, that offers insight into the role astrology may have played in everyday life in ancient Eygpt. They explore the implications of this letter between two friends, in which precise and advantageous astrological advice is dispensed concerning an economic transaction.

Finally, continuing with the theme of economics and cosmology, Reinhard Mussik presents a research note about a fascinating text from former East Germany in terms of the Marxist cosmology embedded in it.

Together these articles display the myriad angles from which one can approach the intersections of literary analysis and cultural astronomy and astrology.




Jennifer Zahrt,
Deputy Editor,
Culture and Cosmos,
School of Archaeology, History and Anthropology,
University of Wales Trinity Saint David.



Head over to the Culture and Cosmos website to get a copy of the issue!



[1] Nicholas Campion, Astrology and Popular Religion in the Modern West: Prophecy, Cosmology and the New Age Movement (Farnham: Ashgate, 2012), p. 85.

Launching The Ascendant Vol. 1

Introducing, The Ascendant:

The Ascendant Vol 1

This past summer, astrologers Austin Coppock, Nicholas Civitello, and I curated and produced the first volume of The Ascendant. This journal is the official publication for the Association for Young Astrologers. Here’s a brief description of the journal from the AYA website:


The Ascendant is unlike any astrological publication you have seen before. Not quite a  journal, and not quite a magazine, it features 72 full-color pages of probing articles alongside the photography and artwork of living artists. The articles offer a balance between theory-driven inquiry and practice-based evidence. Philosophy, historiography, and new takes on tradition are presented with a tone of openness, inviting you to join in the thought experiments for expanding upon our astrological knowledge. While the Association for Young Astrologers is aimed at supporting the entry of younger generations into the astrological community, there is something in The Ascendant for everyone.


Our issue includes works by Gary P. Caton, J. Lee Lehman, Eric Purdue, Tony Bruno Mack, Ian Waisler, Gary Lorentzen, Leisa Schaim, Andrea L. Gehrz, and Kent Bye. We feature artwork and photography by Wonder Bright, Katie Grinnan, and Yvette Endrijautzki.



We launched our magazine at the International Society for Astrological Research conference in Arizona (ISAR) this past September:


Ascendant Editors


There are 144 limited edition copies in print. Half of them sold out at ISAR alone. In November of this year, astrologer Matt Savinar interviewed me about the making of the journal. He and I also discuss articles and authors that appear there, as well as some history of astrology. Have a listen here:



There are still some copies of the limited edition left. Head over to the AYA website to get yours before they’re all sold out!