Astrology | Editing | Awesomeness

Walter Benjamin & Weimar Germany’s Astrology

German philosopher Water Benjamin (1892–1940) wrote not only about philosophy but also astrology, a popular subject in Weimar Germany. Tonight Jenn Zahrt opens up post-WWI Germany’s fascination with the occult subjects, and how they sat within the culture’s engagement with scientific understandings of the world. The talk then takes us into Benjamin’s ideas about astrology, exploring his idea that in astrology, in contradistinction to astronomy , an alternate observational reality is at work — and that this alternate way of seeing underlies our capacity to read the world, and ultimately to become literate. Join us tonight to think about the start, astrology, occult texts, reading and how we conceive our universe.

Price: £8 Register by phone or book online (links below)
Time: 7.15pm for a 7.30pm start.

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.

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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.

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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.

Interview: Christopher Renstrom on Trash Astrology

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This autumn, Christopher Renstrom reveals Trash Astrology! He recently took some time to chat with me about what that means. In this interview, he shares some of the juicy morsels he’s uncovered so far and makes a great case for pursuing the underbelly of astrological history. Let’s dig in!

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JZ: What is “Trash Astrology”?

CR: “Trash Astrology” is popular astrology. It is astrology that is generated for the masses in publications and venues that are not regarded as “serious” or academic astrology. Always done on the cheap, trash astrology first appeared in America in the almanacs, dream books, and secret books of knowledge that were published in the pre-Revolutionary and Federalist period. It has evolved along with our media so that it is now a mainstay of newspapers, fashion magazines, websites, blogs, apps, and more. Continue reading Interview: Christopher Renstrom on Trash Astrology

Astrology and Publishing: An Astro Chat with AYA

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On Thursday July 28, the kind powerhouses at the Association for Young Astrologers invited me to chat with them about astrology and publishing. Our conversation veered along myriad pathways, including the history of astrology, the creation of the Maggie A Nalbandian Memorial Library in Seattle, and of course, a lot about my own pathways through publishing and what I do on the daily in that arena. Towards the end, our conversation generated suggestions for future research (future publications!) in our field. Enjoy!

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RodTV: Astrology Today

Last month, I had the pleasure of visiting Cape Town and spending some time with my good friend and colleague Rod Suskin. This year Rod launched a new project, which he’s calling RodTV, and he interviewed me for Episode 20! Hope you enjoy our conversation:

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As mentioned in the interview, Verdant Gnosis Volume 2 launches TODAY
at the Viridis Genii Symposium in Damascus, Oregon!

Verdant Gnosis, Volume 2

Legitimizing Astrology Seminar at Nightlight Astrology

Here are just a few of the gorgeous primary sources I’ll be discussing during my talk ‘Legitimizing Astrology’ for Adam Elenbaas’s Nightlight Astrology winter speaker series this Wednesday evening. I am thrilled to debut what has been effectively two decades of research into the lifeworlds of astrologers during Weimar Germany.

Please join me for this look into how astrologers nearly a century ago tried to justify their practices, and learn from their attempts as we continue our own work in this marginalized field today. The more things change, the more they seem to stay the same! Most of the material I am presenting has not been translated into English before, so this is truly an opportunity to peek behind the curtain of German astrology in the twentieth century. Hope to see you Wednesday evening!

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Official seminar description:

This seminar will analyze how and in what ways astrologers seek to legitimize their field, and how these strategies, in turn, change the nature of astrological practice itself. We will focus on the historical case study of German astrologers at the turn of the twentieth century. We will compare technical, popular, and academic literature to show that regardless of one’s particular status in the community, the attempt to justify astrology as a science ran throughout astrological publications. A look at the status of astrology versus German law will propose one possible reason for the presence of scientific appeals in astrological publications of the time. This historical case study will provide a framework to understand and organize current efforts to legitimize astrological practice. By looking backwards, we may strengthen our command of current debates taking place about astrology’s legitimacy as a practice in society.

 

Register here!