A Medieval Astrological Perspective on the 2004 Tsunami

© 2004 by Benjamin Dykes, PhD


This article is a contribution to the use of medieval techniques in predicting disasters, using the 2004 tsunami and undersea earthquake that caused massive death and destruction in Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, and Indonesia. As of 12-30-04, the estimated death toll of this late December storm was 120,000, according to the New York Times. In this article I propose to delineate the mundane charts for Sri Lanka, paying special attention to signs of disaster and death.

I will use only medieval astrological authorities: Abu Ma’shar’s On the Great Conjunctions, Robert Zoller’s translation of relevant portions of Bonatti’s Liber Astronomiae (unpublished) and my own Latin copy of the 1488 reprint of Flores Albumasaris, which is an abbreviated compilation of Abu Ma’shar. Although we are still in a sense rediscovering medieval mundane techniques (horary and natal techniques being much better known), a straightforward application of traditional rules provides surprisingly accurate results.

When modern astrologers seek to understand world events, they often cast charts for the exact time of the event (e.g., the exact time of the undersea earthquake). This is like casting an electional chart. From the perspective of medieval astrology, this is not the right method. Predicting national and natural disasters is a topic of mundane astrology (astrology for world events), which only casts charts for specific events if they involve occurrences like eclipses. To predict something like a disaster or the course of the year for a nation, mundane astrology uses ingress charts.[1] An ingress chart is a chart cast for the national capitol at the time the Sun first enters one of the cardinal signs (Aries, Cancer, Libra, Capricorn). The year is reckoned from Equinox to Equinox, so for all mundane concerns the March entrance into Aries is the first chart we examine.

The medievals had certain rules governing how many charts were needed. If the Aries ingress had a fixed sign rising, the chart applied to the whole year. If it had a mutable sign rising, two charts were needed: the Aries and the Libra charts, each governing 6 months. If a cardinal sign were rising, four charts were needed: the ingress into each of the cardinal signs. In this latter case, the Aries chart is thematic for the whole year but especially the first three months; the other charts govern their respective three months apiece.

For each chart, and following from chart to chart for the same nation, the medieval astrologer not only delineates the chart as a whole, but looks for special significators that spell out the themes for the year and threaten to cause problems like war or natural disasters.

The two planets that cause the most problems in this regard are Saturn and Mars. They are primary significators of war and death, and we want to examine their condition and aspects in the ingress charts, especially if they are in angular houses. What makes this mundane cycle especially important (indeed, for the whole world) is that Mars and Saturn completed their regular 30-year cycle of conjunctions in Cancer this year. Saturn-Mars conjunctions are always important, but their conjunction in Cancer is especially atrocious because they are in detriment and fall, respectively. What we get are two malefic, undisciplined planets in poor condition, afflicting each other. In years when this happens, we want to see where the degree of their conjunction falls in the ingress chart. The conjunction took place in late May of this year, so it had not yet happened at the time of the Aries ingress. Still, we want to see where the degree of the future conjunction (at 11°10’ Cancer) falls.

Following is the Aries ingress for Columbo, Sri Lanka:

The first thing we notice about the chart is that a cardinal sign rises. So although this chart will apply thematically to the whole year, we will have to cast the other ingresses to get details about each quarter of the year. For our purposes we will only look at the Capricorn ingress, since that is when the tsunami struck.

The next thing I am looking for is what Saturn and Mars are doing in the chart, and especially where the degree of their (future) conjunction falls. I see that Saturn is in an angle and detriment (very bad), indeed in the first house (which rules the population as a whole). The degree of the conjunction also falls in the first house, which means that the brunt of its evil will fall on the people and their well-being this year.

Consulting my authorities, I find that this Saturn in the 1st means that the people will perform vile and heavy works; it signifies the elderly and decrepit; and by its nature and condition it signifies destruction and death for the populace. I also find that Saturn is a prime candidate for causing natural disasters because he is in the ascendant, and because he is in a watery sign he signifies floods and submersions. He signifies impediments due to seas, rivers, and shipwrecks. Because he is occidental, he signifies much rain and corruption and impediments to consumers.

So Saturn is the primary cause of the destruction. But we can examine Saturn’s dispositor to get more information on why suffering takes place: the Moon, combust in the 9th. This means that suffering is allowed or caused on account of foreigners or foreign travel and religion, merchants, and navigators.

We must also look at planets in the 10th, to see what the government is up to. We find Mercury in the 10th, feral (unaspected) and under the sunbeams. So far as this indicates the leadership, it means they are without aid. Mercury is the ruler of the 12th, signifying hidden enemies of the king. This means that people working against the king are appearing to the leadership in the form of merchants, teachers, judges, and diplomats.

Another planet in the 10th is the Sun, who as it happens is also the Lord of the Year (see below). He is exalted in the 10th. By himself the king is strong and honored; but he is afflicted by a square aspect from the malefic Saturn, indicating that his ability to lead and do glorious things is afflicted on account of the damage to the people.

Another significator we look to is the Lord of the Year, who represents the leadership and gives thematic information for the course of the year. In this case it is the Sun. As Lord of the Year he signifies the king and great people, and he is honored and makes progress. But he is in the hands of hostile allies or the army, because he is received by Mars, who is in detriment in the 11th (signifying his allies or the army). Again, the affliction by Saturn means infirmities in the rustics, and the damage to the king will be on account of afflictions to the people, especially stemming from rivers and seas and water. These events will especially be prominent in the eastern parts (the Sun is the fiery triplicity, assigned to the east). The Lord of the Year is also in conjunction by 34’ with Scheat, a malefic fixed star signifying disaster, shipwreck, and floods.

Let us look at two more planets. Jupiter signifies magnates and religious people by nature. He is in the 3rd house, signifying people in nearby regions. This means that there are rich siblings or neighbors (i.e., other nations) available. But he is in detriment and retrograde, which means they will renege or be delayed, and at any rate cannot provide what is promised. He is also in the 6th house from his dispositor Mercury, showing that these magnates serve the secret enemies of the king. Note that Jupiter is opposed by the 9th house Moon, who not only rules the people but represents the foreigners who are partly responsible for the suffering.

Next, Mars: he is in detriment in the 11th. He is also the almuten of the 7th, enemies and other nations. This means that the Sri Lankans have to deal with friends who are disagreeable and hostile. But it also means that enemies (7th) do help (11th).

Finally, the South Node in the 5th, in Scorpio, signifies fevers and sicknesses in the chest, and horrible things happening to children; those with children will regret having them, and men will wear old clothes. Significantly, the authorities add that rich men will experience joy. This could be due to the fact that construction contracts usually follow on the heels of disasters.

So what we see in this ingress is a warning: there will be great harm to the people this year, with destruction and death on account of waters and rain. The people will be burdened with vile and heavy labors. The head of government is strong but is beholden to hostile friends and enemies. Magnates and rich neighbors do not provide the help they could, in part because they serve the foreigners and merchants and religious people who enable further suffering. Note that these neighbors and enemies and foreigners do not directly attack the Sri Lankan government, because they bear no hostile aspects. From the chart it looks more like a case of neglect. Indeed, that is what we are seeing currently in the news: thousands of bodies (especially of children) are washing up on shore, many places have no clean water or food, many are sick and dying – but both wealthy neighboring countries and faraway nations like the USA and the European nations have pledged much while doing little. Indeed, only after many days was President Bush finally persuaded to comment on the disaster, and in the end he wound up praising himself and the USA. The European nations are presently convening a conference to discuss what to do.

Saturn in an angle, especially as ruler of the 7th, is a sign of war. And it is possible that foreign intervention and enemies could act to produce war in the region. But I note that Jupiter (the magnates and neighbors) is applying by sextile to Saturn, showing aid. To me this says there will be no war, although unrest is certainly possible and the government will be dependent on the army to maintain order (see above).

Does the chart indicate when the disaster may strike? There are several timing techniques in mundane astrology, depending on the type of event we are predicting. And as I said before, we are still rediscovering the techniques. But I do note that by the technique of profection Saturn’s influence on the significator of the people (Moon) will take place on December 5th; and on the Lord of the Year (the Sun) on December 14. In a normal quarterly chart, we would measure only within the relevant quarter of the year, but since this chart is also thematic for the whole year it is possible that we can use it for future ingress charts. More research is needed.

Following is the Capricorn ingress covering the actual period of the tsunami:

There are similar indications. We see the same affliction to the people signified by Saturn in detriment in the 1st, now made worse by being oriental. Now he is oriental, signifying a corruption of the air. He is in conjunction by 9’ with Procyon, a fixed star signifying disaster and misfortune. Mars in Scorpio in a northern latitude signifies much clouds, rain, thunder and lightning. He is oriental, signifying much infirmity among men, especially in the lower parts of the body – to me this notion of corruption in the air and infirmity in the lower parts of the body suggest airborne disease, dysentery, and so on. The South Node in the 4th/5th signifies poverty and want, and the same afflictions to children as presaged before.

The Lord of the Year is the Moon. She is afflicted by Saturn, just as the Lord of the Year in the Aries ingress was. She is also afflicted by the South Node. She is in Taurus. It is probably worth noting that she is in conjunction by 29’ with Sheratan, a malefic fixed star signifying death and violence. All of these indications show the following: there are afflictions to the people, to nature, and to mothers and the livelihoods of people involved in foods and music. There is harm to quadrupedal animals especially (like oxen and cows), and harm to the earth. There will be corruption to trees because of the risings of rivers. And there will be much grief, battle, mildew, drought, pains to the people, much rain and cold, and not enough food. Again, this is what we have seen as the immediate disaster begins to give way to problems of famine and plague.

I also note that Jupiter, who signified magnates and rich neighbors, is now in the 4th, in some dignity and unafflicted. This means that the magnates are concentrating on construction and buildings. Jupiter receives Mercury in the 6th, who did and does rule the king’s secret enemies: which means that the secret enemies are serving the Sri Lankans (6th), but are beholden to the magnates (reception).

Could this chart have predicted the date of the disaster? The profection one would expect between Saturn and the Lord of the Year (Moon) does not work if we are trying to predict the storm itself. But I do note that the profection between the ASC (the well-being of the people) and Saturn, applied to the quarterly chart, shows the disaster hits December 27, 2004. And if we perform the usual profection from Saturn to the Moon we get March 1, 2005. If this profection is accurate, the worst may yet be to come.

[1]The same goes for so-called “birth charts” of nations. There are only a few known electional charts for cities, as for example that of the founding of Baghdad. Otherwise, we use the Aries ingress chart prior to the date the government is complete and the king ascends the throne. So for instance, the chart for the United States of America is not July 4, 1776, since there was not even a complete government or true nation to speak of at that time. The interim Articles of Confederation had yet to be thought of. The USA chart is the Aries ingress for 1789, the year of Washington’s inaugural. The same goes for changes in dynasties and forms of government: ingress charts for Baghdad show both the fall of the monarchy and the fall of Saddam Hussein, even though they are not cast like electional charts for the moment of an oath of office or the signing of a document.