The circle of the Zodiac, planetary signs, and metals   1 comment

Dayr al-Za`farān ms. no. 197, f. 71r

In Dayr al-Za`farān ms. no. 197—quite a motley arrangement of texts, fragments, and notes—after a fragment from the Syriac Cause of All Causes,[1] and before a short commentary in Garšūnī on the Nicene Creed, there is this page that concisely presents some basic astrological and alchemical data. On the right of the page (the picture here [click to enlarge] has been rotated 90º to the right) is the zodiacal circle: names of the signs in Syriac on the outside, the sign itself, and the number of the sign on the inside.[2] The list on the left is in two parts: first come the signs for each of the seven planets[3] (i.e. as then conceived: sun, moon, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, Mercury), and secondly the metals that are associated with each of these seven planets (now listed in the correct order) in alchemy.[4]

It’s not clear why this page, which fits incongruously with its surroundings, is here. The Nicene Creed commentary is on the verso side of the folio; there is no blank page intervening. While there is material in The Cause of All Causes related to the planets, etc., this diagram is not part of the work (there are other diagrams in it), and the included fragment of the work in this manuscript has nothing whatsoever to do with the planets or astrology. For whatever reason it is here, it’s a diverting find.

[1] Ed. C. Kayser, Leipzig, 1889; German trans., 1893.

[2] Cf. James Evans, The History and Practice of Ancient Astronomy (New York and Oxford, 1998), p. 76.

[3] Ibid., pp. 350-351.

[4] For the most comprehensive resource for the little studied subfield of Syriac alchemy (some Arabic sources are included, too), see Marcellin Pierre Eugene Berthelot and Rubens Duval, Histoire des sciences: La chimie au moyen âge. Tome 2: L’alchimie syriaque. Paris: Imprimerie nationale, 1893.

One response to “The circle of the Zodiac, planetary signs, and metals

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  1. Pingback: On the nature of the seven planets (Syriac) « hmmlorientalia

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