September 28th, 2011


upon your favours i impose my business

Come, brave mercurials, sublimed in cheating

What the Stars Held Or the Secret of the Sphinx [1900]


Some years ago, while reading the Scripture lesson in a Public Service on a Christmas morning, my mind was suddenly arrested by the personal note in the sentence: "We have seen His Star and have come to worship Him." [Matthew 2:2] "What could it mean?" I asked myself. "Was there one particular star in the Heavens that could be said to be His, in a special sense? One that denoted Him? If so, what was that star? How and why did it denote Him? And how came the Magi — the wise men of the East to know of that star, and by their knowledge to be expecting Him at that particular time?"

Like the Magi, I was led to enquire, to search, and to my utter amazement and profound spiritual delight, I soon discovered that there was a deep specific meaning in the words: "He called them all (the stars) by THEIR NAMES." [The Book of Enoch 1:43] I began a series of enquiries in the Book Realm, and soon discovered that others had been as curious as myself, that some, at least, of these had not only made a special study of this subject but had compiled books upon it.

Reference will be found in these pages to certain Targums on the Pentateuch, in which there is much matter relative to the star "signs." I have not been able, personally, to consult these Targums, but I would say here that any reader who might wish to study the subject in more detailed fashion than has been found possible in this popular setting forth of it, would do well to get: "The Gospel of the Stars" [1882], by Dr. Joseph Seiss; {7} "The Witness of the Stars," [1893] [+] by Dr. Bullinger. Each of these scholars have compiled a remarkably clean, and more or less exhaustive volume on the subject. But each has acknowledged his indebtedness to the late Miss Frances Rolleston of Keswick. Miss Rolleston spent years in collecting every item of data on the subject to be found in old records. The result of Miss Rolleston's researches were printed in a volume entitled: "Mazzaroth, or The Constellations." [1862] [+] Miss Rolleston, in her turn, was chiefly indebted to the Arab Astronomer "Albumazer" (850 A.D.) [+]; and to those weird tables arranged by Ulugh Beigh [+], a Tartar prince and astronomer about the year 1450.

As in my last eight volumes, I have employed the story method of dealing with this wonderful subject, and for the same reason that has influenced me before, viz., one is able thus to interest, and to convey Truth to many thousands of people who would never dream of reading an ordinary dissertation on the subject.

I would acknowledge my indebtedness to the three more modern writers mentioned above: The late Miss Frances Rolleston; Dr. Joseph Seiss; and to my friend and oft-time spiritual Teacher, the late Dr. Bullinger.


"The Firs," Vernham Dean,
         Hungerford, Berks.

Name Constellation Arabic Meaning Price
Zubenelgenubi α Librae Al-Zuban Al-Janūbiyy Southern Claw Price of the Deficient
Insufficient Price
Zubeneschemali β Librae Al-Zuban Al-Šamāliyya Northern Claw Price which Covers
The Full Price
Zubenelakrab γ Librae Al-Zuban Al-Aqrab Shears of the Scorpion Price of the Conflict
Antares α Scorpii Qalb al-Άqrab Heart of the Scorpion

The Observatory, Volume 6
NASA Astrophysics Data System Abstract Service
Arabic Names of the Stars
E. W. Maunder

There are two cases, however, where Miss Rolleston has most manifestly tripped, and, oddly enough, Mr. Higgins also has made a slight slip in both instances. The two principal stars of Libra are generally known as Zubenelgenubi for α, and Zubeneschemali for β. These Miss Rolleston interprets as the "Price Deficient" and the "Price which Covers." Unfortunately, however, the scale marked with the stigma of deficiency, and which should therefore "kick the beam," is the one in which α shines, and is therefore really the southern and preponderating scale. The true explanation is that the names recall the time when the Scorpion held a double portion of the zodiac, and Zubeneschemali for β, the northern star, simply means the "Northern Claw," and Zubenelgenubi the "Southern Claw." Mr. Higgins, probably by a printer's error, gives Alpha's title to Beta, and vice versâ.
- - - - -
Kick the Beam (To). To be of light weight; to be of inferior consequence. When one pan of a pair of scales is lighter than the other, it flies upwards and is said to “kick the beam” [of the scales]. 'The evil has eclipsed the good, and the scale, which before rested solidly on the ground, now kicks the beam.' —Gladstone. ~Dictionary of Phrase and Fable
- - - - -
The Astrologer's Magazine, Volume 4, 1894The Horoscope of H.S. Olcott, P.T.S. — The sign Libra rising gives the following general indications of the life… Like the well-poised Balance, the subject is sympathetically moved to a decision and as gradually recoils, halting a long while out of a sense of justice berfore coming to a decision. If pushed too far, however, he will metaphorically "kick the beam" and send everyone's calculations to "limbo."


Mazzaroth: The Constellations, Parts I-IV,
Including Mizraim: Astronomy of Egypt

Frances Rolleston

Frances Rolleston was made of sterner stuff: eschewing argument she states simply that, "Mazzaroth, though sometimes in modern lexicons differently interpreted, is here used as meaning the constellations." She also had no doubt as to the origin and meaning of the constellations, and her book is a learned and absorbing justification of her theory.

But who was Frances Rolleston? Little is known about her life save for the books she wrote, none of which appeared until she was an elderly woman, while the best were published posthumously. She was born in London on June 29, 1781, spent her life quietly studying the scriptures and the heavens to an equal degree, and died at Keswick in the English Lake District on June 12, 1864. Miss Rolleston was passionately concerned with the correct interpretation of scripture and with the fulfillment of scriptural prophecies, and the two books published in her lifetime reflect her concern. Both The Book of Canticles (1858) and Notes on the Apocalypse (1859) were published anonymously, and both titles failed to make any impression on the reading public. Neither work is mentioned in the enormous bibliography of commentaries by James Darling, nor in Spurgeon's Catalogue of Biblical Commentaries.

Given the vast number of such commentaries issued in the Victorian era this is not surprising, but it is unusual, to find a similar neglect of her posthumous works relating astronomy to theology. Although she published papers on astronomy in the Astronomical Register (a journal for amateur observers), Mazzaroth was utterly ignored on its first appearance in 1865 [1862-65], as it was on its reissue ten years later, and when published in an abridged form as The Testimony of the Stars to the Bible (1879) by her friend and editor, Caroline Dent [+][+]. One might have expected some reference by Henry Melville, in his Veritas (1874) [+], in Robert Brown's Primitive Constellations (1899), or in one of the many essays on the oddities of astronomy by that tireless sourcer of astronomical byways, Richard Proctor; but there is none to be found. On reflection, one can understand why.

Like most of her astrological contemporaries, Miss Rolleston was a convinced Christian, but unlike many of them, she believed the Bible to be literally true. For her the prophecies of the Old Testament that foreshadowed the coming of Christ were reflected in the construction of the constellations. They were named, she maintained, "to record the revelation made to the first fathers of mankind." It was thus inconceivable that the name and shape of the figures of the zodiac were derived from pagan mythology: associating them with "the debasing legends of heathen mythology" is an error that blinds us to their true purpose — which is wholly prophetic. At the same time she recognized that visualizing the figures of the constellations requires considerable imagination because the stars that constitute them are "apparently irregularly scattered over the dome of heaven." There must, she thought, "be divine wisdom in this apparent confusion, but as yet the science of man has failed to trace it."

Miss Rolleston had certainly tried. She was exceptionally well read in the biblical commentators, in the Fathers of the Church, in the early mythographers (Dupuis, Volney, Drummond, et al.) [+][+], in ancient history and mythology (she had evidently read both Bunsen and Lepsius on ancient Egypt), and in contemporary astronomy. And yet she stuck resolutely to her own theories and dismissed the arguments of all with whom she disagreed. Given her approach, can we find anything of value in her work? Unquestionably we can.

The idiosyncratic ideas expressed in the four parts of Mazzaroth, and its appendix Mizraim, are all based on solid research — misapplied, perhaps, but fully documented and with the sources quoted at length. The whole work provides the reader with a compendium of obscure material on ancient mythology, symbolism and etymology, with comprehensive biblical references and a wealth of learned and detailed footnotes. Much of the information is set out in a tabular form that inevitably reminds the reader of Mathers' book of correspondences, 777 (there is no reason to give Crowley the glory for work he stole from his master). And this may not be coincidental.

Mazzaroth may have been passed over by reviewers when it appeared, but it was not ignored by occultists, even though they were not its intended readership. Westcott possessed a copy and loaned it to the Golden Dawn library, where it was certainly read by F.L. Gardner (he includes the book, albeit misdated, in his Bibliotheca Astrologica) and most probably by Mathers also. It is tempting to think that Mathers was inspired partly by Mazzaroth when he compiled 777, but we should not look upon it as a curiosity: it is still a valuable resource that fully deserves its rescue from oblivion just as its neglected author deserves our praise.

-R.A. Gilbert
Bristol, England
February, 2001


The Catalogues of Ptolemy, Ulugh Beigh, Tycho Brahe, Halley, Hevelius,
Deduced from the best Authorities

Preface to Ulugh Beigh's Catalogue

Ulugh Beigh's Catalogue of Stars
Reprinted from Dr. T. Hyde's [+] translation,
as edited by Dr. G. Sharpe in 1767