Astrology and medicine
Until the last few centuries, astrology was strongly linked with the practiceof medicine. Astrology is a type of divination in which the stars and planets are thought to reveal the cause of human illness as well as to suggest appropriate cures. The idea that the human body mimics the universe on a smallerscale, and therefore can be influenced by it, is found in many cultures.
In the western world, early references to the influence of the stars and planets on human health date to the fifth century B.C. Ancient Egyptians believed that different body parts were under the influence of different signs of the Zodiac. This belief spread into Europe through Greece, and inthe fourth century B.C. were seen in Hippocrates' writings. Astrology was an important part of medicine until the end of the 17th centurywhen it began to be replaced by scientific theories of disease.
Astrology is based on observations of 12 constellations, the sun, the moon, and the planets. The constellations correspond with the 12 signs of the zodiac: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces. With regard to medicine, each zodiac sign was said to govern or rule a different part (or parts) of the body. For example, Aries was linked to the head, face, ears, eyes, and mouth. Great significancewas attached to the position of the planets and the moon in relation to the zodiac constellations. Interpreting this information involved complex sets ofrules that were laid out in the medical texts of the day. In general, to diagnose an illness, a physician would find out in which constellation the moon appeared when his patient first became ill. By figuring out which planets wereaffecting the moon during that time period, he would consult the astrological rules and make a diagnosis. Some physicians would also predict the outcomeof a patient's illness using astrology.
Treatment of an illness could also be determined by the movement of the stars, moon, and planets. Just as zodiac constellations were linked to specific body parts, planets were associated with healing plants and herbs. To be effective, these plants and herbs had to be collected during the times in which their associated planets were visible. These times were calculated from an almanac in which the rising and setting times of planets were given. To gather theplants and herbs at any other times would prevent them from being effective.
Other treatments besides herbal remedies might also be governed by astrological signs. For example, bleeding, a common medical procedure until the early 19th century, should only have been done when the moon was in a particular constellation.
The link between astrology and medicine began to loosen when physicians and scientists learned more about the body and the factors that caused disease. However, the relationship of astrology with medicine endures to today, for example, in the field of medical astrology.