Astrology played an incredibly important role in Elizabethan England during the 16th and early 17th centuries. From peasants to royalty, people of all social standings consulted astrologers to guide their decisions and predict their futures.
In this blog post, we’ll explore the widespread prevalence and cultural significance of astrology in the Elizabethan era.
Astrology’s Popularity and Influence
During the Renaissance period, astrology reached the height of its popularity and influence in England. Queen Elizabeth I herself had an official court astrologer named John Dee, indicating the authority this profession held. Astrological knowledge was considered essential for understanding the connection between the cosmos and humanity.
Influential astrological publications like the Almanac provided predictions about weather, agriculture, and the outcomes of political events. People of all backgrounds relied on these forecasts to make decisions about their daily activities. Astrological concepts also shaped medicine, with treatments often scheduled based on the moon’s phases and star alignments.
An Integral Part of Elizabethan Life
For Elizabethans, astrology was not just a casual hobby – it was an integral part of their worldview and daily life. They believed the positions and movements of celestial bodies impacted everything from their health, emotions, and personalities to political affairs and natural disasters.
Consulting astrologers was commonplace to choose auspicious dates for major events like coronations, marriages, voyages, battles, and more. Nobility and commoners alike also regularly obtained horoscopes forecasting their futures. During this time, astrology was revered as a complex, credible, and essential field.
Notable Elizabethan Astrologers
Some of the most famous and influential astrologers of the Elizabethan era include:
Queen Elizabeth’s close advisor, Dee provided her horoscopes and astrological counsel. He chose the day of her coronation based on celestial readings.
This prolific astrologer and occultist created thousands of horoscopes for clients and kept detailed journals of his predictions and their outcomes.
Lilly published extremely popular astrology manuals. His Christian Astrology guidebook from 1647 is still considered a seminal text for studying Elizabethan astrological practices.
Astrology’s Decline in the 17th Century
While astrology thrived throughout much of the 1500s, it started facing backlash in the early 17th century from sectors of society who saw it as immoral or heretical. New scientific models of the universe from figures like Galileo and Copernicus also cast doubt on astrology’s reliability.
By the late 1600s, astrology’s credibility had severely declined, and it became less integrally entwined with politics, medicine, and daily life. But during its Elizabethan heyday, astrology shaped culture and worldviews in profound ways we are still uncovering today. The mystical cosmic beliefs of this era continue to fascinate.
Curry, Patrick. Prophecy and Power: Astrology in Early Modern England. Princeton University Press, 1989.
McIntosh, Christopher. The Astrologers and Their Creed: An Historical Outline. Praeger, 1969.
Thomas, Keith. Religion and the Decline of Magic. Scribner’s Sons, 1971.
Willis, Deborah. “Elizabethan Astrology and Medicine.” The Brittle Crazie Glasse, edited by J. Berg, Early English Text Society, 2016, pp. 183–200.
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