Tuesday, May 06, 2014


Monday's Child Again?

Seneca, Suasoriae 4.2 (quoting from a declamation by Arellius Fuscus; tr. Michael Winterbottom):
But those who have, as they put it, "launched themselves" into the mysterious certainties of fate enquire into birthdays, and regard the first hour of life as a harbinger of all the years to follow. They work out what the movement of the stars was at that date, in what directions they scattered. Did the sun stand in ominous opposition, or shine on the scene calmly? Did the moon receive her full light, or was she at the beginning of her waxing, or had she hidden her darkened head in night? Did Saturn welcome the newborn child to cultivate the fields, or Mars as a soldier for war, or Mercury as a businessman for profit, or did Venus nod graciously on the baby? Did Jupiter bear it from low to high? So many gods bustling about one head!

qui vero in media se, ut praedicant, fatorum misere pignora, natales inquirunt et primam aevi horam omnium annorum habent nuntiam; quo ierint motu sidera, in quas discucurrerint partes, contrane dirus steterit an placidus adfulserit Sol; [in] plenam lucem an initia surgentis acceperit, an abdiderit in noctem obscurum caput Luna; Saturnus nascentem <ad agrorum cultum>, an ad bella Mars militem, an negotiosum in quaestus Mercurius exceperit, an blanda adnuerit nascenti Venus, an ex humili in sublime Iuppiter tulerit, aestimant: tot circa unum caput tumultuantis deos!

pignora codd.: signa Lennart Håkanson
dirus Martin Gertz: deus codd., durus Emil Thomas
[in] del. Emil Thomas
nascentem codd.: ad sementem Adam Eussner
<ad agrorum cultum> suppl. Clemens Konitzer
At first I thought this passage might refer to the day of the week on which a child is born, i.e.
But the reality seems more complicated. See, e.g., Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos 4.4 (tr. Frank Egleston Robbins):
The lord of action is apprehended by two methods, from the sun and from the culminating sign. For it will be needful to look both for the planet that has made its morning appearance closest to the sun, and that which is at mid‑heaven, particularly when it occupies the application of the moon; and if the same star occupies both the aforesaid positions, this alone must be employed, and similarly if none occupies one of these places, we must use only the one which occupies the other of the places. And if one planet has made the nearest morning appearance and another is associated with the mid‑heaven, and with the moon, we must employ them both, giving preference to the one which by reason of its strength has the greater number of claims to domination according to the scheme which we have already set forth. But if not one is found which either has made an appearance or is at mid‑heaven, we must take the lord of the latter region, with reference however to the occasional pursuits of the subject, for persons with such genitures are for the most part inactive.

Thus, then, we shall determine the planet that governs action. The quality of the action, however, is to be discerned from the character of the three planets, Mars, Venus, and Mercury, and from that of the signs through which they happen appear to be passing. For if Mercury governs action, to speak generally, he makes his subjects scribes, men of business, calculators, teachers, merchants, bankers, soothsayers, astrologers, sacrificers, and in general those who perform their functions by means of documents, interpretation, and giving and taking. And if Saturn testifies to him, they will be managers of the property of others, interpreters of dreams, or frequenters of temples for the purpose of prophecies and inspiration. If it is Jupiter that witnesses, they will be law-makers, orators, sophists, who enjoy familiarity with great persons. If Venus rules action, she makes her subjects persons whose activities lie among the perfumes of flowers or of unguents, in wine, colours, dyes, spices, or adornments, as, for example, sellers of unguents, weavers of chaplets, innkeepers, wine-merchants, druggists, weavers, dealers in spices, painters, dyers, sellers of clothing. And if Saturn testifies to her, she makes them dealers in goods used for pleasure or adornment, sorcerers, poisoners, panders, and those who make their living from similar occupations. If Jupiter testifies, they will be athletes, wearers of the wreath, persons deemed worthy of honours, and men who derive advancement from women.

Mars, in aspect with the sun, makes his subjects those who use fire in their crafts, such as cooks, moulders, cauterizers, smiths, workers in mines; if he is not with the sun, those who work with iron, such as shipbuilders, carpenters, farmers, quarrymen, stone-dressers, jewellers, splitters of wood, and their subordinate workers. If Saturn testifies to him, he produces seamen, drawers of water, tunnelers, painters, gamekeepers, cooks, embalmers. If Jupiter testifies, he produces soldiers, servants, publicans, innkeepers, ferrymen, assistants at sacrifice.
The thought also occurred to me that these planetary influences might lie behind some of the "occupational" priamels found in Greek and Latin literature. See Elroy L. Bundy, Studia Pindarica (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986), p. 11, n. 34, for a list of "priamels of this occupational (or preoccupational) type." We would need a priamel with seven occupations, each corresponding to one of the planets. If we combine farmer and peasant, sailor and merchant, Horace, Odes 1.1 contains eight occupations (seven plus Horace's own occupation of poet), but I doubt whether the ode should be forced into such a rigid scheme.

Related post: Monday's Child is Fair of Face.

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