HorE.gif - 1338 bytes

Astronomers and Wise Men

One night Sam and some friends were having a sleep-over at Thomas’s house. Just before going to bed they went into the garden to look at the sky. Mars and Saturn were very close together and at their brightest, and they were all very excited about this. Thomas’s Mum heard Sam say “Look for Mars and Saturn in Gemini” (what this means is explained on another Page) and she got very cross with him: astrology was dangerous nonsense and she was not having Sam telling her Thomas about it. Naturally Sam was very upset and it took me a long time to sort things out.

Words ending in -ology usually come from a Greek word meaning the study of, for example

So people who study the stars should really be called astrologers, and until about 1600 CE they were. The problem is that in today’s world astrology has come to mean something completely different: today the people who study the sky with their telescopes are called astronomers, (from astra a star and nomen a name so the naming of the stars) while the people who call themselves astrologers and will tell you your horoscope based on your star sign, for example what will happen to you when Mars and Saturn are in Gemini, have absolutely no interest in or knowledge of astronomy.

To make matters worse, for reasons which I cannot explain to Sam because I do not understand them myself, many of today’s historians refer to the people who study the stars today as astronomers and those who studied the stars in the past as astrologers. A much better term for the ancient astronomers, and one which more accurately describes the role they played in the society in which they lived, is Wise Men, and this is the term used in, for example, most English versions of the Bible. There is more about this in the Pages on eclipses and also Astronomy before 1600 (under construction).

Back1.gif - 609 bytes

© Barry Gray January 2020