From Chapter 5: A Signal from Saturn
In traditional farmer’s almanacs, long-range weather forecasts were based on the aspects between the planets, Sun, and Moon, geocentrically, and were associated with meteorological phenomena including heat, cold, rain, winds, storms, and the like. This is basic astrometeorology. The question Does any of this really work? is obvious, but what’s not so simple is how to go about testing a historic qualitative methodology like this one in some meaningful way. The larger part of this problem is that astrological weather forecasting is based on a synthesis of many factors, some increasing in power and others decreasing, all relating to each other by phase angles that continuously change, and all in a context that never repeats in exactly the same way. It is the ability to work with discovered patterns and, from them, make a series of accurate estimates that constitutes the interpretive methodology central to astrometeorology. Isolating a single factor to test, which is exactly how modern reductionist science works, presents serious problems in study design. This is because weather is a system in motion and, like other systems, it resists scientific methodologies that focus only on the parts, one at a time. But apparently, as Bradley and others have demonstrated in reputable and replicated scientific studies, this problem can be overcome to some extent with proper data selection and the right experimental methods. Because such studies have been done, we can today be reasonably confident that the Moon does have an influence on weather, some of which is in agreement with what Goad found in the mid-seventeenth century.
Johannes Kepler had some ideas about how to deal with the problems of testing astrology. In his book Tertius Interveniens he set himself up as “the third man in the middle” between an astrological healer, Doctor Helisaeus Roeslinus, and a critic of astrology, Doctor Phillippus Feselius, both well-known physicians of his time. Kepler had disagreements with both, but says he wrote the book because Feselius’s attacks might sway a ruler to prohibit astrology, which (and this is part of the subtitle of his book) would be like “throwing out the baby with the bathwater.” Throughout Tertius Interveniens Kepler puts medicine, which he regards as frequently unreliable, on trial as much as astrology. One theme emerges from the many defenses of astrology Kepler puts up and that is the importance of the aspects:
. . . I could just as easily criticize his [Dr. Feselius] medicine and cast suspicion on it, as easily as he now with such arrogant and idiotic indiscretion can deny astrologers their experiments with aspects and completely reject them? (Kepler 28, T-133, 195).
This is immediately followed by a section of his weather diary which is basically a demonstration of how an astrologer can carefully record weather data at the time of a specific aspect, in this case the annual Sun-Saturn conjunction, to actually learn something about it. A comparison of his collected data with the aspects leads him to make a couple of points. One is that this is the proper way to do scientific astrometeorology. You don’t make a general statement about the meteorological effects of an aspect between two planets simply based on one example because there are other factors other than astrology that come into play, such as the seasons, though competent astrologers knew that already. The second point is that completely separating the Sun-Saturn conjunction from the other aspects operative at the same time is nearly impossible and consequently any effect it produces must be regarded as general. Then he goes on to bash astrologers who define the effects of planets by their zodiacal rulerships, which he regards as fictional, or make forecasts based on the entrance of the Sun into the equinoctial and solstice signs, a Ptolemaic and Arabic technique that can result in serious errors if planetary tables are unreliable—which they were.
Kepler’s challenge to the doctors got me thinking about actually testing Sun-Saturn aspects myself. In times where no instruments were available to quantify weather data, astrometeorologists had to resort to descriptive language to designate the effect of an aspect. For example, in the astrological literature the aspects between the Sun and Saturn were an established family of alignments for predicting mostly unpleasant, but more often cold, weather. The following are quotes from leading writers on astrometeorology since the Renaissance in regard to Sun–Saturn alignments:
Johannes Schöner (1477–1547) was a German mathematician, astrologer, astronomer, cartographer, geographer, and scientific instrument maker, among other things. Schöner played a role in the Copernican Revolution, as he was the one who in 1538 convinced Georg Joachim Rheticus to visit Copernicus. Rheticus later dedicated the first published work of Copernicus, a short summary of his ideas that informed the rest of Europe on the heliocentric hypothesis, to Schöner.
Sun to Saturn: Spring = rain and cold, Summer = great thunder, Autumn = cold and frosty, Winter = foggy or snowy (Schoener 1994, 11).
Gerolamo Cardano (1501–1576), a classic Renaissance man who was a doctor, mathematician, biologist, chemist, astronomer, astrologer, inventor, and more, is known as one of the founders of probability theory, introduced binomial coefficients, and was a developer of algebra. Kepler regarded him as a mediocre astrologer, however, because in his aphorisms on astrology he made claims based on single examples. Regarding the Sun and Saturn, Cardano wrote:
Whenever Saturn is joined to the Sun the heat is remitted and the cold increased, which alone may be a sufficient testimony of the truth of astrology (Cardan 1970, 88).
Leonarde Digges, discussed earlier, produced an annual almanac with instructions for doing your own weather forecasting with the aspects of the year.
The conjunction, quadrature, or opposition of Saturn with the Sunne, chiefly in colde signs; snow, dark weather, haile, rayne, thunder and cold days (Digges 1605, 9).
Johannes Kepler described this aspect as follows:
. . . [T]he effect of this [Sun-Saturn] conjunction is quite general and gives nature at least an opportunity to cause turbulence in the air . . . this purifies the air, brings freezes, snow and rain. [Astrologers] . . . observe when Saturn stands opposite the Sun in the summertime, when no other planet is aspecting the Sun, and observe that the weather is cool and rainy (Kepler 28, T-45, 106; Kepler 28, T-135, 199).
John Goad was more specific:
[Saturn and Sun] produce cold and frost and misty weather, clouds and dark air with snow (Goad 1686, 275).
Thomas Wilsford, an English writer on astrology, wrote in his 1655 book Nature’s Secrets:
Saturn and Sun, in conjunction, square, or opposition do cause generally rain, hail, and cold weather, both before and after, especially in the water signs, or in Sagittarius or Capricorn, and is called Apertio Potarum, or opening the Cataracts of Heaven. Particularly their effects in spring are cold showers; in summer producing much thunder and storms of hail, in autumn rain and cold, in winter snow or moist, dark, and cloudy weather, and oftentimes frost (Wilsford, 1665, 1).
Ebenezer Sibly (1752–1799), an English physician, astrologer, and occultist, was also a mason and is known for his publication of an astrological chart calculated for the Declaration of Independence not long after the event.
Saturn and the Sun in conjunction, quartile, or opposition, is Apertio Potarum, especially if it happens in a moist constellation; for then, in the spring time, it threatens dark and heavy clouds; in summer, hail, thunder, and remission of heat; in autumn, rain and cold; in winter, frost, and cloudy weather (Sibley 1798, 1026).
Alfred John Pearce (1840–1923) is another English astrologer who wrote a comprehensive textbook on the subject that is surprisingly uncontaminated with occultism or theosophy. In his section on astrometeorology he offered a bit more in the way of meteorological explanations and included dated observations of weather events:
Saturn’s action, when configured with the Sun, is to condense aqueous vapour, to lower the temperature of the air, and to excite tempests. When the atmosphere happens to be quiescent under Saturn’s ascendancy, it is often dark and foggy. When Saturn crosses the equator, the atmosphere is greatly disturbed and such effects last for several months (Pearce 1970, 360).
The above statements in regard to Sun and Saturn are not completely consistent, but a common theme of coolness is apparent in phrases such as “cold increased,” “remission of heat,” and “bitter frost.” Doing reductionist science on a complex system such as the weather presents many problems, the greatest of which is to isolate the variable to be tested. In my study, described in the next section, only temperature will be investigated, although there are other factors thought by these classical astrometeorologists to be brought about by the Sun and Saturn’s geocentric alignments.