Middle ages astrology and medicine

Astrology in the Middle Ages

During the Middle Ages, medical students studied astrology because of its relationship to medicine and the accompanying beliefs about medical prognosis. Frequently, treatment protocols were developed with astrological input.

What is Astrology?

People thought that the movement of the heavens influenced weather. Because that was so, they also believed a similar relationship existed between the heavens and the human body.

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Each part of the bodym therefore, was associated with an astrological sign. Medieval books of medicine contained drawings of a "Zodiac Man.

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Timing of treatment would coincide with the astrological signs. Aries, for example, governed a person's head while Sagittarius was in charge of thighs and Pisces ruled feet. Applying these principles, doctors would determine that it was not a good idea to treat a person's head during the month of March. Bloodletting and there was a lot of that was a medical treatment designed to rebalance bodily humours.

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The procedure believe it or not was regulated by the Moon's position. If, for example, the Moon was in that part of the zodiac which governed a particular part of the body, bloodletting would be avoided. The reason for that belief? The attraction of the Moon, to that part of the body, could cause excessive bleeding.

Astrology and Medicine in the Medieval World

This image depicts a "Zodiac Man" and his relationship to medicine. Most medieval ideas about medicine were based on those of the ancient work, namely the work of Greek physicians Galen — CE and Hippocrates — BCE. Their ideas set out a theory of the human body relating to the four elements earth, air, fire and water and to four bodily humours blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile.

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It was believed that health could be maintained or restored by balancing the humours, and by regulating air, diet, exercise, sleep, evacuation and emotion. Doctors also often advised risky invasive procedures like bloodletting. Medical knowledge derived from antique theory was largely confined to monasteries and the highly educated.

For ordinary people, especially those outside towns, it would have been difficult to access professional practitioners.

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Those in need of medical assistance might instead turn to local people who had medical knowledge, derived from folk traditions and practical experience. A volvelle, used to predict the best time to undertake a medical treatment, from the Guild-book of the Barber Surgeons of York Egerton MS , f. Usage terms Public Domain in most countries other than the UK. Medieval astrologers believed that the movements of the stars influenced numerous things on earth, from the weather and the growth of crops to the personalities of new born babies and the inner workings of the human body.

Astrology and Medicine

Middle Ages: - AD Astrology and Medicine in Medieval Times. The use in medicine of stars (the 12 signs of the zodiac) and of the sun, moon and. During the Middle Ages, medical students studied astrology because of its relationship to medicine (and the accompanying beliefs about medical prognosis ).

Doctors often carried around special almanacs or calendars containing illustrated star charts, allowing them to check the positions of the stars before making a diagnosis. Many of these almanacs included illustrations, helping to explain complicated ideas to patients.


The picture below shows a 'zodiac man' from one of these almanacs from The diagram was intended to explain how the astrological formations or star signs rule over each part of the body. The man's pointing finger serves as a warning against the powerful forces of the stars. Ancient studies of astrology were translated from Arabic to Latin in the 12th and 13th centuries and soon became part of everyday medical practice in Europe. By the end of the s, physicians across Europe were required by law to calculate the position of the moon before carrying out complicated medical procedures, such as surgery or bleeding.

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A drawing of a microcosmic man from an early 15th-century medical treatise Sloane MS , f. A diagram known as the 'zodiac man' superimposed the appropriate star sign onto body parts; in a manuscript owned by the Barber Surgeons of York, this diagram faces a circular wheel marked with astrological data and equipped with a moving pointer known as a volvelle so that the physician could align the data according to the position of the sun and moon.

Astrology in Medieval Medicine

One of the main ways in which a physician would diagnose illness was by examining stools, blood and especially urine: physicians were often depicted in images holding a flask of urine up to the light. An historiated initial B , containing a representation of a doctor teaching urine examination to two students, from a volume of Hippocrates' Prognosticon Harley MS , f. Some medical treatises contain illustrations showing urine in different hues, thus aiding the physician in his diagnosis. Diagrams of flasks showing urine of different hues, from a 15th-century medical miscellany Sloane MS 7, f.

Another area of medical concern was how to treat wounds, ruptures and lesions, in which the surgeon specialised.