This text, originally known as The Book of the Judgments of the Stars, is now available as a complete translation for the first time in 850 years. Known as the first philosopher of the Arabs, Abu Yusuf Ya’qub bin Ishaq al-Kindi was born circa 801 AD and was a leading figure and astrological authority in the House of Wisdom educational movement in Baghdad during the 9th century.
The material in this book is a mix of horary methods (i.e., Will I win this war? Where are my keys?) and electional astrology (the art of choosing the right time for any activity, i.e., When should I have surgery? What is the best date to get married?). The techniques for these two forms of astrology overlap, and in this book some ancient Hellenic electional material has been rewritten as horary material. The book gives a series of instructions on judgments, or how to judge charts – whether this is to say when to do something (elections), or whether something will happen or a matter can be resolved (horary). Both of these 2,000 year-old methods are still used by modern astrologers to help clients.
The book begins with some basic but solid astrology instructions, although this isn’t necessarily a book for beginning astrologers. Chapter 3 explains how to select a chart “victor” (the strongest planet in a chart) and how to use it. Victors and releasers are planets used to judge the outcomes of a chart, so it’s important to be able to identify them. This particular technique is an innovation of the Arabic astrologers rather than a left-over from the Hellenic astrologers, who mostly were focused on triplicity lords and house rulers.
The kinds of questions and topics clients were interested in back in merry old Baghdad are almost as interesting as the instructional components of the book. Topics include: thefts and thieves, travel, getting a promotion at work, military matters like sieges and wars, gaining prosperity and wealth, real estate, the best time to start building a house or to cultivate the land, marriage, pregnancy, business partnerships, prisoners, buying and selling, illness, horse racing, prices and commodities, and the weather. There are a few rather brief chapters on mundane astrology at the end of this text, but there are other sources that treat that topic in greater depth than this book.
Benjamin Dykes, the translator and editor, has added some helpful charts and tables in the first two chapters to help the reader understand the basic instructions and methods. He also adds explanatory footnotes to difficult passages, to help the reader better understand just what the author was trying to do. Sometimes passages are difficult because of multiple garbled translations (and Dykes tries to use the pick of the litter in clarifying the text), and sometimes the writer leaves things out, like a noun or direct object that would specify what the reader is supposed to be looking for or working with. Dykes can get a little pithy or snarky in his footnotes, and these sometimes make fun reading in themselves. It’s a relief not to have to flop back and forth between the endnotes and the page that’s being read. Hail the almighty footnotes!
Overall, this is a good comprehensive text on election and horary techniques. Al-Kindi knew what he was doing and shares his copious professional experience with the reader. It’s well worth acquiring this book to add to a growing personal library on traditional astrology.
Recommended to astrologers with some familiarity with traditional astrology methods.
~review by Elizabeth Hazel
Author: Al-Kindi, translated and edited by Benjamin Dykes
Horary Series Vol. II
Cazimi Press, 2011
pp. 292, $29.95