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Columbus, Astrology, and the Discovery of America
the pivotal role that astrological forecasting played in Columbus
discovering the Americas. Would there even be an "America"
such as we know it today without astrology and astrological forecasting?
1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue.”
the insight that Columbus (1451-1506) discovered the Americas on
October 12, 1492 (Old Style Calendar) sums up what I carried away
from my elementary school studies regarding Columbus' discovery
of the Americas.
also, remember learning that Spain had paid the massive bill for
the trip and that it involved three ships named the Niña,
the Pinta, and the Santa Maria.
my early school years occurring in the late 1950s and early 60s,
the naive textbook image of Christopher Columbus (Cristoforo Colombo
or Crostóbal Colón) was that of a courageous, fearless,
and dashing explorer.
recent years - in the genre of “tell it like it really was”
books - the image, reputation, mortality, and motivations of Columbus
have all been painted with much darker, blemished, and realistic
the still untold story is that there was a (now) forgotten motivation
spurring on the voyages of Christopher Columbus. This little remembered
motivation was a mixture of astrology, astrological forecasting,
and apocalyptic (end of the world) Christian zeal.
and Cardinal Pierre d’Ailly
How do we know about this untold motivating factor for Columbus?
According to historian Laura Ackerman Smoller in her fascinating
book History, Prophecy, and the Stars... Columbus had a
practice of scribbling in the margins of his books. Like us... the
more interesting he found a certain passage, the more he scribbled.
fascinating (and important) about this bit of Columbus trivia is
that facsimiles of his "scribbled-in books" are still
around. One such facsimile is the Imago Mundi written by
Petrus de Aliaco (most recently republished facsimile; Boston: Massachusetts
Historical Society 1927).
de Aliaco is the Italian rendering of the French name Pierre d’Ailly.
just so happens that this particular Pierre d’Ailly was a
well known, respected French Cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church
during the later Middle Ages living just prior to the life and times
of Christopher Columbus.
this facsimile of the 288 page d’Ailly book republished in
1483 AD, there were almost 900 hand scribbled notes by Columbus
(some possibly by his son).
line, Columbus was very interested in this book.
During Cardinal Pierre d’Ailly’s lifetime (1350-1420
AD), a “Great Schism” (1378-1414 AD) had occurred within
the Roman Catholic Church. At one point, the schism had become so
outrageous that there were simultaneously three different popes
appointed by three differing authorities within the church.
was commonly believed by church leaders of the time that the “Great
Schism” was a sign of the end times and of the imminent coming
of the antichrist. Cardinal d’Ailly from France was a highly
regarded cleric and leader within the church, and as such he played
a crucial role in its restoration at the Council of Constance held
from November 5, 1414 to April 22, 1418 AD. (Whew! Talk about long
meetings. And we think 3 hour meetings are unbearable.)
Pierre d’Ailly and the Almost Apocalypse
So, with patience now wearing extremely thin, you might rightly
ask: "What in the heck does an obscure book written by an even
more obscure medieval French cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church
have to do with astrology?"
Cardinal d’Ailly was an advocate of astrology and of astrological
forecasting. Based on his own astrological forecasting, d’Ailly
shared, preached, and (most importantly) wrote with increasing confidence
that the "Great Schism" of the church could be healed
and was not meant as a signal that the world was at an end.
on the French Cardinal d’Ailly's knowledge of astrology, he
(d’Ailly) was convinced the coming of the antichrist would
not take place until around the year of 1789 AD. Living in the early
1400s AD, the year of 1789 AD probably seemed like a long way away...
d’Ailly the astrological planets appeared to be revealing
a religious change of great magnitude that was to take place in
1789 AD. The eschatological (end time) scriptures in d'Ailly's Christian
Bible provided him with the interpretation that this great change
in religion would likely take form as the coming of the antichrist
and the resulting apocalypse.
hindsight, we have the advantage of now knowing that 1789 actually
marked the beginning of the French Revolution. Due to the nature
of the French Revolution - focusing its sites on the wealth and
privileges of nobility, the church, and royalty - Cardinal d'Ailly
might well have thought that his beloved France was going to hell
in a hand-basket.
Back To Columbus
Moving slightly forward in time, Columbus - based on his readings
of Cardinal d'Ailly's Imago Mundi - was convinced that
our world had less than 200 years to go before "the end,"
and said as much in a letter to his patrons, Ferdinand and Isabella
dictated that the world would endure only some 155 years to come.
Preceding its destruction, however, Columbus told the monarchs:
all of the races would be converted to Christianity. He saw his
own voyages as part of the universal missionizing of the last
days.” From: History, Prophecy, and the Stars by
Laura Ackerman Smoller
Manipulation Of Dates
unlikely event you've been paying close attention (yawn), then you
might have noticed that for some odd reason Columbus felt the need
to move up d’Ailly’s astrological prediction by over
did Columbus do this? Well... perhaps he was just really bad at
math. However, my best guess is he thought d’Ailly’s
forecast (placing the end of the world in 1789 AD in around 300
years) wouldn’t be pressing and/or convincing enough for his
rich Spanish benefactors to cough up the vast fortune needed to
fund his voyages.
This (Naval Gazing)
Yep! It's fascinating to ponder just how pivotal a role astrology
played in Columbus discovering the Americas. Would there even be
an "America" such as we know it today, if it weren't for
Pierre d'Ailly's admittedly less than perfect apocalyptic and astrological
forecasting of the end of the world? I wonder...
Reading: The following two scholastic books are likely
to be of most value to those folks interested in the history of
astrology especially as it pertains to the Medieval Period. These
two books do not contain practical information on how to practice
Prophecy, and the Stars by Laura Ackerman Smoller
Rise of Magic in Early Medieval Europe by Valerie Flint
Untold Story at Understanding Prejudice. This is the other
untold story. Many people are surprised to learn that Christopher
Columbus and his men enslaved native inhabitants of the West
Indies, forced them to convert to Christianity, and subdued
them with violence in an effort to seek riches.
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