“We have an entire sky within us, our fiery strength and heavenly origin: Luna, which symbolizes the continuous motion of soul and body, Mars speed and Saturn slowness, the Sun God, Jupiter law, Mercury reason, and Venus humanity.”– Marsilio Ficino, letter to Lorenzo the Magnificent on the sacred seven planets.
Father Ficino was a major figure in the Italian Renaissance. A man of many talents, he was like Saint Thomas Aquinas, a Dominican philosopher, theologian, and linguist, though not a lawyer, whose translations and profuse commentaries on the writings of Plato created the philosophical underpinnings of the Renaissance.
Digging through history
The son of a physician, it was through Ficino’s translations, the Arabic polymath Averroes’s work in medicine and science became popular.
“The new inspiration of civilized life (in Sumer) was based first on the discovery, through long and meticulous, carefully checked and rechecked observations, that there were, besides the sun and moon, five other visible or barely visible heavenly spheres (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn) which moved in established courses, according to established laws … and that those laws governing the seven heavenly spheres should in some mystical way be the same as those governing the life and thought of men on earth.”
And thus, he introduced the hermetic dictum of “as above, so below” to Europe. He was not the first to believe tha, as he himself said, the Sumerians three thousand years ago thought the same, but his statements were indicative of the renaissance – a rebirthing of the lost past– itself.
As he knew neither Akkadian, or Egyptian, it was through his classical predecessors, the Romans and Greeks, he read of these things, and through that lens saw there was a steady stream throughout the history of humankind of a desire for it to reach further than its grasp.
Thus Ficino learnt of the Greek mystery schools of Hermes Trismegistus, Pythagoras, and Orpheus the last of which contains the Babylonian creation myth of Enûma Eliš. This of course led to the creation of European mystery schools patterns after the originals: first the FreeMasons, then the Golden Dawn (London), Theosophy (London), the Church of Light (America) and then the Sabian Assembly and BOTA all taking from their predecessors what they could most use1 Thomas Moore’s, The Planets Within: the Astrological Psychology of Marsilio Ficino, published by Bucknell University Press, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, 1982
Astrologically his great wheel fed this compulsive task: Saturn is in its rulership and in the twelfth house of working with secrets, i.e. the classics l lost after the burning of Rome and the sacking of Baghdad – opposite Jupiter, the Roman Catholic catechism he sworn to uphold and obviously very much believed in. Then there is the Sun in ninth his willful determination to study and publish his findings, opposite Uranus in Taurus, his need to communicate his discoveries.
Music and Magic
His theories must have seen perverse a tthe time , his marriage of the natural of sciences – the orbit of the stars and planets – following a musical composition heard only by them, but now are not so readily ignored.
Another was his belief in magic. In his last works, he discusses his theories on natural magic 2 Natural Magic is a Renaissance term for magic that harnesses the forces of nature for good much like white magic. It is unlike ceremonial magic, as goetia and theurgy that deals with the conjuring of spirits and demons. Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa popularized the latter in his 1526 De Vanitate and William Lilly is renowned for, of course, is renowned for his treatise on angels and Ars Goetia in his book on Horary Astrology. Crowley broke off from the Golden Dawn about the importance of goetia, while Arthur E. Waite and the Golden Dawn held firm about the uses of ceremonial magic in their society.
He felt that natural magic represents a non-Christian lineage of Hellenistic Gnosticismand in the volume explains why it was so popular then, as it is today.
The Ficino Chart
Marsilio Ficino was born October 19, 1433, Figline, the republic of Florence. He reposed on October 1, 1499, in Careghi, north of Florence.
• He is a splash temperament. • Saturn and Mars, the two traditional malefics, dominate his mode of expression.
Thus while his exterior may have been calm, but his flashes of insight and desire to learn all than mankind had penned kept him from sleep as he searched for the telltale signs of his King in His mighty fortress.
His Sun lies in the ninth house of religion and philosophy and publications, and it was by utilizing all three that his great desire to unite Christianity with pre-Christian writers by the Sumerian idea of how the stars interrelated with life.
His ascendant is 19 Capricorn 31 with Mars nearby, perhaps curving his spine while giving him great mental acuity. It has the symbol of “there is no service in the Church but the voices of the choir are loud and strong.”
Neptune and Jupiter are conjunct in the intercepted seventh house of Leo, where the d’Medici’s his patrons reside as Jupiter, opposite Aquarius for their great mind and reason, which mimicked his own.
Inconjunct to Saturn is Pluto, perhaps hinting at his own Aristotelian Lyceum that he held outside in Florence in Cariggio, for he filled it with musicians and artists, philosophers and poets duplicating the Academy of yore.
Ficino’s Mercury in Scorpio is in the eleventh house, fittingly as Ficino believed that the Greek god Mercury was the first theologian and here uniting Aquarius with its modern muse Hermes and removing it, almost instinctively from Saturn.
His fourth house, opposite his Mercury in Scorpio in the tenth, is empty, showing that he gave up his personal life, willingly, for his work (Uranus in Taurus) to develop his unique insight into the mechanics of time and space.
His preponderance of squares, he has six, shows he enjoyed the philosophical quest and struggle to harmonise the strifes of life with a greater and more noble plan.
His focal determinator is Saturn. This relates back to his mode of expression.
One of Ficino’s greatest beliefs was that the “soul” is more than a quality of human character and is part of how an individual encounters things (Neptune conjunct Jupiter in the seventh). This he felt was humankind’s greatest gift, his ability to impart his soul to other things like horses, animals and even vegetation. Hence Ficino would be comfortable with the idea of the “car” as a girlfriend, our pet dog as a “child” or “best friend” and a flower as a ray of sunshine. To Ficino, this was the nobility of the human spirit pervading the universe..
Revisions: This essay was totally revised on 1 October 2023 with the original chart was in Campanus not Morinus format. It was originally posed on November 19th 2020.
- 1Thomas Moore’s, The Planets Within: the Astrological Psychology of Marsilio Ficino, published by Bucknell University Press, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, 1982
- 2Natural Magic is a Renaissance term for magic that harnesses the forces of nature for good much like white magic. It is unlike ceremonial magic, as goetia and theurgy that deals with the conjuring of spirits and demons. Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa popularized the latter in his 1526 De Vanitate and William Lilly is renowned for, of course, is renowned for his treatise on angels and Ars Goetia in his book on Horary Astrology. Crowley broke off from the Golden Dawn about the importance of goetia, while Arthur E. Waite and the Golden Dawn held firm about the uses of ceremonial magic in their society.