The Book of the Nine Judges
translated and edited by Benjamin N. Dykes, PhD
, (Minnesota, 2012)
708 pages; paperback. RRP: $60 + p&p
Reviewed by Eve Dembowski.
There has never been a more exciting time to be an astrologer. The translation explosion that has gripped the astrological world in the past decade, led in part by Benjamin N. Dykes has given us many gems and his latest work is no exception.
Benjamin N. Dykes's latest translation; The Book of the Nine Judges, is the third and final installement of the horary portion of his 'Essential Medieval Astrology Series' which also includes The Forty Chapters of al-Kindi and The Search for the Heart by Hermann of Carinthia. While this is not a book for the beginner astrologer new to traditional techniques or horary it is a great asset for the serious horary student well versed in traditional astrology.
As always Benjamin Dykes has produced a wonderful source for astrologers and a fine addition to his list of credits. The Book of the Nine Judges is a legendary compilation of material on horary astrology, containing works by nine Persian-Arabic astrologers and writers, the aforementioned nine judges. The main three; Umar al-Tabari, Sahl bin Bishr and al-Kindi, are joined by al-Khayyat, Dorotheus and a couple of unknown authors given the names of Aristotle and Jirjis. To these seven judges the great Masha'allah and Abu'Mashar were added, but only in the introduction portion of the book.
Most of the material dates from the 8th/9th Centuries but was translated into Latin and compiled by Hugo of Santalla in the 12th century. What makes this work unique is that all the matching material from the nine judges is combined and presented together. Every section is attributed to its relevant author giving us the benefit of seeing and comparing how each astrologer dealt with the various topics. This is an extremely enlightening text.
The Book of the Nine Judges is laid out like almost every horary text, with an introduction and chapters on questions whose subject matter follows the order of the houses. There is also a final chapter on the mundane judgement of Weather and Disasters. The basic subject matter of each house would be familiar to most astrologers; however I did find the placement of questions about "News, Rumours and Letters" in the 5th house interesting and somewhat surprising for one used to William Lilly's approach to these topic matters as 3rd house subjects.
Benjamin Dykes has included a table of the primary questions for each house at the beginning of each chapter (these tables are reprinted together in Appendix E). As in all of Ben's work, he includes informative notes and commentary as well as appendices which includes material from Sahl's Fifty Judgements, Bonatti's Book of Astronomy and Masha'allah's On Reception. There is also an extensive glossary of terms making this a very worthy and easy reference book to use.
The glossary is important as many of the terms used may be unfamiliar to some astrologers. When the original Arabic and Persian astrological texts were translated into Latin and reintroduced to Europe in the 12th century, some translations were written in a more accessible style and therefore became more popular. Our standard astrological vocabulary is the result of the words chosen and used by the translators of these more popular versions of the ancient texts. With the new translation frenzy occurring today, some of the 12th century alternatives have come to light. An example is the use of the term "pushing" meaning applying, "pivot" for angles and "remote" for cadent houses. It may seem unnecessarily confusing to use a different word for things that are familiar to most astrologers by another name. However the translation and renaming of these terms at times provides new meaning and reveals some of the subtle nuances that makes astrology, particularly horary come alive. For example the word "remote" tell us something important that may not be obvious in the term "cadent"; a planet in a cadent house is remote and far removed, not just hidden or at the end of something.
There is an immense amount of valuable information to be learnt from this book and in my opinion it is one of the best of his three part series on Traditional Horary Astrology. Reading through this text there is often reference to his other translations and I would encourage anyone who wishes to delve into The Book of the Nine Judges to consider getting the other two volumes in the series.
I have only one criticism (and it is a small one); I would have loved to have this book bound in hard cover like his first translation of Guido Bonatti's Book of Astromony. Of course I understand the prohibitive price of hard covers and the need to make this material accessible to as many astrologers as possible. This is a special book that will have a prized place on my bookshelf for many years to come.
As a traditional astrologer I personally feel an immense gratitude to Benjamin Dykes for his work. Our understanding of astrology's foundation deepens with every new translation that is published. It is now up to astrologers the world over to read, absorb and work with the information and techniques being unearthed.
lives in Melbourne, Australia. She holds a diploma of applied astrology from Astro-synthesis, the FAA Practioner’s diploma, a certificate in medieval astrology and the STA Diploma of Traditional Horary Astrology. In 2009 and 2010 she was one of the conveners of the Regulus Traditional Astrology Conference held in Melbourne, Australia.
She lectures, sees private clients and runs classical astrology classes. She has had numerous articles published in the FAA journal, Mountain Astrologer and Astrolog, You can read her blog astrologicalmind.wordpress.com
Eve can be contacted for a reading by email on firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes & References:
Both are available from Dr Benjamin Dykes' website www.bendykes.com (accessed April 2012).
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Benjamin Dyke's translation of Introduction to Traditional Astrology by Abu Ma'shar and al-Qabisi is a better place to start. Also available from his website.
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