Thabit Ibn Qurra's DE IMAGINIBUS
translated by Christopher Warnock
Self Published by Christopher Warnock
Reviewed by Deborah Houlding
Available for purchase from
Astrology internet site
Christopher Warnock is one of the leading contemporary names in the study of Hermeticism and Renaissance ceremonial magic. As well as running horary and electional courses, he also runs one of the few credible courses to expressly unite astrology with 'planetary magic'. It is really not possible to delve far into the realms of traditional astrology without considering its relationship to sympathetic magic, and Warnock is right to suggest that the Hermetic gnosis, which is so fundamental in the tradition, can only be discovered through a balanced reflection upon the principles that wind through astrology, magic and alchemy.
Regardless of whether it is consciously realised, every time we cast a horary chart, or create an electional chart, or indeed, every time we consider the notion of planetary 'signatures' (whereby core-planetary energies are expected to express themselves through mundane objects that share a similarity in shape and form); or wear gems or colours to amplify planetary energies, we are practising a form of sympathetic magic which assumes that 'like produces like' and 'effect resembles cause'. Astrology has largely developed out of this sort of understanding, and it was the origin for beliefs such that Mars and the fixed stars which shine with a red hue are conducive of heated passions which causes our faces to flush red; and bloodlust, which causes the spilling of red blood; so that the colour red is universally symbolic of strong and active life force or the danger that accompanies intemperance. The reality is that most astrologers are in some sense acting as magicians whether they consciously seek to reclaim that heritage or not.
De Imaginibus is, after the Picatrix, considered the most widely known source for a direct insight into the world of medieval and Renaissance astrological magic. This is the first English translation, which has been rendered from a 14th century Latin reproduction of the original manuscript. Thabit ibn Qurra was a notable 9th century sage, a native of Harran and a member of the dedicated star worshippers of the Sabian sect. He was trained in mathematics and medicine, and later rose to the position of court astronomer in Baghdad. Through him we gain an insight into the mind and activities of a 9th century practicing astrologer, which is nothing if not magical in itself.
In order to apply the instruction in De Imaginibus one is first expected to be versed in the art of creating fortuitous elections, and in this regard the book is very instructive, but not recommended for beginners. Not that anything in the book is overly complicated; in fact it is a fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable read, exemplified throughout by Warnock's narrative where he captures the main points to be considered. But to delve into this subject without an earnest attempt to understand its principles would be foolish.
From the foundation of electional astrology, the book reaches out into the employment of talismans imbued with planetary powers. There are nine chapters, covering everything from the expulsion of Scorpions and pests, the receiving of wealth and profit, and the concord and separation between two people. By accepting that 'like attracts like', the astrologer is deemed to be drawing maximum focus upon the election and fully exploiting its potential.
This is not a large work and teeters between being described as a pamphlet and a book. There are 64 fairly large-set A5 pages. However, the content is quite unique and especially valuable for those who wish to study this specialist branch of astrology in detail. I'm especially impressed with Warnock's narrative which, whilst not being particularly voluminous, is incredibly sound and insightful. He clearly demonstrates his expertise and experience in this field. His translation makes a valuable addition to the texts that are currently being rediscovered for the benefit of students of traditional astrological philosophy; and anyone who has that sincere interest will no doubt consider this book a treasured glimpse into a magical astrological world.