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Book Review

Introduction to Medical Astrology by Wanda Sellar

Wessex Astrologer, ISBN 9781902405322, 236 pages. August 2008. 15.99 + P&P.

Reviewed by Deborah Houlding


The unassuming title to this book gives a straightforward representation of its content and purpose. The book is mainly aimed at students and practitioners of astrology who are interested in learning more about the historical partnership of astrology and medicine, and who may wish to include some aspect of this in their own chart-work. Although it is admitted that the astrological approach is not intended to displace orthodox medical advice in any way, the author argues that, as a complimentary system, the astrological scrutiny of disease can often throw an illuminating light on the role of the psyche in matters of health and disease. Most astrologers will need no persuasion of the viewpoint that astrology can help to clarify the psychological underlay of physical illness, even if it is not specifically used to try to name the offending organ or particular symptom.

The author, Wanda Sellar, is not a doctor, but she is ideally qualified to write a book of this nature, which seeks to inform astrologers on the historical approach to healing. She wisely sees her role as one in which she acts as a guide and intermediary between the depth and complexity of the subject matter, and the student's need to understand the general overview, as well as the particular application of certain techniques. Wanda is, of course, well known in the British astrological scene as the editor of the AA's Astrology & Medicine Newsletter, a position she has held for the past 12 years. She has over 25 years experience working in astrology and the complimentary/holistic fields, with previously published books including The Consultation Chart, and two books on aromatherapy.

One of the strengths of Wanda's approach - apart from the fact that her writing is well paced, with a discriminating eye that has sorted the wheat from the chaff - is that it should appeal to a broad spectrum of the astrological community. The book is rooted in traditional philosophy and technique, although the author (a qualified horary practitioner) is no fundamentalist, and only recommends the techniques that she believes work best. There does not seem to be an agenda to push the work of any one preferred author or school of thought, and Wanda has taken care to reference her comments across a wide range of primary and secondary sources. Her style very much keeps "the students' needs" in mind, and her writing is clear and accessible, with many relevant practical examples.

The book begins with a concise but interesting overview of the approach to medicine in history, which explains the chronology of developing technique. In this we get a whistle stop tour of some of the familiar names and the reasons they are noteworthy, detouring through various branches of western and eastern astrology and taking in such illustrious names as Hippocrates, Galen, Avicenna, Agrippa, Culpeper, Descartes and Cornell. The book then spends several chapters running over the basics, explaining the significations of the planets, houses; the traditional philosophy and practical application of humours, triplicities, quadruplicities and aspects; and the more modern theories of midpoints, unaspected planets and 'missing elements'. The remaining chapters then give us a guide to 'life stages' and the application of astrology in medical matters, demonstrating medical chart analysis and the celestial significators for surgery, before concluding with a handy index of traditional significations.

A straightforward approach, and as I mentioned at the start, there is something unassuming about this work. But I like it enough to make it one of the few texts that I include on my 'required reading list' for advanced-level students of horary. That is not because it is particularly in-depth or even fully comprehensive, but because I believe that all astrologers should know at least this much about the branch of astrology traditionally known as 'decumbiture'. Although the text features some modern techniques that I don't personally recommend, I cannot think of any other book that introduces this subject more effectively. Those who choose not to practice the techniques will benefit from feeling informed about the history and the demonstration of technique, whilst those who wish to study this complex subject more seriously will have a good overview from which to start building their experience. Although this book only claims to be an 'Introduction', Wanda Sellar has taken her time as an author, securing her own knowledge and experience before embarking on this project. I am glad for that, because her own confidence in this subject shines through, and we now have a solid and reliable 'modern' Introduction to Medical Astrology, which fills the needs of many different kinds of student astrologers, without wasting anyone's time with unnecessarily innovative techniques or inventive ideas.

***

Deborah Houlding
March, 2009








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