About the thema mundi

March 13th, 20096:27 pm @ margherita fiorello


Destiny determines character in a certain way.
The fact to live in a city like Rome and to have the opportunity of visiting the most important museums in all Europe - British Museum in London, Louvre in Paris, Pergamon in Berlin, Uffizi in Florence -  and hundreds of exibitions gives me an idea of what the words art and painter mean.

This is an evident example of what Art is, about the rest I’m a little skeptical:

The creation of the man

Michelangelo - The creation of the man

The creation of the world is a central point in traditional cultures and obviously was easily linked with astrology. Everybody remember the short opening paragraph of Genesis, which was easily converted in an astrological way by Teophilus of Edessa (CCAG 5).
- the first day is the day of the Sun because in this day God begins the creation with the Light;

- the second day is the day of the Moon because in this day God divided the waters from the rest;
- the third day is Mars day because He called the dry land Earth;
- the fourth day is Mercury day because He put the stars in Heaven like sign and measure, and because Mercury is the wisdom through we are able to understand these signs;
- the fifth day is the day of Jupiter because in this fruitful day every living creature was made;
- the sixth day is the Venus day because it is the day when the man was made, and as Venus is different from any other planet for her (true) beauty, the man is different from the rest of the Creation;
-the seventh day is the day of Saturn which is lazy and unfruitful and nothing could be done in that day.

But the ancient world knew astrological tradition about the creation, known as thema mundi, i.e. the position of the planets in the very beginning of the world.

Egyptians started the year in Summer with Sirius rising, so even the creation started in this season, and planetary positions are given according their domiciles.

This is the extract from Macrobius:

Egyptians began their measurement of the skies with the sign of Aries because according them, at the beginning of the day which was the first of all days - that is the time when the sky and the universe took on their brilliant sheen, the day which is rightly called the birthday of the universe- Aries was in the middle of the sky…when the world  was being born, at the very hour of birth, Aries as mentioned above, occupied the middle of the sky and the Moon was in Cancer. The Sun then rose in Leo, Mercury in Virgo, Venus in Libra, Mars in Scorpio, Jupiter in Sagittarius and Saturn in Capricorn.

Firmicus Maternus adds the the exact planetary positions.

Petosiris and Nechepso in this doctrine followed Aesculapius and Hanubius- Most powerful Mercury entrusted the secret. They set up the birthchart of the universe as follows: the Sun in the 15th degree of Leo, the Moon in the 15th degree of Cancer, Saturn in the 15th degree of Capricorn, Jupiter in the 15th degree of Sagittarius, Mars in the 15th degree of Scorpio, Venus in the 15th degree of Libra, Mercury in the 15th degree of Virgo and the Ascendant in the 15th degree of Cancer.

But this is not the only version.

A possible explanation could derive from the fact  that for many cultures the begininning of the year started with the Spring Ingress.

Albumasar writes in fact:

They say that when God created the World, Cancer was rising and Jupiter in the same sign, Saturn was in Libra, the North Node in Gemini and the South one in Sagittarius, Mars in Capricorn, Saturn in Aries, Venus and Moon in Taurus, Mercury in Gemini.

Here planetary positions are given according their exaltations, and this is a common pattern we can find  both in Indian texts than western ones.

For Indian sources in fact Sun at the creation is shining in the first Moon Mansion, while at at the Ascendant the ninth one (with Sirius as leading star).

According Medieval philosophers - the Venerable Bede in particular- the universe began in the fourth day of the creation when God put the Sun in the Spring Equinox, between Pisces and Aries, as shown in the painting from Duomo of Padua.

If we remember Teophilus list above mentioned, the universe starts with the creation of astrology, and this  should make us a little happier.


Inspiration from 12stones forum - now down for me :(  and from :

Macrobius, Commentary on the Dream of Scipio I, 21; David Pingree,  Masha’allah: Some Sasanian and Syriac Sources; Lippincott, “Giovanni di Paolo’s ‘Creation of the World’ and the Tradition of the ‘Thema Mundi‘ in Late Medieval and Renaissance Art”; Enrico Raffaelli,il tema di nascita del mondo e del primo uomo secondo l’astrologia zoroastriana.