“Melancholy, the subject of our present discourse, is either in disposition or in habit. In disposition, is that transitory Melancholy which goes and comes upon every small occasion of sorrow, need, sickness, trouble, fear, grief, passion, or perturbation of the mind, any manner of care, discontent, or thought, which causes anguish, dulness, heaviness and vexation of spirit, any ways opposite to pleasure, mirth, joy, delight, causing frowardness in us, or a dislike. In which equivocal and improper sense, we call him melancholy, that is dull, sad, sour, lumpish, ill-disposed, solitary, any way moved, or displeased. And from these melancholy dispositions no man living is free, no Stoick, none so wise, none so happy, none so patient, so generous, so godly, so divine, that can vindicate himself; so well-composed, but more or less, some time or other, he feels the smart of it. Melancholy in this sense is the character of Mortality. . . . This Melancholy of which we are to treat, is a habit, a serious ailment, a settled humour, as Aurelianus and others call it, not errant, but fixed: and as it was long increasing, so, now being (pleasant or painful) grown to a habit, it will hardly be removed…
“NATURAL causes are either primary and universal, or secondary and more particular. Primary causes are the heavens, planets, stars, &c., by their influence (as our astrologers hold) producing this and such like effects. I will not here stand to discuss obiter, whether stars be causes, or signs; or to apologise for judicial astrology. If either Sextus Empiricus, Picus Mirandula, Sextus ab Heminga, Pererius, Erastus, Chambers, &c., have so far prevailed with any man, that he will attribute no virtue at all to the heavens, or to sun, or moon, more than he doth to their signs at an innkeeper's post, or tradesman's shop, or generally condemn all such astrological aphorisms approved by experience: I refer him to Bellantius, Pirovanus, Marascallerus, Goclenius, Sir Christopher Heidon, &c. If thou shalt ask me what I think, I must answer, nam et doctis hisce erroribus versatus sum (for I am conversant with these learned errors), they do incline, but not compel; no necessity at all: agunt non cogunt: and so gently incline, that a wise man may resist them; sapiens dominabitur astris: they rule us, but God rules them. All this (methinks) Joh. de Indagine hath comprised in brief, Quæris a me quantum in nobis operantur astra? &c. ‘Wilt thou know how far the stars work upon us? I say they do but incline, and that so gently, that if we will be ruled by reason, they have no power over us; but if we follow our own nature, and be led by sense, they do as much in us as in brute beasts, and we are no better.’ So that, I hope, I may justly conclude with Cajetan, Cœlum est vehiculum divinæ virtutis, &c., that the heaven is God's instrument, by mediation of which he governs and disposeth these elementary bodies; or a great book, whose letters are the stars (as one calls it), wherein are written many strange things for such as can read, ‘or an excellent harp, made by an eminent workman, on which, he that can but play, will make most admirable music.’ But to the purpose.
“Paracelsus is of opinion, ‘that a physician without the knowledge of stars can neither understand the cause or cure of any disease, either of this or gout, not so much as toothache; except he see the peculiar geniture and scheme of the party affected.’ And for this proper malady, he will have the principal and primary cause of it proceed from the heaven, ascribing more to stars than humours, ‘and that the constellation alone many times produceth melancholy, all other causes set apart.’ He gives instance in lunatic persons, that are deprived of their wits by the moon's motion; and in another place refers all to the ascendant, and will have the true and chief cause of it to be sought from the stars. Neither is it his opinion only, but of many Galenists and philosophers, though they do not so peremptorily maintain as much. ‘This variety of melancholy symptoms proceeds from the stars,’ saith Melancthon: the most generous melancholy, as that of Augustus, comes from the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter in Libra: the bad, as that of Catiline's, from the meeting of Saturn and the moon in Scorpio. Jovianus Pontanus, in his tenth book, and thirteenth chapter de rebus cœlestibus, discourseth to this purpose at large, Ex atrabile varii generantur morbi, &c., ‘many diseases proceed from black choler, as it shall be hot or cold; and though it be cold in its own nature, yet it is apt to be heated, as water may be made to boil, and burn as bad as fire; or made cold as ice: and thence proceed such variety of symptoms, some mad, some solitary, some laugh, some rage,’ &c. The cause of all which intemperance he will have chiefly and primarily proceed from the heavens, ‘from the position of Mars, Saturn, and Mercury.’ His aphorisms be these, ‘Mercury in any geniture, if he shall be found in Virgo, or Pisces his opposite sign, and that in the horoscope, irradiated by those quartile aspects of Saturn or Mars, the child shall be mad or melancholy.’ Again, ‘He that shall have Saturn and Mars, the one culminating, the other in the fourth house, when he shall be born, shall be melancholy, of which he shall be cured in time: if Mercury behold them.’ ‘If the moon be in conjunction or opposition at the birth time with the sun, Saturn or Mars, or in a quartile aspect with them (e malo cœli loco, Leovitius adds), many diseases are signified, especially the head and brain is like to be misaffected with pernicious humours, to be melancholy, lunatic, or mad…
“The time of this melancholy is, when the significators of any geniture are directed according to art, as the horned moon, hylech, &c. to the hostile beams or terms of Saturn and Mars especially, or any fixed star of their nature, or if Saturn by his revolution, or transitus, shall offend any of those radical promissors in the geniture.”
Robert Burton, THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY, 1621
50 Moons of Saturn
Curator: Daniel Birnbaum
6 November 2008 – 18 January 2009