Abu Ma’Shar (full name Abū Maʿshar Jaʿfar ibn Muḥammad ibn ʿUmar al-Balkhī أبو معشر جعفر بن محمد بن عمر البلخي) was a 9th century Persian Muslim astrologer whose books greatly influenced the development of astrology in Europe when they were translated in the Latin in the 12th century.
Ben Dykes in his translation of Abu Ma’shar’s On the Revolutions of the Years of Nativities cites David Pingree’s hypothesis that Ma’shar used his own natal chart in his writings. Based on this suppositon, Pingree estimated Ma’Shar’s birth data to be about 10 PM on 10 August 787 (OS) in Balkh, Khurasan (now Afganistan). On page 134 of Dyke’s translation he provides his version of Ma’Shar’s birth chart.
According to the Arabic text, notes Dykes, this natal chart is for a person born in a city with a latitude of 36N. Using this latitude and the data given, I reconstructed the chart as follows. I assumed that Abu Ma’Shar would be fairly certain of the position of his own Ascendant at latitude 36 North and that of his natal Sun, which is the easiest to measure because of the sun’s fairly constant rate of motion from day to day. The other planetary positions might vary from modern values due to differences in tables and methods of observation.
Because Ma’Shar was writing in the 9th century, the start of the tropical zodiac had shifted backward from Hellenistic times, as measured against the fixed stars, so I adjusted the ayanasma of the zodiac to calculate a chart which kept the following positions constant: Latitude of 36 North, Ascendant at 2 Taurus 54, and Sun at 15 Leo 57. (Dykes noted that he changed the original 15 Leo 57 in Ma’Shar’s text to 25 Leo 57 to match the value calculated by modern methods. I believe he should have adjusted the ayanasma rather than the position of the sun.) Given these conditions, the resulting birth chart for Abu Ma’Shar is the following:
This chart is cast with Whole Sign houses. Here is a comparison of the values of this computer-generated chart with Ma’Shar’s original calculations:
As you can see, this modern version of Ma’Shar’s birth chart differs only very slightly from the chart he used in his texts. The Ascendant, Sun and Venus are in almost exactly the same ecliptical positions. There is about a one degree difference in the positions of Mars and Jupiter, and about a 2 degree difference in the position of Saturn.
If you wish to recreate this chart, in Janus software you can use the following ayanasma:
If you have Ben’s translation and would like to follow the discussion about distributions and lots on pages 135 – 136, here is the 1st house with the relevant Hermetic Lots inserted.
The values for these Lots are:
- Courage/Boldness (Mars) at 5 Taurus 00 in the terms of Venus.
- Victory/Success (Jupiter) at 11 Taurus 37 in the terms of Mercury.
- Necessity/Prudence/Reason (Mercury) at 19 Taurus 09 in the terms of Jupiter.
These values differ a bit from the ones in the original text because the position of the Moon differs by 1 degree 16 minutes of arc between the two charts, thus changing the calculation of Fortune and Spirit/Daemon by that amount. In addition, the positions of Mars and Jupiter differ by about a degree in the two charts, thus making about a 1 degree change in the values of Courage and Victory respectively.