Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Mirror That Does Not Reflect (2008)

                             The Mirror That Does Not Reflect:

           A Study of the Illustrations of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, a Unique
     Astrological Manuscript from the Republic of Georgia, in Relation to
             Their Source, the Almanacco Perpetuo of Ottavio Beltrano

                                       by Timothy P. Grove

                                            Final Project

                                               ISCL 873
                                 Sign, Symbol and Structure

                                                  Presented to

        Dr. Kevin D. Pittle, Ph.D.

    School of Intercultural Studies
     Biola University

                                                 10 July 2008

© 2008 by Timothy P. Grove, Biola University.  All images from the manuscript entitled Saet’lo Xiromant’ia (Q867) are the property of Xelnac’erta Erovnuli Cent’ri (National Centre of Manuscripts), Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia, and have been made available exclusively for personal academic study.  They may not be reproduced or disseminated in any form. [all images omitted for now]

Saet’lo Xiromant’ia is a unique astrological manuscript preserved at the National Centre of Manuscripts in Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia.  The manuscript comprises 126 quarto leaves, and dates to the early 18th century, according to the Centre’s catalogue of manuscripts (Brebadze et al. 1958:269).  The text is beautifully written in both black and red ink, using the Georgian cursive style of writing typical of the 18th century.  It contains numerous hand-drawn illustrations which successfully employ shading and characterization.  It is bound in leather, with a leather strip closed by a button to protect the book when not in use.  No title appears either on the binding or at the beginning of the text—the title Saet’lo Xiromant’ia ("zodiacal chiromancy") was assigned to the work by its cataloguers, and was apparently suggested by its first illustration (on page 10 verso), of a human hand with the principal lines used in palmistry labeled, along with their planetary assocations.  The book’s practical binding and evidence of water-damage suggest that Saet’lo Xiromant’ia was the professional manual carried by an itinerant astrologer.
            I first learned of the existence of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia in an article entitled “The Unknown History of Georgian Astronomy” (1999) by Dr. Irakli Simonia, a Georgian astrophysicist and archaeo-astronomer. Based on his description, this is an enigmatic and highly unusual book, the work of an anonymous author who assembled material from a wide variety of sources.  Although I had already obtained a copy of king Vakht’ang VI’s Kmnulebis Codnis C’igni (1721, “book of knowledge of creation”), I was very interested in obtaining another contemporary astrological text with which to compare it.  When I was in Tbilisi in August 2007, I attempted to get access to the manuscript, but the reading room at the Xelnac’erta Erovnuli Cent’ri (National Centre of Manuscripts) was closed for the month due to the hot, humid conditions.  However, I was fortunate in gaining the friendship of Dr. Buba Kudava, the director of the National Centre of Manuscripts.
As I learned from Dr. Simonia’s article, one of the more interesting features of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia is its cryptic reference to a western philosopher named “Belorano,” whom the author compares to Aristotle and praises in the highest terms—a person unknown to the annals of western science.  The manuscript also makes some enigmatic references to satellites of Venus and Mars which find no basis in the science of the time, but find an interesting parallel in a passage in Gulliver’s Travels (1726) where Swift notes that the inhabitants of Laputa, apparently by using reflecting telescopes, had discovered two satellites of Mars, and gives accurate details about their orbits and orbital periods—150 years before their discovery (1877) by Asaph Hall of the U.S. Naval Observatory (Simonia 1998).
After talking with Dr. Simonia, my thoughts kept returning to the name Belorano. Based on my knowledge of Italian, when I first saw the name spelled this way, I had a feeling that the correct reading must be "Beltrano,” and unconsciously, I started making that adjustment mentally.  However, I could find no record of any scientist, philosopher, or astronomer named Beltrano.  Finally, on 17 April 2008, I tried searching for this name on the internet, and discovered that one Ottavio Beltrano (fl. c1620-1671), a printer and bookseller who worked in Cosenza, Naples, Terranova, and Ancona, had produced a well-known almanac, the Almanacco Perpetuo, which went through as many as 45 editions during the 17th and 18th centuries.  Beltrano also wrote and published a Breve Descrittione del Regno di Napoli (1640), the last chapter of which was concerned with astrology and cabalism (Hinck & Wall, 2008).  When I learned about this, I was sure I was on the right track, and two days later (Saturday, 19 April 2008), I had the good fortune of finding a facsimile of the entire text of a 1754 Venetian edition of the Almanacco Perpetuo on the Italian “Laberinto Ermetico” website.  A comparison between this and the Georgian Saet’lo Xiromant’ia quickly confirmed that much of the text and most of the illustrations were derived from this Italian source.  
The earliest edition I can find of the Almanacco Perpetuo was printed at Naples by Ottavio Beltrano in 1639 (OCLC 2008); internal evidence (the horoscope described and illustrated on pages 154-156 of the 1754 edition) suggests a terminus post quem of 1635.  In fact, Beltrano’s Almanacco Perpetuo is an expansion of an earlier work, the Almanacco perpetuo di Rutillio Benincasa (1593).  Rutilio Benincasa (probably a pseudonym, 1555-1626?) published the earliest version of this almanac in 1593, and there were Venetian editions of 1612, 1613, and 1622 prior to the time when Beltrano assumed responsibility for it (OCLC 2008).  Beltrano’s Almanacco Perpetuo, “diviso in cinque parti,” is updated, “corrected,” and greatly expanded.  It is not only an astrological almanac, but contains Beltrano’s original treatises on such subjects as navigation, phrenology, physiognomy, medicine, mathematics, and lotto.  It thus presents a veritable treasury of popular lore and pseudo-science, offering a rare glimpse of the popular culture of 17th century Italy.  The Almanacco Perpetuo is best described as a piece of ephemeral literature—a handbook for hucksters, quacks, and wise women, a somewhat sinister Italian counterpart to Poor Richard.  The book is written in standard Italian (Florentine dialect), though features such as the consistent use of  the plural article “li” betray its southern origin.  As is often the case with Venetian printing, the Remondini edition of 1754 is strikingly bad—riddled with errors of every kind.  It will be necessary for me to locate earlier editions in order to assess the condition of the text which Beltrano actually transmitted.

Date of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia

            There are a number of indications as to the date of this manuscript.  For one thing, it refers to Beltrano in the past tense (beltrano iq’o), which appears to establish a terminus post quem of 1671. However, the series of eclipses described on pages 31r-35r, which I have conclusively dated to the years 1652-1664, are described in the future tense (dabneleba ikneba).The listing of countries on 48v includes Sakartvelo, K’akheti, and Imereti.  This presumably reflects a period of time when there were three Georgian kingdoms, prior to the union of Sakartvelo and K’akheti under Erekle II in 1762—which may thus be regarded as a terminus ante quem.  In addition, I have established that at one point the perpetual almanac section of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia was updated by 84 years.  This demonstrates that the book was in use for a century or more!

Place of Writing

            A number of circumstances suggest that Saet’lo Xiromant’ia originated in western Georgia.  The language of the manuscript contrasts markedly with the learned scientific language cultivated by king Vakht’ang VI in Kmnulebis Codnis C’igni.  It is generally easy to read and understand, and is characterized by the long case endings (-sa, -isa, -ita) typical of the more conservative western dialect.  Numerous archaic or regional forms occur, such as mtovare for mtvare (“moon”—though both forms appear side  by side on page 34r), kueq’ana for kveq’ana (“earth, world”), old forms for the numbers 11-19, e.g. atertmet’i for tertmet’i (“eleven”), meatormet’e for metormet’e (“twelfth”), and the Old Genitive in –ta (e.g. k’acta for k’acebis).  This linguistic evidence suggests that Saet’lo Xiromant’ia may have been written in Kutaisi (capital of the western kingdom of Imereti), or perhaps somewhere along the Black Sea—Poti, or perhaps Zugdidi, the seat of the princes of Samegrelo (Mingrelia).  
In addition, several passages point to the input of an Italian speaker, as on 36v, where the Latin world caelum is transcribed as chelum, or on 46v, where four parts of a diagram are labeled a, b, ch, d (where the Georgian convention would be a, b, g, d).  This may also point to the Black Sea coast, which was frequently visited by Italian merchants and missionaries.  The efforts of Roman Catholic missionaries had already resulted in the first printed book in the Georgian language, the Dittionario Giorgiano e Italiano (1629) compiled by Stefano Paolini and Nicephorus Irbach (Nikoloz Irubakidze-Cholokashvili) (Chikobava and Vateishvili 1983; Mikaberidze 2006).  Cholokashvili (1585-1658) had been sent on an embassy to Rome by Teimuraz I of K’akheti (eastern Georgia), who also welcomed the missionary Cristoforo De’ Castelli; De’ Castelli documented his work in Georgia (1627-1654) in a fascinating album of sketches (available online at  In 1628, Urban VIII entrusted the Theatines with the mission to Georgia, and they were joined by the Capuchins in 1661 (Catholic Encyclopedia).  During the first decades of the 18th century, Roman Catholic missionaries were also present in Tbilisi, where they educated prince Vakhushti (1696-1757), the son of king Vakht’ang VI, himself a secret convert to Catholicism (“Vakhushti,” 2008).

Authorship of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia

            There are very few clues as to the authorship of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia.  Dr. Simonia mentioned two theories which have been circulated.  For one thing, it has been suggested that the manuscript was written by king Vakh’tang VI, who was responsible for Kmnulebis Codnis C’igni (1721, translated from the Persian of ‘Ali Qushji) and left several other astronomical works in manuscript.  Simonia is dismissive of this suggestion, but suspects that Saet’lo Xiromant’ia was the work of a Georgian priest.  In any case, I think it probable that one of the Italian missionaries had a hand in the project.

Contents of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia

            It is sufficiently clear that Saet’lo Xiromant’ia is an eclectic text, a collection derived from a variety of sources besides the Almanacco Perpetuo (which appears to account for no more than 25% of the text).  The introductory section is very likely an original composition; it begins by quoting from the book of Job and has quite a bit to say about mirrors (sark’e) and about hell (jojoxeti).  There are two successive descriptions of the seven planets (3r-5r and 5r-9v).  The first set appears to be original, and contains some very strange material.  The second set is definitely drawn from some other source, since the top half of page 7r has been left blank, with a note in the margin:  zoharis ambavi ak’lda dedans (“description of Venus is missing from the original”).  The section on chiromancy may or may not be original, but is definitely not drawn from the Almanacco Perpetuo.  Certain sections in the middle of the book demonstrate a knowledge of recent scientific advances made in western Europe, as for example a discussion of the discoveries made by Galileo using a telescope; this material also appears to be original.  The later sections, which pertain to agriculture, appear to be adapted from the Almanacco Perpetuo, but I have not yet been able to confirm this. 
As Simonia observes, Saet’lo Xiromant’iacontains diverse types of information.  On the one hand the manuscript contains information that was modern for its time—e.g., information on telescopic observations by Galileo, on the sizes and shapes of the planets, and on the daily and annual motion of celestial bodies.  On the other hand the manuscript also includes detailed descriptions of Ptolemy's outmoded geocentric system” (1999: ¶44). 
            Saet’lo Xiromant’ia is thus a miscellany which is partly drawn from Beltrano’s Almanacco Perpetuo (1639)—itself a miscellany built around the Almanacco perpetuo di Rutilio Benincaso (1593).


            My approach to the study of this manuscript has been greatly influenced by the Structural Anthropology of Claude Lévi-Strauss (1963), particularly the chapter entitled “Do Dual Organizations Exist?”  I have sought to apply the principles of Lévi-Strauss by centering my initial study of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia not on its text, but on its illustrations.  In attempting to do a structural analysis of these illustrations, I have relied heavily on counting, classification, and left-right orientation, in an attempt to discover patterns, similarities, and differences.
In the sections which follow, I will analyze each of those illustrations from Saet’lo Xiromant’ia which has a clear parallel in Beltrano’s Almanacco Perpetuo.  For each illustration, I will use the following procedure:  first, I will carefully describe the illustration as it appears in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia.  Then, I will attempt to give an analysis or interpretation of the illustration, without reference to the Georgian text.  I will then compare this illustration to its counterpart in Beltrano, discussing the similarities and differences between the two.  Finally, where possible, I will present any insights about the illustration which arise from an examination of the accompanying Georgian text.


Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 10v

Almanacco Perpetuo, p. 221                                                Almanacco Perpetuo, p. 232

Almanacco Perpetuo, p. 236                                                Almanacco Perpetuo, p. 29

1.  Diagram of a hand (10v)


This is an illustration of a person’s right hand, with a shirt-cuff visible.  The hand is drawn realistically, with effective use of shading, although the fingers seem unusually long.  This is clearly a palmistry diagram, since the various lines on the palm of the hand are clearly indicated.  Eight specific regions on the palm have been labeled, including the montes at the base of each of the four fingers.  In addition, a number of marks have been drawn on the hand, in the form of crosses and what appear to be individual tally-marks. A few of them are more complex:  crosses with an additional line added to create a five-pointed figure (2 examples), and one cross bisected by an additional line to create what looks like an asterisk.  The fingertips are marked also:  the tips of the ring and little fingers with three dots; the tip of the middle finger with two tally-marks; the tip of the index finger with two dots.  There are also 12 dots on the palm of the hand, near the base of the thumb.


I would interpret this illustration as a simple presentation of the elementary principles of palmistry, except for the presence of these mysterious lines, dots, crosses, and stars.  What do they mean?  I can think of two possible interpretations:  either they are some kind of numerical notation (maybe an attempt to transpose a specific horoscope onto the palm of the hand—eminently possible to do since horoscopic astrology and chiromancy share the same planetary principles); or they may be a way of recording specific small features found on the palm of the hand (in which case we may have the same process working in the other direction—a horoscope erected to reflect the specific features of a specific human hand).  I know very little about palmistry, and further study may well elucidate this problem.  I should note that the title assigned to this manuscript, Saet’lo Xiromant’ia (“zodiacal chiromancy”), is probably descriptive of this illustration (which is the first one to appear).

Comparison to Beltrano’s Almanacco Perpetuo 

Beltrano provides no exact parallel to this illustration. However, there are no fewer than four illustrations of a human hand to be found in that work, as follows:

            p. 221:  illustration of a right hand with shirt-cuff visible.  The thumb, middle, and little fingers are extended.  All three of these are marked with the number “31”.  The index and ring fingers are closed (turned down), and these are marked with the number “30”.  The accompanying text explains that this is a way of determining the number of days in each month (starting with March and counting the thumb and little finger twice when reversing direction, “30” also being used to indicate the short month of February).

            p. 232:  illustration of a left hand with an ornate shirt-cuff.  The fingers and thumb are closed, and the numbers “19. 9. 29” are printed along the thumb.  The accompanying text and table make it clear that this illustrates the use of the “golden number” (aureus numerus) associated with each year of the 19-year Metonic cycle, again using the joints of the hand as a mnemonic device.

            p. 236:  illustration of a left hand with shirt-cuff visible; the fingers are extended so that each one has six joints (but a shadow intervenes between the first four joints and the final two joints, perhaps suggesting another hand with another set of fingers held behind the first set).  Each row of joints is marked with a letter (A, B, C, D, E, F, G), and each joint is distinguished by a separate number as well (from 1 to 29, with one further number which I cannot identify).  The number 23 appears not on the fingers, but at the base of the index finger (the mons Jovis), along with the Jupiter glyph.  The remaining montes are also marked with their respective planetary glyphs:  Saturn at the base of the middle finger, the Sun at the base of the ring finger, and Mercury at the base of the little finger.  The base of the thumb (mons Veneris) is marked with the Venus glyph, the palm of the hand with the Mars glyph, and the heel of the hand with what appears to be another Sun with rays, but which closer inspection reveals to be a crescent Moon.  A sprig of leaves and flowers is attached to the thumb by means of a string (I have no idea what this means).  The accompanying text explains how to use the hand as a mnemonic to calculate the dates of the “movable feasts” (Septuagessima, Quadragessima, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, and Corpus Christi, using the “dominical letter” assigned to each year).

p. 292:  illustration of a left hand with shirt-cuff visible; a dark line passes under the thumb, crosses the first three fingers, then passes between the ring and little fingers.  Directly above the hand appears an image of the sun (solemn face surrounded by 12 rays).  Numbers are printed on the page as follows:  at the end of the index finger, “24 12”, at the end of the middle finger, “3 1”, at the end of the ring finger, “24 14”, at the end of the little finger, “2 15”; below the fingers two rows of numbers are found:  “18 17 16” (top row) and “19 17” (bottom row).  The accompanying text makes it clear that this illustrates a method of using one’s fingers to estimate the hour of the day, based on the angle of the Sun.

            There is thus no strong parallel between the hand illustrations in the two works.  While those in the Almanacco Perpetuo demonstrate how to use the hand as a mnemonic and as a time-telling device, the one in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia is clearly concerned with palmistry.  The closest parallel is to the illustration on page 236 of Beltrano, where the seven planets associated with the chiromantic montes are indicated; it is interesting that these are supplied gratuitously—they have nothing whatever to do with the calculation of the dates of the festa mobilia!

Insights provided by the Georgian text 

The nine labels written on the diagram read as follows:

Base of little finger:                        mzis mta (mountain of the Sun)
Base of ring finger:                        ot’aridis mta (mountain of Mercury)
Base of middle finger:                        zohalis mta (mountain of Saturn)
Base of index finger:                        mushtaris mta (mountain of Jupiter)
Base of thumb:                        zoharis mta (mountain of Venus)
Joint of thumb:                        ceris (mk’iduloba?) (X of thumb)
Palm of hand:                                    marexis mindori (plain of Mars)
Heel of hand:                                    mtvaris mindori (plain of the Moon)
(near base of thumb):                        sicocxlis xazi (line of life)

There is nothing surprising here, except to note that the Georgian writer has reversed and improperly labeled the first two:  in palmistry, the base of the little finger is properly designated mons Mercurii, while the base of the ring finger is mons Apollonis (“mountain of Apollo,” which is associated with the Sun).  Such an error might be attributed to the writer’s ineptitude or lack of familiarity with the subject matter.  However, it is the first of many striking errors of this kind, as we shall see; errors of such grossness and frequency as to appear deliberate!  For reference, a well-known (and more accurate) representation of the hand and its planetary associations is reproduced below (from Agrippa’s De Occulta Philosophia).
            Finally, it must be noted that the succeeding pages (11v-12r) embody a detailed explanation of the hand-diagram.  Although I have not yet had a chance to go over this passage in detail, I have noted that the text contains the same hatchmarks, crosses, and crows’ feet which appear in the illustration.  A careful reading of that passage will no doubt elucidate this mysterious diagram.

hand diagram from Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim, De Occulta Philosophia Libri iii
2.  Diagram of a lunar eclipse (30r)

Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 30r                                                            Almanacco Perpetuo, p. 58


This illustration obviously represents either a solar or lunar eclipse (depending upon the identification of the circle in the center of the diagram—does it represent the earth or the moon?).  It is very interesting that the Sun is portrayed with two faces—one facing toward the center and one facing away from the center.  The one facing away is smiling, lacks a nose, and the eyes are closed.  The one facing inward is not smiling, has a nose, and the eyes are open.  These faces are drawn in black ink, while the sun’s rays, which resemble a lion’s mane, are drawn in red ink.  Two straight lines have been constructed, tangent to these circles to create a cone, and the part of it extending beyond the central circle is shaded in.  To the left and right of this cone, opposite the sun, are two small black circles.  Three straight red lines divide the diagram into six parts, with a thick red line passing across the center and two thinner diagonal lines crossing it at a 60º angle, dividing it into six 60º segments.  The central circle is also bisected by a thick red line perpendicular to the horizontal line.  This results in a division of the circle into eight unequal segments (60º, 30º, 30º, 60º, 60º, 30º, 30º, 60º).  An examination of this central circle reveals that the draftsmanship is inexact—the diagonals intersect somewhat to the right of where the horizontal and vertical lines intersect, and the lines which form the cone are tangent to the circle on the right, but cut across it on the left side.  At a distance from the center there are five circles; the two outer ones, as well as the fourth one in, are drawn in red ink and are concentric with the center of the diagram; the third and fifth circles (counting from the outside) are drawn in black ink and are centered slightly to the right and left of the center of the diagram.  The three innermost circles pass through the small circles to the right and left of the cone, and they also divide the sun into its two faces.  The center points of the two small black circles lie along these two larger black circles.


The shaded part of the cone is obviously the shadow cast by the central body.  The two circles to left and right of shadow must be pre-eclipse and post-eclipse lunar (or earth) positions.  Since they are smaller than the central body, it would be logical to conclude that they represent lunar positions, so that this diagram represents an eclipse of the moon.  The eccentricity of the larger circles along which they are centered also supports this idea, since they may suggest the moon’s elliptical orbit around the earth.  The most interesting feature of this diagram is the two faces of the Sun—the one facing inward conscious and dynamic while the one facing outward appears to be asleep.  This sun with two faces is completely inexplicable to me.

Comparison to Beltrano’s Almanacco Perpetuo

On page 58, a comparable but much simpler diagram is found—there is a central sphere with shading, which, like the diagram in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, could be taken to represent either the earth or the moon.  The sun appears at the top (reversing the arrangement seen in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia), and is depicted with a face and rays.  At the bottom of the diagram there is a strange shaded crescent shape (points inward), with three concentric arcs in the middle forming three bands like those of a rainbow; the inner and outer of these are shaded in.  These could be taken to represent the moon (from the crescent shape), or they could be a crude representation of a human eye.  The most interesting feature of Beltrano’s diagram is the lines which connect these bodies:  First, the central disk is divided evenly into three parts (segments of 120º).  Then, four lines extend from the Sun’s mouth to the center of this disk and to the extremities of the three lines which trisect it.  From these points, four lines are extended downward, where all four converge at the center of the innermost arc of the figure at the bottom of the page.  The accompanying text contains the following statement:  “L’ecclisse del sole:  il Corpo Lunare s’interpone tra l’aspetto nostro, e il Corpo Solare”—so clearly “l’aspetto nostro” is represented by a human eye, and Beltrano’s diagram (though not necessarily its counterpart in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia) represents a solar eclipse, not a lunar eclipse.  There is nevertheless no question that the two diagrams are parallel, since what follows next in both Saet’lo Xiromant’ia and Almanacco Perpetuo is a set of illustrations depicting a series of lunar eclipses.

Insights provided by the Georgian text 

The heading at the top of page 30r reads tavi meatormet’e mzisa da mtovaris dabnelebisa [“chapter 12, of the eclipses of the sun and moon”], and below the diagram the chapter begins as follows:  beltrano munajibi iq’o erti vinme aseti mecnieri rome chuns dros amistana mecnieri da gonieri ar gamosula tu es arist’ot’elis dros q’opiliq’o imasac ars axsenebda da aman q’ovltatvin ase gvarad gaadvila es varsk’ulavt mricxveloba tu romels c’elic’ads romels tveshi romels k’virashi romels dgheshi romels zhamshi romels burjze romels nac’ilshi dabneldeba mze anu mtovare gvauc’q’ebs ["The astrologer Belorano was a scientist who for wisdom has no equal in our times.  Had he lived at the time of Aristotle, then the latter would have paled before him, and this (man) greatly simplified astrology; he could determine in which year, in which month, in which week, on what day, in which degree, in what constellation, and in what minute eclipses of the Sun and Moon would take place."]  While highly interesting, this passage does not reveal whether our diagram represents a solar or a lunar eclipse; the remainder of the chapter explains the reasons why both solar and lunar eclipses occur, but sheds no further light on the diagram.  I suspect that the diagram in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia is intended to represent a lunar eclipse, not a solar eclipse as in Beltrano’s Almanacco Perpetuo.

Additional possibilities 

Why is this diagram particularly associated with Beltrano, and why does it differ so markedly from its counterpart in the Almanacco Perpetuo?  The extravagant praise of “the astrologer Beltrano” (which, of course has no counterpart in the Italian text) may simply function as an introduction to the series of eclipses which follow, since these are clearly extracted from Beltrano’s almanac.  The passage is very curious.  Ottavio Beltrano (fl. c1620-1671, Naples) worked primarily as a printer.  He produced only two original works:  his additions to the almanac of Rutilio Benincasa (1593) which resulted in the Almanacco Perpetuo (1639), and his Descrittione del Regno di Napoli (1640).  From a western European point of view, Beltrano remains an obscure personage, little more than a footnote to the history of Italian literature or western science.  From what little can be said about him, it is interesting to note that he apparently had an interest in occult subjects:  not only do his contributions to the Almanacco Perpetuo include sections on astrological phrenology and physiognomy, but also, the twelfth and final chapter of the Descrittione del Regno di Napoli is devoted to witchcraft and cabbalism (Hinck & Wall, 2008).  An examination of the Descrittione will probably yield important insights for the present project.
After careful examination, “Beltrano’s Diagram” (if we may so designate it) in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia remains enigmatic:  the solar eclipse in the Almanacco Perpetuo has seemingly been transformed into a lunar eclipse. One moon has become two moons, with two separate orbits.  The sun has shifted from top to bottom, and now has two faces, one awake and one asleep. I would like to add one more curious observation:  as we have noted, the two-faced Sun is surrounded by red rays; however, closer inspection reveals that gold ink has been used to extend these rays further outward.  These golden rays overlap two words of the text concerning Beltrano:  iq’o erti (lit. “he was one”).  It is possible that some deep mystery is concealed here.  I keep returning to the binary structure—two moons, two orbits, two faces, the dark horizontal line which divides the illustration in half, and of course the celestial opposition implied by the eclipse itself.             One way of encoding a message is through the divergences between two texts.  For example, if I write THNAK YOU, I have suggested a binary comparison between THNAK (an incorrect spelling) and THANK (the correct spelling); and in doing so I have drawn attention to the word “thank,” and specifically to the letters A and N (in either order).  The message I am encrypting thus becomes the mediating third between two texts.  The writer of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia may possibly be doing something of this kind, inviting a careful comparison between “Beltrano’s Diagram” and its counterpart in the printed Italian source.  It may be that these books are the repository of a secret which is revealed only when they are laid out side by side. 
Both of these diagrams invite detailed geometric analysis, and both have curious and inexplicable features.  In the Almanacco Perpetuo, for example, why is the lunar disk trisected, and why do the four rays emanate from the sun’s mouth?  I think this is a promising line of inquiry, and intend to pursue it further, as time allows.

3.  Illustrations of a series of lunar eclipses (31r-35r)

Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 31r

                                                                        Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 31v-32r


     Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 32v-33r                                    Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 33v-34r


            Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 34v-35r

Almanacco Perpetuo, p. 59                                                Almanacco Perpetuo, p. 60

Almanacco Perpetuo, p. 61                    Almanacco Perpetuo, p. 62                         Almanacco Perpetuo, p. 63

Almanacco Perpetuo, p. 64


            When I first saw these pages, I was awed by their calm beauty—the dark parts of the lunar faces are hatched with dark blue ink, while the bright parts are illuminated with a wash of shell gold ink.  The 20 moons are mostly drawn along the left margin of the pages, surrounded by text.  Only one of them (32r) is drawn inside the right margin.  In each case, the moons on the other side of the sheet are dimly visible through the page.  These illustrations are each about the size of a nickel.  Though probably intended to be all alike, the illustrator has indulged his whimsy in drawing the faces to suggest a variety of droll characters.  Of the 20 moons which appear in this series, four are completely dark, while the others are shaded to varying degrees, always beginning from the bottom of the face.  It is interesting to note that the first moon of the series (31r) has a dark double line  extending from its left eye to its lower left cheek—is this intended to suggest a face stained with tears?


            These are obviously depictions either of lunar phases or lunar eclipses.  We may readily discard the former possibility, since neither full nor half moons appear, and the shading is from bottom to top, not right to left.  The question is, assuming they are depicted in order, when did these eclipses occur, and over how long a span of time?  It might be possible to determine this by estimating the totality of the eclipse for each drawing in the series, then checking this list against a table of historical eclipses (beginning with the 17th and 18th centuries).  But I won’t do that for now, since the text may provide a short-cut!

Comparison to Beltrano’s Almanacco Perpetuo

            Beltrano’s illustrations are crude by comparison, but still have a subtle and mysterious appeal.  There are 15 lunar disks, without faces.  They appear in a similar arrangement along the left margin, interspersed with text.  Of these 15, two are completely dark.  The rest are partial eclipses—nine of them with shading beginning from the bottom, and (strangely enough), four of them, associated with the years 1665, 1666, 1667, and 1669, with shading beginning from the top!  The Italian text takes no notice of this distinction, and I will have to look into this, both in terms of the actual eclipses of the years 1665 to 1674 and in terms of the iconography of eclipses.  The Italian text clearly explains that these illustrations depict a series of eclipses visible in Europe during the years 1665-1674.  But very strangely, the text begins with the eclipses of the years 1670, 1671, 1672, 1673, and 1674—but then the series continues with the eclipses of 1665 (two conflicting series for that year appearing one after the other; a series of eclipses for 1665 appears on p. 61, while p. 62 continues with a different series of eclipses for 1665, immediately followed by the series for 1666), 1666, 1667, 1668, and 1669.  This does not appear to be a binding error, unless the page numbers (at the top of each page) and reading aids (at the foot of each page) were somehow added later in the process.  This does not remove the possibility that there was an error in the collation of the pages delivered to the printer.  This question is complicated by the fact that the earliest known version of this work was the almanac of Rutilio Benincaso (1593); later, it was revised and greatly expanded by Ottavio Beltrano (fl. 1620-1660).  It was again reworked (by Beltrano or someone else) to create the 1670-1674/1665-1669 series we have here, which has been retained even in this edition of 1754.  There is no way of knowing at what point in this process the two halves of the series were reversed, or how far this feature persisted through the almanac’s history of transmission.
It is interesting how the eclipses on the other side of the page can be seen in reverse—apparently the ink has bled through.  By this reckoning, there are in all 30 eclipses (15 eclipses and 15 “ghosts,” mirror-images of the eclipses on the other side of the page); there is a hole in page 61, and now we are looking out into yet another space!  On page 61 there appears even a ghost of a ghost:  the total eclipse of 1673 (on the facing page) is dimly seen.

Almanacco Perpetuo, p. 61 (whole page, showing “ghosts”)
Insights provided by the Georgian text

            The Georgian text follows the pattern found in the Almanacco Perpetuo, describing a series of eclipses spread over a period of years.  The years, each of which contain anywhere from one to four eclipses, are indicated by a system of numerical notation which employs Georgian letters to represent numbers.  However, this system differs from the one in common use, and I have so far been unable to find any parallel or any explanation of it.  Each year is indicated by the abbreviation KK’SA, followed by a two or three letter sequence.  My best guess is that KK’SA may be an abbreviation for kveq’anisa (“of the world”—though I can’t explain why K’ would be substituted for Q’).  The phrase could then be interpreted to mean “anno mundi”; but the numbers which follow don’t appear to correspond to any commonly used system of dating, anno mundi or otherwise.  For example, the numbers listed here (from T’M to T’NG) would normally be taken to represent the numbers 340 through 353.  Whatever they mean, I will tabulate the years below, along with the eclipses listed for each:

pages                        year-number            type of eclipse                        date                                      time

31r-31v            T’M                        lunar                                    24 Mar.                          9:15           
                                                solar                                    7 Apr.                                      6:50
                                                lunar                                    17 Sep.                        10:19

                        [no parallel in Almanacco Perpetuo]

31v                        T’MA                        lunar                                    13 Mar.                          9:12

                        [no parallel in A.P.]

31v-32r            T’MB                         lunar                                    2 Mar.                                    11:58
                                                solar                                    12 Aug.                        (uncertain)
                                                lunar                                    27 Aug.                          4:24

                        [no parallel in A.P.]

pages                        year-number            type of eclipse                        date                                      time

32r-32v            T’MG                        solar                                    6 Feb.                                    20:37
                                                (3 others, not visible)

                        [corresponds to the year 1665 (second version, A.P., p. 62), but the
time is given as 10:37]

32v                        T’MD                        lunar                                    11 Jan.                                      3:26
                                                solar                                    26 Jan.                                    20:31

                        [corresponds to the year 1666 (A.P., p. 62), but the time of the
lunar eclipse is given as 23:16]

32v-33r            T’ME                        lunar                                    25 Jun.                                    10:28
                                                lunar                                    20 Dec.                          2:10
                                                (2 others, not visible)

                        [corresponds to the year 1667 (A.P., p. 63), but the time of the
lunar eclipse is given as 0:28]

33r                        T’MV                        solar                                    31 May                        15:45
                                                lunar                                    14 Jun.                                    22:58
                                                lunar                                    9 Nov.                                    (around noon)
                                                solar                                    24 Nov.                        (mid-morning)

                        [corresponds to the year 1668 (A.P., p. 63), but the time of the first
                        solar eclipse is given as 24:42, the date of the first lunar eclipse as
                        15 June, while the second solar eclipse is said to have occurred “around                                    midnight”]

33r-33v            T’MZ                        lunar                                    6 May                                    23:[  ]
                                                solar                                    21 May                        -----
                                                lunar                                    29 Oct.                                      7:04
                                                solar                                    14 Nov.                        23:41

                        [corresponds to the year 1669 (A.P., p. 63-64), but the date of the first
                        lunar eclipse is given as 26 May (obviously an error) at 14:11, the date
                        of the first solar eclipse as 20 May at 16:46, and the date of the second
                        solar eclipse as 13 November at 3:34 PM]

pages                        year-number            type of eclipse                        date                                      time

33v                        T’MEy                        lunar                                    21 Apr.                        22:15
                                                solar                                    3 Oct.                                    22:34
                                                lunar                                    18 Oct.                                    -----
                                                solar                                    2 Nov.                                    19:48

                        [corresponds to the year 1670 (A.P., p. 59), but the date of the first
                        lunar eclipse is given as 24 April, that of the first solar eclipse as
                        2 October, the time of the second lunar eclipse as 0:52 PM, and that
                        of the second solar eclipse as 13:48]

34r                        T’MT                        solar                                    30 Mar.                        1:[   ]
                                                lunar                                    14 Apr.                        [  ]:28
                                                solar                                    23 Sep.                        18:53
                                                lunar                                    7 Oct.                                      7:48

                        [corresponds to the year 1671 (A.P., p. 59), but the time of the first
solar eclipse is given as 0:02 AM, and that of the first lunar eclipse as

34r                        T’N                        solar                                    19 Mar.                        -----
                                                solar                                    12 Sep.                        -----

                        [corresponds to the year 1672 (A.P., p. 60), but the dates of the two
                        eclipses are given as 9 March and 21 September]

34v                        T’NA                        lunar                                    21 Feb.                          9:47
                                                solar                                    19 Mar.                          5:47
                                                lunar                                    28 Aug.                          -----
                                                solar                                    1 Sep.                                      8:08

                        [corresponds to the year 1673 (A.P., p. 60), where the time given for
                        the second lunar eclipse is 0:00 (midnight)]

34v-35r            T’NB                        lunar                                    11 Feb.                        (during the day)
                                                lunar                                    12 Jul.                                    12:48
                                                lunar                                    6 Aug.                                    23:18

                        [corresponds to the year 1674 (A.P., p. 60), but the time of the first
                        eclipse is given as 5:17 PM, that of the second eclipse as 14:48, and
                        the date of the third eclipse as 16 August]

pages                        year-number            type of eclipse                        date                                      time

35r                        T’NG                        solar                                    15 Jan.                                    20:07
                                                lunar                                    30 Jan.                                    18:47
                                                solar                                    12 Jul.                                      7:48
                                                lunar                                    26 Jul.                                    18:49

                        [corresponds to the year 1665 (first version, A.P., p. 61), but the time
                        of the first solar eclipse is given as 8:08 PM]

            The preceding tabulation demonstrates that the first three years of eclipses in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia (years T’M, T’MA, T’MB) have no counterpart in the Almanacco Perpetuo.  The next five years (T’MG, T’MD, T’ME, T’MV, T’MZ) correspond exactly (except for numerous small discrepancies in the numbers which may be attributable to carelessness) to pages 62-64 of Almanacco Perpetuo, which cover the years 1665-1669.  The next five years (T’MEy, T’MT, T’N, T’NA, T’NB) correspond exactly to pages 59-60 of Almanacco Perpetuo, which cover the years 1670-1674.  The last year in Saet’lo
Xiromant’ia (T’NG) corresponds exactly to page 61 of Almanacco Perpetuo, which presents an alternate series of eclipses for the year 1665.
            The eclipse dates and times given in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia can only be accurate if the numerical notation given in the Georgian text refers to the same years (1665-1674) covered by the Almanacco Perpetuo.  However, in the Georgian text, the beginning of a new decade (T’N) corresponds to the year 1672 in the Almanacco Perpetuo, so obviously the Georgian writer is following a different calendar.  Moreover, it is interesting to note that the years T’MG and T’NG (a decade apart) correspond to the two versions of the eclipses of 1665 which appear in the Almanacco Perpetuo.
            In any case, since this section of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia translates the Italian text almost verbatim, we might expect the first three years (T’M, T’MA, T’MB) to cover the eclipses of 1662, 1663, and 1664 (not covered by the Almanacco Perpetuo).
Unfortunately, a comparison of the eclipses listed in the Almanacco Perpetuo with the canon of historical eclipses found on the NASA website reveals that they are grossly in error.  I was able to identify the series of eclipses described, and they are in fact the eclipses of the years 1655 through 1665 (Espenak and Meeus 2007; Espenak 2003).  Thus, the years given in the Almanacco Perpetuo (1665-1674) are exactly ten years off, with the exception of 1665 (first version, p. 61), which happens to be correct.  I also identified the series listed for the years T’M, T’MA, and T’MB in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia; these correspond to the eclipses of 1652, 1653, and 1654, and so really do cover the three years preceding the Almanacco Perpetuo series.
This raises some interesting questions:  was the writer of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia simply following an earlier edition of Almanacco Perpetuo which included those three years?  Or is this an independent contribution?  In that case, Saet’lo Xiromant’ia would have to be assigned to a much earlier date (17th century, not early 18th century as the Georgian cataloguers suggest).
The Georgian writer of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia has reassembled the data given in the Almanacco Perpetuo in such a way that the eleven years of eclipses are given in their proper order—a significant improvement on the Italian source.  In both cases, however, we are examining the transmission of an old, highly technical text, to which any modifications would prove disastrous.  Why the ten-year discrepancy between the actual eclipse data and the years printed in the Almanacco Perpetuo?  My best guess is that the almanac, in the form it had around 1660, was about to go out of date (since the eclipses it listed were those of  1655-1665).  It appears that some scoundrel has “updated” the eclipse section of the almanac by simply advancing the date by ten years, without modifications to the data—the obvious motivation being to sell more almanacs!            Returning to the question of dating, if we work back from 1665 (the last year in the series as it appears in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia and the one and only year which is designated correctly in the Almanacco Perpetuo), we will deduct the value T’NG (353) to obtain a result of 1312 A.D.  This, however, does not correspond to any calendrical or regnal era as far as I know, and is not a particularly remarkable year in the history of the Caucasus (although the Mongols were expelled from Tbilisi two years before that, in 1310).  For now, the question must remain open—but there are still several other possible lines of attack.
In any case, since the fraudulent “update” of the Almanacco Perpetuo appears to have been perpetrated around 1660, and since the text of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia accurately presents the eclipses of 1652-1665 in their original order (which presumably pre-dated that revision), we may cautiously conclude that the writer of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia was using a pre-1660 edition of the Almanacco Perpetuo, and may possibly have originated at that much earlier date.

4.  Geocentric Cosmogram (36v)


            Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 36v

            Almanacco Perpetuo, p. 452


            Here we see a typical geocentric cosmogram, representing the “Ptolemaic Universe,” in the form of 13 concentric circles, creating 12 concentric bands.  These are all drawn in black ink.  The central circle must represent the earth; the next two bands are empty but bear labels.  The next seven bands are marked with the glyphs representing the seven planets, listed in their Chaldaean order:  the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.  The tenth band contains 31 stars, drawn in black ink.  Most of the stars have eight points, though a few have six, seven, or nine.  If space had not been reserved for the purpose of labeling the planetary spheres, there would have been room for exactly 34 stars.  The two outermost bands (the eleventh and twelfth) are also empty, though they have labels.  Labels also appear in the four corners of the square which surrounds all these circles.  All the labels on this chart are written in red ink.


            This is obviously a common sort of representation, of which numerous examples can be found in both European and Islamic sources. Examples of metal cosmograms have been found in Georgia dating back to prehistoric times, usually fashioned in bronze.  The

silver cosmogram from Kolkheti, 3rd century B.C. (Simonia, 2003).

example illustrated here is made of silver, and was found in Kolkheti (western Georgia).  Although it dates from the third century B.C., it depicts not twelve constellations, but four animals (a deer, a lion, an ass, and a pig).  These are perhaps the proto-constellations of a much earlier time.  The central boss may represent the celestial north pole, while the one star depicted may represent one of the circumpolar stars (in the interpretation of Irakli Simonia), or some other star or planet.  There are 18 raised wedges surrounding the central circle, which, along with the intervening spaces, divide the circle into 36 segments.  It would be tempting to associate these with the 36 decanates (10º subdivisions of the zodiac). Repeated counting and measuring suggests that the narrow circle, which separates the scalloped pattern from the animals, is made up of 120 tiny beads (however, I know of no astrological division of the heavens into 3º segments).  Nevertheless, if I have measured and counted correctly, it appears that each of the four 90º quadrants (corresponding to the four animals) could be subdivided into 9 segments and 30 sub-segments.  It is of course perilous to superimpose later astrological ideas on this very early artifact—but the numbers are quite suggestive!  While not directly relevant to the diagram we are discussing, this silver cosomogram demonstrates the existence of indigenous astrological traditions in the Caucasus at a very early date.
            The most striking feature of the diagram on page 36v of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia is the bold vertical line which connects the outermost (thirteenth) circle to the (third) circle, which passes below the moon glyph.  The planetary glyphs are all drawn just to the left of this line, and all their labels begin just to the right of it.
            The two innermost bands must represent sublunar levels, perhaps the sea and the sky.  The two outermost bands likewise must represent outer levels of the heavens which extend beyond the planetary spheres.  The 31 stars are exceedingly interesting.  Did this number arise by chance, or does it signify something?  It may refer to the 31 days of a common month—as in the Voynich manuscript, where each of the 360 degrees of the zodiac is represented by a unique star, each star corresponds more or less to one day.  Another possibility is that it refers to the 31 stars of Draco (as enumerated in Ptolemy’s Almagest).  It has been suggested that an understanding of the astrological significance of the stars of Draco is the key to an esoteric astrological system.  This may seem far-fetched, but is an important astrological idea which at least needs to be mentioned.  It is also interesting that three invisible stars are implied by the space taken up by the written labels which identify each of the planetary spheres.  I can think of no particular reason for 34 stars, or for a juxtaposition of 31 (visible) and three (invisible) stars.  If the horizontal line is taken as a divider between what is seen (to the left of it) and what is unseen (to the right of it), then one possible implication is that the seven planets arrayed to the left of the line have seven invisible counterparts to the right of the line.  The idea of hypothetical (unseen) planets appears to go back to pre-Islamic Persian (i.e. magian) astrology.  Finally, the line begins at the edge of the outermost sphere, but ends at the bottom of the lunar sphere, suggesting a sharp contrast between the heavenly spheres and the sublunary world.

Comparison to Beltrano’s Almanacco Perpetuo

            The illustration on page 452 of the Almanacco Perpetuo has numerous resemblances to the one in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia.  The innermost circle is divided by three horizontal lines (which probably represent the equator, artic circle, and Antarctic circle), to create four zones.  The zone south of the equator is bisected by a vertical line, and three wavy lines run from the left of this line to the left limb of the earth’s disk.  These wavy lines may suggest a river, but I cannot explain it.  The next band, which surrounds the earth, is shaded in, except that a white wavy line (resembling a sine-curve with 19 peaks) divides it into two zones (19, incidentally, is the square root of 361 and thus very close to being the square root of 360, a fact which may well explain why the Sun’s exaltation degree falls at 19º of Aries, and why the “lesser years” of the Sun are 19).  I assume that these represent the spheres of water and air.  The next band, just below that of the moon, is occupied by 35 tongues of flame, which must represent the sphere of fire.  The spheres of the seven planets are marked with their respective glyphs, in the Chaldaean order as in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia.  There are no labels, and no vertical line cutting through the circles—the row of planetary glyphs occupies that position, bisecting the upper hemisphere of the circles. As in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, the sphere beyond that of Saturn is occupied by stars, but in this case there are 24 of them.  Most have eight points, though the number varies from seven to nine, or even ten in one case.  The 24 stars correspond (two stars per sign) to the twelve signs of the zodiac, which are marked along the outermost band.  This band is divided into twelve equal segments, with a zodiacal glyph marked on each one.  The arrangement of the signs is a very common one, with the first degree of Aries on the ascendant (on the left), and the other signs succeeding it in a counterclockwise direction, ending with Pisces, which occupies the twelfth house, just above the eastern horizon.  Notice that the outermost band seen in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia does not appear here.  No labels appear on this diagram.

Insights provided by the Georgian text
            The diagram in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia is labeled as follows:  the central circle (representing the earth) bears both a horizontal label, which reads c’q’ali (“water”), and a vertical label, which reads kueq’ana (“earth”).  The next two bands are labeled haeri (“air) and cecxli (“fire”).  Then, in order, the seven planetary spheres are labeled mtvaris ca (“heaven of the Moon”), ot’aridis ca (“heaven of Mercury”), zoharas ca (“heaven of Venus”), mzis ca (“heaven of the Sun), marexis ca (“heaven of Mars”), mushtaris ca (“heaven of Jupiter”), and zohalis ca (“heaven of Saturn”).  The sphere of the 31 stars is labeled damt’vicebuli ca (“fixed heaven”).  The next sphere is labeled meore damdzvreli (“second movable”), and the outermost is labeled p’irveli damdzvreli (“first movable”). Finally, the four labels appearing in the four corners of the diagram comprise a sentence, beginning in the northeast quadrant and reading clockwise, ending in the northwest quadrant.  This sentence reads as follows:  chelum . . . emp’ireum . . . romel ars . . . samotxe (“empyrean heaven, which is Paradise”).  Notice how the spelling of the Latin word coelum reveals an underlying Italianate pronunciation—this is an important clue!  It reveals that the writer of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia was not only consulting an Italian source, but was in actual contact with Italian speakers.
The creator of this diagram seems to be inviting us to begin at the midheaven, counting the houses clockwise—the reverse of usual astrological practice, which counts them counterclockwise, beginning from the ascendant.  In this way, the third (northeast) quadrant becomes the first; the second (southeast) remains the second, the first (southwest) quadrant becomes the third, and the fourth (northwest) remains the fourth.  It is very interesting that the label in that corner reads simply samotxe (“paradise”).  This contrasts with the western convention, by which the fourth quadrant has a somewhat sinister reputation.


Christopher Cattan, The Geomancie of Maister Christopher Cattan, Gentleman, London, 1591. “From the continents of Earth through the planets to the Firmament of Stars and to the Crystaline and First Moveable heaven to the Band of the Blessed Elect.”

For comparison, I have included here a sixteenth-century English cosmogram which appears in The Geomancie of Maister Christopher Cattan, Gentleman (1591).  Here, the earth is depicted with continents and is labeled “EAR”.  The spheres of the seven planets are both numbered and labeled, while in the lower hemisphere, the planetary glyphs are entered as well—but incorrectly, with the Sun glyph omitted from the series and an eight-pointed star inserted in the sphere after that of Saturn!  The sphere of the fixed stars is marked off into the twelve signs of the zodiac, this time with the first degree of Aries at mid-heaven, and the first degree of Cancer on the ascendant.  The glyph for each sign is preceded by three eight-pointed stars, except in the case of Capricorn and Aquarius (the signs ruled by Saturn and missing from the Voynich manuscript), where the stars follow the glyph; and in the case of Gemini, where the stars have been omitted entirely to make room for the word “FIRMA-MENT”.  There are thus 34 stars in the diagram, the same as there would be in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia if the labels had been omitted.  The two outer spheres are labeled “CRISTALINE HEAVEN” and “THE FIRST MOVEABLE”, while the circumference, just as in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, bears a four-part sentence, beginning in the northwest quadrant and reading clockwise:  “THE IMPERIAL HEAVEN . . . THE HABITACLE OF GOD . . . AND OF ALL HIS

5.  Marginal drawings of the Sun, Venus, and Mercury (37r)


Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 37r (margin)


            Here, greatly magnified, are the representations of the Sun, Venus, and Mercury, which appear in the margin of page 37 recto.  The Sun is beautifully drawn, its face surrounded by 20 flames and 20 rays.  These, as well as the circle of the face, are drawn in red ink.  The features of the Sun’s face, as well as the simple glyphs of Venus and Mercury, are drawn in black ink.


            Probably these drawings simply coincide with references to the Sun, Venus, and Mercury in the text.  I can think of no particular significance for the 20 flames and 20 rays.  Taken as a group, the Sun and the two inner planets can form exactly 360 different configurations:  the Sun can appear in any of the 12 signs of the zodiac, and can be either above or below the horizon (the definition of day and night); Mercury can occupy the same sign as the Sun, or the sign preceding or following; while Venus can occupy the same sign as the Sun, either of the two signs preceding it, or either of the two signs following it.  Thus, 12 x 2 x 3 x 5 = 360 configurations.  But why does the Sun have 20 rays?

Insights provided by the Georgian text

            These marginal drawings are keyed to a sentence in the middle of the paragraph opposite, which begins with these words in red ink:  mze zohara da ot’aridi eseni . . . (“the sun, Venus, and Mercury—these . . .”).  What follows appears to be a discussion of the motions of the two inner planets in relation to the sun.

6.  Diagrams of the zodiacal aspects (pages 46r-47v)


Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 46r                                    Almanacco Perpetuo, p. 135


Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 46v                                                            Almanacco Perpetuo, p. 139


Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 47r                                    Almanacco Perpetuo, p. 140


Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 47r                                                Almanacco Perpetuo, p. 141


Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 47v                                                Almanacco Perpetuo, p. 141


Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 47v                                                Almanacco Perpetuo, p. 142

a.  Diagram illustrating planetary rulerships (46r)

Description and interpretation

            This is a very elegant little drawing!  I remember being very impressed with it when I first saw it, since I had never seen the material laid out in quite this way.  The 12 signs of the zodiac are written clockwise around the central oval, in such a way that Cancer and Leo appear at the top, and Aquarius and Capricorn at the bottom.  In this way, the planetary rulership of the signs can be neatly represented.  The center of the oval is divided by five horizontal lines, creating six bands.  The top band corresponds to Cancer and Leo, and since these signs are ruled by the two luminaries, it is divided by a vertical line, with the Moon (ruling Cancer) on the left, and the Sun (ruling Leo) on the right.  Notice that in this case the Moon is portrayed as a crescent, its face drawn in profile—it appears more usually in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia as a full moon with its whole face visible.  The second band connects the signs Gemini and Virgo; the glyph of Mercury, which rules both signs, is drawn in the center.  Similarly, Taurus and Libra, with their ruler, Venus, comprise the third band from the top.  The fourth band comprises Aries and Scorpio, ruled by Mars.  Notice that here (and consistently throughout Saet’lo Xiromant’ia), instead of writing the Scorpio glyph, the writer has drawn a naturalistic representation of a scorpion.  The fifth band connects the signs of Pisces and Sagittarius with their ruler, Jupiter.  Finally, the sixth and bottom band, like the first, connects two contiguous sings, Aquarius and Capricorn, and these are ruled by Saturn.  The elegance of this drawing consists in the way it places the signs ruled by the luminaries at the apex of the chart, with their opposites, ruled by Saturn, at the bottom.  This is a compelling visual representation, and a useful aid to memory.

Comparison to Beltrano’s Almanacco Perpetuo

Beltrano presents the same material in tabular form, in three rows.  The top row comprises the glyphs of the Sun, the Moon, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, and Mercury.  The second row lists the signs of the zodiac ruled by each planet, with the diurnal rulership first, followed by the nocturnal rulership (as indicated by the letters “d.” and “n.” in the third row—a feature which Saet’lo Xiromant’ia omits).  Ludicrously, two mistakes appear in the second row:  the glyph for Jupiter has been repeated under Jupiter, where Pisces should appear; and the glyph for Libra has been repeated under Mercury, where Virgo should appear.  Assuming that these errors characterized the version of the Almanacco Perpetuo he was using, the writer of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia had some understanding of his subject, since he has made the necessary corrections!

b.  Diagram illustrating the major aspects (46v)

Description and interpretation

            The 12 signs of the zodiac are drawn clockwise around the outer band, with Capricorn to the left and Aries at the top.  Lines connecting the signs represent the various aspects they form among themselves.  Not all possible aspect relationships are indicated, however—the chart appears to be oriented to Aries (at the apex), and that is the only sign for which all aspects are indicated; lines to Aquarius and Gemini indicate the sextile (60º) aspect; lines to Capricorn and Cancer indicate the square (90º) aspect; lines to Sagittarius and Leo indicate the trine (120º) aspect; a line to Libra (at the nadir of the chart) indicates the opposition (180º).  The signs of Pisces, Taurus, Scorpio, and Virgo are not connected by lines to anything else, presumably because they form no aspects to Aries.  However, the Aries aspects are extended to show their geometric form—thus, sextiles are drawn from Aquarius to Sagittarius and from Gemini to Leo, and again from Sagittarius to Libra and from Leo to Libra, to create a hexagon; squares are drawn from Capricorn to Libra, and from Cancer to Libra, to create a square; and a trine is drawn from Sagittarius to Leo, to complete a triangle.  The two circles which appear along the line from Aries to Libra are presumably the astrological symbol for opposition.  The sextile from Aries to Gemini is labeled with the Georgian letter ani (A), the square from Aries to Cancer with the Georgian letter bani (B), the trine from Aries to Leo with the Georgian letter chini (CH), and the opposition between Aries and Libra with the Georgian letter doni (D)—presumably these are keyed to their accompanying explanations in the text.  It is very interesting that chini has been used instead of gani (the third letter of the Georgian alphabet)—this clearly points to western European influence, and specifically to the input of a living Italian speaker, just like the spelling of chelum (for “coelum”) which is found on 36v.  For no obvious reason, two other aspects have been indicated as well:  a trine from Aquarius to Gemini, and an opposition between Capricorn and Cancer.

Comparison to Beltrano’s Almanacco Perpetuo

            The corresponding diagram in the Almanacco Perpetuo shows some very interesting differences.  Most importantly, the signs are drawn counterclockwise (the more usual way of representing them), and the zodiac is oriented differently, with Aquarius at the apex and Taurus on the ascendant (left side).  The same aspect lines appear as in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, but centered on Aquarius, not on Aries.  The only exception is the trine from Aquarius to Gemini (would be Aries to Sagittarius in this case), which does not appear.  Sextiles are labeled with an asterisk and the letter A, squares with a square and the letter B, and trines with a triangle and the letter C.  The oppositions are labeled with a curious figure like a stubby cross at the center of the chart, but with no letter. 

Insights provided by the Georgian text

            The four letters on the chart are indeed keyed to the text below, where the following explanation appears:  a meekvse k’utxi b meotxe k’utxi ch mesame k’utxi d p’irdap’iri k’utxi (“A sixth aspect, B fourth aspect, C third aspect, D opposite aspect”).

c.  Diagram illustrating the sextile aspects (47r)

Description and interpretation

            This is a chart illustrating the sextile (60º) aspects among the signs of the zodiac.  Interestingly enough, the orientation of this chart corresponds to that of the aspect chart in the Almanacco Perpetuo (p. 139), which we just discussed—the sings are drawn counterclockwise this time, with Taurus on the ascendant (left) and Aquarius at midheaven (top).  Lines connecting the signs illustrate every possible sextile aspect (12 in all).  There is a horizontal line near the left center of the diagram, opposite the sign of Taurus.  Above and below this line appear some characters which are not Georgian letters—above the line is a left-curving vertical line and something like an English lower-case N; below the line is a horizontal arc, like a smiling mouth.  I don’t know what these mean.

Comparison to Beltrano’s Almanacco Perpetuo

            As before, Beltrano’s diagram (p. 140) contains some important differences.  The zodiac is again oriented differently, with the signs written counterclockwise, but this time with Cancer on the ascendant (left) and Aries at midheaven (top of the chart).  This matches the orientation of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia 46v, except that there the signs are written clockwise.  As in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia 47r, all 12 sextile aspects are indicated by lines connecting the signs; and a vertical line appears in the top center of the circle, opposite the sign of Aries (as compared to Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, where it appears opposite Taurus, on the ascendant).  To the left and right of this vertical line are printed the letters SEN and DES, obviously intended as abbreviations for sinistro (“left”) and destro (“right”).  This refers to the astrological distinction between sinister aspects (those formed in a counterclockwise direction, following the order of the signs) and dexter (clockwise, against the order of the signs) aspects.  The Georgian abbreviations on 47r, therefore, must indicate “right” and “left.”

d.  Diagram illustrating the square aspects (47r)

Description and interpretation

            This is a chart illustrating all possible square (90º) aspects among the signs.  The signs are drawn in a counterclockwise direction around the outer band, with Cancer on the ascendant (left) and Aries at the midheaven (top)—the same arrangement found in Beltrano’s chart of sextiles (p. 140), which we just examined.  Lines connecting the signs illustrate all possible square aspects (12 in all).  Within the central circle appear the Georgian words marjvena (“right”) and marcxena (“left”).  To read these, the page must be rotated and viewed from the left. 

Comparison to Beltrano’s Almanacco Perpetuo

The corresponding diagram in the Almanacco Perpetuo (p. 141) contains few surprises.  Its orientation (counterclockwise, Cancer on the ascendant, Aries at midheaven) is the same as that of the Saet’lo Xiromant’ia chart.  It is nearly identical to the previous chart of sextiles (p. 140), with SEN (sinistro) and DES (destro) indicated as before.

e.  Diagram illustrating the trine aspects (47v)

Description and interpretation
This is a chart of all possible trine (120º) aspects.  Its orientation (clockwise, Cancer on the ascendant, Aries at midheaven) is exactly the same as that of the preceding chart, and as before, the words marjvena and marcxena (“left” and “right”) have been written in the center of the chart so that the page must be rotated to the left in order to read them.  Lines connecting the signs illustrate all possible trine aspects (12 in all).

Comparison to Beltrano’s Almanacco Perpetuo

            Beltrano’s chart of trines (p. 141) corresponds exactly to the Georgian chart, displaying the same orientation of the zodiacal signs, and has a vertical line in the center separating the abbreviations DES and SEN, but strangely, these have now been transposed—DES appearing to the left of the line, and SEN to the right of it.

f.  Diagram illustrating the zodiacal oppositions (47v)

Description and interpretation

            This is a chart of all possible zodiacal oppositions (180º aspects).  Its orientation (counterclockwise, Cancer on the ascendant, Aries at midheaven) matches that of the two preceding charts.  Six lines, illustrating all the possible oppositions, run from each sign to the one opposite.  There are no labels or writing. 

Comparison to Beltrano’s Almanacco Perpetuo

            Beltrano’s chart of oppositions is different in that although the signs are written clockwise, it has Aries on the ascendant (left side) and Capricorn at the midheaven (top of the chart).  The six oppositions are indicated by lines connecting the signs.  However, the lines converge on a large central dot, like the hub of a wheel, which divides the six lines into 12 “spokes.”  As in the Georgian chart, there are no labels or writing.

Summary of chart orientations for the aspect diagrams

Saet’lo Xiromant’ia                                    Almanacco Perpetuo

                        direction                        ASC            M.C.                        direction                        ASC            M.C.

rulership                        clockwise            Taurus            Leo                        ----                        ----            ----

major aspects            clockwise            Capr.            Aries                        countercl.            Taurus            Aquarius

sextiles                        countercl.            Taurus             Aquarius            countercl.            Cancer            Aries

squares                        countercl.            Cancer            Aries                        countercl.            Cancer Aries

trines                        countercl.            Cancer            Aries                        countercl.            Cancer Aries

oppositions            countercl.            Cancer Aries                        countercl.            Aries            Capricorn

            These changes in orientation are not easy to explain.  There may well be something hidden here, but it is equally possible that the differences are simply a by-product of the process of copying the illustrations from the Almanacco Perpetuo.  Since the diagrams are so similar in form, it is easy to see (for example) how the writer of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia could have used the orientation of the zodiac from Beltrano’s chart of major aspects (p. 139) for the following chart of sextiles, or the orientation from Beltrano’s chart of trines (p. 141) for the following chart of oppositions.  The highly unusual clockwise writing of the signs (46v and 47r) is much harder to explain, however.

 7.  First page of a Table of Houses (page 48v)


Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 48v

Almanacco Perpetuo, p. 145

Description and interpretation

This is the beginning of a section that occupies several pages in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia.  A table of houses for the appropriate latitude is an essential tool for any practical astrologer, and the owner of this book must have consulted it frequently.
The tables are organized into 12 sections, corresponding to the signs of the zodiac.  The present page comprises the beginning of the sections for Aries (left side of the page) and Taurus (right side of the page).  The four-line description at the top of the page reads as follows:  zanduk’i sadgomebisa martabaebisa da zemouri cis k’amarasi romelsa hkvian munajiburad p’olo da amas akes martaba ocda cxramet’i vinc amas sibrdznit iangarishebs moixmarebs sakartvelosak’en k’axetisk’en imeretisk’en odishisk’en azrumisk’en da q’izilbashisak’en. [“table of houses, of ascendants, and of midheavens, which are degrees for astrological pole 39; whoever reckons them wisely may use them for Kartli, Kakheti, Imereti, Odessa, Erzurum and Qizilbashi”].  This is an important passage in that it adds to the evidence that Saet’lo Xiromant’ia originated in western Georgia—the places listed suggest an orientation toward the Black Sea, which would make little sense if the manuscript originated in eastern Georgia.  I cannot identify “Qizilbashi,” however.  These sentences run straight through the vertical line which divides the page in half—probably this line had already been ruled onto the page before the text was added.  Below this, in red ink, descriptions have been placed at the head of each register; the one on the left reads:  mze erk’emelis burjshi asch’t’ich’ani (“sun in constellation of Aries X [the Georgian word appears to be nonsense]”), while the one on the right reads:  mze dek’eulis burjshi martaba (“sun in constellation of Taurus degree”).  The next row lists the houses for Aries:  sadgomi (“house”), followed by the numbers 10, 1 [this is an error—should read “11”], 12, 1, 2, 3; and again for Taurus:  10, 11, 12, 1, 2, 3 (as is usual in a table of houses, houses 4-9 are omitted because these are always simply the opposites of the six houses already given.  The next row down begins with a column marked S (for saati, “hour”), and N (for nac’ili, “minute”), and then indicates the zodiacal sign in which each of the six houses will begin.  All this is repeated on the right for Taurus.  The remaining rows are filled with numbers—of hours and minutes under the first column (headed S and N), and of zodiacal degrees under the remaining columns (headed with signs of the zodiac).  In one case (last column on the right, headed with Virgo, fourth entry from the top), the sign for Libra appears instead of a number; this indicates a position of “zero Libra,” falling between 30 Virgo and 1 Libra—so that all the numbers below this in the column refer to degrees in Libra, not Virgo.

Comparison to Beltrano’s Almanacco Perpetuo

            The corresponding tables are found on pages 145-150 of the Almanacco Perpetuo.  The heading reads “Tavole delle Case li Gradi nel Polo 39 e servono per il Regno di Napoli, Roma, Sicilia” (“tables of houses—the degrees at pole 39—and they serve for the Kingdom of Naples, Rome, Sicily”).  The “pole” of a place, in astrological parlance, is equivalent to its geographic latitude.  In practice, the results obtained would not be very precise, since the same tables are to be employed alike for Rome (41º54N), Naples (40º50N), and Palermo (38º07N).  However, this is consistent with the mathematics associated with the Ptolemaic climes.  The remarkable thing is that the author of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia has copied these same tables without modification for use at locations still farther north:  Tbilisi (41º43N), Telavi (41ª55N), Kutaisi (42º15N), Odessa (46º28N), and Erzurum (39º54N).
            Beltrano’s tables contain several obvious errors.  On the present page 145, the row beginning “Case” is marked “10, 11, 12, 1, 10 [sic], 3”.  In the Aries column for the 11th house, about halfway down, we read “20, 2, 2, 23”—obviously the second digit has been left out, and the series should probably read “20, 21, 22, 23.”  The writer of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia has corrected these errors, but has perpetrated new ones of his own by miscopying the Italian source.  There are no fewer than 13 numerical errors on this page alone, most of them off by just one degree, though in one case “29” has been written in error for “20.”  It is just possible that these changes reflect an attempt to correct the tables for a more northerly latitude.  At the bottom page 145, Beltrano provides the following explanatory note:  “Queste  Tavole sono dell’ore dopo mezzo giorno per collocare li Dodeci Segni nella Celeste Figura” (“These are tables of hours after mid-day, to compute the 12 signs of the celestial chart”).  A Georgian translation of this is found at the bottom of 49r. 


            A careful examination of these tables establishes that they follow the Regiomontanus system of house division, which was in general use by European astrologers at this period.  This system was soon to be superseded by the Placidean system, which was being developed at this time.  
            On pages 154-155 of the Almanacco Perpetuo are found a set of instructions for erecting a horoscope using these tables.  The procedure involves finding the sum of three values: the local time in hours and minutes after noon; the hours and minutes (first column) which correspond to the Sun’s current zodiacal position (in the column headed “10”); and the hours and minutes of sidereal time associated with the Sun’s current position, to be taken from the ephemeris of Argolus.  This sum is the sidereal time.  To erect a chart, it is necessary to use these tables in conjunction with an ephemeris which gives the current planetary positions.
            In the example given by Beltrano, the time given is 2:48 P.M.; the hours and minutes for the Sun’s zodiacal position are 6 hours, 0 minutes (by definition, since this is the chart of a cardinal ingress); and the universal time from the ephemeris is 7 hours, 30 minutes.  The sum of these three values is 16h 18m.  The next step is to find this sum (the sidereal time) wherever it falls in the column marked H. M.  In this case, it corresponds closely to 16h 16m, which appears in the table of houses on page 149.  The associated house cusps are as follows:

H.M.            10                        11                        12                        1                        2                        3
16:16            6Sag                        25Sag                        17Cap                        17Aqu                        7Ari                        13Tau

The  remaining six house cusps are simply the opposite points to these:

4                        5                        6                        7                        8                        9
6Gem                        25Gem                        17Can                        17Leo                        7Lib                        13Sco

Once these house cusps have been entered on the chart, all that remains is to add the positions of the seven planets and the lunar nodes, which are taken directly from the ephemeris. 
Well and good.  The remarkable thing is that Beltrano’s instructions are so garbled that it would probably be impossible for a learner to obtain any meaningful results by following them.  Beltrano instructs the practitioner to use the time after noon; in fact the time 2:48 is correct, but actually refers to the hours and minutes before midnight (since local time is 10:12 PM).  In addition, Beltrano’s listing of the house cusps associated with the sidereal time of 16h 16m does not correspond to the values actually found in his table.  He gives 6Sag, 24Sag, 14Cap, 17Aqu, 17Ari, 15Tau.  This is highly confusing, since the table lists them as 6Sag, 25Sag, 17Cap, 17Aqu, 7Ari, 13Tau. 
A person trained in astrology would be able to wade through this morass of errors, making the necessary adjustments, but an untrained person would probably have to give up without accomplishing anything. 
Could it be that these errors are intentional?  If so, they may constitute a virtual “lock” on the book, deliberately obscuring its meaning from the uninitiated—providing instructions which cannot be followed without the prior knowledge necessary to sort out the errors.

8.  Horoscope of a Summer Ingress (pages 58v-59r)

Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 58v                                                Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 59r

Almanacco Perpetuo, p. 155                                                Almanacco Perpetuo, p. 156

Description and interpretation

On 58v, the cusps of the 12 houses for a specific horoscope have been listed:

            house                        sign                        degree
            10                        Sagittarius              6
            11                        Sagittarius            24
            12                        Capricorn            14
              1                        Aquarius            17º36’
              2                        Aries                          7
              3                        Taurus                        14
              4                        Gemini                          6
              5                        Gemini                        24
              6                        Cancer                        14
              7                        Leo                        17º36’
              8                        Libra                          7
              9                        Scorpio            14

            The heading reads:  sadgomebisa da burjebis angarishi (“computation of houses and constellations”).  As is customary, the ascendant (first house) is indicated more precisely, in degrees and minutes, and the same has been done with the degree opposite  (seventh house).  The signs of Pisces and Virgo are “intercepted” (completely contained within the first and seventh houses, respectively), something which frequently occurs with some of the more common systems of house division.  It is interesting to note that the writer made a mistake in transcribing this table—he failed to write Gemini a second time, so that the remaining four signs in the column were assigned to the wrong houses.  After erasing the entire column (still dimly visible), he rewrote it (correctly) slightly to the right.
            This set of house-cusps, along with planetary positions, has been used to erect the horoscope on 59r, from which the following values can be extracted (I have entered the planets next to the houses they occupy):

            houses                                                planets

            I            17 Aquarius 36            north node            4 Pisces 55
            II            7 Aries                                    [?]                        11 Aries 07
            III            14 Taurus                        Venus                        20 Taurus 23
                                                            Mars                        28 Taurus 11
            IV            6 Gemini
            V            24 Gemini                        Mercury            27 Gemini 14
                                                            Sun                        0 Cancer 00
            VI            14 Cancer                        Jupiter                        4 Leo 56
            VII            17 Leo 03 [sic]            Moon                        3 300 Virgo 46 [sic]
                                                            south node            4 Virgo 55
            VIII            7 Libra
            IX            14 Scorpio
            X            6 Sagittarius
            XI            24 Sagittarius                        Saturn                        29 Sagittarius 34
            XII            14 Capricorn

            The central inscription reads as follows:  saxe ese tu mze rogor sheva burjebshi KK’SA T’NIV mariambisatve dghe IA shami I nac’ili IEy  cis zemuri k’amara MA (“this is the chart for when the sun will enter the constellations, [year 366], month of August, day 11, hour 10, minute 18, midheaven 41”).
            This is obviously the chart of a Summer Ingress (the moment when the Sun enters Cancer, signifying the beginning of summer), with the position of the Sun given as
0 Cancer 00.  The erection of such charts is an important feature of Mundane Astrology (the astrology typical of almanacs and other general prognostications pertaining to the weather and political events).
            There are a number of strange and inexplicable things here.  It is very hard to understand why the cusp of the seventh house is given as 17 Leo 03, when it is entered correctly on table on the facing page as 17 Leo 36.  Also, since this is clearly the chart of a summer ingress (which would occur around June 21st), the reference date of August 11th makes no sense at all.  I am also unable to make sense of the lunar position, which is given as G—T’—MV (3—300—46).  I assume it is supposed to be 3 Virgo 46, but don’t know what to make of the intervening number 300.  I cannot understand the meaning of the number 41 associated with the midheaven, either.
            The most interesting feature of this chart, however, is the unidentified object which appears in the second house at 11 Aries 07.  It is drawn as a black dot surrounded by seven smaller dots.  It could represent one of the fixed stars, or a comet, or possibly the supernova of 1604.  It could also represent one of the partes arabicae (invisible points or “lots” derived from other zodiacal positions by addition or subtraction), or it could represent some hypothetical planet (highly unlikely unless there is some remarkable survival here of a pre-Islamic Persian practice). I will have to do further research on this!
            My best guess at this point is that this strange little symbol is intended to represent the Pars Fortunae (“part of fortune”).  The Pars Fortunae is the best-known of the partes arabicae, and is derived by finding the zodiacal distance between the Sun and Moon and adding that to the Ascendant.  The position actually given for our mysterious object is 11º07, and since this position is written parallel to that of the cusp of the second house (7 Aries), I have assumed that this means 11 Aries 07; however, both 11 Aries 07 and 11 Taurus 07 fall within the second house in this case (the third house does not begin until 14 Taurus), so it is possible that the real value is 11 Taurus 07.  Although we don’t know the actual lunar position the writer of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia was using, we do know that the Ascendant was 17 Aquarius 36 and the Sun was at 0 Cancer 00—so if this object really is the Pars Fortunae, we can easily compute the lunar position the writer was using—23 Virgo 31.  Unfortunately, this does not accord in any way with what is written next to the Moon on the chart.

Comparison to Beltrano’s Almanacco Perpetuo

            Now, let’s compare this horoscope to the parallel passage in Beltrano.  On page 155 of the Almanacco Perpetuo appears a set of house cusps which are obviously the basis of those listed above:

            10            6 Sagittarius                        4            6 Gemini
            11            6 Sagittarius [sic]            5            24 Gemini
            12            54 Capricorn [sic]            6            14 Cancer
            1            14 Scorpio 36 [sic]            7            17 Leo 36
            2            7 Aries                                    8            7 Libra
            3            14 Taurus                        9            14 Aquarius [sic]

The ineptitude encompassed in this single small table is simply amazing.  Nevertheless, with the errors corrected, it is obviously the same horoscope that appears in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia.
            On page 156, there is yet another surprise:  a blank horoscope.  Presumably, the printer left this chart to be filled in by hand, but this was never done.  It would be very interesting to examine this page in other copies and other editions of Beltrano’s almanac.
            Even without the original version of the horoscope, it should be relatively easy to determine the date for which the horoscope in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia was erected.  I decided to try this on Saturday, 26 April 2008, after wasting most of the afternoon on other matters.  I asked my colleague, David Rath, to note the time, so that I could demonstrate how quickly this could done.  Using the software and ephemerides available at the Astrodienst website, I was able to determine the date in just 25 minutes—this despite the fact that (unsurprisingly) the planetary positions given in the horoscope are far from exact.  The date I arrived at was 21 June 1635, and this was subsequently confirmed when I found that same date given on page 154 of the Almanacco Perpetuo.  My ability to find this date so quickly demonstrates the uniqueness of any given moment in time and the horoscope associated with it—a simple collocation of just four planets in their respective zodiacal signs will create a configuration unlikely to be duplicated at any other date in all of human history!
            The corrected horoscope for the Summer Ingress of 1635 (at Tbilisi) appears below (as generated by the Astrodienst software). 
This is truly a remarkable chart, since the Sun and Saturn are in opposition and both are angular (posited in the fourth and tenth houses, respectively), and the Moon is very nearly so (within four degrees of the cusp of the seventh house).  In mundane astrology, such a chart would be regarded as presaging extremely significant political events for the year to come.
From this chart, it becomes evident that the intended position of Mars in the horoscope was 28 Gemini 11, not 28 Taurus 11 (as I had mistakenly concluded based on where Mars was entered in the chart); moreover, due to a clerical error, this should be corrected to 18 Gemini 11.


            At the time I erected this chart, I did not know that it was based on Beltrano’s data (which assumed a location in southern Italy, not in the Caucasus), and I used the Placidean house cusps as is my custom.  A comparable chart for Naples on the same date, using the Regiomontanus system of house division, appears below:

Note that the chart of the ingress erected for Naples is much less dramatic:  although the planets retain their configuration relative to each other (Sun and Saturn in partile opposition, within 30 minutes of arc), the mundane houses have shifted so that they are no longer angular.
It now becomes possible to tabulate the horoscopic data given in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia (and by Beltrano) against the actual positions for 21 June 1635 (computer-generated, and accurate to within a few seconds of arc):

houses                        Saet’lo Xiromant’ia                        actual positions            difference

I                        17 Aquarius 36                        17 Aquarius 38            0º02’
II                        7 Aries                                                6 Aries 31                        0º29’
III                        14 Taurus                                    13 Taurus 36                        0º24’
IV                        6 Gemini                                    5 Gemini 56                        0º04’
V                        24 Gemini                                    23 Gemini 50                        0º10’
VI                        14 Cancer                                    14 Cancer 32                        0º32’
VII                        17 Leo 36                                    17 Leo 38                        0º02’
VIII                        7 Libra                                                6 Libra 31                        0º29’
IX                        14 Scorpio                                    13 Scorpio 36                        0º24’
X                        6 Sagittarius                                    5 Sagittarius 56            0º04’
XI                        24 Sagittarius                                    23 Sagittarius 50            0º10’
XII                        14 Capricorn                                    14 Capricorn 32            0º32’


Sun                        0 Cancer 00                                    0 Cancer 00                        [none]
Moon                        23 Virgo 31 [?]                        23 Virgo 41                        0º10’
Mercury            27 Gemini 14                                    23 Gemini 57                        3º17’
Venus                        20 Taurus 23                                    20 Taurus 07                        0º16’
Mars                        18 Gemini 11 [corrected]             18 Gemini 10                        0º01’
Jupiter                        4 Leo 56                                    5 Leo 01                        0º05’
Saturn                        29 Sagittarius 34                        29 Sagittarius 30            0º04’
north node            4 Pisces 55                                    5 Pisces 25                        0º30’
south node            4 Virgo 55                                     5 Virgo 25                        0º30’
pars fort. [?]            11 Taurus 07                                    11 Taurus 18                        0º11’

The accuracy of this horoscope is very impressive, with most positions correct to within less than 30 minutes of arc.  The only exception is Mercury, which has been placed more than 3º ahead of its true position.  This is not surprising, however—Mercury positions are notoriously difficult to determine, and old astronomical texts frequently err in their positions for Mercury by 10º or more.  The accuracy of horoscopic planetary positions is a function of the ephemeris used by the practitioner; in this case, Argolus was used.  As the results demonstrate, planetary positions derived from the Argolus ephemeris approach modern standards of accuracy.  Although the Mercury position requires significant correction, its computation by Argolus still represents a great improvement over earlier ephemerides.
From what Beltrano says about it, this horoscope for 21 June 1635 is simply presented as an example of how to erect a chart.  The corresponding passage in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia (57v-58r) appears on pages unavailable to me. 
So far, I have been unable to find any astrological discussion of this specific cardinal ingress.  It is inevitable, however, that such an analysis was done, and undoubtedly a study of the numerous astrological almanacs published during the 17th century would unearth more than one version of it.  Even the chart erected for Naples has some remarkable features, and I can’t help wondering whether the enigmatic and ingenious Beltrano had some secret purpose in presenting this particular horoscope!
Finally, the chart which appears on page 59r of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia yields some additional (albeit inconclusive) evidence bearing on the problem of the mysterious system of dates used throughout the manuscript.  The year for this chart is designated as T’NIV, a numerical expression which would generally be read as 366 (300+50+10+6).
The actual year of this summer ingress (1635) has already been conclusively established, not only by identifying the historical planetary positions but also from the explicit statement found on p. 154 of the Almanacco Perpetuo. This would imply that T’NIV (366) is equivalent to 1635, with a calendrical era beginning in 1269.  Unfortunately, this does not harmonize with the equivalencies implied by the eclipse series (31r-35r), where T’M (340) was found to correspond to the eclipses of 1652, with an era beginning in 1312.  Obviously something is wrong here.  If the 1312 era is correct, then the writer of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia is incorrectly assigning the summer ingress chart to the  year 1678—a date for which the actual chart does not even superficially resemble the present one!

9.  The Perpetual Almanac (pages 60v-74r)

            This section forms the core of Beltrano’s almanac (pp. 159-203), and is presumably a perpetuation of the original almanac of Rutilio Benincaso.  It presents the coming years in a 28-year cycle—so that the almanac can be perpetually updated; hence the title Almanacco Perpetuo.  I do not understand the basis of this 28-year cycle, and considerable research has failed to uncover its principle.  It appears to have something to do with the 28-year “Dionysian cycle,” by which (for example) if July 4th falls on a Friday this year (2008), it will again fall on a Friday in 2036, 28 years from now.             
The layout of the section for each year in the Almanacco Perpetuo follows the same pattern.  Across the top are listed four years (28 years apart), to any of which the prognostications which follow may be applied.  In most cases this list is accompanied by a pictorial representation of one of the seven planets, which usually includes the signs ruled by that planet. After this follows a prognostication for the year, pertaining to the weather, the harvest, wars, pestilences, and so on.  These prognostications always begin with the same formula:  “Il Sole entrando al primo grado d’Ariete a’ 21 di Marzo dominatore [or ‘signore’] dell’Anno sarà il Pianeta di [PLANET], con il segno di [SIGN], casa di [PLANET]” (“When the sun enters the first degree of Aries on the 21st of March, the ruler of the year will be the planet [X], with the sign of [Y], house of [Z]”).  The apparent intention of this is to indicate first, the planet which rules the rising sign; second, the sign in which that planet is found; and third, the planet which rules that sign.
The text of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia is essentially a translation of these yearly prognostications.  In the Georgian text, each section begins with a similar formula:  mze sheva erk’emelis c’inap’irvels c’inap’irveli c’inc’k’alshi mart’is tertmet’s mashin ip’at’ronebs [PLANET] [of SIGN] burjshi romel ars [of PLANET] sadgomi da [PLANET] cis shuashi ikneba p’irvel gamochenaze (“the sun will enter the first of Aries, in the first degree, on the eleventh [sic] of March, then [X] will rule, in the constellation of [Y], which is the house of [Z]”).  It is very curious that the writer of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia consistently gives March 11th as the date of the equinox—another of this manuscript’s many mysteries!
Near the end of each section, the Italian text includes a short agricultural prognostication beginning with the formula “Democrito dice che . . .”  In most cases, a translation of this appears in the Georgian text, introduced with the phrase demok’rit’e it’q’vis or demok’rit’e pilasoposi it’q’vis.
In both of these texts, the planet pictured for each year is usually the “ruler of the year,” but sometimes it is the planetary ruler of the sign that planet occupies.  I can discover no rationale for why the authors have chosen one or the other.
In analyzing the 28-year cycle, my first assumption was that Beltrano was simply using the planetary ruler of the day of the week on which the equinox actually occurred, but the results for the years 1720-1747 did not match the series given by Beltrano, and did not yield a 28-year cycle.  I then tried an even simpler approach—the planetary ruler of the day of the week on which March 21st falls.  This does yield a 28-year cycle, but unfortunately the results do not match Beltrano’s series for 1720-1747. 
On page 155 of the Almanacco Perpetuo, the following statement is found:  “e sempre quello, che si ritrova nel primo angolo Orientale, sarà dominatore dell’ Anno, e questo è quello, che ha più forza de gl’ altri nel spuntar del Sole, come capo della Stagione, o il Pianeta che averà più dignità” (“and always that [zodiacal sign] which is found in the first ascending angle will be the lord of the year, and this is that [sign] which has greater strength than the others at the sun’s rising [or ingress, if spuntar may be construed in that sense], as the chief [planet] of the season, or the planet which has greater dignity”).  This clearly implies that the way to ascertain the planetary “lord of the year” is to erect the chart for the Sun’s spring ingress into Aries (on or about March 21st), and find the rising sign.  If we take the chart on 59r of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia as an example, the rising sign is Aquarius, making Saturn the ruler of the chart (since Saturn rules the sign of Aquarius).  The rest of Beltrano’s statement is confusing, however:  he refers to an alternate method of determining the ruler of the chart, by finding the planet which has the greatest essential dignity (in terms of its placement by sign, term, and triplicity) at the moment of sunrise (or ingress, possibly).  Beltrano’s words imply that these methods are equivalent, but in fact the two approaches will seldom yield the same result. 
The perpetual almanac section in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia has been updated by gluing strips of paper over the rows of dates, and writing new dates on these strips.  In some cases, the strips have become loose, and it is possible to read the original dates underneath.  It turns out that for at least part of the series, the numbers have been advanced by 84 years.  Moreover, while the original text (following the Italian source) listed four years in red ink above each picture, the glued strips list five years (in black ink).  All of this implies that Saet’lo Xiromant’ia was in use for more than a century!
In mundane astrology, the spring ingress of the Sun into the constellation of Aries was regarded as the beginning of the astrological year, and the chart erected for that moment was the cornerstone of all predictions for the year to come.  Hieronymus Cardanus writes of this in what I find to be one of the most memorable passages in all of astrology:  “There are some things perfectly known, as the Circle of Ascension, some in a competent measure, as the Revolution of the Sun; some may be known although they yet are not, as the Revolution of the Superiors; some things fall under knowledge, yet cannot be exactly known, as the precise ingress of the Sun into the Equinoctial Point; some are neither known, nor can be known, as the complete commixtures and distinct virtues of all the Stars.” (Lilly 1675:¶3).
            My discussion of the illustrations in this section will proceed as follows:  first, I will describe each planetary representation as it appears in the Almanacco Perpetuo (the obvious source of the Georgian text).  Then, I will examine how the corresponding illustrations in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia compare to these.  Finally, using a procedure based on that described by Willett Kempton in The Folk Classification of Ceramics (1981), I will try to discover how these illustrations fit into the taxonomy of planetary representations, as they appear in a variety of European, Islamic, and Indian sources. 
            To construct this taxonomy, I have used the illustrations from Giordano Bruno’s Ars Memoriae (1582) and De Imaginum Compositione (1591) [both sets available at the “Twilight Grotto” website (]; the planetary images included in the Tarocchi di Mantegna (c1465) [from Adam McLean, “An Hermetic Origin of the Tarot Cards?
 A Consideration of the Tarocchi of Mantegna” (1983) [available at]; Hans Sebald Beham’s series of woodcuts illustrating the seven planets (1530/40) [available at Adam McLean’s “Alchemy Website” ( _astronomical _material.html)]; an anonymous set of woodcuts from Christopher Warnock’s “Renaissance Astrology” website ( planets.html); Islamic representations from Eva Baer’s article “Representations of ‘Planet-Children’ in Turkish Manuscripts” (1968); a set of Indian planetary representations from the Sanatan Society website ( _astrology_and_numerology/vedic_astrology_9_planets.htm); and a number of miscellaneous planetary representations from various sources.
            Unlike the representations of the twelve signs of the zodiac, which pervade the astrological literature of all periods, representations (personifications) of the seven planets are seldom found.  Despite considerable research, I have only succeeded in compiling a small sample; there are doubtless numerous variants which are not represented here.  With further work, I hope to succeed in compiling a full taxonomy comparable to Kempton’s work, in which every possible variant is classified and displayed.
            Nevertheless, despite the limited scope of the available material, this taxonomy has resulted in a number of important discoveries.  For one thing, it is clear that the illustrations in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia (and the Almanacco Perpetuo) owe nothing at all to the Islamic or Indian traditions—they fit solidly within the western tradition of planetary representations. 
When I first looked through Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, I was struck by the fact that these illustrations did not appear to reflect the dress or cultural conventions of the Caucasus region; rather, the dress and demeanor of the figures resembled the archaic courtly dress of western Europe, much as it is portrayed in a set of playing cards.
This phenomenon puzzled me greatly, but the reason for it became clear when I saw the illustrations in the Almanacco Perpetuo, from which the Georgian series was derived.
            It turns out that almost every detail found in these representations finds at least one parallel in the set of western planetary representations which I have assembled for comparison.

a.  Representations of Jupiter


Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 60v                       


Almanacco Perpetuo, p. 161

Almanacco Perpetuo:  Jupiter is portrayed as a seated king, bearded, wearing a five-pronged crown.  In his right hand, he holds three long objects clustered together which look like leaves.  In his left hand, he holds a scepter.  Just to the right of the scepter’s tip, there is a nine-pointed star.  Just to the right of the scepter’s base, the Jupiter glyph appears.  At the bottom of the picture there are two circles, with two fish (Pisces) in the circle on the left, and a centaur (Sagittarius) in the circle on the right.  Three labels appear:  CASA D GIOVE between the circles, PISCE above the right circle, and SAGIT above the left circle.

Saet’lo Xiromanti’a contains four parallel versions of this illustration:

60v:  A seated king, bearded, wearing a four-pronged crown.  In his right hand, three unidentifiable objects, just as in the Almanacco Perpetuo.  In his left hand, a scepter, with a seven-pointed star to the right of it.  The Jupiter glyph does not appear.  At bottom left is a circle containing the two fish (Pisces); at bottom right is a centaur with a bow (Sagittarius, not in a circle).  There are no labels.

63r:  This picture differs from 60v in several ways.  The king is clean-shaven.  The scepter looks more like a sword.  The star has eight points.  There are no zodiacal signs represented at the bottom of the picture.

66v:  Here, the king is bearded.  In his right hand, instead of the three strange objects, he holds a large arrow or dart with the feathers pointing upward, and the point concealed within his hand.  At bottom left is a ram (Aries).  At bottom right is a centaur, drawn as if shooting an arrow but without a bow (Sagittarius).  Neither of these small figures is surrounded by a circle.

72r:  Like 66v, the king holds a large arrow in his right hand, with the feathers upward and the point downward.  At bottom left is a sea-goat (Capricorn).  At bottom right is a centaur shooting a bow (Sagittarius).  Neither is surrounded by a circle.

76v:  This version follows 60v in every detail, with two exceptions: first, the sign of Pisces is not surrounded by a circle; second, the Jupiter glyph appears on the left, just above the centaur’s head.


Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 63r                                                 Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 66v


Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 72r                                    Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 76v

Taxonomy of Jupiter representations

jup3                        jup4

Giordano Bruno, Ars Memoriae (1582)                        Giordano Bruno, De Imaginum Compositione (1591)


Tarocchi di Mantegna (c1465)                                           Hans Sebald Beham (1530/40)

wodblokjup                   jupiter_in_pisces_art

woodblock print of Jupiter (C. Warnock)            Jupiter (17th century manuscript)


Sayyid Muhammad b. Amir Hasan Su’udi (1582)                                    Indian representation of Jupiter

Based on these data, it appears that Jupiter is generally portrayed as a king, usually seated on a throne or in a chariot. In his right hand, he holds a bunch of arrows (one, two, or three), or sometimes a bowl; and in his left, a scepter.  However, when Jupiter holds only a scepter, it is always in his right hand.
Jupiter is associated with eagles or peacocks.  The two signs he rules may appear in two circles or wheels at the bottom of the picture:  Pisces on the left and Sagittarius on the right (Beham, Warnock, 17th century engraving); or Sagittarius on the left and Pisces on the right (Bruno 1582, 1591).  A star appears at upper left, above his scepter (Bruno 1582) but covers his secrets in Warnock’s engraving.  The Jupiter glyph appears at upper right (Bruno 1582), but floats just in front of the king in Beham’s engraving.
The Islamic and Indian representations appear to be entirely unrelated to the western ones and are probably irrelevant to Saet’lo Xiromant’ia.
Thus, it appears that the representations of Jupiter in the Almanacco Perpetuo and three of those in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia (60v, 63r, 76v) fit solidly into these conventions.  Overall, the closest model is the image seen in Bruno’s Ars Memoriae (1582).  However, the other two representations (66v and 72r) are extremely problematical because they have replaced Pisces with other signs which are not ruled by Mars (Aries and Capricorn, respectively). 
This taxonomy makes it clear that the strange cluster of objects which appear in the figure’s right hand are supposed to be arrows!

b.  Representations of the Sun


Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 61v

Almanacco Perpetuo, p. 166 (illustration duplicated on p. 178)
Almanacco Perpetuo portrays the sun as a seated king, wearing a five-pronged crown.   He holds a scepter in his right hand, and he rests his right hand in his lap.  To the left of the king’s head is a sun with a face and rays; its face appears to be tilted to the left.  To the right of the king’s head is a star with seven points.  Two circles appear at the bottom of the picture.  In the left circle is a lion (Leo), and in the right circle is what appears to be a crescent moon, points upward, with the unilluminated part of its disk shaded in.  Two labels appear:  LEON (above the lion), and CASA DSOLE (below the king’s feet).

Saet’lo Xiromant’ia contains five separate representations of the Sun, as follows:

61v:  The sun is portrayed as a seated king, wearing a four-pronged crown.  He holds a three-pronged scepter in his left hand, and rests his right hand in his lap.  My first thought when I examined this and several other illustrations in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia was that perhaps the illustrations had been drawn from a printing block, resulting in this reversal of left and right.  However, here as elsewhere, the reversal of left and right is only partial—in this case, a sun with eleven rays and a face, sharply tilted to the left, appears at top left, while a six-pointed star appears at top right, between the king’s face and the top of his scepter, so the left-right orientation of these objects is the same as in the Almanacco Perpetuo.  The circle at the bottom left of the drawing displays a pouncing lion (Leo, left), and a much smaller circle at bottom right contains a small image of the full moon with a face.  Strangely enough, like the sun’s face at upper left, this face is lying on its side, with its chin to the right.  No labels.

64v:  As above, but this time the sun (again, tilted to the left) has eight rays, and the star only five points.  There is no circle around the pouncing lion, and the moon at lower right is completely shaded and has no face.

70v:  This one is identical to 64v, except that the sun has nine rays, and the star has six points.  The moon at lower right is dark as in 64v.

Almanacco Perpetuo (pp. 160, 174) contains an alternate illustration for the sun, consisting simply of a sun with a face, surrounded by 16 flames and numerous rays.  This version finds its counterpart in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia 67v (a sun with a face, surrounded by eight flames and numerous rays, which are surrounded in turn by two concentric circles).

62r:  Here is yet another version of the sun:  a lion, walking toward the left, with a mane and a human-like face.  To the left (outside the box) appears a small image of the sun with nine rays and a face.


Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 64v             Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 70v


Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 62r            Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 67v

Almanacco Perpetuo, p. 160 (illustration duplicated on p. 174)

Taxonomy of Solar representations

sol3                         sol4

Giordano Bruno, Ars Memoriae (1582)                        Giordano Bruno, De Imaginum Compositione (1591)


Tarocchi di Mantegna (c1465)                                                       Hans Sebald Beham (1530/40)


woodblock print of the Sun (C. Warnock)                     manuscript representation of the Sun (C. Warnock)

Sayyid Muhammad b. Amir Hasan Su’udi (1582)             Indian representation of the Sun

Based on these data, it can be said that the sun generally appears as a king wearing a crown, sometimes seated on a throne or in a chariot.  He may be holding one or two objects:  a scepter or torch, and a book.  If holding just a scepter, it is always in the king’s right hand; if holding two objects, the scepter may be either in the right or left hand.  The sun is associated with horses in several cases, and of course with the lion (since the sun rules Leo).  Since the sun rules only one sign of the zodiac, only one circle appears in Bruno’s images of 1582 and 1591, as well as Beham’s woodcut (in the two latter cases this is accomplished by using a chariot with just one axle).  The sun appears above the scepter in Bruno (1582), and covers the king’s secrets in the Warnock woodcut.  The sun glyph appears to the right in both of these, but floats just in front of the figure in Beham’s woodcut.  The Islamic version simply portrays the sun rising over hills, while the Indian representaton portrays the sun as a divine being seated in a chariot drawn by six horses.
Almanacco Perpetuo departs from these conventions in several important ways.  First, the seven-pointed star at upper right has no parallels elsewhere.  Also, it appears that the illustrator was extremely attached to the practice of illustrating two zodiacal signs at the bottom of the picture; since the sun requires only Leo, he has filled in the right-hand circle with a crescent moon which is simply inexplicable in the context.  Finally, I can find no precedent for the portrayal of the sun with its face tilted to the left.
Saet’lo Xiromant’ia has followed the Almanacco Perpetuo in all of these peculiarities—three times adding a star on the upper right (five or six points), and three times including a representation of the moon at lower right (full moon or new moon).  The leftward tilt of the sun’s face is also imitated from the Italian source.  Finally, in all three cases the king holds his scepter in his left hand—this is very strange, and again finds no parallel either in Beltrano or among the other representations I have assembled here.

c.  Representations of Mars


Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 62v

Almanacco Perpetuo, p. 171 (illustration duplicated on pages 159, 181)

In the Almanacco Perpetuo, Mars is portrayed as a warrior seated on a hillock, wearing a cuirass and helmet.  He holds a sword in his right hand, and his left hand is extended.  To the left of his head appears an eight-pointed star with a tail, and to the right of his head appears the Mars glyph (tilted to the left, not to the right as commonly).  Two circles appear at the bottom of the picture.  The left circle contains a scorpion (Scorpio), while the right circle contains a bull (Taurus); this seems to be an error, since the signs ruled by Mars are Aries and Scorpio, not Taurus and Scorpio.  There are three labels:  SCORP above the left-hand circle, ARIETE (correct) above the right-hand circle, and beneath the warrior’s feet, CASA DMARTE.
            Saet’lo Xiromant’ia portrays Mars in a crouching position (no hill is visible), and instead of the helmet and cuirass, he appears to be wearing a cap and parti-colored clothing (light on the left, shaded on the right), something like the Joker in a deck of cards. 

62v:  Very strangely, Mars holds his sword in his left hand!  His right hand is extended.  The Mars glyph appears to the left of his head, and an eight-pointed star (no tail) to the right of his head.  Both these arrangements are the mirror-opposite of the Almanacco Perpetuo illustration.  At bottom left, there is a sheep (no horns); at bottom right, a scorpion (again, this arrangement reverses that found in the Almanacco Perpetuo illustration.  Neither of these is surrounded by a circle, and there are no labels.

68v:  This version is identical to that of 62v, but in this case the ruminant is clearly a ram, with horns.  Notice how the glued strip of paper used to update the almanac has peeled aside, revealing the original date written in red ink—this and other similar instances reveal that the cycle has been updated (brought forward by 84 years).

73r:  This version is identical to the other two, but in this case the ram has been replaced by a bull (Taurus)—perpetuating the error seen in the Almanacco Perpetuo.  The warrior is more thickset than in the other illustrations, and his clothing is all of the same color. 

            Thus, the illustrations of Mars found in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia may be interpreted as mirror-reversals of the one in Almanacco Perpetuo in every detail.
Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 68v                                                             Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 73r

Taxonomy of Mars representations


Giordano Bruno, Ars Memoriae (1582)                        Giordano Bruno, De Imaginum Compositione (1591)


Tarocchi di Mantegna (c1465)                                                       Hans Sebald Beham (1530/40)


woodblock print of Mars (C. Warnock)                         Sayyid Muhammad b. Amir Hasan Su’udi (1582)

Turkish representations of Mars (E. Baer)            Indian representation of Mars

            Based on these data, it can be said that Mars is portrayed as a warrior, usually seated on a throne or in a chariot.  In his right hand, he holds a weapon (a sword, axe, or spear), and may hold a shield in his left.  However, Warnock’s engraving has him holding a torch in his right hand and an axe in his left, with a sword suspended from his waist; Beham portrays him with a shield in his right hand and nothing in his right.
            Mars is associated with horses or dogs (“let slip the dogs of war”).  The two signs ruled by Mars may appear in two circles or wheels, with Aries on the left and Scorpio on the right (Bruno 1582, 1591, Beham, Warnock).  A star appears on the upper left (Bruno 1582), but covers the secrets in the Warnock engraving.  The Mars glyph appears at upper right (Bruno 1582), but Beham has it floating in front of the figure. 
            The Islamic representations agree in placing an axe in his right hand and a pointed hat on his head.  The Indian representation portrays him as a warrior riding on a ram, with a sword in his right hand and a shield in his left.
            Saet’lo Xiromant’ia is eccentric in downplaying the warrior’s martial character (no helmet or cuirass), in confounding Taurus with Aries (an error apparently copied from the Almanacco Perpetuo), and, above all, in consistently portraying him as a left-handed swordsman.  

d.  Representations of the Moon


Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 68r

Almanacco Perpetuo, p. 167

            The Almanacco Perpetuo portrays the Moon as a seated woman (possibly on a field of grass—perhaps because the moon is associated with dew).  In her right hand, she holds an object which appears to be a torch; her left hand is extended and appears to be pointing upwards.  On the upper left is a crescent moon with horns inward, while on the upper right is another crescent moon with a face in the unilluminated portion (also with horns inward).  There are two circles at the bottom of the picture.  The left circle contains a crab (Cancer), while the right circle contains something that looks like the pages of an open book.  There are two labels:  CAN above the crab, and CASA D LUNA beneath the woman’s feet.
            Saet’lo Xiromant’ia follows this model, but with several differences.  Instead of a torch, the woman holds an arrow; and instead of pointing upward, her left hand rests in her lap.  There is nothing comparable to the “grass” suggested by the double line of squares in Almanacco Perpetuo.  In every case, the woman’s skirt is hiked up to reveal her left knee—a detail which is reminiscent of the representations of Senacher (the second decanate of Aries) as a woman with one leg extended or uncovered.

68r:  In her right hand, the woman holds an arrow, point down; her left hand rests in her lap.  At upper left appears a crescent moon with a face in its unilluminated portion, while at upper right there is a crescent moon with a face seen in profile (the reverse of their arrangement in the Almanacco Perpetuo).  In the circle at bottom left is a crab with a head which curiously resembles the shape of a crescent moon; in the circle at bottom right is an object which appears to be a moon with a cratered surface, the right limb of which is shaded.

71r:  Here, the crab grasps the tip of the arrow with its left claw, and the crescent moon at upper right is a simple lunar glyph, with horns pointing inward.

73r:  This version is identical to 71r, except that the point of the arrow is now hidden behind the woman’s right knee, and its tail is of a different design.


Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 71r                                                Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 73r

Taxonomy of Lunar representations


Giordano Bruno, Ars Memoriae (1582)                        Giordano Bruno, De Imaginum Compositione (1591)


Tarocchi di Mantegna (c1465)                                                       Hans Sebald Beham (1530/40)

woodblock print of the Moon (C. Warnock)                         15th century Italian representation of the Moon
                                                                        (C. Warnock)


Sayyid Muhammad b. Amir Hasan Su’udi (1582)                        Indian representation of the Moon

Based on these data, it can be said that the Moon is generally portrayed as
woman (though the figure in the Tarocchi di Mantegna may be male), and is usually seated on a throne or in a chariot.  In her right hand, she holds an arrow with the point down, or a hunting horn (both of these are probably references to her association with Artemis, the goddess of the hunt).  In her left hand, the woman sometimes holds something else—a spear (Warnock), or possibly a torch (in the 15th century Italian illustration).
The moon is associated with a dragon (Bruno 1591), with horses (Tarocchi di Mantegna), and in the Beham engraving, her chariot is drawn by paynims; in Bruno’s De imaginum compositione (1591), it is drawn by two women.
An image of the crab, the sign of Cancer, may appear in a circle or wheel (Bruno 1582, 1591; Beham; 15th century Italian representation).  An image of a crescent moon may also appear (at upper left in Bruno 1582; on a disk which covers the woman’s secrets in the Warnock woodcut and in the 15th century Italian representation).  The crescent moon glyph may also appear (at upper right in Bruno 1582 and in the Warnock woodcut, but floating ahead of the woman in the Beham engraving).
The Islamic representation is simply the moon rising over a landscape, while the Indian representation has the figure riding on a deer.  Neither of these is of any particular relevance to the illustrations we are analyzing.
The representations in the Almanacco Perpetuo and in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia most closely follow the one which appears in Bruno’s Ars Memoriae (1582), where both a crescent moon with a face and a simple crescent moon glyph appear.  However, as in the case of the Sun, the association of just one constellation with the Moon appears to have troubled the illustrator of the Almanacco Perpetuo, and a second image has been added at lower right, something resembling the pages of an open book; whatever this object is, the writer of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia has replaced it with a picture of the cratered lunar disk, shaded on the right.  I can find no precedent for these strange second images associated with the sun and moon.

e.  Representations of Mercury


Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 69r

Almanacco Perpetuo, p. 163 (illustration duplicated on pages 172, 180)
Almanacco Perpetuo portrays Mercury as a man standing on a hill or a wall, wearing a winged helmet, cuirass, and boots.  In his right hand is the caduceus, and his left hand is extended.  The Mercury glyph appears at upper right.  At the bottom of the engraving are two circles.  The left circle contains an image of a woman with a scepter in her right hand (Virgo); the right circle contains two male children embracing (Gemini).  There are three labels:  VIRGI above the left circle, GEMINE above the right circle, and CASA DMERCURI beneath the feet of the figure.
            Saet’lo Xiromant’ia closely follows this model, although there is no hill or wall to be seen in the background.

69r:  There are no circles surrounding the small images of Virgo and Gemini, and no labels.  Virgo is seated and has her right hand extended, but has no scepter.

71v:  Here, Mercury holds the caduceus in his left hand, and rests his right hand in his lap; the Mercury glyph has been shifted to upper left; the small figure of Virgo holds a scepter in her right hand.  Very strangely, Gemini has been replaced by what appears to be a scorpion (Scorpio) at lower right!

74r:  As in 71v, Mercury holds the caduceus in his left hand, and rests his right hand in his lap, with the Mercury glyph at upper left; as in 71v, one of the signs conventionally associated with Mercury appears (Gemini, at lower right); but the other has been replaced by a sign which is not associated with Mercury—in this case, at lower left there appears a centaur shooting an arrow (Sagittarius).  This is especially strange because Sagittarius and Gemini are diametrically opposite to each other in the zodiac.


Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 71v                                                Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 74r

Taxonomy of Mercury representations

mer3                                    mer4

Giordano Bruno, Ars Memoriae (1582)                        Giordano Bruno, De Imaginum Compositione (1591)


Tarocchi di Mantegna (c1465)                                                       Hans Sebald Beham (1530/40)


woodblock print of Mercury (C. Warnock)                                          manuscript representation of Mercury
     (C. Warnock)


Sayyid Muhammad b. Amir Hasan Su’udi (1582)                        Indian representation of Mercury

            Based on the data collected, it may be said that Mercury is usually represented as a man wearing a winged helmet and (often) with winged boots.  He may appear standing or seated on a throne or in a chariot. 
            In his right hand (but in his left hand in Beham’s engraving), he holds the caduceus (or simply two coiled snakes in the Warnock woodcut).  Usually there is nothing in his left hand, but in both representations given by Warnock he is holding an object in his left hand—possibly a bag of money or a garment.  In the Tarocchi di Mantegna, he appears to be playing a pipe or flute which is held in the left hand.
            Mercury is associated with eagles (Bruno 1582, 1591, Beham), or with a rooster (Tarocchi di Mantegna)—perhaps this is “a cock for Aesculapius.”  There is also a severed head lying between his feet in that same representation.
            The two signs ruled by Mercury may appear at the bottom of the picture—Gemini on the left and Virgo on the right (in both representations given by Warnock, and in Bruno 1582, where both Gemini and Virgo have been Christianized as angels); or Virgo on the left and Gemini on the right (Bruno 1591, Beham).
            A star appears at upper left (Bruno 1582), but covers the figure’s secrets in the Warnock woodcut.  The Mercury glyph may also appear—at upper right (Bruno 1582), at lower right (Warnock woodcut), or floating ahead of the figure (Beham).
            As in other cases, the Islamic and Indian representations appear to be irrelevant; it is interesting to note, however, that the Indian representation has Mercury riding a tiger (“there was a young lady of Niger . . .”).
            Two of the illustrations in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia (71v and 74r) are a bit unusual in placing the caduceus in Mercury’s left hand (though in this they follow Beham and Warnock’s manuscript representation), but extremely anomalous in associating Mercury with the Virgo and Scorpio (71v) and with Sagittarius and Gemini (74r).

f.  Representations of Venus


Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 69v

Almanacco Perpetuo, p. 164

These last two (Venus and Saturn) may well be the key to the whole thing!  In the Almanacco Perpetuo, Venus appears as a seated woman with long hair, wearing a gown.  In her right hand is an orb, shaded on one side.  Here left hand rests in her lap, but appears to be pointing toward bottom left.  Above the orb is an eight-pointed star with a hollow center.   At top right, the Venus glyph appears.  There are two circles at the bottom of the picture, with a pair of scales in the left circle (Libra) and a reclining bull in the right circle (Taurus).  There are three labels:  LIBRA above the left circle, TAUR above the right circle, and CASA D VENERE beneath the woman’s feet.

Saet’lo Xiromant’ia again makes some strange mirror reversals of the image in
the Almanacco Perpetuo.

69v:  Here we see the same woman in the same position, but the figure is reversed!  She holds an orb in her extended left hand, while her right hand rests in her lap, pointing toward bottom right.  There is some suggestion of an object in this hand, perhaps a set of keys?  Above the orb is an eight-pointed star.  The Venus glyph appears next to the figure’s head at upper left.  At bottom left there is a pair of scales (Libra); at bottom right there is a reclining bull (Taurus).  There are no circles or labels.  Thus, although the woman has been reversed, the small images of Libra and Taurus have not been reversed from their arrangement in the Almanacco Perpetuo.

72r:  Here, the woman is sitting, as if cross-legged on ground, and the whole composition is compacted vertically.  Otherwise it is identical to 69v.


Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 72r

Taxonomy of Venus representations

Giordano Bruno, Ars Memoriae (1582)                        Giordano Bruno, De Imaginum Compositione (1591)


Tarocchi di Mantegna (c1465)                                                       Hans Sebald Beham (1530/40)


woodblock print of Venus (C. Warnock)                                     manuscript representation of Venus
(C. Warnock)


Sayyid Muhammad b. Amir Hasan Su’udi (1582)                                    Indian representation of Venus

Based on the data collected, it may be said that Venus is represented as a female figure with hair emphasized (long in Bruno 1582, tied up in Bruno 1591, blowing in Beham, very long in the Warnock woodcut, adorned with a wreath in the Warnock manuscript representation).  She sometimes wears a gown, but sometimes appears nude.  She may be portrayed standing, or seated on a throne or in a chariot.  In Bruno’s Ars Memoriae (1582), she is wearing a winged helmet; while in his De imaginum compositione (1591), she has wings in her hair.  In her right hand, she holds either an arrow (point may be either up or down) or a spray of leaves; the arrow is in her left hand, however, in the Beham engraving, where she holds Cupid’s leash in her right hand.  In her left hand, she holds a burning heart or a mirror (note that the woman’s reflection in the mirror is clearly visible in the Warnock woodcut).
Venus is associated with birds (probably doves), and of course with the figure of the blindfolded Cupid with his arrows.
A star may appear (a 16-pointed star at upper left in Bruno 1582; a 6 or 8-pointed star covering the woman’s secrets in both representations provided by Warnock); the Venus glyph appears at upper right (Bruno 1582), floating in front of the figure in Beham’s engraving. 
The signs associated with Venus may appear at the bottom:  Taurus on the left, Libra on the right (Bruno 1582, 1591, Beham, Warnock woodcut); Libra on the left, Taurus on the right (Warnock manuscript representation).  The bull of Taurus may be cut off at the shoulders or may appear as a complete figure.
The Islamic representation is a female figure, but is otherwise irrelevant; the Indian representation has Venus riding on a flying horse.
Now this is very interesting:  based on the two representations found on Warnock’s website, the “orb” which appears in the woman’s hand in both the Almanacco Perpetuo and in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia must be a mirror, and indeed the figure in 69v may be seen as a woman looking into a mirror!  The lines in the woman’s lap are not keys, but are probably the spray of leaves which is seen in both of Warnock’s illustrations.  Research is required to ascertain what plant this may be.  For once, the rulerships are correct—studiously so.  Could it be that in the Almanacco Perpetuo she is holding the mirror out to catch the reflection of the star?

g.  Representations of Saturn


Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 70r

Almanacco Perpetuo, p. 165


The Almanacco Perpetuo portrays Saturn as a seated man with a beard, wearing a robe girded in the middle.  In his right hand, he holds a scythe with a double blade extended over his head.  Just opposite the blade, as if part of its attachment to the shaft, is an 8-pointed star, and just below it, next to his hand, is the Saturn glyph.  In his left hand is a circular object with two rims, joined by 2 triangles at the apex, something like a big wedding ring.  There are two circles at the bottom:  in the left circle is a sea-goat (Capricorn); on the right is a female water-carrier, pouring water from a vessel (Aquarius).  There are three labels:  CAPRI above the sea-goat, AQUA above the water-carrier, CASA D SATUR beneath the figure’s feet.
            In Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, Saturn is the same figure, but has a longer beard, a bald head, and his scythe blade is single-edged.  Everything appears in the same arrangement as in the Almanacco Perpetuo, but with two very important exceptions:  first, instead of the “ring,” Saturn is holding an orb exactly like the one held by Venus in  69v (but without shading), and he grips it in the same way—so there can be little doubt that Saet’lo Xiromant’ia portrays Saturn holding a mirror!  Second, instead of Aquarius at lower right, there is a prancing bull (Taurus).  There are no labels or circles.
            So once again, we see the unaccountable replacement of a sign associated with the figure with another sign which is not associated with it.  In this case, there is a possible explanation—the bull drawn at lower right is identical to the bull which appears in the Venus illustration on the facing page.  The bull could have been copied from the facing page (assuming the pages were produced in that order), though there is no rational reason for it. 
easy to rememberSaet’lo Xiromant’ia 69r-70v.  Note the resemblance of the bull associated (incorrectly) with Saturn to the bull associated (correctly) with Venus on the facing page.
Taxonomy of Saturn representations


Giordano Bruno, Ars Memoriae (1582)                        Giordano Bruno, De Imaginum Compositione (1591)


Tarocchi di Mantegna (c1465)                                                       Hans Sebald Beham (1530/40)

Saturn (mediaeval manuscript, 

Renaissance representation of Saturn (

Two representations of Saturn with sickle (pruning hook) (

Saturn with the signs of Aquarius and Capricorn
(C. Warnock)

woodblock print of Saturn (C. Warnock)                         Sayyid Muhammad b. Amir Hasan Su’udi (1582)

Turkish representations of Saturn (E. Baer)            Indian representation of Saturn
            Based on the various representations of Saturn assembled here, it can be said that Saturn is generally portrayed as an aged man with a beard, usually wearing a hat.  He is sometimes bald, and although he may be pictured sitting on a throne or riding in a chariot, his demeanor is often that of a beggar—nude or partially clad in shabby clothing, supporting himself with a crutch or cane.  This portrayal of Saturn as a beggar is reminiscent of Wotan (walking among mortal men disguised as a beggar); the Islamic representations of Saturn (along with those of Mars) are the only ones which closely parallel the western conventions; in the Islamic sources, Saturn is portrayed as an old beggar with a beard, crouching shirtless in the street or next to the road, either bald or wearing a tall hat.  Like the western version of Saturn, he bears a scythe (barely distinguishable from the axe carried by Mars in Islamic representations).  This portrayal of Saturn as a being who frequents public thoroughfares is closely parallel to the western conception of him, and also brings to mind the Abkhaz legend of the “Prince of the Dead,” which was the subject of my other short paper.
            Saturn is generally represented holding a large scythe (or, alternately, a sickle); obviously this motif has survived into modern times as “Father Time” or the “Old Year,” commonly associated with New Year’s Eve—a thinly-disguised representation of Saturn.  The scythe may curve back overhead from left to right, or may hang back over Saturn’s shoulder, or it may rest on the ground (also with the blade extending from left to right).  There is only one instance here (“renaissance representation of Saturn”) where the blade points to the left.  When Saturn holds a sickle, he usually brandishes it overhead in a threatening manner, with the point away from him.  The scythe or sickle may be held in either hand (10 times in the right hand, including all of the Islamic representations; three times in the left hand).  In his other hand (usually the left), Saturn very often holds a crutch, or sometimes an infant whom he is devouring. 
            Saturn’s chariot may be drawn by two serpents or two cockatrices, biting their tails.  In some cases he is accompanied by his children, whom he is about to devour.  In the Warnock woodcut, the child water-bearer does double duty as a representation of Aquarius and as Saturn’s potential child victim.
            A 16-pointed star appears at top left in Bruno’s Ars Memoriae (1582), while in three of the representations, Saturn’s secrets are covered by a six-pointed star.  The Saturn glyph may also appear (at top right in Bruno 1582; floating in front of the figure in Beham’s engraving.
            Sometimes the signs ruled by Saturn appear at the bottom of the picture—Aquarius on the left and Capricorn on the right (Bruno 1582, Beham, both representations supplied by Warnock, one of the “pruning hook” illustrations); or Capricorn on the left and Aquarius on the right (Bruno 1591, Rice University mediaeval manuscript).  Capricorn is sometimes represented as a sea-goat, sometimes simply as a goat; this appears to be a common substitution, on the same order as the variants of Taurus as the head and shoulders or as the entire figure of a bull. 
            The Indian representation of Saturn (a warrior riding a bull, armed with a sword and trident) does not seem particularly relevant.
            Thus, the portrayal of Saturn holding a mirror in the Almanacco Perpetuo (and in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, which follows it) is highly unusual; as is the substitution in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia of the bull for the water-bearer.

Through the Looking Glass?

            While the mirror is one of the iconographic conventions associated with Venus, it is hard to understand why the depictions of Saturn in both the Almanacco Perpetuo and Saet’lo Xiromant’ia have him holding a mirror.  There appears to be no precedent for this.  It should be noted, however, that in astrological lore, Venus and Saturn are often described as being “friends”—as having a mutual affinity, despite the marked contrast between them (as the “lesser benefic” and the “greater malefic”).
            Since the representations of Venus and Saturn appear on facing pages in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, it might be possible to explain the substitution of Taurus for Aquarius in the Saturn illustration, as well as the identical orbs held by both figures, in terms of the copying of elements from the left-hand page onto the right-hand page.  However, this fails to explain why both figures are holding mirrors in the Almanacco Perpetuo; although they appear on facing pages in that work as well, the “orbs” they hold are markedly different in appearance. 
            If we agree to entertain the possibility that these works contain secret information in a coded form, it is possible that these two illustrations are an important part of the message—perhaps even the key to it all.
            Not only are both Venus and Saturn holding mirrors, but they appear on facing pages.  Moreover, the illustrations in Saet’lo Xiroman’tia contain many strange left-right reversals of elements found in their counterparts in the Almanacco Perpetuo.  As I have already noted, the original preface to Saet’lo Xiromant’ia contains repeated references to mirrors. 
            All of this may point to the possibility that someone in Europe (perhaps someone acquainted with Ottavio Beltrano) had built a large reflecting telescope but had for some reason chosen not to publish a record of his observations.  Simonia (1998) argues that

such a discovery [of the Martian satellites] could be made only with the
help of a reflecting telescope.  Any other telescope of that time (such as
those of Hevelius, Huygens and Flamsteed) suffered from different
aberrations although their objectives were of quite big diameters and it
was altogether possible to observe the satellites of Mars through those
telescopes.  Moreover, in the late 17th and early 18th centuries the
mathematician, physicist and philosopher Tschirnhaus made large concave
mirrors and lenses; and in 1722 the astronomer Hadley made one of the
first reflectors with a main mirror diameter of 15 cm (Newton and Hook
had built smaller reflectors earlier). (p. 174).

            This idea is, of course, highly speculative, but further study of both works (and especially of earlier editions of the Almanacco Perpetuo) may provide additional evidence.  It is very interesting to note that in the Venus illustration in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia (69v), and especially in its counterpart in the Almanacco Perpetuo (p. 164), Venus can be construed as holding out her mirror to reflect the star which appears just above it in both versions!
             Page 21v (not available to me) contains the following very interesting statement:  “First we must know that God created the Sun and Moon and ordered that the Moon should receive its light from the Sun.  The Moon itself is a blank.  The Moon illuminates us after receiving its light from the Sun” (Simonia 1999:¶40 [italics mine]).  This passage may well a survival of an ancient idea mentioned by Plutarch and later affirmed by Averroës (Ariew 1992), namely that “the full moon is itself in uniformity and luster the finest and clearest of all mirrors” (Plutarch, De facie quae in orbe lunae apparet, 921A), and that the irregular features which appear there are in fact the reflections of the earth’s oceans and continents.           
It is equally possible that these repeated references to mirrors hint at some occult use of mirrors—a technology as yet unrecognized by science.
            The juxtaposition of a mirror in the left hand of Venus (benefic) and a mirror in the left hand of Saturn (malefic, associated with the color black) is also highly interesting.  This brings to mind once again the “black mirror” of western occultism, and especially the contrasting shining mirror (aspaqlarya de-nahara)  and opaque mirror (aspaqlarya de-la nahara) mentioned repeatedly in the Zohar, both of which are associated with prophecy (Bereshis A 17:193).  Moreover, the images of Venus and Saturn appear on facing pages (69v-70r) in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia—another sort of mirroring.
            These associations may have more than a merely speculative basis, when considered in light of the Abkhaz folktale about “The Man who Used to Swear by the Prince of the Dead,” which I have analyzed in my other short paper.  This story demonstrates the existence in the Caucasus of a native tradition about mirrors, embodying ideas of considerable depth and complexity.

Left-Handed Combatants?

            It should also be stressed that it is highly unusual in planetary representations to portray the planets holding their characteristic objects (especially weapons) in the left hand.  An exception may be seen below, where the planetary representations are arranged in two files to left and right of center (an arrangement suggestive of the astrological doctrine of doryphory).  Here, the figures on the right hold their weapons in the left hand, extended away from the center; yet even here, something anomalous appears—why is Jupiter (on the left) holding his scepter in his left hand?

17th century Rosicrucian diagram of the seven planets and 12 signs (
10.  Synopsis of the Perpetual Almanac (76v)


Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 76v

            Almanacco Perpetuo, p. 185

            This page, in both almanacs, appears to present a synopsis of the 28-year perpetual almanac cycle.  This is a good place to summarize the data found in this table and to check it against what appears on the preceding pages:

Almanacco Perpetuo

            [page 185]                        [perpetual almanac, pp. 145-150]
year            ruler             sign                         pictured                                    lord of year            sign                        ruler

1720            Mars            Scorpio                        Mars; Sco./Tau.                        Venus                        Scorpio                        Mars
1721            Sun            Sagittarius            Sun                                    Sun                        Sagittarius            Jupiter
1722            Moon            Sagittarius            Jupiter; Pis./Sag.                        Moon                        Sagittarius            Jupiter
1723            Mars            Capricorn            -----                                    Mars                        Capricorn            Saturn
1724            Mercury            Capricorn            Mercury; Vir./Gem.            Mercury                        Capricorn            Saturn
1725            Venus            Capricorn            Venus; Lib./Tau.                        Venus                        Capricorn            Saturn
1726            Jupiter            Aquarius            Saturn; Cap./Aqu.            Saturn                        Aquarius            Saturn

1727            Sun            Aquarius            Sun; Leo/Moon                        Sun                        Aquarius            Saturn
1728            Moon            Pisces                        Moon; Can./Moon            Moon                        Pisces                        Jupiter
1729            Mercury            Pisces                        -----                                    Mercury                        Pisces                        Jupiter
1730            Jupiter            Aries                        -----                                    Jupiter                        Aries                        Mars
1731            Venus            Aries                        -----                                    Venus                        Aries                        Mars
1732            Jupiter            Taurus                        -----                                    Saturn                        Aries                        Mars
1733            Moon            Taurus                        -----                                    Moon                        Taurus                        Venus

1734            Mars            Taurus                        Mars; Sco./Tau.                        Mars                        Taurus                        Venus
1735            Mercury            Gemini                        Mercury; Vir./Gem.            Mercury                        Gemini                        Mercury
1736            Jupiter            Gemini                        -----                                    Jupiter                        Gemini                        Mercury
1737            Jupiter            Libra                        -----                                    Saturn                        Libra                        Venus
1738            Sun            Cancer                        Sun                                    Sun                        Cancer                        Moon
1739            Moon            Leo                        -----                                    Moon                        Leo                        Sun
1740            Mars            Leo                        -----                                    Mars                        Leo                        Sun

1741            Jupiter            Scorpio                        -----                                    Jupiter                        Leo                        Sun
1742            Mercury            Libra                        -----                                    Venus                        Virgo                        Mercury
1743            Mars            Libra                        -----                                    Saturn                        Virgo                        Mercury
1744            Sun            Libra                        Sun; Leo/Moon                        Sun                        Libra                        Venus
1745            Saturn            Virgo                        -----                                    Mars                        Libra                        Venus
1746            Venus            Virgo                        Mercury; Vir./Gem.            Mercury                        Libra                        Venus
1747            Jupiter            Scorpio                        Mars; Sco./Tau.                        Jupiter                        Scorpio                        Mars

            I have indicated with bold type those instances (in the first three columns) where the summary does not match either the illustrations or the text found in the almanac itself, as well as those instances (in the fourth column) where an “erroneous” association has been made.  It thus becomes evident that the correspondence between the summary and the preceding almanac pages is quite good.  Not so with Saet’lo Xiromant’ia (see next page).

Saet’lo Xiromant’ia

            [page 76v; 75v-76r]            [perpetual almanac, pp. 60v-74r]
year            ruler            sign                        pictured                                    lord of year            sign                        ruler

1652            Mars            Taurus                        Jupiter; Pis./Sag.                        Jupiter                        Gemini                        Mercury
1653            MercuryGemini                        Libra                                    Saturn                        Libra                        Venus           
1654            Jupiter            Gemini                        Sun; Leo/Moon                        Sun                        Cancer                        Moon
1655            Saturn            Libra                        Leo; Sun                        Moon                        Leo                         Sun
1656            Sun            Cancer                        Mars; Ari./Sco.                        Mars                        Leo                        Sun
1657            Moon            Leo                        Jupiter                                    Jupiter                        Leo                        Sun
1658            Mars            Leo                        Virgo; Venus                        Venus                        Virgo                        Mercury

1659            Jupiter            Leo                        Virgo                                    Saturn                        Virgo                        Mercury
1660            Venus            Virgo                        Sun; Leo/Moon                        Sun                        Libra                        Venus
1661            Saturn            Virgo                        Libra; Venus                        Mars                        Libra                        Venus
1662            Sun            Libra                        Libra; Venus                        Mercury                        Libra                        Venus
1663            Mars            Libra                        Jupiter; Ari./Sag.                        Jupiter                        Scorpio                        Mars
1664            MercuryLibra                        Scorpio; Venus                        Venus                        Scorpio                        Mars
1665            Jupiter            Scorpio                        Sun                                    Sun                        Sagittarius            Jupiter

1666            Venus            Scorpio                        Moon; Can./Moon            Moon                        Sagittarius            Jupiter
1667            Sun            Sagittarius            Mars; Ari./Sco.                        Mars                        Capricorn            Saturn
1668            Moon            Sagittarius            Mercury; Vir./Gem.            Mercury                        Capricorn            Saturn
1669            Mars            Capricorn            Venus; Lib./Tau.                        Venus                        Capricorn            Saturn
1670            MercuryCapricorn            Saturn; Cap./Tau.            Saturn                        Aquarius            Saturn
1671            Venus            Capricorn            Sun; Leo/Moon                        Sun                        Aquarius            Saturn
1672            Saturn            Aquarius            Moon; Can./Moon            Moon                        Pisces                        Jupiter

1673            Sun            Aquarius            Mercury; Vir./Sco.            Mercury                        Pisces                        Jupiter
1674            Moon            Pisces                        Jupiter; Cap./Sag.                        Jupiter                        Aries                        Mars
1675            MercuryPisces                        Venus; Lib./Tau.                        Venus                        Aries                        Mars
1676            Jupiter            Aries                        Aries                                    Saturn                        Aries                        Mars
1677            Venus            Aries                        Moon; Can./Moon            Moon                        Taurus                        Venus
1678            Saturn            Taurus                        Mars; Tau./Sco.                        Mars                        Taurus                        Venus
1679            Moon            Taurus                        Mercury; Sag./Gem.            Mercury                        Gemini                        Mercury

            The astounding thing here is that we have finally obtained a key to the meaning of the system of dating used throughout the manuscript:  the sequence begins on the upper right, where the middle circle starts with T’M (340), and continues clockwise through T’OZ (357) the last year given at the top of the page.  This sequence corresponds to that of the inner circle, which begins with CH-K-N-B (1652) and ends with CH-K-O-T (1679).  There can be little doubt that T’M (340) is intended to correlate with CH-K-N-B (1652).  This also matches the series of eclipses (31r-35r), which are designated by the numbers T’M (340) through T’NG (353), and which have already been conclusively identified as the eclipses of 1652-1665.  The date T’NIV (366) associated with the summer ingress for 1635 (59r) remains inexplicable.  The periphrastic values from CH-K-N-I (1660, literally 1000 + 600 + 50 + 10) through CH-K-N-IT (1669, literally 1000 + 600 + 50 + 19) can be explained as a way of avoiding the use of the obsolescent letter Y, which is conventionally used to represent the number 60.
It is now possible to state with some confidence that in its original form, Saet’lo Xiromant’ia presented a 28-year “perpetual almanac” which covered the years 1652 through 1679, with additional three additional years keyed to each prognostication resulting in three further 28-year cycles (1680-1707, 1708-1735, 1736-1763).  At some point, strips of paper were added to update the almanac by 84 years, and these strips listed five (not four) years each.  It appears that the latest date listed (on page 74r) for the end of the last 28-year cycle was PLE (535), corresponding to the year 1847.  Thus, Saet’lo Xiromant’ia was in constant use throughout the entire 18th century and probably into the 19th.  It is probable that the book was originally compiled during the second half of the 17th century and originally incorporated an early version of the Almanacco Perpetuo whose almanac section began with the 1652-1679 series.  With further research, it may be possible to locate the precise edition used by the writer of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia.
It is still unclear why a double designation was used for these years, or what calendrical era began with the year 1312 (which would be year one of the alphabetical series).
              Once again, I have used bold type to indicate (in the first three columns) those instances where the summary does not match the text or illustrations found in the perpetual almanac itself.  Here, we find a very poor correspondence between the.  As before, I have also used bold type to indicate those instances in the fourth column where the illustrations contain anomalous elements.
            The appearance of a representation of Jupiter in the center of the summary table not easy to explain.  Although it corresponds to the material found in the almanac (which begins with Jupiter), it does not correspond to the beginning of the cycle as found in the table itself.
            Beltrano’s summary table goes around clockwise from 1720 through 1747, but the starting point is at upper left, not at the top of the right side as in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia.  The appearance of the Moon in the center of the table makes very little sense, since the inscription below the picture reads “Quest’Anno 1720, domina Venere, con il segno di Scorpione, e ci dà l’Anno fertile di Vino, Oglio, Seta, Lino, ed ogn’altra cosa appartenente all’annona” (“This year 1720, Venus being [its] ruler, with the sign of Scorpio, and makes the year fertile in wine, oil, silk, linen, and everything else which pertains to Annona”).  Annona was a goddess who personified the annual grain supply to Rome (Welch 2008).  One would expect to see a portrayal of Venus or Mars here (corresponding to the information given here and on p. 159 for the year 1720).  Perhaps the moon was used simply because of its general association with crops and fertility.  It may be worth noting that Beltrano’s engraving of the moon here is surrounded by exactly 142 rays—I couldn’t resist the temptation to count them!
            Beltrano’s table contains one feature which is missing from Saet’lo Xiromant’ia:  the middle ring contains an abbreviation, describing each year as either Fert. (Fertile), Ster. (Sterile), Med. (Medio [“average”]), or Mag. (Magro [“meager”]).  This was probably omitted to allow room for the mysterious double row of dates.
            It is also very interesting that the table for 1720-1747 has been retained in this edition of the Almanacco Perpetuo, which is dated 1754!
            Finally, something must be said of the correspondence between the 28-year cycles as they are presented in the two almanacs.  When all the data have been tabulated, as above, it becomes evident that in both cases, the choice of which planet to illustrate at the head of each prognostication was rather haphazard:  sometimes it was the actual lord of the year; other times it was the planet which ruled the sign which the lord of the year occupied.  Several of the anomalies found in the illustrations of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia can be explained in this way.  A careful study of this tabulation reveals two things:  first, the reason the summary table in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia (76v) does not correspond to the almanac (60v-74r) is simply that the table is two years ahead—the year 1654 in the table corresponds to the year 1652 in the almanac.  When this adjustment is made, everything corresponds perfectly.  Why the writer made this error (if that’s what it is) is inexplicable to me at this point.  Second, the cycle which begins with 1720 in the Almanacco Perpetuo corresponds to a cycle in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia beginning with the year 1666 (which, as we have just seen, should be corrected to 1664).  Both these cycles begin with Venus as lord of the year, and once the two-year correction is made to the summary table in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, everything falls into place—since 1664 and 1720 are exactly 56 years (or two 28-year cycles) apart.

11.  Illustration heading the Perpetual Lunary (99v)


Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 99v

Almanacco Perpetuo, p. 13

Description and Interpretation

            This page definitely corresponds to page 13 in Beltrano’s Almanacco Perpetuo, as is demonstrated not only by the similarity of their illustrations, but also by the fact that the Georgian chapter-heading reads tavi meocda tertmet’e mtvarit sauk’unod burjebisa da mis xasiatis shet’q’oba (“thirty-first chapter:  perpetual observation of lunar signs and phases”)—a description which closely matches the title given in the Italian text. 
            Beltrano’s “Lunario Perpetuo” is headed by an engraving of the sun and moon, both with human faces.  The sun’s face (on the left) is surrounded by 12 flames (or, to be precise, by six triangles and six flames), and exactly 180 rays.  Unlike the 142 rays I counted on page 185 (a number which doesn’t appear to signify anything in particular and is probably a meaningless by-product of the engraving process), this number 180 has great astrological significance.  It is exactly half the number of degrees in the zodiac; and if the degrees are alternately designated as “bright” and “dark,” as is sometimes done, then each pair of degrees equates to a day and a night, so that there will be exactly 180 of these pairs.  It is difficult to say whether this number of rays was created intentionally or not, but it is an interesting possibility—especially since they fit into the larger matrix of the 12 flames, which are very likely intended to represent the 12 signs of the zodiac. 
While the sun’s gaze appears to be directed slightly to the left, the moon is looking toward the right.  The left side of its face is framed by a crescent (with three belts of shading—in the center and at both points); this face and crescent are both surrounded by a larger circle which has deep shading on the right side, tapering off toward the top and bottom, and three belts of lighter shading on the left side.
The corresponding illustration in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia (99v) is of great interest:  like the Almanacco Perpetuo, it places the sun on the left and the moon on the right, and both have faces.  However, some mirror-reversals have been done:  both luminaries appear to be directing their gaze toward the star-like object which has been inserted between them, and the crescent now frames the right-hand side of the moon’s face.  Moreover, there is no larger circle surrounding the crescent, but instead there is a larger circle surrounding the sun and its rays—the reverse of the arrangement seen in Beltrano’s illustration.  The sun is here surrounded by eight (not 12) flames, and there are five intervening rays between each pair of flames, for a total of 40.  There is a narrow band separating these flames and rays from the larger circle which surrounds the sun’s face.
The most remarkable thing is the strange star-like object which occupies the center of the illustration.  It is a circle surrounded by six concave curves which interlock to form a six-pointed star, deeply shaded around the edges.  It has some resemblance to a fried egg.  Just visible on the right-hand side is a small point, something like the point of a tack or the stem of a flower.  What in the world does this represent?  Most likely it is a star of some kind; the small point on the right may represent the tail of a comet.  The object has a sort of organic appearance, and brings to mind some of the strange botanical illustrations found in the Voynich Manuscript.  In the context, however, it seems obvious that this is a star or comet—but why has the writer of Saet’lo Xiroman’tia inserted a star between the sun and moon?  It may be an allusion to Genesis 1:16 (“And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also”).  One possible ramification of this passage is a division of astrological time into three fundamental intervals:  day (when the sun is above the horizon); lunar night (when the sun is below the horizon and the moon is above the horizon); and stellar night (when both the sun and moon are below the horizon, thereby surrendering their rulership to the stars).
If, as seems quite likely, this object is intended to represent a comet, then which comet was it?  There were no fewer than 25 comets during the 17th century, including a number of famous ones:  1607 (Halley’s Comet), 1618 (three bright comets in that year), 1664, 1665, 1673, 1677, 1680, 1682 (return of Halley’s Comet), 1683; the comets of 1680 and 1682 were associated with the great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in Leo (October 1682), where they were joined by Mars.  This conjunction was heralded by a solar eclipse (1 September 1682), which was visible throughout western Europe (though not in the Caucasus).  These celestial phenomena were widely regarded as heralding the apocalypse (Knight-Jadczyk 2008; Espenak and Meeus 2007), and they correspond well with the probable date of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia.
The most remarkable thing about this mysterious star or comet is that the way the pictures are drawn, both the sun and the moon are looking toward it!  This strongly emphasizes the star as an object of special importance.
             However this illustration is to be interpreted, we have yet another striking example of a mirror-reversal in Saet’lo Xiroman’tia of elements from the corresponding illustrations in the Almanacco Perpetuo
            It seems appropriate at this point to make mention of a phenomenon noted  by Durkheim and Mauss (1963), though in a somewhat different context:  “we regard certain mental operations as simple and elementary when they are really very complex” (p. 3).  The distinction between left and right, especially the repeated distinction of left and right (which involves the related operation of counting or enumeration), is fundamental to our thinking on every level.  Though apparently very simple matters, both counting and the distinction between left and right are operations especially prone to error. 
This brings to mind a passage I once read by the mathematician C. H. Hinton; I cannot lay hands on it at the moment, but the gist of it was that Hinton decided at one point that rather than devoting himself to abstract and difficult concepts, he ought to focus his thoughts on what could be known for sure:  right and left, up and down, the fact that (for example) the position of a certain red block within a structure was in the third layer from the bottom, in the back row, fourth from the left.  It was by working from such a simple basis, of course, that Hinton achieved such remarkable results in visualizing and describing a fourth physical dimension.  As Hinton wrote in the essay, “Many Dimensions” (1885), “. . . there is a no less important branch of self knowledge which seems altogether like a research into the external world. In this we pass into a closer and closer contemplation of material things and relations, till suddenly we find that what we thought was certain and solid thought is really a vast and over-arching crust, whose limitlessness to us was but our conformity to its limit—a shell out of which and beyond which we may at any time pass” (¶78).

12.  Crabs and Scorpions

            When I first obtained access to Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, one of the first things which caught my eye was the curious representation of the crab (Cancer) on page 68r, with a head resembling a crescent moon.  For comparison, I have assembled below all three depictions of the crab which are found in the manuscript, along with the only corresponding illustration from the Almanacco Perpetuo.  Notice how all of the crabs have nine or ten legs and two claws (for a total of 11 or 12), and how the heads of the other two crabs in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia (71r and 73r) resemble the crescent moon to a lesser degree—71r in the shape of its head, and 73r only in terms of its pincer-like mouth parts.  Note also that the crab in 68r appears to have a single eye, while the others have two.


Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 68r                                                Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 73r                       


Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 71r                                    Almanacco Perpetuo, p. 244



Throughout Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, the Cancer glyph is drawn in the conventional western style, as in these examples:

Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 47r                        Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 46v                         Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 109r


            In Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, the Scorpio glyphs are always drawn naturalistically, in contrast to the more abstract western version, as exhibited in these examples from the Almanacco Perpetuo:


A.P. 136                        A.P. 139              A.P. 140    A.P. 141                        A.P. 141                        A.P. 142                A.P. 136

S.X., 46r                                    S.X., 46v                          S.X., 47r                                       S.X., 103v

S.X., 104r                        S.X., 109r                        S.X., 111v                        S.X., 121v

            As seen above, the Almanacco Perpetuo also uses a naturalistic Scorpio glyph from time to time; indeed, both versions appear on the same page (136).


            The five depictions of the scorpion (Scorpio) found in Saet’lo Xiromanti’ia are assembled below, along with their counterpart from the Almanacco Perpetuo:


Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 67r                                    Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 62v

Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 68v                                    Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 71v

Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 73v                                    Almanacco Perpetuo, p. 159

            In Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, the scorpions have round heads.  Three of them are one-eyed, and two of them have two eyes and lack mouths.  Observe how the scorpions from Saet’lo Xiromant’ia have varying numbers of legs (in contrast to the crabs, which have nine or ten legs), and that there are usually more legs on one side than on the other; while in the Almanacco Perpetuo, both the Scorpio glyph and the scorpion depicted on page 159 have eight legs (four on each side).  Also note how the scorpions in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia hve two-pronged stings which closely resemble their front claws (yet the scorpion on 68v has a fish-tail instead, like those of the crabs).
            The distinguishing features of crabs and scorpions in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia may be summarized as follows:

                        head                        eyes                        claws                        legs                        tail
Crabs:                        2-pronged            2 (or 1)                        2                        10 (or 9)                        fish-tail

Scorpions:            round                        1 (or 2)                        2                        variable                        2-pronged

            Let us see how well these conclusions hold up against a comparison to the depictions of crabs and scorpions available from the materials already assembled, along with a few additional examples:

Bruno 1582                    Bruno 1591                        15th century Italian      Beham                    Warnock woodcut


Voynich MS, 73r (this little             Roman mosaic (3rd century)            Otranto Cathedral (1160s)
monster is entirely unique!)            (Sacred Destinations 2008)            (Fletcher 2008)


Palermo Cathedral (1185)                        mediaeval representation                        Hevelius, Uranographia (1690)
(Joy of Shards 2008)                        of Scorpio (C. Warnock)


E. Sibly, Occult Sciences (1806)            Scorpio from Nabataean            16th century woodcut        6th century mosaic
                                                zodiac (2nd century)            (            from synagogue
                                                (                                                            at Beit Alpha

            Based on these examples, it appears that the representation of Scorpio is fairly straightforward:  a crustacean with prominent claws and a prominent stinging tail.  Indeed, these are the characteristic features of the constellation of Scorpio, which is very easy to locate in the night sky:  the claws being defined by the stars Graffias (Beta Scorpii) and Iclil (Pi Scorpii), with their extensions into Libra ending in Zubeneschamali (Beta Librae, “the northern claw”) and Zubenelgenubi (Alpha Librae, “the southern claw”); and the scorpion’s sting being defined by the familiar “cat’s eyes”—Shaula (Lambda Scorpii) and Lesath (Ypsilon Scorpii). 
These defining features are evident even in such bizarre representations as those from Otranto Cathedral (which, like many of the Scorpio glyphs in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, looks more like a centipede), Palermo Cathedral (which resembles a spider), and the mediaeval version provided by Warnock (a lizard with six legs).  Such strange variants probably arose in places where scorpions were unfamiliar.  This lack of familiarity with actual scorpions sometimes resulted in “a distinctively freaky creature that usually bears only slight resemblance to the real thing: a fat body, a human-like face on a round head and several curls in its tail” (Sacred Destinations 2008:¶24), like the creature which appears above in the 3rd century Roman mosaic.  This description also applies fairly well to the strange round-headed scorpions depicted in Saet’lo Xiroman’tia.  This is hard to explain in light of the presence of scorpions in the Caucasus; according to the U.S. Army publication, “A Soldier’s Guide to Staying Healthy in the Republic of Georgia” (2008), “Several species of scorpions and spiders, some with potentially fatal venom, are present throughout the region” (¶18).  The scorpion portrayed in the Almanacco Perpetuo looks much more like the real thing.

Bruno 1582                    Bruno 1591                        15th century Italian      Beham                    Warnock woodcut

Voynich MS, 71v                      Canterbury Cathedral (early 13th century)            Otranto Cathedral (1160s)
                                                (Sacred Destinations 2008)                        (Fletcher 2008)


Palermo Cathedral (1185)                   Villa Farnese ceiling (1575)   Hevelius, Uranographia   N. Convers, Tarot
(Joy of Shards 2008)                        (Filipas 2001)                        (1690) (Filipas 2001)    de Marseilles (1760)
                                                                                                                        (Filipas 2001)


E. Sibly, Occult Sciences (1806)            Cancer from Nabataean             16th century woodcut        6th century mosaic
zodiac (2nd century)            (            from synagogue
(                                                            of Beit Alpha
            This assemblage of crabs demonstrates a great variation in the understanding of what a crab is—some of these (lacking tails entirely) are obviously crabs, while others are not crabs but lobsters or crayfish.  Some of them (e.g. Sibly 1806) resemble ticks!  Cancer, as he appears in these representations, is “rarely a realistic depiction of a crab; sometimes [it] looks just like a lobster and other times like a mythical monster with many legs. Sometimes [it] even has a curly tail like Scorpio” (Sacred Destinations 2008:¶16).
            It appears that most commonly the sign of Cancer was symbolized by a lobster, and its characteristic feature is a fish-like tail.  This has been noted by one student of the Voynich Manuscript (Robert 1993), who notes that in France, lobsters were more familiar than crabs.  The Voynich manuscript’s illustration for Cancer is especially interesting because it depicts two lobsters (or crayfish) facing in opposite directions—a representation which may be compared to the familiar Cancer glyph. 

Cancer and Scorpius (16th century woodcut)

            The two animals are depicted side by side in this 16th century woodcut, which is fairly representative of how the differences between them were commonly understood:  both have a pair of claws, and multiple legs; Cancer has a fish-like tail, while Scorpio has a curling tail with a prominent sting; Scorpio is practically headless, while Cancer’s head is elongated.           
            In light of all the above, we may revise our table of comparisons as follows:

                        head                        eyes                        claws                        legs                        tail
Crabs:                        variable                        variable                        2                        variable                        fish-tail or
                                                                                                                        no tail

Scorpions:            variable                        variable                        2                        variable                        curling tail
                                                                                                                        with sting

            This result is brings to mind Saussure’s concept of language as “a system of relationships between elements defined only by their differences” (Preucel 2006:42).  As the pool of available data became larger, it turned out that the only certain means of distinguishing a crab from a scorpion was through the differences in their tails.  The other distinctions tabulated earlier (involving heads and eyes) had some validity in the limited context of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia itself, but were obliterated as more data were gathered.
Although there is clearly grading within the two categories, Cancer and Scorpio are of the same taxonomic rank within the domain of the 12 signs of the zodiac and must be distinguished in terms of a taxonomic model.  Despite the great variation in how the animals are portrayed and the difficulty of identifying a prototype, Cancer and Scorpio can always be identified and distinguished from each other in those representations (such as the zodiacal wheel) which include them both.  “The distinctive features of a category are those features necessary and sufficient to distinguish a member of that category from members of all other categories” (Kempton 1981:15).
I have been able to find no precedent at all for the interesting crab with the crescent-shaped head (Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 68r) which first attracted my attention.  This highly original variant was probably intended to suggest a crescent moon, since the moon rules the sign of Cancer.

A System of Errors?

Beltrano (or this edition of him, anyway) perpetrates so many egregious errors as to excite feelings of revulsion, and to render much of his almanac useless to those unable to detect the errors and make the necessary adjustments.  This suggests the necessity, as I proceed with this research, of examining all known editions of the Almanacco Perpetuo—could it be that these errors are deliberate and have their origin in the first edition?  Could these systematic errors be an encoded disclosure of discoveries which were never made public? If this is the case, and the writer of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia understood the secret, it might well explain his extravagant praise of Beltrano on page 30r.  It might also have some bearing on the very mysterious references to satellites of Mars and Venus on pages 4r and 4v—statements which parallel mysterious near-contemporary references in Swift and Voltaire (Simonia, 2000).  The two small satellites of Mars are mentioned in a passage in Gulliver’s Travels (1726), where information is given about their size and orbit; yet they were not discovered until 1877.  Venus, of course, has no known satellites.  Could it be that Beltrano, or someone in his circle, had built a large reflecting telescope, but chose not to make his discoveries known to the public?  Or were these discoveries achieved through some other means, as yet unknown?  Two planets, two mirrors, two books; Dr. Dee and Mr. Kelley.
Even if Beltrano’s errors are unintentional, there is reason to believe that the writer of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia has repeatedly and deliberately changed, reversed, and distorted what he found in the Almanacco Perpetuo, especially its illustrations.  This clever idea of concealing a message within a constellation of errors may have originated with the Georgian writer of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, and may have nothing at all to do with Beltrano. In any case, I suspect that mirrors had something to do with it; it might even be useful to start examining some of the pages as they appear in a mirror!
Another very interesting feature of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, which I have not touched on in the present paper, is the presence of an inexplicable series of consecutive numbers which appear here and there in the margins of the text.  There is every reason to believe that this manuscript will reward continued study.

Syllabus Errorum

            In light of all that has been said about the strange distortions and reversals which characterize the use of the Almanacco Perpetuo by the writer of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, it may prove useful at this point to summarize them:

1.  Hand diagram

Almanacco Perpetuo, p. 236
b. Base of ring finger (on left):            Sun glyph
c. Base of little finger (on right):            Mercury glyph

Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 10v
b. Base of little finger (on left):            mzis mta (mountain of the Sun)
c. Base of ring finger (on right):            ot’aridis mta (mountain of Mercury)

[This involves both an error (designations incorrectly reversed) and a mirror reversal.  Indeed, it entails two mirror reversals, one inside the other—capisci?]

2.  Eclipse diagram

Almanacco Perpetuo, p. 58
a. Sun at top, has one face
b. Solar eclipse
c. One moon

Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 30r
a. Sun at bottom, has two faces
b. Lunar eclipse (probably)
c. Two moons

[A top-bottom reversal, with a further suggestion of mirrors (gemination of objects to either side of bisecting lines)]
3.  Series of Eclipses

Almanacco Perpetuo, pp. 59-64
a. 15 moons
b. 2 total eclipses, 13 partial eclipses
c. 9 partial eclipses shaded from bottom, 4 from top

Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 31r-35r
a. 20 moons
b. 4 total eclipses, 16 partial eclipses
c. All 16 partial eclipses shaded from bottom

4.  Geocentric Cosmogram

Almanacco Perpetuo, p. 452
a. 24 stars
b. Circle divided into 12 signs of the zodiac, labeled with their glyphs

Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 36v
a. 31 stars (and three invisible stars)
b. Signs of the zodiac do not appear

5.  Major Aspects

Almanacco Perpetuo, p. 139
Counterclockwise, Taurus on Ascendant

Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 46v
Clockwise, Capricorn on Ascendant

[The zodiac has been reversed, and shifted counterclockwise 120º]

6.  Sextiles

Almanacco Perpetuo, p. 140
Counterclockwise, Cancer on Ascendant

Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 47r
Counterclockwise, Taurus on Ascendant

[Counterclockwise shift of 60º]

7.  Oppositions

Almanacco Perpetuo, p. 142
Counterclockwise, Aries on Ascendant

Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 47v
Counterclockwise, Cancer on Ascendant

[Clockwise shift of 90º]

8.  Table of Houses

Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 48v
The nonsense word asch’t’ich’ani has been substituted for martaba (degree).

9.  Horoscope for Summer Ingress (21 June 1635)

Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 58v-59r
a.  Cusp of 7th house is given as 17 Leo 36 on 58v, but written as 17 Leo 03 on 59r
b.  Moon position given as “3 300 Virgo 46” [for 3 Virgo 46 or 23 Virgo 31?]
c.  Date of T’NIV (366) should read T’K’G (323) to correspond to the year 1635—as            written, it would assign the horoscope to 1678, which is 43 years too late.
d.  Month given is August (should be June)
e.  Day given is the 11th (should be the 21st)
f.  Number 41 given for Midheaven—this is incomprehensible to me.
g.  Mysterious object at 11 Aries 07 (unless it is the Pars Fortunae at 11 Taurus 07)
h.  Mars position given as 28 Gemini 11 (for 18 Gemini 11)

10.  Perpetual Almanac

Almanacco Perpetuo, pp. 159-203
Date of spring equinox given correctly as 21 March (throughout)

Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 60v-74r
Date of spring equinox given incorrectly as 11 March (throughout; cf. 9e, above)

11.  Jupiter

Almanacco Perpetuo, p. 161
Pisces on left, Sagittarius on right (correct)

Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 66v
Aries on left, Sagittarius on right (incorrect)

12.  Sun

Almanacco Perpetuo, pp. 166, 178
Scepter in right hand

Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 61v, 64v, 70v
Scepter in left hand

[The third mirror reversal, done three times over]

13.  Mars

Almanacco Perpetuo, pp. 159, 171, 181
a. Comet on left, Mars glyph on right
b. Sword in right hand
c. Scorpio on left, Taurus on right (labeled “Ariete”)—label is correct, picture incorrect

Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 62v
a. Mars glyph on left, star on right
b. Sword in left hand
c. Aries on left, Scorpio on right (correct)

Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 68v
a. Mars glyph on left, star on right
b. Sword in left hand
c. Aries on left, Scorpio on right (correct)

Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 73v
a. Mars glyph on left, star on right
b. Sword in left hand
c. Taurus on left, Scorpio on right (incorrect, but follows Almanacco Perpetuo)

[Three more mirror reversals, done three times over]

14.  Moon

Almanacco Perpetuo, p. 167
a. Simple crescent moon on left, horns pointing inward; Crescent moon on right with face            in shaded portion, horns pointing inward
b. Left hand points to moon with face
c. Right hand holds a torch (?)

Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 68r, 71r, 73r
a. Crescent moon on left with face in shaded portion, horns pointing inward; Simple            crescent moon on right, horns pointing inward
b.  Left hand rests in lap
c.  Right hand holds an arrow

[Another mirror reversal, done three times over]

15.  Mercury

Almanacco Perpetuo, pp. 163, 172, 180
a. Caduceus in right hand
b. Mercury glyph at upper right
c. Virgo on left, Gemini on right (correct)

Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 71v
a. Caduceus in left hand
b. Mercury glyph at upper left
c. Virgo on left, Scorpio on right (incorrect)

Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 74r
a. Caduceus in left hand
b. Mercury glyph at upper left
c. Sagittarius on left, Gemini on right (incorrect)

[Another mirror reversal, done twice]

16.  Venus

Almanacco Perpetuo, p. 164
a. Mirror in right hand
b. Star on left, Venus glyph on right

Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 69v, 72r
a. Mirror in left hand
b. Venus glyph on left, star on right

[Two mirror reversals, done twice]

17.  Saturn

Almanacco Perpetuo, p. 165
Capricorn on left, Aquarius on right (correct)

Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 70r
Capricorn on left, Taurus on right (incorrect)

18.  Synopsis of the Perpetual Almanac

Almanacco Perpetuo, p. 185
a. Moon appears in center of table
b. Sequence begins at top left corner, clockwise

Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 76v
a. Jupiter appears in center of table
b. Sequence begins at top right corner, clockwise
c. Synopsis has been erroneously advanced ahead of almanac by two years

19.  Illustration heading the Perpetual Lunary

Almanacco Perpetuo, p. 13
a. Sun on left, gazing toward the left
b. Moon on right, gazing toward the right

Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, 99v
a. Sun on left, gazing toward the right
b. Moon on right, gazing toward the left
c. Six-pointed star has been inserted between sun and moon

[Two mirror reversals, one to either side of the insertion.  This amounts to 25 mirror reversals, if duplicate images are counted (or 12, if duplicates are not counted).  There are 15 different images whch entail mirror reversals (or seven, if duplicates are not counted)]


Agrippa von Nettesheim, Heinrich Cornelius
1992            De Occulta Philosophia Libri Tres, edited by V. Perrone Compagni. Leiden:  E.J. Brill.

Ariew, Roger
            1992            “Theory of Comets at Paris During the Seventeenth Century.” Journal of                                    the History of Ideas 53(3):355-372. [JSTOR]

Astrodienst AG
            2008            Astro*Intelligence: The World’s Best Horoscopes.

Baer, Eva
            1968            “Representations of ‘Planet-Children’ in Turkish Manuscripts.”  Bulletin                                    of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London                                    31(3):526-533. [JSTOR]

Beltrano, Ottavio
1754            Almanacco perpetuo di Rutilio Benincasa Cosentino.  Illustrato e diviso in                                    cinque parti da Ottavio Beltrano di Terranova di Calabria Citra.  Opera                                    molto necessaria e dilettevole, come anco di gran giovamento et utile a                                    ciascheduno, e particolarmente ad Astrologi, Fisionomici, Medici, Fisici,                                    Chirurgi, Barbieri, Distillatori, Alchimisti, Agricoltori, Pittori, Nocchieri,                                    Viandanti, Maestri di Campo, Sargenti Maggiori, Aiutanti e qualunque                                    altra persona curiosa. Venezia:  Remondini. Retrieved 19 April 2008                                    from                                                benincasa.htm

Brebadze, T., T. Enukidze, N. K’asradze, E. Met’reveli, L. Kutateladze, and K. Sharashidze
            1958            Kartul Xelnac’erta Aghc’eriloba:  Axali (Q) K’olekciisa, T’omi II, edited                                    by I. Abuladze.  Tbilisi: Sakartvelos S.S.R. Mecnierebata Ak’ademiis                                    Gamomcemloba.

Cattan, Christopher
1591            The Geomancie of Maister Christopher Cattan, Gentleman.  London:            Wolfe.  Retrieved 29 May 2008 from            VTS/i/imsc/ab/a.htm

Chikobava, A. S., and J. L. Vateishvili
1983            P’irveli Kartuli Nabech’di Gamocemebi.  Tbilisi:  Gamomcemloba                                                “Xelovneba.”

The Dalton School
            2005            “Travel Guide to the Solar System.”  Retrieved 10 June 2008 from

David, Jean-Michel
            1995            “The Alchemical Wedding of the Zelator.”  Retrieved 4 June 2008 from

De’ Castelli, Cristoforo
            n.d.            Sketchbook of Don Cristoforo De’ Castelli.  Retrieved 11 July 2007 from

Durkheim, Émile, and Marcel Mauss
1963            Primitive Classification, translated and edited by Rodney Needham. Chicago:  University of Chicago Press.

Espenak, Fred
            2003            “Lunar Eclipses: 1601 to 1700.”  Retrieved 26 June 2008 from                                      

Espenak, Fred, and Jean Meeus
            2007            “Solar Eclipses: 1601 to 1700.”  Retrieved 26 June 2008 from                                      

Filipas, Mark
            2001            “Crayfish on the Moon.”  Retrieved 9 July 2008 from                                                  

Fletcher, Adrian
            2008            “Otranto Cathedral Mosaics:  Monthly Activities and Zodiac Signs from                                    the Deep South of Italy.”  Retrieved 9 July 2008 from                                                   Sicily%20&%20S%20Italy                                    /Puglia/Otranto/Cattedrale/Otranto_Zodiacs.htm

The Galileo Project, Rice University
            1995            “Saturn Manuscript.”  Retrieved 30 June 2008 from

Hinck & Wall, Inc.
            2008            viaLibri.  S.v. “Beltrano.”  Retrieved 17 April 2008 from                                                  

Hinton, Charles Howard
            1885            “Many Dimensions.”  Retrieved 9 July 2008 from                                                              

Joy of Shards
            2008            “Palermo Cathedral, Sicily.”  Retrieved 9 July 2008 from                                                  

Kabbalah Centre International, Inc.
            2004            The Zohar:  the most powerful spiritual tool

Kempton, Willett
1981            The Folk Classification of Ceramics:  A Study of Cognitive Prototypes. New York:  Academic Press.

Knight-Jadczyk, Laura
            2008            “Thirty Years of Cults and Comets.”  Retrieved 8 July 2008 from

Laurance, Laura
            2004            “Scorpio the Scorpion.”  Retrieved 27 June 2008 from

Lévi-Strauss, Claude
            1963            Structural Anthropology, translated by Claire Jacobson and Brooke                                                Grundfest Schoepf.  New York:  Basic Books.

Lilly, William
            1675            Choice Aphorisms from the Seven Segments of Cardan [republished                                    version, 2002].  Canopus Publications.

McLean, Adam
            1983            “An Hermetic Origin of the Tarot Cards?
A Consideration of the Tarocchi                                    of Mantegna.”  Hermetic Journal.  Retrieved 10 June 2008 from                                      

McLean, Adam
            2003            “Some religious, astrological and other material with some relationship to                                    alchemy.”  Retrieved 10 June 2008 from                                    amcl_astronomical_material.html

Mikaberidze, Alexander
            2006            “Past, Present, Future . . .”  Retrieved 26 June 2007 from                                                  

Nabataean Zodiac
            n. d.            Retrieved 9 July 2008 from

            2008            WorldCat.  S.v. “Beltrano, Ottavio.”

Peterson, Joseph H.
            n.d.            “Occult symbols and esoteric GIF’s,” from Twilit Grotto:  Archives of                                    Western Esoterica.  Retrieved 10 June 2008 from                                                              

            1968            “De facie quae in orbe lunae apparet,” in Plutarch’s Moralia in Fifteen                                    Volumes, Volume XII (920A-999B), with an English translation by                                                Harold Cherniss and William C. Helmbold.  Cambridge, Mass.:  Harvard                                    University Press.

Preucel, Robert W.
            2006            Archaeological Semiotics.  Malden, Mass.:  Blackwell Publishing.

            1993            “Speculations on the Date and Provenance of the Voynich MS.”                                                 Retrieved 2 July 2008 from

Sacred Destinations
2008            “The Medieval Year: 
Zodiac Signs and the Labors of the Months.” Retrieved 9 July 2008 from reference/zodiacs-and-labors-of-months.htm

Saet’lo Xiromant’ia (unpublished manuscript [Q867], Xelnac’erta Erovnuli Cent’ri (National Centre of Manuscripts), Tbilisi)

Sanatan Society
            n. d.            “Nine Planets.”  Retrieved 22 January 2007 from  

“Saturn: Lord of Time”
            n. d.            Retrieved 28 June 2008 from

Sibly, Ebenezer
            1806            A New and Complete Illustration of the Occult Sciences.  Retrieved 9 July                                    2008 from                                    =Sibly-Astrology

Simonia, Irakli
            1998            “Jonathan Swift’s astronomical prophecies,”  in Astronomy, Cosmology                                    and Landscape:  Proceedings of the SEAC 98 Meeting, Dublin, Ireland,                                    September 1998, edited by Clive Ruggles.  Pp. 173-174.  Bognor Regis,                                    Ireland:  Ocarina Books.

Simonia, Irakli
            1999            “The Unknown History of Georgian Astronomy.”  Retrieved 20 May 2007                                    from
Simonia. Irakli
2003            “Abuserisdze Tbeli in Context of the Development of Ancient Georgian                                    Astronomy.” Bulletin of the Georgian Academy of Sciences 168(3):608                                    611.

Toumanoff, Cyril
2003            “Georgia, Church in Ancient”  The New Catholic Encyclopedia, 2d ed. Detroit:  Thomson Gale.

U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine
2008            “A Soldier’s Guide to Staying Healthy in the Republic of Georgia.” Retrieved 9 July 2008 from deployment/shg.asp

Vakht’ang VI and Mirza Abduriz Tavrizeli
            1721            Kmnulebis Codnis C’igni.  Tbilisi.

2008            In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved 23 June 2008                                                from

Warnock, Christopher
            2001            “The Planets in Renaissance Astrology.”  Retrieved 10 June 2008 from

Welch, Bill
            2008            “Ceres, Annona and the Corn Supply to Rome.”  Retrieved 7 July 2008                                    from

            2005            Thelemapedia: The Encyclopedia of Thelema and Magick.  Retrieved
                        9 July 2008 from

No comments:

Post a Comment