Who Wants to Live Forever? Astrological Methods for Calculating Lifespan in Western Culture and Perspectives on Determinism in Astrology

In: International Journal of Divination and Prognostication
Helena Avelar Formerly Warburg Institute, University of London London United Kingdom

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The calculation of an individual’s life span has been a constant presence in premodern astrological practice. It was used by physicians to calculate the expected life of a patient or to ascertain if an illness was likely to be fatal. On a personal level, this knowledge could also offer a means of control over one’s life and, more importantly, a way to prepare their access to a rewarding afterlife.

This article contains an overview of determinism in astrology and a brief survey of the main methodologies used to determine the length of life, exploring their history, primary sources, and variations from antiquity to the early modern period. Although it discusses to some extent the chief methods for determining the lifespan, an in-depth study of the techniques, with all their details and discrepancies is out of its scope. The goal is to correlate the astrological practice with different perspectives on determinism and free will.

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