Signs of the zodiac in a Christian perspective: Honorius Augustodunensis’ Imago Mundi

Compotus, Texts on Science and Astronomy: circular diagram showing the movements of various planets and the sun and moon and the stars of the zodiac, Koln, Fondation Martin Bodmer, Cod. Bodmer 188, f. 19v

For the medieval man, the horoscope could not have an easy life within a Christian cosmology. However, the twelfth-century scholar Honorius Augustodunensis brings Christianity and astrology together in the earliest recension of his treatise titled Imago Mundi. Have a look at his attempt to offer Christian legitimacy to the ancient zodiacal signs. It is impressive the amount of imagination and resourcefulness Honorius deployed to reconcile two apparently divorced narratives, thus opening some middle ground between concession and condemnation.

Primum signum est aries, eo quod Abraham optulit arietem pro Ysaac filio sui. Vel quia aries habet longa cornua de capite procedentia, ita sol in illo mense extendit radios suos. Vel sicut sol vadit ad dextrum maris ionium, ita aries iacet super latus dextrum in marcio, ut dicit Beda.

Secundun signum est taurus, eo quod Iacob sicut taurus luctavit cum angelo usque mane dum benediceret ipsum.

Tercius est gemini, eo quod Adam et Eva de uno corpore facti sunt.

Quartum est Cancrus, pro eo quod Iacob cancerius sum librum pensavit.

Quintum est leo, pro eo quod Daniel in lacu leonum fuit.

Sextum est virgo, pro eo quod tempus illud est sterile sicut virgo intacta.

Septimum est libra, eo quod Iudas Scarioth pretium sanguinis accepit. Vel quod in illo mensium est equinoctium.

from Valerie Flint, “World history in the early twelfth century; the Imago Mundi of Honorius Augustodunesis”, The Writing of History in the Middle Ages (Oxford 1981), p. 218

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8 thoughts on “Signs of the zodiac in a Christian perspective: Honorius Augustodunensis’ Imago Mundi

      • Then the closest you can get to Honorius and his work would be through the work of Valerie Flint. Below is a rather comprehensive bibliography on Honorius. I have highlighted the material in English:

        V. I. J. Flint, Honorius Augustodunensis of Regensburg (1995) · ‘Honorius Augustodunensis: opera omnia’, Patrologia Latina, 172 (1854) [collected works] · J.-A. Endres, Honorius Augustodunensis (1906) · M.-O. Garrigues, ‘L’oeuvre d’Honorius Augustodunensis: inventaire critique [pts 1–3]’, Abhandlungen der Braunschweigischen Wissenschaftlichen Gesellschaft, 38 (1986), 7–138; 39 (1987), 123–228; 40 (1988), 131–90 · J.-A. Endres, Das St Jakobsportal in Regensburg und Honorius Augustodunensis (1903) · ‘Honorius Augustodunensis. Imago mundi’, ed. V. I. J. Flint, Archives d’Histoire Doctrinale et Littéraire du Moyen Âge, 49 (1982), 7–153 · H. Menhardt, ‘Der Nachlass des Honorius Augustodunensis’, Zeitschrift für Deutsches Altertum, 89 (1958–9), 23–69 · E. Rooth, ‘Kleine Beiträge zur Kenntnis des sogenannten Honorius Augustodunensis’, Studia Neophilologica, 12 (1939), 120–35 · R. Bauerreiss, ‘Zur Herkunft der Honorius Augustodunensis’, Studien und Mitteilungen zur Geschichte des Benediktiner Ordens, 53 (1935), 28–36 · E. M. Sanford, ‘Honorius, presbyter and scholasticus’, Speculum, 23 (1948), 397–425 · Honorius Augustodunensis ‘Clavis physicae’, ed. P. Lucentini (1974) · Das Elucidarium des Honorius Augustodunensis, ed. D. Gottschall (Tübingen, 1992)

        If you want to know more about the man, try the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry here http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/53485. Let me know whether you have access to ODNB and if you want to read it, I might be able to help you with access to the article.

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      • I regrettably do not have access to ODNB. I am familiar with the biography of Honorius.

        My interest in reading his works is that Carl Jung often refers to Honorius and quotes him within his Collected Works.

        It is a shame that so many great works have never been translated into English.

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      • Carl Jung refers to Honorius once in his “Psychology and Religion” which may be downloaded here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/34683187/CGjung-Psychology-and-Religion-West-and-East-Collected-Works-Volume-11-Copy

        Killing with the sword is a recurrent theme in alchemical literature. The “philosophical egg” is divided with the sword,
        and with it the “King” is transfixed and the dragon or “corpus” dismembered, the latter being represented as the body of a man whose head and limbs are cut off.

        The lion’s paws are likewise cut off with the sword. For the alchemical sword brings about the solutio or separatio of the elements, thereby restoring the original condition of chaos, so that a new and more perfect body can be produced by a new impressio formae^ or by a “new imagination.” The sword is therefore that which “kills and vivifies,” and the same is said of the permanent water or mercurial water. Mercurius is the giver of life as well as the destroyer of the old form. In ecclesiastical symbolism the sword which comes out of the mouth of the Son of Man in the Book of Revelation
        is, according to Hebrews 4:12, the Logos, the Word of God, and hence Christ himself. This analogy did not escape the
        notice of the alchemists, who were always struggling to give expression to their fantasies. Mercurius was their mediator and saviour, their films macrocosmi (contrasted with Christ the filiusmicrocosmi}^ the solver and separator. So he too is a sword, for he is a “penetrating spirit” (“more piercing than a two-edgedsword”!). Gerhard Dorn, an alchemist of the sixteenth century, says that in our world the sword was changed into Christ our Saviour. He comments as follows:
        After a long interval of time the Deus Optimus Maximus immersed himself in the innermost of his secrets, and he decided, out of the compassion of his love as well as for the demands of justice, to take the sword of wrath from the hand of the angel. And having hung the sword on the tree, he substituted for it a golden trident, and thus
        was the wrath of God changed into love. . . . When peace and justice were united, the water of Grace flowed more abundantly from above, and now it bathes the whole world.

        This passage, which might well have occurred in an author like Rabanus Maurus or Honorius of Autun without doing
        them discredit, actually occurs in a context which throws light on certain esoteric alchemical doctrines, namely in a colloquy between Animus, Anima, and Corpus. There we are told that it is Sophia, the Sapientia, Scientia, or Philosophia of the alchemists, “de cuius fonte scaturiunt aquae” (from whose fount the waters gush forth). This Wisdom is the nous that lies hidden and bound in matter, the “serpens mercurialis” or “humidum radicale” that manifests itself in the “viventis aquae fluvius de
        mentis apice” (stream of living water from the summit of the mountain).

        That is the water of grace, the “permanent” and divine” water which “now bathes the whole world.” The apparent transformation of the God of the Old Testament into the God of the New is in reality the transformation of the deus absconditus (i.e., the natura abscondita) into the medicina catholica of alchemical wisdom.

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      • Thank you very much for that. I’ve started reading it and It’s already proved to be very challenging, especially his response to Job.

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