Foundation Chart for Baghdad

Al-Biruni mentioned a foundation chart for Baghdad, calculated by the court astrologer, Nawbakht with the assistance of the great Mashallah. This occurred under the caliph Abu Ja’far Al-Mansur who believed Baghdad would be the ideal capital of the Islamic empire under the Abbasids. They were appointed to select a favourable time to begin construction of the capital. It was a truly massive project that would ultimately hire 100,000 labourers.

The date given is 31 July 762 02:40 pm, using Alchabitius Semi-Arc, placing Jupiter precisely on the Ascendant and allowing the builders to indulge in a late brunch. Here is the result:

The first question likely to arise in the modern metaphysical mind, is ‘were they completely mad?’ The first element most likely to strike fear and loathing into the sensitive New Age soul is the Grand Cross, that most hated and damning of all aspect patterns. There is a chart showing the aspects and modern planets here.

Saturn is in the fifth house, squaring Mercury and the Nodes. Worst of all, he opposes the Moon. As if they couldn’t botch things any worse, Jupiter opposes Mars. This is a fair presentation of how a modern astrologer would view this chart.

From a traditional point of view the chart is an entirely different entity and a stroke of electional genius. Let’s forget about geometry for one minute and think instead of essential nature. An aspect such as an opposition has meaning only insofar as natures oppose each other. In this case, the Moon is in the late degrees of Libra and Saturn in the early degrees of Taurus. The opposition of nature would occur if the Moon were in Scorpio.

Planets and luminaries, not aspects, have orbs. The Nodes emit no light and therefore have no orbs, for that is the basis of orbs in the first place. They are orbs of light. Although a modern aspectarian would view Saturn as squared the Nodes, by nature they are in fact trine and of the same element.

In fact, we can see that the astrologers were working within a relatively small window to find the closest thing to a perfect time. The perfect election exists only in the mind of God. A good election is comprised of the best possible moment, accentuating the beneficial and minimizing the malefic towards a desired end.

It is surely no coincidence that the Moon has entered the 12th Lunar Mansion, Al Simak. The meaning of this Mansion is “The Unarmed. Causes marital love, cures the sick … With Moon here, dig but do not marry or travel.” The astrologers might have prefered it were at the entrance degree of 22 Libra 43; but that would have left Mars above the horizon and the election would have been spoiled.

What we said about the Moon and Saturn, we can say about Mercury and Saturn. We find Mercury in the late degrees of Cancer which, like Libra is Cardinal. Fixed does not square or oppose Cardinal. It is a question of essential nature. So, the “Grand Cross” is in fact a geometric illusion and nothing more. Being in orb is not the point. Essential nature is.


Abbasid Baghdad was a walled, fortified city, set among an extensive network of canals Courtesy BBC

Now, let’s look at the Mars / Jupiter opposition. The sixth house is considered an unfortunate house, along with the eighth and twelfth. One reason given for this is that it cannot ’see’ the Ascendant.

Mars has just set. It is also the perfect place to put  Mars because in the sixth House he is like a tiger in a cage. He is said to be in his Joy in this house. The astrologers probably thought that Mars was rendered far less harmful because of his house placement and the fact that he’s in sect.  At any rate, this is the chart the astrologers selected and must have felt that Mars was sufficiently subdued. The only other explanations that occur to me at this time is that their intentions were malicious or they were incompetent beyond imagination, neither of which are at all convincing.

This great new centre of learning has Jupiter in his own sign as the life blood of this new city, as the Ascendant is the health of the native. The Sun in the eighth place, by the rule of 5 is in the ninth house. This is the House of God and the Sun finds his Joy here in the royal sign of Leo. Here we find the Lord of the Geniture. The Arabic Part of Faith is found in the same house. The Part of Spirit is in partile conjunction with the Midheaven.

A protective Venus, disposited by the eleventh house Moon in Venusian Libra is placed in the house of partners and enemies. The enemies of Baghdad are rendered benign, as they have been for the majority of the city’s history. The eleventh house supports the tenth, which is in turn informed by the ninth. Baghdad was the greatest centre of learning and culture when Europe was a comparatively primitive backwater.

In this cursory reading of this election, it is evident that these astrologers were truly masters of the art. This also serves as a striking example of how a modern and traditional astrologer would view this election in the first place. The timing is ingenious from a classical point of view; yet the same chart seems mere folly when viewed through the lense of post enlightenment astrological theory.


In response to several thoughtful comments and queries (and two really obnoxious ones) regarding this article, I’ve added two other versions of the same chart. The first is Whole Sign. The second is Whole Sign using the Sidereal zodiac. The latter was mentioned by Mark and I think it deserves some close  study. I’ve set the charts up as thumbnails so you can comment on them individually if you prefer.


Whole Sign – Tropical


Whole Sign – Sidereal

8 thoughts on “Foundation Chart for Baghdad

  1. Pingback: Fundação de Bagdá « episthemologie

  2. Hello Yuzuru. I appreciate your interest in this chart. However I do find it odd that as a traditional astrologer you would not consider the importance of house placement with respect to the opposition under discussion. Your contention that this consideration is of no importance whatsoever profoundly baffles me.

    Perhaps language is an issue here and one of us has misread the other. The language of this blog is of course English and I understand Spanish far better than Portugese. Be that as it may, if I can be of any assistance in explaining my reading of this aspect with greater clarity, you need only ask.

  3. Of course Mars and Jupiter can see each other, they actually aspect each other by opposition from the angles of the chart; they can see and aspect each other because Sagittarius and Gemini aspect/see each other! The ability to see/aspect each other is definitely NOT a matter of house positions! Mars is committing his disposition and nature to Jupiter and Jupiter receives him because Mars is in his terms, triplicity and face! Now because Mars aspects him by opposition and from Gemini, he is coming to him from the house of Jupiter’s enemies(Jupiter is in detriment in Gemini) and because Jupiter is rx, he will return the light to Mars.
    Baghdad was destroyed and ravaged several times through history(notably by Mongols in 1258 and 1401), and this is perfectly attested to by this aspect, diurnal Mars being especially destructive due to its out-of sect placement on the powerful angle of the 7th which represents enmities, contentions and wars.
    BTW, Mars is definitely in the 7th, not in the 6th! He’s only two degrees below the cusp and applying!

    • HI Antares. My sincere apologies for the very long wait – almost two years.I had been focusing on the other site. I’m just about up to date now.

      Thanks for your input and I hope your concerns have been addressed to your satisfaction. – Peter

  4. Thanks for this article.

    I find this a very interesting chart too. I have a few comments/questions:

    1 Timing of the chart. What is your actual source for this time? I note that James Holden seemed to have arrived at a different version of this chart. It is reproduced on this article on the chart by Nina Gryphon:

    2 House system. Not convinced we should really be assuming Alcabitius had already replaced earlier systems at this point. From what we know of one of the framers of this election it appears Masha’Allah was considering whole sign houses in combination with a quadrant system (most probably Porphyry houses).

    3 Zodiac. The research of scholars such as Raymond Mercier indicates early Persian & Arab astrologers were using a sidereal zodiac. The Greek-Arabic-Hindu ayanamsha was zero around 560 AD. The tropical and the sidereal zero points were at exactly the same place. Under the Sassanian ruler Khusrau Anûshirwân, in the year 556, the astronomers of Persia met to correct their astronomical tables, the so-called Zîj al-Shâh. These tables are no longer extant, but they were the basis of later Arabic tables, the ones of al-Khwârizmî and the Toledan tables.

    4 Subsequent History. There is no denying that the Golden age of Islam occurred during the flourishing of the Abbasid dynasty. Yet less than 300 years later (1058 CE) the city suffered one of the worst cataclysms of Islamic history with the sacking of the city by the Mongols. Some estimates suggest a million inhabitants were slaughtered and the city was burned down. The city languished for centuries afterwards. How do we explain this astrologically?

    This is a more challenging question and raises some issues about how good this foundational electional chart really was. In other versions of this chart I have seen Mars falls in the 7th. While Mars is cadent in your version of the chart it is in its house of joy and within very close orb of the DESC. Moreover, in Greek and Indian astrology the 6th house is a house associated with enemies.

    However, an astrologer like Masha’Allah would have looked at the whole sign implications of such a chart. Mars is therefore operating in the 7th by topic and closely opposing Jupiter. It is out of sect and peregrine. This doesn’t seem the way to elect a peaceful future for a city. The actual history of Baghdad fulfilled this.

  5. Hello Mark,

    I very much appreciate your thoughtful comments and questions. This is indeed a very interesting chart and one also fraught with controversy. I will try to answer all queries, but first a little background on how the article came to be.

    I first had occasion to look at this chart about 10 years ago when I was practising modern astrology. My first reaction was dismay, followed by incredulity. It looked like a disaster to me even without the modern planets. In this current article, written 4 years ago, I tried to come to terms with this. As you noted, the violence done to Baghdad is easily seen in the chart and unhappily fulfilled in the history of the city. As I wrote: “The first question likely to arise in the modern metaphysical mind, is ‘were they completely mad?’”

    What then do we do? I had a difficult time imagining that Mashallah was incompetent or malicious in drawing this chart. Yet according to the astrological knowledge available to me at the time it just didn’t *fit.* So, I tried as best I could to imagine what these astrologers had in mind and of course how they would read the chart.

    First of all, I wanted to see how the planetary relationships might have been perceived. I shan’t repeat what I have already written above, except to say it appeared to be a question of “nature” rather than merely the geometry of aspects.

    The article was meant to be an exploration rather than a last word on the problem. I meant to interest others who might be equally fascinated, while fully expecting divergent views.

    As for some answers to other questions:

    The timing for the chart is attributed to Al Biruni and was first brought to my attention by a colleague in Belgium. I am aware of Nina Gryphon’s article. In it she says “The exact time for the founding of Baghdad is somewhat in dispute. ” That’s true and the time she has used, although not noted, is very close. The Moon is at 27 37 Libra, rather than 27 43 Libra. I have not read Holden’s account for this discrepancy but will try to get a hold of the book.

    Regarding the zodiac, I’m not aware of any definitive study, but that is a very intriguing notion. The fact is, we are still piecing together much of ancient astrological methods and perceptions. Having said that, I am very pleased by the rate of progress in this area in recent years.I firmly believe we all need to discuss these things without the fear of being *wrong.*

    Once again, Mark, thank you for your contribution and I hope I’ve answered your questions to your satisfaction.


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