A Little History of the Sabian Symbols

The Sabian Symbols come to us from the world of western astrology. They can yield great insights when applied to a person’s natal astrological chart, but even apart from astrology, the Sabian Symbols can be employed as an insightful predictive tool. The Sabians were an ethnic group of alchemists and astrologers in the Chaldea. They lived in the city of Harran in what is now known as Iraq, from the third millennium B.C. until the thirteenth century A.D.

The Sabian Symbols fell into disuse for centuries, but were re-discovered and revived by Twentieth-Century Astrologer Marc Edmund Jones and a clairvoyant named Elsie Wheeler. Elsie Wheeler was a badly-arthritic clairvoyant with a particularly good facility for ‘seeing’ symbols. One day in 1925, Jones took Wheeler to Balboa Park in San Diego, California, USA, and sat her on a park bench. Jones had brought with him a set of 360 cards, one card for each degree of the astrological wheel. On one side of each card, Jones had written in small handwriting the astrological sign and degree.

So that neither of them would know which card it was that Wheeler was working on, Jones shuffled the cards with the notation-side down, and handed them, one at the time to Wheeler. Wheeler would then describe the scene or imagery she received for that particular card, and hand it back to Jones, who then wrote the image Wheeler relayed to him on the blank side of the card, then set it aside in a growing pile of cards. Over the course of a day, Jones and Wheeler created a symbol-system for all 360 degrees of the zodiac.

In the 1930s, Jones’ astrology students started using the Sabian Symbols in their clients natal charts and found the Sabian Symbols could predict their clients lives and destinies to an amazing degree. Astrologer Dane Rudhyar heard about them and did further work on them, culminating in his book ‘An Astrological Mandala’, which was published in 1973. In this book, Rudhyar advocated using the Sabian Symbols as an oracle, apart from their use in astrological charts, describing them as a “contemporary American I Ching.” Many astrologers don’t use them in their clients’ charts, but that is personal preference on the part of the astrologer.