Episode 295 contains an interview with Ali A Olomi about the 9th century Queen Buran, who is the first woman we know by name to practice astrology.
Previously, in episode 86, as early as the 1st century AD, I discussed historical references to women practicing astrology and the 5th century philosopher Hypatia as a possible candidate for the earliest figure.
In this episode, we will focus on the famous Queen Buran, who lived in Baghdad in the 9th century, and talk about how she is a much more reliable candidate for the earliest woman in history who was likely trained as an astrologer and trained in in practice.
Buran was the wife of Caliph Al-Ma’mun, who ruled from 813 to 833 during the early Islamic Golden Age. Their wedding was so extravagant that it became known as a legend for centuries.
Buran came from a remarkable family of astrologers, and her great-grandfather Nawbakht al-Farisi was the head of a group of astrologers who selected the voting card for the founding of Baghdad.
A legend survives about a prediction made by Buran himself with the help of astrology, which helped to avert an assassination attempt on the caliph al-Mu’tasim.
We spent much of the episode contextualizing Buran’s life in 9th century Baghdad, discussing the history of Persian and Arabic astrological traditions in the early Middle Ages, and talking about some of the notable astrologers who were contemporaries of Buran such as Masha’allah , Sahl ibn Bishr and Abu Ma’shar.
Ali is a Middle Eastern and Islamic historian with a particular focus on esotericism, astrology, and folklore. He is also the host of the Head on History Podcast and posts weekly astrology and esoteric topics on his Twitter @aaolomi page.
This episode is available in the following audio and video versions.
Bibliography of some works cited:
Kenneth Johnson, “Buran of Baghdad: An Astrological Woman in the Early Middle Ages,” on the National Council for Geocosmic Research (NCGR) Geocosmic Journal, ed. Leigh Westin and Demetra George, Fall 2006, pp. 29–33.
George Saliba, “The Role of the Astrologer in Medieval Islamic Society”, Bulletin D’études Orientalesvol. 44, 1992, pp. 45-67.
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