We use astrology to prepare for the week ahead, decode our love lives, and even learn more about our favorite celebrities. But, we probably don’t hand doctors our birth chart during an annual checkup. You might think the concept of medical astrology is pretty esoteric, but, according to astrologer and author Judith Hill, this ancient practice predates using the stars to define our personalities, let alone what scented candle we ought to buy.
Medical astrology has its roots in Greek astrology, though it fully bloomed in the Middle Ages. “Doctors all through the medieval era and Renaissance were master astrologers,” Hill says, adding that, until 1666, it was required for physicians to pass astrological exams in order to practice medicine. The planets and elements of the Zodiac had roles to play in medical astrology, but the signs of the Zodiac were integral to understanding how the human body functioned at the time.
Hill explains that the signs were mapped onto the body from the head to the toes, with the first sign of the Zodiac (Aries) at the top and the last sign (Pisces) at the bottom. These astrological-anatomical connections were intended for extremely practical purposes when medical astrology was at its height.
For instance, if a doctor was helping a patient with colitis, they’d connect that condition to Virgo, since that sign rules the intestines. Then they’d look to see what planet was in Virgo at the moment, as that would give them a better idea of the root of the problem (Mars, Hill says, would indicate inflammation or aggravation in the intestines). Once they determined the sign and planet, the doctor would be able to prescribe a specific set of medicinal herbs to the patient.
Hill is quick to clarify that, just because you’re a Leo (which is believed to rule the heart and spine), that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to be afflicted with back pain for your entire life. More accurately, the parts of the body that your sign rules are simply points of emphasis — not necessarily illness. You could be Leo with a strong back and great cardio just as easily as you could be a Leo whose blood pressure could use some maintaining.
Contemporary medical astrologers aren’t as commonplace as they once were, but the practice hasn’t died out altogether. Hill cites a continued interest in the discipline among naturopaths, practitioners of holistic medicine, and even the rare MD. But even if you aren’t a medical practitioner (or astrologer, for that matter), you can still find meaning in exploring medical astrology for yourself. Although the assignment of body parts to Zodiac signs was originally for practical purposes, you can find some meaningful symbolism in these pairings, too.
For example, Libra, usually represented by the Scales of Justice, rules the kidneys, the organs that maintain the balance of fluids and electrolytes in our bodies. Or, consider the connection between the hands and their ruler, Gemini — have you ever met a Gem who doesn’t talk with their hands when they’re excited? As you learn and reflect on your sign’s anatomical association, you may discover that that body part really does factor into your life in some subtle way.
If you want to go beyond the basics, Hill offers a complete online course on medical astrology and has written several books on the subject as well. For now, let’s follow Hill on a tour through the human body, according to the Zodiac.
Rules: head, eyes, face, brain
Rules: ears, mouth, neck, vocal chords, teeth
Rules: shoulders, arms, hands, fingers, respiratory system
Rules: chest, breasts, stomach
Rules: heart, upper back, spine, gallbladder
Rules: liver, pancreas, spleen, upper intestine
Rules: kidneys, ovaries
Rules: colon, rectum, anus, genitals, bladder, nose, sweat glands, the excretory system
Rules: thighs, hips, the sciatic nerve, motor nerves, the muscular system
Rules: knees, ligaments, tendons, nails, skin, the skeletal system
Rules: calves, ankles, veins, the circulatory system
Rules: feet, lymphatic system, immune system