Zodiac Man

Zodiac Man
Zodiac Man from a woodcut in a 1702 almanac.

Zodiac Man reflected the classical and medieval view that the human body corresponded to the Heavens and its primary impact was on medicine. Doctors had to study both the patient and the position of the stars and planets in order to determine whether to operate.

Bloodletting, for example: if the Moon was in the Zodiac sign ruling the part of the body that needed to be operated upon, then bloodletting could not proceed because the Moon might cause excessive bleeding. Some modern surgeons have noted that the Moon does indeed have a small effect on blood flow.

Zodiac Man

The image above from The Book of Hours (Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry) is early 15th century. This was the most famous of the illuminated manuscripts, which were used as devotionals. From top to bottom you can see Aries, Taurus, Cancer and Gemini, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces.

  • Compare this with Da Vinci's "Vitruvian Man" from later in the century: here
  • Or this earlier image "The Universe" associated with Hildegard of Bingen: here
  • For another image from The Book of Hours: here