Zaytseva (2023 Congress)

Arina Zaytseva
(Rice University)

Ludwig Milich‘s Lutheran Astrology:
The Art of the Wise, the Art of the Foolish”

Abstract of Paper
presented at the 58th International Congress on Medieval Studies
(Kalamazoo, 2023)

Session on “Moving Parts and Pedagogy, Parts I–II”
Part II:  “Teaching Astrology and other Liberal Arts”

Organized by David Porreca

Co-Sponsored by the RGME and the Societas Magica

2023 Congress Program



In 1569, the Frankfurt am Main printer Sigmund Feyerabend published several popular Lutheran treatises on various vices and corresponding devils in a collection entitled Theatrum Diabolorum (“The Theater of Devils”). The authors of Theatrum Diabolorum discussed the topics of human sinfulness and devilish temptations at length. Their anxiety-inducing narratives were influenced by Martin Luther’s heightened awareness of demonic presence in human world.  Among these moralizing writings was Zauberteufel (“The Devil of Magic”), a treatise written by a Lutheran pastor Ludwig Milich (1530–1575) and first printed in 1563.

Milich condemned various types of sorcery, such as necromancy, scrying, divination, etc. as sinful and demonic. However, he was dubious when discussing the art of astrology. Milich renounced divinatory and natal astrology, used to determine beneficial periods and predict one’s future, as “stupid”and “superstitious.” Yet he was less critical of “natural” astrology which had practical benefits – it could predict the weather and best days for planting crops or harvesting. He went back and forth on the topic of “natural” astrology – elsewhere he called it “demonic.” It seems that Milich had mixed feelings about potential harm and benefits of this art. On the one hand, he wanted to teach and warn his readers about potential harms of astrology. Astrologers committed the sin of vanity as they thought they could predict the future known only to God. On the other hand, he saw some types of astrology as useful – a belief supported by other learned people. Moreover, Milich’s vast knowledge of astrology signified his interest not just in a licit kind of astrology, but in divinatory art in general.

What caused Milich’s ambivalence on the topic of astrology? How did this art fit with Lutheran beliefs on sin and salvation? Who was the audience of Milich’s waveringly moralizing treatise? I will answer these questions in my paper.