Astrology botches

I was part of the Mysteries thread and pointed out how useful Celestial magic could be. People agreed, but were quite worried about botching the Astrology roll. The timer on the easy bake oven I use as a brain must of gone off, because something (days late) has occurred to me. Why not have someone check your "math"? Calculating a horoscope is a completely mundane activity, giving you a plan for your season (in Celestial magic). The botch (if one occurs) is not immediate (I suppose a ST could rule that you dropped your astrolabe and broke your foot....). Have two of your Mystery Cult buddies also do the calculation, and if the numbers don't match, do them again, or don't use the plan. What are the odds that two out of three will botch? Seems pretty clean. What am I missing?

In some cases, sure it might work.

However, the botch could be the entire premise of the calculation. So if you repeat the calculation, you get the same wrong answer. Which might not be entirely obvious to someone checking the calculation. Having done a lot of marking of math-type calculations, it is sometimes very tricky to spot what students have done wrong, even if I know what the correct answer should be.

Another possibility is that the horoscope of the person doing the calculation might figure in the calculation itself (or when or where they do the calculation might be important too). So, if someone else does the calculation they will get a slightly different answer because they are calculating it under different circumstances. So, a subtle error might not be noticed.

Finally, of course, you are missing the fact that your "Mystery Cult buddies" might be in an entirely separate part of Mythic Europe, and thus unable to easily check your calculations. Or your "Mystery Cult buddies" might consider themselves to be your rivals. Who will be next Cult leader? You or them? Do they want to hinder or help you.

Shortly put, because often things like this are more art than math. That's why it's not "astronomy".

That, and it's quite possible that it's an ongoing process, not one that is done the first few days and then shelved for reference.

Now, that said, you can have someone check your work on almost anything that's not instantaneous or completely personal or abstract - with a potential for all the above problems, and more.

Thanks for your replies. Two things. I thought, in canon, Astrology did equal Astronomy, much like humors are the correct way to understand the functions of the body (in canon). Second, I have always thought of botches as being a huge error. I would think that why minor variations would be expected, if you "divided by zero", it would show up as a wild difference. As to "an ongoing process", I thought of that, but the write up argues for an inflexible schedule (the part about losing the bonus if you miss a day). It doesn't clearly say one way or the other, but that's what it implies to me. Thanks again for your thoughts.

Okay, sure, but ... we have to shed our modern perspective that the planets are following conic sections around the Sun and that calculating their positions a month from now just requires a slide rule* and an algorithm that uses the quadratic formula. In Mythic Europe, the planets are on spheres centered around the earth whose radii are chosen to make the Platonic solids nest inside one another. I doubt there was a simple algorithm** that yielded even a somewhat good prediction of the planets' locations, or past times when they were in certain constellations. Surely every medieval astronomer had their own idiosyncratic way of "improving" the answers that their teacher tried to convince them were accurate. In short, it wouldn't surprise me if two very skilled and careful astronomers did come up with completely different horoscopes from the same starting point.

*what, not modern enough?!
**the word itself comes from the Muslim world, and Leonardo of Pisa had only written about Arabic numerals in 1205....

I kind of thought that's what the Astrolabe and Armillary Sphere did. To quote "The Mysteries", page 52, "An enchanted armillary sphere can be made that continually adjusts itself as the heavens shift, yet can be adjusted to indicate the heavens at any time past or present". Since magic can not "read the past" (thus you can't use magic to get the information out of a burnt book), I assumed there was a predictable pattern the Armillary Sphere was following. Not perfectly, of course, which is why a Armillary Sphere of Quality would be a blessing.

The difference between astronomy and astrology is the difference between knowing what time it is, and knowing what time you will get to the sports arena "if you leave now". There is math involved, but there are also subtleties of experience and judgement beyond mere math. And maybe some luck and superstition.

The math will tell you, without much room for errour, what house the stars are in and what sign is rising and so forth - much like looking at a clock, it's fairly closed to interpretation or errour. But what that then means, how it impacts your project, and how the significance of it changes from day to day in relation to current details of events, those are all a judgement call - and that's where the interpretation and the skill come in to play, and where "a second opinion" won't help all that much.

Astrology and alchemy in the period of the game are closely tied to spirituality and religion, and at the level we're talking the subtleties are complex, to say the least. Like balancing the four humours, in practice it's a matter of discrete and subtle judgement, although on paper it's described and presented as a matter of mere mathematics.

Astrology is not a question of math, it's a question of interpretation. It's reading the Houses and Planets and whatnot and then trying to figure out if Mars in the House of the Bull means that A will happen to B, or if C will do D, or whatever the hell else. Should you use substance A because of its auspicious connection to the stars, or should you use method B instead to prevent the misfortune alluded to by condition N?

Imagine a litany of BS statements like that which are weighed against each other to determine your overall laboratory method, and you can see why asking three people to "do the calculation" is going to generate three different answers, none of which are clearly superior to the others.

And the botch is that that your guess is clearly the better bet (and it reallly isn't).

Not quite. Astronomy is studying the motions of the stars and planets and so forth. Astrology is interpreting those motions to have some terrestrial significance.

Sure, some botches are huge errors. Other botches are subtle errors that don't initially appear significant but turn out to have catastrophic consequences. A huge error might be forgetting about Jupiter. A subtle error might be transposing the digits in the seconds of the angle of declination of Mars.

I think that you are absolutely right that (if it is practical to do so) some potential botches could be averted by having someone check your work. However, I don't think that this procedure will necessarily capture all possible errors. I would think that having someone check your work would be more akin to reducing the number of botch die, rather than eliminating the possibility of botching.

Thanks for your thoughts sir. As to your first point, I was basing my belief on the Mystery, which works off of Artes Liberales (Astronomy). See page 30 of The Mysteries, Revised Edition. The formula is Astrological Modifier to the Lab total = Stress die + Intelligence + Artes Liberales (Astronomy) vs. Three times the Desired Bonus. Perhaps a spellcheck typo?

As to your second point, that was pretty much my thoughts. Ars Magica has few moments where someone can "check your math", but Celestial magic would seem to be one. It would not remove botches from the equation any more then it does in the real world (Remember when NASA lost a probe because they forgot to use the metric scale?) but it should reduce, as you say, the number of botch dice. I mean, I understand when some of the other posters say that Astrology is more art then science, with many answers, but there would be no botch if there were no wrong answers, so there is some science there, I think.

I got also the wrong calculation.. :neutral_face:

video colposcope

If you do your working, and someone else checks it and gets a different result, who do you trust?

Wise men say "A man with one watch always knows the time. A man with two watches is never sure"