This article needs additional citations for verification. (April 2015) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
The Zodiac Man (also known as homo signorum, dominus signorum, or melothesia) is a symbolic division of the human body into twelve areas corresponding to the signs of the zodiac. These correspondences, illustrating the harmony of macrocosm and microcosm, were used in Western medicine through the Middle Ages.
Table of correspondences
|Sign||Primary association||Secondary associations|
|Aries||head||eyes, adrenals, blood pressure|
|Taurus||neck||throat, shoulders, ears|
|Gemini||shoulders||lungs, nerves, arms, fingers|
|Cancer||chest||breasts, sides, some bodily fluids and organs|
|Leo||sides||stomach, heart, spine, upper back, spleen|
|Virgo||belly||abdomen, intestines, gallbladder, pancreas, liver|
|Libra||buttocks||hips, lower back, kidneys, endocrines|
|Scorpio||genitalia||pelvis, urinary bladder, rectum|
|Sagittarius||thighs||legs, hips, groin|
|Capricorn||knees||shin, bones, skin, sinew, nerve|
|Aquarius||lower leg||ankle, calf, some blood vessels|
The concept of the Zodiac Man dates to the Hellenistic era, in which the earliest exposition appears in Manilius's Astronomica (II. 453–465; IV. 701–710). However, a cuneiform tablet of unknown date (BM 56605) gives a nearly identical list—possibly but not certainly anticipating Manilius. A Greek text (περὶ μελῶν ζωδίων; Vat. gr. 208, fol. 129v, 130r) describing the subdivision of zodiac signs into dodecatemoria (each representing 2.5° of ecliptic) suggests that the Zodiac Man (or Zodiac Animal, modified slightly to suit each sign) could also be associated with the signs of this "micro-zodiac". In any case the system of correspondences is thought to predate Manilius by several centuries and has been variously attributed to sages including Pythagoras, Democritus, Aristotle, and Hermes.
The Zodiac Man was used in medieval medicine to determine the correct time for surgery, medication, bloodletting, and other procedures. The foremost rule was to avoid interfering with a body part when the moon could be found in its corresponding sign. This injunction was attributed to Claudius Ptolemy: "Membrum ferro ne percutito, cum Luna signum tenuerit, quod membro illi dominatur."
Wherever the moon and stars are aligned with a certain astrological sign they correlated with a body part, bodily system, or the four humors. The four humors separate the body into four parts just as there are four elements. The four humors of the human body are yellow bile, black bile, phlegm, and blood, it was believed that these all needed to be in balance in order to keep up with your health. These humors were used directly to treat illness alongside the Zodiac Man and were also used to explain and simplify concepts to patients. Europe was, at the time, required by law to calculate the moon’s positioning before taking action on a patient or any kind of medical procedure. If the moon was not in its correct positioning, nothing was able to be performed because it was deemed unsafe. They used a volvelle, a rotating calendar, to calculate the moon’s position as well as multiple almanacs which described different phases of the moon.
Most of the ways that illnesses were determined and diagnosed was through the four humors, especially through blood and yellow bile, better known as urine. This was one of the main ways people were diagnosed. Many pictures of the Zodiac Man solely depict the main body parts correlating with the astrological signs, but others go more in depth to then match the signs with internal bodily systems.
Over time leading into the Middle Ages, the belief of the Zodiac Man slowly faded out due to new scientific discoveries. While physicians, scientists, and doctors may have become wearier on the diagram and medical astrology, the people did not. The ordinary public stood by their belief of the signs the way they depicted the human body and its dependence of the moon.
The Zodiac Man is read and created off of the skies and their stars, or most commonly labeled as the moving ‘heavenly bodies’. This suggests a clear pathway to a religious aspect in zodiacal readings. Astrology was united with Christianity during the medieval period and medicine also tended to work hand in hand with the Christian church at the time. The signs of the zodiac are considered very spiritual but of course not only associated with Christianity, they are also associated with countless other religions as well including Islam and Judaism.
 Besides the Zodiac Man, other human figures and diagrams are also well known and were used in ancient time. There is the Vein Man, The Woman, The Wound Man, The Disease Man, and the Skeleton. These figures are all using different models and although it is difficult to say if there is any direct relationship between all of these, they are all focused on the human body, which is a large factor in the Zodiac Man’s history. There are other figures among them as well, but these are all most similar to the Zodiac Man. There are also several different Zodiac Man adaptations made such as Dutch, German, and also Venetian.
- Medical astrology
- Babylonian astrology
- Medieval medicine of Western Europe
- Astrological Sign
- Clark (1979), pp. 1–2.
- John Z. Wee, "Discovery of the Zodiac Man in Cuneiform"; Journal of Cuneiform Studies 67, 2015; JSTOR. See also: photograph of BM 56606 in Wee (2016).
- C. P. Goold, Introduction to Manilius: Astronomcia, Loeb Classical Library; Harvard University Press, 1977; p. xlvi. See also Astronomica, Book 2, lines 2.453–465.
- Otto Neugebauer, "Melothesia and Dodecatemoria"; Analecta Biblica 3, 1959; reprinted in Neugebauer (1983), Astronomy and History: Selected Essays (Springer).
- Clark (1979), pp. 59–60.
- Coppens, Christian. “‘For the Benefit of Ordinary People’: The Dutch Translation of the Fasciculus Medicinae, Antwerp 1512.” Quaerendo 39.2 (2009): 168–205. EBSCOhost. Web. 14 Sept. 2014.
- Clark, Charles West. The Zodiac Man in Medieval Medical Astrology. PhD dissertation accepted at University of Colorado, 1979.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Homo signorum.|
- Zodiac Man Example