Monday, June 21, 2010
Little Known Prayer Book Facts
Did you know that the signs of the Zodiac appear in the Almanac of the 1559 Elizabethan Prayer Book? In his “History of the 1559 Book of Common Prayer,” John E. Booty writes:
“There, neatly noted in the proper months, are ‘Sol in Aquario,’ ‘Sol in Piscibus,’ and the rest. It would be quite surprising to find these signs included in the Prayer Book, particularly in such a book as that prepared by Thomas Cranmer, a person who along with many other Reformers condemned the use of astrology,  if we did not remember that Elizabeth not only had an archbishop but also had her Dr. Dee, and that John Jewel, bishop of Salisbury, while arguing against soothsayers and the like, admitted their power.  The presence of the signs in the Prayer Book should be understood against the background of the times and in relation to other writings, such as the Preces privatae (1564), wherein the Zodiac is included in the Calendar, presented in special tables, and explained for the common reader. 
 Cranmer, Works, II. 100.
 John Jewel, Certaine Sermons preached before the Queenes Maiestie (London, 1583), sig. M6; Jewel, Works, Parker Sociey Publications, 23-26, 4 vols. (Cambridge, 1845-50), II, 1027-28; Richard Deacon, John Dee: Scientist, Geographer, Astrologer, and Secret Agent to Elizabeth I (London, 1968), pp.49-50.
 See Preces privatae, in studiosorum gratiam collectae, et regia authoritate appropatae (London, Gulielmus Seres, 1564), sigs. *1-**4. For a discussion of all this, see David Siegenthaler’s article “Zodiac and Prayer Book,” forthcoming in Journal of Theological Studies.
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 7:17 AM