In my post on Joseph Moxon I mentioned that he had been instrumental in attempts to revive the London Society of Astrologers, this led to a brief discussion in the comments on sources for this esoteric association. In the course of the day I have found two further references, which I shall quote in full here.
The first comes from Derek Parker, Familiar to All: William Lilly and Astrology in the Seventeenth Century, Jonathan Cape, London, 1975, pp163 – 164.
Lilly introduced him [Elias Ashmole] to Booker, and two months later ‘the Mathematical Feast was at the White Heart in the Old Baily, where [he] dyned,’ and met many other astrologers.
The Astrological Feasts organised by the Society of Astrologers were held for many years in succession, and continued during the interregnum. Over forty astrologers who were normally at daggers drawn appear to have met convivially, suspending hostilities to enjoy a good meal and some technical gossip: Lilly, Booker, Wharton, Johnand Arise Evans, John Gadbury and his student John Partridge, Vincent Wing [from whose books Newton taught himself astronomy], John Mallet, Geoffrey Le Nerve, James Blackwell, John Sabye and John Heyden, Sir Kenelm Digby [who helped to introduced Cartesian philosophy into England], George Parker, Culper (the herbalist), and a great number of other astrologers, and guests who had a non-technical interest in the subject. On one occasion, for instance, John Booker brought Samuel Pepys.
The variety of personalities, political opinions and astrological attitudes represented makes it amazing that every Feast did not break up in violence and disorder: but Royalists sat next to Republicans (the discussion of politics being banned), psychic and cabbalistic astrologers next to scientists and astronomers, and drowned their differences in claret. The menu of one Feast still exists, perhaps because of the importance of the occasion: the Town Clerk of London had agreed to become Steward of the Feast, and the company dined on venison.
Unfortunately Parker does not have foot or end notes and gives no sources for his information, however his book does have a bibliography and as well as Josten’s Ashmole (see below) he lists Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic, Peregrine Books, 1978 and he writes the following on page 361:
A formal Society of Astrologers was constituted, and is known to have had annual dinners in London most years between 1649 and 1658, and to have been temporarily revived in 1682. It appointed stewards, arranged an annual sermon, and banned the discussion of politics. In 1649 it had a membership of over forty. It thus constituted a notable would-be scientific organisation a full decade before the formation of the Royal Society.
Unlike Parker, Thomas does have footnotes and he writes:
Information to the Society may be found in Josten, Ashmole, Index s.v. ‘Astrologers Club’; W. Lilly Merlinus Anglicus (1649), sig. B1; Ashm. 423, ff. 168 – 169. Sermons preached before it include R. Gell Stella Nova (1649); id. A Sermon touching God’s Government (1650); E. Reeve, The New Jerusalem (1652); J. Swan, Signa Coeli (1652); R. Carpenter, Astrology proved harmless, useful pious (1657).
Josten’s Ashmole is Josten, C. H. (editor) (1966). Elias Ashmole (1617–1692). His Autobiographical and Historical Notes, his Correspondence, and Other Contemporary Sources Relating to his Life and Work Oxford: Clarendon Press.