The Homo Signorum, or Man of Signs, is a curious figure which appears in medieval astrological manuscripts. Known as the Melothesic Man or Moon’s Man in astrological medicine, it shows the signs of the zodiac on the specific parts of the body over which tradition has given them rulership. In practice, the melothesia was consulted in order to know which part of the body to avoid “touching with iron” or applying medicine thereunto when the moon was in that specific sign. In the 1st century EV, the Roman poet and astrologer, Marcus Manilius, gave a very early account of the corporeal correspondences of the celestial signs in his poetic book Astronomica. Graphic representations of these figures began showing up frequently in manuscripts during the 14th century and were among the first realistic anatomical illustrations to appear in printed books. More recently, such figures were well-known to rural folk, as they were depicted in almanacks intended for astrological, agricultural, and meteorological prognostications. One such almanack, printed for Daniel Brown in 1628, translates the original Latin of Manilius’ poem about the melothesia into hexameters, the verses indicating the proper placement of the signs on the human frame:
Head and face Aries, necke and throate Taurus upholdeth,
To Gemini th’ armes, to Cancer brest stomach and lunges:
As Leo rules the backe and heart, so Virgo delighteth
In guts and belly: reignes and loynes Libra retaineth.
Scorpio the secrets and bladder challengeth: of thighes
Only Sagitarius the governour is: Capricornus
The knees as subjects doth guid, but Aquarius holdeth
The legs: and Pisces maintaine the feet to be their right.
The Vierling melothesia demonstrates the hermetic ‘as above, so below’ motif wherein the microcosm has correspondence with the macrocosm. The emblem further reflects this with the serpent biting its tail, bringing to mind the ouroboros in the Codex Marcianus, which is accompanied by the Greek phrase EN TO PAN, or ALL in ALL. Finally, we see here the graphic manifestation of the sentiment behind the saying ‘from head to toe’, wherein we arrive at the whole matter of a subject by traveling across the length of the melothesia‘s form.
Images such as these are both beautiful and useful, uniting as they do the practical with the artistic.
Produced from the original ink illustration by Benjamin Vierling, and measuring 18 X 24 inches, Microcosmus Melothesia is screenprinted in three colors on cream paper, illuminated with rich gold, scribal black, and a firmament of gradient blues.
There are only 72 hand-numbered copies of these, and at only $33 each, they are quite a steal. You can order yours here.