Culpepper, Nicolas (1616–1654)
Nicolas Culpepper, one of the most influential astrologers
of all time, was born in Ockley, Surrey, England, on October
18, 1616. His father died shortly before he was born and he was
raised by his mother and her father, a Church of England minister
who taught him Greek and Latin. His good elementary education
allowed him to attend Cambridge, where a lifechanging
tragedy afflicted him. Engaged to a young woman, he
planned to run away with her and be married. However, on the
way to their rendezvous point, she was killed in a freak accident.
Culpepper suffered a nervous breakdown and refused to
return to school. When he was disowned by his mother’s family
and left financially destitute, he apprenticed himself to an
apothecary.
While becoming an accomplished apothecary, Culpepper
also mastered astrology, and he began to link the two. His
prosperity ensured by his 1640 marriage to a wealthy woman,
he settled in London as herbalist. In 1649 Culpepper took the
step that would earn him both his long-standing fame and the
hostility of his colleagues. He published an English translation
of the Pharmacopea, the book of healing remedies, a closely
guarded secret of doctors and pharmacologists. He added to
the volume his own astrological reflections, and his enemies
used it as a means to ridicule him.
Culpepper developed tuberculosis probably in 1642 when
he participated in the Battle of Edgehill with forces opposed to
King Charles I. He was only 38 when on January 10, 1654, his
illness caught up with him. His single book lived on as a standard
medical reference book for several centuries and is still
used today by people who prefer natural forms of healing. During
the darkest days of astrology, in the late eighteenth and
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early nineteenth centuries, it remained in print and was a
major source for people who began the astrological revival in
the nineteenth century. It remains in print to the present.
Sources
Culpepper, Nicolas. Culpepper’s English Physician and Herbal
Remedies. North Hollywood, Calif. Wilshire, 1971.
Inglis, Brian, and Ruth West. The Alternative Health Guide.
New York Alfred A. Knopf, 1983.