Flavin's Corner

12-15-00

Gee, Mail!

[Note: While I was working on my column this past Wednesday night, the following e-mail arrived. The questions put to me about the history and applications of the zodiac seemed to require more time to answer than I had to spare. My solution? Reschedule the column I was working on for next week and use the answer to the e-mail as this week's column. Mind you, this is the busiest time of the year!]

Hello Mr Flavin,

Perhaps you can help me. I have been exploring the astrological foundation of ancient Egyptian Mythology and its apparent connection to early Christianity for the last year and-a-half or so. I find it extremely fascinating but there are many pieces of the puzzle I haven't been able to find. One of which is when exactly did the Zodiac become fixed? It is commonly held that the Cherubim of the Old Testament corresponded to the cardinal points of the Zodiac when the vernal equinox occured in Taurus. When the Sun entered Aries, the point of winter solstice became Capricorn and all savior gods were born in the 'cave' of Capricorn. But when the Sun entered Pisces, the savior figure was symbolized by the fish. Except for his birth which still occured in the 'cave' of Capricorn when it should have been Saggitarius. So I'm trying to find when the signs became fixed and why they don't rotate in the present when it was was clear that they rotated in the past due to precession. If you can point me to some good resources, I would be greatly appreciative. I am also trying to find some corroboration for the claim that the '40 days in the wilderness' corresponded to the angular separation of the signs Capricorn & Aries - the 'birth' place and the place of 'resurrection' of the current savior figure (which would only be true if the Sun were in Aries) - Capricorn being at Dec -16 degrees & Aries at +24 degrees a total of 40 degrees of separation.

So once again, if you can point me to some good, reliable sources of information on this I'll be extremely grateful to you.

Thank you for your time.

xxxxx
 
 

xxxxx,

Good of you to write, though I wonder why you're asking ME these questions, as I don't think you’ve read any of my online "zodiac" material. In those articles I explain much concerning lunar "zodiacs" and the solar (or mathematical grid-map invented c. 700 BCE in Mesopotamia) zodiac, and the footnotes and bibliographies are extensive. The urls to those online articles are:

The Karanovo Zodiac at www.flavinscorner.com/karanovo.htm

The Zodiacs: Maps of Heaven and History at www.flavinscorner.com/maps.htm

The Oldest ABCs: The Ugarit Cuneiform Alphabet at www.flavinscorner.com/abc.htm

First off, your proposed "astrological foundation of ancient Egyptian Mythology" is a treacherous minefield of false assumptions made by undisciplined grammarians and mythographers. Connecting such to early Christianity is a short road ending in the middle of nowhere (for now). B. L. van der Waerden remarks in his SCIENCE AWAKENING II: THE BIRTH OF ASTRONOMY (Netherlands: Noordhoff/Oxford, 1974, p. 10), that a single tablet mentioning Sirius is "…the only text from the time of the Old Kingdom that makes reference to astronomical matters." It's accepted ancient Egypt used the continued sightings of bright stars in a functional way, but the broadest applications of observed data of risings and settings seemed to have concerned farming, in much the same way as Hesiod later described in his WORKS AND DAYS, c. 850-800 BCE. Yes, the Egyptian "decans" are great, independent concepts which still enjoy effect, however Egyptian "mythology" is recognized as having a "foundation" which was advanced before astronomy became more than a hobby. Astronomy (later, astrology) influenced Egyptian mythology after a heroic/social/agricultural/psycho-sexual ethnic generated the outline. Way after… Assuming advanced math in ancient Egypt before Alexander, as described by various authors, is retroceding technologies before they were developed. This is dangerous and should inspire concern for demonstrating the source and veracity of primary material--the pre-Socratic philosopher, Thales of Miletus, being posthumously credited with predicting a solar eclipse in 585 BCE, as the math wasn't understood by secondary sources, is an easy example. Despite its age, Otto Neugebauer's chapter on "Egyptian Mathematics and Astronomy" in THE EXACT SCIENCES IN ANTIQUITY (New York: Dover, 1969, though still in print), remains the best introduction. Egypt was way cool in many endeavors, unfortunately mathematical astronomy (as initiated with the Babylonians and advanced by the Greeks) was not one of them. As far as "early Christianity" is concerned, my online article mentioned above ("The Zodiacs: Maps of Heaven and History") should explain my position regarding the Jesus Narrative and the zodiac.

Second, your late association of the Cherubim with significant calendar markers needs a chronological adjustment like above. The Hebrew Scriptures are widely held to have been rewritten post-Exile and after exposure to the duodenary zodiac and its attached number systems. I suspect most number references in scripture are symbolic and even such basic Hebrew claims as the "twelve tribes" is highly suspect (see the efforts of the so-called Copenhagen School).

As to when the zodiac became "fixed," there is no single date, as the zodiac diffused and became incorporated into various systems (or served as the foundation), not all of which were/are, in fact, "fixed." Constellation traditions are known from boundary stones of the Kassite period (14th century BCE), some ceramic designs may push this back a thousand years, and maybe (just maybe) earlier constellations were conceived of, but have a negligible effect on the later zodiac. A good overview of the emergence of the zodiac is FROM THE OMENS OF BABYLON: ASTROLOGY AND ANCIENT MESOPOTAMIA by Michael Baigent (London: Arkana/Penguin, 1994). A lunar table calculated for the year 475 BCE, described in "Two Lunar texts of the Achaemenid Period from Babylon" by Asger Aaboe and Abraham Sachs (CENTAURUS 14, 1969, p.1), provides an extant terminus ad quem for the zodiac of 12 signs and 360 degrees. At that time, the zodiac began at approximately 10 or 8 degrees of Aries. It was the Greeks shortly thereafter who began the zodiac at 0 degrees of Aries. Later, the Egyptians (Dendera temple period) and then the Vedic astrologers used a zodiac with a non-fixed beginning. Between sidereal, tropical, fixed, non-fixed, Western, Eastern, old, new, and all the unique individual systems that have arisen, a simple answer is beyond the scope of this reply. For a discussion about the problems encountered attempting to understand the various Greek systems between 400 BCE and 400 CE, see "Heraclides' Three Soul-Gates: Plato Revised" by Harald A. T. Reiche (TRANSACTIONS OF THE AMERICAN PHILOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION, Vol. 123, 1993, pp. 161-180). Reiche's comments on the inconstellational "gates" and the various assignments of constellations to signs among the Greeks makes for fun reading (if you're bedridden and without a sense of humor). Good stuff!

Now, precession figured into the usage of the zodiac after Hipparchus (190-120 BCE). That the precession of the equinoxes was only rediscovered by Hipparchus and was known thousands of years before, see HAMLET'S MILL: AN ESSAY ON MYTH & THE FRAME OF TIME by Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend (Boston: Gambit, 1969). What's wrong with many of your questions (and makes my answers so nonspecific) is the retrocession of unreasonable attributes by later commentators onto earlier people/places/things. For example (gee, I've always wanted to wing something like this):

"The preceding age [to Pisces, RDF], that of Aries, had been heralded by Moses coming down from Mount Sinai as 'two-horned,' that is, crowned with the Ram's horns, while his flock disobediently insisted upon dancing around the 'Golden Calf' that was, a 'Golden Bull,' Taurus." HAMLET'S MILL, see above, p. 60.

Because such statements are not supported with references, many scholars avoid HAMLET'S MILL. While medieval paintings exist showing Moses with horns, this is understood as confusion based upon the Latin cornuta (horned or cuckolded) and coronata (haloed or crowned). Exodus 34:29 today is translated and reads that Moses' face was "radiant" and "aglow," as opposed to having horns, leprosy, or something else wrong with it. Poor work habits of Eusebius Hieronymus (aka St. Jerome), 347-420 CE, or a later transcriber? It matters not in this, as the "two-horned" tradition cannot be shown to predate Jerome. That between the original publication of HAMLET'S MILL and today archaeologists have discovered a household statue of a golden calf in Philistine Ashkelon, which demonstrates some partial evidence of a valid tradition as described in Exodus, furthers the implausibility of zodiacal symbolism in Hebrew scripture (apart from simple number). The association of Moses with the zodiac certainly happened, but when? Not early enough for this discussion…

So, become critical and something of a documentarian. Question when an idea arose and document its source. Much is late, but the early stuff that stands out is fascinating! Well, to some… I hope the above helps!

Regards,

Rick

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