Animism & Astrological Vision

Birth of a Star - Courtesy NASA

Birth of a Star – Courtesy NASA

This is not an article on Animistic astrology per se, but rather a study in two very different ways of seeing. As I write this, bees are in danger of extinction, the radiation from the Fukiyama nuclear facilities is several times higher than previously thought, the polar bears will be extinct in the wild in a couple of decades and the oceans will be too acidic to support plankton, at the base of the food chain, by the end of this century. There are reasons that things have become so dire

Animism is a term coined in the 19th Century to refer to what were considered the most primitive religions. Apparently, it stretched  credulity beyond reason to imagine that everything, animate or inanimate has spirit or soul, depending on the culture. The Abrahamic religions in particular helped create a rift between between ourselves and the rest of creation that inevitably becomes *other.* God is transcendent and ineffable and distinct from creation.

In other words, there is an implied or clearly stated disconnect between creator and creation.  In effect then, only the creator and perhaps those who obey him are holy. As many of us return to our indigenous roots, we are confronted with a world view that has been denied by science since the enlightenment and has, in fact, rarely occurred even to many astrologers raised in the cultures historically dominated by Judaism, Christianity and Islam. StoneHenge_2527967b

It doesn’t present a problem in Hinduism wherein a river is a living, holy entity. The most immediate changes of perception and action when one begins to view everything as energy, imbued with spirit.  The great irony here is that the most primitive form of religion practises what twentieth century science has demonstrated to be fact. However, because of the social context in which these revelations occurred implicitly deny it, not a great deal has changed in how we view the cosmos.

As a consequence, we are destroying our home. It is a very dark irony that such a materialistic society would have such a weak sense of physicality when it comes to the natural world. Theistic culture and it’s natural opposite, atheistic culture makes the unthinkable acceptable.

It allows poachers to see elephants only as a source of ivory or encourages a super power to decimate the resources of other lands and cultures with apparent impunity. These cultures operate in the context of nature being something to exploit at will because the divine doesn’t live here anyway ! Animistic  cultures can of course have their own demons, both literally and figuratively. It is hard to describe the full extent to which the current inhabitants of New Guinea would differ from the ancient Celts except to say a very great deal..

Some will prefer the term ‘Pantheist’ to Animism, but there is also an essential animism. Druidic culture was highly evolved and perhaps the most egalitarian in the world. It stood in very stark contrast to the martial, authoritarian and hierarchical world of Imperial Rome.  Women and men could own land, go to battle or be a part of the priesthood. Hindus often refer to the Druids as the Brahmins of Europe.

Both have an unshakable belief in Reincarnation, the sanctity of all life and most specifically for our immediate purpose, they are extraordinarily skilled in the arts of divination. It is crucial to note that this belief was quite different from the Pythagorean – Platonic Doctrine of the Transmigration of Souls who saw physical bodies resembled prisons of the soul.

Animism and Pantheism see all that lives as being essentially sacred The Celts and many other groups across the Indo European works use the term Shaman, but a Hindu may choose to call herself a Shaman of Shiva or use a term consistent with Tantra. The Druids had a plethora divinatory methods, but I’m most interested in how animists were likely to practise astrology.

We do know this was one of the forms of divination and that is was considered one and the same as astronomy. Druids have been identified as wizards and soothsayers since the Christian conquest, In fact,  in Celtic society they formed an intellectual class comprised of philosophers, judges, educators, historians, doctors, seers, astronomers, and astrologers.

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Samhain Fires & Full Moon

The word “Druidae” is Celtic in origin.  Pliny the Elder (Gaius Plinius Secundus, 23/24-79 A.D.) believed it to be “a cognate with the Greek word “drus,” meaning “an oak.” “Dru-wid” combines the word roots “oak” and “knowledge” (“wid” means “to know” or “to see” – as in the Sanskrit “vid”) …  Druid was a title given to learned men and women possessing “oak knowledge” (or “oak wisdom”). (See Chris Witcombe’ Earth Mysteries at the Britannia website.

Herodotus also mentions the great skills of  Celtic augery. When Animistic or Pantheist cultures consider the planets, luminaries and stars, they do so by first recognizing the spirit of heavenly bodies. They are alive and made of the same stuff as we are. They do not however artificially separate what is above from what is below.

It would be silly to point to a single cause of the state we find ourselves in, but it is very difficult indeed to imagine that those with the vision of  Animists could have possibly allowed what we have done to our Earth. Whether we like to to think so or not, our critics can dismiss us as perpetrators of Intelligent Design because we live in a cosmos rich with meaning, purpose and  consciousness

This video serves as a brief but decent introduction to Shamanism. Thankfully, there is now an abundance of reliable information available in print.

Ancient Astronomy & Cosmology : Sun Temple of Konark

From the Cult of  Apollo to Plato’s Phaedran Charioteer to the Egyptians and Hindus the Solar Chariot drawn by seven horses  has been a central metaphor not just of the passage of the Sun, but of Cosmic harmony itself. This entire temple is layered with cosmic symbolism .

The temples is oriented on the East – West Axis overlooking the Bay of Bengal.

The Stars of Orion

prajapati4In Hinduism, Orion is associated with Prajapati “lord of creatures” presiding over procreation, and protector of life. Vedic commentators also identify him with the creator referred to in the Nasadiya Sukta.

In Egypt he is the god Osiris. In Turkic and several other cultures, he retains this role of protector of the heavens as a swordsman on horseback. . The precise attributes of the constellation differ a great deal. One might see him as a very primitive hunter armed with a very large club. Most frequently he is portrayed as an archer aiming his arrow at Aldebaran, the Eye of the Bull. This is where the expression “bull’s eye” comes from.

The Shaman of Trois Freres   has the key attributes of  the Celtic Kernunnos who in turn shares many traits with the Egyptian Orion

The Shaman of Trois Freres has the key attributes of the Celtic Kernunnos who in turn shares many traits with the Egyptian Osiris

Ancient cave paintings at Lascaux appear to have represented Orion as the Shaman. The chief commonality is the theme of a man of power. Yet he signifies no zodiacal sign.

Orion is probably the best known constellation after the Big Dipper. He is located on the celestial equator and visible throughout all inhabited parts of the world. It was named after Orion, a hunter in Greek mythology and followed by Sirius, the brightest star in the sky.

Orion seen as Shaman

Orion seen as Shaman

The belt of Orion is it’s most prominent feature. . It consists of the three bright stars Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka. These three stars have collectively been known as the Three Kings.

Robert Bauval and Adrian Glibert have argued convincingingly of a correlation between the belt of Orion and the placement of the three pyramids at Giza (The Orion Mystery 1994) This requires its own study.  The belt is obviously of great significance and is in fact one of th best aids to identifying Orion himself. However, no one of these stars is considered to be of primary importance in astrological practise.

The Chinese called the constellation Shen, after another great hunter and warrior. It stands for lunar month 4  - includes culmination texts

The Chinese called the constellation Shen, after a great hunter and warrior. Chart includes  culmination texts. – from Dunhuang star atlas, Tang Dynasty

The most powerful stars of Orion are Betelgeuse, Bellatrix and Rigel. They are all brilliant stars signifying the right and left shoulder and the left foot respectively. If  Orion is seen as an archer, the placement of these stars tells us a lot. For anyone who have ever practised archery, the relationship between the left and right arm is virtually taken for granted.

Assuming the archer is right handed, the left arm must hold the centre of the bow with great strength. The right arm draws the bow and mounts the arrow. In order to be effective, one foot must be firmly planted. If any one of these is missing or compromised, the arrow has little hope of hitting its target.

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Arabian Orion as Archer – Circa 1300

The right shoulder is Betelgeuse, a massive reddish star. He is synonymous with  great strength. A planet or luminary rising, culminating, setting or conjunct Betelgeuse will be considered a powerful companion.  He is the one who must have the strength to metaphorically ‘flex the bow’

On the left shoulder is Bellatrix, a star of the deep power of the undefeated Feminine. She is the Amazon warrior.  In Tibetan Buddhism, the left hand is related to Compassion and the Right to Skillful Means, being feminine and masculine respectively. The symbol for these is the bell and the dorje.

It is in a similar sense that Bellatrix and Betelgeuse work together. The apparent passivity of the left hand of the hunter is in reality the necessary correlative of the right.  She holds the bow firm without wavering. Bellatrix is strongly associated with the Power of the Feminine. If she is in any of the aforementioned relations to Planets and Luminaries, the Feminine path to Completion is highlighted.

Rigel in relation to our Sun

Rigel in relation to our Sun

As already noted, the Orion asterism is not consistently conceived. It doesn’t matter. It’s the metaphor as understood that is of most importance at the end of the day. However, all versions see him as the man of great power

Festival of Lughnasadh

Blessed Lughnasadh to all my friends and readers! May your harvest be bountiful !  I will be posting on all eight Sabbats as they occur. Recognizing and celebrating the wheel of the year is all but forgotten in increasingly urban societies, but continues to be both relevant and profound in significance.

 Dancing Bacchante at Harvest Time - Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema

Dancing Bacchante at Harvest Time – Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema

The Sun is rising with Procyon, but we are entering the “dog days” named after the apparent heliacal rising of Sirius, the Dog Star. The days are hotter but shorter. It’s the time of first harvest in the Northern Hemisphere and the focus is on grain, which can sustain us throughout the winter months. In that sense, Lughnasadh is a recognition of the waning Solar force and the need to preserve some of what it has helped produce.

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Grain has held a very important place in civilization for millennia.  Grain has been associated with the cycle of death and rebirth. Tammuz,  The Sumerian Sun god was slain and his beloved Ishtar mourned so deeply that nature stopped producing. Ishtar followed the Sun god to the Underworld to bring him back,. The story of Demeter and Persephone shares the same theme.

I’ve added the chart for Noon 30 August 2013 for general purposes, set for Pacific Time. Note that Regulus is parallel the Part of Fortune.

Original music by Thorrin Jonsson