The Return of the Sun King

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What, you may ask, does the Philosophy of the Renaissance Neo-Platonist have to do with the Winter Solstice and Christmas? The key is in the image and nature of the Sun itself. Astrologically, the Sun is King and the Moon is Queen. At the time of the Winter Solstice, we have the longest night, to be followed three days later by the ‘return’ of the Sun, as he makes his way Northward in that hemisphere, bringing us ever longer days, until the advent of the Summer Solstice, just as the Sun enters the Lunar sign of Cancer..

It has become very popular to conflate all Solar Deities, to carelessly list their attributes, then to take a rather large leap of logic and dogmatically state that they are mere myths and that therefore the Christian version must be a fraud – a cheap knock off — devised to enthral the foolish masses. . It is said that the myths are really just the same story, based on astronomy and recycled to suit the zeitgeist. However, that is to miss the point entirely.

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Mercurial messenger of the lights

From the beginning of Christianity, it was received among others by Hellenized Jews.The Christ is Logos. Christian Neoplatonists were quite aware of a plethora of Solar Myths, but remained undeterred in affording Pre- Eminence to Christianity  The story of the Winter Solstice and Yule can be told from many different cultural perspectives. Here we have what might be called a Neoplatonic Christmas tale. It is among the most significant of all interpretations.

In his earlier years, Marsilio Ficino had an uneasy relationship with astrology, but by the time he wrote his treatise “On the Sun.” he had managed to wed Platonism and Hermetica with Christianity. He had become more completely syncretic. He seems at this point to be first and foremost a Neo-Platonists, just as many of the best known Christian apologists had been. from before Clement of Alexandria to the Late Renaissance. The newly translated Hermetica was in harmony with the traditions that Ficino was already at home with. He has now translated the Works if Plato, Hermes and Plotinus. Plotinus is regarded as perhaps the most brilliant of the Neoplatonusrs. Ficino was also a priest, so he was in a particularly advantageous position to talk about the Sun from a Christian Neoplatonic point of view that was very much in harmony with his form of Astrology.

The newly translated Hermetica was in harmony with the traditions that Ficino was already at home with. He has now translated the Works if Plato, Hermes and Plotinus. Plotinus is regarded as perhaps the most brilliant of the Neoplatonusrs. Ficino was also a priest, so he was in a particularly advantageous position to talk about the Sun from a Christian Neoplatonic point of view that was very much in harmony with his form of Astrology.

Ficino writes: “According to the Platonists there are three principles: the good itself, the divine intellect and the world soul. Only light clearly contains all of them in itself. It reveals the good itself, since while it surpasses wonderfully all things, it also spreads itself through all things, and recalls them to sublime planes at the same time with its miraculously preserved excellence and purity.”

These are of course  divine attributes and the image of the Sun becomes a symbol of the Soul, made in the Image of God. We are no longer generally accustomed to experiencing the natural cycles of the year as divine, in these days marked by conspicuous consumption, ignorance of the skies and a contempt for virtually any form of authentic philosophy. We have mostly abandoned true wonder for fancy and Truth for distraction.

The Sun is studied by scientists, not Christian Neoplatonists. For scientists, the very idea of Soul is synonymous with delusion and naivete. Yet is has recently been discovered that the Sun has what appears to be a kind of heartbeat. Who could reasonably deny that the Sun is alive? Who could fault early humans with worshipping the Sun itself, the bringer of light, warmth and without which there can be no life at all.

The three monotheistic religions are said to be under the following luminaries and planets: Judaism is Saturn, Islam is Venus and Christianity is the Sun. The days held to be holy by each is reflective of this. The Jewish

sol-invictus

Sol Invictus

Sabbath is Saturn’s Day; the Islamic is Friday and the Christian is Sunday. In fact, any Solar religion, such as  Zoroastrianism or Mithraism would take on the same association. Hinduism is under Jupiter. All the planets can be considered as children of the Sun King. Each of us is a child of the Sun, physically and spiritually.

 

Marsilio Ficino writes in Chapter Six of the Book of the Sun:

“All [traditions] locate the Sun, like a lord, in the center of the world, although by different arguments. The Chaldeans, for instance, [place it] in the middle of the planets, the Egyptians actually [place it] between two quintuple worlds, as surely the five planets are above it, and below it are the Moon and the four elements…. [Some] actually postulate the disposition of the Sun in this way, such that Saturn, Jupiter and Mars are elevated above him, while on the other hand, Venus, Mercury and the Moon are below the Sun. which proceeds as a king, taking the middle way. Going by other ways, weaker ones avoid him.”

Plato uses the metaphor of the Sun repeatedly. Perhaps the best known is in the Allegory of the Cave. Slaves are chained before a wall watching a shadow play they assume to be real. When one manages to leave the darkness, he is overwhelmed by the brightness of the Sun.    The Sun is a metaphor for truth or even God Himself. The Sun makes life possible by enabling a world of light. On a literal level, without the light of the Sun, we would be in darkness. It could hardly be more primal.

 

The Sun is a metaphor for truth or even God Himself. The Sun makes life possible while enabling by enabling a world of light. On a literal level, without the light of the Sun, we would be in darkness. It could hardly be more primal. James writes: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning;” (James 1:17)

Following the lead of Zoroastrian priests, Ficino is often seen in red gowns. This association of fire and the colour red lives on in a parallel tradition wherein Santa Claus dons read cloths and enters homes by way of the fireplace. It could hardly be more solar and it’s quite natural that Christians adopted this time of year to celebrate the birth of Christ. I should think that by now most Christians are aware that this isn’t necessarily the birthday of Jesus. Most are also aware of other traditions that celebrate Solar deities, many of whom preceded historical Christianity. That doesn’t change the fact that this time of year is sacred

I should;d think that by now most Christians are aware that this isn’t necessarily the birthday of Jesus. Most are also aware of other traditions that celebrate Solar deities, many of whom preceded historical Christianity, while some came after. That doesn’t change the fact that this time of year is sacred to a wide range of traditions, each understanding the deity in their own way.

At the time of the Winter Solstice, we have the longest night as well as a promise of the resurgence of the light force. In mystical Christianity, it is perfectly understood that what  is above, is below. That is, after all, the essence of John’s Gospel and in many other parts of the New Testament.

We live in times where if something isn’t literally true, it must be false. This has been adopted by what I call “scientific fundamentalists” such as Richard Dawkins. I have great respect for science,  but when there is a complete denial of spiritual vision I have to question its veracity.

Inanna & the Eternal Feminine

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The above artwork is from an unknown source. If anyone knows the identity of the artist, please drop me a line. It’s a great interpretation of a goddess who often looks more like a harpy in some of her traditional representations.

The attributes are all there, from the grain sheafs to the eight-pointed star, the horns of the Bull of Heaven, the lapis lazuli in her hair as well as the lunar symbols. Her gaze has something of a hypnotic quality and there is something disquieting about the whole thing, with her dark, hollow eyes, she has a decidedly nocturnal countenance.  She is fierce as well as strangely beautiful. There is nothing ornamental about her in the Venusian sense. She is the primary Sumerian goddess and Queen of the Night and Queen of Heaven.

If you’ve followed this blog over the last two years or so, you have seen me return to the theme of the early Middle Eastern, Sumerian, Babylonian and Pre-Islamic Arabian archetypes of the powerful Feminine deities which are more fully developed origins of Aphrodite and Venus. The record is very clear that what we consider the Classical deities associated with the planets and luminaries are the result of a devolution of original archetypes and, to some extent, made far more superficial than most astrologers realize..

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Mayan Venus Table from the Dresden Codex

This kind of research is problematic. We find that what is Classically known as Aphrodite and the planet Venus is represented in Sumer by a goddess that might be associated as well with planets other than Venus, including Mars and the Moon. There is also a Moon god, so things get complicated very quickly.

The Classical Venus is not without nuance of course, but when we compare the understanding to Inanna, I think it safe to safe the archetype has been drained of much of its potency and the raw  power of the Primal Feminine. Inanna , also known by the later Babylonian and Mesopotamian names of Ishtar and Astarte,  is not primarily a goddess of love, but one who embodied war, wisdom, agriculture, sex, fertility, prostitution and lust, as well as a representative of the vegetative cycle itself and the traveler to the underworld. In Classical mythology, Mercury is the psychopomp, the guide to the Underworld.

Inanna is an active heroine. The recognition of the archetype immediately associated with Inanna goes as far back as far as 8,000 years.

Modern astrologers rarely, if ever, take into account whether Venus is the Morning or the Evening Star. We have a ‘one size fits all’ goddess who is prone to misunderstanding.

The Venus cycle is of crucial importance and to ignore that is to risk running amok in interpretations. The two primary phases of Evening and Morning star have very different qualities, but Inanna encompasses both in any case, making her a representative of the Feminine in all her guises.

Some Feminist astrologers have suggested that the goddess only took on the qualities of warrior much later when the Middle East had become more violent. There are two problems with this.

There never was a time of anything much more than fleeting peace. The dream of an ancient society permanently at peace under a matriarchy are just that. In any case, in the earliest written work, Inanna is already a fully developed warrior of Heaven, the Earth and the Underworld.

Enkidu

Enkidu – Wild Man, Stronger Than Lions

She also demonstrates that there is no hell like a woman scorned, probably more than any woman before or since. In Tablet VI, Inanna desires King Gilgamesh, but Gilamesh turns her down, citing the horrific fates of all her previous lovers. She goes into a blind rage and demands of her Father that she be allowed to release the Bull of Heaven t gore Gilgamesh to death. Her father refuses at first, pointing out that Gilgamesh might have a very good point. Her threats become ever more horrible and daddy eventually surrenders to her rage. In this, she can seem all too human, but she is in a trinity with the Sun and the Moon and she is of inestimable power.

It gets worse. The Bull is killed and Enkidu throws it back into the heavens to form a constellation, thus adding insult to injury.

It seems normal that her traits would display a degree of androgyny. She is courageous, quick-tempered, fertile and wrestles to create justice and balance in the most sublime, as well as the most savage.way. Her association with the  scorpion and owls make her seem more like Lilith than Venus. In fact, Lilith is her adversary in the Sumerian creation myth. Lilith poisons the tree that Inanna had nurtured. More properly, we can say that Lilith is parasitic, as we shall see.

The poem begins: “when what was needful had first come forth,” when bread first started to be baked in ovens of shrines, and when the first separation occurred, that of sky and earth ” (Frayne 2001:130; Wolkstein & Kramer 1983: 4). A violent tempest uproots a huluppu tree, which  Inanna rescues and plants in her own “sacred grove” at Uruk (Frayne 2001: 131).

Unfortunately, three beings settled in the tree: in its roots “a snake which fears no spell”; in its trunk a lilitu, a female spirit; and in its branches the Anzu bird.

Unable to rid herself of these intruders and parasites, Inanna is reduced to tears and calls upon her brother Utu, the sun god for help, but he refused, The hero  Gilgamesh, Uruk’s warrior king, agreed to assist. Gilgamesh  “smote” the snake, the others fled.  Gilgamesh felled the tree, taking the branches for himself, The trunk was given to Inanna in a gesture that is difficult to fathom.

Presumably, it means that Inanna got the roots of the tree, In another version of the story, Gilgamesh uproots the tree, thus severing the connection of earth, heaven, and the underworld.

The Courtship of Inanna and Dumuzi

The Courtship of Inanna and Dumuzi

There are few passages in ancient literature that could out-do the erotic courtship of Dumuzi and Inanna and I’m certain there was never a better-crafted story of the descent to the Underworld on Tablet VI.. The imagery is stark., terse, vivid and terrifying. She is visiting her sister, Ereshkigal and makes elaborate preparation for the descent.

The following is from Table VI  Descent Of Inanna Wolkstein – Kramer edition.

“Naked and bowed low, Inanna entered the throne room.
Ereshkigal rose from her throne.
Inanna started toward the throne.
The Annuna, the judges of the underworld, surrounded her.
They passed judgment against her.
Then Ereshkigal fastened on Inanna the eye of death.
She spoke against her the word of wrath.
She uttered against her the cry of guilt.
She struck her.
Inanna was turned into a corpse,
A piece of rotting meat,
And was hung from a hook on the wall….

Then, after three days and three nights, Inanna had not returned,
Ninshubur set up a lament for her by the ruins.
She beat the drum for her in the assembly places.”

She has become dead meat hanging on a wall. Her return to life by way of the intervention of Dumuzi is if course nothing short of a resurrection. With Venus in mind, we may well consider this as a metaphor for her stages of apparent and concealed visibility as part of her cycle The problem is first and foremost the specificity of three days from a culture well aware of the Venus cycle. In any case, the subject matter is quite unlike what we usually refer to as Venusian.

Quite simply, Inanna, Ishtar and Isis don’t have all that much in common with Venus at first blush. The Moon, Mars, Jupiter, Mercury and Saturn could all be described by her nature.  In fact the only luminary / planet that doesn’t fit is the Sun. By comparison, the Greco-Roman Venus seems rather thin and limited.

In the ancient Near East, Ishtar was an important and widely worshiped mother goddess for many Semitic* peoples. The Sumerians* called her Inanna, and other groups of the Near East referred to her as Astarte.

Inanna is a highly complex deity, combining the characteristics, both good and evil,of many different gods and goddesses. As a benevolent mother figure, she was considered the mother of gods and humans, as well as the creator of all earthly blessings. In this role, she grieved over human sorrows and served as a protector of marriage and motherhood. People also worshiped Ishtar as the goddess of sexual love and fertility. The evil side of Ishtar’s nature emerged primarily in connection with war and storms, much of it born of jealousy and rage. As a warrior goddess, she could make even the gods tremble in fear. As a storm goddess, she could bring rain and thunder, these events are now connected primarily to the Moon and Jupiter.

The eight-pointed star of Ishtar appears at top left, the crescent moon of the Moon God Sin is at top center, and the symbol of the Sun God

The eight-pointed star of Ishtar appears at top left, the crescent moon of the Moon God Sin is at top center, and the symbol of the Sun God

In the story of Inanna she is the daughter of the male Moon god Sin and sister of the sun god Shamash. Others mention the sky god Anu, the Moon god Nanna, the water god Ea, or the god Enlil, lord of the earth and the air, as her father. Most myths link her to the planet Venus.

There are a few things one can do with this comparison. The simplest and probably least disruptive would be  to take a closer look at what we mean by our mythical association of Venus with the planet that bears her name and also what we mean by the Feminine. Venus is a goddess with tremendous limitations. But perhaps the greatest of these is that is not a mother goddess. Whereas earlier depictions of the feminine, whether it be Ancient Near Eastern or Celtic represented her in three phases: the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone, Venus pretty much remains on the first stage, allowing the Moon to take the other attributes.

Of course, astrology uses the Greek and Roman Pantheon as metaphors for the planets. However. it’s all too easy to forget that and our understanding of the planet itself is likely to suffer. The price paid during the advancement of civilization can  be significant and I think it’s quite fair to say that the Greek and Roman Pantheon has little of the depth and earthy honesty of earlier cultures.

I’m certainly not suggesting that we give up on Venus, but we do well to remember the vast heights and depths that are found in abundance in earlier sources when it comes to more complete representation of the Feminine. This article does little more than introduce some issues regarding Astrology and the Feminine. I hope it sparks some interest.

Constellations & The Primordial Zodiac I

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If you’ve ever been to a planetarium, the chances are the presenter took ten minutes or so to heap scorn on the ignorant ancients who must have been smoking and drinking powerful drugs in order to see things like goats or virgins in the night sky. This is usually intended as the first blow against the “completely unfounded” science of astrology. The intended knock out punch is the reference to the Precession of the Equinox which means those Sun Sign columns in the tabloids offer a contrived system that ignores precession.

The idea is very simple and easy to grasp.  The sign that was rising at the Vernal Equinox has moved back almost one whole sign since their alignment. This means that what are called Sun Sign Geminis are actually Taurus – except of course they are not. Our astrology is seasonal in its basis, just as it was for the ancients. The critics of the zodiac based on Precession are missing the point.  Nevertheless, this is lost on astronomers. For them, these things are conclusive proof that astrology and its adherents are delusional and primitive minded. The irony of being called “primitive minded” has not been missed; nevertheless who can blame them for their views in the absence of coherent apologetics?

Authentic astrologers would agree on pretty much all counts, but come to a very different conclusion. I’m not aware of a true astrologer who isn’t well aware of the phenomenon of the Precession. I would be the first to agree that the appearance of constellations has precious little, if anything, to do with their names. This is where things become really interesting and is the reason I chose the word “primordial” as part of the title advisedly.This is the first in an intended series of articles on this theme. This first part can be little more than a sketch. It serves as an introduction.

It has become all but impossible for many to view a clear a night sky with little or no light pollution. It cannot be overstated that this has changed us to a very large extent. It is now common to find people who cannot identify a single constellation or star. Anyone in or close to large city see almost no stars or perhaps none at all. The best viewing experience I’ve had was in a desert area of British Columbia, on a small mountain away from any artificial light and no Moon.  At first, the brilliance of countless stars are such that it is difficult to find constellations amongst them until the eyes get used to it. The simple connecting of dots yields little or nothing, In the Middle East, particularly under very arid conditions, it is said that one feels that one may reach out and touch the stars. They seemed very close indeed and quite obviously significant.

I would like to take some stars and constellations as examples, questioning the asterisms and looking to alternate, more ancient ways of relating to the heavens.

Antares is a bright orange star, It is among the clearest stars and easy to find if the skies are clear and you know where to look. It is in the centre of the neighbourhood of Scorpio and, with our preconceived conception of the Scorpion, we join the dots.

That’s how its supposed to work, but the image below showing Scorpius, probably as clearly as it can viewed almost anywhere, doesn’t particularly look like a Scorpion. It could just as easily be an angel, a rabbit, a buffalo or a river. Both photos are included here with the kind permission of David Malin.

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© 2008 Akira Fujii/David Malin Images

Here is the same section of the sky with constellation lines drawn in. Drawing the ecliptic further helps to provide orientation.

Sco_2_www_cImage and text ©2008 Akira Fujii David Malin

© 2008 Akira Fujii/David Malin Images

Even with the lines drawn, it still takes a great deal of imagination to see the constellation as a scorpion rather than anything else.  Unfortunately for the scathing astronomer at the planetarium, that is simply not how the constellations came to be, The situation is of course compounded by the simple fact that different cultures give different names to the same asterisms. Strictly speaking, there are no constellations until we decide that a given asterism has boundaries and significance and visa versa –  One might say a constellation is a projection of an archetype.

Gavin White has produced three illuminating works on ancient Babylonian star lore that challenge later interpretations.. I have consulted Babylonian Star-Lore : an Illustrated Guide to the Star-Lore and Constellations of Ancient Babylonia (2008) and his The Queen of Heaven   I have also consulted The Heavenly Writing by Francesca Rochberg, The Epic of Gilgamesh (Gardner and Maier 1984 ed.)  Inanna: Queen of Heaven and Earth (Wolkstein & Kramer 1983  The Babylonians (HWH Saggs ] Cambridge UP) and The British Museum.

White tells us that: “In astrology the Scorpion’s armoured body segments and its array of weaponry predisposed it to become a creature symbolizing war and the martial prowess of the king. However a different meaning is attached to it in mythic texts such as the Gilgamesh Epic where Scorpion-men and women guard the sacred mountain through which the hero has traverse on his quest for immortality. The Scorpion-people are said to guard the sun at his rising and setting and because Gilgamesh is a favourite of the sun god they allow him to travel the subterranean path that the sun travels every night under the mountain.” (all references to Gavin White’s The Queen of Heaven  A New Interpretation of the Goddess in Ancient Near Eastern Art’ by Gavin White can be found on the publisher’s web site).

untitledThis detail is from a kudurru, or boundary stone, showing Gula with feathery crown attached to her conical headdress and a scorpion-man.

Gula with feathery crown attached to her conical headdress and a Scorpion-Man.

However, the form of the Scorpion People of the Sumerian and Babylonian constellation is utterly morphed. “The Scorpion People were powerful servants of the sun god Utu (Shamash). They had a human head, arms and torso but were bird-like below the waist (sometimes with human legs, sometimes bird) and a scorpion’s tail. The people of Mesopotamia invoked the Scorpion People as figures of powerful protection against evil and the forces of chaos. In The Epic of Gilgamesh the Scorpion couple, Scorpion Man and Scorpion Woman, guard the great Gate of the Mountain where the sun rises and are described as `terrifying.” (Gavin White – Queen of Heaven.)

There is a strong need  to understand the Babylonian view on its own terms, to the extent that that is possible. Williams writes: “In Babylonian mythology scorpion men were the children of Tiamat, the dragon mother of the universe.
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Tiamat, the dragon mother of the universe

They were giants whose heads touched the sky. They possessed the head, arms, and torso of a man; but below the waist they had the tails of scorpions. Deadly warriors, they could fight either with their scorpion tails or their bows and arrows which never missed their targets. They were the sacred guardians of the sun god Shamash. In the morning they opened the gates of the Mountain of the East and Shamash ascended into the sky. At night they shut the gates of the Mountain of the West as Shamash descended into the underworld. Gilgamesh, the great Babylonian hero, was aided by a scorpion man in his quest for immortality.”  (Michael Williams.  Encyclopaedia Mythica)

The most easily recognized constellations in the Northern Hemisphere are the Circumpolar Ursa Minor and Ursa Major followed by Orion, mostly because of the several brilliant stars, including Betelgeuse, Rigel and Bellatrix. However none of these are part of the zodiac. That doesn’t mean they haven’t been highly significant in different cultures throughout history,

untitledEnki and the fishes  Fishes are often represented swimming up the flow of waters that descend from Enkis shoulders On the left the symbol of the sun

Enki and the fishes Fishes are swimming up the flow of waters that descend from Enkis shoulders On the left is the the symbol of the sun

The constellations have two primary points of reference. The first is particularly referring to the circumpolar stars. The second which has the most immediate importance is the temporal. This is a simple case of a season matching an asterism which is then circumscribed and named.  So for example, Aquarius the Water Bearer rose during the rainy season of late winter and early Spring. But Pisces is now in that temporal place, while Aquarius is rising in the cold but dry season. And how, we may well ask, does Pisces represent either late winter or early spring. What do fish have to do with the season? It takes an exceedingly vivid and guided imagination to translate the asterism to embody two fishes tied together and pulling in different directions for eternity. The same is true of most of the zodiacal asterisms.

Sumerian image, we see both mer-people and priests dressed in fish-skin capes at the sacred tree

Sumerian image, we see both mer-people and priests dressed in fish-skin capes at the sacred tree

However, when we look to Pisces as a temporal reference, the time of year of great floods, other significance can be found. Like Anunitum, the Fish symbolizes the season of flooding, which commences in the early spring. “Like other creatures of the Abyss, fish were thought to be symbols of wisdom and were accordingly held sacred to Enki, the god of creative intelligence, incantations and magic.” (QoH)  The cord is indicative of the two rivers flowing into the sea. This isn’t how Pisces is represented today and before the end of the epoch prior to 500 B.C. much, but by no means all, had already been lost.

 Seven Tablets of Creation.

The Kudurru – Seven Tablets of Creation. (left to right) Venus of the goddess Ishtar, lunar crescent of the moon-god Sin, and the solar disk of Shamash , the Sun god). The serpent is a Tiamat, ( Akkadian for “sea,”)

Of course some zodia are deceptively simple. They make sense due to the Season in the Northern Hemisphere; Leo is probably as good an example as any.  The Lion has been seen by cultures everywhere as the “king of the beasts” courageous and Solar – why not reign in the hottest and driest part of the year,

White tells us: “Lion (Leo) The Lion has two main strands of symbolism. Firstly as a seasonal star it represents the ferocious heat of summer – its radiant mane stands for the overbearing radiance of the summer sun. Secondly, as the sacred beast of the war goddess Inanna-Ishtar, the Lion represents victory and war. The bright star at its breast (our Regulus) is known as the King Star – here representing the favourite of the goddess to whom she grants victory.” (QoN)

Enki walks out of the water to the land, followed by the lion

Enki walks out of the water to the land, followed by the lion

Our knowledge of Ancient History is poor, but great progress has been made even in the last two decades. It has become increasingly apparent that our classical Greek and Roman archetypes are in most cases pale shadows of their original significance. To get to the heart of the zodiac, we need to go back at least as far as Babylon. Here we find a very different reality where the counterpart of Venus, for example, is the goddess of sexual love, fertility and warfare. The word “pretty” simply doesn’t apply to her. In fact, we have lost most of the archetypal origins of the zodiac and find ourselves trying to make sense of fragments of a powerful, illusive,  but clearly profound inheritance.

Winged gods - Sumer

Winged gods – Sumer

The Bull of Heaven I

In the below scene we have an adoration of the rising sun between two sycamore trees, which is also represented as a white bull-calf between the trees.

It’s becoming increasingly apparent, even among previous skeptics, that religions and whole societies have oriented themselves in accordance with the heavens in ways we are are only now discovering. Astrological interpretation lies at the heart of our ancient civilizations’ telling us where we came from and where we are going. The integrity of these traditions is extraordinary. This begins a series of articles in which I will examine the history mythology and astronomy underlying the culture of our forbears, from paleolithic cave paintings to the current era.

To begin, we will concentrate on the Sumerian civilization in general and the goddess Inanna in particular to better explain the significance of the constellation and it’s relationship to the Sumerian “Venus” the ruler of Taurus. The Sumerians and indeed modern Iraqis are wonderful storytellers and have left us the earliest epic poem, describing in amazing detail their cosmological beliefs and observations.. The shouldn’t merely be considered a lesson in history, because the core beliefs and values are just as relevant today. In fact we need to recover what has been lost. We are like a man sitting on a trunk full of unimaginable treasure but without the key to open it

Various species of wild bulls were found throughout Europe, the Near East, Central Asia, North Africa and bull Sumer. In fact the progenitors of the cow had pastured on the plains and grasslands of central Mesopotamia since ancient times.  Of course, there is huge gulf between wild animals and their domestication.  The Age of Taurus saw the beginnings of agriculture on a hitherto unknown scale by harnessing the power of the bull.

Isis - Lunar horns with Solar disk

Isis – Lunar horns with Solar disk

The wild bull was a massive creature, standing over 180 cm at the shoulder. Whenever reference in writings or visual art, the bull was venerated as an embodiment of supernatural strength, virility and ferocity, The constellation Taurus was rising at the Vernal Equinox approximately 4300 BC and 2150 BC. King Gilgamesh is thought to have reigned at some time between 2800 and 2500 BC. This falls within the Age of Taurus, the bull of heaven.

The significance of the Bull if Heaven is enormous and existed in multiple layers of meaning, across an extraordinary number of cultures and reaches back at least as far in time as the Paleolithic period. Taurus is a large and prominent constellation in the northern hemisphere’s winter sky.  It is one of the oldest described constellations, dating back to at least the Early Bronze Age when it marked the location of the Sun during the spring equinox.

The image at the top of the page shows the Sun rising in the East,  in the constellation Taurus, represented by the white calf.  The Bull became leader of the signs, rising with the Sun at the Spring Equinox, from approximately 4300 to 1580 BC, Taurus came to symbolize the bull in the mythologies of Ancient Babylon,untitled33222 Egypt, India, Minos, and Greece. The “sacred cows” and bovine deities became virtually ubiquitous.

The essential significance of the Bull is found not only in the Torah via the Golden Calf and other references but in the Hebrew language itself. It is the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet, almost certainly adopted from the Phoenicians and gives us the word alphabet when combined with the second letter of the Greek alphabet, Beta.

Aleph means Ox. In literal terms, of course, this would refer to a castrated bull, but the deeper significance is the harnessing of a very powerful energy which can then be used in a directed way. With the domestication of bulls and cows, agricultural tasks, hitherto all but impossible, such as plowing the soil, creating a new agricultural society, massively increasing the ability to produce food for burgeoning populations. . It was a pivotal moment in the history of civilizations.

What is above isuntitledt below. Those familiar with the Tarot will know that The Fool card is Aleph. The portrayal differs from one deck to another, but the core images are virtually universal. The Fool is the beginning and also zero. He is perfect potentiality, goaded by a dog (presumably representing animal natural ) What he is carrying over his shoulder is metaphorically phallic and seminal – what we call potency. It will remain as potentiality until the energy finds the ways and means to be realized.

The Sumerians had an advanced civilization with a fully developed stellar religion, complete with an astrological pantheon of twelve gods in Sumerian Religion, archetypal figures that would be adopted by many other cultures, usually under a fairly thin disguise. There were five creator gods and under theses deities were the seven gods who “decree the fates.” These were An, Enlil, Enki, Ninhursag, Nanna, Utu, and Inanna. All the gods have essentially human form,

Inanna is of primary interest to us here. She is Queen of Heaven, the universal Venus, but in her original guise as Inanna the goddess of love and war is complex and multifaceted. She embodies distinctly ambitious, conniving, and heartless tendencies as well as fertility and sexual love. She is courageous, often has a very bad temper. She isn’t idealized anymore than is Aphrodite/ r_thema_mundi (1)

Her attributes take into account the phases o Venus, among these are oriental and occidental She is also the goddess of the Underworld. Like all planets Venus has phases and hers are particularly interesting. At the superior conjunction, Venus is on the far side of the Sun, with the Sun standing exactly between the Earth and Venus. This was seen as her descent in to the underworld, from which she was resurrected as the Morning Star. This is rich with significance, First of all, Venus is the ruler of Taurus. Moreover, Taurus is the nocturnal expression of Venus. Libra is the exaltation of Saturn. In the fourth house, this becomes the journey to the underworld where Inanna soul is ‘weighed.’ The horns of the bull seen in the constellation itself, relation to the exaltation of the Moon in Taurus

There are two stories which are immediately germane to the nature of Venus and Taurus.

In a fit of blind rage, and in tears, she appeals to her grandfather to avenge Gilgamesh because he had insulted her by resisting her attempted seduction. Hell hath no fury like a goddess scorned . Inanna,’s anger and desire for vengeance only increased and she demands Anu to give her Gugalanna, the Bull of Heaven, to have revenge on Gilgamesh. She threatens that if she isn’t given what she wants, she will wreak such havoc on Earth as well as the Underwold, the doors of which she will break and open, creating massive confusion among people and the denizens of the Underworld,

eight pointed star of Inanna - Venus

eight pointed star of Inanna – Venus

She gets her way and unleashes Gugalanna who becomes an epic version of the bull in a china shop. The Bull is subsequently slain by Gligamesh Unwilling to die, the bull ascended to the stars to claim the constellation Taurus. This might seem a great contradiction, but many ancient cultures believed that at least some of its population would become stars. This is also the beginning of another connected theme : Inanna’s descent into the Underworld.

Her clothing is removed as she enters the underworld, This is a ritual in which she is symbolically stripped of all her powers and is turned into a corpse.  Enlil and Nanna will not help, claiming that she brought this fate upon herself – suggesting she wanted to usurp her sister’s power.  However, Enki agrees to bring her back to life, sending Kurgarru and Kalaturru to revive her with nourishment and the water of life.

Inanna is in fact resuscitated but she is to leave a sacrificial substitute in her place. It is not a difficult decision. Her husband Dumuzi is chosen because he hadn’t mourned her absence as much as he ought to have, In an interestingly Venusian detail, she rejects the idea of her hairdresser taking his place.

The descent into the Underworld is referring to the period of Venus being invisible – below. When she reappears she does so as the Morning star she Lucifer, the Bringer of Light. She is therefore ahead of the Sun and the cycle will repeat itself.

ishtar inanna  - queen of the night

ishtar inanna – queen of the night

As I have mentioned elsewhere, the Venus cycle corresponds to the gestation period and underscores her role as bringer of life.n Babylonian tradition she was a “star” in a trinity with the Moon and Sun. She was at one time personified as the Great Goddess who gave birth to the Sun, and at other times known as Lucifer, the light.

The image of Inanna on the right was believed for some time to be of Lilith, said to be the first wife of Adam. She does share some attributes, such as the nocturnal birds and animals with her. She is also winged, associating her with the heavens. Like Lilith she has no interest in the advice of men, for the most part

The deities associated with Venus in the Ancient Near East were proactive initiators, often very warlike ones. for they brought in the day, awakening solar vitality. One thinks not only of Inanna, but of Bodica and other warrior queens When she rises before the Sun. As the gentle and loving Evening Star, known as Zib, Hesperus and Shalem among other names was said to speak the Word of Peace nightly to the Sun, giving the Hebrew and Arabic word for peace, shalom and salaam. As Evening Star, Venus returns to the lunar world of nurturance and fecundity. Rivers & Gillespie make some fascinating comments on this is in Knot of Time  pp. 79-82

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The eight pointed star of Venus, the Moon and Solar disk with its four axes and four intercalated solar rays,


Magic and the Occult in Islam: Ahmad al-Buni

What follows is a very fine lecture by Saiyad Nizamuddin Ahmad (Department of Arabic and Islamic Civilizations, American University in Cairo) delivered at the Warburg Institute, University of London, May 2003.

This is an important lecture in it’s own right, but I’m also posting this as an introduction to my next post, regarding the decoding of a manuscript using astrological elements such as Lunar Mansions, Constellations and significant stars; while making reference to the Picatrix. I’m delighted to see so much research and scholarship brought to bear on the astrological tradition and it’s association with Alchemy, Geomancy. & Theurgy.

The Taurean Venus

Venus Consoling Cupid - Benjamin West

Venus Consoling Cupid, Stung by a Bee – Benjamin West

Planets and Signs are Archetypes. Astrology is an art that considers the microcosm in relation to the macrocosm. That isn’t a modern idea. It’s an ancient one. So when we talk of the astrological Venus we refer to a rich matrix of attributes, each of which will manifest according to her Sign, her placement and her relationship to other planets and luminaries.

The glyph for Venus consists of the circle of Spirit, having precedence over the cross of matter. In medicine and in all the biological sciences it is still the symbol for the feminine.venusglyph Venus is the Ruler of both Taurus and Libra. In this article, I will be focusing on what I will call the Taurean Venus. This is her Earthly domicile. She is very much at home here, so it affords an opportunity for discussion of this particular expression of the Venus archetype

Taurus is a fixed earth sign and here Venus is the Earth Mother or womb from whose energy the earth receives the beauty of the natural world, as well as the comforts and pleasures it may afford. In Taurus, Venus is in her dignity and is best described as the voluptuary, a lover of physical, earthly beauty. This is the embodiment of Eros.

As the Sun waxes in Taurus, the Earth is green and full of new life. Venus delights in beauty, including the arts of poetry, dance, music and visual art.  She’s the creative force that bringing new life through erotic love as well as procreation. She rules the sense of touch. In Classical Astrology, she is naturally said to take her joy in the fifth house.

Venus was identified in tradition as the daughter of the Moon. The Moon and Venus are both reflective, feminine archetypes in the chart.

Venus is more than the figure of Aphrodite can describe. In Classical mythology she was a powerful, but potentially treacherous deity.

Lucretia Borgias by Lucas Cranach- A Darker Side to Eros

Lucretia Borgias by Lucas Cranach- A Darker Side of Eros gone awry. Cranach did a few paintings on the same theme, But here there is some ambiguity. Lucretia committed suicide but had poisoned countless people. She has been considered as an erotic serial killer .

The metal associated with Venus is copper. We know that copper is widely used in the cosmetic industry!  In alchemy, Venus is externally beautiful and highly receptive, but with a corrosive core.

The Venus cycle corresponds to the gestation period and underscores her role as bringer of life.Lakshmi - The Hindu Goddess of Wealth & Beauty

Lakshmi – The Hindu Goddess of Wealth & Beauty

In Babylonian tradition she was a “star” in a trinity with the Moon and Sun. She was at one time personified as the Great Goddess who gave birth to the Sun, and at other times known as Lucifer, the light-bearing attendant to the Sun.

As River and Gillespie have written, the deities associated with Venus in the Ancient Near East were “active initiators, for they brought in the day, awakening solar vitality. As the gentle and loving Evening Star, Venus was Zib, Hesperus and Shalem,said to speak the Word of Peace nightly to the Sun, giving the Hebrew and Arabic word for peace, shalom and salaam.

As Evening Star, Venus returns to the lunar world of the imagination.” (The Knot of Time. p. 79). It is easy then to see her connection to the idealistic,  spiritualized love of Pisces, the sign of her own exaltation.

The Venus element in the natal chart is a place of potential vibrancy and sensual delight. An unafflicted Venus in the fifth house can produce great artistic ability. Venus in the same house but afflicted and in a different sign, may signal no more than a profligate gambler.

In other cultures, such as India the equivalent of Ishtar, Aphrodite and Venus is revered as the Goddess Rati and as the Tantric Goddess Shakti. However. the most Venusian Hindu Goddess is Lakshima, particularly in relation to the Taurean Venus

The Hindu god Krishna Surrounded by Ladies - British Museum

The Hindu god Krishna Surrounded by Ladies – British Museum

In the painting above the god Krishna is enjoying the sensuality of earthly life. Many of the attributes of this painting seen quite Taurean to me.

Bright Sky : Thunderbolts & Tin

Jupiter and Semele - by Moreau

Jupiter and Semele – by Moreau

This is to discuss some of the etymological and ubiquitous symbolic qualities of the Sky God known by several names, but most famously as Zeus or Jupiter. He is perhaps best known as the Master of the Heavens.

He was identified by the Romans as Jupiter or Jove. Jupiter is known as the earth-shaker. At will, he could  summon rain, snow, hail, and all other meteorological phenomena.  He married his sister Hera.  Zeus was known for his countless love affairs. Neither chastity nor restraint are jovial attributes.

The son of Jupiter was Bacchus , synonymous with the Greek Dionysus. He shares some of his father’s traits, but in exaggerated form. He is typically depicted as the god of harvest, grapes, fertility and theater: other traits such as drunkenness, altered states including ecstasy makes him the opposite of Apollo.The “Apollonian and the Dionysian”  have been identified as archetypes in their own right.

Apollo, Dionysus & Hermes-Feasting. C. 450 BC

Apollo, Dionysus & Hermes-Feasting. C. 450 BC

Dionysus was very much his father’s son and was the subject of Mystery Cults, particularly in Greece.

Jupiter’s most feared and revered weapon was the lightning bolt, forged for him by the Cyclopes. Most cultures have a deity sharing enough similarities to associate it with Zeus.

120px-jupiter_symbolsvg

Zeus’ name translates to “Bright Sky.” The letter zeta, is the Greek letter z for Zeus. Zeus is Jupiter’s namesake in Greek mythology. The same symbol represents tin, since it is one of the planetary metals in alchemy.   His Roman names are Jupiter and Jove. He is usually shown with his characteristic scepter and attendant eagles

I view the planets and luminaries as powerful archetypes, recognized cross culturally and for millenia. I prefer to think of these archetypes as Plato’s Forms.

This isn’t a modern idea as some misguided Traditional astrologers would say. It’s primordial.  

Indra, the Hindu king of the gods, is always shown with a vajra (thunderbolt) held aloft in his right hand. He too is an Earth shaker and bringer of all kinds of meteorological phenomena.

Images of Jupiter and Zeus were employed to portray Christ, particularly in the Eastern Orthodox Church, but there are plenty of examples to be found throughout Christendom. Justin Martyr is said to have converted a man to Christianity by assuring him that the Christian God was just like Zeus ! Read Plato’s On the Soul’s Recollecting True Being and Beauty from The Phaedrus for a the Platonic and Neo-Platonic conception of Zeus.

Also read William Lilly’s Of the Planet Jupiter & his Signification. for the the Medieval Astrological Jupiter.

Indra Holding Thunderbolt Vajra

Indra Holding Thunderbolt Vajra – Keshava Temple, Somnathpur

In astrology, Jupiter is a rich matrix of symbolism greater than the sum of its parts. He is power, excess, benevolence, jurisprudence. philosophy, joviality, exaggeration, generosity, and largesse. The thought of “the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom” comes to mind ( William Blake – The Marriage of Heaven & Hell)

It is  becoming increasingly apparent that Europeans , Central and South Asians migrated from a common region in and around what used to be called Aryana.  The term Indo European can be taken more literally than it has been.

The Celts  had deities which are almost perfect parallels to Greek and Indian gods.  There are perhaps thousands of words in English almost identical to Sanskrit: for example, such as naam and name. The Celts  had deities which are almost perfect parallels to Greek and Indian gods. See this article for a list of thunder gods

I stress this because our recovery and understanding of ancient astrology depends on having some deeper knowledge of anthropology as well as philology, history. philosophy and geography.