Spring Equinox / Nouruz – 2017

Wishing Everyone a Great Spring Equinox / Nouruz The Chart is Set for GMT.

The celebration of the New Year in one way or another is virtually universal, although what is recognized as the new year differs. In the Western world, including that of the Eastern Orthodox tradition, the Winter Solstice is central in the Northern Hemisphere. Some forms of European Paganism take Samhain or All Saint’s Day as the marker for the New Year.  In Mithraism, the Winter Solstice, while Zoroastrianism, often conflated with Mithraism, takes the Spring Solstice and Entrance of the Sun into Aries, the Sun’s place of Exaltation

In Mithraism, the Winter Solstice, while Zoroastrianism, often conflated with Mithraism, takes the Spring Solstice and Entrance of the Sun into Aries, the Sun’s place of Exaltation

Reporter Shuka Kalantari records the sounds of a Persian New Year’s celebration at her friend’s home. Jumping over the fire is a symbolic gesture to start a fresh new yea

Traditional Astrologers always use 00°Aries. This calculation holds a very important place because it’s considered the Chart of the Year. The planet or luminary with the greatest Essential and Accidental Dignity is the Lord of the Year (LOY).  This year, the Sun is overwhelmingly the LOY! If the chart were cast elsewhere, where the Sun were below the horizon, and perhaps in a cadent house, it would not be surprising to find another body take his place as LOY.

Because this chart is of greatest use in the GMT Time Zone and with a northerly latitude, it speaks most obviously to the UK. I invite you to reproduce this chart for different regions. However, no matter where it is, that tight conjunction of the Moon and Saturn by itself doesn’t bode well.

Apadana relief depicting Armenians bringing wine to Nouruz in Persepolis

Nevertheless, this is no time to be worrying.  Nouruz has things in common with Easter, such as fertility (including eggs) and the theme of resurrection – the triumphant return of the Sun is all its blazing glory. These are metaphors to be sure.

Zoroastrianism is almost certainly the oldest monotheistic religions, with roots in  Sumer, Babylon, Assyria,  Persia, India and Central Asia.   Today, it is also celebrated in Afghanistan Azerbaijan, Russian Federation Kazakhstan Uzbekistan Pakistan and Turkey.

That Nouruz survives after thousands of years and calculated at the same time of year, testifies to its extraordinary power. Zoroastrianism is famously optimistic and the eternal flames are kept in her temples. This fire festival is one of sheer exuberance, joy, and gratitude. The Sun is the bringer and origin of life

Revelers jump bonfires and eat ashes to celebrate the first day of Spring and the Sun in his Exaltation.

“All evil vanishes from he who keeps the Sun in his heart.” – Indian proverb

Commentary on Averrores – BBC

Abū l-Walīd Muḥammad Ibn ʾAḥmad Ibn Rushd‎ (Latinized as Averroes), lived from 14 April 1126 – 10 December 1198. He was a Medieval Andalusian polymath who wrote profusely on logic, Aristotelian and Islamic philosophy, theology, the Maliki school of Islamic jurisprudence,  psychology, political and Andalusian classical music theory, geography and mathematics, Averroes is of great importance in Islamic philosophy for multiple reasons. He argued for the reconciliation of reason with revealed religion, pointing out passages from the Qu’ran to support his position. He was a powerful proponent of Astrology for the same reasons. He was accused of shirk or polytheism, for referring to the planets, and most particularly Venus, as if they were divine. He was exiled but eventually embraced back into court in Morroco.

Reflections on Contemporary Shamanism

A Shamanistic Ceremony in Siberia

A Shamanistic Ceremony in Siberia

This first and foremost a blog devoted to Ancient and Classical Astrology. I recently had the pleasure of responding to a young person who wanted to learn Traditional Astrology and Shamanism. Throughout most of its history astrologers have also been concerned with medicine, magic, philosophy and often music. The Shamanic path is one way to discern other states of being, or indeed to discern the nature of spirits. This includes the spirits of nature. This is by way of saying that we can’t just talk about astrology without talking about its concomitant associations. Shamanism is probably the most misunderstood of them all. This article is nothing more than the most basic introduction to the subject of Shamanism, with a few comments and suggestions.

Shamanism is certainly an ancient practise. Some scholars claim it comes down to us from the Paleolithic period. It is and was widely spread and took on differing forms with some element remaining fairly constant. There is a Shamanic tradition in Japan, Siberia, Oceana, Meso-America, Indonesia, the Celtic World and dozens of other locations in as many traditions. Shamanism is not something static. While some things remain, others are replaced. It has to be relevant to the individual and the society or else we would be doing something like playing dress up, merely imitating something we barely understand, if at all. I’m not a fan of structured courses that cost money and result in letter after your name. To me, that is to completely miss the point. Shamanism is not an academic study and neither can it be learned by simply taking courses. In order for the power to be there, it must be authentic. It is an act of art.

Chogyam Trungpa coined the phrase “cutting through spiritual materialism.” The trappings of ancient Shamanism are best discarded until we find out just how our own Shamanism will be imagined and manifest. This works from the inside out. Some will argue against using ancient Shamanic costumes, accouterments, and ritual because it constitutes a cultural appropriation. Even if you disagree with this, the problem remains that we would be mimicking something without a real understanding of what is taking place.  Subtle moves or details of sound may have more meaning thatn we realize.

d4b04582b093e9bcaadf8823296668b5While some things remain, others are replaced. For example, the shamanic hand drum may be made of stretched goat skin, reindeer hide or elk, but is virtually the same in dozens of cultures around the world. Singing, chanting, and dancing in one form or another universal. Beyond these essential elements, there is rich diversity. In no small part, this is due to the time, the larger cultural context and the reaction and relationship to the land. We would expect there to be vastly differents aesthetics from the Tundra to the jungles of Costa Rica.

For good or bad, we are no longer primitives. Our languages have become complex, our feet rarely touch the Earth, we are no longer homogenous societies and the food we eat may come from half way around the world. The drone of our cities is incessant. There are now people who cannot identify a single constellation. Some can’t even see the stars through the smog. We can, however, be authentic and find creative ways to celebrate that. We all have a responsibility to shield and nurture nature in all its forms.

Shaman;s Staff (Mongolian?)

Shaman;s Staff (Mongolian?)

Music can be made by anyone. There was a survey done in school years ago. When children in the first grade were asked whether they could dance and sing, close to 100 % raised their hands. Three years later, only one or two children raised their hands. The fact is that everyone can dance and everyone can sing. You are likely to need practise in both and may find there are some limitations, such as singing range. You have heard the exhortation “dance like nobody is watching” You need to learn how to move energy and your body is the obvious place to start.

Drums, flutes, and bells can be played. There is no wrong way to a play hand drum, but remember it speaks of the heart and should be beaten gently and most of all with reverence.The colours and the scents we choose are all part of creating a sacred space. What you intend to do in that sacred place will determine which senses are invoked and in what way. If you are using incense for a Solar based ritual, frankincense and sandalwood are a good choice. candles and bonfires can be used to great effect.

Many shamans prefer to use local botanicals, such as sage for cleaning and sweetgrass to fill a vacuum. Personally, the planets and phases of the Moon are always a consideration. Remember that rituals can include planting crops with intent. There is no such thing as a sacred drum until the player makes it so. Above all things is the power of intention. Here is where a keen consciousness is of the utmost necessity. These generally require time to cultivate and preferably in good company.

Descendents of the Aztec, the Huichol number about 18,000, most of whom live in the sierra of Jalisco and Nayarit. Having withstood the Spanish Invasion, they are still striving to keep their culture alive and viable, despite the ever increasing physical and cultural encroachment of their Mexican neighbors. Peyote is a focal point for their ceremonies, and their colorful beadwork and yarnwork reflects a reverent and symbiotic relationship with nature.

This is an example of the artwork of the descendants the Aztec, the Huichol. Peyote is a focal point for their ceremonies, and their colorful beadwork reflects a sacred and symbiotic relationship with the natural world. The question as to whether the Shaman requires the use of drugs, particularly hallucinogens, is a much-debated topic. Most contemporary Shamanic practitioners, including myself, do not believe they are a crucial element in ritual.

Shamanism is not something unchangeable, any more than Traditional Astrology is a burned out cinder that has to be mimicked. The tradition lives and breathes in those who venerate her. While some things remain, others are replaced. It has to be relevant to the individual and the society or else we would be doing something like playing dress up, merely imitating something we barely understand, if at all.

There is a disconcerting trend in the contemporary Western world to pretend that Shamanism is hereditary and can be taught in a fairly short period of time for the right price. First of all, anyone can claim to an hereditary Shaman. After all, it was passed down orally. Secondly, the idea that you can learn to be a shaman as one might learn to be a racing car driver or a carpenter is false.

The Shaman learns how to access the Spirit World while knowing it is inseparable from any and all dimensions of existence.  One must be authentic and any difficulties of may be worked through by affirmations, inner and outer, to believe your connection to the spirit world is real.

The path of the Shaman is not for everyone. However for those who feel a strong affinity to this path. I have a few simple suggestions. Find someone you trust and feel comfortable with – someone who is wise.

Learn to quiet your mind. Spend time in nature, studying the movement of the clouds, the sound of the water, the way the trees nurture each other, the way a bird uses its wings and seek the silence and power of the stag. See how even stones are not entirely solid. Everything has more space than matter.

Symbols hold power for millennia. Perhaps the oldest symbol is the circle with a spot in the centre. It illustrates the infinity of Spirit and the dot represents the potential for creation. Even one symbol like this can be used with great efficacy. Solar symbols such as the swastika are ancient, albeit tainted for many people by its association with Nazism. The spiral is also ubiquitous and is seen throughout nature and in galaxies themselves. There are many symbols made up of countless versions of the cross of matter.  The Lunar symbol is also a rich source of meaning.

Make devotional music that is authentically your – music that speaks from the soul. It can begin with a simple ringing of a bell, the tapping of wood against trees, find a drum that resonates with you. Listen to the difference in sound from hand drumming to using a stick bound with leather at the tip. The beat that comes naturally may then be accompanied by movement or dance.

More than anything else, know that everything is interconnected and that thoughts are things.  We tend to think that Shamanism is completely alien to Philosophy, but the great Neo-Platonic philosopher Plotinus wrote ” Stars are like letters that are inscribed at every moment in the sky. In the whole world, it is full of signs. All events are coordinated. All things depend on all the others. As it has been said: everything breathes together.”

Shamanism is a means to liberation and the dance should be both sacred and pleasurable.

Below is a video from a Polish group known as  Laboratorium Piesni. They’ve taken a traditional form of singing and made it contemporary. The focal points for this group are the land and tradition.  The complete work with colours, drums, and dance has the ability to transport the participants and audience.

Ikhthus Unbound – Part One

Pisces in the horoscope of Timurid Prince Iskandar, islamic miniature, 1411, Iran - Wellcome Library, London

Pisces in the horoscope of Timurid Prince Iskandar, Islamic miniature, 1411, Iran – Wellcome Library, London You can see that the fish are not tied together. We can see the cord (rivers) in the background.

Those who follow my articles will know that I have all the time in the world, but not much for dogma. This is one those short pieces that ask about the origin of things. To get to the root of ideas, we could do much worse than study the Creation myths of a given culture. We will find that there is a great deal more in common across cultures than was once believed,

The interpretation of Pisces is, by and large, cliched and vague.  This is in no small part due to the modern astrological mis-association with Neptune. This is regrettable and I find that even some traditional astrologers have not been able to shake off all this misinformation off. It ought to be clear that a sign ruled by the Greater Benefic (Jupiter) and exalted in the Lesser Benefic (Venus) must have better qualities than are usually assigned to Pisces.

There has always seemed to be something not quite right about the assumption and teaching that the Fishes are bound together, causing all manner of difficulties, including psychological and spiritual pathology. I recently read comments on Pisces which claimed that the upper fish was Christ and the other, Antichrist. At very least, the bound fish represent conflicting natures

Turkey - 16th century manuscript - The whale ejecting Prophet Jonah. Ottoman miniature, end of 16th century

Turkey – 16th century manuscript – The whale ejecting Prophet Jonah. Ottoman miniature, end of 16th century

that almost always work against each other,  in a never-ending tug of war. Yet the venerable Vettius Valens also tells us that Pisces is “in conflict with itself because one Fish is northern, the other

southern.” (Anthologies, Book I. p.6). In the same paragraph, however, he states that the sign is ” scaley, sinewy, humpbacked [and] leprous. He by no means stops there. He adds “lewd, with some limbs missing” to his description. While admitting the great value of his Anthologies in the study of Classical Astrology, I think most of us are baffled by this and numerous other passages in his work. It doesn’t engender great faith in his views regarding the Sign. One has the sense that he’s actually referring to something else or he chose to write like this to put off casual readers.

Moreover, there is no particular myth that would insist on the binding of the fishes. The Pisces myths most familiar to us are variations on one Greek myth. The essence of all the variations is for all intents and purposes the same.

According to different versions of this legend, either Aphrodite and Eros turn into fish, two fish approach them and swim them away to safety, or they turn into fish AND two other fish take them to safety.  Whichever version you prefer, truth be told, it doesn’t really matter.  One way or another, the two escape from Typhon, thanks to two fish.

zeus-battles-typhon

Zeus-battles-Typhon

Threatened by Typhon, Aphrodite and Eros either turn into fish or else two fish approach and rescue them.  In either case, Aphrodite and her son, Eros are saved by fishes.  The Greeks were also familiar with the original Syrian story in which the fish of Pisces assisted at the birth of Ashtarte. The theme of Venus born from the sea foam is most famously portrayed in Botticelli’s Nascita di Venere. In other versions of the myth, Aphrodite and Eros are specifically on the shores of the Nile when Typhon, a chthonic force. tried to take them. This points again to an oriental origin of the story. Zeus is in an eternal struggle with Typhon. Again, this sounds more Oriental than Classical Greek.

Typhon corresponds to a significant extent to Seth, an Egyptian god associated with winds, storms, chaos, evil, darkness, strength, war, conflict. Zeus as a perpetual adversary of Typhon Ra shares many of the attributes of Zeus, such as being credited as the creator of all things. He was also the father of other gods like Zeus. Jupiter is of course now associated with Jupiter, but in this myth, he is primarily Solar.

The name for the constellation that has come down to us as Pisces which comes from the Indo-European root *peisk– ‘Fish’. Derivatives: fish (from Old English fisc, fish). Suffixed form *piski; piscary, piscatorial, Pisces, pisci-, piscina. [Pokorny peisk– 796. Watkins]

mapofgavinwhite1

From Gavin White’s. Babylonian Star-Lore

As Ovid tells the tale “”Piscis [Pisces], heaven’s horses. They say that you and your brother–for your stars gleam together–ferried two gods on your backs. Once Dione [Aphrodite], in flight from terrible Typhon [Typhoeus]–when Jupiter [Zeus] armed in heaven’s defense–, reached the Euphrates with tiny Cupidos [Eros] in tow and sat by the hem of Palestine’s stream.  Poplars and reeds dominated the tops of the banks; willows, too, offered hope of concealment. While she hid, the wood roared with wind. She pales with fear, and believes a hostile band approaches. As she clutched son to breast, she cries : ‘To the rescue, Nymphae (Nymphs), and bring help to two divinities.’ No delay; she leapt. Twin fish went underneath them; for which, you see, the present stars are named. Hence timid Syrians think it wrong to serve up this species; they defile no mouths with fish.” (Fasti 2. 458 ff . Trans. Boyle). There’s not a cord in sight.

fig06fish-avatar-of-vishnu

Fish Avatar of Vishnu – The Universality of the Fish as Salvation

The associations of Babylonia, Sumerian, Assyrian, Greek, Persian Indian, Persian, and Greek were highly significant. We are only now realizing the full extent of this exchange, adoption, adaptation and assimilation. The meaning of Pisces actually becomes clearer the further back we go. In doing so, it becomes increasingly apparent that the Ikhthus with an unbreakable cord forever holding it in thrall is probably both apocryphal and misleading.

“There is every reason to believe that the idea of the cord would only have been applied to these stars in the latter half of the 1st millennium when they came to mark the position of the spring equinox. Before this time the two component parts of the cord would have been envisioned as the two great rivers of Mesopotamia, the Tigris, and Euphrates. The origin of the ‘knot’ that unites the two cords represents the Shat-al-Arab where the two great rivers join together before flowing into the Gulf of Bahrain.” (White, Gavin. Babylonian Star-Lore p 216)

Ancient cultures understood that whatever appeared or happened on the Earth corresponded to the heavens. I have mentioned that the Egyptians referred to the Milky Way as the true Nile. Hindus believe the same of the Ganges. The Tigris and the Euphrates are of up-most importance for creating a fertile land that was home to some of the most ancient civilizations and believed to be the location of the Garden of Eden, variations of which abound in ancient narratives.

Kitab al-Bulhan Persian Miniature. 14th C.

Kitab al-Bulhan Persian Miniature. 14th C.

The place of the confluence of the two rivers corresponds to the Fishes, with the fixed star at the point of contact. None of the stars in Pisces are particularly bright. but if you know where to look, this star should easy enough to find. The name that has come down to us through Arabic means knot, but the image we usually see of Pisces with two fishes yoked and swimming in different directions is only one interpretation, unfounded in any definitive source. However, if remember that the cord is actually two rivers supporting civilizations and a great variety of agricultural endeavours.

The symbol of the Cosmic Fish is ubiquitous. I personally `find explorations of how such symbols manifest in various cultures, and even more so of those cultures have influence one another. The Fish is recognizable from Babylonian Cosmology, Greek Myth, and symbols in Hindu Metaphysics. From there, we can take a deeper, more informed understanding of the Sign and Constellation of Ikhthus

“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” – T.S. Eliot:

 

jaffa-wishing-piscespisces-name-sign-and-glyph-on-the-wishing-bridge-at-jaffa-israel

Pisces name sign and glyph on the wishing bridge at Jaffa, Israel

The Magi & the Flame Part II

The Magi Henry Siddons Mowbray_1915

The Magi Henry Siddons Mowbray_1915

The identity of the Magi, the nature of the star they followed and when it all took place has been subject to debate for centuries. We cannot even be certain that the event took place at all in the historical sense. Personally, I doubt that it did. That doesn’t take anything way from the power of the symbolism and the bringing together of divergent traditions. Our vision of what occurred will be evocative rather than definitive and the language we use will be the language of the stars.

We know that Persian Magi were familiar with the Judaic prophecies of a Messiah. or a Great King. There were celestial events in the Summer of 7 BC that would not have been missed by watchers of the heavens. For a brief time all the planets and luminaries, with the sole exception of Saturn, were in their own domiciles while Saturn and Jupiter were conjunct in Jupiter’s domicile of Pisces. These conjunctions happen approximately every 20 years. The Superior Conjunctions have been watched with great interest since early antiquity. They are part of even larger cycles that auger for social change of some sort, including the birth of a great King.

Ahura Mazda is the Iranian sky god, the Lord of Wisdom. He is the creator of the sky, water, earth, plants, animals, and fire. Persian Kings believed Ahura Mazda to be their special protector and equated him with Zeus. He was also equated with the gods Yahweh and Bel. As Ahura Mazda is the giver of kingship. He is Jupiter.

In the chart below, we find the Sun on the MC in his own domicile with Regulus. The previous Superior Conjunction had been in Leo. There was a change in triplicity but the water triplicity went back to 165 BC.

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The chart for the Superior Conjunction in Pisces as seen on 22 August 7 BC. with the Sun in his Domicile of Leo and Regulus conjunct the MC. All planets and luminaries other than Saturn and in their Domicile, but not their Joys.

 

The same chart shown as a sphere.

The same chart shown as a sphere.

There are Zoroastrian legends about the Star of the Magi, that identify it as Tishtrya, or Sirius, the star whose heliacal rising coincides with the annual inundation of the Nile.  The period following this is an important Egyptian festival known as the Lights of Isis.

in-zoroastrianism-

Mithra – Member of the Trinity of Ahuras Mithra Mmitra

Kepler had made much of the Superior Conjunction. Occurring in Pisces it made for a particularly attractive proposition as the candidate for the Magian star. However, Kepler later had doubts about his theory because it appeared that the conjunction wasn’t visually close enough to give the impression of a single star. The astronomer Roy K. Marshall illustrated in his booklet The Star of Bethlehem (1949, Morehead Planetarium) that Jupiter and Saturn, throughout the period of their proximity, were never closer together than twice the diameter of the Moon as it appears in the sky.

The chart I present should be of interest for several reasons, all of which depend. to some extent. on the orientation of the Magi themselves.  It ought to be one of the charts considered in relation to the Adoration.

Finally, it is not strange to be reminded of Exodus 13:21-22. The light followed is a theophany which is exactly what the Magi would follow.

And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire” (KJV) Epiphany and Theophany are core to the story of the Magi.