Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Zodiac

A Henry M. Tichenor essay in early 20th century periodical, THE APPEAL TO REASON, had interesting history and comments on the Zodiac (which means “a little animal” – referring to those “little animals” early humans saw in the starry constellations prominent in the sky at different times of the year).

Chaldean doctors of divinity, as well as their doctors of medicine, relied upon these signs. “When the moon happened to be passing through the sign of the member of the body upon which a surgical operation seemed necessary, the operation was postponed.”

So much symbolism refers to the number 12 – the 12 tribes of Israel, the 12 apostles of Jesus (often pictured in medieval art as each relating to one of the twelve signs of the Zodiac), and the day too is divided into two parts of 12 hours each.

(Somewhere I heard that when Odysseus shot an arrow through the holes in 13 axe heads, in Homer’s THE ODYSSEY, it was symbolic of the sun passing through the 13 moons of the year.)

Tichenor article quotes a French scientific writer, Charles Francois Dupuis (1742-1809), who interprets “the twelve labors of the ancient god and savior Hercules” as “astrological allegories, representing the passage of the sun through the twelve signs of the Zodiac.”

“In the older mythology, that preceded Christianity, Hercules, who fought the serpent, Python, became purified, and passed through a cycle of twelve labors. He became a sun-god, whose Easter was the Vernal equinox, the resurrection of the green earth. Hercules, like the Christ of a later period, was the son of a human mother and a divine father… Alemene and Zeus….”

Christian worship took from the ancient worship of the three constellations, Taurus, Aries, and Pisces. “The worship of Taurus – the bull of Egypt – gave way to the worship of Aries, the lamb of Palestine; and Pisces, the fishes.“

The signs of the Zodiac “were carried by the different tribes of the Israelites on their standards; and Taurus, Leo, Aquarius, and Scorpio [Dan replacing the scorpion with the eagle during that time] – the four signs of Reuben, Judah, Ephriam, and Dan – [were] placed at the four corners of their encampment, evidently in allusion to the cardinal points of the sphere, the equinoxes and solstices, when the equinox was in Taurus.”

“Among the early Christians was a sect called the Ophites, or Ophians [meaning “snake”] who worshiped the serpent.” It is fascinating that the one change made to the original Zodiac was that the scorpion replaced the serpent. So your Scorpio friends are actually your Snake friends.

“The Ophite system had its Trinity: (1) the Universal God, the First Man; (2) his conception, the Second Man; (3) a female Holy Spirit. From her, the Third Man, Christ, was begotten by the First and Second.” I leave it to you to define what process this attempts to describe, and the stages of the process. I know there is an old theme among poets and mystics: “The First Man Must Die.”

“Aries, the Ram: A northern constellation, usually named as the first sign in the Zodiac, into which, when the sun enters the vernal equinox in March, [and] the days and nights are of equal length. Dating back into ancient Egypt Aries has been represented as the lamb that takes away the sins of the world.” I suppose the spring lambs, sweet to see and delicious to eat, are a prominent part of the month of March.

“Taurus, the Bull: The second sign in the Zodiac, called by the Arabs ‘Ataur.’ Taurus represents the Egyptian god Osiris. In Greek mythology, Taurus is the bull into which Zeus transformed himself in order to carry Europa, the daughter of Agenor, king of Phoenicia, to the Island of Crete.” Also, it is in this season that “cows bring forth their calves.”

“Gemini, the Twins [are] seen in May, the stars Castor and Pollux, the fabled twins of Jupiter who, disguised as a swan, mated with the mortal, Leda.

“Doubtless the original meaning of the sign Cancer was to represent the apparent slow movement of the sun in June, similar to the movement of the crab.”

“Leon, the Lion: The fifth sign in the Zodiac, contains but one star of the first magnitude, known as Regulus, or Coeur Leonis, the Lion’s Heart. The intense heat of July is symbolized by the figure of an enraged lion. The feasts and sacrifices of the ancients celebrated in July – in honor of the sun (which was represented in the form of a lion) – were called ‘Leonitica,’ and the officiating priests were called ‘Leones.’ The numerous popes assuming the name of Leo still show the persistency of the ancient rites.”

“Virgo, the Virgin: The sixth sign of the Zodiac, is represented in the Greek Venus, the Egyptian Isis, and the Christian Virgin Mary. Holding in her right hand the ripened fruit, Virgo can also be seen in the Hebrew story of Eve and the apple [representing] the productive powers of nature as disclosed in the harvest time…”

“Libra, the Balance: The seventh sign of the Zodiac, opposite to Aries, is symbolized by a pair of scales. This signifies that when the sun enters the sign of Libra, about September 21, the days and nights are equal, as though weighed in a balance, [the balance point being] the Autumnal equinox…”

”Sagittarius, the Archer: The ninth sign of the Zodiac … In ancient mythology Sagittarius was pictured as a centaur …”

“Capricornus, the Goat: The tenth sign of the Zodiac, which the sun enters on December 21, called the winter solstice, and having the longest night in the year. In Greek legend, Capricornus was fabled as Pan, the son of Mercury and the nymph, Arcadia, woodland deity of shepherds. Pan was half man and half goat.” Or it could represent “the heavenly goat Amalthaea, who fed Zeus with her milk. In Norse mythology a similar legend presents the goat Heidrun, who furnished the gods of Asgard with mead, served in the skulls of slaughtered enemies.”

“Aquarius, the Water Bearer: The eleventh sign of the Zodiac, in which the sun enters in January, and so-called because of the rainfall during that period. Aquarius is the fabled Ganymede of Attic legends, who, on account of his rare beauty, was carried by the gods to Olympus to serve as cup-bearer.”

“Pisces, the Fishes: The twelfth sign of the Zodiac, is recognized in the twelve apostolic fisherman. … In the vestibule or approaches to Catholic churches is usually found a vase filled with water (called “Piscina’), and this water is considered holy. … In the worship of ‘Pisces’ may be found the true secret of the origin of the rite of baptism. The Fish-god, Oannes, is said to have come out of the Erythraean Sea and taught the Babylonians all kinds of useful knowledge. ‘Ionnes’ or “Jonas” went headlong into the sea and into a fish.”

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