Sunday, December 4, 2016

Shango and Oya of the Yoruba

image: Wikimedia commons (composite image, foreground and background).

Abundant evidence from myths found around the world, on every single inhabited continent on our planet -- as well as the inhabited islands of the vast Pacific Ocean -- points to the incredible conclusion that these ancient myths all appear to be built upon a common system of celestial metaphor.

This same worldwide system underlies the stories of what we call the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, as well as the myths, scriptures and sacred traditions of ancient India, ancient Greece, ancient China, ancient Japan, ancient Egypt, ancient Mesopotamia, the peoples of various part of Europe, and of the Americas, and other parts of Asia, and the islands of Polynesia and Micronesia, and the same system can even be seen to form the basis for myths and sacred traditions found in Australia and in Africa.

Some of the myths and sacred traditions of Africa are explored in Star Myths of the World, Volume One, which seeks to provide an overview of representative Star Myths from numerous cultures on different continents (whereas Star Myths of the World, Volume Two and Star Myths of the World, Volume Three focus more deeply on myths from Ancient Greece and from the Bible, respectively).

Because Volume One tries to give a broad introduction to the vast scope of this ancient worldwide system, only a few myths from each different continent could be highlighted. Entire multi-volume sets could of course be written on the Star Myths of each of the different traditions, showing ways that the myths of all these different cultures appear to be based on the motions of the constellations and other heavenly bodies and heavenly cycles.

Many more myths and sacred stories from the continent of Africa and its many different cultures and myth-systems could be explored in addition to those featured in Volume One of the Star Myths of the World series.

One of the myth-cycles that could be explored would be the myths and traditions surrounding two important Yoruba deities or Orisha: Shango and Oya.

Shango is a powerful Orisha of fire and of thunder and lightning.

In his 1980 study of Yoruba oral tradition and divination entitled Sixteen Cowries, William Bascom writes of Shango (sometimes also spelled Xango):
Shango is a God of Thunder. Living in the sky he hurls thunderstones to earth, killing those who offend him or setting their houses afire. His thunderbolts are prehistoric stone celts which farmers sometimes find while hoeing their fields; they are taken to Shango's priests, who keep them at his shrine in a plate supported by an inverted mortar, which also serves as a stool when the heads of initiates are shaved (cf. Bascom 1972: 6). The stones in Shango's sacrifices may be an allusion to his thunderbolts, and in one verse Shango kills a leopard by putting an inverted mortar over it. [ . . . ]
He was noted for his magical powers and was feared because when he spoke, fire came out of his mouth. One verse has Shango lighting a fire in his mouth with itufu, oil-soaked fibers from the pericarp of the oil palm, which is used in making torches and starting fires. In a state of possession it is said that a Shango worshiper may eat fire, possibly using itufu, carry a pot of live coals on his head, or put his hand into live coals without apparent harm. 44.
Shango is a formidable deity or Orisha -- but so is his favorite consort, the goddess Oya. William Bascom describes her thusly:
Oya is the favorite wife of Shango, the only wife who remained true to him until the end, leaving Oyo with him and becoming a deity when he did. She is Goddess of the Niger River, which is called the River Oya (odo Oya), but she anifests herself as the strong wind that precedes a thunderstorm. When Shango wishes to fight with lightning, he sends his wife ahead of him to fight with wind. She blows roofs off houses, knocks down large trees, and fans the fires set by Shango's thunderbolts into a high blaze. When Oya comes, people know that Shango is not far behind, and it is said that without her, Shango cannot fight. The verses tell that Oya is the wife of Shango, "The wife who is fiercer than the husband." Her town is Ira, which is said to be near Ofa. 45.
Bascom also notes that Oya is associated with buffalo's horns, and that a set of buffalo horns will be rubbed with cam wood to make them red and placed on Oya's shrine. In another book discussing the mythology of the Yoruba, Yoruba Myths by Ulli and Georgina Beier (1980), we learn that one time, when Shango and Oya were having a fight, 
she charged him with mighty horns. But Shango appeased her by placing a big dish of akara (bean cakes) in front of her. Pleased by the offering of her favourite food, Oya made peace with Shango and gave him her two horns. When he was in need, he only had to beat these horns one against the other and she would come to his aid. 32 - 33.
Based on these details from the different sacred traditions involving Shango and Oya, I believe we can very confidently identify Shango and Oya with the constellations Hercules and Virgo. Below is a star-chart showing some of the features of these constellations which correspond to aspects of the mythology of Shango and Oya:

The details of the stories may have already tipped you off to this conclusion, if you have worked your way through previous Star Myth examinations presented on this blog or in the "Myths" section of the Star Myth World website, as well as some of the "Videos" on the same website, and especially if you have worked your way through any of the volumes of the Star Myths of the World series of books.

In nearly every ancient myth-system, the powerful figure who wields a thunderbolt weapon will be associated with the figure of Hercules in the sky, whether that thunderbolt weapons is wielded by a god in the Maya account contained in the Popol Vuh, or by a god in the myths of ancient Greece and Rome, or in the myths of the Norse.

Images of Shango and symbolic scepters sacred to Shango usually feature a double-axe motif, a potent symbol which is also found around the world. The carved wooden image of Shango shown at top features a wide double-axe above the figure's head, as well as two more smaller double-axes placed in front of the image in the carving.

It is possible that the great weapon held menacingly aloft by the constellation Hercules in the sky, which in some myths becomes a club or a sword, can also be seen as an enormous double-axe shape, especially if the "blade-shaped" outline of Lyra the Lyre nearby is also envisioned as being part of the same weapon (see star-chart above).

There are other details in the myths which give added certainty to the identification of Shango with the constellation Hercules, which we will examine in a moment. First, however, let's look at the identity of the goddess Oya, who is so powerful that Shango cannot fight without her, and who is described as going ahead of Shango in everything.

I am convinced that Oya is associated with the constellation Virgo: can you see how this arrangement gives rise to the tradition that Oya always precedes Shango? The motion of the stars each night is from east to west (just like the motion of the sun each day -- both are caused by the rotation of the earth towards the east on its daily rotation). In the star chart above, which looks towards the south, east is on the left and west is on the right, and the constellations move from left-to-right in the diagrams.

The definitive clue that Oya is associated with Virgo is the fact that she is sometimes called the "Mother of Nine" (Iyansan, or 'Yansan) in Yoruba tradition (Bascom, 45). The constellation Virgo, as we have seen in many myths from around the world, is often envisioned as a mother about to give birth, due to her posture in the sky, lying on her back with feet elevated. 

Virgo is sometimes envisioned as giving birth to the multi-headed figure of Scorpio, which follows Virgo in the sky. Scorpio, as seen in many of the discussions in the Star Myths of the World books, is sometimes envisioned as having nine heads.  The fact that Oya is called "Mother of Nine" pretty much seals her association with the constellation Virgo in the heavens.

You can also see the "buffalo horns" which Oya gave to Shango, almost certainly identified with the beautiful arc of stars known as the Northern Crown (or Corona Borealis), very close to Shango-Hercules in the sky and included in the diagram above.

What about the details of the story in which Shango breathes fire out of his mouth? The star chart below shows that the "lower arm" of the constellation Hercules (the arm not holding a club or weapon) can be envisioned as proceeding out of the mouth of the constellation. I believe this is very likely the source of the association of "breathing fire" with this particular Orisha. 

There is also a "torch" in the sky not far from Hercules and Virgo, in the form of the constellation Coma Berenices, which actually plays the role of a torch in many other Star Myths (some of them discussed in the Star Myths of the World books). This may be the itufa torch that appears in the myths of Shango:

The aspect of the myth in which Shango is described as killing a leopard by crushing it beneath "an inverted mortar" no doubt have to do with the constellation Ophiucus, directly beneath the constellation Hercules. The body of Ophiucus has a distinctive oblong shape with triangle at top (as outlined by the ingenious outlining system proposed by H. A. Rey). This almost certainly represents the inverted mortar (a mortar and pestle are tools for crushing up grains and spices: the mortar usually a stone bowl with a depression or hole in the center, and this shape also gives its name to the later weapon known as a mortar, which shoots shells out of a tube -- Ophiucus could be envisioned as a tall mortar, turned upside down so that its conical base is at the top).

Note that the head and tail of the unfortunate leopard can be seen protruding from either side of the upturned mortar of Ophiucus!

Note also that Shango is sometimes described as defeating his enemies with a cudgel, which is another weapon very closely associated with the outline of the constellation Hercules (and Hercules-figures throughout the world will often carry a club or cudgel as their favorite weapon). William Bascom cites Yoruba verses in which Shango uses a cudgel in the verse labeled "L1" in Sixteen Cowries, and he mentions this fact on page 44 as well. This cudgel is yet another clue that Shango corresponds to the constellation Hercules -- in addition to all the other clues, I believe we can be quite confident in associating Shango with Hercules, and Oya with Virgo.

In another set of verses cited by William Bascom, we learn of Shango that: "He drove away the hartebeeste that had been eating the children of the people of Ijagba, and became the deity that all the people of Ijagba worshipped" (45).

A hartebeeste is a large African ungulate, with majestic curving horns. As you can see in the image below, it is very possible that this hartebeest which Shango drives away might be associated with the outline of the horned figure of Taurus the Bull, which can also be said to resemble a hartebeeste:

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

As the constellations Virgo and Hercules rise over the horizon in the east, the constellation Taurus can be seen to be sinking down into the west. This perfectly describes the situation in which Shango (Hercules) "drives away" the hartebeest (Taurus). There are other Star Myths from around the world in which the arrival of a god or goddess associated with Hercules or Virgo signifies the demise of a figure associated with Taurus (for instance, the traditions associated with the goddess Durga -- see here and here).

Below is a star-chart showing Hercules rising in the east, as Taurus sinks down in the west:

Note that in the diagram, the planetarium app distorts the size of constellations along the east and west, in order to simulate the "wraparound" effect you would see outside (the left and right of the image represent turning towards the eastern and western horizons, respectively; looking to the center of the image represents looking towards the southern horizon: the planetarium app from makes constellations look smaller when they are in the middle of the diagram, and larger when they are near the east or the west to your left and right).

In Yoruba Myths, we read that the goddess Oya was originally an antelope who periodically took off her antelope skin to reveal a beautiful woman:

Oya was an antelope who transformed herself into a woman. Every five days, when she came to the market in town, she took off her skin in the forest and hid it under a shrub. 
One day Shango met her in the market, was struck by her beauty, and followed her into the forest. Then he watched, as she donned the skin and turned back into an antelope.
The following day Shango hid himself in the forest, and when Oya had changed into a woman and gone to market he picked up the skin, took it home and hid it in the rafters. 33.
We learn that Shango's other two wives become jealous of Oya, who bears Shango twins, and they tell Oya where to find her skin, hanging in the rafters. She dons the antelope form again and disappears into the forest.

I believe that this story is also based upon the same celestial mechanics shown in the star-chart above. When Virgo takes off her antelope skin and hides it beneath a bush, Taurus is sinking down into the horizon (into the bushes of the horizon, you might say). 

The part about hanging the skin up in the rafters resonates with a very common theme in Star Myths around the world -- for instance, in the Maui myths of the Pacific, Maui's grandfather hangs Maui up in the rafters when he is a baby! In that case, the grandfather is undoubtedly Hercules, and Maui the infant is almost certainly Corona Borealis (the Northern Crown). This identification is discussed in greater detail in Star Myths Volume One. The Northern Crown, oddly enough, plays a baby in many other Star Myths.

In the story of Shango and Oya and the hanging of Oya's skin in the rafters, I believe the constellation Coma Berenices fits the identification of the skin better than the nearby Northern Crown. There are other Star Myths we could look at which make this identification the likely answer to the celestial source of this sacred Yoruba story.

When the other wives tell Oya where her skin is hanging (they do this using a chant, in which they sing about its location), she resumes her antelope form and bounds away into the forest so that Shango cannot find her. Again, this detail probably stems from the fact that, when Hercules rises in the east, Taurus sinks down out of sight in the west.

For those who wonder whether Taurus could play the role of the female antelope which is one of the shapes of the goddess Oya, note that in Africa the female of the many species of antelope often has horns, in addition to the horns of the male antelope. 

Below is an illustration of the female Hirola, an antelope found in the areas where the Yoruba cultures traditionally have lived for thousands of years:

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

There are still more stories of Oya and Shango which point to a celestial foundation associated with the constellations Virgo and Hercules. One of the stories involves the mother of Shango, the goddess of the River Yemoja (odo Yemoja), which flows through Yoruba lands. In one version of the story, Yemoja was pursued by her husband Okere (who is not the father of Shango) and he knocks her down, causing her to turn into a river which flows out of pots of water she was also carrying (Bascom, 46). 

This story may also involve the constellation Virgo, which is located in the sky adjacent to the constellations Crater the Cub and Hydra the Snake (see star-chart above). When Shango's mother Yemoja falls down (and note that Virgo is recumbent), she may become the river which is associated with the flowing form of Hydra, directly beneath Virgo and beneath the water-cup-like outline of the constellation Crater.

Shango and Oya are very important deities in the Yoruba mythology, with many devotees around the world to this day. Their clear celestial parallels provide still more evidence which argues that the system of celestial metaphor which we can see operating in the stories of the Bible and in the other myths of the world, is in fact a common system which somehow provides the underlying bedrock upon which all the world's ancient traditions have their foundation.

Shango is a god of fire. I believe that the world's Star Myths convey powerful truths regarding the Invisible World -- the realm of spirit, the realm of the gods, the Infinite Realm. 

One of the lessons that they teach is that, just as the stars themselves can be seen to rotate down to sink into the western horizon, so also we ourselves came down to this incarnate realm from a spirit realm -- and that we all contain a divine spark, an internal divine fire, through which we have immediate access to that Invisible Realm at all times, if we learn how to become re-acquainted with that aspect of our nature.

I am convinced that the ancient myths, scriptures and sacred stories which were entrusted to humanity the world over are here to help show us how to do that.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Welcome to new visitors from Alchemy! (and returning friends)

this interview was recorded on 11/22/2016.

Big thank you to John and Steve Gibbons for having me back to their show Alchemy for a new conversation about Star Myths and related subjects!

In addition to being a talented musician, John is a fantastic interviewer and host, and really guided the discussion into what I felt were some very productive channels.

I very much enjoyed our conversation, and hope that you will as well.

It was really fascinating to me how "in-synch" John was with what I was intending to talk about -- and I have to disclose that we absolutely did not co-ordinate on any of the topics prior to the show!

We discussed the overarching Star Myth system, as well as specific Star Myths which are featured in my two most-recent books: Star Myths of the World, Volume Two (Greek Myths) and Star Myths of the World, Volume Three (Star Myths of the Bible).

First, John asked me to select something from the Greek myths to discuss, and I chose to talk about some of the aspects of the goddess Artemis -- and John pointed out that she was one of his favorites, and made some very insightful comments regarding the role of Artemis in protecting women and presiding over all childbirth (a function that is of course vital to the preservation of life and the continuation of humanity on earth).

After some further discussion involving the encounter between Odysseus and the Cyclops, we moved on to discussing some episodes from both the Old Testament and New Testament texts of the Bible, and John presented a list of suggested stories to discuss which included Noah and the Genesis Flood, the story of Adam and Eve, and something from the book of Revelation!

I was astonished, because before the show, I had prepared a list of some good Biblical episodes to discuss, which included those very passages! Below is a photograph of my notes, showing that all three of those areas were ones that I had selected as well (again, John and I did not do any corroborating prior to the show regarding what myths we should talk about, or even what general subjects we should visit):

Throughout the show, John intuitively steered the conversation towards some very important areas of discussion, which helped to bring out new perspectives and insights that I would not have brought out on my own. His guidance also helped keep things on track, as I can sometimes tend to take some long tangential side-tracks down interesting corridors and away from the original topic of discussion!

Below are some links to previous posts and videos that deal with some of the topics that we touched upon during this most recent interview, as well as links to the two previous visits I've had with John on Alchemy in the past (one from 2015 and one from 2014):

  • The use of the winter solstice as a marker for the "soul's turning point" of awareness of and greater integration with the spiritual nature and the divine realm.
  • The two visions articulated by the holy man Black Elk of the Lakota, one of abundance fed by deep connection with the Other Realm (the source of everything in this realm), and one of greed driven by separateness and division and an underlying belief in scarcity (see also this previous post).
  • Our (often-forgotten) inner connection to the Infinite Realm, which is the reason "why gods appear in an instant" in many of the Star Myths of the ancients.
  • The concept of the "divine twin" and the "Higher Self" which appear to be part of a major theme running through so much of the ancient wisdom imparted to humanity in the myths.*
  • The theme of reincarnation, which appears to run through many ancient myths, including possibly some of the Biblical texts (and see also the quotation in this previous post about the concept that souls go along the Milky Way on their way to rebirth, found in the sacred traditions of many cultures in the Americas including the Pawnee, the Cherokee and the Sumo of Central America).
  • We referred a lot to the concept of precession, but did not explain its mechanics in detail. If you want to see some video discussion of the mechanics of the phenomenon of precession, and its delaying of the "background of stars," you may wish to start with this video, in which I use the "metaphor of the dining room table."
  • Some discussion of the celestial foundations of the story of Adam and Eve and the Serpent in this video and this video. For comparison with the seated figure of Lord Krishna as the divine charioteer, which is mentioned in the interview during this point of the discussion, see also this video.
  • The Norse myth of Loki and the theft of Sif's hair is briefly mentioned as well -- here is an early blog post discussing some aspects of this story's celestial foundation.
  • Some discussion on the importance, if at all possible for your situation, of incorporating ancient disciplines such as Yoga, Chi Gung, meditation or other similar ancient practices in your daily life.

Finally, as I have mentioned in posts regarding other appearances on podcasts, I believe that we are at a very critical point in time in which the deliberate deceptions of the "captive media" are becoming more and more obvious to a larger and larger number of people -- and the role of the "independent media" is becoming more and more significant.

I believe it is very important to listen to -- and, to whatever degree possible, support -- independent sources of research and analysis, such as that provided by John and Steve Gibbons on Alchemy (as well as other outlets such as The Higherside Chats, Grimerica, Where Did the Road Go?, and others like them).

You can also check out John's music at his official site and facebook page.

Thank you to the listening audience of Alchemy -- hope you enjoyed the conversation, please check out all that the Star Myth World website has to offer, and hope you will visit again soon!


* Note that the second link, to the previous post entitled "You may have a Higher Self (at least according to the ancient myths and scriptures), and He or She wants you to know it," contains the quotation about incorporating all the qualities of the neteru or gods:
man is to summarize in himself the qualities of the whole scale of being, denominated gods. All their powers and virtue have to be embodied in man's organic wholeness to make him, like the resuscitated Osiris, "Neb-er-ter, the god entire." [from Alvin Boyd Kuhn, Lost Light, page 550 -- with reference to a translation of the Egyptian Pyramid Texts of the Pyramid of Teti, translated by Budge and found on page 139 of this text].
Obviously, Kuhn in the above passage (written in 1940) is using the word "man" to mean "humanity in general" and to include both men and women -- and he specifically does say "men and women" in many other passages related to the same discussion, including on pages 551 and 587.

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Dioscuri

image: Dioscuri from ancient red-figure kalix (link), modified and superimposed on Medusa nebula (link).

Now is a perfect time of year to observe the Twins of Gemini, and to contemplate the layers of meaning which the ancient Star Myths associated with the Twins may have been intended to convey for our understanding.

As the constellations associated with winter in the northern hemisphere begin to come into view during the hours after sunset -- including the magnificent constellation of Orion -- the Twins of Gemini can be observed nearly "straight out" from Orion's trailing shoulder (the easternmost shoulder of the massive figure of Orion).

Below is a depiction of the eastern horizon with the constellation of Orion rising, still in a horizontal position (the constellation rises in a horizontal attitude and then rotates into a vertical posture as the figure of Orion crosses the sky -- for some animation which illustrates this phenomenon, see this video discussing the relation of Orion to Osiris and to the Djed Column):

Note that the two bright stars which mark the heads of the Twins of Gemini are located straight out from Orion's lower shoulder (his trailing shoulder, marked by the orange giant star Betelgeuse). Until you are familiar with the constellation of Gemini, it can be easy to mistake the two brightest stars of the constellation Auriga the Charioteer for the heads of the Twins, because these are located almost the same distance out from Orion, but ahead of the Twins as they cross the sky (see arrows in the illustration above).

The easiest way to identify the constellation Auriga, so that you don't confuse its stars with the stars of Gemini, is to locate the "V-shaped" Hyades, which are located almost exactly halfway between Orion and the Pleiades (you can see the V-shape of the Hyades in the illustration above). If you find the Hyades in the night sky, you can draw an imaginary line out from either tip of the "V" of the Hyades, and find the tips of the horns of Taurus the Bull: the jawline of the lantern-jawed Charioteer of Auriga is just above the tips of the horns.

The diagram below reproduces the chart above, but this time the outlines of the constellations are included:

Can you see the two tips of the horns of Taurus, and how the jawline of Auriga the Charioteer (outlined in red, above) cuts down directly adjacent to the horns of the Bull? Following the "V" of the Hyades will help you to positively identify the outline of Auriga (who appears as a huge, disembodied head in the outlining system proposed by H. A. Rey). That way, you will not confuse Auriga's bright stars with the two brightest stars of Gemini, which make up the heads of the Twins.

The bright stars of the heads of the Twins are much closer to one another in the sky than are the bright stars of Auriga. The outlines of the two figures of the Twins are very linear in nature when you observe them in the sky, forming two parallel lines pointing towards the lower shoulder of Orion.

In ancient Greek mythology, the Twins were known as Kastor and Polydeukes (or Castor and Polydeuces); their names became Castor and Pollux in Latin. In the sky, the brightest stars of the constellation still bear these names: Castor being slightly ahead of Pollux but not as bright (in the illustration above, Castor is above Pollux as the constellation is rising out of the eastern horizon -- Castor is further to the west of Pollux and not quite as bright as its twin).

The Twins are actually figures of tremendous importance in ancient Greek myth, although their significance is sometimes not fully appreciated. The two were known as the Dioskouroi (or the Dioscuri), a name which signifies the youths (kouroi) of Zeus (Dios). You can see the linguistic relation between the name of Zeus and the word Dios -- in fact, the name of the god Dionysos or Dionysus signifies literally "Zeus (Dios) of Mount Nysa." 

The Dioscuri were in fact the twin sons of Zeus by the beautiful mortal woman Leda, whom Zeus seduced while in the form of a great swan (note that the constellation of the Swan is still visible in the night sky right now, flying away into the west even as the Twins are rising in the east). However, in many of the versions of the Dioscuri myth, only Polydeuces is actually the son of Zeus, while Castor is the son of Leda's husband Tyndareus, king of Sparta. 

Castor and Polydeuces are mentioned in many of the earliest Greek sources, including Hesiod. They were famous horsemen and tremendous boxers. The most famous aspect of their story, however, concerns the mortality of Castor and the decision by Polydeuces to give up his own full immortality in order to share it with his mortal brother -- thereby taking on an aspect of Castor's mortality himself.

According to most versions of the story of the Twins, Castor and Polydeuces were attacked by the two sons of the brother of Tyndareus, Idas (gigantic in stature) and Lynkeus (who could see in the dark, like a lynx) as part of a long-running feud over some cattle (and note the proximity of the Twins of Gemini to the constellation of Taurus the Bull, as well as to the hulking figure of Orion, who features as a giant in some myths).

As the prolific poet Pindar relates the story, in his tenth Nemean Ode (almost certainly written near the middle of the fifth century BC), Castor was mortally wounded by a huge block of stone hurled by Idas, but Polydeuces killed Lynkeus, and the god Zeus himself finished off Idas with a thunderbolt. Pindar continues:
Swiftly Polydeuces the son of Tyndareus went back to his mighty brother, and found him not yet dead, but shuddering with gasps of breath. Shedding warm tears amid groans, he spoke aloud: "Father, son of Cronus, what release will there be from sorrows? Order me to die too, along with him, lord. A man's honor is gone when he is deprived of friends; but few mortals are trustworthy in times of toil to share the hardship." So he spoke. And Zeus came face to face with him, and said these words: "You are my son. But Castor was begotten after your conception by the hero -- your mother's husband -- who came to her and sowed his mortal seed. But nevertheless I grant you your choice in this. If you wish to escape death and hated old age, and to dwell in Olympus yourself with me and with Athena and Ares of the dark spear, you can have this lot. But if you strive to save your brother, and intend to share everything equally with him, then you may breathe for half the time below the earth, and for half the time in the golden homes of heaven." When Zeus had spoken thus, Polydeuces did not have a second thought. He opened the eye, and then released the voice of the bronze-clad warrior, Castor. [translation by Diane Arnson Svarlien, as found on the Tufts University ancient text collection here]
Here we have an extremely powerful image: the divine twin who rescues the mortal twin, sharing his immortality with his mortal counterpart. I would argue that this exact pattern is found throughout the ancient Star Myths of the world, and that it is intended to illustrate for our deeper understanding the reality of our divine nature, even while encased in this mortal body, and the reality of the Higher Self (discussed in previous posts such as this one and this one).

In the above scene as dramatized in Pindar's ode, we see that Polydeuces could enjoy uninterrupted immortality in Olympus, but that he chooses to share his immortal nature with Castor, and in return Polydeuces himself must "breathe for half the time below the earth" -- in the realm of death, in fact. In most versions of the myth, the Twins then alternate between the realm of the gods and the tombs of Therapnai.

Again, I believe that this ancient myth, like so many other myths, is intended to dramatize to us the condition of the human soul -- which chooses to leave the realm of pure spirit to sojourn for a time within the "body of death" (as the apostle Paul calls our mortal condition, in the seventh chapter of the epistle to the Romans) -- and which may spend many lifetimes alternating between the realm of the gods and "this mortal coil" in which we all presently find ourselves.

The dramatic scene of the death of Castor, described by Pindar above (and described by many other ancient poets, both before and after Pindar), actually contains strong parallels with many other ancient Star Myths in which the divine twin grieves over the mortal condition of the mortal twin. 

We find the same pattern in the Gilgamesh cycle of ancient Mesopotamia, in which the semi-divine Gilgamesh laments over his twinned counterpart Enkidu. 

We find a similar scene in ancient Egypt, with the lamentations over the death of Osiris, the slain god -- and in the eastern Mediterranean lamentations over the death of Tammuz. 

We find the same pattern again in the Iliad, in which the semi-divine Achilles laments loudly over the death of Patroclus.

And we see a very similar pattern in the New Testament account of Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus, in the eleventh chapter of the Gospel according to John.

That a profound mystery lies at the heart of the ancient myth of Castor and Polydeuces is evident from the fact that one of the most important of the ancient Mysteria or Mysteries (the significance of which is discussed at some length in my 2014 book The Undying Stars) was dedicated to the Great Gods or the Nameless Gods, who were referred to as the Kabeiroi and associated with the Dioscuri by at least some ancient sources (see Undying Stars, pages 210 and following). These Mysteries were extremely ancient, and appear to have been held in the same awesome regard as the Mysteries of Eleusis

It may be that the Mysteries of Samothrace somehow dramatized for the deeper understanding of their participants the very same message about our human condition that is conveyed by the overall myth of the Dioscuri themselves, and by the other Star Myths mentioned above.

In fact, as we have seen in previous discussions of the concept of the "divine twin" and the Higher Self, the story of "Doubting Thomas" in the New Testament also involves a twin: Thomas is known as Didymos or "the twin," even though none of the canonical texts tell us the identity of his counterpart twin. 

However, as discussed in the previous post entitled "The Gospel of Thomas and the Divine Twin," the Nag Hammadi library discovered in the twentieth century contains a the text known as The Book of Thomas the Contender, in which we find out the identity of the twin counterpart of Thomas: according to that text, it is Jesus himself! Again, I would argue that this corresponds almost exactly to the ancient pattern found in the myth of Castor and Polydeuces, in which the divine twin rescues the mortal twin -- and that it is intended as a powerful illustration of our actual condition in this mortal life.

And note that in the story of Castor and Polydeuces, it is not just the divine twin who condescends to take on mortality in order to rescue the mortal twin: the mortal Castor is raised from death to share in the immortality of the divine Polydeuces. In other words, the myth illustrates that, even in our seemingly mortal condition here in "the underworld" of this life, we actually have a divine nature as well. Castor, although mortal, becomes a divine figure.

A similar illustration of a mortal who becomes divine is provided in the Odyssey, in the figure of the goddess Leucothea, who was once a mortal woman named Ino (see this previous post discussing the important figure of Leucothea). And in the New Testament account of the miraculous descent of the Spirit at Pentecost, the image of flames coming down and resting above the heads of the congregants is one that is also found in ancient Greek myths involving the Dioscuri, as discussed in this previous post.

As the Dioscuri, Castor and Polydeuces (or Castor and Pollux) became the gods who were called upon by all travelers, horsemen,  sailors, and athletes in the ancient worlds of Greece and Rome. They were also the special gods of Sparta, to whom the Spartans most commonly swore oaths, and upon whom the Spartan practice of always having two kings was said to have been based. 

However, like the many other twins who appear in the ancient Star Myths given to humanity, I believe that Castor and Polydeuces are in fact best understood not as two different individuals but as a picture of our own twinned nature. We each embody both Castor and Polydeuces -- just as we each embody both Ino and Leucothea, or Patroclus and Achilles, or Enkidu and Gilgamesh. They are depicted as two different persons because in this strange mortal condition, we find ourselves (like Polydeuces) having taken on a mortal nature, and we are now have two very different "selves."

We tend to temporarily forget, and become estranged from, our Higher Self -- but we are supposed to remember that other nature and become more integrated with that Higher Self during this life. In fact, that may be one of the important things that we are here to accomplish -- and one of the important purposes of the ancient myths may have been to convey this truth to our knowledge and understanding.

In fact, as the insightful Robert Taylor pointed out in the nineteenth century, the apostle who called himself "Paul" was previously known (according to the story presented in the New Testament book of Acts) as "Saul" -- and both of these names seem to have celestial import (see Devil's Pulpit, page 102). 

The sound that makes up the name "Saul," of course, is found in the world sol, which signifies the sun. And the sound that makes up the name "Paul," Taylor notes, is found in the name of the god Apollo -- and also in the name of the god Pollux or Polydeuces. Both Saul and Paul, Taylor notes, "are one and the same persons" -- but, like Castor and Polydeuces, who alternated between the realm of death and the realm of the gods, the transformation of Saul-Paul dramatizes the same powerful teaching.

The Dioscuri, then, are figures of tremendous importance, capable of imparting a message with deep layers of ancient wisdom for our benefit in this life.

If at all possible, you may wish to try to go out into the night sky over the coming weeks and months to gaze upon the stars of Gemini directly and in person. And as you do so, think back across the millennia to a time when men and women understood the Dioscuri as standing always ready to appear and to give succor to those tossed upon the stormy sea of this life.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

"Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past"

"Who controls the past," ran the Party slogan, "controls the future: who controls the present controls the past."  
                                             -- George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four (page 32 in the Signet reprint of the 1949 hardcover).

In a recent episode of his commentary and podcast entitled News & Views from the Nefarium, Dr. Joseph P. Farrell said:
I think now is the time that we have to drive the linguistic agenda -- and we have to drive it deliberately, and with very, very careful thought. We need to rename -- hear me now -- we need to re-name the "alternative media," with a new name that cannot allow it to be dismissed as a "fringe group" of people, because clearly, it's not. We need a new name for it. 
We need a new name for the "mainstream media" -- I've always called it the "lamestream media." [. . .] But we need to use these names on a regular basis, and again: drive it into the conversation. News & Views from the Nefarium: November 10, 2016.
Dr. Farrell suggests the "free media" for the alternative media, and "globalist, corporate media" or "global corporatist media."

I would offer as possible labels the terms "captive media" (or "captured media") for those platforms that pay their employees and other production costs based on either corporate advertising dollars or government funding, and "independent media" for those that pay for their production costs based entirely on subscriptions or donations by individual listeners (or without any donations, government funding, or advertising revenues whatsoever).

As most people are now aware, there has been a sudden rise in "mainstream media" rhetoric -- and government rhetoric -- against what I would call "independent media" in the past week, from voices ranging from the editorial board of the New York Times, to the Chancellor of Germany, to the Parliament of the European Union.

The quotation above, from George Orwell's classic warning, that those who wish to control the future will take steps in the present to control our understanding of history, is very timely today. In the same passage of his book, Orwell's narrator explains that "if all records told the same tale, then the lie passed into history and became truth" (cited in this previous post).

This warning is as pertinent to recent history as it is to ancient history -- and it should be abundantly evident that there are powerful forces at present, at this very moment in time, who wish to  control the narrative of both recent history and ancient history, in order to control the future.

Anyone who doubts that the narrative of ancient history is important to understanding more recent history -- and to understanding the forces at present which seek to control the future -- might consider making an effort to re-watch the original 1968 film version of Planet of the Apes.

I would also recommend including as much high-quality "independent media" as possible in one's daily media consumption, including the many quality podcasts which are now available -- and I would also recommend supporting quality independent media financially with subscriptions and/or donations as much as possible, as well.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

"Prophets don't talk about the future: they talk about the past -- which has been hidden"

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Peter Kingsley, a prophetic scholar of ancient philosophy and ancient Greek philosophers, explains "what prophecy really is" in one of the lectures in his outstanding collection entitled The Elders.

In that talk, Peter Kingsley explains:
Prophecy is not about the future. Prophets don't talk about the future. What they do is: they talk about the past -- which has been hidden. Things which have happened -- that have been covered over, and no longer clear. That is what the real prophets do: they speak about the past, but the past that has been forgotten.
I have written about this profound observation in previous posts, such as here and here.

As Dr. Kingsley goes on to explain, the ancient Greek myths frequently illustrate the problem of "things which have happened -- that have been covered over [. . . ] the past that has been forgotten," in the scenario in which a transgression has never been admitted and repaired, resulting in ongoing punishment by the gods until the prophet is called upon, who can identify the cause of the problem (the covered-over transgression) and the problem can be addressed:
And you can see it also at the very beginning of Homer's Iliad, when there is a whole plague. The soldiers are devastated, by sickness and plague. They're suffering; they're dying. And what happens, in this case? They find a prophet, and they ask him what's going wrong. And he says: "Apollo -- these are the arrows of Apollo. He's shot these arrows of plague, into the troops, because you did something wrong, you offended Apollo." And then it all becomes very simple. Because you see, once you know what's wrong, then you can sort it out -- you can make amends. It's very, very precise. That is what prophecy is.
A very similar scenario is recounted in the lead-up to the Trojan War, when the ships of the Achaeans cannot sail for Troy, because Agamemnon has offended Artemis, and a prophet must be found who can explain what the leader has done wrong and how to remedy the problem.

This is a very powerful truth, expounded in the ancient wisdom of the myths, and by the prophetic Peter Kingsley.

It is especially important to consider this profound and inalterable truth on this particular day, November the 11th, the anniversary of the murder of President John F. Kennedy -- a situation where the truth has been covered over for fifty-three years by lies, and has never been adequately admitted, addressed, or remedied.

Because of this failure to confront the truth, the consequences continue to manifest in an ongoing tragedy. 

This article by Gary Weglarz, published today, explains the ongoing ramifications succinctly and powerfully. In that article, the author cites a poignant and bitter observation by Charles de Gaulle, upon returning from the funeral of President Kennedy:
They don't want to know. They don't want to find out. They won't allow themselves to find out.
Prophecy is not about the future. Prophets don't talk about the future. What they do is: they talk about the past -- which has been hidden.

And, in most of the ancient myths which illustrate this profound truth, the actual root of the problem is known by those who want to remain in denial about the situation. But the problem cannot be remedied until it is admitted, and addressed.

Join me for another visit to "Where Did the Road Go?" with Seriah

This interview was recorded on November 19, 2016.

A special thank you to Seriah Azkath for having me back for a second visit to his radio show and podcast, Where Did the Road Go?

You can listen to the podcast by downloading it from the Where Did the Road Go? website, or by "right-clicking" (or "control-clicking") on this link and then selecting "download linked file."

You can also listen to the interview as audio in the above YouTube video (and here is the link for that).

I enjoyed our conversation and hope that you will also!

If you'd like to go back and listen to our first interview, recorded on July 16, 2016, you can find that here (blog post contains embedded YouTube video, as well as links to that previous show along with links to further reading on some of the topics we discussed back then).

If you're interested in reading further on some of the topics discussed in this most recent show, here is a list of some links to previous posts or videos containing additional material:

  • The constellation-outlining and envisioning system published by H. A. Rey (link).
  • The "wax on / wax off" illustration from the original Karate Kid movie, and how it relates to the concept of the esoteric (link).
  • The profound work of Peter Kingsley (link -- note that for some reason I could not recall Dr. Kingsley's family name at the particular moment that I wanted to mention his work during the interview).
  • Evidence in the world's myths for a lost ancient civilization (see video here).
  • Discussion of the outline of the constellation Hercules and visual evidence from ancient pottery showing the correlation between the figure of Heracles or Hercules in ancient myth and the outline of the constellation itself (see for instance this previous post, as well as some of the examples shown in the video linked in the previous point about a lost ancient civilization).
  • The famous but still little-understood ancient Mysteries of Eleusis (link).
  • The importance of the archaeological site being unearthed at Gobekli Tepe, and how it may point towards the almost-unbelievably ancient civilization(s) or culture(s) which could be the source of the common system of celestial metaphor which underlies the ancient myths and sacred stories of virtually every culture on our planet (link).
  • and the story of Adam and Eve and the Serpent, from the book of Genesis (see videos here and here).
I think you'll agree that the questions Seriah asked and the comments that he made during the conversation led the discussion in some interesting and important directions. 

I believe we are in a "Golden Age of Podcasting" in which talented producers and hosts (and producer-hosts) are creating platforms for the examination of questions of vital significance to our lives and to our planet, on subjects which are often ignored or even completely misrepresented in the traditional channels of examination and exploration (such as conventional media and conventional academia, both of which have been captured  or at least heavily influenced to varying degrees by major corporate interests and other powerful forces). 

Therefore, I believe that listening to podcasts and voices from a variety of other platforms should be an important part of staying informed and exploring new perspectives, and one that can be incorporated into daily life (perhaps while riding on the bus or driving back and forth to work, or while doing the dishes or working out in the garden). I also believe that we should support the efforts of producers and hosts of quality podcasts to whatever degree we are able to do so.

Thanks again to Seriah and to the wider Where Did the Road Go? community for having me over for another visit to their neck of the woods!

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Tribute Money in the Mouth of the Fish

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

In the northern hemisphere of our planet, the hours of darkness are now growing much longer than the hours of daylight, as we plunge towards the point of winter solstice, now just about one month away.

You may wish to take advantage of the extra hours of night-time to go outside and observe some of the constellations, if it is at all possible: the constellation Aquarius in particular has been visible during the "prime-time" viewing hours for the past couple of months but continues to move steadily westward as earth makes its way along its annual track, making this an excellent time to look for Aquarius during the hours just after sundown.

Aquarius is found in a rather dark and relatively "empty" section of the night sky which is located between two "more exciting" regions of the sky: between the region containing brilliant constellations and celestial figures such as Sagittarius, Aquila, Deneb, and the Milky Way's brightest section (all of which are now rotating down to the west and out of the picture), and the region containing brilliant constellations and celestial figures such as Orion, Perseus, the Pleiades and the Hyades in Taurus, Auriga, and the small but distinctive figure of Aries the Ram (all of which are now rising in the east during the hours after sunset, and will be dominating our night sky during the northern hemisphere's winter months).

As the sun goes down and the stars come out, the last members of that first "brilliant region" are still visible, although they are heading far down to the west -- the Milky Way's brightest portion, which rises between Scorpio and Sagittarius and contains Aquila the Eagle and Cygnus the Swan (Cygnus is still quite visible, because highest up of the group, although it too is getting pretty far to the west). At the same time, the dazzling stars of that second "brilliant region" are shining in the east as they rise: Perseus and the Pleiades, and the looming figure of Orion rising up over the eastern horizon, and between Orion and the Pleiades the distinctive V-shape of the Hyades, containing orange-colored Aldebaran.

Between these two regions is a relatively emptier section which H. A. Rey refers to in his essential guide The Stars: A New Way to See Them as the "Wet Region" of our sky: "a dull region with few bright stars," he says (56).

This relatively dark region does, however, contain Aquarius, holding a pitcher or water-vessel and pouring down two distinctive streams of water upon the Southern Fish (Piscis Austrinus). Below is a star-chart showing the current locations of Aquarius and Piscis Austrinus in the early night sky, for a viewer located in the northern hemisphere at about 35 north latitude, at about 6:45 in the evening (by which time it is already plenty dark at this time of year):

As you can see from the chart, the Great Square of Pegasus is now high in the sky, and should be very easy for you to locate if you look pretty high up above the southern horizon (for viewers in the northern hemisphere). The Great Square actually functions as the wing of the winged horse of Pegasus (also outlined in the diagram above), but I have chosen to outline it in the same green color as I have outlined the Fishes of Pisces, because the Great Square is often connected with the Fishes of Pisces in many Star Myths of the World, as well as in iconography found around the planet and across the millennia, as shown in a discussion in Appendix 39 of Hamlet's Mill by Hertha von Dechend and Giorgio de Santillana (see in particular the illustrations between pages 434 and 435).

The faint but delightful constellation Pisces can be seen to either side of the lower edge of the Great Square, and is well worth trying to observe if you can get to a viewing-point away from too much light pollution. Pisces is one of the most challenging of the zodiac constellations to see, but now is one of the best times of year to give it a try.

Now is also a good time to try to find Aquarius, shown above in the star-chart of 6:46 pm at the constellation's highest point in its arc, directly above the "due south" direction for viewers in the northern hemisphere. Aquarius has a distinctive "running forward" outline, and carries a water-vessel that pours its streams down towards Piscis Austrinus, the Southern Fish. 

The star at the front of the Southern Fish is called Fomalhaut, and is easily the brightest star in the dark region of the sky containing Aquarius. Of this star, H. A. Rey says:
You can hardly fail to see it when it is up; a line through the two bright stars on the Pegasus side of the Great Square and far downward points straight to brilliant Fomalhaut, solitary in a very dull region. In case you find another bright star halfway between the Great Square and Fomalhaut, it's not a star but a planet passing through the Water Carrier. Fomalhaut is one of our closer neighbors, about 22 light-years away and 13 times as luminous as the sun. 56.
In the diagram above you can see the line to which H. A. Rey is referring -- the edge of the Great Square on the right-hand side as we look at the screen above can be extended downwards towards the bright star Fomalhaut:

I usually find the Southern Fish by looking to the form of the constellation Aquarius, however, and following the distinctive streams pouring out of the water-vessel. The easiest way to find Aquarius is to look for the diamond-shaped head of the constellation, consisting of an outline of four stars plus a fifth star in the center which functions as an "eye" of the constellation.

Below is a close-up of Aquarius and the Southern Fish. Of these stars in the head of the constellation, the three bottom stars plus the "eye" are the most visible: the top star in the diamond-shape is much more difficult to spot. I have placed a yellow rectangular outline around the stars that make up the head of Aquarius:

In the diagram below, I have added arrows pointing to each of the stars which make up the diamond-shaped outline of the head of Aquarius. I did not add an arrow pointing to the star that makes up the "eye" in the center of the head, but that is clearly visible inside the diamond-outline:

From there, you can trace out the complete figure of Aquarius, including the water-vessel (very narrow at the bottom), and its streams of water. The streams themselves are envisioned based on the faint silvery stars which curve in either direction at the bottom of the imaginary streams of water:

In the diagram above, the faint stars that curve off in either direction from the two streams pouring out of the water-pitcher have not been outlined, but you should be able to make them out, curving away from the base of the two lines of water pouring down from the jug of Aquarius.

These lines point in the general direction of the bright star Fomalhaut at the front of the Southern Fish, as does the long "forward leg" of the running figure of Aquarius.

Fomalhaut is labeled in the diagram above, and is by far the brightest of any of the stars in the vicinity (note, however, that the planet Mars is not far away right now, and is the bright orange object seen below the rear foot of the running figure of Aquarius; Mars is moving through Capricorn at present, as you can see from the first two star-charts on this page).

The name Fomalhaut is derived from a phrase which means "mouth of the fish" in Arabic -- and this bright star at the front of Piscis Austrinus is undoubtedly responsible for a briefly-described miracle found in the account of the Gospel According to Matthew, chapter 17. The miracle is recounted immediately after Jesus has told his disciples that "The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men: And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised from the dead" (Matthew 17: 22 - 23).

The next verses tell us:
24 And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute?
25 He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers?
26 Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free.
27 Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.
This episode almost certainly involves the Southern Fish with its brightest star Fomalhaut at the "mouth of the fish," representing the coin paid for the tribute at Capernaum.

Aquarius in this case plays the role of Peter, who is instructed to hook the fish and find the coin in its mouth. We find similar references to Aquarius and the Southern Fish in a Star Myth from the Indigenous Aborigines of Australia which is discussed in Star Myths of the World, Volume One (there, the brilliant star Fomalhaut is described as the blazing eye of a monstrous fish, which can be seen glowing in the depths of the water-hole where the fish is hiding).

Aquarius-figures in the world's Star Myths are often headstrong and hasty -- as is the figure of Peter throughout many of the gospel stories. This ancient convention, which is found in myths around the globe, probably derives from the "pitched forward" or "headlong" running posture of the constellation Aquarius.

In the painting below by Jacob Jordaens, painted during the first half of the 1600s, we can see Peter in a fairly "Aquarian" pitched-forward posture, pulling a fish out of the sea to obtain the tribute money:

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

You will find Peter on the right-hand side of the painting, as you face it on the screen. Note that the artist appears to have included the Great Square of Pegasus -- can you locate it in the painting?

Yes, there it is -- the sail of the fishing boat, which is located in the correct general region relative to the figure of Peter who represents Aquarius.

Note that the artist has also included two figures "leaning away" from the rectangular outline of the sail, in very much the same way that the two Fishes of Pisces frame the lower angles of the Great Square in the night sky:

The elements of this composition, as with so many other paintings through the centuries, strongly indicate that the celestial origins of the story of the miraculous tribute coin in the mouth of the fish were known by some group and passed along through secret channels from generation to generation, even as the wider public was taught that these stories were intended to be understood literally.

Unfortunately, the messages of these stories can be greatly distorted when we try to force them into a literal and historical framework. The Star Myths of the world allegorize the motions of the players in the celestial realms, and I believe that they do so in order to depict for us truths relating to the Invisible Realm, the realm of spirit which is very real, even though we cannot see it.

The ancient wisdom imparted to humanity teaches that the Invisible World, the Spirit World, is in fact "the real world that is behind this one," in the words of the holy man Black Elk of the Lakota. He further says that "everything we see here is something like a shadow from that world."

In other words, everything in the visible realm -- the material realm -- actually flows from and has its origins in the "real world that is behind this one." However, because that realm of spirit is invisible, the ancient myths use the realm of the stars as a means of conveying knowledge about that Infinite Realm to our understanding.

In this brief account of the miraculous paying of the tribute using a coin from the mouth of the fish, the ancient scriptures demonstrate in dramatic fashion the superiority of the divine realm over the material realm, and the ability of the higher realm to provide for even the most mundane of our needs.

There is also a teaching that in some sense, we are "children" and not "strangers" and therefore "free" -- probably having to do with the understanding that when we come down into this material realm and take on a mortal body, we continue to possess a connection to the higher realm which transcends the limitations of the lower mortal realm through which we are presently traveling.

Nevertheless, while we are here ("lest we offend") we are also wise to observe the exigencies of life here in the physical world.

While we are here in our incarnate form, however, we do in some way have immediate access to that Invisible Realm, and all of its benefits and power -- if we can only understand what the ancient Star Myths are trying to convey to our deeper understanding (the understanding may well involve integration with the Higher Self).

You can, in fact, go out this very night and have access to that same miraculous coin that was promised to Peter in Matthew 17.

Namaste _/\_