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BRADY'S BOOK OF FIXED STARS
By BERNADETTE BRADY
Samuel Weiser, Inc.Copyright © 1998 Bernadette Brady
All rights reserved.
IN THE BEGINNING
TO UNDERSTAND THE IMPORTANCE OF fixed stars and constellations in astrology, one must return to the dawn of time and the original role that stars played in human lives.
Before time was conceived by the human mind, all was considered perfect. The world was seen as hanging by a thread from the great, immortal, never-setting point, the north pole star, seasons came and seasons went and nothing changed. This was the Golden Age, the age of perfection, the age of the immortal goddess, when the cosmos and all that was divine was regarded as perfect and in complete harmony. The polestar, with the heavens rotating around it every night, was seen as a great mill churning out gold and wealth, the source of all life and all order, the point of stillness around which all other things moved. Aeons later the Greeks called this point the Omphaloessa, coming from the word omphalos meaning the center of things. In Latin this is translated as umbilicus form which we gain the word umbilical. The pole was the earth's umbilical cord and all power, all strength, and all divinity came from this point. The Babylonians called it the "Mother Bond of Heaven." This connection from the point of stillness to the Earth was seen in some cultures as a pole or axis, a shaft around which the golden millstone turned. Other cultures considered it to be a cosmic tree, the Tree of Life of the Garden of Eden, or a measuring rod.
Ancient societies structured themselves around the omphalos in an attempt to mirror on Earth the immortal life of the heavens, the goddess, and the Mother of the World. Since all power was believed to come from the pole, the Cosmic Center, it therefore followed that the power, authority, and wisdom to rule could be achieved by occupying the physical center of the tribe or group. Thus the center position belonged to the king, queen, or chief. This leader sat on a particular rock or stood beside a particular tree and claimed the power of the celestial pole by holding a staff or rod that symbolized the pole or shaft of the sacred mill. Later, this pole became the Royal or Holy scepter, as well as the Sacred Sword of the Celts. This philosophy of divine power that came from the center was echoed at all levels of human society, from the very physical seat of government or throne to the central fireplace in every home.
The Celts called their centers Thing or Ting a word still present in many place names throughout the United Kingdom—Thingwall near Liverpool, Tingley near Leeds, and Tingrith in Bedfordshire, to name just a few—indicating that these places were considered to be the center of government and law of those areas. This word is also used in Icelandic societies whose system of central government was called the Al-thing. We use the phrase "the center of government" when referring to capital cities, only now we no longer place these capitals in the physical center of our countries. Ancient societies, however, believed that from such a position they held the divine power to rule the country, province, tribal grounds, farm, or household. Thus the center of tribal lands was always marked with rocks or standing stones. These stones, later symbolized by a flagpole, were protected in battle at all cost, for the center was the heart of the tribe and soul of the people. Indeed, one of the many prehistoric sites which reflect this is Stonehenge, placed equidistant from Land's End in Cornwall, Holyhead in Wales, and the northeast extremity of the Norfolk coast, indicating that it was an omphalos for the Celtic Druidic world and therefore a point of power and authority.
Plato, in his quest for the perfect human society, expressed this omphalic philosophy in his Laws, Book 5, where he designed what he considered to be the perfect society and city, a city where all humans would live in perfect harmony and order. This city was designed in such a way that all roads, buildings, and the like moved out from the center. Like ancient cultures before him, he believed that when society was in tune with the immortal center, the world would return to the Golden Age; that to return to such omphalic tenets would re-create human life in perfect order.
This obsession with the omphalos of a culture or its people and its representation through all levels of society remains deep inside our collective psyche. We still seek the center of our countries, just like our ancient ancestors, but without knowing or understanding our motives. In 1988, when Australia celebrated 200 years of white settlement, one of the projects undertaken was to find the center of the country. It took many months of work, but the point was found: a place in the Northern Territory at Latitude 25°36'36.4" South and Longitude 134°21'17.3" East. A flagpole, an exact replica of the flagpole on Parliament House in Canberra, the Australian center of government, was erected on this desert site. Here are instinctual omphalic behavior patterns emerging in modern humans, as they attempt, for reasons they themselves do not understand, to transmit the source of power of the country, its center, to its seat of government. In the United States, at a point in Lebanon, Kansas, Latitude 39°50' North and Longitude 98°35' West, stands a stone monument from which a flagpole flies the Stars and Stripes. This is the geographical center of the USA (not including Alaska and Hawaii). There are many such sites in many countries. In the UK this site is guarded and marked by an oak tree, the Midland Oak at Lillington, near Leamington Spa, Warwickshire. This tree died just after the Second World War and was then replaced by an oak sapling from the original stock. The Cosmic Tree, instead of a flagpole.
This external seeking is a reflex based on earlier tendencies and is now most commonly seen or recognized in personal, internal spiritual journeys where we seek the center of our own minds. Plato was not in error in his beliefs, for we do try to find our own centers in order to become whole. In the deep folds of our mind we still consider centeredness as stillness, centeredness as sacred, centeredness as enlightenment or the Golden Age. We do not seek the edge of our minds, like explorers in space moving away from planet Earth or Columbus crossing the great ocean. In personal journeys, we seek the center. Our concepts of immortality, enlightenment, and the individual's spiritual journey have been born from this omphalic beginning, this pole-centered heaven where all things moved around the sacred point of stillness. This was the first great impact that the constellations, the fixed stars, and the night sky had on the human mind: a primary philosophy that is so unconscious in the collective that it is generally unnamed and unrecognized, yet so strong it has formed the very foundation of our minds.
So, in this early human world where the polar regions, the central point of stillness of the scarry sky, were duplicated physically in human life and in the human mind, the Earth was considered the plane between four gateways to the otherworld or afterlife. These four gateways were the points of the solar year, the two equinoxes and the two solstices, which were held by the four mutable signs: Sagittarius and Gemini, the equinox points; Virgo and Pisces, the solstice points.
The Sun moved along a golden road which we now know as the Milky Way and eventually settled onto the ecliptic, spending half the year in Gemini to Sagittarius, above the Earth giving light and warmth, and the other half in Sagittarius to Gemini, below the Earth in the great ocean, giving way to a period of cold and dark. In modern terminology, these were the two periods of northern or southern declination, respectively. The afterlife began with a journey on the Milky Way, the road or path which dipped below the ocean toward the other pole, the South Pole.
This perfect world was created and given life by the goddess at the sacred pole and maintained in its seasonal rhythm by the god who rose with the Sun on the morning of the spring equinox. This god rode the chariot or boat of the Sun and gave humanity the seasons and thereby the ring of life. Each year was measured by his rising. He was mythically connected to the goddess at the pole, and the two ruled the world in complete harmony. The Egyptians called him Horus/Osiris he is known today as the constellation Orion.
However, as the effects of precession slowly broke this union of balance and harmony between god and goddess, society believed that the world was coming undone and that a great crisis had occurred. The Greeks said that Zeus angrily banged the tabletop of the heavens, tilting the table, and talked of Zeus battling the Titans to overthrow the world order. The Celts said that Arthur pulled the Sacred Sword from the stone like his earlier counterpart, the nine-year-old hero, Kara Par, of Turkey, who was able to lift and extract the central copper rod from the Earths navel or mill. The Egyptians claimed that Osiris's brother, Set, attacked and killed him. In Christian mythology a snake (Draco) appeared in the Tree of Life at the center of the Garden of Eden (the pole). Whatever the story, and there are many, the Golden Mill fell to earth, landed in the oceans of the sky, and created a whirlpool. Until this moment, the world had been pinned at the polestar, keeping this great axis in place. In the crisis, this axis was knocked from its groove. The pole shifted focus to another star and the world became undone.
The whirlpool created by the falling mill is talked about in many myths, from the myth of Gilgamesh, to the world of the magical fish of the Celts, where one is lost in the world of water in order to gain wisdom, to the Greek myth of Hephaestus being cast from Olympus into the ocean. The whirlpool was located at the tip of the constellation Orion, at the point occupied by the fixed star Rigel, the foot of Orion, the point which "slipped" into the great starry ocean. The "whirlpool" was and still is the intersection of the ecliptic with the equator. The effect of precession is that constellations seem to slip slowly against the seasons, so stars that rise with the spring equinox in one period of time will, over thousands of years, appear to slip southward. Visually, then, Orion slowly sank into the sea. Less and less of him appeared from one equinox to another. He had been ripped away from the union with Ursa Minor, separated from the immoral mother goddess and subjected to the whirlpool of the ecliptic where he underwent death and eventual rebirth. The whirlpool and its ceaseless churning cycle began to swallow all the gods, the zodiac, one after another. Precession had begun.
Time began in human consciousness when we realized that the equator and the ecliptic were separate. One solar journey was no longer like the others before it, and there was a larger cycle where immortal gods died, slipped into the sea, traveled on a boat, and then moved into the underworld. Gods could now die. History had started and the Golden Age had ended. The Greeks tell us that the goddess Virgo, in distress at the end of the Golden Age, left humankind forever and returned to the heavens. This is the mythic story of the historical demise of the constellation Virgo from her place in the summer solstice.
At such times of transition from one world order to the next, symbolized and heralded by one constellation entering the whirlpool and slipping into southern declinations, another taking its place on the spring equinox, the old world order is said to be "flooded." This was reflected in all the many diverse stories of great floods and deluges. The Greeks told the story of Deucalion, who seems to be a classical version of the biblical Noah. In Babylon it was the story of Utnapishtim, another Noah-like figure dealing with a great flood caused by the anger of Ea, the god of the waters. The native Hawaiians also talk of a flood called Kai-a-ka-hina-li'I, translated as "Sea that made the chiefs fall down." In reality, these "floods" are mythology's record of prehistorical cosmic floods.
The Bible (Isa. 14:12) also tells us that Lucifer is cast out by God and falls to hell. Lucifer is the Lord of Light and is identified by some with Venus, as an evening star, and with Castor, the alpha star of Gemini. This constellation, along with Orion, slipped into the waters of the underworld. So Lucifer appeared to be cast into hell but was actually cast into the whirlpool. In the same way, Adam and Eve were cast out from the Garden of Eden when the devil, Draco, appeared in the Tree of Life in the center of the Garden, the North Pole. This was the end of the Golden Era: Paradise Lost.
Religions which contained the concepts of life, death, and rebirth emerged in the human psyche to embody the evidence of our eyes. The pole, the female divine goddess, was still immortal since she never set, but now the axis was tilted and male divine gods were subject to a cycle of life, death, and rebirth. In Egyptian mythology, Osiris died (Gemini/Orion having slipped from the equinox) to become the ruler of the underworld, passing his throne to his son Horns (Taurus as the new equinox sign). Horus, when he, too, slipped into the sea, passed his throne to Amen-Ra, a god known by the Egyptians as "King of the Gods." This signified Aries coming to the equinox. The emerging Greek culture gave this title of "King of the Gods" to Zeus, their Aries god. Two thousand years later when Zeus sensed the end of his time, he desperately needed to create an heir. This he did via the human Semele. Thus was Dionysus born, the new god of a new world order, with Pisces ruling the equinox point. Dionysus, like the gods before him, also needs to have an heir. Indeed in our time Pisces is nearly totally submerged in the whirlpool and Dionysus (Christ) has left not an heir, but only the vague promise of a Second Coming.
Thus our ancient instincts tell our modern minds that the world is out of balance. Science, which took us away from the sky and its philosophies of centeredness, now embraces the Big Bang theory, in which all things start from a common source or center, time and space not existing until that hypothetical explosion. Science has come full circle. Once pulling us away from the concept of a cycle and connectedness, it now turns towatd finding its great central tenet, the logical extension of the Big Bang Theory, the Unified Field Theory in which all things will be one.
The recognition of precession acted like a seed in the collective mind, an unanswered question of "why" and "how," which pushed us into the world of science and logic. From this point on we questioned our world, and as a result began to lose our innocence and naiveté. We started to move away from the Mother's cradle and the safety of the circumpolar life. Cycles were devalued and the goddess and the cyclic, biological lives of women became less significant. Yet before we lost sight of this nightly centeredness, the pole, out mind had been created in its image, created from the apparent order of circumpolar life. And so, like migrating birds, we are driven till the end of time to strive towards perfect centeredness. It was the first drum beat we heard as we became humans and it still beats, maybe not the loudest but definitely with the greatest vibration.
Excerpted from BRADY'S BOOK OF FIXED STARS by BERNADETTE BRADY. Copyright © 1998 Bernadette Brady. Excerpted by permission of Samuel Weiser, Inc..
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