DIVIDING THE SKY
Part III of III
Other Astrology & Astronomy to Consider
I wanted to include some other food for thought regarding early cultures and what they were beginning to contribute to mathematical, astronomical, calendrical and subsequently astrological knowledge before or independent of Sumeria, Babylonia, India or Greece.
Nabta Playa – Egyptian Astronomy
By the 5th millennia BCE, 7,000 years ago, the astronomical station at Nabta Playa in Nubian Desert in Egypt had already been calculated and constructed. Depending on the source, generally accepted archeo-astronomical estimates for the constellational alignments represented there, roughly point to circa 6500-6200 BCE corresponding to the Belt of Orion at that time. Other claims have been put forth that the alignments correspond to the Milky Way as it was 17,000 years ago. While this may seem far fetched, the site rests on the now desert banks of what was once an inland lake during the Holocene glacial retreat (19,000-11,700 years ago). It had already been settled as an active trading area around 13,000 years.
We do know that by the 4th millennia BCE (6000 years ago), a 365 day calendar was already in use by the ancient Egyptians and the construction of this site undoubtedly took a well developed system of higher mathematics and astronomical calculation over centuries to conclude. Though this pre-dynastic desert observatory is of extreme importance to astronomy and most likely to Egyptian astrological understanding, it does not divide the sky into the portions we use today, nor are there any known ideograms or symbols which correlate to the signs or constellations. Though there is much evidence that this site’s primary function was both astronomical and calendrical, there is little to suggest that from this period a form of ‘astrology’ or ‘a zodiac’ emerged here in a form which we could identify today. We will come back to Egypt in a moment.
Another worthy mention: The Tal-Qadi Stone
The Island nation of Malta has been inhabited since 5900BC (about 8000 years). In 1927, a broken shard of a limestone disk etched with radiating divisions, lunar phase symbol, and arranged asterisms, was uncovered at the megalithic temple site of Tal-Qadi. A researcher, Dr. Kai H. Wirth, professor and part of UNSECO world education along with many other titles, wrote extensively about his conclusions regarding the meaning and implications of the shard. Heralded as “the world’s most ancient proof of a zodiac”, if correct, this divisional scheme could represent certain constellations and lunar phases. With 16 divisions – 4 divisions marking the new, full and quarter Moons and 12 indicating star formations, at 3500 years old, it could be a contender for the oldest record of some kind along the trail of astrological history, or at least in the astrology of the Mediterranean.
Egyptian Decans: Just another Way to Divide
The concept of the decans in Egypt is something that I feel is not given enough credence in the context of modern astrology. The Austrian mathematician and historian, Otto Neugebauer, is considered the primary source for much of the interpreted evidence around Babyloninan and Egyptian astronomy, which has affected scholarly opinions of Egypt’s limited role within Hellensitic and modern astrology. There is often little or no mention of the part decan system in the discussion of astrology or the development of the Zodiac. To not include Egypt in the debate of astrological origins or the development of the zodiac is a major oversight, and reveals some fundamental flaws regarding how we view ‘astrology’ as whole
As has been pointed out by various researchers, the decan system encompasses the same inherent structure of the Zodiac but has been divided into 36 parts rather than into 12 parts. The thirty-six faces (or phases, note the similarity in the words) had been used for dividing the sky into a star clock, at least by 2100BCE. Each face corresponds to a deity or aspect of solar shift, which in turn connects the divine energy into the mortal realms. I personally believe that the roots of the Egyptian astrological tree are deeper and stronger than currently accepted, which is due to a general misinterpretation and exclusion of evidence. Both the Romans and the Greeks attributed much of their astrological inheritance directly from the Egyptians.
The 13 Towers-Chankillo
Though in no way vying for the title of ‘the oldest’, the 2350 year old solar observatory at Chankillo in North Central Peru, is possibly contemporaneous with the advent of Hellenistic astrology in the West. Ceremonial platforms and planetary observation shrines and are ever-present elements of Andean culture and cosmology. The site at Chankillo is currently the oldest known solar observatory in the Americas. In the mid 2000’s, archaeologist Ivan Ghezzi and his research team determined that the sprawling complex and the surrounding ruins constitute an ancient Sun calendar.
At 9˚33” south of the Equator, the Thirteen Towers run North to South along a low ridge, the high point of ridge representing the longest day in the Southern Hemisphere, Dec 21st. From ancient ceremonial observing points to the West and East of the central towers, they form an artificial toothed horizon that span the annual rising and setting arcs of the Sun. The hypothesis is that Sun rising over every other tower at 30 day intervals marks 12 solar months (or 24 half-months as it passes over each tower), from the Summer to Winter Solstice. If this theory of the towers is correct, this would indicate a knowledge of a 12 divisional Solar calendar, which preceded or correlated to other divisional calendars used in their astrological traditions; and that this awareness arose at around the same time the 12-divisional solar zodiac was being disseminated across the Mediterranean.
BIGGER THAN JUST THE FACTS
There are not multiple zodiaci, there is not a proto-zodiac, there is merely the Zodiac. We did not design nor did we create it, we discovered it, discovering us. We have confused what we are striving to describe, with the means of how we are describing it. What we call the Zodiac is an invisible field of energy that we are attempting to understand, describe, analyze, codify, map, organize and to order. As we have evolved to a point to reflect back upon its union with us, and as we move forward, we realize we are here to ultimately master it. This energy is a synthesis of lower and higher frequencies, from dense matter to starlight, interacting from different angles, with different qualities and amplitudes, in mathematically patterned and comprehensive ways. It is a life force itself, an intermingling of celestial ascending and descending essences, teaching us the wisdom of the stars required for us to evolve.
Reflecting on the sentiments of astrologer Vic DiCara when discussing Indian astrology’s origins, I realized that the way he feels about the role of the wisdom brought into the world by Vedic astrology, is the way I feel about astrology’s authentic role in the world in general. Astrology, horoscopic astrology, is nothing but a trifle compared to the wisdom and knowledge that the ancient cultures attained through their explorations of the heavens, which is the understanding of the nature of reality, the map of this reality and the source of it; and the individual’s path and collective participation with that source. This matter is much more important than the astrology of the self. In fact, horoscopic astrology only attains the height of its usefulness when cultivated from within by a collective spiritual philosophical framework. This is true integrated astrology.
Horoscopic astrology may have begun with the Greeks, but astrology did not begin with them. The Vedic Indians may have perfected the mathematical language used to both unify the cosmos and to describe the primary astrological structures, yet they did not ‘invent’ astrology or mathematics. The 12-divisional zodiac may have been employed by the Babylonians but it did not begin with them. The Sumerians may have summarized the constellations and connected the stars but they were not the first to do so.
My point to this is that there may be an inherent function of the astrological process itself, that acts as a test or a rite of passage along the path of consciousness. A test of purification which requires us to transmute the posiousness effects of ego, by choosing to divide and then ultimately reunite, in order to better know thyself by having experienced the wisdom of this reality. Humanity will continue to be compelled to master this reality so we may evolve. The individual realities may become less necessary as we move past certain stages of our personal and collective evolutions. It becomes diminishingly important to remain so individual, and far more vital for us to function holistically and to relate collectively. As we continue to learn what lead us to divide the sky, we are re-learning how to live undivided under it.
Astrology, horoscopic astrology, is nothing but a trifle compared to the wisdom and knowledge that the ancient cultures attained through their explorations of the heavens, which is the understanding of the nature of reality, the map of this reality and the source of it; and the individual’s path and collective participation with that source. This matter is much more important than the astrology of the self. In fact, horoscopic astrology only attains the height of its usefulness when cultivated from within by a collective spiritual philosophical framework. This is true integrated astrology.