Stellar Lore Essay

Pre-Dawn Star Gazing
Framework of Time
Heaven on Earth
Planets, the wanderers
Catastrophe! Precession
It's Written in the Stars
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By Jake Stratton-Kent, 1978 used with permission
JSK requests readers to note that this was written over 20 years ago and may be somewhat dated.
The ancient cult of Ursa Major finds it's reflection in many cultures, as does the motif of the World Centre - represented by the Pole Star. A fair amount of astronomical knowledge is required to follow the course of the lore of the stars. To enable the student to overcome this obstacle to some extent we write this chapter. Ursa Major and several other non-zodiacal stars and constellations will appear in the course of this section and I shall endeavour to amplify any obscure points as they occur.

That Ursa Major is associated with the World centre is not surprising, as the 'Northern Height' would represent such an association to any race dwelling in high places in Northern latitudes. But the World Centre was not always identified with Polaris, although some forms of the motif strongly suggest a connection with the theme from early times. Ursa Major and the World Centre motif in mythology predates Ursa Minor's arrival at the Pole position by many thousands of years. Polaris, the Pole Star, of the constellation Ursa Minor is a comparative newcomer to the 'Northern Height'. 3000 years BC when Sumerian and Egyptian cultures were already both established the Pole Star was Thuban, the brightest star in the constellation Draco. This celestial dragon winds sinuously around both of the stellar Bears, Major and Minor.

The phenomena of changing Pole Stars is called by astronomers 'the Precession of the Equinoxes'. The same phenomena causes the zodiacal signs attending the Equinoxes to change every 2000 years. This is the explanation of the cycle of astrological ages, such as the Age of Pisces and the future Age of Aquarius. Aries is traditionally the sign of the Spring Equinox, but in fact precession caused Pisces to usurp this position hundreds of years ago. About a third of the constellation Pisces has to move over the Vernal Equinox point before the much vaunted Age of Aquarius comes to pass.

The legend of the dragon-slayer refers to the change from Thuban to Polaris. many dragon slayers are in fact named 'bear', as Beowulf = Bee- wolf = Bear, and Arthur = Ursa = Bear. Interestingly Arthur's surname was Pendragon meaning Dragons Head. Other dragon slayers are identified with the constellation Orion, occasionally said to stand on the Dragons Head, although the constellation Hercules more usually receives this dubious honour. Hercules and Orion are major figures in Stellar Lore, being identified with the consorts and co-regents of the Goddess.

Orion in Egypt is seen as Osiris, and the constellation Lepus, below him, as his funerary boat. Draco in this case would be Apep. The 'original' dragon slayer was the Sumerian deity Marduk, later to become Adad and Melqart and so on. This slaying in fact asserts the dignity of the deity, no longer content to be a doomed and dying god. He becomes the undying co-regent or even supreme God.

A more important form of the Boat of the Underworld is the constellation Argo which in conjunction with Sirius, Orion and Canis Major and Minor has been developed in recent years by various authors. But Ursa Major and Minor and their key role in stellar myth cycles have been curiously overlooked.

Ursa Major's role in the dark cults of antiquity may be exemplified in the 'witches' widdershins dance. This does not seem to be explained by a conscious reversal of the direction of the Sun. It is more likely a continuation of the earlier practice emulating the anticlockwise direction of Ursa Major. It is this constellation that marked out the cross-quarter days of the 'witches' year - thus indicating the position of the four major Sabbats.The holy place of the 'witches' and their antecedents was the northern quarter, the place of the circumpolar constellations Draco and Ursa Major.

The Yezidis have their Holy Place in the North, practice widdershins circumambulations and so on. The origins of such rites can only come from a culture practicing some form of astronomy. The 'Sabeans' derived their knowledge from 'Chaldean' - that is to say, late Babylonian sources, which in turn stemmed from Sumeria. The Yezidis as a people (as opposed to a sect for the name indicates race as well as religion) claim descent from the Assyrians, another nation which obtained much of its culture and beliefs from Sumeria.

The position of the Sabbats in the calender is curious. In old style astrology the constellations equivalent to their dates are a most remarkable group. Every occultist worth their salt knows that the four directions have symbolic creatures associated with them. These are of course the Bull, the Lion the Eagle or Snake and the Man. These in turn represent the constellations Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius. Scorpio has three symbols: the Eagle, the Snake and the Scorpion hence the complication of the third symbol. These archetypal symbols date from the time when Taurus was the sign presiding at the Spring Equinox. The Lion thus represented the Summer Solstice, Scorpio the Autumn Equinox and the Water Bearer the Winter Solstice. However the Precession of the Equinoxes changed all that and these signs were displaced. Due to this they came to occupy the points in the solar year that the Sabbats now occur in. This can only represent a stellar survival within a later calender.

SabbatHebrew MonthZodiac Sign
WalpurgisIyar or ZifTaurus

Shebat is from Shabatu the old Babylonian month of Aquarius. Interestingly various curiously apt astronomical phenomena attend the dates of the Sabbats. At Walpurgisnacht Draco is at its highest point in the course of its cycle.

[diagram omitted, position of Bears and Dragon at Walpurgisnacht]

[diagrams were not present when I received this file. If I get them I will post them. Otherwise when I have a chance I'll draw some of the mentioned items.]

At Lammas Capricorn reaches its height, while Halloween sees Orion at his highest point. At the Winter Solstice Sirius reaches its greatest Southern Declination and is for a short time visible to observers in our latitudes.

As we have stated above Ursa Major has a connection with distinctly sinister, that is left-handed, deities. As the Foreleg this constellation was early identified with the Egyptian Deity Set, whose worship was ancient before the Second Empire. At one time Set was a popular deity and had no evil connotations, being the god presiding over the Upper Kingdom as Horus represented the Lower. The 'Typhonian Animal', the totem of Set was probably associated with this constellation rather than a bear. The long tail of this beast lends itself to this interpretation at very least for artistic purposes.

[diagram omitted, Typhonian Animal overlaid on Ursa Major]

In the Solomonic 'Black Book' known as 'the Testament of Solomon' the Persian Counterpart of Set - Aeshma-Daeva, known in Demonology as Asmodai or Asmodeus - is also identified with Ursa Major. Deep in antiquity the seven demons of Sumeria (and later Babylonia and Assyria) were identifed with this constellation. Idpa (Fever), Namtar (Magician of the Underworld), Utuk (Spirit), Alal (Destroyer), Gigim (Spirit), Relal (Wicked Demon/Warrior) and lastly Uruku (Larvae). These were the great demons of the Middle East at that time.

These demons were associated with the archetypal seven heads of the Dragon, Ursa Major being conceived as part of the constellation Draco. Apep, the Seven-Headed Dragon of Egypt has been identified with Tiamat, the Great Dragon of Sumeria, slain by Marduk. This primordial goddess is the prototype of the biblical monster Leviathan. It is little known that in the Book of Revelation this same Dragon makes an anonymous guest appearance. Knowhere in biblical literature, apart from Revelation where the Dragon is not named, is Leviathan described as seven-headed. But in Ugaritic tablets this identification is plainly made. Much of the later Biblical literature finds its prototype in Ugarit and is considerably amplified by the Ugaritic texts. Tiamat or Leviathan was an early biblical image for 'the wicked city' so it is apt that 'the Whore of Babylon' should ride a seven-headed dragon in the Book of Revelation.

The zodiac contains the best known constellations, although few could recognise them today almost everyone knows their names. Many can even list them in order, but few can recognise the constellations. They are extremely ancient, Babylon gave them most of their present definitions, but obtained their knowledge of them from the 'pre-Polaris' astronomy of the Sumerians. Amongst the oldest constellations are Cancer and Capricorn, curiously enough, for they are very vague and unspectacular constellations even through a telescope. These anciently represented the Summer and Winter Solstices. In Chaldean (ie Babylonian) astronomical lore Cancer was called the 'Gate of Men', the entrance point for souls seeking incarnation in human bodies. Capricorn was called 'the Gate of the Gods' by which souls passed into Heaven.

The Myth cycle of the constellations in this part of the sky is briefly as follows, drawing on Greek and Egyptian symbology although predating them both. The Underworld River is typified by the Milky Way, its celestial counterpart, intersected at two points namely Cancer and Capricorn in the ecliptical band, called the zodiac. The Boat of the Underworld, that of Ra in Egypt, Charon in Greece, is the Stellar Ship Argo-Navis, whose fifty oars represent the cycle of Sirius' companion Sirius B (AND also the Great Year of Antiquity likewise measured in double periods, thus one hundred years, but based on Lunar time). These oars also indicate the Judges of Sumeria, the Anunnaki. The God of the Underworld is the constellation Orion in _his_ boat, the constellation Lepus. The Guardian of the Gate of the Underworld is the Greek Cerberus, the Egyptian Anubis, represented by Canis Major and its principal star Sirius the Dog Star. The Underworld, or Zodiac, has twelve divisions, and escape is only possible through the Gate of Men or the Gate of the Gods. These lead from one river (the Zodiac) to another (the Milky Way). The two rivers are reminiscent of crossing rivers in Greek and Semitic legend. They also suggest the White and Blue Nile of Egypt. Originally they were associated with Sumeria's Tigris and Euphrates. The Goddess Tiamat, the Celestial Dragon, has been identified with the Milky Way by some students. But the Underworld Dragon was always the Zodiac itself, through whose body the traveller made their way. On the other hand Tiamat has been identified with the cloak of mist over the rivers of Sumeria, spread out on the plain like an immense serpent. It is more likely however that Tiamat had a physical as well as a celestial counterpart. The dragon of the zodiac is necessarily circular, the serpent with its tail in its mouth in fact. Not only is the serpent said to encircle the world in this form, but to coil about World Mountains and Trees. In Greek and Semitic mythology it guards the 'forbidden fruit' at what is recognisably an archetypal World Centre. Draco has been identified with all these mythological Dragon Guardians.

We should also note that the Sumerio-Babylonian Stellar Lore recognised two kinds of celestial spirit. The first kind are the children of Anu, the infernal judges, the Anunnaki - identified with the oarsmen of Argo Navis. These are the spirits of stars below the horizon, in the Underworld. The other kind, the Igigi are spirits of the stars above the horizon, and were also associated with Anu, the Sumerian Sky and Heaven God. In Mesopotamia (and points north) Draco, Ursa Major and the Circumpolar stars are Igigi, they never set. Canis Major, Argo Navis and Orion are invisible much of the time in northern latitudes and are thus Anunnaki. Tiamat fulfills both roles, as celestial dragon she is Igigi, as Underworld River Anunnaki.

Ursa Major is always Igigi, the Seven Heads of the Dragon and the Seven Gods of the World Centre or High Place, the Holy Place of the Stellar Cults: the 'Northern Height'.

The sinister role of the Seven Spirits is 'late', post Polaris in fact. Originally they were the Seven Sages and teachers (as the seven spirits of Mount Meru, the Indian World Centre, situated 'in the north'). Elsewhere, particularly in the shamanic lore of Siberia and Mongolia they retain that status.

[diagram omitted, Sirius at Winter Solstice]

sources consulted:

  • Robert Temple: The Sirius Mystery
  • Wallace Budge: Gods of the Egyptians
  • R E Cleator: Lost Languages
  • Frater IIV: 'The Arrow Star' in Sothis VolII No.1.
Kiblah -
Gnostic Alchemical Church of Typhon Christ -
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