Stars, Constellations and Signs of the Zodiac - 3
As already said, the line of intersection of the ecliptic and the equatorial planes changes progressively because of a particular earth-motion — a kind of wobbling motion somewhat similar to that of a top — which alters the direction in which the polar axis is oriented. This polar axis as a result, points in the course of time to different "pole stars"; it describes a circle in space in about 25,000 years. At one time a star of the constellation Cygnus was the pole star (about 16,400 B.C.); at another time it was Wega (12,700 BC). At present, Polaris, in the constellation Ursa Minor, is our pole star, and the north pole will point to it more closely than ever next century. In due time, around 13,000 A.D., Wega will again become our pole star.
In describing the gyrating motion of the north pole, one has to speak of pole stars, because if we want to become clearly aware of this motion, it has to be referred to some relatively fixed point in the sky. The stars do move, but their motions are relatively so slow that for rough practical purposes we call them (unfortunately, I believe) "fixed stars". The planets, by contrast, move quite fast in the sky; so that primitive man, contemplating the night pageant of the sky, called them "wandering stars". It is for the same reason that in trying to establish and to measure the slow movements of the equinoxes it was necessary to refer the change to a seemingly "fixed" frame of reference.
This means that when the sun now is at longitude 0° (i. e. crossing the celestial equator from south to north, and sunsets begin then to move toward the north-west) it does not point to the same "fixed star" that it did at the time of the spring equinox two thousand years ago. For this reason we say that the sun is moving by retrograde motion from one star-group (i. e. constellation) to the next star-group. For instance, it is said (unfortunately) to enter, or to be near entering, the constellation Aquarius — while what is "entering" this constellation is not the sun, but instead the vernal equinox-point. Because of this we are said to be at, or near, the beginning of the "Aquarian Age".
There was a time when the sun at the vernal equinox was pointing to the separation between the constellations Aries and the constellation Pisces; that is to say, at the spring equinox of that time, the earth, the sun and the boundaries between the constellations Aries and Pisces formed a straight line. When that happened, the sign Aries (the 30 degrees of longitude just after the spring equinox point) and the constellation Aries coincided — and the confusion between zodiacal signs and constellations of the zodiac did not exist. The problem is, however, to discover when this happened — and it is a problem that cannot be solved on any astronomical or astrological basis alone, simply because we have no way of knowing precisely where the boundaries between the constellation Pisces and Aries should be located. This, simply, because such boundaries are man-made and we have no way of knowing who established them, when or for what purpose. One can talk forever about when the Egyptian or Chaldean year started, what star they considered to be the most important one for this or that purpose, when this or that astrological system of symbolism (like the concept of "planetary exaltation") was adopted; but, however fascinating a subject of enquiry this maybe for archeologists and ethnologists, this refers only to old traditions all involved in mythological concepts, the key to the interpretation of which are probably lost or not understood as the men of the period saw their meaning.
I certainly do no wish to dispute here the findings of Cyril Fagan related in his book Zodiacs, Old and New (London, 1951), for I have not his competency regarding the Egyptian and Chaldean records. My point is simply that, even if he were entirely correct in his deductions and interpretations of old tablets, all that this would show is that the Egyptians, Chaldeans, and Hindus apparently used a zodiac of constellations in terms of a probably common tradition — perhaps originating in the fabled Atlantis. Then during the Greek period before Christ, something happened, and gradually a new conception of what the zodiac meant was introduced, possibly by Hipparchus around 139 B.C. — possibly also as the result of the expansion of the Greek picture of the universe following Alexander's conquests.
Mr. Fagan interprets this change as a terrible blunder; but this interpretation may well be quite biased. It may more accurately be the expression of a basic change of mentality in mankind — a change which marked this extraordinarily important period from the sixth century BC to the first century AD — from Buddha to Christ; and I shall discuss the meaning of this period in a subsequent chapter. It was indeed a turning point in human evolution.
By permission of Leyla Rudhyar Hill
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and Copyright © 2001 by Leyla Rudhyar Hill
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