The March equinox
Posted by Fredsvenn on March 29, 2016
Illumination of Earth by the Sun on the day of an equinox
Pisces (♓) (Ancient Greek: Ἰχθύες Ikhthyes) is the twelfth astrological sign in the Zodiac, originating from the Pisces constellation. It spans the 330° to 360° of the zodiac, between 332.75° and 360° of celestial longitude. Aries (♈) (meaning “ram”) is the first astrological sign in the Zodiac, spanning the first 30 degrees of celestial longitude (0°≤ λ <30°).
The March equinox
The March equinox or Northward equinox is the equinox on the Earth when the Sun appears to leave the southern hemisphere and cross the celestial equator, heading northward as seen from earth. In the Northern Hemisphere the March equinox is known as the vernal equinox, and in the Southern Hemisphere as theautumnal equinox.
On the Gregorian calendar the Northward equinox can occur as early as March 19 or as late as March 21. For a common year the computed time slippage is about 5 hours 49 minutes later than the previous year, and for a leap year about 18 hours 11 minutes earlier than the previous year. Balancing the increases of the common years against the losses of the leap years keeps the calendar date of the March equinox from drifting more than one day from March 20 each year.
The March equinox is one point in time commonly used to determine the length of the tropical year. The mean tropical year is the average of all the tropical years measured from every point along the earth’s orbit. When tropical year measurements from several successive years are compared, variations are found which are due to nutation, and to the planetary perturbations acting on the Sun.
The point where the sun crosses the celestial equator northwards is called the First Point of Aries. However, due to the precession of the equinoxes, this point is no longer in the constellation Aries, but rather in Pisces. By the year 2600 it will be in Aquarius.
Based on the modern constellation boundaries, the northward equinox passed from Taurus into Aries in the year −1865 (1866 BC), passed into Pisces in the year −67 (68 BC), will pass into Aquarius in the year 2597, and will pass into Capricornus in the year 4312. It passed by (but not into) a ‘corner’ of Cetus at 0°10′ distance in the year 1489.
In its apparent motion on the day of an equinox, the Sun’s disk crosses the Earth’s horizon directly to the east at dawn—rising; and again, some 12 hours later, directly to the west at dusk—setting. But an equinoctial day produces several minutes more daylight time than nighttime, for reasons that follow.
Due to refraction of light rays in the Earth’s atmosphere the Sun, whether rising or setting, will, in part, show above the horizon even when its disc is completely below the limb of Earth’s horizon. Also, viewed from the Earth, the Sun presents as an extended object (a disc) source of light rather than a point source of light, and its upper disk is visible even when the center of the Sun is below Earth’s horizon. Thus, sunrise produces daylight several minutes before the Sun’s geometric center crosses from below the horizon; a converse sequence occurs at dusk, and sunset produces daylight several minutes after the setting of the center of the Sun to below Earth’s horizon. These conditions produce differentials of actual durations of light and darkness at various locations on Earth during an equinox.
To viewers at the north or south poles, the sun appears to move steadily around the horizon, and just above the horizon, neither rising nor setting apart from “movement in declination”, i.e., elevation, which is about (0.39) degree per day.
The Babylonian calendar began with the first full moon after the vernal equinox, the day after the Sumerian goddess Inanna’s return from the underworld (later known as Ishtar), in the Akitu ceremony, with parades through the Ishtar Gate to the Eanna temple, and the ritual re-enactment of the marriage to Tammuz, or Sumerian Dummuzi.
Akitu or Akitum (lit. “the barley-cutting”, akiti-šununum, lit. “barley-sowing”; Akkadian: akitu or rêš-šattim, “head of the year”) was a spring festival in ancient Mesopotamia. The name is from the Sumerian for “barley”, originally marking two festivals celebrating the beginning of each of the two half-years of the Sumerian calendar, marking the sowing of barley in autumn and the cutting of barley in spring. In Babylonian religion it came to be dedicated to Marduk’s victory over Tiamat.
In Mesopotamian Religion, Tiamat is a primordial goddess of the ocean, mating with Abzû (the god of fresh water) to produce younger gods. She is the symbol of the chaos of primordial creation, depicted as a woman, she represents the beauty of the feminine, depicted as the glistening one.
It is suggested that there are two parts to the Tiamat mythos, the first in which Tiamat is a creator goddess, through a “Sacred marriage” between salt and fresh water, peacefully creating the cosmos through successive generations. In the second “Chaoskampf” Tiamat is considered the monstrous embodiment of primordial chaos. Some sources identify her with images of a sea serpent or dragon.
In the Enûma Elish, the Babylonian epic of creation, she gives birth to the first generation of deities; her husband, Apsu, (correctly) assuming they are planning to kill him and usurp his throne, later makes war upon them and is killed. Enraged, she, too, wars upon her husband’s murderers, taking on the form of a massive sea dragon, she is then slain by Enki’s son, the storm-god Marduk, but not before she had brought forth the monsters of the Mesopotamian pantheon, including the first dragons, whose bodies she filled with “poison instead of blood”. Marduk then forms heavens and the earth from her divided body.
Slicing Tiamat in half, he made from her ribs the vault of heaven and earth. Her weeping eyes became the source of the Tigris and the Euphrates, her tail became the Milky Way. With the approval of the elder deities, he took from Kingu the Tablets of Destiny, installing himself as the head of the Babylonian pantheon. Kingu was captured and later was slain: his red blood mixed with the red clay of the Earth would make the body of humankind, created to act as the servant of the younger Igigi deities.
Robert Graves considered Tiamat’s death by Marduk as evidence of his hypothesis that a shift in power from a matriarchy controlling society to a patriarchy happened in the ancient past. Grave’s ideas were later developed into the Great Goddess theory by Marija Gimbutas, Merlin Stone and others.
The theory suggests Tiamat and other ancient monster figures were presented as former supreme deities of peaceful, woman-centered religions that were turned into monsters when violent. Their defeat at the hands of a male hero corresponded to the manner in which male-dominated religions overthrew ancient society. This theory is rejected by academia and modern authors such as Lotte Motz, Cynthia Eller and others.
The Tiamat myth is one of the earliest recorded versions of the Chaoskampf, the battle between a culture hero and a chthonic or aquatic monster, serpent or dragon. Chaoskampf motifs in other mythologies linked directly or indirectly to the Tiamat myth include the Hittite Illuyanka myth, and in Greek tradition Apollo’s killing of the Python as a necessary action to take over the Delphic Oracle.
Hieros gamos v/ Chaoskampf
Hieros gamos or Hierogamy refers to a sexual ritual that plays out a marriage between a god and a goddess, especially when enacted in a symbolic ritual where human participants represent the deities.
Sacred prostitution was common in the Ancient Near East as a form of “Sacred Marriage” or hieros gamos between the king of a Sumerian city-state and the High Priestess of Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of love, fertility, and warfare.
Along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers there were many shrines and temples dedicated to Inanna. The temple of Eanna, meaning “house of heaven” in Uruk was the greatest of these. The temple housed Nadītu, priestesses of the goddess. The high priestess would choose for her bed a young man who represented the shepherd Dumuzid, consort of Inanna, in a hieros gamos or sacred marriage, celebrated during the annual Duku ceremony, just before Invisible Moon, with the autumn Equinox (Autumnal Zag-mu Festival).
The motif of Chaoskampf (German for “struggle against chaos”) is ubiquitous in myth and legend, depicting a battle of a culture hero deity with a chaos monster, often in the shape of a serpent or dragon. The same term has also been extended to parallel concepts in the religions of the Ancient Near East, such as the abstract conflict of ideas in the Egyptian duality of Maat and Isfet.
The origins of the Chaoskampf myth most likely lie in the Proto-Indo-European religion whose descendants almost all feature some variation of the story of a storm god fighting a sea serpent representing the clash between the forces of order and chaos.
Early work by German academics such as Gunkel and Bousset in comparative mythology popularized translating the mythological sea serpent as a “dragon.” Indo-European examples of this mythic trope include Thor vs. Jörmungandr (Norse), Tarhunt vs. Illuyanka (Hittite), Indra vs. Vritra (Vedic), Θraētaona vs. Aži Dahāka (Avestan), and Zeus vs. Typhon (Greek) among others.
Chaos (Greek χάος, khaos) refers to the formless or void state preceding the creation of the universe or cosmos in the Greek creation myths, or to the initial “gap” created by the original separation of heaven and earth.
Greek χάος means “emptiness, vast void, chasm, abyss”, from the verb χαίνω, “gape, be wide open, etc.”, from Proto-Indo-European *ǵheh2n, cognate to Old English geanian, “to gape”, whence English yawn. It may also mean space, the expanse of air, and the nether abyss, infinite darkness. Pherecydes of Syros (fl. 6th century BC) interpretes chaos as water, like something formless which can be differentiated.
Hesiod and the Pre-Socratics use the Greek term in the context of cosmogony. Hesiod’s “chaos” has been interpreted as a moving, formless mass from which the cosmos and the gods originated. In Hesiod’s opinion the origin should be indefinite and indeterminate, and it represents disorder and darkness.
Chaos has been linked with the term tohu wa-bohu of Genesis 1:2. The term may refer to a state of non-being prior to creation or to a formless state. In the Book of Genesis, the spirit of God is moving upon the face of the waters, and the earliest state of the universe is like a “watery chaos”. The Septuagint makes no use of χάος in the context of creation, instead using the term for גיא, “chasm, cleft”, in Micha 1:6 and Zacharia 14:4.
Of the certain uses of the word chaos in Theogony, in the creation the word is referring to a “gaping void” which gives birth to the sky, but later the word is referring to the gap between the earth and the sky, after their separation. A parallel can be found in the Genesis. In the beginning God creates the earth and the sky. The earth is “formless and void” (tohu wa-bohu), and later God divides the waters under the firmament from the waters over the firmament, and calls the firmament “heaven”.
Nevertheless, the term chaos has been adopted in religious studies as referring to the primordial state before creation, strictly combining two separate notions of primordial waters or a primordial darkness from which a new order emerges and a primordial state as a merging of opposites, such as heaven and earth, which must be separated by a creator deity in an act of cosmogony. In both cases, chaos referring to a notion of a primordial state contains the cosmos in potentia but needs to be formed by a demiurge before the world can begin its existence.
This model of a primordial state of matter has been opposed by the Church Fathers from the 2nd century, who posited a creation ex nihilo by an omnipotent God. In modern biblical studies, the term chaos is commonly used in the context of the Torah and their cognate narratives in Ancient Near Eastern mythology more generally. Parallels between the Hebrew Genesis and the Babylonian Enuma Elish were established by Hermann Gunkel in 1910. Besides Genesis, other books of the Old Testament, especially a number of Psalms, some passages in Isaiah and Jeremiah and the Book of Job are relevant.
Use of chaos in the derived sense of “complete disorder or confusion” first appears in Elizabethan Early Modern English, originally implying satirical exaggeration.
In Norse mythology, Ginnungagap (“gaping abyss”, “yawning void”) is the primordial void, mentioned in the Gylfaginning, the Eddaic text recording Norse cosmogony. Taken together, several stanzas from four poems collected in the Poetic Edda refer to Ymir, the ancestor of all jötnar, as a primeval being who was born from venom that dripped from the icy rivers Élivágar and lived in the grassless void of Ginnungagap.
Ymir birthed a male and female from the pits of his arms, and his legs together begat a six-headed being. The gods Odin, Vili and Vé fashioned the Earth (elsewhere personified as a goddess; Jörð) from his flesh, from his blood the ocean, from his bones the hills, from his hair the trees, from his brains the clouds, from his skull the heavens, and from his eyebrows the middle realm in which mankind lives, Midgard. In addition, one stanza relates that the dwarfs were given life by the gods from Ymir’s flesh and blood (or the Earth and sea).
Connections have been proposed between the 1st century figure of Tuisto and the hermaphroditic primeval being Ymir in later Norse mythology, attested in 13th century sources, based upon etymological and functional similarity. Meyer (1907) sees the connection as so strong, that he considers the two to be identical.
Lindow (2001), while mindful of the possible semantic connection between Tuisto and Ymir, notes an essential functional difference: while Ymir is portrayed as an “essentially … negative figure” – Tuisto is described as being “celebrated” (celebrant) by the early Germanic peoples in song, with Tacitus reporting nothing negative about Tuisto.
Jacob (2005) attempts to establish a genealogical relationship between Tuisto and Ymir based on etymology and a comparison with (post-)Vedic Indian mythology: as Tvastr, through his daughter Saranyū and her husband Vivaswān, is said to have been the grandfather of the twins Yama and Yami, so Jacob argues that the Germanic Tuisto (assuming a connection with Tvastr) must originally have been the grandfather of Ymir (cognate to Yama).
Incidentally, Indian mythology also places Manu (cognate to Germanic Mannus), the Vedic progenitor of mankind, as a son of Vivaswān, thus making him the brother of Yama/Ymir.
Tacitus relates that “ancient songs” (Latin carminibus antiquis) of the Germanic peoples celebrated Tuisto as “a god, born of the earth” (deum terra editum’). These songs further attributed to him a son, Mannus, who in turn had three sons, the offspring of whom were referred to asIngaevones, Herminones and Istaevones, living near the Ocean (proximi Oceano), in the interior (medii), and the remaining parts (ceteri) of the geographical region of Germania, respectively.
Tacitus’s report falls squarely within the ethnographic tradition of the classical world, which often fused anthropogony, ethnogony, and theogony together into a synthetic whole. The succession of father-son-three sons parallels occurs in both Germanic and non-Germanic Indo-European areas. The essential characteristics of the myth have been theorized as ultimately originating in Proto-Indo-European society around 2,000 BCE.
The sequence in which one god has a son, who has three famous sons, has a resemblance to how Búri has a son Borr who has three sons: Odin, Vili and Vé. The same tradition occurs with the Slavs and their expansion, in the legend of Lech, Čech and Rus.
Puruli was a Hattian spring festival, held at Nerik, dedicated to the earth goddess Hannahanna, who is married to a new king. The central ritual of the Puruli festival is dedicated to the destruction of the dragon Illuyanka by the storm god Teshub. The corresponding Assyrian festival is the Akitu of the Enuma Elish. Also compared are the Canaanite Poem of Baal and Psalms 93 and 29.
Purim, a Jewish holiday, falls at the full moon preceding the Passover, which was set by the full moon in Aries, which follows Pisces. The story of the birth of Christ is said to be a result of the spring equinox entering into the Pisces, as the “Savior of the World” appeared as the Fisher of Men. This parallels the entering into the Age of Pisces.
Nowruz (literally “New Day”) is the name of the Iranian New Year, also known as the Persian New Year, which is celebrated worldwide by Iranian peoples, along with some other ethno-linguistic groups, as the beginning of the New Year.
The Christian festival of Easter is celebrated in Latvia as Lieldienas. Before the arrival of Christianity, Lieldienas was a spring solstice event, celebrating the victory of light over darkness.
Lieldienas enters Holy Week with Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday, but Sunday will mark first Lieldienas. Second Lieldienas is on Monday of the following week. Each day has a special significance. Also, many pagan elements of celebrating Lieldienas have become a tradition.
Nowadays, the common date of Lieldienas is the first Sunday after the first full moon, after or during the vernal equinox. Thus, the Western Christian Church Lieldienas falls on a date between 22 March and 25 April. In Eastern Orthodox Churches, which used the Julian calendar, Lieldienas falls on a date between 4 April and 8 May in Gregorian calendar.
The Dísablót was the blót (sacrificial holiday) which was held in honour of the female spirits or deities called dísir (and the Valkyries), from pre-historic times until the Christianization of Scandinavia. Its purpose was to enhance the coming harvest.
The Dísablót appears to have been held during Winter Nights, or at the vernal equinox. In one version of Hervarar saga, there is a description of how the sacrifice was performed. Alfhildr, the daughter of king Alfr of Alfheim, was kidnapped by Starkad Aludreng while she was reddening a horgr with blood.
This suggests that the rite was performed by women, especially in light of what is generally believed to be their nearly exclusive role as priestesses of the pagan Germanic religion. However, according to the Ynglinga saga part of theHeimskringla, the king of Sweden performed the rites, which was in accordance with his role as high priest of theTemple at Uppsala.
In Sweden, the Dísablót was of central political and social importance. The festivities were held at the end of February or early March at Gamla Uppsala. It was held in conjunction with the great fair Disting and the great popular assembly called the Thing of all Swedes.
The Scandinavian dísablót is associated with the Anglo-Saxon modranect (“mothers’ night”), an event held at what is now Christmas Eve, by Gabriel Turville-Petre. The Anglo-Saxon month roughly equivalent to November was called blot-monath.
Scholars have proposed connections between the Anglo-Saxon Mōdraniht and events attested among other Germanic peoples (specifically those involving the dísir, collective female beings, and Yule) and the Germanic Matres and Matrones, female beings attested by way of altar and votive inscriptions, nearly always appearing in trios.
In the western liturgical year, Lady Day is the traditional name in some English speaking countries of the Feast of the Annunciation (25 March), known in the 1549 Prayer Book of Edward VI and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as “The Annunciation of the (Blessed) Virgin Mary” but more accurately (as currently in the 1997 Calendar of the Church of England) termed “The Annunciation of our Lord to the Blessed Virgin Mary”. It is the first of the four traditional English quarter days.
The “Lady” is the Virgin Mary. The term derives from Middle English, when some nouns lost their genitive inflections. “Lady” would later gain an -s genitive ending, and therefore the name means “Lady’s day”.
In England, Lady Day was New Year’s Day between 1155 and 1752, when 1 January was declared to be the official start of the year. A vestige of this remains in the United Kingdom’s tax year, which starts on 6 April, i.e., Lady Day adjusted for the lost days of the calendar change. Until this change Lady Day had been used as the start of the legal year.
This should be distinguished from the liturgical and historical year. It appears that in England and Wales, from at least the late 14th century, New Year’s Day was celebrated on 1 January as part of Yule.
As a year-end and quarter day that conveniently did not fall within or between the seasons for ploughing and harvesting, Lady Day was a traditional day on which year-long contracts between landowners and tenant farmers would begin and end in England and nearby lands (although there were regional variations). Farmers’ time of “entry” into new farms and onto new fields was often this day.
As a result, farming families who were changing farms would travel from the old farm to the new one on Lady Day. After the calendar change, “Old Lady Day” (5 April), the former date of the Annunciation, largely assumed this role. The date is significant in some of the works of Thomas Hardy, such as Tess of the d’Urbervilles and Far from the Madding Crowd.
The logic of using Lady Day as the start of the year is that it roughly coincides with Equinox (when the length of day and night is equal); many ancient cultures still use this time as the start of the new year, for example, the Iranian new year. In some traditions it also reckons years AD from the moment of the Annunciation, which is considered to take place at the moment of the conception of Jesus at the Annunciation rather than at the moment of his birth at Christmas. In Ireland, however, Lady’s Day means 15 August, the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, and is a day when fairs are celebrated in many country towns.
Mother’s Day is a modern celebration honoring one’s mother, as well as motherhood, maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers in society. It is celebrated on various days in many parts of the world, most commonly in the months of March or May.
The celebration of Mother’s Day began in the United States in the early 20th century; it is not related to the many celebrations of mothers and motherhood that have occurred throughout the world over thousands of years, such as the Greek cult to Cybele, the Roman festival of Hilaria (Greek: ἱλάρια; Latin: hilaris, “cheerful”), or the Christian Mothering Sunday celebration (originally a celebration of the mother church, not motherhood), a holiday celebrated by Catholic and Protestant Christians in some parts of Europe. Despite this, in some countries, Mother’s Day has become synonymous with these older traditions.
Hilaris, the ancient Roman religious festivals celebrated on the vernal equinox to honor Cybele, has it’s origin from the Greeks, who called it ΑΝΑΒΑΣΙΣ, q.d. Ascensus: the eve of that day they spent in tears and lamentations, and denominated it ΚΑΤΑΒΑΣΙΣ, Descensus. Afterwards, the Greeks took the name ΙΛΑΡΙΑ, from the Romans, as appears from Photius’s Bibliotheca, in his codex of the life of the philosopher Isidore of Alexandria.
The term seems originally to have been a name which was given to any day or season of rejoicing. The hilaria were, therefore, according to Maximus Monachus either private or public. Among the former, he thinks it the day on which a person married, and on which a son was born; among the latter, those days of public rejoicings appointed by a new emperor. Such days were devoted to general rejoicings and public sacrifices, and no one was allowed to show any symptoms of grief or sorrow.
But the Romans also celebrated hilaria, as a feria stativa, on March 25, the eighth day before the Kalends of April, in honor of Cybele, the mother of the gods; and it is probably to distinguish these hilaria from those mentioned above, that the Augustan History calls them Hilaria Matris Deûm.
The day of its celebration was the first after the vernal equinox, or the first day of the year which was longer than the night. The winter with its gloom had died, and the first day of a better season was spent in rejoicings. The manner of its celebration during the time of the republic is unknown, except that Valerius Maximus mentions games in honour of the mother of the gods.
Ishara (išḫara) is an ancient deity of unknown origin from northern modern Syria. She first appeared in Ebla and was incorporated to the Hurrian pantheon from which she found her way to the Hittite pantheon.
Ishara is a pre-Hurrian and perhaps pre-Semitic deities, later incorporated into the Hurrian pantheon. She was associated with the underworld. Her astrological embodiment is the constellation Scorpio and she is called the mother of the Sebitti (the Seven Stars) (Seux, 343).
As a goddess, Ishara could inflict severe bodily penalties to oathbreakers, in particular ascites (see Hittite military oath). In this context, she came to be seen as a “goddess of medicine” whose pity was invoked in case of illness. There was even a verb, isharis- “to be afflicted by the illness of Ishara”.
From the Hurrian Pantheon, Ishara entered the Hittite pantheon and had her main shrine in Kizzuwatna. Ishara is the Hittite word for “treaty, binding promise”, also personified as a goddess of the oath.
Ishara was well known in Syria from the third millennium BC. She became a great goddess of the Hurrian population. She was worshipped with Teshub and Simegi at Alakh, and also at Ugarit, Emar and Chagar Bazar. While she was considered to belong to the entourage of Ishtar, she was invoked to heal the sick (Lebrun).
In Hurrian and Semitic traditions, Išḫara is a love goddess, often identified with Ishtar. Her cult was of considerable importance in Ebla from the mid 3rd millennium, and by the end of the 3rd millennium, she had temples in Nippur, Sippar, Kish, Harbidum, Larsa, and Urum.
“Ishara first appears in the pre-Sargonic texts from Ebla and then as a goddess of love in Old Akkadian potency-incantations (Biggs). During the Ur III period she had a temple in Drehem and from the Old Babylonian time onwards, there were sanctuaries in Sippar, Larsa, and Harbidum. In Mari she seems to have been very popular and many women were called after her, but she is well attested in personal names in Babylonia generally up to the late Kassite period. Her main epithet was belet rame, lady of love, which was also applied to Ishtar. In the Epic of Gilgamesh (Tablet II, col. v.28) it says: ‘For Ishara the bed is made’ and in Atra-hasis (I 301-304) she is called upon to bless the couple on the honeymoon.”
The etymology of Ishara is unknown. The goddess appears from as early as the mid 3rd millennium as one of the chief goddesses of Ebla, and her name appears as an element in theophoric names in Mesopotamia in the later 3rd millennium (Akkad period), and into the first (Assyria), as in Tukulti-apil-esharra (i.e., Tiglath-Pileser).
Variants of the name appear as Ašḫara (in a treaty of Naram-Sin of Akkad with Hita of Elam) and Ušḫara (in Ugarite texts). In Ebla, there were various logographic spellings involving the sign AMA “mother”. In Alalah, her name was written with the Akkadogram IŠTAR plus a phonetic complement -ra, as IŠTAR-ra.
One of the most important goddesses of reconstructed Proto-Indo-European religion is the personification of dawn as a beautiful young woman. Her name is reconstructed as Hausōs (PIE *h₂ewsṓs- or *h₂ausōs-, an s-stem), besides numerous epithets.
Derivatives of *h₂ewsṓs in the historical mythologies of Indo-European peoples include Indian Uṣas, Greek Ἠώς (Ēōs), Latin Aurōra, and Baltic Aušra (“dawn”, c.f. Lithuanian Aušrinė). Germanic *Austrōn- is from an extended stem *h₂ews-tro-.
The name *h₂ewsṓs is derived from a root *h₂wes / *au̯es “to shine”, thus translating to “the shining one”. Both the English word east and the Latin auster “south” are from a root cognate adjective *aws-t(e)ro-. Also cognate is aurum “gold”, from *awso-.
The name for “spring season”, *wes-r- is also from the same root. The dawn goddess was also the goddess of spring, involved in the mythology of the Indo-European new year, where the dawn goddess is liberated from imprisonment by a god (reflected in the Rigveda as Indra, in Greek mythology as Dionysus and Cronus).
Besides the name most amenable to reconstruction, *h₂ewsṓs, a number of epithets of the dawn goddess may be reconstructed with some certainty. Among these is *wenos- (also an s-stem), whence Sanskrit vanas “loveliness; desire”, used of Uṣas in the Rigveda, and the Latin name Venus and the Norse Vanir. The name indicates that the goddess was imagined as a beautiful nubile woman, who also had aspects of a love goddess.
As a consequence, the love goddess aspect was separated from the personification of dawn in a number of traditions, including Roman Venus vs. Aurora, and Greek Aphrodite vs. Eos.
The name of Aphrodite Άφροδίτη may still preserve her role as a dawn goddess, etymologized as “she who shines from the foam [ocean]” (from aphros “foam” and deato “to shine”).
J.P. Mallory and Douglas Q. Adams (1997) have also proposed an etymology based on the connection with the Indo-European dawn goddess, from *abhor- “very” and *dhei “to shine”. Other epithets include Ἠριγόνη Erigone “early-born” in Greek.
The Italic goddess Mater Matuta “Mother Morning” has been connected to Aurora by Roman authors (Lucretius, Priscianus). Her festival, the Matralia, fell on 11 June, beginning at dawn.
The abduction and imprisonment of the dawn goddess, and her liberation by a heroic god slaying the dragon who imprisons her, is a central myth of Indo-European religion, reflected in numerous traditions. Most notably, it is the central myth of the Rigveda, a collection of hymns surrounding the Soma rituals dedicated to Indra in the New Year celebrations of the early Indo-Aryans.
Ēostre or Ostara is a Germanic divinity who, by way of the Germanic month bearing her name (Northumbrian: Ēosturmōnaþ; West Saxon: Ēastermōnaþ; Old High German: Ôstarmânoth), is the namesake of the festival of Easter in some languages. Theories connecting Ēostre with records of Germanic Easter customs, including hares and eggs, have been proposed.
Ēostre is attested solely by Bede in his 8th-century work The Reckoning of Time, where Bede states that during Ēosturmōnaþ (the equivalent of April), pagan Anglo-Saxons had held feasts in Eostre’s honor, but that this tradition had died out by his time, replaced by the Christian Paschal month, a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus.
By way of linguistic reconstruction, the matter of a goddess called *Austrō in the Proto-Germanic language has been examined in detail since the foundation of Germanic philology in the 19th century by scholar Jacob Grimm and others.
As the Germanic languages descend from Proto-Indo-European (PIE), historical linguists have traced the name to a Proto-Indo-European goddess of the dawn *H₂ewsṓs (→ *Ausṓs), from which descends the Common Germanic divinity from whom Ēostre and Ostara are held to descend.
Additionally, scholars have linked the goddess’s name to a variety of Germanic personal names, a series of location names (toponyms) in England, and, discovered in 1958, over 150 2nd century BCE inscriptions referring to the matronae Austriahenae.
Inanna and Tammuz
Inanna was the Sumerian goddess of love, fertility, and warfare. She was associated with the planet Venus, and was associated with the eastern fish of the last of the zodiacal constellations, Pisces, while her consort Dumuzi or Tammuz (“faithful or true son”), the name of a Sumerian god of food and vegetation, was associated with the contiguous first constellation, Aries.
In Babylonia, the month Tammuz was established in honor of the eponymous god Tammuz, who originated as a Sumerian shepherd-god, Dumuzid or Dumuzi, the consort of Inanna and, in his Akkadian form, the parallel consort of Ishtar.
The Levantine Adonis (“lord”), who was drawn into the Greek pantheon, was considered by Joseph Campbell among others to be another counterpart of Tammuz, son and consort.
Beginning with the summer solstice came a time of mourning in the Ancient Near East, as in the Aegean: the Babylonians marked the decline in daylight hours and the onset of killing summer heat and drought with a six-day “funeral” for the god.
Recent discoveries reconfirm him as an annual life-death-rebirth deity: tablets discovered in 1963 show that Dumuzi was in fact consigned to the Underworld himself, in order to secure Inanna’s release, though the recovered final line reveals that he is to revive for six months of each year.
In cult practice, the dead Tammuz was widely mourned in the Ancient Near East. Locations associated in antiquity with the site of his death include both Harran and Byblos, among others. It is quite possible that among other Judeans the Tammuz cult was not regarded as inconsistent with Yahwism. According to some scholars the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is built over a cave that was originally a shrine to Adonis-Tammuz.
Attis was the consort of Cybele in Phrygian and Greek mythology. His priests were eunuchs, the Galli, as explained by origin myths pertaining to Attis and castration. Attis was also a Phrygian god of vegetation, and in his self-mutilation, death, and resurrection he represents the fruits of the earth, which die in winter only to rise again in the spring.
One of the most popular legends in Armenian tradition involves Semiramis and an Armenian king, Ara the Beautiful. It is probably a variant of the passion of Cybele and the beautiful youth Attis, who is both her lover and son, and who is killed, only to rise from the dead with the coming of spring.
According to the legend, Semiramis had heard about the fame of the handsome Armenian king Ara, and she lusted after his image. Semiramis was enamored with Ara’s vigorous physical power and so sought to consummate with him. She asked Ara to marry her, but he refused; upon hearing this, she gathered the armies of Assyria and marched against Armenia.
During the battle, which may have taken place in the Ararat valley, Ara was slain by Semiramis. To avoid continuous warfare with the Armenians, Semiramis, reputed to be a sorceress, took his body and prayed to the gods to raise Ara from the dead. When the Armenians advanced to avenge their leader, she disguised one of her lovers as Ara and spread the rumor that the gods had brought Ara back to life, ending the war.
Baldr is a god in Norse mythology who is given a central role in the mythology. Despite this his precise function is rather disputed. He is often interpreted as the god of love, peace, forgiveness, justice, light or purity, but was not directly attested as a god of such. He is the second son of Odin and the goddess Frigg, and the husband of Nanna. Balder is seen as a vegetation god of the dying and rising type, like Adonis, Osiris and Dumuzi.
Pisces (♓) (Ancient Greek: Ἰχθύες Ikhthyes) is the twelfth astrological sign in the Zodiac, originating from the Pisces constellation. It spans the 330° to 360° of the zodiac, between 332.75° and 360° of celestial longitude.
Pisces is composed of two half-circles and a band, signifying the dual nature of man in both the physical world and the unseen realm. According to 20th century astrologer Robert Hand, the fish facing upwards away from the ecliptic is swimming towards the heavens, or is seeking spiritual illumination. The other fish swims along the ecliptic, concerning itself with material matters.
Under the tropical zodiac the sun transits this area on average between February 19 and March 20,[a] and under the sidereal zodiac, the sun transits this area between approximately March 13 and April 13. The symbol of the fish is derived from the ichthyocentaurs, who aided Aphrodite when she was born from the sea.
According to some tropical astrologers, the current astrological age is the Age of Pisces, while others maintain that it is the Age of Aquarius.
While the astrological sign Pisces per definition runs from elliptical longitude 330° to 0°, this position is now mostly covered by the constellation of Aquarius, due to the precession from when the constellation and the sign coincided. Today, the First Point of Aries, or the vernal equinox is in the Pisces constellation.
In Sidereal astrology, the sun currently transits the constellation of Pisces from approximately March 14 to April 14. Individuals born during these dates, depending on which system of astrology they subscribe to, may be called “Pisceans.”
Pisces originates from some composition of the Babylonian constellations Šinunutu “the great swallow” in current western Pisces, and Anunitum the Lady of the Heaven, at the place of the northern fish.
In the first Millennium BC texts known as the Astronomical Diaries, part of the constellation was also called DU.NU.NU (Rikis-nu.mi, “the fish cord or ribbon”).
Divine associations with Pisces include Poseidon/Neptune, Vishnu, Christ, Aphrodite, Eros, and Typhon. Pisces is associated with Aphrodite and Eros, who escaped from the monster Typhon by leaping into the sea and transforming themselves into fish.
In order not to lose each other, they tied themselves together with rope. The Romans adopted the Greek legend, with Venus and Cupid acting as the counterparts for Aphrodite and Eros. The knot of the rope is marked by Alpha Piscium (α Psc), also called Al-Rischa (“the cord” in Arabic).
Aries (♈) (meaning “ram”) is the first astrological sign in the Zodiac, spanning the first 30 degrees of celestial longitude (0°≤ λ <30°). Aries is the first fire sign in the zodiac, the other fire signs being Leo and Sagittarius. Individuals born during these dates, depending on which system of astrology they subscribe to, may be called Arians or Ariens.
Aries is now recognized as an official constellation, albeit as a specific region of the sky, by the International Astronomical Union. It was originally defined in ancient texts as a specific pattern of stars, and has remained a constellation since ancient times; it now includes the ancient pattern as well as the surrounding stars.
In the description of the Babylonian zodiac given in the clay tablets known as the MUL.APIN, a comprehensive table of the risings and settings of stars, which likely served as an agricultural calendar, the constellation now known as Aries was the final station along the ecliptic.
Modern-day Aries was known as MULLÚ.ḪUN.GÁ, “The Agrarian Worker” or “The Hired Man”. Although likely compiled in the 12th or 11th century BC, the MUL.APIN reflects a tradition which marks the Pleiades as the vernal equinox, which was the case with some precision at the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age.
The earliest identifiable reference to Aries as a distinct constellation comes from the boundary stones that date from 1350 to 1000 BC. On several boundary stones, a zodiacal ram figure is distinct from the other characters present.
The shift in identification from the constellation as the Agrarian Worker to the Ram likely occurred in later Babylonian tradition because of its growing association with Dumuzi the Shepherd. By the time the MUL.APIN was created—by 1000 BC—modern Aries was identified with both Dumuzi’s ram and a hired laborer. The exact timing of this shift is difficult to determine due to the lack of images of Aries or other ram figures.
In ancient Egyptian astronomy, Aries was associated with the god Amon-Ra, who was depicted as a man with a ram’s head and represented fertility and creativity. Because it was the location of the vernal equinox, it was called the “Indicator of the Reborn Sun”.
During the times of the year when Aries was prominent, priests would process statues of Amon-Ra to temples, a practice that was modified by Persian astronomers centuries later. Aries acquired the title of “Lord of the Head” in Egypt, referring to its symbolic and mythological importance.
In Hellenistic astrology, the constellation of Aries is associated with the golden ram of Greek mythology that rescued Phrixos and Helle on orders from Hermes, taking him to the land of Colchis.
Phrixos and Helle were the son and daughter of King Athamas and his first wife Nephele. The king’s second wife, Ino, was jealous and wished to kill his children. To accomplish this, she induced a famine in Boeotia, then falsified a message from the Oracle of Delphi that said Phrixos must be sacrificed to end the famine. Athamas was about to sacrifice his son atop Mount Laphystium when Aries, sent by Nephele, arrived.
Helle fell off of Aries’s back in flight and drowned in the Dardanelles, also called the Hellespont in her honor. After arriving, Phrixos sacrificed the ram to Zeus and gave the Fleece to Aeëtes of Colchis, who rewarded him with an engagement to his daughter Chalciope. Aeëtes hung its skin in a sacred place where it became known as the Golden Fleece and was guarded by a dragon. In a later myth, this Golden Fleece was stolen by Jason and the Argonauts.
Historically, Aries has been depicted as a crouched, wingless ram with its head turned towards Taurus. Ptolemy asserted in his Almagest that Hipparchus depicted Alpha Arietis as the ram’s muzzle, though Ptolemy did not include it in his constellation figure. Instead, it was listed as an “unformed star”, and denoted as “the star over the head”.
John Flamsteed, in his Atlas Coelestis, followed Ptolemy’s description by mapping it above the figure’s head. Flamsteed followed the general convention of maps by depicting Aries lying down.
Astrologically, Aries has been associated with the head and its humors. It was strongly associated with Mars, both the planet and the god. It was considered to govern Western Europe and Syria, and to indicate a strong temper in a person.
The First Point of Aries, the location of the vernal equinox, is named for the constellation. This is because the Sun crossed the celestial equator from south to north in Aries more than two millennia ago. Hipparchus defined it in 130 BC. as a point south of Gamma Arietis.
Because of the precession of the equinoxes, the First Point of Aries has since moved into Pisces and will move into Aquarius by around 2600 AD. The Sun now appears in Aries from late April through mid May, though the constellation is still associated with the beginning of spring.
Medieval Muslim astronomers depicted Aries in various ways. Astronomers like al-Sufi saw the constellation as a ram, modeled on the precedent of Ptolemy. However, some Islamic celestial globes depicted Aries as a nondescript four-legged animal with what may be antlers instead of horns. Some early Bedouin observers saw a ram elsewhere in the sky; this constellation featured the Pleiades as the ram’s tail.
The generally accepted Arabic formation of Aries consisted of thirteen stars in a figure along with five “unformed” stars, four of which were over the animal’s hindquarters and one of which was the disputed star over Aries’s head. Al-Sufi’s depiction differed from both other Arab astronomers’ and Flamsteed’s, in that his Aries was running and looking behind itself.
The obsolete constellations introduced in Aries (Musca Borealis, Lilium, Vespa, and Apes) have all been composed of the northern stars. Musca Borealis was created from the stars 33 Arietis, 35 Arietis, 39 Arietis, and 41 Arietis. In 1612, Petrus Plancius introduced Apes, a constellation representing a bee. In 1624, the same stars were used by Jakob Bartsch to create a constellation called Vespa, representing a wasp.
In 1679 Augustin Royer used these stars for his constellation Lilium, representing the fleur-de-lis. None of these constellation became widely accepted. Johann Hevelius renamed the constellation “Musca” in 1690 in his Firmamentum Sobiescianum.
To differentiate it from Musca, the southern fly, it was later renamed Musca Borealis but it did not gain acceptance and its stars were ultimately officially reabsorbed into Aries.
In 1922, the International Astronomical Union defined its recommended three-letter abbreviation, “Ari”. The official boundaries of Aries were defined in 1930 by Eugène Delporte as a polygon of 12 segments. Its right ascension is between 1h 46.4m and 3h 29.4m and its declination is between 10.36° and 31.22° in the equatorial coordinate system.
Under the tropical zodiac, the Sun transits this sign mostly between March 21 and April 19 each year. Under the sidereal zodiac, the sun currently transits Aries from 15 April to 15 May (approximately). Since 1900 the vernal equinox date ranged from March 20 at 08h (2000) to March 21 at 19h (1903) (all times UTC).
According to the Tropical system of astrology, the Sun enters the sign of Aries when it reaches the northern vernal equinox, which occurs around March 21.
Because the Earth takes approximately 365.25 days to go around the Sun, the precise time of the equinox is not the same each year, and generally will occur about 6 hours later each year, with a jump of a day (backwards) on leap years.
Taurus (Latin for “the Bull”; symbol: Taurus.svg, Unicode: ♉) is one of the constellations of the zodiac, which means it is crossed by the plane of the ecliptic. There are a number of features of interest to astronomers. Taurus hosts two of the nearest open clusters to Earth, the Pleiades and the Hyades, both of which are visible to the naked eye.
Taurus is a big and prominent constellation in the northern hemisphere’s winter sky, between Aries to the west and Gemini to the east; to the north lie Perseus and Auriga, to the southeast Orion, to the south Eridanus, and to the southwest Cetus.
In September and October, Taurus is visible in the evening along the eastern horizon. The most favorable time to observe Taurus in the night sky is during the months of December and January. By March and April, the constellation will appear to the west during the evening twilight.
Taurus is a large and prominent constellation in the northern hemisphere’s winter sky. It is one of the oldest constellations, dating back to at least the Early Bronze Age when it marked the location of the Sun during the spring equinox. Its importance to the agricultural calendar influenced various bull figures in the mythologies of Ancient Sumer, Akkad, Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, Greece, and Rome.
The identification of the constellation of Taurus with a bull is very old, certainly dating to the Chalcolithic, and perhaps even to the Upper Paleolithic. Michael Rappenglück of the University of Munich believes that Taurus is represented in a cave painting at the Hall of the Bulls in the caves at Lascaux (dated to roughly 15,000 BC), which he believes is accompanied by a depiction of the Pleiades.
The name “seven sisters” has been used for the Pleiades in the languages of many cultures, including indigenous groups of Australia, North America and Siberia. This suggests that the name may have a common ancient origin.
Taurus marked the point of vernal (spring) equinox in the Chalcolithic and the Early Bronze Age, from about 4000 BC to 1700 BC, after which it moved into the neighboring constellation Aries.
The Pleiades were closest to the Sun at vernal equinox around the 23rd century BC. In Babylonian astronomy, the constellation was listed in the MUL.APIN as Gugalanna (gu.gal.an.na) (the Great Bull of Heaven”), better known as the (GU.AN.NA) (“The Bull of Heaven”), a Sumerian deity as well as the constellation known today as Taurus, one of the twelve signs of the Zodiac.
Taurus was the constellation of the Northern Hemisphere’s Spring Equinox from about 3,200 bc. The equinox was considered the Sumerian New Year, Akitu, an important event in their religion. The story of the death of Gugalanna has been considered to represent the sun’s obscuring of the constellation as it rose on the morning of the equinox.
“Between the period of the earliest female figurines circa 4500 B.C. … a span of a thousand years elapsed, during which the archaeological signs constantly increase of a cult of the tilled earth fertilised by that noblest and most powerful beast of the recently developed holy barnyard, the bull – who not only sired the milk yielding cows, but also drew the plow, which in that early period simultaneously broke and seeded the earth. Moreover by analogy, the horned moon, lord of the rhythm of the womb and of the rains and dews, was equated with the bull; so that the animal became a cosmological symbol, uniting the fields and the laws of sky and earth.”
In the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the earliest works of literature, the goddess Inanna-Ishtar sends Taurus, the Bull of Heaven, to kill Gilgamesh for spurning her advances.
Gugalanna was sent by the gods to take retribution upon Gilgamesh for rejecting the sexual advances of the goddess Inanna. Gugalanna, whose feet made the earth shake, was slain and dismembered by Gilgamesh and his companion Enkidu. Inanna looked down from the city walls and Enkidu shook the haunches of the bull at her, threatening to do the same if he ever caught her. He is later killed for this impiety.
Gugalanna was the first husband of the Goddess Ereshkigal, the Goddess of the Realm of the Dead, a gloomy place devoid of light. It was to share the sorrow with her sister that Inanna later descends to the Underworld.
Some locate Gilgamesh as the neighboring constellation of Orion, facing Taurus as if in combat, while others identify him with the sun whose rising on the equinox vanquishes the constellation. In early Mesopotamian art, the Bull of Heaven was closely associated with Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of sexual love, fertility, and warfare.
One of the oldest depictions shows the bull standing before the goddess’ standard; since it has 3 stars depicted on its back (the cuneiform sign for “star-constellation”), there is good reason to regard this as the constellation later known as Taurus.
The same iconic representation of the Heavenly Bull was depicted in the Dendera zodiac, an Egyptian bas-relief carving in a ceiling that depicted the celestial hemisphere using a planisphere. In these ancient cultures, the orientation of the horns was portrayed as upward or backward. This differed from the later Greek depiction where the horns pointed forward.
To the Egyptians, the constellation Taurus was a sacred bull that was associated with the renewal of life in spring. When the spring equinox entered Taurus, the constellation would become covered by the Sun in the western sky as spring began. This “sacrifice” led to the renewal of the land. To the early Hebrews, Taurus was the first constellation in their zodiac and consequently it was represented by the first letter in their alphabet, Aleph.
In Greek mythology, Taurus was identified with Zeus, who assumed the form of a magnificent white bull to abduct Europa, a legendary Phoenician princess. In illustrations of Greek mythology, only the front portion of this constellation are depicted; this was sometimes explained as Taurus being partly submerged as he carried Europa out to sea.
A second Greek myth portrays Taurus as Io, a mistress of Zeus. To hide his lover from his wife Hera, Zeus changed Io into the form of a heifer. Greek mythographer Acusilaus marks the bull Taurus as the same that formed the myth of the Cretan Bull, one of The Twelve Labors of Heracles.
Alalu – El – Enlil
As the constellation Taurus marked the vernal equinox, it was also the first constellation in the Babylonian zodiac and they described it as “The Bull in Front”. The Akkadian name was Alu.
Alalu is god in Hurrian mythology. He is considered to have housed “the Hosts of Sky”, the divine family, because he was a progenitor of the gods, and possibly the father of Earth.
The name “Alalu” is a compound word made up of the definite article al and the supreme deity Alu. The -u at the end of the word is an inflectional ending; thus, Alalu may also occur as Alali or Alala depending on the position of the word in the sentence. He was identified by the Greeks as Hypsistos. He was also called Alalus.
Alalu was a primeval deity of the Hurrian mythology. After nine years of reign, Alalu was defeated by his son Anu (the sky). Anuʻs son Kumarbi, the chief god of the Hurrians, also defeated his father, and his son, the storm-god Teshub, defeated him, too. Alalu fled to the underworld.
Scholars have pointed out the similarities between the Hurrian creation myth and the story from Greek mythology of Uranus, Cronus, and Zeus. Kumarbi was identified by the Hurrians with Sumerian Enlil, and by the Ugaritians with El, by the Greeks with Cronus, by the Romans with Saturn, and in Norse mythology with Njörðr, the chief god among the Vanir.
Alulim was the first king of Eridu, and the first king of Sumer, according to the mythological antediluvian section of the Sumerian King List. Enki, the god of Eridu, is said to have brought civilization to Sumer at this point, or just shortly before. Professor William Wolfgang Hallo notes that Alulim’s name means “Stag”.
The Sumerian King List has the following entry for Alulim: “After the kingship descended from heaven, the kingship was in Eridug (Eridu). In Eridug, Alulim became king; he ruled for 28,800 years.”
In a chart of antediluvian generations in Babylonian and Biblical traditions, Hallo associates Alulim with the composite half-man, half-fish counselor or culture hero (Apkallu) Uanna-Adapa (Oannes), and suggests an equivalence between Alulim and Enosh in the Sethite genealogy given in Genesis chapter 5.
William H. Shea suggests that Alulim was a contemporary of the biblical figure Adam, who may have been derived from Adapa of ancient Mesopotamian religion.