Understanding of the stars
Posted by Fredsvenn on May 25, 2016
The Fixed Stars were so called by the ancients to distinguish them from the Planets, or Wanderers, which are heavenly bodies moving perceptibly across the sphere of the Zodiac. Fixed Stars do not move across the ecliptic in the same way as planets do and in classical times were believed to be fixed to a gigantic celestial sphere, which twirled in a stately dance around the Earth every single day.
Fixed Stars appear to be stationary, relative to the Earth and to each other, and are grouped into symbolic patterns called constellations (although they do travel due to precession at a rate of less than one minute per year, so needing some seventy-two years to move slightly more than one degree of arc).
In modern times, these stars have also been shown to have real motion of their own, as the galaxies appear to be rotating and expanding, although this is not possible to see with the naked eye. This discovery led scientists to propose the Big Bang Theory of the origins of the universe.
In the tropical cosmological picture, fixed stars do not lie within the tropical zodiac of the signs, which is a symbolic map; they are all beyond it in the constellations. Some of the fixed stars, particularly those near the ecliptic and of significant magnitude, have been found to exert considerable influence. The images on which our zodiac is based are, of course, patterns drawn from constellations of fixed stars, but the constellations are no longer exactly the same as the Signs of the Zodiac.
For example, thanks to the precession of the equinoxes, fixed stars in the constellation of Scorpio can nowadays be found in the tropical sign, Sagittarius. The individual stars nevertheless have a definite influence in themselves, adding a deeper level of meaning to the interpretation of the figure in question.
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. 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, one of the best known open clusters, easily visible to the naked eye, lie in the northeastern quadrant of the Taurus constellation. They were closest to the Sun at vernal equinox around the 23rd century BC. The seven most prominent stars in this cluster are at least visual magnitude six, and so the cluster is also named the “Seven Sisters”.
In Babylonian astronomy, the constellation was listed in the MUL.APIN asGU.AN.NA, “The Bull of Heaven”. As this constellation 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.
In the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the earliest works of literature, the goddess Ishtar sends Taurus, the Bull of Heaven, to kill Gilgamesh for spurning her advances. 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.
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. Taurus became an important object of worship among the Druids. Their Tauric religious festival was held while the Sun passed through the constellation.
Taurus is often associated with royalty and divine power. Throughout the ages Aldebaran has been spiritually recognized for its alignment with divinity. “… there is a symbolic relation between Aldebaran, the “eye” in the head of the Bull; the third eye, or the light in the head, and the diamond. The consciousness of the Buddha has been called the ‘diamond-eye.'”
In Buddhism, legends hold that Gautama Buddha was born when the Full Moon was in Vaisakha, or Taurus. Buddha’s birthday is celebrated with the Wesak Festival, or Vesākha, which occurs on the first or second Full Moon when the Sun is in Taurus.
The Hindus referred to Aldebaran and Taurus as Rohini (the Red Deer), the name of the river in Nepal where the Buddha was born at the time of the May full moon, around 563 BCE. In Hindu astrology, Aldebaran corresponds to the Rohini Nakshatra (“the red one”), also known as brāhmī, and the Pleiades; personified as the nurses of Kārttikeya, a son of Shiva, is called Krittika.
The brightest member of Taurus is Aldebaran. Its name derives from al-dabarān, Arabic for “the follower”, probably from the fact that it follows the Pleiades during the nightly motion of the celestial sphere across the sky. Astrologically, Aldebaran is a fortunate star, portending riches and honor. This star, named “Tascheter” by the Persians, is one of the four “royal stars” of the Persians from around 3000 BC.
In addition to the star Aldebaran, there are two other very beautiful and famous star clusters in the constellation of Taurus; the Hyades at the head of the bull forming the profile of a Bull’s face is a V or A-shaped asterism of stars, and the Pleiades in the shoulder.
This outline is created by prominent members of the Hyades, the nearest distinct open star cluster after the Ursa Major Moving Group. In this profile, Aldebaran forms the bull’s bloodshot eye, which has been described as “glaring menacingly at the hunter Orion”, a constellation that lies just to the southwest.
As the Eye of the Bull, Aldebaran is called the Eye of Revelation. It is also known as the Buddha’s star, the Star of Illumination, and God’s Eye. Another Hindu name for Aldebaran is Sataves, which translates to the “leader of the western stars.”
This magnificent star has been used for centuries in navigation, and is known by many civilizations to be connected with the spirits of rain and the fertility of the earth. Approximately 5,000 years ago, the rising of Aldebaran marked the vernal equinox and marked the beginning of the Babylonian New Year. It is referred to by astronomers and cosmologists as the Eastern Royal Star, one of the four Royal Stars considered the sentinels watching over other stars.
Nakshatra is the term for lunar mansion in Hindu astrology. A nakshatra is one of 28 (sometimes also 27) sectors along the ecliptic. Their names are related to the most prominent asterisms in the respective sectors. The starting point for the nakshatras is the point on the ecliptic directly opposite to the star Spica called Chitrā in Sanskrit (other slightly different definitions exist). It is called Meshādi or the “start of Aries”. The ecliptic is divided into each of the nakshatras eastwards starting from this point.
The number of nakshatras reflects the number of days in a sidereal month (modern value: 27.32 days), the width of a nakshatra traversed by the Moon in about one day. Each nakshatra is further subdivided into four quarters (or padas). These play a role in popular Hindu astrology, where each pada is associated with a syllable, conventionally chosen as the first syllable of the given name of a child born when the Moon was in the corresponding pada.
The nakshatras of traditional bhartiya astronomy are based on a list of 28 asterisms found in the Atharvaveda (AVŚ 19.7) and also in the Shatapatha Brahmana. The first astronomical text that lists them is the Vedanga Jyotisha. In classical Hindu scriptures (Mahabharata, Harivamsa), the creation of the nakshatras is attributed to Daksha. They are personified as daughters of the deity and as wives of Chandra, the Moon god, or alternatively the daughters of Kashyapa, the brother of Daksha.
Each of the nakshatras is governed as ‘lord’ by one of the nine graha in the following sequence: Ketu (South Lunar Node), Shukra (Venus), Surya (Sun), Chandra (Moon), Mangala (Mars), Rahu (North Lunar Node), Brihaspati (Jupiter), Shani (Saturn) and Budha (Mercury). This cycle repeats itself three times to cover all 27 nakshatras. The lord of each nakshatra determines the planetary period known as the dasha, which is considered of major importance in forecasting the life path of the individual in Hindu astrology.
In Vedic Sanskrit, the term nákṣatra may refer to any heavenly body, or to “the stars” collectively. The classical concept of a “lunar mansion” is first found in the Atharvaveda, and becomes the primary meaning of the term in Classical Sanskrit.
Royal Stars of Persia
The Royal Stars of Persia are Aldebaran, Regulus, Antares and Fomalhaut. They were regarded as the guardians of the sky in approximately 3000 BCE during the time in the area of modern day Iran. It was believed that the sky was divided into four districts with each district being guarded by one of the four Royal Stars. The stars were believed to hold both good and evil power and people looked upon them for guidance in scientific calculations of the sky, such as the calendar and lunar/solar cycles, and for predictions about the future.
Although there is mention of the Royal Stars influencing the ancient Egyptians in roughly 5,000 BCE, they were noted when the ancient Persian prophet Zarathustra mentioned them in the Bundahishn, the collection of Zoroastrian cosmogony and cosmology, in approximately 1,500 BC.
The reason why they are called “Royal” is that they appear to stand aside from the other stars in the sky. The four stars, Aldebaran, Regulus, Antares, Fomalhaut, are the brightest stars in their constellations, as well as being part of the twenty five brightest stars in the sky, and were considered the four guardians of the heavens. They marked the seasonal changes of the year and marked the equinoxes and solstices.
Aldebaran watched the Eastern sky and was the dominant star in the Taurus constellation, Regulus watched the North and was the dominant star in the Leo constellation, Antares watched the West and was the alpha star in Scorpio, and Fomalhaut watched the Southern sky and was the brightest star in Piscis Austrinus (sharing the same longitude with the star Sadalmelik which is the predominant star in Aquarius). These stars were chosen in such way that they were approximately 6 hours apart in right ascension.
Each of these stars was assigned to a season, Aldebaran was prominent in the March sky and as such, it was associated with the vernal equinox and Antares marked the autumnal equinox, while Regulus marked the Summer Solstice and Fomalhaut the Winter Solstice. While watching the sky, the dominant star would appear in its season, each having a time of the year when most noticeable. Regulus was seen as the main star because it was in the constellation of Leo, giving it the power of the lion, signifying the strength of kings with large implications.
The constellations of the Royal Stars were said to be fixed because their positions were close to the four fixed points of the sun’s path. The sun was then surrounded by four bright stars at the beginning of every season. From this observation individuals began to denote them the Royal Stars.
By 700 BCE the Nineveh and Assyrians had essentially mapped the ecliptic cycle because of the four stars and were in result able to map the constellations, distinguishing them from the planets and the fixed stars. From this, in 747 BCE the Babylonian King Nabu-nasir adopted a calendar derived from information based on the four stars, one following an eight-year cycle and one a nineteen-year cycle (later adopting the nineteen-year calendar as standard).
The Royal Stars were used primarily for navigation. They were also believed to govern events in the world. Major disasters, breakthroughs, and historical phenomenons were seen as caused by the stars and their alignment in the sky during the time in which the event occurred.
When the stars were aligned accordingly, favourable conditions followed, and when they were negatively aligned, disaster was predicted. Because Regulus was the most influential of the Royal Stars, events that took place while Regulus was in dominance were amplified and grave, foreshadowing destruction.
The four royal stars with their modern and ancient names:
Aldebaran (Alpha Tauri – Watcher of the East – Tascheter) Vernal Equinox is the brightest star in the constellation Taurus
Regulus (Alpha Leonis – Watcher of the South – Venant) Summer Solstice is the brightest star in the constellation Leo
Antares (Alpha Scorpii – Watcher of the West – Satevis) Autumnal Equinox is the brightest star in the constellation Scorpius
Fomalhaut (Alpha Piscis – Watcher of the North – Haftorang/Hastorang) Winter Solstice is the brightest star in the constellation Piscis Austrinus
The four sons of Horus
The four sons of Horus were a group of four gods in Egyptian religion, who were essentially the personifications of the four canopic jars, which accompanied mummified bodies.
Since the heart was thought to embody the soul, it was left inside the body. The brain was thought only to be the origin of mucus, so it was reduced to liquid, removed with metal hooks, and discarded. This left the stomach (and small intestines), liver, large intestines, and lungs, which were removed, embalmed and stored each organ in its own jar.
There were times when embalmers deviated from this scheme: during the 21st Dynasty they embalmed and wrapped the viscera and returned them to the body, while the Canopic jars remained empty symbols.
The earliest reference to the sons of Horus the Elder is found in the Pyramid Texts where they are described as friends of the king, as they assist the king in his ascension to heaven in the eastern sky by means of ladders. Their association with Horus the Elder specifically goes back to the Old Kingdom when they were said not only to be his children but also his souls.
As the king, or Pharaoh was seen as a manifestation of, or especially protected by, Horus, these parts of the deceased pharaoh, referred to as the Osiris, were seen asparts of Horus, or rather, his children, an association that did not diminish with each successive pharaoh.
Since Horus was their father, so Isis, Horus’s original wife in the early mythological phase, was usually seen as their mother, although Hathor was also believed to be their mother, though in the details of the funerary ritual each son, and therefore each canopic jar, was protected by a particular goddess. Others say their mother was Serket, goddess of medicine and magic.
Just as the sons of Horus protected the contents of a canopic jar, the king’s organs, so they in turn were protected. As they were male in accordance with the principles of male/female duality their protectors were female.
Imsety – human form – direction South – protected the liver – protected by Isis
Duamutef – jackal form – direction East – protected the stomach – protected by Neith
Hapi – baboon form – direction North – protected the lungs – protected by Nephthys
Qebehsenuef – hawk form – direction West – protected the intestines – protected by his mother Serket
The classic depiction of the four sons of Horus on Middle Kingdom coffins show Imsety and Duamutef on the eastern side of the coffin and Hapi and Qebehsenuef on the western side. The eastern side is decorated with a pair of eyes and the mummy was turned on its side to face the east and the rising sun; therefore, this side is sometimes referred to as the front. The sons of Horus also became associated with the cardinal compass points, so that Hapi was the north, Imsety the south, Duamutef the east and Qebehsenuef the west. Their brother was Ihy, son of Hathor.
Until the end of the 18th Dynasty the canopic jars had the head of the king, but later they were shown with animal heads. Inscriptions on coffins and sarcophagi from earliest times showed them usually in animal form.
The reasons for attributing these four animals to the sons of Horus are not known, although we may point to other associations which these animals have in Egyptian mythology. The baboon is associated with the moon and Thoth, the god of wisdom and knowledge, and also the baboons which chatter when the sun rises raising their hands as if in worship. The jackal (or possibly dog) is linked to Anubis and the act of embalming and also Wepwawet the “opener of the ways” who seeks out the paths of the dead. The hawk is associated with Horus himself and also Seker the mummified necropolis god. Imseti, the human, may be linked to Osiris himself or Onuris the hunter.
The Egyptians themselves linked them with the ancient kings of Lower and Upper Egypt, the Souls of Pe and Nekhen. In Spells 112 and 113 of the Book of the Dead which have their origins in the earlier Coffin Texts Spells 157 and 158, it is described how Horus has his eye injured, and because of this is given the sons of Horus: As for Imsety, Hapy, Duamutef, Qebehsenuef, their father is Horus, their mother Isis. And Horus said to Ra, place two brothers in Pe, two brothers in Nekhen from this my troupe, and to be with me assigned for eternity. The land may flourish, the turmoil be quenched. It happened for Horus who is upon his papyrus-column. I know the powers of Pe; it is Horus, it is Imsety, it is Hapy.
The injury of Horus’s eye is part of the myth cycle known as the Contending of Horus and Set recounting how they fought over the crown of Egypt. In a unique illustration in the tomb of Ay the sons of Horus are shown wearing the red and white crowns as the Souls of Pe and Nekhen, the souls of the royal ancestors. The attributes of the sons of Horus are not limited to their role as the protectors of canopic jars. They appear as the four rudders of heaven in Spell 148 of the Book of the Dead, as four of the seven celestial spirits summoned by Anubis in Spell 17 of the Book of the Dead and through this are linked to the circumpolar stars of the Great Bear (or Plough): “The tribunal around Osiris is Imset, Hapy, Duamutef, Qebehsenuf, these are at the back of the Plough constellation of the northern sky.”
Guardians of the Directions
The Guardians of the Directions (Sanskrit: Dikpāla) are the deities who rule the specific directions of space according to Hinduism and Vajrayāna Buddhism —especially Kālacakra. As a group of eight deities, they are called Aṣṭa-Dikpāla, literally meaning guardians of eight directions. They are often augmented with two extra deities for the ten directions (the two extra directions being zenith and nadir), when they are known as the Daśa-dikpāla.
In Hinduism it is traditional to represent their images on the walls and ceilings of Hindu temples. Ancient Java and Bali Hinduism recognizeNava-Dikpāla, literally meaning guardians of nine directions that consist of eight directions with one addition in the center. The nine guardian gods of directions is called Dewata Nawa Sanga (Nine guardian devata), the diagram of these guardian gods of directions is featured in Surya Majapahit, the emblem of Majapahit empire.
The Four Symbols
There are strong similarities between the concept of the guardians of the directions and the lore surrounding the Chinese four symbols, four ancestral spirits who are responsible for four of the cardinal directions (North, South, East, and West).
The Four Symbols are four mythological creatures in the Chinese constellations. They are the Azure Dragon of the East, the Vermilion Bird of the South, the White Tiger of the West, and the Black Turtle of the North. Each one of them represents a direction and a season, and each has its own individual characteristics and origins. Symbolically and as part of spiritual and religious belief, they have been culturally important in China, Korea, Vietnam, and Japan.
The four beasts each represent a season. The Azure Dragon of the East represents Spring, the Vermilion Bird of the South represents Summer, the White Tiger of the West represents Autumn, and the Black Turtle of the North represents Winter.
These mythological creatures have also been synthesized into the 5 element system. The Azure Dragon of the East represents Wood, the Vermilion Bird of the South represents Fire, the White Tiger of the West represents Metal, and the Black Turtle (or Dark Warrior) of the North represents Water. In this system, the fifth element Earth is represented by theYellow Dragon of the Center.
The Wu Xing, also known as the Five Elements, Five Phases, the Five Agents, the Five Movements, Five Processes, the Five Steps/Stages and the Five Planets is the short form of “Wu zhong liu xing zhi chi” or “the five types of chi dominating at different times”.
It is a fivefold conceptual scheme that many traditional Chinese fields used to explain a wide array of phenomena, from cosmic cycles to the interaction between internal organs, and from the succession of political regimes to theproperties of medicinal drugs.
The “Five Phases” are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. This order of presentation is known as the “mutual generation” sequence. In the order of “mutual overcoming”, they are Wood, Earth, Water, Fire, and Metal.
The doctrine of five phases describes two cycles, a generating or creation cycle, also known as “mother-son”, and an overcoming or destruction cycle, also known as “grandfather-nephew”, of interactions between the phases. Within Chinese medicine the effects of these two main relations are further elaborated.
The system of five phases was used for describing interactions and relationships between phenomena. After it came to maturity in the second or first century BCE during the Han dynasty, this device was employed in many fields of early Chinese thought, including seemingly disparate fields such as geomancy or Feng shui, astrology, traditional Chinese medicine, music, military strategy, and martial arts. The system is still used as a reference in some forms of complementary and alternative medicine and martial arts.
The Four Heavenly Kings
In Buddhism, the Four Heavenly Kings are four gods, each of whom watches over one cardinal direction of the world. In Chinese, they are known collectively as the “Fēng Tiáo Yǔ Shùn”; literally: “Good climate”) or “Sì Dà Tiānwáng” (literally: “Four Great Heavenly Kings”).
The Four Heavenly Kings are said to currently live in the Cāturmahārājika heaven (Pali Cātummahārājika, “Of the Four Great Kings”) on the lower slopes of Mount Sumeru, which is the lowest of the six worlds of the devas of the Kāmadhātu. They are the protectors of the world and fighters of evil, each able to command a legion of supernatural creatures to protect the Dharma.
All four serve Śakra, the lord of the Devas of Trāyastriṃśa. On the 8th, 14th and 15th days of each lunar month, the Four Heavenly Kings either send out messengers or go themselves to see how virtue and morality are faring in the world of men. Then they report upon the state of affairs to the assembly of theTrāyastriṃśa devas.
On the orders of Śakra, the four kings and their retinues stand guard to protect Trāyastriṃśa from another attack by the Asuras, which once threatened to destroy the kingdom of the devas. They are also vowed to protect the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Buddha’s followers from danger.
According to Vasubandhu, devas born in the Cāturmahārājika heaven are 1/4 of a krośa in height (about 750 feet tall). They have a five-hundred-year lifespan, of which each day is equivalent to 50 years in our world; thus their total lifespan amounts to about nine million years (other sources say 90,000 years).
The symbols that the Kings carry also link the deities to their followers; for instance, the nāgas, magical creatures who can change form between human and serpent, are led by Virūpākṣa, represented by a snake; the gandharvas are celestial musicians, led by Dhṛtarāṣṭra, represented with a lute. The umbrella was a symbol of regal sovereignty in ancient India, and the sword is a symbol of martial prowess. Vaiśravaṇa’s mongoose, which ejects jewels from its mouth, is said to represent generosity in opposition to greed.