Athena's Web Weekly Column

Week of January 17th - January 23rd,  2003

Splitting Heaven Asunder

Columns Archive

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Heracles

Heracles

   Over the last few weeks we have been examining some of the earliest myths of time; myths which extend so far back in the chronological record that we're really uncertain about the date of their origin. One of the hypotheses of Marija Gumbutas (based upon evidence from the archaeological record) is that there was a symbolic shorthand which evolved between 7,000 to 5,000 BC in "Old Europe", a geographic area including modern day Italy, Greece and Eastern Europe. Astrologically, this makes perfect sense as this falls during the Age of Gemini, a sign associated with communication. New ways of 'writing' and transmitting this 'language' were in their rudimentary stages of development during this period, from 6400 BC to 4300 BC. Part of this theory presupposes that groupings of chevrons or depictions of women with incredibly narrow waists and grotesquely over sized buttocks were not based upon a lack of artistic skill, but rather represented a motif which would be employed to represent a code to those familiar with the symbolism, in the same way that the two beams of wood nailed together at right angles represents so much more than simply a cross for Christians.

Greek Goddess, c. 6,000 BC

Greek Goddess,
c. 6,000 BC

In our last few editions of the WEB, we have been postulating that several of the dualistic themes which seem to weave their way through many of the oldest myths of creation may, in fact, extend back to this period of time. Associations of birds, twins, serpents, serpents split in half, two headed serpents, etc. may represent a part of this 'symbolic shorthand' for a sky picture of their moment in time.

   Another myth which fits the pattern was that of the Mesopotamian hero Izhdubar, who bested the dragon Ti'amat just as Marduk had, by driving a wind into her open jaws to split her in two, but without the benefit of the arrow. Izhdubar has commonly been linked to Hercules mythologically. Izhdubar is shown on a cylinder seal of about 3000 to 3500 BC, and therefore extends back at least this far, and like Hercules is resting on one knee, with his foot on the dragon's head. According the Richard Allen's Star Names,

   "His well-known adventures are supposed to refer to the sun's passage through the twelve zodiacal signs, appearing thus on tablets of the 7th century before Christ. This myth of several thousand years' antiquity may have been adopted by Greece, and the solar hero changed into Hercules with his twelve familiar labors."

   Allen also states that Hercules is one of the oldest sky figures. If we use the equatorial system of observation (as opposed to the ecliptic), whose North Pole is currently marked by Polaris, and whose beginning is defined as 0 hours Right Ascension (the Vernal Equinox), the principle stars of the constellation Hercules (alpha, beta, gamma, delta, epsilon, zeta, and eta) from about 6000 to 3900 BC were all crossing 12 hours Right Ascension, marking the half way point of our 24 hour rotation.

Hercules

Hercules in 4228 BC
when Kornephoros was at 12 hours Right Ascension
(marking the half way point of heaven)

   In other words, this myth is bound up with those which seem to offer themes of duality. For the 2,000 years during which Gemini was marked by the Vernal Equinox, the constellation Hercules cut heaven in half, just as the ancient myths from these bygone cultures are trying to tell us.

   Unfortunately, it's lost something in translation.

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