CPAK 2012 Conference on Precession and Ancient Knowledge

Athena's Web Weekly Column

  Week of June 15th - June 21st,  2012

Off the Beaten Track

Columns Archive



The Warao Indians

        Our Serpentine Structure has been up hill and down, riding high over both sea and sand, mountain and valley, occasionally peeking down at us from behind some wandering nocturnal cloud. Over the years we have followed that trail of this creature from one continent to another, across a wide span of centuries. Even so, it's not often we have ventured into South America.

        Long, long ago the Dragon (the constellation Draco) commanded a dynasty in the north central skies that lasted for literally thousands of years. As the stars of Serpens and Scorpio crossed the Autumnal Equinox at the end of the 4th millennia, two of our four cardinal points were marked by venomous constellations. Look far enough back, and you'll see the stars of the Hydra interweaving with the Celestial Equator. Even the cycle of the lunar nodes was known as the Dragon's Head and Tail. In this extended form, this King of the Serpents became a metaphor for Time itself, mythically winding its sinewy body in venomous form up, down and around so as to become One with the Great Circles of Heaven. North, South, East and West, all were held in the four-toed claw, as the Japanese saw it, of a Dragon.


The Delta located in the Northeast corner

        But with Time the constellational picture gallery began to change. The stars of Serpens and Scorpio slithered aside at the start of the 3rd millennia BC, and the mythological imagination began to slowly release its grip on this multi-serpentine focus.

        This central theme of 'Center and Circle' comes up again and again in northern mythologies, where the Center (a hidden treasure) is protected by a great dragon. This theme is so pervasive that it's footprint can be found even in the Warao Indians of the Orinoco delta in Venezuela, but with a twist.

        Because they live so close to the equator, the North Celestial Pole, when it can be seen at all, rides just along the horizon, never climbing very high in the sky where it can really be observed. It is not at all prominent. To the Warao it makes more sense to use the zenith, the point right overhead anyone under the celestial dome at any given time. Technical difficulties with the standard model in this location flushed an alternative, but the memory and stamp of the more universal system is found even here.

        Unlike many other indigenous tribes that link the serpent stars with the Axis Mundi, the Warao Indians equate a local snake, albeit blind (Leptotyphlops), as the axis of their creation. For them, there is a knotted snake inter-locked at the base of the world axis. It marks the four cardinal directions and is called the Goddess of the Nadir. The entire cosmology, of sky, earth, ocean and horizon- "is shouldered by the solid, featureless subterranean realm of the four-headed serpent." Here is our Serpent and the four cardinal points from other myths again. For the Warao another great snake known as the Snake of Being resides in the Sea and encircles the Earth. This sounds like clues of the Midgard Serpent from Norse tradition. To quote Dr. Krupp from Echoes of the Ancient Skies,


The Dragon's 'hook'
mirrors Draco in the night skies
(Thanks to Rebecca Kemp)

        "The earth, they say, is surrounded by water that extends in every direction to meet the circular horizon at the rim of the cosmos. Below the surface of this encircling ocean lives a great serpent, the Snake of Being. The Warao myths treat this great snake as the source of all life, the womb of the world. Her body surrounds the earth, and her tail meets her head in the east, the direction they associate with life and creation."

        Center and Circle.

        Ths sounds like seeds from the Pelasgian Creation myth.

        Except that in this location and for this tribe the 'Center' is the zenith, and not the North Celestial Pole. Nevertheless, the mythology that accompanies the mythologies of the Dragon on the Earth's axis is superimposed onto the pillar of the imaginary zenith. In their beliefs, during the shaman's ascent to the star realms "a snake enters the room by extending itself vertically, right through the floor. Its plumed head hooks over, a luminous white globe appears from its mouth."

        The 'hook' is the way the constellation Draco actually bends his head in heaven, while the luminous white orb is of course the Sun, which, because they live just off the equator, runs right over and through the middle of their world's sky, year after year.

        The mythological structure of the world's cosmology, adapted to fit to a local stellar perturbation.


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