The Age of Aquarius. We've all heard this phrase, but what exactly does it mean, and does it have any significance in other than astrological terms? We currently find ourselves in that grey, transitional area between the Age of Pisces and that of Aquarius, and soon the "New Age" will dawn. But what do the signs of the Zodiac really mean for us? It is quite possible that they are a clue which points to some deeper meaning surrounding our presence here on Earth. And it may very well also be that someone, some impossibly ancient group of people, was trying to tell us something through the constellations of the Zodiac.
The notion of the Ages of different houses of the Zodiac has come to us from ancient times, and is based on somewhat complex astronomical observations and knowledge. Looking at it from a scientific point of view, the Ages represent a sort of mathematical code which describes the journey of our planet Earth in its orbit around the Sun, and its relationship to the Sun, the Moon and the other planets, and what effects these bodies produce on the Earth through the influence of gravity.
The knowledge comes to us from master astronomers, mathematicians and builders from the distant past; people who predated Galileo by thousands of years. They observed and understood every aspect of the complex relationships between the Earth and the other celestial bodies.
To gain some insight into what these ancient scientists knew, a basic understanding of astronomy is required. To an observer on Earth, the Sun will rise in the East, and the careful observer will notice that it does not always rise at exactly the same point on the horizon during the solar year. The Sun will be seen to slowly shift its point of rising at each dawn, sweeping from an extreme south-easterly point to an extreme north-easterly point, and then back again, taking a full year to complete this cycle.
During this solar year, there are four special times, or positions of the sun: The Winter Solstice (the Sun's most southerly rising point); the Summer Solstice (the Sun's most northerly rising point); the Spring (or Vernal) Equinox (when day and night are of equal duration, and the Sun rises exactly due East); and the Autumn Equinox (when again, the Sun rises exactly due East, and day and night are the same length).
Now the Sun rises against an ever-changing backdrop of stars where the constellations of the Zodiac have been mapped out. The plane of the Earth's orbit around the Sun is called the ecliptic, and the 12 constellations are distributed evenly around this plane so that each constellation occupies roughly 30° of the 360° circle which defines the ecliptic. That they are distributed evenly is intriguing in itself.
Each month as the Earth travels along its orbit, the Sun will appear to rise against a different backdrop of stars, containing a different constellation of the Zodiac, taking a full solar year to visit each house or constellation.
What was special to the ancient astronomers was the constellation the Sun was seen to rise in on the dawn of the Spring, or Vernal Equinox as it is termed.
One might imagine that this constellation would always be the same at every Vernal Equinox, as the Sun appears to visit each house in turn throughout the year in cyclical fashion. This, however, is not the case, and the ancients realized this, noticing that the constellation which occupied the Spring Equinox was not always going to be the same.
They realized that each house of the Zodiac would, in fact, have the Sun rising in it on the Spring Equinox because the pattern of stars making up the backdrop ever so slowly rotated each year.
This subtle change, hardly perceptible at all, is the result of a phenomenon known as precession, which is a gentle wobble of the Earth's axis due to the gravitational attraction of both the Sun and Moon on the equatorial bulge of the Earth.
To illustrate how subtle the change in the stellar background is, remember that the ecliptic of the Earth is a 360° circle around which the 12 Zodiacal constellations are located at even intervals of 30°. The effect of precession is to change the backdrop of stars through which the Sun rises on the Spring Equinox by one degree every 72 years. This means that each constellation of the Zodiac would "house" the Sun on the Vernal Equinox for a period of 2,160 years (30° x 72 years = 2,160 years).
With each house of the Zodiac taking this amount of time to complete its "Age" of housing the Sun at the Vernal Equinox, it would take all the constellations in total an amazing 25,920 years to complete this immense cycle (2,160 x 12 = 25,920), termed the "precession of the equinoxes". It is this celestial mechanism which moves us from one age of the Zodiac to the next. It would require careful observation indeed to identify this phenomenon.
But there is evidence of the awareness of precession, and the desire to preserve this knowledge in many ancient cultures from all over the world. Specific, precessional numbers are to be found throughout the mythologies and in the measurements of the mysterious megalithic structures of many ancient peoples.
In their extensive, far-reaching 1969 book Hamlet's Mill, Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend put forth the theory that there existed in the world, as far back as 6,000 BC, a huge body of knowledge of astronomy which was set down and passed on to further generations in the form of various cultural mythologies. That the knowledge of the precessional cycle, and indeed the creation of the constellations of the Zodiac in the form which we know them today was able to impact on the ancient cultures of Egypt, Mexico, India and many others, points to an even earlier inception of the Zodiac and its associated astronomical and mathematical code. The authors of Hamlet's Mill referred to this earlier origin as the possible work of, "Some almost unbelievable ancestor civilization". Today, we must concede that we have no idea who this "ancestor civilization" could have been.
Hipparchus, the 2nd Century BC Greek astronomer and mathematician is officially credited with the discovery of precession of the equinoxes. But it is quite obvious that awareness of the phenomenon goes much further back. There are numerous examples which illustrate this conclusion.
Before we examine the examples, it is important to point out that there are certain precessional numbers which define and identify the phenomenon. The numbers to watch out for are 12 (the number of houses of the Zodiac); 30 (the number of degrees each house occupies in the ecliptic); 72 (in years, the time required to complete a one degree shift of the backdrop of stars on the Spring Equinox); 2,160 (in years, the time required to move one constellation, occupying 30° of the ecliptic, through the rising Sun on the Vernal Equinox); 25,920 (in years, the time taken to complete one precessional cycle of the equinoxes, i.e. for each constellation to "house" the Sun for its allotted "Age" of 2,160 years.
It is also important to note that in the curious mathematical code involving these numbers, which uniquely represent the precession of the equinoxes, the numbers could be multiplied, divided or expanded in multiples of ten. So we could recognise 2,160 as 216 or 216,000. Or it could be multiplied by 2 to give 4,320, thus allowing for multiples of that number, i.e. 43,200, etc. It could also be divided in half to give 108, which could further be divided in half to give 54, and thus numbers like 10,800 or 54,000 could appear.
These numbers, and variations as mentioned above, appear repeatedly in numerous myths and structures from many different cultures the world over.
In ancient Egypt, we find contained in the Osiris Myth the numbers 12, 30, 72 and 360, all of which are significant to precession. It mentions a year (which consisted then) of 360 days which was divided up into 12 months, each of which consisted of 30 days. But the number which draws them together and points to the notion of precession is 72, which was the number of conspirators Osiris' evil brother Seth organised in a plot to kill him. Why 72 conspirators?
Jane B. Sellers, astronomer and student of Egyptology puts forth the theory in her book The Death of Gods in Ancient Egypt, that these numbers do not occur in the myth by chance, but by design in order to, "Prompt simple mental calculations and attention to numbers." - numbers which are at the heart of the phenomenon of precession.
Graham Hancock, acclaimed author of Fingerprints of the Gods has theorized in that work, and in his more recent book, Heaven's Mirror, that the Great Pyramid at Giza is a scale model of the northern hemisphere of the Earth. Hancock points out that the height of the monument when multiplied by 43,200 gives a figure, "very close to modern measurements of the polar radius of the Earth," noting also that its, "base perimeter multiplied by 43,200 yields a figure very close to the equatorial circumference of the Earth." The number 43,200 is, once again, an indicator of precession (2160 x 2 x 10 = 43,200).
Hancock also draws attention to the so-called King's Chamber in the Great Pyramid, tracing a right triangle diagonally along one wall and across the length of the floor of the chamber. This yielded measurements in the ratio 3:4:5. The "magic" of the triangle, Hancock asserts, was found by a mathematician from Iceland named Einar Palsson, who cubed these numbers and added the results, i.e. 33 + 43 + 53, and astonishingly came up with the number 216, once again a sign of precession.
Moving from Egypt to Mexico, more precisely to Teotihuacan, we find the Way of the Dead which contains the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon within its intricate design.
Here we find the mathematics of precession in abundance courtesy of an engineer from America named Hugh Harelston Jr. who has spent much time painstakingly measuring the site in great detail.
Harleston has determined that the builders worked with a standard unit of measurement, termed a Standard Teotihuacan Unit (STU). Using the STU, Harleston has found that numbers indicative of the phenomenon of precession are to be found all throughout the site, both within and between certain structures.
The base length of one side of the Pyramid of the Sun is 216 STU, and its centre is exactly 720 (72 x 10) STU south of that of the Pyramid of the Moon. Harleston has found that other structures within the site are 72 STU apart, or 108 (216/2) STU apart, or 54 (108/2) STU, or 216 STU apart. Measurements in multiples of 10 of these numbers are also found at the site.
The numbers of the precessional code exist also in the Mayan Long Count Calendar. The Maya, who are renowned for their very exacting calendrical measurements of time, were interestingly of the belief that they had discovered through their calculations, the very date when the world would come to an end.
The precessional message also speaks to us from the mythology of ancient Sumer which was said to have been ruled by a number of kings over a 432,000 year period. There are also precessional numbers in Chinese, Indian and Norse mythology.
The same numbers are repeated over and over again in myths, structures and measurements from all over the ancient world. So many separate occurrences, almost too numerous to list, cannot reasonably be ascribed to coincidence.
If the structures and myths of so many ancient cultures contain the code which expresses the precession of the equinoxes, then the people responsible for them must have known about precession, and understood it in fine enough detail to record it painstakingly, over many, many years as they did.
How did they know about it? As was pointed out previously, the phenomenon of precession is barely noticeable to earthbound observers, going about their daily business. Just one degree of shift of the stellar backdrop encompasses 72 years, a lifetime for such short-lived people as ourselves. This knowledge was either built up very slowly over many generations of astronomers from all over the globe, or it came from some other, far more ancient source, arriving intact to each culture. Curiously, many ancient cultures speak of "civilizers" arriving and imparting scientific knowledge.
At the heart of the 12 signs of the Zodiac seems to be the desire to express the precession of the equinoxes in easy to understand and remember terminology and imagery. And the message has survived the ages remarkably well, in many forms the world over - communicated in memorable stories and set up rigidly in amazing stone monuments built to stand the test of time. A great many people worked diligently for many generations so that this message might survive the ages as it has done. One would assume, therefore, that it must be a message of vital importance.
We must conclude that the Zodiac, and the beautifully complex and profound message it works to impart to us is ancient indeed, perhaps far more ancient than we have so far believed. It nevertheless speaks loudly and clearly to us through the impossibly long span of time since its creation. It has provided us not only with astronomical knowledge which has illustrated the timeless complexity of the interrelationships of the Earth with her celestial neighbours, but it has provided us with an identity, a signature for the Earth in the form of its precessional wobble. It was this that the ancients seemed to ascribe deep significance to - an endless cyclical phenomenon of as much importance then as it most probably is now. But what were they trying to tell us with their cryptic message? Perhaps in the dawn of the new Age of Aquarius, we will learn.
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