SYMBOLS OF TWELVE-THE ZODIAC
The Tropical Zodiac The tropical zodiac is a secondary cycle to that of the sidereal zodiac. Taking the celestial sphere as one great circle and the earth's sphere as another great circle, the equator of the earth coincides and is concentric with the celestial equator . the sun in it's apparent eastward motion describes a circle on the celestial sphere we call the ecliptic. All points of the celestial equator have 0 degrees declination; points above the equator have positive declination, ranging from 0 degrees to +90 at the north celestial pole; points below the equator have negative declination, ranging from 0 degrees to -90 at the south celestial pole. The declination of the sun during it's annual motion along the ecliptic is positive when above the equator and negative when below the equator. In the summertime when the sun is high overhead, the declination is positive and in the wintertime, when the overhead arc of the sun is much lower, the declination is negative. This implies that twice during the year, its declination is 0 degrees, since it must pass thru 0 degrees in going from positive to negative and vice versa. Thus, the sun is directly on the equator at these two intersections of the circle.
If we call these two points the equinoxes, the VERNAL EQUINOX occurs when the sun passes from negative to positive declination (from south to north of the celestial equator). This occurs about March 21st each year and is called the "First of Aries." Likewise, the AUTUMNAL EQUINOX occurs when the sun passes from positive to negative declination (from north to south of the celestial equator) and this occurs about September 23rd each year.
The term SOLSTICE (meaning sun-stop) refers to the position of the sun at maximum and minimum declination. When the sun's declination is at a maximum (+23 1/2 degrees) and is directly overhead, this is called the Summer solstice and occurs about July 22nd each year. When the sun's declination is at a minimum (-23 1/2 degrees), this is called the winter solstice and occurs about December 22nd each year.
The motion of the sun along the path of the ecliptic during the 365 day cycle of the year passes thru a band on constellations called the ZODIAC. As we discussed in THE SEPTENARY IN THE AGES AND EPOCHS OF MANKIND, each of the 12 constellations within 30 degrees of the celestial equator is divided into equal parts of a circle of 30 degrees for each house of the zodiac. This is done more for convience since some houses are shorter or longer than exactly 30 degrees.
Taking as a model the sun's motion in declination, thru the 12 houses of the zodiac, the Ancient Wisdom taught of the Twelve Steps of the Sun. Beginning at the vernal equinox, the first three steps in positive declination were the houses of Aries, Taurus and Gemini, leading to the summer solstice. The next three steps in positive declination were Cancer, Leo and Virgo, leading to the autumn equinox. Here the sun's declination passes from positive to negative. The next three steps in negative declination were Libra, Scorpio and Sagittarius, leading to the winter solstice. The final three steps in negative declination were Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces, leading back to the vernal equinox.
Although the houses are in fact denotated from the geometry of the sidereal zodiac, as opposed to the tropical zodiac, it is an easy step to describe the correspondence between the 12 steps in declination and the 12 houses of the sidereal zodiac. However, it is very important to realize that the tropical zodiac is an horizontal path in latitude describing the suns motion along the plane of the ecliptic, and as such, describes an ANNUAL motion corresponding to the yearly cycle of the seasons of nature. The declination measures only the sun's height or altitude, which in turn effects, by degrees of light and heat, the qualities of the four seasons. The yearly cycle of the tropical zodiac is one of growth-in-spring; expansion-in-summer; decay-in-fall and contraction-in-winter.
The Sidereal Zodiac
Since the tropical zodiac corresponds only to the annual motion of the sun in declination, it is a secondary cycle to the larger cycle of the sidereal zodiac. If we use the plane of the ecliptic great circle, instead of the celestial equator circle as the fundamental great circle, we create an ecliptic coordinate system, in which the coordinates are celestial latitude and celestial longitude. In this way an object in the sky is measured in relation to its distance (along the ecliptic) from the vernal point, to the point where the great circle passing thru pole of the ecliptic and thru the object, meets the ecliptic.
As a source of measures, the axis between the two first magnitude stars of Aldebaran, located in the middle of Taurus, and Artares, located in the middle of Scorpio, divide the zodiac in equal halves. Then, using this very visible fixed star axis, 12 fixed star constellations are defined at 30 degrees each in length around the ecliptic belt. Thus, against a background of stars, the sidereal zodiac gives a coordinate system for the movements of the sun, moon and planets with a celestial frame of reference of celestial longitude, instead of the merely horizontal motion of the sun thru the tropical zodiac. Unfortunately, the sun can not be measured against the celestial background, so there is always extrapolation from other planetary positions, such as the full moon, from which the sun is always in opposition.
The sidereal zodiac is first and foremost a celestial clock measuring celestial time. As we have discussed many times elsewhere, because of the precessional motion of the sun thru the sidereal zodiac , the sun measures 2,160 years thru each house of the zodiac, for a total complete cycle of 25,920 years, known as the solar sidereal great year . As of February 10, 1983, the sun enters the vernal equinox at 5 1/2 degrees Pisces. In the tropical zodiac, this point is fixed at 1 degree Aries on about March 21st. In the sidereal zodiac, 1 degree Aries occurs on April 15th, Taurus on May 15, Gemini on June 16, Cancer on July 17, Libra on August 18, Virgo on September 17, Libra on October 18, Scorpio on November 17, Sagittarius on December 17, Capricorn on January 15, Aquarius on February 14, and Pisces on March 15.
Because of the differences of these dates, when a tropical astrologer casts your horoscope, chances are 5 to 1 that s/he places your birth date in the wrong house. To determine the correct house in the sidereal zodiac of your birth date, begin at the start of the current astrological age of Pisces in the year 215 AD. Using my birth date of 7-21-50, subtract 215 years from 1950 = 1735 years. Divide by the precessional rate of 1 degree every 72 years, which equals 24 degrees. The tropical date of July 21st equals about 28 degrees Cancer. Deduct 24 degrees from the 28 degrees and my actual birth date is about 4 degrees Cancer in June, which means that for myself, I am still born in Cancer, but this will not be true for anyone born, since 1950, less than 24 degrees into any particular house.
The Planetary Rulers
Against this background of the solar sidereal great year, the Ancient Wisdom teaches of the Planetary Rulers of the signs of the zodiac, again a product of the Sumerian/Chaldean star wisdom. The method is sort of an incorporation of the law of Seven into the law of Twelve such that each of the five planets rules two houses and the sun and moon rule one house each, as follows:
12 cycles of 2,160 years each
Thus, each astrological age of the sidereal zodiac, lasting 2,160 years, is governed by the spirit of the what the Ancient Wisdom called a Planetary Ruler, whose task is to influence the spiritual guidance of humanity. In a very real sense, they take orders from the above hierarchy of the Spirits of Form and direct orders to their lower hierarchy of Archangels, as leaders of nations. In Christian Esoterism, these planetary rulers are now called the angelic hierarchy of the Archai, also known as Spirits of Personality/Pricipalities/Spirits of the Age. Hegel referred to them as a Time Spirit or Zeitgeist.
Christianity, being born in the astrological age of Pisces, is ruled in the superior by Jupiter and in the opposition by Virgo and its ruling planet, mercury. Thus, Christian symbols of the Fish (Pisces) and the Virgin (Virgo) pre-date those of the cross. In addition, there is the miracle of the loaves (Virgo was represented by carrying a sheaf of wheat) and fishes and the symbolic Greek name for Christ as Ichthus, the Fish.
The 36 stars of the Sumerian Sun
Whereas the tropical zodiac has 12 steps of the sun, the sidereal zodiac has 36 steps of the sun, known as the decans. Most historians give the origin of the 36 decans to the ancient Egyptians, who modified the original Chaldean zodiac, when it was introduced into Alexandria at the beginning of the Hellenistic age. As evidence of this, one need only look at the circular zodiac found on the ceiling of the Egyptian temple of Dendera, now in the Louvre museum. A later rectangular zodiac was found in the temple of Khnum near Esra, which was subsequently destroyed.
It is to me more likely the Chaldean zodiac already contained the decans before it was transmitted to Alexandria. The ancient Sumerian zodiac called UL-HE meant "shiny herd' as opposed to the more familiar later Greek ZODIAKOS KYKLOS meaning "animal circle." Indeed, the Babylonian zodiac is much older than the 5th century BC date given by Robert Powell and other researchers.
One very obvious reason for the antiquity of the Babylonian zodiac was discussed, infra, in David Ulansey's book, THE ORIGINS OF THE MITHRAIC MYSTERIES. Here he conclusively proves that the symbol of Mithras slaying of the bull, as depicted in the hundreds of tauroctony figures, was a cosmological symbol for the precessional transition from the age of Taurus to the age of Aries. This signifies a change in the ruling planetary Archai. We know from the previous discussion in the AGES OF MANKIND, that the precessional age of Taurus began about 4106 BC and ended in 1946 BC with the commencement of the age of Aries. Although the Mithraic mysteries did not become exoteric until the first century AD, scholars, like Franz Cumont, attribute the source of the cult to the ancient Iranian god Mithra, whose esoteric teachings were later transplanted into the Roman culture.
We know that on the ceilings of the caves where Zarathustra taught his Magi priests were inscribed a celestial vault with the stars and planets discovered by the Babylonian star gazers. If Babylonian star wisdom only dates to the 5th century BC and the Eqyptian Dendera zodiac dates to only 200 BC, why would the Mithras cult worship a symbol whose astrological orgin dates to the age of Taurus in 4106 BC ? Not very likely, in fact, any cultural nation which recognizes the "religious ages of mankind" must know prima facie of the phenomenon of the precession of the equinoxes. As I have said many times elsewhere, if the Greek astronomer Hipparchus really was the first to discover the precession cycle in the year 128 BC, then why did he call it the "great Platonic Year", when Plato was already 300 years dead ?
In fact, the Babylonians inherited the their star wisdom from the ancient Sumerian culture, who were the true star worshipers. Around the turn of this century, several professors (Pinches, Langdon and Jeremias) reconstructed from Sumerian tablets a complete Mesopotanian astrolabe. It was a disk of the great celestial circle within which were three concentric circles divided in sections of twelve units. Some 50 years later, Van der Waerden wrote a paper called BABYLONIAN ASTRONOMY: THE 36 STARS. The three concentric circles represent the three divisions of the modern celestial sphere, the northern, central and southern. The central band of 30 degrees above and below the equator which the Sumerians called the "way of Anu", represented the band of the constellations of our familiar zodiac. Along this band, the tablets list 26 major stars visible along the tropic of Cancer giving distances in three different measurements. One of these measurements is a distance in degrees of an arc from a division of the circle into 12 double hours of 30 degrees each, similar to our modern celestial sphere which measures the sidereal zodiac.
Sumerian motifs of the bull and lion suggest symbols for the vernal equinox in Taurus and the summer solstice in Leo. Most artifacts show the beginning of their chronological vernal point to lie in Taurus, which we know to begin 4106 BC. One tablet in the Berlin museum begins their list of zodiac houses in Leo, which puts their chronological record in the last astrological age of the Atlantean root race. One poem from their New Years rituals says " the constellation Lion that measured the waters of the deep." We know that the deluge of the Biblical flood occurred at the end of the astrological Lion age of Leo in the seventh and last cultural epoch of Atlantean civilization. The three concentric circles of 12 units each name 36 celestial bodies and give a series of numbers that add up to 360 degrees. Here was born the 36 decans. While the Egyptians may have invented astrology in Hellenistic Alexandria, there is no doubt that astronomy was invented in Sumerian temples many thousands of years prior to the Egyptian zodiac.
The decans are 36 steps of the sun of 10 degrees each for a total of 360 degrees in the celestial great circle. Within each house, they are marked 1,2 and 3 so that the first decan in Aries is Aries-1, the second is Aries-2, etc. Thus, for each house, there is a front, middle and end. The Hermetic purpose of the subdivision of each zodiacal house into decans was to assign to each house three Planetary Rulers, the same planetary spirits of the second Angelic Hierarchy we saw above in the septenary assignment of Planetary Rulers to the 12 astrological ages of mankind. In the Chaldean order, they are again, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury and Moon. Where ever the sequence of the decans begins, repeating the sequence five times results in (7 X 5 = 35) one decan being left over. Traditionally, the extra decan is assigned to the first decan of Aries, with Mars as the Ruler. See the attached plat for the sequence.
Thus, against the background of the solar sidereal great year of 25,920 years, there is FIRST, the influence of the 7 Planetary Rulers (Spirits of the Age) who rule the astrological ages of 2,160 years each and which predominate over the Decans. SECOND, there is the cooperative influence of the Planetary Rulers of the 36 decans, who rule within the astrological ages for 720 years each, in cooperation with the Archangelic Rulers (below). In Christian Esoterism, these subordinate rulers are called Archangels, leaders of nations, and they take orders from the Spirits of the Age from above and pass orders below to the hierarchy of Angels, who lead individual men. Both cycles are an example of the cooperative influences of spirits within the first Angelic Hierarchy who guide the spiritual evolution of humanity.
Arch-Angels of the Mystical Chronology
Now, there is a third subordinate cycle within the decans of the Archangels, which is difficult to reconcile as a septenary within the twelvefold zodiac. In 1508 there was written a "little book on mystical chronology mystical chronology" by a certain Johannes Trithemius (1462-1516), Abbott of Sponheim. His sources had been a similar manuscript written by Peter of Abano (1215-1313) who was a learned scholar and translator of the Kabbalistic and astrological books of Rabbi ibn Ezra. According to the researches of Christopher Bamford, the first English translation of the little book was by the English magician, William Lilly. Later it surfaces in the occult writings of the Frenchman, Eliphas Levi (1855) and passed on by him to Anna B. Kingsford and Edward Maitland, two more English, but Christian occultists. From Maitland, the book passed on the W. Wynn Wescott, all of whom were members of the T.S. and close friends of the good Madame H.P.B. Indeed, there is a small footnote to Trithemius in volume I of the SECRET DOCTRINE, although not another word of it is mentioned. Wescott published it in 1896, presumably as a magic ritual for the members of the Golden Dawn.
The Mystical Chronology is a wonderful little book full of esoteric Christian gems of wisdom. It begins,
"Most wise Emperor, this lower world, created and organized by the First Intelligence, who is god, is ruled by Secondary Intelligences. Hermes, who gave us the science of the Magi (our ancient Chaldean/Sumerian star gazers), confirms this when he says that seven spirits were assigned to the seven planets from the beginning of the heavens and of the earth.
"Each of these Spirits rules the universe in turn for a period of 354 years and 4 months...The first angel or spirit, that of Saturn, is called Oriphiel. God confided the government of the world to him starting with the beginning of creation."
The chronological order is difficult to cipher, since he begins in the first year of the world (book of Genesis),
and counts forward in time, so that the first cycle seven rounds is completed on June 26, 2480 and the second cycle
of seven rounds is completed on September 1, 4960. Transposing these cycles to our Julian calender, we have the
third cycle of:
Oriphiel, from ----------245BC to 109BC;
Anael, from -------------109BC to 463 AD;
Zachariel, from ---------463 to 817;
Raphael, from ----------817 to 1171;
Samael, from -----------1171 to 1525;
Gabriel, from -----------1525 to 1879; and
Michael, the sun spirit beginning 1879.
This is obviously a septenary of Archangelic rule of 354.3 years each, but the cycles do not divide by seven evenly into an astrological age of 2160 years (308.57 years). The cipher makes more sense if a Decan cycle of one-sixth per age of 360 (instead of 720 years) years each is used and then take three Decan cycles of 600 years each (instead of 720 years) and add to it an archangelic cycle of 360 years. Then, this cipher results in our astrological age cycle of 2160 years.
Although troublesome to cipher exactly, the times of the cycle are both accurate and relied upon. Accurate because Dr. Steiner had spoken hundreds of times about the "Battle in Heaven" in the years between 1841 and 1879, wherein the Spirits of Darkness belonging to Ahriman fought the good spirits of Archangel Michael (pronounced, Mic-ha-el), prior to his regency beginning year 1879. Relied upon, because Dr. Steiner devoted and dedicated his whole life's work to the regency of Michael.
DIFFERENCES between the Two Zodiacs
Although each zodiac is important for its intended purpose, there are very important differences between them. Traditional symbolism relating to the zodiacal archetypes is often confusing and misleading because, historically, no distinction is made between them for mere lack of specificity not to mention the deliberate Blinds that used to fascinate the good Madame H.P.B. and other occultists. We will endeavor to specifically assign to each zodiac its corresponding symbolism as appropriate.
First, the tropical zodiac is a zodiac of increasing and decreasing light which works upon the plant kingdom as light as warmth. The starting point for this yearly cycle begins on March 21st at the spring equinox at which time the hours of daylight begin to last longer than the hours of darkness. This zero base line is shown in the attached plat. The first 3 steps of the sun in declination beginning the vernal equinox is a cycle of increasing light until the maximum is reached at summer solstice. The next 3 steps of the sun, from the summer solstice to the fall equinox, is a cycle of decreasing light, but the light still predominates over the darkness. Beginning the fall equinox, the scales are tipped in favor of the cycle of darkness. The next 3 steps of the sun, from the fall equinox to the winter solstice, is a cycle of increasing darkness. At the winter solstice, there is a minimum of sunlight and a maximum of darkness. The next 3 steps of the sun, from the winter solstice to the vernal equinox, is a cycle of decreasing darkness, but darkness predominates over sunlight.
Thus, the annual cycle of light/darkness corresponds exactly to the motion of the sun thru the tropical zodiac in declination. For this reason, we have the annual cycles of growth-in spring; expansion-in summer; decay-in-fall and contraction-in winter. In fact, this yearly cycle is like one large breath in the life of the earth, one of inhalation and exhalation.
All ancient cultures began their New Year in exact correspondence with this date of the beginning of spring. For our Sumerian/Chaldean/Babylonian star gazers, the first lunar month began on the new moon falling after the vernal equinox. This great festival celebration, which has been carried over on a different date to our Christian Easter, was called the NEOMENIA, commencing the 1st day of Aries. With the fixing of the first day of spring on March 2lst-the 1st of Aries by the acceptance of the Julian calendar, we have forgotten that the actual Neomenia varies over a cycle of nineteen years. However, with the celebration of Easter as a movable feast, we are reminded somewhat that the first day of spring is a cosmic event, not determined my man, but by the cycle of the earth's annual breath.
Because of the importance of the Neomenia in determining the first day of spring, all ancients used a lunar calendar recognizing the correspondence between the moon phases and plant growth. A typical lunar calendar consisted of 354 (1/3) days composed of 12 lunar (synodic) months each 29 1/2 days long. Long before the Julian calendar was adopted in 45 BC, the priests of each culture did know the length of the solar astronomical year at 365 days, a difference of about eleven days from the lunar year. Because the lunar year elapsed eleven days before the solar year, an intercalation was inserted to balance out the year. Usually this was accomplished by the insertion of a thirteenth month every three years. The exact method known to our Chaldean/Babylonian Magi was based upon the 19 year cycle historically attributed to Meton in 433 BC.
Lunar phases recur on the same day of the month over a cycle of nearly 19 years, now called the Metonic cycle.
There are 235 synodic (29.5 days) months in every 19 Julian calendar years. Beginning about the 6th century BC,
the Chaldeans inserted this extra lunar month in an intercalary year as a second month of Virgo before the fall
equinox or as a second month of Pisces prior to the vernal equinox.
Prior to the adoption of the Julian calendar, it is believed that the Essenes at Qumran were the only ancient cult to actually use a solar astronomical calendar year consisting of 12 months of 52 weeks of 7 days each. These 364 days were divided into four quarters of 91 days each, like the 4 X 91 steps on the Mayan Chichen Itza pyramid. Although each lunar season consisted of three months of thirty days each, the extra 31st day was added four times per year at the end of the month of each quarter. Obviously, in the Jewish tradition when the Essenes were using a solar calendar different from the Pharisees, problems over the dates of certain festivals could occur.
In fact, when Jesus was brought before Caiaphas to answer to sedition charges, one serious charge was that Jesus ate the Pascal lamb on the day before Passover. Sister Emmerich relates that as a response to the charge, "Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea proved from written documents that the Galileans, according to our ancient custom, were permitted to eat Pasch one day earlier than the other Jews." She also stated that "The Galileans did not always make use of their privilege." That Nicodemus used written documents implies to me that these documents may have been the solar calendar tables of the Essenes, which might vary the celebration dates of traditional festivals in certain years when the Pharisees used intercalation days to balance their lunar year.
In conclusion, the differences (chart) between the tropical and sidereal zodiacs are significant. Whereas the tropical zodiac has 12 steps of the sun, the sidereal zodiac has 36 steps over the course of 25,920 years. The motion of the sun thru the tropical zodiac is counter-clockwise in celestial latitude. The motion of the sun thru the sidereal zodiac is clock-wise in celestial longitude.
In addition, there is the difference of eleven days between the solar and lunar calendar years. In the human time of the tropical zodiac, one year equals 365 1/4 days, whereas, in the cosmic time of the sidereal zodiac, one day of earth time is 1 degree of precession over 72 human years. One human day equals 25, 920 individual human breaths, whereas, one breath of the earth, as the cycle of light/darkness equals one human year. These are the differences we will try to explore in the traditional symbolism of the zodiac, by specifically assigning to the appropriate zodiac its intended ciphers.