XXV NIGHT OF THE BRAZEN SERPENT.
This Degree is both philosophical and moral. While it teaches the
necessity of reformation as well as repentance, as a means of
obtaining mercy and forgiveness, it is also devoted to an explanation of
the symbols of Masonry; and especially to those which are connected
with that ancient and universal legend, of which that of Khir-Om Abi is
but a variation; that legend which, representing a murder or a death,
and a restoration to life, by a drama in which figure Osiris, Isis and
Horus, Atys and Cybele, Adonis and Venus, the Cabiri, Dionusos, and
many another representative of the active and passive Powers of
Nature, taught the Initiates in the Mysteries that the rule of Evil and
Darkness is but temporary, and that that of Light and Good will be
Maimonides says: "In the days of Enos, the son of Seth, men fell into
grievous errors, and even Enos himself partook of their infatuation.
Their language was, that since God has placed on high the heavenly
bodies, and used them as His ministers, it was evidently His will that
they should receive from man the same
veneration as the servants of a great prince justly claim from the
subject multitude. Impressed with this notion, they began to build
temples to the Stars, to sacrifice to them, and to worship them, in the
vain expectation that they should thus please the Creator of all things.
At first, indeed. they did not suppose the Stars to be the only Deities,
but adored in conjunction with them the Lord God Omnipotent. In
process of time, however, that great and venerable Name was totally
forgotten, and the whole human race retained no other religion than the
idolatrous worship of the Host of Heaven."
The first learning in the world consisted chiefly in symbols. The wisdom
of the ChaldŠans, Phťnicians, Egyptians, Jews; of Zoroaster,
Sanchoniathon, Pherecydes, Syrus, Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, of all
the ancients, that is come to our hand, is symbolic. It was the mode,
says Serranus on Plato's Symposium, of the Ancient Philosophers, to
represent truth by certain symbols and hidden images.
"All that can be said concerning the Gods," says Strabo, "must be by
the exposition of old opinions and fables; it being the custom of the
ancients to wrap up in enigma and allegory their thoughts and
discourses concerning Nature; which are therefore not easily
As you learned in the 24th Degree, my Brother, the ancient
Philosophers regarded the soul of man as having had its origin in
Heaven. That was, Macrobius says, a settled opinion among them all;
and they held it to be the only true wisdom, for the soul, while united
with the body, to look ever toward its source, and strive to return to the
place whence it came. Among the fixed stars it dwelt, until, seduced by
the desire of animating a body, it descended to be imprisoned in
matter. Thenceforward it has no other resource than recollection, and
is ever attracted to toward its birth-place and home. The means of
return are to be sought for in itself. To re-ascend to its source, it must
do and suffer in the body.
Thus the Mysteries taught the great doctrine of the divine nature and
longings after immortality of the soul, of the nobility of its origin, the
grandeur of its destiny, its superiority over the animals who have no
aspirations heavenward. If they struggled in vain to express its nature,
by comparing it to Fire and Light, - if they erred as to its original place
of abode, and the mode of it
descent, and the path which, descending and ascending, it pursued
among the stars and spheres, these were the accessories of the Great
Truth, and mere allegories designed to make the idea more impressive,
and, as it were, tangible, to the human mind.
Let us, in order to understand this old Thought, first follow the soul in
its descent. The sphere or Heaven of the fixed stars was that Holy
Region, and those Elysian Fields, that were the native domicile of
souls, and the place to which they re-ascended, when they had
recovered their primitive purity and simplicity. From that luminous
region the soul set forth, when it journeyed toward the body; a
destination which it did not reach until it had undergone three
degradations, designated by the name of Deaths; and until it had
passed through the several spheres and the elements. All souls
remained in possession of Heaven and of happiness, so long as they
were wise enough to avoid the contagion of the body, and to keep
themselves from any contact with matter. But those who, from that lofty
abode, where they were lapped in eternal light, have looked longingly
toward the body, and toward that which we here below call life, but
which is to the soul a real death; and who have conceived for it a
secret desire,- those souls, victims of their concupiscence, are
attracted by degrees toward the inferior regions of the world, by the
mere weight of thought and of that terrestrial desire. The soul, perfectly
incorporeal, does not at once invest itself with the gross envelope of
the body, but little by little, by successive and insensible alterations,
and in proportion as it removes further and further from the simple and
perfect substance in which it dwelt at first. It first surrounds itself with a
body composed of the substance of the stars; and afterward, as it
descends through the several spheres, with ethereal matter more and
more gross, thus by degrees descending to an earthly body; and its
number of degradations or deaths being the same as that of the
spheres which it traverses.
The Galaxy, Macrobius says, crosses the Zodiac in two opposite
points, Cancer and Capricorn, 'the tropical points in the sun's course,
ordinarily called the Gates of the Sun. These two tropics, before his
time, corresponded with those constellations, but in his day with
Gemini and Sagittarius, in consequence of the precession of the
equinoxes; but the signs of the Zodiac remained unchanged; and the
Milky Way crossed at the signs Cancer and Capricorn, though not at
Through these gates souls were supposed to descend to earth and reascend
to Heaven. One, Macrobius says, in his dream of Scipio, was
styled the Gate of Men; and the other, the Gate of the Gods. Cancer
was the former, because souls descended by it to the earth; and
Capricorn the latter, because by it they reascended to their seats of
immortality, and became Gods. From the Milky Way, according to
Pythagoras, diverged the route to the dominions of Pluto. Until they left
the Galaxy, they were not deemed to have commenced to descend
toward the terrestrial bodies. From that they departed, and to that they
returned. Until they reached the sign Cancer, they had not left it, and
were still Gods. When they reached Leo, they commenced their
apprenticeship for their future condition; and when they were at
Aquarius, the sign opposite Leo, they were furthest removed from
The soul, descending from the celestial limits, where the Zodiac and
Galaxy unite, loses its spherical shape, the shape of all Divine Nature,
and is lengthened into a cone, as a point is lengthened into a line; and
then, an indivisible monad before, it divides itself and becomes a duad
- that is, unity becomes division, disturbance, and conflict. Then it
begins to experience the disorder which reigns in matter, to which it
unites itself, becoming, as it were, intoxicated by draughts of grosser
matter: of which inebriation the cup of Bakchos, between Cancer and
Leo, is a symbol. It is for them the cup of forgetfulness. They assemble,
says Plato, in the fields of oblivion, to drink there the water of the river
Ameles, which causes men to forget everything. This fiction is also
found in Virgil. "If souls," says Macrobius, "carried with them into the
bodies they occupy all the knowledge which they had acquired of
divine things, during their sojourn in the Heavens, men would not differ
in opinion as to the Deity; but some of them forget more, and some
less, of that which they had learned."
We smile at these notions of the ancients; but we must learn to look
through these material images and allegories, to the ideas, struggling
for utterance, the great speechless thoughts which they envelop: and it
is well for us to consider whether we ourselves have yet found out any
better way of representing to ourselves the soul's origin and its advent
into this body, so entirely foreign to it; if, indeed, we have ever thought
about it at all; or have not ceased to think, in despair.
The highest and purest portion of matter, which nourishes and
constitutes divine existences, is what the poets term nectar, the
beverage of the Gods. The lower, more disturbed and grosser portion, is
what intoxicates souls. The ancients symbolized it as the River Lethe,
dark stream of oblivion. How de we explain the soul's forgetfulness of its
antecedents, or reconcile that utter absence of remembrance of its
former condition, with its essential immortality? In truth, we for the most
part dread and shrink from any attempt at explanation of it to ourselves.
Dragged down by the heaviness produced by this inebriating draught,
the soul falls along the zodiac and the milky way to the lower spheres,
and in its descent not only takes, in each sphere, a new envelope of the
material composing the luminous bodies of the planets, but receives
there the different faculties which it is to exercise while it inhabits the
In Saturn, it acquires the power of reasoning and intelligence, or what is
termed the logical and contemplative faculty. From Jupiter it receives the
power of action. Mars gives it valor, enterprise, and impetuosity. From
the Sun it receives the senses and imagination, which produce
sensation, perception, and thought. Venus inspires it with desires.
Mercury gives it the faculty of expressing and enunciating what it thinks
and feels. And, on entering the sphere of the Moon, it acquires the force
of generation and growth. This lunary sphere, lowest and basest to
divine bodies, is first and highest to terrestrial bodies. And the lunary
body there assumed by the soul, while, as it were, the sediment of
celestial matter, is also the first substance of animal matter.
The celestial bodies, Heaven, the Stars, and the other Divine elements,
ever aspire to rise. The soul reaching the region which mortality inhabits,
tends toward terrestrial bodies, and is deemed to die. Let no one, says
Macrobius, be surprised that we so frequently speak of the death of this
soul, which yet we call immortal. It is neither annulled nor destroyed by
such death: but merely enfeebled for a time; and does not thereby forfeit
its prerogative of immortality; for afterward, freed from the body, when it
has been purified from the vice-stains contracted during that connection,
it is re-established in all its privileges, and returns to the luminous abode
of its immortality.
On its return, it restores to each sphere through which it ascends, the
passions and earthly faculties received from them: to
the Moon, the faculty of increase and diminution of the body; to
Mercury, fraud, the architect of evils; to Venus, the seductive love of
pleasure; to the Sun, the passion for greatness and empire; to Mars,
audacity and temerity; to Jupiter, avarice; and to Saturn, falsehood and
deceit: and at last, relieved of all, it enters naked and pure into the
eighth sphere or highest Heaven.
All this agrees with the doctrine of Plato, that the soul cannot re-enter
into Heaven, until the revolutions of the Universe shall have restored it
to its primitive condition, and purified it from the effects of its contact
with the four elements.
This opinion of the pre-existence of souls, as pure and celestial
substances, before their union with our bodies, to put on and animate
which they descend from Heaven, is one of great antiquity. A modern
Rabbi, Manasseh Ben Israel, says it was always the belief of the
Hebrews. It was that of most philosophers who admitted the immortality
of the soul: and therefore it was taught in the Mysteries; for, as
Lactantius says, they could not see how it was possible that the soul
should exist after the body, if it had and not existed before it, and if its
nature was not independent of that of the body. The same doctrine was
adopted by the most learned of the Greek Fathers, and by many of the
Latins: and it would probably prevail largely at the present day, if men
troubled themselves to think upon this subject at all, and to inquire
whether the soul's immortality involved its prior existence.
Some philosophers held that the soul was incarcerated in the body, by
way of punishment for sins committed by it in a prior state. How they
reconciled this with the same soul's unconsciousness of any such prior
state, or of sin committed there, does not appear. Others held that
God, of his mere will, sent the soul to inhabit the body. The Kabalists
united the two opinions. They held that there are four worlds, Aziluth,
Briarth, Jezirath, and Aziath; the world of emanation, that of creation,
that of forms, and the material world; one above and more perfect than
the other, in that order, both as regards their own nature and that of the
beings who inhabit them. All souls are originally in the world Aziluth,
the Supreme Heaven, abode of God, and of pure and immortal spirits.
Those who descend from it without fault of their own, by God's order,
are gifted with a divine fire, which preserves them from the contagion of
matter, and restores them to Heaven so soon as their mission is ended.
Those who descend through
their own fault, go from world to world, insensibly losing their love of
Divine things, and their self-contemplation; until they reach the world
Aziath, falling by their own weight. This is a pure Platonism, clothed
with the images and words peculiar to the Kabalists. It was the doctrine
of the Essenes, who, says Porphyry, "believe that souls descend from
the most subtile ether, attracted to bodies by the seductions of matter."
It was in substance the doctrine of Origen; and it came from the
ChaldŠans, who largely studied the theory of the Heavens, the
spheres, and the influences of the signs and constellations.
The Gnostics made souls ascend and descend through eight Heavens,
in each of which were certain Powers that opposed their return, and
often drove them back to earth, when not sufficiently purified. The last
of these Powers, nearest the luminous abode of souls, was a serpent
In the ancient doctrine, certain Genii were charged with the duty of
conducting souls to the bodies destined to receive them, and of
withdrawing them from those bodies. According to Plutarch, these were
the functions of Proserpine and Mercury. In Plato, a familiar Genius
accompanies man at his birth, follows and watches him all his life, and at
death conducts him to the tribunal of the Great judge. These Genii are
the media of communication between man and the Gods; and the soul is
ever in their presence. This doctrine is taught in the oracles of Zoroaster:
and these Genii were the Intelligences that resided in the planets.
Thus the secret science and mysterious emblems of initiation were
connected with the Heavens, the Spheres, and the Constellations: and
this connection must be studied by whomsoever would understand the
ancient mind, and be enabled to interpret the allegories, and explore the
meaning of the symbols, in which the old sages endeavored to delineate
the ideas that struggled within them for utterance, and could be but
insufficiently and inadequately expressed by language, whose words are
images of those things alone that can be grasped by and are within the
empire of the senses.
It is not possible for us thoroughly to appreciate the, feelings with which
the ancients regarded the Heavenly bodies, and the ideas to which their
observation of the Heavens gave rise, because we cannot put ourselves
in their places, look at the stars with their eyes in the world's youth, and
divest ourselves of the knowledge
which even the commonest of us have, that makes us regard the Stars and
Planets and all the Universe of Suns and Worlds, as a mere inanimate
machine and aggregate of senseless orbs, no more astonishing, except in
degree, than a clock or an orrery. We wonder and are amazed at the Power
and Wisdom (to most men it seems only a kind of Infinite Ingenuity) of the
MAKER: they wondered at the Work, and endowed it with Life and Force
and mysterious Powers and mighty Influences.
Memphis, in Egypt, was in Latitude 29║ 5" North, and in Longitude 30║ 18'
East. ThebŠ, in Upper Egypt, in Latitude 25║ 45' North, and Longitude 32║
43' East. Babylon was in Latitude 32║ 30' North, and Longitude 44║ 23'
East: while Saba, the ancient with SabŠan capital of Ethiopia, was about in
Latitude 15║ North.
Through Egypt ran the great River Nile, coming from beyond Ethiopia, its
source in regions wholly unknown, in the abodes of heat and fire, and its
course from South to North. Its inundations had formed the alluvial lands of
Upper and Lower Egypt, which they continued to raise higher and higher,
and to fertilize by their deposits. At first, as in all newly-settled countries,
those inundations, occurring annually and always at the same period of the
year, were calamities: until, by means of levees and drains and artificial
lakes for irrigation, they became blessings, and were looked for with joyful
anticipation, as they had before been awaited with terror. Upon the deposit
left by the Sacred River, as it withdrew into its banks, the husbandman
sowed his seed; and the rich soil and the genial sun insured him an
Babylon lay on the Euphrates, which ran from Southeast to Northwest,
blessing, as all rivers in the Orient do, the arid country through which it
flowed; but its rapid and uncertain overflows bringing terror and disaster.
To the ancients, as yet inventors of no astronomical instruments, and
looking at the Heavens with the eyes of children, this earth was a level
plain of unknown extent. About its boundaries there was speculation, but no
knowledge. The inequalities of its surface were the irregularities of a plane.
That it was a globe, or that anything lived on its under surface, or on what it
rested they had no idea. Every twenty-four hours the sun came up from
beyond the Eastern rim of the world, and travelled across the sky, over the
earth, always South of, but sometimes nearer and sometimes further from
the point over-head; and sunk below the
world's Western rim. With him went light, and after him followed
And every twenty-four hours appeared in the Heavens another body,
visible chiefly at night, but sometimes even when the sun shone, which
likewise, as if following the sun at a greater or less distance, travelled
across the sky; sometimes as a thin crescent, and thence increasing to a
full orb resplendent with silver light; and sometimes more and sometimes
less to the Southward of the point overhead, within the same limits as the
Man, enveloped by the thick darkness of profoundest night, when
everything around him has disappeared, and he seems alone with
himself and the black shades that surround him, feels his existence a
blank and nothingness, except so far as memory recalls him the glories
and splendors of light. Everything is dead to him, and he, as it were, to
Nature. How crushing and overwhelming the thought, the fear, the dread,
that perhaps that darkness may be eternal, and that day may possibly
never return; if it ever occurs to his mind, while the solid gloom closes up
against him like a wall! What then can restore him to like, to energy, to
activity, to fellowship and communion with the great world which God has
spread around him, and which perhaps in the darkness may be passing
away? LIGHT restores him to himself and to nature which seemed lost to
him. Naturally, therefore, the primitive men regarded light as the principle
of their real existence, without which life would be but one continued
weariness and despair. This necessity for light, and its actual creative
energy, were felt by all men: and nothing was more alarming to them
than its absence. It became their first Divinity, a single ray of which,
flashing into the dark tumultuous bosom of chaos, caused man and all
the Universe to emerge from it. So all the poets sung who imagined
Cosmogonies; such was the first dogma of Orpheus, Moses, and the
Theologians. Light was Ormuzd, adored by the Persians, and Darkness
Ahriman, origin of all evils. Light was the life of the Universe, the friend of
man, the substance of the Gods and of the Soul.
The sky was to them a great, solid, concave arch; a hemisphere of
unknown material, at an unknown distance above the flat level earth; and
along it journeyed in their courses the Sun, the Moon, the Planets, and
The Sun was to them a great globe of fire, of unknown dimen
sions, at an unknown distance. The Moon was a mass of softer light; the
stars and planets lucent bodies, armed with unknown and supernatural
It could not fail to be soon observed, that at regular intervals the days and
nights were equal; and that two of these intervals measured the same
space of time as elapsed between the successive inundations, and
between the returns of spring-time and harvest. Nor could it fail to be
perceived that the changes of the moon occurred regularly; the same
number of days always elapsing between the first appearance of her
silver crescent in the West at evening and that of her full orb rising in the
East at the same hour; and the same again, between that and the new
appearance of the crescent in the West.
It was also soon observed that the Sun crossed the Heavens in a different
line each day, the days being longest and the nights shortest when the
line of his passage was furthest North, and the days shortest and nights
longest when that line was furthest South: that his progress North and
South was perfectly regular, marking four periods that were always the
same, - those when the days and nights were equal, or the Vernal and
Autumnal Equinoxes; that when the days were longest, or the Summer
Solstice; and that when they were shortest, or the Winter Solstice.
With the Vernal Equinox, or about the 25th of March of our Calendar, they
found that there unerringly came soft winds, the return of warmth, caused
by the Sun turning back to the Northward from the middle ground of his
course, the vegetation of the new year, and the impulse to amatory action
on the part of the animal creation. Then the Bull and the Ram, animals
most valuable to the agriculturist, and symbols themselves of vigorous
generative power, recovered their vigor, the birds mated and builded their
nests, the seeds germinated, the grass grew, and the trees put forth
leaves. With the Summer Solstice, when the Sun reached the extreme
northern limit of his course, came great heat, and burning winds, and
lassitude and exhaustion; then vegetation withered, man longed for the
cool breezes of Spring and Autumn, and the cool water of the wintry Nile
or Euphrates, and the Lion sought for that element far from his home in
With the Autumnal Equinox came ripe harvests, and fruits of the tree and
vine, and falling leaves, and cold evenings presaging wintry frosts; and
the Principle and Powers of Darkness, pre
vailing over those of Light, drove the Sun further to the South, so that
the nights grew longer than the days. And at the Winter Solstice the
earth was wrinkled with frost, the trees were leafless, and the Sun,
reaching the most Southern point in his career, seemed to hesitate
whether to continue descending, to leave the world to darkness and
despair, or to turn upon his steps and retrace his course to the
Northward, bringing back seed-time and Spring, and green leaves and
flowers, and all the delights of love.
Thus, naturally and necessarily, time was divided, first into days, and
then into moons or months, and years; and with these divisions and the
movements of the Heavenly bodies that marked them, were associated
and connected all men's physical enjoyments and privations. Wholly
agricultural, and in their frail habitations greatly at the mercy of the
elements and the changing seasons, the primitive people of the Orient
were most deeply interested in the recurrence of the periodical
phenomena presented by the two great luminaries of Heaven, on
whose regularity all their prosperity depended.
And the attentive observer soon noticed that the smaller lights of
Heaven were, apparently, even more regular than the Sun and Moon,
and foretold with unerring certainty, by their risings and settings, the
periods of recurrence of the different phenomena and seasons on
which the physical well-being of all men depended. They soon felt the
necessity of distinguishing the individual stars, or groups of stars, and
giving them names, that they might understand each other, when
referring to and designating them. Necessity produced designations at
once natural and artificial. Observing that, in the circle of the year, the
renewal and periodical appearance of the productions of the earth
were constantly associated, not only with the courses of the Sun, but
also with the rising and setting of certain Stars, and with their position
relatively to the Sun, the centre to which they referred the whole starry
host, the mind naturally connected the celestial and terrestrial objects
that were in fact connected: and they commenced by giving to
particular Stars or groups of Stars the names of those terrestrial
objects which seemed connected with them and for those which still
remained unnamed by this nomenclature, they, to complete a system,
assumed arbitrary and fanciful names.
Thus the Ethiopian of Thebes or Saba styled those Stars under
which the Nile commenced to overflow, Stars of Inundation, or that poured out water
Those Stars among which the Sun was, when he had reached the Northern Tropic
and began to retreat Southward, were termed, from his retrograde motion, the Crab
As he approached, in Autumn, the middle point between the Northern and Southern
extremes of his journeying, the days and nights became equal; and the Stars among
which he was then found were called Stars of the Balance (LIBRA).
Those stars among which the Sun was, when the Lion, driven from the Desert by
thirst, came to slake it at the Nile, were called Stars of the Lion (LEO).
Those among which the Sun was at harvest, were called those of the Gleaning Virgin,
holding a Sheaf of Wheat (VIRGO).
Those among which he was found in February, when the Ewes brought forth their
young, were called Stars of the Lamb (ARIES).
Those in March, when it was time to plough, were called Stars of the Ox (TAURUS).
Those under which hot and burning winds came from the desert, venomous like
poisonous reptiles, were called Stars of the Scorpion (SCORPIO).
Observing that the annual return of the rising of the Nile was always accompanied by
the appearance of a beautiful Star, which at that period showed itself in the direction
of the sources of that river, and seemed to warn the husbandman to be careful not to
be surprised by the inundation, the Ethiopian compared this act of that Star to that of
the Animal which by barking gives warning of danger, and styled it the Dog (SIRIUS).
Thus commencing, and as astronomy came to be more studied, imaginary figures
were traced all over the Heavens, to which the different Stars were assigned. Chief
among them were those that lay along the path which the Sun travelled as he climbed
toward the North and descended to the South: lying within certain limits and
extending to an equal distance on each side of the line of equal nights and days. This
belt, curving like a Serpent, was termed the Zodiac, and divided into twelve Signs.
At the Vernal Equinox, 2455 years before our Era, the Sun was entering the sign and
constellation Taurus, or the Bull; having passed through, since he commenced, at the
Winter Solstice, to ascend Northward. the Signs Aquarius, Pisces and Aries; on
entering the first of which he reached the lowest limit of his journey Southward.
From TAURUS, he passed through Gemini and Cancer, and reached LEO
when he arrived at the terminus of his journey Northward. Thence, through
Leo, Virgo, and Libra, he entered SCORPIO at the Autumnal Equinox, and
journeyed Southward through Scorpia, Sagittarius, and Capricornus to
AQUARIUS, the terminus of his journey South.
The path by which he journeyed through these signs became the Ecliptic; and
that which passes through the two equinoxes, the Equator.
They knew nothing of the immutable laws of nature; and whenever the Sun
commenced to tend Southward, they feared lest he might continue to do so,
and by degrees disappear forever, leaving the earth to be ruled forever by
darkness, storm, and cold.
Hence they rejoiced when he commenced to re-ascend after the Winter
Solstice, struggling against the malign influences of Aquarius and Pisces, and
amicably received by the Lamb. And when at the Vernal Equinox he entered
Taurus, they still more rejoiced at the assurance that the days would again be
longer than the nights, that the season of seed-time had come, and the
Summer and harvest would follow.
And they lamented when, after the Autumnal Equinox, the malign influence of
the venomous Scorpion, and vindictive Archer, and the filthy and ill-omened
He-Goat dragged him down toward the Winter Solstice.
Arriving there, they said he had been slain, and had gone to the realm of
darkness. Remaining there three days, he rose again, and again ascended
Northward in the heavens, to redeem the earth from the gloom and darkness of
Winter, which soon became emblematical of sin, and evil, and suffering; as the
Spring, Summer, and Autumn became emblems of happiness and immortality.
Soon they personified the Sun, and worshipped him under the name of
OSIRIS, and transmuted the legend of his descent among the Winter Signs,
into a fable of his death, his descent into the infernal regions, and his
The Moon became Isis, the wife of Osiris; and Winter, as well as the desert or
the ocean into which the Sun descended, became TYPHON, the Spirit or
Principle of Evil, warring against and destroying Osiris.
From the journey of the Sun through the twelve signs came the legend of the
twelve labors of Hercules, and the incarnations of Vishnu and Buddha.
Hence came the legend of the murder of KhŘrŘm, representative of the Sun,
by the three Fellow-crafts, symbols of the three Winter signs, Capricornus,
Aquarius, and Pisces, who assailed him at the three gates of Heaven and
slew him at the Winter Solstice. Hence the search for him by the nine Fellowcrafts,
the other nine signs, his finding, burial, and resurrection.
The celestial Taurus, opening the new year, was the Creative of Bull of the
Hindus and Japanese, breaking with his horn the egg out of which the world
is born. Hence the bull APIS was worshipped by the Egyptians, and
reproduced as a golden calf by Aaron in the desert. Hence the cow was
sacred to the Hindus. Hence, from the sacred and beneficent signs of Taurus
and Leo, the human-headed winged lions and bulls in the palaces at
Kouyounjik and Nimroud, like which were the Cherubim set by Solomen in his
Temple: and hence the twelve brazen or bronze oxen, on which the layer of
brass was supported.
The Celestial Vulture or Eagle, rising and setting with the Scorpion, was
substituted in its place, in many cases, on account of the malign influences of
the latter: and thus the four great periods the of the year were mailed by the
Bull, the Lion, the Man (Aquarius) and the Eagle; which were upon the
respective standards of Ephraim, Judah, Reuben, and Dan; and still appear
on the shield of American Royal Arch Masonry.
Afterward the Ram or Lamb became an object of adoration, when, in his turn,
he opened the equinox, to deliver the world from the wintry reign of darkness
Around the central and simple idea of the annual death and resurrection of
the Sun a multitude of circumstantial details soon clustered. Some were
derived from other astronomical phenomena; while many were merely
poetical ornaments and inventions.
Besides the Sun and Moon, those ancients also saw a beautiful Star, shining
with a soft, silvery light, always following the Sun at no great distance when
he set, or preceding him when he rose. Another of a red and angry color, and
still another more kingly and brilliant than all, early attracted their attention,
by their free movements among the fixed hosts of Heaven: and the latter by
his unusual brilliancy, and the regularity with which he rose and set, These
were Venus, Mars, and Jupiter. Mercury and Saturn
could scarcely have been noticed in the world's infancy, or until
astronomy began to assume the proportions of a science.
In the projection of the celestial sphere by the astronomical priests, the
zodiac and constellations, arranged in a circle, presented their halves
in diametrical opposition; and the hemisphere of Winter was said to be
adverse, opposed, contrary, to that of slew him Summer. Over the
angels of the latter ruled a king (OSIRIS or ORMUZD), enlightened,
intelligent, creative, and beneficent. Over the fallen angels or evil genii
of the former, the demons or Devs of the subterranean empire of
darkness and sorrow, and its stars, ruled also a chief. In Egypt the
Scorpion first ruled, the sign next the Balance, and long the chief of the
Winter signs; and then the Polar Bear or Ass, called Typhon, that is,
deluge, on account of the rains which inundated the earth while that
constellation domineered. In Persia, at a later day, it was the serpent,
which, personified as Ahriman, was the Evil Principle of the religion of
The Sun does not arrive at the same moment in each year at the
equinoctial point on the equator. The explanation of his anticipating
that point belongs to the science of astronomy; and to that we refer you
for it. The consequence is, what is termed the precession of the
equinoxes, by means of which the Sun is constantly changing his place
in the zodiac, at each vernal equinox; so that now, the signs retaining
the names which they had 300 years before Christ, they and the
constellations do not correspond; the Sun being, now in the
constellation Pisces, when he is in the sign Aries.
The annual amount of precession is 50 seconds and a little over [50"
1.]. The period of a complete Revolution of the Equinoxes, 25,856
years. The precession amounts to 30║ or a sign, in 2155.6 years. So
that, as the sun now enters Pisces at the Vernal Equinox, he entered
Aries at that period, 300 years B.C., and Taurus 2455 B.C. And the
division of the Ecliptic, now called Taurus, lies in the Constellation
Aries; while the sign Gemini is in the Constellation Taurus. Four
thousand six hundred and ten years before Christ, the sun entered
Gemini at the Vernal Equinox.
At the two periods, 2455 and 300 years before Christ and now, the
entrances of the sun at the Equinoxes and Solstices into the signs,
were and are as follows:-
Vern. Equinox, he entered Taurus
From confounding signs with causes came the worship of the sun and stars. "If,"
says job, "I beheld the sun when it shined, or the moon progressive in brightness;
and my heart hath been secretly enticed, or my mouth hath kissed my hand, this
were an iniquity to be punished by the judge; for I should have denied the God
that is above."
Perhaps we are not, on the whole, much wiser than those simple men of the old
time. For what do we know of effect and cause, except that one thing regularly or
habitually follows another?
So, because the heliacal rising of Sirius preceded the rising of the Nile, it was
deemed to cause it; and other stars were in like manner held to cause extreme
heat, bitter cold, and watery storm.
A religious reverence for the zodiacal Bull [TAURUS] appears, from a very early
period, to have been pretty general, - perhaps it was universal, throughout Asia;
from that chain or region of Caucasus to which it gave name; and which is still
known under the appellation of Mount Taurus, to the Southern extremities of the
Indian Peninsula; extending itself also into Europe, and through the Eastern parts
This evidently originated during those remote ages of the world, when the
colure of the vernal equinox passed across the stars in the head of the sign
Taurus [among which was Aldebarßn]; a period when, as the most ancient
monuments of all the oriental nations attest, the light of arts and letters first
The Arabian word AL-DE-BAR┴N, means the foremost, or leading star: and it
could only have been so named, when it did precede, or lead, all others. The
year then opened with the sun in Taurus; and the multitude of ancient
sculptures, both in Assyria and Egypt, wherein the bull appears with lunette or
crescent horns, and the disk of the sun between them, are direct allusions to
the important festival of the first new moon of the year: and there was
everywhere an annual celebration of the festival of the first new moon, when
the year opened with Sol and Luna in Taurus.
David sings: "Blow the trumpet in the New Moon; in the time appointed; on our
solemn feast-day: for this is a statute unto Israel, and a law of the God of
Jacob. This he ordained to Joseph, for a testimony, when he came out of the
land of Egypt."
The reverence paid to Taurus continued long after, by the precession of the
Equinoxes, the colure of the vernal equinox had come to pass through Aries.
The Chinese still have a temple, called "The Palace of the horned Bull" and the
same symbol is worshipped in Japan and all over Hindostan. The Cimbrians
carried a brazen bull with them, as the image of their God, when they overran
Spain and Gaul; and the representation of the Creation, by the Deity in the
shape of a bull, breaking the shell of an egg with his horns, meant Taurus,
opening the year, and bursting the symbolical shell of the annually-recurring
orb of the new year.
Theophilus says that the Osiris of Egypt was supposed to be dead or absent
fifty days in each year. Landseer thinks that this was because the SabŠan
priests were accustomed to see, in the lower latitudes of Egypt and Ethiopia,
the first or chief stars of the Husbandman [BOÍTES] sink achronically beneath
the Western horizon; and then to begin their lamentations, or hold forth the
signal for others to weep: and when his prolific virtues were supposed to be
transferred to the vernal sun, bacchanalian revelry became devotion.
Before the colure of the Vernal Equinox had passed into Aries, and after it had
left Aldebarßn and the Hyades, the Pleiades were, for seven or eight centuries,
the leading stars of the SabŠan year. And thus we see, on the monuments, the
disk and crescent, symbols of the sun and moon in conjunction, appear
successively, - first on the head, and then on the neck and back of the
Zodiacal Bull, and more recently on the forehead of the Ram.
The diagrammatical character or symbol, still in use to denote Taurus, , is
this very crescent and disk: a symbol that has come down to us from those
remote ages when this memorable conjunction in Taurus, by marking the
commencement, at once of the SabŠan year and of the cycle of the
Chaldean Saros, so pre-eminently distinguished that sign as to become its
characteristic symbol. On a bronze bull from China, the crescent is attached
to the back of the Bull, by means of a cloud, and a curved groove is provided
for the occasional introduction of the disk of the sun, when solar and lunar
time were coincident and conjunctive, at the commencement of the year, and
of the lunar cycle. When that was made, the year did not open with the stars
in the head of the Bull, but when the colure of the vernal equinox passed
across the middle or later degrees of the asterism Taurus, and the Pleiades
were, in China, as in Canaan, the leading stars of the year.
The crescent and disk combined always represent the conjunctive Sun and
Moon; and when placed on the head of the Zodiacal Bull, the commencement
of the cycle termed SAROS by the Chaldeans, and Metonic by the Greeks;
and supposed to be alluded to in job, by the phrase, "Mazzaroth in his
season"; that is to say, when the first new Moon and new Sun of the year
were coincident, which happened once in eighteen years and a fraction.
On the sarcophagus of Alexander, the same symbol appears on the head of
a Ram, which, in the time of that monarch, was the leading sign. So too in the
sculptured temples of the Upper Nile, the crescent and disk appear, not on
the head of Taurus, but on the forehead of the Ram or the Ram-headed God,
whom the Grecian Mythologists called Jupiter Ammon, really the Sun in
If we now look for a moment at the individual stars which composed and were
near to the respective constellations, we may find something that will connect
itself with the symbols of the Ancient Mysteries and of Masonry.
It is to be noticed that when the Sun is in a particular constellation, no part of
that constellation will be seen, except just before sunrise and just after
sunset; and then only the edge of it: but the constellations opposite to it will
be visible. When the Sun is in Taurus, for example, that is, when Taurus sets
with the Sun,
Scorpio rises as he sets, and continues visible throughout the night. And if
Taurus rises and sets with the Sun to-day, he will, six months hence, rise at
sunset and set at sunrise; for the stars thus gain on the Sun two hours a month.
Going back to the time when, watched by the Chaldean shepherds, and the
husbandmen of Ethiopia and Egypt,
"The milk-white Pull with golden horns
"Led on the new-born year,"
we see in the neck of TAURUS, the Pleiades, and in his face the Hyades, "which
Grecia from their showering names," and of whom the brilliant Aldebarßn is the
chief ; while to the southwestward is that most splendid of all the constellations,
Orion, with Betelgueux in his right shoulder, Bellatrix in his left shoulder, Rigel
on the left foot, and in his belt the three stars known as the Three Kings, and
now as the Yard and Ell. Orion, ran the legend, persecuted the Pleiades; and to
save them from his fury, Jupiter placed them in the Heavens, where he still
pursues them, but in vain. They, with Arcturus and the Bands of Orion, are
mentioned in the Book of Job. They are usually called the Seven Stars, and it is
said there were seven, before the fall of Troy; though now only six are visible.
The Pleiades were so named from a Greek word signifying to sail. In all ages
they have been observed for signs and seasons. Virgil says that the sailors gave
names to "the Pleiades, Hyades, and the Northern Car: Pleiadas, Hyadas,
Claramque Lycaonis Arcton." And Palinurus, he says,
Arcturum, pluviasque Hyadas, Geminosque Triones,
Armatumque auro circumspicit Oriona -
studied Arcturus and the rainy Hyades and the Twin Triones, and Orion
cinctured with gold.
Taurus was the prince and leader of the celestial host for more than two
thousand years; and when his head set with the Sun about the last of May, the
Scorpion was seen to rise in the Southeast.
The Pleiades were sometimes called Vergiliť, or the Virgins of Spring; because
the Sun entered this cluster of stars in the season of blossoms. Their Syrian
name was Succoth, or Succothbeneth, derived from a Chaldean word signifying
to speculate or observe.
The Hyades are five stars in the form of a V, 11║ southeast of
the Pleiades. The Greeks counted them as seven. When the Vernal Equinox
was in Taurus, Aldebarßn led up the starry host; and as he rose in the East,
Aries was about 27║ high.
When he was close upon the meridian, the Heavens presented their most
magnificent appearance. Capella was a little further from the meridian, to the
north; and Orion still further from it to the southward. Procyon, Sirius, Castor
and Pollux had climbed about half-way from the horizon to the meridian.
Regulus had just risen upon the ecliptic. The Virgin still lingered below the
horizon. Fomalhaut was half-way to the meridian in the Southwest; and to the
Northwest were the brilliant constellations, Perseus, Cepheus, Cassiopeia, and
Andromeda; while the Pleiades had just passed the meridian.
ORION is visible to all the habitable world. The equinoctial line passes through
the centre of it. When Aldebarßn rose in the East, the Three Kings in Orion
followed him; and as Taurus set, the Scorpion, by whose sting it was said
Orion died, rose in the East.
Orion rises at noon about the 9th of March. His rising was accompanied with
great rains and storms, and it became very terrible to mariners.
In Bo÷tes, called by the ancient Greeks Lycaon, from lukos, a wolf, and by the
Hebrews, Caleb Anubach, the Barking Dog, is the Great Star ARCTURUS,
which, when Taurus opened the year, corresponded with a season remarkable
for its great heat.
Next comes GEMINI, the Twins, two human figures, in the heads of which are
the bright Stars CASTOR and POLLUX, the Dioscuri, and the Cabiri of
Samothrace, patrons of navigation; while South of Pollux are the brilliant Stars
SIRIUS and PROCYON, the greater and lesser Dog: and still further South,
Canopus, in the Ship Argo.
Sirius is apparently the largest and brightest Star in the Heavens. When the
Vernal Equinox was in Taurus, he rose heliacally, that is, just before the Sun,
when, at the Summer Solstice, the Sun entered Leo, about the 21st of June,
fifteen days previous to the swelling of the Nile. The heliacal rising of Canopus
was also a precursor of the rising of the Nile. Procyon was the forerunner of
Sirius, and rose before him.
There are no important Stars in CANCER. In the Zodiacs of Esne and
Dendera, and in most of the astrological remains of
Egypt, the sign of this constellation was a beetle (Scarabťus), which
thence became sacred, as an emblem of the gate through which souls
descended from Heaven. In the crest of Cancer is a cluster of Stars
formerly called Prťsepe, the Manger, on each side of which is a small
Star, the two of which were called Aselli little asses.
In Leo are the splendid Stars, REGULUS, directly on the ecliptic, and
DENEBOLA in the Lion's tail. Southeast of Regulus is the fine Star COR
The combat of Hercules with the NemŠan lion was his first labor. It was
the first sign into which the Sun passed, after falling below the Summer
Solstice; from which time he struggled to re-ascend.
The Nile overflowed in this sign. It stands first in the Zodiac of Dendera,
and is in all the Indian and Egyptian Zodiacs.
In the left hand of VIRGO (Isis or Ceres) is the beautiful Star SPICA
Virginis, a little South of the ecliptic. VINDEMIATRIX, of less magnitude,
is in the right arm; and Northwest of Spica, in Bo÷tes (the husbandman,
Osiris), is the splendid star ARCTURUS.
The division of the first Decan of the Virgin, Aben Ezra says, represents a
beautiful Virgin with flowing hair, sitting in a chair, with two ears of corn in
her hand, and suckling an infant. In an Arabian MS. in the Royal Library
at Paris, is a picture of the Twelve Signs. That of Virgo is a young girl with
an infant by her side. Virgo was Isis; and her representation carrying a
child (Horus) in her arms, exhibited in her temple, was accompanied by
this inscription: "I AM ALL THAT IS, THAT WAS, AND THAT SHALL BE;
and the fruit which I brought forth is the Sun."
Nine months after the Sun enters Virgo, he reaches the Twins. When
Scorpio begins to rise, Orion sets: when Scorpio comes to the meridian,
Leo begins to set, Typhon reigns, Osiris is slain, and Isis (the Virgin) his
sister and wife, follows him to the tomb, weeping.
The Virgin and Bo÷tes, setting heliacally at the Autumnal Equinox,
delivered the world to the wintry constellations, and introduced into it the
genius of Evil, represented by Ophiucus, the Serpent.
At the moment of the Winter Solstice, the Virgin rose heliacally (with the
Sun), having the Sun (Horus) in her bosom.
In LIBRA are four Stars of the second and third magnitude, which we shall
mention hereafter. They are Zuben-es-Chamali, Zuben-el-Gemabi, Zuben-
hak-rabi, and Zuben-el-Gubi. Near the last of these is the brilliant and
malign Star, ANTARES in Scorpio.
In SCORPIO, ANTARES, of the 1st magnitude, and remarkably red, was
one of the four great Stars, FOMALHAUT, in Cetus, ALDEBARAN in
Taurus, REGULUS in Leo, and ANTARES, that formerly answered to the
Solstitial and Equinoctial points, and were much noticed by astronomers.
This sign was sometimes represented by a Snake, and sometimes by a
Crocodile, but generally by a Scorpion, which last is found on the Mithriac
Monuments, and on the Zodiac of Dendera. It was considered a sign
accursed, and the entrance of the Sun into it commenced the reign of
In Sagittarius, Capricornus, and Aquarius there are no Stars of importance.
Near Pisces is the brilliant Star FOMALHAUT. No sign in the Zodiac is
considered of more malignant influence than this. It was deemed indicative
of Violence and Death. Both the Syrians and Egyptians abstained from
eating fish, out of dread and abhorrence; and when the latter would
represent anything as odious, or express hatred by Hieroglyphics, they
painted a fish.
In Auriga is the bright Star CAPELLA, which to the Egyptians never set.
And, circling ever round the North Pole are Seven Stars, known as Ursa
Major, or the Great Bear, which have been an object of universal
observation in all ages of the world. They were venerated alike by the
Priests of Bel, the Magi of Persia, the Shepherds of Chaldea, and the
Phťnician navigators, as well as by the astronomers of Egypt. Two of
them, MERAK and DUBHE, always point to the North Pole.
The Phťnician and Egyptians, says Eusebius, were the first who ascribed
divinity to the Sun, Moon, and Stars, and regarded them as the sole causes
of the production and destruction of all beings. From them went abroad
over all the world all known opinions as to the generation and descent of
the Gods. Only the Hebrews looked beyond the visible world to an invisible
Creator. All the rest of the world regarded as Gods those luminous bodies
that blaze in the firmament, offered them sacrifices, bowed down
before them, and raised neither their souls nor their worship above the
The Chaldeans, Canaanites, and Syrians, among whom Abraham lived,
did the same. The Canaanites consecrated horses and chariots to the
Sun. The inhabitants of Emesa in Phťnician adored him under the name
of Elagabalus; and the Sun, as Hercules, was the great Deity of the
Tyrians. The Syrians worshipped, with fear and dread, the Stars of the
Constellation Pisces, and consecrated images of them in their temples.
The Sun as Adonis was worshipped in Byblos and about Mount Libanus.
There was a magnificent Temple of the Sun at Palmyra, which was
pillaged by the soldiers of Aurelian, who rebuilt it and dedicated it anew.
The Pleiades, under the name of Succoth-Beneth, were worshipped by
the Babylonian colonists who settled in the country of the Samaritans.
Saturn, under the name of Remphan, was worshipped among the Copts.
The planet Jupiter was worshipped as Bel or Baal; Mars as Malec,
Melech, or Moloch; Venus as Ashtaroth or Astarte, and Mercury as Nebo,
among the Syrians, Assyrians, Phťnicians, and Canaanites. '
Sanchoniathon says that the earliest Phoenicians adored the Sun, whom
they deemed sole Lord of the Heavens; and honored him under the name
of BEEL-SAMIN, signifying King of Heaven. They raised columns to the
elements, fire, and air or wind, and worshipped them; and SabŠism, or
the worship of the Stars, flourished everywhere in Babylonia. The Arabs,
under a sky always clear and serene, adored the Sun, Moon, and Stars.
Abulfaragius so informs us, and that each of the twelve Arab Tribes
invoked a particular Star as its Patron. The Tribe Hamyar was
consecrated to the Sun, the Tribe Cennah to the Moon; the Tribe Misa
was under the protection of the beautiful Star in Taurus, Aldebarßn; the
Tribe Tai under that of Canopus; the Tribe Kais, of Sirius; the Tribes
Lachamus and Idamus, of Jupiter; the Tribe Asad, of Mercury; and so on.
The Saracens, in the time of Heraclius, worshipped Venus, whom they
called CABAR, or The Great; and they swore by the Sun, Moon, and
Stars. Shahristan, an Arabic author, says that the Arabs and Indians
before his time had temples dedicated to the seven Planets. Abulfaragius
says that the seven great primitive nations, from whom all others
descended, the Persians, ChaldŠans, Greeks, Egyptians, Turks, Indians,
and Chinese, all originally were SabŠists, and worshipped the Stars.
They all, he says, like the ChaldŠans, prayed turning toward the North
three times a day, at Sunrise, Noon, and Sunset, bowing themselves
three times before the Sun. They invoked the Stars and the Intelligences
which inhabited them, offered them sacrifices, and called the fixed stars
and planets gods. Philo says that the ChaldŠans regarded the stars as
sovereign arbiters of the order of the world, and did not look beyond the
visible causes to any invisible and intellectual being. They regarded
NATURE as the great divinity, that exercised its powers through the
action of its parts, the Sun, Moon, Planets, and Fixed Stars, the
successive revolutions of the seasons, and the combined action of
Heaven and Earth. The great feast of the SabŠans was when the Sun
reached the Vernal Equinox: and they had five other feasts, at the times
when the five minor planets entered the signs in which they had their
Diodorus Siculus informs us that the Egyptians recognized two great
Divinities, primary and eternal, the Sun and Moon, which they thought
governed the world, and from which everything receives its nourishment
and growth: that on them depended all and the great work of generation,
and the perfection of all effects produced in nature. We know that the
two great Divinities of Egypt were Osiris and Isis, the greatest agents of
nature; according to some, the Sun and Moon, and according to others,
Heaven and Earth, or the active and passive principles of generation,
And we learn from Porphyry that ChŠremon, a learned priest of Egypt,
and many other learned men of that nation, said that the Egyptians
recognized as gods the stars composing the zodiac, and all those that by
their rising or setting marked its divisions; the subdivisions of the signs
into decans, the horoscope and the stars that presided therein, and
which were called Potent Chiefs Heaven: that considering the Sun as the
Great God, Architect, and Ruler of the World, they explained not only the
fable of Osiris and Isis, but generally all their sacred legends, by the
stars, by their appearance and disappearance, by their ascension, by the
phases of the moon, and the increase and diminution of her, light; by the
march of the sun, the division of time and the heavens into two parts, one
assigned to darkness and the other to light; by the Nile and, in fine, by
the whole round of physical causes.
Lucian tells us that the bull Apis, sacred to the Egyptians, was the image
of the celestial Bull, or Taurus; and that Jupiter Ammon, horned like a
ram, was an image of the constellation Aries. And Clemens of Alexandria
assures us that the four principal
sacred animals, carried in their processions, were emblems of the
four signs or cardinal points which fixed the seasons at the equinoxes
and solstices, and divided into four parts the yearly march of the sun.
They worshipped fire also, and water, and the Nile, which river they
styled Father, Preserver of Egypt, sacred emanation from the Great God
Osiris; and in their hymns in which they called it the god crowned with
millet (which grain, represented by the pschent, was part of the headdress
of their kings), bringing with him abundance. The other elements
were also revered by them: and the Great Gods, whose names are
found inscribed on an ancient column, are the Air, Heaven, the Earth,
the Sun, the Moon, Night, and Day. And, in fine, as Eusebius says, they
regarded the Universe as a great Deity, composed of a great number of
gods, the different parts of itself.
The same worship of the Heavenly Host extended into every part of
Europe, into Asia Minor, and among the Turks, Scythians, and Tartars.
The ancient Persians adored the Sun as Mithras, and also the Moon,
Venus, Fire, Earth, Air, and Water; and, having no statues or altars,
they sacrificed on high places to the Heavens and to the Sun. On seven
ancient pyrea they burned incense to the Seven Planets, and
considered the elements to be divinities. In the Zend-Avesta we find
invocations addressed to Mithras, the stars, the elements, trees,
mountains, and every part of nature. The Celestial Bull is invoked there,
to which the Moon unites herself; and the four great stars, Taschter,
Satevis, Haftorang, and Venant, the great Star Rapitan, and the other
constellations which watch over the different portions of the earth.
The Magi, like a multitude of ancient nations, worshipped fire, above all
the other elements and powers of nature. In India, the Ganges and the
Indus were worshipped, and the Sun was the Great Divinity. They
worshipped the Moon also, and kept up the sacred fire. In Ceylon, the
Sun, Moon, and other planets were worshipped: in Sumatra, the Sun,
called Iri, and the Moon, called Handa. And the Chinese built Temples
to Heaven, the Earth, and genii of the air, of the water, of the mountains,
and of the stars, to the sea-dragon, and to the planet Mars.
The celebrated Labyrinth was built in honor of the Sun; and its twelve
palaces, like the twelve superb columns of the Temple is, at Hieropolis,
covered with symbols relating to the twelve signs and the occult
qualities of the elements, were consecrated to the twelve gods or
tutelary genii of the signs of the Zodiac. The
figure of the pyramid and that of the obelisk, resembling the shape of a
flame, caused these monuments to be consecrated to the Sun and to
Fire. And TimŠus of Locria says: "The equilateral triangle enters into
the composition of the pyramid, which has four equal faces and equal
angles, and which in this is like fire, the most subtle and mobile of the
elements." They and the obelisks were erected in honor of the Sun,
termed in an inscription upon one of the latter, translated by the
Egyptian Hermapion, and to be found in Ammianus Marcellinus, "Apollo
the strong, Son of God, he who made the world, true Lord of the
diadems, who possesses Egypt and fills it with His glory."
The two most famous divisions of the Heavens, by seven, which is that
of the planets, and by twelve, which is that of the signs, are found on
the religious monuments of all the people of the ancient world. The
twelve Great Gods of Egypt are met with everywhere. They were
adopted by the Greeks and Romans; and the latter assigned one of
them to each sign of the Zodiac. Their images were seen at Athens,
where an altar was erected to each; and they were painted on the
porticos. The People of the North had their twelve Azes, or Senate of
twelve great gods, of whom Odin was chief. The Japanese had the
same number, and like the Egyptians divided them into classes, seven,
who were the most ancient, and five, afterward added: both of which
numbers are well known and consecrated in Masonry.
There is no more striking proof of the universal adoration paid the stars
and constellations, than the arrangement of the Hebrew camp in the
Desert, and the allegory in regard to the twelve Tribes of Israel,
ascribed in the Hebrew legends to Jacob. The Hebrew camp was a
quadrilateral, in sixteen divisions, of which the central four were
occupied by images of the four elements. The four divisions at the four
angles of the quadrilateral exhibited the four signs that the astrologers
called fixed, and which they regard as subject to the influence of the
four great Royal Stars, Regulus in Leo, Aldebaran in Taurus, Antares
in Scorpio, and Fomalhaut in the mouth of Pisces, on which falls the
water poured out by Aquarius; of which constellations the Scorpion was
represented in the Hebrew blazonry by the Celestial Vulture or Eagle,
that rises at the same time with it and is its paranatellon. The other
signs were arranged on the four faces of the quadilateral, and in the
parallel and interior divisions.
There is an astonishing coincidence between the characteristics assigned by
Jacob to his sons, and those of the signs of the Zodiac, or the planets that have
their domicile in those signs.
Reuben is compared to running water, unstable, and that cannot excel; and he
answers to Aquarius, his ensign being a man. The water poured out by Aquarius
flows toward the South Pole, and it is the first of the four Royal Signs, ascending
from the Winter Solstice.
The Lion (Leo) is the device of Judah; and Jacob compares him to that animal,
whose constellation in the Heavens is the domicile of the Sun; the Lion of the
Tribe of Judah; by whose grip, when that of apprentice and that of fellow-craft, -
of Aquarius at the Winter Solstice and of Cancer at the Vernal Equinox, - had not
succeeded in raising him, KhŘrŘm was lifted out of the grave.
Ephraim, on whose ensign appears the Celestial Bull, Jacob compares to the ox.
Dan, bearing as his device a Scorpion, he compares to the Cerastes or horned
Serpent, synonymous in astrological language with the vulture or pouncing
eagle; and which bird was often substituted on the flag of Dan, in place of the
venomous scorpion, on account of the terror which that reptile inspired, as the
symbol of Typhon and his malign influences; wherefore the Eagle, as its
paranatellon, that is, rising and setting at the same time with it, was naturally
used in its stead. Hence the four famous figures in the sacred pictures of the
Jews and Christians, and in Royal Arch Masonry, of the Lion, the Ox, the Man,
and the Eagle, the four creatures of the Apocalypse, copied there from Ezekiel,
in whose reveries and rhapsodies they are seen revolving around blazing
The Ram, domicile of Mars, chief of the Celestial Soldiery and of the twelve
Signs, is the device of Gad, whom Jacob characterizes as a warrior, chief of his
Cancer, in which are the stars termed Aselli, or little asses, is the device of the
flag of Issachar, whom Jacob compares to an ass.
Capricorn, of old represented with the tail of a fish, and called by astronomers
the Son of Neptune, is the device of Zebulon, of whom Jacob says that he dwells
on the shore of the sea.
Sagittarius, chasing the Celestial Wolf, is the emblem of Benjamin, whom Jacob
compares to a hunter: and in that constellation the Romans placed the domicile
of Diana the huntress. Virgo,
the domicile of Mercury, is borne on the flag of Naphtali, whose eloquence
and agility Jacob magnifies, both of which are attributes of the Courier of
the Gods. And of Simeon and Levi he speaks as united, as are the two
fishes that make the Constellation Pisces, which is their armorial emblem.
Plato, in his Republic, followed the divisions of the Zodiac and the
planets. So also did Lycurgus at Sparta, and Cecrops in the Athenian
Commonwealth. Chun, the Chinese legislator, divided China into twelve
Tcheou, and specially designated twelve mountains. The Etruscans
divided themselves into twelve Cantons. Romulus appointed twelve
Lictors. There were twelve tribes of Ishmael and twelve disciples of the
Hebrew Reformer. The New Jerusalem of the Apocalypse has twelve
The Souciet, a Chinese book, speaks of a palace composed of four
buildings, whose gates looked toward the four corners of the world. That
on the East was dedicated to the new moons of the months of Spring; that
on the West to those of Autumn; that on the South to those of Summer;
and that on the North to those of Winter: and in this, palace the Emperor
and his grandees sacrificed a lamb, the animal that represented the Sun
at the Vernal Equinox.
Among the Greeks, the march of the Choruses in their theatres
represented the movements of the Heavens and the planets, and the
Strophe and Anti-Strophe imitated, Aristoxenes says, the movements of
the Stars. The number five was sacred among the Chinese, as that of the
planets other than the Sun and Moon. Astrology consecrated the numbers
twelve, seven, thirty, and three hundred and sixty; and everywhere seven,
the number of the planets, was as sacred as twelve, that of the signs, the
months, the oriental cycles, and the sections of the horizon. We shall
speak more at large hereafter, in another Degree, as to these and other
numbers, to which the ancients ascribed mysterious powers.
The Signs of the Zodiac and the Stars appeared on many of the ancient
coins and medals. On the public seal of the Locrians, Ozoles was
Hesperus, or the planet Venus. On the medals of Antioch on the Orontes
was the ram and crescent; and the Ram was the special Deity of Syria,
assigned to it in the division of the earth among the twelve signs. On the
Cretan coins was the Equinoctial Bull; and he also appeared on those of
the Mamertins and of Athens. Sagittarius appeared on those of the
India the twelve signs appeared upon the ancient coins. The Scorpion
was engraved on the medals of the Kings of Comagena, and Capricorn
on those of Zeugnia, Anazorba, and other cities. On the medals of
Antoninus are found nearly all the signs of the Zodiac.
Astrology was practised among all the ancient nations. In Egypt, the
book of Astrology was borne reverentially in the religious processions;
in which the few sacred animals were also carried, as emblems of the
equinoxes and solstices. The same science flourished among the
Chaldeans, and over the whole of Asia and Africa. When Alexander
invaded India, the astrologers of the Oxydraces came to him to
disclose the secrets of their science of Heaven and the Stars. The
Brahimins whom Apollonius consulted, taught him the secrets of
Astronomy, with the ceremonies and prayers whereby to appease the
gods and learn the future from the stars. In China, astrology taught the
mode of governing the State and families. In Arabia it was deemed the
mother of the sciences; and old libraries are full of Arabic books on this
pretended science. It flourished at Rome. Constantine had his
horoscope drawn by the astrologer Valens. It was a science in the
middle ages, and even to this day is neither forgotten nor unpractised.
Catherine de Medici was fond of it. Louis XIV. consulted his horoscope,
and the learned Casini commenced his career as an astrologer.
The ancient SabŠans established feasts in honor of each planet, on
the day, for each, when it entered its place of exaltation, or reached the
particular degree in the particular sign of the zodiac in which astrology
had fixed the place of its exaltation; that is, the place in the Heavens
where its influence was supposed to be greatest, and where it acted on
Nature with the greatest energy. The place of exaltation of the Sun was
in Aries, because, reaching that point, he awakens all Nature, and
warms into life all the germs of vegetation; and therefore his most
solemn feast among all nations, for many years before our Era, was
fixed at the time of his entrance into that sign. In Egypt, it was called
the Feast of Fire and Light. It was the Passover, when the Paschal
Lamb was slain and eaten, among the Jews, and Neurouz among the
Persians. The Romans preferred the place of domicile to that of
exaltation; and celebrated the feasts of the planets under the signs that
were their houses. The Chaldeans, whom and not the Egyptians, the
SabŠans followed in this, preferred the places of exaltation.
Saturn, from the length of time required for his apparent revolution, was
considered the most remote, and the Moon the nearest planet. After
the Moon came Mercury and Venus, then the Sun, and then Mars,
Jupiter, and Saturn.
So the risings and settings of the Fixed Stars, and their conjunctions
with the Sun, and their first appearance as they emerged from his rays,
fixed the epochs for the feasts instituted in their honor; and the Sacred
Calendars of the ancients were regulated accordingly.
In the Roman games of the circus, celebrated in honor of the Sun and
of entire Nature, the Sun, Moon, Planets, Zodiac, Elements, and the
most apparent parts and potent agents of Nature were personified and
represented, and the courses of the Sun in the Heavens were imitated
in the Hippodrome; his chariot being drawn by four horses of different
colors, representing the four elements and seasons. The courses were
from East to West, like the circuits round the Lodge, and seven in
number, to correspond with the number of planets. The movements of
the Seven Stars that revolve around the pole were also represented, as
were those of Capella, which by its heliacal rising at the moment when
the Sun reached the Pleiades, in Taurus, announced the
commencement of the annual revolution of the Sun.
The intersection of the Zodiac by the colures at the Equinoctial and
Solstitial points, fixed four periods, each of which has, by one or more
nations, and in some cases by the same nation at different periods,
been taken for the commencement of the year. Some adopted the
Vernal Equinox, because then day began to prevail over night, and
light gained a victory over darkness. Sometimes the Summer Solstice
was preferred; because then day attained its maximum of duration, and
the acme of its glory and perfection. In Egypt, another reason was, that
then the Nile began to overflow, at the heliacal rising of Sirius. Some
preferred the Autumnal Equinox, because then the harvests were
gathered, and the hopes of a new crop were deposited in the bosom of
the earth. And some preferred the Winter Solstice, because then, the
shortest day having arrived, their length commenced to increase, and
Light began the career destined to end in victory at the Vernal Equinox.
The Sun was figuratively said to die and be born again at the Winter
Solstice; the games of the Circus, in honor of the invincible God-Sun,
were then celebrated, and the Roman year estab
lished or reformed by Numa, commenced. Many peoples of Italy
commenced their year, Macrobius says, at that time; and represented by
the four ages of man the gradual succession of periodical increase and
diminution of day, and the light of the Sun; likening him to an infant born
at the Winter Solstice, a young man at the Vernal Equinox, a robust man
at the Summer Solstice, and an old man at the Autumnal Equinox.
This idea was borrowed from the Egyptians, who adored the Sun at the
Winter Solstice, under the figure of an infant.
The image of the Sign in which each of the four seasons commenced,
became the form under which was figured the Sun of that particular
season. The Lion's skin was worn by Hercules; the horns of the Bull
adorned the forehead of Bacchus; and the autumnal serpent wound its
long folds round the Statue of Serapis, 2500 years before our era; when
those Signs corresponded with the commencement of the Seasons.
When other constellations replaced them at those points, by means of
the precession of the Equinoxes, those attributes were changed. Then
the Ram furnished the horns for the head of the Sun, under the name of
Jupiter Ammon. He was no longer born exposed to the waters of
Aquarius, like Bacchus, nor enclosed in an urn like the God Canopus;
but in the Stables of Augeas or the Celestial Goat. He then completed
his triumph, mounted on an ass, in the constellation Cancer, which then
occupied the Solstitial point of Summer.
Other attributes the images of the Sun borrowed from the constellations
which, by their rising and setting, fixed the points of departure of the
year, and the commencements of its four principal divisions.
First the Bull and afterward the Ram (called by the Persians the Lamb),
was regarded as the regenerator of Nature, through his union with the
Sun. Each, in his turn, was an emblem of the Sun overcoming the winter
darkness, and repairing the disorders of Nature, which every year was
regenerated under these Signs, after the Scorpion and Serpent of
Autumn had brought upon it barrenness, disaster, and darkness.
Mithras was represented sitting on a Bull; and that animal was an image
of Osiris: while the Greek Bacchus armed his front with its horns, and
was pictured with its tail and feet.
The Constellations also became noteworthy to the husbandman, which
by their rising or setting, at morning or evening, indicated
the coming of this period of renewed fruitfulness and new life. Capella, or
the kid Amalthea, whose horn is called that of abundance, awl whose
place is over the equinoctial point, or Taurus; and the Pleiades, that long
indicated the Seasons, and gave rise to a multitude of poetic fables, were
the most observed and most celebrated in antiquity.
The original Roman year commenced at the Vernal Equinox. July was
formerly called Quintilis, the 5th month, and August Sextilis, the 6th, as
September is still the 7th month, October the 8th, and so on. The
Persians commenced their year at the same time, and celebrated their
great feast of Neurouz when the Sun entered Aries and the Constellation
Perseus rose, - Perseus, who first brought down to earth the heavenly fire
consecrated in their temples: and all the ceremonies then practised
reminded men of the renovation of Nature and the triumph of Ormuzd, the
Light-God, over the powers of Darkness and Ahriman their Chief.
The Legislator of the Jews fixed the commencement of their year in the
month Nisan, at the Vernal Equinox, at which season the Israelites
marched out of Egypt and were relieved of their long bondage; in
commemoration of which Exodus, they ate the Paschal Lamb at that
Equinox. And when Bacchus and his army had long marched in burning
deserts, they were led by a Lamb or Ram into beautiful meadows, and to
the Springs that watered the Temple of Jupiter Ammon. For, to the Arabs
and Ethiopians, whose great Divinity Bacchus was, nothing was so
perfect a type of Elysium as a Country abounding in springs and rivulets.
Orion, on the same meridian with the Stars of Taurus, died of the sting of
the celestial Scorpion, that rises when he sets; as dies the Bull of Mithras
in Autumn: and in the Stars that correspond with the Autumnal Equinox
we find those malevolent genii that ever war against the Principle of good,
and that take from the Sun and the Heavens the fruit-producing power
that they communicate to the earth.
With the Vernal Equinox, dear to the sailor as to the husbandman, came
the Stars that, with the Sun, open navigation, and rule the stormy Seas.
Then the Twins plunge into the solar fires, or disappear at setting, going
down with the Sun into the bosom of the waters. And these tutelary
Divinities of mariners, the Dioscuri or Chief Cahiri of Samothrace, sailed
with Jason to possess themselves of the golden-fleeced ram, or Aries,
whose rising in the
morning announced the Sun's entry into Taurus, when the Serpentbearer
Jason rose in the evening, and, in aspect with the Dioscuri, was
deemed their brother. And Orion, son of Neptune, and most potent
controller of the tempest-tortured ocean, announcing sometimes calm
and sometimes tempest, rose after Taurus, rejoicing in the forehead of
the new year.
The Summer Solstice was not less an important point in the Sun's
march than the Vernal Equinox, especially to the Egyptians, to whom it
not only marked the end and term of the increasing length of the days
and of the domination of light, and the maximum of the Sun's elevation;
but also the annual recurrence of that phenomenon peculiar to Egypt,
the rising of the Nile, which, ever accompanying the Sun in his course,
seemed to rise and fall as the days grew longer and shorter, being
lowest at the Winter Solstice, and highest at that of Summer. Thus the
Sun seemed to regulate its swelling; and the time of his arrival at the
solstitial point being that of the first rising of the Nile, was selected by
the Egyptians as the beginning of a year which they called the Year of
God, and of the Sothiac Period, or the period of Sothis, the Dog-Star,
who, rising in the morning, fixed that epoch, so important to the people
of Egypt. This year was also called the Heliac, that is the Solar year,
and the Canicular year; and it consisted of three hundred and sixty-five
days, without intercalation; so that at the end of four years, or of four
times three hundred and sixty-five days, making 1460 days, it needed
to add a day, to make four complete revolutions of the Sun. To correct
this, some Nations made every fourth year consist, as we do now, of
366 days: but the Egyptians preferred to add nothing to the year of 365
days, which, at the end of 120 years, or of 30 times 4 years, was short
30 days or a month; that is to say, it required a month more to complete
the 120 revolutions of the Sun, though so many were counted, that is,
so many years. Of course the commencement of the 121st year would
not correspond with the Summer Solstice, but would precede it by a
month: so that, when the Sun arrived at the Solstitial point whence he
at first set out, and whereto he must needs return, to make in reality
120 years, or 120 complete revolutions, the first month of the 121st
year would have ended.
Thus, if the commencement of the year went back 30 days every 120
years, this commencement of the year, continuing to
recede, would, at the end of 12 times 120 years, or of 1460 years, get
back to the Solstitial point, or primitive point of departure of the period.
The Sun would then have made but 1459 revolutions, though 1460
were counted; to make up which, a year more would need to be added.
So that the Sun would not have made his 1460 revolutions until the end
of 1461 years of 365 days each, - each revolution being in reality not
365 days exactly, but 365 ╝.
This period of 1461 years, each of 365 days, bringing back the
commencement of the Solar year to the Solstitial point, at the rising of
Sirius, after 1460 complete Solar revolutions, was called in Egypt the
Sothiac period, the point of departure whereof was the Summer
Solstice, first occupied by the Lion and afterward by Cancer, under
which sign is Sirius, which opened the period. It was, says Porphyry, at
this Solstitial New Moon, accompanied by the rising of Seth or the Dog-
Star, that the beginning of the year was fixed, and that of the
generation of all things, or, as it were, the natal hour of the world.
Not Sirius alone determined the period of the rising of the Nile,
Aquarius, his urn, and the stream flowing from it, in opposition to the
sign of the Summer Solstice then occupied by the Sun, opened in the
evening the march of Night, and received the full Moon in his cup.
Above him and with him rose the feet of Pegasus, struck wherewith the
waters flow forth that the Muses drink. The Lion and, the Dog,
indicating, were supposed to cause the inundation, and so were
worshipped. While the Sun passed through Leo, the waters doubled
their depth; and the sacred fountains poured their streams through the
heads of lions. Hydra, rising between Sirius and Leo, extended under
three signs. Its 'head rose with Cancer, and its tail with the feet of the
Virgin and the beginning of Libra; and the inundation continued while
the Sun passed along its whole extent.
The successive contest of light and darkness for the possession of the
lunar disk, each being by turns victor and vanquished, exactly
resembled what passed upon the earth by he action of the Sun and his
journeys from one Solstice to the other. The lunary revolution
presented the same periods of light and darkness as the year, and was
the object of the same religious fictions. Above the Moon, Pliny said,
everything is pure, and filled with eternal light. There ends the cone of
shadow which the earth projects, and which produces night; there ends
the sojourn of night and
darkness; to it the air extends; but there we enter the pure substance.
The Egyptians assigned to the Moon the demiurgic or creative force of
Osiris, who united himself to her in the spring, when the Sun
communicated to her the principles of generation which she afterward
disseminated in the air and all the elements. The Persians considered
the Moon to have been impregnated by the Celestial Bull, first of the
signs of spring. In all ages, the Moon has been supposed to have great
influence upon vegetation, and the birth and growth of animals; and the
belief is as widely entertained now as ever, and that influence regarded
as a mysterious and inexplicable one. Not the astrologers alone, but
Naturalists like Pliny, Philosophers like Plutarch and Cicero,
Theologians like the Egyptian Priests, and Metaphysicians like Proclus,
believed firmly in these lunar influences.
"The Egyptians," says Diodorus Siculus, "acknowledged two great
gods, the Sun and Moon, or Osiris and Isis, who govern the world and
regulate its administration by the dispensation of the seasons . . . .
Such is the nature of these two great Divinities, that they impress an
active and fecundating force, by which the generation of beings in
effected; the Sun, by heat and that spiritual principle that forms the
breath of the winds; the Moon by humidity and dryness; and both by
the forces of the air which they share in common. By this beneficial
influence everything is born, grows, and vegetates. Wherefore this
whole huge body, in which nature resides, is maintained by the
combined action of the Sun and Moon, and their five qualities, - the
principles spiritual, fiery, dry, humid, and airy."
So five primitive powers, elements, or elementary qualities, are united
with the Sun and Moon in the Indian theology, - air, spirit, fire, water,
and earth: and the same five elements are recognized by the Chinese.
The Phťnicians, like the Egyptians, regarded the Sun and Moon and
Stars as sole causes of generation and destruction here below.
The Moon, like the Sun, changed continually the track in which she
crossed the Heavens, moving ever to and fro between the upper and
lower limits of the Zodiac; and her different places, phases, and
aspects there, and her relations with the Sun and the constellations,
have been a fruitful source of mythological fables.
All the planets had what astrology termed their houses, in the
Zodiac. The House of the Sun was in Leo, and that of the Moon in
Cancer. Each other planet had two, signs; Mercury had Gemini and
Virgo; Venus, Taurus and Libra; Mars, Aries and Scorpio; Jupiter,
Pisces and Sagittarius; and Saturn, Aquarius and Capricornus. From
this distribution of the signs also came many mythological emblems
and fables; as also many came from the places of exaltation of the
planets. Diana of Ephesus, the Moon, wore the image of a crab on her
bosom, because in that sign was the Moon's domicile; and lions bore
up the throne of Horus, the Egyptian Apollo, the Sun personified, for a
like reason: while the Egyptians consecrated the tauriforn scarabŠs to
the Moon, because she had her place of exaltation in Taurus; and for
the same reason Mercury is said to have presented Isis with a helmet
like a bull's head.
A further division of the Zodiac was of each sign into three parts of 10║
each, called Decans, or, in the whole Zodiac, 36 parts, among which
the seven planets were apportioned anew, each planet having an
equal number of Decans, except the first, which, opening and closing
the series of planets five times repeated, necessarily had one Decan
more than the others. This subdivision was not invented until after
Aries opened the Vernal Equinox; and accordingly Mars, having his
house in Aries, opens the series of decans and closes it; the planets
following each other, five times in succession, in the following order,
Mars, the Sun, Venus, Mercury, the Moon, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, etc.;
so that to each sign are assigned three planets, each occupying 10
degrees. To each Decan a God or Genius was assigned, making thirtysix
in all, one of whom, the Chaldeans said, came down upon earth
every ten days, remained so many days, and re-ascended to Heaven.
This division is found on the Indian sphere, the Persian, and that
Barbaric one which Aben Ezra describes. Each genius of the Decans
had a name and special characteristics. They concur and aid in the
effects produced by the Sun, Moon, and other planets charged with the
administration of the world: and the doctrine in regard to them, secret
and august as it was held, was considered of the gravest importance;
and its principles, Firmicus says, were not entrusted by the ancients,
inspired as they were by the Deity, to any but the Initiates, and to them
only with great reserve, and a kind of fear, and when cautiously
enveloped with an obscure veil, that they might not come to be known
by the profane.
With these Decans were connected the paranatellons or those stars
outside of the Zodiac, that rise and set at the same moment with the
several divisions of 10║ of each sign. As there were anciently only fortyeight
celestial figures or constellations, of which twelve were in the
Zodiac, it follows that there were, outside of the Zodiac, thirty-six other
asterisms, paranatellons of the several thirty-six Decans. For example,
as when Capricorn set, Sirius and Procyon, or Canis Major and Canis
Minor, rose, they were the Paranatellons of Capricorn, though at a
great distance from it in the heavens. The rising of Cancer was known
from the setting of Corona Borealis and the rising of the Great and
Little Dog, its three paranatellons.
The risings and settings of the Stars are always spoken of as
connected with the Sun. In that connection there are three kinds of
them, cosmical, achronical, and heliacal, important to be distinguished
by all who would understand this ancient learning.
When any Star rises or sets with the same degree of the same sign of
the Zodiac that the Sun occupies at the time, it rises and sets
simultaneously with the Sun, and this is termed rising or setting
cosmically; but a star that so rises and sets can never be seen, on
account of the light that precedes, and is left behind by the Sun. It is
therefore necessary, in order to know his place in the Zodiac, to
observe stars that rise just before or set just after him.
A Star that is in the Fast when night commences, and in the West when
it ends, is said to rise and set achronically. A Star so rising or setting
was in opposition to the Sun, rising at the end of evening twilight, and
setting at the beginning of morning twilight, and this happened to each
Star but once a year, because the Sun moves from West to Fast, with
reference to the Stars, one degree a day.
When a Star rises as night ends in the morning, or sets as night
commences in the evening, it is said to rise or set heliacally, because
the Sun (Helios) seems to touch it with his luminous atmosphere. A
Star thus re-appears after a disappearance, often, of several months,
and thenceforward it rises an hour earlier each day, gradually
emerging from the Sun's rays, until at the end of three months it
precedes the Sun six hours, and rises at midnight. A Star sets
heliacally, when no longer remaining visible above the western horizon
after sunset, the day arrives when they cease to
be seen setting in the West. They so remain invisible, until the Sun
passes so far to the Eastward as not to eclipse them with his light; and
then they re-appear, but in the East, about an hour and a half before
sunrise: and this is their heliacal rising. In this interval, the cosmical
rising and setting take place.
Besides the relations of the constellations and their paranatelIons with
the houses and places of exaltation of the Planets, and with their places
in the respective Signs and Decans, the Stars were supposed to
produce different effects according as they rose or set, and according
as they did so either cosmically, achronicany, or heliacally; and also
according to the different seasons of the year in which these
phenomena occurred; and these differences were carefully marked on
the old Calendars; and many things in the ancient allegories are
referable to them.
Another and most important division of the Stars was into good and bad,
beneficent and malevolent. With the Persians, the former, of the
Zodiacal Constellations, were from Aries to Virgo, inclusive; and the
latter from Libra to Pisces, inclusive. Hence the good Angels and Genii,
and the bad Angels, Devs, Evil Genii, Devils, Fallen Angels, Titans, and
Giants of the Mythology. The other thirty-six Constellations were equally
divided, eighteen on each side, or, with those of the Zodiac, twenty-four.
Thus the symbolic Egg, that issued from the mouth of the invisible
Egyptian God KNEPH; known in the Grecian Mysteries as the Orphic
Egg; from which issued the God CHUMONG of the Coresians, and the
Egyptian OSIRISS, and PHANES, God and Principle of Light; from
which, broken by the Sacred Bull of the Japanese, the world emerged;
and which the Greeks placed at the feet of BACCHUS TAURI-CORNUS;
the Magian Egg of ORMUZD, from which came the Amshaspands and
Devs; was divided into two halves, and equally apportioned between the
Good and Evil Constellations and Angels. Those of Spring, as for
example Aries and Taurus, Auriga and Capella, were the beneficent
stars; and those of Autumn, as the Balance, Scorpio, the Serpent of
Ophiucus, and the Dragon of the Hesperides, were types and subjects
of the Evil Principle, and regarded as malevolent causes of the ill effects
experienced in Autumn and Winter. Thus are explained the mysteries of
the journeyings of the human soul through the spheres, when it
descends to the earth by the Sign of the Serpent, and returns to the
Empire of light by that of the Lamb or Bull.
The creative action of Heaven was manifested, and all its demiurgic
energy developed, most of all at the Vernal Equinox, to which refer all
the fables that typify the victory of Light over Darkness, by the triumphs
of Jupiter, Osiris, Ormuzd, and Apollo. Always the triumphant god
takes the form of the Bull, the Ram, or the Lamb. Then Jupiter wrests
from Typhon his thunderbolts, of which that malignant Deity had
possessed himself during the Winter. Then the God of Light
overwhelms his foe, pictured as a huge Serpent. Then Winter ends; the
Sun, seated on the Bull and accompanied by Orion, blazes in the
Heavens. All nature rejoices at the victory; and Order and Harmony are
everywhere re-established, in place of the dire confusion that reigned
while gloomy Typhon domineered, and Ahriman prevailed against
The universal Soul of the World, motive power of Heaven and of the
Spheres, it was held, exercises its creative energy chiefly through the
medium of the Sun, during his revolution along the signs of the Zodiac,
with which signs unite the paranatellons that modify their influence, and
concur in furnishing the symbolic attributes of the Great Luminary that
regulates Nature and is the depository of her greatest powers. The
action of this Universal Soul of the World is displayed in the
movements of the Spheres, and above all in that of the Sun, in the
successions of the risings and settings of the Stars, and in their
periodical returns. By these are explainable all the metamorphoses of
that Soul, personified as Jupiter, as Bacchus, as Vishnu, or as Buddha,
and all the various attributes ascribed to it; and also the worship of
those animals that were consecrated in the ancient Temples,
representatives on earth of the Celestial Signs, and supposed to
receive by transmission from them the rays and emanations which in
them flow from the Universal Soul.
All the old Adorers of Nature, the Theologians, Astrologers, and Poets,
as well as the most distinguished Philosophers, supposed that the
Stars were so many animated and intelligent beings, or eternal bodies,
active causes of effect here below, animated by a living principle, and
directed by an intelligence that was itself but an emanation from and a
part of the life and universal intelligence of the world: and we find in the
hierarchical order and distribution of their eternal and divine
Intelligences, known by the names of Gods, Angels, and Genii, the
same distributions and
the same divisions as those by which the ancients divided the visible
Universe and distributed its parts. And the famous divisions by seven
and by twelve, appertaining to the planets and the signs of the zodiac,
is everywhere found in the hierarchical order of the Gods, and Angels,
and the other Ministers that are the depositaries of that Divine Force
which moves and rules the world.
These, and the other Intelligences assigned to the other Stars, have
absolute dominion over all parts of Nature; over the elements, the
animal and vegetable kingdoms, over man and all his actions, over his
virtues and vices, and over good and evil, which divide between them
his life. The passions of his soul and the maladies of his body, - these
and the entire man are dependent on the heavens and the genii that
there inhabit, who preside at his birth, control his fortunes during life,
and receive his soul or active and intelligent part when it is to be reunited
to the pure life of the lofty Stars. And all through the great body
of the world are disseminated portions of the universal Soul,
impressing movement on everything that seems to move of itself, giving
life to the plants and trees, directing by a regular and settled plan the
organization and development of their germs, imparting constant
mobility to the running waters and maintaining their eternal motion,
impelling the winds and changing their direction or stilling them,
calming and arousing the ocean, unchaining the storm pouring out the
fires of volcanoes, or with earthquakes shaking the roots of huge
mountains and the foundations of vast continents; by means of a force
that, belonging to Nature, is a mystery to man.
And these invisible Intelligences, like the stars, are marshalled in two
great divisions, under the banners of the two Principles of Good and
Evil, Light and Darkness; under Ormuzd and Ahriman, Osiris and
Typhon. The Evil Principle was the motive power of brute matter; and
it, personified as Ahriman and Typhon, had its hosts and armies of
Devs and Genii, Fallen Angels and Malevolent Spirits, who waged
continual wage with the Good Principle, the Principle of Empyreal Light
and Splendor, Osiris, Ormuzd, Jupiter or Dionusos, with his bright
hosts of Amshaspands, Izeds, Angels, and Archangels; a warfare that
goes on from birth until death, in the soul of every man that lives.
We have heretofore, in the 24th Degree recited the principal incidents
in the legend of Osiris and Isis, and it remains but to point
out the astronomical phenomena which it has converted into mythological
The Sun, at the Vernal Equinox, was the fruit-compelling star that by his
warmth provoked generation and poured upon the sublunary world all the
blessings of Heaven; the beneficent god, tutelary genius of universal
vegetation, that communicates to the dull earth new activity, and stirs her
great heart, long chilled by Winter and his frosts, until from her bosom burst
all the greenness and perfume of spring, making her rejoice in leafy forests
and grassy lawns and flower-enamelled meadows, and the promise of
abundant crops of grain and fruits and purple grapes in their due season.
He was then called Osiris, Husband of Isis, God of Cultivation and
Benefactor of Men, pouring on them and on the earth the choicest
blessings within the gift of the Divinity. Opposed to him was Typhon, his
antagonist in the Egyptian mythology, as Ahriman was the foe of Ormuzd,
the Good Principle, in the theology of the Persians.
The first inhabitants of Egypt and Ethiopia, as Diodorus Siculus informs us,
saw in the Heavens two first eternal causes of things, or great Divinities,
one the Sun, whom they called Osiris, and the other the Moon, whom they
called Isis; and these they considered the causes of all the generations of
earth. This idea, we learn from Eusebius, was the same as that of the
Phťnicians. On these two great Divinities the administration of the world
depended. All sublunary bodies received from them their nourishment and
increase, during the annual revolution which they controlled, and the
different seasons into which it was divided.
To Osiris and Isis, it was held, were owing civilization, the discovery of
agriculture, laws, arts of all kinds, religious worship, temples, the invention
of letters, astronomy, the gymnastic arts, and music; and thus they were the
universal benefactors. Osiris travelled to civilize the countries which he
passed through, and communicate to them his valuable discoveries. He
built cities, and taught men to cultivate the earth. Wheat and wine were his
first presents to men. Europe, Asia, and Africa partook of the blessings
which he communicated, and the most remote regions of India remembered
him, and claimed him as one of their great gods.
You have learned how Typhon, his brother, slew him. His body was cut into
pieces, all of which were collected by Isis, except his
organs of generation, which had been thrown into and devoured in the
waters of the river that every year fertilized Egypt. The other portions were
buried by Isis, and over them she erected a tomb. Thereafter she remained
single, loading her subjects with blessings. She cured the sick, restored
sight to the blind, made the paralytic whole, and even raised the dead.
From her Horus or Apollo learned divination and the science of medicine.
Thus the Egyptians pictured the beneficent action of the two luminaries
that, from the bosom of the elements, produced all animals and men, and
all bodies that are born, grow, and die in the eternal circle of generation
and destruction here below.
When the Celestial Bull opened the new year at the Vernal Equinox, Osiris,
united with the Moon, communicated to her the seeds of fruitfulness which
she poured upon the air, and therewith impregnated the generative
principles which gave activity to universal vegetation. Apis, represented by
a bull, was the living and sensible image of the Sun or Osiris, when in union
with Isis or the Moon at the Vernal Equinox, concurring with her in
provoking everything that lives to generation. This conjunction of the Sun
with the Moon at the Vernal Equinox, in the constellation Taurus, required
the Bull Apis to have on his shoulder a mark resembling the Crescent
Moon. And the fecundating influence of these two luminaries was
expressed by images that would now be deemed gross and indecent, but
which then were not misunderstood.
Everything good in Nature comes from Osiris, - order, harmony, and the
favorable temperature of the seasons and celestial periods. From Typhon
come the stormy passions and irregular impulses that agitate the brute and
material part of man; maladies of the body, and violent shocks that injure
the health and derange the system; inclement weather, derangement of the
seasons, and eclipses. Osiris and Typhon were the Ormuzd and Ahriman of
the Persians; principles of good and evil, of light and darkness, ever at war
in the administration of the Universe.
Osiris was the image of generative power. This was expressed by his
symbolic statues, and by the sign into which he entered at the Vernal
Equinox. He especially dispensed the humid principle of Nature, generative
element of all things; and the Nile and all moisture were regarded as
emanations from him, without which there could be no vegetation.
That Osiris and Isis were the Sun and Moon, is attested by
many ancient writers; by Diogenes Laertius, Plutarch, Lucian, Suidas,
Macrobius, Martianus Capella, and others. His power was symbolized
by an Eye over a Sceptre. The Sun was termed by the Greeks the Eye
of Jupiter, and the Eye of the World; and his is the All-Seeing Eye in
our Lodges. The oracle of Claros styled him King of the Stars and of
the Eternal Fire, that engenders the year and the seasons, dispenses
rain and winds, and brings about daybreak and night. And Osiris was
invoked as the God that resides in the Sun and is enveloped by his
rays, the invisible and eternal force that modifies the sublunary world
by means of the Sun.
Osiris was the same God known as Bacchus, Dionusos, and Serapis.
Serapis is the author of the regularity and harmony of the world.
Bacchus, jointly with Ceres (identified by Herodotus with Isis) presides
over the distribution of all our blessings; and from the two emanates
everything beautiful and good in Nature. One furnishes the germ and
principle of every good; the other receives and preserves it as a
deposit; and the latter is the function of the Moon in the theology of the
Persians. In each theology, Persian and Egyptian, the Moon acts
directly on the earth; but she is fecundated, in one by the Celestial Bull
and in the other by Osiris, with whom she is united at the Vernal
Equinox, in the sign Taurus, the place of her exaltation or greatest
influence on the earth. The force of Osiris, says Plutarch, is exercised
through the Moon. She is the passive cause relatively to him, and the
active cause relatively to the earth, to which she transmits the germs of
fruitfulness received from him.
In Egypt the earliest movement in the waters of the Nile began to
appear at the Vernal Equinox, when the new Moon occurred at the
entrance of the Sun into the constellation Taurus; and thus the Nile
was held to receive its fertilizing power from the combined action of the
equinoctial Sun and the new Moon, meeting in Taurus. Osiris was often
confounded with the Nile, and Isis with the earth; and Osiris was
deemed to act on the earth, and to transmit to it his emanations,
through both the Moon and the Nile; whence the fable that his
generative organs were thrown into that river. Typhon, on the other
hand, was the principle of aridity and barrenness; and by his mutilation
of Osiris was meant that. drought which caused the Nile to retire within
his bed and shrink up in Autumn.
Elsewhere than in Egypt, Osiris was the symbol of the refreshing rains
that descend to fertilize the earth; and Typhon the burning winds of
Autumn; the stormy rains that rot the flowers, the plants, and leaves;
the short, cold days; and everything injurious in Nature, and that
produces corruption and destruction.
In short, Typhon is the principle of corruption, of darkness, of the lower
world from which come earthquakes, tumultuous commotions of the air,
burning heat, lightning, and fiery meteors, and plague and pestilence.
Such too was the Ahriman of the Persians; and this revolt of the Evil
Principle against the Principle of Good and Light, has been
represented in every cosmogony, under many varying forms. Osiris, on
the contrary, by the intermediation of Isis, fills the material world with
happiness, purity, and order, by which the harmony of Nature is
maintained. t was said that he died at the Autumnal Equinox, when
Taurus or the Pleiades rose in the evening, and that he rose to life
again in "lie Spring, when vegetation was inspired with new activity.
Of course the two signs of Taurus and Scorpio will figure most largely
in the mythological history of Osiris, for they marked the two equinoxes,
2500 years before our Era; and next to them the other constellations,
near the equinoxes, that fixed the limits of the duration of the fertilizing
action of the Sun; and it is also to be remarked that Venus, the
Goddess of Generation, has her domicile in Taurus, as the Moon has
there her place of exaltation.
When the Sun was in Scorpio, Osiris lost his life, and that fruitfulness
which, under the form of the Bull, he had communicated, through the
Moon, to the Earth. Typhon, his hands and feet horrid with serpents,
and whose habitat in the Egyptian planisphere was under Scorpio,
confined him in a chest and flung him into the Nile, under the 17th
degree of Scorpio. Under that sign he lost his life and virility; and he
recovered them in the Spring, when he had connection with the Moon.
When he entered Scorpio, his light diminished, Night reassumed her
dominion, the Nile shrunk within its banks, and the earth lost her
verdure and the trees their leaves. Therefore it is that on the Mithriac
Monuments, the Scorpion bites the testicles of the Equinoctial Bull, on
which sits Mithras, the Sun of Spring and God of Generation; and that,
on the same monuments, we see two trees, one covered with young
leaves, and at its foot a little bull and a torch burning; and the
other loaded with fruit, and at its foot a Scorpion, and a torch reversed
Ormuzd or Osiris, the beneficent Principle that gives the world light,
was personified by the Sun, apparent source of light. Darkness,
personified by Typhon or Ahriman, was his natural enemy. The Sages
of Egypt described the necessary and eternal rivalry or opposition of
these principles, ever pursuing one the other, and one dethroning the
other in every annual revolution, and at a particular period, one in the
Spring under the Bull, and the other in Autumn under the Scorpion, by
the legendary history of Osiris and Typhon, detailed to us by Diodorus
and Synesius; in which history were also personified the Stars and
constellations Orion, Capella, the Twins, the Wolf, Sirius, and
Hercules, whose risings and settings noted the advent of one or the
Plutarch gives us the positions in the Heavens of the Sun and Moon, at
the moment when Osiris was murdered by Typhon. The Sun, he says,
was in the Sign of the Scorpion, which he then entered at the Autumnal
Equinox. The Moon was full, he adds; and consequently, as it rose at
sunset, it occupied Taurus, which, opposite to Scorpio, rose as it and
the Sun sank together, so that she was then found alone in the sign
Taurus, where, six months before, she had been in union or
conjunction with Osiris, the Sun, receiving from him those germs of
universal fertilization which he communicated to her. It was the sign
through which Osiris first ascended into his empire of light and good. It
rose with the Sun on the day of the Vernal Equinox; it remained six
months in the luminous hemisphere, ever preceding the Sun and above
the horizon during the day; until in Autumn, the Sun arriving at Scorpio,
Taurus was in complete opposition with him, rose when he set, and
completed its entire course above the horizon during the night;
presiding, by rising in the evening, over the commencement of the long
nights. Hence in the sad ceremonies commemorating the death of
Osiris, there was borne in procession a golden bull covered with black
crape, image of the darkness into which the familiar sign of Osiris was
entering, and which was to spread over the Northern regions, while the
Sun, prolonging the nights, was to be absent, and each to remain
under the dominion of Typhon, Principle of Evil and Darkness.
Setting out from the sign Taurus, Isis, as the Moon, went seeking for
Osiris through all the superior signs, in each of which she
became full in the successive months from the Autumnal to the Vernal
Equinox, without finding him in either. Let us follow her in her allegorical
Osiris was slain by Typhon his rival, with whom conspired a Queen of
Ethiopia, by whom, says Plutarch, were designated the winds. The
paranatellons of Scorpio, the sign occupied by the Sun when Osiris was
slain, were the Serpents, reptiles which supplied the attributes of the Evil
Genii and of Typhon, who himself bore the form of a serpent in the
Egyptian planisphere. And in the division of Scorpio is also found
Cassiopeia, Queen of Ethiopia, whose setting brings stormy winds.
Osiris descended to the shades or infernal regions. There he took the
name of Serapis, identical with Pluto, and assumed his nature. He was
then in conjunction with Serpentarius, identical with Ăsculapius, whose
form he took in his passage to the lower signs, where he takes the names
of Pluto and Ades.
Then Isis wept for the death of Osiris, and the golden bull covered with
crape was carried in procession. Nature mourned the impending loss of
her Summer glories, and the advent of the empire of night, the withdrawing
of the waters, made fruitful by the Bull in Spring, the cessation of the winds
that brought rains to swell the Nile, the shortening of the days, and the
despoiling of the earth. Then Taurus, directly opposite the Sun, entered
into the cone of shadow which the earth projects, by which the Moon is
eclipsed at full, and with which, making night, the Bull rises and descends
as if covered with a veil, while he remains above our horizon.
The body of Osiris, enclosed in a chest or coffin, was cast into the Nile.
Pan and the Satyrs, near Chemmis, first discovered his death, announced
it by their cries, and everywhere created sorrow and alarm. Taurus, with
the full Moon, then entered into the cone of shadow, and under him was
the Celestial River, most properly called the Nile, and below, Perseus, the
God of Chemmis, and Auriga, leading a she-goat, himself identical with
Pan, whose wife Aiga the she-goat was styled.
Then Isis went in search of the body. She first met certain children who
had seen it, received from them their information, and gave them in return
the gift of divination. The second full Moon occurred in Gemini, the Twins,
who presided over the oracles of Didymus, and one of whom was Apollo,
the God of Divination.
She learned that Osiris had, through mistake, had connection with her
sister Nephte, which she discovered by a crown of leaves of the melilot,
which he had left behind him. Of this connection a child was born, whom
Isis, aided by her dogs, sought for, found, reared, and attached to
herself, by the name of Anubis, her faithful guardian. The third full Moon
occurs in Cancer, domicile of the Moon. The paranatellons of that sign
are, the crown of Ariadne or Proserpine, made of leaves of the melilot,
Procyon and Canis Major, one star of which was called the Star of Isis,
while Sirius himself was honored in Egypt under the name of Anubis.
Isis repaired to Byblos, and seated herself near a fountain, where she
was found by the women of the Court of a King. She was induced to visit
his Court, and became the nurse of his son. The fourth full Moon was in
Leo, domicile of the Sun, or of Adonis, King of Byblos. The
paranatellons of this sign are the flowing water of Aquarius, and
Cephens, King of Ethiopia, called Regulus, or simply The King. Behind
him rise Cassiopeia his wife, Queen of Ethiopia, Andromeda his
daughter, and Perseus his son-in-law, all paranatellons in part of this
sign, and in part of Virgo.
Isis suckled the child, not at her breast, but with the end of her finger, at
night. She burned all the mortal parts of its body, and then, taking the
shape of a swallow, she flew to the great column of the palace, made of
the tamarisk-tree that grew up round the coffin containing the body of
Osiris, and within which it was still enclosed. The fifth full Moon
occurred in Virgo, the true image of Isis, and which Eratosthenes calls
by that name. It pictured a woman suckling an infant, the son of Isis,
born near the Winter Solstice. This sign has for paranatellons the mast
of the Celestial Ship, and the swallow-tailed fish or swallow above it,
and a portion of Perseus, son-in-law of the King of Ethiopia.
Isis, having recovered the sacred coffer, sailed from Byblos in a vessel
with the eldest son of the King, toward Boutos, where Anubis was,
having charge of her son Horus; and in the morning dried up a river,
whence arose a strong wind. Landing, she hid the coffer in a forest.
Typhon, hunting a wild boar by moonlight, discovered it, recognized the
body of his rival, and cut it into fourteen pieces, the number of days
between the full and new Moon, and in every one of which days the
Moon loses a portion of the light that at the commencement filled her
whole disk. The sixth full Moon occurred in Libra over the divisions
from Virgo are the Celestial Ship, Perseus, son of the King of Ethiopia
and Bo÷tes, said to have nursed Horus. The river of Orion that sets in
the morning is also a paranatellon of Libra, as are Ursa Major, the
Great Bear or Wild Boar of Erymanthus, and the Dragon of the North
Pole or the celebrated Python from which the attributes of Typhon were
borrowed. All these surround the full Moon of Libra, last of the Superior
Signs, and the one that precedes the new Moon of Spring, about to be
reproduced in Taurus, and there be once more in conjunction with the
Isis collects the scattered fragments of the body of Osiris, buries them,
and consecrates the phallus, carried in pomp at the Pamylia, or feasts
of the Vernal Equinox, at which time the congress of Osiris and the
Moon was celebrated. Then Osiris had returned from the shades, to aid
Horus his son and Isis his wife against the forces of Typhon. He thus
reappeared, say some, under the form of a wolf, or, others say, under
that of a horse. The Moon, fourteen days after she is full in Libra,
arrives at Taurus and unites herself to the Sun, whose fires she
thereafter for fourteen days continues to accumulate on her disk from
new Moon to full. Then she unites with herself all the months in that
superior portion of the world where light always reigns, with harmony
and order, and she borrows from him the force which is to destroy the
germs of evil that Typhon had, during the winter, planted everywhere in
nature. This passage of the Sun into Taurus, whose attributes he
assumes on his return from the lower hemisphere or the shades, is
marked by the rising in the evening of the Wolf and the Centaur, and
by the heliacal setting of Orion, called the Star of Horus, and which
thenceforward is in conjunction with the Sun of Spring, in his triumph
over the darkness or Typhon.
Isis, during the absence of Osiris, and after she had hidden the coffer
in the place where Typhon found it, had rejoined that malignant enemy;
indignant at which, Horus her son deprived her of her ancient diadem
when she rejoined Osiris as lie was about to attack Typhon: but
Mercury gave her in its place a helmet shaped like the head of a bull.
Then Horus, as a mighty warrior, such as Orion was described, fought
with and defeated Typhon; who, in the shape of the Serpent or Dragon
of the Pole, had assailed his father. So, in Ovid, Apollo destroys the
same Python, when Io, fascinated by Jupiter, is metamorphosed into a
cow, and placed in the sign of the Celestial Bull, where she becomes
Isis. The equi
noctial year ends at the moment when the Sun and Moon, at the Vernal
Equinox, are united with Orion, the Star of Horns, placed of in the
Heavens under Taurus. The new Moon becomes young again in
Taurus, and shows herself as a crescent, for the first time, in the next
sign, Gemini, the domicile of Mercury. Then Orion, in conjunction with
the Sun, with whom he rises, precipitates the Scorpion, his rival, into
the shades of night, causing him to set he whenever he himself reappears
on the eastern horizon, with the Sun. Day lengthens and the
germs of evil are by degrees eradicated: and Horus (from Aur, Light)
reigns triumphant, symbolizing, by his succession to the characteristics
of Osiris, the eternal renewal of the Sun's youth and creative vigor at
the Vernal of Equinox.