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Deborah Houlding

Also by Deborah Houlding

The Moon - Lantern of Heaven

Venus - the two-faced goddess
Mars - solar hero or deadly villian?

Heavenly Imprints

Heavenly Imprints

Development of the Zodiac
and the early origins of
Aries & Taurus

by Deborah Houlding

Most attempts to explain the symbolic origin of zodiac constellation figures do so by reference to classical mythology. This has created a clouded veneer for anyone wishing to take their origin to its primitive root or ask why a certain creature, to the exclusion of all others, should be honoured in the stars; why in that place, why at that time? Mankind creates its environment with a purpose and stamps its achievements in the monuments set on Earth and the symbolic imprints left in heaven. What great victory or cultural advances were being celebrated in the constellations that lay in the belt of prime importance? It is not enough to know that Aries pays tribute to the ram because rams were symbols of the Sun, or that Taurus reveres the bull because bulls were symbols of fertility, when the questions of what is sun-like about a ram, or so fertile about a bull go unanswered.

The classical constellation myths are rich and exciting, full of drama, and whisper archetypal truths on human experience. It cannot be denied that they have left an indelible mark upon astrological meaning, but they are for the most part extensions or adaptations of a deeper vein, which courses through them, obscured and inconspicuous. Unveiling the underlying foundation has become a difficult task, not least because their period of evolution stretches back into prehistory: there is no direct route to follow; currently, no authority to lean on, only clues and suggestions that must be pieced together like the scattered remnants of an archaeological find.

But within this area, so void of academic interest, there are amazing treasures to be restored. Unearthing the origin of the zodiac sign Aries alone, reveals secrets that are not only pertinent to the history of astrology, but reflect upon religious beliefs and cultural traditions that remain at the very heart of modern day life. Before digging into the depths of Aries, it is necessary to understand something of the history of the zodiac as a system; in particular, the embedded problem of precession. The first part of this article offers an overview of these astronomical devices, allowing the spiritual, mythological and political significance of an isolated part of it to be explored in an appropriate context. The conclusions may be perceived as challenging and controversial, but they are based on facts that cannot be ignored. Nor should they be ignored by those with a true academic interest in the history of symbolism, mythology or social culture. What they suggest is that astrology has a more pertinent role in the foundation of modern religious belief than currently, most people are prepared to accept.

Development of the Zodiac

The Zodiac belt extends from the ecliptic, the Great Circle that marks the Sun's transit around the Earth.[1] This is also the circle upon which the cycle of the Moon is centered, and takes its name from the eclipses that occur in the joining of the Sun and Moon on this path. The constellations that lay behind the ecliptic have always been a focus of attention in astrology, a useful backdrop against which luminary movements and the positions of the planets can be tracked.

But the zodiac we know today is a relatively recent refinement that appeared around the 6th century BC and spent several centuries struggling to gain common acceptance. It was once believed to be purely Babylonian in origin since the majority of constellation names can be traced far back in ancient Mesopotamian history. Research, however, has proved a combination of cultural influences with some signs, such as the Ram, demonstrating a long history in ancient Egypt while unknown of in Mesopotamia. The Assyrians conquered Egypt in 671 BC, a key date at which two great civilizations could directly persuade each other and blend the ideas from which the zodiac evolved. To comprehend the scientific thrust and widespread celebration that accompanied this event, we need to consider the previous attempts to chart and sectionalise the sky.

Evidence of man's progress one step earlier is provided by the two tablet Assyrian text, mul Apin, 'stars of the Plough', which was discovered in the library of King Ashurbanipal, ruler of Assyria between 669-626 BC. This is a document of great importance: our oldest detailed catalogue of the constellations, and a compilation of all the astronomical knowledge available to the Mesopotamians before the 7th century BC. An existing copy has been dated to 687 BC, although it is known to be a reproduction of an earlier text presumed written around 1000 BC.

Assyrian Astrolabe The forerunners to the mul Apin were various astrolabes and star lists, drawn to show which stars were visible in the sky at the different seasons of the year. Astrolabes were circular devices that arranged the stars into three 'paths', trisecting the sky at the eastern horizon. The central segment contained the larger part of the constellations Pisces, Aries, Taurus and the Pleiades. The northern path held Cancer, Leo and Ursa major, and the southern contained Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn and Aquarius. This three-sectioned 'wheel' was then subdivided (like an astrological chart) into twelve sections, allowing the months of the year to be identified with the rising of particular stars. The oldest surviving astrolabe, written in Assur around 1100 BC, also details the relative positions of the stars, their risings and settings, and their relevance to agriculture and mythology.

The mul Apin was a significant improvement upon these earlier astrolabes, but similar in form and structure. It gave detailed astronomical information on the Sun and Moon, the planetary periods, the constellations, visibility of the stars, as well as listing astronomical and mathematical techniques and astrological omens. It specified eighteen constellations along the Moon's path, the twelve in use today, plus six that were later amalgamated with the others in the development of the equally spaced zodiac. They were introduced in the series as: "the gods standing in the path of the Moon, through whose domain the Moon passes every month and whom he touches", and listed as follows:

Constellations of the Mul Apin

As the Mesopotamians became more advanced in astronomical techniques, the rather clumsy measurement of the heavenly bodies against the background stars became increasingly unacceptable. This method of observation has many disadvantages, not least the obscuration of the stars by mist and the difficulty in distinguishing constellation boundaries. It became clear that a mathematically devised system was necessary to allow for greater precision in recording planetary movement. The solution was the introduction of the zodiacal 'signs' - in effect, a redefinition of the constellations along the ecliptic. [2]

Various factors converged to inspire the selection of a twelve sign zodiac, but the fact that astrolabes had long since been dividing the heavenly sphere into twelve parts - to aid an association between astronomical conditions and the twelve lunar months of the solar year - made it practical to identify the stars with the monthly divisions more exactly. Allotting 360 to the whole circle (the nearest easily divisible number to the Sun's 365-day cycle) meant that each sign measured exactly 30, even though the constellation figures they were named after varied considerably.

In its beginnings the zodiac was a convenient celestial measuring device, unrelated to astrological activity. Babylonian astronomical diaries dated to the middle of the 6th century BC show it was being used at that time for the recording of astronomical data, yet observation of the effects of the planets for astrological purposes continued to be related to the visible constellations. There was a lengthy overlapping of the use of zodiacal signs and visible constellations before the equally defined zodiac was firmly established, but eventually its astronomical advantages, which included a more accurate recording of time and the production of reliable ephemerides, made it widely accepted. Of the six extant Mesopotamian texts that use the zodiac for astrological purposes the oldest has been dated to 263 BC. [3]


Being a circle, the zodiac has no obvious beginning, so a specific point must be determined from which measurement can commence. This is where the problems begin to occur, in particular because astrologers sought to align the zodiac with the four cardinal points that mark the alteration of seasons: the equinoxes (where the Sun crosses the equator in spring and autumn) and the solstices (where it is furthest from the equator in summer and winter). In the early Classical period these were regarded as fixed in space although, in fact, they are subject to an almost imperceptible precession at the rate of 50 seconds per year. What this means in simple terms, is that the Sun does not cross the equator at exactly the same place on the ecliptic each year. It crosses at a point 50 seconds of arc to the east of the previous year. During a lifetime this shifting point of intersection between the ecliptic and equator is so small as to be negligible, but over several centuries it will be noticed that the backdrop of stars that once lay behind the crossing point is moving westwards. This is the phenomenon of precession, caused by the Earth's axis slowly rotating around the celestial poles. Whilst the background of the fixed stars remain more or less constant to each other, the ecliptic's intersection with the equator slides backwards through the zodiac, completing one circuit in approximately 26,000 years - the 'Great Astrological Age'. The movement of the Vernal Equinox from one zodiacal sign to the next - by which we are presently moving from the Age of Pisces to Aquarius - is a subdivision of this cycle that takes approximately 2,160 years.

The need to correctly identify the position of the Vernal Equinox, which sees the crossing of the Sun from the southern hemisphere to the north around 21 March, was a matter of vast significance to ancient civilizations. The Sun's return to the equinox gave the official signal for spring, a time of great jubilation and spiritual worship, where whole communities engaged in New Year festivities and ceremonies that spanned several days, dedicated to celebrating the return of the Sun's domination over the darkness of winter, the return of life over death. There can be no doubt that the ascent of the Sun to the Vernal Equinox had absorbed the interest of astrologers for thousands of years before the introduction of the equally-spaced, manufactured zodiac. When this new mathematical device was introduced, it was natural for astrologers to seek to place its starting point - philosophically at least - in alignment with the Vernal Equinox.

However, we have to remember that this was not a problem that applied to the ancient cultures - the great civilizations of the Egyptians and Mesopotamians, who placed such tremendous importance on precisely locating and dating the 'return of the Sun'. The astrologers of the ancient period were observers, driven by religious and social needs to correctly locate the Vernal Equinox in order to set their calendars and regulate society. These people were not using the tropical zodiac - it hadn't been invented, and they had no overriding need to establish fixed points in space, since they placed a heavy investment in their astrologers to keep their yearly cycles up to date by reference to the stars.

The problem of creating a fixed beginning to the zodiac really arose during the Classical period, when astrologers became as much philosophers as observers, more dependent upon mathematical divisions than relationships with stars, and less willing to invest in individual attention to the sky as reference to older tables set up by the astrologers who went before them. Supported by a workable calendar and a regulated society, there was little need to pay such close attention to this slow and almost imperceptible cycle of seasonal change. A cultural shift was moving the astrological focus of attention away from monitoring the movements of the stars, to philosophical questions such as, what are the stars, what are they composed of and what holds them in the sky?

After Alexander the Great united the three kingdoms of Egypt, Assyria and Greece in the 3rd century BC, the Hellenistic world arose, aiming to recapture the ancient philosophies of Egypt and Assyria and merge them into an integrated philosophical package that was to become part of the heritage of the western world. During this process, centers of learning were set up, where ancient manuscripts could be studied and the works compiled into a new standard of study. Classical, Hellenistic astrology underwent major modifications - it emerged in a very different form to that practiced in Mesopotamia or Egypt; the techniques were based upon earlier standards, but some philosophies were expanded and developed, some were lost.

During this process, knowledge of the shifting vernal point became obscured. The early astrologers of the Classical period came to regard the Vernal Equinox as fixed and stationary, falling somewhere in the early degrees of Aries. But there was clearly a great deal of confusion and debate as to where exactly in Aries it could be found. Manilius, in the 1st century AD, writes of how unsettled astrologers were on the issue:

Some ascribe these powers to the 8th degree, some hold they belong to the 10th nor was an authority lacking to give the 1st degree the decisive influence and control of days. [4]

We know also of earlier accounts placing the Vernal Equinox at the 12th or 15th degree of Aries. [5] The early Classical astrologers had the means to understand the problem of precession, but they didn't have the philosophical interest, preferring instead to conceive of the heavens resting on four eternal, fixed points of power and support. Although Hipparchus (c. 190-120 BC), credited with discovering the precession of the equinoxes, provided indisputable evidence of the phenomena during the process of correcting earlier star charts, many of his contemporaries dismissed his findings, reluctant to relinquish their traditional beliefs. Hence, even as late as 77 AD, we find the Roman Historian Pliny ignoring his discoveries, writing in his Natural History that the Sun 'changes its course' at the 8th degree of Aries, in complete disregard to Hipparchus's work. [6]

Precessional Shifts & Zodiacal Splits

There was, perhaps, a more pertinent reason why the astrologers of the early Classical period chose to ignore this matter, one that suggests that by covering up this 'inherent flaw' of the zodiac, they were also obscuring a philosophical problem that had wider implications. Firm astrological principles had been established during the rise of Hellenistic astrology, principles that were heavily dependent upon accepting the zodiac as the pivotal key around which astrology turned. Classical historians generally had a way of exaggerating the antiquity of their belief systems and since the zodiac had been in existence for several hundreds of years, they were quick to view it as an essential and immutable tool that ran back through the mists of time. Within these principles Aries was commemorated as the sign of spring - it had been for thousands of years. Astrology had a marked political power during this period and astrology itself rested upon the founding principle that Aries marked the season that ushered in a new cycle of fertility and growth. But it was during the commencement of the Christian Era that precession was shifting the vernal equinox, the herald of spring, out of Aries and into Pisces, where it has remained since. What were astrologers to do? Rewrite the so-called immutable testimony of the stars and proclaim Pisces as the new starting point? The meanings of all of the signs were heavily dependent upon seasonal activities and calendrical events; this would have meant a complete re-evaluation of astrological philosophy at the very period it had come to the height of its power in the western world. And part of the reason it had become so widespread and powerful was because of the perceived antiquity of its teachings. This was a major dilemma. The zodiac - the new, improved, mathematically designed tool of astronomical reference - so essential to the Classical world, was breaking apart from its philosophical and symbolic stem. It was tempting indeed to turn a blind eye, to let some other astrologer deal with it in some future generation when it really mattered.

It is claimed that the great astronomer Ptolemy was the one burdened with the responsibility of taking a philosophical stance and offering a resolution. Ptolemy lived and worked in the second century AD, at the time when the Vernal point had its last tenuous grip in the sign of Aries, falling in the first degree. The problem had reached the point where it could no longer be ignored. Ptolemy supported the symbolic connection between the signs of the zodiac and the cycle of the seasons, writing in his Tetrabiblos:

"....although there is no natural beginning of the zodiac, since it is a circle, they [the ancient astrologers] assume that the sign which begins with the Vernal Equinox, that of Aries, is the starting point of them all, making the excessive moisture of the spring the first part of the zodiac as though it were a living creature and taking next in order the remaining seasons, because in all creatures the earliest ages, like the spring, have a larger share of moisture and are tender, and still delicate. The second age, up to the prime of life, exceeds in heat, like summer; the third, which is now past the prime and on the verge of decline, has an excess of dryness like autumn, and the last, which approaches dissolution, exceeds in its coldness, like winter." [7]

So, was the beginning of the zodiac to be maintained at the shifting Vernal Equinox which slowly circles against a sliding backdrop of stars, or permanently aligned to a more constant point in space, such as one of the prominent fixed stars? For most astrologers Ptolemy's symbolic reasoning in connecting the characteristics of the signs with climatic temperaments has decided the matter. The 'Tropical Zodiac' begins at the first degree of Aries, and the first degree of Aries is determined by the position of the Vernal Equinox. The two are bonded together. As the Vernal Equinox winds slowly westwards so do all the hypothetical signs of the zodiac, tying them to the relationship of the Sun and the Earth, and maintaining the symbolism of the seasons. The fact that the zodiac sign of Aries overlays the stars of the constellation Pisces, is neither here nor there, the imaginary, symbolic zodiac is now distinct from the stars and supersedes them as a point of astronomical and astrological reference.

The tropical zodiac is in keeping with much of the fundamental philosophy at the root of astrology, especially in focusing upon man's unique relationship with heavenly cycles. But it is a moving zodiac that no longer bears relation to the constellations of stars in whose honour its signs are named. This has caused considerable controversy amongst astrologers, with some western astrologers and many eastern astrologers preferring to maintain a 'Sidereal Zodiac' as permanently aligned to the stars and measured from a fixed reference point, chiefly the fixed star Spica. This retains a closer alignment between the visible constellations and sidereal signs, although they do not correspond exactly, since it too uses equal divisions while the constellations themselves are irregularly spaced. The two zodiacs now begin at starting points placed 24 apart, with the Vernal Equinox presently located in the early degrees of Pisces in the sidereal zodiac.

Returning to our quote from Ptolemy, there are two additional factors that need to be considered here. The first is a minor matter; the fact that it could be argued Ptolemy never actually resolved anything or took a philosophical stance at all. He merely stated the astrological situation as it stood in his day. His carefully crafted words were not in the least bit controversial since at that time the Vernal Point still lay within Aries, the year 220 AD being reckoned as the one in which it moved into the sign of Pisces. If his words were seen as authoritative in resolving the problem one way or another, this was no doubt down to subsequent astrologers conveniently choosing to interpret them that way.

The second point is more relevant to the history of cosmic symbolism, and generally overlooked by authors who write on the great mysteries of precessional ages. The precessional 'ages' of antiquity are often dated by projecting backwards the precessional shifts over zodiac sign boundaries, yet they are founded on a method of zodiac division that didn't even exist during those periods. Prior to the Classical period, astrologers never encountered the problem of the vernal point shifting over the boundaries of a mathematically conceived sign. They could only have been aware of precessional shifts as it moved from the stars of one constellation to the next. This throws dispute on the oft-quoted dates of ancient astrological ages being based on periods of approximately 2160 years.

This fact was still relevant in the Classical period. Besides the illustrious astronomers and mathematicians of ancient Greece, there were a great many astrologers who were still firmly attached to the lore and symbolism of the stars and constellations. The date generally given to the movement of the vernal point out of Aries and into Pisces - 220 AD - is a date that recognizes the boundaries of the imaginary, tropical signs, not the actual constellations. The date given for the transition between the unequal constellations of Aries and Pisces is the year 29 AD, some say 0 AD, but certainly accepted as overlapping with the reputed life span of Christ. Given that our earliest recorded use of the tropical zodiac in Mesopotamian texts dates to 263 BC, it is a reasonable assumption that the ancient astrologers of that period were already aware of the upcoming movement of the Vernal Point over these important constellation points.

The problem of precession has been the subject of much intense research of late, with a number of dense and highly researched books in the field of archeoastronomy arguing that Hipparchus's 'discovery' was more a 'rediscovery' of a principle not only known to the ancients, but considered by them to be the basic mechanism of the universe. Precession represents a shift of only 1 in 72 years so is virtually imperceptible in one life time, yet the ancients had been recording their data for thousands of years and aligning their constructions with the positions of the stars, in some cases rebuilding them to keep the alignment accurate. As meaning comes to light of the true nature and design of ancient monuments, there appears to be a wide body of evidence to suggest that an experience of precession, if not the formal knowledge attained by Hipparchus, is embedded in the myths of many cultures, in the form of recurring themes such as usurpation and replacement. If this theory can be proved, it has to be demonstrated against the previous precessional shift - the movement of the Vernal Point out of Taurus and into Aries, which took place within the golden heyday of ancient astrological worship, in the 2nd millennium BC. If we try to go beyond that period of time, we are in danger of committing a modern viewpoint on a period of prehistory that we know very little about.

The Origins of the Constellations Taurus and Aries

Taurus has one of the longest histories of the zodiac signs. The Sumerians refer to a star-bull ushering in the springtime, a reference to the Vernal Equinox being placed in Taurus sometime between the fourth and second millenniums BC. This was the age in which the bull cult arose in Minoan Crete, the age of Montu the Bull in Egypt and the era of the biblical golden calf. Bulls, ploughs and agriculture seem such an essential and mundane part of ancient life that one might expect them to be taken for granted. But domestication of the draught animal and the invention of the plough was no mean accomplishment; in the native civilizations of North and South America neither occurred, a major factor in the failure of these civilisations to develop technology and effective defences. It was during the period of the great astrological age of Taurus that the people of the Middle East made this breakthrough, and around the same period began to employ the wheel, the lever and the most powerful invention of agriculture, the plough.

The first sign of the appearance of the wheel is traced to Mesopotamia and dates to just after 3500 BC. The earliest finds are solid wooden wheels which were attached to rafts for drawing loads upon a primitive cart. Shortly afterwards wheels and axles appear, along with levers and wedges from the earliest ploughs. Pulleys and large-scale irrigation systems had not yet been devised but the mechanical principles were in gestation, waiting for man's inventiveness to catch up with the potential of exploiting powers other than his own physical labour.

The harnessing of animal power in the domestication of the ox opened the door to organised and efficient farming and that in turn allowed communities to settle, mature and develop their infrastructure. The tireless oxen, a creature capable of matching the strength and productivity of many men, provided the means whereby supplies of food stock could become far greater than the supplies required for its production. Domestication of the ox was a genuine cause for human celebration. The creature was honoured for its resilience and strength and also for the fertility that it conveyed upon the land. From the Old Testament we can see how they were viewed as sacred, to be treated with great respect.

The Egyptians have a long history of bull worship and sacred bulls. These were said to incarnate the spirit of their gods and their death was followed by a period of national mourning. Often, these were depicted with the crescent Moon for horns. Prior to the Age of Aries the predominant iconography in Egypt was the Bull of Heaven, which was replaced by an endless array of ram images from the 2nd millennium BC onwards. It is noteworthy that the physical manifestation of the god Montu was in the form of the bull, and the pharaohs who ruled at the end of the Taurean age bore names that spoke of the completion of his power. Mentuhotep (literally 'Montu is satisfied') reigned from 2060 - 2010 BC, followed by his successors Mentuhotep II and III. Some scholars have also dated the story of Moses overturning the Golden Calf to this same period, suggesting that there was a widespread awareness amongst rulers that they were ushering in a brand new age and needed to respond with demolition of the old. Throughout the ancient world there are numerous depictions of the Sun god wrestling with and overthrowing the bull, most of which have been translated as pictorial celebrations of the shift from the Age of Taurus to Aries. [8]

Whilst the history of the zodiac is better documented as it evolved in the Mesopotamian region, the fact that Aries is known to originate from Egyptian symbolism argues that their perception of the sign is closest to its original meaning. Aries was incorporated into the Mesopotamian zodiac after the conquest of Egypt by the Assyrians in 671 BC. It is conspicuously absent in early Babylonian texts, which refer to the constellation as Lu Hunga, 'the Hired Man'.

In ancient Egypt the ram was revered as an emblem of the Sun and held inviolate except during the New Year ceremonies when lambs were offered to the Sun in sacrifice.[9] This was a time of great spiritual significance; the re-emergence of the Sun, the resurrection of the light, the resurrection of God. Like the mythical phoenix, which arose in its own ashes, the ram was chosen as a natural symbol of resurrection because of its ability, when shorn, to replenish its stock of wool. "The Ram, who is rich with an abundance of wool and, when shorn of this, with a fresh supply, will ever cherish hopes", writes Manilius in the first century BC.[10] Biblical references draw heavily on the symbolism in the description of Christ as the Light, the Resurrection, the Lamb of God. It is not by accident that Easter - the resurrection of the Lord - is held in the full Moon period that follows the Sun's entry into Aries, and our western custom of giving eggs is based on a similar need to offer symbols of new life and new opportunities.

It was a natural act by which the stars of the constellation that held our attention at this period, the final death of winter and darkness, the re-emergence of the Sun's full glory, should be characterised in the form of a living representation. Principally a symbol of the resurrected Sun, the ram became a visible manifestation of the Sun-god and its creative power; subsequent generations spoke of a mythical golden fleece, able to return life to the dead in the same way that Aries heralded the end of the season of death. Through this association the sacred Ram was an embodiment of the principles of fertility, vitality, new life and creative energy. The connection with the Sun was also reinforced by the culmination of Aries as Sirius rose heliacally and announced the annual inundation of the Nile.

The glory that Egypt invested in the ram can be witnessed at the Great Temple of Amon-Ra at Karnak, built in 1480 BC. This includes an impressive avenue of ram-headed sphinxes and is oriented to the summer solstice at sunset. The temple is designed around a long passage, arranged to permit a beam of light from the Sun to reach down to a darkened sanctuary at the end. The path was narrowed so that the chamber could only be illuminated for a few moments on the day of the summer solstice. Impressive arguments have also been made that Karnak, together with other Sun temples such as the one at Luxor, form part of a huge reconstruction of the constellation Aries over the Egyptian landscape. [11]

We are only just beginning to scratch the surface with our understanding of how deep and impressive was the full extent of the Egyptian worship of the resurrected sun, characterized in the symbol of Aries; or in our acceptance of how firmly this has underpinned the origins of Christianity. It is no longer ground-breaking to demonstrate how many of the New Testament Psalms are translations of ancient Egyptian hymns to the Sun-god, or how biblical symbolism draws heavily on astrological ideas, motifs and parallels. It is no longer controversial to maintain the obvious fact that Easter, the pivotal point of the Christian calendar, is simply an altered form of worship of the resurrected Sun as it reappears in its crossing of the Vernal point and initiates the season of spring. The name itself ties it to the astrological philosophy that recognises the East, the point of ascension, as the spiritual source of new life and growth. It is the same astrological symbolism that proclaimed the birth of the 'New King' by the bright star rising in the east. The resurrection of Christ - the 'light too bright to look upon', the lamb (ie., 'resurrection') of God is now justly, irrefutably accepted as a mythological continuance of the New Year festivities that were so important to our ancestors.

But what has been dismissed far too lightly, is the apparent 'co-incidence' that the transition of an astrological age accurately dated the coming of a new world order, and spanned the lifetime of a new physical manifestation of the 'one true god'. Astrologers have been too quick to 'turn the matter upside down', verifying the value of astrology by claiming that the onset of Christianity is reflected astrologically by the Christian adoption of the fishes as its symbolic motif. Would it not be more likely, that astrologers were forewarning of the monumental significance of this precessional event with a view to past dynasties having trashed the iconatry of the old gods the last time that it happened? Would an attempt to create a new world order, based on a new spiritual source, not attempt to identify itself with the fishes, precisely because this was the sign of the zodiac whose age was about to begin? Could an attempt to redefine man's relationship with his God not be consciously manipulated or developed at a time that was perfectly suited to symbolically reinforce a spiritual need to do so? Whereas Taurus justly was the age of the Bull and left its mark in the heaven because of the benefits mankind accrued from the association at the time, was the overt use of fish symbolism in the rise of Christianity at the start of the Piscean Age, a deliberate attempt to identify with a symbol that was assumed to hold the new age power?

To my knowledge, these questions have never been properly probed or explored by historians, religious leaders or astrologers. But they appear to leave us with one of two very radical and startling suppositions. Either astrology verifies the Christian faith in a way that has never been fully appreciated or acknowledged, or Christianity is far more a mythological expression of ancient astrological belief than anyone in the organized church is willing to admit.

Notes & References:
  1 ] To be politically correct I should say "the Sun's apparent transit around the Earth"; I realise the Sun does not revolve around the Earth. But from hereon we take the viewpoint of the ancients, that the Sun made an annual circle around the Earth because - apparently - it did.
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  2 ] This zodiac is, of course, an imaginary device, which no longer tallies with the visible constellations. The use of the word 'sign' derives from the use of the zodiacal constellations as signals for forthcoming weather conditions or agricultural events, whilst the name Zodiac is of Greek origin, meaning 'circle of animals'; the circle extending 8-9 either side of the ecliptic and containing the orbits of all the visible planets.
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  3 ] A. Sachs, Babylonian Horoscopes, Journal of Cuneiform Studies, 1952. Vol. VI, p57.
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  4 ] Manilius, Astronomica, (Loeb edition) Trans. G.P. Goold. Harvard/Heinemann; Bk.III, v.679-682. The 'authority' to which Manilius refers is presumably Hipparchus.
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  5 ] For example, Achilles (Isag.23 p54 17ff) and Eudoxus (Hipparchus 2.1.18). For a review of the various vernal points see Studies in the History of Mathematics and Physical Sciences, Vol. 1 by O. Neugebauer. p.593 ff.
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  6 ]
The Sun has four differences, as there are two equinoxes, in spring and autumn, when it coincides with the centre of the earth at the 8th degree of Aries and Libra, and two changes of its course, in the 8th degree of Capricorn at midwinter when the days begin to lengthen, and the same degree of Cancer at the summer solstice
Natural History, II XVII.
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  7 ] Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, (Loeb edition) Translated by F.E. Robbins. Harvard/Heinemann; Ch. 1.10.
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  8 ] Some have carried other interpretations, mainly based on the Sun god overcoming darkness because the stars of Taurus were illuminated by the full Moon in the midst of winter.
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  9 ] The same is largely true in ancient Greece. Hamal, the alpha star of Aries, was worshipped by the Greeks at the festival of Jupiter Ammon, where they celebrated the return of the Sun to Aries with the slaughter of rams.
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  10 ] Astronomica; Loeb, p.233; Ch 4. 124-128.
This may help some Christian theologists place into better context the reference to Jesus as the 'Lamb of God'; and demonstrates that the phrase need not imply that Christ was the sacrificial atonement for man's sins, which many find confusing and clearly contradictory to Christian teachings.
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  11 ]See for example the online report, Thebes a Reflection of the Sky on the Pharoah's Earth
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Deborah Houlding has been studying astrology for over twenty years. An international demonstrator, teacher and writer, her articles have appeared in popular media and astrological publications around the world. Deborah edited the UK magazine, The Traditional Astrologer, whilst her book The Houses: Temples of the Sky, presents research on the history, development and traditional meaning of the astrological houses. Deborah specialises in horary and the traditional application of astrology. This article is adapted from an unpublished work and may not be reproduced without permission.
© Deborah Houlding, 1997.

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