Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Rebirth

Last night RTE (Irish national tv station) broadcasted the following report in their main evening news:

A hillwalker in west Kerry has made a stunning discovery which connects a 4,500-year-old tomb with the equinox.

The megalithic tomb, known as the Giant’s Grave, is situated in the valley of Loch an Dúin on the eastern side of the Conor Pass.


Ancient rock art can be found within the tomb, including a cup and ring near the head of the tomb.


For the past 14 years Daithí Ó Conaill, a retired school principal, has visited the site during the winter and summer solstice hoping to make a connection between the tomb and the sun. He has now discovered that the wedge tomb is actually aligned to the setting sun of the equinox, which last occurred on Friday 22 September.

As the sun sets directly into a 'V' shaped valley in the distant Brandon mountain range, a shaft of light enters the wedge tomb, illuminating the chamber and the rock art at the head of the tomb.




The event can be witnessed at sunset for a number of days either side of the equinox.

Archaeologist Míchéal Ó Coiléain who has carried out extensive surveys in Loch an Dúin said it was a stunning discovery, providing a fine example of the engineering brilliance demonstrated by the people who constructed it.

"Daithí's discovery is wonderful and it goes to show that people living 4500 years ago are aware of movements of the sun."

What is interesting is that no one seems to be realizing just how important this discovery is and why. Sure, the fact that this megalithic tomb is aligned to the equinoxes is amazing. It shows that people who built it knew how to determine where the "true east" is, which is not easy at all. One of the way to do this is to determine where the sun rises on summer and winter solstice and to then find the point right between these two points.



I explained the required procedure for determining the solstice points in my posts "Calendar" and "Boaz and Jachin".

Now what is truly amazing is the symbol that the builders of this ancient structure chose to mark the spot that is illuminated on the days of equinoxes.






This is the symbol found all over the world and in Egypt it was the symbol of the sun, Ra. This symbol is usually interpreted to mean sun disc, but I believe that it actually means sun circle, sun cycle, solar year.

This symbol is also found on hundreds of megaliths all over Ireland and Britain



But so far no meaning has been attached to it...Is it possible that the meaning of this symbol is sun, solar year?

During the solar year, the sun is born on winter solstice morning, it becomes young during spring, mature during summer, old during autumn and finally dies on winter solstice eve. The sun's life cycle looks very much like a human life cycle. With one big difference: the sun that dies on winter solstice eve gets reborn on winter solstice morning. 

So is it possible that the above symbol, the sun circle with no beginning and no end, could also represent endless cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth?


And if so, is it possible that the full meaning of the cup and ring symbol is sun, solar cycle, cycle of life, rebirth? 

Now the people who built this megalithic tomb and oriented it towards the east, towards the house of the sun god, must have been sun worshipers. Using the symbol of the sun to mark the spot illuminated by the sun inside the tomb is then not surprising. But is it possible that another reason why the megalith builders put this symbol at the end of the tomb chamber is to indicate their belief in rebirth? 

And if so, is it possible that Bronze Age people who engraved these symbols into stones all over Ireland and Britain did this as part of funeral ceremonies which were part of a solar cult which incorporated belief in rebirth?

We will never know for sure, but...

Monday, 25 September 2017

Sun god from the first temple

In my post "Boaz and Jachin" I talked about the significance of the fact that Solomon built his temple on a threshing floor. The reason why this is significant is because in the past threshing floors were not only used for threshing and winnowing, but were also used as solar observatories and for ceremonies which were part of a solar cult. At the end of that article I suggested that the First Temple, whose entrance was oriented towards true east, towards the area of the horizon where the sun rises, was a temple dedicated to the sun and built by sun worshipers. And I said that we actually have indications that this could in fact have been the case.

Well some might say that just because the temple was oriented towards the east, that doesn't mean that the people who built the temple worshiped the sun. For instance look at the early Christian churches which were also oriented towards the east. Does that mean that the early Christians were also sun worshipers?

To this I will just say :)

That the builders of the first temple were sun worshipers we are actually told by the scriptures. In Ezekiel 8:16 we read this:

"In the sixth year, in the sixth month on the fifth day, while I was sitting in my house and the elders of Judah were sitting before me, the hand of the Sovereign Lord came on me there. 2 I looked, and I saw a figure like that of a man.[a] From what appeared to be his waist down he was like fire, and from there up his appearance was as bright as glowing metal. 3 He stretched out what looked like a hand and took me by the hair of my head. The Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven and in visions of God he took me to Jerusalem...He then brought me into the inner court of the house of the Lord, and there at the entrance to the temple, between the portico and the altar, were about twenty-five men. With their backs toward the temple of the Lord and their faces toward the east, they were bowing down to the sun in the east."

One of the common archaeological characteristic of the early Christian churches is that they were oriented toward East, i.d. toward the Rising Sun, the same orientation found in the First temple. So the orientation of the Christian churches can't be used as the proof that the first temple was not a temple of sun worshipers. Quite the opposite. It raises questions whether the early Christians were sun worshipers too. And I believe that they were...

Ezekiel (622 - 570 BCE) strongly disproved of sun worshiping practices that he had observed in the First temple. The fact that people still prayed to the sun during the time of Ezekiel is very interesting, because it shows how strong this solar cult was among the people of Judah. Ezekiel was born during the reign of Josiah (649–609 BCE). And it was Josiah, who according to the Hebrew Bible, instituted major religious changes aimed at eradicating the solar cult which flourished in Judah before and during his time. How strong the solar cult was in Judah just before the time of Josiah can be seen from the royal seal of the Kingdom of Judah from the time of the King Hezekiah (739 - 687 BC).


The seal bears the symbol of a winged sun and two ankh symbols, which symbolize life.


This means that the solar cult was not a minor religious curiosity. It was a state religion whose main temple was the First temple. A state religion supported by at least a significant part of the Judah's population. 

So when Josiah started his religious reforms, not everyone was pleased. A lot of people saw these changes as sacrilege and continued to practice the old solar religion. We know that this was the case because we find evidence of the solar cult among the people of Judah again and again in the following centuries. 

Now as part of his crusade, Josiah did the major cleanup of the First temmple. In 2 Kings 23:11 we read:

"He (Josiah) removed from the entrance of the LORD's Temple the horse statues that the former kings of Judah had dedicated to the sun... He also burned the chariots dedicated to the sun..."

This is most peculiar. We have a temple, build on a threshing floor (ancient solar observatory). The temple was oriented towards the east, and in the temple people prayed to the rising sun as if it was a god. And the temple housed a chariot and horses dedicated to the sun god???

Who was this sun god to whom ancient kings of Judah dedicated horses and chariot?

Well Helios of course.

Here is a depiction of Helios, the old titan (Old European) sun god. He is mostly depicted as a youth with sun ray halo driving the chariot pulled by winged horses across the sky, from east to west.



Why do I think that this god was Helios? Well because 800 years after Josiah removed Helios from the first temple, he reappears in synagogues in Holy land.

The Beth Alpha or Bet Alpha or Bet Alfa is a sixth-century synagogue located at the foot of the northern slopes of the Gilboa mountains near Beit She'an, Israel.

The central nave floor mosaic panel features a Jewish adaptation of the Greco-Roman zodiac. The zodiac consists of two concentric circles, with the twelve zodiac signs appearing in the outer circle, and Helios, the Greco-Roman sun god, appearing in the inner circle. The outer circle consists of twelve panels, each of which correspond to one of the twelve months of the year and contain the appropriate Greco-Roman zodiac sign. Female busts symbolizing the four seasons appear in the four corners immediately outside the zodiac. In the center, Helios appears with his signature Greco-Roman iconographic elements such as the fiery crown of rays adorning his head and the highly stylized quadriga or four-horse-drawn chariot. The background is decorated with a crescent shaped moon and stars. As in the "Binding of Isaac" panel, the zodiac symbols and seasonal busts are labeled with their corresponding Hebrew names.


This zodiac wheel, with Helios or Sun in it's center is found in contemporaneous synagogues throughout Israel such as Naaran, Susiya, Hamat Tiberias, Huseifa, and Sepphoris.

The Tzippori Synagogue (Sepphoris Synagogue,) is an ancient synagogue discovered in Tzippori, a Roman-era Jewish city in the Galilee. Based on numismatic evidence, the synagogue appears to have been built in the first half of the fifth century. In the center of the nave floor, there is a large Zodiac with the names of the months written in Hebrew. Helios sits in the middle, in his sun chariot.


The Hammat Tiberias Synagogue is an ancient synagogue on the outskirts of Tiberias, located near the hot springs just south of the city. The synagogue dates to 286 and 337 CE, when Tiberias was the seat of the Sanhedrin.The mosaic floor is made up of three panels featuring the zodiac, and Helios, the sun god. Women who symbolize the four seasons of nature appear in each corner.


It is important to note that this image of Helios does not appear anywhere in Synagogues in Jewish diaspora. It is only found in Synagogues in holy land.

Now what is Helios doing in the synagogues?!? 

Well currently, there is a scholarly debate going on regarding the relationship between Judaism and general Greco-Roman culture in late-antiquity. Some interpret the popularity that the zodiac maintains within synagogue floors as evidence for its Judaization and adaptation into the Jewish calendar and liturgy. Others see it as representing the existence of a “non-Rabbinic” or a mystical and Hellenized form of Judaism that embraced the astral religion of Greco-Roman culture.

Interestingly there is no mention of the Solar cult of the First temple and the possibility that the the appearance of Helios in synagogues marks the reemergence of this cult in the holy land???

As I already mentioned, Ezekiel sees priests in the First Temple worshiping the sun. Interestingly, Josephus records an Essene practice that he says was handed down to them by the forefathers where it appears that they were praying to the rising sun (War 2.8.5).

Qumran scrolls, which are attributed to the Essens, seem to confirm that Josephus was telling the truth. In the Hodayom, there are several references to prayer at dawn. 1QH 4:5 states: "I thank thee, O Lord, for Thou hast illuminated my face by Thy covenant, and I seek Thee, and sure as the dawn Thou hast appeared to me as perfect light."

Church fathers Origen (Contra Celsius 1.26, 5.6), Clement of Alexandria (Stromata, 6.5.41), and maybe even some of the New Testament Epistles (Col 2:16-23, Heb 2:5) are aware of some Jewish practices that involved worship of objects in the sky.

So were the synagogues with Helios built by Essenes?

In the Book of Enoch, which dates to at least a couple of centuries before Christ, and have been very important for the further development of the Qumranic (Essenic) Judaisms, we find an impressive part (the Astronomical Book) about the course of the Sun and the use of a solar calendar (found also in Qumran). The use of this Solar calendar was considered extremely important. Which is to be expected from the sun worshipers.

On the "Hebrew calendar" Wiki page we read:

"Many of the Dead Sea (Qumran) Scrolls have references to a unique calendar, used by the people there, who are often assumed to be Essenes. The year of this calendar used the ideal Mesopotamian calendar of twelve 30-day months, to which were added 4 days at the equinoxes and solstices (cardinal points), making a total of 364 days...With only 364 days, it is clear that the calendar would after a few years be very noticeably different from the actual seasons, but there is nothing to indicate what was done about this problem. Various suggestions have been made by scholars. One is that nothing was done and the calendar was allowed to change with respect to the seasons. Another suggestion is that changes were made irregularly, only when the seasonal anomaly was too great to be ignored any longer."

I will suggest here that the Solar calendar used by the Qumran community and before then by the people who wrote the Book of Enoch did not slide at all. I believe that it was regularly readjusted every winter solstice, when the new sun, solar year, was born. This is very easy to do if you know how to use threshing floor as a solar observatory. Which is why the First temple was built on the threshing floor. It made determining of the winter solstice, the starting point of the new solar year easy, which ensured that the calendar never slipped.  

Was this solar calendar which was used by the writers of the Book of Enoch and by the Qumran community the calendar used in the First temple? I believe so. Solar worshipers, who built their temple on a threshing floor, a solar observatory used for determining the date and the time based on the movement of the sun definitely used solar calendar. They would have seen this as part of their religion.

This solar calendar of the First temple was later almost fully substituted by the lunar calendar of the Second temple. This lunar calendar was probably a borrowing from the Babylonians. It could have been brought back from the exile or could have been introduced even later according to some scholars. You can read more about this change of calendar in these three books and many more:

"Calendrical Variations in Second Temple Judaism" by Stéphane Saulnier

"Out of the Cave: A Philosophical Inquiry Into the Dead Sea Scrolls Research" by Edna Ullmann-Margalit

"Enoch and Qumran Origins: New Light on a Forgotten Connectionedited by Gabriele Boccaccini

This change of calendar was not just "the change of calendar".

The Book of Enoch makes it is clear that there were some Jews that considered the Second Temple as impure, and were clearly trying to restore a cult which was as much as possible near to the one of the First Temple. The solar cult. 

It appears that the worship or veneration of the sun (or other objects in the sky for that matter) which had a precedent in the First Temple period and is condemned by Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Deuteronomy, and which Josiah tried to eradicate through his "reforms", never really completely died out. And this is why centuries after Josiah removed chariot and the horses dedicated to the sun from the First temple, Helios appears in synagogues in holy land.  

But then, around the 6th century AD Helios disappears from the synagogues never to be seen again. 

So here we are left with two questions:

1. Where did Helios come to holy land from?
2. Where did Helios go from the holy land to?

I will talk about this in my next posts...

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Boaz and Jachin

According to the Bible, Boaz and Jachin were two copper, brass or bronze pillars which stood in the porch of Solomon's Temple, the first Temple in Jerusalem.

This 3rd-century (AD) glass bowl depicts Solomon's Temple. Boaz and Jachin are the detached black pillars shown on either side of the entrance steps.


The function and the meaning of these two pillars remains a mystery, a mystery that I will try to solve in this post :)

This is an artist interpretation of the first temple based on the available descriptions. Boaz and Jachin are two dark free standing pillars located on the porch on both sides of the entrance.


The entrance and the porch was located on the eastern side of the temple. This means that the temple entrance and Boaz and Jachin faced the rising sun.




Why is this important for understanding of the meaning of Boaz and Jachin?

In the 2 Chronicles 3:1 we are told that "Solomon built the temple of the LORD in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the LORD had appeared to his father David. It was on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, the place provided by David..."

So the first temple was built on a threshing floor. A threshing floor probably like this one from Croatia. Threshing floors are platforms where grain seeds were separated from chaff by trampling.


They were normally located on the higher slopes of the hills, or mountains, which were windy, as it was wind that blew away the chaff and helped the extraction of seeds.


Once the threshing floor is constructed it can be used for both threshing and as a solar observatory. What you are actually observing is the shadow made by the central stake or a standing stone. At the sunrise and sunset the shadow will be long enough to cut the circle at the oposite end. This is extremely precise way of marking the sunrise point. 

In 1950, Serbian ethnographer Nenad Janković published a book on folk astronomy called "Astronomija u predanjima, obicajima i umotvorinama Srba" (Astronomy in legends, customs and oral and written tradition of the Serbs). In it he expressed his great surprise at the ability of ordinary illiterate peasants to tell exact date and time without calendars and clocks. Professor Jankovic states that one of the main instruments used for these calendar and time calculations was the threshing floor. By looking at the shadow cast by the stožer, the central pole at sunrise, they were able to tell the date. And by looking at the shadow cast by the stožer, the central pole during the day they were able to tell the time. Threshing floor is a universal solar observatory, which at the same time can tell the date and the time. The main parts of this solar observatory were solar circle and its center, solar pole, stožer. Or if viewed from above, from heaven, the way Sun God would see it, a circle and a dot representing its center, solar pole, stožer. This is the symbol found all over the world and in Egypt it was the symbol of the sun, Ra. The below symbol is usually interpreted to mean sun disc, but I believe that it actually means sun circle, threshing floor and sun cycle observed from the threshing floor.


Greeks called the central solar pole, stožer of the sundial "gnomon" meaning the one which knows. This was because the central stake "new" the time and date. 

According to ethnographic research from the Balkan mountains conducted in the 19th century, threshing floor was the place where all the village meetings, celebrations and ceremonies took place.The ethnographers say that this is because threshing floors were the only flat smooth surfaces big enough to accommodate many people. But was this the only reason? Were threshing floors places where village meetings, celebrations and ceremonies took place because they were considered to be the sacred ground, the place where god lived on earth? I believe so. 

Were threshing floors the mysterious "sacred high places"? I believe so too. 

You can read more about threshing floors and their role in the solar worship rights in my post "Bogovo gumno - god's threshing floor".

In my post "Calendar" I explained why the ancient solar observatories were built and how they were used. The ancient solar observatories were built in order to determine the exact moment of the winter and (or) summer solstice. If you know one or both of these two points on the yearly solar circle, you can create fixed and repeatable lunisolar calendar which is necessary for in order to determine the exact timing of vegetative events during the solar year. 

So how do you determine the exact moment of the winter and (or) summer solstice?

You find a clear flat piece of high ground from which you can observe sunrises and sunsets. The observatory. You stick a pole into the ground to mark the observation spot. Then as the year passes, every morning and every evening you stand next to the observation pole and observe sunrise and sunset. As you are observing the sunrises and sunsets, you notice that the point where sun rises is not the same as the point where sun sets. The sun rises on the left side of the horizon, travels across the sky from left to right and sets at the opposite right side of the horizon. As days pass you realize that the point where the sun rises moves along the horizon. So does the point where the sun sets. You notice that the sunrise point moves during the spring further and further to the left and the sunset point further and further to the right. So the sun needs to travel longer across the sky and the day is longer and longer and hotter and hotter. Then at some point during the summer the sunrise and sunset points start moving in the opposite direction. The sunrise point starts moving to the right and sunset point starts moving to the left. They get closer and closer to each other, so the sun has to travel shorter distance between the sunrise and sunset and the day is shorter and shorter and colder and colder. 


This is extremely important observation if you depend on solar vegetative cycle for your survival. If the length and heat of the day depends on the position of the sunrise and sunset points, then determining how they move becomes imperative. You know that the days when the sunrise and sunset points change the direction of their movements, fall in the middle of the coldest and hottest part of the year. You are of course more interested in the turning point which falls in the middle of the cold dark part of the year. You want to know if, and this was for our ancestors very real IF, and when the sunrise and sunset points will start moving further and further away from each other, because that will mean that the days will start getting longer and hotter again. So you start observing the the horizon and you try to remember where the sun rose yesterday in order to compare it with the sunrise position today. But that is difficult and imprecise. It would be much better if you could mark the points of sunrise every day in some way and then observe the relative position of the sunrise points to the marks. So you decide to use stake, pole as marker. But it is difficult to mark the exact point of sunrise if the horizon is uneven. It would be much easier if the horizon is horizontal, smooth and elevated all around you so that the observation and marking of the sunrise points becomes more precise. So you decide to create an artificial horizontal smooth horizon which will mask the real horizon. You take a long enough rope, tie it to the observation pole and then walk around the observation pole. As you walk you mark a circle with the center in the observation pole.


You then dig a circular trench along the circle and pile up the the dug out earth on the edge of the circle to form the bank. You build a henge like this original earthen henge in Stonehenge. You can read my article about henges here.


Now when the sun rises it will be easy to mark the exact spot of the sunrise with a stake stuck into the elevated earthen bank. Every morning and evening you observe the new position of the sunrise point. If the sun does not rise at the point marked with the yesterday's stake, you move the stake to mark the new position of the sunrise. Then one day in the middle of the winter, the movement of the sunrise point will stop. The sun will rise at the same position behind the yesterday's sunrise stake. That day is the winter turning point, the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. You mark this point with the permanent taller stake. So when the sun again rises behind this tall sunrise stake you will know that the winter turning point, the winter solstice, the shortest day has arrived again. You do the same for the day when the sun rises twice behind the same stake in the summer. That day is the summer turning point, the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. You mark this point with the permanent taller stake too. So when the sun again rises behind this tall sunrise stake you will know that the summer turning point, the summer solstice, the longest day has arrived again. 


Do you see how much the above henge looks like a threshing floor? If you were using threshing floor as a solar observatory, and if you marked the solstice points with two sticks your threshing floor would look like this:


Now if you know the position of the winter and summer solstice, the three stakes, the central stake, and the two solstice stakes can be used to determine the position of the true east. 



Which could be very useful if, for instance, you were building a temple that you wanted to orient towards the east. By the way do you know that to orient literally means to turn east?

So we have two sticks, stuck at the edge of the threshing floor, the ancient solar observatory, on top of which the first temple was built. Marking the sun's turning points on the horizon, one for winter solstice, the other for summer solstice. Between is east, the area of the horizon where sun rises. Two sticks mark the entrance into the house of Sun, the house of God. The sun gate...Right in the middle of this due east, the direction towards which the ancient Hebrew temple door was oriented, to welcome God (sun) in... Hence two pillars, Boaz and Joktan...

Knowing this, I don't think that the decision to build the first temple on a threshing floor was accidental. Threshing floors and other solar observatories were holy places for sun worshipers. And if the sun worshipers wanted to build a temple dedicated to the sun god, then building it on top of a threshing floor and orienting it towards the east and marking the points of the two solstices with two prominent free standing columns would be very logical thing to do indeed. 

But wait, am I saying that the first temple was dedicated to the sun god? Is there any indication that that this could have been the case? Actually yes...But more about this in my next post.