Sunday 28 January 2018

Grandmother's cudgels (clubs)

God works in mysterious ways...

Recently I published two articles related to Orion: "Bowls from Los Millares" and "Supernova". Both of them were talking abut artifacts, from Spain and Northern India, which depicted Orion linked with deer. These artifacts were dated to some time during the 3rd millennium BC. And it turned out that during the 3rd millennium Orion was best visible during the month of September, the month of the beginning of the deer rut (mating season). 

I thought that this was going to be the end of my dealing with Orion. But yesterday while I was browsing through the Etimološki rečnik Srpskog jezika 2,  (Etymological dictionary of Serbian language) I came across this strange expression recorded in Vranje area of South eastern Serbia:

Babine tojage - stars

The expression "babine tojage" literally means "grandmother's cudgels (clubs)".
Now that is a very very strange euphemism for stars don't you think?

These are stars:

And these are cudgels (clubs) 


This made no sense to me. But at the same time I knew that at the time when this expression was first used to mean stars, this must have made perfect sense to everyone. So what did the Ancient Serbs see in the sky to make them start calling stars "grandmother's cudgels (clubs)"?

I started looking through Slavic ethnographic data that deals with astronomy and soon I found this:

Созвездие Орионрус. Кривая Палка, Пояс, Собачка, Коло, Проходня, Кружилие, Косарь, Кичага (цеп для обмолота), украин. Косари, Чепига (ручка плуга), помор. Коромысло, Грабли, македон. Рало (Орало), Небесный Плуг, белорус. Князь Бой, серб. Бабини штапи, болг. Тояги (Посох)

The important bit is in bold: The constellation Orion was among the Russians known as "crooked, bent stick", among Bulgarians as "cudgels (clubs)" and among the Serbs as "grandmother's sticks"...

This was very very interesting. But it still didn't make much sense. 

Here are some sticks (from my post about knobsticks):

Related image

And here is the constellation Orion:

So what is going on here?

Orion is a prominent constellation located on the celestial equator and visible throughout the world. It is one of the most conspicuous and recognizable constellations in the night sky. But in mythology of many people from Eurasia, Orion was also imagined as a gigantic mythical hero hunter.  

One of the earliest written association of the constellation Orion and the mythical giant hero hunter is found in Sumerian mythology, where Gilgamesh, who as two third god - one third man, is associated with Orion. Golgamesh is described as a giant, armed with an axe, quiver and bow, and a  sword. Just like this giant depicted on the so called Victory stele of Naram Sin:

Official explanation says that this giant figure is King Naram Sin defeating it's enemies. But the problem is that this figure is wearing horned helmet which was reserved for gods only...So I believe that this is Orion, Gilgamesh, depicted as a great demigod hunter. And in his right hand he is holding a staff, stick...

This description of Orion as a bowman is also found in other civilizations:

In Hittite mythology Orion is called Aqhat, and was believed to be a famous mythical hunter armed with a bow. 

In the Jewish tradition, Orion was thought to be a symbol of a king named Nimrod, who was a mighty hunter before the Lord (Genesis 10:9) also armed with a bow

In old Hungarian tradition, "Orion" is known as (magic) Archer (Íjász), or Reaper (Kaszás). In recently rediscovered myths, he is called Nimrod (Hungarian "Nimród"), the greatest hunter.

Chinese Astronomers knew Orion as Shen, a great hunter or warrior, one of the rare cases in which a constellation was visualised almost exactly the same way in China as in Europe. The arc of stars that we see today as Orion's shield was interpreted in China as a banner, Shenqi, or sometimes a longbow.

The Rig Veda refers to the Orion Constellation as Mriga (The Deer). It is said that two bright stars in the front and two bright stars in the rear are The hunting dogs, the one comparatively less bright star in the middle and ahead of two front dogs is The hunter and three aligned bright stars are in the middle of all four hunting dogs is The Deer (The Mriga) and three little aligned but less brighter stars is The Baby Deer. 

But in Egyptian mythology, the constellation Orion was associated with the god Sah. This the representation of this god from the panel from Dendera temple. The text above the god describes him as "Sahu, the soul (ba) of Osiris". Osiris the god of death... The god Sah holds in his left hand "was" staff, the staff o power and dominion. 

And finally in Greek mythology, Orion was a giant huntsman whom Zeus placed among the stars as the constellation of Orion. But in Greek mythology, Orion was not armed with a bow, but with a club and shield. In Greek literature he first appears in Homer's epic the Odyssey, in which Odysseus sees him hunting in the underworld with a bronze club, a great slayer of animals.

Here we see Orion brandishing his club and the shield of the Nemean lion, plus a sword hanging from his belt. 


Here we have Orion armed with a cudgel (club). And we also have Bulgarians calling Orion  "cudgels (clubs)" and Serbs calling Orion "grandmother's sticks". 

This raises few questions:

1. Why was Orion viewed as a hunter, and not just any hunter, but the greatest hunter?
2. Why was Orion in Greek mythology armed with a cudgel (club)?
3. Why do both Serbs and Bulgarians calling Orion "cudgels, clubs, sticks" plural?
4. Why do Serbs call Orion "grandmother's" sticks?
5. How is all this linked with the Serbian expression "grandmother's cudgels (clubs)" meaning stars?

Well to answer all these questions we have to look at OrionidsThe Orionid meteor shower, usually shortened to the Orionids, is the most prolific meteor shower observable from Earth. It occurs during the period October 2nd – November 7th but it peaks between October 20th and October 22nd. The meteors that streak across the sky are some of the fastest and brightest among meteor showers, because the Earth is hitting a stream of particles almost head on. They also often have long tails and exhibit distinctive colors before they burn up.

The particles come from Comet 1P/Halley, better known as Halley's Comet

This famous comet swings by Earth every 75 to 76 years, and as it makes its way around the sun, it leaves behind a trail of comet debris which continues to move along the comet's orbit but a bit slower than the comet itself. Earth's orbit around the sun crosses paths with the debris orbit twice a year: in May when we see the Eta Aquarids meteor shower and in October and November when we see the Orionids meteor shower. 

The Orionids are named after the direction from which they appear to radiate, which is near the constellation Orion (The Hunter). If you find the shape of Orion the Hunter, the meteor shower's radiant (or point of origin) will be near Orion's club, slightly north of his left shoulder (the star Betelgeuse). 

Ok, so this is where the "sticks" from "grandmother sticks" comes from... Orionid meteors look like sticks. They also look like arrows, so this is where the Orion bowman image comes from.

But why "grandmother's sticks"?

Also, Orion is not the only constellation that has a meteor radiant point. The Meteor Data Centre lists about 600 suspected meteor showers of which about 100 are well established and are associated with constellations, such as Lyrids, Perseids, Geminids, Leonids...

So why is only Orion constellation with its meteor shower associated with a mythical, giant, mighty warrior hunter? Well the shape of Orion constellation does look like a silhouette of a warrior. But only when we see it with imaginary lines added to the actual visible stars. When we only see the stars, this is what they look like:

How did this become a warrior with a raised hand brandishing a cudgel (club)? Well this is directly linked to the question why it is only Orion constellation which is known as "sticks" and "cudgels (clubs)"? And why do Serbs call all stars "cudgels (clubs)"? And what does grandmother has to do with all this?

Well to answer these questions we need to look at what the cudgel (club) is. This is a cudgel (club).

It is a weapon used for smashing and killing the enemy or pray. It is a weapon of destruction used by killers. Which is what warriors and hunters are. So if Orion was seen as warrior and hunter armed with cudgel (club) he was seen as a terrible killer, destroyer.

Now a harmless meteor shower, one of many identical harmless meteor showers, which produces few shooting stars, which admittedly do like sticks, once a year could not produce the image of a terrible giant killer armed with bronze cudgel (club). 

For that image to be created in people's mind, the things coming out of the Orionids radiant and rushing towards the earth, at 238,000 km/h, had to look like this:

Now this does look like a cudgel (club). This is a meteor which was seen burning over Glasgow in 2014. Luckily it was too small to reach the earth and cause any damage. But the one below was more like what people eventually started calling the "cudgels (clubs)" of Orion (the giant killer warrior, hunter). This is picture of the so called Chelyabinsk meteor impact.

You can see the impact and it's effect in this video. The Chelyabinsk meteor was a superbolide caused by an approximately 20-metre near-Earth asteroid that entered Earth's atmosphere over Russia on 15 February 2013. It quickly became a brilliant superbolide meteor over the southern Ural region. The light from the meteor was brighter than the Sun, visible up to 100 km (62 mi) away. It was observed over a wide area of the region and in neighbouring republics. Some eyewitnesses also felt intense heat from the fireball. Due to its high velocity and shallow angle of atmospheric entry, the object exploded in an air burst over Chelyabinsk Oblast, at a height of around 29.7 km (18.5 mi; 97,000 ft). The explosion generated a bright flash, producing a hot cloud of dust and gas that penetrated to 26.2 km (16.3 mi), and many surviving small fragmentary meteorites, as well as a large shock wave. The energy of the detonation appears to be equivalent to about 300 kilotons of TNT

Now this was a "20 meter" size rock, which came out of nowhere. Not something that would produce an image of a giant club wielding killer warrior, hunter. But definitely something that would produce an image of stars being actually cudgels (clubs). They normally face us head first, and it is their head that we can normally see in the sky. But every now and then, one of them will fall from the sky and hit the earth causing at least fear and at most terrible destruction and death. The effect a cudgel (club) strike would normally have in real life. 

But what if at some point in time, a similar or even bigger size meteor, or meteors, came out of the Orionid radiant? They would all light up in the atmosphere and turn into giant burning reddish orange (the color of bronze) cudgels (clubs), and would eventually smash into the Earth causing catastrophic devastation and death. 

And what if every year the same happened? Orion would appear on the horizon, and the next thing the giant cudgel (club) of Orion would smash down on Earth?

Now that would definitely create the image of a giant warrior hunter, giant killer, armed with a giant bronze cudgel (club).

The veneration of Orion, the obsession with it's rising over the horizon, that started during the early Bronze Age and quickly spread throughout the world, can only be explained by a panic fear that people felt towards this "greatest of warriors and hunters"...

But is it even possible that the Orionid meteors can ever be bigger than a speck? Well Orionid meteors are debris left behind the Halley's comet. According to the astronomers, Halley's comet has probably been in its current orbit for at least 16,000 years but it could be over 200,000 years old. This to me looks like they have no idea how old the comet actually is. Why this is important becomes obvious when we learn that based on the current estimates, the comet has so far lost 80-90% of it's mass. But was that over 16,000 or 200,000 years? The shorter the life of the comet, the more intense the shedding of the comet material has been. 

In 1989, Boris Chirikov and Vitaly Vecheslavov performed an analysis of 46 apparitions of Halley's Comet taken from historical records and computer simulations. These studies showed that its dynamics were chaotic and unpredictable on long timescales. And based on results of these studies, scientist believe that Halley will evaporate, or split in two, within the next few tens of thousands of years. Now every time the icy comet gets close to the sun, it undergoes violent termo chemical reactions which cause its volatile compounds (those with low boiling points, such as water, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and other ices) from the surface, or near surface of its nucleus to begin to sublime (turn directly from solid to gas, explode). This causes the comet to develop a coma (comet tail), or atmosphere, up to 100,000 km across. Evaporation of this dirty ice releases dust particles, which travel with the gas away from the nucleus. Gas molecules in the coma absorb solar light and then re-radiate it at different wavelengths, a phenomenon known as fluorescence, whereas dust particles scatter the solar light. Both processes are responsible for making the coma (comet tail) visible. These sudden evaporations of the surface of the comet can cause breaking of the bits of the comet surface which then fly off into the coma and are left behind as s trail of comet debris which is the cause of the Orionid meteor shower.

The question is how big can these comet crumbs be?

Well most of them are tiny, not more than dust. But sometimes, for so far not well understood reasons, much larger bits break off the surface of the comet. And sometimes comets just disintegrate. 

Comet Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 is named after two German astronomers who discovered the comet in 1930. For many years, its orbit and brightness was not regarded as particularly significant. However, in 1995 the comet became so bright that some astronomers thought that it was a new comet. 150 million miles from Earth, its bright display was far greater than anybody had expected.

Then…in 1996, another unexpected event occurred.

The comet appeared to have exploded into three pieces. Perhaps this disintegration was related to the continuing large brightening of the comet.

In 2000, the comet continued to not only defy expectations with its bright display; but also cause surprise at its continuing disintegration. In 2006, its disintegration was accelerating. 

No one knows why this is happening. But imagine the debris left behind. Well you don't have to imagine it. Here it is, captured by Hubble telescope:

Imagine the devastating effect this debris would have if it hit Earth...Luckily, Earth does not cross the path of this comet. But it does cross the path or Halley's comet. And as I already said, that scientists are saying that the comet could at some point in the future split in half. Well then, it is entirely possible that at some point in the past, bits up to a half of the comet's size could have broken off and were left behind as the debris...The debris which continued to fly along the path of the Halley comet. The path which Earth crossed twice every year...

Now that is quite scary. Scientists are saying that the current Halley's nucleus is relatively small: barely 15 kilometers long, 8 kilometers wide and perhaps 8 kilometers thick.

And the comet has so far lost 80-90% of its mass???? Which means that the bits that could have at some time broken off the surface of the comet could have been huge.

But do we actually have any proof that Halley's comet ever did shed big parts which could have caused the damage on Earth? Well it looks like we do.

In the article "Why Halley's Comet May Be Linked to Famine 1,500 Years Ago" on Live Science website in 2013, we can read that:

The ancients had ample reason to view comets as harbingers of doom, it would appear.

A recent study suggests that a piece of the famous Halley's comet likely slammed into Earth in A.D. 536, blasting so much dust into the atmosphere that the planet cooled considerably, by as much as 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit (3 degrees Celsius). This dramatic climate shift is linked to drought and famine around the world, which may have made humanity more susceptible to "Justinian's plague" in A.D. 541-542 — the first recorded emergence of the Black Death in Europe.

Scientists from Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory have found large quantities of extraterrestrial stuff in Greenland ice core laid down between A.D. 533 and 540. 
Certain characteristics, such as high levels of tin, identify a comet as the origin of the alien dust. And the stuff was deposited during the Northern Hemisphere spring, suggesting that it came from the Eta Aquarid meteor shower — material shed by Halley's comet that Earth plows through every April-May.

Ice core data also preserved record evidence of a volcanic eruption in 536, but, according to the Columbia University scientist, it almost certainly wasn't big enough to change the climate so dramatically. They have found circumstantial evidence of a meteor falling into the sea. The Greenland ice cores contain fossils of tiny tropical marine organisms — specifically, certain species of diatoms and silicoflagellates.

An extraterrestrial impact in the tropical ocean likely blasted these little low-latitude organisms all the way to chilly Greenland, researchers said. And they believe the object responsible was once a piece of Halley's comet.

Of the two brightest apparitions of Comet Halley, one of them is in 530. Comets are normally these dirty snowballs, but when they're breaking up or they're shedding lots of debris, then that outer layer of dark stuff goes away, and so the comet looks brighter.

It's unclear where exactly the putative comet chunk hit Earth or how big it was. However, a 2004 study estimated that a comet fragment just 2,000 feet (600 meters) wide could have caused the 536-537 cooling event if it exploded in the atmosphere and its constituent dust were spread evenly around the globe...

Now this is very very interesting...

In 530 AD Halley's comet sheds some big bits which is seen from Earth as the comet being particularly bright. 6 years later, Earth plows through the debris and, not exactly enormous piece, smashes into the Earth's surface, causing a widespread destruction and a nuclear winter...

Is this why the appearance of the Halley's comet was considered as a bad omen? Especially if the comet was bright? Because our ancestors knew that every time a bright comet appeared, it was followed by a shower of deadly bronze cudgels (clubs). 

Now the destruction in the 6th century caused by a large meteor from the Eta Aquarid meteor shower shows that Halley comet did indeed in the past shed large parts. And everything points to the Orionid shower being the source of the deadly "space cudgels (clubs)".

When did the Halley comet disintegrate? Did that happen only once? Did the mighty killer Orion only once strike the earth with his mighty cudgel (club)? Or was this a relatively common occurrence in the past, so common that it was actually expected to happen every year or every time Halley's comet came back? 

I believe that the Sky Giant has been awake for a long time, but that he became particularly angry around the end of the 4th millennium, and that his anger lasted until the end of the third millennium. During this time we have evidence of catastrophic climate changes, sudden ends of civilisations and mass migrations of people...I believe that during this time, the Sky Giant hit Earth several times with his deadly fiery cudgels (clubs). This is why Sumerians called  Orion "URU AN-NA" meaning not "the light of heaven" as we can read on the Internet, but "the fire of heaven, the fiery object from heaven" because "ùru" in Sumerian means "watch fire; light; glowing, luminous object"

The image of raging Orion with his fiery club was so terrifying that it has become the archetype for all the future Sky Gods in Eurasia and North Africa. No wonder the Egyptians called Sah, Orion, "The father of Gods"...

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

So we have answers to most of our original questions. 

Serbs called Orion "sticks" because small Orionid meteors look like sticks when they enter Earth's atmosphere. 

Bulgarians called Orion cudgels (clubs) and Serbs called all the stars cudgels (clubs) because large meteors entering the Earth's atmosphere look like giant cudgels (clubs) and these people preserved clear memory of these events in their language. 

Orion is seen as the might hunter armed with a giant bronze cudgel (club), because Orionid meteor shower, whose radiant is next to the "imagined" Orion's club, in the past produced large number of large meteors which looked like burning bronze cudgels (clubs) and which have devastated Earth many times...

But why "grandmother's cudgels (clubs)"?

These are Callanish standing stones on the Isle of Lewis. 

According to our current knowledge, the standing stones are believed to have started being erected during the third millennium BC. Right during the time when I believe Orion the Sky Giant was at the peak of his rage. And what do these standing stones look like to you? To me they look like stone stick, stone cudgels, stone clubs. Meteors which fall out of the sky are giant rocks and some bits of those rocks actually survived the meteor impacts and were found by the people. And people being logical beings concluded that the giant burning cudgels, giant burning sticks that fell from the sky must have been made of stone. And in their fear, they crafted the effigies of these deadly stone cudgels, clubs, sticks and erected them towards the sky as a sign of veneration born out of desperation...

In Serbian, the word "baba" used to mean mother, grandmother, midwife, any woman that has given birth, but today mostly means grandmother. So "babine tojage" today means "grandmother's cudgels (clubs)". Which makes no sense. However the word "baba" in the past also meant stone, rock, crag, boulder, mountain, Earth, Mother Earth, The Mother Goddess which was seen as a stony being which gives birth to all life...And it is this second meaning of the word "baba" which very much makes sense. Knowing this, the meaning of the expression "babine tojage" becomes "stone cudgels (clubs)" and the meaning of "babini štapi" becomes "stone sticks"...Stone cudgels, clubs, sticks, like the ones Orion threw from the sky. And like the ones people all over the world started making and raising towards the sky during the great rage of the Sky Giant...


  1. The Was Sceptre seems to be a shepherd's (Scottish) cleg or crook, with a hock-hook below and neck-hook above.

  2. I think you're on the right track with the comet theory. If you don't have it already, I recommend that find a copy of "Exodus to Arthur - Catastrophic encounters with comets" by Mike Ballie. He is a dendochronologist who came to the same conclusions using tree ring analysis.