Saturday, 1 October 2022

Freya and her cats

According to the legend, Norse goddess Freya travels in the heavens in the chariot pulled by two giant, blue cats. These cats are the children of the magic Cat Bayun that have been presented to Freya by Thor the Thunderer...

There is a goddess found all over Eurasia and North Africa, who stands, sits, rides on lions, rides on chariots pulled by lions, stands, sits between lions, is lion headed... I talked about this in my post "Assumption of Mary"...

The lion here is animal calendar marker Leo, which marks the beginning of the mating season of the Eurasian lions...I talked about this in many of my posts, for instance "Angra Mainyu"...


What does this have to do with Freyja? Writer Johan Alfred Göth recalled a Sunday in 1880 where men were walking in fields and looking at nearly ripened rye, where Måns in Karryd said: "Now Freyja is out watching if the rye is ripe"...

Rye is typically ready for harvest in late July or early August...In Leo...The time of the year ruled by the goddess who stands, sits, rides on lions, rides on chariots pulled by lions, stands, sits between lions, is lion headed...Or rides in a chariot pulled by magic cats...

Oh, and just in case you are wondering what that goddess actually is, Sirius used to rise in the morning with the sun in Leo (Jul/Aug)...Technically it still shines with the sun in lion, as lion is the animal symbol for autumn (Aug/Sep/Oct)...I talked about this in my post "Symbols of the seasons"...

To read more about ancient animal and plant calendar markers, start here…then check the rest of the blog posts related to animal calendar markers I still didn't add to this page, and finally check my twitter threads I still didn't convert to blog post...I am 9 months behind now...

Friday, 30 September 2022

Three legged crow

Today I want to talk about sanzuwu (三足烏)  or three legged crow a creature from the Chinese mythology, believed to inhabit and represent the Sun...

Apparently, the earliest known depiction of a three-legged crow appears in Neolithic pottery of the Yangshao culture that existed along the Yellow River between 5000BC and 3000BC...But I couldn't find that depiction...So if anyone has a pic of it...

The most famous Chinese legend about the three-legged crows is The legend about 10 suns. I have come across several slightly different versions (here is one), but in general the story goes like this:

Once there existed 10 Suns (3 legged crows) one for each day of the Chinese ten-day week. They were the sons of Supreme Deity 帝俊 Di Jun and his wife Xihe 羲和 (the sun goddess)...

The 10 Sun crows lived in a mulberry tree named Fusang (扶桑) which was located somewhere near the East China Sea...

Each day one of the ten sun crows would travel with their mother, the sun goddess Xihe, on her sun chariot, pulled by a dragon-horse. Together they would bring light to the mortal world...

But one day the sun crows became restless and mischievous, and all left the Fusang tree at once. With disastrous consequences...

With all 10 Suns in the sky, the temperature on earth became unbearably hot. Mass chaos ensued. Crops shrivelled up and people fainted in the streets as the earth began to burn. Wild monsters emerged from the shadows and began to prey on humanity...

To prevent the destruction of the Earth, the emperor Yao asked Di Jun, the father of the ten suns, to persuade his children to go back to the mulberry tree and go back to appearing in the sky one at a time...

But the sun crows would not listen. They were having too much fun...So an archer, named Hou Yi (后羿), considered to be the greatest archer of all time, was called to frighten the disobedient suns...

Hou Yi was armed with a massive magic bow. In some versions of the story, the bow was made of dragon tendon and arrows were made of tiger bones. In some other versions the bow was made of tiger bones and arrows were made of dragon tendons...

Anyhow, Hou Yi, armed with a magic bow and arrows, told the sun crows to go back to their mulberry tree, but they jeered and refused to obey him...

And so Hou Yi raised his great magic bow and shot down 9 out of 10 sun crows...


The last sun that remained got so frightened that it hid in a cave and refused to come out...

The earth was now plunged into unbearable darkness and cold. Every living thing on the planet begged the last sun to come out, but it was all in vain...

Finally the rooster shouted: “Brother!”. Hearing the rooster’s loud, shrill voice, the last remaining sun finally emerged from his cave. Now, whenever roosters call in the morning, the sun rises to greet them...

The end. 

So, what is all this about?

Well this is actually very interesting story full of animal and plant calendar markers describing a very important moment in the climatic and agricultural year in Eastern China...

But I believe that this is also a story that talks about one specific event, a catastrophic weather event, which happened 4200 years ago...

So first let's have a look at the climate in China. Here are climate charts from 4 places along Yellow River (Zhengzhou, Xian, Ordos, Jinan)...






We can see that the climatic year in Eastern China is divided into two halves: hot and wet summer, and cold and dry winter...

The hot and wet half of the year starts in Apr/May and is the time of the dragon...The cold and dry half of the year starts in Oct/Nov and is the time of the tiger...

And it has been like that since Neolithic Yangshao culture...Neolithic Yangshao culture  burial, discovered in Puyang, Henan Province, Northwestern China and dated to 4000BC...Depicting tiger and dragon as opposing symbols...


I talked about it in my post "Tiger and dragon"...

It is after Apr/May that the sowing of the most important Neolithic Yangshao culture grain, millet, started...And it was before Oct/Nov, when the harvesting of millet, finished...I talked about it in my post about the "Mythical beast from Xian", actually a complex animal calendar marker for the period Apr/May-Oct/Nov, the fertile half of the year...

One other thing that starts in Apr is the natural horse mating season which lasts until Oct...It is governed by the sunlight and peaks on Summer solstice. Which is why horse is one of the most ubiquitous solar symbols in Eurasia...


I talked about the solar horse in my post "
Hayagriva"...This is also why in China we find Dragon-Horse, the symbol of the hot and wet and fertile half of the year...And a solar symbol...I talked about it in my post "Longma"...


By the way that's the same dragon horse that pulls the chariots of the Sun Goddess Xihe. The chariot which she uses to transport one of her sun crows sons across the sky...

Here is the gist of the story about the 10 sun crows, depicted on a relief from the Wu family shrine, dated to 151AD. 

The Fusang tree, Sun Goddess Xihe who is going to hitch her Dragon Horse into the Sun Chariot, and Archer Yi who takes aim at the Sun Crows...

Sun chariot that we see parked under the giant Fusang mulberry tree, the home of the sun crows...Why mulberry tree? Well, because the mulberry trees break into leaf in mid April...Which signals the beginning of the annual silkworm growing season...

Silkworms, which according to the legend, descended from a union between a girl who was promised to marry a horse, and the said horse...The girl who became known as the girl with a horse head...I talked about it in my post "Silkworm goddess"...


So we have mulberry tree, where sun crows lived, and the Dragon-Horse, which pulled the chariot of the Sun Goddess, and which transported the sun crow across the sky, both calendar markers pointing to Apr...What about crows? Why a sun crow?

Well, crows in China nest in late Mar early Apr. Hatch after 20 days, in Apr. Fledge by May. So baby crows (remember, sun crows were kids), are around in Apr/May, right at the beginning of summer, the time ruled by the sun...Why three legged? Weeell...Cause SUPERNATURAL 🙂...

So we have mulberry tree, which gets first leaves in Apr, being home to sun crows, which hatch in Apr, which are driven across the sky in a chariot pulled by a Horse which starts mating in Apr, by their mother Sun goddess, who presides over summer, which starts in Apr/May...

Phew, glad that animal and plant calendar marker part is over...But what about the other bit...The 10 suns bit? The 4200 years old bit...Ever heard of The 4.2-kiloyear BP event?

This was one of the most severe climatic events of the last 10000 years. Starting around 2200 BC, it probably lasted the entire 22nd century BC. And probably caused the collapse of the Old Kingdom in Egypt, the Akkadian Empire in Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley Civilisation...

What about China? Have a look at this. This is the map of the world showing the effects of this global weather event. The dotted areas by drought or dust storms. The hatched areas were affected by wet conditions or flooding...

Now if you look at China, you can see that the border between the area affected by aridity (Yellow River) and the area affected by flooding (Yangze river) goes right between Yellow river and Yangtze river...

In my post about Dragon-Horse I said that having such opposing forces so close together for so long can mean only one thing: the whole area was most likely thrown into a complete chaos of droughts followed by floods followed by droughts followed by floods followed by...

What happened in the story about 10 sun crows? They all flew into the sky together and then: "it got really hot, crops shrivelled up and people fainted in the streets as the earth began to burn"...Sounds awful lot like an aridification event to me...

The story then continues: "Seeing an opportunity, wild monsters emerged from the shadows and began to prey on humanity"...

I love the fact that on the picture from the story book, the wild monsters are a snake, symbol of sun's heat and lion, symbol of maximum sun't heat, in Leo (Jul/Aug)...The time of fire breading dragons...I talked about the link between snakes, lions and dragons in my post "Seven headed dragon"...

Dragons which bring drought everywhere else in Eurasia, except in China, where they bring water...

Because in China, the hottest part of the year is also the wettest part of the year. I talked about it in my post "Chinese dragon"...

Anyway, I guess, during the time the 10 sun crows were up in the sky, the Chinese dragons also turned into destructive monsters they are everywhere else in Eurasia...The monsters that steel water instead of bringing water...I talked about them in my post "Letnitsa treasure"...

But then The Archer arrived...The Archer is one of the euphemisms for the Thunder, Rain God...Like Ninurta of the Mesopotamians. Like Indra of the Hindus. Like Perun of the Slavs...

This Chinese Archer is armed with the massive magic bow and arrows. As I said, in some versions of the story, bow made of dragon tendon and arrows made of tiger bones...In some versions of the story bow made of tiger bones and arrows made of dragon tendons...

Regardless, the magic bow and arrow were made from parts of a dragon, the symbol of hot summer, a tiger, symbol of winter...Tiger (Yin) and Dragon (Yang)...

The two opposing but complementing forces of nature...Which together keep the world in balance...

And so, after killing 9 out of 10 suns (and after the last sun decided to come out of hiding and shine again), The Archer, Hou Yi, restored the balance of nature with his Yin/Yang bow...

Panic over, The Great Imperial Age of China begins...

The End...

What do you think?

To read more about ancient animal and plant calendar markers, start here…then check the rest of the blog posts related to animal calendar markers I still didn't add to this page, and finally check my twitter threads I still didn't convert to blog post...I am 9 months behind now...

Thursday, 29 September 2022

Silkworm Goddess

Yesterday, while I was writing my article "Longma" about animal calendar markers in Chinese legends about the Dragon-Horse, I came across this legend, also featuring a horse as an animal calendar marker: The legend about the Silkworm Goddess with horse's head...

It goes like this:

A man goes away (on business or to war) and doesn't return (gets stuck somewhere or gets killed). After a year, either the man's wife promises to marry her daughter to whoever brings her husband back, or the man's daughter promises to marry whoever brings her father back...

This was overheard by the man's horse, who runs away, and soon brings the man back home. The horse then expects the mother (daughter) to keep their promise. But of course they completely ignore the horse, which gets more and more agitated, angry and even tries to bite the girl...

The man, surprised with the behavior of once gentle and placid animal, asks his wife (daughter) if they knew what could have angered the horse. So they tell him about the pledge they made...

The man then kills the horse, skins it, and leaves the skin stretched out to dry. The daughter passes by the horse's skin, which springs on her, envelops her and runs away with her...

The skin still containing the girl inside is eventually found hanging down from a branch of a mulberry tree. The girl then transforms into a silkworm...And eventually she becomes known as the Silkworm Goddess who rode on a Silkworm horse...

In another version of the story, the girl actually had a horse's head to start with...

What does this all mean?

Well commonly accepted explanation is that all this horsing around is because the silkworm's head looks like a horse's head...

But, I think, there is a lot better explanation...And it's all about climate in China and the annual lifecycle of horses, silkworms and mulberry trees...

The cycle of sericulture (silkworm farming) begins 10 days before the mid-April date when the mulberry trees break into leaf...

Rolls of paper dotted with eggs are brought in from storage and allowed to mature at room temperature. In the olden days, before good heating, the eggs were placed in the clothing to be warmed by body heat...

In mid-April, the worms hatch and are immediately brushed into bamboo baskets. Feeding starts right away with finely chopped, tender mulberry leaves. As the worms grow and the baskets become congested, the silkworms are redistributed into more spacious quarters...

Feeding continues with progressively coarser pieces of mulberry leaf. Toward the last week or so, the voracious worms consume 20 times their own weight in leaves, which then are fed to them by the branch...

By the 35th day, the worms indicate they are ready to spin cocoons. When they stop feeding and assume a semi-erect position, the silk farmer transfers them to straw trusses, with about 60-70 on each truss...


Liquid silk is secreted from two silk glands which run the length of the worm's body. As the liquid emerges, it is coated with sericin, a glandular excretion. This causes the liquid to harden as it meets the air...

The thread of silk comes out in a continuous figure-of-eight pattern for about five days until the worm is completely enclosed in a casing made up of an uninterrupted thread of silk, usually 800-1,200 yards long...

Some of the cocoons are selected for perpetuating the species for next year's silk. These are allowed to emerge as moths after 8-10 days and then are paired. The females lay their minute eggs on sheets of paper, which then are washed, dried, and hung up in storage...

The rest of the cocoons are removed for unreeling. The cocoons are immersed in hot water to kill the chrysalis. The end of the filament is found, and the silk is unwound...


Amazing...But what does this have to do with horses...Well, guess what happens in April too? The natural mating season of horses begins...Stallions get agitated, aggressive and start fighting each other for mating rights...



The horse fertility is governed by the sunlight. It starts in Apr, peaks on summer solstice and finishes in Sep...

This link between horses fertility and mating season and the sunlight makes horse perfect solar animal symbol...Which it is, all over Eurasia. Since Bronze Age. 

I talked about this in these articles: "Trojan horse", "Unicorn", "Hayagriva"...

Interesting right? Just like in the story about the  Silkworm Goddess. A horny stallion, and the girl which was promised to him (mating season), get transformed into a silkworm which happens to have "a head of a horse and a soft white body of a lady" (ugh)...

But basically, all this means is that the silkworm farming cycle starts when the horses start mating and mulberry trees get their leaves...In April...

What about Chinese climate? According to this paper "Management of Climatic Factors for Successful Silkworm (Bombyx mori L.) Crop and Higher Silk Production: A Review", it seems that silkworms need exactly the right temperature to thrive: 20°C and 28°C. Temperature above 30°C and below 20°C  directly affects the health of the worm...

Which is the temperature in Central and Southtern China between April (when silk worm eggs hatch) and June (when silkworm moths emerge)...Or between the beginning of the horses mating season and the peak of the horses mating season for instance (Suzhou climate chart)...



Sources:

The legend of Can Nü

Lady silkworm

The Girl with the Horse's Head or the Silkworm Goddess

Queen of Chinese textile

To read more about ancient animal and plant calendar markers, start here…then check the rest of the blog posts related to animal calendar markers I still didn't add to this page, and finally check my twitter threads I still didn't convert to blog post...I am 9 months behind now...

Monday, 26 September 2022

Crouching tiger

The other day Gavin Lee posted this in a tweet: "...bronze figurine of wild water buffalo...Hunan, middle reaches of Yangtze River...According to the description, the piece is dated to the late Shang dynasty, 13-11 Cent. BC...

I only today saw what's on buffalo's back: a tiger!

This is very important...Here is why:

Both wild and domesticated water buffalos are seasonal breeders in most of their range, with the mating typically peaking in Oct/Nov...

This means that they are a very good animal calendar markers for Oct/Nov...

In Mesopotamia, the climatic year is divided into hot/dry summer and cool/wet winter. Oct/Nov is when the winter starts...


So buffalos were used on Mesopotamian seals as positive symbols for winter (cool/wet season) linked with water (all the precipitation that feeds the water tables falls during winter season):

I talked about this in my post "Lions vs buffalos" in which I analysed this seal from Akkadian period

Buffalo was used as an animal calendar marker for winter in India too. In India the year is also divided into two seasons, wet and dry...But in India, Oct/Nov is the beginning of the dry season...



So buffalo symbol in India acquired a negative meaning and became a "buffalo demon" Mahishasura...The enemy of Devas (Gods, good guys). I talked about this buffalo demon in my post "Mahishasuramardini"...

This opposite climates resulted in Devas being gods in India and demons in Mesopotamia/Persia...


Compare these two articles "Kharif and rabi season" and "Rain and flood"...

Anyway, what about China?

This is the climate in Hunan, China. You can see that the year is divided into hot and wet summer and cool and dry winter. 

And the mating season of the buffalos marks the beginning of winter again...So a buffalo could be used as an animal calendar marker for winter in China too...

That this buffalo is indeed an animal calendar marker for winter, can be seen from the fact that it has a tiger on it's back...

Cause guess who mates right after buffalos, during mid winter, Dec/Jan? Continental Eurasian tigers. Of the kind that also once lived in China...


Which is why they are used as a symbol for winter...I already talked about tiger symbol in China in my post "Tiger and dragon" about the Neolithic origin of the tiger (Yin) - dragon (Yang) symbol...

In China, tiger is opposed to the dragon. Remember that dragon is a pretty universal symbol of summer sun's heat...And summer in the area where Chinese culture originated is also the wettest part of the year...Which is why Chinese dragon brings water, not drought...I talked about this in my post "Chinese dragon"...

So....Crouching tiger on a buffalo's back...Both animals mating in winter, both used as animal calendar markers for winter...Hmmm...

What do you think? Do we here have an example of a Bronze Age Chinese animal calendar marker? I think so...

That is if the animal on the buffalo's back is indeed a tiger. 🙂 I know that the Chinese sources say it's a tiger. But it looks very spotty to me...Just like a leopard...

But this changes nothing...Continental Eurasian leopards also mate during the winter, a bit later, at the end of winter, beginning of spring, Jan/Feb...

Which is why they were used as a symbol for winter (and spring)

I talked about mating habits of Eurasian tigers and leopards in my post "Leopard and tiger" in which I tried to answer the question: why were these cats associated with Dionysus...

So, I think that now we have another, proof that the early Chinese didn't live and develop their culture in limbo. They also used animal calendar markers, just like all the other Eurasian and North African cultures from Neolithic onwards...

PS: Today I came across another Zhou bronze depicting a buffalo with, according to the description, a tiger on its back... 

To read more about ancient animal and plant calendar markers, start here…then check the rest of the blog posts related to animal calendar markers I still didn't add to this page, and finally check my twitter threads I still didn't convert to blog post...I am 9 months behind now...