Friday, March 18, 2005

The Return of the Virgin

“Now the Virgin returns, the reign of Saturn returns, now a new generation descends from heaven on high. Only do thou, pure Lucina, smile on the birth of the child, under whom the iron brood shall first cease, and a golden race spring up throughout the world!"

So said the Roman writer Virgil in the 1st century BC in his Fourth Eclogue. Aratus who wrote a well-known poem on astronomy claimed that Themis the goddess of justice left the world and took refuge in Virgo at the end of the last Golden Age. She returns only at the dawn of the new Golden Age according to Virgil, indicating a decline in virtue and justice in the interceding period.

While some believe the reference to Virgo may refer to the precessional cycle of the equinoxes, another possibility is an oblique reference to Spica, alpha Virginis, as the bearing marker for the geographic origin of the age.

The orientation of the Neo-Babylonian temples brings to mind the Sumerian concept of the Me, the systems of measurements, rules and guidelines for the arts, crafts and sciences. The Me were especially associated with the Seven Sages, the abgal who come from the sea.

Abgal are said to provide the proportions of the ziggurat as model of the cosmic mountain, a structure where the measure of the base width is significantly greater than the temple height. This gives an image of a broad low mountain rather than a steep or cone-shaped one.

Spica also has significance in ancient Egyptian astronomy. A temple to Menat in Thebes built around 3200 BC appears oriented toward that star. At least one temple in the New Kingdom city of Akhenaton also appears so aligned although Spica's declination had changed considerably by that time.

Livio Catullo Stecchini, whose expertise was metrology, the history of measurement, believed that Spica served as the ancient meridian in Egypt during certain periods. He notes that in their rectangular sky charts, Spica is placed near the center.

If you remember, Sirius and Venus were both said to have special links with the Egyptian goddess Isis and the Sumerian goddess Inanna. Spica was also closely related to these goddesses, and appears to be from this association that the sign of Virgo originated. In Sumer, both Spica and Sirius are called ban "shooting bow."

Many megaliths also seem aligned on Spica at different periods with no apparent link to equinotical points. This suggests that the star was revered for some other reason.

The timing of the return of the Golden Age has vexed many cultures. Some have equated it with the Great Year, the precession of the equinoxes, when after about 25,920 years, the stars return to their "original" position.

However, there were also shorter cycles usually lasting around 5,000 to 6,000 years. These may have been attempts to divide the Great Year, but in many of the involved cultures there is no clear evidence of knowledge of the precession.

In Jewish-Christian circles, the idea of a "Great Week" of 6,000 years followed by a 1,000 year Golden Age or Great Sabbath was innovated with the calendar calibrated to start at around 4000 BC. In the far-off Mayan culture, the calendar started in the first few centuries before 3000 BC, depending on which estimate you use, and lasts about 5,125 solar years.

The Hindu cycle starts at 3102 BC and although the present Kaliyuga eras last for much longer than even a Great Year, an interesting prophetic text from South India also hints at a shorter age.

The Kalajnana written about 1,000 years ago mentions dates like 1999 and 2003 in association with the coming of a golden age and the savior king Kalki, who is also known in the text as Virabhoga Vasantaraya.

The year 1999 suprisingly enough also appears some five centuries later in the prophecies of the renowned French prophet Nostradamus. Next we will examine whether there might be any connection between these dates so widely spread apart in time and place.

Paul Kekai Manansala