I’m extremely impressed with your scholarship in Babylonian Star-Lore, even more impressed with the motivation to do it, which parallels my own interest in ancient astronomy. I have questions about some issues across old texts and the circumpolar stars, especially with regard to the Epic of Gilgamesh.
Hi Jenny, you are welcome to post any questions you have. Gavin
Thanks, Gavin. First, I was delighted to discover your work. I thought I was one of the few who liked this type of arcana to the point of becoming hopelessly immersed in a topic most of the non-professional-scholar world cared about, and I’m in probably a more “popular” field than you–northern European paganism, which I assume must also be one of your interests from your art. I’d bought your book as part of my research on that.
In any case, I’m curious about the following:
To what extent did the ancient Middle Eastern cultures about which you write document indicators of the North Celestial Pole or care about them? I’m particularly interested in the succession from Thuban in Draco to Kochab (with or without Pherkad)–or possibly “nothing” at the pole as Pytheas stated. Is there anything on that, and if so, what?
Likewise, did those cultures give any emphasis to Dubhe and Merak, the Pointers, in Ursa Major?
I would be grateful for any information or opinions you might have–and let me express my admiration again for your work, especially your interest in such esoterica,
Hi Jenny, the circumpolar constellations have proven difficult to reconstruct. This is because most Babylonian texts concentrate on the planets and their interaction with the ecliptic constellations. As the planets don’t go anywhere near the poles they hardly get mentioned. Modern scholars have concluded that the circumpolar regions were symbolised by the two Wagons. The Wagon being the 7 principal stars of Ursa Major and the Wagon of Heaven being Ursa Minor. One star of the latter was called the Inheritor of the Exalted Temple – this is Polaris. You can infer from the name that Babylonian astronomers knew that Polaris would one day be the pole star, and from this we can conclude they were aware of precession, or at least its effects on celestial co-ordinates. (But even this is controversial)
I differ in one main respect from conventional wisdom. I belieive there is good reason to locate the Plough and Wolf among the stars of Draco. Most scholars locate them in Andromeda but there is some evidence that they were circumploar. If I am right, then Thuban would be located on the blade of the Plough.
I don’t know of any specific star names for Thuban or the pointers in the Great Bear.
As you guessed Norse myth was my first love in the esoteric and is still a very useful template for my symbolic researches in the Ancient Near East – far better than the Hellenic models in my opinion.
All the best, Gavin
Thanks very much for taking the time to reply; what you say here is consistent with what’s in your book–guess I was just hoping maybe there was more. I don’t know enough to agree or disagree with your views on the Plough and Wolf.
I found your book very helpful to my own research and will be citing your work throughout. I’ll be glad to send you a copy of my work on Norse stuff when I finally finish it. I think you, in particular, will find it interesting, though it upsets a lot of the conventions in Norse scholarship based on using the stars as a basis for the myths (the extant scholarly or amateur speculation about different constellations representing the gods, etc., is just wrong, not a match for the texts at all). But I don’t want to burden you; it sounds like a a lot of people want to run their material past you. Let me know whether it might be of interest.
Also, if agreeable, I’d prefer to correspond in a less public forum. Without posting my personal contact information here, you can reach me through one of my web sites (not a come-on; I have a lot of different research interests): transcendentsex.org.
Hi Jenny, yes I would be interested in looking at your ideas on Norse myth and the stars. Years ago I did read Otto Reuter’s book ‘The Skylore of the North’ but have lost touch somewaht with any recent developments. If you’d like to send any future correspondence to my email – firstname.lastname@example.org – then your contact details will be off-line.
All the best, Gavin
Hy, Gavin! Can I have some questions about nordic mythology? I’m searching for an ancient person,I think there are some clues about him there.
Hi lastrya, I will try and answer any questions you have. Gavin
I’m searching for a creature,who in other stories is called Gadrael. He had an epic battle with a mountain-like monster while protecting a lilac-purple shining treasure. In the end he won the battle but got seriously injured, his left wing was torn. There are some clues about him being the same person as Tyr, but I’m not sure about that. I was also told to search around the ancient gods in the mayan stories, maybe there are some paralell things. Sorry for the strange things I wrote about, but I’m “treasure hunting” for years now and still got only a few hints. I’d appreciate any kind of info that comes to your mind connected to that battle.
Hi Lastrya, I have never heard of Gadrael or Gadreel. The name doesn’t appear in any of the bible dictionaries I have checked. From searches online it looks like a name used in Dungeons and Dragons or such like.
In the Ancient Near East you do occasionally get personified mountains in artwork. They are usually figured as a human torso adjoined to a mountain base. I have also come across an Iranian image of an unknown heroic figure apparently boxing with what looks like an animated mountain.
I could send you a couple of scans but you’d have to send me your email address. If you have privacy concerns about making your email address public then send it direct to me at email@example.com
All the best, Gavin
Dear Mr. White,
Hello, my name is Ryan Pham at Mount Saint Mary Catholic High School in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. I am in 9th grade and studying astronomy. I am doing a report on constellations and I have a few questions, if you have time to answer them.
1. Which is your favorite constellation?
2. Do you believe that there are more than 88 constellations?
3. What is the most fascinating thing you’ve ever discovered about constellations?
4. What do you believe everyone should know about constellations?
Hi Ryan, here are my off the cuff answers:
1, Among the Greek constellations I have always felt an affinity to Ophiuchus and Serpens
2, Over the centuries several Uranographers have invented new constellations – see Ian Ridpath’s website – so yes there are more than the standard 88 even if they are not currently recognised.
3, Each culture redefines and reinterprets them for their own ends. Seeing images among the stars is still a living tradtion that can teach us so much about ourselves and our place in the universe.
4, An appreciation of their history – many of the older ones are more ancient than any known religion – some are even older than the invention of writing.
Hope this helps, all the best, Gavin
Thank you for using you personal time to answering my question!
Hi Gavin – I appreciate your work on Greek and Babylonian constellations. It’s a subject I’ve long been interested in, and am returning to it now. There’s little recent work on the identification of the constellations in the Dendera zodiac, and your conjectures that it represents an amalgam of Egyptian and Babylonian signs (with almost no Greek influence) seems right to me. I’m writing right now to ask if you have written about or considered an astral divination bowl from the 8th cent. BC which depicts nine or ten different constellations, some easily identifiable (Orion, Ursa Major), some more difficult. There is an excellent illustrated account of the bowl in K. Lawson Younger Jr., “Another Look at an Aramaic Astral Bowl” Journal of Near Eastern Studies, 71 (2012) 209-230. I can send you a copy of the article if you indicate a preferred email. I would be curious to get your thoughts on the identification of some of the more difficult ones. Cheers.
Hi Philip, I am not familiar with the bowl you describe so please do send me a copy of the article. If you send it to:
firstname.lastname@example.org Many thanks, Gavin
Hello Gavin I really enjoyed your book babylonian star lore and have done tremendous amounts of research with it. but i wanted to no if you can describe an ancient symbol that i know originated in babylon . do you have a facebook or email address that i can send it to. I really need help with this highly important symbol of the cross.
Hi, if you want to send the image to email@example.com I will take a look
I am very interested in Babylonian Astrology.
I have your book, Babylonian Star-lore. It was one of the factors that led me to convert from Tropical Zodiac to Sidereal Zodiac. It also factored into me not using element and ruling planet for the zodiac signs. I don’t think applying season-based traits to the Sidereal Zodiac make any sense. I believe that they only apply to only the Tropical Zodiac.
I want to use the Sidereal Zodiac and Micro-zodiac with the Babylonian names.
Considering only Star-lore, how do I apply the zodiac Signs in a modern and psychological way?
What characteristic traits could be used to describe each zodiac sign?
Hi Raymond, I will have to think about this!
Thank you for responding.
also…thank you for the wonderful book that you wrote.
I love it and it has really gotten me interested in doing a modern form of Babylonian Astrology.
Hello again, one of the difficulties I have in answering your post is that I am not actually an astrologer! As such I am not that familiar with any thing but the defining points of the Tropical-Sidereal debate. I suspect that the Babylonians themselves used a combination system that was tied to the stars and periodically updated to account for the shift in the position of the spring equinox.
So from my perspective the constellations need some serious updating as many of them are now thousands of years out of date. My solution would be to wipe the sky clean and start again from first principles.
As to the natures of the zodiac constellations – I have tried to map that out in the book – in general, the name, image and associated deity of each constellation are treated as the primary defining features of that star.
Have you come across the journal articles on late Babylonian astrology written by Francesca Rochberg-Halton – I think they may be useful to you in your great endevour. I can provide the references if you need – just let me know.
All the best, Gavin
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