Friday, October 14, 2011

The conjunctions of Jupiter and Saturn and the mythology of Saturnian figures such as Osiris, Ptah, and the Oannes

In the previous post, we discussed the possibility that the Oannes may represent something other than a literal description of amphibious, intelligent beings who descended from the stars to teach mankind civilizational knowledge and science and slept each night in the ocean. If these ancient descriptions are in fact metaphorical in some way, what could they be metaphorically depicting?

First off, when trying to piece together the knowledge hidden away inside ancient coded mythology, we would do well to remember the warning given by Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend in Hamlet's Mill. There, those intrepid authors warn against:
the danger of simplification and of ruthless identifying; to simplify, however, is the very danger that we most wish to avoid. In other words, we do not mean to make comparative mythology "easier," by procuring simple denominators upon which all these items could be brought; we think, on the contrary, that we are faced with an almost uncountable number of x's for which the fitting equations have to be worked out in long and cumbersome future identifications. 426-7.
Nevertheless, they are quite confident in declaring, "We know well enough that the Oannes of Berossos is Ea, i.e. Saturn, whose 'town' is Eridu/Canopus, the very depth of the sea" (419). The clues in this case are fairly striking: throughout all cultures (both in the "Old World" and the "New World," as de Santillana and von Dechend demonstrate throughout their massive text), the Saturn figure is consistently one who comes down to dwell among men, who imparts civilization and knowledge to them -- Prometheus bringing fire and being punished for it is a manifestation of this same archetype -- and who then retires from the scene to "sleep" in an underwater cave or abode at the bottom of the sea (or a lake, in the case of King Arthur, who is another manifestation of the same myth).

As an aside, although it might seem contradictory for the authors of Hamlet's Mill to "simplify" with the bold statement that "Oannes is Saturn" right before they warn against "the danger of simplification," the fact that Saturn is such a complex figure who truly acts like an algebraic "x" who can take on so many "uncountable" manifestations across mythologies and even within the same mythology, means that by identifying Oannes with Saturn they are not really making things overly simple at all. Some of the most familiar Saturn manifestations include Kronos in Greek mythology, who retires to the mysterious watery cave of Ogygia, and Ptah of Egypt -- although the authors of Hamlet's Mill also point out that Osiris shares Saturnian features in his retirement from the scene to the underworld (they note that both Osiris and Ptah are "divine mummies" on page 299).

Besides the concept of "sleeping beneath the sea" which they share with Oannes, these Saturn figures also suggest a metaphor of two legs fused into one, which Robert Temple discusses with great perception in his book the Sirius Mystery (even though he chooses to interpret the Oannes as literal and not metaphorical).

First, of course, we should make this connection: that Ptah and Osiris are depicted with their legs bound together in their form as divine mummies. The image of a merman or fish-tailed man also suggests two legs fused together as one. This connection is not directly made by either Robert Temple or by the authors of Hamlet's Mill, although it is possible that others have noted it (I haven't done an exhaustive search). However, Robert Temple also points out a compelling metaphorical connection for the concept of "two legs fused into one" and that is the orbital periods of Saturn and Jupiter, which were clearly of great importance to the ancients.

Jupiter goes around the sun in a period of 11.9 years -- which can be encoded in mythology more readily as 12 years and lends itself to all kinds of useful calculations when it is rounded up to 12 years, which it very nearly approximates. Saturn, further from the sun than Jupiter, takes 29.5 years to make an orbit, which can be rounded up to thirty for purposes of encoding in myths and rituals and for mathematical simplicity.

As de Santillana and von Dechend demonstrate, Saturn in depicted as "giving the measures" to Jupiter in many ancient mythologies. Specifically, their two orbital periods of 12 and 30 mean that every 60 years they will have a conjunction in almost the same place in the sky -- with the same constellation as a backdrop, as illustrated in the diagram above by Johannes Kepler (1571 - 1630), who in that illustration shows the conjunctions of Saturn and Jupiter every twenty years and the fact that every sixty years brings them back to the same sign of the zodiac.

It is fairly easy to understand why Saturn and Jupiter will only return to the same conjunction in the same general location on their orbit every sixty years, since 12 years and 30 years will not coincide until 60 years have passed, when Jupiter has gone around the sun five times and Saturn has gone around twice. In the interim, they also align every twenty years, when faster Jupiter can again be seen in conjunction with slower Saturn from the vantage of observers on earth, but not with the same background of stars, since they will not return to the approximately same part of their orbit until the 60 year alignment (all this is contained in the "trigon" diagram of Kepler shown above -- to envision how it actually looks out in the solar system, visit this page and peruse the excellent illustrations of planet "synods" or meeting points).

Now, Robert Temple provides some excellent analysis which explains how this astronomical fact is encoded in mythology by the binding together of two legs. Clearly, based on the 12-year orbit of Jupiter, Saturn must take two revolutions around the sun to align again with Jupiter in the same relative location -- Jupiter's orbital period thus "binds together" two thirty-year "legs" of Saturn. Robert Temple explains in his Appendix III that the Dogon have a very significant Sigui festival every sixty years, and that the calculation of the years to this festival involves a diagram of the Nommo (their name for the Oannes fish-man) with two legs of thirty years each:
The Dogon even break down themselves into '5 series of 12' and twice thirty, which seems a fairly specific indication that our hypothesis has a sound basis. For the last point, the drawing above the door of the Dogon sanctuary of Binou reinforces these ideas. This drawing is used for the computation of the Sigui. Accompanying this drawing is a drawing of the Nommo which is broken down into two major portions: his right 'leg' marks the first thirty years and his left 'leg' the second thirty years.

The legs are joined to represent that only taken together do these thirty-year periods have significance. And, as we know, Nommo did not actually have legs. He had a fish-tail extremity.

The fact that each 'leg' represents a period of years is made quite clear by the information given that 'the left leg is made a little longer every year in such a way that it is the same length as the other (leg) by the time of the Sigui.'

This proces recalls Plutarch's remark, noted much earlier in the book, that Zeus (Jupiter) had his legs joined together. In short, Jupiter's legs were joined together because each of his 'legs' represented one of the orbital periods of his father Saturn, and it was on his father that he stood. For Saturn upheld Jupiter's creation by providing him with the temporal measures, as Santillana and von Dechend explain.
Based on all this, it is really rather remarkable that Mr. Temple chooses to see the Oannes or fish-tailed men as literal depictions of extraterrestrial visitors, but again I wish to state as I stated in this previous post that the level of scientific knowledge clearly possessed by extremely ancient civilizations requires fairly astonishing conclusions.

It is possible to explain it by extraterrestrial contact.

It is possible to explain it by the supernatural creation of mankind.

It is, however, quite difficult if not impossible to reconcile it with the typical naturalistic explanation that has been in vogue for the past hundred to hundred fifty years, which is that mankind simply arose from infinitely primitive beginnings (one-celled predecessors and fishlike vertebral ancestors being pretty close to "infinitely primitive") to primitive hunter-gatherers who stumbled around for a couple hundred thousand years before suddenly coalescing into civilizations whose earliest myths and structures demonstrate that their creators knew the size and shape of the earth, had mastered sophisticated mathematical concepts such as pi and phi, and who were able to construct massive pyramids and other structures with multi-ton blocks that still stand to this day (and which continue to be very precisely aligned to the cardinal directions and to celestial objects).

Thus, if Robert Temple wants to interpret the Oannes myth and related myths (evidence of which appear to be present around the world) as evidence of ancient extraterrestrial contact, we should at least grant him the right to do so, and to consider his explanation as a rational possibility (and we should acknowledge that his book brings together a wealth of important evidence and applies insightful and original analysis throughout). However, as the above discussion attempts to illustrate, it is also quite possible to consider this myth grouping as a very sophisticated metaphorical repository for scientific understanding of celestial phenomena -- and one which is well-suited to surviving, with all of its hidden knowledge intact, for millennia.