Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Chia and ancient wisdom

Some of the most brilliant constellations in the entire night sky now grace the eastern portion of the heavens in the hours after sunset and before midnight.  Even with a dazzling full moon taking place right now, the constellations of Orion and Gemini are clearly visible, and even some of the stars of Taurus such as red Aldebaran and bright Jupiter, in spite of the fact that the moon is currently right next to the Hyades. 

Even with the moon shining at full force, you can follow a nearly direct line from Orion to the Twins of Gemini, using his famous belt as a starting point and proceeding through reddish Betelgeuse in his shoulder (to the left of the belt as he rises in the northern hemisphere) towards the brightest foot of Gemini which is gamma Geminorum or Alhena and then (still moving along the same nearly horizontal line) to the two heads of Gemini, the bright stars Castor and Pollux (clearly visible even with the moon).

As the moon begins to wane over the upcoming nights, and as it also rises later and later each night, the spectacular stars of Orion and Gemini will become even more prominent in the pre-midnight sky.  

As has already been discussed in several previous posts, Gemini and Orion are extremely important in ancient myth, and de Santillana and von Dechend suggest in Hamlet's Mill that the Age of Gemini (in which Gemini and also Orion occupied the pre-dawn horizon at the rise of the March equinox sun).  

As they also mention, and as is explained in greater detail in my book, the equinoctial intersection of the ecliptic with the celestial horizon was encoded in mythology as blazing fire (and sometimes depicted as upright or downturned torches, as in the iconography of Mithraic temples).  Based on this understanding, they argue that the constellation described by Bernardino de Sahagun (1499 - 1590), a Franciscan friar who lived among the Mexica and learned their language and helped preserve their traditions, as the mamalhuaztli (which he notes were also called the "fire sticks") is none other than Gemini, the equinoctial constellation of the Golden Age (321 and footnote on 321, and following).

The Mexica people are often referred to as the Aztecs, although some scholars now assert that this is not necessarily accurate (see this discussion of terminology, and of the historical context of Sahagun's texts preserving the traditions of the peoples of Mexico during the 1500s).  It is fascinating to note that they may have associated Gemini with "fire sticks," particularly in light of the discussion that follows in Hamlet's Mill regarding the association of Gemini with "fire sticks" in the ancient Sumerian and Babylonian epic of Gilgamesh.   

How did two cultures so widely separated come up with the same mythological imagery?  Conventional historians will tell us that it was just a "coincidence."  However, I have discussed some very powerful connections to Gilgamesh (also involving Gemini!) among the legends and traditions of the Mesoamerican peoples in previous posts, and we have also seen numerous other pieces of evidence that strongly suggest that the conventional isolationist view is completely incorrect.

The texts preserved by Friar Bernardino de Sahagun also relate the importance of the chia plant as a source of food among the ancient peoples of Mesoamerica.  The diagram above is from the Florentine Codex, and it depicts a mature chia plant.  The portion of the codex which discusses chia can be seen here in this section of Book 11, from a 1965 copy prepared by the US Department of Agriculture.  There we read of chia:
It is hard, juicy, oily.  It is in twos.  It is that which can be broken up, that which fills out.  It is tasty, savory.  It is that of which pinole is made.  It is potable.
Although the pre-Columbian civilizations of Mesoamerica obviously knew of chia many hundreds of years ago, it is only recently being discovered by modern civilizations, primarily among athletes and healthy-food afficionados (so far).  

Chia seeds apparently have a very high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids -- even higher than that found in salmon.  Here is a recent article on the nutritional properties of chia seeds published earlier this year.

Chia sprouts have been famous for some time as the green hair that grows on "chia pets," which first hit stores in the late 1970s and grew into something of a craze in the early 1980s.  Chia sprouts can also be grown for food.  Mark M. Braunstein's outstanding sprouting guide book Sprout Garden discusses chia on page 69, grouped along with cress, flax and psyllium:
These four mucilaginous seed successfully sprout alone only with the clay Saucer Method.  Consult the instructions on pages 41-43 for a definitive discussion.
They will sprout by the otherwise trustworthy Jar Method only if combined in a portion of one part mucilaginous seed to four or five parts alfalfa or clover.  Sprout the alfalfa or clover a day or two alone, add the mucilaginous seeds, and continue sprouting as you would alfalfa.
Interestingly enough, this is somewhat similar to the ancient method described by Sahagun's Mesoamerican sources.  If you are interested in trying it for yourself, you can order chia seeds for sprouting at Sprout House, as well as at many other seed outlets.

This blog makes no dietary recommendations or nutritional claims -- that is up to each reader to decide for himself or herself.  However, going out to view the constellations (particularly Gemini and Orion this time of year) every night is highly recommended, as is considering the ancient wisdom that was apparently disseminated worldwide and preserved in the sacred texts and traditions of the world's far-flung cultures.