image: Wikimedia commons (link).
Our planet has now reached the point of June solstice, when the north pole of the earth points towards most directly towards the sun. We pass through the moment of solstice this year at 3:07 am on June 21st for those in the Pacific Time Zone of North America, which is 6:07 am on June 21st for those in the Eastern Time Zone of the same continent, or 10:07 am on June 21st Greenwich Mean Time.
This point on our annual cycle is invested with tremendous spiritual significance in the system of celestial metaphor which forms the foundation for all the world's ancient wisdom, preserved in the myths, scriptures and sacred stories from virtually every culture on every continent and island around our globe.
For previous posts discussing this ancient system, and the spiritual significance of some of the significant points on the annual cycle (including the summer solstice), please visit some of these previous posts, including:
- "Summer solstice, 2016" and
For posts explaining what it means to say that at the moment of June solstice, the north pole is pointed "most directly" towards our sun, see previous posts including:
Last year at this point in our annual cycle, I spent a memorable solstice celebration at the Great Serpent Mound, located in what is now the state of Ohio, with Graham Hancock, Ross Hamilton and others.
The world's ancient myths employ metaphors pointing to different constellations -- including signs of the zodiac -- in order to indicate different points in the heavenly cycles, which in turn indicate different aspects of our spiritual journey (following the "language" of spiritual metaphor which is explored in some of the above-linked posts, and at greater length in some of my books).
One of the celestial markers associated with the point of summer solstice (June solstice in the northern hemisphere) is the zodiac constellation of Cancer the Crab, which stands near the point of summer solstice and in fact gives its name to the line of the Tropic of Cancer, indicating the northernmost latitude on the globe at which the sun will pass directly overhead in its annual arcing path across the sky (the arc of the sun's path moving higher and lower across the sky as we orbit the sun, as explained in some of the above posts, and roughly diagrammed in this post from summer solstice 2011). The zodiac sign of Cancer is generally understood to commence on June 21st.
The Reverend Robert Taylor (1784 - 1844), a pioneering and extraordinarily insightful expositor of the celestial underpinnings of the Biblical stories, explains that the constellation of Cancer the Crab with its wide-flung outstretched arms is used in the Biblical scriptures to signify the sun's highest point in its annual journey. In a sermon or lecture entitled "Who is the Lord? Part I" which was reprinted after his death in a volume entitled Astronomico-Theological Lectures (1857), Robert Taylor explains, beginning with a quotation from the 68th Psalm and juxtaposing it with a verse from Deuteronomy 33:
"Sing unto God, -- sing praises to his name. Extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name JAH, and rejoice before him."
The attribute of "riding upon the heavens" is so peculiar, so distinctly marked, so incapable of being strained from its one and only apparent significancy, that nothing but the most obdurate stupidity which shuts out light, and would say to itself, "I will not see the SUN," could cause any man to mistake as to what that significancy must have been.
[. . .]
"There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun, who rideth upon the heaven in thy help, and in his excellency in the sky. The Eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms." Deuteronomy 33. The everlasting arms being the claws of the Crab, which lie immediately underneath the Sun's path, as he rides in the heaven, through his highest acme of ascendency, on the 21st of June.
The name of God is merely titular, and an epithet which may or many not be conjoined to the alone specific and definite idea of THE LORD. But the Lord and the Sun are perfectly convertible terms, and may be put indifferently the one for the other, in every passage in which either of them occurs.
As in the beautiful astronomical apologue to which I shall hereafter engage your studies.
"Then, spake Joshua unto the Lord in that day, and said, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon. So the Sun stood still, and there was no day like that before it or after it, that the Lord hearkened unto the voice of a man." Joshua 10. [pages 319 - 321].
The standing still of the sun is, of course, a characteristic of the solstice, as explained in the above-linked post regarding the "earth-ship metaphor," which discusses why the sun's rising point seems to move rather swiftly along the horizon when we are moving through the equinox point (halfway between the northernmost and southernmost rising points of the solstices), but seems to "linger" or "stand still" at the solstices, when the sun's rising point is "turning around" to begin its march back to the south along the eastern horizon (for the summer solstice) or back to the north (for the winter solstice).
It is interesting that the passage cited above by Robert Taylor, from Joshua 10, involves the sun standing still as part of a battle (in this case, against the "Amorites"). Many of my previous posts (and books) have explained that the interchange between length of daylight and length of darkness throughout the year, the "struggle" between light and dark, was allegorized in the world's ancient myths as a great battle -- just as our descent into this incarnate life and its interplay between spirit and matter was also conceived as a great battle (see for example this previous post entitled "Descent into Kurukshetra").
I have argued that a similar passage from the ancient Hebrew Scriptures which also involves a battle (this time against the "Amalekites") similarly evokes the summer solstice and the upraised arms of Cancer the Crab: when Moses must hold his arms in the air in order to have his warriors beat back the foe. The enemy begins to prevail each time Moses grows tired and lowers his arms.
This is a perfect representation of the endless cycle of the struggle of light and dark throughout the year: as we approach and then reach the summer solstice (and the upraised arms of Cancer), daylight triumphs over darkness. But as the "arms" begin to sink down again (as we move away from the sign of Cancer on the zodiac wheel that marks our annual progress through the year) then darkness begins to increase bit by bit, until hours of darkness are dominating over hours of daylight during the "lower half" of the year, as we move towards the lowest point of winter solstice.
That previous post argues that the "upraised arms" of Moses described in the book of Exodus have an analogue in the myths and iconography of ancient Egypt, in which Shu god of air is depicted as holding up (with identical "upraised arms") the body of the goddess Nut, the goddess of infinite heaven. Indeed, In Exodus 17, the Bible describes Aaron and Hur helping to hold up the arms of Moses -- and in ancient depictions of Shu and Nut, two attendant deities are present to assist Shu in keeping his own arms raised, in a manner identical to the description of Moses with upraised arms in the Exodus account.
Indeed, the "upraised arms" of the constellation Cancer in the sky appear to have also been envisioned by the ancient Egyptians in the upraised arms of their sacred symbol of the scarab, which resembles the outline of the Crab in the heavens and which was also often depicted with the disc of the sun between and above its upraised arms in ancient Egyptian art and hieroglyphs. I would suggest that this depiction of the solar disc above the scarab's upraised arms is a reference to the summer solstice and the spiritual significance contained in this "highest point of the year" according to the ancient system of metaphor underlying the world's ancient myths and scriptures.
In fact, the ancient Egyptians would sometimes depict the "upraised arms" on the profoundly important symbol of the Ded column and closely-associated Ankh symbol, again with solar disc directly above, as in the famous illustration in the Papyrus of Ani shown below:
image: Wikimedia commons (link).
Note that once again we see two "flanking figures" on either side of the upraised arms, as we saw in the Exodus passage with Aaron and Hur holding up the arms of Moses, or in the iconography of the god Shu, in which two ram-headed gods help hold up the arms of the god of air. In this case, the flanking figures are the goddesses Isis and Nephthys -- and I have argued in the past (based on insights originally published by Alvin Boyd Kuhn) that these two goddesses are likely associated with the two equinoxes, while the central Djed and Ankh (with upraised arms) represents the column running from the "lowest point" of winter solstice up to the "highest point" of summer solstice.
All of this additional evidence appears to confirm Robert Taylor's analysis that the "everlasting arms" mentioned in Deuteronomy 33 refer to the claws of Cancer the Crab, which the Sun in its path enters at the point of summer solstice (now delayed due to millennia of passing time and the motion of precession).
The constellation Cancer is a faint constellation, but contains the dazzling Beehive Cluster, located right at the "center of its forehead" in the figure of the Crab -- suggestive of the location of the "Third Eye" or the pineal gland or the highest chakra in the body of a man or woman, and thus of actualization, integration, and elevation of the spirit.
All of these important themes are evoked by our arrival at the point of summer solstice, and are worthy of contemplation at this significant time of year.
image: Wikimedia commons (link).