Thursday, October 20, 2011

Meade ETX-125, Canon 15x50, Star Walk for iPad

Should anyone wonder, I am a proud owner of  a Meade ETX-125 Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope and have (too) occasional access to a massive LX200. The AutoStar software is a great teacher of astronomy and enormously helpful in locating celestial objects.

Canon 15x50 binoculars with Optical Image Stabilizer offer brilliant panoramic view of the night sky and also greatly help in locating celestial objects.

My newest helper is Star Walk for iPad interactive astronomy guide from Vito Technology Inc. IMHO it is just amazing. The device is helpful also when using the telescope and is a wonderful companion on those star gazing night walks with only binoculars. iPad is easy to carry along and provides Star Walk with location and orientation data that allows it magically to display information about the part of the night sky iPad is pointed at or currently selected by touching the screen.

Update Oct 2015: Star Walk 2 has been available for some time. Warmly recommended, it is even better than the excellent first version of Star Walk. Especially helpful is the "see through" mode that uses iPad camera to align the display with the part of the sky viewed. There are many educational add-on packages with wealth of information.

Galileo satellite launch

On October 19, European Space Agency ESA has launched another GIS satellite from French Guyana. It is part of a system of a global positioning system satellites that is planned to be fully operational in 2019.

"Galileo is Europe’s own global navigation satellite system, providing a highly accurate, guaranteed global positioning service under civilian control. It is inter-operable with GPS and Glonass, the two other global satellite navigation systems.

By offering dual frequencies as standard, Galileo will deliver real-time positioning accuracy down to the metre range. It will guarantee availability of the service under all but the most extreme circumstances and will inform users within seconds of any satellite failure, making it suitable for safety-critical applications such as guiding cars, running trains and landing aircraft." (ESA Galilea Web site)

Cruise missile
As so many other good inventions, also GPS started with the human need to efficiently kill other humans - and cruise missiles perform that task today very efficiently and accurately.  The deadly Tomahawk is a symbol of the military might of modern man. So is Taurus.

Taurus ILA2006 Cruise missile - Germany

"The idea of an "aerial torpedo" was shown in the British 1909 film The Airship Destroyer, where flying torpedoes controlled by wireless are used to bring down airships bombing London."

However, the military technology development to create a global positioning system that uses a network of satellites on geostationary orbits and sending positional signals has changed the utopian weapon into terrifying reality.

"A cruise missile is a guided missile that carries an explosive payload and is propelled, usually by a jet engine, towards a land-based or sea-based target. Cruise missiles are designed to deliver a large warhead over long distances with high accuracy. Modern cruise missiles can travel at supersonic or high subsonic speeds, are self-navigating, and can fly on a non-ballistic, extremely low altitude trajectory. They are distinct from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) in that they are used only as weapons and not for reconnaissance. In a cruise missile, the warhead is integrated into the vehicle and the vehicle is always sacrificed in the mission." (wikipedia)

Geographic positioning systems
GPS is the fruit of technological developments and ideas that were demonstrated during and after the Second World War. With the exponential growth of space technology and investment the concept became functional reality.  The creating of the horrific killing machine, cruise missile, generated other ideas for navigation and promised such significant advances also to guiding submarines, war ships and military aircraft planes, that Pentagon convinced the senate and congress to invest the billions of dollars required. First GPS satellite was launched in 1989 and the final satellite, number 24, reached its geostationary orbit in 1994.

Well, the Russians could not rely on the good will of the Americans, could they?

GLONASS  ГЛОНАСС (Globalnaya navigatsionnaya sputnikovaya sistema) began in 1976. The system was completed in 1995 only a year after the US GPS system became functional. It is said to be the most expensive part of modern Russian space program with enormous investments made on the maintenance and upgrading of the orbiting satellites and the ground stations.

Well, the Chinese could not rely on the good will of the Americans or Russians, could they?

COMPASS (Beidou-2, BD2) is the Chinese equivalent of GPS and GLONASS and the completed system will include 35 satellites, five on geostationary orbits and thirty Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) satellites. The first launch was on 13th of April, 2007 from Xichang and this massively expensive space program is going on with accelerated speed.

So what are the Europeans to do?

Should they trust the good will of the Yankees that they will not shut down their GPS system from European allies in case of some global conflict? Should the European ships, cars, air-planes trust the Russians on this so critical navigation? Or, by heavens sake, cooperate with the Chinese Maoist communist regime to keep their cruise missiles on track to the target?

No way, Jose!

GALILEO So the European nations got together and decided to build their own global positioning system not to have to depend on others. True, it is compatible with GPS and GLONASS as they say and the peaceful functions are emphasized. We are Europeans, after all, very peace loving people as the two World Wars demonstrate!

Not without a price, though...

"It has been a very long time in coming but this week the EU finally agreed to commit funding to the Galileo GPS system.

This £2+ billion pound project, projected to be operational by 2013, had been in limbo for some time with initial proposals that funding come from private investment proving to be unrealistic.

But not everyone is happy, the agreement was made without Spain's backing. Spain had wanted a greater degree of involvement and demanded a ground control station on its territory. Ground stations in Munich and Rome have been agree but the EU could not justify the expense of a third as Spain had demanded.

Concerns about cost and budget control remain of course, the EU and in fairness Government in general do not have a good track record on the control of spending on large projects such as this but Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) based in Guildford are expected to win a large part of the tender for the build of the satellites. SSTL were responsible for the build of a test vehicle (GIOVE-A) which was launched by ESA at the end of 2005 aboard a Soyuz launch rocket."

Global peace of the sky has been violated in a new way

Threatening sky above us
In the more innocent times we admired during the days the beauty of the God created Sun making our life possible on this Earth and at night the beautiful Moon and the brilliant stars eagerly exploring the light from distant galaxies, from the beginning of the creation.

Today we still look up admiring the Universe but there is also something evil lurking on that blue sky above us.  Day and night many cold hostile eyes are looking down on us from there and there is a constant music of GPS signals no matter where we happen to be on the surface of our unique planet.

Of course, it is nice and often quite useful to have a personal GPS on a tiny device in our pocket or on the car with a pleasant voice telling us where to turn after the next 200 meters - a feat of technology that nobody would have believed possible some ten years ago.

But those sinister cold eyes are there - capable of doing good or bad, of guiding us to our destination or aiming an aerial torpedo that can vaporize an entire city in seconds. Or a tiny missile that will hit our building entering from the right window with the accuracy of less than two centimetres.

Space Psalm 8

To the Chief Musician; set to a Philistine lute, or [possibly] to a particular Hittite tune. A Psalm of David.

 1O LORD, our Lord, how excellent (majestic and glorious) is Your name in all the earth! You have set Your glory on [or above] the heavens.    2Out of the mouths of babes and unweaned infants You have established strength because of Your foes, that You might silence the enemy and the avenger.
    3When I view and consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained and established,
    4What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of [earthborn] man that You care for him?
    5Yet You have made him but a little lower than God [or heavenly beings], and You have crowned him with glory and honor.
    6You made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet:
    7All sheep and oxen, yes, and the beasts of the field,
    8The birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
    9O Lord, our Lord, how excellent (majestic and glorious) is Your name in all the earth!

Amplified Bible

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Virgin Mary - Stella Maris

NASA image of the Polaris system in 2006 

Stella maris is the North Star, Polaris, alpha Ursae Minoris.It consists of three stars, a supergiant six times larger than Sun and two smaller companions. 

Because it is near to the celestial north pole it shows approximately the direction towards north.  Since Stella polaris does not appear to us to rotate on the sky like other stars during the night it has been of crucial importance to navigators especially at open seas, hence Stella maris, the Star of the Sea. It has also been called "steadfast star", "guiding star" and in German "Leitsterne".

"In traditional Indian astronomy, its name is Sanskrit dhruva tāra, literally "fixed star". Its name in medieval Islamic astronomy was variously reported as Mismar "needle, nail", al-kutb al-shamaliyy "the northern axle/spindle", al-kaukab al-shamaliyy "north star". (wikipedia)

Virgin Mary
Fixed, steady, guiding star - so a fitting symbol for Mary, Mother of Jesus who received it in 9th century liturgy. Another stellar epithet to this Jewish woman known as Stella maris in addition to Queen of Heaven and Stella manutis, the Morning Star.

"Our Lady, Star of the Sea is an ancient title for the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus Christ. The words Star of the Sea are a translation of the Latin title Stella Maris, first reliably used with relation to the Virgin Mary in the ninth century.

The title was used to emphasize Mary's role as a sign of hope and as a guiding star for Christians, especially gentiles, whom the Old Testament Israelites metaphorically referred to as the sea, meaning anyone beyond the "coasts", or, that is to say, sociopolitical, and religious (Mosaic law), borders of Israelite territory.

Under this title, the Virgin Mary is believed to intercede as a guide and protector of those who travel or seek their livelihoods on the sea. This aspect of the Virgin has led to Our Lady, Star of the Sea, being named as patroness of the Catholic missions to seafarers, the Apostleship of the Sea, and to many coastal churches being named Stella Maris or Mary, Star of the Sea. This devotion towards Our Lady with this ancient title is very popular throughout the Catholic world." (wikipedia)

Ave Maris Stella
The beautiful celestial titles for Virgin Mary have inspired also some extraordinary music often heard during vespers in the evening.

Ave, maris stella,
Dei mater alma,
atque semper virgo,
felix cœli porta.
Hail, star of the sea,
Nurturing Mother of God,
And ever Virgin
Happy gate of Heaven.
Sumens illud «Ave»
Gabrielis ore,
funda nos in pace,
mutans Evæ nomen.
Receiving that "Ave From the mouth of Gabriel,
Establish us in peace,
Transforming the name of "Eva".
Solve vincla reis,
profer lumen cæcis,
mala nostra pelle,
bona cuncta posce.
Loosen the chains of the guilty,
Send forth light to the blind,
Our evil do thou dispel,
Entreat (for us) all good things.
Monstra te esse matrem,
sumat per te precem
qui pro nobis natus
tulit esse tuus.
Show thyself to be a Mother:
Through thee may he receive prayer
Who, being born for us,
Undertook to be thine own.
Virgo singularis,
inter omnes mitis,
nos culpis solutos
mites fac et castos.
O unique Virgin,
Meek above all others,
Make us, set free from (our) sins,
Meek and chaste.
Vitam præsta puram,
iter para tutum,
ut videntes Jesum
semper collætemur.
Bestow a pure life,
Prepare a safe way:
That seeing Jesus,
We may ever rejoice.
Sit laus Deo Patri,
summo Christo decus,
Spiritui Sancto
honor, tribus unus. Amen.
Praise be to God the Father,
To the Most High Christ (be) glory,
To the Holy Spirit
(Be) honour, to the Three equally. Amen.

We may well say that Monteverdi's Ave Maris Stella in his Vespro della Beata Vergine 1610 is literally heavenly!

Listen those amazing nine minutes in youTube

Virgin Mary - Stella Matutina

In the Catholic church Virgin Mary is called also the Morning Star in the Litany of Loretto

Sancta Maria, ora pro nobis.
Sancta Dei Genitrix, ora pro nobis.
Sancta Virgo virginum, ora pro nobis.
Mater Christi, ora pro nobis.
Mater divinae gratiae, ora pro nobis.
Mater purissima, ora pro nobis.
Mater castissima, ora pro nobis.
Mater inviolata, ora pro nobis.
Mater intemerata, ora pro nobis.
Mater amabilis, ora pro nobis.
Mater admirabilis, ora pro nobis.
Mater boni consilii, ora pro nobis.
Mater Creatoris, ora pro nobis.
Mater Salvatoris, ora pro nobis.
Virgo prudentissima, ora pro nobis.
Virgo veneranda, ora pro nobis.
Virgo praedicanda, ora pro nobis.
Virgo potens, ora pro nobis.
Virgo clemens, ora pro nobis.
Virgo fidelis, ora pro nobis.
Speculum justitiae, ora pro nobis.
Sedes sapientiae, ora pro nobis.
Causa nostrae laetitiae, ora pro nobis.
Vas spirituale, ora pro nobis.
Vas honorabile, ora pro nobis.
Vas insigne devotionis, ora pro nobis.
Rosa mystica, ora pro nobis.
Turris Davidica, ora pro nobis.
Turris eburnea, ora pro nobis.
Domus aurea, ora pro nobis.
Foederis arca, ora pro nobis.
Janua caeli, ora pro nobis.
Stella matutina, ora pro nobis.
Salus infirmorum, ora pro nobis.
Refugium peccatorum, ora pro nobis.
Consolatrix afflictionem, ora pro nobis.
Auxilium Christianorum, ora pro nobis.
Regina angelorum, ora pro nobis.
Regina patriarcharum, ora pro nobis.
Regina prophetarum, ora pro nobis.
Regina apostolorum, ora pro nobis.
Regina martyrum, ora pro nobis.
Regina confessorum, ora pro nobis.
Regina virginum, ora pro nobis.
Regina sanctorum omnium, ora pro nobis.
Regina sine labe originali concepta, ora pro nobis.
Regina sacratissimi Rosarii, ora pro nobis.
Regina pacis, ora pro nobis. 

"The Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a Marian litany originally approved in 1587 by Pope Sixtus V. It is also known as the Litany of Loreto, for its first-known place of origin, the Shrine of Our Lady of Loreto (Italy), where its usage was recorded as early as 1558. The litany contains many of the titles used formally and informally for the Virgin Mary, and would often be recited as a call and response chant in a group setting. The litany is called Litaniae lauretanae in Latin. Many classical composers, like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart have written Litaniae lauretanae. It was approved by the Catholic Church in 1587 for public use by Pope Sixtus V."  (wikipedia)

Mornign Star in the Biblical world

Morning star, Son of the Dawn:

12 How you have fallen from heaven,
   morning star, son of the dawn!
You have been cast down to the earth,
   you who once laid low the nations!
13 You said in your heart,
   “I will ascend to the heavens;
I will raise my throne
   above the stars of God;
I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly,
   on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon.
14 I will ascend above the tops of the clouds;
   I will make myself like the Most High.”
15 But you are brought down to the realm of the dead,
   to the depths of the pit.
Isaiah 14:12-15 NISV

Lucifer is latin translation of the Greek name of the Morning Star, Phosphoros, the carrier of light.
King James Version uses the name Lucifer in translating  hêylêl ben shahar 
- יך נפלת משׁמים הילל בן־שׁחר נגדעת לארץ חולשׁ על־גוים

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
Isaiah 14:12 KJV

Job curses the day of his birth:

May its morning stars become dark;
   may it wait for daylight in vain
   and not see the first rays of dawn,
for it did not shut the doors of the womb on me
   to hide trouble from my eyes.
Job 3:9-10

Prophecy of Bileam
Moabite Bileam gives a powerful prophecy that was so influential and tragic later on to the Jewish people:

“The prophecy of Balaam son of Beor,
   the prophecy of one whose eye sees clearly,
16 the prophecy of one who hears the words of God,
   who has knowledge from the Most High,
who sees a vision from the Almighty,
   who falls prostrate, and whose eyes are opened:
 17 “I see him, but not now;
   I behold him, but not near.
A star will come out of Jacob;
   a scepter will rise out of Israel.

He will crush the foreheads of Moab,
   the skulls of all the people of Sheth.
18 Edom will be conquered;
   Seir, his enemy, will be conquered,
   but Israel will grow strong.
19 A ruler will come out of Jacob
   and destroy the survivors of the city.”
 Numeri 24:15-19

Although Morning star is not mentioned here it is the common identification of the star rising out of Jacob.

Rabbi Akiva ben Joseph endorsed the revolt against emperor Hadrian by calling its leader Bar Kokhba, Aramaic for Son of the Star, in reference to Bileam's fourth message.  The bloody revolt 132-136 AD led to the utter destruction of Judea and to the dispersing of Jews from there to the world, a diaspora that lasted for two thousand years.

Second Letter by Peter
Has a rather inner vision of the rising of the Morning Star

We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.
2 Peter 1:19 NISV

In the Book of Revelations there is a combination of the Iron Scepter of the Messianic Psalm 2:9 and the Morning Star in Bileam's prophecy and the scepter and star are given by Jesus to the victorious:

To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations— that one ‘will rule them with an iron scepter and will dash them to pieces like pottery’—just as I have received authority from my Father. I will also give that one the morning star.
Rev 2:26-29 NISV 

Jesus the bright Morning Star
“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” 
 Rev 22:16 NISV  

This verse inspired the hymn Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern translated as O Morning Star, How Fair And Bright that was written and composed in 1599 by German Lutheran pastor Philipp Nicolai (1556-1608). It is rare among Protestant hymns as it mentions the Morning Star. It is considered by many the Queen of the German Hymn book.

1. O Morning Star, how fair and bright!
Thou beamest forth in truth and light,
O Sovereign meek and lowly!
Thou Root of Jesse, David’s Son,
My Lord and Master, Thou hast won
My heart to serve Thee solely!
Thou art holy,
Fair and glorious, all victorious, rich in blessing
Rule and might over all possessing.

2. Thou heavenly Brightness! Light divine!
O deep within my heart now shine,
And make Thee there an altar!
Fill me with joy and strength to be
Thy member, ever, joined to Thee
In love that cannot falter;
Toward Thee longing
Doth possess me; turn and bless me; here in sadness
Eye and heart long for Thy gladness!
Philipp Nicolai 1599

The Bright Morning Star

From ancient times people have noticed the beautiful bright morning star, planet Venus, when it appears in the east before dawn.

The Morgenstar is the one who carries dawn (Eos) or light (Phos), so ancient Greeks called it Ἑωσφόρος  (Eosphorus) and Φωσφόρος (Phosphorus).

Morning Star ceremony
Human sacrifice to the Morning Star was still in the 19th century in use by the Pawnee tribe of Native Americans living on the Great Plains along tributaries of the Missouri River.  Note that Pawnee ancients considered planet Mars male and Venus female - like in so many other cultures including classical Greece and Rome. Also the new Moslem rulers of Egypt established the city of Cairo when the winning soldier, al-qahira, Mars, was high.

"The Morning Star ceremony was a ritual sacrifice of a young girl in the spring. It was connected to the Creation story, in which the mating of the male Morning Star with the female Evening Star created the first human being, a girl.

The ceremony was not held in full every year, but only when a man of the village dreamed that the Morning Star had come to him and told him to perform the ceremony. He then consulted with the Morning Star priest, who has been reading the sky. Together they determined whether the Morning Star was demanding only the more common yearly symbolic ceremony, or requiring that the ceremony be carried out in full. When the Pawnee priests would identify certain celestial bodies on the horizon, they would know that the Morning Star needed to be appeased with the sacrifice of a young girl.

Returning to the village, the people treated the girl with respect, but they kept her isolated from the rest of the camp. If it was spring and time for the sacrifice, she was ritually cleansed. What was a five-day ceremony was begun around her. The Morning Star priest would sing songs and the girl was symbolically transformed from human form to be among the celestial bodies. Here the girl became the ritual representation of the Evening Star; she was not impersonating the deity, but instead had become an earthly embodiment. On the final day of the ceremony, a procession of men, boys and even male infants accompanied the girl outside the village to where the men had raised a scaffold. They had used sacred woods and skins, and the scaffold represented “Evening Star’s garden in the west, the source of all animal and plant life.

The priests removed her clothing and The procession was timed so that she would be left alone on the scaffold at the moment the morning star rose. When the morning star appeared, two men came from the east with flaming brands and touched her lightly in the arm pits and groins. Four other men then touched her with war clubs. The man who had captured her then ran forward with the bow from the Skull bundle and a sacred arrow and shot her through the heart while another man struck her on the head with the war club from the Morning Star bundle. The officiating priest then opened her breast with a flint knife and smeared his face with the blood while her captor caught the falling blood on dried meat. All the male members of the tribe then pressed forward and shot arrows into the body. They then circled the scaffold four times and dispersed"

The last sacrifice was of Haxti, a 14-year-old Oglala girl on April 22, 1838.
For more about this extreme form of star worship see the article on Pawnee mythology in wikipedia.

God, Job and sky

     כסיל  kesı̂yl  Job 9:9

The ancient Boof of Job is written in a unique dialect of Hebrew and may represent wisdom from Bosra or Edom. The amazing book contains many powerful poetic references to atmosphere and night sky reflecting on God's works of creation.

Job 9
Then Job replied:
 2 “Indeed, I know that this is true.
   But how can mere mortals prove their innocence before God?
3 Though they wished to dispute with him,
   they could not answer him one time out of a thousand.
4 His wisdom is profound, his power is vast.
   Who has resisted him and come out unscathed?
5 He moves mountains without their knowing it
   and overturns them in his anger.
6 He shakes the earth from its place
   and makes its pillars tremble.
7 He speaks to the sun and it does not shine;
   he seals off the light of the stars.
8 He alone stretches out the heavens
   and treads on the waves of the sea.
9 He is the Maker of the Bear and Orion,
   the Pleiades and the constellations of the south.

10 He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed,
   miracles that cannot be counted.
11 When he passes me, I cannot see him;
   when he goes by, I cannot perceive him.
12 If he snatches away, who can stop him?
   Who can say to him, ‘What are you doing?’
13 God does not restrain his anger;
   even the cohorts of Rahab cowered at his feet.
 Job 9:1-13

The referenced four constellations in Job 9:9 are in Hebrew
עשׂה־עשׁ כסיל וכימה וחדרי תמן

‛ayishBear (or Leo) migrating, wandering
kesı̂ylOrionburly one
kı̂ymâhPleiadescluster of stars
chedre teman?southern chambers

How can we possibly know for sure what constellations these are?

The message   God has made the constellations of stars!

Job 3
May those who curse days curse that day,
   those who are ready to rouse Leviathan.
9 May its morning stars become dark;
   may it wait for daylight in vain
   and not see the first rays of dawn,
10 for it did not shut the doors of the womb on me
   to hide trouble from my eyes.

Job curses the day he was born, may its morning star be dark!

Job 22
12 “Is not God in the heights of heaven?
   And see how lofty are the highest stars!
13 Yet you say, ‘What does God know?
   Does he judge through such darkness?
14 Thick clouds veil him, so he does not see us
   as he goes about in the vaulted heavens.’

Job admires the glory of God in the heights of heaven and stars. Vaulted heavens is in Hebrew
וחוג שׁמים יתהלך
ve chug shamaim yithalek

walks chug of heavens. chug is circuit  rather then the architectural element vault used in the NISV translation.

The message
Men think that God is somewhere up there beyond the stars and unable to see their deeds. When thick clouds veil the sky He is unable to see us from the vaulted heavens so let us do freely what we want!

This is a form of practical atheism: even if there is a God up there, what does He know?

Photo: wikimedia
Job 37
1 “At this my heart pounds
   and leaps from its place.
2 Listen! Listen to the roar of his voice,
   to the rumbling that comes from his mouth.
3 He unleashes his lightning beneath the whole heaven
   and sends it to the ends of the earth.
4 After that comes the sound of his roar;
   he thunders with his majestic voice.
When his voice resounds,
   he holds nothing back.
5 God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways;
   he does great things beyond our understanding.
6 He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth,’
   and to the rain shower, ‘Be a mighty downpour.’
7 So that everyone he has made may know his work,
   he stops all people from their labor.
8 The animals take cover;
   they remain in their dens.
9 The tempest comes out from its chamber,
   the cold from the driving winds.
10 The breath of God produces ice,
   and the broad waters become frozen.
11 He loads the clouds with moisture;
   he scatters his lightning through them.
12 At his direction they swirl around
   over the face of the whole earth
   to do whatever he commands them.
13 He brings the clouds to punish people,
   or to water his earth and show his love.

The message
The stars and constellations are visible so clearly over the Near Eastern night sky in the Arabian desert regions from where the Book of Job possibly originates.

But also the atmospheric phenomena, winds, clouds, thunder and lightning are all works of the same mighty and high God.

It is good to remember that in those days some 2500 years ago many nations worshipped divinities of thunder, lightning and rain as personal deities. Weather god, sky god and mountain god aspects unite in the Greco-Roman pantheon and such divinities are known from many civilizations around the world.

The temptation to worship the weather god Baal in order to guarantee the rains so crucial to the agriculture in the Land of the Bible was overwhelming to the people of Israel.

In the Book of Job there is no trace of such idol worship and the poet looks at them all as the mighty works of God. The existential configuration is quite modern, God, His creations and men who either fear Him or do not care about Him. Some are like Job involved in deep fight with God about the righteousness of His deeds towards the human beings He has created.

Therefore the Book of Job demonstrates the error for example in the wikipedia article on weather god mythology where Baal-Haddad is ignorantly equalled with the God of Israel:

"Storm gods are conceived of as wielding thunder and lightning. They are typically male, and powerful and irascible rulers. Notable examples include the Indo-European deities derived from the Proto-Indo-European Dyeus, and the Ancient Near Eastern storm god, Tarhunt/Teshub/Hadad/Yahweh, the latter name becoming the proper name of the God of Israel in the Iron Age kingdom of Judah."

Therefore, people revere him
14 “Listen to this, Job;
   stop and consider God’s wonders.
15 Do you know how God controls the clouds
   and makes his lightning flash?
16 Do you know how the clouds hang poised,
   those wonders of him who has perfect knowledge?
17 You who swelter in your clothes
   when the land lies hushed under the south wind,
18 can you join him in spreading out the skies,
   hard as a mirror of cast bronze?
 19 “Tell us what we should say to him;
   we cannot draw up our case because of our darkness.
20 Should he be told that I want to speak?
   Would anyone ask to be swallowed up?
21 Now no one can look at the sun,
   bright as it is in the skies
   after the wind has swept them clean.
22 Out of the north he comes in golden splendor;
   God comes in awesome majesty.
23 The Almighty is beyond our reach and exalted in power;
   in his justice and great righteousness, he does not oppress.
24 Therefore, people revere him,
   for does he not have regard for all the wise in heart?”

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Falling stars in the Bible

The Bible has some texts that inform us more about the geocentric world view that ruled in Ancient Near East and during the Roman period and later and was only replaced by heliocentric world view at the dawn of the Modern Age. (Today we live in what could be called a no-centric universe!)

The firmament
Genesis tells how after creating light, Day and Night, God next separates the waters to those that are up and those that are down using a structure,  firmament ( KJV) Hebrew רקיע (râqı̂ya‛).

"And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day."
Gen 1:6-8

On third day of creation God separates dry land from the waters below and tells green plants to grow on land. On the fourth day He sets the Sun, Moon and stars into the firmament for a specific benevolent purpose:

And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.
Gen 1:14-18

The first story of creation in the Bible in Genesis 1:1-2:4 does not try to explain how God sets the celestial objects into the firmament or what that major structure is that separates primeval waters up and down and constitutes the Heaven above us with Sun, Moon and the stars. But somehow it works and these Big lights and small spots of light stay up there as told by God.

Bible has verses that give us some more details about how these fundamental things of Creation were understood by the people who wrote the books in it.

Very high up and very deep down!
The proportions of the Cosmos as it was known in the ancient Near East were not easy to grasp. To help the mind to comprehend the heavens human mind found something more measurable - the high mountains.

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven,
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God:
I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will be like the most High.
Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.
Isaiah 14:12-15 KJV

This famed fallen star, latin Lucifer, son of the morning (morning star, Venus) is mentioned by Jesus:

And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.
Luke 10:17-18

What goes up must come down!
The imagery in Isaiah is very concrete, those little lights are up there like the leaf in a vine or figs in the tree:

And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree.
Isa 34:4 

Revealing the true Heavens
The image of falling stars and a surface folding together like a book scroll comes to the Apocalypse of John from the verse in Isaiah 34:4. But in addition to the prophecy of Isaiah, when heavens are folding away people upon earth begin to see the true Heaven and the throne that was somehow hidden behind it.

"And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind
And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.
And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains;
And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand? "
Rev 6:13-18

Monday, October 17, 2011

Heavenly Father

This is how He who among us knows God best calls Him, Heavenly Father!

“This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."
Jesus Christ
Matthew 6:9-15

The Greek expression pater hemon en tois ouranois has "heavens" in plural as in Hebrew shamaim
Πάτερ ἡμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς

Jesus has quite a lot to tell about our Father who is in heaven(s). In the teachings of the New Testament He certainly does not sound like a distant God somewhere there in outer space but someone who is surprisingly close to every human being in our most secret thoughts and prayers.

"But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him."
Matthew  6:6-8

So where are these "heavens" if patriarch Jacob found that Heavens Gate in Bethel?

If the Father who is in heaven can hear your most secret prayer when you are all alone and knows exactly what you need?

Nicene Creed says simply that
Jesus suffered and was buried (Passus, et sepúltus est)
on the third day resurrected according to Scriptures (Et resurréxit tértia die, secúndum Scriptúras)
and rose up to heavens (Et ascéndit in cælum)
where He sat on the throne on the right side of His Father (sedet ad déxteram Patris).
 From heavens He is coming back in glory (Et íterum ventúrus est cum glória)
to judge living and dead (Iudicáre vivos et mórtuos)
And His kingdom is eternal, has no end (Cuius regni non erit finis)

These thing expressed in faith and liturgy are no space trips as Juri Gagarin or Nikita were suggesting and many people think in their four-dimensional model of existence.

These heavens where Father and Son are sitting are not described with our everyday concept of reality down here, up there, or in astronomy terms that describe the physical space surrounding us who have not yet died nor been yet resurrected from death.

God of Heaven

Queen of Heaven is known to prophet Jeremiah.

Bible refers only once to a corresponding male sky god, when the utterly humiliated and then fully restored Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar mentions King of Heaven.

Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble. 
Dan 4:37

Bible has several references to the God of heaven but from the Persian period only:
First by Cyros, the king of Persia

Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, All the kingdoms of the earth hath the LORD God of heaven given me; and he hath charged me to build him an house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his people? The LORD his God be with him, and let him go up.
2 Chr 36:23 (also Ezra 1:2)

In the Book of Ezra the expression is used also by the Jews living in diaspora in Iran

This is the answer they gave us:
 “We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and we are rebuilding the temple that was built many years ago, one that a great king of Israel built and finished. But because our ancestors angered the God of heaven, he gave them into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar the Chaldean, king of Babylon, who destroyed this temple and deported the people to Babylon.
Ezra 5:11-12

This is a copy of the letter King Artaxerxes had given to Ezra the priest, a teacher of the Law, a man learned in matters concerning the commands and decrees of the LORD for Israel:
   Artaxerxes, king of kings,
   To Ezra the priest, teacher of the Law of the God of heaven:
Ezra 7:11-12 

The expression occurs once in the Book of Nehemia:

The king said to me, “What is it you want?”
   Then I prayed to the God of heaven,
 Neh 2:4 

The title "God of heaven" is found in the Book of Daniel twice in the explanation of the dream of king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon:

Your Majesty, you are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; in your hands he has placed all mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds in the sky. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold.
Dan  2:37-38

And at a given time in the history of mankind this God of heaven is going to establish an eternal kingdom upon earth:

“In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever."
Dan 2:44

We get an idea about the royal theology contained in the title God of Heaven

 At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High;
  I honored and glorified him who lives forever.
   His dominion is an eternal dominion;
   his kingdom endures from generation to generation.
 All the peoples of the earth
   are regarded as nothing.
He does as he pleases
   with the powers of heaven
   and the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back his hand
   or say to him: “What have you done?”
 Dan 4:34-35

There is no sign of worshipping the Hosts of heaven, Sun and Moon and stars, in this celestial context that looks nothing like the physical space, the sky and heavens above us:

As I looked,
   “thrones were set in place,
   and the Ancient of Days took his seat.
His clothing was as white as snow;
   the hair of his head was white like wool.
His throne was flaming with fire,
   and its wheels were all ablaze.
 A river of fire was flowing,
   coming out from before him.
Thousands upon thousands attended him;
   ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.
The court was seated,
   and the books were opened.
Dan 7:9-10

Although the title is not used, there is a heavenly crowning in Daniel

“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed."
Dan 7:13-14

Jesus of Nazareth was condemned to death after a difficult trial in the Sanhedrin when He implied in front of the High Priest Caiaphas that He is the man in the clouds of heaven in the prophecy of Daniel 7.

62 Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 63 But Jesus remained silent.
   The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”
   64 “You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
 65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. 66 What do you think?”
   “He is worthy of death,” they answered.
Matthew 26:62-66 NISV

All the host of heaven

You saw no form of any kind the day the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire. Therefore watch yourselves very carefully, so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol, an image of any shape, whether formed like a man or a woman, or like any animal on earth or any bird that flies in the air, or like any creature that moves along the ground or any fish in the waters below.

And when you look up to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the stars—all the heavenly array—do not be enticed into bowing down to them and worshiping things the LORD your God has apportioned to all the nations under heaven.
Deut 4:15-19 NISV

The Hebrew word in this warning against idolatry - apportioned to the pagans by God of Israel - is
כל צבא השׁמים  kol zeva hshamaim accurately translated by King James Version as all the host of heaven(s).

In the Hebrew Bible God of Israel is Lord of Hosts, zebaot.  (In modern Hebrew army - zahal, zeva hagana israel)

The punishment for idolatry, worshipping other gods such as the heavenly hosts, was death:

If a man or woman living among you in one of the towns the LORD gives you is found doing evil in the eyes of the LORD your God in violation of his covenant, 3 and contrary to my command has worshiped other gods, bowing down to them or to the sun or the moon or the stars in the sky, 4 and this has been brought to your attention, then you must investigate it thoroughly. If it is true and it has been proved that this detestable thing has been done in Israel, 5 take the man or woman who has done this evil deed to your city gate and stone that person to death. 6 On the testimony of two or three witnesses a person is to be put to death, but no one is to be put to death on the testimony of only one witness. 7 The hands of the witnesses must be the first in putting that person to death, and then the hands of all the people. You must purge the evil from among you.
Deut 17:2-7 NISV

The Host of Heaven seems to have the primary meaning of celestial objects as targets of religious worship.

There are also personifications, gods that awake the ire of God of Israel.

But ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch and Chiun your images, the star of your god, which ye made to yourselves.
Amos 5:26 KJV

Difficult reading of otherwise little known divinities, perhaps
lifted up Sakkuth your king / and Kaiwan your idols, / your star-gods;

Christian Queen of Heaven

Virgin Mary

There is also another Queen of Heaven:

"The Catholic teaching on this subject is expressed in the papal encyclical Ad Caeli Reginam,[1] issued by Pope Pius XII. It states Mary is called the Queen of Heaven because her Son, Jesus Christ, is the King of Israel and heavenly King of the Universe. In the Hebrew tradition, the mother of the king is the queen (see queen mother). Catholic dogma (Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus) states that the Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.

The title Queen of Heaven has long been a Catholic tradition, included in prayers and devotional literature, and seen in Western art in the subject of the Coronation of the Virgin, from the High Middle Ages, long before it was given a formal dogmatic definition status by the Church. For centuries, Catholics, while reciting the Litany of Loreto were already invoking Mary as "Queen of Heaven".

Queen of Heaven

The women added, “When we burned incense to the Queen of Heaven and poured out drink offerings to her, did not our husbands know that we were making cakes impressed with her image and pouring out drink offerings to her?”
Jeremiah 44:19

 למלכת השׁמים  to the queen of heavens

The Book of Jeremiah takes us to early 6th century Judea in the Babylonian period. We hear the women talk about their and their agreeing husbands religious worship of Queen of Heavens. The people of Jerusalem burn good smelling incense to make her happy, bake for her cakes and pour out drink offerings at altars. As is the habit in religions all over the world.

In the Bible a female sky goddess is mentioned only in the Book of Jeremiah, once in Chapter 7:18 and four times in chapter 44 verses 17-19 and 25 in strongly cultic context. She is not just a religious idea in some belief system but gets active worship from her followers.

This goddess is probably related to the ancient Mesopotamian divinity known as Ishtar, goddess of love, bright planet Venus of the early morning and a beautiful sight in the evening after sunset when prostitutes went to their work in the streets of Babylon.

"Queen of Heaven was a title given to a number of ancient goddesses in the ancient Mediterranean and Near East, in particular Anat, Isis, Innana, Astarte. Hera and possibly Asherah (by the prophet Jeremiah). Elsewhere, Nordic Frigg also bore this title. In Greco-Roman times Hera, and her Roman aspect Juno bore this title. Forms and content of worship varied."

Joseph's second dream

The dream:

Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers.
“Listen,” he said, “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”
Genesis 37:9

And the interpretation:

When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, “What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?” 
His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.
Genesis 37:10-11

It is so interesting that Bible takes dreams seriously and in this case the combination of celestial objects appear in the dream telling about the distant future.

As rationalistic Christians we easily push such things out of our real life, the meaning of dreams, the meaning of stars (in dreams or on the Bethlehem sky)

Abraham looking at the starry sky

The brilliant night sky above Ber Sheba in the story about the Covenant of Abraham is not a cold distant and strange place or the deterministic Clockwork of Astrology - instead, it is a great and unforgettable promise by the One who has made it. A promise to him and to the humanity.

After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision:
   “Do not be afraid, Abram.
   I am your shield,
   your very great reward”
 2 But Abram said, “Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”
 4 Then the word of the LORD came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” 5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
 6 Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
Genesis 15:1-6 NISV 

God fulfilled the promise and the childless old couple became patriarch and matriarch of a powerful tribe. Later on Moses notes - without directly referring to the promise to Abraham

"The LORD your God hath multiplied you, and, behold, ye are this day as the stars of heaven for multitude."
Deut 1:10 KJV

Gate of Heaven - Jacob's dream

 בראשׁית ברא אלהים את השׁמים ואת הארץ

Bible begins with these words telling that in the beginning God (elohim in plural) created heavens (shamaim in plural) and earth (aretz).

Since heavens are also creation of God where then is the dwelling of our heavenly Father?

Obviously the heavens up there above our world, the physical reality of clouds and solar system and Milky Way and outer space that we can observe with our telescopes and satellites, is not fully equivalent to the biblical word shamaim, heavens.

Jacob's ladder in Fraumünster

Patriarch Jacob has a dream in which he was in contact with heavens, the ladder so magnificently depicted in the glass window by Mark Chagall in the Fraumünster (Minster of Our Lady) in Zurich.

Jacob’s Dream at Bethel
 10 Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. 11 When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. 12 He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 There above it stood the LORD, and he said: “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. 15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”  16 When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” 17 He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”
Genesis 28:10-17 NISV

 ויירא ויאמר מה־נורא המקום הזה אין זה כי אם־בית אלהים וזה שׁער השׁמים
This is none other than the house of God;  (bet Elohim)
this is the gate of heaven (sha'ar hashamaim).

So we conclude that in the same Book of Genesis where God creates heavens and earth "heavens" is a spiritual reality in the temple, holy place, House of God.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Jonathan Cainer - modern astrology

British astrologist Jonathan Cainer

"Jonathan Cainer (born 18 December 1957 in Central London, England) is a British sun-sign astrologer who writes a daily column on his website, which is reproduced in Daily Telegraph and Herald Sun newspapers in Australia and the Daily Mail newspaper in Britain, in addition to a variety of Internet sites in five or so different languages, including Japanese. He has also written for the (British) Daily Express and Daily Mirror newspapers. His website includes (among other things) daily and weekly predictions, contributions by other writers, and more recently, the weekly predictions for the first Saturday in each month include an overview of the coming month"  (wikipedia)

From Cainer's official website we learn that there is an amazing amount of information available in the heavenly system that supposedly is significant to human beings living on this planet. People are ready to pay good money to learn about what stars have to tell them.
  • Born on a cusp?
  • The truth about your Sign
  • Today's planets
  • Love and friendship
  • Your perfect career
  • About your child
  • Celebrity profiles
The list of what the workings of the Celestial clockwork supposedly mean to us is very practical and down to earth. Learning about the positions of planets is said to help in your love life, solve a problem with your friend, suggest the right choice for your career and the planets tell us also what to expect from the news today.

But on what grounds do the astrologers make such claims? What are the rules of the game, how did they learn about these things? From the ancient ones?

There is apparently an astrological subculture that includes people who speak the same language and use the same grammar, more or less. This does not, of course, indicate that two astrologers would predict the same thing for the same day - only that the expressions they use would be rather similar.

Celestial stamp on this week's new babies personality
Modern astronomy gives very detailed - and impressive - information about the Sun, Moon and planets that this and other astrologists can freely use in their ancient business. The data differs depending on our location on the surface of Earth so a personal accurate profile and forecast requires Time and Location.

"Give me your date and place of birth and you'll be amazed at what I can tell you" 
J. Cainer 

But alas for us laymen, the exact data about the night sky - as displayed in his web pages for October 15 2011 - does not include the significance of these facts. Therefore we need experts to read the stars for us. Here is therefore just a generic description of the principle of the influential aspects for newborn babies born anywhere in the world:

Babies born this week will be Librans - but, depending on the day they enter the world, they may have the Moon in Gemini, Cancer or Leo. All week long, our new arrivals will gain the influence of both Venus and Mercury in Scorpio. So will they be typical Librans?J. Cainer

Personal horoscopes
Practical astrology interests many of us for two reasons
- the possibility that they do get it right and predict something that will happen to us today or this week. (Many dailies carry Horoscope for the day, such as Daily Express and Daily Mirror in Britain - they are fun to read and indeed, sometimes they tell what actually does happen later on that day. You actually did meet an interesting person today, wow!)
- Personality traits, the Twelve Types according to the month in which you were born. You may be a Lion or a Scorpion and so you carry certain personality traits typical to all those born in those months that year of your birth.

Looking at our character in a mirror in this way is interesting and fun. For some people, it goes pretty far and dating services provide for this reason the Horoscope sign for the candidates. Should a Crab get married with a Virgin? Will Fish do well with an Aries?

Daily Express 2000
To learn more about this famous astrologer you can read about him at the official Web site that has his story from Daily Express 2000.

From the Web you can find information about many other modern astrologers.

This is a serious business.

But not all that new ...
From Iron Age Israel we hear God's word 

Thou art wearied in the multitude of thy counsels. Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up, and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee.
Isaiah 47:13 

And from the inability of the ancient wise men of Chaldea to interpret dreams we are told by the man of God, Daniel

Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, The secret which the king hath demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, shew unto the king;  But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days. Thy dream, and the visions of thy head upon thy bed, are these;
Dan 2:27-28 

Indeed, there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets - why not to ask His advice?

and Daniel got the job and high reputation

Here is a man in thy kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the holy gods; and in the days of thy father light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, was found in him; whom the king Nebuchadnezzar thy father, the king, I say, thy father, made master of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers;

Forasmuch as an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams, and shewing of hard sentences, and dissolving of doubts, were found in the same Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar: now let Daniel be called, and he will shew the interpretation.
Dan 5:11-12 

Fundamentals of Astrology

Byzantine period zodiac from the Beit Alpha synagogue

Ancient science
Astrology is probably among the earliest human sciences before the beginning of the modern scientific and technological revolution. It consists of observation, recording of the observations, various explanations of the phenomena and providing theories about the significance of the observations.

The Celestial clockwork with its accurately repeating events is the factual world that is being studied. We have ancient records of the movements of heavenly objects and their significance to man in the cuneiform texts in the clay tables of Sippora from Babylon. The books of Ptolemy represent the absolute height of the Science of Astrology and dominated human conception about the movements of the heavens above us for over a thousand years. For example the medieval Christian church found it very difficult to give up the Ptolemaic view of world and bitterly persecuted those among its own children who claimed that it was fundamentally erroneous.

One of the most basic concepts of the Celestial clock in astrology all over the world - and therefore probably a very ancient one - is the dividing of the zodiac into twelve hours of 30° each. Note the ancient 12 and 60 numeric bases.

"Essentially, the zodiac is a celestial coordinate system, or more specifically an ecliptic coordinate system, which takes the ecliptic as the origin of latitude, and the position of the sun at vernal equinox as the origin of longitude."  (wikipedia)
The Ramble Twins Crab Liverish;
Scaly Scorpions Are Good Water Fish.
Ram-Ble = Ram, Bull; Twins = Twins; Crab = Crab; Li-Ver(ish) = Lion, Virgin; Scaly = Scale; Scorpion = Scorpio; Are = Archer; Good = Goat; Water = Water Bearer; Fish = Fish

These and other ancient constellations of stars are, of course, used also in mapping the night sky in modern science of Astronomy.

The word horoscope comes from the Greek words ora and skopos, to watch the hours.  Sun, moon and the planets move regularly on their path from "house to house" and change their positions vis a vis the observer and each other. Their angles vary, so to say, when man looks at them up on the heavens and some times they appear as groups near each other and some times they are far from.

Astrology suggests existential meanings for humanity for these regular celestial movements and mutual relationships in time and space. How is this done and what is the fundamental logic in the system?

The twelve astrological signs
The zodiac is universally divided into twelve houses with traditional symbols for each

Table of astrological signs
from wikipedia 
Symbol Long. Latin name English translation Greek name Sanskrit name Sumero-Babylonian name[10]
1 Aries The Ram Κριός/Kriós Meṣa (मेष) MUL LUḪUN.GA "The Agrarian Worker", Dumuzi
2 30° Taurus The Bull Ταῦρος/Tauros Vṛiṣabha (वृषभ) MULGU4.AN.NA "The Steer of Heaven"
3 60° Gemini The Twins Δίδυμοι/Didymoe Mithuna (मिथुन) MULMAŠ.TAB.BA.GAL.GAL "The Great Twins" (Castor and Pollux)
4 90° Cancer The Crab Καρκῖνος/Karkinos Karkaṭa (कर्कट) MULAL.LUL "The Crayfish"
5 120° Leo The Lion Λέων/Léōn Siṃha (सिंह) MULUR.GU.LA "The Lion"
6 150° Virgo The Maiden Παρθένος/Parthénos Kanyā (कन्या) MULAB.SIN "The Furrow"; "The Furrow, the goddess Shala's ear of corn"
7 180° Libra The Scales Ζυγός/Zygós Tula (तुला) zibanitum "The Scales"
8 210° Scorpio The Scorpion Σκoρπιός/Skorpiós Vṛścika (वृश्चिक) MULGIR.TAB "The Scorpion"
9 240° Sagittarius The (Centaur) Archer Τοξότης/Toxótēs Dhanus (धनुष) MULPA.BIL.SAG, Nedu "soldier"
10 270° Capricorn "Goat-horned" (The Sea-Goat) Αἰγόκερως/Aegókerōs Makara (मकर) MULSUḪUR.MAŠ "The Goat-Fish"
11 300° Aquarius The Water-Bearer Ὑδροχόος/Hydrokhóos Kumbha (कुम्भ) MULGU.LA "The Great One", later "pitcher"
12 330° Pisces The Fish Ἰχθύες/Ιgthues Mīna (मीन) MULSIM.MAḪ "The Tail of the Swallow", later DU.NU.NU "fish-cord"

Giving meaning to the signs
Man wishes to give meaning to signs, as Charles Sanders Peirce, the founder of Semiotics,  famously noted.

The regular clock table on the sky marked by the paths of Sun, Moon and the planets, is just that - a regular clock table of twelve hours and measured by 30 degrees on the celestial sphere.

Man gives meaning to the zodiac and to the movements up there, as is his nature. God created us so that we give meaning to the things we observe and we are unhappy and unsatisfied with unexplainable or meaningless things. Life void of significance is empty.

These meanings are not, however, subjective ad hoc ideas that come to someone's head while looking at Jupiter in a constellation that somehow that resembles a Lion. No, humanity lives in a continuum of human experience, with memes that in many cases reach back in time to the prehistoric era. We probably carry in our complex brains memories of Paleolithic era and even before that, when we still were very close to our nearest cousins chimpanzees.

And who knows, perhaps we even carry memories in our deepest brain levels from the lizard times!

Accordingly, the significances humanity gives to the constellations in the Zodiac and to the celestial objects moving in them is closely tied to our collective memory and to the civilizations we belong to. Chinese horoscope uses different names and symbols and gives different meanings than the Hindu one or the Babylonian one. 

But the meanings are hallowed by the human tradition, by those wise books and millennia of observation.

Humanity lives more or less half of its life under that beautiful and intriguing night sky and there is longing for order, eternity, paths of life that we can know and control, also in the future.

Divine task!
Predicting is difficult, especially predicting the future.
Therefore we justly call it divinitation.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Stonehenge and Wurdi Youang

In light polluted cities we have difficulty in understanding how deeply the night sky was involved in the life and environment of people before electric lamps. Especially in those areas where there are many clear nights during the year the bright starry night was an integral part of human life. Today this intimacy and knowledge of the most visible stars and constellations has been replaced with different kind of presence of the space in the living rooms and places of study through modern media, documentaries and brilliant photography of distant nebulae.

Time dimension
Human species has a built-in system of orientation into the space and time it lives in. There is an ongoing search of purpose and patterns in life which in its deepest levels takes the form of Theology and Philosophy. Human belief systems both seek order and ponder the lack of it in hostile chaotic systems and search for paths in coping with the reality.  

We could visualize an ideal existence of humans knowing the past, present and future as a plus sign
The person would be in the centre and South would be past history, East and West current existence here and now and North the known future. The person living in such reality would be something like Cris Johnson (Nicolas Cage) in the movie Next!

However, in real life God of Israel created the human species to exist in a Spacetime continuum letter T
By this symbol I mean that the past, South, and present, East and West, are pretty much known at least on some practical level, but the future is unknown. We have expectations of what will happen when we conclude our studies, get married, buy a car, invest on stock markets... But alas! Next moment can utterly change all that and even bring sudden illness or death, as we all know just too well. One tsunami, and all future plans changed in a moment.

Human existence and celestial clockwork
The human species is built so that we search for patterns in our past, present and also future.

A believer gives God or gods a role in all this, thanking for the good things in the past, suffering patiently the present and praying for a better future. A believer trusts in something called guidance.

Many people look for something more concrete than an invisible God to secure the path to the future. One such thing is the sky above us that moves with the regularity of a clockwork, defining our days and nights, seasons and years. Ancients have observed the unchanging, repeating patterns that demonstrate something greater than human life or generations, something approaching eternity.


Stonehenge (wikimedia ref)

We can observe close integration of existence with the celestial clock work already in prehistoric times. For when they built Stonehenge over five thousand years ago they did not write what is its purpose. "Whatever religious, mystical or spiritual elements were central to Stonehenge, its design includes a celestial observatory function, which might have allowed prediction of eclipse, solstice, equinox and other celestial events important to a contemporary religion." (wikipedia)

Wurdi Youang

Aerial image of the stone circle at Wurdi Youang, Victoria, Australia.

A stunning recent discovery of a prehistoric installation in Australia may also have been interpreted an ancient observatory, joining man in his existential search of meaning in life with the movements of celestial objects.

"The discovery of the 50 meter egg-shaped arrangement of stones in a farmer's field in Victoria, Australia, could hold secrets to ancient Aboriginal astronomy.

Were Australia's prehistoric Aboriginal people the world's first true astronomers, predating European and ancient Greek and Indian astronomers by thousands of years?

The stunning discovery of what is being called an "Aboriginal Stonehenge", the first of its kind to be found in Australia, could change that continent's history and with it our whole understanding of how and when humans began to accurately chart the night skies.

The 50 meter egg-shaped arrangement of stones in a farmer's field in Victoria, was forgotten after the arrival of European settlers some 200 years ago and until recently overgrown by meadow grass.

Now, the site called Wurdi Youang has got Aborigines and astronomers scratching their heads."