Friday, October 14, 2011

Man and Sky gods (1)

בראשׁית ברא אלהים את השׁמים ואת הארץ׃
in principio creavit Deus caelum et terram
Gen 1:1

The message of the God of Israel to the humanity He has created begins with this majestic sentence that attributes the entire University to the one and only God.

Genesis is a slaughterhouse of idols, all kinds of powers, mythological beings and forces that man has created to his own image.  Sky above our heads, sun in the day time, moon and stars at nights, has been - and still is to some - a fertile source of such powers. Since prehistoric times the accurate clockwork of Sky and its movements has also been a significant element in human conception of existence. It still is.

Names of the planets

In Western languages the planets still carry the names of Olympic gods given to them by the Greeks and Romans in antiquity. The word planet itself is Greek πλανήτης αστήρ planētēs astēr wandering star.

As said, the association of planets with these or other gods is a very complex phenomenon since humans are complex beings with very sophisticated brain and rich imagination.

SunHeliosSun god
MoonSeleneMoon god
MercuryHermesswift messenger of gods
MarsAresgod of war
Venus Aphroditegoddess of love
JupiterZeushighest god
SaturnCronosgod of agriculture
UranusOuranos personification of sky
NeptunePoseidongod of water and sea

Rulers of the Sky
The relationship between man and Sky gods is very complex and greatly varies in different pre-scientific civilizations. However, by nature of human brain additivity, the two dominant celestial objects, Sun during the day and Moon at night, project social hierarchy and reflect fundamental religious concepts.

Glorious Sun was worshipped as god in many cultures and is a powerful symbolic sign of royalty.

We are still amazed by the brilliance of art and richness of ideas in Sun worship of the ancient Egyptians. It can not really be understood without personally experiencing the absolute dominance of Sun on the almost always blue sky above the Nile Valley. What else could be a fitting symbol to the ruler of Upper and Lower Egypt but to be the beloved son of Ra or son of Amon? The almost monotheistic worship of sun by Pharaoh Akhenaten is a powerful phenomenon around the time of Moses. 

Sun worship can be found in many other cultures in areas where sun dominates the sky during the day - we are well aware of its importance for example to the Incas at the high mountains of Peru.

The way moon rules the night is a bit different from the absolute bright dominance of the Sun during the day. The moon is more mysterious, has its phases, its crescendos and decrescendo and the moon even disappears and appears again in regular manner. Sometimes it is yellowish, sometimes reddish and its surface has details visible to plain eyes. The menstruation cycle of women is close to the moon cycle of 28 days. Full moon at its best is so beautiful but also somewhat eerie in comparison to plain daylight.

We may understand that humanity has seen in Sun a male aspect and Moon goddesses are usually feminine.

Sky crises
Human religiosity takes active part in the events of the nature and human life. It tries to influence the working of the Nature and reacts with a rich palette of emotions and explanations to what is observed. Projection of human concepts, ideas, belief systems and hierarchies to the Sky is full of significant symbolism and social rites, habits and traditions.

The relation with Sky gods is felt particularly sharply at the times of crises up there.

One such crisis is the daily setting of the Sun to the west... will it come up again tomorrow?

Well, the long experience of humanity has been that yes, it does come up again. The feeling of crisis has been muted by this profound security that it is okay, it will come back. In the past, human curiosity has developed many explanations to the strange behaviour of Sun on the Sky above the centre of the universe from Egyptian superstitions of huge dragons to the Greek cool headed scientific theories.

A much more worrying thing is the rare eclipse of the Sun, as it is unpredictable and unexplainable. This most terrifying and unexplained event - the dimming and darkening of Sun in the middle of the day - still causes trembling in the hearts of  many people, that eerie dim light and the total silence of birds.

Humanity has noticed that there are two major crises up there - the darkest time of the year when Sun gets so weak and the brightest time of the year when Sun is very strong. These are more prominent in the northern and southern hemispheres than at equatorial levels culminating in the far North and South in times when Sun does not rise at all or does not get down at all.

To help the weak Sun, ancient Romans held a big party at the darkest time of the year. Emperor Constantine the Great was himself a worshipper of Victorious Sun and he donated this party, one of the greatest pagan feast in Roman calendar, to Jesus Christ and made it His birthday - 25th of December.
In Nordic countries huge bonfires were lit during these two crises, the solstices, (latin sol, sun, sistere, stand still) to help the Sun and to rejoice with its victory.

In hoc signo vinces
I find it very touching, how Lord Jesus wins people by what is important to that particular person.

Simon and Andrew where overwhelmed by their catch of fish.

Emperor Constantine the Great was won by a vision in his favorite god, sol invictus. Instead of worshipping the celestial object he learned to worship the One who has made it.

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