Twelfth Planet, Plutinos or
Eclipses Promise or Peril?
The Lunar Mansions of Vedic Astrology
Children of the Gods
Wheels Within Wheels
Horoscopes of Destiny
Zodicac of Dendera
A Star Is Born
Age of Aquarius
Persia's Royal Stars of Ancients
The Lore of a Shaman
The Zodiac of
by Julie Gillentine
Is the round zodiac
of Dendera a 3,000 year old astrological chart?
texts affirm that Egypt was seen as the mirror of heaven. As above,
so below was not merely an aphorism but a way of life. The quest
of individual, king and country was to express divine harmony, the
principle of goddess Ma'at, and thereby literally reflect heaven
on earth. To mirror heaven the skies must be known. The ancients
carefully watched the cycles of the heavens because changes above
portended changes below.
To orient toward
a particular sky or star on a specific date we might paint that
image on a ceiling. By rotating beneath that "sky" we could watch
the stars apparent motions through the year, our painting functioning
as a star dial. In just such a manner the ancient Egyptians replicated
a sky in the round zodiac of Dendera. Astronomer priests could have
viewed cyclical changes in the sky by positioning themselves in
a certain way relative to the sculpture overhead. The ceiling of
the temple-observatory would have mirrored the heavens, enabling
them to anticipate important dates.
What remains today
of the Hathor temple at Dendera is a Roman relic (circa 100 CE),
but the site is much older and reconstruction on top of earlier
structures is evident. Numerous references to stars, zodiacs and
lunar cycles are etched into tomb and temple walls throughout Egypt,
but as far as we know, this is the only circular zodiac. The original
is in the Louvre, but a copy remains, and was painstakingly drawn
by Lucie Lamy, stepdaughter of Schwaller du Lubicz, and is reproduced
Zodiac is Greek,
meaning "circle of animals" and describes the twelve constellations
of the ecliptic (apparent path of the sun) where the planets move.
The round zodiac of Dendera is actually a star map, portraying the
heavens overhead at a certain time.
In ancient Egypt
a spiritual reciprocity existed between the people and the land.
The cyclical relationship between the river and the desert was obvious
and ever present.
New Year's Day,
which occurred on or near summer solstice, was heralded by Sirius,
brightest star in the sky and great benefactor of Egypt, rising
before the Sun. This momentous event "opened the year," announcing
the annual inundation of Egypt as the life-giving waters of the
Nile flood, gift of Isis, returned renew the parched valley after
the season of dryness. New Moon festivals were also significant
at this time.
Each year the sun
returns to the same place in the sky a quarter of a day later. We
employ a leap year, adding a day every fourth year to adjust. The
ancient Egyptians used two cycles: a "vague" civil year of 365 days,
and a "fixed" sacred year, marked by the return of Sirius to the
same place in the sky, in exactly 365 1/4 days.
A "Great Year,"or
Sothic cycle of 1,460 years, marked the point when the vague year
coincided with the Sothic year. Some texts indicate two dates, one
in each cycle, which have allowed scholars to date events. Schwaller
du Lubicz lists four such conjunctions in SACRED SCIENCE: 140 CE,
1320 BCE, 2780 BCE, and 4240 BCE , which he believed to be the inauguration
of the Pharonic calendar.
What sky is
star charts, which track how the sky changes through the year as
a result of earth's annual journey around the sun, were manual computations.
Ironically, at a time when Egyptian inscriptions were largely untranslated,
astronomers spoke volumes about stellar knowledge, sky charts, and
Jean Baptiste Biot,
an eminent French astronomer, presented papers to the Academy of
Inscriptions in 1822 and 1844. Biot concluded that even though the
round zodiac was sculpted in the Roman era it either referred to
a much earlier time, or the background sky was copied from an earlier
work which may have been rendered on parchment or stone. This could
explain a puzzling feature of the round zodiac. The familiar constellations
of the zodiac are drawn in a form which we recognize, but the rest
of the star groups have a decidedly Egyptian character. The zodiac
signs may have been overlaid and copied onto a more ancient drawing.
the sky drawn on the ceiling of Dendera at precisely 700 BCE at
midnight on summer solstice. Sir Norman Lockyer stated in THE DAWN
OF ASTRONOMY that subsequent translated context from hieroglyphics
related the round zodiac to the period of 1,700 BCE . He stressed
what he felt were important dates when summer solstice and the helical
(before the Sun) rising of Sirius coincided. These dates were 270
BCE, 1728 BCE and 3192 BCE.
of the Dendera Zodiac Scholars are generally agreed that the circumpolar
stars are the Jackal, Ursa Minor, containing Polaris, the Thigh
is Ursa Major, containing Dubhe, and the upright Hippo is Draco,
containing Thuban, which was the pole star during the so-called
Pyramid age, circa 2,800 BCE. Additionally, the Cow with the star
between her horns is Canis Major, containing Sirius, and the striding
man is Orion, containing Betelgeuse and Rigel, two first magnitude
With five potential
dates to examine, I used the Skyglobe astronomy software and viewed
the skies based on the calendar conjunctions mentioned by both Lockyer
and Schwaller. I reasoned that a New Year, or summer solstice, would
be represented by the prominent alignment of Sirius, and that an
equinox by the presence of Aires on the eastern horizon. Since I
have not yet located a reference with a translation of planetary
glyphs, I looked for a match with constellations which held a planet.
Aries faces east
on the round zodiac, so I chose the epoch of 1700 BCE, during the
age of Aries, when the Ram was the equinox dawn constellation. There
is an interesting composite figure aligned with the eastern arm
of the wheel. A falcon perches on a baboon, which sits on the eye
of Ra with a donkey adjacent to the baboon. This seemed a symbolic
way to indicate a planetary conjunction or perhaps a New Moon. If
the eye of Ra is the Sun, and the baboon is Thoth, the Moon god,
The Horus Falcon might be Mars. The equinox dawn of 1728 BCE (April
7 Gregorian) proved to be a good candidate, and there was a new
moon conjunction with Mars present in the dawn sky.
Because Sirius is
prominent in the figure, aligned with true north, it occurred to
me that two time frames might be indicated on the sky map. After
considerable searching to match the given years, I viewed the solstice
prior to the 1,728 BCE equinox since the Egyptian new year began
then. Based on the relative positioning of the circumpolar stars
in Skyglobe on that date, the midnight solstice sky of 1727 BCE
(July 7, Gregorian), yielded another promising result.
Go down to
Ancient star gazers
watched through the nights, just as their modern counterparts do;
that's when the stars and planets are visible. The ancients didn't
have super malls, super bowls, or electricity to mask the stars.
The sky was an enduring source of divine inspiration. Nighttime
sky watchers would have been rewarded with a momentous night of
sky watching on summer solstice, New Year's Eve, in 1728 BCE, (July
7 Gregorian), building toward a spectacular dawn event.
Overhead at midnight,
looking northward, the orientation of the circumpolar stars mirrors
the sky map as they align with the cardinal directions. Sirius would
have shone brightly in a northerly orientation, moving eastward
as earth's rotation advanced toward dawn.
At midnight, the
sixth hour of night, the Pleiades rose in the east. By one AM the
Hyades rose over the eastern horizon. By three AM the stars of Orion
crested the east, and by four AM, in a still-dark sky, Procyon,
alpha Canis Minor, rose to join Mars, burning bright in Gemini,
slightly southeast. At dawn a remarkable spectacle greeted those
who persevered. Sirius, rose on this day before the Sun, welcoming
a new day, a new year, and the onset of a "Great Year" of 1,460
On this date Procyon,
which rose well ahead of Sirius, appears almost due east on the
horizon, Sirius is roughly eighteen degrees to the northeast, and
sunrise occurs at the southern most point of the year, twenty-three
and one-half degrees southeast. .
The axis of the
temple of Dendera aligns with the figure of a Horus falcon atop
a papyrus stem on the zodiac. Biot believed this indicated two representations
of Sirius, but because of the relative positions of Sirius and Orion,
I believe this figure portrays the star Procyon. In our modern skies
Sirius, Procyon, and Betelgeuse (alpha Orion) form what is called
the Winter Triangle, a familiar beacon to winter sky watchers.
Procyon means "before
the dog," and Sirius is known as the "dog star." Due to the importance
of the event it seems likely that the priests would have employed
an early warning system and that the helical rising of Procyon,
which occurred days before that of Sirius, and would have allowed
time to sound the call and prepare for the celebrations. I believe
thousands would have gathered along with the priests to watch the
star of Isis rise.
Lockyer, in The Dawn of Astronomy, demonstrated repeatedly
how the Egyptians moved and reconstructed temples to align with
certain stars. They choose to do this when solar alignments remain
reliable for thousands of years? In Egyptian cosmology stars were
goddesses and the goddess Nut, the starry sky, was feminine. Sun
god variants were male and reborn at dawn, "birthed" from the womb
of the sky goddess. Perhaps the Sun was seen to influence earthly
life and the stars to be the realm of eternal life.
Do the stars draw
us by their beauty, or is there some inherent power to which we
respond? Schwaller described the "living sky," a celestial Neter
(Divine Archetype) at Memphis and a metaphysical, supra-celestial
Neter at Heliopolis. Did the ancient Egyptians understand something
about stellar influences that we have yet to rediscover? Was there
a profound metaphor encoded by the stellar myths that was enacted
inside the temples of initiation?
of an ancient sky priest
On such a day as
described above, surely the priests would have cast the charts and
endeavored to divine the significance of the next cycles. Based
on the Skyglobe's images, and if I am correct in my planetary correlations,
a brief forecast might have read as follows:
The Sun and Mercury
were in Leo on opposite sides of the notable star Regulus, indicating
the importance of the kingly function and perhaps an imminent proclamation
from Pharaoh. The Moon occupied Capricorn, the Seagoat. This is
not a strong place for lunar energies and would have portended a
possible weakness in the structures and form of the realm, thus
alerting Pharaoh's advisors. Venus in Virgo could have been read
as a cycle of plenty, fruitful harvests, like the Biblical fat calves.
Mars in Gemini energizes mental processes and makes the pen mightier
than the sword; good news for a monarch. Jupiter in Aquarius expands
the higher mind and might have ushered in a period of heightened
learning and widened sharing of education with the masses. Saturn
is said to be exalted in Libra. Pharaohs of this time might have
seen fit to reform the legal system and the way discretions were
so-called zodiac of Dendara is like peering into a window to the
past, capturing a precise moment in the sky for all time. Hopefully
more research will shed additional light and understanding on this