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by nature "dramatic" figures
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The awaited return of the most obvious seasonal signal
The "brilliant" sectors of the sky
An assembly of sacred images



Figures portrayed
by stars in the night,
by nature "dramatic" figures



Why make reference to
seasonal stars.
Measuring time in "moons"



When lunar imagery is combined
with stellar imagery to compose a "mythical cinema"



The human condition
and its development
in the collective memory



More

French version

 

A very special couple:
The ass and the ox


We have seen the religious importance of the constellation that marks the entry of the Hyades triangle and Aldebaran’s red eye into the brilliant sector, where it is posted on the path of the moon. This prestigious "No. 1 sign" could not avoid having the same sort of dual reading as that mentioned above.

However, the opposite nature of the two seasons when this inaugural figure appears is echoed in an opposing movement of the figure:
  • During its heliacal rising, the triangular Head of Hyades-Taurus appears after the vast body of the animal, which, according to Aratos, formerly extended much further, including what is currently Aries and Pisces (the same silhouette as the Bison of Lascaux). This vast body slips away over the eastern horizon at the end of the night. This means the celestial animal backs into view: the Bull from the underground cavern "backs out of his den" (myth of Heracles and Cacus) with his head turned. This turned head is found in nearly all pictures of the mythical Bull, of the Bison in the Cosquer Cave (14,000 years old) near Cassis, of Lao Tse’s water buffalo, as well as in pictures of the Minotaur and the Mithra’s Bull.
  • The months pass, the seasons change: during its nocturnal rising, the same triangular head with red eye precedes the sidereal alignment of Aldebaran - Orion’s belt - Sirius, which gradually comes into view. This alignment, along with the mantela curved around the neck and withers, is interpreted, as we have seen above, as the celestial Steed, the triangle and red eye then become the head of this steed which takes off straight in an East to West direction during the night. Here it is interpreted as a member of the equine family, an Onager, Ass or Horse.
Lever héliaque

The rock carvings of the Tamgaly Gorge in Kazakhstan - a sort of Central Asian Delphi – contain an extraordinary collection of calendar ideograms that date from the Stone Age to the Bronze Age. Amid festivities marked by song and dance, we see a horse wearing the horns of a Buffalo on its head. (Taurus in its helical rising): a "Horse with a buffalo mask" said Kzika, the archeologist who discovered it. The same image with a double meaning is found in the tombs of the Scythian kings: we find horses sacrificed with 'golden bulls' horns attached to their foreheads


This set of ideographic symbols gives us a glimpse of two major and complementary seasonal ceremonies that occur six months apart, and that are obviously connected with vital energy passing through realm of Death.
  • The first appears to be triggered by the nocturnal rising of Hyades. It is impregnated with the anxiety of winter’s arrival and deadly danger that season brings: rites of trances and sacrifices depict the path of souls that pass through death and continue on to a new reincarnation. The starry Head that evokes this ride is read as the Head of a member of the horse family.
  • The second appears to signal the fervently watched for return, with the same Hyades fleetingly glimpsed during its helical rising. The celebration takes place in the exaltation of the return of food, in the perspective of fecundity, matrimony, joyful births that will follow and mother’s milk, everything for which nursing bovines are the symbol: this time the seasonal symbol is the head of the celestial Bull or the Cow turned towards humans as the animal leaves its underground cavern. And the Bull’s horns, which announce hoped for prosperity could only be made of gold:

The milk-white bull uses his gilded horns
to open the door of the New Year"

Closer to us, that is the way Virgil expresses it in the Georgics

If these celebrations were conceived in prehistory, some 26,000 years ago, the nocturnal passage in the Autumn and helical rising in the Spring would situate us. In his long experience with cave paintings, Leroi-Gourhan had the intuition that the ideographic value of the complementary couple of the Bovine and Horse was connected with notions of masculine and feminine. Our study has led us to look at this combination of images in terms of a set of more complex religious manisfestations: there is always a relationship to survival through fecundity, but an essential role is played by the seasonal path of vital energies traveling through death towards reincarnation.

We still see engravings in China and in the Indian Ocean of the couple Mia Men, "Horse Head" and Niu Tou, Buffalo Head armed with trident, conducting souls of the dead on their path of purification through the Domain of the Dead.


Illustration chinoise

In Europe, the Ass and the Ox appear together in the Museum of Saint Germain on the altar of the Celtic god Cernunnos, who is portrayed with closed eyes (passage through the domain of the Invisible). These images come down to contemporary Christians as the couple in the cavern-manger watching over the birth of the divine enfant at the Winter Solstice.

     
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