SEARCHING FOR THE STAR IN THE EAST
NCGR Boston Chapter Newsletter, Christmas 1990
© 1990, Peter Kubaska
It was 12 BC when Halley's comet stretched across the sky. Augustus, not yet secure enough to declare himself Emperor, had just returned to Rome after 4 years spent securing Gaul. This year his brother Drusus drove the Sicambri out of Gaul and a relative named Nero (an earlier one) ingratiated himself by attacking Pannonia (north Yugoslavia), which Tiberius conquered later in the same year. Lepidus, from a family which perpetrated several attempts on Augustus' life, died as pontifex maximus, with the result that Augustus assumed virtual totality of power under this title.
Life in Rome was pleasant, but the Summer Court in decadent Baiae had an even greater appeal to this crowd. Baiae was a famed spa above Naples and Vesuvius where a most ancient Temple to the Underworld and Oracle of the Dead were located, the 300 yard long subterranean entrance passage aligned to heliacal sunset at summer solstice (June 21). Here is where Ulysses consulted his mother, and Aeneas his father for guidance. Worship here during Augustus' time was to Apollo. Cyclopean walls of the Apollonian shrine that cover the entrance to the ancient Oracle date to around 5th or 6th century BC, and are themselves covered by Augustan and later, Neronian brickwork. A tunnel climbs above this maze of overlays to open into a 20-foot shaft under the Temple of the Dioscuri, or Gemini, in whose constellation Sirius was then to be found. This was once one of the major centers of the Orphic Cult which Virgil promoted through the Aeneid, and which many consider the most credible contemporary precursor to the Christian advent, with its parallel themes of immortality, death and resurrection. To illustrate the messianic ideas pervasive during the period, Virgil's 4th Eclogue is apt: "Now the Virgin returns, now the kingdom of Saturn returns, now a new progeny is sent down from heaven..."
Meanwhile, Augustus had the Sanctuary to Hades and Persephone bricked up (shades of Pentheus or Antigone, anyone?) and Drusus built a summer villa for his wife Antonia, where she kept a pool of black moray eels with golden earrings for their gills, hatched under mysterious rites to the constellation Draco (Taurt-Isis in Egypt), and ready at any moment to be consulted on matters of grave import. Antonia, sister to the future Emperor Tiberius under whom Christ was crucified, was mother to Germanicus, Livilla, and the Emperor Claudius, grandmother to Caligula through Germanicus, and great-grandmother to Nero, who later appropriated her villa. In those days, she was noted for her great virtue, chastity, and almost unheard of (at least in Baiae) fidelity to her husband, Drusus. Interesting family. I keep wondering if Augustus' suppression of the Solar/Pluto cults had anything to do with the trouble with his relatives that helped sweep the Roman Empire so quickly into decay and corpse-like tumescence.
The Sky and the Earth
Most astronomer/astrologers start searching between 7 BC, around when Emperor Augustus called for a new census, and the death of Herod in early 4 BC of a disease generally considered to be cancerous. Since the notorious Herod sought and killed all children under the age of 2 years, according to biblical lore, it may be assumed that this tends to indicate the period 7-5 BC. He may have been hedging his bets by reaching back a year before the then suspected date of birth, to make sure he eradicated his competition. But he might have attempted the Slaughter of the Innocents just before his death, in 4 BC, since even at that late time he had herded all the distinguished Jews of Judaea into the stadium of Jericho, planning to put them to death until Salome and her husband intervened at the last moments of his agonized death. His rationale may have involved a vicious ego's demoniac need for mourners, even if not his own.
Many suggestions have been made attempting to explain the Star in the East mentioned by the physician Luke (ch. 2). Astronomically, the conjunctions of Jupiter and Saturn in 7 BC have been suggested, along with a nova mentioned in the Chinese annals for 6 BC and a comet in 4 BC. The original Greek of Luke employs the word "stratia" (light, small star, host [modern Gr.] army), rather than "astera" (star), which seems to emphasize light over star. The "plethas stratias ouranou" is similar to the "stratia tou ouranou" of Acts 7.42, the account of Stephen the first martyr, which passage (referring to Amos 5.25) is used pejoratively to argue Jewish star and idol worship as traditional and decadent. Amos, however, celebrates Orion and the Pleiades at 5.8 as God's creations, while Stephen is stoned for asserting that "God does not dwell in houses made by hands," arguing that it was wrong for Solomon to build the Temple at all. To modern churchianity this would have sounded like a battle cry for something akin to Islamic or Red Guard fundamentalist iconoclasm. It would have seemed blasphemous, since in the modern rites of most sects, religious buildings are indispensible for service of the coffee sacrament. Tongue in cheek, this reflects the modern trend of secular service (cf. Dostoevsky's prophecy, "The Grand Inquisitor" chapter in The Brothers Karamazov), which demonstrates a primary achievement of the Piscean Age. Nevertheless, using "astera" might have gotten Luke into real hot water.
To add to the confusion, the gods cited by Stephen before his death are Moloch the Babylonian-Phoenician lunar Bull-King demanding human sacrifice, and the star of the god Rephan (Remphan, Chiun), or Saturn. Stephen seems to hint provocatively at Jewish lunar and ancestor worship of the human Abraham as an atavistic clan cult, witness -- Abraham, "Father on High," (Babylonian Moon god of Ur, Abu-ramu); Sarah and Milkah, (Babyl. Sarratu and Milkatu, queen and princess titles of Moon goddess Istur); Terah (Babyl. Terakhu, gazelle totem of the Moon). It is needless to mention cyclic parallels of Moon and Saturn to astrologers.
Amos, on the other hand, mentioned worship of King Kaiwan (Babyl. Kaainu, Kiyun, Kivan; Gr. kiun ["pillar"]) or Saturn, and Assyrian Sakkuth (close to Sukkoth, the Jewish reaping festival), from the Semitic "saqu," or Pole Star. Both suggest the tent, or tabernacle pillar/pole emphasized in Judaeo-Christian-Islamic religion.
There seems to be some pathetically human, but typical, subliminal self-hatred and confused aggression on both sides. Here we come back to a higher theme of seeking God within, immanent as well as transcendent, the message of Christ and Buddha, as well as of the esoteric branches of high mysticism hounded and persecuted in all religions (Sufis and Bahai in Iran, most recently).
This "neo-pseudo-conservatism" (read "practiced reactionism") of the period seems curious, howbeit historically typical, since Josephus states the fact that the Temple of Solomon was oriented to the sun, after the fashion of Egyptian temples, particularly that of Isis at the Pyramids. Sir Norman Lockyer makes the point that these temples were open to the east and closed completely to the west, and that the First Temple was oriented towards the equinoxes, making it possible for Josephus to say that although the sun could stream into the Holy of Holies twice a year, Hebrew tradition allowed the High Priest to enter once only, facing the multitudes with their backs to the sun, dazzling their eyes with the reflected light from sardonyxes on his shoulders and his 12-stoned breastplate. According to Josephus, this phenomenon ceased 200 years before his time (c. 170 BC). Alignments of temples to stars remain so aligned for around 200-300 years, those to the sun for at least as many thousand. Therefore, the introduction of the lunar calendar borrowed from Babylon into poorly-recalled Jewish religious temple rites, not misalignment, is the more likely cause for discontinuance of the solar ritual. Whereas the earlier or religious Jewish new year started on the 7th month with the Festival of Trumpets and included the Day of Atonement, and Sukkoth, the Festival of Tabernacles during fall harvest, the more recent secular or agricultural new year started with the first new moon after the vernal equinox, and both made equinoctial alignment a doubtful memory. While later emphasis on Passover (vernal equinox full moon) vaguely realigned the calendar to Aries near the end of the Aries Age, yet the lunar traditions from Babylon were still adhered to. What a confusion of calendars - lunar, solar and sidereal. Just as the early Israelite tribalists had to ask Hiram of Tyre with his masons and carpenters to build a temple for them, after a millennium had passed, it is easy to see how the "orthodox" had completely lost their way in their own traditions, admittedly borrowed from Phoenicia (Lebanon) and Egypt, while the more fanatical sought satisfaction in scapegoats and persecution. The type of cyclopean stonework under the Temple at Jerusalem is only found at other Phoenician/Lebanese sites in the area, such as Tyre and Baalbek/Heliopolis. The massiveness of Phoenician foundation stones was not duplicated even by the Egyptians. Yet the Egyptian Sothic calendar reconciled sidereal, solar and lunar cycles and was the world's most sophisticated calendar until this day.
The Precession Ages
In this solar light, let us see a sidereal light. The preeminent Star in the East for this region so influenced by Egypt and Phoenicia was Sirius, during the period from at least 3000 BC, when countless temples in Egypt, the Near East, Asia Minor, Greece and Rome were erected to celebrate the heliacal rising of stars at solstices and equinoxes. Sirius, the brightest star in the sky, certainly draws attention to itself (Cynosura). Its position during Christ's lifetime was at 16( Gemini. In scanning the period most likely for Christ's birth, it is useful to use lunations on the Mutable Cross, which illuminate the Grand Trigons of 7 BC (in PISCES) as well as Sirius (in GEMINI). Interestingly, while the Jewish religious calendar starts with the 7th month (LIBRA or SCORPIO), the Jewish secular or agricultural calendar starts with the first new moon after the vernal equinox (ARIES); the Babylonians (Iraqis) set their first new moon with the heliacal rising of the Pleiades (TAURUS); the Athenian Greeks set the first month, Hecatombeion, at the new moon around midsummer, just before summer solstice (GEMINI); and the Egyptian new year began during this period with the heliacal rising of Sirius on Julian 20 July (CANCER), that is, when Sirius is first visible rising before sunrise (daybreak), after emerging from the blinding solar disk.
Curiously, this sequence of calendars may help serve to elucidate the sequence of Precession Ages. Why is Pisces so important? Because in the reverse motion of the precession cycle, its beginning at 0( Aries marked the end of an entire 25,000 year cycle and began another. (According to Bailey there is an even greater Round of 250,000 years which implies ten divisions.) The previous 2200-year AGE OF ARIES found the Greeks sacrificing sheep and scapegoats to Zeus, whose temples were aligned to a Arietis; the popularity of the Heroic Cults, including Perseus, Theseus and Hercules with his twelve solar labors; the Jewish dispensation of the scapegoat, animal sacrifice and the fulfillment of the opposite sign Libra in the proliferation of law; the mnemonic Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the Enlightenment of Buddha, the Nondualist Atma doctrine of Shankara and Pythagoras' presentation of God as Geometrician coming near its end. The AGE OF TAURUS found the worship of the golden calf and Moloch; Isis/Sirius in the cow form of Hathor; the Vedic hymns to the panoply of Hindu God-in-Attribute forms; the advent and death of Krishna, surrounded by his cowherding maidens, presenting his teachings of yoga during the battle of Kurukshetra recorded by Vyasa in the Mahabharata; the Mithraic mysteries. The AGE OF GEMINI was eminently depicted in the two pillars of Masonry, whose distant cousins were found in Solomon's Temple as Jachin and Boaz; perhaps the earliest Hermetic traditions start during this period; Thoth/ Hermes had a powerful influence on early dynastic periods, and is mentioned in the earliest Egyptian creation hymns as the 3rd Aspect of Atum, the tongue, or speech, coming after the 2nd Aspect of the heart. The AGE OF CANCER may be depicted in the earliest Egyptian creation papyri where it is the Scarab (Cancer) which is carried in the Boat of the Sun (often used to denote current Ages in the precession cycle), held up from the watery abyss by the god Nu, and holding the solar disk up to the celestial goddess Nut. Mother Heaven, Father Earth arising from a watery abyss - the Great Flood of Noah? This would explain Herodotus' comment that the Egyptians had astronomical records in their underground libraries which recorded 31/2 precession cycles. Instead of full precession cycles which would imply 85,000 to 90,000 years, perhaps they meant subcycles from Cancer to Aries (c. 8,000 years).
All these previous Ages are presented in reverse order by the calendars abovementioned -- perhaps in order of antiquity of their cultures. There is a tendency to carry "new wine in old skins" during each generation, witness the strange historical pervasiveness of cow/bull worship. The Aries Age Greeks seem to be the only people to have observed the change in Age, based on alignment of their temples to Zeus (a Arietis). At this turn of the Wheel from Aries to Pisces, claimants to messiahhood included Alexander (336 BC), Ptolemy Soter (322), Ptolemy Epiphanus (205), Caesar (42), Augustus (27 BC), and Elagabalus, "God from on High" (218 AD). But enough of political, or Court, Magic. The Aquarian Age has been characterized as one of Experience rather than Authority; the idea that "Hope and Faith are lost in Sight." Certainly we have the responsibility of omnipresence in world relations. I hesitate to use the word "international" when the concept of nation-states is being submerged in a more inclusive and informed awareness of world interdependence through information and communication technology. Those who can be characterized as "group-conscious individuals" stand the greatest chance to succeed in a world populated by New Renaissance human beings, institutions, science and eventually religion. As Bailey pointed out early in the 20th century, science is as revelatory of God's life as is religion, echoing Blavatsky's 19th century battle cry, "There is no Religion Higher than Truth."
Getting back to astronomy, what is the relevance of distinctions among lunar, solar and sidereal calendars and attitudes? Distinctions brought out by 1) the unusual lunations of the period; 2) the emphasis on the Mutable Cross of signs which at the turn of the precession cycle corresponded directly to constellations; 3) the emphasis on Sirius, a Arietis and Spica sidereally.
Let's look at the heavens for the period of the Grand Trigon (Jupiter-Saturn) conjunctions along with the full moons in mutable signs to get a picture of the sequence of visible celestial events (see top of chart page). [The Grand Trigon of May, October and December of 7 BC was a Triple Trigon at 20°, 17°, and 15° respectively in both the sign and constellation of Pisces. (Sidereal Constellations and seasonal Signs coincided at the Christian Advent.)] The Grand Trigon of May 29 is close to the full moon of June 12; that of October 3 to the full moon of September 8; that of December 4 quite close to the full moon of December 7. All Trigon conjunctions are by longitude on the ecliptic in Mutable signs (const.) except Oct. 3rd. Yet the one (central) conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn -by right ascension (on the celestial equator)- on September 30 was Mutable. Five full moons are included, cast on the Virgo/Pisces axis from March, 7 BC to March, 6 BC so as to provide visual and temporal perspective. This axis is utilized since the conjunction became invisible either because of conjunction with the sun (Pisces), or less noticeable by virtue of rising later and later in the evening (the year from Sagittarius to Pisces). From January, 6 BC, it was definitely a Star in the West. Of course, this was still noticeable and of use to late night travelers through the desert (e.g., it took around six months to travel from India, less from Petra or Egypt).
The lunations of March of 7 BC as well as those in March of 6 BC were close to the Trigons, which themselves had nearby planets for dramatic effect. As the Trigon moved forward the duration of a year through Pisces, lunations in 7 BC presented Trigon and planets as Morning Stars, while those of 6 BC displayed the Trigon and associates as Evening Stars. As a Morning Star in the East for 7 BC, it would have been moving or leading West; as an Evening Star in the West, it would have appeared as a Star in the East during night travel in the desert, but it still would have been leading West with its diurnal motion. It would only have been leading travelers East (from the Mediterranean Sea, Europe, the Balkans or Egypt) if considered sidereally by astronomer/astrologers, in the context of the yearly cycle. It probably makes as much sense that the Three Kings came from East as from West, since most countries in both directions were devoted to star-associated worship.
It seems most probable that Christ would have been born a Pisces for several reasons. Shepherds watching their flocks by night do so only when ewes are giving birth and the lambs need protection from predatory creatures. An astonishing Evening Star conjunction of Trigon, Mars and Moon occurred on Feb. 20th, all within 6( orb. At sunset on Feb. 27, the Moon was close to the Midheaven and 4( from Sirius, having conjuncted the Mediterranean Star in the East at noon the same day. The full moon March 5th of 6 BC would have been the last spectacular Trigon conjunct Mars as Evening Star, before being swallowed by the Sun and emerging with a greater separation, Jupiter just barely visible, for the April 3rd, 6 BC Passover full moon. There is a chance that the 70-man Sanhedrin had delayed Passover to May 3rd if the first fruits were not ripe. After all, that included lambs for the ritual animal sacrifices held in the Temple at Jerusalem. Before Christ drove out the money exchangers, he drove out the sacrificial animals -- his whole purpose was to introduce spiritual sacrifice over blood sacrifice, and a Trigon conjunct Mars and Moon seems a most apt Sign, even if he were born nearer the full moon on March 5th with the Moon missing from the stellium. On that date it was conjunct Pluto, the Equator and Ascendant at 6 PM in Bethlehem. Through-out the next 3 lunations, Mars and Moon were prominent as setting asterisms.
At the end of Jesus' life, the next Jewish new Moon after the Crucifixion was conjunct the Pleiades on April 18th, 33 AD, the Moon moving into conjunction with Jupiter-Mars on the 21st and Saturn on the 23rd-24th. The presence of Saturn-Jupiter-Mars-Moon, setting, seems to be a sort of signature for the major events in Christ's life, if these are indeed the relevant dates. The Passover times, and the hours mentioned in the New Testament are brought out dramatically in this ensemble of charts and those coming up. Throughout this period the Sun was conjunct Uranus, the Awakener.
If Christ were born at this time, he would have been conceived in June, 7 BC. The full moon chart of June 12 shows the Sun conjunct Sirius with a half degree orb, with a 1( orb Trigon 10( from MC at 12( Pisces, the exact degree of the 5th March, 6 BC full moon conjunct Pluto.
September 24th was the Jewish (sliver of Moon at sunset) new moon beginning the sixth month (Luke 1.26), when the angel Gabriel came to announce Christ's birth. On the new moon (9/23, 11:12pm), Sirius was found rising at midnight, half an hour after an exact new moon conjunct the star Spica in Virgo, found in the loins of the Virgin -- some say at the spike of grain. The full moon (10/8) in the middle of the 6th month was conjunct a Arietis exactly (see below). Mary would have been three months pregnant, which might account for Matthew's slightly anxious explanation (Matt. 1.18-25), after a long genealogy linking Jesus to King David. Luke the physician was more matter of fact about all this, as well as being more impressed with phenomena in the heavens, Christ's rightful birthplace.
Since Sirius was conjunct the Sun in June, it was invisible, and only became dramatic conjunct the full moon Dec. 7 at sunset when a Grand Cross in Mutable formed with the Trigon at zenith and Pluto at nadir within 7( orb. It was near this time that Elizabeth gave birth to John the Baptist, when Mary left after spending three months with them (Luke 1.36,56). Sirius rising with the Moon, square Jupiter-Saturn-Uranus and Pluto seems appropriate for baptism by the spirit, substituting water for blood, which enraged the status quo predator elite thriving on bread and circuses; appropriate also, given his glorious and terrible fate at the lunatic Herod's hands, goaded to it by Salome.
In the generally accepted account of Christ's crucifixion set at a Passover lunar eclipse just before a dinner of sacrificed lambs on April 3rd, 33 AD (Humphreys & Waddington, Nature 306, 22/29 Dec. '83), the Sun is found conjunct a Arietis, Zeus' temple star, with the lunation square Saturn in Cancer and Jupiter and Mars making a ruddy pair in Gemini. Venus (with Mercury) was conjunct Christ's natal Saturn, and Uranus was at 17( Leo, the degree for next year's Grand Trigon in 34 AD. During the Age of Aries at least 7 temples to Zeus were founded in Greece oriented toward this star, from 1580 to 360 BC. None are found so aligned in Egypt. The recurrence of a Arietis in these charts and events in Christ's life, set against the confrontation and challenge of Moloch and Rephan, Moon and Saturn, by the early Christians, seem to echo the Greek myth of Zeus superceding his father Kronos, and indeed may eventually have exerted a fascination and appeal for the new religion, through promotion by observant astrologers among the Greek and Hellenized populations upon the Gentiles at large.
I think it reasonable to say the Trigon represents the status quo cycle of 20 years, while Uranus (conjunct Christ's hypothesized Sun) along with its nodal cycle describe the creative work of the progressives in this world. Saturn rules by instinctive law and external, exclusive or territorial enforcement upon the animal kingdom (humans included). Uranus governs with an internalized, intelligently self-socialized and autonomous code of ethics based on harmlessness and love, intuitively modulated, and energized by a sense of broad and inclusive humanitarian purpose (at its best). It remains to be seen when both mass herd consciousness and personal self-consciousness will be superceded by a highly individualized group consciousness. The inevitable conflicts between these three major divisions of humanity are what delineate the perpetual state of affairs termed "Armageddon" throughout the millennia. Of course, "Armageddon," or the battle of good versus evil, light versus darkness, seemingly looms forward into humanity's miniscule attention span at some times more than at others. Since the sins of spiritual students tend to be those of omission rather than the opposite, vigilance, harmlessness and action tend to be the antidotes. In waging Peace, it is said that recognition of spiritual contacts, assumption of responsibility and intelligent cooperation are the crucial factors.
Finally, on the first Pentecost, 49 days after the Passover feast, Mercury, Jupiter, Mars and Saturn were evening stars. At 9 AM (Acts 2.14-21), the Sun was conjunct Venus' north node and 4( from that of Uranus. In fact, 5 of the planets were conjunct planetary nodes within 0-1( orb -- Sun/Venus node; Mercury/Jupiter node; Jupiter/Pluto node; Mars/Saturn node; Saturn/Neptune node -- a true baptism of fire. The Ascendant was 2( from both Pointers in the Great Bear (see AAB), Venus, the Soul of Earth (AAB) was 1( from MC exactly conjunct a Arietis, with the Moon 5( from Uranus on the future Trigon point and on the 2nd house cusp moving into the 1st, a great placement for inauguration of new values, through the ministries upon which they were about to embark.
There was only one other lunar eclipse found rising at Jerusalem during Christ's ministry, on 1/31, 36 AD, the last year of Pilate's office and life, and it was total. Eusebius states Pilate committed suicide upon the accession of Caligula, worn out by his many misfortunes as middleman to the tyrannical superpowers of the day. It might not be out of order to imagine the rising lunar eclipse, similar to that seen in 33 AD, caused him the most intense soul searching and remorse, as well as dashed hopes, at a time when Caligula was on the rise and suspected by many to be plotting Tiberius Caesar's untimely end (which he actually accomplished on 3/16, 37 AD).
For a synopsis of the Christ principle in Esoteric Astrology,