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KRONOS Vol X, No. 1
The Genie Of The Pivot
Copyright (c) 1984 by Roger Ashton
ABSTRACT : Investigation of the links between gods and planets suggests a connection between Saturn and the Celestial Pole. This can be inferred from Greek and Roman myths. The same can be repeatedly extracted from materials included in the later compendia of Hindu myths. Sufficient evidence of this sort can be amassed to warrant serious consideration of the proposition that Saturn at the Celestial Pole was the central theme of myth many millennia ago.
The correctness of this reconstruction of myth depends upon the total context of mythical metaphors, symbols, emblems and upon a quantitative bias in mythical material which supports the reconstruction. This context is, in turn, part of the greater context of objective terrestrial and human history. What archaeology reveals to have been omitted from the transmitted record of human affairs is of the utmost significance.
1. The Missing Millennia
The Egyptians kept records of their kings from predynastic times onwards. Through the millennia, there was a continuous loss of historical documentation. Monuments and papyri were lost or destroyed. The Palermo Stone of Dynasty V recalled nothing about the predynastic kings except their names.(1) Egyptian history of any substance thus begins hardly earlier than 3000 B.C.
In Iraq, history of the early literate period was later mixed with myth.(2) Fragments of detailed history do not seem to be available from before about 2500 B.C.(3)
The earliest version of urban culture, however, commenced millennia before that. A substantial fortress was built at Jericho in about 8000 B.C.(4) After that, there was a succession of developed prehistoric cultures, especially at Catal Huyuk in southwest Anatolia, Halaf in northern Iraq, and 'Ubaid in all of Iraq.(5) The steadily increasing sophistication of the successive nations led to the invention of writing about 3500 B.C. by the Uruk culture of Iraq.(6)
During these four millennia there was a rise and fall and changing dominance of towns, peoples, and languages. Neither Egypt nor Iraq recalled any of this preliterate history.
As much as 6000 years of history in the later sense was omitted from the Biblical tradition also. History of a sort starts only with Abraham in Genesis.(7)
Neither in India nor in China does there seem to be any historical human testimony belonging to these missing millennia of history. Only myth seems to refer to anything at all in that era.
2. Celestial Themes
Any effort to trace mythical themes backwards to their origins reveals their celestial basis.(1) It can be shown that cause for finding anything earthly in myth will melt away into nothing. The "Earth" of myth has the attributes of a celestial object.*
It becomes evident that myth in no way replaces the lost details of history. Portions of myth may, nonetheless, belong in or predate that significantly forgotten span of time. It is important to remain aware that growing human sophistication during the millennia of missing history provides a clearly definable sequential chronological context for the supposedly contemporary and purely celestial conditions and events of myth.
A comparable context was envisioned by Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend. In their book, Hamlet's Mill, they deduced a sophisticated prehistoric knowledge of astronomy from myth.(2) In their attempt to reconcile the attributes of mythical figures, a Chinese source confronted them with a baffling link between the planet Saturn and the Celestial Pole. They asked:
This problematic theme was used as one of the foundations of reconstructed myth by David Talbott in his book, The Saturn Myth.(4) Most of the visual aspects of the primeval god are illustrated in this work. Unfortunately, Talbott's crucial textual supports of Saturn's reconstructed mythical celestial polarity and its various connections to gods are extremely meagre. There is, therefore, cause for the present study to start afresh from where the authors of Hamlet's Mill left it.
3. The Persistent Theme
This essay will begin by reviewing the bases for a mythical link between Saturn and the Celestial Pole. Stated or implicit assumptions will be given a steadily increasing support from myth and language.
Until considerable evidence is presented, the reader is urged to withhold any verdict.
An introductory example will illustrate the methodology in part. In his serialized essay, "Child of Saturn", Dwardu Cardona argued from indirect indications that the Hindu god Shiva had once personified Saturn.(1) The customary Sanskrit name for Saturn is Shani, a name shared by Shiva.(2) A possible origin for this link can be found in the " 1000" names of Shiva listed in the Linga Purana, a late compendium of religious and mythical tradition. There Shiva is called Saturn, the Sun, Moon, Mercury, and Venus.(3)
Devoid of this ambivalence, Kala, whose meanings include Blackness, time, or the god Time, is a name of Saturn and of Shiva.(4) Likewise, Raivata is a name of Saturn and of Shiva, connoting wealth.(5) A number of meanings of Sthira include Saturn and Shiva.(6)
Shiva shares the epithet Yamantaka with the god Yama, whose name also belongs to Saturn.(7) Yama is identified with Saturn in Linga Purana I.60.3.(8) Comparably, yamya means belonging to or resembling Yama, whereof the derived noun yamyah has meanings which include a servant of Yama or name of Shiva.(9) Both instances imply some sort of crucial identity of Yama and Shiva, whereby Yama's link to Saturn also becomes Shiva's.
In the instances of Kala, Raivata, Sthira, and Yama, no planet other than Saturn is mentioned. It could be assumed that the original linkage is shown by this one class of clues rather than by several others. Given this, Shiva's real link is to Saturn, while other links are misleading.
As an instance of the latter, the meanings of Gaura include Jupiter.(10) From the feminine Gauri, gaurinathah means lord or master of Gauri, and is an epithet of Shiva.(11) If this deducible link between Shiva and Jupiter truly reflects mythical perception, it is less direct and explicit than the links already noted.
Kala, a name for Shiva and for Saturn, also means the color black or dark blue.(12) The planet and the color are also designated by Asita.(13) Comparably, from nilalohita - dark blue or purple - the noun nilalohitah means the color purple and is an epithet of Shiva.(14)
A more direct parallel or duplication relates to a mythical attribute of Saturn. Saturn is the son of the Sun, as in Linga Puraina I.61.45.(15) An example of the many names of Saturn which result is the epithet Arki,(16) son of the Sun, from Arka, Sun.(17) Corresponding to the adjective saivitra, descended from the Sun, is the noun savitrah, an epithet of Shiva.(18)
Saturn's name of Shani is arguably divisible into sha(h), cutter, weapon, or name of Shiva,(19) and an apparent original -ni, leader or guide.(20) Saturn is thus Shiva's leader or guide as the present point of light traverses the sky, or as some mythical original form underwent gyrations.
Shani can also be read as "weapon leader". In this connection, Konah has meanings which include the sharp edge of a sword or weapon, Mars, and Saturn.(21) The same is implicit also from ara, a knife, probe, instrument of iron, since the related Ara means Mars or Saturn.(22)
Saturn is thus obliquely linked to the image of a knife or sword both etymologically and otherwise. Shiva's corresponding link is expressed by Khadgin, armed with a sword, an epithet of Shiva.(23) The shared meanings of Akshara include a sword or Shiva.(24)
Akshara is arguably from akshah, among other things an axis, pole, or pivot,(25) and -rah, fire.(26) Since the Celestial Pole is an axis or pivot, Shiva's epithet Akshara could be read as celestial polar fire.
Either from dhr, to hold up or support, sustain,(27) or dhru, to be firm or fixed,(28) and -vah, whose meanings include residence,(29) comes Dhruva, apparently an untensed contraction which could be read as fixed residence. In full agreement with this sense, Dhruva means Celestial Pole or Pole Star. It is also an epithet of Shiva.(30)
Several items linked Shiva to Saturn. The last two items link Shiva to the Celestial Pole. It appears that some only partly remembered anterior perception linked Saturn to the Pole.
Shiva's connection to the Pole, which is fixed, connects to the sword which relates to Saturn. There is an arguable relation between tal, to fix or be fixed, and Tala, the hilt of a sword or name of Shiva.(31) The derivative Tala translates as the hilt of a sword or an epithet of Shiva.(32)
It was noted that Shiva and Saturn share the name of Sthira. The noun sthirah is related to or derived from sthira, whose primary meanings are firm, steady, fixed, immovable, still, motionless, immovably fixed, permanent, and everlasting.(33) The unavoidable implication is that Shiva shares with Saturn these unambiguous qualities of the Celestial Pole in the metaphor of myth.
Saturn presently moves for the terrestrial observer, taking just short of 13 days over a year to complete the heavenly circuit, the synodic cycle. In myth, Saturn is sthira, related to a motionless condition which is of millennial duration because the word also means everlasting. This is intelligible only if Saturn was formerly that motionless millennial celestial polar object of myth.
This incredible theme, the celestial polar Saturn, appeared as the Chinese genie of the pivot; it also persisted in appearing when Shiva was investigated. No matter how bizarre the theme may seem, honesty cannot allow one to shrink from investigating it further.
4. The Investigatory Methods
Yama and Shiva are linked to Saturn. Assuming that this is a clue of primary importance, it is arguable that their similarities, parallels, or duplications could outweigh their differences in evidential value. The present study will amass evidence for the conclusion that later separate gods had an original identity, one with another.
When a nation was formed by tribes joining forces, each tribal version of a god could have been treated as separate, since it could have been expedient to honor former tribal idiosyncrasies. Such a process seems to have been the rule in the case of Hinduism,(1) which is why religious philosophers felt compelled to reconcile as many as 3306 gods with the notion of a single supreme being.(2) This obscures the evidence for whether divergence or convergence accounted for polytheistic and monotheistic conceptions.
Amassed evidence for the former identity of gods will be one strand in the fabric of reconstructed myth in its inferential former state. The links between gods and planets will be another. Parallel or identical or duplicate characters of gods linked to Saturn and to the Celestial Pole will be the basis of an interconnected and detailed webwork.
Documentation which gradually elucidates the visual origin of the characters of the gods will be used to show that these characters are the parts of a single and clearly definable composite image. Sheer quantity of documentation will find such remarkable consistency as to overcome that ambivalence of mythical metaphor which has hitherto rendered the study of myth frustrating and thankless. This quantity will furthermore preclude the premature and wildly incorrect conclusions and false schemes which are formed from a minority of data because the significance of the ambivalence of the metaphors is not recognized. Only when a scheme of interpretation of myth is corroborated by a majority of data is there support for the initial selectivity of that scheme.
From analysis of the characters of the gods it will emerge that identities of the gods, as they now appear, are separate because each god is an aggregate of characters selected and combined from a total of a variety of perceptions which grew out of the original apparitions of a single entity. This entity was purely celestial and totally dominated subsequent human thought.
The specific strands of myth thus far mentioned in passing might have originated in the otherwise forgotten prehistoric period. Crucial characters of gods, or the primordial god, did in fact originate at least 20,000 years ago. A later phase of this study will present the hard evidence for this, after the systematic analysis of mythical themes permits the archaeological evidence to become intelligible in this context.
Whatever subjective or objective phenomenon it was that humanity witnessed until the late preliterate period, it has left an intense impression which permeates virtually all myth as well as early and even present religious and artistic symbolism. The amazing contrast is that, during this early period, ordinary history was blotted out, forgotten, or dismissed.
There was a similarly strong imprint on the formation of words and in the various meanings they share. The older the language, the stronger and more clearly can this imprint be seen. This is particularly true of Sanskrit. The conjectural etymologies and inferences from shared meanings of words set forth thus far might seem to be disregardful of accepted rules or even naive. It will, however, emerge that the sheer bulk of words which mutually agree - with recourse to a consistent set of rules - will tend to overwhelm doubts as well as conventional and petty technical objections.
5. The Classical Polar Saturn
In Latin, the planets have names of gods. These are the planetary names now in use in the West. It is therefore fitting to open this formal investigation with the nature of certain Roman and Greek myths. Rome absorbed so much from Greece that treating the two traditions as one will not compromise the analysis.
In Ovid's Fasti, a sketch of the story of creation is put into the mouth of the god Janus.(1) It concludes with these words:
The centre of the wheeling pole is motionless to the terrestrial observer. Janus, ruler of the motionless celestial pole, must thus be located at the Celestial Pole. That this is what Ovid understood, at least metaphorically, seems evident from a subsequent line in which Janus is made to state:
Being with the gentle hours, Janus seems to have been associated with time. This is implied by the next line:
To regulate Jovian movement is to regulate long periods of time, the synodic year and also the much longer sidereal year as ancient astronomy observed it. Janus presided over time in the later Roman calendar. Ovid spoke of "Janus, opener of the softly gliding year".(5)
Janus was in fact regarded as the god of units of time, like days, months, and years.(6) This evident personification of time connects Janus with Saturn. In his Saturnalia, Macrobius wrote that "Saturn, as Cronus, is identified with Time (Khronos)".(7)
In that episode of creation that Ovid made Janus narrate, Janus is a primeval god who states:
After the reorganization of the universe following chaos, Janus states:
A ball connotes a celestial object, round like the Moon or Sun. As a duplicate of the god Saturn in the person of Time, Janus appears like a large and nearby planet.
During the creative reorganization of the universe, "flame sought the height, air filled the nearer space, while earth and sea sank in the middle deep".(10)
In Ovid's Metamorphoses there is an identical sequence:
Whichever god figures in this duplicate episode must presumably be a double of Janus, or vice versa.
In the Metamorphoses, a mythical golden age follows creative reorganization.
The golden age, or primordial millennium, ended "after old Saturn fell to Death's dark country [and] straitly Jove ruled the world with silver charm".(13)
The clear implication here is that it had been Saturn who ruled over the golden age. This was the case in Greek myth. In Hesiod's Works and Days it is told:
Since Kronos was the Greek name for Saturn, it may be taken that it was Saturn who ruled over the mythical golden age in Roman as well as Greek myth.
Following creative reorganization, Janus took godly form and Saturn ruled over the millennium. Janus is implicitly Saturn's duplicate, as is the case in the personification of time. Two analytical routes agree. Janus ruled over the pole, which implies that Saturn was a celestial polar planet, at least in myth.
After the golden age, Saturn went to Tartarus.(15) In Hesiod's description of Tartarus, there is a suggestion of the south celestial pole. In his Theogony, this region is described as having been "as far below the earth as heaven is above earth; for so far is it from earth to Tartarus".(16)
In Tartarus dwelt Styx.(17) In his Georgics, Virgil wrote that "one pole is ever high above us, while the other, beneath our feet, is seen of black Styx and the shades infernal".(18)
For peoples of north temperate latitudes, like the Latins, the north celestial pole held a ruling position in the sky. It remained eternally elevated. This is fully consistent with a reference found in Ovid's Amores - "When ancient Saturn had his kingdom in the sky."(19)
In Ovid's Fasti, "Saturn had been dethroned by Jupiter",(20) and "fate banished the elder god from Heaven's citadel".(21) The throne and the citadel are also appropriate metaphors for the stable and elevated Celestial Pole.
In Virgil's Aeneid, Saturn's Olympus is celestial.
In Homer's Odyssey, Olympus is described in a manner that clearly precludes any earthly mountain.
This remoteness, unaffected by terrestrial conditions, and the radiant whiteness, are celestial characteristics. Olympus, like the north celestial pole, stands fast. Opposed to Tartarus, it is implicitly the north celestial pole.
The primeval god, as Janus, was explicitly linked to the Pole. As Saturn, this primeval god was implicitly likewise linked, variously and obliquely. Saturn the god has the same name as Saturn the planet. It is now a distant faint point of light which, in the words of Ovid's Metamorphoses, is "less than Jove".(24)
If the mythical Saturn, as Janus, could have been perceived as a ball, Saturn would have been a close and brilliant object. In support of this notion could be adduced the otherwise curious fact that a Latin name for Saturn was Stella Solis, or Sun Star.(25)
This study will be continued in a series of independent essays.
1. The Missing Millennia1. A. Gardiner, Egypt of the Pharaohs (Oxford, 1961), p. 63.
2. G. Roux, Ancient Iraq (Harmondsworth, 1969), p. 119.
3. Ibid., p. 131.
4. J . Mellaart, Earliest Civilizations of the Near East (London, 1 965), p. 32.
5. Ibid., pp. 81-101, 119-132.
6. M.E.L. Mallowan, Early Mesopotamia and Iran (London, 1965), p. 15.
7. Genesis 11:28 ff.
2. Celestial Themes1. G. de Santillana and H. von Dechend, Hamlet's Mill: An Essay on Myth and the Frame of Time (Boston, 1977), e.g., pp. 44-45.
2. Ibid., pp. 344-348.
3. Ibid., p. 136.
4. D. N. Talbott, The Saturn Myth (N. Y., 1980), in toto.
3. The Persistent Theme1. D. Cardona, "Child of Saturn," Part II, KRONOS VII:2 (Winter 1982), pp.32-33.
2. V. S. Apte, The Practical Sanskrit-English Dictionary (Delhi, 1978), pp. 906-907.
3. The Linga Purana (trans. by a Board of Scholars, Delhi, 1973), Vol. 1, pp. 264-265.
4-7. V. S. Apte, op. cit., pp. 353, 806,1009, 781, respectively.
8. The Linga Purana, p. 231.
9-14. V. S. Apte, op. cit., pp. 785, 415, 415, 353, 191, 569, respectively.
15. The Linga Purana, p. 236.
16-33. V. S. Apte, op. cit., pp. 228, 147, 984, 902, 568, 376, 225, 390, 6, 5, 790, 529, 531, 823, 531, 470, 473, 1009, respectively.
4. The Investigatory Methods1. D. D. Kosambi, Ancient India (Cleveland, 1969), p. 23 esp.
2. Brhad-Aranyaka Upanishad, III.9, in toto.
5. The Classical Polar Saturn1. J. G. Frazer, Ovid's Fasti (London, 1951), p. 9 (Fasti I. 100).
2. Ibid., p. 11 (Fasti I. 119-120).
3. Ibid. (Fasti I. 125).
4. Ibid. (Fasti I. 126).
5. Ibid., p. 7 (Fasti I. 65).
6. G. Howe & G. A. Harrer, A Handbook of Classical Mythology ( 1947), p. 144.
7. Macrobius, The Saturnalia (trans. P. V. Davies, N.Y., 1969), p. 64 (Saturnalia I. 8. 6).
8. J. G. Frazer, op. cit., p. 9 (Fasti I. 103).
9. Ibid., p. 11 (Fasti I. 111). 10. Ibid. (Fasti I. 109-110).
11. Ovid, The Metamorphoses (trans. H. Gregory, N.Y., 1960), p. 31 (Metamorphoses I. 26-30).
12. Ibid, p. 33 (Metamorphoses I. 89-90).
13. Ibid., p. 34 (Metamorphoses I. 113-11)
14. H. G. Evelyn-White, Hesiod, The Homeric Hymns and Homerica (London, 1974),
p. 11 (Works and Days 109-112).
15. Ovid, Metamorphoses (trans. F. J. Miller, London, 1977), Vol. I, pp. 10-11 (Metamorphoses I. 113).
16. H. G. Evelyn-White, op. cit, p. 131 (Theogony 720-721).
17. Ibid., p. 135 (Theogony 775-776).
18. H. R. Fairclough, Virgil (London, 1978), Vol. I, pp. 97-99 (Georgics I. 242-243).
19. G. Showerman, Heroides and Amores (London, 1977) , p. 483 (Amores III.viii.35).
20. J. G. Frazer, op. cit., p. 179 (Fasti III.796).
21. Ibid., p. 263 (Fasti V.34).
22. H. R. Fairclough, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 83 (Aeneid VIII.319-320).
23. Homer, The Odyssey (trans. A. T. Murray, London, 1966), Vol. I, p. 209 (Odyssey VI.41-45) .
24. F. J. Miller, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 425 (Metamorphoses XV.858).
25. R. H. Allen, Star-Names and their Meanings (N. Y., 1936), p. 470.