Culture

01.12.2006

Kim H. Veltman

“Lines Knots, and Dragons: Astronomy as a Key to Cross-Cultural Mythology”

Conference: Mente, corpo, realtà, Rieti, 18- 20 May, 2006, Rome, 2006.

1. Introduction
2. Microcosm-Macrocosm
3. Lines
4. Knots, Creation Myths and Fertility
5. Dragons
6. Leopard, Giraffe, Camel, Camelopardalis
7. Upper and Lower
8. Conclusions
Appendix 1: Lower and Upper Egypt
Appendix 2: Gemini
Appendix 3. Saturn and Jupiter

1. Introduction

Western Culture has traditionally been seen in strictly Western terms with its roots in Greece and to some extent in Egypt. The 19th and 20th centuries widened the scope of these roots to the Near East and especially Sumer. Aby Warburg created his famous institute to explore the continuity of these traditions (Das Nachleben der Antike). The 19th and 20th centuries also explored the traditions of India and China. It was assumed that these developed in parallel and in isolation. A few individuals such as Blavatsky claimed that there were deeper connections, but dubious practices undermined their work.

Study of the history of astronomy suggests that these possible connections deserve new attention. The cultures of China, India and the Near East all developed systems with 7 days in the week, 12 months and larger cycles 25, 920 years (precession of the equinoxes). These cycles of the seasons were linked with cycles of development in the human being. Essential aspects of such microcosm-macrocosm analogies are shared by the great cultures of the East and West. Following a brief outline of essential elements of these analogies, this paper explores the cycle of the four seasons. The two equinoxes and two solstices marked crucial times of the year. In China, for instance, these key events were linked with the trigrams and later the hexagrams of the I Ching.

The main part of the paper focuses specifically on the visualization of one event: the spring equinox on 21 March. It is shown that this event was sometimes represented as an X, sometimes as a knot; that this knot became both a symbol of female fruitfulness bringing life into the world in Hinduism and a symbol of spiritual separation from the world in Buddhism. In a number of cultures, this event was represented as two intertwining dragons. We shall examine in some detail a series of early Egyptian examples dating back to the earliest dynasties. Our analysis will show that the Palette of Narmer, generally assumed to be a great artistic breakthrough as a first expression of high culture in Egypt is, instead, the culmination of something that began much earlier. This example implies that we need a new approach to cultural history, which explores the pre-history of the European Greco-Roman and Judaeo- Christian heritage (Das Vorleben der Antike) and shows that there are indeed universal themes shared by the great traditions of the world


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Presentations

Presentation: Astronomy as a Key to Cross Cultural Mythology (Knots A);
Presentation: Astronomy as a Key to Cross Cultural Mythology (Knots B).