Time symbolising 2
The Sumerians developed much of the symbolising in ritual and astronomy. We find some of it as direct loan in our rock-carvings. In other cases we see similar ideas in Nordic style. The night sky is common but it looks different in south and north.
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The Anglo Scandinavian books in history usually begin at the Viking Age as if we had no more than a thousand years of history. In a more detailed description the Viking Age was not that of the iron but of wood as most of the tools and remedies and naturally the houses were wooden. The comparison ends often in the deduction that it was a sort of primitive living.
When we look at Egypt and Sumer we often get the impression that the Sumerian life was more primitive than in Egypt. Their symbols and arts seem more naive and simple. However, usually there is more than a thousand years of difference. The Sumerian society lasted to about 2000 BC while most of the Egyptian material is from the New Kingdom. On average it is more than a thousand-year younger than what we see as Sumerian. Of the presumed Sumerian material is a lot of it from the Akkadian period when Sargon I become the first real world emperor.
Night sky and time calculation was almost the same in the two big cultures and they borrowed a lot from each other. So a simple picture of the time system is like a clock. The clock face is the night sky with the zodiac as most important. The heavenly landscape was a parallel to their own land. Some Sumerian place names seem to have existed in the sky too. The long hand is the sun counting days, while the short hand is counting moons.
In this book is only a few calendars to give the main ideas of the time ritual. There are small differences between the great cultures as Egypt early had a sun year of 360 days and set in 5 days at new years. They tied it to the stars of course as zodiac is on the "sun road". We may say that the sun decided the start of the New Year those three days it seems to stand still. That was the beginning of the fertile year half and they had a new ending in end of July and that was according to the moon year. But we do not know every local cult and how important these things were as a whole.
In Sumer we see that the five days were set in as a holiday in July when they celebrated the Ramadan. It was holiday even for the king and someone out of the crowd was elected as king for the feast. The legend tells that once the real king was too fond of good food and he died. Then the elected, a fishwife became the queen for real.
On a predynastic ivory handle is a sea fight between what must be Sumerians and Egyptians. In the Nile delta are found some typical Sumerian boundary stones with the odd figure in original. These and other facts maybe are evidence that there has been co-operation or immigration from Sumer. Not only to the Delta but also to Middle Egypt for an example from Red Sea thorough the Wadi Hammamat or from Mersa Gawasis to Dendera.
We have to remember that the earliest finds of wheat and barley are from ca 5300 BC but our finds are mainly earliest from the fourth millennium. About 3000 BC the cultures in Egypt and Sumer began their fast expansion. Probably caused by better methods in agriculture and intellectual culture and rituals.
Now to the early zodiac of Sumer and let us start with the most important figure for cultivators.
Usually I use the words cultivator and cattle-breeder (or the less formal cowboy) because our ancestors had separate rituals and we may assume they at times were separate clans. Farming in our use means is usually a mix of both although in the last decades many farmers have specialised in either branch.
The Sumerian symbols of Sagittarius content the entire growing season in the zodiac and are around five moons. Starting at the body, which is that of Leo, Virgo as the wings, Arcturus is an Archer, a little boat MADA with a chapel is under the head of the dog or what it is. The Sumerian word means serpent and is the one Opiuchus bear. Below is the body of Scorpio and the Tab is as an extra tail. Finally Dog or fox KIEL is Sagittarius in our days.
The Sumerians were hyper rational and have left only signs of what they needed in everyday life. Babylonians overtook their culture already around 2000 BC. That is why we have only few remains except the excavations of their cities.
To that the fortune that Ashurbanipal 669-627 BC found a big library of Sumerian cuneiform texts. He stored them and started a Neo-Sumerian epoch in the New Babylonian Empire and one result was astrology.
Choosing the words for the ancient astronomy without mixing it with astrology has been difficult. If they fit, I use the twelve signs of the zodiac as name of constellations. However, sometimes they have to be seen as original icons in the way they were used. For an example Virgo is the Virgin meaning fruitfulness as well as all the rituals and doings belonging to growing. That is something else than astrology, because our ancestors were doing serious business to get food on the table, so the virtual sphere was for citizens.
Some zodiac signs have changed or are local differences such as the Crab that have been Cancer, Turtle, Daddy Longleg and maybe more.
The seal with "Daddy Longleg" shows that the Sumerians had a quadratic model of night sky.
Fence-like figures may be used as two sides in a square of the summer half-year and descending to Underworld in the joint. The dog at the first end is the Canis Major and the other is our Sagittarius or the Egyptian Anubis as symbol for resurrection when the crops give new life. The Longleg is here the Cancer/Crab. Two other symbols are probably tools for determining the time in relation to the stars.
Sumerian sealfrom about 2200 BC
Let us at once have a look at the same scene more than thousand years later when the gods were animated as humanlike. On the seal the season starts at Gemini or the Sumerian Utu with two faces. Maybe practical if they often hunt you or want to see which grimace folks automatically do behind you.
We recognize "the first on land" and the fish arch is Watergate. Dumuzi or the seed is on its way to Underworld while Inanna does not want to make her best dress dirty. The Tree of Life is here a twig (May Twig) and is the expected growth. They called the Archer Guard of the Meadow in middle age in Sweden and he watched mainly for frost in the night. The last is a Dog or what it is. Then it begins again with the Utu. Observe his name is not dependent on which direction one read it. We see that the beginning of season has been earlier on the zodiac due to the precession.
These three pictures show a long period because the symbols at Descent as a ritual idea are from different times due to precession. The oldest may be more than 8000 years old because of the Descent in Leo. Next step in time is Daddy Longleg and the last dated about 2000 BC is at Geminis. Up to the configuration of the star chart and the Sirius year is zero point around 4200 BC and then was Daddy Longleg actual. The reservation is that the Descent time in the year is depending on the local climate.
Next part is the autumn contending four signs. First there is the Goatfish probably created to show the season when people lived on these. The Goatfish became symbol for Capricorn and was used also in Egypt and in Europe until Middle Age. The Aries is easy to recognize. The figure below is an early pictographic symbol EKUR meaning "the big house", i.e. a ziggurat or a temple later on and stands for the Pegasus square.
Missing part of the zodiac was found on an amulet from the early Ur.
It shows the Fishman Oannes the founder of the city at sea level at the time. In the sky it is some constellation of the Taurus and Orion. We know the symbol below his hand as Geminis and the hand on his back is Cancer.
Thus we see that the Sumerian zodiac was predynastic or before ca 3000 BC. We see also the duration of the tradition to the middle of the last millenium. Then the Chaldeans and perhaps the Egyptians formed the zodiac of today with its precise twelve months and fixed signs. The Arabians are the last link to Europe and many names on stars are in Arabic. Technically the Julian calendar was only justification of the correlation to the spring equinox, which exactly is passé in about twenty years from now.
Early time symbols
It is often impossible to say whether a figure is a crossed circle or a pair of feet divided crosswise. It is not likely that they had shoes with heels. If someone wants to believe a god have made the footprints it is of course up to the imagination, however it is not near reality. It would be as if some ghost had made a footprint.
Anyhow, some feet and circles are signs of dealing with time. Some may believe they are signs for the sun. However, the sun as this is not important and we may not control it. But we can use the sun as denominator of four moments during a year. If we symbolise the year with a circle, the four points are approximately crosswise on the circle. Nevertheless, it is still an abstraction.
If one stand on a rock at a certain time and then made a mark how one stood, one may use it every year ad eternity. The standing man is as a world pillar or a pillar of settlement as the world surround and the stars seem to circle around. Twice a year the sun rises and goes down in the exact quadrature of solstices.
To decide and memorise we always needs reference points and directions. To the pillar one need also a heel stone to point out the reference direction and perhaps other important directions, as marks of time and position of the heavenly objects. We should not stick to words if the Egyptians or others call the four directions heavenly mainstays, because it is the function that counts.
If one base a lot of ones outlooks from the point one stand setting up a substitute is convenient and refers to it by memory. Our languages are built up to handle a virtual world. And in it reference point or ken to refer to as well as a vicious circle to be in or out of.
The virtual world of language we need especially when we are talking about abstract matters. Some languages like Finnish express belonging and position by suffixes to the words instead of our separate prepositions. In fact a lot of the Finnish grammar comes of Latin as a priest Michael Agricola developed the written language. When one analyses such languages we see clearly the structures of our thoughts and how we describe the world. It is clearer than in our fragmentary languages where there is less agglutinating of affixes. However, they have known these when our words were created, but now forgotten. We do not need to change the meaning of the words or nuance them any more.
We are bound to our languages, which may differ a lot. The Scandinavian languages are surely as isolates nearer the original tongue, than English, which many cultures have influenced. With civilisation many words are forgotten. That is because we do not need them and we use instead a more technical language.
To describe practical astronomy and yearly rituals there have been many common signs, ideogram and symbols. On the other hand the issue gives itself many natural figures to explain the matters.
We may think that, as because they had no wheel they could not imagine wheel-like symbols. That is of course rubbish, as round artefacts and figures are known since at least 30000 years. We know real wheels in northern Germany and Denmark since ca 3000 BC. The first wheels were compact as in Sumer.
This carving from Skjeberg Norway shows four-wheeled wagons with compact wheels. It reminds that a wheel may be drawn in different ways and surely near the original. Other forms are a circle with a dot as axle. The wheels of Bronze Age may have four, six or eight spokes. However, many of these figures divide the upper world or the year.
In this case the draught-animals seem to have been horses, but normally they were oxen. That is because the early horses were small. From the carvings overall we may wonder whether they tried to use other animals like elk and deer, however the figures may be picturing rituals. During Bronze Age horses seem to have been playmates of the male. Breeds to bigger sizes began as late as in Middle Age when heavy armoured knights needed a carrier.
Denmark is a small country but have many finds from the fourth millennium. However, much is probably hidden in church walls and the bases of houses. That is because the lowland with its highest "mountain" 172 metre above the sea and with no granite. The ice to the lowlands brought all small stones, boulders and erratic boulders. Generations of settlers either took away these from easily cultured land or used as material for stony foundations as dolmens, long dolmens and passage graves in the chronology mentioned.
The funnel-style end of forth millennium BC was a relatively short period. It is showing awareness of style and shows maybe some new ideas in society
Most of the early ritual finds are ritual axes telling that the myths from Middle East were alive among people. The era with funnel pottery is significantly telling us about an ideology of some kind. We may compare the big plate on a high foot with the dolmens shaped like a table for gods and giants. It is near to speculate in the idea of the table as an urge for getting food and with a pleasant feast at harvest and other ritual occasions.
Some of us have no imagination at all and others have too many mystics within. However we may stick to artefacts and monuments and compare our stony culture with more known in south. Then we may do many assumptions that give us a reasonable picture of mans mind in those days.
The spirit of the valley never dies.
Its name is Mysterious Mother.
The inlet of the Mysterious Mother
is wellspring of heaven and earth.
All the time, always constantly
bringing forth without pain.
From the Chinese book about Tao verse VI. It is a reminder that most of the world shares the same myths and vocabulary about fertility and many other issues.
We know that Egyptian and Sumerian early rituals were connected to ideas like the big mountain. That symbolised the corn and its germ and it was the stairway to the stars for gods and their leaders as they were deputies for the gods.
I have walked on these Your beams
with my feet on a ladder of light.
Then I ascent to my mother
the living Jaret on Your brow
For You the heaven has
intensified the sun beams.
Then they may ascent to heaven
and be the eye of Ra.
From the Pyramid texts ca 2500 BC.
We see that ritually they made the pyramids as a mirror and the white sides were surely reflecting all sunlight as a greeting to the assumed gods in heaven. The astronauts can confirm that they would easily recognise the pyramids in their original coat.
On the other hand the pyramids and ziggurats were also ladders for gods. On the Sumerian ziggurat the highest step was on a platform out of reach for normal people. They assumed that gods had longer legs ... have a look at the giants pictured in star constellations! In Egypt Isis wore "the step" on her head and it is also a symbol of arising such as the growing corn from Netherworld and preferably also humankind when times come.
The prophet Ezekiel wrote about Nippur that the Lordīs house had a gateway towards north. Some Egyptian pyramids have the opening towards north and pointing at Orions' belt, which was stars of Osiris. We have to remember that the Egyptian and Sumerian sky have the North Pole nearer to the horizon. The zodiac or the sun orbit is almost over the head in summer.
The counterpart was the temple in the valley or in the underground. They strictly oriented some of these ritual monuments. Likewise are many of our stony monuments oriented in specific directions such as sunrise at Candlemas, east, south, southwest. Nevertheless, there is no general rule. In my home parish at Zealand is a pair of passage graves in the heel of a long dolmen. The openings are opposite towards south and north. However another passage grave a kilometre away has the opening towards east.
The same is case here on Dal where they have investigated the slab cists and directions vary mostly between south-east, south and slightly more cists towards south-west. May be that they had different directions when they observed the heavenly gods or the time.
The famous New Grange Ireland is like many others oriented to catch the sunbeam in midwinter. The idea may have been that the new sun is born during the three days sun seems to stand still as we may learn from poems in Sumer.
However, we cannot make rules about this. It is more likely to be as in our times that folks are more or less fundamentalists and religious in different places. Some folks make the monuments as practical remedies for their work and maybe others make a fundamental religion of it. We have also to remember that these phenomenons were apparent under several thousand years before Bronze Age. Even as we know people were bound to tradition during the ritual period before Bronze Age.
In some Danish passage graves are found carvings and mostly cupmarks and/or crossed circles.
Some of them can for sure be dated to the fourth millennium BC. Often they form the crossed circles exactly showing that whey knew what they were doing and telling by the message.
The circle with eight spokes we may call a year-wheel. It divides the sun-year in quarters and approximately midst in these four feasts as it was custom among Celts, i.e. the feasts Imbolic, Beltaine, Lugnasad, Samain. Hard to say when the year-wheel was introduced, but we see it mostly during Bronze Age.
Some double axes as real or as amulets are also found and they were surely for ritual use. We know them better from a later Minoan culture where they called them labrys and where the symbol of Potinia, the Lady of Labyrinth. However, as an example the urban myths and finds they are too far from reality in real farming.
Better bases give finds from Alvastra Sweden which is an early settlement of farmers ca 3000 BC. Under the excavations they found double axes planted with one egg downward besides a little stone.
We can see this composition as an icon of ritual where the little stone is the ritual grain. With the axe they cut a symbolic living space downwards and upwards. That is precisely what farmers do in practice when they cultivate a bed for the growing downwards. On the other hand they protect the upper living space as far as the chemicals allow today.
We know the ritual "to cut out" a living space from late spring ritual as well as when cutting land. In early Middle Age they allowed the new farmer to claim as much land as he could cut out by throwing his sickle over a bit of the common land. The spring ritual was to shoot over the land and older men meant that if it were for real it should be with a bow. The ritual boats with the balta upwards are perhaps on the same theme.
They parted the double axe in two baltas in early Bronze Age in Scandinavia.
The word balta has its root in "domination". The kidney-shape covers around one fourth of a circle and may symbolise a quarter. Under that era we see the suite of settlement contend a warner and a defender probably to show that they protected the claim as a manifestation. We do of course these things also today. For an example Americans love soldier figures from the comic opera in their suites of different kind.
The passage graves became temples of Netherworld and manifestations of the mysterious life, which is normally out of, reach because we are living on the earth. They had of course to analyse the entire circulation in the living space and season. They had to understand and to use and live in harmony with it up to the best of their knowledge. I am really not sure that mankind in common know more today about to be in "the circulation" than in those days.
In different texts we read about Skeaf and in later texts as father of Skauld the ur-father of Danes. Yet this is a normal myth about origin. It is the same as about Horus, Moses and others based on the myth that they send away a little child. From the Sumerians to the Anglo Saxon chronicle and Edda era they also added sacred ideas to their origin. That is of course right because we are also our myths in a pan-human way.
On these figures we have perhaps the symbols for rising of Skeaf in the same way as in Egypt.
They set it to "half" and about a month later they raised it to stand full. The cut is from Torshamn Blekinge and we find more poles in the area as well as in other parts of Scandinavia.
This is from V. Tollestad Austergautland and is just a pole on a ship.
Mostly we see the pole about the middle of ships. In southern Sweden is also some pole with a crossbar and sometimes in the stem, thus it may be a Minoan ship as seen on the Faistos disk.
This pole may be that we see on one side of the square used to decide Ramadan and this is from Kyrkstigen Bohuslaen
This is perhaps on the same theme and of the same kind as the astro-square from Stonehenge.
The Maypole is not easy to generalize. On the same theme are several symbols as the Tree of Life seen early at Malta and later in Babylonia. On Sumerian seals we see a Twig and on Laukeberget are a spruce and a bundle of twigs. One place-name Viskinge near my home at Zealand means a bundle of twigs. The suffix -INGE is surely from Bronze Age if not earlier. In Denmark, Rhineland and Southern England are many names of old Celtic origin. They are on the same theme about the ideas of farming rituals.
In Europe summer rituals differs between the countries and within provinces. In Sweden it is odd as we today sometimes call the Midsummer pole Maypole as we normally raise a pole at Midsummer. We have a fire at first of May. Danes have more original rituals with Little Hans in the beginning of May and they have a fire at Midsummer.
We may connect the fires with the custom to burn up old leaves and spread the ashes in spring as start of the season. Another use of controlled fire was in burn-beating with different customs also there, but they did definitely not have big open fires in summer when a free fire easily starts.
Surely the idea of a pole comes from Egypt. In our carvings they picture it as a pole or a footprint with an askew-stroke. The symbol we may call Skeaf.
Skeaf is the same word as "askew" and the original is the djed-pillar, a symbol of resurrection. It was a pillar with four crossbars, which probably symbolise four steps of arising or correspond to the starry constellations in spring. Normally we see it as an askew votive pillar.
However the rites were that a bigger pillar was set up as reminder of Osirisī return as beginning of growing season.
Normally he is painted green or blue because he is in the Underworld. They made a guise of Osiris and carried on the works and festivities for about a month. Then the pharaoh with help of Isis raises the djed-pillar as sign of growing as we see it in the temple of Sethos I. Compare also it with Christianity and Ascension Day.
The entire symbolism was used in other connections where resurrection had to be pictured. That counts also for the hope of resurrection of man.