"This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius," as everyone knows, a new world order is beginning, or has just begun, or will very soon begin. What does this mean, exactly?
Imagine, if you will, a broad ribbon down the centre of the night sky, a broad highway of stars conceptually marked out, arching from horizon to horizon, and now imagine further this broad ribbon of night sky marked off laterally in segments, each segment identified by the constellation of stars in it.
This is the Zodiac, and it is a calendar, basically no different from the January, February, March calendar, or any of the dozens of other calendars in use around the world. The usefulness of the Zodiac, once you know what to look for, is that you do not need to go out and buy a calendar, or own a watch, or do any calculations, or ask anyone anything. All you need do is consult this large cosmic watch ticking away above your head. Constellation so-and-so exactly overhead, or just on the horizon? Aha, it must be month so-and-so.
In addition to being a very handy cosmic watch, marked out in as many months as you like, depending on how big or how small you make the segments, and always coming back to where it started after a year, there is also a second, much, much slower movement, which you will only notice after very long and very, very careful study. Viewed from the earth, the cosmic watch, your broad ribbon of constellations, does not come back exactly to where it was a year ago. It has in fact moved along a bit, about 1/2,000 of a segment, and if you keep watching for many centuries, and keep very accurate records, you will notice that each constellation is slowly but continually shifting over into the segment, the space, occupied by the constellation before it, which is itself, of course, also shifting along, very slowly, into the space occupied by the constellation before that, and so on. The time it takes for each constellation to move over completely into the space formerly occupied by the constellation next to it, about 2,000 years, is known as a Great Year. If you cut up your ribbon into smaller pieces, say 20 instead of twelve, then each month would be shorter, and each Great Year would be shorter. If you used fewer, larger pieces, say 5 or 6 instead of 12, then each month would be longer, and each Great Year also longer than 2,000 years, but in the form in which we know the Zodiac, divided laterally into 12 pieces, each month is about 30 days, and each Great Year about 2,000 years.
This is really even more useful, because, providing you made a careful record of the exact date you started counting, say the reign of a certain king, and exactly where the constellations were then, your cosmic watch can tell you, at a glance, not only which month it is of this year, but also how many blocks of 2,000 years have passed since you started counting, by how many spaces each constellation has moved backwards. The earth's axis, you see, the line from North to South Pole around which the earth spins, is not quite vertical; it's very slightly out of line. This produces a mechanical effect which scientists, with their love of clear and simple explanations, call "the precession of the equinoxes," and it is not really the constellations which are moving slightly, it is really the tilt of the earth which is increasing slightly each year, but for the purposes of making a calendar, we can ignore this as a quibble. Each Great Year is given the name of one of the constellations, the constellation occupying space number one, - what was space number one when you started counting - and so, around this time, the Great Year of Aquarius is beginning, and it will last, like all the others, for about 2,000 years.
The popular story, as it may be studied in any large supermarket in the world around mid December, is as follows: Wise men from the East arrived in Bethlehem, which they had reached by following one particular star, and knew which house to go to because the star stood directly over that house. Unfortunately, unless your entire journey is over a flat, open plain, which Palestine is not, following a star in the literal physical sense will bring you up against a brick wall, or over the edge of a cliff, soon after you start, and, even worse, which house the star is standing directly over depends entirely on where you are standing. Move a few metres to the left or right, and the star is standing over a quite different house. Go out one night and try it. As it stands the story is a monument to human credulity rather than human intelligence.
So what is that little story about, if anything?
The wise men from the East were, everyone agrees, certainly Chaldeans, since the priests of Chaldea, around what is now Iraq, were famous throughout the ancient world for their knowledge of the stars, for the accuracy of their records, and for the sheer length of time they had kept those records. When Abraham passed through one of their great cities, Ur of the Chaldees, they had already been at it for a long time. Following a star probably does not mean clambering over the walls of people’s back gardens and falling into their outhouses in a muddied, breathless, and increasingly hopeless attempt to walk in a straight line behind one particular star, therefore. It means, probably, in the language in which it was originally written, before translation into Greek, then into Latin, and then into English, something like: "They knew exactly when to arrive, and they knew exactly where to go, even to the very house, from their study of the stars."
The Great Year which is just beginning about now is Aquarius, and the Great Year which is just ending, and which began about 2,000 years ago, is the Fish, or the Fishes, Pisces, 1 A.D. to 2,000 A.D. The Great Year before that, around 2,000 B.C. to 1 A.D., was Aries, the Ram, or the Lamb, and the one before that, 4,000 B.C. to 2,000 B.C. was Taurus, the Bull.
Now we come to this strange idea that each Great Year has a kind of history typical to it, and quite different from the history of other Great Years, that each Great Year has a certain world order characterizing it as, one might say, summer and winter have quite different typical events and activities, as do spring and fall. The modern "New Age" Aquarians do not find this idea strange at all, apparently. They simply proclaim that the new age of Aquarius will be one of harmony and understanding, peace and love and cooperation, and leave it at that, without any attempt to explain why the next bit of history should be so different from the last. The Chaldeans, oddly enough, thought much the same thing. How well did the Chaldean calculations work out?
Rather well, actually. Any half competent historian would have no difficulty at all in showing that the single most powerful force in the history of the last 2,000 years was Christianity, and Christianity did, after all, as even nonbelievers would admit, originate from that particular man, born in that place, at that exact time, to whom the Chaldeans came to pay special and peculiar reverence the moment he was born. If you do not have even a half competent historian handy, try for a few moments imagining the history of almost any location on earth without Christianity. Not even remotely the same history, is it?
Early Christians regularly identified themselves by the rough drawing of the Fish, for which the standard explanation is that the Greek (conveniently ignoring the fact that the early Christians spoke Aramaic, not Greek) word for fish, IX0YS, if split into its five letters, makes the initial letters of the Greek phrase, Iesus Xristos Theou Hwion Sauter (Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour), and it may be a new idea to the reader that these early Christians were not playing crossword puzzle games in Greek, as usually suggested, but proclaiming themselves to be "New Age" Pisceans, in exactly the same spirit as "New Age" Aquarians do today. Perhaps even the origin of eating fish on a Friday, (Freya's day, Venus day, love-day) was quite different from what we have been told.
Christianity dominates the Great Year of the Fish and the beginning of Christianity meant the death of the Lamb, the Ram, Aries, hence the phrase “Blood of the Lamb.” Does the legend of the Golden Fleece have a connection here? Red, red gold, and red, red wine, and red, red blood. The Lamb is a domestic animal, and 'Aries' is cognate with 'Ares', god of war, so was the 'typical' history of 2,000 B.C. to 1 A.D. the history of settled agricultural communities, territorial warfare, and the war-dance?
The period 4,000 B.C. to 2,000 B.C. was the Great Year of Taurus the Bull, the horned God, still called by its devotees the old religion, most dramatically illustrated by the bull-headed Minotaur and the bull-dancers of Crete, by Apis the sacred bull in Egypt, by the El Bull of Baal in Palestine, land of the Falastini, the Philistines, and kept alive even today by the eerie, powerful ritual of the bull fight in Spain. When did a massive earthquake and tidal wave destroy completely the great Cretan civilization, which honored the Bull? About 2,000 B.C. (Well, 1600 BC, actually, but this is "fuzzy", user friendly history.) Was the 'typical' history of 4,000 B.C. to 2,000 B.C. perhaps that of nomadic cattle herders, and hunters of wild horned cattle, and the hunting-dance?
There is an ancient tradition that the Zodiac originally had 10 months, later expanded to 12 months by adding two new months to Virgo, the maiden. One of the new months was Scorpio, traditionally called the House of Death, but which has in it the secret of rebirth. The other was Libra, the Scales, traditionally called the House of Friendship, or Reconciliation.
"When dealing with early pre-history," says Cornford in his Introduction to Attic Comedy, "it is useless to ask for documentary proof, which does not exist. A high degree of probability is the best we can hope for." Just so. On the subject of whether the Zodiac originally had 10 months, expanded to 12 by adding the Scorpion and the Scales to the Virgin I have nothing useful to say: I was not there, or if I was I can't remember it, but tingles of recognition start when I hear "A virgin shall conceive and bear a child..., and this child, by his death and resurrection will reconcile God with man, and man with man." Are we all talking about the same thing?
Modesty is not my strongest suit, perhaps, but nevertheless I cannot believe I am the first, or the only person, by a long way, to have noticed the strangely exact correlation between the calendar of the wise men, who knew when and where to search by "following the stars," and the life of the man they sought, whose birth signaled the death of the Lamb, and whose followers, "Fishers of Men," proclaimed a new world order, set against the Homed One, twitching his tail and stamping his cloven hoof.
What have we here, my masters? A conspiracy of silence by the scholars? A further illustration of the principles of Dr Goebbels, that whether a thing is true or not is unimportant, even whether it is clear and obvious nonsense is unimportant; if you just repeat it often enough, everyone will believe it passionately? That I will be the only member of the crowds in the supermarket, come mid December, to notice that which house the star stands over depends on where the observer is standing? Surely not.