In approximately 8491 BCE, the vernal equinox was aligned with Castor and Pollux the two (heads) stars of Gemini. By 6315 the sun at the vernal equinox was alligned with Capella and Betelgeuse/Rigel, all three stars too far off the eliptic to be occluded. From 3200 to 2900 BCE the story changed. During these years, the sun completely occlued Aldebaran in Taurus at the vernal equinox and occluded Antares in Scorpius at the autumnal equinox. Near the summer solstice it occulded Regulus in Leo, a star that is exactly on the ecliptic. By 2688, the equinox had slipped so that the Pleiades were the only stars to be occluded at the vernal equinox. By 1963 BCE the equinox had slipped into the darkness of the bull's body, and the autumnal equinox lay between the longer claws of the scorpion. Years later, Julius Caesar would create the two new constellations of Aries and Libra out of the bull and the scorpion as the sun occluded Spica at the autumnal equinox. By then, the stars were meaningless, yet the studies of astonomers at Alexandria around Christ would freeze the astrological signs so that Aries would forever dominate the vernal equinox. In 2003 we are at 5 degrees Pisces. We will enter the Aquarian Age in 2389, in time for Star Trek.
Recent work on Stonehenge has determinded that most of the work that could be called astronomical was completed from 2950 to 2400 BCE.(1) From 2500 to 1600 the site was "monumentalized" wherein the bluestones, sarcens and trilithons did not add to the function of the site, but made it grander and more permanent. Contemporary with this building, Zozer in Saqqara was built in 2650, and Khufu in Giza in 2350. In Peru, the temple complexes on the central coast were built in 2600. The palaces of Mesopotamia were built in 2500. Newgrange in Ireland was built in 3000. There are estimated to be more than 9,000 stone circles all over Britain and Brittany dating from this time.(2) Many of these stone works have in common some kind of astronomical alignment.
By no means is Stonehenge unique. Yet the monument does tell an interesting story in a clearer way than most other monuments. In 3000 BC waves of farmers invaded the British Isles. Called the Windmill Hill People, they were a gentle, peaceful folk who were pastoral and semi-nomadic. They spent time in hilltop enclosures, buried their dead in collective burials in long barrows and minded flint. They and the mesolithic Maglemoseans who were native at the time, traded heavily and gathered in stone and wooden circles for festivals, trading, and other social activities. There is no evidence of sacrifice or rituals other than fertility festivals involving bonfires and dancing.(3)
About 2000 BC the Bronze Age Beaker People invaded the British Isles. They were well organized, powerful, warlike, and in 300 years had consolidated and oppressed the Windmill Hill People. Stonehenge became taboo and many single, wealthy round graves were built in its vicinity. Many of the old stone circles became places of sacrifice and elaborate burials. Much of the previous work at Stonehenge was "revamped" and people were brought from the Mediterranean to organize work on the monument that would create a stonework on a grand scale without wiping out the astronomical functions of the old site which consisted of mainly the Aubrey holes and a few alignment stones.
I do not believe that any of these peoples of the Paleolithic or the Mesolithic lived in isolation. The amateur work of Thor Heyerdahl and hundreds of more professional archeologists have proven that people of the entire ancient world communicated with each other, even the Americas. It is my contention that from at least as early as 3000 BC until 1600 BC, people all over the world were fascinated with the night sky. From 1900 to 1600 a shift occured from the night to the day, from the lunar to the solar, from the stars to the seasons. I also think that this change was due to some accidents of nature and led to a major social revolution that affects us even today.
The British did not live in isolation from the rest of Europe. The fall of the Middle Kingdom, the fall of Babylon, fall of Crete and the rise of the Hittites and Mycenaean Greeks all occured at the same time as work on Stonehenge was abandoned. The Celts did not arrive until 1000 BC at the earliest. A Britain is no more a Celt than an Anglo-Saxon or a Dane or a Roman. There is clear evidence that the oldest civilizations inherited and carried over much of what was in the natives that they absorbed. The civilizations who inherited or kept the legacy of the past from more modern "created" societies are marked by several factors. By this, we know that the Celts were merely the overseers of a much more ancient society that had much in common with Crete, Sumer and Egypt. Yet even these empires had built upon earlier races such as the Windmill Hill People.
Stonehenge and other monuments were not built or used for agricultural time keeping. Even today, there is a body of folklore used by farmers and most of it is based on observable facts in the natural world, not the cosmic world. The cosmic world is an unreliable guide to agricultural events. Not in a gross sense, but as a guide for planting, harvesting or guiding herds to new grazing. This is because of the wide variation from year to year in local weather and in decade to decade of local gliches in climate. It is more reliable to judge when to plant by the arrival of a certain bird or the emergence of an animal from hibernation. Farmers learn to tell weather from year to year and plant and harvest using their built up knowledge of their local natural phenomena. Cosmic events are of little use to them except as very gross indicators of the change of season. Tasha Tudor used to say that she could tell the exact night it would freeze just because she went barefoot. Knowing a freeze is much more important to the farmer than knowing the date of the autumnal equinox.
To say that Stonehenge was built as this kind of calendar is useless and rather ludricrous. It is just as ludricrous for studiers of esoteria such as Robert Graves to claim that the Celts began their calendar on November 1st because they followed a pastoral calendar and the animals were herded to high grazing on Beltaine (May 1) and gathered in on Samhain (Nov 1). Although the Egyptians celebrated the arrival of the new year with the flooding of the Nile, the Nile floods anywhere from June to September depending on the tropical rains in the high country. It also does not flood all at once, but the flood creeps north little by little thus making it silly for the entire two kingdoms to celebrate a new year with the flooding of the Nile.
No, just as today, every calendar on the earth has been used, not for agricultural ends, but for political. Stonehenge is no exception. Just as our calendar begins on the arbitrary date of January 1st some days after the winter solstice, the year began on a date in 2000 BC that was determined by a religio-political machine that was, by that time, hundreds of years old. The Beaker People did not throw out this machine, they just took it over and made it better as the rocks of Stonehenge tell us.
The mytholographer, Joseph Campbell, explains much of this story in his book, The Masks of God: Primitive Mythology published in 1968 several years after his book on the hero's journey. In their work on Celtic mythology, the Rees's prove that Ireland and Wales and Brittany were part of this same structure. Campbell's observations is basically this, that the nature of the gods emerged as a natural part of human social development. A hunter-gatherer society starts with a shaman and "primitive" societies were often structured along the lines of a wind god and a fire goddess among the pantheon of natural forces accessed by a medium or a wizard/shaman whose job was to bring luck to the tribe and settle disputes and cure people of ills.
At some point, human populations grew until pressure on resources caused them to invent "agriculture". Agriculture did not happen immediately, but over a long period. It evolved from "managed" herds like the Lapplanders reindeer and assisting local crops to take over areas visited by the nomadic tribe every year by burning or planting. Over many hundreds of years the group became more and more stationary until they were confined to a territory and dependent upon the local land for sustenence. They then were extremely vulnerable to local problems such a famine, weather variations and maruders. The shaman needed help and developed twofold into a protective force and a directive mandate. The individualistic intercessions with the spiritual world became a socialized pageant demanding the participance of the entire group. Out of this society came a four-fold caste system that exists everywhere in the world today.
This caste system was loosely in position among the Windmill Hill People. It was not until the invasion of the Beaker People that we get the modern system that adds a super strata to the four-fold caste, that of the god/king. This "law of fives" predominates throughout the ancient world of myth and art until little is seen that is not touched by it. Again, Stonehenge is a living monument to this development.
The law of fives is created after the agricultural society is successfully invaded. The super caste is drawn from the four, is separate, but a part. More often than not, these "kings" are holy, either gods or descended from gods. A truce is drawn between the castes wherein constraints are set upon the kings in order that they can be successful parasites and not ruin their hosts. In almost every occasion, the priest caste comes up with the strategy or the solution, the warrior caste enforces and backs it, the farmers finance it, and the serfs do the work and provide the sacrifical material. This group pattern is seen in almost every human endeavor, from ruling nations to a "team" in a corporation, even in a family.
The problem that the calendar solved was not agricultural. It was a way to limit the tenure and power of the invaders or now god-kings while at the same time setting them apart and creating a story to justify their rule. The priests had to give the kings something in return for their control over their power. Socially, the warriors had to have a way both to control the masses and get money from their taxpayers, but also a way out in case the ruling family(ies) became abusive or the situation needed a scapegoat. Over and over, history is dominated by the struggle to control the power of kings. History is also about controlling wealth and inventing gizmos, but the center stage is dominated by the current god-king story and the struggles they undergo.
Ever since their invention, constellations have told the story of the current god-king. Astrology's sole purpose was to predict the doings of the god-king. From 3000 BC onwards, almost the entire history of man is involved in the story of the god-king. Writing may have been invented in order to track and collect taxes, but the stories are all about the god-king. Name him Re, Marduk, Minos or Sargon, history is a story of his birth, his adventures, (usually his triumph over the previous reigning powers) and his death. Again, Stonehenge is no exception. We have no written record of the god-kings who ruled the Beaker People, but pieces of the stories survive. What we can piece together is the calendar that hemmed in his reign with the inflexible mandate of the cosmic dance. Yet, as I said before, this dance was already in place. The Beaker People merely made a magnificent stone monument to it just as their counterparts in the south had done.
Part of the story of the agricultural society is a religious pageant that Campbell calls "the Ritual Love-Death"(4) and Frazer calls "the Scapegoat King"(5). A woman would be called upon out of the society to become the goddess of the earth. Her consort would then be the seed and their union would bring fertility to the land. In almost every society, this couple would be the best of the best and would have to die to appease an angry group of gods. People under stress had to have a scapegoat or a sacrifice. Electing a sacrifice was a way of channeling the luck of the wayward earth and venting the pent up oppression of a people who were living on the edge of disaster. No longer could your shaman just ward off the bad magic affecting your tribe: the gods demanded more. They demanded payment. Just as nature demanded death in order to regenerate, the gods demanded death to increase the fertility of the people.
It may seem incredible to us that such pains would be taken to prepare this pageant, yet all over the world monuments still exist to this very same pagent from the Roman Catholic Church to the Hindu temples. To disregard Stonehenge and other ancient monuments is to disregard the incredible numbers of churches in the modern world. Humanity's quest to understand and celebrate and fear the nature of god is universal.
So what was the story of Stonehenge? What was the calendar?
Here are the questions which must first be answered:
These questions may seem obvious to you. Yet, even in these modern times, calendars are not the same. The day can be sunrise to sunrise. It can be midnight to midnight. It can be sunset to sunset. A week can be seven days or nine days or even ten. A month can be a lunar month, a sideral month, a synodic month, or a month of even odder proportions such as what we use today. A year can be a lunar year with added days to correspond to the solar year. It can be a floating year. It can be a lunar year with an added month here and there to make up a metonic cycle (19 years). It can be a solar year. It can be a sideral year. The year can begin anywhere. Summer to summer. Spring to spring. Or merely 12 lunar months. Equinox to equinox. Easter to Easter. Pick a day and then write a story to justify that day. Any story will do. People are used to interlapping years, such as their birth anniversary and the school year and the agricultural year and the return of the seasons year--all celebrated simultaneously with the calendar year and the tax year and the corporate year--well, you get the point. And we won't even concern ourselves with the number of the year, whether it is the Year of the Dragon or the 17 Year of Ramses II or 2003 or 5763 or 1423 or 3029.
Here is a picture of the night sky as seen from the location of Avebury about 1987 BC. This picture was taken in the autumn near midnight. This is a typical night marker for a year. It can be a siderial year with Arcturus being directly north of Draco. It could be a lunar year with the full moon "between the horns" of Taurus or conjunct with Aldebaran.
There are several reasons why this would work, yet I don't think it was the marker. Before I go into my reasons, let me show you Stonehenge. This program is called Stargazer. It is a wonderful program. Not only can you see the night sky from anywhere on earth, it will precess. I am going to show you night skies around the time of the height of Stonehenge to show you why it fell into disuse as a calendar.
As you can see, Stonehenge begins to serve its function when the moon passes into alignment with the viewing points in the NE, with Jupiter and Mars in an interesting conjunction, yet I will demonstrate that this is still not an optimal alignment. But first I must go into some detail about calendars and the culture behind this particular calendar.
In Gaelic, south (e, ei, or deisceart) is to the right and is clockwise. North (u, ua, or tuaisceart) is left, perverse, or counter-clockwise. West (i, ia, or iarthar) is also back, and east (o, oi, or oirthear) is front. Raphael is represented by the eagle or serpent, and by Mercury or Thoth. Uriel can also be replaced in some systems by Madmiel or Mars and is the Bull. Michael corresponds to the Lion and the Sun. Gabriel has his hounds, but is also associated with the Moon and Fish. For some reason, (probably because I had tried everything else), I wondered if this Irish saying corresponded to directions. Immediately, one sees that if one faces East, south is right, and left is north.
Another "old wives' tales" names the direction-finding stars. Formalhaut as the southern fish, Regulus as the northern lion, Aldebaran as the eastern bull and Antares as the western snake. The cultures to the East made the seasons around these animals according to which was in mid-heaven or eclipsed by the sun. Even today, astronomy books (not astrology books) use these stars as seasonal markers. Regulus heralds the coming of spring when it is mid-heaven in winter, Antares the coming of summer, Formahaut the coming of autumn and Aldebaran of winter. It is also worth noting that Antares and Aldebaran are the only stars on the ecliptic that are 180 degrees or 12 hours apart. So let us apply the stars to the Saints and try our directions again. No matter which way and in what season, the rhyme does not work. If one faces Aldebaran and Antares is at the back (easy enough) then Regulus is hidden in the north and Formalhaut is to the south, yet Regulus is supposed to be on my right hand, to the south and Formalhaut to the north on my left. During the opposite side of the year, Regulus is on my right, yet it is in the south and I am facing Aldebaran to the west.
Recall if you will, the Tarot. In the Tarot we have Swords (air) "wind at our back", Disks (earth) "land before us", Wands (fire) "inspiration in the right hand", and Cups (water) "waters of oblivion at our left". The major arcana has already been tagged to numerals, with the number 13 being Death and the strangest card, the Hanged Man, as card number thirteen labeled as twelve. The letter Crowley assigns to this card is "M". This card is much misunderstood by those not steeped in folklore. In the previous card, the Queen of Desire binds the Lion of summer. In many, many sacred twin king stories, the turning of the year is marked by the killing of the king. And he is bound, crucified, confined in the trunk of a tree, or hanged. And Crowley, seven months later at the vernal equinox, places the letter "R" on the Sun card.
If our king is hanged upside down, or crucified upside down at the atumnal equinox, suddenly Regulus, the staff, the ruler, the lion, the king, the Archangel who is the right hand of God, is on to his right. The door has opened. If we place the time after sunset with Mercury in Scorpio and Mars rising in Taurus, then the new moon of 17 days will be in a direct line with Formalhaut in Aquarius, the water bearer. To the Celts, a new year's luck was determined by the phase of the moon at Samhain. A new moon was very lucky. A waxing moon was magical, a waning moon was unlucky, and a dark moon spelled blackness for the new year. So, it would seem natural that the Celts, and those Celtic peoples who preceded them would be keen on trying to start the reign of a new king on a fortuitous date. Now, one can play these correspondence games to make almost anything fit; this just happens to be my guess.
If the people who preceded the Celts began their year with the killing of a solar king, this time would fit for almost two thousand years until it began to drift off the equinox. They could ignore equitorial precession and still fit the conditions of Aldebaran and Mars to the front of me, Antares and Mercury to my back, Formalhaut and the Moon to my left, and Regulus and the Sun to my right, out of sight. It also is convenient that the king's feet walk on the star Deneb, in the Milky Way, one of the year-round visible stars in the swan constellation. For this timing to work, the king would serve a term of 19 years (a metonic cycle) and 13 years to make 32 years to keep Mars conjunct with Aldebaran. I decided that this kind of arrangement of STARS would be much more in accordance to the minds of the ancients, let alone to the minds of those who took the trouble to construct an observatory like Stonehenge.
Let's assemble the facts based on what we do know.
1. Egypt and Babylon began their days with the setting sun. So did the Celts.
2. Rome announced a month's beginning when the priests sighted the new moon. They then called it out (calends). Jews and Muslims still begin their months with the first sighting of the new moon. The Celts were said by Pliny to begin their month, and year with the sixth day of the moon, but folkore has beginning on the 17th day counting from the full.
3. Egypt began their year in the Autumn. Ethiopia begins their year about September 11. Babylon began their year in the late spring, but it was a commercial year beginning two weeks into the barley harvest. They separated the year into two halves and began "winter" In late November. The Jews have four years. Year of the World (in Sept-Oct), Year of the Kings (Mar-Apr), Year of Animal Tithes (Nov), and the Year of Trees (Jan). Their year begins with Rosh Hasanah, sometime in Sept-Oct. Egypt began their year with the sighting of Sirius in Sirius at dawn in November. The Celts began their year about November 1.
4. Purification and purging months usually fall just before a new year, either an annual year or a semi-annual year. Traditionally, these months are February, October and May.
5. All ancient cultures had days or a month to add to make a lunar/solar calendar or separated their time counting into official time (solar) or religious time (lunar).
From this comparison, you can see the similarity between the modern Jewish months and the ancient Babylonian. When the Jews returned from Babylon, the purged many of the customs picked up there, but kept this calendar. Note the difference in the months. This is explained by the Jews beginning their calendar with the "winter" season and the Babylonians beginning it with the first accounting of the barley harvest.(6)
In his book, The White Goddess Robert Graves makes a comparison between the Ogam tree alphabet and the months of the year. It was so attractive that most of the Celtic/Wiccan world has adopted his theories. The standard Ogam runes were "flights" of five which Graves ties to Druidic finger signing. Going with the theory that the Celts did not invent a calendar, but used one in existence, and going with the theory that the "flights" of fives were yet another variation of the caste system and not just a finger code, let us look at the Ogam alphabet.
Later Celtic lore had three flights of trees: chieftain trees, peasant trees and shrub trees.(7) They were: dair, coll, cuilean, ibur, iundius, ochtach, aball in the first flight; fernn, sail, sceith, caerthann, beithe, leam, idha in the second; and draidean, trom, fincoll, creitach, caithne, feornus, crann-fir in the third. This translation includes eight bramble trees as well: raith, rait, aiteand, dris, fraech, eideand, gilcoch, spin. Another translation has chieftain trees: fearn, dur, coll, muin, gort, straif, onn, or; peasant trees: beithi, luis, sail, nin, huath, tinne, quert, .i.; and the shrubs are not listed.(8) The first is Brehon law and probably has to do with use and fines attached to use of these trees since they are: oak, hazel, holly, yew, ash, fir and apple--all high use trees. The second flight is alder, willow, thorn, rowan, birch, pine, and aspen, also useful but not as valuable. Another interpretation would sugest that a certain level of caste could use the chieftain trees or own them and a lower class could use the peasant trees.
But the second translation has for the chief trees: alder, oak, hazel, vine, ivy, blackthorn, furze and heath and for the second: birch, rowan, willow, ash, whitethorn, whin, apple and yew. And this is so different from the first as to appear eccentric. The first selection is based on sevens and the second on eights. The flights of fives also have some variable interpretations. Here is one: birch, rowan, ash, alder, willow; hawthorn, oak, holly, hazel, apple; vine, ivy, rush, blackthorn, elder, fir, furze, heath, aspen, yew.
So, if the month of the Solar king's death is Muin, or the month of a vining plant, then the king is bound, and by the time we get to the first letter in Graves's calendar, Beith, or the birch month, we are somewhere just after the winter solstice, which Graves took every pain to place his calendar of tree/letters. Antares rules the month of the summer solstice when the sun begins to die and the twins rule the winter solstice. If the year begins with the first letter in the Ogham alphabet, Birch, then the Oak king is represented by Sirius, like the Shining God Heimdall which heralds the return of the sun, and the Tanist month is ruled by Regulus. Or, the letter "R" can rule the vernal equinox as the letter of the returning sun in the star Regulus, Antares can spell out the old kings Bran who was replaced by Ogma, the Pleiades can rule the cleansing month that the later Celts named "Edrinios" or "arbitration time" and Aldebaran can be the Oak King who is killed and the Hunter, or Rigel spells the tanist letter "T" or tau, the ending. "M" is then placed at mid-heaven during the month of the winter solstice when the twin kings are on the horizon as Castor and Pollux. If our king is bound looking up at Aldebaran at midheaven, with Antares at his back, his head is pointed south with Regulus at his right and Formalhaut to his left.
Yet there is not much to support that the months were named after the trees. Years might have been. Yet, the idea that thirteen consonants and thirteen stars and thirteen months and thirteen years is very attractive. Better yet is the mystery month number 14, which must fall every so often in the lunar calendar to keep the year in line with the sun. If Muin is the month of the equinox, then the Pleiades may rule the mystery month which Graves against all linguistic logic insists is "Quert" for apple. We may never know what names that the Celts and proto-Celts gave to these stars, yet my contention is that they did not "borrow" some bastard form of zodiac calendar from Babylon, but from an earlier people, or adapted something from earlier peoples, or most likely, the ideas flew back and forth between Britian and the Middle East until everyone was excited.
In this chart, I have set aside Graves' intrepretation and done one according to a best match phonetically with the Babylonian. Graves interpretation of the Ogam is that Oak is the king tree and Holly is the tannist tree, to match the Osiris/Set myth of the light and dark kings. I have always had a problem with these two letters being together. They should be opposite, one ruling the light and the other the dark, whether the myth is lunar driven or solar driven.
Yet the change in dates, makes for a shift in Grave's calendar as well from his theory that the year begins with Beith at the winter solstice.
The Celts did not have two seasons, but five. The flight of five could be the seasons, with the four attributes contributing to each season: warriors, priests, farmers and serfs. From Celtic lore, we get corresponding attributes to these four castes, which ties them into the four suits of cards or Tarot suits.
The above map shows the Ogam laid out in sets of five fours with the warriors at the top (north) the priests to the west, the farmers to the east, and the serfs to the south. I have matched up some stars to this alphabet.
This table shows the heliacal rising after solar occlusion of the major stars. As you move to the north, some stars never set. At 51 degrees north, Canopus, Hadar and Formalhaut are invisible and Arcturus, Vega and Deneb never set. This would throw a little challenge into the building of the henges if they were merely copying work done at Sumer and Memphis. Yet, as you can see, there is a lose correspondence between months and rising times of stars.
Because there are only 13-14 consonants in Celtic languages, and five vowels, the five "holy" days to make the calendar lunar/solar (adapted by the Egyptians) could be represented by vowels and the other three castes have their own month. Then we still only get twelve, with a thirteenth month at odd intervals by some calendars. According to lore, Z and Q are not letters, but borrowed sounds, and N and F fight for the same month. This is mythologically represented by the Alder cults being superceded by the Ash cults. Thus if N is a late letter, we have 12 consonants: B L F H S D C T M G NG and R. In Brythonic, the "C" of Godeilic is replaced by "P", but P, Q, W, and C are all interchangeable. Thus we could have B L F H S D Q/P/C/W M T G Ng R and still have twelve letters.
Using henges for star sightings is not unique. In North America, at the same latitude as Avebury, the Lakota built hundreds of Medicine Wheels which were aligned to watch the heliacal risings of Aldebaran, Rigel and Sirius in the summer. (9) It would seem from Egypt to Alberta that stars were sighted at dawn at their first appearance even if the month began at dusk at the first sighting of the new moon. The commonality here is first sighting after conjunction with the sun.
Again, we return to the Celtic number of beginnings: seventeen. Counting from the full, it is the first visible new moon. Yet it is also the number of the twelve months and the five days. Yet, for the ancients aside from the Egyptians, the number of days in a month was not a constant. Neither was a week. There were no legal weeks or legal days off. A day off was a sabbath or a holy day, determined by the priests. Yet the word "sabbath" merely means seven, and to what day of the week was the seventh day of rest is still hotly debated among religions. The number seven predominates in the Middle East. Yet the number nine was of more importance to the Celts as well as the number three. We could play with numbers for a very long time, but the signifigance of seven is that it is in the seventh month that the year changed for the Babylonians. Either one had the year of the world begin with Tashritu and in the seventh month the year of kings would begin or one could begin the king's year in Nisanu and in the seventh month the year of the world would begin. Seven is the number of the tannist, or Set or it is the number of Minos, depending on where you begin.
Because of the influence of other cultures, I will hazzard to guess that the henge makers ended their year in the autumn with a harvest festival on the first new moon before the harvest moon. To this day, the festival of Lughnasa is kept in some parts of the Celtic world where the bright god is celebrated with games and gatherings. The Romans had no success in altering this festival, preferring instead to dedicate it to Augustus. In Ireland, the month of August is still called Lughnasa. Lugh or Llew is connected to Sirius and Regulus, and his festival lies with the heliacal observations of those stars. This was the grain harvest. Then came the nut harvest and the apple harvest and the berry/grape harvest. By the end of October, the harvests would be in and the festivals would end with the new year tasting of the first fruits (wine and beers) that began on the first new moon after the harvest moon. Another star event marked this festival. Antares vanishes about the same time that Sirius appears. It appears again in a couple of months at Samhain. All over the ancient world there was no star more unlucky or evil than Antares, the star of Set who kills Osiris, and battles his son Horus. Even as late as the Greeks, Scorpius and Orion were still battling it out.
Yet this was a small year, a solar year. There were other markers of time that were well known to the makers of Stonehenge due to the number of the Aubrey holes being 56, the nearest whole number of a metonic cycle of 18.61 years. Why care about the metonic cycle? Here is why.
Here is a full lunar eclipse that I call the "red eye of the bull". Here is another one 36 years later.
I have laid out the sight lines so that you may see how even when the full lunar eclipse is in different quadrants, it is still sighted with the old henge.
But this is not the interesting part. Here is what happened on those years exactly 15 days after the full lunar eclipse in Aldebaran.
Or at sunset:
And, again in 1952:
These impressive total solar eclipses were what I call "the black sun", swallowed by Antares, the notorious star of the dark kings of winter. This might be enough reason for the most plegmatic of ancient astronomers to get excited! And if this astonomer was giving a reason for the priestly class to curb the powers of the king, this two cosmic events would be enough to put him on the block, or hang him up, as we shall see.
Among the Celts, this event was in the month of Samhain, a word related to words for rest, tranquility, visions, fanciful, and unreal. In Catholic countries, the first day of this month is still called "The Day of the Dead" after the night in which the spirits were set loose by the turning of the year. If approximately every 19 years this date were tied to a total solar eclipse, it would be a serious marker for an age. The Romans recognized that the Celts began a day, began a month, began a year and began and age all with the first sighting of the new moon. The only age celebrated in the ancient world was a tenure of a king.
Two more questions need to be answered. Was this a regular and predictable event? What were the warning signs that precluded it if it was not predictable by exactly 19 years?
Two event soccured in the 18th century BCE that made changed the world. For the first time in memory, Sirius and Antares stopped appearing in the sky together due to the shift of the pole. Up until this time at latitude 51 degrees north, they had appeared for a very short time during their overlapping visibility. The second event that occurred was that several metonic cycles went by without visible eclipses, in the 1760's and in the 1720's. In 1802 there was a solar eclipse visible at 15:00 on November 7. Another was visible in 1746 on October 19 at 09:00. And then the next occured in 1708 on October 18 and 1688, closer to the metonic 56 year cycle. For 300 years, eclipses were visible on regular intervals at Avebury. And then, the cycle was interrupted, a serious event for someone relying on cosmic backup to their politics. The priests lost credibility and Stonehenge was abandoned.
Although eclipses occur in regular intervals, they do no appear regular as seen from one spot on Earth as an observation point. This age was two milennia before the perfection of the Pythagoreans with their spheres. I believe that part of this problem led to the creation of astrologers since there was enough unpredictablity that a school was needed to study the events and try to decifer the movements of the stars.
In the next charts I have used Stargazer to chart the lunar and solar eclipses for over 100 years. I have used red highlights for the autumnal/vernal eclipses and blue for the solstice eclipses. This makes for two distinct patterns of "ages". Because of the variability of the weather in the British Isles, we must consider the best viewing time. Although summer might be good weather, the sun would prevent any more than two hours of good viewing. Spring is much too volitile with the chances of clouds making viewing impossible rather too good. Winter as well. Like the Pacific Coast at the same latitude, the ocean delays the weather, so that often weather in October is much better in Vancouver and the British Isles than in June. This (silly) or practical consideration makes me think that the red highlighted dates would have been more important than the solstice eclipses.
Yet, we must consider predictability. If solstice eclipses could be viewed, this would preceed the round of autumnal eclipes and create a pattern for the observer. The other thing to note is that I have only highlighted dates that have several eclipses in a row, not the loan, freak eclipse without anything to preceed it. Although the viewers would have been looking for eclipses and could have warned everyone that a total solar eclipse was possible, it would have been more effective to have a string of eclipses to lead up to a grand event. Remember that these people were also going for a dramatic statement, a dance of the cosmos that they would seem to direct.
As you can see a pattern emerges. I believe that it is this pattern that dictated to these people both a year pattern and a month pattern. Hawkins determined that the Aubrey holes, numbering 56, were used to predict eclipses because they were the closest whole number of a Metonic cycle of 18.61 years. Yet, as you can see from the charts, another number comes forward, that of 28, half of 56 and the number of the days of the moon's orbit. If the cosmos is determining the life of a king, be he solar or lunar, being born on year 1, coming into power on year 19, and then dying in year 28, would be a very logical and dramatic reign. One could even use the blue dates to make the cycle conform to the Sirius/Antares polarity.
What would be even more dramatic would be the rule of two kings, perhaps with different functions (sun/moon) and their sister consorts for the rule of four. This would be congruent with Egyptian mythology with the addition of a fifth loner or child. It would also be congruent with the socialistic nature observed in the pre-Beaker society of Wessex. The following is a chart of the 28 year cycle of the king who resembles Set, or the Autumn King.
I have added the blue highlight to show you a pattern consistent with mythology closer to us. If it was so that two kings alternated reigns, then one king would be born on his own cycle, but would die on the opposite's cycle, making for a death at 32 or 33 years. Here is the cycle of the Winter King.
So it becomes clear that this is a viable calendar with a drama and a story line to keep up for any society. The Winter King ascends to the throne when the Autumn King is still but 14 or 15 years of age. Then the Autum king ascends when the Winter King is about 24 or 25 and the two rule together for 9 years until the Autumn King succeeds in casting down the Winter King only to be killed himself by the son of the Winter King 4 or 5 years later. If the king has a son in his 19th year instead of in his 28th, this son would be 14 when he kills the Autumn King. The story begins to sound like our Arthur stories.
The story matches cosmic events as well. Sirius rises a couple of weeks before Antares sets. Sirius stands alone for about three months, then Antares rises again and they rule together until the spring when Sirius sets and leaves Antares to rule alone. If the Autumn King is killed at the set of Antares and the Winter King is killed at the setting of Sirius, their lives match the cosmic dance. The pattern of solar and lunar eclipses allows for the Egyptian cycle of Osiris/Lunar king and Set/Solar king and Horus/Solar son of Osiris, but mothered by both Isis (solar queen, wife of Osiris) and Nephethys (lunar queen, wife of Set who slept with Osiris). With the 33 year cycle and the death of the Winter born king in spring, the story begins to take on more familiarity as the story of Jesus of the Christians, who, according to Frazer, was modelled closely on Adonis.
But, back to the years and the months:
As you can see, the dates between lunar eclipses are usually 29. The precession between age years is variable, but begins with 355 days. Then a month is added, but due to the visibility problem, sometimes the years are not right on or the months right on. Looking back at our calendar, the year is about 355 days for 3 years and then a month is added to put the calendar close to the solar. Thus a year begin on Oct 25, then Oct 15, then Oct 5 then Sept 25 or add one month to get back to Oct 24.
But a 355 day calendar is a lunar calendar of 27 and 28 days. 9 months of 27 days and 4 months of 28 days, with an additional 28 day month, or 27 day months with holidays of 4 and 5, depending on the year. This calendar is a lunar orbit calendar, not a lunar new moon to new moon calendar which would be 29/30 days, but still be short every year. The cleaner calendar is the 29 day calendar with holidays and a month every three years or so. The 27 day calendar is 13/14 months, the 29 day calendar is 12/13 months. Either one would work for what we know of the children of the Wessex people: the Celts. Graves gave them a 13/14 month calendar. The Babylonians were entranced with 4, 7, and 12, but few people before them were. I suspect that the "year" was not 12 months, but seasonally oriented.
For Sirius, you may also read Orion, since the two are linked all through mythology and both fight with the scorpion. This chart shows the major stellar events of the year. If Antares was the season of winter, Sirius of later summer, then we lack a season on the spring side. The fall could belong the Spica and the early summer to the Pleiades (doves) and the winter to Deneb or Altair, both birds. There are many ways to play with this; my only wish is in dispelling the 12 month uneven days, 1, 2, 3 calendar with which we are still burdened.
By this map, there could easily have been six sections to the year with the addition of Algol, which is the eye of Medusa, or the "evil eye" and associated with all the queens of the dead.(10) Ancient peoples paired their gods, sun/moon, female/male, etc., establishing the dual nature of all things that carries through today in Eastern religions, although Western religions have condemned one half to evil by virtue of the dark/light dychotomy that began with the rejection of Babylonian corruption by "purified" religions. Thus we get the Eagle/Dove, Snake/Scorpion, and Bull or Dog/Lion motifs. The three season and five season motifs are equally as valid as the four that we know so well. Since the year was divided into light and dark, the seasons could be divided into light and dark and the three become six.
The week of the Wessex people could have been one of three. It was either 9 days for the three phases of the moon and the triple goddess or a five week calendar of 5 days with holidays in between the weeks. A four week calendar of seven days leaves one short or two depending on the month. Given what I see of their model from grand scale to small scale, I don't think the four week system would have been used. According to researches, the triple goddess came later than the Windmill Hill People, probably even after the Beaker People. A five of five with holy days between the weeks would have worked for 4 and 5 gods along the Egyptian model.
Having two kings would resolve many of the inconsistancies in calendars. If the "world" calendar was ruled by the "world" king, then the other king would come to power in the spring in the month of Nisan. If Graves began his calendar with the birth of the winter king at the winter solstice, we could still consider the winter king to be a "summer" king who was born on the summer solstice and killed in autumn and not in the spring. The autumn king seems to be more consistent, yet his deaths at both the summer solstice or Beltaine (May 1) and at the winter solstice change from culture to culture. Our celebration of Old Man Time and the New Year Baby is an example of this ancient festival.
Division of the year in to three is consistent with the ancients delegating the power over the cosmos to three kings, or in modern terms: Hades, Poseidon and Zeus. The triple goddess is merely a female counterpart to this division, Hecate, Persephone, Demeter, tied to the phases of the moon rather than bands of the sky. There is no reason why there could not be the death and birth of three kings for each season: Autumn (dying at Lammas, Aug 1, or winter solstice), Winter (dying at vernal equinox) and Summer/Beltaine (dying at Samhain).
Consider this. At 51 degrees north, the two southern stars of importance are lost: Formalhaut, a direction star and Capella in Carina, also an indicator of winter. On the chart for Avebury, there is a big hole for the winter season. This could have led to a drop of the fourth season or a shift from four being such an important number over five. Let us look again at three births and three deaths on our nighttime picture of Stonehenge.
Here is the full lunar eclipse above. Birth of a lunar/autumn king, death of a lunar/summer king, or the beginning of a rite culminating with the solar eclipse to follow.
Here is the complimentary lunar eclipse in the spring.
Note that the moon almost occludes Antares and that Sirius and Orion are just about to set. Here is the solar eclipse that occured 15 days before.
Note that Sirius is now visible even though it has set in the night sky. The "magical" reappearance of stars that had set during solar eclipses would have had dire astrological connotations. The ecliped sun lies in the heart of the bull next to Algol in Perseus. Orion follows Aldebarar, just ahead of Sirius, also having set in the night sky. In the lunar eclipse, Sirius/Orion gave way to the red eye of the scorpion in a death of a lunar king, and here, just before, we see the death of a solar king.
Here is the other set of eclipses on the Lammas/Winter Solstice side of the dual king map.
Here, Saturn and Jupiter are conjunct with Antares and the eclipsed moon is conjunct with Regulus.
This sunset eclipse is very dramatic with Orion rising and Venus and Mars conjunt in Pisces. Remember, the chances of seeing this would have been very slight given the weather. But what a sight!
Here, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn have just set. Altair is visible high over the slaughter stone and the moon is ecliped in Aquarius/Pisces.
And here, the eclipsed sun is in Leo with Sirius, Aldebaran, and the stars of Orion ascendant, shining forth just before their heliacal appearance in August. This eclipse would be a dramatic herald of the triumph of the lunar/solar Horus over Set.
Just one more note. Please be aware that this work is always progressing. If you wish to pass on this information to a friend, that is the nature of information. To pass it off on your own may expose you to some ridicule and criticism that you may not want to face since this is all very speculative. I heartily suggest to go get Stargazer and have fun playing with ancient stars.