The Stellar Observatories of Anieth

Stellar Precession


This image shows a projection of the approximate rise and setting times of the major stars around 3000-2800 BC. This was the time of the building of many observatories on Earth, and other monuments such as the Pyramids at Giza. Most of the work in the British Islands and in Northwestern Europe was in the form of woodhenges. It was interesting for me to observe that all the stellar observatories of Anieth were woodhenges with stonework floors.


A thousand years later, half the stars have moved south in their arcs across the sky, and the other half have moved north, roughly a split in the winter and summer stars: Sirius and that grouping around Orion moving north, and Antares, Spica, and the summer triangle moving south. This has flattened our map. It is interesting to note that in this millennium, Sirius and Rigel both rose and set at the same SW mark. An observatory laid out on a SW/NE alignment such as Stonehenge would have caught these stars, and also Capella and Regulus, Pollux and Castor. Also note that a second position at due West would have marked Procyon, Aldebaran, and the Pleiades.

Here is a map of Stonehenge overlaid onto the stellar rising/setting map. You can see that Sirius has already drifted out of the "king" position, but would still be visible, although higher off the horizon for a slightly earlier viewing, before it set. The drawing of Stonehenge is exaggerated, but the Aubrey posts and viewing stations certainly would have worked with the risings and settings of these stars. The added "magic" of predicting lunar eclipses and marking the solar and lunar shifts make this monument and other round henges like it exceptional observatories, less likely to be ruined by stellar shift than a single marker stone or an image like North observed in the chalk horse of Taurus. (See Calendar page).

The Basic Observatory

This observatory is oriented to the rising of Sirius, the setting of the Pleiades, the setting of Hadar, or the rising of Regulus or setting of Deneb. All over Anieth, there are observatories, usually on islands set in the middle of small lakes. None except An Doras have a maze and the gate. Each of the Nine Nations has an observator oriented to their star as shown below. (See Timelines for more information.) Many of the clans also have private observatories, but all of them are round henges (not oblong) along the five-sided star formation on the ground and the 56 post formation in the circle.

The five sided star formation is because the peoples of Anieth counted five seasons roughly analogous to Winter: 1/10-3/20, Spring: 3/20-6/1, Summer: 6/1-8/20, Harvest: 8/20-11/1, Hallows: 11/1-1/10, or seasons of 72 days each with five holidays. For more information, see the "Calendars" page. The 56 post circle is to mark the metonic cycle of two 19 year cycles and one 18, when the moon and sun are in phase. For instance, the sun and moon might be eclipsed in 5 degrees Gemini in 1900 and are likely to be again in 1956 and close to it in jumps of years of 3, 11, 8, 19 and 18.

You can see from this model, how a star is sited using a great circle ringed by markers. You can also see the drama here of the Bridge of Argeya striking out over the observatory floor along a transit line. I will show you next what an observatory actually looked like. You must understand that the floor would be at one's feet and the stars overhead. This looks at Sirius just clearing the extinction point on the horizon in the East. You have to think of it as being overhead, but you are looking "down" at these images.

Taranhai as a Model

Taranhai is the observatory of the Green Nation, overseen by the Serpent College. This is a sketch of me and my sister, Sceta, walking up the slopes of this mountain. It is the first real mountain in the Slevana Lia and lies on an outcropping of granite, rather removed from the main range. It has a command of the Plain of the Horses and an unobstructed view for many miles. The top of the mountain is sliced off, leaving a rather exposed circle of wooden posts, of which there are fifty-three. Here is a description, from my story:

Before the moon had risen to its zenith, he reached the end of the trail, passed through the great arch set on the northeast side of the observatory, and stepped onto the flat, circular floor, fifty paces across, as if the top of Taranhai had been cut off.

The observatory was paved with green slate. Inlayed into the slate, white quartz lines inscribed a l arge pentagram, which enclosed a five-fold star, the center of which was another a smaller pentagram, cut into five triangles. The sections of the pentagrams and star made a twenty-fold coordinate system mapping out the sky.

Surrounding the floor, standing three times the height of a man, were fifty-six split trunks, larger around that a man could reach. Twenty trees carved into twenty animals in profile, so that the split of the trunk, which was as wide as Teig's hand, rose up from the animals' bellies into their throats and mouths. Interspersed among them were the lesser markers of thorn wood, adorned with designs but no figures.

The twenty statues represented the brightest stars and marked their risings or settings, with the exception of Kest, in the tail of the serpent, which was due north and never set. Kest's statue, was the fanged serpent of the Gwaranaccii for which their college was named. The statue stood at the northernmost edge of the circle. The fifty-six silhouettes of the trunks helped to mark out the years of the great cycle of sun and moon, which was three generations.

The stars cited on this drawing are (with their Earth counterparts), from very north around to the west and then back are: Kest (Thuban), Ingin (Arcturus), Skian (Deneb), Mol (Capella), Brolla (Regulus), Tappan (Spica), Kog (Procyon), Seall (Aldebaran), Mag (Antares), Speir (Rigel), Earr (Hadar), Jas (Acrux), Gob (Kentares), Croi (Sirius), Biadh (Betelgeuse), Lacha (Pleiades), Griof (Altair), Gnos (Algol), Kentorii (Pollux/Castor), and Kion (Vega). Note that this does not exactly follow all the charts on the previous pages. Astronomers from each Nation often argued about the proper star order, as if it mattered. These astronomers were more philosophical, searching for an absolute ideal that would best reflect Argeya's heaven. For others of us, the tools we used were merely there to help us to understand what we saw, not to reflect heavenly perfection.

I've drawn some of the split trunks here to give you an idea of how the mnemonic worked with actually siting the stars. In the above little sketch, you can see me, siting a star in the mouth of one of the animals. Obviously, this kind of observatory was very sensitive to precession; however, by the time the trunks needed replacing the observatory needed to be re-calibrated anyway. This was why it was ludicrous to build observatories out of stone unless they marked out solar and lunar paths or something less subject to precession. However, again, if you're talking about moving stones every seventy years or so, then it might not be a huge problem.

It's hard to get an idea of the size of these observatories from little drawings. They had to be large in order to act as siting devices. Sometimes there would be some natural formation, a far off mountain, a cut in a cliff or such to help with local siting, yet these landmarks were only good for the locals. We used them quite a bit in our "shows" that we put on for the locals. There is nothing like a spring festival that is crowned by a star rising up right out of a mountain landmark named for it. The ignorant thought we had the ear of the gods!

You can see from this observatory drawing that it takes several people to "dance" out a calculation. This is what it is when you don't have paper. We astronomers were parts of our own calculator. We memorized long bodies of poetry, set to music, that were in essence, ephemerides. To calculate an eclipse or conjunction or a chart, we had several people walk out the movement of the planets in question, took into consideration the time of year, and were able to "be" a chart laid out on the floor. Since we had no paper, we also had to memorize famous charts. We gave these performances for many people who needed to know what the future might bring as far as stellar events. Not being religious, I was not "hip" to the way that many used this information to "guide" rulers and merchants, but most ancient astronomy doubled as astrology until people got over their anthropocentric view of the universe. We also made models of observatories with sticks to use as "calculators" of eclipses and such. They were essentially pegs in a board. You had to move the pegs one at a time, singing the ephemeris until you laid out the chart.

Observatories of the Nine Nations

This is a picture of our star map with corresponding animals and tree/plants for the Green Nation. Each of the Nations began its year at a different holiday, according to the stars by which the observatory was set.

Here, I have labeled the arms of the star with dates. Our own observatory was oriented north, north east, for Kest (Thuban/Draco) but the same observatory was used by the Red Nation who began their year at a different time and were oriented to the SE where Rigel arose (Speir) in Orion (the Horse).

As you can see from this picture, both observatories were laid out the same way, but had different emphasis put on different times of year. The Saffron Nation was focused on the setting eagle, Altair, and the Violet Nation on the rising stag (Aldebaran/Taurus).

Here is another pair, the Violet and Saffron Thrones, by again different times of year for the start of their yearly calendar.

Here are their observatories, set differently from the one above, one oriented to the east, one to the west.

Here is another pair, the White and Dun Nations, both beginning calendars at the same time on November 1. You can see from the letters that "T" for Tinne (Holly) is to the east, and "D" Dair (Oak) is to the south west.

The Holly observatory in the White Nation is oriented to the rising of Mag (Antares) which is the maw of the Wolf, not the Scorpion.

Yet the Oak observatory in the Dun Nation faces south, southwest with the setting of Sirius (Croi) as the heart of the Bear, their totem animal.

The Blue and Ochre Nations have a similar orientation, but begin their years at different times of year and day.

They use the same positioning of the stars, but their observatories face different directions: the Blue toward the NNW with the setting of Deneb (Swan) and the Ochre toward SW with the setting of Regulus.

Under different rule from Nava (the capitol of the Black Nation) the Saffron/Gold Nation used their observatory at Massona in a different way.

Here is the Black Nation's observatory with the Ducks (Pleiades) flying overhead, the second of their totem animals.

And here, the Saffron observatory is now looking to the NE for their new year's start.

On Kevin's pages (Calendars) you will find a comparison of stellar charts and see how they are used for calendars. He goes on to compare dating systems and other fascinating topics!

© 2007, A.R. Stone

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