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Illustrations for Shaman in the Sky

Enlargement of Hercules and Ophiuchus


Note the head of Draco, pictured with a sharp beak, comes very close to the foot of Hercules. This is from Durer's famous woodcuts of 1515. With the inversion of the images, all directions are reversed. In real-sky observation, Lyra is to the left of the Hercules composite, not to the right, as shown here. Inversion also accounts for the figures being shown from the back.

We note quite a few serpents in the cosmic imagery here. There is Draco sidling down from the polar region. Ophiuchus is also called Serpentarius, and the reptile he wrestles is Serpens. Finally, Hercules is shown holding Cerberus, the three-headed serpent of the Underworld. In Quest for the Zodiac, I suggested that the serpent imagery in the constellations might be connected with ancient knowledge of genetics and the DNA code. This is consistent with Jeremy Narby's thesis in The Cosmic Serpent: namely, that the ancients, like some indigenous peoples today, had direct experiential access to the molecular structure of matter. I have proposed the term stellar-genetic continuum for the the linking of cosmic and earthbound biophysics that glimmers in ancient traditions, especially Egyptian sacred astronomy. Today interest in this link has given rise to a fledgling science called exobiology, the study of how life on earth is connected with life beyond earth.

Detail of Hercules and Serpentarius head to head.
Elijah Burritt, Celestial Atlas, 1835.

Note that this mythological mapping of the skies encodes two primary astrophysical directions: the Solar Apex in Hercules, and the Galactic Center between the Archer and the Scorpion. Did whoever initiated the tradition of picturing the Archer know that the direction to the Galactic Center was located just beyond the tip of the arrow? It it hard to imagine that this orientation could have been accidental.

Burritt's map is not inverted. It shows correctly how the constellational imagery matches the observable composites. Consider the entire scenario: The solar shaman Hercules is locked head to head with the Snaketamer who strides upon the Scorpion which extends its left claw to jar the Scales and upset the balance of the pans, while the Archer stands offside, aiming its arrow in a cautionary manner at the lower torso of the Scorpion.

Now decode that story.

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Material by John Lash and Lydia Dzumardjin: Copyright 2002 - 2018 by John L. Lash.