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       Orion in Prehistory: ('As Above - So Below')

The 'constellation' of Orion the Hunter, is located along the celestial equator and is therefore visible throughout the world. It is one of the most conspicuous, and most recognizable constellations in the night sky yet it has no place in the modern zodiac.

Both Sirius (the brightest object in the sky after the sun and moon) and Betelgeuse (Orion's shoulder) are two of the vortices of the Winter Triangle (also known as the Great Southern Triangle), which show as an equilateral triangle in the night sky.

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   Orion the Hunter: (The Myth.)

In Homer's Iliad Orion is described as a hunter, and the star Sirius is mentioned as his dog.

In Greek Mythology Orion was the son of Poseidon and Euryale. Like most of Poseidon's children, Orion was a man of gigantic proportions. He also was quite the hunter, and the constellation that bears his name forms the shape of a great hunter in a defensive pose against Taurus, the bull.

While a young man Orion fell in love with Merope, the daughter of Dionysus and Ariadne.) Orion sought to marry Merope and he remained in the king's service for some time attempting to win his favor, but Oenopion dragged his feet in arranging the marriage. Impatient, Orion raped Merope. Naturally, the king decided to take revenge. He got Orion drunk, and when the giant fell asleep, Oenopion put his eyes out and threw him out towards the sea.

Orion wandered around blind until he bumped into Hephaestus, who, taking pity on him, gave him a boy to help guide him. With the boy on his shoulders as his guide Orion made his way to the east, where the rising sun restored his sight. Once again a while man and extremely angry, Orion set out to kill Oenopion. Fortunately for the king Hephaestus had foreseen this and built Oenopion an underground chamber to keep him safe. Unable to find the king of Chios, Orion gave up, and instead went with Eos, who had fallen in love with him. She took him to Delos, where he served her sexually.

In the sky, Orion is depicted facing the snorting charge of neighbouring Taurus the Bull, yet the myth of Orion makes no reference to such a combat. However, the constellation can be traced back to the Sumerians, who saw in it their great hero Gilgamesh fighting the Bull of Heaven. The Sumerian name for Orion was URU AN-NA, meaning light of heaven. Taurus was GUD AN-NA, bull of heaven. Gilgamesh was the Sumerian equivalent of Heracles. One of the labours of Heracles was to catch the Cretan bull, which would fit the Orion–Taurus conflict in the sky. Ptolemy described him with club and lion’s pelt, both familiar attributes of Heracles, and he is shown this way on old star maps.

Orion raises his club and shield against the charging Taurus in this illustration from the Uranographia of Johann Bode (1801). Orion’s right shoulder is marked by the bright star Betelgeuse, and his left foot by Rigel. A line of three stars forms his belt.

Stories of the death of Orion are numerous and conflicting. Astronomical mythographers such as Aratus, Eratosthenes and Hyginus were agreed that a scorpion was involved. In one version, told by Eratosthenes and Hyginus, Orion boasted that he was the greatest of hunters. He declared to Artemis, the goddess of hunting, and Leto, her mother, that he could kill any beast on Earth. The Earth shuddered indignantly and from a crack in the ground emerged a scorpion which stung the presumptuous giant to death. The outcome was that Orion and the scorpion (the constellation Scorpius) were placed on opposite sides of the sky, so that as Scorpius rises in the east, Orion flees below the western horizon. ‘Wretched Orion still fears being wounded by the poisonous sting of the scorpion’, noted Germanicus Caesar.

(More about Prehistoric Greece)

 

Chinese Astronomers knew Orion as Shen, a great hunter or warrior, one of the rare cases in which a constellation was visualised almost exactly the same way in China as in Europe. Shen was at the centre of a great celestial hunting scene, for the full moon is in this part of the sky during the hunting season, November and December.

the main body of Shen consisted of 10 stars: The four that make up the traditional outline of Orion (Alpha, Gamma, Beta and Kappa), the three stars of the belt and the three stars of the 'sword'. The sword stars had a dual identity, as they also formed a sub-constellation, Fa. In keeping with Shen's identity as a warrior chief, the 10 stars were also imagined as his various army generals.

The triangle of stars that form Orion's head (Lambda, Phi-1 and Phi-2) was known as Zui, the beak of the turtle or a bird - possibly a falcon used for hunting. Zui was also the name of the 20th Lunar mansion, but it was the narrowest of all the mansions (barely 2° wide) because it was so close to the 21st mansion, named Shen. The arc of stars that we see today as Orion's shield was interpreted in China as a banner, Shenqi, or sometimes a longbow.

Being one of the oldest Chinese constellations, Shen gathered many different and conflicting identities down the ages. Early on, it was seen as the forequarters of the 'White Tiger', one of the four seasonal divisions of the Chinese sky.

(More about Prehistoric China)

 

The Ancient Egyptians were the first to write about Orion, and place him into their mythologies. They associate the stars of Orion with Osiris, the sun-god of rebirth and afterlife, and one of the most important gods of the ancient Egyptians. (1) Orion was considered the abode of Osiris following his resurrection. Isis dwelt on Sirius. In Egyptian mythology, Osiris was murdered and dismembered by his jealous brother, Seth, then briefly brought back to life by his sister and consort Isis to father the god Horus. Egyptians saw Osiris in the Moon, whose phases caused the all-important Nile to rise and fall each month, and in the constellation Orion, whose appearance was connected with the annual flood. As god of the dead, Osiris welcomed the recently deceased to their new world.

Sirius, the brightest star in the sky, rises on the eastern horizon just before the Sun once each year. This following a period of complete invisibility lasting about 70 days (during which time it lies in the daytime sky). Egyptian inscriptions describe the last appearance of Sirius in the night sky as its death; its daytime invisibility as purification in the embalming house of the nether world; and its rising with the Sun as a resurrection. Accordingly they calibrated the process of mummification to this celestial cycle, completing it in exactly 70 days.

(Ancient Egypt Homepage)

 

 

   The Giza Pyramids as a Representation of Orion's Belt:

The Orion theory by Robert Bauval was first published in 1989 in the journal Discussions in Egyptology, vol. 13. He proposed that the Giza pyramids were a physical representation of the three stars that make up Orion's belt. Although aspects of the original theory were heavily refuted, the main tenet of the theory still holds true.

 

In addition to the ground-plan of the pyramids themselves being identified with Orion, the 'Star chambers' have also been shown to have a correlation with Orion, Sirius and the Pole stars of the day.

(Egyptian Astronomy)

 

Criticisms of the Orion Theory:

The theory has been contentious since its outset. Ed Krupp (Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles) and Anthony Fairall (astronomy professor at the University of Cape Town) have both criticised the astronomical observations which underpin the theory and even suggested that in order to make the facts fit the map of the pyramids had to be inverted. However, Archie Roy (Professor Emeritus of Astronomy at Glasgow University) and Percy Seymour (astronomer and astrophysicist at Plymouth University) have defended the theory and noted that the visual correlation is striking when the pyramids of Giza are viewed from the north. Furthermore, there is some support for it in the fact that the Pyramid Texts (which date to the fifth dynasty but were most likely formed from earlier religious concepts) make frequent references to the connection between the the resurrection of the king and Sahu (The earliest Egyptian representation of Orion).

(More on the Dating of the Great Pyramid)

 

The same layout has been claimed for Teotihuacán, in Mexico (Above, bottom-left)

The 'Pyramid of the Sun' at Teotihuacán has the same base dimensions as the Great pyramid of Giza,  but is is exactly half the height. It appears as if both cultures incorporated Pi into their dimensions:

(Archaeoastronomy Homepage)

 

 

   Triple Circles/Henges in the UK:

England is home to examples of numerous double circles, as well as several 'Triple-circles' such as 'The Hurlers', Merrivale, Stanton Drew,, Avebury, Thornborough and Grey Wethers, to name but a few. Their exact purpose is still only to be guessed at, but a geometric and/or astronomic association is predicted.

The Hurlers triple circles.

(From left to right: Clava cairns, The Pipers, The Hurlers and Avebury)

(Note: Although it is not commonly mentioned, a fourth circle has been shown to have once existed at Avebury. It was discovered in 1937 by 'A. Keiller', who found three 'unrecorded stone holes...eleven metres apart on the arc of a circle about 103m in diameter, much the same as the 'North' and 'South' inner circles, whose stones were also placed about eleven metres apart).

An example of a 'Triple RSC' can be found at Loanhead of Daviot, in Scotland, where three Neolithic recumbent circles were once aligned. The circle in Daviot churchyard was removed in 1820, and all that remains of New Craig is the recumbent, its flankers and a few odd stones now built into a field wall. (4)

The theme of triple-aligned circles is also common to Henges, such as the Priddy circles, and Thornborough.

Devil's Arrows.   Thornborough Henges.

The three Devil's Arrow's (left), are aligned towards the Thornborough Henges (right).

The largest triple Henge in Britain is at the Thornborough complex (Above, right). It also shows a slight 'dog-leg', and work by Prof. Clive Ruggles (3), who postulated that there were demonstrable alignments between the Henges and the  astronomical features of Orion was later supported by the research of the eminent archaeologist, Dr. Harding, senior lecturer at Newcastle University. He demonstrated the similarity of the placing of the three great Henges on the landscape and the three stars of Orion’s Belt. In addition, archaeological work at Thornborough suggested that Orion was significant prior to the construction of the three Henges.

The first major monument on the site was built around 3,500BC. This was a 1.2km long Cursus, aligned so its western end pointed towards the mid-winter setting of Orion. This also meant the eastern end aligned to the midsummer solstice. At around 3000 BC, when the three Henges at Thornborough were constructed, they appear to have been deliberately laid out to mirror Orion’s Belt. Not only this, but their southern entrances framed the rising of the bright star, Sirius, which in turn meant their axis aligned on the midwinter solstice.

(More about The Thornborough Complex)

A similar layout has been shown to exist at the Hurlers stone circle, which was orientated towards Orion on the summer solstice. The Hurlers have been dated at c. 1,500 BC, while the Henges at Thornborough are dated at around 3,500 BC, suggesting a continuous form of Orion worship existed in the UK for around 2,000 years. A recent dig has uncovered a 'crystal (quartz) avenue running between the circles. (5)

(More about the Hurler's)

(Archaeoastronomy)

(The Giza Pyramids)   (The 'Khufu Calendar')

 

References:

1). The Oxford Guide: Essential Guide to Egyptian Mythology, Edited by Donald B. Redford, p302-307, 2003. Berkley.
2). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orion_Correlation_Theory
3). Ruggles C. Ancient Astronomy: An Encyclopaedia of Cosmology and Myth. 2005.
4). D. Sullivan. Ley Lines: A Comprehensive Guide to Alignments. 1999. Piatkus press.
5). http://www.thisisdevon.co.uk/story-19797335-detail/story.html#axzz2eqoilYn8
21). G. Hancock. Fingerprints of the gods. Mandarin. 1996.
 
 
 
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