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       Landscape Zodiacs (Mandalas):

A landscape zodiac (or terrestrial zodiac) is a map of the stars on a gigantic scale, formed by features in the landscape, such as roads, streams and field boundaries. Perhaps the best known alleged example is the Glastonbury 'Temple of the Stars', situated around Glastonbury in Somerset, England. The Glastonbury Zodiac was first described by the artist, Katharine Maltwood in the 1920s, and has remained controversial ever since, even though over fifty more zodiacs have been since described in Britain and Europe. The focus of the question appears to no longer be whether these mysterious zodiacs exist - but rather, how and why they do.

 

   The Glastonbury Zodiac:

The idea that the heavens were mapped around Glastonbury is not a new one. It is said for example, that Katherine Maltwood's revelations had been fed by her remembering reading 'the 13th century antiquarian William of Malmesbury's gnomic comment that Glastonbury was a "heavenly sanctuary on Earth." (6)

The occultist Dr. John Dee, following Druidic/Hermetic traditions, made several visits to the area around 1580 from which he prepared charts and a commentary regarding what he called 'Merlin's Secret' around Glastonbury. Dee had noted the unusual arrangements of prehistoric earthworks in the Glastonbury area, as Richard Deacon, his 20th century biographer notes. (6) He makes clear mention of the way they apparently represented the constellations of the Zodiac in the following sentence:

"The Starres which agree with their reproductions," Dee wrote, "on the ground do lye onlie on the celestial path of the sonne, moon and planets...thus is astrologie and astronomie carefullie and exactley married and measured in a scientific reconstruction of the heavens which shews that the ancients understode all whic today the lerned know to be facts."

Glastonbury was mentioned as one of 'Britain's Perpetual Choirs' in the 1796 edition of a translation of FABLIAUX (TALES) which includes a four line Welsh text (known as a Triad - or 'triade'), and an English translation of it. The theme is the Perpetual Choirs of Britain, and the three  sites given in the translation are the 'Isle of Avalon' (Glastonbury), 'Caer Caradoc' (Salisbury) and 'Bangor Iscoed' (Disputed). (7) In 1801, Iolo Morganwg recorded that 'in each of these choirs there were 2,400 saints; that is there were a hundred for every hour of the day and the night in rotation, perpetuating the praise and service of God without rest or intermission.' The function of the choirs was to maintain the enchantment and peace of Britain. John Michell later adopted this into his concept of a vast landscape 'Decagon'. (see below)

The theory was next brought to light in 1929 by Katherine Maltwood, a Canadian artist who was researching landscapes around Glastonbury to illustrate a book, when she 'realised' the zodiac in a vision.

The Glastonbury 'Zodiac' was 'refined' by Mary Caine in the 1960's, and has been expanded upon since.

Criticism: The idea was examined by two independent studies, one by Ian Burrow in 1975 and the other in 1983 by Tom Williamson and Liz Bellamy, using standard methods of landscape historical research. Both studies concluded that the evidence contradicted the idea. The eye of Capricorn identified by Maltwood was a haystack. The western wing of the Aquarius phoenix was a road laid in 1782 to run around Glastonbury, and older maps dating back to the 1620s show the road had no predecessors. The Cancer boat (not a crab as would be expected) is made up of a network of eighteenth century drainage ditches and paths. There are some Neolithic paths preserved in the peat of the bog formerly comprising most of the area, but none of the known paths match the lines of the zodiac features. There is no support for this theory, or for the existence of the "temple" in any form, from conventional archaeologists or mainstream historians. (1)

Which of these images matches Gemini.

The biggest problem with Katherine Maltwood’s discovery is that she used features seen in the present-day landscape. Some of the details are derived from roads and field boundaries that can be demonstrated not to have existed before the nineteenth century. Some, which she and her followers identified from aerial photographs have turned out to be signs of agricultural activity at the time the photographs were taken (such as the ‘eye’ of Capricorn, which was a haystack)! Even then, the figures do not correspond to the traditional figures of the zodiac as we know it: The Image for Gemini is now said to be a figure of 'Jesus', and Cancer, for instance, is not a crab but a ship. And yet the ‘Glastonbury Zodiac’ is supposed to be the best attested and most convincing of such ‘monuments’.

 

 

   Other Zodiacs:

Anthony Thorley has more recently identified over fifty Zodiacs across the British countryside and has researched the subject in depth. It is perhaps his mention of an acausal relationship between the consciousness of humanity and the landscape that offers something of a glimmer of hope in trying to understand the process that seems to be occurring here as, seemingly in collusion with human consciousness, the British landscape appears to have 'manifested' over 50 gigantic zodiac simulacra of zodiac symbols, 'mostly emblematic animals, in the shapes of its natural and its cultured landscape'. Moreover, these symbols are said to appear in the same order as their star signs around the ecliptic.

While it is true that most of these 'zodiacs' are open to the same intrinsic criticisms as the esteemed Katherine Maltwood's 'Temple of the Stars' at Glastonbury, their presence opens the debate of the existence of an dialogue between the cosmos and what Jung called the 'collective unconscious'.

 

Other Examples of Landscape Zodiacs:

The Kingston Zodiac. (Click here for large image)The Kingston Zodiac, London. - Mary Caine.

(Image right: From 'The Kingston Zodiac, by Mary Caine, 1978).

The Walsingham Zodiac, Norfolk. St. Mary's Shrine. - Stephen Jenkins.

The Canterbury Zodiac, UK - 'Fen-lander': (http://fen-lander.hubpages.com/)

The Sussex Zodiac. - Mike Collier.

 

Should it be determined through future investigation that zodiacs (or mandalas) are - as it is suggested, 'manifesting' themselves onto the landscape without conscious intervention, then it becomes reasonable to propose that this might be evidence of the existence of the primitive umbilical connection between us and the living-landscape. Should such a phenomena exist in the west, as it is still practiced and believed to in the orient, then regardless of the specifics and accuracy of these zodiacs, by recognising them we have entered back into the ancient and almost lost acausal narrative between people and their landscapes, between our unconscious imaginations and the cosmic structure of all things.

 

   Cosmic Mandalas:
 
There is no doubting the fact that we live within a universe that operates on a geometric basis. The motions of the planets have long been known to follow mathematical rules, which has enabled us to predict and understand the motions of the heavens to the degree we do today. In Europe, it was the great Johannes Kepler, also responsible for the re-discovery of the 'Harmony of the Spheres', who delved most deeply into the geometric nature of the orbits of planets and stars. In Kepler’s monumental work Astronomia Nova (The New Astronomy) in 1609 he described the intensive work that finally resulted in his discovery of the elliptical orbits of planes the laws of planetary motion. In this book he also drew the following drawing of the orbit of Mars from the Earth’s point of view. This extraordinary step in thinking is still a long way from the mandalas of Buddhist and Hindu cultures, which represent the whole cosmos within the perfection of geometry.

(More About The Harmony of the Spheres)

 

Mandalas have a ritual and spiritual significance in both Buddhist and Hindu beliefs where they are highly regarded, and used as meditative and spiritual 'tools' or 'guides' for initiates on the path to wisdom. Martin Gray (5) provides examples of Buddhist 'Landscape Mandala's', highlighting that sacred places are located according to various mythological, symbolic, astrological, and Shamanic factors. Mandala's are generally considered to be two dimensional representations of the cosmos, through geometric designs, but the Japanese Shingon Buddhists project Mandalas over large geographical areas, as symbolic representations of the residence of Buddha. Gray explains:

'The Mandalas were projected upon a number of pre-Buddhist (Shinto) and Buddhist sacred mountains, and the practice of monks and pilgrims was to travel from peak to peak, venerating Buddha's and bodhisattvas residing in them. the passage through the landscape Mandala's was made according to a specific and circuitous route. Ascents of the sacred mountains were conceived of as metaphorical ascents through the world of enlightenment'.

Borobudur, Indonesia: Mandala bridging the gap between 2-dimensional art and 3-dimensional cosmology.

Gray continues to say that 'the architects of these vast terrestrial Zodiacs made their landscape a living image of the heavens'. (2). In fact, it is has been shown that the major Buddhist shrines, monasteries, etc. of Japan, China and Tibet were placed within the much wider geographic context of natural terrain to both create spiritual focus and to take advantage of the energetic power forms in nature. The intended effect was not only to build in auspicious places, but to position the shrines within immense natural mandalas of form and power. (3)

Carl Jung is said to have recognised that the Mandala symbolically represented the 'self', but the classical development of mandalas as meditative tools, constructed according to particular aesthetic criteria, emerged in India, specifically in Hinduism and later in Buddhism. Iconographic forms similar to the mandala in construction and sometimes in interpretation and purpose have been developed in other cultures, but the literature currently available suggests that it was in Hinduism and Buddhism that they achieved their most precise and elaborate characterisation as cognitive tools. Within these religious cultures, the mandala was most often understood as a cosmographic representation which would assist the contemplative achieve a cognitive identification with the metaphysical structure and dynamism of the cosmos. (4) In recognising this process, we are again reminded of the possibility that such identification implies an element of conjunction between cosmic structure and the structure of human consciousness. 

 

John Michell:

The theme of a metaphysical geometric landscape arrangement is reminiscent of John Michel's discovery of a 'Great Decagon' across the British Landscape. It is a curious but nevertheless factual statement that the three most important southern English sites (Glastonbury, Stonehenge and Avebury/Silbury) are connected through geometry accurate to 1 part in 1/000. As well as both Glastonbury and Avebury/Silbury lying on the St. Michael's Leyline, Glastonbury and Stonehenge are also 'nodes' on a vast landscape 'mandala/decagon' centred on Whiteleaved Oak. Michell's attention was drawn back to Glastonbury more than once as he became immersed in the legends and geometry of prehistoric Britain. One of his most notable discoveries was the proposal of a spiritual and physical 'Decagon' across the landscape. His research led him to the 1796 texts of which spoke of 'perpetual choirs', or holy locations from which the eternal chanting of monks maintained both the heavens, and the spiritual harmony of the people. This vast geometric figure, (or at least the basis of one), he realised, encompassed at least two of the most spiritual places in Britain. (Glastonbury and Stonehenge), The 1801 text by Iolo Morganwg added that 'in each of these choirs there were 2,400 saints; that is there were a hundred for every hour of the day and the night in rotation, perpetuating the praise and service of God without rest or intermission.' The function of the choirs was to maintain the enchantment and peace of Britain and the connection between human consciousness and the landscape in this myth shows a clear similarity to the Buddhist and Hindu traditions of forming landscape Mandalas.

John Michell also wrote at length on the subject of the tradition of a 'New Jerusalem' being both a physical and spiritual reality. He came to believe that Glastonbury was the 'celestial city' described and proposed in the bible, following on the tradition that Joseph of Arimathea brought more than just Christianity to Britain (Glastonbury), as in the 12th century he became known as the first holder of the Grail. The concept of a 'New Jerusalem' wasn't, in Michell's opinion, just a schematic for a city. He was aware that while it has its origins in the text in Revelations (Rev 21,12) which mentions the '...12 gates of the celestial city..', it also enigmatically describes the dimensions of the city as a perfect cube with length, width, and height of 12,000 furlongs (fifteen hundred miles). A cube of course, is hardly the ultimate  design for a 'heaven on earth', and there has been much work on the idea that such references are purely symbolic, although interestingly, Michell used this as the centre-piece for a Mandala he designed of New Jerusalem.

(More about the Great Decagon)

 

Gallery of Images: Mandalas on the Landscape.

The 'Forbidden City', Peking. Designed c. 1406 -1420.

Palmanova, Italy. Designed 1593.

Canberra, Australia. Designed 1913.

Nazca Mandala, Peru. Origin Unknown.

 

(Simulacrum)

(Earth Energies)

(Altered Landscapes)

(Geometric Alignments)

(The Origin of the Zodiac)

 

References:

1). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Landscape_zodiac
2). Joan D'Arc. Phenomenal World. 2000. The Book Tree Publ.
3). A. W. MacDonald. Mandala and Landscape. 1997. South Asia Publ.
4). http://exploringspaces.blogspot.com/2007/10/blog-post_09.html
5). http://sacredsites.com/sacred_places/sacred_geography.html
6). http://blueroomconsortium.com/pdfs/article_zodiacalcircles.pdf
7). www.geoffss.plus.com/perpetualchoirs.htm  

 

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