or, The Constellations
by Frances Rolleston
Philologos Religious Online Books
"Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season?" — Job xxxviii. 32.
Most persons have been taught the names and figures of the signs of the zodiac. Many have been repelled by the explanations usually given of these and the other constellations; other have considered them not only useless, but burdensome to the astronomer; and it has been proposed to substitute a kind of survey of the heavens, where lines and angles should take the place of traditional figures. Should this alteration be adopted, the message these figures were intended to transmit will not be less impressive when the types in which it was conveyed are no longer made subservient to the purposes of practical astronomy; especially as through being thus used the forms of the emblems are already disguised and modernized, and new figures, the most incongruous and absurd, have been intruded among them, while the names of the stars are becoming continually more corrupted.
* Mazzaroth, though sometimes in modern lexicons differently interpreted, is here used as meaning the constellations. In Job xxxviii. 32, it stands in the text of the English Bible untranslated: in the margin it is rendered "the twelve signs." Mazzaroth is a feminine or neuter plural noun, applied to separate chambers of divisions, such as the constellations. Mazaloth, a word with which it is sometimes identified, means a way through which any thing goes, as the sun through the zodiac, and the moon through the lunar mansions, or Manzil al Kamar, the Arabic appellation of the lunar zodiac still used in the East. It occurs in the sacred Scriptures only in 2 Kings xxiii. 5, probably in the same sense.
The object of this work is to show, by the combined testimony of tradition and of ancient writers, and from the meaning of the yet extant ancient names of stars and emblems, that they were invented to transmit the earliest and most important knowledge possessed by the first fathers of mankind. Such records were supposed to exist in the hieroglyphics of Egypt, but among them have only been discovered the names and dates, the conquests and the praises of sovereigns. It is intended in this work to prove that far higher and more important records, those of the only true wisdom of man, are contained in the emblems of the constellations. The agreement of the figures will be shown, with the types used by "the holy prophets who have been since the world began," in their predictions of Him, first promised to Adam as the seed of the woman and the conqueror of the serpent; also that in the names the very words in which their prophecies were delivered are frequently to be recognized; and that the primitive roots (by which the Assyrian and Babylonish records are now interpreted) exist alike in the names of the stars and in the dialects used by the prophets. These names, and the ideas conveyed by the figures, are traced in the mythology of the nations; and it will be shown, from the confused and incongruous use there made of them, that the fables were invented from the constellations, and not the constellations from the fables.* It has been attempted by means of these coincidences** to derive the origin of all religions from the constellations; but no reasons have been given why the constellations should be thus figured and thus named. In this work such reasons will be brought forward, and adequate cause assigned, in the revelation made to Adam and recorded by the subsequent prophets, for the invention of these names and figures; their origin being sought in the religion given by God, and in their perversion being found the origin of the false religions set up by man.
* The evidences by which these statements are supported will be found in the Second Part.
** Dupuis, L'Origine des Cultes.
NOTE ON "CONSTELLATIONS."
The ancients divided the heavens by forty-eight constellations, imaginary and arbitrary divisions, sometimes, but not always, comprising remarkable stars. Among the twelve signs, Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Scorpio, and Virgo, have bright stars, leading the eye to fix on them as constellations, but the others have not; and would not be naturally distinguished as such. It is therefore evident that the distinction of the starry heavens into constellations, like the division of the earth into districts, is the world of man's imagination for his own purposes. In this case the purpose was to declare the glory of God. Orion, the Great Bear, Cassiopea, Lyra, the Southern Cross, and perhaps some others, have bright stars pointing them out, but the records of ancient astronomy only determine what minor stars are reckoned as belonging to them; for instance the serpentine emblems are so mingled with the others as to be complained of as causing confusion by those who did not see in them an intentional type of the works of the enemy as intricately interwoven with the destinies of man.
Jewish, Persian, and Arabian ancient writers preserve the tradition, that "the family of Seth," Adam, Seth, and Enoch, "invented astronomy," the Egyptians attributing it to Seth or Thoth, said to be the same as Hermes Trismegistus, the thrice-great.
Plutarch mentions Seth, "to whom the third day of the five of the epact was dedicated," as worshipped in Egypt. He was said to be the third son of Set and Netpthe, the father and mother of the gods, whose names are given by Bunsen as Seb and Nutpe.
Bunsen says that Thoth or Hermes was called the scribe of truth, the twice-great; and that they held Set to be the name of the god of Asiatic people. In the "Book of the Dead," it is said, "Tet, which is Set," thus confirming the identification of Seth and Thoth.
*** Part II., on Egypt.
||* Part II., Tables of the Signs, pp. 9-25
||** Part II., Tables, pp. 9-25; p. 16. Virgo.
Note On Answer I.— In those ancient times the solstices and equinoxes did not occur in the signs to which Macrobius would refer them. The sun did not then begin to recede under the Crab, nor to ascend under the Goat. By the precession of the equinoxes, the solstices, earlier in Leo and Aquarius, had in his time passed into Cancer and Capricorn, as they have now into Gemini and Sagittarius. Those who in later times have tried to explain the signs by the seasons of modern Europe have these and yet greater difficulties to encounter.
On Answer II. — Some writers have fancied an allusion to the inundation in Aquarius: a small stream issuing from an urn in the hand of a human figure, and received in the mouth of a fish, does not, however, seem to suit it.* Arago, acknowledged to be as deficient in languages as he was accomplished in astronomy, has ventured, in his popular lectures, on explanations of the emblems of the signs with very forced applications to the climate of Egypt; doing this from what he supposes may be the derivation of their Coptic names, or those of the Egyptian months to which he would adapt them. That on this point he is no authority may be seen from his assertion that "the Hebrew verb fafa signifies obtenebrescere:" that the letter F does not exist in the Hebrew Alphabet is but a trifling objection, for the sound does, and would be written phapha; but not one word with that root in it has any connexion with the idea of darkness, while the numerous words in which it appears have all some relation to splendour, light, beauty; the Greek derivatives having that meaning, as phaino, will at once occur to the Greek scholar. The Egyptian Pa-pa according to Bunsen means to bear, to bring forth; if it was an Egyptian name of any sign, it would probably be of Virgo; he says the Egyptian harvest begins in February, where he would place Leo, and sowing in November, where he would place Taurus. Aquarius he gives to "the second month of summer," and says, "during this month or thereabouts the sources of the Nile give forth their full complement of water." According to the place of the sun in the signs about the time of the Christian era, and for 2000 years before it, the harvest of Egypt could not take place under Virgo, nor the inundation under Aquarius.
On Answer V. — This conjecture, though adopted by Sir I. Newton, is also confuted by Sir W. Jones and others, who have found the signs used in Oriental astronomy long before the Argonautic expedition.*
On Answer VII. — On the meanings early attributed to the signs the very ancient science of astrology is founded.
The evidence by which these answers and those on p. 3 are supported, will be found in the Second Part, especially in the pages referred to.