or, The Constellations
by Frances Rolleston
Philologos Religious Online Books
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"Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season?" — Job xxxviii.
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
** 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.
To Which It Is Generally Believed That There Is No Certain Answer
Given, Tradition or Conjecture Being All That Is Ever Alleged.
Answers given by
Who was the inventor of astronomy?
Seth or Thoth, or Hermes; Enoch or Edris,
Oannes or Noah.
Seth, the son of Adam, with Adam and Enoch.*
When was it invented?
In the first age of mankind.*
In the East: some say Chaldea; some, Egypt or India.
In their first
habitations, in or near the land of Eden, said to have been between Chaldea and
When, where, and by whom were the yet extant names and emblems invented?
Unknown, as to the signs; Necepsos, king of Egypt (B.C. 900), is said
to have introduced the decans into Egypt.
At the same time, by the same persons,
and in the same locality.*
What is the meaning of those names and those emblems?
Unknown, but the subject
of various conjectures.
They express the promises and prophecies revealed to
Adam, Seth, and Enoch.**
Because they conveyed that meaning, and to keep
that early revelation in mind.**
Why were the thirty-six decans or constellations allotted three to each sign,
and why so figured and so allotted?
The decans, as far as ascertained
from Oriental traditions, accord with the signs in which they were found, and
for this reason were so formed and allotted.**
* Part II. p. 5, &c.
** Part II. pp. 60, 61.
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.
Sometimes Urged As To The Origin And Meaning
Of The Names And Figures Of The
Objection I. That the signs typify the seasons, and their accompanying
events, such as we now see them.
Answer I. If they did so in Italy in the time
of Macrobius (A.D. 400), who first gave this explanation, they could not have
done so in the East, where he allows they were invented, and in the ancient
times to which he himself refers them, as does all ancient tradition.*
II. That they were invented by the Egyptians to show the seasons of their
II. The Egyptians have no where said so, neither can the analogy be
carried out. The inundation of the Nile must have been there; and if it took
place under Aquarius, as has been conjectured, it must have been more than
12,000 years before the time when the monuments of Egypt show the signs depicted
on them, and when geology assures us man did not exist on the earth.**
III. Or by the Egyptians, to express their mythology;
III. That mythology has
sufficient resemblance with the signs to have been borrowed from them, but not
to have originated them. Isis may be traced, perhaps Horus, but not Osiris; and
Apis is not like any other name of the bull of the zodiac, neither had he, like
Apis, an eagle connected with his figure.***
IV. By the Greeks, to express the twelve labours of Hercules;
IV. The order
of the twelve signs is invariable. Authorities differ as to that of the twelve
labours, which yet sufficiently allude to the signs to show that they were
derived from the zodiac.|*
V. By Chiron, for the events of the Argonautic expedition.
V. The signs are
known to have been borne on the banners of the tribes of Israel long before the
time of the Argonauts.|**
VI. According to Olaus Rudbeck the Swede, they typify the seasons of
VI. The merits of this explanation may be judged by that of the
twins, as showing when infants may be bathed in the rivers. It however proves
that the Scandinavian tribes preserved the twelve signs.
VII. That the names have no meaning.
VII. Aben Ezra records the meaning of
some of them as they were understood by the ancient Jews. Every name has a clear
meaning, to be found in Hebrew, and generally in Arabic, applicable to the
emblem in which it occurs.||*
VIII. That in Arabic the names sometimes have strange and incongruous
VIII. If a forced and modern usage of the root be taken, this may be
so; as, for instance, in placing a company of virgins in the throat of the dog,
where the epithet clear, pure, from the root Adar, glorious, is applied to the
emblem of the coming of the promised seed, as it has also been applied to a
clear, pure virgin. By referring to the ancient Arabic, particularly the
two-lettered roots, these absurdities are got rid of, and the Arabic will
corroborate the Hebrew.||**
* Part I. p. 18.
** Part I. ch. 1.
*** Part II., on Egypt.
|* Part II. p. 88.
|** Part II. p. 37, &c.
||* 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
* Part II. p. 22.
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.*
* Part II. pp. 6-8.
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.
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