CELESTIAL BASKET in TIME
by Bethe Hagens
The Celestial Basket in Time
Union Institute Graduate School
For some twenty years now, I have worked from the perspectives of art, geometry, and anthropology to understand how human beings "see". I visualize an eclectic, integrated ancient geometric art/science in which certain principles of shape and connection applied equally well to body, mind and soul - earth, animals, and sky. I have intentionally filled this presentation with questions, and I am painfully aware of how broadly I am casting the net The geometry I call the Celestial Basket is, at the very least, a teaching tool and data-storage mnemonic. I am presenting it in the spirit of Mnemosyne, the Greek goddess of Memory and daughter of Gaia, from whose name we get the word "geometry".
Some of my earliest research involved figures from Upper Paleolithic Europe known in the vernacular as "Venus figurines." Marija Gimbutas pioneered the scholarly attempt to label them as representations of the Divine feminine, "goddesses." I noticed the startling similarity of the earliest of these figures (dating from 21,000 to 12,000 BCE) to the midbrains of animals, particularly reptiles and birds. It became clear to me that ancient humans were superb anatomists and were fascinated by ambiguity, especially in their artwork. (Hagens 1991)
Concurrently, I studied two of Plato's texts that I now believe have the potential to make a major contribution to archaeoastronomy. The first book, Timaeus (Desmond Lee translation, 1965), outlines virtually every principle of R. Buckminster's Fuller's spherical geometry. (Becker and Hagens, unpub. ms. 1991) I was extremely fortunate to work with William S. Becker, a colleague of Fuller, who taught me to "see". By very ancient tradition, it is held that certain enlightened individuals naturally see geometric structure. Others, like myself, must be initiated. I have seriously wondered if Plato was unable to "see". He did not put drawings in his texts and had a difficult time trying to describe what he had been shown. (This may be a problem of translation, and I will need in the future to work with original texts.) In any case, Timaeus identifies a primordial, vibrating, invisible female geometric shape (the Nurse of Becoming) as an essence that all matter, "above and below", imperfectly approximates. Plato begins the text of the second book, Critias, with a "call on the gods, adding the goddess Memory [Mnemosyne] in particular.. . For my whole narrative depends largely on her." The geometric mnemonic is lost on most readers-as are the connections between astronomy, cultural history, and the precession of earth's axial pole. The text is widely regarded as an insignificant account of the rise and fall of a fictional Utopia called Atlantis.
Humans enjoy the experience of geometry, consciously or not, for they have forever constructed artifacts, landscapes, temples, shrines and so forth to reflect integrated, highly complex geometric principles. (Becker and Hagens 1993) As human beings, we share a deep identity with the "perfect" three-dimensional geometric shapes Plato identifies in his texts (tetrahedron, cube, octahedron, icosahedron, and dodecahedron). These figures are the shapes of the connections between the atoms and molecules of our bodies. We cant actually "see" these connections, but
we make assumptions about them based upon structural building principles that apply at other scales of reality, We somewhat unconsciously project these perfect geometries "above and below" and see them as ¦reality" because they are so aesthetically satisfying and resonant with who we are as intelligent creatures.
Plato's divine Mother, the Nurse of Becoming, is an etheric shape made up of 120 identical right triangles- There is only one figure this can be: the spherical hexakis icosahedron. It can be visualized in two ways, however: first, as 120 right triangles joined together symmetrically to create a sphere; and second, as a sphere of 15 identical interlaced hoops, each of which bissects the sphere. Elsewhere (Hagens 1992) I have shown how this figure encompasses all of the perfect solids as well as two important rhomb-based figures identified by Kepler (but known and constructed by the Etruscans). The Nurse of Becoming appears to be the energetic matrix from which (to name just a few) quasicrystals, viruses, pollen, and microorganisms all grow. Or at least we can handily project this matrix onto what we are able to observe! In the same paper, I show the remarkable and apparently very ancient consistency of esoteric color and element symbolism (e.g. earth, air, fire* water, ether) attached to the perfect geometric shapes in cultures around the world. In a Sioux legend about the creation of Mother Earth, the Creator calls "the 15 hoops'* to the plane in which Earth is to revolve around the sun. A 16th hoop is its orbit, the ecliptic. An identical geometry of the divine feminine was known on both sides of the Atlantic but was visualized differently.
The Celestial Basket-120 triangles, 15 hoops
Pythagoras supposedly taught that geometry (geo = of earth; metr = measure, mother, fete) involved only a single operation: bissecting an angle, (A line is a ISO degree angle.) I have constructed all of the Platonic geometries on the ground with a stick and piece of vine. I have carved them from soap using the proportions of my hands, I believe Pythagoras 1 For the initiate, complex geometry is easy. The once controversial idea that ancients engaged in sophisticated earth geometries (e.g., Stecchini 1971), is now almost routinely being stretched to encompass planet-scale geometric alignments of sites (e.g., Hancock and Faiia, 1998).
The scholarly consideration of geometric mapping and siting to take advantage of "earth energies* is a related tradition that extends back at least to the Middle Ages in Western culture; and almost
infinitely far in others (Becker and Hagens 1993). Valery Makarov, a Russian engineer, and his colleagues at the former USSR Academy of Sciences, made some of the earliest contemporary studies of such a geometric "planetary grid". They proposed a "meaningful" alignment of spherical Platonic geometries in the earth, such that the vertices and edges of the figures marked resource deposits, atmospheric and ocean currents, migrations, archaeological sites, and an array of other phenomena, Becker and I were able to extend Makarov's work by showing the underlying pattern of the hexakis icosahedron. We also identified an "orienting" hoop that connected the north and south geographic poles through the great pyramid at Giza. This was the key insight that led me to "see" the same geometry in the sky. I visited Makarov in Moscow in 1994 to show him my model of the celestial sphere, and he told me that he and his colleagues had suspected that it must exist. Here is what I have found.
A great deal of "natural" geometry can easily be seen in the sky once it is pointed out. The sun and moon, for example, are each approximately 1/2 degree in diameter as seen against the sky, and are possibly a source for the 360 degree circle. One moon, one sun per day: 360 suns and moons make an "ideal" year. I happened to notice on my celestial sphere that Regulus and the Pleiades lie almost on the ecliptic, 90 degrees apart. Midway between them, a meridian can be drawn between Canopus and Sirius (the two brightest stars in the sky) and extended around the celestial sphere through the north and south ecliptic poles. It will run perpendicular to the ecliptic and pass through Vega (the fifth brightest star). I know these stars from their importance in world mythology, but do not even pretend to know astronomy. I simply made the assumption that this must be the orienting hoop. It was a simple task to add the rest of the Celestial Basket. Two things were immediately apparent: (1) one of the fifteen hoops falls marks the plane of the Milky Way; and (2) the geometry divides the ecliptic into 20 equal segments.
In previous work with the Aztec sun calendar, I had become convinced that part of its genius is that it can be read on multiple levels and is an example of intentional ambiguity. The sex of the central figure is considered ambiguous to this day. On one level, the calendar can be interpreted as a zodiac of 20 houses-which could imply a connection to the Platonic geometry. An even stronger relationship is suggested in the zodiac ceiling from the Dendera temple in Egypt. The Dendera zodiac, which is based upon the Pleiades and Regulus as geometric marking points, appears at first to highlight eight segments of 45 degrees; but the upper arms of the figures clearly mark out 20 identical segments of 18 degrees. (A ring of diamonds or H rhombs"of the Celestial Basket creates the 20 segments of the ecliptic-and an ancient derivation of the word rhomb is "upper arm") I used this zodiac as a framework to align three geometries of precession (see Solstice Zodiac illustration below). Drawing heavily upon Hamlet's Mill (Santtllana and von Dechend 1977), I set the orienting hoop of the Celestial Basket between the Dog and Monkey on the Aztec zodiac; the fish-tongue hanging from the mouth of the central sun figure marks this meridian. On the Dendera zodiac, a fish-shaped marker which symbolizes the precessing pole is positioned at this same location. I superimposed the 12-equal-segment Greek zodiac and discovered that it aligns with Aztec houses at Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius: signs traditionally highlighted in prophetic books such as the Bible and identified as "fixed signs" by astrologers.
But why would ancients create geometric zodiacs based upon the Celestial Basket? I am pursuing this question by asking three others: (1) Is the summer solstice significant in prophetic zodiacal systems? (2) Is Critias an allegory and/or cultural history of the consequences of precession? and (3) Do ancient icons use intentionally ambiguous sexual symbolism to represent the dynamics of precession and zodiacal geometry?
The First Question: Significance of the Summer Solstice It occured to me, working with my celestial sphere, that the position of the summer solstice might be important to prophetic zodiacal systems. At midday on the summer solstice, an arc perpendicular to the ecliptic rising up 66.6 degrees from the sun will target the position of the north celestial pole. As will be explained immediately below, the ecliptic zodiac is a magnification of the essential cosmology played out in polar constellations as the pole proceeds to trace its circular path over the course of 25,920 years. The solstice sun is an easy gauge of the exact processional time as well as an indicator of any wobbles or inconsistencies in the system..
I immediately noticed the odd coincidence that in 1000 CE, the summer solstice sun fell exactly on the orienting hoop just above Canopus and Sinus Each of the 20 segments of the ecliptic represents 1296 years in the 25,920 year cycle of precession; I rounded that number to 1300 and assigned a summer solstice date to each geometric divider on the ecliptic. For example, in 12,000 BCE, half a precession cycle back from 1000 CE, the summer solstice sun coincided with the orienting hoop below Vega. Dr. Joseph Jochmans has proposed 11,542 BC as the date Herodotus assigned to the beginning of the Egyptian historic/mythical calendar. This is very close to 12,000 BCE. My research suggests that 25,920 was a reasonably universal "number of precession," but I feel certain that specific dates and details of the zodiacal calendar were as much a source of debate for astronomers then as now. The Celestial Basket is perhaps best viewed as a window of opportunity. For perhaps the last 25,000 years, it has served as a universal scientific observational framework. But geometry is constant only as an ideal, and it is incredibly illusive given the shifting nature of material phenomena; the pole is always wobbling, and the stars move. In time, the Celestial Basket in the sky will simply disappear.
One way to gauge use of the Celestial Basket as an observational and predictive system is to look for patterns that emerge if and when solstice dates align with significant events. (Each bold-faced date is one geometrically determined by the Celestial Basket.) For example, in 6800 BCE, rice cultivation begins in Southeast Asia and Catal Huyuk assumes a position of prominence for 1300 years until 5500 BCE, the date assigned in the Jewish Genesis for the origin of the world (5508 BCE). In 4200 BCE, Chinese civilization begins in the Yellow River Basin; Indo-European language speakers begin to migrate from the Caucasus; Eskimos and Aleuts speaking off-shoots of Nostratic migrate to North America. 2900 BCE marks the beginning of Indus Valley civilization as well as the dynasties in Egypt; the Sumerians begin using North Caucasian words; and a major period of astronomically-oriented megalfrhic construction begins in Britain. 1600 BCE brings the end of both the Indus Valley civilization and the Egyptian Middle Kingdom. The Rig Veda is written and King Minos begins his legendary rule at Crete; Thera explodes. 300 BCE marks the beginnings of the Ganges civilization in India, the "classic" Maya in MesoAmerica, the Ptolemaic Dynasty in Egypt, and the high point of the Zhou Dynasty civilization in ChuuL Olmec civilization comes to an end; the Great Jewish Synagogue completes the Canon of the Old
Testament and fells from power. Did a system of prophecy drive migration patterns? Does such a system lie behind mythologies of the "moveable feast", where fortune shifts and some places either lose their power in time or are destroyed by natural catastrophes? This would certainty explain the worldwide panic and boom in the construction of observatories around the year 1000 CE. There was no telling what might happen.
The Second Question: Geometric Stages of Fate in Critias Li Critias, a heavenly long (Poseidon) marries a human woman (Cleito). Their ten sons many and each is given a kingdom (10 kingdoms, 20 royal family members). They live attuned to their father until, over time, they unwittingly fell away from their divine sustenance (the milk of the gods), go to war, and are destroyed by a variety of catastophes that they should have seen coming. "The survivors of this destruction were an unlettered mountain race who had just heard the names of their rulers but knew Uttle of their achievements.. .for many generations they and their children were short of bare necessities, and their minds and thoughts were occupied with providing them, to the neglect of earlier history and tradition... That is how the names but not the achievements of these early generations came to be preserved."
Critias is strikingly similar to mythologies associated with the ring of constellations around the north ecliptic pole. A clear correspondence exists between this ring (which is traced by the north axial pole over the course of precession) and the ring of constellations around the ecliptic known as the zodiac, The drama of processing "ages" in zodiacal constellations also plays out in the polar constellations, and the summer solstice sun indirectly marks our place in the drama. For example, at the present time, an arc of 66,6 degrees extended perpendicular to the ecliptic from the summer solstice sun will fall on Polaris, our current pole star in Ursa Minor. At the ecliptic, for the next few hundred years, the summer solstice sun will shine at the tip of Orion's club. The Celestial Basket reveals how truly exceptional this solar position (at the tip of Orion's dub) really is: it marks the intersection of the Milky Way, the ecliptic, and the Crab Nebula. Most ancient zodiacs (e.g. Aztec, Mayan, and Hindu) mark this zodiacal date as the end of a major cycle in time. At this same time, the north axial pole is maximally oriented away from the center of the galaxy; Polaris (the dog's tail or cynosure) is the "call to attention." (Allen 1963)
As precession continues, the pole will pass up through the chakras of the body of Cepheus, "an inconspicuous constellation, but evidently highly regarded in eariy times as the father of the Royal Family." (Allen 1963) Cepheus' head is surrounded and illuminated by the Milky Way: he is wise, "cephalic." Over the next several thousand years, the pole will move into his upper chakras, out of his body, through the wings of Cygnus, and finally into Lyra (the harp of Hermes the trickster). For several thousand years, the pole will be very nearly parallel to the Milky Way.
Marija Gimbutas identified exactly this time in the previous precession cycle, from 21,000 BCE until 12*000 BCE, as the period during which the "Venus figurines" (bird-reptile-brain icons) were made. At approximately 12,000 BCE, the pole moved into Draco which, according to Allen, is most commonly portrayed as a combination bird/reptile, the "tempter of Eve in the Garden." While Draco wraps entirely around the ecliptic pole, the path of the celestial pole traces much of its body for nearly half a precession cycle. By 10,700 BCE, the pole reached the head of Draco. At that time, greenhouse gases began to build up; the North Atlantic Deep Water
Current suddenly turned on, and soon after the northern ice sheets began to melt. A major meteor struck the north Atlantic. Plato's date for the demise of Atlantis is 9400 BCE when the pole reached Draco's jaws: the Gulf Stream suddenly stopped and the first wave of of Na-Dene speakers migrated from Asia into Alaska and Canada. From 9400 BCE until 8100 BCE, the neolithic agricultural revolution began and spread throughout Turkey. This latter date marks the end of the Pleistocene and beginning of the Holocene, our current biological era which now stands threatened.
The Third Question: Intentionally Ambiguous Sexual Symbolism of Precession I picture the celestial pole as a vector floating peacefully in the Milky Way during a Golden Age that extended from 21,000 BCE until 12,000 BCE-the period during which the Venus figurine/brain representations were made. An extremely curious property of these "buxom" Venus figures is that* if turned upside down and sideways, the image clearly reads as a rather emaciated male wittr an enormous erection. They may even symbolize a balance of mind/body, male/female energies authors such as Gimbutas have proposed for the cultures of this time, I imagine a shift in consciousness on Earth brought about by the "polarization" of precession- an increase in the angle of orientation of the pole vector with respect to the plane of the Milky Way. If the Vetiuses are representations of brain stems of birds and reptiles, there is a strong temptation to relate them to Draco. Perhaps the "Eve" mythology ultimately stems from a one-sided perception of these icons.
The mid-5th millennium "Pregnant Goddess" from east-central Europe sketched at the center of the Solstice Zodiac above may relate directly to Plato's royal couple in Critias y the earthly queen Cleito (root of clitoris) and divine king Poseidon (root of potent and seed). This mid-5th millennium Neolithic clay figure from Bulgaria has rhombs encircling her waist and a prominent pubic triangle market with a double spiral that could suggest the gyroscopic motion of precession. She can be seen as an elephant and is in this way reminiscent of Ganesh, the Hindu divinity of transition and change. Alternately, she can be seen as a hippo and calls to mind Taweret, a much4oved Egyptian goddess who protects women in childbirth and appears in the position of the north ecliptic pole on the Dendera zodiac. While very consistently described in the literature as female (Gimbutas 1989), her head and neck-if not her entire backside-are an unambiguous representation of male genitalia. Her legs join together at a representation of a bull. She is clearly intentionally ambiguous. Viewed from above, she is a zodiac and almost certainly a representation of the transitional energy of precession. Her body is a perfect circle, her head offset IS degrees (1/20 of the circle) from the line of her legs. This IS degree angle is characteristic of many similar figures from this period.
Why would the ancients create geometric zodiacs? Possibly for the same reason I have recreated them. The ancient Egyptian word for the geometry of the Celestial Basket was MR\ the same sound also meant love, death, and the energy of cultivation. Geometry is a phenomenal tool for personal growth. In Greek, a very similar sound, Moire ; means Fate. Geometry is an elusive and captivating mystery. The divine Christian feminine i&Maiy. I feel an extremely sacred and comforting Presence when I engage in this work.
(Bethe Hagens 1994)
The concentric rings of this zodiac represent the ecliptic. The dates mark the position of me solstice in the northern hemisphere, the winter solstice m the southern hemisphere. The Aztec (parity combined with Atopm) <tmJ Greek zodiacs me superimposed on the framework oftheDmtdem zodiac (outerrtng). At the center are the constellations surrounding the north ecliptic pole and aNeolimie precession icon, the "PregnantGoddess"(c.4500 BC). The zodiac is read as if looking down on the celestial sphere. Star names indicate alignments with the meridians of the Celestial Basket geometry.
Alien, Robert R, Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning, 1963. ISBN 0-486-21079-0
Becker, William and Bethe Hagens, "Ancient Futures and the Geometry of Life," unpublished ms.
Becker, William and Bethe Hagens, *The Rings of Gaia," in James Swan, ed., The Power of Place: Sacred
Ground in Natural and Human Environments, 1993. ISBN 0-8356-0670-8 Gimbutaa, Marija, The Language of the Goddess, 19*9. ISBN 0-06-2503J6-1 Hagens, Bethe, "Veouses, Turtles, and Other Hand-Held Cosmic Models,* in Myrdene Anderson and Floyd
Merrill, eds., On Semiotic Modeling, 1991 ISBN 3-11-012314-2 Hagens, Bethe, "Paradise and Precession; A Geometric Legend," in Environment -A Challenge for Adult
Education: Proceedings of the 24th Meeting in Finland Seminar 1992, Helsinki, 1992. Hancock, Graham and Samha Faiia, Heaven's Mirror: Quest for the Lost Civilization, 199*. ISBN
0-517-70811-6 Lee, Desmond (tons.); Plato: Timaeus and Crtttas, 1965. ISBN 0-14444261-ft S an tillan a , Giorgio de and Bertha von Dechend, Hamlet's Mill: An Essay Investigating the Origins of
Human Knowledge and its Transmission through Myth, 1977. ISBN 0-87923-215-3 Stecdunu Lrvio Catullo, "Appendix," in Peter Tompkins, Secrets of the Great Pyramid^ 1971. ISBN
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