Table 2.7. The ancient planetary names.












Thai Yang (Greater Yang)






Thai Yin (Greater Yin)






Chhen hsing = Hour Star



dili-pat Ishtar



Thai pai = Great White One



an, dsal-bat-a-ni Nergal



Ying huo = Fitful Glitterer



mul-babbar Marduk

Ahura Mazda/Oromasdes


Sui hsing = Year Star




Zervan (Zurvan)

Prajapati (Sanaiscara)

Chen hsing = Exorcist

amplitude, resulting in a striking weaving movement of the rise and set points of the Moon on the horizon over an 18.6-year interval. The phenomenon bears strongly on the question of megalithic lunar alignments discussed in §3.2.1 and at length, in applications, in §6.

That there is a difference between the anomalistic and sidereal periods implies the rotation of the orbit of the Moon such that the line of apsides (the major axis) moves forward (i.e., eastward, in the direction of the Moon's motion in its orbit). This motion was also known in ancient China, apparently. Needham (1959, Fig. 180, p. 393) shows a diagram with a series of overlapping orbits called "The Nine Roads of the Moon," which, he writes, are due to apsidal motion, as it was understood in the Han.

The physical appearance of both Sun and Moon over time, eclipse phenomena, and association of these bodies with tides, we leave to later chapters; these phenomena too have had profound effects on the history of astronomy and, indeed, of civilization.

2.4. The Planets 2.4.1. Wanderers

Compared with the constellations and other relatively fixed stars, some are "wandering stars," the translation of the Greek words (aoispeg) plavftat or plavfteQ äotepev (singular: plavfxfQ, sometimes relavfV, or relavftov) from which we derive our word planets. In Wagner's opera Die Walküre, Wotan is called simply "the wanderer," the still powerful, but fatally limited, lord of the heavens. Because they took certain liberties compared with the fixed stars, the astral entities we know as planets appeared to have intelligence. Moreover, they were far above the Earth, apparently immune from local plagues and disasters and, therefore, were of a higher order of being than was mankind. Because they were evidently immortal beings, they were necessarily gods.30 We know the names of these gods. In the Greek world of the 3rd century b.c., there were seven planetary gods: Selene (the Moon), Hermes (Mercury), Aphrodite (Venus),

30 DHK thinks it is truer to say that the characteristics of the planets determined the nature of what came to be called "gods." EFM thinks the point is moot.

Helios (the Sun), Ares (Mars), Zeus (Jupiter), and Kronos (Saturn).

In India, there were two dark, and therefore invisible, additional planets—the head and tail of the dragon, Rahu-head and Rahu-tail, or Rahu and Ketu. These invisible planets were later interpreted as the ascending and descending nodes of the moon's orbit respectively, which caused eclipses.

The planetary names given by the German tribes can be found in several of the days of the week as expressed in English and in several other languages. The days of the week arise from a scheme for the order of the planetary orbits (cf. §4.1.3). The names by which the planets, or their associated gods (Ptolemy refers to each planet as "the star of..."), were known to various cultures can be found in Table 2.7. They include the Sun and Moon, which in antiquity were considered among the planets, because they too wander among the stars.

The Greek list is from late antiquity (after ~200 b.c.). A Hellenistic list dating from the latter part of the 4th century b.c. is given by Toomer (1984, p. 450 fn. 59): Stilbon (Sxtipwv) for Hermes; Phosphorus (Owofwpwv) for Aphrodite; Pyroeis (nupoetg) for Ares; Phaethon (Oae0wv) for Zeus; and Phainon (Oatvwv) for Kronos, at least sometimes identified with Chronos (time) [van der Waerden (1974, pp. 188-197)]. At still earlier times (and in Ptolemy's Almagest), they were called by their late antiquity sacred names but with the prefix "star of."

The Persian names are widely attested. The spelling used here is from van der Waerden (1974). See Cumont (1960) (and §§7.3.3 and 15) for further discussion of the role of Mithras.

The Babylonian names, from Neugebauer (1955/1983) and van der Waerden (1974), include both the names of their cuneiform signs first, and, following, the names of the associated gods. The name for Jupiter literally means "star white."

Yano (1987, p. 131) provides parallel lists of the planets ordered in weekday order in Sogdian, and in Indian Sanskrit, from a Chinese text of the 8th century, entitled Hsiu-yao Ching. In addition to the known planets, The Book of Master Chi Ni (Chi Ni Tzu) names an invisible "counter Jupiter," Thai Yin (Needham/Ronan 1981, p. 190), which had primarily astrological purposes. The Moon was given this name by the 1st century (Needham/Ronan 1981, pp. 89, 90), but apparently has nothing to do with the invisible planet.

Figure 2.18. The movement of the planet Mars, showing its retrograde motion between July 14 and September 10, 1971. The position of opposition is marked. Produced by Bryan Wells with the Voyager II software package (Carina Software).

Figure 2.18. The movement of the planet Mars, showing its retrograde motion between July 14 and September 10, 1971. The position of opposition is marked. Produced by Bryan Wells with the Voyager II software package (Carina Software).

The wandering of the planets is primarily eastward among the stars, although the eastward motion is less dominant for Mercury and Venus, as those planets pass between the Earth and the Sun moving rapidly westward. The eastward motion is called direct motion. The average eastward motion is slower as one descends Table 2.7. For any planet, there are times when the motion is westward, or retrograde. In order to accomplish this result, the planet must slow its eastward motion and stop, thereby displaying variable speed across the sky. This behavior was carefully noted by the Babylonian astronomers, and later, by others. The motion of Mercury relative to the ecliptic is depicted as a circle in the Thu Shu Chi Chheng of 1726, as described by Needham/Ronan (1981, p. 189).

An example of retrograde motion for an exterior planet, Mars, is shown in Figure 2.18. The positions of Mars over a 4.5-month interval are shown along with its location at opposition and a few of the stars in the vicinity. The explanation of this motion in the geocentric framework that dominated attention in antiquity required extensive geometrical modeling. Combinations of circular motion succeeded, to various degrees, with the developments of concentric spheres (§7.2.3) and eccentric circles and epicyles. The latter marked the climax of Ptolemy's astronomy (§7.3.2).

2.4.2. Morning and Evening Stars

Any object that rises within a few hours before sunrise will be seen in the eastern, morning sky. Such an object, particularly a bright object, can be called a morning star. Similarly, any object setting within a few hours following sunset, and therefore visible in the western, evening sky, can be called an evening star. Planets are among the brightest objects in the sky and, because of their wanderings, will noticeably appear and disappear in both roles. Venus is particularly dominant as an evening or a morning star: It can be the brightest object in the sky after the Sun and Moon. Venus can cast shadows in an otherwise dark sky, and it can be seen by a sharp eye sometimes even in daylight. In a twilight sky, it can dominate all other celestial objects. Often in popular and classical literature, and in the arts, "the evening star" refers solely to Venus. In Figure 2.19, the brilliance of Venus in evening twilight shows us why.

In Wagner's epic opera Tannhauser, the goddess of love makes an onstage appearance. Curiously, though, the evening star is not equated with the divine sexpot, but rather with the pure and noble Elisabeth, her opposite pole. The dichotomy is between the beauty and inspiration of the evening star and the lusty Venus of Venusberg, the cause of Tannhauser's downfall, as it were. For similar reasons, "the morning star" may indicate Venus alone of all potential dawn twilight candidates.

The Greek world identified the two appearances of (Aphrodite): As evening star, it was Hesperus, to which our word "vespers" (evensong) is related. In its morning star role, it was known as Phosphorus, "bearer of light." It may be startling to some to realize that its Latin counterpart is Lucifer, "bringer of light."31

31 Among others, Gray (1969/1982, pp. 132-133) traces the concept of Lucifer as fallen angel (that of Milton's Paradise Lost) to Isaiah

Galileo (1610) first observed that "the mother of loves emulates Cynthia" (the Moon) on the basis of his telescopic studies. Venus undergoes changes of phase, angular size and distance, seen by the unaided eye as a waxing and waning of its brightness—like the fortunes of love

(14:12-20): "12How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! 13For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God" (King James version). According to Gray, this is not a direct reference to Satan, but to the king of Babylon (most likely Sargon II or Sennacherib);Isaiah is referring to

Figure 2.19. At maximum brightness, Venus is the brightest object in the sky after the Sun and the Moon: (a) Venus as an evening star, shown here with the Moon and Mars in a 1-second, 210-mm exposure, Calgary, Jan. 24, 1985. (b) Venus at dusk at the European Southern Observatory, Chile, Jan. 1977. Photos by E.F. Milone. (c) A telescopic (41-cm) view of Venus taken at the RAO at elongation, from the archives (no other details recorded).

(see Figure 2.19c). The planet was considered the visible manifestation of the goddess in the Mediterranean region (Roman Venus, Greek Aphrodite, Babylonian Ishtar, etc.) (van der Waerden, 1974, p. 57), but the depiction of Venus as a female deity was not universal. Athar was the a Babylonian myth that describes the attempt of Athar, the Venus god among the Arabs, to take Baal's place while the god was absent. We think that a direct astronomical identification with Venus as evening star becoming morning star is, however, likely here. The subsequent Christian view of Lucifer derives partly from a definition of Satan in the Council of Braga, 563 a.d. (Metzger and Coogan 1993, p. 679).

name of the Semitic Venus god; it was not the only male Venus god.

In Mesoamerica, which also had a male Venus god, the growth of brilliance of Venus as evening star, its eventual decline, and its return as a bright morning star were powerful symbols of struggle, death, and rebirth. There is a possible depiction of the Venus legend of Mesoamerica on the wall of a ballcourt in El Tajin.32 In Western culture, the analogy between the morning star and resurrection is not as widespread or explicit, but these references to the morning star in the New Testament33 are metaphors for the second coming:

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eye-witnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, 'This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,' we heard this voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word made more sure. You will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. [2 Peter 1:16-19]

Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense, to repay every one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.

I Jesus have sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, the bright morning star. [Revelation 22:14, 16]

The passage from Revelation invokes the completion of a cycle, and the "Morning Star" reference applies the metaphor of the Venus cycle.

The visibility of an object in the evening or morning sky depends mainly on its angular distance from the Sun, but also on the observer's latitude and the time of year. It is reported that Venus was actually observed as an evening star on one evening and as a morning star the next day by observers on the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. Although unlikely under most circumstances, it does occur. If Venus or Mercury are far north of node while they are passing between the Earth and the Sun, thanks to the tilt of the Sun's diurnal path near the horizon, they can be seen to the north of the Sun just after sundown, and again north of the Sun the following morning. Figure 2.20 illustrates various orientations of the ecliptic and celestial equator to the east and west points of the horizon at the equator and at mid-latitude sites for the important turning points of the seasons: the solstices and the equinoxes. We deal with the related question of the visibility of an object close to the Moon or Sun in §

32 DHK finds this interpretation by C. Cook de Leonard (1975) of the ballcourt panels in this Gulf-coast city of ancient Mexico unconvincing.

33 See also: Revelation 2:27, based on the Messianic symbolism based on Numbers 24:17 ("A star shall come out of Jacob and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel");Matthew 2:2 and 2:10;and our discussion of the Star of Bethlehem in §15. All citations are from the Revised Standard Version (Thomas Nelson and Sons: New York, Edinburgh), 1946.

Equatorial site_Northern mid-latitude site

0 0

Post a comment