“For the present is the point where time touches eternity.”
Earth wobbles as she spins and circles the Sun. This wobble is caused by the pull of gravity from the Sun and other objects in the Solar System, and the result causes our view of the sky to slowly change over thousands of years. In astronomy, this motion is known as axial precession, causing the sky to shift over time at the rate of one degree of arc every 72 years. In astrology this slow motion causes different stars to rise ahead of the Sun at spring equinox in the northern hemisphere, which marks the passage of the astrological ages.
Called the Great Year, and composed of twelve cosmic months that are the astrological ages, this cycle lasts roughly 26,000 years. The points of reference for this backward motion, called Precession of the Equinoxes, are the zodiac constellations that form the ecliptic, the Sun’s apparent path. Each age is about 2,160 years and we are now passing from the Age of Pisces into the Age of Aquarius. This cycle is called precession because the motion is in the opposite direction from the Sun’s apparent direction through the zodiac in a year.
Another result of the wobble, which creates another frame of reference, occurs at the poles. Like a spinning top Earth’s axis causes an imaginary circle to be traced in the sky by the poles. As the orientation of the north pole shifts relative to the circumpolar stars, a different North Star moves into position. 12,000 years ago, the star Thuban, brightest star in the constellation of Draco, the Dragon, was the pole star.
A great wheel also exists at the heart of the Hindu tradition in phases that are called yugas. The Greeks and Romans had ages that ranged from an idyllic Golden Age that descended over thousands of years into the Iron Age. The changing of ages has long cusps, or transitional periods, and there are no precise demarcations of the circle where one influence stops and a new one begins. The duration of an astrological age is characterized by the archetypal energies of the constellation whose stars rise before the Sun at spring equinox dawn. We can only look back in time to sense approximately which archetype held sway and what experience humanity drew from to unfold our emerging pattern. The Age of Pisces, the Fishes, began about 2,000 years ago and has been marked by symbols and icons of fish.
Each phase of the Great Year is like a month, possessing a distinct and overarching quality of experience. The ages can be seen as spokes of the cosmic wheel, presenting a phase shift of archetypal energy designed to provide an evolutionary school room for developing humanity. Since the great cycle of the ages is a repeating pattern, perhaps we can learn something about our present and future from a better understanding of the past. What follows are brief reflections on past ages and a short look ahead to the Age of Aquarius. Next month I will explore that topic in more detail.
(Note: The dates given below are approximations, and the decidedly arbitrary lengths of the ages are arrived at by dividing the Great Year by twelve. Many believe the Age of Aquarius has already begun).
Age of Leo – 10,600 BCE – 8440 BCE
The age of Leo may have been the mythical golden age referred to in many ancient legends. The date generally accepted as the final destruction of Atlantis correlates with the timeframe for the age of Leo. According to certain occult traditions Atlantean civilization reached its zenith during this age of kings and also failed whatever tests were presented. Symbolically, humanity’s task during this age was finding the light within, learning self-rule rather than being subject to external authority. All the legends of Atlantis point to the fact that this lesson was not fully learned or integrated. The astronomy work of researchers Robert Bauval and Graham Hancock convincingly argue that the Great Sphinx of Egypt was a lion that mirrored the sky and the constellation of Leo at this time.
Age of Cancer – 8440 BCE – 6280 BCE
Symbolically the oceans of Cancer swallowed up the external evidence of ancient cultures, but new discoveries in Turkey and India, dating to 11,000 years ago, are pushing back the generally accepted dates and ideas about the sophistication of civilizations that existed at this time. The evolutionary lesson for the age of Cancer related to new ideas about home and tribe. After the destruction of Atlantis humanity’s relationship with technology was stripped away and the simple values of the hearth and heart and growing food became the central focus.
Age of Gemini – 6280 BCE – 4120 BCE
Scholars believe this period was characterized by widespread migrations, which is a very Gemini theme. From a post-flood simplicity cultures expanded and spread out, perhaps in many cases as hunter gatherers. Mythically deities were twins, brothers and sisters, during this time. Shadowy origins of pre-dynastic Egypt puzzle researches as a brilliant and complex civilization seems to have sprung full blown from the sands of the desert. Historically the links have been missing, but ongoing discoveries are filling in the blanks. The lessons of the age of Gemini involved making new connections and reintroducing the curious rational mind into the repertoire of skills.
Age of Taurus – 4120 BCE – 1960 BCE
During the age of Taurus the Bull, Minotaurs, Apis bulls, and the Bull of Heaven dominated myth and iconography. Conventional wisdom declares this to be a time of primarily agricultural societies where the domestication of cattle and the mastery of the element of earth is displayed through an emphasis on fertility. Farming and centralized settlements reemerged. In what seems to be a stunning contradiction this period saw the Dynastic period in Egypt where monumental temples and tombs were built. The lessons of the age of Taurus involved humanity’s relationship with the physical world and possessions. Greed versus generosity were themes.
Age of Aries – 1960 BCE – 200 CE
Next the march of ages brought the ram-headed god Khnum of Egypt to the stellar throne. This period might be described as an age of heroes as the “lamb” was ritually slain and the mythic focus turned to conquest and a glorification of war. In this period sons became more important than daughters and inheritance through the male line replaced matrilineal succession. By 330 BCE Alexander’s conquests had established Greece as a major power and the force that seemed to provide the container for “modern” civilization. The lessons of the age of Aries included such positive characteristics as valor and such negative qualities as brutality and mindless exploitation and domination.
Age of Pisces – 200 CE – 2400 CE
The age of Pisces has seen the emergence of hierarchy in organized religion and the growth of monastic orders, following the pattern of the ill-named Holy Roman Empire. After the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in 70 CE what became Christianity began to emerge. By 200 CE this thrust was well entrenched and we have seen increasing industrialization of parts of the world with the centralization of wealth. In the age the lamb of god became the fisher of men. The archetype of suffering has hopefully provided a schoolroom for humanity to become more compassionate.
If Aries is the first sign in the forward motion of the zodiac, then moving in the reverse direction of Precession Aries would complete a cycle. Therefore, the age of Pisces the twelfth sign, would have commenced a whole new cycle of precession. That we started counting time again two millennia ago might be seen as confirmation of this.
Age of Aquarius – 2400 CE – 4560 CE
From the disappearance of Atlantis nearly 13,000 years ago we have moved half way around the wheel of precession. This opposition of signs may well bring the ascension of sunken Atlantis, symbolically if not literally, in terms of reclaimed knowledge. Our understanding of how far back our story goes will be ascertained. As we approach the much-heralded age of Aquarius, the stars of the Water Bearer will replace those of the Fishes. At some point a new archetype for the Aquarian age will emerge and the diversity of this expression can already be witnessed in young people around the world. At the least we can expect a greater degree of scientific detachment. The already exponential growth of technology will continue, and early examples of this are electricity, space travel, and the Internet. The lessons of this age are similar to that of Atlantis; will the enlightened use of technology be used in service of the collective, or will unleashed forces destroy us again?
If we learn us lessons in the new age we will travel to the stars and meet the other beings who live there. Check in next month for a more detailed exploration of the Age of Aquarius.