The full moon this month and next month hangs low in the sky, while there is a dance between Mercury, Venus and Saturn (see the figure below). Mercury, visible in the early evening sky, catches Venus and the pair then rise above Saturn, the King. Meanwhile Jupiter joins the story by finishing its period of retrogradation on 6th June.
All of this, I believe, would have been taken quite seriously by the Babylonian sky watchers, so in this issue of the newsletter I am going to try and step through each piece of this sky-story and then draw some conclusions and hopefully enable you also to draw your own conclusion or generate your own ideas.
In searching through the translations of the Chaldean letters by Simo Parpola (1) one can suggest how these images may have been considered.
The full Moon lies low in the sky:
This is the first concern. As the moon becomes full, the Moon god fails to climb in the sky (for an explanation of this see the February newsletter – “The Gathering of Kings”). The monthly opposition of the Moon god with the Sun god was watched carefully and recorded. This bright shining full moon was considered to be the “Moon god … covered with the crown of Splendour” (2) and any interference, even by weather, was a concern.
The most consistent interpretation for weather or other obstacles preventing the full moon from being observed (apart from a lunar eclipse) was “.. the king is bound to his palace…. a powerful enemy will raise his weapons against the country and destroy the sanctuaries of the great gods.” (3)
There are no known letters concerning the actual altitude of the moon but one can surmise that the low full moon would have been seen as an interference with the Moon god’s ability to gain his crown of splendour and thus an omen or a threat to the kingdom or the king.
Mercury visible and catching Venus
Mercury was known as Sihtu to the Babylonian/Chaldean priests. It gained its modern name from the Roman messenger god because it so quickly appeared and disappeared from the morning and evening skies. Before the 5th century B.C.E., the planet Mercury actually had two names, for observers did not realize that it could appear alternately first on one side of the sun and then the other. Its visibility was not a happy sight, interpreted as an unwelcome visitor or a messenger with false news. There is a letter on this subject from a Chaldean priest named Istar-sumu-eres who, around the year 670 B.C.E., wrote a letter to his king concerning the appearance of Mercury:
“An ignorant one frustrates [the j]udge, an uneducated one makes the mighty worry” (4)
We do not know if Istar-sumu-eres is referring to Mercury in the east or in the west.
In this month of June, Mercury enters the court from the west – becomes visible in the early evening sky – and then races towards Venus and gives her a message or has a meeting with her. Due to its elevation above Saturn, this could be interpreted as undermining the authority of the king.
Venus a bright evening star meeting with Mercury.
Venus is the goddess Ishtar. She is currently bright amongst the stars of Cancer which, to the Chaldeans, was a sign of fecundity, wealth, full harvest bins and much grain. So the messenger who carries lies or illusions whispers in the ear of the one who holds the prize or a pot of wealth; or else the meeting is about the awarding of a pot of wealth or a prize.
This Venus is prosperous and the king expects to gain the prize held by Venus because Venus has joined with Saturn. However, the secret meeting with the fleet-footed Mercury changes her mind or alters the situation.
Saturn the King
The king is joined by Venus, yet when Mercury catches her ear, both Mercury and Venus rise over the top of him to have their meeting. In Chaldean thinking, Saturn is always the king. Any celestial activities involving Saturn were regarded as events influencing the king: Saturn rising above a planet was the king being more powerful than another, while Saturn involved in an eclipse was a threat to the king’s life. Thus Mercury and Venus conjoining directly above Saturn is the king’s power being made subservient to these two planets, or people, who are having a meeting. Additionally we know we are talking about events in the northern hemisphere because in the south Saturn appears above Mercury and Venus. In the southern hemisphere the king is not overruled by the message or the outcome of the meeting.
Some questions that arise from this story are:
- Who meets with the messenger and does so in a way that undermines the king?
- Does the king’s wife or daughter have a secret lover?
- What meetings are happening that are not to the king’s benefit?
- Who hands out a prize that does not meet with the king’s delight?
- Who gains from this secret meeting?
To the Chaldeans, Jupiter was the crown prince, general or a high official. He was not the individual with the greatest power, not the expected leader; not weak, either, nor a minor player but simply not the main player. The stars of Virgo were seen as blessed, especially Spica, and the constellation has a long association with harvest or grain which could be translated in modern terms as productivity and trade. We can therefore suggest that this Jupiter figure is either a wealthy merchant or a country that is a wealthy trader.
Whoever or whatever Jupiter is symbolising in this lunar month, this is the one/the group who gains from this meeting of Mercury and Venus. He is the one who gains the prize and now has a job to undertake, a mission to complete, a journey to travel. Additionally the gaining of this prize by Jupiter is not what the king expects or desires as it is an unhappy king, symbolised by the low full moon and the Venus Mercury raised above him.
This is a raw reading of the sky story and while writing this, I realized that in this lunar month (first day of a visible crescent moon to next first day of a visible crescent moon), the host city for the 2012 Olympic Games is being announced (6th July, 2005) – and that is indeed a great prize. Competing or battling for this prize are five “kingdoms”:
New York City
The prize will go to Jupiter, the wealthy and successful trader. New York may be the centre of the world’s trade with Wall Street but the city itself is neither a place of trade and shipping, nor a place of wealth. Moscow and Madrid would also have to take second place on this score. This leaves Paris and London.
In looking back on a bit of history a few insights can be gained:
When France won the World Cup in soccer on 12th July, 1998 (they beat Brazil 3-0) Mars, the warrior, was moving amongst the stars of Gemini.
This was the same for the time of the German invasion of Paris 14th June, 1940. Mars the warrior was also amongst the stars of Gemini but this time Jupiter was in battle with Saturn, gruesomely located in the mouth of Cetus the Whale (see figure below), the monster from the great depths, the German tanks rolling into Paris.
The beginning of the London Blitz was 7th September, 1940. The Jupiter-Saturn battle in the mouth of Cetus was still in tow but now the warrior, Mars, had moved on to the stars of Virgo. German bombs now fell on London.
By the time of the Liberation of Paris (25th August, 1944), Jupiter had left Saturn and was amongst the stars of Leo with Mars. Saturn was in the stars of Gemini, the mark of more than one king, and these kings were in the place symbolised by the stars of Gemini. Since Mars was in Gemini when the allied tanks rolled into Paris, I am hypothesising that Gemini may symbolise Paris.
Granted the briefness of the above and that it is based on the reading that Jupiter represents a wealthy trader, nevertheless to me it seems as if the stars of Virgo have more connection with the city of London and the stars of Gemini or Leo more with Paris.
If this is the case then the story may be read as follows:
Paris takes on the role of the king as it is the favourite city, sure of its victory. But a report or a rumour spreads through the IOC delegates late in the month of June, unbeknown to the Paris bid organisers. This rumour or whisper sways the vote towards London, a powerful bidder but not the favourite. London is then awarded the 2012 Olympic Games.
Now I am not going to bet on this but I am going to watch the results with great interest, as it will give us a lot of clues as to how this sky story is unfolding. But just as this story will unfold before us in the media, the story will also unfold in your family, in your work and in your community. So ask yourself who or what does Jupiter represent in your story? Who in your life is going to be given this new responsibility over the next four weeks?
 Parpola, Simo.(1970). Letters form Assyrian Scholars to the Kings of Esarhaddon and Assurbanipal, Part 1. Germany: Verlad Butzon & Bercker Keelaer.