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Star Words
A discussion

TED BOND says: I have just discovered that throughout the whole range of the Indo-European language group, the words for star are cognate, starting (!) with the Sanskrit 'star' (yes!). It is clear that these words are also cognate with many of the names (Ishtar, Astarte, Asherah, Ashteroth) of the goddess identified with the planet Venus. The radiant Venus may have been at one time the only star-shaped light visible in the sky, and the star-words may be derived from the proper name rather than vice versa.

A most extraordinary thing however, is that the word 'disaster' said to derive, via French from the Italian disastro derived in turn from the Latin 'astrum', a star OR planet. But 'dis-' is a Latin prefix signifying deviation. Is there no attestation for a Latin 'disastrum' (deviating star or planet)? (The suggestion here should be obvious.)

The Shorter Oxford Dictionary (based on the O.E.D.) does not mention an Italian origin for the French, but goes directly from the French to Latin 'astrum' and Greek 'astron'. In fact, according to this dictionary, until 1669, 'disaster' had the sense 'an obnoxious planet'!

ROGER WESCOTT jumps in: Ted Bond rightly perceives a connection between Indo-European nouns cognate with English "star" and Semitic names like Akkadian Ishtar. Most historical linguists, adhering to conventional chronology, either descry lexical coincidence here or derive the I.E. from the Sem. forms. I am inclined, rather, to regard the Sem. forms as borrowings from I.E., for 4 reasons: (1) these forms are wide-spread in I.E. but not in Sem.; (2) revised chronology no longer requires us to regard written Akkadian as older than Hittite; (3) I.E., unlike Sem., permits an internal etymology for "star", relating it to English "stare" and other verbs expressing strength and persistence; and (4) Afrasian language families related to Sem., such as Cushitic and Ancient Egyptian, fail to exhibit forms with this shape and meaning (as they should if the form were primarily Afrasian).

EV COCHRANE adds: As a matter of fact, I was just researching this particular issue this past month. According to Wilhelm Eilers' book on planet names, there is no connection between the IE word "star" and the Semitic words Ishtar/Astarte/etc. As is well-known, such a derivation has been proposed on several occasions in this century but has long since been abandoned. So far as I'm aware, there is no agreed upon root for Ishtar/Astarte. According to Eilers and the other authorities I've consulted, the English word "star" is derived from the same root as "strewn", although I don't have the root in front of me at the moment. Thus I would be most interested to learn how Dr. Wescott relates "star" to the word "stare" (which root?) and which Semitic root he would offer as a source for Ishtar/Astarte.

ROGER clarifies: All etymologies are probabilistic at best. Besides "strew", the English forms most likely to be cognate with "star" are "strong" and "steady", to either or both of which "stare" may be related.

EV says: It goes without saying, of course (but I'll go ahead and say it just the same), that the Saturn theory would expect a relation between early words for "star" and Venus, since Venus presented the appearance of a giant star against the backdrop of Saturn. In this sense, Venus was the original prototype for "star" and could serve as the "star" par excellence in ancient nomenclature. As I have documented elsewhere, in various languages—such as Mayan and Polynesian— the word for "star" also means "Venus." Thus I would love to see Dr. Wescott (or anyone else) prove that the IE word "star" is cognate with Ishtar/Astarte.

DAVE TALBOTT adds: Here is a personal opinion concerning S-T-R roots in the Indo- European languages. Virtually ALL are related, but in many cases the relationships will not be evident to the experts because these experts remain unaware of the archetype around which entire complexes of meanings arose. The source of the archetype was in the sky, but it is not there now, and the experts have not even suspected that a celestial reference might have existed—once—which could unify the picture completely.

So they search about "down here," wrestling with concepts that cannot (on their own, in the absence of the celestial reference) be reconciled. They do not believe that "cataSTRophe" has anything to do with "STaR" because it is known that the former derives from the Greek "STRrophe", meaning a turning or twisting motion with specific references to the turning motions of dancers in Greek choral odes. They cannot imagine any linkage between this meaning and the root concept "STRength," to which the word STaR does appear to be clearly related. Nor does the "turning" motion of dancers suggest any connection to the concept "to STaRe," with which the word STaR is also connected.

The Saturn theory, on the other hand, reconstructs an archetype which can account for the full range of STR-meanings. The subject is Venus and Mars in conjunction, together constituting the Great Star, the prototypical star depicted in the center of the archaic "sun" god (Saturn). The radiant STReams or STRahlen [German "rays"] of this StaR are the life and "STRength" of the sun. This star can be said to "STaRe" only because it is the sun god's central eye.

When considering the origins of the word "catastrophe" and the meaning of the Greek "strophe", it is inappropriate for the experts to ignore the connection of sacred dances to celestial phenomena, since all such ritual performances repeated critical junctures in the lives of GODS. The turning, twisting motion ("strophe") of the prototypical star is legendary and is the basis of the global connection of this star, Venus, to the simple curl, spiral, and whorl.

And speaking of the turning motion of Venus, if cataSTRophe is in fact connected to the same root as STaR, then so must the word apoSTRophe, since it expresses the same Greek root. The expected connection is definitely there. Aphrodite (Venus) was CALLED Apostrophia. A loose counterpart would be the Latin Venus as Verticordia—the turning or whirling heart.

Our apostrophe is a mark or STRoke made with a STRophe or turning motion. Its form is virtually identical to the more elementary forms of the ancient Sumerian Venus-sign. And of course it has the same form as our COMMA which is surely linked to the "cometary" COMA of the Great Star. The archetypal Great Star is strictly synonymous with the archetypal Great Comet, But what is unified at the level of archetypes is too easily fragmented with the specialization and fragmentation of language in the ABSENCE of the original celestial references.

To sort through the maze of modern words expressing the S-T-R root I would STaRt :) with these most fundamental associations of the Great Star:

1, It is the life, power, glory, strength, and majesty of the archaic sun god: the god's central, radiant eye, heart, and soul. In rites and symbols of kingship it will be represented as the feminine "anima" of kings, the very force which Jung himself identified with the goddess Venus. The radiant streamers of the central star, the "Queen of heaven", ANIMATE the sun god. In the waxing and waning of these streamers in the daily cycle, the ancient symbolists saw the nuances of "life"-of being and non-being. I cannot see how the Latin "exsiSTeRe" from which our word "existence" is derived, could have its root in any concept other than the "appearance" or "coming out" of the STaR that was the life of the sun god. It also seems abundantly clear that our word "is", Latin "est", Greek "esti", Sanskrit "asti" related to the life-giving "presence" of the central star.

2. The definitive motion of Venus is represented pictographically by the curl, spiral, and whorl. That is the motion to which to the Greek STRophe must be referred. Hence, the STRophe cannot be legitimately separated from the language of the Great Star.

3. The dominant activity of the Great Star includes scattering and clearing. The explosion of radiating material is a STRewing of luminous ejecta into surrounding space, but in the subsequent clearing of the sky, the Great Star is the "broom" (comet) sweeping away the clouds of chaos. The broom is a clump of STRaw, German STRoh, an acknowledged hieroglyph for the COMET. (The hieroglyphic twisted STRoh or STRaw of the "comet" will be the STRahlen, or STReaming radiance.)

4. The coming into existence (Latin "exsiSTeRe") of the Great Star is the first "activity" in the history of the gods. The first form of "divinity" in Mesopotamia is the Sumerian sign of An. It is the 8-pointed star, signifying the "life" and "radiance" in the center of An. The "tears" shed by the central, solitary "Eye" of Atum in the opening event of the Egyptian creation legend will denote the same celestial form. The event means (in the words of the Egyptians themselves) "the beginning of coming into existence".) In calling this central star the "GREAT star" we refer specifically to its role as the "first", the primeval model, the prototype. Invariably, cosmic history will STaRt with this effusion of radiant STReamers or STRahlen. Most fundamentally, our word "STaRt" means the beginning of motion or activity, and that is a core concept in the Great Star imagery.

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