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The Myth of the Central Sun
In this investigation we will see that many threads of evidence lead to the same unified conclusions. In preceding segments we have reviewed these unexplained associations:
Helios as Saturn; Helios as central sun, and Helios as axis of the celestial revolutions.
Assyrian Shamash as Saturn, Shamash as central sun, Shamash at the polar "midst" and "zenith."
Egyptian Atum-Ra as central sun, Atum-Ra as Saturn, Atum-Ra atop the world pole.
There is a way to test the integrity of the ancient ideas we have reviewed. Are there any independent astronomical traditions enigmatically connecting the outermost visible planet to the celestial pole? This would be particularly significant because nothing in the appearance of Saturn today could conceivably suggest such a connection? And it would show a coherence of the collective memory beyond anything historians would have thought possible.
The answer is clear, and it is stunning. Wherever ancient astronomies preserved detailed images of the planet Saturn, it seems that Saturn was declared to have formerly occupied the celestial pole! The priestly astronomy of Zoroastrianism knew the planet Saturn as Kevan, called "the Great One in the middle of the sky," and they located the primeval seat of Kevan at the celestial Pole. In neo-Platonist symbolism of the planets, Kronos-Saturn is claimed to rule the celestial Pole, or is placed "over the Pole."
It is also known that Latin poets remembered Saturn as god of "the steadfast star," the very phrase used for the pole star in virtually every ancient astronomy. Thus Manilius recounts that Saturn, in his fall, toppled to the "opposite end of the world axis." Hence his original throne could only have been atop the world axis.
A stunning example of the polar Saturn is provided in Chinese astronomy, where the distant planet was called "the genie of the pivot." Saturn was believed to have his station at the pole, according to the eminent authority on Chinese astronomy, Gustav Schlegel. In the words of Leopold deSaussure, Saturn was "the planet of the center, corresponding to the emperor on earth, thus to the polar star of heaven."
Interestingly, the theme also appears to have passed into the mystic traditions of numerous secret societies (Rosicrucian, Masonic, Cabalistic, Hermetic, and others rooted in an unknown past). The greatest authority on such societies was Manly P. Hall, who published numerous volumes on the related belief systems. In the general traditions reviewed by Hall, the god Saturn is "the old man who lives at the north pole." Even today, it seems that in our celebration of Christmas we live under the influence of the polar Saturn, for as Hall observes, "Saturn, the old man who lives at the north pole, and brings with him to the children of men a sprig of evergreen (the Christmas tree), is familiar to the little folks under the name of Santa Claus."
Santa Claus, descending yearly from his polar home to distribute gifts around the world, is a muffled echo of the Universal Monarch spreading miraculous good fortune. But while the earlier traditions place his prototype, the Universal Monarch, at the celestial pole, popular tradition now locates Santa Claus at the geographical pole—a telling example of originally celestial gods being brought down to earth.
A planet at the celestial pole? The consistency of the message cannot be denied, and it is anything but the message anticipated by conventional models of the ancient sky.
As odd as this tradition of Saturn at the pole may appear, it has been acknowledged by more than one authority, including Leopold de Saussure. The principle also figured prominently in the recent work of the historian of science, Giorgio de Santillana and the ethnologist Hertha von Dechend, authors of Hamlet's Mill. According to an ancient astronomical tradition, the authors suggest, Saturn originally ruled from the celestial pole!
As for the rationale of Saturn's polar station, the authors could only suggest that the concept arose as a "figure of speech" or astral allegory whose meaning remains to be penetrated.
"What has Saturn, the far-out planet to do with the Pole?" they asked. "It is not in the line of modern astronomy to establish any link connecting the planets with Polaris, or with any star, indeed, out of reach of the members of the zodiacal system. Yet such figures of speech were an essential part of the technical idiom of archaic astrology."
It seems that the primordial age, as chronicled in accounts around the world, stands in radical contrast to our own era. One can no more explain Saturn's ancient connection with the pole by reference to the present arrangements of the planets than one can explain, within conventional frameworks, Saturn's image as the Universal Monarch, as founder of the Golden Age, or as primeval sun god. Yet the fact remains that throughout the ancient world these images of Saturn constituted a pervasive memory which many centuries of cultural evolution could not obliterate.
Separate threads of evidence, each posing its own mystery for the specialists, thus suggest a remarkably unified memory: myth of the Golden Age, myth of the creator-king or celestial prototype of kings, reverence for a former sun god, the archaic day beginning at sunset, placement of the sun god at the cosmic center and summit, identification of the cosmic center with the axis of the turning sky, Saturn as founder of the Golden Age, Saturn as creator-king, Saturn as primeval sun or best sun, Saturn as god of the day (the day beginning at sunset), Saturn as resting god or god ruling the "day of rest," Saturn at the cosmic center and summit, Saturn ruling from the celestial pole.
In attempting to comprehend such enigmatic threads, we can no longer afford to ignore the most fundamental of questions: Is the sky we observe today the same sky experienced by the first stargazers?