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From Myth to Model
Ball games, especially those once played in Mesoamerica, were definitely celestially inspired... I assume that these ball games derived from the once shifting planets within the Saturnian configuration. - Dwardu Cardona
Yes indeed! Not to forget that any interpretation of ritual ball games identifying the ricocheting "balls" with planets , is faced with the enigma that in our sky today, planets and stars to not look like spheres. The naked eye simply cannot make out their spherical shape. That planets were, in fact, anciently represented as spheres, is one of the more fundamental levels of evidence that the planets were formerly seen up close and personal. - David Talbott
Every catastrophist following a Velikovskian approach to myth must continually ask himself: how seriously do I believe that myth can illuminate an unknown past? The question will pursue the catastrophist relentlessly because his theoretical approach is challenged every time he wonders if an extraordinary celestial phenomenon-some possibility yet to be admitted by mainstream science-might explain a particular form or episode of myth. And the path he has chosen leaves little room for compromise. Logic does not permit one to pick and choose which unusual mythical themes one will take seriously. If myth has a reference in spectacular natural events, then no well-established mythical theme can be ignored. Sidestepping various themes in order to bolster a more easily defended interpretation becomes an invitation to a misunderstanding of the past.
I emphasize this point because one of the biggest potential distractions to catastrophists is the discussion of elaborate physical models based on a few mythical fragments. This kind of discussion is not only generally useless but easily leads to self-deception: it implies that complex historical questions can be answered by abstract logic, or by mathematical or physical demonstration. But there are a thousand abstract possibilities, and that doesn't make any of them true. Moreover, the first effect of armchair theorizing on fragmentary evidence is to discredit the idea that myth is useful.
The goal is not to expound upon purely theoretical models, but to reconstruct an unknown past on the basis of pervasive images and pictures-historical evidence that finds no reference in the natural order today. The logical focus is the human experience as recorded on papyrus, on clay, and on stone. Through comparative analysis and cross-referencing, one must seek out the observed patterns, for it is these patterns that provide the foundation of a systematic inquiry.
If the well-documented, recurring mythical themes actually originated in a different celestial order, then a revolution in science and in our understanding of the past is inevitable. For catastrophists in the Velikovskian tradition, it is receptivity to the veiled messages of myth that provides a common ground for discussion. Without that receptivity to myth, what do we talk about?
If you are considering venturing into myth in these terms, however, there is a certain risk. The risk is that, guided by the desire to know what happened, and finding yourself at the intellectual crossroads, you really do let the myths speak for themselves, irrespective of conventional teaching or prior theory. You simply can't take this step without opening the door to previously unimagined possibilities. When examined comprehensively from a Velikovskian orientation, with full cross-referencing of recurring themes, myth will inevitably bring you to a point of no return.
Now one of the reasons to ask whether myth might refer to an alien sky is very simple: All attempts to explain myth--even the most explicitly astral myths--by present behavior of presently-observed celestial bodies have failed. Is there any global mythical theme that can be explained by reference to the present celestial order? Not one-among hundreds of well-developed motifs. Once you realize that the myths speak for unfamiliar experiences-that they reflect celestial forms no longer present, or events no longer occurring in nature-you are entering uncharted territory. And if the excursion has any sane and rational justification, then the groundrules for study of the past are radically changed.
The key is to follow the anomaly. For example: perhaps you begin to notice that a variety of mythical themes all point to an anomalous conclusion about the past-say, the planet Venus' former cometary identity (first discerned by Velikovsky). You begin to wonder if Venus' recurring identity as soul-star, hair star, bearded star, serpent-dragon, torch of heaven, feathered serpent, bearded serpent, hairy serpent, fiery serpent, etc.-all acknowledged pre-astronomical glyphs of the comet-might actually be explained by the most straightforward interpretation possible, even though that interpretation obviously conflicts with modern theory.
Are these mythical images themselves worth pursuing to a higher level of detail, to see how well the suggested pattern holds up under closer scrutiny and to see what complementary patterns might emerge? If you choose to disregard the cometary interpretation because it isn't scientifically supported, then you are closing the door. If, on the other hand, you simply suspend judgment and explore the imagery to test its underlying coherence, you are already approaching the point of no return. You can't justify this kind of exercise on the basis of one anomaly and then resist the exercise as you begin to encounter other equally compelling patterns, all suggesting something entirely different from what we see in the sky today.
I can remember, as a first impression of myth, little more than a jumble of meaningless, disconnected ideas. Nothing seemed more futile than seeking out an intelligent account. In these early encounters, the mass of random details didn't even look interesting! And this is why, today, I can't imagine anyone just casually glancing at the myths, and finding something compelling.
Each time I returned, however, the sense of coherence or underlying unity was heightened. And gradually I could see distinctive patterns that simply couldn't be explained away. The more you become aware of these patterns, the more confident you become that something incredible happened, and it is simply not useful to interpret the patterns through conventional references. Let's not forget that every previous attempt to interpret and explain myth by reference to the Sun, Moon, stars or planets today has lasted only as long as it took the critics to set pen to paper.
I offer here some general observations on the character of world mythology, noting a few of the "anomalous" facts one must confront in seeking an explanation of myth as a whole.
1. No recurring mythical theme is explained by the present celestial order.
This is an amazing fact, in view of many hundreds of identifiable themes. The inescapable conclusion: it is self-defeating to ignore the possibility of a changing sky.
2. There is no evidence that early man was a fabricator in the sense commonly assumed.
It's impossible to immerse oneself in the mythical world without realizing that the storyteller himself is bound to the integrity of the original experience, though the first storytellers could not help but interpret, or to project meanings onto experienced phenomena. The highest obligation of ancient storytelling was to be true to the remembered event, to get the story right. Conversely, there is no documented instance of "primitives" inventing a central episode of myth. The duty of the storyteller is to repeat the story as it was told by his predecessors.
In myth, the event itself is filtered through the subjective interpretation or projection of those experiencing it. Event and interpretation are the story. No living dragon ever flew about in the sky. But it is preposterous to assume that the global myth of the dragon was unrelated to anything actually experienced by man. Early man did not-could not-fabricate the events inspiring the interpretation.
Honoring the story by repeating it in words reflected the same fundamental impulse as all other forms of imitation and alignment in ancient ritual, art, and architecture. Recitation of the story momentarily transported both the storyteller and the listener backwards to the mythical epoch, which was experienced as more compelling, more "true" than the later age. That's why, among all early civilizations, as noted by Mircea Eliade and others, the age of myth provided the models for all sacred activity.
3 Recurring mythical themes are almost certainly prehistoric.
The basis of this generalization is a simple provable fact. All fundamental mythical themes will be found in very early historical sources, and the related signs and symbols will be found in prehistoric settings. This rarely acknowledged fact, which could be easily disproved if incorrect, is of incredible significance. If early man was habituated to making up experience, one would expect an endless stream of new mythical themes-new forms and personalities arising as if from nowhere. This absence of invention forces us to ask: what unknown ancient experience could have produced the massive story content of myth, including hundreds of underlying patterns that have lasted for thousands of years?
4. All myths are associated with "the age of the gods."
Now what do you think that people meant by that expression? The Egyptians called the lost epoch "the age of the primeval gods"-which began with the Tep Zepi, the First Time or golden Age of Ra. The age of the gods was not only dramatically different from the present age, it represented for all ancient nations a preferred order, a standard and reference for all later activity.
Mythically speaking, as the phrase "age of the gods" suggests, man lived close to the gods, or in communion with the gods, or the gods lived on earth in some sense, on the world's highest mountain, occupied the central province, kingdom, or island. But again, none of this means anything, in a casual observation of myth. No theory of myth that is unable to account for the age of the gods can explain its subject.
5. The gods are no longer present.
The age of gods, in all variations on the theme, passes into a more mundane, more confused age, a less interesting, less real, less dramatic, less heroic time, which can only take sustenance from reference backwards. The gods and heroes departed, and in numerous accounts the departure of a god or hero is accompanied by great upheaval.
If we can oversimplify the many forms in which the departure of one or another god occurs, the most common idea is transfiguration into a distant star--in the more meticulously elaborated astronomies, a specific planet. Countless other forms of transfiguration, as a "soul-bird" a "feathered serpent," a comet, a stone, a column of smoke, when examined in detail, consistently support the planetary transfiguration.
6. Through storytelling over time, the gods are brought down to earth.
In the course of re-enactment and storytelling over the centuries, the celestial gods become the aged kings and warring heroes, the great queens and long-haired princesses of epic literature. That this process occurred is easily verifiable because there are countries in which the process can be observed over many centuries, perhaps a couple of millennia. In the case of the Egyptian Ra, the prototype of the good king, or Shu or Horus, prototypes of the hero Hercules, you can see this transformation clearly in the classical histories of Egypt. Similarly, all of the personalities and motifs associated with the great queens and princesses of folk tale will be found in the images of the Egyptian Nut, Isis, Hathor and other unequivocally celestial goddess figures. But in the later accounts, all of the events occur on earth and the players, though charismatic and possessing great magical powers, become increasingly human.
7. The first civilizations arose from attempts to celebrate or recapture the age of the gods.
The degree of early man's orientation backwards, to the age of the god's, is extraordinary. The definitive features distinguishing early civilizations from the more pastoral age that preceded them seem to have arisen as ritual expressions, honoring, re-enacting and extending celestial forms and celestial episodes in the age of the gods. The first writing, vital technologies, monumental architecture, the rise of kings and larger-scale political organization, rites of sacrifice and wars of conquest-all of these distinctive attributes and tendencies of the first civilizations- can be traced to religious or ritual practices in which men sought to re-live and to extend the Prime Example provided in the mythical age. It is not an exaggeration to say that the makers of civilization never built anything considered sacred or undertook any religious act without first finding inspiration and guidance in a celestial prototype. And all traditions agree that prototype arose in the age of the gods.