THE CENTRAL, POLAR SUN: Part 4
by David Talbott
To the traditions of a polar power, previously cited, should be added
In the Persian Zend Avesta the creator-king
Ahura Mazda rules from atop
the world axis, the fixed station "around which the many stars revolve."
Iranian cosmology, as reported by Leopold de Saussure, esteemed the
celestial pole as the center and summit of heaven, where resided Kevan,
the sovereign power of heaven, called "the Great One in the middle of
the sky." Throughout the ancient Near East, according to the
comprehensive research of H. P. L'Orange, the "King of the Universe"
appears as a central sun, "the Axis and the Pole of the World."
These archaic traditions can help us re-interpret the images of the sun
god kept alive by Greek and Roman symbolists. In astrological
representations, the primeval "sun" occupies the central, axial position
while the other planets or stars revolve around him. The definitive
celestial profile of Helios is as Basileus Helios, the Royal Sun,
recognized by Franz Cumont as the prototype of terrestrial kings or
princes surrounded by their guards. In the time of the Roman emperor
Nero, the sun-god was still remembered as the axis, the genius loci, the
center of the cosmos, and presented as such in astrological depictions,
with the emperor himself serving as the terrestrial image of the
original sun god.
It is significant too that, as noted by John Perry (Lord of the Four
Quarters), the Etruscans–predecessors of the Romans–claimed there was
one supreme deity, held to be the axial "Pole" Star.
"According to Jewish and Muslim Cosmology," wrote the eminent authority
on Semitic religions, A.J. Wensinck, "the divine throne is exactly above
the seventh heaven, consequently it is the pole of the Universe." (An
echo of the ancient tradition will be found in the words of the prophet
Isaiah, who locates the throne of El in the farthest reaches of the north.)
Amongst Finno Ugric peoples, the supreme ruler of the sky is Ukko. As
stated in the Finnish Kalevala the seat of Ukko was at the Pole. And
this assertion, according to the prominent chronicler Uno Holmberrg, was
part of a pervasive tradition of the creator-king seated atop the world pole.
A remarkable counterpart is provided by the Ashanti of Ghana, who
remembered the old sun god as "the dynamic center of the Universe, from
which lines of force radiate to all quarters of the heaven." Thus,
according to the Ashanti, this former sun god is "the center around
which everything revolves."
This idea of an ancient sun god ruling from the axial center stands in
dramatic contest to the common suppositions of mythologists and
historians. To the modern mind nothing could be more absurd than a polar
sun. Yet the unmoving sun is the ancient tradition, as noted by E.A.S.
Butterworth in his insightful work, The Tree at the Navel of the Earth.
Upon evaluating the archaic images of Helios and other ancient sun gods,
Butterworth concluded that this luminary "is not the natural sun of
heaven, for it neither rises nor sets, but is, as it seems, ever at the
zenith! There are signs of an ambiguity between the pole star and the
How could such an improbable "ambiguity" have dominated the cosmological
thought of ancient star worshippers–in every corner of the world?
Butterworth's insights have a considerable history behind them. The
precedence of the cosmic center among the great ancient cultures has
been noted and documented by others. Almost a hundred years ago,
William F. Warren, in his groundbreaking work, Paradise Found,
identified the celestial pole as the home of the supreme god of ancient
races. "The religions of all ancient nations...associate the abode of
the supreme God with the North Pole, the centre of heaven; or with the
celestial space immediately surrounding it. [Yet] no writer on
comparative theology has ever brought out the facts which establish this
In the following years a number of scholars, each focusing on different
bodies of evidence, reached the same conclusion. The controversial and
erratic Gerald Massey, in two large works (The Natural Genesis and
Ancient Egypt), claimed that the religion and mythology of a polar god
was first formulated by the priest-astronomers of ancient Egypt and
spread from Egypt to the rest of the world.
In a general survey of ancient language, symbolism, and mythology,
O'Neill (Night of the Gods, two volumes) insisted that mankind's oldest
religions centered on a god of the celestial pole.
The renowned Mesoamerican authority, Zelia Nuttall, in Fundamental
Principles of Old and New World Civilization, undertook an extensive
review of New World astronomical themes, concluding that the highest god
was polar. From Mexico she shifted to other civilizations, finding the
same unexpected role of a polar god.
Reinforcing the surprising conclusions of these researchers was the
subsequent work of others, among them the noted Finno-Ugric authority,
Uno Holmberg (Der Baum Des Lebens), who documented the preeminence of
the polar god in the ritual of Altaic and neighboring peoples,
suggesting ancient origins in Hindu and Mesopotamian cosmologies;
Lopold de Saussure (Les Origines de l;'Astronomie Chinoise), who showed
that primitive Chinese religion and astronomy honor the celestial pole
as the home of the supreme "monarch" of the sky; Ren Guenon (Le Roi du
Monde and Le Symbolisme de la Croix), who sought to outline a universal
doctrine centering on the polar gods and principles of ancient man.
In the nineteenth century and early twentieth century these revelations
were viewed as highly unorthodox and generally given little attention.
But more recently the pioneering historian of religion,
together with many of his colleagues, has documented numerous traditions
of the cosmic center–the place where it all began–and noted again and
again the relations of the cosmic center to the celestial pole.
Most of the writers cited above possessed a common–if unspoken–faith
in the ceaseless regularity of the solar system, seeking to explain the
polar god in strictly familiar terms: the center of our revolving
heavens is the celestial pole; the great god of the center and summit,
in view of his role as axis, must have been the star closes to this cosmic pivot.
But then, as we have seen, it's simply impossible to separate the
tradition of the polar power from that of the former sun god, the
central sun, lighting the world from one spot. So it is not just a
matter of ancient star worshippers looking up at the pole and noticing
that the circumpolar stars slowly wheel around that center. The mystery
is the location of the supreme luminary, the power many nations called
"sun", at this improbable station in the sky. How did an idea
contradicting all natural experience today, establish itself around the
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:
1) Helios as Saturn; Helios as central sun, and Helios as axis of the
2) Assyrian Shamash as Saturn, Shamash as central sun, Shamash at the
polar "midst" and "zenith."
3) Egyptian Atum-Ra as central sun, Atum-Ra as Saturn, Atum-Ra atop the
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" locating his primeval seat at the
celestial Pole. In neo-Platonist symbolism of the planets,
Kronos-Saturn is claimed to rule the celestial Pole, or is placed "over
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 seat at the pole, according to the eminent
authority on Chinese astronomy, Gustav Schlegel. In the words of de
Saussure, 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, a revolutionary work suggesting
that, according to an ancient doctrine Saturn occupied the celestial
But the authors, maintaining an unqualified attachment to the clockwork
solar system, excluded in advance any extraordinary changes among the
planets. Instead they spoke of Saturn's polar station 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."
This statement is made particularly interesting by the fact that the
authors are able to adduce not a clue as to the origins of the idea.
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, the
founder of the Golden Age, or the 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, actually lead to a singular conclusion, albeit a conclusion
far removed from modern-day belief. The threads are: 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 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? Is it
possible that the myth of the Golden Age, the myth of the Universal
Monarch, and the myth of the central sun speak for a time when planets
visibly ruled the sky?