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Modern Myth Articles
Saturn and Venus Discussion
TED BOND SAYS: The Jewish religion, in its origins, aimed to put an end to planet-worship, especially of Saturn and Venus, who were worshipped together, and with it the universal practice of human sacrifice, e.g. the practice of putting the first-born through the fire, strictly forbidden in Deuteronomy. The Jews were thus the first people to introduce the notion of an invisible god, something new, strange, and to many incomprehensible. Sacrifice did continue, however, as a religious practice, but of beasts rather than humans. In a passage in Exodus, God still demands the firstborn of all animals as "his", but the firstborn of humans are "redeemed". (This was presumably the firstborn of the "female", since it was tied to the opening of the womb. Note that Isaac, whose hand was stayed, was the firstborn not of Abraham but of Sarah.)
It seems that this Semitic people had been worshippers of Saturn, as their very name, 'people of Israel' shows, as well as the use of the word 'Elohim' (plural of El[=Saturn]) for the divinity in passages in the Torah. And what other explanation is there of the fact that the Jewish day begins at sundown? For the Jews the disappearance of Saturn as the Sun of Night, and eventually of the altered Venus-Ishtar-Inanna-Astarte, etc., earlier the benign mother goddess, as a fiery light in the sky and an agent of destruction, were of supreme importance.
These were two very bright 'stars' that had disappeared from the sky. Isaiah (14: 1-13), apparently alluding to Babylon, says "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God." ...
Now in the Isaiah passage what is presumably the Hebrew name 'Shahar' is translated into Greek as 'Phosphorus' and into Latin and hence into English as 'Lucifer', which were the Greek and Latin names, respectively, for the morning star.
DAVE TALBOTT SAYS: This is correct, and it's an obvious source of much later confusion. It was Babylonian priest-astronomers who later clarified planetary identifications for the Greeks, so that the planets acquired new names with direct links to the earlier, and much more reliable, traditions of Mesopotamia. Ted Bond was correct in noting the inherent contradiction in identifying Venus with the source of "devil" imagery (Lucifer). Venus is the archetypal feminine figure, but this root identity could hold only insofar as wandering tribes retained the link of gods and planets. Many peoples—including the Egyptians and Greeks—did not; they preserved only the stories of extraordinary powers and forms dominating the sky in a prior epoch. Preserving the stories did not require clear skies and observational disciplines under conditions of a shifting celestial order. But maintaining planetary identifications certainly did require such disciplines. Insofar as nations did not preserve the link of god and planet, their imagination was permitted to attach any mythical name whatever to planets and stars in later times—in the same way that, still later, we attached mythical names to Uranus, Neptune and Pluto as these planets were observed with telescopes. Similarly, all of the major stars and constellations, named long after the mythical age of the gods, achieved their symbolic identifications by the same process of projection, just as local mountains and rivers acquired their sacred names from mythical powers, inviting horrendous later confusion between archetype and symbol.
The original planetary SOURCE of the myths is a much different matter, and the extraordinary discipline of the Babylonians was crucial to our ability to connect the mythical archetypes to the roles of named planets.
TED: Was this a mistranslation, or was Isaiah mistakenly compounding Venus and Saturn, the two fallen light-giving gods? For in English Lucifer is standardly identified with the fallen angel who became Satan or the Devil and, to the best of my knowledge, this Lucifer has never been identified with Venus.
EV COCHRANE ADDS: Venus was, in fact, depicted as "horned". Cultures from around the ancient world compared Venus to a long-horned cow. Even the much later Babylonian astronomical texts speak of the horns of Venus, a fact which has led many astronomers to consider the possibility that the ancients viewed the phases of Venus.
Venus was also called Lucifer by numerous Biblical commentators and scholars. Even so, I believe that the passage in Isaiah properly refers to the planet Mars, not Venus.
TED: Finally, the pre-Christian religion of Europe, which survived, vilified as witchcraft, well into the Christian era, had two divinities, the Horned Man and the Queen of Heaven—who but Saturn and Venus? And this Horned Man, worshipped by the 'witches', became the Devil of medieval Christianity!
DAVE: Yes indeed. That the Queen of Heaven was Venus can be established beyond dispute. The consistency and reliability of the identification is also a basis of our confidence in the comparative approach. By drawing our attention to the substratum of human memory, it helps us to avoid being misled by localized contradictions.
TED: Neither do I myself have any doubt that the golden heifers inscribed with the tetragrammaton, set up by Jeroboam at Dan and Beth-El with the proclamation "Behold thy gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt," symbolized the same planetary god represented by the Egyptians as a celestial heifer—Hathor, who all agree was the planet Venus.
DAVE: Yes again. The equation, celestial heifer = Venus, is highly reliable. It belongs to the root mythical identity of the mother goddess, and no other planet competes with Venus for this role in early astronomy. It is the comparative approach which enables one to work through local elaborations and contradictions to find dependable patterns of this sort. Under this approach it will be seen that there is a highly coherent original story of the mother goddess, always leading us to the planet Venus—despite the numerous, more random, projections of goddess-attributes onto other celestial and terrestrial objects in later times.
TED: Was Baal Venus or Saturn or both? Should the breakup of the polar configuration and all the planetary activity connected with it be brought forward in time, so as to be in living memory of the early Jews and confused in legend by the later prophets?
EV: The identification of Baal is a very thorny problem. The difficulty arises from the fact that Baal is simply a name meaning "Lord" and that there were many different Baals in the ancient Near East. None of them, to the best of my knowledge, were identified with the planet Venus. Rather, the latter was identified with Baal's consort, Baalit. Some Baals, such as Baal Hadad, would appear to be identified with the planet Mars.
As for your last question, I don't see any reason to bring the breakup of the polar configuration forward in time.