Last time we looked at the origins of the idea behind the Age of Aquarius and some of its misconceptions. In this post we’ll put the ages to the test and explore whether the principle works in practice by looking at some examples from history. For details on how the astrological ages arise, see: The Age of Aquarius and Precession of the Equinoxes.
Get a cup of tea, cos this is a long one…! ☕️
The Astrological Ages are derived from the sign that was rising at the vernal equinox at previous times in history. As we saw last time, this technique wasn’t used to predict the future until the 18th century. Thanks to some overexcited revolutionaries, it became a means to explore history by fitting it into cycles mapped by the stars.
Nobody can agree when each age begins and ends because the mechanism behind it isn’t precise. The ages don’t switch suddenly from one to the next like a light switch. It’s more like they fade in and out, so you get transitions between the ages and the dates given are usually vague.
Despite the fuzziness, there appears to be a correlation (or synchronicity) between the sign of the age and the religious symbolism and mythology of the era. Each age represents an archetype, a pattern in the collective unconscious that shapes the way we see the world. You could call it the zeitgeist – the spirit of the times.
As one age passes to the next, the archetypes shift and new patterns are constellated in our psyche. This will be reflected in the stories we tell and the myths we believe. If this is true, the current Age of Pisces is shaping how we interpret reality and history – and that presents some problems.
Our current assumption is that the ages unfold in an evolutionary pattern. But this could be a reflection of the modern Western obsession with progress. It may not be relevant to the rest of the world and other cultures, either now or in the past. We’re in our little goldfish bowl looking out at our own reflection and assuming everybody else thinks the same as us.
Perhaps the precessional cycle of the Great Year simply represents a process of change. It may or may not be progressive – and progress is a matter of perspective in any case. We must be careful not to project our assumptions onto history.
For example, some argue that the ancients didn’t know about the precession of the equinoxes until Hipparchus figured it out using Babylonian records. The Babylonians may have observed the fixed stars changing their positions over time, but didn’t make that knowledge explicit. They observed it but didn’t think anything of it.
That seems unlikely and many argue that the ancients encoded their knowledge of precession into their myths and architecture rather than stating it outright. This involves the use of precessional numbers, such as: 36, 72, 108, 216, and 432 – as well as derivatives. These numbers turn up in multiple myths from around the world and in the alignment and size of ancient monuments.
For example, the Great Pyramid at Giza encodes the number 432, and Osiris was killed by Set and 72 accomplices; there were 432,000 Sumerian kings who ruled before the flood; and 432,000 warriors who battled the Wolf at Ragnarok; the Mayan long-count calendar uses many variations of these numbers, as does the Indian Yugas with a full Kalpa at 4,320,000,000 years.
Perhaps it’s all a coincidence. But perhaps the ancients had good reasons for paying close attention to the stars. Many myths focus on the importance of preserving the sky pillar or pole, or the World Tree, and there are stories of the earth turning over or the cosmic mill breaking.
Add these to the multiple flood myths from around the world and you’ve got encoded memories of an ancient cataclysm – the one that’s said to have sunk Atlantis around 9500 BCE, according to Plato.
It would be easy to dismiss this as mythology but evidence is building that there was some sort of cataclysm at the end of the Ice Age, or multiple events. Some suggest the Younger Dryas was triggered by a comet that vaporised the ice sheet in North America around 10,900 BCE. Others suggest it was the Gothenburg Magnetic Excursion that caused the magnetic poles to shift, triggering mayhem around the world.
There’s also evidence of lost and sunken civilisations, and contentious dating for many of the monuments that remain. Whatever happened, it could be the kernel of truth at the heart of the Great Year myths and the reason for the ancient obsession with plotting the cycles of the stars.
Our understanding of history is limited and so much has been lost or hidden. We need to bear this in mind when speculating about past astrological ages. It may be that some apparently new developments are a revival of past knowledge, the remembrance of things long forgotten.
It can also take time for changes to filter through the collective. So it may be that something starts in an earlier age but only rises to prominence in the next, or becomes a focus of attention due to a greater need within society.
Dates for the ages are often rounded into 2000 year chunks to make it simpler, but I’ve stuck with the standard 2150 years per age (see image above). I settled on these based on informed guesswork centred on the Age of Taurus because the Mesopotamians noted that the Pleiades were visible on the ecliptic at the vernal equinox in the 23rd century BCE.
Does the rest of it hold up when mapped to historical developments?
Age of Virgo – 12,950 to 10,800 BCE
Virgo is associated with farming and harvest, fertility and grain goddesses, and the alchemical process of turning wheat and barley into beer and bread. But it’s also linked to healing, literacy, mathematics, astronomy and calendars. If there was a lost civilisation that built megalithic architecture and got itself wiped out in a cataclysm, this may have been its Golden Age.
This idea may be preserved in the mythology of Astraea, the Greek goddess of justice who was the last immortal to leave the Earth at the end of the Silver Age. She was so disgusted by humans that she couldn’t cope and went off to become the Virgo constellation. She stands for the balance of natural law and upholds the seasons and natural order. That order was rudely interrupted by the cataclysm that brought the Ice Age and the Age of Virgo to a close.
In ‘real life’ there’s evidence for proto-agriculture in the Levant and Egypt dating back to around 13,000 BCE. The Isnan culture on the Nile was using sickle blades and grinding stones to harvest grains, but there was a sudden decline of these sites following massive flooding c. 10,500 BCE.
In Palestine, the Natufian culture was a Neolithic settlement that was cultivating cereals and grains, with evidence of bread-making c. 12,000 BCE, and beer-making c. 11,000 BCE. The Natufians lasted until c. 9000 BCE and went on to found the city of Jericho in the Age of Leo.
Age of Leo – 10,800 to 8650 BCE
Some identify the Age of Leo as the Golden Age maybe because the sign is associated with the Sun. But if the evidence of cataclysmic upheavals is correct, the early stages of this age wouldn’t have been an easy time to be alive.
The Younger Dryas plunged the northern hemisphere into deep cold, putting a stop to agricultural experiments and forcing cultures to adapt. Around 9600 BCE there were floods and sudden sea level rises in various areas around the world, leading to the final fall of ‘Atlantis’.
The obvious sync to the Age of Leo is the Sphinx which guards the pyramids at Giza in Egypt. Most assume it was built at the same time as the pyramids, but it’s clearly older due to erosion from rainfall on its body. For that you have to go back to at least 7000 – 5000 BCE. Robert Schoch later pushed the date further back to c. 10,000 BCE as a reasonable time for its construction, but it could be older. This would also include the Valley Temple constructed with stone carved from around the body of the Sphinx.
There are other megalithic buildings that could be dated to this era too, such as the Osireion in Egypt, Tiahuanaco in South America, and multiple underwater structures, including Yonaguni in Japan, and Dwarka in India.
As the climate warmed up, civilisation got going around the world with the domestication of animals, such as sheep in Mesopotamia between 11,000 BCE and 9000 BCE. Other animals would have to wait for the next age. Meanwhile, agriculture got started with crops such as wheat, barley, and flax.
In Palestine, one of the earliest settlements by hunter-gatherers took shape at Jericho c. 10,000 BCE. It was up and running as a proper town by 9600 BCE. Meanwhile in Turkey, hunters were building temples at Gobekli Tepe. The oldest dates to c. 9600 BCE and the site was in use until 8000 BCE in the Age of Cancer.
Gobekli Tepe is one of multiple sites in the region that include T-shaped pillars and carvings of wild animals, serpents and birds. The oldest temple is aligned to Deneb in the Cygnus constellation. Later the orientation was changed as Deneb shifted with precession. So the builders were certainly aware of this phenomenon – whether they understood it, we’ll never know. More here.
Age of Cancer – 8650 to 6500 BCE
Cancer is associated with the Great Mother goddesses, family and home-making, domestication, protection, and floods. Although the Great Goddess goes back to the Palaeolithic, she came into her own as the Neolithic revolution took off with developments in farming and the domestication of animals.
Cattle, pigs and goats were domesticated c. 8500 BCE in Turkey, Pakistan, Europe and Asia. Agricultural communities were thriving and farming was becoming the central focus of activity, especially along the Nile in Egypt by 8000 BCE. In Mesopotamia, they were using irrigation techniques to farm cereals around the same time.
The use of pottery increased and early experiments in Mesopotamia date to around 7000 BCE, featuring pots covered in images of pregnant women, probably a Mother goddess.
In Palestine, Jericho was still going strong, but around 8000 BCE the inhabitants suddenly decided to built an enormous wall around the city, including a tower 28 feet high. This may have been a flood defence, or for protection from some other threat.
Settlements in Syria and Turkey were also thriving, and as Gobekli Tepe was buried and abandoned in 8000 BCE, sites such as Nevali Cori (c. 8500 BCE) and Cayonu (c. 8800 BCE) took off. These were village settlements that included temples with T-shaped pillars and terrazzo floor slabs.
A good example is the agricultural community of Catal Hoyuk in Turkey dating to c. 7500 BCE, which lasted into the next age c. 5500 BCE. The people who lived here combined hunting and farming, and performed ritual sacrifices of a bull to a fertility goddess. With a strong emphasis on aurochs heads, they were two ages ahead of the Age of Taurus.
Meanwhile in England, the hunter-gatherers were settling down and making homes, as shown by the remains of a Mesolithic house in Northumberland dating to about 7800 BCE. Further south, the site that would become Stonehenge was already in use by 8600 BCE for a Wood Henge which lasted until about 7400 BCE.
Age of Gemini – 6500 to 4350 BCE
Gemini is associated with twins and dual goddesses, as well as writing and trade. However, all of these things were prevalent long before this time. There are loads of double-headed and twin goddesses (see Gemini Myths), but most date back to the Palaeolithic. Some figures were found at Catal Hoyuk dated c. 7500 BCE in the previous age.
As for writing, it didn’t really get going until the end of this age, starting around 4500 – 4000 BCE. But there’s evidence of Palaeolithic symbol systems dating back thousands of years before this, and the undeciphered Vinca symbols in Europe dating to c. 6000 BCE. Officially, proto-writing dates to the Neolithic in the previous age with the development of pottery and clay tokens that were used to keep records for trade and livestock. Eventually the tokens were replaced with flat tablets and inscribed with symbols.
Full writing systems with a recognisable alphabet didn’t start until about 3500 BCE in the next age. So the Age of Gemini doesn’t appear to line up well with history. However, this may simply reflect a lack of evidence or our inability to recognise the evidence we do have.
The three major centres of early civilisation were growing fast during this age. Egypt was in its pre-historic phase, as was Sumer which grew from earlier farming settlements such as Catal Hoyuk. The prehistoric Mesopotamian Ubaid period dates from 6500 – 3800 BCE. In India, the Indus Valley civilisation started around 5500 BCE and would last until the Age of Aries in 1500 BCE. However, its pre-Harappan phase began in the previous age around 7000 BCE.
Age of Taurus – 4350 to 2200 BCE
Taurus is associated with bulls and cows worshipped as representations of a Mother goddess, as well as fertility cults, agriculture and farming. This age saw the expansion of multiple centres of civilisation around the world leading to an explosion in art and culture and writing systems.
The obvious sync for the Age of Taurus is the Minoan civilisation in Crete which dates from 3000 – 1100 BCE. The Minoans were known for their bull-leaping rituals, as depicted in frescos in Knossos. The culture was goddess-centred and used the labrys, a double-headed axe – a symbol more usually associated with Gemini.
The Indus Valley civilisation was going strong, reaching its peak between 2600 – 1900 BCE. Its writing system dates to 3500 BCE and features seals depicting various animals, including bulls. Cattle was used as a measure of wealth, and one seal shows a single-horned bull, a mythical creature that may represent a priest, dated c. 1500 BCE.
Mesopotamia reached its Uruk period of development between 4000 – 3100 BCE with the rise of City states. Sumer itself is dated from 4500 – 1900 BCE, but by the end of this age it was taken over by the Akkadian Empire between 2334 – 2218 BCE. Proto-cuneiform developed in Sumer by 3500 BCE and then rapidly took off.
To the Mesopotamians, Taurus was the first sign of the zodiac because it was rising with the sun at the vernal equinox at that time. Many of their myths centred around a fertility goddess and her son/lover known as the Lunar-Bull God who dies and is reborn (see Taurus Myths). There’s also a plaque of a lunar bull being eaten by a lion-headed eagle dated 2500 BCE (see Leo Myths).
In Egypt civilisation took off with the Old Kingdom starting around 3150 BCE. But by the end of this age it had collapsed into the First Intermediate Period of chaos between 2181 – 2055 BCE, to be followed by the Middle Kingdom in the next age. The Great Pyramid at Giza was built around 2560 BCE.
During the Old Kingdom bulls and cows were central to Egyptian religion with a strong emphasis on Hathor, the cow-headed fertility goddess who predated the dynastic kings. The pharaoh was the son and consort of the goddess, known as the Apis bull who was sacrificed and reborn. The Narmer palette of the first dynasty shows the pharaoh uniting Egypt, with a depiction of Hathor dated c. 2850 BCE (see Taurus Myths). There’s also the beautiful goddess figure with arms like cow horns – see above.
Meanwhile in Europe and Britain the natives were erecting stone circles and burial mounds, such as Newgrange in Ireland dated around 3200 BCE, and Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire. The site for Stonehenge was used as part of a ceremonial complex as far back as 8600 BCE in the Age of Cancer, but the stones weren’t put into place until around 3000 BCE.
The stones were raised in stages, aligned to the solstices. The first to go up were the smaller bluestones which were brought all the way from Wales, taken from another stone circle dated to about 3300 BCE. The larger Sarsen stones went up around 2500 BCE, and then all the inner stones were rearranged about 200 or 300 years later, as the age shifted into Aries. The site was still in use between 1800 – 1500 BCE when more rearrangements took place.
Age of Aries – 2200 BCE to 50 BCE
Aries is associated with war, warriors and heroes, as well as the iron used for swords and other objects. This age saw an increase in battles and conquests between empires, and the rise of Sky Gods with a tendency to smite wrongdoers. The pace of change really took off now with an explosion of activity and new ideas that transformed the world.
The obvious change is the shift from bulls to rams and there are multiple examples from mythology. In the Old Testament, Abraham sacrifices a ram instead of his son, and Moses tells the Hebrews to kill the Golden Calf and worship Yahweh instead. The early Hebrew books of the Bible weren’t written down until about 900 – 700 BCE, but the stories were doing the rounds in an oral tradition long before that.
Another myth linked to the shift into Aries is Mithras killing a bull, associated with the cult of Mithraism. Mithras is often associated with the ancient Persian god of light, Mithra, who in turn is linked to the Vedic god, Mitra who dates to c. 1400 BCE. However, these figures have nothing to do with killing bulls and there’s no evidence that they’re connected.
The image associated with Mithras killing the bull, the Tauroctony, only dates to around 100 CE, just as the Age of Aries was transitioning into Pisces. So it doesn’t fit this age and it looks like Mithraism was invented by a bunch of LARPing Romans far behind the times – unless more evidence comes to light.
In Egypt the ram was worshipped alongside the bull and its association with various gods goes back to pre-dynastic times. Amun was closely linked to the ram and rose to become the patron deity of Thebes around 2100 BCE during the chaos of the collapse of the Old Kingdom. He only rose to national prominence when Thebes became the capital during the New Kingdom c. 1550 BCE.
Around this time, Amun was syncretised with Ra, the sun god, becoming Amun-Ra (or Amun-Re) and was often depicted with a ram’s head. Pharaohs would also be depicted with rams horns, and this continued long after the Greeks and Romans conquered Egypt from around 30 BCE.
Mesopotamia was the source of another artefact used to illustrate the Age of Aries, a statue called Ram in a Thicket. It was found in the Sumerian city of Ur as one of a pair. However, the ‘ram’ is actually a goat and its fleece looks like feathers. It also dates to between 2600 – 2400 BCE – a bit early.
By the start of this age, the Akkadians had conquered Sumer, only to be conquered in turn by the Babylonians who took over between 1894 – 539 BCE. The Babylonians recorded all their astronomical knowledge, as well as the oldest hero myth, the Epic of Gilgamesh, which was written c. 2100 – 1200 BCE, on clay tablets.
All this conquering was achieved with the technological advancement of iron smelting to craft swords and other pointy things. There’s evidence that the Egyptians made iron beads as far back as 3200 BCE using hammered meteoric iron. But extracting iron ore is more complex and the earliest iron daggers, found in Turkey, date to c. 2500 BCE. Smelted iron objects became more prevalent in Egypt and Sumer from c. 1500 BCE, and between 1800 – 1200 BCE in India.
Meanwhile in Greece, the Mycenaean culture flourished between 1600 – 1100 BCE. As Greek City states grew in strength, they began warring with each other, just like the Mesopotamians had been doing thousands of years earlier. The Trojan War was in 1250 BCE.
But it wasn’t all fighting. Classical Greek culture rose and spread, and Homer wrote his Iliad and Odyssey between 900 – 700 BCE, while Hesiod wrote his Works and Days c. 700 BCE chronicling the doings of the gods.
This was the era known as the Axial Age which lasted from 800 – 300 BCE. It was a pivotal period when all the major religious and philosophical movements that were to influence world came into being, including Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Judaism, early Christianity and Gnosticism, and Greek philosophy.
True to Aries, it was a pioneering time with new ideas bursting forth to fertilise the world. The birth dates of some key players include:
- Lao Tzu born in 6th century BCE
- Pythagoras c. 586 BCE
- Confucius c. 551 BCE
- Buddha born in around the 5th century BCE (maybe c. 480 BCE)
- Socrates c. 469 BCE
- Plato c. 427 BCE
The Age of Aries was brought to a close with the rise of the Roman civilisation, another bunch of warmongers, around 753 BCE, which lasted into the next age until 476 CE.
Age of Pisces – 50 BCE to 2100
We’ll look at the current age in the next post…
Obviously, I’ve missed out a lot of detail, especially from other cultures around the world. But overall, it appears to work, even if it’s a bit hit and miss in places. It’s not meant to be precise but there’s always the danger of cherry-picking. What do you make of it?