Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Cygnus Mystery: Unlocking the Secrets of Life's Origin in the Cosmos

Book Review: The Cygnus Mystery: Unlocking the Ancient Secret of Life’s Origin in the Cosmos by Andrew Collins (Watkins Publishing 2006 -2007)

This book will blow your mind with fascinating insights into mythology, shamanism, archaeology, Neolithic death cults, and archaeo-astronomy. Paleolithic cave art dating back at least 17,000 years ago shows star patterns so humans at that time certainly observed the night sky. Successively older hunting-agricultural societies have been discovered in recent years in Anatolia, modern day Turkey. Nevali Cori was dated to around 7500 BC and the latest discoveries including Gobekli Tepe date back to 9500 BC just after the last ice age. This is the oldest “city” in the world thus far discovered and offers some insights into the mind of early man. The author sees astronomy as a factor in the orientation of the structures and the jist of this book is the supposition that an astronomical death cult possibly stretching back to the Paleolithic is evident throughout the world. The nearby historical ancient city of Harran was home to the Sabians who were avid astronomers having a heyday in Hellenic times and like contemporaneous Alexandria in Egypt seeing the beginnings of Hermeticism and Alchemy. The author suggests that perhaps they were the physical as well as in some ways the doctrinal descendants of those way farther back in time. The author tracks other possible remnants of an early astral religion, including Neolithic excarnation towers, where dead bodies were placed on towers to be devoured by vultures, or carried to the afterlife by these vultures. Murals from Catal Huyuk depict just such scenes. The similar Zoroastrian practice can be seen as a remnant and perhaps even the Tibetan custom of sky burial as well. Vulture shamanism may have been particularly popular in this area and in general, bird shamanism as a death cult may be a common motif throughout the pre-historic world. The author also sees remnants of this in the cult of the Yezidis, the Mandeans, and some pre-Islamic Arabian cults, all in the vicinity of Anatolia.

The author notes that the orientation of the Anatolian structures is nearly north and may be oriented to the nearest pole star area at the time (9500 BC) – the nearest bright star then would have been Deneb in the constellation Cygnus, which looks like a swan in flight, a cross, or a bird’s foot (which it may have been described as in parts of North America) – it also looks like a kite (as my son observed). Another interesting feature of Cygnus is that it occurs at the northern part of the Milky Way – so for several thousand years (long before 9500 BC) the zodiac of the heavens appeared to revolve around a pole that was very near and for a few thousand years at least in the Milky Way. Since in many cultures the Milky Way is considered a path to heaven and according to the author the heavens from which beings arrive and depart are almost always considered to be in the northern part of the Milky Way – this must have been a remarkable sight to past peoples, especially as it rose and set along the meridian (if I have that right). Even though I may not understand all the astronomical implications I am informed that the author was helped by professional astronomers using a program called “Skyglobe” to plot stellar positions during various time periods and places on earth, mostly related to well-known megaliths and ancient astro-observatories around the world.

The author gives some interesting info regarding the hero-god Orpheus who became Cygnus, the Swan, in the night sky after his death at the hands of the Maenads to be near his Lyre (a nearby constellation). Orpheus was a god of the underworld and after his dismemberment his severed head was an oracle which may have some parallels among the Sabians (mentioned above) and be part of the Neolithic Death Cult. Also of interest is that the first actual human form on a crucifix as a religious symbol is not Christ but Orpheus, from mid- 200’s AD. Cygnus as the cross may have figured in here.

The author stretches back to the Age of Scorpio (16,500 – 14,300 BC) where at spring equinox Scorpio (also depicted as a serpent) along the Milky Way would been on the eastern horizon just before sunrise with Cygnus being at the top of the sky in pole position, also along the Milky Way. This the author suggests is the original astronomical depiction of the so called World Tree where Scorpio as the serpent coils about it.

The author goes through many orientations of megaliths suggesting (as others have as well) that the rising and setting of Deneb and other stars of Cygnus constellation were very important in both keeping time and in preserving a memory of this Astral Milky Way Cult. He finds similar motifs among the Maya, the Inca, some North American tribal myths, the Hopewell in Ohio, the megaliths of the British Isles, in Egypt, and among the Vedic myths.

He goes through Swan myths throughout the world. He sees Bride, or Brighid, as a Swan Goddess – as inspirer of the bardic tradition (swan and duck cloaks were once a ceremonial costume of bards) and as the Swan as psychopomp, carrier of the souls of the dead. He notes the myth of babies coming from storks (or swans) as part of this mythic tradition as well as medieval and much older tales of Swan Maidens and Valkyries among Celtic and Germanic peoples. He notes the rune eolhx (or elhaz) as a bird’s foot, or upward trident as possibly representing Cygnus. Observing the yearly migrations of swans and geese to and from the north may have also been a supporting phenomenon.

In the section on Egypt he goes through an early astrological document painted in a tomb called the Ceiling of Senmut which depicts some Egyptian asterisms (constellations). Through a series of observations and arguments he comes to the conclusion that the falcon-headed lord of the underworld, called Sokar (sometimes associated with Horus) is representative of Cygnus and the that the Egyptian process of Ascension, or climbing the ladder into the sky afterworld realm – involved again traveling along the Milky Way. He goes through in some detail the funerary texts describing the Opening of the Mouth ceremony and other interesting connections. Also of interest regarding ancient Egypt is the Great Lady of the Milky Way , the Goddess Nut, or Nuit which when represented as a composite throughout the year (if I have that right) - the Great Rift of the Milky Way where it splits with darkness in between – can be seen as the legs of the arching goddess and Cygnus between the legs. The sun’s daily path sets near her head (she swallows the sun) and rises between her legs (she births the sun anew). Anyway, there is much more than this – I am trying to give key and interesting points. There is also the Egyptian goose or duck form called the Great Cackler which has both an astronomical and mythological function. The goose/duck egg is related to the heron/phoenix and the mystical ben ben stone as the origin of the world. the The author also notes similarities of the goddess Nuit to the cow goddess Hathor, patron of music and dance.

Next the author goes on to the Vedic notions of Brahma being aided in the creation of the universe by Hamsa, the swan- goose, or Kalahamsa, the swan-goose of eternity. The universe is said to expand from the Golden Nucleus, the Goose Egg of Brahma, called Hiranyagarbha. The pranava, or sacred AUM relates to all triples in Brahmanism and also to the great swan, Hamsa. A is the right wing, U is the left wing, and M is the tail. Also of interest is the goddess Sarasvati, sometimes the wife or daughter of Brahma. She is often depicted riding a swan. She is often as well considered a river goddess, particularly the personification of the legendary Sarasvati River, and its celestial counterpart, the Milky Way – according to the very ancient Rig Veda. This celestial river with its two branches (likely the great rift) brushing the northeastern horizon (around the winter solstice) was referred to as the “gate of heaven” – same as in many other cultures. In Vedic tradition the Milky Way is associated with the world tree, which can be a peepal tree, ie Bodhi tree. Sarasvati, as patron of music, learning, and language as well as the milky way thus has some similarities to Nuit and Hathor. According to Vedic astrology which several scholars think is older than Greek and Babylonian astrology – Hamsa, the swan-goose is equated to the same constellation, that of Cygnus. Regarding other swan stories and myths the author states: “...India’s tales of swan-dynasties can be compared with the legends of swan-knights, swan lineages, and swan maidens found not only in Europe, but also among the shamanic-based societies of central and northeastern Asia and northern Europe ...”

Next the author examines Chinese astronomy which is thought to be very ancient. Some have noted that Chinese astronomy reflects the northern hemisphere as it appeared around 15,000 BC when the star Deneb in the Cygnus constellation would have been the pole star. Apparently the constellations and the solar calendar match only when applied to this early date suggested a time or origin for these astrological notions. In Chinese myth Cygnus is linked to the Magpie, or more specifically to the Magpie Bridge across the milky way (across its great rift). The author notes some possible mythical evidence as well for knowledge of precession of the equinoxes. Strangely enough some of the celestial movements in these myths are associated with similarly named movements in the physical practice of Tai Chi. There are also Taoist star motion dances.

The bird on a pole motif has been noted throughout this book – in Yezidi, Mandean, and pre-Islamic Arab depictions, in Siberian shamanic depictions of swans on long poles in the forest, in Central America, etc – and also recently interpreted Upper Paleolithic cave art from the famous Lascaux caves in France. Here, other researchers have noted that some of this art depicts the stars, Deneb, Lyra, and others as well as the Pleides star cluster and the constellation Taurus (as a bull none-the-less). This art dates from 14,500 to 15,000 BC.

The next parts of the book have to do with serpent and mushroom imagery and possible associated hallucinogenic cults around the globe in these early times. Cosmic creation symbols may have been: egg, head, serpent, penis, and mushroom. Also the swan may have been a related symbol as mentioned in the rather controversial book – the Sacred Mushroom and the Cross- where it is noted that the long neck of the swan may represent the vaginal passage and its outstretched wings the fallopian tubes. There is much evidence that the early religious ideas of humans were derived from psychotropic shamanic journeys. Since the northern celestial pole remained close to the Milky Way for several thousand years in the Paleolithic it has been noted that this may have been seen as the point of creation and the place to travel to astrally/shamanically/psychotropically. The celestial pole is well known in myths throughout the world as the place of ascent and descent – the place of access to different worlds. Apparently there is an ancient Chinese myth that speaks of the world mountain and the Milky Way once touching. The author suggests that the original Bird on a Pole was the constellation Cygnus, the Swan at the celestial pole position. The Milky Way would have been the path to the point of creation. A researcher named Michael Rappengluck equates the bird-man painting at Lascaux as an expanded Cygnus constellation.

Next the author examines the accounts of anthropologist Jeremy Narby regarding the hallucinogen – ayahuasca. Narby noted that twin serpents very often occur in psychedelic visions of many types. This he thinks is a representative indication of the DNA level of consciousness – a cellular level intelligence of sorts. Apparently Narby thinks at this level there can be empathic communications across species boundaries, both animal and plant. The ayahuasca shamans say the spirits of the plants themselves taught them their botanical knowledge. Narby thinks it is quantum-level consciousness (with signal non-locality). Next he goes through similar experiences of shaman/anthropologist Michael Harner and psychedelic pioneers Terrence and Dennis McKenna. Terrence McKenna noted the similar experiences of users of DMT. Apparently there was some laboratory experimentation with DMT as recent as 1990 in the U.S. resulting in a book called, “DMT: The Spirit Molecule (2001)” by Dr. Rick Strassman. His research showed very similar experiences with 60 subjects and 400 doses. “ A high percentage of the volunteers consistently entered what they perceived as parallel realms, where elfish entities or mechanical insectoids awaited their arrival. They often communicated and interacted with them in futuristic medical rooms where the entities would frantically expunge all impure parts of the body, recreating a form of astral excarnation.” Most of the test subjects considered their experiences to be real encounters with supernatural beings. Another note of interest regarding the psychedelic and serpent symbolism is the fact that Francis Crick, the discoverer of the double helix structure of DNA in 1953 was a regular user at that time of small amounts of LSD as several Harvard scientists were. He was apparently “tripping” when he cracked the DNA code.

Next is a discussion of the idea of “Panspermia” – or the seeding of DNA on our planet from somewhere in space. Recent analysis of an Australian meteorite shows that the components to make DNA and RNA are there in the form of an algae-like organism. Another meteorite from Mars discovered in Antarctica in 1984 contains a variety of organic chemicals, carbon molecules formed in water, and possible fossil impressions of organisms. Interstellar dust clouds may be a source of spores as well as flu viruses.

The nature of “Junk DNA” is the next subject. Apparently the function of most DNA is unknown (97% in humans). Ideas of this being encoded with information activated by viruses, or related to quantum tunnels and hyper-abilities, with psychedelic knowledge – are examined. The next subject is an inquiry into why deep caves were so important to our Paleolithic ancestors. Some have suggested natural acoustics. Areas of resonance seem to be close to where the paintings occur. Another possibility is a greater degree of sensory deprivation. Greek and Roman cults of Hypnos or Somnus the god of sleep, and his son Morpheus, the god of dreams and a shapeshifter, are also associated with cave sleep and sleep-inducing substances such as opium poppies.

Next he talks about the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (CMB) left over from the Big Bang that apparently can easily be observed in white noise of a TV set where a small percentage of the noise is CMB. He thinks our ancestors may have been more aware of this background hum and that the legends of the bird’s call at the beginning of the universe – the swan-goose sounding with Brahma is the expanding word/sound (Nadabrahm) and even the Egyptian Great Cackler – may indicate something more. Of some of the oldest flutes found in the world two were made of the bones of swans (dated to ~35,000 BC) and another of the bones of a wooly mammoth. An older one to 43,000 BC was made of a bear femur and is associated with the Neanderthals. Siberian swan pendants also date back at least to 15,000 BC so the swan cult certainly goes back. Marija Gimbutas, who interpreted Neolithic art as a language of sorts identifies the bird-foot symbol (often representing Cygnus) as a representation of the Great Goddess of regeneration.

Next we come to Cygnus X-3, a binary star system(discovered in 1967) in the vicinity of the Cygnus constellation that apparently emits “ of the brightest sources of high energy gamma rays in the entire galaxy.” It is also one of the strongest X-ray sources and a loud source of radio waves. It is invisible to the naked eye but is very near the dim star Sadr near the center of the cosmic swan. Underground particle detectors built in the 1980’s detected these bursts though they were built underground to be shielded from cosmic radiation. In the year 2000 Cygnus X-3 was announced by NASA scientists to be a Microblazar – meaning that a particle jet stream from it was aimed directly at the earth. Ice cores from glaciers can record the amount of cosmic radiation in relation to time periods and several have hinted at a dramatic increase in cosmic radiation in the times of 37,000-40,000 BC and again in 13,000 – 20,000 BC. So next the author speculates about these energy bursts possibly affecting human evolution. Muons, associated with bursts from Cygnus X-3, are known to cause cell mutations. He then investigates the phenomena of Radon healing mines. Radon is associated with decaying uranium in rocks, particularly black shales and uranium ore deposits. Radon can cause lung cancer in high and frequent doses, however, miraculous cures and healing have been associated with low doses and sick people do visit old uranium mines in some places for healing. Apparently signals from Cygnus X-3 wax and wane according to a 71-day cycle and 5 of these cycles is very close to a lunar year – which was very important to our Paleolithic ancestors.

An appendix takes into account the similarity of certain drawings and myths of the Dogon tribe of Mali to the depiction of Cygnus, particularly with a diagram of called the “fork of space” which looks remarkably like Cygnus constellation within which is considered to be Amma’s Egg, the point of creation of the universe.

Even though this book is highly speculative in parts and quite technical in parts – it is utterly fascinating. The author sure can weave a tale. Some of his adventures indicate that he resembles a modern day Indiana Jones – penetrating areas for knowledge. His writing did seem to keep my attention and I look forward to more from him in the future.

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