John the Baptist
The arrival of Jesus in each of the four gospels which were included in the canon is first discussed in conjunction with another extremely important figure: that of John the Baptist. He is the one who goes before the Christ, preparing the way, in fulfillment we are told in each of the four gospels of the prophecy in Isaiah 40:3 -- "For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight" (Matthew 3:3). The gospel according to Mark cites the additional prophecy of Malachi 3:1 -- "As it is written in the prphets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee" (Mark 1:2).
The gospels of Matthew, Mark and John all introduce John the Baptist at the River Jordan, preaching a "baptism of repentance," baptizing with water, and announcing the impending arrival of one who will come after him: "There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose. I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost" (Mark 1:7-8). The gospel according to Matthew adds "and with fire" to describe the baptism of the one who will come after John (Matthew 3:11).
The gospel according to Luke also introduces John the Baptist as the one who will go before Jesus, but does so by describing the announcement through the angel Gabriel to John's father Zechariah that his wife Elizabeth will bear a son, who will go before the Lord (Luke 1:13-20). The gospel of Luke also describes the meeting of Elizabeth and Mary the mother of Jesus, and from the details provided in Luke 1:36 and 1:56-57, we can conclude that John was born six months ahead of Jesus -- going before him in the order of their birth as well.
I believe that there is overwhelming evidence which supports the conclusion that the stories of the Old and New Testament describe the motions of the celestial actors in the heavenly realm: the sun, moon, stars, and visible planets. I further believe that this celestial foundation connects the sacred scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to the sacred scriptures and myths and traditions of virtually every other culture around our planet, which can also be shown to employ the same system of celestial metaphor. I discuss the evidence for this conclusion, and the implications of this evidence, in my book The Undying Stars (sample chapters available online here). I also discuss many examples of this system at work in previous blog posts examining the sacred myths from around the world, which I have indexed (with links) here.
I believe that in the person of John the Baptist, and the details we are given about his life in the four gospels which made their way into what we today call the Bible, we are given an extraordinarily powerfully illustration of this system at work.
As Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend argue in their seminal 1969 work, Hamlet's Mill, one of the characteristics of the celestial system is the fact that the various heavenly "actors" will take on different roles, from one myth-system to another, as well as within the same myth-system (and even, at times, within the same story -- like an actor who appears as two or more different characters in different scenes of the same movie or play). This phenomenon is described in this previous post.
Which of the celestial players is most likely to be the "actor" who plays the role of John the Baptist in the gospel accounts?
If we are familiar with the "cast" of possible actors who travel in cycles through the heavens, then the descriptions of John as one who is specifically described as "baptizing with water" (for instance, in Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, and John 1:26) should call to mind one particularly important zodiac constellation: the Water-Bearer, Aquarius. And indeed, there are numerous clues included in the text which appear to indicate that John the Baptist is associated with the constellation Aquarius.
Below is a screen-shot of the night sky as it appears to an observer in the northern hemisphere, looking towards the southern horizon, when the Milky Way is rising up like a shimmering stream across the sky, and the glorious and very bright zodiac constellations of Scorpio and Sagittarius are flanking the base of the Milky Way on either side. Scorpio and Sagittarius are both constellations associated with the "lower half" of the zodiac wheel, when the annual cycle is descending towards winter solstice, because the "sign" of Scorpio and of Sagittarius both take place in the months just prior to the low-point "turn upwards" of the winter solstice. As an aside, the sign is derived from the month in which the sun rises in the "house" of that constellation -- the constellation's stars being visible above the eastern horizon just above the point where the sun will rise, and growing fainter and fainter as the sun approaches and the pre-dawn sky becomes lighter and lighter.
Aquarius is visible on the left side of the image, just above the Goat outline of Capricorn. Just to the right (west) of Capricorn is Sagittarius (guarding the left-hand side of the rising Milky Way, as we look south), and beyond Sagittarius a bit further right (west) is the sinuous form of Scorpio, low down and close to the horizon, most of its body immersed in fact in the stream of the Milky Way.
This screenshot is from the outstanding open-source planetarium app at Stellarium.org. It shows the outlines of the constellations (these can be turned on or off), but it does so with an outlining convention which I do not believe is the most helpful or useful for envisioning the constellations in your mind. I much prefer the outlining system proposed by H.A. Rey.
Below, I will draw in the outlines using the H.A. Rey system, and you will immediately see that Aquarius can be envisioned as a man holding a large pitcher of water, from which he is pouring two streams. This fact cannot be easily envisioned using the atrocious outlining system seen in the above image (the Goat and Scorpion outlines are OK in that system, but the outlines for Aquarius, Sagittarius, and many others are most unsatisfactory). We will see from the image with outlines drawn in that Aquarius, who is associated with water, can be seen as a strong contender for the role of John the Baptist, whom the texts describe very specifically as "baptizing with water."
In the image below, I also identify two additional clues from the Biblical texts, which I believe can be used to help bolster the case that this scene from the night sky is the origin of the descriptions of John baptizing in the wilderness. We are told that John's food consisted solely of "locusts and wild honey" (for example, in Matthew 3:4). In the image below, we see that the brightest stars within Sagittarius, which are often referred to as the "Teapot," can also be imagined to look like a bright celestial grasshopper: a locust. This identification of the Teapot asterism within Sagittarius with locusts described in the Bible is also supported by the celestial analysis of Revelation chapter 9, in which Sagittarius is almost certainly being described, and locusts are prominently referenced there as well.
The locusts of John's diet live at the base of the Milky Way, near Aquarius, but where is the "wild honey" that the scriptures refer to? As we have seen in previous posts, the honey is located at the other end of the Milky Way, where it crosses the zodiac band again, this time just below the feet of the Twins of Gemini, who are located at the "top" of the zodiac wheel, just prior to summer solstice and just prior to the sign of Cancer the Crab. As we have discussed in previous posts, an important feature in Cancer the Crab is the famous Beehive Cluster, which finds its way into many myths around the world. So, John's food can be located at the "lower" and "upper" ends of the Milky Way stream, the locusts at the point where the Milky Way crosses Sagittarius, and the wild honey at the point where the Milky Way crosses near Cancer.
Additionally, as shown in the image below, John has a rather rough way of addressing the penitents who come to the River Jordan to be baptized of him. Speaking in particular to the Pharisees and Saducees, we are told that John asks: "O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" (for instance, in Matthew 3:7). As we can see from the image below, the vipers are present, right next to the locusts:
As noted above, if the Milky Way is here representing the River Jordan, where John the Baptist is performing his baptism of repentance, it does appear that the "vipers" are at least getting in the river to be baptized!
There are additional clues that Aquarius is the correct celestial origin of John the Baptist. First, when Jesus arrives, John is described as looking up and declaring, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). If John "goes before" Jesus and "prepares the way" for his arrival, then it could be expected that John is here referring to one of the zodiac constellations which he "goes before" in the nightly rotation -- and sure enough, the constellations which follow Aquarius in the zodiac band are Pisces (just visible in the above image, as a polygonal shape to his left, below the letter "J" in the "John the Baptist" label) followed immediately by Aries the Ram. And, as you can see from the H.A. Rey outline of Aquarius, his head is actually "looking" in that direction -- he really will be able to see the Ram (or Lamb) of Aries rising up behind him as the sky continues to turn from the east to the west (from the left to the right in this image).
We are also told in many of the gospels that John declares that "There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose" (Mark 1:7). This mention of "stooping down" is very helpful, because Aquarius does seem to be "stooping" in the sky, or pitched forward in his posture as he leans forward with his jug.
Who is the one whose shoes he is not fit to untie?
I believe this scripture refers in fact to Orion, who is indeed "mightier" than Aquarius, being a true giant in the sky and also the constellation with the highest ratio of bright stars to total stars of any in the night sky (in marked contrast to Aquarius, who is it must be admitted a constellation rather dim and difficult to make out). Orion has a significant "shoe" or "foot" in the bright star Rigel -- in fact, his "toe" is referred to in other myths from other cultures, as Hamlet's Mill discusses. Orion does indeed come after Aquarius in the sky -- his form is located just below Taurus the Bull, which is the zodiac constellation which follows immediately after Aries.
But the clinching detail in the scripture which indicates that John is referring to Orion with this line about the one mightier than he who is coming after him is the fact that some of the gospels make mention of this "mightier one" carrying "his fan in his hand" (Matthew 3:12, Luke 3:17). The upraised arm of Orion (on the left side of the outline as we look at it in a star chart) is holding what is sometimes described as a club, but which is actually more like "a long rectangle on a stick" -- this is the object which I believe the scriptures are references in the mention of "his fan." It is the same "winnowing fan" that is mentioned in the final book of the Odyssey, and it is also the "paddle" carried ceremonially by chiefs across the islands of the Pacific:
These abundant details should be more than sufficient to establish the celestial foundations of the John the Baptist episodes found in all four gospels in the canonical Bible.
But that is by no means all of them. The story of John the Baptist contains a veritable plethora of celestial information. The next important clues can be found in the death of John the Baptist, which is described in the gospels of Mark and Matthew. In those gospels, we learn that "the daughter of Herodias" came in to the birthday supper of Herod, and she "danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him," and he swore to her that he would give her whatsoever she should ask of him (Mark 6:21-25). She is instructed by her mother to ask for the head of John the Baptist (Mark 6:24 -- the Matthew account in Matthew 14 adds "in a charger" or platter). Herod is dismayed, but keeps his oath, and John is beheaded.
This gruesome scene can be observed in the icon-image above -- and readers can take comfort in the fact that the artist appears to be aware of the celestial origins of this terrible story (i.e. I don't think it happened on earth in literal history -- I think it happens in the sky above). We see John, pitched forward, just as the constellation Aquarius is pitched forward or "stooping down" in the sky. His hands are bound, but they project from his body at the same angle and attitude as the arm of Aquarius that would be holding the pitcher. In this artist's conception of the scene, the cup or vessel is instead held by the daughter of Herodias. Also, the forward "leg" of Aquarius in this artist's depiction is actually the leg of the executioner, which can be seen protruding from the center of the figure of the Baptist, just as it does in the sky from the center of the constellation Aquarius.
If we actually reverse the painting so that it is facing the same direction as the constellation Aquarius is seen to face in the night sky, the correspondences become even clearer.
Below is the same painting, this time reversed, and with the actual stars and outline of Aquarius (taken directly from Stellarium, with no alteration other than to add the outlines as envisioned by the system of H. A. Rey for Aquarius) superimposed on the artwork:
The episode in the New Testament describing the beheading of John the Baptist, as with all the other elements of the John the Baptist cycle in the texts, can be seen to come directly from the position and orientation of the constellations themselves.
As Aquarius goes across the sky from east to west, the outline of the human shape will eventually sink beneath the western horizon. However, because Aquarius actually faces towards the east, and goes across the sky "backwards" (feet first), the head of the constellation will disappear beneath the horizon last.
Before the head sinks completely below the horizon, it will in fact be seen to sit upon the western horizon (the rest of the body, other than the water-jug, having already disappeared beneath the western horizon).
In other words, the motion of Aquarius creates the actual scene depicting "the head of John the Baptist on a platter" in the sky itself!
As mentioned above, other details from the texts themselves are also understandable when we look at the orientation of Aquarius in relation to other important constellations which "come after" Aquarius in the heavenly procession.
As we can very clearly see in the diagram below, the head of Aquarius can be seen to be looking directly towards the zodiac constellation of Aries the Ram -- which is why John the Baptist is described in the scriptures as seeing Jesus coming towards him, prompting John to declare: "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away [or "beareth away"] the sins of the world!" (John 1: 29).
Similarly, the texts in the accounts as recorded in Matthew and Luke have John declaring that "he that cometh after me is mightier than I" and that this one who "cometh after" is also one "whose fan is in his hand" -- which can be seen to be describing the mighty constellation Orion, who does indeed come after Aquarius and does indeed bear aloft a "winnowing fan" in his hand.
Finally, in John 3: 30 is the famous verse in which John the Baptist announces very bluntly: "He must increase, but I [must] decrease" (literally, "he must increase, but I decrease").
This verse obviously has spiritual connotations, but it is also an accurate declaration regarding the relative positions of the constellations Aquarius and Orion as shown in the above star chart.
John the Baptist, corresponding to Aquarius above, is decreasing -- sinking below the horizon, in fact. At the same time, Orion (the one who cometh after John) is increasing all the while that Aquarius is decreasing. You can see that even as Aquarius sinks below the horizon, Orion is still ascending towards the zenith or transit-line (the highest point on the arc for the stars as they circle up from the eastern horizon and down towards the western horizon, just as it is the highest point on the sun's arc through the sky during the day).
Now, if we were reading the scriptures literally (that is, as historical records of the words and actions of terrestrial, literal personages), we might read John's declaration in John 3: 30 that he must decrease and Jesus increase as a statement of literal historical fact -- John proclaiming that his own role must diminish now that Jesus has arrived on the scene.
But, based on previous discussions regarding esoteric interpretations of some of the Gnostic texts uncovered in the Nag Hammadi library --including the discussions entitled "The Gospel of Thomas and the Divine Twin" and "Who is Doubting Thomas?" -- it is possible that the ancient texts intended this declaration by John the Baptist, regarding increasing and decreasing, to refer to our own integration with the Higher Self, the Christ within.
It may be that the motion of the two figures (Aquarius sinking down, Orion rising up) and the actions of the two characters in the sacred story (John leaving the scene, Jesus ascending and his divine origin being revealed) is describing something that we are supposed to emulate in our own lives, by diminishing the "doubting voice" of the Thomas Self and becoming more attuned to the Higher Self.
Indeed, many daily disciplines and practices which appear to have been developed in ancient times, or handed down to humanity from some other now-unknown source, may have as their goal that very same scenario described by John the Baptist, including the practice of meditation, chanting, Yoga, rhythmic drumming, certain martial arts, forms of chi gung, and many others.
It should be very clear by now that the myths and scriptures of humanity, from around the globe, can be shown to be based upon a celestial foundation.
It should also be becoming clear that as we begin to understand the metaphorical language used by these ancient texts and sacred stories, this understanding can help us to hear the messages that they are speaking to us across the centuries and across the millennia.