image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Previous posts have explained that in the ancient system of metaphor found in the world's ancient mythologies, the "summer half" of the year (in which days are longer than nights) was variously allegorized as a heavenly mountain, a high hill, a gleaming city, or the land of Paradise or Heaven.  

The "winter half" of the year (in which nights are longer than days) was variously allegorized as a deep pit, a land of bondage or toil or slavery, Tartaros, Hades, Sheol, the Underworld, Amenta, or Hell.

In between these two halves of the year were two "crossing points," where the fiery path of the sun (the ecliptic path) crosses the celestial equator each year -- the two equinoxes (one in the spring and one in the fall).  

Previous posts have demonstrated that the ancient systems of metaphor often depicted sacrifices at these "crossing" points (including, appropriately enough, the crucifixion of Christ, which is replete with both autumnal and vernal imagery). For more detailed examination of some of the equinox sacrifice metaphors, and the celestial clues which indicate that these sacrifices align with the equinox in the ancient esoteric system of astronomical allegory, please see the first three chapters of The Undying Stars, chapters which are available to read online here (in particular, you'll want to read the third chapter, which begins on page 26 of the book, using the page numbers as they appear on the book pages themselves).

However, the ancient system did not always depict these equinox crossing points with sacrifice myths: sometimes they involved passage through a narrow and dangerous doorway, gateway, or channel between two rocks (such as the Symplegades encountered by Jason and the Argonauts of Greek myth), and sometimes they involved other metaphors (see for instance the series of three examinations of Virgo myths through various ancient cultures, including those of Scandinavia, the Americas, and Japan).

Another way that the equinox "crossings" have been allegorized in ancient symbology is the use of figures with their legs distinctively crossed, in the symbolism employed in the cult of Sol Invictus Mithras. The cult of Mithras was an exclusive secret society, which met in underground grottos called mithraea, or in buildings designed to feel as if they were underground. As David Ulansey explains in his important 1989 publication, Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries: Cosmology and Salvation in the Ancient World, the Mithraic mysteries were so secret that virtually nothing of their inner workings was ever written down -- or if it was, none of it has been known to survive into the present. He writes that they:
centered around a secret which was revealed only to those who were initiated into the cult.  As a result of this secrecy, the teachings of the cult were, as far as we know, never written down.  Modern scholars attempting to understand the nature of Mithraism, therefore, have been left with practically no literary evidence relating to the cult which could help them reconstruct its esoteric doctrines. 3.
However, he explains, the remains of the mithraea which have been discovered scattered throughout the lands of the former Roman Empire do provide important material for modern analysts to examine, in particular, the symbols found in the scenes which are found upon the walls of these ancient meeting-places.  Ulansey writes:
But the Mithraists did leave to posterity a key for unlocking the  inner mysteries of their religion.  For although the iconography of the cult varies a great deal from temple to temple, there is one element of the cult's iconography which was present in essentially the same form in every mithraeum and which, moreover, was clearly of the utmost importance to the cult's ideology: namely, the so-called tauroctony, or bull-slaying scene, in which the god Mithras, accomplanied by a series of other figures, is depicted in the act of killing a bull.  This scene was always located in the central cult-niche of the mithraeum. 6.
Professor Ulansey's 1989 book is important in that in it, Ulansey challenges the conventional theories that had been accepted up until that time regarding the origin of the symbols (which held that they must have come from Persia and ancient Persian myth, since most scholars accepted the idea that Mithraism somehow came into the Roman Empire from Persia, an idea which Ulansey shows to have been almost entirely championed in modern times by a single nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century scholar, Franz Cumont). 

Ulansey's text labors to advance an alternative thesis, that the symbolism of the tauroctony is almost entirely celestial and primarily zodiacal, and that its central scene of slaying the bull has clear ties to the precession of the equinoxes. Towards this end Ulansey musters overwhelming evidence, and it is safe to say that on this point his arguments are decisive in favor of the fact that the imagery present relates to the zodiac signs and neighboring constellations, and the ages-long motion of precession.

One of the extremely interesting parts of Ulansey's argument concerns his interpretation of two mysterious figures who appear in many (but not all) of the tauroctonies, two torchbearers known as Cautes and Cautopates (we know their names from dedicatory inscriptions, as Ulansey explains on page 62).  These figures often (but not always) have crossed legs, and in most (but not all) of the tauroctony scenes in which they appear, one of them (Cautes) has his torch pointing upwards, and the other (Cautopates) has his torch pointing downwards.  

Ulansey presents cogent arguments for identifying these figures, with their crossed legs and torches, as indicative of the crossing of the fiery arc of the sun's path down into the lower or wintery half of the year (at the fall equinox, indicated by Cautopates with his lowered torch) and up into the upper or summery half (at the spring equinox, indicated by Cautes).  I discussed Ulansey's arguments, along with supporting arguments from Hamlet's Mill (which show that fire-imagery is very common at the points of the equinoxes in many of the world's ancient sacred mythologies) in my first book, The Mathisen Corollary (in chapter 10).  Some scholars have challenged Ulansey's identification of Cautes and Cautopates with the vernal and autumnal equinoxes, but he presents counters to their attacks in his book.

You may be able to spot Cautes and Cautopates in the tauroctony scene above, which is from an ancient mithraeum and which is currently on display in the Kunsthistorisches museum in Vienna.

In that particular tauroctony, Cautes appears on the right side of the bull-slaying scene as we look at it, with his torch's flame pointing upwards, and Cautopates appears on the left as we look at it, with his torch's flame distinctly pointed downwards.  Below is another image of the same scene, this time with Cautes and Cautopates outlined with red rectangles, and the direction of their torches indicated by red arrows (the point of the arrow going towards the respective flames of the torches):

Below is another tauroctony scene from a different ancient mithraeum, which also features Cautes and Cautopates.  Can you spot them and their crossed legs and torches (one pointing down for Cautopates and one pointing up for Cautes)?

image: Wikimedia commons (link)

Once again, they should be relatively easy to spot.  Their crossed legs are very clear in the above image, due to the way they happen to stand out in the photograph.  Below is the same image, with boxes drawn around Cautes and Cautopates to indicate their location, and arrows on each torch pointing in the direction of the flame, which is pointing down in the case of Cautopates on the left, and up in the case of Cautes on the right:

Based on what we have discussed in many previous posts at this point, Ulansey's argument that these two figures represent the two equinoxes is almost certainly correct.  Below is the now-familiar image of the zodiac wheel of the year, which has a large "X" at each equinox to indicate a "crossing."

As I discussed with Henrik Palmgren in my most-recent interview on Red Ice Radio, Mithraism (the cult of Sol Invictus Mithras) may play a far more important role in world history than most people (or even most conventional scholars of Mithraism or of ancient history in general) realize at this time. Historian and author Flavio Barbiero has published a book entitled The Secret Society of Moses: The Mosaic Bloodline and a Conspiracy Spanning Three Millennia (2010) in which he presents evidence that the cult of Sol Invictus Mithras was used as an underground "nerve center" for certain former priestly families of Judea whom Barbiero argues were brought to Rome after the conquest of Judea and the fall of the Temple in Jerusalem in AD 70, at the hands of the general (and future emperor) Titus, who was prosecuting the military campaign in conjunction with his father, Vespasian.

Admiral Barbiero argues that Mithraism basically functioned as an extremely effective secret society, and one which spread through certain strategically-chosen institutions in the Roman Empire, including the Praetorian Guard, the Roman army at large, the centers of trade and commerce (in particular the ports and customs-facilities) and the organs of the political bureaucracy.  It took some time (almost two hundred years), but this "nerve center" eventually gained so much power that it was able to install and remove emperors at will.  The extensive evidence to support this amazing claim is discussed at length in Barbiero's book, and it is also discussed in The Undying Stars in conjunction with that book's examination of the question of "what happened to the ancient wisdom?" Interested readers can also get an overview of the theory in this article which Flavio Barbiero published in 2010 on the Graham Hancock website.

According to this theory, the nobility which controlled Europe during the Middle Ages (as well as the leaders of the western church) almost certainly descended directly from the same lines of priestly families who came to Rome with Vespasian and Titus after the fall of Jerusalem.  Interestingly enough, Barbiero finds evidence for this theory (in addition to the bigger pieces of evidence which are discussed in that linked article and which make up the bigger part of his argument) in the fraternal orders which formed among the European nobility during the Crusades -- including the most famous of these, the Knights Templar.

Those familiar with the history of the Knights Templar may have already been struck by the distinctive "legs crossed" symbology in the foregoing discussion, from the temples of Sol Invictus Mithras.  Barbiero argues that it was probably within "some associations of nobles in which the most authentic spirit of the original institution of Sol Invictus could have survived" (333).  He makes note of the connection between the fact that the funeral monuments of Templar knights represent their effigies with their legs crossed, and says "we cannot imagine that it is a simple coincidence that in all the mithraea there are always two characters with their legs crossed in the same way" (337).

That the members of the noble families who were descended from those original priestly lines who defended the land of Judea and the Temple of Jerusalem against the invading Roman armies under Vespasian and Titus would form dedicated military orders which had secret rituals and shared symbology with the ancient cult of Sol Invictus perfectly accords with Barbiero's thesis. In fact, he writes of knights who made up the top rank of these military orders (such as the Templars):
To all effects, they were professional warriors dedicated to war, which always appeared to be a striking anomaly in the Catholic religion, in flagrant contrast to the pacifism preached by Christ.  In reality, this was no anomaly, but was instead a perfect continuation of the traditions of the priestly family.  Josephus Flavius was a priest but also a warrior and a military leader.  The followers of Sol Invictus had taken control of the Roman army and were, first of all, military men. 335.
Below are some images of the tombs of various Templar knights. In the first one, for example, you can see that the two knights on the right-hand side of the photograph (as we look at it) have their legs crossed:

image: Wikimedia commons (link)

Below is a drawing of another effigy of a knight from his tomb.  You can clearly see that his legs are crossed:

image: Wikimedia commons (link)

And finally, one more drawing of effigies of knights from medieval tombs.  The tomb closer to the viewer clearly depicts an effigy with the legs crossed in the same distinctive manner:

image: Wikimedia commons (link)

There is much more to this subject, but this connection alone constitutes yet another piece of evidence supporting Flavio Barbiero's theory as presented in his book, a theory which is very important for the question of "what happened" to the common system of celestial allegory which underlies virtually all of the world's ancient sacred texts (including those which found their way into what today we refer to as the Bible), and to the knowledge that this ancient wisdom should actually unite mankind, instead of dividing us.