Thank you to longtime correspondent and independent researcher Didier Lacapelle for his recent review of Star Myths of the World and how to interpret them, Volume Four: Norse Mythology.
I have reprinted Didier's review below, but you can and should visit his website Theognosisto read some of his other analysis on related (and somewhat related, or even unrelated) topics. Theognosis is written in French, but if (like me) you are not fluent in the French language, you can use Google Translate to get a sense of Didier's arguments and research. Also, Didier occasionally writes a post in English, as he did with this review of Star Myths of the World, Volume Four, or as he does in this intriguing post about the region of Brittany in France which he published a year ago and which is also worthy of careful examination.
As you can see from his review, as well as from some of the arguments he advances in Theognosis, there are many areas upon which Didier and I have some differing conclusions. However, I personally believe that differing conclusions are to be expected when researchers are faced with an extremely complex puzzle, and that the differences may in fact help to highlight important "pressure points" or "nodes" which may, upon further analysis, turn out to hold the key to unlocking the mystery.
Below is the complete text of Didier's review. Rather than spending too much time on the points of agreement, Didier focuses on areas in which he has disagreements or differing conclusions. I think that you will agree that the subjects upon which he disagrees are extremely interesting and important, and that he brings up several points which are worthy of much further contemplation and examination.
Norse Mythology (Mathisen)
I have just read the volume IV of the « Star Myths of the World » by David Warner Mathisen, dedicated to the Norse mythology.
It is as good as the previous volumes, probably better, due to the experience acquired with the writing of these ones. For those unaccustomed to his writings, David Mathisen proves – beyond all doubts – that ALL the mythologies of the world depict the same system of constellations to play the role of the different characters, and that they can all be deciphered as the destiny of the human soul when she lives the experience of incarnation. Maybe some proposed identifications of characters with one constellation are not the ones intended by the creator of the myth, but Mathisen openly discusses the case when two or three of them can be the rightful candidate, and – really – it is not easy to spot a myth where he could be off the mark.
After the decipherment of the myths of ancient Greece, of Old and the New Testament, maybe there are other popular myths that could benefit from this treatment. I think of the Arthurian cycle for example !
Though I have elements of disagreement that are not new. David knows my points, but I want to recall them to the reader, in order to use this fantastic result to go further in other fields of research that are dear to me.
First, if ALL the systems of myths follow the same set of constellations, my guess would not be that a more ancient system, known to all the cultures of the world, was at the origin of them. The points of similarity are limited to one or two names shared by two cultures, and similar stories can be spotted. This has lead to a whole field of academic research, the comparative mythology, which uses the notion of typology to explain these points of similarities. Some authors will say that the gospels have been made upon the homeric epics, according to the supposed epoch when these different texts were put down to writing. Some will say that there is an original myth from which all the myths of the world come from. Mathisen is without doubt a partisan of this school. Yet they were unable to frame this « original » system. It is due to the fact that each system has a very different « taste ». We know that Thor is a nordic god, Apollo greek, and Osiris egyptian.
My own guess is that if the set of constellations is the same, then the authors of the myths are the same. And if christian literature – I mean the roman catholic literature – the very texts that were chosen by the roman clergy to tell the life of Jesus and his apostles, contain these sacred teachings about the destiny of the soul, and these constellations, it means that the roman clergy wrote all of them according to this knowledge, which they had in full.
Mathisen points the fact that Argo navis and Centaurus are clearly used in the set of constellations that frame the norse mythology, though they are not to be seen in the night sky in these northern latitudes.
The story that we are told is that the « literal » christianity have smashed the ancient pagan lore and cut us from the gods that live among us, and even inside us, for an unique god whom only the priests could reach for the benefit of the community. The christian church is guilty of the creation of a feudal system, for the benefit of the clergy and the nobility too. The whole system was a yoke for the people in a terrestrial meaning, as it was destined to a life of servitude and even slavery. It was a yoke in a spiritual meaning too, as the people was forbidden to use his own spiritual ressources, and cut from his divine part. This is the scheme David Mathisen depicts in his book.
And he is not really wrong : our modern world can be described as an « undercover » caste system – the caste are still there, but they are not depicted as such, as we are led to believe in democracy through the electoral system and a general system of « contractualisation ».But were the systems we call « traditional » among the ancient cultures, here and elsewhere, not at all caste systems ? They were caste systems, no doubt about this ! The hindu system comes immediately to the mind. The Romans and the Greeks had citizens, plebeians and slaves. Women were not given right to participate in the life of the city.
One can argue that these civilizations, though using a full knowledge of the spiritual system described, were a degenerate offspring of the goold old shamanic cultures. But when we listen to the shaman Elena Michechtkina, people in Siberia are not free to practice shamanism in the same individual way that western neo-shamanism practicioners are free to experience. No one can decide to be a shaman : the spirits choose the person authorized to be a shaman, and one cannot decide he does not to want to be a shaman. As the shamans are public figures, a shaman enter a pyramidal hierarchy of shamans among whom he must accomplish his duties. It was NOT the right of everyone to access to the realm of the divine.
So what the roman catholic faith did was to keep the knowledge away from a general misuse. What the old trial papers teach us is that the population was upset about the wide use of sorcery and often there were unlawful retaliations. More and more the public courts admitted these trials and were inclined to severe punishments, even death sentences. What the roman catholic inquisition did was to give the right for the presumed sorcerers to defend themselves with the help of the « devil’s advocate ». The papacy published bulls to forbid to kill a sorcerer, and the sentences that should be applied for a crime related to sorcery. « Being » a sorcerer was not a crime, one would have to kill someone with magic to receive a death sentence. But this was not an easy enquiry. Most of the time, all that was left as proof was an accusation. Judicial errors were numerous. So was « the right of everyone to have access to the divine ». The catholic church chose to hide the teachings. And I believe that this is exactly what the siberian shamans try to do with their order of shamans. The caste system was probably in ruins in Europe, and many « freelance operators » had appeared.
The catholic church is responsible of other important innovations : she put an end to the « original sin », the sin to be born in flesh, which lead all men and women to have a debt from birth to repay. The son of God died once and for all to wash away our sins. In the same time, this was the end of the practice of human sacrifice at different moments of the year to appease the gods, and – yes – wash away the sins of the tribe. And it was this very same catholic church that preserved – and probably created – many of these worldwide myths that we currently study.
Michael Hudson is an academic in the field of economics. David Mathisen quotes him to put the blame on the roman catholic church for the creation of feudality and slavery for debt. But this is the kind of society in Babylon, ancient Rome, Old Testament and – I would add – the order of the Knights of the Temple. This is precisely what the roman catholic church, Paul at first, was willing to overcome. Though clearly the church hides the spiritual teachings from view precisely while she pretends to give full access to the secrets to each and every one of us.
We are used to say that traditional societies did not view death as a taboo, while the modern world tries to forget about it in an insane way. But maybe while doing this, we project upon them the virtues we think are lacking inside of us. Many ancient societies viewed the birth on this Earth as the original sin, and the planet as a purgatory. We are the fallen angels, we are the morning star that crashed upon Earth (Lucifer aka Christophoros). So when a myth as Ragnarok speaks of the end of a golden age and a global cataclysm, he conveys the signification of the end of life in the realms of the divine (where the stars do not set) to an incarnate life. More on this soon.
We can feel there are lies spread concerning the modern history of the church. We are told that the roman catholic church forbid to read the Bible. Which Bible ? The Geneva Bible in english is one of the first to have a year of publication in the second part of the 16th century. In catholic Brittany, every catholic family had one or several bibles at home in the 20th century. We are told that the roman catholic church cast fear upon the people with the original sin. But in the gospels, Jesus washes it away for ever (with the condition to believe in him, but this condition is not so hard to fulfill for the roman church).
We are told that the Reformers wanted to be free to read the Bible for themselves, in a kind of « democracy » as we like it. But they believe that salvation is only for the elected ones, the ones that share the gift of the grace given by God to believe in him. And this belief is proven by the wealth of the person ! Jesus for them washed away the original sin for ever for the rich ones. The poors had to give up the sin of birth to welcome the sin of being an unbeliever.
As the canonic literature is proven to be gnostic in essence, could what we call « gnostic literature » be proven to follow such a set of constellations ? I believe that yes, it can. But what is possible is that the set is not exactly the same, maybe a prior one.
Another point that I do not agree with is the importance given to the phenomenon of precession of the equinoxes. Following the opinion of Giorgio de Santillana et Hertha Van Dechend, the authors of the famous book « Hamlet’s mill », David Mathisen suggests that the end of the « golden age of the gods », or the end of the next age of heroes came through another constellation rising in the east at dawn at the equinox of spring. This is described in words of a worldwide cataclysm. I shall say my arguments against this statement :
A change of the constellation rising at the equinox does not put an end to nothing in real life. Comets are more likely to be feared
The « ages » of the zodiac suggest that each age remains for a time equal to 2160 years, as a portion of 30° of the sky, corresponding to the the size of a constellation. But 30° is the place the « sign » occupies in a tropical zodiac, when the real constellation has been replaced by the houses they represent. The real constellations of the zodiac are of different sizes. Some are very large as Virgo, and some smaller, as Cancer.
The exact size of the constellations have not been given prior to the 19th century, and there were debates and revisions even at the beginning of the 20th century. I was impossible for prior civilizations to know where a constellation started or ended
Old lore speak of ages that end in cataclysms. Sometimes ancient astronomists show a knowledge of precession. There is absolutely no basis in texts that prove that the ages end when precession leads to a change of the constellation rising at dawn at the equinox of spring. And most of the times, old astronomists do not know of the phenomenon of precession, or widely fall off the mark. The « Great year » in Egypt is 1400 years long, far from the real value of a precessional age : 2160 years. The expressions « Age of Taurus », « Age of Aries », etc. have been popularised in the 19th century by occultist authors
A zodiac is at first linked to a calendar. All the ancient calendars are tropical (and even lunisolar), which means that they follow the course of the sun in one year, not the stars. The only « sidereal » calendar, which could suggest an interest for the change of place of the stars, is the egyptian « sothic » calendar. I have shown that Sothis has been mistaken to be the star Sirius, but it is the constellation of Taurus. This means that the « sothic » calendar is in fact the tropical and lunisolar calendar of Nippour.
A precessional cycle is unnecessary to provide an explanation to the « cycle stories ». A yearly cycle is enough.
It is much more logical to conclude that the name of twelve constellations were chosen to represent the twelve « houses » of 30° that complete the circle of 360°, but that they were never meant to be identical. The slipping of the constellations could possibly help us to calculate the time when the zodiac we now use was drawn.
But this suggests that men use the same zodiac from a time immemorial, and a calendar where the years are very close to a gregorian modern solar year. This is not the case : the muslim year, the jewish year, the celtic, the greek and the nordic year used to be made of months starting at a full moon or a new moon. With twelve months they approach a solar year (355 days for a jewish year) and additional months are needed, either added by observation of the skies, or by the use of a system, as the metonic cycle (seven years among the 19 years cycle are given an additional month). It can be proven beyond doubt that France used the hebrew calendar before 1582 and the introduction of the gregorian calendar. That is what all the books from the epoch say, except the liar Scaliger.
In these lunar calendars, the current sign of the zodiac is often the one that appears at dusk in the east, and not at dawn. The Pleiades, near Taurus, are the sign of Samonios (near november) in the celtic calendar, not may or april. This would be illogical as the constellation of the month would appear and immediately disappear as the sun rises. I suggest that an important constellation for the month would be seen well this very month. So when the gregorian calendar was put in place, the zodiac system had to be reversed.
There is no basis in the old calendars to speak of an Age of Gemini, that would be the Golden Age, when Gemini had its heliacal rising at the equinox of spring, because this kind of « heliacal rising » at dawn are unknown to observers of the lunisolar calendars.
Though this is a clever assumption made by the authors of Hamlet’s mill. It is clearly proven in this book that the Milky Way is the bridge (or tree, etc.) by which the deceased one reach the « undying stars » at the top of the stellar sky, or even where they dwell, as the orphic and pytagorean teachings seem so say. This is the channel by which the shaman access to the other realm too. The authors quote Macrobius when he writes that the souls ascend through « the gate of Capricorn » (which they suggest to be Sagittarius, the constellation at the foot of the Milky Way) and descend through the « gate of Cancer » (Gemini, at the top of the column). Alvin Boyd Kuhn say that one equinox would code for incarnation and the second one for death. And this is precisely the problem because in order for both ideas to be right, Gemini or Sagittarius must be the « sign of the equinox » (true in modern astrology only), and the reason why good communication could only happen in the golden age of Gemini.
Well, how did we do since ? The first statement is right, the second one is not. Clearly, there is a time in the year coding as the time for incarnation, and the opposite point of the year is the time of death. But these points were not the equinoxes : they were at Samhain and Beltaine in the celtic world, Tishri and Nisan for the jewish cult (which are closer to the equinoxes than their celtic counterparts). And while some civilizations are very literal – as the dead will rise to the other realm precisely at these moments of the year – most of them consider an allegory, as the dead shall not wait for Samhain to journey to the heavens. Quite possibly the opposite is true : the feast would convey the idea that the dead come to visit us and incarnate, as incarnation is the real « death ».
The Golden Age is not depicted at the Age of Gemini, anywhere in the greek texts. It is a time when the stars did not set nor rise, revolving « like a hat upon the head ». This is a realm where the stars are eternal, so it is the realm of the souls, not the time when we had easy access to it. This is the realm of Cronos and other dying gods/sleeping gods when they represent the soul that descend into the flesh (not precession !). This Golden Age can be allegorized with two other pictures : the stars that can be seen inside the arctic circle (they do not rise nor set), and the stars in the upper part of the sky (which do not rise or set either).
The egyptian Book of the dead speaks of a « confusion of years, disturbing of months ». How is this supposed to code for a precession of the equinoxes when the calendar is lunisolar, not stellar ?
« The sign of thy coming and of the end of the world », « the sign of the Son of man in the sky » in Matthew is Aquarius. This is the sign that is associated with the first month of the year in the system of Eudoxus. This is the end and the renewal of the solar year. And why suddenly is this not Gemini, if it is a precessional reference ? This « end of the year » in Aquarius can be a reason why the action in the Ragnarok episode goes in the direction of the Great Square of Pegasus/ Pisces, then go backwards many times in the story.
The numbers thought to be precessional (432 000 warriors come to battle from Vallhala at Ragnarok), 72 henchmen with Seth to murder Osiris, 10 800 bricks for the building of the altar of Agni, 108 suitors in the palace of Odysseus…) are in close relation to the 360° cycle, as fractions or multiples of 60 or 12. Yes, 72 is close to 71,6 years, the time for the precession to reach 1° of sliding. But was the circle of 360° made upon this 72 ? I don’t think so.
The scraps of nails cut from the dead warriors to build the ship Naglfar, the scraps of leather cut from the shoes of the warriors that makes the shoe of Vidarr, bits of precession ? In a lunisolar year, I prefer the fraction of a lunar month that is necessary to complete a full solar year, about ten days after 355 in the regular year, not a full lunar month of 29 or 30 days.
A darkened sun, water that replaces ground (some stars that were under the line of horizon replace some other stars that can be seen in summer), a displacement of the stars, all of this can be related to an end of the year in winter, soon to be followed by a new sun reborn. This is not true of the end of an Age of Gemini. If the connexion with the realm of the gods has been lost due to the end of the time when Gemini was the sign of the equinox, then this was a long time ago and not soon to be seen again. There is no renewal to hope.
Has the Bifrost bridge (the Milky Way) been broken because of the precession of the equinoxes that brought a loss of the connexion between our realm and the realm of the divine ? If it is the end of the Age of Gemini that is depicted, the channel has been lost a long time ago and is not soon to come again. Though a breaking of the Bifrost bridge is clearly suggestive of a loss of the ability to reach the realm of the dead. What I suggest is that at the beginning of a new incarnate life, or at the beginning of a cycle of incarnate lives, the connexion between the two realms is really difficult, quite impossible. The soul has to recall herself in order to rebuild the connexion, piece by piece.
The end of the world happens in many myths because divine beings – angels in the Bible, Titans in the greek myths, Aesir in the norse myths, etc. – have broken some limits or laws. The end of a golden age comes when an angel (a soul) comes to incarnate. This is precisely the same template in the Bible, when the incarnation of Adam and Eve is said to be « the original sin ». And this is why in all these ancient cults, man is born with a debt from birth, in order to repay for his original sin. The deluge and all kinds of coming of a great mass of water or episodes of drowning, as David Mathisen have many times shown, are symbols for the incarnation. This is not an allegory of the precession of the equinoxes !
All these episodes depicting a « mass incarnation » are describing a worldwide catastrophe. Possibly this is the view all these ancient cultures had upon life on earth, as the Cathars or the reformed christians in the 16th century (which are not reformed christians at all, but old fashioned catholics) had. And there is a good possibility that the civilisation of the « norse myths » shared this mind. To « honor the gods » was seemingly a synonym for « fight the enemy with bravery and face death without fear ». This is a bit of true and a lot of false morals, similar to the exoteric interpretation of every lore. We are very far from shamanic abilities made available to each and every one. And far from the modern neo-shamanism where earthly experience is valued as a school for the soul.
There was another important sin besides the original sin to be born in flesh in these ancient cultures : it was the mortal sin. This one was synonym only to sorcery. A murderer could be prayed for. A sorcerer not. Mathisen tells us precisely this regarding the old german civilization.
It is suggested that all these shamanic practices were common in former times, and that we lost these abilities when our ideologies became more materialistic. This is not true : the 21st century western people possess far superior abilities to connect to the invisible realm than the people who lived in the old times and even than the more traditional societies. Our spiritual bodies are far larger, which can make the mental or the astral trip available to most of us while the shamans were rare in the old societies. It can be a reason why some rulers try to make us busy with meaningless jobs, and a lot of entertainment.
-- The above review and analysis is by Didier Lacapelle, writing in his site: Theognosis