Orbital nodes and dragons
From: Carton, WHC Wil.Carton@hoogovens.com To: 'SOLARECLIPSES@AULA.COM' Subject: [SE] Orbital nodes and dragons Date: Monday, February 01, 1999 10:35 AM
On 11 January 1999 Peter Nockolds raised a question about the antiquity of the terms 'Dragon's Head and Tail': "Do any other list subscribers have any info or views on the antiquity of these terms?"
Sir, once I read somewhere (in Patrick Moore's book "Mensen, Mythen en Sterren", if I remember right): In Antiquity eclipses were attributed to dragons in the sky. Their danger was limited to some limited areas in the sky, where the sun and the full moon risked to be attacked. The Greek scholar Anaxagoras of Samos already identified eclipses as mutual occultations/shadow transits of the sun, earth and moon. In the Middle Ages it was common knowledge that the dangerous areas in the sky are corresponding with the intersecting points of the solar orbit and the lunar orbit: the nodes. The ascending node of the lunar orbit was denoted as "the head of the dragon" and the descending node as "the tail of the dragon".
About the great European solar eclipse of 17 June 1433 there is a record in Celle, Brunswick, Germany, that "the whole sun was eclipsed, in the tail of the dragon". (as quoted by Prof. Mr.Dr. G. van den Bergh in his popular astronomical book "Aarde en Wereld in Ruimte en Tijd" in 1951). Amazingly, at present the English professor F.R.Stephenson wrote in his new book "Historical Eclipses and Earth Rotation" that he does not know what mediaeval chroniclers meant with "tail of the dragon".
From: barr derryl firstname.lastname@example.org To: SOLARECLIPSES@AULA.COM Subject: Re: [SE] Orbital nodes and dragons Date: Tuesday, February 02, 1999 6:03 AM
I enjoyed greatly Peter Nockold's and Wil. Carton's messages discussing the antiquity of the terms "Dragon's Head and Tail." My own data concerning the antiquity of these terms traces their use back to the beginning of the 2nd Millennium BC in Mesopotamia in symbols very similar to those still used today to designate the ascending and descending nodes.
What I regard as even more remarkable is the occurrence of "the head and tail of the dragon" in not only very ancient but also very diverse cultures. China and India as well as Mesopotamia also identified these celestial positions where eclipses might occur as the head and tail of a celestial dragon.
Several different eclipse volumes (including Stephenson's Historical Eclipses and the Earth's Rotation) state that the Chinese word for eclipse is "shih" which means to bite or nibble. The Chinese astronomers watched and studied the daytime sky to determine the moment when a draconic attack on the sun might begin, and take precaution to frighten away the culpable demon. The sinister weight of the omen was measured in the degree that the sun was eclipsed. Thus the smaller the eclipse, the more proficient as his task was perceived the astronomer.
The antiquity of this perceived safeguard is sounded in the legend of Ho and Shi whose less than diligent vigil was rewarded with death. The Ho and Shi legend extends back to at least 2000 BC if not before.
In India the culprit is the demon Rahu who rose as one of the giants out of the churning of the sea. Rahu stole the Amrita, the food of immortality intended for the Vedic gods. His theft was witnessed by Surya and Chandra, the gods of the sun and moon, who immediately reported his crime to Vishnu.
With sword drawn the great god of preservation went seeking the offender and caught up with him at the instant the demon was preparing to consume his theft. The sword of Vishnu flashed and severed the giant in twain, but not before a crumb of the immortal bread fell upon the demon's tongue.
Thus the upper half of Rahu lives on and hides in the sky at the juncture of the sun and moon waiting to take revenge upon his informers at certain seasons of the year when they cross his path. (An excellent depiction of Rahu is on the cover of Sky and Telescope March 1996 as an introduction to the reports on the 1995 October 24 eclipse over India and SE Asia, which, by the way, did take place at the ascending node)
According to differing legends, the hind quarters of the demon either remain in the sky to endanger the sun and moon at the descending node, or fell to earth as poisoning rains. The hind quarters are called Ketu. Even to this day a Hindi horoscope lists the positions and influences of Rahu and Ketu, the head and tail of the demon as two planets in the Vedic cosmology. Their plotted positions correspond exactly to the positions of the ascending and descending nodes.
From: Govert Schilling email@example.com To: SOLARECLIPSES@AULA.COM Subject: RE: [SE] Orbital nodes and dragons Date: Tuesday, February 02, 1999 9:08 AM
Concerning the antiquity of the terms 'head and tail of the dragon': does anybody know about a possible relation with the constellation Draco the dragon? The north ecliptical pole lies smack in the middle of this constellation, so perhaps the ecliptic has always been associated with the constellation? Also, is there a relation between ecliptic nodes and the current use of the term 'draconic'? Govert Schilling
From: Peter Nockolds firstname.lastname@example.org To: SOLARECLIPSES@AULA.COM Subject: RE: [SE] Orbital nodes and dragons Date: Tuesday, February 02, 1999 1:54 PM
At 09:08 02/02/99 +0100, you wrote: Concerning the antiquity of the terms 'head and tail of the dragon': does >anybody know about a possible relation with the constellation Draco the dragon? The north ecliptical pole lies smack in the middle of this constellation, so perhaps the ecliptic has always been associated with the constellation?
At the precise North Pole of the ecliptic there are no stars
The (Biblical) Book of Job (26.7) states
He stretcheth out the North over the empty place, and hangeth the Earth upon nothing.
Quite a few scholars consider that this relates to the North Pole of the Ecliptic.
If we trace the North Pole of the Moon's orbit it describes a small circle around the north pole of the ecliptic, with a radius of 5 1/2 degrees. This picks out some of the stars in Draco as they coil around the North Pole of the Ecliptic.
Beneath Draco is the constellation of Hercules, known in Arabic sources as 'the kneeler'. Draco is the serpent guarding the Golden Apples of the Hesperides, which confer immortality. Hercules here is completing the labour of gaining these apples. This would seem to relate to Barr Derryl's account of Hindu myth where Rahu is attempting to gain the food of eternal life.
In the Book of Revelation the 12 gates to the city correspond to the 12 months of the (solar) year and hence the twelve signs of the zodiac and the ecliptic. The Tree of Life stands in the midst of the City. In Genesis God keeps Adam and Eve away from the Tree of Life 'lest they eat of the fruit thereof and live forever'
Hence there are myths of immortality linked with the pole of the ecliptic in both the Bible and Greek sources.
In 'Heaven's Mirror' Graham Hancock cites research showing that sacred buildings around Angkor Wat in Cambodia are laid out to correspond to the stars in Draco. I haven't read the relevant chapters, but there's one entitled 'churning the sea of Milk' which may well correspond to Barr's account of the churning of the sea by Rahu.
Some Biblical scholars have linked the sea-monster Leviathin with the cycle of eclipses. In Job 41.3 it is said that Leviathin 'maketh the sea to boil like a pot'
I'm sorry this is all a bit disconnected, but there is a great deal which could be written about this.
>Also, is there a relation between ecliptic nodes and the current use of the >term 'draconic'?
As far as I know a small number of modern astrologers use 'draconic' or 'draconitic' horoscopes, where the ascending node becomes the ascendant. Peter Nockolds
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