The beginning of the Saturn epic, as we have already seen, gave rise to some remarkable imagery. That imagery can be seen in our own religion, as well as other Christian denominations. But it goes far beyond that limited scope. For those schooled in world religions, it should be apparent that the imagery is universal. This will become even more evident as we continue to probe the evolution of the ancient polar configuration of planets.
Understanding all religion
Scholars have long noted similarities in the world’s religions. Until now, the best explanation for such conformity has been cross-cultural exchange, called diffusion. While there has clearly been some borrowing in cultural religious tradition, the Saturn events serve to explain why there are so many profound and remarkable commonalities in world religions. In addition, as the iconography and imagery of those ancient, celestial events continues to unfold, many more unnoticed similarities between Man’s religions begin to emerge. Indeed, the similarities become clearly apparent and continue to multiply before our eyes. Icons from the most exotic religious traditions become quite understandable, even to our ‘symbolically sanitized’ Christian eyes, to the point that we can plainly see that all religious traditions stem from the same original, cosmological events.
For Latter-day Saints, this exercise proves invaluable in our quest to understand our own religion. It only stands to reason that a restored religion would have echoes of the ancient traditions, symbols and metaphors. An apparent example of this in Mormonism is the erection of temples—a practice as old as mankind—complete with rituals, icons and architecture as authentic and traditionally accurate as any Egyptian, Babylonian, Mayan, Buddhist, Islamic, Greek or Hebrew temple.
The gospel connection
In addition, a restored religion would connect those ancient traditions, symbols and metaphors to the actual events that spawned them. This Joseph Smith did with statement like that recorded in the History of the Church, volume 5, page 337, where he attributed the miraculous events of the last days to a “grand sign” which he identified as “a comet, a planet.” His considerable work to identify the meaning of certain Egyptian documents in his possession are another, profound connection with recent discoveries.
What he left us clearly points to the research and insight of modern scholars who struggle to unlock the secrets of Earth’s remarkable past as it relates to Catastrophism and the Polar Configuration. Significantly, their research serves to support Joseph Smith’s claim to revelation since this remarkable view of ancient history has only just begun to come to light among secular scholars in the last 50 years. There is simply no other way an individual living the primitive intellectual atmosphere of the American frontier in the early 19th century could come by this kind of knowledge. It was simply nonexistent then. It could have come only by revelation, as Joseph asserted. This should give added strength to the witness of any Latter-day Saint who strives to perfect their testimony and their knowledge of the gospel. This is what Joseph Smith strove to do for the Saints of his day. Thankfully, modern Saints can now enjoy nothing less.
The appearance of Saturn, Venus and Mars, standing above the Earth in ancient times, began to undergo a remarkable metamorphosis from the simple to the complex. In the process it would assume a variety of configurations, each giving rise to a new group of symbols, metaphor and traditions. Venus’ evolution into the prototypical star was only one phase of its career.
Eventually, the streamers that formed the “points” of the “star of glory” radiating outward from Venus toward Saturn reached similar length and breadth to form a new image.
Venus’ streamers had reached their widest, brightest expansion. Recalling that the plasmas that formed these streamers fluoresced like the neon in fluorescent lights, one can understand that the brightness of this display must have been awesome and impressive. The ancients refer to Venus’ streamers as the “light” and “life” of Saturn. It is easy to see how filling the ancient heavens with brilliant light gave the impression the Polar Configuration had come to life, that Venus was the animating or life-giving force behind that birth. It must have been an astounding sight!
What we see, they saw
What do you see in the above image? A wheel? A flower? A sun? A shield? A crown? The ancients saw and described this stage of the Polar Configuration as all those and much more.
There is little doubt that the image above can be described as a wheel, complete with spokes. So it is that ancient tradition from many cultures associated the primary, father god with the wheel and so depicted him. It is also the reason why the wheel was not employed as a laborsaving device in many ancient cultures. To use a sacred symbol as a mere utilitarian device would be the height of irreverence and sacrilege.
The wheel of god
Anthropologists and archeologists are puzzled by this enigma. It is clear that the Meso-American cultures, for example, knew about the concept and utility of the wheel. They made numerous illustrations of it. They even made what the archeologists characterize as a toy using a wheel. (It was probably not a toy, but a religious icon instead.) The Mexicans (Mejica) used the format of a wheel to create their stunningly beautiful calendar stone. Yet, laborers in those ancient cultures carried their burdens of their backs instead of employing a wheeled device. (Remember, they did not have the use of horses until the Spaniards brought them from Europe.)
The reason for this seeming penchant for physical labor is simple, given their religious traditions that hearken back to this wheel symbol. To employ the wheel in as mundane a fashion as in a cart or wagon would have been blasphemous to those who venerated this icon as holy. Much as the horned cow is venerated as a sacred beast by some Eastern cultures, allowing it free reign and refusing to use it for work or for meat, many ancients refused to employ the wheel to carry loads — much less touch the ground.
The plant of life
The Hindu tradition that the world was created when a lotus flower of light opened to reveal all creation stems from this stage of the configuration’s development. It is probably also the origin of the “Tree of Life” symbolism found in the scriptures. It was probably first rendered as the “plant of life,” since the light it emitted was considered the rebirthing of creation in an event of light/glory/spirit. The Christian imagery of the light of god or the spirit of god radiating outward, innervating all creation, also probably traces its roots back to this event.
This was the origin of many “sun” pictographs from ancient cultures worldwide. A bright circle of light with radiating spokes of light is virtually universal, common to every culture — ancient or modern. As with the star symbols, there is no analog to this symbol in the physical world. Nothing in our experience would lead us to depict the Sun with rays of light radiating out in all directions. It is a construct we draw upon that comes from our cultural traditions, which hearken back to this magnificent image in the sky — the true sun, the best sun, the sacred sun.
It is, at the same time, the shield of the ancient god, standing before him and protecting him from the darkness and chaos around him. It is the prototype of all ancient shields carried into battle. Since war itself was considered a sacred ritual — an attempt to bring all humanity under the benevolent rule of a god-on-earth — then the shield, designed after and decorated by the ancient sun symbol, was thought of as a powerful icon to carry into battle as a divine protection. Even when the shape of the shield was altered by later cultures for more practical, utilitarian reasons, a version of the sun symbol was used to decorate it. That symbol was thought to give the shield supernatural protective powers. It also explains why a female nature was attributed to the symbol and why so many ancient goddesses were depicted with a shield.
A shield, a garment, a crown
Because Venus’ streamers of light seemed to cover Saturn, some traditions spoke of it as a garment of light. Like the shield, tradition placed it upon him for protection. This idea should be familiar to most Latter-day Saints.
Lastly, Venus, with her streamers, was said to be the crown of Mars, the heir apparent of the heavenly kingdom and the son of the father-god, Saturn. This imagery is employed by John in Revelation, and is another key to understanding that enigmatic book.
Displacement of planets, more variations
The next stage of the polar configuration’s evolution is truly remarkable. It marks a critical phase in the relationships that existed between the several planets that composed the configuration. One or more of the smaller planets — Earth, Mars and Venus — began to ‘wobble.’ That is, they began to oscillate slightly back and forth through the centerline or swing about the centerline that they had shared. The configuration was in the early stages of dissolution. It began to come apart!
It would not take much movement away from the common center of alignment during that ancient epoch to create a remarkably different view of the heavens for Earth’s inhabitants. As will be seen in a future analysis of the ancient planetary conjunction, there was a great deal of movement among the planets involved before the extraordinary configuration that gave mankind its cultural traditions finally came apart. That movement generated a remarkable variety of images, as we shall see.
Which of the planets moved first and in what manner is a matter of conjecture; the visual effect that it produced for earth-bound observers is not because they recorded and reproduced it in abundance.
Whether Venus and Mars moved away from the center in tandem or whether the Earth alone moved, the displacement created an offset or parallax view of the polar configuration from Earth. At that point, the symmetry of the original icon, from an earthly perspective, was altered considerably.
Once again we have only to ask ourselves what this looks like to know what the ancients also thought of it. Do you see a bird’s or peacock’s tail? A hand fan? A flowering plant? A headdress? Or a scallop shell?
Even a cursory acquaintance with ancient symbolism allows one to see the multitude of icons that might have resulted from this manifestation. It certainly reinforced the “plant of life” or “tree of life” symbolism mentioned earlier because it looked much like a palm tree. It became the source of innumerable artistic motifs for sacred edifices. Eventually it found its way into every kind of decorative pattern — sacred or profane.
The peacock is an integral part of the symbolism of Eastern religions. Hindus and Buddhists, in particular, employ the peacock imagery where some of their deities are depicted seated upon a peacock as a throne. Such a relationship seems ludicrous to Western eyes, yet within the understanding of the Saturn myths comes a new appreciation and understanding of religious iconography from around the world. Some of the most eccentric images in ancient and foreign cultures become understandable, as in this case.
Of course, there are a plethora of sacred birds to choose from in ancient iconography. The Native American tradition of the thunderbird leaps to mind, as does the Phoenix legend. Most striking to Christians is the symbol of the white dove. If this brilliant, white-feathered, bird-like celestial image were considered the animating force or spirit of the ancient sky god, then the symbol of the dove—a white, feathered bird—would be quite proper in later Christianity to connote the Spirit of God or the Holy Ghost. It would be an unmistakable icon, rife with meaning.
Fans, veils, wigs and hats
While our Western culture does not put much emphasis on the image of the fan or the veil, it was used in ancient times to cover the face—again, a sacred covering representing protection and glory. The fan was, in myth, a device used by many ancient goddesses to protect themselves, as odd as this may seem in practice, and to banish the powers of chaos and darkness that menaced them. It was also characterized as a whisk or broom for the same purpose. For that reason, the fan was used by young women in many ancient cultures to cover their faces—not to hide their face, as later cultures interpreted the custom, but to associate themselves with the ancient goddess of light and beauty that once covered the face of the celestial god.
We recognize this symbol in another of its incarnations or variations: the veil. Like the train worn by the new bride to symbolically associate her with cometary Venus, the veil over the face is a symbolic association of the individual with this aspect of Venus so as to identify the bride with the heavenly prototype of beauty, Venus in this most glorious aspect. As such, the train and the veil become a dual statement of the bride’s association with the prototypical bride of antiquity, Venus, the bride of heaven’s ruler, Saturn. Latter-day Saints will see the special meaning in the veil as a covering.
The ‘headdress’ motif is also nearly universal. Perhaps the most striking example is found in the imposing feathered headdresses of the Native American peoples. If the ancient god, Mars, wore a headdress composed of bright, white feathers, then any chief or ruler here on Earth should do the same. In fact, this image is the origin of the headdress or wig worn by Egyptian pharaohs, that of Tutankhamen being the most easily recognized in modern popular culture.
This headdress or wig was identical to the appearance of the ancient planetary configuration in this phase of its development. It was meant to designate the wearer as the heir to godhood. As with all Saturn traditions, we see that the headdresses of vastly different cultures, separated by time and distance, share a common origin.
Indeed, Venus in its various early stages of light may be the origin of all worldly headgear. If the veil and the fan were used by women as ceremonial adornments to connect them with the goddess of beauty, then the hats and headgear worn by men of all cultures likely hearken back the planetary configuration at one stage or another.
This is certainly true of crowns worn by rulers. Worn in one form or another, as ceremonial adornments (just as the pharaoh’s headdress), during rituals rehearsing specific events in the history of the polar column of planets, they are universal icons. Temple-going Saints should make note of this imagery.
Goddess on the half-shell
The scallop shell was also associated with many ancient, mythical goddesses. Mythmakers often chose to rhetorically adorn the goddess’ hair with scallop shells to identify them to readers or listeners. Aphrodite was said to have been born on a scallop shell. Perhaps it was the didactical importance of this symbol that led to its use in the Celestial Room of the Salt Lake Temple, where a young woman stands is depicted standing on a scallop shell.
Many have wondered why such an image was included in an LDS temple. Why bring a pagan image into such a sacred edifice? The reason is probably the same as that which inspired ancient Israelites to bring such images into their temple in Jerusalem. It is, likely, the same reason that brought all other images to early Mormon temples: They are part and parcel of the iconography that connects modern temple-building to ancient temples. Like so much of that temple’s iconography, the Salt Lake Temple points the viewer back to the original Saturn traditions.
One other aspect of this phase of the polar configuration, not readily apparent, is that of the ‘hand.’ As the ‘wobble’ in the planets progressed, the streamers were altered or distorted further. At one point, some appeared longer or shorter than others, and the number of streamers fell to five, thus giving the appearance of a human hand. Hence, we find the term “hand of God” in Hebrew and Christian scriptural references. Cultures worldwide depict the human hand as a sacred object. More often than not, that hand is illustrated with an eye and/or a wheel in the palm, a completely appropriate juxtaposition since the archetypical ‘eye’ and ‘hand’ were both formed in the ancient heavens by the same orbs in different manifestations. Those who have observed the exterior of the Salt Lake Temple have seen both symbols used there: the all-seeing eye and the hand (usually clasped hands).
Another aspect of this stage or phase of the configuration’s development is the apparent oscillation of the streamers from side to side, giving the appearance of so many serpents emerging from the head. This may be the origin of the Medusa image. Medusa, you may remember, was a horrific female creature from Greek mythology with the body of a serpent and hair that became a multitude of snakes emerging from her head. For those wishing to interpret the vision of John the Revelator in the New Testament book Revelation, this image is crucial because the many-headed serpent or dragon of chapters 12 and 13 finds its prototype in this original image.
The same ‘serpent’ motif can be found in widely divergent ancient cultures. The Greeks used the Medusa. The Hindus depict Nag as a serpent with seven heads. The Aztecs venerated a god with a human body and seven serpents sprouting from his shoulders where his head should be.
Interestingly, the oldest example of this many-headed serpent icon, matching John’s description in Revelation, was found by archeologists incised on a Sumerian shell inlay dating to about 2600 BC, long before John penned his cryptic vision.
These examples should amply demonstrate to the reader that these mythic icons predated Christianity and the New Testament. Thus, John’s use of the imagery of dragons and serpents constituted a borrowing rather than invention. This and a multitude of other examples cited by this author in The Plainest Book: Revelation, suggest that almost the entire book was a borrowing of ancient imagery. (Note that this makes John’s vision no less valid. In fact, it makes it a kind of scriptural Rosetta Stone, allowing us to understand the relationship between the ancient imagery of all cultures and that of early Christians. It was a syllabus for pagans — full of well-known and well-understood cultural imagery — who wished to understand the beliefs of early Christianity. This evidence also completely demolishes the popular interpretation of Revelation by modern Evangelists who see the image of the seven heads as some modern political alliance forged between ungodly nations in the last days.)
Making stories from symbols
The Egyptians, referring to this symbol, said that the hair of Isis became a “thicket” of papyrus in which she protected the child/god Horus and is so illustrated on the walls of tombs and temples. Thus, we see how a simple icon can give birth to a story that takes on a life of its own. Over time, the story is elaborated and embellished with detail until the original icon is obscured or lost entirely, and the story eventually attains the stature of historical fact.
For example, this suggests that some of Moses’ history about being hidden by his mother in the bulrushes may have been borrowed from religious tradition/imagery in order to validate his position in Hebrew tradition as a prophet. Indeed, this is probably true for most of the prominent Old Testament characters: All or part of their personal history had to conform to sacred traditions in order to validate their sacred role in history. Since almost all of those traditions stemmed from and conformed to the Saturn myths, it is not surprising that elements of those traditions have found their way into the histories of prominent Old Testament figures. This, as we shall see, was certainly true of Abraham and was also the case with some accounts of the Savior’s life.
Modern uses of these and other Saturn symbols include the logo for television networks, NBC and CBS.
This is an example of how these symbols continue to emerge in the cultures of man, each time more detached from their origins, often more elaborate and esoteric. Nevertheless, they continue to convey some aspect or meaning of the original.
Why choose the feathers of a peacock for a new electronic technology? Why employ the all-seeing eye for another? Some might scoff at the idea that they hearken back to ancient symbolism, saying that there are other, more logical reasons for choosing such symbols. Yet, when the appearances of the polar configuration are considered, it is completely logical that ancient symbols for vision, light, knowledge and wisdom should be selected. Ironically it allows us to see that we in our modern, enlightened culture have not divorced ourselves, in reality, from the beliefs and traditions of our idolatrous ancestors. However, we are completely unaware of their origins.
Once again, we see that the Saturn traditions brought to light by modern scholars connects us to the symbolism of the restored gospel. Indeed, the imagery of all mankind’s religions has a common origin in Earth’s ancient heavens — a remarkable revelation in itself.
© Anthony E. Larson, 2000