The sphinx and the seasonal markers
The ancients saw the dates of equinoxes and solstices as a “celestial cross” that marked the four seasons of the year. For example, if you were to look at the sky during the autumn equinox of September 21st, between 4,700-2,500BC, you would see the following:
The first zodiac sign to rise in the east after the sunset is Taurus. In the west, Aquila – the eagle would appear. In the south, you would see Aquarius, and in the north – Leo. This particular arrangement of the zodiac signs was signaling the beginning of autumn.
In ancient Mesopotamia, these four animals were combined in Spinx. This Spinx was usually a man, with the body of a lion, a pair of wings, and hoofs of a bull.
In the Old Testament, we see the same thing – a supernatural being called a cherub. In the New Testament, this symbolism moves to the four Evangelists: Matthew, a man, Mark a lion, Luke a bull, and John an eagle. No doubt, this was an astronomical allegory. This also means that the rest of the 8 apostles can be related to the other 8 signs of the zodiac.
Chimera and the seasonal markers
The Etruscan chimeras are of a later date, so instead of the head of a man, they have a goat’s head. The idea was to mark the change of constellations during the winter solstice. Capricorn took place of Aquarius around 2,500 BC. This configuration lasted until circa 500 BC. But Lion remained the symbol of summer, as the Cancer is too small and insignificant. His tail represents Hydra, the snake, which lies directly underneath Leo.
Clearly, Chimera reflects the time of the Etruscans and Thracian Dionysian rites. But it is the previous age, that of Taurus, that left so many symbols, still in use today. I believe that cherubs came into the Jewish tradition from Egypt, not Mesopotamia. Not only that this makes sense historically – the fact is also that the word “cherub” does not have a translation in Hebrew. There are plenty of speculations on its origin out there. And logically, all the etymologies are based on the ancient languages of the region.
Horus, Virgo and the equinoxes
However, I believe that I know exactly where the word “cherub” comes from. It could be that in ancient times the constellation that we now call “eagle” was, in fact, a “falcon”. In other words, it represented Horus of the Egyptians. Horus was a man with the falcon’s head – a representation so typical of the zodiac signs.
His name was written as ḥr.w and pronounced as ħaːruw. If we read the last letter as “B” instead of “W” – we get the word identical to “cherub”. Strange as it sounds, but it seems that nobody else had noticed this. (?)
Here is a short quote about Horus from the book “Ancient Egypt: The Light of the World” by Gerald Massey, page 572:
Horus had two birthdays, one to the child-Horus in autumn, the other to Horus the adult in the vernal equinox. But when the solstices were added there was a further change. The place of birth for the elder, the mortal Horus who was born of the Virgin Mother, now occurred in the winter solstice, and the place of rebirth for Horus the eternal Sun was celebrated in the vernal equinox.
As we can see, in the early days the Egyptian year had two parts, marked by the spring and autumn equinox. Interestingly, between the 5th and the 3rd millennium BC, the constellation of Aquilla – the eagle, was marking the autumn equinox. Perhaps we can assume that this constellation was originally the falcon-headed Horus.
We also saw that Horus was born in autumn, of a virgin mother. This is a clear reference to the constellation Virgo. In ancient Greece, Virgo was known as Demetra. Apparently, her name originally meant – Da-mater (mother – giver) or Ge-mater (mother Earth), both being in association with the autumn harvest. Her equivalent was the Phrygian Cybele, whose chariot is pulled by the lions – as the constellation Leo comes before Virgo.
The name Demetra sounds similar to the name of St. Demetrius, one of the most important saints of the Orthodox church. His feast day is on the 26th of October – one month after the autumn equinox. But neither is the autumn equinox in Virgo anymore! The constellations have shifted, taking their star-lore with them. Currently, it is during October that the Sun rises in Virgo, meaning that there is a clear link between St. Demetrius and Demetra.
The image below shows the sunrise of the St. Demetrius feast day of 2017. This is a moment just before the sunrise. Egyptians represented the rising Sun as the young Horus, sitting on the lap of his mother Isis / Demetra.
But the image of St. Demetrius is there too. Next to Virgo lies Bootes, one of the few human-shaped constellations. These two constellations resemble the famous scene of St. Demetrius killing king Lyaeos.
But before I establish further connections between St. Demetrius and Horus, I need to give you some basic facts. In the Orthodox tradition, St. Demetrius has the attribute “from Thessaloniki”. His cult in Greece was first established in this city. However, as Wikipedia states:
“Most scholars believe that his veneration came from Sirmium, when Thessaloniki replaced it as the main military base, in 441-442 AD. “
This is why the Catholic church calls him “Demetrios of Sermium”. Sirmium was one of the most important cities of the Roman empire and its remains still lie on the territory of modern Serbia, some 55 km west of Belgrade.
Wikipedia further states:
Thessaloniki suffered attacks from the Slavic peoples, and St. Demetrios helped to defend the city.
Supposedly, merely a century after the arrival of his cult to Thessaloniki from the territory of modern Serbia, Slavs came to the Balkans. They followed the same route as St. Demetrius only to be repelled by this Saint in Thessaloniki. I highly doubt this – in fact, I believe that it was the Slavs who brought his cult to Greece. Let me explain.
St. George and St. Demetrius – symbols of the equinoxes
The Christian iconography often shows St. Demetrius together with St. George. Both saints are more venerated in the Eastern Orthodox church than in the Western. But even in the Western church, these saints are most popular in Slavic nations. In the Balkans, these are THE most popular saints! Would that make any sense if St. Demetrius became popular as a defender against Slavs?
Second, both St. George and St. Demetrius were horsemen, meaning that their cult probably came from the nomadic culture of the steppes and not the sea-locked Greece. Also, the name of Sirmium, from which St. Demetrius originated, perhaps comes from Sarmatians – nomadic horsemen from the steppes, the ancestors of the modern Slavs.
And finally, the idea behind these two saints was to mark the spring and vernal equinox, while the calendar still had that ancient form of only two seasons.
Starlore of horse-riding nations
Indeed, this kind of calendar is suitable for nomadic tribes of horsemen, as the war campaigns lasted from spring to autumn. This logic was still present in the Balkans during the Ottoman rule. The groups of guerilla warriors known as Hajduks would go on campaigns between Djurdjevdan and Mitrovdan – days of these two saints.
But the Day of St. George, known as Djurdjevdan in the Balkans, falls on the 6th of May (23. of April in the old Julian calendar). And even though tradition still sees it as the beginning of the spring, the fact is that the spring equinox happens a whole month and a half earlier, on the 22nd of March.
This means that Slavs preserved the tradition which made sense only between 2,000BC and the beginning of the new era. After that period, the constellations had shifted for one and a half months. In Thessaloniki of the 5th-6th century AD, let alone Ottoman Balkans, this idea wouldn’t make too much sense. (!)
But if this tradition is really so old, one would expect to find some archaeological proofs of its existence in the Balkans. And we do have them – in a form of the Thracian horsemen. The Thracian relationship with Scythian and Sarmatian tribes is a historical fact.
St. George – Spring equinox
If Virgo and St. Demetrius mark the autumn equinox, St. George must be right across the night sky – marking the spring equinox, but where exactly? I believe that I have the answer to that question. It just took a bit of imagination to see it.
Perseus, Cetus, Triangulum, Aries, and Taurus – these five constellations literally show the popular image of “St. George slaying the dragon”.
The constellation Cetus nowadays means simply “whale” but the ancients saw it as a “dragon”, a “sea-monster”, ever since Babilon. As for the Aries and a Triangulum, they indeed look like a horse, under Perseus – a hero whose very name gives a hint of his Scythian origin.
Slavic god Jarilo and St. George
So how did Perseus become St. George? The Greek etymology of the name George is “farmer, earth-worker”. This agricultural sense is clearly not applicable here. But if we look for the analogy in the ancient Slavic pantheon, we see a god named Jarilo (Yarilo) – a god of vegetation, fertility, and the springtime. Also a god of war. For Jarilo Wikipedia says:
Jarilo became identified with St. George after the arrival of Christianity, possibly because of mild similarities in their names.
But is this really the case? Or is the name George just a corruption of Jarilo?
The thing is that the Slavic etymology is completely appropriate here. Even today the word “ярь” (yar) means “spring” in Russian and Ukrainian language. And if we know that the New Year began precisely on this holiday, it makes you wonder where the word for “year” actually comes from.
year (n.) Old English gear, ger, from Proto-Germanic *jeram “year” from PIE root *yer- “year, season” (Avestan yare), Greek hora, Old Church Slavonic jaru, Bohemian jaro “spring;“
The spring equinox happens in March, a month named after the Roman god of war – Mars. In Greek, his name was Aries, a name sounding similar to Jarilo. “Jar” also means “anger” in Slavic languages. The ancient Slavic warriors would storm into the battle screaming his name. This custom still exists in modern Slavic warcry – “Jurish” and “Ura”. And with this analogy, another etymology comes to mind, the title “earl“.
earl (n.) Old English eorl “brave man, warrior, leader, chief”, from Proto-Germanic *erlaz, which is of uncertain origin. In later Old English, “nobleman,” (the equivalent of Old Norse jarl).
The oldest calendars divided the year into two parts – marked by the spring and autumn equinox. Before 2,000 BC, the autumn equinox was in Aquila, the eagle. The image of Horus as the falcon-head man comes from this period. After 2,000 BC, the autumn equinox was in Virgo. Horus became a child, sitting in the arms of his virgin mother. Of course, the same image endured in Christian symbolism.
For nomadic horsemen of the steppe, the constellations of spring and the autumn equinox were two horsemen. These horsemen became St. George and St. Demetrius of Christianity. The name of St. Demetrius relates to Demetra / Virgo, while that of George to Slavic Jarilo.
Lying opposite to Virgo, the constellation of Aries – the Ram, was a part of Jarilo’s horse. Both Aries and Jarilo share the same root. The same goes for Thracian horseman “Heros” and the Egyptian Horus. In Egypt, the name Horus, was written as ḥr.w and pronounced as ħaːruw. Slavic pantheon also had a deity Hors, “god of the solar disk”, although not much is known about it.
And even in the terms of iconography, we see the same symbolism. Heros, Horus, and St. George, all have a spear, pointing towards a dragon, snake, or animal.
From all these names, the Slavic name “Jarilo” is probably the oldest form, as the sound “Y” remained in the words for Germanic “year”, and Slavic “jar” – spring. It is also clear that this is a Slavic word, as Germans did not have such a deity in their pantheon. (and the term “spring” is more appropriate than “year”). But Germanic and Slavic people were indeed closely related in Western Europe.
The real question is, why the ancient Egyptian starlore has the name and follows the same logic.
Thank you for sharing these stories, I look forward to your posts so much! I was pondering the significance of the vernal equinox this evening and this entry was a joy to read. Many blessings
Thank you for your kind words!
You are doing a wonderful thing here, reviving these stories, looking for these connections and meanings. Your ancestors are honored.
I sure hope so!
Great read. Few thoughts on it:
So maybe St George was brought to Britain with Sarmatians of Arthur?
“Jarać” in Polish means to burn, or to be excited.
There are “jare” plants which vegetative cycle is one year, they do not need low temperatures to bloom (process that is called “jarowizacja” vernalization in eng)
Jare Gody is festival of spring equinox (Szczodre Gody is festival of winter solstice, szczodre mean bountiful). Gody is word to describe wedding festivities or mating ituals amongst animals. It is a root word/meaning of large family of words.
It would be very hard to pinpoint how exactly the linguistic influence went. In the case of “earl” it could be via Scandinavia (Norse jarl). But it could hardly be anything else than Slavic, as only Slavic languages have all these meanings together – 1. Spring (New Year) 2. Fire 3. Anger 4. God of war. As we see in the official etymology, the Germanic origin is “uncertain”, as the similar parallels do not exist. The same goes for “year”, but this word had to be of a much earlier date.
excellent and very intelligent text! i just want to add few things, for example old egyptian word ħaːruw obviously corresponds with sans. होरा (hora):
also, word yar doesnt exist in russian but in serbian also, we say “jara raž” for example (rye that is sown in spring).
I would like to add a Slovakian word jar to ” spring ” and rok to “year” in Slovak language to part :
Old English gear (West Saxon), ger (Anglian) “year,” from Proto-Germanic *jeram “year” (source also of Old Saxon, Old High German jar, Old Norse ar, Danish aar, Old Frisian ger, Dutch jaar, German Jahr, Gothic jer “year”), from PIE *yer-o-, from root *yer- “year, season” (source also of Avestan yare (nominative singular) “year;” Greek hora “year, season, any part of a year,” also “any part of a day, hour;” Old Church Slavonic jaru, Bohemian jaro “spring;” Latin hornus “of this year;”
Very inspiring article! Keep up the good work! Cheers!
Thank you. This concept of first there’s a two part system, then it goes to the equinox system is helping me figure out what is going on with the Slavic gods. I am writing a book, The Roots of Slavic Magic and would like to add your article in the Bibliography. Could you send me your name to list it under? patwoodruff (at symbol) mac.com
St. George in the Afro Brasilian philosofy, is known as Ogum a Warrior Orixa, who is very close to humans just like Exu (another Orixa).. Ogum do not abandon a cause which he has taken to find a solution for it. Ogum represents responsability and determination.