In one of the previous posts, I have shown how the Norse creation myth described in Eda revolves around the winter sky. I also stated that the giant Ymir is in fact, Orion. Here is that illustration again:
The binding of the Fenrir
This time we will go deeper into Norse mythology and analyze the story called – “The binding of the Fenrir”, from the Prose Edda.
Fenrir was a gigantic wolf who disturbed the Nordic gods. To subdue it, they crafted a magical fetter that cannot be broken and they tried to make Fenrir wear it. The excuse was that they wanted to test his might and see if he will be able to break free. Suspecting a trap, Fenrir accepts the challenge, but only if one of the gods puts his hand in Fenrir’s mouth. Only Týr accepts this proposal, and as a consequence, he loses his hand when angry Fenrir realizes that he had been tricked.
For this reason, the Nordic god Týr was usually depicted with one hand.
I believe that this interesting story might have originated in star lore. The constellation Lupus – the Wolf, was known to the ancients. Ptolemy mentions it around 150 AD, but there is no reason to assume that it goes much further in the past than the written records.
Between 4,700-2,500BC, Lupus was marking the fall equinox. This is the time when wolves are the most dangerous, as they need to obtain large amounts of food before going into winter hibernation. It is clear how useful this information would have been for primitive societies. They needed to be alert to protect their livestock and their own lives.
Moreover, the creators of this constellation clearly came from the region where wolves are abundant. But can we relate Lupus to Fenrir?
Fenrir – the constellation Lupus
Next to the constellation of Lupus, we see the Scorpius, which interestingly, can also be seen as a (severed) hand. Moreover, the constellation of Centaurus (traditionally depicted as a wolf slayer), can also look like a person pointing his hand towards the wolf. (Týr sometimes rides a horse, and also carries a spear, like Kentaurus)
Here are some correlations between the stars and Nordic art depicting Fenrir and Tyr:
In my view, this is convincing evidence of ancient Nordic sky myths. It would be perfectly logical for Scorpius to be seen as a “hand” since there are no scorpions in this part of the world.
But for this myth to make sense in relation to the stars, we need to assume that it was tied to an important astronomical event, and the only option we have for the constellation Scorpius is the autumn equinox. In that case, the dating of the myth would be roughly 4,700-2,500 BC.
Indeed that was a very important age for the star lore, as I already illustrated in the following picture.
The above picture also shows how the Scorpio sometimes gets replaced with another image. Sometimes it was an eagle, as the constellation of Aquila – the eagle stands right behind Scorpio.
Norse – Maya parallels
Mayan mythology also had a hero with a severed hand. The story goes like this.
The gigantic bird, known as Vucub Caquix, was pretending to be the Sun and the Moon. He adorned himself with metal ornaments and false teeth made of gemstones (obvious allusions to the stars). Scholars actually do identify this bird with the Big Dipper constellation, although I believe that it was rather Aquila.
In the Mayan myth, a hero loses his hand while fighting this monster. It was one of the Maya hero twins. They attacked it with the blowgun, but the bird only fell from the tree, wounded. As one of the twins, Huanpu, tries to escape, his arm is torn off.
Here is a representation of how this story might look in the stars, compared with the typical Mayan imagery:
Maya and the classical zodiac
It is interesting that the image above depicts a Scorpio, right next to the hero who lost his arm to a demon. Both the Nordic and the Mayan parallels with the stars are my own interpretations, but they seem to perfectly match the typical mythological scenes from both cultures.
In fact, the kneeling Hunahpu could easily be the Lupus constellation, shooting at Aquila, with Scorpio in between.
But there is much more that connects Maya with the classical zodiac, a topic way too long to fit this article. Let us just say that the hero twins are probably the representation of Gemini.
After they descended into the underworld, they put on masks – symbols for Sun and Moon. The adventures of the Mayan twins are in fact the story of the movement of the Sun and the Moon through constellations. And besides Gemini and Scorpio, we also see them in other familiar scenes – for example, pouring water from the jug – a representation of Aquarius.
Since the Nordic myth relates to the period of 4,700-2,500 BC, the influence on Maya via the Bering Strait Crossing migration is out of the question. But the fact is also that the Mayan myth could be a few thousand years older than the Nordic IF it relates to the equinox. Mayan story revolves around Aquila and not Lupus which marked the equinox later.
In fact, the Mayan myth starts with the Gemini, and the spring equinox was in Gemini around 6,480-4,320 BC. (beginning of the New Year, new cycle) It was during this same period that the autumn equinox would have been around Aquila (!).
However, the later influence is also not out of question. Especially if we take into consideration the knowledge of the classical zodiac. (and numerous other parallels between the old and the new world, starting with the pyramids) My personal belief is that the influence came through the so-called “sea people”, somewhere in the second millennium BC. There are many articles on this blog that describe how it could have happened.
I will continue to write on this topic, and in the meantime here is a video from Penn University. It inspired me to write this article.